8/02/2009

Insurance Lobby Media Strategy: Repetition, Repetition, Repetition

By Jamie York

Bill Clinton told columnist Joe Klein that the biggest mistake he made with his health care reform proposal was his support for universal coverage (Time, 8/10/09, p. 35.). The insurance and pharmaceutical lobbyists were ruthless and had a well-directed campaign against universal coverage. Clinton was blindsided and had thought he had no choice but to cower and try to sneak away from the fight as the lobbyists got their message across in the media while the voices of single payer advocates were drowned out. While Clinton may think that advocating single payer insurance was a mistake, I think it was his finest hour. His mistake was not that he supported single payer, but that he failed to stand up for single payer as logical and viable. He didn’t even try to fight the insurance lobby. “Hillary, “ he cried, “help me Hillary!” And so the insurance industry reformed itself and “managed care” came into being. At that time there were 33 million people without health coverage and today there are 47 million. So much for reform.

Today, as we witness the political fight over Obama’s health reform plan, it is clear that the insurance company lobbyists do not want any health care reform. Period. These companies pay out millions to get their point of view heard in the mass media, using any scare tactics they can think of. They are against Obama’s plan because they may lose some of their profits if the government insurance option turns out to be better and more affordable than their profit taking system. Obama, while admitting that single payer makes the most sense, turned against his senses and decided to play politics and get what he can get.

I am glad that the American colonists did not simply decide to get what they could get from the British occupiers. They declared their independence and fought for what they wanted. We don’t have the fight in us anymore, I guess. We send our kids off to die in foreign nations while the military contractors reap millions in profits. We sit and watch TV as one constitutional right after another is systematically rendered obsolete by imperial presidents like George W. Bush. We watch events unfold in news soundbytes not in in-depth discussion. If even half of us one day decided to skip work until we have single payer health care, we would have it. No question about it. Compared with the 19th and 20th century fight for better wages, shorter workdays, and for the right to organize labor unions, a general strike is about as American as you can get. Political divisions keep us from communicating and organizing, but when we get to the point where we see ourselves as human beings in a common struggle for things that make sense, for programs that work for the common good and general welfare, then we will begin to communicate with each other. There comes a point where the common good of the people must take precedence over unregulated profit taking. Health care is a birthright.

The insurance company lobby money is paying for a major PR campaign now under way to scare gullible seniors into thinking that the government will have them put to death if they have a terminal illness. This line is being spread around by the conservative bloggers and radio and TV hosts -- the usual unreliable suspects in the media. The truth is that Obama has called for more openness in discussing end of life wishes with doctors. Few people make their wishes known in living wills because the end of life options are just not discussed routinely now as they should be. Again, it is just common sense to be prepared so that your family is aware of your wishes, but the insurance lobby is using the old media formula that keeps Americans in tow time and time again -- repetition, repetition, repetition. If you tell a lie often enough and loud enough, it will soon be accepted as the truth. We are so gullible it is pathetic.

6/20/2009

Twitter, #iranelection and the pitfalls of Groupthink

By mediagonebad

While I wholeheartedly support genuine movements for freedom and democracy anywhere in the world, I find it interesting that so many Americans have jumped on the #iranelection bandwagon without taking the time to learn about Iran, its culture, its mullahs (supreme leaders), its wars, and its history with the United States.

Groupthink is a decision-making process that occurs when an idea is put forth and becomes publicly accepted without proof. Groupthink is like an intellectual snowball effect carried from person to person with little, if any, firsthand knowledge or scientific scrutiny. The effect of Groupthink is that it makes the quest for historical truth that much harder when people already accept a given idea as the truth. Ordinarily, one would gather information from first-hand sources, then form an opinion and subject it to examination and reexamination. Groupthink forgoes this process and leads directly to an opinion.

Fact: There has been no vote recount in Iran and the winner of the election is still in dispute. This is really all we can be certain about right now, so I cannot make a valid determination about what is happening in Iran in regard to the election results; rather, this is a quick-and-dirty examination of the process through which unconfirmed information received worldwide attention and force-fed public opinion.

There is some suspicion -- although this idea does not get through in the massive tweets -- that the George W. Bush’s CIA had a hand in supporting Mousavi, who now claims election fraud and victory over Ahmadinejad, even though no proof has been offered that either candidate won the election. The Supreme leader, Ayatullah Ali Khamenei, the mullah who has the real power in Iran, quickly declared Ahmadinejad the winner, then Mousavi supporters claimed the election was rigged and demanded a new election. State forces, controlled by Khamenei, then attacked a group of Mousavi supporters and #iranelection became the top trending topic on Twitter.

Twitter, a real-time microblogging site where users publish 140-character tweets that can be read anywhere in the world where someone has an internet connection, including on cell phones, can spread information rapidly. Users can attach links and photos and state a brief opinion. The hashtag #iranelection takes the Twitter users to a page where all of the tweets using that hashtag can be found. I left the page untouched and unrefreshed for just a few minutes and had a backlog of more that 1,000 tweets. It would be impossible for one person to keep up with this amount of information, but it gives you an idea how rapidly information -- true or not -- can be disseminated via Twitter, as well as Facebook and YouTube.

Youtube videos from Iran are often uploaded from cell phone cameras. The videos show various scenes, usually with some kind of action or violence. Sometimes there is Farsi being spoken in the background, but many have no commentary, so the viewer is left to decide what the scene depicts without actually having been there to witness it. Comments are then made about about the video and some people post links to the video on Twitter and Facebook. Once there, the videos receive additional commentary, then are reposted and retweeted countless times. Some are even broadcast via CNN, although, to CNN’s credit, they do say that the information is unconfirmed. Citizen journalism is a powerful tool, but the content must still be judged critically and confirmed.

According to Time Magazine (June 29, 2009), “it is impossible for an outsider, in Iran for 10 days, to sift through the governmental opacity, the contradictory demonstrations, and predict what comes next.” Yet, by reading a few Tweets and turning our icons green, we jump on the Groupthink bandwagon in cheering for Mousavi and “freedom.” But, when pressed, no one seems to know of any reforms Mousavi has advocated. No one seems to know what kind of president he would be or how he would treat his opposition. While Mousavi was Prime Minister, thousands of political prisoners were executed and hundreds of striking workers were jailed or beaten. Has he changed? Will he continue to assert Iran’s right to build a nuclear power reactor in spite of warnings from the United States and Israel? Will he assume more state power now in the hands of the religious mullahs? No one has these answers, but one thing is certain in the wake of the violence: the mullahs will go to great lengths to preserve their power.

5/03/2009

Track Dogs

By mediagonebad

[Occasionally I like to throw in an older piece just to get it into electronic format. These are from the pre-computer days when I used a Royal typewriter.]


Thoreau once wrote: "We do not ride upon the railroad; it rides upon us."

Thoreau's words took on special meaning for me in April 1981, when I was hired as a trackman on the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway. I was elated. I had a job with good pay and good benefits.

After I had worked five years, however, my elation had turned to bitterness and anger. I no longer cared about the pay and benefits; I just wanted out. Of course, people said I was crazy for wanting to give up "such as good job," but I knew better. I had learned something about people and production and I felt that the C & O had ridden upon me.

For the first couple of years, I worked on an undercutter on my home division between Columbus and Portsmouth, Ohio. An undercutter is basically a large plow. It has hydraulic arms that lift the rails and ties about four feet in the air and then a plow blade is inserted. A powerful winch connected to a one-inch steel cable then pulls the plow, scraping out all of the ballast and dirt. The old, rotten ties are then replaced with new ones and new ballast is dumped on the tracks.

After two years of this, I transferred to the C & O Southern Region Rail Gang, a group of about 75 workers who travel from place to place replacing worn-out rails with quarter-mile strips of "ribbon rail." The transfer meant I would have to travel with the gang and live on the railroad's camp-cars at various sites in Ohio, Kentucky, West Virginia and Virginia. The first night I was with the gang, near Vanceburg, Kentucky, a co-worker was killed. According to the supervisor, he had been drinking, passed out on a "live" track, then was cut in two when a train came along. The camp-cars at that stop were parked on a side track right next to the main line, so we had to cross over the main line to get to the camp-cars.

The next morning, when we heard the news about the death, the supervisor gave us a speech about safety. Understandably, worker safety is a major concern on the railroad. "Don't crawl under trains" and "Don't step on the rails" were two important rules. Another was "No alcohol, drugs, dogs or women on the camp-cars."

As an incentive to work safely, the supervisor would hand out trinkets -- ink pens, money clips, belt buckles, coffee cups, "safe worker" hats, and the highly coveted C & O rain suits. There were never enough trinkets to go around, so names were drawn out of a hat.

Unfortunately, when a worker claims that he has been injured on the job, none of the foremen or supervisors believe it. Unless the injury is very obvious, like a partial foot amputation or a crushed finger, they try to coerce the employee into admitting he broke a safety rule -- that is, admitting that the injury is his fault, not the railroad's. "Come on, it's not that bad, is it?" "You can work the rest of the day, can't you?" "If you go to the doctor, I'm going to hold a BFI (Board for Investigation) on you for breaking a safety rule." I remember one morning that an employee told a supervisor he couldn't work because he had a bug in his ear. Apparently, a moth had decided to take up residence in one of his ears and would not come out, even after the supervisor poured several cups of water into the guy's ear. Finally, the employee asked to be taken to the hospital to have the bug removed, but the supervisor indicated that he should just keep on working. " You work with a bug in your ear," the employee replied. He was then taken to the hospital and the moth was removed.

It did not take me long to realize that the concept of "worker safety" was a relative term. From the company's perspective, a rail gang is a major expenditure, so the gang is expected to stay on its production schedule. As an incentive to finish jobs ahead of schedule, however, supervisors are given bonuses; the more money they save the company, the larger the bonus.

Supervisors do not live in the tiny camp-car rooms; they stay at motels, sometimes miles away from the camp-cars and the job site. They think nothing of working overtime on a Friday, when the men are eager to get on the road and spend the weekend with their families. Supervisors think nothing about having the men work overtime in thunderstorms or when the rail temperature is 120 degrees and there isn't a drop of drinking water left. All that matters is production. Production first, people last.

One morning, while we were camped along the New River in West Virginia, there was no water left in the water tanker at the camp-cars, yet all of the water coolers had been filled with water. As we were putting bags of ice into the coolers, we noticed that the water was brown. A supervisor had decided that river water was O.K. for us to drink on the job that day. Production first, people last.

A rail gang is essentially a long assembly line and it can spread out for a mile or more. When a worker has to leave his particular job to get a drink of water or use the bathroom, production behind him sometimes comes to a halt until he gets back. The foreman in charge of that section then gets upset because the production line isn't moving. One day I was setting spikes and had to take a shit, so I stopped working and began looking around for an empty spike keg to take into the woods with me. (The C & O did not provide portable toilets at the job site, so the workers had to improvise; empty spike kegs, if the rim is not too jagged, make handy commodes. Luckily, on this particular day, the tracks were in the woods and not out in the open.) When my foreman saw me heading for the woods with the spike keg, he ran after me waving his arms like a madman and screaming that I had to get back to work. I explained to him that I was having a biological emergency and there was nothing I could do, but he didn't believe me. I then offered to bring some back to him on a stick so I could prove it; about 10 minutes later, the foreman saw me come out of the woods with a stick and told me to "get that damn stick outta here."

The C & O supervisors were also good at fascist-style intimidation. One time, at Prince, West Virginia, while the men were at the job site, railroad special agents, accompanied by West Virginia State Policemen and local sheriff deputies, opened or kicked in all doors on the camp-cars and brought in dogs to search for marijuana. They also let the dogs into unlocked private vehicles parked off railroad property along Route 41. No marijuana was found. Another time, near Richmond, Virginia, railroad special agents, along with Virginia State Policemen and Henrico County sheriff deputies raided the camp-cars just as the men returned from the job site and were getting cleaned up for dinner or a night on the town. A couple of employees were later reprimanded after the heavily armed police force found empty beer cans and a small amount of marijuana in their rooms.

Rail gang workers are not criminals. They are working men living away from home, trying to make a living for themselves and their families. The police came in as though they were expecting a battle. In the 19th century, as the railroads were expanding westward with the frontier, the men in rail gangs had a reputation for being hell-raisers. Wherever the gangs went, they became small towns, and drinking, gambling and prostitution were common activities in these rail towns. There was nothing else to do. On the job, these gandydancers (trackmen) were mostly black, Chinese and Irish. The armed foreman thought nothing of killing anyone who got out of line because there was always another worker waiting to take his place.

Today, although the people and control methods have changed, the C & O apparently sees its employees as these 19th century hell-raisers and treats them as second-class citizens. Supervisors in some industries at least try to communicate with employees, let them know what the goals are, and make them feel like they are accomplishing something as part of a team. I'm sure there must be good rail supervisors somewhere, but the ones I met on the C & O did not communicate with the men or talk about what was expected for the day. The supervisors did not honor seniority, but they practiced nepotism and general favoritism. If you were in the clique, they gave you the best assignments; if they had a grudge against you, you were given the worst jobs.

One day, while I had a back injury, I completed my light-duty assignment (cleaning the two bathroom cars) and then I went to a tavern to have a beer. I noticed my supervisor's blue car parked at one tavern, so I went in and found him drinking at the bar. Occasionally, he would pick up his two-way radio and give some instructions to a foreman. The men were working on overtime and he was running the rail gang from a tavern.

That incident stuck a nerve with me. In my experience, there was little job satisfaction because the employees were not encouraged to feel like part of a team -- and here was a supervisor drinking in a tavern while the men were on overtime. If we were hell-raisers, it was because we were treated like dogs by management. If we were hell-raisers, it was because there was little for a group of wound-up working men to do after work at the camp-cars but drink beer, play cards, or sleep.

We were usually camped on coal sidings in the middle of nowhere, miles from the nearest town, so it was often inconvenient to try to drive anywhere after work. In some areas, it was best to stay near the camp anyway, especially if you were black. One evening, near West Hamlin, West Virginia, I drove to a tavern (called the "White House") after work and found a black co-worker sipping on a beer at the bar. I sat down next to him and ordered a beer for myself. After a while, the bartender leaned over to me and whispered, "You better get your friend outta here." I took a good look around at the other patrons and I knew exactly what he meant. We finished our beers and left.

Sometimes it was even trouble to stay on the camp-cars because the local residents would come to us. The areas we worked in were some of the poorest areas in the United States -- in the heart of Appalachia. While the mountains and rivers along the tracks were beautiful, they were in stark contrast to the tar-paper shacks of the local residents. One evening a woman and a girl approached three or four of us as we sat on the walkway between the camp-cars. The woman was trying to sell her ragged, barefoot daughter, who looked to be eleven or twelve years old. Thirteen would have stretching it. There were no takers in our group, so they continued on to the next car. Who knows, maybe they found a desperate man with nothing else to do that day. On other occasions, I know there were takers.

We were good people in a situation where we had nothing to do in our spare time. Perhaps if the railroad had thought about providing a boxcar with exercise equipment, pinball machines and a Ping-Pong table, and maybe a car with a snack bar and a TV and VCR, it may have been more tolerable. Maybe then we wouldn't have burned those bathroom doors that chilly night near Beckley, West Virginia. Maybe we wouldn't have climbed to the top of that Kentucky coal tipple and fired bottle rockets at the company's dynamite shed. Maybe then the railroad's management style would have seemed more humane. Men without anything to do will find something to do.

I had read Walden before I went to work for the C & O and, after five years, I understood what Thoreau meant. "We do not ride upon the railroad; it rides upon us."

Acknowledgments

Thoreau, Henry David, Walden, (New York: Collier Books, 1978), p. 75.

5/02/2009

Restoring Freedom & Democracy post-Bush



By mediagonebad

It is a matter of public record that in August 2001 George W. Bush received a Presidential Daily Briefing stating that Osama bin Laden’s al Qaeda organization planned to use jet airplanes as weapons. Did Bush read the report? Did he read it and fail to act upon the information? Did he, by extension, allow 9/11 to happen by not acting upon the information in the PDB?

What would Bush have stood to gain by not acting upon this information, by not beefing up airport security immediately? This would have been the responsible course of action would it not? Well, consider first that the Bush family business is oil and weapons. A president whose family stands to gain financially from war might be less inclined to prevent one. Second, the Bush family world view supports Hitler’s view of unrestricted corporatism.

Under the 8-year Bush/Cheney regime, the United States of America was slowly and methodically overthrown by a small group of economic zealots who believed in the Bush/Hitler view of unrestricted corporatism, a group of zealots who brought the horrific future world foretold in the works of George Orwell to our national doorstep.



The government has spy satellites that can focus on a license plate. It has facial recognition software. It has a computer system that can pick out key words in private telephone conversations and emails, all without our knowledge or consent.

Under the Patriot Act, we allow the government to break into our houses and download our computer files without a warrant under the guise of finding supposed "terrorists." We allow the government access to our library records so it knows who is reading what.

We routinely accept government explanations for world events without even asking questions to determine if the explanations are based on truthful and valid assertions. We allow our government to assert its right to imprison and torture foreign detainees indefinitely as "enemy combatants" even though they have not been charged with any specific crime or act.

We allow our elections to be purchased by the rich and powerful while denying the poor and working class proper access to voting machines. We allow computerized voting that does not even print out a paper record in case a hand re-count is needed.

We allow our government to grant oil, chemical and mining companies access to public lands, where they extract the natural resources with little regard for the long-term environmental impact, water and air pollution, and global warming.

We allow our young soldiers to become occupiers and nation-builders in foreign lands, even though history has shown that such occupations inevitably fail as one oppressor is replaced by another.

And we allow corporate “military contractors” like Haliburton, Blackwater, and dozens of others, to make millions of dollars without any public accountability whatsoever. From kitchens to prisons, corporations have become a huge part of the war business, outnumbering even the “grunts,” the foot soldiers.

The new United States of America under Bush had nothing to do with the principles of freedom and democracy that the nation was founded upon. Rather, the new United States was all about unbridled imperialism, privatization and militarization. Public monies were shifted from the public sector -- which funds education, food programs, jobs programs, health programs and Social Security -- to the private sector, which includes big business, military contractors, big banks, and the stock market. In other words, the people's money was withdrawn from social programs and deposited into the bank accounts of the rich and the super-rich. And the people's money was gambled away in the largest casino in the world -- Wall Street.

This is the reality of the nation as President Barrack Obama was sworn-in, yet some misinformed folks on the far right think of Obama as a “socialist,” and they refer to him as “fascist” because Hitler’s world view is often referred to as “state socialism.” Such terms have so many different meanings that they have now become meaningless without a detailed definition of terms, so it is not surprising that these terms might confuse, say, a FOX News viewer. Scholarly definitions are not used on FOX News. FOX prefers catch-phrases that are easy for their audience to understand and repeat.

Hitler’s imperialist dream foresaw a powerful corporate state where a limited government functions primarily as a servant of the rich and powerful corporations that own the means of production, fund the nation's elections, control the military, and dictate its political decisions. Fascism, also known as “state socialism,” is not to be confused with Karl Marx’s “scientific socialism,” which holds that the people must own and control the means of production and that government must function first and always as a servant of the people. President Obama is a supporter of the capitalist economic system. Marxists are not.

Although the Bush regime is gone, many of its democracy-damaging policies remain in force. Perhaps Obama will overturn these policies, but that remains to be seen. In the meantime, citizens have a responsibility to defend our freedom and democracy. To do that we need to end the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and bring the troops home. We need to strictly regulate corporations and hold them financially responsible for breaking those regulations. We need to defend the labor unions and progressive organizations that became targeted for extinction under the Bush government.

Our responsibility is immense. Our responsibility extends to all citizens of the world who look to us as a beacon of hope for human rights, freedom, democracy, equality and justice. It we fail, the world fails with us.

4/20/2009

We The People: Taxation, Spending, and Big Government

By mediagonebad

Hardcore free-market Republicans often rail against “big government,” so let’s take a few minutes to figure out what the role of government should be in the United States.

What do we want from the federal government? What do we, as citizens, expect our government to be? What services do we want it to provide on our behalf?

The first thing about government is that we all want it to work for us, not against us. We do not want to be taxed excessively and we do not want to be spied upon like “big brother.” We want our elected officials to serve us honorably and we want our justice system to be fair and equal. I would venture to guess that few Americans would argue with these general points, no matter what their political beliefs.

Now, forget government for a minute. What do American citizens want America to be? Do we want the best health care and education in the world? Do we want retired citizens to have a guaranteed income? Do we want the strongest military in the world? Do we want clean energy? Do we want to do our part to end global warming? Do we want strong bridges? Do we want clean drinking water systems and good sewer systems? Do we want clean air to breathe? Do we want corporations to be able to do whatever they want without accountability or do we want them strictly regulated? Do we want corporations to have the same constitutional rights as individuals? Do we want a safe interstate system without potholes and other hazards? Do we want high-speed rail? Do we want safe food? Do we want equal rights for all, including the right to same-sex marriage? Do we want a minimum wage? Do we want a living wage? Do we want an unregulated mass media, with as few as five conglomerates controlling more than 50 percent of the news we get? Do we want more licenses for low-power radio and television stations? Do we want to permit torture techniques to be used on foreign prisoners? Do we want affordable housing? Do we want to ensure that the unemployed have an income until they find work? Do we want to bailout failing banks and large corporations?

Obviously, this list could go on and on and on, but for our purposes, we will end it here. These questions, when used to decide what role government should play, are where people part ways as Americans and become political opponents. There are those who look at a budget and scream “Pork!” when they see proposals for more unemployment insurance, a raise in the minimum wage, money to repair bridges on secondary highways, housing for the poor, more schools, local water projects, repair of inner city sewer systems, and so forth. Some people believe that the federal government should not be spending money for such things, yet they invariably support unlimited spending for war and preparations for war.

The problem with spending in general is, if we want something, someone has to pay for it. No one these days wants to take responsibility for increasing taxes, so the burden is passed on from the federal government to individual states, counties, cities, towns and villages. Revenue is created by increasing various kinds of taxes -- like fuel taxes, hotel taxes, income taxes, sales taxes, property taxes, estate taxes, “sin” taxes, and so forth. People who call for no tax increases and limited federal government mean that they do not want to say they support taxes at the federal level. They are not putting the needs of America first, but are playing party politics. They are trying to win House and Senate seats by claiming that they support limited government and no tax increases, but these shady politicians know full well that there will be new taxes at the state and/or the municipal level. Otherwise, the United States would fall apart at the seams. Oh wait, it already is!

It is largely the Republicans who want to be known as the party that believes in limited federal spending and the Democrats who believe the federal government has a responsibility to spend money for things that most Americans want and need. Republicans want to give tax breaks to the rich and super-rich and Democrats want this exclusive group to pay more federal taxes, largely by plugging the loopholes that allow the rich to maintain overseas addresses in order to escape the responsibility of paying federal taxes at all.

The thing that all Americans who have been hoodwinked into narrow thinking by blowhards like Rush Limbaugh and Bill O’Reilly need to be aware of is that taxation is a responsibility of civil society. If we want Social Security to be viable -- and it still is viable right now -- then we need to pay into the system and perhaps even increase the amount of federal withholding for Social Security. Those who call for privatization -- letting people choose to invest in the stock market instead of Social Security -- would ruin one of the best federal programs ever created. The needs of the majority of Americans outweigh the needs of a few rich bankers who would get even richer from privatization. At some point we have to say “the needs of the many outweigh the needs of the few.” And we say NO to privatization just as we would say NO to bank bailouts.

That said, we also must be responsible in the way our taxes are used. No question about it. We have to prioritize and plan. We have to save for projects that may not even be completed in our lifetime. For example, America’s infrastructure is old and in need of an upgrade. Many inner city and rural water and sewer systems, subways, bridges, roadways, housing projects, and railroads need replaced as soon as possible. These are long-term projects that may take 50 years or more to complete! Obviously, completing them is in the best interest of every single American, but are a nightmare for selfish politicians who want votes now and do not want to plan for the future or allocate funds for projects that may not be completed while the politician is still alive. America is slowly crumbling away and will continue to do so until citizens find the spine to think collectively and put all politicians on notice that the real needs of America and Americans must come first.

Now, I ask again, what do we want from our federal government? What do we want government to provide on our behalf? Does anyone not see how important the federal government is in our lives? We joke about it all the time -- taxes to study the mating habits of the South American swamp rat, for example -- but it all comes back to needs and priorities. No one wants to pay taxes for useless things and the working class are already taxed to the maximum, so the corporate rich and super-rich need to pay a greater share for the greater overall benefit of society. It is not the size of the federal government that matters, even if the federal government becomes the top employer in the nation and provides new public works jobs to tens of millions. What matters is that OUR federal government serve WE THE PEOPLE. That OUR federal government meets OUR needs -- not the short-term, selfish needs of politicians, political parties, war profiteers, and unscrupulous media commentators.

4/19/2009

Why newspapers are relevant

By mediagonebad

It seems that every new day brings another newspaper failure. So many people are getting their news from television and online sources that newspapers cannot compete. So they reduce the size of the paper, create online content, lay off and furlough employees -- anything to start operating in the black.

In the mid-1970s I was a student at Red Rocks Community College in Lakewood, Colo. Every day at the bus stop I would pick up a copy of the Rocky Mountain News (RMN). Its tabloid format was perfect for spreading out on a table in the student lounge; I even had room on the table for my coffee cup and a snack. The Denver Post, however, was a full-size paper that you had to open up and hold to read, which was more convenient for reading in a doctor’s office or sitting on the toilet.

I would often read the RMN from back to front, paying particular attention to stories buried on the inside. I found that the RMN had the Denver Post beat for the sheer diversity of the news. I found more national and international news in the RMN than I did in the Post and the features were always well-written and well-edited. I was particularly sad when the RMN went under in 2009 and I felt as though a piece of myself went under as well.

What is that attachment to newspapers? Why are readers sad when a paper goes belly up? After all, we pay for the paper, either through subscription or newsstand purchase. Advertising revenue is what keeps papers afloat and subscription and newsstand prices greatly undercut the true cost of the paper. I don’t know the figures, but my 50 cents would likely be $10 a day or more without advertising revenue figured in. How many readers would be willing to spend so much on a newspaper that will just be recycled at the end of the day? Probably none.

What news stories have the editors given us today? Part of the attachment to newspapers is the randomness, the surprise that awaits us as we turn each page. On the front page of the paper, there may be a quick index to the sections, but nothing to tell me what story I might find on page 32. There is nothing to click on and be transported instantly to that particular story. Every turn of the page is a surprise. I did not even know I would find a story about a new labor strike until I turned the page and found that the story impacted my life in some way. “Oh, I know people in that union,” I may have thought. So I read the story. I then contacted a friend and found out more information. An editor of a different paper may have decided not to run this story. The best papers print a diversity of stories simply because they are news. The editors believe in the public’s right to know and do not omit stories just because management or a prominent advertiser may disagree with it politically.

What will happen to news without newspapers, I wonder? Will the newspaper wire services, which still provide stories to all news outlets, still exist? If not, where will the news come from? Who will write it? Will they strive for impartiality or will they let the politics of their employer dictate what they write?

My Rocky Mountain News is gone and I am sad. I am sad not only because of the personal loss I feel, but also because of the loss that we should all feel -- the loss of news diversity. Somehow the void will be filled, but it will not be the same. As you read the packaged news on your Kindle, picking from a list which story you want to read, take a few moments to think about what you have given up for the sake of convenience. Your Kindle gives you content -- and room for your coffee cup -- but fifty cents or a dollar for a newspaper would have given you a surprise on every page. You would have learned something that you did not even realize you wanted to know about. And you can’t put a price on knowledge.

4/17/2009

Obama has missed an opportunity to do the right thing on Cuba

By mediagonebad

Obama’s much anticipated changes to U.S.-Cuba policy have turned out to be much ado about nothing. While changes in family remittances, unlimited travel to and from the island to visit relatives, and increased telecommunications are positive steps, the economic blockade remains intact. The “wet foot/dry foot” policy of instant citizenship for those who make the treacherous 90-mile trip to U.S. soil remains in place, as does the cruel, inhuman policy of using food and medicine as political weapons. So, too, remains the policy of interfering with the right of other nations to do business with Cuba.

Thus far in his presidency, Obama has proven to be a status quo politician interested in propping up capitalist banking and corporate interests while working people take a back seat. On Cuba policy, he is playing south Florida politics very effectively and will likely win some supporters in the next election cycle, but his slogan of “Change We Can Believe In” has been forgotten in regard to Cuba. Supporters of normalizing relations between the U.S. and Cuba must continue to encourage Congress to do what Barack Obama has failed to do. Sadly, Obama has missed an opportunity to do something positive and right for human relations in the world. I remain optimistic that Obama will come around. After all, he said we would not stand idly by while injustice happens in the world, so I will give him the benefit of the doubt. For now.

4/16/2009

Special Prosecutor needed after release of "torture memos'

By mediagonebad

The Obama administration did the right thing in releasing the "torture memos" from the Bush administration and they should be applauded for it. However, the Department of Justice failed to call for an independent special prosecutor to investigate the memos. Learning the truth is one thing, but failing to hold individuals responsible for wrong-doing is quite another matter. How do we justify letting public officials off the hook for possible crimes when common citizens are expected to either follow the “rule of law” or risk going to prison. Public officials should not be above the law or given immunity for crimes. In the coming days and weeks, we will learn more about these torture memos and how public officials violated the Geneva Conventions and International Law.

4/11/2009

Dear Mr. President: You are 0-2. What's it gonna be?

By mediagonebad

OK, Mr. Obama, you have my heartfelt congratulations! A Chicago grassroots organizer is now president of the United States. That is a major accomplishment in and of itself. It is early in your presidency and I am pleased that you have dealt with some of the worst offenses of the Bush administration through executive orders, but I must say that your larger policies concern me greatly. GREATLY.

First, there is the matter of privacy vs. warrantless wiretapping and electronic spying on Americans. Your Department of Justice, Mr. President, not only supports but goes beyond the Bush administration in preventing government accountability for willful violations of the law regarding COINTELPRO-style electronic eavesdropping. Your DOJ recently argued that the U.S. possesses “sovereign immunity” from misconduct lawsuits. Yet you pledged government accountability during the campaign. Strike one.

Then there is the matter of giving away billions of dollars in taxpayer funds to the same capitalist bankers that helped loot the public treasury in the first place. They must be laughing all the way out of the bank while our money goes to offshore accounts just as fast as they get their grubby hands on it. I got news for you: giving money to the banks is not going to stop the coming depression.

It seems to me that someone with ties to the Chicago grassroots community would bail out the unemployed and working poor first so that people do not lose their homes to the Wall Street thieves; to make sure that everyone has adequate food and access to health care whether they have a job with benefits or not. As you know, companies are laying off employees, eliminating health benefits, cutting back on retirement, and reducing hours in order to save money. What are people supposed to do? Starve? Turn to crime? Strike two.

Now I hear that you are asking Congress for more than $83 billion for continuing the Bush wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. I remember very clearly what you said during the campaign and I even made a ringtone out of it so everyone I am around is reminded as well: “When I am elected president I am going to end this war in Iraq and bring our troops home.” (Crowd cheers.) $83 billion will bring the total amount of money wasted on war up to $1 trillion.

One Trillion Dollars. That is One Thousand Billion Dollars! Or One Million Million Dollars! And there is no end in sight because you cannot fight a cowardly hit-and-run tactic like terrorism no matter how many people you kill and no matter how much money you spend in trying. Of course, the money enriches the military contractors who constantly lobby for more money. But the American people suffer; the Iraqi people suffer; and the Afghani people suffer. Osama bin Laden could have been captured years ago if Bush would have asked for the world’s help rather than insisting that the United States did not need help -- and then talking crazy about smoking evil-doers out of their holes. Bush was like a bad cartoon.

One Thousand Billion Dollars wasted while states scramble to find money to pay state employees, pay unemployment benefits, and pay for educating our children while teachers have to meet the unfunded burden of No Child Left Behind. States like Ohio are even looking at gambling to bring us out of of debt, as if the Wall Street gamblers have not done enough damage. Now the rich and super-rich casino operators will be holding us by the ankles and shaking us to make sure they get all of our money.

Casinos to pay for educating our children? What kind of craziness is this? Does this make sense to a Chicago grassroots organizer? Is this the way the United States should be operating? Isn’t there a more fair and equitable -- indeed, a more reasonable -- economic system that we could work toward? Shouldn’t we be making 5, 10, and 20-year plans in order to ensure that human beings are able to have a job, decent housing, health, dental and eye care, safe food, and clean air and drinking water? What has happened to our priorities in a nation that espouses freedom and democracy, yet leaves its citizens’ dreams at the mercy of the market?

Socialism may seem like a dirty word to the Wall Street bankers, casino operators, military contractors, FOX News anchors, and other assorted con men and thieves who now thrive in the every-man-for-himself jungle of international capitalism. But a nation can have both personal freedom and genuine democracy and take care of citizen needs. It’s not that hard. You nationalize the banks, utilities, oil companies, health care conglomerates and other major industries then run them in the public interest, not for private profit. You eliminate the profit-taking at the top and reinvest at the bottom. Imagine a wellness-based single payer health care system free of insurance tycoons who now have the audacity to step in and change a doctor’s orders because it would interfere with their profits? No more of that nonsense.

This does not mean that the United States become the Soviet Union. No one wants that. We make our own brand of socialism based upon our long-held belief in liberty and justice for all. We do not restrict personal freedom; we expand it. We welcome those immigrants now living and working in our nation by giving them the opportunity for citizenship. We pay everyone a living wage, provide expanded Medicare for all citizens, make sure that schools are fully funded, and we invest in green technologies to provide millions of jobs and get away from fossil fuels. We invest in rebuilding our dilapidated water and sewer systems, our bridges, our railroads, our inner cities. We develop high-speed rail. We use science to find new ways to improve our lives through research and development. We change outdated laws that now keep many non-violent offenders in prison and we use community policing and community corrections to focus on genuine rehabilitation rather than prison warehousing. We get government out of citizens’ bedrooms by permitting marriage unions between same sex couples.

Which road should a Chicago grassroots organizer choose? A road to individual prosperity and full-employment or the same old road where the rich man plays while the little man pays? We can rebuild our infrastructure or watch it crumble as roving gangs go from neighborhood to neighborhood stealing whatever they can. We can rethink our priorities on taking care of ourselves as citizens or we can watch our prisons become the number one industry in the nation. We can develop new green transportation now or do nothing as gas prices skyrocket to $10 or more per gallon.

Strike three? Let’s be real before you swing at the next pitch. The United States is a mess and there are no easy solutions or quick fixes. This ain’t McDonald’s. Social and economic change takes time and a willingness to sacrifice now so that future generations will not have to. Rebuilding infrastructure takes time, perhaps even more than one generation. Can we accept a way of life in which we may not see the benefits in our lifetime? It takes time to convert from a “me” society that leads the world in the consumption of fossil fuels to a “we” society that has a low carbon footprint. Until we can produce millions of electric commuter cars, we may even have to ration gas at some point, making sure that fuel goes to farmers and distribution outlets before personal use in automobiles.

Many sacrifices, some of which are unpredictable now, must be made so that our grandchildren and great-grandchildren can live in a humane nation that prioritizes its needs and produces to meet those needs. If we fail to act soon, our children will be living in a fascist dictatorship where nothing is provided or guaranteed by government, including Social Security; where fuel is unavailable and food is not affordable for most people; where brown-outs and blackouts are commonplace as the electric grid fails from the lack of upkeep; where clean drinking water is unavailable because polluters have lobbied against regulations that impede their profit-taking; where few people can afford health insurance and those without the ability to pay up front are turned away by armed hospital guards. This is not science fiction. This is a glimpse at the future unless we, collectively, as citizens, demand of our leaders that we take a different road now.

Which road should a former grassroots organizer choose? The count is 0-2.

4/03/2009

Moratorium on GE foods

By mediagonebad

[Stop Monsanto's draconian bill now in Congress. HR875 is disguised as a food safety bill but it would give AG companies the power to virtually control agriculture. http://www.peaceteam.net/action/pnum959.php ]

Genetically Engineered foods, also known as GEOs (genetically engineered organisms) and GMOs (genetically modified organisms), which the U.S. Food and Drug Administration says are essentially equivalent to conventional foods and therefore do not require mandatory labeling or pre-market testing, can now be found in 60 to 75 percent of all non-organic supermarket foods.

Concern over the use of GE products, however, goes beyond the need for safety testing and product labeling. The concern to all of us should be directed toward the corporate scientists creating these products for AG employers such as Monsanto, DuPont, Dow Chemical, Aventis Crop Science, BASF, BIO, Zeneca Ag Products and Novartis. While most of us generally view technology as beneficial to humankind, we must always keep in mind that there is no scientific ethic in place that tempers the application of science only to those areas that may benefit humankind.

Companies that produce and use GE products spend millions of dollars on advertising campaigns trying to convince consumers that their products will benefit humankind. They say that GE products are needed so we can end world hunger, improve public health, create sustainable agriculture and improve crop yields and crop hardiness, but the possible devastating consequences of using GE products are not mentioned in their ads.

We all want to end world hunger, but in so doing, we also want our products to be safe for human consumption. Therefore, we must allow scientists to test these new creations before the AG companies rush them out into the marketplace. This is just common sense, something the AG companies do not have these days. They see dollar signs and that is their motivation.

The companies engaging in GE alter the genes of living plants, animals, humans and microorganisms, patent the new life forms, then sell the resulting food, seed or product for profit. When gene-altered crops are introduced into the natural world, however, they may wreak havoc upon traditional crops by creating genetic contamination of non-GE crops.

It is impossible to predict how these new life forms will reproduce, migrate and mutate, so it is also impossible to predict what the end results will be for the food supply. According to FDA logic, if it looks like a tomato, smells like a tomato and tastes like a tomato, then it must be a tomato. But how will a tomato altered with a fish gene effect non-GE tomatoes in 10 years? In a hundred years? In a thousand years? In a million years? Will GE tomatoes begin to develop eyes and brains? No one knows. As wind, bees, birds and insect pollinators begin carrying GE tomato pollen to other species, what results will occur? No one knows. What effect will GE tomato pollen have on beneficial insects such as bees, butterflies, ladybugs and soil microorganisms? No one knows. What new toxins, allergens, viruses, pathogens and antibiotic-resistant infections will be created accidentally? No one knows. If this sounds like science fiction, then perhaps it is, because no one knows what effects GE will have upon the natural world. No one knows what long-term consequences GE may have upon the food supply and the environment because these products are being created recklessly and rushed into the marketplace without benefit of proper safeguards, testing and controls.

Readers should keep in mind that GE technology is not the same thing as traditional cross-breeding or hybridization, which mixes only the genes of the same or closely-related species. Genetic engineering mixes the genes of unrelated species -- such as fish and tomatoes, bacteria and soybeans, and humans and pigs -- that would likely never be intermingled in the natural world. Genetic engineering produces new life forms and these new life forms are now in our food supply.

And what's worse, these life forms have gotten into our food supply without scientific evidence that they are indeed "safe." Valid scientific procedure is a rigorous process of examination and re-examination using experimental control groups, but this process is conveniently omitted by the AG companies The only evidence that these new life forms in our food supply are "safe" is the claim by GE producers that no one has ever gotten sick or died from using them, but there is no way to verify this claim because there is no labeling required for these products and therefore no follow-up.

GE products can now be found in infant formula, soda, pizza, chips, cookies, cereal, candy, vitamins, ice cream, pasta, sauces, breads, oils, juice, sweeteners, animal products, yogurt, cheese, sour cream, butter, detergents, salad dressings, frozen dinners, milk, and many other products made from genetically engineered soybeans, corn, canola, papaya, potatoes, tomatoes, flax, sugar beets, yellow crookneck squash, radicchio, cotton, zucchini, rBGH dairy products, processing aids and enzymes. Without product labeling, consumers have no way of knowing which products contain GMOs and, as a result, consumers are denied the opportunity to make informed choices about the food they eat. The GE producers are against any labeling because they argue that GE is "safe."

Unless AG companies are stopped in their tracks by an international moratorium on GE products, they may soon become the new landlords of life on Earth by monopolizing the global market for seeds, food and medical products. GE companies are lying to consumers about the safety of these products and they are lying to farmers about their necessity.

Maybe it's time we did something about it. For starters, we can write or call our congressional representatives and ask that our tax dollars not be used to fund GE research at universities. We can also start buying products that are made from certified organic ingredients. Just because we humans have the technical ability to create new life forms and to clone existing ones does not mean we should be using these technologies except with great caution and with proper scientific controls. Our human greed for capital gain in the present should be stifled by a greater desire to make our impact on this planet as minimal as possible. Besides, we haven't even learned how to get along peacefully with our own species, so why should we be creating more?

3/30/2009

Twittering Media

*** TOPICAL TWEETS ***

by @mediagonebad

Cable News

When I see military aficionado Wolf Blitzer on CNN, I turn to MSNBC.

When I see military aficionado Chris Matthews on MSNBC, I turn to Democracy Now!

O’Reilly and Limbaugh are toads. Ignore them. Let them be toads, hopping & eating bugs. Don’t pick them up and let them pee on your hand.

Dear Fox News: You think big national media ask the right questions? Really? They sure didn’t in lead-up to Iraq occupation.

Dear Fox News: Why do you hate anything that resembles democracy? Repeat after me: “Media diversity is a good thing.”

Dear Fox News: Big corporate media have failed us time and again. It is refreshing to see smaller, less self-serving media asking questions.

C’mon President Obama, stand up to the cronyism, to the good ‘ol boys (including Coultergeist) on Fox News. This is the change we need.

Ethics

Biggest problem is separating news from advertising and entertainment, for example ads with fake news anchors.

Note to Journalists: Be independent; be skeptical of what politicians, generals and analysts say; provide background, history and context.

Media ethics: be grounded, not star-struck or enthralled by savvy opinion-brokers; be independent and let the chips fall where they may.

Nothing wrong with having a point of view. We all have them. Personal bias finds its way into news.

Media & Public Relations

Public relations and news are so entwined that anyone who has the bucks can hire a PR firm and use the media to create a desired reality.

Remember the branding/selling of the Iraq war? Mushroom cloud. Chemical and biological weapons. Grave danger.

Remember the lead-up to Iraq war? PR “sold” the war through repetition by journalists.

Nothing wrong with citizen journalists, but fact-checking is a concern for all journalists.

Corporations enjoy a lofty position in the media. Citizens don’t. Citizen voices get drowned out by big-spending advertisers and agencies.

The airwaves belong to the public. Deny license renewals to broadcasters who act as shills for the military/industrial/media complex.

For open government 2.0, why not stream everything? Every panel, every House & Senate committee, every hearing. Get it all out there!

Branding

Financial crisis-speak. Nothing else like it. Where has the money gone? To the “war on terror,” to the corporate contractors in Iraq.

Toxic assets. We hear this term a lot lately. Is it something we are all supposed to know about? I must have missed this in economics class.

Branding the economic crisis: Blame it on AIG, on bonuses, on Obama. Just don’t blame it on the greedy Wall Street capitalists/gamblers.

Can PR change public opinion regarding A.I.G. ? PR campaign would try to shift blame for the payouts from execs to govt. officials.

Social Media

Analyzing both old and new media, trying to make TV - the most powerful educational force ever - more responsive to citizens.

Good writing is good writing, whether it is in a magazine or on Twitter.

10TV in Columbus, Ohio, is great example for SM communication between staff and the public.

Independent Journalism

The Free Radio Act, HR1147, would permit more licensing of low-power FM radio stations. LPFM will promote democracy & stimulate economy.

We have to get our news from a variety of sources. In the end, much political news writing IS opinion.

We need many voices in the chorus of democracy!

Democracy is a chorus of independent voices and an informed electorate.

National News Council

Do we need a national news council to point out where media fails and succeeds, where ethical standards are followed or ignored?

I think we start with a respected group like AEJMC and build from there, adding old & new media & ad reps. Incentive=recognition

Perhaps the organizing group - AEJMC or SPJ - could take apps from ppl interested in serving a year. Huge undertaking, yes.

3/13/2009

The Insurance Mafia



Support the National Health Insurance Act (HR 676)!

By Jamie York

When Bill Clinton was in his first term as president in 1992, he vowed to revamp the health care system in the United States. He held up a single insurance card and said that under his plan every American would have one of those cards. It was to be the only insurance card a person would need because Clinton was advocating a single payer health care system and every American was to be covered. In addition, that card was to be imbedded with a memory chip that would hold all of one's medical records, including medical history, test results, digital XRAYs, Pet Scans, MRIs, dental and optometrist records -- anything that pertains to one's well being. Present your card to a health care provider and you will be taken care of. No other insurance needed.

Clinton's plan immediately drew intense fire from the multi-billion-dollar insurance industry, so, rather than stick up for single payer as rational and viable, he backed down with his tail between his legs and asked Hillary to work with the insurance industry and come up with a new plan. Of course, this secret new plan, conceived behind closed doors in consultation with insurance industry tycoons, soon became known as "managed care." Hillary's managed care plan is really nothing more than an ineffective cost-containment plan and has nothing to do with providing quality health care coverage for every American. There are still more than 33 million Americans without any coverage whatsoever and the quality of health care in 2009 is even worse than it was when Clinton first became president.

During the 2000 presidential campaign, George W. Bush and Al Gore talked about the cost of prescription drugs for seniors, but neither candidate dared to mention a single payer health care system and no reporters stepped up to challenge them about it. Clinton made a lot of enemies when he held up that single payer card and his administration never fully recovered from it. Similarly, in 2008, as Barack Obama was running for president, he initially said he supported single payer health care, then began talking about health care “reform,” which is a code word for same-old same-old. In a March 26, 2009, town hall meeting, Obama said that he wanted to reform the system that is already in place. Like Bill Clinton, Obama cried “uncle” on single payer.

When I think of the insurance industry, I think about a Mafioso requiring small business owners to pay them protection money in order to gain immunity from violence. What is the difference between paying the Mafia for protection from violence and paying an insurance company for protection from illness? The only difference I can see is that the Mafia are regarded as criminals and their activities are illegal while insurance companies operate freely as legitimate businesses and their activities have become accepted.

Today, we are expected to pay for protection against illness, motor vehicle accidents, fire, flood, theft -- you name it and some insurance Mafioso will accept your money for protection against it. If, after buying food and paying our bills and taxes, we cannot afford to pay for such protection, then we could be denied emergency health care services or we could be left literally with nothing but the clothes on our backs. To me, the idea of paying the insurance mafia for health care protection is particularly unnerving because I believe that food, shelter, health care and education are essential for human survival and should be considered birthrights, not simple privileges for those who can afford them. For most people, there is little left after we pay our monthly bills, yet insurance premiums keep going up. The premiums I paid to my former health care HMO -- Kaiser Permanente -- doubled during the Clinton administration, so I then dropped Kaiser for a Prudential plan that had cheaper premiums but required more out-of-pocket payments in case of illness. As long as I didn't get sick and have to pay high out-of-pocket expenses, I could pay the monthly premiums. After changing jobs, however, I was without insurance coverage for nearly a year, then I enrolled in an employer's Blue Cross plan with a very high deductible, but I soon received a letter informing me that because I hadn't had continuous insurance coverage they would not pay for any pre-existing conditions until I had been enrolled in their plan for one year. It was an important reminder to me that insurance companies are in business to maximize their profits.

While I am in favor of a health care system that is free from the cradle to the grave, I also realize that in a capitalist economy, health care is not a birthright but is a privilege under the terms of the free market. Pay the insurance mafia or do without. Proponents of the current health care marketplace argue that a "socialized" health care system will somehow take away their freedom of choice regarding which doctors they see and which treatments are offered. But under managed care, as more physician practices are gobbled up by corporate chains, it is nearly impossible for many patients to see the doctor of their choice and the treatment options for most standard procedures are often dictated by the chain, not by the doctor. How many of us have heard the familiar mantra: "I'm sorry, Dr. Jones is not available on those days, but I can get you in to see Dr. Smith in two weeks." Under single payer, the doctor-patient relationship will come first, as it should. Hospitals are also hiring their own staff of doctors -- called "hospitalists" -- and are excluding many local family doctors from having hospital privileges. If you have to be admitted to the hospital, your own doctor may not be able to see you there and the hospitalist may not order the tests you need in order to save money for the hospital.

A single-payer health care bill now before Congress is HR 676. This bill, sponsored by Rep. John Conyers (D-MI), would give every American expanded Medicare coverage that would also include eye care, dental and long-term health care. A federally-regulated single payer health care system will not be a free system -- we will be taxed for it -- but it will provide efficient, streamlined health care for all Americans by eliminating the profit-taking and high administrative costs of the mafia system. It will save billions of dollars. Of course, the insurance mafia and their supporters in Congress and in the media will go to great lengths to scare the public away from single payer. They will scream “socialism!” They will wave the flag and argue that privatization equals free choice while single payer equals a return to "big government." The truth, however, is that in the current private system -- the mafia system -- 35 percent of health care costs are administrative. These administrative costs include marketing, insurance company profits, CEO salaries, pre-authorization panels and billing clerks. When a doctor orders a test on a patient -- a CT or PET scan, for example -- the cost of the procedure is inflated to pay these high administrative costs. Single payer will help to streamline the health care system by eliminating the administrative "middle man" from the doctor-patient relationship; as a result, the cost of exams will be lower and doctors will be free to practice medicine without bureaucratic interference from the insurance mafia.

It is time to end the reign of the insurance mafia and put single payer on the national agenda. The mainstream politicians and the collaborative "lapdog" media are not going to bring up the issue of single payer, so it's up to the public to support HR 676 and tell their representatives to back it also.

2/02/2009

What would YOU do?

By mediagonebad

Suppose you have a health insurance plan such as Mail Handlers and your employer, the Veterans Administration, required you to opt-out of Medicare if you took it. You pay your premiums, your co-pays and your prescription costs. You visit your doctor regularly and you have lab work. Then maybe you have an X-Ray and visit the emergency room. You may even have surgery which requires a hospital stay and your plan pays 80/20 after you meet a certain deductible. Things are basically going O.K. and you have managed to keep up with the costs and pay your bills.

You may go on like this for years and your premiums keep going up. You are retired, stay active, and don’t think too much about your insurance. After all, it has been there for you when you needed it.

Then BAM! You have a stroke or another illness that requires a hospital stay and extensive aftercare and physical therapy. It may even require time in a nursing home. THEN you discover that you have to fight with your insurance company for therapy your doctor orders because your claims are denied by the health insurance company’s doctors. THEN you discover that you do not have any nursing home or long-term coverage at all! And all of these years you thought you had decent insurance and thought it would be there for you when you needed it most. You didn’t even think about having to buy a SEPARATE policy to cover long-term care. It never crossed your mind because you thought your health insurance was SUPPOSED to cover you when you got sick, no matter where you had to go. You thought your insurance company would always be there for you, then BAM! It isn’t.

WOW, your former employer made you opt-out of Medicare when you retired back in the early 80’s and now you find out that Medicare takes much better care of patients than your insurance does. And there is nothing you can do about it now that you are 85 years old. You can be angry. You can cry in your Ensure. Or you can tell your story and inspire others. You can fight back and push for cradle-to-grave single payer health coverage for all Americans.

What if you have no recourse but to pay out-of-pocket for your long-term care expenses with the risk of losing your house and all of your assets? What would YOU do?

1/25/2009

How to Hold Obama's Feet to the Fire

By mediagonebad

Before 9/11, George W. Bush was not a popular president and he received much criticism early in his presidency. After 9/11, when the nation was trying to rebound emotionally from this tragedy, Bush’s approval rating went up. Why? After 9/11, the mass media did not challenge him on his facts and allowed him free range to pursue his agenda -- a permanent “war on terrorism,” the occupation of Iraq, approving torture, secret CIA prisons, an end to habeas corpus, and widespread spying on Americans. Criticism of Bush was viewed by the media brass as being unpatriotic and dissenting opinions thus received little air time. Red, white and blue banners decorated the screens of the 24-hour cable news networks and the news anchors wore their new American flag lapel pins. The only “debate” on the news was between the right and the far-right.

Today, with the Obama presidency less than a week old, the President has issued executive orders to close the Guantanamo gulag, ban torture, grant more access to federal documents under the Freedom of Information Act, freeze pay for White House staff, provide for more openness in government, and to end the abortion “gag rule.” Most of the debate today centers around Obama’s economic stimulus plan. Although a central theme in the Obama campaign was to end the war in Iraq and bring the troops home, the tanking economy and home foreclosures are the main focus right now.

Writing directly to our representatives and to the president is one way to make our views known, but that does not hold the president’s feet to the fire. To do that, we must hold the electronic media’s feet to the fire and demand that they present a wide range of views. Write to the cable news networks that set the tone for national and international news. Try blogging and micro-blogging on social networking sites like Facebook, Twitter, and Myspace to help bring democracy to the media. We can even -- if we are bold enough -- record a video editorial from our home computers and post it on YouTube. Remember, the Executive Branch is supposed to be equal to the Legislative and Judicial branches. Bush basically turned the presidency into a kingdom and we can take some solace in that fact that Obama has at least dealt with some of the more troubling dirty deeds of the Bush administration. But there is much more work to be done….