Appearances by single-payer advocates on corporate mainstream media are few and far between --- all the more reason that when a golden opportunity arises, single-payer advocates must take care to appropriately frame the base-line issue of health care reform.
While there can be no doubt that a single-payer system, which President Obama concedes, provides the only means by which every American can be "covered," is the most cost-effective, the issue is really more basic.
It's about the immorality of treating the health of our people as a commodity; that those who seek to perpetuate a system designed to create obscene wealth for a few insurance company CEOs and their Wall Street investors are advocating nothing less than a death sentence for more than 18,000 Americans each year...
Shortly after my original piece, “Hate Speech and the Process of Dehumanization,” I received a form of constructive criticism. A friend suggested that while I provided a coherent explanation of Prof. Zimbardo’s basic concepts regarding the process of dehumanization as it relates Nazi atrocities and the Jim Crow South, my application of Zimbardo to the more contemporary question of Muslims and Arabs failed to do justice to Prof. Shaheen’s academic study of American films.
While the criticism is valid, that certainly had not been my intent.
The problem entails issues of length in the blog format --- the risk that length will reduce the size of the audience one hopes to educate.
For those who feel they’ve read enough, please stop here.
[Emphasis added]The Central Intelligence Agency in 2004 hired outside contractors from the private security contractor Blackwater USA as part of a secret program to locate and assassinate top operatives of Al Qaeda, according to current and former government officials.
The New York Times article provided limited background information on Blackwater aka Xe, referencing what amounted to a massacre of 17 unarmed Iraqi civilians gunned down by Blackwater mercenaries in Nisoor Square as simply an instance in which Blackwater had been "accused of using excessive force."
In "Blackwater = Murder, Inc." I covered the explosive allegations made in sworn statements by two former Blackwater employees --- murder, weapons smuggling, corruption, and the use of child prostitutes. I argued:
The failure of the bulk of the corporate press to responsibly cover this explosive story is manifestly irresponsible. The ramifications of permitting a President to create a private, unaccountable army of mercenaries --- one which was permitted to have a heavily armed presence inside a U.S. city, a presence that took precedence over saving the lives of Katrina victims --- are truly frightening.
Now, that same corporate press learned from "official sources" that Blackwater is linked to former Vice President Richard B Cheney's "assassination wing." It repeats, without challenge, the official source contention that the only ones targeted by the "assassination wing" were senior al Qaeda officials --- this despite Jeremy Scahill's and Keith Olbermann's revelation that John Doe 2, reportedly a former member of Blackwater's management, alleged:
Mr. Prince views himself as a Christian crusader tasked with eliminating Muslims and the Islamic faith from the globe.
These articles reveal as much about the sorry state of mainstream media journalism as they do about Blackwater...
Setting aside First Amendment issues, one has to understand the true danger posed by "hate speech," which is both product and cause of the process of dehumanization --- a process defined by Professor Phillip Zimbardo in The Lucifer Effect as a means "by which certain other people or collectives of them are depicted as less than human….”
Zimbardo regards this as “one of the central processes in the transformation of ordinary, normal people into indifferent or even wanton perpetrators of evil….a ‘cortical cataract’ that clouds one’s thinking and fosters the perception that other people are less than human…to see…others as enemies deserving of torment, torture, and even annihilation.”...
A number of comments, some posted here at The BRAD BLOG, others in media accounts, suggest that President Obama's willingness to abandon the "public option" was either a caving-in to "formidable opposition" or, as Howard Fineman speculated on MSNBC's Countdown, merely the case of the President's use of the "public option" as a "bargaining chip" which he played "way too early." T.J. Caswell described it as "throwing in the towel."
Other assessments have been less charitable. In a powerful video, journalist John Pilger argues that President Obama is nothing more than "a marketing creation"; that the American electorate was duped into believing the junior senator from Illinois was on the side of common men and women. Pilger portrays the President as a sort of Manchurian candidate for Wall Street, the corporate security state and Empire.
While perhaps not quite as harsh as Pilger's, Ralph Nader's assessment is just as devastating:
RALPH NADER: What is emerging here is what was being planned by the Obama White House all along, which is they would...only demand legislation that was accepted by the big drug companies and the big health insurance companies.
You can see this emerging over the last few months. President Obama has met with the heads of the drug companies and the health insurance companies. Some executives have met with President Obama four to five times in the White House in the last few months. He has never met with the longtime leaders of the “Full Medicare for Everybody” movement...
Not much of a dialogue over health care when those representing a reform --- single-payer --- favored by 60% of the American electorate can't even get an audience with the President...
On August 11, 2009, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, in a unanimous vote, became the first elected body in the United States to stand up to Hate Radio. Their resolution urges "the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) to conduct a comprehensive investigation on hate speech in the media, allowing public participation via public hearings, and asks the NTIA [National Telecommunications and Information Administration] to update its 1993 report on the Role of Telecommunications in Hate Crimes."
For two years, San Francisco's Hispanic/Latino Anti-Defamation Coalition (HLADC) has been trying to get some traction on this issue. They've staged rallies against Michael Savage, worked with the Media Alliance, Common Cause and Broadcast Blues to protest hate radio, and supported the National Hispanic Media Coalition's campaign to convince the FCC and NTIA to act. But HLADC leader Aurora Grajedas saw she could better effect national change by working with her own city's board of supervisors. Acting locally is a good lesson for all activists.
Still, there is resistance to any such study, as opponents charge these groups are trying to shut down the first amendment. But let us be clear, Radio Speech is not Free Speech. I will stand by Glenn Beck's right to stand on the street corner and say illegal immigrants should be made into a new fuel called "Mexinol." I may not like it, but I stand by his right to say it. But there is a difference between shouting on the street corner and broadcasting all over the country.
Broadcasting pioneers witnessed the power of propaganda with radio Tokyo Rose, so they worked with government on two key broadcast regulations. First, to qualify for a license to broadcast on the public airwaves, stations had to serve the public interest, which became defined as local news, political debates, equal time, and a rule that said no personal attacks. Second, one person could own just 6 radio stations, nationwide. There were a lot of "street corners" in radio.
In the final analysis, the ideological differences between Republicans and the corporate/controlling sector of the Democratic party are relatively narrow and insignificant as compared to the bi-partisan link to corporate wealth and power --- a link both share with the corporate-owned, mainstream media.
In 2008 it was the insanity that was the Bush/Cheney flirtation with fascism. Today, it's imaginary "death panels" and the undereducated, easily manipulated wing-nut mobs sent to shut down one of the oldest forms of American democracy --- the town hall meeting.
These provide the perfect cover. They permit the more gifted corporate Democrats, for example Barack Obama, to seduce the great masses of working stiffs who make up the American electorate with soaring, but ultimately deceptive, rhetoric; producing brief euphoria on the eve of the last election, followed by no real substantive change.
As the corporate media misdirects focus on brown shirt-like disruptions at the town halls, the real "death panels" --- the corporate profiteers and their bought-and-paid-for politicians --- hammered out a pseudo-reform package that will perpetuate a corrupt, dysfunctional and deadly health care system which kills more than 18,000 Americans each year simply because they can't afford coverage and countless more when carriers refuse to authorize vital, life-saving procedures...
[Updated: Right on cue, the Teabaggers turn out to disrupt town hall meetings over the weekend. Video and details at end of article. ... UPDATED AGAIN: Lots more video now, the zombies come out all over the country.]
Are there simply no democratic (small "d") processes left that the Right isn't willing to corrupt to their own corporatized, nefarious purposes? It would seem not.
This from ThinkProgress, concerning the rightwing, corporate-sponsored (read: astroturf) "grassroots" FreedomWatch coalition, and their conveniently leaked talking points instruction memo [PDF] on how to create an appearance of dissension --- "Yell...Stand up and shout out...Rattle Him...Be Disruptive Early and Often" --- at upcoming town hall meetings back in Congressional districts over the August recess...
Rocking the Town Halls - Best Practices
A Political Action Memo
We here in Fairfield County Connecticut conducted an action at Congressman Jim Hime's Town Hall meeting in May 2009. We believe there are some best practices which emberged from the event and our experience, which could be useful to activists in just about any district where their Congressperson has supported the socialist agenda of the Democrat leadership in Washington.
-- Artificially Inflate Your Numbers: “Spread out in the hall and try to be in the front half. The objective is to put the Rep on the defensive with your questions and follow-up. The Rep should be made to feel that a majority, and if not, a significant portion of at least the audience, opposes the socialist agenda of Washington.”
-- Be Disruptive Early And Often: “You need to rock-the-boat early in the Rep's presentation, Watch for an opportunity to yell out and challenge the Rep's statements early.”
-- Try To “Rattle Him,” Not Have An Intelligent Debate: “The goal is to rattle him, get him off his prepared script and agenda. If he says something outrageous, stand up and shout out and sit right back down. Look for these opportunities before he even takes questions.”
As detailed in the full memo, the strategy "worked," and media took the bait in the Himes' Town Hall event mentioned.
Over the weekend, far-right kook Michelle Malkin, for some reason, was allowed a seat at the roundtable on ABC's This Week with George Stephanopoulos as if she was a legitimate voice.
She predicted (video here) that where Democrats and the White House have "vastly underestimated just how grassroots this movement is," they would soon face "townhalls-gone-wild" in the weeks ahead...
David Kurtz at TPM suggests: "How about a program where we can turn in the old, washed-up pundits and talking heads on the cable nets for ones that spew less dangerous emissions?"
And, in not entirely unrelated news, Glenn Greenwald offers the proper perspective on today's report that the corporate ownership of both Fox "News" and MSNBC have interceded into their news divisions' ongoing Olbermann v. O'Reilly Wars because, while it's been good for ratings for both of them, it's bad for the corporations.
To build on Kurtz' notion, how about if we turn in the old, washed-up, corporatized news outlets who live large on our public airwaves and government largesse as well?
So, imagine if the corporate media had spent even a fraction of the time and resources they've spent going wall-to-wall with around-the-clock "team coverage" of their important "investigation" into the death of Michael Jackson, on any single investigation of any single crime of the Bush Administration.
For example, imagine if they had spent as much time and resources for any single week over the past eight years, on any of the crimes involved with sending us into a war that's killed over 4,000 Americans, hundreds of thousands of Iraqis, and has otherwise put our national security at dangerous risk for decades to come.
Some things are important, we guess. Other things aren't. Don't stop till ya get enough. And don't forget to blame the bloggers on the way out. Heckuva job, mainstream media. Don't let the door hit ya...
Seemingly dead-set on hastening its obsolescence, Washington Post has fired "White House Watch" columnist Dan Froomkin, one of their only unflinching truth-tellers who never stopped telling those truths, even through every dark year of the former oppressive regime when McCarthyesque tactics prevailed, and 99% of the men and women who held jobs like Froomkin's failed the nation by pulling their punches and folding to the cynicism of fear and intimidation.
Says Froomkin in response: "I'm terribly disappointed. I was told that it had been determined that my White House Watch blog wasn't "working" anymore. But from what I could tell, it was still working very well. I also thought White House Watch was a great fit with The Washington Post brand, and what its readers reasonably expect from the Post online."
Ironically, folks like Howard Kurtz and Dana Milbank remain employed by WaPo in the meantime. So do unapologetic wingnut liars and tools such as Charles Krauthammer, William Kristol, George Will and a bevy of others. And in more irony, despite the paper's purge of just about anyone who might have been described as "liberal" or "progressive" (and yes, Froomkin held Obama feet to the same fire he held Bush's), the still-employed wingnuts will continue to label the hard-right charging WaPo as "the liberal media," even as the editors and publishers of the paper run out of money, wonder what happened to them, and blame "the Internet" for their own failures in falling for the bait.
"As I've written elsewhere," Froomkin said in his statement, "I think that the future success of our business depends on journalists enthusiastically pursuing accountability and calling it like they see it. That's what I tried to do every day. Now I guess I'll have to try to do it someplace else."
Not sure whether to laugh deliriously or cry here. The 'death of media,' and the ensuing plummet in ad sales, don't help or please folks like us either...even if some believe we're somehow partially responsible for it all...
"Americans think that it’s healthcare that produces health, when there really is very little evidence for that. What turns out to be really important is the nature of caring and sharing in society….Where societies are more equal --- and economic equality is the thing that is most important in this --- people look after each other…and pretty well everyone does better. There’s almost nothing that is better in a society that tolerates the extreme levels of inequality in the United States. And so, we end up dying younger than people in all the other rich countries, despite spending half the world’s healthcare bill." - Dr. Stephen Bezruchka, March 30, 2009
"Who are we? Is this what we have become --- a nation that dumps people off like garbage who can't pay their hospital bills?" - Michael Moore, following a segment in which a confused elderly woman in a flimsy hospital gown is dumped curbside near a Skid Row rescue mission, in his documentary Sicko!*
In Failed States (2006), Prof. Noam Chomsky, a preeminent linguist and one of this nation’s most prolific political writers, concludes that the U.S. suffers from a “democracy deficit” --- the significant gap between the policy positions of the electorate and their elected representatives --- which he attributes to the manner in which “elections are skillfully managed to avoid issues and marginalize the underlying population…freeing the elected leadership to serve the substantial people.”
The deficit is especially acute in what Chomsky describes as “the most dysfunctional healthcare system in the industrial world.” Chomsky notes that a single-payer system --- that is a system in which all medical providers would be paid by a government entity as now occurs with Medicare --- has long been overwhelmingly favored by “a considerable majority” of the American people, but routinely dismissed by both the corporate media and the leaders of both political parties as “lacking political support” and not being “politically possible.”
The issue touches on the core contradictions which arise because we have allowed private authoritarian entities, corporations, to subvert democracy by controlling our economy, our mass media and the manner in which we conduct elections.
This piece will focus on the irrationality of a privatized health care system which values the wealth of a handful of CEOs of the parasitic and entirely unnecessary middle-men --- for-profit carriers and HMOs --- over the health and very lives of our people. It will explain what corporate America and their bought-and-paid-for politicians do not want you to hear...
Unfortunately, despite a valiant effort from listeners of the Peter B. Collins Show earlier this week, Peter tells me that he will indeed be forced to wrap up his show tonight, at least in its current format, as announced last week. This afternoon, from 3p-6p PT, will be his final syndicated broadcast, and with it, the last of my weekly Friday appearances at 5pm PT on his show. (You can listen via this link as we wrap things up today.)
Peter tells me that he plans to return in podcast format --- no official announcements yet as to where and how, on that --- sometime this June. So we'll have that to look forward to, at least, even as the people's airwaves lose one of the nation's most important progressive voices.
I'm also informed that Scott Dick, progressive talker, military expert, retired army major and yes, foodie, will be taking PBC's place for two of the three hours on KRXA 540am in Monterey, CA , the original flagship station for Peter's show. I've been extended the invitation to continue on as a regular weekly guest on Scott's show as well, which I hope to work out, and will look forward to.
But, for now, thanks for everything Peter. It's been a helluva ride over the last 4 or 5 years. Oh, the places we've been...
POST-SHOW UPDATE: My final appearance on PBC's show, during his final hour today, follows, along with the final moments of the hour/his show --- and even a KRXA 540am ad stuck in the middle, a surprise to me, with Peter B's voice announcing he'll be a regular weekly guest on Scott Dick's show, and a plug for my weekly appearances there as well! (Guess that's been finalized then! )
Today I was happy to bring some very good news to the show, as a welcome coda on a whole bunch of the stories PBC and I have covered over the years. So it's a good day. Thanks for the kind words, my friend. And Happy Trails...
Last year's Media Reform Conference with the theme "Have the Media Undermined Our Democracy?" at which I spoke, was pretty memorable. That one featured an FCC commissioner and then-Rep., now-Labor Secretary Hilda Solis (D-CA) on the panel. Here's some video and a transcript of my remarks last year.
This year, I've been invited back (book-keeping error, no doubt) and the focus will be on local media, though I'll likely be paraphrasing Tip O'Neill to make the case that 'all media is now local'.
This year's speakers include Domonique DiPrima, Tanya Acker, Mario Solis-March, Linda Milazzo, Anthony Samad and myself. Which one of us will be named Secretary of HUD next year? Who knows! But hey, it could happen!
If you're in the area, please stop on by and say hello!