Category: News media

Thoughts in October 2014: Flu Vaccines, Political Example-Stories, Confederate Ghosts in the Fog, and Mobile, Alabama memories

Posted by – October 29, 2014

“Down in Mobile they’re all crazy, because the Gulf Coast is the kingdom of monkeys, the land of clowns, ghosts and musicians, and Mobile is sweet lunacy’s county seat.”—Eugene Walter

So I was in Mobile, AL, a port city as complex as it is old, the Confederacy’s “undefeated” city, and my hometown, and I move from the Fox News in the pulmonologist’s office to the Fox News in the psychologist’s office.
It’s late 2004. George W. Bush already won reelection and both camels of Congress are firmly Republican-controlled. This is a red state epicenter, and the receptionist slowly shakes her head at all the evils of them dadgum liberals in Washington.

The Fox News reporter on screen is in Iraq, sandy winds off the desert dunes whip his polo shirt’s sleeves back, and he tries to keep his pencil-like physique upright as he shoves his big fuzzy Fox News-emblazoned microphone into soldiers’ faces. He was asking almost Colbert-like questions of the desert camo-wearing Army men, like how much have Senate Democrats harmed the war effort? and do you think the recent comments of Senate Democrats constitute treason?

More than one serviceman laughed the guy off.  None of them knew what comments Democrats had made. The questions were totally removed from the Army’s mission in Iraq and mostly seemed the ramblings of another clueless civilian or rear guard patriot.  Really apparent was the complete disconnect from the composition of government: Republicans unified the federal elected bodies and the executive branch under their control from 2002 and gained even biggier majorities in the 2004 elections, but it sounded like the Senate Democrats ran everything on Fox News.  The ever-present librul conspiracy is all-powerful and ALWAYS the problem.

This idea of eternal opposition is easy to understand in the undefeated city, our lady of perpetual defiance. This I understand easily, the rebellion is deeply ingrained in Mobilians’ DNA. Over time, surrounded by Confederate ghosts (some of them your relatives) and architecture, the big bronze Admiral Raphael Semmes statue looking at you, marinating in that culture and place and tripping over its ghosts in the lit beams of fog, you start to understand that the port cities have a different narrative from that of the plantationocracy, that for the urban South it’s more utopian.

Standing figure of Admiral Raphael Semmes. He wears confederate attire, including a long coat which extends to his knees, and a cap on his head. His left arm is bent so that his fist rests on his hip, with sword hanging immediately behind. His right arm is at his side with binoculars in his hand. Erected in 1899, the bronze aged to deep green long ago like the Statue of Liberté in New York. The base features three bronze plaques, including one which depicts the C.S.S. Alabama at sea.

Big bronze statue of Admiral Semmes @ The Loop, intersection of Government and Royal, City of Mobile.

Yes it’s about a slave economy and getting them dadgum liberal Abe Lincolns off your lawn, but it’s also this idea of Alabama knowing how best to build Alabama.  There’s nothing libertarian about the state that they would choose; the vision is more Thomas Paine than Edmund Burke. There’s this idea and utopian dream of all types of creation-energy and creativity and building being unleashed once you get that damnable federal boot off your neck.

It’s mostly a pipe dream—AKA a dream you get after hitting dat pipe o’ opium—and also there’s NOTHING morally justifiable much less utopian about the reasons why the feudal lords of the Southern interior supported secession, that is slavery slavery and slavery. But the port cities that were bustling centers of New World civilization already when George Washington was in diapers really complicate whatever narrative of the Confederacy you have. They resist simplicity. The port cities (Charleston, Mobile, New Orleans) are/were full of madmen and poets and dreamers like Eugene Walter described. And they were not only about wiping out the invaders, but also trying to create a better society that isn’t trying to out-hustle the North but wants to make a nation that is culturally if not economically independent (slavery spreading because of capitalism on steroids, often with northern financing).
As uber lefty cultural historian Morris Berman often says, a Southern victory in The WONA (“War of Northern Aggression”) would not have necessarily “given us a better world–slavery having been the obvious dark aspect of the Southern way of life–but the destruction of a gracious, slow-moving, community-oriented society in favor of a frantic, commercial one is nothing to crow about.”

So I always try to understand the ideas behind the arguments. Wanting to get dem dadgum bluebacks out of your hair I understand.
But if your side never has to shoulder the responsibility of governance, is perpetually in opposition vs. having a share of the credit and consequences of success or failure as part of a ruling coalition, your party can become badly warped.

I think it’s advantageous to understand all sides as much as possible. I got really confused during the federal gov’t shutdown of 2013, especially as to the predominant ideas underpinning it, so I listened to right-wing talk radio for the week and tried, to the best of my ability, to explain Teapublican thinking at the time on this blog.  I think that it is more radical to attempt to get your head around the other side’s ideas than to knee jerk oppose, and more interesting.

GOP uernica – Daryl Cagle’s fascinating and ‪hilarious‬ GOPelephant parody of Pablo Picasso’s Guernica.

Even the SHUT IT DOWN extremism I could eventually understand somewhat, but there are things I seriously can’t grasp at all except as purposefully misleading, disinfo more than misinformation, especially with Fox News. It worries me about our nation’s ability to learn, to adapt to multiple decades of scientific data, move forward and lead the way so humans  don’t end up extinct.

Concerned about Fox Newsification of Medicine and Science

On the medical front, there are obvious policy differences on substantive issues, like the stem cell lines kerfuffle early on in Bush Jr’s presidency, but I mean things like blaming John Edwards and “librul trial lawyers” for the flu shot shortage of 2004. This was a talking point on Fox News repeated again and again, part of the “scandal of the day” format Faux News sticks with throughout its lineup of programs.

Like the disloyal Democrats’ comments brought up over and over again, even by FNC’s Iraq correspondent in lieu of actual reporting, there’s this consistent appeal to some story example that acts as a code word or proof-text of Demonrat perfidy—this time the librul conspiracy has gone too far!!  A good contemporary example is Benghazi, which for several years now is a code word for Barack Obama is a radical Islam and MURDERED that ambassador to cover up his traitorous support for terrorists OMG!!
In a way I understand this as coming from the story-example way of communicating so prevalent in the South, you can look back at 19th century newspapers and see how the openly partisan news media of the South would fixate on whatever meme of “Yankee radical” treason or perceived slight and milk it.

21st century partisan news media fixates on whatever obscure example and rides it for as many news cycles as possible, but an important difference is the whole South understood the example stories of 19th century newspapers, more or less, whereas the example stories of Fox News are little known outside of the conservative media bubble. Few know what Benghazi is or understand why Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl being brought home from being a Taliban POW per no man left behind is another traitorous plot of the Obama. Example narratives like these circulate only among the conservative media niche, have no traction outside that narrow audience and even within the alternate reality of the Rightosphere they create a terrible hew and cry but aren’t salient past the few news cycles they’re designated talking points for…

So on this day, Faux News’ librul conspiracy meme of the day was this thing about John Edwards and the dadgum ambulance chasing trial lawyers. The pulmonologist and nurse were discussing the flu shot shortage crisis affecting us and the other patients, and that the lawsuits pursued by John Edwards and his parasitic ilk are the primary cause of vaccine factory closures and the shortage of flu shots. Conservative media was citing this as a proof of lawyers ruin health care and pass legislation to further immunize vaccine makers from lawsuits! 

I’d understand employing this example, if it were true.  But Snopes wholly debunked the claim.  It is 100% false.  John Edwards never sued vaccine manufacturers nor did his firm. Few suits have ever been filed on the flu shot, the controversy is primarily over the early childhood immunization schedule, MMR vaccine, DPT vaccine, the use of thiomersal and so forth. So the ramping down of flu vaccine manufacturing had nothing to do with lawsuits—no one was seeking redress of grievances against the flu shot—the low supply of flu vaccines in 2004, Snopes explained, had to do with flu vaccines losing money, and with vaccine makers transitioning production to the scary “live virusintranasal spray FluMist®.

When story examples are more important than fact and there is ONLY opinion, where does that lead us?

Nick

 

Key link: snopes.com: John Edwards and flu vaccine shortage

 

That Time Mobile, AL Made The Front Page of the New York Times

Posted by – November 13, 2013

And how The Times missed the story

It’s not exactly surprising that the New York Times missed the story: their writers too often cling to conventional wisdom like a drunk grabbing a lamppost, not for illumination as much as desperately-needed support.  Don’t get me wrong, the Times sometimes has great coverage and is valuable as one of the few newspapers doing fact-checked, traditional journalism, and one of the last old-guard newspapers still standing, but their coverage of the American South is consistently abysmal. It’s nearly as clueless as their coverage of disability issues.  When it comes to the South, the NYT writers are like most New Yorkers, they hear “Alabama” and can picture only the cornfield backdrop on that show Hee-haw!  The problem is, despite the reality being more crawdad than cornfield, more riveria than rural, you can get through this front page report on Alabama’s First Congressional district primary run-off with the image of the rural cornfields unperturbed.

The front page story, well, it was actually a prominent front page blurb in Wednesday, November 6th—print, web, and app—New York editions then continued inside (or on page A17) with the headline: Byrne Wins Republican Runoff in Alabama House Race, was seen nearly 100% through the DC pundits’ lens:

… But the race to replace Mr. Bonner became a national proxy fight between the ideological wings of the Republican Party after Mr. Byrne and Mr. Young emerged atop a nine-candidate field in a September primary.

Dean Young, the Tea Party challenger, did see the race as an epic struggle: his defiant election night “concession speech” ominously referred to his loss as “the first warning shot that goes out across the nation,” and the beginning of his national movement. Byrne, to his credit, tried to explain to the media.that the race was actually about representing Mobile Bay area interests in the House.  This is why he won. (I’d say Jo Bonner won too, abruptly retiring a few weeks before the tsunami of filth from the shameful government shutdown hit)

City of Mobile’s stunning waterfront, backed by blood oranges and cinnamon-sunset. Tip of the hat to Ronald Cook for sharing this beautiful cityscape, originally captured by photographer Tim Ard.

The New York Times missed the story because they missed Mobile.  After the dateline, MOBILE, Ala—pronounced MoBEAL, my hometown—they don’t mention the city again and don’t interview anyone in the city, though Mobilians are the bulk of the voters in the First district, and thus decide the election.  At minimum, The Times has deprived readers of the context that explains why Bryne won: Mobile.

Bradley Byrne didn’t win because voters sided with the “Republican establishment” vs. the Tea Party, as The Times suggested.  Byrne won because he’s more like his predecessors, Jo Bonner and Sonny Callahan, who were laser-focused on getting federal earmarks, grants, and infrastructure projects for the city and the area economy, and made “bringing home the bacon,” not ideological warfare, job 1.  Dean Young might have won in a purely rural district with his pledges to “be just like Ted Cruz,” but far-right crusaders will never get much traction in districts like the First, where an urban population center supplies much of the vote… in this case, Mobile is also a port city trying to compete with similarly-sized ports (like Charleston) and needs the pipe of infrastructure funding open and flowing in order to have a chance.

You see, the true story of Mobile and the Mobile Bay area is infinitely more layered, diverse, and beautiful than the stereotypes or The Times’ one line descriptor “the deeply conservative district.”  The city of Mobile is over 300 years old: it’s called “the city under six flags” because of its rich history

Seal of the city of Mobile

of being under France, Spain, Britain, Republic of West Florida (nominally), United States, and the Confederacy. These flags are on the city seal, including the bonnie blue flag of the Republic of West Florida, a 90 day secession in 1810…  though Mobile remained de facto under Spanish colonial rule, this Republic also included Pensacola and Baton Rouge.  The secession was crushed and all the territory therein forcibly incorporated into the U.S. by Andrew Jackson’s troops during the Madison administration.

Mobilians’ historical and socio-economic background, the collective subconscious, draws more on the statist-war economy under the Confederacy and the mercantilism of the French, Spanish, and British periods—I’ll write a post on Mobile and mercantilism—than the free market American image.  European colonies like Mobile and New Orleans didn’t really ever have the “wild west capitalism” or “free enterprise system” that politicians often say that they want to get back to, it never happened.  Whether you are Republican or Democrat in Mobile—and the word “Democrat” means something different in the Alabama context where the history includes George Wallace-style Democrats—you’re not automatically against state intervention, especially when it means some “bacon” for the local economy.

With the Democratic win in the recent Virginia gubernatorial election November 5th, some have said that Virginia’s election must’ve been rigged or unfair somehow because Cuccinelli won more counties, and the electoral-result map shows Virginia as a sea of red with a few islands of blue.  Dave Weigel blogged about this, renewing discussion of islands of blue where the urban population centers—and decisive voting blocs—are, and electoral maps.  Since, the blogosphere has lit up with discussions of the best electoral maps and cartograms.  Political science professor John Sides posted an excellent compilation of some of the best cartograms that have been created in recent days on his blog The Monkey Cage: the map that most accurately reflects Mobile and American voters as a whole is this one by Chris Howard, which corrects for population using relative darkness/lightness of the blue and red and purple.  In it, Mobile county is purple.

It’s unfortunate that The Times substituted the canned, pre-determined “Republican establishment vs. the Tea Party” narrative for the truth that it’s a purple district where the more moderate, bacon-bringing candidate has a natural advantage, and all politics are local.  They mangle the story, not from falsehoods, but from missing the point.  I understand the limited space in newspapers, but a few lines of context would have made all the difference.

Mobile city was part of New France… in the discussion of the 11 nations or political cultures that rub up against each other in North America being frequently blogged about too recently, Mobile should be categorized with “New France.”  The real Mobile is lost in the shuffle, kind of how the redistricting loses the city…

Alabama’s First Congressional district, the two coastal counties and four inland, rural counties

As you see in the map of the First Congressional district, they’ve included the hinterland counties to create a balance of rural and urban voters. Balanced districts like these are rare. And maybe they shouldn’t exist: so many rural areas are included here, the Mobilians are nearly canceled out.  Back when the Democrats held Montgomery—in the late ’90s and mid ’00s—there was discussion of drawing a new Mobile-only Congressional district.  This could have meant real representation for Mobile and Mobilians’ urban interests, a constituency that is 51% black and heavily Catholic, a very different person sent to Congress, and some misconceptions about coastal Alabama shattered in Washington.  We should remember this when discussing redistricting.

The one time my hometown makes The New York Times, and not for hurricane destruction, they gotta mangle it.  Dang it….

Nick

Mitt Romney: Can You Help Us, Mr. Fix It? (Part 2)

Posted by – February 10, 2012

Continuing my comments on Mitt Romney’s “very ample safety net” statement on CNN; see the first half of my post: Mitt Romney: Can You Help Us, Mr. Fix It? (Part 1)

So, as I said in Part 1, it’s very important to assess presidential candidates in a just and fair manner, and too often the news media is blaring the one sentence “not concerned about the very poor” sans context. But, to be honest, Romney’s answer is even worse when examined in its full context and nuance. Gail Collins over at the NYT wrote an excellent line-by-line breakdown of Mitt’s full statement. I won’t reprint her words here but I highly recommend you take a look.

Romney’s statement (read it here in full) singles out the 95% of Americans in the middle as his main concern. He’s not concerned about the top 1% and that leaves the bottom 4% he isn’t concerned about. Basic arithmetic shows the bottom 4% are those earning under $5,000 annually, a group politicians barely notice exist, much less spend time helping. This category would probably encompass mostly the elderly and disabled, and the homeless, including a lot of homeless veterans.

The most intelligent and spot-on post I’ve seen on this so far in the sprawling blogosphere is from the Columbia Journalism Review’s Campaign Desk: Three Thoughts on Mitt Romney’s ‘Very Poor’ Day : CJR
What makes it great is it actually does what journalism should, dig beneath the noise and the claims and try and unearth the facts. It points out that when Romney says the bottom 4% have a “very ample safety net” and it’s the middle class that needs help, it reveals a deep misunderstanding about the safety net in his brain. The article points out that social programs, for example Medicaid, spend more on long-term care for the elderly and disabled than on any other line item, and plenty of those folks qualify under medical assistance and Medicaid keeps them perched barely on the edge of a middle class quality of life. The article also cites data showing that many beneficiaries of Medicaid are actually middle-class families—certainly families in that broad “90-95 percent of Americans” that Romney says he wants to help—who “would otherwise be stuck with the full tab for care for their elderly and disabled relatives.” Medicaid is life support for the middle class as much as it’s a “safety net” for “the very poor.” More people should be cognizant of this data. Paul Ryan is: he hates that Medicaid is benefiting the middle class.

When pressed by CNN’s Soledad O’Brien after his initial “very poor” remark, Romney went on to say “We will hear from the Democrat Party about the plight of the poor.”
Essentially, he’s saying that’s their job, not Republicans’ role.

This references a political balance that may have existed 30 years ago, when Tip O’Neill and outspoken liberals controlled the House of Representatives and made sure the concerns of the poor were heard sometimes, but most certainly doesn’t exist now. No Democratic party leader that would remotely try to balance the scales toward the poor has existed since the era Tip O’Neill clinked high ball glasses in the Oval Office with Ronnie after 6 o’clock, and spent all his working hours before 6pm standing up to President Reagan, fighting for his blue-collar, poor base. He was by the unions, for the unions, and that doesn’t exist anymore. That is over; Tip O’Neill died in 1994 and no one remotely like him has succeeded him. Nancy Pelosi, the longest-serving Democratic Speaker of the House since O’Neill (she served four years) spends more time cozying up to corporate interests than unions. Instead of O’Neill, a hardscrabble Catholic boy from a poor Irish district, fighting the good fight for every day blue-collar people, we have Pelosi, an aloof elite holding a net worth of approximately $58 million in real estate, stock, and businesses she and her husband own, and is now facing an insider trading scandal. Sadly, Chris Hedges is right about the death of the liberal class.

When was the last time you heard Pelosi or Obama, or even the Clintons talk about the very poor? About the impoverished elderly? About people with disabilities? About the marginalized and excluded bottom 4% of Americans who have no apparent “trampoline out of poverty”? If I had a nickel for every time I’ve heard “from the Democrat party [sic] about the plight of the poor” over the past 20 years, I doubt I’d have enough nickels to make a phone call. Democrats frequently speechify about “working families,” when the problem is American families aren’t working, they can’t find enough work to make ends meet; too much of our economic base has been off-shored, and there hasn’t been enough innovation to replace what’s been lost. Obama and Pelosi talk about the middle class, campaigning for that big demographic same as Mitt Romney is, minus mentioning the “very poor” at all.

So given the Democrats abdicating their past role as fighters for the poor, we have to ask the Republicans as well, Romney included, for assistance for those trapped at the bottom, for help fixing the safety net and the upward ladder.

Unfortunately, the video footage is coming out, showing that “the people who need the help most are not the poor” is a recurring theme in Romney’s stump speeches. This is really troubling stuff, particularly after all the data has again and again shown the U.S. to lead the developed world in poverty [Source]. Also, as Romney says “if [the safety net] has holes in it, I will repair them,” he’s simultaneously pushing forth a tax plan that would blow a hole in social programs’ funding like we’ve never seen: Romney Tax Plan Would Require Slashing Social Safety Net … Says Romney Economic Adviser. It is disturbing that Romney says we have a “very ample safety net” while the next minute pushing a tax plan that—based on the analysis of his own economic adviser—would require slashing the very social programs he’s saying he’ll “repair.” Yet another contradiction from Willard “Mitt” Romney, the human mystery wrapped in an enigma. I want to reform the system to revolutionize how it sees us and respects our individual freedom, we need a very big change, I like the possibilities in some of Senator Wyden’s ideas for replacing Medicaid—which he calls a “caste system”—with something better and more equitable; what we don’t need is to destroy the program, death from a thousand cuts.

Still, I hope for some kind of educational moment can come out of this. That’s why I’ve written Romney HQ a letter. I have nothing against Governor Romney as a person, I’m sure he’s a great, affable guy, and I’d love to meet him to work on bringing individualized funding, choice and competition to Medicaid/Medicare instead of “one size fits all.” We don’t really know what kind of Republican Willard is deep down or how he’ll really govern—is he a lefty Rockefeller Republican like his dad, a moderate pragmatist like George H. W. Bush, a hard-right Reagan-and-Ayn-Rand type?—we don’t know. So why not assume he can be very reform-minded like his dad; why can’t Mitt be the one to lead the way in revolutionizing Medicaid and Medicare to be completely different? Choice, competition, individualized budgeting, cash and counseling—let’s go!

After all, Romney supporters like to refer to Mitt Romney as “Mr. Fix-it.” I’ve seen dudes holding “Romney: Mr. Fix-it” signs prior to the debates on cable news. I found this image on mittromneycentral.com:

Mr. Fix- It, America needs a proven leader with a strong conservative message.
Fan art by MittFan12 (Steve Thomas)
In a bizarre interlude, me finding this “Romney Mr. Fix it” image led to me stumbling into the mittromneycentral.com chat room by accident. Most of the supporters in the chat were polite and cordial in answering my questions, and I left there with more respect for Team Romney than I came in with…

Mitt Romney, please fix the safety net.

Mitt Romney: Can You Help Us, Mr. Fix It? (Part 1)

Posted by – February 10, 2012

Editorial cartoon: Richie Rich, the Monopoly Man, the Simpsons' Mr. Burns and Scrooge McDuck tell Mitt Romney he's embarrassing the rich 'you're making us look bad'

 

So, there’s been a dust up over Mitt Romney’s “I’m not concerned about the very poor” comments on CNN.  A lot of the blogosphere is mindlessly blasting this quote sans context, and the TV news even worse, so Team Romney isn’t wrong to protest how this has been “taken out of context.”  Cable news has been bad.  So bad: stopping short of breaking it down into a few syllables and grunts between prescription drug advertisements.

But, to be honest, Romney’s answer is even worse when examined in its full context and nuance.

Here’s Mitt Romney’s “I’m not concerned about the very poor, I’m not concerned about the very rich, I’m campaigning for Americans in the middle” the relevant part of his interview with Soledad O’Brien, with all the context and nuance he gave CNN:

ROMNEY: You know, just let people get to know you better. The nice thing about what happened here in Florida is I got a chance to go across the state, meet with people. They heard what I am concerned about. They understand how I will be able to make things better.

I think people want someone who not just throws an incendiary bomb from time to time but someone who actually knows how it takes to improve their life, get home values rising again, to get jobs again in this country, and to make sure when soldiers come home they have a job waiting for them. And make sure people who are retired don’t have to worry about what’s going to happen at the end of the week.

This is a time people are worried. They’re frightened. They want someone who they have confidence in. And I believe I will be able to instill that confidence in the American people. And, by the way, I’m in this race because I care about Americans. I’m not concerned about the very poor. We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.

I’m not concerned about the very rich, they’re doing just fine. I’m concerned about the very heart of the America, the 90, 95 percent of Americans who right now are struggling and I’ll continue to take that message across the nation.

O’BRIEN: All right. So I know I said last question, but I’ve got to ask you. You just said I’m not concerned about the very poor because they have a safety net. And I think there are lots of very poor Americans who are struggling who would say that sounds odd. Can you explain that?

ROMNEY: Well, you had to finish the sentence, Soledad. I said I’m not concerned about the very poor that have the safety net, but if it has holes in it, I will repair them.

On CNN February 1st, Mitt Romney included a tangent about

O’BRIEN: Got it. OK.

ROMNEY: The – the challenge right now – we will hear from the Democrat Party the plight of the poor, and – and there’s no question, it’s not good being poor and we have a safety net to help those that are very poor.

But my campaign is focused on middle income Americans. My campaign – you

can choose where to focus. You can focus on the rich. That’s not my focus. You can focus on the very poor. That’s not my focus.

My focus is on middle income Americans, retirees living on social security, people who cannot find work, folks who have kids that are getting ready to go to college. That – these are the people who’ve been most badly hurt during the Obama years.

We have a very ample safety net, and we can talk about whether it needs to be strengthened or whether there are holes in it. But we have food stamps, we have

Medicaid, we have housing vouchers, we have programs to help the poor. But the middle income Americans, they’re the folks that are really struggling right now, and they need someone that can help get this economy going for them.

O’BRIEN: All right. Mitt Romney, congratulations to you on your big victory last night. Thanks for talking with us. appreciate it.

CNN, Transcript of Soledad O’Brien interview with Mitt Romney, Feb. 1, 2012

For me, the “not concerned about the very poor” comment is one of the least disturbing parts of his answer here.

First, it’s what he said immediately following that: “We have a safety net there. If it needs repair, I’ll fix it.” That anyone who has been a leader in government can still essentially wonder aloud IF the safety net needs repair astonishes me. After all the tragic deaths (like the 12-year-old boy who died for lack of a dentist to simply pull a tooth) and horrible suffering that’s been well-documented and displayed, how can anyone not know our safety net needs a major shoring up if not—my position—a total rethinking and restructuring?

To quote from a 2007 blog post I wrote:

For those with severe disabilities dependent on Medicaid, the Republican cuts from 1995-2007 have had horrible consequences. I’ve had to fight like hell to survive. In 1996 in Alabama, Medicaid started gutting EPSDT (the federally-mandated program providing nursing care for those in need) and sending out termination notices to families in the mail. Then in 1999-2001 we had more aggressive cuts. They changed the rules so it’s only a temporary program to train caregivers to stay with their child 24/7, and they keep repeating that it is not the government’s role to “babysit” your child at all (even if your child is on life support and routinely coding). And now it is 2007 and Alabama barely funds it at all. We’ve almost been rolled back into the 1970s level.
I’ve had friends die. I’m sick of tolerating this evil like it is a valid policy position. It is in no way valid nor deserving of our deference and patience. It is nothing but immoral…

I have seen too much suffering and death because of inadequate supports and invisible safety nets and I am frakking traumatized that people are still pushing this destructive right-wing mythology that if we chip away at government funding even further, that this will magically increase services. It has been tried for years and has failed every time.

Excerpted from my post Vigorously Insisting On A More Perfect Union: Fighting Cuts, Demanding Universal Health Care | Nick’s Crusade
This “Demanding Universal Health Care” post was published by the Greenhaven Press imprint of Gale Publishing in the 2008 edition of Opposing Viewpoints: Health Care, if anyone is interested.

I think Romney needs to hear these stories, hear the details of how our lives are effected by the swiss cheese safety net.

Some of my other blog posts may prove instructive:
Feds Fiddling While State Medicaid Programs BURN | Nick’s Crusade (a critique of how ObamaCare will impact Medicaid, amid a report of budget cuts in the South leaving people with disabilities in their own waste)
Government-Sponsored Ablism and Segregation Tears Families Apart | Nick’s Crusade (an essay against state-sponsored institutionalization, segregation, and oppression)
Medicaid: Why It’s Broken and How To Fix It | Nick’s Crusade (highlights the broken parts of Medicaid, including funding disparities, poverty mandates and the ultra-expensive and antiquated practice of unnecessarily institutionalizing people, and lays out some solutions)

I plan to drop Willard “Mitt” Romney a note, you could do the same. Let him know what problems in “safety net” programs need his help, concisely and politely. Appeal to his “Mr. Fix-it” rhetoric. I don’t know if anyone will be able to connect and begin a constructive dialogue with Team Romney, but if even one person did, it would have a wonderful impact.

info@mittromney.com

Mitt Romney for President
P.O. Box 149756
Boston, MA 02114-9756

More thoughts on Mitt Romney’s “very ample safety net” comments in Mitt Romney: Can You Help Us, Mr. Fix It? (Part 2)

Senator Schumer, Hands Off Our Meds Please

Posted by – February 8, 2012

People in chronic pain need help, more options, more understanding.

[the Institute of Medicine (IOM) report Relieving Pain in America:
A Blueprint for Transforming Prevention, Care, Education, and Research
] Issued at the request of Congress as part of President Obama’s health reform legislation, the report calls for a “cultural transformation” — an attitude shift on the level of that seen over the last 50 years toward smoking — to spur more coordinated action to help treat Americans’ pain. Pain patients have long been viewed with skepticism and suspicion, rather than understanding, presenting a barrier to care. Rising rates of prescription drug misuse, addiction and overdose have further led to the establishment of legal and regulatory barriers, such as prescription databases, that can prevent even legitimate pain patients from getting much-needed drugs.

Source: IOM Report: Chronic, Undertreated Pain Affects 116 Million Americans | TIME.com

It seems Congress is not on the side of transforming the way we help people in pain, they’re on the side of the “skepticism and suspicion” and “legal and regulatory barriers,” not to mention the fear mongering over pain medications.

Last month, my Senator, Chuck Schumer made local TV news headlines ranting, not just about abuse of prescription drugs, but “Rails Against FDA Testing Of Super-Potent Painkillers” as NY1’s headline blared atop their story at www.ny1.com. He doesn’t even want these new medications—extra-strong meds that pharmaceutical companies have created to help people in real pain—to be tested and approved for legal prescription and sale by the FDA for fear of abuse. He’s even saying that FDA approval of new pain meds will “add fuel to the fire” of crime and lead to increased robberies, playing up the recent armed raids for oxy and vicodin at two Long Island pharmacies. Absolutely the height of alarmist rhetoric here.

Since I moved to New York City in 2008, I’ve noticed that Senator Schumer tends to make local news across the state with big, scary headlines (in Mobile, AL where I’m from, the U.S. Senators show up as footnotes on the local news, if at all). Team Schumer probably realizes—rightly—that getting his name in the TV headlines that soccer moms and such (i.e. the community-minded folks who tend to vote most, “the likely voter”) might catch as they go through their morning routine or night-time winding down is crucial for his reelection. Schumer

Chuck Schumer, senior U.S. Senator from New York

has evidently always been a “tough on crime”-type of politician, a key supporter of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 (VCCLEA) that instituted a federal “three strikes and you’re out” life-imprisonment policy, and since the attacks on 9/11, he’s become a big “tough on terrorism”-type of politician. For example, last May, Senator Schumer similarly made the local news across New York State with his plan for a security crackdown on trains, especially pertinent to New York because New Yorkers are some of the train-ridingest people on the continent. See: Schumer calls for ‘do not ride’ list for Amtrak – NEWS10 ABC: Albany, New York News. These are the kind of headlines Schumer gets. People concerned about unnecessary, Fourth Amendment-crushing, possibly gropey, searches every time you board a train, including me, complained online.

His camera-hogging ways, I get it. Salon called him a “incorrigible publicity hound,” and that’s ok. Be what you are, man. Embrace it. But this time “going too far” is especially “too far” because it could accidentally hurt people with chronic pain who are already hurting.

Here are the local headlines I’m concerned with:
Schumer warns FDA on danger of newest painkillers | Democrat and Chronicle (Rochester, NY’s newspaper of record)
Schumer Rails Against FDA Testing Of Super-Potent Painkillers – NY1.com (NY1 is a 24/7 cable news channel for New York metro area news)
Sen Schumer: ‘Super Painkillers Could Lead To Violent Robberies’ « CBS New York possibly the fear mongeriest headline of the year, though it does present an alternative viewpoint in the video report if not the text summary.
Senator Charles Schumer warns FDA on danger of new painkillers | 7online.com (WABC-TV, the ABC affiliate for NYC.) Watch the video report embedded below, doesn’t provide an alternative viewpoint!

Only one of these scary headlines includes a balancing, alternate viewpoint within. That’s their most egregious journalistic failure: they only give audiences the scare monger’s viewpoint, they only offer shock words.

First, they are leaving out important context like these are MEDICINES for people in real pain. The context and tone treats painkillers as no different than street drugs, omitting the therapeutic intent and quality of life benefits (very real.) Note the language used by the ABC-7 reporter Lucy Yang, the term the streets repeated twice. “At least one [pharmaceutical company] is past the lab stage and now trying to get this super-drug on the streets by next year.” “Of course, before any such narcotic could hit the streets it would have to be approved by the FDA.” Stopping just short of calling pharmaceutical manufacturers street pushers, there.

More language to red-flag from the channel 7 report, including one of the opening lines, “officials report more deaths [from prescription drugs] than heroin, crack, and cocaine”—which officials, Ms. Yang? Please source such a shocking claim. “Despite that, we’re told attempts are underway to introduce a super-drug” “you don’t have to look far to see the violent and punishing reality of addiction to painkillers” “potent and enslaving” “pure painkiller”

Second, why do all these reports reference the robberies on Long Island?  I disagree that the all-too-common oxy and vicodin hold-ups (which are AWFUL, I don’t want to minimize that) would be effected either way whether the FDA approves new narcotics or not. They are linking two completely unrelated stories, echoing Senator Schumer, for shock effect. Journalists should be questioning the Congress critters, holding their feet to the fire, not mindlessly parroting their press releases. Tying past narcotics violence to the unrelated matter of future possible FDA approval of new narcotics seems like pure fear mongering to me.

Third, a look at Schumer’s own language: “the very same people who try to get our kids to use things like oxycodone and vicodin will start peddling this drug, which when abused is poison.” “It would instantly become the most sought-after drug by addicts and criminals.” From the CBSTV-2 story, Schumer said: “Crooks like Oxycontin and Vicodin, yet you leave the doctor’s office, the dentist’s office, the oral surgeon’s office after you have a root canal, they routinely give you 20 to 30 of these pills. That can’t happen with these new powerful drugs.” He’s simultaneously condemning new drugs and old drugs, and nearly finger-wagging at the whole concept of treating post-surgical pain with narcotics. Wow.

The drug in question, according to the CBS channel 2 video report, is Zohydro. Zohydro is hydrocodone like Vicodin, Lortab and Lorset is, but it’s the first long-acting timed-release capsule hydrocodone created. I have chronic pain; I can’t take any of the time release stuff. However, I know numerous people who could benefit from Zohydro and other new medications. This could be a miracle drug for people who’re allergic to—or for whatever reason can’t use—the only other time release painkiller out there, Oxycontin. I’m sure that, for many, this could be a life-changing medicine; long-acting squelching pain, giving people with chronic pain their quality of life back, liberating them to get out of bed. You don’t see that side of the argument on TV, but the benefits of effective pain management are huge, and important.

People can build up a tolerance to pain meds like bacteria can become resistant to antibiotics, and like humans need new antibiotics, humans need new painkillers. We need new pain meds developed and approved for prescription use. People in chronic pain need more options.
Zohydro is also a good step because it isn’t packed with liver-killing acetaminophen that is so commonly combined with opiates. I reported before on the FDA’s bizarre regulation making opioid-acetaminophen combination meds easier to get than purer alternatives because they figure if people know it can destroy their liver they won’t abuse it. This insanity has led to too many deaths, tragedies, and liver transplants, so the FDA itself has been reconsidering recently.

I’m saying consider another perspective (which the media won’t give you). Medication mostly does have a big positive impact. Don’t block or take away pain meds that are giving people quality of life.

Consider this nursing home and hospice facility perspective:

Timely access to controlled medications also continues to be a challenge in the long-term care setting due to drug shortages and what some consider excessively strict federal regulations.

“The Drug Enforcement Agency’s interpretation of the Controlled Substances Act is one barrier that’s impeding timely access to appropriate controlled medications for nursing facility residents and those enrolled in hospice programs,” notes Jennifer Hardesty, PharmD, FASCP, clinical services manager for Remedi SeniorCare.

There is no question that pain’s effects on quality of life are far-reaching. Not only does pain diminish pleasure and interfere with social relationships and one’s ability to stay active, it is also linked to other debilitating conditions, such as depression and anxiety.

Full article: No pain = all gain – McKnight’s Long Term Care News (disclaimer: only includes nursing home perspective)

In the New York metro area, there’s been an oxy crime wave; it has led to a law enforcement crackdown. Doctors are more reticent to prescribe. Visible DEA enforcement actions have created a very real chilling effect that is making it harder for those already having a hard time with chronic pain.

I have nothing against Senator Schumer as a person, I’m sure he’s a great, affable guy, and I’d love to meet him to work on bringing individualized funding, choice and competition to Medicaid/Medicare instead of “one size fits all.” I’m just saying let’s not accidentally snag people in real pain in the “war on drugs” dragnet, let’s be level-headed, let’s not fear monger.

Prior to his 2003 commencement address at the Rochester Institute of Technology, the RIT website lauded Senator Schumer: In the past 25 years, Schumer has become known as a leader on national issues and a tireless fighter for New York. The Rochester Democrat and Chronicle called him “an accomplished, far-sighted legislator,” while The New York Times wrote that he “is a more serious lawmaker with more rooted values, sounder policy positions and a deeper commitment to the common good.”

All I’m asking, Senator, is please live up to your reputation as a committed fighter for the “common good,” include ailing constituents with chronic pain in that common good, and please be “far-sighted” about how federal drug policy can impact the quality of life of the elderly, the terminally and chronically ill, and disabled populations who live with the most severe pain.

Thanks for reading.

Sincerely,

Nick

News Media Decides Life of Fly More Important Than Slain Latinos

Posted by – June 25, 2009

So, the Minuteman Movement has gone completely insane, and they are now crossing over into murder and theft to meet their political goals of a Southwest free of Hispanics.

ter·ror·ism

n.  The unlawful use or threatened use of force or violence by a person or an organized group against people or property with the intention of intimidating or coercing societies or governments, often for ideological or political reasons.

“terrorism.” The American Heritage® Dictionary of the English Language, Fourth Edition. Houghton Mifflin Company, 2004. 24 Jun. 2009. <Dictionary.com http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/terrorism>.

On May 30, members of Minutemen American Defense (MAD), an extremist group with links to the neo-Nazi group Aryan Nations, the hate group FAIR and the broader Minuteman Project, broke into the Flores’ family home to rob them. Jason Eugene “Gunny” Bush, also wanted for the random murder of a Latino man in Wenatchee, Wash. 12 years ago, was the primary shooter, and, along with Albert Robert Gaxiola and MAD executive director Shawna Forde, they posed as law enforcement and busted into the Flores’ home.

Raul and Brisenia Flores

Raul and Brisenia Flores

They shot and killed the father, Raul Flores, and his 9 year-old daughter Brisenia, shooting the little girl multiple times.  The mother returned fire, and wounded Bush in the leg after being wounded herself.  Police said the murders were premeditated as part of Shawna Forde’s plot to steal money and drugs from those she suspected of working with Mexican drug cartels, and use the proceeds to fund MAD. “They did not plan to leave any survivors. The plan was to kill everyone. To kill a 9-year-old because she might be a potential witness is one of the most despicable acts I’ve heard of,” Pima County Sheriff Clarence Dupnik told the Arizona Daily Star.

But you wouldn’t know that there are racist militias targeting Hispanics in this country if you’re just watching typical news media. They didn’t cover it. I only found out about it by reading this post on Nezua’s The Unapologetic Mexican blog, and, later, the SPLC’s Hatewatch blog.

If only little Brisenia were a fly…

Because last week the media was abuzz about the death of a house fly at the president’s hand, and PETA’s objections to this “execution.”

Here’s a round up of the coverage of this, from our dying dinosaur news media, locked permanently in “silly season“:

Associated Content: PETA Obama Fly-Swatting Story Creates Buzz

Politico: PETA miffed at President Obama’s fly “execution”

Yep, this scrap of inanity was covered by the AP, MSNBC, CNN, The New York Times, Politico and more. It was so excessive and absurd, it became perfect fodder for Stewart and Colbert.

Where are our priorities? When racist vigilantes (reminiscent of the KKK) start killing children of the race they hate, I can’t find out from the MSM (MainStream Media)?? To get real news these days, you have to turn to the blogs that link to credible local papers that are actually providing coverage.

That means the MSM will soon go the way of that White House fly.

*squish*

Nick

Related Bloggery

From my friend Spinny: Why I hate PETA

U.S. Attorneys Scandal: The Media Is Missing The Point

Posted by – March 21, 2007

The media, the pundits, the blogosphere is abuzz about the firings of the eight U.S. attorneys.

As usual, most everyone is missing the point.



The Senate Democrats are saying “were the firings politically motivated?” Of course they were, the documents even admit this. Move on to the crucial questions, you fools.

The Republicans are saying “Clinton fired U.S. attorneys too!” As always, blaming Clinton is the balm that cures all ills. Of course, this isn’t true. All new U.S. attorneys come in (and old ones resign) whenever a new president comes in, like any presidential appointments, and this has always been true. Never has a purge of U.S. attorneys happened in the middle of a term, or new ones appointed without Senate approval.

The media is giving copious coverage to what “both sides” are saying, but, when, as usual, both sides miss the point, the media isn’t following up and pointing out the obvious problems and asking the real questions.

The real questions are:

1) Did ya’ll fire the San Diego lady because she was about to expose your corporate pals for bribing Duke Cunningham?

and perhaps more importantly,
2
) You guys snuck a clause into the Patriot Act that allowed you to bypass Senate confirmation for installing U.S. attorneys. This is totally unprecedented. Why do you think it’s kosher to discard the separation of powers? Why is the consolidation of this power in the hands of the executive appropriate here? What other gems did ya’ll sneak into the laws that give you extra powers?

The media, as usual, is totally missing the relevant points, and it is excruciating to watch.

While their coverage is typically shallow, the news networks are hyping this as a “Constitutional Crisis,” with all sorts of flashy “Constitutional Crisis” graphics. It is all so lame, all so fake. What, do they think Senator Schumer (pictured at left) is going to wage an insurrection or something? lol…. The worst that will happen is a strongly-worded letter and a lot of wrangling in court.

The branches of government are supposed to challenge and block each other. Checks and balances. The Founding Founders gave us a Constitution for this exact reason! They hoped the government would be too tied up fighting amongst themselves to pass anything too loathsome (like the Patriot Act) and subjugate us. It may be a bad sign for how far we’ve drifted from our founding when we view something as minor as subpoenas of the President’s lackeys as a “Constitutional Crisis,” but this label is probably just a ploy for ratings that no one really believes.

Again, the media is missing the point, and letting the government cover for corruption and consolidate more power in the hands of the executive right under their nose.

And it’s SO frustrating.

Nick

News, Not News

Posted by – September 10, 2006

In A New Segment, I Dissect What The Dumb Media Is And Isn’t Covering

As the recent media blitz surrounding fake Jon Benet murder suspect John Mark Karr has shown us, the mainstream media (MSM) is completely clueless about what IS and ISN’T news. Since everyone is so confused, I’ll give you a breakdown on what news IS and ISN’T. Mostly the MSM isn’t giving you real news, but infotainment, and many important stories that I’m bringing up have not yet even been noticed by the MSM.

News: United States’ debt up to six times larger than expected (story)
Not News: Reporting on John Mark Karr’s inflight menu gave “breaking news” a whole new ironic meaning. Yes, the news is “broken” all right! (story)

News: First Human Rights Treaty of Millenium Approved To Protect Disabled, US Refused (my blog)
Not News: Leader of Polygamist Sect Jailed (story)
News: Jewish School Fire-Bombed In Montreal In Rising Tide of Anti-Semitism (story)

Not News: Claudia Schiffer’s Dogs Cause Neighbors to Complain to Police (on FOX News front page)
News: Sudanese Government Deploys Planeloads of Troops As Darfur Peacekeepers Ordered Out (story)

Not News: Escaped Fugitive In New York State (story) this is state news not breaking national news!
News: Peace Deal Between Pakistan and Pro-Taliban Militants Raises Concerns of “Safe-Haven” for Terrorists (story)

News: Bush Pollster Pleads Guilty to Fraud For Faking Numbers (story)
Not News: Collecting O.J. Simpson Civil Damages (Nancy Grace did a whole hour on this)

Not News: More “Missing White Woman Syndrome” (see Nancy link above)
News: Bush Aims to Kill War Crimes Act (story)

Not News: “Survivor” reality show’s new racial competition (story)
News: Secretary of State compares anti-war voters to pro-slavery appeasers in Civil War (story)

Keep informed, readers!

Nick

Filed Under: Politics and Government