Category Archives: Politics

Who Are We, and What Does it Mean for our Democracy?

“A little learning is not a dangerous thing to one who does not mistake it for a great deal.” – William Allen White, American newspaper editor (1868-1944).

In the recent flap that circled the blogosphere over the radically different front-page cover on the U.S. edition of the December 5, 2011 Time Magazine, most writers rightfully addressed the issue of Americans being “dumbed down,” shielded from the real news, and deception on the part of media. This is nothing new on the part of the media; however, the degree to which this happens, and the subtle effects that this has on the news that we receive as citizens, may not be so obvious. It reminds of a similar experience that I had with CNN back in 2010.

Here in New York City, there are two different cable channels with content from the Cable News Network. The first channel, CNN, has the standard fare such as AC360, Piers Morgan, and all the programming that the CNN is known for. Then there is a second channel called CNNi–CNN International. Never heard of it? Well, check your local listings. I stumbled upon CNNi because I’m a sports fan, and I was trying to find a show to fill the void left by the retirement, and subsequent passing, of legendary sportscaster George Michael. I’d watched the George Michael Sports Machine for most of the 27 years that he was on the air, and I was looking for a similar sports show that featured a mix of both national and international sports, along with personal stories about athletes that you don’t normally hear about in the mainstream media. I did a search on sports shows on my cable box, and came across a daily half-hour round-up of sporting news from across the globe called World Sport, broadcast on CNN International. Probably the best sports show you’ve never heard of. The show is on my DVR list, and I watch it every day, along with my evening newscast.

I also noticed the commercials during the show, and that they were promotionals for programs that I didn’t see on the normal CNN lineup. These show had more of an international perspective like Revealed, Inside Africa, Inside the Middle East, Talk Asia, Earth’s Frontiers, Icon, Living Golf, Mainsail, and Quest Means Business. The stories were often about artists, business people, sports figures, and trends, not always the stereotypical stories about war and terrorists (Middle East), or starving children (Africa). At first, I had a hard time trying to catch the shows, because the program times on the promotionals were not for my time zone—or worse—the programs were not even broadcast in New York City. So I was reduced to doing a keyword search to find these programs. And one day, I got lucky—I was able to catch an episode of Earth’s Frontiers, which is a half-hour program about the environment, on one of the on-demand channels. At the end of the show, an e-mail address came up where viewers could send feedback, and I did not hesitate to write the following to CNNonDemand@CNN.com:

I subscribe to Time Warner Cable in New York City. Today I got the chance to watch “Earth’s Frontiers” on demand. It’s a great way to watch CNN programs. Could you please add more shows, such as “Revealed” and “Main Sail.” I would love to watch these shows but for some reason, they are not part of the TV lineup here in New York. CNN on Demand would be a great place to have these programs. Thanks so much.

It took a few months before I got back the following response from CNN on Demand:

Thank you for your feedback – and please accept my personal apology for the lengthy delay in responding to your message.

The programs you mention, as you know, are not generally available in North America; these are CNN International programs, and they air once per month on that network.

However, we believe they are excellent programs and have decided to make them available to U.S. viewers via our CNN on Demand programming lineup.

Unfortunately, we are only able to send a relatively small amount of our total available programming to our CNN on Demand audience. For this reason, we evaluate each program on a weekly basis and make programming decisions based on which shows we feel are most relevant and appealing to our viewers.

Thank you again for your feedback.

Now I must admit that at first, I did not fully understand what CNN meant by this, until I saw the reaction to the radically different cover for the U.S. edition of Time magazine. Then realized that is one reason that I watch BBC World News on PBS. And why I switched from BBC World News America to the later broadcast at 11:00pm, because BBC World News America became a sanitized version of BBC World News, which is not what I was expecting to get from BBC News. That if I wanted a sanitized version of BBC World News, I could simply watch the standard network news that everyone already watches.

To their credit, CNN International has since included these shows as part of their regular programming here New York City, and their promotionals show the time that they air in this area, so I can program my DVR. And, it seems that the media is making an effort to improve their programming, with shows such as Melissa Harris-Perry on MSNBC, and Washington Watch with Roland Martin on TVOne. However, it begs the question: As citizens of a democracy where we are (supposedly) dependent on information to informed decisions on the issues that matter, and to decide who will represent our interests on those issues—why are we given disparate treatment by the major media outlets? Do we even realize that, behind the hundreds of channels, tons of sound bytes, talking heads, and technological bells and whistles, that we have been segregated—and not for the better?

You may not think that this question matters, until you consider that some of our Congressmen and women—whose decisions not only affect the country but have an global impact—have bragged about not having a passport or travelled out of the United States. And that some of these representatives can, and do, go on to become the leader of the so-called “free world”—as President of the United States.

Then again, maybe we have thought about it, after all. Maybe that’s why print journalism and network television are worried. Now that we have access to the Internet, we don’t have to stay in our segregated part of the world anymore.

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Move Your Money Activists Prepare For Bank Transfer Day On Nov. 5

Move Your Money Activists Prepare For Bank Transfer Day On Nov. 5.

I would love to participate in the Bank Transfer Day on November 5; but long ago, I moved my money out of a big bank and put it into a credit union. 

It happened back in 1989.  I had just returned to full-time work after staying at home with my two small boys.  While at home, I worked part-time at a temp agency.  They sent me back to work on a full-time assignment at city agency, who offered me a permanent job.  At the time, I did my banking at Manufacturers Hanover, good ol’ Manny Hanny, the same bank where the temp agency did their business.  

I went to the downtown branch to cash my final paycheck from the temp agency, and was told that I could not cash it because the account for the temp agency was at the midtown branch.  I was stunned.  I needed to cash that check; I had to feed that Pamper monster, and have carfare to start my new job.  What are my options? I asked.  Well, I could cash the check, but the money in my account would be held until the check cleared, which could take up to fourteen days.

I thought about this.  The big banks had just begun to charge low balance fees and check writing fees, and lower the interest rate on savings accounts to single digits.  Now they wanted to hold my money for a check that was written on another Manny Hanny account?!  Simply because the check was from an account at another branch?!  What happened to all this so-called ‘saving money’ and efficiency from the ATMs and other electronic communications?  I didn’t see any benefits.  I couldn’t qualify for a loan from Manny Hanny; just the thought of applying for a loan or a credit card was laughable.  And questions were being raised about their commitment to the community in terms of mortages and small business loans. 

At that moment, my decision was made for me.  I smiled and said to the teller, “Please close my account.”  I took my money and walked over to Municipal Credit Union.  It’s been there ever since.

The. Rent. Is. Too. Damn. High. Yea, I could vote for that.

‘Rent is too Damn High’ candidate Jimmy McMillan wants to tell Andrew Cuomo how to do more with less.

Now that the dust has settled on the midterm elections for 2010, it’s time for me to put in my two cents.  Or should I say, my month’s worth of rent.  Say what you want about the farce that was the New York state governor’s race.  But candidate Jimmy McMillan certainly made his point.  The cost of housing here in New York City is really too high.  While my rent is under a thousand dollars, I live in the Far Rockaway section of Queens, which is about as far out as you can get, and still be within the five boroughs that make up the City.  And I am a civil servant, who works in a title that has a residency requirement.  Not that I would want to leave.  I am New York born and raised; I love this city.  I just hope that I don’t see the day when I am forced to leave this city because of the cost of housing. 

Some years ago, District Council 37, the largest city union, was able to negotiate with the city so that the titles covered by their union are able to live outside of the city, in surrounding counties like Nassau, Suffolk and Westchester.   While these workers now have more options, some of the titles represented by the union are lower-paid clerical titles.  And living outside of city does not address the lack of affordable housing within the five boroughs. 

Now folks may argue that the New York governor’s race was such a farce because of colorful characters like Jimmy McMillan.  That only so-called “viable” candidates should run for office, or participate in major debates.  Well, what is a “viable” candidate?  Someone that has the backing of one of the two major political parties?  A person who can spend–or attract–millions of dollars for television ads and mailers?   Why would I feel confident that a person who has the backing of the party, or the money to finance a political campaign, can represent, and fight for, my political interests–like, the rent being too damn high.

Jimmy McMillan fulfilled the requirements for becoming a candidate for office, which were not about money, or having the backing of the party, but simply to get enough signatures on a petition to get on the ballot.  He created his own political party.  That’s more than I can say about the Tea Party candidates.  Most of them have run under the banner of the Republican Party.  To me, that’s part of the problem.  In this country, if you’re not a Democrat or a Republican–blue state or red state–then you’re nothing.  If the Tea Party feels so strongly about their agenda, then why don’t they create their own political party? 

If we call ourselves a democracy, then why should our political discourse be limited to what has essentially boiled down to two sides of the same coin?  Political agendas aside, both parties to me are talking the same yakety-yak because they are not looking out for my interests as a taxpayer and a voter.  Both parties are listening to the lobbyists and the corporate interests.  Which makes Jimmy McMillan’s accomplishments that much more remarkable.  He managed to draw national attention to his cause without the money or the backing of the political machine.  Both parties should take a page from Jimmy McMillan’s playbook.