The End of Choice...

NPR and everyone else, please stop lying to us. And please stop reading corporate press releases to us and calling them news. This morning, NPR took a stab at covering the proposed AT&T-DirecTV merger that was officially announced this weekend.

Take a listen…

NPR is completely wrong. This has nothing to do with AT&T or DirecTV "surviving." They're both big, profitable companies, and if the industry is changing they can change to adapt to it. Which by the way, both are already doing. What this is REALLY about is monopoly. Just like the Comcast-Time Warner merger, and Sprint's plans to try to take over T-Mobil, this AT&T-DirecTV move is all about MONOPOLY.

These mergers and acquisitions are about corporations getting so large that they dominate an industry, and limit your choices to a very, very small number of companies - which then all suddenly start raising prices and increasing profits. This is about screwing the consumer. And this is all because in 1982 Ronald Reagan stopped enforcing the Sherman Anti-Trust Act.

It's amazing how much things have changed since then. Back in the 1970s, Richard Nixon saw that AT&T's monopoly on telephone service was stifling innovation and jacking up prices to consumers. He initiated a breakup of AT&T that ended during the Carter Administration, breaking AT&T into 7 regional carriers, known as the “Baby Bells,” and spinning off their R&D arm as Lucent Technologies.

But then came Reagan and the “Baby Bells” began to re-consolidate. And so did everybody else in the industry. Now, we're all paying twice, three times, sometimes ten times what people in countries that enforce anti-trust laws like France and Germany pay.

If the media had any interest in telling the true story, they'd say, "AT&T is trying to further cement their control over the choices you have for telephone and internet service, and grab a part of your choices about TV, by buying DirecTV. If they're successful, expect your prices to go up while your choices go down, just as has happened pretty much every other time an industry has succumbed to this sort of monopolistic behavior."

But they won't tell you that, because they're nearly monopolies themselves. NPR has a lock on - and government subsidy for - radio stations all across the nation. And the big TV networks and the big cable companies won't tell you what's really up with AT&T becoming more and more of a monopoly because they're all playing the same game themselves.

But it’s not just telecom and media companies that are growing into virtual monopolies. Right now, there are 10 giant corporations that control, either directly or indirectly, virtually every consumer product we buy. Kraft, Coca-Cola, PepsiCo, Nestle, Proctor and Gamble, General Mills, Kellogg’s, Mars, Unilever, and Johnson and Johnson together have a stranglehold on the American consumer.

Meanwhile, in the retail industry, Wal-Mart and Target, along with big box stores The Home Depot and Best Buy, control major portions of America’s retail industry. You can basically pick any industry in America, and see the monopolistic characteristics in it.

That’s why we should pass a law - a new version of the Sherman Act - that says, explicitly, that whenever a company reaches a point where they have more than a certain percentage of a marketplace - say, 10 or 15 percent - then they can't grow any larger in that domain. They have to leave room for startups, innovators, and competitors.

There was a time in America when nearly every business in every Main Street or strip mall was locally owned by local families. They paid well, they took care of their employees, and they had great customer service. The anti-trust laws kept the big boys at bay for over a century. There was even a TV show that ran from 1960 until 1964 titled Route 66, in which Martin Milner and George Maharis visited town after town on their way from coast to coast.

Every town was different, every restaurant and hotel unique, and those differences from place to place provided an unending series of interesting plots for the TV series. America worked back then because we enforced the anti-trust laws. It’s time to start again, and even expand them and add some teeth to them. No more “too big to fail” banks or anything else.

Let’s get back to core American values and rebuild the nation’s small business sector. Only then will we see innovation and competition return to America.


chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 1 week ago

I think history has shown that the best weapon against monopolies is to split them up. Thom implies to stop monopolies one needs to limit their growth which seems less effective to me.

John Pranke's picture
John Pranke 9 years 1 week ago

I heard this today. My father worked for Western Electric a subsidiary of AT&T for 39 years retiring in 1979. He worked for the Teletype Corp. making you guessed it Teletype machines. It was a union shop that paid decent wages and had great benefits. I remember times they threatened to and even went on strike. The company said you'll put us out of business, that did not happen. Technology put Teletype out of business. As far as I can tell AT&T is still around, even after they were broken up by the big bad Govt.

Robindell's picture
Robindell 9 years 1 week ago

I don't have any headphones with me, so I cannot listen to the above excerpt from NPR. But I believe that NPR at least some of the time tries to include what critics have to say about corporate mergers. They may not always do an adequate job, but they are not their to editoralize one way or the other. The public radio stations I am familiar with have on a program, which sometimes has both a morning and evening edition, called, Marketplace. The programs are only something like 10 minutes and therefore they don't have much time to go into that much depth on any story. Marketplace Morning comes from New York, and the evening show from Los Angeles. The shows are not from NPR but instead are from PRI, another public radio production source. The shows are business-oriented and are not there to tear apart the momentum of business and corporate activity.

But I would like to somewhat disagree with what Thom said just a short while ago today to a caller. I only caught part of the what the caller had to say, but I think I got the gist of it. He was complaining about a lack of classical music and jazz programming on NPR stations. In response, Thom asked a strange question: "Why should the taxpayers support this kind of programming." Thom, you were not at all clear if you were simply being rhetorical, or if you meant this question literally. The caller said that this kind of music is something that people and society should cherish. Thom answered again by saying that now adays, a person could buy a MPG player at a reasonable price and download classical music. Although this is true, I nevertheless disagree with the response. Let me first say that I don't expect a commercial political talk show to spend any time at all on the arts, and none of the hosts I have heard ever do. Thom admitted that the taxpayers now provide very little financial support to public broadcasting, so why the question about why should taxpayers support classical music or jazz programming? Thom described public radio as having been privatized in terms of its financial support, and that he doesn't like this model. He went onto say that if there is to be public broadcasting, it should be like the BBC, 100% government-supported, with no corporate or individual donations. That is fine as far as it goes; we are not going to have a fully publically supported radio or T.V. network in this country any time soon, if at all. The part I disagree with is that there are some radio listeners who may not be able to afford to by an MPG player and to pay for music downloads. Also, Thom does not seem to be familiar with classical music stations, including some NPR stations which include this type of music. One person may not have the ability to own recordings of many works which a radio station would have and would be able to play. NPR had a program which they still may have called Perfomance Today. On this program, which is no longer carried in my market, I once heard a performance recorded live of a symphony orchestra in my state which does not make commercial recordings. It would be difficult if not impossible to hear this orchestra unless you went to one of their concerts. This was of interest to me. There may have been some interviews of musicians which one might not otherwise get to hear unless a program such as this is available. NPR also has a program called From the Top, which is producted in conjunction with the New England Conservatory of Music. I don't think Thom is familiar with this program. This program has performances by very talented and advanced young people, who are still studying their instruments. Some of them are involved with all kinds of activities, both musical and non-musical. The program shmissing fows that music is a talent that needs to be developed at a young age; it shows the very construtive nature of art music, which is generally called clhave some ofassical music. It shows that music can open many significant horizons for those who play an instrument, and also for those who are exposed to this art form by young musicians. The program is hosted by Christopher O'Reily, a well-known pianist who gives many concerts and recitals outside of hosting the show. I went to see him accompany a celloist, and briefly met him after the recital.

The decline in arts education and an interest in the arts, from the average person who at one time would not think twice about attending a recital or symphony concert, to the support of performing arts organizations by individuals and companies, goes along with the overall educational decline in America. We used to be at the top internationally when it comes to producing college graduates. We are now lagging behind several other, smaller countries. Other than problem-solving test scores, we are more like in the middle when it comes to test results in math and science. At least the U.S. high school graduation rate has increased, but I am not sure how many of these graduates are prepared for or can afford to attend college.

At one time, news magazines such as Time often had stories about classical music and musicians, with mention being made of orchestra or opera productions. Today, there is not a word on the subject in such publications. In Venezula, there is something called "the System." The country created a system of free music lessons and set up youth orchestras specifically to provide an uplifting, enriching experience for impoverished youth who otherwise would not have the chance to learn about and become familiar with classical music. The Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra is the artistic culmination for the young musicians who advance through the system and audition to join the orchestra. The orchestra's music director is Gustavo Dudamel, who himself came up through the System, and has served as music director of the well-known Los Angeles Philharmonic whose home is Disney Concert Hall. Music takes place on different levels, and there is a reason this type of music has lasted for so many years, and why it is considered to be "high culture" rather than popular. It has nothing to do with elitism. If kids in Venezula can learn to love and perform classical music, I don't quite understand why so many Americans are so closed-minded and insensitive to something that has many positives to it. Intricate music teaches people, among other things, how to listen, and this skill is lacking in many Americans, including progressive ones.

Thom said that he attended Michigan State. I don't know much about their music program or department, but I do know that the University of Michigan is better known for its music instruction. missing f

stopgap's picture
stopgap 9 years 1 week ago

I gave up on PBS and NPR when they helped sell the invasion of Iraq on the News Hour, and other programs, which resulted in the murder of thousands of young American troops and hundred of thousands of Iraqis. Now they want to sell us the benefits of corporate monopolies. Be afraid. Be very afraid.

johnbest's picture
johnbest 9 years 1 week ago

Will someone who lives in the vicinity of F.A. Saint Raygun's grave please go there and piss on it. I am sick of the greed and corruption orchestrated by this dimwit.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 1 week ago

There is nothing good that can come of this. History proves that. Once again, the words of Karl Marx are sounding more and more like prophecy. Consolidation is anti-freedom. When will the greed end? When?Like that old song by the Australian group Midnight Oil said so well, "If the sugar refining company won't save us... Who's gonna save us?"

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 1 week ago
Quote johnbest:Will someone who lives in the vicinity of F.A. Saint Raygun's grave please go there and piss on it. I am sick of the greed and corruption orchestrated by this dimwit.

johnbest ~ Very well said!! I second that. However, I'm sure we are beating a dead horse. The grave must already have a yellow hue and smell like a back alley somewhere in New York. Actually, my opinion of Mr. Ronald Wilson (666) Reagan is that he should go straight to... Exactly where he most certainly already is. Fry thee well 'Raygun!' Say, "Hi" to Falwell and Hitler for us. I'm sure ya'all just git along real good.

BMetcalfe's picture
BMetcalfe 9 years 1 week ago

The more we allow corporations to merge and become monopolies, the less vast programming choices we will have. I don't want just Left, Right, and Tea party info. I want to know what they're ALL doing and saying! That's the only way we the people can make proper choices. None of them are correct all of the time. Rather, it's the merging of the good from all of them that allows us to make conscious-based good decisions which affect all of us. NOT from the merging of all of them together. Let us hear their different platforms, so we can make our own decisions.

Ou812's picture
Ou812 9 years 1 week ago

I'm curious?

Why are some so concerned about a potential monopoly in something so unimportant (my opinion) as the entertainment industry, but welcome a monopoly ( single payer) in something so important as the health care industry?

stopgap's picture
stopgap 9 years 1 week ago

Perhaps a big part of the problem in America is that people have come to confuse the news for "Entertainment" - There's a tornado heading our way …how entertaining! Never mind that news that is intentionally misreported is propaganda. But creating ones own definition of long accepted terms seems to be one of the Rights favorite ploys.

Maybe Single Payer can be defined as a monopoly. So the choice becomes whether you prefer to have a Fascist health care system or a Democratic-Socialist system that is at least accountable to the people and not some greedy multinational corporate billionaire that could care less about your heath, but only the bottom-line.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 1 week ago

Thanks "stopgap", for your excellent reply to "OU812". We can always depend on conservatives to post some of the stupidest questions.

Healthcare is not supposed to be an "industry", because industries are all about profit. This whole idea of pitting our health needs against someone's profit motive is sick, sick, sick.

"OU", maybe if you stop eating all that nitrate-contaminated processed meat, you might start thinking a little clearer and be able to answer these questions for yourself. - Aliceinwonderland

Ou812's picture
Ou812 9 years 1 week ago

You know nothing about me, Alice, so please keep your moronic comments to yourself.

Ou812's picture
Ou812 9 years 1 week ago

What happens to single payer when the 'other side' controls it? Government's change. A monopoly is a monopoly, no matter who runs it. I prefer to select from a those who are competing for my dollars and will offer me the most service for it. It's not right or left. It's good business.

Ou812's picture
Ou812 9 years 1 week ago

By the way Stopgap, I didn't know AT&T and directv were in the "news" business. :))

stopgap's picture
stopgap 9 years 1 week ago

Where did I say that AT&T and Direct TV are in the news business? I referred to the news programing of NPR and PBS. However, even in this instance the NPR reporter said that the merger of these two mega communication companies can affect the content and control of what is aired through their services.

It is more likely that companies will merge, thereby resulting in less companies competing for you dollars, as has happened numerous times in the past, than the government being over thrown. Although, installing a Fascist government seems to be what the billionaire corporatists have in mind, which in that event, your dream will come true.

Craig Bush's picture
Craig Bush 9 years 1 week ago

In Santa Cruz CA we are having problems with reception when the Thom Hartman or Amy Goodman comes on. There are distorted speech streaming and blackouts at the most inopportune times. Is this deliberate? The other channels do not have these problems. Imagine when the corporate run monopolies control streaming speed. All under their control? Without net neutrality freedom of the press and speech is over. And, with that comes the end of democracy!

We have a big problem here finding ways get out truth. The corporate media buries our message. We voted 70% by public referendum to get a vote on desal technology. Our city council ignored the vote and moves ahead to waste money on a flawed EIR. This desal technology is being pushed by a fracking corp. Their only experience treating water is treating their industrial waste water. Desal demands 10 times the energy as conventional, it requires the most chemical treatment, creates the greatest environmental damage compared to new 21st century water science technology. We must run out the frackers with their desal technology from CA or we will all go the way of the dinosaurs. Read for a view of water politics here in Santa Cruz.

There is an important measure O for Monterey coming up. It is a battle between private ownership or public municipality to conrol our water resources. Fracking corps are buying up aquifers. This will reduce litigation costs when they foul and eliminate roadblocks to fracking. The corporate media here runs ads everydayagainst our move to take back our commons. We have no say. Vote yes on measure O. Take back our commons for the public good. We can create perpeptual sustainable water systems in balance with nature. Water is an inalienable human right. It must be managed in a most efficient manner on a regional basis. The systems must be mutually beneficial for us all and the life of this planet.

Would you risk heating the planet and drying out our protected watersheds? All for a head of iceberg lettuce, sprayed strawberries and fine Monterey wine? I would rather see the salmon return and our ecosystems restored. We must expect agriculture to step up, invest and utilize new conservation technology. We are all in this together. YES ON O

Ou812's picture
Ou812 9 years 1 week ago

Stopgap, you know nothing about my dreams. Please stick to the topic. Why is a monopoly in the entertainment/ phone business bad and a monopoly in health care good? By the way I'm against ALL monopolies. One more thing, governments in this country change by elections, no being overthrown:))

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 1 week ago

Ou812 -- Are you seriously asking what is the difference between entertainment and healthcare?

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 1 week ago

Robindell -- I agree with you, in spite of the fact, that the only thing on my my mp3 player are Thom Hartmann's podcasts.

Ou812's picture
Ou812 9 years 1 week ago


Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 1 week ago

Craig, excellent post!

By the way, are you running for a seat in the Santa Cruz city council? I sure hope you win. If my husband and I still lived there, we'd vote for you in a heartbeat. - AIW

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 1 week ago

"OU", a classic example of a "moronic" comment is equating government-funded healthcare with for-profit monopolies like AT&T and DirecTV merging into even bigger monopolies. Gimmie a break. Only a true moron would need to ask a question like "Why is a monopoly in the entertainment / phone business bad and a monopoly in health care good?" DUHHH…

Tax-supported infrastructure (like single-payer healthcare) belongs to everyone and no one, is not for profit and simply exists for everyone's benefit, regardless of financial or social status. This is what is known as "the commons". In case you haven't noticed, "OU", healthcare in the U.S. has been monopolized for decades already, by a for-profit insurance extortion "industry" whose only function is blocking access to care. (Talk about death panels… We've already got death panels, stupid!) Healthcare should be a public service, not a "business". It does not belong in the marketplace. In countries where it already exists, single-payer is not a "monopoly" because nobody owns it. Only an ignoramus would suggest otherwise.

Your questions and comments have already told me way more than I would ever have wanted to know about you. - Aliceinwonderland

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 1 week ago

OU812 ~ Aliceinwonderland has been way too kind to you. I find you, your comments, your name, and your avatar to be low brow, sophomoric, sexist, ridiculous, insulting, pathetic, and offensive. I'm quite surprised that Thom's web monitor is allowing you to participate this long. Obviously he/she is asleep at the wheel.

Sorry! I for one do not consider you or your comments worthy of a response. I also don't like your style of disrespect for this forum Mr/Ms "Oh You Ate One Too." Eat this, I'm flagging you as offensive and asking everyone else to do the same. Moron. Grow up and learn to think for yourself.

Ou812's picture
Ou812 9 years 1 week ago

I'm not surprised by your comments, you are all good at calling names, and assigning blame. But you are not winning the hearts and minds of anyone. It's that same old people make the same tired comments, (mostly name calling) where are the ideas, original thoughts? I'll probably be thrown off here. But who loses, not me. You need me and those like me if you want to accomplish anything. So keep blaming, name calling and thinking you are so damn smart. you have about 2 dozen people who agree with you.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 1 week ago

Robindell ~ I read your comment earlier today and only now have had time to respond. You have truly hit a note with me. Music is very important to any civilized society; and, it must be cultivated as early as possible. It also need to be encouraged. I didn't hear the segment you are talking about and personally find it hard to believe that Thom's question was anything less than rhetorical; however, you are so right about the level of musical education in this country and how it relates so well to critical thinking that I too am concerned about where Thom is coming from.

NPR and Public TV have to use the airwaves to promote all manner of music for the good of everyone. Just because someone has a MP3 player and an account doesn't mean they know anything about what is quality music and what is junk. Public Media has the pulpit through which to deliver the highest quality musical programming along with the discussion as to why it is so high quality. This educates, inspires, and motivates everyone to not only enjoy great music, but to aspire to participate in the making of great music as well.

As you might have guessed, I too have been moved deeply by music delivered through public media in my life time; and, I want that resource to be non ending. You certainly have my support; and, if Thom is listening, I would appreciate if you explained exactly what you meant by what I hope was a purely rhetorical question. Robindell ~ Thanks again!!

Tom1945 9 years 1 week ago

Sometimes (e.g., some of the responses in this blog) I am rather ashamed of my liberal brothers and sisters. I thought that the original question posed by Ou812 was a legitimate one. She merely pointed out that Thom says that monopolies are "bad" but yet wants a "monopoly" (single payer) for health care.

Instead of that generating a discussion, some chose to do nothing more than name calling. Then Ou812 responded in kind.

I think that we can all do better.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 1 week ago

Tom, I explained the difference to "OU". She doesn't care about the answer. It was a rhetorical question, not a authentically inquiring one. Sorry, but I and Marc and various others here have lost patience with that B.S. If you'd rather give people like "OU" the benefit of the doubt, well then good for you. But some of us have had our fill of her and her ilk.

It appears that there's some sort of viris infecting our society, because Americans seem to be getting dumber by the year. Must be all that artificial food they're eating, not to mention the corporate garbage they watch on the boob tube and hear on the radio all the time, reducing that gray matter between their ears to something more akin to styrofoam. Because they don't absorb the facts; they repel them.

"OU's" comments and questions were stupid. I told her they were stupid. So sue me. - AIW

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 1 week ago

Aliceinwonderland ~ How come all these newbies with nothing substantial to say and everything nonsensical to ask have the nerve to repeat their stupid questions after being answered like they heard nothing? Like your answer makes no sense? It sure made sense to me. Took the words right out of my mouth. Yet somehow the same question persist?. I'm getting sick of it myself. I refuse to engage such ludicrousness any more. Perhaps I'm just tired. Long day again. However, I can't help but think that Tom1945, "the prostitute", and ChicagoMatt are all the same person. An out-of-work, scattered brained follower of Rush Limpballs or some other right wing trash. They all demonstrate the same ignorance, rhetoric, sexism, racism, and classism. They all talk with the same disrespectful arrogance. They all have collected on this forum at about the same time from nowhere. If you ask me they are all one and the same desperate person. They remind me of a whack-a-mole machine. The harder you try to whack it the more aggressive it becomes. I recommend ignoring this whack-a-mole machine altogether. To date I have never seen such a device move in any way when it was ignored. Food for thought.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 1 week ago

I hear ya, Marc! I too am sick of answering the same dumb-ass questions over and over, into oblivion. If there's one thing Tom1945 has said that I can agree with, it's that we can all do better. But I repeat that assertion with a somewhat different twist. We can do better than corporate fascism and pay-or-die healthcare. We can do better than digging our own graves with our forks. We can do better than living paycheck-to-paycheck. We certainly can do better than allowing this forum to get dragged down by these "newbies" who refuse to think outside the corporate fascist box.

Hang in there, brother. This too shall pass... - Alice IW

ChicagoMatt 9 years 1 week ago
I can't help but think that Tom1945, "the prostitute", and ChicagoMatt are all the same person. An out-of-work, scattered brained follower of Rush Limpballs or some other right wing trash.

Well I'm offended. I thought I was WAY more articulate than some of these other non-Progressives I see posting here. I still refuse to label myself as Conservative.

I'm still reading these blogs by the way. I've been eager to post again (this site is so addictive!), but it is still really creepy when someone talks about trying to find you in real life. It only takes one crazy person to ruin a good thing for everyone. Which is a real shame. I got my copy of "The Crash of 2016", and I was looking forward to discussing it with people of different mindsets.

And, I'm starting to think the "webmaster" of this site is just an unmonitored mailbox. I've asked twice now for my account to be deleted.

In my quest for respectful political discourse with people from "the other side of the aisle", I ended up on The Huffington Post's comment section. But people don't really reply there. Everyone's posting, no one is reading.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 1 week ago

Matt, I concur. You are more articulate than "OU812", and others I could mention (but won't). Marc and I get really frustrated with these folks; please don't take it personally. We're aware that shills often invade forums like this one, to harass people and inject their corporate-fascist propaganda; it's made us angry and a little defensive; maybe even a tad bit paranoid. Palin was just trying to confirm that you're not one of these hostile invaders. Won't worry, nobody's gonna come knocking at your door some stormy night.

Certain things you've said have pushed my buttons and pissed me off, Matt, and I don't see that changing. But I'm glad you enjoy this forum and I encourage you to keep posting here anyway. We might give ya a hard time but please be assured, no one wishes you harm. - Aliceinwonderland

ChicagoMatt 9 years 1 week ago

I've often heard Thom talk about "shills", as in people paid to parrot right-wing talking points online or on his show. I've also heard Rush talk about "seminar callers", or people who say one thing to get on air with him, then start saying left-wing talking points. I wonder how much truth there is to either claim. It's very, very easy for anyone who is in to politics to assume anyone who doesn't agree with them is not legit for one reason or another. And we end up with what we have today - a very polarized country, with no end in sight.

Robindell's picture
Robindell 9 years 1 week ago

I'm sure you could fault NPR for several disappointing things. On their "flagship: news shows, such as Morning Edition, I often have to change the station not because of disagreements with pro-business comments or conservative sources being treated as if they are objective and beyond question, but because NPR offers an excessive amount of sports programming in the middle of what I would assume is supposed to be a serious news program. If I wanted to find out about sports, I would listen to a commercial sports-talk station or read the sports pages. The desire to appeal to the lowest common denominator I think is a worse problem on public radio than slanted reporting, which may be a problem as well, as Thom has indicated two days in a row of having mentioned it. I do not consider classical music, which as the caller from several days ago said, is missing from many public radio stations, to be entertainment. Art can be entertaining, but it is not entertainment per se. NPR programs have hosts who are chummy with pop musicians, but only report on classical music when a new manuscript is found of a work by a famous composer or when a violinist has a rare and expensive instrument stolen.

I think Thom could have given both sides of the story in a fairer way if he is going to bring up public radio and NPR. Morning Edition has done several reports based on an investigation of judges around the country who fine poor people for doing something illegal and who cannot afford to pay the fines. Although they included comments from a prosecutor saying that crime has to be paid for, and if someone cannot afford to pay their fine, the only other option for the courts is to take people's time by having them serve time in jail, they also included the views of the Civil Liberities Union and the Bremen Center for Justice who believe that because debtors' prison was made illegal in this country, it is against the law to put someone in jail because they cannot afford to pay a fine. They reported on one man who got drunk and went into some building illegal with some other people in Thom's city of birth, Grand Rapids, MI. The man told the judge that although he didn't have the money that was being demanded of him to pay the fine, he had been hired to start a good-paying job in a few days, and that after he begins working at this the new, he could start making payments toward the fine. The judge said, "Who cares if you can't pay," and threw the defendant in jail. By the time he was released, the employer said that he had filled the job with someone else but was willing to see if there was some other job in which the man could be placed. He ended up getting a job which he likes from a different employer, but it pays less than the job he would have had if he hadn't been detained in jail. He has to maintain employment and pay the fine to stay out of jail. I haven't heard any stories about poor people who can't pay their fines being imprisoned on progressive radio.

Marketplace Morning which is produced by American Public Media (APM), not Public Radio Insernational as I incorrectly wrote when I made my above post, had an interview from England with a woman who is a former financial journalist and has started an organization to oppose the ridiculously high salaries of corporate CEOs and other topic executives in British companies. The show's host pointed out that Peter Drucker recommened paying these high-level executives 20 times more than the average employee's salary, but that today, in many corporations, the CEO makes 200 times more than the average work earns. The host also pointed out that the requirement in the U.S. from the Dodd/Frank Act that companies publically disclose the ratio between the CEO and other top executives' salaries and those of the average employee income has just been in effect for about two months, and has not resulted in any national reaction against these high executive salaries. The guest from England said that in her country, companies don't want to voluntarily state what this ratio is, because the executive salaries are so high that it wouldn't look good if this comparison with what everyone else is paid were to be made public. Occasionally, I may hear mention of this issue on commercial news broadcasts, but Marketplace Morning did a segment including an interview on it.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 1 week ago
Quote ChicagoMatt:Well I'm offended. I thought I was WAY more articulate than some of these other non-Progressives I see posting here. I still refuse to label myself as Conservative.

ChicagoMatt ~ My apologies for venting on you. You are right. You are WAY more articulate. I also respect the fact that you don't label yourself. Labels are for people who have a hard time thinking for themselves. 'Don't ask me, ask my label. They do all my thinking for me.' Which is why I too avoid labelling myself. I want to address every issue separately and keep people guessing as to my opinion. That forces me to think each issue through. A lot of work; but, it sure pays off in the end. Keep up the good work! I hope there are no hard feelings.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 1 week ago

I don't really have the time; but, here goes my answer to the government versus private sector having a monopoly question. Monopoly is defined as total control over a commodity or service by one company or one group of people.

The "Commons" are any commodity or service that are NEEDED by all the people. That is, a commodity or service 'commonly' needed by everyone. These can be further distinguished by 'vital commons' and 'luxury commons.'

Vital commons are commodities and services necessary for life. They include air, water, food, housing, healthcare, and education, amongst other things.

Luxury commons are commodities and services desired in life. They include hobbies, toys, vacations, jewelry, furniture, vehicles, equities, and all manner of material possessions, amongst other things.

The government is a group of people who are answerable to everyone in the country. A company is a group of people who are answerable to themselves, their shareholders, and their customers. A company is not answerable to the entire country. That would only be possible with fascism and a government overthrow. For that reason, if any private entity deals in a vital commons commodity or service they have to be directly and severely regulated by the government.

Also, by that reasoning, if that said vital commons commodity--FOR ANY REASON--fails to be delivered to the people in the most fair, safest, and economical way possible, it is therefore the responsibility of the government to step in and take over that common. Anything less is to shirk its responsibility to the group that it is answerable to--WE THE PEOPLE.

Therefore, any monopoly in the commons by the government differs from a private entity because the government represents ALL THE PEOPLE and private entities do not.

Since part of the commodities AT&T and Directv deal in is the news--and the news clearly falls under the vital commons category of 'education'--it is also the responsibility of government to strictly regulate it. Failing to do that successfully, it must stand in and take over that aspect of the commons.

Heathcare, on the other hand, is clearly in the public domain and not the private domain. Especially when it has been compromised and exploited to the extent that it has. In this case, the inability of the government to take over this resource is the problem. Not doing so is failure of their charter with WE THE PEOPLE.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 1 week ago

Also, insurance is a very different commodity. There are countries and states that have outlawed insurance companies.

Robindell's picture
Robindell 9 years 1 week ago

Sick people don't have time for silly political debates, or denials of coverage, it needs to be said.

ChicagoMatt 9 years 1 week ago
Sick people don't have time for silly political debates, or denials of coverage, it needs to be said.
That was my argument for school choice as well. Students in crappy schools right now don't have time to hear about how things should be. They need to be able to take their business, which in this case would be the portion of their property taxes allocated to education, and use it to go to a better school, even if that school is private. That is a change that can be done right now, rather than waiting generations for the whole system to somehow get fixed.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 1 week ago

Chi Matt -- You keep pushing for discounts for rich people. The voucher system has been shown not to work. Why do you keep pushing for it. The profit motive in education seems ridiculous.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 1 week ago

I'm with Chuck on that. This voucher system is bullshit. We need to go back to public education for everyone. I don't buy Matt's argument that students "don't have time" to hear how things should be. If they don't hear it, they won't push for it. They deserve better than vouchers. And I don't accept the argument that it will take "generations" to fix the system. That's just a rationalization for doing nothing, simply accepting a new status quo that isn't doing the public any favors. Like Chuck says, the voucher system is bogus. Just more privatization! Like I keep repeating here, I reject privatization of the commons; ESPECIALLY regarding education and healthcare. Everything the privatizers touch turns to shit. And it's a bloody rip-off. Enough already. - Aliceinwonderland

Robindell's picture
Robindell 9 years 1 week ago

Thom's blog posting was not about health care or education. It doesn't surprise me that progressive candidates do not often seem to do all that well in getting elected, and having a government that would have policies that are less inclined to be so preferential to corporate interests; many progressive-minded people lack discipline and cannot stick to one topic and analyze that without going off in a hundred different directions. The Republicans, especially the so-called establishment Republicans who did rather well (my news source being NPR) in the recent primaries, are not scatter-brained in their approach to winning elections. They are often are single-minded in that they stay on message. Many of the posts on this entire website seem to have little to do with the specific topic that was taken up in a blog or bulletin board entry.

NPR has had a series on poor people who do something wrong and then are fined by a judge, and are unable to stay out of jail because they don't have enough money to pay the fine. Perhaps I missed it, but I haven't heard this matter discussed on progressive talk radio.

Thom suggests that NPR is unfair because they are tend to be conservative in outlook. How true is this assertion? If NPR is as one-sided as Thom implies, then why did they have a report last Friday on how Florida State University accepts money from the Koch Brothers' foundation in return for some vetting of new economics faculty by the foundation. NPR reported that the arrangement between the Koch foundtion and Florida State has come under such criticism, especially by faculty and students, that they negotiated a new agreement with the foundation. But students have pointed out that if Florida State wants there to be more transparency in this regard, why did it take the university one year before they released the conditions of the new agreement. The university contends that the new agreement takes power away from the Koch Brothers' foundation by having only one foundation representative on the committee that is involved with hiring economics professors, but critics say that the university will still be dissuaded from hiring someone who the Koch Brothers' representative would disapprove of, for fear the university might lose funding. NPR had a recording of a comment by a Florida State representative who may have been the chair of the economics department who said that their only concern is getting the best-qualified faculty members they can for the students. But the National Association of University Professors disagrees with the arrangement, saying that it inteferes with academic freedom, because an outside funder is given some degree of sayso in hiring of faculty in economics, since they can pull their support of they are displeased. NPR reported on this issue and gave both sides of the argument, allowing the views of critics of the Koch Brothers' support to be included in the report on Florida State. It seems to be if Thom or his associates don't have time to listen to an monitor reporting on NPR, then it would be preferable not to make accusations wiithout being able to present an objective view of the reporting. The stories I have alluded to are ones that I don't hear much about in either the convential media or on progressive shows.

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 1 week ago

Robindell, this discussion was about mergers and monopolies, I thought. It veered off to the topic of healthcare when "Ou812" (post #10), called single payer healthcare tantamount to a monopoly, which of course is sheer bunk. And check out my #23 post. That one further shows how we got sidetracked into healthcare.

Incidentally, I am familiar with this issue of debtor's prison, a phenomenon most prevalent in red (Republican) states incidentally. I read a great, in-depth article about it in The Nation, a couple issues back. It's horrifying. And like you, I believe a public discussion on this is way overdue.

However the larger grows the proportion of NPR's funding from corporations, the more conservative it gets, predictably. It's been a long while since I listened to NPR for this reason, so I can't offer any examples or details here. But I certainly noticed the difference, once it evolved to a certain point. Unfortunately in recent years, I've been very limited in how much I could afford to donate to NPR, and to other worthy endeavors. I'd guess there are enough progressives likewise strapped, budget-wise, to necessitate NPR seek funding elsewhere; especially after federal government funding got snatched by the oligarchs. But it is what it is. I'm not saying NPR no longer has worthwhile programming; it's just that there is so little genuinely progressive media anymore, compared to the corporatized media, that progressive voices are what I'm craving; that's what I gravitate towards.

Anyway, gotta run. Got an engagement... - Aliceinwonderland

ChicagoMatt 9 years 5 days ago

I'm running on little sleep and a little sunburned, so this might not be my best post, but I won't be able to sleep tonight unless I get this off of my chest. And I'm going to do the easy thing and bullet-point my thoughts:

1. Yes, ideally every school would be perfect. But they are not, and while we wait for this utopian society to come around, millions of children are falling through the cracks. As I write, it's the end of the three-day weekend, which means it's time for the local NBC affiliate to post it's every-weekend story about how many people got shot and killed in the city. Almost all of them are products of a failing public school system. It's too late for them. But the ones that will get shot and killed in the coming years - we can still do something to save them. Waiting for a perfect solution that never going to come is an injustice for those future victims.

2. Most poor people (which, in Chicago at least, is mostly minorities) WANT school vouchers. Here's an article about how overwhelmingly popular they are whenever they are tried:

That article points out that over 90% of black families in a survey supported vouchers. They are so popular that Milwaukee has to use a lottery system to see who gets them. For party that claims to be "for the people", the Democrats seem to be against the people on this one.

3. Quality healthcare and education are the rights of every American. School vouchers are the equivalent of single-payer healthcare. Every school has a tuition - its just in public schools that the tuition is hidden via taxes. In most cities, the enrollment on the 20th day of class determines how much funding that school will get for the following year. Attaching the money to the student (vouchers) lets the students and their parents take their business elsewhere. Denying them that right is like telling a poor person that they have to go to their local hospital, even if the quality is lower. You're allowed to go to any hospital you want, right? Why not let people go to the school of their choice as well.

4. There are only two reasons someone would be against vouchers. Either they don't care how badly the current system is failing students, or they know that letting parents and students choose their schools will reduce teacher union influence, since private and charter schools are mostly non-unionized. Forcing students into crappy schools and ultimately ruining their lives from a young age for the sake of a union is very unethical.

5. Ok, there is one other reason someone would be against vouchers, and it's mentioned in the article above: Because that would let the best students out of a failing school, and leave just the struggling students. So, since EVERYONE can't be saved, they think NO ONE should get a chance. That's like sinking a lifeboat because not everyone can fit in it. Very cold-hearted and self-centered.

I keep saying this, but the private school I work at get much better results than the local public school. AND we do it for half of the cost. But still the Democrats who run Chicago and Illinois won't even consider saving the students from my neighborhood that have to go to the public school, when I am sitting here with empty seats in my classroom. It's all about money for them - union jobs and dues. Isn't that what you always accuse the Republicans of doing? Making everything about money?

But really, what does it matter? It's never going to happen, in a solidly-blue state like this one anyway. The failing public school cycle will continue, with no end in sight.

DAnneMarc's picture
DAnneMarc 9 years 5 days ago
Quote ChicagoMatt:4. There are only two reasons someone would be against vouchers. Either they don't care how badly the current system is failing students, or they know that letting parents and students choose their schools will reduce teacher union influence, since private and charter schools are mostly non-unionized. Forcing students into crappy schools and ultimately ruining their lives from a young age for the sake of a union is very unethical.

ChicagoMatt ~ Now I understand! You are obviously smoking crack!

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 4 days ago

Matt, you are ignoring the glaringly obvious: that public schools are failing because they are being starved out of existence by the privatizers. If they were adequately funded, and if teachers and their unions were getting the respect they deserve, we wouldn't be having this conversation. - AIW

Robindell's picture
Robindell 9 years 4 days ago

Thom referred to an NPR report on the AT&T and Direct T.V. proposed meger as an example of his disagreement with the media's coverage in general of all things corporate. You could say that the topic is mergers and monopolies, but I think he was making a larger point about NPR. The next day, he gave the other example about an NPR news story. I noticed that NPR seemed to go out of their way to report on Tea Party candidates so far in this primary season. Perhaps that was excessive dedication to covering Republicans, but it also might have been that there are bigger differences at stake in the Republican primaries, with a right-wing extremist faction being involved, than there are within Democratic primaries. I have reports on two topics I mentioned above on NPR which seem to include concerns of progressives and which I have not heard on commercial media. NPR sometimes brings to light certain issues that other news sources ignore. The Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania and also at the University of Southern California are capable of doing empirical research on news coverage. Objective research would probably be needed to show how much of a bias there is, how often, and in what areas of coverage. Sometimes, political commentary can go too far in the name of furthering one's own cause and/or audience.

chuckle8's picture
chuckle8 9 years 4 days ago

Chi Matt -- I like how wonderfully thought provoking your comments are. I wish you would respond more directly to all my comments, but there is no reason I have that you should.

Quote Chi Matt:I keep saying this, but the private school I work at get much better results than the local public school. AND we do it for half of the cost.

To show you get better results, you need to have some kind of value added tests. Your students have to be cherry picked in some way. One way is they at least have parent(s) who care enough to send them to your school. It would be interesting to know the median wage of the families you teach compared to others.

2. Most poor people (which, in Chicago at least, is mostly minorities) WANT school vouchers.
. The devil would be in the details. Robert Reich in his book "Aftershock" even recommends a voucher system. If none of the vouchers can be used for private schools, my objections would start to recede.

Quote Chi Matt:You're allowed to go to any hospital you want, right?

Have you not heard of HMOs or even PPO? The answer is "no" you cannot go to any hospital you want, unless you are rich

Aliceinwonderland's picture
Aliceinwonderland 9 years 3 days ago

Unlike public schools, private schools get to cherry-pick their students. Between that and the serious shortage of funds public schools are now suffering (thanks to the stinginess of those deadbeats in Congress), is there any wonder Matt's private school gets better results than the public school down the street?!

Matt, the problem I have with so many of your posts is how they seem to endorse privatization, directly or indirectly. Like I keep repeating, privatization is all about exclusion. Some get in, some don't. In the context of educaton, this is absolutely unacceptable.

Privatization is the theft of the commons. It must be stopped at all costs. - Aliceinwonderland

ChicagoMatt 9 years 3 days ago
I wish you would respond more directly to all my comments, but there is no reason I have that you should.

Sorry. Late May is a busy time for teachers, and it takes me like 20 minutes to write a single reply sometimes. But thank you for the compliment.

Your students have to be cherry picked in some way. One way is they at least have parent(s) who care enough to send them to your school. It would be interesting to know the median wage of the families you teach compared to others.
Our students take the same standardized tests as their public school counterparts. Well, the High School Placement Tests at least, which is the big one for this age group. The median wage is comparable to public schools as well, but only because we offer schoalships to low-wage families.

The devil would be in the details. Robert Reich in his book "Aftershock" even recommends a voucher system. If none of the vouchers can be used for private schools, my objections would start to recede.
No private schools at all, or just no parochial schools? How about home-schoolers? Could parents who choose to home-school their own children get paid to do it? That would fix several problems at once: unemployment, school over-crowding, and quality of education. The smaller the class, the better the quality, typically. Home-schooled students outperform all other students in most areas.

ChicagoMatt 9 years 3 days ago
Unlike public schools, private schools get to cherry-pick their students.

What's wrong with that? What's wrong with pulling out a student from a failing public school - a student who could do much better in a private school? We should deny that student a chance, because not every student gets that chance?

Let's use that argument in another area of "the commons": healthcare. People die every day waiting for organs, right? But some people are chosen to recieve the few organs that there are, so those people get to live. But with the "no cherry-picking" argument, no one should be allowed to get an organ transplant until everyone can get one. Shared misery for all, even when there was a way out for some.

Like I keep repeating, privatization is all about exclusion. Some get in, some don't. In the context of educaton, this is absolutely unacceptable.

So it's more acceptable to force academically talented students who can't afford private schools to waste away in a faiing public school. For what? So the other students in their school don't feel bad about being left out? Screwing a kid over for life like that, to spare some other kid's feelings, is not right. It's a preschoolish, "everyone is a winner and everyone gets a ribbon" way of looking at things.

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