Thursday, January 05, 2012
Saturday, November 06, 2010
Thursday, March 11, 2010
Thursday, January 28, 2010
with Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, Naomi Klein and Anthony Arnove
Democracy Now pays tribute to the late historian, writer and activist Howard Zinn, who died suddenly on Wednesday of a heart attack at the age of eighty-seven. Howard Zinn’s classic work A People’s History of the United States changed the way we look at history in America. It has sold over a million copies and was recently made into a television special called The People Speak. We remember Howard Zinn in his own words, and we speak with those who knew him best: Noam Chomsky, Alice Walker, Naomi Klein and Anthony Arnove.
Friday, December 18, 2009
Kill The Bill
This bill is a gift to the very forces which caused the health care crisis in the first place. It's a disgrace and a shame.
You claim it's expanding coverage. It does this by forcing people to buy insurance with NO price protections or trust/collusion protections or real competition with a Public Option. If I may paraphrase candidate Obama, it's like solving the homeless crisis by passing a law that everyone buys a house! Shame.
Insurance companies can't kick you out? But they can PRICE you out! Sham. Disgrace. Shame!
Resistance to the assault on women's reproductive healthcare is hardly a feature. It should be EXPECTED.
If the Democrats can't pass REAL UNIVERSAL HEALTHCARE law now, when they are the majority in both houses and hold the presidency, they'll never be able to "improve" on this bill.
There's NO room for profit in healthcare. Profiting off of other peoples' suffering should be a CRIME.
Healthcare is a HUMAN RIGHT! Nobody in our nation, not even the 6% you find to be an acceptable number of uncovered citizens, should be denied healthcare when they need it.
I urge you to KILL THIS BILL. Pass some sort of real reform in conference committee if necessary, or go back to the drawing board. THIS bill makes things WORSE. Rahm, Obama and the other elected Democrats are making a serious miscalculation if they think the base or the electorate in general are going to applaud or support or feel anything other than contempt for this effort.
Monday, July 20, 2009
Let’s start by asking: what is the right? Broadly speaking, the Right started as a coalition of Libertarians, Theocrats, and Business types that might be at odds, but were unified by extreme anti-communism. When the Wall fell, the Right had achieved its ultimate object, but lost its unifying cause. Libertarians, Evangelicals, and Corporate executives seeking special market advantage through government will naturally be at odds about every significant issue.
“Liberalism” is a weak rallying point because, well, it doesn’t really exist. There are liberals in both houses of Congress, but no more than, say, Corvair fans. It would make just as much sense to construct a political philosophy around opposing the philatelist menace.
Yet these rebels without a cause have won every important political battle of the last thirty years! Clinton got elected, but couldn’t even pass a health care bill. He wound up abolishing AFDC, declaring the “era of big government is over,” deregulating the banks, keeping the inevitable tax hike limited to a one percent top bracket marginal bump, balancing the budget, and keeping the defense budget intact. The only concession the conservatives had to make was the letter after the President’s name. Clinton was the most effective Republican president of the Twentieth Century.
Then, they crooked their crazy nephew in, and he screwed the pooch. His administration was so corrupt and inept they actually managed to convince the smarter type of conservatives (all six of them) not to be conservatives any more. Still, they keep winning battles. They bottled up the Employee Free Choice Act, watered down the cap-and trade bill, gutted the stimulus bill, turned a slam-dunk Supreme Court confirmation hearing into a circus, and may well end up killing health care reform. And that’s with large Democratic majorities in both house and the White House in Democratic hands!
How do they pull off controlling the course of American politics without holding the seats of power? They control the terms of the debate. When the handful of Progressives that actually exist proposed that we reform our health care system by instituting a single-payer national insurance plan that will actually address the problems behind escalating health-care costs, we were told by our betters that it was politically impossible. One of the people delivering this message was our “Yes We Can,” “Change We Can Believe In,” “Muslim Socialist” President explaining, in conservative terms, that change would be too disruptive. We have to preserve a system of employer-based health insurance born out of the unique experience of World War II that no longer makes sense in a country where people change jobs every few years because it had somehow become “the American Way.” In one lifetime? Really?
Conservatives didn’t have to beat Barack Obama, and they didn’t have to join him. They swallowed him whole. This is why the Birthers are so crazy. They are so out there they don’t even realize they are unnecessary.
Conservatives have turned the preservation of corporate interests into a national religion. They control the language of national debates, they set the baseline of acceptable policies, and they have a stranglehold on my model voter, the radiology tech from Casselberry. When I talk politics with him, his questions, concerns, and objections may as well have been written by Frank Luntz himself.
They did it with money, time, and attacking ideas first and people second. The conservative foundations (Bradley, Scaife, Olin, Coors, Annenberg, et al.) committed themselves to funding the think tanks and media outlets that spread conservative ideas. These institutions plucked right-wingers out of college and gave them jobs, nurturing three generations of conservative leaders and providing an economic base for the movement. They established quiet, invite-only meetings in Washington where staffers, elected officials and lobbyists receive their marching orders. They maintain safe houses in the DC area so they don’t get caught influence-peddling and screwing around. They are a real movement.
We are a disorganized grab-bag of people motivated mostly by common attachment to basic decency and empirical reality. We splinter more easily than a balsa-wood glider in a hurricane, so we litter the landscape with tiny factions devoted to a handful of issues. At the end of the day, we lose all the major policy battles because they are all playing on the same team and we are not.
The first thing we need to learn is to stop trying to sell our issues to the public. This is a waste of time. Right-wingers didn’t control the economic policy debate by sending every American a copy of “The Road To Serfdom.” No, they convinced Americans that pro-labor, pro-environment, pro-consumer policies were anti-American. They used the existing Horatio Alger myth to good effect, equating General Electric with the Gold Rush spirit. There are now tens of millions of poor, mostly white men certain that any measure to protect them as workers or consumers is taking the money out of their pockets they will have when they, uh … win the lottery or something, they’re not sure, but however these abused people are going to get rich, they don’t want some bureaucrat taxing them to pay for vital services or telling them that cannot cheat their workers or poison their customers.
If we want to undo the incalculable damage these maniacs have done, we must patient and think strategically. We must work through the universities, think tanks, and the media. We must discredit the Church of Gimmie, expose conservative policies as crony capitalism, espouse real markets and level playing fields, and make conservatives as ashamed of their c-word as Democrats were of the L-word for thirty years.
Then, when our viewpoint has permeated the culture, we insist that our party conform. We challenge any Democrat, no matter how powerful, who persists in conservative heresy and drum them out of our party. We take over from the counties to the Speaker’s office. Then, and only then, can we address global warming, worker’s rights, economic security, and equal rights for all Americans. Until we turn the Democratic Party democratic, then electing corporate “Democrats” is just a waste of time and money.
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
Case in point: Katharine Weymouth, the publisher of THE WASHINGTON POST – one of the most powerful people in DC – invited top officials from the White House, the Cabinet and Congress to her home for an intimate, off-the-record dinner to discuss health care reform with some of her reporters and editors covering the story.
But CEO’s and lobbyists from the health care industry were invited, too, provided they forked over $25,000 a head – or up to a quarter of a million if they want to sponsor a whole series of these cozy get-togethers. And what is the inducement offered? Nothing less, the invitation read, than “an exclusive opportunity to participate in the health-care reform debate among the select few who will get it done.”
The invitation reminds the CEO’s and lobbyists that they will be buying access to “those powerful few in business and policy making who are forwarding, legislating and reporting on the issues…
"Spirited? Yes. Confrontational? No." The invitation promises this private, intimate and off-the-record dinner is an extension “of THE WASHINGTON POST brand of journalistic inquiry into the issues, a unique opportunity for stakeholders to hear and be heard.”
Let that sink in. In this case, the “stakeholders” in health care reform do not include the rabble – the folks across the country who actually need quality health care but can’t afford it. If any of them showed up at the kitchen door on the night of this little soiree, the bouncer would drop kick them beyond the Beltway.
No, before you can cross the threshold to reach “the select few who will actually get it done,” you must first cross the palm of some outstretched hand. The WASHINGTON POST dinner was canceled after a copy of the invite was leaked to the Web site Politico.com, by a health care lobbyist, of all people. The paper said it was a misunderstanding – the document was a draft that had been mailed out prematurely by its marketing department. There’s noblesse oblige for you – blame it on the hired help.
In any case, it was enough to give us a glimpse into how things really work in Washington – a clear insight into why there is such a great disconnect between democracy and government today, between Washington and the rest of the country.
According to one poll after another, a majority of Americans not only want a public option in health care, they also think that growing inequality is bad for the country, that corporations have too much power over policy, that money in politics is the root of all evil, that working families and poor communities need and deserve public support if the market system fails to generate shared prosperity.
But when the insiders in Washington have finished tearing worthy intentions apart and devouring flesh from bone, none of these reforms happen. “Oh,” they say, “it’s all about compromise. All in the nature of the give-and-take-negotiating of a representative democracy.”
That, people, is bull – the basic nutrient of Washington’s high and mighty.
It’s not about compromise. It’s not about what the public wants. It’s about money – the golden ticket to “the select few who actually get it done.”
When Congress passed the Helping Families Save Their Homes Act, "the select few” made sure it no longer contained the cramdown provision that would have allowed judges to readjust mortgages. The one provision that would have helped homeowners the most was removed in favor of an industry that pours hundreds of millions into political campaigns.
So, too, with a bill designed to protect us from terrorist attacks on chemical plants. With “the select few” dictating marching orders, hundreds of factories are being exempted from measures that would make them spend money to prevent the release of toxic clouds that could kill hundreds of thousands.
Everyone knows the credit ratings agencies were co-conspirators with Wall Street in the shameful wilding that brought on the financial meltdown. But when the Obama administration came up with new reforms to prevent another crisis, the credit ratings agencies were given a pass. They’d been excused by “the select few who actually get it done.”
And by the time an energy bill emerged from the House of Representatives the other day, “the select few who actually get it done” had given away billions of dollars worth of emission permits and offsets. As THE NEW YORK TIMES reported, while the legislation worked its way to the House floor, “it grew fat with compromises, carve-outs, concessions and out-and-out gifts,” expanding from 648 pages to 1400 as it spread its largesse among big oil and gas, utility companies and agribusiness.
This week, the public interest groups Common Cause and the Center for Responsive Politics reported that, “According to lobby disclosure reports, 34 energy companies registered in the first quarter of 2009 to lobby Congress around the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009. This group of companies spent a total of $23.7 million – or $260,000 a day – lobbying members of Congress in January, February and March.
“Many of these same companies also made large contributions to the members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, which has jurisdiction over the legislation and held a hearing this week on the proposed ‘cap and trade’ system energy companies are fighting. Data shows oil and gas companies, mining companies and electric utilities combined have given more than $2 million just to the 19 members of the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee since 2007, the start of the last full election cycle.”
It's happening to health care as well. Even the pro-business magazine THE ECONOMIST says America has the worst system in the developed world, controlled by executives who are not held to account and investors whose primary goal is raising share price and increasing profit – while wasting $450 billion dollars in redundant administrative costs and leaving nearly 50 million uninsured.
Enter "the select few who actually get it done." Three out of four of the big health care firms lobbying on Capitol Hill have former members of Congress or government staff members on the payroll – more than 350 of them – and they’re all fighting hard to prevent a public plan, at a rate in excess of $1.4 million a day.
Health care policy has become insider heaven. Even Nancy-Ann DeParle, the White House health reform director, served on the boards of several major health care corporations.
President Obama has pushed hard for a public option but many fear he’s wavering, and just this week his chief of staff Rahm Emanuel – the insider del tutti insiders – indicated that a public plan just might be negotiable, ready for reengineering, no doubt, by “the select few who actually get it done.”
That’s how it works. And it works that way because we let it. The game goes on and the insiders keep dealing themselves winning hands. Nothing will change – nothing – until the money lenders are tossed out of the temple, the ATM’s are wrested from the marble halls, and we tear down the sign they’ve placed on government – the one that reads, “For Sale.”
Wednesday, March 25, 2009
Friday, March 20, 2009
Monday, March 09, 2009
I have watched with mild amusement this week the self-immolation of the Republican Party as it bows before the altar of Rush Limbaugh, begging for mercy, pleading for forgiveness, breathlessly seeking guidance and wisdom from The Oracle.
President Obama and the Democratic Party have wasted no time in pointing out to the American people this marriage from hell, tying Rush like a rock around the collective Republican neck and hoping for its quick descent to the netherworld of irrelevance.
But some commentators (Richard Wolffe of Newsweek, Chuck Todd of NBC News, etc.) have likened this to "what Republicans tried to do to the Democrats with Michael Moore." Perhaps. But there is one central difference: What I have believed in, and what I have stood for in these past eight years -- an end to the war, establishing universal health care, closing Guantanamo and banning torture, making the rich pay more taxes and aggressively going after the corporate chiefs on Wall Street -- these are all things which the majority of Americans believe in too. That's why in November the majority voted for the guy I voted for. The majority of Americans rejected the ideology of Rush and embraced the same issues I have raised consistently in my movies and books.
How did this happen? Considering how, for the past eight years, the Republican machine thought they could somehow smear and damage the Democrats if they said it was "the party of Michael Moore," it appears that the American public heard them loud and clear and decided that, 'hey, if you say Michael Moore is connected to the Democrats, then the Democrats must be OK!'
During this past election, a Democrat in Michigan, Mark Schauer, was running against the incumbent Republican congressman, Rep. Tim Walberg. Schauer asked me to endorse him and campaign for him, and I did. The Republicans were thrilled. They acted like they had been handed manna from heaven. They filled the airwaves with attack ads showing pictures of me and asking voters, 'is this the guy you want influencing your congressman?' The voters of western Michigan said "YES!" and threw the Republican out of office. The newly elected congressman told me his poll numbers had gone up once the Republicans started running ads likening him to me.
There have been over a half-dozen attack documentaries on me (Michael Moore Hates America, Fahrenhype 9/11, etc.), plus a feature film starring Kelsey Grammer and James Woods that had me being slapped silly for 83 minutes. Several books have been written by the Right in a concerted attempt to denounce me. One book, 100 People Who Are Screwing Up America, had me listed at #1. The author was so sure people would know why, he didn't even bother to write a chapter on me like he did for the other 99. You just get to the end of the book and all it says is "#1" with nothing but a big picture of me that takes up a full page.
What made the Republicans so sure that Americans would recoil upon the mere mention of my name, or by simply showing a photo of my face?
The result of this was one colossal backfire. The more they attacked me, the more the public decided to check out who this "devil" was and what he was saying. And -- oops! -- more than a few people liked what they saw. Overnight I went from having a small, loyal following to having millions go to movie theaters to watch... documentaries? Wow.
Yes, the more the Right went after me, the more people got to hear what I was saying -- and eventually the majority, for some strange reason, ended up agreeing with me -- not Rush Limbaugh -- and elected Barack Obama as president of the United States, a man who promised to end the war, bring about universal health care, close Guantanamo, stop torture, tax the rich, and rein in the abusive masters of Wall Street.
Think about this road I've traveled. At the beginning of the Bush years, I was pretty much an outsider, referred to as being on the "far left." I usually found myself holding viewpoints that differed from the majority of the people in this country. When I spoke out against the war -- before it even started -- I was marginalized by the mainstream media and then booed off the Oscar stage in "liberal Hollywood" for commenting about a "fictitious" president. Seventy percent of the public back then supported the war and approved of the job George W. Bush was doing.
But I stuck to what I believed in, kept churning out my movies, and never looked back. The Right and the White House spokespeople came after me time after time. President Bush 41 called me an "a**" on TV, and I became a favorite punching bag at both the 2004 and the 2008 Republican National Conventions in speeches by John McCain and Joe Lieberman. On the front page of this morning's Washington Post, Mark McKinnon, a top adviser to George W. Bush, revealed -- for the first time -- the Bush White House strategy of singling me out in the hopes of turning the country against me and the Democratic Party. Here's what the Post said:
Mark McKinnon, a top adviser in President George W. Bush's campaigns, acknowledged the value of picking a divisive opponent. "We used a similar strategy by making Michael Moore the face of the Democratic Party," he said of the documentary filmmaker.
In the end it all proved to be a big strategic mistake on their part. Thanks to the Republican attacks on me, average Joes and Janes started to listen to what I had to say. Contrary to Richard Wolffe's assessment that "there were no Democrats as far as I can remember who were saying they stood with Michael Moore," Democrats, in fact, have stood side by side with me during all of this. Here's the Congressional Black Caucus supporting me on Capitol Hill in 2004. Here's Terry McAuliffe, the head of the Democratic National Committee, enthusiastically attending the premiere of "Fahrenheit 9/11" with two dozen senators and members of Congress. Here's a group of Democratic congresspeople endorsing my film Sicko in the chambers of the House Judiciary Committee in 2007. And here's President Jimmy Carter inviting me to sit with him in his box at the Democratic National Convention. Far from making me into a pariah, the Republicans helped the Democratic leadership realize that to identify themselves publicly with me meant reaching the millions who followed and supported my work.
Though John Kerry lost in 2004, my focus that year had been to get young voters registered and out to vote (I visited over 60 campuses). And so, just a few short months after the release of Fahrenheit 9/11, America's young voters became the only age group that John Kerry won. They set a new record for the largest 18 to 24-year-old turnout since 1972, when 18-year-olds were given the right to vote, thus sending a signal about what would happen four years later with the youth revolution that ignited Obama's campaign.
After Fahrenheit, I kept speaking out, the Republican machine kept attacking me, and two years later, in 2006, the American public sided with me -- not Rush Limbaugh -- and voted in the Democrats to take over both houses of Congress.
And then, finally, two years after that, we won the White House.
That's the difference -- The American people agree with me, not Rush.
The American public believes that health care is a right and not a commodity.
They want tougher environmental laws and believe that global warming is real, not a myth.
They believe that the rich should be taxed more.
They want to go after the crooks on Wall Street who got us into this mess and the politicians who enabled them.
They want more money invested in education, science, technology and infrastructure -- not in more tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans.
They believe that, whether Democrats or Republicans have been in power, wealthy corporations have been calling the shots for the past few decades and the American people's voices have not been heard as their country has slowly been driven into the ground. Our politicians and our media have been bought and paid for by the highest bidders and we don't trust them anymore.
Finally -- they want us to get the hell out of Iraq and to investigate the criminals who sent us there for fictitious reasons.
Obama and the Democrats going after Rush is a good thing and will not do for him what the Republican attack plan did for me -- namely, the majority of Americans will never be sympathetic to him because they simply don't agree with him.
The days of using my name as a pejorative are now over. The right wing turned me into an accidental spokesperson for the liberal, majority agenda. Thank you, Republican Party. You helped us elect one of the most liberal senators to the presidency of the United States. We couldn't have done it without you.