Blast from the Past: Andy’s Blog

Andy made be gone, but his writing lives on. Here’s an archive of Andy’s blogs that he posted on the old website. They were either announcements for upcoming TruthToTell episodes or comments on past shows.

Andy’s Blog: The Conservative Knows – Almost Better Than We


Some believe MoveOn and progressives should not be quoting conservative Barry Goldwater, who famously is quoted saying: “I would remind you that extremism in the defense of liberty is no vice! And let me remind you also that moderation in the pursuit of justice is no virtue!”

But, Goldwater is a perfect resource for what could happen to an old conservative who not only moderated as he aged, but actually supported Clinton, I believe. Better that it come from another conservative than some secular lefty like me. 

The MoveOn quote is merely a portion of the few choice words Goldwater uttered in reaction to the preponderance of religious influence.

Here’s another: “On religious issues there can be little or no compromise. There is no position on which people are so immovable as their religious beliefs. There is no more powerful ally one can claim in a debate than Jesus Christ, or God, or Allah, or whatever one calls this supreme being. But like any powerful weapon, the use of God’s name on one’s behalf should be used sparingly. The religious factions that are growing throughout our land are not using their religious clout with wisdom.”

I say:

This is an old war in every country. Religious zealots have forever believed they should be in charge of the corporal world around them and elsewhere. Not that most of it was a spiritual belief system driving this, but a zealotry of religious overlay on the secular diversity around them. That’s where politics stepped in to create the schism between Christians and Jews, Catholics and Islam, the pope and Henry VIII, the Catholics and Martin Luther (and John Knox and John Calvin, evangelists in their own day), between the Coptics and Rome, between Rome and the Byzantine rites, between Roman orthodoxy and Greek and Russian orthodoxy. The Puritans and other Americans. It’s what the Inquisition was about. Note the dominant presence of Catholicism in that history. Note the domination of evangelism in rightwing politics in this country, yes, but the role of Catholicism in anti-human rights initiatives yet again. Witness the attempted hijacking of Far Eastern/Asian cultures by Spanish and Portuguese Jesuits in the 16th and 17th Century.

Today, it’s Opus One and a plethora of evangelists and archdioceses gamnely attempting to stop human rights in their tracks – especially any human right and proven science associated with sex and marriage.

Human rights = equals freedom FROM religion, not freedom OF religion. Most religious conservatives hate human rights – because it means losing control of the masses to secular humanism – a death knell for religious dominance over irreligious politics.

Andy’s Blog: Is There Such a Thing As Society?

Is There Such a Thing As Society?

By Andy Driscoll

David’s Strom’s paean to Voter ID requirements bears scrutiny of the most probing kind.

“Conservatives” (quotes indicate a lack of sincerity) have this issue with trusting people – and of inclusion. Perhaps that’s normal for the right, but it should never be adopted as public principle in a democracy.

This Hobsian view that everyone but themselves must be a grasping undeserving cheat in the marketplace of ideas and human rights also assumes that no one who is hurting deserves to vote, to be taken care of, or that certain human rights and services should forever be denied those who have offended society by committing crime, for which they’ve already paid dearly, or who can’t afford to pay for life’s necessities entirely out their own pockets.

They see nothing about the Constitution as guaranteeing all citizens the right to vote. Where does this come from? Except a belief that those who should be deprived of that right (an inalienable one, I might add) are those who can’t show a piece of paper proving they are qualified by birth or naturalization or freedom from all offensive behavior to society should never again participate in the most fundamental of our rights? This is hogwash, pure and simple – and the fact that they clearly believe the people they wish to excise from the role of citizen are more likely to vote against their cherished candidates and issues. This may work in other countries. It should never take root here.

Such are also denizens of the segment of this war-torn society of increasing class disparity that insist such basic elements of a civilized nation such as nutritional food, clothing, adequate and reasonably priced health care, clean sources of air to breathe and water to drink and a general freedom to travel and vote are not also basic rights – as well as basic needs.

“Iron Lady” Margaret Thatcher is again quoted in today’s papers as saying “There’s no such thing as society.” That comes about as close as anything to defining the chasm between the far right – the only label I’m willing to put on this nonsensical creed – and our left. The latter assumes (or should) that society as an abstraction, if not a reality, does indeed exist (read that old Constitution again, if you please), and that the fundamental pretext of the concept of society is that we assure each other the well-being of all others – the common welfare. Such provisions inscribed by those nasty lefties that penned our Declaration and Constitution – neither of which is perfect, but both of which, created by compromise, on either end of the political spectrum are wont to cite as the basis for their beliefs. It remains a basic tenet of democracy, which holds no truck, in principle, with elitism masquerading as stewardship.

The common welfare – or the commons, in short – is a mandate of this nation’s founding – and to suggest that anyone should be deprived of exercising the fundamental franchise – the vote – granted all of us by our citizenship, therefore a voice in the governance of our public institutions – is to invoke the worst form of dictatorship and class war.

Shame on all those who would deny the vote to anyone – and I include inmates and those having served their terms, let alone the masses who have no driver’s licenses and other forms of intrusive identification requirements. Voter ID – is based on racism and classicism – its own class war, if you will – pure and simple – because not a shred of evidence exists to justify denying any citizen the franchise – including the necessity of IDs in other, less Constitutionally mandated uses for commerce and security.

Andy Driscoll: ObamaCare Has History on Its Side

Employer-provided healthcare, in its true light, should long ago have been seen for what it was: a stopgap measure to ensure wartime factory workers coverage to prevent war-profiteering by corporations whose largesse derived directly from government contracts to produce tanks, jeeps, armaments, etc., produced mostly by Rosie the Riveter…women employed to replace the men sent to the battlefields and war ships.

Insurance companies had a premium holiday because they could profit handsomely from certain percentages of those defense contracts to provide the coverages required by them.

After the war, instead of finding a way to maintain those coverages on such a massive, government-funded scale, employer-provided healthcare moved into a permanent group policy culture that kept premiums and profits flowing to the private insurers, thus allowing a continually evolving insurance industry to remain in the business of denying coverage for pre-existing conditions and specific procedures. In other words, the money drove the development of actual health care based on what insurance companies said they’d pay for.

Moreover, a worker’s insurance stopped cold if he or she changed jobs, then often having to wait six months, at least, before her/his new employer’s policy would cover then. More profits.

Never mind how onerous this was to a society’s contract with its citizens to provide a life without fear of losing their healthcare when they contacted an illness or changed their workplaces. And if they were unemployed? Too bad. Nothing. At least, nothing until they qualified for welfare or General Assistance Medical Care (Medicaid in Minnesota). Destitute is what you’d have to be to qualify for governmental medical assistance.

Now the system grew like Topsy, based on fee-for-service reimbursements that ignored the benefits of preventative care and a system of health insurance covering everyone – universal care.

For more than 70 years this has been expanding exponentially with every special interest growing rich off the system that spent most of its time and money denying coverages for people sick and dying without it. For what is profitability if not minimizing expenses, and that is what insurers found easiest to do – by not doing what they were designed to do – paying for health care individuals could not individually afford.

Any wonder why, finally, 70-80% of health care providers – including well-heeled physicians – want out of the fee-for-service system and into some sort of single-payer system where payment for insuring everyone are also guaranteed and the job of paying for health care becomes a right instead of a privilege reserved for those most able to afford it? Also, docs and others have increasingly watched how preventive care actually improves patient care, increases income and reduces trauma.

Any wonder why the massively powerful health insurers and Big Pharma are fighting such a shift tooth and nail, thus buying off the political establishment to prevent such a rational approach from becoming law?

And any wonder why, despite the power and money behind those blocking efforts, rebellion is in the wind? The Occupy movement includes this issue, along with its many other legitimate beefs about the rip-off of society and its least advantaged residents by the controlling corporate culture in the United States.

That Forbes Magazine’s essay on the latest rulemaking by HHS around the ObamaCare law (I like the term ObamaCare – to be adopted like the GLBT community has adopted the term, “Queer” as its own) is really not a warning but a fist-in-the-air “yes” for the requirement that insurers pay out between 80 and 85% of premiums back into real health care/medical costs – not profits, and not expenses in the course of doing business.

For the author, Rick Ungar, the rules are the next step toward a single-payer system, and for Ungar and many of us – it cannot come soon enough. Amen.

Andy’s Blog: CABLE ACCESS: Media Whipping Child? – The Long Background

To watch or hear TruthToTell’s program on this topic of funding cable access which aired live on October 3rd, click HERE.

In the late 1970’s and early 80’s, a fairly large number of cable companies were suddenly formed to provide cable television service to large urban areas. Technology innovations and the new, vastly expanded numbers of channels and cable programming capacity spawned an explosion in the highly profitable business of providing television shows of ever widening varieties to the densely populated urban centers. For years, cable (or CATV) was a creature of remote rural areas where over-the-air television signals from distant broadcasters simply could not be pulled in with home television sets alone. They needed very high towers and antennas to receive those signals then retransmit them to small town residences.

This was a technological gold rush that meant billions in future revenues as entertainment and information channel multiplied exponentially. Cable companies came forward in great quantities, hiring local politicians and influential citizens by the thousands to represent them or lobby for their selection as a given city’s or city cluster’s exclusive vendor to wire the urban core and beyond. Some states quickly passed laws to regulate them.

The huge potential for these massive money-making machines in all the major cities, including Minneapolis and St. Paul, created a tidal wave of applications from cable operators to string their coaxial cables up and down the rights of way just as telephone companies and electric utilities had nearly a century earlier. That meant a major pay-off to cities or groups of cities or suburbs through the franchise fees collected from using those rights of way, fees similar to those also paid by the other utilities.

Such a latent revenue windfall to local coffers also brought community communications  advocates out of the woodwork and into the highly competitive and money-loaded franchising process. Most of the franchising agreements offered by cable companies promised copious amounts of money, equipment and numbers of channels for public, educational and governmental access. Cities hired cable administrators and created cable communications departments.

That the promise of a tidal wave of community programming and hundreds of access producers in thousands of local institutions was thwarted by a variety of problems confronting the organizations and cities overseeing their governance, operation and production capabilities was but one cluster of barriers to real access.

But local egos and power manipulations among interested groups were nothing compared to the relative immediacy of many large cable operators across the urban and metropolitan landscape suddenly challenging their young franchise agreements in court as imposing on their First Amendment rights to operate without regulation at all. They quickly saw just how much more money they could make if they weren’t saddled with keeping their own promises to put money, equipment and studios into the hands of common citizens or to give up lucrative channels to non-paying customers.

The industry spent millions seeking nullification of their regulatory shackles at the city level, especially. Some courts concurred. Others did not, but the upshot was that the reins of control AND of at least some access channels among the hundreds of others earning billions for local cable companies and their exclusive right to pipe increasingly expensive signals throughout the city, began slipping away, much as broadcasting became deregulated under the FCC. Cable companies also merged by the dozens, creating about three or four huge cable conglomerates, like Comcast here in Minnesota. Not much is owned by anyone else around here.

Of course, real access meant shackle-free programs – programs presenting individual opinions or sometimes tasteless shows, some quite offensive to some viewer sensibilities. And some went after the very elected officials who control access budgets or franchise fee distributions each year – sort of biting the hand, as it were.

But not all. Some institutions – like those in education, faith communities and labor – set up regularly produced and widely viewed programs of instruction or commentary or services. Cities themselves have created elaborate cable telecasting operations – feeding their designated channels with city council and committee meetings and public hearings.

And most cable access corporations – like Minneapolis Telecommunications Network – or MTN – and St. Paul Neighborhood Network (or SPNN) – wound up taking over franchise-mandated local origination, or community programming duties the cable companies themselves gladly gave up – the professional side of cable access.

Urban and suburban cable access nonprofits have toiled in  the trenches under increasing pressure to cut back, even though cities based their franchise approvals on the very idea that community channels and production facilities would be provided. With much distance – 30 years in some cases – twixt cup and the lip – between original franchise agreements and today. Despite continued attempts at deregulating local cable, franchise fees have held or increased while cable access funding has retreated, leaving cable access organizations to fend more and more for themselves, mostly through grants and user fees – assessed nonprofits who want the cable access group to produce programs or provide studio time and talent to do so themselves.

Minneapolis is one city where the purse strings are in solid control of the mayor and city council, essentially making MTN a city department, subject to the political whims of its overseers almost as much as its appropriation. If powerful city politicians wish to express their disdain for an entity like MTN which allows First-Amendment-protected criticism or R-Rated content to air, they may well – and perhaps have – made it tougher and tougher for MTN to live up to its mission as giving voice to its many community voices – some of which are the voices of discontent with the status quo in City Hall.


It’s was an episode to do Naomi Klein proud. The author of The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism should have been taking notes for her third revision of that seminal book on crisis management and the use of chaos to push through unConstitutional policy and legislation based on fear-mongering and tight deadlines.

President Obama and Speaker John Boehner – essentially leaving the Senate, let alone the public – out of the loop – continue to meet behind closed doors. Then, there’s the US Senate Gang of Six – more secret meetings with direct fiscal effects on American and Minnesota lives – with no input from us.

Such was the case with the newly “negotiated” deal struck between Governor Mark Dayton and the GOP legislative majority leadership last weekend – deals and dynamics that all took place behind closed doors – inside the “cone of silence” – ostensibly to allow greater candor between the parties.

Think about this. Why is candor reserved for hidden talks and not for public consumption as our tax dollars are made to work against the general well-being, not to mention the vast majorities of Minnesotans willing to pay a bit more toward a balanced budget without saddling our kids with future debt and slicing and dicing the all-important  state programs and services that actually help us all?

Worse, the Capitol itself was locked down to citizens and visitors. And just as disturbing was the absence of citizens and visitors knocking on those doors to get a look at the resulting process and package.

Secrecy is a public leprosy eroding public confidence in government more deeply than even the normal frustrations we feel with the occasional snail’s pace of bureaucracy and the unjustified decisions government agencies can impose. Secrecy is infecting every corner of government, leaving the public out in the cold to participate in and understand the agreement, bills, laws, rules and regulations – not to mention the unspoken barriers to access thrown up to citizens and the media by lawmakers and agency officials alike.

Crisis management reared its ugly head again earlier this last week when the bills written in the dark by Mr. Dayton and the GOP and presented to the full House and Senate under cover of speed and secrecy were barely seen even by those whose job it is to vote on these matters, let alone analyze them for their effect on constituents. Why the rush? Of course, 22,000 state employees, not to mention constituents were clamoring for a restart of state government.

CommonCause/Minnesota worked to ensure at least a 72-hour deliberation and study period for the bills submitted and passed without a moment’s discussion or a single amendment allowed during the Special Session Gov. Dayton called. Of course, the three-day period was rejected on the grounds that – Naomi, are you listening? – it would prolong the already protracted state government shutdown. Crisis decision-making at its finest. Skip the details. Pass the bills, open the doors and get those workers back on the job. What more could they have done? Plenty.

Two DFL legislators – Rep. Mindy Greiling and Sen. John Marty – have introduced bills that would require open processes in all legislative work, but primarily all budget negotiations between and among legislative leaders and even between those leaders and the governor.

One in four US hackers ‘is an FBI informer’ The FBI and US secret service have used the threat of prison to create an army of in

The underground world of computer hackers has been so thoroughly infiltrated in the US by the FBIand secret service that it is now riddled with paranoia and mistrust, with an estimated one in four hackers secretly informing on their peers, a Guardian investigation has established.

Cyber policing units have had such success in forcing online criminals to co-operate with their investigations through the threat of long prison sentences that they have managed to create an army of informants deep inside the hacking community.