It was fabulous ALBINO SKUNK weekend, which I have covered before, here and here... as I have complained before, I just keep doing the same things over and over and probably bore everyone to death. Apologies! For this reason, I decided not to blog a buncha festie photos (again), but just link to a couple of good ones on my Flickr page. And I certainly can't forget the greatest antique hippie bus in creation, parked at the festival and used by the kids to play in. Its so beautiful, it can make you cry with nostalgia.
My new Facebook selfie-photo comes from the festival; and I am looking fairly mellow, if glistening with sweat. (Good Lord, why are we STILL BAKING in October? I have also written about the autumn-weather-fakeout I experience every year in the South.) I have noticed when I take photos of myself at special events, my expression inevitably mirrors the emotions of those events. For instance, HERE at Occupy, I look all defiant and pissed, and HERE at the radio station, I look ready to take on all the Republicans you can throw at me... but the radio station Daisy looks nothing like the Daisy at the Spartanburg Music and Arts Festival last month (not a selfie), once again mellow and filled with all kindsa goodvibes.
And in this one, I think you can see how thrilled I am with my granddaughter. We look a great deal alike, so I thought a mirror-image might be fun.
She asked me to braid her hair, to make it look like mine. :)
You gotta listen! (downloads are always on the radio show blog)
Left to Right -- Efia Nwangaza (Malcolm X Center for Self Determination), Liz Smith Anderson (York County, SC Green Party), Daisy and Double A at WOLI studios, McAlister Square.
Some of our topics:
:: The shutdown of Silk Road website, and the bust of infamous entrepreneur Ross William Ulbricht:
The Silk Road was the Deep Web’s version of an unregulated bazaar, a market for anything deemed unsavory or illegal by the traditional world. There were virtually no restrictions on sales (firearms were allowed for a short period, but later banned), and virtually no check on distribution. A seller from Australia might accept Bitcoins for a shipment of LSD to, say, Brazil. Another might accept a similar shipment as barter for work hacking a specified Facebook account. It was Ulbricht’s dream come to life: a truly free market, one unfettered by the governments whose regulations he so despised. And give him credit, since Ulbricht’s venture reportedly earned him roughly $80 million in commissions, using current Bitcoin values. By the same measure, the Silk Road was the site of more than a billion dollars in illegal transactions, and all shipments went through the conventional mail system.:: Herman Wallace of the Angola 3 was released after 42 years in solitary confinement. This is thought to be the longest period of continuous solitary confinement on record in the USA. Wallace had cancer and his release was therefore regarded as a "compassionate release".
He passed away three days later.
Efia reported on the campaign for "compassionate release" of Lynne Stewart, who is also suffering from late-stage cancer.
:: We also discussed the continuing government shutdown at some length, and the political compromises/machinations necessary for Obamacare to get passed. And now those very compromises are used by the Republicans who forced them, as reasons to shut down the government.
Bumper sticker: To err is human, to really screw things up, takes a politician.
Our show today included an interview with the legendary John Sinclair. It was great to talk to him, and I want to be sure to link his online radio also.
On the air today, I also mentioned the nasty hit-piece by "60 Minutes", aired last night, attacking disability benefits and presenting right-wing Senator Tom Coburn as a freedom fighter for the people. Michael Hiltzik of the Los Angeles Times dissects the propaganda very well, starting with the most obvious fact--they didn't talk to a single person receiving benefits, or a single disability advocate:
Is it possible for a major news organization to produce a story about the Social Security disability program without interviewing a single disabled person or disability advocate?One thing that unfortunately rings true (highlighted in the piece), is how many disability-lawyers advertise on TV, guaranteeing a positive outcome. I have long noticed that the gist of these commercials is that you have been shafted and you deserve justice, whereas Steve Kroft and (presumably) Senator Coburn just hear these commercials as "Stop working! Get a check!" (Maybe we are watching different commercials?)
That's the experiment "60 Minutes" conducted Sunday. The result was predictably ghastly.
The news program's theme was that disability recipients are ripping off the taxpayer. Anchor Steve Kroft called the program "a secret welfare system... ravaged by waste and fraud." His chief source was Sen. Tom Coburn, an Oklahoma Republican with a documented hostility to Social Security. Coburn has a report on the disability program's purported flaws due out Monday. Good of "60 Minutes" to give him some free publicity.
Together Kroft and Coburn displayed a rank ignorance about the disability program: how it works, who the beneficiaries are, why it has grown. This is especially shocking because after a similarly overwrought and inaccurate "investigation" of disability aired on National Public Radio in March, numerous experts came forth to set the record straight. They included eight former Social Security commissioners, experienced analysts of the program, even the Social Security Administration's chief actuary, Steve Goss.
"60 Minutes" apparently talked to none of them.
At the top of the segment, Kroft observed that disability now serves "nearly 12 million Americans," up by about 20% in the last six years. Coburn asked, "Where'd all those disabled people come from?"
To begin with, 12 million people aren't collecting disability payments. The number as of the end of 2012 was 10.9 million, comprising 8.8 million disabled workers and about 2 million of their family members, mostly children.
The rolls have grown consistently since 1980, but even though Coburn professes to be dumbfounded why, there's no mystery. As Goss laid out the factors, they include a 41% increase in the total population aged 20-64. Then there's the demographic aging of America, which has increased the prevalence of disability by 38%. (In case Coburn, a physician, hasn't noticed, the older you get, the more vulnerable you are to injury and illness.) Then there's the entry of women into the workforce in large numbers, which has brought many of them under Social Security coverage for the first time.
Finally, there's the economy. When jobs are scarce, more people land on the disability rolls, but that's not about people treating it as an alternative welfare or unemployment program, as "60 Minutes" would have it.
The relationship between disability and unemployment is much more nuanced. As we explained in April, disabled people always have more difficulty finding jobs than others; when desk jobs disappear and all that's left are laborers' positions, the opportunities for the physically and mentally challenged shrink. A good economy allows more disabled persons to find gainful employment and stay off the rolls; in a bad economy that path isn't open.
One of the interesting things I learned from the piece, is that some doctors are doing quickie exams right in lawyer's offices. And some judges are very friendly with certain of these lawyers, and virtually always rule in their favor. Nah, you don't say?!? The county profiled was in West Virginia; we are to seriously believe that the Old-Bubba-network suddenly surprises Coburn? Its the same system that elected him.
More from Hiltzik:
The most pernicious lie told about the disability program is that it's easy to obtain benefits. "60 Minutes" repeated that lie. The truth is that disability standards are stringent, and they're applied stringently. Two-thirds of all applicants are initially denied, though 10% or so of all applicants win benefits on appeal. All in all, 41% of all applicants end up with checks. Sound easy to you?I've been wondering that myself.
"60 Minutes" interviewed two Social Security disability judges, Marilyn Zahm and Randall Frye, who seemed to say that standards are so loose almost anyone can score. That's curious. When they were interviewed in 2009 by Zahm's hometown newspaper, The Buffalo News, they said that standards were too tight -- "Every month, most judges see a case that should have been paid at the first level," Frye said then. (It would be interesting to see the "60 Minutes" outtakes.)
Much of the "60 Minutes" piece was devoted to exposing garden variety scams supposedly perpetrated by shyster disability lawyers, which apparently is Coburn's hobbyhorse. But that's not the true story of Social Security disability. This is a program that serves needy, aging and injured members of the workforce, paying a princely average of $1,130 a month.
The tragedy is that the disability program is underfunded, facing the exhaustion of its resources as soon as 2016. In the past, Congress has routinely remedied this funding crisis by transferring funds from Social Security's old-age program. But it has never acted to properly support the disability fund.
Stories like the "60 minutes" and NPR pieces perpetuate the false image of disability recipients as the undeserving poor, slackers and frauds. That will make it easier for wealthy lawmakers like Coburn to hack away at the program in its time of need.
"60 Minutes" used to stand for rigorous, honest reporting. What's happened to it?