Tag Archives: AlterNet

Lou Dobbs leaves CNN

Media Matters for America has the transcript of his announcement here.  For reference, Dropdobbs.com also has a “history of hate” list here.

Congratulations to all who participated and supported the bastadobbs.com and the dropdobbs.com campaigns and put pressure on CNN to fire this guy for viciously attacking immigrants and Latinos in particular (and as of late for joining in the vile racist attacks against President Obama coming from the extreme right-wing) on a day-by-day basis, going as far as making up stuff out of thin air and having guests and using them as ‘authorities’ on the subject of immigration and that were well-known to have ties to racist white supremacists (and without even disclosing them as a true journalist would).

He can now go off freely to where his conservative racist and ultra-corporatist views belong: Fox News.


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Filed under Economic Refugees, Immigration, Media Literacy, Political

The American Plan


The recent hoopla on healthcare has shed light on an issue that has been painfully obvious to many progressives: even with a President that is a great communicator of progressive values, in terms of ongoing long-term communications, conservatives continue to dominate the public narrative.  So much so, that progressive framing guru George Lakoff has come out in full force to suggest an alternate to the boring “public option” branding: the “American Plan“.  Yes, of course any healthcare reform MUST at least include a strong public option (otherwise it will be a giant giveaway to the insurance companies’ already bloated greed).  However, in terms of branding, the name “public option” simply does not do justice to what the public option is trying to accomplish: reform the system so that the American people’s health is placed above CEO’s bonuses, rather than the other way around.  In larger terms of the picture in communications matters, 2009 is undeniably a different world when it comes to progressive media infrastructre compared to how it was back in 2000, when in that year we saw the conservative machine in full attack mode to make sure that Gore did not become the next President of the United States

I refer back to 2000 to illustrate and recognize just how far we’ve come in terms of building a progressive infrastructure but at the same time to highlight just how far we still have yet to go.  Like many others, that was the year when my political awakening began, amid a national media landscape that was incredibly hostile to progressive ideas.  Prior to George W., I was just a small town Latino teen that was absolutely apolitical, overwhelmed with my own families’ struggles, and could care less about what went on with politicians in DC.  However, the downward spiral into the depths of right-wing authoritarianism that the country took under George W.’s presidency became too alarming to ignore.  I started to take notice, from the blatant betrayals of the American public’s trust with the invasion and occupation of Iraq to the excesses of the scary right-wing/conservative religious rights’ alliance with the Republican Party. On that front, much has changed too: with some progressive religious figures like Reverend Jim Wallis, Michael Lerner, and progressive activist faith groups and projects like Faithful America, The Network of Spiritual Progressives, Interfaith Alliance, Catholics United, and Catholics in Alliance for the Common Good gaining some much-needed traction on the national stage to fight the authoritarianism of the religious right.  Nevertheless, the presence of progressive religious figures in the national media continues to be a struggle, as I have argued before (click here to read my previous post on the matter). 

In retrospect, it is no surprise I can track the moment when I became aware for the first time of the massive conservative propaganda machine: when I caught word through a progressive medium-a new movie, “Outfoxed“, which detailed just how much the Fox News channel serves as the bullhorn for the Republican Party’s propaganda.  I was so starved to connect to other progressives, that when the credits rolled at the end of the film, I frantically started to write down the names of the organizations that had contributed to make the film just so I could search for them online.  One of the major progressive hubs of information sharing and activism that I found was AlterNet.org, which would occasionally post information on progressive groups doing grassroots activities on the local scene. 

It was through one of such local grassroots events that I had another brush with another progressive medium that brought about for me a pivotal moment in the formation of who I am now as an activist.  It was when I saw Marcos Moulitsas, founder of DailyKos, speak at a bar in Santa Monica, CA during an event that was being sponsored by the Public Campaign.  He was promoting a book that he had co-authored, Crashing the Gate, and so I bought his book right there and then and asked him to autograph my copy.  I started reading it and quickly became amazed at how incredibly well-organized and powerful the conservative infrastructure really was to the point where they completely dominated the national discourse with their far-right messaging.  Crashing the Gate laid it all bare, pin-pointing how the conservative machine had come to be and how the inept angry left of the U.S., broken up into its silo single-issue self-righteous factions, had allowed it to happen.  After finishing the book, I immediately made the resolution to answer the call to action to help build an organized progressive infrastructure that could fight the conservative machine.  I did not exactly know how or where to start, so I kept on reading more progressive works like The Left Hand of God and Don’t Think of an Elephant, while at the same time continuing to attend progressive-minded events such as Drinking Liberally, and started listening to progressive radio personalities after they started to be syndicated nationally.  In short, whatever progressive communication outlets that had been launched back then were extremely useful to inform and motivate new progressive activists like myself and countless others. 

Today, there is now a “progressive infrastructure” that continues to grow that simply did not even exist back in 2000.  Nevertheless, currently a progressive nation-wide communications system is virtually nonexistent.  Famous professor of linguistics, George Lakoff, in his newly published piece The Policy Speak Disaster for Health Care, discusses this very same issue in terms of how it relates to the current healthcare debate.  He has, in fact, warned about this before, specifically on his “The Obama Code” piece:

The president is the best political communicator of our age. He has the bully pulpit. He gets media attention from the press. His website is running a permanent campaign, Organizing for Obama, run by his campaign manager David Plouffe. It seeks issue-by-issue support from his huge mailing list. There are plenty of progressive blogs. MoveOn.org now has over five million members.  And yet that is nowhere near enough.

The conservative message machine is huge and still going. There are dozens of conservative think tanks, many with very large communications budgets. The conservative leadership institutes are continuing to turn out thousands of trained conservative spokespeople every year. The conservative apparatus for language creation is still functioning. Conservative talking points are still going out to their network of spokespeople, who still being booked on tv and radio around the country. About 80% of the talking heads on tv are conservatives. Rush Limbaugh and Fox News are as strong as ever.  There are now progressive voices on MSNBC, Comedy Central, and Air America, but they are still overwhelmed by Right’s enormous megaphone.  Republicans in Congress can count on overwhelming message support in their home districts and homes states. That is one reason why they were able to stonewall on the President’s stimulus package. They had no serious media competition at home pounding out the Obama vision day after day.

Such national, day-by-day media competition is necessary. Democrats need to build it. Democratic think tanks are strong on policy and programs, but weak on values and vision.  Without the moral arguments based on the Obama values and vision, the policymakers most likely be unable to regularly address both independent voters and the Limbaugh-FoxNews audiences in conservative Republican strongholds.

The president and his administration cannot build such a communication system, nor can the Democrats in Congress. The DNC does not have the resources. It will be up to supporters of the Obama values, not just supporters on the issues, to put such a system in place.  Despite all the organizing strength of Obama supporters, no such organizing effort is now going on. If none is put together, the movement conservatives will face few challenges of fundamental values in their home constituencies and will be able to go on stonewalling with impunity.  That will make the president’s vision that much harder to carry out.

In light of what the right-wing has been able to accomplish in their battle against healthcare reform, is it any wonder that many progressives are left wondering “where is the progressive messaging machine?”  Well, it is MIA because it simply does NOT exist.  Yes, progressive have the blogosphere and some rising stars on MSNBC, but let us not confuse that with an actual progressive MESSAGING machine.  The blogosphere and other media outlets are just that, outlets with a lot of useful information.  They ARE important and essential outlets, but they nevertheless are missing a piece: the messaging and framing element that works on a nation-wide marketing level.

So who would it be up to to build such a progressive communications system?  Al Gore considered creating a liberal cable channel, and instead settled for creating the youthful socially conscious “Current TV“.  Nevertheless, even a progressive channel would still need the right messaging.  In absence of a nation-wide progressive channel, Professor Lakoff suggests the following communications strategy concerning the healthcare debate: 

A progressive communication system should be started. It should go into every Congressional district. It should concentrate on general progressive ideas. President Obama has articulated what these are.

• The basic values are empathy (we care about people), responsibility for ourselves and others, and the ethic of excellence (making ourselves better and the world better).

• These values form the basis of democracy: It’s because we care about our fellow citizens that we have values like freedom and fairness, for everyone, not just the powerful.

• From that, it follows that government has two moral missions: protection (of consumers, workers, the environment, the old, the sick, the powerless; and empowerment through public works; communication, energy, and water systems; education; banks that work; a court system: and so on. Without them, no one makes it in America. Taxes are what you pay for protection and empowerment by the government, and the more you make the greater your responsibility to maintain the system.

Appropriate language can be found to express these values. They lie at the heart of all progressive policies. If they are out there every day, it becomes easier to discuss any issue. This is what it means to prepare the ground for specific framings.

Once progressives hammer out the right messaging approach, the need for a nation-wide progressive TV channel that can broadcast it everywhere will become even more evident.  MSNBC has taken some good steps, but it has not capitalized on its recent ratings success with its progressive hosts (Rachel Maddow, Keith Olbermann, and Ed Schultz).  In fact, a recent poll reveals something that has now become almost painfully clear: MSNBC has established a marketable niche that it is simply not servicing at it should be.  MSNBC would do itself a favor by embracing its progressive niche and switch to an all-progressive format, before someone else beats them to it.  After all, our country is quickly changing with the new so-called millenial generation that tends to be overwhelmingly progressive taking over.  MSNBC from its inception positioned itself to be a bit more youthful and edgier than CNN.  In the spirit of its original business model, should MSNBC position itself to serve the up-and-coming progressive-minded millenial generation, it would reap financial rewards that would most likely eclipse its competitors’.

When will MSNBC start realizing that they have created a niche with the progressive community that it should capitalize on?  The above video is a sample of the kind of progressive talent MSNBC could benefit from.  Progressive media personalities like Stephanie Miller or even Randi Rhodes (on the radio) have proven to be hugely successful, even beating their conservative competitors day after day in the ratings.  So what are the powers-that-be waiting on?

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Filed under Framing, Marketing, Progressive Media Personalities, Progressive Movement, Religion, Spirituality

Iran’s & Mexico’s Election Fraud

Film "Fraude Mexico 2006" Documents Mexico's Presidential Election Fraud

Film "Fraude Mexico 2006" Documents Mexico's Presidential Election Fraud

With all this talk about Iran’s election fraud and twittering requests to paint your profile picture to “green”, I can’t help but feel like I have been down this path before with Mexico. Non-Mexicans might not be aware that there were charges of election fraud back in that country’s 2006 election. This would not be surprising being that it was pretty much passed over or blacked out by the in-English media here in the U.S. Granted, back in 2006 there was no twitter craze like we got right now and so we didn’t have Mexicans twittering away up-to-the-minute updates like their Iranian counterparts are doing right now. However, even then, I wonder if the election fraud in Mexico would be covered by the news media like it is being covered with Iran right now. I mean, God forbid that the news media in this country would actually portray the Mexican people as actual human beings, fighting back against the oppressive powers-that-be.

Speaking of, last September at the Los Angeles Latino Film Festival, I was fortunate enough to catch a film that documented the election fraud that took place in the 2006 Mexican elections. The movie was VERY well attended and the people that watched it were definitely, like me, passionate about this subject. I believe that for many Mexicans both living abroad and IN Mexico, this fraud will never be forgotten. Prior to the movie, there was an older couple that came with a banner chanting “es un honor estar con Obrador!” (it IS an honor to stand with Obrador!”) [the Presidential candidate of the progressive coalition]. Then during the film there was a lot of applause for Obrador and a lot of booing for Mexico’s “traitors”: Vicente Fox (former Mexican President), Calderon (current Mexican President), and Salinas de Gortari (also former Mexican President). At the end of the film, the film’s director answered some questions from the audience and he was thanked many times for putting this film together. It was truly emotional.

What was more touching, perhaps, was Obrador’s words during the film. He is, for the first time, seen without the filters of the Mexican mainstream media that manipulated his words to make him look like a crazy left-wing radical. Obrador explains his reasoning for protesting, along with admissions of his mistakes, and declarations of ultimately being a pacifist. What was most inspiring was his refusal to accept the fraud travesty. He himself explains that to become an opposition party and accept the false results would be to tacitly support the fraud itself. He declares that in order to do something about it, everyone needed to change their mindsets: hence the protests, hence his current grassroots organizing efforts, hence his ongoing claims to the Presidency. For those of us that are U.S. citizens, one can’t help but admire his courage because that could not, unfortunately, be said for how Gore and Kerry reacted. Gore and Kerry both accepted the arguably fraudulent results at the culmination of their electoral campaigns. One wonders what could’ve been if Gore and Kerry had been more forceful in their challenges or lack-thereof to the electoral results.

For a recap of what happened in the 2006 Mexican elections, I encourage to check out the following piece that I was able to pull out from my personal 2006 archives over at Project Economic Refugee from:

Wednesday, July 12th, 2006

Florida Con Salsa: Investigative Reporter Greg Palast Reports on Voter Fraud in Mexico’s Presidential Election

I remember being so excited about the Mexican elections because it looked like Mexico was going to get a President that was going to truly work for the people (something that had not happened in decades) rather than by just the corporatist elite. Then I watched with amazement something that was all-too familiar to me: the series of events that almost exactly mirrored what happened here in the U.S. in 2000 and 2004. It was eerily too much of a coincedence: people being kicked off voting rolls, demonizing the non-right wing condidate as some sort of leftist radical, the media declaring that the people had “voted their values” (yes I actually heard this in the Spanish speaking media), numbers being flipped in the ballots and in the digital vote count to favor the right-wing candidate, the supreme court ruling for a partial vote count but not the entire one, finding evidence of fraud and yet still deciding in favor of the right-wing candidate, etc. Truly and utterly disgusting.

Yet, I’ve seen time and again how the non-Latino population of the U.S. will, in a very ignorant manner, ask angrily something similar to this: “well if the Mexican people are so damn desperate that they have to flee their own country, why in the hell do they NOT do something to fix their own government instead of coming here?” Obviously, they are not aware of the myriad of things that many millions of courageous Mexicans have tried to do throughout history to improve their own conditions. Point in case, is the uprising of protests that took place in 2006 when election fraud was apparently perpetuated to install a right-wing President to continue the NAFTA-like economic policies that can very much be argued have contributed to the ever-increasing explosion of Economic Refugees coming over to the U.S.

All in all, Fraude Mexico 2006 is a superb film that is a MUST-see that documents what happened in the Mexican elections in 2006.

Here’s a story on when the film was preparing to open:

“Luis Mandoki’s Controversial FRAUDE MEXICO 2006 Will Be Distributed in U.S. by Maya…”

Also, check out the following review of the film; it appeared back when this film was already released in Mexico:

Fraude: México 2006 (2007) Director: Luis Mandoki Writers: María Benia & Yoame Escamilla (writer)

In addition, this film should serve as a reminder here in the U.S. of the chilling prospect of, once again, election fraud and voter suppression tactics in past and future Presidential elections. For an article on what has been going on already here in the U.S., check this out:

“2008 Season of Voting Meltdowns Begins”

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet.

Posted September 11, 2008.

“How the GOP Wired Ohio’s 2004 Vote Count for Bush to Win”

By Steven Rosenfeld .

Posted September 18, 2008.

Finally, you may ask yourself “this is terrible, but what can I do about it?!!!” Well, for starters, you could join the “Steal Back Your Vote” project:

Steal Back Your Vote lays out the Six Ways They’re Stealing the Election – and the Seven Ways you can Steal It Back.

 It’s a 24-page downloadable graphic guide -an investigative comic book.

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Filed under Election, Political

Reusable Bags: The BETTER Choice

Here’s a rustic print ad I did with the help of my friend Saira who modeled for me-thank you Saira! (this was part of an assignment that I did for a Communications class I’m currently taking):

Paper AND plastic are BOTH bad choices for your health

Paper AND plastic are BOTH bad choices for your health

These are the basic elements of the ad:

Attention grabber: bright colors in the fruit and vegetables

Appeal: fruit, healthy living, relatable to you (you could see yourself doing what Saira is doing).

Narrative: the ad asks the question that you often hear at the grocery store: “paper or plastic?” It then urges you to be different, to “step outside of the box” and to support and pick “the better choice”: reusable bags.

Call to action: it asks you to reject the use of paper AND plastic bags so you can instead use reusable bags; it also invites you to visit the site www.healthebay.org/store  so you can get your own reusable bag.  In the future, the site could change to something like healthebay.org/healthyfuture (Heal the Bay does not have a site that has such a name … yet) that could be a centralized online center for people to take action (like send letters of support to newspapers and legislators or the like) on various issues dealing with marine debris.  Ideally, the center would reinforce the idea that it’s going to take all of us to solve the problem of plastic bags polluting our environment, working together: 1) through legislation that taxes the use of plastic and paper bags to discourage usage, 2) cleanup efforts, and 3) reclycling campaigns; and that if you take one element out (because of pressure from powerful moneyed interests), the efforts will most likely fail to solve much. 

I’m also trying to frame the situation very clearly with this ad with some long-term messaging:

  • Plastic AND paper bags = bad for your health (because it impacts your quality of life).
  • Reusable bags = healthy living, promising future, protecting your children from pollution.

Sure, the ad is not commercial-quality, but I think it gets the point across very effectively nevertheless.

  PS Don’t forget to click on the picture of the print ad above: it takes you to a video that CurrentTV aired about the problem of plastic bag pollution in our rivers and ocean.

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Filed under Environment, Health, Healthy Communities

Swine Flu

So apparently we’re under swine flu watch.  Yes, it’s all over the news, like the bird flu and the mad cow desease were.  They way the media is talking about it, you’d think our civilization is coming to an end a-la Twelve Monkeys movie. 

The Center for Desease Control and Prevention (CDC) has the following up on their website:

“Swine Influenza (swine flu) is a respiratory disease of pigs caused by type A influenza that regularly cause outbreaks of influenza among pigs. Swine flu viruses do not normally infect humans, however, human infections with swine flu do occur, and cases of human-to-human spread of swine flu viruses has been documented. […]

From December 2005 through February 2009, a total of 12 human infections with swine influenza were reported from 10 states in the United States. Since March 2009, a number of confirmed human cases of a new strain of swine influenza A (H1N1) virus infection in the U.S. and internationally have been identified. An investigation into these cases is ongoing. […]”

People are taking advantage of this opportunity of the flu being on the news 24/7 and so we get videos trying to sell you vitamins and others to promote crazy right-wing tinfoil hat libertarian conspiracy theories:

I’m still unclear as to how exactly this “new” flu is more serious than other kinds of flu (other than being related to pigs).  According to the CDC, these are the symptoms:

“What are the symptoms of swine flu in humans?
The symptoms of swine flu in people are expected to be similar to the symptoms of regular human
seasonal influenza and include fever, lethargy, lack of appetite and coughing. Some people with swine flu also have reported runny nose, sore throat, nausea, vomiting and diarrhea.”

…uhm, correct me if I’m wrong, but aren’t those more or less the symptoms of regular flu? (if there is such a thing-because the flu can come in many strains).

I realize this “swine” flu is a serious matter because people have died from it … but again, correct me if I’m wrong: don’t people die of “regular” flu too when it’s accompanied by complications and not treated with the right medical approaches?  Also, how come no one is asking “who is cashing in on the flu paranoia?”  The manufacturers of desinfectant products and people like Donald Rumsfeld are sure making money on the deal, among others.  Meanwhile, the racist right-wing pig media talking heads are having a field day with this story even though there are now reports emerging that the “swine” flu might have actually originated in the United States.  To top things off, some political extremists have used this opportunity to display their own idiocy, just watch what Congresswoman Michelle Bachmann said here

Perhaps what is most annoying about this whole thing is the hypocrisy inherent in all this media circus.  IF there were such a sincere concern for pandemics, you’d think conservatives (like Michelle Bachmann) and its media talking heads would agree that it is now more urgent than ever to approve a public healthcare option that would care for all as quickly as possible … well, guess again-they’re trying to kill off any attempts to fix our healthcare system that would cover us all.  By the way, you can fight back the politicians that are trying to choke healthcare reform in its crib; to fight them, visit: http://www.standwithdrdean.com/FAQ

Update: Luckily, there are some personalities emerging in the cable news that are being more realist about this whole thing. Watch Keith Olbermann talking about this strain of influenza in a more serious in-depth manner; click here.

Also, Media Matters for America did a great week-in-review wrap up of how the right-wing media personalities hyped it up to blame immigrants and even Obama for the “outbreak”.  Click here to read it.

I leave you with this “Swine Flu Overload” infoMania Editorial. Enough said.


Filed under Economic Refugees, Health, Immigration, Media Literacy

Are your Facebook friends really your friends?

Check out this video from Current TV:

An AlterNet article recently explored this very same topic: whether or not your online social network “friends” are really true friends.  Personally, I think online social networking is simply enhancing face-to-face interaction, rather than replacing it.  The claim that Facebook and MySpace are turning us into anti-social hermits seems to me a little bit of, uhm, I don’t know, shall way say “old-people’s way of thinking?”…

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Filed under Online Social Network Site

A ray of light on the news: Rachel Maddow

Rachel Maddow is breaking ground every day as the first openly lesbian “non-babe” to have her own cable news show on prime time.  She is such a huge success that she’s even beating Larry King Live on the ratings almost every night.  Literally, she is living proof that “common sense” about what is supposed to get ratings is NOT necessarily actual common sense.  Here’s a recent appearance that she had on The View daytime TV show:

Catch her show on MSNBC weeknights:


Here’s more background on her:

“Gay for Rachel Maddow”: What a Hot, Smart, Lesbian Pundit Means for an Uneasy America


By Jonanna Widner, Bitch Magazine. Posted March 11, 2009.

Cable news isn’t the most female-friendly or queer-friendly place. As a whole, it is Middle America; Maddow is more Middlesex.

When the Rachel Maddow Show debuted on MSNBC back in September 2008, not many people knew her now-famous story. They were not aware that this impish, handsome figure with a sideways grin, a scholar’s brain, and a lawyer’s logic was a Rhodes scholar, former activist, and open lesbian. It was fun, that first week, watching as she nimbly dismantled right-wing arguments without raising her voice. Maddow’s affable goofy-geek persona, her ability to skewer other pundits’ arguments without coming off like an asshole, and her genius flair for translating policy arguments into interesting, digestible bites charmed the pants off a lefty populace that had been lusting for a cable-news rock star all its own since … well, since the invention of cable news. It was a good debut.

Then, all of a sudden, that shit blew up. Maddow started whipping Larry King’s anorexic tail in the ratings. She more than doubled MSNBC’s viewership for her time slot, from 800,000 to about 1.7 million. She almost single-handedly made MSNBC — for years the loser third wheel of the cable-news party — a player. And, best of all, she started handing Pat Buchanan his ass almost every night. Suddenly, the nation couldn’t get enough of this 6-foot-tall dyke who put douchey white men in their place on a regular basis.

To read the rest of this story on Rachel Maddow, go to:


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Filed under Political, Progressive Media Personalities