GRITtv New Website Launch!

GRITtv's "old" graphic has been replaced by a spiffy new one; be sure to check it out at http://GRITtv.org!

After nearly two years with the wonderful FireDogLake crew, GRITtv has launched its brand-new website at http://grittv.org.

We launched May 12, 2008 with a vision for bridging the worlds of old and new media, broadcasting on Free Speech TV (on the Dish Network ) and on cable and public television stations nationwide, as well as online.

GRITtv’s new site, with comprehensive archives and a live, daily stream, will give viewers the tools to find out more about topics and guests and plenty of ways to take action and get involved. GRITtv’s new site makes sharing and re-posting of video content easy, and offers multiple ways to exchange ideas with other viewers, as well as to contribute material for the show.

Recent guests on GRITtv include musician and activist Kathleen Hanna, author Raj Patel, MSNBC contributor Melissa Harris Lacewell, Governor Howard Dean, actor Danny Glover, Nobel Prize winner Wangari Maathai, and The Most Dangerous Man in America: Daniel Ellsberg. Discussion topics range from analyses of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, Israel/Palestine, public housing and health care, to reflections on Obama’s presidency, new media, new labor, new feminism, and visions for rebuilding Haiti. We’ve brought together labor activist Ed Ott with tea party leader Michael Johns for a debate, forrmer evangelical Christian Frank Schaeffer with atheist Susan Jacoby for discussion of reason, or the lack of it in American politics. Muckrakers Glenn Greenwald and Jeremy Scahill laid out their visions for the future of journalism.

The support of the wonderful FireDogLake team has meant a lot to us in our time here, and we look forward to a continuing friendship with everyone! Many of them have been guests on our show in the past–including Jane Hamsher, Marcy Wheeler and Spencer Ackerman–and we plan on having them all back soon!

In the shifting media landscape, Laura Flanders and GRITtv are breaking new ground and creating a new model for broadcast and online media. Thank you for your continued support and interest. We look forward to your feedback!

Laura and the entire GRITtv Crew

F Word: Healthcare Reform Without Single Payer Is No Reform At All

Here’s the simple question for the White House, “Why are you still refusing to even consider single payer?!”

And here’s a simple message for the public: “Any health care ‘reform’ bill that does not provide a Single Payer option is NO real reform at all.”

You’ll find both in a new fax petition you can add your name to if you’re so inclined. The organizers need 100,000 signatures to submit their petition to the White House. You can get more information at our website.

There were some who “hoped” that when the White House came out with their own health care proposal there would be a real robust public option. Instead, what emerged — as far as we can see — is little more than the SAME Senate bill that everyone hated so much…

As best as we can determine, all the gruesome stuff  is still in there, in particular the forced mandate to buy corporate health insurance from some new “exchange”, with no meaningful option.

The White House site has this response to that question of whether you will be forced to buy a “government” plan:

“You will be able to shop among private insurance plans that will be sold in the insurance exchange — a marketplace where you can choose what is right for you.”

And if that isn’t nauseous enough, there’s a slick new corporate marketing slogan, “Putting Americans in Control of their Health Care.”

Well, as anyone knows who’s been watching, we the people are most definitely  not in control of health care costs… And super-duper not in control of those premiums that keep soaring up.

The bad news is the Obama plan doesn’t look as if it will solve that. The good news is, a whole lot of people are mobilized now.  Let’s hope they don’t shut up until they get some control back.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com

GRITtv Live: Daniel Ellsberg – Can the People Take Back Power?

The Bush administration thrived on secrecy; Obama promised more transparency, but has yet to really deliver. What’s more, when information does come out, it seems that accountability is nearly impossible to get: the torture memos were released, but there will be no trials. We ask Daniel Ellsberg, one of the world’s most famous whistleblowers, and blogger Glenn Greenwald of Salon.com if there’s anything the people can do to take the power back.

The F Word: Looking Closer at Joseph Stack



Joseph Stack — remember him? He’s the guy who crashed his plane into an Internal Revenue Service building in Austin last week. Fifty-three years old, Stack killed one IRS manager, Vernon Hunter, and wounded 13 more before killing himself, but you’d be forgiven for forgetting his name, because he largely fell out of the news in the days afterward…

That’s not so say there hasn’t been howling. When Stack’s daughter told ABC’s Good Morning America that she considered her father a hero there was outrage, and reasonably so. Facebook fan pages praising Stack have shown up with links to right-wing, so-called patriot groups and at the CPAC conservative organizing meeting in DC more than one GOP member referred sympathetically to Stack’s anti-government views.

Outrage at all of that’s utterly justified. Sympathy with a bomber puts the lie to the extreme right’s claim to reject violence. Someone who carries out premeditated deadly force against civilians to make a political point is by virtually any definition a terrorist, not a hero. Stack remodeled his plane so as to pack it with extra fuel, left a manifesto, took  the life of an innocent man.

If Stack had been an Arab or a Muslim, you can bet this story would still be getting blaring headlines and front page news coverage. As one of my Twitter friends wrote, “What, if you own your own plane you can’t be a terrorist?”

Well said. But it’s not just the hypocrisy that’s the problem, it’s the lack of serious coverage. By all means hold those who praise Stack to account, and call out media hypocrisy and double standards. But before you dismiss him as simply a crazy, read his manifesto. It’s posted online. I quote:

“Why is it that a handful of thugs and plunderers can commit unthinkable atrocities…and when it’s time for their gravy train to crash under the weight of their gluttony and overwhelming stupidity, the force of the full federal government has no difficulty coming to their aid within days if not hours? Yet at the same time, the joke we call the American medical system, including the drug and insurance companies, are murdering tens of thousands of people a year and….this country’s leaders don’t see this as important as bailing out a few of their… cronies.”

Most of what Stack has to say’s not mad. Or incoherent. Does is justify killing? Not at all, but should the extreme right be the only ones responding? I’d say not. Stack’s was a lone act — and let’s hope it stays that way, but – as after 9-11- asking why is again worth doing… We have choices about how to respond. Denial’s only one of them.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

Correction: Joseph Stack was not a Vietnam veteran as reported earlier.  However, the man he killed, Vernon Hunter, was. The text has been corrected here.

The F Word: Human Interest In Bank Practices

How much senior executives earn, in cash and stock, is public information. How they make it is public too. Trouble is, the two are barely brought together in reporting. One story’s a business story, the other’s, well, for the  “human interest” file.

As all humans have a reason to be interested, let’s pull the pieces of one tale together.  Let’s take Wells Fargo, the bank whose CEO just topped the charts — as the top earner in the country for 2009.

According to analysis released by Equilar, an executive compensation research firm,  Wells Fargo CEO John G. Stumpf was paid a personal best of $18.7 million in cash and stock in 2009. That’s up 64 percent from two years earlier.  That means that Mr. Stumpf is making twice as much as Lloyd C. Blankfein, his counterpart at Goldman Sachs — the “great vampire squid” himself.  Does that make Stumpf Mr. Super Squid… ?

More names might come to mind if the public were reminded of just what’s been going on at Wells Fargo on his watch. The company is currently being sued by, among others, the city of Baltimore, for civil rights violations related to racist lending practices.

As we’ve reported on this program, Wells Fargo made a bundle, selling risky, high-cost subprime loans to African Americans, including long-time African American homeowners.

On GRITtv last year, former subprime mortgage broker turned whistle-blower Beth Jacobson described how African American brokers were sent into Black churches:  “Plenty of people there might not even have thought of taking out loans or leveraging their property,” but through Black churches loan officers found a motherlode of clients who they steered into subprime loans, even clients with good credit scores.

The rewards for the brokers were massive: what some Wells Fargo brokers called “ghetto loans” brought upwards of twice the fees that they could make off prime-rate kind.  But the cost for borrowers — and cities like Baltimore — were deadly.

Now Baltimore’s suing, foreclosures are continuing… and Stumpf’s the country’s best-paid CEO.  A footnote? Hardly. Of human interest? I think so.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

GRITtv Live: The Iranian Movement; Obama’s New Health Care Strategy



Not long ago on GRITtv, Hamid Dabashi told us that the Iranian protests are turning into a civil rights movement with long-term potential for change. We’ll talk to Hooman Majd, Hadi Ghaemi, and Kelly Golnoush Niknejad at noon about the protests, the regime, and what happens next.

Also, President Obama made news with his question and answer session with Congressional Republicans. Now he’s planning a televised health care summit with the GOP. We ask Mother Jones’ David Corn if this new strategy will work, and why he’s calling for more question time.

The F Word: Pledge to Save Journalism

It’s pledge time at many noncommercial, listener and viewer-supported television and radio stations and you may already be feeling irritated by the persistent pleading from your favorite public radio or TV host.

But before you switch the dial, before you touch that remote, remember. All that guff you’re hearing about the importance of public service reporting that’s insulated from the influence of corporate advertisers? It’s not guff — as ABC TV affiliates in five southeast states have just found out. Advertisers punish and Toyota apparently did just that, by pulling advertising off scores of affiliates of ABC TV “as punishment” for ABC News reporting on Toyota’s sticky pedals.

Here’s the story: ABC News and its chief investigative correspondent Brian Ross have been reporting on the problem of “runaway Toyotas” since last November. Sticky pedals, safety problems, misstatements of fact… Ross had hosted a series of stories long before Toyota management started issuing apologies and denials about the extent of their cars’ defects.

Early in February, as the company announced its biggest-ever vehicle recalls, Southeast Toyota dealers started pulling their commercials off ABC. According to web excerpts of an ABC report, the ad agency representing 173 dealers told local ABC affiliates that the shift was due to “excessive stories on the Toyota issues.”  One unnamed ABC station manager quoted in a February 8 story on the ad-pulls is quoted as saying that the dealers shifted their commercial time buys to non-ABC stations in the same markets, “as punishment for the reporting.”

22Squared, the Atlanta advertising agency that handles the account for the dealers, didn’t beat about the bush. An email sent to stations by the agency read  “Please let me know the earliest that we can get off the air on your station.”

Now Toyota is expected to add the 2010 Prius to its list of recalled vehicles. Will ABC News continue reporting? Probably. But will cash strapped local affiliates continue to run those stories? I wonder.

While we find out, have you paid your pledge?

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

The F Word: Lifting the Veil on US Troops in Pakistan

“The deaths of three American soldiers in a Taliban suicide attack on Wednesday lifted the veil on United States military assistance to Pakistan.”  So began a Feb 4th piece by Jane Perlez in the New York Times.

But even all these days on, it’s been a very discreet unveiling.

Lest we forget, US servicepeople are not supposed to be dying in Pakistan.  It’s not Iraq, it’s not Afghanistan. There’s no agreement for combat troops to operate.  Until recently, U.S. officials have repeatedly officially denied having any combat troops  in place. This month’s killing exposed that lie  — so what were the US troops doing there?

What we’ve learned so far is the soldiers were part of what federal officials say is a small contingent of American soldiers who’ve been training Pakistan’s army for 18 months now.

As the Times puts it, “the trainings has been acknowledged only gingerly by both the Americans and the Pakistanis…..so as not to trespass onto Pakistani sensitivities about sovereignty and not to further inflame high anti-American sentiment.”

For a taste of that gingerly-acknowledging, read the Times story. In more than 1, 000 words Perlez quotes roughly a dozen sources, all but two of them US officials, or Pakistanis working implicitly or explicitly with the US embassy.  Of two non-official sources, one makes the obvious point:

The American soldiers were probably made targets as a result of the drone strikes, said Syed Rifaat Hussain, professor of international relations at Islamabad University. “The attack seems a payback for the mounting frequency of the drone attacks,” Professor Hussain said.

It’s an obvious point because the Pakistani press and local activists have been making it loudly, n the press and in street protests for months now.  In the same week that Perlez’s piece appeared, the country’s English daily, The News, ran a long editorial on the rapid increase in US drone attacks, making the point that roughly 41 civilians have been killed for every alleged Al Qaeda or Taliban target.

The Taliban’s rewarding its fighters with new cars when they bring down US drones — “The shooting down of the drone has lifted the morale of our fighters. It’s a huge success for the poorly armed Taliban against a powerful enemy,” remarked a senior Taliban commander, at the car-award ceremony.

Among the Pakistani public, surveys constantly show that Pakistanis consider the US a greater threat than the Taliban, despite 3,021 Pakistani deaths in terrorist attacks last year. If the drones are controversial, the presence of US soldiers on Pakistani soil is far more so.
If the US war is quietly shifting, it’s not quiet inside Pakistan. People are kicking up a stink. Yet Perlez’s piece, which is bylined Islamabad, reads more like an Embassy hand-out than a Pulitzer Prize-winner’s research. Times readers get only the barest whiff of local reaction, and that may be the most dangerous strike yet.

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.

The F Word: Another Super Bowl, Another Scandal

It’s Super Bowl season, another year, another scandal.  This year’s outburst over CBS’s  $3 million Focus on the Family ad has revived the mythology around another Super Bowl ad, that one involving domestic violence. As a player in that story, I’ve come to anticipate game season: the domestic violence Super Bowl so-called “hoax” is one right-wing media-manufactured vampire that just won’t die.

Let me lay out the facts one more time.  Shortly before the start of the Super Bowl on NBC in 1993, viewers saw a public service announcement that warned: “Domestic violence is a crime.”  The 30 second moment (worth roughly $500,000 to advertisers) was the result of many weeks of work by FAIR, the media watch group where I co-directed the Women’s Desk, and a coalition of anti-violence groups in negotiations with executives at NBC and NBC Sports.

License-holders to the biggest-revenue producing broadcast of the year, the networks, at the time, were required to air a free PSA every year. They’d never aired one on domestic violence. Workers at women’s shelters, and some journalists, had long reported that Super Bowl Sunday is one of the year’s worst days for violence against women in the home. FAIR hoped that the broadcast of an anti-violence PSA on Super Sunday, in front of the biggest TV audience of the year, would sound a wake-up call for the media, and it did. Helpful stories about a generally undercovered topic  flooded the airwaves and hit the press for days  before the game.

But a handful of reporters and editors decided to “debunk” the story. The “debunkers,” led by Ken Ringle of the Washington Post, (1/31/93), claimed that FAIR had slanted the facts and claimed that “national studies” linked Super Bowl Sunday to increased assaults. Similar stories ran almost simultaneously on the AP, the Boston Globe and the Wall Street Journal.

Let me say it one more time. That wasn’t FAIR’s claim. In fact, FAIR made the point repeatedly that domestic violence is understudied and under-reported. Critics charged that the coalition was forced to “acknowledge” that its evidence was largely “anecdotal.” But  “anecdotal” was our word: I used it in countless interviews calling out for more reporting.

In the Washington Post, Ringle painted a picture of a feminist mob strong-arming the networks with myth and false statistics. And that claim was quickly picked up by and amplified by professional anti-feminists Christina Hoff Sommers, the Independent Women’s Forum and on and on….

But it was Ringle who distorted the facts. Washington Post readers to this day probably don’t know that of the four experts cited by Ringle, only one agreed with the article’s thesis.  Ringle quoted psychotherapist Michael Lindsey to defend his point that the Super Bowl PSA campaign was misguided: “You know I hate this,” Ringle quoted Lindsey saying. But Lindsey told FAIR that he was referring to Ringle’s line of questioning, not the anti-battering campaign. “He was really hostile,” Lindsey added. On the same day as Ringle’s “debunking” story, Lindsey was quoted in the New York Times, saying, “The PSA will save lives.”

The F Word is a regular commentary by Laura Flanders, the host of GRITtv which broadcasts weekdays on satellite TV (Dish Network Ch. 9415 Free Speech TV) on cable, and online at GRITtv.org and TheNation.com. Follow GRITtv or GRITlaura on Twitter.com.