Booker and Host: Arnie Arnesen
Producer: Ken Barnes
We speak with our friend, Bob Hennelly, investigative reporter for Slack.com, the NJInsider, @stucknation, and The Chief/Leader, a public employee union journal in NYC. We begin remembering David Dinkins, the first (and still the only!) African-American mayor of New York City, who just died at the age of 93. Dinkins was a true giant. Much of his work centered on improving the lives of ordinary New Yorkers. To help children in the public schools, he started and supported many educational projects.
Dinkins has not been given the credit he deserves for turning NY City around from serious financial and crime problems. He took on the police department and its powerful union, reduced police brutality and began a shift toward community policing. This brought down NY’s infamous crime rates, especially violent crime. When Dinkins took office, NYC suffered 2,000 homicides/year. He reduced it to the point where there are now ¼ that number, 500 homicides/year.
Rudolf Giuliani ran against the mayor on a platform that appealed to racism, (much like he has done in the Trump White House). During his campaign for mayor, Giuliani promoted his candidacy by grandstanding at a police rally (a police riot, really) surrounding City Hall. Giuliani trashed Dinkins and handed out voter registration cards in an effort to win over the “tough” law and order voters. Giuliana won the election and later hubristically took credit for reducing crime.
Speaking of shameless self-promotion, we note that Giuliani first rose to fame as a NY prosecutor: his office leaked confidential information to reporters so they could publicize his busts, creating the myth that he was a heroic prosecutor. Through his preferential leaks, he made sure that all New Yorkers got to see him perform legal theater as the news programs showcased him putting handcuffs on rich white guys and walking them out of their Wall Street office buildings. Their shame brought Rudy fame, which he later exploited to run for president.
We also discuss Hennelly’s article on Big Pharma – which he describes as one of our most deadly pre-existing conditions. They get accolades in the press as if they’re the cavalry arriving with their magic cure (a COVID-19 vaccine). The real story has been omitted from this narrative. Pharmaceutical corporations used to produce lots of vaccines that protected the health of our population. But then, as vulture capitalism became the norm, Big Pharma saw that the profit margins were much greater producing other, more specialized drugs (the kind they’re now advertising repeatedly on every TV show, as well as the “medications” that have caused the opioid epidemic). As the number of manufacturers of vaccines fell dramatically, the US did not have sufficient capacity when the coronavirus pandemic broke out. Now, of course, the US government (i.e., taxpayers) have invested huge public resources into research – for which the drug companies did not have to pay the costs – so Big Pharma rides to the rescue developing COVID vaccines – which just happen to provide lucrative payouts for the corporations. Side note: Do we think they’ll be paying taxes to the US government on their profits? Or will they bank them offshore in tax havens?
Will we learn a lesson from this experience with the vaccine? Or will we continue to ignore the problem and let it recur over and over with nary a blink?
As the Thanksgiving holiday approaches, we dispel a lot of myths about US history vis-à-vis Native Americans with our guest, Jean Schroedel, professor at Claremont Graduate University. Her new book, “Voting in Indian Country,” is full of facts that we had never been taught and false narratives that we repeat as if they were gospel. Few Americans realize that Native Americans and Native Alaskans were the last people to gain US citizenship and the right to vote. Nor do the media describe the barriers and the discrimination which make their voting so difficult even to this day.
For example, during the last few election cycles when many states enacted voter suppression legislation, a North Dakota law required that, in order to get vote, people must show identification which includes a street address. Surely the legislators were aware that Native American reservation have very few streets and no numerical addresses. They couldn’t register to vote using merely a P.O. box.
This year, because of COVID, many public health officials have urged everyone to vote absentee and by mail. Native Reservations have very few post offices and no home-delivery (even on areas the size of other entire states), so the vote-by-mail process is nothing like the rest of us who can drop a request for absentee ballot in the mail, receive the blank ballot from the clerk in our mailboxes, fill it out, and drop it in the corner mailbox. Some people have to travel for 30 miles just to get access to any mail service, and with or without COVID they can’t afford to waste gas in the process.
We also learned that the narrative of the first Thanksgiving is based on a lie. When the Mayflower arrived 400 years ago, the area was empty of Native peoples. They had all been wiped out by “the great dying” – a disease which had been brought by earlier groups of European colonists.