Monday, March 08, 2010

Anderson Cooper Returns To Hollenbeck, Spotlight On Insurance Companies, Tornado (!), A Haiti Update, California State Spending, And Oscar Talk

Hi everyone. This week Anderson Cooper has returned to Hollenbeck, the East L.A. neighborhood he reported on in 2005 regarding gang violence. We begin with a report from him that explores the murder of Steven Bueno, a 20-year-old who was shot in the head in broad daylight in his own driveway. Steven's father Milton shows Anderson where his son fell and where the blood spattered. This death, though tragic on its own, is just an example of a systematic problem in Hollenbeck: violence and the code of silence.

Steven wasn't alone outside that day he was shot; his friends were there with him and surely saw something, but according to police, no eyewitness has come forward. Anderson even speaks with his best friend, who denies he saw the actual shooting take place. Milton has urged his son's friends not to seek retribution for what happened, but he knows it is only a matter of time before the cycle of violence continues.

We're next joined by Dr. Steve Perry to further discuss the code of silence--or stop snitchin' movement. My regular readers know I've previously had some issues with how they've tackled this subject. While I'm still a little frustrated at their lack of investigation into the corporations behind this movement, I was pleasantly surprised to find this current discussion had more context than we've witnessed previously.

For example, Anderson notes that some people may be afraid of coming forward, and he questions the adequacy of police protection. But he also relays that the officers he's talked with say there have been no problems in that area. My guess is there is very little trust of the police in this community and if that's the case, it wouldn't be surprising if there's a huge gap between what's true and what's perceived. And perception is everything.

Steve says those who fail to come forward are "cowards." I'm not sure that's exactly helpful. Though to be fair, he then goes on to talk about how this is really a community-wide problem with a lot of roots in the school system. They also bring up how all these rappers who promote stop snitchin' don't even live in rough neighborhoods anymore. In fact, Steve tells us 50 Cent lives in a mansion in Farmington, Connecticut. Ha! Yeah, it's a hard knock life for him.

Transitioning now to President Obama speechifying at Arcadia University and getting all up in the health insurance companies' grill. For more, we're joined by Ed Henry who tells us that people are excited because Campaign Obama is back! He and Anderson then, fer serious, spend the majority of this segment talking about Obama's passion and fieriness. Good lord.

Moving on to an interview with Wendell Potter, Cigna whistleblower. Awesome. I love this guy. Wendell says what you and I pretty much already know, but can never be said enough: the insurance companies are a for profit business. They don't care about you. They don't care about your sick mother. They care about money going into the pockets of their stockholders and answer only to investors.

They know they're the only game in town, so they don't care if their constantly rising premiums cause a little lost business (people who subsequently become involuntarily uninsured)--there's no where else for us to go. As Wendell says, yeah, they're down with parts of health care reform--specifically the part where everyone is forced by law to buy their crappy product with no public option to keep them honest. Seriously, this world needs a lot more Wendells.

Now for the other side, because the studio will explode if every issue is not split equally down the center, regardless of how truly equal a debate may be. We're joined by Mike Tuffin of America's Health Insurance Plans, and things get interesting right off the bat. Anderson informs us that they had actually asked Mike to be on with Wendell, but his people said he wouldn't do that. Our anchor then asks why and we're met with a deer in the headlights look from Mike, who goes on to stammer about how he'll discuss anything Wendell said. The implication is that Anderson's statement isn't true, but you know, he never actually gives a denial.

Our anchor is then put in the confusing position of wondering if his staff screwed up or the guy is lying (or, even, Mike's people made the request without his knowledge). So he simply tells us that they were told by his people that he wouldn't be on with Wendell, which is pretty much all he can do. Anyway! Regardless of what the hell just happened, big kudos to Anderson. Situations like this should always be disclosed, but too often they're not. And if Mike's nervous reaction was any indication, he sure wasn't expecting that little piece of information to be brought up.

Mike begins by talking about how most insurance is employer-based with private insurance buyers being a small percentage. Yes, and what about all the people who are stuck in a job they hate because it provides them insurance they can't otherwise get due to pre-existing conditions? We can't keep relying on employer-based insurance. People need to be able to afford it and qualify for it on their own. This is about choice, which I thought Republicans loved. When my father died, my mother not only had to deal with that extreme life stresser, she also had to change careers because her job at the time (which she loved) did not provide insurance.

Oh, about those pre-existing conditions? Mike here says they'd just love to do away with all that. But their hands are tied (TIED!) due to the pesky voluntary-ness of the current insurance system. "If people get insurance only when they're sick, for instance, or when they're headed to the hospital, you're going to have exploding premiums," he tells us. On the way to the hospital? Really? Car insurance is mandated by law, yet strangely I haven't heard of people placing calls to agents from accident scenes. I mean, c'mon. Plus, where's the guarantee premiums won't explode anyway? You know what that was called? The public option.

We now pause this broadcast to bring you breaking news footage of a big freakin' tornado in Oklahoma. The video was taken by storm chaser Andy Gabrielson, who apparently is insane. As I watched, the phrase, "What are you doing, you idiot!" came to mind. I'm torn between being blown away by what is admittedly amazing video, and being annoyed they're encouraging this sort of thing by having Andy via phone to talk about it. Oh well. If he didn't talk to 360, he'd talk to someone else.

Moving on to some news from Haiti. First, Anderson informs us that Charisa Coulter, one of those American missionaries, was released today. Only Laura Silsby remains. Our anchor also does a taped interview via Skype with Matt Marek of the Red Cross from Port-au-Prince. Anderson brings up all the people who are apparently still in need of help. Matt concedes there's much more to be done, but does a little Red Cross back-patting regarding how many people they've assisted.

They then both talk about the rains and the new fear of mudslides and floods. It never ends for those poor people. Matt tells us that right now they're working on meeting the immediate needs of survivors, but have also implemented a plan to begin moving people from the camps to transitional shelters or even more permanent living situations. I imagine that's going to take a long, long time.

Next up, we have a Ted Rowlands piece on California, which was good, but I think I'm going to skip ahead due to time limitations.

Finally tonight, we're joined by Joy Behar to talk Oscars. Boy were they a snoozer! I only watch these award shows so I can chat/tweet during them. I think everybody and their mother had a live-blog running. I participated in three myself, thank you very much. The only thing mildly interesting that happened was the Kanye moment, and even that wasn't all that thrilling. They don't make them like Roberto Benigni anymore. Joy would like to see Snooki at the next awards. Seriously, does she want me to cry? Because I'll cry.

The show was pretty solid tonight. I mean, yeah, we had the requisite throw-two-sides-up-like-they're-equal for the insurance debate, but the segment wasn't too bad. There were other little hiccups as well that I've already pointed out. Again though, good show. I am, however, a little annoyed that they keep putting good pieces in the second hour that I know are being missed by people who would want to see them. Tonight the piece in question explored how the Twitter war between CNN and Ashton Kutcher led to the distribution of thousands of malaria nets. Check out the blog post.

Sneaking in pieces during the second hour is something I mentioned in my special weekend blog post, which mostly focused on ratings and CNN's systemic problem. For those of you who commented, thank you. I will try to chime in myself when I have more time. Everyone else feel free to jump in. Anyway, it was great to see Anderson update his Hollenbeck reporting. For those wondering, I hear a Kiki update is scheduled for Thursday, emphasis on 'scheduled.' To up our nostalgia, Anderson even whipped out the old field t-shirt. Ah, memories. That'll do it.

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