The values lodged in Mandela’s first home!


Versus the values of our upper-end press corps: We were struck by a pair of front-page reports in Sunday’s Washington Post.

More specifically, we were struck by the values lodged within these reports, which sat side-by-side on page one of the hard-copy Post.

This first report concerned Nelson Mandela’s first home in Johannesburg. As he started, Sudarsan Raghavan compared this less than modest dwelling to the home where Mandela lived in his (much) later years:
RAGHAVAN (12/8/13): Less than 10 miles from Nelson Mandela's opulent home, where thousands are gathering every day to pay tribute, is another house once inhabited by the anti-apartheid icon. This one has only one room, no toilet, no running water, and is in the heart of one of the city's poorest and most politically volatile enclaves, Alexandra.

...The house was Mandela's first residence after he left his ancestral village of Qunu in South Africa's Eastern Cape province in 1941 for Johannesburg, where he eventually launched his career as a lawyer—a journey that will come full circle next weekend when he is buried in Qunu. The house was the anchor of a crucial chapter of Mandela's life, when he evolved from an heir of a tribal kingdom to revolutionary leader.

By his own account, Mandela spent some of his happiest days in Alexandra.


Mandela arrived in Alexandra at the age of 23, in part to avoid an arranged tribal marriage. He initially stayed at a local Anglican church before renting the one-room residence in the back of the house owned by Xhoma's great-grandfather, John Xhoma. In his autobiography "Long Walk to Freedom," Mandela describes the residence as "no more than a shack, with a dirt floor, no heat, no electricity, no running water. But it was a place of my own and I was happy to have it.”
Such narratives come from the annals of the world’s oldest hero stories. On Sunday, we compared the values lurking in that report with the values lurking inside a second front-page news report.

This second report concerned one of the ways Americans get ripped off—looted—in the normal workings of American health care. Whoriskey and Keating started their lengthy report like this:
WHORISKEY AND KEATING (12/8/13): The two drugs have been declared equivalently miraculous. Tested side by side in six major trials, both prevent blindness in a common old-age affliction. Biologically, they are cousins. They're even made by the same company.

But one holds a clear price advantage.

Avastin costs about $50 per injection. Lucentis costs about $2,000 per injection.

Doctors choose the more expensive drug more than half a million times every year,
a choice that costs the Medicare program, the largest single customer, an extra $1 billion or more annually.

Spending that much may make little sense for a country burdened by ever-rising health bills, but as is often the case in American health care, there is a certain economic logic: Doctors and drugmakers profit when more-costly treatments are adopted.
Historically and in myth, the moral giants have emerged from the small, single rooms.

Our corporate players don’t play it like that. Then again, neither do our ranking opinion leaders.

In this post, Kevin Drum expresses a complaint about this second report in the Post, the one about health care looting. “Oddly, despite the length of the story, the writers never clearly explain precisely what's going on,” he says.

Drum explains in more detail. We didn’t bother reading. Here’s why:

It’s increasingly clear that topics like this simply aren’t part of our nation’s debate. Even in our emerging “liberal” organs, corporate-backed journalists scrupulously defer to powerful interests.

Stars of the emerging “liberal” media are concerned with topics of race, gender and sexuality. Beyond a few campaign-based attempts to pretend, the ways the American public is looted by powerful interests barely causes our revered stars to bat an eye.

This looting of Medicare won’t be discussed on MSNBC. As an illustration of what we mean, let’s return to Elisabeth Rosenthal’s New York Times series, Paying Till It Hurts.

The series began in June. By early August, Rosenthal had done three gigantic front-page reports about the ludicrous price of health care in the U.S. as compared to the rest of the developed world.

Over the course of two months, these gigantic front-page reports had appeared in the New York Times, a well-known American newspaper. They had produced almost no reaction, a fact which is passing strange.

As everyone knows, TV news producers routinely take their cues from the New York Times. In this case, a series of gigantic reports produced zero reaction from TV news outlets.

As we noted on August 13, Rosenthal’s name hadn’t been mentioned, not even once, on any MSNBC programs. (We had searched the Nexis archives.) Her name had also been missing from CNN and the Fox News Channel.

According to Nexis, Rosenthal hadn't been mentioned on the three major TV networks. Or on the PBS NewsHour.

One week earlier, Rosenthal had been interviewed by Terry Gross on NPR’s Fresh Air. According to Nexis, that represented the only time her name had so much as been mentioned by any of the news orgs we’ve mentioned above.

Rosenthal’s series has continued. Along with a set of smaller reports, she has published two more gigantic front-page reports:
October 13, 2013: The Soaring Cost of a Simple Breath. 3840 words
December 3, 2013: As Hospital Costs Soar, Single Stitch Tops $500. 3644 words
Have you seen or heard a single world about these front-page reports? In a quick Nexis search, we find no sign that Rosenthal, or her series, has been mentioned on any network TV or cable news program, right to the present day.

For our money, Rosenthal’s initial reports were a bit politely written. On Sunday, Whoriskey and Keating asserted a financial scam in a way which was much more journalistically direct.

But all of Rosenthal’s reports opened the door for a discussion of the massive looting which characterizes American health care. Our health care is crazily expensive when compared to that of all other developed nations.

Rosenthal’s huge reports opened the door. That said, here’s the basic fact:

American journalists don’t plan to go through it! Even when prompted by the Times, they are keeping their pretty traps shut about this remarkable looting, which affects red and blue voters alike.

Today’s post-journalistic press corps like to talk about race and sex. Simply put, corporate looting is widely, completely accepted.

We didn’t bother to puzzle out Sunday’s report in the Post. Corporate looting is widely accepted by everyone from Rachel on down.

These people are being well paid for their silence. To all appearances, they have decided to take the money and clown.

This was our basic takeaway from Sunday's pair of front-page reports:

Mandela was happy in that one room. Our TV stars aren’t like that.


  1. My breath is certainly taken away by your excellent word counting.
    Nobody does it better than Somerby!

    1. Yet another insult for the most original blogger on the internet. Nobody else is as alone saying stuff so important.

      How about you scuttle off to read someone else's landmark opinion that the minimum wage should be increased, and I'll stay here reading the guy who is _still_ the only one to realize that:

      the US pays double money for health care
      the media's stupidity is more important than its bias
      the blame for the 2000 election goes, in order, to the media, the media, the media, the media, and other factors

    2. steeve, I will never pay Somerby another compliment as long as there are bitter men like you around.

    3. I like the way you summed up Somerby's work, Steeve!

    4. Me too. Especially this:

      "the guy who is _still_ the only one to realize that:"

      It means after 13 years neither steeve nor any of Somerby's readers realizes jack.

    5. AnonymousDecember 10, 2013 at 10:44 PM
      "Me too. Especially this:

      "the guy who is _still_ the only one to realize that:"

      It means after 13 years neither steeve nor any of Somerby's readers realizes jack."

      Your read Somerby, and you don't know Jack.

      I wrote this 4 years ago:
      Thursday, September 3, 2009
      Show me the money!

      I have been hearing a lot about the cost of healthcare in the US, so I decided to look up some facts and figures.

      Compared to 17 other industrialized nations (OECD nations that are developed, free market countries), the US consistently spends twice as much per person for the same level or even poorer healthcare. These other countries all have nearly universal coverage, but they manage to give healthcare equal to or better that the US while spending only 40-60% as much per person. US average annual cost $7920. Average of OECD developed nations: $2964

      If we’re paying twice as much, where does our money go? Nobody is telling us that.

      Try these numbers for size.

      Industry estimates are that 20 to 25% of health insurance costs are for filing and paying insurance claims. Outside estimates place that as high as 35%. Estimates are that overhead for management and marketing for private insurance companies is more than seven times greater than for Medicare and Medicaid, arguably at 2 to 5%.

      It is well known that Medicare pays out millions in fraudulent claims, but more stringent accounting can cut these losses. Healthcare providers defraud Medicare, but in the case of private insurance, the insurance companies themselves commit the fraud on the public.

      Profits for 10 of the country’s largest publicly traded health insurance companies rose 428% from 2000 – 2007, while consumers kept suffering cuts in coverage. For the top five, that comes to $11.77 billion for 2007 alone. Insurance company profits are more than 5 times the average of Fortune 500 industries, and 5 times the rate of inflation.

      Health insurance lobbies paid politicians $2.79 billion in 2007, and in the first half of this year they have paid out nearly $35 million, and that’s what they admit to. Going by the news stories about Congress, it looks like money well spent.

      In addition, drug industry profits for the top 10 companies were in excess of $50 billion in 2006.

      What happens to the money? Well, we all know how top executives reward each other. I won’t go there. Shareholders get an estimated 6%, as do shareholders in insurance companies.

      But what about expenses such as merchandising and advertising?

      In 2006, the top five companies spent $48.2 billion. (And money spent on ads aimed directly at consumers is tax deductible, hitting the public with a double whammy.)

      Some of this tax-deductible money was used to promote non-approved use of drugs in a clear violation of FDA regulations. Drug companies have had fines of more than $11 billion levied over the past decade for these violations. Pfizer was just fined $2.3 billion in such a case. Drug companies continue paying these fines because their profits are so vast that these fines are merely one of the costs of doing business.

      The top ten spent $24.415 billion on lobbying in 2006. Yes, lobbying. That’s why Medicare can’t bargain with drug companies, but the VA can. Lobbying gets the most bang for the buck by far. Pharmaceutical industry profits increased by over $8 billion in the first six months after the Medicare drug plan went into effect (2006). No other investment could possibly beat those returns.

      It’s too bad Americans can’t get as good deal from our elected officials as the insurance and drug industries get.

      We spent $2.24 trillion on healthcare in 2007, $2.38 trillion in 2008 (HHS data). 2010 estimates hover around $3.1 trillion.

      What would our healthcare and drug company executives be willing to do to get their hands on that, and what are our elected official willing to do the stop them?


    6. Thanks, Gravymeister.

      I think these facts have remained stubbornly elusive. I don't really understand how they can be ignored, but your repost and TDH's continual ranting are absolutely justified and necessary.

    7. I'll add my thanks too, gravym. Obviously steeve was wrong on the health care dollars front.

      But maybe Somerby was still the only one to realize:

      "the media's stupidity is more important than its bias
      the blame for the 2000 election goes, in order, to the media, the media, the media, the media, and other factors"

      I kinda realized the part about the blame for the 2000 election, but I didn't want to speak up because I did not want to rain on Somerby's parade and, if challenged by trolls, I'm not sure I would be able to say what the other factors were.

  2. This is a valuable blog post, one that should even go viral, yet it's buried under a headline and long, basically non-sequitur intro about Mandela. Why not get to the point first?

    1. I think a picture of Bob, Mandela, and Zoeey Deschanel would attract more hits.

  3. Yep, It's all Rachel's fault!

    1. It is not. It was this way even when she was just on radio.

  4. "Stars of the emerging “liberal” media are concerned with topics of race, gender and sexuality."

    Well, hell. Who would have ever guessed that employees of corporate America are loath to discuss 1) corporate behavior, 2) domestic policy which reflects poorly on the .1% 3) U.S. criminal conduct abroad and 4) the actual predatory policies of *both* parties, including the grand bequest of Clinton/Gore to the nation.

    But these corporate hires are "liberals" -- anyway that's what they call themselves, or what their employers call them -- so liberals must be to blame!

    That, or the picture is a lot simpler: what you hear and see in corporate media is either entertainment or propaganda, and terms like "liberal", "conservative" and "centrist" -- are all meaningless terms in the universe of mass-media.

    Why don't we agree to simply call corporate programming "corporate", and move on to a useful discussion?

    1. My wife and I recently got rid of cable TV and joined the tens of millions of other liberals who don't watch msnbc, don't care what's on it, and thus aren't remotely influenced by its content.

    2. Did you make the decision, or was it your wife? Are you sure there are tens of millions?

    3. The voting age population of the US was about 234.5M as of the last census. Gallup reports that about 21% of those it surveys say they're liberals. You do the math.

      In 2013, no one on MSNBC managed to break the 1M viewer mark except Rachel M. By way of comparison, no one on Fox, including Bill-O broke the 2M mark.

    4. Mutual decision. And what deadrat said.

    5. So deadrat and confused, critiquing anything said on msnbc or fox is kind of pointless, don't you think?

    6. "Why don't we agree ... ?"

      Maybe because when you get right down to it, by and large today's liberals themselves share the same corporate sell out "values" as those who are said to represent them in the media.


  5. Elisabeth Rosenthal hasn't said a word about how test scores have improved. She doesn't care about black children.

    1. And she told Zimmerman to stay in his vehicle and put Bush in the White House.

    2. Am I stoopid, or is this post by TDH about a really significant topic, and he is really right that it gets ignored in favor of nonsense? Why the ongoing stoopid sarcastic taunting?

    3. AC MA. I don't think you are stoopid. Keep reading and one day you will realize:

      the US pays double money for health care
      the media's stupidity is more important than its bias
      the blame for the 2000 election goes, in order, to the media, the media, the media, the media, and other factors

    4. anon 11:03, to correct any possible misimpression on your part, I do understand that the US pays double or more than other advanced countries for health care, with inferior results, and that this is a major issue that pretty much gets ignored; and that the media's stupidity is more significant than its bias. As to the 2000 election, there were multiple causes for Gore's defeat, one of which inall likelihood was the awful lame brained press coverage.

  6. It would be interesting to discuss the motivations behind all the snide, mocking, anonymous postings that seem to be more and more pre-empting honest dialogue on this blog's comments. What type of person makes these postings?

    1. "Snide, mocking"--- commenter see (blogger do it), commenter do.

      TDH has kinda reaped what its sown. I blame the analysts.

    2. ...and I blame the douchebags like "Confused" who have been at their trollwork for so long and with such dedication.

      "Confused": own your douchery -- it's nobody's fault but your own.

    3. M Carpenter I have seen comment threads on posts which are troll free. I would say the same regularts comment there and here.

      In fact the only commenters I find it hard to identify are the pesky anonymi who keep complaining about trolls but add little else. They seem to have been preempted by the person who was serving when they passed through the Smart line between lunch and recess.

    4. Their motivation? Seems the criticism strikes a raw nerve.

    5. It doesn't. I just enjoy reading a good comments section and find this one to be an epic train-wreck of pointless sequiturs. I'm not outraged, I'm just disappointed.

  7. What should be a nonpartisan concern, it's really sad that liberals are too clueless to see this as the game changing political issue it could be if they were to seize upon it.

    The boutique liberal is so completely caught up in "lifestyle" politics that they are virtually useless when it comes to anything else.