Undermining the Idea GateKeepers

Love this interview with LeVar Burton on Building 43 - Communities without Gatekeepers.

We should not be afraid of “more accountability and integrity in our communicating.”

Broadcast media & commercial communication are one-way conversations bundled with sales messages, actors, branding, and entertainers. Often it is marketing made to look like authentic human interaction.

The goal of most mass media communication is to generate revenue.

When you unpack Broadcast media messaging we find it is often a partial hollow representation of human communication. In the age of mass media, companies and large organizations have controlled, or at the very least influenced, the messages that people receive in the broadcast channel.

Mass media messages have been tightly controlled. With revenue protection in mind,  the distribution channel owners and funders have acted as the message gatekeepers. 

No more.

Check out LeVar's thoughts in the video above. He has has been a champion for challenging people to think, discover, and ask "what if?" for decades now.

In the Web 2.0 Social web, we are increasingly able to find and choose messages that make sense and resonate; conversations that enhance our perspective and our understanding. And ironically, it is technology that is extending our authentic conversations beyond our local reach.

The many-to-many Social Web now matches and extends beyond the reach of one-way broadcast media.

More than ever we are able to choose an alternative to the status quo of how we hear, understand, and discuss issues that involve all of us. With broadcast messaging declining and non-commercial communication increasing, we are finding connections with new people and forming new communities – along the way uncovering those things that make us more alike than different. We are able organize around different commonalities and undertsandings. It is here that we are collectively remembering that there is more to life than selling, consumption, and commercial agendas.

The hegemony of the idea gatekeepers is eroding every passing day. And it is in this sharing of stories of being human, Levar Burton says, we have an opportunity for imagination ... An opportunity to say “what if ...?”

We should not be afraid of “more accountability and integrity in our communicating.”

That, friends, is our starting point and ideal worth evangelizing.

Voter Registration

I am compelled to repost these thoughts from the 2008 Presidential Election. I've registered several 1000's of voters in my lifetime. And I never did it for money. I did it because I believed in people and open ended democracy. Even more so today, I remain committed to ideals and concepts that are often bigger than the individual self.
-- Brian 


I always had faith in the idea that filling the ballot box was the best way to change courses. It's hard work. It's non-violent force of collective wills.  The beauty of America is a our ability to change directions; not locked down by the baggage of history, and the trajectory of that history. Our society has a built in mechanism of change. We are not forced to keep living the errors and mistakes of the yesterday's decisions. We avoid anachronistic systems, we avoid extinction ... we change, adapt, and improve. Thesis, Anti-thesis, Synthesis.  Rinse, repeat.

Insurance Company Executive Salaries 2007

This is part of what a for-profit healthcare system gets you. Behaviors are always incented to create net proft. That's expected in business - however when profit is made from reducing cost by denying  health care, what that really means is people are Broken. Here are the 2007 insurance company executive salaries:  


* Ronald A. Williams, Chair/ CEO, Aetna Inc., $23,045,834

* H. Edward Hanway, Chair/ CEO, Cigna Corp, $30.16 million

* David B. Snow, Jr, Chair/ CEO, Medco Health, $21.76 million

* Michael B. MCallister, CEO, Humana Inc, $20.06 million

* Stephen J. Hemsley, CEO, UnitedHealth Group, $13,164,529

* Angela F. Braly, President/ CEO, Wellpoint, $9,094,771

* Dale B. Wolf, CEO, Coventry Health Care, $20.86 million

* Jay M. Gellert, President/ CEO, Health Net, $16.65 million

* William C. Van Faasen, Chairman, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Mass., $3 million plus $16.4 million in retirement benefits

* Charlie Baker, President/ CEO, Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, $1.5 million

* James Roosevelt, Jr., CEO, Tufts Associated Health Plans, $1.3 million

* Cleve L. Killingsworth, President/CEO Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, $3.6 million

* Raymond McCaskey, CEO, Health Care Service Corp (Blue Cross Blue Shield), $10.3 million

* Daniel P. McCartney, CEO, Healthcare Services Group, Inc, $1,061,513

* Daniel Loepp, CEO, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan, $1,657,555

* Todd S. Farha, CEO, WellCare Health Plans, $5,270,825

* Michael F. Neidorff, CEO, Centene Corp, $8,750,751

Common Sense and My Kids' Indoctrination

The furor coming from right-wing camps about the POTUS speech at Wakefield High School has completely befuddled and frustrated me as a Parent, Texan and US citizen. It's as if we have allowed our common senses to be over-run by a small group spouting a vulgar coarse rhetoric. It smacks of McCarthyism and HUAC. Personally it makes me sick. It makes my bones ache. It makes me suck my teeth with disdain at those who willingly tear apart discourse, institutions, & government. Shameful. A friend, @lettergirl, wrote a blog post that captured what many of us parents have been thinking, and searching for a way to express. I have included it below along with the speech Obama delivered to American students today. May reason, civil discourse, mutual respect, and the center hold ... before we harden into rigid sides, with jaws clenched, staring into the unfamilar future of  internal dischord and looming separation. From Dawn at http://notgoingpostal.com/2009/09/07/indoctrination/

I admit it. I’m worried this week about my children being indoctrinated.

Within a mile of our house, we have a McDonald’s, a Taco Bell, Taco Cabana, KFC, Jack in the Box, DQ and a Sonic. They can sing the commercials or tell you the slogans of pretty much all of them, and know at any given time what the Happy Meal/Wacky Pack/Cabana Kids Meal prize is.

The other girls in Middle School indoctrinate my daughter about the need to be popular, the importance of names like Aeropostale, why it’s just not cool to take a shower after gym, and why having a “boyfriend” is important for a sixth-grader.

The boys in elementary school tell my son only nerds have to play E-rated video games, and tell him the Halo and Doom and Mortal Kombat are way more fun than Wii Sports.

My kids are indoctrinated by Hannah Montana, the Wizards of Waverly Place, the Transformers, Ben 10 and a sponge who lives in a pineapple under the sea.

Sure, I swim against these tides. It’s what parents do. We teach our children our values, share our wisdom, encourage them to think for themselves. I fight indoctrination tooth and nail.

But this?

Obama’s Speech to School Children

This “indoctrination?” I say this.

Bring. It. On.

Take the bully pulpit, Mr. President.

Tell my son, whose birth family was torn apart by addiction and violence, “Where you are right now doesn’t have to determine where you’ll end up. No one’s written your destiny for you. Here in America, you write your own destiny. You make your own future.”

Tell my daughter, struggling with the pressure to conform, worried about popularity, that ”Every single one of you has something you’re good at. Every single one of you has something to offer. And you have a responsibility to yourself to discover what that is,”

If their schools lack the courage to stand up to the fearmongers and won’t play your address in the classrooms, we will read it at home. Because sir, I need all the back-up I can get. We’ve got a great support system. Good neighbors, committed teachers, a church family, grandparents, lots of friends who share our values.

But if you are willing to take time away from wrestling with our nation’s present struggles, and encourage the guardians of our country’s future? Mr. President, we don’t agree on everything. But in this, you be my guest.

Indoctrinate away.


What is a Meme?

What is a Meme?

Over dinner conversation with a diverse group of thinkers - the questions was posed "what is a Meme?" I struggled with a concise definition along the lines of ... "it's an evolving mass of like-thoughts that a group of people subscribe to, add to, and riff on." What make it different from culture? um .... okay now I have to look it up and post a better definition here. Have at it ... - Brian

"A meme (pronounced /ˈmiːm/, rhyming with "cream"[1]) is a postulated unit or element of cultural ideas, symbols or practices, and is transmitted from one mind to another through speech, gestures, rituals, or other imitable phenomena. (The etymology of the term relates to the Greek word mimema for "something imitated".)[2] Supporters of the concept regard memes as cultural analogues to genes, in that they self-replicate and respond to selective pressures.[3] Memeticists have not empirically proven the existence of discrete memes or their proposed mechanism, and memes (as distinct from ideas or cultural phenomena) do not form part of the consensus of mainstream social sciences. The word was first introduced by British scientist Richard Dawkins in The Selfish Gene (1976) to discuss evolutionary principles in explaining the spread of ideas and cultural phenomena. He gave as examples melodies, catch-phrases, and beliefs (notably religious beliefs), clothing/fashion, and the technology of building arches.[4] Meme-theorists contend that memes evolve by natural selection (in a manner similar to that of biological evolution) through the processes of variation, mutation, competition, and inheritance influencing an individual entity's reproductive success. Memes spread through the behaviors that they generate in their hosts. Memes that propagate less prolifically may become extinct, while others may survive, spread, and (for better or for worse) mutate. Theorists point out that memes which replicate the most effectively spread best, and some memes may replicate effectively even when they prove detrimental to the welfare of their hosts.[5]" find more here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Meme

Top 5 Health Insurance Companies Net Profit 2007

http://www.reuters.com/article/pressRelease/idUS187049+15-Jul-2008+PRN20080715 HEALTH INSURANCE COMPANY PROFITS IN 2007:

• UnitedHealth Group — $ 4.654 BILLION. UnitedHealth Group owns Oxford, PacifiCare, IBA, AmeriChoice, Evercare, Ovations, MAMSI and Ingenix, a healthcare data company

• WellPoint — $ 3.345 BILLION. Wellpoint owns BLUES across the US, including Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Georgia, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Wisconsin, Empire HealthChoice Assurance, Healthy Alliance, and many others

• Aetna Inc. — $ 1.831 BILLION

• CIGNA Corp — $ 1.115 BILLION

• Humana Inc. — $ 834 million  According to the data, the five largest groups based on total revenue reported to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) and the  California Department of Managed Health Care were WellPoint, Inc., the Kaiser Family Foundation, UnitedHealth Group, Health Care Services Corporation and Aetna.  Among them, net premiums written grew an average of nearly 6 percent even as total members declined by almost 2 percent.  Total revenue and net premiums written for the health industry as a whole grew 8.7 percent and 8.5 percent, respectively. The five largest publicly traded groups by total revenue reported to the Securities and Exchange Commission -- UnitedHealth Group, WellPoint, Inc., Aetna, Humana, Inc. and the CIGNA Corporation -- saw an average total revenue increase of 9.4 percent in 2007.

"ObamaCare Is No Big Deal" says Forbes.com

ObamaCare Is No Big Deal Michael Maiello, 08.17.09, 1:00 AM ET

When a cop and a professor got out of control, Barack Obama defused tensions with a beer in the garden. But the way health reform opponents have flown off the handle, nothing less than a fistful of Xanax and some medical marijuana could possibly calm things down. I kid, angry mob, I kid because I love! Please don't send me to your death panels, no one is seriously suggesting silencing you with a cocktail of recreational drugs. ObamaCare isn't worth all the shouting. It's not an ambitious proposal. It doesn't change health care as we know it. Not even the industries that will be most affected are that worked up about it. The health insurers won. UnitedHealth, Aetna and Cigna will maintain hegemony. Most people will still get the health insurance that their human resources managers pick for them. Pharmaceutical companies like Merck and Pfizer will not have to contend with the federal government using its purchasing power to bring down prices or with re-imported drugs from Canada. For that, the pharma lobby might accept slightly shorter patent protection so that generic drugs can be manufactured more quickly--a minor concession for which the industry won two major victories. The most radical of Obama's suggestions, that the government should provide a strong public option to private insurance is history. It's not happening. We're getting co-ops instead. Co-ops. The last co-op I saw was an organic grocery store where you had to spend hours stocking shelves and ringing up customers just for the privilege of buying produce that's cheaper and better at a farmer's market. It'll be worse with health care. The co-ops will be small, regionally based nonprofits that will be open only to people with incomes at three or four times the poverty line or for people who are not offered insurance by their employers. The co-ops would be seeded by the government but will have to be self-financing soon after. They won't take business away from private insurers because, by design, insurance company customers won't be allowed to switch to them. Even if people had a choice, they'd likely not pick the co-ops because they won't have the scale that big insurers do. Move on, angry Town Hallians, there's nothing to get hoarse over here. Everything else that's part of ObamaCare is something that industry and the government agree on. The government will expand Medicaid to cover more poor people, and it might expand the State Children's Health Insurance Program. Neither program threatens private insurance in any way--both are for people and families who legitimately can't afford to buy insurance. ObamaCare will end the practice of rescission where insurers drop ill customers to avoid their mounting bills. This actually fits right in with the conservative critique of health insurance and with policies enacted by George W. Bush. In the conservative analysis, there's two kinds of health care--routine stuff that people should pay for and catastrophic stuff that it's just too hard to reliably save for and is more appropriately insured against. So Bush started the Health Savings Account as a tax-free way to save for health care expenses that can be tapped to pay for routine care by people who have high-deductible catastrophic health insurance. If you agree with Bush's HSA idea, then you kind of have to agree with Obama's effort to end rescission because there's simply no point in paying for catastrophic health insurance if the insurer can drop you at the first sign of catastrophe. The Obama plan will also bar insurance companies from refusing to cover people based on pre-existing conditions (either by not offering them coverage outright or by charging ludicrous premiums). The insurance companies have no problem with this, so long as everyone is required to have insurance to stop people from staying uninsured until the day after they're seriously ill. The mandate that everyone be insured is a sticking point for some on the left and on the right. I'm sympathetic to those who believe, as Obama did in the primaries, that it's basically unenforceable, and I also sympathize with freedom lovers who think it's a bit nanny-statish. But if we're willing to subsidize purchases for those who can't afford to buy insurance, and the insurance industry is willing to end rescission and stop refusing to cover people who are already sick, then this is a good deal both for society and the shareholders of publicly traded health companies. The mandate isn't a slippery slope toward socialized medicine, it's more like a subsidy for industry, and that's probably why the insurers don't mind it. Unavoidably, there will have to be some debate about publicly subsidized health plans providing abortions. Also, some will worry that taxpayer money will buy doctor visits for illegal immigrants. Believe me, I understand how infuriating it is when the government uses taxpayer dollars in pursuit of goals that individuals might abhor. But where were the anti-health reformers when the government took my money and used it to eavesdrop on phone calls, invade Iraq and bail out AIG? The government just doesn't let taxpayers dictate how each of its citizen's dollars gets spent. That's probably a good thing, because I'd blow all my tax money on obscene art and Jay-Z tickets, and you'd wonder why there were potholes everywhere. Oh, and there will be no death panels--most people will continue to have their care rationed by bureaucrats working in insurance companies instead. Why that's more comforting to people remains a mystery. If somebody denies me access to a medical service, I really don't care if they work for Aetna or the government. Here's one thing we can agree on, left or right: After ObamaCare, our senators and congressional reps will still have better health insurance than the vast majority of citizens. If you're headed to a Town Hall, could you please scream at them about that for me? It's pretty freaking absurd. If they can't give everyone in the country access to the congressional plan, they shouldn't give themselves access to it either. By all means, be angry at the the hypocrisy of our federal representatives who will give to themselves before they think about us. But don't let ObamaCare get to you. The day after ObamaCare begins, the system as we know it will have been ... tinkered with. Nothing more. Michael Maiello is the editor of Markets and Intelligent Investing at Forbes. An Equal Shot, his weekly column, runs on Mondays.