Political Videography

Documenting political events, messages, and leaders on mini-DV (and previously VHS) tape, as for viewing on this site or YouTube, to inform, inspire, and motivate volunteers, donors, and other concerned citizens.


Health Care Reform: A Matter of Life and Death

Health Care Reform: A Matter of Life and Death

Click the image to play the 30-second clip, at YouTube.

In October 2009, Organizing for America — the Democratic National Committee group calling upon the 13 million Americans who supported Barack Obama for president — sponsored a “Health Reform Video Challenge”: “Create the best 30 second video you can that makes the case for passing health insurance reform in 2009. This is a complex and often personal issue, and there’s way more angles to cover than anyone can squeeze into 30 seconds.” The top 20 submissions would be voted on by the public and a panel of experts — including celebrities, political experts, and OFA volunteers — with the winning ad aired on national television (There was no money at stake in this “contest”).


Promoting the president’s plan — an excellent, yet necessarily complex initiative, which unfortunately has left a lot of Americans confused — in just half a minute was indeed a — worthy — challenge. I read further and found this very helpful: “President Obama’s plan will accomplish three primary goals: Provide more security and stability for the insured; guarantee more quality, affordable choices for the uninsured; and lower the costs of health care for American families, businesses and government.”


So I wrote a script, structured around these three themes: making health insurance “available, dependable, and affordable.” I needed, in just 30 seconds, to present each one of those solutions as well as each one of the problems crying out for those solutions.


And what could make more of an impression than presenting the names and faces of those who were victims of our current health system? After all, this debate isn’t just about politics or statistics; it’s about the very real, life-and-death consequences of the status quo, compelling us to reform.


I did my research online, “googling” such phrases as “died no health insurance”; and I located dozens of men, women, and children whose lives lost could represent the 45,000 Americans who die each year because they have no health insurance (My God, what kind of monstrous system have we created?). I found contact information, in public records online, for their next of kin. Although I did not want to bother them, I prayed on the matter repeatedly and sincerely; and particularly after reading our Catholic church bulletin, with its call to “service to ALL,” I came to appreciate that I could perform a good service by relating these families’ ordeals to the public, in the hope that even in some small way this might help others from having to go through the same thing (as a number of the families would later tell me on their own).


After making phone calls and sending e-mails to them — a very emotionally trying experience, although I never received an angry response — I got photos and permissions from eight brave next of kin. These folks have lost so much; but through this project and their own speaking out, as in articles, books, and even appearances before Congress, they are giving back so much, to help others, all of us. As Pres. Obama has said, “ordinary” Americans are truly “extraordinary”!


One family I must single out is the Sarkisyans, who allowed me to come into their home and videotape the mother, Hilda (pictured above), for the introduction to this video. Although they had health insurance, they lost their beloved 17-year-old daughter, Nataline, when their insurance company denied a liver transplant that her doctors said would give her a 65% chance to live. This horrendous case rightly received a great deal of media attention in 2007. Unfortunately, a little-known law, ERISA, effectively prevents the Sarkisyans — or any of us — from suing workplace health insurance plans (exactly what most of the current reform efforts are based on) for denial of treatment: The companies have great financial incentives to deny even life-saving treatments, and there is no real downside. As the Sarkisyans and others are saying, it amounts to “a license to kill” (I will report on this grave injustice in an article online in the near future).


Whether or not this video is one of those selected for further review, I feel honored to have worked with such wonderful people, in all the families represented — by loss — in this video. I sincerely mourn the loss of their loved ones: a cross-section of America, in all its priceless humanity. And I hope that those viewing this video will better appreciate both the scope and the depth of the problems we face and, thus, the value of the health insurance reforms being presented by the president and debated in the Congress.


Health care reform has eluded America since Pres. Teddy Roosevelt first mentioned it, at the turn of the previous century. Enmeshed in a system in dire need of change — killing tens of thousands and bankrupting nearly a million Americans every year, and getting nothing but worse — we are closer than ever before to insuring nearly universal coverage and controlling out-of-control costs — particularly if we keep up the fight for the public option.


Reform health care? Yes, we can.


And for the sake of countless others like those shown in this video, yes, we must!


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Organizing for America “Congressional Send-Off Rally” in Los Angeles for Health Care Reform

OFA L.A. Event

Click the image to play the Rep. Jane Harman video clip, at YouTube.

On September 3, 2009, Organizing for America — the Democratic National Committee group calling upon the 13 million Americans who supported Barack Obama for president — together with the national grassroots advocacy group Health Care for America NOW! hosted “Congressional Send-Off Rallies” nationwide, including in “Cornfield Park,” in historic downtown Los Angeles, where I videotaped the event, for clips I edited and posted to YouTube (below).


In addition to everyday Americans telling how they lost loved ones due to lack of coverage by our current health care system, featured speakers included Rep. Jane Harman; staffmembers of Reps. Lucille Roybal-Allard, Linda Sánchez, and Brad Sherman; L.A. County Supervisor Zev Yaroslavsky; L.A. City Councilwoman Janice Hahn; and former CNN news anchor Veronica De La Cruz, who lost her brother because of health care red tape.


These rallies were held across America to send a message to Congress — returning from a summer recess that saw anti–health reform demonstrators loudly disrupt town hall meetings nationwide — and to the nation as a whole that according to most polls, most Americans still supported health care reform, including the controversial “public option.”


Coming just days before President Obama’s speech before a rare joint session of Congress about his health care reform efforts, under political fire from both the Left and the Right, this was a very historic moment for the nation, which I wanted to capture on video — in addition to a previous town hall meeting — to motivate activists and to document for posterity what grassroots democracy looked like in modern-day America.


Note: Running times are in parentheses (min:sec)

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Rep. Adam Schiff “Town Hall” on Health Care Reform

Schiff Town Hall

Click the image to play the introductory video clip, at YouTube, with Rep. Adam Schiff.

In August 2009, during the heated national debate on health care reform, I used my credentials as a correspondent for OpEdNews to join other members of the local to national media in videotaping the outdoor “town hall” meeting in the Alhambra, California, Civic Center hosted by Rep. Adam Schiff (D-Pasadena). Although other town halls back East had recently been disrupted and even shut down by vocal, sometimes violent opponents of reform, this admittedly boisterous meeting came off as scheduled.


I have written more about this newsworthy and historic event in my article for OpEdNews; and below you will find links to the videos I shot and edited, with summaries of the issues discussed by the expert panel and in the question-and-answer session with the audience. In the face of stiff opposition, grassroots democracy prevailed in the Schiff Town Hall.


Note: Running times are in parentheses (min:sec)

  • Introduction (7:38) Yours truly, reporting for OpEdNews.com, sets the scene. The crowd reportedly estimated by police at 3,000 — with approximately equal numbers of passionate supporters and
    opponents of reform as well as numerous members of the national and local news media and a visible police presence — is surveyed. Rep. Schiff introduces himself and the issues, as opponents attempt to loudly disrupt the event; however, the meeting will proceed.
  • Rep. Adam Schiff: The Costs of Inaction vs. Reform (6:31) Rep. Schiff outlines a “Plan A” — the status quo — and the enormous costs of the consequences of inaction and, facing stiff and vocal
    opposition from about half the crowd, praises the benefits of a public option.
  • Opening Remarks by Dr. Bruce Hensel (5:02) Bruce Hensel, M.D., the well known and respected Health and Science Editor on Los Angeles NBC4 television, is introduced as the moderator of the
    meeting. He asks for courtesy from the crowd and speaks of the “quagmire” of our current health care system, before introducing the distinguished members of the health care panel assembled at the front of the meeting.
  • Opening Remarks by Dr. Benjamin Chu (6:53) Benjamin Chu, M.D., the President of the Southern California Region of the Kaiser Foundation Health Plan, the nation’s largest not-for-profit health care
    plan provider, briefly discusses the role of computerization and other means of increasing the efficiency of health care delivery in reform.
  • Opening Remarks by Jerry Flanagan (7:24) Jerry Flanagan, the nationally known Health Care Advocate for the Consumer Watchdog organization, briefly discusses the impact of health care inaction or
    reform particularly on pocketbook and privacy issues.
  • Opening Remarks by Leeba Lessin (4:39) Leeba Lessin, President of the Health Plan Division of CareMore, briefly discusses the impact of health care inaction or reform on the senior population.
  • Opening Remarks by Dr. Francine Kaufman (4:39) Francine Kaufman, M.D., Director of the Center for Diabetes, Endocrinology, and Metabolism at Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, briefly discusses the
    impact of health care inaction or reform particularly on children with diabetes.
  • Dr. Hensel: The Complexities of Reform (3:50) By considering the unique diversity of the United States, Dr. Hensel focuses in on the complexity of health care reform. He spells out major points that are
    considered in reform: to make health care more affordable for those who have lost their jobs; to provide children with coverage; to computerize medical records; to intervene and focus on prevention and wellness, not only because of the need but also because of the long-term potential for savings; to provide choice; to control fraud; to try to stimulate competition; and to reduce the cost of prescription and over-the-counter medicines.
  • Costs of Public vs. Private Plans (3:56) Audience Question: Medicare and the Post Office are losing money, so how could the government save money by covering the uninsured? Rep. Schiff talks
    about the costs we pay as a nation to insurance companies as well as for government plans, and says we need to run Medicare and a new public plan better. The public option will be required to be self-sustaining, by premiums paid into it. And an efficient public plan will drive the costs of competing private plans down. Unless we control national health care expenditures overall, they will bankrupt our country.
  • Reform Preserves Freedom of Choice (2:37) Audience Comment: From her reading of the bill (presumably the final House bill) a pregnant lady fears that she will lose her choice of insurance and
    be forced into the government plan. Rep. Schiff tries to reassure the crowd, many of whom will not be convinced, that if you like your insurance you will not be forced from it; that is a popular myth, as panelist and consumer advocate Jerry Flanagan agrees.
  • Medicare Benefits Preserved but Costs Controlled (5:36) Audience Questions: A number of written questions concerned Medicare, as one sign at the meeting claimed, “No Medicare for
    Granny.” Leeba Lessin, of CareMore for seniors, discusses Medicare reforms. Dr. Chu, of Kaiser, discusses payments for best outcomes rather than fees for service. Dr. Hensel discusses cost controls; and Dr. Kaufman, cost controls for children’s health care.
  • Reform Lowers Costs for All (4:18) Audience Question: How will the reform bill pay for itself and stay revenue-neutral? Rep. Schiff points out the rapid rise in insurance costs now, outpacing incomes and
    the national ability to pay. The public option will provide the government with bulk-purchase savings, which will also put downward pressure on the costs of private plans, as the CBO states. The public option gives people more choice, and some have no choice at all now.
  • Taxes on Rich, No Subsidies for Illegals (2:59) Audience Questions: Whose taxes will go up to pay for reform? And will illegal immigrants get subsidies? Rep. Schiff states that the bill will not allow
    illegal immigrants to get benefits or subsidies. He examines the overall costs in terms of public (government) costs and also our total national expenditures already. About half of the trillion dollars or so over the next 10 years required for reform will come from savings in existing expenditures, which should reward “the quality of care, not the quantity of care”; the House Ways and Means bill obtains the other half of the cost by raising taxes on the wealthiest Americans. The Senate is still exploring means of financing reform.
  • Public Should Have Choice Like Congress (1:17) Audience Question: Why does Congress have a health plan different from the reform plan? Rep. Schiff says the goal of reform is to offer the public,
    through health “exchanges,” the same range of choices as public employees, like congressmen, enjoy.
  • Computerization Saves Lives; Privacy Must Be Protected (3:30) Dr. Hensel asks the panel about the benefits of computerized records. Dr. Kaufman, Dr. Chu, and Ms. Lessin praise computerized
    records for enhancing continuity and quality of care. Mr. Flanagan does likewise and also addresses privacy concerns in computerization; he then adds that the reform program benefits are modeled after those in the federal employees’ plan.
  • Cost/Fraud Controls & Secure Coverage (3:07) Audience Question: What protections are there going to be for overpayments? Also, the questioner had been disabled in an accident, so the issue of
    losing insurance because of a disability or losing a job is raised. Rep. Schiff cites overbilling and even double-billing as part of the waste and fraud that can be eliminated, to lower health care costs. He also states that reform will eliminate discrimination because of pre-existing conditions, as when you change jobs and insurance. And annual caps on out-of-pocket expenses will prevent bankruptcies and foreclosures because of medical bills, as from accidents or other events beyond your control.
  • Computerization & Privacy (0:51) Audience Question: What about privacy with computerized records? Mr. Flanagan answers that the current “stimulus” legislation requires companies to get your
    permission, for you to “opt in,” in order to have your private information shared.
  • Healthy Lifestyles & Preventive Medicine (5:12) Audience Question: How can we encourage the public to make lifestyle changes that affect illness? Dr. Hensel relates the impact of obesity, diet,
    smoking, and lack of exercise on illness. Dr. Kaufman speaks of additional legislation that will facilitate the reform bill’s incentives for a healthier lifestyle. Rep. Schiff adds how the bill encourages preventive medicine, better for the patient and more cost-effective for the system. Ms. Lessig speaks of the elderly, for whom public education and payment based on preventive care is very important. Mr. Flanagan tells how insurance companies deny coverage based upon weight and other personal factors. Dr. Chu discusses how the bill eliminates co-payments for and otherwise rewards preventive care.
  • Choice: Facts vs. Myths about the Bill (1:51) Audience Questions: Has the congressman read the bill? Doesn’t the bill say you have no choice about your insurance? Dr. Hensel assures everyone the
    congressman has indeed read the bill. Rep. Schiff confronts those who deny that the bill allows choice: “The facts are the facts”; “if you like your plan, keep your plan.” And you will pay less with reform.
  • More Choice, Competition, Lower Prices (1:51) Audience Question: With all the different plans, why won’t everyone choose the same plan? Dr. Hensel points out that everyone has different needs.
    Rep. Schiff agrees, and says that’s why the goal of reform is to maximize choice — which will also increase competition, thus lowering prices.
  • Subsidies Based on Income, But None for Illegals (1:15) Audience Question: Will illegal immigrants get health care benefits or subsidies? Rep. Schiff says the bill states they will not. Reform does
    provide subsidies, on a sliding scale, for those citizens who cannot afford the shared responsibility of purchasing insurance, either private or public.
  • Euthanizing Seniors is a Myth! (2:18) Audience Question: Will seniors be euthanized under the bill? Dr. Hensel says he has gotten many questions like this. Mr. Flanagan states that (ironically)
    responding to conservative congressmembers’ concern over the high cost of end-of-life care, a provision is in the bill to provide seniors with optional counseling about living wills, as many Americans have, so their wishes are known; but the idea of euthanizing seniors is absurd. Rep. Schiff concurs.
  • Exchange: Choice of Plans Like Congress (1:11) Audience Question: Why doesn’t Congress adopt the reform plan (for themselves)? As he answered before, Rep. Schiff states the goal of the
    insurance exchanges will be to provide the public with the same range of choices that federal employees, including the Congress, enjoy.
  • Privacy Concerns with Mandatory Coverage (1:19) Audience Question: With reform, will the government have more access to bank accounts? Mr. Flanagan says that is a valid issue from a privacy
    advocate’s perspective. In Massachusetts, proof of insurance is shown when tax returns are filed. There is a “tension”: If people aren’t required to purchase insurance, and prove it, then they won’t buy it until they get sick. He says the public option helps (presumably by providing proof of purchase to the government by the act of purchase from the government, without the need for further inspection of personal finances).
  • Private Plans Will Grow, as Costs for Small Business Decrease (2:07) Audience Question: A mandatory health insurance plan in Hawaii allegedly collapsed; how can that be prevented in this case?
    Rep. Schiff again cites the CBO analysis, which states that private insurance as well as a public option will grow under reform, as insurance costs to small businesses and individuals decrease. Mr. Flanagan says that in Hawaii, mandatory purchase was not accompanied by a public option or cost controls; after rates predictably increased, the government instituted rate-increase justification rules, as for auto insurance under California’s Prop. 103.
  • Benefits of Reform, as in Social Security & Medicare (2:44) Audience Question: We’ve been focused so much on the costs, but what are the long-term benefits of reform? Rep. Schiff points to
    insuring millions of uninsured, to slowing the unaffordable rise in costs for those who are insured and for the nation as a whole, and to decreasing the number of people dropped from insurance. He says the status quo is unsustainable; we need reform. Schiff praises the courage and foresight of his predecessors for advancing Social Security and Medicare, and hopes we have courage and foresight, too.
  • Helping Those Most Vulnerable (2:14) A nine-year-old girl says she has an aunt with nine children but no health insurance; is there anything we can do to help them? Rep. Schiff praises the girl’s courage
    [facing a crowd in which many are acting more childish than the girl, in my opinion — D.D.] and says that reform is meant to help millions like them, or like others he has met. They now have hope.
  • Most of Schiff’s Constituents Support Reform (2:15) Audience Question: If his constituents were not in favor of the health care reform policy, would Rep. Schiff still support it? Rep. Schiff is happy to
    report that most of his constituents do support it. They think the status quo is unacceptable, and frankly he agrees.

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Various Campaign Events & Political Leaders

Harvest Party

Click the image to play a six-minute clip, at YouTube, with congressional candidate Adam Schiff, California First Lady Sharon Davis, and (the irrepressible) Rep. Loretta Sánchez.

In 2000 and 2002, I was occasionally asked to videotape live events in various Democratic political campaigns, which could then be shown at a later date to volunteers and donors who could not attend.


Among the various speakers I had the honor to tape, in addition to state and local party officials, were California First Lady Sharon Davis; Rep. Loretta Sánchez (sister of Linda, guest on the 2008 Presidential Election cable TV special I produced); congressional candidates state Sen. Adam Schiff and Dr. Janice Nelson; former California Attorney General John Van de Kamp; Board of Equalization candidate, now–state Controller John Chiang; state senate candidate Assemblyman Jack Scott; and assembly candidates Dario Frommer, Barry Gordon, Kelly Hayes-Raitt, and Carol Liu.


I have the late Mr. Jack Logan, a former U.S. Navy photographer, to thank for the introduction to various party leaders, the use of his equipment, and the benefit of his experience (and friendship and good humor).


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Assembly Candidate Kelly Hayes-Raitt Endorsement Appeal

Kelly Hayes-Raitt for Assembly

Click the image to play the video — improvised at the last minute, under office (not studio) conditions — which helped Ms. Hayes-Raitt win a key endorsement.

In 2005, Assembly candidate Kelly Hayes-Raitt — a nationally known community organizer and Los Angeles County Woman of the Year, for whom I would later do opposition and demographic research — needed a VHS video, because of a last-minute scheduling conflict. She needed to attend an event for her friend and then-candidate for Mayor of Los Angeles, Antonio Villaraigosa; however, at the same time she was supposed to be some 60 miles away in Ventura, seeking a key endorsement from an influential group. Using the best space and lighting available in her offices (far from ideal but very “real” and workable) as well as a small “audience” of her colleagues (for off-screen applause and hurrahs, at the appropriate times), I was able to shoot a brief video (with a title card quickly improvised from her campaign literature); and drawing upon my experience with low-budget animation, I was even able to “edit in camera” (that is, shoot scenes sequentially, without outtakes). The result, as you can see, wouldn’t win any “Oscars” for technical artistry; but Ms. Hayes-Raitt was, as always, poised in her delivery and passionate about the issues. And the video “standing in” for her at the meeting did help Kelly win that key endorsement, while allowing her to simultaneously support Mr. Villaraigosa in a big live event.


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“[T]hank you for capturing an incredible moment in time. ... Your clips enable the moment to be relived ... and truly represent the myriad of emotions that characterize our country at this critical time.”

Francine R. Kaufman, M.D., Childrens Hospital L.A. & Town Hall Panelist

“Great coverage ... I too was at that town hall. What a service you have provided by your comprehensive, high quality and painstakingly catalogued videos.”

Jennifer Epps, Activist & OpEdNews Writer

“This entire series [of town hall videos] should be ... made mandatory viewing in every journalism school across the country. ... Great work!”

James Hadstate, Esq., OpEdNews Writer


justice4J, YouTube Viewer

“I was there and this video accurately reflects the cheering that erupted when Congressman Schiff said most of his constituents DO support the health reform.”

leftie613, YouTube Viewer

Political Videography

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