Progressive Calendar 12.01.06
From: David Shove (
Date: Fri, 1 Dec 2006 04:08:03 -0800 (PST)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R     12.01.06

1. Human rights conf 12.01 time?
2. Ffunch            12.01 11:30am
3. Palestine vigil   12.01 4:15pm
4. Oaxaca demo       12.01 5pm
5. Bolivia/film      12.01 6pm
6. Aids day/photos   12.01 6:30pm
7. Indian women bene 12.01 7pm
8. Jonestown/film    12.01 7:15pm

9. Mumia Abu-Jamal - The road from Oaxaca
10. Tariq Ali      - Axis of hope: Venezuela and the Bolivarian Dream
11. Kip Sullivan   - Will the MN HMOs leave children uncovered?
12. Russ Hanson    - Jack Schitt  (people's humor)

--------1 of 12--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Human rights conf 12.01 time?

Friday, 12/1, all day, Human rights Day conference "In Small Places Close to
Home" with former Civil Rights Commissioner Mary Frances Berry (hired by
Carter, fired by Reagan), St Paul Rivercentre, 175 W Kellogg Blvd, St Paul,
$120 to 150. or 651-296-5663.

--------2 of 12--------

From: David Shove <shove001 [at]>
Subject: Ffunch 12.01 11:30am

First Friday Lunch (FFUNCH) for Greens/progressives.

Informal political talk and hanging out.

Day By Day Cafe 477 W 7th Av St Paul.
Meet in the private room (holds 12+).

Day By Day has soups, salads, sandwiches, and dangerous apple pie; is
close to downtown St Paul & on major bus lines

--------3 of 12--------

From: wamm <wamm [at]>
Subject: Palestine vigil 12.01 4:15pm
Vigil to End the Siege of Gaza and Occupation of Palestine

Friday, December 1, 4:15 to 5:30 p.m. (this is an ongoing vigil) Summit
and Snelling Avenues, St. Paul. The United States supplies the weapons
that are killing Palestinians-2,300 Gazans--including many women,
children, elderly, unarmed civilians--have been killed through military
madness in the last six years. Since the Hamas government was elected,
there has been a U.S. and E.U.-driven international siege on Gaza, which
is creating misery and despair. Beginning its military offensive on
November 1, Israeli military forces killed 83 Palestinian civilians in
northern Gaza. On November 9, Israel's 12-missle shelling of five homes in
the Al-Kafarnah neighborhood left 18 civilians dead, including 7 children,
6 women and 11 members of the same family. U.S. weapons are provided as
military aid to Israel, in violation of the U.S. Arms Export Control and
Foreign Assistance Acts. The U.S. Arms Export Control Acts limits the use
of U.S.-supplied weapons to self-defense and internal policing and forbids
their use against civilians. The Foreign Assistance Act bans all U.S.
assistance to countries which engage in a systematic pattern of human
rights violations. WAMM opposes all military madness. As U.S. citizens,
our responsibility is to stop U.S. funding of Israeli weaponry used to
occupy and destroy Palestine and Palestinians.

Come to the vigil and also urge your new Members of Congress, the White
House and State Department to hold Israel accountable for its violation of
U.S. laws and to exert pressure on Israel to abide by international law
and human rights. Sponsored by: WAMM Middle East Committee.

--------4 of 12--------

From: Corey Mattson <coreymattson [at]>
From:   Raphi Rechitsky <raphirech [at]>
Subject: Oaxaca demo 12.01 5pm

Forward Widely, quickly

There's very serious repression of a popular movement in Oaxaca Mexico
that we should demand the U.S. corporate media covers.  (See the local
oaxaca soli message below for starters, and, for more info
and links).

Please come to a demonstration in front of WCCO TV hq TOMORROW (Friday,
December 1st) at 5pm. Nicollet Mall and 10th Avenue

In the state of Oaxaca in Mexico, a popular movement stands steadfast
against a corrupt and violent government. The Popular Assembly of the
People of Oaxaca (APPO), which was organized after the Oaxacan
government's use of lethal force against a teachers' strike, seeks an end
to state violence, justice for the perpetrators and the establishment of
genuine democracy in Oaxaca.

In the wake of increased violence against the APPO, we sign this letter in
support of the APPO's demands. With the APPO, with the Zapatistas, with
the indigenous movements of Mexico, we will not remain silent while the
people of Oaxaca are under this attack.

Ulises Ruiz's government has done tremendous harm to the communities of
Oaxaca. It has fraudulently misused money designated for education, health
and infrastructure. Its paramilitary thugs have attacked activists,
journalists and strikers. According to local observers, government troops
were sent to falsify massive numbers of ballots in the recent and hotly
contested election.

When the Oaxacan teachers' strike began in May 2006, their demands were
for wage increases and wage parity - and also for shoes, school uniforms
and breakfast for all students in this Mexican state impoverished by
colonialism and neo-liberalism. In June 2006, Ruiz's troops attacked a
peaceful gathering of teachers and their families. Plain clothes death
squads blatantly associated with the regime have assassinated strike
leaders and attacked strikers.

In response to the attacks of June 2006, the APPO was created by the
people of Oaxaca through their community, religious, labor, political and
indigenous organizations. The APPO supports the teachers' demands,
including the resignation of Ruiz.

Since that time, police and paramilitaries have attacked members of the
APPO, murdering teachers, medical personnel and children. The University
radio, which broadcasts in support of the APPO, has been repeatedly
jammed. The University itself has been attacked by federal troops,
although under Mexican law, the University is autonomous and not subject
to military presence.

The APPO has made just and legitimate demands, only to be met with lethal
violence by the Federal government of Vicente Fox and the Oaxacan state
government of Ulises Ruiz. More, this violence has had the full support of
the US Embassy.  On October 28, the Bush-appointed U.S. Ambassador Tony
Garza told the Fox administration that they had delayed too long and
needed to send in Federal troops. An hour later Fox announced his decision
to send in troops, and troops were sent in the next day.

Over the first six months of struggle in Oaxaca, more than twenty people
have been killed, including US video journalist Brad Will. Hundreds have
been wounded by troops, police and paramilitaries. Hundreds more have been
"disappeared", many of them feared dead.  Many hundreds of union and
community activists have been jailed. Many women who have been released
from jail report sexual assault by police.

But still, in the face of this shockingly violent and undemocratic
repression, the people of Oaxaca have continued to demand an end to the
corrupt Ruiz government!

We support them in their struggle.  We join with labor and democratic
rights organizations in Mexico and around the world to call on the Mexican
authorities to meet the demands put forward by the teachers' union and the
APPO, including:

Immediate withdrawal of all troops and paramilitary units from the city
and state of Oaxaca

(2) Stop the repression and state-sponsored killings

(3) Removal from office of Governor Ulises Ruiz Ortiz, instigator of the
reign of terror

(4) Release all detainees and political prisoners

(5) Governor Ruiz and others responsible must be brought to justice.

Around the world, the violent exploitation and displacement of indigenous
communities and working people is the mark of brutal
globalization-from-above, where the many suffer to enrich the few. The
history of paramilitary violence in Oaxaca is rooted in the strategic
displacement of these communities in order to gain access to their
resources, and subsequently to their cheap labor. Communities who organize
and resist this violence are met with brute police force.

The United States is involved in this. Neo-liberal policies supported or
created by the U.S. have increased and intensified poverty in both Mexico
and the United States. When the U.S. Ambassador urges the Mexican
government to use violence against strikers it is no coincidence!

We are not separate from this struggle.  The people of Oaxaca are not
remote to us.  We don't want neo-liberalism either!

As citizens of the United States, we call on the U.S. government to stop
supporting the suppression of the APPO and attacks on democratic movements
in Mexico. Like the people of Oaxaca, we seek a just and genuinely
democratic world, and we support their struggle.

Ulises Ruiz out of Oaxaca!

Immediate withdrawal of the occupying federal forces from Oaxaca!
Immediate and unconditional freedom for all detainees!
Cancel all arrest warrants!
Punish the murderers!

--------5 of 12--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Bolivia/film 12.01 6pm

Friday, 12/1, 6 pm, film "Evolution not Revolution," about indigenous
peoples struggling for power and the establishment of a university in NW
Bolivia, Resource Center of the Americas, 3019 Minnehaha Ave, Mpls.

--------6 of 12-------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Aids day/photos 12.01 6:30pm

Justin Thai photographs World Aids Day, Fri/Sat Dec. 1-2, Intremedia
Arts, Minneapolis

As AIDS continues to ravage ignored communtiies in the U.S.
(African-American women, drug addicts and youth) and many countries in
Africa, remembering the human face of this disease matters more than ever.
Justin Thai's "Remeberance and Perspective" is 50 photographs of intimacy
at the core of an evening to honor World AIDS Day, FREE Fri.  Dec. 1, 9pm, exhibit continues Sat. Dec. 2, 2pm-4pm, Intermedia Arts,
2822 Lyndale Ave. S. Minneapolis (612)871-4444

--------7 of 12--------

From: tom [at]
Subject: Indian women bene 12.01 7pm

Friday December 1st at the Cedar Cultural Center there is an incredable
line up of musicians that have stepped up to the plate to raise rightious
coin for a rightious organization.

Trampled by Turtles, Charlie Parr, The Brass Kings and the Intangibles
along with MIDIZI Brum Group, Aztec Dancers, Jingle Dress Dancers, prizes,
refreshments and MORE and what MORE could you want for $20 to benifit
Kateri Residence, a residential place of healing for American Indian

Friday Dec 1 ~ Cedar Cultural Center
doors at 7pm - music at 8pm - $20 - benefit concert


Trampled by Turtles (the whole band!)
Charlie Parr
The Brass Kings
The Intangibles

MIDIZI Drum Group
Aztec Dancers
Jingle Dress Dancers
& more...

416 Cedar Ave. S.  Mpls, Mn  612-338-2674 <>

Please come and show your support for Kateri Residence, a residential
place of healing for American Indian women operated by St. Stephen's Human
Services, a 501C3 non-profit located in Minneapolis, Minnesota. The
evening will feature live music, dancing, prize raffles, refreshments and
laughter, with the hope of raising operating funds and nurturing awareness
of the importance of the work done at Kateri. 100% of raffle proceeds will
benefit Kateri Residence.

Kateri Residence opened 34 years ago with the support of the Native
Community. Kateri offers a safe place for American Indian women to live
and gain sobriety, as well as time to gain a sense of self worth and
achieve independence in living. Most importantly, these Indian women, with
regained health, increased self worth and a new found connection to their
cultural and traditional heritage, begin the journey of reunification with
their children and families.

Kateri Residence is a supportive living facility located at 2408 4th
Avenue South in Minneapolis.

For more information on advocacy done through Kateri, contact Kate Bendel
at 612.871.0477. Individuals, businesses and social institutions
interested in sponsorship, donations, or volunteering should contact Kim
Werst at katericoncert [at] Any and all interest and assistance
would be happily received.

--------8 of 12--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Jonestown/film 12.01 7:15pm

12/1 to 12/7, 7:15 pm, film "Jonestown: the Life & Death of the Peoples
Temple" about death of over 900 members of an racially and class diverse
church in Guyana, Oak St Cinema, 309 Oak St SE, Mpls.
(Might make a good double-feature with the film Jesus Camp.)

[NB don't drink the free punch. -ed]

--------9 of 12--------

by Mumia Abu-Jamal
Liberation News mailing

[Col. Writ. 11/9/06] Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal

Several weeks ago, a long, dusty trail of thousands winded their way from
the southern city of Oaxaca, to the capital of Mexico City, some 800
kilometers (or over 250 miles) to support democracy, and demand the
removal of the governor, who got there through a stolen, and deeply
corrupt election.

The marchers, a motley crew of teachers, students, farmers, vendors, and
the like, made their tortuous way over mountain and valleys, through
slashing rains, blistering heat, and numbing cold, marching for 19 days,
to take their complaints to the seat of government.

The group, calling itself the Popular Assembly of the People of Oaxaca (or
APPO, the Spanish acronym for Asemblea Popular del Pueblo de Oaxaca), has
rocked Mexico with its strong, principled insistence that elections be
truly fair and free of corruption, and that the will of the People be

I've actually been reading about the events in Oaxaca for several weeks,
and every time I read about them, I thought of Americans, who quietly
accepted the corrupt elections of 2000, and of 2004, like lambs being led
to shishkabobs.  [My term for us is Wimpocracy; here there are neither
guts nor glory, just lesser-evil collaborators. Banana republicdom has
moved north to the US. -ed]

For, the stolen elections of 2000 in Florida, and later 2004 in Ohio, have
done unprecedented damage to the very notion of democracy, and shattered
the faith of millions in the electoral process.

The people of Oaxaca, braving not just the natural elements, but the
political ones as well, indeed, the terrorism of the 'instruments of the
state' (police and military violence), have proven by their march and
protests that true democracy is deeply important to the people.

The APPO, which has sparked resistance throughout Mexico City, and in
other parts of the country, has created a political crisis in the nation,
by its fervent demand for the removal of Oaxaca governor, Ulises Ruiz, and
the restoration of democracy.

The crisis arises from the fact that many of the country's political
parties are doing their damnedest to silence, derail, or intimidate the
people; for if they are successful (they fear) there will be two, three, a
dozen Oaxacas all across the country.

Oaxaca, although the poorest state in Mexico, and one with the largest
indigenous population, is inspiring people far and beyond its southern
Mexican borders.

The Oaxaca resistance was born in repression, when Governor Ruiz ordered
the police assault on the striking Oaxaca teachers' union in June. The
teachers fought back, and within days, over 300,000 people gathered in a
mass march to support the union. Out of that massive outpouring of support
came the APPO, the Popular Assembly. The continuing crisis in Mexico may
push social forces to join the radicalizing efforts of the APPO, or may
open the door to the threatened terror of the 'instruments of the state.'
To be frank, what began in repression may indeed end in more repression;
but that will not, nor could truly be the end.

That's because the forces that gave rise to APPO are still rumbling barely
beneath the surface, ready to emerge in another state, where workers and
the poor are struggling to resist the ravenous forces of globalism.

When the poor are treated poorly, when workers are poorly paid, the
conditions for resistance are already present.

And while the temptation of the State to use its brutal 'instruments' may
be strong, it's also very possible that it may spark more resistance,
deeper and broader.

Oaxaca is spreading like the wind, and the examples of popular and
indigenous resistance from Mexico, like the APPO, and the Zapatistas, and
various struggles from throughout Latin America, are spreading also.

The people of Oaxaca should be supported, not just with words, but with
similar organizing against flawed and corrupt elections, from folks all
over the world.

It should begin with the people of the U.S.

Copyright 2006 Mumia Abu-Jamal

--------10 of 12--------

Axis of Hope
Venezuela and the Bolivarian Dream
November 30, 2006

In the Muslim world religious groups that are militarily effective, but
politically limited, dominate resistance to the American Empire. Asia is
infatuated with capital. Europe lies buried deep in neo-liberal torpor,
and the Left and social movements in the EU (Italy is the most recent
example) are in an advanced state of decomposition. But in South America
an axis of hope has emerged that challenges imperial domination on every
level. Democracy, hollowed-out and offering no alternatives in the North,
is being used to revive hope in the South.

The likely re-election of Hugo Chavez this weekend in Venezuela will mark
a new stage in the process. His opponent, Manuel Rosales, described in the
Financial Times (November 30) as a "centre-left" candidate was heavily
implicated in the defeated coup attempt to topple Chavez in 2004. Rosales
claims that "I will not sit on anyone's lap" but it is hardly a secret
that he is firmly attached to the White House.

The wave of revolts and social movements spreading unevenly across the
South American continent today are the inevitable result of the Washington
Consensus, the economic enslavement of the world. Latin America was the
first laboratory for the Hayekian experiments that finally produced the
Consensus. The Chicago boys led by the late Milton Friedman, who pioneered
neo-liberal economics, used Chile after the Pinochet coup of 1973 as a
laboratory. It was a good situation for them. The Chilean working class
and its two principal parties had been crushed, their leading cadres
killed or "disappeared". Six years later, the Sandinista revolution in
Nicaragua was crushed by a US-backed Contra counter-revolution.

Earlier this month, the Sandinista leader, Daniel Ortega won the
Presidency in his country. Blessed by the church, flanked by a former
Contra as his vice-president and still loathed by the US ambassador,
Ortega may be a sickly shadow of his former self, but his victory
undoubtedly reflects the desire of Nicaraguans for change. Will Managua
follow the radically redistributive policies of anti-imperialist Caracas
or confine itself to rhetoric and remain a client of the International
Monetary Fund?

There was even better recent news from Quito. The substantial electoral
triumph of Rafael Correa, a dynamic, young, US-educated economist and
former finance minister, who pledged in his election campaign to reverse
Ecuador's participation in the US-backed free trade area for the Americas,
to ask the US military to vacate its base at Manta, and to join Opec and
the growing Bolivarian movement that seeks to unite South America against

Correa's victory comes at a time when Latin America is on the march again.
There have been some spectacular demonstrations of the popular will in
Porto Alegre, Caracas, Buenos Aires, Cochabamba and Cuzco, to name but a
few cities.

This has offered a new hope to a world either deep in neoliberal torpor
(the EU, the US, the Far East) or suffering from the military and economic
depredations of the new order (Iraq, Palestine, Lebanon, Afghanistan,
south Asia). The struggle spearheaded by the Bolivarian Republic of
Venezuela against the Washington consensus has attracted the fury of the
White House. Three attempts (including a military coup backed by the US
and the EU) were made to topple Hugo Chavez.

Chavez was first elected president of Venezuela in February 1999, 10 years
after a popular insurrection against the IMF readjustment programme had
been brutally crushed by Carlos Andrs Perz, whose party was once the
largest affiliate of the Socialist International. In his election campaign
Perz had denounced the economists on the World Bank's payroll as "genocide
workers in the pay of economic totalitarianism" and the IMF as "a neutron
bomb that killed people, but left buildings standing".

Afterwards he caved in to the demands of both institutions, suspended the
constitution, declared a state of emergency and ordered the army to mow
down the protesters. More than 2,000 poor people were shot dead by troops.
This was the founding moment of the Bolivarian upheaval in Venezuela.

Chavez and other junior officers organized to protest against the misuse
and corruption of the army. In 1992 the radical officers organised a
rebellion against those who had authorized the butchery. It failed because
it was soon after the traumas of 1989, but people did not forget. That is
how the new Bolivarians came to power and began to slowly and cautiously
implement social-democratic reforms, reminiscent of Roosevelt's New Deal
and the policies of the 1945 Labour government. In a world dominated by
the Washington consensus this was unacceptable. Hence the drive to topple
him. Hence the demand by Pat Robertson, the leader of political
Christianity in the US, that Washington should organise the immediate
assassination of Chavez. Venezuela, till now an obscure country as far as
the rest of the world was concerned, suddenly became a beacon.

The majority of the people who elected Chavez were angry and determined.
They had felt unrepresented for 10 years; they had been betrayed by the
traditional parties; they disapproved of the neoliberal policies then in
force, which consisted of an assault on the poor in order to shore up a
parasitical oligarchy and a corrupt civilian and trade-union bureaucracy.
They disapproved of the use that was made of the country's oil reserves.
They disapproved of the arrogance of the Venezuelan elite, which utilised
wealth and a lighter skin colour to sustain itself at the expense of the
dark-skinned and poor majority. Electing Chavez was their revenge.

When it became clear that Chavez was determined to make modest changes to
the country's social structure, Washington sounded the tocsin. Nowhere has
the embittered bigotry emanating from this quarter been more evident than
in its actions and propaganda against Venezuela, with the Financial Times
and the Economist in the forefront of a massive disinformation campaign.

They are united by their prejudices against Chavez, whose advent to power
was viewed as an insane aberration because the social reforms funded by
oil revenues - free health, education and housing for the poor - were
regarded as a regression to the bad old days, a first step on the road to

Chavez never concealed his politics. The two 18th-century Simons - Bolivar
and Rodriguez - had taught him a simple lesson: do not serve the interests
of others; make your own political and economic revolution; and unite
South America against all empires. This was the core of his program, which
is unacceptable to the supporters of the Washington Consensus.

The key to a serious Latin American challenge to the US lies in regional
cohesion. This is crucial. When the cable channel Telesur was launched in
Caracas nearly two years ago, one of their first programs revealed a
shocking level of ignorance amongst South Americans. In virtually every
capital city vox pop interviews revealed that people knew the name of
their own capital and that of the United States. Very few could name even
two or three capital cities in their own continent!

So regional unity - the Bolivarian Federation of sovereign states of which
Chavez speaks incessantly - is necessary to move forward. Washington will
do everything to prevent this since its own interests dictate dealing with
countries unilaterally rather than as regional entities (this is even true
of the European Union). Regional unity in South America could have a
surprising impact in el Norte as well where the Hispanic population of the
United States is growing rapidly to the great consternation of state
ideologues like Samuel Huntington.

Tariq Ali's new book, Pirates of the Caribbean: Axis of Hope, is published
by Verso

[Viva Chavez! -ed]

--------11 of 12--------

Healthcare for children? Will the HMOs leave them uncovered?
Kip Sullivan  <kiprs [at]>

The last election affected Governor Tim Pawlenty the way Marley's ghost
affected Scrooge. Pawlenty - the governor who cut 38,000 people from
MinnesotaCare in 2003, who early in 2005 referred to MinnesotaCare as
"welfare health care" and demanded that 40,000 more Minnesotans be kicked
off it, and who shut down the state in the summer of 2005 to enforce that
demand - that governor announced one week after his narrow re-election
that he wanted to "chart a path toward universal health insurance." "We
should start with covering all kids," he said. Pawlenty's u-turn on this
issue, coupled with the DFL takeover of the House and the recent
endorsements of universal coverage by the insurance industry, has raised
the odds that the Legislature will conduct a serious debate about
universal health insurance in 2007.

Amidst the good news, there is some bad news: A trap awaits proponents of
universal coverage. The trap works like this: Politicians who normally
oppose expansion of government-financed health insurance agree to support
expansion of existing programs or the creation of new ones, but only on
the condition that the expanded or new program be privatized, that is,
that the tax dollars going into the program go directly to HMOs, not to
doctors and hospitals. Funneling the money through HMOs raises the total
cost of the program by roughly 15 percent. That's because HMOs, although
they cut spending on patients by about 5 percent, add on another 20
percent in the form of administrative costs to pay for useless things not
previously financed by tax dollars, including advertising, arguing with
doctors about how patients should be treated, lobbying, huge executive
salaries, and, in the case of for-profit insurers, profit. Some liberals,
thinking it's more important to take the money being offered by the
conservative than to argue about whether it is spent efficiently, bite on
the offer.

President George Bush deployed this trap to enact the horribly complex
Medicare Part D program which began on January 1, 2006. Early in 2003 Bush
proposed adding drug coverage to Medicare but only on the condition that
it be privatized, that is, that seniors pay premiums to insurance
companies if they wanted the extra drug coverage. AARP and some Democrats
fell into the trap.

The result was the deplorable Medicare Part D program. It offers meager
drug coverage. The worst defect is that the coverage punks out at $2,250
and does not resume until annual drug expenses reach $5,100. This scrawny
coverage is costing the taxpayer twice as much as it would have if the
cost if the drug coverage had been simply added to the traditional,
"unprivatized" Medicare program. Not surprisingly, fixing the huge defects
in the program is turning out to be difficult. The sole reform the
Democrats are talking about now that they've taken control of Congress is
giving Medicare the authority to negotiate drug prices with the drug
manufacturers. They are not talking about ousting the insurance companies
from Part D.

                   Setting the trap in Minnesota

The insurance industry has spent much of the last six months setting a
similar trap for universal coverage advocates. Last July the CEO of
HealthPartners, Minnesota's third largest plan, announced in an op-ed for
the Star Tribune that HealthPartners supported universal coverage as long
as it was privatized. Last September two Blue Cross Blue Shield executives
made similar announcements. On November 13, the day before Governor
Pawlenty announced his conversion, America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP,
the trade group for the national insurance industry) released a proposal
in Washington, DC calling for universal coverage of children within three
years and 95-percent coverage of adults within ten years, all to be paid
for with tax dollars funneled through insurance companies (see AHIP's Web
site at Then, on November 25, the Star Tribune
published an op-ed by the Minnesota Council of Health Plans, which
represents Blue Cross and seven of the more tightly managed health
insurance companies in Minnesota, announcing they too support universal
coverage, starting with kids.

The insurance industry has not explained why it chose 2006 to bait the
trap, but it's a good bet the timing is explained by the enactment of a
Massachusetts law last April that its advocates claim will halve that
state's uninsured rate, from 11 percent in 2004 to about 5 percent by
2010. That law, which requires that Massachusetts residents buy health
insurance by July 1, 2007, and which provides tax-financed subsidies to
lower-income residents so they can afford to obey the new law, was
showered with favorable publicity across the country largely because it
was passed by a Democratically controlled legislature and signed by a
Republican governor. Although the law is going to fail because it is so
costly (that's what you get when you funnel tax dollars through insurance
companies), the fact that it passed with bipartisan support has been
interpreted by pundits and many politicians as a sign that the pressure
for universal coverage is higher than ever and significant expansion of
coverage, if not universal insurance, is coming soon.

In fact, Governor Pawlenty's November 14 announcement of his newfound
belief in universal health insurance was delivered during his keynote
address at a conference at the University of St. Thomas, sponsored by
David Durenberger's National Institute of Health Policy, at which the main
topic of discussion was the Massachusetts law (see the Institute's web
site,, for details). Pawlenty invited Massachusetts Governor Mitt
Romney to speak at that conference with him. Romney could not come but was
represented by Timothy Murphy, Massachusetts' Secretary of Health and
Human Services, the agency that oversees implementation of the new law. By
participating in this event and inviting Romney, and by mentioning during
his speech his support for a requirement that individuals buy health
insurance, Pawlenty made it clear the Massachusetts model appeals to him.

In sum, the favorable response to the Massachusetts legislation from the
media and many politicians signified that the universal coverage train
might at long last be leaving the station. It is reasonable to infer that
the insurance industry decided, probably around the spring of this year,
that if they wanted to influence the train's direction they had better
jump on board with some proposals of their own. And, not surprisingly,
their proposals promise universal coverage but only on condition those who
want it accept a privatized version.

                 Insurers promote the Massachusetts law

The HealthPartners and Blue Cross proposals closely resemble the new
Massachusetts law. Both insurers propose to treat health insurance like
auto insurance - you have to buy it or pay a fine. This requirement, known
as an "individual mandate" (to be distinguished from an "employer mandate"
which makes employers buy health insurance for their employees), would be
enforced with annual financial penalties. In Massachusetts, the penalty is
on the order of $1,500 to $2,000 per person.

Recognizing that the average working stiff cannot afford to fork over
$11,000 and up per family per year to the insurance industry, the
Massachusetts law and the HealthPartners and Blue Cross proposals call for
tax-financed subsidies for residents who make less than three times the
federal poverty level (about $60,000 for a family of four and about
$30,000 for an individual). Blue Cross estimates these subsidies will cost
$1 billion a year in Minnesota.

The insurance industry and its allies are going out of their way to make
sure Minnesotans understand they are not promoting a single-payer system.
(Under such a system, tax dollars bypass insurance companies and flow
directly to clinics and hospitals. See sidebar for a definition of
"single-payer"). "Please know that universal coverage does not mean
'single-payer,'" said Blue Cross's CEO, Mark Banks, in his speech to the
St Paul Chamber of Commerce on September 13. "I'm going to repeat that
statement," he continued, "because too many people instantly reject the
idea of universal coverage because they reject the idea of a single-payer
system. Universal coverage does not mean single payer." Governor
Pawlenty's office has likewise issued statements distinguishing Pawlenty's
interest in expanding coverage from interest in a single-payer system.

Unfortunately, Pawlenty and the health insurance industry are not the only
powerful players in this debate who are insisting that any significant
expansion of tax-financed health insurance be privatized. The Minnesota
Medical Association (which represents a majority of Minnesota doctors)
took that position in a report published in January 2005. "Pawlenty aligns
policy with MMA" said the MMA Web site ( on November 15,
2006, the day after Pawlenty's announcement. The Childrens' Defense Fund,
which has been fighting for better coverage for children for two decades,
is lobbying for legislation to insure all kids but on the condition that
the parents of these children enroll them in HMOs.

              DFL leadership has been part of the problem

In addition to the insurance industry, the MMA, some advocates for
children, and Governor Pawlenty, the forces demanding that any new tax
dollars for expanded coverage be routed through HMOs includes the handful
of DFL legislators who have set health care policy for their party as
chairs of the health policy and health finance committees in the House and
Senate over the last two decades. The influence of these DFLers can be
seen in Minnesota's three public health insurance programs -
MinnesotaCare, Medical Assistance (MA), and General Assistance Medical
Care (GAMC). All three programs were privatized during periods when the
DFL controlled the Legislature. MA and GAMC were privatized gradually
beginning in 1985; MinnesotaCare was privatized overnight in 1996. That's
right. Thanks to the support of DFL "leaders" on health policy, HMOs have
been inserted into all three of these programs.

When Blue Cross and HealthPartners come to the Legislature next year to
propose universal coverage (either for the entire population or for kids
only) on the condition that the coverage is privatized, they will come
with the backing of some powerful groups and some powerful politicians,
notably Governor Pawlenty and some senior DFL legislators. If you were a
betting person and knew nothing about the grassroots movement for a
single-payer, you'd bet that the Blue-Cross-HealthPartners-MMA-Pawlenty
alliance, with help from DFL "leaders," will succeed in embedding
insurance companies in any program to expand health insurance coverage, if
not next year, then over the long haul.

                   The single-payer movement grows

But two developments over the last two years have placed speed bumps, and
perhaps serious barriers, in the path of the privatization juggernaut.
First, two single-payer coalitions have geared up to prevent the growing
momentum for universal health insurance from being parlayed by the
insurance industry into momentum for privatization. These coalitions - the
Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition (MUHCC) and the Greater
Minnesota Health Care Coalition (GMHCC) - have undertaken a campaign to
"deprivatize" MinnesotaCare, MA and GAMC. Their research indicates
Minnesota could cut the cost of those three programs by 10 to 20 percent
if the HMOs were booted from those programs. The arguments presented by
the MUHCC-GMHCC campaign to roll back privatization will obviously apply
as well to any proposal to expand privatized coverage, either to all
children or to all Minnesotans.

The second development that will impede the privatization freight train is
the election results. The November election not only gave the DFL greater
control over the legislature, it brought into office new legislators who
support single-payer or who, at minimum, do not accept the HMO propaganda
that privatization of state programs is a good idea. Several of these new
legislators have been appointed to the health committees.

The MUHCC-GMHCC deprivatization campaign began formally in August 2004
with a meeting between MUHCC representatives and then-DFL House Minority
Leader Matt Entenza (St. Paul). MUHCC asked Entenza for help determining
whether any research existed indicating that the privatization of state
programs had worked as the HMOs and their DFL and Republican allies had
said it would. Entenza agreed to write a letter posing that question to
Kevin Goodno who at that time was the commissioner of the Department of
Human Services (DHS), the agency that runs MinnesotaCare, MA and GAMC. In
December 2004, Goodno replied that DHS had never done any research to
address that question.

With Commissioner Goodno's admission in hand, MUHCC and GMHCC, with help
from Rep. Entenza, drafted legislation to remove Medica, HealthPartners,
Blue Plus and the other HMOs from the three state health insurance
programs. The bill was introduced in the House by Rep. Neva Walker
(DFL-Minneapolis) (Keith Ellison was among the five co-authors) and in the
Senate by Senator Leo Foley (DFL-Anoka). The House bill got a short
hearing in the House health committee last March. When Rep. Walker and two
speakers (including the author of this article) were done testifying,
Goodno and three HMO representatives testified against the bill. Not one
of the four opponents of the bill attempted to rebut Rep. Walker's
evidence that privatization had raised the cost of state programs by 10 to
20 percent.

But thanks to opposition to the bill by the Republicans and the senior
Democrat on the committee, Rep. Walker did not ask for a vote. Because of
similar opposition on the Senate health committee (including the senior
Democrat), MUHCC and GMHCC did not ask for a hearing in the Senate.

MUHCC's and GMHCC's expectations for the 2007 legislative session are
higher than they were for the 2006 session largely because the pro-HMO,
pro-privatization DFL leadership in both houses has been diluted by
legislators who are single-payer advocates or, at minimum, supportive of
single-payer and deprivatization and skeptical of the claims made for
HMOs. This is especially true in the Senate where Senator John Marty
(DFL-Roseville) will chair the Senate health policy committee. Marty
authored legislation to create a single-payer health care system in the
mid-1990s when most of his colleagues were swept up in the mania for HMOs,
and he spoke openly about his support for a single-payer system during his
1994 campaign for governor.

               Massachusetts: The Ghost of Christmas Future

The heightened interest in universal health insurance, the takeover of the
Minnesota House by DFLers, and Pawlenty's ostensible conversion from
opponent of public programs to supporter has created a more promising
climate for all advocates of universal health insurance. The issue is not
whether universal coverage will be discussed seriously in the 2007
session, but whether universal coverage advocates inside and outside the
Legislature will fall into the privatization trap. The issue is whether
they'll endorse privatization in exchange for a significant step toward
universal coverage and thereby make maintenance of existing coverage more
difficult, and render any future expansions of coverage more difficult,
because coverage will be so costly.

The struggle Massachusetts is going through now to implement its new
"universal health insurance" law serves as a warning to universal coverage
advocates in Minnesota who believe expanding access to health insurance is
so important it is worth sacrificing real cost containment to get it. The
comments of Massachusetts Governor Romney after he signed the law on April
12 illustrate this risk. Romney, who will probably announce his
presidential ambitions soon, told the New York Times, "This is really a
landmark for our state because this proves ... that we can get health
insurance for all our citizens without raising taxes...  The old
single-payer canard is gone." Romney is a healthy man in his 50s. He will
live to eat his words.

The law Romney signed will not provide "health insurance for all
[Massachusetts] citizens without raising taxes." Even the law's most
delirious supporters were saying during the debate over the bill in the
legislature that it would cut Massachusetts' uninsured rate from 11
percent in 2004 to 1 percent by 2010. Shortly after it was enacted, its
proponents were saying the uninsured rate would fall to 5 percent by 2010.

The fundamental reason the Massachusetts law will never come close to
insuring all citizens is that it cannot contain cost. It is just flat out
impossible to insure more people for the same amount of money if you don't
cut costs somewhere. The Massachusetts law promises to cut costs by
issuing "report cards" on clinics and hospitals, which is supposed to
cause quality to go up and costs to go down. For several reasons,
including the difficulty of measuring quality of medical care and the high
cost of doing so repeatedly for numerous medical services, this promise is
going to fail. Since Romney and his Democratic allies ruled out a
deprivatized system, and since their so-called cost containment strategy
can't work, they have no way to reduce costs other than to reduce coverage
and/or encourage the insurance companies to ration health care. Given the
average citizen's hostility to HMO attempts to ration care, it is unlikely
(although by no means impossible) that costs will be cut substantially
through HMO rationing. That leaves reduced coverage as the path of least

Reduced coverage appears to be the strategy Massachusetts is adopting,
willy nilly. According to a blog maintained by Health Care For All (the
citizen group in Massachusetts that led the campaign for the law Romney is
so proud of and that Minnesota insurers find so attractive), the agency
that is implementing the Massachusetts plan is now discussing allowing
insurance companies to sell policies with very high deductibles and
scrawny coverage. Moreover, that agency is now discussing permitting
residents who buy these stripped down policies to offer them as proof of
having obeyed the individual mandate. To be specific, the agency is
considering letting insurers sell policies with deductibles of $2,500 to
$3,000 for individuals (presumably these numbers are much higher for
families) and limited coverage (for example, generic drugs only) (see As bad as this coverage is, agency
staff predict the premium will be $2,500 to $3,000 a year.

In short, Massachusetts appears to be moving toward a system in which only
95 percent and perhaps fewer of its people are insured, and many of these
will be "insured" with very leaky coverage. Even so, whether this can be
done without raising taxes remains to be seen. The tax-financed subsidies
are going to have to be high if all residents are going to be able to
afford their $2,500-$3,000 per person premium.

Health Care for All and other advocates of universal coverage in
Massachusetts have paid a high price for "universal" coverage. Advocates
of universal coverage in Minnesota should think long and hard before they
cut a similar deal here. Let's insure all kids as a first step toward
universal coverage. But let's leave insurance companies out of the loop.
Let's then insure all other Minnesotans with a single-payer system.

                [Sidebar] Two terms explained

 Health maintenance organization.
Proponents of HMOs have never put forth a clear definition of "health
maintenance organization." Federal and state statutory definitions of HMOs
are of little help because they are extraordinarily vague. Generally
speaking, the phrase has gone through two definitions - a relatively
specific definition in the early years of the phrase's history, and a very
loose definition today. When the phrase was invented in 1970, it referred
to health insurance companies: that allowed enrollees to see only certain
doctors; that required the doctors it contracted with to see only that
company's enrollees; that paid its doctors using methods that encouraged
doctors to deny unnecessary services (and in theory, to order all
necessary services); and that amended or vetoed decisions made by its
doctors. Today the phrase HMO has come to mean any insurance company which
gives its doctors financial incentives to deny care or which amends or
vetoes physician decisions. By this latter definition, virtually all
insurance companies in existence today are HMOs. The text of this article
uses the modern definition of HMO.

 Single-payer system.
This phrase refers to a system in which one government agency replaces
multiple insurance companies with a single agency or board. To put this
another way, under a single-payer, the one payer reimburses clinics and
hospitals directly; it does not funnel money through insurance companies.
This switch from hundreds of insurance companies (it's more like thousands
if we're talking about the national level) to one government payer cuts
administrative costs in half and total health care costs by 10 to 15
percent. The single-payer system also cuts drug prices, specialist fees,
and fraud, but these savings are smaller than the administrative savings
achieved by single-payer systems.

Kip Sullivan is a member of the steering committee of the Minnesota
Universal Health Care Coalition, which represents 12 organizations. He is
the author of more than 100 articles about health policy, and of a new
book entitled The Health Care Mess, available at Arise Bookstore, Amazon
Books, Mayday Books, Magers and Quinn, and Orr Books in Minneapolis,
Mikawbers' and Amore Coffee in St. Paul, and at and

--------12 of 12--------

[Several years ago I was deluged with this post: "Hey, when are you gonna
let up on all that fancy-dancy high-brow humor, and give us some
plain-spoken earthy people's humor?" I yield to this unstoppable flood of
request. -ed]

Jack Schitt
From: Russ Hanson <popman6969 [at]>

For some time many of us have wondered just who is Jack Schitt? We find
ourselves at a loss when someone says, "You don't know Jack Schitt!" Well,
thanks to my genealogy efforts, you can now respond in an intellectual

Jack Schitt is the only son of Awe Schitt. Awe Schitt, the fertilizer
magnate, married O. Schitt, the owner of Needeep N. Schitt, Inc. They had
one son, Jack. In turn, Jack Schitt married Noe Schitt. The deeply
religious couple produced six children: Holie Schitt, Giva Schitt, Fulla
Schitt, Bull Schitt, and the twins Deap Schitt and Dip Schitt.

Against her parents' objections, Deap Schitt married Dumb Schitt, a high
school dropout. After being married 15 years, Jack and Noe Schitt
divorced. Noe Schitt later married Ted Sherlock, and, because her kids
were living with them, she wanted to keep her previous name. She was then
known as Noe Schitt Sherlock.

Meanwhile, Dip Schitt married Loda Schitt, and they produced a son with a
rather nervous disposition named Chicken Schitt. Two of the other six
Schitt, were inseparable throughout Happens brothers in a dual ceremony.
The wedding announcement in the newspaper announced the "Schitt-Happens
nuptials." The Schitt-Happens children were Dawg, Byrd, and Hoarce. Bull
Schitt, the prodigal son, left home to tour the world. He recently
returned from Italy with his new Italian bride, Pisa Schitt. Now, when
someone says, "You don't know Jack Schitt", you can correct them.

Crock O. Schitt


   - David Shove             shove001 [at]
   rhymes with clove         Progressive Calendar
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