Progressive Calendar 06.21.07
From: David Shove (
Date: Thu, 21 Jun 2007 17:14:04 -0700 (PDT)
             P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R    06.21.07

1. Natural step     6.24 8:30am
2. Pride parade     6.24 11am
3. Stillwater vigil 6.24 1pm
4. Michael Cavlan   6.24 4pm
5. Arab Americans   6.24 6pm
6. Habeas bus       6.24-27 6pm

7. Natural step     6.25 8:30am
8. Cool e-tools     6.25 6:30pm
9. Amnesty Intl     6.25 7pm
10. Gaza/Palestine  6.25 7pm
11. Climate crisis  6.25 7:30pm

12. Phil Rockstroh - The DP/within the architecture of denial & duplicity
13. Michael Smith  - Who among us will step up to destroy the Dem Party?
14. Robert Jensen  - A direction not a destination
15. RobertWeissman - SICKO, part one: the human tragedy

--------1 of 15--------

From: Karen Engelsen <Karen [at]>
Subject: Natural step 6.24 8:30am

Sustainability and the Natural Step Framework, This seminar provides an
innovative, successful, and cost-effective approach for becoming
environmentally and socially responsible based on consensus and systems
thinking. Its purpose is to present a common framework comprised of
easily-understood, scientifically-based principles that can serve as a
compass to guide society toward a just and sustainable future. This
seminar is being offered twice, once each in the East and West Metro:

Thursday, May 24, 8:30a.m., a day-long session at Lake Harriet UMC,

Tuesday May 29, and Thursday, May 31, 5:30 - 9:30p.m., at Mississippi
Market. St. Paul.

--------2 of 15--------

From: Andrew Abruzzese <spreadleft [at]>
Subject: Pride parade 6.24 11am

The Green Party of MN and Mpls/5th Dist GP local will be participating in
the TC Pride parade again this year.
TC Pride Parade falls on June 24th starting at 11am, line up is at 10am off
of 3rd and Hennepin

Parade Route
The route will begin at the corner of 3rd Street and Hennepin Avenue in
downtown Minneapolis and will follow Hennepin Avenue to Loring Park.  For
a detailed map, be sure to check out the Parade Route/Location page.

2007 Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade , Presented by City Pages

The 2007 Ashley Rukes GLBT Pride Parade, presented by City Pages, will be
held on Sunday, June 24, beginning at 11am along Hennepin Avenue in
Downtown Minneapolis.  According to public estimates, the Parade drew an
estimated 125,000 spectators in 2006, making it one of the largest parades
in the Upper Midwest, and the largest in all of Minneapolis according to
Mayor R.T.  Rybak.  Because of this popularity, it is recommended that you
arrive early to find your parade viewing spot.

--------3 of 15--------

From: scot b <earthmannow [at]>
Subject: Stillwater vigil 6.24 1pm

A weekly Vigil for Peace Every Sunday, at the Stillwater bridge from 1- 2
p.m.  Come after Church or after brunch ! All are invited to join in song
and witness to the human desire for peace in our world. Signs need to be
positive.  Sponsored by the St. Croix Valley Peacemakers.

If you have a United Nations flag or a United States flag please bring it.
Be sure to dress for the weather . For more information go to

For more information you could call 651 275 0247 or 651 999 - 9560

--------4 of 15--------

From: Lydia Howell <lhowell [at]>
Subject: Michael Cavlan 6.24 4pm

Basement of HUB Bicycle PHONE; 612-333-4719

with GREEN PARTY candidate for U.S. Senate, MICHAEL CAVLAN

Gold Star mother for peace, Cindy Sheehan put forth a call to
independents, Greens, progressives and Democrats disillusioned with the
Democratic Party's colluding in the continuation of the occupation of
Iraq--a call to come to Philadelphia on the Fourth of July. around the
country and here in the Twin Cities people are answering that call and a
Quaker Meeting House in Philadelphia has been secured for that

Come to a local gathering to share ideas in open discussion, food and to
fund-raise for the trip.see the film short MOUSELAND, about the two-party
system.Enjoy Lydia Howell's tasty Tex-Mex green chile torte - VEGETERIAN
(and NOT too hot for Minnesota taste) and other goodies.

ollamhfaery [at]

--------5 of 15--------

From: Mizna  <mizna-announce [at]>
Subject: Arab Americans 6.24 6pm

Join Mizna for a special event this Sunday.  Nationally known Arab
American writer, Gregory Orfalea, will be reading from (and signing) his
latest book, The Arab Americans - A History.  You can purchase it on site.

Explore this Arab American coffee house in St. Paul, and join us on the
lovely patio for an event not to be missed!
Event is free and open to the public.

6 pm
Sunday, June 24
Cahoots Coffee House
1562 Selby Ave  (by the corner of Selby and Snelling)
St Paul, MN

About "The Arab Americans: A History"

Gregory Orfalea's new and definitive work spans a century and a half of
the life of Arab immigrants and their descendants in the United States. In
The Arab Americans: A History, Orfalea has marshaled over 150 interviews
and 25 years of research to tell the story that begins in 1856, when camel
driver Hajdi Ali (or Hi Jolly) was hired by Jefferson Davis to cut a
"camel trail" across the Southwest, and continues through the 2005 arrest
of a former Virginia high school valedictorian accused of plotting with
al-Qaeda. Once seen as the "benevolent stranger," as the author points
out, today Arab Americans are "the malevolent stranger." His book,
however, is an assault on such ignorance, both celebration and warning.

The Arab Americans is the culmination of a life's work, a landmark in the
history of what it means to be an American. It is also the history of a
community uniquely repressed in American scholarship, history, literature,
and politics. The Arab Americans fills a sizable void, and it could not be
more timely. With American troops sprawled across the Arab and Muslim
world, Orfalea's work is like light in a dark tunnel - facts, not
stereotypes; people, not shadows; the vibrant world of a lost American
experience come to life.

Orfalea brings to this work an historian's love of meticulous and telling
detail, a poet's ear, and a novelist's sense of story. The cumulative
effect is symphonic and its arrival none too soon.

Greg Orfalea is director of the writing center at Pitzer College in
California and co-editor of Grape Leaves: A Century of Arab-American

Visit our website:

--------6 of 15--------

From: Charles Underwood <charleyunderwood [at]>
Subject: Habeas bus 6.24-27 6pm

6/24 to 6/27, American Civil Liberties Union hosts a bus (cost to
participants is only $10, with hotel also included) to DC for a rally to
Restore Habeas Corpus, end torture and repeal the Military Commissions
Act.  Bus leaves the Twin Cities at 6 pm on Sunday for Tuesday rally and
Wednesday return.  For rally details, go to For local
details contact Jana Kooren at 651-645-4097 x 123.

--------7 of 15--------

From: Alliance for Sustainability <sean [at]>
Subject: Natural step 6.25 8:30am

Sustainability and the Natural Step Framework: A Win-Win-Win for Business,
Our Community and the Earth

This Seminar provides an innovative, successful, and cost-effective approach
for becoming environmentally and socially responsible based on consensus and
systems thinking. Its purpose is to present a common framework comprised of
easily-understood, scientifically-based principles that can serve as a
compass to guide society toward a just and sustainable future.

Monday, June 25  8:30 am - 4:30 pm
8 am Registration and Food Available at Intelligent Nutrients
Intelligent Nutrients, 983 East Hennepin Ave, Minneapolis
(Just off I-35W going North at East Hennepin Ave. Exit or Bus 61, 25 and 4)

RSVP Requested and Advanced Registration Discount: $95 ($75 for
contributing members of Alliance and other sponsors) if payment received
by Monday June 18. $10 additional after and $20 additional at the door if
space is available. A limited number of scholarships are available. If you
can't come to the second session, you can come another time. Fee includes
all resource materials. Contact: Alliance for Sustainability,
612-331-1099, info [at]; www.afors <http://www.afors/> .org

--------8 of 15--------

From: Tim Erickson <tim [at]>
Subject: Cool e-tools 6.25 6:30pm

Upcoming workshops in the Electronic Classroom at Rondo Community
Outreach Library (University and Dale):

MONDAYS IN JUNE  6:30-8:30 pm
   June 25 - Show and Tell:
             New Tools (Cool Tools) for Public Participation

--------9 of 15--------

From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at]>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 6.25 7pm

Augustana Homes Seniors Group meets on Monday, June 25th, from 7:00 to
8:00 p.m. in the party room of the 1020 Building, 1020 E 17th Street,
Minneapolis. For more information contact Ardes Johnson at 612/378-1166 or
johns779 [at]

--------10 of 15--------

From: "wamm [at]" <wamm [at]>
Subject: Gaza/Palestine 6.25 7pm

Gaza: Life in Occupied Palestine
Dr. Mona El-Farra, internationally-renowned physician and human
rights leader on her first U.S. speaking tour.

Monday, June 25
7:00 p.m.
St. Joan of Arc Church
Hospitality Hall
4537 Third Avenue South, Minneapolis.

Dr. El-Farra is the Director of Gaza Projects for The Middle East
Children's Alliance (MECA), a nonprofit humanitarian aid organization
based in Berkeley, California, as well as the Vice President of the
Palestinian Red Crescent Society of the Gaza Strip and a member of the
Union of Health Work Committees. Born in Khan Younis, Gaza, Dr.  El-Farra
has dedicated herself to developing community based programs that aim to
improve health quality and link health services with cultural and
recreation services all over the Gaza Strip. Dr.  El-Farra travels
frequently to Europe to meet with solidarity activists and to speak to
general audiences about life in Occupied Gaza and how the international
community can join Palestinians in their efforts to secure justice. Now,
you can hear her clear and powerful voice. Free and open to the public.
Donations accepted.

Sponsored by: The Middle East Children's Alliance and WAMM's Middle
East Committee
For More Information: Contact Women Against Military Madness (WAMM)
at 612-827-5364.

--------11 of 15--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Climate crisis 6.25 7:30pm

Regular meeting of the Climate Crisis Coalition of the Twin Cities (3CTC).
EVERY 2nd and 4th Monday at 7:30 pm.  The Freight House Dunn Brothers, 201
3rd Ave S, next door to the Milwaukee Road Depot, Downtown Minneapolis.
Stop global warming, save Earth!

In solidarity w/people and the planet, Eric 651-644-1173

--------12 of 15--------

The Democratic Party and the Infantile Omnipotence of The Ruling Class
Within the Architecture of Denial and Duplicity
by Phil Rockstroh / June 21st, 2007
Dissident Voice

Why did the Democratic Congress betray the voting public?

Betrayal is often a consequence of wishful thinking. It's the world's way
of delivering the life lesson that it's time to shed the vanity of one's
innocence and grow-the-hell-up. Apropos, here's lesson number one for
political innocents: Power serves the perpetuation of power. In an era of
runaway corporate capitalism, the political elite exist to serve the
corporate elite. It's that simple.

Why do the elites lie so brazenly? Ironically, because they believe
they're entitled to, by virtue of their superior sense of morality. How
did they come to this arrogant conclusion? Because they think they're
better than us. If they believe in anything at all, it is this: They view
us as a reeking collection of wretched, baseborn rabble, who are, on an
individual level, a few billion neurons short of being governable by
honest means.

Yes, you read that correctly: They believe they're better than you. When
they lie and flout the rules and assert that the rule of law doesn't apply
to them or refuse to impeach fellow members of their political and social
class who break the law - it is because they have convinced themselves it
is best for society as a whole.

How did they come by such self-serving convictions? The massive extent of
their privilege has convinced them that they're the quintessence of human
virtue, that they're the most gifted of all golden children ever kissed by
the radiant light of the sun. In other words, they're the worst sort of
emotionally arrested brats - spoiled children inhabiting adult bodies who
mistake their feelings of infantile omnipotence for the benediction of
superior ability: "I'm so special that what's good for me is good for the
world," amounts to the sum total of their childish creed. In the case of
narcissists such as these, over time, self-interest and systems of belief
grow intertwined. Hence, within their warped, self-justifying belief
systems, their actions, however mercenary, become acts of altruism.

The elites don't exactly believe their own lies; rather, they proceed from
the neo-con guru, Leo Strauss' dictum (the modus operandi of the ruling
classes) that it is necessary to promulgate "noble lies" to society's
lower orders. This sort of virtuous mendacity must be practiced, because
those varieties of upright apes (you and I) must be spared the
complexities of the truth; otherwise, it will cause us to grow dangerously
agitated - will cause us to rattle the bars of our cages and fling poop at
our betters. They believe it's better to ply us with lies because it's
less trouble then having to hose us down in our filthy cages. In this way,
they believe, all naked apes will have a more agreeable existence within
the hierarchy-bound monkeyhouse of capitalism.

This may help to better understand the Washington establishment and its
courtesan punditry who serve to reinforce their ceaseless narrative of
exceptionalism. This is why they've disingenuously covered up the
infantilism of George W. Bush for so long: Little Dubya is the id of the
ruling class made manifest - he's their troubled child, who, by his
destructive actions, cracks the deceptively normal veneer of a miserable
family and reveals the rot within. At a certain level, it's damn
entertaining: his instability so shakes the foundation of the house that
it causes the skeletons in its closets to dance.

By engaging in a mode of being so careless it amounts to public
immolation, these corrupt elitists are bringing the empire down. There is
nothing new in this: Such recklessness is the method by which cunning
strivers commit suicide.

Those who take the trouble to look will apprehend the disastrous results
of the ruling elites' pathology: wars of choice sold to a credulous
citizenry by public relations confidence artists; a predatory economy that
benefits one percent of the population; a demoralized, deeply ignorant
populace who are either unaware of or indifferent to the difference
between the virtues and vicissitudes of the electoral processes of a
democratic republic, in contrast to the schlock circus, financed by big
money corporatist, being inflicted upon us, at present.

Moreover, the elitist's barriers of isolation and exclusion play out among
the classes below as an idiot's mimicry of soulless gated "communities"
and the pernicious craving for a vast border wall - all an imitation of
the ruling classes' paranoia-driven compulsion for isolation and their
narcissistic obsession with exclusivity.

Perhaps, we should cover the country in an enormous sheet of cellophane
and place a zip-lock seal at its southern border, or, better yet - in the
interest of being more metaphorically accurate - let's simply zip the
entire land mass of the U.S. into a body bag and be done with it.

What will be at the root of the empire's demise? It seems the elite of the
nation will succumb to "Small World Syndrome" - that malady borne of
incurable careerism, a form of self-induced cretinism that reduces the
vast and intricate world to only those things that advance the goals of
its egoist sufferers. It is an degenerative disease that winnows down the
consciousness of those afflicted to a banal nub of awareness, engendering
the shallowness of character on display in the corporate media and the
arrogance and cluelessness of the empire's business and political classes.
It possesses a love of little but mammon; it is the myth of Midas,
manifested in the hoarding of hedge funds; it is the tale of an idiot
gibbering over his collection of used string.

What can be done? In these dangerous times, credulousness to party dogma
is as dangerous as a fundamentalist Christian's literal interpretation of
The Bible: There is no need to squander the hours searching for an
"intelligent design" within the architecture of denial and duplicity built
into this claptrap system - a system that we have collaborated in
constructing by our loyalty to political parties that are, in return,
neither loyal to us nor any idea, policy nor principle that doesn't
maintain the corporate status quo.

Accordingly, we must make the elites of the Democratic Party accountable
for their betrayal - or we ourselves will become complicit. The faith of
Democratic partisans in their degraded party is analogous to Bush and his
loyalists still believing they can achieve victory in Iraq and the
delusion-based wing of the Republican Party who, a few years ago, clung to
the belief, regardless of facts, that Terri Schiavo's brain was not
irreparably damaged and she would someday rise from her hospital bed and
bless the heavens for them and their unwavering devotion to her cause.

Faith-based Democrats are equally as delusional. Only their fantasies
don't flow from the belief in a mythical father figure, existing somewhere
in the boundless sky, who scripture proclaims has a deep concern for the
fate of all things, from fallen sparrows to medically manipulated stem
cells; rather, their beliefs are based on the bughouse crazy notion that
the elites of the Democratic Party could give a fallen sparrow's ass about
the circumstances of their lives.

In the same manner, I could never reconcile myself with the
Judea/Christian/Islamic conception of god - some strange, invisible,
"who's-your-daddy-in-the-sky," sadist - who wants me on my knees (as if
I'm a performer in some kind of cosmic porno movie) to show my belief in
and devotion to him - I can't delude myself into feeling any sense of
devotion to the present day Democratic Party.

Long ago, reason and common sense caused me to renounce the toxic tenets
of organized religion. At present, I feel compelled to apply the same
principles to the Democratic Party, leading me to conclude, as did
Voltaire regarding the unchecked power of The Church in his day, that we
must, "crush the infamous thing".

Freedom begins when we free ourselves from as many illusions as possible -
including dogma, clichs, cant, magical thinking, as well as blind devotion
to a corrupt political class.

I wrote the following, before the 2006 mid-term election: "[...] I
believe, at this late hour, the second best thing that could come to pass
in our crumbling republic is for the total destruction of the Democratic
Party - and then from its ashes to rise a party of true progressives.

"[...] I believe the best thing that could happen for our country would be
for the leaders of The Republican Party - out of a deep sense of shame (as
if they even possessed the capacity for such a thing) regarding the manner
they have disgrace their country and themselves - to commit seppuku (the
act of ritual suicide practiced by disgraced leaders in feudalist Japan)
on national television.

"Because there's no chance of that event coming to pass, I believe the
dismantling of the Democratic Party, as we know it, is in order. It is our
moribund republic's last, best hope - if any is still possible".

I received quite a bit of flack from party loyalist and netroots activists
that my pronouncement was premature and we should wait and see.

We've waited and we've seen. Consequently, since the Republican leadership
have not taken ceremonial swords in hand and disemboweled themselves on
nationwide TV, it's time we pulled the plug on the Democratic Party, an
entity that has only been kept alive by a corporately inserted food-tube.
In my opinion, this remains the last, best hope for the living ideals of
progressive governance to become part of the body politic. [Amen. -ed]

Phil Rockstroh, a self-described, auto-didactic, gasbag monologist, is a
poet, lyricist and philosopher bard living in New York City. He may be
contacted at philangie2000 [at] Read other articles by Phil.

This article was posted on Thursday, June 21st, 2007 at 4:59 am and is
filed under Democrats, Capitalism, Democracy and Empire. Send to a friend.

--------13 of 15--------

Flanders Fields; Aronowitz Strikes Out
Who Among Us Will Step Up to Destroy the Democratic Party?
June 21, 2007

Stanley Aronowitz has never been a particular hero of mine, but I warmed
to him a bit this week, as he nibbled at the well-turned fetlock of Laura
Flanders. Now any guy who could brave the seas of matrimony in a boat with
the late (and by me, unlamented) Ellen Willis has got to have more than
enough dura-ilia to deal with a fetching young person from Air America.
And he had the advantage of being, so to speak, of the devil's party. But
it was fun to watch, in a mean-spirited way - up to a point.

The occasion was a debate in New York, sponsored by Left Forum and The
Nation, on that great, evergreen question, "Can progressives move the
Democratic Party to the left?"

Flanders has recently written a cheerful book with the slightly
unappetizing title Blue Grit: True Democrats Take Back Politics From the
Politicians. The burden of her song is, as she said in a recent interview,

"... [G]rit, that's the stuff that gets you through, the mettle that
enables you that take on tough stuff. It's also the stuff that gets in
your shoe and blisters your toe. Blue Gritters, the folks I'm talking
about, do both of those things for the Democratic Party: they discomfort
the establishment, and I think they bring the passion to the issues that
won the election last year.... I think the fact that the Democratic
leadership is talking about timetables at all is a victory for the Blue
Grit Democrats out there."

So naturally, she took the affirmative - sorta, kinda, half-heartedly. To
be sure, she didn't have a good word to say for the Democratic Party. A
good thing, too, since the crowd, a half-and-half mix of grizzled old
stagers and fresh-faced millennials, was clearly and overwhelmingly
negative about the Party Of Clinton & Clinton, LLP. (Usually, a Left crowd
in New York is full of people more dependent on the Democrats than a
crackhead on his drug of choice, so the prevailing bummed-out atmosphere
was intensely refreshing.)

But among all her caveats about the general rottenness of the party,
Flanders' essential theme was that her bluegritters shouldn't be
discouraged from working in the Democratic Party. As she phrased it, with
well-placed caution, "some sort-of reformists in the sort of liberal-lefty
part [of the party] are having some kind of success." And alas, Aronowitz
wasn't quite willing to take the last essential step and disagree with her

The debate was "moderated" by Gary Younge of The Nation, whose
squishy-soft and prolix questioning took on something vaguely like an edge
only once, when he asked Aronowitz whether he would advise activists to
"pack their bags" and abandon the Democratic Party altogether.

Aronowitz, surprisingly, responded "of course not!" - surprisingly,
because everything else he had to say suggested that bag-packing would be
very much in order, and the sooner the better.

He began by rehearsing some of his left credentials, which included
helping found the Reform Democratic movement in New York City - whose
greatest success, as he drily noted, was "the election of Ed Koch as
Mayor." He warned activists that "You'll be taken over by the Democratic
Party before you'll take it over.... I don't think another New Deal is
possible. Yeah, Roosevelt was pushed from below but there was some
agreement from the top. Now there's not. They'd rather bash people on the
head. They've embraced repression now, not legitimation.... The peace
movement is wimpy because they're tied hand and foot to the Democrats....
Bill Clinton was the best Republican president of the century!"

Against this rehearsal of indicative-mood history, Flanders took refuge,
as defense of the Democrats always does, in the subjunctive: "We wouldn't
have had the criminalization of pregnancy under a Democratic president -
the Labor Department wouldn't be used as a weapon against the labor
movement." Aronowitz replied by quoting Bill Clinton's Secretary of Labor,
Bobby Reich, questioning whether labor unions were "still necessary."

Asked by moderator Younge, in another rare moment of directness, whether
he wouldn't prefer to see a Democratic president in 2008, Aronowitz got
quite a laugh by replying, "Of course - because he won't do anything! I'm
all for gridlock!" Flanders rather hotly replied that she wasn't for
gridlock - "I want troops out of Iraq, I want universal health care."
Unfortunately, Younge did not ask her what connection there might be
between these good things and a Democratic president. Perhaps that would
have been immoderate.

Maybe that was the problem: the moderation quotient was way too high.
Flanders was ready to agree with any bad thing anybody might say about the
Democratic Party, except that activists ought to be working night and day
to destroy it - and Aronowitz was unwilling to say that. He didn't say
that working within the Democratic Party is a deadly, damning error. He
didn't call it the graveyard of activists, though no doubt he's heard that
old truism before. He didn't say that the Democratic party absorbs the
energies of left-wing activists and turns those energies against the
activists' own purposes - though I bet he would agree with the
proposition.  He should have been like the sepulchral voice in The
Amityville Horror, hollowly booming "Get oooout!" - but alas, he wasn't.

Flanders took the 'pro,' moderately, but Aronowitz moderately didn't quite
take the 'con'. So though it was fun for a while, and a great deal of
well-deserved and enjoyable abuse was poured on the dear old donkeys'
heads, there was a slight feeling of coitus-interruptus at the end of the
evening. Perhaps we should blame the Upas-tree influence of The Nation
magazine, breathing its long-brewed suffocating vapors into the already
mephitic Manhattan air.

I wonder how many of those disgruntled old veterans and peppery youths in
the audience will trudge reluctantly into the shambles of '08 behind some
Judas-goat from the Democratic Party. Oh Laura, so fresh, so fair, why
must you be among them? And oh Stanley - you might have saved a few!

Michael J. Smith lives in New York and labors night and day to destroy the
Democratic Party on his blog,

--------14 of 15--------

A Direction Not a Destination
The Last Sunday?
June 21, 2007

As we were setting up for an early Last Sunday gathering, a longtime
participant in local progressive politics asked me, bluntly, "What's your
agenda with this?"

I offered the event's mission statement: We hoped to create a space in
which people could get together to face honestly deepening economic,
political, cultural, and ecological crises; existing political and
religious institutions are inadequate to cope with these cascading crises;
the goal was a "progressive space" that would raise issues, without
channeling people into a particular movement or party. We weren't creating
an organization but offering a place for networking.

She smiled, explained that she knew our public line, and instead wanted
the "real" agenda. Sorry, no hidden agendas, I said. Her response: "I
don't believe you would do this without an agenda."

Skepticism about political motives is understandable. Nevertheless, Eliza
Gilkyson (a singer-songwriter), Jim Rigby (Presbyterian pastor), and I
(professor/activist) concocted Last Sunday with the goal of making a
modest contribution to community-building. We knew many people who yearned
for a place to combine interests in progressive politics beyond the
electoral arena, spirituality beyond traditional churches, and music
beyond concerts and bars. So, like politicized, middle-aged versions of
the Mickey Rooney/Judy Garland gang in old MGM musicals, we figured,
"Let's put on a show!"

After a run of Last Sundays (held at Saengerrunde Hall on the last Sundays
of the month, from November 2006 to April 2007), we have taken a break, to
assess the experiment and evaluate feedback. And we've concluded the
project was a great success and a huge failure.

The success came in presenting relevant information, provocative analysis,
and good music to audiences from 300 to 500 people, on subjects ranging
from race relations in our largely segregated city to U.S. domination of
the world. Highlights included a UT-Austin economist's discussion of the
economics of climate change and an explanation by Workers Defense Project
organizers and clients of how immigrant workers are sometimes cheated by
employers out of hard-earned wages.

The failure was that we didn't help the audience become more than an
audience, during or after the event, but in that failure were useful
lessons about contemporary politics. The following observations are drawn
from written suggestions after each event, conversations with people at
Last Sunday, and comments during the discussion at the final gathering in

1) There Is No Choir

Common in progressive circles is the imperative to get beyond "preaching
to the choir." Last Sunday showed the problem with that truism. There is
no choir - if by "choir" we mean organized people facing these cascading
crises with a coherent ideological framework. There is a disparate group
of liberals and leftists with some common policy goals but no common
analysis. At Last Sunday, we weren't claiming to have the grand plan but
simply suggesting that extensive conversation that challenges the
conventional wisdom is necessary.

A few questions sharpen this point: Is corporate capitalism compatible
with real democracy? Can we continue to believe (or pretend) the
Democratic Party is a vehicle for progressive politics? How many who
opposed the invasion and occupation of Iraq are willing to condemn the
bipartisan nature of U.S. empire-building? What kind of future does an
increasingly pornographic culture offer? What is the connection between
the U.S. middle class' consumption and the ecological crisis?

Raise those questions in left/liberal circles, and it's clear that the
members of the choir are singing from dramatically different hymnals.

[There is no choir - I have found this to be true in the left circles I'm
in in the Twin Cities. Very little study of left political theory, of past
US history of ruling class crimes, government repression of the left (eg
COINTELPRO), the systematic betraytal of progressive issues and parties by
Dem pols and hacks... And thus we are MUCH less radical (to the root) than
we should be. -ed]

2) Looking Beyond 'Fun'

While avoiding apocalyptic fantasies, we wanted to confront
not-so-pleasant realities: The U.S. economy is a house of cards built on
deficit and debt, in our so-called democracy the majority of people feel
shut out of policy formation, the Iraq war is not a break from post-World
War II U.S. history but merely a particularly disastrous episode, white
supremacy and patriarchy still structure our hierarchical society, and the
"normal" operation of our society undermines ecosystems' capacities to
sustain life. Living comfortably in the midst of unprecedented first-world
affluence feels like being a drunk waking up after a bender. Gilkyson
captured this in new songs that resonated with folks - "Runaway Train,"
"The Party's Over," and "The Great Correction."

Views vary widely about how dire the situation is and what that means
politically and emotionally, as was captured by two comments during the
final Last Sunday discussion. One person asked whether this kind of
political engagement couldn't be made more fun, a comment that drew both
applause and sighs of frustration; another responded that problems this
serious shouldn't be papered over.

No one suggests that political work - even addressing the grimmest
realities - must be depressing. There can be joy in struggle. After the
final Last Sunday, a young man told me that he wasn't put off by the blunt
talk. "This is one of the few places where I hear people talking about the
way I feel," he said. "It's not about fun - it's about what's happening."

If our systems are unsustainable in economic, cultural, political, and
ecological terms, how do we make confronting that "fun"?

3) The Problem With Solutions

A common complaint about Last Sunday was that it focused too much on
problems, not solutions. That marked another split in the audience between
a) focusing on short-term actions to influence public policy and b)
thinking about more fundamental changes for which there's no short-term

Consider the dual problems of oil - we're running out, and burning what's
left accelerates rapid climate change. A demand for solutions that would
allow us to maintain our lifestyles can lead to the corporate boondoggle
of corn-based ethanol or the hazy illusions around biodiesel, instead of
confronting a troubling reality: There's no viable alternative to
petroleum for an unsustainable, car-based transportation system. So what
are the realistic "solutions," other than to radically curtail the way we
move ourselves about? The fact is that we can't go to some of the places
we now go and can't do some of the things we now do.

Sometimes truly facing a problem is to recognize that it has no solution
without a dramatic refashioning of the context in which we try to solve
it. Some at Last Sunday found that depressing; others said they felt a
sense of relief.

4) Individuals in Systems

Rigby anchored Last Sunday with talks that always managed to bring
together the disparate threads of each event. Drawing on secular
philosophy and theology - avoiding dogma and doctrine - he came back, over
and over, to a basic point: We may be decent people, acting
compassionately in our daily lives, but when we live in unjust
hierarchical systems, being decent day to day isn't enough.

No matter what the specific topic of any Last Sunday, we tried to keep
this in the foreground: We live in an imperial society structured by a
predatory corporate capitalism, with identities shaped by white supremacy
and patriarchy, in a technological fundamentalist society dominated by the
faith that we can invent our way out of an ecological crisis.

Rigby provided Last Sunday's prophetic voice, in the Old Testament sense
of the term, not predicting the future but calling out the corruption of
the society while maintaining faith in humans' ability to reach down to
the better part of our nature, past the greed to the core of a common
humanity. Individual responsibility means not simply doing the best one
can in the world we're given but being willing to take risks to change
that world.

5) A Direction, Not a Destination

This kind of political and spiritual program attempts to suggest a general
direction, not dictate a specific destination. Once we grasp that
capitalism is an unsustainable system, inconsistent with our desire for
democracy and our struggles for solidarity in community, what's the next
step? The Last Sunday answer was: forward. We don't need a fully formed
alternative to capitalism to take steps to create an alternative.
Strengthening unions and fostering cooperatives, challenging corporations'
right to define not only our economy but our identities, demanding a more
just distribution of the world's resources, and reducing our own addiction
to the cheap toys dangled in front of us - all are ways we can act.

And we must keep talking. One of the clearest lessons from Last Sunday is
that many people lack a place to listen, learn, and talk about new ideas.
That was Last Sunday's clearest failure - we never found a formula for
making the gathering more of a conversation than a series of lectures and
performances. Out of a fear of seeing the program devolve into
unstructured talk, we erred toward tight control. But many said the most
successful program was the one that opened up that format for more
interaction in the discussion of climate change. Future efforts have to
better balance people's desire to react and engage with the need to
control a program so that the loud and long-winded don't take over.

The Future of Last Sunday

The consensus at the end of April's gathering was that Last Sunday should
continue. Less clear was how that will happen, how the gathering should be
structured, and toward what end a permanent Last Sunday might be directed.
There are difficult questions unresolved, most notably whether the event
could become more inclusive. Although the program from the stage was
diverse in racial, ethnic, and gender terms, the audience was
disproportionately white, middle-class, and older. Could Last Sunday
become a space that reflects all of Austin? Can we go beyond the groups in
which we feel comfortable?

Last Sunday was an ad hoc project that remained fluid; various people
pitched in to handle the organizing tasks. We deliberately didn't create a
new organization or build a new web site, opting instead to use the
communication tools of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center and the NOWAR e-mail list). Decision-making was
collaborative, in a small group.

The options? Last Sunday could remain ad hoc but with broader
participation, or a formal group could be created to run the event. Or, of
course, the event could end its run, giving way to other forums. The
original conveners don't claim to know the best route, nor do we want to
claim ownership. The event demonstrated people's interest, and now the
task is to figure out whether that interest can be translated into ongoing

Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and
board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center. He is the author
of Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press,
2007); The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege (City
Lights Books, 2005); Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our
Humanity (City Lights Books, 2004); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical
Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang, 2001). He can be
reached at <mailto:rjensen [at]>rjensen [at]

--------15 of 15--------

SICKO, Part One
The Human Tragedy
June 20, 2007

When word got out that Michael Moore was working on a movie with the
working title SiCKO, about the U.S. healthcare industry, the industry went

Memos started shooting around, warning insurance and drug company
executives and representatives to keep looking over their shoulders, to
make sure they avoided being ambushed by Moore and a camera crew. Indeed,
they had something to fear, for they have a great deal of needless misery
and suffering to answer for.

But it turns out that Moore didn't need them after all.

Instead, he's made a movie driven by heart-breaking story after
heart-breaking story. SiCKO presents a devastating indictment of the U.S.
healthcare system by letting victimized patients speak for themselves.

When Moore announced on his web page that he was doing a movie about
outrages in the U.S. healthcare system and was looking for examples, he
was flooded with 25,000 responses.

He profiles Dawnelle, whose 18-month-old daughter Michelle died because
her health plan, Kaiser, insisted Michelle not be treated at the hospital
to which an ambulance had taken her, but instead be transferred to a
Kaiser hospital. Fifteen minutes after arriving at the next hospital,
Michelle died, probably from a bacterial infection that could have been
treated with antibiotics.

Julie, who works at a hospital, explains how her insurance plan refused to
authorize a bone marrow transplant recommended for her cancer-riven
husband. He died quickly.

Larry and Donna, a late-middle-age couple, find that co-payments and
deductibles for treatment after Donna has cancer add up to such a burden
that they have to sell their house and move into a small room in their
adult daughter's house. The day they move into their daughter's house, her
husband leaves to work as a contractor in Iraq.

Moore's camera captures the pain, chaos and forced indignity imposed upon
every day people who do their best to deal with an impossible situation.

Moore's web page announcement also attracted responses from hundreds of
employees in the health insurance industry, explaining how their jobs
forced them to do things of which they were ashamed.

Lee, a former industry employee whose job was to find ways to deny or
rescind coverage for healthcare, explains how hard insurers work to deny
care, searching for any pretense. About denials of care and coverage, he
says, "It is not unintentional. It is not a mistake. It is not somebody
slipping through the cracks. Somebody made that crack, and swept you to

Becky, another industry employee, says through tears that she's a "bitch"
on the phone with clients because she doesn't want to know anything about
their families or personal situations -- that knowledge makes the
inevitable denial of care too hard to stomach.

And Dr. Linda Peeno, a former medical reviewer for Humana, testifies
before a Congressional committee in 1996 that her denial of needed
treatment to a patient led to the patient's death. "I am here," she told
the committee, "primarily today to make a public confession. In the spring
of 1987 as a physician, I denied a man a necessary operation that would
have saved his life and thus caused his death. No person and no group has
held me accountable for this. Because, in fact, what I did was I saved a
company a half a million dollars with this."

With some exceptions, SiCKO's victims aren't people without insurance. As
Moore narrates, the movie is instead about the travails of the 250 million
people in the United States with insurance.

There are some in the movie without insurance, however. A hospital places
a destitute and disoriented woman in a taxicab, which drives away and
literally dumps her on the street, near a shelter.

Rich, who has no insurance, has an accident in which he saws off the tips
of two fingers. He is told sewing the ring fingertip back on will cost
$12,000. The middle finger will cost $60,000. "Being a hopeless romantic,"
Moore narrates, Rich chooses the ring finger.

The publicity for SiCKO says the movie sticks to Michael Moore's
"tried-and-true one-man approach" and "promises to be every bit as
indicting as Moore's previous films."

This is actually somewhat misleading. The approach is a little different.
There's humor, but there aren't many gimmicks in SiCKO. There's no effort
by Moore to confront industry executives. Moore himself has a much smaller
role than in previous films.

It is also a bit deceptive -- as an understatement -- to say SiCKO is as
indicting as Moore's previous films. No matter how big a fan you may have
been of Moore's earlier movies, you'll find that SiCKO cuts deeper and is
more powerful and profound. SiCKO is, by far, his best movie.

This is, simply, a masterful work. It is deeply respectful of and
compassionate towards the victims. It seethes with outrage, but its fury
is conveyed by all of the horrifying stories it presents. The narrative
is, by and large, understated. It overflows with raw emotion, but manages
to explain clearly the systemic imperatives that lead the richest nation
in the history of the world to fail so miserably at delivering healthcare
to all.

Could things be different in the United States?


The second half of SiCKO looks at other countries' healthcare systems, and
finds that national, single-payer insurance delivers far better care. More
on this in my next column.

Sneak previews for SiCKO are being shown around the United States on June
23. The movie opens nationally on June 29. Be ready to be driven to tears
and rage.

Robert Weissman is editor of the Washington, D.C.-based Multinational
Monitor and director of Essential Action.


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