|Progressive Calendar 08.26.09||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Wed, 26 Aug 2009 02:36:10 -0700 (PDT)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 08.26.09 1. Alliant vigil 8.26 7am 2. Tobacco ads/kids 8.26 11am 3. Organize suburbs 8.26 12noon 4. Corridor 8.26 1pm 5. Women's rights 8.26 5pm 6. Basic mending 8.26 6pm 7. Health care 8.26 7pm 8. Gaertner/Fair 8.27 1pm 9. Bachmania/health 8.27 1:45pm 10. Eagan peace vigil 8.27 4:30pm 11. Northtown vigil 8.27 5pm 12. Homes not wars 8.27 5pm 13. Derrick Jackson - Bottled-water scam finally feels squeeze 14. Ralph Nader - Between the rhetoric and the reality 15. Charles Marowitz - "Yes We Can" - but we won't! 16. Chris Hedges - This isn't reform, it's robbery --------1 of 16-------- From: AlliantACTION <alliantaction [at] circlevision.org> Subject: Alliant vigil 8.26 7am Join us Wednesday morning, 7-8 am Now in our 14th year of consecutive Wednesday morning vigils outside Alliant Techsystems, 7480 Flying Cloud Drive Eden Prairie. We ask Who Profit$? Who Dies? directions and lots of info: alliantACTION.org --------2 of 16-------- From: Andy Driscoll <andy [at] driscollgroup.com> Subject: Tobacco ads/kids 8.26 11am TruthToTell - TOBACCO ADS AND KIDS: The Pied Pipers of Death [Tobacco - a typical part of the ruling class -ed] KFAI - 90.3FM-Minneapolis/106.7FM Saint Paul and STREAMING at <http://www.KFAI.org WEDNESDAY, AUGUST 26 - 11:00AM TOBACCO ADS AND KIDS: The Pied Pipers of Death Despite lawsuits and compacts and consent agreements and judgments, tobacco companies continue their all-too-clever marketing ploys peddling death wrapped in paper, directed at our kids and grandkids - the next generation of smokers and another generation hooked on the most powerful drug in the world - nicotine. Every trick in the book is being used to rope our children into the death-dealing addiction. Hear the kids themselves tell the story of their detective work and how Big Tobacco deftly employs the psychology of subtle association and gimmickry. TTT's ANDY DRISCOLL and LYNNELL MICKELSEN talk with young advertising sleuths, an anti-smoking program organizer, an epidemiologist and local policymaker to get to the core of the deceptive ad practices kids encounter when they walk into a retail store and other venues selling smokes. GUESTS: MELVIN CARTER III - St. Paul City Councilmember and sponsor of anti- advertising ordinance that bans imitation tobacco products. KATIE ENGMAN - Tobacco Programs Manager, Association of Nonsmokers' Rights (ANSR) Minnesota RACHEL WIDOME, PhD - Asst. Professor, UofM Department of Medicine/ Epidemiologist, Minneapolis VA; Principal Investigator on study of Point of Sale tobacco advertising and marketing in Ramsey Co. West St. Paul and South St. Paul ROBERTA PERRY and SHANICEE DILLON - Student Assessors of point of sale tobacco advertising in their St. Paul neighborhood. AND YOU! CALL 612-341-0980 Link to Video - Roberta Perry Testimony before the Saint Paul City Council CAN'T GET US OVER THE AIR? STREAM TTT LIVE and LATER --------3 of 16-------- From: Joan Vanhala <joan [at] metrostability.org> Subject: Organize suburbs 8.26 12noon Alliance for Metropolitan Stability Organizer Roundtable: Community Organizing in the Suburbs Organizing in the suburbs of the Twin Cities metro region has its own challenges and rewards. What might work in an urban area may not be a successful strategy in suburban communities. Come discuss specific strategies for organizing with regional leaders who work in the Twin Cities suburbs. Organizer Roundtable: Community Organzing in the Suburbs Noon - 1:30 pm Wednesday, August 26 Alliance for Metropolitan Stability, Minneapolis Our presenters will discuss the successful strategies they have learned and the challenges they have encountered in their suburban organizing work. Come join us to discuss your experiences and hear the stories of your colleagues as we explore the opportunities to create a strong community organizing base in the suburbs. Presenters: Amina Saleh, community organizer at Family & Children's Service, who is organizing the Somali community in Eden Prairie and St. Louis Park Patrick Ness, public policy manager at Catholic Charities Office for Social Justice, who has organized in Edina and other suburbs JoAnn Tesar, executive associate of civic and community engagement at Community Action Partnership of Ramsey & Washington Counties, who is organizing in suburban Ramsey and Washington Counties Organizer Roundtables are free but registration is required. Light snacks will be provided. Please bring your lunch! We hope to see you there! Please contact me with any questions. Joan Vanhala Coalition Organizer Alliance for Metropolitan Stability 2525 E Franklin Avenue, Suite 200 Minneapolis, MN 55406 612-332-4471 joan [at] metrostability.org --------4 of 16-------- From: David A. Greene <greened [at] obbligato.org> Subject: Corridor 8.26 1pm [The whole developer boondoggle project should be quietly put out of its misery. -ed] Met Council chair Peter Bell and the Central Corridor Management Committee (CCMC) are about to break a promise to the community. At a meeting with Wednesday, the CCMC will vote how to use the additional Central Corridor budget room that became available earlier this year when the Federal Transit Administraion adjusted its project evaluation metrics. As many of you know, community groups have been pushing for the missing stations at Hamline Ave., Victoria St. and Western Ave. for years. These stations would serve the most diverse and transit-dependent populations in the city of St. Paul. At several public meetings and hearings, Peter Bell and the CCMC made a commitment that should budget room become available, the FIRST priority would be to build one of the missing stations. Now, it appears that chair Bell is working to ensure that the CCMC breaks this promise. It seems that competing interests from the U and MPR have more priority than a commitment repeatedly given to a community that has lived through past transportation nightmares. It's time for this to STOP! I fully support Central Corridor LRT but this kind of response to the community is abhorrant. The CCMC is meeting Wednesday to decide what to do. Pleaee join me and others and make sure that when our public officials vote on this, they're looking at us in the eye. We'll have signs and stickers available. Wednesday, August 26th, 1:00 p.m. Met Council Robert Street Chambers 390 N. Robert Street, St. Paul David Greene The Wedge, Minneapolis Info about David Greene: http://forums.e-democracy.org/p/davidgreene --------5 of 16-------- From: Erin Parrish <erin [at] mnwomen.org> Subject: Women's rights 8.26 5pm August 26: The Minnesota Constitutional Amendment For Equality Coalition, or the MN CAFE Coalition, including Consortium member groups Minnesota NOW and the Minnesota Women's Political Caucus, invite you to join the effort to put an Equal Rights Amendment to the Minnesota Constitution on the ballot in 2010. Why is this needed? What will this entail? Why now? What are you asking? To answer all of these questions, join them from 5 PM - 8 PM at Fabulous Fern's, 400 Selby Ave, St. Paul to celebrate Women's Equality Day with the MN CAFE Coalition Kickoff. For more information contact Kathleen Murphy. --------6 of 16-------- From: Do It Green! Minnesota <Do_It_Green_Minnesota [at] mail.vresp.com> Subject: Basic mending 8.26 6pm Mark your calendars for our upcoming Do It Green! workshops to be held at our resource center in Uptown, Minneapolis inside the Twin Cities Green retail store at 2405 Hennepin Ave S. Uptown, Minneapolis. No RSVP necessary. $10 donation/Free to Do It Green! Minnesota members Wed, August 26th 6:00- 7:30pm - Basic Mending Techniques - Missing a button? Hole in the sleeve? Pants too long? Bring along a clothing item that needs repair and come learn basic mending techniques for clothing. Presented by the Minnesota Chapter of the American Sewing Guild. Do It Green! Minnesota www.doitgreen.org 612-345-7973 --------7 of 16-------- From: "Krista Menzel (Merriam Park Neighbors for Peace)" <web [at] mppeace.org> Subject: Health care 8.26 7pm The Physician's Perspective Dr. Oliver Fein, President Physicians for a National Health Program with Dr. Elizabeth Frost local family physician. June 17, 2009 7:00 pm St. Catherine University, Whitby Hall, Jeanne d'Arc Auditorium The United States is the richest nation in the world; we spend twice as much as other developed countries on health care and yet our system is in crisis. As Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said: "Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane". This inaugural presentation in the series features Dr. Oliver Fein the national president of Physicians for a National Health Program and local physician Dr. Elizabeth Frost. Both will speak about their experience working with patients and as advocates of health care reform. Physicians for a National Health Program-Minnesota and St. Catherine University are introducing a seven-part series on health care, investigating different forms of inequality and access. Health care is a right, not a privilege; it is an issue of justice when necessary care is unavailable or denied. All events are free and open to the public. Events in this series: Business Perspective: July 15, 2009 Rural Communities and Access: August 26, 2009 Racial Disparities in Care: September 16, 2009 Immigrant Perspective: October 14, 2009 International Perspectives and Solutions: Nov. 18, 2009 Economics of Health Care and Solutions: December 9, 2009 Monthly forums will be held at 7pm on Wednesday evenings at Jeanne d'Arc Auditorium, Whitby Hall, Saint Catherine University, 2004 Randolph Ave., St. Paul, MN 55105 --------8 of 16-------- From: info [at] rnc8.org Subject: "Visit"/Gaertner/Fair 8.27 1pm Susan at the State Fair - Stop by and say hi! "It's a Minnesota Thing," or so the half-baked marketing slogan goes. The Minnesota State Fair is perhaps the biggest event in Minnesota every summer, and Susan Gaertner isn't missing out. We aren't either! Below is Susan's State Fair Schedule. We invite you to show up to her booth and tell her whether you think prosecuting activists is "a Minnesota thing." Thursday 8/27, 1-5 PM at the Education Building, Minnesota County Attorney's Association booth Saturday 8/29, 1-2 PM at the Minnesota Farmer's Union booth, near the DFLbooth Thursday 9/3, 3-4 PM at the DFL booth --------9 of 16-------- From: Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition <info [at] muhcc.org> Subject: Bachmania/health 8.27 1:45pm CONGRESSWOMAN BACHMANN (CD6) TO HOST HEALTH CARE FORUM With special guest, Congressman Michael Burgess, M.D. THURSDAY, AUGUST 27TH Doors open at 1:45 pm Forum runs 2:45 pm to 4:00 pm Oak-Land Junior High School 820 Manning Avenue North, Lake Elmo "Along with my special guest, Congressman Michael Burgess, who practiced medicine before coming to Congress and who sits on one of the House committees with jurisdiction over the health care reform legislation, we'll be discussing the proposals that are making their way through Congress and hearing your thoughts on this important issue. I hope you'll join us for this critical discussion." --------10 of 16-------- From: Greg and Sue Skog <family4peace [at] msn.com> Subject: Eagan peace vigil 8.27 4:30pm PEACE VIGIL EVERY THURSDAY from 4:30-5:30pm on the Northwest corner of Pilot Knob Road and Yankee Doodle Road in Eagan. We have signs and candles. Say "NO to war!" The weekly vigil is sponsored by: Friends south of the river speaking out against war. --------11 of 16-------- From: EKalamboki [at] aol.com Subject: Northtown vigil 8.27 5pm NORTHTOWN Peace Vigil every Thursday 5-6pm, at the intersection of Co. Hwy 10 and University Ave NE (SE corner across from Denny's), in Blaine. Communities situated near the Northtown Mall include: Blaine, Mounds View, New Brighton, Roseville, Shoreview, Arden Hills, Spring Lake Park, Fridley, and Coon Rapids. We'll have extra signs. For more information people can contact Evangelos Kalambokidis by phone or email: (763)574-9615, ekalamboki [at] aol.com. --------12 of 16-------- From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at] gmail.com> Subject: Homes not wars 8.27 5pm Foreclose the War Not People's Homes! Thursday, August 27th @ 5pm @ Rosemary William's home, 32nd Street and Clinton Avenue in Minneapolis As people in the United States like Rosemary Williams fight to keep their homes, the US government continues to fund wars in Afghanistan and Iraq. Join with us as we demand the end of the US occupation of Afghanistan and Iraq and stand in solidarity with Rosemary, her neighbors, and fellow activists as they reclaim her home from GMAC. We say money for housing not for war! Co-sponsored by the Anti-War Committee, sds - U of M, and WAMM. Endorsed by IPAC. --------13 of 16-------- Bottled-Water Scam Finally Feels Squeeze by Derrick Z. Jackson Tuesday, August 25, 2009 The Boston Globe We don't miss the water when the cash runs dry. Bottled water, that is. That refreshing news came recently as Nestle reported nearly a 5 percent drop in bottled water sales in North America and Western Europe. That company bottles water under the familiar names of Poland Spring, Perrier, S. Pellegrino, and Deer Park. Pepsi's Aquafina and Coke's Dasani reported declining or weakening bottled-water sales as well. The president of Pepsi's North American bottling group, Rob King, said in a July conference call, "In just a tough economic environment, one of the first things that a shopper can do is consume tap water as opposed to purchasing bottled water". The sad part is that ending the bottled-water fad took a recession, when common sense should have kicked in long ago. While some bottled water does come from the natural springs and mountain lakes depicted on the labels, most is just municipal tap water - water that is packaged and sold at enormous cost. Two years ago, the Earth Policy Institute estimated that each gallon of bottled water costs $10 a gallon to go from the groundwater to your lips. Each bottle of water kicks the environment twice, first with unnecessary plastic containers and then with the fuel that is burned to transport this heavy liquid load to your door, supermarket, or vending machine. The cost is currently four times the cost of a gallon of regular gasoline. This sham is so ridiculous that the Government Accountability Office, which studied the issue for a House committee, reported this summer that the energy costs of delivering bottled water to a consumer in Los Angeles were 1,100 to 2,000 times more than the energy cost of tap water, depending on how far away the filled bottles traveled. GAO researchers also noted that Americans say they drink filtered or bottled water for health reasons. Nearly half of state officials around the nation report that their consumers believe bottled water is safer than tap water. This obviously cannot be true when the bottled water is tap water. Yet, annual bottled-water consumption more than doubled between 1997 and 2007, from 13.4 gallons a person to 29.3 gallons. Massachusetts requires the source of bottled water to be put on the label, the GAO noted, but more detailed information is hard to come by anywhere. The GAO found that in a review of 83 bottled-water labels, only one label contained limited water-quality or health information. Such information was seemingly available on the Web or by telephone for 34 companies, but the GAO found that 13 of these water-quality reports - more than a third - were incomplete or unclear. The GAO concluded that the Environmental Protection Agency's rules for tap water are generally stronger than the Food and Drug Administration's regulation of bottled water. So much for the illusion that bottled water is healthier than tap water. Meanwhile, the bottles themselves remain a symbol of our wasteful times. Three-quarters of water bottles end up in landfills. In House testimony last month, GAO's director on natural resources and the environment, John Stephenson, said consumers would likely benefit from more information than they can find on the unhelpful labels on bottled water. Then again, if shoppers knew more about the product, they might not buy bottled water at all. In one of the more outrageous examples of bottled-water scamming, the Merced (Calif.) Sun-Star reported in June how the Safeway supermarket chain turns Merced city water into an enormous profit. "In Safeway's case," the newspaper reported, "they pay more than $1,000 a month for more than a million gallons of water. The retail cost for that much-purified bottled water at Safeway is just under $3 million. Safeway would not say how much it costs them to produce their water... Yet Safeway spokeswoman Teena Massingill told the Sun-Star, 'We are providing a product that did not exist previously'". Last I heard, water existed before bottles, and before Safeway. Thankfully, consumers are beginning to remember that, too. Copyright 2009 Globe Newspaper Company. Derrick Z. Jackson can be reached at jackson [at] globe.com. --------14 of 16-------- Between the Rhetoric and the Reality by Ralph Nader Monday, August 24, 2009 CommonDreams.org The Obama White House - full of supposedly smart political advisors led by the President of the "Change You Can Believe In" campaign movement of 2008 - is in disarray. Worse, multiple, confusing varieties of disarray provoking public confusion, internal Democratic Party strife, and the slow withdrawal of belief in Mr. Obama by his strongest supporters around the country. Two of his most steadfast supporters in the mediacolumnists - Paul Krugman and Bob Herbert of the New York Times - are wondering about Mr. Obama's plans. Krugman repeated his fellow Sunday Times essayist Frank Rich's observation who wrote about Obama "punking" his supporters with his waffling, reversals and frequent astonishing adoption of Bush's worst corporatist and military policies. While Bob Herbert, taking to task his political hero for waffling and vagueness regarding health care, issued this reluctant appraisal: "I hear almost daily from men and women who voted enthusiastically for Mr. Obama but are feeling disappointed. They feel that the banks made out like bandits in the bailouts, and that the health care initiative could become a boondoggle. Their biggest worry is that Mr. Obama is soft, that he is unwilling or incapable of fighting hard enough to counter the forces responsible for the sorry state the country is in". There has rarely been a more auspicious time for a transforming Presidential leadership. Disgraced corporate capitalism has shattered the economy. The living conditions of millions of workers and pensioners whose taxes were taken to bail out these Wall Street crooks and gamblers are dismal. Rather than expressing remorse, the arrogant corporate lobbyists are working over Congress with ferocious demands, fueled by cash-register politics and paid Astroturf rallies back in the Congressional Districts. The giant corporations and their trade lobbies want no real health insurance reform that will reduce their monopolies and profiteering. They want no renewable and energy efficient standards interfering with their massive waste, pollution and inefficiency. They want no reductions in the bloated military budget surrounded by the waste, fraud and abuse of what President Eisenhower called the "military-industrial complex" in his farewell warning to the American people. The corporate supremacists want no changes in the deliberately complex and obscure tax laws favoring the corporate evaders and avoiders and the tax havens for the super-wealthy. In short, the global corporations want Washington, D.C.; to continue being their massive deregulator and cash cow perpetuating the abandoning of American workers, the pillaging of the American taxpayer and the defrauding of the American consumer. Forget about corporate law and order to restrain the corporate crime wave. The harmony, bipartisan President Obama and his chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel, have outsmarted themselves. What worked to defeat Hillary Clinton last year has succeeded in splitting the Congressional Democrats into progressives, corporate liberals and Blue Dog Conservatives Republicans can scarcely believe their luck and are busy exploiting these schisms. Rep. Steny Hoyer, the number two House Democrat, undermines his Speaker, Nancy Pelosi's "public option" plan for health insurance. Senator Max Baucus'a closet Republican masquerading as the Democratic Chair of the Senate Finance Committee, is working hand-in-glove with right-wing Republicans and the White House to craft a weak "bi-partisan" bill that keeps getting weaker as the corporatist Republicans sniff increasing weakness in the White House. Meanwhile, in the House of Representatives, the more progressive legislators are accusing their former colleague, Committee Chair, Henry Waxman of selling out to the defiant Blue Dog Democrats on his Committee. While Mr. Waxman himself has to be worried that even his compromised "public option" (which Democrats should be calling "public choice") will be derailed by the bill that the Baucus/Grassley/Obama axis will soon reveal in the Senate. The Obama voters do not know what they are supposed to support. Obama never did identify with a clear health insurance proposal - not to mention the single payer approach (full Medicare for all) he says he would favor if he was "starting from scratch". There has been nothing upstanding for his supporters around the country to rally around. It is sad to say that all this could have been predicted by Obama's political record as an Illinois and U.S. Senator. He rarely has taken a stand and fought against his adversaries. Even after he cuts a deal with them, they continue to undermine his agenda. Once again, Bob Herbert senses the disturbing trend: "More and more the president is being seen by his own supporters as someone who would like to please everybody, who is naive about the prospects for bipartisanship, who believes that his strongest supporters will stay with him because they have nowhere else to go, and who will retreat whenever the Republicans and the corporate crowd come after him". [Well, not me. I was never with him, and I will never go to him. Forget him, as they say. Move on. Begin with third parties and movements in the streets. -ed] Mr. Herbert can speak from authority. He has written many columns over the past 18 months reflecting that "nowhere else to go" attitude. If he is going off the bandwagon, more will follow. Mr. Obama better wake up and pay attention to his base before they either have somewhere else to go or simply stay home. It happened to Clinton in 1994. Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent book is The Seventeen Traditions. --------15 of 16-------- "Yes We Can" - But We Won't! by Charles Marowitz (Swans - August 24, 2009) Obama's Achilles Heel is the notion of bipartisanship. It's an understandable impulse given his community work in Chicago, a context in which compromise and amiability are essential tools in achieving social results. But the United States Senate is not a "community," it is a combination of two exclusive clubs that share the same premises but invariably proceed from different ideologies. Obama's attempt to achieve harmony with these factions, commendable as it may be, doesn't take into account that there is a festering hatred between the members of these rival clubs and no matter how benign their exteriors may be, inside their heads and hearts there is a loathing for the ambitions, principles, and beliefs that motivate both sides. The sudden incursion of mob-rule at Town Hall meetings where members of the Senate have tried to elucidate the features of the Obama Health Plan is the clearest signal we have that a deep-seated bitterness, generated by Republican-groomed hecklers, is out to destroy the medical reforms that Obama first outlined in 2008 and which, given his sweeping election victory, was virtually mandated. The villains here, you may assume, are the lumpenproletariat who, on instructions from Republican strategists, have been provided with "cue cards" by which rational discussion is methodically subverted. And although that is probably true, the greater villainy stems from Obama himself and his liberally-inclined cohorts who believe it is necessary to show the American people that there is some degree of mutual support for the changes clearly enunciated by the president. Instead of deriding the opposition and exposing the vested interests of those who wish to continue to prosper from a medical-styled Ponzi scheme and who refuse to forsake the gigantic windfalls they have been extracting from patients for almost fifty years, a majority of Democrats -- led by their president -- want to effect a coalition between the "needy" and the "greedy." The chemistry behind these machinations stems from the fallacy that dyed-in-the-wool exploiters can be "brought around" by argument -- even when it is consistently demonstrated that sophistry and deception are the weapons being constantly employed. Obama is too Lincolnesque for his own good. (Even Lincoln was able to fire his bungling generals when things got too tough.) Where Obama should be Napoleonic, he is Rooseveltian; where he should be enraged, he is reserved. Where persons have been denounced for allowing torture, he indicts the crimes but not the criminals who perpetrated them. He relies on rhetoric and calls for empathy from people who exploit his weaknesses, deride his moral convictions, and insult his character. There is a breadth of evidence that Vice President Cheney was behind the wrongful dismissal of US Attorneys in 2006; a purge motivated strictly by political considerations, but the president has soft-pedaled on any criminal investigation. In the case of whether illegal methods of torture were employed in Gitmo and elsewhere, Obama's attorney general is tentative and overcautious. The president claims he would rather look towards the future than the past, but if crimes actually occurred in the past, it is the duty of present leaders to expose the instigators of that wrongdoing so that past crimes do not create a precedent for similar transgressions in the future. Or does Obama mean he cannot "out" scoundrels whose votes he may need for future legislation -- which, if this were the reasoning, puts into question the integrity of his own presidency. Does he really believe that the hard-hearted exploiters of human misery -- i.e., the medical profession, the heartless insurance companies, and the mercenary conservatives both in the House and the Senate will ultimately bend to his will and "see the light"? His scruples have blinded him to the harsh realities of American politics where fraud, deception, and self-interest dominate the agenda and determine the outcomes. It is like having a wartime army led by a Boy Scout leader rather than a Patton or an Eisenhower. The politics of the present controversy over universal health care and other noble objectives such as changes in environmental priorities and the dismantling of nuclear arsenals are tough roads to hoe -- especially when tweezers are being employed instead of tractors and pneumatic drills. There is such a thing as being "too good" to recognize the pitched forces of evil that surround you. The deeply-rooted Washington enclave cannot be moved by moral suasion; they are too immoral to do more than wink at scruples and try to evade the fact that they haven't got any. Changes in American politics are not like scoring points in a political debate. It is about formulating a tough agenda and then having the balls to carry it out. "Nice guys," said Leo Durocher of Yankee fame, "always finish last." Let us hope that Obama, reversing Ecclesiastes, will learn to take up his ploughshares and beat them into swords. [This assumes Obama is not just as corrupt, as anti-citizen, as his so-called "enemies". I think they are all birds - vultures - of a feather, a huge orchestration of evil with the single overwhelming intent to steal us blind and then do us in. If so, Obama ain't never gonna "learn" a damn thing - he will play the fool for hire for the whole 4 years, and then the Republicans will retake congress and the Presidency. It will serve us right for not seeing through this charade. -ed] If you appreciate the quality of Charles Marowitz's work, please consider making a donation to Swans. Money is spent to pay for Internet costs, maintenance and upgrade of our computer network, and development of the site. --------16 of 16-------- This Isn't Reform, It's Robbery by Chris Hedges Monday, August 24, 2009 TruthDig.com Percentage change since 2002 in average premiums paid to large US health-insurance companies: +87% Percentage change in the profits of the top ten insurance companies: +428% Chances that an American bankrupted by medical bills has health insurance: 7 in 10 -Harper's Index, September 2009 Capitalists, as my friend Father Michael Doyle says, should never be allowed near a health care system. They hold sick children hostage as they force parents to bankrupt themselves in the desperate scramble to pay for medical care. The sick do not have a choice. Medical care is not a consumable good. We can choose to buy a used car or a new car, shop at a boutique or a thrift store, but there is no choice between illness and health. And any debate about health care must acknowledge that the for-profit health care industry is the problem and must be destroyed. This is an industry that hires doctors and analysts to deny care to patients in order to increase profits. It is an industry that causes half of all bankruptcies. And the 20,000 Americans who died last year because they did not receive adequate care condemn these corporations as complicit in murder. The current health care debate in Congress has nothing to do with death panels or public options or socialized medicine. The real debate, the only one that counts, is how much money our blood-sucking insurance, pharmaceutical and for-profit health services are going to be able to siphon off from new health care legislation. The proposed plans rattling around Congress all ensure that the profits for these corporations will increase and the misery for ordinary Americans will be compounded. The corporate state, enabled by both Democrats and Republicans, is yet again cannibalizing the Treasury. It is yet again pushing Americans, especially the poor and the working class, into levels of despair and rage that will continue to fuel the violent, proto-fascist movements leaping up around the edges of American society. And the traditional watchdogs - those in public office, the press and citizens groups - are as useless as the perfumed fops of another era who busied their days with court intrigue at Versailles. Canada never looked so good. The Democrats are collaborating with lobbyists for the insurance industry, the pharmaceutical industry and for-profit health care providers to craft the current health care reform legislation. "Corporate and industry players are inside the tent this time," says David Merritt, project director at Newt Gingrich's Center for Health Transformation, "so there is a vacuum on the outside". And these lobbyists have already killed a viable public option and made sure nothing in the bills will impede their growing profits and capacity for abuse. "It will basically be a government law that says you have to buy their defective product," says Dr. David Himmelstein, a professor at Harvard Medical School and a founder of Physicians for a National Health Plan. "Next the government will tell us a Pinto in every garage, a lead-coated toy to every child and melamine-laced puppy chow for every dog". "Health insurance is not a race to the top; it is a race to the bottom," he told me from Cambridge, Mass. "The way you make money is by abusing people. And if a public-option plan is not ready and willing to abuse patients it is stuck with the expensive patients. The premiums will go up until it is noncompetitive. The conditions that have now been set for the plans include a hobbled public option. Under the best-case scenario there will be tens of millions [who] will remain uninsured at the outset, and the number will climb as more and more people are priced out of the insurance market". The inclusion of these corporations in the crafting of health care legislation has not stopped figures like Rick Scott, the former head of the Columbia/HCA health care company, from attempting to sabotage any plan. Scott's company was forced to pay a $1.7 billion fraud settlement - the largest health care fraud settlement in U.S. history.for stealing hundreds of millions from taxpayers by overbilling for medical care. Scott, who made his money primarily from Medicare, is now saturating the airwaves in a reputed $20 million ad campaign that is stoking the anger and fear of many Americans. His ads are coordinated by CRC Public Relations, the group that masterminded the "Swift boat" attacks against 2004 Democratic presidential candidate John Kerry. "They are using our money to campaign against us," Dr. Himmelstein told me. "The money for these commercials came from health care interests that collect fees from American patients. We experienced this before in Massachusetts. We ran a ballot initiative for universal health care in 2000 and the insurance industry spent $5 million on it, including the insurance company I am insured by. They used my premiums to smear an idea that 70 percent in Massachusetts, according to polls, favored before this smear campaign. Universal health care was narrowly defeated". The bills now in Congress will, at best, impose on the country the failed model in Massachusetts. That model will demand that Americans buy health insurance from private insurers. There will be some subsidies for the very poor but not for anyone above a modest income. Insurers will be allowed to continue to jack up premiums, including for the elderly. The bankruptcies due to medical bills and swelling premiums will mount along with rising deductibles and co-payments. Health care will be beyond the reach of many families. In Massachusetts one in six people who have mandated insurance still say they cannot afford care, and 30,000 people were evicted from the state program this month because of budget cuts. Expect the same debacle nationwide. "For someone my age who is making $40,000 a year you are required to lay out $5,000 for an insurance premium for coverage that covers nothing until you have spent $2,000 out of pocket," Himmelstein said. "You are $7,000 out of pocket before you have any coverage at all. For most people that means you are already bankrupt before you have insurance. If anything, that has made them worse off. Instead of having that $5,000 to cover some of their medical expenses they have laid it out in premiums". The U.S. spends twice as much as other industrialized nations on health care - $7,129 per capita - although 45.7 million Americans remain without health coverage and millions more are inadequately covered. There are 14,000 Americans a day now losing their health coverage. A report in the journal Health Affairs estimates that, if the system is left unchanged, one of every five dollars spent by Americans in 2017 will go to health coverage. Private insurance bureaucracy and paperwork consume one-third, 31 percent, of every health care dollar. Streamlining payment through a single nonprofit payer would save more than $400 billion per year, enough, Physicians for a National Health Plan points out, to provide comprehensive, high-quality coverage for all Americans. But the proposed America's Affordable Health Choices Act of 2009 (H.R. 3200 in the House) will, rather than cut costs, add an estimated $239 billion over 10 years to the federal deficit. This is very good for the corporations. It is very bad for us. The lobbyists have, as they did with the obscene bailouts for banks and investment firms, hijacked legislation in order to fleece the citizen. The five largest private health insurers and their trade group, America's Health Insurance Plans, spent more than $6 million on lobbying in the first quarter of 2009. Pfizer, the world's biggest drug maker, spent more than $9 million during the last quarter of 2008 and the first three months of this year. The Washington Post reported that up to 30 members of Congress from both parties who hold key committee memberships have major investments in health care companies totaling between $11 million and $27 million. President Barack Obama's director of health care policy, who will not discuss single-payer as an option, has served on the boards of several health care corporations. Obama and the congressional leadership have shut out advocates of single-payer. The press, including papers such as The New York Times, treats single-payer as a fringe movement. The television networks rarely mention it. And yet between 45 and 60 percent of doctors favor single-payer. Between 40 and 62 percent of the American people, including 80 percent of registered Democrats, want universal, single-payer not-for-profit health care for all Americans. The ability of the corporations to discredit and silence voices that represent at least half of the population is another sad testament to the power of our corporate state. "We are considering a variety of striking efforts for early in the fall," Dr. Himmelstein said, "including protests outside state capitals by doctors around the country, video links of conferences in 70 or 80 cities around the country, with protests and potential doctors chaining themselves to the fence of the White House". Make sure you join them. Copyright 2009 Truthdig, L.L.C. Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Truthdig.com. Hedges graduated from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books, including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on America. His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle. >From shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu Wed Aug 26 04:07:58 2009 Date: Wed, 26 Aug 2009 00:33:51 -0500 (CDT) From: David Shove <shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu> To: David Shove <shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu> Subject: The Widening Gap In America.s Two-Tiered Societyby Emily Spence / August 25th, 2009 (fwd) The Widening Gap In America's Two-Tiered Society by Emily Spence / August 25th, 2009 Americans, particularly ones from the middle class, need to realize that there are no core entitlements imparted by their government representatives, nor any other sources. They have none and should adjust their expectations accordingly. If the U.S. populace somehow imagines that its members are viewed any differently than any other populations across the world that are used to produce maximal profits for the top economic class, there's a rude awakening in store ahead. Further, most legislators simply do not care whether middle and lower class interests are or aren't well served as long as they, themselves, can somehow make out well in the times ahead. Besides, why should any Americans feel that they deserve to be treated more favorably by the transnational moneyed elites and their government backers than their counterparts across the rest of the world? As A. H. Bill reminds: "The richest 225 people in the world today control more wealth than the poorest 2.5 billion people. And the three richest people in the world control more wealth than the poorest 48 nations". Occasionally someone making a staggering amount of money in a crooked sort of way might raise a few officials' eyebrows or induce a mild reprimand. In addition, he might, occasionally, be singled out as the token fall guy so as to be made into a warning example as was Bernie Madoff. Most of the time, though, no action is usually undertaken to correct the situation when directors of major companies carry out activities that are, obviously, right on or over the edge of fraudulent practices. As Barak Obama, perhaps hypocritically, chastened, "Under Republican and Democratic administrations, we failed to guard against practices that all too often rewarded financial manipulation instead of productive and sound business practices. We let the special interests put their thumbs on the economic scales". Yet, he, himself, showed no hesitation during his election campaign over collecting $40,925 from the bailout fund recipient and nearly bankrupt investment house Bear Stearns, $161,850 from the bailout fund recipient and mortgage underwriter Morgan Stanley, as well as benefits from countless other institutions that have received government favors at taxpayers' expense. As such, it's hard in actuality to deliver more than just a mild verbal rebuke about these organizations' modus operandi if one picks up a personal windfall from not meddling. Thus, the financial corruption continues at all levels of government. A case in point is the self-serving oil trader Andrew Hall. His relationship with Citigroup's (C.N) Phibro energy-trading unit brought him approximately $100 million in 2008 despite that his parent company registered a net deficit of $18.7 billion for the same year and received $45 billion in TARP funds. However, it's been pointed out that he could moderately adjust his current level of gain and continue to maintain the same procurement pattern if he manages to stay out of the limelight. If he follows this plan in the near future, his earnings and bonuses won't likely duplicate the $250 million personal compensation that he'd received in the past five years. Yet, he could still make out quite well all the same! In any event, one has to question such lavish rewards considering that Citigroup suffered a 95% loss of its share value since 2007 in relation to which Phibro "occasionally accounts for a disproportionate chunk of Citigroup income". At the same time, the U.S. government will shortly be the owner of 34% of this company. Put more bluntly, is Andrew Hall's personal prosperity and propensity to add to his private art collect the best use of taxpayers' funds? As long as he's a lavish beneficiary, would he care if they weren't? As the economist John Kenneth Galbraith once suggested: "The salary of the chief executive of a large corporation is not a market award for achievement. It is frequently in the nature of a warm personal gesture by the individual to himself". Naturally, Andrew Hall aims to keep such a cozy arrangement intact. Besides, his personal take is relatively inconsequential. It's a mere pittance contrasted to the almost two and a quarter billion dollars grand total - roughly $2,217,800,000 - that the top ten U.S. business moguls collectively grossed as their own recompense in 2008.1 At the same time, it cannot not be expected, in a market based economy, that political influence is not also a purchased commodity. Clearly, opinions are bought and sold just as easily as are any other products and services with payment being campaign funds, such as Obama's, from big industry - offers of high paying future jobs and other lavish advantages dangled as bait. On account of this kind of shady deal, tax subsidies connected to executive pay amounted to $20 billion in 2008 according to United for a Fair Economy (UFE) and Institute for Policy Studies. (Imagine if this money, instead, were allocated towards improvements in public education, provision of a universal heath-care plan or any number of other programs that could uplift the American public as a whole.) During the same period, average CEO pay, at $10.54 million, was 344% higher than typical worker pay. This disparity, also, is generally indicative of a trend that increasingly funnels wealth upward rather than having it more equitably distributed across class lines. Another sign of this ascendant drift can be found in the change between the first Forbes 400 report (1982) and its 2008 version. In 1982, an entrepreneur only needed slightly more than $100 million dollars to get on the list. By 2008, he wouldn't be in the top 400 unless he'd garnered at least $1.3 billion. In other words, so much more wealth shot upward in the last twenty years that $100 million now is almost viewed as chump change in comparison to the new top gains. In addition, Congressional reports have indicated that widespread tax avoidance tricks, like use of overseas banks that do not report amounts to the IRS, have cost taxpayers more than $2 billion annually. Certainly, these lost moneys could well be used to help people less fortunate. For example, the hidden $2 billion could be used to create job training programs for any of the one in nine Americans currently forced to rely on food stamps as an alternative to starvation. To be eligible for such aid, a family of four, for example, has to have no more than $2,389 as its gross monthly income or 130% of the official poverty level and no more than $1,838 net monthly income or 100% of the poverty level. (There are few deductions and exceptions to the requirements allowed, along with limits for owned property value imposed, that further determine whether one meets qualifications.) In other words, a typical household of four cannot receive this help if the gross income for the foursome exceeds $28,668 annually and, for an individual, the gross not to be surpassed is $14,088. Additionally, recipients cannot have a great deal of assets with a clearly defined, too high level of worth. As such, they have to be nearly broke across the board. Meanwhile, it's clearly disgraceful that more than 27,651,388 Americans are so extremely poor they require food assistance to try to make ends meet. Even that help, though, is often not enough to prevent further poverty and many folks are unable to avoid outright destitution across the so-called wealthy U.S.A. So next, they lose their homes. and they lose them in droves. The huge portion of Americans who do so are staggering: While the number of U.S. foreclosure filings climbed by more than 81% in 2008, the total is still sharply rising in 2009. In relation, 300,000 homes foreclosed per month from March to May in 2009 and 1.8 million homes represented the anticipated total for the first half of the year. With such a backdrop, one out of every 398 homes received a filing in April and a whooping 6.4 million homes are anticipated to be in foreclosure by mid-2011. Simultaneously, a record number of individuals, also, applied for bankruptcy. In a similar vein, the jobless rate, despite some minor dips downward, is still seemingly on the rise. Therefore, the current number of out of work adults could well exceed 20% if all of the hopeless ones, who are no longer collecting unemployment benefits and who gave up looking for opportunities, are added into the mix. Moreover, they will not be able to jump-start the economy so long as they cannot find work, and especially work at a living wage. After all, how can anyone make lots of purchases or take out bank loans if he has no reasonable income? So it follows that even more retail and wholesale stores, along with banks, will go belly up. At the same time, the supply side of the market, itself, has created labor troubles. This is because goods have been overproduced. Consequently, there is overstock piled high in warehouses and shipping containers across the world ready to resume its path to the market once the spending reinitializes. However, spending cannot resume as long as the money has largely flowed to the top economic tier and away from average former and low wage workers, who can not expect to have decent paying jobs to create more goods until the current product glut diminishes. In other words, consumers can't buy much when money's tight and work won't be provided when there's an oversupply of merchandise largely produced in second world sweatshops whose workers are paid so little that they hardly can put food on their own tables let alone make many more extravagant purchases - ones like toothpaste, soap and shampoo. Besides, they, too, face employment opportunities diminishing because worldwide sales are down for many of the products that, previously, their companies too copiously produced. Concurrently, the bailouts, oriented towards fixing the credit side of the equation, are not addressing these sorts of supply side problems. Therefore, they will not keep the financial collapse from worsening. Alternately put, TARP and other payoffs to the self-serving, unconscionable banksters and Wall Street high rollers largely responsible for the downturn will not produce an abundance of jobs. So the reasonable salaries, ultimately needed to buy the wares to cause industrial output to resume, won't materialize any time soon. It's rather simple to understand, really. So why don't Ben Bernanke and his colleagues seem to notice that massive job loss, itself, needs to be addressed posthaste? Why hasn't a public works program been initiated? Why don't they grasp that the act of offshoring all kinds of American jobs to maximize profits at the top tier does not ensure that products will be avidly snapped up by a greatly unemployed and underemployed public? Since they, apparently, don't understand, the downturn, with a few small upward twists, will remain in its plunging slide, which in turn will create further layoffs. All the while, the uber-wealthy and their corporate supporters, such as most members of Congress, will continue to pamper themselves with capital largely derived from struggling taxpayers and massive loans that raise the federal deficit. More to the point, how could the slump not last when the affluent elites gamble away huge fortunes comprising of their own and others' money while manufacturing bubbles and Ponzi schemes in the process? How could anything change when they keep amassing more and more assets for themselves while indifferent to their impact on society as a whole? Such practices as theirs, obviously, cannot sustain the American middle and under classes and it cannot buoy up the utmost bottom rung either. On account, scores of individuals of all ages continue to wind up in tent cities or ensconced on public park benches. (Supposedly, families with children represent the fastest growing subset of the homeless population in the U.S.A. at present and the average age of a homeless person is nine years old.) When the upper-crust keeps getting richer by taking an ever greater portion of the overall wealth and government schemes assure that the process continues, nearly everyone else becomes increasingly cash poor. When every now and then big investors suffer hefty losses, the government steps in to shore them up again and again. However, this practice, clearly, does not help the populace in general. The evidence that it does not can be seen everywhere across the American landscape and the entire world. It follows, then, that, "in the United States, wealth is highly concentrated in a relatively few hands. As of 2004, the top 1% of households (the upper class) owned 34.3% of all privately held wealth, and the next 19% (the managerial, professional, and small business stratum) had 50.3%, which means that just 20% of the people owned a remarkable 85%, leaving only 15% of the wealth for the bottom 80% (wage and salary workers). In terms of financial wealth (total net worth minus the value of one's home), the top 1% of households had an even greater share: 42.2%.., according to G. William Domhoff, a sociology professor at University of California at Santa Cruz.2 Another way to measure the shift in wealth is by noting some of the corporate trends, themselves. As Sarah Anderson and John Cavanagh, at the Institute for Policy Studies, point out: 1. Of the 100 largest economies in the world, 51 are corporations; only 49 are countries (based on a comparison of corporate sales and country GDPs). 2. The Top 200 corporations' sales are growing at a faster rate than overall global economic activity. Between 1983 and 1999, their combined sales grew from the equivalent of 25.0 percent to 27.5 percent of World GDP. 3. The Top 200 corporations. combined sales are bigger than the combined economies of all countries minus the biggest 10. 4. The Top 200s' combined sales are 18 times the size of the combined annual income of the 1.2 billion people (24 percent of the total world population) living in "severe" poverty. 5. While the sales of the Top 200 are the equivalent of 27.5 percent of world economic activity, they employ only 0.78 percent of the world's workforce.3 Especially exemplifying this type of corporate immensity is the Wal Mart company. For example, the Walton heirs have a collective worth of around $65 billion and over 1.7 billion shares, or 43%, of Wal Mart stock in addition to earning $29 billion off the stock price rise alone from November 2007 to June 2008. Meanwhile, the Waltons pay their jean laborers in Nicaragua approximately $1.50/ day. Simultaneously, their average U.S. workers are given wages of about $12,000/ annum causing a full one half of Wal Mart's 720,000 employees to qualify for food stamps. At the same time, the clearly exploitive Wal Mart business model is considered an unqualified success - one that should be more often duplicated across the board. After all, it shows the capitalistic free market with its best possible outcome - profits beyond imagination and the American Dream come true (for the few who manage to take unfair advantage of the actual wealth producers)! Perhaps, though, the best way to look at the new arrangement between citizens, State and the rising corporate structures is through this superlative summation by Benito Mussolini: The corporate State considers that private enterprise in the sphere of production is the most effective and useful instrument in the interest of the nation. In view of the fact that private organisation of production is a function of national concern, the organiser of the enterprise is responsible to the State for the direction given to production. State intervention in economic production arises only when private initiative is lacking or insufficient, or when the political interests of the State are involved. This intervention may take the form of control, assistance or direct management.4 Even if Benito Mussolini's position has an alarmingly familiar ring to it, no one still should expect U.S. legislators to create laws any time soon that would enact tax code changes in order to remove subsidies that encourage overpayment to executives and that cost taxpayers $20 billion a year. Indeed, nobody should expect any major changes at all that would level the financial playing field, remove a sense of economic injustice or bring back jobs and reasonable wages to the American people. As Joel H. Rassman, Toll Bros. CFO in 2006, explained about CEO Robert I. Toll's $20 million compensation while shareholders were suffering a 22% loss: "I have yet to meet the person who has enough money". Like Toll, a majority of Congressional representatives, of whom many are multi-millionaires, apparently imagine that they never have quite enough for themselves and justify their dodgy choices accordingly. They, also, know who butters their bread and it surely is not the increasingly impoverished average U.S. citizens, who continue to be the indirect victims of corporate rapacity and pathetic corporate oversight by executives and Congressmen alike. In relation, one wonders when a significant number of Americans will, finally, recognize that they've been had. Put another way by Andrew Greeley: "It should be no surprise that when rich men take control of the government, they pass laws that are favorable to themselves. The surprise is that those who are not rich vote for such people, even though they should know from bitter experience that the rich will continue to rip off the rest of us. Perhaps the reason is that rich men are very clever at covering up what they do". This explanation in mind, we need not worry as much about the terrorists from abroad as the terrorists from above and the duped voters who repeatedly fall for political candidates pandering to this broadly malignant upper class. The latter bunch and their sycophantic legislative admirers, more than any foreign guerrillas, are leading the world's wealthiest nation into ever deeper ruin. .Top CEO collected $702 mln in 2008,. Yahoo! News. [.] .Who Rules America: Wealth, Income, and Power.. [.] CorpWatch, .Top 200: The Rise of Corporate Global Power.. [.] Benito Mussolini, Fascism: Doctrine and Institutions (Rome, .Ardita. Publishers, 1935): 133-135. [.] Emily Spence can be reached at: EHSpence [at] aol.com Read other articles by Emily, or visit Emily's website. This article was posted on Tuesday, August 25th, 2009 at 9:01am and is filed under Banks/Banking, Capitalism, Class, Corporate Globalization, Economy/Economics, Labor. 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