Progressive Calendar 08.26.09
From: David Shove (
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

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From: AlliantACTION <alliantaction [at]>
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:

--------2 of 16--------

From: Andy Driscoll <andy [at]>
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

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

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

 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

--------3 of 16--------

From: Joan Vanhala <joan [at]>
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.

 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]

--------4 of 16--------

From: David A. Greene <greened [at]>
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:

--------5 of 16--------

From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>
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]>
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 612-345-7973

--------7 of 16--------

From: "Krista Menzel (Merriam Park Neighbors for Peace)" <web [at]>
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]
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
 Thursday 9/3, 3-4 PM at the DFL booth

--------9 of 16--------

From: Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition <info [at]>
Subject: Bachmania/health 8.27 1:45pm

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

"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]>
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]
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]

--------12 of 16--------

From: Meredith Aby <awcmere [at]>
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

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

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]

--------14 of 16--------

Between the Rhetoric and the Reality
by Ralph Nader
Monday, August 24, 2009

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

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

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

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

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

--------16 of 16--------

This Isn't Reform, It's Robbery
by Chris Hedges
Monday, August 24, 2009

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

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

"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

"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 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] Wed Aug 26 04:07:58 2009
Date: Wed, 26 Aug 2009 00:33:51 -0500 (CDT)
From: David Shove <shove001 [at]>
To: David Shove <shove001 [at]>
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

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

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

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

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
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

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] 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. ShareThis


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