Progressive Calendar 09.07.09
From: David Shove (
Date: Mon, 7 Sep 2009 00:37:28 -0700 (PDT)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   09.07.09

1. End of growth/CTV 9.07 10am
2. Ellison/lobby     9.07 1pm
3. Health care       9.07 2pm
4. Woody Guthrie/PBS 9.07 9pm

5. NWN4P vigil       9.08 4:45pm
6. Iran/CTV          9.08 5pm
7. New Dignity Party 9.08 6pm
8. RNC court watch   9.08 6pm
9. Poetry man        9.08 6:30pm
10. $$$/medicine     9.08 6:30pm
11. Fresh/film       9.08 7pm
12. Amnesty Intl     9.08 7pm

13. Anya Achtenberg  - Writing explorations: the essence of story
14. Peace&FreedomPty - New national challenge to Dems & Reps
15. David Sirota     - Progressives pay for confusing party with movement
16. Kip Sullivan, JD - Public option catch-22'd by chicken & egg problem
17. David M Green    - After Obama
18. Gary Corseri     - The day capitalism died  (poem)

--------1 of 18--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: End of growth/CTV 9.07 10am

Catch a special cablecast on Minneapolis Neighborhood Network (MTN, Channel

"Wes Jackson: Greening the Economy, Preparing for the End of Growth"

Monday, 9/7 @ 10.00 am
Thursday, 9/10 @ 5.30 pm
Friday, 9/18 @ 8.30 am &
Wednesday, 9/23 @ 3.30pm

Co-founder of the Land Institute in Kansas and named by Rolling Stone mag
as one of the top 100 people changing America, Wes Jackson keynotes the
2009 MN Chapter of the Society for Conservation Biology's annual meeting.

Jackson thinks that the way the people of the world are fed can and should
be more sustainable. Jackson is working to transform staples like wheat,
sunflower and sorghum into perennial crops, eliminating the need for
plowing and replanting, and minimizing the use of fertilizers. Farms can
be transformed from industrial factories into natural ecosystems. 1hr14m.

--------2 of 18--------

From: Philip Lowe <bearbudmn [at]>
Subject: Ellison/lobby 9.07 1pm

Rep. Keith Ellison has his Labor Day BBQ on Labor Day (of course),
September 7th at 1:00pm on Boom Island, 723 Sibley Street in Minneapolis,
MN.  Email: matt [at] .  Phone number: 612-522-4416.

A good opportunity to speak up in favor of health care reform.

--------3 of 18--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
Subject: Health care 9.07 2pm

MN Rally for Health Care Reform
Monday, September 7 2:00 PM
Minnesota State Capital (Saint Paul, MN)
state capital
Announced by Obama, so don't go with high expectations.

--------4 of 18--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
Subject: Woody Guthrie/PBS 9.07 9pm

MON.SEPT. 7, 9pm/SUN.SEPT.13, 1pm
WOODY GUTHRIE, populist folk artist's life

--------5 of 18--------

From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at]>
Subject: NWN4P vigil 9.08 4:45pm

NWN4P vigil every Tuesday.
Corner of Winnetka and 42nd Avenues in New Hope. 4:45 to 5:45 PM.
All welcome; bring your own or use our signs.

--------6 of 18--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Iran/CTV 9.08 5pm

Perceptive St. Paul Neighborhood Network (SPNN) viewers:
"Our World In Depth" cablecasts on SPNN Channel 15 on Tuesdays at 5pm,
midnight and Wednesday mornings at 10am, after DemocracyNow!  All
households with basic cable may watch.

Tues, 9/8, 5pm & midnight and Wed, 9/9, 10am
Iran: What Lies in the Future?
Guest: Professor William Beeman, Chair of Anthropology at the U of Minnesota

Professor Beeman speaks in depth about Iran, the country perhaps most
scrutinized by pundits in the US media and yet a nation whose history,
politics and culture is still not well known or understood.  Learn about
current cultural changes happening there as well as Iran's complex
political structure.  (8/09)

--------7 of 18--------

From: William McGaughey <2wmcg [at]>
Subject: New Dignity Party 9.08 6pm

New Dignity Party is a new political party founded in Minnesota this year.
It is running candidates for three positions in the 2009 Minneapolis city
election:  mayor (Bill McGaughey), park board at- large commissioner (John
Butler), Board of Estimate and Taxation (Jim Swartwood).  A vigorous
campaign is promised.

The party's first public meeting will be held on Tuesday, September 8,
between 6:00 and 8:00 p.m. in the large meeting room of the North Regional
Library, 1315 Lowry Ave. N. in Minneapolis.  It will include an open and
full discussion of the party's principles.

New Dignity Party offers a different package of issues than other
political parties.  While issues relating to the economy may be most
important to the American people, there seems to be no way that an
effective opposition can be developed to the plutocracy that has emerged
in recent years. Discussion of economic questions has become too polarized
and fixed in ideologically hardened positions.  Congress, once bought,
will not likely be persuaded by logic or public need. Neither do the
social/cultural issues - abortion, gun control, gay marriage, etc. - offer
much hope of political redemption.

Part of the problem is that we have lost faith in ourselves.  We need
therefore to take another look at ourselves and, if dissatisfied with what
we see, decide how to reframe our identity.  At the present time, this may
be a more urgent concern for white people than for racial minorities.
The race problem continues to fester and will likely not improve unless
the culture is substantially changed.  But the question of identity is
broader than this. On it may depend whether a full- functioning democracy
can be restored.

Actually, New Dignity Party embraces a package of three sets of concerns.
As its web site,, reveals, they are expressed:

(1) We aspire to establish a new paradigm in the politics of identity.
(2) We would rein in powers assumed by local governments without the
consent of the governed.
(3) We lament the decline of honest journalism as big media companies
shape the news along certain lines.

The second point refers primarily to abuse of inspections in Minneapolis.
Examples of such abuse are well-documented at the website,  The third refers primarily to the Star Tribune

It should be evident that this new party will not flinch from tackling
controversial issues or challenging powerful interest groups.  The meeting
on September 8 should elicit a lively discussion.  All interested persons
are welcome to attend.

--------8 of 18--------

From: Do'ii <syncopatingrhythmsabyss [at]>
Subject: RNC court watch 9.08 6pm

RNC Court Watchers are in need of participants to help with organizing
court information, documentation and etc.  RNC Court Watchers Meetings are
every Tuesday, 6 P.M. at Caffeto's. Below is announcement for our

Preemptive raids, over 800 people arrested, police brutality on the
streets and torture in Ramsey County Jail. Police have indiscriminately
used rubber bullets, concussion grenades, tasers and chemical irritants to
disperse crowds and incapacitate peaceful, nonviolent protesters. The
RNC-8 and others are facing felonies and years in jail. We must fight this
intimidation, harassment and abuse!

Join the RNC Court Solidarity Meeting this coming Tuesday at Caffetto's to
find out how you can make a difference in the lives of many innocent

Caffetto's Coffeehouse and Gallery (612)872-0911 708 W 22nd Street,
Minneapolis, MN 55405
Every Tuesday @ 6:00 P.M to 7:00 P.M
participate and help organize RNC court solidarity.
For more information, please contact: rnccourtwatch [at]

--------9 of 18--------

From: patty <pattypax [at]>
Subject: Poetry man 9.08 6:30pm

Tuesday, Sept. 8 is poetry night.  Bring your own poems, bring your
favorite poet's poems, or just come to listen to others read.

Pax Salons ( )
are held (unless otherwise noted in advance):
Tuesdays, 6:30 to 8:30 pm.
Mad Hatter's Tea House,
943 W 7th, St Paul, MN

Salons are free but donations encouraged for program and treats.
Call 651-227-3228 or 651-227-2511 for information.

--------10 of 18--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
Subject: $$$/medicine 9.08 6:30pm

TUE. SEPT. 8, 6:30 pm
based on Maggie Mahar's acclaimed book, "Money-Driven Medicine: Why
Health Care Costs So Much (Harper/Collins) .
Merriam Park Library
1831 Marshall,Ave., St. Paul
More info: (612)624-5020

"MONEY-DRIVEN MEDICINE," the powerful new documentary on the
medical-industrial complex, produced by Academy Award-winner Alex Gibney
("Taxi to the Dark Side";  "Enron: The Smart Guys in the Room") and now
available on DVD from California Newsreel ("UNNATURAL CAUSES").

MONEY-DRIVEN MEDICINE helps dispel the myths about what's really driving
the cost and quality of American health care.  PBS' Bill Moyers said,
"MONEY-DRIVEN MEDICINE is one of the strongest documentaries I have seen
in years and could not be more timely.  The more people who see and talk
about it, the more likely we are to get serious and true health care

--------11 of 18--------

From: Stephanie Bates <Stephanie.Bates [at]>
Subject: Fresh/film 9.08 7pm

FRESH Film Event
Tuesday, Septembrer 8th at 7pm
Holy Trinity Lutheran Church
2730 East 31st Street, Minneapolis

FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America
who are re-inventing our food system.  Forging healthier, sustainable
alernatives, they offer a practical vision for the future of our food and
our planet.  FRESH addresses an ethos that has been sweeping the nation
and is a call to action America has been waiting for.

Among several main characters, FRESH features urban farmers and activist
Will Allen, the recipient of MacArthur's 2008 Genius Award, sustainable
farmer and entrepreneur Joel Salatain, made famous by Michael Pollan's
book "The Omnivore's Dilemma:" and supermarket owner David Ball, changing
our Wal-Mart dominated economy.

Join us beforehand for a Minnesota Meal, a potluck of locally-grown foods
at 5:30pm.  Please bring a dish to share.

--------12 of 18--------

From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at]>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 9.08 7pm


Join other Amnesty members and friends for a casual, agenda-free social
meetup on the second Tuesday of each month. Free flowing conversation
about our shared interests. Common Roots Cafe, 2558 Lyndale Ave S.,
Minneapolis MN 55405. Beer, wine, coffee, and food available. If the
weather cooperates, we'll be outside on the deck. Look for an Amnesty logo
or ask for Gabe.

For a map, directions, and more info on Common Roots Cafe, visit their web

--------13 of 18--------

From: Anya Achtenberg <aachtenberg [at]>
Finding the Real Story: an exploration of the essential elements of story

for both fiction and nonfiction writers

Join us for 10 sessions of intensive exploration of the essential elements
of writing story, and for work on shaping these elements to embody the
deeper truths and powerful emotions which move us into writing. We will
work to explore the mystery of human behavior in story form, and develop
ways to deepen characterization. We will work to discover plot - rather
than be constricted by it. We will tap into the power of the visions and
voices of our narrators and characters, and the mix of truth and fiction
that creates a world both imagined and deeply real. We will explore
narrative summary, active scene and dialogue, the workings of subtext; the
power of your story's context, the technique of simultaneity; dialogue;
the music of prose; the story's metaphor; revision. Begin new stories and
discover ways to complete old ones in an atmosphere both supportive and
challenging, with in-class and at-home writing explorations, and feedback
aimed at helping each participant understand the scope of their own work.

10 Wednesdays, beginning early fall, 7:00-9:30 pm. Fee: $300.
Lake Street and 39th Avenue South, Minneapolis, above the Blue Moon Cafe.
For registration and more information, contact Anya at
aachtenberg [at] or 651.214.9248.
See her website at

"Anya is a master teacher. Her grasp of world writers and of craft allows
her to liberate this knowledge, so that we can learn to wield the pen with
power."  -Demetria Martinez, novelist, poet, memoirist, journalist

--------14 of 18--------

Peace and Freedom Party: "New National Challenge to Democrats and
September 6th, 2009
Posted at

Announcing its intention to challenge the Democrats and Republicans in
2010, a national organizing effort to build a new electoral party of the
left has announced its interim leadership and basic unity statement. Debra
Reiger of Sacramento, who also serves as North State Organizer of the
Peace and Freedom Party, is the Interim Chair of the National Organizing
Continuations Committee (NOCC). The committee was empowered to coordinate
the multi-state effort at the National Organizing Conference held on
August 1 in San Francisco. The Interim Secretary is Georgia Williams of
Fresno, who also serves as Secretary of the Peace and Freedom Party State
Central Committee.

"We oppose rule by the wealthy and their corporations" says Reiger. "Their
bloody wars, their exploitation of workers, their oppression of working
people and dissidents at home and abroad continue no matter which
big-money party holds office. We are working to build a national slate of
candidates for Senate, House of Representatives, and other offices in the
2010 elections - and that's just a start."

Williams comments that "Some people claim the Democrats are socialists.
This is ridiculous. It becomes clearer every day that the Democrats are
capitalists who serve the corporations and their wealthy owners. The NOCC
serves as an umbrella organization for people and organizations who think
the working people of our country should own the goods and services they
produce and run the economy."

Welcoming the participation of existing organizations, the NOCC unity
statement describes the coalition as "multi-tendency" and "non-sectarian."
"We are building the umbrella organization that will enable a broad range
of left activists to run for office," explains Reiger.

For further information, contact: Debra Reiger by email or by phone at
(916) 698-8131

Unity Statement, as adopted August 9, 2009 by the National Organizing
Continuations Committee (NOCC)

We agree that the Republican and Democratic parties through which the
United States ruling class and its corporations exercise political power
do not and cannot represent the working people of our country. The
interests of working class people require that these parties be challenged
from the left by an independent party based in the working class.

It is our intention to form a multi-state multi-tendency non-sectarian
electoral organization committed to democracy, socialism, feminism,
environmentalism and racial equality. We oppose discrimination based on
sexual and gender orientation, immigration status, and all other barriers
used to divide us. We oppose all U.S. wars, occupations and interventions.
We seek broader ballot access for left candidates and campaigns.. We
support and actively help fight for a democratic and militant union

Our immediate goal is to qualify for the ballot a broad national slate of
candidates for the Senate and the House of Representatives, as well as
other offices, in the 2010 elections. We expect this work to further the
goal of bringing a left alternative to the voters nationwide, to represent
the struggles of working people and all the exploited and oppressed for
improved conditions and for real power over their own lives and the future
of our country. We see this electoral initiative as being directly linked
to organizing struggles in the workplaces, schools, and communities.

--------15 of 18--------

Progressives Pay the Price for Confusing a Party With a Movement
By David Sirota
September 4, 2009

The difference between parties and movements is simple: Parties are loyal
to their own power regardless of policy agenda; movements are loyal to
their own policy agenda regardless of which party champions it. This is
one of the few enduring political axioms, and it explains why the
organizations purporting to lead an American progressive "movement" have
yet to build a real movement, much less a successful one.

Though the 2006 and 2008 elections were billed as progressive movement
successes, the story behind them highlights a longer-term failure.
During those contests, most leaders of Washington's major labor,
environmental, anti-war and anti-poverty groups spent millions of dollars
on a party endeavor - specifically, on electing a Democratic president and
Democratic Congress. In the process, many groups subverted their own
movement agendas in the name of electoral unity.

The effort involved a sleight of hand. These groups begged their grass-
roots members - janitors, soccer moms, veterans and other "regular folks"
- to cough up small-dollar contributions in return for the promise of
movement pressure on both parties' politicians.  Simultaneously, these
groups went to dot-com and Wall Street millionaires asking them to chip in
big checks in exchange for advocacy that did not offend those fat cats'
Democratic politician friends (or those millionaires' economic privilege).

This wasn't totally dishonest. Many groups sincerely believed that
Democratic Party promotion was key to progressive movement causes. And
anyway, during the Bush era, many of those causes automatically helped
Democrats by indicting Republicans.

But after the 2008 election, the strategy's bankruptcy is undeniable.

As we now see, union dues underwrote Democratic leaders who today obstruct
serious labor law reform and ignore past promises to fix NAFTA. Green
groups' resources helped elect a government that pretends sham "cap and
trade" bills represent environmental progress. Health care groups
promising to push a single-payer system got a president not only dropping
his own single-payer promises, but also backing off a "public option" to
compete with private insurance. And anti-war funding delivered a Congress
that refuses to stop financing the Iraq mess, and an administration
preparing to escalate the Afghanistan conflict.

Of course, frustrated progressives might be able to forgive the groups
that promised different results, had these postelection failures prompted
course corrections.

For example, had the left's pre-eminent groups responded to Democrats'
health care capitulations by immediately announcing campaigns against
these Democrats, progressives could feel confident that these groups were
back to prioritizing a movement agenda. Likewise, had the big anti-war
organizations reacted to Obama's Afghanistan escalation plans with
promises of electoral retribution, we would know those organizations were
steadfastly loyal to their anti-war brand.

But that hasn't happened. Despite the president's health care retreat,
most major progressive groups continue to cheer him on, afraid to lose
their White House access and, thus, their Beltway status. Meanwhile, The
New York Times reports that has "yet to take a clear position
on Afghanistan" while VoteVets' leader all but genuflected to Obama,
saying, "People [read: professional political operatives] do not want to
take on the administration."

In this vacuum, movement building has been left to underfunded (but
stunningly successful) projects like, Democracy for
America, the Progressive Change Campaign Committee and local
organizations. And that's the lesson: True grass-roots movements that
deliver concrete legislative results are not steered by marble-columned
institutions, wealthy benefactors or celebrity politicians - and they are
rarely ever run from Washington. They are almost always far-flung efforts
by those organized around real-world results - those who don't care about
party conventions, congressional cocktail parties or White House soirees
they were never invited to in the first place.

Only when enough progressives realize that truism will any movement - and
any change - finally commence.

--------16 of 18--------

The "chicken and egg" problem: Can the "public option" succeed where
Prudential failed?
By Kip Sullivan, JD

In a previous paper I described the transformation of the "public option"
from an enormous program that would insure 130 million people to a tiny
program in the Democrats' health "reform" legislation that will insure
somewhere between zero and 10 million people. I predicted that the
"options" in the Democrats' bills would be unable to succeed in all or
most markets in the country. I characterized the main barrier facing the
Democrats' shrunken "options" as a "chicken and egg" problem: A person or
group trying to create a new insurance company can't tell prospective
customers what the premium will be until they have determined how much
they will pay providers; but the person or group can't know how much it
will pay providers until it knows how many people it will insure.

In this comment I elaborate on this chicken-egg barrier by presenting an
illustration of the barrier at work - the departure of the Prudential
Insurance Company from the Minnesota managed care health insurance market
in 1994. Although Prudential was (and still is) a huge Fortune 500
company, it was unable to survive Minnesota's highly concentrated group
health insurance market and was forced to withdraw. If a company as large
and as experienced as Prudential could not crack the Minnesota market, why
should we hold out any hope for the little "options" proposed by the

        A recap of the transformation of the "public option"

Jacob Hacker laid out his vision of what is now called "the public option"
in papers published in 2001 and 2007.  Hacker spelled out five criteria he
believed the "option" had to meet:

(1) It had to be pre-populated with tens of millions of people;

(2) Only "option" enrollees could get subsidies (people who chose to buy
insurance from insurance companies could not get subsidies);

(3) The "option" and its subsidies had to be available to all non-elderly
Americans (not just the uninsured and employees of small employers);

(4) The "option" had to be given authority to use Medicare's provider
reimbursement rates (which are typically 20 percent below the rates paid
by insurance companies); and

(5) The insurance industry had to offer the same minimum level of benefits
the "option" had to offer.

Although I question some of the assumptions Hacker made in these papers,
including his assumption that the "option" will inevitably enjoy
Medicare's low overhead costs, I have little doubt that an "option" which
met Hacker's five criteria would stand an excellent chance of surviving
its start-up phase in most markets in the U.S. (I am ignoring here the
question of whether an "option" as strong as Hacker's original has a
better chance of being enacted than a single-payer system does. Events of
the last few months should disabuse the entire world of that myth.)

But when the Democrats drafted legislation early in 2009 that included
provisions creating an "option," they abandoned the first four of Hacker's
criteria and kept only the last one (the one requiring insurance companies
and the "option" to cover the same benefits). Proponents of the "option,"
including Hacker, did not raise a fuss about this. Not surprisingly, the
"option" provisions of the bills introduced in July - one by the Senate
Health, Education, Labor and Pensions (HELP) Committee and the other by
the chairs of the three House committees with jurisdiction over health
care reform - were basically unchanged from those in the draft versions.
The Congressional Budget Office estimates the HELP Committee's "option"
will insure approximately zero people and the "option" in the House bill
(HR 3200) will insure roughly 10 million people.

    The advent of managed care augmented the chicken-egg problem

Prior to the advent of what came to be called "managed care," an
entrepreneur or group seeking to start a new insurance company only needed
to focus on amassing a large number of customers as opposed to providers
(clinics and hospitals). But with the advent of managed care in the 1980s,
groups seeking to start a brand new insurance company also had to amass a
supply (or "network") of clinics and hospitals as well. Some insurers
amassed this critical supply of providers by buying them out (or merging
with them), but most did so by signing contracts with them.

This new provider-network requirement for market entry arose because the
spread of managed care tactics meant that survival and success would go to
the insurance company with the greatest ability to exert influence over
providers. Insurance companies throughout the country sought to increase
their influence over providers by limiting patient choice of provider so
that they could steer their enrollees to fewer providers. Developing this
power to steer more patients to some providers and away from others gave
an insurance company two substantial advantages over an insurance company
that did not do that. First, it gave the insurer the ability to force the
providers they dealt with to give them discounts off their usual charges.
Second, it enhanced the power of the insurer to force providers to play by
the insurer's "managed care" rules (for example, rules requiring providers
to get permission from the insurer before hospitalizing a patient).

But creating a network of providers that is large enough to satisfy a
widely dispersed customer base but still exclusive enough to give the
insurer leverage over the in-network providers is a time-consuming and
expensive process. This requirement gives an enormous advantage to the
home team - the insurers that have been doing business for a long time in
a given market - and, conversely, creates an enormous barrier to
entrepreneurs seeking to create new insurance companies.

When the U.S. Department of Justice investigated a proposed merger between
Aetna and Prudential in 1999, it concluded that "effective new entry for
an HMO or HMO/POS [point-of-service] plan [that is, an insurance company
that limits patient choice of provider] in Houston or Dallas typically
takes two to three years and costs approximately $50 million". Because
insurance markets have become more concentrated in the decade since the
DOJ published this report, the time and money required to break into
today's markets is even greater than that required a decade ago.

Insurance companies which failed to grasp this new rule of the managed
care era - that success will depend not only upon the size of your
customer base but also your ability to limit patient choice of provider -
lost market share and many went out of business. The decision by
Prudential Insurance Company to leave the highly concentrated Minnesota
health insurance market in 1994 illustrates this trend.

      Prudential's departure from Minnesota's group market

As of 1994, Minnesota's four largest health insurance companies insured 80
percent of all Minnesotans who had health insurance of any sort. Blue
Cross Blue Shield of Minnesota enrolled 1.33 million people, Medica
enrolled 900,000, HealthPartners enrolled 650,000, and PreferredOne
enrolled 450,000. Two of these insurers - Medica and HealthParters - were
so powerful in the Twin Cities area they could extract discounts from Twin
Cities hospitals that were approximately equal to Medicare's (at that
time, a discount of about one-third). They extracted these discounts not
because they were as big as Medicare was (nationally Medicare insured 40
times more people than Medica did in 1994 and about 55 times as many as
HealthPartners), but because they were big in the Twin Cities insurance
market and, unlike Medicare, they made a point of limiting patient choice
of provider. This meant they could exercise enormous leverage over the
providers they did choose to deal with.

Even though Prudential was and still is a huge company nationally (it is a
Fortune 500 company and is among the nation's largest health insurance
companies) and had been selling health insurance for decades, it did not
react fast enough to the gradual spread of managed care tactics in
Minnesota during the 1970s and 1980s. (Minnesota, along with California,
led the nation down the managed care path.) By 1994 Prudential decided it
couldn't compete in the Minnesota market.

Prudential made its decision known on July 8, 1994. As the following
excerpt from a Minneapolis Star Tribune article published the next day
indicates, Prudential had established a toehold - it was well on its way
to creating both a customer base and a provider network - but the toehold
wasn't enough.

"Prudential Insurance Co. said Friday that it will discontinue its Twin
Cities managed care health plan due to intense competitive pressures.
Eighty metro-area jobs will be eliminated... While Prudential... is now in
42 cities, only the Twin Cities market posed a particular problem and will
be shut down...

"Prudential Plus of Minnesota operates mainly in the Twin Cities and deals
with 800 primary care physicians and 1,500 specialists. Nationwide, the
managed care plan has 5 million members. Regardless, Prudential did not
grow large enough or fast enough in the Twin Cities market to maintain a
substantial lead, analysts said. The firm was easily overshadowed by
heavyweights such as HealthPartners and Medica... And these bruisers and
others like them are merging or forming alliances that kept welterweights
like Prudential Plus on the ropes. Gary Schultz, executive director of
Prudential Plus of Minnesota, said, "Recent mergers, acquisitions and
strategic alliances involving health care plans and providers... have
combined to make it increasingly difficult to compete in this market

"Prudential only has 30,000 (members) in the Prudential Plus plan,"
[Prudential marketing director Pat] McLaughlin said. "They are not the big
player they needed to be and as a result may not have been able to
negotiate the best deals with providers" (Dee DePass, "Prudential to
discontinue managed care health plan," Star Tribune, July 9, 1994,
1D).[end quote]

An article in BNET reported an identical explanation for Prudential's
demise in Minnesota: "A Prudential spokesperson said the clout of its
bigger competitors had made it difficult to recruit a critical mass of new
employers and enrollees".

                 Lessons for "option" advocates

This story illustrates three facts "option" advocates must address.

First, it clearly illustrates the "chicken and egg" problem facing the
"option" program, or to be more precise, facing the corporations that will
be hired by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services
to create the "option" program. (Both the HELP bill and HR 3200 authorize
the Secretary to contract with corporations that the HELP bill calls
"contracting administrators" for the purpose of creating the "options"
throughout the U.S.) The contracting administrators are going to have to
build up provider networks and a customer base from scratch,
simultaneously, and market by market, even though they will suffer the
disadvantage of entering the insurance business long after the insurance
companies they are competing with began introducing themselves to
customers and cobbling together their own provider networks.

Second, this story should put the entire country on notice that the
"option" may never be able to deliver on the promise, made over and over
by "option" advocates, that the "option" will offer complete freedom to
choose one's doctor and hospital. If the contracting administrators who
create the "options" around the country refuse to create "options" that
limit enrollees' choice of provider, those "option" programs will have
less power to drive provider rates down. That means, of course, those
"option" programs will have to set their premiums higher than existing
insurers that do limit patient choice of provider. That will in turn make
attracting a critical customer base very difficult if not impossible.

The third fact the Prudential story illustrates is that the size of an
insurer at the national level is not an important factor in decisions by
clinics and hospitals about whether to sign contracts with an insurer and
whether to give that insurer discounts. What matters to clinics and
hospitals is size at the local level. Minneapolis hospitals, for example,
could have cared less whether Prudential insured 20,000 people in Tulsa or
half-a million in Florida. (Size at the national level does have some
bearing on whether an insurer can extract discounts from drug and
equipment manufacturers' But drugs and equipment amount to roughly 15
percent of medical costs for the non-elderly. It is clinic and hospital
costs that make or break an insurance company.)

The "chicken and egg" problem is, of course, not limited to entrepreneurs
trying to break into the Minnesota market. The conditions that create the
"chicken and eggd" problem - high concentration levels within the
insurance industry and near-universal use of managed care tactics
including limited choice of provider - exist throughout the country. As
Senator Charles Schumer (D-NY) said in a press release about a May 2009
report from Health Care for America Now, the entire U.S. health insurance
industry suffers from "extreme... consolidation". According to the HCAN
report, eleven states have more concentrated insurance markets than
Minnesota does.

 "Option" advocates should stop comparing the "option" to Medicare

To test your understanding of the "chicken and egg" problem, let me end
with a pop quiz:  Did Medicare face a "chicken and egg" problem when it
started up?

The answer is:  No, it did not.  It did not because it didn't have to
create a "customer" base from scratch. Its base was created by the law
(signed on July 30, 1965) that created Medicare.

Medicare is, by design, the sole insurer for people over age 64. That
means that Medicare's administrators had a precise idea of how many
Americans they would be representing on July 1, 1966, the day Medicare
commenced operations. Equally importantly, every clinic and hospital in
America had a good idea of how many elderly patients they would be getting
if they participated in Medicare and, conversely, how many they would lose
(and how much money they would lose) if they refused to accept Medicare
patients. And because the Medicare law gave the nation's entire elderly
population - the portion of the population with the greatest need for
medical care - to Medicare, Medicare's administrators had a good idea of
how much leverage they had on day one over the nation's providers. This
allowed them (eventually) to make an offer to America's providers that the
providers could not refuse - accept Medicare's below-average rates or lose
a lot of money. The offer was not refused. Today, virtually all American
clinics and hospitals accept Medicare enrollees even though there is no
requirement in the Medicare statute that providers accept Medicare
enrollees. In short, having pre-established enrollment, which in turn gave
Medicare the ability to set its rates below those of the insurance
industry, meant that Medicare did not face the "chicken and egg" problem.

More importantly, Medicare didn't face a "chicken and egg" problem because
it has always been the single insurer for the services covered under
Medicare. Medicare has never had to compete with the insurance industry
for "customers".  A pernicious consequence of the tendency of "option"
advocates to describe the "option" as "just like Medicare" is that "public
option" supporters and members of Congress have been lulled into thinking
the "option" is bound to succeed just as Medicare did. The tendency of
"option" advocates to ignore the daunting "chicken and egg" problem is one
manifestation of the lazy thinking that has been induced by the constant
comparison of the "option" to Medicare.  "Option" advocates should stop
comparing the "option" to Medicare.

Kip Sullivan is a member of the steering committee of the Minnesota
chapter of Physicians for a National Health Program.  He is the author of
The Health Care Mess: How We Got Into It and How We'll Get Out of It
(AuthorHouse, 2006).

PNHP welcomes comments on its blog by its physicians and medical student
members, and other health professionals active in the movement for single
payer national health insurance. Comments by other readers are welcomed
but may not be posted.

--------17 of 18--------

After Obama
By David Michael Green
September 4, 2009

Eight months into it, it now seems pretty clear that the Obama
administration is finished.

There were some of us - indeed, many of us, myself included - who thought
there was a possibility that Barack Obama might seize this moment of
American crisis, twinned with the complete failure for all to see of the
regressive agenda, to become the second coming of Franklin Roosevelt.

Many think that was a nalve position from the get-go. I disagree. Not
only do I believe that it was a legitimate possibility, I would argue that
it was the logical choice even just from the narrow perspective of Obama's
personal fortunes. The president is every day committing political suicide
by a thousand cuts because he chose not to take that track.

That's certainly his prerogative, and at this point I wish him all the
worst of luck in whatever comes next. Since I never assumed he would be a
progressive once elected, any bitterness that I feel is not rooted in his
failure to become the new FDR. However, I am irate that, in domain after
domain, President Obama has become the personification of the very Bush
administration policies that Candidate Obama so roundly criticized. And I
feel deep hostility toward him about the betrayal of legions of voters -
especially the young - who believed his message of hope and thought they
were getting a president on their side, not Wall Street's.

More on that in another column. Right now, the question is what comes
next? The Obama presidency is probably already toast, though of course
anything can happen in three or seven years. But he is on a crash course
for a major clock cleaning and, what's worse, he doesn't seem to have it
remotely within him to seize history by the horns and steer that bull in
his preferred direction. Indeed, near as I can tell, he doesn't even have
a preferred direction.

Obama was complete fool if he ever believed for a moment that his campfire
kumbaya act was going to bring the right along behind him.  Even s'mores
wouldn't have helped. These foaming-at-the-mouth lunatics have completely
lost all sense and proportion, and were bound to viscerally hate any
president left of Cheney, let alone some black guy in their white house.
Meanwhile, centrist voters in this country seem pretty much only to care
about taxes and spending, and so he's lost them, too, without the
slightest rhetorical fight in his own defense.  And he's blown off a solid
progressive base by spitting in their eyes at every imaginable
opportunity, beginning with the formation of his cabinet, ranging through
every policy decision from civil rights to civil liberties to foreign
policy to healthcare, and culminating with his choice not to even mobilize
his email database in support of his policies.

So if he's lost the left, right and center, just who does he think is
going to be clamoring to give him a second term three years from now,
especially if the economy remains lousy for most people in the country, as
it's likely to do regardless of GDP or Dow Jones growth?

There is the possibility that Obama could change course significantly,
just as Bill Clinton did in 1995, following the mid-term election in which
his most astute political stewardship managed to turn both houses of
Congress over to the Republican Party. But Clinton turned to the right and
became just a less snarly version of the Republicans, while Obama is
already there. I don't really think he could conceivably turn further
rightward at this point, and I don't think he has anywhere near the guts
to turn to the left and do what he should have done in the first place.

What all this suggests to me is that Obama and his party will manage by
2012 to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory and return the GOP - and
probably an even nastier version of it than the Bush-Cheney junta, at that
- to power. It suggests that the Democrats, who were riding high six
months ago over an all but destroyed Republican Party, will be switching
places with them within three years time, if not sooner - and all because
of their own cowardice, corruption and ineptitude. This outcome is hardly
inevitable, but it is fast approaching. Looking out over the horizon, I
see five key factors most likely to effect the health and longevity of the
Obama administration, and not one of them looks positive.

The eight-hundred pound gorilla rummaging around in the kitchen right now
is the economy. Indeed, this factor alone could readily swamp the combined
effect of all the others, particularly if it swings dramatically in one
direction or another. My guess, as a non-economist (which, of course, only
means that I have a better shot at an accurate prediction than the
economists do), is that the economy will exhibit some substantial signs of
growth over the next three years. But I suspect the recovery will be
tepid, even according to establishment measures such as GDP growth or the
state of the Dow. More importantly, I strongly suspect that this will be
another jobless recovery, like the last ones we've had, and that the new
mean standard of living for the middle class will be pretty mean indeed,
significantly diminished compared to what people were already struggling
to hold on to when the Great Recession began. Personally, I think if
American history teaches us anything at all about presidential elections,
it is that for an incumbent president this is more or less the worst
possible scenario imaginable upon which to go asking the public to punch
his ticket again. Americans vote their pocketbook, and that alone is
likely to be the kiss of death for Obama's second term aspirations.

Meanwhile, of course, he's also chosen to put healthcare reform on the
table as the signature legislative initiative probably of his entire
presidency. That's fine, but watching him in action I sometimes wonder if
this clown really and actually wants a second term. I mean, if you had
asked me in January, "How could Obama bungle this program most
thoroughly?", I would have written a prescription that varies little from
what we've observed over the last eight months: Don't frame the issue, but
instead let the radical right backed by greedy industry monsters do it, on
the worst possible terms for you. And to you. Don't fight back when they
say the most outrageous things about your plan.  In fact, don't even have
a plan. Let Congress do it. Better yet, let the by-far-and-away-minority
party have an equal voice in the proceedings, even if they ultimately
won't vote for the bill under any circumstances, and even while they're
running around trashing it and you in the most egregious terms. Have these
savages negotiate with a small group of right-wing Democrats, all of them
major recipients of industry campaign donations. Blow off your base
completely. Cut secret sweetheart deals with the Big Pharma and Big
Insurance corporate vampires. Build a communications strategy around a
series of hapless press conferences and town hall meetings, waiting until
it's too late to give a major speech on the issue. Set a timetable for
action and then let it slip. Indicate what you want in the bill but then
be completely unclear about whether you necessarily require those things.
Travel all over the world doing foreign policy meet-and-greets. Go on
vacation in the heat of the battle. Rinse and repeat.

Altogether, it's an astonishingly perfect recipe for getting rolled, so
much so that I'm not the first person to have wondered out loud if that
was actually the president's intention all along. Look at this freaking
fool. Now look at the guy who ran a letter-perfect, disciplined, textbook,
insurgent, victorious campaign for the White House. Can they possibly be
the same person? And, since they obviously are, is there possibly another
explanation for this disaster besides an intentional boot? I dunno. But
what I do know is this. Obama's very best-case scenario for healthcare
legislation right now represents a ton of lost votes in 2010 and 2012. And
the worse that scenario gets, the worse he and his party do. But even a
"success" in the months ahead will produce a tepid bill, a mistrustful
public, an inflamed and unanswered radical right, and a mealy-mouthed new
government program that doesn't even begin to go online until 2013.  A
real vote-getter that, eh?

Which brings us to a third major electoral liability for Obama. Human
beings, by and large, like to be led. They like their leaders to inspire
their confidence - even when doing so takes the form of the most
fantastically shallow dress-up kind of blowhard buffonery, àla George W.
Bush - so that they don't have to think too much about how little personal
confidence they themselves actually possess. Obama is the complete
antithesis of this model of the presidency. He is Harry Reid's incontinent
grandmother as president. He is Neville Chamberlain's squirrely little
nephew knocking shit over in the Oval Office while he plays "Mr.
President", in-between episodes of SpongeBob SquarePants. He is a bowl of
Jell-O. That someone forgot to put in the fridge. He exhibits no
competence as a chief executive. He inspires no confidence as a national
leader. And, increasingly, his credibility is coming into question. Who
wants to vote for that?

A related problem is that he loves to flash that big toothy grin of his
right before his venomous adversaries knock his choppers back into his
head. I'm trying to imagine what a wimpier president would look like, and
having a very hard time coming up with an answer. I'm trying to imagine
how the regressive right could possibly bathe their country's president in
a more acidic pool of vitriol, and I'm having a difficult time topping
their assertions that he's out to kill the elderly while simultaneously
indoctrinating grade-schoolers into the ranks of the Revolutionary
Spartacist League. I'm trying to conceive of how vacant a White House
could possibly be of any whiff of push-back against these assaults, and I
can't quite envision it. Maybe if they went out and did some real scandals
and filmed it all as a gift for the GOP? Perhaps they could dig up Vince
Foster's body and murder him all over again, this time on video? Or they
could hire Ken Starr to just run amok in the White House for a few years,
looking for anything remotely juicy? But could Obama's Keystone Kops even
do a scandal properly? I'm not sure, but I'm pretty confident the public
is losing trust in this guy as their Big Daddy Protector. Who in America
would vote for this eunuch to be in charge of keeping their little
suburban Happy Meal-stuffed brats safe from tawny evil-doers with bad

As if all that weren't enough, Obama is probably also sitting on several
national security powder kegs - including Guantanamo, which he is unlikely
to close; Iraq, which he is unlikely to leave; and Afghanistan, which he
is unlikely to win. The latter in particular has now become his war, and
lately it is smelling a lot like Vietnam, circa 1964. An decades-long
struggle against a popular nationalist adversary. Endless calls from the
Pentagon for more troops. Incredibly inhospitable terrain for fighting a
war. An American-made puppet government hated for its corruption and for
its gross incompetence at every task other than raw predation. Mmmm-mmm.
What a yummy stew.  Haven't dined on that fine cuisine since 1975. And
what another great vote-getter to add to this sorry list, eh?

Put it all together and it's pretty hard to see how Obama gets a second
term. Which can mean only one thing: We're looking at a Romney or a Palin
or some sort of similar monster as the next president, despite the fact
that their party was absolutely loathed only a year ago, and actually
still is today. It won't matter. People will be voting against the
incumbent, not for any candidate, and that will leave only one viable
choice, especially for centrist and right-wing voters. Whoever wins the
Republican nomination will be the next president, crushing Obama in the
general election (assuming he survives the Democratic primaries). And
that's a particularly scary notion, since the party's voting base who will
make that choice in the Republican primaries is the same crowd you've seen
featured all this summer at town hall meetings. Olympia Snowe is not going
to be the Republican nominee in 2012. Know what I mean?

So the question then becomes, what next? What happens after Obama?

I see two possible general paths going forth from that point - one bad,
and one worse. The bad path would involve a frustrated but essentially
beaten-into-submission public oscillating between incompetent Republican
and Democratic administrations, turning one after the other out of office
- not on ideological grounds, but instead seeking any change that has the
possibility of stanching the empire's hemorrhaging wounds. This would look
a fair bit like Japan or Britain does today. The former just replaced its
government and the latter will likely do so next spring. But I don't think
either of these major party shifts are really ideological in nature, and I
don't think either new government is likely to be hugely different from
the one it succeeded.

But Americans seem to me especially piggish critters these days, and the
benign model that is sufficient to placate disgruntled citizens of
long-lost empires may not suffice to soothe the savage soul of Yanquis
still deep in the process of watching theirs crumble around their feet.
That moves us from the bad path to the worse. Given what the American
public is capable of happily countenancing during relatively flush times
(can you say "Reagan"? "Bush?), imagine what could happen when spoiled
Baby Boomers go to the polls under conditions approaching the 1930s.

Such a crisis could conceivably entail a sharp turn to the left, and in
every rational country certainly would. But this is America. We pretty
much don't go anywhere near socialism, at least not overtly, and in any
given decade - especially the recent ones - we're lucky to get away with
anything less than creeping fascism. Moreover, elections are almost always
reactions to the status quo. Since Obama is ridiculously - but
nevertheless widely - perceived as a liberal, the reaction is all the more
likely to involve a sharp turn to the right in response.

Under this scenario, anything portside of Torquemada would be buried alive
if not annihilated, and the next regime would likely be one that could
make Dick Cheney shudder. And that's the happy side of the equation. If
history is any guide, a nifty (not so) little war could only be right
around the corner, for the helpful purpose of jump-starting the economy,
crushing the domestic opposition, and distracting the public from that
pesky nuisance once affectionately referred to as "reality".

I don't want to lay odds on which of these outcomes is the more likely,
but I feel pretty confident, I'm sad to say, that any happier scenario is
considerably less likely than either of these. For a lot of reasons,
America's near-term future looks bleak to me, and this country - which
already has a remarkable tendency to make dangerously foolish and
sickeningly selfish political choices - is altogether too likely to do
something that would make the Bush years look like a scene from a Norman
Rockwell canvas by comparison.

This tragedy, if it comes, will have many sires who share responsibility
for driving America from Republican red to fascist black. But on that list
must certainly be included the powder blue of the effete Obama
administration that came in between.

Rahm Emanuel once famously averred that "You never want a serious crisis
to go to waste. And what I mean by that is an opportunity to do things you
think you could not do before."

I don't really believe that corporate-controlled fascism is what he had in
mind when he said that.

But, who knows? Maybe that's exactly what he was thinking.

Or - perhaps most likely of all - maybe nobody at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue
is doing much thinking whatsoever these days.

Author's Bio: David Michael Green is a professor of political science
at Hofstra University in New York.  He is delighted to receive readers'
reactions to his articles (dmg [at], but regrets that
time constraints do not always allow him to respond. His website is

--------18 of 18--------

The Day Capitalism Died
by Gary Corseri
September 5th, 2009
Dissident Voice

 I forgot to pay my phone bill
 So they shut off my phone.
 So when I saw the Terrorist
 Assembling his bomb
 I couldn't make the call
 To Homeland Security.
 So the bomb went off
 Under powerful noses
 That harrumphed and snorted
 We were under attack
 By alien forces
 Only absolute curtailment
 Of freedom of speech
 Would win ultimate victory
 (After the obligatory
 Twilight struggle)
 So they closed all the schools
 And sent the kids packing
 To watch real-time and re-runs
 Of "American Idol,"
 Certain of congealing
 Public opinion
 For the sake of supporting
 Whatever the judges
 Judged worthy of judging.
 Meanwhile, back at the piazza,
 On reality TV,
 Someone killed someone
 In real life,
 While the cameras were rolling,
 But everyone forgave him
 Because he was a good team player
 Who just really wanted,
 For the good of the team,
 To win one for the Gipper.
 The President gave a speech and said
 We should all lend a hand
 And we would get through it
 Because we are Americans
 And that's what we do.
 Somebody launched
 A nuclear missile
 Straight at Iran
 Which then sank some ships
 That blocked up the Gulf.
 Gas shot up
 To ten bucks a gallon
 And half the stooges
 At the town hall meetings,
 Happy with their insurance,
 (And to hell with the rest of us!)
 Died of swine flu anyway
 (And the other half died
 Of the vaccines),
 But so did a lot of glaze-eyed kids
 In the middle of voting for
 Their "American Idol".

 The stock market crashed
 Just like '29,
 It took wheelbarrows of bucks
 To buy Coca Cola
 And the radio nuts
 Blamed it all
 On Mexican liberals
 Crossing our borders.

 I've been wondering lately
 Should I pay off my bills?
 But I haven't decided
 Whose side I'm on!
 Am I with 'em
 Or agin 'em,
 Am I blue state or red,
 Am I better off hoping
 Or better off dead?

 This world's a delusion,
 A junkie's chimera,
 A vampire's kiss
 Hissing in a cavern,
 Pissing in the wind.
 For the sake of a dollar,
 A ribboned medallion,
 We die for our country,
 Kill for sweet liberty
 As defined by,
 As circumscribed by,
 As constrained by,
 Straight-jacketed by
 Power and fear,
 Glory and cupidity.

 Maybe heaven
 Is about starting over
 With a fresh deck
 Where the dice aren't loaded.
 Maybe it's helping
 Where it's most needed,
 With nothing ulterior,
 Truth out in the open.

 Hail, Mary, full of grace.
 Hail, Caesar,
 We who are about to die
 Salute you
 Heil! Heil! Heil!

Gary Corseri has had his work published at Dissident Voice and hundreds of
other venues, performed at the Carter Presidential Library, had dramas on
Atlanta-PBS and elsewhere. He has taught in prisons and universities. His
books include Holy Grail, Holy Grail, A Fine Excess, and Manifestations
(edited). He can be reached at: gary_corseri [at]


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