|Progressive Calendar 09.18.09||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Fri, 18 Sep 2009 06:46:42 -0700 (PDT)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 09.18.09 1. Foreclosures/KFAI 9.18 11am 2. Palestine vigil 9.18 4:15pm 3. Tornado event 9.18 5:30pm 4. Linda dinner 9.18 6pm 5. Kline/health?? 9.18 6:30pm 6. Jensen/roundtable 9.18 6:30pm 7. Metaphysical igloo 9.18 7pm 8. Brecht/war/film 9.18 7:15pm 9. Moyers/conservatism 9.18 9pm 10. Anya Achtenberg - Writing class: finding the real story 11. Howell/Kane - Foreclosures, loans 12. Benjamin Dangl - Justice follows direct action 13. Joshua Frank - Baucus: slick swindler behind the health care bill 14. Stephen Lendman - USCensusBureau: poverty & uninsured up, income down --------1 of 14-------- From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Foreclosures/KFAI 9.18 11am NOTE: TUNE IN Friday Sept. 18, 11am, as KFAI's CATALYST & NORTHERN SUN NEWS (aka Hour of People Power!) team up for KFAI's special series of programs on solutions to poverty in our communities "Strive to Thrive" (funded by the NW Area Foundation). Hear from grassroots activists with MN-PPEHRC/MN Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign and the Coalition for a People's Bailout. A growing movement of eviction resisters and economic recovery from the ground up. [See item #11 below] KFAI 90.3 fm Mpls 106.7 fm St. Paul Live-streaming and archived online for 2 weeks after broadcast on each show's page at http://www.kfai.org --------2 of 14-------- From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at] riseup.net> Subject: Palestine vigil 9.18 4:15pm the weekly vigil for the liberation of Palestine continues at the intersection of Snelling and Summit Aves in St. Paul. the Friday demo starts at 4:15 and ends around 5:30. there are usually extra signs available. --------3 of 14-------- From: roseisis1 [at] aol.com Subject: Tornado event 9.18 5:30pm This is a fundraiser for a Wonderful Indian Hindu couple who have a shop in the Lake Street Global Mid Town Market. They also have a Temple in South Minneapolis that was hit by the Tornado on Aug 19th. They had no insurance to pay for repairs. They are very active in the community. They also put on the Yoga Fest each year at the Market which will be held this month Here are the Details: The Cultural Wellness Center 1527 East Lake Street, Suite 150 Minneapolis, MN 55407 Friday, Sept 18th -- 5:30 - 9:00pm On August 19, 2009 the Temple of Shree Satyam Mandir, on the corner of 38th St and 4th Ave South, sustained damages from the tornado that hit South Minneapolis. We are inviting you to come to a Fundraiser for the rebuilding of the temple. The Event will include: Chanting for Peace, a Dance Recital ( Dance to the Divine Mother ), Dinner and Silent Auction. Cost is $15 per adult, children are free. For Questions you may contact: 612-874-3997 @ Geetanjoli Sari Fashions. / website: Geeanjolisarifashion.com --------4 of 14-------- From: Lynette Malles <lynettemalles [at] msn.com> Subject: Linda dinner 9.18 6pm Friday, September 18th 6pm in Robbinsdale Linda Norenberg's FUNRaising Italian dinner and bonfire with drumming Linda Norenberg, represented by Kelly McCormack, is filing a motion to contest her eviction based on Citibank's not having met the rules of MN statute 580. It will cost $400 to file this motion, so come on out to Linda's family home! Plenty of ryhthm instruments provided. If you play winds or strings, BRING 'EM ON! 2750 McNair Drive Phone: 763-529-3571 Why not bring things to sell? Winter clothing, household items, objects of art...whatever you don't need- and think others might want- will be set out [but PLEASE take your items home with you if unsold]. Email a reply if you need a ride-cars will leave from in front of Rosemary's at 5:30pm. BICYCLISTS: you'll love the ride up through Wirth Park. --------5 of 14-------- From: Josh <jregnier315 [at] yahoo.com> Subject: Kline/health?? 9.18 6:30pm [Does Kline care about health care? Probably not, but here's your chance to maybe say something (if they let you).] PUBLIC FORUM ON HEALTH CARE AT 6:30 P.M., FRIDAY, SEPT. 18 IN LAKEVILLE BURNSVILLE In the wake of the President's remarks on health care reform to a rare joint session of Congress last week, Congressman John Kline is adding a live town hall meeting to the many forums in which he has reached out to hear the views and concerns of his constituents in Minnesota's Second District. The town hall meeting will be from 6:30-8 p.m. on Friday, Sept. 18, at the Lakeville South High School. Doors open at 6 p.m. Parking is available in the lower main lot, near the school's main entrance. Individuals who are unable to attend the town hall meeting but would like to share a question or concern with Congressman Kline, can call his district office at (952) 808-1213, or visit his website at http://kline.house.gov. In his fourth term in Congress, Congressman Kline is the Senior Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, one of the three committees that have jurisdiction over the current health care proposal. He is also a member of the House Armed Services Committee. [He is also a *** and an ***** *******, and member of **** ** *** (the old one, not the new one)]. --------6 of 14-------- From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at] visi.com> Subject: Jensen/roundtable 9.18 6:30pm the radical roundtable presents... endgame - a talk by derrick jensen,environmentalist friday, september 18th 6:30 - 9 pm may day books - whether exposing the ravages of industrial civilization, relaying humorous anecdotes from his life, or bravely presenting a few of the endless forms that resistance can (and must) take, derrick jensen leaves his audience both engaged and enraged. - one hour video of a recent talk by radical author derrick jensen - discussion/comments /rebuttal from YOU alternative happy hour (drinks, snacks, and socializing) at 6:30 video showing @ 7 lively discussion @ 8 may day books 201 cedar ave s minneapolis --------7 of 14-------- From: "Susan Hensel Design,LLC" <Susan_Hensel_Design_LLC [at] mail.vresp.com> Subject: Metaphysical igloo 9.18 7pm SUSAN HENSEL GALLERY REMINDS YOU! The reception for the installation by Andrea Miller is this Friday, September 18, 7-9pmpm HOW TO BUILD AN IGLOO? Performance Artist Emerges from Metaphysical Igloo September 18-25, 2009 reception for the artist, September 18, 7-9pm The installation phase of this show, opens September 18 with a reception, uses footage from the performance as well as individual elements, such as specimen-jars of the blackened water, petri dishes, test tubes, etc. "I really want to allude to a mood of some strange kind of scientific discovery," says Miller of what she hopes her audience will take away. "I want them to feel that it's, in some ways, an archeological experience." Susan Hensel Gallery 3441 Cedar Avenue Minneapolis, MN 55407 612-722-2324 612-202-9644 --------8 of 14-------- From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: Brecht/war/film 9.18 7:15pm Documentary Screening: "Theater of War" September 18 to September 24, 7:15 p.m. 309 Oak Street Southeast, Minneapolis. Meryl Streep is an unforgettable Mother Courage in Tony Kushner's adaptation of the Brecht masterpiece, presented by the Public Theater/NY Shakespeare Festival in Central Park during summer 2006. Filmmaker John Walter's earlier documentary, "How to Draw a Bunny," explored the psychological ramifications of the life and art of Ray Johnson. His new movie could easily have been a star vehicle for Streep and Kevin Kline. Instead he digs deeply into Brecht's motives and politics, unearthing the playwright's famed (and famously clever) testimony before the House Un-American Activities Committee (the day after which he quit the United States). "Theater of War" is about theater and war, capitalism and Marxism, the postwar anti- Communist hysteria of the 1950s, and one literary genius's ability to make art from them all. Presented by: Minnesota Film Arts. Endorsed by: WAMM. FFI: Visit www.mnfilmarts.org/oakstreet. --------9 of 14-------- From: t r u t h o u t <messenger [at] truthout.org> Subject: Moyers/conservatism 9.18 9pm Bill Moyers Journal | Is Conservatism Dead? http://www.truthout.org/091609Y?n Bill Moyers Journal: "In the first days of President Obama's administration, an essay from Sam Tanenhaus entitled 'Conservatism Is Dead' sparked debate over contemporary conservatism and its place in modern American politics." --------10 of 14-------- From: Anya Achtenberg <aachtenberg [at] gmail.com> 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 October 7, 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] gmail.com or 651.214.9248. See her website at www.anyaachtenberg.com "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 --------11 of 14-------- Foreclosure By Lydia Howell, Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder September 12, 2009 With twice as much unemployment and sub-prime loans continuing to spiral mortgage payments up, home foreclosures are spreading like wildfires in communities of color. But, homeowners aren't the only ones being impacted: Renters face eviction when landlords have their properties foreclosed. The Minnesota Spokesman-Recorder and KFAI Community Radio are presenting a forum of diverse panelists with solutions to the foreclosure crisis and new legislation protecting people's rights on September 19 at Sabathani Community Center in Minneapolis. The MSR interviewed four of the panelists for this article. "There's a big difference between wanting to move and being uprooted," says Richard Amos, director of housing at St. Stephen's Human Services. "Landlords took out or refinanced loans, then decide it's not worth it to pay the mortgage. Neighborhoods gentrifying means rents going up. Foreclosures mean families renting ended up in shelters." For example, on St. Paul's East Side, 50 to 60 percent of foreclosures were on "investor properties," displacing renters who now compete with evicted homeowners for apartments. A coalition of many of the community organizations represented at the September 19 forum worked to pass the 2008 postponement bill in the Minnesota State Legislature that mandates homeowners have six months to live in the home without payment after foreclosure proceedings have concluded. With the six months it generally takes for a bank to go through the full process to foreclose, that means a year without mortgage payments for transition. "If anyone is in foreclosure, knowing what their rights are and what the process is helps," says Cheryl Peterson, who has done Mortgage Foreclosure Prevention with the Twin Cities chapter of Habitat for Humanity since 1993. "There's now a six-month redemption period where you can continue to live in the property, so that allows more time to save money." ACORN Housing, a spin-off of the well-known community organization, hosts workshops for first-time homebuyers with real estate agents, lenders and ACORN Housing counselors. Executive Director Marcus Mayes says helping homeowners facing foreclosure is another key aim. "Our services are totally free. If someone wants you to pay money for loan modification counseling, that's a scam," Mayes emphasizes. "They'll get $4,000 from you just to enter your information into our ACORN Housing database. Our clients don't pay a dollar, and we do 90 percent of our foreclosure counseling over the phone." He recommends their website: www.acornhousinghelp.org. Although eligible for stable, lower-interest loans, many were tricked into the sub-prime loans, with initially low interest that jumps later - sophisticated predatory lending. African American and Latino homebuyers were twice as likely as Whites to be steered into sub-prime loans; women were 30 percent more likely than men to be targeted, with Black women five times more likely than White men. Some landlord/investors also took on predatory loans resulting in renters being evicted even though they paid their rent. National legislation addressing predatory lending is stalled in the House of Representatives. Some of the same groups opposed to healthcare reform - like FreedomWorks, which disrupted August town halls - are fighting regulations that would prevent repeating the current foreclosure crisis. However, some states are responding. A coalition of community, consumer and housing groups worked to pass the 2008 Minnesota Mortgage Reform and Anti-Predatory Lending Act. The bills' protections will be explained at the forum. Activists are challenging powerful special interests: picketing banks that got bailed out with billions yet refuse to modify homeowners' loans, demanding lawmakers respond to communities' economic distress, and resisting evictions. "Everyone in foreclosure ought to have an honest and fair chance to stay in their homes," declares longtime activist Linden Gowboy of the Minnesota Coalition for a People's Bailout. "We see three steps that need to be taken: Fix the banking mess. Until that's fixed, we need a moratorium on foreclosures. Stay in your home - it's your only leverage," she explains. "This isn't a finances game - it's a home game." Ed Nelson of Homeownership Center and Cheryl Rice of the Minnesota Housing Finance Agency complete the forum's panel. This forum is part of a KFAI series of special programs, "Strive to Thrive," broadcasting in September and October. KFAI is 90.3 FM in Minneapolis and 106.7 FM in St. Paul. The "Facing Challenges, Creating Solutions: Housing and Mortgage Foreclosures Forum" will be held Saturday, September 19, 9:30 am - 4 pm, at Sabathani Community Center, 310 East 38th St., Minneapolis. The forum is free and open to public; to get a free lunch you must make reservations by Sept. 17 at 612-341-3144 ext. 33 or www.kfai.org. Lydia Howell is an independent journalist who hosts Catalyst: politics & culture Fridays at 11 am on KFAI. -- By Mary Kane, Minnesota Independent September 12, 2009 Just a year ago, the theory that poor and minority borrowers were to blame for the housing crisis took hold with a vengeance, and so did the belief that the government forced lenders to make subprime mortgages to meet affordable housing goals. The view took on greater prominence in the heat of a presidential campaign, and an obscure anti-redlining law known as the Community Reinvestment Act became a scapegoat for subprime lending and the collapse of the mortgage market. Things have changed quite a bit since then, as the spotlight has shifted to lenders and their behavior during the boom. States and cities continue to aggressively pursue subprime lending discrimination suits, and judges across the country are signaling a willingness to move forward with some cases. As the lawsuits wind their way through the court system, more details and allegations about the inner workings of the subprime world are emerging. And as startling as some of the charges already have been - a former loan officer for Wells Fargo testified in one affidavit that employees regularly referred to minority borrowers as "mud people" and called subprime mortgages "ghetto loans," - there's even more ahead, said David Berenbaum, executive vice president of the National Community Reinvestment Coalition. "The 'smoking guns' are coming out," Berenbaum said, referring to possible evidence that lenders targeted minority communities and borrowers for higher priced loans. "And I expect more and more of these smoking guns to become apparent." In the latest development, a Superior Court Judge in Los Angeles recently certified a 2005 lending discrimination lawsuit against Wells Fargo as a class action case. The suit contends that area managers at the bank refused access in some minority neighborhoods to a software program that allowed for discounted prices on mortgage loans. Barry Cappello, a partner with Cappello & Noel in Santa Barbara, which represents some 10,000 to 20,000 borrowers in the suit, said he believes it is the first subprime lending discrimination suit in California to be classified as a class action. According to Cappello, Wells Fargo introduced a program in 2002 called "Loan Economics," which gave loan officers the authority to offer discounts to loan applicants. The savings on lower fees and interest rates could be significant, ranging from $500 to as much as $10,000 per loan. The suit claims that the Los Angeles area Wells Fargo manager refused to allow loan officers operating in certain minority neighborhoods to offer the program. Borrowers in predominantly white neighborhoods were given access to the software. Cappello said the suit stemmed from complaints by black and Hispanic loan officers for Wells Fargo, who said they asked to use the software in their branches but upper management refused. Wells Fargo is fighting the suit and has denied all the charges. In a statement, the bank said, "We are disappointed in this ruling and intend to vigorously defend this matter as the case proceeds. The decision does not indicate the court believes the underlying allegations have any merit. We feel the allegations represent a complete mischaracterization of our long-standing commitment to responsible lending and the pricing practices and tools we use. The policies, systems and controls we have in place ensure race is not a factor in the pricing or products we offer." The case could go to trial in about a year, Cappello said. More lawsuits are expected in the near future over the treatment of Hispanic borrowers in Arizona and Texas, who were offered high-cost loans they didn't understand at misleadingly low teaser rates, then refinanced into even more expensive loans than their initial mortgages, Cappello said. Wells Fargo, the nation's largest home lender and Minnesota's second-largest employer, also has been a target of lawsuits elsewhere. Last month, Illinois Attorney General Lisa Madigan sued the lender, alleging that blacks and Hispanics were sold high-cost subprime loans more frequently than white borrowers with similar incomes. The suit contended loan officers were offered incentives by the bank to steer borrowers into the more expensive loans, and that white borrowers generally received the lower-cost prime mortgages. Some borrowers thought they were getting prime loans from Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, the suit also charged. But their loans actually came from Wells Fargo Financial, the bank's subprime unit. In Iowa, two watchdog groups charged this week that minority homeowners in Des Moines were three times more likely to receive high cost subprime loans from Wells Fargo than white homeowners. In June, the New York Times reported on affidavits from a 2008 lawsuit by the city of Baltimore against Wells Fargo over subprime lending, which charged that the bank targeted blacks in Baltimore and suburban Maryland for high-interest subprime loans. Former loan officers testified in affidavits about using terms like "mud people" and "ghetto loans." The bank also had an emerging markets unit that pinpointed black churches as fertile ground for selling subprime loans, according to the former officers. And in March, the NAACP filed suits in federal court in California against Wells Fargo and HSBC, alleging minority borrowers were more likely to be issued higher rate subprime loans than white borrowers with similar credit scores and qualifications. Both banks have strongly denied the charges. The NAACP also has pending litigation against nearly a dozen other banks and lenders over subprime lending discrimination. Should all the charges in all the lawsuits be proven, it would amount to massive and violations of the Fair Housing Act, the Equal Credit Opportunity Act, and other fair housing and lending laws, Berenbaum noted. Enforcing fair lending laws has been "an issue the government has failed to address over the past decade," he said. Lenders could face criminal penalties from the government for violating fair housing laws, and they could be subject to punitive damages and fines from government lawsuits. Big lenders like Wells Fargo and HSBC are obvious targets for suits because of their size and the amount of lending they did. In addition, many other lenders and originators of subprime loans have gone out of business, complicating efforts to address allegations of lending discrimination through lawsuits. That leaves a major question regarding all the lending still unanswered, Berenbaum said: Where has the U.S. government been? The Federal Reserve reported in 2005 that an analysis of federal mortgage data found that blacks and Hispanics were more likely to receive higher interest rates on mortgage loans - and that it intended to examine the practices of 200 lenders as a result. But nothing's happened since that announcement, Berenbaum noted. Instead, as the years go on, and the government takes no action, allegations about price differences in mortgage loans based on the race of borrowers and their neighborhoods continue to grow. Mary Kane is an economy reporter for the Washington Independent. --------12 of 14-------- Justice Follows Direct Action: Former Boss of Occupied Chicago Factory Jailed by Benjamin Dangl September 16th, 2009 Dissident Voice Richard Gillman, the former CEO of Chicago's Republic Windows and Doors factory where over 200 workers organized a victorious sit-in last year, has been sent to jail on eight charges including felony, theft, fraud, and money laundering. After the judge announced the $10 million bail, the shocked and dazed Gillman, dressed in a pinstriped suit, was hauled away to the county jail. Republic workers captured the attention of the world when they occupied their plant on December 5, 2008 calling for the severance and vacation pay they were due. The sit-in ended six days later when the Bank of America and other lenders to Republic agreed to pay the workers the approximately $2 million owed to them. Recently, the workers won another victory with the arrest of Gillman. The prosecutors charge that Gillman defrauded creditors of over $10 million, and then went ahead to use company money to complete payments on leases for two luxury cars - while his employees went without pay. According to court records Gillman also secretly sent three semi-trailers full of equipment from the Republic factory to a non-unionized factory in Iowa without the consent of Republic board members and creditors. Luckily, however, the organized Republic workers followed the trailers, and during the occupation, prevented executives from entering the factory to take company documents that now make up much of the case against Gillman and other Republic officials. "Gillman and others knew this company was headed for closure," Anita Alvarez, the Cook County state's attorney, told reporters. "And instead of fulfilling their legal obligations to their creditors and their moral obligations to their employees, they devised a scheme to benefit themselves". "We knew Gillman was lying to us for a long time, now the rest of the world knows it too," said Armando Robles, the President of UE Local 1110, the Republic workers' union. "Workers suffer with bad bosses all the time so this is a victory for all workers". Gillman's arrest is just one of the results of the Republic workers' actions. In February of this year, Serious Materials ended up buying up Republic for $145 million, promising to put the unemployed workers back on the job. The California-based Serious makes heating efficient windows. "Having another company reopen the factory was always our hope when we occupied the factory in December," Robles told the New York Times. Kevin Surace, the chief executive officer of Serious, was drawn to the Republic workers' story, leading him to eventually acquire the bankrupt factory. "It was very sad to see what looks like it could be a world-class operation just fall on terrible hard times and then all of the workers quite abruptly laid off," he said. "We saw a great opportunity with a great facility and great workers". Another thing that attracted Surace to the Republic plant was that 90% of the equipment was still there - thanks to the workers who prevented the bosses from hauling it away. However, only fifteen former Republic employees have been rehired so far. According to Chicago-based journalist Kari Lydersen of In These Times, the delay in hiring more workers could have to do with the fact that Obama's federal stimulus for green jobs and heating efficient windows has been slower in producing results than people had hoped. Yet Lydersen points out that the Republic workers "know they can't just sit back and wait for the stimulus or the factory's new owner to make everything all right". Meanwhile, Gillman is facing justice thanks to the workers' actions. Melvin Maclin, a former Republic worker who is currently unemployed and the father of six children, commented on Gillman's arrest in a UE statement, "We feel like justice has finally come and we all hope that this is the beginning of more bosses being held accountable for their crimes against workers". Benjamin Dangl is the author of The Price of Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia, (AK Press, March 2007). See www.BoliviaBook.com. --------13 of 14-------- Sen. Max Baucus, the Man Behind the Health Care Bill The Slick Swindler By JOSHUA FRANK September 17, 2009 CounterPunch While still in high school I had the pleasure of flying across the country to Washington, D.C., for a weeklong youth workshop on leadership and democracy. I remember the excitement I had knowing I was about to meet both of my Montana senators. Back then I was a proud registered Democrat. Having joined the Party only two months earlier, the prospect of rubbing shoulders with a veteran of my Party, I thought, was sure to be the highlight of the trip. The swank dcor of the hallways on the Hill mesmerized me as I winded through the legislative chambers. The bright carpet and gorgeous, slightly older interns meandering around the foyers made me think that perhaps politics had its subtle rewards. My intrepid journey from wing to wing led me to the bustling office of Montana Senator Max Baucus. Max wasn't in, however, so a cheery office assistant led me to a committee meeting that the Senator was attending. "It will be just a few minutes," she said, continuing to chat with me about the beauty and serenity of Montana. She had grown up in Great Falls or somewhere nearby, and missed the quiet open range and starry nights. I must have reminded her of what she was like before deciding to test the dirty waters of Washington politics. A few minutes later, Max scurried out and shook my hand as if I were the elected official he had traveled a thousand miles to meet. "So glad to finally meet you," he said. "How in the hell does he know who I am?" I thought. He didn't, of course. He was just politicking. Max wasn't a good ol' boy like Conrad Burns, his rival Republican from Montana at the time, who said during his first campaign in 1988 that he would help single mothers by "[telling] them to find a husband". But Max was sleazy in his own right. His gaudy single-knot tie and wing-tip shoes caught my eye immediately. I remember wondering how long Mr. Baucus had been away from the Big Sky Country. I didn't really care, though. He was the Democrat I had come to see. I asked Max about Washington life, and we poked fun at Conrad Burns, whom I had met earlier in the day. Whereas Baucus' busy over packed office was full of citizens who seemed to give a shit, Conrad's quarters were filled with wide leather couches and trophy animals that hung on his plush papered walls. We joked about Burns' assistants who were advising him on how he should vote on specific legislation even though they had never even traveled to Montana. I thought to myself, "Man, Democrats really are a lot cooler than Republicans." It didn't hurt that Max knew my uncle who ran a little grocery store in Lockwood, a small town outside of the city where I grew up. It made me think Max was one of us, a regular guy who represented regular folks. I let the used car salesman attire slide; the guy was all right. My trip ended soon thereafter. I had met some interesting people, seen a lot of monuments and museums, and was enthralled with how the system actually worked. Or at least I thought I understood how it all functioned. The runners, the lobbyists, the rookies, the senior congressional leaders, the reporters, and oh those interns. I thought I had it down. I couldn't wait to get home to tell my family what I'd learned, whom I'd met, and how Senator Baucus knew my dad's brother. I was even contemplating the best way for me to help his upcoming election campaign. It wasn't more than six months later that I was knocked to my senses. The fairytale had ended. I read in the newspaper that my buddy Max had supported the North America Free Trade Agreement a few years prior. By then, I was diving into local environmental issues and came across the effects of NAFTA and the senators who supported it. Baucus was at the top of the hit-list. I couldn't believe it. Upon further exploration, I learned that Baucus sat on the influential congressional committees, including the Agriculture, Nutrition and Forestry, Environment and Public Works, and Finance and Joint Taxation. I learned how this man whom I had come to admire -- for no real reason other than his bashing of a Republican -- had succumbed to the interests of campaign contributors time and again. I found out how his seat on the Finance committee scored him bundles of cash from the health care industry and some big corporations I had never even heard of, including JP Morgan, Brown & Foreman, and Citigroup. I knew these guys weren't from Montana. I also learned how my hero supported welfare reform, Fast Track, and President Clinton's Salvage Rider Act, all of which blatantly raped the Montana forests I loved so dearly. A year later in college I read an old article by Alexander Cockburn and Jeffrey St. Clair in the Washington Post, which disclosed how actor Robert Redford had campaigned for Baucus by dropping letters in the mailboxes of elite Hollywood liberals, hoping to entice them to donate money to the Montanan for his astute convictions for environmental justice. But as St. Clair and Cockburn put it so poignantly, "Across the length and breadth of Congress, it is impossible to uncover a more tenacious front-man for the mining, timber, and grazing industries - it was Baucus who crushed the Clinton administration's timid effort to reform federal mining and grazing policies and terminate below-cost timber sales to big timber companies subsidized by the taxpayers". I was indignant. "How could he?!" I pondered. "If the Democrats aren't saving our natural resources, who the hell is?" That anger has festered in me to this day. Max Baucus may still be the most corporate, entrenched, conniving Democrat in Washington, and now Americans are getting a health care bill written by the health care lobby for the health care industry. The dangling tassels on Max's fancy wing-tip shoes will forever irk me. Those tassels and his decorative silk tie should have been the first sign that this politician didn't represent regular folks. He was, after all, literally clad in the interests of the out-of-state corporations that lined his thick campaign coffers. I have hated the pretentious Wall Street pin stripes ever since Baucus' sobering eye-opener. I doubt that Max has ever hiked or driven through Montana's Yaak River basin, where a massive forest service sale has destroyed critical grizzly bear habitat. I'd bet he's never seen what the massive clear cuts have done to the region's ecosystem, as tributaries have turned a pale yellow from mud and debris. And I cannot imagine Baucus ever apologizing for the legislation he supported during the Clinton years that's to blame for it all. Many groups have challenged the illegalities of the outright pillage but all of these suits have been defeated or dismissed because the Salvage law gives the forest service "discretion to disregard entirely the effect on the grizzly bear." All this from the party I once belonged. I can't fathom that Baucus has sat down and spoken with the hundreds of poor single mothers in rural Montana who cannot afford to put their kids in daycare because they are forced to work at places like Wal-Mart where they earn little more than minimum wage. I am sure they'd love to tell him how grateful they are for their newfound careers and Clinton's welfare reform that put them to work. Unlike many progressives who are preoccupied with the wars in the Middle East and U.S. foreign policy, these Montanans have more pressing concerns. They are turned off by politics because they have trouble keeping food in the fridge and buying holiday gifts for their kids. For someone most of us it's a luxury to be politically active. People continue to believe it's only the Republicans who have undermined everything progressives have fought for. I once believed this to be the case. I hated conservatives for their outright disregard for the little guy. But my short voyage out east as a teenager turned into a life lesson, teaching me that political affiliation means little when talking about real life consequences of compromising ideals. I think this is a lesson we must all keep in mind as many look to the Democrats, naively hoping that they can save us from the strangle of Glenn Beck's chock hold. Let's not allow fancy rhetoric or party loyalty derail our need for real change or our push for single-payer health care. Occasionally I wonder how my grandfather, who I am told was a staunch Democrat, would feel about all this. He wasn't a flashy man, like the Democrats in Washington today, but a hard working North Dakotan farmer who, as the story is told, even detested his neighbor for being what he called "one of those damned Republicans". Back then it was thought Democrats, although never progressive, stood for something genuine and were even elected into office because rural folk could discern the subtle difference between a donkey and an elephant. I am convinced no such differences exist today, and I'm certain that my granddad would agree. Joshua Frank is co-editor of Dissident Voice and author of Left Out! How Liberals Helped Reelect George W. Bush (Common Courage Press, 2005), and along with Jeffrey St. Clair, the editor of the brand new book Red State Rebels: Tales of Grassroots Resistance in the Heartland, published by AK Press in July 2008. --------14 of 14-------- US Census Bureau Confirms Rising Poverty, Falling Incomes, and Growing Numbers of Uninsured by Stephen Lendman September 16th, 2009 Dissident Voice In early September, the US Census Bureau released its new report titled, "Income, Poverty, and Health Insurance Coverage in the United States: 2008" showing disturbing data that portends much worse ahead under a president and Congress doing nothing to address it. In 2008, poverty reached 13.2% of the population, its highest level in 11 years, the result of millions losing jobs during the first year of the gravest economic crisis since the 1930s. For blacks, the figure was nearly double at 24.7%, and 31% of all Americans were impoverished for at least two months between 2004 and 2007, years of economic expansion. At year-end 2008, even by the Bureau's conservative measures, 39.8 million people were impoverished, the highest level since 1960, and 17.1 million lived in extreme poverty at below one-half the official threshold. In addition, for the first time since the 1930s, median household income failed to increase over a 10-year period from 1999 - 2008. The Census Bureau states that it "presents annual estimates of median household income and poverty by state and other smaller geographic units based on data collected in the American Community Survey (ACS)" covering population areas of 20,000 or more. The Bureau's Small Area Income and Poverty Estimates (SAIPE) program also produces yearly figures "for states and all counties, as well as population and poverty estimates for school districts". It uses data from a variety of sources, including surveys, administrative records, inter-censal population estimates, and personal income data published by the Bureau of Economic Analysis. Critics maintain that official government figures way understate the gravity of today's crisis, and the Bureau says: "The official poverty thresholds were developed more than 40 years ago and have been criticized for not taking into account rising (or since the 1970s inflation-adjusted falling) standards of living, expenses such as child care that are necessary to hold a job, variations in medical costs across population groups (that have skyrocketed nationally and are now unaffordable for millions), and geographic differences in the cost of living". In addition, income and poverty estimates are pre-tax and exclude non-cash benefits, usually employer-provided. Disposable personal income, after income, payroll, sales, property and other taxes, reveals a far higher poverty level than the Census Bureau reports and a much graver crisis for growing millions as the economic decline deepens. The Bureau reported that 2008 median (inflation adjusted) household income fell 3.6%, the largest single-year decline on record to the lowest level since 1997 and falling as conditions continue to worsen. The plight of the poor and impoverished shows up in numerous other reports that paint a darker picture than the Census Bureau and suggest much worse ahead: * an unprecedented, growing disparity between the very rich and other income groups; * economists Thomas Piketty and Emmanuel Saez's research showing the top 1% of households got two-thirds of the national income growth during the last recovery, a larger share than at any time since the 1920s; * wages losing ground to inflation; * millions of children dependent on school lunches for a hot meal; * the Economic Policy Institute estimates one-quarter of all children living in poverty by year-end 2009; * the continued erosion of employer and government-provided benefits, including at the state and local levels; the growing uninsured crisis is discussed below; * greater numbers of households unable to meet expenses, even with two working members; * added duress from state budget cutbacks; * record numbers of food stamp recipients; * persistent and growing hunger and homelessness; and * job losses and higher unemployment continuing for many more months, with some analysts projecting record high numbers before peaking. A September 11 story in Time magazine by Kissinger Associates' Joshua Ramo highlights the problem. Titled, "Jobless in America: Is Double-Digit Unemployment Here to Stay," it quotes Larry Summers' remarks last July before the Peterson Institute for International Economics about the disturbing rate of job losses. He suggested something strange was happening, unpredicted by experts: "I don't think that anyone fully understands this phenomenon," he said. Will job losses mount longer than expected? At the "recession's" end, will low numbers of new ones follow, and will double-digit unemployment persist and remain common? Without saying it, Summers wondered if America's economic model was broken and, if so, how to fix it. Or can it be fixed? According to the Peterson Institute's Jacob Kirkegaard, "It is entirely possible that what started as a cyclical rise in unemployment could end up as an entrenched problem". Summers earned his reputation as an employment theorist. He now believes that earlier unemployment views are "importantly wrong. I thought if you could have areas where there was long-term substantial unemployment, then that raised some questions about the functioning of markets". In 1986, he wrote an article titled, "Hysteresis and the European Unemployment Problem". Hysteresis is the Greek word for late, referring to what happens when something snaps and can't be fixed. It's an idea economists deplore applying to economies, preferring instead to cite normal business cycle ups and downs. Yet in 1986, Summers argued that Europe's unemployment might be chronic and persist in times of growth. Today's situation is another matter, coming at a time of changing economic landscape, perhaps suggesting that hysteresis is confronting America, and many lost jobs aren't coming back, especially better paying ones. That's Kirkegaard's view in saying growth won't put Americans back to work, and new jobs created will be of poorer quality than old ones. So what can be done? Unlike in the 1930s, machines now do much of the work that people did on infrastructure projects. And it's a lot harder converting white-collar workers to blue-collar ones. Moreover, Summers' own research concludes that the traditional Western economic model won't alleviate the jobs crisis. So what will? Summers won't say it, but short of a total remake of "free market" economics, likely nothing. And perhaps that's America's future: growing millions consigned to a permanent underclass, while an elite few at the top grow richer, until one day "hysteresis" snaps the system in a disruptive convulsion, the old model passes from the scene, and nothing is the same again. More Evidence of Economic Duress in the Latest Federal Research Report on Consumer Credit On September 8, the Federal Reserve reported that total consumer credit fell by a record $21.6 billion in July (the sixth consecutive monthly decline) and year-over-year by $2.47 trillion or 10.4%. According to Bernard Baumohl, The Economic Outlook Group.s chief global economist: "It is one more important sign that consumers are not going to be contributing very much to the economy for the balance of this year and probably for (at least) a good part of next year". Shrinking credit's impact on consumption indicates an economy in decline. It shows up in growing poverty, falling incomes, and greater duress for growing millions, sure to be reflected in the Bureau's 2009 report. Continued Erosion of Health Care Coverage In 2008, the Bureau also collected data on health insurance coverage, putting the number of uninsured at 46.3 million last year (15.4% of the population), an increase of 682,000 over 2007. It was the eighth consecutive year that fewer workers got employer-provided coverage, and those with insurance had to pay more of the cost. Other estimates are far grimmer. Some, including the Congressional Budget Office, place the current uninsured total at about 50 million, and a May 2009 Todd Gilmer/Richard Kronick study estimated that 191,670 more lose coverage monthly, 2.3 million annually at the present rate, and an expected 6.9 million more Americans (over 2007) will lack it by year-end 2010 if the present trend continues. Add to these the underinsured. According to the American Public Health Association, at least another 25 million are at great risk if they face a serious health problem not covered by their present plan. In addition, Families USA estimates about 90 million Americans had no health insurance during some portion of 2007 or 2008. The Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation reported that over 80% of the uninsured come from working families, and the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality estimated that 27% of under aged-65 year old Americans lack coverage. Still other estimates project up to 60 million uninsured if the commonly reported U-3 unemployment rate hits 10%, and the Urban Institute sees around 66 million without coverage by 2019, given the present trend of rising costs forcing employers increasingly to cut back. Bureau data show that coverage weakened across most sectors of the population, including full-time workers and the middle class, the result of economic decline and years of employers putting a greater burden on their workforce. Since at least 2001, the percent of workers with employer-provided insurance has steadily eroded, and it's the main reason behind growing numbers of uninsured and underinsured. In 2008, 61.9% of the below-age 65 population had job-provided coverage, down from 67% in 2001 and falling due to cost cutting, continued job losses, and the trend to lower-paying ones. In addition, holding a job no longer guarantees coverage. Plans offered have been greatly eroded, and medical expenses today are the leading cause of personal bankruptcies. America is the world's only industrialized country denying its citizens universal coverage, yet spends on average more than double what the other 30 OECD countries spend, and delivers less because of unaffordable private insurance and overpriced drugs. Nothing being debated in Washington addresses this, so whatever legislation emerges will make a dysfunctional system worse with the American public betrayed by "a slick-talking street hustler" - what analyst Bob Chapman calls Obama, or according to James Petras, "the greatest con man in recent history". Make that plural with Congress under Democrat or Republican leadership because both parties are beholden to the corporate interests that own them and are indifferent to growing public needs. Since taking office in January, Obama kept reform off the table, made progressive change a nonstarter, and achieved the impossible by governing worse than George Bush on virtually all of his domestic and foreign policies. Along with looting the federal Treasury, wrecking the economy, selling out to Wall Street, and continuing imperial wars, Obamacare is the centerpiece of his failed agenda and a betrayal of the public's trust. On September 9, he presented his vision to a joint congressional session, reassuring providers that their interests are secure. Rejecting universal single-payer coverage, he said it "makes more sense to build on what works and fix what doesn't, rather than try to build an entirely new system from scratch". And while favoring a "public option," he assured private insurers that it's not a deal-breaker, guaranteeing that no final plan will include one because enough votes can't be gotten in the Senate. Key also is the lowering of costs by: * cutting hundreds of billions in Medicare and Medicaid benefits as a prelude to eliminating or greatly gutting these programs with perhaps Social Security and other social gains to follow; * placing caps on what tests and treatments doctors can provide; * putting "medical expert" gatekeepers in charge of deciding the most cost-effective care, thus preventing doctors from prescribing what's best for their patients and denying people the right to make their own health care choices if their cost exceeds what Washington will allow; * taxing so-called "Cadillac" plans (mostly covering state employees, municipal union members, and other working Americans, not just the super-rich) to encourage employers to provide fewer benefits, thus placing a greater burden on workers; forcing everyone to have insurance; and placing a surtax on non-compliers with incomes of between 100 - 300% of the poverty level under the Baucus Senate plan; * creating a "deficit trigger" to reduce the growth of Medicare and Medicaid spending if anticipated savings aren't met; and * making everyone more responsible for their own care by forcing them to cover more of the cost in return for less coverage when they need it most. Numerous details remain hidden from the public, but the goal of Obamacare is clear. It's a scheme to ration care; charge people more for it; enrich private insurers, PhRMA, and large hospital chains; mandate insurance for everyone; and penalize non-compliers. It's up to public outrage to stop it. Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. Contact him at: lendmanstephen [at] sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM-1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening. Read other articles by Stephen, or visit Stephen's website. ------------------------------------------------------------------------------ - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8
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