Progressive Calendar 11.12.09
From: David Shove (
Date: Thu, 12 Nov 2009 08:36:40 -0800 (PST)
              P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   11.12.09

1. LatAm/women/peace  11.12 11am
2. Nicaragua/KFAI     11.12 11am
3. MIZNA deadline!    11.12 12noon
4. Blackwell/equity   11.12 3pm
5. Jobs now           11.12 4pm
6. Immigrants/MN      11.12 4pm
7. Eagan vigil 5ann   11.12 4:30pm
8. Northtown vigil    11.12 5pm
9. Davidov/Masters    11.12 7pm
10. India             11.12 7pm

11. Crude/Ecuador/f   11.13 11am
12. Latina economy    11.13 3:30pm
13. Palestine vigil   11.13 4:15pm
14. People's bailout  11.13 4:30pm
15. Masqueraded balls 11.13 6pm
16. EXCO wellness     11.13 6pm

17. Ralph Nader     - Still waiting for health care
18. Leslie Thatcher - "Everything you thought you knew is wrong"
19. Valerio Volpi   - Health reform: another victim of US presidentialism
20. ed              - Wise saying

--------1 of 20--------

From: Stephanie Bates <Stephanie.Bates [at]>
Subject: LatAm/women/peace 11.12 11am

The Role of Women in Building Democratic Societies and a Culture of Peace
in Contemporary Latin America: Sample Cases
Thursday, November 12 11am
Hoversten Chapel Foss Center
Augsburg College

Alicia Cabezudo is professor at the School of Education at the University
of Rosario, Argentina, and the UNESCO chair on Culture of Peace and Human
Rights at the University of Buenos Aires. Her work is rooted in the
contemporary history of Latin America, and she researches and teaches in
the field of education for democracy, culture of peace, and human rights.
Her current research focus is public policies related to educational
programs for building citizenship participation and democracy as tools for
creating a culture of peace, particularly at the local level.

--------2 of 20--------

From: Write On Radio <writeonradio [at]>
Subject: Nicaragua/KFAI 11.12 11am

This week on Write on Radio, Masha Hamilton joins us to talk about her
fourth and latest novel, 31 Hours, recently declared an Indie Choice pick
by independent booksellers. Publisher's Weekly called the book "gorgeous
and complex." More information about it can be found at

Also this week, Karen Hering will be in the studio to talk about an
upcoming literary tour of Nicaragua which she will be leading. The
registration deadline for is November 24th. The tour has been scheduled to
coincide with the International Poetry Festival in the Nicaraguan city of
Granada, so participants will also take in part of that remarkable
gathering. Additional information is available on-line at

Fall Pledge Drive is over, but KFAI fell a several thousand dollars short
of its goal this year. If you meant to pledge your support but didn't
quite get around to it, you can still contact KFAI by phone or on the web
to belatedly pledge your support. To access the Rain Taxi Review of Books
Literary Events Calendar, click here.  Information about regular spoken
word and open mic venues can be found at For
scheduling information, contact Ian Graham Leask at LeaskIan [at] or
Lynette Reini-Grandell at Lynette.Reini-Grandell [at] To
subscribe to the Write On Radio weekly e-mail newsletter for guest
information and weekly event announcements, send us your email address to
writeonradio [at] Please mail review copies and press materials to
Write On Radio, KFAI, 1808 Riverside Avenue South, Minneapolis, MN, 55454.
Attn: Producer.

--------3 of 20--------

From: Mizna <mizna-announce [at]>
Subject: MIZNA deadline! 11.12 12noon

Thursday, November 12 is the deadline for ordering your tickets to Mizna's
Ten Year Anniversary celebration.  Get your orders in by noon on Thursday.

The Depot
November 15, 2009
Minneapolis, Minnesota

Your ticket includes:

* Full catered dinner made with recipes from Mizna community members -
Nadia's Moroccan spiced chicken, Lana's Palestinian rice, Amy's Egyptian
salad, and a special dessert!

* Silent and live auction items not to be missed.  PARTIAL list found

* Suheir Hammad accepting Mizna's First Annual Edward Said Award presented
by performer and Edward Said's daughter, Najla Said

* Special Handmade Palestinian gift souvenir of the event made for Mizna
in Bethlehem for first 200 paid guests

* Other surprises!

Go here to order your tickets:  Special rates
available for students and low income.  If you would like a special rate,
email us at Mizna [at]

--------4 of 20--------

From: joan [at]
Subject: Blackwell/equity 11.12 3pm

Alliance for Metropolitan Stability 2009 Regional Equity Series and

If you're involved in working for racial, economic or environmental
justice, you probably already know who Angela Glover Blackwell is. As the
president and CEO of PolicyLink, Angela works to bring equity issues into
mainstream discussion every day.

Meet Angela on November 12 at the final event in our 2009 Regional Equity
Series on Strengthening our Regional Equity Agenda.

Strengthening Our Regional Equity Movement
3- 5 pm
Thursday, November 12
Capri Theater, Minneapolis
Free event, registration required
Please register at

Angela will be the keynote speaker at the event, which will take a look at
how the Twin Cities can we build on our existing strengths and networks to
place racial justice and equity issues at the center of regional

A local panel will discuss the trends emerging in the Twin Cities that
will contribute to -- as well as those that are barriers to -- a stronger
regional equity movement. Panelists will include State Representative Jeff
Hayden, Andriana Abariotes of Local Initiatives Support Corporation, Louis
King of Summit Academy OIC and Ed Goetz of the Center for Urban and
Regional Affairs.

There will also be time to meet and greet Angela at the Alliance's 15th
anniversary reception and in/stability photo exhibit immediately following
the afternoon event. Stick around for good food, drinks, conversation and
community art!

Both of these events are free, but an RSVP is required.
Joan Vanhala
Phillips, Minneapolis
Info about Joan Vanhala:

--------5 of 20--------

From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>
Subject: Jobs now 11.12 4pm

November 12:  JOBS NOW Coalition, LISC Twin Cities, Project for Pride in
Living, and Affirmative Options Coalition Forum: The Jobless
Pandemic-Prescription for Cure. 4 - 6:30 PM at the Zurah Shrine Event
Center, 2540 Park Avenue So., Minneapolis. RSVP.

--------6 of 20--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Immigrants/MN 11.12 4pm

Panel on the Economic Impact of Immigrants in Minnesota
Thursday November 12, 4:00 to 6:00 p.m. University of Minnesota, Hubert H.
Humphrey Institute, Cowles Auditorium, 301 19th Avenue South, Minneapolis.

Speakers include: Brian Atwood, Dean, Hubert H. Humphrey Institute of
Public Affairs; Ana Luisa Fajer Flores, Consul of Mexico in Minnesota;
Bill Blazar, Senior Vice President, Business Development and Public
Affairs, Minnesota Chamber of Commerce; Rodolfo Gutierrez, Executive
Director HACER on "The Need for Credible Research on Immigrants;" Tom
Gillaspy, Minnesota State Demographer on "The Aging of Minnesotans;"
Katherine Fennelly , Professor, Humphrey Institute "The Economic Impacts
of Immigrants in Minnesota;" Raymond Robertson, Macalester College on "Do
Mexican Workers Compete With or Complement US Workers?"

Endorsed by: the WAMM Immigration Committee. FFI and/or to join the WAMM
Immigration Committee: Email r.grengs [at] .

--------7 of 20--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Eagan vigil 5anniv 11.12 4:30pm

5th Anniversary of Eagan Peace Vigil: Speak Out for Peace!

Thursday, November 12, 4:30 to 5:30 p.m. Intersection of Pilot Knob and
Yankee Doodle Roads (across from Lockheed Martin), Eagan. (Park behind
SuperAmerica or in the lot by El Loro restaurant, one block west of
intersection.) Join others at the 5th anniversary of the Eagan peace vigil
followed by dinner at a place yet to be determined. Endorsed by: WAMM.
FFI: Call Sue, 651-208-3764.

--------8 of 20--------

From: EKalamboki [at]
Subject: Northtown vigil 11.12 5pm

NORTHTOWN Peace Vigil every Thursday 5-6pm, at the intersection of Co. Hwy
10 and University Ave NE (SE corner across from Denny's), in Blaine.

Communities situated near the Northtown Mall include: Blaine, Mounds View,
New Brighton, Roseville, Shoreview, Arden Hills, Spring Lake Park,
Fridley, and Coon Rapids.  We'll have extra signs.

For more information people can contact Evangelos Kalambokidis by phone or
email: (763)574-9615, ekalamboki [at]

--------9 of 20--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Davidov/Masters 11.12 7pm

Marv Davidov and Carol Masters Publication Party and Reading: You Can't Do

Thursday, November 12, 7:00 p.m. St. Martin's Table, 2001 Riverside
Avenue, Minneapolis. Activist Marv Davidov and his biographer Carol
Masters discuss his biography,

You Can't Do That: Marv Davidov, Non-Violent Revolutionary. "In this
full-length biography, we follow the career of Marv Davidov from his
years in the Army (he received an honorable discharge 'for the good of
the army'), living among the Beats on the U of M campus, participating
in the Freedom Rides that helped bring racial integration to the
American South, and on to the rallies, conferences and demonstrations
in Minnesota, serving to raise public awareness of locally-
manufactured bombs and weapons designed to kill and maim. 'I write
good letters from prison,' says Davidov, who has been arrested 50
times for acts of civil disobedience'" - book description.

Biographer Carol Masters is a long time anti-war activist and writer and
serves on the Board of WAMM. Refreshment will be available. Endorsed by:

--------10 of 20--------

From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at]>
Subject: India 11.12 7pm

Dr. Robert Carman and Lucile Carman will speak on "India and Global
Issues" on Thursday November 12th in a program sponsored by Northwest
Neighbors for Peace.  This presentation will begin at 7 PM at Spirit of
Hope Methodist Church, 7600 Harold Avenue, Golden Valley (near Winnetka
Avenue and Hwy. 55).

Both Carmans served for 30 years at the interdenominational and
international Christian Medical College and Hospital in Vellore, one of
the premier medical institutions in Asia. Dr. Carman, who was born in
India, was Head of the Department of Clinical Pathology and a Professor of
Pathology; Lu was a librarian and assisted in many departments. Family
members continue to reside in India and the Carmans visit there

They will speak about their lengthy involvement there and discuss India's
relationship with Pakistan, the unrest in South-Central Asia, world
health, climate change, human rights, and any other issues raised by the
audience. This program is free and open to the public; for more
information contact Carole Rydberg, 763-546-5368.

--------11 of 20--------

From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
Subject: Crude/Ecuador/f 11.13 11am

FRIDAY, Nov. 13, 11am, tune in to KFAI's "CATALYST:politics & culture" for
a conversation with director JOE BERLINGER as he talks about CRUDE the
film he was "dragged kicking and screaing" into making. Going into the
rainforest of Ecuador, see the environemntal devastation and human rights
violation of Indigenous people due to oil drilling by Texaco-Chevron. Told
from multiple points-of-view, Berllinger excavates more than the "David
and Goliath" law suite now in progress for 17 years, but, digs into the
moral center of our times. Haunting images and sharp questions about the
roles of celebrity and an inadequate justice system address multinational
crimes against multiple generations and entire peoples.The film screens
one week only Nov. 12-20 at the Lagoon Cinema, on Lagoon, one block east
of Hennepin, uptown Minneapolis.

PROGRAM CHANGE: WOMEN VETERANS will be briefly begun NOV.13, with a full
program next Friday, NOV.20, 11am with HELEN BENEDICT talking about the
experience of women soldiers, from her book THE LONELY SOLDIER.

--------12 of 20--------

From: Erin Parrish <erin [at]>
Subject: Latina economy 11.13 3:30pm

November 13:  First Latina Economic Forum, 3:30 to 8:00 PM at the
Ameriprise Financial Client Service Center, downtown Minneapolis,
convened by the Association of Latina Women of Minnesota.  Keynote by
Cristina Lopez, president of the National Hispana Leadership Institute,
breakout sessions on the economic status of Minnesota Latinas, networking
and music by Alma Andina, and dinner.  $25 suggested donation. More info
at EqualityQuilt.

--------13 of 20--------

From: Eric Angell <eric-angell [at]>
Subject: Palestine vigil 11.13 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

--------14 of 20--------

From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: People's bailout 11.13 4:30pm

Facing Foreclosure, the Parks family vows to fight back, demands justice
from IndyMac Federal Bank

On Friday, Nov. 13, 4:30 p.m., Leslie Parks, the Minnesota Coalition for a
People's Bailout and the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign will
join forces again in the battle against foreclosures and evictions. Leslie
Parks, who is facing foreclosure, had made it clear that she will not be
put on the streets. The effort to keep the home in the Parks family will
be kicked off with a press conference and rally at their home, 3749 Park
Avenue in south Minneapolis.

"IndyMac Federal Bank needs to come to the table and give my family
justice. I have no intention of walking away from the place I call home,"
states Leslie Parks.

Among the speakers at the rally and press conference will be Rosemary
Williams, along with leaders of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights
Campaign and the Minnesota Coalition for a People's Bailout.

The Parks case is a prime example of how this foreclosure crisis is
tearing apart the fabric of our communities. Tecora Parks, Leslie's
mother, owns the duplex where Leslie lives. After city-ordered window-
upgrades, Tecora Parks was swindled into getting an ARM. The man who sold
her the ARM lied and insisted it was a conventional loan. It is important
to note that Tecora Parks had perfect credit and qualified for a
conventional loan hands down. But she was lied to, got swindled into an
ARM, lost her good credit and went into foreclosure.

"We are demanding that IndyMac Federal Bank come to the table and reach a
just settlement with the Parks family, that keeps them in their home,"
said Lynnette Malles of the Poor Peoples Economic Human Rights Campaign.

"The redemption period ends Nov. 30. Similar to Rosemary Williams, Leslie
Parks is determined to fight back against the greedy, swindling banks. The
directors of IndyMac are not facing homelessness, but their greed caused
the homelessness of thousands," said Linden Gawboy of the Minnesota
Coalition for a People's Bailout.

[The spiritual redemption period for banksters ended long ago; we know
where they will spend eternity. -ed]

--------15 of 20--------

From: David Strand <lavgrn [at]>
From: dar829 <dar829 [at]>
Subject: Masqueraded balls 11.13 6pm

Greetings! The Minnesota Transgender Health Coalition and Transgender
Health Project Shot Clinic is excited to announce our second annual

"Masquerade Ball: Unmasking Our Many Genders"

Silent auction, entertainment, refreshments, and lots more!

Friday, November 13, 2009
6:00 to 7:00pm Arts and Fun Time / Social Hour with Appetizers and Drinks
7:00 to 9:00pm Tranny Jam Cabaret

Intermedia Arts
2822 Lyndale Avenue South
Minneapolis MN 55407

An evening for trans individuals, providers, allies and all of our
GLBTIQQA communities to come together and support our work towards
achieving equal health care access and quality health care for ALL OF US.

Although we receive grant funding from GLBT foundations such as PFund, we
also reply on contributions from our friends, family, providers, allies,
and fellow community members to make our work possible. Your donations
will help us put on events such as the Trans Health and Wellness
Conference and Trans Health Matters community forums. Your support will
help educate trans folks on safer hormone injection and provide safe
syringe exchange and health assessments through the services offered at
the Shot Clinic. Your donations will help train health professionals and
students on how to provide equitable, trans-competent care through the
services offered by our Training Program, and help provide resources and
referral to our communities through our website and online Trans Friendly
Provider Directory.

Suggested donation per person: $10 - $100. All proceeds will go to MTHC
and the Shot Clinic.

More details will be coming your way in the weeks to come. If you would
like to help by volunteering, performing, sponsoring, or contributing an
item or service for the Silent Auction, please contact us at
mntranshealth [at] or 612-823-1152.

--------16 of 20--------

From: EXCO <excotc [at]>
Subject: EXCO wellness 11.13 6pm

EXCO Wellness Core Kick-Off
Friday, November 13, 6:00pm - 8:00pm
Helland Center Room 1200, MCTC
1501 Hennepin Ave. Minneapolis, MN

EXCO is launching a Wellness Core, a place for people passionate about
mental, physical, and spiritual wellness practice to come together to
request, design, and/or generally support the creation of amazing Wellness
Curriculum through EXCO.

Interested in being involved? This is a great opportunity to meet other
folks interested in wellness, and to support EXCO's offering amazing
wellness classes for various Twin Cities communities. There will be food
so please RSVP! Bring ideas, business cards, and friends interested in

RSVP or send questions to Tess Galati at tessgalati [at]
mailto:tessgalati [at] or to David at 651-315-4222. You can also RSVP
on our website!

--------17 of 20--------

Still Waiting for Health Care
by Ralph Nader
Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The House of Representatives debate on the health insurance "reform" is
over with the Democrats failing the people and the Republicans disgracing
themselves as having left their minds back in the third grade (with
apologies to third graders).

House Democrats were determined to pass any bill with a nice sounding
name, such as "The Affordable Health Care for America Act". Single payer,
full Medicare for all was never on the table even though a majority of
citizens, physicians and nurses support that far more efficient, free
choice of health care professionals, system.

There are no effective cost containment or prevention measures in the
bill. The public option is so weak it will be a receptacle for the sickest
of patients among the meager number of people who qualify for its
coverage. There are no provisions to reduce the number of people (100,000)
who die annually from medical malpractice in hospitals.

Nor is there a major program to reduce the tens of billions of dollars
that is stolen yearly out of Medicare from criminals inside and outside
the medical profession.

The cover story in the November issue of the AARP Bulletin is on the
elaborate but detectable schemes to swindle Medicare with phantom
services, phony rentals of equipment, stolen Medicare numbers and the
like. The author, Jay Weaver, writes: "So lucrative, and so low-risk, the
FBI reports, that a number of cocaine dealers in Florida and California
have switched from illicit drugs to Medicare fraud."

Although more money is finally going for prosecutions, there is nowhere
near enough for this corporate crime wave. Medicare's office of Inspector
General asserts that every dollar of law enforcement will save $17 of

Computerized billing fraud and abuse takes anywhere from $250 billion to
double that estimate by the General Accounting Office. (The GAO said ten
percent of health care expenditures are going down the drain.) The reason
why the estimates cover such a broad range, according to Professor Malcolm
Sparrow of Harvard University, is that there are inadequate resources to
document the huge hemorrhaging of the nation's health care budget and come
up with better data.

Apart from the impoverishment of the debate, there is the actual doing of
harm. The bill, if enacted, doesn't take effect until after the
presidential elections in 2013, mostly to let the drug and health
insurance industries adjust, though they can scarcely believe their good
fortune at being delivered all those profitable customers paid for by
taxpayers with scarcely any price restraints.

The Journal of Public Health has just published a peer-reviewed study by
Harvard physicians-researchers that estimates 45,000 Americans lose their
lives yearly because they cannot afford health insurance to receive
diagnosis and treatment. Strange how cool the House is to giving these
fatalities a four year pass.

Congressman Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), a leading single payer advocate, voted
against this legislation for many reasons, most notably the Obama-driven
omission of his amendment to clear the way legally for states to pass
their own single payer laws. Several states, such as Pennsylvania, are in
the process of moving legislation in this direction, but are concerned
that the health insurers will claim federal pre-emption.

The victims of medical malpractice - estimated by the Institute of
Medicine and the Harvard School of Public Health to be about 100,000
deaths a year - escaped having to overcome more hurdles before they have
their full day in court. Helping to beat back the Republicans, who define
"medical malpractice reform" as letting the negligent perpetrators get
away with their lethal consequences, was Congressman Bruce Braley (D-IA).

Rising on the House floor he delivered a factual plea for patient safety.
Hardly had he started to speak when Republicans started shouting "trial
lawyer, trial lawyer" referring to his previous profession of representing
wrongfully injured people before local juries in Iowa. This rare display
of shouting by opponents was punctuated by one of their unleashed members
rushing down the aisle shouting "You'll pay for this."

During this overall debate on the bill, Republicans stood up one by one,
as prevaricatory dittoheads, to often scream and howl (like coyotes) that
this is "a government takeover of one sixth of the economy," "would
destroy the economy," "put 5.5 million people out of work," "destroy the
doctor-patient relationship," "be a steamroller of socialism," "force
millions of seniors to lose their current health coverage" (meaning,
Medicare?) and, in a passionate appeal to the Almighty, Congressman John
Fleming (R-LA) declared "God help us as the government takes over your
day-to-day life."

Never mind that this bill is just an expansion, however misdirected, of
government health insurance designed to increase corporate profits and
increase the corporate grip over the day-to-day decisions regarding who,
when and how people get their health care or get their bills paid.

To top off the madness, Senator Joe Lieberman (I-CT), an ever maturing
political hermaphrodite, reneged on his assurance to Senate Majority
Leader Harry Reid and imperiously announced on Fox News Sunday that "if
the public option plan is in there, as a matter of conscience, I will not
allow this bill to come to a final vote."

For media-centric Joe, his motto seems to be "L'Senat c'est moi."

Ralph Nader is a consumer advocate, lawyer, and author. His most recent
book - and first novel -  is, Only The Super Wealthy Can Save Us. His most
recent work of non-fiction is The Seventeen Traditions.

[Clealy, Nader was too good for us. We "realisticly" prefer lying sneaky
sell-outs who prostitute themselves to the rich in the good old 13-stripe
50-star way. -ed]

--------18 of 20--------

"Everything You Thought You Knew Is Wrong"
Wednesday 11 November 2009
by: Leslie Thatcher, t r u t h o u t | Book Review

Russ Baker's "Family of Secrets" establishes that everything we thought we
knew about US history of the last fifty years is wrong.
Family of Secrets
Russ Baker
Bloomsbury Press, 2009

There's alternative history and there's secret history. Generally, in the
former, the invisible hand of the market and other presumed movers of
events are revealed not to work exactly as advertised and the "standard,
orthodox, conventional and usually hierarchical ways of telling the story
are overturned"(1) as the perspectives of those at the margins of social
and political life are given voice. In the latter, the invisible hands are
revealed to have nothing whatsoever to do with the supposedly democratic
forces of supply and demand, let alone other publicly acknowledged actors
and forces. The generally accepted historical narrative is revealed to be
not simply skewed, but flat-out wrong. Investigating and reporting the
existence of those other invisible hands may be professionally - and even
physically - dangerous, as even fair-minded people of like political
convictions resist alternative accounts for what they know to be true and
dismiss the messenger as a "conspiracy theorist."

Investigative reporter Russ Baker has braved that risk and spent over five
years of his life researching critical events of the last sixty years in
"Family of Secrets," an inquiry into "the Bush dynasty, the powerful
forces that put it in the White House, and what their influence means for
America." As reporter James C. Moore writes in his preface to the
just-issued paperback edition, "There is no conspiracy theory here, simply
information that has been corroborated and never before reported and it
cries for an explanation."

Moore writes in awe that Russ Baker succeeded in uncovering facts that had
eluded generations of furiously digging Texas reporters, such as new
material related to George Bush's bachelor days and military service, as
well as unreported connections in such better-known stories as the younger
Bush's oil business failures and suspect profit-taking on the Texas
Rangers. Significant as these events are, they seem so many telling
details in the great arc of Baker's story, statistics in the "numberless
needs to do business unobserved"(2) that characterize the Bush family
itself along with its friends and associates. In a narrative that loops
back and through its main subjects, Baker traces the connections between
the Bush family and private financial circles starting with Prescott Bush
and Brown Brothers Harriman and Company, the various Yale and OSS
connections; the imbrication of finance, energy and intelligence circles
with Bush connections, the career of "Poppy" - former President George
H.W. - Bush, his presence in Dallas the day of John F. Kennedy's death,
and the dense web of relationships between the Bushes and various actors
and sites involved in the Kennedy assassination.

The entire book is solidly footnoted and precisely indexed: Baker's
meticulous research methods and extremely measured conclusions certainly
promote the reader's confidence in the accuracy of his reporting.

This method is crucial to his enterprise: however little it will surprise
most readers that the Warren Commission's report on the Kennedy
assassination was deeply flawed and fatally compromised, most of us who
lived through the Watergate hearings will be highly resistant to Baker's
evidence that Nixon was actually set up and dragged down by some of the
same interests that benefited from Kennedy's assassination.

Only the last 200 pages of the nearly 500 pages of text are devoted to the
career of the country's last president: the unaccountable young manhood
that presaged his unaccountable presidency, the stagecraft - even spycraft
- implicated in his religious conversion, the connections between his
associates and his father's, the vainglorious motive underpinning his
invasion of Iraq, the corruption of FEMA that assured its failure to
respond effectively to Hurricane Katrina.

Russ Baker has made the broad outline of this history and its implications
available in recent articles for Truthout and AlterNet, but for those who
crave the details, the nitty-gritty of the accumulated evidence, there can
be no substitute for his book in which, with his casual-seeming command of
a wide variety of actors, timelines and relationships, he contrives to
maintain a narrative drive that propels the reader through these webs and
effortlessly supports his premise.

Again and again, as he writes in conclusion of the chapter covering Bush's
military service and the take-down of Dan Rather,

"In the end, it was not reporting or truth that triumphed, but the forces
of disinformation. Memogate appears to underline the extent to which the
cynical techniques of the spy world have leaped the wall and taken root in
the processes of American democracy itself.

"This is what Karl Rove and his allies effectuate on a daily basis. While
the media thinks it is reporting an electoral contest with a Madison
Avenue gloss, something deeper and more insidious is going on, largely
unexamined. It is fitting that the Bushes, with their long-standing ties
to the covert side of things, have been a vehicle through which the
political process has been subverted and the public sandbagged."(3)

Since the Kennedy assassination, if not earlier, our electorate has been
characterized by a growing malaise - even paranoia - evidenced, for
example, by responses to a "CBS News/New York Times poll, from 2004, in
which 64 percent of the respondents answered in the affirmative to the
first of these choices: "Would you say the government is pretty much run
by a few big interests looking out for themselves or that it is run for
the benefit of all the people?" twice the proportion who responded in the
affirmative to the same question in the 1960's. Also "within the same 40
year period, the number of Americans who agreed that 'public officials
don't care about what people think' also nearly doubled, from 36 to 66
percent."(4) So there is a strong sense that we the people are not in
charge; malignant vectors have taken over the real power; what happens in
the halls of Congress or 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue is but a simulacrum of

Russ Baker makes clear, "We are not dealing here with what are commonly
dismissed as 'conspiracy theories.' We are dealing with a reality that is
much more subtle, layered and pervasive - a matrix of power in which crude
conspiracies are rarely necessary and in which the execution or subsequent
cover-up of anti-democratic acts become practically a norm."(5)

"Family of Secrets" makes clear that those subjects most taboo in the
public conversation: class warfare, undue corporate influence, and the
corruption of democratic processes such as the conduct of elections and
the conveyance of information are also those most germane to an
understanding of recent American history. "History is not what we know; it
is what has truly happened. Often the reality of events is hard to process
because it shakes our system of beliefs."(6)

Cui bono? Those who benefit from both the specific events and the broader
shadowy maneuvers Russ Baker details are often described as, think of
themselves as, an "elite," the original meaning of which is "elect." Yet,
no one other than themselves has consciously chosen this covert coterie
that has seeded itself through the governing mechanisms of US society,
arrogating power and wealth to itself, a fat and growing parasite on the
body politic too greedy and stupid to know to stop before it consumes its

These forces remain at work regardless of changes in the presidency or the
Congress and are already blocking at every pass the overwhelming desire
for change expressed by the country in the last presidential election.
They require secrecy to succeed because their enterprise could never
withstand full public disclosure. Russ Baker's book goes further than any
other heretofore in laying bare that tangled web.

(1) David Shulman, "A Passion for Hindu Myths," NYRB, November 19, 2009,
p. 52.
(2) Thomas, Pyncheon, "Inherent Vice," Penquin, 2009, p. 80.
(3) Russ Baker, "Family of Secrets," Bloomsbury Press, 2009, (hardcover
edition) p. 464.
(6) James C. Moore in the Introduction to "Family of Secrets," Bloomsbury
Press, paperback edition to be released November 10, 2009.

Leslie Thatcher is Truthout's French Language Editor and sometime book
reviewer. Bloomsbury Press provided a reviewer copy of "Family of

--------19 of 20--------

Health Care Reform: Another Victim of US Presidentialism
Valerio Volpi
November 11th, 2009
Dissident Voice

The vote by the US House of Representatives on health care reform has been
hailed by many as a victory for those many million Americans deprived of
any sort of medical coverage. True, there are important, new developments,
which Rose Ann DeMoro of the California Nurses Association does a very
good job of explaining. Some of these measures were part of Obama's
electoral manifesto during the 2008 campaign.

Still, the conceiving of a tax-financed single-payer system, let alone a
"socialized" one, is nowhere in sight. It still sounds bizzarre to people
like myself, who live on the other side of the pond (where systems, it
should be pointed out, differ both in terms of organization, financing and
quality, but still rest on the principle of free, or almost free health
care for all), that the largest economy in the world would choose not to
grant what is considered as a right (generally enshrined in the
Constitution) in most of the world's advanced countries. Autocratic
Germany passed the Health Insurance Bill in 1883, which was gradually
extended to cover the entire population; Britain created the NHS in 1948;
Italy officially created its in 1978, to make just a few examples. Too
often have I listened to horror stories concerning many Americans
(including personal friends) who developed serious illnesses and thanked
fate for residing abroad, thus obtaining free health care in their new
country of residence.

Now, the way this US bill was elaborated and passed represents, in my
opinion, further corroboration of the fact that the US presidential system
was devised, more than 200 years ago, to attain a specific goal: that is,
preventing "radical" legislation from being passed by the political
system. As I argue in my book The Roots of Contemporary Imperialism: The
Founding Fathers, the U.S. Constitution, and 200 years of corporate
dictatorship, the Founding Fathers were cunning enough to devise a system
which would create "a path strewn with obstacles in the belief that it
would encourage the kind of slow, deliberate politics that were their
ideal," as Daniel Lazare has argued; or, as Charles Beard has put it,
"disintegration of positive action". The political system they devised
aimed at preserving the status quo, that is, domination by an already
powerful business elite over the people.

Only overwhelming popular pressure, extreme crises and the risk of
implosion of the system have led to major legislative breakthroughs (or,
rather, "concessions" from the elite), such as, to make just a few
examples, the Sherman Antitrust Act of 1890, the National Labor Relations
Act of 1935, the Minimum Wage Act of 1938 and the Civil Rights Act of
1964. Indeed, as street riots or a widespread popular rebellion directed
toward obtaining a national health care system appear as a remote
possibility, the vicissitudes of the health care bill show the
truthfulness of such assertions. [So it's time to dump this system.  -ed]

Constitutional engineering alone does not explain the shortcomings of the
presidential system.

There are three additional elements, not strictly related to the US
Constitution, which nevertheless overlap and help create a situation in

- party nominees are not necessarily their parties' leaders (as a result
of primaries), and thus their political platforms do not necessarily tally
with their parties.;

- with very few exceptions, only those "eager to 'go along to get
along,'", as William Domhoff has put it, that is, those willing to accept
massive corporate donations will win a Congress seat or the presidency, a
phenomenon which is obviously not just Republican, but regards Democrats
as well, thus further alienating Democratic voters as well as potential

- the electoral system, in joint action with the size of the US territory,
stimulates fragmentation and therefore party weakness, thus resulting in
lack of party discipline, a situation made even more serious by the
influence of corporate interests on elected politicians.

These three elements overlap with constitutional ones, such as the rigid
separation of powers: two separate Houses, elected in different ways and
at different times; and an executive (that is, the President), elected by
a state-based electoral college. Thus, the President is not guaranteed a
majority in one House, let alone in both; or, the President might have a
majority for a limited time, and then lose it at mid-term elections; or,
he may have a majority for his entire term of office, but that does not
guarantee party discipline or a common plan on specific issues (with
Democrats being a perfect example, supporting, for instance, emancipation
in the North and Jim Crow in the South). Also, the President is not even
allowed to introduce bills into Congress, and therefore has to rely on
Congressmen for that; and Congress is fragmented into countless committees
and sub-committees, which in most cases do all the work and leave just the
final yea or nay to the whole Chamber. Besides, once a bill is passed by
one House, the other House will not vote on the same bill, but present its
own and, after voting on it, a conciliation committee will meet to find an
agreement between the two Chambers (further delaying as well as watering
down legislation). Such a complicated, fragmented system cannot help
becoming a prey to lobbies. The same applies to the European Union, where
the system is absolutely unintelligible even to experts, and the
overlapping of different bodies and levels of governance complicates
things, and has paved the way for massive lobbying by corporate interests.

In my book, I argue that a parliamentary system might mitigate this
phenomenon. That is not to say that lobbying and compromise would
disappear, far from that. In many parliamentary systems, committees are
very powerful and bills are elaborated in closed committee meetings;
filibuster is common practice (for example, by introducing hundreds or
thousands of amendments, both within a committee or on the floor of the
House, or giving endless speeches on each one of these amendments); there
are coalitions and minority governments, which may slow down a
government's action, as this would need to reach compromises with its
majority partners or other parties in Parliament; lobbying and electoral
financing may be aggressive; and often bills have to be passed by both
Houses of Parliament, although often the Upper House can only delay the
passing of the bill, but not prevent it, and the government needs the
confidence of the Lower House alone). After all, the existence of economic
pressures on the part of powerful interests influencing the work of
elected bodies is inborn to capitalistic systems, whether they are
parliamentary or presidential democracies. However, when a party or
coalition of parties presents a clear platform before an election, and
wins a majority, and has the power to present a bill, the government's
bill, and defend it on the floor of a House wherein parties, rather than
individual MPs, are the leading actors, then, things will be more clear
and responsibility for failing to pass a certain piece of legislation will
be more easily ascribable.

Now, Obama used to be in favor of single-payer when he was a state
Senator. In a Youtube video, apparently dating back to 2003, he claimed
that "I happen to be a proponent of a single-payer universal health care
program. I see no reason why the United States of America, the wealthiest
country in the history of the world, spending 14 percent of its gross
national product on health care, cannot provide basic health insurance to
everybody. And that's what Jim is talking about when he says everybody in,
nobody out. A single-payer health care plan, a universal health care plan.
That's what I'd like to see. But as all of you know, we may not get there
immediately. Because first we've got to take back the White House, we've
got to take back the Senate, and we've got to take back the House".

Apparently, he has changed his mind. Changing one's own mind is
legitimate, obviously. However, what is strange is that Obama became less
and less convinced about single payer as his political career went on,
first at the US Senate, then as a candidate for the Democratic Party's
primaries, and then as party nominee (source). Obama's change of heart,
however, does not sound too outlandish. Money certainly talks: insurance
companies contributed with some $2.3 million for his electoral campaign,
and the health sector with almost $19.5 million. In the end, Obama's
platform on health care fully reneged on what he had previously backed as
an Illinois senator, that is, single-payer.

The bill's history is particularly telling in order to show US
presidentialism's shortcomings.

When Bill Clinton was president, the business world was adamantly opposed
to health care reform. Thus, Bill's plan was knocked down even by wide
sectors of his own party.

Obama's plan, however, is not really clear, because the US presidential
system does not allow presidents to bring forward a clear and final
proposal, "take it or leave it or I'll ask the President/King/Queen to
dissolve Parliament and we'll go to new elections", as might be the case
in a parliamentary system. Obama made some more or less clear proposals
during the electoral campaign, sure. However, the bill, or, better, bills
dealing with health care reform have sprouted like mushrooms, in different
centers of power. Obama may talk to Congressmen, visit Congress in order
to convince recalcitrant Democrats (as he did on 7 November, a pretty
unusual move), but still, he can hardly impose his will (if he has one on
the issue) on his Congress majority.

The New York Times has given a detailed account of the bill's history.

Thus, at the end of March 2009, and with the consent of the insurance
industry, concerned about the growing costs of health care, the (all)
Democratic chairmen of five Congressional committees had reached an
agreement on legislation requiring everyone to carry insurance that
employers should be required to help pay for, and allowing the government
to offer a public health insurance plan as an alternative to private

However, while House Democratic leaders introduced a bill on 14 June,
"which in addition to a public plan included efforts to slow the pace of
Medicare spending, a tax on high-income people and penalties for
businesses that do not insure their workers,' the seven members of the
so-called Blue Dog coalition, consisting "of fiscally conservative
Democrats, threatened to block the House bill. After a 10-day impasse, an
agreement was reached that would cut the bill's cost and exempt many small
businesses from having to provide health benefits to workers. The bill was
passed by the House Committee on Energy and Commerce on July 31 by a vote
of 31 to 28, with five Democrats joining all the panel's Republicans in
opposition". The agreement still envisaged the creation by the government
of "a public insurance plan to compete with private insurers, but would
negotiate rates with health care providers instead of using Medicare fee
schedules to pay doctors and hospitals. States could, in addition, set up
nonprofit cooperatives to offer coverage to individuals, families and
small businesses".

In the meantime, the Senate went its own way, as "the Health, Education,
Labor and Pension committee worked on a bill with a public insurance plan,
while the Senate Finance Committee, led by Senator Max Baucus, Democrat of
Montana, worked on a bill that sought to avoid one, which Mr. Baucus
thought was necessary to gain bipartisan support". The Health Committee's
proposal saw the light of day on 2 July: "employers with 25 or more
workers would have to provide coverage or pay the government an annual fee
of $750 for each full-time worker and $375 for each part-timer. The
government would pay the start-up costs for the public insurance option as
a loan to be repaid, and premiums would be set up so that the option was
ultimately self-sufficient". The bill was passed on 15 July. However,
Senator Baucus introduced another bill at the end of August, which "did
not include a new government insurance plan to compete with private
insurers," and, "unlike the other bills - would impose a new excise tax on
insurance companies that sell high-end policies. The bill would not
require employers to offer coverage. But employers with more than 50
workers would have to reimburse the government for some or all of the cost
of subsidies provided to employees who buy insurance on their own". This
proposal was passed on 14 October.

In the meantime, Obama, the President and therefore Head of the
government, limited himself to a speech to a joint session of Congress in
September, and to the aforementioned visit to centrist Democrats on 7

So, the bill was passed at the House. However, further compromises had to
be reached before the House could actually give its approval. In order to
assuage conservative Democrats' fears of losing their Congress seats, it
was decided that the public option plan "will have to negotiate rates just
as private insurers do, rather than offering a rate set slightly above
what Medicare pays," and "the plan will also confront strict controls on
abortion. After heavy lobbying by Catholic bishops, the measure was
amended to tighten restrictions on abortion coverage in subsidized plans
bought through the insurance exchanges, to insure that no federal money is
used to pay for an abortion. Both changes angered Ms. Pelosi's base of
liberal Democrats, but they chose to support the bill nonetheless".
[Sellout Dems who should be kicked out, every last one. To hell with them
- none of this slimy, Well you have to be reasonable... Off with their
heads!  -ed]

What will happen next? Senate majority leader Harry Reid has already
'finessed the difference between a health committee bill that included a
public option and a Finance Committee bill that favored a system of co-ops
by announcing that the merged bill would include a government plan that
would let states "opt out". A Republican filibuster, however, is not too
remote an option, as independent Senators such as Joseph Lieberman have
already announced opposition to any bill containing a public option, and
support from conservative Democrats is not guaranteed. There is widespread
fear that the reform will lie dormant in Congress for a long time to come.

The future of the health care reform in the US is therefore still unclear.
Anything might happen: a different version might be passed, after further
negotiations between the two Chambers; or the reform might even be put off
till doomsday. Still, that is exactly the kind of chaos the Founding
Fathers wanted in order to preserve order and stability. Whatever happens
at the Senate, health care is not the first victim of US presidentialism,
nor will it be the last.

Valerio Volpi has a PhD. in Comparative Political Institutions from the
University of Bari, Italy. His Ph.D. thesis has been the basis for his
book The Roots of Contemporary Imperialism: The Founding Fathers, the U.S.
Constitution, and 200 years of corporate dictatorship (University Press of
America, 2009). He is currently living in Rome and can be reached at:
vvolpi77 [at]

--------20 of 20--------

 It takes a village
 to raise an idiot.


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