Progressive Calendar 01.13.10
From: David Shove (
Date: Wed, 13 Jan 2010 02:05:07 -0800 (PST)
              P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   01.13.10

1. Alliant vigil     1.13 7am
2. Save GAMC         1.13 9:45am
3. What's my Lyme?   1.13 11am
4. Amnesty Intl      1.13 7:30pm

5. Eagan peace vigil 1.14 4:30pm
6. Northtown vigil   1.14 5pm
7. Green jobs pics   1.14 6pm
8. Capitalism & us   1.14 7pm
9. MN health plan    1.14 7pm

10. Stanley Aronowitz - Let's break from the party of war and Wall Street
11. Chris Hedges      - Wall Street will be back for more
12. Brad Jacobson     - Obama got $20M from healthcare industry in 2008
13. Stephen Gowans    - Obama and miracles that never happen

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From: AlliantACTION <alliantaction [at]>
Subject: Alliant vigil 1.13 7am

Join us Wednesday morning, 7-8 am
Now in our 14th year of consecutive Wednesday
morning vigils outside Alliant Techsystems,
7480 Flying Cloud Drive Eden Prairie.
We ask Who Profit$? Who Dies?
directions and lots of info:

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From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
Subject: Save GAMC 1.13 9:45am

Minnesota Coalition for the Homeless wrote:
Action Alert

Minnesotans around the state are standing up to save General Assistance
Medical Care.  From Winona to Shoreview, from International Falls to the
Governors' Mansion, in Rochester and in Duluth, people are letting
legislators know that a loss of GAMC is a loss for the whole state.

The state is preparing to eliminate health care coverage for 70,000
low-income Minnesotans early next year.  Their coverage, through General
Assistance Medical Care (GAMC), will expire on March 1st unless funding
for the program is restored.  Fortunately, legislators are paying

On Wednesday, the Minnesota Senate is holding a hearing on redesigning
GAMC.  They need to hear and see that you support saving (and improving)
GAMC. Will you stand up with us?

Joint Meeting of the Health and Human Services Budget Division and the
Committee on Health Housing and Family Security.
Wednesday, January 13, 2010 at 10am (Please arrive at 9:45am to get a
Minnesota State Capitol, Room 123, 75 Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
Blvd, St. Paul, MN 55155

Tips for crafting a "Save GAMC" message

Some facts to consider in your message to legislators and leaders:

     * What is General Assistance Medical Care?  GAMC is Minnesota's
       public health insurance program for the state's poorest adults.
     * How many people are on the program?  In 2008, more than 77,000
       Minnesotans used the program - with an average of 35,000 at any
       given time.
     * Who uses the program?  Many of the adults who qualify for
       General Assistance Medical Care are living on $203 per month.
       That is not enough income to pay for rent, food and clothing -
       much less health insurance premiums. Most are men (60%), most
       struggle with mental illness (70%) and/or chemical dependency,
       and many have chronic physical disabilities (40%).

Why should we save GAMC?

     * GAMC provides health care, medications, and mental health
       services to people living in poverty and crisis.
     * Health care is essential to stability in the community. With
       health care, necessary medicine, and the other services provided
       by GAMC, people can maintain housing, employment, and
       relationships with their friends and families.
     * The decision to eliminate GAMC impacts all of us.  Institutions
       that we, our families, friends and neighbors all use -
       hospitals, community clinics and community mental health centers
       - will cut back or eliminate services, lay off staff (estimated
       4,220 jobs lost) and/or increase the cost of their services.
       Hospitals throughout Minnesota will lose at least $211 million
       dollars a year as unreimbursed costs escalate.

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From: Andy Driscoll <andy [at]>
Subject: What's my Lyme? 1.13 11am

TRUTH TO TELL 11AM JANUARY 13: LYME DISEASE: The Chronic Controversy

KFAI - 90.3FM-Minneapolis/106.7FM Saint Paul and STREAMING at
LYME DISEASE: The Chronic Controversy

The chaos the nearly microscopic deer tick hath wrought since the disease
it carries was discovered in Lyme, Connecticut in 1977 has been largely
concealed from a public who loves its outdoors - its hiking, fishing,
hunting, exploring and otherwise recreating. As in the battle with the
medical establishment victims fought over the very existence of AIDS and
Chronic Fatigue Syndrome proves, mainline physicians and their
organizations and publications (like the New England Journal of Medicine)
resolutely refuse to accept the reality of long-term, or chronic, Lyme
Disease. Chronic Lyme Disease is acute Lyme Disease gone bacterial -
literally, in the human body, if not properly diagnosed and treated at the
acute stage: soon after the dastardly bite of that tiny deer tick. And
yet, other evidence keeps emerging showing severe symptoms the medical
community so readily dismisses as psychosomatic hysteria or other causes
not related to Lyme. Minnesota - especially in the East and Central
sections of the state is 8th in states producing the most cases of Lyme,
and afflicting, some say, generations in families though various forms of
transmission - much like the vector-borne spirochetes in malaria and
syphilis.  Moreover, as climate change takes its toll on some life forms,
it appears to be giving rise to more potent diseases, including Lyme and
and other vector-borne infections through a surge in the deer tick
population. Public health authorities, including the Centers for Disease
Control and the Minnesota Department of Health barely acknowledge that a
dispute is alive in the community, even as insurance companies refuse to
cover long-term antibiotic treatment for undiagnosed acute Lyme Disease.
Standard Medical literature insists that Lyme Disease is easily and
quickly treated through a short regimen of antibiotics, and that anything
beyond that is something else. Where will this war between chronic Lyme
believers and nonbelievers (IDSA) in the cause and effect of chronic Lyme
Disease take its course? The Infectious Diseases Society of America (IDSA)
has opposed every effort in Lyme-rich states to protect from discipline
any physician who diagnoses and treats patients for chronic Lyme.
Physician-advocates who have concluded that chronic Lyme exists and
treated it with years of antibiotics have been suspended or de- certified
by state medical boards from continuing their practices. TTT's ANDY
DRISCOLL and LYNNELL MICKELSEN talk with those embroiled in this raging
dispute - raging for many without much visibility - and try to sort out
the conflicting views and why they're so closely held by both sides. The
reasons may - or may not - surprise you. GUESTS:
 DR. ELIZABETH MALONEY - Family Practice Physician (Forest Lake);
Medical Advisor to the MN Lyme Action Support Group (MLASG)
 REP. JOHN WARD (DFL-Brainerd) - Author, Minnesota House File 2597 -
prohibiting Board of Medicine sanctions against docs treating chronic
 LESLIE JOHNSON - Lyme Disease victim and member, St. Louis Park Lyme
Support Group
 INVITED: RUTH LYNFIELD - Minnesota State Epidemiologist

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From: Gabe Ormsby <gabeo [at]>
Subject: Amnesty Intl 1.13 7:30pm

AIUSA Group 640 (Saint Paul) meets Wednesday, January 13th, at 7:30 p.m.
Mad Hatter Teahouse, 943 West 7th Street, Saint Paul.

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From: Greg and Sue Skog <family4peace [at]>
Subject: Eagan peace vigil 1.14 4:30pm

PEACE VIGIL EVERY THURSDAY from 4:30-5:30pm on the Northwest corner of
Pilot Knob Road and Yankee Doodle Road in Eagan. We have signs and
candles. Say "NO to war!" The weekly vigil is sponsored by: Friends south
of the river speaking out against war.

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From: EKalamboki [at]
Subject: Northtown vigil 1.14 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]

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From: Lydia Howell <lydiahowell [at]>
Subject: Green jobs pics 1.14 6pm

Margaret Levin, Sierra Club North Star Chapter wrote:
Attend the Green Jobs Photo Project
Gallery Opening
Thursday, Jan. 14, 6 - 8 p.m.

Come to the Green Jobs Photo Gallery Opening!

Thousands of Minnesotans go to work in green jobs everyday. This Thursday,
you are invited to take a closer look at how workers are building
Minnesota's clean energy economy.

Join the Blue Green Alliance this Thursday for the Green Jobs Photo
Project Gallery Opening. Here are the details:

Green Jobs Photo Project Gallery Opening
Thursday, January 14 from 6 - 8 p.m.
Common Roots Cafe, 2558 Lyndale Ave. S. Minneapolis, MN

Over the last year, volunteer photographers have been gathering
photographs of workers building the green economy. The Green Jobs Photo
Project Gallery Opening will feature the workers and photographers that
made the photo project possible.

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From: jtmiller jtmiller <jtmiller [at]>
Subject: Capitalism & us 1.14 7pm

Thursday, Jan. 14, 7:00 pm
Working Democracy Meetup Group Discussion Forum:
"Morality, Capitalism & Human Nature"
MayDay Bookstore

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From: Diane J. Peterson <birch7 [at]>
Subject: MN health plan 1.14 7pm

The One Pre-Existing Condition NO Minnesotan Can Afford is the condition
of our current health care system! You are invited to a courageous
conversation about health care and the uniquely Minnesotan Solution: The
Minnesota Health Plan

Thursday January 14, 2010
7:00-9:00 p.m.
Guardian Angels Church
8260 4th St N
Oakdale MN 55128

Speakers Include:
Rep. Carolyn Laine (District 50A)
Jim Hart, MD
THE John Kolstad, Metropolitan Independent Business Alliance
With a Welcome by Senator Kathy Saltzman (District 56)

Event is Co-Sponsored by: Minnesota Universal Health Care Coalition,
Physicians for a National Health Program-MN, River Valley Action, Sowers
of Justice and interested neighbors from Senate Districts 52, 56, & 57.
Free and Open to the Public!

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Let's Break from the Party of War and Wall Street
By Stanley Aronowitz
January 11, 2010
Source: Indypendent

People cannot live without hope. The long night of the eight Bush years
was tolerated only because many of us believed it would come to an end.
That Obama seized on that belief better than his Democratic opponents is a
testament to the high expectations people had that regime change in
Washington just might bring about a better life. While Hillary Clinton,
his main primary opponent, evoked the traditional symbols of military
preparedness combined with liberal domestic policies, Obama steadfastly
preached the gospel of peace and hope and carefully avoided making lavish
promises. Clinton won the backing of most organized labor, women's
organizations and major Democratic politicians. But Obama, the only fresh
face in the gallery of candidates, outmaneuvered the traditional party
dons. With little support at the top, Obama went for the grassroots,
correctly gauging the country to be fed up with the old ties and old

Obama had the advantage of being African-American, even though many black
politicians had hopped on the Clinton bandwagon early in the campaign. But
Obama's not-so-secret weapon was his appeal among youth who, responding to
his bold message of hope and change, came out of the woodwork by the
thousands to volunteer in his campaign, trudging door to door in the
cities and tipping the balance in states like Virginia, Pennsylvania and
Ohio. They also delivered much of the West to the insurgent. What
befuddled the pros and the pundits was Obama's ability to mobilize youth
who chronically stay away from the polls, largely because they see little
point in voting. He seemed to have the power to make them believe in the
system. Although the overall vote count was not remarkable compared to
past presidential elections, the proportion of voting youth and blacks
helped give Obama a relatively easy victory over John McCain, the lapsed

For many who voted for Obama, 2009 has been a year of deep
disillusionment. The degree to which the Obama administration revealed its
basic war and big business orientation was first shown by his major
cabinet and staff appointees. Robert Gates, Bush's defense secretary, was
retained; Hillary Clinton, perhaps the Senate's leading hawk, became
secretary of state; the crucial position of treasury secretary went to a
Federal Reserve bureaucrat and Wall Street ally, Tim Geithner; and
Lawrence Summers, Bill Clinton's last Treasury head, became Obama's chief
economic advisor.

What was obscured by Obama's rousing campaign and nimble rhetoric has
become brutally apparent in the aftermath. The Democratic Party has, since
the end of World War II, been the favored party of finance capital. That
mantle once belonged to the Republicans . the fabled party of the rich and
wealthy. But the GOP has sunk into a right-wing party of opposition and no
longer pretends to be a party of government. Its cast, begun as far back
as the Goldwater takeover in 1964, is anti-internationalist, narrowly
ideological and administratively incompetent. Meanwhile, the Democrats
live a glaring contradiction: on the one hand, they rely on labor and the
new social movements of feminism, ecology and black freedom both for votes
and for a large portion of their political cadres. On the other, they need
hundreds of millions of dollars to oil the party apparatus and run 535
national election campaigns. Aside from the unions, most of this money
comes from corporate sponsors and wealthy individuals.

This contradictory existence accounts for several important political
realities: Despite a large "progressive" congressional delegation,
especially in the House of Representatives, the Democrats' weight of
governance falls on its debts to, and alliances with, leading financial
corporations. For example, that the Democrats are forced to sponsor some
version of healthcare "reform" cannot disguise the fact that the big
insurance companies have called the tune on the legislation. Nor are the
Democrats' ostensible commitments to dealing with global warming as
powerful as the influence of the energy giants who have systematically
thwarted any attempt to address what may be the defining public issue of
this century. And the Obama administration has handled the most profound
economic crisis since the Great Depression by continuing the Bush policy
of bailing out the banks and insurance companies and virtually ignoring
rising joblessness, burgeoning foreclosures and deepening black and Latino
poverty. In short, Obama is the perfect manifestation of the contradiction
that rips across the Democratic Party bow.

According to historical myth, Roosevelt saved U.S. capitalism during the
Great Depression by instituting vast regulation of capital. In this tale,
the so-called "second" New Deal of social reform was a reflection of the
administration's move to the left. What this version of history fails to
note is that these reforms were preceded by a mass workers movement armed
with the tools of direct action that, within a few short years,
transformed the U.S. workplace. Roosevelt was both appalled and
politically astute: from an open-throated voice of capital manifested
chiefly in the National Industrial Recovery Act aimed at reviving
capitalism by throttling wages, he forged an image of the Democrats as the
party of the working people, the poor and the oppressed. That image was,
to some degree, backed by concrete steps such as creating Social Security,
but it did not take long before the Democrats, spurred by the imperatives
of anti-communism and the Cold War, reverted to conservative policies.
Except for the progressive legislation of the 1960s . the Civil Rights and
Voting Rights Acts, Medicare and Medicaid . there have been no major
social reforms since the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938.

As Obama has made plain, the Democrats have retained their character as
the War Party. Apart from World War II, which was clearly a bipartisan
effort, military interventions in Korea, the Dominican Republic, Vietnam
and Kosovo; the opening rounds of the Iraq war in the late 1990s; and the
escalation of war in Afghanistan have been the products of the Democrats.
Only the two Bush presidents proved equally committed to aggressive
foreign military actions.

Meanwhile, as the economy continued to sink, the Obama administration,
directed by Fed Chair Ben Bernanke, Summers and Geithner, transferred
trillions in taxpayer funds to the leading institutions of the financial
system. Another bundle went to General Motors and Chrysler, now free to
chop jobs at will in order to save their corporations from liquidation.
Even as official joblessness climbed to more than 10 percent . and nearly
16 percent among blacks . Obama's emphasis was on "stabilizing" the
financial system.

Early on in his presidency, Obama told the country his first major
priority was to enact a universal healthcare program. Congress and
healthcare movements accepted the challenge and prepared themselves for
the long battle ahead. But Obama disappointed again. Instead of sending to
Congress a single-payer proposal that would have eliminated the power of
the insurance companies, he allowed conservatives and insurance company
lobbyists to write much of the bills that passed both houses of Congress.
The final version will not include even a watered-down public option, nor
will it likely sanction the right of women to have coverage for abortions.
Under the legislation, most Americans will be forced to buy private
insurance and pay big pharma's exorbitant prescription drug prices.

Obama is an ordinary, though talented, center-right president. While
surrendering to the right, he has maintained a sizeable constituency among
liberals and even some on the left. That a vigorous antiwar movement has
not emerged to fight the war escalations and his betrayals, that there are
no major protests against the phony healthcare bill about to become law
and, equally important, that we have seen no significant demonstrations
for jobs and income testifies to the torpor that has overcome large
sections of the U.S. people, including a portion of the left. Among the
reasons for this apparent passivity is that we still labor under the
illusion that the Democrats are, at least in part, the party of the people
and have failed to recognize their vital role in perpetuating capitalist

Are we so preoccupied with the myriad personal crises that afflict all
subordinate social classes? Are we exhausted in the wake of the battering
of the media, the flood of never-ending catastrophes, the defeats suffered
by the popular forces? Are the progressive forces ready to occupy the
political space of the opposition rather than the "left wing" of the
possible that moves ceaselessly to the right? Events belie forecasts so,
as America's wont, the explosion is likely to come as an unexpected

Perhaps the starting point would be the left's clean break from the

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Wall Street Will Be Back For More
by Chris Hedges
Monday, January 11, 2010
Common Dreams

Corporations, which control the levers of power in government and finance,
promote and empower the psychologically maimed. Those who lack the
capacity for empathy and who embrace the goals of the corporation -
personal power and wealth - as the highest good succeed. Those who possess
moral autonomy and individuality do not. And these corporate heads,
isolated from the mass of Americans by insular corporate structures and
vast personal fortunes, are no more attuned to the misery, rage and pain
they cause than were the courtiers and perfumed fops who populated
Versailles on the eve of the French Revolution. They play their games of
high finance as if the rest of us do not exist. And it is a game that will
kill us.

These companies exist in a pathological world where identity and personal
worth are determined solely by the perverted code of the corporation. The
corporation decides who has value and who does not, who advances and who
is left behind. It rewards the most compliant, craven and manipulative,
and discards the losers who can't play the game, those who do not
accumulate wealth or status fast enough, or who fail to fully subsume
their individuality into the corporate collective. It dominates the
internal and external lives of its employees, leaving them without time
for family or solitude - without time for self-reflection - and drives
them into a state of perpetual nervous exhaustion. It breaks them down,
especially in their early years in the firm, a period in which they are
humiliated and pressured to work such long hours that many will sleep
under their desks. This hazing process, one that is common at corporate
newspapers where I worked, including The New York Times, eliminates from
the system most of those with backbone, fortitude and dignity.

No one thinks in groups. And this is the point. The employees who advance
are vacant and supine. They are skilled drones, often possessed of a
peculiar kind of analytical intelligence and drive, but morally,
emotionally and creatively crippled. Their intellect is narrow and
inhibited. They rely on the corporation, as they once relied on their
high-priced elite universities and their SAT scores, for validation. They
demand that they not be treated as individuals but as members of the great
collective of Goldman Sachs or AIG or Citibank. They talk together. They
exchange information. They make deals. They compromise. They debate. But
they do not think. They do not create. All capacity for intuition, for
unstructured thought, for questions of meaning deemed impractical or
frivolous by the firm, the qualities that always precede discovery and
creation, are banished, as William H. Whyte observed in his book "The
Organization Man." The iron goals of greater and greater profit, order and
corporate conformity dominate their squalid belief systems. And by the
time these corporate automatons are managing partners or government
bureaucrats they cannot distinguish between right and wrong. They are
deaf, dumb and blind to the common good.

These deeply stunted and maladjusted individuals, from Treasury Secretary
Timothy Geithner to Robert Rubin to Lawrence Summers to the heads of
Goldman Sachs, Morgan Stanley, J.P. Morgan Chase and Bank of America, hold
the fate of the nation in their hands. They have access to trillions of
taxpayer dollars and are looting the U.S. Treasury to sustain reckless
speculation. The financial and corporate system alone validates them. It
defines them. It must be served. This is why e-mails from the New York Fed
to AIG, telling the bailed-out insurer not to make public the overpaying
of Wall Street firms with taxpayer money, were sent when Geithner was in
charge of the government agency. These criminals sold the public
investments they knew to be trash. They used campaign contributions and
lobbyists to turn elected officials into stooges and gut oversight and
regulation. They took over retirement savings and pensions and wiped them
out. And then they seized some $13 trillion in taxpayer money so they
could lend it to us with interest. It is circular theft. This is why we
will endure another catastrophic financial collapse. This is why firms
like Goldman Sachs are more dangerous to the nation than al-Qaida.

"The psychology is about winning, and winning is marked by the level of
compensation and bonuses and the power you have within the firm," Nomi
Prins, the author of "It Takes a Pillage" and a former managing director
at Goldman Sachs, told me by phone from California. "Every investment bank
is like a mini-country. The political maneuvering and the differences
between individuals who run certain areas and move up the ladder of the
company are not necessarily decided by a vote. They move up depending on
how close they are to the person [above them]. If that person moves up
they move up with them. A certain set of loyalties get created. It is an
intense competition all the time. You have trading and doing deals with
clients, but the result is to push people up the ladder and to make

How you make money and how you climb the ladder of the corporate structure
are irrelevant. Success becomes its own morality. Those who do well in
this environment possess the traits often exhibited by psychopaths -
superficial charm, grandiosity and self-importance, a need for constant
stimulation, a penchant for lying, deception and manipulation, and the
incapacity for remorse or guilt. They, like competitors on a reality
television program, lie, cheat and betray to climb over those around them
and advance. These demented individuals are admired and envied within the
firm. They achieve heroic status. The lower-ranking employees are supposed
to emulate them. And this makes Goldman Sachs and other speculative
financial firms upscale lunatic asylums where the inmates wear Brooks
Brothers suits and drink expensive chardonnay. Our problem is that the
lunatics have been let out of the asylum. They have been empowered to
cannibalize the government on behalf of the corporations that spawned them
like mutant carp.

These corporations don't make anything. They don't produce anything. They
gamble and bet and speculate. And when they lose vast sums they raid the
U.S. Treasury so they can go back and do it again. Never mind that $50
trillion in global wealth was erased between September 2007 and March
2009, including $7 trillion in the U.S. stock market and $6 trillion in
the housing market. Never mind that the total amount of retirement and
household wealth trashed was $7.5 trillion or that we saw $2 trillion in
401(k)s and individual retirement accounts evaporate. Never mind the $1.9
trillion in traditional defined-benefit plans and the $2.6 trillion in
nonpension assets that went up in smoke. Never mind the job losses, the
foreclosures and the 35 percent jump in personal and small-business
bankruptcies. There are bundles of new money, taken again from us, to make
deals and hand out outrageous bonuses. And when these trillions run out
they will come back for more until our currency becomes junk. Not that any
of these people have thought this through. They are too busy focused on
the pathetic, little monuments they are building to themselves and the
intricacies of court intrigue.

"There are always internal conversations about taking credit for certain
trades and deals," Prins said of her time at Goldman Sachs. "It is
childish, except there is so much money at stake and so much power within
the firm at stake. Power in the firm allows you to make money, but it also
provides a certain status that everyone looks up to and covets. There can
be a period of a month or two at the end of the year where closed-door
conversations occur between managers and people who work for them about
compensation. In these conversations they go something like: 'My group did
that trade.' 'I did that trade.' 'No, that was my money.' 'No, that was my
profit and loss.' 'That's my client.' 'I know the other group said that it
was their client but actually I had the relationship first.' A lot of
these petty conversations go back and forth. All of it to attain money and
acquire power and influence within the firm."

Those who advance in these institutions master the art of looking like
they are doing more than they are actually doing. It does not matter who
does the most. It matters who can take credit for doing the most. And that
often means poaching someone else's work. Friendship becomes a meaningless
word. So does compassion. So does honesty. So does truth. By any standard
comprehensible within the tradition of Western civilization these people
are illiterate. They cannot recognize the vital relationship between power
and morality. They have forgotten, or never knew, that moral traditions
are the product of civilization. Existence, for them, boils down to one
overriding imperative - me, me, me.

"The people who get the higher bonuses are not getting them because they
are quietly doing whatever work they are supposed to do," said Prins, who
also ran the international analytics group at Bear Stearns in London.
"They are getting that money because they are constantly able to promote

"The environment is very insular," Prins said. "It is all about what is
happening in the firm. Who said what. Who is doing what. What did they say
about you. How does it affect you. How does it affect your group. How does
it affect the people above you and below you. It destroys individuality.
You learn there is a certain way you are supposed to act to be successful.
If you are not doing that, if you are fighting too hard to do something
you believe is right, but your managers don't want to do, you defer. Or
you fight and it gets marked as a stripe against you. You don't discuss
interests that are counter to the firm's interests or the firm's

"You are not thinking whether it is ethical to dump a bunch of loans into
the street or repackage them and re-rate them better," she said. "You are
only thinking about getting the deal done. You don't think about how
issuing certain securities or structuring certain deals will impact people
[around you]."

"When you are living, competing and winning in an environment where it is
all about the money and the power, it creates a dividing line between you
and the rest of the world," Prins said. "You do not bother to look over
the dividing line. Your world is on your side of it and the rest of the
world is on their side of it. You are not looking at people being kicked
out of their homes and being foreclosed. You do not see the crying, the
anger and the children in the street because [those in government] decided
to give money to bail out Wall Street firms as opposed to renegotiate
mortgage principals so people can continue to live their lives. You can be
callous about it because it does not impact you. It is not something you
notice. You might read about it. But you don't feel it, watch it or go
through it. You are detached."

Banks are continuing to have hemorrhaging in consumer portfolios including
mortgage loans, auto loans, credit card loans and other loans.
Bankruptcies are endemic. Toxic assets if properly assessed would mean
that many of our largest banks are insolvent. But the profits from the
trading revenues and bonuses have climbed back to near-record highs. The
sick mentality of the game, the one that created the first worldwide
meltdown, dominates the nervous systems of our elite the way cravings
overtake heroin addicts. They can't think of anything else. They do not
know how. No one goes to Wall Street to further the common good. People go
to make money. And money, like power, is a potent narcotic.

"You don't think you are doing anything wrong," Prins said. "You are
working. You are making money. You are trying to have your bosses like you
and pay you. You run things by legal [the company's legal department]. You
run things by compliance. You don't believe you are committing a crime.
You are just doing what you are doing."

"We will have another crisis," she lamented. "I don't know when, but it is
brewing. If you don't fundamentally change the foundation of the banking
system you are piling on capital and time into something that is faulty.
This does not result in decades of stability. They are banking on trading.
Nothing has changed. The rest of the consumer economy is continuing to
deteriorate. These losses go into banks. You gain on trading and lose on
more solid practices. The foundation has not changed. The regulations are
bullshit. The old assets are still crap. The new assets created off the
old assets are still crap. The banks are still levering them and still
doing the same practices they did before. We will have another liquidity
crunch. Banks will again stop trusting their assets and each other. ...
The buying of complex assets will stop, although this time more quickly.
People will remember what happened before. You will have a repeat of
credit constricting between financial institutions. It is already
constricted on the consumer side. The banking system will use up this
federal capital and then go back for more."

Chris Hedges writes a regular column for Hedges graduated
from Harvard Divinity School and was for nearly two decades a foreign
correspondent for The New York Times. He is the author of many books,
including: War Is A Force That Gives Us Meaning, What Every Person Should
Know About War, and American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War on
America.  His most recent book is Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy
and the Triumph of Spectacle.

--------12 of 13--------

Obama Received $20 Million from Healthcare Industry in 2008 Campaign
Almost three times the amount given to McCain
by Brad Jacobson
Tuesday, January 12, 2010
Raw Story
Common Dreams

While some sunlight has been shed on the hefty sums shoveled into
congressional campaign coffers in an effort to influence the Democrats'
massive healthcare bill, little attention has been focused on the far
larger sums received by President Barack Obama while he was a candidate in

A new figure, based on an exclusive analysis created for Raw Story by the
Center for Responsive Politics, shows that President Obama received a
staggering $20,175,303 from the healthcare industry during the 2008
election cycle, nearly three times the amount of his presidential rival
John McCain. McCain took in $7,758,289, the Center found.

The new figure, obtained by Raw Story through an independent custom
research request performed by the Center for Responsive Politics - a
nonprofit, nonpartisan group that tracks money in politics - is the most
comprehensive breakdown yet available of healthcare industry contributions
to Obama during the 2008 election cycle.

Currently, the Center's website shows that Obama received $19,462,986 from
the health sector, which includes health professionals ($11.7m), health
services/HMOs ($1.4m), hospitals/nursing homes ($3.3m) and
pharmaceuticals/health products ($2.1m). Miscellaneous health donations
(from which Obama received $860,411) are also factored into the current
total health sector numbers but are not accessible on the site.

Health insurance industry contributions, however, are not included within
the Center's current health sector totals. Rather, contributions from the
health insurance industry are contained within the site's finance and
insurance sector. Seeking a more complete total, the Center culled health
and accident insurance donations from this sector (for which Obama
received $712,317) and combined them with his existing health sector total
($19,462,986) to arrive at his healthcare industry total ($20,175,303).

The Center employed the same methodology in its analysis for John McCain
and based all of its findings on the latest data released by the Federal
Election Commission.

Dave Levinthal, the Center's communications director, noted that Obama
out-raised McCain in nearly all business sectors that contributed to the
2008 presidential candidates. In that regard, the healthcare industry
figure is not in itself an anomaly.

But Levinthal underscored the significance of the industry's largess.

"What it also means when you look at it just on its own merit is that
Obama definitely has a relationship with the health sector," Levinthal
told Raw Story. "When you raise $20 million from one group, obviously
they've curried some favor with you and you have a lot of people in that
sector who support you. So to say that just because he out-raised McCain
overall doesn't mean anything in the context of the health sector might
not necessarily be true."

"People want to be able to curry favor with those who are in power," he
added. "And one way to do that is by making donations to candidates and
officials who are represented by the party in power. Or who look like
they're going to win."

The White House did not respond to a request for comment for this article.

Gary Jacobson, a campaign finance expert and political science professor
at the University of California, San Diego, says the healthcare industry
saw the writing on the wall and sought to "protect their interests."

"Contributors expect access," Jacobson, author of Money in Congressional
Elections, told Raw Story. The healthcare industry "anticipated an Obama
victory and they wanted to be in the game."

While experts agreed that there is certainly nothing illegal about
receiving such copious contributions from the industry within the current
U.S. system of campaign financing, all emphasized the inevitable impact
this money has in influencing public policy.

Obama's considerable windfall from the healthcare industry merits
attention, they said.

Mary Boyle, spokeswoman for government watchdog Common Cause, said that
her organization has been mostly focused on what members of Congress have
received in campaign contributions from the healthcare industry. But she
called Obama's campaign receipts from the industry "not surprising."

"The healthcare industry has been ramping up in recent years in
anticipation of this healthcare debate, giving both to Democrats and
Republicans," Boyle explained in an interview with Raw Story.

Some experts who spoke with Raw Story also noted the rather stark
evolution from candidate Obama, who once advocated for universal
healthcare and was a vocal critic of mandated health insurance, to
President Obama, who excluded single-payer advocates from White House
healthcare summits and who has since strongly embraced mandates.

  Obama delegate now takes umbrage with healthcare position

Historian and media critic Norman Solomon, who was also an Obama delegate
to the Democratic National Convention, called the president's
transformation on healthcare since taking office "shameful."

"Overall it's been a very corporate friendly healthcare approach from
Obama as president," Solomon said in an interview with Raw Story.
"Corporate friendly in a way that I believe is injurious to public

He underscored the subtle but substantive change in healthcare language
used by Obama and the White House.

"We don't hear so much now about 'healthcare reform,'" Solomon said.
"We're hearing a lot more about 'health insurance reform.' And that is
absolutely in large measure driven by the White House."

He also concurred with Boyle's assessment on the success of the industry's
special interests.

"The funding from the healthcare industry to the Obama campaign, in
retrospect, was not misplaced," Solomon said. "It appears, based on
policy, that those funders are getting what they would've hoped for."

"Let me put it this way," he added. "Single-payer advocates literally
couldn't get into the White House. And you have [chief pharmaceutical
industry lobbyist and former Republican congressman] Billy Tauzin and Big
Pharma and all of these in-depth strategy meetings in the White House in
mid-2009 cutting deals. And I think it's shameful."

But Boyle puts the blame more on the campaign financing system than on
President Obama.

"It's getting worse every year," she said. "This story line is going to
continue until the end of time until we change the way we pay for our
political campaigns. It's the system. Everyone's stuck in it. Everyone
gets kind of caught up in it."

Yet she believes these new numbers clearly show the industry was "trying
to gain access and influence to the president, just as they have tried -
and been quite successful - at gaining access to members of Congress."

Boyle also noted the industry's success in achieving this goal over the
course of the healthcare debate.

"We've seen many examples of the healthcare industry's interests - and we
would argue that a lot of it has to do with the money - prevailing over
the public interest," she said. "The fact is, we have this broken system
that allows interests that want the most out of government to have the
loudest voice and to get that loudest voice by contributing the most money
and spending the most money."

Brad Jacobson is a contributing investigative reporter for Raw Story.
 2010 Raw Story

--------13 of 13--------

Obama and Miracles that Never Happen
By Stephen Gowans
Saturday, December 06, 2008  [notice the date]
What's Left

[Written in December 2008. Imagine the disfavor the writer was in from the
Obama Believers after this! It's nice to later be proven right, but it is
never a picnic at the time. -ed]

If 10 times more people claimed to have attended Woodstock than were
actually there, I suspect 10 times more people claim to have wept at
Obama's election victory than actually did. Weeping on the night of
November 4 - or claiming you did - has now become a fashion. I, too, wept,
though not because Obama won, but because the number of times I heard the
words "Obama is the embodiment of hope" was too much to bear.

The day before the election, my son called me from school.

"I was just interviewed on Obama for the national news," he related

"How'd that happen?"

"Actually, it was a group of us who were interviewed. I'm not sure I'm
going to make it on the newscast, though. The reporter was looking for
gushing reactions, and I pointed out that I had some concerns about Obama
because he had received more in corporate donations than McCain had. I
don't think that's quite what she was looking for".

No mistake there. Two days later the segment aired in the last 10 minutes
of an hour-long news show devoted to documenting (and manufacturing)
excited reactions to the Obama victory. After 50 minutes of Europeans,
Asians, Africans and Latin Americans delivering encomia on the Obama
victory, my son's chance at a brief moment of public exposure arrived. A
group of high-school students, my son among them, is seen walking into a
room. The reporter turns to each in turn and asks, "What do you think of
Obama?" The first, a young man born in Canada to Chinese parents, says he
identifies with Obama, because they're both ethnic minorities. Another
talks of hope. A third says she gets shivers down her spine whenever she
hears Obama talk. (Demonstrating a talent for prophecy, my son predicts
two days earlier that "She'll make it on the newscast for sure".) And so
it goes, each student joining in the celebration, because, wasn't that the
implicit contract? Gush over Obama, and see yourself on TV. My son, whose
concerns over Obama's netting more corporate donations than McCain clashed
impolitely with the intoxicated atmosphere of Obama worship, became a
voiceless image; the one student who, for reasons never explained, was
seen, but not heard, on camera.

To those grasping at straws, the election of a black man as president
signals the recession of anti-black racism in the United States. For the
gullible, it signals the dawn of a new age of hope.

There have been black people in numerous positions of power in the US
before, from CEOs to mayors to governors to secretaries of state to the
country's top soldier. Now we can add president. Will anything of
substance change because of this? Obama's victory hasn't caused anti-black
racism to recede; it is, instead, a consequence of this. Will a black man
in the White House make clear to the romantics who haven't figured it out
yet that black people are no different from white people, equally capable
of oppressing, exploiting, plundering and killing on a massive scale? Add
that liberals are as capable of these things as conservatives, and Obama,
the black liberal president, offers no hope of departure from the
accustomed trajectory.

Despite its recession, anti-black racism has only receded to the point
where a privileged black man with rare forensic talents, the massive
backing of the corporate community, and the help of the best marketing
talent money can buy, can get elected; it has by no means disappeared, nor
receded enough to make a substantial difference in the lives of most black

But for black people there's inspiration to be found in one of their own
ascending to the highest office in the land. The joy is misplaced. The
only thing Obama shares in common with 99 percent of blacks in the United
States is the color of his skin, and skin color, when you get right down
to it, is only of consequence to bigots who continue to embrace the echo
of a racist ideology once used by slave-owners (who happened to be white)
to justify exploitation of slaves (who happened to be black.) If you're
going to screw people over, it's useful to have a body of legitimizing
ideas; after all, who wants to come face to face with the reality that
he's an unconscionable prick living off the toil of others? That's where
racism comes in handy. And if we're talking about people exploiting others
of the same skin color, there's a whole other body of ideas to justify
that, which, in these days of thin class consciousness, most of us mistake
for common sense. To be sure, skin color does matter to the victims of
racism because they can't escape the fact that the bigots who continue to
embrace the echo of a racist ideology keep making a fuss about it. But
that makes Obama as much like them as George Bush is like me.

Come to think of it, George and I are alike in many ways. We're middle
aged; we both trip over words; we're white; we're male. But so what?
George comes from a ruling class family; my forebears worked in factories,
did manual labor, and in recent years, ascended to the ranks of the
white-collar proletariat, deluding themselves that by wearing a tie and
acting "professional" they had transcended their class. George snorted
coke; I worked in a pharmaceutical factory for his friend Donald Rumsfeld.
George went to Yale and the Harvard Business School on his family's money;
I went to two undistinguished public universities, one located in the
gritty industrial city of Hamilton, Ontario, paying subsidized tuition
with money saved up working at a grocery store. Whatever we have in common
is picayune next to what sets us apart.

The very best comment I've heard on the Obama victory comes from Mickey Z.
Obama's ascendancy, he said in a Dec 1 interview published in the British
newspaper, The Morning Star, "is an excellent illustration of how the
system handles dissent. A black face, a soothing voice and a vague message
of change - all designed to keep the rabble pacified without changing
anything at all".

While a debate whirled around me during the days leading up to the
election over the question of whether leftists ought to vote for Obama or
opt for someone who wasn't going to put more boots on Afghan soil and
rattle the Pentagon's sabre at Iran, I kept my counsel. For one thing, I'm
not a US citizen. The job of everyone else in the world is to bear the
brunt of the stupid decisions Americans make. As much as the rest of us
wish the consequences of their choices were limited to the US, sadly, what
happens in the United States often has dire consequences for those living
everywhere else. For another, all the reasons for not voting for a
Democrat or Republican had been made cogently and repeatedly before,
apparently, to no avail, and having exceeded my limit in flogging dead
horses, I was tapped out. What's more, it was clear that the
Obama-supporters had formed an impermeable seal around their brains that
admitted no appeal to reason. This was to be a purely emotional choice;
hence, the tears of joy on election night.

While a vote for Nader had its merits, I couldn't help but wonder whether
the Nader-supporters shared a delusion with the Obama-backers - that of
believing that the right person in the Oval Office would make a
difference. Americans might be excused for this delusion; after all,
they've never elected a leftwing president and therefore have been spared
the cold blast of reality that disappoints those who've worked to elect a
leftwing government. Had they not been deprived of this sobering
experience, they would recognize their faith in third party politics for
the naivete it is. A quick survey of what has happened when social
democrats, socialists and even communists have won elections and formed
governments with a program of reforming the system from within, leaves no
doubt as to the possible outcomes. A new socialist age is not one of them.
Either the new government:

o Recognizes that it must cater to the imperatives of the system it has
chosen to work within to prevent its rule from being destabilized, and
therefore behaves as any other pro-capitalist government does.

o Boldly introduces anti-capitalist reforms, only to suffer a backlash as
investors and businesses withdraw their capital and refuse to make further
investments. This provokes an economic crisis, and the government's
supporters, menaced by rising unemployment or shortages or rampant
inflation, withdraw their support.

o Is ousted in a military or fascist coup.

o Is destabilized by outside forces.

Only where the energy of the bulk of people has been mobilized to tear the
system down and replace it with one friendly to popular interests, have
leftwing forces prevailed for any substantial period.

How is it, then, that substantial reforms, such as the public health care
systems of Western Europe and Canada, came into being, if not by the
agency of leftwing governments voted into power to reform the system from
within? The truth of the matter is that reforms were just as likely to be
introduced by conservatives as social democrats (and none of the reforms
ushered in by Western governments, often as Cold War expediency, ever
matched the programs established under Marxist-Leninist governments in the
Soviet Union and Eastern European.) It was Bismark and Gladstone - hardly
lefties - who introduced the first modern social welfare programs. The
basis for social security in the US came not from the Democrats or
organized labor, but from the Rockefeller-founded Industrial Relations
Counselors Inc., to head off labor unrest. While a Labour government was
introducing the NHS in Britain, conservative governments on the continent
were introducing their own NHS equivalents. And in Canada, it was the
conservative government of John Diefenbaker that introduced the Hospital
Insurance and Diagnostic Services Act of 1957. Social democrats have
claimed social programs as their own, but they can lay no claim to being
the sole parents, and have just as often been involved in dismantling the
reforms predecessor (and often conservative) governments had introduced.

The programs pursued by governments are shaped by the circumstances they
encounter, surrounding events, and for those with reformist aims, by the
constraints of the constitutional system and the logic of the capitalist
system they've chosen to work within. Left-leaning governments bow to the
demands of the capitalist economy to survive; conservative governments
introduce reforms and concessions to head off labor militancy. Often these
constraints are ignored by critics, who assume implicitly that the right
person, once elevated to a position of power, is free to make history as
he pleases. "Once our man is in power, just wait to see what happens". The
answer is often, more of the same, or policies the government's backers

Across from me sits a book on whose spine is written "Giving Away a
Miracle". It's the story of the unlikely election in the 90s of a social
democratic government in Ontario (the miracle.) The giving away began the
very same night the party was elected, as its leader began beating a hasty
retreat from the party's campaign promises. It ended with the party, the
supposed voice of organized labor, tearing up collective agreements it had
negotiated with public sector unions.

The transformation from rhetorical champion of the average worker to just
another pro-capitalist government was inevitable. The promises made -
among them public auto insurance - would have ended in a messy fight with
corporate Canada. Investments would be delayed, capital would be taken out
of the province, and jobs would be lost. The news media, which exert a
powerful influence in shaping public opinion, were uniformly hostile,
warning that the new government would turn Ontario into an economic
basket-case. The only way the government could have pursued its agenda was
to have had massive popular support, toughened by the people's readiness
to suffer the inevitable blows that the corporations whose interests would
be encroached upon, would rain upon the province. This, the government
didn't have, nor could have for long under circumstances in which
conservative forces were allowed to continue to control the means of
production and means of persuasion. What would have truly been a miracle
is if the powerful opponents of the government's agenda had stepped aside
in deference to the people's will and allowed anti-capitalist reforms to
go ahead. But this never happens. The problem, then, wasn't that a miracle
had been given away; the problem was that the miracle of absent opposition
never materialized.

The same can be said about Obama. Even if he were pro-labor and anti-war
- which even a superficial look at his voting record, campaign
statements, and cabinet choices will reveal he is not - the course he
pursued would have infinitely more to do with the socio-economic forces
that press upon him than the color of his skin, his political leanings, or
the fact that he belongs to one party of business rather than another. The
same goes for Nader. If by some miracle he had won, his good intentions
would prove no match for the system he chose to work within.

Obama's election is no miracle, just what was needed to create the
illusion of change. Any chance of meaningful change will require more than
the election of another exhibitionist lawyer whose charm, forensic skills
and ambition allowed him to catch the eye of people with the connections
and resources to get him elected - the people who really rule America. The
United States' first black president is just another instrument of moneyed
interests whose decisions will be structured by his obligations to the
people who put him power and the logic of the capitalist system in which
he must work - a charming Bush, with darker skin and a liberal pedigree.
A better alternative than McCain? If you prefer the used car salesman who
sells you a piece of crap while making you feel good about yourself, to
the one who's less talented in hiding his guile, yes. But shit is shit,
whether you mask the odor with perfume or not.


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