|Progressive Calendar 03.27.10||<– Date –> <– Thread –>|
|From: David Shove (shove001tc.umn.edu)|
|Date: Sat, 27 Mar 2010 06:08:46 -0700 (PDT)|
P R O G R E S S I V E C A L E N D A R 03.27.10 1. Peace walk 3.27 9am Cambridge MN 2. Honduras 3.27 10am 3. Know Arab kids 3.27 10am 4. CUAPB 3.27 1:30pm 5. Northtown vigil 3.27 2pm 6. Your river story 3.27 2pm 7. Marty/justice 3.27 6pm 8. Anne Frank/play 3.27 7:30pm 9. Billy Wharton - Clunker Obamacare: pro private insurers, vs democracy 10. Stephen Lendman - Obamacare's passage: a full-scale retreat 11. Robert Jensen - New storytelling, new story, journalism, collapse --------1 of 11-------- From: Ken Reine <reine008 [at] umn.edu> Subject: Peace walk 3.27 9am Cambridge MN every Saturday 9AM to 9:35AM Peace walk in Cambridge - start at Hwy 95 and Fern Street --------2 of 11-------- From: Jason Stone <jason.stone [at] yahoo.com> Subject: Honduras 3.27 10am Coffee Hour: Honduras- Human rights delegation report & current political situation 3/27 Saturday, March 27th 10:00am-Noon At the Resource Center of the Americas Presented partly in English and Spanish at times, with brief summaries made in the other language as necessary A solidarity and Human rights delegation led by La Voz de Los de Abajo in Chicago visited Honduras in January during the installation of illegitimately elected President Pepe Lobo and the departure of deposed president Manuel Zelaya. The delegation attended a massive protest march and met with human rights, union, religious, LGBTI and campesino groups, all part of the National Resistance Front against the coup. Speakers: Joe Callahan, Metro Transit bus driver, union member, recently participated in human rights delegation to Honduras Carla Riehle, lawyer, recently participated in human rights delegation to Honduras Marcial Castro, Honduran immigrant, worker Sonia Aviles, Salvadoran, member of FMLN Minnesota, spent time in Honduras refugee camp, worker --------3 of 11-------- From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at] mtn.org> Subject: Know Arab kids 3.27 10am "Getting to Know the Children of the Middle East and the Arab World" Saturday, March 27, 9:30 a.m. (Refreshments); 10:00 a.m. (Presentation and Discussion) Southdale, Hennepin County Library, 7001 York Avenue South, Edina. A curriculum for American elementary and middle school students. An Arab proverb says "Early education is like carving in stone." Many educators agree that helping children and young people learn about and make connections with the children of the Middle East and Arab world is the only way to guard these leaders of tomorrow against the stereotyping of Arabs as "terrorists" or "the enemy" that permeates so much of our media and conversation today. Mary Davies has lived, worked and traveled in the Middle East since 1987 for the Middle East Council of Churches, The Travelers Society, the United Methodist Church and as a justice and peace educator. Sponsored by: Middle East Peace Now (MEPN). WAMM is a member of MEPN. FFI: Call Florence Steichen, 651-696-1642 or email mepn [at] mepn.org. --------4 of 11-------- From: Michelle Gross <mgresist [at] visi.com> Subject: CUAPB 3.27 1:30pm Meetings: Every Saturday at 1:30 p.m. at Walker Church, 3104 16th Avenue South http://www.CUAPB.org Communities United Against Police Brutality 3100 16th Avenue S Minneapolis, MN 55407 Hotline 612-874-STOP (7867) --------5 of 11-------- From: Vanka485 [at] aol.com Subject: Northtown vigil 3.27 2pm Peace vigil at Northtown (Old Hwy 10 & University Av), every Saturday 2-3pm --------6 of 11-------- >From Alayne Hopkins <alayne [at] thefriends.org> Subject: Your river story 3.17 2pm The Mighty Mississippi -Lectures, Discussions & More Saturdays & Sundays, March 7 - April 3 Central Library, 90 West Fourth Street, Saint Paul James J. Hill Reference Library, 80West Fourth Street, Saint Paul This event is free and open to the public. For more information, call 651-222-3242 or friends [at] thefriends.org Share your own river story on Saturday, March 27, 2 p.m., with Pat Nunnally, coordinator of the Institute on the Environment's River Life center at the University of Minnesota. Nunnally leads an open discussion about "Our 21st Century River Story" in the meeting room at Central Library. --------7 of 11-------- From: John Marty <info [at] johnmarty.org> Subject: Marty/justice 3.27 6pm Social Justice matters. I grew up in a home where my parents, Elsa and Martin Marty, were active in the civil rights and anti-poverty movements. My father, an author and theologian, marched with Martin Luther King at Selma, and even as children we were engaged in working for social justice. My parents taught us the importance of valuing the worth and dignity of every person. They taught us that if you see an injustice, it is your responsibility to do something about it. My political work has been rooted in those values. Like many, I developed my interest in social justice through the faith tradition I was raised in. This is not about mixing church and state - the right to practice or not practice religion is one of the most important guarantees in our constitution - but it is recognizing that for many of us, our faith demands we act in the world for social justice. Not everyone shares this belief. Recently, Fox News host Glenn Beck declared that the term "social justice" was a code word for communism and Nazism: "If you don't get off that social justice, economic justice bandwagon, you are in grave danger - all our faiths. My faith. Your faith.... this is infecting all of them." I want to invite you to join in on a conversation between me and my father, Dr. Martin E. Marty, on social justice and the intersection of faith and politics. Faith, Politics and Social Justice: A conversation with Dr. Martin E. Marty & Senator John Marty Saturday, March 27, 2010 Doors open at 6 pm; event begins at 6:30 pm Holy Trinity Lutheran Church 2730 East 31st Street Minneapolis, MN 55406 The event is free and open to the public. I hope you can join us. P.S. While this event is not a fundraiser, there will be a fundraising reception afterwards for those interested in supporting my campaign for governor. --------8 of 11-------- From: UMN Human Rights Center <humanrts [at] umn.edu> Subject: Anne Frank/play 3.27 7:30pm March 27, 2010 - "Diary of Anne Frank" PLAY 7:30 pm. Cost: Tickets at (651) 767-8480. Park Square Theatre: 408 St. Peter St., St. Paul MN Post-play discussion led by Dr. Elizabeth Baer. --------9 of 11-------- Clunker Healthcare Bill Protects Private Insurers Damages Democracy by Billy Wharton March 25th, 2010 Dissident Voice [ObamaDontCare] Americans desperately need healthcare. The need is so desperate that many are buying into a "something is better than nothing" philosophy to support a healthcare bill that actively works against their own interests. The bill that Barack Obama plans to sign into law is being dubbed a "reform," but actually amounts to a corporate restructuring that will solidify the reliance on the same private insurance companies that have caused the crisis in the nation's healthcare system. As single-payer activist, Dr. Margaret Flowers stated, "The Democratic Party has now moved so far to the right that they have just passed a Republican health bill". This is no surprise. Private insurers and pharmaceutical companies have flooded the electoral system with money in order to guarantee their continued ability to accumulate profits. Junk Healthcare Plans and the Race to the Bottom At nearly 2,500 pages, the bill contains a myriad of loopholes that will allow private insurers to continue nearly all of the immoral practices that have, according to a Harvard University study, resulted in more than 40,000 deaths per year due to treatable conditions. In fact, private insurers will now receive taxpayer funds to subsidize the sale of junk healthcare plans that the group Physicians for a National Health Program estimates will only cover 70% of people's medical needs. This will likely spark a race-to-the-bottom as employers look to provide the minimum amount of coverage possible, insurers grab ever-increasing chunks of public money and people continue to face the prospect of soaring out-of-pocket costs, deep medical debts and death from treatable illnesses. However, Americans have adjusted to profit driven healthcare by avoiding it. A study by the Kaiser Family Foundation found that 6 out of 10 Americans had deferred or delayed what they understood as necessary medical treatment. To close this option, the Healthcare Bill lends the coercive power of government to private health insurers. For the first time in American history, citizens will be forced to purchase health insurance or face stiff annual fines. Such a mandate guarantees that millions of people will be herded into the new "health insurance exchanges," an idea created by the Heritage Foundation, in order to fork over their money to private insurers. Estimates are that this will produce more than 20 million new customers for abusive insurers such as Humana, Oxford and Aetna. When Corporations Own Democracy The bill is a remarkably clear demonstration of the power of corporate money and influence in politics. Health insurers spent an average of $600,000 a day for lobbying during the first six months of 2009. Lobbyists had a seat at the table during all parts of the writing, debate and approval of the bill. When single-payer advocates from the Physicians for a National Health Program and Healthcare-NOW attempted to participate in proceedings at the Senate Finance Committee, they were first denied a seat at the table and then arrested. All along, the insurance lobby followed the basic strategy they have employed since the 1990s - either prevent any reform or stick people with a bad reform. Welcome to the bad reform. The fix was in from the beginning. This was clear as Democrats stumbled through "town hall meetings" during the summer of 2009. Most could not explain the details of the plan and relied on vague appeals to the obvious fact that people needed access care. Most had already taken hefty campaign contributions from the insurance and pharmaceutical lobby. Meanwhile, the bill grew in size and in pro-corporate credentials. Republicans added more than 100 amendments, Democrats negotiated away any even vaguely progressive language and the insurance industry opened profit-rich loopholes. Along the way, Obama made anti-abortion pledges and immigrants were thrown out of the legislation. Gone was Obama's campaign pledge to create "universal healthcare". It was replaced by the neoliberal slogan of "choice and competition". [Up Obama's butt. -ed] Democrats: For Sale or Lease A few Democrats put up symbolic resistance. House Representative Anthony Weiner cashed-in politically by running a slick public relations campaign nominally in support of single-payer before fading back into line with Obama. Senator Bernie Sanders, an independent, tried the insider route, attempting to carve out provisions that would allow state-by-state single-payer systems and that would create a public option. This failed and Sanders withdrew, choosing to go-along-to-get-along. Dennis Kucinich was held up as a "last honest man" figure. Kucinich has serious single-payer credentials and seemed fearless in his criticism of both the content and process of the bill. He correctly surmised that the House Bill "would put the government in the role of accelerating the privatization of health care" and voted No during the first round in the House. Yet, as the clunky pro-corporate bill lumbered toward a final vote, Democratic Party leadership broke Kucinich, squeezing a Yes vote out of him presumably upon threat of running a well-financed candidate against him in future elections. In a scene more reminiscent of an Orwellian dystopia, a defeated Kucinich held a press conference to describe why he was going to vote Yes for a bill that he opposes. [He saved his seat but is now never again go be trusted for anything - worthless. -ed] Along the way, the Democrats received a wonderful political gift - the Tea Partiers. Both the conservative and liberal media focused in on tea-party demonstrations in order to craft them as the face of the opposition to the bill. A motley reactionary crew of racists, gun-lovers, and right-wing libertarian yahoos provided pro-corporate Democrats with the chance to appear as the rational defenders of the people. Single-payer advocates were unable to break this embargo despite a variety of tactics ranging from civil disobedience to letter writing. Ultimately, the Obama administration was able to present the struggle as one between healthcare "reformers" and far-right wackos looking to wreck his presidency. All this was done in the service of protecting the insurance companies from the serious critique offered by single-payer. A Medical Cash-for-Clunkers The healthcare bill fits smoothly into the Obama administration's now clearly established economic strategy. Unlike the Bush administration, who attempted to use jumbled down-home rhetoric to cover class war from above, Obama has created a grotesque form of lemon socialism disguised by the language of reform. Under lemon socialism, financial losses are laid off on the public while private corporations retain the profits. Consider this bill as the healthcare version of cash-for-clunkers. Public money that could be used for the social good will be sent to bankroll abusive, inefficient and anti-human private corporations. Same with the bank bailout, and the war economy and the education policy. The administration speaks the language of reform, but enacts the policies of neoliberal privatization, no matter what the cost to the public in terms of funds or lives. There are simple lessons to be learned from all of this - the market and corporations have no role to play in either healthcare or politics. Insurance companies merely disrupt the relationship between doctors and patients. They add nothing to the healthcare system and suck off profits by limiting or denying access to care. These profits are then re-deployed in the political system to buy both Democratic and Republican politicians through a corrupting system of lobbying and campaign contributions. Now that the Supreme Court has provided corporations with an unlimited ability to donate money to candidates, these trends are sure to increase. Democracy or the Rich? Now is the time to put an end to this process. On healthcare, we need to re-build the single-payer movement, rooting it in poor and working class communities, winning over our trade unions and growing into a mass movement whose demands can neither be denied nor ignored as utopian. Single-payer can open the door for a fully socialized medical system in which healthcare is finally recognized as a guaranteed human right. Such a movement will be one part of a broader upsurge for democracy from below that seeks to address the fact that 5% of the population in America controls 85% of the wealth. As the reformer Justice Louis Brandeis once wrote, "We can have democracy in this country or we can have great wealth in the hands of a few, but we can't have both". We can accomplish this at the ballot box by voting for green and red candidates who support single-payer and in the streets by creating an uncompromising social movement that puts human needs first and aims to relegate the insurance companies, the banks and the multinationals to the position they so rightly deserve - the dustbin of history. Billy Wharton is the editor of The Socialist magazine and the Socialist WebZine. He can be reached at: billyspnyc [at] yahoo.com. Read other articles by Billy, or visit Billy's website. --------10 of 11-------- Obamacare's Passage: A Full-Scale Retreat by Stephen Lendman March 26th, 2010 Dissident Voice After eight years under George Bush, people demanded change. Obama and congressional Democrats promised it, then disappointed by accomplishing the impossible - governing worse than skeptics feared, worse than Republicans across the board on both domestic and foreign policies. They looted the nation's wealth, wrecked the economy, consigned millions to impoverishment without jobs, homes, savings, social services, or futures while expanding global militarism through imperial wars, occupations, and stepped up aggression on new fronts with the largest ever "war" budget in history - way over $1 trillion dollars annually plus supplementals and secret add-ons, greater than the rest of the world combined when America has no enemies. Now the latest. March 21 will be remembered as a day of infamy, the day House Democrat leaders bullied, bribed, cajoled, muscled, and jerry-rigged Obamacare to pass, despite most Americans opposing it with good reason. HR 4872: Health Care and Education Affordability Reconciliation Act of 2010 passed on March 21: 219-212. Along with the October 8, 2009-passed HR 3590: Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (the Senate-passed bill, December 24, 2009), Obama's signature made "health reform" law. House-Senate HR 4872 reconciliation follows that may or may not resolve all fixes. No matter. Legislation, signed March 23, is the law of the land unless the Supreme Court declares it unconstitutional - a process called "judicial review". Briefly, it works like this. The High Court doesn't review federal legislation unless challenged in district court and reaches the appellate level. However, if a clear constitutional violation exists, it may bypass the appellate process and accept a case directly. If it rules the law unconstitutional, it's nullified, and all actions under it may be reversed, but it doesn't happen often, easily, or quickly, especially against federal laws. Also, the High Court may defer a challenge hearing until major provisions take effect - in this case 2014 under a new Congress, and perhaps new president, Court, and political climate. In the end, it could come down to federal power v. states rights or corporate v. peoples' rights under the Constitution's "general welfare" clause - Article I, Section 8 stating: "The Congress shall have power to.. provide for (the) general welfare of the United States". that arguably should mean (but never did) "We the People," the Preamble's opening words. Reality, however, reveals an unfair match-up. Money nearly always trumps people, so why should this time be different, especially given the hundreds of billions of future profits at stake. Little wonder Indian author Arundhati Roy (and others) call democracy "the biggest scam in the world" - for sure the way her country and America practice it. Also remember - the Supreme Court's ("headnotes" included) Santa Clara County v. Southern Pacific Railroad decision granted corporations personhood, giving them the same rights as people but not the obligations. Those unrestricted powers let them subvert the "general welfare" to where one day its last vestige will be gone. Former high-level Washington/Wall Street insider Catherine Austin Fitts calls the process "Slow Burn," like boiling a frog that doesn't know it's dinner until done. We're dinner. Pro and Con Media Responses Since its 19th century inception, the Nation magazine turned reality on its head. It was once unapologetic about slavery, then later didn't support minority, labor, or women's rights. It championed 19th century laissez fare, attacked the Grangers, Populists, trade unions and socialists. In 1999, it called the US/NATO Serbia-Kosovo aggression "humanitarian intervention". After 9/11, it backed the official explanation despite convincing evidence debunking it. Initially, it supported the Afghan and Iraq wars, claimed "no evidence" America's 2004 presidential election was stolen, and in January 2006, ran an offensive full-page anti-Muslim ad titled "Arabian Fables," claiming Palestinians are prone to violence and deceptions. Two months later, it said Haiti's Jean-Bertrand Aristide was "feared and despised," then blamed Haitians for their own misery. Its biased editorials and articles support Democrats, suppress disturbing truths about them, and call business as usual "progressive". Unsurprisingly, they backed Obamacare from inception, editor Katrina Vanden Heuvel now calling America "a stronger nation for it". The Nation's John Nichols hailed "A Historic Vote for Health-Care Reform," said Speaker Pelosi "earned a place among the chamber's greatest leaders," quoted Majority Whip James Clyburn claiming "the Civil Rights (triumph) of the 21st century," Majority Leader Steny Hoyer saying the new law "will stand the test of time," and compared Obama's struggle to Franklin Roosevelt's for Social Security - an offensive rationalization comparing genuine universal reform to colossal fraud care rationing for the vast majority of Americans losing out under a hugely destructive measure. In contrast, Wall Street Journal writer Kimberly Strassel's "Inside the Pelosi Sausage Factory" article was accurate, showing the Journal at times is right. "You could see it coming a week ago," she said. Then it happened on live TV when: "Never before has the average American been treated to such a live-action view of the sordid politics necessary to push a deeply flawed bill to completion. It was dirty deals, open threats, broken promises and disregard for democracy that pulled ObamaCare to this point, and (Sunday) the same machinations pushed it across the finish line..The final days (to passage) were a simple death watch, to see how the votes would be bought, bribed or bullied, and how many congressional rules gamed, to get the win". A handout here, a threat there, a warning that voting no means "unions and other Democrats would run them out of Congress". By the weekend, all the pressure and threats and bribes had left the speaker three to five votes short.. The solution?. A "meaningless" presidential Executive Order affirming no federal funding for abortion, though signing it doesn't change Senate language allowing it through a separate premium besides Medicaid already covering it. No matter, it got the House bill passed the old-fashioned way - by forcing a majority to ram it through, or as Strassel said: making the "process of passing as politically toxic as the bill itself". A March 21 New York Times editorial titled, "Health Care Reform, at Last" called the process: wrenching, and tainted to the 11th hour by narrow political obstructionism, but the year-long struggle over health care reform (finally ended) with a triumph for countless Americans who have been victimized or neglected by their dysfunctional health care system. >From inception, the Times backed the bill, calling it needed progressive reform - no matter its full-scale retreat to ration care, enrich corporate providers, and deliver what Ralph Nader calls a "pay-or-die system that is the disgrace of the Western world". At a spring 2009 fundraiser, Obama quoted entertainer Al Jolson's famous line: "You ain't seen nothing yet," and he was right, but who, among his faithful, could have imagined that promise's destructiveness or fully comprehend it now. Cynically, however, the Times argued that: Over time (health care) reforms could bring about sweeping changes the way medical care is delivered and paid for. They could ultimately rival Social Security and Medicare in historic importance. In a March 20 article titled, "The Death of American Populism," this writer argued otherwise, saying what the 1913 Federal Reserve Act did for bankers, Obamacare may do for insurance and drug cartel predators controlling one-sixth of the economy. They'll more than ever game by system by: making it more dysfunctional; selling "junk insurance policies" leaving millions underinsured; keeping premiums unaffordable for full coverage; adding high deductibles and co-pays for less coverage; denying care by delaying, contesting, or preventing people from accessing it; letting pharmaceutical companies provide toxic drugs at unaffordable prices, and avoid generic competition on new products by lengthy patent protection periods; assuring providers more customers and higher profits by requiring individuals and families buy insurance or be penalized; and by 2018, imposing an excise tax on so-called "Cadillac" plans to cut corporate costs, make workers pay more, and force many to settle for less and be underinsured. The Times endorsed Obamacare as a triumph for "hard-working Americans," never mind the popping champagne corks in corporate board rooms celebrating their gain at the expense of most people losing out to an extent they'll only discover in the fullness of time when it's too late to matter. The Times has a long, sordid record of supporting the powerful, backing corporate interests, endorsing imperial wars, ignoring criminal fraud, championing sham election results, and being comfortable with unmet human needs, increasing poverty, hunger, homelessness, and deep despair for growing millions in a country run by corrupt politicians who don't give a damn as long as they're reelected, and corporate fraudsters who prey on the most vulnerable, and profit most by charging more, delivering less, and producing shoddy products. Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP): Advocates for Universal Coverage With 17,000 members nationwide, PNHP is an independent, non-partisan, voluntary "physician organization in the United States dedicated exclusively to implementing a single-payer national health program". Its March 22 press release expressed dismay with the new law saying it "take(s) no comfort in seeing aspirin dispensed for the treatment of cancer". Instead of fixing the "the profit-driven, private health insurance industry. this costly new legislation will enrich and further entrench (it by forcing) millions of Americans to buy" defective coverage leaving them worse off than before at a cost of hundreds of billions of tax dollars given predators to game the system for even more. PNHP's listed problems include: . besides millions underinsured, nine years out, 23 million Americans will be uninsured, "translate(d) into an estimated 23,000 unnecessary deaths annually and an incalculable toll of suffering;" . millions will be forced to buy insurance "costing up to 9.5 percent of their income but covering" only 70% of their expenses, leaving them one serious health emergency away from bankruptcy and loss of their homes; . for most, good policies will be unaffordable or "too expensive to use because of the high co-pays and deductibles;" . Insurers will get around $450 billion in public money "to subsidize (buying) their shoddy products," and be more than ever emboldened to block future reform; . safety-net hospitals will lose billions in Medicare and Medicaid payments, threatening tens of millions of under and uninsured; . workers with employer-based coverage will face higher costs, fewer benefits, and restrictions on selecting providers; most will be hamstrung with future stiff costs because of unrestricted premium hikes, higher deductibles and co-pays; . costs will keep rising exponentially because Obamacare doesn't contain them; . so-called new regulations (like ending pre-existing condition denials) are riddled with loopholes, ambiguities, and legal interpretations to let insurers manipulate them advantageously; and . "women's reproductive rights will be further eroded, thanks to the burdensome segregation of insurance funds for abortion and all other medical services". As a result, the Obama administration and congressional Democrats scammed the public with a package of expensive mandates, new taxes, sweetheart deals, and "a perpetuation of the fragmented, dysfunctional, and unsustainable system that is taking such a heavy toll on our health and economy today". Obamacare may or may not be good politics, but for most Americans it's disastrous health policy in lieu of simple, effective, affordable solutions - universal single-payer coverage. Everyone in. Nobody out except predatory insurers gaming the system for big profits, declining benefits, and unaffordability for growing millions. Major bill components won't kick in until 2014, meaning 180,000 Americans will die in the next four years and hundreds of thousands more won't have expensive injuries and illnesses treated. PNHP calls these stakes unacceptable in "pledg(ing) to continue (their) work for the only equitable, financially responsible and humane remedy for our health care mess:" universal coverage, "an expanded and improved Medicare for All". What members of Congress get, you get. Nothing less provided we fight for it until it's gotten. It'll come no other way. It's Over but not Entirely: State Government Challenges Over Mandated Coverage According to the National Conference of State Legislatures, 36 or more states may pass anti-mandate laws, 33 have introduced bills, and Idaho's CL "Butch" Otter became the first Governor to sign one into law. The Virginia House and Senate passed its own, expected to become law shortly. In Arizona, a proposed constitutional amendment will seek voter approval in November. In addition, on March 23, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden's press release said Idaho "has joined a multi-state lawsuit" against the Department of Health and Human Services, Treasury Department, and Department of Labor, "challenging the constitutionality of" new health care legislation, stating: Our complaint alleges the new law infringes upon the constitutional rights of Idahoans and residents of the other states by mandating all citizens and legal residents have qualifying health care coverage or pay a tax penalty. The law exceeds the powers of the United States under Article I of the Constitution and violates the Tenth Amendment ... Additionally, the tax penalty required under the law constitutes an unlawful direct tax in violation of Article 1, sections 2 and 9 of the Constitution. The press release also says Obamacare infringes on state sovereignty by imposing onerous unfunded mandates at a time most states face severe budget shortfalls, can't handle their current obligations, so they're cutting them. Joining the lawsuits are the Attorney Generals of South Carolina, Nebraska, Texas, Utah, Louisiana, Alabama, Colorado, Michigan, Pennsylvania, Washington, Florida, and South Dakota. Virginia Attorney General, Kenneth Cuccinelli, plans a separate suit in Richmond federal court, stating: The Constitution's Commerce Clause (Article I, Section 8, Clause 3) doesn't apply because: If a person decides not to buy health insurance, that person by definition is not engaging in commerce. If you are not engaging in commerce, how can the federal government regulate you? Indiana's Senator Richard Lugar asked his Attorney General to file suit, and other states have pledged to do so. Opponents raise serious concerns over the fundamental "do no harm" patient safety rule. For American Health Care Reform.org: Single-payer national health insurance will save our economy, prevent medical bankruptcy and above all, save lives. Medicare for All is the Right Prescription for America. We need National Health Insurance. Anything else is just voodoo. Anything less dumps millions of Americans in the trash heap of unaffordable care, poor care, or no care, one serious health emergency away from bankruptcy, home loss, or life threatening catastrophe. That's the reality Obamacare delivered. Stephen Lendman lives in Chicago. Contact him at: lendmanstephen [at] sbcglobal.net. Also visit his blog site and listen to The Global Research News Hour on RepublicBroadcasting.org Mondays from 11AM-1PM US Central time for cutting-edge discussions with distinguished guests. All programs are archived for easy listening. --------11 of 11-------- New Storytelling and a New Story The Collpase of Journalism / the Journalism of Collapse By ROBERT JENSEN CounterPunch March 26 - 28, 2010 There is considerable attention paid in the United States to the collapse of journalism - both in terms of the demise of the business model for corporate commercial news media, and the evermore superficial, shallow, and senseless content that is inadequate for citizens concerned with self-governance. This collapse is part of larger crises in the political and economic spheres, crises rooted in the incompatibility of democracy and capitalism. New journalistic vehicles for storytelling are desperately needed. There has been far less discussion of the need for a journalism of collapse - the challenge to tell the story of a world facing multiple crises in the realms of social justice and sustainability. This collapse of the basic political and economic systems of the modern world, with dramatic consequences on the human and ecological fronts, demands not only new storytelling vehicles but a new story. In this essay I want to review the failure of existing systems and suggest ideas for how to think about something radically different, through the lens of journalists' work. The phrase "how to think about" should not be interpreted to mean "provide a well-developed plan for"; I don't have magical answers to these difficult questions, and neither does anyone else. The first task is to face the fact that every problem we encounter does not necessarily have a solution that we can identify, or even imagine, in the moment; that identifying how existing systems have failed does not guarantee we have the capacity to devise new systems that will succeed. This is a realistic attitude, not a defeatist one. The lack of a guarantee of success does not mean the inevitability of failure, and it does not absolve us of our responsibility to struggle to understand what is happening and to act as moral agents in a difficult world. In fact, I think such realism is required for serious attempts at fashioning a response to the crises. The eventual solutions, if there are to be solutions, may come in frameworks so different from our current understanding that we can't yet see even their outlines, let alone the details. This is a time when we should be focused on "questions that go beyond the available answers," to borrow a phrase from sustainable agriculture researcher Wes Jackson. The old story Before taking up that challenge, I want to identify the story that dominates our era, what we might call the story of perpetual progress and endless expansion. This is the larger cultural narrative in which specific stories that appear in journalistic outlets are set. Charting the whole history of this story is beyond the scope of this essay, so I will confine myself to the post-WWII era in which I have lived, when this progress/expansion story has dominated not only in the United States and other developed countries but most of the world. This story goes like this: In the modern world, human beings have dramatically expanded our understanding of how the natural world works, allowing us not only to control and exploit the resources of the non-human world but also to find ways to distribute those resources in a more just and democratic fashion. The progress/expansion story assumes we have knowledge - or the capacity to acquire knowledge - that is adequate to run the world competently, and that the application of that knowledge will produce a constantly expanding bounty that, in theory, can provide for all. The two great systems of the post-WWII era that were in direct conflict - the capitalist West led by the United States and the communist East led by the Soviet Union - shared an allegiance to this story, that humans had the ability to understand and control, to shape the future, to become God-like in some sense. Even in places that carved out some independence in the Cold War, such as India, the same philosophy dominated, evidenced most clearly in big dam projects and the Green Revolution's model of water-intensive, chemical farming. The failure of the communist challenge was said to be "the end of history," a point where the only work remaining was the application of our technical knowledge to lingering problems within a system of global capitalism and liberal democracy. Even with the widening of inequality and the clear threats to the ecosystem from human intervention, the progress/expansion story continues to dominate, bolstered by a widely held technological fundamentalism (more on that later). The bumper-sticker version of this philosophy: More and bigger is better, forever and ever. There's one slight problem: If we continue to believe this story, and to base individual decisions and collective policies on it, we will dramatically accelerate the drawdown of the ecological capital of the planet, hastening the point at which the ecosystem will no longer be able to sustain human life as we know it at this level. In the process, we can expect not only more inequality, but in times of intense competition for resources, a dramatic increase in social conflict. This critique cannot be dismissed as hysteric apocalypticism; it is a reasonable judgment, given all the evidence. The progress/expansion story has left us with enduring levels of human inequality that violate our moral principles and threaten to undermine any social stability, and an endangered ecosystem that threatens our very survival. Whatever systems and institutions we devise to replace those at the root of these problems, the underlying progress/expansion narrative has to change. The collapse of journalism In the United States, it is clear that at least in the short term, there will be fewer professional journalists working in fewer outlets with fewer resources for reporting. The Pew Research Center's Project for Excellence in Journalism sums it up in its 2010 State of the News Media report: "[W]e estimate that the newspaper industry has lost $1.6 billion in annual reporting and editing capacity since 2000, or roughly 30 percent. That leaves an estimated $4.4 billion remaining. Even if the economy improves we predict more cuts in 2010". Newspapers are hurting the worst, but there is no good news from any news media. That loss of capacity comes from plunging ad revenues: In 2009, ad revenue fell 26 percent for U.S. newspapers, including online, bringing the total loss over the past three years to 43 percent. Local television ad revenue fell 22 percent, triple the decline the year before. Other media also saw a decline in ad revenue: radio, 22 percent; magazine, 17 percent; network TV, 8 percent (for network news alone, probably more). Online ad revenue overall fell 5 percent, and revenue to news sites most likely also fared much worse. Cable news was the only commercial news sector keeping its head above water, barely, according to the report. Revenue is down, and so are audiences. The PEJ study reports audience growth only in digital and cable news, with declines in local TV and network news. Print newspaper circulation fell 10.6 percent in 2009, and since 2000, daily circulation has fallen 25.6 percent. This decline is also reflected in employment. According to a report by UNITY: Journalists of Color, Inc., there was a 22 percent increase in the journalism jobs lost from September 2008 through August 2009, compared with a general job loss rate of 8 percent. The news industry shed 35,885 jobs in a one-year period straddling 2008 and 2009. Despite experiments with new ways to organize and support journalists - including grant-funded news operations such as Pro Publica, university/newsroom partnerships, citizen journalism collaborations with professional newsrooms, and various web projects - it is clear that, at least in the short term, there simply will be less journalism created by professional journalists. It also seems clear that of the journalism remaining, a growing percentage is of less value to the project of enhancing democracy. I don't want to pretend there was a golden age when professional journalism provided the critical and independent inquiry that citizens need to function as citizens. For reasons articulated by critics such as Edward Herman and Noam Chomsky, contemporary professional journalism is hamstrung by institutional and ideological constraints that have been built into professional practices. As a result, corporate news owners rarely have to discipline mainstream journalists, who are socialized to accept the ideological prison in which they work and police other inmates. But even with that rather large caveat, the slide of much of contemporary journalism into banality is frightening. Of public affairs journalism, we might paraphrase an old joke about hard-to-please restaurant patrons: "The food is awful here," one says, and the friend replies, "Yes, and they've reduced the portions". The markers of this slide in quality are clear enough: An obsession with entertainment and sports, especially large-scale spectacles; routine exploitation of sexuality and violence in ways corrosive to human dignity; an endless fascination with celebrity, with the standards of what constitutes celebrity continually dropping; and a growing imposition of those spectacle and celebrity values on public affairs. This is not a screed against entertainment, pleasure, fun, or the people's desire to gain pleasure from fun entertainment. It is not an attempt to glorify the rational and devalue the emotional. It is not a self-indulgent lament that the kind of journalism I prefer is losing out. It's an accurate description of our increasing numbed-out and intellectually vapid culture. How much of this collapse of journalism is driven by the explosion of news outlets in a 24-hour news cycle, as an ever-larger media beast demands to be fed? How much is a product of bottom-line-focused news managers' longstanding obsession with producing the extraordinary profits demanded by top-floor-dwelling executives? How much is panic caused by these dramatic drops in audience and revenue by so-called legacy media, leading to desperation in programming? Whatever the relative weight of these causes, the effect is clear: In the mainstream outlets through which most people in the United States get their news, there is less journalism relevant to citizens' role in a democracy and more journalism-like material that dulls our collective capacity for independent critical thinking. If journalists had only to struggle to return to some previous state in which they did a better job, that would be hard enough. But journalists can't be satisfied with striving toward standards from the past. A new journalism is needed. The journalism of collapse The immediate crises that journalism and journalists face - some rooted in the pathology of professionalism and its illusory claims to neutrality, and some rooted in the predatory nature of capitalism and its illusory commitment to democracy - are serious, but in some sense trivial compared to the long-term crises in a profoundly unjust and fundamentally unsustainable world. We have to deal with the collapse of journalism, but we also must begin to fashion a journalism of collapse. To reiterate my basic premise: Whatever the specific story being told in modern journalism, those stories typically are set in that larger narrative of perpetual progress and endless expansion. What kind of story is needed for a world that desperately needs to rethink its idea of progress in a world that is no longer expanding? Here's the story: On March 17, 2051, the world will pump its last easily accessible barrel of usable oil. By that time, cancer directly attributable to human-created toxicity will kill 125 million people per year, while major disruptions in the hydrological cycle will so dramatically reduce the amount of fresh water that 18.9 percent of the human population will die each year as a direct result. On June 14, 2047, exactly half of the area of the world's oceans will be dead zones, incapable of supporting significant marine life. Three and a half years later, topsoil losses will have reached the point where even with petrochemical based fertilizers, pesticides, and herbicides, yields will drop by 50 percent on the most fertile soil and fall to zero on soil that has effectively gone sterile due to contamination and compaction. But there won't be any petrochemicals anyway, because there won't be any oil. And there won't be enough water. And so there won't be enough food. And getting reliable broadband internet service will be difficult. OK, that was all meant to be funny. That, of course, is not the story. The story we need to tell won't be focused on predictions about specific aspects of collapse. I have no doubt that if the human community continues on its present trajectory, such statistics will be all too real. I have no doubt that if the human community does not change that trajectory in substantial ways fairly soon, the future will be grim. But rather than scurrying to make specific predictions, journalism should struggle to help people understand the processes that make that preceding paragraph plausible, and hence not funny at all. There's little humor in the recognition that continued commitment to an ideology of perpetual progress and endless expansion - operationally defined as ever greater human consumption of the ecological capital of the planet - is a dead end. More and bigger not only is not better, it is not possible. The response I often get to this view is the assertion that we need not worry about the physical limits of the planet because human ingenuity will invent increasingly clever ways of exploiting those resources. This technological fundamentalism - the belief that the use of evermore sophisticated high-energy, advanced technology is always a good thing and that any problems caused by the unintended consequences of such technology eventually can be remedied by more technology - is more prevalent, and more dangerous, than religious fundamentalism. History teaches that we should be more cautious and pay attention to the unintended effects of such technology with an eye on the long term. The fundamentalists believe the future is always bright, apparently because they wish it to be so. But the desire to live in an endless expanding world of bounty - a desire found both in those who currently have access to that bounty and those who don't but crave it - is not a guarantee of it. We certainly know this at the individual level, that "you can't always get what you want," as the song goes, and what holds for us as individuals is also true for us as a species. Those of us who question such declarations are often said to be "anti-technology," which is a meaningless insult designed to derail serious discussion. All human beings use technology of some kind, whether stone tools or computers. An anti-fundamentalist position is not that all technology is bad, but that the introduction of new technology should be evaluated carefully on the basis of its effects - predictable and unpredictable - on human communities and the non-human world, with an understanding of the limits of our knowledge to control the larger world. So the first step in crafting a new narrative for journalists is to reject technological fundamentalism and deal with a harsh reality: In the future we will have to make due with far less energy, which means less high-technology and a need for more creative ways of coping. Journalists have to tell stories about what that kind of creativity looks like. They have to reject the gee-whizzery of much of the contemporary science and technology reporting and emphasize the activities of those with a deeper ecological worldview. There also is a corresponding need to tell stories about redefining our concept of the good life. Again, the basics are in pop songs: "all you need is love," and "money can't buy you love". We all agree, yet that narrative of progress/expansion is rooted in the belief that acquisition and consumption are consistent with a good life, or perhaps even required for it. Central to that redefinition is accepting that collectively we have to learn to live with less. In a world with grotesque inequalities in the distribution of wealth, some of our sisters and brothers are already living with less - less than what is required for a decent life, which reflects the unjust nature of our social systems. For those of us in the more affluent sectors, the question is not only whether we will work for a more just distribution within the human family, but how we respond when the world imposes stricter limits on us all. Living with less is crucial not only to ecological survival but to long-term human fulfillment. People in the United States live with an abundance of most everything - except meaning. The people who defend the existing system most aggressively are typically either in the deepest denial, refusing to acknowledge their culture's spiritual emptiness, or else have been the privileged beneficiaries of the system. This is not to suggest that poverty produces virtue, but to recognize that affluence tends to erode it. A world that steps back from high-energy, high-technology answers to all questions will no doubt be a harder world in some ways. But the way people cope without such technological "solutions" can help create and solidify human bonds. Indeed, the high-energy/high-technology world often contributes to impoverished relationships as well as the destruction of longstanding cultural practices and the information those practices transmit. Stepping back from this fundamentalism is not simply a sacrifice but an exchange of a certain kind of comfort and easy amusement for a different set of rewards. We need not romanticize community life or ignore the inequalities that structure our communities to recognize that human flourishing takes place in community and progressive social change doesn't happen when people are isolated. Telling this story is important in a world in which people have come to believe the good life is synonymous with consumption and the ability to acquire increasingly sophisticated technology. The specific stories told in the journalism of collapse will reject technological fundamentalism and aid people in the struggle to redefine the good life. Journalists need not merely speculate about these things; across the United States people are actively engaged in such projects. Though not yet a majority, these people are planning transition towns, developing permaculture systems, creating community gardens, reclaiming domestic arts that have atrophied, organizing worker-owned cooperative businesses. They are experimenting with alternatives to the dominant culture, and in doing so they are, implicitly or explicitly, rejecting technological fundamentalism and redefining the good life. This journalism of collapse I am proposing would include stories about the problems we face, the harsh reality of a contracting world of less energy. But it also would include stories about people's experiments with new definitions of progress and the good life. Such an approach to journalism would not only highlight the threats but also shine a light on the way people are coping with the threats. Journalism in the prophetic voice I would call this kind of storytelling "journalism in the prophetic voice," borrowing a theological term for secular purposes. I prefer to speak about the prophetic voice rather than prophets because everyone is capable of speaking in the voice; the prophetic is not the exclusive property of particular people labeled as prophets. I also avoid the term prophecy, which is often used to describe a claim to be able to see the future. The complexity of these crises makes any claim to predict the details of what lies ahead absurd. All we can say is that, absent a radical change in our relationship to each other and the non-human world, we're in for a rough ride in the coming decades. Though the consequences of that ride are likely to be more overwhelming than anything humans have faced, certainly people at other crucial historical moments have faced crises without clear paths or knowledge of the outcome. A twenty-five-year-old Karl Marx wrote about this in a letter to a friend in 1843: The internal difficulties seem to be almost greater than the external obstacles. . Not only has a state of general anarchy set in among the reformers, but everyone will have to admit to himself that he has no exact idea what the future ought to be. On the other hand, it is precisely the advantage of the new trend that we do not dogmatically anticipate the world, but only want to find the new world through criticism of the old one. We should understand the prophetic as the calling out of injustice, the willingness not only to confront the abuses of the powerful but to acknowledge our own complicity. To speak prophetically requires us first to see honestly - both how our world is structured by illegitimate authority that causes suffering beyond the telling, and how we who live in the privileged parts of the world are implicated in that suffering. In that same letter, Marx went on to discuss the need for this kind of "ruthless criticism": But, if constructing the future and settling everything for all times are not our affair, it is all the more clear what we have to accomplish at present: I am referring to ruthless criticism of all that exists, ruthless both in the sense of not being afraid of the results it arrives at and in the sense of being just as little afraid of conflict with the powers that be. To speak prophetically is to refuse to shrink from what we discover about the injustice of the world. It is to name the wars of empire as unjust; to name an economic system that leaves half the world in abject poverty as unjust; to name the dominance of men, of heterosexuals, of white people as unjust. And it is to name the human destruction of Creation as our most profound failure. At the same time, to speak prophetically is to refuse to shrink from our own place in these systems. We must confront the powers that be, and ourselves. Another prominent historical figure put it this way in 1909: "One of the objects of a newspaper is to understand the popular feeling and to give expression to it; another is to arouse among the people certain desirable sentiments; and the third is fearlessly to expose popular defects". That was Mohandas Gandhi, on the first page of Hind Swaraj. Those tasks - attempting to understand and give expression to what ordinary people feel, and then advocating progressive goals, while at the same time exposing problems in the culture - are not likely to make one's life easy. Journalists willing to take this position will find themselves in a tense place, between a ruling elite that is not interested in seriously changing the distribution of power and a general public that typically does not want to confront these difficult realities of collapse. To speak from a prophetic position is to guarantee that one will find little rest and small comfort. Such is the fate of a commitment to truth-telling in difficult times, and times have never been more difficult. But others have faced similar challenges. Looking to the tradition in the Hebrew Bible, the prophets condemned corrupt leaders and also called out all those privileged people in society who had turned from the demands of justice, which the faith makes central to human life. In his analysis of these prophets, the scholar and activist Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel concluded: Above all, the prophets remind us of the moral state of a people: Few are guilty, but all are responsible. If we admit that the individual is in some measure conditioned or affected by the spirit of society, an individual's crime discloses society's corruption. In a community not indifferent to suffering, uncompromisingly impatient with cruelty and falsehood, continually concerned for God and every man, crime would be infrequent rather than common. That phrase, few are guilty but all are responsible, captures the challenge of the journalism of collapse. We can easily identify those powerful figures guilty of specific crimes. Who is guilty in perpetrating the illegal U.S. invasion of Iraq? That's easy - Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Powell, Rice. Who is guilty in the bailout of Wall Street and the big banks: That's easy, too - Bush and Obama, Paulsen and Geithner, Bernanke and the boys. One task of journalists is to pursue the guilty, perhaps with a bit more fervor than contemporary U.S. news media; our journalists are too polite in handling war criminals and servants of the wealthy. But when we look at the fragile state of the world, in some sense our future depends on recognizing that we all are responsible, depending on our status in society and resources available to us. Those of us in affluent sectors of society have the most to answer for, and the task of journalists is to raise questions uncomfortable for us all. This will rarely make journalists popular, but that also is not new. In each of the four Gospels, Jesus reminds us: "A prophet is not without honor, except in his own country, and among his own kin, and in his own house". (Mark 6:4) Since journalism has never really been an honorable profession, perhaps that makes us the perfect candidates for raising our voices prophetically. Robert Jensen is a journalism professor at the University of Texas at Austin and board member of the Third Coast Activist Resource Center http://thirdcoastactivist.org. His latest book is Getting Off: Pornography and the End of Masculinity (South End Press, 2007). Jensen is also the author of The Heart of Whiteness: Race, Racism, and White Privilege and Citizens of the Empire: The Struggle to Claim Our Humanity (both from City Lights Books); and Writing Dissent: Taking Radical Ideas from the Margins to the Mainstream (Peter Lang). He can be reached at rjensen [at] uts.cc.utexas.edu and his articles can be found online at http://uts.cc.utexas.edu/~rjensen/index.html. ---------------------------------------------------------------------------- - David Shove shove001 [at] tc.umn.edu rhymes with clove Progressive Calendar over 2225 subscribers as of 12.19.02 please send all messages in plain text no attachments vote third party for president for congress now and forever Socialism YES Capitalism NO To GO DIRECTLY to an item, eg --------8 of x-------- do a find on --8 Research almost any topic raised here at: CounterPunch http://counterpunch.org Dissident Voice http://dissidentvoice.org Common Dreams http://commondreams.org Once you're there, do a search on your topic, eg obama drones
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