Progressive Calendar 04.08.10
From: David Shove (
Date: Thu, 8 Apr 2010 14:08:48 -0700 (PDT)
            P R O G R E S S I V E   C A L E N D A R   04.08.10

1. Franken/war       4.08 4pm
2. Eagan peace vigil 4.08 4:30pm
3. Northtown vigil   4.08 5pm
4. NV action         4.08 6pm
5. Ellison/Israel    4.08 6pm
6. ARC/Haiti         4.08 7pm
7. Cuban film        4.08 7:30pm

8. Dean Baker - The rules are written to protect the wealthy & powerful

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From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Franken/war 4.08 4pm

Minnesota Actions: "No More Dollars for Afghanistan War! Bring the Troops
Home Now!"
Thursday, April 8, 4:00 p.m. Office of Senator Franken, Drake Building, 60
East Plato Boulevard, Suite 220, St. Paul.

On or around April 15, the House of Representatives and the Senate will
vote on the $33 billion dollar supplemental bill for the war on
Afghanistan. The purpose of our actions is to urge our senators to vote
against the war supplemental bill and for the withdrawal of U.S. troops
from Afghanistan. Money needed to withdraw the troops can be taken from
the bloated $708 billion defense budget being requested by President Obama
for 2011, which is more than the combined defense budgets of all other
countries in the world. It is imperative that we speak out at this time
against the escalation of the war in Afghanistan and further assaults on
Afghan cities and towns, which can only result in more bloodshed, misery,
and death for U.S. soldiers and the people of Afghanistan, one of the
poorest nations in the world.

Our actions will include; 1) the reading of the names of some who have
been killed in the war in Afghanistan; 2) throwing shoes at the
occupation; and 3) a die-in. The action is patterned after the action at
the White House in Washington D.C. by twenty-four Minnesotans during the
last week in January. You can find articles and videos of the action on
the Voices for Creative Nonviolence website at Initiated by:
the Minnesota Peaceable Assembly Campaign Committee. Endorsed by: WAMM.
FFI: Email braun044 [at] or phone 612-522-1861.

Note: A separate action initiated by the Minnesota Peaceable Assembly
Campaign Committee will involve civil disobedience. (WAMM does not endorse
any action contrary to public policy that would be inconsistent with
exempt purposes under Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3) i.e.,
charitable purposes.)

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From: Greg and Sue Skog <family4peace [at]>
Subject: Eagan peace vigil 4.08 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 4.08 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]

--------4 of s--------

From: "[UTF-8] Isaac Martín" <isaacmartin [at]>
Subject: NV action 4.08 6pm

Non-Violent Direct Action Training
Rainforest Action Network and the Ruckus Society

The rainforest agribusiness campaign targeting MN based General Mills and
Cargill is escalating. Whether you are a seasoned activists or are new to
direct action, please come to this training to learn the skills and get
plugged into this campaign.

Nonviolent Direct Action Training with Rainforest Action Network and
the Ruckus Society
Walker Church
3104 16th Ave. S
Minneapolis MN 55407

Who: Everyone who wants to learn NVDA skills and join upcoming actions
with RAN.
Why: RAN is escalating our campaign to get General Mills and Cargill to
stop destroying Indonesian Rainforests. We have some upcoming actions that
we want you to be a part of.

Thursday April 8th. 6-9:30 pm. Sufficient snacks will be provided in case
you don't have time to eat dinner before you come.

Nonviolent direct action includes civil disobedience and other types of
protest that pursue means of change outside of the established
institutional venues. This training is for people who already think NVDA
is a good idea and would like to learn the skills needed to participate in
NVDAs. This training is not for people who want to debate the usefulness
of NVDA as a tactic, though discussion of its strategic application is
always encouraged.

At this training we will practice NVDA skills! Some things we will cover
will include: variety of NVDA tactics, NVDA strategy, blockading,
de-escalation, dealing with what-ifs, legal consequences and interacting
with police.

"We who engage in nonviolent direct action are not the creators of
tension. We merely bring to the surface the hidden tension that is already
alive." Martin Luther King Jr.


Madeline Gardner: has 10 years of organizing and action experience. She
has worked with GreenPeace, Rainforest Action Network, SEIU and many local
campaigns. She has helped coordinate strikes, banner hangs, blockades,
street theater, sit-ins and more. She is a NVDA strategy and blockades
trainer with the Ruckus Society.

Isaac Martin: Has been an activist and organizer for over a decade. He's
worked with diverse groups of youth, parents and community members on
Environmental Justice, Education, Housing and Tenants rights campaigns. He
is currently a NVDA trainer with the Ruckus Society.

Find out more about the Rainforest Agribusiness Campaign:

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From: Women Against Military Madness <wamm [at]>
Subject: Ellison/Israel 4.08 6pm

Public Forum: "The Struggle for Israeli-Palestinian Peace"
Thursday, April 8, 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Zuhrah Shrine Temple, 2450 Park
Avenue South, Minneapolis. Representative Keith Ellison is holding a
public forum, entitled "The Struggle for Israeli-Palestinian Peace."
Come and tell Representative Ellison to stop sending weapons to Israel!

Guest speakers include a bereaved Gazan doctor who worked in Israeli
hospitals, a member of the Israeli military from the politically moderate
pro-Israel lobbying organization J-Street, and a Palestinian- American who
worked within the official structures of the post-Oslo peace process.
Ellison has promised to open his event to comments from the audience after
presentations by the speakers, with comments limited to 60 seconds per

Although we appreciate Ellison's initiative in advancing this important
public discussion, it is important to recognize that neither Ellison nor
his invited speakers call for ending direct U.S. military and economic
support for the Israeli government as it continues atrocities against
Palestinians. Congress grants approximately $2.5 billion in aid to Israel
each year, and Ellison has voted in favor of all these bills since he has
been in office. The money that Ellison supports directly buys weapons that
Israel has used and continues to use to attack the civilian population in
Gaza and the West Bank, and provide further economic support for Israel's
policies of apartheid and ethnic cleansing.

The Coalition for Palestinian Rights urges member organizations and
supporters to attend this forum to demonstrate the large numbers of
constituents who are in solidarity with the Palestinians, and to
specifically demand that Representative Ellison back up his claim to
support peace by immediately calling on Congress to cease U.S. financial
and military support for Israel's war and oppression against the
Palestinians. While everyone is free to choose how to express their views,
we recommend focusing on the theme of U.S. aid to Israel because it
represents Congress' most significant involvement. We believe Ellison
should hear a unified demand from the peace and justice movement to
finally take a significant and meaningful position in support of justice.
Endorsed by: the Coalition for Palestinian Rights (CPR). WAMM is a member
of CPR.

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From: Carole Rydberg <carydberg [at]>
Subject: ARC/Haiti 4.08 7pm

On Thursday April 8, Daniel Wordsworth, President and CEO of the
Minneapolis based American Refugee Committee, will speak about that
organization's work in Haiti and the current situation in that country.
Sponsored by NW Neighbors for Peace, this free program will begin at 7 PM
at the Parish Community of St. Joseph, 8701-36th Avenue N., New Hope
(corner of Boone and 36th. ) All are welcome at this informative program
about ARC's ongoing humanitarian work; for more information, Pat Helin,

Wordsworth, a native of Australia, has extensive experience in the field
of humanitarian relief and recently returned from Haiti.  Before joining
ARC in spring of 2009, he spent 12 years with the Christian Children's
Fund and was most recently based in Thailand.  He has also worked on the
ground in Afghanistan, East Timor, India, and Sri Lanka. The American
Refugee Committee has been responding to humanitarian emergencies and
disasters for 30years.

--------7 of 8--------

From: Jason Stone <jason.stone [at]>
Subject: Cuban film 4.08 7:30pm

Cuban Film Series 2010 7:30 PM at St. Anthony Main Theaters on
Historic Main Street by the River
Co-Sponsored by the Resource Center of the Americas
Mar. 4 thru Apr. 8
Tickets $6.00 or a pass for for 5 - purchase at the door

April 8th
Suite Havana

Fernando Perez's masterful 2003 documentary is all the more lyrical for
his decision to bypass narration and (for the most part) dialogue. Through
a gradual accretion of contemplative shots, Perez interweaves studies of a
diverse selection of Havanans, including a railroad worker, a peanut
vendor, a ballet dancer, and an architect. A lyrical, meticulously-crafted
and unexpectedly melancholy homage to the battered but resilient
inhabitants of a battered but resilient city, Perez's "Suite Habana" fuses
fiction and documentary, making its point with poetic evocation. The
surprisingly watchable delight strikes universal chords. Shunning the sun
'n' salsa cliches of La Isla. Havana's weathered facades and seafront bear
mute witness to the ebb and flow of its people's lives and the persistence
of their dreams. Ruling Communist Party newspaper Granma praised it as
"one of the most important films in the history of Cuban cinema." In his
sermon on a recent Sunday, a Catholic priest urged his parishioners to go
and see "Suite Habana" for its "eloquent and revealing images of daily
life in Cuba today." 90 min.

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The Rules are Written to Protect the Wealthy and the Powerful
The Myth of Market Fundamentalism
April 7, 2010

Progressives have wailed against "market fundamentalism" for the last
quarter-century. They complain that conservatives want to eliminate the
government and leave everything to the market. This is nonsense.

The Right has every bit as much interest in government involvement in the
economy as progressives. The difference is that conservatives want the
government to intervene in ways that redistribute income upward. The other
difference is that the Right is smart enough to hide its interventions,
implying that the structures that redistribute income upward are just the
natural working of the market. Progressives help the Right's cause when we
accuse them of being "market fundamentalists," effectively implying that
the conservatives' structuring of the economy is its natural state.

This is not just a question of framing; although the framing is important.
Economic outcomes that appear to be the result of the natural workings of
the market will always sound more appealing than the machinations of
government bureaucrats, especially in the political culture of the United
States. If we label the Right's interventions as nothing more than the
free market left to itself, then we place progressive policies at an
enormous political disadvantage.

But the confusion that this misguided war against market fundamentalism
creates in designing policy is even more serious than the political
damage. Progressives have no reason to look to government to reverse
market outcomes. Rather, like our conservative opponents, we should look
for ways in which we can structure market rules so that markets have
better outcomes from a progressive perspective.

The most obvious recent government intervention to redistribute income
upward has been the bailout of the financial industry. Faced with complete
collapse in the fall of 2008, Goldman Sachs, Citigroup, Morgan Stanley and
the rest did not yell that they wanted the government to leave them alone.
No, these financial behemoths insisted that the government lend them money
at below-market interest rates and guarantee their assets. Firms like
Goldman Sachs even insisted that the government make good on the debts of
bankrupt business partners, such as AIG.

Deregulation also increases profitability and has nothing to do with the
free market. In other words, the financial industry wants the government
to provide "insurance" through the Federal Reserve Board, the Federal
Deposit Insurance Corporation and various ad hoc channels, but it doesn't
want to pay for it. It also doesn't want the insurance to come with any
restrictions. In effect, the financial industry wants to run an explosives
factory out of its home and pay only the standard residential insurance
premium. That's not the free market.

The demands of the financial industry on government are not qualitatively
different from what other sectors get as a result of government
interventions in structuring the market. To take another example, the
government grants pharmaceutical companies patent monopolies that allow
them to mark up the price of prescription drugs by several hundred percent
or even several thousand percent above what the same drugs would sell for
in a competitive market. As a result of patent protection, many drugs sell
for hundreds or even thousands of dollars per prescription. By contrast,
if all drugs were sold as generics in a competitive market, the
overwhelming majority could be bought for $4 or $5 per prescription.

Patent monopolies do serve an important economic function - they provide
an incentive for researching new drugs - but they clearly are not the only
way to finance research. The government spends more than $30 billion a
year financing biomedical research through the National Institutes of
Health, an amount comparable to what the industry spends on research. In
principle, we could replace the industry-funded research through direct,
publicly funded research. Or, as Nobel Prize-winning economist Joe
Stiglitz has suggested, research could be carried on in its current
manner, but new patents could be bought out through a prize system. Under
this system, a committee would assess the value of new patents and pay
this amount to patent holders. This would allow the drugs based on new
patents to be sold as generics in a competitive market.

We can debate whether these alternative mechanisms are better for
supporting prescription-drug research than the patent system, but the
patent system is clearly not the free market, and it is not essential for
financing prescription drug research. The proponents of drug patents
cannot claim to support a free market.

There is real money at stake. The country spent $250 billion last year on
prescription drugs. In a competitive market, the cost likely would have
been closer to $25 billion. The difference of more than $200 billion
swamps the size of the payments to such programs as Food Stamps, the State
Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) or Head Start.

Furthermore, the drain from this patent monopoly is projected to grow
rapidly through time. Prescription drug spending is the most rapidly
rising component of health care costs. In 2019 the country is projected to
spend almost $500 billion on prescription drugs. Over the course of the
next decade, expenditures are projected to exceed $3.5 trillion, implying
excess payments to the drug industry of more than $3 trillion, more than
three times as much as will be spent on the health care reform proposed in
Congress at this writing in early winter.

A similar story can be told about copyrights. Bill Gates is an incredibly
rich man because the U.S. government gives him a monopoly on Windows,
threatening to arrest anyone who sells it or even gives it away without
Gates's permission. Without the monopoly created by copyright protection
anyone would be able to instantly download Microsoft software anywhere in
the world at no cost. As with drug patents, copyrights serve an important
economic function. They provide an incentive for creative and innovative
work, like developing new and better software or producing good movies and
music, but we already have alternative mechanisms for supporting this work
and can develop new ones.

Copyright monopolies lead to an enormous transfer of income to software
and entertainment companies. Microsoft alone pockets more than $60 billion
a year in revenue, almost all of which would not be possible without
copyright protection. The industry association claims that, taken
together, copyright industries accounted for 6.6 percent of GDP. This is
more than one-third of the tax revenue collected by the federal

I could list more mechanisms and beneficiaries, but the point should be
clear. The idea that a "free market" is allowing some people to get
incredibly rich and causing other people to be poor or financially
insecure is nonsense. The distribution of income is determined by
government policies that favor some groups and work against others. If
progressives accept the structures put in place by conservatives as the
free market and then look to use tax and transfer policy to redress the
inequities, we have given ourselves a hopeless task.

We must instead focus on altering the rules that redistribute income
upward. There are many different ways to structure markets. We must be as
opportunistic and creative as the Right in finding rules that both produce
efficient outcomes and lead to better distributions of income.

The health care bill illustrates the need for a fundamentally different
approach. It does a good job of meeting the important goal of extending
coverage to most of the uninsured. However, it does very little to address
the problem of exploding cost growth. As a result, we will have created a
system that we know will be unaffordable over the long run. The idea that
we can somehow pay for this system in future decades with progressive
taxes is absurd on its face. It will almost certainly not be possible
politically to raise taxes high enough to cover public-sector health care
costs. We will eventually either have to ratchet back the extent of
coverage and/or the quality of care or impose substantial taxes on the
middle class.

The alternative route is to directly attack the structure of the health
care system that leads to such bloated costs. In this context, it is
important to remember that we pay more than twice as much per person for
care as people in other wealthy countries. As any number of studies have
shown, the reason for higher costs in the United States is not the better
quality or greater volume of services but rather the higher cost of the
services that we get. This can be addressed by changing the markets for
these services.

Let's return to prescription drugs. The current system leads to enormous
inefficiencies from any perspective and leaves us with absurd choices that
would disappear with a more rational system of financing prescription drug

Consider the situation of an 80-year-old woman, in generally good health,
who develops a form of cancer. Suppose that the only treatment likely to
be successfully is a new, bioengineered drug that would cost $250,000 a
year. Should the government be willing to pay this expense?

As our moral philosophers labor over this problem, consider that the drug
would probably cost $200 a year in the absence of patent protection. That
would be the marginal cost of manufacturing and distributing the drug.
Although the drug company may have spent a huge amount of money developing
the drug, this is money out the door. We have already paid the research
cost (ideally through one of the mechanisms discussed above.) The relevant
question is, what does it cost to produce the next dose. In the world
where the year's dosage costs $200 we won't have to spend too much time
debating the treatment.

This is not the only problem with the patent system. When the government
intervenes to artificially inflate prices, it creates unexpected perverse
incentives. As a result of the enormous profits on its drugs, the
pharmaceutical industry spends a fortune marketing them. This causes them
to court and even bribe doctors to get them to prescribe drugs. It leads
to expensive direct-to-consumer marketing campaigns. It leads the industry
to buy politicians to ensure that Medicare, Medicaid and other government
programs pay for the drugs. And, it gives the industry an enormous
incentive to conceal research results that call into question the
effectiveness and safety of its drugs.

Progressives should have been pushing these "free market" arguments in
discussing prescription drugs. The amount of money at stake dwarfs the
sums at issue with either the "Cadillac" plan tax or the millionaires.
surtax in the health care plans approved by the Senate and the House.

Similarly, we could use a little free trade in health care. Trade policy
has been quite explicitly designed to place our manufacturing workers in
direct competition with low-paid workers in the developing world.
Progressives often point to the loss of manufacturing jobs in the United
States and the depression of wages for non-college educated workers as
evidence that free trade doesn't work. This is completely wrong. These
outcomes are exactly what the trade models predicted would be the result
of the trade policies that the United States has pursued. I would be
surprised if there were any other outcome.

However, we can design "free trade" policies that produce different
outcomes. In the case of health care, we can start by allowing Medicare
beneficiaries to buy into the health care systems of other wealthy
countries. Because health care costs are so much lower in Germany, Canada
and everywhere else, if beneficiaries opted to move to another country to
receive their care, there would be enormous savings that could be split
between the U.S. government and the beneficiaries. We recently did
calculations showing that a few decades out the projected savings would be
tens of thousands per beneficiary each year. This was even after allowing
for a substantial premium above costs to the receiving country of treating
elderly patients, to ensure that they also benefited from the deal.

In fact, since these countries would be getting a premium above their cost
of care, this could be a major source of growth for these countries. The
fact is that everyone has a huge comparative advantage in health care
relative to the United States. Our health care industry only survives
because of the extraordinary protectionist measures that restrict foreign
competition. It is easy to devise mechanisms through which foreign
countries could provide care for U.S. citizens and use the profits to
provide better care for their own populations. An international Medicare
voucher system could allow retirees to enjoy a much higher standard of
living than would otherwise be the case, while at the same time saving the
U.S. government tens of trillions of dollars in Medicare costs over the
long term. By reducing demand for health care in the United States, it
would also lead to downward pressure on domestic medical costs more

There are other ways in which the government can promote trade in medical
services. For example, it can license facilities in other countries to
ensure high standards and also standardize rules on legal liability to
ensure that people who go overseas for treatment can be assured of
reasonable legal redress in the case of malpractice.

Given the enormous gap in costs for health care services between the
United States and Europe, not to mention high-quality facilities in places
like India and Thailand, there would likely be a huge flow of patients for
treatment outside the country, if we created the proper institutional

Of course, it would be much better to reform the system in the United
States so that people did not have to leave the country to get decent
affordable care. But, if we lack the political power to reform the
domestic system, as is obviously the case now, it is absurd to hold
patients here as hostages of a broken system. After the forces of market
competition have worked their magic, we will be much better able to
discuss reform with the domestic health care industry.

It is far more productive to talk about ways to use market mechanisms to
fundamentally restructure the health care system than to try to scrape
together nickels and dimes in tax revenue to pay to maintain a broken
health care system for a few more years. The same approach can be applied
to almost any social problems. We can and should push for progressive
taxation, but it is even better to change the institutional structures
that lead to gross inequality.

CEOs in the United States get paid tens of millions of dollars a year
because we have created a corporate governance structure that allows top
managers to plunder the corporation for their own ends. This corporate
governance structure was created by the government, it did not develop
through the free market. No other country allows for the same sort of
plundering. Changing the rules in ways that return control to shareholders
is not government interfering with the market; it is simply repairing a
dysfunctional system. Europe and Japan both have dynamic capitalist
economies, but they do not have the huge executive compensation packages
of the United States. This is not due to legal restrictions on pay, it is
due to the fact that they have governance structures that don't allow the
top executives to pilfer the corporations that they ostensibly work for.

In the same vein, although minimum wages and other direct income supports
for less-educated workers are desirable, it is better to restructure
markets in ways that increase the relative demand for their services. For
example, we should insist that the Fed allow the unemployment rate to fall
to low levels, rather than raise interest rates to choke off any
possibility of inflation. Former Federal Reserve chief Alan Greenspan made
this choice in the 90s (over the protest of Bill Clinton's appointees to
the Fed), allowing the first sustained period of real wage growth for
workers at the middle and bottom of the wage distribution since the 60s.
More union-friendly laws, such as serious civil or even criminal penalties
for employers who violate workers' right to organize, would also help
equalize the distribution of income.

We can also apply some good free market principles to highly paid
professionals, such as doctors, lawyers and economists. Easing
professional and immigration restrictions that largely protect the most
highly educated workers from international competition will reduce pay for
those in the top 1 percent to 2 percent of the wage distribution and help
to lower the cost of everything from health care to a college education.

There is an endless list of policies that alter economic rules to lead to
more egalitarian outcomes. The current rules were not given to us by a
deity or by nature, they were written by the wealthy and powerful interest
groups who benefit from them.

These people are absolutely not free market fundamentalists, nor are they
opposed to a well-working government. No one can mass market unauthorized
versions of Pfizer's latest drugs or Microsoft's new software.

Even under Republican administrations the government would quickly arrest
a large-scale violator of patent or copyright law. The wealthy want and
expect a government that enforces the rules that protect their wealth and
power. They don't care about government social programs, but that is
because they don't depend on these programs. No rich person died in
Hurricane Katrina.

A serious long-term progressive agenda must move away from a focus on
tax-and-transfer policy and instead concentrate on changing the rules that
lead to undesirable market outcomes. We must be as aggressive and creative
as the Right in designing new rules that redistribute income downward
rather than upward. And, we must bury the concept of "free market
fundamentalism". There are no free market fundamentalists in this debate,
just conservatives who want to pretend that their rules are the natural
working of the market. Progressives should not help them in this effort.

Dean Baker is the co-director of the Center for Economic and Policy
Research (CEPR). He is the author of Plunder and Blunder: The Rise and
Fall of the Bubble Economy and False Profits: Recoverying From the Bubble

This column was originally published by Dissent.


   - David Shove             shove001 [at]
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