Tuesday, November 30, 2010

J.M. Lee: "Justice Is A Constant Struggle", ReGENERATION - a film - Wednesday

Response to Student Protest Proves

"Justice Is A Constant Struggle"

By John Michael Lee
National Lawyers Guild Los Angeles Newsletter (Fall edition)

Mike Lee is an attorney with 31Yrs in PD office and
past president of the N.L.G. - Southern CA chapter

If ever the continuity of the battle for justice and equality is
doubted, one need only to look at the history of California State university
at Northridge. In the 1960's, then known as San Fernando Valley State
College, the campus was the center of a long forgotten, but well organized
movement to open up California college campuses to non-white students.
Students for a Democratic Society (SDS), MECHA, the Black Student Union, and
other student and faculty groups organized and demonstrated. Over 350
arrests of members of the faculty and students, months of demonstrations, a
building occupation, and the resultant first felony arrests and convictions
of university students in the United States, resulted in the first ethnic
studies full academic departments in the State of California, and among the
first in the whole nation.


The National Lawyer's Guild played a large part in the defense of those
350 plus students and teachers. Documented in the film "Storm at Valley
State", the history of that struggle disappeared in the daily development
and operation of those departments, and the growth of the diversity of the
campus, such that it has been recognized as one of the most diverse in the
country by various national accreditation associations.

With the growth of the right, and the anti-ethnic studies sentiment
such as reflected in recent Arizona lawmaking, the protection of that
diversity has come under attack. This is best reflected in the faculty
budget cuts and rising student tuition, affecting most minority students at
the University, many from working class backgrounds and poorer communities.
White students from the surrounding local communities are also affected, as
tuition rises every semester.


The issue exploded on the campus again on March 4th of this year, with
a massive demonstration, organized by the faculty union, but supported and
built by several student organizations, including the Black Student's Union,
and MECHA, in unity with several budget and tuition oriented student groups.
All recognizing that these budget problems will first destroy the ethnic
balance on the campus, and then drive even poor white students out of the
academic experience as well.

Literally thousands of people showed for the demonstration (estimated
3000 by reliable sources), as a part of a state wide call at several
locations, overwhelming the expectations of the school authorities and
police. The students and faculty, supported by local high school teachers,
and students from local Junior Colleges such as Pierce College and Valley
College flowed into the streets, and sat in at major intersections for over
two hours. Surprisingly, though at rush hour, the motorists honked and
cheered the demonstrators, in support. Film of the event showed few upset by
the delays.

At the final sit-in, on Reseda Boulevard, the police mustered more
support, drawing from LAPD units originally sent to Pershing Square for
another union organized budget cut protest and demonstration, another part
of the state wide mobilization, originally expected to be larger than the
San Fernando Valley action at CSUN. Prior to their arrival, the campus
police from several state universities, and the CHP provided crowd control.
At no time were the demonstrators accused of any act of vandalism or damage
to person or property.

With the arrival of the LAPD, the university police made their move,
with LAPD and CHP support. They arrested student leaders and then assaulted
the remaining demonstrators, resulting in the breaking of the upper arm of a
70+ year old female faculty member. The campus police then had the audacity
to arrest and charge one of her fellow demonstrators with assault, as he
stepped in to help her, and blame the injury on the demonstrators! The city
attorney filed the charge without ever obtaining any statement from the
alleged victim. In press interviews, she told of the police breaking her
arm, and thanked the students for intervening or she might have been killed,
as she suffers from heart ailments. She tells of the student taking the
brunt of the police charge in an attempt to protect her. In effect, we have
an assault case where the victim denies the assault, but the case was filed
anyway! Obviously, the Office of the City Attorney chose to file to protect
the police from civil liability.


The arrests served to galvanize the various student groups, one of
which contacted a Guild member, and several Guild members volunteered to
coordinate a legal defense and assist their on-campus organizing. With the
new semester, they sprang into immediate action with several on-campus
demonstrations, culminating in their "unauthorized" joining in the formal
University Freshman Orientation Day welcoming procession,by falling in
behind the gowned and robed faculty procession entering the arena. In bold
orange prisoners garb, with blank white masks, they marched into the arena
followed by dozens of demonstrators with signs and banners condemning the
university complicity in the arrests and the radical budget cuts and tuition
increases proposed for this year.

The guerilla theatre group marched right in front of the stage with
all the assembled faculty and administrators and turned to face the incoming
class, while one demonstrator approached a startled president of the
university, to present her with a demand to drop the cases and fight tuition
increases. All of this in front of a unsuspecting and awestruck freshmen
group. What a welcome to higher education, Activist Style!! The prisoners
stood in full view of the freshman class, the president, and the assembled
faculty and administrators throughout the program, with the sign carrying
students surrounding them, and then marched out after the president spoke
her welcoming address, a brief address at that.

Unique to this case, two of the volunteer attorneys, Herb Weiss and
John-Michael Lee, were organizers and defendants in the original
demonstrations and building takeover in 1968. History indeed goes in
circles. Cynthia Anderson-Barker, Carolyn Park, and Colleen Flynn round out
the defense team, presently in the discovery phase, with photos and video
available which largely discredits the police reports and versions of the
events of March 4th.

The City Attorney of Los Angeles,Carmen Trutinich (SP?) has joined
Lestor Maddox, Sheriff Jim Clark, George Wallace, and others, and has
declared that he will stop any civil disobedience, and will punish civil
rights or other non-violent demonstrations with long jail sentences. He has
offered the five defendants plea bargains of 90 or more days in jail, and
has personally injected himself into filing and prosecution decision making.
All defendants are student leaders with no criminal records, and there was
no property damage or physical injury brought about by any students on that
day.


Again, the Guild hopes to play an important role in protecting free
speech and the right to demonstrate. The City Attorney made similar
statements and offers in the Dream Act, and Arizona Law protests, and other
political arrests, and has delayed filings until he can call press
conferences to announce his intentions. He has publically compared them to
Laker Game rioters who set fires and destroyed property, and has indicated
that he believes demonstrators at CSUN were paid to demonstrate. It is
important that we organize a city wide coalition to stop this premeditated
repression of progressive movements, while organizing within
church, political party, labor, and other mass organizations, or they will
face the same repression. In the end, the electorate must be informed and
encouraged to reject this city attorney in the next election. He won office
as an unknown, with a bad opponent, and listed himself as an environmental
attorney on the ballot. He forgot to mention that he defended environmental
violations, big oil, and other clients charged with polluting our local
environment. Hardly the attorney we want to control civil and first
amendment rights in this city.

***

From: Frank Dorrel

You Are Invited to the Los Angeles Premiere of the Award Winning Documentary
Film

ReGENERATION
Written & Directed by Phillip Montgomery

Narrated by Ryan Gosling

Featuring
Noam Chomsky, Amy Goodman, Howard Zinn,
Andrew Bacevich, Michael Albert, Mos Def & Others

Wednesday, December 1st - 8:00 PM

The Historic Egyptian Theater
Artivist Film Festival
6712 Hollywood Boulevard, Hollywood 90028

The film will be presented as the opening night film of the Artivist Film
Festival: www.artivist.com

ReGENERATION explores the causes behind the widespread cynicism and apathy
in today's youth
towards social and political causes and what they must do to take their
country back!

TICKETS ARE FREE AT:
http://artivist.eventbrite.com/

To learn more about the film visit: www.regeneration-themovie.com

Watch Film Trailer at:
www.regeneration-themovie.com/trailer.html

Gary Younge: How the Tea Is Brewed, Sign the Petition, Calling Congress,

Hi. I've gotten several emails from people having trouble sending this
petition after signing it.  The trick is to click on 'SIGN THE PETITION,'
below to get to the signing form.  After signing, click on the same
'SIGN THE PETITION,' below, again.  Prost.
Ed
 
 

PETITION: In Support of Julian Assange
Reader Supported News, Petition
We here undersigned express our support for the work and integrity of Julian Assange. We express concern that the charges against the WikiLeaks founder appear too convenient both in terms of timing and the novelty of their nature.
SIGN THE PETITION

***

Friends:  Remember, Tuesday Nov. 30, is the day to call Congress and tell your Representative to vote:

NO on cuts to Social Security and Medicare
NO to raising the retirement age to above 65
YES to Reinstating the Cost of Living Adjustment (COLA)
Call the Capitol Switchboard at 
(800) 962-3524 or (202) 224-3121 
Whitehouse: 202 456 1414
For more help and details read on.  If these programs are to be save, only we the people can save them.  Lila Garrett
 

***

http://www.thenation.com/article/156524/talking-tea-party

How the Tea Is Brewed

By Gary Younge
The Nation: In the December 6th edition

Over a breakfast of pancakes, scrambled eggs and bacon in a back room of the
Nugget Casino in Pahrump, rural Nevada, shortly before the midterm
elections, the talk among some forty men turned to the most propitious
moment for armed insurrection.

The government needs to know that we will use [our arms] if they continue
down the path they're on. We're not even ready. We need to get ready."
Another, fearing this could give a visiting journalist the wrong impression,
insists that few in the room would agree with such a ridiculous view.

But it turned out that quite a few did. "Look how much damage Barack Obama
and his socialist Congress did in eighteen months," bellows another. "It
could take us ten years to undo this crap. And you say we can't consider
using weapons."

They call it the Old Farts Club: a gathering of elderly conservative men
that has been meeting every Friday morning for the past five years at the
Nugget for breakfast and a bull session that ranges from judges-one man
calls for Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan to be removed from the Supreme
Court-to the fate of a local park.

A straw poll reveals that none think Harry Reid can beat Sharron Angle
without stealing the election.

Four days later, in a plush suite at the Aria Hotel, the Tea Party Express
watched Harry Reid win fair and square. They'd chosen the Aria because they
wanted to taunt Reid, who was holding his election-night event there.
Despite the open bar and the catered treats, it was a tough one to swallow.


Those two scenes-at the Nugget and the Aria-illustrate two distinct faces of
the Tea Party. The first, at the base, is a very loosely affiliated group of
like-minded people who may "identify" with the Tea Party but have no
connection beyond that. The second, purportedly at the helm, is a series of
well-funded competing organizations that pose as leaders of that base but in
fact have no control or even link to it outside the media. Politically
speaking, neither really exists. Or at least not as billed.

Where the base is concerned, there is no structure, leader or membership
that links it to a bigger movement. Beyond "small government" and
Obama-bashing, it's not clear what the various groups would agree on. Some,
like the Old Farts Club, meet regularly and, while they may get their
talking points from Fox News, are nonetheless independent.

To those who dismiss the Tea Party as nothing more than "astroturf" (fake
grassroots), such activity poses a challenge. The country has a long history
of grassroots conservative activism. Indeed, one of the problems with the
Tea Party label is that, far from describing a new phenomenon, it depicts an
old one-the hard right-that happens to be enjoying an episodic resurgence.
These people didn't join it; it joined them. But even following Republicans'
midterm victories, the nature of that resurgence can be overstated and
misunderstood.

An attempt over several months by the Washington Post to contact every
single Tea Party group found that it was unclear if many actually
functioned. Seventy percent said they had not been involved in a political
event in a year-the very year the Tea Party made its most dramatic gains.
The Post described the Tea Party as "not so much a movement as a disparate
band of vaguely connected gatherings that do surprisingly little to engage
in the political process."

"When a group lists themselves on our Web site, that's a group," Mark
Meckler, a founding member of the Tea Party Patriots, told the Post. "That
group could be one person, it could be 10 people, it could come in and out
of existence-we don't know."

This comes more by way of description than derision. It is how
movement-building goes. I have seen local antiwar and healthcare groups that
live or die by the energy of just one or two people. Nonetheless, such facts
are incompatible with the portrayal of a vibrant insurgent ideological
entity capable of taking over first the Republican Party and then the
country.

For that, one must go back to the second Tea Party, on the twentieth floor
of the Aria and elsewhere. It is groups like the Tea Party Express, Tea
Party Patriots, FreedomWorks and Americans for Prosperity that claim in
different ways to speak for that base. Each one is run by veteran right-wing
operatives who at some stage have been part of the GOP establishment. With
the help of uncritical and unending coverage by Fox News, they have been
able to amplify the inchoate, incoherent demands of the base and thereby
transform it into what looks like a formidable electoral force.

The trouble is that these groups-and the Congressional representatives they
have helped elect-have almost no relationship to that base beyond partial
listservs. No threat, demand, assertion or ultimatum made in the name of the
Tea Party is credible. That doesn't mean it's not possible to deliver on any
of them, but nothing in the immediate aftermath of the election has
suggested that might be likely.

Early on, Minnesota motormouth Michele Bachmann, leader of the Tea Party
Caucus in the House, challenged a Republican establishment candidate for the
number-four spot in the House, only to withdraw within a week after her bid,
launched primarily through the media, failed to gain traction. Elsewhere
there have been laughable scuffles between Tea Party organizations
competing, mostly in vain, for the attention of Republican freshmen.

Several voices without a body; several bodies without a voice: Tea Party, a
name with electoral appeal in search of ideological coherence and a
political purpose. None of which should make liberals complacent. If these
groups can do this much damage when they are this disorganized, imagine what
might happen if they got it together.

Gary Younge

Gary Younge, the Alfred Knobler Journalism Fellow at The Nation Institute,
is the New York correspondent for The Nation.

Monday, November 29, 2010

SPECIAL: Democracy Now Rountable on WikiLeaks Documents Release

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/11/29/us_facing_global_diplomatic_crisis_following

U.S. Facing Global Diplomatic Crisis Following Massive WikiLeaks Release of
Secret Diplomatic Cables

Democracy Now Round Table
Monday, November 29, 2010

The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has begun releasing a giant trove of
confidential U.S. diplomatic cables that is sending shockwaves through the
global diplomatic establishment. Among the findings: Arab leaders are urging
the United States to attack Iran; Washington and Yemen agreed to cover up
the use of U.S. warplanes to bomb Yemen; the United States is using its
embassies around the world as part of a global spy network and asking
diplomats to gather intelligence; and much more. We host a roundtable
discussion with

Daniel Ellsberg, Pentagon Papers whistleblower.

Carne Ross, a British diplomat for 15 years who resigned before the Iraq
war. He is the founder and head of a non-profit diplomatic advisory group,
Independent Diplomat

Greg Mitchell, writes the Media Fix blog for The Nation. He was the longtime
editor of Editor & Publisher magazine and is the author of 10 books
including The Campaign of the Century: Upton Sinclair's Race for Governor of
California and the Birth of Media Politics.

As'ad Abu Khalil, professor of political science at California State
University, Stanislaus and visiting professor at UC, Berkeley. He's the
author of "The Battle for Saudi Arabia" and runs the Angry Arab News Service
blog.


AMY GOODMAN: The whistleblowing website WikiLeaks has begun releasing a
giant trove of confidential American diplomatic cables that's sending
shockwaves through the global diplomatic establishment. The more than a
quarter million classified cables were sent by U.S. embassies around the
world, most of them in the past three years. WikiLeaks provided the
documents to five newspapers in advance: the New York Times, the London
Guardian, Germany's Der Spiegel, France's La Monde and Spain's El Paiz. The
revelations in the cables are extensive and varied.

Among the findings, Arab leaders are privately urging the United States to
conduct air strikes on Iran; in particular, King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia
has repeatedly called on U.S. to attack Iran to destroy its nuclear program,
reportedly calling on American officials to "cut off the head of the snake".
Jordan, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates, also said they support a U.S.
attack. The cables also highlight Israel's anxiety to preserve its regional
nuclear monopoly; it's readiness to 'go it alone' against Iran, and its
attempts to influence American policy. The cables also name Saudi donors as
the biggest financiers of Sunni militant groups like Al-Qaeda. The cables
also provide a detailed account of an agreement between Washington and Yemen
to cover up the use of U.S. warplanes to bomb targets in Yemen. One cable
records that during a meeting in January with General David Petraeus, the
Yemeni president Abdallah Saleh said, "We will continue saying these are our
bombs, not yours."

Among the biggest revelations is how the U.S. uses its embassies around the
world as part of a global spy network. U.S. diplomats are asked to obtain
information from the foreign dignitaries they meet including frequent flier
numbers, credit card details, and even DNA material. The United Nations is
also a target of the espionage with one cable listing the
information-gathering priorities to American staff at the UN headquarters in
New York. The roughly half a dozen cables from 2008 and 2009 detailing the
more aggressive intelligence collection were signed by Secretaries of State
Condoleezza Rice and Hillary Clinton. The New York Times says the
directives, quote: "Appear to blur the traditional boundaries between
statesmen and spies." The cables also reveal that U.S. officials sharply
warned Germany in 2007 not to enforce arrest warrants for CIA officers
involved in an operation in which an innocent German citizen with the same
name as a suspected militant was abducted and held for months in
Afghanistan. The cables also document suspicion of corruption in the Afghan
government. One cable alleges that Afghan vice president Zia Massoud was
carrying fifty two million dollars in cash when stopped during a visit to
the United Arab Emirates. Only 220 cables were published by WikiLeaks on
it's
website on Sunday with hundreds of thousands more to come. The Obama
administration has been warning allies about the expected leaks since last
week. A statement from the White House on Sunday said, "We condemn in the
strongest terms the unauthorized disclosure of classified documents and
sensitive national security information." It also said the disclosure of the
cables could, "deeply impact not only U.S. foreign policy interests, but
those of our allies and friends around the world."

For more, I'm joined for this hour by four guests Carne Ross is with us, he
is a British diplomat for fifteen years who resigned before the Iraq war.
He's
the founder and head of a non-profit diplomatic advisory group, Independent
Diplomat. He is joining me here in New York in our studios along with Greg
Mitchell who writes the Media Fix blog for the Nation. And before that was
the longtime editor of Editor and Publisher Magazine. Joining me via
Democracy Now! Video Stream is Daniel Ellsberg, perhaps the countries most
famous whistleblower, he leaked the Pentagon Papers in 1971. We are also
joined by As'ad AbuKhalil, a professor of political science at California
State University Stanislaus, and visiting professor at UC Berkeley. He is
author of The Battle for Saudi Arabia and runs the Angry Arab News Server
blog. Daniel Ellsberg, we're going to begin with you. We were talking to you
on October 20 at Democracy Now! when you were headed to London to
participate in the WikiLeaks news conference on the release of close to
400,000 documents. What are your thoughts today?

DANIEL ELLSBERG: Well, this is totally a process and this stage of the
process has just begun. It's going to go on day after day. We have seen one
out of one thousand so far of the cables that WikiLeaks is prepared to
release. So it's very early to judge, really, the value or the dangers, if
any, of releasing that. Back in October when we were releasing or when he
was releasing I think it was the Afghan documents at that point, they were
still new to the process, and I think they made some mistakes in terms of
releasing some names that they shouldn't have released at that time and were
properly criticized for that. As a result, it appears that the last batch
before this one was redacted fairly heavily by Assange- by WikiLeaks- with
the result that when the Pentagon said that there were 300 names that were
endangered by that release, they said right away, based on their own files
and their own knowledge of the cables, it turned out within a couple of days
that WikiLeaks had released none of those names, that none of those had been
redacted. They were not endangered. The upshot right now appears to be that
as of now, with the hundreds of thousands of documents that WikiLeaks has
put out, the Pentagon has had to acknowledge that not one single informant
or soldier has been endangered. In fact, they have not even felt the need to
protect one or inform one that he or she was in danger. So that risk, which
we're hearing again, now, right now has obviously been very largely
overblown and is a lot of blather.

AMY GOODMAN: Greg Mitchell, you've been tweeting this since it came out
yesterday- 1:30 in the afternoon on Sunday Eastern Standard Time- the
beginning of the release of the documents. First of all, talk about their
significance, what they are; what are the different places they are from?

GREG MITCHELL: Well there from 79 different embassies from around the world,
so it really is quite unprecedented. And as Dan said, the way this is
different from the previous WikiLeaks, when they came out on the Iraq war
and on Afghanistan those were basically one-day stories. There were gigantic
document dumps, got massive media coverage for a day or so and then it was
pretty much over. This is gonna be emerging over the next nine days, for
example in the New York Times, and WikiLeaks on their own site has said it's
gonna on for months. So it is a little early to say exactly what the effects
are gonna be what the down side might be and the revelations are already
quite significant. We already see in some of the outlets are summarizing
some of the revelations yet to come. So when you read, even some of the
things you read at the top of the hour, they're actually not cables that
have been released yet, but some of the media outlets are kind of previewing
what's coming.

AMY GOODMAN: Interestingly, there is a file on BitTorrent- in case the full
release doesn't go forward for some reason. The files are encrypted, but all
that is needed to decrypt it is a pass phrase, which will be released in the
worst-case scenario.

GREG MITCHELL: What is also different about this release is that even the
previous leaks, WikiLeaks worked closely with news organizations. But here
they gave the news organizations these files very early on and news
organizations, at least the _New York Times, have gone to the
administration, it's run names pass the State Department and has redacted
many of the documents, which then WikiLeaks has then taken redacted
documents and these are among the over 200 they've already posted. So, in a
sense, WikiLeaks is letting the news media help them in making sure these
documents are safe. So, I would imagine that as they emerge, there is going
to be even fewer worries about what might be in them and that might have
been in the past.

[music break]

From Ed: Click on the URL for the rest of this important discussion:

http://www.democracynow.org/2010/11/29/us_facing_global_diplomatic_crisis_following

Matt Rothschild: Keeping Perspective on North Korea

Democracy Now has quickly assembled an amazing group of analysts
in a round table discussion of the Wikileaks papers, chaired by Amy G
on this morning's broadcast. If there's any way you can turn on a radio
at work, in the car, at home or wherever, do so. They cover the leaks
as well as the media coverage here, the governmental response, et al.
It's one of the most remarkable broadcasts I've ever heard. I'll send
out the prodigeous rush transcript, today or tomorrow.
Meanwhile, what's below is on point.
Ed


http://www.progressive.org/wx112710.html

Keeping Perspective on North Korea

By Matthew Rothschild,
The Progressive: November 27, 2010

When the current Korean crisis emerged, I immediately contacted the wisest
person I know on the subject. His name is Gene Matthews, and he spent
decades in South Korea as a missionary who was active in the pro-democracy
movement there.

He's a contributor to a great new book called "More Than Witnesses: How a
Small Group of Missionaries Aided Korea's Democratic Revolution."

Here's what he has to say about the current standoff.

"North Korea has always felt threatened by joint military exercises of the
U.S. and South Korea, and has always protested against them," he says. "This
time, North Korea stated that the exercises were taking place in North
Korean territory and that if shots were fired during the exercise they would
retaliate. Shots were fired (not at the North, it should be pointed out but
out toward the ocean) and the North retaliated."

What's saddest about this standoff, he says, is that it shows how far
relations have slid in the last fifteen years.

"Let's go back to 1994 when it was discovered that North Korea might be
developing nuclear weapon capability. The right wing in America had a field
day. Republicans in Congress began calling for massive bombing raids to wipe
out the North Korean nuclear facilities.

"Enter Jimmy Carter. Please check out Jimmy's article in the Washington
Post. A strong case could be made for saying that Carter's visit to the
north prevented war from breaking out. As a result of his visit The United
States and North Korea finally began talking to each other and reached some
remarkable agreements. The North agreed to destroy its small nuclear
generator in return for enough oil supplied the United States and Japan to
replace the generating capacity. Plans were even under way to open a U.S.
Embassy in North Korea. I remember receiving a phone call from a friend in
the U.S. Embassy in Seoul asking if I could recommend somebody sufficiently
fluent in Korean to work in the Pyongyang Embassy as an interpreter.
President Clinton even began to speak of a possible visit to the north.

"The situation continued to improve dramatically with the inauguration of
Kim Dae Jung as president of South Korea in 1998. He developed his famous
"Sunshine" policy with the north. A brief, useful description of the
Sunshine Policy can be found at fact-index.com."

George W. Bush destroyed all this progress, Matthews says.

"Without being totally naive about the situation I cannot help but feel that
North and South Korea could be thrashing out the final clauses of some kind
of positive détente had George W. Bush not been appointed U.S. president by
the Supreme Court. You will recall that shortly after his own inauguration
Bush declared North Korea part of the Axis of Evil, the terrible triumvirate
of nations including Iraq and Iran which Bush declared were intent on
destroying out freedom. When Bush subsequently attacked Iraq for no reasons
that made any sense, North Korea would have been foolish not to assume that
they were also on the list of nations to be targeted.

"In a later public statement Bush labeled North Korean President Kim Jong Il
a "moral pigmy." Very few Americans can understand how insulting and
devastating such talk is to a Korean leader. Americans tend to judge the
rest of the world by their own cultural thought patterns. For a Korean
leader to ignore such slurs would be a sign of grave weakness. I feel this
goes a long way toward explaining some of the recent hostility displayed by
the north.

"Bush was not through, however. Kim Dae Jung in two short years had already
begun implementation of his Sunshine Policy. In 2000 he had made a
historical visit to North Korea where he was warmly received. He would later
receive the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts at bringing peace to the
Korean peninsula. Following Bush's inauguration, Kim flew to Washington to
try to persuade the new American president to continue support of his
efforts to engage the north. Instead, Bush used the occasion to lecture Kim
about how foolish he was to trust the north. Again, very few Americans
realized how harmful this was. Here was the cocky, shallow thinking,
fraternity boy lecturing an elderly man whose entire life had been dedicated
to achieving democracy in his own land, who was carrying on delicate
negotiations with one of the most unstable regimes in the world, fully
cognizant of all the pitfalls inherent in such negotiations, willing to risk
his entire political future in spite of those pitfalls. The scene defies
description.

"Kim returned to Korea realizing that not only could he not count on support
from Bush but that he now had to expand political energy to overcome Bush's
insulting behavior. Both Kim and his predecessor, Roh Moo-Hyun, moved ahead
with the Sunshine Policy not only lacking support from Bush but now faced
with Bush's seeming determination to counter any Korean policies developed
under President Clinton.

"When I last visited Korea in 2003 I was amazed to find a railroad
connection already completed between north and south. A South Korean
Industrial complex had been built in Kaesong where North Korean workers were
producing goods for sale in South Korea. Family visits were common and South
Korean tourists were making regular visits to the beautiful Diamond
Mountains of North Korea."

Things took a further turn for the worse with the election due to political
changes in the South, Matthews says.

"It all began to grind to a halt with the election of Lee Myung Bak as South
Korean president in 2007. This highly successful business man and former
mayor of Seoul saw himself as a pragmatic, no-nonsense leader who seemed
determined to rule with a firm hand, almost reminiscent of the past military
dictators. He too, flew off to Washington to sit at the feet of George Bush
and came back singing Bush's praises. Almost overnight the progress made
under the two previous presidents was wiped out. The railroads and highways
were virtually closed down, tours and family visits ceased and production at
the industrial complex in Kaesong declined dramatically. This was all
combined with a vigorous renewal of the "defensive" exercises some of which
were now taking place in the disputed boundary waters between North and
South."

Nor does Matthews spare President Obama.

"One final ingredient for the stew pot is President Obama's abysmal approach
to the Korean situation. Whereas in his campaign he promised to deal with
situations like Korea through negotiation, as president he has almost
wholeheartedly embraced Bush's policies and has pledged full support to
South Korean president Lee Myung Bak's hard-line stance.

Matthews has no illusions about North Korea, but he urges us to move beyond
simplistic portrayals.

"The point of this overly long backgrounder is not to paint North Korea as
blameless. By almost any measure the North is a basket case. Its leadership
is terribly paranoid, and its internal human rights record is abominable.
But Americans seem unable to see beyond the hasty conclusions and
Hollywood-type approach to any incident such as the shelling of the island
and sinking of the ship. America good. South Korea good. North Korea bad.
The end."

It's just not that simple, he says.

"American still has 28,000 troops stationed in South Korea 57 years after
the cessation of hostilities. North Korea perceives their presence, rightly
or wrongly, as a threat. This perception is only reinforced when American
and South Korean forces carry out aggressive military exercises within
gunshot of North Korea."

Above all, says Matthews, we need to return to the path that was showing so
much progress.

"The ways of Jimmy Carter, Kim Tae Jun and No Moo Hyun were working. The
current ways are not."

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Hudson: Obama's Greatest Betrayal

http://www.counterpunch.org/hudson11152010.html

Obama's Greatest Betrayal

The Coming Sell-Out to the Super Rich and What It Means for the Rest of Us

By Michael Hudson:
Michael Hudson is a former Wall Street economist
CounterPunch: November 15, 2010

Now that President Obama is almost celebrating his bipartisan willingness to
renew the tax cuts for the super-rich enacted under George Bush ten years
ago, it is time for Democrats to ask themselves how strongly they are
willing to oppose an administration that looks like Bush-Cheney III. Is this
what they expected by Obama's promise to rise above partisan politics - by
ruling on behalf of Wall Street, now that it is the major campaign backer of
both parties?

It is a reflection of how one-sided today's class war has become that Warren
Buffet has quipped that "his" side is winning without a real fight being
waged. No gauntlet has been thrown down over the trial balloon that the
president and his advisor David Axelrod have sent up over the past two weeks
to extend the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 per cent for "just" two
more years. For all practical purposes the euphemism "two years" means
forever - at least, long enough to let the super-rich siphon off enough more
money to bankroll enough more Republicans to be elected to make the tax cuts
permanent.

Obama seems to be campaigning for his own defeat! Thanks largely to the $13
trillion Wall Street bailout - while keeping the debt overhead in place for
America's "bottom 98 per cent" - this happy 2 per cent of the population now
receives an estimated three quarters (~75 per cent) of the returns to wealth
(interest, dividends, rent and capital gains). This is nearly double what it
received a generation ago. The rest of the population is being squeezed, and
foreclosures are rising.

Baudelaire quipped that the devil wins at the point where he manages
convince the world that he doesn't exist. Today's financial elites will win
the class war at the point where voters believe it doesn't exist - and
believe that Obama is trying to help them rather than shepherd them into
debt peonage as the economy settles into debt deflation.

We are dealing with shameless demagogy. The financial End Time has arrived,
but Obama's happy-talk pretends that "two years" will get us through the
current debt-induced depression. The Republican plan is to make more
Congressional and Senate gains in 2012 as Obama's former supporters "vote
with their backsides" and stay home, as they did earlier this month. So "two
years" means forever in politician-talk. Why vote for a politician who
promises "change" but is merely an exclamation mark for the Bush-Cheney
policies from Afghanistan and Iraq to Wall Street's Democratic Leadership
Council on the party's right wing? One of its leaders, after all, was
Obama's Senate mentor, Joe Lieberman.

The second pretense is that cutting taxes for the super-rich is necessary to
win Republican support for including the middle class in the tax cuts. It is
as if the Democrats never won a plurality in Congress. (One remembers George
W. Bush with his mere 50+ per cent, pushing forward his extremist policies
on the logic that: "I've got capital, and I'm using it." What he had, of
course, was Democratic Leadership Committee support.) It's all "to create
jobs," headed by employment of shipyard workers building yachts for the
nouveau riches and foreclosing on the ten million Americans whose mortgage
payments have fallen into arrears. It sounds Keynesian - or at least,
reminiscent of Thomas Robert Malthus's claim (as lobbyist for Britain's
landed aristocracy) that landlords would use their rent income to hire
footmen, carriage-makers and butlers to keep the economy going.

It gets worse. Obama's "Bush" tax cut is only Part I of a one-two punch to
shift taxes onto wage earners. Congressional economists estimate that
extending the tax cuts to the top 2 per cent will cost $700 to $750 billion
over the next decade or so. "How are we going to go out and borrow $700
billion?" Obama asked Steve Kroft in his Sixty Minutes interview on CBS
last week.

It was a rhetorical question. The President has appointed a bipartisan
commission (right-wingers on both sides of the aisle) to "cure" the federal
budget deficit by cutting back social spending - to pay yet more bailouts to
the economy's financial wreckers. The National Commission on Fiscal
Responsibility and Reform might better be called the New Class War
Commission to Scale Back Social Security and Medicare Payments to Labor in
Order to Leave more Tax Revenue Available to Give Away to the Super-Rich. A
longer title than the Deficit-Reduction Commission used by media friendlies,
but sometimes it takes more words to get to the heart of matters.

The political axiom at work is "Big fish eat little fish." There's not
enough tax money to continue swelling the fortunes of the super-rich
pretending to save enough to pay the pensions and related social support
that North American and European employees have been promised. Something
must give - and the rich have shown themselves sufficiently foresighted to
seize the initiative. For a preview of what's in line for the United States,
watch neoliberal Europe's fight against the middle and working class in
Greece, Ireland and Latvia; or better yet, Pinochet's Chile, whose
privatized Social Security accounts were quickly wiped out in the late 1970s
by the kleptocracy advised by the Chicago Boys, to whose monetarist
double-think Obama's appointee Ben Bernanke has just re-pledged his
loyalty.

What is needed to put Obama's sell-out in perspective is the pro-Wall
Street advisors he has chosen - not only Larry Summers, Tim Geithner and Ben
Bernanke, but by stacking his Deficit Reduction Commission with outspoken
advocates of cutting back Social Security, Medicare and other social
spending. Their ploy is to frighten the public with a nightmare of $1
trillion deficit to pay retirement income over the next half century - as if
the Treasury and Fed have not just given Wall Street $13 trillion in
bailouts without blinking an eye. President Obama's $750 billion tax
giveaway to the wealthiest 2 per cent is mere icing on the cake that the
rich will be eating when the bread lines get too long.

To put matters in perspective, bear in mind that interest on the public debt
(that Reagan-Bush quadrupled and Bush-Obama redoubled) soon will amount to
$1 trillion annually. This is tribute levied on labor - increasing the
economy's cost of living and doing business - paid for losing the fight for
economic reform and replacing progressive taxation with regressive
neoliberal tax policy. As for military spending in the Near East, Asia and
other regions responsible for much of the U.S. balance-of-payments deficit,
Congress will always rise to the occasion and defer to whatever foreign
threat is conjured up requiring new armed force.

It's all junk economics. Running a budget deficit is how modern governments
inject the credit and purchasing power needed by economies to grow. When
governments run surpluses, as they did under Bill Clinton (1993-2000),
credit must be created by banks. And the problem with bank credit is that
most is lent, at interest, against collateral already in place. The effect
is to inflate real estate and stock market prices. This creates capital
gains - which the "original" 1913 U.S. income tax treated as normal income,
but which today are taxed at only 15 per cent (when they are collected at
all, which is rarely in the case of commercial real estate). So today's tax
system subsidizes the inflation of debt-leveraged financial and real estate
bubbles.

The giveaway: the Commission's position on tax deductibility for mortgage
interest

The Obama "Regressive Tax" commission spills the beans with its proposal to
remove the tax subsidy for high housing prices financed by mortgage debt.
The proposal moves only against homeowners - "the middle class" - not
absentee owners, commercial real estate investors, corporate raiders or
other prime bank customers.

The IRS permits mortgage interest to be tax-deductible on the pretense that
it is a necessary cost of doing business. In reality it is a subsidy for
debt leveraging. This tax bias for debt rather than equity investment (using
one's own money) is largely responsible for loading down the U.S. economy
with debt. It encourages corporate raiding with junk bonds, thereby adding
interest to the cost of doing business. This subsidy for debt leveraging
also is the government's largest giveaway to the banks, while causing the
debt deflation that is locking the economy into depression - violating every
precept of the classical drive for "free markets" in the 19th-century. (A
"free market" meant freedom from extractive rentier income, leading toward
what Keynes gently called "euthanasia of the rentier." The Obama Commission
endows rentiers atop the economy with a tax system to bolster their power,
not check it - while shrinking the economy below them.)

Table 7.11 of the National Income and Product Accounts (NIPA) reports that
total monetary interest paid in the U.S. economy amounted to $3,240 billion
in 2009. Homeowners paid just under a sixth of this amount ($572 billion) on
the homes they occupied. Obama's commission estimates that removing the tax
credit on this interest would yield the Treasury $131 billion in 2012.

There is in fact a good logic for stopping this tax credit. The
mortgage-interest tax deduction does not really save homeowners money. It is
a shortsighted illusion. What the government gives to "the homeowner" on one
hand is passed on to the mortgage banker by "the market" process that leads
bidders for property to pledge the net available rental value to the banks
in order to obtain a loan to buy the home (or an office building, or an
entire industrial company, for that matter.) "Equilibrium" is achieved at
the point where whatever rental value the tax collector relinquishes becomes
available to be capitalized into bank loans.

This means that what appears at first as "helping homeowner" afford to pay
mortgages turns out merely to enable them to afford to pay more interest to
their bankers. The tax giveaway uses homebuyers as "throughputs" to transfer
tax favoritism to the banks.

It gets worse. By removing the traditional tax on real estate, state, local
and federal governments need to tax labor and industry more, by transforming
the property tax onto income and sales taxes. For banks, this is transmuting
tax revenue into gold - into interest. And as for the home-owning middle
class, it now has to pay the former property tax to the banker as interest,
and also to pay the new taxes on income and sales that are levied to make up
for the tax shift.

I support removing the tax favoritism for debt leveraging. The problem with
the Deficit Commission is that it does not extend this reform to the rest of
the economy - to the commercial real estate sector, and to the corporate
sector.

The argument is made that "The rich create jobs." After all, somebody has to
build the yachts. What is missing is the more general principle: Wealth and
income inequality destroy job creation. This is because beyond the wealthy
soon reach a limit on how much they can consume. They spend their money
buying financial securities - mainly bonds, which end up indebting the
economy. And the debt overhead is what is pushing today's economy into
deepening depression.

Since the 1980s, corporate raiders have borrowed high-interest "junk bond"
credit to take over companies and make money by stripping assets, cutting
back long-term investment, research and development, and paying out
depreciation credit to their financiers. Financially parasitized companies
use corporate income to buy back their stock to support its price - and
hence, the value of stock options that financial managers give themselves -
and borrow yet more money for stock buybacks or simply to pay out as
dividends. When the process has run its course, they threaten their work
force with bankruptcy that will wipe out its pension benefits if employees
do not agree to "downsize" their claims and replace defined-benefit plans
with defined-contribution plans (in which all that employees know is how
much they pay in each month, not what they will get in the end). By the time
this point has been reached, the financial managers have paid themselves
outsized salaries and bonuses, and cashed in their stock options - all
subsidized by the government's favorable tax treatment of debt leveraging.

The attempted raids on McDonalds and other companies in recent years provide
object lessons in this destructive financial policy of "shareholder
activists." Yet Obama's Deficit Reduction Commission is restricting its
removal of tax favoritism for debt leveraging only for middle class
homeowners, not for the financial sector across the board. What makes this
particularly absurd is that two thirds of homeowners do not even itemize
their deductions. The fiscal loss resulting from tax deductibility of
interest stems mainly from commercial investors.

If the argument is correct (and I think it is) that permitting interest to
be tax deductible merely "frees" more revenue to pay interest to banks - to
capitalize into yet higher loans - then why isn't this principle even more
applicable to the Donald Trumps and other absentee owners who seek always to
use "other peoples' money" rather than their own? In practice, the "money"
turns out to be bank credit whose cost to the banks is now under 1 per cent.
The financial-fiscal system is siphoning off rental value from commercial
real estate investment, increasing the price of rental properties,
commercial real estate, and indeed, industry and agriculture.

Alas, the Obama administration has backed the Geithner-Bernanke policy that
"the economy" cannot recover without saving the debt overhead. The reality
is that it is the debt overhead that is destroying the economy. So we are
dealing with the irreconcilable fact that the Obama position threatens to
lower living standards from 10 per cent to 20 per cent over the coming few
years - making the United States look more like Greece, Ireland and Latvia
than what was promised in the last presidential election.

Something has to give politically if the economy is to change course. More
to the point, what has to give is favoritism for Wall Street at the expense
of the economy at large. What has made the U.S. economy uncompetitive is
primarily the degree to which debt service has been built into the cost of
living and doing business. Post-classical "junk economics" treats interest
and fees as payment for the "service" for providing credit. But interest
(like economic rent and monopoly price extraction) is a transfer payment to
bankers with the privilege of credit creation. The beneficiaries of
providing tax favoritism for debt are the super-rich at the top of the
economic pyramid - the 2 per cent whom Obama's tax giveaway will benefit by
over $700 billion.

If the present direction of tax "reform" is not reversed, Obama will shed
crocodile tears for the middle class as he sponsors the Deficit Reduction
Commission's program of cutting back Social Security and revenue sharing to
save states and cities from defaulting on their pensions. One third of U.S.
real estate already is reported to have sunk into negative equity, squeezing
state and local tax collection, forcing a choice to be made between
bankruptcy, debt default, or shifting the losses onto the shoulders of
labor, off those of the wealthy creditor layer of the economy responsible
for loading it down with debt.

Critics of the Obama-Bush agenda recall how America's Gilded Age of the late
19th century was an era of economic polarization and class war. At that time
the Democratic leader William Jennings Bryan accused Wall Street and Eastern
creditors of crucifying the American economy on a cross of gold. Restoration
of gold at its pre-Civil War price led to a financial war in the form of
debt deflation as falling prices and incomes received by farmers and wage
labor made the burden of paying their mortgage debts heavier. The Income Tax
law of 1913 sought to rectify this by only falling on the wealthiest 1 per
cent of the population - the only ones obliged to file tax returns. Capital
gains were taxed at normal rates. Most of the tax burden therefore felon
finance, insurance and real estate (FIRE) sector

The vested interests have spent a century fighting back. They now see
victory within reach, by perpetuating the Bush tax cuts for the wealthiest 2
per cent, phasing out of the estate tax on wealth, the tax shift off
property onto labor income and consumer sales, and slashing public spending
on anything except more bailouts and subsidies for the emerging financial
oligarchy that has become Obama's "bipartisan" constituency.

What we need is a Futures Commission to forecast just what will the rich do
with the victory they have won. As administered by President Obama and his
designated appointees Tim Geithner and Ben Bernanke, their policy is
financially and fiscally unsustainable. Providing tax incentives for debt
leveraging - for most of the population to go into debt to the rich, whose
taxes are all but abolished - is shrinking the economy. This will lead to
even deeper financial crises, employer defaults and fiscal insolvency at the
state, local and federal levels. Future presidents will call for new
bailouts, using a strategy much like going to military war. A financial war
requires an emergency to rush through Congress, as occurred in 2008-09.
Obama's appointees are turning the U.S. economy into a Permanent Emergency,
a Perpetual Ponzi Scheme requiring injections of more and more Quantitative
Easing to to rescue "the economy" (Obama's euphemism for creditors at the
top of the economic pyramid) from being pushed into insolvency. Bernanke's
helicopter flies only over Wall Street. It does not drop monetary relief on
the population at large.

Michael Hudson is a former Wall Street economist. A Distinguished Research
Professor at University of Missouri, Kansas City (UMKC), he is the author of
many books, including Super Imperialism: The Economic Strategy of American
Empire (new ed., Pluto Press, 2002) and Trade, Development and Foreign Debt:
A History of Theories of Polarization v. Convergence in the World Economy.
He can be reached via his website, mh@michael-hudson.com

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Krugman: There Will Be Blood, Fire in the Heart - Tuesday

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/22/opinion/22krugman.html?_r=1&nl=todaysheadlines&emc=a212

There Will Be Blood

Paul Krugman
NY Times Op-Ed: November 22, 2010

Former Senator Alan Simpson is a Very Serious Person. He must be - after
all, President Obama appointed him as co-chairman of a special commission on
deficit reduction.

So here's what the very serious Mr. Simpson said on Friday: "I can't wait
for the blood bath in April. ... When debt limit time comes, they're going
to look around and say, 'What in the hell do we do now? We've got guys who
will not approve the debt limit extension unless we give 'em a piece of
meat, real meat,' " meaning spending cuts. "And boy, the blood bath will be
extraordinary," he continued.

Think of Mr. Simpson's blood lust as one more piece of evidence that our
nation is in much worse shape, much closer to a political breakdown, than
most people realize.

Some explanation: There's a legal limit to federal debt, which must be
raised periodically if the government keeps running deficits; the limit will
be reached again this spring. And since nobody, not even the hawkiest of
deficit hawks, thinks the budget can be balanced immediately, the debt limit
must be raised to avoid a government shutdown. But Republicans will probably
try to blackmail the president into policy concessions by, in effect,
holding the government hostage; they've done it before.

Now, you might think that the prospect of this kind of standoff, which might
deny many Americans essential services, wreak havoc in financial markets and
undermine America's role in the world, would worry all men of good will. But
no, Mr. Simpson "can't wait." And he's what passes, these days, for a
reasonable Republican.

The fact is that one of our two great political parties has made it clear
that it has no interest in making America governable, unless it's doing the
governing. And that party now controls one house of Congress, which means
that the country will not, in fact, be governable without that party's
cooperation - cooperation that won't be forthcoming.

Elite opinion has been slow to recognize this reality. Thus on the same day
that Mr. Simpson rejoiced in the prospect of chaos, Ben Bernanke, the
Federal Reserve chairman, appealed for help in confronting mass
unemployment. He asked for "a fiscal program that combines near-term
measures to enhance growth with strong, confidence-inducing steps to reduce
longer-term structural deficits."

My immediate thought was, why not ask for a pony, too? After all, the G.O.P.
isn't interested in helping the economy as long as a Democrat is in the
White House. Indeed, far from being willing to help Mr. Bernanke's efforts,
Republicans are trying to bully the Fed itself into giving up completely on
trying to reduce unemployment.

And on matters fiscal, the G.O.P. program is to do almost exactly the
opposite of what Mr. Bernanke called for. On one side, Republicans oppose
just about everything that might reduce structural deficits: they demand
that the Bush tax cuts be made permanent while demagoguing efforts to limit
the rise in Medicare costs, which are essential to any attempts to get the
budget under control. On the other, the G.O.P. opposes anything that might
help sustain demand in a depressed economy - even aid to small businesses,
which the party claims to love.

Right now, in particular, Republicans are blocking an extension of
unemployment benefits - an action that will both cause immense hardship and
drain purchasing power from an already sputtering economy. But there's no
point appealing to the better angels of their nature; America just doesn't
work that way anymore.

And opposition for the sake of opposition isn't limited to economic policy.
Politics, they used to tell us, stops at the water's edge - but that was
then.

These days, national security experts are tearing their hair out over the
decision of Senate Republicans to block a desperately needed new strategic
arms treaty. And everyone knows that these Republicans oppose the treaty,
not because of legitimate objections, but simply because it's an Obama
administration initiative; if sabotaging the president endangers the nation,
so be it.

How does this end? Mr. Obama is still talking about bipartisan outreach, and
maybe if he caves in sufficiently he can avoid a federal shutdown this
spring. But any respite would be only temporary; again, the G.O.P. is just
not interested in helping a Democrat govern.

My sense is that most Americans still don't understand this reality. They
still imagine that when push comes to shove, our politicians will come
together to do what's necessary. But that was another country.

It's hard to see how this situation is resolved without a major crisis of
some kind. Mr. Simpson may or may not get the blood bath he craves this
April, but there will be blood sooner or later. And we can only hope that
the nation that emerges from that blood bath is still one we recognize.

***

From: Peter Dreier
To: Ed Pearl

What: "Fire in the Heart: How White Activists Embrace Racial Justice" -
When: Tuesday, Nov. 30
Where: Occidental College

Mark Warren, associate professor of sociology at Harvard, will be speaking
at Occidental College on Tuesday, November 30, at 7 pm (in Johnson Hall,
Room 200) about his new book, Fire in the Heart: How White Activists Embrace
Racial Justice, just published by Oxford University Press.

Fire in the Heart uncovers the dynamic processes through which some white
Americans become activists for racial justice. The book reports powerful
accounts of the development of racial awareness drawn from in-depth
interviews with fifty white activists in the fields of community organizing,
education, and criminal justice reform.

The first study of its kind, Fire in the Heart brings to light the
perspectives of white people who are working day-to-day to build a truly
multiracial America rooted in a caring, human community with equity and
justice at its core.

Warren shows how white activists come to find common cause with people of
color when their core values are engaged, as they build relationships with
people of color that lead to caring, and when they develop a vision of a
racially just future that they understand to benefit everyone-themselves,
other whites, and people of color.
The activists include
· Mark Soler, Mark is Executive Director of the Center for Children's
Law and Policy in Washington, DC.
· Ingrid Chapman, an anti-racist organizer and trainer for the
Catalyst Project in the Bay Area
· David Utter, director of the Florida Youth Initiative of the
Southern Poverty Law Center.
· Cathy Rion, a youth organizer, Unitarian Universalist minister,
and former member of the board of Californians for Justice.
· Alex Caputo-Pearl, a teacher at Crenshaw High School in Los
Angeles, and one of the founders of the Coalition for Educational Justice,
a parent-student-teacher activist organization
· Lewis Pitts, a lawyer with a long history of supporting racial
justice organizing in the South.
· Z. Holler, one of the leaders of the Beloved Community Center in
Greensboro, North Carolina, and a founder of the Greensboro Truth and
Reconciliation Commission,
· Joseph Ellwanger, a retired Lutheran minister and one of the
leaders of the faith-based community organizing group called MICAH in
Milwaukee..
· Madeline Talbott, a long-time community organizer in Chicago with
ACORN and Action Now.
· Bob Peterson, a 5th grade teacher at La Escuela Fratney, a
bilingual public school in Milwaukee.
· Seth Newton, a former labor organizer for HERE, SEIU and AFSCME,
where he helped organize and represent mostly immigrant workers in hotels
and the service industry in California.
You can learn more about the book, and about Professor Warren, at this
website: http://mark-warren.com/fireintheheart.

Professor Warren is an engaging speaker, a former community organizer, and a
highly-regarded scholar. His previous book, Dry Bones Rattling: Community
Building to Revitalize American Democracy (Princeton University Press),
received outstanding reviews. He is currently directing a large-scale study
of community organizing efforts at school reform and educational justice in
six localities across the country, including Los Angeles.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Reich: Sarah Palin's Presidential Strategy, Bob Scheer at Skylight - Monday

The only problem with this othewise insightful analysis is that Reich
doesn't even mention president Obama and his policies until the final,
weak paragraph. Unfortunately, dear readers, that is the crux of this
ongoing and developing disaster, and must be faced. He began his
presidency with majorities in both houses and huge mass support
which could and should have evolved into the movement he demanded
press him on agenda. He now continues his obeisance to Wall Street,
the Pentagon and A.I.P.A.C., desperately looking for 'common ground'
with hostile, intractable Republicans determined to destroy him, and us.
And good liberals still rationalizing it all.

-Ed

http://www.laprogressive.com/economic-equality/sarah-palins-presidential-strategy-economy-depends/

Sarah Palin's Presidential Strategy, and the Economy She Depends on

Robert Reich
LA Progressive: November 25, 2010

Monday night, Sarah Palin watched from the audience as daughter Bristol
danced on ABC. Twenty-three million other Americans joined her from their
homes. Tuesday, the former vice-presidential candidate started a 13-state
book tour for her new book, "America By Heart," which has a first printing
of 1 million. Her reality show on TLC, "Sarah Palin's Alaska," is in its
third week. Last Sunday she was the cover story in the New York Times
magazine.

It's all part of The Palin Strategy for becoming president in 2012 - or 2016
or 2020.

Republican leaders don't believe it. "If she wanted the Republican
nomination she'd be working on the inside," one influential Republican told
me a few days ago. "She'd be building relationships with Republican Senators
and representatives, governors, and state party officials. She'd be
smoothing the feathers she ruffled by backing Tea Party candidates. She'd be
huddled with GOP kingmakers." When I suggested she has a different strategy,
the influential Republican smiled knowingly. "That's how it's done - how
McCain, Bush, and everyone has done it. That's the only way to do it. But
all she really wants is celebrity."

The Republican establishment doesn't get it. Celebrity is part of The Palin
Strategy - as is avoiding the insider game. She doesn't want to do what
Huckabee, Pawlenty, Gingrich, or Romney have to do. She has an outside game.

Palin's game plan is directly related to America' white working class, and
the economy it faces - and the economy it's likely to continue to experience
for years.

No prospective candidate so sharply embodies the anger of America's white
working class as does Palin. And none is channeling that anger nearly as
effectively.

White working class anger isn't new, of course, nor is the Republican
Party's
use of it. Apart from the South, where the anger came in response to the
Civil Rights movement of the 1960s, the more widespread working-class
anxiety began in the late 1970s when the median male wage that had been
rising for three decades began to stagnate.

As I noted in "Aftershock," families responded by sending wives and mothers
into the paid workforce, working longer hours, and then, finally, going deep
into debt. These coping mechanisms allayed but did not remove the growing
anxiety.

Over the years, Republicans have channeled the anxiety into anger, through
overt appeals to a so-called "silent majority" that were overlooked by
Democrats and liberals; through "tax revolts" by working and middle-class
families that couldn't afford to pay more; and in subtle and not-so-subtle
appeals to racist fears (Willie Horton).

But now that the Great Recession has eliminated the last coping mechanism -
ending the easy borrowing, and ratcheting up unemployment - the working
class's economic insecurities have soared. A recent Washington Post poll
showed 53 percent of homeowners worried about meeting their mortgage
payments. Home foreclosures have slowed largely because of bad paperwork on
the part of banks, but the threat remains. Housing prices are still
dropping.

The white working class has not benefitted from the recent rise in corporate
profits and stock prices. To the contrary, both have been fueled by foreign
sales of goods made abroad and by labor-saving technologies that have
allowed American companies to do more with fewer workers here at home.

Joblessness among the white working class is far higher than the 9.6 percent
average for the nation. While the unemployment rate among college grads
(most of whom are professionals or managers) is around 5 percent, the
average unemployment rate for people with only a high school degree or less
(blue-collar, pink-collar, clerical) is almost 20 percent.

All of this is spawning a new and more virulent politics of anger in the
nation's white working class, stoked by Republicans - anger against
immigrants, blacks, gays, intellectuals, and international bankers (consider
the latest Fox News salvos against George Soros).

According to the right-wing narrative, the calamity that's befallen the
white working class is due to the global and intellectual elites who run the
mainstream media, direct the government, dispense benefits to the
undeserving, and dominate popular culture. (The story and targets are not
substantially different from those that have fueled right-wing and fascist
movements during times of economic stress for more than a century, here and
abroad.)

Sarah Palin has special appeal because she wraps the story in an upbeat
message. She avoids the bilious rants of Rush, Sean Hannity, and their ilk.
But her cheerfulness isn't sunny; she doesn't promise Morning in America.
She offers pure snark, and promises revenge. Over and over again she tells
the same snide, sarcastic, inside joke, but in different words: "They think
they can keep screwing us, but (wink, wink), we know something they don't.
We're gonna take over and screw them."

The Palin Strategy is to circumvent the Republican establishment, filled as
it is with career Republicans, business executives, and Wall Streeters.
That's
why her path to the Republican nomination isn't the usual insider game. It's
a celebrity game - a snark-fest with the nation's entire white working
class. Vote for Bristol and we'll show the media establishment how powerful
we are! Buy my book and we'll show the know-it-all coastal elites a real
book directed at real people! Tune into my cable show and we'll show the
real America - far from the urban centers with immigrants and blacks and
fancy city slickers!

As I believe will become clearer, the Palin Strategy will involve a
political threat to the GOP establishment: Deny her the nomination she'll
run as independent. This will split off much of the white working class and
guarantee defeat of the Republican establishment candidate. It will also
result in her defeat in 2012, but that's a small price to pay for gaining
the credibility and power to demand the nomination in 2016, or threaten
another third-party run in 2020.

Once nominated, her campaign for the general election will be purely
populist. She'll seek to broaden her base to become the candidate of the
people, taking on America's vested Establishment.

More than anything else, the Palin Strategy depends on the continuing fear
and anger of America's white working class. She's betting that their
economic prospects will not improve by 2012, or even by 2016 and beyond.

Sadly, this is likely to be the case. On Tuesday, the Fed issued a gloomy
prognosis. Even if the U.S. economy began to grow at a rate more typical of
recoveries than the current anemic 2 percent, unemployment won't drop to its
pre-recession level for 5 to 7 years. A minority of the Fed thought this was
too optimistic.

The disturbing truth is the bad economy is likely to continue for most
Americans beyond 7 years - maybe for ten or more - because of a chronic lack
of aggregate demand. Apart from inevitable inventory replacements and the
necessary replacements by consumers of cars, appliances, and clothing that
wear out, nothing will propel the U.S. economy forward. So much income and
wealth have now concentrated at the top that the broad middle and working
class no longer has the buying power to do so. The top will resume buying
but their purchases won't be nearly enough.

Japan lost a decade of economic growth after its real estate bubble
exploded. It seems entirely probable that the United States will suffer the
same fate. Our economic structure - how we now allocate the gains of growth,
the yawning gap between Wall Street and Main Street, the incentives
operating on large corporations to pare American payrolls and expand
abroad - almost dictates it.

We might change that structure, of course. But at this point that doesn't
seem in the cards. The President seems unable or unwilling to provide the
clear narrative that explains what's happened and what needs to be done, and
Republicans are at this moment ascendant.

It all fits into Sarah Palin's strategy.

Robert Reich

***

To: epearlag@earthlink.net
Sent: Friday, November 19, 2010 11:57 AM
Subject: Re: Robert Scheer


Monday, November 21 at 7:30 p.m.

Skylight Books
1818 N. Vermont Ave.
Los Angeles, CA 90027
(323) 660-1175
www.skylightbooks.com

Robert Scheer, editor-in-chief of the award-winning internet magazine
Truthdig.com, co-host of "Left, Right, and Center" on KCRW, and "one of the
best reporters of our time" (Joan Didion) will discuss and sign his new
book, The Great American Stick-Up.

In The Great American Stickup (Nation Books), Scheer uncovers the hidden
story behind the Wall Street financial crash of 2008 and the consequent
global recession. Instead of going where other journalists have gone in
search of this story-the board rooms and trading floors of the big Wall
Street firms-Scheer goes back to Washington, D.C., a veritable crime scene,
beginning in the 1980s, where the captains of the finance industry, their
lobbyists and allies among leading politicians destroyed an American
regulatory system that had been functioning effectively since the era of the
New Deal.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Lessons to Be Learned From Paulo Freire

http://www.truth-out.org/lessons-be-learned-from-paulo-freire-education-is-being-taken-over-mega-rich65363

Lessons to Be Learned From Paulo Freire as Education Is Being Taken Over by
the Mega Rich

by: Henry A. Giroux,
t r u t h o u t : 23 November 2010

(This is an expanded version of "Lessons From Paulo Freire," which
appeared in a recent issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education.)

At a time when memory is being erased and the political relevance of
education is dismissed in the language of measurement and quantification, it
is all the more important to remember the legacy and work of Paulo Freire.
Freire is one of the most important educators of the 20th century and is
considered one of the most important theorists of "critical pedagogy" - the
educational movement guided by both passion and principle to help students
develop a consciousness of freedom, recognize authoritarian tendencies,
empower the imagination, connect knowledge and truth to power and learn to
read both the word and the world as part of a broader struggle for agency,
justice and democracy. His groundbreaking book, "Pedagogy of the Oppressed,"
has sold more than a million copies and is deservedly being commemorated
this year - the 40th anniversary of its appearance in English translation -
after having exerted its influence over generations of teachers and
intellectuals in the Americas and abroad.

Since the 1980s, there have been too few intellectuals on the North American
educational scene who have matched Freire's theoretical rigor, civic courage
and sense of moral responsibility. And his example is more important now
than ever before: with institutions of public and higher education
increasingly under siege by a host of neoliberal and conservative forces, it
is imperative for educators to acknowledge Freire's understanding of the
empowering and democratic potential of education. Critical pedagogy
currently offers the very best, perhaps the only, chance for young people to
develop and assert a sense of their rights and responsibilities to
participate in governing, and not simply being governed by prevailing
ideological and material forces.

When we survey the current state of education in the United States, we see
that most universities are now dominated by instrumentalist and conservative
ideologies, hooked on methods, slavishly wedded to accountability measures
and run by administrators who often lack a broader vision of education as a
force for strengthening civic imagination and expanding democratic public
life. One consequence is that a concern with excellence has been removed
from matters of equity, while higher education - once conceptualized as a
fundamental public good - has been reduced to a private good, now available
almost exclusively to those with the financial means. Universities are
increasingly defined through the corporate demand to provide the skills,
knowledge and credentials in building a workforce that will enable the
United States to compete against blockbuster growth in China and other
southeast Asian markets, while maintaining its role as the major global
economic and military power. There is little interest in understanding the
pedagogical foundation of higher education as a deeply civic and political
project that provides the conditions for individual autonomy and takes
liberation and the practice of freedom as a collective goal.

Public education fares even worse. Dominated by pedagogies that are utterly
instrumental, geared toward memorization, conformity and high-stakes test
taking, public schools have become intellectual dead zones and punishment
centers as far removed from teaching civic values and expanding the
imaginations of students as one can imagine. The profound disdain for public
education is evident not only in Obama's test-driven, privatized and charter
school reform movement, but also in the hostile takeover of public education
now taking place among the ultra-rich and hedge fund zombies, who get
massive tax breaks from gaining control of charter schools. The public in
education has now become the enemy of educational reform. How else can one
explain the shameful appointment by Mayor Michael Bloomberg of Cathleen
Black, the president of Hearst Magazine, as the next chancellor of the New
York City public school system? Not only does she not have any experience in
education and is totally unqualified for the job, but her background mimics
the worst of elite arrogance and unaccountable power. Surely, one has to
take note of the background of someone who should be a model for young
people when such a background includes, as reported in The New York Times:
"riding horses at a country club where blacks and Jews were not allowed ....
lending a $47,000 bracelet to a Manhattan museum ... and [refusing]
interviews since her appointment."(1) With friends like Rupert Murduch, it
should come as no surprise that she once worked as a chief lobbyist for the
newspaper industry in the 1990s "fighting a ban on tobacco advertising,"(2)
which is often targeted toward the young. It seems that, when it comes to
the elite of business culture, ignorance about education now ranks as a
virtue. Then, of course, there is the sticky question of whether such a
candidate qualifies as a model of civic integrity and courage for the many
teachers and children under her leadership. Public values and public
education surely take a nose dive in this appointment, but this is also
symptomatic of what is happening to public education throughout the country.

Against the regime of "banking education," stripped of all critical elements
of teaching and learning, Freire believed that education, in the broadest
sense, was eminently political because it offered students the conditions
for self-reflection, a self-managed life and critical agency. For Freire,
pedagogy was central to a formative culture that makes both critical
consciousness and social action possible. Pedagogy in this sense connected
learning to social change; it was a project and provocation that challenged
students to critically engage with the world so they could act on it. As the
sociologist Stanley Aronowitz has noted, Freire's pedagogy helped learners
"become aware of the forces that have hitherto ruled their lives and
especially shaped their consciousness."(3) What Freire made clear is that
pedagogy at its best is not about training in techniques and methods, nor
does it involve coercion or political indoctrination. Indeed, far from a
mere method or an a priori technique to be imposed on all students,
education is a political and moral practice that provides the knowledge,
skills and social relations that enable students to explore for themselves
the possibilities of what it means to be engaged citizens, while expanding
and deepening their participation in the promise of a substantive democracy.
According to Freire, critical pedagogy afforded students the opportunity to
read, write and learn from a position of agency - to engage in a culture of
questioning that demands far more than competency in rote learning and the
application of acquired skills. For Freire, pedagogy had to be meaningful in
order to be critical and transformative. This meant that personal experience
became a valuable resource that gave students the opportunity to relate
their own narratives, social relations and histories to what was being
taught. It also signified a resource to help students locate themselves in
the concrete conditions of their daily lives, while furthering their
understanding of the limits often imposed by such conditions. Under such
circumstances, experience became a starting point, an object of inquiry that
could be affirmed, critically interrogated and used as resource to engage
broader modes of knowledge and understanding. Rather than taking the place
of theory, experience worked in tandem with theory in order to dispel the
notion that experience provided some form of unambiguous truth or political
guarantee. Experience was crucial, but it had to take a detour through
theory, self-reflection and critique to become a meaningful pedagogical
resource.

Critical pedagogy, for Freire, meant imagining literacy as not simply the
mastering of specific skills, but also as a mode of intervention, a way of
learning about and reading the word as a basis for intervening in the world.
Critical thinking was not reducible to an object lesson in test taking. It
was not about the task of memorizing so-called facts, decontextualized and
unrelated to present conditions. To the contrary, it was about offering a
way of thinking beyond the seeming naturalness or inevitability of the
current state of things, challenging assumptions validated by "common
sense," soaring beyond the immediate confines of one's experiences, entering
into a dialogue with history and imagining a future that would not merely
reproduce the present.

By way of illustration, Freirean pedagogy might stage the dynamic interplay
of audio, visual and print texts as part of a broader examination of history
itself as a site of struggle, one that might offer some insights into
students' own experiences and lives in the contemporary moment. For example,
a history class might involve reading and watching films about school
desegregation in the 1950s and '60s as part of a broader pedagogical
engagement with the civil rights movement and the massive protests that
developed over educational access and student rights to literacy. It would
also open up opportunities to talk about why these struggles are still part
of the experience of many North American youth today, particularly poor
black and brown youth who are denied equality of opportunity by virtue of
market-based rather than legal segregation. Students could be asked to write
short papers that speculate on the meaning and the power of literacy and why
it was so central to the civil rights movement. These may be read by the
entire class, with each student elaborating his or her position and offering
commentary as a way of entering into a critical discussion of the history of
racial exclusion, reflecting on how its ideologies and formations still
haunt American society in spite of the triumphal dawn of an allegedly
post-racial Obama era. In this pedagogical context, students learn how to
expand their own sense of agency, while recognizing that to be voiceless is
to be powerless. Central to such a pedagogy is shifting the emphasis from
teachers to students, and making visible the relationships among knowledge,
authority and power. Giving students the opportunity to be problem posers
and engage in a culture of questioning in the classroom foregrounds the
crucial issue of who has control over the conditions of learning, and how
specific modes of knowledge, identities and authority are constructed within
particular sets of classroom relations. Under such circumstances, knowledge
is not simply received by students, but actively transformed, open to be
challenged and related to the self as an essential step toward agency,
self-representation and learning how to govern rather than simply be
governed. At the same time, students also learn how to engage others in
critical dialogue and be held accountable for their views.

Thus, critical pedagogy insists that one of the fundamental tasks of
educators is to make sure that the future points the way to a more socially
just world, a world in which critique and possibility - in conjunction with
the values of reason, freedom and equality - function to alter the grounds
upon which life is lived. Though it rejects a notion of literacy as the
transmission of facts or skills tied to the latest market trends, critical
pedagogy is hardly a prescription for political indoctrination as the
advocates of standardization and testing often insist. It offers students
new ways to think and act creatively and independently, while making clear
that the educator's task, as Aronowitz points out, "is to encourage human
agency, not mold it in the manner of Pygmalion."(4) What critical pedagogy
does insist upon is that education cannot be neutral. It is always directive
in its attempt to enable students to understand the larger world and their
role in it. Moreover, it is inevitably a deliberate attempt to influence how
and what knowledge, values, desires and identities are produced within
particular sets of class and social relations. For Freire, pedagogy always
presupposes some notion of a more equal and just future; and as such, it
should always function in part as a provocation that takes students beyond
the world they know in order to expand the range of human possibilities and
democratic values. Central to critical pedagogy is the recognition that the
way we educate our youth is related to the future that we hope for and that
such a future should offer students a life that leads to the deepening of
freedom and social justice. Even within the privileged precincts of higher
education, Freire said that educators should nourish those pedagogical
practices that promote "a concern with keeping the forever unexhausted and
unfulfilled human potential open, fighting back all attempts to foreclose
and pre-empt the further unraveling of human possibilities, prodding human
society to go on questioning itself and preventing that questioning from
ever stalling or being declared finished."(5) The notion of the unfinished
human being resonated with Zygmunt Bauman notion that society never reached
the limits of justice, thus, rejecting any notion of the end of history,
ideology or how we imagine the future. This language of critique and
educated hope was his legacy, one that is increasingly absent from many
liberal and conservative discourses about current educational problems and
appropriate avenues of reform.

When I began teaching, Freire became an essential influence in helping me to
understand the broad contours of my ethical responsibilities as a teacher.
Later, his work would help me come to terms with the complexities of my
relationship to universities as powerful and privileged institutions that
seemed far removed from the daily life of the working-class communities in
which I had grown up. I first met Paulo in the early 1980s, just after my
tenure as a professor at Boston University had been opposed by its President
John Silber. Paulo was giving a talk at the University of Massachusetts at
Amherst, and he came to my house in Boston for dinner. Given Paulo's
reputation as a powerful intellectual, I recall initially being astounded by
his profound humility. I remember being greeted with such warmth and
sincerity that I felt completely at ease with him. We talked for a long time
that night about his exile, how I had been attacked by a right-wing
university administration, what it meant to be a working-class intellectual
and the risks one had to take to make a difference. I was in a very bad
place after being denied tenure and had no idea what the future would hold.
On that night, a friendship was forged that would last until Paulo's death.
I am convinced that had it not been for Paulo and Donaldo Macedo - a
linguist, translator and a friend of Paulo's and mine - I might not have
stayed in the field of education. Their passion for education and their
profound humanity convinced me that teaching was not a job like any other,
but a crucial site of struggle, and that, ultimately, whatever risks had to
be taken were well worth it.

For more of this essay, go to the URL:

http://www.truth-out.org/lessons-be-learned-from-paulo-freire-education-is-being-taken-over-mega-rich65363

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Wendell Potter: "My Apologies to Michael Moore and the Health Insurance Industry"

Wendell Potter: "My Apologies to Michael Moore and the Health Insurance Industry"

Submitted by Wendell Potter on November 22, 2010 - 11:14am.

Michael Moore, Wendell Potter, Alex Potter(L-R) Alex Potter, Michael Moore and Wendell Potter In advance of my appearance with Michael Moore on Countdown with Keith Olbermann tonight on MSNBC (8 and 11 p.m. ET), I would like to offer an apology to both Moore and his arch enemy, the health insurance industry, which spent a lot of policyholder premiums in 2007 to attack his movie, Sicko.

I need to apologize to Moore for the role I played in the insurance industry's public relations attack campaign again him and Sicko, which was about the increasingly unfair and dysfunctional U.S. health care system. (I was head of corporate communications at one of the country's biggest insurance companies when I left my job in May 2008.) And I need to apologize to health insurers for failing to note in my new book, Deadly Spin, that the front group they used to attack Moore and Sicko -- Health Care America -- was originally a front group for drug companies. APCO Worldwide, the PR firm that operated the front group for insurers during the summer of 2007, was outraged -- outraged, I tell you -- that I wrote in the book that the raison d'├¬tre for Health Care America was to disseminate the insurance industry's talking points as part of a multi-pronged, fear-mongering campaign against Moore and his movie. An APCO executive told a reporter who had reviewed the book that I was guilty of one of the deceptive PR tactics I condemned: the selective disclosure of information to manipulate public opinion. 

Which Industry Was Really Behind "Health Care America?"

Well, shucks. Ignorance is no defense, I know, but no one at APCO ever told me, even when I was on the insurance industry's side, that Health Care America's first benefactor was Big Pharma.

Here are the offending sentences, excerpted from the chapter entitled "The Campaign Against Sicko," in which I described a top-secret meeting of insurance company flacks -- including me -- where APCO and America's Health Insurance Plans (AHIP), the lobbying group for insurers, laid out the industry's strategy:  

(AHIP's Mike) Tuffin and (APCO's Robert) Schooling said they had already begun recruiting conservative and free-market think tanks, including the American Enterprise Institute and the Galen Institute, as third-party allies. Those allies, they said, would be working aggressively to discredit Moore and his movie. They then mentioned an ally that most of us had never heard of, Health Care America. It had been created by AHIP and APCO for the sole purpose of attacking Moore and his contention that people in countries with government-run systems spent far less and got better care than people in the United States. The sole reason Health Care America exists, they said, was to talk about the shortcomings of government-run systems.

I learned a few days ago from Jack O'Dwyer, longtime watchdog of the PR profession and publisher of O'Dwyer's PR Daily, that an APCO executive told him I had failed to disclose that APCO had originally set up Health Care America in 2006 with money primarily from big drug companies. Big Pharma was worried at the time that drug makers would be Moore's main target in the movie. Thinking ahead, they feared that being vilified in Sicko would increase the odds that lawmakers would cast them as the chief villain when the health care reform debate got underway. 

O'Dwyer blogged last Tuesday that, "Just about every known evil practice that PR has ever engaged in is described in 'Deadly Spin.' " He noted that I had mentioned APCO -- the second biggest firm in the O'Dwyer ranking, with $100.3 million in fees in 2009 -- several times in the book. APCO and AHIP must be paying a media monitoring service to alert them immediately when I am mentioned in the media, as they did for Michael Moore and Sicko three years ago. Within hours, APCO Senior Vice President William Pierce sent O'Dwyer an email to challenge my credibility because of my failure to disclose Health Care America's original incarnation. He's right --partially. I should have pointed out in the book that APCO repurposed Health Care America for the insurance industry and other special interests who were concerned that Sicko might lead to reforms that would threaten their profits, too. I would have disclosed it if I had known about it. Unlike PR people who practice the dark arts of PR, I had no intention of misleading anyone. 

Now, Even More Info About "Health Care America"

After hearing from O'Dwyer, I discovered even more about Health Care America than I had recalled. I came across a couple of interesting articles and a press release from 2006 that Pierce had sent to the media. (He was listed as the organization's media contact, although he was an employee of APCO during the entire brief existence of Health Care America. If you called the number on the press release, you would have reached Pierce at his APCO office.) I also found Health Care America's federal tax returns for 2006 and 2007, which were helpful in understanding just how much of a front group it really was. 

In a press release dated April 6, 2006, Pierce announced that Health Care America -- which he described as a non-partisan, non-profit organization --had "opened for business as a champion for common-sense solutions to improving our health care system without furthering government control."

The Old PR Dodge and Weave

In one of the hardest-working paragraphs of spin I've come across in a long time, the release went on to quote Sarah Berk, the outfit's executive director, as saying: "We will promote access, choice, innovation, quality and competition in the U.S. health care system. And we will highlight how government-controlled systems around the world limit payment choice, stifle innovation and force thousands to wait for health care services in the U.S." 

(Note to Ms. Berk: Please make plans now to join me next July at the 11th annual Remote Area Medical Free Health Care Expedition at the Wise County, Virginia Fairgrounds. If you come early enough, you can help other volunteers scrub and sanitize the animal stalls where doctors and nurses treat the thousands of patients who wait for a year to get the care they need, but cannot afford in the United States of America. Be forewarned, however. The experience might force you to consider another line of work, as it did for me when I went to 
Wise County in 2007. I knew then that my days as a spinmeister for the insurance industry were numbered.)

The release did not disclose that Ms. Berk had recently left the American Hospital Association where, according to a story in Roll Call, she was director of "grassroots" advocacy and federal relations. Roll Call also reported that she earlier had "worked on health issues" for former Sen. Rick Santorum (R-Pennsylvania).

So what were the common-sense solutions Health Care America promised to champion? Well, according to Roll Call, Ms. Berk "declined" to talk about them.
 
"We're not there yet," Roll Call quoted her as saying. "We're not here to get in the weeds on issues."

That was not the only declining she did that day. According to Roll Call, "Berk declined to name any specific companies or groups that were backing (Health Care America)." Oh, well.

Roll Call did disclose a tidbit that the Pierce's press release did not: "Health Care America is represented by public affairs firm APCO Worldwide and is currently leasing office space from APCO." One has to wonder how much space APCO's front group leased from APCO. Berk was identified as the only employee, although she was quoted in Roll Call as saying that she planned to hire at least one other person within three months. 

Undisclosed Sources of Income, Mysterious Expenditures and "Virtual Offices"

According to the Form 990 Health Care America filed with the IRS for 2006, it took in $822,298.00 from undisclosed sources. Of that, $142,500 was paid out in compensation, presumably to Ms. Berk, and $9,000 was spent for "occupancy." Accounting and legal fees totaled nearly $47,000. By far the biggest expenditure -- $240,000 -- was for "consultant services."  One has to wonder how much of that went to APCO.

Health Care America's Form 990 for 2007 disclosed that Ms. Berk was even more handsomely rewarded for her work during the second and apparently final year of the organization's existence (I could not find a Form 990 for any subsequent year), one presumes because she apparently never got around to hiring anyone else and consequently had to work an average of 60 hours a week, or so she claimed. She was paid $197,917 in 2007. Legal and accounting fees skyrocketed to more than $80,000, and the amount spent for "occupancy" jumped to $15,870 in 2007.

One has to wonder who got that $15,870. In the 2006 Form 990, Ms. Berk listed her office address as 1455 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., Suite 400, Washington, D.C. 20004. That is not where APCO is located. In fact, that is the address of a "virtual office" at the Willard Office Building. Well, of course. How appropriate. Why would a front group need a real office?

The Web site for the virtual office at the Willard lists these amenities: a prime business address; a "live" receptionist; a lobby greeter, a business support center, a client drop-off/pick-up point; and mail forwarding, all for $125 a month. That's a heck of a deal for an "office" in the heart of arguably the most important city on the planet. Note, however, that you will have to pay extra to have your organization's name in the lobby directory and to actually use a real office or conference room. You can rent a real office for $10-$35 an hour, which for some reason reminds me of the fleabag motels I've heard about that rent rooms by the hour. Make no mistake, though, the Willard is no fleabag. Here's a fun fact, noted on the Web site for Suite 400:

The Willard Office Building is nestled between the famous Willard Intercontinental Hotel, where the term 'lobbyist' was coined, and the Occidental Restaurant, where D.C.'s power brokers negotiate deals over fabulous American fare."

Go ahead. Google the address. You'll find that oodles of organizations claim to occupy Suite 400. Let's hope that all those folks don't show up for work on the same day. 

Operating Front Groups Isn't Criminal, Just Shameful

While the Forms 990 disclosed some interesting information, they didn't disclose the details that would be most helpful in determining who is really behind Health Care America. The government doesn't require such disclosure, even though front groups play a major role in persuading people to think the way the groups' financiers want them to think and to do what they want them to do, such as disrupting Congressional Democrats' town hall meetings. The ultimate goal, of course, is to influence public policy. 

"Where's the felony Potter is saying took place?" Pierce asked O'Dwyer. 

There was no felony (that I have personal knowledge of), and I never said that anyone at APCO had committed one. That's the problem. Setting up and operating front groups -- and not having to disclose who is behind them -- is shameful and, according to the code of ethics of the Public Relations Society of America, unethical. But it's perfectly legal. 

So APCO, I've apologized for failing to disclose something I didn't know when I wrote Deadly Spin. Now it's your turn. How about you apologizing to the American people for the role you played in making it necessary for me to write the book in the first place. 

P.S.: I just received a message from an APCO spokesperson who wrote to chastise me for writing that the insurance industry would "push Moore off the cliff" in a worst-case scenario. "You know there was never any suggestion to do anyone personal harm," she wrote. Yes, I knew that and I wrote that. She should read the book. Here's what I wrote on page 38 of the chapter about Sicko:

"Tuffin and Schooling wrapped up their presentation with a 'worse-case scenario' plan. If Sicko showed signs of being as influential in shaping public opinion on health care reform as An Inconvenient Truth had been in changing attitudes about climate change, then the industry would have to consider implementing a plan 'to push Moore off the cliff.' They didn't elaborate, and no one asked what they meant by that. We knew they didn't mean it literally--that a hit man would be sent to take Moore out. Rather, an all-out effort wuld be made to depict Moore as someone intent on destroying the free-market health care system and with it, the American way of life."

The APCO spokesperson denied the firm had done research on Moore's family and said APCO "did not attempt to suppress turnout for the movie." I'll let the PR plan, which I first discussed on Bill Moyers Journal in July 2009, speak for itself. Moyers' staff obtained copies of May 2007 and June 2007 versions of the PR plan developed by APCO and AHIP. To view the interview and PDF versions of the documents, click this link.

P.P.S: I also want to apologize to Moore for not disclosing until now that, while I was still working for the insurance industry, I traveled as an industry spy to his hometown of Bellaire, Michigan, to attend the official U.S. premiere of Sicko on June 16, 2007. Moore and I actually met that day, although he doesn't know it. (I didn't tell him who I was or who I worked for). The picture accompanying this blog, taken at a pre-screening reception by another movie-goer, shows me on Moore's left and my son, Alex, on his right. Alex, who has always been a big fan of Moore's, traveled with me on the reconnaissance mission. Moore even autographed a Sicko poster for Alex. It's quite a momento.

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