Wondering how to raise $50k for Energy Justice Network

October 3, 2009

Illustration by Linda Zacks from Orion Magazine for Ted Nace’s article on Energy Justice Network, “Stopping Coal in It’s Tracks.”

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Can you spare $10? (Or more, if you have it…)

I’m trying to figure out how to provide financial support to Energy Justice Network. Thjs shoe-string operation hosts the No New Coal Plants list which is so helpful to us here in Appalachia (plus lists and fact sheets on biomass, natural gas, ethanol, nuclear energy, incinerators and more). It also provides organizing help to a myriad of local activists fighting polluting energy industries.

The goal is $50,000. All deduction are tax deductible. Online, you can charge a donation Action Center, Inc., Energy Justice Network’s 501 (c)(3) umbrella. The link is: https://www.justgive.org/nonprofits/donate.jsp?ein=30-0246999 There, you’ll be able to donate once or sign up for a recurring monthly donation. Willing to tweet about donating or post a request to your facebook or myspace feed? The short link is: http://tr.im/give_Energy_Justice.

It’s a good investment. I’ll quote from the funding request Mike I sent out earlier this year:

Since 2001, Energy Justice Network has provided activists with web pages and fact sheets on the hazards posed by a variety of energy and waste technologies. We’ve linked the most-threatened communities with the resources and energy of students and with the wisdom of hundreds of hard-to-find grassroots leaders with whom we furiously network. Rather than take the NIMBY approach (Not In My Backyard), we always fight for NIABY: Not In Anybody’s Backyard. We’ve done more with less money, and based our assessments on the grassroots realities so many of us face, not a compromised sense of what will make it easy to get foundation funding or earn us the admiration of industry collaborators.

If you’d rather write a check, make it out to Action Center Inc.and mail it to:

1434 Elbridge St
Philadelphia PA 19149

I’ve already chipped in and hope you’ll join me. If all of us donate and ask our friends to join us, we can continue to build this resource for our fight against polluters and their suporters. Remember, “Not in ANYbody’s backyard!”

End Mountaintop Removal Day of Action: October 30

September 30, 2009

Photo by Robin Markle of the “We need 86 Mountains Because…” project in Philly 9/11/09

The Environmental Protection Agency has announced that it is questioning 79 of the Army Corps of Engineers permits for mountain top removal mining in WV, KY, OH and TN. Questioning, but not cancelling. I’m glad the EPA has taken this action and we need for the agency to do more. The Corps needs to be overruled. And Lisa Jackson, the agency’s chief has yet to accept our office to come to the region and see exactly what is being destroyed.

Mountain Justice and Energy Justice Network are again calling for rallies in every city where the EPA has an office. This is our third national action, following up on ones in June and August. At that time the agency, in response to an letter from WV Congressman Nick Rahall, had rubber stamped 42 out of 48 of the permits to blow up mountains in in that state for thin seams of coal.

Chris Irwin and I are looking for bottom liners and other who will attend a rally in each of the 11 cities. Here’s who we’ve got so far:

*Boston
*Atlanta
*DC–Kate Rooth
*NYC
*Philly–Robin Markle
*Chicago
*Dallas
*KC–Kellis Bayless
*SF–Scott Parkin
*Denver
*Seattle

Can you please contact us and let us know if you can play a role. Write me at beth@energyjustice.net.

And if you can’t attend, you can still help:

*spreading this invitation to your friends
*donate to our two small, shoe-string operations, so we can continue to do this work
*write your epa regional office on October 30 and say you support the protesters

To Donate:
Energy Justice Network:
Use this link or send a check to our 501-3c umbrella
http://tr.im/give_Energy_Justice
Action Center Inc.
1434 Elbridge St
Philadelphia PA 19149

Mountain Justice:
Use the pay pal button at
http://mountainjusticesummer.org/ or send a check to
Mountain Justice
PO Box 86
Naoma, WV 25140

To find your epa regional office:
http://www.epa.gov/epahome/whereyoulive.htm

Check this space as we provide updates for each city.

Thanks!

If you’re on facebook, you can find out about more event like this, by joining The Dirty Truth About Coal:
http://www.facebook.com/group.php?gid=80582077303&ref=ts)

Are Electric Co-ops All So Different?

September 30, 2009

Photo taken by Joseph Robers on September 10 on his way to work.

The Old Dominion Electric Cooperative argues it is different than commercial utilities because it adheres to the “Seven Cooperative Principles,” the last of which is

Concern for Community—While focusing on members needs, cooperatives work for the sustainable development of their communities through policy.

But sustainable development evidently includes forging ahead in its efforts to build yet another coal fired plant in Virginia, which I first wrote about last December 6, at a time when utilities in other states are abandoning such efforts–the proposed Cyprus Creek Power Station, currently slated to cost $6 billion.

Tamara Deitrich (email), news columnist for the Daily Press wrote on June 7, 2009 in ” “Surry coal plant: Just say no,”

1.7 million adults and 400,000 children in Hampton Roads are already within 30 miles of three existing coal-fired power plants.

And those plants happen to be among the four largest in the state: the Yorktown Power Station in Williamsburg, the Chesapeake Power Station and the Chesterfield Power Station in Chester.

No wonder the Environmental Protection Agency keeps putting us — as it did again in April — on the list of places with air unhealthy to breathe. [I’ve written Dietrich to ask her for her sources and will update to include them if I hear back.]

Groups opposing the plant include the Coalition to Keep Surry Clean, the Sierra Club, Southern Environmental Law Center, Southern Appalachian Mountain Stewards, Appalachian Voices and Chesapeake Climate Action Network. They suffered a blow September 14, when the Dendron Town Council reversed a July action and voted Monday 4-3 (with Mayor Yvonne Pierce breaking a tie) to cede to Surry County Planning Commission review of Old Dominion Electric Cooperative’s yet to be filed application. According to Cory Nealon’s (email) September 16, 2009 Daily Press story “Dendron Town Council: Surry County to review coal plant plans” Councilwoman Misti Furr said that since the 1,600-acre facility would be built on Dendron’s main street,

I felt this should’ve been put in the hands of the people of Dendron.

Furr had submited the resolution establishing the town’s own planning commission in July.
ODEC had objected and Town Attorney C.B. Fison advised that the July vote was illegal since such a commission had been on the books since 2001.

The Smithfield Times‘s Jim Tuttle (email) reports in his September 16 story “Dendron to send project to county planners,” that about a dozen people spoke in favor of retaining town control. Bill Richardson, a nominee for the town commission said,

Surry may not have the best interest of Dendron in mind

Local businesswoman Julie Verdaguer, another nominee added,

I don’t believe we should make anyone else responsible.

According to Tuttle, after the opposition had spoken, Mayor Pierce invited a representative of the supporters to speak. Thomas Byrd held up a petition that he said contained the names of 190 people in favor of using Surry’s Planning Commission. (Tuttle does not report how many of the 190 were town voters, but it seems likely that not all were, since the total population of the town in 2000 was 297 and that, of course, includes children.) Although there are 11 on the County Planning Commission, Byrd argued that the membership of Councilwoman Furr would serve to represent the town’s interests.

Economist Paul Krugman (email , webpage) told us on September 24

The truth about the economics of climate change is that it’s relatively easy being green….

He explained,

Earlier this month, the Congressional Budget Office released an analysis of the effects of Waxman-Markey, concluding that in 2020 the bill would cost the average family only $160 a year, or 0.2 percent of income. That’s roughly the cost of a postage stamp a day. By 2050, when the emissions limit would be much tighter, the burden would rise to 1.2 percent of income. But the budget office also predicts that real G.D.P. will be about two-and-a-half times larger in 2050 than it is today, so that G.D.P. per person will rise by about 80 percent. The cost of climate protection would barely make a dent in that growth. And all of this, of course, ignores the benefits of limiting global warming.

But ODEC and and its member cooperatives, with their sustainable development are part of an effort to get co-op customers to contact Congress complaining about how climate legislation. The form letter reads,

Now more than ever, I am very concerned about what rising energy costs will do to the average person. Many do not have the ability to pay higher electric bills. Please balance any votes you cast about electricity with the need to keep it affordable.

Sounds familiar? It reminds me of those forged letters that Bonner and Associates sent to Charlottesville CongressmanTom Periello and others, which I wrote about on August 28. So do ODEC’s statements that the arguments brought by the Southern Environmental Law Center are fiction.

Makes me think that electric co-ops don’t seem all that different than others lobbying to preserve coal interests.

I have here in my hand…

September 29, 2009


This cartoon by Herblock (Herbert Lawrence Block) is from the 2000 Library of Congress exhibit and appeared in the May 7, 1954 Washington Post.

Dendron resident Thomas Byrd waved a petition before Town Council September 14, saying he had 190 supporters for the plant, according to Smithfield Times‘s Jim Tuttle (email) reports in his September 16 story “Dendron to send project to county planners.

Dendron Councilwoman Misti Furr tells me that she has never seen Byrd’s petition up close (see also this post regarding the proposed plant and Byrd’s petition.) That had me thinking of ol’ Joe McCarthy and the list he waved February 9, 1950 at a Lincoln’s birthday address to the Women’s Republican Club of Wheeling, West Virginia According to the U.S. Senate’s site, he said,

While I cannot take the time to name all the men in the State Department who have been named as members of the Communist Party and members of a spy ring, I have here in my hand a list of 205.

But as Robert Griffith (email), now the chairman of the History Department at American University wrote in In The Politics of Fear: Joseph R. McCarthy and the Senate (2d ed., 1987),

McCarthy, of course, had no list at all.

Griffith explains, that McCarthy might have been extrapolation from a a letter from Secretary of State James F. Byrnes to Congressman Adolph J. Sabath of Illinois, dated July 26, 1946, which had appeared in the Congressoinal Record (page 50)

…a preliminary screening of some 3,000 federal employees…had resulted in recommendations against the permanent employment of 285. Of these 285, the employment of 79 had already been terminated as of July 1946; 285 minus 79 leaves–if your arithmetic and logic ar enone too scrupulous–2005 “communists in the State Department.

The next day, enroute to Salt Lake City for a second speaking engagement McCarthy changed planes in Denver where

he was surrounded by reporters clamoring for the list of “Communists” in the State Department. He offered to show them the list, but then “discovered he had left it inhis baggage on the plane.” there was an engaging picture of the senator peering into his briefcase for the elusive list [in the Denver Post of February 11, 1950.]

Mr. Byrd’s list–of those he claims as supporters, rather than enemies–also is not readily available for inspection. And no reporter has even reported asking for it.

~

I grew up reading the WaPo, so Herblock was my hometown cartoonist. His last cartoon appeared on August 26, 2001 and he died on October 7 of that year. I still miss him. I’ve got to wonder what Herblock would have drawn about 9-11 and the subsequent attack on civil liberties, on the shrill attacks we hear now of socialism and worse being attributed to Mr. Obama who is nothing of the sort–although his critics to the left of the political spectrum might wish he were.

I’d love to see what he do with health care reform, which continues to flounder–the Senate Finance Committee deleting the public option. Nick Anderson’s (email, blog, bio) 8/11/09 cartoon “Bipartisanship” for the Houston Chronicle foreshadowed the latest on money, politics and healthcare from Open Secrets today.

With Herblock gone, I’d argue we can still get an idea of what he might have done by looking at Anderson’s 9-11 gallery. Anderson started at the Chronicle February 13, 2006, after starting his career at Louisville Courier-Journal 1991. He won the Pulitzer in 2005. for instance here’s one from November 23, 2001:

Anderson’s philosophy according to his bio:

An editorial cartoonist, fundamentally, should be anti-establishment. No matter which party is running the government, it is the essence of satire to question authority.

Herblock would be proud.

Grace Bauer: "Oh, baby. Boom or bust."

September 27, 2009

Cover of the Fall 2009 issue of Prairie Schooner.

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I’ve know poet Grace Bauer (email, some of her poems) back from the time when she taught at Virginia Tech along side others such as Ed Falco, David Graham and Jeff Mann. Since 1994, she’s been at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, where she has stepped in for Hilda Raz (email, webpage) to edit the Fall 2009 issue of Prairie Schooner.

As she explains in an introductory essay, “Baby Boomer Issue(s),”

Maybe it was all the recent news stories about the very first baby boomers on the verge of retirement—and the warnings about the financial havoc this was bound to wreak upon Social Security and the national economy, which was already in pretty dire straits. Or the headlines, one after the other over the last few years, announcing that cultural icons ranging from Ginsberg’s Howl to Motown Records to the peace sign—even the ever youthful Barbie—had hit the half-century mark. Maybe it was the ads for Barneys NY in a December 2008 New York Times Magazine, wishing the world a “Hippie Holiday”—complete with DayGlo-colored images of those fifty-year-old peace signs and a declaration that the store was “having a COUNTER-CULTURE moment” “remembering 1968 forty years on.” Or the advance reviews in the Arts & Leisure section for the reopening of Hair on Broadway. Maybe it was because the daily reports on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan were sounding vaguely like the reports on Vietnam more than thirty years ago (which is maybe why they are restaging Hair). Maybe it was the recent election of Barack Obama, which reminded at least some people of the election of JFK—not since then had they seen so much youthful exuberance and idealism so unabashed it even led to “an open apology to boomers everywhere” from Gen X’er Heather Havrilesky on salon.com, where she said “We’re sorry for rolling our eyes at you all these years”—though she couldn’t resist mentioning those of us who might be wearing socks with sandals or smelling like we’d “been on the bus with Wavy Gravy for the last three decades.” Maybe it was just that, to paraphrase a boomer-era song, “something’s in the air”—which is maybe just my own personal sense of “time’s winged chariot” (disguised, perhaps, as Wavy Gravy’s bus or a compact SUV) drawing nearer. But when Hilda Raz asked me once again to stand in as acting editor of Prairie Schooner while she enjoyed a semester of well-earned leave, and asked further if I might want to do some kind of special issue, I immediately said “Baby Boomers!” A bit self-serving, no doubt, since I’m a writer who was born in the midst of that boom, but I wanted to see what such a gathering might look like, and so I set out to see.

On line, you can find excerpts from the Fall issue:

There are also poems from her former colleagues Graham, Falco, and Mann, plus Naomi Shihab Nye, among others (contributors’ notes). The blog for the magazine indicates there will be an interview with Grace about the Fall issue here.

And speaking of permalinks, due to magazine’s method of assigning links, all of the above will be broken once the Winter 2009 issue comes out. But you can still find them by substituting in the url “archives/fall09” for “current”. James Engelhardt, the magazine’s managing editor wrote to let me know that he’s passing on a suggestion to change the linking, but it’s up to the IT guys at the College of Business Admin which hosts the site.


Google, does this really look like a spam blog to you?

September 26, 2009


(Don’t know the original source of this illustration, but it comes from Wilson Library Reserve and Periodicals at the University of Minnesota Libraries.)

~

Thanks to all of you who emailed or posted comment of moral support and advice via email and facebook. Don’t know if it’s coincidental, but Google unlocked The Writing Corner today, after I wrote Trudy Cederman at 7:35 last night. It was no easy task to find a real person at Google, but she was the listed contact on a sign-up form for a usability study serendipitously posted five hours earlier–just a day after I noticed my blog was locked. I had also tweeted @blogger.

WTF? It’s hard to use new media for journalism when Blogger’s bots or perhaps a malicious complaint can freeze you up for 48 hours or more as a “spam blog.” One wonders, dear readers, whatever algorithm Google possibly could develop which would make the Writing Corner appear rife with ” irrelevant, repetitive, or nonsensical text, along with a large number of links, usually all pointing to a single site.” (Imagine the preceding sentence in the voice of Ms. Manners.)

I had been to my blog last on September 22, when Heather McHugh won a McArthur genius grant. Upon going to my dashboard two days later to finish the post, I found myself locked out and alarmed by the warning that failure to respond would result in my blog’s deletion in 20 days (What if I had taken a trip to the land beyond internet–it does exist–the former “don’t be evil” corporation would delete years of work on the advice of a robot?)

After requesting that lock be removed, Google flashed this message on my screen:

Blogger’s spam-prevention robots have detected that your blog has characteristics of a spam blog. (What’s a spam blog?) Since you’re an actual person reading this, your blog is probably not a spam blog. Automated spam detection is inherently fuzzy, and we sincerely apologize for this false positive.
We received your unlock request on September 24, 2009. On behalf of the robots, we apologize for locking your non-spam blog. Please be patient while we take a look at your blog and verify that it is not spam.

My friend Joe in Texas quipped on fb:

your blog is probably not a spam blog since tou are anactual person reading this”…but since we arent actual people or at least our bosses arent actual people we cant give you a good idea when this will be resolved. Bear with us while we attempt to reach senior management who are in bankruptcy proceedings. Your call will be answered in the order it was received unless after an hour we decide you are a blam spog.

This call is being monitored for quality assurance.

Thank you for choosing us..we are sorry you didnt have much choice.

Of course, I do have a choice, and backed everything up to wordpress. I would consider moving there permanently, but it appears to me that Google, however unfairly, gives a higher rank to its own Blogger platform. Besides, I already had to migrate from Yahoo in January 2008 which stopped supporting its platform (which I used because I was familiar w. the email program and started blogging “accidentally” when my friend John Dufresne went on vacation and I had no place to post the links I had saved for his blog.) Since part of page rank depends on longevity, I’m loathe to move again to wordpress.com, although I’ve backed up the yahoo entries, so maybe it wouldn’t be a problem? Friends advised I get my own domain, but honestly, I’m a writer, with no staff, and John has his blog at his own domain wiped out since I started reading him.

Please do not take this semi-rant as a defense of spam. McAffee reports that spam email numbers an estimated worldwide total of 62 trillion messages in 2008–Since the average greenhouse gas (GHG) emission associated with a single message is equivalent to driving three feet, the total is

like driving around the Earth 1.6 million times

(Warning: to get this report, I had to register with information which I fear while mean that McAfee will be sending me its own spam asking be to buy its anti-spam products.)

And perhaps the tackiest thing are the firms asking legitimate blogs to write paid reviews, but keep it on the QT that said reviews are bought and paid for. When I was cleaning out my own spam folder (an activity in aggregate that accounts for much of the carbon footprint according to that McAfee study) I found a note from “Joy” from SeoBlogReviews.com.

I would like to know if by any chance you would be interested in getting paid to publish reviews of products and websites on your blog http://bethwellington.blogspot.com/.

If you are interested please let us know the amount of money you want in order to publish a review by clicking the following link:

…default/index/4d900acd4e41664dfb1ef2f842ca814f

As soon as you do that we’ll start sending you paid review proposals from our customers.

Thanks,

The SeoBlogReviews.com Team

And those spam blogs (splogs) which Blogger is attempted to eradicate accounted, even back in 2006, for 75% of the pings being transmitted to search engines, according to researchers at the University of Maryland.

And another technique is spam comments, a few of which have landed here. The latest was “Rumela” of AsianRooms who left a comment on my post on Supreme Court Justice John Roberts and his connections to the coal industry and how that may doom clean water . The quote was so oddly out of character I looked it up and found s/he actually quotes Cecil. guess is Rumela googled coal and Roberts. My guess is that ol’ “Rumela” googled “coal” and “Roberts.” Here’s a friendly mnemonic:


Anyway, if any of my readers can figure out why this looks like a splog, I’d like to know. Meanwhile, I wait to see if I hear back from Google. I’m not holding my breath. Nor am I counting on Ms. Cederman to include me in her usability survey–although I’d love to be included…

Update: Trudy from Google emailed me Sep 29, 2009 at 1:45 p.m. to let me know that she had passed my

email to the team so that they can investigate the issues.

At her request, I have deleted her email address from this post.

Daniel Ellsberg: 40 years later

September 16, 2009

Poster for Judith Ehrlich and Rick Goldsmith’s documentary The Most Dangerous Man in America, which had its first theatrical showing today.

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Daniel Ellsberg had been making copies nights since 10/1/1969—7,000 pages, a few at a time– month after month, on a slow XEROX machine at a small advertising firm owned by a friend of a friend. A military analyst for the RAND Corporation, Ellberg had served as an advisor to Kissinger and Nixon. And as he told Amy Goodman today in an interview on Democracy Now, the facts pointed to

essentially an endless war in Vietnam, which is not exactly what Nixon had campaigned on. He had talked about getting out, and yet—he talked about getting out with honor, which really meant, to him, victory. And what he was hearing from the questions that I drafted for him, which were answered by the Joint Chiefs, was that the ability of a Vietnamese to operate without US air support indefinitely was never. That meant an indefinite US commitment to Vietnam. That’s not what the public was being told.

In 1971 fwhen Ellsberg leaked what came to be known as the Pentagon Papers to the NYT, he started a firestorm which would eventually lead Nixon to resign. He had decided

it’s my job to do something to get us out.

He had been inspired by Randy Keeler. He says Keeler

showed me that I could do something that I had never thought of, and that was risk my clearance, risk my career, risk my new relationship or my regained relationship with Patricia [now his wife], go to prison for the rest of my life—very heavy costs—with the possibility of informing the public in a way that would save hundreds of thousands of lives. And when I saw Randy, who was going to prison as a draft resister, rather than go to Canada, rather than to be a CO, I realized I could do what they did, and it put the question in my head: what can I do now that I’m willing to go to prison?

With the current escalation in Afghanistan, Ellsberg sees relevance today for what he did almost 40 years ago:

I look at this film, and I watch the bombs falling, and all I can see in my mind are the bombs, the same bombs, falling over Afghanistan, or Vietnamistan, and Iraq right now. And we’re really facing, at this moment, a crisis of decision that’s just like the one that’s in the film, which I failed at the time, where the President is doing something that I feel will be a disaster, and I kept my mouth shut about it, the change from 70,000 men in the spring of ’65 to an open-ended commitment, starting with another 50,000, which I knew was on the way to hundreds of thousands. …

We need people to put out, to tell the truth, and to do it, not the way I did, not after the escalation, not after the bombs have fallen, but right now. Right now. And for the Congress to hold the hearings that will entertain those people.

Parsing the Public Option

September 14, 2009

Cartoon by Daryl Cagle reprinted by permission. In his August 30 blog post, “How to Draw an Ugly Health Plan and Make it Pretty,” Cagle (a supporter of single player–be it public or private) writes he came up with the cartoon to “comment on the speculation that the Democrats would use sentiment about Teddy Kennedy’s death to push health care legislation, possibly by attaching Kennedy’s name.

Thanks, Daryl for the permission. Everybody, check out http://blog.cagle.com (If you have trouble with these links, they aren’t permanently broken; Daryl tells me his blog will be back on line, soon.)

*

I sure wish Teddy Kennedy were alive and well and fighting. Obama’s proposal delivered to Congress on September 9 identified some of the problems in the healthcare system, but offered little about implementation of solutions–and all in terms so vague as to constitute a Rorschach test. Nate Silver, my favorite poll analyst, thinks that’s part of why public opinion is hard to test.

September 14, he took on the WaPo’s poll and the odd interpretation written by Jon Cohen and Dan Balz: “Reform Opposition Is High but Easing: More Support if Public Option Dropped.” Like me, he questions the WaPo analysis that the public option should be taken off the table, despite a poll in which a majority support it. In “When You Assume, You Make a Mess Out of Your Poll” published in FiveThirtyEight.com, Silver writes,

One problem is that both the poll and the article assume that the public assumes that the public option is the default condition of the health care reform plan. But as anyone who is following the health care debate knows, this is hardly a safe assumption. Some versions of the “proposed changes to the health care system being developed by Congress and the Obama administration” — like the one which was passed by the House tri-committee — include a public option. Other versions — like the draft prepared by Max Baucus’s Senate Finance Committee — do not. And the President himself is on the fence. As a matter of semantics at the very least, it is not really proper to state that “If [the public option] were removed, opposition to the overall package drops by six percentage points,” because it is not clear that the public option is in the package in the first place…

When you’re specifying that the plan does not include a public option, you’re really doing two things. Number one, you’re taking the public option off the table. But number two, you’re providing specificity. And what the health care polling has consistently shown over the past few months is that the more specificity you provide, the more support for the package rises….The respondents may be reacting to the specificity more than anything having to do with the public option itself.

Another poll of doctors finds even more support for the public option: the New England Journal of Medicine‘s “Doctors on Coverage — Physicians’ Views on a New Public Insurance Option and Medicare Expansion,” featured by NPR. The summary there:

Among all the players in the health care debate, doctors may be the least understood about where they stand on some of the key issues around changing the health care system. Now, a new survey finds some surprising results: A large majority of doctors say there should be a public option.

When polled, “nearly three-quarters of physicians supported some form of a public option, either alone or in combination with private insurance options,” says Dr. Salomeh Keyhani. She and Dr. Alex Federman, both internists and researchers at Mount Sinai School of Medicine in New York, conducted a random survey, by mail and by phone, of 2,130 doctors. They surveyed them from June right up to early September.

What we DO know about Obama’s preferred plan after reading his speech to Congress

Nothing in his plan requires a change to another insurer. Insurance companies will not be allowed to:
  • deny coverage because of preexisting condition
  • drop coverage or reduce coverage for illness
  • cap coverage during the year or lifetime
  • charge more than a set limit for out-of-pocket expenses
  • exclude or charge extra for coverage for routine checkups and preventive care

Four years from passage his plan will create an “insurance exchange” to hold down costs for small businesses and individuals, including tax credits. Until then there will be “low cost coverage” for those who cannot get insurance. Individuals and companies will be required to provide insurance except for

hardship waiver for those individuals who still can’t afford coverage, and 95 percent of all small businesses, because of their size and narrow profit margin, would be exempt from these requirements.

He talks about the public option as only being for those who don’t have insurance and that the CBO only predicts that 5% of Americans will enroll. Does that mean that I’ll be forced to continue with my current policy? He also says no federal money for abortions and that the “conscience” exception will remain in effect. So unless a poor woman can get a private source of funding, I guess abortions are restricted to those who can afford them?

Additionally he talks about how premiums will have to cover the public option, but at the same time compares them to public universities. But, last time I checked tax dollars support these universities, although to a decreasing degree.

And he calls triggers and co-ops “constructive” alternatives, although there has been substantial criticism that both are problematic.

I’ve already written about the criticism of coops.. As for triggers, Tim Foley wrote about Robert Pear’s description of the plan on May 30. (see also Pear’s description of the trigger on September 9).

“the public plan would be created only if private insurance companies had not made meaningful, affordable coverage available to all Americans within several years.” All of these terms – “meaningful,” “affordable” and “several years” – are as vague as can be. The trigger may be set up so, in effect, it never happens, similar to the Medicare Part D trigger that would have created a public prescription drug plan – but never did. The threshold would be low enough that it could be easily, and superficially, met. Throughout those “several years,” the insurance plans would receive all of the uninsured who enroll through a National Health Exchange, pocketing what we can hope are generous government subsidies, with very few changes to their behavior. And even if the trigger is met and a public plan created years down the road, private insurance would have serious “status quo bias” on its side. … So let me get this straight: for the sake of having a big, feel-good compromise in the Senate Finance Committee, we’d be willing to take the word of an insurance industry that has made record-breaking profits on the basis of cherry-picking, denying care, and setting up tilted, monopolized playing fields such that 94% of the health insurance markets in this country are deemed “non-competitive” that they can clean up a mess that currently makes them rich without a competitor to, in the words of the president, “keep them honest”?

Most of us know the health system is broken

Okay, some say we have the finest health system (what an oxymoron) in the world. But for those of you don’t trust the World Health Organization’s numbers, how about our own CIA?

The average life expectancy estimate for 2009 for the US, according to the CIA World Fact Book, rates 50th. And for infant morality, there are 44 countries that do better than the US.

We know a large number of folks lack health insurance. Others such as myself pay a high proportion of our income and still contend w. high deductibles. And we cannot shop for a better policy because we have pre-existing conditions. In my case, although I had insurance, the company (Blue Cross, now Anthem) delayed my treatment for months while my doctor argued for the proper tests. By the time this was approved, I needed surgery, radiation and chemo.

62 percent of all bankruptcies filed in 2007 were linked to medical expenses. Of those who filed for bankruptcy, nearly 80 percent had health insurance, according to (Himmelstein, D, E., et al, writing in “Medical Bankruptcy in the United States, 2007: Results of a National Study, American Journal of Medicine, May 2009. And according to Price Waterhouse, at least a quarter of all health insurance $ in the U.S. are spent on administrative costs. (I can send you the report.)

All the forgoing explains, perhaps why we spend a higher proportion of our gross national product and a higher cost per person on health care and still do not have as good outcomes as other countries in the developed world.

The question: are we going to have any real improvement?

I see little evidence that politicians opposing healthcare reform are ready to dial back their rhetoric. Or that a sufficient number supporting reform will come up with sufficient changes.
Rolling Stone
‘s Matt Taibbi agrees. In the September 3, 2009 issue, he outlines the legislative process to date in “Sick and Wrong: How Washington is screwing up health care reform – and why it may take a revolt to fix it.” He writes

All that’s left of health care reform is a collection of piece-of-shit, weakling proposals that are preposterously expensive and contain almost nothing meaningful — and that set of proposals, meanwhile, is being negotiated down even further by the endlessly negating Group of Six. It is a fight to the finish now between Really Bad and Even Worse. And it’s virtually guaranteed to sour the public on reform efforts for years to come.

In his speech September 9, President Obama protested that

I am not the first President to take up this cause, but I am determined to be the last.

Let’s hope that’s not because the insurance and pharmaceutical companies and lobbyists and their allies achieve a permanent victory.

Crystal Sutton sucumbs to cancer at 68

September 13, 2009


Photo of Crystal Sutton, the inspiration for the movie Norma Rae, at the time of a reception in her honor on June 12, 2007 on the ocassion of her donation of her papers to Almanance Community College in Graham, North Carolina (just east of Burlington–for info on the collection email Sheila Street.)

At the age of 33 in 1973, she worked at the J.P. Stevens plant in Roanoke Rapids, N.C., making $2.65 an hour folding towels, after having been employed by the company since the age of 17. She joined forces with Eli Zivkovich, a union organizer from West Virginia, in an attempt to improve working conditions. After that, she said,

Management and others treated me as if I had leprosy.

She received threats and was finally fired after copying a mill flyer saying blacks would run the union. In one final act of defiance,

I took a piece of cardboard and wrote the word UNION on it in big letters, got up on my work table, and slowly turned it around. The workers started cutting their machines off and giving me the victory sign. All of a sudden the plant was very quiet…

The police physically removed her from the plant, but The Amalgamated Clothing and Textile Workers Union (ACTWU) won the right to represent the workers at the plant and Sutton became an organizer for the union. In 1977, Sutton was awarded back wages and reinstated on her job by court order. Since she now had other opportunities, she returned for only two daysand continued her organizing work.

By 1988, she decided to decided to join the community college’s Nursing Assistant program. I haven’t yet found what happened to her organizing job that would lead her to train for such a relatively low-paying type of work, after years in the limelight. But her attendance there led her to donate her papers in 2007 to ensure they would be provided for future historians and students.

By that time she was already battling cancer, after a delay of two months caused by her insurance company, which at first would not immediately approve her medical treatment.

The Crystal Lee Sutton Awards, established in her name by the Motion Picture Editors Guild, recognize individuals and organizations whose efforts have contributed to presenting positive images of working people to the American public.

Sutton said in an interview

Ethelbert, Coal Country’s VA Premiere, and Contra Poster, WHEW

September 10, 2009

Cover of my friend Ethelbert Miller’s second memoir, which he read from tonight at Volume II Bookstore at University Mall in Blacksburg.

Then on to catch the crowd who had just seen Coal Country, including friends such as Marian, Anita, Betty (the new Mountain Justice Blacksburg faculty advisor) Clark, David, Kathy and Gary Selvage and Pete Ramey (all up from Wise), and filmmaker Jimmy Crawford who had driven down from Roanoke.

Earlier in the day, I had made this poster for the benefit, so we’d have something at the benefit and run off pdf’s of Energy Justice Network’s new flier.

And you’re wondering why I don’t have much of a blog post tonight? I’ll fill in more tomorrow…


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