Archive for August, 2009

Can you hear us now? Verizon Wireless sponsors climate denial rally

August 31, 2009

Photo of Ted Nugent from Rolling Stone story, “Ted Nugent Threatens to Kill Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton During Vicious Onstage Rant.

~

New York Times columnist David Pogue drew the attention of Verizon Wireless CEO when he wrote about the cell phone industry. In his latest efforts as journalist and gadfly, he’s conducting a “Take Back the Beep” campaign to get the companies to stop making money off of customers with their long instruction messages for voice mail. In summing up his success, he wrote,

Next up: war, disease and global warming.

I’m going to take him up on that and invite him let his readers know that folks are writing Lowell McAdam, President and CEO of Verizon Wireless, asking that he issue a public apology and withdraw support from the Friends of America Rally, a pro-coal extravaganza to promote climate change denial and mountaintop removal mining. Put on by the Friends of Coal, it even has a YouTube invitation by Massey’s CEO Don Blankenship (Friends of Coal is an astroturf group for the West Virginia Coal Association.).

Hello I’m Don Blankenship and I’d like to invite you to a Labor Day rally in West Virginia. We’re going to have Hank Williams and have a good time but we’re also going to learn how environmental extremists and corporate America are both trying to destroy your jobs.

You can read about the rally, as detailed by Ken Ward in the Charleston Gazette. (UPDATE: 9/1/09, he writes about Verizon here.) There has been coverage by Peter Rothberg in The Nation, following up on a post by Jeff Biggers at HuffPo. Speakers include prominent global warming denier Lord Christopher Monckton and conservative pundit Sean Hannity, with Ted Nugent and others (including a WV State Policemproviding the music. Ted Nugent is a real charmer, having ranted, while waving a machine gun around:

Obama, he’s a piece of sh_t. I told him to suck on my machine gun. Hey Hillary, You might want to ride one of these into the sunset, you worthless b_tch”

Verizon may call its co-sponsorship of the rally advertising, not a political statement, but Pogue;s colleague at the NYT, Adam Liptak, reported how Verizon Wireless, unlike other carriers, decided to block NARAL Pro-Choice America’s text messages from its network.

So if you want to write McAdam, his email is Lowell McAdam’s email is:

Lowell.C.McAdam@verizonwireless.com

And as Jeff suggests, why not write the head of Verizon, too. Dennis Strigl is President and Chief Operating Officer of Verizon Communications. His email is:

Dennis.Strigl@verizonwireless.com

If you like snail mail or the phone, Verizon HQ is:

1 Verizon Way
Basking Ridge, NJ 07920-1097
(908) 559-7000‎

Ten years ago, Julia Fox of University of Oregon and later Marshall University published a journal article called “Mountaintop Removal in West Virginia: An Environmental Sacrifice Zone.” It later became the second chapter of 2005 edition of the book Environmental Sociology. In the abstract she says:

Although the coal industry is regulated by the state and national governments, the regulators, it is argued, have been captured by Big Coal. The result is one of the most egregious and little-known instances of environmental degradation taking place in the United States today.

Well, things haven’t gotten any better and Verizon shouldn’t be casting its lot with the ravagers.

So, Mr. McAdam, can you hear us now?

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Do you have to be a liar to sell coal?

August 28, 2009


Exhibits B from The Front Porch Blog post of August 26 by my friend JW Randolph.

~

August 25, Jim Hoggan of DeSmogBlog reported:

“The Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security (FACES of Coal).” the latest “grassroots” organization to join the public conversation on behalf of the coal industry, appears to be a project of the K-Street public relations firm, the Adfero Group, one of industry’s most accommodating voices in Washington, D.C.

The FACES website, which includes no contact information, is registered to Adfero.

His post included a screenshot of the website showing a the owner of a flower shop with copy about how coal boosted the economy. I’ve included it at the bottom of this post.

Then, August 26, at 9:50 PM, folks on the Friends of the Mountains list received an email from Jamie Goodman at Appalachian Voices referenced, “buying ‘grassroots’ coal group members on stock photo websites!” She listed three links to the Faces of Coal website along with corresponding royalty-free photos from IStockphotos.com.

Don’t you love it when you can find ready-made members on a stock photography website?…Couldn’t find the rest as easily, but i know they are there. Can smell an iStock photo from a mile off.

For instance, the above screenshot from the website shows a group of folks with the caption:

The Federation for American Coal, Energy and Security (FACES of Coal) is an alliance of people from all walks of life who are joining forces to educate lawmakers and the general public about the importance of coal and coal mining to our local and national economies and to our nation’s energy security. In addition to keeping tens of thousands of people employed in good-paying jobs, coal is the lifeblood of our domestic energy supply, generating half the electricity consumed in the United States today.

Take action and join us today!

Except, that actually they’re from a stock photo labeled “Group of adult students standing in campus corridor.”

So I was really happy to see the story had made it to Rachel Maddow Show August 27.
And when Brad Johnson of Grist and the Wonk Room posted his research on the ad company behind the shenanigans on August 28. It seems that Adfero Group spun off its online communications arm as Fireside 21. And then, Adfero

stopped hosting the FACES site, transferring it to Liquid Web hosting, a Lansing, MI company.

Like tossing the hot potato of coal is supposed to confuse us? Of course, Maddow’s report on the FACES of Coal was just her latest coverage of coal lies. August 4 and 5, she had featured Bonner & Associates and how the company said it had made a “mistake” and forged letters from local minority rights groups opposing the ACES climate bill to Charlottesville U.S. Congressman Tom Perriello. From August 4th, when her main topic was the astroturf groups organized to disrupt Town Halls on health care:

Let me give you another example of what’s being passed off as politics right now by lobbying interests on the political right.

When the climate change bill came before the House last month, the Democratic congressman named Tom Perriello of Virginia received a letter purportedly from a nonprofit Hispanic group in his district, and the letter urged him to oppose the cap-and-trade legislation. He received similar letters from what were purportedly his local branches of the NAACP. Only, these letters weren’t actually from that Hispanic group in his district or the NAACP. A Republican lobbying firm in Washington has admitted to impersonating those local nonprofits and sending Congressman Perriello fake letters to get him to oppose the climate change legislation.

Congress is now investigating this incident.

This is a lobbying firm. This is the establishment. This isn’t a lone nutjob passing himself of as a group he doesn’t belong to. This is well-paid lobbyists doing this as a strategy.

I had sent July 31 tweet alerting Maddow to Brian McNeill’s story in the Charlottesville Daily Progress that date breaking news of the skulduggery, but who knows how she came by it.

The latest on Bonner is a hoot, too. August 28, Justin Elliot of Talking Points Memo revealed that Bonner had now announced an ethics policy preventing forged letters. So, we’re going to have “clean” astroturf. Come on. Deception is Bonner’s middle name. Jack Bonner told the WaPo for a 8/23/94 story that

if you’ve got the money and need some ‘regular people’ to flog your issue, Bonner will find them for you.

And there’s more, of course. See the annotated list which hink Progress researcher Victor Zapanta compiled on July 31, 2009. And in the irony of ironies, the American Coalition for Clean Coal Electricity, the coal group which hired Bonner, has dispatched Bonner for its impropriety, according to Amy Harder’s August 21 article in the National Journal.

ACCCE did nothing wrong. Looking back, there would be many things we would do differently.

Keep in mind the group knew of the forged letters June 24, before the climate bill came up for a vote. That’s long before the story broke and did nothing at the time, according to its own background information supplied for the Congressional investigation:

Based upon information ACCCE received from the Hawthorn Group, it was Bonner and Associates’ own internal process that identified these falsified letters and it was Mr. Bonner who first brought this to the attention of the Hawthorn Group. ACCCE was then made aware of the situation by Hawthorn on June 24, 2009.

In that discussion, we were assured by Hawthorn that senior management with Bonner and Associates had committed to making personal contacts with the affected organizations and the congressional offices who received falsified letters. Throughout this process, ACCCE has been told that Bonner and Associates had made contacts with the affected organizations and was continuing to make contacts with congressional offices. It was only by reading last Friday’s media accounts that we learned that these matters had not been satisfactorily resolved.

Maddow summed it up on August 27:

You know, when the coal industry‘s P.R. firm stole letterhead from the NAACP and use it to write letters to Congress, to make it look the NAACP was against cap-and-trade, political science textbooks all across the country had to be scrapped and rewritten to account for the new, most blatant, fake grassroots corporate P.R. effort ever. Eventually we‘ll just scrap political science textbooks altogether and just send everyone to advertising school instead.

As Dave Cooper pointed out in an email with a link to the Mountain Justice training camp in Pipestem in May 2009.

Want to see some REAL people?

So, I wonder, is this woman from the stock shot in the flower shop actually a job provided by the coal economy? Yeah, right.

Teddy’s belief in a just society (February 22, 1932 – August 25, 2009)

August 27, 2009

Photo of Teddy at the inauguration on Flickr by “Vidiot

There are those born to great riches who want wealth and privilege more concentrated. There are those with little who aspire to riches and thus harbor the same beliefs.

Teddy Kennedy, for all his personal failings, wanted something more. As he said at the 2008 Democratic Convention:

For me, this is a season of hope, new hope for a justice and fair prosperity for the many and not just for the few, new hope. And this is the cause of my life, new hope that we will break the old gridlock and guarantee that every American — north, south, east, west, young, old — will have decent, quality health care as a fundamental right and not a privilege.

If you’d like to take a look at his statements on various issues, I suggest you turn to the website OnTheIssues. As Ezra Klein, so eloquently put it this morning for the Washington Post:

Ted Kennedy didn’t belong to all of us. He didn’t even belong to all Democrats. He was not of the party that voted for more than a trillion in unfunded tax cuts but cannot bring itself to pay for health-care reform. He was not of the party that fears the next election more than the next failure to help America’s needy. Rather, he belonged to the party of Medicare and Medicaid, the Americans With Disabilities Act and the Children’s Health Insurance Program, the Civil Rights Act and immigration reform. He belonged to the party that sought to advance the conditions and opportunities of the least among us. He was, as Harold Meyerson says, “the senior senator from Massachusetts and for all the excluded in American life.”

McClatchy has a piece up about the effect of Kennedy’s death on passage of health care reform:

Securing universal health care coverage for Americans was a decades-long quest that eluded Sen. Edward Kennedy. In the wake of his death, however, several key Democrats on Wednesday saw a chance to break what’s become this year’s stalemate by invoking his legacy and last wishes…. However, it was also likely that without Kennedy, a deal would be even harder to get.

As the administration jeopardizes its mandate from last November, wavering on health care, union card check, civil liberties and the environment, maybe it is time for them to remember that without the “liberal Lion’s” endorsement, Obama might not have gained the nomination. Maybe it’s time to get serious about trying to make things a little more just for “all the excluded in American life,” a category, which sadly, applies to more and more of us.

What ever happened to 1% for the imagination?

August 25, 2009


Pets are non-partisans, but should the arts be, too?

Back on February 2 my friends DC poets Ethelbert Miller and Melissa Tuckey, along with the executive director of the Institute for Policy Studies, had a piece in The Nation call for 1% of the stimulus package to go to the arts. After all, the Works Progress Administration.

Another friend–Amanda Michel–now has a job now tracking stimulus funds for ProPublica. I had collaborated with her on election coverage when I was community developer for NewsTrust and she ran Off the Bus for the HuffPo. So, I thought, why now take a look at what’s going on with stimulus funds and the arts here in Virginia.

Over a year ago, on August 2, San Francisco Chronicle reporter Chris Cadelago(email) had observed that the Obama campaign

has an official arts policy committee, which is co-chaired by Margo Lion, the Broadway producer, and George Stevens Jr., founder of the American Film Institute. It calls for a national reinvestment in the arts as well as a national arts corps, made up of young artists who could work in inner cities.

Langston Hughes and the Real Harlem Renaissance

August 24, 2009


Pastel drawing of Hughes by Winold Reiss (bio) via

Advertisement For The Waldorf-Astoria
by Langston Hughes

Fine living . . . a la carte?
Come to the Waldorf-Astoria!

LISTEN HUNGRY ONES!
Look! See what Vanity Fair says about the
new Waldorf-Astoria:

“All the luxuries of private home. . . .”
Now, won’t that be charming when the last flop-house
has turned you down this winter?
Furthermore:
“It is far beyond anything hitherto attempted in the hotel
world. . . .” It cost twenty-eight million dollars. The fa-
mous Oscar Tschirky is in charge of banqueting.
Alexandre Gastaud is chef. It will be a distinguished
background for society.
So when you’ve no place else to go, homeless and hungry
ones, choose the Waldorf as a background for your rags–
(Or do you still consider the subway after midnight good
enough?)

ROOMERS
Take a room at the new Waldorf, you down-and-outers–
sleepers in charity’s flop-houses where God pulls a
long face, and you have to pray to get a bed.
They serve swell board at the Waldorf-Astoria. Look at the menu, will
you:

GUMBO CREOLE
CRABMEAT IN CASSOLETTE
BOILED BRISKET OF BEEF
SMALL ONIONS IN CREAM
WATERCRESS SALAD
PEACH MELBA

Have luncheon there this afternoon, all you jobless.
Why not?
Dine with some of the men and women who got rich off of
your labor, who clip coupons with clean white fingers
because your hands dug coal, drilled stone, sewed gar-
ments, poured steel to let other people draw dividends
and live easy.
(Or haven’t you had enough yet of the soup-lines and the bit-
ter bread of charity?)
Walk through Peacock Alley tonight before dinner, and get
warm, anyway. You’ve got nothing else to do.

~

Since I wasn’t born yet during the thirties, when I heard the term “Harlem Renaissance” it merely conjured the idea of artistic revival. But it’s obvious from the above poem and Hughes’s central role in its history that the Renaissance was a lot more about rage and revolution than I had thought. Scott Fowler agrees:

The Harlem Renaissance marks the point when blacks began to stop denying the
blackness inside themselves and began denying the god that put their race through great trial and tribulations. Langston Hughes was at the forefront of this involvement. He understood that it didn’t matter what others thought of the Negro experience. He knew that as long as blacks embraced their heritage, and took pride

Activist Mike Roselle (Democracy Now interview, email, website) had asked me today:

Did Langston write any good sand poetry?

Mike will be reading from his new book September 28 at Bus Boys and Poets, which of course runs their name together on their website, so that it also can be read Bus Boy Sand Poets. I somehow missed this and had been telling him about Hughes in the context of the origin of the name one of my favorite spots in DC, after attending the Split This Rock Poetry Festival.
Missing out on Mike’s whimsy, I wanted to answer the part about “good.” I found was the kick-ass “Advertisement For The Waldorf-Astoria” (above) available in Hughes’s Collected Poems (Vintage, 1995), which I had not read before.

I’m guessing that this poem may have been suppressed during the Cold War, just as the terser poem, “Goodbye Christ.” Joshua Good (email) doesn’t mention but the latter poem, so I’ll have to read the second volume of Arnold Rampersad (email)’s Life of Langston Hughes (Oxford University Press, 1986 and 1988) to see if Rampersad mentions “Advertisement.”

In an January 2009 article in Poetry Magazine on newly discovered political poems, Rampersad talks about the suppression of Hughes in general:

By the end of 1933, in the depths of the crisis, he had composed some of the harshest political verse ever penned by an American. These pieces include “Good Morning Revolution” and “Columbia,” but above all, “Goodbye Christ.” Here the speaker of the poem ridicules the legend of Jesus in favor of the radical reality of Marx, Lenin, “worker,” “peasant,” “me.” Around 1940, under severe pressure from conservatives, Hughes repudiated “Goodbye Christ” as an unfortunate error of his youth. However, in 1953 he was again forced to condemn this poem when he appeared, by subpoena, before Senator Joseph McCarthy’s infamous subcommittee probing allegedly “un-American” activities by some of our leading scholars, scientists, and artists. At his core, Hughes was a lyric poet entranced by the charms and mysteries of nature. Nevertheless, political protest was a key aspect of his writing virtually from his high-school days, when many of his classmates were the children of Jewish and Catholic immigrants from Europe who taught him the importance of protesting against injustice. A stirring voyage to colonial Africa in 1923, when he was barely twenty-one, only intensified his commitment to protest art.

Hughes certainly suffered right wing propaganda against him, as this flyer by Huey Long buddy Gerald L.K. Smith and publisher of The Flag and the Cross illustrates:

The flyer also points to how ferment on the right is nothing new. (In case any of my younger readers have not read about the McCarthy hearings or missed my post on Cointelpro.)

Hughes explains the genesis of “Advertisement” in his The Big Sea: An Autobiography (1940, reissued by Hill and Wang in 1993:

In the midst of that depression, the Waldorf-Astoria opened. On the way to my friend’s home on Park Avenue I frequently passed it, a mighty towering structure looming proud above the street, in a city where thousands were poor and unemployed. So I wrote a poem about it called “Advertisement for the Waldorf-Astoria,” modeled after an ad in Vanity Fair announcing the opening of New York’s greatest hotel. (Where no Negroes worked and none were admitted as guests.)

The hotel opened at the very time when people were sleeping on newspapers in doorways, because they had no place to go. But suites in the Waldorf ran into thousands a year, and dinner in the Sert Room was ten dollars! (Negroes, even if they had the money, couldn’t eat there. So naturally, I didn’t care much for the Waldorf-Astoria.)

~

So, about Bus Boys and Poets–it’s a restaurant/bookstore/performance space/community center for progressives, founded in the U Street neighborhood in 2005 by activist, artist and restaurateur Andy Shallal. He named it in honor of Hughes, who (like Duke Ellington and Thurgood Marshall) lived in the neighborhood. Hughes had worked as a busboy in the 1930s at the Wardman Park Hotel (about two miles to the West off of Rock Creek Parkway) , prior to gaining recognition as a poet and then moving to Harlem. (Poet Kwame Alexander has a piece on Hughes in DC on the site Beltway Poets.)

And about sand, I couldn’t find anything for Mike but a reference in a much tamer, more conventional poem, so instead, I wrote back about his essay Are You Spanish,” published in the Chicago Defender (September 18, 1943–see page 50 of Langston Hughes and the Chicago Defender, U. of Illinois Press, 1995, edited by Christopher C. De Santis of Illinois State (his webpage, email).

Hughes, suggested that students demand to be served in train dining cars as they returned to college in the South:

If you have to raise sand to eat there, then raise sand. Be firm and logical about it. Don’t use bad language. Don’t threaten. Simply say you are an American.

Mike’s response?

That is some dam good sand poetry!


Obama and those health care emails…

August 23, 2009

Cartoon by John Jonik of Philadelphia (email, bio. His essays on health reform are here and here.)

read w. interest Michael Bush’s “Hail to the Spammer in Chief: Where Obama Went Wrong coming out in tomorrow’s Ad Age about Obama’s use of GovDelivery to send unsolicited emails on health care and reviewed it on NewsTrust and wrote an entry for SourceWatch.

GovDelivery’s website indicates it was established in 1999 is “the world’s leading provider of government-to-citizen communication solutions” which provides Email and Digital Subscription Management platform. It lists a number of federal, state and local clients.

On August 22, Fox News reported that the Obama White House had acknowledged its use of the provider for emails sent out under the name of senior White House advisor David Axelrod on health care reform. Some individuals had complained that they had received unsolicited email and some Republican members of Congress and conservative news sources attributed their listing to an “enemies list” compiled by those who had reported questionable claims about the health care bills to the email address flag@whitehouse.gov. Fox reported that the WhiteHouse had disabled the email address on August 17 and that the admnistration’s own theory was that outside groups had enrolled individuals without their permission at WhiteHouse.gov. It pointed out that GovDelivery is non-partisan and is used by Texas Gov. Rick Perry and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels, both Republicans.

The White House had posted a statement on its blog August 17, saying,”It has come to our attention that some people may have been subscribed to our email lists without their knowledge –- likely as a result of efforts by outside groups of all political stripes -– and we regret any inconvenience caused by receiving an unexpected message. We’re certainly not interested in anyone receiving emails from the White House who don’t want them. That’s one reason why we have never — and will never — add names from a commercial or political list to the White House list.

“At the bottom of every message is a link to unsubscribe from emails that anyone can use to avoid this in the future. We have also implemented measures on WhiteHouse.gov to boost the security of the mailing list and we will carefully evaluate signups already received to work toward preventing this problem in the future.”

~

Contact Information:
CORPORATE HEADQUARTERS

408 St. Peter Street, Suite 600

Saint Paul, MN 55102

Toll Free: (866) 276-5583

Fax: (651) 665-0943

Email info@govdelivery.com

FEDERAL OFFICE

1808 Eye St., NW, Suite 900-FC

Washington, DC 20006

Toll Free: (866) 276-5583 ext. 303

Fax: (651) 665-0943

UNITED KINGDOM OFFICE

2 Caxton Street, 4th Floor

London SW1H 0QE

Toll Free: 0800 032 5769

So will we get health reform or just complain about being sold out again?

August 21, 2009

Cartoon by Tom Tomorrow for Salon (7/28/2009)

Today, Krugman has another column on health care (and various other sell outs by the Obama administration) Obama’s Trust Problem, in which he writes,

According to news reports, the Obama administration — which seemed, over the weekend, to be backing away from the “public option” for health insurance — is shocked and surprised at the furious reaction from progressives.

Well, I’m shocked and surprised at their shock and surprise.

Meanwhile in the “manufacturing of consent,” as Noam Chomsky likes to say, the right of center
Polictico and even further right of center The Hill, both chime w. glee in on the House leadership, at least in the form of Steny Hoyer saying the public option may have to go.

With things unfolding this way, the dour Matt Taibbi looks positively prescient for his column “The Health Care Bill Dies?” published in the new True/Slant July 28.

Who among us did not know this would happen? It’s been clear from the start that the Democrats would make a great show of doing something real, then they would fold prematurely, ram through some piece-of-shit bill with some incremental/worthless change in it, and then in the end blame everything on Max Baucus and Bill Nelson, saying, “By golly, we tried our best!”

So what to do. FireDogLake is doing a good job of trying to hold folks feet to the fire and Glenn Greenwald reports that $300,000 has been raised to bolster the spine of those who have thus far promised to reject any healthcare bill without a public option.

Will this be enough. Or have we grown used to fighting the noble fight, but losing? As Taibbi wrote,

Make no mistake, this has nothing to do with Max Baucus, Ben Nelson, or anyone else. If the Obama administration wanted to pass a real health care bill, they would do what George Bush and Tom DeLay did in the first six-odd years of this decade whenever they wanted to pass some nightmare piece of legislation (ie the Prescription Drug Bill or CAFTA): they would take the recalcitrant legislators blocking their path into a back room at the Capitol, and beat them with rubber hoses until they changed their minds.

The reason a real health-care bill is not going to get passed is simple: because nobody in Washington really wants it. There is insufficient political will to get it done. It doesn’t matter that it’s an urgent national calamity, that it is plainly obvious to anyone with an IQ over 8 that our system could not possibly be worse and needs to be fixed very soon, and that, moreover, the only people opposing a real reform bill are a pitifully small number of executives in the insurance industry who stand to lose the chance for a fifth summer house if this thing passes.

It won’t get done, because that’s not the way our government works. Our government doesn’t exist to protect voters from interests, it exists to protect interests from voters.

Ted Kennedy writes about filling his seat

August 20, 2009


For some reason, when the Boston Globe broke this story August 2o, the author,Frank Phillips, said Kennedy wrote the letter last week and alluded to his non-attendance at his sister’s funeral. But, as you can see, the letter was written July 2.

Go figure. As my friend journalist Dan Kennedy (no relation to Ted), whose blog post today referred to the story, responded, when I asked him about the discrepancy in dates,

Damned if I know. Good catch.

The fiasco in filling Obama’s seat in the Senate points to the wisdom concerning Kennedy’s suggestion that Massachusettes law be amended to allow the governor to fill the seat until an election, but that he should appoint someone who promises not to run in the special election.

Universal Broadband Access

August 19, 2009

Graphic by Free Press. “Telecom Lobbying January-June, 2009.”

April 8, 2009, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) announced that it was launching development of a National Broadband Plan and was seeking public input to “ensure every American has access to broadband capabilities.

So, I was not surprised to find the above chart at Free Press, outlining the amount of money being spent to assure industry “input.”

Congress had charged the FCC with coming up with a plan by 2/27/2010 as part of the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act of 2009–otherwise known as the stimulus package. d all other interested parties.

The Docket No. is GN 09-51. Oddly, it was not immediately obvious when the deadline for comments was. More research on this later.

The Public Option

August 18, 2009

Cartoon by Mike Thompson.

~
Other than the death of conservative pundit and and defiant Valerie Plame outer Robert Novack, Memeorandum leads off today w. yesterday’s “Alternate Plan as Health Option Muddies Debate” by the NYT’s Robert Pear and Gardiner Harris. The alternative being health care co-ops, the original plan being a public option. The WaPo, stating opinion as fact in a news story describes prospects pf the public option as fading.Ironicallly, the WSJ seemed more evenhanded, at least in this story.

Of course, the public option is not single payer advocated by Physicians for a National Health Program, just a weak facsimile. Or as Paul Krugman wrote in “The Swiss Menace,” for the NYT August 16

it’s a plan to Swissify America, using regulation and subsidies to ensure universal coverage.

If we were starting from scratch we probably wouldn’t have chosen this route. True “socialized medicine” would undoubtedly cost less, and a straightforward extension of Medicare-type coverage to all Americans would probably be cheaper than a Swiss-style system…

But a Swiss-style system of universal coverage would be a vast improvement on what we have now. And we already know that such systems work.

So we can do this. At this point, all that stands in the way of universal health care in America are the greed of the medical-industrial complex, the lies of the right-wing propaganda machine, and the gullibility of voters who believe those lies.

Even this weak tea has drawn orchestrated protests–see the leaked organizing town hall action memo of Bob MacGuffie of http://www.rightprinciples.com who volunteers with the lobbying group Freedom Works. MacGuffie stirs his cauldron with talk of “socialism.”

And on June 17, Open Secrets analyzed the money involved.

And yet, Obama is backing away from even the public option, floating the idea of substituting cooperatives, as explained by Timothy Stoltzfus Jost:

The biggest problem is coming up with a network. You have to find doctors and hospitals and negotiate contracts. Most are already locked up by the dominant insurers. They’re not going to give you — a tiny co-op — a better deal. That’s assuming they’ll deal with you at all. The alternative would be to rent a network, but you’re basically buying your product from your competitor. There’s no way you’ll get a good deal there, either.

Jost (email, bio) a law professor at W&L in Lexington, Virginia has written on numerous essays on health care, including the feasibility of establishing health insurance co-ops. In his piece, “Trigger Happy: Don’t Kill the Public Plan Choice,” he notes,

It is puzzling that for some in Congress the goal of health care reform has become
preservation of private health insurance at any cost. Private health insurance has proved unable or unwilling to control health care costs. Tens of millions of Americans cannot afford private health insurance, indeed some with chronic illnesses cannot purchase it at any cost. Yet, conservatives in Congress oppose the one approach most likely to control cost and expand access: a national program giving all Americans the choice of a public health insurance plan like Medicare.

Private health insurance premiums have doubled over the past 9 years, 4 times the rate at which wages have increased. Competition, the engine that drives down costs in our economy, has largely disappeared in the insurance industry. The top two insurers control 65% or more of the small business market in 31 states. In local markets, where health insurance is actually bought, business is even more concentrated. In Harrisonburg, Virginia, my home, one insurer controls 85% of small business insurance.

Actually my premiums have gone up about 450% in a dozen years, despite moving to a county with lower rates: a combination of age and the fact that Anthem has stopped selling “my” plan, although it has one just like it, for which I cannot apply because I now have a pre-existing condition. Thus, the pool of insured, on which my premium is based, grows older and sicker, even faster than average.

The Politico, as Jane Hamsher noted August 17, paints any attempt by the House to hold on to single payer as theater. She counters this by noting that on July 30, 57 signed onto a letter saying that they wouldn’t vote for a bill that omitted the public option. Another three added their name to a letter dated August 17 to Health Secretary Sibelius:

We stand in strong opposition to your statement that the public option is “not the essential element” of comprehensive reform. The opportunity to improve access to healthcare is a onetime opportunity. Americans deserve reform that is real-not smoke and mirrors. We cannot rely solely on the insurance companies’ good faith efforts to provide for our constituents. A robust public option is essential, if we are to ensure that all Americans can receive healthcare that is accessible, guaranteed and of high-quality.

To take the public option off the table would be a grave error; passage in the House of Representatives depends upon inclusion of it.

We have attached, for your review, a letter from 60 Members of Congress who are firm in their Position that any legislation that moves forward through both chambers, and into a final proposal for the President’s signature, MUST contain a public option.

(Of course, the House also said it would never allow immunity for telecoms that participated in Bush’s wiretaps without warrants. And we know how that ended.)

Howard Dean is holding strong: he told CBS Morning News:

You can’t have reform without a public option…If you really want to fix the health-care system, you’ve got to give the public the choice of having such an option. If you don’t want to have the public option, you most certainly shouldn’t spend $60 billion a year subsidizing the health-insurance industry.

He adds,

My guess is the Republicans aren’t going to vote for this bill no matter what….There’s no point in making a lot of concessions to people who aren’t going to vote for the bill under any circumstances anyway …

BTW, at a town hall meeting, the 9th District’s Congressman Rick Boucher, too, appears to be leaning towards cooperatives. The Pulaski gathering today drew 1200, according to the Roanoke Times. My friend Lydia attended and described the the meeting as follows:

People are really uninformed and a bit crazy – they don’t want to be confused with facts. … the crowd’s rudeness, anger, and stupidity truly made me feel sick to my stomach.

Makes me wonder who stirred them up. What Krugman wrote bears repeating,

At this point, all that stands in the way of universal health care in America are the greed of the medical-industrial complex, the lies of the right-wing propaganda machine, and the gullibility of voters who believe those lies.