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

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:


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:


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?


Do you have to be a liar to sell coal?

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)

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?

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

Pastel drawing of Hughes by Winold Reiss (bio) via the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign's Modern American Poetry series entry on HughesI first published this post on August 24, 2009 and updated it on December 5, 2013, after I found an illustrated version of the poem, "Advertisement for the Waldorf-Astoria" and a recording of Hughes reading "Big Buddy." There is so much additional information now available on Langston Hughes and his  radicalism that I will be writing a second post.


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 following poem and Hughes's central role in its history that the Renaissance was a lot more about rage and revolution than I had thought. 

Advertisement For The Waldorf-Astoria by Langston Hughes

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

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?
"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

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


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.


I might have figured that Hughes was involved in rage and revolution, given the central role he is given by the Split This Rock Poetry Festival in Washington, DC, which  celebrates poetry of "witness and provocation" and calls poets to "a greater role in public life."  The festival takes its name from  a line from Hughes's poem “Big Buddy” from The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (p.240).

....Hey Big Buddy,
Don’t you hear this hammer ring?
I’m gonna split this rock
and split it wide!
And when I split this rock,
stand by my side

Bus Boys and Poets, a restaurant/bookstore/performance space/community center for progressives, founded in the U Street neighborhood of Washington, DC in 2005 by activist, artist and restaurateur Andy Shallal also takes its name from a reference to Hughes's life.  Shallal named his business  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.


Scott Fowler agrees with me about the connection between radicalism and the Harlem Rennaissance:

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 from it, society could be changed.
In fact, "Advertisement for the Waldorf Astoria" first appeared as a mock advertisement, with illustrations Walter Steinhilber in the December 1931 edition of  New Masses. You can read the entire poem in 1994 hardcover version of The Collected Poems of Langston Hughes (p. 143).  It's also available online in a selection advertising the 1995 paperback edition

(UPDATE:  I found this illustrated version on the site for the exhibition Grand Hotel produced for the Vancouver Art Gallery, which was open to the public from April 13 - September 15, 2013.)


I'm guessing that this poem may have been suppressed during the Cold War, just as the terser poem, "Goodbye Christ." Joshua Good "Advertisement" so I'll have to read  Arnold Rampersad (website, bio)'s  Life of Langston Hughes (Oxford University Press--Volume I: 1902-1941: I, Too, Sing America (1986),Volume II: 1941-1967: I Dream a World (1988).

In an January 2009 article in Poetry Magazine "On Newly Discovered Langston Hughes 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.)

I'm not sure why his political poems were "newly discovered" since Hughes explains the genesis of "Advertisement" in his autobiography The Big Sea (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.)

Hughes also wrote essays, including one of my favorites, "Are You Spanish," published in the Chicago Defender (September 18, 1943--see page 50 of Langston Hughes and the Chicago Defender: Essays on Race, Politics, and Culture, 1942-62, U. of Illinois Press, 1995, edited by Christopher C. De Santis of Illinois State (his webpage).

In that essay, 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.


Here's the Moses Asch (bio) recording from 1945  of Hughes reading the poem  "Big Buddy," which inspired the name for the Split This Rock poetry festival.   (starting at 4:25).  Asch also recorded much of Woodie Guthrie and went on to found Folkway Records in 1948.


Obama and those health care emails...

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:

408 St. Peter Street, Suite 600

Saint Paul, MN 55102

Toll Free: (866) 276-5583

Fax: (651) 665-0943

Email info@govdelivery.com


1808 Eye St., NW, Suite 900-FC

Washington, DC 20006

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

Fax: (651) 665-0943


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?

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

Yesterday, 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

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

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

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 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.

The Failure of Empathy

The news from Scott Horton that Bush's torture architect, John Yoo, is facing difficulties at Berkeley led me to a search to see if another prof at that school, linguist George Lakoff had said anything about the situation. While I came up empty, I just now found an interesting piece, "Torture, Empathy and Democracy," that he published in the April 26, 2009 FireDogLake. He refers to a piece two days earlier by Greg Mitchell of Editor & Publisher in Huffington Post, about American G.I., Alyssa Peterson, who committed suicide after refusing to torture Iraqi prisoners.

"The official probe of her death would later note that earlier she had been "reprimanded" for showing "empathy" for the prisoners. One of the most moving parts of the report, in fact, is this: "She said that she did not know how to be two people; she ... could not be one person in the cage and another outside the wire.""

Repeat: "She did not know how to be two people..." Reprimanded for showing “empathy.”

Lakoff writes that

Our native neural capacities for empathy can be strengthened by how we are raised, or it can decay when empathy is not experienced — or we can be trained to develop neural circuitry to bypass natural empathy.

This is a little scary to me, as his research shows that
empathy is the basis of progressive political thought, and the basis for the very idea of social, not just individual, responsibility. Conservative political thought is otherwise structured, based on authority, discipline, and responsibility for oneself but not others. The major moral, social, and political divide in America centers around empathy.
Now consider that, according to Preston McAfeee, sociopaths also can be characterized in part by

  • Callousness/Lack of Empathy--inability to empathize with their victims' pain, having contempt for others' feelings of distress and readily taking advantage of them.
  • Pathological Lying--can lie coolly and easily, it's almost impossible for them to be truthful on a consistent basis. They can create, and get caught up in, a complex belief about their own powers and abilities. Extremely convincing and even able to pass lie detector tests.
  • Irresponsibility/Unreliability--Unconcerned about wrecking others' lives and dreams. Oblivious or indifferent to the devastation they cause. Don't not accept blame themselves, but blame others, even for acts they obviously committed.
Well you get the idea. I'm not sure about the delay in writing about Peterson, as reports appeared back in 2006. What I do know, is that I find the implications troubling.


This Week at the Lyric: Public Enemies

Went to the later show last night to see Marion Cotillard and Johnny Depp (plus a cast including Christian Bale, the chameleonesque Billy Crudup, Giovanni Ribisi and others) in Michael Mann's newest effort. Will me volunteering Monday.

Contra dance tonight features Tina Liza Jones.

More later, the library is closing. But, today, inspired by David Dodd, California librarian and Greatful Dead annotator extraorinaire:

"The book list was fun, then comes along the concert list.

OK, here are the rules. Test your memory and your love of live music by listing 50 artists or bands (or as many as you can remember) you've seen in concert. List the first 50 acts that come into your head. An act you saw at a festival and opening acts count, but only if you can't think of 50 other artists. Oh, and list the first concert you ever saw (you can remember that, can’t you)?"
Here's my list....

Bonnie Raitt at the 2004 New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival--the most recent time I saw her

1. Earth Wind and Fire (first concert--you don't count glee club concerts nor musicals w. my parents, right?)
2. Iron Butterfly
3. Ike and Tina Turner
4. James Taylor
5. Alice Cooper
6. Grateful Dead
7. Taj Mahal
8. Willie Nelson
9. Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young
10. Joan Baez
11. The Neville Brothers
12. Bob Dylan
13. John Prine
14. John Hartford
15. Tim O'Brien
16. Molly O'Brien
17. David Massengill
18. John McCutcheon
19. Bela Fleck & the Flecktones
18. Alice Gerrard
19. Guy Clark
20. Etta James
21. Loudon Wainwright III
22. Peggy Seeger
23. Mike Seeger
24.Charlie Byrd
25. Holly Near
26. Arlo Guthrie
27. Peter Rowan
28. Pete Seeger
29. Odetta
30. Trapezoid
31. Freyda and the Acoustic AttaTudes
32. Boyd Tinsley (w. Rita Dove)
33. Bonnie Raitt
34. Bruce Hornsby
35. Tracy Chapman
36. Lyle Lovett
37. Indigo Girls
38. Laura Light and the Avant Gardeners
39. David Grisman
40. Nancy Griffith
41. Fred Eaglesmith
42. Doc Watson
43. Ralph Stanley
44. Here's to the Long Haul
45. Norman Blake
46. Steve Earle
47. Judy Collins
48. No Strings Attached
49. Tony Rice
50. Gillian Welch

and many more


Green Delaware, Del. Electric Coop & Coal (& Mr. Boucher, Oh, My)

Carol Overland (email), whom I know from Energy Justice Network's No New Coal Plants list, has awarded another horses ass. You can read her account at the link and it's a hoot. It seems the folks at the Delaware Electric Coop didn't take kindly August 12 to its members receiving information on the coal fired power plant in Dendron, Virginia, along with their chicken dinners. The plant has been proposed by Old Dominion Electric Coop (of which the Delaware Coop is a member) and word has it that ODEC hadn't gotten an endorsement from its members before it proceeded.

Alan Muller (email), whom I also know as a no-coalista, heads up Green Delaware and had sent out this action alert. He and Carol handed out a great fact sheet prepared by the Wise Energy for Virginia Coalition based on the testimony of David Schlissel of Synapse Energy Economics.

Alan's working on his on write-up and sent me a preview:

The annual meeting was an interesting experience. Probably about a thousand people came for a free chicken dinner. What they learned, if anything, about the Coop's electric policies is unknown to us because officials wouldn't let us stay and listen, and wouldn't let us see the information being distributed to members.

DEC has 83,000 meters (customers) and annual revenues of about $140 million. The cooperative (member owned) idea is powerful, and theoretically eliminates the conflict of interest between customers and stockholders that makes "investor owned" utilities like Delmarva Power work so hard against the public interest. Some people think DEC is the most progressive among the coops belonging to Old Dominion Electric Cooperative, DEC's power supplier. This may be so.

But DEC management does not respond well to questioning or criticism, and seem's determined to promote a new coal plant. DEC is also aggressively promoting the PEPCO "MAPP" transmission line. This isn't surprising given that DEC want's to sell power generated at big new coal plant in Virginia--the Coop can't sell that power without getting it to Delaware. DEC is plainly not on board with the intent of Senate Bill 106 to reduce electricity sales in Delaware by 2% per year.

Delaware made a mistake in removing DEC from regulation by the Delaware Public Service Commission. At present, DEC management is effectively accountable to nobody. The General Assembly needs to reverse this bad decision and "reregulate" DEC.
Would be nice to put the democracy back in the cooperatives, if it were ever there. If not, it's time to inject it.

Of course, my candidate for the award would have to be Rick Boucher:
“This campaign against surface mining is new, it is led by the more extreme environmental organizations, they clearly have targeted the Appalachian states, and unfortunately, the administration has responded to that to some extent...we’re going to do something about it."

This according to Debra McCown (email) in her August 13 Bristol Herald article, "Boucher: Coal profits supersede environmental concerns," which recounts his talk at the quarterly meeting of the Eastern Coal Council. I'm still seeking a copy of his remarks.

When I posted this on facebook, my friend Tom Palumbo responded,

New? Extreme? It is the #2 environmental concern of all of Virginians! (as reported by Virginian Pilot)
I've asked him for a link and will share it, if he has one.


Linguist George Lakoff on the Dems and Health Care

As the media concentrates on the "deathers" who say that the Obama health plan would kill our grandparents (well, that's my generation, actually, or soon), as latest polls show a shift to trusting the R's for formulating a better health care plan and we learn of the President's caving in to big Pharma, I'm wishing that someone in this administration had paid a bit of attention to George Lakoff (email, profile) in May, when he set out how to formulate rhetoric to win the hearts and minds of Americans for health care reform.

He said the Dems needed

some guiding principles for effectively saying what they believe and what is true.

Principle 1. Health care is part of our economic system.

President Obama correctly sees the economy as an integrated system that includes more than just banking. The economy is a system that includes health care, education, jobs, energy, and the environment, as well as an effective, well-monitored banking system and stock market. Real health care is essential for our economy.

Principle 2. Health care is a moral issue.

America was founded on the most central of moral principles: empathy, on caring about and for each other. We are responsible for ourselves and for one another. That is why we have principles like freedom and fairness, for everyone not just the few who are powerful.

To care about our fellow Americans is to care about their health.

Principle 3. Health care is central to the moral mission of the American government.

The American government has twin moral missions: protection and empowerment of the individual - equally for everyone.

Protection includes not just the military and police, but also consumer protection, worker protection, environmental protection, safety nets, investor protection, and health care.

Empowerment is what enables Americans to make a living and have a good life if they work at it. It includes systems of public road and buildings, education, communication, energy, banking -- and health.

No one can make a dime in America or achieve their goals in life without protection and empowerment by America's government.

Principle 4. The President's plan is the American Plan: it fits our principles and serves our people. It represents patriotism at its finest.

The American Plan allows you the freedom to keep your current health plan or choose the American Plan. It is fair in that it allows everyone to afford excellent care. And it allows us to demonstrate in the most visceral way that Americans care about and for their fellow citizens.

Principle 5. The American Plan is a doctor-patient plan.

You and your doctor determine your treatment.

There is no HMO bureaucracy standing between you and the care you get.

Principle 6. The American Plan relieves oppressive HMO government.

Right now HMO's govern your life. Unaccountable HMO bureaucrats decide what treatments you can be "authorized" for and they function to say No to care whenever they can justify it. They make you wait too long, and limit your choice of doctors, clinics, and hospitals. HMO's are oppressive forms of government.

The American Plan diminishes bureaucrats' control over your life. Your American government could act only as a bursar, paying your bills and making sure there is no fraud. Your treatment is up to you and your doctor.

Principle 7. The American Plan provides care instead of denying it.

Why do HMO's have a high administrative cost - 15 to 20 percent or more? They spend money to justify denying you the care you need and all too often delaying care so much that you are harmed by the delay.

The American Plan is there to provide you care, not deny or delay it. Its administrative costs would be low, about 3 percent.

Principle 8. The American Plan costs less and does more.

HMO's are big spenders, not on your health, but on administrative costs, commercials to tout their plans, and profits to investors. As much as 20 to 30% of what you pay does not go to your care. In The American Plan, 97% of what you pay goes for your care. It's a better deal for you and for our country.

Principle 9. The American Plan helps primary care doctors.

HMO's put the squeeze on primary care doctors and have created assembly line medicine. HMO's require doctors to take too many patients per hour, more than they can effectively treat. And they pay doctors as little as possible per patient, so that the HMO's make greater profits, while your doctor loses out -- and you may lose your doctor.

As a result, many thousands of primary care doctors have left their profession. The American Plan will bring back the primary care doctors, paying them what they are worth, and letting them practice medicine instead working on an assembly line.

Principle 10. The American Plan will make prescription drugs cheaper.

Why? Because they can be purchased in greater volume and at a discount.

No longer will Americans have to go to Canada to buy their meds, or order them from other countries. No longer will the cost of medicine threaten to bankrupt older Americans on a fixed income.


EPA faces protests over Mountain Range Destruction

August 7, 2009 --The federal Army Corps of Engineers issued a Clean Water Act permit for CONSOL Energy Inc.'s Peg Fork Surface Mine near Chattaroy in Mingo County. The Peg Fork Surface Mine was one of six pending permits that EPA had reviewed in mid-May and said that opposed because "they all would result in significant adverse impacts to high-value streams, involved large numbers of valley fills, and impact watersheds with extensive previous mining impacts." The Obama administration's EPA quietly approved the permit without announcing the move publicly, despite his promises of greater transparency.

Tuesday, August 18, folks in our region can go to Philly and let folks know that we want them to stop destroying the mountains. This is part of a national campaign which kicks off August 14 at EPA Headquarters in DC at noon. Come join us at the EPA Region 3 Office to hand out information and make some noise about MTR. Not enough people know about this alarming practice. You can find directions to the office at http://www.epa.gov/region03/direct.htm

There will also be protests at the EPA regional offices across the country while we take care of Philly.

* Boston MONDAY 8/17 at noon!
* New York MONDAY 8/17 11am - 1pm!
* Atlanta TUESDAY 8/18 11am-2pm, carpool from Knoxville contact tanyabturner@gmail.com
* Dallas WEDNESDAY 8/19 11am -1pm, carpool from Denton contact undoubtedlythomas@yahoo.com
* Kansas City- meeting WEDNESDAY 8/19 2:30- 5:30pm
* Denver
* San Francisco
* Seattle
* Chicago

And if you cannot attend, PLEASE participate in a "fax attack" to the water protection division at (215) 814-2302, email "Brian Trulear or, if you live in the region, you can call toll free 1-800-438-2474 (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Virginia, and West Virginia.) And you can also do a twitter attack by replying to @EPAregion3.

Get everyone you know to do the same. (We still need someone to set a date for Denver, Chicago, Seattle and SF. If a city is missing, we still need someone to choose a date and show up : ) You can find out your region by clicking on your state on this map: http://www.epa.gov/epahome/regions.htm. From there, the link for contacts will tell you how to call.

Showing support is VERY helpful. Let the EPA know that our numbers are much larger than the people who could make it out to their lawn.Folks are tired of coal companies going after thin seams of coal while killing wildlife and plants and sickening those who have lived here sometimes for hundreds of years, through the poisoning of our water and air with carcinogens and heavy metals.


Judge to Dominion: You Can't Make Up Your Own Mercury Standards

Photo of Cale Jaffe (email, bio) who won a decision today over Dominion Resources, Inc.

Today, as even miners were protesting in WV about the sham that is the Department of Environmental Protection, activists against coal-fired electric plants learned of a victory in Virginia reversing a permit issued by the Virginia Air Board. After the Board's decision, Dominion officially broke ground near St. Paul, although a route of appeal existed which led to a lock down last June outside Dominion Resources offices in Richmond.

Judge Spencer issues her order overruling exception to mercury standards

In an order issued August 10 and released August 11, Richmond Circuit Court Judge Margaret Poles Spencer (bio) invalidated an "escape hatch" which would have permitted Dominion Resources to release mercury at its proposed coal-fired plant in Wise County at levels which violated Federal law.

The State Air Pollution Control Board MACT permit (Maximum Achievable Control Technology) set a mercury limit but added a condition 33 that if Dominion
reasonably demonstrates using operational and other related information collected for a period not shorter than the first 12 months of operation of all the equipment used to control mercury ... that the [set limits] are not achievable on a consistent basis under reasonably foreseeable conditions, then testing and evaluation shall be conducted to determine an appropriate adjusted maximum achievable annual emission limit ...

What the plaintiff's argued

Today's decision reflects the pleadings July 31, where Southern Environmental Law Center attorneys, argued on behalf of a coalition of environmental groups (petition filed August 22, 2008) that the exception meant that the permit authorized emission limitations to be set after completion of construction, and a relaxation of emission limitations "beyond what has been achieved in practice by the best controlled similar source."

Judge Spencer was pretty succinct:
The Court agrees.
She explained,
The Clean Air Act requires the MACT determination prior to construction of VCEC. 42 U.S.C. §74 12(g)(2)(B), CAA § I 12(g)(2)(B). The law does not allow "an after-the-fact analysis" of the emission limitation. See United States v. Ohio Edison Co ., 276 f.. Supp.2d 829, 864-865 (S.D. Ohio 2003). The establishment of a flexible "limitation" with an ongoing analysis, in Condition 33, is not a limitation determination prior to construction of a facility, as required by law. The Clean Air Act also requires that the mercury emission limit "not be less stringent than the emission control that is achieved in practice by the best controlled similar source." 42 U.S.C. §7412(d)(3), CAA §112(d)(3). This "best controlled similar source" mandate would be negated if Dominion demonstrates it could not achieve the mercury emission limit in the permit. This result, authorized by Condition 33, therefore violates the CAA. See Cement Kiln Recycling Coalition v. EPA, 255 F.3d 855. 86l-62 (D.C. Cir. 2001) and Northeast Maryland Waste Disposal Authority v. EPA, 358 F.3d 936, 955 (D.C. Cir. 2004). Moreover. Condition 33 states that determination of an "appropriate adjusted maximum achievable annual emission limit" will be based, at least in part, on what is "achievable on a consistent basis under reasonable foreseeable conditions" by Dominion. The law requires the mercury emission limit "not be less stringent than the emission control that is achieved in practice by the best controlled similar source" regardless of the permittee's ability to achieve the set limit. Indeed, the limit must be set "irrespective of cost or achievability." Cement Kiln Recycling Coalition, 255 f .3d at 857-58 ; See Nc.Md. Waste Disposal Auth. v. EPA, 358 F.3d l936, 955 (D.C. Cir. 2004).

What Dominion claimed

Dominion tried to argue that Condition 33 stated a procedure, available under state law, for requesting an amendment of the MACT permit.

Judge Spencer wasn't buying that argument:
to the extent it states an existing post-construction procedure, it is at best, unnecessary. and at worst, violative of the Jaws addressing pre-construction mandates.
She also found that Condition 33 violated precedent in two other cases. It

has '"direct and appreciable legal consequences ." Golden and Zimmerman. L.LC v. Domenech 599 F. Supp. 2d 702, 71 0 (E.D. Va. 2009). It negates the requirement of all absolute MACT limit prior to construction. As noted above. Condition 33 allows a flexible "limitation" during the first 12 months of operation in that the permittee (Dominion) is allowed to demonstrate it cannot achieve the set limit. See Sierra Club v. EPA, 479 F.3d 875, 880 (D.C. Cir. 2007).


Mike Seeger, ¡Presente!

Studio protrait of Mike Seeger taken in 2005 in Nashville as part of a series by Jim McGuire (bio, website, email) and used by his kind permission.   "Reproduction without the expressed written consent of Jim McGuire is prohibited, immoral, and downright dangerous."


Mike Seeger is gone (sigh) from multiple mylenoma too, too early a week after his 75th birthday.  Last year marked the death of Utah Phillips.  I didn't know Phillips personally--although I have friends who did-- but Mike was a very big part of the music and dance community here--never acting like he had a national reputation or even that he was anything special at all.  In fact, I while I met Mike at square dancing, I thought he was just someone who looked remarkably like Mike Seeger until he told me "that's because I am."

So many of us enjoyed his festival Rockbridge Music and Dance Festival in Buena Vista.  He took sick so suddenly.  It was just July 24 when I wrote  Ray York,  the volunteer coordinator at the Lyric as soon as a November 18 concert was announced,  And Ray had written back July 27 to tell me I was on the list. Shortly thereafter we got word that he had had to cancel.  And, of course he was gone, before there could even be another festival this September.

While his older (half-) brother Pete and younger sister Peggy might be better known for their music on behalf of social justice and Mike for his crusading on behalf of "the true vine" of old time music, I just came across the 1960 album Songs of Work and Freedom with Mike playing guitar and banjo,  although the cover only credits Joe Glazer (who dubbed himself labor's troubador in his autobiography) and Charlie Byrd .  While the album is out of print, there are used copies available. Truth to tell, I always thought of Charlie Byrd as a jazz guitarist (having once gotten to hear him play live, I think it was in Annapolis).  It turns out the Mike started studying jazz guitar with Byrd when he was 18.  By 20 he had converted to banjo and this album would have come out about seven years later.

Here's a great interview from August 2003 with Mike at his house in Lexington, Virgina. Marc Fields (bio, email), producer of the film-in-progress, The Banjo Project posted  it 2006.