Clarissa Sanchez, a freshman in high school from Racine, Wisconsin, knew the state legislature's Joint Committee on Finance's majority vote was not likely to shift in her favor. But that didn't stop her from boarding a bus with fellow members of Youth Empowered in the Struggle (YES!), the youth branch of Milwaukee-based immigrants rights group Voces de la Frontera, and traveling to the Capitol for the committee's June 2 meeting, during which it was expected to vote to repeal the 2009 measure granting in-state tuition rights (for the University of Wisconsin system and state tech schools) for the children of undocumented immigrants who grew up in Wisconsin.
Of the many supporters of a single-payer health care system in the United States, some of the most ardent are small business owners who have struggled to continue offering coverage to their workers.
Among them are David Steil, a small business owner and former Republican state legislator in Pennsylvania who earlier this year became president of the advocacy group Health Care 4 All PA.
Another supporter is Vermont Governor Peter Shumlin, who last Thursday signed a bill that sets the stage for the country's first single-payer plan. If all goes as Shumlin and the bill's many backers hope, all 620,000 Vermonters will eventually be enrolled in a state-run plan to replace Blue Cross, CIGNA and other private insurers whose business practices have contributed to the number of Vermonters without coverage -- approximately 60,000 and growing.
I turned 43 a couple of weeks after I joined CIGNA in 1993. One of the birthday gifts from my new colleagues was a framed, three-word quote by E. B. White: "Be obscure clearly."
We laughed and laughed. It was an inside joke -- and a perfect present for an HMO PR guy who more than a few times had to be obscure when responding to media inquiries. Reporters always wanted more information than I dared give them, but I had to give them something. Hence the need to follow White's sage advice.
That quote, by the way, was in Elements of Style, the classic 1959 book on writing that White co-authored with William Strunk, Jr. White was not actually recommending obscure writing. He was just saying that if for some reason you felt you could not tell the whole truth, if there was no choice but to be obscure, at least use the active voice and proper grammar while doing it.
You might not realize it, but this is National Small Business Week. I'm betting many small business owners aren't aware of it, either. Perhaps that's because most small business owners are far more likely to be worrying about whether they'll be able to offer health insurance to their employees for another year.
Or is this the year they join the ever-growing list of small businesses that have been "purged" by their insurance carrier?
For several years now, insurance companies have been "purging" small business accounts they no longer consider profitable enough or that their underwriters believe pose too much risk. I became familiar with"purging" (yes, that's the actual word insurance executives use internally) toward the end of my career as an industry PR man.
Like many others, I've heard President Obama talk about his mother's insurance problems during her final months in 1995. The memory of his mother having to devote precious time and energy pleading with her insurer to pay her mounting medical bills fueled Obama's determination to focus on passing health care reform.
But I didn't realize until reading a new book about the president's mother that the insurer she was pleading with was CIGNA, the one I used to work for. I wish I had known at the time. In my role as PR man for the company, I might have been able to help.
Tell Hollywood it's not green to "greenwash" sewage sludge with "organic" school gardens!
Some of Hollywood's "green" celebrities -- Rosario Dawson and a bevy of starlets -- thought they were promoting organic school gardens for inner-city kids. But the Environmental Media Association (EMA) teamed them up with a secretive corporation, Kellogg Garden Products, whose main business is selling Los Angeles sewage sludge products!
That company calls its Kellogg brand "quality organics" and deceptively labels bags sold at the garden store as "garden soil" made from "compost" -- with no mention which are made from industrial and human waste that contains tens of thousands of contaminants. That's why federal law bars the use of sewage sludge-based products in organic gardens.
So when news broke that Kellogg Garden Products provided sewage sludge products to EMA's "organic" school gardens -- and its spokesperson even posed with sewage sludge-derived products at the gardens -- you'd think EMA and its stars would cut all ties to the sludge industry.
By Greg Colvin
Among those who feel the only way to overcome the Citizens United decision, which opened the door to unlimited corporate spending on elections, is to amend the U.S. Constitution, the question on everyone's mind is: "So what's the language?"
I offered a version of my own, the Citizens Election Amendment, posted three months ago at this site. It got a pretty good response (over 400 people "liked" it on Facebook) and last week I was in Washington, DC, talking to several members of Congress about it.
The main approach I take is to build upon the individual citizen's constitutional RIGHT TO VOTE (a right that Americans have shed blood and died for), protecting and expanding it to give citizen human beings the right to be the sole source of funding for election campaigns.
Rep. Paul Ryan's plan to privatize Medicare would accelerate a trend started several years ago by corporate CEOs and their political allies to shift ever-increasing amounts of risk from Big Business and the government to workers and retirees.
If enacted, the Ryan plan would represent a windfall of unprecedented proportions for insurance corporations and other businesses.
For millions of average Americans, many of whom already are finding it impossible to save for retirement, it would represent financial calamity. The nation's middle class would pay dearly for Ryan's proposed shredding of the social safety net that Medicare currently provides.
Tax Day was approaching and the righties were out to denigrate government workers and government spending. Sarah Palin, former Governor of Alaska who quit her job in 2009, headlined a rally in Madison, Wisconsin, bought and paid for by the front-group Americans for Prosperity (AFP), but billed as a "grassroots" Tea Party event.
This week I received a Ridenhour Prize for my book, Deadly Spin. I'm honored to receive the award, especially in light of my fellow recipients: former Sen. Russ Feingold of Wisconsin; the producers of a film called Budrus, about attempts to find non-violent solutions to the strife in the Middle East, and Thomas Drake, an National Security Agency contractor who blew the whistle on what he believed were corrupt practices. Past honorees have included Bill Moyers and Bob Herbert. Elite company.
It is always nice to be recognized for one's work. The prizes are supposed to honor those "who speak truth to power." But the honor is also ironically unfortunate. The need to write the book at all, to illustrate how selfish profit motives too frequently take precedence over the health care needs of real people, remains a tragedy. And sadly, that continues to be the case, even after so much has been revealed about the inner workings of insurance giants and even after a bruising political battle has been waged to change how health care is delivered in America. The fact is, I shouldn't have had to write the book. There shouldn't have to be an award for people who simply do what is simply right.