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I recently interviewed Wendell Potter, former chief of corporate communications at CIGNA, one of the nation’s largest for-profit health insurers (News and Politics). Last fall, Potter published Deadly Spin
1, an exposé of the health insurance industry that details the dirty tricks employed by public relations executives to derail healthcare reform. Having indicted his former industry for almost 300 pages, Potter ends his book on a surprisingly upbeat note: “The US will one day have the finest and most equitable healthcare system in the world.” When I asked him why he was so optimistic in light of all the hurdles to affordable healthcare, Potter offered a variation on Dr. King’s axiom “the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends toward justice,” stating his belief that positive change was inevitable.
Recent events in Tunisia and Egypt would seem to bear this out. And as I write, civil war has broken out in Libya, with Col. Muammar Qaddafi tenuously but ferociously hanging on to power while killing hundreds of his own people and vowing to fight with his “last drop of blood.” (He may have to; by the time this is published, Qaddafi is likely to be dead or in exile.) Protestors are in the streets in Bahrain and Yemen, demanding change. The rest of the despotic Arab world, from Saudi Arabia to Syria, wonders when their populations will revolt.
The spirit of uprising seems to be catching on in the US. After a week of upheaval in Madison, Wisconsin, after the Republican governor, Scott Walker2, threatened to rescind the ability of public-sector employees to collective bargaining (though not police or firefighters, who supported Walker’s gubernatorial bid), mass protests have spread to Columbus and Indianapolis. Thousands are in the streets protesting bills that would cripple the bargaining power of unions.
The governors claim that slashing benefits for public-sector employees is the only way for their states to remain solvent. Another theory might be that the governors are using their state’s financial woes as cover for union-busting. Once the unions lose the ability to bargain collectively, not only will the states be able to dictate wages and benefits at their whim, but the middle class will lose a powerful fundraising tool for electioneering. It stands to reason that the Republican governors of the Midwest want to crush the unions, as they consistently back Democratic candidates. As the New York Times
editorialized on February 23: “For unions and Democrats in the Midwest, this is an existential struggle, and it is one worth waging.” (Larry Beinhart examines another form of class warfare, tort reform, in Beinhart’s Body Politic.) Home Again, Home Again
This month we launch our Home section. Some years ago, we published a magazine called Upstate House
, which profiled the homes and lifestyles of eco-creatives living and working in the Hudson Valley. We've decided to bring Chronogram's
authentic voice back to coverage of the wonderful places
we live as well as extoling the wonders of the Hudson Valley as a place. We’ll be featuring living spaces, sustainable architecture and design, strategies for green living, and the people who are implementing innovative ideas in the home. If you know of something we should cover, just drop me a line: firstname.lastname@example.org.
This is the last issue to enjoy Lorrie Klosterman’s stewardship of our health and wellness coverage. Lorrie joined our staff in 2004 at the urging of my late colleague Jim Andrews, who fully understood Lorrie’s work ethic and brilliance.3 (This would become apparent to me fairly quickly.) With a background in science (a PhD in biology) and a strong interest in alternative healing, Lorrie was perfectly poised to shepherd our wellness coverage, merging conventional and nonWestern treatment methods. Lorrie’s written about everything from Lyme disease to youth mentoring programs, resulting in Chronogram’s
nomination for an Independent Press Award for our health and wellness coverage last year.
In addition to her professional acumen, Lorrie is also one of the most empathetic people I know. Her sage counsel and kindness will be missed, especially during the frenzy of a close. In a nod to Lorrie's thoughtful curation of the Whole Living section these past few years, we've selected some of the most inspiring words from the many healers she has interviewed. We also welcome Wendy Kagan, who has been writing about health and wellness for us over the past two years, will take over for Lorrie starting in April.
1. Two books with elaborate subtitles are featured in the magazine: Potter’s Deadly Spin: An Insurance Company Insider Speaks Out on How Corporate PR Is Killing Health Care and Deceiving Americans and Donovan Hohn’s Moby-Duck: The True Story of 28,800 Bath Toys Lost at Sea and of the Beachcombers, Oceanographers, Environmentalists, and Fools, Including the Author, Who Went in Search of Them (Forecast, page 99). Am I sensing a trend toward over-explanation in the nonfiction publishing industry? Perhaps Donald Rumsfeld should change the subheading of his modestly titled Known and Unknown: A Memoir to something more expansive, like How One Secretary of Defense Falsely Hyped the Threat of Weapons of Mass Destruction, Bungled the Invasion of Iraq, Authorized the Torture of Enemy Combatants, Resigned in Disgrace, and Wrote a Book Blaming Everyone Else.
2. The billionaire Koch brothers, longstanding union opponents, were among the biggest contributors to Governor Walker. Their conservative front group, Americans for Prosperity, broadcast anti-union ads in Wisconsin in late February.
3. Smarts run in the family: Lorrie’s daughter, Aminy4, was valedictorian of her class at Red Hook High School and will graduate from Brown University this spring—again at the top of her class—and attend Berkeley this fall to study a specialized form of chemistry I can’t explain.
4. Aminy published an article in Chronogram
while still in high school.