Radiation Sniffer: On Alert for the Nuclear Option

In my post of July 3, I made the bold suggestion that the various Big Medicine groups could very well be planning to “drop the bomb” on the whole effort toward Universal Health Care, either before the legislation was finalized and voted on, or perhaps even after.  I called this the “Nuclear Option.”

Do not assume for a micro-second they have given up. They are preparing the Nuclear Option. One all-out attack on universal health care, with no regard for collateral damage, just the health of America. In the Board Rooms of the Insurance Megacorps, Big Pharma, Corporate Hospitals, and dozens of other stakeholders firmly anchored in the Status Quo, they are planning to bring this down. Once and for all, to obliterate the very notion of universal health care so completely, that it will never threaten their companies and profits again.

The question is, in all fairness, even though my hypothesis using organizational theory predicts the likelihood of an attempt to prevent UHC from becoming law, or destroying it after it is passed, is there any evidence to support it?  I also stated,

The door for the Nuclear Option is now open. Why? Because the real-life environment to which we are applying my theory is not just one company; we are applying it to a multifaceted industry that has for decades successfully resisted and obstructed the move toward universal health care. And they know that by conspiring together and pooling their resources, they can potentially create a huge wall of resistance. This strategy has a flaw, however. A significant percentage of companies in the industry are supportive of UHC, and are already changing the practice of their organizations to successfully ride the transformative wave. This fact only serves to increase the opponents’ anxiety. Who has the most to lose?

The political and economic environment is volatile and turbulent.  What I needed was a “radiation sniffer,” so to speak, a virtual monitor that would look for “leakage” that might be evidence of the Nuclear Option being planned.  At the same time, I needed an operational definition for “sniffing radiation” that would naturally provide boundaries against my finding “evidence” under every rock just to prove my hypothesis.

That set up two basic choices.  One would be to look for evidence that claimed outright that this group or that was planning to use their version of the Nuclear Option.  The other was to look for evidence that the players known to be facing the biggest losses were playing their game very close to the vest; in other words to look for evidence where what was not being said was more important that what was.

I chose the second.  This is why:

Therefore, if the individuals on the [Big Medicine] Boards and their Executive Management fail to manage their anxiety about the turbulence and the implications of transformative change in motion, and as they realize their historical resources for influence (i.e., lobbying) are waning, they will tend to take the most conservative stance to defend the survival of the organization, and that stance will tend to be to preserve the status quo at all cost.

And, the status quo has been for decades to work politically behind the scenes through lobbying and other forms of influence.  The job of the Public Relations department is to create a public face for the organization that oozes altruism and the common good over the corporation’s true mission to make as much profit as possible using every Machiavellian principle in the book.

Preparing the Nuclear Option requires planning, stealth, subterfuge, and sleight of hand.  In Board rooms around the country listen for the clink of glasses filled with expensive hooch, accompanied by the toast, “They’ll never see it coming!”

Am I skeptical and mistrusting of organizational motivations?  Of course I am.

Here is my first example for possible radiation, in a piece written by David Herzenhorn and Sheryl Gay Stohlberg for the New York Times, July 7th, titled “Health Deals Could Harbor Hidden Costs:”

Rather than running advertisements against the White House, the most influential players in the industry are inside the room negotiating with administration officials and leading lawmakers, like Senator Max Baucus, chairman of the Finance Committee.

“The very groups we have been talking to have been the most vocal opponents of health care reform; they are now becoming the vocal proponents for health care reform,” said Rahm Emanuel, the White House chief of staff.

How very “chummy” of them.  Sniff, sniff.

The Radiation Sniffer is now fully operational and on-line.  Watch for more to come.  Or if you find something interesting, send to me and I’ll check it out.

Universal Health Care Confronts the Nuclear Option

The Nuclear Option (just for those of you who are stilled mired in Bush-speak, it is pronounced “new-klee-ur” not “new-cue-lar”).  In this case I’m not talking about the U.S. Senate rule called “reconciliation.”

No, in this case I’m wondering what is going on in the minds of those who have so adamantly and vociferously have opposed Universal Health Care in the United States.  Yesterday, Paul Krugman New York Times columnist, wrote in his blog,

Yes, we can

Get more or less universal coverage, that is. The CBO scoring on an incomplete bill sent everyone into a tizzy — and also led to an avalanche of bad reporting, with claims that it said terrible things about the public option. (There was no public option in the bill.)

Now the real thing has been scored — and it’s OK. Something like 97 percent coverage for people already here, at a total cost somewhere in the $1 trillion range. Bear in mind that the Bush tax cuts cost around $1.8 trillion over a decade. We can do this — and have no excuse for not doing it.

In the minds of the opponents of UHC, however, nothing has changed.  That’s what worries me.  In fact, as the evidence mounts that assuring every American has access to health care can be a reality and not doom the economy (as they have so desperately hoped), the opponents are realizing the End-Game is upon them.  They are losing.  Not only has every traditional method of obstruction not worked, or not worked well, the vast majority of Americans are solidly against them.  Heard any good anti-health care spin from Rush, Karl, John Boehner, or Mitch McConnell in the past couple of weeks?  If they were gaining ground with their argument, neither the election in Iran or Michael Jackson’s death could drown them out.  Not even South Carolina Governor Sanford’s adventures in Wonderland would diminish their clarion call for Big Medicine.

Their voices have faded to background static.

Do not assume for a micro-second they have given up.  They are preparing the Nuclear Option.  One all-out attack on universal health care, with no regard for collateral damage, just the health of America.  In the Board Rooms of the Insurance Megacorps, Big Pharma, Corporate Hospitals, and dozens of other stakeholders firmly anchored in the Status Quo, they are planning to bring this down.  Once and for all, to obliterate the very notion of universal health care so completely, that  it will never threaten their companies and profits again.

Am I paranoid?  Well, even if you are not paranoid doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you anyway.

I’m not paranoid, actually.  I’m well read in organizational theory (it was the corner stone of my doctoral dissertation in educational policy and management), and I understand how organizations respond in unstable ecologies and economic turbulence.  When resources are threatened, the people running the organization will tend to react in predictable ways.  When the operational environment changes more quickly than expected, or in ways unanticipated, the predictable management responses are more and more stressed.  If those responses lack the ability to guide the organization through transformational change (like, oh, General Motors), the likelihood of the company failing is very high.

Keeping all that in mind, when the entire global environment, e.g., the country’s health care system, begins to collapse because of a rapid set of ecological changes so powerful the only way to survive is to change transformatively (an analog of the evolutionary concept of “punctuated equilibrium”), only those institutions that have the capacity to change at the same rate and direction required for survival will likely survive.

How, then, does the Nuclear Option fit in this model?  Organizations use their resources to influence and improve their ability to survive in the existing ecological conditions, and eliminate competition for both the resources they need to exist and to improve their chances for greater access to those resources.  But here’s the rub: Organizations are “communities of fate.”  They are actually aggregates of individuals whose investment (personally and professionally) in the success of the organization varies from person to person.  In a corporation, those who have have highest investment are typically the Board of Directors and the Shareholders.  But they have to rely on managers and workers, to both produce and protect their investment.

The managers and workers have a much different perspective on the degree to which they consider the company their community of fate.  When the organization encounters increasing turbulence in its environment, the willingness of the people actually doing the work to cast their fate to ensure its success is much less certain.  If the situation worsens to the degree the survival of the company is in question, the confidence the managers and workers have in the Board’s decision making ability to, specifically save their jobs, can change very quickly.  Some workers will leave the company and look for more stable employment.  Others will stick with it until the bitter end, if it comes to that.  But if you work for an Enron, the house of cards can collapse on top of you regardless of your loyalty.

The pressure on the Board and the managers to keep the organization both alive and solvent can increase rapidly, especially in the situation where the environment and resources are changing at a rate unprecedented in history.  Even organizations that survived earlier transformational evolutionary changes may not survive the current one.  Because of the anxiety generated by the environmental turbulence, the shareholders put more pressure on the Board and managers to preserve their investment and continue to pay dividends.  The workers who are loyal to the company also put pressure on their supervisors to help preserve their jobs.  But loyalty to the community of fate by the worker is always much riskier, because the Board and the managers can, at  any time, cut positions that can eliminate the most loyal employees under the stated intent of protecting the viability of the organization by reducing personnel costs.  This trauma to the community of fate, however, is no guarantee the organization will survive the changing ecology.  It may, instead, guarantee its demise.

Now, here’s the part, as I build the case for the Nuclear Option, that I as an organizational theorist suggest sets the stage:  The critical decisions of the Board over time to adjust to the turbulence is a not a function of taking the most conservative stance in context, but is a function of the individual members of the Board and the Executive Managements’ ability to manage their anxiety in the midst of the turbulence, and at the same time abandon the mimetic* solutions traditionally used to control that anxiety across the organizational or industrial environment.  [*mimesis: from “mime.”  A concept in organizational ecology that says Company A will observe Company B, and adopt a successful process to “avoid reinventing the wheel.”  Over time this mimed process may become an industry standard.  The down side is that when the environment changes, continuing to adopt the mimed process may limit innovation and increase the chances of organizational failure.]

Therefore, if the individuals on the Board and the Executive Management fail to manage their anxiety about the turbulence and the implications of transformative change in motion, and as they realize their historical resources for influence (i.e., lobbying) are waning, they will tend to take the most conservative stance to defend the survival of the organization, and that stance will tend to be to preserve the status quo at all cost.  As organizational rigidity increases, adaptibility and innovation are stifled.

The door for the Nuclear Option is now open.  Why?  Because the real-life environment to which we are applying my theory is not  just one company; we are applying it to a multifaceted industry that has for decades successfully resisted and obstructed the move toward universal health care.  And they know that by conspiring together and pooling their resources, they can potentially create a huge wall of resistance.  This strategy has a flaw, however.  A significant percentage of companies in the industry are supportive of UHC, and are already changing the practice of their organizations to successfully ride the transformative wave.  This fact only serves to increase the opponents’ anxiety.  Who has the most to lose?

The portion of the industry that opposes UHC has powerful political and social connections.  The Republican Party, although reduced in its influence at the last election still has significant resources at its disposal, as well as a core of voters, who for numerous reasons at least state they don’t want to pay for UHC.

This set of circumstances, powered by huge finances, politics, ideology, and desperation creates the possibility that those who have the most to lose as they perceive it are going to try and “drop the bomb” on the universal health care.  Whether they make their move before the Congress acts, or, have a strategy to destroy it even after it has been signed into law, I can’t tell.  But I believe they are well into their planning and will indeed act.

A final note.  Another principle, not from organizational theory, but from psychohistory, is also undoubtedly in play in this situation.  Speaking not literally, but figuratively:  “Violence is the final refuge of the incompetent.”

1,935,960 Minutes Later: The Free Market’s Failure to Uphold the Right to Health From Day One

Correction: Bad math strikes again.  Please read the comment  submitted by Tyler, he correctly points out that my math in the title is wrong.  The number of minutes should be 116,157,600.  I decided to leave the post title as is (so this correction comment will make sense), but change it in the text.  And I have to admit, 116 million minutes is way more dramatic to the point! Now, on to this serious topic:

The United States Constitution will celebrate its 221st Anniversary on June 21, 2009.  It was ratified on June 21, 1788.

The Preamble of the Constitution declares,

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, ensure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

On June 21st, 116,157,600 minutes will have passed since it became the law of the land.  That is how long the Free Market System has had to figure out how to create a health care system so that every single American can live the healthiest life possible, out of which directly flows “the general Welfare, secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity” for each individual citizen.

At the time of the official first census in 1790, the population of the United States was 3.9 million people, of course, not counting all the people they didn’t count.  Health insurance did not exist, although it had been conceived by an English doctor in 1694. Health care, prior to the modern age had been almost exclusively fee-for-service.  Today, after 221 years, the Free Market System has sucked up such huge chunks of the health care market into its for-profit maw, 50 million Americans cannot only not afford the fee-for-service for a visit to the doctor, they can’t afford insurance either.  And that appears to suit the aims of the Free Market System just fine.

In their minds they have succeeded.  They are the American Disease Industry.  Pain, suffering, disease, chronic medical conditions, a public clamoring for relief.  Pills, pills, procedures, tests, pills.  Newer, always newer.  Cutting edge–procedures must always be cutting edge.  Americans grows unhealthier by the year.  That’s the growth part of the plan.  It makes no difference that millions can’t afford care.  That’s a problem for the non-profits to handle.  How they must smirk in their Board Rooms at the not-for-profits.  Unfettered by any meaningful regulation of their industrial juggernaut, they know they are the medical messiahs of the modern age.  They have the advertising campaigns to prove it.  The drugs must flow.  All hail the Free Market System.

So, 116 million minutes later this system is anything but free.  It is an engine for unfettered greed exercised by a few, distorting every good potential of free enterprise into power for themselves, privilege for themselves, and domination over all others.

It is a great business plan.  With one exception.  The American Disease Industry made one critical error.  They cured too many diseases.  And over the past forty thousand days or so, here and there, now and then, individuals realized they could be healthier.  And Americans have this thing about talking to each other.  Freedom of speech and all that.  But more importantly communications technology, advancing at a rate unprecedented in history.  Radio.  Television, Telecommunications, Satellites, computers, cell phones, fiber optics.  The Internet.  All over the world, people just like us were figuring this out.  They got healthier as we got sicker.  That had to change.  It’s not the American way.

We the People figured it out.  We could be healthier.  We wanted to be healthier.  And we didn’t want to continue to be the serfs of the American Disease Industry.  And we realized:

The Unfettered Market System, led by those who duplicitously espouse it as the purest manifestation of the Ideals of this Preamble, has failed utterly to fulfill its demands, to ensure without exception the rights it promises to every citizen to live in this “more perfect Union.”   These rights are not mere constructs of a clash of cultures in which Capitalism and Socialism battle for supremacy to the destruction of the other.  These rights are virtually what define us as human.

The Unfettered Market System has driven us back to the epoch of tyranny, to that moment before the Constitutional Clock began, not for the blessings of Capitalism, where profit flows like a great current feeding the abundant life in the ocean of time, but to a new and insidious feudalism, crushing the very People for whom that Preamble was written, the ones whose blood was shed in sacrifice for the Blessings of Liberty, under an economic millstone of debt, disease, subservience and corruption.

The Constitutional Clock still runs, no longer the notch of gears, but with the seething quantum foam of Cesium atoms.  So, too, We the People no longer will tolerate our rights being ground away by the Houses of Greed, old and festering, oppressing us as they did to untold generations for under the banner of the Divine Right of Kings, Robber Barons or faceless Global Megacorps.

We are people of the Light, riding the very photons that power the universe, shrinking our globe’s girth to micronic seconds, a web of bioluminescence that no tyrant of institution or government can control.  We the People, knowing we are the stuff of stars, knowing we are of a Most Splendid Spark, knowing within our minds is the brilliance of a pulsar, knowing within the form that makes me, me, and you, you, that our right to Life is the right to Health.

116,157,600 minutes into this great constitutional experiment called the United States of America, we claim our right to health.  And this minute is as great a victory over tyranny as the very first one!

The Fight of Our Lives for the Fight For Our Lives

Here it comes: the fight of our lives for the fight for our lives:  Universal health care.

Despite the incredible amount of evidence that health care in America is a disaster, a terminal disease on a social scale unprecedented in history, that annually millions of lives are ruined, physically and financially by lack of access or restricted access to health care, what I call the Hegemony of Profit Before Health is preparing to attack without mercy.

Listen carefully to the rhetoric that the Hegemony will blast at you in the coming days and weeks.  It will not be about health.  It will not be about solutions for the common good.  It will not be how to create the healthiest America possible within a generation.

No.  The rhetoric will be  about frightening you into resisting changing the status quo.  The rhetoric will be about confusing you what the real issue is:  denying your inalienable right to be as healthy as possible.  The rhetoric will be about preserving a diseased system that holds you in its grip to the enrichment of a few–and sustains a diseased population to guarantee that enrichment flows in perpetua.

This is the fight of our lives.  This is the fight for our lives.  This fight will likely determine if America remains pre-eminent among the nations: more important than the fight against terrorism, more important than saving the economy, and just as important as protecting the environment.

The fight for universal health care will determine whether or not you, your children, and your children’s children will be among the healthiest people in the world with America as its strong and sure leader, or relegated to third world status, of ever declining health, a land held hostage like cattle in a factory farm, weakened by design to sustain the Hegemony of Profit Before Health.

My life is at stake.  Your life is at stake.  I choose life.  I choose a healthy America, strong into the future, the standard for health care in the World.  I choose universal health care.