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Turns out Whole Foods CEO John Mackey, who brought heat upon himself and his company yesterday by penning an anti-health care reform op-ed in the Wall Street Journal--has at least one familiar defender: Clinton special counsel, and Lieberman ally Lanny Davis.

"The John Mackey piece, which I actually helped him a little bit on, has really been distorted as often happened in the blogosphere where people have short attention span," Davis told me.

Davis represented Whole Foods in a case brought by the Federal Trade Commission, in which they charged that the upscale grocery store giant was engaging in monopolistic practices. Davis is a supporter of single payer health care, but, he says, disagreements with Mackey aside, Whole Foods is a progressive company that has instituted a strict cap on executive compensation and that provides 100 percent of their employees with health insurance. (Mackey says that Whole Foods covers 100 percent of premiums for 89 percent of all employees.)

Davis says the dust up over Mackey's op-ed is "an example of how we on the left start to mirror the extreme tactics on the right."

"He didn't attack Obama. It was an issues oriented piece."

In the wake of yesterday's controversial piece, health care reform supporters have threatened to boycott Whole Foods.

The American right wing's attack on the British National Health Service is now getting a strong rebuke -- from the British right wing, who are joining in on the Twitter campaign of Britons proud of the NHS.

Among the many British politicians, journalists and Twitter users chipping in to debunk the attacks on the NHS is now Conservative Party Leader David Cameron, who is heavily favored to win the next election and become Prime Minister. He's now blogged in support of the pro-NHS Twitter campaign:

People still care about the issues they care about, and thanks to the internet they can voice their concerns whenever they want. Just look at all the support which the NHS has received on Twitter over the last couple of days. It is a reminder - if one were needed - of how proud we in Britain are of the NHS.

Millions of people are grateful for the care they have received from the NHS - including my own family. One of the wonderful things about living in this country is that the moment you're injured or fall ill - no matter who you are, where you are from, or how much money you've got - you know that the NHS will look after you.

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Dick Armey, the former House Majority Leader, is leaving his job with top Washington lobbying firm DLA Piper, citing negative attention that the firm is receiving thanks to the role of Armey's corporate-backed outfit, FreedomWorks, in turning out protesters to shut down town hall meetings on health care.

In a Friday afternoon news dump, Armey, a committed anti-government extremist, gave Politico the following statement:

It is painful and frustrating to see a good, decent, able and effective partnership of honorable men and women and their clients attacked for things in which they are not involved simply because of their association with me. One would expect a higher degree of competence and professionalism from members of the media than spurious attacks on innocent bystanders.

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Sen. David Vitter (R-LA), the Christian Right champion whose career became mired in the D.C. Madam prostitution scandal of 2007, could have a new threat from his right flank. Bob Lang, a 64-year old Vietnam veteran, has announced his candidacy as a conservative independent, the Ouachita Citizen reports:

"This country, in my opinion, is on the verge of a financial calamity and changing from a constitutional republic to a socialist/communist form of government. If the United States Congress and president continue to spend in such an insane manner and borrow at least half of everything we spend, that will be a guaranteed recipe for national suicide and nation failure."

Keep in mind that Louisiana is no longer using its runoff election system at the federal level, so right-wing protest votes could potentially do damage to the GOP.

"From what I've been hearing from people, I think I've got a chance at this deal, I really do," Lang told TPM. When asked whether he's met conservatives who say they don't like Vitter, Lang replied: "I'm meeting a lot of people, conservative voters, that are dissatisfied with the present representation."

Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND)--one of six Finance Committee members writing that panel's health care reform bill--has been leading the charge for creating a system of regional private health care co-operatives instead of a public option. All along, he's said that he supports the co-ops because a public option doesn't have the votes.

But what he's mostly elided is the fact that he himself would vote against a bill that called for a public option.

That's what he told a crowd of about 100 in North Dakota today.

Of course, there's still a question of whether he'd support a filibuster of a health care bill with a public option. But in case it wasn't obvious before, his position has probably had more to do with his ideological opposition to the public option than with a dispassionate analysis of Senate politics.

Conrad also said he'll oppose a health care bill that provides government funds for abortion, or care for illegal immigrants.

Via Firedoglake.

The Pharmaceutical Research and Manufacturers of America (PhRMA) was an early White House health care ally, and, despite a recent controversy, has teamed with some unlikely interest groups to spend millions advertising in support of reform. But according to a report in Politico, they also have produced an ad--in the can, ready to go-- attacking one of the key Democratic proposals emerging on Capitol Hill.

PhRMA senior Vice President Ken Johnson denies the report unequivocally, saying the notion that there's any such ad is "absolutely false."

"We have two plans for health care reform," he told TPM, "'a' and '1a' and they both stress the importance of passing health care reform this year."

Whether or not such an ad exists, the controversy over it goes to the heart of the highly tactical game the major health care industry stake holders have played as nominal supporters of the White House's push for reform. Early in 2009, pharmaceutical manufacturers, insurers and other trade groups aligned themselves with the White House figuring reform was unstoppable and that their best play was to influence its scope from the inside--that they needed the White House more than the White House needed them. But that balance is changing. And the groups now show a greater willingness to jump ship if it becomes clear the final deal is not sufficiently in their interests or, more tellingly, if the political climate suggests there's more to be gained by going into outright opposition.

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Earlier today, I reported that Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) planned to call his old friend Sen. Chuck Grassley (R-IA) to admonish him that health care legislation will not result in the creation of death panels.

Well, Grassley never picked up. So Specter tweeted all about it.

And Grassley is not pleased.

And in a narrow sense, Grassley's right. He didn't use the term "death boards" or "death panels." He said "There is some fear because in the House bill, there is counseling for end-of-life. And from that standpoint, you have every right to fear.... We should not have a government program that determines if you're going to pull the plug on grandma."

But in the broader sense, Specter's got Grassley pegged.

And in the broadest sense, it's easy to imagine these guys starring in an Internet-themed sequel to Grumpier Old Men.

Here are the line-ups for the Sunday talk shows this weekend:

• ABC, This Week: Sec. of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius; Sen. Arlen Specter (D-PA) and Sen. Orrin Hatch (R-UT).

• CBS, Face The Nation: White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs; Former Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-NE); Former Rep. Lee Hamilton (D-IN); Presidential historian Douglas Brinkley.

• CNN, State Of The Union: Sec. of Health and Human Services Kathleen Sebelius; James Carville and Mary Matalin.

• Fox News Sunday: Sen. Kent Conrad (D-ND) and Sen. Richard Shelby (R-AL); American Medical Association president J. James Rohack; AARP executive vice president John Rother.

• NBC, Meet The Press: Former House Majority Leader Dick Armey (R-TX), now the head of FreedomWorks; Sen. Tom Coburn (R-OK); Former Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle (D-SD); MSNBC host Rachel Maddow; Rep. Charlie Rangel (D-NY); Chamber of Commerce executive vice president Bruce Josten; Gov. Bill Ritter (D-CO).

Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) is stepping up the death-panelism, with a new letter warning that President Obama's socialized medicine scheme will kill your mama with a slow, agonizing death! Literally.

In a new letter sent out from the American Conservative Union, Broun issues the following warning:

And if these federal bureaucrats decide that your treatment is not "Government Approved," then your doctor will be ordered to deny you treatment... or risk facing stiff penalties!


In other words: When mama falls and breaks her hip, she'll just lie in her bed in pain until she dies with pneumonia because her needed surgery is not cost efficient.

(Emphasis in the original.)

Broun spokeperson Jessica Morris confirmed that Broun did help write an ACU letter, though she herself had not seen it. When presented with this excerpt, she did not have any further comment on its contents.

Check out an excerpted page from the letter, after the jump.

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