At A Loss For Words

It isn’t often we find ourselves at a loss for words, but as we close out 2016, we feel what more can be said that hasn’t already been said. We stand at the brink of unchartered waters and wonder – as much as anyone – what will happen as 2017 dawns. We have no predictions, no for-sure remedy’s, no assurances that all will be well in the short term.

Gathering in large numbers for peaceful, non-violent protest will be key.

So we decided to make our last newsletter of 2016 one that reflects on the many people we have talked to or written about since we began this journey. The struggle continues, the fight does not end and we take solace in history – a reminder that the only way out is through.

We urge you in the days ahead to:

  • Resist (even if all is well for you, millions of your neighbors suffer and will suffer more if proposed policies are enacted to cut Medicare and Social Security)
  • Re-Educate (it didn’t used to be like this. Remind yourself and others that we lived in a time when government worked – not perfectly, but it did work)
  • Renew Your Commitment (do something; write a letter, talk to a neighbor, support those on the front lines of peaceful, non-violent protest).

In hopes of staying inspired, we highlight just a few of the great fighters for progressive values we have talked with over the years – or others from history – who remind us to never give up – no matter what the odds. We’ve linked to our individual features (and the dates first published) if you would like to read more about them.

Mother Jones – 2015: The tiny but powerful figure of Mother Jones, typically clad in a black dress, her face framed by a lace collar and black hat, stared down company goons with guns, encouraged fearful strikers whose resolve would falter during month-long strikes, and went toe-to-toe with the powerful politicians of her day.

Mary Jones lost her four children and her husband to a yellow fever epidemic after the Civil War. No surprise that she made children and their plight part of her fight for better living conditions.

She turned her personal sorrow into a struggle to help others…Yet, she never lived to see the official organization of the steel workers, which did not come until the mid-1930s. After the failed strikes of 1919, she wrote, “A day will come when the union banners will wave in triumph over the still mills. Not in my lifetime, for my days are almost over…but surely in yours. Do not give up hope!”

David Bender 2013: “As long as the institutional levers of power are controlled by the military and intelligence community and contractors and the corporations that are doing billions if not trillions of dollars worth of business and who set public policy based on their agendas and not that of the American people, nothing will change. That’s what I see as the challenge. That means we have to come up with a new way of dealing with this. We have to find ways for people to use the power they have—the power of the ballot is not what it once was. In fact, voting has become more theater than substance. We need to find a way to harness the power of the American people and the power they’ve got is strength in numbers, which can overwhelm the likes of the Koch Brothers, no matter how much money they have. The Koch Brothers can influence public policy but they cannot buy 300 million people. They can distract them; they can mislead them; they can pay for networks like Fox News but they cannot buy the people. And where I see the future and hope is that ultimately through this new technology with a platform like we have with Progressive Voices, we’re going to reach the next generation and they’re going to recognize something that Europeans have recognized for a long time. When Europeans have a situation in which workers’ rights are taken away—as they were in Wisconsin—they stop working. When consumers see a situation in which they are being exploited by large corporations who double and triple oil prices, then the only power you have collectively—if we were to harness it—is to simply tell those corporations ‘no.’ You don’t have our money. We are not going to buy your products; we aren’t going to participate in whatever this anti-union, anti-worker system is.

“In Europe it’s called a general strike. But what it allows people to do is vote with their pocketbooks. That collectively is the power we have. They can manipulate and buy our influence through the electoral process; they can’t make us spend money. What we need to do—through platforms like Progressive Voices—is to say the enemy is not government. We have to strengthen government to bring these people down. We have to break up these concentrations of wealth that have such influence over public policy; we have to reverse Citizens United; we have to reverse Buckley v. Valeo (money is speech) and that’s going to take a generation or two.”

John Ryan’s Living Wage, written in 1906

John A. Ryan 2013 and the origins of a “Living Wage”: Considered to be the foremost social justice advocate of his day (early 20th century), Ryan argued that every person, because they are “endowed by nature or rather by God, with the rights that are requisite to a reasonable development of his personality,” has a natural right to share in the earth’s products. The primary natural right to subsist on the bounty of the earth exists at all times; in an industrial society that right takes the form of a living wage. Subsistence, a bare livelihood, is the product of man’s right to life; a “decent livelihood” is demanded by man’s dignity.

Robert Koehler – 2013: Defending peace – “9/11, Bush, the war on terror — these things have shattered the national soul. This is the new normal — an Orwellian permanent war, now hardly more than background noise. This sort of thing I never, of course, foresaw in my younger days. Now the quest for peace has intensified in urgency tenfold or a hundredfold. Human civilization is unraveling environmentally, politically, culturally, spiritually. A warped economic system depends on war: the military-industrial complex, the prison-industrial complex. We have a system that requires enemies, that weeds people out. To hear the stories of those who are on the wrong side of the divide, whether at home or abroad is so heartbreaking, but what it has done is open up the urgency of peace like never before — the urgency of learning how to build a new sort of society, based on connectedness, the Golden Rule.”

John Bonifaz – 2013: “I don’t want to diminish the enormous amounts of grass roots political power we saw in this last election cycle,” he added. “There were a lot of efforts to fight back against the power of big money. But the underlying theme here is that big money has an enormous influence disproportionately in our political process today and unless we restore democracy to the people, unless we allow for Congress and the states through a constitutional amendment to set reasonable spending limits on campaign finance and make it clear that corporations are not people, the matters are only going to get worse.”

Fighting for economic and social justice is nothing new for Sister Simone and NETWORK, a 40-year-old organization.

Simone Campbell – 2012: “The struggle right now is for the soul of our nation.  Are we going to continue to be fearful individuals who don’t look out for one another? Frankly, only rich people can pander to individualism because poor people know you have to work together.  You have to cooperate.  We found much more community among low-income people, where our sisters work than even what we found even in our ‘friend raisers’ where we found middle class folks who felt so isolated and adrift.  The response to our bus tour was so overwhelmingly positive.  It was awesome. The $64,000 question of course is, what happens next?”

Wendell Potter – 2012: “Be skeptical about what you hear. Know that almost everyone you hear expressing a point of view has an agenda. Don’t outsource your thinking to TV commentators. Take the time to try and educate yourself. We all lead busy lives, but educating yourself is important. Think beyond yourself. Think about your children and the kind of world we’re creating for them. It’s important to spend a little time to get informed before you pull a voting lever.”

Brad Friedman – 2011: “The systems we use for voting are absolutely insane and the fact that it’s not considered a problem is insane.  And if you look back to Watergate, which was an undermining of our system of democracy, it is so much easier now than it was during Watergate to do just that.  You now have one person, who with a few keystrokes on a computer can flip the results of an entire election with no possibility of ever being detected.  It’s just that easy.”

Posted in Campaign Finance Reform, Democray, FEATURED, Labor, Thoughts on Life | Leave a comment

Ignoring The Problem Will Not Make It Go Away

The Problem

How secure is your vote? Have you ever asked, “Why ARE we using non-verifiable touch screen machines to cast our votes?” Do you think optical scanning can’t be fiddled with? What about purging of voters from electronic voter registration books? Think those can’t be hacked? Who do you trust when the topic of “election fraud” is talked about?

Why do we accept non-verifiable touch screen voting without even asking if it's safe?

Why do we accept non-verifiable touch screen voting without even asking if it’s safe?

We here at Wisdom Voices Press have long written about the problems with voting in this country. For example, our September 2015 newsletter talked about the continued assault on voting rights; the efforts to suppress legitimate voters from casting their votes; and the antiquated voting machines currently in use. Our web site is full of features and blogs that chronicled our efforts to fight against voter suppression laws that have all too frequently found their ways into Republican controlled state houses since 2010. One person/one vote (that actually can be verified) is the foundation of our democracy. Tamper with any of that and what do you have left?

Discussions about problems with how we vote and who we keep away from the polls is a complex topic with many tentacles. The key to any conversation is to understand the difference between voter fraud and election tampering. As has been documented at great length by many different sources ranging from The Brenan Center for Justice to The Advancement Project, voter fraud is virtually a non-existent problem. It was an idea created by mostly Republican-led state governments to limit voter turnout. Election fraud can range from tampering with electronic voter registrations, to manipulating results from optic scanning machines to casting ballots on unverifiable touch screen voting machines. Many voters have reported seeing their votes flip to other candidates right before their eyes. And what paper trail exists for these machine votes? None.

We were saddened to see Donald Trump recently grab the national microphone on this important topic. There are so many other sane and intelligent people and organizations who can speak to voter suppression vs. election tampering. As Trump continues to muddy the waters between the two, it’s important to understand that election “fraud” “tampering” and/or “hacking” is a very real problem – or at least possess the potential for real problems.

Any political party, any international group, any computer operator in any part of the world can tamper with electronics. How many of us listen to the daily bombardment of advertising by companies clamoring to protect our identity from sophisticated on-line hackers. When power, control and billions of dollars is at stake in elections do we really think that tampering can’t happen to electronic voter rolls and votes? Does it happen? Many of us think so; many other think not. But to deny the potential in today’s sophisticated hacking world is like the ostrich putting its head in the sand.

We wish instead of Donald Trump that the microphone on this topic had passed to Brad Friedman at The BradBlog. Perhaps no one in this country has devoted more time and effort trying to inform the American public of the perils of our current voting mechanisms. In his “Too Big To Rig?” BradCast just last week, as the volume amped up on this topic, he said:

“Now, as Donald Trump has ramped up his claims that the election is being “rigged”, Democratic and Republican officials alike are claiming the opposite is true, that “there’s no way to rig an election in a country this big”. They are either misinformed or lying. Take your pick. Either way, they are misinforming the American people.”

We highly recommend a listen to his fact-based look at the vulnerability of our system of casting votes.

Although the veteran of election integrity watchdogs, Brad is not alone when urging more discussion on this important topic. Other noteworthy voices include:

Harvey Wasserman, an independent journalist and co-author of the book, “What Happened in Ohio: A Documentary Record of Theft and Fraud in the 2004 Election” talked with Democracy Now in February 2016 about electronic voting machines, and “strip and flip.” His interview can be found here.

Black Box Voting, founded in 2003, is a nonpartisan investigative reporting and public education organization for elections. Get lost for a bit of time on their web site.

argonnenatlabs_dieboldtouchscreenballotstation_remote_notouchBroken Ballots, written in 2012, begins its look at our vulnerable voting mechanisms with the 2000 presidential election. The authors called that election a wake-up call for all of us. “The controversy following the vote count led to demands for election reform. But the new voting systems that were subsequently introduced to the market have serious security flaws, and many are confusing and difficult to use.”

The Brennan Center For Justice warned about the antiquity of the voting machines in use saying there was an impending crisis with aging voting technology. Unlike voting machines used in past eras, they tell us, today’s systems were not designed to last for decades. In part this is due to the pace of technological change. No one expects a laptop to last 10 years. And although today’s machines debuted at the beginning of this century, many were designed and engineered in the 1990s.

The class action suit filed just month ago against the Democratic National Committee alleges multiple incidents of election rigging, including irregularities in the Illinois primary with electronic voting manipulation.

The Solution

Paper ballots. Hand counted and verified. Some things in life should take time. You want instant coffee or microwave popcorn? That’s great. But the foundation of one person/one vote that is counted is something that should take time.

We quote Brad Friedman again:

The problem, however, with hand marked paper ballots is that most of them are run through optical scan computers to be scanned. The problem is, they often don’t work. You can’t tell whether they have worked properly, whether they have accurately recorded the vote, unless you actually hand count the paper ballots — begging the question of why the hell are we using these optical scan systems in the first place. So when you have a paper ballot, at least it is verifiable if anybody bothers to do a hand count. But we don’t bother to do so in this country; almost never. When problems are found, often they are completely ignored.

So that’s why I’ve argued for years now that the most transparent and reliable way to run an election is to hand count the paper ballots at the precinct on election night publicly in front of everyone with the results posted at the precinct before those ballots are moved anywhere.

Short of that, it really is faith-based elections.

Brexit: Done On Paper Ballots.

Remember that crucial vote last summer on whether the UK should leave the European Union? Remember waiting for those results? Guess why? They were done on paper ballots. From David Lindorff’s OpEd piece after the election:

But for the US, which is not a party to the EU, there is also a huge lesson: ‘Brexit,’ despite being opposed by the political establishment — Conservative and Labor — and by the corporate elite of London’s City, the financial capital of Europe, won this vote. And the reason the opponents of UK membership in the EU were able to win against all that powerful opposition, has, in no small part, to do with the fact that all the voting was done on paper ballots.

Ireland Tosses Electronic Machines: What did the Republic of Ireland do after its trial run with e-voting? Esquire’s Charlie Pierce explained back in 2012 why they were literally scrapped.

Our final thoughts as we head toward the end of this 2016 election season.

  • Know the difference between the terms “voter fraud” and “election fraud.”
  • Listen to who is actually making the claim of either and the “proof” they produce.
  • If you vote on a non-verifiable touch screen voting machine, ask yourself why it’s done that way and how confident you are that your vote is being accurately counted.
  • When we have corporate media producing corporate candidates, why do we outsource our vote counting to corporations who make these non-verifiable touch screen voting machines?

Don’t kid yourself. Any person and any party can hack any database, anywhere. This problems has been with us now for decades. Will we continue to ignore it or finally ask ourselves, “if they can hack my banking account, why can’t they hack an election? – whoever the “they” is.

 

Posted in Democray, FEATURED, Voting and Electronic Voting Fraud | Leave a comment

Who Better To Lead ‘Our Revolution’

“We need to learn how to flow with the momentum of change. Resisting is pointless; Tolerating it is a meaningless, apathetic response. Learning to flow with it is the only way we can utilize it to our own benefit and to the advantage of universal life.”

–Diarmuid O’Murchu, Our World in Transition

The author penned that quote in 1992…long before the words climate change, fracking, Keystone Pipeline, or OurRevolution.org were in our vocabulary. In our 24-hour news cycle of life we often forget how the evolution of change takes far longer than we realize.

We_are_water_590But here we are – today in our time – faced with decisions that will impact the quality of life (or some would argue the existence of our life) on this planet. Slowly creeping into national media headlines is the story of the Standing Rock Sioux and other American indigenous activists who are protesting the proposed $3.8 billion Dakota Access Pipe Line, which they say would threaten to contaminate the Missouri River.

No more they say…to the fossil fuel industry and to the government entities backing this project. Business as usual will not hold.

Once finished, the pipeline would bring oil almost 1200 miles from the Bakken oil fields in North Dakota to Illinois. Although the government approved the project, the Standing Rock Sioux say their interests and historical claims were not taken into account when that decision was made. That also brought their protest to Washington, DC. Judge James A. Boasberg of the US District Court overseeing the case, said this week he will rule no later than September 9 on the request to stop construction and reconsider permits the project has received.

What started as a small peaceful prayer protest by the Standing Rock Sioux to say contaminated water from transporting fracked oil threatened their lands and their life, has now garnered support from across the country. People are phoning the White House; other indigenous tribes are joining the North Dakota protests; and the hashtag #NoDAPL is trending on twitter.

Coincidence that this protest by indigenous people also comes as former Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders launched “Our Revolution” to tap into the incredible grass-roots uprising that spurred his campaign of hope for an evolution on the political front? Perhaps not, as evolution/revolution has been brewing for some time.

The protests also put Native American spirituality roots – the belief there is no separating the natural world from the world of the supernatural – front and center. “Water is our life,” Dave Archambault, the chairman of the Standing Rock Sioux said.

We would never claim to be an expert on Native American spirituality, but we know enough to say the Lakota (Sioux) – as well as other indigenous tribes – have a spirituality based in a “spirit god” that directs a life to maintain balance between the individual and the universe and to live in harmony with nature and the Creator. Has our environmental revolution brought us full circle so that we now come to fully understand what the original inhabitants of this continent knew for hundreds of thousands of years?

“We’re putting a call out for warriors to come here to do direct action, to stop them from boring under this water, because that’s going to contaminate it. We can’t stand for that. We can’t let that happen. I, for one, made a commitment. They’re going to have to kill me, or they’re going to have to lock me in jail, but I’m going to stand to protect the sacred water. And I’m guided by spirit,” said Debra White Plume, an Oglala Lakota water rights activist.

The #NoDALP protests, combined with the planting of “our revolution” seeds, provides a clear sign that the evolution/revolution of change always happens at a grassroots level. It’s “we the people” who provide the needed change. Or, as O’Murchu says in his 1992 book, “We are in a time of transition. It is an exciting space, but a very disturbing one. The old securities are gone; the new possibilities are still vague, and to say the least, ambiguous. The challenge facing all of us is to name what’s going on, connect with its energy, and enhance its positive driving force to carry us into the new future.”

Who better to lead the official start of “Our Revolution” than the peoples who originally inhabited this continent? They are reminding us that fracked oil is death and water is life….they are reminding us that the power and domination of corporate rule never benefits the people.

How we connect to this revolution will be an interesting journey to watch. Do you see the revolution around you? Are you listening? Can you feel the energy? Will you be swept up by it? Will you come to understand that evolution and change doesn’t happen in a 24-hour news cycle, one election year, or even in our lifetime? O’Murchu in conclusion of Our World In Transition, tells us:

“Just as we cannot detect or determine how the process of change is initiated, neither can we control its eventual outcome. We use the word transformation to describe, not the final result, but the altered state of affairs that ensues and may continue to ensue for quite a long time. Transformations need not always produce wholesome results, indeed they may lead to the total destruction of a system. For something new to be born, the old may have to diminish; in fact, it may need to become totally extinct. In spiritual language, we describe the process as that of birth-death-rebirth.”

The Revolution? It’s already underway.

For more information on the Standing Rock Sioux protest, we recommend the following:

From Democracy Now: Standing Rock Sioux Chairman: Dakota Access Pipeline “Is Threatening the Lives of My Tribe”

From the Los Angeles Times: With echoes of Wounded Knee, tribes mount prairie occupation to block North Dakota pipeline

From Common Dreams: Dakota Access Pipeline Protests Recall America’s Historical Shame

Posted in Democray, Environmental, FEATURED, Religion and Politics, Social Justice, Thoughts on Life | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

‘We Are Not Made For War’: Will we let our 2016 presidential campaign turn into a 1960’s game show?

Those of us who grew up in the 1960s watching TV game shows may recall one of the classics: You Don’t Say. The show’s sign off from host Tom Kennedy went something like… “Remember, it’s not what you say that counts, it’s what you don’t say.”

Ray Bourgeois: We are not made for war

Ray Bourgeois: We are not made for war

Who knew that nearly 50 years later that clever little saying would apply to what’s become discourse in our conversations on politics and economic and social justice issues. The headlines – be they on Twitter, Facebook, or the old fashioned kind in daily newspapers – fail to inform us or discuss the real issues that so desperately need our attention and debate.

One critical example. During one political party’s national convention last week, this headline screamed at us: “US-Led Bombings in Syria Kill 77 Civilians, Including Many Children” Did you see it? Did you hear the national media talking about it? Do we ever talk about or debate US-led drone airstrikes?

And what about the discussion concerning the U.S. military budget and how we at home are impacted by our never-ending wars? Who in the national, corporate-controlled media is leading this discussion: America’s Wars Come to “the Homeland”? Who in either of the two major political parties wants us to connect dots or even talk about what Tom Engelhardt wrote as part of that article?

“Strangely, amid the spike in racial tensions after the killing of two black men by police in Louisiana and Minnesota, and of five white police officers by a black sharpshooter in Dallas, one American reality has gone unmentioned. The U.S. has been fighting wars—declared, half-declared, and undeclared—for almost 15 years and, distant as they are, they’ve been coming home in all sorts of barely noted ways. In the years in which the U.S. has up-armored globally, the country has also seen an arms race developing on the domestic front. As vets have returned from their Iraq and Afghan tours of duty, striking numbers of them have gone into police work at a time when American weaponry, vehicles, and military equipment—including, for instance, MRAPs (mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles)—have poured off America’s distant battlefields and, via the Pentagon, into police departments nationwide.”

Robert Koehler is not afraid to say what counts in his recent post, Volatile America:

Indeed, the war — and the trillions of dollars it costs — go virtually unmentioned in the surreal race for the presidency that’s currently underway. Also unmentioned is the fact that the war is being brought home to our gun-saturated society by former soldiers fighting back against racist policing the way soldiers always fight back: They’re killing “the enemy.”

We were reminded of this non-discussion and not saying anything about war the other day when one of those Facebook Memories popped up on our “news feeds.” The memory reminder linked to our progressive profile from four years ago in which we featured peace activist Father Ray Bourgeois. In the profile we highlighted his eloquent talk at a peace event and how he told the audience: “We are not made for war.” Four years ago – in the midst of another presidential campaign – he said:

“We are simply not made for war. Our conscience cannot allow us to continue war. Our conscience informed us in Vietnam that it was wrong and it was then we began to see the wrong. Our conscience is our connection to the divine. When we follow it, it sets us free. Our conscience is speaking to us today in all the reports of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder that we now hear about (from veterans of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars). We are not made for war.”

If you google anything about that 1960s game show, you’ll find this reminder on the show’s introduction: “Today, (insert celebrities’ names) are here with us on YOU DON’T SAY! Now here’s your host, TOM KENNEDY

Will we allow another presidential campaign season to be like a game show? Insert “celebrities’ names” and watch them focus on what they don’t say? It’s up to us to demand more.

We are not made for war.

Resources On Peace

Help lead the discussion on peace and non-violence– and demand our political candidates talk about the horrific price we pay when we don’t say the words: drones, war, invasion, and empire.

  • Bookmark, read, and support CommonDreams. Few websites do more to force the conversation of the topics mainstream, corporate-controlled media refuses to cover. Common Dreams’ mission is: To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good.
  • Ray Bourgeois’ My Journey From Silence to Solidarity. It can be downloaded for free in PDF format by clicking here:
  • The wonderful people at Pace e Bene who make non-violence the conversation of any day…and any book by John Dear. Invite him to speak at your next event; he’ll say the words that need to be spoken.
  • Or one of the great prophetic voices of our time, David Swanson, whose website, “War Is A Crime” never ceases to start the conversations major political parties want to ignore.
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Keeping That “Vigor” Alive Today

Kennedy PortraitToday marks John F. Kennedy’s 99th birthday. For those of us “young” enough to remember the vibrant presidency of the youngest man elected president of the United States, it’s hard to imagine what JFK would be like had he lived to be nearly a century old.

His “viga” for life as Vaugh Meader used to parody, is the stuff that drove The New Frontier and challenged us to put a man on the moon; to sign a nuclear arms testing ban; to found a Peace Corps; and to think of ourselves as connected to the rest of the world (Ich bin ein Berliner).

Would do us well to remember the Democratic Party was once led by a call to “think big” and to challenge the edges and not to say “it can’t happen” or “that’s too hard.”

In an oral history interview in 1964, West Virginia political figure W. Walter Neeley observed about JFK:

“Most important, and I think this is psychological, but I think that President Kennedy and his ‘viga,’ as he has been misquoted, and it is vigor where I come from, carried out in his everyday living and his mental thinking, his approach to these problems. He approached them with vigor. He carried them out with vigor and dispatch. And there was not the usual political procrastination on basic issues.”

 

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1776 & 2016: Is Anybody There?

Is anybody there?
Does anybody care?
Does anybody see what I see?

–John Adams, 1776

So much deserved praise these days for the Broadway hit Hamilton. A masterful success by the genius Lin-Manuel Miranda. All this talk of Broadway musicals and American history sent us back to our old favorite 1776, which premiered in 1969.

The story is based on the events surrounding the signing of the Declaration of Independence. It dramatizes the efforts of John Adams to persuade his colleagues to vote for American independence and to sign that historical document. Of the many wonderful songs in the play, Is Anybody There? reverberates in our heads these days. It’s the refrain from General George Washington as he continues to send dispatches to the Continental Congress in Philadelphia.

We're asking again in 2016, "Is Anybody There?"

We’re asking again in 2016, “Is Anybody There?”

Washington, isolated from the politics of his day, pleads with this fledgling Continental Congress for action, as well as money to fight the war for Independence, and any sign of encouragement that this revolutionary idea of a break from Establishment Rule may actually happen.

A powerful scene in the play occurs when Adams, alone in the chamber, re-reads the dispatch from Washington, and echoes his words, (“Is Anybody There?”) Discouraged but determined, Adams declares his vision of his new country: “Through all the gloom, through all the doom, I can see the rays of ravishing light and glory!” Delegate Dr. Lyman Hall of Georgia unexpectedly returns to the chamber. He tells Adams “In trying to resolve my dilemma I remembered something I’d once read, ‘that a representative owes the People not only his industry, but his judgment, and he betrays them if he sacrifices it to their opinion.’ It was written by Edmund Burke, a member of the British Parliament.” Hall then walks over to the tally board and changes Georgia’s vote from “nay” to “yea”.

After our topsy-turvy 2015-16 political scene, there can be little doubt we are going through another political revolution — in essence the growing pains for the 21st century. People are clamoring for change from The Establishment Rule of our day. As the “enlightenment” of 1776 brought historical change, so too do we stand on the cusp of another political revolution positioning us to move to uncharted waters.

We ask today — Is anybody there to hear the cry of the people for the end to corporate, multi-national rule via trade deals like the Transpacific Partnership that perpetuate a race to the bottom for the working class? Does anyone care that a majority of the people wants a single payer health care system in this country? Does anybody see what I see as we see stand on the brink of a planet overheating at a record pace?

Not Me UsWhy yes. Bernie Sanders has ignited our political revolution, and has given voice to tens of millions who say we are here and we care and we see that Establishment Rule will no longer suffice. Bernie has ripped the facade off of a Democratic Party that has wandered so far from its roots that it is basically unrecognizable to the working class and poor of this nation. He has exposed the lies of Reaganomics and the Republican Party. He has clearly called for a revolution – stating over and over and over again at his rallies that his campaign is about “Us” not him alone. “There’s a spirit out there among the people that is sorely lacking in this Congress,” John Adams utters in the play. That sentiment rings out loudly and clearly as well today.

Revolutions – whether in 1776 or 2016 – do not happen in one election cycle. To paraphrase it another way, this is a moment for the movement. Will Bernie Sanders win the Democratic presidential nomination? Will he run as an Independent? Anyone who tells you they know what will happen in just a few months is lying to you. Yes, it matters if Bernie wins the Democratic Party nomination. And no, it really doesn’t matter. Bernie has awakened the people; Bernie has shown that the power lies with the people. No different than in 1776.

If Bernie finds himself in the Oval Office in January 2017, the 21st century American Revolution will be well on its way. Should he fail to take the White House, the people’s movement cannot be stopped. Whoever occupies that space will be swallowed by a movement poised to reclaim its proud progressive history.

Similar to 1776, Establishment Politics and Rule in 2016 will not hold or will not hold for long. Politics as usual has been washed away by someone who had the courage to be there, to care and to see (and observe) the need for change

 

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Fix It: What We Do When Something Is Broken

“CEOs of health insurance companies lie awake at night fearful that other CEOs will eventually come to realize that health insurance adds more cost than value to the health care system.”

–Wendell Potter, Former Insurance Executive

Who knew single payer health care would become such a popular topic so quickly in 2016? But the Democratic presidential debates between candidates Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders have moved single payer front-and-center as a key topic. And it doesn’t appear to be going away any time soon.

Within that backdrop we thought it was the perfect time to showcase Pennsylvania businessman Richard Master, CEO of MCS Industries, Inc., and his amazing project “Fix It: Healthcare At The Tipping Point.” MCS Industries is a $200 million a year company based in Easton, Pennsylvania, and Master was the driving force behind this documentary that delves into the heart of how America’s fractured and dysfunctional health care system needs to change – to a single payer system. Among other things, our current health care delivery system, even after passage of the Affordable Care Act (ACA) creates an unsustainable burden on U.S. businesses.

Single payer has been discussed from every angle – political, social, and economic. But few have looked at the positive impact single payer could have for American business. Fix It becomes one of the first attempts to say to American business: We’re being snookered by the current for-profit health insurance companies and they’re laughing at us all the way to the bank.

richard masterThe documentary – offered in a 38 and 58 minute version – features input from some of the nation’s leading health care experts, including Don Berwick, the former head of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; Ted Marmor, a professor of public policy at Yale; Gerald Friedman, economics professor at UMass-Amherst; Wendell Potter, former health insurance executive, and Michael Lighty, Director of Public Policy at California Nurses Association/National Nurses United. This riveting film ultimately peels back the onion on how the current for-profit health insurance industry essentially perpetuates a system of waste and abuse for American businesses. And, as Master points out, what business person is going to tolerate waste and abuse?

“We have to watch every penny of overhead,” Master says in the film. “And one of the costs we were trying to control that was so confounding was health care costs. We had seen double digit premium increases, which was more than any other expense has increased over same 10 year period.” So Master chose to do what any business person would do with a problem of that magnitude impacting his business – he started investigating and trying to find a solution. The result? The fabulous project that produced Fix It.

“My company now has to pay $1.5 million a year to provide access (that’s access that’s not actual care) to health care for our workers and their dependents. When I investigated where all that money goes, I was shocked. I found that the first three cents of every premium dollar goes to the insurance agent who helps MCS select an insurance plan and negotiate rates with our insurer. The next 20 cents goes to the insurance company to help pay for its sales and marketing and other administrative functions…another 10 cents goes to cover what it costs doctors and hospitals to handle the massive amount of paper work and phone time made necessary by my insurance company’s pre-approval demands, denials, and other payment issues. That’s 33 cents of every premium dollar that has nothing to do with delivery of health care. I don’t see what private insurance brings to the table (for American business).”

As pointed out in the documentary, the system creates inefficiency with its multiple billing systems. Ask any business person: The more variables you interject into a product, the greater the possibility for error and inefficiency. A reminder, “single payer” means one payer. A business person’s dream of efficiency or as Master says in the film, “With single payer my company gets out of the health care business.”

The film mesmerizes the audience as it takes them on tour to Taiwan and Canada, two highly effective single payer systems, and it destroys the myths and misinformation about the Canadian single payer system. While in Canada, the film crew interviews Dann Konkin, a member of Canada’s conservative party and president and CEO of Ampco Manufacturing. Konkin explains how he looked at opening a U.S.-based operation but when he factored in the additional nearly $1M it would cost him for health insurance, it became a non-starter. “I don’t understand why my fellow conservatives in American don’t embrace single payer,” Konkin tells the viewers.

Single Payer -- what the people AND business want.

Single Payer — what the people AND business want.

You’ll see single payer continued to be debated a lot this spring. You’ll see it argued from the standpoint of “health care is a human right” (which it is). Other will run so many facts and stats past you, you’re head will spin. And still others will tell you that unlike every other educated country on the planet, Americans just aren’t smart enough to figure how to implement single payer. It’s just too hard.

But, Master and the documentary Fix It approaches it from a different perspective: Being in the health care business for American employers is wasteful, inefficient, and provides no value to the products they produce and sell. Being in the health insurance business when there is another alternative puts an albatross around their necks as they try to stay competitive in a global market.

Or as Wendell Potter says (and it is still our favorite quote from the film): “CEOs of health insurance companies lie awake at night fearful that other CEOs will eventually come to realize that health insurance adds more cost than value to the health care system.”

Most U.S. business leaders/CEOs have been selected for their position because they have demonstrated a rare combination of intelligence, vision, and leadership required for confronting difficult issues. And, as pointed out so clearly in Fix It, health care has a major impact on every employer’s bottom line. If there’s a more efficient way to do it, business should be interested and supportive.

We urge you to visit the Fix It web site, check out the trailer below, find out how you can have a showing in your locale – and invite businesses to it. Ask them, “why wouldn’t you want to get rid of this health insurance albatross around your necks?”

 

Posted in FEATURED, Single Payer-Health Care Reform, Social Justice, Thoughts on Life | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

No One Said It Was Going To Be Easy

We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard.”

From President John F. Kennedy’s Address at Rice University, Sept. 12, 1962

jfkI am not the only one who recently thought of that famous quote from President Kennedy. It’s been resonating via Twitter and Facebook among progressives who discuss Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders’ proposal to bring the United States into line with the rest of the educated and industrialized world with a single payer Medicare-For-All health care delivery system.

It’s no secret that we are strong supporters of single payer health care, and we are grateful that during the run-up to and during the Democratic debate in South Carolina that the topic has received renewed attention. Results from a Kaiser Family Foundation reported that 81 percent of Democrats favor it as well as 58 percent of all Americans. It’s what the people want – not what the for-profit health insurance corporations want.

If you still are confused by what a single payer health care system is, we highly recommend you check out Physicians For National Health Program’s (PNHP) web site. Or proceed with caution on the Google machine. In a nutshell, single payer would implement a health care (not health insurance) delivery system in which all residents of the U.S. would be covered for all medically necessary services, including doctor, hospital, preventive, long-term care, mental health, reproductive health care, dental, vision, prescription drug and medical supply costs.

So why the reference to President Kennedy and the space program?

No one said this was going to be easy. Not Bernie Sanders; not any one of his supporters said “a magic wand” would be waived and single payer health care would magically be here. But I ask, to quote the great Professor Harvey J. Kaye, have we forgotten who we are as Americans? When did we give up on a fight for what was the better alternative? When did we learn to say, “Oh, that’s too hard.”

Bernie Sanders has been consistent about many things – especially his repeated message that no one person can change Washington, DC. He is asking for a political movement (revolution); a wave election; the beginning of the end of corporate control over our government. If we can’t vision a future that requires us to be a part of our government again – to push for those who advocate for We The People, well then folks, we may as well close up the shop. It took 40 years to get us into this mess. We aren’t going to get out of it without a fight.

single-payerIs single payer possible? Youbetcha. Will it happen overnight? I ask you to stop a minute and think of the destruction ALEC-backed governor Scott Walker managed to accomplish with a “wave of a wand” when he had a Republican House and Senate. We have to fight to give someone advocating for single payer the tools necessary to implement it – a wave election or working over 2-4 years to elect the supporting cast that will provide us with single payer. We need someone who will fight for us – and who will encourage the fight within us, to quote Professor Kaye again.

Yes, the issue of single payer is the right thing to do – health care as a human right. No, it’s not going to be easy and no it may not happen in the first 100 days of a President Sanders term. But does that mean we don’t try? Does that mean we say, Oh, that’s too hard.”

Or to quote from M. Scott Peck, M.D., from his brilliant book, The Road Less Traveled: A New Psychology of Love, Traditional Values and Spiritual Growth….in his opening chapter. Sentence One, Paragraph One.

Life is difficult. This is a great truth…It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult…then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters….Life is a series of problems. Do we want to moan about them or solve them? Do we want to teach our children to solve them?”

We urge you to find out more about single payer if it is a new concept to you. We also urge you to remember our proud progressive history – one marked by those who looked at the challenges ahead and said, “Let’s do this.” Was it easy for them? No, but they were dedicated and determined to see change for the better. It’s now our turn.

Settle for the status quo when we are drowning? Not me thank you. #SinglePayerInMyLifeTime. That’s what I’m working toward.

Below is President Kennedy’s famous line within the context of the entire speech:

“We choose to go to the moon. We choose to go to the moon in this decade and do the other things, not because they are easy, but because they are hard, because that goal will serve to organize and measure the best of our energies and skills, because that challenge is one that we are willing to accept, one we are unwilling to postpone, and one which we intend to win, and the others, too.”

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We Didn’t Run Out of Stones

A speaker at a recent presentation on climate change uttered a profound statement that has stuck with me for its simple, but blunt reminder. It applies to not only the survival of our planet but also to how we address the many challenges in front of us.

In his concluding remarks, the spokesman said, “We didn’t leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stone; we found a better way to do things.”

We didn't leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stones. We found a better way to do things.

We didn’t leave the Stone Age because we ran out of stones. We found a better way to do things.

We end another year staring at a world that appears to be turned upside down. Climate change, terrorism (domestic and international), war, hatred, violence, the list seems almost endless. We appear to be stuck in the Stone Age of forgetfulness. There are other options and “better ways” to work ourselves out of the messes that confronts us as we start 2016.

But it will require us to think differently, to act differently, and to embrace the “better way” of doing things. We can change our hearts…our minds…but it will require us to DO SOMETHING. Nothing changes if nothing changes.

It’s not that we haven’t had prophetic voices urge us to embrace “better ways”.

Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.: “We must learn to live together as brothers or perish together as fools.”

John Muir: “When we try to pick out anything by itself, we find it hitched to everything else in the universe.”

Marvin Gaye: “War is not the answer, for only love can conquer hate”

Parker J. Palmer: “Let’s not forget that American democracy started with ‘We the People’ agreeing to work hard to create ‘a more perfect union.’ We’ve lost the idea that politics begins at home with what happens in families, in neighborhoods, in classrooms, in congregations. We called this democracy into being – and if we want to call this democracy back to its highest values, it’s got to be us doing that calling. That’s not going to happen if ‘We the People’ don’t know how to talk to one another with civility and hold our differences in a creative, life-giving way.”

Mike McCabe: “Problems come and go, and issues appear to morph over time. But they don’t really change very much at all. At the root of them all are the same human failings. Selfishness. Greed. Fear. Hatred. These need to be replaced by a sense of common good and shared purpose. And an enlightened understanding of self interest that leads us to see that we are all in this together and inspires us to think we first instead of me first.”

John Dear: “My thinking of nonviolence after 30 years is that it’s a spirituality not just a methodology. It comes from a vision that sees every human being as your sister and brother. That’s the key to the whole thing. That we’re all one and we are already reconciled. Once we enter the truth of our common unity, then we realize we can never hurt anyone again or be silent when 30 wars are raging, people are starving, nuclear weapons are poised to strike or global warming is threatening our sisters and brothers.”

George Marshall: “If man does find the solution for world peace it will be the most revolutionary reversal of his record we have ever known. Military power wins battles, but spiritual power wins wars.”

We need to be active – DO SOMETHING. We have to stop the paralysis that grips our ability to march, to call, to vote, to talk….all ACTIVE verbs, not passive verbs. Action is what will bring us out of the Stone Age that threatens our humanity and our souls.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. We all need to DO SOMETHING to change the paralysis gripping our country.

Nothing changes if nothing changes. We all need to DO SOMETHING to change the paralysis gripping our country.

We here at Wisdom Voices Press urge you to commit to a “better way” to face the challenges that await us in 2016. The Stone Age of hate and destruction that embraces us today demands that we do just that. Vote. Find 5 others to take to the polls who didn’t vote in 2014. Demand accountability from politicians. Talk to people (not in 140 characters but with your voice). March. Show Up. Demand No More War. Do Something!

Or as Diarmuid O’Murchu, one of our favorite authors and prophets of today, said in his book, Ancestral Grace: Meeting God In Our Human Story:

“We humans may make it through, but it will require a kind of rescue that creation in its planetary or cosmic dimensions can….make possible. And for that rescue to be possible, we must make radical adjustments in our lifestyles. Grace itself invites and empowers us to make the quantum leap, as Elizabeth Dreyer vividly reminds us: ‘Grace demands that one live the very life one is living, but in a new key that is more free, responsible, and open to the transforming love of god. Working to change unjust social and political structures is at the heart of such a life.’

“…Equipped with this ancient wisdom and the miracle of ancestral grace that defies all rationality, we stand a better chance of engaging the urgency our times require of us. We need to become much more real, live in the present, and abandon the patriarchal power games that no longer serve us well. The time is over for playing imperial games with either ourselves or our earth…Perhaps the crucial question is not whether we will make it through, but whether we can muster afresh the outrageous hope we have known so often throughout our long evolutionary journey and allow it to transform us once more in the amazing power of ancestral grace.”

Let’s leave the Stone Age behind and shape a “better way” forward.

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Gray Areas In Life & College Football

I sometimes refer to it as the double curse – a progressive-minded individual with a love for college football. It seems I’m always swimming against the mainstream and cheering for an underdog. Being a progressive in today’s political environment (dominated by those who preach intolerance, hatred, war, and a self-centered approach to much of life) is hard. So too is hanging on to the ideals of a game you loved as a child amidst discussions about paid athletes, concussions, and multi-million dollar TV contracts. Despite all of that, I hold out hope for a return to progressive ideals for our country, and a reshaping of the college football game back to its origins (which coincidentally, both share roots to the wave of immigration at the turn of the last century).

I have often maintained that sports imitate life. How much difference is there really between a Donald Trump and former Los Angeles Clipper owner Donald Sterling? The win-at-all-costs philosophy that now saturates all of sports — from youth to pros — is not that far off from the Wall Street greed that permeates our entire culture.

We tend to find a lot of gray areas for college football teams this time of year. Why not when it comes to people?

We tend to find a lot of gray areas for college football teams this time of year. Why not when it comes to people?

So, I find it interesting at this time of year when I listen to the college football talking heads as we move closer to the College Football Playoff Selection Committee’s (which this year includes 11 men, and a woman named Condoleezza Rice) final decision on which teams advance to this year’s version of “Who’s In?”

Let’s set aside for the moment the many other valid discussions regarding the status of college athletics. I want to focus on just one topic that again dominates radio and TV this time of year as it pertains to college football. It’s the non-stop conversation – whether it’s from fan bases or talking heads – that tries to create a ton of “gray space” when justifying whether a team should be “in” or “out.” Early season losses are forgiven; strength of schedules are cut and diced to fit whatever statistic someone wants to show; “ifs and buts” are used to justify just about anything. In other words, life in college football land is no longer “black and white.” The concept of “gray” has entered the discussion.

Talk to any Alabama fan, and they’ll justify that scheduled game against Charleston Southern as part of their won/loss record. So, it’s the spread offense of the Big 12 that is really what’s keeping them out of the top four not their non-existent non-conference schedule? It can’t be held against Iowa that their schedule is weak; that’s who they play. And my personal favorite: One team’s 1-loss is better than another team’s 1-loss. They begin to argue who has the better loss. No matter what team or conference, lots of gray area sneaks into the conversation about who deserves what.

I’m always struck by those who so easily find gray areas in sports sometimes have a difficult time finding gray when discussing social and economic justice issues. Too often we don’t cut people slack for extenuating circumstances. Nope, you’re either lazy or you work. Where’s the gray area for those who lost a job at age 62 because a multi-national corporation shipped their IT job to India, Manila, or Brazil? Or you’ll hear those who want to deny people health insurance because somehow they believe a job is supposed to determine whether you have access to health care. Or the always popular, “I did it on my own. I didn’t need anyone’s help.” Black and white. No mention of the gray areas such as public school teachers who went the extra mile, or a public library that was open to give you access to educational materials, or public roads that allowed you access to broaden your horizons. Gray areas.

Funny, I say to myself, how easy it is for a lot of people to overlook coaching mistakes, missteps, and things “out of their control” when it comes time to ranking college football teams. Every benefit of the doubt will be given to a team; every fan base will cry “foul” should their team somehow be slighted. How could anyone not see their team in the same light as they do? Surely, everyone’s view of college football is just like theirs?

The simple reality is that life and college football is full of lots of extenuating circumstances that make both difficult to squeeze into neat little boxes. Rarely is either black and white. Much of both are lived in gray areas – with various degrees of gray. A good thing to remember when the Selection Committee announces its final choices on “Who’s In?” as well as the next time we feel we have all the answers on someone else’s life and try to decide if they are “in” or “out” based on our purview.

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