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Positive Images Florida Needs Your Help

I’ve been working with this organization in its website and just learned that it has lost a key state grant. This cut in funding is coming just at the time when its services are needed most by people (particularly women) who have lost their jobs and need help getting back on their feet. Please consider making a donation if you can do so.

Learn more at http://www.positiveimagesflorida.com/

Phone Bank for Healthcare Reform

Our local Organizing for America folks are looking for phone banking volunteers and locations in support of President Obama’s healthcare reform initiative.

Sounds like they particularly could use a few additional locations around the county where they could set up shop for phone banking campaigns. If you have contacts with the businesses or other organizations such as unions that opened up their offices for phone banking during the campaign, please ask them to do it again for this cause.

If you’re wondering why it’s important to phone bank now now, rather than in the heat of a campaign, I did ask that question. Part of it is just about making sure voters are clear about what is being proposed, are on board with it, and are not being distracted by disinformation. You might also have to defend against those in the single payer crowd who are grumbling that Obama’s presentation doesn’t go far enough. (Personally, I’d rather see some kind of positive change rather than holding out for someone’s idea of a more ideologically pure alternative).

Here’s the note I got from OFA organizer Briana O’Sullivan

   Anyone who can host or volunteer for a phone bank here in Broward
would be much appreciated. Right now I am scheduling one for Wednesday
night from 6-8, but any other nights in the week would be fine. I am
also looking at having a phone bank Thursday night around a similar
time. I am open to suggestions, and any locations or resources that
people could offer would be great. We really need to get the word out
on health care reform and bring attention to such an important issue.
All those interested can contact me at 954-821-7592 or e-mail me at
bosullivanOFA@gmail.com.

   Thank you so much,

Briana O'Sullivan

Can OFA Reach Across Party Lines?

I had posted a comment about Organizing for America’s National Health Care Day of Service, and how such service ideas like food and blood drives and victory gardens could help to bring about health care reform in America…. I had my doubts.

I wrote here that I have chosen to participate in a march and rally in North Miami for single payer health care instead of the kind of community service activities suggested by Organizing for America.

I attended not one- but two health care meetings to plan for National Health Care Day of Service- one in North Miami and then another that I had signed up for in Hollywood previously but was held a week later. Since I had already attended one I thought until the last minute that I would skip the Hollywood meeting. Then I and others who had attended the North Miami meeting decided to promote the single payer march and rally to the Hollywood group, ’cause if you’re gonna have a rally, it’s best to have a good turnout!

The Hollywood group thought that some of us could go to the evening rally in North Miami, but we’d have a food drive during the day in Hollywood beforehand. That group has since pretty much fallen apart, however, because the purpose of National Health Care Day of Service was unclear to me and apparently to those who showed up to the meeting.

The host of the Hollywood meeting had emailed her decision that our group would also do a blood drive the week before- and a separate rally in Hollywood- and then a food drive- and then continuing meetings as a “Hollywood Chapter” of OFA- and on and on and on. Those complications led me to make some assumptions about Organizing for America and what it can accomplish.

I then attended a special OFA meeting with just a few other people, however, and was able to meet Craig Borkon and other DNC/OFA staffers one on one. I was very impressed at how personable they all were and willing to listen. They talked about something mentioned at the Listening Tour meeting: reaching across party lines. I realized that reaching those who hold other or even opposing political views as well as those who may be politically apathetic is just as important as it was during the last presidential campaign, and rallying for specific legislation may not always accomplish that.

I decided to give OFA another shot and volunteered at a phone bank yesterday with just a couple of other participants. One of the volunteers also had doubts about how food and blood drives and such were going to make any difference to health care reform, and that volunteer was really frustrated. I had also gotten emails from people agreeing with my doubts, so I could see that I was not alone in my opinion.

But we started calling people, and I could see that just like during the campaign, it’s so important to reach out to people who are more often than not political novices and just remind them that the issue is out there, and that they can pay attention just by getting involved through the website or participating in a local event on the 27th.

Many people do not need to be inundated with the specifics of health care legislation as much as they just need to be made aware that there are still people coming together in their community and welcoming everyone to the cause of bettering things.

So, perhaps if people who are just out shopping or even willingly participating in an event can see community actions such as food and blood drives and other health-related outreaches on the 27th, it might just let them know that the spirit of the Obama for President campaign is still present in their community. Perhaps that will let them know that there are issues out there that we can continuously come together over.

I feel more open-minded about what Organizing for America intends now, and I suspect that they may be open-minded about what participants like me want to see happen.

I recommend that we all remember that effecting change doesn’t just mean sticking to our core values and organizing with the like-minded, but also reaching out carefully and considerately to any and all Americans who just might respond and find a way to participate in effecting change in America.

That’s a slower and more delicate process, but perhaps it has its place.

Perhaps… I don’t know. It’s just a thought.

What do you think?

Terrific Letter to Editor Writing Tool!

Just in case anyone needs to find the tool that gives you access to every online paper ANYWHERE to submit letters to the editor here it is:
Click on the name of the paper and another window opens. Scroll down to “web sites” and click on the paper’s home page. Another window opens and there you are. Just click around until you find where to submit. Sometimes the op/ed submit is obvious and sometimes you have to go to the site map or contact us link of the paper to find it.
You can set it to sort each state by highest circulation or just for dailies or weeklies, etc. Remember that sometimes smaller papers get fewer submissions (and therefore, possibly, a better chance of being chosen) but they still have readership. Just cut & paste your pre-written letter to as many publications as you wish.
Happy writing! Let’s hit as many of them as we can. Maybe a few of us will get published. At the very least the papers will see a number of letters coming in from our side.

Insurance Giant Stats & Other Useful Things

Hi everyone,
I was just reading The Hightower Lowdown Report and ran across some interesting stats. We all know that just a handful of corporate insurance giants control the market (Aetna & United control a third of it) but these numbers are sick (pun intended)!
The American Medical Association’s 2008 study of health-insurance markets in 314 American cities found that 94% are “highly concentrated”.
  • In 56% of our cities, one insurer controls more than half of the group healthcare market
  • In 19% of our cities, one insurer controls 70% of the market
  • In 11 cities, one insurer controls more than 90% of the market
And yet the nit-wits against a public option scream that they want “choice” and they don’t want to have their “healthcare controlled by a bureaucracy”!!! HAAA!!!
On a local level, June 14th’s Miami Herald published, “A study for the Milliman Medical Cost Index found that a Miami area family of four with an employer-based prefered provider organization plan averaged $20,282 in healthcare costs in 2008. That’s 21% higher than the national average. Miami is the first city exceeding the $20,000 mark, the first city to climb so high.”

Then let’s address the uninsured numbers which do not include recipients of Medicaid and the underinsured. Also from the same issue of the Miami Herald, We are #1 in uninsured. Nearly 33% in Dade county and 25% in Broward.

Just thought I pass out that little tid-bit for anyone doing a letter writing campaign or in need of even MORE talking points!

ALSO…..Here’s a list of contact info for some of the national groups fighting for our public healthcare rights:
  • Democracy for America—www.democracyforamerica.com 802-651-3200
  • Health Care for America Now—www.healthcareforamericanow.com 202-654-6200
  • Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care—http://guaranteedhealthcare4all.org
  • Physicians for a National Health Program—www.pnhp.org 312-782-6006
  • Progressive Democrats of America—www.pdamerica.org 877-239-2093
  • Progressive States Network—www.progressivestates.org 212-680-3116
  • Single Payer Action—www.singlepayeraction.org
Tracie

ALSO…..Here’s a list of contact info for some of the national groups fighting for our public healthcare rights:
  • Democracy for America—www.democracyforamerica.com 802-651-3200
  • Health Care for America Now—www.healthcareforamericanow.com 202-654-6200
  • Leadership Conference for Guaranteed Health Care—http://guaranteedhealthcare4all.org
  • Physicians for a National Health Program—www.pnhp.org 312-782-6006
  • Progressive Democrats of America—www.pdamerica.org 877-239-2093
  • Progressive States Network—www.progressivestates.org 212-680-3116
  • Single Payer Action—www.singlepayeraction.org
Tracie

Crist’s “Cover Florida Plan” foreshadow of Co-Op

Below is copied an article from the DailyKos. It foreshadows the useless co-op option Nelson is supporting. In April Blue Cross publicly announced that it would be fighting the public option tooth & nail. No wonder!

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2009/6/23/172150/659

Florida Blue Cross “Reform?” Sunshine On Crist’s Plan

Tue Jun 23, 2009 at 02:37:28 PM PDT

Today, the Blue Cross Association stated that a Government Plan Option was not required to meet the objectives of reform;

“A government plan option — in any form — is unnecessary to achieve comprehensive reform and would have devastating consequences on the health insurance coverage that employers and individuals currently have, the federal budget deficit and existing provider systems,” the groups said.

Last year, Blue Cross partnered with Governor Charlie Crist of Florida in order in order to provide “comprehensive reform” for individuals and employers in the Sunshine State.

What kind of comprehensive reform did the Republican Governor work out with Blue Cross?

The Sunshine on that plan is below the fold-

Governor Crist is so proud of his Blue Cross plan and reform measures that he is prominently taking credit for it in his new campaign for the Florida Senate Seat. From www.charliecrist.com;

I signed into law a nationally recognized, market-based health care program to provide low cost health insurance for nearly four million uninsured Floridians.

Remember, those words because here is the Republican Governor’s Prescription;

During the 2008 legislative session, my administration worked with legislators of both parties to secure unanimous approval of the Cover Florida Health Care Access Program. This legislation makes affordable health coverage available to 3.8 million uninsured Floridians through a comprehensive market-based strategy.

Just how is that “comprehensive market based strategy” in statewide partnership with Blue Cross working for the average Floridian?

When Richard Browne checked into the plan, he found it too expensive. For men ages 50 to 59, the monthly catastrophic coverage costs $363 to $463.

“I’m not sure who it’s supposed to be affordable for, but it’s not affordable for me,” he said.

But you may be thinking Richard Browne could end up using a lot of benefits, right? Well the Blue Cross plan has an annual maximum of $25,000 in benefits with a lifetime maximum of $50,000. So the above Floridian will pay $5,556 a year for a possible single year benefit of $25,000.

Please, go to the Cover Florida website and check out the Republican Blue Cross solution, it is an eye opener. (You can use zip code 32803 in Orange County, FL to get quotes)

Charlie Crists prescription was to provide health coverage for “3.8 million uninsured Floridians.”

Someone needs to ask Charlie why only 1,716 uninsured Floridians have signed up for his “nationally recognized, market-based health care program.”

Blue Cross should be ashamed what it did to Floridians in the guise of reform. That is why a Government Option is needed to keep everybody honest.

Florida is called the Sunshine State, it is time for Daily Kos to bring sunshine to Charlie Crist’s Blue Cross option and show it to the rest of America.

Tags: health care blue cross (all tags

Went in to Sen. Nelson’s office Tues.

Hey everyone,
I ended up going to the West Palm office today instead of Broward’s. Michelle McGovern, Senator Nelson’s Regional Director (7 counties) was there taking time to talk individually to each of us as we came in. I just thought I would let everyone know that didn’t either make it in or have a chance to talk with her that currently Nelson is off of the “insurance exchange” theory of insuring the public and is now supporting the equally pointless theory of “co-ops”. Specifically, each state individually setting up and funding it’s own little co-op to “compete” with Big Insurance. This is direct from Michelle McGovern today in his office.
Here is a link to a piece from CBS News on Senator Conrad’s co-op option. I must stress that while reading how ineffectual co-ops are and the author’s more positive opinion on a national co-op, that Senator Nelson is not supporting a national co-op, but the theory of each state setting up and funding their own with some “start-up” money from the federal government and then being funded in perpetuity by the residents/participants in each individual state on their own. http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2009/06/15/opinion/main5089662.shtml
This idiotic notion is gaining serious traction with conservative and blue dog democrats trying to claim that this would be the “uniquely American” solution to the nation’s need for public insurance. This is NOT a solution of any sort but another way to try and shut us up while making sure Big Insurance continues on it’s merry way. This is absolutely NOT what people (81% of the population as of yesterday) mean when they say we need a real public option. 50 little baby state insurance companies trying to “compete” with Big Insurance in 50 different states. That’ll for sure teach Big Insurance to play fair! BRILLIANT!! Sounds Republican to me in it’s level of brilliance!
So, in light of this here’s some contact info, do with it as you will…..
Gene Schlesinger, Nelson’s chief in DC: gene_schlesinger@billnelson.senate.gov 202-224-5274
Michelle McGovern, Regional Director: michelle_mcgovern@billnelson.senate.gov 561-514-0189
Also, Senator Nelson’s on Twitter: http://twitter.com/SenBillNelson
Also, I think Michelle will be in the Broward office tomorrow (6-24).
Have a great evening,
Tracie

Barack the Superhero

I do have a little bit of a point in posting this, aside from the fact that it’s fun to watch (my kids like the wiggly ears).

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Obama is a good guy, and we did something right by getting him elected. But his superpowers do not necessarily include making all opposition and and selfish interests go away. Support him, and push for the policies you think are important by all means. But don’t be surprised to see evidence of some human limits.

Organizing for America’s Idea of “Change”

Real change in health care comes from changes in the law, not a patchwork of temporary fixes.

The Obama campaign changed its name after the election… from Obama for America to “Organizing for America.” Its intent was to continue the momentum of the campaign by getting Americans involved, but Organizing for America does not, in fact, state a specific agenda that we should be involved in.

Organizing for America is a project of the Democratic National Committee. OFA is promoting National Health Care Day of Service, and I recently attended two health care reform meetings promoted through OFA. One was hosted by Dianne Zeller, who named her group Organizing for America, Hollywood Chapter. That meeting was held on June 13th, a week after OFA had suggested that meetings be held to discuss health care reform across the country. The first such meeting I attended had been the week prior on June 6th, which was when health care reform meetings were suggested by OFA. That meeting was hosted by Sandy Davies, a chapter head in North Miami for Progressive Democrats of America. The two health care reform meetings discussed the same agenda, but both took different approaches to reforming health care.

OFA has provided an agenda for those meetings in order to plan for National Health Care Day of Service on June 27th. It suggested community service efforts like contributing to a food bank, organizing a blood drive or starting a “victory garden.” Such efforts were discussed at the Hollywood meeting, and it was suggested that a food drive could be organized in Hollywood that could also promote what the North Miami meeting had proposed: a march and rally to support single payer health care and House Bill 676- enhancing Medicare for all Americans.

Since that meeting, however, Dianne Zeller has communicated her intent to either hold her own rally on the 27th, which she then said was not feasible, or hold food and blood drives before and after the 27th. While the North Miami meeting has planned on a National Health Care Day of Service effort that specifically promotes legislation that will reform health care and is supported by Progressive Democrats of America, the Hollywood meeting’s plan is specifically along the lines of what is suggested by Organizing for America in regards to a local charity effort.

I also attended an Organizing for America Listening Tour event in Plantation last night. The agenda there was very non-specific, and did not target any specific legislation that has been proposed in Congress. Their intent was to ensure that members of the community “support the President.” While the dialogue from the two employees of OFA was akin to corporate-speak, the dialogue from much of the audience in attendance was unsurprisingly angry and more determined to see legislative change that would benefit individual Americans rather than just huge corporations. Not only was that dichotomy evident, but the OFA representatives voiced their belief that food and blood drives and similar community efforts across the country on the 27th would get huge national attention for health care reform.

Patching the immediate problems in regards to lack of food or the need for stockpiles of blood, let alone feel-good efforts like starting a garden are vital ways of building a sense of community and helping others, but they are continuous efforts that Americans can always get involved in every day. Targeting specific legislation that is on the table in Congress right now is what really leads to reforming health care for all Americans. Progressive Democrats of America’s intent to promote legislation rather than do something like a local food drive is evidenced by the North Miami’s choice to march and rally for single payer health care.

Some of us who attended the Hollywood meeting had expected that we would hold a food drive during the day on the 27th in Hollywood that could promote the march and rally for single payer health care that evening in North Miami, but Dianne Zeller is apparently resistant to that effort. I think that Dianne’s approach is emblematic of what Organizing for America is lacking in really effecting change in America.

Change doesn’t come from promoting the continuation of a patchwork of community efforts to feed the hungry and bank pints of blood and start neighborhood gardens. Change comes from legislation that involves the heft and financing of the government to solve social problems, not a patchwork of community volunteers constantly trying to fix small and immediate problems that never end.

I was extremely disappointed in last night’s OFA Listening Tour meeting. OFA has thus far organized volunteers to ask other Americans to “sign a pledge” to support the President. Pledging support does not achieve what the last Presidential campaign was able to accomplish: getting needed votes.

Until the next election, we need votes not of “support” from Americans for an ethereal agenda of “affordable insurance premiums” and “quality health care” and “expanding coverage” as promised by OFA employees last night, but votes for legislation from our Congressional representatives. Small neighborhood food and blood drives will not promote specific legislation in Congress, and real change in health care comes from changes in the law, not a patchwork of temporary fixes.

Like many people I spoke to at the Listening Tour meeting last night, Organizing for American completely failed to inspire me to do anything that will effect change in America. I’ll stick with the very specific agenda of Progressive Democrats of America. On National Health Care Day of Service, I’ll be marching and rallying with members of North Miami’s Progressive Democrats of America to show my support and encourage the support of other Americans in the community for HR-676 or similar legislation that will effect real and tangible health care reform in the United States of America.

I expect that as time goes on, we’ll have a nearby PDA chapter in Broward County, too, and members will be coordinating efforts with PDA across the country to effect real, tangible legislative change and get more progressives elected in Washington and throughout the country. Right now, in these next few weeks and on National Health Care Day of Service, we need health care reform across America, not just temporary patches in our neighborhoods.

Release the photos – all of them.

Why the torture photos must be released.

One thing that President Obama campaigned on was a commitment to transparency. He was unequivocal about that; his performance in office has not been. He has adopted the Bush usage of the state secrets privilege to squelch court cases around and thus to protect illegal wiretapping. He has maintained the Bush position to the British government that if a court there does release information about a tortured detainee, then we would not share intelligence as freely with them as in the past. And now he is pushing Senators Graham and Lieberman and other legislators to make illegal the release of photos of prisoners who were tortured by the Bush administration, photos whose release the ACLU has already won in court.

Today there was a vote in the House instructing the conferees on the War Supplemental to reinstate the Graham-Lieberman amendment, the House version of which was stripped out a few days ago. Sure, “instructing” is non-binding. Nevertheless I was disappointed to learn that Representative Wexler was one of 95 Democrats who voted in favor and that the measure passed. The following is the letter I wrote him this evening:

I just learned that you voted to instruct conferees on the Iraq War Supplemental to restore the amendment that would prohibit disclosure of photos of the torture of detainees by the Bush administration. That was the wrong thing to do.

We the American people need those materials to come out, all of them, if we are to have a chance to prevent that kind of thing from happening again. We need to make it impossible for people to think that they can do those things and have them never see the light of day. I, for one, do not want to be “protected” by people who think they have a right or obligation to torture. They are not protecting me; they are endangering me.

I do not for a second believe that the goal of the Graham-Lieberman amendment is to prevent Muslims from having access to the photos. Not by a long shot. Muslims know what we did to them. Certainly those we tortured and everyone within at least three or four degrees of separation knows what we did to them. That is already a great many people. No, they already know, and if they were going to be radicalized, they already are, and not by photos but by what we did to them.

No, the goal is not to prevent Muslims from seeing those photos. The goal is to prevent Americans from seeing them in order to preserve the government’s option to torture. Let me say that again: the goal of that amendment is to preserve a space for torture. Keeping Americans as ignorant as possible about what we did is essential to that objective.

Suppressing those photos and any other such materials is wrong, against Geneva, and unAmerican. We must have full disclosure now in order to establish the credible threat of full disclosure going forward. Why? Because the force and fear of public knowledge of such inhumanity is the only thing that stands a chance of preventing the repetition of that heinous part of our history. The mere illegality of torture, specious made-to-order legal rationalizations aside, did not prevent it. No, we must have full disclosure now and in the future. It is the only way to ensure that such actions are not repeated. If they are then repeated in the certain knowledge that they will see the light of day, at least we will know what we have become, and it will not be Americans.

==================================

Subsequent to my post I learned that the Court of Appeals had granted the Obama administration’s petition to block the release of the photos pending review by the Supreme Court. Thereafter Obama released a letter separating himself from the amendment. I’m not persuaded that the letter signals much difference from my characterization above.

For the letter, see http://campaignsilo.firedoglake.com/2009/06/11/obama-writes-letter-opposing-graham-lieberman/.