Archive for May 2009
All Hands on Deck! Iowa Activists Join Howard Dean in the Fight for Health Care
“This fight is about giving choice to the American people.”
HOWARD DEAN IN DES MOINES, MAY 28, 2009
Report prepared by Karen Metcalf, Bettendorf, Iowa
This week, Dr. Howard Dean was at the First Unitarian Church in Des Moines speaking on the merits of a “true” public plan option in the health care reform legislation currently being crafted in Washington, D.C. His appearance was a joint effort of Health Care for America Now and Democracy for America. As a full-time volunteer activist who works on health care reform (state and national levels), as well as one of the original Dean supporters in his campaign for president, I was obviously interested in and excited about this event.
This was, in some ways, a different Howard Dean than I remember from when he was campaigning. Gone was much of the impassioned rhetoric about empowering people—his campaign and that of Obama have resonated with many, who now feel empowered and ready to act. The new tone was much more straightforward—explanations of some of the general features of the kind of public plan that he is supporting, along with some of the hard political realities that affect the kind of plan that has a chance of success this year. Still, skilled politician that he is, he did his best to listen to everyone in the room, even those who were troubled by his message.
As he said at the outset, his purpose was to “make sure that a healthcare reform bill is a real healthcare reform bill.” He differentiated between real and “fake” public plans, which he considers a waste of dollars. These include “trigger” plans, in which a public plan is created if certain benchmarks aren't met, and proposals that are “like state insurance plans.” His position was very clear: “Without a public option this isn't real reform.” The key word is “option,” giving Americans under 65 a choice other than just the private insurance that is the only available option for them at the moment.
He was highly complimentary of the plan of President Obama, calling it the “best plan politically” that he's seen. As he explained, because 80% of Americans have insurance, and “in a democracy 80% always wins over 20%,” Obama is very astute in telling Americans, “If you like what you have, you can keep it.” He explained that, from a political point of view, healthcare insurance is like Congress: people complain, but they stick to what they know.
Dr. Dean worked hard to address the supporters of a single payer plan that he knew were in the room. He spent several minutes at the beginning of his remarks saying that he was “grateful” to supporters of H.R. 676 (the single payer bill that has been filed in the House of Representatives), and he told them that they should be at the table, a reference to their explicit exclusion from hearings of the Senate Finance Committee on healthcare reform. He went into some detail acknowledging the efficiency of single payer, using his experiences as governor of Vermont to contrast how much more of the revenue for government-run plans goes to healthcare delivery.
But he made it clear that he was not in Iowa to promote single payer. Rather, he is asking Congress, “Give us the choice.” He is asking Congress to set up competing public and private systems and see which works better.
Despite his willingness to say more about single payer and H.R. 676, at least 3 single payer supporters disrupted the meeting for a few minutes with protests, but the audience clearly wanted to hear Dr. Dean and to have the meeting proceed in a more measured tone, so there was no further disruption after they were quietly escorted from the room.
So what was he asking of his audience?
1 – First, call your Senators and their staff to support the public plan option. These calls are the most urgent, since healthcare reform will go through the Senate first.
2 – Second, call your member of Congress with the same message. If you want to write a letter, be sure it's an individual letter giving your own experience, not a form letter. Also, go to his website, standwithdrdean.com to become more involved.
3 – Finally, engage in door-knocking, especially with people who might not agree with you.
The bottom line: he wants “a system in which everyone is covered adequately.” While the word “adequately” might not get people's juices flowing, those of us who have been working on this issue for years know that it's the kind of realistic rhetoric that is likely to take us much, much closer to a healthcare SYSTEM that is reasonably humane to all.
Yesterday's event also had a special significance for me, because it was the first opportunity to publicly display our Lend-a-Hand-for-Healthcare project, a unique effort from some of us in the Quad Cities to collect 18,000 handprints from 18,000 individuals to represent the estimated 18,000 (now up to an estimated 22,000) people who die annually because they lack health insurance. We've collected handprints from all kinds of people at a wide variety of events, and the beauty of handprints is that they are great equalizers. Who can tell someone's age, gender, socio-economic or health status, etc. from a handprint?
We do have one exception, however, in that we have a VIP panel, with signed handprints—and our very first VIP, back in 2005, was Howard Dean. Imagine my excitement when I was told that we could do a “show-and-tell” to let him see our progress! We have 6821 handprints so far, and we only had time to put out about 2/3 of them, but they filled a large room—windows, walls, and floor. Dr. Dean graciously gave us our photo op and seemed genuinely interested in the project, which was very gratifying.
Call to Action: STOP Big Media From Swiftboating Obama's Health Care Reform
This Sunday, following Meet the Press, a 30-minute “infomercial” attacking a public healthcare option is set to air on NBC. The ad is the work of disgraced former hospital CEO Rick Scott and his group “Conservatives for Patients' Rights.”
Rick Scott has a track record of deceit.
Scott's previous ads contained blatantly false statements and misleading excerpts of interviews with healthcare professionals. If Scott's 30-minute “documentary” contains falsehoods, NBC could be liable for an FCC violation and serious fines. Furthermore, Meet the Press needs to know that their credibility is being used by Rick Scott, and will be tarnished by the association to these swiftboat style attacks.
Lawyers from the Service Employees International Union have sent a letter to NBC demanding they don't run the ad. It is up to us to back them up with the voices of thousands of viewers demanding action.
DEMAND NBC AND MEET THE PRESS STOP SWIFTBOATING OBAMA'S HEALTHCARE REFORM
DFA and our partners are not the only organizations raising serious questions about Rick Scott and Conservatives for Patients Right's credibility. The highly-respected website Factcheck-org, run by the non-partisan Annenberg Public Policy Center of the University of Pennsylvania, has labeled Scott's prior advertisement as “very misleading.”
CPR's weak rebuttal to these criticisms should have given NBC pause before agreeing to air the latest iteration of these advertisements in the full “documentary” . Essentially, CPR's rebuttal conceded that it is painting a scenario that has not been proposed by President Obama or Democratic Congressional leaders and, indeed, Factcheck-org labeled CPR's response as “nonsense.”
Based on Rick Scott and Conservatives for Patient Rights records, this 30-minute fake “documentary” will be false, deceitful, and filled with distortions. It is up to us to stop NBC from running the ad.
PLEASE SEND YOUR MESSAGE TO NBC NOW
As a back-up, if we don't succeed in stopping NBC from showing the fake “documentary, ” we've joined with other healthcare reform advocates and organizations to shoot a 1 minute rebuttal ad featuring Governor Howard Dean, M.D. to run immediately afterwards.
Time is not on our side right now, so we're working as fast as we can. We must send NBC a strong message.
Let's hope we don't need to show our rebuttal ad. Let's get NBC to do the right thing and stop the swiftboating of a public option and Obama's healthcare reform.
Thank you for everything you do.
Charles Chamberlain, Political Director
Democracy for America
President Obama on Health Care Reform: It's Now or Never
President Obama on Call to Volunteers: “We need you to stay involved”
by Amy Hamblin
Aboard Air Force One [Thursday], President Obama took time to speak by phone with thousands of Organizing for America volunteers about the urgent need to organize for health care reform.
“If we don’t get it done this year, we’re not going to get it done,” the President said.
He stressed that health care reform will only become a reality if grassroots supporters mobilize support for it in every community in America. The fight over health care reform, he noted, offers a “big chance to prove that the movement that started during the campaign isn’t over.”
We need you to stay involved. The election in November, that didn’t bring about change, that just gave us an opportunity for change…Some of you are in states and districts where politicians are resistant to bringing about change, so we need you to get involved.
If you missed the call, you can listen to the rest of what the President had to say here
Also speaking on the call was David Plouffe, OFA Director Mitch Stewart, OFA Deputy Director Jeremy Bird, OFA New Media Director Natalie Foster and OFA volunteer Diane Robertson, who offered her advice on how to organize support in your community.
The fight over health care reform begins in your neighborhood June 6th. Sign up to host or attend a kickoff event in your area.
Howard Dean in Des Moines Today
I just wanted to remind you that I'll be in Des Moines this evening, Thursday, May 28 for a healthcare town hall at the First Unitarian Church, 1800 Bell Ave., 5:15 pm-7:00 pm.
This is an exciting time. Healthcare reform is an issue very close to my heart and we have an opportunity now to guarantee healthcare for all Americans. We can do that if we give every American the freedom to choose between their private insurance – if they are insured at all – and a universally available public option like Medicare.
I'll be speaking about a public healthcare option and more today in Des Moines. I hope you'll be able to join me.
There's still time to RSVP
I hope to see you there,
Governor Howard Dean, M.D.
Founder, Democracy for America
Democracy for America relies on you and the people-power of more than one million members to fund the grassroots organizing and training that delivers progressive change on the issues that matter. Please Contribute Today and support our mission.
Don't miss out on a special opportunity to see Governor Howard Dean speak about his support for equality! Now is your last chance to reserve tickets to today's fundraiser honoring Iowa Senate Majority Leader Mike Gronstal and House Majority Leader Pat Murphy. They stood up for you in the Statehouse, now will you stand with them in support of equality?
LAST CHANCE: Reserve your spot to see Howard Dean!
Iowa DNR Budget Cuts Impede Regulation of Factory Farms
By Jason Hancock
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement (CCI) said cuts to the Animal Feeding Operations budget [of the Iowa DNR] leave it with only 13 field officers to regulate and respond to pollution create by thousands of factory farms across Iowa.
“This is a disastrous decision for the state,” said Hugh Espey, executive director of Iowa CCI. “Iowa has some of the most polluted water in the nation, our list of impaired waterways recently doubled, and fingers have all been pointing at us for our contribution to the Dead Zone in the Gulf of Mexico. It’s no coincidence that Iowa also has the highest number of factory farms in the country. We need to expand our ability to enforce regulation of factory farms and crack down on polluters – not cut our reach off at the knees.”
CCI member Jayne Clampitt of Independence said last year it took DNR field officers two days to respond to a report she filed about a manure spill that reached a creek flowing through a wildlife conservation area. By then, the evidence had already traveled downstream and no enforcement or clean up action was taken, she said.
Kevin Baskins, communications bureau chief for the Iowa DNR, said the agency had no comment.
You can help by joining Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement. They talk. They act. They get it done.
Remember The True Meaning of Memorial Day
Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. There are many stories as to its actual beginnings, with over two dozen cities and towns laying claim to being the birthplace of Memorial Day.
There is also evidence that organized women's groups in the South were decorating graves before the end of the Civil War: a hymn published in 1867, “Kneel Where Our Loves are Sleeping” by Nella L. Sweet carried the dedication “To The Ladies of the South who are Decorating the Graves of the Confederate Dead” (Source: Duke University's Historic American Sheet Music, 1850-1920).
While Waterloo N.Y. was officially declared the birthplace of Memorial Day by President Lyndon Johnson in May 1966, it's difficult to prove conclusively the origins of the day. It is more likely that it had many separate beginnings; each of those towns and every planned or spontaneous gathering of people to honor the war dead in the 1860's tapped into the general human need to honor our dead, each contributed honorably to the growing movement that culminated in Gen. Logan giving his official proclamation in 1868. It is not important who was the very first, what is important is that Memorial Day was established. Memorial Day is not about division. It is about reconciliation; it is about coming together to honor those who gave their all.
Traditional observance of Memorial day has diminished over the years. Many Americans nowadays have forgotten the meaning and traditions of Memorial Day. At many cemeteries, the graves of the fallen are increasingly ignored, neglected. Most people no longer remember the proper flag etiquette for the day. While there are towns and cities that still hold Memorial Day parades, many have not held a parade in decades. Some people think the day is for honoring any and all dead, and not just those fallen in service to our country.
To help re-educate and remind Americans of the true meaning of Memorial Day, the “National Moment of Remembrance” resolution was passed on Dec 2000 which asks that at 3 p.m. local time, for all Americans “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to “Taps.”
The Moment of Remembrance is a step in the right direction to returning the meaning back to the day. What is needed is a full return to the original day of observance. Set aside one day out of the year for the nation to get together to remember, reflect and honor those who have given their all in service to their country.
But what may be needed to return the solemn, and even sacred, spirit back to Memorial Day is for a return to its traditional day of observance. Many feel that when Congress made the day into a three-day weekend in with the National Holiday Act of 1971, it made it all the easier for people to be distracted from the spirit and meaning of the day. As the VFW stated in its 2002 Memorial Day address: “Changing the date merely to create three-day weekends has undermined the very meaning of the day. No doubt, this has contributed greatly to the general public's nonchalant observance of Memorial Day.”
For more information on this issue, and for more ways you can help, visit our Help Restore the Traditional Day of Observance page and sign the petition.
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Time: 5:15pm – 7:00pm
Location: 1st Unitarian Church of Des Moines
Address: 1800 Bell Ave
City/Town: Des Moines, IA
Click Here to RSVP
The Public Health Insurance Option – A Prescription for Guaranteed, Affordable, Health Care for All
us for a special guest, Governor Howard Dean, who is offering up a
prescription for change in health care reform this year. What is a
“public option?” Why is it so important? What can we all do
collectively to help win REAL changes in health care reform in 2009
that bring quality, affordable, health care for everyone in America?
Thursday, May 28, 2009
Time: 5:15pm – 7:00pm
Location: 1st Unitarian Church of Des Moines
Address: 1800 Bell Ave
City/Town: Des Moines, IA
Click Here to RSVP
Free Flowing Internet Not the Bogeyman of Newspapers' Demise
Big Media Myopia
by Timothy Karr
It’s hard to empathize with struggling newspapers when those running them continue to suffer from the short-sightedness that got their industry into a mess.
The editors at the Washington Post put on a display of such backward thinking on Saturday, when they published an op-ed by two lawyers from the influential D.C. firm Baker Hostetler.
In writing this op-ed, the lawyers hide certain conflicts of interest that should weigh heavily against their analysis. The Post ’s editors might have connected the dots for readers, but didn’t.
But the piece is just so stunningly stupid that it falls apart all by itself. In it, Esq. Bruce W. Sanford and Bruce D. Brown call for reactionary legal measures that would stifle access to news and information and return us to the grand old days of consolidated ownership, bloated media giants and information gatekeepers.
To save journalism, Brown and Sanford argue, we must “eliminate ownership restrictions” and open floodgates to a new wave of media concentration.
We should also “grant an antitrust exemption” for consolidated media, allowing them to join together and wall off content from users. “Antitrust immunity is necessary because most individual news sites can’t go it alone,” they explain in the op-ed. “Readers will simply jump to sites that are still free.”
They urge readers to support more stringent copyright restrictions that would bar bloggers, Web sites and all others from the online sharing of even a small portion of mainstream media news content.
Nowhere in this silliness do they see the consolidation and walling off of news for what it is: more the real culprit in the demise of newspapers than is their favorite bogeyman — the free flowing Internet.
Affirming Black Voices in Support of the Recent Iowa Supreme Court Decision
by Abraham L. Funchess, Jr.
The recent Iowa Supreme Court decision which declared the ban on same-gender marriage unconstitutional is sure to stimulate more conversation and debate for several weeks to come. Painfully lacking from public discourse about marriage equality here in the state, however, is an affirmative African American voice and the compassionate voice of the Black church.
While it is not uncommon to see local Black leaders standing united with other politicians and activists in opposition to the Iowa Supreme Court decision, it is important to note that national Black leaders like Julian Bond of the NAACP and Rev. Al Sharpton of the National Action Network have taken an affirming stance on gay rights as civil rights, and they both support marriage equality. Despite the fact that some of our most fascinating strategic and literary minds during the Black Revolution movement have been gay and lesbian, like Bayard Rustin, Audre Lourde, James Baldwin, and Lorraine Hansberry, rarely do we see local Black leaders who champion the cause on behalf of our gay and lesbian neighbors who live in our communities and frequent our Sunday services.
One of these rare exceptions is Bishop Julius C. Trimble of the United Methodist Church. He declined an invitation from Catholic Bishops of Iowa and other religious leaders in condemning the Iowa Supreme Court decision. Instead, he stated that he “strongly believed that the Iowa Supreme Court acted with judicial integrity in its determination that ‘civil marriages must be judged under constitutional standards of equal protection and not under religious doctrines or religious views of individuals.’”
Furthermore, Bishop Trimble challenged Iowa United Methodists to engage in spiritual introspection and self-discovery, asking “What does ‘radical hospitality’ look like, when the practices of the state and the policies of the church differ?” Excluding this exception, however, raises an important question: Why is there among some Blacks such stiff opposition to marriage equality, on the one hand, and a curiously annoying and deafening silence from some supporters on this important human and civil rights issue, on the other?
Perhaps part of the disconnect arises from a misunderstanding of what this decision means in practical terms. Many wonder, for instance, if this now means that pastors and other religious clerics will be forced to scrap their religious convictions, violate their consciences, and perform wedding ceremonies for gay and lesbian individuals since it is now a matter of law.
Recognizing the sincerity of religionists who believe that traditional marriage would be undermined if marriage equality were upheld, the court declared that civil unions between gay and lesbian partners do not infringe upon current religious practices, and that civil marriage does not define marriage for religious institutions.
Striking about the angst of some religionists to maintain the integrity of traditional marriage, of course, is the fact that traditional marriage reportedly dissolves nearly 50% of the time among opposite-sex partners. Among Blacks, even though studies show that married African Americans fare better economically and are happier than their unmarried counterparts, Harvard professor Andrew J. Cherlin posits in his publication Marriage, Divorce, Remarriage that “during the days of slavery a Black child was more likely to grow up living with both parents than he or she is today.”
These statistics suggest that removing the ban against same-sex marriage will not necessarily undermine traditional marriage, as is often postulated. Traditional marriage is already imperiled. These religionists and activists should probably invest more energy into strengthening and maintaining loving heterosexual marriages as opposed to affronting same-sex partners and challenging their human and civil rights. In fact, the court states that “marriage is a civil contract” and works to ensure equal protection of the law for all of its citizens. Religious clerics and institutions are free to continue to perform the traditional marriage ceremonies, and keep their convictions and their consciences in tact.
Interestingly, Alexander Robinson, president and CEO of the National Black Coalition for Justice, maintains that qualitative studies reveal most Blacks do not view homosexuality as endemic to our own communities. “What happens,” Robinson suggests, “is that Blacks tend to have somewhat of an out-of-body experience and somehow convince themselves that the LGBT issue is not a Black issue as much as it is a white issue. Perhaps this, in part, helps explain Black opposition to the LGBT movement, not just in Iowa, but everywhere.”
Still others in the African American community agree with those in the majority population who argue that gay and lesbian couples could not possibly provide an optimal environment to raise children. While many would acknowledge that homes with both a father and a mother, dual-gender parenting, may be the optimal environment, this argument tends to be weak in the face of our social realities. Do we protest with equal passion and animation against marriages that have sexual predators and womanizers as fathers, child abusers as mothers, absentee and neglectful parents who fail to pay child support, or parents who are violent felons? Are these examples of “optimal parenting” present among the heterosexual community? And do we insist that an amendment be made to the marriage statute to rectify these less than optimal parenting situations that have been with us the whole time, regardless of race or ethnicity?
The Reverend Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., famously said that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Contrary to popular opinion, we would learn that most of our gay and lesbian neighbors will tell us that they did not choose their sexual orientation, if we can arrest our deeply-seated homophobia long enough and exercise the love and patience to listen attentively to their stories. Certainly, we do not want to be guilty of inflicting the pain of discrimination and marginalization on our gay and lesbian neighbors, or to be guilty of denying other human beings equal protection of the law, especially after gaining the freedoms that we as African Americans enjoy through our own fight for equal opportunity and equal protection of the law.
Instead, let us all—regardless of race, ethnicity, or sexual orientation – organize and unite our love, talent and energy around demanding that our legislators fight to eradicate the crippling disparities in economic development, education, healthcare, and criminal justice that plague our communities across our great state. And if we are not engaged in the fight to advance the cause of human and civil rights on behalf of our gay and lesbian neighbors, perhaps on this particular subject it is better to imitate the great teacher of hospitality of biblical fame: simply remain silent.
Abraham L. Funchess, Jr. was appointed by Governor Tom Vilsack to serve as Division Administrator of the Iowa Commission on the Status of African Americans within the Department of Human Rights. Funchess was reappointed to the position by current Governor Chester J. Culver.
In 2003, Funchess was appointed by
Resident Bishop Gregory V. Palmer to serve in the Iowa Annual
Conference to work at Jubilee United Methodist Church in Waterloo,
where he still serves.
Senate Candidate Bob Krause Calls Out Grassley for Abandoning Iowans on Health Care Reform
Bob Krause, Democratic candidate for the U. S. Senate in Iowa, said that Republican Charles Grassley is endangering the opportunity to achieve health care reform in the United States Senate.
“Senator Grassley, throughout this session of Congress, has consistently sided with right wing elements which are acting as a blocking force in the Senate. This group has fought several pieces of legislation needed by Iowans - including the stimulus package (that he has been taking some credit for) and key 'equal pay for equal work' legislation,” said Krause.
”Now, substantive health care reform as supported by a majority of Iowans in most opinion polls, may be the next,” added Krause.
Krause noted that late last week, Republican Grassley announced that he would oppose including a public provider (government administered plan) option on universal health care reform. “The Grassley health care option of having only private care payers for universal health care has many problems that people need to research and find out about,” said Krause.
“This is not the first time that Senator Grassley has championed the interests of the private insurers over the welfare of the taxpayer. The 2003 Medicare Advantage plans, which move seniors from traditional Medicare to private plans, cost taxpayers $54 billion more from 2009 to 2012 than traditional Medicare. This was another instance of Grassley opening the barn door and letting the special interests munch on taxpayer hay,” said Krause.
“Now, Senator Grassley wants to throw these guys a few more bales,” said Krause. “A government administered insurance plan option like Medicare will likely have relatively low overhead cost – 3 percent - vs. 15-20 percent for private insurances.”
“I thought we had a budget crisis in health care, but in one fell swoop Grassley eliminates a bare-bones cost option for health care administration. This reduces the pressure on private providers to keep administrative costs down and guarantees accelerated costs. That equates directly into more fees and taxes for the taxpayer and for the patient,” said Krause.
“Grassley's plan also perpetuates the high cost of prescription drugs by eliminating the government as a strong negotiator to reduce the cost of drugs to the taxpayer and the patient. The costs of commonly used prescription drugs are 30% to 300% higher for Medicare, which does not negotiate drug prices (thanks to an earlier Grassley action), as compared to the Department of Veterans Affairs which does negotiate.
Third, it allows private insurance companies to “cherry pick” the best clients and leave the rest, thus creating a mosaic of high profit and low profit clients. Iowans living in rural areas may be hurt by this mosaic simply because rural costs of service delivery are often higher because of the dispersed population. Rural residents would likely be better protected financially under a public payer option (government administered plan) that by its nature would not be allowed to cherry pick.
I urge Senator Grassley to play the part of the statesman today – reverse his opposition to the public provider option in the upcoming health care reform package and use his position to pass – not obstruct – health care reform this year.
Go to KrauseforIowa.com to find out more about Bob Krause's positions on the issues