Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Happy Birthday, Medicare! turns 49 today, and local papers around the country started to put up birthday wishes as early as midnight.   

Most of those wishes went something like this:
Happy birthday to the health program that should be expanded to the whole country.
Think that makes sense?  If you do, you're not alone. Two-thirds of Americans support Medicare for All, along with most of the American medical profession, most nurses, hundreds of business and labor groups, and all of the major women's rights organizations.  Dr. Ed Weisbart states in the Saint Louis Post Dispatch, "the need to expand it to all Americans has never been greater."  

The Post and Courier says,
With all we spend, we can afford to provide essential services to every American without imposing co-pays, deductions, caps or exclusions.
A bill in Congress, HR 676, would do just that. Titled the Improved Medicare for All Act, it would provide basic services, including preventative care, hospitalization, medications, mental health, and long-term care.
The Congressional Budget Office (CBO) determined it can be provided without raising taxes.
Universal health care would not only extend coverage to everyone below age 65, but it would improve coverage for seniors.

One letter writer to the editor of The Courant in Hartford, Connecticut also suggests this present to Medicare,
There are some in Congress who continue to call for benefit cuts for retirees and disabled Americans. For example, there continue to be calls to cut Medicare benefits by raising the age of eligibility, means-testing benefits, requiring home health co-pays and limiting Medigap coverage. These changes would do nothing to reduce the cost of health care, but instead, shift costs to beneficiaries.
July 30 is Medicare's 49th birthday. What better way to celebrate than by strengthening Medicare through a better alternative that will not harm beneficiaries? Congress should pass the Medicare Drug Savings Act introduced by Sen. Jay Rockefeller of West Virginia and Rep. Henry Waxman of California. This legislation will require drug companies to provide the government discounts for low-income Medicare beneficiaries, saving the government and taxpayers $141 billion over 10 years and all but eliminating the need to cut benefits or shift costs to beneficiaries.

In California, National Nurses United announced 15 cities events calling to protect, improve, and expand Medicare for All.

Healthcare-NOW! has information about other events throughout the country;  you can also email your representatives via their website;  or, phone at the Capital Switchboard today (202) 224-3121, National Call-In Day for H.R. 676 - ask them to sign on to cosponsor H.R. 676, Rep. John Conyers’ “Expanded and Improved Medicare for All Act,” as well as S. 1782, Sen. Bernie Sanders’ “American Health Security Act,” to ensure that everyone, without exception, has access to all medically necessary care. Physicians For A National Health Program (PNHP) is joining with Public Citizen, Healthcare-Now! along with other groups in this effort.  PNHP reports that PNHP medical students are organizing a “Virtual Lobby Day” on Facebook and Twitter.

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Long Walk For Health Care

Adam O'Neal, the Republican mayor of a small rural town called Belhaven, North Carolina, embarks upon a long walk to Washington D.C. to speak with President Obama and Congress about the Medicaid expansion - - and after his community's hospital is forced to close down.   

He is currently walking a total of 14 days and 273 miles between the two locations (though google maps shows this as 375 miles and 15 days at 8 hours of walking per day).  You can see him on the first and second day of his walk in the videos below, where he is also seen with Reverend William Barber of the highly popular North Carolina Moral Monday demonstrations, and as he is approached by appreciative citizens along the way.

Day One:

Day Two:

Monday, July 7, 2014

Citizens of this Earth

Occupy Wall Street activist Cecily Mcmillan was released from Rikers Island prison, Wednesday, July 2nd;  in the press conference below, she describes the grisly experience of being dropped off by the Department of Corrections from a dark van in the middle of an unknown Queens neighborhood, in fear that it was "another set-up."  Fortunately, an immigrant rights activist spotted her, let her use his phone, and waited with her until help arrived.   

Full transcript of Ms. McMillan's press statement here at the Sparrow ProjectLocked up for 58 days after a felony conviction for elbowing a police officer who grabbed her breast, the former nanny and graduate student basically stated that, as a result of this unjust incarceration, she was even more committed to fight the corrupt powers that be, her press statement focusing particularly on women's rights in prison, and especially sufficient access to medical care for those women.  Standing in the same spot Pussy Riot activists spoke after visiting her at Rikers, Ms. McMillan described a prisoner named Judith with hepatitis C and cancer, coughing up blood and chunks of her liver, and who later died as a result of inadequate health care. Even though Judith was covered in her own blood, the prisoners were told that this "wasn't an emergency," and she was denied access to a doctor.

Ms. McMillan delivered a list of demands compiled by herself and women at Rikers including sufficient access to health care, educational and rehabilitative services, and more strictly enforced rules against abuses by corrections officers. She stated,
“Working with my sisters to organize for change in the confines of jail has strengthened my belief in participatory democracy and collective action. I am inspired by the resilient community I have encountered in a system that is stacked against us. The only difference between people we call “law-abiding” citizens and the women I served time with is the unequal access to resources. Crossing the bridge I am compelled to reach back and recognize the two worlds as undivided. The court sent me here to frighten me and others into silencing our dissent, but I am proud to walk out saying that the 99% is, in fact, stronger than ever. We will continue to fight until we gain all the rights we deserve as citizens of this earth.”


Thursday, July 3, 2014

Take It Back

It's the 200th anniversary of the Star Spangled Banner.  A few memorable versions in the videos below.  Pete Seeger, in this one from Smithsonian Folkways, also giving a brief history of the song (it started out in a tavern ...) before leading the audience to join in,


Jimi Hendrix' historic Woodstock rendition, and during the Vietnam War,


Jose Feliciano's controversial performance at game 5 of the 1968 World Series in Detroit, Michigan,


Marvin Gaye flips it over again at the 1983 NBA All Star game,


The great Aretha Franklin, of course,

Bruce Springsteen in Washington D.C. in 2004, musically transitioning into his searing Born In The U.S.A.,

Wisconsin protesters at the State Capitol in Madison, objecting to Scott Walker's budget on February 26, 2011, and truly standing up for their rights while singing,

There are also the versions where a different song altogether is chosen and defiantly sung, as with Woody Guthrie's classic This Land Is Your Land taken up in video below by Tom Morello at the 2008 DNC "Let Nader Debate" rally in Denver, Colorado,


Yes, there are many others I haven't posted, including the Dixie Chicks in that GW moment at 2003 Superbowl XXXVII, all the great a cappella renditions, jazz, hip hop, Nuestro Himmos, other immigrant versions in Yiddish and French, and now, Aloe Blacc here for the 200th Anniversary.  And tomorrow, or today, depending on your time zone, the nation will also be hearing a probably magnificent John Williams rendition.

Still, the best versions, to me, are sung by the people themselves (like those in Madison) who take the song back in a true act of political (or, in the case of musicians, musical) independence, reminding us what this song really means, on many levels, and who this song and this country is really supposed to belong to. 

So, Happy 4th of July to the People of the United States of America.


On July 4th weekend, Moyers & Company "pay tribute to the champions of grassroots action fighting against the moneyed interests trying to buy and control government."