Thursday, February 28, 2008

Record-high ratio of Americans in Prison

Record-high ratio of Americans in prison

For the first time in U.S. history, more than one of every 100 adults is in jail or prison, according to a new report documenting America's rank as the world's No. 1 incarcerator. It urges states to curtail corrections spending by placing fewer low-risk offenders behind bars.
Using state-by-state data, the report says 2,319,258 Americans were in jail or prison at the start of 2008 — one out of every 99.1 adults. Whether per capita or in raw numbers, it's more than any other nation.

The report, released Thursday by the Pew Center on the States, said the 50 states spent more than $49 billion on corrections last year, up from less than $11 billion 20 years earlier. The rate of increase for prison costs was six times greater than for higher education spending, the report said.

The steadily growing inmate population "is saddling cash-strapped states with soaring costs they can ill afford and failing to have a clear impact either on recidivism or overall crime," the report said.

Susan Urahn, managing director of the Pew Center on the States, said budget woes are pressuring many states to consider new, cost-saving corrections policies that might have been shunned in the recent past for fear of appearing soft on crime.

"We're seeing more and more states being creative because of tight budgets," she said in an interview. "They want to be tough on crime. They want to be a law-and-order state. But they also want to save money, and they want to be effective."

The report cited Kansas and Texas as states that have acted decisively to slow the growth of their inmate population. They are making greater use of community supervision for low-risk offenders and employing sanctions other than reimprisonment for offenders who commit technical violations of parole and probation rules.

"The new approach, born of bipartisan leadership, is allowing the two states to ensure they have enough prison beds for violent offenders while helping less dangerous lawbreakers become productive, taxpaying citizens," the report said.

While many state governments have shown bipartisan interest in curbing prison growth, there also are persistent calls to proceed cautiously.

"We need to be smarter," said David Muhlhausen, a criminal justice expert with the conservative Heritage Foundation. "We're not incarcerating all the people who commit serious crimes. But we're also probably incarcerating people who don't need to be."

According to the report, the inmate population increased last year in 36 states and the federal prison system.

The largest percentage increase — 12 percent — was in Kentucky, where Gov. Steve Beshear highlighted the cost of corrections in his budget speech last month. He noted that the state's crime rate had increased only about 3 percent in the past 30 years, while the state's inmate population has increased by 600 percent.

The report was compiled by the Pew Center's Public Safety Performance Project, which is working with 13 states on developing programs to divert offenders from prison without jeopardizing public safety.

"Getting tough on criminals has gotten tough on taxpayers," said the project's director, Adam Gelb.

According to the report, the average annual cost per prisoner was $23,876, with Rhode Island spending the most ($44,860) and Louisiana the least ($13,009). It said California — which faces a $16 billion budget shortfall — spent $8.8 billion on corrections last year, while Texas, which has slightly more inmates, was a distant second with spending of $3.3 billion.

On average, states spend 6.8 percent of their general fund dollars on corrections, the report said. Oregon had the highest spending rate, at 10.9 percent; Alabama the lowest at 2.6 percent.
Four states — Vermont, Michigan, Oregon and Connecticut — now spend more on corrections than they do on higher education, the report said.

"These sad facts reflect a very distorted set of national priorities," said Sen. Bernie Sanders, an independent from Vermont, referring to the full report. "Perhaps, if we adequately invested in our children and in education, kids who now grow up to be criminals could become productive workers and taxpayers."

The report said prison growth and higher incarceration rates do not reflect an increase in the nation's overall population. Instead, it said, more people are behind bars mainly because of tough sentencing measures, such as "three-strikes" laws, that result in longer prison stays.

"For some groups, the incarceration numbers are especially startling," the report said. "While one in 30 men between the ages of 20 and 34 is behind bars, for black males in that age group the figure is one in nine."

The racial disparity for women also is stark. One of every 355 white women aged 35 to 39 is behind bars, compared with one of every 100 black women in that age group.

The nationwide figures, as of Jan. 1, include 1,596,127 people in state and federal prisons and 723,131 in local jails. That's out of almost 230 million American adults.

The report said the United States incarcerates more people than any other nation, far ahead of more populous China with 1.5 million people behind bars. It said the U.S. also is the leader in inmates per capita (750 per 100,000 people), ahead of Russia (628 per 100,000) and other former Soviet bloc nations which round out the Top 10.

The U.S. also is among the world leaders in capital punishment. According to Amnesty International, its 53 executions in 2006 were exceeded only by China, Iran, Pakistan, Iraq and Sudan.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Boycott the San Diego U-T

Join the Rally

Today, February 26th
Time: 12p.m
Location: U-T, 350 Camino de la Reina, San Diego, CA 92104

The U-T is trying to bust the Teamsters in its latest negotiations. The contract being proposed will destroy the working families at the U-T.

Under the proposed contract:

  • Wages cut by 40 percent.
  • Employees' children not covered by company-paid insurance.
  • Union employees will pay 50% of insurance premiums while non-Union will pay 5%.
  • Eliminate seniority for vacations shift selection.

Monday, February 25, 2008

New Meeting Venue For Breakout Sessions

The breakout sessions will be conducted on Mondays at the
Community Actors Theatre
2957 54th Street
San Diego, CA 92105
(Just south of University on 54th Street at the corner of College Grove)
7:00 P.M.
We can now change the time and day of the breakout sessions.
Please post your suggestions so we can make a decision to benefit most people.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

War vs. Peace

"War becomes perpetual when it becomes a rationale for peace."


"Never trust that whatever our government says is true. We have a responsibility to question. Silence is betrayal."

Congressman Wayne Morse, Oregon, 1964

"First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win."

Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Tune Your Computers For Streaming

In order to take advantage of the video streaming that we well be using to help in our public information campaign, you will need to make sure your computer is up to speed.

You must ensure that temporary Internet Files are emptied and that cookies are emptied in the Internet Options section.

Microsoft Pop-up blockers will need to be temporarily disabled.

You must have the latest version of Internet Explorer.

Microsoft updates must be up to date.

You must have the latest version of Java, .net and Adobe Flash.

Your security must be set to medium.

See the links below to obtain the updates for free in a simple process!

Internet Explorer updates

Microsoft Windows Updates

Macromedia Flash Download

Java Download

.net Framework Download

Operating System Requirements:· Microsoft Windows 2000· Microsoft Windows XP Home/Pro SP2Hardware System Requirements:· PC with 700 P3 - AMD megahertz or higher processor clock speed· 256 megabytes (MB) of RAM or higher ·

1280 X 1024 or higher-resolution video adapter and monitorInternet Connection System Requirements:·

High-speed broadband connectionWeb browser requirements:·

Microsoft Internet Explorer 6.0 or later. Click Here for the latest upgrades ! Windows Media Player requirements:·

Microsoft Windows Media Player 9.0 or later(This version of the player is installed by default on all supported OSes)Web browser security settings:·

You need to set your security settings to default (medium).· If custom security settings are used, you need to make sure the following areprompted or enabled:Signed ActiveX Controls and Script AcitveX Controls marked safe for scripting.Video capture devices:·

You need at least 1 recording video device (DirectX device) installed andavailable on the system for normal operation. ·

If you want to participate in two way teleconferencing:

We STRONGLY RECOMMEND that you check the webcam manufacturers web siteand download the latest available drivers for the device.Audio capture devices:· You need at least 1 recording audio device (Wave-In device) installed and available on the system for normal operation.·

Make sure you have a sound card installed in the computer and that you have the proper audio recording device selected.System updates:·

We require the installation of ALL service packs and critical updates for your computer from the Microsoft Windows Update Web site, as well as any non-critical updates related to the Microsoft .NET Framework, Windows Media Player and DirectX.Click here for Windows Updates!·

We also require the latest version of the Macromedia Flash browser plugin.Click here to download the latest version !

Java Runtime (Version 5.0 Update 6) Download Now

.Net Framework (Version 1.0 and 1.1 Update) Download 1.0 Download 1.1 Download 2.0

Friday, February 15, 2008

Fear of Democracy


Bush: If it’s our oil, why do Venezuelans get to vote on it?

GOP panicked that counting votes in Venezuela will spread to Florida
by Greg Palast

Monday December 3, 2007

The Family Bush can fix Florida. They can fix Ohio. But it’s just driving them crazy that they can’t fix the vote in Venezuela.[Note: Watch the reports taken from the Palast BBC investigations in Venezuela in the newly released DVD, “The Assassination of Hugo Chavez. The Bush Administration and its press puppies - the same ones who couldn’t get enough of the purple thumbs of voters of Iraq - are absolutely livid that this weekend the electorate of Venezuela had the opportunity to vote.

Typical was the mouth-breathing editorial by the San Francisco Chronicle, that the referendum could make Hugo Chavez, Venezuela’s President, “a constitutional dictator for life.” And no less a freedom fighter than Donald Rumsfeld, from the height of the Washington Post, said that by voting, Venezuela was “receding into dictatorship.”

Oh, my!

Given that Chavez’ referendum was defeated at the ballot box, we now that, as a dictator, Chavez is a flop.

Of course, without meaning to gainsay Secretary Rumsfeld, maybe Chavez is not a dictator.

Let’s get clear exactly what this vote was about.

Firstly, it was a referendum to change the nation’s constitution to end term limits for President.Oh, horror! Imagine if we eliminated term limits in the US!

We could end up stuck with a president - like Franklin Roosevelt. Worse, if Bill Clinton could have run again, we’d have missed out on the statesmanship of Junior Bush.

While US media called Chavez a “tyrant” for suggesting an end to term limits, they somehow forgot to smear the tyrant tag on Mr. Clinton for suggesting the same for the America.

We were not told this weekend’s referendum was a vote on term limits, rather, we were told by virtually every US news outlet that the referendum was to make Chavez, “President for Life.” The “President for Life” canard was mis-reported by no less than The New York Times.But ending term limits does not mean winning the term.

As Chavez himself told me, “It’s up to the people” whether he gets reelected. And that infuriates the US Powers That Be.Secondly, beyond ending term limits, the referendum would have loaded the nation’s constitution with changes in property law, work hours and so many other complex economic adjustments that the entire referendum sank of its own weight.

It’s the Oil.

Term limits and work hours in Venezuela?

Why was this a crisis for Washington?

Why is the Bush crew so bonkers about Hugo?

Is it because Venezuela sits on the world’s largest reserve of coconuts?

Like Operation Iraqi Liberation (”OIL”) - it’s all about the crude, dude. And lots of it.

The US Department of Energy documents I obtained indicate that the guys holding Bush’s dipstick figure that Venezuela is sitting on 1.36 trillion barrels of crude, five times the reserves of Saudi Arabia.Chavez’ continuing tenure means that Venezuelans’ huge supply of oil will now be in the hands of … Venezuelans!

As Arturo Quiran, resident of a poor folks’ housing complex, told me, “Ten, fifteen years ago … there was a lot of oil money here in Venezuela but we didn’t see it.” Notably, Quiran doesn’t particularly agree with Chavez’ politics.

But, he thought Americans should understand that under Chavez’ Administration, there’s a doctor’s office in his building with “free operations, x-rays, medicines. Education also. People who never knew how to read and write now know how to sign their own papers.”

Not everyone is pleased.

As one TV news anchor, violently anti-Chavez, told me in derisive tones, “Chavez gives them (the poor) bricks and bread!” - how dare he! - so, they vote for him.

Big Oil has better ideas for Venezuela, best expressed in several Wall Street Journal articles attacking Chavez for spending his nation’s oil wealth on “social programs” rather than on more drilling platforms to better fill the SUVs of Texas.

Chavez has committed other crimes in Washington’s eyes. Not only has this uppity brown man spent Venezuela’s oil wealth in Venezuela, he withdrew $20 billion from the US Federal Reserve.

Weirdly, Venezuela’s previous leaders, though the nation was dirt poor, lent billions to the US Treasury on crap terms.

Chavez has said, Basta! to this game, and has called for keeping South America’s capital in … South America!

Oh, no!

Oh, and did I mention that Chavez told Exxon it had to pay more than a 1% royalty to his nation on the heavy crude the company extracted?

And that’s why they have to kill him.

In 2002, The New York Times sickeningly applauded the coup d’etat against Chavez. But that failed.

Therefore, as the electorate of Venezuela is obstinately refusing to vote as Condi Rice tells them, there’s only one solution left for democracy-loving Bush-niks, the view express out loud by our President’s spiritual advisor, Pat Robertson:

“We have this enemy to our south controlling a huge pool of oil. Hugo Chavez thinks we’re trying to assassinate him. I think we ought to go ahead and do it. … … We don’t need another $200 billion war … It’s a whole lot easier to have some covert operatives do the job.”

But Hugo’s not my enemy. Indeed, he’s made a damn good offer to the American people: oil for $50 a barrel - nearly half of what it sells today. By locking in a long-term price, Venezuela loses its crazy Iraq war oil-price windfall.

In return, we agree not to let oil prices fall through the floor (it dropped to $9 a barrel in 1998) and bankrupt his nation.

But Saudi Arabia doesn’t like that deal. And Abdullah’s wish is George Bush’s command. (Interestingly, Chavez’ fellow no-term-limits dictator Bill Clinton endorsed the concept.)I don’t agree with everything Chavez does. And I’ve found some of his opponents’ point well taken.

But unlike Bush, I don’t think I should have a veto over the Venezuelan vote.And the locals’ sentiments are quite clear. I drove with one opposition candidate, Julio Borges, on a campaign stop to a small town three hours from Caracas.

We met his supporters - or, more accurately, his lone supporter. The “rally” was in her kitchen. She served us delicious arepas.The next day, I returned to that very same town when Chavez arrived. Nearly a thousand screaming fans showed up - and an equal number were turned away. (The British Telegraph laughably reports that Chavez’ boosters appear “under duress.”)

You’d think they were showing for a taping of “South American Idol.” (Well, the Venezuelan President did break into song a few times.)It’s worth noting that Chavez’ personal popularity doesn’t extend to all his plans for “Bolivarian” socialism. And that killed his referendum at the ballot box.

I guess Chavez should have asked Jeb bush how to count votes in a democracy.

So there you have it.

Some guy who thinks he can take Venezuela’s oil and oil money and just give it away to Venezuelans.

And these same Venezuelans have the temerity to demand the right to pick the president of their choice!

What is the world coming to?

In Orwellian Bush-speak and Times-talk, Chavez’ referendum was portrayed before the vote as a trick, Saddam goes Latin.

Maybe their real fear is that Chavez has brought a bit of economic justice through the ballot box, a trend that could spread northward.

Think about it: Chavez is funding full health care for all Venezuelans.

What if that happened here?

*****************Greg Palast has just returned from South America.

Catch his investigations for BBC Television and Democracy Now! in the newly-released DVD, The Assassination of Hugo Chavez, including Palast’s interviews with Chavez, his opponents - even the man who kidnapped Chavez.

You can watch the trailer on YouTube.

Greg Palast is the author of the New York Times bestsellers, The Best Democracy Money Can Buy and Armed Madhouse.

This week, Palast will release his new film on DVD, The Election Files: Theft of 2008, with music by Moby.These films are made available only as gifts to donors to the Palast Investigative Fund, a not-for-profit charitable foundation supporting investigative reporting.

More information at or

News from the Global Women’s Strike in Venezuela which is
campaigning for the YES to Constitutional Reforms on 2 December

Today, Sunday December 2, the people of Venezuela are voting on constitutional reform, amid renewed media attacks and assassination attempts against President Chávez – a laser point which could have been from a gun was seen on his chest and head, and for some seconds CNN had a clip of Chávez with a title saying “Who killed him?”

The media, and the US corporate and political interests they represent, claim that Chávez is using Venezuela’s oil revenue to manipulate the poor in order to stay in power for life.

Extensive reports of clashes between students have accused the government of heavy handed repression, while saying little of the violence against pro-reform students whose union offices were set ablaze risking the lives of those who were trapped inside.

The advances which are being put forward and the process they come out of have been entirely hidden by the media. President Chávez proposed 33 changes to the 1999 Constitution to be discussed by the grassroots nationally; and the National Assembly. Consultation has been massive.

The National Assembly says that between 16 August and 7 October, 10 million copies of the proposed reforms were distributed, some 9,020 public events were held throughout the country, and a special hotline took over 80,000 phone calls. 77.8 percent of the Venezuelan people report having read and been informed about the proposed changes. (Compare this to the European constitution which was never taken to a referendum in the UK and most people knew hardly anything about, was rejected by voters in France and The Netherlands, and is now being recycled in a shorter version to be adopted without a vote.)

Following these consultations, 25 additional reforms and 11 smaller changes have been put forward – altogether a total of 69 proposed reforms. People will vote on them in two separate blocks, A (46 articles) & B (24), on 2 December.
The constitutional reforms are promoting a Socialist Democracy, an economy that is “diversified and independent” based on “human values of co-operation and the preponderance of the general interest.”

We have spoken to the Global Women’s Strike in Venezuela, which is mobilizing for the reforms and told us that despite media claims to the contrary, the support for the Sí/Yes is massive. These are the proposed reforms they most want people to know about.

Article 21 forbids discrimination – sexual orientation and health have been added.

Article 70 – recognizes all the organizations by which people participate and lead on the road to socialism. They include assemblies and communal councils, councils of workers, students, small farmers, artisans, fisher people, sports people, older and younger people, women, people with disabilities…, and all kinds of cooperatives, networks, micro enterprises, voluntary organizations etc, “created to develop values of mutual co-operation and socialist solidarity.”

Article 82 – the right to adequate housing for all and the protection from judicial sanction of any home which is registered as “principal” with the Poder Popular.

Article 87 – the rights of the self-employed, entitles housewives, domestic workers, street vendors, taxi drivers, transport and motorcycle workers, artisans, barbers and hairdressers, farmers, small-mine workers, fisher people, seasonal workers, cultural workers… to social security, pension, holidays and maternity leave through the creation of a Social Stability Fund for Self Employed Workers to which the State, employers and workers will contribute.

Article 90 – introduces the 6-hour day. The working day is being shortened from 8 to 6 hours so that workers can have more free time to spend with their families, on their own self-development and on community activities. Workers in 24-hour industries such as oil will work four 6-hour shifts rather than three 8-hour shifts; more people will have access to employment.

“In order for workers to have enough time for their full development, the working day-shift will not exceed six hours a day or 36 hours a week, and the night-shift will not exceed six hours a day or 34 hours a week.

No employer will be able to force workers to work overtime. The State will promote mechanisms for a better use of free time to benefit education, training and human, physical, spiritual, moral, cultural and technical development of the workers.
Workers will be entitled to remunerated weekly time off and holidays under the same conditions as the days worked.”

Article 100 – recognizes Venezuela’s African roots and culture.

Article 109 – equal vote for students, professors and staff in the election of university authorities. At the moment staff have no voting rights and professors´ votes count far more than those of the students.

Article 115 – introduces different forms of collective property so that people can have a stronger claim on land and industry through co-operatives and other community organizations.

· Public: Fully owned and managed by the government.

· Social: Owned by the Venezuelan people and either managed by the government or by communities or other institutions.

· Collective: Owned and managed by groups of individuals for their particular uses.

· Mixed: A combination of ownership and management.

People’s involvement at every level and their power to make decisions about resources are being massively encouraged through communal councils and communes.

Article 136 – The people exercise their sovereignty through Popular Power. “This does not arise from elections but from their condition as human groups organized as population. Popular Power is expressed through communities, communes and self-government of cities, communal councils, councils of workers, students, small farmers, fisher people, sports people, young and older people, women, people with disabilities…”

Article 184 – decentralizes power and transfers it to organized communities, communal councils and communes. Promotes co-operatives and workers’ participation in the management of public companies.

Article 230 – the president’s new powers. Elections will be held every seven years rather than six, and there will be no limit to how many times a candidate can stand.
The proposal has the support of the majority of the population as people feel that the revolutionary changes they are working on stand a better chance of success against coup, assassination and destabilization attempts by the racist elite and their US counterparts, if Chávez is in power. It takes decades of organizing to produce a revolutionary leader like Chávez – why would you want to replace him when he is doing such good work? Those who criticize Chávez do not mention that people in Venezuela can revoke their elected officials through a referendum (Chávez won such a referendum by a huge majority in 2004), a choice other democracies do not provide. Also other democratic governments have the right to re-elect their president or prime minister – the US had no time limit until the law was changed after Roosevelt was elected four times, Britain still has no limit and Tony Blair was elected three times on a vote which was nowhere near that of Chávez.

The proposal has to be seen in context. In Venezuela where millions of people, especially women, are actively involved in the process of change and want Chávez to stay in power, while the US and the racist Venezuelan elite want him out and even dead, Article 230 signals a determination to protect our leadership so we can move the revolution forward. In Peru, when ex-president Fujimori, who is now being tried for human rights violations, wanted unlimited re-election, it signaled increased exploitation, repression, torture and disappearances – the US and their media did not object.

Article 305 – promotes “agroecology” and food security, communal land and resources for its development.

Article 307 – forbids big land estates in favour of agricultural workers’ co-operatives.
Additional points on the proposed reforms taken from Venezuelanalysis website:

· Article 64 – lowers the voting age to 16, following the lead of Austria, Nicaragua and Brazil.

· Article 98 – protects the creation and communication of cultural goods.

· Article 103 – articulates the right to education for all Venezuelans, and mandate that all public education through university be free of charge.

· Article 272 – establishes a penitentiary system based on full rehabilitation of prisoners and respect for their human rights. Work, study, training will be available in jail, and community sentences prioritized over imprisonment.

· Article 337 – calls for the limitation of certain rights during a national emergency, a number of rights would remain, including the right to life and personal integrity, the right to a defense, the right to a fair trial, and the right not to be tortured, disappeared or held incommunicado. This ensures that Venezuela remains consistent with – or in some cases exceeds – its international obligations.
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Economic Strategy

Protests and marches work well when coupled with economic pressure.

Learn how we can target conservative financial contributors and force them to pay attention to our concerns.

We can regain control over our government by destroying the economic base of special interests.

See: to learn how we can identify contributors to our opponents.

See: for ideas on how we can mount a campaign in San Diego County to bring the Red Funding Machine to its knees!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

This Valentine's Day tell local officials to lead with their Hearts!

Livable Wages: The Heart of San Diego's Vision for New Development

Good, middle-class jobs paying livable wages should be the heart of San Diego's plan for future development. Yet Mayor Jerry Sanders has removed the vision of livable wages from a proposed update of the General Plan, our city's guideline for development decisions. A council committee agreed with CPI and restored livable wages as a goal, but the battle is not over; the full council will vote on March 3rd. Join CPI, Progressive San Diego and countless other organizations and send a letter to your local officials.

Send Mayor Sanders and the City Council a Valentine's message, click here. Tell them we want a city that values workers and expects new developments to help build the middle class.

First Responders First Money-Bomb

First Responders First Money-Bomb February 17

The first responders who rushed to ground zero on September 11th and who stayed behind for months to assist in the recovery effort were exposed to pulverized concrete, asbestos, mercury, glass, and who knows what other elements.

No respiratory protection was made available in the early weeks after the attack.

It has been reported that now over 70% of first responders are suffering with mesothelioma, cancer, and other very serious illnesses; some have already died as a result of their illnesses.

Government at the local, state, and national levels has denied that these health issues are related to the work the first responders did at ground zero. Consequently, our first responders are struggling to pay for their healthcare.

They were there for us; now it is our turn.

Let's show our support for the first responders of September 11th and raise awareness around this very important and urgent issue. message from John Feal

If all you can afford is $5, send just $5. Take part in the movement to raise awareness around this issue and properly acknowlege our first responders. Post here; share that you contributed. Our 9/11 truth community is powerful, so let's play the game that 271 members contribute to the money bomb.

Trust In Our Government?

Our government is presenting the case that we should "trust" them with an invasive surveillance program that allows them to snoop into our personal lives.
Current legislation in congress proposed by the Bush Administration would sheild large corporate interests from lawsuits when they betray us and give our personal information to the United States government.
President Bush wants us to believe that he cares about us; that he wants to protect us.
Startlingly, today CNN broke a story today showing how FEMA has allowed families to live in trailers contaminated with serious levels of formaldihyde
Centers For Disease Control officials recommended that the displaced families leave the trailers immediately.
And go where?
This incompetent, inept government wants to have the power/our trust, to snoop on us and curb our constitutional rights when they cannot be trusted to safely put our familes into safe disaster shelters among the many other failures.
They want us to believe that they care about us when they turn down universal health care.
It is time for many to wake up and realize that our government really does not care about us.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

10 Ways to Fix Health Care: Opinions From 10 Experts

Topic: Health Care

With an estimated 47 million Americans lacking health insurance, most agree that the healthcare system in the United States needs some reform. But doctors, economists and other professionals differ in their opinions on how to fix the problems. Below, 10 experts offer their personal views on how to climb back from the healthcare crisis.

1. Mend the medical schoolsDr. Julie Gerberding, director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), thinks the country needs more medical schools and that doctors, nurses, vets need to learn together. Beginning their education at once, Gerberding says, can encourage healthcare professionals to cooperate and develop a shared mission.

“If we are seriously thinking about building a health system, then we need to be training professionals in a collegial and collaborative manner,” Gerberding told reporters at the annual meeting of the American Veterinary Medical Association earlier this year.

2. Single-payer insuranceDr. Michael Ozer, a San Antonio-based pediatrician and a member of Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP), says that the country needs to expand health coverage and lower its costs at the same time. The only way to do this, he asserts, is through single-payer national health insurance, or NHI. The approach is similar to healthcare programs in Canada and Britain.

According to PNHP estimates, U.S. insurance companies spend more than a third of health care dollars on administration and marketing, which subtracts money from patient care. A national system, Ozer states, would facilitate long-term cost controls on the pharmaceutical industry to ensure that new benefits are sustainable. Such a system would equal overhead savings possibly to the tune of as much as $350 billion a year. He goes on to cite federal legislation currently under consideration in Congress called the United States National Health Insurance Act (HR 676) which, if passed, would extend Medicare to more people.

3. Individual, not company, plansMichael F. Cannon, director of health policy studies at the Cato Institute and co-author of the forthcoming 2nd edition of Healthy Competition: What’s Holding Back Health Care and How to Free It, says market forces bear no consequence on rising healthcare costs. Doctors and insurance companies get away with charging high prices because government programs encourage employer-controlled insurance. More people could benefit if they kept the same insurance plan even if they didn’t keep the same job.

The government is at least taking a step in that direction, Cannon says. President George Bush and GOP presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani have endorsed reforms that would extend the tax break applying to employer-controlled coverage to individual coverage. Those measures could result in families controlling more of their healthcare money and the expansion of coverage to 7 million people, according to the Congressional Budget Office.

4. Divert the dollar to the docOrthopedic surgeon and sports medicine specialist Neil Thomas Katz, on the other hand, says that the dollar needs to go to the doctors, not the patients, the insurance companies or the government.

“The solution is simple. Doctors and hospitals need to be paid at least as much as it costs to take care of you. We should not be losing money,” Katz states.

America’s healthcare funds, he claims, go toward paying high executive salaries and to maintaining insurance company staff whose primary job is “to find ways not to pay for your healthcare.” In addition, workers’ compensation and no-fault premiums create a cycle of litigation against doctors and employees. The current system enables a government health bureaucracy to thrive.

5. Pay for the care of populations, not eventsDonald Berwick, a Massachusetts pediatrician and the president of the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, touches upon several ways to transform healthcare. One area he focuses on involves making healthcare a pattern, not a response to a particular occurrence.

Berwick thinks that individuals rely on random health events like hospital stays and office visits for care. A better system would treat patients on a regular basis and aim for high quality preventive care. This method would address “the real needs of patients over time and place, guiding them through the technological thicket of modern medicine, and making sure that they get exactly what they want and need, exactly when and how they want and need it,” Berwick says.

6. Cut costs for med studentsLike CDC head Julie Gerberding, Robert B. Goldberg, who heads the Medical Society of the State of New York, also points to medical school as the place to start change. But his argument focuses on the costs to students, not the separation of education. Large amounts of debt, he says, forces many medical students to specialize in one area instead of becoming the more needed primary care physicians.

If payment structures were changed, Goldberg says, the best and the brightest medical students might be able to afford to select primary care as their field. Giving future doctors more accessibility to electing primary care as their specialty would reduce scheduling delays, improve quality of care and allow for more efficient medical practices, Goldberg says.

7. Eliminate insurance altogetherTennessee emergency and internal medicine physician Dr. Robert Berry has taken a groundbreaking approach to giving individuals better access to healthcare — he eliminated insurance all-together at his clinic. His 7,500-some-odd patients pay for their visits themselves, because Berry does not accept insurance or third-party payments like Medicare.

The doctor, who serves on the board of directors of Consumers for Health Care Choices, a national group that describes its mission as giving consumers a voice in the health-care debate, cuts overhead costs by employing only a full-time office manager and a medical assistant/student nurse. He also only keeps his office open 32 hours each week, with 28 hours serving walk-in patients and four hours set aside for scheduled appointments. Berry’s lobbied his state legislature and Congress to allow more physicians to set up similar practices.

“I estimate that if payment for all routine medical care in this country were settled at the time of service, we would save about $75 billion in administrative costs on the doctor’s side alone,” he says.

8. More health centersNew Jersey Congressman Chris Smith wants to see more affordable, community health centers around the country. Such facilities treat patients regardless of their ability to pay medical fees and aim to alleviate the pressure at hospital emergency rooms. They also tend to help underserved, low-income and minority populations who often can not afford or acquire health insurance.

Smith earlier this year co-sponsored legislation that would extend the federal funding for health centers.

“It is absolutely essential that we expand funding and support for community health centers, which provide affordable health care to underserved communities,” Smith says.

9. Stimulating positive-sum competitionHarvard University professor Michael E. Porter says the healthcare system has it all wrong — it system favors price over value. To set the system toward the latter, healthcare providers, payers and employers purchasing health plans must all change their tact. Ways to stimulate this change include making information more accessible.

“Under positive-sum competition, both the providers and the consumers of health care would get the information they need to make decisions about care,” Porter says. “The government or a broad consortium of employers could jump-start the collection and dissemination process by agreeing on a standard set of information that would be collected nationally on a regular basis.”

10. Keep it low-techDr. Dean Ornish, the founder, president, and director of the non-profit Preventive Medicine Research Institute in Sausalito, CA, said low-technology approaches to preventive healthcare can help cut healthcare costs. Though preventive programs incorporating diet, exercise and stress management might cost more money upfront, overall costs will drop by 30 percent and may save the patient from going for tests and getting treatment with expensive machinery.

“Given the failures of high-tech medicine, these low-tech approaches are starting to get the attention they deserve,” Dr. Ornish said.

Healthcare reform will most likely require a multi-faceted approach. Medical professionals, economists and government officials have differing opinions on how best to target the issues. All of their expertise will factor in as the country continues to grapple with how to handle the crisis.

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Tuesday, February 5, 2008

This Says It All For Me: When are you going to get mad?

Lee Iacocca Says:

"Am I the only guy in this country who's fed up with what's happening? Where the hell is our outrage?

We should be screaming bloody murder.

We've got a gang of clueless bozos steering our ship of state right over a cliff, we've got corporate gangsters stealing us blind, and we can't even clean up after a hurricane much less build a hybrid car.

But instead of getting mad, everyone sits around and nods their heads when the politicians say, "Stay the course".

Stay the course? You've got to be kidding. This is America , not the damned "Titanic". I'll give you a sound bite: "Throw all the bums out!"

You might think I'm getting senile, that I've gone off my rocker, and maybe I have. But someone has to speak up. I hardly recognize this country anymore.

The most famous business leaders are not the innovators but the guys in handcuffs. While we're fiddling in Iraq , the Middle East is burning and nobody seems to know what to do. And the press is waving 'pom-poms' instead of asking hard questions. That's not the promise of the " America " my parents and yours traveled across the ocean for.

I've had enough. How about you?

I'll go a step further. You can't call yourself a patriot if you're not outraged. This is a fight I'm ready and willing to have.

The Biggest "C" is Crisis !

Leaders are made, not born. Leadership is forged in times of crisis. It's easy to sit there with your feet up on the desk and talk theory. Or send someone else's kids off to war when you've never seen a battlefield yourself. It's another thing to lead when your world comes tumbling down.

On September 11, 2001, we needed a strong leader more than any other time in our history. We needed a steady hand to guide us out of the ashes.

A Hell of a Mess.

So here's where we stand.

We're immersed in a bloody war with no plan for winning and no plan for leaving. We're running the biggest deficit in the history of the country.

We're losing the manufacturing edge to Asia , while our once-great companies are getting slaughtered by health care costs.

Gas prices are skyrocketing, and nobody in power has a coherent energy policy. Our schools are in trouble.

Our borders are like sieves.

The middle class is being squeezed every which way.

These are times that cry out for leadership.

But when you look around, you've got to ask: "Where have all the leaders gone?"

Where are the curious, creative communicators?

Where are the people of character, courage, conviction, omnipotence, and common sense? I may be a sucker for alliteration, but I think you get the point.

Name me a leader who has a better idea for homeland security than making us take off our shoes in airports and throw away our shampoo?

We've spent billions of dollars building a huge new bureaucracy, and all we know how to do is react to things that have already happened.

Name me one leader who emerged from the crisis of Hurricane Katrina.

Congress has yet to spend a single day evaluating the response to the hurricane, or demanding accountability for the decisions that were made in the crucial hours after the storm.

Everyone's hunkering down, fingers crossed, hoping it doesn't happen again. Now, that's just crazy.

Storms happen. Deal with it. Make a plan. Figure out what you're going to do the next time.

Name me an industry leader who is thinking creatively about how we can restore our competitive edge in manufacturing. Who would have believed that there could ever be a time when "The Big Three" referred to Japanese car companies? How did this happen, and more important, what are we going to do about it?

Name me a government leader who can articulate a plan for paying down the debt, or solving the energy crisis, or managing the health care problem.

The silence is deafening.

But these are the crises that are eating away at our country and milking the middle class dry.

I have news for the gang in Congress.

We didn't elect you to sit on your asses and do nothing and remain silent while our democracy is being hijacked and our greatness is being replaced with mediocrity.

What is everybody so afraid of?

That somebody on Fox News will call them a name? Give me a break. Why don't you guys show some spine for a change?

Had Enough?

Hey, I'm not trying to be the voice of gloom and doom here. I'm trying to light a fire. I'm speaking out because I have hope.

I believe in America. In my lifetime I've had the privilege of living through some of America 's greatest moments.

I've also experienced some of our worst crises: the "Great Depression", "World War II", the "Korean War", the "Kennedy Assassination", the "Vietnam War", the 1970s oil crisis, and the struggles of recent years culminating with 9/11. If I've learned one thing, it's this:

"You don't get anywhere by standing on the sidelines waiting for somebody else to take action. Whether it's building a better car or building a better future for our children, we all have a role to play.

That's the challenge I'm raising in this book. It's a call to

"Action" for people who, like me, believe in America . It's not too late, but it's getting pretty close. So let's shake off the crap and go to work.

Let's tell 'em all we've had enough. "

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Post your thoughts here

Prior to our meeting on the 17th of February, you can post your thoughts here.

This will give us a head start in understanding your concerns.

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Stand UP, get ANGRY, DO something!

I look around and I SEE what is going on, the lies, the corruption, the deceit, the intentional infliction of slavery on all but a few, and I think to myself - "doesn't anyone else see it?!"

It makes me boiling mad, why isn't everyone mad?

What I don't see is the majority of my fellow human beings noticing that with each waking day, we have fewer freedoms, we are being moved through the gates like cattle getting closer and closer to being tagged and controlled by an elite few.

We are being enslaved, by religious groups, by our governments, by money, by debt. And we sit by and do NOTHING. We don't even get angry about the fact that within the foreseeable future we will have been microchipped and our every move monitored by an elite few.

I know you're probably saying, god she's finally done it, she's flipped out.

But consider for a minute, 30 years ago (if you're old enough!) did you think that you would be carrying a plastic card to make your purchases? Did you think that you would rather pay your bills by transferring your "money" that's in the "bank" by entering numbers into a form in a computer? I think not.

Now consider this, Tomorrow is "Super Bowl Sunday". Most everyone is excited about cheering their favorite team to victory (and I have nothing against having some fun, don't get me wrong), but the bottomline - will the outcome of this super bowl have any signficiant, lasting effect on your future as a human being on this planet? NO IT WILL NOT!

So tomorrow when you sit down to watch the game I ask that you make one promise to YOURSELF, to ALL OF US, promise that YOU will do something that takes the same amount of time and energy to make a signficant difference to the future of the planet, in YOUR future and the future of YOUR children and YOUR grandchildren.

If you don't know what you can do, let me know I'll give you some direction.

Welcome to the Community Coalition Blog!

This is a blog for those of us who want to promote a message of hope, with the observation of the truth.
This is a place to express hope for unity in our struggle against oppression, hate and intolerance in any form.
This is place for those of us who oppose poverty to come and express our thoughts and feelings.
This is a place to express our standing for justice.
This is a place to express our concern for the environment.
This is a place for us to express our support for freedom of religion and the right to have freedom from it as well.
This is a place for people who are pro-choice but not pro-abortion to express their feelings.
This is a place for people who are for peace and who realize that war is NEVER the solution.
This is a place for people who believe that this great country's government must take care of its business at home first before tackling the problems of the world.
This is a place for people who want to see a government of the people and not of the corporate interests, religious powerhouses, defense industry, weapons manufacturers and energy companies.
We stand for Universal Health Care and accessability to medical treatment for all Americans.
We want a more equitable distrubution of wealth in this country and poverty relief.
We want preservation of our constitutional rights and freedom from government invasion of our private lives.
We want honest elections.
We want to protect the rights of women.
We want prison and drug policy reform and an end to the "war" on drugs. We want to decriminalize certain drugs and promote treatment as opposed to incarceration.
We want to help previously incarcerated people in their quest to become productive citizens and end the perpetual punishment cycle of the three strikes system.
We want to have meaningful dialogue on reparations for African Americans, Native Americans, Mexican Amerians, Japanese Americans, Filipino Americans and others who have been abused, neglected and mistreated by the United States government.
We want to unite this community regardless of the areas upon which we disagree; focus on the areas that we agree upon and build a more caring, informed community.
We want to welcome the people who do not agree with all or some of what is written above; your opinions are respected as well.
We are an all inclusive, progressive community with an open mind, sober in our understanding of history.
We are not open to intolerance.
We are not open to hate.
We wish to embrace our future, together...not our past.
We seek excellence, not perfection.
We realize that each day is a gift, that is why it is called the present.
While we realize a message of love and tolerance is needed, we understand that we are in a struggle with intolerant powers who do not care about the American people, even though publicly they say they do.
We must motivate the apathetic.
We must motiveat the young to be involved.
We must uplift the poor.
We must check the power of the rich and powerful.
We must control our own media.
We must unite and maintain sustained synergy to promote these progressive ideals.
We can and will overcome the brutal forces of conservative militarism.
Join us...............
Post your thoughts!

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