Saturday, January 30, 2016

The People's Voice

Recently we became aware of an interesting dynamic in British government where the people can petition for something to be debated in Parliament. The process is described on this link -
This is a great way for common citizens to have a direct influence on what is discussed by elected representatives. The United States and our individual state legislatures should have this option.
With the influence of lobbyists and big money donors controlling our legislative, this could be a path to give a greater voice to real voters.
There are many issues that Americans feel strongly about that simply never make it the floor of our legislative bodies as they avoid publicly stating their positions. For example, Congress has not debated or voted concerning our strategy in Syria. Our representatives should be taking a stand and voting about this sort of issue.
The Congress should be debating about a proposed replacement (if there really is one) to the Affordable Care Act. We should petition for that debate. If there is a better plan, let's hear it. Let's hear a debate about it.
It would be very good if we, the people, began having some say - some control, over what is happening or not happening in our legislative bodies. Our votes only matter if the people we vote for actually work for our interests. This election theme - on both sides of the isle - seems to be one of great dis-satisfaction with the current system. No president can change that alone. We need some major systemic changes to take place.
Our government needs to be OUR government. That means a government that is working toward a better society for ALL. That's a tall order. It calls for all voices to be heard. It calls for vision toward a greater good. It calls for compromise and a collective effort in the same direction. We are all connected. We are only as strong as our weakest links. No amount of money, no walls, no attempts at divisions can protect us from the repercussions that come from ignoring those parts of society that are broken. We will all feel the pain of those suffering one way or another.
Government should be our greatest agent for collective solution of social pain and suffering. A purely capitalist social system has little interest in pain and suffering that does not create wealth. In fact, it seeks only to gain wealth from pain and suffering. This is why we are experiencing so much anger in this country. We have become so enamored by creation of and protection of wealth that we are becoming an impoverished nation. We're crumbling and fumbling to survive while powerful interests are raking in more and more the national wealth and continuing to gain power to protect their interests.
We don't need to worry about terrorists. We're torn apart from those within our own borders. If we don't regain a democracy that represents US and works to a collective improvement for ALL, this experiment will fail sooner than later.

Sunday, January 24, 2016

Get on with it!!!!

From an early age I was fiercely competitive and independent minded. Before double digits there was no telling me I could not do something because I was a girl. I would simply set out to prove I could indeed do it and do it better than any boy. The neighbor boy across the road was my nemesis and our most important competitions revolved around our bike riding. It was a confidence builder. I could ride further without hands. I rode faster. I did longer wheelies. I jumped my bike further over obstacles. (and broke my bike more)
I entered broadcasting in an age when few women were on the air. When I reported in at my first Armed Forces Radio and Television station, the Station manager said, "You need to know the 'broad' in broadcaster does not stand for women and I feel there is no place for you here."
In my early years in the mining industry as I carried cameras underground, I was often the first woman to ever enter the mine. "There's a superstition about women being bad luck underground", I heard at the first few mines.
Always I was driven by a deep desire to make my own way and refused to be defined by others. I proved that I would carry my own load and do better than any man. Convention and conventional wisdom are boring to me if there is a more obvious truth. Status quo, in my mind, is a foolish squander of potential. We should always be driving toward something better and something more than was yesterday.
I see a lot of chatter about conservatism versus liberalism. Blah, blah, blah. What is anyone working toward that is better or more than yesterday? I don't care if it is a conservative approach or a literal approach. What is going to make things better tomorrow than they are today?
Sitting still is not enough. Ignoring talent and potential is not enough. Telling me we cannot do anything like telling me I can't do something because I'm a girl.
Let's get on with it. If we are going to preserve something today, tell me how it's going to benefit tomorrow. I can tell you when it has. I can tell you when it has not.
Don't tell me we cannot solve real problems because....because...because....
I believe in progress. I'd rather jump over you and ride faster than sit and listen to what cannot be done. All the can't stuff of history did not stop me from doing all the things girls couldn't do when I was starting. I know what can be done if a person decides they can. An entire nation - especially the United States - can actually do a few things, if they decide they can.

Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Medicare for All!

Obamacare has not been successful in helping all working people obtain lower health care. I'm happy that it has helped millions of uninsured people and I do know hard working people who were able to obtain health care BECAUSE of Obamacare. Because it hasn't helped everyone is NOT a good reason to eliminate a program that has helped millions. The focus of our efforts should be what to do next for those who still need help. If we are going to repeal it, we need a REPLACEMENT that actually takes care of ALL.
Looking at Bernie Sanders plan, I ran some numbers to see if it really would make a difference for me. I have a company health care plan for which I have to pay in. I have co-pays for use of health care and a hefty deductible.
By my rough estimates, the "Medicare for All" program would save me - paying 2.2% taxes instead of what I pay into my company plan - about $1000 a year and it would provide about the same or more savings to my company. That's not near the $5000 personal savings claimed by the campaign but that's only in my premiums savings. I avoid using my health care because co-pays add up. If I cannot avoid using the system, it can quickly become overwhelming as I discovered when I had shoulder surgery a few years back. I'm lucky. That was short term and within months the bills stopped adding up. For anyone with on-going health issues and health care needs, it's a huge problem.
Under Senator Sander's plan, I would not have deductibles and co-pays. I'm still not one to run to the doctor at a sniffle but I'm getting older and know that things happen. One accident - one serious illness - can turn to financial devastation. I am pained by the struggles family and friends express over the financial burdens and fears about health care. I want to see us fix that.
Our Medicare program is widely popular and viewed as well managed. Conservatives and liberals alike are very protective of the current system. (Though I'm humored that some conservatives are insulted at the thought of it being a government program perhaps because it's difficult to acknowledge that government can actually work.)
Yes, Senator Sanders is calling for everyone to pay taxes to support it. Those of us who are working, our employers and the very rich who do not pay into the Medicare system now. But it promises by example of Medicare now to actually do what we need. And yes, some non-working people will benefit from the program without paying in. But that is true with Medicare and Social Security now. I have no need to deny anyone health care, food and a basic safe place to live. I will pay in what I can to cover myself and someone else who may need it. I will! I can think of no one - NO ONE - that I disdain so much that I wish them to be sick, hungry or homeless.
I believe in health care for all. Obamacare has not taken us far enough on this path. We need a revolutionary change in how we do this. We need it now! America should not be the last civilized nation to have this solved. Right now, we are.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Could Trump be a Stateman?

What if Donald Trump receives the nomination and the Republican Convention speech goes like this:
The crowd is roaring as Trump takes the stage....He soaks it in, nods, smiles, waves and finally he begins.

"You know I have not taken a dime for this campaign." The crowd roars and applauds.
He nods, smiles and raises his hands to quiet the crowd.
"You loved the idea that I could not be bought." ROARS and more roars.
"I set out to prove something. And I have." ROARS and more roars.
"I want to see America Great again and I know what it will take." ROARS and more roars.
"I cannot be bought." ROARS and more roars. "But what I have proven is disturbing." The crowd murmurs. "I have proven too many Americans can be sold a line of bullshit. It is true I studied Adolf Hitler and just how he managed to get a following. And I used my own money to prove that it can be done right here in America. I tapped into your fears. The more outrageous I talked and more confidently I said I had the answers, the more you loved it. I never provided a single rational plan for how I was going to fix anything. All I had to do was be the tough guy in the room. Take over. Bully anyone who questioned or opposed me. Make fun of people. You love it!"
Total silence.
"I didn't need any real plans. I didn't need to show any knowledge. I just had to be the tough guy. Geez people!! Didn't you watch my show? On the apprentice if someone didn't have a clue, had no plan, and tried to BS their way, I fired them! I'm a successful businessman. We don't succeed in business that way. Do you really think this is any way to run a democracy? This country has become too short sighted and too small minded. We used to say hindsight was 20/20 but we don't even pay attention to history any more. You don't even remember that I was an admirer of Bill and Hilary Clinton not more than a decade ago.
I didn't take a dime of your money because I had something to prove. If we're going to be great again, you - the electorate - need to get involved and get smarter. You need to expect people to actually do something not just block other people from doing anything. Name one bill this last congress passed that solved anything. Name one. If you want to get something done, you have to learn to work with or work past those who disagree. But you don't keep doing the same thing over and over and over again expecting a different result.
I do not accept the nomination. This party is in shambles. You need to get dedicated to actually doing something to make this country great again. Doing something! That will require an actual plan.  Hopefully now you will see you really need one."

With that Mr. Trump walks off the stage and the convention is stunned.

If he did that, I'd call the man a statesman.

Friday, January 15, 2016

About Anger...

An old Peanuts cartoon shows an enraged Lucy shouting "When you're down and out, raise your head and shout, SOMEBODY'S GONNA PAY FOR THIS!"
Retribution is central to anger. Our explosive reaction to pain and suffering causes us to seek someone to punish - someone to blame. While we are seeing red and once we have honed in on our target for payment, there is little that can stop it from escalating.
Think about the last time you and a friend or spouse were angry. Any attempts of deflection or equal anger in return just raised the level. It becomes a quagmire. Mix in a little generalization like "you never" and "you always" and a little denigration like "stupid", "idiot", "delirious", "selfish" and suddenly there is door slamming (literally or figuratively). As long as someone holds onto anger and filters every reaction through it, there is quagmire. Nothing is resolved. It's destructive and is a relationship killer.
If we cannot get beyond anger and the resulting resentment, there is no hope. It doesn't matter what the problem is, it will never be solved through a filter of anger that is elevated to the point of inflicting pain.
To solve problems and resolve issues we need to develop our communication skills and maintain a level of respect. We have to stop slamming doors with over reaching generalizations and denigration. We have to temper our anger and rid ourselves of resentment. Once those red filters are up, we cannot see or hear clearly.
Embracing and escalating anger is a dark path. It ends in quagmire. It narrows our options for resolving issues to a point near zero. I find it very hard to trust someone's perceived truth when they are yelling, angry, denigrating and generalizing beyond reason. There may be a nugget of truth in there but it's very hard to find within all the noise.
Anger, resentment and the actions that come with them are typically much uglier than the issues that set them in motion in the first place. They follow us like a cloud and over shadow everything we do and every part of our lives.
Embrace well considered solutions. Embrace building bridges of understanding. Embrace inclusive problem solving. Those lead to long term trust, commitment and lasting results. Yes, it takes more work and a great deal of discipline. It's worth it. It works.

Thursday, January 14, 2016

If I could hear your thoughts....

A few years ago I started writing a story about a woman who could "hear" people's thoughts. The things she heard were so disturbing that it drove her insane. I stopped writing the story as it seemed perhaps too much to ask people to suspend disbelief about hearing thoughts AND that so many of the thoughts were dark enough to overwhelm someone.
Today I'm thinking that perhaps there are a lot of people with really disturbing thoughts that could totally overwhelm a gentle person if she heard them. Donald Trump is raising the reality. It's not at all surprising that there are people like him that embrace cruelty, hatred, and enjoy berating and belittling anyone whom they consider "other" than them. What's disturbing is that so many people applaud his noxious tactics and words. In fact, they claim that he's just saying what they are thinking but for some reason don't say. I'm thankful I cannot hear what they are thinking. I'm disturbed to imagine that Donald Trump is representative of the types of things I may hear if I could.
How did we descend into this rabbit hole of darkness? I understand a desire for great change but not change into dark thoughts, cruel actions and hardening of our hearts. We need the opposite. We need to build bridges with one another, build trust, collaborate on solutions - none of which will happen if we embrace name calling and divisive thoughts and deeds.
Darkness will not create light. Division will not create solutions.
I would like to believe Americans are better than this.

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Politically Correct? How about simply correct?

There are voices that express disdain for "political correctness". It's an odd thing. It appears these are related to issues with "gay lifestyles", assertions and belief that all Muslims are potential terrorists, Mexican immigrants are rapists and drug dealers, the confederate flag is simply representative of southern pride and poor people are lazy. Some want to be able to express these sentiments and legislate accordingly without being told they are "politically incorrect".
It's not just "politically incorrect" - it's not CORRECT. There is NO definitive gay lifestyle. It does not exist. There are billions of Muslims. If they wanted to take over the world, they could. The vast majority of Mexican immigrants - legal and illegal - are simply people looking for a better life. The confederate flag is representative of division and repression. Poor people are not all lazy.
The problem is not about political correctness, it's about understanding the complexities of all these issues. These blanket statements are simply not CORRECT. They are not right. They are not thought out. They are formed in ignorance. If we want to solve problems we cannot begin from a place of ignorance. That's a terrible rabbit hole from which we cannot escape.
If our country is going to be destroyed, it will not be due to "political correctness", it will be due to ignorance. Let's get focused on facts not fiction. Let's seek truth not emotion. Let's roll up our sleeves and get to work.

Thursday, January 7, 2016

NO and NOW

Sometimes things get too big. And when they get too big they just become sick and dysfunctional.
If you do any gardening, take care of house plants - you know that plants need tending if they are going to continue to grow and stay healthy. In the garden, too many plants too close together will stunt growth. Potted plants need enough room to allow their roots to expand but not too much so that all the water is absorbed by the soil. The art of gardening is in the balance - space and nutrients.
The balance of government is the same sort of challenge.
Watching the discussions from my conservative and libertarian friends, I see a disdain for "big government" but also see that they do not like talk of limiting or eliminating social security benefits, would like to have help with health care costs, and many have taken advantage of unemployment benefits or disability benefits. It's also evident that my conservative and libertarian friends value the police, firefighters, and general upkeep of the roads. Many value public education. Some are even government workers who expect to have a decent pension at the end of their service.
So, the question really is about balance.
A free market is not going to provide social security benefits for all. A free market is not going to drive lower health care costs. A free market is not going to provide unemployment and disability protections. It's not going to provide general police and fire protection or a comprehensive infrastructure for transportation. The free market is not going to support public education and we're seeing fewer and fewer companies supporting general pension plans. The free market is focused on two things - cutting costs and making profits fast. The free market is about shareholder value NOW.
NOW is fine if it is balanced with what the results will be 5 or 10 years from now. NOW based decisions that are not balanced with future outcomes don't bode well. We need to look a little further down the line. Yes, we need to keep government in check. We also need to recognize where free market fails. Balance really is the key. When something gets too big it becomes dysfunctional. Let's take a closer look. Let's identify our priorities. NO and NOW are really bad answers.

Tuesday, January 5, 2016

The American Dream

In 1961 a young president said, "...I believe that this nation should commit itself to achieving the goal, before this decade is out, of landing a man on the moon and returning him safely to the Earth. No single space project in this period will be more impressive to mankind, or more important for the long-range exploration of space; and none will be so difficult or expensive to accomplish."
He did not live to see that day, but on July 20, 1969, at 20:18 UTC, we landed on the moon and those courageous astronauts returned safely. How could that happen? In 1961 we were barely able to get an unmanned rocket launched without exploding. And yet, over the next decade an entire nation supported the notion of landing on the moon - no matter how difficult or expensive. And we actually did it. (unless you believe the conspiracy theorists who think it was all staged but that's another blog.)
How did we accomplish this impossible and monumental task?
 It wasn't a liberal goal or a conservative goal. It was an American goal. The liberals embraced the dream. The conservatives overcame the dangers that could derail the dream. We worked together.
Science has confirmed that liberals and conservatives truly think - see - differently. At the extremes, liberals see the possibilities and overlook the risks while conservatives see the risks and put the brakes on unless they can overcome the risks. If we did not have people focused on overcoming the risks, we would never have made it to the moon and back. We need each other!
What is missing today is the unified goal of overcoming a seemingly insurmountable challenge. The unified commitment - the determination to solve a huge challenge - is where we failing. The moment there is resistance, we start name calling. We need the dreamers. We need the gate keepers who focus on the dangers that lurk under the radar that can DE-rail the dream. Then we need to unify our efforts to make the dream happen.
To me, that is the American way. That is the American dream.