You are browsing the archive for California.

Pelt the President with the Pill

3:00 pm in Uncategorized by T. P. Alexanders

[The conversations represented here took place over the last week and are compressed for your reading pleasure. My husband and I are real people and said the things represented here. The rest of the dialogue is provided by intentionally fictionalized characters that are not meant to represent any one person. All sentiments and facts expressed here are genuine to the best of my recollection, but the characters saying them were selected by drawing names from a hat. I, alone, am responsible for this content.]

The Quickening

“They canceled Andrianna’s tubals yesterday,” I inform Steve in the hall outside the conference room. “They didn’t even give her a whole day’s notice so she could talk to her patients before they did it.”

“I got virtually no notice either when they canceled mine on Monday,” he replies.

“Really?” I am shocked by this. I have never heard of a hospital canceling cases so abruptly without involving the surgeon. “Who ordered the cancellations like that?”

“Don’t know. We’re only told the surgery scheduler, but someone gave her the order.”

We enter the conference room to find Norm waiting for us. The other gynecologists filter into the room. Both the hospitals the Sisters of Orange own are represented: the hospital in my town, St. Joseph’s, and the one south of us, Redwood Memorial.

“We had hoped this would blow over but the sisters feel backed into a corner.” Norm starts. “They have no choice but to get tough on this issue.”

“What brought all this on?” Steve asks.

“The edict came down from the new Bishop in Santa Rosa,” Norm says, “but we got targeted when they pulled the diagnosis codes for the hospital. It was obvious we were doing more sterilizations than they were in Southern California.”

“In Southern California you can go down the street from any Catholic institution and run into a secular hospital.” I try to defend us. “The Catholic Church bought almost all the hospitals in this area. For the last six years they’ve been trying to drive the last secular hospital under.”

“Never the less, we were doing a lot of tubals for ‛psychological’ reasons.”

“We were hardly doing a lot of sterilizations,” I say. “Other hospitals preform far more tubals a year. The stigma the Church gives the procedure already curtails many woman from asking for sterilization.”

“So what’s the plan?” Steve says, rescuing the meeting from disintegrating into complaints about the Church.

“Nothing.” Norm states. “This is a game we can’t win. The more public pressure the Catholics face, the more they will dig in. We have to keep quiet and wait. That will take the pressure off the nuns. When you’re approached by the media, and you will be approached, my advise is to refer them to the CMO. That’s what he gets paid for. Don’t talk to the media, or write letters to the editor. Don’t talk to your patients about it. We need to keep the lid on this to stop it from blowing up.”

“Too late. The patients already know.” I inform him. We all know there was an article in the local alternative paper, The Journal. The “real” paper in town, the Times Standard, has been silent on the issue. “I spent half an hour at a Pap smear today with an irate woman who vented the whole time about how this was unreasonable and unfair.”

“I wouldn’t encourage her. And don’t talk to your staff about this either,” Norm says.

“How am I going to do that? I’m taking my patients to Mad River. They all know why I stopped operating at St. Jo’s.”

“What do you say to the patients?” Steve wants to know.

“The truth. I don’t think it’s fair to deny all the women in an entire county a procedure on religious grounds. And the patients agree with me. I have an eighty year old woman who lives as far south in the county as you can go. I told her why I was taking my patients north, but seeing where she lived and considering her age I told her I would make an exception for her and operate on her at St. Jo’s. She told me, ‛Don’t you dare. I don’t want to support that any more than you do.’ This octogenarian wants to drive past the two hospitals the Sisters own to have her surgery at Mad River Hospital.”

“This hospital is facing hard times right now.We’re barely holding on ourselves. We can’t afford to lose any patients. We don’t want to lose patients or doctors.” Norm seems genuinely alarmed.

“Great. Go back to the way it was, and I’ll bring my surgeries back to St. Jo’s.” I feel for Norm, but I will not be moved.

“Look, if they made us take all the hysterectomies to ethics committee, the way they threatened to, then I would do the same thing.” Wendy said. “But it’s just the tubals.”

“The only reason they didn’t is because they found out the insurance companies already reviewed all our hysterectomies and would not pay without an adequate medical diagnosis.” I tell her. “They weren’t being magnanimous. They just didn’t want to duplicate the work.”

“You can’t take your surgeries to Mad River.” Quinn, always the practical one, tells me. “I’ve looked at the labor numbers. St. Jo’s is hemorrhaging money in Obstetrics. The hospital will take the Laborist program away. The only reason you came here was for that program. You don’t want to see it die, do you?”

“I don’t.” Everything he says is true. Medicaid doesn’t even cover the cost of deliveries for most hospitals. The one wing devoted exclusively to women is a loss leader for most hospitals in the nation. Obstetricians get treated like the red-headed-step-children of the family of physicians because we don’t make the hospital any money. Having a Laborist program is a rare luxury. It meant I could sleep through the night for the first time in years, watch a whole movie in a theater, have a conversation with my husband–uninterrupted by the other woman…one with vaginal discharge. I do desperately want to keep that indulgence. “It’s not just about what I want. If they take the Laborist program, there’s little reason for me to be at St. Jo’s at all. I’ll not just take surgery to Mad River, I’ll take my labor patients as well.”

“If we don’t support the hospital it won’t be there to care for us.” Wendy says. “I for one want a hospital here when I retire.”

“Not taking care of the needs of half of the population is not caring for us.” I can feel my control slipping. “If they are unwilling to serve half the population’s health care needs, what are they doing in the business in the first place? They should sell the hospital—preferably back to the community to be run cooperatively.”

“This happens every seven years or so.” Elroy, the oldest member of our tribe, says. “The last time it was a new nun sent to take over the hospital. She had all the tubals canceled too.”

“How did that get resolved?” I ask.

“She died and it got forgotten.”

“So we’re waiting for the Bishop to die? Or just waiting for him to change his mind?” I say with more than a little heat. “The Bishop isn’t the only one with strong feelings on this.”

“The hospital can make it hard for you.” Adrianna has arrived late to the party due to her patients. “Remember Tony? He got in that spat with the hospital and started talking to people—even people in the Foundation. It got back to the Board of Trustees and they dragged him into Medical Executive Committee. Now he has that mark on his record forever.”

I know she is trying to warn me. I’m no stranger to this tactic. Though I have not seen it used at St Jo’s, I’ve seen it used elsewhere to strike fear into doctors. A hospital will use its power to remove incompetent doctors on a doctor who is medically competent but has a disagreement with the hospital. They sacrifice one physician, ending his or her career, to scare the other physicians into compliant silence. There are even courses for hospital administrators instructing them how to do this effectively. I’ve avoided such abuses of power so far, but I’ve seen it used time and again on colleagues.

“Look, it’s not just our patients. I was already scheduled to talk about this subject on a national level. I can’t act like it’s not happening to me on a personal level as well. You see, I’m an editor of this blog…”

The Egg

I rarely write about health care and almost never discuss the war on women, because our “uniquely American” health care system has given me battle fatigue. Everyday it is some new insult. Last week, I was handed a list of over 90 medications the pharmaceutical industry is withholding in order to drive the price of drugs higher. On the list are popular pain medications, almost all the nausea medications, life saving emergency drugs and cancer therapy drugs.

Cathleen Kaveny explaining how the Catholic Church works.

This week, at the direction of our new Bishop, Northern California will deny birth control to as many women as possible. Tubal ligation, even if future pregnancies endanger the life of the mother, will not be allowed in any of the Catholic hospitals.

Somehow, my small isolated burg has been caught up in a national health care battle over just who should have control of a woman’s body.

The Affordable Care Act guidelines already include a religious exemption. An institution which provides its employees with health benefits can qualify for it, if its major purpose is to employ and serve co-religionists — like a church. That’s not enough for the Catholic Church, which says (though possibly not in these words) that it doesn’t want to subsidize the shameful non-procreative sexing of its employees at affiliated hospitals, charities and universities, whether they agree with the Church about birth control or not. The United States Conference of Catholic Bishops are pushing for a far more expansive religious exemption.–Salon

Our small county of 135,000 people spread over 3,600 square miles supports three hospitals. Two are run by the Catholic Sisters of St. Joseph of Orange in Orange County.

The last secular hospital in the area is barely hanging on. Our hospital has waged an all out competitive war against the hospital so they can capture its market share. The last secular hospital in the area, Mad River Hospital, is located on the northern edge of the county and ill equipped to increase its volume substantially.

Other secular hospitals existed in the area in the past, but they were bought by the Catholic Church during last decades spending spree. The one to the south was bought in 1998. After the purchase, the Catholics closed the attached clinic for the sin of prescribing birth control. The threat to eliminate birth control options spurred enough controversy back then to beget a bill in the local assembly requiring the hospital to contract with another institution to provided the needed services. Unfortunately, the bill was voted down.

When new seismic safety standards forced St. Joseph Hospital to renovate in 2000, the Church bought the other secular hospital in the area. They needed a place to treat patients while their hospital was under construction. Now, the old hospital is relegated to offices and outpatient services like lab.

In the late 1990’s the Catholic Church bought and merged with quite a few hospitals, resulting in 611 Catholic Hospitals in 60 health care systems in America, caring for half a million patients—12% of the nation’s health care. Catholic Directives to these hospitals come down from local Bishops.

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Cathleen Kaveny
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

A  hospital acquired by the Catholic Church can no longer provide contraception, abortion, sterilization, and in vitro fertilization. Only 28% of Catholic hospitals said they would provide women who had been raped or trafficked emergency contraception through their ER.

Old Men in Skirts and Womens HealthIn a poll, 68% of women were opposed to a Catholic Hospital merger if it meant reproductive services would be curtailed. That same poll indicated 75% of women were opposed to Catholic health care imposing these restrictions on women if they took tax payer money.

All hospitals are funded by tax payer money—largely Medicare and Medicaid. Yet, the Church specifically denies women reproductive rights regardless of who pays for the services or the religious beliefs of the woman in question. St. Joseph does not even allow its non-Catholic employees to purchase health insurance that covers birth control.

Only 20% of Humboldt county are practicing Catholicism. Most women facing these restrictions do not recognize the authority of the Bishop to make such a decision for them. In fact, 98% of Catholics in America use birth control. For many rural women, a Catholic hospital is the only one in the local area. For the poor, without adequate transportation, getting care from a distant secular hospital is impossible. The Bishop is preventing me, a non-Catholic, from preforming tubal ligation on other women who are not Catholic, because he is allowed to own the only operating room in town.

When St. Joseph ran short of funds to complete their seismic renovations, they asked the community to donate money. The community of Humboldt obliged, giving $12.5 million. Over half of the population in the county is women, but when the time comes to move into the new 100,000 square foot, 3 floor facility, the only major branch of the hospital that won’t be going will be Labor and Delivery.

When one of our nurses asked how the hospital could take community support from women, but then refuse to provide services for half of the members of the community, she was told by the CEO of the hospital, that Obstetrics was lucky to get room in the old building. The Board had considered closing Obstetrics all together, and using the space for rehabilitation.

Think about that for a second. Pharmaceutical companies can withhold life saving medications to drive up cost. The Catholic Church has the power to deny an entire county of women contraception AND the ability to deliver children in a safe environment. And they both have the will and the ability to use their power against my community. We are quite literally being held hostage by actors in the health care arena who are motivated by any thing but keeping people healthy. For insurance companies and Big Pharma it is profits. For Catholics it is control of women’s bodies.

The Sperm

Contraception by Jenny van SommersBeing female is a preexisting condition. Right now women are charged 15-30% more for health insurance then men. In addition, these policies actually excluded the benefits women specifically needed: contraception and obstetrics. During one survey of insurance, it was discovered that 90% of insurers covered Viagra and only 20% covered contraception. Even now, many insurance providers are telling women in my area they cover Intra Uterine Devices when the truth is they pay me less than it costs to purchase one, let alone insert it. They let me take the blame for not being able to afford to subsidize birth control for hundreds of women.

Women make up the majority on Medicare and Medicaid. They are more likely to be under insured or uninsured due to poor insurance in most jobs women do. These health care systems have a long history of being unfair to women. Medicare pays Gynecology about a third of what it pays Urology to do similar procedures on women than men.

Birth control itself has become a weapon in California. The state “insures” a enormous number of indigent women, telling them they have health insurance. In truth, the California program ONLY covers Pap smears and birth control. Women come to me for a number of complaints and I can only draw labs or work them up if they pay out of pocket. I have to explain that even if I think that huge mass on her face is cancer, her state “insurance” won’t pay for a biopsy. In essence, it is a state-run Eugenics program leveled against poor women.

There has been no controversy about Viagra—it is covered almost universally, including by Catholic institutions. For a while, Medicare even covered Viagra while denying prescriptions for vaginal estrogen cream.

The Republican run Congress has been incredibly misogynist on this issue. Their hearing on the matter was almost comedy. Exclusively run by men, and all but two of the witnesses testifying were male.

So what did Maloney have to say about the lack of uteri in the contraception hearings, just moments before she walked out of the proceedings with fellow awesome person Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton?

“What I want to know is, where are the women? I look at this panel, and I don’t see one single individual representing the tens of millions of women across the country who want and need insurance coverage for basic preventative health care services, including family planning.”–The Jane Dough

Really?

Not to be outdone by the laugh a minute Congress, women have mounted their own comedy campaign. A flurry of bills making it difficult to get Viagra and vasectomies have been purposed in various state legislatures. Even a bill to prevent a man from spilling sperm anywhere but inside a woman!

EVERY SPERM HAS A RIGHT (OKLAHOMA): To poke fun a “personhood” bill that give full rights to a zygote, state Sen. Constance Johnson (D) introduced an amendment that would also declare every sperm to be sacred. “However, any action in which a man ejaculates or otherwise deposits semen anywhere but in a woman’s vagina shall be interpreted and construed as an action against an unborn child,” her amendment stated.

CHILDREN DENIED BIRTH BECAUSE OF VASECTOMIES (GEORGIA): State Rep. Yasmin Neal (D) introduced legislation that would limit vasectomies. “Thousands of children are deprived of birth in this state every year because of the lack of state regulation over vasectomies,” Neal explained. Her measure is in response to a bill that would ban abortions after 20 weeks on the grounds that a fetus can feel pain — a claim disputed by doctors.

MORE HOOPS TO CLEAR FOR VIAGRA (OHIO): In response toGOP Running Mate: The Pill! Ohio’s so-called Heartbeat Bill, which would prevent abortions once a fetal heartbeat is detected, state Sen. Nina Turner (D) will introduce a bill that would make men jump through hoops, like a psychological screening, before they could obtain Viagra and similar drugs for erectile dysfunction. “All across the country, including in Ohio, I thought since men are certainly paying great attention to women’s health that we should definitely return the favor,” Turner said.

RECTAL EXAMS FOR A VIAGRA PRESCRIPTIONS (VIRGINIA): To protest Virginia’s bill requiring women to receive an ultrasound before an abortion, state Sen. Janet Howell (D) attached an amendment to the bill that would have required men to receive a rectal exam and pass a cardiac stress test before doctors wrote them a prescription for erectile dysfunction medication. “We need some gender equity here,” Howell said. The Virginia Senate rejected her amendment, but both chambers passed the ultrasound requirement after clarifying that women would not be forced to undergo a transvaginal ultrasound.

KNOW THE SIDE EFFECTS OF VIAGRA (ILLINOIS): State Rep. Kelly Cassidy (D) decided to push back against GOP attacks on women’s health by offering an amendment that would require men to watch a “horrific video” about the side effects of Viagra before the received a prescription for the drug. His bill is in response to a measure requiring women to undergo an ultrasound before an abortion. “If we are going to do this, we need to do it in a way that is applied equally,” Cassidy said.

PROTECT ALL SPERM (DELAWARE): Mocking the “personhood” measures, the town council in Wilmington, Delaware approved a satirical resolution “that asks state legislatures and U.S. Congress to enact laws that forbid men from destroying their semen.” The resolution notes that if lawmakers think a female egg has full rights, then they should say the same thing about sperm.

Think Progress

The Daily Show with Jon Stewart Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c
Bro-Choice
www.thedailyshow.com
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor & Satire Blog The Daily Show on Facebook

Republicans war on women - the female anatomy target zoneOnly in America could this happen. For decades, other countries have seen the error of allowing money and and markets to run their health care and they have moved away from that system. But not here in the US. We ignore all fact and reason, forcing our health care system into a state of permanent collapse. Now the government is on the verge of forcing women to purchase health insurance while allowing others to prevent women from obtaining health care services. How can we even dream of complying with that idea?

Many people have likened the Affordable Care Act to the Swiss Health Care system. That couldn’t be further from the truth. The Swiss do not allow their employers to pick health insurance for the employee, so the workers at St. Jo’s could get health insurance with birth control if they wanted. Though the Swiss system allows private insurance, the Swiss government laid down the law about what minimum benefits constitute “insurance” and defined what constitutes qualified health care. The Swiss also prevent insurers from making a profit on the basic health care plan (which is very extensive). The insurers can only make a profit on perks like guaranteeing a private room or providing coverage for alternative medicine. The American system shirks its responsibility to get tough with the powerful in the health care game, and only focuses on forcing the average citizen to purchase a product—a product that might or might not provide the real benefit of health care.

Republicans war on women – the female anatomy target zoneOur system is quite literally owned by people who have motives other than the health of the population and we are held hostage by those forces. Where else but in health care is it considered reasonable to provide necessary services for just half of the population based on sex? If the Catholic Health Care system is unable or unwilling to care for half of the population in the communities it serves, should it be allowed to continue these restrictions? Should we continue to be held hostage by insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and Religious dogma we do not even subscribe to?

I might point out here that Single Payer insurance alone would not cure this ill. The government must take the same hard line with the powerful that it has taken with the meek.

Or the meek could balk at the government edicts. I might also point out that true Socialized Medicine, the type they have in England, would fix this problem. Socialized Medicine is also how the Indian Health Service, the Veterans Administration and the Active Duty Military are run. Those systems are owned by the American people. They are paid for by our tax dollars. They are ours to control.

The next round of bills to force a real health care solution into our nation might do well to include an attempt to open those hospitals for a buy-in by the American public. Those system would get a welcome influx of cash and the American people could have access to a national system already in place with a decent health care package.

The Campaign

teaball contraceptionIt’s no wonder women approached Obama about shoring up the gross inequities in the system. Now, it appears, Obama might cave to the pressure of the Catholic Church and leave women out in the cold again.

I agree with the majority of women in America. If a health care service is taking government funds, it should provide service for everyone. If an institution is incapable or unwilling to do so, it should be forced to sell its health care assets to the local communities. These hospitals should be cooperatively run and federal funds should be set aside to aid in the transition. At the very least, these institutions should be forced to contract out the needed services.

Many of you laughed at our April Fool’s image of angry women throwing contraceptives at the feet of the President. Now, I want us to do just that. I propose the Pelt the President with the Pill Campaign. Save your, or a friend’s, spent birth control containers and send them to your Congressional leadership and the White House with this letter:

Date

Name

Address (with Zip Code)

Contraception is health care. We demand access to affordable birth control for everyone. Providers that can not provide for 50% of their patients, should not get federal funds.

Signature

If you don’t have any spent pill containers, don’t fret—send a condom. They are still available at the grocery store—at least at the time of this posting. The point is to send some contraceptive device. Why send a contraceptive? Because emails are ineffective at getting attention. Mere letters are also ignored. But sending some symbol of your discontent gets attention.

If you find yourself in Humboldt county, come by my office. We are forbidden from throwing outdated birth control in the trash because it contaminates ground water. Until now, I didn’t know what to do with all those pills.Think contraception

Find your Representative

Find your Senator

President Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

The Choice:

My husband greets me at the door with a chilled glass of white zin and a mushroom cheeseburger.

I smile and sip the wine. “Yeah, it was just that bad.”

“What did you find out?”

“We don’t know where the orders are coming from.”

“What’s the Gynecology Department doing about it?”

“Apparently, the winning game plan is to hope the bishop kicks the bucket soon.”

He snorts and takes a bite of his burger. “What are you going to do about it?”

“The bishop isn’t the only one with strong feelings on this issue.”

“So you’re going to move your surgeries?”

“I already told them my cases are going to Mad River.”

“What did they say to that?”

“They were angry..afraid. They want me to keep my mouth shut about the tubal decision.”

“Powerful people seem to want you to keep your mouth shut all the time. You gonna do it this time?”

I push corn around on my plate.

“I see,” he says. “Your stunt with the TSA cost over three thousand. What’s this going to cost us?”

I look up from my plate. “If I have to leave St. Jo, at least Mad River is closer to the home.”

“Mad River isn’t very big, hardly more than a super clinic. Some of your patients won’t go.”

My bravado has fooled no one. “I know.”

He locks eyes with me. My shoulders tense and I prepare for the Principle over Practicality argument…again. A storm gathers in the silence between us, ready to hails down angry words we will both regret.

His hand extends across the table, palm open.

Stunned, I place my hand in his. His warmth soaks my fingers, draining away my tension.

“That’s my girl,” he whispers.

 

Every Sperm is Sacred

Reclaiming Our Democracy (Part I of II): Miliary Democracy

9:39 pm in Uncategorized by T. P. Alexanders

“Duck House”:

I sit on the floor of the Duck House with thirty others, brainstorming for the January action. Neither men nor women dominate the group. We are young, and surprisingly old. Counter-culture and conservatively clad. We question whether it is nobler to seek permits or just show up unannounced. We speak of banners, flyers and street theater—anything to educate the public about our goal.

Even when I still lived in Arizona, I had heard of this place. Democracy Unlimited Humboldt County (DUHC) or “Duck” was on the forefront of the war against corporate power. In 1998, they helped pass a ballot initiative establishing the Democracy and Corporations standing committee in Arcata’s city council here in California.

The Committee’s primary functions are: to research and present to the Council options for controlling the growth of “pattern restaurants” in the community; to cooperate with other communities working on socially responsible investing and procurement policies; to make recommendations to the Council, and/or with the Council’s approval, provide educational opportunities to promote “fair trade”; to inform citizens of corporations with negative social and environmental impact; and to provide advice on ways to foster sustained locally-owned businesses, publicly or locally owned services and worker-owned cooperatives and collectives.–City of Arcata

The committee was hailed by Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Jim Hightower. Ralph Nader commented, “I look forward to Arcata being a luminous star in the rising crescendo of democracy in our country.”

Embolden by this success, they passed Measure T in 2004. It forbid nonlocal corporations from contributing to local political campaigns. Two corporations immediately challenged the initiative as unconstitutional. Before the case could be decided by the courts, Humboldt’s Board of Supervisors succumbed to corporate pressure and declared this popularly elected law nullified.

DUHC learned from this experience. They won’t be going it alone, this time. They are but one small seed of democracy, but they are amassing with others to change the political landscape in America. They have joined Move to Amend in a miliary campaign, and this time their aim is not a city ordinance in some far off town on the edge of America, but changing the highest law in the land.

Millet Seeds:

The small, replicated, have overwhelming power.

Consider the humble millet seed: small and bland looking. Completely outclassed by the avocado or mango pit, or even the none-too-flashy pumpkin seed. Toss a few in an open field and, over time, they take over with sheer proliferative force. Even an avocado sapling must tremble before the power of the lowly millet seed.

Marijuana advocates, and same-sex marriage organizations recognize this power. Regardless how you feel about these hot button issues, you can’t help notice the changes in our political climate. Organizations seeking change to our economic and political world could learn a thing or two from their slow, plodding, but relentless progress. Their advocates could not have achieved such success with the more direct route of lobbying Congress. Instead, their proponents utilized the concepts of miliary democracy. They took their issue to The People in state initiatives. Once one state said yes, another and then another was enlisted. Slowly, these smaller laws are turning a national tide, despite long odds.

Why Does it Work Against Consolidated Power?

The powerful in our world are very organized and hierarchical. This has served them well, particularly with the masses divided by nation-states, race, religion, political beliefs, etc. But there is a downside to such organization. It is incapable of coping with unconnected groups organized around a single issue. WikiLeaks, Anonymous and modern terrorists exploit this weakness. There is essentially no heart or head to these organizations for the powerful to strike. Destroy one nidus of activity, and the rest are unaffected. Disallow a site on one server and it pops up on others. Capture one person and others move to take that person’s place. Governments are unable to attack all points at once with “shock and awe”. The attempt is like attacking a body of water with a sword.

Miliary campaigns have similar advantages. Strike down one state law, and laws in other states are unaffected. In the state where the law was struck down, another referendum can be run next election cycle. Relentless in their pursuit, they slowly change the political scene in the US. The dogma of the central government is challenged. People learn about these subjects and see them in a new light.

A Successful Miliary Campaign:

Congress, the White House and the Supreme Court have consolidated American power to the federal level. Right now, the three branches of the federal government are willing to betray the majority of Americans for a powerful minority. The fact that most of us don’t want corporations to be “people”, campaigns to be financed by those with the most money, or bank bailouts for the few with austerity for the many does not matter to the Federal Government. If The People are so openly ignored, how can we make our voice heard?

Advocates for marijuana and same sex marriage faced a similar problem. They were universally denigrated and no legal body took them seriously. To overcome such long odds against establishing legitimacy, they set their goals on a far horizon.

The first referendums were for education. Advocates with a sympathetic and articulate voice addressed the media. It is hard to watch the police arrest an obviously ill person in a wheelchair and feel that justice had been served. The video of these events touched a diverse group of people.

Marijuana advocates realized that the far left and the far right have many of the same desires, but different methods for achieving them. Their success in speaking to both sides of the aisle was illustrated recently when Barney Frank and Ron Paul cosigned a marijuana bill.

A successful miliary campaign, therefore, should have a message that is sympathetic to a large group of people. It should unite the masses instead of divide them.

It should first seek to educate and drive sympathy for the cause. It should utilize already existent and diverse groups. These groups can be networked around the issue at hand, but if one group does not achieve success, it should not effect the other groups. They must work independently.

A single website should serve as the glue between the groups. A broad based bill available for download needs to be available on the site. Important areas of such a bill can be left blank or have drop down menus so the bill can be personalized to a state, county, city. This allows local groups to make the bill their own, while providing a baseline direction for the campaign.

The website should also provide instructions for getting a referendum or initiative on the ballot. Educational materials should be easily downloaded from the site. The better sites also provide podcasts, or video webinars that keep groups connected and informed about the progress the issue is making. A forum for organizers to support each others efforts, brainstorm and solve problems should also be included.

Initiatives should be run in as many states (counties, cities) as possible in the same election cycle. This splits the efforts of opposing forces. The opposition cannot be all places at once. Each successfully passed referendum should support other similar laws in other states and provide some support for campaigns in states where the bill has yet to pass. This provides a network of connection and makes the law stronger with each bill that becomes law.

Possible Uses for Miliary Bills:

Health Care Bill

I have the most experience with this example, because I actually wrote a miliary health care bill. I wrote the bill to be used at the county level after discovering that states are forbidden from forming voluntary health care insurance. However, the bill could easily be converted to a state level.

The bill sets up a commission to administer nonprofit, county-run health care to be purchased voluntarily. The county would be free to use all cost containment methods at its disposal, and would not need to advertise. The bill is a mail merge Word document to make it easy for anyone to use. A person downloading the document only needs to fill in the blanks. Any counties passing this bill would be networked with other counties passing the bill to form a national health care system.

You can read a short overview of the bill here. Unfortunately, working alone, I was unable to get the bill to go anywhere.

Creating Cooperative Friendly States

We have talked extensively in this discussion group about the advantages of a cooperative employment. Creating a coop friendly environment in the US might include tax breaks, state loans, or small business advice and assistance. Enlisting the education system to teach cooperative concepts in community college or even demanding that cooperativism be taught in high school econ classes. These could all be written into a miliary bill and spread through the US.

Creating a State Run Bank

Most states rely on property taxes. As property values dropped, the states were starved of revenue. Education, roads, and all the things that states do for their citizens went begging for funds.

North Dakota is weathering the financial crisis fairly well. They have low unemployment and a stable economy. No one in North Dakota is talking austerity, partially because they have their own bank.

The citizens of North Dakota put their savings in their state bank, and the state uses it to capitalize new businesses. The state bank loans money to its citizens and the interest pays for education and roads. (Long time readers of this blog are probably having a sense of déjà vu. Sounds like a coopertive bank doesn’t it?)

What if all fifty states had a bank? What if they had one by next election cycle? What if the bank was mandated to create jobs? What if the mandate was to create a stable economy or an egalitarian economy? We have already seen that giving a bank a mission other than greed can create outstanding and surprising results.

Undoing Corporate Personhood

Move to Amend started their campaign shortly after the Supreme Court decided in Citizens United that corporations could spend as much as they liked on campaign contributions. The Court felt corporations were people, just like you and me, and treating them as less than human was prejudice. Since some corporations have vast resources, much larger than any human person could amass, this gives large multinationals the ability to purchase our government.

Move to Amend lobbied Congress to change the Constitution and revoke corporate “personhood”. They were met with blank stares from the very people who were getting financially fat from multinational contributions to their campaigns.

So Move to Amend took their campaign to the streets. They are mounting a miliary campaign to pass as many city and county ordinances against corporate personhood as possible, to educate the public and put pressure on Congress. [Click the link for an example of their resolution.] Their website is exemplary of the sort of organization needed to run such a campaign.

They are launching their campaign with Occupy the Court on January 20th, the second anniversary of the Citizens United decision. This action will take place across the country in order to educate local citizens about the issue of corporate money corrupting our democracy. All district courts and the Supreme Court will be “occupied”.

Constitutional Conventions

Though I applaud Move to Amend’s efforts and their creativity, I doubt they will succeed. They are asking the very people making huge sums of money off corporate corruption to kill the goose laying the golden eggs. Another, less well known, group is trying a more direct approach. Call a Convention is going directly to the states and The People to amend the Constitution.

The Convention they wish to call is the same as the one that originally drafted the Constitution. This is one of the two methods for changing the Constitution actually outlined in the Constitution. Each state sends representatives to the Convention. The Convention can amend the Constitution in any way they agree upon.

While I agree that the Constitution needs a serious overhaul, calling a Convention is risky business. Once the Convention is in place, they can literally do anything they want to change the government of the United States. There are no prohibitions on corrupting such a Convention with money.

If they are successful, another miliary bill might be useful at setting parameters for such an endeavor, and giving the members of a Convention hard instruction about what the people will and will not accept.

Mutiny

In truth, the hurdles to convincing Congress to change the Constitution or calling a Constitutional Convention are so high it is unlikely to occur in our current situation. Congress has the ability to quash any decision made by a Convention and even if it is the overwhelming will of The People, Congress has proven disinterested in the will of The People.

Two can play that game. The People can send a clear message that Congress and the Supreme Court can also be ignored.

Mutiny has a negative connotation, but understand that mutiny is a about refusing to take orders from a higher authority. In the military, where hierarchy is critical to getting young people to waste their lives for the powerful, mutiny is frowned upon. But if you live in a society that claims to be self-governing, mutiny is a completely rational and acceptable course of action, when you are ordered to do something obviously against your self-interest.

The Supreme Court has declared the United States a plutocracy (one dollar=one vote). A mutiny bill puts democracy (one person=one vote) back into clear focus in the state where it passes. It asks, should the majority be subservient to any minority—even Congress or the Supreme Court?

Currently courts use the Fourteenth Amendment to declare corporations are people. The problem is that corporations end up with more power than actual people. Human people,who vote to restrain a corporation, find that the federal government will prevent them from doing so. If a community votes to disallow gas-fracking or sludge dumping in its neighborhood, a judge will explain that they have no right to collectively make that decision because the Fourteenth Amendments does not allow the interests of one group (humans) to override the interests of another (corporate “people”).

The men who drafted the Constitution never intended the federal government or corporations to reign supreme within the state. The Ninth and Tenth Amendments guaranteed the rights of the state and the people.

The enumeration in the Constitution of certain rights shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.–Wiki

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.–Wiki

The Supreme Court overturned the Bill of Rights by reading a different clause of the Constitution as evidence that federal law always trumps state law, removing this check and balance from our legal system. The political right has mainly owned this issue but the Tenth Amendment Center is a non partisan group working to restore the rights of the state.

A Right to Self Governance Bill would declare any measure passed by 66% of the people would supersede any federal law or judicial decision. The governor would be instructed to enforce the state measure OVER the federal law. A Governor refusing to do so, would face a mandated re-election in 30 days.

Once your state has declared that its citizens have free will, limits to free will magically disappear. Corporations can be declared non-persons within your state. This allows human people to place restrictions upon them.

More on this important concept in Part II of this series on December 18th.

Dismantling the Totalitarian State

The Bush administration’s surveillance without oversight laws were strengthened by President Obama. If you don’t want to have the government with a right to tap your phone, or look into your Google searches without court supervision, then give your state the power to imprison or heavily fine those caught doing it. That might not completely stop the federal government, but it would make Google and AT&T think twice before they cooperated.

Similar laws could make it illegal to arrest people or transport a person across state lines without due process, making it harder to disappear people into indefinite detention. Many bills are before states now declare the state will not cooperate with federal agents to enforce The Patriot Act, The Real ID Act, intrastate commerce regulations or immigration laws that the state sees as unjust laws.

Printing State Currency

The Federal Government is financially starving the states. This disempowers the states to the point they cannot help their citizens. Education and roads go begging while Exxon and banks get tax bailouts and the military gulps down an ever increasing proportion of our GDP.

What if your state printed money? State money could be accepted to pay state taxes. (currently illegal under federal law.) A state could set up its own bank and distribute wealth to industries as it saw fit—like creating more cooperatives, making the state’s real economy more resilient.

Tax Revolt

Here is a truly radical idea that should marry the far left to the far right. Most of us do not want our money going to endless war, banks that are gambling with the money and welfare for oil companies that poison our water. But what recourse do we have? If you do not pay your personal income tax, you risk huge fines and imprisonment. This makes it impossible for a single person to have any say in where their tax dollars are spent.

But what if you, personally, were not at risk. What if the entire state of California decided to collect personal income tax from its citizens and then keep the percentage usually allotted to the state (Federal incentives and assistance, etc) while passing on the rest to the federal government in one lump sum. For one thing, that would be a more efficient system than sending money from every person in every paycheck to the federal government, just so they could send a portion of it back to the state.

In this system, withholding income tax could actually mean something. California could vote to keep the amount usually spent on a war. Or its percentage of the amount loaned to big banks in the bail out. Or the tax incentives and write-offs allotted to Exxon and Shell. Sends shivers down your back, doesn’t it?

Your Turn

This is by no means an exhaustive list. I would love to hear your ideas about what we could achieve with this tool.

Join a Miliary Campaign:

Move to Amend

Democracy Unlimited Humboldt County

Reclaim Democracy

Tenth Amendment Center

POCLAD

Help with Your Campaign:

What kind of referendum can you run in your state?

Passing a Local Referendum

Tips to Get it Passed

Creating Spin