Throngs of people are crowded onto Wall Street in New York City; thousands more will join in another protest occupation next week in Washington, DC.

Around the country, people are planning occupations and demonstrations.

The Associated Press, which is where most newspapers get their national news, has written little, if anything, on the topic of these peaceful demonstrations nor about the police brutality that has been photographed and videotaped.

But local papers are starting to write about these actions as they spread to towns and cities across the nation.

Word is getting out despite the corporate media.

This isn't about fuzzy, feel-good, hippie issues; it's about social justice.

It's about people being able to get access to health care.

It's about people who work a 40-hour week being able to make enough money to pay their basic bills.

It's about the wealthy being prosecuted for the crimes they commit and not just the poor being improsoned.

It's about getting rid of corporate control of government so we can take our Democracy back.

Congress has voted consistently against the wishes of the American people.

Insurance companies are taking over the states' insurance benefits exchanges, the places where people are supposed to be able to shop for health insurance after reform takes effect in 2014, and comsumer protections are being tossed aside in facor of corporate interests.

States are executing people who have had unfair trials and some who may be innocent of the crimes for which they have been accused and "convicted."

Unemployment and home foreclosures are rampant. Average Americans are losing everything they've accumulated through hard work and the poor and unemployed are being villified, as if they're just slugs who don't want to work.

Yes, they could harvest crops -- some of them, those who are young and have no illnesses or disabilities that would prevent them from being in the hot sun all day, all for minimum wage, which pays less than half of what it takes to live on in every city in the United States.

Wages for 98 percent of Americans have not kept up with the cost of living, but income for the wealthiest 2 percent has continued to rise steadily until there's no longer a gap but a chasm.

American corporations are sitting on $2 TRILLION and refusing to hire new workers or reinvest it into fixing our outdated electrical grid or crumbling infrastructure. Meanwhile, the Federal Reserve has bailed out banks here and abroad to the tune of $16 TRILLION, accordding to a new report by the nonpartisan Government Accounting Office.

Meanwhile, Americans lose their jobs and homes, all the while being told something is wrong with them and not the system.

Well, America is waking up.

This mess isn't about Republicans or Democrats. The protests aren't about political beliefs at all; they're about the takeover of our government by greedy corporations, and Americans aim to take it back.



Those opposed to health reform tried to warn us that health care rationing would be a result.

Well, it's here, and it's not caused by reform.

In Washington State, as everywhere in this economy, there's a budget shortfall. So, state officials looked for ways to save money on health care costs.

One place they saw was in emergency room visits. Many people on Medicaid, because they have no regular doctor (reimbursement ratges are so low, doctors can afford to accept few Medicaid patients.), make frequent visits to the emergency room for non-emergencies like toothaches, viral infections, headaches, etc.

So, state officials decided to pay for no more than three non-emergency visits per Medicaid recipient.

It makes sense to re-route people whose condidions aren't emergencies to clinics, where they likely will find a medical home.

But the state put a hard-line goal of $75 million in savings, and that kind of money just wasn't going to be saved by re-routing some patients, so the state added a few more conditions to the list, and then a few more, until they had some pretty outrageous conditions on the list:

Chest pain
Abdominal pain
Asthma exacerbation (acute)
Acute cholecystitis
Hypoglycemic coma
Pneumococcal pneumonia
Pseudonomal pneumonia
Calculus of ureter (i.e. kidney stone)
Syncope and collapse
Salmonella enteritis
Streptococcal septicemia

In other words, if you've been to the emergency room with a persistent cough, an earache and a toothache in the last year in Washington State, Medicaid could refuse to pay for treartment of a heart attack.

What's worse is that the emergency room staff don't know in advance whether your "non-emergent" condition will be paid for, and they are obligated by law to stabilize you, so the loss is transferred from the government to the hospital.

Insurance companies and government already have cut reimbursement rates to the bone, and hospitals are running perilously close to the bare minimum. In fact, small hospitals across the country are closing.

So, rather than raise taxes on the wealthy or closing the tax loopholes on huge corporations (including insurance companies), we deny care to more Americans.

Forget the threats about people dying because of health reform; people are dying at the rate of 50,000 a year. I did the math the other day. It comes out to one unnecessary death every 10 minutes and 51 seconds. Health reform won't help unless we end our overseas adventures (wars, secret prisons...), tax the wealthiest Americans and close the corporate tax loopholes.

Oh, and let us buy into Medicare, which, by the way, is NOT broke.


Presidential candidate Ron Paul, a Republican with a wide Libertarian streak, said during the GOP debate that people who don't have insurance should be cared for by churches (as if any church had the money to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for chemo for even one of their members) and compassionate members of the community.

Paul knows more about that than he let on in the debate.

In 2008, Paul's longtime supporter, friend and employee, Kent Snyder, died uninsured and $400,000 in debt. Snyder had worked for Paul going back as far as 1988, when Paul made his first run for president on the Libertarian ticket.

Paul didn't insure his campaign staff. I guess he figured Snyder's church and his other friends would pay for the care.

Snyder's fundraising capabilities put Paul into an early lead for the GOP nomination in 2007. Snyder is credited with turning his one-man operation into "The Freedom Movement."

From his apartment in Virginia, Snyder built it into a $35 million operation with 250 employees that secured more than a million votes for  Paul's nomination.

But despite his success, Snyder didn't have insurance; it was too expensive because, his sister said after his death, Snyder had a pre-existing condition. He was just 49.

The bills for his care were sent to his mother, who also couldn't afford to pay them. Paul didn't offer any help, although he praised Snyder and lamented his loss to the "Freedon Movement" after Snyder's tragic death:

"Like so many in our movement, Kent sacrificed much for the cause of liberty.

"Kent poured every ounce of his being into our fight for freedom. He will always hold a place in my heart and in the hearts of my family."

Paul says people need to take responsibility for their choices. I think Snyder's worst choice was believing in Ron Paul, and he paid the ultimate price for it.

Paul, on the other hand, has taken no responsibility in the death of his friend and colleague.

I'm no longer surprised that he didn't reprimand his audience for cheering for the death of the "hypothetical" man.


In an address to the conservative Heritage Foundation, Utah Sen. Orrin Hatch predicted that if Obama is elected to a second term, within a year ot two, he will "throw his hands in the air and say, ‘it’s not working we have to go to a single-payer system.'”

I know a lot of people who would cheer that prediction.

Of course, Hatch, a Republican, wasn't making this a cheery, hopeful prediction. He added that it would destroy our nation and that he pities today's children if this happens.

Single-payer would be Medicare for all. Now, remember that Medicare is an immensaely popular program, and that cuts to it were considered off-limits until recently.  Opponents said it would destroy the country in 1964, but it hasn't done that. In fact, it has strengthened the country as older Americans are able to get the care they need. It helps keeps medical costs down by allowing people to manage chronic conditions instead of letting them get to a crisis, when care is much more expensive (and profitable for pharmaceutical companies and others).

People who have Medicare can choose their own doctors and other care providers and Medicare pays the bill. It is not government-run health care but government-paid health care.

Health reform as it was enacted will send another 30 million customers to the private insurance companies and leave 20 million still uninsured. And insurance companies are subverting it at the state level by taking over the running and oversight of the insurance exchanges. The law, it turns out, left a lot of loopholes, supposedly to give the states flexibility in setting up the exchanges, and insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies and their allies are taking advantage.

The law will make things better for a lot of people, but it also will enrich the insurance companies even more, just as Medicare Part D did for the pharmaceutical companies. In the end, health care costs will continue to rise because insurance companies can't get enough profit.

So, if President Obama is reelected and he throws up his hands in 2014 and says we need a single-payer system, that's OK by me. If the insurance companies survive by selling insurance to people who don't want to be in a government system, that's fine too. Everyone deserves a choice.

I went to visit Mike Saturday afternoon. What that really means is that I hiked to where his ashes are scattered and built (another) small cairn to mark the spot.

I do this three or four times a year when I need to feel closer to him.  I usually sit for a bit and remember him; sometimes I talk to him and tell him how much I miss him and how desperately I wish I could reach back and touch him again. I have to rebuild the stack of stones that mark the spot every time I go. Weather, wildlife and passing hikers usually knock it over before I make it back home, I think.

This time, as I had finished rebuilding the cairn, a family came by and the son asked what the rocks meant. Since it was pretty obvious I was the one who had built it, the man asked what the marker was for, and I briefly told him about Mike.

"How old was he?" the man asked.

"33," I said.

"That's my age now," he said.

We talked for a few minutes about who Mike was and the fact that this man looked a little like him -- tall, slender, with a goatee and a Marlboro Red cigarette in his hand. He was amused that they smoked the same brand of cigarette, and that I placed the last cigarette butt Mike smoked in with his ashes.

"I'll make sure this is standing every time I come by here," he said, pointing to the cairn. "I'll even save a cigarette butt." As he was leaving, I asked about his health coverage.

"I have epilepsy," he said. "I don't have insurance, but I have a doctor who's willing to work with me."

That's more than Mike had, but it isn't enough. This man deserves access to regular quality care. He has a wife and son. What will they do if he needs more care than this one doctor can provide?

The Koch Brothers-funded organization, the Ameican Legislative Exchange Council, has a new publication telling state legislators how to subvert or even overturn the Affordable Care Act, which they refer to as "ObamaCare."The group proudly proclaims, " Since 2005, 38 states have enacted model legislation developed by ALEC's Health and Human Services Task Force."Once reform passed at the federal level, corporate operatives knew the best way to defeat it was to attack at the state level, where reform actually will be implemented.Already, Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback has returned the $31.5 million federal grant that was to be used to set up the state's insurance exchange, the marketplace where millions of Americans and small businesses will buy their health insurance. If states don't set up their own exchanges, the federal government will operate one for them. Brownback had said as recently as June that he took the money so the state could control how the exchange is set up. But ALEC suggests states turn the money down as a form of resistance, so Brownback sent the money back to Washington.I'll bet not many citizens of Kansas know about that.In North Carolina, insurance companies have their own legislation for the exchange. It would give them effective control of the board of the exchange and offer few consumer protections, although insurance companies would have plenty of protections under the bill. It has passed the House, but has not been introduced in the Senate.The new ALEC guide advises legislators to introduce, either as a law or a state constitutional amendment, its bill to make it illegal to compel anyone to buy insaurance. That would annul the "individual mandate," which is intended to put more people into the insurance pool, thereby spreading costs over a larger population. Making it a constitutional amendment would, the guide says, prevent any single-payer system from being enacted on either the federal or state level.Among the other suggestions:
  • "Decline to enforce OmabaCare's 'consumer protections' if such enforcement authority does not already exist in your state."
  • "Reject ObamaCare discretionary grants that aid in the federal takeover of state health insurance regulation."
  • "Introduce legislation authorizing your state to seek a federal waiver of ObamaCare's medical loss ratio requirement (the part that forces insurance companies to spend 80 to 85 percent of what they take in on patient services) which would help your state delay implementation of this provision until 2014."
Insurance companies really don't mind the mandate; they object to being regulated. They're about to get 31 million new customers, but they want to continue to mistreat customers as they have been doing. ALEC is there to help them maintain control.By learning more about what's going on in your state, you will become an informed voter, and that's exactly what ALEC and the insurance companies don't want.We need to keep watch on our state legislators and regulatory bodies to make sure health reform is enacted to the fullest extent. It's not a great law; in fact, it's pretty lousy. But it is a start and we need to keep it moving forward.Decline to enforce ObamaCare’s “consumer protections” if suchenforcement authority does not already exist in your state.