Friday, September 11, 2009

Family time

Brother of Acts of Hope and Beloved of Brother of Acts of Hope are flying in from Europe on Saturday and we are converging on Parents of Acts of Hope. I get in a day before the Siblings do. I will be in New England for barely two days because I teach first thing in the a.m. on Mondays, but the far-flung Acts of Hope family makes the best of short amounts of time, so we are all happy happy happy. "All" being the two older generations. The two younger generations (Nephew the Elder, Nephew the Younger, their partners, and two kidlings) are off in their usual faraway countries.

Blogging will be scarce, but I will at some point put up the promised "write the media" post in the "DO SOMETHING for Health Care Reform" series.

I'll be with media types all weekend, so we'll see if they have any advice on this beyond the ideas I have collected or cooked up already. Lots of folks in the news biz in the Acts of Hope family, at least in the two older generations. The young 'uns didn't want to touch journalism with a ten-foot pole. Then again, one of them is in the wine biz, so we are grateful. The Really Young 'Uns may or may not go into journalism. At this point they are just busy being Really Young.

Shabbat Shalom and happy weekend, everyone.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Facebook updates

A day at home writing after an intense half-week of teaching.

Thus lots of opportunity to procrastinate (or take comforting breaks, depending on your spin) on Facebook. Posted a lot of updates. They are a bit like haiku, just longer. This may be the day with the most updates since I started Facebooking. (Is that a verb? If not, it will be soon.)

I still dislike Facebook's changes of this summer with the change in the update formula. Silly. But like lemmings, we have all started talking about ourselves in the 3d person. Mostly.

Jane R. Link

Jane R. Today, the Right Reverend and Right Honourable Maya Pavlova, Feline Bishop Extraordinaire, is my supervisor.

Jane R. Sometimes it's good to take some time simply to breathe and observe.Even, or especially, in the midst of urgent concerns, policy discussion, and activism. Link.

I posted these next two to the blog way back; revisited the music to listen and shared them on FB today as I listened.

Jane R. Link.

Jane R. And a live version... J.S. Bach never gets old. All hail to the best of his ancient and recent interpreters. Link.

Jane R. has now hidden from her news feed Vampire Wars, Mafia Wars, FarmVille, Farmtown, Funky Flowers, Pirates, (Lil') Green Patch, 101 Eggs, YoVille, and Pillow Fights. I'll keep hiding these sorts of apps as they keep appearing. I do like reading your personal and news updates, though, all y'all.

Jane R. Thanks to Vince Masi for pointing out this article. And hey, that's my old friend Edward, the Exec. Director whom the article quotes! Link.

Jane R. was attacked by a thorny branch while mowing the lawn and has the scratches to show for it.

Jane R. wants to keep looking at the recently arrived photos of her 6-year-old great-nephew instead of working on the Big Tome... But we do our theology for our children, don't we? If it doesn't make the world better for them, it's not worth the time. Another picture to post above the desk. What a cutie. And I'm not biased or anything.

Jane R. is remembering her beloved friend David, now deceased (brain tumor, summer 2002), who rushed downtown (he worked midtown and lived on the Upper West Side) on September 11, 2001, to see if he could find his nephew, and who miraculously ran into him, alive.

A day of mindfulness: more in the "DO SOMETHING for Health Care Reform" series

I promised you a mindfulness exercise for Tuesday and it's Thursday. I really ought to remember that Tuesday and Wednesday are my long days at work. I did, mindfully, watch two presidential speeches, one each day. I will post links to them, back-dated, so you will find them below soon.

What I meant to do, though, and I am doing now, is to invite you to take a break from the politicking and letter-writing and move into a day of mindfulness about health. Your health. The health of others. What constitutes good health.

This goes beyond good health insurance coverage, of course. A few times today and this evening, observe your breathing. Then take some deep, slow, breaths.

When you get up, what do you do for your own health and well-being? What does your understanding of health include in your daily life? Sleep? Food? Exercise? Drinking water? Laughter? Community? Spiritual practice? (For some this means prayer or meditation, for others it may mean Tai Ch'i or reading or baking. Think about what this means for you.) Intellectual or physical activity? Creative work?

As you go about your day, do you think about your health? In what way? What is the place of self-care ? How much time and energy does worrying take? Do you have one or more conditions that require treatment or visits to health practitioners?

Simply observe. Do not judge.

As you go about your day, do you think about the health and well-being of others? In what way? What form does this take? Who are the others? Are they persons and animals who are members of your household? Are they at your workplace? In your congregation or other community of spiritual practice? Are they at the place where you volunteer?

Take your time. Notice.

Are there ways in which "health" becomes particularly concrete for you? Are there ways in which "health" is an abstraction?

What happens when you take time simply to observe, to notice, and then perhaps to name, taking time out from the rush of acting and doing?

See what happens to your day, your health and your approach to health when you consider these questions.

Try to do this without judgment and without undue rush.

If you like, write us in the comments to this post and let us know your observations, experiences, and thoughts.

Peace to you.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

The President's health care speech to joint session of Congress: text and video

With thanks to the Huffington Post (a.k.a. HuffPo), here are the text of the speech and, toward the bottom of the text, the full video. (The other videos are just clips.)

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Presidential speech to school children and adolescents AND a transcript of Q&A with students in Arlington, Virginia

Here's a transcript of the discussion between President Obama and 9th grade high school students in Arlington, Virginia.

Here's the infamous speech to the students -- really a conservative's dream. Work hard, believe in yourself, understand planning and delayed gratification. It reminded me of my grandfather the summer camp director, my uncles the school principals, and my mother. (None of them political conservatives, but that just goes to show that the categories we use are sometimes useless.)

Tintin movies!?

Spielberg is making a Tintin movie. As is some other American filmmaker. Who knew? Apparently previews of the Spielberg film, at least in the form of stills, will be shown at the forthcoming Angoulême festival. That's the big annual comics festival in France. Angoulême is a small city northeast of Bordeaux. The English occupied it briefly in the 14th century.

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Labor Day op-ed

A good Labor Day essay by my friend Algernon D'Ammassa. The punctuation problems, by the way, are courtesy of his editor; they're not his doing. The essay was published in the Deming (New Mexico) Headlight.

Solidarity forever!

It's Write Your Congressfolks Day! Labor Day in the "DO SOMETHING for Health Care Reform" series

It's Labor Day, I taught and held office hours all morning, went home and had a late lunch, went to bed for a nap (not enough sleep last night), and slept for four hours instead of two -- so I am running behind on my Congress post. More in an hour or two in this space!


Here we go. Happy Labor Day! Health care reform. Contacting Congress. That's today's action.

I mentioned NETWORK yesterday. NETWORK has a very useful resource page which I mentioned yesterday. On this page, among other resources, are those on citizen lobbying. They include, among others, guidelines for communicating with people who think differently (how 'bout that?), tips for writing and calling your Member of Congress, and tips for visiting your Member of Congress in Washington or in your district. Also tips for writing letters to the editor.

The page also includes reflection, meditation, and prayer resources. (NETWORK is a religious organization founded by Catholic Christians, though you will find that the reflection resources are ecumenically pertinent and may even be helpful for persons outside the Christian tradition.)

For now, let's keep it simple:

1. Write or phone your Member of Congress and your two Senators. Tell them where you stand on health care reform. Tell them clearly. Tell them now. Tell them to act. If they are working actively for either a robust public option or for single-payer care, thank them. Remind them that you are a constituent and that you vote. Stay courteous.

If, like me, you are from Greensboro, NC, here is contact info for your reps and Senators; the Senators, of course, are Senators for all North Carolinians.

2. Here are tips for writing them.

3. Here are tips for phoning them. I found this page particularly helpful.

...more below the photo....

4. Here are tips for visiting them. This is a good one to do with a group of people. Very helpful prep and check sheet. Note: You have to do your homework! Just as the President is about to say to the kidlings.

If you're not in Washington or can't get there, there's always the district office. (The document to which this links includes a link to a directory of Congressional district offices.)

*****Got some spare time tomorrow after the three-day holiday weekend is over? Are you unemployed? Use your time for the common good! You'll feel great.

5. And here, for your meditation, is "Engaging Differences," a reflection, with a few guidelines, on communicating with people who think differently from you.

6. Want to have a resource to watch with your friends, your religious community, your class, your union, your youth group, your family, your community action group, your retirement community? For $5 you can get a video and study guide (which can be used without the video) either in English or in Spanish. It's called "Your Voice Counts" or "Tu Voz Cuenta."
Here is the link to the order forms. The study guide includes all the tip sheets above and more.

Stay on message. Keep it simple. Even a very short note or phone call can make a difference. They count 'em, you know.

A personally written letter carries much more weight than those form postcards they distribute at community events.

If you're not feeling too shy, a phone call is also great. Have a phone-calling party, or buddy up with someone!

I know I'm getting this to you late in the day, but you can do a little prep this evening and then make calls tomorrow when the offices are open. Great time to do it. Skip the gossip at the water cooler and write a letter supporting single payer health care or, at the very least, stating that "the public option is not optional!"

THE PUBLIC OPTION IS NOT OPTIONAL. I just made up that sentence. Use it.

Thank you.

P.S. Feeling uninformed? AARP (which is actually for anyone over 50, you don't have to be retired, and yes, I'm a member) has a handy info page called Health Care Reform: Get the Facts.

P.P.S. The Congressional Progressive Caucus's letter to President Obama supporting a robust public option is here.
Photos: 1) American Planning Association, California Chapter; 2) At Your Service for Seniors.

Sunday, September 6, 2009

Tomorrow, Labor Day, we write our Congressfolk; meanwhile, some resources on the legislative process

I will put more details up tomorrow, since it is late and I am prepping for class. Yes, I have to teach on Labor Day, at 8:30 a.m.

Meanwhile, here is your promised civics lesson: how a bill makes its way through the Congress. This comes from Health Care for America Now and it refers specifically to bills on health care reform and especially to HR 3200. Bills, committees, House, Senate, oh my! There is an item called "The Lay of the Land."

Setting aside health care, if you want a nonpartisan "How Congress Works" lesson, this one from Indiana University's Center on Congress is pretty good.

If you want a simple one-page summary of how Congress works, you can look here at a page prepared by STAND, the student-led division of the Genocide Intervention Network.

One of my favorite resources is NETWORK - A NationalCatholic Social Justice Lobby. Founded by sisters in 1971, the network is an excellent civic resource. Like everyone else, NETWORK has gone online. See here and click your way around. I wish the Episcopal Public Policy Network were half as helpful. NETWORK's health care efforts, with some good information, are visible here.

One of the things I like about NETWORK is that they are accessible. The material is clear and user-friendly. It also is religiously and ethically informed. There's a legislative action center. And there are educational resources. More tomorrow from these good folks, especially how-to tips. (Some of the how-to tips are from that page of resources, but I'll zero in on the ones we need to contact our Congressfolk.)

Click to enlarge.

Tomorrow: How to contact those Senators and Representatives, and a little pep talk as usual.

Tuesday: A mindfulness practice related to health care and health care reform.

Later in the week: Media-related things, as promised.

Blessings, all.

Señor, ten piedad

That's "Lord, have mercy" in Spanish.

Brutal news from El Salvador from our friend Caminante, here. Mother of God!

San Romero de las Américas, camina con nosotros.

I wrote my letter. Did you write yours?

See below. Today is write-the-President-about-health-care-reform day.

And if you wish, share what you wrote, or what you are thinking, or any related information about health care reform and action for health care reform, in the comments to this post or to the post below.

Thank you.

Tonight: a little something on those folks whom we elected to represented us in Congress.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

"Do Something" Series: Dear Mr. President...

Tomorrow is letter-writing day.

No, it's not a national holiday or some Hallmark-fabricated day. It's letter-writing day tomorrow because we all needed time off today (I am writing this very late on Saturday night - in fact, after midnight, but I'll back-date this post), because it's a long weekend and we have time to write a couple of letters, and also because I said so.

I hereby pledge to write President Obama tomorrow, Sunday, September 6.

On Monday, Labor Day, I will write my two Senators and Representatives. But we'll get to that tomorrow.

I'm keeping things simple in this DO SOMETHING About Health Care Reform Series. There are other more sophisticated bloggers to whom I will eventually link. I'm just a citizen trying to inform herself and her friends and determined to act. I can't stand apathy.

I invite you to keep me company and to write the President as well. Tomorrow. Today, by the time you read this. Sunday. September 6.

Once you have done this, check in with us here and leave us a comment to confirm that you wrote President Obama. Yes, this is a support group, and also a kick in the pants. Call it what you will, but DO SOMETHING. Politely, of course.

Details, information, and help below.

1. Remember the President is giving a speech to a joint session of Congress on Wednesday. The speech will be about health care reform.

2. Bill Moyers is (in the words of Father of Acts of Hope in a book review a few years ago) a national treasure. He socked it to us, and to President Obama, and to the talk shows and Pfizer and a few other entities, in a special message at the end of his show on Friday night.

"....As it is, we're about to get health care reform that measures human beings only in corporate terms of a cost-benefit analysis. I mean this is topsy-turvy — we should be treating health as a condition, not a commodity.

As we speak, Pfizer, the world's largest drug maker, has been fined a record $2.3 billion dollars as a civil and criminal — yes, that's criminal, as in fraud — penalty for promoting prescription drugs with the subtlety of the Russian mafia. It's the fourth time in a decade Pfizer's been called on the carpet — and these are the people into whose tender mercies Congress and the White House would deliver us?

Come on, Mr. President. Show us America is more than a circus or a market. Remind us of our greatness as a democracy. When you speak to Congress next week, just come out and say it. We thought we heard you say during the campaign last year that you want a government run insurance plan alongside private insurance — mostly premium-based, with subsidies for low-and-moderate income people. Open to all individuals and employees who want to join and with everyone free to choose the doctors we want. We thought you said Uncle Sam would sign on as our tough, cost-minded negotiator standing up to the cartel of drug and insurance companies and Wall Street investors whose only interest is a company's share price and profits.

Here's a suggestion, Mr. President: ask Josh Marshall to draft your speech. Josh is the founder of the website . He's a journalist and historian, not a politician. He doesn't split things down the middle and call it a victory for the masses. He's offered the simplest and most accurate description yet of a public insurance plan; one that essentially asks people: would you like the option — the voluntary option — of buying into Medicare before you're 65? Check it out, Mr. President.

This health care thing is make or break for your leadership, but for us, it's life and death. No more Mr. Nice Guy, Mr. President. We need a fighter. "

That's the end of the message. To watch the whole thing, go to Moyers's website and click on the video here. (The video is also bopping around on YouTube.)

You can also read the text of the message here or at DailyKos.

3. The major House bill on health care (there are others) is HR 3200. A helpful site from the Annenberg School called debunks some of the lies about it here.

4. Sometime this week we'll post various information sources, but for now, here is a link to one of the more reliable ones, the Kaiser Family Foundation. The health care reform part of the website is here. For a comparative chart of the various health reform plans, go directly here, or click the link on the health reform page. For a history of health care reform efforts in the U.S., click here.

5. Head spinning? You can always go back to this simple presentation.

6. I support single-payer health care. You may or may not. Whether or not you do, I am assuming that you want some kind of health care reform in this country. Write the President and tell him. Be as specific and clear as possible. A brief letter is fine. In fact, it's best.

7. Physicians for a National Health Program (PNHP) supports single-payer health care, and explains it, too. There's a petition at PNHP, if you are feeling lazy about writing a real letter to the President. There are petitions everywhere. I suggest you do both: sign one of those easy petitions AND write a real letter, which can be an e-mail.

8. Easy e-mail form to contact the President here. Use it.

The Honorable Barack H. Obama
President of the United States
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500
(They ask that you include your e-mail address even if you write snail-mail.)

Phone contact:
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414\
FAX: 202-456-2461
Comments: 202-456-6213
Visitors Office: 202-456-2121

Tomorrow: A little civics lesson on bills and Congress, and another letter-writing day, with information on how to contact your Congressfolk.

Soon: Write your local newspapers. Write the TV stations. Write a magazine. Peeved at the media? Do something about it. We'll help you to do so.

Remember: We welcome your suggestions, stories, and links. I am the final editor, in consultation with the local feline, but I will read whatever you send mindfully.

Photos nicked from my friend janinsanfran's blog, "Can It Happen Here?", one of the best personal blogs on public issues. The photos are from a rally of elders for health care reform.

Gratuitous Romanesque Europe nostalgia photo: Sénanque Abbey and its lavender field

This is one of my favorite places.

I haven't been to the Abbey of Sénanque in about 30 years, but the parents of an old and dear friend of mine from high school have retired to the nearest town of Gordes, and their granddaughter (my friend's oldest child) was married there in Gordes, just miles from the abbey, last weekend. Alas, I couldn't be there because we had just started school at Guilford.

Enjoy the picture, and click the links if you want to know and see more.

Click on the photo to enlarge it. Gorgeous.

Friday, September 4, 2009

DO SOMETHING for health care reform every day: a series begins

Occasionally we have a series here at Acts of Hope, a mix of information, inspiration, and advocacy. We seem to do this roughly once a year, though not by design.

There was the fund-raising and Latin American theologies series. The beneficiary of our (and other blogs' - this was a group project) fund-raising was an Anglican parish in a very poor neighborhood of Rio de Janeiro. By the way, I have an update on the parish of Cristo Rei from our friend Luiz which I have been meaning to post and which will go up this weekend.

Then there was the Obama election series.

I'm doing it again.

Some of you may have been involved, the last 48 hours, in the Facebook series that asked you to post to your daily updates the following message: No one should die because they cannot afford health care, and no one should go broke because they get sick. If you agree, please post this as your status for the rest of the day.

I didn't do it.

Not because I don't agree --I do and then some-- but because I felt that for the most part it would be preaching to the converted and that if my eyes were starting to glaze over from the message, other people's would. And mostly, because I think we need to DO something.

Like my other friends and colleague who want health care reform and who prefer either a public option or plain ol' single payer health care, I rant and complain, but more than half the time, I don't do anything. Meanwhile, there are lies and distortions all over the place, our local and national media don't get complaint letters when they spread those lies or when they fail to do their job as public educators, the noisy rude folk dominate the public forums (or maybe they don't, but they sure get the coverage), and our Congressfolk don't hear from us. A few of them have spines, but the others will not develop them till we remind them that we are the ones who will re-elect them -- or not. And that they work for us.

And we bitch and moan (pardon my language) about the President we worked hard to elect when he doesn't change massive systems with the wave of a magic wand. Then, of course, we will blame him for everything.

How do you think we got him elected?




It's our country, these are our bodies, this is our health care system we want to change. And we have no right to complain unless we act.

Thus, I am starting a series here. It's partly to get myself off my duff and have a place to be accountable and partly because besides I am at heart several things --artist, priest, and yes, organizer.

I don't have time for this either, but it's too important to leave alone.

I don't fully know what will be in this series, but I pledge to put something useful here every day. Information, education, ways to act, analysis, commentary, reporting. It won't all be mine. There is no need to reinvent the wheel. I will link to other sources and to people who know more than I.

And yes, I will write, this weekend, a short report on our Greensboro public forum on health care, with a little something on Teddy Kennedy.

I am also doing this in part in memory of Kennedy, who was my Senator for many years and was still, at the time of his death, my parents' Senator.

Feel free to send me (in the comments or via e-mail) information and links and suggestions.

Uncivil speech is not welcome; I will delete it; don't even try. Conversation is another matter. Conversation is good. Disagreement is fine if it is reasoned and polite. And lament is fine too: there is plenty to lament. But lament is the beginning of resistance and healing. Or can be.

Stay tuned. And thank you for reading this and for caring for the common good.

If you haven't see this video about the why of government-run health insurance, have a look.

P.S. I'll still post other things, too. This isn't turning into The Health Care Blog.

Mural "Community Caring, Community Healing" by David Fichter. Martha Eliot Health Center, Jamaica Plain, MA.