Evergreen Up Late: My Intro to Epic Struggles

Why did I become an Activist?
I think you may be asking the wrong question, as I don’t consider myself an ‘activist’ as much as a ‘defensive end’.
I had never PLANNED to become politically active, but matters forced my hand.
Matters of truth, justice, fairness, and equality that I felt demanded attention.

I have bills to pay and a family to support the same as you.
When something is yours, it is natural to want to protect it.
Want to see a parent go absolutely bonkers (person OR animal)? Just threaten their family.

Back in the day
Like most teens, I enjoyed hanging out and listening to great music. I didn’t think too much about politics. Getting older, I began to notice some governmental policies (Local, State, and Federal) with which I didn’t agree. In such a situation you have two choices – speak up against it or put up with it, and while not everything is a life or death struggle, important issues ARE abundant.

Alone, effecting any kind of change is difficult at best and even unlikely at most, but when you are part of a groupanything can happen.

And what of the ‘epic’ part?
A Progressive view + Progressive Rock = Epic!

Effective Team and Resource Management enables effective action by that team, and so I too will join the struggle, join a team to affect political change and influence its direction – to defend our future.
I’d be happy to tell you all about it, but first – Supper’s Ready.

May you always be in tune with The Music of the Spheres.

Easter Poverty Digest

Today is Easter, and while that may mean nothing but bunnies and jellybeans to many of you, it has a greater spiritual meaning to me.  And that being the case, I can’t think of a better day to remind you about American Poverty.

Below are some of the pieces I’ve written in the past few weeks about our national scourge as well as some related posts from other Everbloggers, digested for easy referral.  Next week we’ll get back to original material.

“Fix It:  Five Ways to Beat Poverty in America (Now)”

A Departure.”

Bootstraps!

Is That Stuff Contagious?

I Want a New War.

“Viral Inequality”

Corporate Profits Are Soaring, and That’s Bad”

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If “Loving” you is wrong,…

Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents.  And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages.  The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix"Judge Leon M. Bazile

“Almighty God created the races white, black, yellow, malay and red, and he placed them on separate continents. And but for the interference with his arrangement there would be no cause for such marriages. The fact that he separated the races shows that he did not intend for the races to mix”
Judge Leon M. Bazile

Mildred Jeter, a black woman, and Richard Loving, a white man, were married in June of 1958.  Both parties were residents of Virginia, yet their union took place in Washington, D.C.  Why?  Virginia’s Racial Integrity Act of 1924.  Miscegenation – the mixing of different racial groups through marriage, cohabitation, sexual relations, or procreation – was illegal.  It was a federal crime punishable by a prison sentence of one to five years.

**In 1924, SB 219 (Racial Integrity Act)  passed in the Virginia Assembly.  The Racial Integrity Act essentially divided society into two categories:  white and colored.  Colored, naturally, included any person…not white.  Race was classified under the “one-drop rule”.  This rule stated that one was to be classified as colored if they had “one drop of Negro blood”.  That same year, SB 281 (“Sterilization Act”) also passed the Virginia Assembly.  It is pretty self-evident what the “Sterilization Act” was designed for.  Forced sterilization.  According to this ACLU of Virginia article; “It is estimated that between 7,200 and 8,300 people were sterilized in Virginia from 1927 to 1979 because they were deemed by society at the time to be unworthy or unfit to procreate.”  Of those sterilized, approximately 22% were black, 2/3 were women, and many were not even informed that they were being sterilized.  Both Acts were a part of a grand scheme to “preserve America as a white nation”.

Upon returning to their home in Central Point, Virginia; the couple’s residence was raided in the middle of the night.  They were arrested and charged with cohabitation as man and wife.  The sentence was suspended, with the condition that the couple leave Virginia.  In 1964, the frustrated wife petitioned Attorney General Robert F. Kennedy, who referred her to the American Civil Liberties Union.  The ACLU filed a series of motions on the Loving’s behalf, which placed them squarely on a path that ended at the doors of the Supreme Court.

The Lovings, themselves, did not attend the hearings.  Bernard S. Cohen, attorney for the couple, relayed a heart-felt message to the court.  “Mr. Cohen, tell the court that I love my wife, and it is unfair that I can’t live with her in Virginia.”

The Loving case was finally heard by the High Court.   The unanimous decision (dated June 12, 1967), overturned the convictions.  The Court ruled that Virginia’s anti-miscegenation laws violated the Due Process Clause and the Equal Protection Clause of the Fourteenth Amendment.

***Why does this matter now, after forty-six years?***

Marriage is one of the “basic civil rights of man,” fundamental to our very existence and survival…. To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State’s citizens of liberty without due process of law. The Fourteenth Amendment requires that the freedom of choice to marry not be restricted by invidious racial discrimination. Under our Constitution, the freedom to marry, or not marry, a person of another race resides with the individual and cannot be infringed by the State”

Chief Justice Earl Warren

Basic civil rights.  Basic civil rights are freedoms that are not contingent upon one’s race, or gender, or sexual orientation.  It is not acceptable to deny anyone the basic right of love and marriage simply because you disagree with their choices.  It is not American.  It is not equality.

It Is Wrong!

I, personally, relate to Mildred Jeter Loving.  That’s because I am Mildred Jeter Loving.  Same state.  Same situation.  My life, my husband, my family…that I love more than breathing…was at one point illegal.  I would have been a felon.  And for what?  For falling in love, like all humans do?  For wanting to marry and raise a family, like all humans do?

For “Loving” someone not of my race?

Same-sex couples are no less human.  They are no less loving.  They are no less American.  They, as free citizens, have the right to choose to marry whomever they wish.  These choices – in no way, shape, form, or fashion – negate our country’s obligation to treat them equally under the law.

Of course, I could go into some long, drawn out explanation of why same-sex couples should be “granted” equality under the law.  I could wax on, poetically, about why we need to “give in” and allow them the rights of any other married couple.  But I won’t.  It’s not necessary.  The only reason a same-sex couple needs is this:  it is their basic civil right.

The end.

Evergreen Up Late: Waving at the Light

Lil’ Seuss Deuce
Shortly after “Hey, Seuss” was originally posted, a typo was found misnaming Senator Ron Portman. Apologies to the Senator and to subscribers who received this typo in their email.
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Funny thing about old laws; some of them become funny old laws that make little sense to our modern style of living.
For example, in Salem, West Virginia, it’s against the law to eat candy less than an hour and a half before church service.
Good for a laugh with some inquisitive kiddies … oh, wait … what’s this?

Women couldn’t vote?
People of different races couldn’t marry?
People were PROPERTY?!?

Clearly, it’s ‘awkward parent-child conversation’ time once again.
A sensitive, inquisitive child can be an uncomfortable mirror of society’s past missteps.
Few things are more disheartening than trying to explain “The Stupid” of certain historical laws.

When changes to a long-held law are being debated, past changes are often dredged up for comparison. These days, we believe that marriage rights, voting rights, etc. fall under the umbrella of Human Rights. But some of those rights have gone through some dark times. Explaining that to a child, you can see the optimistic twinkle in their eyes dim just ever so slightly.

Explain differing opinions to the best of your ability. “I don’t know why they thought that way” is an acceptable answer. The conversation could become a learning moment for you too.
When discussing how peoples’ attitudes have changed, I try to instill an appreciation for where we came from and emphasize the forward progress that has been made. Don’t ignore the darkness, and don’t fear it.
Particle or wave, teach the facts and preserve the available light.


May you always be in tune with The Music of the Spheres.

A Medical Nightmare: Unemployed, COBRA Ending, and a Cancer Diagnosis

On December 18, 2003, I was diagnosed with adult acute lymphoblastic leukemia. At that time, I was unemployed, my savings was nearly depleted, and my COBRA coverage was set to expire on February 29, 2004. I was thirty-seven years old, and up to this point, I had always been a very healthy, active woman. My biggest fear, aside from dying, was that I wouldn’t have medical coverage after February.

My cancer protocol required four to five days of hospitalization for each round of high-dose chemotherapy, which was completed by the end of March. I checked into the hospital on May 26 to begin four days of total body irradiation followed by two days of chemo before my bone marrow transplant on June 1, 2004. I then spent three weeks recovering in the hospital after BMT.

Following my December 18 diagnosis and ten-day hospital stay, I had moved into my sister Barbara’s home. She and her husband, Dan, took over paying my medical bills, health insurance premiums, and all other expenses.

I applied for Social Security Disability benefits in January and was approved, but my payments would not begin until I’d been disabled for five months. I received my first disability payment in July 2004. Meanwhile, I was researching individual medical plans and discovered that I was eligible for coverage since I’d been insured under a group plan for at least 18 months without any lapse in coverage prior to my intended March 1 effective date.

Once I received the insurance information packet, I was beyond depressed. The insurance premiums were unbelievable. I’d been paying $273 per month for my COBRA coverage—which at the time I thought was expensive—but now I’d be paying $659 per month for an individual plan. I had to have coverage, so my sister and her husband paid for it.

Me with my nephew Andrew, September 2004 – 3 months after BMT; 1 month after he was born.

It is vital to have good medical coverage; it is so important to find a way to pay for it because if you do not have it, it can be catastrophic. My initial hospital stay cost $82,000, of which my insurance company picked up around $15,000, and I paid $550. My entire treatment including hospital stays (one 10-day; three 4- to 5-day; one 3-day due to increased fever after chemo; and a 4-week stay for BMT), chemotherapy, total body irradiation, medications, x-rays, CT and MUGA scans, and BMT probably totaled between $750,000 and $1,000,000 (this based on initial bills of which I saw the price tag and what I know to be the cost of BMT). My caregiver sister was also my bone marrow donor and 28 weeks pregnant—a whole other story in itself and an amazing one. My insurance company covered all her associated medical expenses.

Had I been without insurance, I may not have gotten the treatment I needed to save my life. Had I not had family that was financially capable of covering my expenses, I would not have had insurance coverage and the excellent level of care that accompanied it. I know first-hand how exorbitant medical costs are and how important good medical coverage is to ensure proper treatment.

In the following years, my health insurance premium rose to $759 then to $835 per month. By this time, I’d moved out of my sister’s home and into my own apartment where I was paying $1,000 a month rent. On the salary I earned as a temporary employee, I knew I could not survive if I had to pay $1,000 in rent and $835 for insurance premiums on a monthly basis.

I searched for other health plans and found one costing $453 per month with almost identical benefits, co-pays, and coinsurance. It was still expensive, but at least manageable within my budget. I accumulated some savings post-cancer while still residing with my sister’s family because I was able to work full-time and still collect my disability payments during the nine-month trial work period. This savings allowed me a small safety net post-cancer until I was again on solid financial footing.

My healthcare story had a happy ending, yet many people who are in the situation in which I found myself that December of 2003 may not be so fortunate. My heart breaks for those who go without treatment because they are uninsured, or those who are insured but have limited plans and have to make tough choices between their own and their children’s care.

I am a single woman and it was hard enough coping with my own cancer experience. I can’t imagine factoring a child and/or a husband into those concerns. It must be agonizing. Excellent medical care should be the right of everyone in this country, not only those fortunate ones covered by an employer-paid plan or who can afford an individual one.

Check out two other healthcare-related posts by fellow Evergreeners here and here.

Ms. Ludwig is the author of Rebirth: A Leukemia Survivor’s Journal of Healing during Chemotherapy, Bone Marrow Transplant, and Recovery

Welcome back my friends! Let’s take a trip where normal humans fear to tread. A place outside the boundaries of good taste and sophistication that you’ve come to expect from Everblog. Tonight we go One Step Beyond! to bring you the finest Idiot America has to offer! Until tomorrow anyway…

I know it’s cold and all folks but spring will eventually be sprung and prosecuting the groundhog won’t help.

If there’s one thing I cannot abide it’s a nutswiper with a bad attitude.

To partially quote Dean Wormer, “Fat, drunk and stupid is no way to go through life Grandma”

Perhaps this was just a crime of convenience but I suspect Mr. Balika had been “casein” that truck for some time.

I have no idea whether she’s guilty or not but what I do know is that she would win a  game of “Duck, Duck, Goose” hands down.

Thankfully, all of the heretofore mentioned criminals were apprehended before authorities had to pull out the big guns. Be sure to check out the sweet slideshow of America’s finest part time superheroes down at the bottom of the link.

Crime makes me thirsty. Barkeep, gimme a Mount Vernon Boilermaker with a Porky Pig chaser please!

Prescription Filled: Getting What We Want from Big Pharma

Not long ago, I went down to my neighborhood chain drugstore to get my prescription filled.  The medicine was a common, ordinary prescription medication, but I was scared. You see, I’m one of the “uninsured”. Or, as Randites like to call it, “self-insured.” Or, as I like to call it, “screwed.”

Might as well have been standing in line with Mr. Jimmy.

The pharm tech typed into her computer, trying to divine from their system how much the prescription would set me back.

“A hundred and seventeen dollars”, she finally told me.

I blanched. “How about generic?” I asked.

“That is generic”, she answered. “And I gave you credit for our store discount, since you’re uninsured.” She almost whispered the last word, as if it were somehow dirty.

I needed the meds quickly and didn’t have time to shop around. Not that I was likely to find a better deal, even assuming I could coax other pharm techs to check prices for me. I steeled myself and ponied up, trying not to think of the fact that this was more than half of what I brought home in a typical week. I didn’t have much choice.

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When I got home I looked up the same drug on the website of an off-shore pharmacy I’d used several times in the past. They’d always been reliable and provided quality prescriptions. The only problem was that it took three to four weeks to receive it, and I simply couldn’t afford to wait. Plus, ordering from them probably was illegal, given the bedmate relationship U.S. drug makers have with U.S. lawmakers.

The price there: $22.20, including shipping. Same drug, from a dependable company that legally obtains it from legitimate sources.

I had paid more than 5 times as much for my medication than I had to. Because I had to.

Maybe I should’ve just gotten a soda instead.

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It’s no secret that the U.S. spends far more than any other developed country on health care, and yet our health outcomes are generally worse than most of these countries.

The fact that this doesn’t cause Americans apoplexy continues to amaze me. Worse, Republicans in Congress not only aren’t flinching about U.S. health care‘s failures, they’re trying to roll back what little reform we’ve managed to pass.

Why? It’s obvious. Most Republicans in Congress are owned by the companies and people getting rich off our existing, dysfunctional system.

The reasons that U.S. health care fails so miserably is complex. Capitalism really can do many things very well, but with health care, the stars line up to produce the worst results possible. Health care is an industry with a perfect storm of market failures. Way too much gets spent on the wrong things, and far too little on the right ones. Health care is the poster child for an industry that could be vastly improved with the right kind of government involvement.

The big pharmaceutical companies are a textbook example of what’s wrong with the system. These companies develop many wonderful medications that can – and do – improve the lives of millions. The problem is, there’s a lot more money in keeping people sick but alive than there is in curing them. Chronically-ill consumers who require continuous treatment mean a long-term, steady stream of profits. A cure is just a one-shot deal.

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Look at the Big Six pharmaceutical companies – Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Merck, Abbott, Bristo-Myers Squib, and Eli Lilly. Between them, they raked in more than $2 trillion in revenues in the last ten years. That’s “trillion” with a “tr”, not “billion” with a “b”. What’s more, they netted – after tax – nearly $400 billion in profits in that time. For those of you keeping score at home, that’s a 17.7% profit margin.

Why do drug makers net almost 4 times what other Fortune 500 companies do? Are they just that pillsmuch better?

Far from it. The main reason is that we as a society grant them legal monopolies (called “patents”) on the drugs they develop.

Patent systems are intended to ensure that people who spend time and money developing new products can recoup their investments and earn enough profit to reward their innovation. Unfortunately, Big Pharma is abusing patent laws – with at least tacit political approval – in order to milk every penny they can out of anyone silly enough to require their drugs for their lives and well-being.

There’s a movie called Ultraviolet where an evil drug company tries to infect everyone with a deadly disease, just so they can sell them the drug that treats it. Big Pharma doesn’t have to infect everyone. It just has to convince us with massive marketing campaigns that we have diseases that only their drugs can treat.

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Last year, J&J’s total sales were $67 billion, with a net income of almost $11 billion – a tidy 16% profit margin. But J&J’s total R&D spending was less than $8 billion. They spend $20 billion on sales, marketing, and admin.

It’s a similar story with Pfizer. Eight billion spent on R&D, with more than twice that spent on sales and admin. And almost $15 billion in net income.

Why are we paying five times as much as we should for our prescriptions again?

You can’t really blame companies for making “too much profit”, at least as long as they’re doing that legally and ethically. Setting aside the “legal” and “ethical” parts, the blame rests on us – and our political leaders – for allowing these companies to make such stratospheric margins year after year after year.

Over the past ten years, Wal-Mart had total sales of $3.5 trillion – 68% more than the Big Six combined. But Wal-Mart only netted $122 billion in profits off that, compared with Big Pharma’s $371 billion.

Sure, completely different industry and business model. And yet. What if Big Pharma’s profit margin were just half-way between its 17.7% and Wal-Mart’s 3.5%? What would that mean to us?

Even without decreasing the Drug Lords’ R&D spending a dime, you could take that 7.1% out of their massive advertising spending. Pfizer spends hundreds of millions of dollars on direct-to-consumer advertising for each of its blockbuster drugs. Are those annoying, misleading TV commercials really doing anything to improve the health of Americans?

If Big Pharma’s profit margins had been 10.6% instead of 17.7%, it would’ve saved consumers $150 billion over the last ten years.

That would buy a lot of cherry sodas.

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Obviously, unregulated “free” markets aren’t doing a very good job of providing Americans with good health care outcomes at reasonable costs. In fact, they’re doing the opposite:  Ensuring that as many Americans as possible have as many ailments as possible so that drug companies can sell them as many drugs as possible at the highest prices possible.

The profit motive isn’t working here.

So what to do about all this?

First, ban advertising of prescription drugs. Any “information benefits” are far outweighed by the cost and negative side-effects. No one hears the litanies of problems the drugs cause, only the “Ask your doctor about Prozium(tm) today!”

Second, ban any and all drug company reimbursements to physicians. No more junkets for doctors to “present papers” at pharm-sponsored “conferences” at Hawaii resorts. No more “honoraria” for physician “cooperation” in “research programs”. No more drug sales reps wining and dining every Tom, Dick, and doctor.

Finally, regulate the hell out of Big Pharma. Yes, we already do that, but not enough, and not the right way. Eliminate patent abuse and “pay for delay” schemes. Federally subsidize research into cures, not just treatments. Provide incentives for preventing disease, rather than closing the barn door after the virus has escaped. Enact laws that force drug companies to do what’s best for patients, not stockholders, and then enforce those laws vigorously.

Longer-term, single payer’s the only real answer, of course. If a Medicare-esque government agency were the only buyer of pharmaceutical products, it could dictate the prices we have to pay for the chemicals we need to live. Those prices can provide sufficient margins to fund necessary research and development, but limit the extra money thrown into drug executive bonuses and lobbying efforts to promote counter-productive profit-enhancing laws.

It’s time we stop Big Pharma from taking us to the cleaners every time we go to the drugstore.

It’s the only way we’re going to get what we need.