On Race and Speaking Up

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I was 12 when I first really felt the sting of racism, when I found myself identified by my teacher as a possible “suspect” for the profanity-laced question anonymously placed in the question box for the DARE officer, and I as looked around the group of six of us being lectured in the hallway by the officer, I realized, in or moment of recognition and shock that the only thing I had in common with the other kids was the color of my skin. The one white kid among us, a known “troublemaker”, later proudly confided in us that it was him. I was deeply hurt by this and confused- wasn’t this the same teacher who had sang my praises to my mother weeks earlier at the parent teacher conference as I shyly looked at my feet?

I was 13 when black classmates made fun of my sisters and I for having a white mother; 16 when a high school “friend” nicknamed me “blacky”, and I being far too timid to say anything, nervously laughed every time he said it.

17 when as a straight-A student at the top of my class, was told by my guidance counselor I could get into a good college because they were looking for “diversity”, without a second thought given to my credentials; 18 when on a summer afternoon walking down the street, a cop car pulled over, questioned me and demanded ID.

I was 20 when I was first called a “n—–“, a group of five white boys in the car next to mine as we both pulled up to rent movies from the local blockbuster. 21 when I was told by the manager of the restaurant I worked at that I was the “whitest black person” he knew.

I was all ages when my mixed race family drew stares from people that couldn’t figure out such a bizarre family arrangement. I was, and continue to be called “articulate”- please stop doing that. Being called articulate always feels like a backhanded compliment because it is unknowingly, and innocently offered as an observation in contrast to what should be expected of a black person- how often is the primary trait of talented whites identified as being “articulate?”

I was 22 when a state trooper insisted on inspecting my vehicle- including the trunk, and when queried why, responded without hesitation that “a black man in the {next town over} had beat someone up and threw them in their trunk”.

I was 23 when I had my first car accident- a minor one, where I hydroplaned on a wet s-curve and wound up with the hood of my car pinned under a guardwire. The police officer that showed up approached from the opposite direction, looked at me, drove by and parked 50 feet behind my vehicle. Then, without any question about my status- was I hurt? was I okay? demanded over the loudspeaker, that, in the rain, I get out of my vehicle and walk my license and registration back to him. I swallowed my anger and my fear- because every black person knows the absolute last thing you are supposed to do is leave your vehicle and approach a cop car- its far too easy for that wallet to turn into a menacing handgun.

I was 8 when Rodney King was beaten senseless by police officers and remember watching the subsequent riots on tv; 12 when the black community, without deeper analysis, could be perceived as to have blindly celebrated the “innocent” verdict of OJ Simpson; 15 when James Byrd was dragged to death in Texas (which left me fearful for a long time, especially the idea of venturing into “the south”), 16 when Amadou Diallo was shot 41 times by the NYPD; 28 when Troy Davis was executed and 29 when Trayvon Martin was gunned down. The truth is race always has, and always will be a part of my life, and the troubled ether of society.

I was 26 when I was first told it was okay to talk about race in a public setting, by a graduate school professor that validated the minority experience, and to whom I am still grateful. Because for most of my life, racism was the one social injustice I wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole. Child abuse, human rights violations, poverty- you name it, I’d research it, name it, fight it- but race is something different. Part of what it means to be the “black friend” in groups of whites is to not talk about race, lest you make them uncomfortable- or at least thats how I felt.

No one wants to talk about race- especially people like me- those that are perceived to have “made it”, and are “so white” as to be acceptable in mainstream society- if you don’t “dress black”, “talk black”, “act black”, and certainly don’t talk about the fact as someone considered “black”, that you are unhappy with how blacks are treated, then you just might become a “token black”- the one that makes it, that proves the system is not rigged, because after all, if Kevin can make it, if Obama can become president, then surely this black-white thing is overplayed and we can all just continue on in our merry “colorblind” lives.

The hardest part about all of this, is that race is such a difficult thing to discuss, such a painful wound to open, such an easy topic to dissolve into misunderstanding, fingerpointing and political manipulation. It is too easy for some blacks to point to the invisible hand of a racism as the reason for their shortcomings, just as it is too easy for some whites to dismiss racism on the simple grounds that they themselves are not racist. The reality we need to grapple with is not that “ugly racism”- the kind that makes us shudder at its vile and cruel violence, but racism built into our society that requires no obvious malice or intent to operate.

It is the racism that results in biased drug laws and enforcement patterns that leads to the incarceration of generations of young black men. It is in the systemic underfunding of public schools in minority-heavy areas, and in an overall attack and rejection of social services that are perceived to primarily benefit blacks, even when the majority of beneficiaries are non-black (welfare). It is all of these things and 100 little things that present confounding problems- it is in the accumulated wealth differential in the black and white communities, which while understandably not likely caused in recent years by “racism”, was set in motion decades ago by discriminatory education, housing and employment policies and practices.

But the biggest problem of all is our collective silence, our fear to broach the topic, to risk offending or to be crucified- regardless of our race. It is in our fleeting anger over the Trayvon Martin case, but unsustained outrage at the multitude of daily and systemic injustices wrought upon a whole class of people for no reason other than the pigmentation the gods dole out. It is my staying silent for so many years, and others being relieved by it for so many more. It is in the marginalizing of contemporary public figures that focus on race, and in the naked race baiting of politicians for personal gain.

And so here it is. An attempt at conversation on race, which while surely imperfect, incomplete and insufficient is a start.

~
RIP Trayvon and the countless other lives lost to violence and incarceration. And a prayer for all the youth today whose dreams are being muted by the proverbial good people standing idly by.

-kd-

Love, as an Answer

this is not about gun control or mental health care alone. this is about when we as a society will begin caring enough about each other that we don’t become so desensitized to the suffering of millions of Americans daily that it takes the blood of children to wake us up. this is about a country with untold wealth and resources that allows veterans to sleep on the streets at night. this is about  a country that allows children to go to bed cold, and hungry. this is about a country that is okay with failed social safety nets until we are forced to confront the ugly realities such an approach engenders.

this is about people upset about spending on welfare because those “shiftless bastards” should just pick themselves up with their bootstraps. this is about a country that locks up thousands of people living with mental illness or drug addiction in jails because it is easier than helping them. this is about being okay with failed public school systems condemning generations of minority youth to a futureless future.
i wonder how much of the outrage and sadness expressed in mainstream and social media today will be channeled into meaningful action- how many months will it take for this to become a memory that we ruefully shake our head about without changing anything. i’m not suggesting that evil can be forever banished from the landscape if we only spend more on the suffering masses, but it can go a hell of a long way. i’m also not suggesting that if we pass stricter gun control laws that mass shootings will be relegated to an unfortunate point in time of our history never to repeat itself, but i guess what i’m saying is we have to really love each other.
we need to have empathy, compassion for others. we have to care about the fates of people in ghettos far from the safety of our homes, care about the fates of everyone that is not part of our immediate social networks. as long as we primarily trouble ourselves only with ourselves and our wallets we will forever be subject to tragedies both as immediate, shocking and heartwrenching as today, but also the longer, slower and less dramatic extinguishing of dreams, communities and lives for want of simple love manifested in meaningful ways.
-kd-
wishes of comfort to those suffering so terribly from today’s tragedy

Election Day Undecideds

For the woman at the gym this morning that said she still didn’t know who she was voting for today- I want to poke fun at you, but really more than anything you make me sad. To be undecided about who to vote for shows a monumental lack of understanding of what the candidates stand for and the direction they would take this country or a level of apathy that should lead to the revocation of your right to live in this country.

I am voting for Barack Obama not because I am deluded into thinking he is perfect, or blindly put his racial background above all else, but because he has articulated a clear, consistent vision for this country for years that is premised on creating equal opportunity for all and respecting the dignity of all people.He has a track record that is unquestionable- from ending the war in Iraq, to passing health care reform (however perfect it represents progress), to thoughtful government intervention that benefited us all- auto industry rescue, American Recovery & Reinvestment Act, to repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, passing the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act to creating the Deferred Action program for immigrant youth.

Although some may fault him for it, he has shown a willingness to attempt to work with all sides in Washington and has chosen to remain civil and honest throughout his campaigning. To contrast what Obama stands for with the hypocrisy, pandering, lies and lack of substance that Mitt has offered to Americans presents such a stark contrast that it is shocking and embarrassing that anyone could not know which way they wanted to vote.

The reason that the outcome of the election is even in question is due to the willful ignorance of so many, the frightening gullibility of the masses, and the failure of our society to better promote, and make possible, the act of informed voting.

The president has earned my vote, and friends, I hope you will not only go out and support him today, but that you will remain engaged in the political process in the years to come because creating a country and future we want to live in does not begin and end with election day.

-kd-
(original post 11-6-12)

Adult Basic’s End

Unless Governor Corbett acts quickly, by March 1st of this year, 42,000 Pennsylvania residents will loose their health insurance and join the already one million-plus in the state without coverage. Adult Basic, a health insurance program designed for adults who don’t qualify for Medicaid, but earn too little for private-market insurance, is scheduled to be terminated in the state on February 28th.

The program, initially launched about a decade ago to deal with the still unresolved nationwide health insurance crisis, has largely been funded by Blue Cross/Blue Shield in an agreement related to their tax-exempt status. Now that their obligation to contribute to the program is coming to an end, the Blue’s, despite reaping record profits and continuing to add to its enormous reserves, are refusing to offer further support for the program. Governor Corbett’s staff have told me they “appealed to the federal government” for assistance, but that’s just not good enough.

I’m not sure whether its more shameful that our Governor, who was among the first Attorney Generals in line to challenge President Obama’s health reform package, is now turning to the federal government in a last ditch attempt to preserve insurance for Pennsylvanians, or that the Blue’s, a “charitable organization” that made their billions selling health care, are going to stand by and let thousands of hardworking adults loose their coverage.

Either way its clear that money, as it always has been, is being put before people when it comes to health care. Perhaps the greatest irony of all, is that when these 42,000 begin utilizing hospitals and other medical services without insurance, the costs of their uncompensated care will ultimately be passed on in the form of higher premiums to the rest of us- including those that voted to put the “fiscally responsible” Corbett in office, who is now gambling with the lives of thousands.

-kd-

Letter to the Editor submitted to Philadelphia Inquirer. For more info click here.

Guest Piece: Intricate Balance Between Détente and American Complicity in Asian Atrocity

I’m happy to present here a piece at the request of my mother, Ann Douglas, although unfortunately I didn’t get it up in time for the Power of One campaign, as she had hoped (although you can still take action!).
In any case, she writes about an important issue here, and I hope you enjoy it.

-kd-

Intricate Balance Between Détente and American Complicity in Asian Atrocity:

A Report for Concerned Citizens of America and The World

8/13/2010

Ann Douglas

TABLE OF CONTENTS

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY……………………….                  3

INTRODUCTION…………………………………                   4

HIDDEN ATROCITIES………………………….                   5

FAMOUS FIGHTERS……………………………                   6

RENOWNED PERFORMERS COMPLAIN…….             7

TROUBLES BREWING…………………………                     8

AMERICA and CHINA:

DIFFERENT BELIEFS  SWALLOWED BY MONEY…. 9

AMERICAN SHORES HARBOR REGIME……….        10

AMERICA’S CITIZENS GATHERING  THEIR COLLECTIVE

VOICES………………..                                                              11-14

APPENDIX A: WORKS CITED……………….                     15-16

~

Executive Summary

One of the most basic needs of a person is to be able to think freely.  Not only about whom we are and our place on the earth but why we are here- generally coming under the heading of Spirituality or Religion.  America has had a long history of believing in choosing freely what higher power to believe in or not to believe in.  On the other hand, one of the most powerful countries in the world today does not believe in this.  China’s ruling governmental party, the Chinese Communist Party (CCP), is participating in the brutal repression of the 26 year old spiritual practice, in this country and others, known as Falun Gong or Falun Dafa.

Illustrious supporters of human rights, former Parliamentarian David Kilgour and Canadian human rights attorney David Matas, have produced a damning Report shedding light on continued human rights abuses by the CCP.  Bloody Harvest exposes the horrific practice of human organ harvesting of Falun Gong practitioners, and Europe as well as the United States has issued resolutions on these abuses.  China’s famous civil rights attorney and author of A China More Just, Gao Zhisheng, has been tortured, released, and re-abducted by the CCP.  Zhisheng’s wife, who recently fled to the U.S., was also tortured and can’t say if her husband is still alive.

Testimony was given by a member of the renowned Shen Yun Performing Arts, Mei Xuan, to the U.S. congress about the CCP harassment of the production and the abduction of her spouse.  During the 2008 attacks on Falun Gong members on the streets of Flushing, New York, arrests were made as well as allegations and charges filed against the then city council member, who is now NYC’s comptroller, John Liu, for his involvement with the incidents.  Liu has been implicated in associating with organizations which are said to be a front for the CCP and it is believed that he supported the Falun Gong attacks.

Given the support and monitoring by the esteemed Amnesty International on these human rights abuses it is not a matter of whether they are happening, but of the needed will of the American people and its global partners in the support of human rights that must continue to stand up and resist these atrocities.  The conclusion of this report will offer many ways for individuals to enact their own Power of One to ignite the flame of resistance against the oppression of innocent citizens.  We can begin with College Campuses and the Polls.  Namaste.

Introduction

Falun Gong, also known as Falun Dafa, is a spiritual practice that was founded in 1984 by Mr. Hongzhi Li who lived in China at the time.  Li created this practice which was fashioned after, Falun Xiufo Dafa , a set of strict physical, mental, and spiritual practices which were taught to him since he was a child by a Buddhist mentor.  Li felt that these practices although normal needed to be adjusted to the needs and limitations of the everyday common man that had time constraints for work and other so he adapted these high spiritual practices for the masses.  An associated practice known as Qi gong, which involves physical and breathing exercises, are akin to yoga- bringing about inner peace as well as a well-stretched body.  Truthfulness, Compassion, and Forbearance represent Falun Gong’s main tenets.

Up into the early 90’s these practices were acclaimed and written about in America and Mr. Li experienced support in China by those in power.  In 1995 Li was approached by the Chinese National Sports committee about creating an “association” with a specified dogma attached to Li’s practice and Li declined.  Mr. Li continued to travel and teach his methods until in the spring and summer of 1999 brought acclaim and backlash to Li and Falun Gong adherents.  A New York Times article quoted the CCP as saying there were more members to Falun Gong than the party; seventy million.  In June 1999 an office was established by the CCP called “6-10” which was established specifically to: “plan, orchestrate, and carry out a comprehensive suppression of the Falun Gong”. (faluninfo.net, timeline)

Hidden Atrocities

Aside from forced imprisonments, torture, and harassment of Falun Gong followers in China, one of the most glaring abuses that are alleged to be perpetrated by the current ruling regime (CCP) is the harvesting of human organs for sale to those with enough big bucks who want their surgical health concerns addressed immediately.  This topic has become a subject of National headlines, protests within and without the U.S., and investigations by foreign and American governments.  There are so many websites and firsthand accounts of this vicious abuse of innocent citizens it is a wonder by this time why there has not been further action but momentum is growing.

TRANSCRIPT

At an impromptu press conference held in D.C. at the National Press Club on April 18, 2006 by Dr. Zhiyuan Wang, co-founder of World Organization to Investigate the Persecution of Falun Gong (WOIPFG), played back a conversation with a Shanghai hospital trying to solicit an organ.  A transcript is displayed below. (theepochtimes.com 4/23/06)

R: Hi Greetings.
I: Hi Greetings. Is this Shanghai Zhongshan Hospital?
R: Yes.
I: I want to inquire…
R: Please wait.
I: OK.
D: Hi Greetings.
I: Hi Greetings. Are you a doctor? Can you do surgery?
D: Yes…
I: So how long do I have to wait?
D: About a week, about a week it’d be okay.
I: Is there the kind of organs that come from Falun Gong? I heard that they’re very good.
D: All of ours are those types.
I: I see. All of them are Falun Gong.
D:….Kidneys can be used within 24 hours, but we control it within 10 hours.
I: Do you get them from out of town? Or do you get them locally?
D: We have both.
I: I see. So you have both out of town and local.
D: Yes

In the well known Report Bloody Harvest  by David Kilgour and David Matas, extensive  research has been done which includes testimony by those alleging severe abuse by the CCP.

Famous Fighters

As mentioned above there have been numerous internationally known supporters of the heroic struggle of Falun Gong believers and the co-authors of Bloody Harvest have had distinguished careers.  David Matas is an International human rights lawyer and a Nobel Peace Prize nominee for his work on organ harvesting.  Matas, who has tracked Nazi regimes and fought South African Apartheid, calls Falun Gong “the real China” and says ending this persecution will have a significant impact on other groups oppressed in China and stated: “My view is if you stop that, you stop everything”. (Epoch Times, Little & Philipp, 7/21/10)

David Kilgour, retired from Canadian Parliament, said he was introduced to the horrific topic of organ harvesting when; “he would walk by demonstrations on Parliament Hill”.  Kilgour, also nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize for his work on organ harvesting, has visited over 60 countries speaking to heads of state on the matter.  Matas and Kilgour do this on a volunteer basis and Kilgour says; “we will stop this traveling and speaking the minute the persecution stops…we want to embarrass Beijing to stop this hideous practice of killing people for profit”. (ibid, 7/21/10)

Gao Zhisheng is an acclaimed Chinese human rights attorney who has been written about in major newspapers and was the subject of U.S. congressional and European Parliament resolutions.  Zhisheng has been imprisoned and tortured, released and since the last time he was again picked up by the CCP the International community is not sure that he is still alive.  Zhisheng, author of A China More Just, is a Falun Gong follower and has fought to stay and defend innocent Chinese citizens who have been abducted and abused over time and was determined to force his country’s government to adhere to human rights and Chinese law.  Gao, born and raised in a cave, and with only a middle school education, taught himself law and passed the National Bar examination in 1995.

World Renowned Performers Complain

The CCP’s attempts to discredit Shen Yun Performing Arts (priorly named Divine Performing Arts), the famous Chinese artistic dance extravaganza that has been traveling the world to acclaimed audiences, has been met with a congressional briefing on Capitol Hill in July 2010.  Impersonating Falun Gong practitioners, emails were sent to theatres presenting Shen Yun as fanatics and inferring that they would require full support of the theater for their shows if the theatre wanted to remain free of “punishment and misfortune”.  This perpetration by imposters was meant to confuse managers and have the shows cancelled.

Theatres in many U.S. states have received similar emails.  The tires of the tour bus have been slashed and the family members of the Performers living in China have been detained and harassed.  “The most common form of interference involves letters and phone calls from Chinese consular officials asking local government officials not to support, or see the show, and asking theaters not to host the show”. (Epoch Times, Gary Feuerberg, 7/7/10)

Audience members who traveled thirty hours by train to Moldova to see this Production were angry when they found out that China had forced, after daily visits from the Chinese embassy among other tactics, the theatre to cancel the shows of Shen Yun.  Mei Xuan, a Performance member testified on the Hill that after years of separation from her husband, Jiang Feng, due to forced imprisonment and torture, which she had also endured by the CCP, that she was joyously awaiting a meeting with him but he never arrived in New Jersey to meet her as he was abducted even though he had passed through an airport security checkpoint.

Mei stated that the European Parliament found out, upon inquiry to the Chinese ambassador, that her husband was again abducted and sentenced to 18 months in a labor camp.  Mei’s brother and sister have also been harassed many times being pressured into convincing Mei to leave the Performance.  Feng is slave labor for a coal mine.  While in Europe Mei states; ‘people were always asking her, “what is the United States government doing about this?”’ (Epoch Times, ibid)

Troubles Brewing

A series of incidents has been drawing the plight of Falun Gong Practitioners to a head and like the aforementioned Shen Yun Performance, media attention is growing over a series of incidents that are further exposing the CCP’s atrocities on innocent citizens.

~

IN THE NEWS

Epoch Times, New York Edition, July 28, 2010

“Thousands of Falun Gong supporters from all quarters of the globe descended on Washington for a week of activities surrounding July 20, (2010) the anniversary of the day the persecution started, in 1999”

“Li Shuqiang, who traveled from Italy, said…it was not only for Chinese people that he was concerned. I am worried that if people keep silent the persecution may spread beyond China and be directed, not only at Falun Gong practitioners, but the rest of the world.”

Epoch Times, New York Edition, July 24, 2008

“Complaint was filed by Zhenyu Sun, who says that on June 2, (2008) Lucky Joy Restaurant refuse to serve her, a friend, and her eight year old daughter because they practice Falun Gong…Sun says the three were kicked out of the restaurant…servers came over…and said ‘oh you, are Falun Gong-we don’t want to sell anything to Falun Gong”

Epoch Times, New York Edition, June 19, 2008

“The Israeli Service Center for Quitting the Chinese Communist Party was formally launched on June 14, (2008) joining over 100 such service centers in over 30 countries.”

Epoch Times.com, May 28, 2008

~

America and China: Different Beliefs Swallowed by Money

Since 1791, when the U.S. ratified the Bill of Rights, Americans have held in great esteem the ability to select the type of religious beliefs we want to practice or not to practice any at all.  This is the great right of Americans in the First Amendment of the Bill of rights that is one of our most revered tenets of American law.

The Chinese Communist Party recognizes only five “official religions”; Buddhism, Taoism, Islam, Catholicism, and Protestantism.  One must be registered or affiliated with SARA- the State Administration for Religious Affairs.  Certain religions and groups considered to be “cults” are persecuted and considered illegal.  These include Muslim Uighurs, Buddhist Tibetans, and Falun Gong.  (cfr.org, Bhattacharji, Religion in China)

Despite much American, as well as International outrage, there is burgeoning trade and credit issues between these two powerful countries that seem more interested in financial growth than alleviating the oppression of Falun Gong followers.  Despite governmental resolutions, press conferences, and demonstrations being held regarding the persecution of Falun Gong followers, the United States is more indebted than ever to this growing despotic Nation.

Even though an article by William Schneider in the Atlantic has Goldman Sachs global economic analyst Dominic Wilson stating that the Chinese; “have no great interest in destabilizing either the U.S. bond market or the U.S. economy. This is a major export market. For China, it is the largest” – it is his added response that gives one cause for thought:

Isn’t there something worrisome about Communist China financing the U.S. government? Wilson acknowledged some concern. “It is a situation that makes the U.S. more vulnerable to decisions of overseas governments and the decisions of overseas investors”…That is not a situation that, over the long run, you want to be in. (theatlantic.com, Schneider, Oct. 2005)

American Shores Harbor Regime Apparatus

Hundreds of schools funded by China are quietly being established, in the U.S., Canada, and in many other countries, that are called Confucius Institutes and are touted as being created for learning Chinese language and culture but other; “Critics of these institutes allege they are propaganda entities that can interfere with the academic independence of the universities they are often attached to”.  (Epochtimes.com, Little, 7/15/10)

Canadian Security Intelligence Service Director Richard Fadden said these “institutes are controlled by Chinese embassies and consulates. He lumped them together with some of Beijing’s other efforts to steer Canadian China Policy.”  The University of Pennsylvania declined any involvement with having one of the Confucius Institutes to head off any curriculum control attempts while Texas A&M University has had one since 2008. (ibid, confucius.tamu.edu)

By 2020 China plans to have one thousand institutes around the world.  A Report                 said the regime plans to spend six billion dollars to open an English-language news network to compete with CNN and BBC but it will have the regimes “spin” on the news events.  This multi-billion dollar propaganda industry will only further diminish the plight on those persecuted beyond borders of freedom loving citizens.

America’s Citizens Gathering Their Collective Voice

When related groups of different people who have a unified belief in certain basic principles reach out to others with those same values and share their actions and thoughts, a term known as “critical mass” often occurs.  Caring American individuals, as well as a multitude of citizens around the world, can cause a chain reaction simply by putting their “two cents” forward.  The renowned books Three Cups of Tea and Stones into Schools show us one person (author Greg Mortenson) can create a massive impact on social change for good.

An example of this is an outgrowth of Mortensen’s work that is called Pennies for Peace- a children’s humanitarian initiative born in Wisconsin- in which they collected 62,340        pennies to assist Mortensen in building one of many schools to come in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

College Participation

Student advisory bodies would be very productive if they were to facilitate the visit of Gao Zhisheng’s wife to speak or Falun Gong practitioners to stir campus awareness campaigns once or twice a year.  Administrative officials could pursue the implementation of new curriculum and programs which teach about Falun Gong and how it impacts U.S. and world politics.

Voting Public

Pay strict adherence to the Voter’s Self-Defense Guide by Project Vote Smart and closely follow your elected leaders’ views and votes on any human rights legislation and vote your conscience according to their record and ask Vote Smart about any Falun Gong resolutions.

Bloggers

Someone who has their own spot online can create a powerful connection with others by adding Epoch Times and Bloody Harvest links to their page.  For instance the graceful blog of a young woman named Kristin called Insights & More does a nice job of sharing the plight of Falun Dafa followers. (www.kristinasaid.wordpress.com)

Houses of Worship

Any religious group can invite Falun Dafa practitioners to their churches, synagogues, and mosques for social events and communication.  True believers in the brotherhood of mankind will be able to put their networking abilities to good use.

Office workers

When the annual drive for in-house designations for employees to choose a forum for donations rolls around, a good choice would be the Epoch Public Foundation, which is registered in the US and sponsored by the Epoch Times Newsgroup.  It strives to support those who oppose oppression in China and to abolish the Chinese Communist Party regime.

Writers

If you send just one (1) letter to Epoch Times, your Senator, The President, The Chinese Embassy, City Hall or Library requesting a public meeting you will have done a lot.  The key is in the power of each one of us doing just one thing.

The Power of One

On October 10, 2010 (10.10.10.) led by the Power of One organization there will be a global effort to perform earth and life sustaining behaviors and according to its website its main objective is to; “stimulate people and organizations to step into their own Power of One to become the change and transform the world”. www.powerofone.org, Co-create 10.10.10.)

Pocketbook power

America and the world’s citizens could develop its own network strategy of buying from corporations who have exhibited civil behavior toward its purchasers as well as employees.  For example Publix, a Florida grocery chain has been applauded twelve years in a row by American shoppers and it was also recognized for its social responsibility and charitable giving. (nocards.org)

Corporate supporters of Human Rights initiatives will do better than those who continue to participate in oppressive business tactics such as utilizing cheap offshore labor without fair trade practices or those who persist in trying to imbed tracking devices upon peoples personal space such as Wal-Mart’s latest fiasco with clothing tracking devices in purchases. (finance.yahoo.com, Bustillo, 7/23/10)

Where it there are many NGO’s such as Physicians for Human Rights supporting Falun Dafa’s struggle, it is not the easiest thing to find a corporate supporter to say these same things.  That is why consumers can follow and even direct with their purchasing power what their stores do for or against this human rights struggle.  Write to the stores and ask for public support!  Consumers have the ability to force giant oppressors to change their financial game plan which is the behind the scenes story of what fuels most oppression to begin with.

Simple Rules for Health Care Reform

1. Prohibit Health Insurance Providers from engaging in anti-competitive practices.

2.. Prohibit Health Insurance Providers from denying health care insurance to individuals with pre-existing conditions.

3. Prohibit Health Insurance Providers from placing caps on annual and lifetime benefits.

4. Establish a mandatory Medical Loss Ratio of no less than 85%.

5. Establish a National Health Insurance Regulatory Commission with the responsibility of ensuring providers adhere by above tenants. This commission shall also field consumer complaints/tips about violations of these provisions. This commission shall also investigate waste, fraud, and abuse in public health plans (Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, VA, etc).

6. Establish a National Health Insurance Clearinghouse with the following responsibilities:

-Identifying various levels of health insurance benefit packages, and establishing maximum premiums/deductibles/co-pays  for each level, while taking regional factors into consideration. This commission shall certify plans that meet these standards. While insurers do not have to adhere by these standards, individuals may not use governmental subsidies to purchase non-certified policies.

-Collecting and providing electronically to the public, information about all health insurance plans that have been certified.

7. Allow Medicare to freely negotiate with all domestic insurance providers, pharmaceutical businesses, and medical equipment/supply businesses. Increase Medicaid and Medicare reimbursement rates to no less than 60% of average private insurance payments for identical billable procedures.

8.  Incentivize individuals studying to be, and serving as Primary Care Physicians or other non-specialty medical providers through a loan forgiveness option tied to service in clinics/hospitals in undeserved areas.

9. Cap medical malpractice lawsuits to $X million in the most egregious life-threatening instances. This shall represent the uppermost class of suits, a schedule  of other classes of suits shall be established with corresponding maximum liability levels. (Levels/ Amounts TBD by the National Health Insurance Regulatory Commission).

10. Mandate that all children under the age of 18 have health insurance coverage. Increase eligibility for the Children’s Health Insurance Program (CHIP) to 350% of the Federal Poverty Level (FPL). The penalty for non-compliance shall be 100% of the cost of the least expensive eligible health care plan in the individual’s market area. Such taxes shall be directed to a National Health Trust Fund.

11. Incentivize the purchase of health insurance plans by establishing a refundable health care tax credit of $1,000 per individual, $2,000 for couples. Individuals must have maintained eligible coverage for at least 9 months out of the year to be eligible for the credit.

12. Prohibit employers from dropping, without reasonable cause, health insurance benefits for their employees. The penalty for such unjustified actions shall be 100% of the cost savings achieved by the business by dropping the insurance. Such taxes shall be directed to a National Health Trust Fund.

13. Incentivize employer health care insurance benefit plans, by establishing a business health care tax credit of up to $1,000 per employee.

14. Tax employers with at least 50 employers who do not provide health care insurance to their employees 10% of payroll. Such taxes shall be directed to a National Health Trust Fund.

15. Tax individuals making more than $250,000 5% of gross income, and households making over $500,000, 5% of gross income.  All other individuals above 350% of the FPL will pay a 1% tax on gross income. Such taxes shall be directed to a National Health Trust Fund.

16. All tax collections in the National Health trust Fund shall be used to provide a) Subsidies to households making between 350 & 500% of the FPL to purchase certified health care plans & b) payments to providers for uncompensated care provided to uninsured individuals.

-kd-

Other types of reform are necessary as well, including some sort of regulation on Pharmaceutical companies. This list is just a basic beginning for reform, accepting that single-payer health-care’s time has not yet arrived. In addition, % and #’s I provided above where just numbers I threw out there, of course it would require a more thoughtful and deliberative process to hash out such details.

Naked Neighbors

What if I told you I was going to punch you in the face sometime in the future?

What would you give up to spare this unfortunate collision of knuckles and nose? A dollar? A twenty? Would you invest in a face mask, helmet and Kevlar vest? Would you stay at home and never come out? Would you give a stranger naked pictures of yourself  in exchange for a vague promise of protection? Actually I’m guessing you probably would just tell me to f-off, and/or punch me in the face depending on how hard core you were.

But, what if my name was Osama-Omari-Middle Eastern-Dark-Skinned-Man-with-a-Turban?

And what if Fox, CSPAN and Obama said that I was going to kill you, your family, and any cute floppy-eared puppies in the vicinity of your house? What would you give up then to spare this unfortunate collision of jet-liner with jenny & rover? It’s likely you would go all out, screw a $20, you’d give $2,000. Hell, you’d probably give naked pictures of yourself to all sorts of strangers in return for a vague promise of protection.

Actually, it seems that  you already are! Full body scanners, all the rage of the day, are taking off like co-workers on a Friday. Basically, if a low-income home owner or Mexican hasn’t already caused you to lose your job and you have some money to play with, you should invest in Rapiscan- one of two federally approved manufactures of full body scanners in the USA .

( I would give you their stock symbol, but Google finance says that’s private.  ERRrr? )

So let’s cut the chase and get to the point here. Basically some guy from Nigeria, whose parents forewarned the U.S. Government about his diabolic intentions, got on a plane and tried to blow up his underwear. The United State’s response? Obama made up a list of 14 “naughty countries” including the major island-nation of Cuba, USA-run Iraq, and reigning nuclear heavy weight Algeria; from now on, anyone flying to the USA from these terroristic nations will have to go through additional screening mechanisms.

In addition, with absolutely, positively no pressure from the United States government or corporate interests, several European nations are stepping up their use of full body scanners on passengers planning to fly to the United States from terror hotspots like Italy, Britain, and the notorious Netherlands.

(Some countries though are dragging their feet however, with Germany stating that before they use such scanners they want the ridiculous assurances that: “they increase security, that they are not a health hazard, and that the scans do to not harm the individuals’s rights)

So what’s the problem with these scanners? Well honestly it’s not that big of a deal, but let’s look at a few:

1)  Some guy takes a picture of you. Naked.

While it’s true that if you are uncomfortable with this technology you can request TSA personnel to personally grope you instead, there’s no guarantee this user-friendly alternative will always be an option.

You might say big deal, sucks to fly to the United States from somewhere else, but the fact is, these scanners have been tested in the US since 2003 and are already operational in 40 major US airports including:  Dallas, Baltimore, Denver, Tampa, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix San Francisco and Richmond.

2) There is no way to guarantee a passenger’s privacy. Officials say that personnel reviewing the Passengers Gone Wild! images sit in a remote room, will not see a distinguishable face and cannot save or print the images. Sounds great. Then why do I know what Susan Hallowell looks like naked? And how come this guy’s baby maker is on full display?

I highly doubt that Beyonce or President Obama (or me) are going to go through these scanners and the image won’t turn up somewhere.

3) How about this one: are we going to take naked scans of kids? 10 year old Johnny? 6 year old Susie?  Don’t think so? Wait till we get child bombers. Or what about the Muslim women who don’t even reveal their face in public? Are we going to tell them if they want to come to the US we have to check out their goods first? That’s going to make us a lot of Middle-Eastern friends.

4) Or how about health? Don’t the X-ray and MRI technicians always slap a lead vest on you and hide in the next room when they take scans?  These airport scanners are full body and last at least 15 seconds.  Free cancer with every 1,000 frequent flier miles!

5) Here’s another problem- follow the money. The former head of Homeland Security who has been pushing the government to purchase more of these scanners has just admitted that he has a consulting relationship with a full body scanner manufacturer. I’m willing to bet he’s not the only politician, past or present, that stands to gain from this lucrative business- each of these machines are retailing at over $170k, and the TSA just ordered 150 of them with plans to buy another 300.

Okay, so if you’ve stuck with me this long, now I get to the real issues, the aforementioned issues are really just sensationalistic fluff for those of you who saw the word “naked” on facebook and clicked on over.  The real problems are the deeper currents of growing government intrusion in our lives in the name of “security”.

Throughout history, the rights of people in this nation have been compromised for the “safety of the nation”. It seems to me that this line of reasoning got lots of nice Japanese folks kidnapped and locked up on the west coast during WWII.

It Seems to me that this got us a 1,000 page Patriot Act passed in the middle of the night after 9/11. And it seems now that its setting us on the proverbial and terribly cliché “slippery slope” of absolute governmental control over our selves. Nothing is more fundamental than our bodies. Without a right to the autonomy of our own body all other struggles are futile.

Today a guy sticks a bomb in his underwear and we wind up with naked imagery as a solution. This will be about as effectual as building a picket fence with Mexico to keep out immigrants. Know why? Because tomorrow some misguided soul is going to stick a bomb up their rectum- out of the reach of a body scanner. Then what? Full cavity searches for all passengers, spread your leg’s please mam?  Or some jackoff is going to swallow a chemical compound and then we are all going to have to purge in a personal bucket we can reclaim at the security clearance window, two heaves please sir?

Sure it is easy to sit in my cozy terror-free apartment enjoying a slice of sweet potato pie and criticize those who would sacrifice our liberties in the name of our safety

After all I wasn’t on Flights 11, 175, 77, or 93 in 2001, and I wasn’t on Flight 253 this past Christmas—but it is easier still to change the channel,  to turn off the radio, to close the webpage when I come upon a thorny issue that’s not easily reduced to black and white.  So perched up here on my soapbox, do I have some grand plan for national security? No, (actually I do)  but what I do know is that when we accept rapid national adoption of reactionary policies that infringe upon our liberty in order to negate  undefinable threats, we do ourselves a disservice as human beings and as thoughtful engaged citizens.

People are quick to jump on the bandwagon decrying how our government failed to protect us and let a terrorist slip through their fingers. I disagree. It is no more reasonable for us to believe the government can ensure 100% exclusion of foreigners who would do as harm, than it was for China to believe the Great Wall was going to keep all the Mongols out.

I will however, jump on the bandwagon of people who fault our government for not doing more to proactively reach out to the world in a positive way.  Here’s one idea- establish a Department of Peace- the legislation  has been raised in Congress over 100 times since 1935- including the last 8 consecutive years (yeah Kucinich!) .  

This singular act would do more for our security than 1,000 naked pictures ever could

You know what f- -k, it, I’m being too idealistic. For our children’s future, let’s all just get anal probes and start a war with Yemen.

-kd-

Further resources:

Petition against body scanners

Rapiscan

Warm & cuddly video on body scanners

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