Friday, August 7, 2009

(VIDEOS) Health Care Town Hall: Congresswoman Donna Edwards Leading on Reform

We at Sum of Change, attended a health care town hall last night, hosted by Congresswoman Donna Edwards. The Congresswoman gave a brief speech, and then opened the floor for questions. The town hall was heated, which should come as no surprise. Not only were conservative groups organizing to get people out to these town halls (with detailed instructions about how to act and talk), OFA 2.0, several Unions, and liberal bloggers pushed progressives to turn out as well. The debate was vigorous, but not disrespectful. If anyone came there with the intent of disrupting the town hall, they failed miserably.

We'll go through a round of the Q&A questions. I strongly recommend watching these all the way through, the Congresswoman knows how to finish an answer.

We shall start with the big, scary end of life care question :
Ladies and gentleman, that is how it's done.

How about the 'our health care system isn't broken' question (which, as it turns out, isn't a question):
Buddy, my mother is a cardiologist, in Maryland too, with a private practice, who deals with plenty of Medicare and private insurance patients, and makes a damn fine living at it. She voted for President Obama in large part because she believes our health care system is a disaster. She loves her job, and her patients.

And on health care as it relates to undocumented workers:

The Congresswoman takes a question from a military wife:

And here is our quick interview with her: (since the room was so loud we have provided a transcript of this interview for those that have difficulty hearing it):

Q: At the progressive press conference last week, the progressive caucus press conference, you touched on progressives ceding single payer if, and only if, there is a public option.

EDWARDS: (aside) Thank you…

Q: And you touched, briefly, on why that’s important for progressives to do. Can you talk a little more about why it is important, and why, for the blue dogs, why the compromises end at the public option?

EDWARDS: Well, you know, it’s hard for me to speak for where the blue dogs are going because a number of the provisions that they have proposed actually increase costs. And, which is amazing from a group a members, frankly, who’ve said that they want to decrease costs. What I can share with you though, is that we are, out of energy and commerce, we got a commitment that we are gonna get a stand alone vote on single payer, which I think is important to set a marker. But we also cannot abandon the public option, sort of take our eye off of that prize because we run the risk of not being able to preserve anything going into a battle with the United States Senate.

Q: Okay, and one last question. A lot of people have talked about the demons of socialized medicine and obviously we all know the military is on the government run option. Have the opponents of health care, has anyone proposed giving the military a better health care system? Or do they think that the military gets the best health care we can buy?

EDWARDS: No, I mean, I think that, I mean, I come from this experience, because I grew up in the air force, I know the military system. And know that, that it works, and I also know that it’s government provided. And so, I always just share with people that, for those people who are so against government being involved in health care, look at our military, look at our veterans, look at Medicare, so many of us are actually already engaged in government provided health care.

Q: But, as far as you know, no opponents have, have suggested changing that?


Q: Do they think, they don’t think there’s a better system for the military?

EDWARDS: No. I mean, it’s a good, the military system is a good system and it serves, but it serves a particular purpose. Whether that’s something that we could then, sort of, translate into the public sector is a different question all together. It’s something that has to do with just by the way they can provide service, just because of the (inaudible, contiguity?) of having everybody located on a duty station or something like that, that may or may not be appropriate for the broader public.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

DC Vigil for Shooting at Agudah LGBT Community Center in Tel Aviv

On Monday, August 3rd, there was a candlelight vigil for the victims of the shooting at a support group meeting for LGBT youth at the Agudah LGBT community center headquarters in Tel Aviv. Hundreds of people gathered in Dupont Circle in Washington, DC at sunset. You can download the event press release in pdf format.

One of the speakers was Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld, from the Orthodox Ohev Shalom-the National Synagogue in Washington, DC. While the shooter hasn’t been caught yet and they know nothing about his motives, some bloggers suspect that he was an Orthodox Jew fueled by religious motivations, to which the Rabbi stated, “Within the Orthodox community, it is time to do some internal accounting.” This statement garnered applause and agreement from the crowd. "What I think we need to do, in the Orthodox community, is to create a communal pledge for synangogues and schools to sign onto, to declare that we will not create a climate of gay-bashing, a climate of hatred, a climate that willingly or implicitly condones these types of murders. And once we create such a pledge, we need to enforce it and we need to live it." When we asked him why he felt obliged to attend this event, he told us that it is important to recognize that the shooter's actions are a desecration of God’s name, and in a proactive sense, make sure none of this happens again. The Rabbi ended our interview by saying, “Don’t get me wrong, I believe homosexuality is prohibited according to the Torah, but it is wrong to create an environment of belittling and fostering hatred… I challenge you to find me anyone who is one thousand percent pious.”

Alex Greenbaum, one of the organizers that helped plan the event and Vice Chair of DCJCC Gay and Lesbian Outreach and Engagement (GLOE), lived in Israel for a couple of years. When he found out about the shooting, he was moved to tears and felt that he needed to do something. He said that he wanted the event to be really personal, where people could show emotion. "Tel Aviv likes to think of itself as the Jewish, intellectual city. That’s why everyone is so shocked…I think we are especially shocked it happened to youth." He went on to say, “the Jewish community cares about queer youth and cares about any youth” . He is planning to set up a helpline for queer Orthodox youth through an organization based in New York City called Footsteps.

Zvi Bellin, another event organizer, is the Engagement Associate for Nehirim, an organization that "creates authentic spiritual community for GLBT Jews, partners, and allies." Zvi told us that he wasn’t able to come out in the US because he knew too many people and was "ingrained in the culture of living in the closet." In Israel he was more comfortable taking a personal look at himself. In search of support, Zvi went to Agudah, the place of the shooting. Agudah got him in touch with a group of religious gay men in their 20’s. It gave him a safe space. There he found a community who “would listen. Bear witness to my story.”

We asked Zvi what message he wanted people to take away from this vigil: "No matter what one’s opinion is, the way of dealing with it is not through violence... When it comes to our youth’s rights to explore, to not be certain, to weed out their identity, we support them.”

Jack Moline, the Director of Public Policy for the Rabbinical Assembly said, “Personally I take offense when anyone is persecuted for something that is part of their God-given nature. In the capacity of my job, it is important that people know that religious Jews are not only offended by tragedy but supportive of the diversity of human nature.”

Cheryl Saferstein, age 21, summed up the message of the vigil, simply saying, “Stay strong. Stay proud. And stand together.”

Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld of Ohev Shalom-the National Synagogue in Washington, DC

Jack Moline, Director of Public Policy for the Rabbinical Assembly

Media Matters Works to End Lou Dobbs' 'Birther' Talk

Media Matters, a non-profit organization that, according to their website, is 'dedicated to comprehensively monitoring, analyzing, and correcting conservative misinformation in the US Media' has made many recent efforts to bring attention to the ridiculous 'birther' racket that CNN's Lou Dobbs has been obsessing over.  Today, they are releasing a commercial on Fox News, MSNBC, and Dobbs' own network, CNN, to 'pressure and show CNN that mainstreaming racially charged fringe conspiracy theories is not acceptable' as Eric Burns. Media Matters' President explained.   The commercial will begin running today, starting with an airing on Dobbs' own show, and will continue until funding for its airing runs out.  Please check out the ad below and donate to extend it's run here at the Media Matter's site.  Keep the pressure on CNN and spread the word!!!


Sunday, August 2, 2009

Birthers Don't Want the Truth

It is clear as day, the birthers are looking to prove that President Obama is not a citizen, they are not looking for the truth. For most people, that statement has been obvious for a while. But the recent release of President Obama's "real" copy of his "real" Kenyan birth certificate really highlights the birthers' ability to ignore fact and reason.

(click to enlarge)

We will set aside several facts about this "real" birth certificate. Let us ignore that it says "Certified Copy of Registration of Birth" and not "Birth Certificate." We will ignore that these freepers should be yelling "That's not a birth certificate, it's a copy! Show me the original!" We will ignore that it says the "Republic" of Kenya, though it is dated 10 months before it became a Republic (I guess that was retroactive or something?). We will ignore that it is dated years after President Obama was born. We will ignore all that.

There is one thing about this whole scene that is truly symbolic of the utter insanity, the blind neglect of reason behind the birther movement. Let us look at what the freepers said about the site where this photo was released:

here’s what i got:

warning - visiting this web site may harm your computer! - the page you are about to visit may be a web forgery!

"This web site may harm your computer!" Essentially, their computer is saying, shouting rather, "Stop! This site is dangerous!"
obots are at work. my mozilla browser said the site has been reported infected, but i ignored the warning.
Yes, ignore the warning from your computer. Blindly jump after something that might, just might, prove your suspicion to be correct, regardless of whether or not you risk damage to your computer. That is how insane these people are about proving President Obama was born in Kenya. They are not looking for the truth, they are looking to get rid of him, regardless of anything else.