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    Chicago Freedom Fighters

    "Of liberty I would say that, in the whole plenitude of its extent, it is unobstructed action according to our will. But rightful liberty is unobstructed action according to our will within limits drawn around us by the equal rights of others. I do not add 'within the limits of the law,' because law is often but the tyrant's will, and always so when it violates the right of an individual." --Thomas Jefferson to Isaac H. Tiffany, 1819.
    "Those who give up essential liberty to secure a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." ~Benjamin Franklin
    A New Era...
    Now that Bush is just a nasty memory and President Obama is making a lot of progress reversing the fascist policies of the Bush era (most of them at least...there is still more work to be done), we can now move on to the business of making this country the shining example of what a democracy can do when freedom, justice, government for the people, and the rule of law are the guiding principles. Our fight for these priciples, however, is far from over. Even as much as I admire and respect President Obama, we still need to keep his feet to the fire and make sure that he does what he said he was going to do.
    His first 60 days was a flurry of activity, reversing Bush policies all the while battling the economic crisis he inherited from the Bush Administration. We have a failing economy caused by corporate America gone wild, continuted bad behavior in the financial sectors where the exectuives apparently did not learn the lessons of why thier companies are failing while they continue to dole out the very money that tax payers gave to them to keep thier business afloat as huge executive bonuses in the sums of millions of dollars. They paid these supposed performance bonuses out even though the people that got them, obviously were not performing. If they were performing, we wouldn't be in this mess to begin with. Then we have the disparity in the treatment of Wall Street and the Auto Industry. While I think they have done the right thing with the Auto Industry as far as really turning the thumbscrews on the CEO's, they should have also done this with Wall Street executives. This only goes to show the influence that Wall Street has on our government. This is not a good thing.
    Regardless of where you stand on the healthcare issue, you have to agree that what we have in place currently just doesn't work. There is no reason people should not have reasonable (and reasonably priced) access to healthcare. Let's use me as an example. I am a web developer by trade. When I got into this field, there were plenty of jobs...pleanty of permanent jobs (as opposed to contract positions). Then the dotcom bubble burst. After that, a lot of IT positions were outsourced offshore. Contract work became the standard. Finding a permanent gig is akin to winning the lottery. The effectof that is that many companies that recruit contractors (you normally work through them...they pay you and do all the W2 stuff for you) do not offer insurance plans. Some do, but those are mostly bottom of the barrel plans that you pay full price form (no employer subsidization here). Last one I had like that a couple of years ago cost me $350/month...and that was just for me. My current position puts me in the first situation...no employer sponsored healthcare. I am a diabetic and I also have asthma. Because of this, insurance companies will not insure me. The prescription plans and other psuedo health insurance plans do not cover name brand drugs. Thanks to patents and to federal laws, there is no such thing as a generic insulin, so they do not help with the bulk of my costs...at least not enough to warrent the 300-600/month these plans typically cost. For instance, one of the forms of insulin I take costs $228 for an approximately 10 day supply. With one of the better plans (USA for HEathcare...which I would highly recommend if your meds are generics...those were greatly discounted and they do cover doctor visits and hospitalization) gave me a small discount, so I was still paying $194...not much of a savings anyhow. My monthly costs for meds is about $1000-1200/month.
    I could go to the VA, as i am a disabled vet. I would get a $20 copay for my meds, which would save me a lot of money. The downside is that I would have a lower quality of healthcare. The VA hospital is far enough away that I really couldn't use it for emergencies and I would have to use the VA clinics for routine care. I did that for about 6 months a few years ago and never saw a doctor at the clinic. All I saw was a nurse practioneer (kinda like a doctor-lite). While I have no doubt in my mind that she did the best that she could, I just didn't feel like I was getting the care that I needed. I could see doctors if I went to the hospital, but again, that is too far away for it to be practical. Unfortunatly, they do allow you to merge the two systems by allowing private doctors to write prescriptions agaisnt the VA pharmacy. To me that would be a win-win situation: The VA doesn't have to use doctor resources and I get to take advantage of my pharmacy benefits. My doctor works with me on cost since I am not incurring the costs of the paperwork for insurance...so I get a discount. It's more than a copay, but it is worth the extra cost. He's a good doctor.
    I am sure I am not the only one in this situation...some are probably even in a worse situation (ie..out of work or working in a low paying job and no benefits). What does this mean to the rest of you? Hospitals and doctors pretty much negotiate what they get paid with the insurance companies. Witht he rise of the ranks of the uninsured, this translates into higher costs, particularly for hospitals. By law, ER's cannot refuse treatment...regardless if the person is insured or not or whether they can pay or not. This means that as the numebrs of uninsured rise, there is a rise in unpaid hospital bills. Most hospital bills are outrageous (I just recently spent 4 days in the hospital for a leg infection...side effect of diabetes...that cost me $19,855. My stay was not covered because the plan that I had via USAHC did not cover hospital stays for pre-existing conditions for the first year) so many end up no being able to pay them. Hospitals will then try to recoup these loses when they negotiate the price insurance companies have to pay out to them, which then translates to higher premiums for you. The average ER visit is $1000. I was just reading a CNN article where at a Los Angeles hospital, between 8 individuals, there were 2,700 ER visits over a 5 year period ...do the math. Universal health care makes sense. If you wanto suppliment it with private insurance, you most certainly can. But what it does is it covers people who would otherwise be uninsurable or can't afford insuance. It would reduce costs for hospitals, which would reduce premiums people pay for insurance. It would also cause a general reduction in healthcare costs as people would have access to routine healthcare and reduce the amount of higher end procedures as they would be able to catch issues before they need to be treated with these procedures. That would translate to lower costs for everyone.
    The system as it stands today is not a workable one. We have to try something differnt. The current system is criminal where medical decisions are based on cost, not need and doctors get paid based on quantity, not quality. The system is penny wise, but pound foolish. We end up paying more because they are too cheap to pay for meds or procedures that would have stopped an illness or other condition from getting worse, which requires more expensive treatments to deal with it. So whie they may have save $20 on the front end, on the back end, they end up paying thousands of dollars more. Change is the only option. We must do right by our fellow citizens.
    So now I hear the cry of patriotic rage..."but isn't that socialism or communism?" That does seem to be the mantra (read scare tactic) of the President's detractors. We do not live in a purely capitalistic society. The American economic and political model is a combination of both models. Every government provided process/product/procedure that is paid for either by taxes or via a bill is a socialistic idea. Schools, roads, snow plowing, welfare, income tax, water, sewers, regulations (corporate, saftey, environmental, labor, etc...), etc... are all socialistic ideas. The idea that we have for profit corporations that answer to shareholders, that we have to work to pay our bills and buy things, etc...all capitalistic ideas. So we are not a purely capitalistic society. It's more of a Social Democracy or even a Social Democratic Republic. Our bout with pure capitalism in the late 19th, early 20th century ended in disaster. That is the reason we have labor unions. They grew out of the need to address the excess of corporate america (called the robber barons back then) and how they took advantage of the workers for thier own profit without properly compensating the workers for thier efforts and contributions. Nothing wrong with making a buck, but when you do it at the expense of someone else, then that is not good for society as whole. Sadly, many of the unions today have become that same monster that they were created to protect us against. Unions like the UAW have as much culpabilty in the demise of the american auto industry as the crappy decisions made by thier corporate exectuives. Some industries can really use unions (and some companies...like Wal-Mart for instance), so thier job is not done...but in many instances, they have become part of the problem in making companies less agile in how they can do business and how they can do things to reduce costs becuae of the very flawed union contract system that is in place. They have done a lot of good to get us where we are at as far as labor laws and we do owe them a lot of gratitude for that. But some have become no better than the mob.
    So, yes, some of this is socialistic in its nature, but that is not necessarily a bad thing. Socialism really refers to government for the people...government doing things for the people. While the example of the USSR being socialist, while correct, it is but one form of socialism... more of a Marxist socialism rather than pure socialism. Pure socialism wouldn't have a dictator. Same with pure communism. Having a dictator is a bit antithetical to those political and economic systems. I would argue that we haven't seen a truely communist government larger than a hippie commune.
    Energy...this is one that should be near and dear to every pagan heart. As we fight to move towards energy generated by non-fossil, renewable fuel sources, we also fight for another cause that is near and dear to most pagans...the environment. We could have been a lot further along on this path had it not been for the oil companies and the auto indiustry. The original car built by Henry Ford did not run on gasoline...it ran on ethyl alcohol. He even ran it on ethanol made from hemp.
    In summary, even if you don't agree with what the president is doing, you must agree that the policies of the last 8 years did not work and lead us to the situation we are in today. Even if you disagree with his policies, go to the White House site and make your voice heard. We should all do this. Do it in a manner that is productive and you might even give the Obama Admnistration a good idea or two. The important thing is that we have to participate. We have a presidnet that is encouraging usto participate in the process and wants us to be involved in the decisions that are being made for us and for future generations of Americans. Get out htere and vote, write your elected officials, and let them know exactly what you want and expect them to do as someone who represents We the People... not the Democratic party, not the Republican party, and certainly...not Corporate America.
    What can you do?
    Write your congressmen and write them often. I think Senator Dick Durbin (D) as well as Representative Judy Biggert (R) probably know me by name as much as I write, email, and fax them. I am sure Roland Burris, or whomever replaces him in the future, will get to know me just as well. Steve Foster will also get that privledge soon enough *grin*.
    Let get it to the point where all of our Senators and Representatives know us by name because they have a 10 foot stack of letters and faxes from us. Be active and be active often ;-) The only way we will be able to ensure our rights and make this a place where no one has to be in the broom closet, or any closet for that matter is if we stand up and be counted. Vote, correspond regularly with your elected officials, and just stay on top of things as best you can. A democracy on functions when all of her citizens are an active part of the process. This is something that President Obama also believes in. If you go to the White House website (http://www.whitehouse.gov), you can make you thoughts known. The President also has a facebook site where you can post ideas as well as a "personal" site where you can even set up a blog. Be an active participant in this process.
    Where can I go to find information on issues?
    There are organizations like the Pagan Unity Campaign Political Action Committee that organized the I AM campaign Summer solstice, 2000, which netted approximately 150,000 postcards to our elected officials, 40,000 of them going to the President. It even incurred a blanket "No Comment" response from republican Congressman and the White House. I think we got their attention :-D We need to stand up and be counted. We need to let our elected official know that we will no longer tolerate our rights being trampled on by religious zealots. We will no longer lose our jobs or our children by those who would spit on the Constitution and violate our rights. Knowledge is power. Know your rights!
    We will not tolerate any more Tempest Smith's (the young girl in Michigan, who committed suicide because her classmates teased her ruthlessly for being Wiccan, while the school administrators and teachers turned a blind eye). This can never, ever, happen again. We have to support those who are in need in our community, even if just moral support when they stand up in the face of oppression. Let them know that we appreciate what they are doing, as they are also standing up for all of our rights. With each case that get shot down, we gain. With each one that does not get fought, we lose ground. Without the Constitution, this country has no meaning. It is the cornerstone and the foundation. It is worth fighting for. Even as imperfect as our government is...it is worth the fight to help steer it towards the perfect ideal: Freedom for everyone, no matter what their faith may be.
    Additional links...
    Copley First Amendment Center
    Religious Tolerance website
    The Witches Voice (Witchvox)
    Alternative Religions Education Network(AREN)
    United State Constitution
    The Declaration of Independence
    Illinois State Constitution
    Illinois General Assembly
    Illinois House Democrats
    Illinois House Republicans
    Illinois State Website
    Illinois Supreme Court
    US District Court, Northern Illinois District
    US District Court, Southern Illinois District
    Illinois Department of Human Rights
    Illinois Department of Labor
    Office of the Illinois Attorney General
    American Bar Association
    Illinois Paralegal Association
    Dupage County Bar Association
    State and Local Bar Association Listing
    Government Publications (Federal)
    Project Vote Smart
    The other issue we need to work on is our community. There are many factions within our community that a lot of times just can't seem to get along because of personal differences. We need to bridge over these personal differences and keep the personal stuff away from the organizational level. If you don't like someone...that's fine...just leave the pagan Community out of it. If you want to fight and argue, that is cool too. Heated debate is a great educational tool for those who actually want to learn. On a community level, things do need to be shaken up from time to time else things get stale and dogmatic. It helps if thoese are ideas based on good research rather than "just because it feels good" type of thinking. Debate/argument/discussion...whatever you wish to call it...makes you look at what the other guy is saying and brings you out of your box and into thiers. We have been hurt too many times by these petty personal squabbles that only end up hurting the community and not the intended target. This is something that requires diligence on all of our parts. If we see this coming up, we need to recognize it is squash it before it can cause damage to the community. Let's keep ther personal stuff personal. We need a united front. With that said, we also should not suppress legitamate debate just for the sake of lets all get along. That only encourages intellectual laziness and dogmatic thinking.
    Take the example of what happened to the Russians after the Bolshevik revolution. There were several factions that did not cooperate with each other because they all had their own agendas and personal hatreds of each other. The Bolsheviks took advantage of this and defeated each of these factions individually. Even though all of them were enemies of the Bolsheviks, they couldn't bridge over their personal hatred and come together to defeat the Bolsheviks. In turn, each was defeated and the Bolsheviks won, thus the Soviet Union was born.
    The Soviet union equates to the religious right and the Christian Coalition. They would gladly trample on the constitution and prevent us from practicing our religion. If we are fragmented, we will be easy pickings. But together we are strong and they will not be able to mess with us because we would be a united front to be taken seriously. Let's stand up and be heard. Let them know that we will fight for our rights. As one of my favorite bumper stickers says...
    "We shall not fly silently into the night..."
    With Love and Bright Blessings,
    Rev. Eric Roberts
    Webmaster, Witches of the West, http://www.witchnet.org
    CFF Archive: The Bush Years