Tag Archives: Europe

We Lost Another Giant – Healthcare NOW advocate Marilyn Clement.

I’m fully aware that some of you do know, but longtime health care activist Marilyn Clement died Monday at the age of 74. Her list of accomplishments would take up this entire space, but suffice to say she was one of the nation’s greatest advocates for universal, single payer health care. This means she was talking about it a long time ago, before the current debate.

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Coretta Scott King and Marilyn Clement

And she spoke up for single payer, universal health care right up until her passing. Marilyn Clement was national co-ordinator for the organization Healthcare-NOW. Universal care was her passion. I consider it one of the missed opportunities of my career that I never had a chance to interview her. And yet, she shares a lot with many of the great people I’ve met in my life.

One word links them, selflessness. That is, to think of the greater good beyond what’s good for you. Marilyn Clement had this in abundance. Whether it was her work with the civil rights movement or helping fledgling organizations like Progressive Democrats of America, she did the work not for personal celebrity, but for regular, just plain folks.

Check out her speech at the Judson Memorial Church in New York back in June…

It was an event to honor her, but something struck me while watching it. Conservative groups that are trying to kill any type of health care reform (let alone single payer) constantly rally their troops. They send out e-mails that say keep up the fight, that progress is being made.

So it was with Marilyn Clement, though obviously in the opposite direction. She told that audience at Judson that we don’t have single payer yet, but eventually, we will. That the fight must be kept up, and so must the spirits of those waging the battle. She said those words knowing she wouldn’t live to see the result. To me, that’s the true definition of selflessness.

Let’s be clear. What passes the Congress and gets signed into law by President Obama won’t be single payer health care. Supporters like Cong. Henry Waxman say universal care could never pass the Congress. Still, because of the work of Marilyn Clement and those she inspired to get involve, universal, single payer care is closer than it’s been in my lifetime.

So, rest in peace, Marilyn Clement. I didn’t know you, but I am one of those who is grateful for all you did, and deeply mourn your passing. Your legacy is with those you’ve left behind to carry on your good work.

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Manuel Zelaya –Will Honduran President Foil the Coup?

President Manuel Zelaya of Honduras is the kind of guy that used to give America fits. That is, he wasn’t the kind of reliable ally the George W. Bush and others before him used to count on in Central America.

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This past Sunday, about 100 soldiers entered this elected president’s home, and rushed him onto a plane bound for Costa Rica. His crime? He wanted to hold a referendum on re-writing the Honduran constitution.

Part of what Zelaya wanted was the chance to serve a second four-year term. That’s prohibited in the current constitution. What’s interesting about this is the striking similarity between what Zelaya wanted to do, and what New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg did here.

michael-bloomberg

There are some major differences, however. Bloomberg got his chance to run for a third term by suborning the local city council. If he’d submitted the question to a referendum as Zelaya wanted to do, he might have lost.

The political parallel between the two can’t be denied.

Politicians generally are loath to leave office if they don’t think they’re ready. They may mouth platitudes about their need to serve, but, like fighters, some just can’t give up the spotlight. So it is with Bloomberg, so it appears to be with Zelaya, even though he’s nothing near the power hungry dictator in waiting some US media have made him out to be. When you read that he raised the minimum wage by 60% during his time in office, you wonder whether, if the Honduran people had a chance, they might not re-elect him.

Of course, not everyone thinks raising the minimum wage is a good thing. And when Zelaya fired top military General Romeo Vasquez for refusing to implement preparations for the referendum, the stage was set for the military and the Honduran oligarchy to act in concert. Zelaya’s support of Honduras’ poor people was too much. However, subsequent events must have taken them by surprise.

First the region, then Europe, then even the US lined up to condemn the coup.

It’s been condemned for what it is, a strong-arm tactic by a group of thugs in uniform. Here the similarity to recent events in Iran is worth noting.

So too is the reaction of President Obama. While he’s been hesitant to take some steps that could probably give the coup leaders pause, his statements demanding the reinstatement of Zelaya are welcome and needed. The next step is, of course, to cut off US aid to the country if it’s clear the money will go into the hands (and pockets) of the plotters. The firmness of Obama’s resolve could go a long way toward ending the reported brutal repression of protests against the coup.

Manuel Zelaya says he’ll return to Honduras on Thursday. What do you think. Will he be reinstated as president?

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Uighurs! Will Europe Take GITMO Detainees? Not if We Don't!

One of the more bizarre aspects of the debate over where to relocate some inmates detained at Guantanamo Bay is this. Several European countries which had previously agreed to take some of them are now hesitating. Their reason?

It’s the reluctance to do the same right here in the USA.

We’re not talking about the high risk terror suspects who will remain locked up. We’re talking about people both military and federal courts said should be freed.

The Obama Administration planned to resettle about 50 detainees in a number of European countries, who had agreed to take them in. The drumbeat of opposition in the Congress to allowing detainees on US soil has until now largely been centered on those who would remain detained. Now, however, the ante has been upped in the case of 17 Chinese Uighur detainees.

Who, you may ask? Uighurs are Chinese Muslims, and all 17 were captured in Afghanistan after the Sept., 11th terror attacks.

keptewazc

Last October, a federal judge said none posed a security threat and should therefore be freed. Problem is, their attorneys say to return them to China would condemn them to certain imprisonment or possibly death.

The German government had tentatively agreed to resettle nine of the Uighurs in Bavaria, where a community of them already exists. However, the inability of the Obama Administration to reach agreement on resettling several of them in Northern Virginia has seen Germany’s willingness evaporate. The central question here is whether these people represent any security threat, either to the US or Germany.

The US courts have said no, and in fact have ordered the release of 21 GITMO detainees, including the Uighurs.

That’s not good enough for some members of Congress, who want no detainees on US soil, no matter what the courts may say. So then the question must be asked, not of the Europeans but of us. When and under what circumstances are we willing to admit the detention of some of those at Guantanamo was wrong?

We know some of our elected representatives on both sides of the partisan divide have no interest in this fundamental question of justice.

This is not, by the way, a call for freeing dangerous people onto the streets of America, and our elected officials know this (or should). We locked these people up. Dealing with the relocation of the innocent among them is our responsibility, not Europe’s.

So how do we solve this?

The Uighurs and their situation is metaphor for a lot more than simply where they end up. Do we trust our court system? Isn’t this at some point about the rule of law?

You tell me.

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