December 2001

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December is Universal Human Rights Month!

Tues., Dec. 4 1:00­3:00

Board meeting at the office.

Wed., Dec.5 6:30 p.m.

Neighbor to Neighbor: Plan for the Universal Health Care Symposium.

The Women's Building, 2nd floor. 3543 18 St. RSVP 415/647-2471.

Fri., Dec. 7­9 Annual LaborTech Conference

Tenth Annual LaborTech Conference at the University of San Fransco.

Info: 415/282-1908.

Fri., Dec. 7 5:00 p.m.

Women in Black who wear black to emphasize the need for a

Palestinian State. Gather at Montgomery and Market streets.

Tues., Dec. 11 1:00 p.m.

GPs Health Committee meeting at the office, 1182 Market St., Room 203.

Sat., Dec. 15 12:30­3:00 p.m.

Gray Panthers Potluck­Social to celebrate the season and elect the 2002

Board of Directors. It's time to be with friends and to look forward!

Fri., Feb. 1, 2002 Training program

Don Bechler will host a training session for those who wish to take

part in the Bay Area Symposium on Health Care on Feb. 7. Call

him at 415/695-7891 if you wish to participate.

Feb. 7, 2002 7:00 a.m.­4:30 p.m.

Symposium for public comment on the nine health care proposals

before the legislature in Sacramento. Applications are in GP office.

Holiday Social and Potluck

Let's put away the cares and troubles of our times and our lives for at least this one afternoon and enjoy the company and gustatory efforts of our fellow Gray Panthers. It's important that we put the events of the past few months in perspective and keep in mind the meaning of this month dedicated to Universal Human Rights.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt phrased it best in his Message to Congress, January 6, 1941:

We look forward to a world founded

upon four essential human freedoms.

The first is freedom of speech and

expressioneverywhere in the world.

The second is freedom of every person to worship

God in his own wayeverywhere in the world.

The third is freedom from want

everywhere in the world.

The fourth is freedom from fear

anywhere in the world.

Health Meeting

As prologue to our general meeting on November 20, Aroza outlined how the press has treated with issues of currrent interest to the Gray Panthers.

Articles, copies of which are in the office for you to read, include privatization of prisons, drilling for oil in the Arctic, and the U.S. involvement in Colombian civil wars. The proposal for proportional voting, which we explored a couple of years ago, is again in the news and being considered in order to do away with costly (and basically unfair) runoff elections. And Bill Moyers' article in the November 19 Nation examines "Which America Will We Be Now?" It emphasizes the need for all citizens to take an active role in the governance of our country and Aroza puts a plug in for Gray Panthers to take an active role in the work of the GPs! Put some time in at our office and help out!

Health Care Checkup

The Health Care for All Committee of the Gray Panthers planned this meeting to report on where we stand and on efforts to gain such benefits in the state and the country.

Our struggles to gain recognition of this national health crisis were preceded by Canada's 24-year battle. Wende Chan described that country's efforts that resulted in a system that covers everyone equally and yet spends far less money to provide universality, portability, comprehensive coverage, access and public administration (UPCAP).

Guest speaker Frances Payne of Neighbor to Neighbor reported on the progress of SB480 in Sacramento. Currently nine plans are being considered for universal health care. Of the nine, only three are single-payer. She urged all to attend the series of meetings and symposia planned by N2N for the next couple of months to discuss and advocate for the various plans. The first will be December 5 at the Women's Building, second floor, at 6:30 p.m. On February 7, there will be an all-day symposium in Oakland for public comment on the nine plans.

Don Bechler of Health Care for All updated the national movement for single-payer by citing the recent victory in Portland, Maine and how this victory related to their state legislative battle for single-payer. He pointed out that before the Feb. 7 symposium we need to inform ourselves on how to present single-payer against the insurance companies' plans.

GP Gloria Channon stressed that universal health care is a political issue based on human rights and that in all upcoming elections we should vote only for those who commit to a single-payer system; suggestions from the floor advocated joining with labor unions in their push for health care; changing the name to Health Care Is Not a Game; citing seniors being dropped by HMOs in California; and advocating to at least five new people using the Health Care for All petition. To receive more info about any of the meetings and rallies call: 415/647-2471 to reach Frances Payne; 415/695-7891 for Don Bechler; and for the GPs Health Committee/Study group, Aroza Simpson at 415/567-5348.

Mitzi Raas adviced on the latest threat to your health care. In January HMOs all over California are withdrawing from Medicare, raising premiums, increasing copayments and dropping or further limiting drug coverage. Gray Panthers are involved with a coalition of senior groups to investigate and protest, and Sen. Speier is planning a hearing. We will be there prepared to defend our members and others losing coverage. This is a GPs regional activity. We strongly suspect that the threat is a deliberate manipulation by HMOs to force Medicare to increase payments to the HMOs. Meanwhile, Medicare recipients are the losers.

In San Francisco, Pacific Care/Secure Horizons is changing its contracts. If you belong to Pacific Care/Secure Horizons or any other HMO threatening catastrophic changes, we need to know as soon as you hear from them. Call the office at 415/552-8800 and bring in a copy of their letter to you. Let us know ASAP if your coverage is threatened!

Public Health Laws Under Attack

On the heels of dumping much of the costs of Medicaid back onto the states by taking into account only the "rich" in the state and disregarding the "poor," now the administration wants to adopt a law allowing public health authorities to take over hospitals, seize drug supplies, quarantine people exposed to infectious pathogens, draft doctors to treat them, force patients to be vaccinated, and restrain residents from leaving contaminated areas.

A public health "police state?" Watch out!

Social SecurityA Phony Crisis

Last May President Bush appointed a commission to "strengthen Social Security." Members were equally divided between Democrats and Republicans, eight of each. All indated in advance that they favor some form of private accounts for Social Security. In an interim report the panel claimed Social Security is beset by "both a fiscal crisis and a crisis of confidence," that only "fundamental restructuring can save it," that in 2016 Social Security will begin "running annual cash deficits" and will have to reduce benefits in 2038.

Is all or any of this true? We emphatically say no! Here's why:

· Fiscal crisis. The most conservative criteria, the widely accepted Social Securities Trustees Report, projects an income of $868.5 billion and an outgo of $678.4 billion which is a surplus of $190.1 billion, and a trust fund balance of $3.1 trillion (if interest is factored in the surplus is $5 trillion). They further project that SS will operate in the black at least until 2038five years ago that was 2029and that over the next 75 years the shortfall will be 1.86%. Even in this worst case scenario, the shortfall can easily be made up by extending coverage to all workers, taxing all earnings (not just the first $81,000) and, at worst, raising the tax by 1%.

· Crisis of confidence? Not among the one in every six families that gets SS benefits! That check comes every month backed by government guarantee. Any crisis in confidence is directed and financed by Wall Street and promoted by their media in order to get their hands on some of that money and stand to profit from private accounts.

· Fundamental restructuring (read: private accounts). If such accounts were taken from SS now the "crisis" year projected above would drop to 2007, benefits would be reduced, retirement age of 67 would start in 2011, and the SS tax would rise. SS does need some changes to make it more gender equal or eliminating the retirement age. It doesn't need restructuring that takes money from SS funds to enrich the stock market.

Social Security is the only retirement income that comes with a guarantee of inflation-protected benefits that continue as long as you live, that provides a life insurance policy for survivors, that supports the disabled, that assures one a floor for financial security.

So what can we do? When that final report is issued by that Orwell-named Commission to Strengthen Social Security be ready to bombard your representatives and the media with one clear message: Hands Off Social SecurityNo to Privatization! Prepare those cards and letters right now, line up the Congressional phone numbers and e-mail addresses, and the day that report comes out, go into action!

The "Patriot Act" in Brief

· Unlimited FBI wiretaps.

· Justice Dept. eavesdropping on coversations between lawyers and clients.

· Racial profiling by the Immigration "approval" Service.

· Militaryread: kangarooCourt takes over U.S. Justice system.

What's next in the name of antiterrorism?

This bears repeating:

Do not kill in the name of our son

(Phyllis and Orlando Rodriguez' son Greg is one of the Trade Center victims. They have asked that this letter be shared as widely as possible.)

To the NY Times:

Our son Greg is among the many missing from the World Trade Center attack. Since we first heard the news, we have shared moments of grief, comfort, hope, despair, fond memories with his wife, the two families, our friends and neighbors, his loving colleagues at Cantor Fitzgerald/ESpeed, and all the grieving families that daily meet at the Pierre Hotel.

We see our hurt and anger reflected among everybody we meet. We cannot pay attention to the daily flow of news about this disaster. But we read enough of the news to sense that our government is heading in the direction of violent revenge, with the prospect of sons, daughters, parents, friends in distant lands dying, suffering, and nursing further grievances against us. It is not the way to go. It will not avenge our son's death. Not in our son's name.

Our son died a victim of an inhuman ideology. Our actions should not serve the same purpose. Let us grieve. Let us reflect and pray. Let us think about a rational response that brings real peace and justice to our world. But let us not as a nation add to the inhumanity of our times.

Regional Focuses on Action

The quarterly meeting of the northern California Gray Panthers networks was held on November 10 in Sacramento at the AARP offices (thank you AARP). There were five networks in attendance: Marin, Berkeley, Central Contra Costa County, San Francisco and Sacramento. Wende, Aroza, Mary Frances and Mitzi represented San Francisco.

Main focus of this meeting was advocacy on national and state levels for health and legislative action. On the national stage the Stop Patient Abuse Now (SPAN) campaign is developing well. An interesting video describing SPAN's activities was shown, displaying our national office in action. Anyone using Priloxec, Synthroid or Buspar is again urged to call us. These are among the drugs whose patents are running out and the companies holding the patents are trying to extend them to prevent the competition of cheaper generics and other companies' products. SPAN plans a class-action suit to block such blatant profiteering.

Joan Lee, Sacramento networkour lobbyist in Sacramentoreported advocating in the name of the Gray Panthers of California on energy, health, housing, nursing homes and home care. These causes were on our own and in coalition with OWL, CCS, CalPirg, AARP and others. During the last legislative session we supported 146 bills, 40 of which were signed into law and seven of which were vetoed by the governor. All bills we opposed were defeated. These victories are achieved at least in part by lobbying and by letters, petitions and calls from our members. We should call our representatives Shelley and Migden and thank them especially for AB 1075 (nursing home reform) and AB 489 (predatory lending) which they authored. And be alert for the Medicare pullout hearings planned by Senator Speier in January.

The next regional meeting is planned for February 9 in Walnut Creek, hosted by the Central Contra Costa County network.

It's time to heed some 50­year old advice from

George C. Marshall who said:

"Our policy is directed not against any country or doctrine but against hunger, poverty, desperation and chaos. Its purpose should be the revival of a working economy in the world."

War Causes/Background

The chilling destruction of the World Trade Center in New York and other suicidal acts has set in motion some equally chilling reactions. We, as citizens of the world, not just the United States, must resolve not to cheapen our humanity by perpetrating even worse disasters. While we must bring to justice those so angry that they are motivated to kill thousands in orchestrated acts of terror, we must also resolve to erase conditions that spawn the anger and terror by re-examining our decision-making and reinvesting in education and human rights

An excellent analysis of causes and climate of this latest atrocity may be found in Sebastian Juger's book, Fire. A chapter entitled "A Lion inWinter" succinctly describes Afghanistan's political and geographic crossroads. The tribal military leader, Ahmed Shah Massoud is described as defending the Panjshir Valleyand ousting the Soviet invasion (1979­1989) and then fighting the Taliban. Though the book was published before Massoud's recent assasination by the Taliban (September 9, 2001), it gives thoughtful insight into the present quagmire in this long-suffering country. A copy of this chapter is available in the Gray Panthers office.

Subject: Progress?

The paradox of our time in history is that we taller buildings, but sorter tempers; wider freeways, we buy more, but enjoy it less. We have bigger houses and smaller families; more conveniences, but less time; we have more degrees, but less sense; more knowledge, but less judgment; more experts, but fewer solutions; more medicine, but less wellness.

We have multiplied our possessions, but reduced our values. We talk too much, love too seldom, and hate too often. We've learned how to make a living, but not a life; we've added years to life, not life to years. We've been all the way to the moon and back, but have trouble crossing the street to meet the new neighbor. We've conquered outer space, but not inner space; we've cleaned up the air, but polluted the soul; we've split the atom, but not our prejudice. We have higher incomes, but lower morals; we've become long on quantity, but short on quality.

These are the times of tall men, and short character; steep profits, and shallow relationships. These are the times of world peace, but domestic warfare; more leisure, but less fun; more kinds of food, but less nutrition.

These are days of two incomes, but more divorce; of fancier houses, but broken homes. It is a time when there is much in the show room and nothing in the stockroom; a time when technology can bring this letter to you, and a time when you can choose either to forward this message and make a difference or just hit delete.

This was written by a Columbine High School student and sent to friends across the country on March 2, 2001.

The Newsletter of the San Francisco Gray Panthers is published each month, and distributed free of charge to members and friends of this nonprofit organization.

Editorial Board: Rebecca Hirshleifer, Mitzi Raas; Publisher, Astrid M. Spector; Art Director, Fannie Biderman; Proof, Lurilla Harris; Circulation: Harold Greenblatt and Mary Francis Smith. Printed by Graffik Natwicks; Webpage design: Barry Simpkins

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