January 2002

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Thurs., Jan. 3 6:45 p.m.

N2N Planning meeting for the February 7 Universal Health Care Sympo sium. Since the GP Health Study Group will not meet in January, please attend this prograa. Women's Building, 1835 18 Street. Info; 415/647-2471.

Tues., Jan. 8 1:00­3:00 p.m.

Board meeting at the office. Election of Board officers. All welcome.

Thurs., Jan. 10 5:00­7:00 p.m. Reception

Guild of Natural Science Illustrators presents Plants, Pests, & Pollinators. Strybing Arboreum, GGP, 9th Avenue at Lincoln.

Tues., Jan. 15 12:30­3:00 p.m.

General Meeting: Let Freedom Ring! Examination of the erosion of our freedoms with Riva Enteen of the Lawyers Guild and Sherry Gen-

delman of KPFA. First Unitarian Church, Franklin at Geary.

Thurs., Jan. 17 8:00 p.m.

The Beard of Avon, by ACT. Bring canned food and a donation. Box office on Geary.

Fri.­Mon., Jan. 18­21 S.F. International Art Fair.

In the Herbst and Festival Pavilions at Fort Mason Center.

Sat., Jan. 26 10:30 a.m.­12:15 p.m.

OWL: "Investments for Older Women in a Down Market," lecture by Shaddee Ardalan of Merrill Lynch. Donations requested. First Unitarian Church, 1187 Franklin St. at Geary.

Thurs., Feb. 7 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. Free, but you must register by January 4!

They that can give up essential liberty for a little temporary

safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

Benjamin Franklin, 1759

Let Freedom Ring!

It's time to examine what is happening to our freedoms of action and expression in this time of national stress. We've invited two individuals who both before and after "September 11" have been outspoken advocates for these freedoms to examine the current situatiion and its ramifications.

Sherry Gendelman is the Chair of KPFA's Local Advisory Board. As such she has been involved in all the negotiations between the station, the national board and its current much- publicized resolution(?).

Riva Enteen, Program Director of the National Lawyers Guild, will explain the reasons for, and ways to use, their new publication, Know Your Rights. What is happening to our Constitution andthe Bill of Rights in view of the new "wartime" constraints being imposed on them?

Join them on January 15 and express your views!

A Great Time Was Had by All

Gray Panthers know how to party! Our holiday party was, as usual blast! Great food, enthusiastic singing, conversations and even a little bit of business.

After satisfying our holiday hunger, those present elected the 2002 Board of Directors. First-time directors are Bernie and Cathy Rush, Gretchen Davis and Caty Powell. Returning to the board after their mandated year-long hiatus, are Kay and Aroza. And starting the first year of their second two-year term are Mary Frances and Deetje. They all join on-going members Fanny, Wende, Gloria, Sonya, Astrid, Rebecca, Lillian and Miriam.

Officers will be elected at the first Board meeting of 2002 on Tuesday, January 8. As always, all members are invited to attend.

In the meantime, we wish each other peace, freedom, justice, universal single-payer health care and a Happy New Year!

Things May Be a'Changin'!

Finally a break for universal health care with single-payer financing. California has received $1.2 million from the federal government to explore ways to expand health coverage in California. Nine proposals have been made, of which three are single-payer. Now we all have a chance to have our say!

There will be a Health Care Options Project Symposium on February 7 at the Oakland Airport Hilton. The program runs from 8:00 a.m. to 4:30 p.m. There is no charge for the symposium, continental breakfast from 7:00 to 8:00 a.m. or lunch, but you must register by January 4! And cancellations must be received in writing by January 11 or you will be charged a $50 fee.

You can prepare for making public comments by attending training sessions offered by Don Bechler of Health Care for All. He will explain all nine proposals and summarize talking points for and against each option. There will be time for you to practice your one-minute presentations at the symposium.

If this important meeting interests you, leave a message at 415/695-7891 to receive the registration form and information about the training sessions. Or you can get the registration form by FAX by calling 916/278-6633 or by calling the Gray Panthers office at 415/552-8800. For advance information about the nine options, go to <www.healthcareoptions.ca.gov>.

Novel Now in Paperback

Margaret Atwood's novel of appealing characters in a historical mystery is now available in paperback from Anchor at #14. The Blind Assassin is a good read with interesting characters and a gripping plot that we will easily relate to even though it is set in Canada. It displays a strongly progressive and feminist viewpoint, a bit of pulp science fiction that is more than it seems, even a happy ending of sorts.

Atwood engenders puzzling over her deeper meanings when you have finished reading and may inspire you to reread The Handmaiden's Tale or some of her many other books, all of which are available from the public library.

New Book From Gray Panthers Convenor

Coming this month, The Wisdom ToChoose: A Comprehensive Guide to Health and Independence for Elders by Dixon Arnett & Wende Dawson Chan. Published by Studio 4 Productions, $16.95, it will be in bookstores nationwide. Look for it!

Lies, Damn Lies& What We Can Do About Them

The President's Commission to Strengthen Social Security presented its proposals on December 12. All three options for reform have three things in common: 1) the opportunity for workers to invest part of their social security taxes on their own, 2) the reduction of benefits to future retirees proportional to what they have diverted to private investment and 3) the bailout of the system by government funds. All options, including doing nothing, are voluntary.

One option makes no mention of what its implementation will require from the government. The other two options, according to the Commission's estimates, will need anywhere from $1.3 billion to $71 billion from the government. None of the options would reduce benefits to current retirees or workers over the age of 55.

This Commission was appointed to save Social Security from the financial disaster that some people predicted for the program as early as 2016 and certainly by 2038. All appointees had indicated in advance that they favored some form of private accounts. When it was formed the Commission declared its objective was to balance the program's budget over the next 75-year planning period. In this reporter's opinion this outfit should be called the President's Commission to Weaken Social Security, Spread Hysteria About the False Demise of Social Security and Shovel Money to Wall Street and its Cohorts. Here's how:

1) Weaken Social Security by pulling funds from it.

2) Spread the false claim that in 15 years there will be no money left to pay claims when, by their own figures, Social Security is fully solvent at least until 2038and if there is a shortfall then, it can be relatively easily remedied.

3) Shovel money to Wall Street as investments and brokers fees.

Question: How do they propose to balance the Social Security budget over the next 75 years, their ostensible goal? Answer: With government funds which would probably translate into increased Social Security taxes.

Even if you accept their dire predictions of financial disaster, which I don't, their budget balancing solution could be applied in 2038 or whenever. So their privatization proposals are irrelevant to their declared mission of strengthening Social Security.

Fact: Social Security has a reserve fund today of more than one trillion dollars and is currently growing at a rate of almost $200 billion a year; and there are ways other than taxes to increase Social Security income.

Who finds these reports appealing? Obviously, Wall Street and its broker constituency who expect to reap windfall profits from privatization; well-to-do salaried workers (who are not Enron investors) who already can afford investment programs so won't have prohibitive new brokers' fees and think they won't need Social Security when they cash in their successful investments. And then there are the misguided workers who believe the overwhelming and continuous propaganda of impending disaster and think they can do better on their ownthough there may be many fewer of those lately in view of what's been going on in the stock markets. This last category is the one that must be reached.

Remind everyone you know that Social Security is our guaranteed safety net. Once we retire, it never runs outwe get it the rest of our lives. We may not live high on the hog if we have no other income or savings but that minimum will always be there. It is not a gamble with our future. It is the nation's most popular and successful social program.

So what happens next? The Commission recommends debating its proposals for a year. This way it hopes the proposals won't be an issue in the 2002 Congressional elections. There are two things we must do now. First, tell our current representatives in no uncertain terms: no privatization; no weakening of Social Security! And second, demand a commitment from every candidate for Congress in 2002Hands Off Social Security! Mitzi Raas

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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