Friday, January 8, 2010

My letter to the CEO of Maytag/Whirlpool

Dear Mr. Fettig,

When I started having trouble with the Whirlpool washing machine that was already installed in my home when I purchased it last year, I began to entertain the idea of simply replacing the machine with a high-efficiency model. My locality offers incentives for converting to the latest "green" technologies, and I was intrigued by the rave reviews and greater capacity and performance these machines seemed to offer. After much research, I had just about settled on one of the new Maytag Bravos (now a subsidiary of Whirlpool). So far so good.

Lastly, I wanted to be sure my purchase would align with my personal convictions and values. As an Iraq combat veteran, I care deeply about the fate of our country and its people. So many families and hard-working citizens are suffering today from predatory lending and credit practices, inadequate access to routine health care, and the reduction in government services due to revenue shortfalls caused by off-shoring and high unemployment. I didn't put my life on the line in a foreign land only to return to watch my neighbors being ravaged by a government that redistributes their wealth to the already-wealthy through lax regulatory practices and a corrupt political system.

Initially, I was encouraged to confirm that Whirlpool/Maytag is indeed based in the USA, thus fostering our own economy. But I was extremely dismayed to discover where your political contributions have gone: Sen. Max Baucus, who had single-payer advocates arrested during hearings on health care reform, just for peacefully and respectfully trying to get that option on the table; Rep. John Boehner, who stands solidly against environmental progress (one of the reasons I want a new washing machine!); Sen. Tom Coburn, who seemingly prayed for Sen. Byrd's death just to block health care reform; Sen. Jim DeMint, who has blocked nomination of a new TSA chief in the wake of several very troubling security threats, because of the possibility of unionizing the TSA (when many public service sectors are in fact unionized, and certain federal employees can be ordered not to strike -- remember the air traffic controllers?); Sen. Blanche Lincoln, who seems to feel no shame in holding health care for all Americans hostage to her personal whims and interests; and I won't even bother going on about Stupak, Grassley, and the rest. Clearly, the purchase of a Whirlpool/Maytag machine would NOT be in line with my core principles: to improve our global environment and our domestic happiness and prosperity.

I am posting this to several blogs and to my Facebook page. I promise, in fairness, to post any response you may have.


Cheryl Kopec
Tacoma, WA

Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My letter to Congress on health reform

As a retired OIF veteran, I am fully covered by the VA for my medical care. This "socialized" care has served me very well so far. But I didn't go overseas and put my life on the line only to come home and watch my fellow Americans' lives threatened by our own insurance monopolies.


The only way to do this is to introduce true competition, via a robust public option. We currently spend twice as much as any other country on health care, with shameful outcomes. You know the figures; you've seen the charts. It's time to do something NOW.

I am a very new political activist, awakened at the beginning of Barack Obama's campaign for President. But I have remained a tireless activist, and I am currently committed to directing all this activist energy AGAINST anybody who opposes real reform. Sen. Baucus is tops on my list, and I will strenuously support any organization who opposes him and his ilk. I will also personally donate to his opponent.

This is how strongly I feel about taking care of my fellow Americans. And this debate will not even affect me personally. I don't do it for me -- I do it for the country I love.

Please, do it for the same reason.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Response to a right-wing article on healthcare reform

I was in my folks' car the other night on the way to a birthday dinner, and happened to pick up a publication that was opened to the following article (my comments inserted).

Those of us who oppose a massive increase in the role the national government plays in health care

Offering an affordable insurance option to those currently shut out of the system would not represent a "massive increase," especially if you accept the right wing's assertions that we "only" have a few tens of millions, not 47 million, uninsured right now.


This is a derisive term, and its use within the very first sentence marks this entire essay as prejudicial.

do so because we fear the immense and unsustainable national debt it would incur

The President has stated that any plan he signs must be deficit-neutral. Besides, where were all of you when we were racking up a trillion-dollar deficit in Iraq? Is killing little brown people worth more to you than saving American lives right now?

and because we are certain that medical care in America would deteriorate.

Please provide some substantiation or precedent -- any -- for this assertion.

But there is a bigger reason most of us oppose it: We believe that the bigger the government becomes, the smaller the individual citizen becomes.

Are you talking about the government that tapped your phones and data-mined your email and threw your citizens in prison for years without habeas corpus? Well, okay. Or the one that wants to be sure you can visit a doctor when you need to? Somehow I cannot see the sinister intent in this.

Here are five reasons why bigger government makes less impressive people.

Oh, okay, here we have a clue! Providing health care to citizens would keep them from having to stitch up their own wounds. Yes, that is very impressive! Certainly more than I would undertake, myself. Perhaps I need to cut myself real bad, and treat the wound myself, to be a more "impressive" citizen.

1. People who are able to take care of themselves and do so are generally better than people who are able to take care of themselves but rely on others.

Is this label of "better" a moral judgment or factual? In what way are they "better"? Did Jesus differentiate between "better" or "worse" people, apart from the self-righteous Pharisees whom He bitterly derided for trying to deny the common folk a bit of relief?

Of course, there are times when some people have absolutely no choice and must rely on others to take care of them. Life is tragic and some people, despite their best efforts and their commitment to being a responsible person, must have others support them.

Of course. And? Your proposal?

Even if one believes, as the left does by definition, that the ideal society is one in which the state takes care of as many of our needs as possible,

I don't consider myself a member of "the left," although I do wholeheartedly support President Obama's health reform proposals. The state takes care of as many of our needs as possible? I have never heard this anywhere, nor seen it promoted by any left-leaning pundits. Would like some examples.

one must acknowledge that this has deleterious effects on many, if not most, citizens' moral character. The moment one acknowledges that the more one takes care of oneself, the more developed is his or her character, one must acknowledge that a bigger state diminishes its citizens' characters.

This statement is completely theoretical and not supported in practice in any country that has a national health care system.

Presumably one might argue that there is no relationship between character development and taking responsibility for oneself. But to do so is to turn the concept of character, as it has been understood throughout Judeo-Christian and Western history, on its head. The essence of good character is to care of oneself and then take of others who cannot take care of themselves.

Awesome idea! So how come all these people of "good character" haven't succeeded in eliminating the health care access problem in our country? Why was my next-door neighbor despondent last night, forced to move due to no new job prospects despite a long and diligent search, and if his wife loses her job, without any health coverage at all? Where are all these people of "good character" in his predicament?

2. The more people come to rely on government, the more they develop a sense of entitlement -- an attitude characterized by the belief that one is owed (whatever the state provides and more).

Please provide examples.

This is a second big government blow to character development because it has at least three terrible consequences:

First, the more one feels entitled, the less one believes he has to work for anything. Why work hard if I can look to the state to give much of what I need, and, increasingly, much of what I want?

People in France work less hours per week and less weeks per year than Americans do. They also experience far less stress (what a surprise!) leading to longer life expectancies. They have socialized medicine, yet still manage to maintain a functioning economy. It was OUR economy that nearly toppled the entire world financial system.

Second, the more one feels entitled, the less grateful one feels. This is obvious: The more one expects to be given, the less one is grateful for what one is given. Third, the more entitled and the less grateful one feels, the angrier one becomes. The opposite of gratitude is not only ingratitude, it is anger. People who do not get what they think they are entitled to become angry.

Again, please provide examples. Are the French holding mass rallies protesting their health care system? Are they generally angry about it?

3. People develop disdain for work.

One of the effects of the welfare state on vast numbers of European citizens is disdain for work. This is in keeping with Marx's view of utopia as a time when people will work very little and devote their large amount of non-working time writing poetry and engaging in other such lofty pursuits. Work is not regarded by the left as ennobling. It is highly ennobling in the American value system, however.

Do French people not work? Also, what's wrong with poetry? I would rather live a life surrounded by poetry than by people who slave away in a paper bag factory for 20 years, hating every minute of it. These are the people who are most likely to "go postal" someday. No thanks.

4. People become preoccupied with vacation time.

Along with disdain for work, one witnesses among Western Europeans a preoccupation with not working. Vacation time has become a moral value among many Europeans. There have been riots in countries like France merely over working hours. In Sweden and elsewhere, more and more workers take more and more time off from work, knowing they will be paid anyway. In Germany and elsewhere, it is against the law to keep one's store open after a certain hour, lest that give that store owner an income advantage and thereby compel a competing store to stay open longer as well. And, of course, Americans are viewed as working far too hard.

Umm, yes. Western Europeans are very adamant about their vacation time. And their health benefits, according to WHO rankings placing us in the 37th position. Americans DO work too hard. And we spend about twice as much as any other developed country on health care, for worse outcomes. Is our goal to make Americans healthier and happier, or simply to make them work harder?

5. People are rendered more selfish.

Not only does bigger government teach people not to take care of themselves, it teaches them not to take of others. Smaller government is the primary reason Americans give more charity and volunteer more time per capita than do Europeans living in welfare states. Why take care of your fellow citizen, or even your family, when the government will do it for you?

Which charity will help my next-door neighbor in his dilemma? I don't want to lose this family as neighbors -- isn't there some charity that will pay a portion of their rent until he can find work again? Please?

This preoccupation with self includes foreign policy: Why care about, let alone risk dying for, another country's liberty? That is the view of the world's left.

Yes, why should I go overseas and risk my life for some other country's liberties when my own countrymen are dying at home for lack of health care?

Of course, there are fine idealistic individuals on the left, and selfish individuals on the right. But as a rule, bigger government increases the number of angry, ungrateful, lazy, spoiled and self-centered individuals. Which is why some of us believe that increased nationalization of health care is worth shouting about. And even crying over.

Show me one country where that "rule" plays out, in the case of nationalized health care. Just one. Please.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

My letter to the editor on health care reform

The cartoon you published yesterday depicting a hospital emergency room was misleading and offensive on several counts. It shows a nurse addressing an obvious extra-terrestrial, saying "I'm going to assume, since I can't ask, that you are a U.S. citizen." The caption reads, "Under Obamacare" -- a derisive term adopted by the anti-reform crowd. The implication is that reform measures would somehow change the current system wherein ERs are already prohibited by law from requiring proof of citizenship. That isn't going to change with reform, nor should it. How inefficient would ERs become if they had to send people home to find their birth certificate or passport before treating them? Would this apply even to people who showed up with a massive head injury? Would you like to be that patient yourself? Who would pay to train them in forgery detection? Who would be penalized if a non-citizen slipped through? Etc. But another problem with the cartoon is that nothing in any reform measure would change the delivery of health care. All it would do is add another affordable insurance provider to the mix, that could cover those for whom premiums are currently out of reach. That's it. No death panels, no abortion funding, no illegal aliens on the plan -- just another, publicly-funded insurer, kind of like we have public schools that compete with private schools. What is so scary about that?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Whenever you think you don't make a difference

For years (since the beginning of Obama's campaign in February '07) I've been steadily on the comment boards of the TNT, first advocating for his nomination, then for his election, and now for his policies. Often it seems like I'm the only one arguing for "our side," and my posts are routinely outnumbered 3:1 or better. It could be easy to get discouraged. But I know enough about the 'Net to know that those who post are FAR outnumbered by those who merely skim and read, and THOSE are the ones I'm aiming to persuade.

So it was a special treat to read this message tonight, in response to a user's derisive dismissal of a fellow poster's support for me:

Thank you, frosty for your kind words. You're correct, she does do a brilliant job. I'm in awe of her knowledge and her tenacity, especially under fire.

Sometimes, it's nice to show ones appreciation and support and to let her know that she's not alone out there. She's way out in front of any other poster as far as understanding the in's and out's of health care reform.

Maybe it's not needed, as you say, frosty, but since I can't add much to her vast knowledge base, and since I'm benefiting from her hard work, a pat on the back is the best I can do.

Aw shucks... That makes me feel just as good as I did last time I called KZOK just a moment too late, regarding a health care reform call-in segment, 'cause they were moving on to a scheduled guest. But before saying goodbye, the call screener thanked me for "all my expertise" on the health care issue (they know me, when I call and introduce myself as "Cheryl from Tacoma," and it's always when they're discussing the hot political topic of the day).

Hey, I consider myself an absolute politics dummy. I don't really know what "report language" means or what "reconciliation" entails. I'm not up on the delicate heirarchies within the Senate and House, and how their political maneuvering might play out. I just focus on one thing -- what needs to happen. However it needs to happen, it NEEDS TO HAPPEN, NOW. I do not label myself a Democrat and refuse to be drawn into debates on what prior Democrats did or didn't do. I keep my eyes on the prize -- HEALTH CARE REFORM NOW.

I'm not tooting my own horn, because I'm not special. What I am doing, every single one of us can be doing. And we SHOULD be doing it. Don't be intimidated even if on every blog you seem to be outshouted by the wrong-ies. Because for every one of their nasty, insubstantial, ad hominem attacks, there are dozens of thoughtful citizens pondering your words, appreciating them, and perhaps integrating them into their own conversations on the subject. They may not all take the trouble to let you know that, but trust me -- they are there.


Friday, September 4, 2009

On keeping kids home from school Sep 8

Below is an email I just sent to our local Glenn Beck group, of which I am a member. Of course, my aim is to get a few of those parents to actually listen to an entire Obama address, unfiltered by right-wing pundits. It might be the first time for many of them, and I'm betting a lot of them will be astonished to find they agree with everything he says. But, FWIW, here is my message:

Hello all,

I hope you'll forgive my $.02 here, as I have never had kids and never will, but I do have some thoughts on some parents' plans to keep their kids out of school Tuesday on account of Obama's address.

I think those who do keep their kids home are doing the kids and themselves a great disservice. The first day of school is where friendship cliques begin to form, and where kids begin to figure out the teacher's style and expectations, and what the year has in store for them. All the kids are on the same footing that first day, and anybody who comes in on the second day will already be behind the power curve, having to play catch-up. I don't feel this is the right way to begin a challenging school year.

Also, it sends the wrong message: to fear dissenting opinions rather than hearing them out and developing a sane, rational rebuttal based on facts. This critical thinking skill will serve them lifelong. What better opportunity for them to start developing it?

A better option, in my opinion, is to go to school with your children that day. This gives you a chance to meet the teacher, the other kids, and most likely a few other parents, because you won't be the only one. It can also serve as a great springboard for discussion, as you can sit down with your children later and pick their brains: "What stood out most for you in the speech? What does that mean to you? Does it fit with what you believe? What alternatives might be better?" etc. This kind of discussion could give you great insight into your children's worldview and how equipped they are to think for themselves.

Just my opinion. I welcome any comments, of course.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

My fax to Harry Reid

Dear Senator Reid,

I am one of many progressive Independent voters who are becoming increasingly worried at what we see as the erosion of support for a public option among our lawmakers. The vexing part is, we cannot understand why. We currently have a Democratic White House, a huge House majority, a healthy Senate majority, and 78% public support for it! Yet we are afraid that those charged with crafting a bill are caving to special interests, which is NOT what we voted for last November! Americans overwhelmingly voted – and not just voted, but pounded pavement, burned up phone lines, made signs and flyers and buttons at our own expense, held meetings, and, like me, became very involved in the political process for the first time in our lives. Politics is now in my blood, and I am still in the fight. As a veteran whose health care is fully covered by the VA, I have no personal stake in this issue, but it is very important to me because this crisis threatens our economy and the very fabric of our collective lives.

The only way to true reform is a robust public option. “Co-ops” just won’t be powerful enough to negotiate with providers and drug companies. Besides that, even Group Health – the model currently being touted – took 60 years to develop. We don’t have that long to wait. Americans are losing their homes, their livelihoods, and indeed their lives due to medical costs. Our nation has become a worldwide laughingstock, as other countries cannot understand why we seem to be trying to kill ourselves!

If the bill that comes out of Congress this fall does not contain a robust public option, I predict massive Democratic losses in 2010, and Obama will become a one-term president. I, for one, promise to support the opponent of any lawmaker who votes against the public option, whether they represent my state or not. That’s how strongly I feel about this issue, and I am one of millions.

Democrats need to stand up against the lobbyists and special interests NOW, and do what’s right for the American people. You know what’s right, regardless of what the right-wing media pawns are feeding a fear-conditioned populace. Please do it. As soon as President Obama signs a bill containing the public option, to be enacted immediately (not in 2013!), his approval rating will soar and Democrats will find renewed support among the people. If the bill Congress sends him doesn’t measure up, it will only give Republicans the ammunition they need to paint Democrats as weak and unable to pass a bill even with an across-the-board majority.

Get your Senators in a room, shut the door, sit them down, and lay it out for them. Get Ed Schultz in there if you have to – he has offered his services if that’s what it takes. Just get it done. Our nation is looking to you – don’t let us down.