Why I’m Voting for the Women this Fall

Vote Local PA logo

Vote Local. In my case, from top to bottom, this year it’s mostly women!

The idea of having a man who, at minimum, disparages women and people of color, in his campaign for the White House is discombobulating. And dangerous to our society.  I am one of many (in all likelihood the majority of voters) who will not be voting or supporting Donald Trump in November.

Why? I don’t want a racist and sexist despot in the White House.

In a blog on Nel’s  New Day called Trump Loses with Blacks, Women; Nel points out some of the inner workings of Trump— the man, his campaign, and the “can of worms” that his potential leadership of this country could bring forth.

What particularly strikes me in this expose is Donald Trump’s retrograde idea of parenting and women’s “place” in life.  Among these is his idea that parenting is solely the responsibility of women.  His parental leave policy not only is discriminatory towards men, it’s minimalist in its depth and would result in an expanding economic disparity between educated white men and just about everyone else.

As Rebecca Traister reports in her 2015 article in the New Republic, a lack of federal policies supporting paid parental leave for both men and women hurts individual families as well as our society.  She also points out that sexist maternity leave policies result in increasing disparity among our citizenry.  She says:

“The United States and its corporate structures were built with one kind of worker—frankly, with one kind of citizen—in mind. That citizen wage-earner was a white man. That this weakness is being addressed by employers faster than it is being addressed by Congress contributes to the widening of the class chasm. Policies that account for the fact that women now give birth and earn wages on which their families depend—and, for that matter, that men now earn wages and provide childcare on which their families depend—should not be crafted by individual bosses or corporations on a piecemeal basis that inevitably favors already privileged populations. They should be available to every American. But until we see a large-scale, national refashioning of family leave, the economic fates of childbearers will be left in the hands of the private entities that employ them.”

Definitely not Trump’s view of America.  But it is mine.

We need a person in the White House and people in Congress who believe in a compassionate and caring family-friendly workplace and community.  We need people who will craft a strong and national egalitarian family leave policy for all.  For women. For men. For LGBTQIA people. For single as well as married parents and adult caregivers.  And for people regardless of color or source and amount of income.

So in November, I will vote for people  running for policy-making positions who can fit this bill.  Here in PA, they are all women – a first for me.  That’s Hilary Rodham Clinton for President, Katie McGinty for the US Senate, and Kerith Strano Taylor for Pennsylvania’s 5th Congressional District. And at the state level, it’s Melody Fleck for the 171st PA House District  (the same seat I ran for in 2008 when I was the only woman on my ballot that year).

#DNCinPHL – Day 1

In June I was appointed as a pledged Bernie Sanders Pennsylvania Public Leader/Elected Official Delegate to the 2016 Democratic National Convention.  The convention is being held in Philadelphia at the Pennsylvania Convention Center (for the Caucuses) and at the Wells Fargo Arena for the main events.

The convention officially starts on Monday July 25.  For delegates and their guests, travel to Philadelphia and welcoming parties started on Sunday.

I will be taking pictures and notes of what I see and hear at my very first convention and will share them with you.  So here’s my first day.

picture of Joanne wearing a Bernie Sanders t-shirt holding a Single-Payer healthcare baseball cap bedecked with political pins

I left home this morning for Philadelphia. But before I left I had Joe take this picture of me in our back yard in my Bernie regalia next to our very own “Liberty Bell.”

Instead of driving to Philadelphia and spending $47/day for parking, I took the Amtrak train from Lewistown, PA.

Varity Show at Kimmel Center for #DNAmtrak's Pennsylvanian #42 pulling into the train station at LewistownCinPHL Welcome Par

Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian #42 pulling into the train station at Lewistown.

picture of the Amtrak engine pulling the passenger cars at the Lewistown train station.

My couch awaits me!

On Board Amtrak

The train was full.  Many of the people on board were delegates, media personnel, and people generally interested in attending the events surrounding the convention.  I met people from Wisconsin, New York, and of course Pennsylvania on board Amtrak’s Pennsylvanian #42, the once-daily eastbound train from Pittsburgh to New York City by way of Philadelphia.

Picture of Ruth Pastore, Jean Mllko, Angie Gialloreto, and Norma McCuen holding up two t-shirts that say "Clintonettes H for Hillary" on the front and "Pennsylvania Pittsburgh Allegheny County 2016" on the back.

The “Clintonettes” from Pittsburgh. These are people I know from the Pennsylvania Democratic State Party meetings I attend three times a year. Left to Right: Ruth Pastore, Jean Mllko, Angie Gialloreto, and Norma McCuen.

Harrisburg, Pennsylvania’s capital, was our first stop where we changed engines.

picture of downtown Harrisburand showing the employee parking lot and Chestnut Street

A brief glimpse of Harrisburg looking down Chestnut Street from the train station.

picture of staircase and the coach cars of my Amtrak train in Harrisburg, PA

The coach cars of the Pennsylvanian at the Harrisburg Amtrak station.

Picture of the staircases and

We sat at the Harrisburg Amtrak train for 30 minutes while the diesel engine was switched to an electric engine for the rest of the trip.

Then we were off again for the last leg of the train trip.

Picture of Chris Dietz and Alexander Reber

Chris Dietz and Alex Reber joined us in Harrisburg. Chris is Millersburg Borough Council President. I first met them when Chris ran for the state legislature several years ago.

Philadelphia – We’re Here!

The train arrived at the 30th Street Station and we took a shuttle over to the Doubletree Inn in downtown Philadelphia.  What should have been a 10-minute ride turned into an hour’s excursion of narrow roads and circling blocks in an attempt to get to the hotel.  Part of the reason for the long drive was a parade down Broad Street near City Hall in support of Bernie Sanders.

Picture of a larger than life-size Bernie sanders blow-up puppet marching down Broad Street with 100's of his supporters.

“Bernie Sanders” joins the parade in his honor. Feel the Bern. Photo courtesy of Linda Tosti-Lane; she took this picture from our corner room at the DoubleTree Inn.

We have a great view from our 19th floor room as you can see above.  We are also set for staying here for 5 days. 12 sets of towels came with the room!

Picture of our pile of towels.

We’re ready for anything this week! LOL!

After settling in we went to our first party.  It was a welcoming party to the DNC convention for several states including Pennsylvania, California, Colorado and several others. It was held at the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts. Food and a wonderful variety show wrapped up the day for us.

picture of City Hall as seen from the balcony of the Kimmel Center

City Hall as seen from the balcony of the Kimmel Center

picture of One of the live-action flower women at the Kimmel Center standing in a large flower urn waving her arms.

One of the live-action flower women at the Kimmel Center

Picture of the stage at Verizon Symphony Hall at the Kimmel Center with yellow spotlights on the variety show stage.

#DNCinPHL Welcome Party Variety Show at the William Way hosted by Cheryl Lee Ralph. Her husband is PA State Senator Vincent Hughes.

Picture of a gun with a knotted barrel with the words "Stop the Violence" surrounding the gun.

Lighting the Way: National Speakout

Picture of a gun with a knotted barrel with the words "Stop the Violence" surrounding the gun.

Stop Gun Violence

Congressman John Lewis is leading a national speak-out on gun violence. He put together this video to share with everyone why we need to come together and why the “Black Caucus Demands Congress Hold Vote After Shootings”


Organizers hope that folks who live nearby will come to the west side of the US Capitol and fill the mall with our bodies, signs and voices. You can rsvp for the rally here.  If you can’t make this rally, please find your Members of Congress when they come home from the break and ask them to support real gun safety measures before more people die. The killer in Dallas had been “less than honorably” discharged from the military and he should have failed a background check.

Democrats to Hold  ‘ Lighting the Way’

National Speak Out: The Path Forward on Gun Violence

 WHO: Assistant Democratic Leader James E. Clyburn (D-SC), Representative John Lewis (D-GA), Congressional Black Caucus, and Members of the House Democratic Caucus

WHAT and WHY: The House will be adjourning for a VERY long recess and this rally is to point out that they have failed to act on bills to promote gun safety.  If miracles happen, this will be a celebration.

  • Ensuring Universal Background Checks H.R. 1217, Public Safety and Second Amendment Rights Protection Act
  •  Enacting No Fly, No Buy H.R. 1076, Denying Firearms and Explosives to Dangerous Terrorists Act
  • Closing the Charleston Loophole H.R. 3051, Background Check Completion Act
  • Barring Firearm Sales to Hate Crime Offenders H.R. 4603, Hate Crimes Prevention Act

WHEN: Thursday, July 14th at 7:30 PM

 WHERE:  West Lawn of the U.S. Capitol Building

Picture of a gun with a knotted barrel with the words "Stop the Violence" surrounding the gun.

We Need to Save Both Blacks, Police

Elizabeth Warren (D-MA) said it all in her tweet:

“Black Americans shouldn’t be killed in routine traffic stops, and police shouldn’t be killed while protecting and serving their communities.”

Picture of a gun with a knotted barrel with the words "Stop the Violence" surrounding the gun.

Stop Gun Violence

Nel's New Day

Rep. Carolyn McCarthy’s (D-NY) husband was killed in a mass shooting in 1993, the same horrific event that seriously wounded her son. Elected to Congress four years later, she fought for gun safety legislation. Not until 2007 did she succeed—in a small way. During the last session before winter holiday recess that year, Congress passed a law requiring federal agencies to keep up-to-date records on people who might be disqualified from purchasing guns such as those convicted of misdemeanor crimes of domestic violence, those convicted of crimes punishable by imprisonment for more than a year, and those with documented mental health issues.  Other than a vote to renew a ban on plastic firearms in 2013, that’s the last gun safety legislation that got through Congress. Since then, hundreds of thousands of people have died because of firearms, and the number of mass shootings are drastically increasing.

After the 50 deaths…

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Three women holding up posters that say "Love it! Improve it! Medicare for All!"

Add Medicare for All to DNC Platform: My Testimony

Three women holding up posters that say "Love it! Improve it! Medicare for All!"

Advocating for Medicare for All – a universal, single-payer healthcare program. Photo Courtesy of National Nurses United.

The full Democratic Platform Committee is meeting this weekend in Orlando, Florida two weeks prior to the Democratic National Convention. I will be attending the National Convention in Philadelphia as a PA-PLEO (Public Leader/Elected Official) delegate.

My biggest issue is access to health care for all. The Affordable Care Act that was passed in 2010 has gained access to healthcare for more people in the US.  But not for everyone.  It’s time to take the next step to build upon what is currently in place.

So as part of my advocacy for access to Universal Health Care, I wrote and sent in testimony to the entire Platform Committee and to the members of the PA members of the committee for whom I had an email address.

Here’s that testimony.  If the Medicare for All amendment isn’t added to the platform this weekend, I will do what I can to get it back in at the Convention in Philadelphia.

nighttime picture of the US Capita

We need Medicare for All/aka Universal or Single Payer Health Care at both the national and state levels. Picture of the US Capital courtesy of Rep. Katherine Clark.

Health Care for All Rally Harrisburg005

Advocates for Single Payer Healthcare Rallying in 2009 in Harrisburg, PA

Friday, July 08, 2016

RE: Adding Medicare for All Amendment to the DNC Platform: My Story

To Whom It May Concern:

I’m writing to ask you to add the Medicare for All amendment language into the Democratic Platform.  As I understand, the amendment language that is being proposed says,

“While making various changes would improve the ACA, the social insurance model, single-payer system, is our goal, and we will continue to fight for it. Health care is a fundamental human right and an important measure of social justice. Achieving universal health care will not come from mandating everyone to buy a health insurance policy from a private insurance company. Instead, we must build on the experience of Medicare, which shows that the most cost-effective and equitable way to provide quality care is through a single-payer system. “Medicare for all” would require updating and expanding the program’s benefits to fit the working population and children, as well as negotiating prices with physicians, providers, and with Pharmaceutical companies for medications that working families–and the country–can afford. Until we achieve a -payer model at the national level states should be allowed to implement universal, publicly financed health care coverage on their own so long as that coverage is affordable and provides a full range of benefits, commensurate with the requirements that apply to all states under the ACA.”

I strongly urge you to add this paragraph into the platform.  FYI, I have read the entire ACA (yes, I’m a glutton for punishment – J ).  I read the entire ACA when it was passed because I wanted to make sure that individuals who have to have a transplant would have both their treatment as well as the treatment of their donor covered without a fight amongst the insurance companies.    I almost died in 1989 because of such a fight – two insurance companies fighting over who would NOT pay for the donor portion of my bone marrow transplant and the hospital refusing to do the transplant until they were guaranteed payment by one or both of the insurance companies.

Here’s an excerpt of my story.  You can read the full story here on my blog — https://civilrightsadvocacy.net/2013/02/20/why-i-support-universal-health-care-a-right-not-a-privilege/.

My life was threatened by the multi-company, private health insurance system we currently have.

I received a bone marrow transplant in 1989 from my identical twin sister. Although I had no problem finding a match, I had to jump through many hoops and barriers put up by the two health insurance companies covering my sister and myself. In the case of my insurance provider, I was refused coverage of the donor portion of the transplant because my twin sister wasn’t on my health insurance plan. In the case of my twin sister’s insurance provider, they refused to cover her portion of the transplant because she “wasn’t sick.” Then the hospital administration said that they would not perform the transplant until this conflict between the two insurance agencies was resolved with a guarantee of payment by either or both companies. And my doctors said that if the resolution did not occur rapidly, I would be dead within the year due to the seriousness of the form of leukemia that I had.

According to Health Care for America, health insurance companies profit by denying–not by providing–healthcare. Health insurance CEOs of the top 10 health insurance companies today typically enjoy an average of $10,000,000 in annual compensation–salary, bonuses, stock options, etc.

Back to my story. I went into battle mode against the insurance companies when I was told that they would let me die because of their bottom line and attempts to deny coverage. Because of the support and advocacy I had through the organization where I self-purchased my health insurance (the National Organization for Women), we were finally able to get me the life-saving transplant that I needed. And I am here today.

This experience is why I became an advocate for a single-payer health care system rather than the current system that allows private companies the ability to deny critical health care to “save” their bottom line for profit only….

Other Reasons why I support a Universal Health Care Plan at Either the National or State Level.

  • It is the ethical and moral to treat all people, regardless of economics or status when they are sick….
  • Some statesare threatening people’s health care and lives based on decisions either by their legislature and/or their governors….
  • A Single Payer, Universal Healthcare program would cover everyone….

As a result of this experience I became actively involved as a member of the board of Healthcare for All PA Education Fund. This non-profit organization is advocating for passage of the Pennsylvania Health Care Plan (HB 1688) (prime sponsor, Pam DeLissio (D-Bucks County).

Thus, given my personal and passionate support for Healthcare for All, and the fact that the US spends 2.5 times the average of other industrialized countries, yet we don’t provide healthcare to everyone; and that Medical outcomes such as infant mortality and life expectancy, and equality of access, are much better in other countries; and that 58% of all Americans support Medicare for All, including 81% of Democrats, we hereby call upon the Democratic Party to adopt this amendment into the Platform of the Democratic Party

Thank you.

Joanne L. Tosti-Vasey, Ph.D.

PA-PLEO Delegate to the Democratic National Convention

Joanne standing in front of a bookcase holding up a sign saying "Rise" to action

Joanne advocating for Medicare for All. Help us advocate for this issue at the national convention through my GoFundMe account. See my PS.

PS. If you’d like to assist me and my friends to attend the Convention in Philadelphia, please check out my GoFundMe site at gofund.me/going2DNCnPhilly. This  will help in my ongoing advocacy for access to healthcare for all.  Thanks.

Send Us to the Democratic National Convention

rosie-the-riveter

We Can Do It!

I am an advocate of women’s civil rights and open, transparent governance in the United States and have been selected as a Pennsylvania PLEO (Public Leader/Elected Official) delegate representing Bernie Sanders at the Democratic National Convention.

As a civil rights activist and an advocate for government transparency and access, I will be looking for and advocating for the following in the platform (which I believe in general both Bernie and Hilary agree with):

  1. Universal health care;
  2. Full Reproductive justice including access to abortions and birth control;
  3. A call for a paper trail on all voter ballots so that we don’t lose voters;
  4. Better access to voting ( same-day voting, mail-in paper ballots, no photo id, etc)
  5. Ending Violence against women;
  6. Non-discrimination in general; and
  7. Living wages and a call for a livable minimum wage tied to something like the Consumer Price Index.

I am trying to raise a minimum of $1,850 through GoFundMe to help two, possibly three of my friends and family participate in the convention with me as much as possible.  This will help defray the costs of both delegates (me) and non-delegates (friends and family) to participate in the convention activities.

It is very expensive to travel to and attend this convention.  The hotel room and food while we are in Philadelphia will cost us $3250.00.  And that doesn’t include the cost of travel from California and Washington and one other state where my activist friends live and work.  When you donate you will help those who are not otherwise able to attend to see democracy at work.

The convention is scheduled for July 24-29, 2016. Your donations through my GoFundMe campaign before this time will help us attend.

We are grateful for any funds you are willing to provide.  Thank you so much in advance.  We all appreciate it.

For government transparency, democracy, and fair treatment of all!

And one more time… Here’s the GoFundMe link.  Please donate and share.  We’d really appreciate it.

Thanks for your support!

https://www.gofundme.com/going2DNCnPhilly

Why Bernie vs Hillary Matters More Than People Think

What type of Democratic party will we have in the future?

I want another president with the compassion and concerns of Franklin and Eleanor Roosevelt. Both of them spoke for equality and economic growth for all. That’s what I’d like to see in this presidential election year.

Benjamin Studebaker

Lately the internet has become full of arguments about the merits and demerits of Bernie Sanders and Hillary Clinton. Over the past couple weeks, I’ve been discussing and pondering all the various views about this, and I’m increasingly of the opinion that most of the people engaging in this debate don’t really understand what is at stake in the democratic primary. This is in part because many Americans don’t really understand the history of American left wing politics and don’t think about policy issues in a holistic, structural way. So in this post, I want to really dig into what the difference is between Bernie and Hillary and why that difference is extremely important.

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Infographic: The Multi-Racial and Ethnic Shift in America

We are all of mixed race and ethnicity. This infographic showing the change of face in the United States along with the description of race and ethnicity does a great, succinct job of explaining this statistical change in the US population.

Mixed American Life

The country is slowly becoming more like a “rainbow,” according to a new book by Paul Taylor and Pew Research called “The Next America”.

Defining Mixed

These groups are all mixed in their heritage.

  1. Hispanic people are mixed by definition. Hispanic is not a race and Latin American countries have not had anti-miscegenation laws like the U.S. Most Latinos are part Amerindian mixed with some part(s) Spanish / Portuguese / Black.
  2. Black people have been mixed with others since the founding of the U.S., sometimes by choice and sometimes by force (enslavement rape). Compare the common skin tone of African-Americans to the common skin tone of Africans from Africa.
  3. Asian people have been mixing with others since anti-miscegenation laws have been abolished in the U.S.
  4. Other people includes Native American (1%) and Mixed people.
  5. White people are often mixed with ‘5 shades of White’, or they are White Latino, or…

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How To Explain The Benghazi And Planned Parenthood Hearings To Your Two-Year-Old Daughter

Erin Matson

What’s this? 

It’s a hearing, sweetie. And we need to talk about something important.

What do you notice about the people asking questions?

Yes, they seem mad. Really mad. What else?

That’s right. They’re almost all boys. Usually when boys grow up we should call them men.

Now what about the person getting yelled at?

Yes, she’s not a boy.

So this is not fair, but it’s true: There are a lot of boys who grew up thinking they were better than girls.

Why?

People were mean and they were wrong in the old days. They thought only boys could be strong, and only girls should take care of other people. I know, that’s not at all like your friends! Now boys play with dolls, and girls are great at running and jumping and playing baseball.

Unfortunately, it’s pretty hard for people to let go of things they learned when they were little, even when those things…

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The Federal State-Based Universal Health Care Waiver Act of 2015

banner picture of Universal Healthcare from http://www.healthcareforallcolorado.org/

One Agenda: Universal Health Care.
Picture courtesy of Healthcare for All Colorado

As part of the Affordable Care Act (ACA), states have been given the ability to innovate or create their own form of health care insurance or coverage starting on January 1, 2017 AS LONG AS “benefits are at least as comprehensive and affordable as those offered by Qualified Health Plans available on the Exchanges,” according to Representative Jim McDermott (D-WA-7).

As a result, at least 14 states—California, Colorado, Hawaii, Illinois, Maine, Maryland, Minnesota, Missouri, , New York, Ohio, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Vermont, and Washington—have community advocates and state legislators working towards implementing a state-level form of universal health care. They have been working for affordable healthcare access for all residents of their states before and since the Affordable Care Act – aka Obamacare – was passed in 2010.

Now that the US Supreme Court has basically settled the fact that the ACA is constitutional both on June 28, 2012 (Florida v. Department of Health and Human Services) and again on June 25, 2015 (King v. Burwell), we can consider ways to improve our healthcare system at both the state and federal level. As a medical doctor and a member of Congress, McDermott voted for the ACA. He also recognizes that “still more needs  to be done to control costs, improve care, and cover everyone.”

One way to further control these costs and improve health care while covering everyone is to create a universal health care system which I’ve previously blogged about (see here, here, here, here, and here). That means we either have the federal government create a federal single payer plan OR we use the waiver clause in the ACA to help states create their own universal single-payer health care program.

Yet even with the waiver currently allowed within the ACA for innovative state-based health care plans, creating a state-based universal care plan that saves funds for states and individuals while providing health care access to all has a big hurdle to overcome. Rep. McDermott explained this issue in a speech on the floor of the House of Representatives on July 28:

One of the many achievements of the Affordable Care Act is its provisions that grant states the authority to innovate in their health care systems. Under Section 1332 of the law, a state may apply for a State Innovation Waiver that will provide it with control of federal dollars that otherwise would have been spent on premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions for its residents. Through this waiver, a state may design a system to cover its residents, so long as benefits are at least as comprehensive and affordable as those offered by Qualified Health Plans available on the Exchanges.

However, even with this flexibility, numerous barriers limit states’ ability to design true single-payer systems. Existing waivers are narrow in scope, requiring states to seek out imperfect and convoluted solutions to circumvent federal limitations. A sweeping preemption provision in the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA) denies states authority to regulate employer-sponsored health plans. And, due to the complexities of our existing federal health programs, it is essentially impossible for a state to design a single benefit package that can be administered simply and efficiently on behalf of all of its residents.

This speech was McDermott’s announcement that he was introducing HR 3241, aka the “State-Based Universal Health Care Act of 2015:” If passed, this bill would allow states to apply for a universal health care waiver that would allow them to have access to and authority over federal health care dollars that would otherwise be spent on the residents of that state. More specifically, this additional waiver act goes beyond the ACA to deal with the hurdles mentioned above. The new provisions of this law, according to McDermott, would waive all of the following:

  • The rules governing premium tax credits and cost-sharing reductions, as provided for in existing waiver authority under Section 1332 of the ACA.

  • Provisions necessary for states to pool funds that otherwise would be spent on behalf of residents enrolled in Medicare, Medicaid, CHIP, TRICARE, and the Federal Employee Health Benefits Program.

  • ERISA’s preemption clause, which cur-rently forbids states from enacting legislation relating to employee health benefit program

After the introduction of HR 3241, the House referred this bill to five committees — the Committee on Energy and Commerce, the Committee on Ways and Means, the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the Committee on Armed Services, and the Committee on Education and the Workforce. I believe that the large number of committee referrals was done because of the need to review all of the different laws that this waiver would impact.

You can read the bill in its entirety here.

I am pleased that this bill has been introduced. It however needs many co-sponsors and advocates to pressure Congress to actually hear, review, and pass this legislation. Please contact your US Representative and ask her/him to co-sponsor Representative Jim McDermott, MD’s bill HR 3241. Here’s the lookup page to find your US. Representative by zip code.

As this is the summer, your Representative should be in the home district. Call, write, set up a meeting and tell her/him why you want to see a universal health care program in your state and why this bill is so necessary. If your Representative agrees to sign on, have him/her contact Mr. McDermott’s aides that are focusing on this issue. They are Jayme Shoun, located in Seattle at (206) 553-7170 and Daniel Foster, Health Counsel in the DC Office at (202) 225-3106.

Thanks.