What To Do About Honduras – Is it Injustice or Justice Served?

I’m conflicted about what to think about the recent ouster of Honduran president Jose Manuel Zelaya.  The military showed up on his door in the early morning hours last week and flew him out of the country while still wearing his PJs. The reason? He had been trying to hold a voter referendum to change the Honduran constitution so he could run for another term (the current constitution only allows for one term). Technically the referendum was illegal so many supporters of the ouster are claiming removing Zelaya was a legitimate military action to uphold the law. Others (including our media and most Western leaders) are calling it a coup.

In the opinion of one of my contacts in Honduras, from the non-profit ACTA de Honduras, the military’s actions were actually upholding the law (and upholding a ruling by the Supreme Court to have Zelaya arrested).  The pictures in our news media are of violent clashes between demonstrators and police, including a few days ago at the Tegucigalpa airport when Zelaya tried to land his plane but was kept out by military aircraft.

Alessandra has pointed out the thousands of Hondurans marching in peace marches across the country, which our media is not reporting.  Also that the military was just following the orders of the Honduran Supreme Court. So who gets to decide this one? The world political leaders or Hondurans? I’m still not sure what to think but I do think our media and our leaders need to pay closer attention to what the Honduran people want.

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Paid Family Leave Means Stronger Families

Sometimes I get tired of hearing how far America lags behind other countries in so many areas – kids’ math scores, life expectancy, impossibility of finding a good loaf of bread, to name a few.  When it comes to paid family leave for new img_0746parents , America’s lack of options for workers is appalling and we need to be talking about it.  Loudly. That’s why I’ve asked my Oregon state legislators to support the effort to pass Paid Family Leave.

My beautiful state of Oregon is far ahead of some states. We were one of the first states to grant workers up to 12 weeks unpaid time off with their job guaranteed at the end of that time. Now that law is federal, but even with the option of 12 weeks off, for many families going that long without a paycheck is a hardship they can’t withstand, so moms still return within weeks or even days. Numerous studies have shown that, when moms return too soon to work, breastfeeding rates plummet which dramatically increases childhood illnesses. In turn, in the long run moms end up missing many more days from work later on to care for sick kids.

As a fairly new mom myself, I know how important those first few months are to recover from delivery, bond with the new baby and figure out how to do this motherhood thing. I can’t imagine if I’d had to return to work in those early, exhausting, sleep-deprived days.  Because I couldn’t stand the thought of returning to a 40+ hour work week within just three months of having a baby, I quit my job altogether and started my own business so I could be my own boss.

The United States keeps pretty deplorable company when it comes to not offering paid family leave. 168 countries across the globe, most much poorer economically than the US, offer some sort of paid leave for women after childbirth. The US is the only developed nation not to offer this. Other nations that don’t offer paid leave include Liberia, Swaziland and Papau New Guinea. Shocking, I know. Every European nation and most Asian, Latin American and African nations offer it. Maybe we should take a hint and recognize the incredible societal benefit (including lower health costs) of giving families the opportunity to be families when they need to be and to be workers when they need to be, without the risk of losing their income.

Join me in speaking out for Paid Family Leave and learn more at Time To Care For Oregon Families.

One Thing We Can All Agree On

I feel oh-so-proud today. Last night our nation elected the first ever African-American president. No matter where we all fall on the political spectrum, one thing we can all agree on is that this result is monumental.

My eyes filled with tears when, at exactly 8pm PST, CNN declared Obama our next president-elect. Although it seemed inevitable, I would not allow myself to believe it could be possible until it in fact was not only possible but reality.

I’ve continued to tear up all day today whenever I hear bits of Obama’s speech played on NPR. I cry because I am inspired by his words. I cry because I can not remember being inspired by a president’s words in my lifetime. And more than anything I cry because his election to the presidency immediately transformed the world’s view of our nation. The New York Times put it so well this morning:

From far away, this is how it looks: There is a country out there where tens of millions of white Christians, voting freely, select as their leader a black man of modest origin, the son of  a Muslim. There is a place on earth – call it America – where such a thing happens. (Read more…)

Obama identifies with so many parts of the world it’s crazy. Son of a Kenyan – Africa calls him one of their own. Step-son to an Indonesian and a resident for part of his childhood – much of Asia can consider him one of them. Son to a white mother of midwest roots – he connects with the Bible belt (although he didn’t win his mother’s home state of Kansas last night). Son of a Muslim – the Muslim community can be proud. Married to an African-American woman and a resident of a largely African-American city – the black community loves him. A believing, faithful Christian man – so many citizens of his country share his faith.

All of this diversity embodied in one man is significant because, as his campaign showed, he can draw people from any and every background together. No, Obama’s political platform isn’t for everyone. But each and every one of us, in some way, can find a piece of ourselves in him and recognize that America has entered a new era. That is something we can all agree on.

Toddler Politics

Here’s my 21-month old, Grace, declaring her choice for president. Maybe it was slightly coerced…

Tomorrow Is A Big Day

Just a quick post to say how excited I am for tomorrow night’s election results to come in. My friend Kecia and I will be glued to my TV until the winner is announced, hopefully earlier than later. Somehow the results seem a given but I won’t breathe with relief until they’re in. And then I’ll be waiting even more expectantly for January, when true CHANGE begins.

Can’t We All Just Get Along? Or At Least Play Nice?

I have been disheartened lately by the barrage of negative ads, phone calls, news coverage, campaigners at my door, and the daily stack of campaign mail. Maybe it’s always like this but this is the first year I’ve been so immersed in campaign coverage. It seems to be more negative than ever. To top it all off I was virtually-attacked by a “friend” on facebook (an acquaintance, actually) for my choice in presidential candidate. Her confrontation touched on my faith, my standing with God, my wisdom, my judgment, my intelligence, and the list goes on and on. I also have had some nasty comments posted on my blog in response to posts I didn’t even think were political. I welcome comments that challenge my views on my blog, but I don’t post them unless they’re respectful. Why does it all have to get so dirty?

When this election is over and the winner is known, we all have to live together. How are we going to move ahead after viciously attacking each other? I don’t know how the candidates will do it – whoever wins president, the other one will still be in the Senate. Are they just going to act like neither said all the things they both, in fact, said?

I do have some hope. Quite a bit in fact. Last night we had a good friend over for dinner while his wife is out of town. Over grilled salmon we discovered he’s on the fence of who to choose for president. We had a really interesting discussion of the pros and cons of both candidates, hesitations we each had about both candidates, etc. It was wonderful and engaging even when we disagreed. I don’t know who he’ll vote for but I’m grateful we talked and he challenged me to look closely at why I support my candidate.

I also had a good discussion with a friend during a girl’s weekend at the beach a few weeks ago. She’s a Republican and, in all earnestness, I asked her why. She’s an intelligent woman whom I trust and so I honestly wanted to hear how she arrived at her political views. Because I asked in openness, not in an attempt to sway her or attack her, she responded openly herself and we had several healthy conversations during the course of the weekend. She helped open my eyes to things I hadn’t considered, as did our friend at dinner last night. Thank you to both of you for that.

The key as I see is not swaying everyone I know to share my views. Instead we should all be striving for open, earnest dialogue where we don’t agree. We have so much to learn from each other. When we violently attack, we shut people down, eliminating any chance of true dialogue. I hope the candidates can figure out how to do this. More importantly, I hope I can be someone who does this.

Voting In Oregon Is Fun

I love Oregon’s vote-by-mail system. About three weeks before elections our ballots come in the mail. Then we the voters get to pick when and where we vote. No long lines on election day. No hanging chads. No realization in the polling box that I have no idea how to vote on the Tigard-Tualatin School levy or who to choose for city council.

Steve and I have a long-standing tradition now of holding our own “voting party.” We don’t invite anyone else, just the two of us, take-out pizza, a good bottle of wine, the voters’ guides, a laptop computer and our ballots. We actually look forward to our “voting party,” which we held last Wednesday night. Online we referred to the Oregonian’s voter’s guide, the Oregonian’s endorsements, the city of Tualatin’s website and good ol’ Google.

It took about two hours to finish our pizza, wine and ballots. We had some hearty debate about whether to choose Gordon Smith or Jeff Merkley for Senate (they each got one vote from our household) and whether or not to approve Tualatin’s parks and rec measure (no – seemed to include too many unnecessary extras).  We shared our disgust with all of Bill Sizemore’s ridiculous measures.  We agreed that we needed to support the extension of the Tigard-Tualatin school levy and emergency services levy.

Voting in this manner turns the election into an informational process for me. I wouldn’t have known anything about our city council members but, because many were up for reelection, I read about them online and know what they stand for. If the levies I voted for pass, I’ll know where that part of my tax dollars are going.  I appreciate our state’s system which allows me to become informed in the comfort of my home, with my ballot in front of me and trusted resources at my fingertips.

No matter what type of voting system your state has, make sure you vote this year. It’s important for you, your community, and, more than ever, for our country.

Women Helping Women May Mean Not Choosing A Woman

I’ve built my business Bambootique on the foundation that when women help other women, the whole world changes for the better. So when my blogging buddy Cheryl Janis alerted me to Sarah Palin’s misquote of Madeline Albright and its rampage through cyberspace a few days ago, my ears perked up.

Palin’s miquote of Albright, which she discovered on a Starbucks’ cup, was:

There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t support other women.

Albright’s actual quote on the cup reads:

There’s a special place in hell for women who don’t help other women.

Now I believe wholeheartedly in women helping other women. The power of women banding together to do good is incredible. However I don’t appreciate being hit over the head with the implication that I (or the majority of America’s women, if the polls are correct) are intrisically evil if we don’t support Palin because we share her gender. The agenda she brings to the table will do far more to harm women than her breaking Washington’s glass ceiling would do to benefit us. I have seen little in her agenda that would empower me or other women to be better wives, mothers, daughters, community activists or career women.  As Madeline Albright, an Obama supporter, responded to Palin’s misquote: “this election is not about gender.”  Governor Palin, my support for women everywhere will be demonstrated wholeheartedly by my choice for president. Manipulation and guilt will not be a factor.

Healthcare Is A Human Right And Our Nation Is Violating It

Watching last night’s presidential debate with our good friends, Jeff and Becky, sparked many interesting discussions. Although it was not the central topic of the debate, of particular interest was our conversation about universal healthcare. Is it a right or a privilege?

I believe it’s a basic right and our nation violates it every single day. The Declaration of Independence starts with:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalieanble rights, that among them are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

We have declared since the foundation of our nation that all our citizens have the right to life, and yet everyday someone goes bankrupt who can’t pay his healthcare bills or somebody dies because she couldn’t pay for her prescription medicine.  Our market-based system has allowed costs to sky-rocket to the point that we are all just one illness away from catastrophe, regardless of our coverage. My husband is a physician and we have excellent health insurance but even it has limits on what it will cover for us.

We universally cover everyone in our country with police and fire protection. The fire department would never put out a fire at someone’s house and then a few days later send them a bill so astronomical they had to sell what was left of that house to pay for it. We would be shocked and outraged if that happened. But that happens all the time to people who go to the hospital in our country without health insurance. They are treated in the emergency room or even admitted for care. They go home once they are stable and then the bills start trickling in, bills that can take everything they have.

No other developed nation does this! From Taiwan (see clip above) to Canada to Switzerland to Germany and Japan, every other developed nations and even some developing, like Thailand, have figured out ways to make sure everyone has healthcare.

And it’s not all “socialized,” that is, it’s not all government delivered. Ten years Switzerland had a privatized healthcare system similar to ours. Their citizens decided they were sick (literally) of some people slipping through the cracks. They kept their private insurance companies but made sure no one could be denied by an insurance company and put a few rules in place to make sure everyone could afford it as well.

It’s also a false rumor that if you have universal healthcare, the quality slips.  PBS created an excellent documentary, Frontline’s Sick Around The World (see clips above), which you can watch in full online in addition to the clips I’ve posted here.  In it the witty host, T.R. Reid, visits multiple developed nations and asks them how they do healthcare. He finds that not only does nobody in any of those nations ever go bankrupt from healthcare bills, he finds that in general people are satisfied with their care and it’s still high-quality.

Healthcare outcomes tracked by organizations like the World Health Organization back up the quality of care in other developed nations. The U.S. falls embarrassingly low in health measures compared to other countries of equal or even lesser wealth, even though we spend more per capita than any other nation in the world! For infant mortality rates, we rank 32nd among the world’s nations, on par with countries like Poland and Slovakia. More than 5 of every 1000 babies born die in our country. In Japan that number is under 2 per 1000.

Our two presidential candidates both have plans of some sort. McCain’s plan will cause just as many people to lose health insurance as will gain it. His plan is a wash. Obama’s plan will leave our private system in place but adjust it so it works for us, adding a government buy-in plan for people whose employers do not offer healthcare, among many facets. His plan is not perfect by any stretch but it’s a huge leap in the right direction.

Obama has a decent plan. McCain essentially has no plan. For me, the choice is clear.

See my previous post about healthcare, including a link to a table comparing the two candidate’s plans.

Some Thoughts On The U.S. Healthcare System

I’m concerned about healthcare in our country. Deeply concerned. The facts are that over 45 million Americans do not have access to health insurance and most of those people (80%) are part of working families. America spends more per person on healthcare than European countries with universal coverage and yet we leave millions of our citizens in the dust. We are subject to an incredibly inefficient system motivated by profits rather than the health of our citizens. I’m married to a physician and hear regularly his concerns about patients who fall between the cracks and don’t have insurance, and therefore can’t get the care they need.

But neither the impersonal facts nor my husband’s daily experience are what really upset me this week. What made this reality of inequity and lack of access hit home was when a good friend confided in me that she and her toddler son were denied health insurance. She recently quit her full-time job to stay home with her son but was denied coverage when she went to buy insurance through a well-known healthcare system. The reason? She had kidney stones last year. And why would an insurance company deny coverage for a healthy 18-month old? Because he has had ear infections! What toddler hasn’t had ear infections?

My friend was finally able to find insurance through a more expensive plan but many people are not so lucky. Her experience demonstrates that none of us are truly safe in our country’s healthcare system. It is beyond faulty, it is intolerable. I believe healthcare is a right of every American, not just for those who are lucky enough to have employers who provide it.

My plea to you, my blog readers, is to please make healthcare a part of your decision-making in the presidential election. I’m unabashedly an Obama supporter but you can make up your own mind. Look closely at both candidate’s plans and see which one you like best. Even if you and your family have quality, affordable healthcare, remember under our current system that may not always be the case. Our current system is a disaster and clearly unjust.

Who do you think has the better healthcare plan? How important is healthcare as you make your decision for president?