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Could Vermont change the healthcare game?

Click here to watch on MSNBC.com

From MSNBC's UP With Steve Kornacki: "Could Vermont’s single-payer health care experiment be a game changer? Vermont State Rep. Chris Pearson joins the UP panel to discuss."

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As Vermont Goes, So Goes the Nation?

April 5, 2014; Molly Worthen; New York Times

"Three years ago, Peter Shumlin, the governor of Vermont, signed a bill creating Green Mountain Care: a single-payer system in which, if all goes according to plan, the state will regulate doctors’ fees and cover Vermonters’ medical bills. Mr. Shumlin is a Democrat, and the bill’s passage is a credit to his party. Yet a small upstart spent years building support for reform and nudging the Democrats left: the Vermont Progressive Party. The Progressives owe much of their success to the oddities of Vermont politics. But their example offers hope that the most frustrating dimensions of our political culture can change, despite obstacles with deep roots in American history."

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Resolution on Justice for Trayvon Martin

WHEREAS, Trayvon Martin was murdered at point blank range by George Zimmerman for “walking while black” in a neighborhood where Trayvon was staying with his father, after Zimmerman racially profiled and followed Trayvon, despite being told by police to stay in his car;

WHEREAS, the acquittal of George Zimmerman exposes the blatant racism inherent in our judicial system and the effect that racial bias has on prosecutors, juries, and the media;

WHEREAS, African-Americans in similar situations have been convicted and are serving jail sentences for attempting to defend themselves from bodily harm, notably in the case of Marissa Alexander (also of Florida), a victim of domestic violence who was attacked by her husband and fired a bullet into the ceiling; although there was no injury to her attacker, she was given a prison sentence of 20 years;

WHEREAS, the Police Departments of Burlington, South Burlington, UVM and Winooski have participated in data collection on racial disparities in traffic stops since 2009 and a 2012 report on that data concluded there were significant racial disparities in traffic stops, outcomes of stops, arrests and searches;

THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party condemns the racial biases in our judicial system and at all levels of government and urges our fellow citizens, both those in and out of public office, to ask themselves what they can do to address this ongoing and pervasive problem of racism in our culture;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party urges the Department of Justice to bring federal charges against George Zimmerman;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party will work towards ensuring that racial disparities in traffic stops, and in the criminal justice system generally, are eliminated by 2018 by advocating for more training and oversight for police;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party will advocate that all school districts be required to produce annual reports on racial disparities in disciplinary actions in the schools, with a goal of ending such disparities by 2018;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party will advocate for increased recruitment and hiring of people of color by state and local government and school districts throughout Vermont;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party will advocate for increased anti-racism and cultural diversity training for employees of state and local government and school districts throughout the state;

AND BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED that the Vermont Progressive Party will continue to actively work against racism in our communities, in ourselves, and structural racism in our institutions of education and government.

Adopted August 10, 2013

H.732

With the introduction of H.732, co-sponsored by Rep. Susan Hatch Davis, Vermont is the 12th state to introduce legislation that would block some of the effects of mass data collection by the National Security Agency (NSA). The bill as drafted proposes to prohibit the State from assisting or participating in the collection of electronic data or metadata by the federal government or from using any of the data collected unless it is obtained pursuant to a warrant issued by a court.

Read an article on H.732 here >>

Read the full bill here >>

Dramatic Events

If the spirit of liberty should vanish in other parts of the Union and the support for our institutions languish, it could all be replenished from the generous store held by the people of this brave little state of Vermont." – Calvin Coolidge

It was a dark night in Wisconsin for the 99% of citizens in this country and for democracy.  The onslaught of Citizen United unlimited Corporate money in Wisconsin created an enormous funding gap: $30 million for the Republican Governor (mostly from out of state) vs $4 million for the Democrat (raised mostly in-state).  That kind of David and Goliath contest threatens the very foundations of our country.

We are fortunate, here in Vermont, that we have not yet seen that level of attack on our democratic process.  We are lucky that one of our political leaders has spent 40 years educating Vermonters about the disparity of wealth and power in politics.

Sen. Bernie Sanders has done as much as any one person could to inoculate Vermonters against the big money and negative advertising that can buy an election. Because he has talked about the concentration of wealth in the hands of 1% of the US population for 40 years, the Occupy Wall Street message was not news to Vermonters.

We understand that wealthy and powerful interests are not paying their fair share and that they are gambling with taxpayer money on Wall Street. We understand that if banks are too big to fail, they are free to pocket millions and then ask for a bail out when their financial risk-taking jeopardizes our whole economy.

We must not take democracy for granted.  In Michigan, the Governor is disbanding the elected mayors and city councils and appointing financial tsars to run whole towns and cities.  In the name of national security, Congress has given the president the authority to shoot US citizens on sight by designating them as terrorists without any court order or review process.

This idea of Corporate personhood has swept across our land and we, the real people, must meet this challenge to our future by getting involved in our democracy, by supporting candidates and parties that represent our interests, with shoe leather and with generous donations.  We must make consumer decisions that support our communities and our neighbors, the small businesses we value and withdraw our support as much as we can from the multinational conglomerates and their wealthy shareholders.  

Vermont is a small state, but we can keep the flame of liberty alive until the rest of the country is ready to rekindle theirs.

Americans Elect: A Political Ghost Ship Ripe for Boarding

May 21, 2012; EIN News; Joe Rothstein

Americans Elect was cut loose by its builders the other day, and now, like an abandoned ghost ship, it’s drifting through a crowded, foggy political harbor.

Americans Elect was a top-down effort by a few deep-pocketed optimists intent on luring a “centrist” candidate to challenge for the presidency. The bait was pre-qualification on the ballots of all 50 states, plus an on-line constituency of millions. The dream was that New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg would agree to run and write a megabucks check to pay for his own campaign.

But neither Bloomberg nor anyone else worthy of the effort took the bait. In a statement recognizing their failure the organizers said “We are continuing the Americans Elect mission of creating more choice in our political system, giving candidates unaffiliated with the nominating process of either major party an authentic way to run for office and giving the American people a greater voice in our political process.”

What does that mean? It means that a political ghost ship has been launched. A ship without a rudder that has secured presidential ballot lines in 29 states with more than the 270 electoral votes needed to punch a ticket for the White House. The momentum generated by the Americans Elect effort is likely to secure it places on even more state ballots.

And not just in 2012. Once qualified, political parties can remain on ballots in most states as long as their candidates attract a minimum number of votes. And not just for President. Enough people organizing within the various states under the Americans Elect banner can take control of the nominating process, from governor to county clerk. They can even change their party’s name, to something like, for example, “Tea Party Elects” or “Progressive Party for Change.”

Just like a ghost ship, which under maritime law can be claimed by whomever captures her, Americans Elect is now adrift, waiting to be boarded.

Clearly, the boarding party will not be “centrists.” Americans Elect raised and spent upwards of $25 million trying to form a third-party “centrist” coalition. No, if Americans Elect is captured before it sinks, the new owners will be a much more aggressive crew.

The extreme right doesn’t need to command a new ship, it already has captured the Republican Party. The Libertarians already are on the ballot in most states and, as a party, draw few votes. The U.S., unlike most western democracies, doesn’t have a viable green party, so that’s a possibility. But at a time of high unemployment, record home foreclosures and all the collateral damage of the Great Recession, environmental concerns are not the center of political action.

So who’s left? Obviously, the Left. The progressive left in American politics is aggressive, reasonably well mobilized and currently the odd-man out when it comes to high octane issues.

Even with a popular Democratic president and an overwhelming congressional majority after the 2008 elections, progressives couldn’t move their agenda. Health care reform was based on proposals whose lineage went from Nixon, through Gingrich, Romney and the right wing Heritage Foundation. Financial reform barely slapped the knuckles of Wall Street oligarchs. Labor and immigration reform never even came up. The mortgage calamity has been largely left to the banks’ tender mercies. Valuable public programs are being gutted and outsourced to appease the debt hawks.

The Republicans have a right wing agenda that’s more extreme than ever and pushing further right with every victory. You can consider the Democrats a centrist party, but with their acceptance of so many private solutions to public programs, center-right would be more accurate. So where’s the left?

The left, it so happens, is in Vermont. The Vermont Progressive Party has 7 elected members in the Vermont legislature and many others on local councils and in other elected positions throughout the state.

While small in numbers compared with Democrats and Republicans, the Vermont Progressive party is vocal and effective. In the May edition of In These Times magazine, party activist Ellen David-Friedman is quoted as saying, “We’ve managed to create enough of an electoral pole outside the Democrats to constantly pull them to the left on policy issues, by dispensing an alternative brand of medicine that’s become increasingly popular.”

It’s no accident that Vermont, with an active progressive party, is the first state to enact its own single payer health plan.

Could the Vermont Progressive Party prove a hopeful petri dish for progressives everywhere? Could it be an inspiration for boarding the good ship Americans Elect and tacking it to the port side of American politics where it could raise its voice and make its case more effectively?

Just a thought, and a suggestion for progressives needing a deck of their own to sail on beyond 2012.

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