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This month has a certain nostalgia for me. I am working the last two shifts in my home, Humboldt County. Nestled between pristine redwoods and dramatic cliffs overlooking the west coast of California, I want to stay here, but cannot. I am feeling the full force of the United States health care crisis. In the four years I have worked in this community of 135,000 people, eight of ten obstetricians in the southern half of the county have left, and now I find I am one of them. There are now only

Two obstetricians, far apart geographically and serving two different hospitals, are all that is left to see obstetric patients in the Southern half of the county. Both doctors are men over 60, who have a tough future ahead of them. Without outside help there is no way they can see all the patients that will need them. They have to remain within 30 minutes of the hospital and can be told to come to work any time of the day or night. They can never have a moment off, a full night’s sleep, a drink of alcohol to ring in the New Year. Watching a full length movie, or having a nice dinner with the spouse without interruption is a thing of the past. Neither of the remaining doctors can get sick or injured. This is really asking them to be super human and there is no cavalry on their horizon. In fact, if Catholic Health Systems is successful at closing one of the two hospitals, only one physician will remain.

As a young person, I wanted to take my medical skills to a disadvantaged third world nation. Looks like I got my wish—right here in the US. How did we get here?

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Has it occurred to you how strange it is that your job can slip across international boundaries, but you are prohibited from crossing the same border to follow that job? It should.

Multinational Corporations have been busy for the last twenty years creating a new type of serf. In feudal Europe and Asia, serfs were tied to the land by a master, called the lord, and obligated to work for him. Now, the 1% are creating serfs out of whole nations of people. Sure, those lands are huge—nations—but they are still boundaries that bind you, and prevent you for selling your work freely, while multinational corporations are borderless entities.

Seeking to continue the tail spin to the bottom of wages, big business has been busy writing international treaties, allowing jobs to shift to ever lower paying environments with the least protections for workers. Australia, Brunei, Chile, Malaysia, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, United States, and Vietnam are already involved in the latest negotiations, the Trans-Pacific Partnership. If signed the treaty will be a “docking agreement” open to any country to sign later. Canada and Mexico are expected to join this month. Japan and China are being courted to join. It is the largest trade agreement the world has ever seen.

The treaty creates an über-government superseding and overriding existing law in sovereign nations--seeking to stamp out democracy. In old feudalism, it was the Catholic church that held dominion over the nations of man. Now “the market” has taken the place of God. Profits are all that matters. Anything the market endorses is right because the market is infallible, unchallengeable. Keep democracy out of it.

The powerful and wealthy have finally found a way to regain the power they once held in feudal times. They have done it in ways intentionally hidden from the majority. Most of us don’t even realize we are in a battle for the type of global governance we will have in the future. For the last 50 years corporate leadership have simply bought our democracies and media outlets, making it easy for corporations to gain the upper hand, and convince voters to support governance that is secretive and totalitarian, without letting voters know they are doing so. Now the 1% want to solidify that power into an actual international treaty. They are seeking one economy under the rule of American corporations. They are, in fact, seeking world dominion.

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We are told we need the law. We need a million rules to ensure everyone has a fair shake,  a level playing field we rely on as we move through life. But if you are lesbian or gay, the majority have recently passed laws giving  people who prefer heterosexual coupling an advantage. The federal government has done nothing to come to this minority’s assistance. These laws are just the latest in a long litany of discriminatory laws.

We are told we need the law to define culture, to give the boundaries of permissible behavior. Yet, do you think you are aware of every law you live under? In every jurisdiction, outdated laws remain on the books. You are likely to have broken some of them without even knowing. In fact, most new endeavors begin with consultation of a lawyer. Legal professionals research for hours to ensure their clients won’t inadvertently break some little known law. Many of these laws unduly invade our private lives to restrict trivial actions, like putting a window in a wall of your home, so the state or some industry can make money.

We are told without the law, our society would crumble into brutish chaos. To me, the image of John Pike, dressed like an SS officer, strutting around a circle of passive students shaking a can of pepper spray, meant to be used at distance on an advancing crowd, is the image of brutish chaos.

Pepper Spray Police

Or perhaps those words conjure up the image of an octogenarian pepper sprayed in the eyes for speaking out against a government that coddles the rich and abuses the poor.

Or the Berkley students night-sticked in the bread basket to discourage peaceful assembly:

Yet, surely our teachers and parents are right. Surely we need the rule of law to guide society. We need some rules.

Or not.

Today we crawl outside one of our deepest and oldest mental boxes to consider the unthinkable—that changes in the law cannot cure society’s ills, because the law, itself,  is part of the problem. Today we take a walk on the wild side in a lawless society.

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[The conversations represented here took place over the last week and are compressed for your reading pleasure. My husband and I are real people and said the things represented here. The rest of the dialogue is provided by intentionally fictionalized characters that are not meant to represent any one person. All sentiments and facts expressed here are genuine to the best of my recollection, but the characters saying them were selected by drawing names from a hat. I, alone, am responsible for this content.]

The Quickening

“They canceled Andrianna’s tubals yesterday,” I inform Steve in the hall outside the conference room. “They didn’t even give her a whole day’s notice so she could talk to her patients before they did it.”

"I got virtually no notice either when they canceled mine on Monday,” he replies.

“Really?” I am shocked by this. I have never heard of a hospital canceling cases so abruptly without involving the surgeon. “Who ordered the cancellations like that?”

“Don’t know. We’re only told the surgery scheduler, but someone gave her the order.”

We enter the conference room to find Norm waiting for us. The other gynecologists filter into the room. Both the hospitals the Sisters of Orange own are represented: the hospital in my town, St. Joseph’s, and the one south of us, Redwood Memorial.

“We had hoped this would blow over but the sisters feel backed into a corner.” Norm starts. “They have no choice but to get tough on this issue.”

“What brought all this on?” Steve asks.

“The edict came down from the new Bishop in Santa Rosa," Norm says, "but we got targeted when they pulled the diagnosis codes for the hospital. It was obvious we were doing more sterilizations than they were in Southern California.”

“In Southern California you can go down the street from any Catholic institution and run into a secular hospital.” I try to defend us. “The Catholic Church bought almost all the hospitals in this area. For the last six years they’ve been trying to drive the last secular hospital under.”

“Never the less, we were doing a lot of tubals for ‛psychological’ reasons.”

“We were hardly doing a lot of sterilizations,” I say. “Other hospitals preform far more tubals a year. The stigma the Church gives the procedure already curtails many woman from asking for sterilization.”

“So what’s the plan?” Steve says, rescuing the meeting from disintegrating into complaints about the Church.

“Nothing.” Norm states. “This is a game we can’t win. The more public pressure the Catholics face, the more they will dig in. We have to keep quiet and wait. That will take the pressure off the nuns. When you’re approached by the media, and you will be approached, my advise is to refer them to the CMO. That’s what he gets paid for. Don’t talk to the media, or write letters to the editor. Don’t talk to your patients about it. We need to keep the lid on this to stop it from blowing up.”

“Too late. The patients already know.” I inform him. We all know there was an article in the local alternative paper, The Journal. The “real” paper in town, the Times Standard, has been silent on the issue. “I spent half an hour at a Pap smear today with an irate woman who vented the whole time about how this was unreasonable and unfair."

“I wouldn’t encourage her. And don’t talk to your staff about this either,” Norm says.

“How am I going to do that? I’m taking my patients to Mad River. They all know why I stopped operating at St. Jo’s.”

“What do you say to the patients?” Steve wants to know.

“The truth. I don’t think it’s fair to deny all the women in an entire county a procedure on religious grounds. And the patients agree with me. I have an eighty year old woman who lives as far south in the county as you can go. I told her why I was taking my patients north, but seeing where she lived and considering her age I told her I would make an exception for her and operate on her at St. Jo's. She told me, ‛Don’t you dare. I don’t want to support that any more than you do.’ This octogenarian wants to drive past the two hospitals the Sisters own to have her surgery at Mad River Hospital.”

“This hospital is facing hard times right now.We're barely holding on ourselves. We can’t afford to lose any patients. We don’t want to lose patients or doctors.” Norm seems genuinely alarmed.

“Great. Go back to the way it was, and I’ll bring my surgeries back to St. Jo’s.” I feel for Norm, but I will not be moved.

“Look, if they made us take all the hysterectomies to ethics committee, the way they threatened to, then I would do the same thing.” Wendy said. “But it’s just the tubals.”

“The only reason they didn’t is because they found out the insurance companies already reviewed all our hysterectomies and would not pay without an adequate medical diagnosis.” I tell her. “They weren’t being magnanimous. They just didn’t want to duplicate the work.”

“You can’t take your surgeries to Mad River.” Quinn, always the practical one, tells me. “I’ve looked at the labor numbers. St. Jo’s is hemorrhaging money in Obstetrics. The hospital will take the Laborist program away. The only reason you came here was for that program. You don’t want to see it die, do you?”

“I don’t.” Everything he says is true. Medicaid doesn’t even cover the cost of deliveries for most hospitals. The one wing devoted exclusively to women is a loss leader for most hospitals in the nation. Obstetricians get treated like the red-headed-step-children of the family of physicians because we don’t make the hospital any money. Having a Laborist program is a rare luxury. It meant I could sleep through the night for the first time in years, watch a whole movie in a theater, have a conversation with my husband--uninterrupted by the other woman...one with vaginal discharge. I do desperately want to keep that indulgence. “It’s not just about what I want. If they take the Laborist program, there's little reason for me to be at St. Jo’s at all. I’ll not just take surgery to Mad River, I’ll take my labor patients as well.”

“If we don’t support the hospital it won’t be there to care for us.” Wendy says. “I for one want a hospital here when I retire.”

“Not taking care of the needs of half of the population is not caring for us.” I can feel my control slipping. “If they are unwilling to serve half the population’s health care needs, what are they doing in the business in the first place? They should sell the hospital—preferably back to the community to be run cooperatively.”

“This happens every seven years or so.” Elroy, the oldest member of our tribe, says. “The last time it was a new nun sent to take over the hospital. She had all the tubals canceled too.”

“How did that get resolved?” I ask.

“She died and it got forgotten.”

“So we’re waiting for the Bishop to die? Or just waiting for him to change his mind?” I say with more than a little heat. “The Bishop isn’t the only one with strong feelings on this.”

“The hospital can make it hard for you.” Adrianna has arrived late to the party due to her patients. “Remember Tony? He got in that spat with the hospital and started talking to people—even people in the Foundation. It got back to the Board of Trustees and they dragged him into Medical Executive Committee. Now he has that mark on his record forever.”

I know she is trying to warn me. I’m no stranger to this tactic. Though I have not seen it used at St Jo’s, I’ve seen it used elsewhere to strike fear into doctors. A hospital will use its power to remove incompetent doctors on a doctor who is medically competent but has a disagreement with the hospital. They sacrifice one physician, ending his or her career, to scare the other physicians into compliant silence. There are even courses for hospital administrators instructing them how to do this effectively. I’ve avoided such abuses of power so far, but I’ve seen it used time and again on colleagues.

“Look, it’s not just our patients. I was already scheduled to talk about this subject on a national level. I can’t act like it’s not happening to me on a personal level as well. You see, I’m an editor of this blog...”

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In an unprecedented move, we are delaying the publication of our regular Anti-capitalist meet-up diary to bring you a special report.  Four hours ago, several hundred US citizens and residents, reportedly members of OWS (Occupy Wall Street), occupied both chambers of the United States Congress.

Corporate media sources have refused to report the event until control can be reestablished by authorities. However, according to Al Gazeera, who just started running a live stream an hour ago, the occupiers entered both houses and forced the Senate into the House of Representatives Chamber for a joint session.  We can only speculate whether the occupiers used guns to force the Senators into the Chamber or simply took over using the force of their numbers. We understand they dismantled the microphones in the chamber and began a General Assembly using the human microphone.

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Sun Feb 19, 2012 at 03:00 PM PST

Anti-Capitalist Meet Up: School's Out

by TPau

Sara Schmidt is not just talking about changing education, she is actually in the trenches. She is unschooling her daughter and she has given us a wonderful essay about it.

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Sun Jan 01, 2012 at 03:00 PM PST

Anti-Capitalist Meet Up: Entelechy

by TPau

entelechy
en-TEL-uh-kee\ , noun;
     1. A realization or actuality as opposed to a potentiality.
     2. In vitalist philosophy, a vital agent or force directing growth and life.

My husband pecks my cheek and heads off through the cacophony of clanging metal, buzzers, and  ringing bells that is his playground. We are on the road, and have forgotten to get cash for lunch. It would be an easy crisis to remedy, but it gives him an opportunity to show off his talent. I stand at the edge of the action, unable to banish my ill ease at seeing the money in our pockets put at risk so he can exercises his inexplicable power.

He cruises up and down the rows of noisy machines, looking from side to side. Other patrons sit with their backs to him, focused on their own trials with fate. A Native American woman offers him a drink, but he declines. Instead, he tilts his head, like a spaniel listening to a whistle pitched too high for the human ear. He turns away from her, and takes a seat in front of a one armed bandit. In five pulls, the machine gives up its bounty with the loud clang of coins dropping into the metal tray below the spinning symbols of fruit. He scoops up the riches and stalks another machine. Eight pulls later he has enough for both our meals at the best restaurant in the casino.

The first time he did this, the logical one in the family informed him that he was playing into the casino's evil plan by deluding himself that he had some sort of gift. The house plays the odds, which clearly can not be altered. He might win here and there, but, over time, they have the better odds, and will always get more money than they give. Now, I have seen him do it so many times, I no longer try to make my case.

As it turned out, science weighed in on the talents of gamblers and handed the logical one her ass in the process. Not only is my husband right to believe that he can sense a gambling machine about to pay out, but part of his talent is probably altering the odds that it will pay with nothing more than the power of his resolve.

So shove that testy white rabbit out of the way, and follow the girl with the apron down the hole. On this day of resolutions, I am taking you on a walk through the Wonderland of science. Today, we peer into the power of intent.

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Sun Dec 25, 2011 at 03:00 PM PST

Anti-Capitalist Meet Up: Greed vs. Gift

by TPau

"Property is the last of the false gods."--Pierre-Joseph Proudhon

'Tis the season of the gift, a time to show the  world generosity and shared abundance. For many, this season represents obligation and anxiety. As my world tilts away from the sun, I can't help but grow more pensive, and today I ruminate on the gift: A possession given from one person to another, increasing someone's wealth at the expense of your own.

That is a uniquely capitalist way of looking at the gift. Most of our history, gifts were more personal, even spiritual. We viewed wealth and property differently. I marvel at the simplicity and the entirely foreign culture most civilization's possessed for the lion's share of  Man's history. I can not help but wonder what it would be like to see the world through eyes indoctrinated in a gift economy instead of one that worships ownership. I wonder about the indoctrination of my own culture.

Is ownership a good thing? We usually think of it as so, but have we really considered the implications? What does ownership really mean to all of us? Is it helping or hurting us? We are taught to share in Kindergarten, but most of us shun the practice as adults. What would it mean to have an aversion to owning instead?

Talking about ownership in this society, is a like discussing water with a fish. We are so steeped in a culture of ownership, it makes the effects of ownership hard to see. Still, today, I feel compelled to try.

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"Timid men prefer the calm of despotism to the tempestuous
 sea of Liberty."
 -- Thomas Jefferson

Why do we submit to the law?

We can't run very fast. We have no sharp teeth or claws. Long ago it became obvious that it was in humanity's self interest to ban together for our mutual security. We each give up a small amount of personal freedom, for the greater good of the whole. That is the basis of the social contract.

As citizens, our responsibility is to uphold the laws of government. The government, in turn, also has obligations. The bare minimum of those obligations are to protect the majority of people from enemies both foreign and domestic. What enemies do we wish to protect ourselves from? At the very least hunger, disease, invasion by hostile forces (external security), and threats to our self-governance (internal security).

So how are we doing in that respect? Lousy.

We all but wiped out hunger in the US shortly after the Kennedy administration (ended 1963), but the government intentionally reintroduced it in the Reagan administration to drive down worker wages. What is left of our health care system is sowing the seeds of its own destruction. Foreign NGO's have been invited by the Supreme Court to financially manipulate campaigns and thus our government. Internal threats to self-governance are too numerous to recount here, and in any case the Supreme Court has abandoned all pretense that this was a democracy and officially ruled the US a plutocracy.

We are in essence living in a failed state. Just because I am writing about the US, don't think your country is doing any better. Most of the Western world is in the same boat.

Other articles have detailed the complex road we took to get here. That is not the purpose of this series. This series discusses how we get out.

Specifically, how to tell our government “No!”

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Tue Dec 06, 2011 at 09:49 AM PST

Holiday Wishes from the TSA

by TPau

The police arrest you for reading the Constitution in a public space during an Occupy demonstration. Later, you get a letter saying that reading the Constitution in a loud voice, in that place, at that time, broke a small statute of the law, and therefore you will be fined $1,500. If you disagree with this assessment, you can plead your case in a letter to the Chief of Police at the station where the arresting officer works. If they don't hear from you in, oh, I don't know, 20 days, then they will assume you agree with the fine.

Oh, and by the way, everything in their letter is top secret and you have to get the Chief of Police's permission to share it with your lawyer, your husband or your...well let's say readers.

What? You have a problem with that?  

So do I...

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I sit on the floor of the Duck House with thirty others, brainstorming for the January action. Neither men nor women dominate the group. We are young, and surprisingly old. Counter-culture and conservatively clad. We question whether it is nobler to seek permits or just show up unannounced. We speak of banners, flyers and street theater—anything to educate the public about our goal.

Even when I still lived in Arizona, I had heard of this place. Democracy Unlimited Humboldt County (DUHC) or “Duck” was on the forefront of the war against corporate power. In 1998, they helped pass a ballot initiative establishing the Democracy and Corporations standing committee in Arcata's city council here in California.

The Committee's primary functions are: to research and present to the Council options for controlling the growth of "pattern restaurants" in the community; to cooperate with other communities working on socially responsible investing and procurement policies; to make recommendations to the Council, and/or with the Council’s approval, provide educational opportunities to promote "fair trade"; to inform citizens of corporations with negative social and environmental impact; and to provide advice on ways to foster sustained locally-owned businesses, publicly or locally owned services and worker-owned cooperatives and collectives.--City of Arcata

The committee was hailed by Howard Zinn, Noam Chomsky, and Jim Hightower. Ralph Nader commented, “I look forward to Arcata being a luminous star in the rising crescendo of democracy in our country.”

Embolden by this success, they passed Measure T in 2004. It forbid nonlocal corporations from contributing to local political campaigns. Two corporations immediately challenged the initiative as unconstitutional. Before the case could be decided by the courts, Humboldt's Board of Supervisors succumbed to corporate pressure and declared this popularly elected law nullified.

DUHC learned from this experience. They won't be going it alone, this time. They are but one small seed of democracy, but they are amassing with others to change the political landscape in America. They have joined Move to Amend in a miliary campaign, and this time their aim is not a city ordinance in some far off town on the edge of America, but changing the highest law in the land.

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A friend sent me the video. Perhaps because it was my alma mater. It opens on a damp, leaden day, so typical of Northern California in November. Yet, the weather has not deadened the mood of the students on the quad.

The police have come to evict their occupation. The students respond to the dismantling of their encampment by sitting in a wide circle around the officers. They sit with their heads bowed and thier backs to the cops destroying their camp. Nothing more than that, just sitting with arms linked. The officers pass through the ring and the students make no effort to stop them. A crowd gathers to watch.

Some officers attempt to remove students from the ring and drag them away. The commanding officer waves his men off the students. He crosses the ring to spray the entire line of students in the face with pepper spray. He does this with a casual air of a man spraying an insect. Batons are used to pry people apart. Police force the protesters to the ground and kneel on their backs to cuff them.

This is just one of a litany of violent episodes against peaceful protesters, but I watch with a special horror because this is my school--the place I learned so much in my youth, a place of happy, peaceful memories. I consider turning it off, but I am glad I don't. Near the end of the tape, a miracle happens. Something I never expected to see in my lifetime. The students discover their power and use it.

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