Marc Sapir is still a Mad as Hell Doc for Single Payer Health Care

still a Mad as Hell Doc for Single Payer Health Care

Marc Sapir in 1968: He's still a mad as hell doc

Marc Sapir in 1968: He's still a mad as hell doc

I guess I haven’t held up my end of the bargain with the readers of the Berkeley Planet.  A few Planet readers have approached me to ask why I didn’t finish writing my cross-country travelogue. So what happened, they wanted to know, when you got to Washington, DC?   Aye yay yay.  Please accept my apology.

So let me start back at the tour itself.  I’ve reviewed the compendium of the individual TV appearances we made in local venues from Seattle to Washington.  The amount of dust we kicked up—over a million citings on Google, many dozens of radio and TV appearances and interviews and print media articles—is not to be sneezed at.  We made a splash all across the US. When I told a nurse at work that, unfortunately, we only got local news coverage in all those cities and did not get national media attention, she claimed I was wrong.  That she saw us on a national Fox News feed out in front of the White House.  Fox?

Here’s my final report on the tour.  Despite many thousands of e-mails and phone calls the White House did not invite us in.  Not only weren’t we invited to share with the President what thousands of people asked us to report about their crying need for a national health insurance program–Medicare for All–but we weren’t invited to sit down with Health Secretary Sibelius either.  Too, we weren’t invited to some secret rendezvous (like the Health Insurance and Pharma people).  Not even with the most inconsequential of underlings.  The only interaction that I remember with the White House went like this:

After our energized rally in front of the White House on September 30 at 4-6 p.m. (where our usual Mad as Hell show was supplemented by the Regional Director of the AFL-CIO, by the Raging Grannies, by a grassroots African American DC leader and by the foot stomping charisma of Dennis Kucinich who seemed to appear on stage out of the sky) had run its course, a group of 20 or so docs and others walked over by the White House fence and did some Single Payer chanting and singing.  After about 30 minutes, the rally crowd having dispersed, this small group began to head out for the evening and a woman, whom I didn’t know, put one of the single payer symbolic white ribbons on top of the fence.  A military guard 30 yards off within the White House grounds saw this brazen act of rebellion and shouted “take that down.”  And that was the extent of the Mad as Hell Doctors interaction with the Obama White House—at least this time around.

The next morning Congressman Kucinich sponsored a press conference with us at the House Office Building and after that read into the Congressional Record a personal commendation for our efforts and he did a little rant for single payer and HR 676 on the House floor with only one or two other Congresspeople in attendance at 10 a.m.  Maybe this is anticlimactic?  So here’s more.

As we went across the country, at each of 40 stops and right there in front of the White House, we, the docs, each gave our 3 minutes of why I’m Mad as Hell.  And this was a very moving presentation (as well as one full of meaty facts) no matter how many times I heard it and participated in it because after us, after some music and a question period, the last 20 minutes or so involved the testimony from audience members of why they are mad as hell and getting screwed to the wall or driven to destitution, suffering or death by the non-health care system.  These stories were  moving, riveting, sometimes amusing and more often heart wrenching as we traveled from town to town.  (They were all posted on You Tube via the <> web site).

My own 3 doc minutes, which at first focused on the fact that we spend twice as much as any other country on health care to rank 37th on the World Health Organization’s composite ranking of health outcomes so that Wall street profits can stay high, fairly soon transformed itself into something more when  I mentioned the Martin Luther King Jr. quote about health care, which I first saw on the back of the Single Payer Now SF t-shirt: “Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhumane.”  I was urged to always make this my main point and was placed last speaker among the docs.

And so I did, saying that King recognized this was a civil rights issue and that Health Care and health (as stated also in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights in the UN Charter) are human rights.  And that we all recognize that the Congress is in the pocket of those who place their profits before our health and so we can not rely upon pressuring and petitioning Congress with e-mails, phone calls and petitions but we will have to heed King’s unfulfilled dream of equal quality health care.  We have to rebuild a civil rights movement from coast to coast that will not take no for an answer and will utilize the same tactics that won civil rights for African Americans in the 60s.  And when I said those things, each time, the docs and the crowds cheered louder.  I never failed to see people in these audiences—granted they were not huge throngs but they were audiences of varied types, ages, classes and hues and averaged about 200 people—rise to their feet and start shouting and cheering in affirmation of these words.

Shakespeare began Richard III with the famous words: “Now is the winter of our discontent.”  And I think this applies presently.  There is huge anger and discontent throughout the land.  It’s about health care, but obviously also so much more.  I don’t know how we will rebuild a national civil rights movement in this country out of that discontent and under present conditions of crisis and decay and corruption.  I don’t know how we learn to meld the civil right to health care to other civil rights–of the undocumented who are sustaining such serious attacks, to the people being driven from their homes, the 2.3 million people in prison who are deprived of an opportunity for real re-integration and education, to the right to a job for those tens of millions of “requisite” unemployed and underemployed deprived sustenance by a finance system whose wealth accumulation continues,  based upon vulturism, cheating, speculation and human suffering (and no longer even on industrial production), or to the rights of people denied because of their sexual identity, to the right to end a pregnancy, to the right to clean air, water, to food and a sustainable habitat for our species and others.   I don’t know how we build a movement upon the foundational ideas of democracy in an environment which attacks those rights, changing the idea of democracy into a uniquely socialist principle (and the Right is not wrong when they imply that justice and democracy are now a socialist plot, because democracy and finance capitalism seem daily less and less compatible even as artifice).  And yet, I don’t think we are going to see much positive change in our nation without all this coming together into a social movement.  Without class being discussed and the working class being valued and trained to lead itself out of this morass.

Even though I have no satisfying answers, the Mad as Hell Docs tour for Single Payer provided me with more hope than I expected.  It fortified my belief that the grassroots surge that helped Obama win the White House is just waiting out there to be reconstituted as an independent largely non-electoral civil rights movement to achieve justice for all.   And I’ll let a goodbye note that a young woman, perhaps 30 years old, left on a kitchen table for Dr. Gene Uphoff and myself after we spent the night at her family’s home in Chicago (her dad is an internist in practice and a Single Payer supporter) explain why I am more hopeful.  She wrote regarding the Mad as Hell Tour, “…It is so important for your message and spirit to be heard at this time, especially by the younger generations who grew up in the cynical 70s, 80s and 90s.  Your stories, songs, insight and compassion teach me, and can teach many others, that social movement is not copyrighted by the Obama Campaign—or any other specific movement in time.  And that it is, rather, an expression of our intrinsic human spirit when we believe in and strive for freedom, peace, equality and justice.  Best of wishes and safe travels……….”   Like Corey suggests, I think it’s up to all of us to collectivize our own power.  So what do you think?

Marc Sapir MD, MPH

marc sapir is a Berkeley Mad as Hell doctor for Single Payer Health Care.

Marc Sapir

Report from the UC Berkeley Conference to Save California Public Education on 24 October 2009 – Steven Miller

The conference was attended by more than 500 people representing most of the Universities of California (11 campuses) and Cal State Universities (23) campuses, along with many community colleges (mostly from the Bay Area). Around 60 K12 teachers were present from various local cities. Adult Education teachers, who teach more students than the combined college levels were also present. Various unions of campus workers, at all college levels, were represented.

In California, with the largest population of any state, these cut backs directly hurt several million students, from k12 thru college plus adult ed.

People were young and old, from all sectors, all grades, all levels of California public education: professors, students, Adult Education k12 teachers all strongly represented.  College level students from all over the state were a large percentage. The UCB-based Student Worker Action Committee chaired the meeting.

The state American Federation of Teachers endorsed the meeting, though no big shots were present. The California Teachers Association (NEA affiliate) – the largest teachers union – did not endorse the meeting. This continues the abject collaboration of  CTA officials who never put a teacher in the streets to oppose the phony budget crisis, but who declared the $9 billion in cuts to k12 education “a victory”. In recent weeks, they have advocated that layoffs of teachers were necessary and should be accepted. Then they are proposing that the union takeover the Richmond, Ca (6 miles North of Berkeley), create a system of charter schools. This would be in collaboration with Standard Oil, the company that owns the town.
The first speakers, addressing the conference from the stage, were all clear that this is a fight of the working class. Though plenty of Left groups were present, these people, both students and local unionists, were not encumbered with their rhetoric. These were honest and clear statements.

Most people understand that the current situation of cutbacks, tuition hikes and layoffs are simply not necessary. The general slogan, up to this point, is “No cutbacks, no fees, public education must be free”.

The conference agreed to:

¿ Hold a one-day strike on March 4, with the understanding that each area will do something to protest attacks on public education in some form.

¿ Protest at the next UC Regents meeting, at UCLA on November 18 – 20.

¿ Meet as a conference once again before the March 4 Action, with people from each constituency serving as a continuations committee.

The choice of March 4 is significant because it reveals real awareness by the college level folks of the horrific $9  billion cuts that have been imposed on K12. These cuts can lead to massive teacher layoffs. March 15 is the date in California when teachers must be notified they will be laid-off. This is an expression of broad unity.

Some history: under the guise of the phony California budget crisis, UC Chancellor, Mark Yudoff has cut faculty, students and university employees across the board. Tuition will go up 50% by next fall from 2 years ago. Cuts at the State University level and the community college level will be at least as bad.

Yudoff, a serial killer of public universities, is famous for his signature quote, “Being president of the University of California is like being manager of a cemetery: there are many people under you and no one is listening.” People left the conference at the end to go to Yudoff’s house (lavishly paid for by the state) to construct a cemetery on his lawn.

The conference represented all levels of public education: k12 + community college, state university and UC levels levels. Adult Education is facing destruction because it lost its dedicated funding stream from the state. Thus it is now at the whim of local school districts, all of whom are cutting back. It also represented a unity of students and unions, without the historical splits due to syndicalism that have always hurt movements (black vs brown, students vs workers, etc

The conference represented a real, growing movement to defend public education. The broad range of attacks has created separate streams of struggle (students at each level, teachers at each level) that face different situations and thus have somewhat different demands. These streams are still marching parallel. It will take one more step for them to fuse into a genuinely common movement.

The conference was endorsed by: CFT, UC Berkeley General Assembly, San Francisco Bay Labor Council, Solidarity Alliance, Oakland Education Association (OEA), UPTE Local 1, CUE Local 3, AFT 1493, Peace and Freedom Party, Berkeley SJP (Students for Justice in Palestine), Berkeley PSA (Persian Student Association)

The disparity of conditions lead to the creation of a long laundry list of demands as well as a variety of positions on what actions to take and when. As is traditional at UC Berkeley, the conference attempted to resolve all this with hours of messy and inefficient ultra democracy.

We note that the Civil Rights Movement subsumed hundreds of demands behind the two-word banner  “Freedom Now”. Though this clarity of vision has yet to congeal, the direction is clearly towards “Free Quality Public Education for All”. The emergence of a popularly accepted “banner” is the hallmark of an active and growing social movement. This is half-a-step away.

The underlying theme is a positive vision. While there is plenty of talk about “fighting budget cuts”, one of the strengths of this movement from the start is that it has not put forward a negative vision (ie being “against” everything), but has systematically put forward the vision of “Defend Public Education”. Everyone there clearly recognized, as well, that the movement cannot be built unless the interests of undocumented workers are included. This is a reflection of the great 2006 marches, a formative event for many students.

At the same time, the orientation towards “Free Quality Public Education for All” is not yet directed holding the government accountable to guarantee the interests of the people, rather than corporations. This idea is so implicit in peoples’ thinking, however, that most people would immediately assume this.
There is plenty of general recognition that the privatization of public education is happening. However there appears to be little general recognition that government at all levels – federal, state, and local – is systematically being shriveled by the capitalist class.  The government, at all levels, is getting out of the people business with startling speed. By privatizing, it avoids all accountability.

There is little understanding of the process, since Clinton, popularly known as “getting rid of Big Government, which is really the devolution of government’s role and responsibility to the people. First, the government (as opposed to the “Great Society” Era) renounces its responsibility to support human beings by pushing all such responsibility down to the states who have pushed it onto the counties. Second, the feds just offer block grants, which feeds corruption at the state and local level as these funds are diverted away from what people think is the safety net.

How to concretize the need to focus the movement to hold the government accountable to the people is something that is still emerging and still concretizing. However, the best formulation that I have heard is that the federal government must be held responsible to bail out all state and local cutbacks, and then to bail out all human needs.

Privatization is seen more as “the current crisis” rather than a campaign by corporations, lead and organized by the state. The idea of holding government accountable is likewise implicit, yet has not emerged to give the movement, such as it is, a real focus. It is critical to recognize that this is a movement just beginning, one that must maintain the initiative and actions to keep drawing people in.

On the negative tip, there was a fair representation of Lefties who demanded a general strike – to good humored snickering. More importantly, the focus of the meeting was action, so there was some resistance to talking about the Big Picture. This, in my opinion, is something that could really be productive at meetings like this. Bickering over whether the actions should start on March the 4 or March the 15 are less important.

While some people could only focus on action demands, others went so far as to advocate that the conference call for protection of the whole public sector. This is a positive recognition of the real process that is unfolding behind government devolution, that is, the dispossession of everything public by corporations, now organized and abetted by the government and their hallowed “public-private cooperation”. There can be no doubt that corporations are now campaigning to dispossess America of every public right, policy, power, ownership form, function and responsibility. The goal is that the public will be no more. This is dispossession.

Another important polarity is this: Talking about the next steps for this, the California movement, is one thing. This involves setting goals, tactics, many practical organizing particulars.

Talking about the next step for the movement of the working class, of which this is just an expression, is a whole ‘nother thing. What are the next steps for the political development of the process? What does leadership mean in this context? This involves issues of strategy, vision, historical strengths and weaknesses, teaching and determining the overall line of march as class begins to confront class in the United States. No one can seriously doubt that dispossession marks organized class warfare, well organized from the corporate sector against the working people of this country. There will be a response. How can this be steered from simple defensive responses to taking the offensive?

Aside from the Days of Action, there are dozens of events unfolding across the state at the post k12 level: marches, protests, teach-ins, you name it.

For continuous information, see the websites:

[Steven Miller is an educator in Northern California]

Berrien County: restrictions on Rev. Pinkney

Rev. Pinkney is still on limited probation for four years.

Berrien County Chief Judge Alfred Butzbaugh lifted Pinkney’s tether probation,

but . . .

One has to wonder about Butzbaugh. What motivated him to ease up on Pinkney? Of course, not totally.  Pinkney and the rest of us need to understand that there will be limitations on our liberty if we speak the truth too loudly.

Butzbaugh is still not in compliance with the Mich. Court of Appeals decision handed down in the summer. If he was, Pinkney would be totally free, as he should have been all along.

Butzbaugh does NOT want Pinkney observing what goes on in his courthouse. This activity, so needed in Berrien county, was a part of Pinkney’s daily routine for years. Note the third probation condition below from Butzbaugh’s Oct. 13 order (all are in effect until July 2013):

1.) Pinkney must be inside his home between 7 p.m. and 7 a.m. 2.) He can’t engage in “assaultive, abusive, harassing, violent, threatening, or intimidating behavior, or any defamatory or demeaning communications as to Glen Yarbrough or the Benton Harbor city commissioners,” according to Butzbaugh’s Oct. 13 modified order. 3.) Pinkney must stay at least 1,000 feet away from Butzbaugh; except Pinkney may be in the Berrien County courthouse to report to his probation officer “and to participate in a court hearing to which you are a party.”

If he is convicted of violating any of his probation conditions, he could be sent back to prison.  Before the recent order to lift the tether condition, Butzbaugh ordered Pinkney to pay $105/week to wear it.  In Berrien, they ruin lives every hour of every day, through heavy court costs (ie, tether fees, etc.), false convictions, you name it. By any means necessary they make Benton Harbor “resort & golf course-ready.”  Pinkney is a victim of the system he works to expose.

The Mich. Court of Appeals threw out Pinkney’s probation violation, saying it violated his right to free speech. (Pinkney wrote an article criticizing Butzbaugh.) Butzbaugh has been in denial of the higher court decision. His inaction serves to remind all familiar with Berrien County Court behavior that they continue to be the rogue court of Michigan. They are able to do as they wish without regulation, supervision, or oversight.

Those who pay attention know that Whirlpool Corp. and Rep. Fred Upton are the actual “regulators” of the courthouse and everything county-wide, Gov. Granholm backs the Whirlpool-Upton cartel, and the corruption goes on and on and on. Granholm and the state of Michigan could care less that human rights abuses are beyond out-of-control in this southwest region.



submitted by: Gordon Matthews

Just exactly why do we need the music industry?

Thanks to Rock and Rap Confidential for this update on a most important question:
JUST EXACTLY WHY DO WE NEED THE MUSIC INDUSTRY?… Fred Wilhelms writes: I have a good friend, Jon Newton, who for the past couple years, has graciously provided me, through his website <> a place to stand and swing at the evils of the music business.  Jon has teamed up with Billy Bragg (who recently engaged in a discussion with Jon on the p2pnet messageboard) to form <> (Artist2Fan2Artist) as a place for artists and their fans to discuss issues like filesharing and copyright without having the “industry” get in the way.  It’s an effort to define what we all know is the common interest in seeing that artists are compensated by the people willing to support their work, without the middlemen as far as possible.  Jon is looking for artists to join in the discussion, which has been extraordinarily civil as these things go, because, up to now, Billy has been holding down the fort by himself (admirably, I must say, even if he remains resistant to the overwhelming logic of my own opinions.)  [Fred Wilhelms is an attorney in Nashville]

Good News From Berrien County

Gordon Matthews, whose regular correspondence has kept us informed about the travesty of justice taking place in Berrien County, Michigan and surrounding the incarceration, then house arrest, of Rev. Edward Pinkney.  Now he writes with good news!

“[On] October 16, Rev. Pinkney received a 3-way phone call from Judge Butzbaugh and the Berrien County probation officer assigned to him.  [Judge Butzbaugh issued a brief order and opinion which vacated the tether condition thus assuring] his freedom from house arrest and tether!!!

Pinkney is finally free.  Many thanks for all your phone calls to various authorities.
Many thanks to all attorneys working on Pinkney’s behalf.

He was told, however, to pay immediately the $1700.00 he owes for the tether.
Pinkney stopped paying for this control mechanism weeks ago.  But for a long time he paid
$105.00 each week.  Of course, it should be the other way around:  Berrien County owes Pinkney
a lot of money for a variety of reasons!  Both the house arrest and tether were illegally enforced.

One of his plans is to immediately continue as court observer in the Berrien County Courthouse.  “The war goes on,” he said.

To congratulate Rev. P., ask him about his plans, etc., call or email:  269-925-0001, <>

Go to <> for a new article by Dorothy Pinkney.”
Rev. Edward Pinkney:
How BANCO Started: “Many years ago I was going about my life believing that the justice system was just that until I started going to the court house to observe all the wrong convictions. There are numerous factors for wrongful convictions in the Berrien County court system. Most of the problems are in the local judicial system.”

“It’s hard to believe that in the year 2008 we have a county in Michigan with a legal system this antiquated and racist. What’s harder to believe is that no one at the State or National level is taking any action to remedy the situation.”

“We cannot run society for the privileged and allow a significant proportion of the population to be marginalized. It impacts the quality of life for all of us. If we have throwaway people, a justice system which tolerates injustice is doomed to collapse. I am truly ready for action.” Call or write me anytime about anything!

Motown’s New Mayor Unilaterally Ends Almost All Union Contracts

[As the friend who sent this to me remarked, “It seems like at least once a week since Obama took office, I receive an email that makes me check the calendar to be sure that April 1 has not rolled around again. Here’s the latest.”]

Motown’s New Mayor Unilaterally Ends Almost All Union Contracts

By Diane Bukowski

<>Originally published in the Michigan Citizen Newspaper

DETROIT — Without prior warning, Mayor Dave Bing has sent most of the city’s 50 unions a letter unilaterally terminating their contracts effective Oct. 19. The letter, dated Oct. 9, says the city will stop taking union dues and service fee deductions from members’ checks, but will continue negotiations without a contract.

Elimination of dues check-off means that the city’s union representatives, nearly all of whom work city jobs as well, will have to collect their own dues. The letter went out less than a month before the Nov. 3 mayoral election. Most of the city’s unions have endorsed Bing’s opponent, Tom Barrow.

Bing discussed his action on the Mildred Gaddis show (WCHB 1200 AM) the same day the contract termination letters went out, citing an estimated $300 million budget deficit.

Bing’s spokesman Cliff Russell said, “Mayor Bing is working as expeditiously as possible to address Detroit’s financial situation and move our city forward.  The upcoming election has not been a consideration in any of the decisions made by Mayor Bing pertaining to the improvement of city government.  Mayor Bing respects the law and is operating in accordance with the law.”

“We must make the tough but necessary changes,” Bing said in a column published in the Detroit Free Press Oct. 11. “We can’t operate an entire bus line for a couple of riders; we can’t employ every resident, and we can no longer afford the perks once demanded by the unions. Times have changed. And now, we must do the same.”

D-DOT officials have said that any line with less than 40 percent ridership is considered “failing” and subject to be cut entirely or have wait times increased.

Henry Gaffney is President of the Amalgamated Transit Union Local 26, representing bus drivers.

“He laid off 113 of our drivers Oct. 2, and who knows what he’ll do if he gets re-elected in November,” said Gaffney. “He’s likely to go crazy and get rid of the rest of city services. We’re going to need 100 percent of our members contributing their dues just for our local’s mere survival. We met with Bing last week and I thought we had an understanding. We were supposed to start mediation tomorrow (Oct. 14), but then he comes up with this.

Local 312 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) was able to stave off hundreds of lay-offs of its members after it filed suit and the city mysteriously came up with funds to keep them on the job.

“Humanity to a guy like that has no meaning and he showed it when he gave less than a damn about the people left without bus transportation,” said Local 312 President Leamon Wilson, who also chairs city’s 17 AFSCME Local Presidents. “We told him we were ready to take some kind of concessions, if he took the draconian s— off the table, but his attitude was, ‘My way or the highway.’”

Wilson said Bing has asked for unprecedented cuts, including 78 unpaid furlough days over three years, the elimination of tuition refund payments, restrictions on annual longevity payments, reductions in retiree benefits, and ending medical benefits for non-duty disability retirees. The latter workers are only paid several hundred dollars a month.

“The city went to the Michigan Employment Relations Commission (MERC) and tried to get our request for fact-finding thrown out,” said Wilson. “There’s supposed to be a 60-day cooling off period after the fact-finding so this termination should not be happening.

He said the city owes the general employees’ pension plan $46 million from the last two years, is about to default on its current $23 million obligation, and could be subject to legal action as a result. He also remarked that he believes the city plan for Detroit is complete regionalization.

In 1992, former Mayor Coleman Young also terminated dues deductions and laid off the city’s entire clerical staff one day after Wall Street lowered the city’s bond ratings because Detroit workers would not agree to a 10 percent pay cut.

On Aug. 25, Wall Street further lowered Detroit’s bond status. Moody’s and Standard and Poors rated Detroit to below junk level, meaning higher interest rates on the city’s gargantuan long-term debt of $5.5 billion through 2037. The banks and lending agencies financing Detroit’s bonds are the same ones who have received over $1 trillion in tax-funded Economic Stimulus Funds from Washington.

Bing’s Turn-Around team is chaired by Denise Illitch of Illitch Holdings, former Deputy Mayor Freman Hendrix, and former Ford Motor Company executive Joe Walsh. It is populated by corporate executives, attorneys, accountants and others, particularly from the Big Three.

“Bing is the puppet, the puppet-masters are attempting to run this city and plan for its’ future with a plan that has no future,” said Ron Gracia, President of the Senior Accountants, Analysts and Appraisers (SAAA) union. “These people have no clue about ‘public-sector’ and are all out to bust the unions, make it a right-to-work state for their own devices. You can only push people so far before they keep pushing back with a force greater than the one which started it.”

POPOKI #50 now on line

Popoki’s Peace Project can be found at the address above (if you prefer to read in Japanese, that is the usual option at Popoki’s home page).  The project is the brain child of Dr. Ronni Alexander, who teaches peace studies at the university in Kobe, Japan. Her site includes pdf”s of the Popoki newsletter, the latest of which is #50.  The newsletter includes some remarkable activities that the project is undertaking. For example, you can read the plans for mapping images of peace in a neighborhood by going on a photo taking tour with young people of various age levels.  There is also a remarkable testament to one of Dr. Alexander’s mentors, a professor who challenged her basic assumptions, even the one that peace is the most important issue.