The Next American Revolution

•2010/12/10 • Leave a Comment

Written 10 years ago by Heather McKeown

Congressman Bernie Sanders (I-VT) spoke to a class of Johnson State College students in the spring and said, “The middle class of America is disappearing.” I haven’t even achieved so-called middle class status and it might not be there when I arrive! Historically, if the gap widens between the haves and have nots there is bound to be a revolution.

Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s Crime and Punishment presents the insidiousness of class discrimination, cronyism, the benefits of nepotism against the backdrop of desperate poverty and hopelessness. Eldest sisters turn to prostitution as the only alternative to starvation for their siblings. A young intellectual, Raskolnikov, resorts to murder out of his own frustration and naive yearning to make the world a better place. Being reduced to bare moral sense and a primal urge can happen to a nice person if there’s not hope for work, education, freedom of speech, safety from unlawful search and seizure or any other bare minimum to a spirit’s survival.

Solzhenitsyn introduces us to the tragic character of Ivan Denisovich, but just for a day. It would be hard to endure more than that amount of time in the Siberia of prisons and the total deprivation therein. The protagonist, in the face of total despair, maintains hope and dignity. But why was he shipped to such a place? Innocence doesn’t matter if a government is stewing in its own greed and insecurities. Truth, integrity, intellectual strength, humor and the collective society is spurned by those in power in a police state. Could this be happening here right now?

To watch middle class existence erased reminds me of a time my big brother and I were standing beside a swelling brook. He jumped to the other side before this little sister. I stood there, petrified. As Alan urged me to ‘JUMP NOW!’ the water rose to a point preventing him from returning to my side. The gap widened and we became further and further apart as we each backed up on separate sides of the confluence. The separation happened before our very eyes. And quickly. When we couldn’t reach each other, and grew tired of yelling encouragement or refusals, we each sat down to wait for help. Then he turned around and left. He went toward the town and home. I had only brush behind me. In the time I waited for rescue (knowing he’d bring it!) I imagined what it would be like if I could NEVER get back to mashed potatoes and a warm quilt. I couldn’t read by flashlight under the covers tonight. With that aqueous boundary I’d been cut off from warmth, nourishment, my brother, books and light during darkness. I’d never felt such bleak isolation. Ah, but I was only nine, so mine were the fancies of a child who knew that my adventure would end in the arms of my grandmother.

But what of the extinction of a social class? Do those on the side of comfort ever look back to those who haven’t the faintest chance of acquiring safe passage from their cold, underfed, uneducated place to the side of the blessed ‘haves’? Not likely. In countries that have seen the void between leaders, their sycophantic cronies, police and military become unsurpassable, what has historically come to pass? The Bush administration, such as it is, seeks not to listen to ‘we the people’ as it presses on with its self-serving swipes at our civil rights and proposed military aggression against Iraq, for our own good, of course. After all, the proletariat isn’t capable of thinking for itself, right? I feel like a patronized child after some self-important grown up has patted him on the head saying, “Well, we know what’s best for you, dear. Just go out and play.” WE MUST REFUSE TO GO OUT AND PLAY! If we go out at all, it should be to educate and recruit fellow Americans to STAND UP FOR OURSELVES against the present, Supreme Court appointed president and his fundamentalist spokes people.

So, what happens if we find ourselves on the wrong side with no hope of improving our stations in life? If the French could shout, “Off with their heads!” and overthrow the depraved egoists who suppressed the masses, don’t think it couldn’t happen in this country if the average American lived a squalid life of ignorance and fear. History would repeat. A population can only be repressed for so long before a groundswell of dissatisfaction becomes a tidal wave of rebellion. And it feels like that could happen in my lifetime with Bush, Cheney, Ashcroft and Rumsfeld at the helm.

A revolution? The privileged are eventually purged by those who aren’t really sure of what they’ll do once the prizes are acquired. Even first generation untouchables loose the self-esteem to be adept leaders of a country. A tremendous downfall in the entire country’s economy prevails until those who weren’t offered opportunity come up to par with oppressors they’ve overthrown adapt to their new opportunities. Then, hopefully, the survivors learn from the mistakes of

1) the greedy folks who have been overthrown
2) from their own naivete in that the destruction of the middle class was ALLOWED to occur in the first place.

Hopefully, Animal Farm isn’t revisited because of human nature when it comes to power.

If Sanders is a prophet and the void between the haves and have nots grows until there is no in between, no access to or promise of gaining the safest shore, we’re going to have many great writers emerge from this country. That’s about the only good that will come of having greedy, narrow, aggressive leaders who perpetuate the idea that a police state, a rogue nation attitude and a ‘let them eat cake’ mentality is the American way. There’ll be no bridge to the next century wide or long enough to bring the average American back into a good economic state if the oil interest leaders we now have are allowed to continue marching us into their little despotic trap either militarily or by telling us what Constitutional amendments can be eliminated ‘for our own good.’.

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Protection for whistlerblowers

•2010/12/10 • Leave a Comment

In the last few years this country has experienced the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression. 8 million jobs were lost, businesses failed and the housing market dropped. Along with that, personal savings were wiped out. One theory is that it was due to lack of accountability in the financial markets. Many people lost their life savings and consumer confidence hit an all time low. In order to regain the public’s trust and confidence, the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act was written and enacted.

The Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform and Consumer Protection Act (H.R. 4173) went into effect on July21, 2010. Had the Dodd-Frank provision been in place earlier, would the fraud perpetrated by Bernard Madoff been brought to light sooner? Could a financial crisis of this proportion been avoided? One of the ways that experts believe another catastrophe could be avoided is through whistleblowers.

H.R. 4173 encourages whistleblowers to identify securities and commodities fraud and allows them to share in the monetary recovery in the form of a financial reward. Whistleblowers can receive 10% to 30% of the recovery when the sanctions are more $1 million. It is up to the discretion of the Securities and Exchange Commission and U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission to decide what the information is worth. Whistleblower can provide information to the SEC or CFTC anonymously through their counsel.

These provisions will also protect whistleblowers from retaliation. Actions can be brought if the employee has suffered retaliation because of initiating, testifying or assisting in any investigation, judicial or administrative action. The action may be brought to federal court and remedies include, litigation costs, double back pay with interest, expert witness fees and reasonable attorney’s fees.

The provisions were modeled after the False Claims Act, also known as the Lincoln Law. This law allowed people who are not affiliated with the government to file actions against federal contractors. The False Claims Act allowed reporting of government fraud and allowed the government to collect billions of dollars with millions going to the whistleblowers. Whistleblowers would receive a percentage of the recovered damages.

According to an article in Forbes, “In a 2009 False Claims Act settlement between the Justice Department and Pfizer, whistleblowers received more $80 million and in another case brought by the SEC against Goldman Sachs, $550 million was collected in a settlement and this resulted in whistleblowers receiving between $55 million and $165 million.” http://www.forbes.com

The provisions in H.R. 4173 strengthen whistleblower protection of the Sarbanes-Oxley Act and create additional whistle blower retaliation causes of action. Sarbanes-Oxley Act was enacted July 30, 2002 and was also known as the Public Company Accounting Reform and Investor Protection Act in the Senate and Corporate and Auditing Accountability and Responsibility Act in the House. It came to be known more commonly as SOX or Sarbox.

It is crucial obtain legal counsel to ensure that the Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) and U.S. Commodity Futures Trading Commission (CFTC) award the appropriate percentage. The percentage would be based on how much was recovered and the importance and validity of the information from the whistleblower.

There are some concerns that false claims will be made but because lawyers will only be paid upon a successful outcome, they will be sure to force out any claims that lack merit before they proceed into litigation. It is too soon to tell if these reforms will prove fruitful but the hope is that the public will regain their trust and confidence in financial institutions.

HIV/AIDS over the age of 50

•2010/12/05 • Leave a Comment

When you think of HIV/AIDS, people over 50 do not immediately come to mind. When people who are in that age group are asked who the most vulnerable population for HIV/AIDS is they may mention teens or those under 30. When I asked my aunt and her friend who were both widowed and in their 60s if they decided to date would they ask about HIV testing? They both responded the same way with “I never would have thought of that.”

What is AIDS? It is the final stage of HIV infection that causes immune system failure. HIV attacks the white blood cell called CD4 whose main function is to fight disease and that makes them more susceptible to disease.

Since 2005 persons over the age of 50 with HIV/AIDS has been increasing. There are many reasons that this issue is being recognized. One is the active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) has made it possible for HIV infected persons to live longer. And another reason is the newly diagnosed infections are in persons over 50. Health care providers do not often think of testing that age group.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, persons 50 and older have accounted for 15% of newly diagnosed HIV/AIDS cases. 24% of persons living with HIV/AIDS have increased from 17% in 2001. Another factor is that people are living longer with close to half of the United States population is over 50.

Many people over 50 are sexually active and may have more than one partner during their lifetime due to a spouse dying or because of a divorce. That particular age group does not think of themselves as being at risk and often doesn’t think to use condoms or get tested for HIV.

Another reason that it may go unnoticed is that many of the symptoms of HIV/AIDS are similar to ones related to aging. Elderly people’s immune systems are weakened and symptoms of AIDS such as fatigue, weight loss, dementia, skin rashes and swollen lymph nodes may go unrecognized.

Research has not included persons over 50 because there are stereotypes about aging. We typically don’t think of that age group having sex or using drugs. Drug use can often occur in this population but isn’t recognized. Injection drug use or use of crack cocaine can put this group at risk for contracting HIV.

There is still a stigma around HIV/AIDS and is often more severe among older persons. The consequences from this are a failure to disclose and the opportunity for early diagnosis. Health care professionals underestimate the patients’ risk and do not test for HIV. Currently testing is recommended for persons up to the age of 64. Encourage your friends and family members in this age category to get tested.

So what can you do to assure your safety and those of your family members that are over 50? Talk openly about the topic and encourage testing when they go to their health care provider. Pay attention to family members in this category for signs of ill health.

Randomly yours,

islandgrlwriter

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals Homegrown

•2010/12/03 • Leave a Comment

I must confess I had been told about Grace Potter & The Nocturnals but had never heard their music until right this minute. I’m sitting in my office in the Champlain Islands, Vermont and listening to Live in Skowhegan. Right off “Sugar” catches my attention and just when I think I have a handle of Grace’s voice she switches it up and hits a note that I did not expect to hear.

It is not quite what I expected. Why was I thinking alternative? Grace reminds me of  a few women of rock and roll such as Alannah Myles, Stevie Nicks and the Wilson sisters from Heart. Two songs in and I’m hooked. Although I compare her to these other singers, she definitely has her own style. It’s a combination of funky soul, jazz, blues and rock.

So who is Grace Potter? Grace was born in Waitsfield, Vermont and grew up in a family that encouraged her artistic talent in areas from music to theater. Grace was attending St. Lawrence University when drummer Matt Burr heard her singing at an open-mike night and asked if she would form a band with him. At that time she refused but when Courtright Beard, bass player and friend from high school enrolled at St. Lawrence University, Grace reconsidered and three began to write and play music that was influenced by jazz.

Guitarist Scott Tournet joined, and the bandmembers, calling themselves Grace Potter & the Nocturnals, due to their habit of their late-night practice, began to think seriously about making music their careers. When Burr graduated in 2003, they moved back to Vermont dedicated themselves to their music. Beard stayed at school and Bryan Dondero was added to the band.

In 2009 they were asked to cover some songs from the late ’60s for the VH1 documentary Woodstock: Then and Now. This was soon after the departure of their bass player. After accepting the invitation, Potter, Tournet and Burr scrambled ,contacted Popper, who agreed to join them for the session as a one time gig.  Potter then threw out the idea that they bring down Yurco from Vermont to add a second guitar. This brings us to their current lineup.

They self-released Original Soul and Nothing But Water . The CDs  received a positive response and Grace was compared to artists like Norah Jones and early Bonnie Raitt (I hear a little a Raitt in the song  Colors). The band continued to build its fan base by constantly touring and making festival appearances.

Grace Potter & the Nocturnals signed to Hollywood Records and  their third full-length, This Is Somewhere, hit the shelves nationwide in August 2007. Then in 2010, Grace Potter & the Nocturnals was released.

I sit here wondering why on earth they have not made a bigger splash around the world. The appeal crosses generational lines. I want to thank Phil for introducing them to me and express my embarrassment as a music lover for not finding them on my own.

Just a weird thing that happened to be last week before I sign off. Before I received the CDs I had a dream that they came as 45 records and I couldn’t find a way to play them. Lo and behold, one of the CDs looks exactly like a 45 RPM or 33 RPM record.

Grace Potter & The Nocturnals

Grace Potter and the Nocturnals website: http://www.gracepotter.com/

Randomly yours,

islandgrlwriter

Top Ten Social Media blogs

•2010/11/22 • Leave a Comment
  1. Chris Brogan: The Elvis of social media and the king of common sense, Chris Brogan is in a league of his own.
  2. Social Media Explorer: Social media all-star Jason Falls provides a fresh and interesting take on all things social media.
  3. Mashable: The world’s source for social media news, Mashable is the place to go for breaking stories.
  4. Convince & Convert: Jay Baer provides rich content for businesses seeking to embrace social media.
  5. Altitude: Amber Naslund offers a breath of fresh air with smart, inspiring and personal social media insight.
  6. CopyBlogger: The king of engaging content, Brian Clark and his team help businesses persuade in a 2.0 world.
  7. Brand Builder: For businesses looking to dive deep into social media discussion, check out Olivier Blanchard’s rich insights.
  8. Diva Marketing: Toby Bloomberg’s blog provides a wide array of social media advice.
  9. Kikolani: Looking for great “getting started” social media guidance?  Then frequent this blog.
  10. Future Buzz: A nice mix of stories and reviews makes Adam Singer’s site one that should be on your radar.

Michael Stelzner
Published January 29, 2010

The Chileans had a plan

•2010/10/29 • Leave a Comment

Incident Command Center

I watched the rescue of the miners in Chile along with millions of other people and I thought to myself, the Chileans had a plan. When I compared it to the BP disaster I could pick out the differences. BP was running around like chickens with all their heads cut off while in Chile they invited NASA and people with experience to help them figure out what to do next.

It reminded me of visiting with a hospital official in Vermont to discuss emergency plans for the hospital and his response was “we’ll just deal with it when it happens.”

Then last week as I watched Grey’s Anatomy. They awarded a research grant to one of the Doctors to implement emergency procedures. This week they showed what can happen when there is over reaction to security systems. Doctors got locked in short hallways with their patients when they were on their way to the OR. Security cards didn’t work and the alarm system went off at the slightest sound. Yes, this is a television show but it does point to some real life situations that could occur.

The point is that either extreme can be dangerous as we’ve seen with previous disasters: Katrina, Haiti, Exxon Valdez and Chile. Only one stands out to me as coming across like they had a clue and a clue as to who to call in. I don’t think that was by accident.

Planning can be a painfully, long process with lots of details and it is never complete. It’s truly not for everyone but there are some good planners who enjoy details and understand the importance of testing the plan. If it doesn’t work during a test then you can adjust; if it doesn’t work during a live event then you may lose lives.

Controlled chaos is how I often describe disasters, especially those that appear to have some structure. There are so many variables that come into play and each of those can change in an instant. During a live exercise with Quebec, a storm came up and knocked out power and blew down trees. The practice was supposed to be a transportation accident (plane crash). Luckily the first responders involved have practiced together and have mutual aid agreements so that they can call on the surrounding communities to help. They know what equipment each has and how many people they can send.

Kudos to Chile! Then there was a time when a training got cancelled and the communication system in Central Office didn’t work but that’s for another time.

 

Refrigerated trucks aren’t just for ice cream anymore

•2010/10/13 • Leave a Comment

There are many facets to emergency planning and just when you think the plans are complete, (they are never complete by the way) another concern rises to the surface. During one of the planning meetings the discussion turned to the morbid topic of what to do with all the dead people if there was a huge transportation accident or pandemic.

Those in the ‘boots on the ground’ side of planning often have a morbid sense of humor whereas planners, especially Health Educators tend to be on the politically correct, touchy/feely, treat with kid gloves and walk on egg shells side of things. When you get these groups together and add the military for good measure it can be quite funny and makes for a lively conversation.

It’s not that the first responders are insensitive. They face unbelievable challenges and scenes that most of  us will never have to face. They are caring and very sensitive and use humor to relieve stress. They do say that laughter is the best medicine, right? And it’s not that Health Educators are stuffy (not all of them anyway) but…..

The topic of mortuary services comes up and a discussion ensues. Suggestions are being requested as to what direction to go in and whose responsibility it is. Morgues have room for a few bodies but there are many rural towns in a lot of states that have no morgue so then what?

One of the first responders yells out, “Ice cream trucks!” You hear chuckles from the military and other first responders and sounds your mother would make when she would reprimand you from the Health Professionals.

We have a famous ice cream factory (they will remain nameless and I do love their ice cream) that is located in a few locations around the state of Vermont so it would make sense for those towns to put agreements in place.

This idea was one of the less shocking. Other ideas were to place them in grocery store coolers or store them in meat lockers. Shopping would never be the same.

Believe it or not there is a team of experts that work together to address this situation if it arises. They are called Disaster Mortuary Operational Response Teams (DMORT) that are made up of funeral directors, medical examiners, coroners and other partners that work in this field.

I can only imagine the discussions around that table. Halloween is around the corner so I figured this was a valid topic to blog about. Thanks to Michael C. who gave me the idea after having a short exchange on facebook this morning. He works on a ship and shared with me how they take care of that situation.

And that story may be for another time.