Back from Cuba: The Difference is Humanity

As I left Cuba two days ago the last message*** I saw, on the airport terminal building, was PATRIA ES HUMANIDAD — “homeland is humanity.” When I woke up my first morning back in the States, thoughts of “humanity” were on my mind.

Cuba has survived because of its humanity.

There are lots of examples and I hope to touch on them as I blog more, or talk with folks, or do presentations, but for now I’ll just talk about doctors, storms, and the “special period.” Cuba is not perfect, I don’t mean to imply that, but it does have some special strengths.

Most of us know about the Cuban doctors. They’ve been a great form of “humanitarian foreign aid” to places around the world. Cuban doctors have helped with epidemics of ebola and other diseases, with natural disasters such as hurricanes (President Bush refused their help for Katrina), and with areas suffering from lack of access to healthcare. They’ve educated their own and thousands of other doctors from around the world, including the United States. The homeland of their medical system is humanity.

When a terrible storm is coming, they have a system for evacuating people so they survive, and they even include people’s beloved pets and are starting to make more accommodations for beloved belongings. There is a much higher survival rate in Cuba than in neighboring Latin American or North American countries.

The special period was the time in the 1990s after their big trading partner the Soviet Union collapsed. Overnight things Cubans took for granted were no longer available. Someone described the special period as like our Great Depression times four, or more!

During the special period, although things were very hard, nobody starved. They lost a lot of excess weight and sure missed the usual variety of foods, but they were not malnourished. The people themselves and the government saw to that. With their rations, people took care of their families. The fact that a Cuban’s “family” includes a lot of adopted uncles and aunties, parents, grandparents, and children, helped a lot. Actually, diseases like diabetes and hypertension were reduced. I’ve also heard about similar effects in other tough times, like during World War II in Europe. That’s something to think about, isn’t it? People can sometimes have more physical health and human connection during periods of material deprivation.

IN MY NEXT BLOG, I expect to list the rest of the questions about Cuba that I gathered on my yellow pad before and during the trip. But I may talk about Prop 13 — as a quick note, consider joining me and others as we take a day trip to Sacramento to “Reform Prop 13.” I’m glad I’m back from Cuba in time to be at the kickoff!  Click HERE.  (See why I’m glad on my blog post Dream Legacy: Help Fix Prop 13 in California.)

***   About messages at the airport or anywhere, personally, I prefer seeing billboards with inspiring quotations rather than commercial billboards about products for sale, such as Coca Cola, electronics, and politicians. I didn’t see a single sign with “Coca-Cola” on it. (I hope I follow through on my plan to count how many times Coca-Cola appears when I walk a single commercial block in my Grand Lake neighborhood in Oakland.) I see that fact as one of the “collateral benefits” of the US embargo. I want to be careful, however, to point out that the embargo — or bloque/blockade as the Cubans refer to it — has had onerous effects on the people of Cuba.  For more than 54 years.

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CUBA – more questions, Cuba now!

We boarded, we landed, toured, checked in at hotel, got an internet card for $4.50 an hour (and boy do I miss looking up anything whenever I want on my cell phone, like the Spanish name of the Bee Hummingbird, zunzun…, the smallest bird in the world, found only in Cuba. I’ll find out, goodness, I’ll just have to get used to delayed instead of instant gratification relating to my curiosity.)
(5) Will I get to dance, salsa, bachata, cumbia, cha cha, rumba, bolero, whatever?

Some of the following questions I gathered from friends:
(6)  What do Cubans expect to happen as this process unfolds?
(7)  What censorship is there from the Cuban government?
(8)  Can you access anything/everything that’s on the internet?
(9)  What changed after the Elian Gonzalez affair? (In 2000, when Elian was 6, there was a struggle over whether he should live in the USA or Cuba.)
(10) What things are there that Cubans would like us to learn from their experience?
(11) Has there been talk, from Fidel Castro and other Cubans, about whether they should have held direct elections for president in the past, or hold them in the future?
(12) Who can be a candidate for president?
(13) How sustainable is Cuba? (World Wildlife Fund, I believe, was the entity that named Cuba as the one nation that is living sustainably.) What about their chickens, cows, pigs?
(14) How are Cubans doing related to creativity?
(15) Does Cuba have global warming strategies?
(16) Per something I read from a friend’s Lonely Planet guide, published a few years back: are there places that only tourists may go, where you are prohibited if you don’t have a foreign passport?
(17) From my brother Harry, who lives in Florida, “So they have healthcare for all, but when Fidel needed good healthcare he went to the French. My right-wing magazines, whether you agree with their philosophy or not, do their research.” So, did Fidel get healthcare from the French?

That’s it for now. I already have some answers, and I’ll get more perspectives before I return on April 29!

INTRODUCTION

Hello, and welcome to the first edition of my new blog. This introduction will cover what this blog is intended to be, and how it came about.

I have decided to have two sections, THE POLITICAL and THE PERSONAL. What the heck. It feels right to have two separate sections, though I bet I’ll often find it difficult to decide which is which, or where to put what, and so my apologies in advance for the mix-ups. One reason I’m doing a section on the personal is that although I’ve heard the advice to make blogs and tweets personal, I haven’t followed that advice much. I felt self-conscious about doing that, and, to tell the truth, it’s related to my hating the word “vulnerable.” People tell me, and even an author interviewed on public radio KPFA tells me, that there is power and strength in allowing yourself to be vulnerable. To be known.

I don’t mean to be so serious, but I am a Capricorn and they say we tend toward serious, even as children. Supposedly we grow younger as we get older. That always sounded like a good trait and at age 67, I’m ready. (Yikes, I hate to admit my age. THAT makes me feel vulnerable. Of course, being a baby boomer, I’m sure I don’t LOOK 67, and anyway, according to boomers, the 60s are the new 40s). Despite my seriousness I do believe that the ultimate feminist statement is “girls just want to have fun.” I know that’s true about me. We just want to have fun, which leads to the questions: What is all this crap that’s going on and how can we create a more fun world? That’s THE POLITICAL section. It’s all related. Political. Personal.

In the past I have run for state office in California as a Green Party candidate, beginning in 2002, when we ran the first full slate of Green candidates for statewide office. I ran for Controller in 2002, 2006, then Governor in 2010 (a good year to “Follow The Money” I thought, since we had just suffered a global financial meltdown), and then Controller again in 2014.

I’m recovering.

For the past year I have loved NOT trying to convince anybody of anything. At least I’ve been trying not trying to convince people of anything. It’s really difficult. Sometimes people say the best way to effect change is to model it rather than promote it. Lately I’m thinking that advice is just another way to say, “Shut up.” If we’re just being models instead of advocates, everybody is off the hook. Business as usual. For the past year I’ve been trying to just shut up and live with the way things are. I sometimes hate the phrase, “it is what it is” when it just sounds defeatist.

My last campaign (not just “latest,” but last, I hope) was actually successful in the pathetic terms of our pathetic democracy. As a “third party candidate” I received 5.7% of the vote. Ellen Brown, author of books “Web of Debt” and “Public Banking Solution” got 6.6% in her run for Treasurer of California. We ran as partners, advocating public banking. I expected Ellen to do well, and to break the existing record for percentage of votes received by a Green in a partisan statewide race in California. (That makes me smile: the record she broke was my record from 2002, when I got 5.9% of the vote and it took 10 days to figure out which of the “big two” won.)

The “big two” just reminded me of the “big three” automakers. I grew up partly in Detroit and then went to college there. We all know how the “big three” automakers ultimately trashed Detroit into looking like a war zone, a war zone with some wonderful people with a lot of heart and soul currently staging a regeneration there. We hope. The “big two” political parties have trashed our country. Worsening education and healthcare and  environment and justice-for-all and deepening disparity of wealth.

So, is this train of thought personal or political? I think it’s personal. I’ll try to make The Political section more in line with the slogan of my recent campaigns, “There Are Solutions.” As a preview, the main solution is to use every bit of power you have. And we people have a lot more power than we think, and we can have a lot more fun exercising it for a better world than we think. It is a huge irony that the folks who know how much power people have are the 0.1% who have all the money. They know it; we don’t; and they work diligently to keep us thinking we’re powerless.

* * *

After the June 2014 primary, I thought of myself as burned out but after awhile I realized I was not burned out. I had plenty of energy, but I had to back away from politics. For me backing away meant only doing political things that I really wanted to do, and not doing things just because “I should.”

Rather than “burned out,” what I was after the June 2014 primary was disgusted. It reminds me of an interview I read about Michael Moore when he was filming Bowling for Columbine. He saw the site of the mass killings at the high school in Columbine, and realized that people had obediently stayed behind the lines set out by the officials, even after the shooting had stopped and who knows who might have been saved if the parents and others had just said, “Hell no,  forget this yellow plastic barrier, I’m going in there!” Michael Moore had to stop filming for a week before he could continue in the face of realizing the passivity people were capable of even when it involved the lives of their children. I’m on a flight right now, and thinking about this makes me feel tears wanting to spill out from behind my eyes. It is said and I believe that one of the hardest things anyone has to bear is the death of a child.

The point (I love Ellen DeGeneres for saying, “My point, and I do have one…”) is that people have so much more power than we use. We have voted for people who are not on our side just because we think they have a chance of beating the “other major candidate” who’s “even worse.” Or we don’t vote at all, chalking it up to voter fraud and it doesn’t make any difference anyway, and it just encourages this system, and, and, and. I always want to excuse individuals and blame the system, but this time I was disgusted with people’s behavior. I needed to back away to get focused again on this destructive system.

This past year friends and family have said to me, “I’m so glad you’re not doing politics anymore.” I tell them sorry, it’s only temporary. Like the song I’ve heard many times since I learned ballroom dancing a few years back, “I’ve got you under my skin.” That’s politics. It’s under my skin: doing whatever it is that’s “on my plate to do” in the world.

P.S. I’m hoping for my sake, and apologizing for your sake, that I just write this stuff and post it without endless rewrites. I do want to make it readable, and I know I need to deal with the stream of consciousness mode that seems to be my innate style. I’m thinking maybe, for the sake of those it bothers — and I’m afraid it may particularly be those of you who’ve been raised as men — I could put the really bad tangents in parentheses and if it drives you totally crazy you can just look for the ending parentheses and I’ll try to have the main line make sense. But that sounds like it would violate my goal to just WRITE it, shape it up adequately, and POST it. You have no idea how many un-posted blogs and un-sent letters I have written in my life. Fear, I think, is the culprit. Perfectionism is mostly fear. Ah well. We’re about an hour from the Atlanta airport and I think I’ll do something else now. By the way, I’m writing this while I’m on my way to Cuba for the first time.

Electoral Disobedience Builds People Power!

“NO CORPORATE MONEY” Movement Poised to Replace Corporate Controlled Candidates.

My campaign for State Controller is growing and joining in solidarity with other no-corporate-money candidates who are also stepping up and running for office, like author/activist Luis Rodriguez for Governor, author Ellen Brown for Treasurer, David Curtis for Secretary of State, and many more. Many others are sharing our vision, giving their time and talent, and supporting us with financial contributions! 

As a State Controller who takes no corporate money, I will stand up to the Wall Street bankers — like Green Party mayor Gayle McLaughlin in Richmond, CA — and insist they gamble with their own money from now on. With a State Bank for California, we can create a bank that will partner with local banks and credit unions, and provide good loans to homeowners, students, and small businesses. We will keep the interest low, and keep it in the state, to invest in California, not Wall Street.

In the primary election on June 3, 2014 we have a very real chance to upset the status quo and create a more equal state for ALL Californians.

The way we will do this is by committing “Electoral Disobedience” to build people power by voting only for a new wave of “No Corporate Money” candidates who answer to the people, not corporations. California’s new “top two” primary has lots of problems but one big possibility: any voter can vote for any candidate regardless of political party. Be sure to cast your vote, but not for corporate-funded candidates. If they win, you won’t.

In sharp contrast to the corporate candidates, we don’t need millions. With several big donations of $1,000 or more, many smaller donations of $100 or more, and a whole bunch of encouraging $5 donations, we’ll be on our way to building that critical mass. We are grateful for ALL donations! Together we can spread the word about solutions, and stand up to those that continue to put profit before humanity and the planet.

Your financial contribution helps my campaign and lets people know that their voices and their votes can make a huge difference in the June 3 primary election.

If you would like to donate to my campaign, please click HERE.
https://laurawells.nationbuilder.com/donate

Like my Facebook page: https://www.facebook.com/laurawellscalifornia?ref=hl

Follow me on Twitter  @WellsController

Thank you for all you do!

Laura Wells for Controller 2014
http://www.laurawells.org/

Eight months, and rolling up our sleeves

[Written on October 3, 2013]

My daughter Natalia and I “rolled up our sleeves” this afternoon and designed campaign buttons showing people power over money power, with a person triumphing over a moneybag, and the words “Vote June 3, 2014” at the bottom. It’s so much fun to be impressed by what your child can do! By the way, check out her band, https://www.facebook.com/SocialStudies101

Last week I filled out the first questionnaire for the June 3, 2014 primary – exactly eight months from today. There was a question about campaign goals. My goal is this: I want us to win! So, who are we?

We are a huge group of people – we are

  • 89% of Americans who believe there is too much corporate money in politics,
  • the Green Party, whose candidates never take corporate money,
  • other candidates who also refuse corporate money,
  • the new No Corporate Money Campaign that is creating a cool video, to raise thousands of dollars to put up a fabulous website to build a critical mass of candidates who will take no corporate money and voters who will vote for them. Look again at the example of Richmond to see what happens when candidates who don’t take corporate and developer money win. You might want to sign up for their inspiring newsletter; see the left hand column of http://www.richmondprogressivealliance.net/

The trick about California is that we really can start to turn this state around. That’s why it’s so important that good, un-bought people get themselves on the ballot, as soon as possible. Maybe you will consider running, or encourage others to run.

I believe that this destructive corporate-controlled system will crack, and that its unraveling after the crack will proceed fairly rapidly. Why? Because it has happened before. In Latin America people who had not voted – especially the young and the impoverished – started voting, and replaced the old guard. The new governments  championed their people and not the 1% of the world. (And yes, the U.S. government and corporate media are mad – that’s why they lie about Latin America so much!)

I will wrap this up with a big THANK YOU. Last month I said you could mail a check to surprise us when we check the P.O. Box and a bunch of people did! Again, thank you.

Your offers of help are also very encouraging, and a dream I have is to work closely with one or more people who will help our campaign make the best possible use of all the help that is offered! If that person is you or someone you can recommend, let me know as soon as you possibly can!

Another world is possible.

Laura Wells for Controller 2014
P.O. Box 10181
Oakland, CA 94610
510-225-4005
laurawells2014@gmail.com

BLOG WEBSITE: http://laurawellssolutions.com/  is still my best website
WEBSITE:  laurawells.org – not updated yet, but we’ll get there!
FACEBOOK: https://www.facebook.com/laurawellscontroller (thanks to Edy in LA)
TWITTER: @wellscontroller

U.S. income gap widest on record – that’s what happens when we don’t Tax The Rich!

News stories have hit this week with titles like, “U.S. income gap widest on record.” The stories mention UC Berkeley economist Emmanuel Saez, and should point out a strong correlation he found during his research:

If you lower the income tax rates on the highest income brackets,

inequality of income is increased.

If you raise those rates, inequality is reduced.

A blog post with more information and graphs is here,

http://laurawellssolutions.com/2012/12/05/tax-the-rich-to-reduce-the-disparity/

At the end of Eisenhower’s presidency in 1960, the rate on the highest tax brackets was 91%. As we know, the rich could still get richer even with those high tax rates, just not obscenely richer. Now the titanic Dems and Reps haggle over a top rate of 35% and 39.6%. Why wouldn’t CEOs start shifting more wages to their own pockets when they get to keep most of it? It’s too much temptation. When they only kept 9% of the highest portion, greed was not encouraged.

The 0.1% use their resources to keep us thinking all taxes hurt all of us. Not true.

In addition to increasing taxes on the super-rich, we can also reduce government spending, and lower taxes on the rest of us. Which government spending should we reduce first? Let’s start with the dumbest expense: high interest paid to Wall Street banks. When we vote people into office who are not sold out to big banks and other corporations, we can create publicly-owned banks that partner with local banks and credit unions, and provide good loans to students, home owners, and community businesses. And we can fund our own projects without high interest tacked on top. See blog http://laurawellssolutions.com/category/public-banking-state-bank/

 

Nine months, to a new birth

In nine months we have a chance for a new birth! Here’s a vision that keeps appearing to me, despite all the bad news I hear.

We will begin to crack this system, by doing the things the 1% – really the 0.01% – do not want us to do.

The simple fact is that we vastly outnumber them and if we stop buying the candidates they have already bought, we will win. Then we will have people in government who will champion – not squash – the great ideas we have, for schools, for justice, for housing, the environment, jobs, health.

Replace is the word we’ve left behind in politics, and it’s the action we need to take. We cannot influence or lobby our elected officials to make them do the fair and sensible things that we regular people want them to do. The 1% is sitting pretty, having convinced us – step by step since the Great Depression of the 1930s – that we have only three choices in elections: vote Democrat, vote Republican, or do not vote at all. Their campaign contributions control the titanic Democratic and Republican parties, and their corrupt practices make us sick of the whole system.

But on June 3, 2014, in nine months, we will have on the ballot candidates who pledge to take no corporate money, and we will have voters who declare their intention to vote in the primary, and to vote for candidates who take no corporate money. Why? Because corporate money in the campaign is the best way to distinguish between people who will be on our side after the election, and people who will toe the line of the 1%.

My fondest wish is that many young people of the occupy and student movements run for office. I feel very fortunate that I’ve been at meetings and events where I’ve seen brilliant facilitators and organizers. They seem to understand that the issues are all connected, and so are all the people. That’s my favorite part of the vision.

We do have the power.

 

CONTACT INFORMATION

Step by step, with help from other people, the elements of my campaign are are coming together.

DONATE?

Yes! If you are able, donations are gratefully accepted. They are very much needed in a practical way for everything from travel expenses to literature and communications, not to mention costly fees to Sacramento. And they are tremendously encouraging, enabling me to reach out and spread the word as much as possible. The two ways to contribute financially are:
(1) Laura Wells for Controller account with PayPal, laurawells2014@gmail.com
(2) Mail a check to surprise us when we check the P.O. Box!

Laura Wells for Controller 2014
P.O. Box 10181
Oakland, CA 94610
510-225-4005
laurawells2014@gmail.com

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