Rep Harwell how can you not see the point with your eyes wide open???

May 7, 2015 by

Harwell: Only 17 of 73 House Republicans could support Insure Tennessee – Humphrey on the Hill
【from Next Browser】

In a recent interview with the Nashville Tennessean Rep Harwell tries to explain why Insure Tennessee did not make it this year. She looks it right in the eye and misses the point.

She starts off:

“We are dealing with a political issue. This is Barack Obama, he is not popular in this state. There is no sugar coating that. And even less popular than him is Obamacare,” Harwell said Wednesday during a meeting with The Tennessean editorial board…

I think the governor went out of his way to try and distance as much as he could from it, but it’s a hard sell. It’s just a hard sell in the legislature.”

Reading her interview it sounded like this was her defense of what happened. “Disliking Obama was more important than insuring 280,000 Tennesseans. The political capital of saying no was more important than the social and moral capital of saying yes. People were not willing to support Insure Tennessee because they thought it would make them vulnerable to criticism or challenge.”

She says this was a political issue. Political issues are normally an argument between competing ideas. It is an argument between “this or that.” There was no “that”. There was not an argument for a better idea. There was not even a real argument how to make an idea better. The argument was about doing something or doing nothing. It was about care or abandonment. It was about moral stance or political expediency. It was, for Harwell, about leadership or surrender. She surrendered.

She says there was 43 of 50 needed votes. I can’t help but wonder about what part of 7 would have heard her if she had made an effort to speak. She simply didn’t try. Governor Haslam took great pains to point out the ways Insure Tennessee was not Obamacare, that in fact, it was a Tennessee answer to Obamacare. Perhaps if a speaker had spoken…. well perhaps.

She says we need to solve the problem of TennCare before tackling Insure Tennessee. The governor in everything he has said indicates that the management of TennCare is one of the greatest triumphs of his administration. She either unaware of this or unconvinced. It sounds like she is saying the answer to uncompensated care is to create more. The only reason to make Insure Tennessee dependent upon TennCare reform is simply to give one more excuse not to deal with Insure Tennessee.

A speaker who cant get the Bible bill of the floor can’t get Insure Tennessee on the floor. Tell me another one.

Recovery Notes (on the search for better life): Every day is different

May 6, 2015 by

Every day is different.   Some days are better and some are worse.   Nothing is forever.   Somethings get in the way.   Somethings pave the way.

Before things can get good they must get better. Little steps are steps.

Know the difference between better and worse. Do the better.

Encourage yourself

May 5, 2015 by


From the archives

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

Find the bright spots in life.  Find the things that you do that work and do them more often.  Emulate success.  Nothing is a problem 100% of the time.  Whatever you are doing when it is not a problem do more often.

If a problem was solved how would you know?  What would the video-tape of the solution look like?  What can you do right now that would be part of the solution?  Do it.

Decide specifically what you are going to do if you want to change something.  Change is a process that without a first step doesnt have a second step.

Be part of something you think matters.

Life your life by what is important and dont be deceived by the cry of urgency.

Know the way you feel is important, but it is not all that is important.

Show other people they matter to you.

Find people…

View original 314 more words

On passion and enthusiasm and finding justice in Tennessee

May 5, 2015 by

On May 19, 2014 I wrote my first letter to Governor Haslam asking him to expand healthcare in Tennessee.   It feel like I have been writing forever, but it is still not quite a year.  I started simply to keep sane.   The decision not to expand Tenn Care was tragic for us and the letters were my way of not drowning in the tragedy.   I was told many times it was pointless to try, that  nothing would ever change but it was never really about changing things as much as trying to make sure I was not changed.   I was scared…. no terrified.   And I had to find something more than fear.   Much then (and now) was out of control.   I had to find a way to do what I could  but also survive what I couldn’t.  So I wrote.

It has been a year several years long.   In some of what I have written I have seen myself at my  best.   I have also showed the worst.   I have tried to be honest.   At times I have been fair.   At times I have been judgemental and blaming.  At times I have had important things to say.   At times the only important thing was that I was trying to say something.   Rage has been real and still is.   But so has joy and hope.  At times I have given up.   I hope I never give in.

I have found there is a difference in enthusiasm and passion.   Enthusiasm is often a function of how things are going.   Passion is a function of how I am doing.   It is about what I treasure when it would be easier not to treasure anything. It is about who I am and the person I hope to become.
Passion can survive fatigue and discouragement.   It is sometimes  a quiet and still voice… sometimes loud and raging. It is in the passion for justice that justice is most often found.

I have seen a great passion grow in this state and believe we will in the end bring health care justice to this state.   To many people it has become a new common sense and it is hard to understand those  who don’t yet know.  The  community of committed is growing and will only grow more.

I don’t remember not being tired.   I worry a lot and I know that is part of it. Waiting is not my best thing and it seems you  most have to wait only when you really don’t want to.  But I guess if practice means anything it is a skill I will develop. I envy those who know easy days though.   I really do.

I have seen people change.   I know they can.  I know one legislator who told me a few years ago he could not imagine voting for health care expansion.    Now he tells me he doesn’t see how anyone could still say we  can afford to do nothing.

Hold tight your passion.   Help others to do the same.   Time and history are on  our  side.   The next months will be among the most important we will know.

Bless you for all you do.   Insure Tennessee.

On the Christmas wishes of a Tennessee state legislator: The Santa Claus letters

May 4, 2015 by

Dear Santa:

I am a Tennessee state legislator and this is my early Christmas wish for Tennessee. I know you are checking your list and I am sure you will find I have been nice. I have been guided by sound conservative principles in all I do and I am sure you will find out I have been virtuous in all things.

I have a Christmas wish for Tennessee. Even with sound conservative principles I still know that a lot of people need health insurance. Could you please send us a health care equality expansion program. We have 280,000 that can benefit.

I would like for:

It to cost Tennessee as close to nothing as possible. Nothing would be great.

Give us a way to get out if it doesn’t work as planned that has no risk to the state.

Tennessee taxes should be brought back to Tennessee.

It should really help hospitals especially the small rural hospitals struggling so bad.

It should be a financial boon to the state creating new jobs.

Most importantly it should make Tennessee a more just place to live. It should save lives, reduce unnecessary suffering, and give people access to services that address the health challenges all people have.

Thank you very much.


Tennessee state legislator

Dear state legislator:

I have already granted your wish. I actually sent it last Christmas. I called it Insure Tennessee. Perhaps someone put it somewhere without telling you. You might check with Senator Ramsey or Rep Harwell. They should know where they put it. If they don’t know surely the Governor will.

I was really excited about sending the gift. Turns out it was the single most requested gift for Christmas in the entire state. I don’t really understand why something so many people wanted so bad that could do so much good was never used.

Yours truly,


Dear Santa,

I apologize. We didn’t know Insure Tennessee was from you. We thought Barack Obama sent it and ain’t no one taking anything from him. We are really sorry for the misunderstanding.

Listen if it is okay I would like to ask for something different for Christmas. If I try telling people that Insure Tennessee was not from Obama but from you no one is going to believe me. Let’s wait on the health care expansion. What I would like instead is a Republican president. Do you think you could do that??

Yours truly,

Your Tennessee state legislator

Dear legislator:

I am really good but even I have limits. On that Republican president thing… that is really more difficult than what I normally do. I suggest asking God. Perhaps things are slow for him right now.

Yours truly,


On the myth of a benign system

May 4, 2015 by

At the core of any proposal for an increase or reliance on coercive interventions in the mental health system is a substantial faith in the myth of a basically benign system. You must believe that the system knows what to do, has the ability to do it and, and above all else, will not hurt or do damage to the people it claims to help. The basic claim of the Murphy Bill is that the coercive system it proposes is basically benign and in the best interests of those in need. It seems a hard sell to me.

For the last week I have watched the coverage of Baltimore and wonder how many people still believe that a system based on the increased encounter of people in crisis with the police is either safe or wise.

The police are too often, for too many people dangerous and life threatening. They deal with dangerous mean people often under the worst and scariest conditions. They don’t get near enough credit. Many do a great job. But sometimes they are the dangerous people and sometimes they create the worst and scariest conditions and too often they are not held accountable. It is not just the killing of poor people, black people or the mentally ill. It is the beatings, the trauma, the victimizations that rarely make the paper, that never get investigated that many people know as a daily threat and ever present fear. I know of black parents that are afraid for their kids to go in public. I know of parents whose children have mental health issues who have the same fears.

I am meeting more and more people who say they would be afraid to involve police with the mental health crisis of someone they know. It is not just the string of shootings in the national news or the string of tragedies in the last couple of years of police interactions with people in mental health crisis. It is more and more people talking about personal experiences and near tragedies they know of, not simply what they see on TV.

It is the 70 year old man whose schizophrenic son was beaten by police who thought he was a surly drunk. It is the mother who watched her son almost be shot by police who were scared because he was yelling. It is a million episodes that never make the news that make what is in the news even more terrifying.

Many, many officers as I said before do a great job in very difficult circumstances. But basic faith, to the degree it ever existed, has been broken. There is a police problem. It is the Russian Roulette dilemma. Eventually, many people believe, the next time you call the police the chamber will be “loaded.” And no one knows when.

The video below is a nightmare. It is of a man in Dallas whose mother described him as “off the chain.” He is dead now. The chamber was loaded.

A system that says we need, if we are really meeting the needs of the people we are trying to help, to make it easier to commit more people may set the table for tragedy. I believe, at least where I live, that is almost a certainty.

Aside from the tragedies (Look on You Tube under “mentally ill killed by police.” It is sobering and very scary.) is the very real trauma of coercive care. People who find it dangerous to seek help don’t.

On a personal level my nephew committed suicide. The central fact in his early life was what he saw as the victimization of his mother in what he saw as a cruel mental health system. Not only did he need help but he put tremendous effort into making sure no one knew how desperate he really was. He didn’t want to take a chance. He didn’t want anyone to know.

A system that doesn’t look honestly about the damage it does is less than credible when it talks about the help it offers. The mental health system has helped and continues to help many people. It has helped me. But blind faith is simply blind.

First do no harm. First things first.

Dear Governor Haslam: You are missing the point about a special session

May 1, 2015 by

Dear Governor Haslam:

You are totally missing the point about the wisdom of calling a special session.

It is not about who will change their minds and who won’t.

It is not about legislators who lack education.

It is not even about whether or not you have something new to add to Insure Tennessee.

It is not about what Ron Ramsey or Beth Harwell tell you is smart or advisable.

It is about not even about whether or not you think it will be successful.

And it is not about who you make mad.

It is about none, absolutely none of these things.

The point of calling a special session is to show people you haven’t changed your mind, to show people you are committed,  that you have a sense of urgency. It is to show people you can get angry and that your anger has consequences.   It is to show people that your support  means something.   The point of calling the special session is in what it says about you as much as what it says about Insure Tennessee.   No one will buy unless they buy you.   Governor the sad truth is they haven’t.

More time will not make it easier  or more likely.   People do not look for reasons to change decisions. Politicians in particular look for reasons to justify decisions.   Changing minds and then acting on it are not high in the skill set of most legislators.

The next excuse is already being previewed.  The next reason for inaction will be the hope of a Republican president and the fantasy of block grants for Tennessee. Wait and we are sure to get a better deal.

Aside from the fact a Republican president is far less than a done deal, aside from the fact that block grants require a major change in federal law the idea of playing politics with people’s lives is petty politics at its worse.   It is irresponsible and beneath contempt that Tennessee would allow thousands of lives to be ruined in service of the political ambitions of those they claim to represent.

Governor I don’t know it will fly without you strongly and  enthusiastically and commitedly out front. It is time to step up. Please.

Call a special session now.   You may feel like you have plenty of time. Too many people don’t though.

Act now. Insure Tennessee.

Yours truly

Larry Drain
Maryville, Tennessee

The Americans for Prosperity….aren’t

May 1, 2015 by

The Americans for Prosperity aren’t for prosperity.  

The defense of inequity is not the defense of prosperity. I do not prosper when the conditions of prosperity that I may have access to are denied to others because of their economic status, their race or any other mark of social status or position. I am not healthier because others are sick. I am not safer because others are in danger. I am not blessed because others are diminished. I am not valued because others are denied.

A system which would deny health-care to 280,000 of my neighbors is not for prosperity. A system which would deny people freedom from unnecessary sickness and suffering is not for prosperity. A system that would allow people to die rather than afford them access to needed medical care is not for prosperity. A system that would not allow Tennessee taxes to be used to meet the needs of Tennesseans is not for prosperity. A system that would deny Tennesseans access to a financial stimulus that could provide thousands of jobs is not about prosperity.

The decision to abandon 280,000 Tennesseans and treat them as disposable because you do not like the president of the United States or disagree with his policies has nothing to do with being for prosperity.

The Americans for real prosperity don’t argue for injustice. They don’t argue for prejudice. They don’t argue for their neighbors to suffer as a condition of their prosperity. They do nor believe justice or fairness threatens prosperity but instead makes it possible.

Tennesseans for prosperity believe no one must be left behind and to preach otherwise is a denial and betrayal of the basic values of a decent society.

The question not asked… Really the only important question

April 29, 2015 by

I read again the article about the end of legislative session news conference and I realized the single most important question of all was never asked.  It was probably the only question that really mattered and I would have payed money to have someone ask it publicly to Ron Ramsey  or Beth Harwell.

Insure Tennessee would have given about 280,000 people health insurance.   It would  have saved lives, prevented avoidable suffering and improved the quality of life for countless people,  saved families  and made many communities better places to live. THAT DIDN’T MATTER AND I UNDERSTAND THAT.

This legislature gave 280,000 people the freedom to carry guns virtually every where they go but did not give the same people freedom to get treatment for illness or access life saving or life enhancing medication.   THAT DIDN’T MATTER. I UNDERSTAND THAT.

The program would not have cost Tennessee a penny. Between the federal government  and the hospitals all the costs would have been picked up. THAT DIDN’T MATTER.   I UNDERSTAND THAT.

There was a mechanism for the state to bow out if the program did not work out. THAT DIDN’T MATTER.   I UNDERSTAND THAT.

The most important bill in years was never discussed by the full legislative body.  The legislators for many people never got to vote or even discuss the most important issue in their constituents lives.  Democracy failed.   Pure and simple democracy failed.  THAT DIDN’T MATTER. I  UNDERSTAND THAT.

There were no other ideas, no other alternatives even brought up.   THAT DIDN’T MATTER.   I UNDERSTAND THAT.

It brought Tennessee tax dollars  back to Tennessee. THAT DIDN’T MATTER.   I UNDERSTAND THAT.

It would have created thousands of jobs in Tennessee and been a major plus to our economy. THAT DIDN’T MATTER.   I UNDERSTAND THAT.

It would have given life to many rural and small town hospitals on life support. THAT DIDN’T MATTER.   I UNDERSTAND THAT.

It would  have improved the overall health of the state of Tennessee and thus saved millions of dollars and the quality of life for thousands of its citizens. THAT DIDN’T MATTER. I UNDERSTAND THAT.

We spent days discussing rather or not the Bible should be the official state book but ignored our best chance to act like the principles in that book should guide the most important decisions we make.   THAT DIDN’T MATTER.  I UNDERSTAND THAT.

We had a real chance to make Tennessee a more just and fair place to live   We blew that. THAT DIDN’T MATTER.  I UNDERSTAND THAT.

Senator Ramsey  and Rep Harwell I understand all these things and many more.

But there is one question, one thing I simply don’t understand and had I been there it would have been the only question I would  have asked.


A lot of us  don’t know.

Twisted stories: On making poor people the threat

April 27, 2015 by

Life is much about trying to figure out how it makes sense- trying to find a story that tells us what’s going on and why. Politics is a competition of stories.   Advocacy is the fight to give one story primacy over another.

In the last months I have become as emotionally invested in the battle to expand healthcare in Tennessee as I have anything in a long time.   The personal stake has been great but in larger context it has been a battle of stories.

There is a frame of reference, a story, that says that being poor is a willful condition of a large group of people who are lazy and gleefully dependent upon whatever they can get from the government. Their appetites, the story goes are insatiable. They chronically cheat and without management will literally steal us all blind. Some states are now at the point where they not only manage how much food they eat but what kind. It is viewed as a legitimate consequence for the kind of people they have chosen to be.

The lack of health-care is also viewed as a consequence of willful choices. If they only worked harder, tried harder, if only they paid their way they would not be asking, no demanding, for what others work hard for.

Bigotry to have wide commerce must be cloaked in common sense. And the story about poor people is to too many the ultimate common sense. It explains clearly that they bring bad things on themselves. It explains why helping them is bad for them (it makes them more dependent and thus less likely to try harder to make life better) and why the poor are a threat to regular working people. (Personally I think the threat of poor people just gives the rich cushion from too many difficult questions but that may just be me.)

There is increasingly a polite bigotry. It says the problem is not with the poor (after all we are not bad people) but in the misguided and dangerous ways some would have us help them. They counsel patience and waiting. Sometimes though the nastiness seeps out but most are more polished than Senator Gardenhire. But bigotry in the end does not depend on the clothes it wears.

Poverty should not be a crime or seen as God’s judgement on our character and there
is a political vision that sees it that way. For too long in Tennessee it has been a too common vision.

The peculiar presidential politics of DJ Jaffe

April 27, 2015 by

DJ Jaffe (and the rest of the Murphy gang) have a major political problem.   Someone is going to be elected president of the UNITED STATES.   And it remains to be seen how the Murphy Bill will navigate that.

In one of his most recent bromide he talks about how Hillary Clinton is an enemy of “the seriously mentally ill.”  He further adds that although he is life long Democrat the Republicans are much superior advocates for the mentally ill. He doesn’t explain how the party against health care reform, against mental health parity, and for virtually every cut to social services imaginable (particularly mental health services) is for anything related to the needs of those with mental health issues. But none of that is the point of this post.

1. The Murphy Bill is going to have great difficulty getting past Barack Obama. The bill is basically an indictment of everything he has done on the issue of mental health.

2. Jaffe writes off Hillary Clinton.

3. He will have to explain eventually how Ted Cruz, Scott Walker, Marco Rubio, Rand Paul and assorted others who have consistently come out against anything having anything to do with human rights, human needs, or human welfare are qualified to be president despite all they have stood for. And if he thinks any of them support Murphy he will have to explain how that is more important than all the other baggage they carry.

4. And many people will wonder what he uses for good sense.

I really wonder rather or not the Murphy gang will not put all their eggs in the basket of Republican victory in the coming election. It sure seems that way.

And I wonder if their eggs will survive.

Note to Bill Haslam: Ron Ramsey is the worst governor we have right now

April 27, 2015 by

Reading the article about the end of the legislative session news conference in the Nashville Tennessee and one observation seemed real clear:  there were at least two people in the room who  thought they were governor.   And they both may be wrong.

Bill Haslam is actually the elected governor.   He seemed kind of unsure about Insure Tennessee.   He was positive it was the right thing to do but was less than sure about how to make it happen.  He seemed to think that perhaps legislators lacked education  and that perhaps more education might be the answer. I was unsure of that.   Insure Tennessee has got to be one of the most taught proposals of all time. If you have read any major newspapers at all it has been discussed,  explained and dissected at length. It just seemed remarkably naive to believe that more facts and figures were going to make a difference.

   Many people identified it with Obamacare  and no facts will ever affect how they think about that.   They remain firmly committed to tilting at windmills and killing dragons and I am not sure how many facts it would take to change that.

Others are afraid of someone calling them soft on Obamacare  and are waiting for someone to show them it is safe to care and speak out for the 280,000 without insurance.   So far they don’t seem very convinced.

Perhaps there still remains an uneducated group.   I hope so. I would rather the governor be right.

I wonder if you are elected governor but don’t govern if you are still the governor.   Ron Ramsey thinks he knows the answer.   Bill Haslam can’t really be governor because Ron Ramsey is sure he is.

Ramsey “philosophically” would prefer that Insure Tennessee be laid aside and Tennessee wait for Medicaid to become a block grant.   The fact that would require major legislation at the federal level that isn’t going to happen doesn’t bother Ramsey.   He is sure a Republican president  will be friendlier.   No word  how long he is willing to wait.

Note to Governor Haslam:  Governor Ramsey sucks.   You should consider taking over.

What stands out more than anything else in the press conference was the lack of urgency.   I kept hoping someone would ask them which legislative session they were actually talking about.

I don’t know if Ron Ramsey is the worst governor Tennessee has ever had. That bar is set pretty high.   But I do think he is the worst one we have now.   I wish we could be like other states and just have one.

The fight for Insure Tennessee

April 26, 2015 by


From the archives

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

Insure Tennessee has resurfaced, thanks to some courageous senators in the Tennessee State Senate. In an hour it goes before a Senate Health Committee trying to survive the next step in the process. The papers today say it still faces serious obstacles. It is time for everyone to redouble their efforts and push even harder. In the end it is about whether or not justice will be found for so many Tennesseans that have waited so long. It is about so many lives unnecessarily ruined and so many more that need not be ruined.

The argument in Tennessee is not about competing models of care. Despite all the high sounding rhetoric there are no competing models. It is an argument for care versus a feverish search to make abandonment a political, financial and moral value. It is not about how to care, but rather or not to care at all…

View original 377 more words

Do not despair…on the battle for Insure Tennessee

April 26, 2015 by


From the archives

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

Do not despair
For no is not never
Mourn we must
Not for a vote
Or a meeting
But for lives
So close that
Must wait once again
Mourn for lives
Lost that need
Not be
Mourn for Tennessee
For justice deferred
And for promises
Once again on hold
Mourn for what
Could have been
But hold close what
Is yet to be
Know that your
Voice has mattered
That you matter
And Tennessee is different
Know battles are not wars
And that we need never
Accept politics over people
Ever again, never ever again
Share your commitment
Where ever you go
Today was hard
And so may be tomorrow
But know that
It is not an alone journey
Yours is a gift
Walk with those
Who cannot walk
Speak with those still
Seeking voice
Sing for those
Who think there are
No songs
And pray for those
Who only…

View original 37 more words

Recovery: Despite what pulls you down

April 26, 2015 by


From the archives

Originally posted on Hopeworks Community:

A lot of things in life pull you down. A lot of human experience is the experience of loss, hurt, injury and disappointment. Circumstances limit us. We are limited by the social context we live in. We are limited by our history. We are limited by relationships. And too often, for most of us, we are limited by ourselves.

Life can and often is defined by the limits upon us. It seems we are easily the product of our experiences….but….

Life can and often is more than that. We can find life despite what is wrong, despite what is hard, despite what we are told we cant get past. We can find opportunity and promise amidst the greatest deprivation. Ordinary people everyday cope with, and become more than, what often seem like extraordinary circumstances, would allow them to be.

Recovery does not mean things are not hard. It does…

View original 237 more words


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