The short story is this: California's "single payer health care" proposal for this two-year session had to pass the State Senate by January 31 in order to stay alive. Despite the fact that Democrats control the Senate 25-15, it fell two votes short. Two Democrats, Lou Correa and Ron Calderon, voted no; four others refused to vote at all.
This was a shock without being a surprise. It's shocking that Democrats can control the legislature and yet fail to get one of our signature proposals through even one chamber. Yet we've dealt with these Senators before -- we've seen who gives them money -- so it was not a surprise.
The surprise came yesterday. Apparently, it was our fault that SB 810 failed. Not the insurance industry that fought so hard against the measure; not the pusillanimous Democrats who wouldn't defend it. Our fault: activists' fault. Why? Because we kept calling Senators' offices and some of us were allegedly obnoxious.
That's what the letter from the Director of Public Policy of the lobbying branch of the California Council of Churches says.
Once again The Fates have come our way to provide a story, and once again, we have a contender for the "Ironic Story Of The Year".
It's got everything you need for serious irony: an irascible comedian who mocked religion at every opportunity, a city that loved him, and the rich coincidence of his having been born at the crossroads of New York City's communities of religious education.
And that's why, today, we'll be talking about the effort to name the street right next to Manhattan's Seminary Row...Carlin Street.
(And before we go further, a language warning: we'll be quoting George Carlin liberally, and that means there may be present today certain of the seven words with which he created one of his best known routines. You are now officially warned.)
Diligent reporter that I am, I got up Thursday morning to do a bit of fishing for a story, and as so often happens, I've caught something a bit unexpected.
Now what I have for you today starts out as a bit of insider information that came to me on background-but it turns into a chance for those of us who support Social Security to very much get in the faces of our members of Congress, for two whole weeks.
And to make it even better, I'm going to throw out a few direct action ideas "for your consideration" (as they say in Hollywood during Awards Season) that would absolutely make good street actions and YouTube videos, both at the same time...and even more importantly, we'll absolutely make some great Spring Break fun.
We have seen some amazing days in Egypt, and it's provided a better lesson than anyone could have ever wanted for how taking action, against long odds, can really get something done.
A secret police mechanism has been pushed aside, an Army has chosen not to attack The People, and a President who was backed by the "full faith and credit" of the US Government on Friday was being told by that same US Government on Tuesday that it's time to go.
The People, in fact, spoke so loudly that Mr. Mubarak has informed Egyptians that he's going to "pursue corruption", which, if taken literally, could eventually look like a puppy chasing its own tail.
The People, however, are unhappy with his answer, and they're speaking even louder yet...even to the point of being willing to take beatings, gunfire, and, believe it or not...camel charges...to make their voices heard.
And that got me to thinking about Social Security.
You know, we are facing the potential for a great big Social Security fight for pretty much the entire term of the 112th Congress-and it seems to me that a series of great big "Cairo-style" marches might be the way to make our voices heard, so that this Congress understands that great big benefit cuts are something that we will not tolerate.
We have been talking a lot about Social Security these past few weeks, even to the point where I've missed out on talking about things that I also wanted to bring to the table, particularly the effort to reform Senate rules.
We'll make up for that today with a conversation that bears upon both of those issues, and a lot of others besides, by getting back to one of the fundamentals in a very real way...and today's fundamental involves the question of whether it's a good idea to keep pushing for what you want, even if it seems pointless at the time.
To put it another way: when it comes to this Administration and this Congress and trying to influence policy...if Elvis has already left the building, what's the point?
There have been many unlikely things that have happened this past month or so: some of them appearing as legislation, some of them appearing in the form of Republicans who set new records for running away from the words they used to get elected-and some of them appearing in the markets, where, believe it or not, many Europeans finds themselves wishing for our economic situation right about now.
There are even improbable sports stories: our frequently hapless Seattle Seahawks, the only team to ever make the NFL Playoffs with a losing record, are today preparing to knock the Chicago Bears out of their bid to play in the Super Bowl, having crushed the defending holders of the Lombardi Trophy just last week before the 12th Man in Seattle.
But as improbable as all that is, the one thing I never thought I would see is Barack Obama getting into a political argument with himself over Social Security-and then losing the argument.
Even more improbably, it looks like there's just about a week left for him to come to a decision...and it looks like you're going to have to help him make up his mind.
So it has come to pass that Elizabeth Edwards has died.
Despite having more things thrown at her than anyone I've ever had the chance to support in my entire political life, she managed to represent, in her very presence, a sense of grace and kindness and concern for those who were looking to have a better life than the one they had now, and I don't know that I could ever live up to the quiet courage she showed as her life came to an end.
And, bless her heart, it appears that she took the time to make sure that her kids knew her, and that she helped them put away enough "past" to, hopefully, ease some of the pain of the future.
But now the time has come to look beyond death, and, John...that's why I want to talk to you today.
I've blogged once before, under my previous identity, about Jenny Oropeza, my college friend made good. Jenny was expected to win easy re-election next month to her 28th District State Senate seat, which stretches from Venice Beach through the South Bay cities south of Los Angeles to part of Long Beach, where she made her start in politics. In that 2007 diary, I was happy to endorse her for the CA-37 Congressional seat, which she lost in a primary to Laura Richardson. I write for a sadder reason today than loss of a mere election. Jenny died on Wednesday, October 20. Her death made the evening news only on Thursday. I saw it only by happenstance while walking by my daughter watching the evening news. Jenny will win her final election posthumously on Nov. 2; the new Governor will call a special election.
I was going to write about something else today, but Jenny had a career and life worth celebrating, and so I won't delay another day. We have something to learn from her success.
It was a long hot August for those who would like to see health care reform, as rabid "Town Hall" protesters proffered visions of public options that would lead to death panels and socialism and government tax collectors with special alien mind control powers that would use sex education and child indoctrination and black helicopters as the means for gay people to impose their dangerous agenda on the innocent, God-fearing citizens of someplace in Mississippi that I'm not likely to ever visit.
Part of the reason that opposition was so rabid was because health care interests were spending millions upon millions of dollars doing...well, doing whatever the opposite of giving a distemper shot to the angry mob might be, anyway.
So wouldn't it be great if all the CEOs of all those health care interests were to gather at one time and place so you could, shall we say, gently express your own thoughts regarding the issues of reform and public options?
By an amazing coincidence, that's exactly what's going to happen Thursday in Washington, DC, as the Patient Centered Primary Care Cooperative (PCPCC) holds its Annual Summit.
Follow along, and I'll tell you everything you need to know.
This Los Angeles magazine interview with Karen Bass is really illuminating about her life and her early activism, which she says started in middle school during the civil rights movement. Bass, a student organizer, antiwar activist and advocate for the poor in South LA, has a deep connection to the grassroots world outside Sacramento. And yet she is boxed in by circumstance and the minority rule in California to do things that directly conflict with her personal interests. This is a fascinating passage:
Why did you start the Community Coalition for Substance Abuse Prevention and Treatment in South L.A.? In the '80s, crack cocaine took off as an epidemic, and I became obsessed by it. It was the first time that a drug impacted across class lines in the African American community, and it was also the first time in history a drug trend impacted both genders equally. It was really beginning to reshape the landscape in the inner city. I wanted to find a way to address the drug problem that did not involve massive incarceration-that could get at the root causes-and at the same time I wanted to build an organization that would help create, recruit, and train a next generation of activists. We've been around for 19 years.
Does the coalition show up at your office to protest what you're doing in the legislature? Absolutely. They're organizing a protest right now. They are nice enough to call me up and tell me when they're going to be protesting.
Would you be out there with them if the job didn't preclude it? No question. One thing that's a little funny, if you don't mind me going off the record-OK, I'll say it on the record. I would have been protesting, but even when I was making these decisions, I was still in contact with the groups that protest to tell them to continue, because I understand better than ever how important those protests are. So it is quite interesting to be in a position like this.
There's a very good reason why Bass' current position feels unnatural, beyond just the inside v. outside dynamic. It's because she thought she was going from a position of weakness, as an outside activist, to a position of strength, as a legislative leader. However, the truth was the opposite. At least as an activist she was free to advocate and maybe make substantive gains. As a leader in this legislature, she cannot. By rule. Because the minority holds sway.
Anyway, I found it to be a very interesting article.
Tomorrow is August 1, and the ball basically gets tipped for what could be a wild month of local events throughout the nation, as both sides of the political divide do battle over the health care bill. One side is funded by lobbyists and special interests, and will be out in force in August, creating mini-Brooks Brothers riots all over the country, harassing members of Congress, doing whatever they can to be the squeakiest wheel in the hopes of drowning out support for health care reform. So how will Democrats respond?
With polls suggesting that public support is sagging for President Obama's push to overhaul health care, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said the party will use the August break to make a strong sales pitch to middle-class voters.
"We're going to be on the air. We're going to be in the neighborhoods," said Hoyer, D-Md. "Our members are going to now have the opportunity to go home ... and say to their constituents, 'Look, this is what we're doing. This is why it's good for you and your family.' " [...]
A House Democratic memo obtained by USA TODAY shows the steps the party is taking to coordinate its message over the break. Lawmakers are encouraged to hold town-hall-style meetings, post videos on the Internet and find small-business owners "whose testimony can provide a powerful narrative," the memo states.
There's an opportunity here for California activists in both swing and heavily Democratic districts to impact the debate. House progressives actually moved the ball to the left, after Henry Waxman sealed a deal with Blue Dogs on the Energy and Commerce Committee, forcing leadership back to the table after 57 members signed a letter saying they would never vote for such a compromise. 14 of those members come from California, and so a key activist mission over the recess would be to get more House Democrats to sign on to these principles, to pass a health care bill that provides affordable options for everyone and as robust a public insurance option as possible, open to as many people as possible, to compete with the private market. The Center For American Progress has created state-by-state fact sheets about how the current system harms regular people, and Waxman's Energy and Commerce Committee has put out detailed district-level fact sheets for how HR 3200, the current bill in the House, would impact people.
In addition, this activist movement to find enough progressives willing to block negative compromises can provide a teachable moment for how to do this at the state level. On certain votes, we can change incentives and move them in the right direction, even in our political system, which is currently wired for conservatives.
If events are happening in your district, let us know. If your representative corresponded with you about health care, let us know that too. This is really a pretty consequential month for health care reform in America.
(We should all be asking these questions of our lawmakers. - promoted by David Dayen)
This is a relatively short action diary to gather information on the budget vote currently expected for Thursday. I agree with David Dayan's diary earlier today: this budget should not pass. And if we can't stop it, at least our representatives should understand that this is not a free vote; if they vote to pass, there will be consequences not only to the state, but to their careers.
The idea here is one progressives have been using with great impact since the federal Social Security fight in 2005: using the web as a grassroot's whipping operation.
What I'm hearing from grassroots progressives in this state is basically unadulterated anger at the craptacular budget deal passed. If they're not out in the streets they're calling representatives and finding every opportunity to make themselves known. Karen Bass posted a statement on her Facebook page about the budget deal and it has been hammered by critics. Some negative comments have been deleted. I'm getting practically an email a minute from some progressive group or another talking about stopping this budget.
I think what we have here is, to analogize, a union shop steward bargaining without the support of its rank and file. Whether that will matter to the legislators who vote on this on Thursday is unclear. But if you took the pulse of the activist community, they would argue for one of three things:
(1) send the leadership back to the negotiating table with the mandate that this deal isn't good enough.
(2) send new leadership back to enforce that message, fire Steinberg and Bass
(3) only agree to a deal if Republicans ensure every one of their members will vote for it, so they can own the policy
I don't want to really speculate on what will happen. But I can pretty confidently say that the movement which has become engaged over this budget fight will not be likely to shut up if the Democratic rank-and-file goes along willingly with the leadership and votes this budget into law. They will want to fight and it will probably be those same rank-and-file lawmakers that bear the brunt of it, perhaps even with primary challenges.
As I've said repeatedly, the current structure of government in the state is designed to produce bad outcomes. We can get mad about it, we can mourn the real suffering this will extend throughout the poor and middle class, or we can organize. And the desired end state, IMO, is not just to get a marginally better near-term budget, with maybe an extra billion for an oil severance tax here, or a reduction of borrowing to local governments there, but to get a far better structure inside of which to run government responsibly. I don't think that can possibly end with a fight on this budget, though it may begin with it. Because at some point, progressives do need to reject being taken for granted.
Anyway, thought I'd open it for discussion.
...here's Dave Johnson arguing for option #3, which I think is among the best practices. We have this assumption that any deal must be voted on by all Democrats, with just enough Republicans for passage slinking along. That's not etched in stone.
In addition, let me remind everyone that this budget does NOT require a 2/3 vote. The budget has already been passed; revising it requires only a majority. However, that means it would take effect after 90 days, and only a 2/3 vote will allow it to take effect immediately. Obviously, delaying by 90 days reduces the savings of the deal. But we're probably coming back to this soon enough anyway. And without all Republicans in support, I think you have to allow some Democrats to vote their conscience.
(In addition, budgets are voted on in various multi-bill packages, so any one vote could go down as well. That could be a consideration.)
This began as a comment left in David's story announcing the budget deal, but with greater reflection my reaction has grown worse. What set me off is two things: Robert's comment as a story update that "The February deal was bad, but this is far worse," (my emphasis) and David's subsequent story suggesting (facetiously, I hope) that he didn't realize until now that the side that gave less of a damn about who suffered in the wake of a failure to reach a budget had a tremendous advantage.
I'd like to believe that this is all just bitter and spontaneous reaction to a defeat for progressives and the people of the state -- sentiments that, ideally, would not have found their way into print. If not, if this is truly where we stand, then the implication is that we were wrong in May and the regular politicians who predicted this were right -- and, furthermore, that they were right because they are less ignorant about how the system really works.
I don't accept that conclusion. I intend this as a sharp slap in the face to rouse people who are playing right into the stereotype of progressive activists as people who know how to complain loudly but don't actually understand political realities. Robert, David, and the rest of us are better than that. We were right about May, even taking this prospective result into account, and we should start acting like it.
"I am very afraid because I do not know what tomorrow will bring because I am four months pregnant and I worry for my unborn baby. Three days later [after being exposed to pesticide drift], I am still vomiting and have a major headache. My pregnancy doctor could not see me as he was going to charge me and I did not have any money to pay him." -- Julia Rojas Sabino, Organic Onion Worker
Pesticide drift poisonings should be a thing of the past. Agribusiness knows pesticides are dangerous. Pesticide applicators know pesticides drift. Proper precautions should be taken by applicators. Every farm should make sure supervisors know what to do in a drift emergency. It's simple. Right?
I'm sure many political observers will laud this New York Times magazine article on California's crisis and the men and women who seek to solve it, but I found it oddly pedestrian. The profiles of the candidates reveal little of substance, and aside from displaying the salient fact that Arnold has no interest in the well-being of his constituents, I didn't see the point.
"Someone else might walk out of here every day depressed, but I don't walk out of here depressed," Schwarzenegger said. Whatever happens, "I will sit down in my Jacuzzi tonight," he said. "I'm going to lay back with a stogie."
Overall, I saw too much focus on personality in dealing with what is essentially a problem of process.
Actually, while I didn't agree with all of it, I thought Gary Kamiya had a much smarter take, and it didn't mention Arnold Schwarzenegger or the names of any of his potential replacements more than once. The headline, "Californians are sinking themselves," doesn't seem to match the bulk of the article, which focuses on the dysfunctional governing process.
The immediate source of California's financial problems is a lethal combination of ideology and rules. It is deeply politically divided, and its governmental mechanisms are completely broken. Bay Area leftists stare at Orange County conservatives across an unbridgeable abyss; a large and potent group of anti-government libertarians faces off against an equally powerful group of pro-tax, proactive government liberals. If California, like most states, required only a simple majority to pass its budget, the disagreements between these camps could be worked out; after all, the Democrats control the Legislature. But California requires a two-thirds majority, which gives the GOP, now dominated by anti-government, anti-tax ideologues, veto power over the process. The result is deadlock.
Compounding this problem is California's notorious initiative process, which allows voters to bypass the Legislature and place initiatives directly on the ballot simply by gathering enough signatures. The initiative process was originally passed by voters in 1911 to circumvent the power of the oligarchic railroad trusts by restoring direct democracy. And it still offers citizens a chance to take control of important issues. But it has gone out of control, abused by powerful interests who hire people to collect signatures and ram through bills that no ordinary citizen can be expected to comprehend. By sidelining elected officials, it achieves the worst of both worlds: It gives ordinary citizens, who lack requisite expertise, institutional memory and accountability, too much power, and then forces legislators to clean up their mess -- except that because of ideological gridlock and the supermajority requirement, they can't.
Kamiya looks at the three strikes law and in particular Prop. 13, which he views as the ultimate manifestation of the Two Santa Claus theory, that California can have endlessly lower taxes with endlessly more social services.
This was, in effect, a mass outbreak of cognitive dissonance, an up-yours delivered to government with the public's left hand, while its right hand reached out for Sacramento's largesse. Now, 31 years later, the bill has finally come due. There is no free lunch. If you want good roads, parks, decent schools (California's schools, once the best in the nation, are now among the worst) and adequate social services, you have to pay for them.
Out of this, Kamiya points his finger at the people who voted in Prop. 13 and failed to modify it over the ensuing 31 years, who are "self-centered" and have "not decided what it thinks about the New Deal, or government itself." They need to "grow up," Kamiya says.
I think this ignores the fact that Californians have traditionally been offered precious few choices to rectify the broken system. The Democratic Party essentially has made a pact with themselves to nibble around the edges for three decades instead of confronting the great unmentionable crisis of governance. People see the dysfunctional politics play out year after year and become rightfully disaffected with the system. And they are never told anything from anyone in a position of power to counteract the Two Santa Claus theory, and so they necessarily believe it. I don't blame citizens for responding to their leaders. The problem lies with the leadership itself, or more to the point the lack thereof.
I was 5 years old and on the other coast of the country when Prop. 13 was passed, and I'm not about to bear the brunt of the blame for that decision. I would blame myself if I continued to live with the failure of the political leadership to confront the root causes. But Californians are starting to use movement politics to go around the leadership and force the necessary solutions. The sheer enormity of the problem and the size of the state makes this a difficult option. But the alternative, to acquiesce and wait patiently for the leadership to figure things out, is unthinkable.
You may know that health care reform is in a fair bit of trouble. The defenders of the status quo in Washington, often a bipartisan lot, want to deny consumers choice, force them into a market monopolized by private insurance companies who have shown through their actions over the past several decades that they are concerned about profit and not people, and scream that we cannot afford giving all our citizens high-quality and affordable health care, while spending trillions on banks and military weapons. It's the tragedy of the bipartisan elite consensus that currently rules the roost, and not even the greatest economic crisis since the Depression has so far been able to dislodge it.
The bipartisan elite consensus that governs this country is quite simple. First, deficits and high taxes are always the basic cause of economic stress or the biggest threat facing a recovery, no matter the circumstances. (The corollary is that cutting taxes and spending are the ultimate answer to every economic challenge.) Taxes on the wealthy (excuse me "the most productive") must be kept as low as possible, the military cannot be subject to any budgetary constraint and the national security state cannot be held accountable, business and industry must always be given top priority and all other government expenditures are legislative bargaining chips regardless of their impact on the lives of average Americans. Nobody questions that consensus or even suggests that some other set of priorities might be useful from time to time.
This consensus flies in the face of known public preferences, both in this state and around the country, for a full overhaul of the broken health care system that turns lives into data points on a balance sheet.
The health policy survey of 1,207 registered voters showed that 88 percent of Democrats, 73 percent of nonpartisans and 55 percent of Republicans agree that the health care system either needs significant restructuring or should be completely rebuilt.
"There is bipartisan agreement that the health system needs some fundamental changes, and there is greater impatience that this should be done now," said Mark DiCamillo, director of the California Field Poll.
The poll, funded through a grant by the California Wellness Council, comes as President Barack Obama is calling for overhauling the health care system.
His insistence on a government program to compete with private insurers is infuriating some conservatives, who fear such a plan would drive insurance companies out of business. It is also drawing scorn from some liberals who want a single-payer, government-run program.
But 85 percent of respondents to the Field Poll said they support the general concept of allowing people a choice between privately run and government-run health plans.
"They're not necessarily endorsing the public plan or saying that they would choose it," DiCamillo said. "They just like having alternatives. The introduction of a public plan is supported because it would provide greater choices."
You cannot get Americans to agree with 85% consensus on whether the sky is blue. But this they understand: the system is broken, the pharmaceuticals and the insurers and the HMOs cannot be trusted, and choice to force them - through could old market economics - to compete on price and quality is deeply desirable. Later in the poll, Field finds differences on how to pay for reform, an outgrowth of the Two Santa Claus Theory. But giving people a policy they can support will certainly allow them to swallow the mechanisms for paying for it.
So at this point we need to ask our legislators if they support what 85% of Californians support - a robust public option to compete with private insurance in the health care system. Frankly this is the very least we should have, but without it, we cannot call anything coming from Washington real reform. Open Left and DFA have created a whip tool. Simply put, we need to email our Senators - and the Senate is where health care will be won or lost - to answer four specific questions about whether or not they support the public option:
Write a short note in your own words on why you support a public healthcare option:
A public healthcare option is crucial to controlling costs, the heart of the healthcare crisis.
A public healthcare option will keep private insurance honest.
Then ask your Senators these four questions:
Do you support a public healthcare option as part of reform?
Do you support a public healthcare option that is ready on day one?
Do you support a public healthcare option that is national, available everywhere, and accountable to our government?
Do you support a public healthcare option that has the clout to establish rates with providers and big drug companies?
Conclude by reminding your Senators that you are a constituent, and you expect answers to these questions in writing, via email.
Right now health care reform is reeling. We need this whip count to know where everyone stands and put pressure on our lawmakers to adopt the position of 85% of the public. Please take action today. You can see where Sens. Boxer and Feinstein stand here. This is the most important domestic policy of this generation, and we cannot wait another year to get it right.
It's taken the proposed destruction of practically the entire social safety net in California for progressives both inside and outside the political system to fight back. I'm actually more heartened by the work done outside it. I expect Lenny Goldberg to come up with a great alternative budget calling for tax fairness, and end to corporate welfare and a government for all the people instead of the rich. I expect Jean Ross to do the same, as well as AFSCME. They're all good proposals, but this is what they are paid to do. What I don't expect, and what I haven't seen, is a citizen's movement to rival the institutional and advocacy machinery. The Fix the California Budget Facebook page is really one of the first such grassroots pushes I've seen in recent memory.
Californians deserve real solutions to the budget deficit. Responding to our economic crisis with an all-cuts budget will only make the state's problems worse. Deep cuts to vital programs undermine our economic recovery and President Obama's investment in economic stimulus, disproportionately harm the most vulnerable Californians, and go against our core values.
More than 70 percent of voters sat out the May 19 special election because it is the Governor and Legislature's job to fix the budget. Polls show the defeat of the initiatives was neither an endorsement of an all-cuts approach nor a rejection of raising revenues.
Under Governor Schwarzenegger, we have suffered $23 billion in spending cuts in the current budget year alone. Additional drastic cuts will irrevocably change the state we love. Californians support and deserve a state that provides for the common good and the needs of our residents, and we need to pursue realistic revenue solutions that will protect our shared priorities. Cuts are not the only option!
Our state needs courageous leadership. We will support those who stand against an all-cuts budget, speak out for fair ways of raising revenue, and work to deliver a budget that invests in our future and protects all the people of our state. True leaders get their strength from the people they represent. We pledge to be that strength, and mobilize to support a sensible budget solution.
The specific action items are to call your lawmaker and provide that counter-weight to the internal pressure to support the all-cuts approach. They reference the majority-vote fee increase as a legitimate option that must be put before the Governor in place of the worst cuts. County Democratic Chairs and local activists are actually driving the pressure from below, rather than having solutions imposed upon them.
This represents an opportunity. It doesn't mean we win this fight - we're going to lose more than we win at first. And in a way, this is the corporate "reform" community's worst nightmare - the Bay Area Council and California Forward would rather drive the reform process themselves and keep it within their own particular boundaries. But we can build a movement of a newly-roused core group of activists committed to setting California on the right path by restoring democracy, eliminating the conservative veto and reforming the broken system. This is a first step.
Taking a short break from the budget for this special request...
While the case of Roxana Saberi stirred enough attention in the media to extract her release from Iran, the similar case of two journalists detained in North Korea since March has not been given the same level of notoreity. The Current TV journalists and San Francisco residents, Euna Lee and Laura Ling, will stand trial for "hostile acts" against the DPRK on Thursday, and their families are speaking out after months of silence, calling for the United States to work for the girls' release.
"Our families have been quiet because the situation is very sensitive and we've been really trying to allow diplomacy to take its course," Lisa Ling, Laura's sister, said on CNN's "Larry King Live" on Monday night. "But you know, you'd have to be hiding under a rock not to see what's going on in the Korean Peninsula.
"I mean tensions are so heated," she continued, "and the girls are essentially in the midst of this nuclear standoff."
Late last month, North Korea conducted nuclear and missile tests, drawing the condemnation of the U.N. Security Council.
"We just felt like it was time for us to talk publicly and try and encourage our two governments to try to communicate, to try and bring our situation to a resolution on humanitarian grounds -- to separate the issues," said Ling, who is a special correspondent with CNN.
As I may have mentioned before, I actually know Euna Lee. I worked with her briefly when I lived in San Francisco. And I encourage everyone to speak out and intensify the international spotlight on this issue. The two journalists have basically become bargaining chips, as the North Koreans continue their nuclear and missile tests and generally behave belligerently toward the West. We need to extricate themselves from this so they are not caught in the crossfire.
Some friends in San Francisco have put together some action items to help raise the profile of the case. There's a petition to release Lee and Ling on humanitarian grounds. And today, there will be nationwide vigils in the US and Canada. Find the vigil in your area at the Facebook site.