Category Archives: Home On The Delaware River

HomeTown, RuralTown, RiverTown. Callicoon, NY

International Workers’ Day; Immigration Reform; Gas Drilling Industrialization


May 1st  was International Workers’ Day.  Some call it   “The Real Labor Day.”

In 1886,  the American Federation of Labor (AFL)  called on workers to strike any business that refused to abide by an 8-hour  workday.   According to Howard Zinn’s  A People’s History of the United States, (1995, p. 264)  on May 1,  1886,

350,000 workers in 11,562 establishments all over the country went out on strike.  In Chicago, 40,000 struck and 45,000 were granted a shorter working day to prevent them from striking.  Every railroad in Chicago stopped running and most of the industries in Chicago were paralyzed.  The stockyards were closed down.”

In 1880,  The United States’ population was approximately 50 million and  Chicago’s   was 500,000. According to the 1880 Census Compendium Part II,  there were   2.8 million  men, women and children working in the nation’s 254,000  manufacturing  facilities.  Using  Zinn’s figures then,  approximately 13% of US workers  went out on strike  May 1, 1886.

Imagine if,  in 2009,  13% of  the US’  140 million “documented”  workers had struck for  universal health care  and a living wage.   Go ahead.  Imagine  18 million  workers thronging the  streets, hand-in-hand, to advocate  for themselves, their children and the future of this nation.

In 1983,  the year my oldest son was born, we were in the middle of another “economic downturn.”  A gallon of gas cost $1.25,  a Dodge Ram truck cost $5700 and the average monthly rent was  $335.  Cleaning toilets and pushing a lawnmower earned me $10 an hour.  (When I saved enough to buy my father’s old riding mower, I was able to ask $15 an hour for larger properties.)

Seventeen years later, after the boom times of the 1990’s,  most of us freelance “domestic workers”  could make  $15-20 an hour.  Around that same time, our counterparts in New York City were  being paid  in the $25-30 range.

In July  2009 — the costs of most everything having doubled since 1983 —   the US  minimum wage was raised to $7.25 per hour.

This past May 1st,  I worked and was glad for it  though I know  Grandma and Grandpa were  rolling in their graves.  (May 1st was the date my family eschewed labor for history;  the day we  remembered  Samuel Gompers,  the AFL  and the perfidy of  police officers who helped  smother labor’s demands for living wages, humane working conditions and  equal pay regardless of  gender and race.)

On May 1, 2010,  I informed a prospective employer  that “I’d have to charge $20 an hour to clean his house”  and cited to the round-trip  travel time, cost of products, gas,  fuel oil, rent, etc.

The weighty pause on the other end of the phone and the aghast rejoinder took me by surprise,  “We won’t pay that.  We don’t pay more than $15 an hour in the City.”

“That’s interesting,”  said I.  “A few years ago,  the going rate for housekeepers in the City was nearer $25-30 an hour.”

“Not anymore,”  came the smug-sounding reply.

There are times when my naivete is unforgivable.

I asked another  “City dweller” — a member of a  white collar union  and gas drilling opponent —   what the going rate for domestic services  is in her neighborhood.  “Ten dollars an hour,”  she answered.  “But that’s because we have so many ‘illegals.'”

“‘Illegals?  You mean ‘undocumented workers?'”

She shrugged.

So for those of you who oppose gas drilling and own homes  in the City as well as in our rural Pennsylvania and New York communities, remember this simple action + action = results equation:

When you pay less than subsistence wages to  the “undocumented human”  who has to buy groceries and pay rent  in Manhattan,  Brooklyn or Long Island,

YOU  DRIVE DOWN  the wages of the person struggling  beside you in Callicoon, Milanville and Honesdale and

YOU ENSURE MORE WORKERS  WILL SIGN LEASES IN HOPES OF WINNING THE  GAS LOTTERY.

When I raised this issue of wage depression with friends who live both rurally and in the City,  I was told their  ability to share the wealth is constrained  by their loss of retirement funds;  that their “disposable” income has been drastically reduced  by cutbacks in their businesses and occupations.

I understand.  My bank account plunged right beside yours and Sullivan County’s  real unemployment figure is nearer 20% than the officially cited  10.9%

So given that we’re all in  greatly reduced circumstances,  here’s my deal:  I’ll reduce my housekeeping charges by $5  to $15 an hour if you’ll promise to increase my counterpart’s  wage in the City to a  $15 cash rate.

If you can still afford to hire domestic help, for your own sake,  pay them a living wage.  Otherwise, whose disposable income will  keep you in business?

I saved money during the 1983 downturn.  I paid the hospital and obstetrician  cash for their services.

The son born to me in 1983  was admitted to the New York State Bar last week.  If he was born today,  I doubt he’d ever see the inside of a law school.

Breathing is Political because our personal political, economic and social decisions influence the growth of a child in our neighbor’s womb.  A child’s life depends, in large part,  on the health of the mother and on  the parents’  ability to provide nutritious meals, books, ideas, a secure home and a realistic dream for the future.

For all workers, the breadth of that dream and its attainability  depend on you and me  caring about equitable treatment for all.  It does NOT depend on any one of us short-changing another simply because we can.

As for union workers who de-value the work and lives  of others’,  as I write this,  America’s teachers’ unions are the new target of labor reforms.  If the rest of us are busy scrabbling for each spare nickle,  when will we have leisure to come to your defense?

Sullivan County Legislator David Sager vs. “Goliath” John Bonacic?


Before   Sullivan County Legislator,  Dr. David Sager,  (District 1)  took the podium  at his press conference this afternoon,  he arranged a pair of yellow and blue campaign signs on either side of the podium.  The signs proclaimed,  “Sager  for State Senate. No nonsense. Honest Leadership.”

Literally, the  announcement may  change the face of  NYS Senate District 42.

Not only did Sager  announced his intention to  challenge long-time incumbent Republican John Bonacic, but   he will do it as a Democrat.

Sullivan County Democratic Chair, Steve Wilkinson,   introduced Dr. Sager and welcomed   Delaware County’s  Democratic  Chairwoman Cindy Lockrow-Schimmerling and various other Democratic Party notables.

“I’d like to address the large elephant in the room,”  Mr. Wilkinson began.  “David  is changing his  political affiliation from Republican to Democrat.  This is not an opportunistic change but a a philosophical change,”  Mr. Wilkinson  continued to loud applause.   “To borrow from Winston Churchill,  ‘There’s nothing  wrong with change as long as it’s in the right direction.’  Democrats wholeheartedly welcome David to the Democratic Party. For too long  the New York State Senate has been the log jam to realizing change in New York. It has been mired in its own personal politics.”

Obviously, it  was not just any elephant Mr. Wilkinson was talking about.  Dr. Sager has held his  Sullivan County Legislative seat as a Republican.  In order for him to face Bonacic as a Democrat  in a  General Election,  he must get the nod from the  Democratic Chairs of the four  counties  which  comprise District 42:  Sullivan,  Ulster, Delaware and  a piece of Orange.

Ulster  County Legislator, Susan Zimet  (D, District 10)  campaigned against John Bonacic in 2006.  Although her effort fell short by roughly 12,000 votes,  it was a strong showing against the then-16-year incumbent. (Bonacic first became a member of the New York State Assembly in  1990 and has served in the NYS Senate since 1998.)  Zimet’s  2006 campaign website is still  up and available for viewing here.

Dr. Sager’s opening remarks  perhaps signaled  the tone he hopes to strike during the upcoming campaign.  “During the course of my service on the Sullivan County Legislature,  I have been honest and passionate. I have not been afraid of issues that were unpopular or complex.  If you liked me as a Republican, you will like me even more as a Democrat.  I will contuinue to champion fair and just causes and it won’t  matter to me if an idea is Republican or Democratic as long as it’s a good idea.  After  years of consideration,  I have changed my party enrollment and  have done so in good conscience.   I still stand  for fiscally  responsible and accountable government but my social views have evolved and are more in concert with core Democratic Party values.”

Taking on some who have criticized him  for  verbal  gaffs,  Sager said,  smiling at  The Times-Herald Record’s reporter,   “I have a reputation for having a  salty tongue — per The Times-Herald Record.  I will continue to be candid and fight for what’s  right. I will put the people first. Our state government is broken…and our current State  Senator is a long-time part of the problem. Unfunded state mandates have crippled  local governments and placed the burden on local taxpayers.”

“State Senator Bonacic  advocates for unfettered gas drilling.  I want a society and  government that asks at what price do we support industrial development that is potentially lethal to us  all.    At what point do we say no to large corporations who put their profits  first?   Gas drilling must be safe, legal, economically beneficial to all and subject  to local controls. We must take a hard look at a comprehensive  Environmental Protection Agency  study of gas drilling.  We must  support the Englebright bill which will institute a drilling moratorium in New York State until 120 days after the EPA releases the results of its study.   It’s a simple, sensible bill.  We can  wait for the science. We have a responsibility to provide safe drinking water to our children and families…. Safe drinking water is a right not a privilege.  Senator Bonacic  has been misguided [about gas drilling] while  I have been demanding a rational approach.  There must be a return to  local control. ‘Drill,  baby,  drill’  is a slogan not a policy.”

At a recent County Legislature meeting, Dr. Sager said  that the drilling issue  should not pit  farmers against non-farmers.  “It’s not an agricultural issue.  It’s about the industrialization of New York.”

“We must ask,  ‘Will the growth we advocate be sustainable?  How will  New York State and  District 42 grow?’  The 42nd District is in the process of becoming an important economic link to New York City  —  an important link to  a  sustainable lifestyle —  industrially, personally and agriculturally.”

On other topics, Dr. Sager  reminded the audience,  “I have sponsored sweeping and meaningful ethics reform for Sullivan County and  I will be at the head of it in New York State.”

“I will champion property tax reform and will be joining  Sullivan County Treasurer, Ira Cohen,  in  continuing to  review  tax exempt policies.  Large tracts of land and living complexes end up off  the tax rolls.  People cannot continue to vacation in the 42nd district for free.”

“I will fight for our schools, teachers and students so students can afford the college education they need and I’m determined to ensure our region has  the  infrastructure it will need  to benefit small businesses.”

“I’m going to need your help.  We need people who passionately support our cause. We need volunteers who will go door-to-door.  Please contact us at:  sagerforsenator@gmail.com until we get our website up and running which will be very soon.”

After his prepared remarks, Breathing asked Dr.  Sager  what he had to  say about local drilling issues and ethics reform.

“The county is in the  process, because of  my fierce prodding, of completely re-doing  our ethics policy.   As to drilling, I have not taken an anti  approach but there has been a general and blind pursuit of drilling without a necessary analysis of the science.  DEC’s  [NYS Department of Environmental Conservation] employees have  said the draft Supplemental Generic Impact Study is seriously flawed and no local official should be questioning that statement.”

Dr. Sager was also asked  how changing his  political party affiliation will affect his status with the Sullivan County Legislature.   “I’ve got a great working relationship with Jonathan [Rouis] and Woody [Elwin Wood]. I intend to caucus as a Democrat.”

A member of the  public  asked,  “Are you going to support green technology that  will help us avoid dependence on  Middle East  oil?”  and Dr. Sager reiterated,  “I want to turn the 42nd District into an area that promotes green technology. It’s how we’re going to grow our area.”

When Breathing asked a Sager supporter about  the candidate’s “salty tongue” remark,  the long-time patient of   “Dr. Dave”  said,  “Does he step in it sometimes?  Yeah.  He’s a passionate guy.  He’s not always smooth but that’s why I like him.  He does his homework and doesn’t have a lot of patience for  political games.”

For information on the amounts of money  NYS Senator Bonacic has raised in the past,  comprehensive postings have been made available  FROM PROJECT VOTE SMART and FROM THE DAILY KOS. Dr. Sager should hold on to his hat because both sites have published campaign war chest  figures for the Senator  in the $700,000 range.

Passing Over : Things of Fear; Things of Celebration


Dear Readers:  Though  I  adhere to no recognized or  singular faith,  I do  love  stories.  Give me a well-written epic about  families, communities, struggle  and transformation, and I’ll soak it in rather than eat, sleep or bathe.  And spring — glorious, tricky,  laughing-up-its-sleeve-spring — is rife  with stories.  The  rituals and traditions of our spring  celebrations turn our hearts to hope,  sunshine, birth, awakenings and all the goodness that sheds the worn, tired and fearsome dark. For many of us, more than New Year’s, the Vernal Equinox signals the time when we re-examine our principles,  our desires and the investments of our energy.

Who can see the first  impertinent Crocus and not  raise arms in an expansive, giddy embrace?  Who, in that moment,  doesn’t hope to become a  more generous, celebratory human, reveling in the gifts of   Earth, Water,  Seeds and Life?

It seems to me this year, that  winter’s weight has been  harder to shift; and that this year, shifting it is more important than ever.  I am  more frazzled by  the things  that threaten — less swelled by  the things that green and warm.  I think I’m not alone and so,  because living in dread is enervating,  I offer this antidote in hopes that gloom  will pass over your heads and homes.

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My  email inbox has been filled with reminders that a new season of   art shows,  library programs and pancake breakfasts is upon us.   Classes are sprouting  in the fine arts of herb-growing, veggie-planting and yoga- practicing.  From Pennsylvania  to Poughkeepsie,   grants were written during the winter and their seeds are flowering:  funds have been found for Honesdale’s  Music in the Park Festival and last evening  — despite the threat of snow — Callicoon’s own  Cafe Devine sponsored a cross-river gathering of small businesses.  The Town of Delaware is making plans for its clean-up and new Renaissance projects are gearing up  for sprucing up.  (Despite my own lackluster mood, I  clapped when I heard the Callicoon Creek Park folks are  meeting on March 31 at 5:00 PM to begin planning for the summer.  Hope to see you there!)

How can I grumble like  a curmudgeon when I can fill my summer belly with an astonishing array of  Willow Wisp Organic Farm fresh veggies from June 4th until November 20th?  (I have to shake my doldrums and sign up by  April 16th because,  even though I remain unconvinced about the wholesome value of veggies in my diet,  proprietors Greg Swartz and Tannis Kowalchuk  look very sturdy and I know they eat the stuff even through the winter.  Take a gander at the  family picture at their website.  Health oozes off these people!)

The Catskill Art SocietyThe DVAA (Savor the Arts!),  The Barryville Area Arts Association, The Nutshell Arts Center and all their member artists, filmmakers, potters, fiber artists and photographers are shaking out the winter kinks with a cornucopia of events that breathe life into our better selves.

And farm markets!  I cannot tell you how gladdened I am as the River flows past my window that the Callicoon Creek Park, Liberty’s Darbee Lane,  Jeffersonville’s  “West Village,”  Roscoe’s  field and tens of other locales will soon fill  with the luscious reds, greens, lavenders, purples and russets of  locally-grown food,  crusty breads and  my favorite, gooey confections.

Happily, my phone and inbox are also coming alive with offers of  yard work,  spring cleaning and other  work that will  pay my rent and help me enjoy our fecund River Basin.

Speaking of fecund (such a fertile, ripe word!)… Josh Fox (Gasland) will be interviewed tonight (3/26) at 8:30 pm  on Now on PBS. (If,  like myself, you’ve canceled your TV service,  check Now’s online videos to watch it at your convenience.)

If that isn’t enough to convince the outside world of the creative wealth born and bred in these here mountains and river valley, Opus Jazz  (edited by Zac Stuart-Pontier) is premiering on PBS’ Great Performances.

For those of you who have not heard about these two  Delaware River Basin filmmakers,   they  are OUR sons  who, thanks to  sweat, hard-work, and creative genius,  finally  met  this past January  when Gasland and  Catfish (edited by Zac) showed — to critical acclaim —  at The Sundance Film Festival.

One last quick note about the importance  of  our region’s  performers and artists:  Janet Burgan,  local  songwriter and performer, who has been sharing her voice and words  with us for years at one freebie benefit concert after another,  will be performing at a Cindy Sheehan appearance on April 9, 2010 at 7:00 PM in Endicott, NY.   The event,  “Words and Music for Peace” is sponsored by Tioga Peace & Justice and will be held at The  First United Methodist Church on  McKinley Ave. “Cindy will speak,  Janet  will sing, and Expressive Drumming will perform a song written just for this occasion.”

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I know I’ve missed a ton of events, organizations, farmers and small businesses in this first Spring Humors article.  Unfortunately,  gas drilling is on our doorsteps.  It has already begun its taking;  and like all of us, I’ve had to make hard choices.  I’d much rather be  adding all our creative and life-affirming events to the CottageWorks Calendar, but  instead, am  learning and sharing all I can about what fracking will mean to  our community.  It’s  the dread  that darkens this spring  and in years to come, when my grandchildren ask,   “Where were you, Grandma,  when the Basin  resisted?”  I can only afford to give them one answer,  “Standing beside my community and  sitting at my computer.”

However,  I will  try to write a column like this at least once a month.  Please continue to send announcements about your  not-for-profit organizations and community-vested businesses and I will continue to  spotlight them in a “celebratory article.”

Best hopes of the River Basin on all our heads,

Liz

Sullivan County Business Challenges Workers’ Right to Organize


On March 3, 2010,  The National Labor Relations Board’s  (NLRB)  Buffalo, NY office issued a press release stating  it was “…seeking a federal court order to force an egg processor, Deb-El Food Products, to rehire seven fired union supporters and begin contract negotiations with the United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) union.”*

This is big news for Sullivan County, NY where few workers know what the “NLRB” is and even fewer have asked the independent federal agency to ensure a Collective Bargaining vote is conducted fairly and equitably in their workplace.

In 1935, the U.S. Congress enacted the National Labor Relations Act (29 U.S.C. §§ 151-169) which established the National Labor Relations Board. (NLRB)   In deciding  its action  was necessary,  Congress said,  among many other things,    “The inequality of bargaining power between employees who do not possess full freedom of association or actual liberty of contract and employers who are organized in the corporate or other forms of ownership association substantially burdens and affects the flow of commerce, and tends to aggravate recurrent business depressions, by depressing wage rates and the purchasing power of wage earners in industry and by preventing the stabilization of competitive wage rates and working conditions within and between industries.” (Italics added for emphasis.)

In sum, the National Labor Relations Board was established to serve two primary functions:

  • to prevent and remedy unfair labor practices, whether committed by labor organizations or employers, and;
  • to establish whether or not certain groups of employees desire labor organization representation for collective-bargaining purposes, and if so, which union.

In the current  Deb-El case,  the  NLRB investigated the company’s actions and found   it had  illegally interfered with its employees’  right to debate and establish a Collective Bargaining Unit.

More, Deb-El employees have alleged  the company, in its efforts to block a union vote, committed violent and inhumane  acts such as:

  • beating  an employee with a tire iron;
  • forcing an employee  to eat broken egg material off the floor; and
  • denying   employees  access to bathroom facilities

On Monday, March 22, 2010,   several Hudson Valley advocacy groups held a press conference at the Sullivan County Government Center in   support of  employees at Deb-El who risked much to join  UFCW Local 342.

Milan Bhatt, Executive Director of The Workers Rights Law Center, which advocates for low wage workers and is based in Kingston,  NY,  welcomed the press and public and stated,  “…the Center stood in strong support of  the right of Deb-El workers to bargain collectively.”

The Rural and Migrant Ministry,  which  has a broad and inclusive mission of  service to rural families, youth and workers, was represented by  Ruth Faircloth who said,  “One million people of faith feel that our men and women in food production have the right to be treated decently.  Our Ministry is deeply disturbed by testimony and reports… that Deb-El  punished its  workers for attempting to organize.  We support the NLRB in its efforts to right these wrongs.  Workers cannot organize in an atmosphere of violence.”

Eric Monroe of the Sullivan County Human Rights Commission and the NAACP reaffirmed  “the right of any worker to earn a decent wage”  as did Eileen Weil,  another member of the Commission who spoke on behalf of Sullivan Peace & Justice.

An NLRB Hearing convened right after the press conference  to consider,  according to the gathered organizations,  “…reinstatement of  [terminated]  workers,  awards of back pay and  a bargaining order requiring Deb-El to recognize UFCW Local 342 as the representative of workers.  On December 30th 2009, the Regional Director for the NLRB’s Region 3 Office in Buffalo ruled in favor of the workers and issued an extensive complaint outlining Deb El Foods’ misconduct.”

Despite NLRB having already ruled in favor of the workers,  this current hearing and subsequent appeals by Deb-El could extend for months.**

Workers who have questions concerning workplace practices,  rights to organize and other issues that impact the heart of families and their communities, are encouraged to contact any of the organizations linked in this article.

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* In explaining its action,  The NLRB stated, “The petition filed today in federal district court argues that action is urgently needed.  ‘Unless injunctive relief is immediately obtained, it is anticipated that Respondent will continue its unlawful conduct…with the result that employees will continue to be deprived of their fundamental right to organize for purposes of collective bargaining.’  A majority of the Thompsonville facility’s workers signed cards in mid-May seeking a union election. In the weeks before the late June election date, according to the petition, the employer’s agents allegedly engaged in a sustained effort to discourage union support, threatening employees with dismissal and loss of benefits, telling them a union vote would be futile, and asking employees to sign an anti-union petition. One employee was allegedly asked to take a cell phone picture of his ballot. Seven union supporters were fired. In the end, 18 employees cast ballots for the union and 21 voted against it. In response to charges filed by the union ((3-CA-27215) and after a thorough investigation, the region found that the alleged pre-election misconduct made a legitimate vote impossible, even if rerun. Accordingly, the Region is asking that the injunctive relief require that the Respondent bargain with the Union. The petition for injunctive relief was filed in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.”

** As a nurse-paralegal who has worked on employment  discrimination and retaliation complaints filed in The  Southern District of New York, I have also represented the Plaintiffs  (workers) in their attendant disability and unemployment claims.  One thing is always true in such cases:  time is on the side of the employer.  Companies  have the resources to sustain months and even years of hearings, decisions, appeals and trials.  Without community supports,  the same can never be said for  employees — even after, as in the Deb-El case,   hearings have resulted in findings favorable to those workers.

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Sullivan County’s unemployment rate rose to 10.3% in January 2010. Some workforce development  estimates have placed that  figure  nearer to  20% when it includes  unemployed and under-employed workers no longer eligible for unemployment benefits.   The overall rate in NY State is 9.4%.  Of  New York’s 62 counties, Sullivan’s unemployment rate is ranked amongst  the highest  at 43. Bronx County is ranked at the bottom  with a rate of  14.1%.

Historically, as too many unemployed workers compete for too few jobs,  wages have been driven downward and  working conditions have worsened. As wages have fallen,  so has the ability of workers to support local economies.  As Congress opined in establishing the National Labor Relations Act and Board,  collective bargaining is essential to ensuring against  ensuing economic depressions  — like our current one.

Slaying Goliath Can Be As Easy As Deciding


(Follow up to Breathing’s  “Gas Drilling :  Sullivan County’s Hazards Mitigation Plan.” You have until  March 31, 2010  to download,  complete and return your Sullivan County Hazards Mitigation Questionnaire!)


Occasionally,  it’s  borne in on me  that breathing really  is political —  that   my  private values and public choices require  a decision;  that those decisions are not entirely separate from yours;  and  that corporate policies are not distinct from their impact on my neighbor down the road.

Tuesday  March 9, 2010.

Time Warner Cable informs me that my most recent payment was misapplied and that  they are unable to correct their mistake until next month’s billing cycle.

I  tell them to discontinue my television service and miraculously, they find a way to apply the credit immediately.

I tell them I’m fed up with  having to threaten them in order to ensure good customer service and reiterate that I want my television service canceled.

They reply  that I will have to drop off their cable box at some “convenient location”  and I suggest they come and get it.

They agree but  say  they will continue to bill me for television service until they can retrieve the box at some future date.   I say,  “Bill away.  Bill to your heart’s content.  Not only will I not pay for  TV service beyond the date I  requested cancellation,  but I am forwarding  our correspondence to the Better Business Bureau.”

It’s a day of miracles:  they promise to  back-date my  credit to the date of my cancellation request.

Benefits:  $50 saved per month and more time for reading, writing and sitting on the river bank.

Dare  I admit,  that  like  David,  I am looking for other Goliaths to slay?

Wednesday March 10, 2010. Verizon Wireless informs me via email that my new bill is available for payment.

Coincidentally, a promotion from CREDO Mobile has  arrived  in my mailbox. It promises  that CREDO will not  support war, torture or deforestation.  Chortling with glee,  I plunge through page after page at their website.  If I  sign up for their service, they promise  to support  Greenpeace, Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, Amnesty International, Doctors Without Borders, The Center for Independent Media, Earthjustice, Physicians for a National Health Program and Code Pink, for  Pete’s sake. (There’s  a ton of others but those were the first to dazzle my cynical eye.)

“Steady on,”  I tell myself.    My heart has been through the socially-conscious corporate grinder before.  I take a break.  I make some toast (homemade) and tuna (dolphin-safe).  I stare down at the River and  decide that whether or not CREDO’s service area blankets the nation as widely as Verizon’s, I’m tired of  complaining while walking hand-in-hand with a corporate marauder.

In a state of  near-spiritual transport,  I dial CREDO and tell the  helpful woman on the other end that “I am dawning with the day!”   Not only does she understand (or say she does) but she’s heard of  “hydraulic fracturing” and wishes us  well in our efforts to re-establish control of our local resources.

And joy of joys, CREDO will reimburse me up to $200.00  for incurring  Verizon’s onerous  “early contract withdrawal” penalty. (Savings:  approximately $25.00 monthly.)

(I’ll report back after using CREDO’s  service for a month but by way of disclosure,  for each person  who enrolls with CREDO Mobile  and  mentions my name and cell phone number, CREDO will send me a check for $100. That’s not  peculiar to me.  It’s  CREDO’s  standard operating procedure.  Apparently, CREDO is not only a responsible corporate “person,” but they’re  savvy, too.)

Thursday March 11, 2010 (afternoon hours.) As I unpack groceries, there’s a frantic pounding on my  front door.  “My friend’s sick,”  gasps my neighbor.  “She needs  insulin but she’s got no insurance  and she can’t afford to buy the medicine.”

Apparently,  my neighbor’s friend  had been to a hospital a few days before and was informed that  her blood glucose (sugar)  level was at  500.   She was treated with insulin and sent home.

Under the best of circumstances, insulin-dependent  diabetics with  health insurance  perform daily monitoring of  their blood glucose levels.  Generally, normal levels range from 80 to 120.  An individual’s levels will vary  depending on food intake, exercise, stress and other factors. When more than diet, exercise  and/or oral medications are required to maintain those healthy levels, insulin is prescribed.  When high blood sugar remains untreated, dire consequences often result.  Immediate (acute)  concerns involve loss of consciousness and possible death.  In the long-term,  amputations and blindness are just two common consequences.

Under any circumstances,  a blood level of 500 is a matter of sharp concern,  even for long-time diabetics who can  run high as a matter of course.  In this case,  our “patient”  had no idea what her blood glucose might be.  It  had been a couple of  days since her hospital treatment and she had no money for monitoring equipment or her prescribed-insulin.

Without delay, she was taken  to the Callicoon Hospital emergency room which is a few miles down the road from us.  Despite her lack of money and  insurance, I knew  she’d be  treated gently and professionally by the staff at our small, rural care center. More, I  was confident they’d take a full health history and do what excellent  nurses and doctors do regardless of  insurance company  strictures:   search with her for ways to overcome her lack of insurance and money.  That’s what we do here in the Valley:  we care for each other.

As  Louise Penny  writes in A Fatal Grace,

Ring the bells that still can ring,

Forget your perfect offering,

There’s a crack in everything,

That’s how the light gets in.

And because, breathing really is political.