Guest Commentary (4164)
BILL QUIGLEY FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When Hurricane Katrina hit the Gulf Coast on August 29, 2005, the nation saw tens of thousands of people left behind in New Orleans. Ten years later, it looks like the same people in New Orleans have been left behind again. The population of New Orleans is noticeably smaller and noticeably whiter. While tens of billions poured into Louisiana, the impact on poor and working people in New Orleans has been minimal. Many of the elderly and the poor, especially poor families with children, never made it back to New Orleans. The poverty rate for children who did made it back remains at disturbingly high pre-Katrina levels, especially for Black children. Rents are high and taking a higher percentage of people’s income. The pre-Katrina school system fired all it teachers and professionals and turned itself into the charter experiment capital of the US even while the number of children in public schools has dropped dramatically. Since Katrina, white incomes, which were over twice that of Blacks, have risen three times as much as Blacks. While not all the numbers below are bad, they do illustrate who has been left behind in the ten years since Katrina hit.
33 Rent in New Orleans is up 33 percent for one bedroom apartments and 41 percent for two bedroom apartments since Katrina hit. This is very tough because in New Orleans, 55 percent of residents rent. The national average is 35 percent. In 2005, one bedroom was $578 and two was $676. In 2015, it is $767 for one and $950 for two. CNN/Money recently named New Orleans as one of the worst cities in the US for renters. Before Katrina the average renter spent 19 percent of its income on rent. The Data Center, a terrific resource for information on the region, reports 37 percent of renters in New Orleans now spend more than 50 percent of their income to rent. Rental apartments are mostly substandard as well with 78 percent, nearly 50,000 apartments, in the city needing major repairs.
38 In 2005, 38 percent of the children in New Orleans lived in poverty, 17 percentage points higher than the US as a whole. The most recent numbers show 39 percent of the children in New Orleans live in poverty, still 17 percentage points higher than the national average. 82 percent of these families have someone working in the family so the primary cause is low wages.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The FBI defines terrorism as "Acts dangerous to human life...intended to intimidate or coerce a civilian population." Much of the behavior of our current health care system meets that definition. The facts show intention on the part of corporations to intimidate the population by using market strategies to charge whatever they like for their medical products and services, and an effort to coerce the public into accepting the current system as the only option.
The Average American Family Pays $4,000 for Medical Fraud and Subsidies
Medical billing fraud is estimated at 10 percent of all health care, or about $270 billion, while patent monopolies raise the price of prescription drugs by another $270 billion a year. Combined, this represents an astonishing annual cost of over $4,000 to an average American household. As The Atlantic puts it, "The people most likely to bilk the system are doctors and medical providers, not 'welfare queens.'"
Intimidation by Outrageous Markups
In a recent analysis of 50 hospitals (49 for-profit) with the highest charge-to-cost ratios in 2012, the average markup was 1,000 percent, which means that a procedure costing a hospital $100 is marked up to $1,000 for us.
Some of the markups test the limits of sanity: an 80-cent needle for $143.25 (a 17,000 percent markup). A 25-cent IUD device for $1,000. A blood test that costs $10 in one hospital and $10,000 in another.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Austerity, the tool of neoliberal capitalism, stands up to Greek democracy and stares it down. Oh well.
We’re remarkably comfortable with soulless economics.
Pope Francis, speaking this week in Paraguay, cried to the nations of Planet Earth: “I ask them not to yield to an economic model . . . which needs to sacrifice human lives on the altar of money and profit.”
But we have yielded to this economic model, in thought, word and deed:
“At issue,” USA Today informs us, “is whether Greece has taken adequate steps to cut spending and raise taxes to deserve the new three-year, $59 billion infusion of funds it has requested, and whether it can be trusted to follow through on the austerity program it has proposed as the price for new loans.”
The pope’s words haven’t penetrated the pseudo-objective certainties of financial reporting, much less the dark sanctuaries of money and power. But they must. And eventually they will, or human evolution is dead. An allegedly impersonal economic structure, which quietly benefits the infinitesimally few who have far more than they need, is no foundation for our future.
This economic system is a relic of the Industrial Age, or perhaps it’s a relic of the Agricultural Revolution. It’s imbued with deep prejudices — human beings can be bought and sold, the nurturing of human life (women’s work) has no monetary value whatsoever — and reinforces our place outside the circle of life, separated from one another and from our deepest values.
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTJEFF BIGGERS OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
Signaling a watershed shift in recognizing the national health crisis from cancer-linked strip mining in central Appalachia, more than 200,000 people have signed historic CREDO Action and Earthjustice petitions, calling on Congress to pass the Appalachian Communities Health Emergency Act(H.R. 912) and enact a moratorium on new mountaintop removal coal mining (MTR).
With the Appalachian coal industry in a tailspin and the global banking community pulling out of mountaintop removal financing, the extraordinary show of support for the ACHE Act campaign effectively acknowledges that the only defenders of the cancer-linked radical strip mining operations are a handful of absentee coal companies, indicted coal baron Don Blankenship, and their fringe supporters in Congress.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
"The fight over the Iran deal is going to make the Obamacare battles look like two preppies slap-fighting over a cucumber sandwich," Jeffrey Lewis, an arms control expert, Foreign Policy
"Some seem to believe that we should negotiate with the terrorists and radicals, as if some ingenious argument will persuade them they have been wrong all along. …We have an obligation to call this what it is -- the false comfort of appeasement, which has been repeatedly discredited by history." George W. Bush, Speech to the Israeli Knesset, May 15, 2008
Now that a deal with Iran over the future of its nuclear programs has been negotiated, expect conservatives to crank up the outrage and obfuscation. They will conflate diplomacy with appeasement. They may drag Hitler into the conversation and compare President Obama to Britain’s Neville Chamberlain’s betrayal at Munich. They will muddy the waters, sew discord, and create as much confusion as possible. Facts will be hard to come by as the posturing and bloviating begins. The conservative media machine will be running on all cylinders. Christian Zionists will deploy lobbyists on Capital Hill. Republican congressional representatives, and GOP presidential candidates will use everything in their arsenal to put a kybosh on the deal.
During the run-up to the invasion of Iraq, and the early years of the war, Bush administration supporters and surrogates grew fond of branding critics with the A word, calling them appeasers, and accusing opponents of the war of being confused enablers of terrorism. One would think that if there were any justice in the world, conservatives would only be allowed to use the same inflammatory rhetoric and tired arguments only once in a generation.
ANASTASIA PANTSIOS OF ECOWATCH ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Hillary Clinton met behind closed doors with House and Senate Democrats Tuesday to talk about her positions on key issues. According to the members of Congress who attended the lunch, she told them that climate change can be a winning issue for Democrats, especially among younger voters, if they can develop a message to persuade voters that action is essential.Presidential candidate
“She was incredible,” said Maryland Sen. Ben Cardin. “She really relates [climate change] to the current political communities and how we have to do a better job. We know the policy, but we have to do a better job on the politics.”
Congressman Raul Grijalva of Arizona, who co-chairs the House Progressive Caucus, also gave Clinton’s session a favorable review.
“I thought it was pretty solid,” he said. “Some of the progressive issues and members have kind of been crying in the wilderness for a while, and now these issues like climate change, income inequality and the jobs agenda are resonating with the public. The fact that the progressive causes and organizations feel more in touch with and included with Hillary now is a mark that she understands that.”
“You hear issues from her when she’s out on the stump that are pretty much identical with what progressives are saying in the caucus,” said Ohio Sen. Sherrod Brown.
According to the National Journal, “Clinton framed global warming as a pressing and serious threat and touted the climate credentials of John Podesta, the chairman of her 2016 campaign and a former climate adviser to President Obama.”
However, she also went easy on coal, according to Sen. Joe Manchin, who represents the coal mining state of West Virginia. He invited Clinton to tour West Virginia’s coal country.
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
The End of the World As We Know It, an interview with Guy McPherson, professor emeritus of evolutionary biology, natural resources and ecology at the University of Arizona, and a climate change expert for 30 years, I stared at my computer screen and questioned whether it was worth writing commentaries when we’re on the brink of mass extinction possibly in this lifetime. It seemed pointless.After reading Truthout reporter's Dahr Jamail’s
Of course, there is something profoundly unacceptable about this conclusion. One’s gut reaction is to deny the inevitable, as if your doctor just told you that you’ve got x amount of years left to live. You want to say, “Nah, this can’t be…this can’t be happening.” Or you think of the zealot on the street corner, Bible in one hand, megaphone in the other, shouting “The end of the world is coming! Get right with Jesus!” Sure, the end of the world is coming in about a million years, but not in my lifetime—so I believed when I was a child.
But it is happening, and rapidly at that. We’re now witnessing the beginning of the end, and it’s happening very rapidly because of all the climate interactions that are going off much like thousands of dominos colliding and collapsing, known as “feedback loops triggered by human-caused climate disruption,” in the words of Professor McPherson, such as the enormous amounts of methane (greenhouse gas) that is being released from Arctic ice-melts, accelerated by Japan’s nuclear Fukushima catastrophe, May 2011 three nuclear power meltdowns, (TEPCO has been releasing tons of radioactive water into the Pacific for the last four years that is literally boiling the ocean,) to name merely two domino effects from many, many more, and so when all those dominoes finally stop falling, there will be nothing left but a deadening silence; and this is all happening in our lifetimes.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Max Blumenthal is a spot-on, tenacious journalist.
He has a bevy of enthusiastic supporters, and a host of virulent pro-Israel "no matter what" critics. He has become a lightening rod for conservatives. Is it possible for right-wingers and AIPAC adherents to speak about his work without either blowing a carotid artery; or attacking him personally, huffing and puffing about his being "anti-Semitic," a self-loathing Jew, an anti-Israeli propagandist, and a bullying anti-Zionist? It doesn't appear it is.
That dear readers, is a darn shame, because the work of Max Blumenthal -- a gutsy award-winning journalist whose on-the-ground reporting often shatters the confabulated wisdom of the Mainstream Media Misinformation and Disinformation Complex -- speaks for itself in its insights and fearlessness.
As Mondoweiss pointed out, Blumenthal's last book Goliath: Life and Loathing in Greater Israel – documenting the growth of radical right-wing politics in Israeli -- did not get reviewed in The New York Times.
Typical of attacks from the pro-Israel media, Petra Marquardt-Bigman, a German-Israeli freelance writer and researcher, takes the slash and burn approach to Blumenthal and his work. In a recent blog post, she maintained that Blumenthal not only has "enthusiasm for Hamas," but that he seems to have an "uncritical acceptance of the terror group's propaganda."
ECOWATCH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUTSTEFANIE SPEAR OF
Article reprinted with permission from EcoWatch
Thirteen activists from the group Plane Stupid chained themselves together on the northern runway at the London Heathrow Airport in England this morning protesting the runway expansion saying, “We cannot meet our climate change targets and build new runways at the same time.”
Activists wore armlocks and laid on the runway, where police brought heavy machinery to cut them free, according to the Guardian.
The statement released this morning by Plane Stupid challenged the assumption that expanding Heathrow fits with the UK’s climate change goals and argued that “if the aviation industry paid more of its environmental costs then there would be no pressing need for a new runway.”
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
When Mitt Romney's campaign was investigating potential choices to be his 2012 running mate, they gave each prospect a fish-themed code name, such as Lake Fish, Filet-O-Fish, etc. Their name for New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie, a tireless self-promoter known for his bloated ego, was Puffer Fish.
The Romneyites determined that the prima donna governor was wholly unqualified to be America's vice president, but the rejection didn't deflate Christie's puffed-up self-esteem one dot, and he has continued to brag, bluster and bully his way into national politics. Having convinced at least himself that he's the can-do, big-idea, forceful leader America needs, the Jersey guv is now offering to be our president and has become No. 14 on the Republican presidential dance card! How exciting is that?
Before accepting, however, you might check with one group of voters who are less than enchanted: the people of New Jersey. With a moribund economy, a state budget mess, a growing pension crisis, the state infrastructure crumbling and his own office caught in a web of scandals, Christie is not faring well with the homefolk, earning a sorry 30 percent approval rating, with most voters saying they dislike "everything about him."
Nationwide, only Donnie Trump is rated lower than Christie by Republican primary voters. But he has found one friend — Maine Gov. Paul LePage has enthusiastically endorsed him! Problem is, LePage is even more insufferable and insolent than Christie, so arrogant and autocratic that he's even alienated fellow Republicans in Maine and is now threatened with impeachment.
Still, if anything, the Puffer Fish's ego is puffier than ever. Asked on Fox News why 65 percent of New Jersey voters say he'd make a poor president and shouldn't run, the vainglorious governor actually said: "They want me to stay. Don't leave to run for president, because we want you to stay."
It's one thing for a politician to say that, but — far scarier — Christie is so out of touch with reality that he actually believes it!