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Guest Commentary

Guest Commentary (4532)

by Carmen Yarrusso

Good morning. I'll open with a brief comment and then take questions…

America's health insurance industry is being demonized and unfairly attacked by extreme left-wing zealots. As CEO of the most profitable health insurance company in America, I'm here today to set the record straight.

Because most Americans don't have a clue how we make our money, many instinctively blame the health insurance industry for America's health care crisis. That's nonsense!

I'll explain exactly how we make our money. The problem isn't America's much maligned health insurance industry -- after all, producing billions in profits each year can’t be a "problem."

The problem is too many irresponsible people getting sick when they can't afford it. If you can't afford a new car, you shouldn't buy one. If you can't afford to get sick, you shouldn't get sick. The hard truth is many of us must learn to responsibly forgo expensive illnesses.

If you can't afford a heart attack, put it off a few years (ideally until you're 65). If you get sick, get something you can afford such as Swine flu (at least for the time being). If you win the lottery, then you can have that heart attack or get the pancreatic cancer you've been wanting (proud that you're getting sick responsibly).

Remember, we're not in this "for our health" and we're certainly not in this for your health. As corporations, we don't give a rat's ass about your health. We're in this legal con game to make easy money and to compete with each other for customers and shareholders.

by Melvin A. Goodman

Under the stewardship of neoconservative Fred Hiatt, the editorial and op-ed pages of The Washington Post have steadily moved to the right; the paper's key writers -- Charles Krauthammer, David Broder, Richard Cohen, Kathleen Parker, and others -- have marched along in lockstep. They have supported the use of military force in Iraq and Afghanistan; offered apologies for the CIA crimes of torture and abuse, extraordinary renditions, and secret prisons; and criticized efforts by the Obama Administration to reverse these policies and to rely on multilateral diplomacy and arms control and disarmament to resolve outstanding problems. The key writer in Hiatt's stable has been David Ignatius, who is this year's winner of the WashPost/Compost Award for the most incomprehensible and fanciful op-ed of 2009.

Ignatius' winning op-ed was written last month. He sought to justify U.S. wars in Afghanistan and Pakistan that, he says, will lead to a "sovereign Pakistan that controls all its territory"; a "future common market between Pakistan and Afghanistan that can power economic development in both countries"; and a "stable structure for Central and South Asia in the 21st century." Ignatius believes that, just as the Mexican-American War "helped make the United States a continental nation" and the European wars of the 19th century "helped unify Germany and Italy," the Af-Pak wars will stabilize a lawless tribal region that has been in turmoil for 150 years. There is no Afghan or Pakistani leader who genuinely believes that the current strife can lead to stabilization. Indeed, there are few Afghan and Pakistani leaders who understand all the roles being played by Afghan and Pakistani Taliban, al Qaeda, various tribal leaders, and the Pakistani intelligence services, which have played key clandestine roles in multiple crises that have affected Kabul, Delhi, and Islamabad. If the local actors can't comprehend all the major factions, U.S. leaders (and commentators) are not likely to do better.

Ignatius brings an unusual ignorance to the subject of Pakistan, which he treats as a normal nation-state. In reality, Pakistan is an artificial political entity that has long been both dysfunctional and unstable. In their partition of South Asia in 1947, the British hoped to create one region (Pakistan) that would provide military facilities to Britain. To accomplish this, the British merged five key ethnic groups that had never co-existed in the same body politic historically, according to Selig Harrison, a senior fellow with the Center for International Policy. The Bengalis were the largest ethnic group, outnumbering the other four: the Punjabis, the Pashtuns, the Baluch, and the Sindhis. The Bengalis seceded in 1971, forming the independent state of Bangladesh. The Punjabis now outnumber the Pashtuns, Baluch, and Sindhis, but the three smaller groups have ancestral claims to more than 70% of Pakistani territory, ensuring continued ethnic and tribal strife.

Monday, 11 January 2010 01:52

Kathy Kelly: Speaking Truth to Power

by Kathy Kelly

There's a phrase originating with the peace activism of the American Quaker movement: "Speak Truth to Power." One can hardly speak more directly to power than addressing the Presidential Administration of the United States. This past October, students at Islamabad's Islamic International University had a message for Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. One student summed up many of her colleagues' frustration. "We don't need America," she said. "Things were better before they came here."

The students were mourning loss of life at their University where, a week earlier, two suicide bombers walked onto the campus wearing explosive devices and left seven students dead and dozens of others seriously injured. Since spring 2009, under pressure from U.S. leaders to "do more" to dislodge militant Taliban groups, the Pakistani government has been waging military offensives throughout the northwest of the country. These bombing attacks have displaced millions and the Pakistani government has apparently given open permission for similar attacks by unmanned U.S. aerial drones. Every week, Pakistani militant groups have launched a new retaliatory atrocity in Pakistan, killing hundreds more civilians in markets, schools, government buildings, mosques, and sports facilities. Who can blame the student who believed that her family and friends were better off before the U.S. began insisting that Pakistan cooperate with U.S. military goals in the region?

by Danny Schechter

When a pitcher gets tired, starts throwing walks or being hit, most attentive managers take him out of the game. Lately, when policies fail, as in the case of the security system that didn't work to spot the alleged Christmas bomber (who just pled "not guilty"), the President starts acting tough with bluster about the buck stopping here and orders to straighten out a failed system.

But when tens of thousands of workers, once again, lose their jobs, the people responsible get winked at, not wanked. The President is contrite, his rhetoric subdued, even as the recovery he keeps talking about goes south.

Yes, there needs to be a cabinet shake-up. It's time to yank tiny Tim Geithner from the game along with Larry Summers. Their pro-bank, pro-Wall Street policies are failing. Isn't it obvious?

The Establishment will lean towards a Republican to replace him such as FDIC Chairman Sheila Bear who has proven to be far more competent and outspoken than her counterparts.

Geithner is a Trilateralist toadie, a servant and stalking horse for the people responsible for the meltdown. It's time to say "sayonara," and appoint someone with the people's interest at heart. There is no shortage of capable and committed Democratic economists that can replace him. How about Elizabeth Warren or Joe Stiglitz or Brooksley Born or Simon Johnson or even, for op-ed's sake, Paul Krugman?

by Bill Berkowitz

As the culture wars moves into the second decade of the 21st century, the religious right continues to use the "gay agenda" as its premier launching pad: The Family Research Council's Tony Perkins is upset over the possible passage of ENDA (the Employment Non-Discrimination Act) which, he maintains would release hordes of cross-dressers into America's workplaces. Peter LaBarbera of Americans for Truth About Homosexuality is apoplectic that President Barack Obama dared to name the first transgender person in a presidential administration, Amanda Simpson, as the Senior Technical Adviser to the U.S. Department of Commerce.  

In a recent article headlined "Sour notes -- 'homophobia' and music ed," published by the American Family Association's OneNewsNow news service, Professor Louis Bergonzi was raked over the coals for pursuing the "gay agenda" by daring to raise questions about the way traditional music education is conducted.

According to OneNewsNow's Pete Chagnon, Bergonzi wrote a piece that appeared in the December issue of Music Educators Journal titled "Sexual Orientation and Music Education: Continuing a Tradition," that "ultimately concludes that sexual orientation should be a vital aspect of music education, and that homosexual musicians should be highlighted and celebrated."

Friday, 08 January 2010 07:42

Michael Winship: California, Here We Come

by Michael Winship

A number of years ago, when I would travel to California on business with my friend the late journalist and comedy writer Eliot Wald, we always carved out time to visit a couple of those massive Los Angeles grocery chains, such as Ralph's or Vons.

It wasn't because we had a lust for retail or a massive munchie attack. Rather, we geekily would explore the aisles looking for the odd new products that had started in California, stuff we figured might soon migrate East. Like those big cardboard shades people prop up against the front windows of their parked cars to keep the interior from getting overheated. One of many brilliant California inventions descended from a long line of greats: the Hula Hoop and Frisbee, the Popsicle and Zamboni ice cleaning machine.

Eventually, Eliot moved to LA, where he could continue the pursuit full time. I still feel it's a nice place to visit, but why risk earthquakes or earning millions in the movie business?

Nonetheless, I continue to watch out for California innovations and keep an eye on the store shelves when I'm there. The state remains a harbinger of things to come. These days, though, what California's exporting -- besides Chihuahuas to needy families east of the Rockies -- is more disturbing.

by Jacqueline Marcus

After the election, we believed President Obama would wind things down in the Middle East, and diplomatic solutions would replace costly military operations. For nearly 10 years, we've tolerated inexplicable excuses for invading Iraq and Afghanistan -- all in the name of a vague and meaningless term: terrorism. We invade and bomb people we've never met and then we're surprised that they want to fight back. For eight long years, we've watched the Bush Administration spend billions and billions of our tax dollars for the Iraq invasion that was never connected to the September 11 attack.

In these last nine years, what did the invasions accomplish? The illegal and indefensible occupation of Afghanistan and the expansion to Yemen have only served to increase hate and anger against the U.S. Perhaps if we provided bread instead of dropping bombs on these extremely poor people, rebels would have no reason to plot against us. Nine years later, it has now cost Americans over a trillion dollars to shut down a few hundred Islamic radicals. Hundreds of thousands of lives have been lost as a result of the U.S. military invasion in this poor region of the world.

Voters are boiling mad at both parties because they want these wars to end. They want their tax dollars to help them. They are sick and tired of a war economy that wrecked and shattered American businesses like a domino effect. Resorts are empty. Shopping malls are empty. The housing market is an endless sea of foreclosure signs. There are more homeless people than I've ever seen in my entire life. Fact: when unemployment rises, so does crime. Victor Hugo's "Les Miserables" comes to mind. "As there is always more misery at the lower end than humanity at the top, everything was given away before it was received." Our pro-war Congress gave our entire public treasury away to military spending. It's been reported that the number of Americans on food stamps rose by 50%. We can no longer brag that we're the richest country in the world. The war profiteers destroyed the foundation of our middle-upper class economy, which was once a beacon to the world.

by Carl Finamore

Pioneering women at United Airlines (UAL) organized the world's first Flight Attendant (FA) union in 1945. The carrier quickly recognized them as the official bargaining representative when the CEO said "they need a union." Today, these same workers stand last as the lowest paid among all the major airlines and are hardly getting any notice from management. Negotiations have stalled.

"We are working at 1994-wage levels after suffering wage cuts, staff reductions, and rising health care costs," Chris Black told several hundred flight attendants and other union supporters picketing on January 8 at UAL departure gates at San Francisco International Airport (SFO).

Black is SFO Council 11 President, Association of Flight Attendants (AFA-CWA), and it was her national AFL-CIO union that organized protests on the same day their contract became amendable. A preliminary count by the AFA is that over 1,800 participated at airports all over the world.

Contracts negotiated under the Railway Labor Act do not actually expire but rather become "amendable" with terms remaining "status quo" throughout negotiations overseen by the National Mediation Board. So, while the system does retain contract protections during negotiations, extremely long delays lasting several years have become commonplace.

Thursday, 07 January 2010 01:29

Mark Gilbert: The Great Credit Bubble

by Mark Gilbert, Author of Complicit: How Greed and Collusion Made the Credit Crisis Unstoppable

Where did the money come from? Where did it go? How was this allowed to happen? Who is to blame? These are the key questions surrounding the credit crunch that has engulfed the global financial system.

The answer, in part, is that there wasn't anywhere near as much money as there seemed to be. And because it didn't exist in the first place, the money hasn't gone anywhere. It was all an illusion, although the economic consequences of its disappearance turned out to be very real indeed.

As to how it was allowed to happen and who is to blame, in a sense the honest reply is that we all allowed it to happen, and we're all to blame, either as active accomplices or complicit bystanders. Society as a whole made a collective, unconscious decision to allow the banking system to grow unchecked because the tangible benefits that seemed to accrue from unbridled capitalism outweighed the intangible hazards that might accompany this dangerous test of capitalism's limits.

by Jane Stillwater
"Do you have any Evita T-shirts?" I recently asked a docent at Buenos Aires' Evita museum. I wanted a T-shirt with a picture of Evita Peron on the front. Is that too much to ask for? Apparently so.
Here in Argentina, Evita is either worshipped as a saint or vilified as the devil incarnate. In either case, no one here wants to wear her image on a T-shirt. Rats.
Even finding the Evita museum was a whole bunch of work and involved at least two subway transfers and a whole bunch of "Donde esta...." It's located out in the Palermo district, sort of like the Beverly Hills of Buenos Aires -- and there's a reason for that too, which I will explain later.
I suppose in some ways you could think of Evita Peron as Argentina's Sarah Palin. After all, our Evita did have a passion for designer clothes. Plus both Sarah and Evita cherished the limelight. But the similarities between Evita and Sarah stop there.

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