Guest Commentary (3462)
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Private systems are focused on making profits for a few well-positioned people. Public systems, when sufficiently supported by taxes, work for everyone in a generally equitable manner.
The following are six specific reasons why privatization simply doesn't work.
1. The Profit Motive Moves Most of the Money to the Top
The federal Medicare Administrator made $170,000 in 2010. The president of MD Anderson Cancer Center in Texas made over ten times as much in 2012. Stephen J. Hemsley, the CEO of United Health Group, made almost 300 times as much in one year, $48 million, most of it from company stock.
JIM HIGHTOWER ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
J.P Morgan was recently socked in the wallet by financial regulators, who levied a fine of nearly a billion bucks against the Wall Street baron for massive illegalities.
Well, not a fine against John Pierpont Morgan, the man. This 19th century robber baron was born to a great banking fortune and, by hook and crook, leveraged it to become the "King of American Finance." During the Gilded Age, Morgan cornered U.S. financial markets, gained monopoly ownership of railroads, amassed a vast supply of the nation's gold and used his investment power to create U.S. Steel and take control of that market.
From his earliest days in high finance, Morgan was a hustler who often traded on the shady side. In the Civil War, for example, his family bought his way out of military duty, but he saw another way to serve. Himself, that is. Morgan bought defective rifles for $3.50 each and sold them to a general in the Union Army for $22 each. The rifles blew off soldiers' thumbs, but Morgan pleaded ignorance, and government investigators graciously absolved the young, wealthy, well-connected financier of any fault.
That seems to have set a pattern for his lifetime of antitrust violations, union busting and other over-the-edge profiteering practices. He drew numerous official charges — but of course, he never did any jail time.
Moving the clock forward, we come to JPMorgan Chase, today's financial powerhouse bearing J.P.'s name. The bank also inherited his pattern of committing multiple illegalities — and walking away scot-free.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
President Obama's victory this week was as complete and devastating as Sherman's march through the South. But there is no early sign that the zealots of the anti-government far right have learned the lessons of their defeat -- which means that more battles lie ahead.
House Speaker John Boehner was not being honest Wednesday when he explained the GOP surrender by saying, "We fought the good fight; we just didn't win." This was not a good fight. Republicans picked an objective that was never realistic -- forcing Obama to nullify the Affordable Care Act, his biggest achievement -- and tactics that amounted to self-immolation.
Boehner knew from the start that the GOP would be blamed for shuttering the government and that he could never really allow the Treasury to default. So what on earth was the point?
Apologists say that Boehner had to go through with the shutdown and go down to the wire on the debt ceiling to show the hard-core tea-party members of his caucus that "we control one-half of one-third of the government," as the speaker has said -- that a slender House majority has limited power.
But come on, really? Can these people not count? Or do they have such blind faith in their own wisdom that they think they are divinely ordained to prevail, whatever the odds? That is the mindset of crusaders, not legislators.
PETER MICHAELSON FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Many haters of Barack Obama claim his policies are stifling their freedom. In fact, they dislike him because he's a shining example of what they refuse to become—a civil, considerate, rational, and powerful (in his own self) human being. They want to tear him down so he doesn't make them feel so personally inadequate.
It's like this the world over. Many Pakistanis resent 16-year-old Malala Yousafzai, who won the European Union's human rights award after surviving a Taliban assassin, because she campaigns for women's educational opportunities. A friend of hers said, "Here in Swat, we have seen the hell that is Taliban rule. And yet, some people still say they would much rather side with the Taliban than Malala. Sometimes people never learn."
Stubbornly resentful people like these hang out in the company of a tenacious trio: denial, resistance, and willful ignorance. They cling to their limited sense of self, embrace the status-quo, and stifle their own inner growth. They are inclined to dislike if not hate anyone who, unlike them, is not suffocating from closed minds and hearts.
Hateful people are beguiled by self-image and diminished by self-centeredness. They can't bring themselves to step out from behind an ego-centered mentality that cuts them off from an appreciation of (and emotional connection to) their own deeper humanity and the people around them. Their ego, which demands allegiance to its self-importance, is experienced as their core or essence. Their only reverence is for the sanctity of self-image. Their hatred is for those who discount this "religion."
JACQUELINE MARCUS FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
There is a lot of discussion about how victims of poverty will get hit the hardest from climate change disasters, but how will radical climate changes impact world economies, and the wealthiest members of society?
The consequences have proven that the poor suffer dramatically more from climate change disasters than the rich, but prosperous businesses are also being severely challenged and impacted. No industry falls alone. In the financial markets, everything is interconnected. Climate change is having a crippling ripple effect across global economies.
Consider Fukushima. It can be scientifically argued that climate change played a role in creating the “extreme conditions” of a record breaking 9.0 magnitude earthquake followed by a massive tsunami that led to the ongoing emergency crisis at Japan’s Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant. The released radiation into the Pacific Ocean and the atmosphere threatens the world as we confront an insolvable nuclear meltdown with no end in sight. We now know that we cannot rely on nuclear power after Fukushima.
Due to the high levels of radiation, most of the agricultural region surrounding Fukushima have been reduced to ghost towns. Japan’s fishing industry has lost billions of dollars from the spilled radiation that has spread as far as California. Take a look at these photos for a close up view of Japan’s decimated economy. Global warming does not spare the rich. Everyone on the ship goes down.
STEVEN JONAS MD, MPH FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
On October 11, 2013, Texas Senator Ted Cruz, a rising star of the Republican Far Right (otherwise known as the "Tea Party"), addressed the annual "Values Voters Summit," sponsored by the Family Research Council, one of the U.S. Christian Right's leading organizations (so much for separation of church and state, on the Right).
Although the word "value" would lead one to believe that the organization is concerned with many different issues, from the future of our species and others as well, to what value should be put on helping the poor (as Christ would likely have done), the "values" with which the organization and the meetings seemed to be principally concerned with sex: namely abortion rights, gay marriage, and contraception (against all three).
In Senator Cruz' speech, at least the portion of it which I heard, to rousing applause he focused on "American Freedom" and the American tradition of welcoming folks to the country who wanted to work hard and succeed. (I guess that this Harvard Law School graduate could not see the contradiction between his flowing rhetoric on past immigration and immigrants and his total opposition to even the very limited "immigration reform" proposed by his fellow Senator of Cuban-immigrant parentage, Marco Rubio of Florida, and passed by a two-thirds margin in the Senate. [It languishes in the House, but then again the "illegal immigration" issue is one of which the Republican Right will never be able to let go.])
And so, knowing something of the positions that Senator Cruz has taken on a variety of political and policy issues, I thought that it would be useful to review exactly what his views on "American Freedom" are.
ROBERT C. KOEHLER FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
What if we had politicians who believed in the abolition of war with as much passion as the Republican right believes in the abolition of taxes?
For me, the question that immediately follows is: What kind of politics draws power from resources other than the deep pockets of billionaires? Just because the world is sick of war, how will that ever translate into serious political action to defund standing armies and ongoing weapons research? How will it ever cohere into a consensus that has political traction? Does Washington, D.C. only have room for one consensus?
For the Democrats to stand moderately tough against GOP right-wing zealots in defense of the Affordable Care Act, Medicare and Social Security, there's no way they could also — even if they wanted to — stand tough on, let us say, nuclear disarmament or a movement toward demilitarization. Such concepts aren't on or anywhere near the fabled "table" of national debate; they're as marginalized as segregated restrooms. This is a deep problem from the point of view of anyone looking clear-eyed into the future.
"'They were all dying,' she said, 'and there was no medicine, and there was nothing we could do.'"
The speaker is 82-year-old Kono Kyomi, one of the "Hibakusha," or survivors of the atomic blasts that leveled Hiroshima and Nagasaki in 1945, quoted by the Rev. John Dear. She was part of a delegation of survivors who came to the United States last August to commemorate the anniversary of those blasts and speak of their experiences. Their visit included a trip to Los Alamos, N.M., where the Hiroshima bomb was built and still the center of the country's ongoing nuclear weapons research and production.
BILL BERKOWITZ FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
If the names of the organizations and funders gearing up for the next big battle in California's Culture Wars sound familiar, that's because they are. In addition to the campaign's chief strategist, many of the same organizations and funders that came together to sponsor Proposition 8 five years ago, are teaming up for a signature gathering campaign to place an initiative on the November 2014 ballot that would overturn a bill that providing protections for transgender public school students, which was recently signed into law by Governor Jerry Brown.
The law, which will go into effect January 1, says schools must allow transgender students to use the bathrooms and locker rooms and play on sports teams that match their gender identification.
According to the Transgender Law Center, which cosponsored the bill with Equality California, 44% of transgender people reported experiencing some form of discrimination, assault, or harassment in 2011.
While it is not surprising that the Religious Right hasn't tired of waging Culture War battles, since, among other things, it provides media opportunities galore fabulous fundraising openings, it is a little surprising that the state's Republican Party – which has diminishing official political standing in the state – would endorse the referendum effort.
EUGENE ROBINSON ON BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
A crazy thing is happening in shuttered, dysfunctional Washington: Democrats are pushing back.
This phenomenon is so novel and disorienting that many Republicans in Congress, especially the tea party bullies, seem unable to grasp what's going on. They keep expecting President Obama and Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid to fold like a cheap suit because, well, such a thing has happened before. I guess it's understandable that the GOP might have forgotten the difference between bluffing and actually holding a winning hand.
Late last week, Reid began demanding that Republicans not only reopen the government and raise the debt ceiling but that they also make concessions on the draconian, irrational-by-design budget cuts known as sequestration. In political terms, he is demanding that the GOP pay a price for putting the country through all this needless drama.
Suddenly, Republicans who thought it was fine to hold the government and the economy hostage in order to nullify a duly enacted law -- the Affordable Care Act -- are shocked that Democrats would even suggest tampering with another duly enacted law: the Budget Control Act of 2011, which established the "sequester" cuts.
Was Reid moving the goal posts? Of course he was. That's what negotiators do when they have the upper hand.
PAUL BUCHHEIT FOR BUZZFLASH AT TRUTHOUT
Columbus Day is a good day to consider American exceptionalism, in the broad sense of superiority. Columbus embraced the doctrine from the start, writing about the Arawak Indians in Haiti: "Great multitudes of men came to the shore, all young and of fine shapes and very handsome...I could conquer the whole of them with fifty men and govern them as I pleased."
Conquer them he did, forcing them to find gold for the Spanish explorers, cutting off their hands if they failed.
In the 1600s the Puritans also deemed themselves exceptional, justifying their beliefs with a quote from the Psalms: "Ask of me, and I shall give thee, the heathen for thine inheritance, and the uttermost parts of the earth for thy possession." In the Pequot War they annihilated the Native Americans of southern New England.
Equality would be forthcoming, it seems, with the words of the Declaration of Independence: "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal." But exceptions were made. George Washington's intentions for the Iroquois Indians in 1779 were to "extirpate them from the country." The Native Americans called Washington the "town destroyer." Washington was just the first of many, many Presidents who believed it was America's role to tell others how to live.