This morning, Myrtle & I made a trip to the grocery store. As I loaded our purchases into the car trunk, she was amused that I was whistling “Yankee Doodle Dandy”. To be specific, I was whistling the version from the old Jimmy Cagney movie, which is a biography of the life of patriotic songwriter-entertainer George M. Cohan (the actual title of Cohan’s song is “The Yankee Doodle Boy”).
In the early 20th Century, Cohan’s popularity made him known as “the man who owned Broadway.” One of his other songs is the well-known, “You’re a Grand Old Flag”. As I told Myrtle, when I was about 5 years’ old that was probably my favorite song and I repeatedly pestered my mother & two older sisters to sing it with me. As I grew-up I admit that, as corny as it sounds, I was so proud of the USA that such patriotic songs, the sight of the flag flying proudly, or the reading of documents such as our Declaration of Independence would give me misty eyes & a lump in my throat.
Although I never believed America was perfect, I did believe our nation & its leaders were basically good-hearted, rational, and genuinely striving for what the Constitution called a “more perfect union.” All but a tiny percentage of citizens were willing to play by the rules in order to assure no American’s rights got trampled. I got in more than one heated argument where I took the position that our system was the best ever devised by humankind.
I tell you these details to illustrate a point: That I am not by nature completely skeptical of American business & government’s motivations & thoroughly disgusted with our political, economic, & social systems. Quite the contrary, I came by those viewpoints after a) studying the nation’s true history, b) witnessing the duplicity & cheerful hatefulness of the U.S. toward both foreigners & my fellow-citizens and c) experiencing firsthand the awful abuse, neglect, & stupidity our culture heaps upon all who are not on Fortune magazine’s list of the richest people.
What caused me to board this train of thought? Being reminded that in a couple days the 5th anniversary of the Katrina disaster arrives.
Many evil deeds have been perpetrated in recent years by the scum we Americans consider to be our “leaders.” None have been worse than the initial destruction & continuing neglect of New Orleans & surrounding area. Arguably, the U.S. now has many decimated cities: Detroit, Gary, Cleveland, Buffalo, and even my own beloved Dayton. But those cities have been slowly starved to death by seemingly incompetent economic policy, whereas New Orleans was quickly mortally wounded and then left to die while the whole world watched. The horror of those events 5 years ago & the continuing lack of healing are etched into the national consciousness and would, if it had taken place in any other country, be labeled for what it is: genocide against the poor!
Can’t you see the elite saw an opportunity to drive out or drown the riff-raff & then grab their land? As the storm approached, I heard a television report that many residents were refusing to leave because they were fearful that, once they were removed from the city, their homes & land would be taken by the rich. I remember that report because I instantly felt they were correct! Prediction: New Orleans will eventually be rebuilt… but not until the wealthy can get all that yummy real estate declared abandoned so they can steal it.
Do you think President Obama has devoted even 15 minutes’ of real thought to helping the Katrina victims? And what steaming pile of bullshit will he serve-up on the anniversary? Will he promise again, as we have heard 2 Presidents do over these past 5 years, that New Orleans will be rebuilt? I am betting he will try to avoid mentioning it at all, just sort of hope the electorate will continue to forget.
This morning as I was driving a friend to work, I caught the top of the hour National Public Radio news. The lead story told that sales of existing houses dropped to their lowest level in 15 years & had the steepest one month drop in 40 years.
This bummer news report immediately assured listeners that within a few months the dark clouds hanging over the housing market would disappear. Source of this assurance: a housing industry expert whose sound-bite was then excerpted. Said expert confidently dismissed all the negative economic trends. Then he said something very much like that if Americans will just believe in an improving housing market, then things will get better. He concluded by stating that he hoped Americans would start believing.
So this blockhead’s assertion of an imminent improvement was really based upon wishful thinking. Not facts. Not logic. Not trend-lines. Just hoping it will happen. My reaction was to talk mockingly back to the radio: “Yes, everyone, clap your hands real loud and Tinkerbell won’t die!”
Blinded, stubborn ignorance just keeps spewing from our so-called experts. Each week, month, & now year brings news of the economy’s continued downward spiral. And first the experts profess complete bewilderment because they expected more encouraging numbers, then they reassure us that everything is getting better, future numbers will show improvement.
Until this morning, I thought the experts told the public a bunch of lies because they were trying to fool us. But now I wonder: Are they actually so daft that they really believe their utterly misguided projections? Perhaps as children they watched the Peter Pan cartoon & still think they brought Tinkerbell back to life by wishing hard-enough & clapping their hands; now as adults they think they can fix the economy the same way? Yikes!
by Barbara O’Brien, guest blogger
Many Americans assume the new health care reform act will benefit mostly the poor and uninsured and hurt everyone else, according to polls. As Matt Yglesias wrote, “Basically, people see this as a bill that will take resources from people who have health insurance and give it to people who don’t have health insurance.” Those who still oppose the reform say that people ought to pay for their own health care.
We all believe in the virtues of hard work and self-reliance, but these days it’s a fantasy to think that anyone but the mega-wealthy will not, sooner or later, depend on help from others to pay medical bills. And that’s true no matter how hard you work, how much you love America, or how diligently you take care of yourself. The cost of medical care has so skyrocketed that breaking an arm or leg could cost as much as a new car. And if you get cancer or heart disease — which can happen even to people who live healthy lifestyles — forget about it. The disease will not only clean you out; it will leave a whopping debt for your survivors to pay.
And the truth is, we all pay for other peoples’ health care whether we know it or not. When people can’t pay their medical bills, the cost of their health care gets added to everyone else’s bills and insurance premiums. When poor people use emergency rooms as a doctor of last resort, their care is not “free.” You pay for it.
Another common fantasy about medical care is that the “free market” provides incentives for medical companies to develop innovative new drugs and treatments for disease without government subsidy. It’s true that private enterprise is very good at developing profitable health care products. But not all medical care can be made profitable.
For years, the U.S. government has been funding medical research that the big private companies don’t want to do because there is too much cost for the potential profit. This is especially true for diseases that are rare and expensive to treat. An example of a recent advance made possible by government grants include new guidelines for malignant pleural mesothelioma treatment developed by Sloan-Kettering mesothelioma cancer researchers. Another is a blood screening test developed by mesothelioma doctors like thoracic surgeon Dr. David Sugarbaker. The health reform act provides for more dollars for such research, from which even many of the tea party protesters will benefit.
The biggest fantasy of all was that people who had insurance didn’t have to worry about health care costs. But the fact is that in recent years millions of Americans have been bankrupted by medical costs, and three-quarters of the medically bankrupt had health insurance. And yes, insurance companies even dumped hard-working, law-abiding patriots. But the health care reform act will put an end to that, and now America’s hard-working, law-abiding patriots are more financially secure, whether they like it or not.
(Barbara Hoetsu O’Brien is a journalist and student of Zen Buddhism currently living in the greater New York City area. She has a Bachelor of Journalism degree from the University of Missouri. More of her writings can be read at The Mahablog.com )
As I go through the supermarket checkout or get online I see the headlines & skim over the fawning stories about Chelsea Clinton’s wedding spectacle: The gorgeous cake, the custom dress, the sumptuous floral arrangements. Is there really someone outside the circles of Washington D.C./New York/Hollywood aristocracy who cares about the details of such twaddle?
Not that I have anything against Chelsea Clinton; to me she is nothing either good or bad. However, there is one detail that catches my attention: The wedding will cost Ma & Pa Clinton $3,000,000 ! And the whole shebang will cost we taxpayers another $2,000,000 for all the Secret Service protection, etc! A total of $5,000,000 !!!
Zounds! When my ex-wife & I married back in 1982 we were hitched on a Saturday afternoon by the local Justice of the Peace for $20. Then we had a small reception at a local family restaurant. We couldn’t even afford a honeymoon & had to go back to work on Monday.
Paul Craig Roberts over at the Information Clearing House site asks a question some might see as being rude as a fart in an elevator, but it is a pertinent question nonetheless: Just where do those our nation once quaintly to as “public servants” get all that money? Their salaries aren’t near high-enough to accumulate that kind of dough, even if they saved religiously stashed every available penny into their piggybanks. Nope, it appears the money comes from appreciative rich people who feel these pols are very good & faithful servants while in office & afterward.
And while Chelsea’s guests are scarfing-up $11,000 wedding cake, Theresa DePugh struggles to feed as many as 3,000 poor citizens each month at the Athens, Ohio food pantry she runs. She had those she feeds write their stories on the back of paper plates which she then mailed to the White House. Now here is an American patriot & hero.
I believe that we Americans are furious about our ruling-class and livid at being coerced into paying taxes or being bilked by corporations to support such blatant decadence. Most citizens are absolutely fed-up but still have a glimmer of hope that somehow the corrupt pols & their corporate owners will come to their senses & fix the mess.
Unfortunately, there is no historical precedent for such hope. Throughout human experience governments have gone amok and I know of no example where the problems have been corrected without collapse and/ or rebellion by the populace. Right now in the USA the elite has lined its pockets with bail-outs, graft, & chicanery of all types while abandoning the bottom 90% of the country to ever-increasing poverty. Once enough citizens lose hope of fairness from the system there will be a revolution & it won’t be pretty.