January 31, 2010

Ecopsychology, solastalgia, nature-guilt

Daniel Smith has written an article in today's New York Times Magazine about the psychologic relationship of humans and the rest of the natural world, particularly that part not altered by humans: "Is there an ecological unconscious?". While recognizing the benefits of reconnecting with the earth and the mental toll of environmental degradation, one should also consider that we are indeed somewhat apart from nature and therein lies the nub of the problem. Nature mocks us and reminds us of our crimes against her, many of which, to a modest degree, are necessary for our survival. A proper humility is in order, and a conscious effort to do the least harm (such as by the concept of "ahimsa") would help us as well as the rest of nature. But the human mind's coping devices tend to become their own reason for being, and our natural relationship is replaced by the rites of displacing our guilt.

This aspect of our natural/unnatural mind was written about in my 1996 essay "Nature-Guilt".

January 29, 2010

Richest nation in the world

According to a new analysis by the Brookings Institution, almost one-third of the nation (91.6 million people) was "poor" in 2008, i.e., with income at or below 200% of the official poverty threshold. More than two-fifths (39.1 million) of those individuals lived in "poverty". Data for 2009 are not yet available, but they are sure to be worse.

2008-2009 poverty thresholds:  $10,830 for single person, $14,570 for couple, $18,310 for family of 3, $22,050 for family of 4

200% of poverty thresholds ("poor"):  $21,660 for single person, $29,140 for couple, $36,620 for family of 3, $44,100 for family of 4

January 23, 2010

How to Wreck a Presidency

David Michael Green writes at Counterpunch:

There’s only one political party in the entire world that is so inept, cowardly and bungling that it could manage to simultaneously lick the boots of Wall Street bankers and then get blamed by the voters for being flaming revolutionary socialists.

It’s the same party that has allowed the opposition to go on a thirty year scorched earth campaign, stealing everything in sight from middle and working class voters, and yet successfully claim to be protecting ‘real Americans’ from out-of-touch elites.

It’s the same party that could run a decorated combat hero against a war evader in 1972, only to be successfully labeled as national security wimps.

Just to be sure, it then did the exact same thing again in 2004.

It’s the same party that stood by silently while two presidential elections in a row were stolen away from them.

How ’bout dem Dems, eh?

One year ago today, there was real question as to what could possibly be the future of the Republican Party in America. That’s changed a bit now.

And, speaking of ‘change’, the one kind that Barack Obama did actually deliver this year was not that which most voters had in mind after listening to him use the word incessantly, all throughout 2008. Obama and his colleagues have now managed to bring the future of the Democratic Party into question, just a year after it won two smashing victories in a row. ...

[click here to read entire essay]

January 15, 2010

Democrats Going Down in Flames

Russell Mokhiber, editor of Single Payer Action, writes in Counterpunch:

Martha Coakley is going down in flames.

So is the Democratic Party.


We found the answer earlier this week at – of all places – The Cato Institute in Washington, D.C.

Timothy Carney was giving a powerpoint presentation about his new book: Obamanomics: How Barack Obama Is Bankrupting You and Enriching His Wall Street Friends, Corporate Lobbyists, and Union Bosses.

Here’s the book in a nutshell:

“Both parties are the parties of big business,” Carney said. “They both promote corporate socialism.”

I sat there in the front row at Cato, in wonder.

Listening to the talk – as Carney outlined how Obama had cut deals with Billy Tauzin and the pharmaceutical industry.

Thinking to myself – is this why Martha Coakley is having such a hard time in Massachusetts?

She’s just another corporate Dem — just like Obama?

Then, lo and behold, as if I was channeling Carney, he calls up a slide on his powerpoint.

On the big screen at Cato is an invitation to a corporate fundraiser – that night at the Sonoma Restaurant on Capitol Hill – for Coakley.

And I say to myself – wait a second.

Coakley is in the middle of a tight race and she’s flying to DC one week before the election to be with a group of corporate lobbyists?


She is.

And then Carney went down the list of 22 members of the host committees – meaning they each raised $10,000 or more for Coakley.

“Seventeen are federally registered lobbyists, 15 of whom have health-care clients,” Carney said.

“You see the names – Gerald Cassidy, David Castagnetti,, Tommy Boggs – those are all lobbyists I’ve highlighted there who have clients who are drug companies, health insurers, hospitals or all three,” Carney said. “AHIP, Phrma, Pfizer, Blue Cross – everybody is covered there. Aetna somehow isn’t. I don’t know how they got left out.”

“These are the special interests,” Carney said. “These are the people trying to elect Martha Coakley to be vote number 60 for health insurance.”

Carney then puts up a slide showing how the Phrma cash went from supporting Republican candidates for President in the past – to supporting Barack Obama in 2008.

“Barack Obama raised $2.1 million from drug companies in 2008,” Carney said. “That’s about equal to what John McCain raised plus what George Bush raised in both of his elections. It’s the most by far any candidate has raised from the drug industry.”

The people of Massachusetts already have tried a corporate reform that forces them to buy junk insurance.

They don’t like it.

They’re waiting for a candidate that will deliver a message they’ve been waiting to hear.

Single payer.

Everybody in.

Nobody out.

Put the private insurance companies out of business.

Drive down the cost of drugs to the levels of say Canada or the UK.

But Obama, Coakley and the Democrats are awash in corporate cash.

They have made their choice.

And they deserve to lose.

Onward to single payer.

January 3, 2010

Best health care in the world

MAYNARDVILLE, Tenn. – The two-hour drive is done, but Hannah and Jack Hurst leave the Honda's engine running.

Hannah's prayers have brought them here. Now there's little to do but turn up the car's heat, try to get some sleep and wait for morning — and a set of glass and metal doors to open.

Still, Hannah doesn't complain. The 26-year-old mother of three has waited "pretty much as long as I can remember" to escape the pain throbbing through her jaws. Jack lost his road construction job a year ago and health insurance is out of the question. If the answer to Hannah's misery can be found behind those doors, then what's 10 hours more?

Out in the dark, the Hursts have plenty of company. Even before 10 p.m. on Friday in late fall, nearly 50 cars ring the ball field parking lot. By 6 a.m. Saturday, more than 400 men and women — some wrapped in blankets, others leaning on walkers — stand tightlipped and bleary-eyed under the Big Dipper.

They clutch numbered tickets, ready to claim the prize for perseverance: By day's end, as long as they can keep appetites and tempers in check and the sleep from their eyes, they will win the privilege of care from a dentist or a doctor.

In a country convulsed over health care, the scene would be alarming if it wasn't so predictable.

In fact, it's always the same, Stan Brock says. For 17 years, Brock has piloted a nonprofit called Remote Area Medical around the country, commandeering high school gyms and county fairgrounds to offer free health care to the uninsured, the underinsured and the desperate.

Brock has seen so many crowds like the one massed outside Union County High School this dawn he chides himself for losing track of whether this is RAM's 578th expedition or its 587th (it's the latter). And yet in every one of those seemingly identical crowds there are hundreds of Hannah Hursts, each a unique testament to the nation's ragged pursuit of health care answers.

Over the next two days, RAM's volunteers will examine, test, anesthetize, extract and prescribe hundreds of solutions for individual aches and afflictions. They will, in the few moments left, try to convince patients they'll probably never see again of the virtues of healthier living and continuous care. They will do their best to answer Hannah Hurst's prayers. ...

--Adam Geller, AP National Writer – Sat Jan 2, 2010
(click title of this post for complete article; click the photo for more pictures)