September 22, 2013 archive

Sep 22

Anti-Capitalist Meetup: The Personal, the Political, and the Poverty of Children by Le Gauchiste

“Memory believes before knowing remembers. Believes longer than recollects, longer than knowing even wonders. Knows remembers believes a corridor in a big long garbled cold echoing building of dark red brick … where in random erratic surges, with sparrowlike childtrebling, orphans in identical and uniform blue denim in and out of remembering but in knowing constant as the bleak walls, the bleak windows where in rain soot from the yearly adjacenting chimneys streaked like black tears.”

–William Faulkner, 1932

“Infants process a great deal of information through mechanisms involving procedural memory and begin to assemble their repertoire of survival-based learning long before conscious memory is developed.”

— Robert Scaer, 2005

Child poverty is a form of child abuse perpetrated by society as a whole on its most vulnerable, helpless members, and its effects are permanent and devastating. After reviewing some newly released data on child poverty in America, this essay discusses some of the devastating impacts of child poverty on a personal level.

Even as mainstream economists tout macro-economic data showing the economy picking up steam, poverty in the U.S. remains stubbornly high, according to data released last week by the Census Bureau.

For the eleventh time in twelve years, poverty has worsened or gotten no better. The official poverty rate–which greatly understates actual poverty–remains at 15%, meaning that 46.5 million Americans are living on less than $18,300 for a family of three, including 21.8% of all children (16.1 million kids), 27.2% of African-Americans, 25.6% of Hispanics and more than 28% of people with disabilities.

That’s $6,000 a year per person, or $500 per month. Try living on that some time and then tell me, like that entitled billionaire boob Michael Bloomberg, that America’s poor aren’t really poor.

From 2000 to 2012, poverty increased overall by 3.7%, and by 5.6% among children, even as median income for non-elderly households fell from $64,843 to $57,353, a decline of $7,490, or 11.6%.

In 2012, more than one-third (34.6%) of all people living in poverty were children, including 37.9% of black children and 33.8% of Hispanic children. The poverty rate for families with children headed by single mothers was 40.9%, and of the 7.1 million families with children living in poverty, 4.1 million (57.7%) are headed by a single mother.

But nearly half of the poor-43.9% or 20.4 million Americans-live below one-half of the poverty line, or $9,150 for a family of three. Thus 6.6% of the total population lives in “deep poverty,” including 7.16 million children.

Also remaining stagnant last year at 106 million Americans was the number of those living in “near poverty,” below twice the poverty line-less than $36,600 for a family of three. This means that more than one in three Americans are either already poor or are living one catastrophe-a job loss or serious illness-away from poverty.

“Personal problems are political problems. There are no personal solutions at this time. There is only collective action for a collective solution.”

Carol Hanisch, 1969

Sep 22

Danziger Bridge

Transcript

Sep 22

Same old, same old

House Republicans Pass Deep Cuts in Food Stamps

By RON NIXON, The New York Times

Published: September 19, 2013

Republican leaders, under pressure from Tea Party-backed conservatives, said the bill was needed because the food stamp program, which costs nearly $80 billion a year, had grown out of control. They said the program had expanded even as jobless rates had declined with the easing recession.

“This bill eliminates loopholes, ensures work requirements, and puts us on a fiscally responsible path,” said Representative Marlin Stutzman, Republican of Indiana, who led efforts to split the food stamps program from the overall farm bill. “In the real world, we measure success by results. It’s time for Washington to measure success by how many families are lifted out of poverty and helped back on their feet, not by how much Washington bureaucrats spend year after year.”

But even with the cuts, the food stamp program would cost more than $700 billion over the next 10 years

Sep 22

Cartnoon

Sep 22

On This Day In History September 22

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

This is your morning Open Thread. Pour your favorite beverage and review the past and comment on the future.

Find the past “On This Day in History” here.

September 22 is the 265th day of the year (266th in leap years) in the Gregorian calendar. There are 100 days remaining until the end of the year.

On this day in 1862, President Abraham Lincoln issues a preliminary Emancipation Proclamation, which sets a date for the freedom of more than 3 million black slaves in the United States and recasts the Civil War as a fight against slavery.

When the Civil War broke out in 1861, shortly after Lincoln’s inauguration as America’s 16th president, he maintained that the war was about restoring the Union and not about slavery. He avoided issuing an anti-slavery proclamation immediately, despite the urgings of abolitionists and radical Republicans, as well as his personal belief that slavery was morally repugnant. Instead, Lincoln chose to move cautiously until he could gain wide support from the public for such a measure.

In July 1862, Lincoln informed his cabinet that he would issue an emancipation proclamation but that it would exempt the so-called border states, which had slaveholders but remained loyal to the Union. His cabinet persuaded him not to make the announcement until after a Union victory. Lincoln’s opportunity came following the Union win at the Battle of Antietam in September 1862. On September 22, the president announced that slaves in areas still in rebellion within 100 days would be free.

The Emancipation Proclamation consists of two executive orders issued by United States President Abraham Lincoln during the American Civil War. The first one, issued September 22, 1862, declared the freedom of all slaves in any state of the Confederate States of America  that did not return to Union control by January 1, 1863. The second order, issued January 1, 1863, named ten specific states where it would apply. Lincoln issued the Executive Order by his authority as “Commander in Chief of the Army and Navy” under Article II, section 2 of the United States Constitution.

The proclamation did not name the slave-holding border states of Kentucky, Missouri, Maryland, or Delaware, which had never declared a secession, and so it did not free any slaves there. The state of Tennessee had already mostly returned to Union control, so it also was not named and was exempted. Virginia was named, but exemptions were specified for the 48 counties that were in the process of forming West Virginia, as well as seven other named counties and two cities. Also specifically exempted were New Orleans and thirteen named parishes of Louisiana, all of which were also already mostly under Federal control at the time of the Proclamation.

The Emancipation Proclamation was criticized at the time for freeing only the slaves over which the Union had no power. Although most slaves were not freed immediately, the Proclamation did free thousands of slaves the day it went into effect in parts of nine of the ten states to which it applied (Texas being the exception). In every Confederate state (except Tennessee and Texas), the Proclamation went into immediate effect in Union-occupied areas and at least 20,000 slaves[2][3] were freed at once on January 1, 1863.

Additionally, the Proclamation provided the legal framework for the emancipation of nearly all four million slaves as the Union armies advanced, and committed the Union to ending slavery, which was a controversial decision even in the North. Hearing of the Proclamation, more slaves quickly escaped to Union lines as the Army units moved South. As the Union armies advanced through the Confederacy, thousands of slaves were freed each day until nearly all (approximately 4 million, according to the 1860 census) were freed by July 1865.

Near the end of the war, abolitionists were concerned that while the Proclamation had freed most slaves as a war measure, it had not made slavery illegal. Several former slave states had already passed legislation prohibiting slavery; however, in a few states, slavery continued to be legal, and to exist, until December 18, 1865, when the Thirteenth Amendment was enacted.

Sep 22

Bill Maher: The US: world’s policeman or schoolyard bully?

Adapted from Rant of the Week at The Stars Hollow Gazette

Bill Maher Syria Policy Makes Us Look Like Zimmerman

The US: world’s policeman or schoolyard bully?

by Bill Maher, The Guardian

Ever since 9/11, it seems America’s just been itching for a fight – and any Muslim country will do. Really, who acts like this?

New rule: 12 years after 9/11, and amidst yet another debate on whether to bomb yet another Muslim country, America must stop asking the question, “Why do they hate us?” Forget the debate on Syria, we need a debate on why we’re always debating whether to bomb someone. Because we’re starting to look not so much like the world’s policeman, but more like George Zimmerman: itching to use force and then pretending it’s because we had no choice. [..]

Since 1945, when Jesus granted America air superiority, we’ve bombed Korea, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, Lebanon, Grenada, Panama, Iraq, Serbia, Somalia, Bosnia, the Sudan, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Libya and Yemen. And Yemen only because the tenth one was free.

How did we inherit this moral obligation to bring justice to the world via death from above? Are we Zeus? It doesn’t make any sense. Our schools are crumbling, and we want to teach everyone else a lesson?

Sep 22

How Safe Is the US Water Supply

Cross posted from The Stars Hollow Gazette

These were the headlines in few major news outlets around the US this past week:

Deadly brain amoeba infects US tap water for the first time

by Maggie Fox NBC News

A deadly brain amoeba that’s killed two boys this year has been found in a U.S. drinking water supply system for the first time, officials said Monday — in a New Orleans-area system.

The Naegleria fowleri parasite killed a 4-year-old Mississippi boy who likely got it playing on a back yard Slip ‘N Slide, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention officials say. Tests show it’s present throughout the water supply system in St. Bernard Parish, directly southeast of New Orleans.

St. Bernard water system tests positive for rare brain-eating amoeba, CDC confirms

by  Benjamin Alexander-Bloch, NOLA.com | The Times-Picayune

The St. Bernard Parish water system has tested positive for a rare brain-eating amoeba, the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention confirmed, about a week after St. Bernard Parish government officials assured the public that the parish was taking every precaution possible to flush out its water system.

The CDC has confirmed the presence of the Naegleria fowleri amoeba in four locations of parish’s water system in Violet and Arabi, the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals said Thursday (Sept. 12).

Brain-Eating Amoeba Confirmed In St. Bernard Parish Water Supply, CDC Says

by Zoe Mintz, International Business Times

The St. Bernard Parish water system in Louisiana has tested positive for the rare brain-eating amoeba that killed a 4-year-old boy last month, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control confirmed Thursday. [..]

Officials believe the parish water system became compromised after its chlorine levels were low, according to state Assistant Health Secretary J.T. Lane. The parish will be flushing its water lines with chlorine for several weeks until they reach recommended levels, CNN reports.

Naegleris fowleri is a parasite found mostly in warm fresh water of ponds, lakes, rivers, and hot springs.  It is also found in soil, near warm-water discharges of industrial plants, and unchlorinated or poorly chlorinated swimming pools in an amoeboid or temporary flagellate stage.

It can invade and attack the human nervous system and brain though the nasal passages. This is the only known pathway for the parasite, since it is neutralized in the mouth and gut by enzymes.

In humans, N. fowleri can invade the central nervous system via the nose (specifically through the olfactory mucosa and cribriform plate of the nasal tissues). The penetration initially results in significant necrosis of and hemorrhaging in the olfactory bulbs. From there, the amoeba climbs along nerve fibers through the floor of the cranium via the cribriform plate and into the brain. The organism begins to consume cells of the brain piecemeal by means of a unique sucking apparatus extended from its cell surface. It then becomes pathogenic, causing primary amoebic meningoencephalitis (PAM or PAME). PAM is a syndrome affecting the central nervous system. PAM usually occurs in healthy children or young adults with no prior history of immune compromise who have recently been exposed to bodies of fresh water.

Even with early intervention using large doses of intravenous antifungals, the survival rate is 1% – 3%. the CDC recommends using nose plugs when swimming.

So, Don’t sniff the water? What about cold air vaporizers and humidifier? Granted Louisiana doesn’t have a low humidity issue, but what do you think they use in some air conditioning systems? Bourbon?

The question is what happened in St. Bernard Parish? From Yves Smith at naked capitalism:

For six years, we’ve discussed off and on how income inequality hurt the health of citizens, even in the top income strata. The US now ranks 27th in life expectancy among 34 advanced economies, down from 20 in 1990.

But in addition to the considerable health dangers of stress and weak social bonds, more obvious public health risks may be coming to the fore. Strained municipal budgets means reduced public services, and they can have direct health impact, such as frequency of garbage pickup, the level of staffing of emergency services, the number of hospital beds per capita (consider what happens if you have a natural disaster or disease outbreak and the number of sick and injured exceed the capacity of local facilities). [..]

Now on the surface, this may not sound like a big deal. Poor New Orleans parish screws up, putting kids at risk, but it can fix the problem cheaply and quickly. But the problem is the pathogen should never have been in the water in the first place. Chlorine is inexpensive, so that suggests the contamination resulted from human failings. One has to wonder if those are budget related, due to reduced staffing or changes in supervision procedures. [..]

The problem, of course, is that it will likely take some sort of calamity for the rich to realize that they can’t fully insulate themselves from the rest of society. And the sort of incident that will wake them up to that risk will almost certainly exact a bigger toll on everyone else, unless it’s of the guillotine and pitchforks variety.

Sep 22

Late Night Karaoke

Sep 22

Saturday Night Movie

Sep 22

The Pursuit of Ivy

My college days were just horrible.  My professors were dopes.  I don’t think I was wrong to go for a liberal arts degree with a dual major in history and political science.  I studied Journalism at Boston University too.

Crazy White House Proposal: Rank Colleges Based On How Much Graduates Earn

By Les Leopold, Alternet

September 19, 2013

The Obama administration is transporting Wall Street logic into higher education by proposing to measure the value of a college by the earnings of its graduates. This conceptual coup may be the best news for Wall Street since the abolition of Glass-Steagall.

We need not repeat all that has been written about how this money-making metric misses the point of college; about how students should be studying to become good citizens and leaders, to find and know themselves, to discover which pursuits in life best suit them, to develop an inquiring mind and so on. But such musings, however admirable, miss the main point: Using future earnings as a measuring stick transforms the entire notion of higher education into yet another financial instrument. No doubt some Wall Street hustlers are already dreaming up how to create derivatives they can sell to insure students and their families against less than expected earning outcomes from the college investment. Wow, an entire new casino in the making, right up there with the ethanol market.



This making-money metric illustrates how far we’ve drifted into a new era of financial hegemony, which I’m calling the billionaire bailout society. A generation or two ago, Obama’s proposal would have met with derision, and not just from obstructionist Republicans. For the WWII and baby boomer generations it was honorable to serve-to help make your community and your country a better place. After so much war and destruction, and after so much poverty and discrimination, it was a badge of honor to join the Peace Corps or help build a cooperative or community organization to serve the disadvantaged. Even wealthy political elites like the Kennedys made it clear that they considered public service a much higher calling than just making money. You didn’t have to be a radical or even a liberal to believe that public service was a good in itself. Going to college gave you special access to develop a deeper humanistic view of the word, to find your calling, and to sharpen the skills needed to help make the world a better place instead of making seven figures. How quaint!



What we don’t need are more college graduates headed to the financial casinos eager to gamble away our nation’s wealth. You want to rank colleges based on what their graduates do? OK, why not see how many graduates actually contribute directly to the common good? If that were the case we’d be tracking the number who went into the helping professions: How many teach in disadvantaged areas? How many provide healthcare to underserved populations? How many build businesses and cooperatives for the unemployed?  How many serve low-wage workers in their struggles for decent wages and working conditions? How many are working to protect the environment or enhance human rights here and abroad?