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AIDS Advances May Be Compromised by Legislative Inaction

9:34 am in Uncategorized by brasch

 

by Walter Brasch

 

AIDS Life Cycle

Researchers at Temple University in Philadelphia may have found an entry-way to the cure for AIDS.

Once the HIV virus enters the body it can lie dormant for years. It can also evolve into AIDS.  But, until now, it could never be removed.

It’s far too early to claim an AIDS cure—there still has to be several years of clinical trials— but this may be as close to a solution as scientists have come.

There can be a lot of politics in medical science, but the researchers at least have the wisdom to know they must work together and focus upon the people not the politics.

Even if there is a cure for AIDS, even if there are significant advances in the treatment and cure of other communicable diseases, it may not mean much if patients can’t get the medical treatment they need because obstructionists are doing their best to separate the people from the solution.

Two hours west of Philadelphia is Harrisburg, the Pennsylvania state capital. This is where Gov. Tom Corbett and his well-oiled legislature shut down 15 of 60 public health clinics, have plans to shut down nine more to “save” about $3 million a year, and laid off 73 nurses and support staff. In July, the state Supreme Court issued an emergency injunction to prevent the state from shutting down more health clinics, and is reviewing a petition to force the administration to reopen the other clinics. Under the Corbett administration, Pennsylvania ranks 43rd of 50 states in per capita public health spending, according to the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation.

The governor also vetoed a budget item to spend $2 million a year from tax revenue generated by oil and gas companies to do research about the effects of fracking upon the people’s health, to provide health care information, to treat those who may have been affected by air and water pollution from fracking, and to establish a health care registry that would help identify problems. But he was more than willing to give all kinds of tax breaks to oil and gas companies, including Royal Dutch Shell, a foreign corporation, which he handed a $1.7 billion tax credit. If the state taxed gas extraction companies at a rate at least that of other states, there would be at least another $500 million a year that could be used to help protect the people’s health and their environment.

More than 50 times, the Republican-controlled U.S. House of Representatives has tried to wipe the Affordable Care Act (ACA) off the books. This quixotic mission will continue to fail for two reasons. First, the Supreme Court of the United States, which has a majority of conservatives, ruled the Act is constitutional. Second, all evidence shows the Act has led to better health care and at least 2.3 million Americans covered who couldn’t get insurance prior to the passage of the ACA. More than eight million Americans have already signed up for ACA coverage, and are now receiving better health care at lower insurance rates. Further, because of the ACA, more than 5.5 million senior citizens and disabled have saved about $4.5 billion on prescription drugs in the past three years, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Fourteen “red” states have chosen not to be a part of the ACA, their legislatures adamantly refusing to agree to anything that President Obama has proposed, even if it means the people suffer. The impartial Rand Corp. estimates these states will spend about $1 billion more taxpayer funds than if they expanded Medicaid under ACA provisions. Because of their refusal to agree to the ACA, almost four million residents of their states will continue to be uninsured, forcing the state and hospitals to pay for emergency medical care for low-income individuals. (In Pennsylvania, with a Republican governor and legislature, if the state agreed to implement the ACA, the savings would be about $600 million the first year.) However, the rabid Right Wing has continued to sling a barrage of lies and half-truths, usually picked up, channeled, and reported by the mass media. The time and money devoted to this political gesturing by Right Wing politicians could better be spent on funding research to find cures for Ebola, multiple sclerosis, numerous forms of cancers, and dozens of other life-threatening diseases.

This is the same Congress that had blocked funding to improve the VA system, while spending $3 million this year alone to investigate what they have created as the Benghazi Scandal. It’s already been investigated and re-investigated. Senior military commanders and impartial diplomats have already told the truth, but the House still wants to throw out its chest and throw a junior-high tantrum. Think of what that $3 million can do to help the nation’s homeless, about one-fourth of them veterans.

Members of Congress believe they have to travel all over the world on what they call “fact-finding tours.” These tours often find facts in tropical island nations.  And now, thanks to a decision by the apparently misnamed House Ethics Committee, members of Congress don’t even have to report if their trips were funded by lobbyists. Think of what several million more dollars can do to help improve the health of the impoverished rather than help members of Congress get sun tans.

It’s just politics. But, how many more will suffer and die from our misguided priorities.

Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, which looks at the health, environmental, economic, and political effects from fracking.] Read the rest of this entry →

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Shuffling Federal Paperwork

7:04 am in Uncategorized by brasch

The right-wing part of the Republican-controlled House of Representatives, with John Boehner in the role of spineless lackey rather than courageous Speaker, has shut down much of the federal government.

A government form

Did you fill out the right form?

Eighty Republicans had signed a letter expressing their intent to shut down the government. It was a political act of defiance against government by people who themselves were government. The millionaire representatives have grabbed the media, which they publicly say they hate—except for one TV network and a few loud-mouth blowhards on radio—to proclaim their demands.

They demand the Affordable Care Act (ACA), also known as Obamacare, be defunded. To these ultra-conservatives, the most important health care insurance protection in the nation’s history is a socialist trap, just like Social Security, Medicare, and VA benefits. The Republicans tried more than 40 times to abolish Obamacare; more than 40 times they failed. The law was passed by both houses of Congress, signed by the President (who was re-elected by a majority of the people who fully knew where he stood on the ACA), found to be constitutional by a conservative-leaning Supreme Court, and has the support of a majority of the American people.

And so they develop slogans, and have plastered the media with the words “negotiate” and “fairness.” It is the President’s responsibility, they declare, to negotiate and to be fair.

Apparently, political gesturing plays well in their newly-gerrymandered districts.

What doesn’t play well is the crass overt politics. In numerous polls, more than half of Americans place the blame for the shut-down not on the Democrats or President Obama, but to the Republican minority that has regressed to their lives as two-year-olds when they could scream, cry, kick, and hope to get their way.

But, the minority of the Republicans do have one point when they say government (but not the Defense Department) is too big and too unwieldy—although what they don’t say is that President Obama has already significantly trimmed the federal government to make it much more efficient at representing the people’s needs and concerns.

We now take you back to 1975, when government began trimming itself.

In 1975, Congress had created a Federal Paperwork Commission which recommended a cabinet-level Department of Administration, “to promote more efficient, effective and responsive administration of the federal government.” These transcripts may, or may not, have been recordings of the newly-formed department almost four decades ago.

Deep in an obscure federal building is Wilson P. Throckmorton, the first secretary of the Department of Administration. With him are his two key assistants, career administrators Samuel J. Stonewall and Waldo P. Rockbottom.

“Excuse me, sir,” says Stonewall, “but I notice that you have only the American flag behind your desk. You also need a cabinet flag.”

“Alright, make it blue with the Department’s gold seal in the middle.”

“Before you can get the flag, you have to fill out form DA-504 in quintuplicate. According to regulation 42, as explained in executive memo 11-07, as amended by executive memo 15-11 section 4, subsection b, all requests for executive-level flags must be approved by the Department of Administration. I don’t see any problem, though. I’m sure that the Department of Administration will give its approval.”

“But we are the Department of Administration.”

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A Father’s Day Barbecue—Washington-Style

5:57 am in Uncategorized by brasch

By Walter Brasch

It’s Father’s Day, and that means the Great White Republican Hierarchy in Washington smells burnt charcoal and is ready to barbecue some Democrats.

Because Father’s Day is special, the Republican-proposed Sequester is waived, and there is no budget limit for the day’s food and frivolity.

It’s warm this Father’s Day, but the Republicans aren’t complaining about all the fracking heat from their propane grill or the sweat they’re putting into making a nice dinner. They’re sure that it’ll be ice-age cool next year because the destruction of the ozone layer and Climate Change don’t exist.

First onto their searing grill is a slice of prime Benghazi. The meat has been marinating for nine months and is ready to pop. The Republican fathers see a conspiracy and cover-up that four Americans died in an embassy fire caused by terrorists. Protecting the Republican eyes from all the heat being stirred up are rose-colored glasses that have kept them safe from acknowledging they have been responsible for massive funding cuts for State Department security. The glasses also protect them from remembering they weren’t outraged and didn’t demand impeachment when terrorists attacked seven diplomatic compounds and killed more than 30 people during the George W. Bush administration.

Next onto the grill is a nice cut of IRS rump. The Palefaces of Power claim the IRS targeted Tea Party applications for non-profit status, and even got President Obama to apologize and declare he was going to investigate and get rid of that problem. The Republicans plan to char this delicacy, but this rump won’t roast. Tea Party and conservative applications represented only about one-third of all applications that were investigated—and every application was approved for 501(c )(4) tax-exempt status, even though none of the applicants met the criteria of being a social welfare organization, or a private and educational association, or even a SuperPAC. Rejected, however, were some liberal organizations, including Emerge America, a Maine group that trains Democratic women to run for political office.

On this special day, the Republicans have their raw meat brought to them, but as a special treat, the macho macho men  unholstered their legal AR15s and blasted a flock of peace doves, taking the bits of shredded meat and feathers to make a squab glaze for the rump roast.

The Verizon delicacy, with freshly-minted leaks, has the Righteous Republicans salivating. They’re outraged that the Obama government has been collecting phone and email records of millions of Americans as part of a National Security Agency database. Content is not collected, just data about who called whom, when and for how long. Now, this data mining might seem to be an invasion of privacy, and something that should be a matter of public outrage—if it was illegal, which it isn’t. That might be why the Republicans didn’t seem outraged when the same problem emerged in 2006 during the Bush–Cheney administration. They claimed that secret courts dealing with secret warrants to secretly snoop upon Americans were morally justified. In fact, almost every Bill of Rights violation that came up during the Bush–Cheney administration was dismissed by the Republicans as necessary for national security. They were the ones who pushed the PATRIOT Act, and got spineless Democratic cowards to sign onto their scheme to scam Americans of their civil liberties. But, there may be some delight in seeing the party that believes fathers have a right to dictate the lives of their children, even if they are unrelated adults, into eating their own telephone cords.

Now, every barbecue and picnic has pesky insects. And this Father’s Day celebration is no exception. It would be messy if the Republicans had to grill, eat, and bat away insects at the same time. Fortunately, they spotted some 18-year-olds walking down the street and drafted them into the war against bugs. Problem solved.

Republicans on a daily basis lambaste the lyin’ lib’ral left-wing establishment media. Of course, it’s on establishment media that they do all this ranting. But, when the U.S. attorney general went after the phone records of about 100 establishment AP reporters, the Republicans saw fresh meat. This time, they indignantly stood up for the freedom of the establishment press, and declared that because AP reporters weren’t Kosher, they were uneatable. So, they fried up a Holder Sausage.

Obamacare Oysters are always nice for a special day. But, for some reason, the slippery-fingered Republicans can’t seem to keep the oysters on the grill. They tried 37 separate times to grill the oysters, and 37 separate times, it fell off. But, these are persistent little buggers and there’s no doubt they’ll try a 38th time, although Mother Court has already told them their effort to grill health care is futile.

Because the Republican Fathers are so busy gorging themselves with Benghazi, IRS, Verizon, AP, and Obamacare cuts of meat and vegetables, they didn’t get a chance to lay out the side dishes known as jobs, economy, social welfare, and the environment.

At the end of the day, tired from charring and making a huge mess, the Republicans will take yet another long nap—while their underpaid undocumented maids and gardeners will take out the trash.

[Assisting on this column was Rosemary R. Brasch. Walter Brasch is an award-winning journalist, and the author of 17 books. His current book is Fracking Pennsylvania, which examines the health and environmental effects of fracking; the book also explores the collusion between politicians and Big Energy.] Read the rest of this entry →

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The GOP Plan to Kill Americans

7:59 am in Uncategorized by brasch

Rick Perry

Why is Rick Perry fighting against healthcare for poor Texans?

Gov. Rick Perry (R-Texas) opposes the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (ACA), and vows to block the expansion of Medicaid in his state. At a news conference this past week, Perry, flanked by conservative senators Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, declared “Texas will not be held hostage by the Obama administration’s attempt to force us into the fool’s errand of adding more than a million Texans to a broken system.” About one-fourth of all Texans do not have health care coverage.

According to an analysis by the Dallas Morning News, if Texas budgeted $15.6 billion over the next decade, it would receive more than $100 billion in federal Medicaid funds, allowing the state to cover about 1.5 million more residents, including about 400,000 children.

Texas isn’t the only state to politicize health care.

Gov. Rick Scott (R-Fla.) says that expanding Medicaid is the “right thing to do,” but the Republican-dominated state legislature doesn’t agree. Gov. John Kasich (R-Ohio) is having the same problem with his Republican legislature, although participation in Medicaid would save the state about $1.9 billion during the next decade. Gov. Jan Brewer (R-Ariz.), one of the nation’s most vigorous opponents of the ACA, surprisingly has spoken in favor of Medicaid expansion to benefit her state’s residents.

Gov. Bobby Jindal (R-La.) and the Republican legislature oppose implementing the ACA and Medicaid expansion. Jindal says the expansion would cost Louisiana about $1 billion during the next decade. However, data analysis by the state’s Department of Health and Hospitals reveals that if Louisiana accepted the federal program, which would benefit almost 600,000 residents, the state would actually save almost $400 million over the next decade. About one-fifth of all Louisianans  lack health insurance.

Pennsylvania, by population, is a blue state, but it has a Republican governor, and both houses of the Legislature are Republican-controlled. Gov. Tom Corbett says he opposes an expansion of Medicaid because it is “financially unsustainable for Pennsylvania taxpayers” and would require a “large tax increase.” This would be the same governor who believes that extending a $1.65 billion corporate welfare check to the Royal Dutch Shell Corp., a foreign-owned company, is acceptable but protecting Pennsylvanians’ health is not.

Fifteen states, dominated by Republican governorships and legislatures, by declaring they won’t allow Medicaid expansion, are on record as placing political interests before the health of their citizens. Another 10 states are “considering” whether or not to implement additional health care coverage for their citizens. The Republican states, pretending they believe in cost containment, claim they oppose Medicaid expansion because of its cost, even though the entire cost for three years is borne by the federal government, the states would pay only 10 percent of the cost after that. The cost to the states would average only about 2.8 percent, according to the non-partisan Congressional Budget office.

If all states agreed to the ACA expansion of Medicaid, 17–21 million low-income individuals would receive better health care. Among those would be about 500,000 veterans who do not have health insurance and whose incomes are low enough to qualify for health care, according to research compiled by the Urban Institute. Veterans don’t automatically qualify for VA benefits. Even those who do qualify for VA assistance may not seek health care because they don’t live close to a VA medical facility, and can’t afford health care coverage closer to home. Spouses of veterans usually don’t qualify for VA benefits.

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The Paul Ryan Magical Mystery Chop, Dice, and Slice Budget

7:19 am in Uncategorized by brasch

In 2011, before he was the Republican nominee for vice-president, Rep. Paul Ryan (R-Wisc.) proposed a federal budget. He called it, “The Path to Prosperity: Restoring America’s Promise.”

Portrait of Paul Ryan

"Paul Ryan’s proposal, endorsed enthusiastically by the Congressional Republicans and their Tea party base, is a disaster."

Two years later, now in his second year as chair of the House budget committee, he dusted off and polished his old proposal. He calls this one: “The Path to Prosperity: A Responsible Balanced Budget.” His plan is to cut the federal deficit by $4.6 trillion in four years, reducing the deficit to about $12.1 trillion.

While the Republicans blame President Obama and the Democrats for wild tax-and-spend policies that led to the huge deficit, they conveniently overlook the reality that Bill Clinton left George W. Bush a budget surplus of about $230 billion. By the time President Bush completed his eight years, there was no longer a balanced budget, and the deficit soared another $5 trillion.

Much of the additional deficit created under President Obama was a result of being forced to continue many of the Bush policies that included massive tax cuts and the cost of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan that cost more than $1.4 trillion and are expected to cost Americans $600 billion–$1 trillion over the next three decades to provide health care and disability benefits for combat soldiers.

President Obama’s stimulus plan was a largely successful program to bring the nation out of a corporate-created, government-neglected Recession that was greater than anything since the 1929 stock market crash that led to the great Depression. This year, because of Obama policies, the stock market is at a record high, and the unemployment rate is now below 8 percent and dropping, with almost all states having lower unemployment rates than a year ago.

It’s been four years since President Bush left office, and the Congressional Republicans who fully embraced the Bush–Cheney policies still haven’t learned anything.

If you’re living comfortably in your upper class lifestyle, you’re going to love Ryan’s proposed budget.

The budget eliminates the graduated income tax—that’s the one with several brackets, increasing the tax upon those with more money. Under this budget proposal, there will be only two brackets—10 percent and 25 percent. The top rate of 39.6 percent, which multi-millionaires pay, is cut to the 25 percent level.

But if you’re among the rest of us,

Under the cover of saying he’s going to balance the budget, Ryan cuts retirement and health benefits for veterans and federal employees. He cuts disaster relief, and the federal role in education and scientific research. He cuts funding for the nation’s infrastructure, leaving our already-neglected highways and bridges to undergo even more deterioration.

He cuts Medicare costs by issuing vouchers—individuals would receive a set amount to buy retirement benefits. This, of course, is on every insurance goliath’s wish list.

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Universal Neglect: A Failure to Protect Americans’ Health

7:44 am in Uncategorized by brasch

 

by Walter Brasch

 

 

I received a letter from a friend this past week.

paul krassner

Paul Krassner


It was a letter he should never have had to write, yet did so out of desperation.

He is 80 years old, living off occasional writings and Social Security.

He has Medicare, but no dental insurance, and that’s the problem. He needs dental work. A lot of dental work. $10,000 worth of dental work.

Many dental insurance plans for individuals are so expensive, and give relatively few benefits, that many dentists suggest the premiums just aren’t worth it.

Without the dental work, my friend, like many people in the country, will suffer significant additional problems. Infection is one. Poor nutrition is another. There are even links to diabetes and thickening arteries.

So, my friend sent a letter to his friends asking for help. Not a lot of help. Maybe $100 from each of us.

Paul Krassner, my friend and colleague, is a giant in the world of social activism and journalism, praised by Groucho Marx and George Carlin, despised by the Nixonian establishment. He was a proud member of Ken Kesey’s Merry Pranksters; with Abbie and Anita Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, and Nancy Kurshan, he was a co-founder of the Youth International Party, better known as the Yippies.  For almost five decades, he has been one of the nation’s most influential editors, satirists, and columnists, his writings appearing in major newspapers and magazines.

Recently, two of those magazines that ran his column decided they could no longer run it. One editor said the column was spiked because the magazine was “shifting to a more business/retail-oriented editorial content.” The editor of the other magazine, which had published his column for decades, said he had “great admiration for you and your writing,” but  decided another writer would now take over that column. That’s just the way it is in journalism.

And so my friend has found his income not just slipping but in free-fall.

If he—the great writer, reporter, and editor—was the only one with this kind of problem, it still might be a story. But he isn’t the only one. And that’s why this story is so important.

Millions of Americans—most who have worked hard their entire lives, and now live on not a lot of money—can’t afford dental bills. So, they don’t see the dentist.

More than 45 million American adults don’t have dental insurance, according to a report by the Centers for Disease Control.  Medicare doesn’t cover dental procedures; Medicaid, primarily for low-income individuals, only covers dental care for those under the age of 21. However, about one-fourth of all children have untreated tooth decay, according to a report by the Kaiser Family Foundation. “Our system of providing oral health care, particularly for children in this country, is ineffective, inefficient and it’s extremely expensive and it really deprives children of decent care,” says Dr. David Nash, professor of pediatric dentistry at the University of Kentucky.

Among adults, according to the Foundation, lack of access to adequate dental care impacts low-income families, the elderly, and minorities more than the general population. Want to know why so many people in those categories don’t have teeth? It’s because the cost to extract a tooth is significantly less expensive than the cost to do a root canal to save it.

Many dentists allow payment plans, or will lower their fees for certain patients; many will not, and demand payment up front. Many dentists participate in an American Dental Association (ADA) program to provide low-cost or free dental care to children; but, dental and medical societies, unlike the American Bar Association, don’t require pro bono community service work to maintain membership.

A number of community non-profit health programs exist, but there are far too few, with far too few financial resources. Patients can go to dental schools and have students, supervised by licensed dentists, work on their teeth. But, there are only 64 dental schools in 36 states, and many patients with dental problems can’t afford the time or gas money to drive more than three or four hours to an appointment.

The new Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which goes into effect next year, moved the United States closer to universal health care, already enjoyed by the citizens of 28 industrialized countries. But, it doesn’t cover dental care.

In a nation that doesn’t object to star athletes and Wall Street maggots making a few million dollars a year, or a strange pre-teen named Honey Boo Boo becoming a TV star, we neglect one of the most basic of all human needs. It is the need to assure that every American, no matter who, no matter what social class, has proper health and dental care.

[Dr. Brasch’s latest book is Fracking Pennsylvania, an overview of the health and environmental problems from horizontal hydraulic fracturing by the natural gas industry, and the relationship between Big Energy and politicians that allowed the practice.]
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Stories We Will Still Have to Write in 2012

8:22 am in Uncategorized by brasch

 

by WALTER and ROSEMARY BRASCH

 In January 2009, with a new president about to be inaugurated, we wrote a column about the stories we preferred not having to write, but knew we would. Three years later, we are still writing about those problems; three years from now, we’ll still be writing about them.

We had wanted the U.S. Department of the Interior to stop the government-approved slaughter of wild horses and burros in the southwest, but were disappointed that the cattle industry used its money and influence to shelter politicians from Americans who asked for compassion and understanding of  breeds that roamed freely long before the nation’s “Manifest Destiny.”

We wanted to see the federal government protect wolves, foxes, and coyotes, none of whom attack humans, have no food or commercial value, but are major players in environmental balance. But, we knew that the hunting industry would prevail since they see these canines only as competition.

We wanted to see the Pennsylvania legislature stand up for what is right and courageously end the cruelty of pigeon shoots. But, a pack of cowards left Pennsylvania as the only state where pigeon shoots, with their illegal gambling, are actively held.

For what seems to be decades, we have written against racism and bigotry. But many politicians still believe that gays deserve few, if any, rights; that all Muslims are enemy terrorists; and publicly lie that Voter ID is a way to protect the integrity of the electoral process, while knowing it would disenfranchise thousands of poor and minority citizens.

We will continue to write about the destruction of the environment and of ways people are trying to save it. Environmental concern is greater than a decade ago, but so is the ignorant prattling of those who believe global warming is a hoax, and mistakenly believe that the benefits of natural gas fracking, with well-paying jobs in a depressed economy, far outweigh the environmental, health, and safety problems they cause.

We will continue to write against government corruption, bailouts, tax advantages for the rich and their corporations, governmental waste, and corporate greed. They will continue to exist because millionaire legislators will continue to protect those who contribute to political campaigns. Nevertheless, we will continue to speak out against politicians who have sacrificed the lower- and middle-classes in order to protect the one percent.

We will continue to write about the effects of laying off long-time employees and of outsourcing jobs to “maximize profits.” Until Americans realize that “cheaper” doesn’t necessarily mean “better,” we’ll continue to explain why exploitation knows no geographical boundaries.

The working class successfully launched major counter-attacks against seemingly-entrenched anti-labor politicians in Wisconsin, Ohio, and other states. But these battles will be as long and as bitter as the politicians who deny the rights of workers. We will continue to speak out for worker rights, better working conditions, and benefits at least equal to their managers. We don’t expect anything to change in 2012, but we are still hopeful that a minority of business owners who already respect the worker will influence the rest.

There are still those who believe education is best served by programs manacled by teaching-to-the-test mentality, and are more than willing to sacrifice quality for numbers. We will continue to write about problems in the nation’s educational system, especially the failure to encourage intellectual curiosity and respect for the tenets of academic integrity.

Against great opposition, the President and Congress passed sweeping health care reform. But, certain members of Congress, all of whom have better health care than most Americans, have proclaimed they will dismantle the program they derisively call “Obamacare.”

During this new year, we will still be writing about the unemployed, the homeless, those without adequate health coverage—and against the political lunatics who continue to deny Americans the basics of human life, essentials that most civilized countries already give their citizens.

We had written forcefully against the previous president and vice-president when they strapped on their six-shooters and sent the nation into war in a country that posed no threat to us, while failing to adequately attack a country that housed the core of the al-Qaeda movement. We wrote about the Administration’s failure to provide adequate protection for the soldiers they sent into war or adequate and sustained mental and medical care when they returned home. The War in Iraq is now over, but the war in Afghanistan continues. The reminder of these wars will last as long as there are hospitals and cemeteries.

We had written dozens of stories against the Bush–Cheney Administration’s belief in the use of torture and why it thought it was necessary to shred parts of the Constitution. We had hoped that a new president, a professor of Constitutional law, would stop the attack upon our freedoms and rights. But the PATRIOT Act was extended, and new legislation was enacted that reduces the rights and freedoms of all citizens. At all levels of government, Constitutional violations still exist, and a new year won’t change our determination to bring to light these violations wherever and whenever they occur.

The hope we and this nation had for change we could believe in, and which we still hope will not die, has been minced by the reality of petty politics, with the “Party of No” and its raucous Teabagger mutation blocking social change for America’s improvement. We can hope that the man we elected will realize that compromise works only when the opposition isn’t entrenched in a never-ending priority not of improving the country, but of keeping him from a second term. Perhaps now, three years after his inauguration, President Obama will disregard the disloyal opposition and unleash the fire and truth we saw in the year before his election, and will speak out even more forcefully for the principles we believed when we, as a nation, gave him the largest vote total of any president in history.

We really want to be able to write columns about Americans who take care of each other, about leaders who concentrate upon fixing the social problems. But we know that’s only an ethereal ideal.  So, we’ll just have to hope that the waters of social justice wear down, however slowly, the jagged rocks of haughty resistance.

 

[Dr. Walter Brasch is an award-winning social issues columnist, former newspaper investigative reporter and editor, and journalism professor. His latest book is Before the First Snow, a social issues mystery novel. Rosemary Brasch is a former secretary, Red Cross national disaster family services specialist, labor activist, and university instructor of labor studies.]