Water crisis in Mississippi – a new norm for too many

From a piece in the Center for Disaster Philanthropy updated in November, 2022, the ongoing water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi is summarized. Here are a few paragraphs, with a link to the entire piece below:

The intersection of two disasters – infrastructure failure and river flooding – exacerbated a pre-existing water crisis in Jackson, Mississippi.

In mid-to-late August 2022, heavy rains led to flooding along the Pearl River watershed. While the Pearl was predicted to overtop, it crested below the major flood stage of 36 feet at 35.37 feet. This prevented the large-scale evacuations and extensive damages that were expected. However, localized flooding damaged one of the water treatment plants leading to an inability to produce sufficient water pressure at the O.B. Curtis treatment plant. This was combined with a malfunction of the pumps at the J.H. Fewell treatment plant.  

Water pressure was restored in Jackson on Sept. 5, but the ongoing boil water advisory remained in effect until Sept. 15. This will mark the first time in almost seven weeks that residents should be able to drink the water in their homes, without boiling it beforehand. In the absence of drinking water, the state distributed approximately 12 million bottles of water.

On Oct. 28, Governor Tate Reeves extended the state of emergency until Nov. 22. In his press release, he stated, ‘Since I first declared a State of Emergency on August 30, the state has invested nearly $13 million to prop up Jackson’s failing water system, distribute water, and restore clean running water to the residents of the city. Over this time, the state of Mississippi entered the O.B. Curtis Water Treatment Plant, identified the rampant issues that existed due to years of neglect, and immediately began repair operations. Jackson’s mayor has announced that the city will have a private operator in place by November 17, stating, ‘we anticipate having a contract in place by November 17th.’ Recognizing this, I have decided to end the emergency on November 22, to allow for a five-day transition period between the state’s management team and the chosen private operator. At that point, the State of Emergency must, by statute, end as the water system can be managed solely by local control, as has been insisted upon by the City of Jackson. The State of Emergency must only exist when a situation is beyond local control and the City of Jackson has demanded local control.”’

Per Oliver Laughland in a recent piece on the Mississippi water crisis in The Guardian,

“It underlined the daily struggle faced by thousands in this predominantly Black city, where poorer neighborhoods have routinely borne the brunt of the ongoing disaster. Simple tasks become complex or insurmountable. Greater burdens are placed on those living farther from resources. And, for many, the days are centered around an often frantic search for clean and fresh water.”

Per Laughland, this is the third water outage in two years. Why do elected officials continue to not address problems until they become a crisis? This kind of failure is as old as time and relates to two themes – money and courage. Money for maintenance or repairs tend to get put off until something breaks or fails. Courage is lacking because, for some reason, politicians do not get as much political goodwill from preventing a crisis as they do by addressing it when it gets broken. And, by the way, it usually costs more to fix a crisis than prevent one.

This relates to any infrastructure need which has been in dire need of funding for about a decade. Finally, infrastructure funding was included in the recent Inflation Reduction Bill that was passed and strides are now being made. Yet, with respect to water, we seem to be getting caught with our pants down in the US and have for several years.

It should be noted that the number one or two long term global concern per the members of the World Economic Forum for several years has been the global water crisis. Yet, here in the US we rarely hear of this until a something breaks. In the US, the problem is water supply as well as water distribution. The fight among seven states over water from the Colorado River has been heightened the last couple of years as the water diminishes. We also have farmers and ranchers raising concerns over diminishing water supply. It should be noted that climate change is only exacerbating the water problem.

And, it is common that water crises impact the more impoverished citizens. This occurred in Flint, Michigan where water was drawn for the poorer Flint area using lead-heavy pipes where the lead causes brain damage, especially in Children whose brains are still developing. This is a reason why the Jackson problem was not fixed beforehand. Fewer constituents of the Republican based legislature lived there.

I should not just pick on Republican led legislatures, as more funding is needed regardless of political persuasion. In fact, a Republican and Democrat led a bipartisan push for years for more infrastructure funding, supported by the US Chamber of Commerce and Labor Unions, but failed to get the needed funding. And, it is disappointing, but unsurprising that almost all Republicans in Congress did not vote for the infrastructure bill last year.

Water is a problem and it will continue to be one. Will we address it like it should be addressed? Of course not, especially with the new Republican majority in the US House. But, we need to spend more time talking about it and providing solutions and funding. Air and water represent two of the greatest needs we humans have. We likely should pay attention to them.

Just to illustrate one final point. In a documentary about the 2007-08 financial crisis, an investment advisor who tried to forewarn banks that it was coming and they were in danger of going bankrupt, a final statement was made. When asked what he was most concerned about going forward after predicting the housing crisis (and successfully betting against those who would not listen to him), he said the global water crisis.

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When sermons miss the mark so badly on a practical level

Loretta Lynn passed away during 2022. She was a prolific songwriter who someone once said she wrote uniquely with two choruses often in a song. She may also have been one of the first feminists per a documentary on her life. Why do they say that? She had four kids by the time she was 18 years old. And, after its invention and improvement, she wrote a song about taking control of her destiny for all women to heed – “The Pill.” Here is the second stanza:

“All these years I’ve stayed at home
While you had all your fun
And every year thats gone by
Another babys come
There’s a gonna be some changes made
Right here on nursery hill
You’ve set this chicken your last time
‘Cause now I’ve got the pill”

Strident ministers who want married couples to only have conjugal relations to procreate are very out of touch with their congregations, no matter how pious the followers might be. People are going to have these relations regardless of what any minister might say, especially if they follow along with Ms. Lynn’s line of thinking. By the way, those ministers who belong to the Southern Baptist Convention may want to explain why there was a sex scandal and cover-up therein for so many years.

Not to be outdone, the Catholic Church has long been a proponent of this same message, but at least recognized that married couples are going to have sex. Yet, the church strongly condemns artificial means of birth control advocating the very ineffective rhythm method where couples try to time conjugal relations with the wife’s menstrual cycle. There is a reason for large Catholic families. Of course, premarital sex is a preached no-no in the view of the church and in other religions.

Yet, the last poll I saw about American Catholic women noted that 90% of the women disagreed with the church’s position on this issue. They were more inclined to heed the instruction of Loretta Lynn using the pill or some other means. The result does not surprise me, but the 90% magnitude of support does.

Watching old movies and TV shows, it is not uncommon to see a plot line around a teen girl or young women who gets pregnant being an outcast, while the sower of the seed not being condemned at all. Even when said sower forces his will shy of rape, he is not held to the same standard as the woman who gave into the same temptation. In the Catholic Church there are numerous movies (see “Philomena” or “Oranges and Sunshine”) about a girl’s child being taken away without her permission throughout the last century. These movies made me ill that a pious group of leaders could be so mean-spirited.

So, we must ask our leaders to be more in line with what is happening in general society. It is OK to teach abstinence before marriage, but to not recognize that people are going to have sex regardless of what a leader might think is just naive and out of touch. Just think of that 90% figure for American Catholic women. And, taking this one step further what two married people (or consenting adults) do behind closed doors is none of a church leader’s business. It only matters if there is domestic violence and someone is getting hurt.

Having worked with homeless working families I know first-hand a statistically supported truism. There is a causal relationship between increased poverty risk and increased family size. It is not just a correlation, it is causal. Full stop. I have long been a believer of teaching pragmatic sex education, even if done in a church setting. If people want to call this planned parenthood, that is more than fine.

Teach boys and girls that self-esteem is not tied to having sex before you want to. Teach girls how to say “no” and to lessen pressure and teach boys what “no” means. Teach them that some partners are more about bragging on a sexual conquest than quietly expressing love or intimacy. Teach them the facts about how easy it is to get pregnant. Teach them the various means of birth control, their pros and cons and how to use them. Teach them not to take a drink at a party from someone you don’t know or to overdo it. And, it is OK for religious groups to teach abstinence, but they need to be realistic about its veracity and teach the other things.

Loretta speaks the truth from a position of knowledge and experience. Women must be in control of their bodies. When people in power try to deny this, they are doing a disservice to women. I do know if men could get pregnant, they would not favor a leader telling them what to do with their bodies. And, realizing what women go through, these men would be strongly in favor of birth control means.

A reminder of what Jesus did when he was on earth – a reprise

As we enter the Christmas holiday season, it would be helpful to remind ourselves what Jesus did while he walked the earth and what he promoted while he was here. Variations of his overarching themes can also be found in other religious texts, so these tenets are important regardless of religion. His Golden Rule which paraphrases to Treat others like you want to be treated translates well to any religious faith.

Jesus spent most of his adult life with the disenfranchised people of the areas he traveled. He would visit and stay with those who were not the powerful leaders or church leaders of the day. He tended to be with those who needed him most – the sick, the disabled, the poor and the downtrodden. In fact, he was not welcome by church leaders in some places and became irritated when church leaders did not use his church for its key purpose.

If Jesus walked the earth today, he would likely be irritated with us for many things.

  • Jesus would not be too keen on the demonization of people who look, speak or worship differently than the speaker.
  • He would not be too keen on intolerance especially when advocated by religious leaders who preach a message of exclusion. Jesus welcomed everyone.
  • He would not be too keen on the commercialization of his birthday, which loses sight of why we are honoring the day in the first place.
  • He would not be too keen on treating the impoverished in the world as if they had a communicable disease. “There, but by the grace of God, go I” he would say.
  • He would not be too keen on turning our backs on people who are refugees from their war-torn land. He would be there welcoming them in.
  • He would not be too keen on people being killed in the name of any religion, especially when the perpetrators are twisting language from its true meaning.
  • He would not be too keen on abortion unless a mother’s life is threatened. And, while this may sound inconsistent, he would likely be in favor of using birth control to avoid abortions, lessen poverty and prevent the transmission of sexually transmitted diseases.
  • He would not be too keen on the prosperity church leaders who live high on the hog after bilking poor and sick people of their money. If you hear the term “seed money,” understand you are being swindled to help someone buy a jet or house.
  • He would not be too keen on corrupt leaders who forsake their mission to govern wisely and judiciously.
  • He would not be too keen on people not being good stewards of our earth which is consistent across many religions.

We seem to have become a collection of cafeteria Christians, only picking parts of the bible we like and missing the overall context and message. We must treat others like we want to be treated, with no caveats. To prove my point, I want you to picture a mental image of Jesus and then go back to the first bullet point above regarding “demonization of people who look….differently than the speaker.”

Now, I want you to picture an adult Syrian refugee. Jesus did not look like Max Von Sidow, Jim Caviezel or Jeffrey Hunter (who played him in movies). Jesus looked more like the Syrian refugees look than how movies portrayed him. And, he did not speak English. If Jesus was among the refugees, we have folks who would be arguing to deny his entrance into America as he would be a single adult male with a mideastern appearance.

We must be better than this. We must understand his key message and live like he would want us to, even if he does not look like we do. It is the Christian thing to do….and Jewish, Hindu, Sikh, Muslim and Buddhist thing as well.

What a real hero looks like (an encore performance)

Two years ago I wrote about the latest act of heroism from Dolly Parton. Last night, we watched a host of popular, rock and country singers honor her as one of the latest inductees into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. From Pink to Brandi Carlisle to Sheryl Crow to Zac Brown to Pat Benatar, we saw a loving and admiring tribute to this talented woman. She also played a new rock and roll song she wrote for the occasion, “Rocking til the cows come home.” It was pretty good. Yet, she might be remembered more for her humanity.

I have written before about this hero primarily for her book gifting program for young kids, which is now an international program called “Imagination Library” (see second link below). Her name is Dolly Parton. I heard she could write songs and sing, as well. Yet, Parton just received some new acclaim for helping fight COVID-19.

In an article in The Hill by Judy Kurtz (see first link below) called “Dolly Parton among donors behind Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine,” her efforts are revealed. Here are a few paragraphs from the article.

“Dolly Parton can add another achievement to her résumé: helping to fund research for Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine.

The ‘9 to 5’ singer was one of several donors listed Monday as part of the announcement that Moderna’s coronavirus vaccine candidate was 94.5 percent effective in an interim analysis. The ‘Dolly Parton COVID-19 Research Fund’ was named as a supporter in the footnotes of a New England Journal of Medicine report.

Parton, 74, announced back in April that she was giving $1 million to researchers at Vanderbilt University Medical Center toward finding a vaccine to fight against COVID-19.

In an April Instagram post announcing her contribution, the Grammy Award winner said she was donating in honor of her longtime friend, Dr. Naji Abumrad, a researcher at Vanderbilt who informed her ‘that they were making some exciting advancements towards research of the coronavirus for a cure.'”

Parton will be remembered many years from now for her Imagination Library where 147 million books have been provided to young children. Currently, there are 1.7 million children signed up for the program. Yet, seeing her do things like the vaccine funding adds to her legacy.

Seeing her interviewed on multiple occasions, the depth of her kindness, integrity, and approachability is heart warming. Her ability to laugh at herself (both the stage personality and at home one) reveals a very smart woman that disarms people. She does not need to solicit attention for her good deeds, it just spreads.

Well done, Ms. Parton. You are a credit to the human race. Thank you for your music and big heart.

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/dolly-parton-among-donors-behind-moderna-s-coronavirus-vaccine/ar-BB1b6aIj?ocid=msedgdhp

https://imaginationlibrary.com/

A few straightforward suggestions to fight poverty (a reprise)

The following is a reprise of a post I wrote three years ago. After the pandemic and its lingering tentacles, along with increased apartment prices due to a housing boom fueled even more by investors buying up property, it is even more of a concern today. I welcome your ideas and thoughts.

“If incarceration had come to define the lives of men from impoverished black neighborhoods, eviction was shaping the lives of women. Poor black men were locked up. Poor black women were locked out.”

The above quote comes from the Pulitzer Prize winning book “Evicted” by Matthew Desmond. Its subtitle is also telling – “Poverty and Profit in the American City.” The dilemma is we have a poverty problem that stretches from urban to rural America. Yet, it manifests itself daily in the eviction courts of American cities and towns, whether it is from apartments, houses or mobile homes.

The book speaks of how fragile the rental community is regardless of race, yet the black community tends to have a higher rate of exposure to evictions in urban areas. Unexpected expenses, transportation problems, and tragedies can push people paying a very high portion of their rent over the edge and out the door. Ideally, 30% of family income should be toward housing and utilities. Too many of these folks are paying well above that percentage.

It should be noted that there are other drivers of fragility. Some have opioid and other dependencies. Some are fragile due to too many children that stretch the budgets of even the best planners. Some are in downward spirals with unsupportive landlords. And, many of those unexpected expenses that arise are healthcare related.

What are some suggestions to remedy these issues? Based on my experience as a volunteer Board member helping working homeless families and my reading, I would like to throw out some ideas for consideration.

First, we need to talk more about it. America has a huge disparity in distribution of wealth which is not talked about enough by leaders. Where and to whom one is born are greater predictors of success as the American Dream  has waned for too many.

Second, we need to fund more family planning efforts not less. There is a high correlation between poverty and large families. When family planning is funded and birth control access and education are increased, poverty declines, system health care costs decline and abortions decline.

Third, more mechanisms to reduce evictions need to be in place and funded. Crisis assistance funds show success in helping keeping the electricity on and, when funded, reducing the number of evictions. Stopping homelessness (or fragility) before it starts can make a huge difference and will have a positive echo effect.

Fourth, we must invest in impoverished  areas making them more suitable for families both with opportunity and resources. In their absence, crime and other poor influences fill the void.

Fifth, while I have concerns about the new Tax law (passed in early 2018) with its impact on debt and heavy emphasis on the wealthy and corporations, a huge opportunity was missed when we could have added an increase in the minimum wage tying it to automatic increases due to wage inflation. I worry that less money than expected by the law’s drafters will end up in the hands of workers.

Sixth, we must address our opioid crisis in America. And, we must look at our rising numbers needing mental health counseling. To be frank, cutting access to healthcare and mental care insurance benefits are not the answer. We should actually be expanding access where it does not exist. We must stabilize access and cost of healthcare, yet opposite measures have been taken in the past few years under the guise of political gain.

Seventh, too many go hungry in the United States, especially children. That may be one of our greatest tragedies as a nation. We must address food deserts where grocers choose not to go. Too many are living off horrible fast food or nothing at all. Food co-ops would be a big help to those areas, but they need help funding the build-out.

There are many more ideas, but these will help. On the investing front, many locations have seen success with using historical tax credits leveraging private money. There is a concept called ABCD (Asset Based Community Development) which shores up or repurposes a deteriorated asset creating jobs and revitalizing areas.

But, first we need to talk about this real and pervasive problem.

Nickel and Dimed in America – a tribute to Barbara Ehrenreich (may she RIP)

Yesterday, I learned that Barbara Ehrenreich passed away at the age of 81. From the Associated Press,

“Barbara Ehrenreich, the author, activist and self-described ‘myth buster’ who in such notable works as ‘Nickel and Dimed’ and ‘Bait and Switch’ challenged conventional thinking about class, religion and the very idea of an American dream, has died at age 81…A prolific author who regularly turned out books and newspaper and magazine articles, Ehrenreich honed an accessible prose style that brought her a wide readership for otherwise unsettling and unsentimental ideas. She disdained individualism, organized religion, unregulated economics and what Norman Vincent Peale famously called ‘the power of positive thinking.’”

I wrote the following post nine years ago about the need to increase the minimum wage. Fortunately, many states and cities did this very thing to get folks closer to a living wage.

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The walkout this week by restaurant workers to protest poor wages is indicative of a major problem we have in this country. We have a poverty problem in this country with far too many people living in poverty or paycheck to paycheck. As I have noted in earlier posts, the disparity between the “haves” and “have-nots” has grown wider at the same time our socio-economic class mobility has greatly diminished. Where we are born and to whom we are born are now greater indicators of success than they used to be. To compound the problem, those who are in the upper income echelons are having a more difficult time appreciating the challenges faced by those who are not. More on this later.

In Barbara Ehrenreich’s book “Nickel and Dimed (in America),” she chronicled her efforts and those of her co-workers, in trying to live on minimum or near-minimum wage jobs. Her conclusion is these jobs perpetuate poverty. She notes a variety of factors which include not being able to afford healthcare, not being able to save, poor food habits as fast food was the cheapest and most convenient food, being a slave to the work schedulers, being tied to mass transportation schedules due to gas prices, and having to work more than one job. She also noted in the restaurant jobs, people having to work when they are sick, because they needed the pay. Getting by was the best you could hope for. Getting ahead was quite difficult as you were treated like a commodity. I would add this contention is supported by Dr. Cornel West and Tavis Smiley’s book “The Rich and the Rest of Us.” A summary of the key findings in the book can be gleaned from the attached post.  https://musingsofanoldfart.wordpress.com/2012/10/20/the-rich-and-the-rest-of-us-a-must-read/

Currently, the federal minimum wage is $7.25 per hour. In some places, the state or local minimum wage is higher (Illinois, California have $8.00; Arizona is $7.47 and the city of San Francisco is $9.79, e.g.). Yet, a living wage is higher in these locations. A living wage varies by geography and is based on the cost of living to provide shelter, food, healthcare and basic necessities. Attached is a link to a MIT website that will allow you to see the calculation of living wage by area. http://livingwage.mit.edu/.

Per this MIT website, in my home county in North Carolina, a living wage is now $10.02 for a single adult and $19.68 for a one parent, one child family. In other higher cost of living areas, the living wage can be a few dollars more. As of this writing, President Obama has proposed an increase in the federal minimum wage from $7.25 to $9.00. While not enough, the increase is a tangible step forward. Per a Gallup Poll in March 2013, this proposal is supported by 70% of Americans. The result is even higher for women, Democrats, moderates, non-whites, adults who earn less than $24,000 per annum, and young adults. 2/3 of Americans who are seniors, Independents, and earners between $24,000 and $60,000 support the change. It is only beneath 67% for men, Republicans conservatives,and upper middle class earners and above.

Those who decry this change cite that we will end up with fewer jobs as a result. I have seen data on both sides of this argument. To me, there is a huge cost of turnover in retail and restaurant jobs due to lost productivity of the staff, but also of the department and store manager. The manager has to spend more time back-filling a job or making sure people are on the floor, than focusing on customer service and selling merchandise. Any measure a retail company can do to reduce this churn shows up in better productivity. Per the attached link, Costco seems to believe this, as they pay their people far more than the minimum and are doing quite well. http://money.cnn.com/2013/08/06/news/economy/costco-fast-food-strikes/index.html.

We have a problem in this country, which will only get worse, if we do not remedy it. This is a key reason I have been a staunch supporter of Obamacare. While imperfect, it does speak to the healthcare insurance needs of those who are now uninsured. And, many of those who cannot afford insurance are working in retail and restaurants. Yet, we must pay people better. Will it cause the number of jobs to go down? My guess is for some employers it might, but for many it won’t. In my consulting work with retail and restaurant employers, I have observed the employers who treat their employees as commodities will never have the productivity and customer service of those who treat their employees as key in their ability to sell products and serve customers. These latter companies work back from how can we serve the customer better.

And, when you hear someone who is doing more than fine financially state that increasing the minimum wage is a poor investment of money, please respond the better off people are, the less they will depend on those so-called hand-outs the well off seem to hate. I do not like to use the term hand-outs, as helping people survive in tough times is an appropriate investment of resources, yet for an audience that tends to use this term freely, it is an argument that might resonate. Plus, the more we all have to spend, the better off the economy will be. Let’s increase the minimum wage. It is time.

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Thank you Barbara Ehrenreich – you made us think and sit-up and take notice.

Medicaid expansion – letter to the editor

When the Affordable Care Act was passed in 2010, a key element was for people who made less than 133% of the poverty limit based on their family size. This group would pay no premiums through a state-by-state expansion of Medicaid. The federal government said it would reimburse each state for 90% of that cost.

At this point in 2022, there are twelve holdout states that have not expanded Medicaid. That leaves 2 million Americans with access to no healthcare coverage. The holdout states include my home state of North Carolina and big states like Texas, Florida and Georgia (see link below to a NPR article).

North Carolina was close to passing Medicaid expansion, but the effort stalled once again. Here is a letter I sent to my newspaper that they graciously printed this morning.

NC and Medicaid

As a retired benefits consultant and former benefits manager for a Fortune 500 company, I was hopeful that the N.C. General Assembly would at long last pass an expansion of Medicaid to fully comply with the Affordable Care Act. Failing to do this has harmed N.C. residents. Our economy has been impacted and some rural hospitals have either closed or are in financial trouble, according to the Commonwealth Fund, a nonpartisan healthcare advisor.

As former GOP presidential candidate and Ohio governor John Kasich noted when Ohio expanded Medicaid years ago, it was a no-brainer with the federal funding the state has realized for years now. Please move forward on Medicaid expansion.

We have heard of food deserts in largely rural states which impact people in need more than others. But, we also have healthcare deserts as well. Taking only one data point, it is not a surprise to learn that maternal mortality rates in these states are worse than in other states and first-world countries. Note, this is mother’s dying in childbirth. That is a sad state of affairs, especially for a country who claims exceptionalism.

https://www.npr.org/sections/health-shots/2021/07/01/1011502538/12-holdout-states-havent-expanded-medicaid-leaving-2-million-people-in-limbo

Oranges and sunshine

Sometimes you come across a movie where the hero is unlikely. In this case she is an overworked social worker from England. Sometimes the problem presented is unheard of so the duty of the movie is to point out atrocious behavior on the part of people and entities that should know better. Sometimes the victims do not have a voice and really just wanted to find out what happened and who they are.

When you add these things into a pot, the movie “Oranges and sunshine” comes out starring Emily Watson. Watson is one of Great Britain’s finest actors in my view, but she has the misfortune of having a name close to another actress of Harry Potter fame, Emma Watson, so confusion results. If Watson is in a movie, it usually is a good one and this is no exception.

In short, it is about a social worker named Margaret Humphreys in the mid-1980s who learns something unsettling from an adult Australian woman who was visiting England to find out who she was and where she came from. She tells Humphreys she was transferred as a child from an orphanage in London to one in Australia, not to be adopted, but just rehoused. Humphreys does not believe her as that would be illegal, but she leaves the file.

With her husband’s (and later her boss’) help and support, Humphreys begins a process to find out what happened and locate parents, alive or dead, so that this woman and others who come out of the woodwork can get closure. Without giving the plot away, this true story tells of what Humphreys learns and how extensive a problem it is. With it so large, she hypothesizes it has to be systematic and involve folks higher up.

I will stop there. The movie is a must see. Will it make you angry – yes? Will it show you what one person can mean to many – yes? Will it show you the mental, family and physical toll trying to do the right thing causes – yes?

The movie was made in 2010 and also stars Hugo Weaving, Lorraine Ashbourne, Molly Windsor, Stuart Wolfendon, and David Wenham among many. The screenplay was written by Margaret Humphreys and Rona Munro – note the title comes from an adult telling the kids that Australia had plentiful oranges and sunshine to get them on the ship. It was directed by Jim Loach. Weaving played the father with PTSD in “Hacksaw Ridge” and people who watch British TV will recognize Ashbourne from numerous shows. Give it a look.

Letter to the editor – Australian election should be a wake up call for the US conservatives

I sent the following letter to the editor of my newspaper. It may not get printed, but I wanted others to see it and adapt and use it if they like it.

Seeing Australian voters sweep out conservatives after nine years and three prime ministers is telling. A large bloc of women voters grew tired of relative inaction on climate change, lack of assuring soundness of their Medicare and child care, and overall lack of integrity in its elected leaders.

Here in the states, my former Republican party is turning a blind eye to more action on climate change, better gun governance, growing fascism and shoring up the ACA and are attacking voting rights and civil rights. At the same time, overstated and even contrived issues are getting the air time to garner votes from their base.

As conservative pundit Michael Gerson says the “Republican Party is in decay.” I agree. We need a viable Conservative party, but what we have is not on the right path. The truth matters. And, a party that vilifies its truth tellers while glorifying its liars does not have the needed veritas to be considered seriously. I can disagree with the Democrats on policy, but with Republicans I find myself having to argue what is true. That is telling to this independent and former Republican and Democrat voter.

US is the only developed nation where rate of pregnant mother deaths is rising (a reprise from 2015)

The rise in maternal mortality in the United States has been hitting the headlines, especially as it relates to Louisiana leading the way. Senator Bill Cassidy is getting flak, rightfully so, for trying to minimize the problem focusing on taking the African-American mothers out of the equation. Their deaths are an important part of this, but they are only a part, but deserve due diligence as to why just like every other race, income group, ethnic group, etc. We should look to things like – lack of healthcare access, fewer rural hospitals, food deserts and poverty as several of the causes. Yet, this is not a new problem, as I wrote this post seven years ago.

Recently, a very powerful article was written by Danielle Paquette in The Washington Post entitled “Why pregnant women in Mississippi keep dying.” A link to the article follows: http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/wonkblog/wp/2015/04/24/why-pregnant-women-in-mississippi-keep-dying/. While the article focuses its title on Mississippi, that is a metaphor for a national problem. The US is now the only developed nation where the rate of pregnant mother deaths is increasing. In 1987 only 7.2 pregnant women were dying per 100,000 births. That rate has more than doubled in 2013 to 18.5 deaths per 100,000 births. Our maternal death rate in childbirth is 3x the rate in Saudi Arabia and 2x the rate in the UK.

In Mississippi, it is far worse with 54.7 black mothers dying in childbirth out of 100,000 births and 29.3 white mothers dying per 100,000. There a number of reasons cited, but one of the key reasons is that Mississippi has not expanded Medicaid and have over 107,000 people who do not have access to healthcare coverage. Note, other reasons are cited, but not having health care coverage limits access to preventive visits that expectant mothers with care get.

As many know, I have been a broken record for the need to continue and improve the Affordable Care Act, which is working pretty well by a number of studies and has dampened cost increases with the Congressional Budget Office lowering health care projections three times due in part to the ACA. In fact, just yesterday at Congress’ request, the CBO and Joint Committee on Taxation noted that repealing the ACA would increase the deficit by $353 Billion (or $137 Billion when a new dynamic scoring approach is used). This seems to run counter to rhetoric of how harmful the law is. Here is a link to the article: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/obamacare-repeal-would-boost-10-year-deficit-by-dollar353b-cbo/ar-AAbQa2S?ocid=DELLDHP

But, we need to finish the job and completely implement the ACA in about twenty states, such as North Carolina, that have not expanded Medicaid to cover a key tranche of people under the ACA. It is not surprising, these predominantly southern states are seeing the worst child and mother health results. Several reputable health-related foundations (The Commonwealth Fund, Kaiser Family Foundation) and economic think tanks (RAND and Economic Policy Institute) have noted that not expanding Medicaid is actually harmful to people and this is more evidence of that assertion.

Please read these articles and, if you concur these are problems worth doing something about, reach out to your state legislators and US representatives and senators. Ask them to support the continuation of the ACA as the majority of Americans wish to happen. Ask the states who have not expanded Medicaid to do so as they are hurting people, rural hospitals and their own economies in not so doing. These issues are that important as people are the pawns in these political chess games and they bear the brunt of these decisions with their health and lives.