A Drop of Water Explains Our $ Universe


Water: no other element is as necessary for sustaining life. And no other necessity so brings into focus the overreach of private corporate wealth, picking our nation’s public pockets. How so? Guess which city in Michigan, the Great Lakes state surrounded by fresh water, still has schools with dangerous levels of lead in its water, PLUS the highest water bills of any of 500 in the nation?

Flint. Yes, that Flint. $910 annually for all the lead you can drink. (Although when I was at Totem Books in Flint, people there said, no! That was on the low side!)

Now guess which state just handed over 576,,000 gallons of water per day to Nestle Corporation for free, so they could pump the state’s groundwater Great Lakes Basin for private profit, despite overwhelming input from citizens protesting the piracy— 80,945 against, to 76 in favor?  Michigan!  

Flint's Michigan water first got national attention in 2014, thanks to Mona Hannah-Attisha, a young pediatrician who noticed the dangerous levels of lead in children’s blood. She undertook blood test surveys on her own, when the Michigan government failed to respond, instead covering up their crimes. Gov. Rick Snyder had earlier indulged sweeping powers given him by the Michigan legislature, to override the city’s elected representatives by means of a fiscal manager. Synder's appointee made the change in water source, despite the city council’s protests, that not only poisoned kids, but ruined Flint’s plumbing systems. 

In other words, the state's regime declared that bucks will trump democracy. Eventually 15 people were criminally charged, including for negligent homicide, but not so, the Governor, who only oversaw the whole fiasco.

The city’s deficit has made for the latest cruel decision—namely shutting off water to those 1000 residents who cannot pay their water bills. Food and Water Watch is calling for water bill forgiveness and new state funds to repair the damage done to the city’s water system.

Now here’s some good news: Maryland is poised to declare that water is an “inalienable right” for its citizens through a Water Taxpayer Protection Act. The city of Baltimore has been fighting the takeover of its public water system by private corporations, having studied the results from cities that took that private route. In every case, the cost of water for citizens went up.

Profits skimmed from the top apparently leaves a scummy ring around your water bill. Essentials like water need to be kept public. 

—Rickey Gard Diamond

NOTE: That a drop of water could explain the universe was something Lucy Larcom wrote, recalling her girlhood at the earliest textile factories. Dr. Mona also writes about water in her memoir, What the Eyes Don’t See: A Story of Crisis, Resistance and Hope in an American City.

Notice to Lady Justice


Women’s eNews has been on the beat since 1999, providing news on issues women care about that don’t always get covered elsewhere. For instance, this week a decision came down on a lawsuit brought by the state of New York on behalf of women patients and staff at Choices Women’s Medical Center in Jamaica, Queens. The state sought enforcement of federal and state laws that prohibited threats or acts of force, verbal harassment or intimidation of women accessing reproductive health services. For years, the Center and its patients had endured an active campaign of harassment, despite the abortion procedure being legal, private, and constitutionally protected.

The Federal District Court for Eastern New York ruled against the enforcement, and according to Lori Sokol at Women’s eNews, disregarded testimony of patients, and “bent over backwards to credit the testimony of harassers, and to interpret video evidence in their favor, without regard to the atmosphere of harassment and intimidation created by anti-choice zealots.”

Keep that court decision in mind as the Senate interviews President Trump’s choice for a second Supreme Court pick, Brett Kavanaugh, expected to weigh in against Roe v. Wade. Even more deadly is his stance on the Affordable Health Care Act’s rules that enable the sick with “pre-existing conditions” to find insurance.  For an increasingly radical-right court system, being female may become a pre-existing condition that discounts citizen rights. 

As Sokol also reported, CNN reporter Kaitlan Collins, was barred from a Presidential Rose Garden event, an unprecedented move. The White House said, she had asked an “inappropriate question.” Her question concerned this week’s reports on a tape recording on pay-offs to silence Playboy Bunny Karen McDougal before the 2016 election. Kaitlan Collins’ QUESTION was inappropriate? Really?

And then there are the 700 “ineligible” kids who remain separated from their mothers by this administration’s no-tolerance policy at the border—one in three kids still alone, despite a court-ordered deadline from a Bush-appointed judge. CNN shared audios of immigrant and refugee mothers in a strange land begging US courts to learn about their children. Take off your blindfold, Lady Justice! Call your Senator. Register to vote!

No Tolerance for White Wash

Families Together.jpg

Stories about refugee and immigrant families being split up at the border make me wonder if this is still the United States my teachers taught me about in school. You know, the one with a Statue of Liberty welcoming the poor and huddled masses. My ancestors were among them; none came over on the Mayflower. But maybe US Atty. General Jeff Sessions did.

Spouting Bible verses like a Puritan, Sessions has claimed the moral logic of St. Paul's letter to the Romans to support his taking kids away from their parents. He says the government is ordained by God, like race differences and slavery. So render onto Caesar what is Caesar's. 

Because I had heard rumors of even some Republicans objecting to what seems pure cruelty, Friday morning I watched Fox News. How was this affecting conservatives and their “family values?” There I learned that the impassioned reporter, who had pressed White House Press Secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders—“You're a parent! Don't you have any empathy?”—was from (gasp) Playboy. This name-drop segued to a blonde Fox news person, who scowled as an Anglo immigrant spokeswoman complained about “liberal news” boo-hooing for the kids. They were, she explained, fed every day and went to school in a remodeled Wal-Mart, and thus were clearly "well cared for.”

Perhaps they even get Bible verses taught them—the same way Native American children were in the 19th century, when taken from their tribal parents and placed in boarding schools to become "civilized.” Natives themselves once grown described the separation as trauma.

So how "civilized" will bully US policy become? How religious will our separate state remain? UPI reports that a coalition of legal rights organizations submitted on Thursday a complaint to an international committee of the OAS (Organization of American States), asking it to "immediately stop a human rights and humanitarian crisis perpetrated by the U.S. government in the Texas-Mexico border."

Yes, they called us perps. And there's a reason Jesus called religious hypocrites, who belabored the law and forgot its spirit, "white-washed sepulchers." 

—Rickey Gard Diamond

Red and Blue Both Fly in America's Flag

Early US flag.jpeg

E Pluribus Unum

Out of many, one. That motto was first put on an American coin in 1795, and by the late 19th century was standard.


Maybe we citizens have seen it so often by now, we've stopped thinking about its importance. Our divisions grow more polarized, with name-calling and rejection becoming more common than listening, respecting, reasoning and compromising. Pew Research has been looking at our political polarization, our many shades of red, blue, purple, fuschia, etc., at their research site, and even has a "quiz" to take if you're curious where you are on the spectrum. http://www.people-press.org/quiz/political-typology/

Now an organization calls on our higher selves. Calling on our Better Angels, this organization is actually holding workshops to help "the reds" and "the blues" sit down together and talk. Only this isn't just a photo op. They get results. They teach skills and help each side reach clear positions, teach how to fact check and agree on what is real and what is "fake." 

Their idea is that it's important to understand one another's position, be able to talk about facts and differences, and discover what you and "they" have  in common so you can reach a compromise and move forward. No one says this is easy. But this is how politics works, when it does—and lately it mostly doesn't. Better Angels is working to help E Pluribus, our very diverse America, to unite again.

Our shared money is at stake in every budget decision. What we decide together affects the economy. For appealing to our higher American selves, and our tradition of unity, statecraft and compromise, we applaud and recommend them. You can check out what they're doing, and talking about here:  https://www.better-angels.org/bam

Women's Day Is Not Just a Magazine

Family Values

50s vacuum 2.jpg

Tomorrow, March 8, is International Women’s Day, a good time to take stock of how far we women have come. But wait—what do you mean we’re headed backwards? Laura Liswood with the World Economic Forum points out in an article that worldwide, women’s funding for reproductive health has been reduced, and family planning is harder to come by.

There is also a glaring “under-representation of women and minorities in US cabinet-level positions.”  Pale male EconoMan rules Washington’s swamp these days.  https://www.weforum.org/agenda/2017/03/womens-rights-sexual-equality-in-revers

In Russia, Liswood reports, the Duma just voted 380 to 3 for decriminalizing domestic violence, so long as it doesn’t cause “substantial bodily harm,” and occurs less than once a year. Seriously?!

According to The New York Times, most in the US agree this is a better time to be a man than a woman in our society—except for Republican men. They say it’s a better to be a woman than a man, despite evidence to the contrary. No doubt, they also believe they do their fair share of housework. 

Most disturbing though was Liswood’s report on women’s voting patterns. In France, women are backing Marie LePen and her far-right nationalism, on a par with Trump here in the US. Let’s not forget that 53 percent of white women voted for Trump. Is it fear and greater job insecurity? Is it threats of nuclear holocaust cause women to hope for a strong man?

But 53 percent is still a minority of our sex, especially when you add in our savvy African American sisters. And here’s a salute to Tanya Plibersek, who is running as “minister for women” in Australia. She promised if elected her Labor party would re-establish the Australian Bureau of Statistics’ time use survey, which hasn’t been done there since 2006. Time use is an important measure of the value of unpaid work and gender inequity in household work. In 1997, Australia’s unpaid work was valued at $261 billions or almost half of Australia’s GDP that year.

Seeing what is typically invisible helps informs policy affecting parental leave, childcare, transport, education and workforce participation. Women’s groups in Australia have long argued for the survey’s re-establishment, and Plibersek put it simply: “[T]he Australian economy [and] Australian society rests upon women’s unpaid work.” US women could do a great deal more with time studies here. 



US Sickies More Profitable than Brits


I’m happy to be upright and writing this because yesterday I wasn’t sure I had a future. I was on the fifth day of bedridden fever after suddenly being set upon by coughing fits. I’d met the virulent virus the flu vaccine didn’t touch.  For the first time, I believed the scare stories my doctor always told me about influenza: it kills. This year, the CDC reports 88 kids have died and flu season’s not over yet.  

So while I was sick I heard the President had tweeted about England’s protests he claimed were about the National Health Service going broke. He praised our wonderful healthcare system, apparently forgetting he’s tried to destroy it.

The NHS, begun in 1948, is as close as England has ever gotten to socialism. It turns out the NHS is not going broke, and the people marching weren’t protesting the NHS, much beloved and rated highly around the world. Its workers were demanding more pay.

Here’s how NHS works, according to Jim Edwards, a Business Insider writer with dual citizenship, who has lived in both the US and England for years, and used both systems. In England, you call the doctor, they make your appointment, you come in and the doctor sees you, right on schedule.  There’s little paperwork and you pay: zero.

Well, actually you pay, he says, but through your taxes. The tax rates in England are similar to the US—but in England you get free healthcare in return, whereas in the US you pay taxes PLUS you then have to buy private health insurance, which may or may not pay for what you need. There’s maddening paperwork, impossible to understand. Uncovered medical costs remain the leading reason for US bankruptcy.

One other detail?  According to the World Health Organization, the average cost per Brit patient is $3480. Here in the US, our cost per patient is $8362.  Is that because of substandard care? No, it turns out the Brits live longer than we do—maybe because they’ve decided they’re better off united, especially when sick.

A postscript:  in 2009, when Obama was trying to pass the Affordable Care Act, Rick Scott, a multimillionaire hospital-chain CEO who’d made a fortune by defrauding Medicare and Medicaid, http://www.miaminewtimes.com/news/floridas-medicaid-fraudster-governor-rick-scott-criticizes-new-yorks sponsored an ad campaign to convince Americans the Brits were dying because of their horrible socialized medicine. He then ran for governor of Florida as a “healthcare reformer,” steadfast against Medicaid expansion—the nasty public insurance that had caught him stealing red-handed.

—Rickey Gard Diamond