The Silent Epidemic, 2007

A couple of years ago I wrote a post called “The Silent Epidemic” about the lack of dental care for the poor.

There’s a perception that dental health is somehow a ‘luxury’. Not for the poor, it isn’t. We are judged more harshly by our appearance than most, and teeth are a big part of that. I grew up with a kid who’d had to have his teeth removed and replaced by a dental plate before he was 12. He was ostracized by other kids, seen as retarded by the school administration even though he was quite bright, and in general placed on a path that would ensure he never rose above his ‘natural place’.


It’s something we suffer in silence and nobody else is talking about it, either. Dental insurance exists but it’s prohibitively expensive even though most dental procedures are a lot cheaper than your standard medical procedure; health insurance will pay thousands of dollars for a tonsillectomy but refuse to pay a few hundred for a root canal. I don’t, in all honesty, know why.

Maybe it’s because only the poor need help paying for such things.

I remember wanting to mention at the time that poor dental care can sometimes mean death but I didn’t write that because I didn’t think anybody would believe me.

Believe it.

Twelve-year-old Deamonte Driver died of a toothache Sunday. Continue reading

Workers v The Corporatocracy


Homelessness: The Invisible Epidemic

A couple of years ago at The Revolution, I wrote about accusations that some hospitals in Los Angeles had been dumping indigent and homeless patients on Skid Row but couldn’t be charged with anything because it wasn’t actually a crime to do that. Yesterday, a bill was introduced in the California State Senate that would require hospitals to discharge homeless patients to any place they designate as “home”.

For a year, reports have surfaced that hospitals here have left homeless patients on downtown streets, including a paraplegic man wearing a hospital gown and colostomy bag who witnesses say pulled himself through the streets with a plastic bag of his belongings held in his teeth.


Advocates for the homeless said it was common in many cities for homeless people still requiring medical treatment to end up on the street or at the doors of shelters ill prepared for their medical needs.

“Hospitals don’t know what to do with them, and they think it’s the homeless agencies’ responsibility,” said Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, a Washington advocacy group.

Mr. Stoops said local and federal laws were murky, at best, over where homeless patients should be discharged.

The proposed California law, written by members of Mr. Delgadillo’s staff and introduced by Senator Gilbert A. Cedillo, a Democrat from Los Angeles, would require hospitals to transport discharged patients to their residence or, if they lack one, to the place they identify as their home, typically a shelter.

“There currently is no law making dumping homeless hospital patients on Skid Row a crime,” Mr. Delgadillo said Thursday at a news conference. “What we really need is legal clarity that specifically prohibits it.”

This is canary-in-the-coal-mine stuff, to some extent. Though you won’t read it in the press, naturally, the homeless problem has been growing by leaps and bounds the last 6 years. Continue reading

Joblessness Falls Slightly. Maybe.

At first blush, this looks like good news.

The number of laid-off workers filing for unemployment benefits dropped sharply last week after having been driven higher the previous week by storm-related layoffs.

The Labor Department reported that applications for jobless benefits totaled 332,000 last week, down by 27,000 from the previous week.

The prior week jobless claims had jumped by 46,000, the biggest one-week increase since September 2005 in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina. Part of that big increase occurred because of winter storms that boosted layoffs in such industries as construction.

The four-week moving average for claims edged up from 326,700 to 328,000, the highest level for this average since early December.

The problem is, it may not mean anything. Continue reading

HS and Refugees: Housing Resembles Jail

In response to the criticism of international human rights groups about the inhumane conditions in which refugees are kept, Homeland Security and ICE have made a weak attempt to change their policies.

The day Mustafa Elmi turned 3 years old he had to report to his cell three times for headcount. To be able to get one hour of recreation inside a concrete compound sealed off by metal gates and razor wire he had to pin his picture ID to his uniform.

Such routines characterized Mustafa’s life, as well as that of his mother, Bahjo Hosen, 26, during their first seven months in the United States, the country to which they fled to escape political persecution in their native Somalia. They ended up in the T. Don Hutto Family Residential Facility, one of the nation’s newest detention centers for illegal immigrants that the Department of Homeland Security touts as an “effective and humane alternative” to keep immigrant families together while they await the outcome of immigration court hearings or deportation.

Before the facility opened, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) routinely separated parents from their children upon apprehension by the Border Patrol. Infants and toddlers were placed in federally funded foster homes; adolescents and teenagers were placed in facilities for minors run by the Department of Health and Human Services; and parents were placed in adult detention centers.

An improvement, right? Well, maybe. Continue reading

Wal-Mart: The Great Satan Turns…Philanthropist?

Alright. It’s early in the morning and I’m awake after only three hours sleep and I can barely get my eyes open and I see…this.

Wal-Mart looks to aid ailing areas
9 new stores planned to boost neighborhoods

Naturally, I think I’m dreaming. Naturally, I think I must have read it wrong. I look at it again. No, it still says the same thing. I rub my eyes. Blink. Get up and make coffee. Drink some. Shake myself a little more awake. Come back.

No. I didn’t imagine it. It hasn’t changed. Continue reading

TrenchNews, Verse 4


On Tuesday, we had this from Coca-Cola Corp:

Coca-Cola Enterprises said Tuesday it will cut 3,500 jobs during the next two years, including 300 in metro Atlanta.

The company also reported a $1.1 billion net loss for 2006, driven in large part by declining sales of carbonated soft drinks.

Most of the job cuts will come from operations in North America but the breakdown is still being decided, company officials said. The cuts represent about 5 percent of CCE’s 74,000-person global workforce. The cuts in Atlanta will come primarily through attrition, a CCE spokesman said.

The company expects to take a $300 million charge against earnings to cover separation expenses and other costs, which will be spread out over 2007 and 2008.

Two days later, Coke had a quite different announcement to make.

Coca-Cola on Thursday said it will boost its quarterly dividend 10 percent, from 31 cents to 34 cents a share. The move will boost the equivalent annual dividend to $1.36 a share from $1.24 for 2006. (emphasis added)

Now let me get this straight: a company that supposedly just lost over $$$1BIL$$$ announces it has to dump 3500 people and then 2 days later raises its dividend?

Am I the only one who smells a rat here? Continue reading

TSA 2: Screeners’ Union One Step Closer

The effort of the Transportation Security Administration’s airport screeners to form a union took a giant step forward this week when the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee “approved a measure that would give collective-bargaining rights to about 43,000 airport screeners”. The Senate vote follows rather than leads, of course – the House has already passed a similar bill as part of their 100-Hours package. If the full Senate agrees, a TSA union will almost certainly become a reality – unless Bush intervenes. Continue reading

Grant access to higher education

WHEN CONGRESS passed the Higher Education Act in 1965 , lawmakers were guided by the principle that no qualified student should have to for go college because of the cost. Shamefully, Congress has lost sight of this fundamental point.

Today, 400,000 qualified students a year don’t attend a four-year college because they can’t afford it. Twenty years ago, the maximum Pell Grant — the lifeline to college for low-income and first-generation students — covered more than half the cost of attendance at a typical four-year public college. Now, it only covers 32 percent. Because of the influence of big lenders, the federal student loan programs are now larded with inappropriate subsidies that benefit banks, but do little for students.

The cost of college has more than tripled over the past 20 years, and most families can’t keep up. Congress must work to fix the federal student aid system. Continue reading

Mass Gov Proposes State Take-Over of Municipal Pension Funds

When Duval Patrick was running for Mass Gov, he kept saying he was something new and different and making promises nobody expected him to keep. One of those promises was to make sure that other cities and towns got more of the state money the legislature had been saving for Boston. We didn’t think he’d ever get away with that even if he meant it.

We’re finding out how wrong we were. Continue reading