Oct 31, 2008
There’s a title of a book that has come into parlance now, Clash of Civilizations. There are a lot of people, I think, both in the west and in the Muslim world who believe in the clash of civilizations, who want to see the world as a place dominated by two irrevocably hostile blocks. I don’t want to live in that kind of world. I think that we live in an interconnected world full of rich, flawed, varied civilizations that are inextricably intertwined. So what I am doing in Afghanistan is working for that intertwined world.1Sarah Chayes resigned her position as a reporter for National Public Radio in 2002. She had been covering the fall of the Taliban and the post-Taliban era in Afghanistan. She decided to stay in Kandahar and has since devoted her life to helping the Afghan people find a safe, profitable, and legal route toward self-determination and self-sufficiency. Her cooperative skin-care business, Arghand, established in 2005, has begun to wean local farmers from dependence on an opium crop, and is successfully exporting its natural products to the U.S. and Canada.
Oct 30, 2008
If anything illustrates the failure of American education over the past thirty years, it is the calibre of elected representatives we have seen passing through the portals of our legislative and executive offices, especially at the federal level. An ignorant electorate elects inappropriate representatives.
That a man of McCain’s temperament, age, health, and political outlook can be in the running for the presidency of what its citizens like to think of as the greatest country in the history of the world is sufficient argument by itself to condemn our educational system as bankrupt.
And indeed, education in this country is on a steady downhill skid. We are falling behind China and Korea in the highest levels of basic scientific research,1 and graduating too few engineering students.2 We are also lagging behind other western countries in numbers of our citizens graduating from post-secondary colleges and universities. Only three countries associated with the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD)3 have a higher rate of completing post-secondary education among 45 to 54 year olds than America (Russia, Canada, and Israel); however, nine countries have higher rates among 25 to 34 year olds, and others are catching up.4 High school graduation rates are lower than 50 percent in some inner-city schools.5
Meanwhile, low-end jobs are drying up as computers and robots take over more of the load. Manufacturing is disappearing overseas, taking with it the sorts of assembly line jobs that could be performed with only a high-school education.
Income, health, and education—these are the three pillars of modern civilization, and we are neglecting all of them. Our minimum wage is far below a living wage6; we expend twice what other OECD countries do for health care with signficantly inferior results7; and we fail to prepare our citizens for the demands of the 21st century world.
In turning over our polity to the rapacious instincts of an unregulated capitalism, we have betrayed the social contract that defines a just and democratic nation.
1 U.S. Innovation: On the Skids, by Gary Anthes, from ComputerWorld, October 21, 2008 (Accessed October 23, 2008)
2 Trouble on the Horizon, from the American Society of Engineering Education, October 2006 (Accessed October 23, 2008)
3 The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development is a member-funded organization comprising 30 countries. Russia and Israel are in the process of joining OECD, but are not yet full members.
4 Changing the Game: The Federal Role in Supporting 21st Century Educational Innovation, by Sara Mead (New America Foundation) and Andrew J. Rotherham (Education Sector), October 16, 2008 (Accessed October 23, 2008)
5 Big Cities Battle Dismal Graduation Rates, from CBS News, April 1, 2008 (Accessed October 23, 2008)
6 Minimum wage increasingly lags poverty line, from Economic Policy Institute, January 31, 2007 (Accessed October 23, 2008)
7 OECD in 2006-2007—Health spending and resources, from OECD (Accessed October 23, 2008)
Oct 29, 2008
The Clean Water Act is 36 years old this month. For those Americans who want government to get out of their faces, take note:
Oct 28, 2008
Can we agree we need to breathe, and that the air we need to do so comes from green things, the same things that, miraculously, absorb the greenhouse gas carbon dioxide that we exhale? And if we agree on this, how can we not agree to preserve our environment so that there are enough green things left in it to produce that loverly air?
Not everyone does agree, however, and it is quite distressing to see how closely the states that don’t agree1 match up with the states that are expected to vote for John McCain.2
The needs of a struggling world are slowly—inevitably—making themselves felt, however, even if not quickly enough for the League of Conservation Voters (LCV), the nonpartisan group advocating for sound environmental policies. Their 2008 National Environmental Scorecard shows significant gains over 2007, with 67 House and 27 Senate members earning scores of 100 percent versus 33 and 3, respectively, in 2007. The House shows some backsliding on the other end in 2008, with 70 House and 2 Senate members earning scores of 0 percent, as against 48 House and 9 Senate members in 2007.
Obama did not vote in nine of the 11 crucial environmental issues in 2008. His pro-environment vote in two of them therefore earns him an 18 percent score for 2008, although LCV gives him a lifetime score of 72 percent. McCain did not vote either way on any of the 11 issues, making him one of the two senators with a 0 percent score (the other, David Vitter [R-LA], voted against all 11 environmental issues). McCain’s LCV lifetime score is 24 percent.
What in the name of heaven is the matter with these Republicans?
1 National Environmental Scorecard, from the League of Conservation Voters (Accessed October 21, 2008)
2 Election Day Map Today, from Polltrack.com (Accessed October 21, 2008)
Oct 27, 2008
It is common knowledge by this time that middle-class incomes (the kind the two of us probably enjoy) have remained flat over the course of the Bush 2 administration, while the rich have gotten richer and the richest among the rich have become fabulously wealthy. To note but one startling statistic: In 2005, the poorest 20 percent of American households had $380 billion in income, while the top 1 percent had a $520 billion increase in income.1
Our national wealth is soaring to the top, and it is not trickling down.
But that’s old news. Some new news has just been reported by OpenSecrets.org the web site of the Center for Responsive Politics (CRP), a watchdog group that tracks money in U.S. politics.
With a recession settling in, unemployment rising, a huge bailout emptying our children’s pockets of another $850 billion in public funds (ours were already empty), how are our brave and doughty legislators making out during this perfect economic storm? Just fine, thank you.
OpenSecret’s report title says it all: As Economic Storm Brewed, Congressional Wealth Grew 11% Last Year. McCain retained his position among the 61 millionaire senators and Obama joined that group for the first time in 2007. During these doldrum years for the middle class, the average member of Congress saw their net worth soar 57 percent between 2004 and 2007.
CRP works hard to provide data on Congressional members’ net worth, given that disclosure requirements are not as stringent as they should be. Look into their Personal Financial Disclosures Database and see how your congressional delegation is doing. We got more than one surprise from ours.
At the least, you may look with a more informed eye on their next appeal for a campaign contribution.
1 Report Says That the Rich Are Getting Richer Faster, Much Faster, by David Cay Johnston, from the New York Times, December 15, 2007 (Accessed October 21, 2008)
Oct 26, 2008
Sarah Palin actually warned us, in her debate with Joe Biden, that "I may not answer the questions that either the moderator or you want to hear, but I’m going to talk straight to the American people…"1
Without such forewarning, you might not have noticed, as you probably didn’t notice during the presidential debates, that the question asked of the candidates wasn’t always the question they answered.
A pair of studies by the Harvard Business School entitled Conversational Blindness: Answering the Wrong Question the Right Way reveals just how often this phenomenon occurs. In the first study, a questioner asks a question and the interviewee proceeds to answer some other unasked question, and we usually fail to notice! When the answer is to a similar question, most of us can’t even remember the original question.
More remarkably, the second study discovered that we will rate someone who provides a good answer to a question they weren’t asked more highly than we will rate someone who gives a poor answer to the question that was asked.
Maybe we’d better all have a closer look at those debates2,3,4,5. Sometimes the Straight Talk Express is the Fast Talk Express, and we’re the ones being taken for a ride.
1 Transcript of Palin, Biden Debate, from CNN, October 3, 2008 (Accessed October 21, 2008)
2 Full Vice Presidential Debate with Gov. Palin and Sen. Biden, from YouTube (Accessed October 21, 2008)
3 Third 2008 Presidential Debate, from YouTube (Accessed October 21, 2008)
4 Second 2008 Presidential Debate, from YouTube (Accessed October 21, 2008)
5 First 2008 Presidential Debate, from YouTube (Accessed October 21, 2008)
Oct 25, 2008
We know now that in the 1950s, when we started building all those interstate highways, we should have been concentrating on rails, not roads. By 1970, private rail passenger service threw up its hands in despair and was taken over by the government, becoming the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (known to you and me as Amtrak). At the time of takeover, half the passenger service routes were shut down.
Since then, our passenger rail service has been limping along on poor customer relations and deteriorating trains and rail beds, living off government subsidies, and suffering a lot of bad press. But guess what? Amtrak is doing just fine.
In fact, they recently posted their sixth straight year of gains and set a record for passenger trips. And their gains were not limited to popular routes. Every Amtrak train across the country saw increased ridership (over 28.7 million, 11.1 percent more than last year) and revenues ($1.7 billion, a 14.2 percent increase). Their News Release tells a tale of a mass transit system which may yet play an important role in saving us from ourselves. On almost every route, increased ridership numbers have been exceeded by increased revenues, indicating riders are flocking to rail service in spite of higher fares.
This land was made for railroads. And, finally, we seem to know it.
Oct 24, 2008
The fiscal meltdown was a manifestation of a tendency that has increasingly infected American society, probably since the “Me Decade” of the 1970s—a growing inability to defer gratification. The masters of the universe who cooked their books during the 00’s did so in order to artificially boost their stock prices in the short run so they could claim huge performance-based bonuses. They invented impenetrable financial instruments they could quickly lay off in a deadly game of musical chairs, a Ponzi scheme they knew they were playing in a rush to claim nine-figure salaries. Their unwillingness to manage their companies with concern for anyone’s welfare—stockholders, customers, workers, or the company itself—in their mad dash for personal profit resulted in a cataclysm that has shaken the global economic system to its foundations.
Today, this unwillingness to defer gratification for the value of long-term goals is manifesting itself in one particularly unfortunate way, as noted by the Progressive Policy Institute (PPI) in their report, Short-Changing Our Future: America’s Penny-Wise, Pound-Foolish Approach to Supporting Tomorrow’s Scientists.
By now, our nation’s pitiful performance in educating a new generation of mathematicians and scientists is old news.1 We need more scientists with advanced degrees dedicating themselves to basic research; however, we are graduating fewer of them, and they are going over to industry, often with only a master’s degree, where they can make a good deal more money. Our technological future depends on basic scientific research, the kind that brought us fiber optics, the transistor, and the laser. Emerging high-tech sectors such as nanotechnology, biotechnology, and clean energy depend on basic research carried out by scientists with advanced degrees in settings that are financially secure. None of these conditions prevails today in America, largely because of our cultural affinity for the quickest route to the short-term payoff.
By the same token, dedicated postdoctoral academic researchers are paid so much less even than graduates with a master’s degree who choose to go into industry that one cannot blame the university “brain drain” entirely on the pursuit of the quick buck. The PPI’s report makes clear the urgent need we have to bolster our support of education at the high end, as we need to bolster it from preschool through college.
We cannot afford to continue luring our best and brightest to MBA degrees with starting salaries of $92,000 plus, while paying the pittance of $50,000 to postdoctoral research scientists in their mid-30s. If there is no one figuring out the ins and outs of the next generation of high technology products, all the MBAs in the world won’t be able to sell them.
1 Science and Math Education Needs an Overhaul, Say Candidates During Final Debate, by Sarah Lai Stirland, from Wired, October 15, 2008 (Accessed October 19, 2008)
Oct 23, 2008
Harnessing computer power for purposes of enhancing information gathering and communications has revolutionized our lives and brought forth a brave new world in a far shorter time span than any comparable revolution—if there is any comparable revolution— in human history. Dramatic changes—in health care, in education, in practically every area of human endeavor—will continue to bombard us at a similar rate throughout the rest of our lives and this century. The shape and nature of the future from today’s embryonic perspective is unimaginable.
The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation has identified and summarized many of the areas where our lives have been most impacted in their report, Digital Quality of Life: Understanding the Personal and Social Benefits of the Information Technology Revolution. They offer policymakers ten key principles to follow to empower their citizens to take full advantage of the digital revolution. Information Technology (IT) has improved individual lives in areas including education, health care, personal safety, and accessibility for the disabled. Globally, IT plays crucial roles in challenges involving the environment, energy, transportation, and public safety, as well as enhancing government services on all levels. It has revolutionized access to information in developing countries, spurring them on to greater levels of economic growth and democratic self-determination.
And yet...and yet. For all its wonders—and we are keenly aware of them because we sit in front of a computer for at least five hours a day seven days a week—we wonder to what extent all this technology is really bringing us together. Though at long last, to quote the old AT&T ad, “We're All Connected,” the extent to which that connection has worked to bring us together for the betterment of our species and our planet remains conjectural.
Although Kiva has introduced thousands of social investors to struggling entrepreneurs in developing countries, Democracy Now! has brought us essential intelligence ignored by the corporate-dominated media, and MoveOn.org and other grassroots Internet organizers have utilized our connectedness to forge multi-million-member activist and donor networks, we wonder to what extent the world has moved closer to understanding that, beyond being connnected to one another, we are responsible for one another. Though preached by every religion, this imperative is not embodied in any official national mission statement, even insofar as it might pertain solely to a nation’s own people.
Our species will endure only if we pursue optimal conditions for all living things, in the mature knowledge that being our brother’s keeper is not some altruistic fantasy, but a condition of our own survival.
1 The more that changes, the more it’s the same thing.
Oct 22, 2008
We may not vote for Obama, but should he win the White House anyway, we would love to work for him.
Last weekend, Polltrack’s Presidential Race Map projected Obama winning 273 electoral votes on Election Day, three more than needed to win. We think it likely, in light of the Republican Party’s full court press to disenfranchise as many of the Obama electorate as they possibly can (they’ve had eight years and two presidential elections to hone their skills in this regard) that Obama will have to win by a landslide—perhaps by as much as 20 percentage points—if he is to squeak into the White House.
If he does, he is going to be looking for a lot of help. Despite surrounding himself with Clinton-era advisers during the campaign, we hope Obama will wield the proverbial new broom once in the White House. If he does, considering the stranglehold Republicans have had on the federal government for thirty disastrous years, he will need to look far afield to gather a new set of subordinates. Many of them will be pretty clueless regarding the ins and outs of D.C. politics. The IBM Center for The Business of Government has rushed in to fill the gap in this knowledge with The Presidential Transition, a guide for government executives.
They offer mini-essays on “Six ‘To-Dos’”:
Oct 21, 2008
The decade has been obsessed with No Child Left Behind (NCLB), the educational reform legislation enacted in the early years of the Bush 2 administration. In a world with increasingly few opportunities for unskilled labor, it has become essential that, for the first time in our history, we must teach all children to a higher standard. NCLB promised to do that through the establishment of clear standards for teachers and students to meet; an exchange of greater funding for more accountability in the schools; and a mechanism in the short run to allow students to transfer out of failing schools.
Today, just about everyone is unhappy with NCLB, and for good reasons. Though billions in additional federal funding were authorized for the program, the amount was grossly insufficient to reach NCLB’s goals. Furthermore, far less than even the inadequate amount authorized has been appropriated, with a gap between the two reaching a cumulative $85.7 billion between fiscal year 2002 and 2009.
Standards for academic content and student performance are the linchpin of NCLB, and the program has failed to spur the states to develop clear standards upon which to test teacher, student, and school accountability. In fact, allowing all 50 states to develop their own standards has resulted in chaos and confusion. Performance standards are also at wide variance among the states and are often set at unreasonably low levels in order to better attain the unrealistic 100 percent proficiency required by NCLB. Tests are of low quality and poorly scheduled. And accountability measurements, which can contain sanctions quite damaging to a school, create significant fairness issues owing to the variability of standards and assessments.
Teaching to a single standard will ultimately favor teaching those students on the cusp of meeting those standards, short-changing those who are hopelessly behind or already performing beyond the standard. Also, though socioeconomic status is the most important predictor of student achievement, teachers in poor schools are held to the exact same performance standards as those in rich schools, with no additional resources committed to them.
The student transfer provisions of NCLB represent perhaps the weakest element of the program, with only about 1 percent of students eligible to transfer out of failing schools actually doing so. The problem is there is nowhere to go. By limiting transfers within school districts, most parents see little point in transfering their child from a failing school to a nearly failing school. Though NCLB encourages cooperative agreements between districts to allow students to escape from poor inner-city ones, virtually none of the country’s suburban school districts has agreed to do this. Indeed, NCLB acts as a disincentive to break down economic segregation in our schools.
These and other weaknesses of the existing program are set forth in Improving on No Child Left Behind: Getting Education Reform Back on Track, by Richard D. Kahlenberg, et al., and published by The Century Foundation. Kahlenberg’s first chapter is available free of charge and summarizes the issues discussed above. He suspects the deliberate underfunding and other flaws of NCLB may be a ploy on the part of the Republican administration to set up public schools for failure in order to advance an agenda for privatizing American education. Paranoia? Perhaps, but altogether in keeping with the radical right agenda for shrinking government and privatizing everything in sight.
Kahlenberg’s recommendations for getting NCLB back on track are good ones. However, they are going to cost money. As argued in yesterday’s ATN entry, so will ending poverty and providing national health care. In fact, these incentives are going to require a significant attitude adjustment in the minds of the public and our elected officials. The first step in that adjustment is understanding that attending to these matters will ultimately—and not too distantly—result in a higher standard of living for everyone, as we work together to finally realize the American dream.
Oct 20, 2008
A couple of health-care-related reports came to our notice this week, different but not entirely unrelated.
From the New America Foundation comes a report warning against implementing an insurance plan favored by some members of Congress and by John McCain. Across State Lines Explained: Why Selling Health Insurance Across State Lines is Not the Answer warns that the worst part of this plan is that insurance companies would only have to abide by the laws of the state in which they were headquartered, and not the laws of the states in which they were selling their insurance. Yes, that’s right: More veiled deregulation.
According to the report, insurers selling across state lines would have an easier time cherry-picking healthy customers to insure and charging higher premiums to the elderly or less-healthy populations—or refusing to insure them at all—resulting ultimately in increasing even more the 90+ million people currently un- or underinsured.
Americans have been speaking up for years for single-payer, Medicare-type health care.1,2 Neither of the main presidential candidates has come out for such a plan, beholden as they both are to the insurance companies. Meanwhile, health care premiums have doubled during the Bush 2 administration.3 It is time to support those politicians, and only those, who do favor what the American people want.
The other report may fall into the “Well, duh!” category. America’s Health Starts with Healthy Children comes to us from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation. The report, which examined children’s health in association with parental economic and educational factors, concludes, “Across the country and within every state, there are substantial shortfalls in the health of children based on their family’s income and education....”
In addition to having a general infant mortality rate worse than 41 other countries (including the Czech Republic, South Korea, and Cuba),4 the report finds that a greater proportion of children from poorer families enjoy less than optimal health than those from higher-income families. The gap is as wide as 44 percent to 7 percent in Texas, down to 13 percent versus 6.4 percent in New Hampshire.
Child obesity, neglecting to teach our children math and science skills, inequitable health care across economic lines, huge and growing income inequities, governmental inattention to the will of the people: these things must stop.
We must address the three pillars upon which our civilization and our collective well-being depend—income, health, and education—and we must end their inequitable distribution. The American people know how to do it, and are willing to make the necessary sacrifices. It is our one-party political establishment, and the hammerlock hold the corporations have over it, that are impeding change.
1 Growing Health Care Concerns Fuel Cautious Support for Change (.pdf), an ABCNews/Washington Post Poll, October 13, 2003 (Accessed October 17, 2008)
2 Single-Payer Health Care, from Wikipedia (Accessed October 17, 2004)
3 Employer Health Benefits 2008 Annual Survey, from the Kaiser Family Foundation (Accessed October 17, 2008)
4 Rank Order - Infant Mortality Rate, from the CIA World Factbook, October 9, 2008 (Accessed October 17, 2008)
Oct 19, 2008
We know we are talking in billions and trillions these days—an $850 billion bailout for the financial industry; a $10 trillion national debt. A few millions must seem like chump change. But when Americans are struggling on $6.55 an hour (the current minimum wage), government waste of even $30 million rises to the level of a national disgrace and we should be howling to the hills about it.
This is how much the Government Accounting Office (GAO) found the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) wasted in a few short months in Mississippi alone through ineffective oversight of a small portion of the contracts given out to deal with the Katrina disaster. We can only wonder in amazement how much of our money was wasted overall.
After four firms were paid billions of dollars to set up trailer sites in the wake of Katrina, through contracts awarded on a sole source, noncompetitive basis, the outcry was so great that FEMA solicited new bids for maintenance and deactivation of mobile homes and for site maintenance. These contracts are the ones the GAO investigated and found were responsible for $30 million in wasteful and improper or potentially fraudulent payments to the contractors over an eight-month period from June 2006 to January 2007.
Their report, Hurricane Katrina: Ineffective FEMA Oversight of Housing Maintenance Contracts in Mississippi Resulted in Millions of Dollars of Waste and Potential Fraud (.pdf) outlines in agonizing detail the failure of this “Brownie, you’re doing a heckuva a job” agency to perform its role with anything like proper attention to its responsibilities to its employer—us. However, finally, it is the employer’s responsibility to prevent these abuses. Which of our representatives is most likely to do so?
McCain speaks of an across-the-board spending freeze for the federal government—an impossible aim if were even desirable, as anyone over the age of 14 must know. Obama speaks of a careful examination of each line item of the national budget, eliminating programs that don’t work and bolstering those that do. Neither speaks to the kind of regulatory oversight we must bring to bear on all levels of government spending. It is way too late when the GAO brings out its reports. By then, the money is irretrievably lost. Government expenditures must be determined to be legitimate at a point before the check is cut, and to do that will require the sort of government restructuring that only Nader is talking of, and he is not going to be elected.
The next four years will be a time of building, perhaps under a more or less benign and right-thinking Obama administration, perhaps under a chaotic, irascible, and frankly terrifying McCain administration. But build we must, from the grassroots up through all levels of our self-governance.
Strap on your toolbelt, and let’s get cracking.
Oct 18, 2008
We’re pro-choice and anti-abortion. Abortion is a horrible experience for any woman to undergo; horrible for her mate, who is forced to be a hopelessly frustrated non-participant on the sidelines; horrible for families and friends. That it often is performed in consequence of a rape or an incestuous attack only makes it more horrible.
Happily, the numbers of abortions have been declining in America for the past generation, from a high of 1,429,247 in 1990 (that is 344 abortions for every 1,000 live births) to 839,226 in 2004 (or 238 for every 1,000 live births).1 That is still a hefty number—almost one abortion for every four live births. Too much suffering all around.
Most abortions in 2004 (33 percent) were performed on women in the 20- to 24-year age group. Sadly, 17 percent were performed on younger women and girls, most of whom had presumably not reached the age of independence. Over 4,300 abortions were performed on girls younger than 15. To speak of the decline of the family is almost to speak a cliche these days. And yet the numbers don’t lie. About half of all first marriages end in divorce, and the number goes up precipitously for second and third marriages.2 The percentage of single-parent households with children increased from 19.5 percent in 1980 to 28.3 percent in 2005. Drug law violations among delinquents have almost tripled between 1990 and 2004 and offenses against the public have more than doubled.3 Reported cases of child abuse (the tip of the iceberg if there ever was one) went up 30 percent between 1990 and 2005.4
So it was with some degree of anticipatory joy that the following press release caught our eye: The Effect of Parental Involvement Laws on the Incidence of Abortion Among Minors. “What!,” we exclaimed, ”There are laws now requiring parents to get involved with their children? What a great idea!”
Alas, no. The study, written by Michael J. New and published by the Family Research Council is merely another screed against abortion, this one posing as a scientific study. The “involvement“ is simply the levels of parental notification or consent required by various states when a child discovers herself to be pregnant, and the study purports to show how the more stringent the level of involvement is (on a scale from mere notification to two-parent consent), the lower the rate of abortion. Well, perhaps, but are we the only ones who find the following extract, with its multiple assaults upon a frightened, frantic fifteen- or sixteen-year old reduced to sciencespeak, overwhelmingly sad?
The regression results indicate that a number of different types of laws result in reductions in the minor abortion rate. Informed consent laws which provide women seeking abortion with information about public and private sources of support, health risks involved with an abortion, and fetal development reduce the minor abortion rate by 3.8 percent. This finding is statistically significant. The regression model finds that public funding restrictions reduce the minor abortion rate by 7.8 percent. This finding is also statistically significant. Finally, partial birth abortion bans have little effect on the minor abortion rate, a finding that is consistent with much of the academic and policy literature that has analyzed the effects of partial birth abortion laws.Harangue them, impoverish them, outlaw them if they wait too long, and if that doesn’t do the trick, rat them out to Mom and Dad. But for goodness sakes, don’t teach them how to take care of themselves in the first place, don’t let them hear about, let alone acquire, condoms or birth control information, despite the fact that we had sex and 75 percent of them are going to have sex before they’re 21, and we know it.5
Of more interest, however, are the effects of the parental involvement laws. The regression results indicate that the passage of a parental involvement law reduces the minor abortion rate by 13.6 percent....
Oct 17, 2008
Two hundred and fifty-eight parties have been thrown for members of the U.S. House Financial Services Committee so far in 2008. Many of them were hosted by lobbyists for the finance, insurance, and real estate industries, the very corporate giants that were bailed out in the recent rush to pour money into these industries without offering a penny of relief to homeowners and others strapped by usurious debt.
This report comes from The Sunlight Foundation, “co-founded in 2006 ... with the non-partisan mission of using the revolutionary power of the Internet to make information about Congress and the federal government more meaningfully accessible to citizens.”
Their press release, Financial Sector Fetes Lawmakers Making Bailout Decisions, says it collects hard-to-find information regarding these events—which slip under the radar of campaign finance laws—from sources whose anonymity is protected. From football games to beer-tasting events, the list goes on and on.
Sunlight’s web site rewards time spent plumbing its depths. We especially enjoyed the Earmarks Visualization page, showing in graphic detail how much each state benefited from those nasty giveaways. Guess which one enjoyed the highest per capita earmarks in 2005, more than three times the amount enjoyed by the state in second place? You got it. Alaska!
Oct 16, 2008
A wise fellow once said, “Life is half over before we know what it is.” Unless we live to be 126, our life is probably something more than half over, and past time for a moment’s reflection. In our view, life’s essential question is, “What matters?” It is a question one can only answer for oneself.
So what matters for us? We would say:
Oct 15, 2008
Our salvation, if we are to be saved, will rise up from the people, and will not trickle down from above. With a new administration on the horizon—whoever wins—that will retain the old links to their corporate masters, that will mortgage our future to its stubborn tunnel vision of dependence on military might, that will continue to erode constitutional rights in the name of national security, the time has come to begin the restructuring of our political system from the ground up.
It is therefore heartening to discover that lower levels of our governance structures—our state houses and municipal offices—are keenly aware of the problems we face and of their responsibility to take part in their amelioration. The National League of Cities, a lobbying organization representing 19,000 cities, villages, and towns, has published a report, Poverty and Economic Insecurity: Views from City Hall, revealing “that ninety percent of municipal leaders surveyed said that poverty has either increased or stayed the same in their cities over the past decade.”
The famous “War on Poverty” declared in the mid-sixties has been lost, as have our other wars launched since then. With a current poverty rate (12.3 percent) scarcely two points lower than at the “war’s” beginning (14.2 percent), and that based on outmoded calculation parameters which, if modernized, would almost surely indicate higher levels of poverty today, action needs to be taken on all levels to end this national disgrace. Happily, city leaders are taking responsibility:
Oct 14, 2008
If we were to retire and begin collecting Social Security as early as we could (age 62), our payments would be just about enough to purchase health insurance. We probably wouldn’t need it for long since, absent any funds for food, we would starve to death before too long.
The boomer generation, of which we are among the earliest, is approaching retirement age this year, and they have saved, on average, only $38,000, not counting pensions, homes, and social security.2 Those with qualified retirement plans such as 401(k)’s, have an average retirement savings of $88,000. Still that is only enough to generate an annual retirement income of about $5,000.
With the current meltdown of the international financial system, retirement considerations are coming to the forefront of most older people’s attentions. AARP has published a report summarizing the results of a poll taken in September entitled Retirement Security or Insecurity?: The Experience of Workers Aged 45 and Older. The poll assessed people’s expectations regarding their retirement years in light of the current fiscal troubles. Some of the report’s findings, if you are in this particular boat at the present time, may sound familiar:
Oct 13, 2008
With a preamble and 30 articles, the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR), which is 60 years old this month, is considerably shorter, at 1,773 words, than the U.S. Constitution’s 4,449. Though Article 16, Paragraph 3 states “The family is the natural and fundamental group unit of society...,” the UDHR actually enshrines the individual as the primary unit, insulating them even from the occasional tyrannizing of the family.
It only takes about ten minutes to read the UDHR and we should all read it at least once a year, if only to remind ourselves that human society and its institutions—its governments, its laws, its economic systems—exist to serve the individual and that all individuals must enjoy equal access to, and equal rights in, the services of those institutions. Too often, in reality, are we instead called upon to serve them, too often enslaved by tyrannies, too often exploited by oligarchies.
This is what has bothered us about JFK’s exhortation in his 1961 inaugural speech practically since we first heard it: “Ask not what your country can do for you; ask what you can do for your country.”1 No, no, no. Our country exists to ensure and protect our liberty and equality; it is a reflection of our collective will, and it is a fundamental fraud upon the public to imply our “country” requires anything of us except our constant vigilance in ensuring it perform its proper role.
To that end, we would recommend the establishment of a University Declaration of Human Responsibility to accompany and bolster the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Our declaration is in the singular, as it would only consist of one Article:
Article I. That every human being on the planet will engage in substantive lifelong action to realize the goals of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, and will not rest until those goals are met.
1 The New Dictionary of Cultural Literacy, Third Edition, 2002 (Accessed October 11, 2008)
Oct 12, 2008
Unwilling, we enter this world. Often even more unwilling, we leave it. Yet in 2005, 32,637 Americans left quite willingly,2 whether because they were in terrible physical or psychic pain or because they shared the sentiment of actor George Sanders, who at 65 left a suicide note that read, “Dear World, I am leaving because I am bored. I feel I have lived long enough. I am leaving you with your worries in this sweet cesspool. Good luck.”
Death is the great mystery, the “undiscover’d country from whose bourn no traveller returns,”3 the universal fate of all living things: “born but to die.”4 No wonder it breeds such hopes of heaven and of reincarnation. No wonder religions deny its existence so vehemently one might think it is religion’s sole raison d’être to do so.
How willingly, thoughtlessly, copiously we send others to their deaths! And how assiduously we continue to inhibit ourselves from pursuing the bare bodkin when life becomes too terrible or too boring to endure. Suicide, once a felony throughout the U.S., is no longer a crime in any state. However, only in Oregon has suicide been promoted to a right, with assisted suicide legalized. And even there, the right to choose to end one’s life is hedged in by a long list of conditions and procedures.
The Canadian Library of Parliament has released a report, Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide: International Experiences, by Marlisa Tiedemann and Dominque Valiquet. A number of European countries allow euthanasia and assisted suicide. In each country, a great struggle over the legislation occurred between what we may call the Pro-Life and the Pro-Choice contingents. And in every case where the legislation was successful, conditions similar to those in Oregon are required for the act to be legal.
And why should that be so? Why should we not be freely and unconditionally able to choose a painless and peaceful leavetaking, having no choice in our coming hither, and our end so certain? “To cease upon the midnight with no pain:”5 a consummation, I would think, devoutly to be wished, and one which most people wish for. And yet we continue to deny it to ourselves. But we’re getting there. Oregon and a few nations have begun the journey toward death on demand.
It strikes us that if the term “human rights” has any meaning at all, this right must surely be among them.
1 Our illustration is The Death of Socrates, by Jacques-Louis David. Click this link to view larger versions of the painting.
2 Suicide Statistics at Suicide.org (Accessed October 8, 2008)
3 Hamlet, by William Shakespeare, Act 3, Scene 1, lines 87-88.
4 Essay on Man, by Alexander Pope, line 10
5 Ode to a Nightingale, by John Keats, line 56
Oct 11, 2008
Some say the world will end in fire, some say in ice, and some say under a gigantic mushroom cloud. We “saw in” the Atomic Age, born two months and a week after Nagasaki was destroyed, and we wouldn’t be surprised if we saw it out as well. Peacefully, if possible, but more likely in a holocaust that will leave the handful of survivors envying the dead.
Nine nations either have or are believed to have nuclear weapons today, and seven of them scare the pants off us: USA, Russia, United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, North Korea, and Israel.1 We’re not nearly so concerned about those old foes the UK and France as we are about the other seven. The US has been rattling the nuclear sabre for over sixty years, and many of our fellow members of the nuclear club are failed states or on the verge of failure.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) maintains records in their Illicit Trafficking Database (ITDB) consisting of “incidents of illicit trafficking and other unauthorized activities involving nuclear and radioactive materials.” It’s the scariest database we know of, containing, as of December 31, 2007, over 1,300 confirmed incidents since 1993. Their ITDB Fact Sheet for 2007 shows illicit activity increasing, in some cases alarmingly, over the 14-year history of the ITDB. Russia and Germany seem to be the hotbeds of illicit activity regarding highly enriched uranium and plutonium.
One hundred countries participate in the ITDB, and it is good to see the list includes all the nuclear powers except North Korea. Still, given the prognosis for a future where resource wars will almost certainly play a role in international relations, the odds are altogether too great to merit debating if a nuclear incident is in our future. It is sadly much more to the point to wonder where or when it may occur.
1 List of states with nuclear weapons, from Wikipedia (Accessed October 7, 2008)
Oct 10, 2008
What do the recently resigned Prime Minister of Israel and the longest-serving American senator have in common? Corruption. The latter is currently on trial and the former resigned in order to prepare for his likely day in court. Nothing saps a people’s self-esteem or optimism for the future so much as knowing they are governed by corrupt officials. Dante consigned traitors to the deepest circle in Hell and corruption in office is a kind of treason. It not only betrays an indifference to the policies and processes that brought the corrupt officials to their post, but it destroys the value of whatever purpose, integrity, or worth they might have brought to their position.
Corruption and poverty are the twin afflictions of the failed state, the extent to which one is present more often than not reflected in the extent of the other. Transparency International, its principal offices in Berlin, fights societal and political corruption in all its forms. Their 2008 Corruption Perceptions Index rates corruption in 180 countries, based on tabulations taken from up to 13 surveys and expert assessments. At least three were required for a country to be included in the findings, which rated countries from 0 (highly corrupt) to 10 (highly clean). Among the findings:
Oct 09, 2008
Here comes November 4th! Are we ready for what may be the biggest voter turnout ever1? No, we are not!
The Annenberg Public Policy Center has just released an Election Survey (.pdf) with some startling revelations:
Oct 08, 2008
We have a friend out on the west coast, a very funny and a very nice guy, who is appalled at our posts about Nader and our reluctance to commit ourself to voting for Obama.1 In a recent pair of emails, he reminds us that McCain is a loaded gun, with “a chip on his shoulder a mile wide” and spoiling for the sort of revenge that portends nuclear winter.
His running mate, Palin, is worse—an undereducated, religiously unbalanced redneck, with a 1 in 7 chance of finding her finger on the button in the next four years, should her ticket prevail in November. How could anyone fail to run to the nearest polling station and devote one’s franchise to defeating such a terrifying and homicidal ticket?
And we could not agree with him more.
In fact, we’ll go him one better. All Together Now is dedicated to the memory and the work of Martin Luther King, Jr.,2 whom we consider one of the great benefactors of the human race, a man of enormous courage, compassion, and vision, and a representative of a race so ill-treated by our own—to this day—that a thousand years of restitution would not entitle us to a moiety of forgiveness. That another black man—intelligent, eloquent, liberal, with a wonderful wife and two adorable children—is now heading up the ticket for the highest office in the land is the most gratifying miracle we have witnessed in our lifetime.
And yet we probably won’t vote for him. And why? Because he is wrong. He is wrong on domestic spying, he is wrong on the middle east conflict, and he is wrong on economic reform. We will not—we can not—vote for a man who condones the Bush administration’s gutting of the Constitution; who shares our nation’s tragic reliance on doomed militaristic responses to international challenges; who aligns himself with the corporations and their stranglehold on American society and all its institutions.
However, we have four weeks yet to listen between the lines to what Obama has to say. We realize his first duty is to get elected and that if he spoke with the voice that speaks in our heart—of universal brotherhood, of one world, of the need to transform our nation into a true representation of its highest ideals—he wouldn’t stand a chance. And we will try, we will try our damnedest, to vote for him.
If we have not found our way into Obama’s corner by election day, we will vote for Ralph Nader, the man who does speak with our voice. And it will be among the saddest days of our life.
1 Click the Nader, Obama, or Politics tag in the left-hand column to view pertinent posts.
2 Announcing ATN, June 1, 2008
Oct 07, 2008
On the brink of an election where one major candidate has proposed the possibility of staying in Iraq for anywhere from a hundred to ten million years,1 and the other has retreated several steps from his primary-season promises,2 we may be certain there will be no disengagement of military force in Iraq during the next administration. Furthermore, both candidates have pledged to increase troop levels in Afghanistan.3, 4
And so the hemorrhaging of money and American lives, and the displacement, injuries, and deaths of countless civilians will continue into the foreseeable future. In a recent post,5 we noted that terrorist activity has been defeated by military force in only a scant seven percent of cases since 1968. Now from the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace comes a paper entitled Saudi Arabia’s “Soft” Counterterrorism Strategy: Prevention, Rehabilitation, and Aftercare, by Christopher Boucek.
Following an upsurge in terrorist activity in 2003, the Saudi government concluded that “violent extremism cannot be combated through traditional security measures alone,” and they got busy implementing others. “Central to the Saudi strategy is the message that the use of violence within the kingdom to affect change is not permissible.” Their three-pronged strategy seeks to deter its people from becoming involved with militant Islam in the first place; to rehabilitate them when they do; and to facilitate their reintegration into society after their release from custody. The Ministry of the Interior oversees the program, and involves many other ministries and agencies, including Education and Labor.
Though we are no friend to dictatorial regimes that indulge in vicious public punishments of those who threaten it, we are nevertheless impressed by the intensive efforts adopted by the Saudis in attacking the root of the problem rather than futilely hacking away at its myriad shoots and branches. By alleviating poverty, reforming education, redesigning prisons to facilitate rehabilition, caring for families while one or more of their members are in the judicial system, and treating adherents to radical Islam as victims rather than transgressors, the Saudi methods have succeeded in almost eliminating recidivism.
It is too soon to evaluate the overall effectiveness of the program, but it has been impressive enough that variations of it have been initiated throughout the Middle East and even by American forces in Iraq.6
Side Note: Eric Hoffer’s The True Believer: Thoughts on the Nature of Mass Movements remains one of the most brilliant analyses of the personalities and motivations of those who align themselves with violent religious and nationalist organizations. In a day when we are burdened by a terrorist government within and many terrorist threats from without, every citizen of the world should read it.
1 McCain Said ‘100’; Opponents Latch On, by Kate Phillips, from the New York Times, March 27, 2008 (Accessed October 4, 2008)
2 Obama’s Non-Plan for Ending the War in Iraq, by Anthony DiMaggio, from Counterpunch.org, August 12, 2008 (Accessed October 4, 2008)
3 Obama, McCain Offer Quick Reaction to Bush’s Troop Leval Plan, by Alexis Matsui, from the Online NewsHour at PBS.org, September 9, 2008 (Accessed October 4, 2008)
4 McCain Wants More Afghanistan Troops, by Adam Aigner-Treworgy, from MSNBC.com, July 15, 2008 (Accessed October 4, 2008)
5 Where Will It All End?, All Together Now, September 24, 2008
6 Detainee Operations Changes Command Leadership, from the Multi-National Force Press Desk, June 8, 2008 (Accessed October 4, 2008)
Oct 06, 2008
Income and wealth disparity in this country has ballooned out of control since 1980. This may be the starkest way of illustrating this fact: The 40 percent of the population (you and me, probably) who were making between $50,000 and $100,000 in 1980 (in 2005 dollars) were still making between $50,000 and $100,000 25 years later. Those in the top five percent of the population, however, whose mean family income in 1980 was about $150,000, were making over $300,000 in 2005. The disparity between the top one-tenth of one percent and the rest of us is even more obscene. This small number of Americans—about 300,000— had more wealth in 2006 than the poorest 120 million Americans combined.1
Americans support these sorts of inequities apparently because we have become convinced that we are plausible candidates for enjoying this windfall in the future and to mess with the status quo could scotch our chances. Perhaps our national Horatio Alger myths, combined with the ubiquitous (and cruelly regressive) lotteries, have molded this attitude among our people. One wonders how many generations of such growing disparities, how many financial collapses, how many foreclosed mortgages it will take to snap us out our willful ignorance of the facts.
The Century Foundation has provided a graphic summary of income and wealth disparities in their recent report, A Rising Tide that Lifts Only Yachts (.pdf).
This country needs an attitude adjustment. We need to decide what is too little and what is too much, and then rebalance our resources so no one falls into either extreme. At one end, our minimum wage for a full-time worker needs to be adequate to feed, clothe, house, and insure a reasonably sized family. At the other extreme, we have to stop rewarding failed CEOs with $210 million golden parachutes.2 There is a happy medium within our grasp. A truly democratic nation’s role is to enable the greatest good for the greatest number, sacrificing none of its precious human resources to predatory capitalism, but harnessing that capitalism to raise a tide that will lift all boats.
Anything less is slow suicide, as the last few weeks have shown.
1 ’04 Income in U.S. Was Below 2000 Level, by David Cay Johnston, from the New York Times, November 28, 2006 (Accessed September 27, 2008)
2 Nardelli out at Home Depot, by Parija B. Kavilanz, from CNNMoney.com, January 3, 2007 (Accessed September 27, 2008)
Oct 05, 2008
We wonder whether these Sarah Palin types who support abstinence-only sex education1 are serious, or are only being spoilsports. We could not find statistics on how many Americans favor abstinence-only sex education (which consists, essentially, of delivering three words, “Just say no!” in a frantic, hushed tone). We did find that over the past 20 years polls have consistently shown that 35 percent of adults say premarital sex is always or almost always wrong,2 so we can presume they are the ones whose voices are drowning out the rest of us these days.
More enlightening—and infinitely more entertaining—were the reliable statistics we found confirming that “almost all Americans have sex before marrying.”3 We are talking, like, 97 percent here. Essentially everyone.
When numbers like that come up against an “official” federal government policy of abstinence-only sex education,4 it is no wonder teens in the U.S. suffer from the highest birth rate and one of the highest rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in the industrialized world.5
So here is a message to the roughly one-third of Americans who have had sex before marriage and apparently had such a horrible time of it they want to spare their children the experience:
Abstinence-only sex education doesn’t work. So says an article by Douglas B. Kirby, entitled The Impact of Abstinence and Comprehensive STD/HIV Education Programs on Adolescent Sexual Behavior, from the September 2008 issue of Sexual Research and Sexual Policy. The article concludes, “abstinence programs have little evidence to warrant their widespread replication....”
So let’s cut out the abstinence nonsense. If 97 percent of us are gonna do it—and 75 percent of us are gonna do it before we’re 216—let’s do it right—with understanding, with care, with as few unwanted pregnancies as possible, and with no STDs.
And the only way we’ll learn to do it that way is if we’re taught to do it that way.
Update: An article in the January 2009 journal Pediatrics reports that “The sexual behavior of virginity pledgers does not differ from that of closely matched nonpledgers, and pledgers are less likely to protect themselves from pregnancy and disease before marriage... Clinicians should provide birth control information to all adolescents, especially virginity pledgers.”
1 Palin on Abortion: I’d Oppose Even If My Own Daughter Was Raped, by Sam Stein, from the Huffington Post, September 1, 2008 (Accessed September 30, 2008)
2 Trends in Premarital Sex in the United States, 1954-2003 (.pdf), by Lawrence B. Finer, PhD, from Public Health Reports, volume 122, Jan-Feb 2007, pg. 74 (Accessed September 30, 2008)
3 Op. cit., pg. 73
4 Abstinence-only Education, from the Union of Concerned Scientists, undated (Accessed September 30, 2008)
5 Five Years of Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Education: Assessing the Impact, by Debra Hauser, from Advocates for Youth, undated (Accessed September 30, 2008)
6 Finer, op. cit., pg. 73
Oct 04, 2008
First things first. For adults in America, that means a living wage for full-time work.
The Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) says that in 2008 if a family of four earns less than $21,200 they fall below the poverty threshold.1 Twenty-five percent of American workers earn less than that. So the first thing we need to do is raise the minimum wage for the primary wage earner in a household containing up to four members to at least $10.50, increasing it automatically each year by an amount reflected in the Consumer Price Index or the HHS’s Poverty Threshold, whichever is higher.
The minimum wage for secondary and tertiary wage earners in the household (the spouse and a teenage child, perhaps) can then be set at a lower rate, the tertiary perhaps as low as the current minimum wage of $6.55 per hour ($13,624 per year).
Adjustments in the minimum wage for smaller households could also be made. Whether higher minimum wages should be allowed for larger households would be a matter for debate. We believe no one should have more than two children at a time when the world is suffering from the strains of serious overpopulation. Consequently, we would not favor setting a higher minimum wage for households containing three or more children. Adjustments might be made for households containing adopted children or ones where elderly relatives are being cared for.
By setting a “living” minimum wage, most government programs supporting the poor (food stamps, Medicaid, SSI, WIC, school lunch, etc.) could be significantly reduced or suspended altogether, saving enough to perhaps provide some tax relief to employers faced with higher wage requirements.
Many of these statistics may be found in Low-Wage Workers in the United States: Status and Prospects, a September 2008 report from the Urban Institute.
The recommendations above would end poverty in America, at least for working Americans. We owe them—we owe ourselves—no less.
1 The 2008 HHS Poverty Guidelines (Accessed September 28, 2008)
Oct 03, 2008
When minerals are extracted from federally owned lands, the businesses doing the extracting are required to pay royalties to the government, that is, to us. Such royalties comprise the second largest source of revenue for the federal government, after taxes. In fiscal 2007 alone, the government collected the equivalent of over $9 billion in oil and gas royalties.
We say “the equivalent” because around ten years ago, during the Clinton administration, the oil and gas industry managed to get a royalty-in-kind (RIK) program initiated by the Department of the Interior (DOI). In some of the key source areas of RIK revenues, over half are received “in kind.”
The recent disclosures regarding drug and sex scandals at DOI1 have ripped the lid off the Minerals Management Service, the office from which the scandals emanated. In the process, the shoddy practices regarding RIK collections and audits have come to light. Millions, perhaps billions, of dollars may have been underpaid by oil and gas companies during the life of the RIK program. The records are so opaque and incomplete that we may never know what happened to the money.
This all comes as no surprise to the Project on Government Oversight (POGO), which smelled a rat associated with the RIK program years ago and, since 1995, has published five reports on it. The latest, Drilling the Taxpayer: Department of Interior’s Royality-in-Kind Program, is the first to call for the abolition of the program altogether.
[I]n light of the proposed plan to expand the program yet again, and given the numerous damning reports about the RIK program and MMS’s inability to prove that it is beneficial to the taxpayers—even ten years after its first pilot program—enough is enough. The RIK program should be terminated, and the system should revert to collecting royalties through the royalty-in-value system.Enron et al., tax cuts for the rich, Cheney’s secretive Energy Task Force, CEOs’ platinum parachutes, a collapsing financial system, and outright scandals such as the above: They all seem to point to a single-minded attempt to remove transparency and accountability from the American business sector, to the detriment of the people, the exhaustion of the people’s coffers, and the enrichment of a tiny few.
Oct 02, 2008
We are writing this on the evening of Wednesday, October 1, 2008. U. S. senators are gathering to approve the Bush/Paulsen bailout plan to save the economy. The bill has been packed with extraneous provisions to induce the senators to vote for it, like enticing a child into an abyss with a bauble. The plan itself calls for turning over $700 billion of public money to an individual over whom there will be scant supervision, difficult if not impossible to impose. No one has defined exactly what the problem is or whether the plan is likely to solve it.
It comes on the heels of a half dozen extraordinary measures taken by the executive branch, which together have failed to forestall this massive federal intervention into, and disruption of, our economy. The measures have included the nationalization of Fannie and Freddie Mac, IndyBank, and AIG; the brokered sales of Bear Stearns and Washington Mutual to J.P. Morgan/Chase, Merrill Lynch to Bank of America, and Wachovia to Citigroup; and passive witness to the death of Lehman Brothers. Through it all, not a single criminal accusation, let alone a charge, has been leveled at the masters of the universe who created this mess.
There has been no debate on the nature or correctness of the plan, and no alternative method has been posed for alleviating the alleged stress on the credit markets. Mere dickering over details of the one idea on the table has failed to secure real oversight, adequate guarantees of public ownership of the entities which will be bailed out, or any relief for the struggling homeowners who were conned into mortgages they could not afford by the flim-flam boys posing as bankers and who are now in charge of the “recovery.”
Two days ago the House rejected the plan 228 to 205. The stock market dipped 778 points, then gained well over half of that back the next day. Today it was down twenty points. No foundations trembled.
The New York Times is in favor of the plan, as is their respected op-ed economic columnist Paul Krugman, both major party presidential candidates Obama and McCain, and apparently every pundit, policy wonk, and economist in the land. The people, however, are opposed, with their phone calls to legislators running 100 to one against its passage.1
Should this plan be passed by a Congress with a 15 percent approval rating,2 half that of the most unpopular president in history,3 in the sixth year of an endless war; our good name in tatters; the middle class losing ground while the richest live like emperors;4 prisons bursting with our young men;5 our elderly torn between buying their medicine and heating their homes;6 our youth directionless and stupid from years of repression, neglect, and disdain; our planet in a maelstrom of climatic change and degradation; should this plan be passed, starving our government of another trillion dollars and consigning our fate into the hands of foreign nations assuming this debt, then the papers, and the pundits, and the politicos take warning:
The voice of the people is the voice of god.
And it will have the final say.
1 Bailout Defeated, Blame Flies, Wall Street Tanks, by Karen Tumulty, from Time Magazine, September 29, 2008 (Accessed October 1, 2008)
2 Congressional Performance, from Rasmussen Report, August 27, 2008 (Accessed October 1, 2008)
3 Bush’s Approval Rating Drops to New Low, by Jeffrey M. Jones, from USA Today/Gallup Poll September 26-27, 2008 (Accessed October 1, 2008)
4 Income Gap is Widening, Data Shows, by David Cay Johnston, from the New York Times, March 29, 2007 (Accessed October 1, 2008)
5 New High in U.S. Prison Number, by N.C. Aizenman, from the Washington Post, February 29, 2008 (Accessed October 1, 2008)
6 Winter heat crisis looms, little relief seen, by Ben Rooney, from CNNMoney.com, September 2, 2008 (Accessed October 1, 2008)
Oct 01, 2008
Here are a few items noted with interest over the past month:
Copyright © 2008 All Together Now.