Nov 30, 2008
Our employer-based health insurance (in healthy New Hampshire) has gone up over 40 percent in three years, roughly four times the increase in the Consumer Price Index.1 At that cost—about twice what the rest of the civilized world pays—we receive medical care that is significantly, demonstrably, shamefully inferior.2 We rank 26th in child mortality. Our maternal death rate is also high, and rising.3 We lag behind 16 other countries in longevity.4 America’s poor health, and poorer health care, cost us billions in lost productivity every year.
The wealthiest nation in the world—until recently, at any rate—owes itself an obligation to remove health care from the rough-and-tumble of the marketplace, where supply and demand and the profit motive reign supreme, at the expense of high-quality care. There are enough national health care systems in the world now that we can study them all and pick and choose the best features of each in crafting our own. To maintain the status quo, even with a tweak here and a tuck there, is indefensible, given the cost and the inferior product our health care system provides.
Barack Obama never mentioned single-payer, federally managed health care in his campaign. We hope it was because he knew it would lose him much-needed dollars from the insurance industry and, possibly, a few thousand votes. But single-payer, federally managed health care is the only sensible solution, it is what the people want, and it will be a defining test of Obama’s presidency for him to move Congress toward this long overdue goal in his first term.
The New America Foundation has given us a grim glance at the future in their report, The Cost of Doing Nothing. If you think things are bad today, wait a very few years, less than a decade, when half of us will be spending 45 to 60 percent of our income just for health insurance and related deductibles. It makes you sick to think of it.
The 21st century will witness a revolution in medical care. For the sake of equity and economy, for the sake of sanity and American productivity, we must stop funding it with a 19th century model.
1 Consumer Price Index, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor (Accessed November 25, 2008)
2 Click here to display the health-related items on All Together Now, for this and other pertinent statistics.
3 Maternal Mortality Rate in U.S. Highest in Decades, Experts Say, from Medical News Today, August 29, 2007 (Accessed November 25, 2008)
4 Infant Mortality and Life Expectancy for Selected Countries, 2007, from Infoplease (Accessed November 25, 2008)
Nov 29, 2008
As did John McCain, we confess to a lack of perfect understanding of the “dismal science” of economics. We are more or less at one with Mr. Micawber, who summed up all fiscal wisdom thus: “Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure nineteen nineteen six, result happiness. Annual income twenty pounds, annual expenditure twenty pounds ought and six, result misery.”1
Though economists pretend to more complications in their calling than this, it all comes down to the same thing: Live within your means or pay the consequences. Thus far, many domestic enterprises which have failed to live within their means, which concocted exotic and opaque financial instruments and bought them with—horrors!—borrowed money, have failed to pay any consequences; however, we Micawber types know those consequences are coming, don’t we?
As we say, the ins and outs of the dismal science are a closed book to us. With a ten trillion dollar national debt, four trillions of which were added by Bush in the largest increase under any U.S. president,2 we suspect much misery lies in wait just over the horizon.
For 32 metropolitan transit agencies, that horizon is now. In a deal too complicated to describe here, but which is admirably explicated in the Tax Foundation’s Fiscal Fact No. 153, Transit Agencies in Bind Due to SILO Deals and AIG Collapse, those agencies—very likely including your bus and subway provider—may be in for many billions in contract termination fees demanded by foreign banks. The perfect storm of economic collapse has rippled across the landscape, with a great deal more damage impending than we are advised of on the nightly news.
The transit agencies have now gone to Congress looking for—what else?—their own bailout.3 They are going to have to stand at the end of a long and very unruly line.
1 David Copperfield, chapter 12, by Charles Dickens (Accessed November 25, 2008)
2 Bush Administration Adds $4 Trillion to National Debt, by Mark Knoller, from CBS News, September 29, 2008 (Accessed November 25, 2008)
3 Transit Agencies on Capitol Hill to Lobby for Bailout, from Tax Foundation, November 19, 2008 (Accessed November 25, 2008)
Nov 28, 2008
As we contemplate the coming of the era of change promised by Obama, the Center for American Progress, along with the New Democracy Project, is in the process of producing a book-length, comprehensive set of recommendations, called Change for America: A Progressive Blueprint for the 44th President. The complete Table of Contents of its 46 chapters include sections on The White House, Economic Policy, Domestic Policy, and National Security Policy.
The fact that the preface and first chapter are written by John Podesta, the co-chair of the Obama-Biden Transition team (and a Chief of Staff in the Clinton administration), bodes well for attention being paid to this work by the new administration. It may even be, to a certain extent, what it is called: a blueprint for Obama’s presidency. In either case, progressives should pay attention to its contents, and we will feature some of them in future postings.
Today, we feature a chapter written by Michael Waldman, the Executive Director of the Brennan Center for Justice at New York University School of Law. Waldman’s chapter, Renewing Our Democracy (.pdf), deals with voting issues, the Brennan Center’s specialty, and he makes the following recommendations, which he says “will help permanently enlarge the constituency and coalition for progressive politics”:
Nov 27, 2008
If we need a historic record of the rapine of the Bush administration, we need go no further than Representative Raul M. Grijalva's (D-AZ) report emanating from his National Parks, Forests and Public Lands Subcommittee within the U.S. House Natural Resources Committee, entitled A Report on the Bush Administration Assaults on our National Parks, Forests and Public Lands (A Partial List) (.pdf).
It opens, “Over the last seven and a half years, the Bush Administration has pushed a concerted strategy of reducing the protections for our public lands, parks and forests, and opening up these lands for every type of private, commercial and extractive industry possible.”
Grijalva’s list includes the despoliation of our national parks through mining; lowering air quality standards; wild animal slaughter; intrusive use of recreational vehicles; and undermining the National Park Service work force through outsourcing, politicization, wrongful terminations, and staffing cuts. The neoconservative calls to “starve the beast” of government by cutting funding has led to woefully inadequate budgeting for land and water conservation and maintenance, and deteriorating historical artifacts. The oversight responsibilities of the Bureau of Land Management have been undermined by rules streamlining development; by the hiring of “consultants” employed by oil and gas companies; by rendering voluntary many corporate cleanup responsibilities; by stifling public input; by pandering to the off-road vehicle industry which is creating legal and environmental chaos on public lands; by public land giveaways. The list goes on and on.
2008 is the 150th anniversary of the birth of President Theodore Roosevelt, who was in office one hundred years ago, and who was the greatest conservation president in the history of our republic. In fact, he practically invented the conservation movement in the U.S.1 He was also a Republican.
True conservatives are concerned about conservation—the two words share etymological roots, after all. They do not manufacture every opportunity possible to rape the landscape for the short-term gain of their masters, at the expense of the people, future generations, and the precious land itself.
The shame attaching to the Bush administration for the unconscionable abrogation of its responsibilities is exceeded only by our own shame at having let them get away with it. One can only wonder which body—them or us—history will judge more harshly.
1 Theodore Roosevelt, Conservationist, from Wikipedia (Accessed November 22, 2008)
Nov 26, 2008
By the time we read David Brooks’s latest column in the New York Times, The Insider’s Crusade (November 21, 2008), the paper wasn’t accepting any more comments, having already taken in 580 of them. We weren’t surprised by the deluge of heated responses, having been chafing at the bit to add one of our own.
Brooks, in a rare display of ecumenism, was caught praising Obama’s selection of high-level advisors and cabinet secretaries, seemingly—and disingenuously—against his will, having first cast a smarmily disparaging eye upon the intellectual prowess evinced by their plethora of ivy league degrees.
We weren’t tempted, as many responders were, to toss our variation of “Ah, ha!” at Brooks, being about as appalled as he seemed to be impressed by the selections so far. We are beginning to wonder, with all the Clintonistas on board, whether the whole campaign season wasn’t a vast charade from the beginning, with the object of bringing back the “first black president” for another go-round.
Let the inveterate Republicans pretend their reluctant confessions of admiration for this parade of Clinton-era insiders and party hacks. It was Brooks’s parting shot that caught our attention and raised our dander. He wrote, “The events of the past two weeks should be reassuring to anybody who feared that Obama would veer to the left....”
Excuse us, Mr. Brooks, but your inability to discern the shifting sands of the political spectrum from your cozy sinecure in the rightmost sector has blinded you to the fact that the progressive agenda in this country has moved to the center. To wit:
Most Americans think our nation is on the wrong track.1
Most Americans are opposed to continuing the war in Iraq and think America cannot win it.2
Most Americans want single-payer health insurance.3
Most Americans prefer investment in new energy technologies over exploration and drilling for more oil.4
We could add that most Americans want abortion to remain legal5 and the church to stay out of politics.6
If Obama is prepared to govern from the center, then these are the issues and the positions he will espouse. To the extent his administration waffles from these positions, to that extent will he be moving to the right and be in breach of his many pledges to serve the people.
1 Poll: Most Americans Think U.S. on Wrong Track, from CBS News, January 13, 2008 (All accessed November 21, 2008)
2 Poll: Less than half of Americans think U.S. can win in Iraq, fro CNN.com, March 13, 2007
3 Doctor’s Orders: Health Coverage for Everyone, by Daina Saib, from Yes! Magazine, Fall 2008
4 Poll: Americans Don’t Think More Drilling Will Lower Gas Prices, by Timothy B. Hurst, from Red Green and Blue, July 25, 2008
5 Abortion and Birth Control, from PollingReport.com
6 The Separation of Church and State: U.S. Public Opinion Polls, from ReligousTolerance.org
Nov 25, 2008
A war on teacher tenure is about to break out.
Doug Ross, Superintendant of the high-functioning Detroit charter school, University Preparatory Academy, has said getting rid of tenure is one of two necessary steps to effective education reform, as we reported in The Next Step. Michelle Rhee, the hard-driving chancellor of the Washington, D.C., public schools, and an alumna of the forward-looking Teach for America program, has put her money (obtained from private foundations) where her mouth is, suggesting she will offer teachers pay raises as high as $40,0001 if they will give up their tenure rights.
There probably isn’t a public school principal in the nation who couldn’t point to one or more tenured members of their staff they would fire in a New York minute if they could. In fact, most people involved in public schools—students, other teachers, staff, and paraprofessionals—know who these bad apples are, typically teachers who have been around forever, have long ago lost their taste for children and teaching, and are just coasting along on decades-old lesson plans, or no plan at all.
The problem is that public schools are public and, as such, are inextricably a part of the political process. Teachers’ unions fought long and hard for tenure as a means of protecting their membership against arbitrary and politically or financially based firings that had little or nothing to do with performance. Additionally, classroom performance is devilishly difficult to assess in an ongoing, comprehensive, and objective manner.
Inarguably, our schools—and our children—are in deep trouble. Graduation rates below 50% plague inner-city schools, and the national graduation rate of around 68.6% (2006)2 is nothing to brag about when most decent-paying employment requires more than a high school education. Today’s children are the first generation in America less likely to graduate from high school than their parents,3 and school systems around the world are beating our pants off, particularly in the vital areas of science and math.
Were tenure to disappear tomorrow, we would be no closer to solving these problems. It will take a full-court press on the failures of the public school system—cultural, societal, parental, and political, as well as professional failures—to bring American schools closer to the standards set today in Asian and some European systems.
The Seed School model, which removes inner-city children from their blighted environment, may be what is required on a massive scale to save many of our children. For others the intensive attention paid to students in schools such as Ross’s noted above or the schools DuFour, et al., write about in Whatever It Takes: How Professional Learning Communities Respond When Kids Don’t Learn may be what is required. Certainly, we must recruit and retain the highest level of professionals to staff our systems, and we must pay Michelle Rhee-like salaries to do so.
Title II is a federal program that allocates $3 billion annually to promoting teacher and principal quality. The Education Sector, in its recent report, Title 2.0: Revamping the Federal Role in Education Human Capital (.pdf), recommends a reallocation of those funds to bring, in some cases, revolutionary reform to teacher recruitment, retention, and compensation.
Finally, however, we must confront the failure of the 150-year-old public school model itself—the custodial, plant-based, hierarchical, curriculum-centered (rather than student-centered), technologically backward model that is no longer sustainable in, or relevant to, a 21st century world.
1 A School Chief Takes on Tenure, Stirring a Fight, by Sam Dillon, from the New York Times, November 12, 2008 (Accessed November 21, 2008)
2 Public High School Graduation Rates, from the National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (Accessed November 21, 2008)
3 Counting on Graduation (.pdf), by Anna Habash, from the Education Trust, quoting OECD, Education at a Glance 2007: OECD Indicators, Indicate A1, Table A1.2a (Accessed October 29, 2008)
Nov 24, 2008
Zionism, like apartheid, is a lost cause, and it is only a matter of time before it is consigned to history. Whether the Israeli people will take themselves down with it remains to be seen.
Author Joel Kovel, in his book, Overcoming Zionism (Pluto Press, 2007), argues that “only a single-state secular democracy can provide the justice essential to healing the wounds of the Middle East,”1 and we agree.
Kovel traces the history of Zionism, from Theodore Herzl to the present, and shows how its essentially racist policies are aimed not so much at subjugating the Palestinian people as they are at driving them entirely from the lands the Zionists believe is theirs by God-given right. An ardent advocate for acknowledging our common humanity, Kovel is essentially a “One-Worlder,” who understands that nationhood is a two-edged sword which, in its exclusionary, xenophobic, and inherently expansionary roles impedes the cause of world peace.
We know from hard-won experience that separate is inherently unequal. The walls must come down, the borders must be erased, the people must learn to live in a single, secular state. Impossible? Not so impossible as maintaining the status quo or forging an unjust, unequal, and futile two-state solution.
Thankfully, Zionism is a fading ideal in Israel, where the majority of the population now favor peace. They will move even closer to it when they realize they cannot live separate from the people they displaced. Can it happen? Can the Berlin Wall collapse without a single shot being fired? Can apartheid disappear without a drop of blood being spilt? Can America put a Black man in the White House?
Anything can happen.
1 Overcoming Zionism, Product Description, from Amazon.com (Accessed November 19, 2008)
Nov 23, 2008
If the Obama administration doesn’t hit the ground running, it won’t be because the cities are dragging their feet. For a measly $24.5 billion (a tenth of the amount Treasury Secretary Paulson has already handed out to banks and investment houses, although we still do not know who has gotten what, and it hasn’t made much of a difference, has it?), the cities are ready to go with 4,591 infrastructure projects in 153 cities and in ten different categories, including energy, transit, highway, airport, Amtrak, water/wastewater, public safety, and school and public housing modernization.
In a press release from the United States Conference of Mayors, they state the projects are ready to go and could be started and completed in 2009. The projects would create more than a quarter of a million good-paying jobs.1
For a complete list of projects, costs, and employment figures, see the conference’s report, Ready-to-Go Projects (.pdf).
A boost to our sagging infrastructure and some major relief for our soaring unemployment! We hope Obama is listening, and we hope Paulson hasn’t emptied the whole $700 billion purse into his cronies’ pockets by January 20.
Update, Jan 13, 2009: The Conference of Mayors has released its third report. It now has over 15,000 ready-to-go projects in 641 cities capable of producing over 1.22 million jobs.2
1 Press Release (.pdf), November 14, 2008 (Accessed November 18, 2008)
2 Press Release (.pdf), December 19, 2008 (Accessed January 13, 2009)
Nov 22, 2008
Post hoc ergo propter hoc is a logical fallacy that says, “Since that event followed this one, that event must have been caused by this one.”1 The usually level-headed Rand Corporation has fallen into this common error in its latest study on teenage pregnancy, which, in their news release, claims it is the “First to Link Viewing of Sexual Content on Television to Subsequent Teen Pregnancy.” This is not to say that watching a lot of sex on television does not lead to a tendency to become pregnant. However, it is just as logical to conclude that a tendency to become pregnant leads to watching a lot of sex on television.
We don’t personally know the current state of sexuality on television, being blissfully unencumbered by that annoyance; however, we are pretty sure it can’t hold a candle to the current state of sexuality on the Internet. There, if you can Google it, you can find it, in full-screen video. And we are sure it is having a far more profound effect on teen sexual activity than watching Tony Soprano climb on top of some pneumatic extra on HBO.
Among more certifiable truths regarding teen sexuality are these: Teen births declined precipitously from 60 births per 1,000 teens age 15 to 19 in 1991 to 40 in 2005. There was a slight increase in 2006.2 The abortion rate has also enjoyed significant declines since 1990, as we noted in No Sex, Please, We’re Abstaining. We expect when the new administration scuttles the ridiculous “abstinence only” sex education requirements associated with federal support of various family planning programs here and abroad that the abortion rate will be reduced even more dramatically.
The fact of the matter may just be that all this sex we are awash in is doing us more good than harm! A recent study published in the Journal of Youth and Adolescence3 finds that “teens who have sex at an early age may be less inclined to exhibit delinquent behavior in early adulthood than their peers who waited until they were older to have sex.”4 Sex may even help these teens in developing better social relationships in early adulthood.
Nov 21, 2008
Speaking of transparency in government (which we were speaking of only yesterday in The See-Through Government), the Government Printing Office provides a great online resource containing way more information than you will ever need on who’s who in appointed (non-competitive) positions in the Executive and Legislative branches and various independent agencies of the federal government—the “plums,” in other words.
As we noted a few days ago, in Your Tax Dollars At Work, there are over 2.7 million federal employees. Many of them are civil servants in competitive positions, of course, but this resource is useful in finding out who is really running things, or disrupting them every four years, depending on your point of view.
Pay codes are noted, and you can check the 2009 Government Pay Schedule for help in decoding them. Bookmark for future reference. Also of great value is The Prune Book, which contains detailed job descriptions of agency heads and major subordinates.
Now, let’s see if Obama includes email addresses in the next edition.
Nov 20, 2008
Is anyone paying attention? Probably not, since our government has been moving rapidly from a right-to-know to a need-to-know basis for the past eight, 30, 200 years or so. And for the past eight at least, our government has decided we need to know pretty much nothing beyond the barest and most mundane matters.
Former Senator Daniel Patrick Moynihan once said, “Secrecy is for losers.” A democracy requires an informed citizenry to function properly, yet as far back as the Continental Congress and Constitutional Convention (both held outside public view), our federal government, especially the Executive branch, has preferred to act under a cloak of secrecy from the public it represents. According to Bill Moyers, “LBJ had to be dragged kicking and screaming to the signing ceremony” for the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) in 1966 and Gerald Ford, with the urging of a trio of characters in his administration named Rumsfeld, Cheney, and Scalia, actually vetoed FOIA amendments in 1974 (and saw his veto easily overridden by Congress).
Now, scores of organizations and individuals across the political spectrum, spearheaded by OMBWatch, have joined forces as the “21st Century Right to Know Project.” They have produced a comprehensive report detailing secrecy in government, together with 70 recommendations to the Obama administration for opening up government to public scrutiny, entitled Moving Toward a 21st Century Right-to-Know Agenda (.pdf).
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) requests can take decades to fulfill.1,2 And secrecy comes in many flavors, including utilizing multiple levels of classification of documents, misleading the public and Congress, punishing whistleblowers, censoring scientists, and violating the Constitution with warrantless surveillance or detentions, all of which have been defining characteristics of the Bush administration. The report reveals many other such ploys.
At Change.gov the Obama administration is already displaying a greater level of transparency than we have been used to in recent times. Let’s ramp up our attention level now, both to become better informed about those who exercise real power over our economic and social futures, and to make sure this trend toward transparency continues.
1 40 Years of FOIA; 20 Years of Delay, from the National Security Archive, July 2, 2007 (Accessed November 16, 2008)
2 Freedom of Information Delays Take Years, by Richard Wolf, from USA Today, June 18, 2007 (Accessed November 16, 2008)
Nov 19, 2008
We’re sorry, but we’re going to keep harping on poor people until we get rid of them.
Poor people cost us money. When they get sick, they jack up our health insurance premiums with their uninsured visits to emergency rooms; when desperation drives them to crime, they fill our overfull prisons; they are responsible for scores of expensive local, state, and federal safety-net-type programs, from food stamps to SCHIP to WIC to you-name-it; and too many of them vote Republican which, as we know, costs us all real money.
A short report from the Working Poor Families Project entitled Still Working Hard, Still Falling Short explodes many of the myths surrounding working poor families, and reports how their numbers have skyrocketed during a period of solid economic growth.
A low-income working family (LIWF) is defined as a married-couple or single-parent family with at least one child under the age of 18 earning less than 200 percent of the poverty income threshold as defined by the U.S. Census Bureau. In 2006, that was $41,228 for a family of four. It is worthwhile to remember that the poverty income threshold is higher than a full-time job earns at the federal minimum wage, never mind 200 percent of that threshold. And 22 percent of all jobs, more than one in five, pay less than the poverty income threshold.
Nov 18, 2008
Money in politics. Whether viewed as the 800-pound gorilla or the elephant in the room, it is the animal we seem doomed to have to live with. Try as we might, we cannot tame this beast, which grows more voracious at each election cycle. We recall being appalled at the $60 million Nixon’s re-election committee raised in 1972. Today, that’s chump change even in 2008 dollars, as the presidential campaigns for the first time this year passed the billion-dollar mark in revenues raised.1
The Campaign Finance Institute has given us a revealing “First Look at Money in the House and Senate Elections”—a first look because a few races are still unresolved. Among the most notable results:
Nov 17, 2008
Okay, our guy is busily naming his inner-circle aides (too many of whom are right of center) and floating ideas for cabinet secretaries (too many of whom are right of center). He has received thousands of job applications, met with Bush, started a commendable web site (change.gov), gone puppy shopping, and is generally getting himself ready for the big day.
What about the rest of us?
How do we continue that great leap of faith that brought us to the polls on November 4, audaciously hoping for change? Because if Obama’s past actions and present maneuverings are any indication, he is going to have to have a lot of help, with much pressure and many loud voices brought to bear, to move him toward doing the right things—and there are so many right things that need doing.
Frankly, we are not sure how best to organize the progressive voice we want speaking loudly and clearly to the White House. However, we do know the Internet is a powerful organizational tool, and we have been taking advantage of the Information Superhighway to speak truth to power for some time now, singly and in unison with many others. Here are a few ways we have found to participate and support the cause; you might look to “climb aboard” the Obama Express by joining one or more of these groups, too. We will bring others to your attention as they come to ours:
Nov 16, 2008
A new political dawn is breaking in America. A black Democrat is on his way into the White House with a large mandate—and expectation—for change.
How did it all happen? A look at three selected national maps will tell a large part of the tale. Open these in separate tabs or windows, so you can go from one to the other. (Hint for Internet Explorer or Firefox users: right click the links):
Nov 15, 2008
Do the math.
$6.55 x 40 hours x 52 weeks = $13,624.
If Obama wants to stimulate the economy, he can do a far better job of it than by sending middle class Americans another rebate check, lowering their taxes, raising taxes on the rich, freezing mortgage foreclosures, paying businesses $3,000 for every new domestic hire, or bailing out General Motors. These are all ideas that have been floated recently and it is not to say that some of them aren’t excellent ideas that should be implemented on January 21, if possible (others aren’t and shouldn’t). However, we have an even better idea. On top of immediately infusing a big percentage of the work force with some disposable income, our idea will right a long-standing wrong and eliminate working class poverty in America overnight:
Double the federal minimum wage.
It is immoral to pay a full-time worker less than a living wage. This is the meaning of 1 Timothy 5:18: “For the Scripture says, ... ‘The laborer is worthy of his wages.’”1
For additional statistics regarding the minimum wage, poverty thresholds, and a living wage, click the Poverty or Economics tags in the left-hand column.
We can fiddle with the obscene wealth of the top one percent and fuss with bailouts and middle class tax cuts until the cows come home. But if we want to take a giant step toward redistributing wealth appropriately in this country, we should start by respecting the value of our labor. It matters not whether you flip burgers, clean toilets, or manage a hedge fund. Full-time labor is worthy of a living wage, and the 25 percent of the population currently earning less than that—yes, one out of every four workers!—should demand it, and those of us earning more should stand in solidarity with them.
Anything less in the richest country in the world is bad politics, bad governance, and just plain wrong.
1 Parallel Translations, at Biblos.com, quoting the New American Standard Bible. See also Matthew 10:10 and Luke 10:7.
Nov 14, 2008
Nov 13, 2008
If you like challenging puzzles (or have a friend who does), do yourself (or them) a big favor and buy The DC Puzzler: The Book of Mystery-Theme Double-Crostics. Proceeds will support expenses for this web site.
Click here for a sample puzzle, then print out the resulting page in landscape.
Double-crostics superficially resemble crossword puzzles, but are both more fun and more challenging. And they actually have a purpose: the working out of a funny, profound, moving, or merely diverting quotation by a noted author. The book contains full directions on solving double-crostics.
Our puzzles introduce a new wrinkle to the old format. Each puzzle has a theme suggested by something in the quotation, and the theme is hidden throughout all the other parts of the puzzle. Discovering the theme then becomes a useful—and sometimes necessary—component in solving the puzzle.
This volume (we have others in the works) contains 60 puzzles, each with a different quotation from one of the 56 short stories and 4 novellas in the Sherlock Holmes canon. But don’t worry—you don’t have to know anything about Holmes in order to solve the puzzles and enjoy the quotations (well, it might help a little on a couple of them).
Send a check made out to Dale Copps for $14.95 for each copy desired and mail it to:
Nov 12, 2008
We write this piece five days before the election, although it will not appear until eight days after it is over. Today, the radio, newspapers, television, and Internet are abuzz with efforts by the Republicans to limit the Democratic vote: to purge voter rolls1; to intimidate new, elderly, and minority voters2; to deny paper ballot alternatives where electronic voting machines have proven defective3,4; to ensure long lines in Democratic districts5; to fool the unwary into turning up to vote on Wednesday6; to produce ballots so confusing as to guarantee many voters won’t vote for the candidate of their choice.7
If we cannot agree that we should make every effort to find, register, and bring to the polls all qualified voters;
If we cannot agree to invite, welcome, and inform new, elderly, and minority voters;
If we cannot agree to offer every voter who is unsure of the reliability of electronic voting machines the alternative of a paper ballot;
If we cannot agree to provide sufficient voting booths or machines at every polling station, and to keep those stations open long enough for voters to cast their ballots efficiently and expeditiously;
If we cannot agree to vigorously pursue, prosecute, and imprison anyone guilty of dirty tricks intended to limit voter turnout;
If we cannot agree to produce simple, clear ballots that can be easily understood by any literate American;
If we cannot agree that the right to vote is the most precious and fundamental right a free people can bestow on themselves;
If we cannot agree on these principles, then we cannot agree on anything; our Constitution is a sham; “We the People” is a sham; and our promise to the world, to ourselves, and to our posterity is a cruel and malicious deception.
1 U.S. judge orders Colo. to stop purging voter rolls, from USA Today, October 31, 2008 (Accessed October 31, 2008)
2 Legislators voice concern about voter intimidation in St. Paul police pay campaign, by Mara H. Gottfried, from TwinCities.com (The St. Paul Pioneer Press web site), October 31, 2008 (Accessed October 31, 2008)
3 U.S. judge orders backup paper ballots in PA, from USA Today, October 29, 2008 (Accessed October 31, 2008)
4 Vote Flipping on Touch Screens in WV, from Bradblog.com (Accessed October 31, 2008)
5 Long lines, glitches reported during early voting, from CNN, October 28, 2008 (Accessed October 31, 2008)
6 Phony Flyer Tells Virginia Democrats to Vote Wednesday, November 5, by Karen Hatter, from NowPublic.com, October 28, 2008 (Accessed October 31, 2008)
7 Voting Rights Watch: Could confusing ballots swing the presidential election in NC?, from The Institute for Southern Studies, October 20, 2008 (Accessed October 31, 2008)
Nov 11, 2008
Here’s how bad it’s gotten. The United States is the “only industrialized country in the world in which today’s young people are less likely than their parents to have completed high school.”1 In other words, as far as educating ourselves, we peaked during the last generation and are now on our way downhill.
Furthermore, over one in three African-American and Hispanic students fail to graduate high school on time, and overall graduation rates for these populations are abysmal, in some cases under 50 percent.
The report from The Education Trust entitled Counting On Graduation indicates the wide range of expectations set by the states for graduation rates, and the ridiculously low goals they establish for improvements. This latter is owing to a weakness in the No Child Left Behind law which leaves to the states the setting of minimum graduation rate improvements to be met annually. In some cases, the annual targets, if met each year, would not raise graduation rates to their ultimate goals until sometime well after 2100.
The numbers game is not a game, and the next administration will, to our peril, treat education in as cavalier and cynical a manner as the last one has. Neglected human capital winds up in jail, on the streets, on the dole, and in emergency rooms, costing us enormous big bucks out of our pockets, not to mention the unwritten words, the unimagined artifacts, and the stillborn insights which, had we treasured and nourished one another’s potential as we ought, might have accrued to the welfare and delight of us all.
1 Counting on Graduation, by Anna Habash, from the Education Trust, quoting OECD, Education at a Glance 2007: OECD Indicators, Indicate A1, Table A1.2a (Accessed October 29, 2008)
Nov 10, 2008
Over 19 million people work for local, state, and federal government in the U.S. That is over six percent of the total population—men, women, kids, retirees, everybody. And it is over 12 percent of the total civilian workforce of 154 million—one in every eight and one-third workers.1
Something just under 9 million government employees—almost half—work in local and state education.2 An additional 7.5 million work in local and state government, providing hospital and police services (slightly under 1 million each); corrections (three-quarters of a million); highways and public welfare (half a million each); and a host of other services at lesser numbers. Eight thousand state workers staff liquor stores.
The executive branch of the federal government accounts for the lion’s share of 2,713,000 federal employees, employing 2,649,000 of them, leaving only 30,000 and 33,800 employees for the legislative and judicial branches respectively.
We thought you might like to know why the other seven and one-third of us have to work so hard.
1 Economic Situation Summary from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, from the Bureau of Labor Statistics, October 3, 2008 (Accessed October 27, 2008)
2 2007 Census of Governments Counts 16 Million State and Local Employees, from the U.S. Census Bureau, October 22, 2008 (Accessed October 27, 2008)
Nov 09, 2008
“Research confirms what common sense suggests: parents are central to the educational success of their children.” This conclusion comes from One Dream, Two Realities: Perspectives of Parents on America’s High School, by John M. Bridgeland, et al., from Civic Enterprises in association with Peter D. Hart Research Associates and the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation.
The study was based on a survey of 1,006 parents of current or recent high school students from urban, suburban, and rural areas of the country. There are currently 25 million parents who have children in high school. The survey categorized high schools as high performing or low performing based on the proportion of students from those schools who went on to college. This is probably a more defensible criterion today than in the past. A high school education alone is simply not adequate to prepare a student for the demands of a high-tech, knowledge-based, 21st century world.
Among the findings:
Nov 08, 2008
The Southeast is experiencing a profound and extended drought, and the situation is not likely to improve. With a growing population and the impact of global warming on communities and their rivers, policymakers need to get clever about assuring a supply of clean water to present and future generations. After all, they aren’t building any new rivers, and rainfall has become quite erratic around the world.
This is one area where conservation will play a key role. Hidden Reservoir: Why Water Efficiency is the Best Solution for the Southeast, by Jenny Hoffner, from American Rivers, argues that water efficiency, rather than more dams and other costly alternatives, can assure cost-effective water supply to the Southeast. Their nine-point efficiency plan is one that should be considered nationwide:
Nov 07, 2008
Charter schools, vouchers, school choice, No Child Left Behind, blah, blah, blah. We are awash in jargon and unfunded mandates and a generalized sense of desperation surrounding the state of K-to-post-grad education in America, and with good reason. (See our Panic Time for a few good reasons.) The question is, “What Next?” Because the time for “next” is most emphatically now. As we contemplate a new administration in January, we have an opportunity for a new vision and a new direction in American education. There are people and programs that are already living that new direction, and we will go in search of them between now and inauguration day.
We start with the Progressive Policy Institute and its memo To: The Next President; Re: Closing the Graduation Gap by Giving Schools Greater Autonomy (.pdf), by Doug Ross, Superintendent of the University Preparatory Academy in Detroit, Michigan.
Detroit has an abysmal graduation rate of only 25 percent for its boys, and only 32 percent overall. Better inner-city schools catering to poor Black and Hispanic students still enjoy graduation rates hovering around 50 percent.
Ross’s charter school, on the other hand, which he helped start eight years ago, “graduated 93 percent of its entirely African-American, overwhelmingly poor senior class in June 2007, and enrolled 91 percent of those graduates in college or technical school.” They have now re-enrolled for their second year at rates above the statewide average for all freshmen.
How does he and the 50 other similarly constituted schools throughout the U.S. do it? Ross points to four characteristics they all have in common:
Nov 06, 2008
With the election of Barack Obama, we have consulted our better selves and taken a step back from the brink. It is not a giant step, and it does not include an about-face.
We are ten trillion dollars in debt; two futile and unwinnable wars continue to rage while opportunities for effective resistance to our enemies are squandered or ignored; our vicious, inhuman, and unilateral militarism, which both Washington and Eisenhower warned us against, oppresses the world; one in every six Americans is without protection against ill health and the other five are abused by a hugely expensive, inefficient, and underperforming system; rampaging, unregulated capitalism dominates our economy and our elected officials, enriching a tiny few at the expense of American business, the American worker, our world, and future generations; and fewer children are graduating high school today than did their parents a generation ago.
Obama has done little to address these issues head on and, when he has, his responses have been equivocal and his proffered solutions inadequate or wrongheaded. He is surrounded by advisers from the failed Clinton administration, starting with his new chief of staff, Rahm Emanuel (whom Nader describes as a “militarist reactionary,”1) and he has alienated both the Muslim world and the American and Israeli Jewish majority yearning for peace by continuing our ham-handed defense of the increasingly isolated radical Jewish right. Through his votes he has explicitly supported domestic spying and implicitly corroborated in the war crimes and unconstitutional acts of the Bush administration.
And yet...and yet.
To be witness to the election of a smart, sane, compassionate African-American to the highest office in the land is the culmination of a dream which even Martin Luther King might not have imagined he would see had he been granted a normal lifespan. He would have been 80 years old on Inauguration Day.
With all due respect to the memory of Ronald Reagan, January 20, 2009, will bring us a true Morning in America, the first since that chilly day in March 1933.
As for what the rest of that day will bring us, that is up to us. It will bring us, as all days bring us, precisely and solely what we make of it.
1 Hold Your Heads Up High, an email communication dated and accessed November 5, 2008
Nov 05, 2008
Let us hope today, which we are writing about on October 25, is not as horrific an aftermath as that depicted in the TV film “The Day After” 25 years ago.1
We have lived under the threat of nuclear annihilation our entire life. How can this world continue to tolerate the anxiety and the threat of these weapons? Some signs point to the possibility that it cannot and will not continue to tolerate them. Most leaders of nuclear nations have expressed interest in reducing the world’s arsenal of nuclear weapons, and the U.S. is actively reducing our own.2 Nevertheless, much remains to be done to move efforts along aimed at zero nuclear weapons in a world where the global development of nuclear power for peaceful purposes is set to expand significantly in the next generation.
The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace has produced a reported entitled Abolishing Nuclear Weapons: Why the United States Should Lead, by George Perkovich. Billed as “Foreign Policy for the Next President,” it sets out “four security interests that would be served by making the long-term project of abolishing nuclear weapons a central purpose of U.S. policy:
Nov 04, 2008
One hundred and twenty-two million people—60.6 percent of eligible voters—voted in the 2004 election. Higher numbers are predicted for today, although they are unlikely to go as high as 200 million, which some have predicted.1
The 2000 election debacle resulted in the Help America Vote Act (HAVA) of 2002. This federal program provided money to the states which, constitutionally, are in charge of elections in this country The money was for purposes of improving the administration of federal elections. In some cases, it has been spent wisely and appropriately, and in other cases it has been spent to obfuscate, complicate, befuddle, and, finally, to disenfranchise those voters most likely to vote for progressive and Democratic candidates.2
Today, we find out whether the misappropriation of HAVA funds, together with the dirty tricks and voter intimidation tactics of the Republican Party and the racism marbled through the layers of our society will propel an unqualified and dangerous candidate into the White House.
Woe unto our nation—and our world—if it does.
1 Record Turnout Likely for 2008 General Election, by Meghan Loftus, from America.gov, October 2, 2008 (Accessed October 25, 2008)
2 Help America Vote Act, Criticisms from Wikipedia (Accessed October 25, 2008)
Nov 03, 2008
Tomorrow you will vote in the most important and momentous election in your lifetime. It is no exaggeration to say the future of our world hangs in the balance.
Some of you won’t vote for fear of being arrested if you show up at the polls, or you will go to the wrong address, or you will get tired of waiting for hours in line, or your ballot will be thrown out for any of a dozen reasons, or you won’t show up until the day after tomorrow because Democrats have been scheduled to vote on Wednesday owing to the expected heavy turnout.
We will never know how many hundreds of thousands of votes will be lost through these Republican shenanigans.
Our country is in the midst of a bloodless fascist takeover. A conspiracy of far, far right ideologues have gotten all the fools on their side, and when you do that, as Frank Dane said, you can be elected to anything. Particularly if you are ready, willing, and able to resort to any unethical and criminal act necessary to assure that election.
We have been agonizing over our vote for many months. The Republicans and Democrats have put up candidates whose positions on the vital issues of the day—the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan; the fiscal, health care, and educational crises; the erosion of our Constitutional rights—are essentially the same. That one of the candidates is an intelligent, articulate, and charismatic black man only adds to the frustration we feel at his illiberal and short-sighted policies.
In contrast, our views—as well as the majority views of the American public—have had a voice in Ralph Nader’s independent candidacy. Nader understands, as Eisenhower did, the peril of ceding our freedoms to a corporate plutocracy that has co-opted and now controls both major parties and, as a result, the political future of our country. If this stranglehold is not broken, and soon, America will cease even paying lip service to its ideals, let alone having the capacity to continue pursuing them.
Nader will not win tomorrow, because the fearful American population does not have the courage of its convictions. Instead, McCain or Obama will win, and when we contemplate the possibility of the former’s accession to the White House, we are filled with horror. Despite the apparent similarity of their views on the defining issues of the day, there is an enormous difference between the two men. To the extent McCain is not lock-stock-and-barrel a captive of the corporate plutocracy, he is an erratic, choleric, vengeful, and ignorant old man, sick in body and mind, and seconded by a vice presidential candidate unfit for public office. Although we believe he will be victorious tomorrow (see yesterday’s Out on a Limb), if we believed we played the smallest part in that victory, we could never live with ourselves.
Regretfully, we will vote for Obama.
Nov 02, 2008
Writing this eleven days, and running it two days, before election, we don’t think one needs to go very far out on a limb to predict a McCain victory.
A full-court press against America’s right to vote—for the Democratic presidential nominee at any rate—will assure a close election goes to the Republican, as it did in 2000 and 2004. How do we know this? Let us count the ways (and many more have come to light than we summarize below):
Nov 01, 2008
Here are a few items noted with interest over the past month:
Copyright © 2008 All Together Now.