Wringing Out the Old
Dec 31, 2008
We are today leaving behind not just another year, but an era. Whatever comes next, even if only more of the same, cannot be worse than what has gone before.
We have witnessed eight years of the vilest administration our country has ever known, far outdoing in its cupidity, its viciousness, its arrogance, its corruption, and its lawlessness the worst excesses of any that came before it.
We have witnessed a baseless, futile militarism that has sapped our treasury for generations to come.
We have witnessed trillions in giveaways to the wealthiest while watching trillions of our own wealth dissipate in an economic collapse caused by those same individuals.
We have witnessed a stripping away of our fundamental constitutional rights and a debasement of our national honor before the world from which we may never fully recover.
We have witnessed levels of poverty, ill health, and ignorance unheard of in—and inconceivable to—the rest of the industrialized world.
And we have tolerated it all with barely a squeak. Our mainstream media are silent. Our politicians are silent. There have been few marches, no sit-ins, rare civil disobedience. The middle-aged women of Code Pink have taken it on the chin for the rest of us, and the truth is only heard on the fringes—from Ralph Nader, from Dennis Kucinich, from Democracy Now. Even our grassroots organizations—MoveOn.org and their spawn—are falling in behind a man who has not endorsed one single plank of a progressive platform.
Foreclosures proliferate, unemployment soars, salaries are in freefall, the market loses 40% of its value taking our 401(k)’s with it. If General Motors goes bankrupt, it will cut a swathe through what remains of American manufacturing that will reduce us to the banana republic New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman has already accused us of being.
So where do we go from here? On to 2009. And a nation that once thought itself the last best hope of the world has become the world’s great oppressor and its own worst enemy. Who would have thought on that clear blue Tuesday morning in September that we could ever bring ourselves to this?
However, tomorrow, like today and yesterday, belongs to us, and a brighter day will be ours. This is what a progressive agenda means—that progress is not only possible but inevitable. We are not Rome, where men and women were torn apart for sport, or medieval Spain, where they were torn apart for God.
We are better than that, and if we can only call upon our wiser, kinder natures, the anomaly of the past eight years—the horror of it—may, will, must one day join brutish Rome, inquisitorial Spain, and all the horrors we have inflicted upon each other, join them all in the trash bin of a history we will have finally, joyously overcome.
And that will be a Happy New Year.
Revisiting Public-Private Partnerships
Dec 30, 2008
We have written about public-private partnerships (PPPs or P3) before (see Water, Incorporated, Interstate, Inc., and Public-Private Partnerships). In the coming collapse, government on all levels will be sorely tempted to turn over public assets to private business in exchange for a fat check up front. In most cases, they will be making a serious mistake.
No state is more likely to succumb to the fat check temptation than California, and it is good to see that Los Angeles at least is aware of some of the pitfalls and is proceeding with something akin to responsible conduct. The Office of the City Controller has funded a study by The PFM Group entitled Special Study to Assess Opportunities to Develop Public-Private Partnerships (.pdf, 96 pp., 888Kb).
The study takes a stab at covering all the bases that need to be considered by a municipality when it is contemplating turning over to private enterprise an asset or service heretofore provided by the public sector. It has a clear bias toward favoring PPPs. This document is nonetheless important for anyone to read who may become involved in the near future with the questions it addresses, and that probably includes most of us who try to keep an eye on what our town, state, and federal government are up to in advancing PPPs.
A section entitled “Addressing Misconceptions Regarding P3s” includes the following:
“PPPs negatively impact labor. ... The concern of many labor representatives is that a P3 concession will result in lost jobs, lower wages, reduced benefits, and loss of job security. However, in many P3 arrangements, contracts have been structured such that all previous government employees are assured a job position with the same level of salary and benefits.”1 Then later, when the paper provides a case study of an existing contract for custodial services that saved L.A. County a lot of money, “the commission concluded that the savings from contracting was attributable to reduced labor costs, as contractors pay lower wages and sometimes employ fewer workers.”2
Exactly. Too often PPPs are merely ill-disguised attempts to, once again, deprive the working man and woman of a decent salary in order to put more dollars into the pockets of the bosses. In 2007, 39.8 percent of public sector workers enjoyed union membership coverage, while only 8.2 percent of private nonagricultural workers were covered.3
We are in a race to the bottom in this country, with a war on unions and an unrestricted globalization that is exporting good-paying jobs as well as doing an end run around decades of struggle for labor and environmental protections.
And let us not forget: We privatize our health care in this country, and it costs us twice what other industrialized countries pay while delivering an inferior product. Federally managed Medicare and Medicaid, on the other hand, are delivered with much greater efficiency and less cost than the health care most of the rest of us receive. Let that be a lesson to us.
Also Noted: See the Rand report, A Call to Revitalize the Engines of Government (.pdf, 28 pp., .2Mb), by Bernard D. Rostker. This call for a return to common sense concludes, “The new administration should not try to fool the American people, perpetuating the myth of smaller government by not counting the hordes of service contractors its engages. Clearly, there are things that should be contracted and that the government need not and should not undertake, but the unfettered use of contractors has skyrocketed and must be brought under control.”
1 Special Study to Assess Opportunities to Develop Public-Private Partnerships, pg. 11, accessed December 27, 2008 (as were other footnoted items in this posting)
2 Op. cit., pg. 35
3 Index of Tables: Union Membership and Coverage, from Georgia State University
Poverty Redux—America’s Children
Dec 29, 2008
Yesterday, we addressed poverty in America in general terms. When we focus on children, the situation is considerably more bleak.
The Children’s Defense Fund, in its State of America’s Children 2008 Report (.pdf, 80 pp., 807Kb), provides a damning indictment of our treatment of our children. Its Highlights (.pdf, 2 pp., 139Kb) provide numbers which ought to enrage and awaken every American to action:
- America lags behind almost all other industrialized countries on key child indicators.
- We are the worst among industrialized nations in relative child poverty, the gap between rich and poor, teen birth rates, child gun violence, and the number of imprisoned persons.
- An American child is born into poverty every 33 second, and 5.8 million live in extreme poverty.
- 8.9 million children are uninsured and every 18 minutes a child dies before its first birthday.
- The average cost of child care in two-thirds of the states is greater than the annual tuition at a four-year public college.
- Head Start and Early Head Start enroll only a fraction of eligible children (50 to 66 percent and three percent respectively).
- Though white and black teens are about equally likely to use drugs, black juveniles are arrested twice as frequently for these offenses and are incarcerated at five times the rate of whites.
We may have more billionaires than anyone else, but we are 25th in infant mortality and in 15-year-olds’ math scores. Sixty percent of our high school graduates do not read at grade level, and only the U.S. and Somalia—Somalia!—have failed to sign the U.N. Convention on the Rights of the Child.
“Give me the child for seven years,” the Jesuits have been quoted as saying, “and I will give you the man.” Give up a child to hunger, poverty, ignorance, and violence during its formative years, and at 18 what sort of emancipated adult can we expect to unleash upon the public?
Table of Contents
Poverty in America
Dec 28, 2008
Because it is likely politically infeasible to revise the current poverty measure in a way that results in substantially higher poverty thresholds or rates, the first criticism should be addressed by adopting a new basic income adequacy standard, one that is not labeled a poverty measure.1
In other words, since it is politically inconvenient to call a spade a spade, let’s call it a manual fill relocation instrument instead. If we adopt enough euphemisms, we might be able to eliminate poverty altogether in this country.
Perhaps we are being too hard on a report just published by the Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR)
entitled Measuring Poverty and Economic Inclusion: The Current Poverty Measure, the NAS [National Academy of Sciences] Alternative, and the Case for a Truly New Approach (.pdf, 47 pp., 918Kb),
by Shawn Fremstad.
However, the report does seem to come up with some odd conclusions out of the blue, e.g., “To be consistent with public opinion, an at-risk-of-poverty or economic-inclusion standard should be set at roughly 60 percent of median income.”2
Why 60 percent? Why not 55 or 65 percent? How can this method be justified in a period (such as the present) when median income is arguably decreasing, with members of the middle class falling into poverty every day? And why should a poverty threshold be set relative to others’ median income rather than to a precise figure, adjusted for geographic differences, below which an income is inadequate to provide the necessities of life?
The report is nonetheless worth reading, if only to understand how poverty has been measured over the years, and to appreciate the agonizing contortions our government has gone through over the years to minimize the number of poor we acknowledge in our society. The bottom third of workers in the U.S. fall below poverty—excuse us, economic-inclusion—levels. That is one out of three, not one out of ten or one out of fifty—numbers which a fabulously wealthy country might actually be proud of.
And the report’s “bottom line” is stark and unambiguous: “[B]oth the current and [proposed] poverty measures are set far below the minimum amount that most Americans believe is needed to ‘get along’ in their local communities.”3
In other words, things are even worse than we have acknowledged.
Measuring Poverty and Economic Inclusion, p. 3
Op. cit., p. 4
Table of Contents
Obama the Man
Dec 27, 2008
Barack Obama, we know, is a half-Negroid, half-Caucasian man. He is a married man. He is an eloquent man.
We wonder whether he is also a wise man. We wonder whether he is wise enough to understand, unlike many of his recent predecessors, that he is subject to the laws of the land, and that to place himself above those laws is to guarantee the failure of his administration (see, e.g., Nixon (Watergate); Reagan (Iran/Contra); Bush 2 (torture, domestic spying, unilateral baseless warmongering)).
We wonder also whether he is a man who is as intelligent as the press and his résumé credit him with being. We wonder whether he is smart enough to understand that our nation has been on the wrong track for thirty years and that the way back to the right track will require wrenching change that will be most disruptive to the richest and currently most powerful segment of our society. We wonder whether he is smart enough to engage, enlist, and utilize the support of the American people in this daunting task.
And we wonder whether he is a good man. In our time, Carter and Eisenhower were good men. The rest were an unhappy mix of conniving, murderous, solipsistic, serial adulterers who were in over their heads and easy pawns for the corporatocracy that has controlled our country since Vietnam. The leadership of the free world requires a man with a conscience, a man capable of empathy, a man whose heart is in the right place. Because finally a sea change in American politics and American life are going to require, above all else, a good man at the helm. Wisdom, intelligence, and eloquence may be mustered to serve ends good or evil. But only a good man can lead us from the darkness we find ourselves in today to the light of a renewed American promise.
We Can Do It!
Dec 26, 2008
Are unions dead in this country? Are over a hundred years of courageous labor struggles—struggles the working men and women had to wage against their own government as much as against their bosses—now history, only history?
Thirty-five years ago, a quarter of all nonagricultural workers in the private sector were unionized; in 2007, that number was down to 7.5 percent. In private manufacturing, the picture is worse, going from 39 percent unionized workers in 1973 to just over 11 percent today.1
Meanwhile, when the auto industry collapses, it’s the greedy workers’ fault. Cut their pay, cut their benefits, whittle them down as close to nothing as we can. Is education in trouble in this country? Then it’s the greedy teachers’ fault. Bust their selfish union, destroy public education in the only country that attained greatness through that institution.
Bob Herbert wrote in his column this week, “The economic downturn, however severe, should not be used as an excuse to send American workers on a race to the bottom, where previously middle-class occupations take a sweatshop’s approach to pay and benefits.“2
Yet that is exactly what is happening, as is explicated in Naomi Klein’s The Shock Doctrine: The Rise of Disaster Capitalism.3 Whether they use the worst days of the Iraq war to hand over Iraq’s oil reserves to Shell and BP; take advantage of the Southeast Asian tsunami to auction off the beaches to tourist resorts; or “capitalize” on the tragedy of Katrina to destroy public housing and public education in New Orleans, the corporatocracy that controls this nation uses every disaster to further line its pockets at the expense of the population.
The current fiscal crisis is the biggest disaster of them all, and everywhere we look, we see the corporatocracy taking advantage of it, from the massive giveaways to the banking executives, to the pressures on working and middle-class Americans to take less and less of a piece of the pie that they have fought for and earned over and over. Have we made concessions until we are blue in the face? New hires at the Big Three are now paid slightly over $14 an hour.
Is there a silver lining? The tiniest one imaginable. The only year between 1973 and 2007 when union membership increased rather than fell was 2007, when it went up one tenth of one percent.
The ball is in our court. The vote is in our hands. This country can devote itself to the well-being of the greatest number, rather than the fewest. It can be done. It must be done. We can do it.
1 Index of Tables: Union Membership and Coverage, from Georgia State University, accessed December 23, 2008, as are the other sites in these footnotes.
2 A Race to the Bottom, by Bob Herbert, from the New York Times, December 22, 2008
3 The Shock Doctrine, from Amazon.com
Table of Contents
Hunting for Health
Dec 25, 2008
As if our health care system weren’t in enough of a shambles, look out now for a sharp increase in “health tourism,” the international hunt for the best, most affordable health care. Traffic to Southeast Asia in pursuit of medical procedures is expected to grow 20 percent a year, to become a $4 billion industry by 2012.
Deloitte Consulting has concentrated its study on Southeast Asia, though doubtless many of their findings pertain to the entire globe. Medical Tourism: The Asian Chapter (.pdf, 413Kb) reports that medical procedures in SE Asia often cost only 20 to 30 percent of what they cost in the U.S. (including transportation and accommodation), and countries such as Singapore, Thailand, India, and Malaysia are busily acquiring state-of-the-art medical equipment and facilities in order to present a credible face to the world as an alternative source of medical care.
Heart bypass surgery costs $80,000 to $130,000 in the U.S. and only $6,700 to $9,300 in India. If you were a candidate for such a procedure, among the 100 million un- or underinsured Americans, relatively sure you would receive excellent treatment in a modern facility, perhaps even operated on by a U.S. physician, what would you do?
We know we pay twice as much in this country for medical care that is of significantly less quality than that of the rest of the civilized world. (See our various posting on health care.) If our entire medical industry is not to be threatened with imploding through domestic and international pressures, the Obama administration must confront its weaknesses. When it does, we are confident that the need for universal, single-payer, federally managed health care will carry the day.
Table of Contents
Table of Contents May-December 2008
Dec 24, 2008
Here is a listing, in reverse chronological order, of All Together Now in 2008. Each line consists of three parts:
- Publication date
- Title (as a link)
- Item tags
You can display any item by clicking on the link. Click the Table of Contents tag in the left-hand column to display this and subsequent Tables of Contents.
12/31/08 Wringing Out the Old
12/30/08 Revisiting Public-Private Partnerships
Governance Labor Business
12/29/08 Poverty Redux—America’s Children
12/28/08 Poverty in America
12/27/08 Obama the Man
12/26/08 We Can Do It!
12/25/08 Hunting for Health
12/24/08 You Can Look It Up!
Table of contents
12/23/08 More Talk
Working together Congress
12/22/08 Can We Talk?
Congress Working together
12/21/08 Slouching Toward Accountability
Economics Governance Business
12/20/08 The $100 Billion Misunderstanding
History Militarism Obama
12/19/08 Guys in Ties
Congress Business Media
12/18/08 Voting Counts and Counting Votes
12/17/08 All Aboard the Ostrich Express
Environment Greenhouse gases and global warming Governance
12/16/08 Skewed Priorities
12/15/08 Health Care in Hard Times
12/14/08 All Together Now
12/13/08 Only Connect!
Working together Governance
12/12/08 GAO, Way to Go!
12/11/08 Euros and Euro Happiness
People Human nature Europe
12/10/08 How We Got Here and Where We’re Going
12/9/08 Attitude Adjustment
History Working together
12/8/08 Whither Education?
12/7/08 Civics Lesson
Governance Congress History
12/6/08 No Child Left Hungry
Food and agriculture Poverty Youth
12/5/08 Stealing, Lying, and Cheating
Youth Human nature
12/4/08 Fear Itself
12/3/08 Great Expectations 2: Foreign Affairs
Working together Politics Obama
12/2/08 Great Expectations 1: The Domestic Scene
12/1/08 Noted with Interest, November 2008
Noted with interest
11/30/08 Sick to Think of It
11/29/08 Sick Transit
11/28/08 The First Step
11/27/08 Laying Waste to Conservatism
11/26/08 Center Stage
11/25/08 The War on Tenure
11/24/08 Separate and Unequal
History Working together Politics
11/23/08 City Lights
Economics Employment Politics
11/22/08 What’s Logic Got to Do With It?
11/21/08 ...and Pulled Out A Plum
Governance Reference People
11/20/08 The See-Through Government
11/19/08 Poor No More; No More Poor
Poverty Politics Labor
11/18/08 The High Cost of Winning
11/17/08 What Now, Where Now, How Now?
Obama Governance Working together
11/16/08 Now is the Hour
Governance Education Economics
11/15/08 Double Up and Win
Labor Poverty Governance
11/14/08 Lonely House
ATN Working together Human nature
11/13/08 A Puzzling Proposition
11/12/08 Farewell to All This
11/11/08 The Worm in Teacher’s Apple
11/10/08 Your Tax Dollars at Work
11/9/08 Toward a New Parent-Teacher Association
11/8/08 We’ll Drink to That!
11/7/08 The Next Step
11/6/08 Our Better Selves
Politics Governance Obama
11/5/08 The Day After
Militarism Nuclear Politics
11/4/08 Election Day
11/3/08 And the Envelope, Please…
Politics Obama Nader
11/2/08 Out on a Limb
11/1/08 Noted with Interest, October 2008
10/31/08 Let Us Now Praise ... Sarah Chayes
Golden A Business Human rights
10/30/08 Panic Time
10/29/08 No Swimming, No Fishing, No Drinking
10/28/08 Breathing Room
10/27/08 Nice Work If You Can Get It
10/26/08 Fooling All of the People
Politics Human nature
10/25/08 All Aboard!
10/24/08 The Un-Quick Fix
Education Science Business
10/23/08 Plus Ça Change, Plus C’est La Même Chose
10/22/08 Looking for a Few Good People
10/21/08 Why Johnny Still Can’t Read
10/20/08 Ailing America
10/19/08 Chump Change
Governance Working together
10/18/08 Pro and Con
10/17/08 Party Time
10/16/08 What Matters?
10/15/08 Cities on the Hill
10/14/08 No Rest for the Weary
Retirement Employment Economics
10/13/08 With Liberty and Justice for All
10/12/08 To Be or Not To Be
Human rights Health Law
10/11/08 Don’t Know Where, Don’t Know When
10/10/08 Corruption and Poverty: Perfect Together
10/9/08 No Voter Left Behind
Politics Obama Nader
10/7/08 Going Soft on Terrorism
10/6/08 A Rising Tide that Lifts Only Yachts
10/5/08 No Sex, Please, We’re Abstaining
10/4/08 The End of Poverty
10/3/08 A Royal-ty Beating
10/2/08 Vox Populi, Vox Dei
10/1/08 Noted with Interest, September 2008
Noted with interest
9/30/08 Let Us Now Praise ... Ralph Nader
Golden A Nader Politics
9/29/08 It Can Happen Here; It Is Happening Here
9/28/08 Outta My Way, Smokey!
9/27/08 Voters in the Hands of an Angry God
Religion Politics Taxes
9/26/08 Green is Gold
Energy Economics Environment
9/25/08 Capitalism and the Future of Democracy
9/24/08 Where Will It All End?
History Law Terrorism
9/23/08 The IQ Wars, or, My Guy’s Dumber Than Your Guy
9/22/08 Obama Among the Ruins
9/21/08 Stand Up and Be Counted
9/20/08 2015? 2060? Ever?
Poverty Working together United Nations
9/19/08 You Can Look It Up
9/18/08 Global Swarming
Environment Greenhouse gases and global warming
9/17/08 Nation Building Begins at Home
History Working together
9/16/08 The Social Animal
9/15/08 Doing Good by Doing Better
9/14/08 Getting Anti-Terrorism Right
Working together Terrorism United Nations
9/13/08 The Globalization of People
Immigration Working together
9/12/08 Playing the God Card
9/11/08 September 11, 2001
9/10/08 The Race Is On!
9/9/08 Farewell, Fannie and Freddie!
Economics Business Politics
9/8/08 Software for Hard Times
Computers Education Working together
9/7/08 Give Them Your Tired
Human rights Immigration
9/6/08 The Media Are the Message
Media Politics Internet
9/5/08 The Problem with Pork
9/4/08 Soaking the Poor
9/3/08 School Choice; Choice Schools
9/2/08 Donkey Days
Politics Obama Nader
9/1/08 Noted with Interest, August 2008
Noted with interest
8/31/08 Let Us Now Praise ... Paul Farmer
Golden A Poverty Health
8/30/08 Having It Both Ways
8/29/08 Teen Angst
8/28/08 Water, Water, Anywhere?
Water Health Greenhouse gases and global warming
8/27/08 Exit Strategy
8/26/08 No Laughing Matter
8/25/08 Not Another Piece About Health Care!
8/24/08 And Miles to Go...
Transportation Oil and gasoline
8/23/08 Public-Private Partnerships
8/22/08 Write Your Legislators!
8/21/08 A Half a Million Cheers for Peru!
Education Computers Poverty
8/20/08 Yes, Virginia, There Is a 2009
8/19/08 Driven to Despair
Oil and gasoline Transportation
8/18/08 Reefer Madness, 2008
Law Food and agriculture Human rights
8/17/08 Stifle Yourself
8/16/08 We Who Hesitate
Environment Greenhouse gases and global warming
8/15/08 Supply-Side Hooey
8/14/08 Watching the Watchdogs
8/13/08 Feelin‘ Poorly
8/12/08 The Trouble with Kiva
Microfinance Poverty Economics
8/11/08 Interstate, Inc.
Politics Business Transportation
8/10/08 No Respect
8/8/08 Count Me Out
8/7/08 Solidarity Now!
8/6/08 All for One
8/5/08 The Workman Is Worthy of His Hire
8/4/08 Numbers Don’t Lie
Politics Nader Obama
8/3/08 Here They Stand
Politics Obama Nader
8/2/08 Dear Barack
8/1/08 Noted with Interest, July 2008
Noted with interest
7/31/08 Let Us Now Praise ... Nicholas Kristof
Golden A Kristof
7/30/08 “So far like the present...”
History Martin Luther King Law
7/29/08 Climate Extraordinarily Rendered to Pluto
7/28/08 Democracy Now! Or Never?
7/27/08 A Daughter’s Death
Militarism Human rights
7/26/08 Who Needs Poverty?
7/25/08 Drugs on the Market
7/24/08 Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
7/23/08 A Call to Eyes, Part 2
7/22/08 The Limits of Sovereignty
Politics Human rights
7/21/08 Park Central
7/20/08 Twice Around the Block
Environment Green living
7/19/08 Food Fight
Food and agriculture Poverty
7/18/08 Bathtub Redux
7/17/08 Blow Wind, and Crack Your Cheeks
Wind Electricity CRS
7/15/08 King Coal
Coal Electricity Environment
7/14/08 Exit Strategy
7/13/08 Nor Any Drop to Drink
7/12/08 The Doctor Is Out
7/11/08 Something of Values
Human rights History
7/10/08 Getting Your Goat
Poverty Philanthropy Kristof
7/9/08 The Matter of the Meat
Food and agriculture Health Environment
7/8/08 Park in the Dark
Environment Coal Solar
7/7/08 The Numbers Game
Economics States Reference
7/6/08 Water Incorporated
Water Politics Business
7/5/08 Take My Money—Please
7/3/08 Weather Report
Environment Greenhouse gases and global warming Water
7/2/08 Bathtub Logic
Economics Politics Taxes
7/1/08 Noted with Interest, June 2008
Noted with interest
6/30/08 Let Us Now Praise ... Greg Mortensen
Education Health Golden A
6/29/08 The Big Squeeze
6/28/08 Off the Charts
6/27/08 Locked Out
6/26/08 Nader v. Obama, Part 1
Politics Nader Obama
6/25/08 Mind Your Own Business
Environment Greenhouse gases and global warming Economics
6/24/08 A Call to Eyes
6/23/08 Election 2008
6/22/08 Failing the Failed States
6/21/08 Take a Deep Breath
Environment EPA Greenhouse gases and global warming
6/20/08 Hats Off to Cap-and-Trade
Environment Greenhouse gases and global warming Economics
6/19/08 Reference: Congress
6/18/08 Going Under: A Nation in Debt
6/17/08 The Next Wave
6/16/08 The High Cost of Poverty
6/15/08 Getting the Job Done. Not.
Poverty Food and agriculture
6/14/08 Give and Take
6/13/08 Let’s Get Organized!
6/12/08 The Once and Future Nation?
6/11/08 Just for Fun: M.C. Escher at the National Gallery
6/10/08 Want Job Security? Go Green!
Employment Green living
6/9/08 Get on the Bus!
6/8/08 Soldiers in the War on Poverty
6/7/08 One Life to Live
6/6/08 Well, Blow Me Down!
Energy Electricity Wind
6/5/08 We Are One
6/4/08 State of Play
6/3/08 Microfinance Meets the Market
6/3/08 In the Drink
Environment Greenhouse gases and global warming Water
6/3/08 The World Food Crisis
Food and agriculture
6/2/08 Peak Fish?
Food and agriculture Oceans
6/2/08 Will We Every Learn?
6/1/08 Announcing ATN
Martin Luther King ATN
5/31/08 SEED Money
5/30/08 Hey, Teach!
5/29/08 What’s the Matter with Kids Today
5/28/08 Heavy Weather
Environment EPA Greenhouse gases and global warming
5/27/08 Green Houses
Environment Green living
5/26/08 Fill ’Er Up!
Energy Oil and gasoline
5/25/08 The Killing Fields
Law Death penalty
Dec 23, 2008
Yesterday, we wrote about a topic which may have struck you as being of fairly marginal interest to a limited number of people—the problems citizens and congressional representatives are finding in sharing communications back and forth in the age of the Internet and instant and easy communication. However, we believe these are issues of enormous importance to the future ability of progressives to press their agenda.
The gist of the problem is that representatives and senators are being inundated with communications, many of which are solicited, aggregated, and communicated to Congress by special interest advocacy groups. Congressional staffers now spend an inordinate amount of time managing and responding to these communications.
Technology is the answer here, and rather than rely upon the disparate six or eight commercial products which now dot the Washington landscape, we believe the parties involved—citizen and advocacy groups and congressional offices—should cooperate to produce an open source software solution that would satisfy 95 percent of the players involved. We believe the following are among the requirements and features of such a product:
- The system would cost between $25 and $30 million to develop and would take from two to four years;
- The resulting collection of software applications, which would run on Macintosh, Windows, and Linux operating systems, would be free to all parties.
- Although the “open source” software would be available to any developer to enhance, official enhancement releases would be managed by the World Wide Web Consortium or similar standards-setting body in much the same way the W3 manage HTML and CSS updates.
- Standardized back-end database procedures would nevertheless allow for a continuing rich variety of front-end web designs and applications.
- The software would allow for the production, management, and automation of two-way communication via email, postal mail, fax, Instant Messaging, voice, and other emerging media.
- The system would be built with open source tools where appropriate.
- The system would result in at least a 50 percent savings in staffers’ involvement with constituent communications.
Having been involved with computers, software, and programming since the early 1980s, we know this system can be built along the lines, and within the constraints, noted above. We could manage such a development effort ourself, and so could many others.
The level of constituent communications will continue to grow at a very fast pace, particularly that which is initiated and managed by advocacy groups. Those groups and congressional offices must harness tools to cope with these communications. They deserve the same level of acknowledgement and influence as more traditional one-to-one communications. The only way to accomplish this, and to avoid a continuing struggle amidst a Babel of conflicting standards and procedures, is for the parties to work together to forge a solid system that answers all their requirements.
It can be done. It must be done.
Can We Talk?
Dec 22, 2008
The Congressional Management Foundation (CMF) has been asking it vis-a-vis Congress for almost ten years, and their enlightening answer may be found in their report, Communicating with Congress: Recommendations for Improving the Democratic Dialog (.pdf, 3.5Mb).
The good news: The Internet has made it far easier for citizens to communicate with their Congressional representatives. The bad news: The Internet has made it far easier for citizens to communicate with their Congressional representatives. The result: A huge increase in communications to Congress, by both citizens and grassroots advocacy groups, has resulted in the expenditure of a great deal of effort on the part of both senders and recipients in trying to manage—and in some cases, to thwart—the efforts of the other. Sophisticated software tools to efficiently deal with these communications has yet to be developed.
Until it is, CMF has several recommendations for each participant. Among them, for the individual citizen:
- Develop a good understanding of how Congress operates.
- Contact your representatives only once per issue.
- Limit each message to one issue.
- Use consistent email and postal addresses.
- Be concise and clear.
- Make a specific request, and refer to the number of the pertinent bill if you can.
- Be respectful, as difficult as that may be from time to time.
The 84-page report fleshes out these recommendations a great deal, of course.
We were most interested in CMF’s recommendations for grassroots advocacy groups. We are involved with many of them (see our listing of several at What Now, Where Now, How Now?
) and have signed many a petition they have organized to forward to Congress. We want those communications to be effective. Here are some of CMF’s recommendations to them:
- Send every communication with the knowledge, consent and action of the citizen. (As far as we know, all the groups we are involved with do this.)
- Encourage citizens to personalize their messages in some way. (This also is common with the groups mentioned in the posting noted above.)
- Communications should only come from constituents.
- Notify citizens to whom their communications are being sent. (There is room for improvement with our groups here.)
- Identify the organization behind a grassroots campaign.
- Grassroot organizations should develop a better understanding of Congress.
- The purpose of a campaign should be to influence public policy, not overwhelm an office.
Recommendations to Congress include:
- Allocate more funds for Members’ staffing.
- Adapt to the new communication environment.
- Collaborate with advocacy/interest groups to identify solutions and solve problems. (Of course!)
- Fully utilize email to respond to constituents.
- Provide separate web forms for constituent service requests.
- Provide answers to legislative inquiries online.
- Diligently maintain your constituent database.
Optimizing citizen/representative communications is a huge challenge and a top priority of our new information age. The issue is of major public importance and should be publicly funded. We take part in enough advocacy group outreaches to Congress to know that if we are to avoid a Babel of conflicting technologies, increased animosity between the parties, and continuing bottlenecks to having our combined voices heard in Congress, then all parties must dedicate themselves to working together
to craft the effective solutions that are available to us through technology.
Slouching Toward Accountability
Dec 21, 2008
Yes, Virginia, there is a Congressional Oversight Panel (COP) charged with trying to figure out what the Treasury Department is doing with your $700 billion bank bailout. Though they don’t have many answers at this point, they have at least come up with a few relevant Questions About the $700 Billion Emergency Economic Stabilization Funds (.pdf, 1.3Mb). This initial panel report was released on December 10, 2008. They intend to issue monthly reports and we will update this ATN item with links to those reports as they are released.
Among partial answers received from Treasury so far is a confirmation of our worst fear that Treasury has administered the program without seeking to specifically monitor the use of funds supplied to the banks, but instead relying on “general metrics” that will evaluate the overall economic effects of the disbursed funds. As the report notes, “Using general metrics could be a substitute for using no metrics at all, thus committing taxpayer resources with no meaningful oversight.”1
Here are the ten questions the panel hopes to answer in the coming months:
- What is Treasury’s strategy?
- Is the strategy working to stabilize markets?
- Is the strategy helping to reduce foreclosures?
- What have financial institutions done with the taxpayers’ money received so far?
- Is the public receiving a fair deal?
- What is Treasury doing to help the American family?
- Is Treasury imposing reforms on financial institutions that are taking taxpayer money?
- How is Treasury deciding which institutions receive the money?
- What is the Scope of Treasury’s statutory authority?
- Is Treasury looking ahead?
Good questions. We look forward to some good answers.
The Treasury Department on December 30, 2008, sent this response (.pdf, 15 pp., 410Kb)
to the Congressional Oversight Panel, answering their ten questions. “But for mine own part, it was Greek to me.”
1 Questions About the $700 Billion...,
The $100 Billion Misunderstanding
Dec 20, 2008
The Pentagon Papers revealed the debacle that was the Vietnam war, and now the New York Times and the online journalism web site ProPublica have published what should be an equally incendiary document, Hard Lessons: The Iraq Reconstruction Experience, written by the Office of the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction following several years of interviews and study.
The bottom line? The reconstruction effort in Iraq has wasted over $100 billion, much of it American taxpayer money, through a combination of poor or nonexistent planning, disruptions caused by the insurgency, turf wars among uncoordinated participants, and fraud: “[A] massive waste of taxpayer dollars.”1
ProPublica provides particularly useful Excerpts from the 513-page report. They reveal that reconstruction was inadequately planned for before the invasion and ineptly pursued afterwards. In what appears to be full-fledged bureaucratic panic, agencies and offices opened and closed; administrators came and went; huge projects lay dormant halfway to completion and completed projects were not sustained; turf wars between Defense, State, USAID, the White House and others resulted in huge wastes of time and money. And through it all, an insurgency which to this day holds sway throughout Iraq played havoc with the few coordinated actions the various offices and authorities managed to mount during their short tenures.
The Inspector General concludes, “Why was so large a reconstruction program pursued in so insecure an environment? Others will have to provide that answer.”2
Obama has pledged (sort of) to disengage us from this Slough of Despond. However, he has also pledged to get us more involved in the slough to the east in
Afghanistan, boosting both military and reconstruction efforts in an environment which is proving even more intractable than Iraq. If pursued, this unilateral, military response to an essentially multilateral situation calling for international policing efforts, particularly in a region which has proven time and again to be unmanageable by history’s very best managers, will be a morass into which will sink Obama and all his hope for change.
“Hard Lessons” is a road map to disaster. Nothing in the manner we have pursued our efforts in Afghanistan to date, and nothing in the announced plans of the new administration, give us reason to believe we are not still on that road.
1 Hard Lessons, pg. iii.
Guys in Ties
Dec 19, 2008
We don’t see a lot of neckties in Vermont, where we live, or New Hampshire, where we work. We guess Jim Douglas probably wears a tie—probably to bed—but he’s our governor, and he’s in that crowd we’re talking about.
We see all these guys in ties these days, strutting before cameras, taking questions, not taking questions, rationalizing away the acts that have impoverished millions, brought industries to their knees, murdered innocents: greedy guys, corrupt guys, unapologetic, unashamed, unindicted.
We see these guys in ties, and we’re tempted to hide the silver, check for our wallet, lock up our daughters. When we see the odd guy wearing a tie up here in northern New England, we think, what are you trying to get away with today? Whose pension are you going to loot, which union are you going to bust, what sick old person are you going to screw over? We just can’t see guys in ties anymore without wondering what they’re up to. No good, we’re pretty sure.
What is it about that silly sliver of senseless cloth they all wear down their fronts, like badges of mastery, like cryptic IDs in a secret society of despoilers, like a fancy shield against anyone thinking they’re just nasty little schoolyard bullies, narrowminded, grasping, and despicable.
Guys in ties.
Voting Counts and Counting Votes
Dec 18, 2008
Most states (48 of 50 and the District of Columbia) award all their electoral votes in a presidential election to the candidate who wins the majority of votes in their state. This results in serious disincentives for any candidate to campaign in those states that are safely in the camp of one party or another and, when you think about it, in equally serious disincentives for voters in those states to get out and vote.
These disincentives provide an argument for those who would do away with the Electoral College in favor of a popular vote for president, an even better argument than the one opposing the Electoral College because it favors small states.
FairVote.org provides hard numbers to back up these disincentive claims in their press release, 2008's Shrinking Battleground and Its Start [sic] Impact on Campaign Activity.1 They find:
- Over half the presidential campaign events (57 percent) in the last month of the campaign took place in only four states (OH, FL, PA, VA) and virtually all the events during that period took place in only 18 states.
- Over half the spending (54.5 percent) in the last two weeks of the campaign went to those same four states, and virtually all the spending during that period went to only 17 states.
- Fourteen of the states where the outcome was not in doubt saw a drop in numbers of voters from the 2004 election.
- The number of states which can be considered competitive battleground states for presidential elections have been cut in half since 1960, from 33 to 16.
A popular vote for president would almost certainly result in wider campaigning and, in tight election years, higher turnout. The problem, of course, will be in getting the states, particularly the ones with lower population, to give up the edge they enjoy under the Electoral College system. That system is a “child” of the federal system the Founding Fathers kludged together at the Constitutional Convention, where the individual states insisted on retaining significant powers. While there are good arguments for doing away with these “states’ rights” powers—they were, after all, largely responsible for the southern states thinking they could get away with secession in 1860-61—good arguments, as we all know to our loss, don’t always carry the day.
Several states (NJ, MD, IL, and HI) have exercised their power in an end run around the Electoral College. They have signed on to the National Popular Vote (NPV) bill, which says they agree to assign all their electoral votes to the winner of the national popular vote in all 50 states and the District of Columbia once the number of participating states represents a majority of the Electoral College.
If you believe the president should be elected by a majority or plurality of the popular vote, you may want to encourage your state legislature to sign on to the NPV bill.
Accessed December 14, 2008
All Aboard the Ostrich Express
Dec 17, 2008
We can breathe easy. Global warming, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, and Al Gore are all washed up. This thanks to a minority report from the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works. The ranking minority member of the committee is James M. Inhofe (R-OK), who has allegedly found 650 scientists around the world who are prepared to dispute the existence of global warming or any man-made crisis having to do with the release of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. He takes the whole silly notion to task in a 231-page report (including a reprint of a previous report), clumsily though comprehensively entitled U.S. Senate Minority Report: More Than 650 International Scientists Dissent Over Man-Made Global Warming Claims. Scientists Continue to Debunk “Consensus” in 2008.
Inhofe, who has characterized the Red Cross as a “bleeding heart,” and out-conservatived the Bush Administration, the Pentagon, and the American Petroleum Institute in blocking ratification of the International Convention on the Law of the Sea,1 has put our tax dollars to work in an attempt to head off cap-and-trade legislation which the Obama administration hopes to initiate early on in 2009.
We’ll update this posting with the expected refutations of Inhofe’s report in future days and weeks. In the meanwhile, the pertinent point, and one which does not bode well for the coming administration and the 111th Congress, is the enormous powers which may be wielded by a single senator and, more importantly, by the minority party in the Senate. We have seen thirty years or more of polarized partisan politics in our federal government, which has effectively removed what is intended to be the people’s voice from influence over our economic well-being. We are only beginning to suffer the consequences.
We fear a continuation of the polarization, already seen in the Senate Republicans’ stonewalling of the auto industry bailout. Should Obama, the Great Conciliator, not find a way to move sufficient numbers of Republicans into his camp, we could easily see a continuation of the status quo, which has wiped out trillions in retirement savings, forced millions into foreclosure, swelled enormously the ranks of the unemployed, and brought us to the brink of a global depression.
1 Enemies of Science: Senator James M. Inhofe, from ScienceWeek, undated (accessed December 13, 2008)
Dec 16, 2008
The first ripples are spreading from the center of the financial debacle.
It looks like the White House will have to do an end run around its own party to bail out the auto industry,1 in hopes of saving three million jobs.2 Senate republicans have blocked a Congressional plan to provide a few billion in loans to the industry,3 a plan that even included turning the industry on its head and handing over future business decisions to a “Car Czar” to be appointed by Bush. The Republicans in the Senate wouldn’t buy it without enormous concesssions in pay and benefits from the unions, which have already done more than their part to sustain their industry.
And where is the justice or equity in seven hundred billion taxpayer dollars hastily handed over unconditionally to Wall Street following its shameful despoliation of world finance, and not one dime to bolster an admittedly flawed industry, but one upon which depends a significant percentage of working Americans?
And then there is Republic Windows and Doors.4 When Bank of America pulled the plug on the Chicago company’s line of credit, the owners told the unionized workers the 40-year-old company would close its doors in three days and, gosh, they didn’t think they had the money for the 60-day severance or accrued vacation pay the law required them to provide the workers. So the workers staged a six-day sit-in at the factory. Three-way negotiations among the union, the company, and the banks resulted in the offer of loans sufficient for the company to pay its obligations to the workers. Whether they will or not, however, since the company filed for bankruptcy on December 12, may still be in doubt. Workers are scandalously far from the front of the line of creditors in bankruptcy proceedings. Meanwhile, Republic has renamed itself Echo, moved to Iowa, and opened its factory with nonunion labor.
That the Republic workers’ sit-in to obtain rights assured them by law should be described in the Times as “risky,” “militant,” and “potentially dangerous,” speaks volumes to the skewed priorities that result in a system where capitalism is the master and not the servant of the people.
We need to get money into the pockets of regular Americans, not continue to pick those pockets for the benefit of the superwealthy. Everyone knows this, but as of last weekend, no one in Washington had done anything about it.
1 White House Ready to Aid Auto Industry, by Stephen Labaton and David M. Herszenhorn, from the New York Times, December 12, 2008 (accessed December 13, 2008)
2 Over 3 million jobs would disappear if U.S. auto-makers go bankrupt, from Economic Policy Institute, December 3, 2008 (accessed December 11, 2008)
3 Senate Abandons Automaker Bailout Bid, by David M. Herszenhorn and David E. Sanger, from the New York Times, December 11, 2008 (accessed December 13, 2008)
4 Even Workers Surprised by Success of Factory Sit-In, by Michael Luo and Karen Ann Cullotta, from the New York Times, December 12, 2008 (accessed December 13, 2008)
Health Care in Hard Times
Dec 15, 2008
Sixty-one percent of the nonelderly employed receive their health insurance through an employer. It is estimated that for every one point increase in the unemployment rate, 1.1 million adults will lose their health insurance coverage.1 With accelerating layoffs, many of us are now contemplating the awful eventuality of simultaneously losing our jobs and our health insurance. When that happens, options are limited to COBRA, Medicaid/SCHIP, and private insurance.
The Kaiser Family Foundation, through its Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, has produced a report entitled Health Coverage in a Period of Rising Unemployment (.pdf, 288Kb), by Karen Schwartz. It is a guide to the pluses and minuses of those three options and, unfortunately, one that you may wish to bookmark for future reference. Our conclusions:
- COBRA is no bargain, even if you are lucky enough to qualify for it;
- If you have to go with a private insurance carrier, make sure you are a 20-year-old nonsmoking male who jogs five miles a day;
- Medicaid may be available for dependent children (through SCHIP), less available for their parents, and almost certainly not available for childless adults;
- Not being insured while unemployed can hurt your coverage once you go back to work.
The provision of health care in this country is not only expensive, less effective relative to other civilized countries, and impenetrably complicated, it is also cruel, with the full force of its shortcomings affecting those least able to withstand them—the poor, the unemployed, and the elderly.
Universal. Single-payer. Federally managed. Now.
1 Health Coverage in a Period of Rising Unemployment,
from the Kaiser Commission on Medicaid and the Uninsured, undated, accessed December 9, 2008
All Together Now
Dec 14, 2008
Actions we have taken to promote progressive change.
Your participation, in these or other efforts, will double the impact chronicled below. Bookmark this link in order to return to this posting to note future additions.
- Jan 31, 2009: Signed a letter to President Obama, facilitated by Food and Water Watch, urging him not to appoint Judd Gregg as Commerce Secretary. Gregg favors ocean farm fishing, which is very harmful to wild fish. See: Ocean Fish Farming Harms Wild Fish, at Science News.
- Jan 31, 2009 (busy day): Signed a petition to U.S. Senators, facilitated by Food and Water Watch, urging our senators to restore funding slashed in the House for urgently needed water and wastewater infrastructure development and repairs.
- Jan 31, 2009: Signed a petition, facilitated by Credo Action, urging our Representative to co-sponsor H.R. 104, a bill to establish a criminal investigation into acts committed by the Bush Administration.
- Jan 31, 2009: Wrote to the White House urging the president to cease his support of tax cheats and promoters of genocide, and suggesting Howard Dean for Secretary of DHHS.
- Jan 31, 2009: Wrote a letter to Hillary Clinton and Susan Rice facilitated by Amnesty International, urging them to open an investigation into possible war crimes in Gaza based upon Amnesty’s on-the-ground findings.
- Jan 30, 2009: Wrote a letter to our congressional delegation facilitated by the National Parks Conservation Association in support of the $2.25 billion investment in parks which is part of Obama’s stimulus package.
- Jan 28, 2009: Signed a ColorOfChange petition urging the D.A. in the Oscar Grant case to prosecute a second officer for assault.
- Jan 26, 2009: On reading the news that Biden thinks the banks will need more than the $700 billion authorized so far, we wrote our senators and representative in Washington adamantly opposing more bailout money until the country learns what was done with the first $700 billion and its effect, and until respected independent economists such as Paul Krugman and Joseph Stiglitz call for additional assistance.
- Jan 25, 2009: Donated a few dollars to the Vermont Progressive Party after writing them up for the Jan 27 ATN item.
- Jan 24, 2009: Signed a Credo Action petition urging Senator John Cornyn (R-TX) to suspend his delaying tactics regarding Eric Holder’s confirmation as Attorney General. Sen. Cornyn is concerned that the administration may seek to prosecute those who ordered or carried out torture in the last administration and is apparently seeking guarantees that it will not.
- Jan 23, 2009: Signed an Amnesty International petition thanking Obama for signing the order to close Guantanamo and urging him to name a commission of inquiry to investigate and hold accountable any criminal acts committed there over the past eight years. Donated a few dollars to Amnesty (tax-deductible).
- Jan 16, 2009: Signed a Food Democracy Now petition, urging the Dept of Agriculture Secretary-Designate to appoint Under Secretaries from a list of 12 candidates who favor sustainable agriculture.
Update Feb 28, 2009: One of the Sustainable Dozen, Kathleen Merrigan, was named Deputy Secretary of Agriculture. Further Food Democracy Now met with Secretary Vilsack on Feb 24, 2009, and presented him with 87,000 signatures on a petition supporting sustainable agriculture. You can sign HERE.
- Jan 15, 2009: Signed an Amnesty International petition to our congressional delegation, asking them to do whatever they can to end the disaster in Gaza.
- Jan 14, 2009: Found an Obama Inaugural Bash to attend on the MoveOn.org site. We were happy to see they were coordinating this organizational effort with TrueMajority, ColorOfChange, and other grassroots groups. We Shall Overcome—Together!
- Jan 14, 2009: Donated $50 to Greg Mortenson’s Central Asia Institute. This donation was gathered in a Pennies for Peace cup at our office.
- Jan 13, 2009: Signed a ColorOfChange.org petition demanding CA Attorney General Jerry Brown take action against the BART officer who killed Oscar Grant in cold blood. Twelve days have gone by and the officer has not been, arrested, charged, or even questioned.
Update Jan 15, 2009: Johannes Mehserle was arrested and charged with murder on Wednesday, Jan 14.
- Jan 8, 2009: Signed a Democracy for America petition urging the new chair of the Democratic National Committee to retain the 50-state strategy which has been so successful.
- Jan 3, 2009: Signed an Amnesty International petition to Sec. of State Rice expressing concern for the humanitarian disaster in Gaza.
- December 30, 2008: Donated a few dollars (tax-deductible) to three organizations badly hurt by Bernard Madoff, The Brennan Center for Justice, Human Rights Watch, and the Center for Constitutional Rights. The contributions, made through MoveOn.org, were matched 2 to 1 by a pair of philanthropic agencies.
- December 29, 2008: Signed an Avaaz.org petition for a cease fire in Gaza.
- December 22, 2008: Signed an Avaaz.org petition for radio campaign in Zimbabwe. Donated a few dollars to help buy radio time there (deductible).
- December 19, 2008: Filled in a survey for The Nation magazine, urging them to concentrate on three priorities: income, education, and health care.
- December 18, 2008: Signed a ColorOfChange petition to the Louisiana legal authorities urging them to investigate vigilante killings of blacks post-Katrina.
- December 16, 2008: Registered for, set up, and announced an Obama Health Care Community Discussion for Dec. 28.
- Dec 15, 2008: Nominated topic for Moveon.Org to concentrate on in 2009.
Donated a few dollars to Democracy Now! and Food&WaterWatch (tax-deductible).
Signed a J Street petition urging the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organization to condemn the recent violence, including two shootings, of Jewish settlers against Palestinians.
- Dec 11, 2008: Signed petition from Food Democracy Now to Obama regarding the importance of reform in our nation’s agricultural practices and encouraging him to name a reformer as Secretary of Agriculture.
Signed an Amnesty International petition urging Obama to take action to protect women and girls from sexual violence in the Congo.
- Dec 10, 2008: Signed Amnesty International petition to our representative, encouraging him to co-sponsor HR.5927, the International Violence Against Women Act; and signed their Universal Declaration of Human Rights pledge.
Sent a note to Chancellor Merkel in Poland, through Avaaz.org, urging her to stop stonewalling a proper European agreement on GHG emissions.
Update, Dec 15, 2008: Chancellor Merkel scaled back elements of her opposition that would have resulted in greater GHG emissions, thanks in part to 200,000 worldwide signatories of the petition.
- Dec 9, 2008: Sent messages to Vermont’s congressional delegation encouraging them to pursue a progressive agenda in the 111th Congress, and referencing two ATN postings, Great Expectations 1: The Domestic Scene and Great Expectations 2: Foreign Affairs.
- Dec 8, 2008: Signed a National Parks Conservation Association (NPCA) petition to Secretary of the Interior Dirk Kempthorne, opposing the sale of oil and gas leases on land adjoining two national parks and a national monument. Light, air, and noise pollution are among the threats these leases pose. The opportunity came through email from NPCA, and we were able to take part in the petition with two mouse clicks.
Update: On December 10, 2008, the Bush administration abruptly dropped its plan to site new coal-burning electricity generating plants near national parks.
Dec 13, 2008
We need to act.
We need to find ways to raise our voices in support of the progressive agenda or we are going find ourselves—and that agenda—out in the cold. We do not fail to sympathize with those who say it is early innings, he is not even president yet, give him a chance. However, our early misgivings regarding an Obama presidency (see our previous postings on Obama), together with the parade of Clinton retreads and right-of-center cabinet and White House appointments1 he has made so far, does not fill us with hope for change. Rather, these appointments require what filmmaker Eugene Jarecki calls “vigilant public attention.”2
Only connect!, adjured E.M. Forster,3 and this is the key to action. The American people—you and I— need to get back in the face of our public servants. We need to find the time to act, to contact our representatives, to join our voices to other organizations which are advancing the agenda. Thankfully, opportunities to do so efficiently and effectively are cropping up all over the place, mainly through the Internet.
Tomorrow, we will initiate a posting that relates what we are doing to press for a progressive agenda. We will update that posting and provide a link to it so that you can return to it from time to time to see what new efforts have been made by one person. It may provide ideas for you, although its primary intent is to move you to set aside a few minutes a week to take part in an effort which, without us and millions like us, is almost certainly doomed to fail. We also want to hear what you are doing (use the Webmaster link under Contact Us in the right-hand column). We will pass on good ideas you tell us about, and we will take part in those efforts ourself.
Obama is not enough. Hope is not enough. The buck stops with us.
1 Name by Name, Obama’s Cabinet taking shape, by the Associated Press, December 8, 2008, accessed, as are other references today, on December 9, 2008
2 Keeping Track of Change, by Eugene Jarecki, from Truthdig.com, December 5, 2008
3 Howard’s End, E.M. Forster, chapter 22, from Wikiquote, undated
GAO, Way to Go!
Dec 12, 2008
No one is closer to the federal government than the Government Accountability Office (GAO), a nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. They:
- audit agency operations to determine whether federal funds are being spent efficiently and effectively;
- investigate allegations of illegal and improper activities;
- report on how well government programs and policies are meeting their objectives;
- perform policy analyses and outline options for congressional consideration;
- issue legal decisions and opinions, such as bid protest rulings and reports on agency rules.1
The GAO has produced a web page entitled Serving the Congress and the Nation.
It contains information on:
- the 13 “Urgent Issues” it believes the new administration needs to address in its first year;
- agency-by-agency issues;
- management challenges across the government;
- major cost-savings opportunities;
- upcoming reports on major issues;
- the long-term fiscal outlook;
- working with GAO.2
Though not as noisy and dramatic as some watchdogs, the GAO is probably closer to the pulse of the federal government and to the real needs of the nation than any other. The GAO is the primary fact-finding and fact-reporting agency of the Congress and as such their voice will be ignored at their peril by the incoming administration and the new Congress.
1 About GAO,
accessed December 7, 2008.
2 Serving the Congress and the Nation
Euros and Euro Happiness
Dec 11, 2008
What do you know? The European Union actually cares about the quality of life of all its people, and not just the enrichment of a tiny few at the expense of the rest. Eurofound, the European Foundation for the Improvement of Living and Working Conditions, was founded in 1975 “to contribute to the planning and design of better living and working conditions in Europe.” Eurofound researches these conditions across the 27 European Union countries (including three current candidate countries), tries to identify what works, and passes along that understanding to labor, employers, and governments.
Their Second European Quality of Life Survey (.pdf, 416Kb) has just released its first findings. The full report will be available in spring 2009. The survey sought data on general life satisfaction and happiness relating to family, work, and social life. Among interesting findings we may wish to take to heart:
- Earning disparities are lowest in the countries that show the highest general satisfaction and happiness.
- The country with the highest household income (Luxembourg, with over twice the average EU income), comes in sixth out of 27 on the scale of general satisfaction/happiness.
- The country with the highest general satisfaction/happiness (Denmark) comes in ninth in household income.
A decent income is essential for happiness; however, people in countries with higher incomes and, especially those in countries with high income disparities, show markedly less life satisfaction and happiness than people in countries where household income is lower and more equalized across the population.
The happier populations are in countries, primarily in Scandinavia, where government of, by, and for the people is working. They should be models we seek to emulate in the hard times to come.
How We Got Here and Where We’re Going
Dec 10, 2008
How we got here? Simple:
- The Clinton administration passed the Financial Services Modernization Act, eliminating New Deal barriers against mergers of commercial and investment banks.1
- The Clinton administration passed the Commodity Futures Modernization Act, which banned government regulation of the new derivatives market.1
- The commercial side of the newly merged banks lured millions of first-time home buyers with mortgages whose initial terms were too enticing to resist, knowing their investment side would re-package and re-sell the mortgages in derivative bundles, eliminating risk to the original lender.
- While housing values increased, banks around the world rushed to purchase these derivatives, without understanding them or the risks involved, heeding only the apparent increases in their value. They borrowed money to purchase these derivatives, often as much as $30 for every dollar they put up of their own.
- Bankers were able to show huge short-term “book” profits from these derivative sales, earning themselves gigantic bonuses.
- Housing values leveled off at the same time the rosy mortgage terms expired, and people who should never have qualified for mortgages suddenly found themselves unable to pay them.
- Those derivatives purchased by banks around the world, on borrowed money, lost their value, often ruining the banks (Washington Mutual and others), crippling the largest financial institutions in the country and around the world, and, oh yes, incidentally sending millions of homeowners into foreclosure and out onto the streets.
Then came the financial bailout, which put cash back into the banks, and which the investment side would not allow the commercial side to lend, causing the credit crunch (still unresolved, as no requirement that they should actually do anything with the money was made of the banks receiving the $750 billion in taxpayer bailout funds).
Where we’re going? Not so easy to say:
- We’ve stopped spending, we know that. November, including Black Friday, totted up the lowest sales in 30 years.2
- Jobs are dropping like flies. Not since December 1974 (Nixon was president!) have we lost more jobs than we did in November (533,000).3
- Being a consumer society and one which has dropped manufacturing jobs in favor of service jobs, those first two numbers do not bode well for the future. If we don’t spend, we don’t work.
- This graphic from the Bureau of Labor Statistics is a little scary. Note the increasing rate of decline in employment during this recession, and note how long it took during the last recession in 2001 for employment figures to get back to the pre-recession level (three+ years).
What brings us out of recessions? Typically, wars or large infusions of government spending matched with tax cuts. With an over ten-trillion-dollar deficit (four trillion of which was added by the Bush administration), more trillions in bailout commitments made and commitments to come which have so far shown little effect on the economy, and no end in sight to two ruinously expensive wars, how much further in the hole can we expect our government to go before the underlying strength of our economy suffers serious and lasting damage? Hopefully, a good bit further, as there is really no alternative in sight.
Let us not forget how we got here—through an unholy alliance of our federal government and narrow corporate interests consumed with greed. We have yet to bring either to account. We have yet to elect representatives who have pledged to do so. Hope is not enough.
1 Change We Can Bank On,
by Robert Scheer, from Truthdig.com, November 18, 2008, accessed December 6, 2008.
2 November retail sales are worst in 30 years,
by Jayne O'Donnell, from USA Today, undated, accessed December 6, 2008.
3 U.S. Loses 533,000 Jobs in Biggest Drop since 1974,
by Louis Uchitelle, from the New York Times, December 5, 2008, accessed December 6, 2008.
Dec 09, 2008
The Family of Man began as a family, huddled in a dark cave against the forces of a malevolent Nature, including—especially—the family in the cave next door. Reason was on our side, however, and reason, telling us there was strength in numbers, created the tribe. When agriculture settled us down ten thousand years ago, tribes became settlements, which became towns, cities, city-states, and, finally, countries, constructs, again, whose primary purpose was enhancing security for a larger base of the population.
Of course, along the way tribe fought tribe, Sparta fought Athens, England fought France, and complicated ad hoc alliances came and went in support of ever widening and, ultimately, global conflicts. Yet the quest for physical and economic security was always at the heart of those conflicts, even when they seemed to be initiated for purposes of conquest and empire.
The country is no longer the most-evolved unit in this search for security. Economic alliances such as NAFTA and political ones such as the European Union have gone beyond largely symbolic attempts at multinational cooperation most recently embodied in the United Nations. These alliances seek to knit countries together firmly enough in cooperative endeavors to render it unlikely they will ever again have at each others’s throats in battle.
We now find ourselves at a point in our evolution as a species where “two roads diverge in a yellow wood.” As separate countries with a limited number of extended alliances, many of us are powerful enough, should another conflict arise between us, to destroy civilization. Even absent such conflict, we face environmental threats to our security that could be equally devastating.
It seems to us that a great reckoning is at hand. Will we be capable, once again, of making the same attitude adjustment we have made countless times in the past, the adjustment that saw us lay down our arms and join an erstwhile enemy in order to defend against the greater danger perceived emanating from another quarter? Will we be able to do so when that greater enemy is ourselves? And if we do not, will not our own natures, or the Nature we have so abysmally abused, step in and write the final page in the chronicle of human history?
These are the questions to which the progress of civilization has brought us. These are the questions which will be answered. The 21st century will see the Family of Man become one family, or the 22nd will belong to the flora and fauna over which we enjoyed a short and unhappy dominion.
1 Our illustration: Family of Man, by Georg Schmerholz, 1976
Dec 08, 2008
New York Times columnist David Brooks is consistently wrong about life in general, but he is often quite perspicacious when it comes to some of the specifics.
His December 5, 2008, column Who Will He Choose?, concerns Obama’s still-to-be-announced pick for Secretary of Education, a selection we consider more important than the ones he has made so far.
Two camps vie for Obama’s allegiance, according to Brooks. In one camp are the radical reformers, epitomized by Michelle Rhee (whom we wrote about in The War on Tenure), and in the other are those representing the establishment view with the “superficial reforms” characteristic of that camp.
Brooks’s insight comes when he notes Obama has skillfully straddled both camps, practicing what he memorably calls “dog-whistle politics” which sends out reassuring signals that only one side or the other can detect. This, of course, was characteristic of Obama’s entire campaign: He managed to make many of us who were not on the same sides of issues believe we detected signals in his language assuring us he was supporting our priorities.
Progressives have now had a cold shower of reality administered to them through Obama’s choices to date. The posts of Education and Labor are yet to come. They are, in our view, the most important, affecting as they do all Americans in areas—income and education—as much in need of radical reform as any in our system.
Brooks’s money seems to be on Arne Duncan,1 a Chicago reformer, for Education, a selection which he says “will be picking a fight with the status quo.” However, if there are any fans of the status quo still about in the land, they are staying silent in the closet. Even the Establishment knows we are in trouble, and it will take a full spectrum of reforms, as well as, perhaps, a partial systemic collapse, to pull us out of the doldrums into which our education system has been mired for the past two generations.
1 Arne Duncan, from Wikipedia, accessed December 6, 2008
Dec 07, 2008
Okay, college grad, think yer pretty smart? Try this Civics Quiz on for size. It comes from the Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ISI) an organization which seeks “to enhance the rising generation’s knowledge of our nation’s founding principles.” They have their work cut out for them.
In 2006 and 2007, they tested 14,000 freshmen and seniors at 50 colleges and universities nationwide on the basics of their American heritage, and in both years they failed, scoring less than 55 percent on average.1 This year, in an attempt “to learn more about the real-world consequences of this collegiate failure,” they tested a broader cross-section of Americans of all ages and backgrounds, asking them 33 basic questions about the history and operation of American democracy, the Civics Quiz mentioned above which you are invited to take. The bad news:
- Seventy-one percent failed, with an overall average score of 49 percent.
- College adds little to civic knowledge.
- Television, including TV news, dumbs down America.
- Elected officials score five percentage points lower than non-officeholders.
- Fewer than half of all Americans can name all three branches of the federal government.
Sixty percent is passing. Good luck.
from ISI, accessed December 3, 2008
No Child Left Hungry
Dec 06, 2008
One of the themes emerging from All Together Now is the pragmatic basis of the Golden Rule. It is to our advantage that we treat others as we would be treated. To treat them less well, to refrain from relieving them of their poverty, ignorance, or disease when it is within our power to do so, works to our immediate, ongoing, and serious disadvantage.
The Progressive Policy Institute knows whereof we speak. In one of their latest “Memos to the President,” Ending Child Hunger in America (.pdf), by Joel Berg and Tom Freedman, their recommendations are firmly grounded in the logic of our first paragraph. The bad news:
- One in six children in America live below the poverty line.
- Food prices increased four percent in 2007, over one and one-half times the annual average in the previous 15 years.
- Eighty-four percent of food banks were unable to meet demand in 2007, with increases in clientele as high as 20 percent.
- Food insecurity costs us $90 billion a year in lost productivity, health care costs, and substandard educational performance.
Their five recommendations to end child hunger in America:
- Provide all children with a free school breakfast
- Only one in five children eligible for free school breakfasts actually receive them, for a variety of reasons. Feed all the children instead. The benefits are many and the results (already tried in some districts) are astounding.
- Improve program efficiency and accountability
- There is a plethora of food-related federal programs that could be combined, resulting in a more efficient and inexpensive system that would reach more eligible families.
- Support working families
- “One of the best ways government can help working families is to make sure that work pays a decent wage.” Hear, hear!!
- Reward best practices in the states
- Reward these testing grounds with cash bonuses for the most effective programs to reduce child hunger, prompting a competition across all 50 of them.
- Provide real ammo to the armies of compassion
- They are out there, in the trenches, and in touch with where the need is highest. Partner with these secular and religious-based groups; they will be the soldiers who will win your war against childhood hunger.
An admirable goal: No hungry child in America ever again following an Obama administration.
Admirable and eminently achievable.
Stealing, Lying, and Cheating
Dec 05, 2008
Apparently, these ethical qualities are as American as apple pie, hence our illustration today. The Josephson Institute has released its latest biennial report from its Center for Youth Ethics, entitled The Ethics of American Youth. It’s not a pretty picture.
Over a third of high school boys (35 percent) and a quarter (26 percent) of girls admitted having stolen something from a store in the past year, each number up three percentage points from two years ago. Almost all high school children (83 percent) have lied to a parent in the past year about something significant. And cheating in school is up four percentage points (to 64 percent) from 2006. And the numbers may even be worse, since fully a quarter of the 30,000 respondents confessed to lying on one or two of the questions during the survey!
Not to worry, however, since our pedagogical emphasis on nurturing self-esteem has been one of the educational success stories of the past generation. Despite their cheating hearts, fully 93 percent of respondents said they were satisfied with their personal ethics and character, and 77 percent said that “when it comes to doing what is right, I am better than most people I know.”
Before we lapse into Paul Lynde1 mode,2 however, let’s take a few deep breaths and look for some perspective.
Speaking only for ourself, we lied like a rug when we were in high school. We lied about everything to everyone. When we turned 21, we swore off lying, not because it was wrong, but because we refused to continue to be so diminished in our own eyes by our constant lies. We have pretty much kept to that determination throughout a longish adulthood.
We stole from stores a time or two, probably before we were actually in high school, and even committed a few misdemeanor-level vandalisms during the difficult transition from innocence to experience. But that was then and this is now and it is inconceivable to imagine we would steal again from any motivation but the direst want. The fact that we don’t recall cheating in school may probably be laid to the fact that we never sat close enough to the ones who were smarter than we were in order to crib off their papers. And cheating in school always struck us as rather like cheating at solitaire. Finally, what’s the point?
We generally consider that seven-year-old children have reached the Age of Reason,3 before which a child has no real concept of the difference between objective right and wrong. However, to understand that right and wrong exist is not the same thing as to have the capacity to subordinate one’s own interests to ethical considerations. That takes much longer, which is why society doesn’t emancipate its children until they are considerably older.
We take some reassurance in the fact that there is such a significant disconnect between teen behavior and their own self-conception. We do learn right from wrong at seven, and we do struggle for years to bring right and wrong into alignment with our own needs and inclinations—many of us ultimately failing, of course. However, believing that we are essentially such admirable boys and girls cannot, in the end, but help to make us so.
1 Paul Lynde, from Wikipedia, accessed December 2, 2008, as are other footnoted sources today.
2 “What’s the Matter with Kids Today?,” from Bye Bye, Birdie
3 The Age of Reason, by Adele M. Brodkin, from Scholastic, July 1, 2006
Dec 04, 2008
They’re at it again. The headline in our local daily this morning reads, “U.S. Bio Attack in Next 5 Years Likely.”1
When outright oppression and domestic terror is off the table (although we might ask José Padilla2 to comment on that), fear is what best controls populations and renders them docile in the face of political tyranny. Cheney/Bush effectively played the fear card throughout their administration, even continuing to prevail in every area of their agenda after the Democrats assumed control of Congress in 2007.
Today the torch of fear is being passed to the next administration. The story noted above related to a report from the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism being presented today to Joe Biden, Obama's VP and First Hawk in an administration that is becoming filled with hawkish officials: Clinton, Gates, Rice.
In a pair of stories also in today’s paper,3 Obama formally introduces his choices for several high-level cabinet and White House positions. It is distressing to note that the position of Secretary of State is consistently characterized as being part of Obama’s “national security team.” National security has become a codeword for doing anything we want to anyone we like at anytime we choose, and damn the consequences. And to stamp our already hawkish-enough Secretary of State-designate with this codeword is to taint the position with unduly militaristic connotations and to downplay its true value as a great nation’s primary representative—and reassurance—to a fearful and needy world.
So it looks like it’s “Speak loudly and wield that big stick,” while scaring the pants off the populace in the home front. In other words, business as usual. And as Obama backs off his pledge to withdraw all combat troops from Iraq in 16 months (the pledge now downsized to a “desire”4), we may anticipate endless war through another administration.
This is change? This is hope?
1 You can read it here: Panel: Bio attack likely in next 5 years, from Yahoo News (Associated Press), Accessed December 2, 2008, as are other footnoted sources today.
2 José Padilla (prisoner), from Wikipedia
3 You can read it here: Obama Names Team to Face a Complex Security Picture, by Karen DeYoung and Michael D. Shear, from the Washington Post, December 2, 2008
4 Obama moves from electioneering to governance with nominees, by Peter Baker, from The International Herald Tribune, December 2, 2008
Great Expectations 2: Foreign Affairs
Dec 03, 2008
First, let us stop calling these affairs foreign. Globalization and its discontents, the Internet, the climate crisis, have inextricably intertwined the affairs of nations, making us finally realize the interdependence of all peoples which has always been a fact of life, though rarely acknowledged.
And then let us get on with the business of nurturing our planet and all its people. The progressive agenda of the first Obama administration must include the following:
- A National Renunciation
- America must renounce its “go-it-alone” bully-boy stance. We cannot lead from a position of moral poverty. Torture, extraordinary rendition kidnappings, abuse of constitutional rights, all must be abjured for good and all, and systems put in place to assure that these offenses will not come again to haunt the world. Full disclosure to the American people, and to the world, of the enormities of the past eight years must be forthcoming, whether conducted through a Truth and Reconciliation-type commission or through criminal investigations and prosecutions.
- A League of Nations
- America must rejoin and reinvigorate the community of nations, and in doing so it must voluntarily renounce a portion of its sovereignty for the common good. The neocon notion of a Pax Americana has been thoroughly debunked and must be discarded. We must imbue and empower the international community, through the United Nations and other organizations, with an energy and an agenda and a sense of urgency, and we must act together to bring clean water, plentiful food, higher education, peace, and social justice to a world hungry for all of these. We must stop exploiting, and start enabling, all of humanity. Our common future depends on it.
- War No More
- War is obsolete. The military adventures of the executive branch which the world has suffered over the past sixty years have only bolstered this argument. The more significant ones—Korea, Vietnam, Iraq, Afghanistan—have all been losing propositions for the simple fact that we have not had to win them, and our adversaries have. Should a war we have to win ever be allowed to break out again, it will almost certainly destroy civilization. We must back off from our dependence on militarism by disarming, beginning with a full retreat from the threat of nuclear holocaust, and moving on from there to disallow armed conflict between and within nations. We must give peace a chance.
- Ending Terrorism
- Wars are fought between nations and to characterize efforts against terrorism as a “war” misuses and abuses that term. Terrorist activity warrants police action, not wars, although those actions may need to call upon military support and be international in scope. However, we also need to understand—and even empathize with—the root causes of terrorism. They have as much to do with failed states, our instinctive inclination to bolster political tyrannies, and the expropriation of natural resources as they have to do with fundamentalist religious beliefs.
- An Economic Attitude Adjustment
- Capitalism is the de facto winner in the modern struggle for economic supremacy. However, in winning the day, capitalism has become civilization’s master rather than its servant. This has to be reversed. Industry exists for the betterment of the individuals who buy and build its products, not the other way around. Just as we have decided, in assessing the needs of individuals, what is too little, we must decide what is too much, understanding that there is only one pie. While there will remain room for differences in wealth, those differences have reached grotesque proportions in the past thirty years, to the deprivation and horror of countless billions. We are one people on one earth, and our survival is not optimized by a system of exploitation and oppression, but by one of cooperation and mutual support.
These are the paths of the progressive agenda, toward a sustainable world where “One for all and all for one” is understood to be not simply a moral imperative, but a logical one, the one best suited to realizing a paradise on earth, and to averting the spectre of hell, to the brink of which the unbroken series of catastrophes we call human history have brought us today.
Great Expectations 1: The Domestic Scene
Dec 02, 2008
Most progressive pundits we follow (among them Jeremy Scahill1, Naomi Klein, Robert Kuttner2, and Robert Scheer3) are bummed out by the selections Obama has made so far for his White House staff and cabinet. And indeed, one cannot but sigh in despair at the right-of-center Democrats (and Republicans!) paraded across Change.gov, Obama’s web site, which is looking increasingly like an ingeniously designed propagandistic puff piece. What could be worse than a George W. Bush? A George W. Bush with a brain.
Kuttner reminds us that Obama will be the president, not Larry Summers, Hillary Clinton, or Robert Gates. Cold comfort, we fear. As noted last week in Center Stage, the progressive agenda has moved to the center of American politics, or the center has moved toward progressive solutions to the serious challenges we face. With that in mind, here are five exigent items on the domestic agenda we expect the Obama administration to engage from a progressive standpoint:
- Income Inequality
- We expect the tax cuts for the wealthy to be repealed and a living wage assured for all full-time workers. We expect the capital gains tax to be raised to a reasonable level, and we expect Social Security to be withheld on wages higher than the current maximum, which, at $102,000, is ridiculously low. We expect any economic bailout or recovery plan to be accountable to the people and to be crafted in such a manner as to benefit the greatest number. We expect an end to poverty for all working individuals and families in America.
- A Dysfunctional Education System
- We call for a national commission on educational reform that will be encouraged to throw out all the “sacred cows” and conventions in PreK-16 public education developed since the 19th century. It will consist of the widest possible spectrum of educational reformers who have displayed success in the field, many of whom we have featured here on All Together Now (see, for example, The War on Tenure, The Next Step, and SEED Money). It will be empowered to put forth a comprehensive set of recommendations for reinvigorating American education from the ground up, recommendations which the Obama administration will commit to implementing expeditiously. We are bleeding oceans of human capital, and the bleeding must be stopped.
- Health Care
- Implement a single-payer, federally managed health care system (Medicare for all), containing the best features of the dozens of such systems which have been in operation for more than a generation in the rest of the civilized world. To do less is to thwart the people’s will and to continue a system where the many exist only to enrich the few—a bankrupt system which must end.
- Voting Rights and Wrongs
- Impediments to the franchise are a scandal in this country. We must pass laws that will assure the public that everything possible is being done to enable every eligible voter to exercise the franchise, easily, efficiently, and with a high degree of assurance that their vote is being properly counted.
- Social Realism
- Social issues such as premarital sex and the taking of illegal drugs need to be confronted in a rational manner. When they are, we will realize that education is the key to solving these issues. Teens will engage in sex and people will take mind-altering substances. They always have and they always will. We need to stop punishing ourselves for these human inclinations and rather do what is necessary to protect ourselves from their less fortunate consequences. Our current responses to these perceived social ills, including abstinence-only indoctrination and more and longer incarcerations, are positively insane.
These are the domestic issues on which we will judge the first Obama term. If they are not pursued with vigor, we will have no interest in a second.
1 Agents of Change or Hawks, Clintonites and Neocons?
from Democracy Now, November 20, 2008 (Accessed November 30, 2008)
2 Naomi Klein, Robert Kuttner and Michael Hudson Dissect Obama’s New Economic Team & Stimulus Plan,
from Democracy Now, November 25, 2008 (Accessed November 30, 2008)
3 Obama Chooses Wall Street Over Main Street,
by Robert Scheer, from truthdig.com, November 25, 2008 (Accessed November 30, 2008)
Noted with Interest, November 2008
Dec 01, 2008
Here are a few items noted with interest over the past month:
- Average Income in 2006 Up $60,000 for top 1 percent of households, just $430 for bottom 90 percent.
- For the fourth straight year, income gains at the top outpaced the rest of the population. Since 2002, the average income of the top 1 percent has risen 42 percent, while that of the bottom 90 percent (where you and I live) has risen 4.7%. (From Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, October 22, 2008. Accessed October 26, 2008)
- New Judicial Watch/Zogby Poll: 81.7% of Americans Say Political Corruption Played a “Major Role” in Financial Crisis
- It is interesting to note this figure is almost exactly the same as the number of Americans who think the country is on the wrong track. (From Judicial Watch, October 21, 2008. Accessed October 26, 2008)
- New August Data Show Americans Drove 15 Billion Fewer Miles Than a Year Ago
- This report bewails the drop in tax revenue used for road building and repairs. We had an answer for that long ago (see Driven to Despair), but we haven’t run across anyone taking us up on it. (From U.S. Department of Transportation, October 24, 2008. Accessed October 28, 2008)
- Mid-Life Suicide: An Increasing Problem in U.S. Whites, 1999-2005, by Guoqing Hu, et al. (.pdf)
- Whites, aged 40-64 are responsible for annually raising the U.S. suicide rates between 1999 and 2005 by 2.7 percent for men and 3.9 percent for women. They are the only racial or age group showing an increased rate over this period. In 2005, suicide claimed 32,637 lives in the U.S. and was the fourth-leading cause of death for people aged 10-64 years. (From American Journal of Preventive Medicine. Accessed November 15, 2008)
- Immigrant-Owned Businesses Contribution To The Economy Detailed In New Report
- This first-ever study of business ownership rates among immigrants has some surprising numbers, revealing immigrants are real powerhouses behind American business. (From The Small Business Administration. Accessed November 15, 2008)
- AARP's Longevity Calculator
- Find out your prospects for living forever. No fudging, now. (From AARP. Accessed November 17, 2008)
- 2008 Premature Birth Report Cards: The Nation Gets a “D”
- What grade does your state get? Ours is the only state that received as high a grade as a “B” (From The March of Dimes. Accessed November 17, 2008)
- Dynamic Maps of Bank Card and Mortgage Delinquencies in the United States
- Find out where your county, state, and country stand in the current credit squeeze. (From Federal Reserve Bank of New York. Accessed November 18, 2008)
- Obama Makes Best Case for Public Financing,
- An excerpt from Obama’s The Audacity of Hope, noted by Daryn Cambridge, November 18, 2008, makes the argument for getting big corporate and lobbyist money out of politics. The question is how? (From Common Cause. Accessed November 22, 2008)