Saturday, November 29, 2008

U.S. overpaying for health care

We're not getting the health care we pay for, say experts consulted by the Washington Post.
"The United States today devotes 16 percent of its gross domestic product to medical care, more per capita than any other nation in the world. Yet numerous measures indicate the country lags in overall health: It ranks 29th in infant mortality, 48th in life expectancy and 19th out of 19 industrialized nations in preventable deaths."
Read more at -

Friday, November 28, 2008

Love will find a way

My friend Robert Buckman, an Army Reservist on duty in Baghdad, shared with me a letter home that a sergeant in his unit wrote earlier this week. Whatever we may think about the reasons we sent U.S. forces over there, this glimpse at one soldier's thinking deserves reflection.

My friends, it has been over a year since I set foot in God's country, four years to the day since I left it, the first time. I can tell you that in this past year I have seen miracles. I have seen compassion and love and friendship and hope and promise for a brighter future. I have seen the effects of ignorance and greed and intolerance. I had my life threatened and protected by divine intervention. I have faced rocket and mortar attack, and always kept a smile on my face. I have seen friends pass from this world at the hands of evil men. I have seen lives turned around after experiencing compassion and love. It has been an enriching and satisfying journey. My family has grown to include these wonderful people. It seems that I now have two countries that I call home. How blessed I am.

This is such a noble cause: World Peace. My sword is my compassion. My shield is my hope. My armor is the love in my heart. My compass is my faith.

I urge all of you to take up this cause and reach out to your neighbors and those whom you have yet to meet and extend your heart in compassion and good will. I have found that Good Will transcends language and culture. It is so powerful!

We all have much work to do in order to save our world. We are all well capable of doing it. Like the four little men who saved their "middle" earth. We too, can save our world. Love will find a way. Listen to your heart.

Much Love and Many Blessings to you all.


David Kalikiano Perry

Friday, November 07, 2008

Federal energy aid comes to Florida

My partner is politically progressive but always practical. The following report in The Miami Herald

Federal energy aid comes to Florida

prompted a particularly frank response:
Okay... what is this about?
What is Home Energy Assistance giving these people? Hot water?
Perhaps if you are elderly you need air conditioning? So people eat bad food, develop bad habits, get asthma and then we pay to give them 60-degree homes? Can we tell them the temp can't go below 76 degrees? In general, air conditioning should be luxury. As one who rides their bike and sweats in the worst (almost) weather, I have little sympathy.
I would add that air conditioning does help people with heart problems. We may lament the habits that strained or damaged their hearts, but I wouldn't want to deny them help. Let's teach energy thrift in setting the thermostat and choosing low-wattage lighting, then let the good climes roll.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

Ginny's life's journey in 800 words

My friend Ginny Rorby reveals a bit of how she came to be the compassionate person I know.
I remember her eyes. There was no joy to see me marching toward her. Instead she leaned, picked her huge purse off the floor and put it on the seat next to her. "You can't sit here, Ginny," she said when I was beside her.
It's a timely essay in the St. Petersburg Times.

Friday, October 31, 2008

Bush team rushing to deregulate

Rushing to avoid the same post-inauguration reversal of rule-making that they carried out eight years ago, the White House is pressing agencies throughout the government to finish up a wide range of deregulatory steps. Farms, mines and power plants are just some of the industries affected. This has been reported elsewhere in recent days, but today's Washington Post does an especially good job of putting the story in context. While you're at the website, note the especially heavy round of reader comments -- 508 by mid-morning.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Greenspan concedes errors

In an important footnote to the historic financial shakeup we're having, former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan said he was wrong to think banks would act so prudently in their own self-interest that no extra regulation was needed to head off a housing bubble. We had a bubble, of course, and it broke -- with disastrous costs that are still not possible to tabulate. The Washington Post reports well on yesterday's congressional hearing, though I thought they saved the most telling quote for the very end.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Taxes and our debt TO society

Not many things will raise my blood pressure, but one that did was Miz Palin's insinuation that it's patriotic to avoid paying taxes. Fortunately, I'm not alone in feeling proud to write the check that accompanies my Form 1040. A letter in today's New York Times states my view very well:
To the Editor:

Fair taxation isn’t about “redistributing the wealth” — it’s about giving back to the great country that gave you the opportunity to benefit so greatly.

It’s not about taking money from “Joe the Plumber.” It’s about making sure that “Joe’s Mega-Plumbing Incorporated” gives back to the country and the people who gave him:

¶ Roads and bridges for his trucks to roll on.
¶ Support for research for his latest plumbing equipment.
¶ Public education so he can have a well-trained work force.
¶ Markets so he can raise capital.
¶ Police and firefighters so his business is protected.
¶ Health care so the employees who helped him build his business can stay on the job.
¶ Freedom so that he can build his business creatively.

If “Joe” has been able to become wealthy because of the bounty of America, then he should pay his fair share back to America — that is patriotic.

Daryl Altman
Lynbrook, N.Y., Oct. 16, 2008
More letters at The Times (you may need to register).

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Alternatives diverge from administration's approach

I'm always skeptical of take-it-or-leave-it propositions, and the bigger the big shot who makes the proposal the more I try to check it out. Henry Paulson's grab for power at the threat of a financial ice age is a case in point. Sure enough, there are alternatives, according to economists interviewed by the Washington Post.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

A watershed moment in the public square

Any news junkies reading this will have heard of Mayhill Fowler and her second big buzz-making blog post of the 2008 presidential campaign. Fowler touched off a lot of indignation because she got Bill Clinton, on tape, venting about a Vanity Fair article that was downright mean to his wife. Some journalists think Fowler took unfair advantage by not saying who she was when she blurted out her question in the crowd where Clinton was shaking hands. They see in this case another item for their brief on the ethical failings of bloggers. I think they miss the point.

Indulge me while I quote myself, from Jay Rosen's PressThink:
I think the watershed of 2008 is not so much what Ms. Fowler and the other journalistic irregulars are doing as it is the unprecedented reach and speed of ANYONE with news to share, because of the tools now readily available.
Today, the press is not just those affiliated with a printing plant or a broadcast newsroom, but can be anyone inclined to share the news and who has a browser, a DSL connection and a cell phone. The implications are huge for how we learn the news. And the change is not in the ethics involved.

There has long been a code of fair play in the press. One of the rules was that when you asked a question you said who you represented. (Maybe Sam Donaldson didn't always, but he didn't have to because politicians all knew nobody else could shout that loudly in a crowded room.) But that didn't mean the press avoided asking and writing what happened in places it wasn't invited to, or what newsmakers told confidantes that they wouldn't have told a reporter directly. We simply asked our sources, and sometimes we even said who our sources were.

The big change demonstrated by Fowler's quotes of Bill Clinton and, earlier, of Barack Obama on the thinking of small-town Pennsylvanians, is that John Q. Citizen doesn't need a press card to put news out where the whole world can read and hear it. Just as surely as the rotary printing press made penny newspapers accessible to workers in all our great cities, the Internet and our many digital toys take the news further, faster than newsmakers are quite prepared for. This speed and access are democratizing the ways we share news, and learn it.

Nobody said democracy was tidy. But it sure can be fun. We'll just have to have some new rules about getting news, only this time, it may take longer to write them. They surely won't be written in the editorial conference rooms of old.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Farm bill flawed, but somewhat better

I was pretty indignant the other day when this year's farm bill went through Congress with veto-proof majorities. I was in the rare position of actually agreeing with President Bush that it's a bad bill that continues to help rich corporate entities more than family farms whose survival is threatened. I particularly disliked the continued, though smaller, subsidy for grain ethanol production. From the environmental community, though, I found a rather favorable report on the bill. See what you think, and comment, please.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Talk as prelude to triumph

An oped column in today's New York Times implicitly defends President Bush's insinuation that Barack Obama, is his openness to meeting America's adversaries at the conference table, is an appeaser. Nathan Thrall and Jesse James Wilkins cite the one-sided discussion that John Kennedy walked into by meeting with Nikita Khruschev in June 1961. In my view, though, they make a case against going to the table unprepared -- quite a different thing from whether to talk or not. See what you think, at Kennedy Talked, Khrushchev Triumphed.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Stopping urban sprawl to curb greenhouse gases

An environmental engineer at the University of Minnesota makes a good case that our spread-out, thinly populated suburbs are a major contributor to the carbon dioxide emissions that are blamed for global warming. Julian D. Marshall writes:
Compact urban form can cut on-road gasoline emissions, the largest segment (62%) of transportation CO2 in the United States. The transportation sector is the largest emitter (33%) of CO2, outpacing the residential, industrial, and commercial sectors. (Electricity generation, when totaled for all sectors, accounts for 41% of CO2 emissions.) Records of automobile usage (Figure 1) show an inverse relationship between population density and per capita daily vehicle-kilometers traveled (VKT) (4, 9).
You can read the rest in the journal Environmental Science & Technology.

Friday, May 02, 2008

Press freedom is a human right

May 3 is World Press Freedom Day

Thursday, May 01, 2008

Gas-tax cut not smart, not green

When I first heard someone suggest a summer holiday from the gas tax, I thought it was a lame attempt to placate those famous Orlando parking lots that pass as tourist attractions. Now Sens. Clinton and McCain are running with the idea, and I can't shrug it off.

Cutting the gas tax might be good for politicians but it would not be good for the country. Cutting the tax would encourage more driving just when some Americans are beginning to learn how to drive less. It's clear we need to drive less -- to ease our thirst for imported fuel, to lessen the greenhouse gases we throw into the air, to remake our cities as clusters of livable neighborhoods where job, home, school and play fit comfortably close together.

Now we learn from the Washington Post that some serious economists don't believe a gas-tax cut would even lower the price of fuel as the politicians claim it would. Students of the law of supply and demand have noticed that when something is scarce, and the tax on it is removed, suppliers simply raise the price back to about where it was with the tax included. You know how the pols scold big oil for its big profits? Well, a gas-tax cut would invite them back to the table for a second helping out of your purse and mine.

I'd rather the states and federal government kept collecting the tax, and used it not for more roads but for the energy-saving public transportation our cities need. That, in the long run, would be good for the country. What we need in the short run is personal sacrifice -- car-pooling and vacations close to home -- and less election-inspired foolery.

Here's another lame idea that's not much better than Clinton's and McCain's. Some Florida Republicans propose a tax break for commuters who drive. What, do those folks not read the newspaper? Driving is the problem, not the solution.