Thursday, August 31, 2006


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Frozen in Time and slowly dripping Drip Drip

Public Policy, Education, Economics, Human Welfare Issues, Health Care


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christin m p in massachusetts said...

Frozen in Time...

Christopher, that was a very creative way to look at it, because -- for all intents and purposes -- those issues have been frozen in time since Republicans took the reins.

Anonymous said...

I could not agree with you more.
These issues are quietly tearing away at the very fabric of American culture, all the while we try and change others...
The same TIME issue with the "Let there be light" article has an interesting article on the "improving" VA hospital nework and what it could eventually do to give credibility to socialized medicine vs private networks. I will not post it but by all means read it if you get the chance.

Your friend John G.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

"One of my college roomates was an education major. According to her, about half the class was there because they wanted to teach. The other half was there because it was the one major that didn't require algebra. We have a bunch of math phobes teaching our kids."

I'm watching 20/20 right now, and they're showing how in Belgium, parents can send their kids to any school they choose -- and not just one of the public schools -- then the tax money "follows" the child to that school. As a result, Belgian kids score much higher on the same standardized tests than U.S. kids do.

How do you all feel about that becoming a reality all across the U.S. -- complete school choice (public, private, charter schools, any district), with the tax money following the child?

Why should our public school system be a government monopoly? Monopolies foster mediocrity for higher prices.

Richard Yarnell said...

That was John Stossel's report. Talk about media bias: the man's a danger.

I didn't watch the report, I was screening the absolute worst production of Midsummer Night's Dream from BBC/Time-Life TV. If you ever have a chance do not rent from this series of the complete works. Helen Mirren (a very young Helen Mirren) was in it and the reason I ordered it. To give a hint how bad it was: there was no director listed in the credits.

Anyway, I digress, I did see the promo segment on GMA this morning. Stossels very conservative bias was showing.

I would guess that he did not report about the recent academic studies that show there is very little difference, on average, in the performance by Charter School students and public school students. That isn't to say there aren't outstanding charter schools, but then there are outstanding public one.

I'm not sure we should look overseas for evidence that one type of school is better than another. Rather, we should look at schools here at home where we burden the system with things that parents and cops should be taking care of.

I'm a hard core supporter of public schools. In order for them to succeed, we must fund them adequately so that they can teach, well, not only the core subjects, but all of those things that make a great civiliation: science, the arts, physical education (differentiated from sports), language from an early age when kids should be learning language, composition and all the electives that serve to broaden a kids exposure to the uses to which education can be put.

My objection to Charter schools is that they appear to be a dodge to get around the prohibition that public money cannot subsidize religious education. But it goes beyond that. Most charter schools I'm aware of have been founded by an interst group so that they can indoctrinate their kids with a particular bias.

Hire enough teachers at salaries that attract the best minds, support them with assistants, equipment, and good infrastructure, and I think we'll find that public schools will do fine and, in the bargain, become the engine that puts the American Dream back in the sights of every American kid.

Cheryl said...

School vouchers are an old favorite of Republicans. I don't think that they are a good idea.

Like Richard said, the study on charter schools showed that they weren't any better than public schools. They often cut out the extras like art and music to cut expenses. If you want to send your children to religious school, you should have to pay for it. The government has no business funding religion.

The purpose behind school vouchers is to pull money out of the public school system. Student left behind in the public schools are then left in pathetic schools.

I am in favor of retoring money to public universities. Anyone should be able to afford a college degree.

Judy B. said...

Christian.. I believe your statement "...then the tax money "follows" the child to that school..." has some problems...

In my community we have several private (church) schools. One of the reasons they are so popular is that they offer day-care and after school care along with them.

BUT... parents have to transport their kinds to the school, both ways... This kind of leaves out the families that don't have transportation.. So the working parents that have cars and money would get a double benefit.. the school of their choice (that they now pay for) and taxpayers paying thier way... The poor would be "stuck" with public education that is in the neighborhood, or provides bussing. So more money would be taken out of the public coffers to pay for the private schools and the poor would have to continue to rely on a system that cna't keep up financially...
In the long run, I think it makes education worse off...

christin m p in massachusetts said...

The tax money would have to include the transportation of the low-income and moderate-income families' kids to and from the schools outside their neighborhoods if they choose schools outside their neighborhoods.

Also, since times have changed, and most families have both parents working, all schools should require after-school programs. That way, we'd have no more latch-key kids and everyone would know that their school kids aren't going to get into any trouble between the hours of 2pm and 6pm. I've heard over and over throughout the years, that those hours -- the hours between the time school lets out and the time most working parents arrive home -- make up the time frame during which most juvenile crimes occur.

Everything we do to improve our society needs to begin with the stability of our homes and the security of our families.

Judy B. said...

"Everything we do to improve our society needs to begin with the stability of our homes and the security of our families."

I agree! And yet how can the taxpayer continue to fund all the good causes that come to mind...

Unfortunately, it is completely impractical and too expensive to bus every kid to the school of their choice...

Let's make neighborhood public schools the best that we can with the money that we have, rather than try to come up with more money to fund private schools and bussing.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

First of all, proponents of it say we would actually save money, because our education funds would be allocated more efficiently.

And why not look to other countries for solutions? If this policy has been implemented so successfully in Belgium, I don't see why it would be impractical in the U.S. What is the difference?

Cheryl said...

How can it be more efficient to send kids every which way to school? Then there's the advertising costs to convince parents that this school is the best. The only way charter schools can be more efficient is to cut out extras like art, PE, and music.

Private schools sometimes spend less for each student because they limit who can attend. Disabled or problem children can be treated as not worth the trouble. Public schools have to accomodate every student.

It's good to look at other ways of doing things, but I'm sure that there are many differences between our school system and Belgium's. It's unlikely that the difference is that simple.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Although I don't have any kids myself, I know that if I did, I would want them to go to the best schools available in the area -- whether they be private schools, superior public schools in nearby suburbs, parochial or other religion-based schools, charter schools... I believe that a ten-dollar per hour retail store clerk's children deserve to have the same opportunities as a governor's or congressman's children have.

I even believe that home schoolers should receive tax funding, if they can meet rigorous standards and if their children/students excel.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

I don't usually pay any mind to which political party favors or disfavors a particular idea or policy. And although I would be personally insulted if anyone were to think I'm Republican -- and mortified if they thought I was Libertarian, I don't think of myself as a Democrat per se -- I just happen to agree with more of the policies that the Democratic Party embraces. As for the Independent party, I think it's ridiculous that it's called Independent, since what it really stands for is the candidate who can't get the endorsement of his chosen party. Last time I registered to vote, I listed myself as Unenrolled, and that's the way I'll always think of myself. If I had my way, there would be no political parties -- everyone would run for office on an individual platform.

I hope that I can still belong to this blog group, though. I do agree with the vast majority of the principles that all of you stand for.

I'm anti-war, except in the case of defending our own citizens or our allies if we or they are under attack. I'm pro-choice and for stem cell research. I'm for gay marriage. I'm for development and production of renewable energy technologies and cleaning up our environment, as well as strict regulations for keeping it clean. I'm for complete transparency and accessibility of government, especially our right to know where and how every last tax dollar is being spent, and of course, our right to have a say in where and how it is spent. I believe that there should be no contingency riders on bills. I believe that the top one percent absolutely must be made to carry its fair share of the weight. I'm for national health insurance (except I don't want one thin dime to go to the big pharma company drug pushers). I'm for strict enforcement of workers' rights and safety regulations in industry.

Of course, I have my own personal agenda too. I want strict nationwide usury laws. I want any and all types of adjustable rate mortgages as well as variable interest rates and user fees on credit cards to be outlawed, as I think that low, fixed-rate loans are the only way the average worker has any chance of staying within a reasonable budget. I want rent costs to be left entirely to the supply/demand free market, and for all present rental subsidy monies to be diverted toward helping low- to moderate-income earners purchase their own homes instead. And since I think all children are equally deserving of the chance to excel, I would like to work toward promoting school choice and after-school programs for all.

There's one other thing I want to promote, but it's something that wouldn't be controlled by government. I'd like to see an anti-consumerism movement (using tools such a and doing word of mouth advertising for the "good-guy" businesses) in order to undermine marketing con artists, and to put all price-gougers in their place (in poverty hell).

Judy B. said...

That's a long list of things that you "want".. And i prettymuch agree with them....
The difference between you and me is that I understand that the market place drives the economy, and the economy drives what is and is not accomplished....and it isn't all about government providing everthing...
We must remember that WE are the government, and WE includes those who do not agree with us. So rather than bang my head against a wall on things where there is not concensus (nor likely to be for some time), I would rather join the fight for things that are building consensus.... The environment, net neutrality, health care are examples...
The education agenda is so fragmented that I have little hope in reaching consensus...

Judy B. said...

That is not to say that you shouldn't work on educational issues... I would just hope that you would do it with a little more realistic approach. Quite frankly, I will fight the taking my taxpayer money to provide for private schools....
I still believe in separation of church and state, and the VAST majority of private schools are church schools...
I do not come from a know-nothing position about school funding... I worked for years on budget advisory committes for the local school district, chaired school levies to raise more money than the state provided for the benefit of our schools, was a member of curriculum advisory committee to come up with ways to provide for the needs of ALL our students... and the list goes on about my involvenment in educational needs. I was awarded the Golden Acorn award from the state PTA, and was named the most influencial citizen by the local Education Association...
But more important than all of that is my role as a parent... I know first hand the problems that parents and kids face within and out of the educational system...
I guess what I am trying to say is get involved at the local level, find out the problems and help find common sense solutions that a majority of the people will support...

Richard Yarnell said...

Would you agree that where a concensus regarding the direction school organization and funding should take is lacking, that it's premature to give up the tax supported model of free schools for everyone?

I remind you that two of my three kids attended priave schools in NY and that my oldest switched to a public school when I started high school. He hated the attitudes of his privileged classmates. Considering he wasn't on scholarship, I was forever grateful. I thought his high school experience was the best of the three.

My own bias is that we can't afford to have two classes of students. I firmly believe that's the intention of those who want subsidiezed religious and ideologically biased charter schools.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

For the short term, even having a choice among area public schools would be a huge improvement. Some people of means do choose to send their kids to their local public schools -- not to save money, but because those communities' public schools have proven records of excellence. As would be expected, those public schools are in our wealthiest communities.

So, if someone from one of the towns with an inferior public school system wanted to send their kids to -- say, Weston schools or Sudbury schools or Concord-Carlisle schools... I don't see why they shouldn't have that option -- especially at the elementary school level.

I also think it would force their own towns' and cities' schools to raise academic standards and to scout for the best teachers -- those for whom teaching is not just "something to fall back on until they get the job they really want."

Cheryl said...

This would be a boring blog if we all completely agreed on everything. Discussion is good.

Despite the fact that my kids go to Catholic schools, I am against school vouchers. That's our choice and we shouldn't be able to pull funds out of the public school system.

On a historical note, after integration, a lot of white parents pulled their kids out of public schools. Soon afterwards, few people wanted to support public school funding. The quality of public schools went down fast. We need all of our schools to be good in order for democracy to work.

Besides, more expensive is not always better education. I've never understood what to do with published test scores from a school. If a school can be selective about its students, the average will go up. Just because the school average is good, it doesn't mean that my child will do better there. Not to mention my problem with standardized tests. Kids need to learn how to think, not parrot back facts they don't understand.

As for long lists, I have a long list too. It's hard to place one important issue over another, so I end up flitting from one to another.

deb said...

We can't compare our schools to any of the northern EU schools. Their approach is so much more realistic. They realize that there is so much more to a child than reading, writing and arithmetic. All of them get the same basic education through 8th grade, at which time they separate into groups; those headed for college into a group and subgroups include arts and music; those who plan to be farmers, mechanics, warehouse workers, office workers, etc. go to high schools that actually train them for a job in their fields and at graduation they are assisted into job that they are trained for. They also can take a "gap" year after high school with their job waiting for them when they return from (usually) travels. They typically attend high school until 19 or 20 if they choose or fall into (via test scores) the non-college curriculum.

The ones who do not score high enough on tests to attend college prep school can continue to try for it if that is their desire, and can even attend a university if they score high enough to get in after high school.

Kids can achieve in each field of endevor in EU schools. We, on the other hand, label kids as "A", "B", "C", students or as failures. If they are extremely talented artists or mechanics but "C" students in the 3 R's their failures are more noticed and notable than their talents.

As y'all have noted, there is a long list of what needs to be done for this country, so revamping our entire school system is not high on my list, but it does need doing.

FYI: I attended public schools, and was not a very good student. I had to work for teaching degrees in college. My kids attended public schools, but I made sure that anything they were missing in school was taught at home.

I believe that we cannot, as a nation, afford to give vouchers for private schools and we must improve our public schools. Parent education would go a long way toward improving our school system. I would like to see videos given to all new parents in the hospital and then given out at each baby check-up. As a kindergarten teacher I had kids who could read simple books on the first day of school and those who didn't know their colors.

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

I am also of the opinion that sending money and kids in a hundred different directions in the hope that kids get a better education is foolish.

If family is the focus the transportation issue can conflict with that because it will eat into time. It will also disrupt a sense of community when the neighborhood kids all go to different schools.

Schools have been in the past the main americanizing influence in a nation of immigrants. It is the children more than their parents who become fully acclimated. Private schools won't have to accept kids with different first languages.

If there is a true will in this nation to have better education than that energy should be focused on the existing infrastucture instead of privatising and adding in a profit motive and building a whole new system. That will further the class divide in this country.

I was thinking on this today and I see Deb got to it before me, but I think one key to improvement in our schools is seperating the kids by ability at a very early age. The kids who can and want to learn will not be stifled by the disruptive or the special needs kids. I don't see this as complete segregation. They will all be in the same school and even have common classes, but by the third or fourth grade I think kids are capable of moving to different rooms for each period or subject which will aid in this process.

Classes where kids are good and learning can be larger and classes where kids need more attention can be smaller.

Some of this may not sound PC but if we are slowing down the smarter kids to include the slower ones then we are doing ourselves a major disservice. And you know what, expulsion should be a viable option. Kids who can not or will not behave in an appropriate manner can be shipped to a special school on the far side of town or their parents can pay their own money to send them to a private school.

Because we have so many single parent homes or both parents working, after school programs should be at all schools as an option.

I went to Catholic schools 1-8 and public for highschool. The Catholic school kids on average where further ahead because there was strict discipline and you were there to learn. You did your home work or there were consequences. The focus was education and not warehousing or baby sitting kids.

We need to seperate those two functions of our public schools.

Cheryl said...

I have mixed feelings about separating kids too early based on skills.

On the one hand its good to challenge every student. Good students can get bored. Slower students can get frustrated.

On the other hand, some students start slow but get better. I don't like the idea of closing options that early in life. There's a lot to be learned by students helping each other.

My school divided us into two classes based on abiltiy around 4th grade. Despite the adults best effors, we refered to them as the smart class and the dumb class. Average students were randomly put in one class or the other. A friend of mine was placed in the dumb class. Her parents got her moved after a couple of years. She had a really hard time catching up.

On the other hand there are different types of intelligence. Kids with artistic or manual skills should be able to be proud of their abilities.

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

Cheryl I don't see this as a drastic or severe form of seperation by abilities more like a removal of the opposite ends of a normal bell curve of kids learning abilities. A,B,C students who pass will all be in the same classes. The D+F students will be directed to more specialized attention in the subjects were they lag behind. The really brainy kids could have one or two periods a day directed towards them.They would have common classes were their abilities and success intersect. A math dummy might be a language and music whiz.

It is more about recognizing the individual and their differences and gearing the system to that, than a one size fits all standardized test approach that we now have.

I think this would make it easier for the teachers too when the kids are all on the same basic page for each class and they aren't struggling with disipline or neglecting or the opposite, spending too much time trying to get the slower ones caught up.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

So far, Christopher agrees that there should be after school programs available at all U.S. schools. Does everyone else agree on that?

The reason all of this is so important to me is that I have one nephew who will be 13 years old soon, and will be starting high school in an inner-city school. He's a very well-behaved and thoughtful kid, and my brother and sister-in-law don't want him to be exposed to the same negative influences that their two older boys were, so they want to send him to the superior public high school in the neighboring suburb where my Mom lives. But that is not yet an option. My brother doesn't have fond memories of Catholic school, so that's out of the question. And all the private schools are way too expensive for them to afford.

On top of that, my brother and sister-in-law both have to work massive hours to meet their mortgage payments and property taxes, and they don't like the idea of Ben coming home to an empty house, even though at 13 years old, he'll be old enough to take care of himself. Still, they worry -- so an after-school program for him would ease their anxieties greatly.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

I'd also appreciate it if you would ask Patty what her thoughts are on all of this, since she's an elementary school teacher.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

In John Stossel's report on 20/20, they showed how so many people were desperate to get their kids into schools in the better districts, that they would list false home addresses. In one community, the practice is so rampant, that a school official actually has to go door-to-door every year to verify that the addresses are the actual home addresses of the children enrolled in their schools.

Judy said...

As unreasonable as it may soound, Christin, I think a 13 year old who was put into an after school "day-care" situation whould be laughed at, and possibly bullied..
There are other solutions....peopel just have to get creative...

Just throwing money at a situation does not necessarily improve the situation... As it is now, schools in financially poor sections of a community can and do get extra money for their schools. These extra monies can be used for a variety of things, including before and after school care, breakfast and lunch and after school snaks for kids, extra classroom aides, smaller classes, and the list goes on...
The way to make sure that your school is getting what you pay for is by getting involved at the local level...
Run for school board,... even if you do not get elected, you can raise issues that need to be addressed...

By the way, I am glad that the majority of you who had the "advantage" of private schooling, do not think that takpayer money should be used to fund them (private schools).

Judy said...

Since we do not have a Water thread, I will post this under ICE...drip..drip..
Just wondering how/if the hurricane/tropicalstorm affected you Easterners???

Richard Yarnell said... little time...

People have been listing false addresses to get their kids into public schools of their choice for a long time....

Way back when, we had after hours child care at the public school. It took the form of clubs: Ham Radio Club, French Club, Chess Club, and simming practice, cheerleader practice, Student government meetings, etc.

Having been married to a special ed teacher (visually handicapped) whose job it was to provide materials both to the kids and for the teachers so that the blind kids could be "mainstreamed," I hae a bias against segregation by ability.

That does not mean that as kids mature, they shouldn't be given the opportunity to select some of the classes they attend, but if you put the dumb ones in the dumb class to early, you reduce the chances that a kid who has not had much help at home and comes in to the public school setting behind developmentally, will even try to catch up. I much prefer providing remedial classes and tutors. We did that back in Fallbrook (a small rural school with extraordinary teachers and a far-sighted, Republican, school board president (my Dad) who hired one of the first superintendants to have a PhD in school administration. Kids are competetive. By keeping the "slow" ones with their peers, most were prompted to catch up, with help from tutors and remedial (mostly reading) classes and then to strut their stuff in regular classes. The slowest guy in my class and one of the physically least attractive, nowdays a candidate for a place under the bridge, struggled to graduate, but did. He owns his own trucking company in partnership with his daughter whom he worked very hard to keep in school. The pair of them have been successful over the years. When I told my dad what Tommy had managed to do, he allowed that it was the goal from the beginning.

I don't think having everyone mixed together in the fundamental classes hurt anyone. Eventually, those who could, advanced through the language courses at their own rate, took advanced math, composition, and other more specialized courses as their interest led them to do. But the general courses were designed for everyone. I can only judge the success of the model by the fact that in our rural school, over 85% of the HS graduates in my class went on to either Community College or College. It's probably higher than that since those were placements immediately after graduation.

We also had a full plate of technical classes. Even though I was in the College Bound Track, I took my share of ag mechanics, and shop courses. I also started a bit of a trend when I took a cooking class. I was the only boy that first year but it was an integrated class after that. I recall one guy who intended to run his own farm management company, spent most of his time in that department. However, he had an abiding interest in history and enrolled and excelled in all of the history classes that were offered.

It's possible to discourage kids who can and often will succeed in school just by putting them in a dumb class for the convenience of the teachers. It demonstrates an apalling attitude to the more gifted kids (who, in my school, from 3rd grade on, were expected to help the kids who were having a tough time. Nothing in the world cements one's understanding more than to explain a concept to someone else.)

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

The one thing I read into the school you went to Richard was that it was a Small Rural Community school. My grade school was also small, eight grades with 300 kids at the most.

Schools these days are 2000 kids and up. It makes a big difference. I don't disagree with you and Cheryl, like I said it is about removing the extreme ends of the bell curve.

I just think progress for the most kids which means control and discipline of the class should take precedence over mainstreaming fewer of them. In the absence of enough human resources which can make class sizes way too big I think it is even more important. If there were 2 to 3 teachers per room I'd be more ok with less segregation by ability.

Cheryl said...

A high school student doesn't need the same kind of supervision as a younger child. In some ways, they need more. It was a problem for us when our son started high school. After school care doesn't need to be as structured as grade school, but we do need someplace safe and supervised for them to go.

As Richard mentioned, clubs and sports will help some. Our son goes to the school library to work on homework (or read, or surf the net) until closing. Sometimes they close early, but we're lucky enough to be able to bring him to the office if we need to.

A bigger problem is finding supervised activities during school breaks. There aren't many all day programs for kids over 12.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

The small neighborhood middle school that my nephew has been attending is great. My brother's family lives in one of the better sections of the city, so the kids Ben has been going to school with so far are pretty good kids. The problem is going to be when he has to start high school, because that's when he's going to be mixed in with the kids from some of the bad neighborhoods.

I don't understand why each neighborhood can't have its own small public high school, just as is the case with the elementary schools and middle schools. Instead, the public high school kids there are all thrown together into one of only two high schools. One is a junior/senior high school for grades 7 through 12, and the other for grades 9 through 12.

Years ago, when my brother and sister-in-law were house hunting, they found a house in the same suburb my Mom lives in, which at that time, they would have been able to afford (prices have since quadrupled there). But that particular house was very small, and the house they did end up buying in the city, is a tall pretty Victorian with many larger rooms. The neighborhood itself is good, so they thought they'd be all set. For whatever reason, they didn't look ten years into the future to take into account that their kids would have to attend an inferior public high school.

They now regret not having made their home purchase according to the truism "location, location, location..."

christin m p in massachusetts said...

There has also been talk of having the school year extended through the summer. Advocates argue that the schedule for the present school year -- with summers off -- was drawn up back in the days when most families made their living through farming. Back then, they needed schools to let their kids out for the summer, so that the kids could help with the farm work.

Parents have so much stress as it is, and a lot of them either can't get flex time or they need to work overtime or second jobs just to meet their families' basic expenses.

I don't think that's too much to ask for the school day and school year to be extended.

And the cost is no excuse. Let's just take the money our so-called "representatives" are wasting on pork barrel projects, and on the massacre in Iraq, and on oil subsidies, ad infinitum -- and use that money on something that will benefit the people who actually earned the tax money in the first place.

Richard Yarnell said...

There are some positive reasons for running the schools year round that are exclusively related to money:

Schools are an expensive capital asset. Why aren't we using them year round. Even if it's decided that there's value to giving kids time off, run them an a quarter system with the minimum number of quarters attended per year to be three.

Trickier with teachers: time off is valuable. Fallbrook used a sabatical system - at least a full semester off every seven years in addition to the summers. Let them teach full time if they want but the require a semester off periodically for additional training, travel, etc.

It is true that the original summers off schedule was related to the family farm in a predominantly agrarian economy. In Portland, money has shortened the school year and the school day even more and has virtually eliminated some valuable and successful classes and activities. But the football teams still hit the field!

Richard Yarnell said...

Not that small. The HS had 900 kids in it when I graduated. The Elementary/JHS system was proportionally larger. We imported kids from Camp Pendleton, the Pala Reservation, and some smaller communities that could not support schools on their own.

We just had good people. One of the best, our librarian who had a Doctorate in Library Science and an MA as a teacher. The teachers loved to teach, were well educated, and worked for a great administration.

After my sister graduated and my dad quit the board, they let the superintenant get away. He went to work in 29 Stumps (29 Palms) and took about 15 of the best teachers with him.

Judy B. said...

There is room for agreement and disagreement in the last few posts...I agree that we should INSIST on year round school. But probably on a rotation system within the school district... Major maintenence, remodeling projects, etc are best done when the weather is good, meaning the schoold should be closed down then.

I pushed for year round school in our district for years, and they finally selected two of the Title ! schools to try it out. It ran very successfully for several years, but then when they couldn't get citizen support to add the other schools to the schedule, they recently brought the year round schools back to be insinc with all the other schools...

It is a nightmare for parents to try to coordinate schedules with kids in an elementary yer round school with their siblings in who are following a traditional 9 month schedule...

For that reason, I would recommend that in a big district, all of the elementary schools and middle schools that feed into one high school go into the year round plan together...

It seems that it is the extra curricular schedules that cause the most problems. For instance, High schools on a year roound schedule would have to be able to flex the required attendance to allow Johnny to be in school during football season, etc...

Cheryl said...

Raleigh has year round schools as an option. There is a waiting list to get in. Students get assigned to one of four tracks. They attend school for 9 weeks on, the a 3 week break. A new track starts up every 3 weeks, so at any given time 3/4 of the students are in school, and 1/4 are on break.

It's very popular. There was a problem after a big ice storm. Schools were closed for a while. Since they couldn't add days to the calendar, they added half days on Saturdays. The biggest problem with the system is that there is no guarantee that all children in a family will be assigned to the same track.

Judy B. said...

Good for Raleigh...
That schedule seems to be the most common ... it is what the two school here were on...
With that schedule there is still a pretty long summer break that everyone gets at the same time.. maybe four that is helpful for vaction...
As I said befor ,we as taxpayers must insist that our education infrastructure is used to the max... first for educational purposes, and then for community purposes...
Our cities and school districts enter in to multiple use agreements so that the parks/recreation departments of the cities can use school gyms, playgrounds, and some class rooms for after school activities and for summer purposes...
By not duplicating buildings, this saves the taxpayer a lot of money.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

If the school day is to be extended, I like the idea of letting the full-time teachers keep their 6.25 hour work day, and adding part-time teachers to cover the additional 3 or so hours of afternoon classroom time. My Mom taught second grade (she has a B.A. in Elementary Education) while she was pursuing her Master's in Counseling Psychology. I remember as a teenager, seeing her after school working on lesson plans and correcting the students' homework. I think teachers would be too drained if they had to spend a full forty-hour work week in the classroom, since they have to work so many additional hours at home.

In the case where a full-time teacher calls out of work for illness, the part-time teacher could sub for the full day.

dan said...

Longer school years have merit but there are some hurdles to overcome. In Detroit and I suspect many large urban school districts, the buildings are multi-story, uninsulated and without air conditioning. By mid-May the heat is often so overpowering that the students can't focus on anything else. The south side of the buildings are even worse.

Some districts did extend the school year by starting classes back up by mid August. The legislature (Republican majority, BTW) caved in to the travel industry lobby and passed a law forbidding schools to open until after Labor Day. Educating children is a much lower priority than the steady flow of campaign money.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Then maybe what is needed first is for all the schools to convert to renewable energy sources, so that once the installation and materials are paid off, they'll be able to use air conditioning at low or no cost.

As for that other more exasperating roadblock -- Why am I not surprised that the travel industry hookers stooped so low...

I'm telling you, it's driving me more and more to dig my heels into my anticonsumerism stance.

Judy B. said...

Yes Dan... you pointed out some major obstacles to year round schools. An alternative is to have a summer school option in those schoolds that have been retrofitted for climate/weather problems...
The summer school option can be used to help students who are falling behind, to give students opportunitues for studies that not offered frequently, to give kids a different summer option... etc.
It would cost 10's of millions of dollard to bring all the schools (in Detroit) up to standards for summer school, but hopefully there can be a start...

Richard Yarnell said...

From what I've read bout many Detroit schools, for that matter many inner city schools around the country, including NYC, is that they need to be rehabed anyway, to eliminate asbestos, leaks, and all kinds of dangerous situations.

Whenever a community sees fit to provide habitable, user friendly schools, it should be a priority to provide buildings that can be used year round.

dan said...

Yes the Detroit schools need major improvements and the voters have funded major bond issues to do that. It's just that there's never enough money to modernize more than a few schools and the tax base keeps shrinking. The average age of school buildings in Detroit is 80+ yrs so it's a major problem. Our poorest, neediest students have the worst possible facilities, and the most expensive to operate. Their education is suffering from that and large class sizes and no solution is in sight. I'm sure other urban school districts are in the same boat.

Judy B. said...

Dan do those schools that have been "modernized" have summer school offerings???

dan said...

Judy, for most schools, the improvements were to upgrade the plumbing and electrical. They did build a small number of new schools and Patty does think those are heavily used in the summer.

deb said...

I am always glad when famous people stand up and speak out for the right things. In this case equal rights for all:

Brad Pitt: I'll marry when everyone can

PS: I was never terribly fond of Brad...just changed my opinion.

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

Oh Please, he'll marry when everyone can. That is just an attention grabbing major cop out for a guy who doesn't want to get married. That is more humorous than serious. And I still like him.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Since we're on the subjects of gay marriage and marriage phobia, I thought this would be a good time to ask a question I have that relates to both.

Christopher, since I can't ask complete strangers this question, I hope it's okay to ask you. Do you think that marriage phobia or commitment phobia, when it occurs in gay men has more to do with the "social acceptability" factor, or do you think the reasons for the phobia are the same for gay men as for heterosexual men? I'm thinking here of typical reasons such as the man fearing losing his personal autonomy, or fearing having to work too hard to cooperate with a long-term partner or spouse...

The issue of gay marriage is a tough one for me. I am in favor of it in principle, as I do believe that all adults have the same fundamental right to marry. But the part of it that's hard for me is something I don't think most people would understand. I hope all of you in this group will understand, though.

Most of the hobbies that I -- and a lot of other women enjoy are ones that heterosexual guys tend not to like. Sometimes they will suffer through them, just to please their wives or girlfriends, but that's not a very happy picture. I'd rather be alone than be with someone who doesn't enjoy the same leisure activities I do. I don't know if I'm just stereotyping, but it appears to me that gay men like most of the hobbies that I like. Anyway, sometimes it just feels unfair -- like some of us women lose out.

I'm thinking right now of Edwin Markham, the man who wrote the poem "Outwitted". That's a love poem he wrote to a man -- I think it was back in the 1800's. Yet, he was married three times to women. I suppose that might be the reason the first two marriages didn't work out. But in the old days, some gay men were pretty content to be married to and accompany women.

Anyway, I guess what I'm trying to get across here is that I do want gay men to have the right to marry one another, because it is right. But on a "gut" emotional level, I have to admit that sometimes I struggle with feelings of envy and loneliness about it.

Richard Yarnell said...

Should have asked me about gay marriage.

My ex-wife's best friend was a gay teacher who was also an excellent pianist. The three of us shared quite a few interests. I think she enjoyed his company for that, the fact that he was charming, and also that he was not a threat to our relationship.

Back in the 19th century and even up to fairly recent times, being gay was not socially acceptable. I don't know, but I suspect that at least the first of Markham's marriages were arranged and that all of them were primarily contractual. "What's love got to do with it." Marrying for love is a relatively recent phoenomenon.

Many of my gay friends had or have long term relationships. Those in the theatre and other arts, those who had no qualms about being known as gay or even gay couples, would very much like to be married, but not for love - that was already cemented. They wanted and needed the rights accorded to married couples.

With respect to marriage phobia - I'd say it occurs in about the same proportions among gay or straight men. And most men outgrow it.

Among gay women, I can't say how many have wanderlust. But the first gay female couple I knew, were still together when Miss Golden died at age 93. While it was generally frowned on for men to live together in a household, women could get away with it. Ms Golden, who might or might not have been pleased to have been known as gay or lesbian, died in 1960. I didn't realize they were a couple until many years later and remembered seeing them more than once with arms around each other and in other, fairly intimate, postures. I asked my father whether he knew - he had no idea what I was talking about.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

These are the last questions about this I'll ask here, since I know we're supposed to stick to politics. It's just that I don't often get the chance to ask these questions from people who know more about the subject than I do.

Within your circle of friends, have you ever known a heterosexual woman who found herself being physically and emotionally drawn more toward a gay man than toward any heterosexual men? I mean, some gay men are just as masculine in the positive sense of the term, as heterosexual men are. So I'm thinking it probably makes sense that such a scenario would happen from time to time, especially since along with the attractive physical attributes, gay men tend to have other non-physical traits that are more appealing to a lot of women than those of the more typical heterosexual male.

I hope you don't think this is a ridiculous question, because I'm very serious about it -- Did any of your gay male acquaintances ever meet a woman who changed his mind about his sexual orientation?

Is that really a myth that if a man is gay, he just hasn't met the right woman yet?

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

What Richard said and

Christina if you are thinking even crazily by admission that preventing gay men from marrying is going to increase the pool of eligible mates for you that is indeed wishful thinking. The culture has moved on from that. You don't mention gay women but with that line of reasoning allowing gay women to marry would remove female competition and leave more eligible men for you.

The poet Edwin Markham may or may not have been gay. He was not a successful husband by his record. If he was gay I have to wonder how contented his wives might have really been. The notion of "gay" is also a fairly new social construct. Back then it was more normal and common for men to have close and strong affectionate ties with each other. There has been much speculation about Abraham Lincoln for similar letters he wrote to a male friend. Part of that may be from the more flowery language of the time that we now read other things into.

There was more physical closeness as far as touching back then, but this did not necessarily lead to sex. This physical contact between heterosexual men is still normal in other cultures, which is why our president was seen holding hands and skipping down the path in Crawford with the Saudi royalty not so long ago.

Gay people want the right to marry as Richard has said for the contractual benefits that come with that.

Currently there is significantly less pressure on gay men than heterosexual men to marry. Men being what they are it is just harder to get two men to settle down together and I think there are far fewer percentage wise gay men in stable relationships than straight men.

The most conservative and family values thing for our society to do would be to start expecting and pressuring gay men to settle down and marry (other men of course). That really sends the message that marriage as an institution is highly valued.

Richard Yarnell said...

I think my wife was physically attracted to our pianist/teacher friend. He was a hunk. However, he was also HIV positive, although on successful early maintenance regime.

To my knowledge, no. However, there really are bisexuals out there. How you classify them, I don't know. Because of my age, quite a few of my homosexual friends admitted rather late that that was their makeup. By that time, they'd dated, some had even married. Their discomfort as well as the attraction to other men led them to discover their true makeup.

I don't think my wide, but still relatively small sample, should allow me to generalize.

I'm a raving heterosexual who happens to have an artistic and sensitive side. I was popular among the gay men and women with whom I worked. Those who knew me well didn't hit on me. Those who did, usually didn't know me and were no different than the cads whose aim in life is to make lots of notches in their belt by seducing as many women as they can.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

I don't like the idea of preventing gay men from marrying, but I think there is some element of wishful thinking involved. I guess it's just that I find that I'm instantly bored by the majority of heterosexual males. It seems like the rare exceptions -- the more sensitive ones and the ones who aren't interested in boring team sports, and who truly enjoy activities like live theater, ballets, antique shopping, homemaking, sharing personal experiences, etc. -- are very married. The funny thing is, those are the ones that seem to be the most likely to seek extramarital affairs. It's almost as if they like women too much. Of course, I want someone of my own -- I have no interest in seeing married men, however charming and gentle-mannered they might be.

Since more gay men have the characteristics I'm looking for in a potential husband, and most of them are not married (yet), I guess sometimes my thinking about them just gets unrealistic -- like "Maybe if I wish hard enough, one of the good ones will change his mind and become attracted to women -- namely me."

If there are eligible bi-sexual men out there -- I think that not having the option of marrying another man probably would make them more likely to choose a woman as a marriage partner, since they're just as attracted to women as they are to men, and they wouldn't have to face the same social struggles.

But I still know in principle it would be wrong not to allow gay marriage for the purpose of perceived personal advantage -- or for that matter, for any reason.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

"Men being what they are it is just harder to get two men to settle down together and I think there are far fewer percentage wise gay men in stable relationships than straight men."

"I was popular among the gay men and women with whom I worked. Those who knew me well didn't hit on me. Those who did, usually didn't know me and were no different than the cads whose aim in life is to make lots of notches in their belt by seducing as many women as they can."

Those two sets of statements back up what I've always observed -- whether heterosexual, homosexual, or bi-sexual -- a man is a man. Monogamy seems to be very difficult for the majority of them.

I've noticed the same commonality among women I've worked with. No matter what their sexual orientation, women tend to prefer a monogamous relationship over serial dating. Generally when women cheat, it is because they are emotionally starved by their husbands, and not because they get turned on by "variety" -- as seems to be more the case with cheating men and men who won't commit at all.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

I got this from the Common Dreams link -- the "Average Slice of Prosperity Is Thin" article by John Young:

"Does America have any options other than policies that make the comfortable even more so? Yes.

For one thing, America can revisit its tax structure. The tax code could take a bigger bite out of the more outlandish compensation packages, such as stock options, and go less heavily on workers' wages.

One option: Change the Social Security-Medicare payroll tax, now 15.3 percent, split between employee and employer. A regressive device, it applies only to the first $94,200 of pay. Burtless says one option would be to lift the cap on the employer's side, taxing all compensation. This would bring those perks and stock options into the mix and create a disincentive. Then we could reduce the payroll tax for the man on the street. Presto. More take-home pay.

Or we could do what we do now: Stay the course. Trust Wall Street, Wal-Mart, McDonald's and the military-industrial complex. Prosperity, prosperity. Read all about it.

How can we accomplish this? Are there any candidates for Congress who would actually promote this?

Right now, the only power I have over big business is to play "keep away" with my money. It's incredibly easy (and fun) for me to do that, because I have zero lust for wastefully expensive luxuries. The way I look at it is this: As long as they insist on trying to squeeze too much money out of me, I just won't give them any at all.

I hope my sometimes "uncultured" way of expressing my views doesn't offend anyone here, but I just have to make this statement to all the promoters of big business -- even if they may never read it:

Money-lickers suck! I am the most un-hypnotizable person you'll ever meet. SO GET THIS AND GET IT GOOD -- YOU F***ING JOKE: Spare me your laughable half-attempts at persuading me to spend, spend, spend "to keep the economy afloat". That's the lie you fed everyone after 9/11. Some people were gullible enough to eat it too. All that foolish wasteful spending managed to do was to feed all you gluttonous, lazy pigs by increasing the values of your stock portfolios. You say the economy is great -- It sure is for all of you who live off of us wage slaves!


Any political candidate who promotes big business will not get my vote from here on out -- even if that includes some Democrats. In fact, now that I know Bill Clinton promoted big business, I don't think I'm going to be smiling the next time I see him on the news.

Likewise, any political candidate who promotes rent subsidies will not get my vote -- even if that, too, includes some Democrats (like John Edwards, who promoted rent subsidies on a massive scale in Chicago -- I read it at his own site). As I've said before, rental subsidies only hurt working people by encouraging landlords to over-inflate all their rents -- even unsubsidized ones. Also, those funds are not helping renters to become homeowners, so they'll always be at the mercy of the rental market. In the meantime, the Jaguar-driving landlords are making out royally.

If, on the other hand, someone like John Edwards would drastically change his housing policy by diverting those funds toward helping all the wage slaves to buy our own homes (primary residences only) at reasonable purchase prices and with traditional low-interest fixed-rate mortgages only, then I absolutely would vote for him. That would be my idea of a progressive Democrat!

Promoting small businesses -- along with enabling more people to purchase our own homes, while at the same time HEAVILY taxing land rents and all royalties, are the only ways we can get the slices of the pie we -- NOT they -- earned with our labor and the precious time we have to give up every day at our jobs.

Judy B. said...

Chrisin...I am sorry that you have suffered from the men in your life, and from all the other people who have seemingly done you injustices, but I would prefer it if you didn't use this board to try to get back at them... at least with the choice of language you just used..

I sometimes wish that I could be there to support you when you lash out. I know you are hurting... I AM sending you love...

Cheryl said...

It does get frustrating and feel hopeless sometimes. All we have are our votes. That includes that way we choose to spend, or not spend, our money. One of these days enough people will wake up.

I'm in a simillar position, but from a different side. I did all the "right" things. College degree in engineering, went to work, did a good job. I have over twenty years of experience, and I get paid like someone barely out of school. Which is why the outsourcing and insourcing are big issues for me. I've also seen the relative rewards for skill, hard work, and brown nosing. Since I can't stomach the brown nosing, I'm not very good at office politics.

Gardening is a good release for me. It feels good to rip those weeds out of the ground. (This is not an offer to weed anyone else's garden, mine is more than I can handle.) Besides, it feels great to walk past aisles in the grocery because I have better stuff in my backyard.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

I can't see which part of my 5:02 am post had anything to do with personal anything. Everything there has to do with injustices on a nationwide scale. What it said is that I will never fall for big business' lies to keep on spending, to supposedly keep the economy afloat for all of us. It is only to line their pockets.

Also, all the men in my own life have been wonderful. In the one case where things didn't work out, there was no injustice involved. Every single male relative and friend of mine, without exception, has always been kind, fair-minded and gentle-mannered. That is why my standards are so high that I won't settle for less than the best. What I said is that typical males are boring to me. As far as their philandering, that's for their wives to worry about, but I'm just not interested in their type.

The most important message I wanted to get across last night, though, is that big business, and anyone who thinks it is okay to have "more than enough", even if that means depriving others of having "just enough" is gluttonous. Is that not true?

christin m p in massachusetts said...

You yourself have said more than once at this board, that big business IS the answer to some of our country's problems. For the life of me, I can't see how big business benefits the masses.

Richard Yarnell said...

There is a place for "big business." The machine you're working at right now is a product of a very large business. At some point, innovation is either financed or promoted by large companies.

The problem is how big business is run and what it's goals are. The stock market is approached not as a means of investing but rhather as a place to roll the dice. The market drives corporations to strive for short term results.

If we could figure out a way to get management to work on long term results, it would cultivate and train its workers, keep them in the company, considering them as assets.

As it is now, corporations truly are operating in a global economy. the size, power, as influence of corporations is unprecedented and will probably continue to grow.

Reminds me of a James Coburn "Comedy" (President's Analyst?)in which, at the end, it turns out that ATT is running everything.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

I'm going to have to check out that James Coburn movie...

As for the machine I'm working at right now -- I probably wouldn't miss it if I didn't need to use it to try to undo the damage that big business has done.

Richard, since you have had around eighteen or so more years to observe activity on this planet than I have, and since I get the impression that you, like myself, have had to rely on your own earned wages and salaries from the dog eat dog work world, I tend to rely heavily on your opinions on matters related to workers' issues and the imbalance of wealth between workers and their overlords, and the imbalance between the few who own all the intellectual and other property "rights" and the people who are forced to give them those unearned royalties.

Looking back to the years before around 1983-1984, when housing was only for people to live in and not for a huge industry to gamble on to make a financial killing -- and when we still had a lot more small businesses -- you know, the butcher, the baker, the candlestick maker, along with the seamstress, the shoe repairman, the blacksmith, the small family farmer, etc... Don't you think that if we had stayed with that way of life instead of moving toward this mentality of "get rich quick" no matter how many casualties there are, and fast-forwarding mass production of "disposable" goods the way we did -- that those of us from the middle rungs would have been better off today?

My belief is that mass production and the "get rich quick" mentality has ruined the beautiful life I remember stll having when I first became an adult and got out on my own.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

My rent alone is $1200 per month. That's more than a lot of people in other parts of the country pay for house mortgages. That's why I have to work extra hours most weekends at some of the landlord's other properties -- so I can knock down that rent. If the cost of housing here was just as low as it is elsewhere in the country, it would be easy -- and I'd still be content.

I had always been under the impression that all I needed to do was graduate high school (college was encouraged, but even then was not considered a guarantee for a good job), be a dependable and conscientious worker, not do any drugs or drink, stay away from anyone who would be trouble, and not have any children until I was ready for it.

Well, I did all those things -- I graduated high school at 17 years old. I did attend college in later years and even got inducted into an international honor society, but I couldn't afford to finish. I have always been a dependable and conscientious worker. I never drank alcohol or did any drugs. I avoided anyone who would be trouble. And I never had children, because I don't think this world would be good enough for them.

As recently as 1999, a retail store clerk, or any line worker, for that matter, could still afford a mortgage for a single family home here. I know that's a fact, because my sister is one of them. Also, most of my co-workers (at the same pay scale) over the years have bought their own homes.

That was my big mistake -- not buying my own home, back when many homes in nice neighborhoods would still have been affordable for me. I never would have thought in my worst nightmare that home prices would have tripled and quadrupled (depending on the city or town) in only five years time, and rents would average over $1000 per month for one and two-bedroom apartments.

Obviously, a single person making under thirty thousand dollars (which is where most line workers fall) can't possibly afford to buy a home for $300,000 and higher -- mostly higher. That is the lowest price for even a small single-family home in a half way decent neighborhood here.

What is the price range for small three-bedroom single family homes in your area? I can't afford to get subscriptions to all the newspapers around the country to check on home prices.

dan said...

Christin you can find the information you want at Just click on the maps until you find a community that interests you, select the type of house you'd like and you'll see lots of houses with photos and prices.

dan said...

Christin, I think your hostility towards big corporations is misguided. You might as well hate a skunk for its odor or a snake for its fangs. Sure they're not lovable but that's their nature. An efficient, well regulated, fairly taxed large business is not inherently evil.

I think you'd be wiser to direct your ire at the conservatives who have taken over our country in the last 25 years. They've been on a mission to de-regulate industry, weaken labor safety rules, weaken corporate over site and ease anti-pollution laws. At the same time they've opposed raising min. wages, the 40 hr work weak and have been openly hostile to labor unions. In a very real sense, they oppose the *middle class* you remember so fondly.

It doesn't have to stay this way. The last few months you've taken an interest in politics. Your new activism and your vote are the right weapons to achieve the changes you want.

deb said...

Dan, Great post and how right you are! It IS the governments' job to regulate business. Molly Ivans once said that capitalism is the best way we know of to grow and economy, but unregulated capitalism leads a country into a "banana republic" form of government.

Cheryl said... has lots a good info. Also most newspapers have their classifieds on line for free.

Reagan breaking the air traffic controllers strike was one of those watershed events. Unions have been losing ground ever since. Working conditions and pay for everyone has gone down along with it. Unions are one of the biggest reasons we have a middle class.

Now union is considered as bad, or worse than liberal. The problems are exaggerated, and the benefits are ignored. It's part of the strong self-sufficient pull yourself up by your bootstraps myth.

Reagan slashed school lunch funding. From one year to the next, school lunch went from 40 cents to $1.25. What kind of country doesn't worry about kids eating?

During my first semester of college, tuition was $254, and text books were around $30. By the time I graduated, tuition had almost doubled. Today the US has one of the lowest rankings for upward mobility in the developed world.

Richard Yarnell said...

Thanks for reminding me. Trust me, getting old sucks.

I think I'd better disabuse you of a few impressions you have of me:

1) My family is better than comfortably well off. My ex-wife, it turns out, is very wealthy. The fact that I thought her family was also comfortably well off may tell you something about the quality of that marriage.

My father worked his tail off as a farmer, although the kind of farming we did lent itself to his being available for school board, water board, and other civic responsibility. I and my sister were expected to work on the farm and did, under the supervision of our foreman.

2) I was able to chose the kind of work I did, first acting and then managing not-for-profits, because I knew that, eventually, I'd be comfortably well off. I retain the work ethic that my father taught me, was never comfortable with office politics, and was always working for the best outcome for my company. That got me in some trouble along the way, because I'd argue my case even when my boss didn't agree.

3) I came to believe that Unions have a place because I worked in a field where, without a union, the worker was helpless. There is no way for an actor to succeed unless he's working. That means a lot of actors work for nothing. They can't do it alone. Since I was raised a Republican, although truly a compassionate one, it was a surprise to me to not only end up belonging to three unions (SAG, AFTRA, and Equity) but to work for one as a senior official in the National office.

One of the reasons I think I succeeded there as a negotiator, is that I understood the Producer's business and could honestly push them when they needed pushing. Since the theatre is sort of inbred, that is Actor's become producers and directors and playwrites, until Universal and Disney came along, we all knew how closely people work together to put on a play.

One of my best legacies in the theater was to negotiate royalties for Actors who helped compose plays through the workshop process. A Chorus Line granted a small royalty to its original cast, really a gift from Michael Bennet to his friends who helped develop the play. I formalized the Workshop Contract and secured small royalties for the original workshop casts and rights for them to be in subsequent theatre film and TV productions. Actors had always done that to the extent that a play changes from first rehearsal to an opening, but the Workshop depends on improvisation and the Actors are not paid customary wages.

4) Strikes represent failures of leadership on both sides. I don't think a striking Union has ever recouped what it loses if the strike is protracted. Ditto for management, although that calculus has doubtless changed in the last 20 years.

5) Union membership has gone down steadily over the last 30 years to more. I don't know why. In many ways, workers have themselves to blame when the abandoned their Unions or chose not to join in the first place. That does not mean that Unions always did constructive things. For example, in NY the transit and sanitation unions misused their power and negotiated, and struck over, pension and work rules that bankrupted the city. They knew, or should have known it would. But they had the power (due to the nature of the work they did). In my own field, the Musicians have been responsible for the demise of musical theatre. We wrote "no strike" provisions into our own contracts, in part, to protect ourselves from the musicians. Among the terrible things they've done: striking for contracts that required an orchestra be in a theatre and paid even when non-musicals were booked!

6) Royalties are earned. I don't know what gave you the impression I don't support them. I've earned royalties on my performances when I've been fortunate enough to have a film or TV show play more than once.

An inventor who develops something valuable deserves to be paid if and when that invention proves useful. Usually it's a business decision whether a product is purchased or licensed. In the latter case, both parties take a risk. If the venture succeeds, both parties are rewarded.

I have a dim view of people who rip off music, films, or other inventions, like software or turn signals and windshield wiper controls. (That last involves a celebrated case: the inventor was not in the auto industry. He shopped his invention, the control that allows for both variable speed and intermittent wipes, to all three major manufacturers. They didn't buy but then started producing them anyway. Just before he died, after a 20 year struggle in the courts, he was finally paid for his work. He deserved to be paid for his imagination and technical skill and the companies all deserved jail time for keeping him in poverty most of his life.

6) Having been a manager and an executive, I've never believed that anyone is worth the differentials that are now paid to senior corporate management. There are some who are imaginative, there are others who are skillful and some who are ruthless. In the end, none of them are any better than all their employees make them, with particular focus on their secretaries.

To the extent that a manager usually works longer hours and has more responsibility, some differential is reasonable. And in good companies, workers usually can advance to more responsible positions. Likewise, some positions require more preparation even before employment begins - that education should be compensated. But when companies themselves are weakened by excessive salaries and when workers are short-changed because of executive greed, that's criminal.

7) As I get closer to actually building my two new buildings, I'm astonished at how much materials have gone up and how much skilled labor costs now. But I think you have an unrealistic view of how housing gets built. There is considerable risk in building houses on spec (speculation). That risk needs to be rewarded - otherwise no one will do it. The contractor who speculates that he can sell houses after he's built them has to take on debt in order to build those houses. That's his job, his skill set: does he not deserve to earn a living. Would you rather that he wait to build the house until you can afford to pay for its design and construction, not to mention the lot its on?

I do think the banks have gotten greedy. Partly, its because banks are no longer tied to or limited to the neighborhoods they serve. A lot of people are going to lose their homes because they can't afford to pay the new rates on their adjustable mortgages. The banks went too far. But then, no one was forced to sign and adjustable mortgage. Most who did were exercising their own bit of greediness and failed to think about the consequences if interests rates inevitably rose from almost historical lows.

8) I too lament the idea that we're losing small businesses. However, I'll also point out that most consumers go to the lowest prices. That means that Walmart usually gets the business because they can spread their overhead over enormous volume and because their volume allows them to demand deeper discounts.

That is not to say that much of the decline can be attributed to predatory practices of larger businesses. It can also be attributed to administrations that have chosen not to enforce the rules against unfair trade practices, monopoly, etc. This administration is a particuarly blameworthy culprit. But we like efficiency and low prices. I use Netflix now rather than Blockbuster.

9) I don't think you mean to lump all "mass production" together as a bad idea. In fact, much of what you probably like among your material possessions, you'd not be able to afford if it weren't mass produced. When I build a belt, just one, it takes 5 times as long to do just one as it takes to build them 50 or a hundred at a time where I do the same step to all 50 before moving on to the next one. That's true of almost every product. And if you don't build a lot of something, it's usually impossible to afford the machinery that makes it possible to build the product for a mass market.

On the other hand, I agree that not everything needs to be mass produced. In agriculture, which I know something about, it may be cheaper per bushel to raise 1000 acres of corn - in the short run. But over the long term, the soil, disease control, are all unaccounted for. And since the machines to farm 1000 acres are as expensive as they are, without credit and the added burden that puts on the farmer, it may not be as much of an advantages as we think. And since the farmer no longer controls the price he gets for his crop, he's probably not being paid fairly.

The smaller farm, selling locally, may well do better. We only harvest and sell around a ton of honey, but we sell it at retail, or most of it. Where we get $2 a pound, net of packaging, the really big producers may get 60c to $1 per pound selling it to packers and co-ops. Those same beekeepers may move their hives around to pollinate crops meaning that honey is a secondary crop for them, but still, a pound of honey is a pound of honey.

There's a huge hole in the way we calculate how well off we are. For example, Uncle Sam counts a 1982 IBM computer as one computer. It had one or two 130KB floppy disks and RAM that was counted in 10s of KB. He also counts a brand new Dell with 200Gigs of HD storage, 2 Megs of RAM, a modem, sound, a high end graphics board, and all the other bells and whistles as one computer.
Even if we had to pay the $5 grand that that 1982 computer cost for our new Dell, instead of $1500, we'd be better off. We'd have 10,000 times the performance for a fifth of the price (adjusting for inflation).

I agree we've gone too far. But it's not all the fault of big business. It's our own choices and our unwillingness to do things for ourselves. Susan and I spent Saturday, involuntarily, I'll admit, making repairs. It started when the pump quit during the night. The capacitor that starts the motor failed. We diagnosed it and replaced it ourselves - it cost us an hour of time and $8.50. If we'd had the pump company come to do it, add $100. Then we replaced all the washers in our dozen or so frost free faucets. The kits are expensive, but our couple of hours of labor substituted for a plumber who would have done the job for between $100-$150. I then replaced the control for the solar pool heater. That was about a $200 electricians job. When we were finished, neither one of us could understand how people afford to pay for repairs that they could do themselves. I did have to use Google to find out how to test a capacitor with a multi-meter: I probably saved myself getting a rude shock. Replacing the solar control required reading the manual. Replacing the washers in those frost-free valves required asking the farm store how the washers were mounted. A teacher friend of Susan's had a leaky toilet valve and was going to call a plumber. It never occurred to her or her husband to do it themselves. $12 for the hardware and about 15 minutes, if that.

This has gone on way too long. A song comes to mind - one about saying more than I should have said from EVITA. Feel free to ask for clarification or to challenge what I've said.

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

Let me put it this way. When you said you grew up raising Avocado's and Lemons on a farm in southern California and then sold the farm, I knew you were not poor.

I was tempted to ask you if you knew someone I do.

What I was pleased to read in your above post, just a confirmation, was that you made a productive life for yourself and not the life of sloth that I have witnessed of former Southern California Avocado Ranchers and their descendents here on Maui.

Richard Yarnell said...

Who do you know that I might?

My Dad, on the other hand, after he retired, in 1965, at 52, did not go back to work. He bought or built a succession of houses in places as disparate as Pacific Beach and La Jolla, Carson City (his masterpiece), and Orcas Island in the San Juans.

I've always felt he earned it. Compared to his brother, who never worked after he returned from WWII where he was a combat and staff photographer, he worked his tail off. After 25 years, more or less, he determined that if he'd just sat on the land and sold it at the same time, he'd have had just as much (money) but not near as much satisfaction. In the end, it was another case of inappropriate agriculture (most of the water was imported from the Colorado River.)

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

Something funky may be going on with Blogger today. This thread is acting weird.

The person I know is Mary Stanten, I do not know her maiden name which would be the name she had growing up on the Avocado farm. She is around 80. Her two children Sally and Bob are in their mid 50's I'd say.

She also had a house ON San Diego Bay until her husband died and she sold it. Long story but the money was from her family it seems so she wasn't willing to divorce and they were long time separated.

The farm was some where in the San Diego area. California is a big place though and I would guess you left the farm shortly after college.

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

However you created the duplicate comment threw a kink in the works. I deleted one of them and it seems to be back to normal function.

Richard Yarnell said...

It looked as though I'd missed the submit button and I hit it twice. Sorry. Mary, Bob and Sally, (we could write a play) don't ring a bell but if they're in their mid-50's I'd probably have missed them in school. Fallbrook was where I lived and my family knew just about everyone in that small town. Escondido and Vista were the other two points of the Avocado triangle. Since then, the old ground has given way to housing and there are new groves in other small towns. It was great while it lasted.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Richard, I guess I just don't think of early 60's as old. Like, George Harrison -- were he still alive -- would be in his early 60's, and I never felt like he was old compared to my age group. Also, my Dad was only 20 years old when I was born. He always looked so young that when we kids got into our early twenties, he could've passed for our older brother.

I mostly think of age in generational terms. Your generation witnessed things that our generation may only have learned about through the filters of mass media. I prefer to hear about what everyday life was like directly from individuals who were there to see it for themselves.

It doesn't matter to me if you were well off, since you still carried your own weight in the world. I suppose there is still a major difference, though, between those who have that financial safety net to be able to choose their occupations, and those who are economically forced to accept what I call "bill-paying" jobs.

Most people who are trapped in such subsistence jobs don't have enough time to be discussing politics on blogs -- at least the ones who have children, from what I can see. I believe Cheryl pointed that out in one of these threads.

That's the ridiculous irony of it -- the people who are struggling the hardest, working the longest hours just to subsist -- all the while raising young children, are the ones who really should be focused upon when policies are created. And yet, the very fact that they don't have the luxury of time to speak for themselves, nor the time for measuring the politicians against one another, they are the demographic group which is most under-represented by lawmakers.

Anyway, I agree with some of what you said, even though we're coming from two very disparate worlds. I'm pretty sure there are only a very few people like me still in existence, anyway. I have met them, so they do exist. I detest excess to such a degree that I've turned down dates with anyone who drove a wastefully expensive sports car or luxury car, and have broken off ties with anyone foolish enough to utter the words, "I want to be rich" in my presence. Rather than being impressed by excessive wealth, I'm repulsed by it. By contrast, I'm impressed with people like Cardinal O'Malley.

I also have no use for slothful people whether they are rich or poor. I believe that our world would be a very good place if everyone would earn his or her own keep -- unless of course the person is completely disabled.

Richard Yarnell said...

I agree, normally 60 isn't old unless you've been rode hard and put away wet one too many times. I "retired" from hard labor when I fell of that roof. I retired to my own pursuits when the theatre's bankrupt condition couldn't be salvaged.

I am surprised when people offer me senior citizen amenities, like parking in the senior section of the fairgrounds parking lot. I was going to ask for it, but didn't have too. And the image I have of myself, if I'm not standing naked in front of a mirror, is one of youthful exuberance. It surprises me when I'm treated as an elder statesman instead of a callow youth.
Ask me to remember that time in September, though, and I may draw a blank.

I am the first to admit that having that safety net changes things a lot. Even so, I've always saved 10% of my after tax earnings, and tried to live within my earnings.

Maybe it's the nature of theatre, but most actors are poor as church mice. Only 5% of Equity's membership was employed on a given day. But talk about active. The real actors, the ones who tried to get work through auditions every day, did far more than their share of Union work, plitical work, and charitable work. They didn't have money so they gave their time.

Around here, it's apathy more than anything else. People just don't think they can influence what happens. That's not true, especially now with nearly instant communications and the ability of people to find others who share their points of view.

There's another reason, more subtle, I think, but just as important. There are a lot of people who don't want to take the responsibility for making a decision or trying to inflence an outcome. If Joe writes a letter or calls from a phone bank and what he's advocating actually gets done, what if it fails? Then he becomes the target of the disaffected. Safer to remain in the background and have the luxury of blaming others.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Now, for me, it's no longer apathy threatening to keep me from voting. Apathy seems to have morphed into the other common non-voter's ailment: disaffection. The more I find out about each politician, the more I'm becoming fed up with the entire lot of them -- all parties. When I see all those lists of campaign contributors, I'm absolutely disgusted. Those "contributors" got that money through profits extracted from the sweat and time of thousands of underpaid workers, as well as through the price-gouging of consumers. And as if wasting all that money on political campaigns isn't bad enough by itself, the reason they're contributing is so they can influence policies that will permit them to further enslave those very same workers, and further bilk consumers. All I can think about that is "Why, God?" -- if there is a God.

We desperately need something like Christopher's election channel and election web site. I can't think of any other way we can clean up the process.

Even some of the more minor transgressions of the candidates and potential candidates are making me wonder about where they really stand on certain issues. For example, I noticed on the Nightline segment on Hillary Clinton, that her secret service agents were all driving those humongous SUV's. Why not vehicles that are more environment-friendly? And why did Al buy a Mustang as a gift for Tipper? I know there are a lot worse things they could be doing, but since they're two of the best-known spokespersons for the environment-friendly Democratic Party, it just doesn't look good.

Cheryl said...

I may have been around too many engineers, but I appreciate your empathy. There don't seem to be many people who even try to understand that we all have different life circumstances. Those who start out with advantages often don't understand how much difference they made.

Richard Yarnell said...

Because those SUV's are all bullet proof, bomb proof, and capable of going like the wind. It's a security issue.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Just so you know, when I was talking about unearned royalties, I was thinking about that top one percent of the population whose grandparents or great-grandparents actually did the hard work.

I also was thinking about the music industry, where a huge percentage of what their artists create goes straight to the bigwigs at the top of the corporation. Why do they deserve to get so much, when percentage-wise the artists get so little?

christin m p in massachusetts said...

I also wanted to let you know that, like Cheryl, I appreciate your acknowledgement that starting out with advantages does make a world of difference.

Of course, some people squander those advantages, and some use them to exploit vulnerable people. Others, like you, build upon them without taking unfair advantage of others.

Although I, for one, would forgive you (actually I'd applaud you) if you were to use it to exploit an exploiter (legally, of course, as I wouldn't want you to get into any trouble). Robin Hood was definitely a "good guy".

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

I have a feeling Richard was not rich growing up. Rather middle class most likely. It was the land that created the wealth he knew he would be able to rely on as California exploded and the developers started buying up all that old farmland for suburbia.

His dad was available for all that civic work in a small farm town because there is not a whole lot to do to an Avocado tree in the 10 months it takes for the fruit to be ready to harvest.

That is putting it rather simply. I doubt that it was a life of leisure. Correct me if I am wrong.

I think Debbie might not agree with your statement that your Dad didn't work after he retired, he only built houses. That might constitute work.

Cheryl said...

Royalties are a popular daydream among programmers. We write. Imagine royalties with every keystroke or mouse click. ;)

Richard Yarnell said...

Now wait just a darned minute here.

We had two varieties of Avocados that more crops 6 months apart. We also had lemons. And the trees do have to be irrigated and etc. all year round.

He chose to plant seedlings and graft them to commercial varieties, (I have vivid memories of stapling roofing felt into pots - it was my first job for which I barely qualified since I had trouble squeezing the stapler, even with both hands). While these were growing, he had a one man business (Advance Irrigator) welding portable irrigations systems. 3 lengths of tubing with quick couplings and four sprinkler heads. We changed water sets every three hours.

But we did have employees and it's not like running a dairy.

When I said he built houses, once he sold the ranch, he paid to have them built or renovated. He always left things for himself since he is a reasonably skilled cabinet maker.

He chose to invest his inheritance in real estate while his brother left it in the market.

But as I said, the land appreciated, not the orchard.

deb said...

Very good news: New Stanford Medical Center Policy Limits Drug Company Access and Gifts

"While the policy recognizes the value of industry collaborations, which help speed the availability of vitally needed drug treatments, it aims to ensure that doctors' and scientists' interactions with industry are ethical and avoid conflicts of interest that could affect patients and the integrity of the school's training programs."

"The policy puts Stanford in the forefront of a small but growing movement among academic medical centers to manage potential conflicts of interest created by the widespread marketing practices of the pharmaceutical industry. Of the $21 billion the pharmaceutical industry spends every year on marketing, as much as 90 percent is directed at physicians..."

Richard Yarnell said...

Good for Stanford.

Kaiser Permanente has a pharmacy department that screen all drugs and runs their own tests.

I ran into it when I started using an anti-coagulant. I'd taken my laptop to have during what turned out to be a 12 day stay and had done some research on Warfarin - it had been approved for use as a generic for Coumadin only a couple of months before.

I requested warfarin and was able to get them working on the testing earlier than they'd intended. 6 months later, Kaiser put it on its pharmacopeia (sp).

I had a steady stream of doctors asking me to find info for them. That finally attracted the attention of a manager who visited me and watch a hasty demo on a 2.4K modem.

Two years later, all Kaiser physicians had internet access and now, for all practical purposes, KP is paperless. Every exam room has a terminal. I had a blood draw today and when I got home, the results were already posted - I get email and use it to access my password protected records. I can communicate with my PC Physician. He writes his notes directly into my records which are then available to me and anyone else (another physician) authorized to look at them. Really slick.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Thank you so, so much for bringing that wonderful news.

If it weren't for the sadness I have long felt for all the children who were needlessly harmed by mind-altering drugs and ritalin, and all the people who became addicted or sustained serious organ damage and died from drug side effects, my tears upon reading that news would have been tears of joy.

Just as with the tobacco empires, I'll never understand how the pharmaceutical companies' monetary beneficiaries have been able to rationalize that material gain justifies the destruction of so many people's lives.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Richard and Christopher,
Your most recent posts in this thread about real estate, reminds me of something I've been fearing will come to pass. There has been a lot of talk about our country moving rapidly toward a condition where our citizens will fall into only one of two economic classes -- rich and poor. In my opinion, the two inescapable positions that we'll fall into are going to be more those of landowner and serf. Landowners would only be those whose property is paid off. Any occupants carrying a mortgage would still be serfs, as their lending institutions would be the owners of that land until the mortgage is paid in full. In my home state, we have already reached that condition, due to the unchecked breeding of some very inferior avaricious humans. Apparently, New York City taught Boston everything it knows -- and then it spread rapidly westward throughout the entire state like a deadly plague. I shudder to think what life will be like if the entire nation follows suit.

If I don't manage to buy any land by the time the U.S. reaches that point, I'll probably emigrate to Western Europe -- Switzerland, maybe. I won't remain in this country to be enslaved until the day I die. If somehow I do manage to get myself into a position of power, I'll fight with as much craft as necessary to undo the rapacious real estate industry, as well as the predatory mortgage lending industry.

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

Richard Yarnell said

In twenty years, globally, more than 50% of the population will live in cities with populations exceeding a million people.

The prospects are grim.

September 13, 2006 1:44 PM

It looks like you did something odd to this thread again? So I copied and deleted your last comment.

Richard Yarnell said...

If something odd includes writing a comment in the "Leave your comment" box and then clicking on the "Login and Publish" button, then I plead guilty.

To complete the debugging search:

I wait until the notice is posted that my comment has been accepted, collapse the comments and scroll down to check, then hit my browser's back button twice to go on to the next thread.

That shouldn't, it seems to me, cause any problem. I completed a Norton Security update last night and an automatic scan report (negative) was on the screen this AM.

I'm going to submit this now (browser is Firefox running on an up to date copy of Win2KPro)

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

It's not like I have a clue what is happpening either. I only have figured out how to fix it. Cheryl you are a software engineer, do you know what may be happening?

To read comments I click on "links to this post". This opens the actual thread at the bottom of the page. This is a link function that is supposed to show what other blogs may have linked to this thread and they are shown at the bottom. This way I scroll a short distance up to read new comments. The separate and different comments page is not what I use to read comments. I do not use the collapse comments function and until now have never even noticed it. Now I am going to have to play with it.

What was happening is that when I clicked on "links to this post" to read comments, the page would open at the top. I would scroll down and after a couple of comments the thread would end. I couldn't get to the new comments and a lot of old ones were missing. There would be little piece of text that looked like the code of a broken HTML function. The comments counter on the main page would no longer count and sinc up with the true number of comments on the separate and different comments page.

When I deleted one of your double comments and that last comment that I copied since it wasn't a double, everything returned to normal function.

It may not be you Richard, it may be Blogger and it just happened to you twice. Or it may be the same problem I sometimes have which is a lazy finger on a sensitive right click side of the mouse that is always doing something I don't want it to.

dan said...

Christopher, I've seen the screen you describe a couple times lately but I don't recall the exact circumstances. I suspect it's a glitch at Blogger.

dan said...

Richard, while I think of it, you recently asked for and Christopher supplied instructions to make links. When I was learning, I was positive that I was followimg instuctions exactly and yet my code kept failing. It wasn't until I stumbled on a page that showed my failed attempts and I deleted those failures, that I was finally able to make links. I'm sorry I can't be more specific but even at the time I was unsure about what happened.

Richard Yarnell said...

I haven't tried to form a link since then. I figure everyone can cut and paste. If the link address is very long, I may go at it again, but since I've created links in HTML elsewhere, I was baffled.

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

Don't worry about it. It isn't a debilitating problem. If it happens again, hopefully to someone else's comment I'll keep trying to figure it out. At least I know how to make it go away. It did happen both times on this thread. Maybe something is in it's code. I'll go look.

Cheryl said...

I compared this page to the earth page. The most notable difference is some extra carriage returns with the picture & description. I doubt that would make any difference, but I can try later when I have more time.

It's probably just a blogger hiccup.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Since you have worked with solar technology, plus you know how to do just about everything necessary for both physical and emotional survival, I thought this upcoming event would be perfect for you. One of my friends who volunteers with an organization that showcases sustainable energy solutions, got it in his email. It says feel free to pass it around to anyone who might be interested, so I'm passing it on to you:

Here below is the announcement of the next session of the popular Solar-Cultural course the Grupo Fenix in Nicaragua has been offering for the last eight years. We have not changed the course fee for this year, it is still the all-inclusive of $1050 price it has been for the past two sessions. The price includes all the costs in Nicaragua but excludes the airfare to Managua.

Please feel free to pass this course announcement around to anybody you think might be interested and feel free to post this on any websites that are appropriate. this is how we pass the word about the course, since we spend no money on advertising it. If you have any questions or need more information, please feel free to contact me.
Thank you,

Richard Komp PhD. President
Maine Solar Energy Association
17 Rockwell Rd SE, Jonesport ME 04649

The Solar Cultural Course: January 8-18, 2007
Grupo Fenix invites you to participate directly in its development and vision. We offer an 11-day workshop in which participants learn about solar energy systems in an integrated theoretical/practical experience while staying in a village that is actively involved in creating a solar culture. The program includes recreational and cultural activities. The cost of the trip, excluding air fare, is $1050 per person, which includes a $300 subsidy towards development funds and solar equipment for the village. Although portions of the course are taught in Spanish (more so in the summer course), we always provide English translation. Spanish ability, however, greatly enhances your experience. The course highlights the socio economic impact Grupo Fenix has had in the process of implementing renewable energy for sustainable development.

Grupo Fenix is a grass roots Nicaraguan consortium of small organizations associated with the National Engineering University (known as UNI). We bring local community members and domestic and international researchers together to develop appropriate technology solutions with the social follow though necessary for creating a rural, sustainable community.

In 1996 in Nicaragua , a group of students from the UNI began working with the theme of renewable energy. Seeing the reality of their own communities, the students realized that it was the lack of technical knowledge that prevented these communities from taking advantage of the resources available to them. Selecting the name of Grupo FĂ©nix, they started experimenting with renewable energy technologies and taking advantage of whatever opportunity came their way. They have installed solar pumps, solar drip irrigation systems, a micro-hydroelectric system, village scale PV battery charging centers and hundreds of photovoltaic systems in rural communities. They've built solar dryers, solar water heating systems, biogas digesters, solar ovens, photovoltaic panels and miniature model solar cars. From their efforts have sprung various entities focused primarily on renewable energy: PFAE, an academic program within the university; SUNI Solar, a business; Asofenix, an NGO, and two rural production centers. In addition, young professionals emerged from these efforts who are now working in government agencies, businesses, and NGOs.
Your participation in this course sets you in the heart of a community that has taken up the challenge of creating a Solar Culture. The systems you install and the solar cooker or dryer you build will strengthen the community's ability to develop sustainable businesses within the community.

Course Schedule: Arrival January 7th, Departure January 19th.

Day 1: Arrival in Nicaragua on Sunday January 7th
o Arrive in Managua , staying in a local barrio (neighborhood).

Day 2: Managua
o Get to know each other, discuss plans for the course, and watch the Grupo Fenix video.
o Visit Suni Solar--a solar business created by Grupo Fenix, learn about their history and future plans as well as challenges they've faced.
o Eat a solar lunch prepared by members of Grupo Fenix.
o Hear about the work done by other organizations born of Grupo Fenix, such as the NGO AsoFenix.
o Learn about the University / Community Knowledge Cycle concept being applied in Totogalpa in the rural north of Nicaragua.
o Discuss applications of solar energy in the developing world.

Day 3: Totogalpa
o Depart for the village of Sabana Grande in Totogalpa. Upon arrival the community greets us under the big Kapok tree (aka, ceibo tree).
o Hear about how the Sabana Grande solar workshop & micro-enterprise was formed.
o Hear about the history and plans of the Totogalpa Solar Women’s group and their new center.
o Participate in an ice breaking communication activity between course participants and the families they will live with.

Day 4: Totogalpa
o Learn about how PV cells work
o Construct your own solar battery charger
o Listen to an introduction to biodigestors.
o Feed the biodigestor.

Day 5: Totogalpa
o Get an introduction to components of a PV system.
o Install a PV system in the home of one of the women who have been actively working in the construction of the center. This program strengthens the local solar culture and helps motivate the women who have been working hard and making sacrifices in the building of the new center.
o Saturday afternoon/evening options:
§ Play soccer game with local youth.
§ Share music informally and/or practice for the cultural act on the last night.
§ Visit to a local small city with the option of an overnight hotel stay for those unused country life and wishing to briefly return to modern comforts. (Cost not included in course price.) Return to Totogalpa on Sunday.

Day 6: Totogalpa
o Sunday is a free day to be with family, go on hikes, ride horses (for $3.00 an hour). Participants interested in attending church service can choose between Protestant and Catholic services.

Days 7, 8, 9, & 10:
o Receive an introduction to Solar Thermal energy and instructions on how to build a solar cooker or dryer (to be determined). We work on this for three and a half days with a variety of small trips and demonstrations of local sustainable practices and history, like medicinal plants, soil conservation, soy preparations, patio gardens, etc.

Day 11:
o Participate in a solar cooking class, as well as opportunities to test the solar cooker and/or dryer.
o Do a course evaluation with the families and then prepare for an evening of cultural exchange.
o The last evening in the community is the cultural exchange in which participants are asked to participate with something (Music, skits, poems, juggling, whatever abilities there are in the group). The community shares dances and local lore.

Day 12:
o Leave for a cultural exploration in Esteli--a city famous as a center during the revolution and the Contra War. View historic murals, buy crafts, stop at La Casita for a vegetarian lunch, and drop by next door at the natural health clinic Cecalli where there are a variety of solar dryers drying medicinal plants. Back in the barrio in Managua. Settle in for the evening or go out on the town to get a sense for the local nightlife.

Day 13: Depart Nicaragua on Friday January 19th
o Of course, you are welcome to stay and explore Nicaragua on your own. We can even help you find a translator or guide.

Local Conditions
Nicaragua is one of the poorest countries economically in the Western hemisphere. Conditions in Sabana Grande and the barrio in Managua may be more rustic than some individuals are used to. Bugs, excessive temperatures, and outhouses are a reality of the course experience. While our participants consistently find the home stay experiences rewarding--some would say, almost magical--it might nevertheless be a big change for some individuals. However, as noted above we do offer the Saturday night respite option of a night in a hotel with modern comforts, sleeping late, and coming back before Sunday evening (hotel not included in course price).

The Instructors
Richard Komp, Ph.D., the course advisor and instructor for the January sessions, is the author of "Practical Photovoltaics" and has been working on solar cells since 1960. He has taught numerous courses and workshops on solar energy all over the world including at the UNI.

Susan Kinne, initiator of the solar cultural course, who has been on staff at the UNI for the past 15 years, is currently director of PFAE, the university arm of Grupo Fenix, and has been the leading spirit behind Fenix's ascension.

Marco Antonio Perez and Mauro Perez created and now run the local solar business & workshop in Sabana Grande. They were originally trained as solar technicians through a 1999-2001 project with Falls Brook Centre of Canada for economic reintegration of land mine victims via solar energy.

The Mujeres Solares de Totogalpa (literally, the "Solar Women of Totogalpa") have been working together since 1999 to promote renewable resource technologies and practices in their community and have recently begun construction of their own center.

A $50 deposit or full payment of $1050 by December 7th 2006 will save you a place in the course, which will be limited to a total of 15 participants. Please fill out and email us the course enrollment form, available here. Checks should be made out to SKYHEAT ASSOCIATES and mailed to: Richard Komp, Skyheat Associates, 17 Rockwell Rd. SE, Jonesport, ME 04649 . If you only pay the deposit by check, the remainder is due the first day of the course in U.S. dollars or Euros. Non-U.S. citizens unable to send a check deposit in U.S. dollars, please contact Richard Komp to discuss payment options. The fee does not include international airfare to Managua nor health insurance or medical expenses. Transportation to and from the airport or bus station in Managua is provided.

Air Travel
For U.S. citizens we can recommend a "Green" travel agency, EARTH ROUTES, 207-326-8635, RFD 1, Box 22-B, Penobscot ME 04476. Each airline ticket plants three trees through the non-profit Seed Tree.

For More Information
We recommend you read our "Handbook for Course Participants". Click here to download. Please note our contact information: Richard Komp (primary contact) e-mail: phone: 207-497-2204, or Susan Kinne in Nicaragua, e-mail: For a participant's perspective, read the article "Solar Electricity in the Nicaragua Hills" published in Home Power magazine.

Richard Yarnell said...

Thank you, but I'm trying to build two buildings. Besides, I'm not fluent in Spanish. I forwarded it to Susan, who is.

We went on the Portland, Green Development tour today. It's amazing how bushed we are. Some 20 houses or apartments were on the tour. The quality was generally high and included both new construction and rehabs.

Still too many mistakes being made - some whoppers. The questionnaire asked what we'd learned: in all honesty, the most important thing were things to NOT do.

Better than 1200 folks bought tickets and tramped through houses all over town. We did the 11 that most interested us and found 3 that we thought were very well thought out.

One couple, maintaining an absolutely beautiful fenced garden, had a "hot tub" that they filled with hot water whenever they wanted a soak. This rather than keeping it hot all the time. It was an old lion's foot cast iron bath tub, handsome enough to be a focal point of the garden. They let the water cool overnight and then used it to irrigate their garden. Makes sense to me - no water quality issues, uses less energy, doesn't use a whole lot of water and the water is recycled.

Lots of bamboo flooring and even some cabinetry being done locally with laminated "dimensional lumber."

I really like the idea of building things with grass; grass that grows so quickly. There's even a company in town that uses up to 6" diameter bamboo in construction. For example, a gazeebo built in a pseudo oriental style (high end with insulating windows, bamboo floors, a clearstory vent, etc.) had rain gutters made of very large diameter bamboo. Downspouts were bronze chain ending in pots full of river stones.

Judy B. said...

Christin... the solar workshop soounds great for a cultural excursion, but for the money spent to fly there, i can attend several local (within 300 miles) solar, alternative building workshops... and i will bet there are some near you too...
It is great that there are people bringing the solar inventions to areas in need... Certainly beats those who travel afar to help, but then only insist that our building methods are the best...
Richard, there is a man named Grant Sawyer who works for our PUD... I bet you woould be interested in seeing his home... the two of you share much knowledge about alternative building and solar energy...

Anonymous said...

two more interesting links on healthcare in the U.S.

U.S. healthcare costs highest in world with worst results

Wal Mart announces healthcare initiative


Richard Yarnell said...

Who'd have thunk that prescription medicine would become a loss leader?

Richard Yarnell said...

Who'd have thunk that prescription medicine would become a loss leader?

Cheryl said...

Crazy times.

In a segment on Newsnight yesterday, the BBC revealed a “direct link between the tobacco companies and the claim that climate change isn’t happening.”

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Yes! I love it -- the Waltons are cannibalizing their own... Wal-Mart is going to gobble up the pharmaceutical industry.

Even though they're doing it for the same reason the top one percent does everything -- for personal gain (what else?) -- this time, the end truly does justify the means.

Thank you, John, for that very uplifting link.

Anonymous said...

Your welcome, makes the loss of layaway easier to deal with...
I'll go write another letter and see if we can get our RX for FREE!:-)
whoda thunk?


christin m p in massachusetts said...

Even though I don't use layaway -- since I don't usually need anything that costs more than a few bucks -- when you mention layaway, it reminds me that I'm not alone in having to scrape by. Just like when Debbie mentioned the dollar store (for buying epsom salts). For some reason it's comforting to me to know that I'm not the only one here who shops at the dollar store sometimes.

If I ever find myself in a blog where people are talking about shopping at Neiman Marcus or Saks Fifth Avenue, I'll know I'm in the wrong place.

Cheryl said...

Target has joined the bandwagon of cheap drugs. (at least for certain select generics) Who's next?

Richard Yarnell said...

Read the fine print. $4 drugs will be available or useful to a small minority.

Like I said, it appears to be a loss leader.

Also, the list of available drugs is fairly short and includes different dosages of the same drugs. It also does not include some of the best selling generics.

Anonymous said...

I seldom use layaway myself but when I do there is a method to my madness. Layaway is for middle & lower income people, which have more time than funds, or single parents. You go to a retailer which offers it and purchase 100 or even 200 dollars worth of seasonal items which are new to their product lines and fresh on the shelves, down payment 20 bucks.
Do not mix layaways. Example; a layaway order should only contain clothing or household appliances not a mix. Let me tell you why, after placing your order you have 6 weeks to pay it out. Start scanning the Sunday inserts in the local paper, look for the weekend either goes on sale, seldom both do in the same weekend. Then be prepared to go pay it out, by the time you get there the original rack will be picked through and size & color choice will be limited. No problem go pay out your layaway that was put up when you had time and the selection was fresh. Ask for credit on that week’s sale, you just saved a bundle and in fewer than 30 minutes most times.
Many persons who take advantage of layaway will also get daily necessities while there provided they are on sale, so the retailer wins right along with you. Do not get me wrong; I shop the competitors and the mall especially the dollar store because you will find a lot less mistakes on your receipts and more times than not they can beat WAL marts prices hands down. It is Wal Mart marketing that the competition cannot keep up with.
Lay Away was the only reason I ever went to Wal Mart and joined in on the mass hypnosis...Oh well, gotta go, K-MART is unloading a truck and they still have lay away.


christin m p in massachusetts said...

I can see how it makes sense to shop that way for larger purchases. I pretty much only shop for small household items -- mainly cleaning products and personal grooming supplies. For those items, I watch the sale flyers and check my receipts carefully for possible errors, just like you do. Pretty much everything else I have has either been given to me or has been in my possession for decades. Since I don't have kids, it's pretty easy to keep my stuff in new condition. As for clothes, I only buy new items when I need to replace older ones that are too worn or faded.

I know it's different when you have kids -- then there's always something you need to buy for them. I don't know how low and middle income parents are able to get by at all. I can see that it's very expensive to raise children -- even the ones who are easily contented.

Anonymous said...

"I don't know how low and middle income parents are able to get by at all."

Layaway, responsible use of credit cards (never buy layaway on credit), Family & friends, do not buy it unless you can pay cash. If you want it bad enough you will save until you have enough or realize you did not need it.
Grandma use to tell all her grandkids through conversation, "I don't know how I am going to get your layaway out, I guess I will just send it back...we would promptly go pay it for her.


deb said...

Christin, I regularly shop at dollar stores. I've been working at not giving those who have huge lobbies paying our politicians to bring "their" bills to the floor and vote them into law. Which means I never set foot in a Wal-Mart or Target (and, yes, I LOVE Target, too). So even though Family Dollar and Dollar General (not sure if they have the same stores in MA) are a tiny bit on the "red" side, they are giving much less to politicians across the board and do not own PAC's. They also treat their employees better, not a living wage, but a better wage with the intent to keep good people working for them and employees can buy into ins. at the outset.

KMart and Sears have merged, the top people did not give huge amounts of donations in the last election and it was about evenly split between D and R. I will check out how they do in this election when I have time. As for right now they are stores I will shop at.

This all might sound pretentious, but I decided some time ago to quit giving my money to those who are determined to turn my country into a government by the "ruling class".

BTW, I spend as little as possible for any manufactured goods and as much as possible for things made locally...but, hey, plastic wrap is amazing stuff and my pc mouse needs AAA batteries. I really tried to use local homemade soap, but I am crazy about Dove soap.

Christin, I don't remember which thread you asked about the MA dem Gov. candidate. I was going to look around and see what I could find, but haven't had the time.

One thing that I know is that we have NO power unless we vote. I suggest you call his campaign office and see when he will be speaking somewhere close by and go and listen to him. Even if you leave the Gov box empty there are local and state people who you need to vote for, especially find out who the dem judges are (in NC they can't state their party, so we have to find out on our own). R's have stacked the courts in favor of business over real people...we need to take our courts back!

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Debbie, I don't think that is in any way pretentious of you to withhold your money from those who are determined to turn this country into a government by the "ruling class". In fact, it is music to my ears. Since our corporations are running our government -- "voting with our dollars" is probably the only way we can strongarm those corporations into creating sensible policies.

Granted, China and India are catching up to the U.S. in consumer spending, but I'm pretty sure the U.S. still purchases more consumer goods than any other nation in the world. If we would all stop buying new products at once, we would probably cripple all of our major corporations. A consumer strike or boycott like that would give the working class a LOT of power -- Just think of the demands we could make...

But, alas. I know it's only a beautiful daydream. Most humans are just too weak and materialistic to stop overfeeding the corporate overlords.

Richard Yarnell said...

Consumer spending in the US still outstrips that of both India and China. Spending for manufacturing infrastructure lags here, partially rationalized by a shift to more white collar, intellectual property jobs. Our spending on repair and maintenance of our infrastructure is also low, a harbinger of really rough times ahead.

However, that consumer spending in the US entails enormous personal debt. If we think deficit spending at the government's level, we should take a look at the monumental consumer debt that hangs over most of us and certainly the population as a whole.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

That is the most ridiculous part of the "go shopping" message we all got after 9/11 -- The only purpose that served was to fatten up shareholders. But all it did for the fools who "bought" that lie and "went shopping" was to put them into record debt.

Richard Yarnell said...

(I realize that I wander a bit from the central topic at the end of this, but even those paragraphs are related.)

I'm at a loss to understand what it means, now, to be a conservative.

Historically, from a Constitutional point of view, I thought being
conservative means to rely on and support the law as it was set forth
in that document. Yet, by and large, conservatives are supporting, by action or inaction, deconstruction of some of the basic rights afforded in that document, the ones most of us take for granted.

Frankly, I don't consider defense of the Constitution and the rights
and obligations it provides, to the a partisan issue, yet it apparently

Consider this a Flintstone review of the bedrock of our Republic.

First, in the Declaration of Independence, we declare "We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal,..." The Founders, many of whom later worked on the Constitution, didn't
distinguish between citizens and non-citizens, they declared "all
men." Later, we even removed the distinction between black slaves and
included them under the definition of "all men."

Dissolve to the Constitution:

First, note its organization: Congress appears first after the Preamble states that it's the people who establish the government under the Constitution. Only then is the President defined as executor of
Congressional action, while the Judiciary keeps an eye on both
respective of the Constitution's limits and demands.

Among the powers explicitly given to the Congress under Section 8 -
Powers of Congress:

To constitute Tribunals inferior to the supreme Court (which I
believe, includes military tribunals);

To define and punish Piracies and Felonies committed on the high Seas,
and Offenses against the Law of Nations;

To declare War, grant Letters of Marque and Reprisal, and make Rules
concerning Captures on Land and Water;

To make Rules for the Government and Regulation of the land and naval Forces;

The Constitution also defines what Congress cannot do in Section 9 -
Limits on Congress:

The privilege of the Writ of Habeas Corpus shall not be suspended,
unless when in Cases of Rebellion or Invasion the public Safety may
require it. (So, Lincoln acted outside of his mandate.)

Amendment I - (Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression. Ratified 12/15/1791.)

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, AND TO PETITION THE GOVERNMENT FOR A REDRESS OF GRIEVANCES.

Amendment IV - (Search and Seizure. Ratified 12/15/1791.)

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers,
and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be
violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause,
supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the
place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V - (Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings.
Ratified 12/15/1791.)

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous
crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except
in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger;* nor shall any
person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or
property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be
taken for public use, without just compensation.

*I read that to mean members of the armed forces are to be tried under
the UCMJ rather than civilian courts for crimes committed within the
military. Outside of wartime, they can be tried in civilian courts
for crimes having nothing to do with the military.

Once again, the term is "no person," not "no citizen." I admit it
gets a little messy when we have a police action masquerading as a
military one, but with the whole affair(s) proceeding without a
declaration of war, I can't see how there is room to suspend the
Constitution. Bush declared that the criminal act of driving
airplanes through the WTC after kidnapping their crews and passengers, and crashing another into the Pentagon, required that we go to "war on terror." That declaration really has no more than a political or rhetorical meaning. In any case, we have not been, nor does it seem likely that we will be, invaded. The President even encouraged us to go about our
usual lives. (One of his admonitions - go shopping," protect the economy.)

Amendment VI - Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses.
Ratified 12/15/1791.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a
speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and
district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district
shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Where have the conservatives been in the face of so many violations of
Article VI? It is the job of conservatives to protect the
Constitution, to demand that it be obeyed, yet people were detained
without knowing the nature of their supposed crimes, held aloof from
witnesses, without Counsel, certainly without benefit of trial, let alone a public one, etc. etc. etc. We should be outraged and afraid for our own liberties.

Can someone who professes to be a "Conservative" please explain why
this rape of our Constitution has not horrified them, called them to
the battlements? It's been pointed out to us by the administration that we haven't been attacked, or alternatively, that no further crimes have been perpetrated by terrorists in this country, since 9/11/01. In other words, there is no apparent imminent danger.

Putting Afghanistan aside for the moment, we're engaged in Iraq after we invaded that country in force. It had not made any overt threat
toward us so we're probably there illegally under international law.
We persist in its occupation where it can be argued, as Powell put it,
we broke it and now own it (until it's fixed.) Even if it weren't
illegal under international law, it's illegal under our own for us to
be there since we've never declared war on Iraq - probably because we
can't since Iraq presented no imminent danger to us. Is the invasion itself a war crime under international law?

I do think we need to deal seriously, in an international forum, with the need to act against "stateless" aggression. My own preference has been, from the beginning, to treat it as lawlessness and chase it down
through international police action and to prosecute it within the
nation having ordinary jurisdiction - the country in which the crimes
took place. Perhaps it would be better to prosecute in an
international court.

Now go back to Afghanistan where, if I understand it, we chased bin
Laden as was our right under the rubric of "hot pursuit." There's a
substantial difference between that and what we've done in Iraq.
Nonetheless, it appears that we've allowed "hot pursuit" to cool - now we're in limbo with the real probability that we'll confront,
not al Queda, but the Taliban over a prolonged period. (I'll bet,
though, that the Taliban would not act without the encouragement and
support of al Queda.)

I think we're in danger of losing some precious, defining, rights.
Some terrible decisions were made in the heat of the WTC fires. Those
fires have cooled. I'd like to know what motivates those who would
take from us our inalienable rights. And I'd like to know why we're
sitting by idly letting it be done.

"History teaches that grave threats to liberty often come in times of
urgency, when constitutional rights seem too extravagant to endure."
-Thurgood Marshall, US Supreme Court Justice

christin m p in massachusetts said...

"I think we're in danger of losing some precious, defining, rights.
Some terrible decisions were made in the heat of the WTC fires. Those
fires have cooled. I'd like to know what motivates those who would
take from us our inalienable rights. And I'd like to know why we're
sitting by idly letting it be done.

What motivates them to take away our inalienable rights is the same thing that has motivated them to do every single thing they've ever done in their adult lives. Here is an excerpt from a Washington Post article which is part of their "in their own words" (soldiers stories) series -- further proof of what the motivating factor is in keeping the Iraq "War" going:

"...There would be a generator broken. We'd have soldiers that could fix it, but they couldn't touch it because they would void the contract. So we couldn't fix our own stuff, would have to call and put in a work order with [Kellogg Brown & Root]. It just seemed like a big bottleneck for almost everything you needed or wanted to do. You wanted to fix a road or building, you couldn't do it. Had to jump through a lot of hoops. I think it's become more of a hindrance than it's a help. I know the food was better than if Army cooks were doing it, but we had no jobs for them [the Army cooks]. They can't cook because that would void contracts, yet we sent them over anyway. It seemed like there were an awful lot of civilians that were not working very hard. It was like an overabundance of people, your stereotypical one person digging, 16 people watching."

Sgt. Lisa Dunphy
96 Bravo Intelligence Analyst, 326 Area Support Group, Army Reserve

Richard Yarnell said...

That's a really sad thought, if it's true that the Administration and its supporters, if Halliburton's Chief Exec in absentia, are willing to strip our basic law of its most important elements in order to make a buck.

A pox on them.

But what about all the folks sitting on the sidelines who don't benefit from war profiteering, indeed, who are paying dearly for that? Where are they in this debate?

Maybe, just maybe, it's time for the US to fade out to make room for more deserving people.

I'll adivse now, that I noticed I dropped a line from the long article. I'll delete my posting and resubmit it. Sorry.

deb said...

RY, I've been in the same quandry about the "conservatives" for... maybe forever. Living my life in Alabama it was easy to see what they did and did not stand for. The truth is that they are generally up and coming business people who have bought into the theory that, one day, they too will be at the top. They are lemmings, and easily buy the snake oil, especially if a savvy orator is doing the selling.

The one thing that those, who have fallen for the propaganda, lack is the ability to think logically, or to see the big picture of where it all leads in the end. Generally, that thinking is best left to the silver tongued spokespersons.

Look at what the media has been selling for maybe 10 ruthless or get voted off of the merciless or Donald Trump will fire pleasing but highly competitive so you can be the next idol...and, of course, this world is 'every person for themselves' because anyone who needs help is defective in some way and doesn't deserve any help especially from the government. (And the media has done a wonderful job of debasing the words "liberal" and "Democrat" so it's "forbidden" to even think about becoming one of those.)

The ONLY reason we know what we know is because we search for truth on the net, or we search for truth in periodicals and books. The next most educated group in the country are people who read newspapers from front to back...but all of the truth has not been published in papers as factual headline news...I'm still waiting for the headline that says "Clinton not guilty on any count in the Whitewater development".

Most of our fellow citizens watch TV for their news and believe what they are told, and many attend church to learn morality and believe the scripts that are being freely given to any church that wants the material (complete with sermons).

A pox on them is right, but we have to give them credit for a campaign since Nixon to buy up the media, to analyze the fundamentalists and find out what it takes to get them on board, to heavily fund judge races to stack the courts in their favor, and to effectively "sell" their smoke and mirrors routine to a apathetic public.

The actual planners of this system (PNAC) are achieving their goals; to become unconscionably wealthy and to have ultimate power. Cruelty, and pitilessly crushing their opponents seem to go with the personality.

deb said...

I reread my post this morning because analyzing a large "group" goes against my grain, I dislike the polorizing of "us" and "them", and it is difficult to understand how the ones, who are claiming to own the market on morality, are in support of policies that appear to be in direct contrast with those beliefs. But, hey, "they" are the ones who drew the line in the sand and told me that I was on the other side.

(I keep wondering if I could get a group of "liberals" together for a class action suit against just about all of the media for their disparaging remarks against "liberals"...however, just by the fact that we are liberal would discourage

Logic, and the ability to "think" through the premise is lacking with people I have talked to who profess to be "conservative". I get answers like "the gov't knows things that we don't know, and they can't tell or the terrorists will know, too." Perhaps the reason that the neocon planners chose the fundamentalist group as their base is because of "blind faith".

BTW, the neocons know that they are guilty of crimes by our laws and by international laws. This election will undoubtedly have even worse election problems.

All of my life I wondered just exactly "how" the German's could have fallen for Hitler's rhetoric, and "how" they could have allowed the horrible acts to occur. Now I understand.

Richard Yarnell said...

I still don't understand. And from what I've seen, Uncle Adolph was a far more compelling orator than the shrub.

I tried to shift the blame for categorization into the two dominant camps by using "self-professed."

I'm beginning to believe we really don't have a long term problem with the rich conservatives:

They don't want to acknowledge climate change and greenhosue gasses;

Where do the rich almost always have at least vacation property?;

Don't lots of them work in coastal cities like Manhattan and DC (well it's connected to the coast by a river and was built in a swamp:

Soon, they'll all be drowned.

On that cheery note, I'm going to press some cider.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

I wonder if this U.S. construction company contracting in Iraq is the same Parsons Corp. of Bechtel-Parsons -- the San Francisco construction giant that bungled Massachusetts' Big Dig Tunnel project:

Yet another Iraq construction 'disaster'

I'm thinking it must be that Parsons Corporation, because Bechtel, too, has contracts in Iraq and is responsible for severely flawed construction projects in both Iraq AND the U.S.

Since Bechtel Corporation is "re-building" Iraq, I think it's important that all of us know more about the company's long history of huge cost overruns -- and worse, its history of seriously negligent workmanship:

Profiteering in Iraq and the U.S.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

If ever the Democrats had ammunition, this is it. This is the stuff they need to pounce on -- if not now, at least in 2008. Excerpted from the article at one of the above links I posted:

Even in a $21 billion reconstruction effort that has been marred by cases of corruption and fraud, failures in training and housing Iraq's security forces are particularly significant because of their effect on what the U.S. military has called its primary mission here: to prepare Iraqi police and soldiers so that Americans can depart.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

I thought this piece about Bechtel Corp. that I excerpted (also from one of the links I posted above), would be of particular interest and concern to you, since it involves your region of the country:

"Like the Big Dig, Bechtel's nuclear waste project in Hanford, Wash., is dauntingly complex.

The company is building a facility to take 53 million gallons of radioactive waste left over from the construction of atomic bombs and encase it in glass to keep it isolated from the environment. Some of the tanks that have been storing the waste have leaked into the local groundwater. And the site sits alongside the Columbia River.

Work at the plant, however, has been plagued by questions about the facility's ability to withstand earthquakes, questions that slowed construction to a crawl and forced Bechtel to re-evaluate its plans. The construction of some of the vessels that will hold the toxic waste also has come under scrutiny, with one nonprofit watchdog organization accusing the company of ordering vessels with designs it knew to be flawed and installing one key vessel before fixing some faulty welds that had already been found in it.

"They were definitely on a fast track, and they were taking short cuts," said Tom Carpenter, director of the nuclear oversight program at the nonprofit Government Accountability Project. "Of course, they'll deny that to their dying breath, but that's what it looks like. That's what whistle-blowers on the inside are telling us.

dan said...

Re: Conservitives
I thought Richard made a valid distinction, "I tried to shift the blame for categorization into the two dominant camps by using "self-professed."

The neo-cons have redefined so many words that many can't be used any more without a footnote.

I wouldn't admit to being a patriot or that I *support the troups* without explaining myself.

If I was a Conservative, I'd have to explain that the current leadership certainly is not.

If I professed to being a Liberal, I'd have to add that my favorite activities don't include baby killing and having lunch with my buddy Bin Ladin.

If I stated I belonged to the ACLU or Amnesty International, I'd have to explain why that doesn't mean that I hate America.

The neo-con proaganda machine has been so successful that any opposition to their ideas is pre-stigmatized, and automatically discredited. The news media has been complicit in this effort and meaningful desent is discounted as *partisan*.

So,for now, we're stuck with a new version of America, where the *Decider* interpits the Constitution and the Geneva Convention. I can only hope things begin to change this November.

As usuall, I'm just rambling on and venting some so I should just delete it. No, like a typical Liberal, I'll just post, then "cut and run".

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

A Pox on both houses of Congress and both Democrats and Republicans.

If there was an issue worth a filibuster the Torture bill and suspension of Habeas corpus was one of them and the Democrats flunked. I do not know who is consulting with and counseling the Democratic leadership but they are not doing themselves any favors.

I have to say that I was flabbergasted that this passed the Senate. My anger is real and for the first time I am actually personally afraid about this war on terror.

What happened to the conservatives was that they made a deal with the devil when the joined forces with the social conservative Christian fundamentalist movement. The party machine was filled by fundamentalist operatives who purged the party of all disloyal or dissenting voices. The mind set is blind faith and blind obediance to the father figure who decides all issues. They are ruthless and have no morals when it comes to keeping people in line. There are numerous cults, sects and churches where that pattern of control can be observed.

What happened to the conservatives is no longer a political question it is a psychological one.

What happened to the Congress is another matter. These are supposed to be intelligent and informed people. I can only imagine what kind of forces were at work to allow these people to vote for such a heinous piece of legislation.

I spoke to a couple of my clients about this and they were not in the least bit concerned. They are not going to be arrested and forgotten so they just do not care. They have bought completely the propaganda issued from Rove, "The Architect" and can repeat it verbatum. I am just as angry at many of my fellow citizens.

I highly recommend you go read Tragos. He says much better than me what has happened.

The good news at this point is that Congress won't have time to retroactively legalize warrantless wiretaps this session before they go home to collect more money.

Cheryl said...

I am completly disgusted with the entire Senate tonight. The Dems said some pretty words, but they didn't even try to fillibuster. I heard that they traded the right to fillibuster for the opportunity to propose amendments to the torture bill.

The media is full of experts saying that the Dems can't fight this bill because it will make them look weak on terror. I'm terrified. Just not of the Islamofacists or whatever we call them this week. I'm terrified of our government.

When I think about the last two elections being stolen, I have to remind myself that close to half the country voted for this jerk. I'll never understand it.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Is this the beginning of the end for us?

christin m p in massachusetts said...

"When I think about the last two elections being stolen, I have to remind myself that close to half the country voted for this jerk. I'll never understand it."

For the answer to why close to half the country voted for the sadist, look no further than Hollywood's movie ticket sales figures. Did you happen to see which movie was #1 at the box office this past weekend?

If you did, you'd know that they voted for Bush, because America loves a

(well, see for yourself...)

deb said...

What I feel...outraged and despondent at the same time.

Plan B??? Move to a blue state and secede??? Buy a glacier in Greenland and wait for the big melt???

I love the least there's a laugh to be had out of the carnage that has left our constitution in fragments.

Richard Yarnell said...

I spoke with Ron Wyden's Chief of Staff last night. They did consider a filibuster but didn't have the votes to sustain it. There are so many Democrats running in tight races in "hostile" territory, that individuals felt it was more important to retain their seats in hopes that there really can be a Democratic majority in at least one house, they voted the way their constituencies are leaning. I'm told there were Democrats in the house actively throwing up in the bathroom. It was not a pretty sight.

If they'd been able to keep the Senate Democrats in line, with the four Republicans joining them, they could have sustained a filibuster, but then making the Senate march in lock-step is a Republican thing. Keeping the Democrats together is like herding cats.

I know this won't do a bit of good on the other end, but it made me feel better for a couple of minutes:

Sir: (Senator Gordon Smith, R OR)

Yesterday, you violated the solemn oath you took to defend the Constitution of the United States. You should be ashamed for conspiring to strip from the body of law that has governed us for nearly two and a quarter centuries, the provisions that protect us against the spite and misjudgement of a single individual.

You are a disgrace to the office you hold, a traitor to the Republic you have failed to serve honorably, and ignorant of the damage you have caused to a once great nation.

I am shamed by your neglect.

Richard Yarnell,

Richard Yarnell said...

I meant to say that many in the Senate on both sides of the aisle, believe the bill won't stand up in court. In a way, they felt it was a safe vote, particularly Republicans who can suffer under the Rovian whip. So even Specter, who has been passionate about the flaws, voted Aye, expecting the bill to be cut down in the Supreme Court.

Of course this gives Bush another opportunity to point out that the court can't be trusted with the welfare of our citizens....

Anonymous said...

"Success is not measured by heights acheieved,
but by obstacles overcome"

Fortunately we live in a country where we can undo and repair that which is detrimental to our culture.
You must win in Nov. and 08.
Recently Bob Woodward released his new book. In it he speaks of the relationship between Kissinger and the current administration. Specifically Kissinger's advice that the only acceptable exit strategy in Iraq is victory. I would agree, yet I would also advise the Dems to rise to the challenge by redefining Victory in Dec and 09. Everytime a law is passed by the Rep. majority which disregards what the world expects of our society, the simmering resolve by the silent majority is strengthened. Use it to your advantage...Not only will you win both houses and the executive branch in the next few years, you will win by a landslide.
The weakness of the rep. majority is the ability (or lack of) to get "their" message out, This can be your strength...
Have you ever seen a coherent campaighn ad by a citizen from another country, describing through his/her eyes what the rest of the world thinks of U.S. policies as opposed to what they think of the U.S.? It is an eye opener.
There was a recent story of an Iraqi reporter which defies danger daily to bring her people the truth of life in Iraq after Saddam, CNN?
Enlist her to bring your message home...

deb said...

September 30, 2006 5:20 AM: Are you JG? If not who are you?

I see the answer to Iraq as giving the oil back to the people of the country. I also believe that a thorough investigation into what we have done, and who has benefitted, will wake our country up and be a start to setting the best direction for the Iraq situation. Any solution is going to need for the US to let go of the reins and have a true coalition of the rest of the world helping to decide the best course.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

The general outline for your 'answer to Iraq' pretty much covers it. I hope that following the investigation into who has benefitted from the War, that our Democratic leaders will hammer away relentlessly at those responsible for wasting so much money on botching the "rebuilding" of Iraq, just so they could go back and double-dip for additional profit gained from repairing their own shoddy work.

At least they were wise enough to drop San Francisco-based Bechtel Corporation's contract in Iraq. You see, Republican '08 presidential hopeful Mitt Romney has been foolishly using his handling of the (Bechtel-engineered) Big Dig debacle to promote himself as he is traveling around the U.S. campaigning (early) for the office of U.S. president. Especially foolish, because his response came only after a woman was crushed to death by a falling ceiling panel while traveling through the tunnel -- but also because Bechtel is notorious for treating its construction contracts like cash cows, by dragging them out endlessly ("milking" their projects for as long as they can get away with it) and double-dipping by getting additional revenue for repairing its own mistakes.

So Republican national leaders don't want the general public to make the connection between these past egregious practices by Bechtel Corp. -- and the continuation of those very same shady business practices by Bechtel with their construction contracts in Iraq.

Check out this relevant article I found through the Common Dreams link:
Profiteering from war, while the U.S. middle class sinks into poverty

christin m p in massachusetts said...

After watching PBS's Moyers On America: Capitol Crimes this evening -- about felon Jack Abramoff, I'm left feeling nauseous.

You know, I used to think that all the murderous, money-licking 'gangsta' rappers were the most genetically inferior beings on this planet. But now I can see that cretins like Abramoff, Ralph Reed, Tom Delay (and his prostitute wife) -- and all of their money-licking loser pals in Congress are about as valuable to this planet as the butt cracks of the murderous gangsta rappers.

Norm Ornstein was one of Moyers' guests following up on Capitol Crimes during the last quarter hour of the show. After listening to what he had to say, I feel compelled to read his book: The Broken Branch -- How Congress is Failing America and How to Get it Back on Track

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

Glad I read this comment Christina about Bill Moyers. He will be on here in half an hour so I will watch that show. I saw a commercial for it a few days ago but it didn't say when. Thank goodness I still get PBS with my reduced TV.

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

That Bill Moyers show was the best example yet of why my Election Channel and idea should be promoted as the way we elect our politicians.

Did all of you receive an e-mail from SSB? It seems Andy Stern has written a book full of ideas about how to get America back on track.

"In his new book, A Country That Works: Getting America Back On Track, SEIU's Andy Stern and presents his ideas for reforming our political and social systems to needs of today's working Americans."

I sure hope his book is written better than the above sentence I copied from the e-mail.

Cheryl said...

The Bill Moyers show was great. The whole corporate money payoff stuff is just obscene. The most troubling part was the implication that there are many more bribery rings. I'm surprised that the guests didn't mention public financed elections as one of the solutions.

deb said...

If a bill is presented in Congress for publically financed elections corporations are going to flood the media with opposition. "Another liberal program designed to waste our taxes" will be the mantra.

I feel that some of the progressives will present such a bill if Congress turns blue, but there will be a lack of support even from the dem side of the holds such power. This issue could only be achieved by a grassroots demand.

Bill Moyers return gives TV a voice of reason amid a sea of spin. Moyers on America

BTW, Olberman is another voice of reason. He's on nightly and his ratings are climbing.

Maybe, hopefully, our fellow voters will wake up.

deb said...

And another reason publicly funded elections are going to be a hard sell:
A Wealth of Advice
Nearly $2 billion flowed through consultants in 2003-2004 federal elections

dan said...

Olbermann had another hard-hitting commentary tonight. I wince at his intensity and I'm not GWB. I hope his ratings go through the roof.

I also saw "Capital Crimes" with Bill Moyers. With extortion, payoffs, patronage and money laundering, I thought I was watching a mob movie...I guess I was.

Maybe now that the vermin are getting exposed, we'll be able to rid Washington of the infestation.

Richard Yarnell said...

Not unless the election changes both houses of Congress.

A project for everyone: go to your County Clerk's office and pick up a handful of voter registration forms.

When you engage someone who is sympathetic to the way you intend to vote, ask them if they're registered. If not, or if they've not yet registered after moving, make it easy for them. Give them a form. Check with the clerk to find out whether you can turn it in for the new registrant. Every single vote will count this election cycle and one on one, face to face encouragement works best.

deb said...

Right there with you Richard. This week has been an exceptionally good week for this county. I suppose the Repubs knew all along that a sex scandal would get people out to vote, afterall it's the main reason w and co. are in office.

I don't get that people aren't as irate about war, torture, the dismantling of the constitution, and blatent lies; but, hey they are registering and intending to vote dem. I've even heard from a few hardcore Repubs that they intend to stay home.

I'm hoping that dem hq around the nation are as successful in new registrations as our small county.

Changing the subject:

Pharmacists are encouraging investigating the Medicare Part D.
CEOs of Nation's Top Medicare Drug Providers Earn Millions in Salary While Seniors and Taxpayers Pick Up the Tab

deb said...

We all loose by this:
The War Against Wages

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Regarding the CEO's of the major drug providers making millions from taxpayers via Medicare -- This is the reason I've been so leery of national health care coverage. Before we ever put a plan for universal coverage in place, we MUST first have laws in place that will prevent this type of profiteering on the backs of taxpayers.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

And on wages/the U.S. economy:

"In its latest report, Morgan Stanley's Chief Economist, Stephen Roach, writes that "the American binge is coming to an end," a warning to the global economy.

The report says that US consumers now spend nearly US $9 trillion annually, 20 percent more than Europeans, three times more than Japanese and nine times more than Chinese. The purchasing power of American consumers is unlikely to remain strong as the US housing bubble bursts. Without the "wealth effect" caused by rising house prices, households will be more directly exposed to the longstanding pressures of STAGNANT REAL WAGES, record debts and negative saving rates. Discretionary spending is likely to be cut, which will affect costly items such as cars, furniture, appliances, travel and entertainment.

This decline in US consumption is likely to have a considerable influence on the global economy because the rest of the world's growth is overly dependent on exports. In China, exports have now risen to more than 35 percent of GDP, with about 40 percent of that going to the United States.

The report suggests that the global economy needs a new consumer. That, however, will not be easy to find. EMPLOYMENT GROWTH AND REAL-WAGE TRENDS -- THE FORCES THAT SUSTAIN CONSUMER PURCHASING POWER -- REMAIN WEAK IN MOST INDUSTRIAL ECONOMIES. China is a great hope to push the global economy, but here families are inclined towards precautionary saving, which is likely to last for some time. Some countries, including China, must learn to draw greater support from their home markets. The report indicates that if global economic growth slows, corporate earnings and equity markets will come under pressure. This would have positive consequences because any meaningful reduction in America's domestic spending would lead to significant cutbacks in the purchase of foreign goods, reducing record US trade and current-account deficits and thereby lowering the odds of a dollar crisis

dan said...

Christin, Good article. The global economy is changing so rapidly that very dramatic things could happen soon. It's a little frightening.

John G. said...

"The report suggests that the global economy needs a new consumer. That, however, will not be easy to find."

Now would be a good time to make America spaceport for the world, we have the Infrastructure, resources, technology, and a highly motivated & skilled workforce. We (all Americans) must first be able to see above the clouds. I read an article the other day where scientists have found 16 more planets in our galaxy alone, they estimate the total number to be in the billions, Just in the milky way, never mind exploring the universe, we could stay mighty busy right in our own backyard.
NASA needs to loosen the reigns and encourage private industry to R&D and move the U.S. economy forward into the final frontier. While other nations mfg. and develop... we explore! The new consumer will inevitably be the New Industry. We will also find the next source of alternative energy, talk about a tipping point. We will not only lead the next economy, but the one after.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

On human rights:

I just read this update on the war prisoners --
Red Cross meets Guantanamo detainees

I'm sure there are a good number of detainees who do deserve to be there, but for the innocent ones, I'm very thankful we have the Red Cross to check up on them.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

This article sent a chill through me:

American Prison Camps Are on the Way

Richard Yarnell said...

A lot of people noticed what was in the bill and argued strenuously against it.

I thought I'd posted a draft of the bill here. If not, I'm sorry. It was a useful place to start a conversation with thoughtless congress critters, of whom there were far too many.

I think they need to be taught the first less of contracts: if you haven't read it, don't sign it.

Cheryl said...

I'm waiting to hear what the Red Cross has to say about them. I read somewhere that the reason they were transferred to Guantanimo is that the CIA interagators were getting concerned about the legality of their methods. That's all fixed now with the Military Commisions bill that just passed.

dan said...

"American Prison Camps Are on the Way"

Christin, that article gave me chills also. If this current Admin. stays in power much longer, the whole breadcrust gang might be rounded up and housed in that new prison. I'd love to meet you all but not that way.

Richard, I'm sure you sounded the alarm about that bill. This Congress would follow GWB over any cliff he led them to. The public wouldn't notice and MSM would cover it on pg.78 sec.k right below the lost puppy story.

dan said...

BTW Richard, Patty and I saw "Iraq For Sale" at a screening at a local Dem. Club last Friday. I failed to heed your advice and didn't properly medicate myself ahead of time. Big's really disturbing. I recommend it to everyone.

When my copy arrives, I've got a number of people lined up who are anxious to see it.

Richard Yarnell said...

My copy arrived in the mail today. Let me know if you don't have yours by the end of the week.

John G. said...

This may have been submitted on the SSB site, or already in existence, but I found it interesting so I will post here.

Over 45 million Americans lack healthcare. The majority has bank accounts or credit cards. Let the financial institutions they bank with provide healthcare plans to their customers.
The financial institution can negotiate with the Insurance companies based on number of customers, similar to an employer which has x employees. The more employees/customers the better the rate.

Every time a transaction is made on customer's account, customer has option of "rounding up" and funds automatically put into a healthcare account for monthly premiums or other healthcare expenses. The market would be the determining factor as to payment options.
Point is middle class, small business, self-employed; uninsured would have a convenient, seemingly painless path to healthcare coverage, every time they make a financial transaction.
Bank of America started a program called "keep the change" for savings and retirement accounts.
Do something like that for healthcare...
Anyway ask your banker...

christin m p in massachusetts said...

That sounds better than the options we have now, although I don't have much background knowledge of how the different health insurance programs work. I haven't needed to use any of them so far (knock on wood).

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Every day, reading and watching the news is becoming a much more pleasant experience. I'm so glad "they" -- the avaricious ones who block human progress for their own personal gain -- do not yet have control of the internet, because look how much good it is doing again:

Website seeks doctors' take on drugs, and firms are crying foul

Cheryl said...

The drug website is an interesting idea. It has a lot of possibilities for keeping drug companies and the FDA honest. I'm not so sure about the part about using the website to make investment decisions. Sounds like insider information.

Richard Yarnell said...

On Credit Card/Financial Institution sponsored health care.

With all due respect, that's a terrible idea.

1) The people who need the coverage most are the least likely to have any relationship with a bank, credit card company, or other financial institution;

2) Do you really think those companies, (remember, they are profit driven) is a safe place to lodge the power to negotiated with health care companies and drug makers?;

What we need to do is get private money out of public health. It is shameful that we bar certain classes of people (the "undeserving poor") from needed medical services.

I urge you to go the the Archimedes Movement website and look at proposals made by Dr. John Kitzhaber (he's an Emergency Medicine specialist, former president of the Oregon Senate, and former Governor of Oregon) who was largely responsible for the Oregon Health Plan that successfully challenged the contratdictory limitations posed by Medicaid.

John would treat basic health care as an "entitlement." He would use universal public education (k-12) as a model for delivery of basic health care.

It's eminently sensible, humane, and in the public interest. It's likely to be cheaper in the long run and gets the most bang for the buck.

In Oregon, we have a list of over 500 procedures that have been organized in a list that puts the most cost effective at the top (eg pediatric immunization) and the least cost effective at the bottom (eg. heart/lung transplants). If there's sufficient money, it's conceivable that all procedures would be covered. When money is short, procedures at the bottom of the list, the least cost-effective, are not covered.

Archimedes Movement has an excellent DVD available of John's Power Point lecture that he's taking around the State. I understand that ABC featured it on Monday as part of their Health Industry examination (disappointing so far, IMO).

While the initial emphasis is on Oregon, it is intended that the program become a national health care plan.

If universal public education is important, shouldn't universal public health be as well?

Cheryl said...

Except that universal public education isn't considered important. If the masses were well educated, they wouldn't be easy to manipulate. They want up wrapped up in day to day survival and happy to get a little mindless entertainment to relax with at the end of the day.

Richard Yarnell said...

By whom is it not considered important?

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Not to get too far off the subject of universal public health -- I just wanted to say that I get the same impression about universal public education that Cheryl does. Of course universal public education is considered important to people like us... But I know you're exactly right, Cheryl -- that certain people in power have a vested interest in keeping the masses uneducated and distracted by mindless entertainment. If too many of us were to become better educated, we would catch on too quickly when they're up to no good.

I believe that this is the reason Civics classes were removed from a lot of U.S. elementary schools and grammar schools for so many years. Did all of you have a mandatory Civics class in sixth grade like so many of today's elderly people had back when they were in grade school?

Keeping the masses "dumb and numb" is also the reason why personal finance classes in high school were never even offered as electives -- much less as mandatory -- in high schools until very recently. Finance classes still aren't offered in some high schools. It's the same deal as with the Civics classes -- if we knew too much, how would they be able to get away with taking advantage of us?

Richard, I think I can safely speak for the majority of wage and salary slaves -- both blue and white collar -- when I say that most people of means are not as egalitarian as you are. Most of the "haves" seem to have the belief that they alone are entitled to the best of everything -- including being entitled to live entirely off of other people's labor and time -- and one of the key ways they've been able to hold onto those privileges is to deny their slaves further access to formal higher education.

Christopher C. in Hawaii said...

I have to agree with Christina and Cheryl on this about education. There is more lip service than a real desire to see the system work.

I have to run, my stage debut as a puppet on a string is in two hours.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Did you mean that literally? You have a part in one of the shows at your local theater?

If so, please post pictures and tell us about it, okay?

Cheryl said...

I had Civics in 9th grade. It was a good class. While I was in High School, Louisiana added a required class call Free Enterprise that was supposed to teach us about business and economy. That one wasn't so good. I used to answer the questions, and then read the chapter. It was the only way I could stay awake.

My son is in High School now. He's going to have a semester of Government and a semester of Economics during his senior year. They've done a good job of covering many issues in the American History class. The Gilded Age was covered recently, very timely.

I can't wait to see your puppet Christopher.

John G. said...

"With all due respect, that's a terrible idea."

Well of course, From your view...

1) Most of these persons have medicaid, medicare or can get it and are not yet aware...

2)And a profit driven employer or govt. bueracracy which have created the present state of healthcare is a better option?

I have also sent this IDEA to many hospital administrators, congress critters as well as the governor of my state and the chamber of commerce. What they (the one's which have replied) like the most is the fact that the majority of uninsured do not qualify for assistance and do not work for a company large enough to provide them with affordable insurance, this is a vehicle for them to afford healthcare and be self supporting while they do it. the trickle down effect of no insurance is over care to the insured and poor with assistance and no care for the taxpayers which ultimately pay the lions share of taxes to fund assisted care. The majority of the uninsured are hard working people with very few affordable options, many find it nearly impossible to gain health insurance outside of employer sponsored plans, it is not like insuring your home or car. I recently attended a community forum on the issue and was amazed at the number of people willing to pay for their own healthcare, yet did not have a clue where to go and get it affordably without throwing themselves into a poverty standard of living. If there is a large percentage of uninsured willing to pay their own way, we owe them the opportunity. All it will do is make universal care for the poor more affordable and more likely by and for the taxpayer.
I trust my bank, it is a community bank, but they have been good to me and earned my business and trust since I was a teen. They are much more knowledgeable about my community, insurance companies, and finances than local employers and many times elected officials. They have many more customers than most employers have employees. They deal with the self employed and small business more than anyone. It would be in their best interest to secure an affordable rate to attract more customers.
They also understand a physically healthy customer is a financially healthy customer. This is not a fix all plan such as the one your doctor proposes, it does however provide a growing segment of the uninsured options. Options which cost no one but the persons seeking the insurance.
With all due respect, I disagree with your assessment. This is a good IDEA.

Judy B. said...

"With all due respect, that's a terrible idea."

I will have to agree with Richard on this one...

I work with (and hire) homeless, unemployed and unemployable people...
Many do qualify for state aide (heakth)..many do not...
buy one thing yhay yhey seem to have in common is their mistrust of the banking commujity....
Let us figure out a health care plan for ALL...

deb said...

JG, Anytime a large group pools together they can buy more affordable insurance, but it still is going to cost a minimum of about $250. a month for an individual and $400. for a family. This is more than a low income family is going to have in "spare change".

This country needs universal health care and I believe that Medicare for everyone is the best answer.

Perhaps some banks may want to be in the insurance business for their customers, but I would doubt it.

John G. said...

Terrible idea? c'mon...
We are in the ice thread.
Neither the Dem's nor the GOP are going to touch universal health care, if they were, they would have already. They are not interested. They have their own insurance and history as a guide, taxpayer funded entitlements do not win elections.
Banks already sell life insurance.
Richard you previously posted that you thought it were prudent to plan and save for a retirement health fund, is this not a tool which would serve those ends? It is not an option for all and it would be voluntary. Even if a third party did eventually create some form of universal health care it would stand to reason not all procedures would be covered. A rainy day health fund would come in handy for those procedures not covered. your bank that is for all practical purposes in all aspects of your life can surely be trusted with pocket change to help improve your healthcare budget. This is not a fix all for the defunct system in place, yet it should be an option in the interim for those who want to help themselves if possible. Terrible idea? c'mon...

Richard Yarnell said...

Actually, JG, back in 1989, Oregon's Senate President, soon to be Governor, started working on the Oregon Health Care plan. It's a far cry from universal health coverage, but it was a beginning. What the legislature passed and he signed, as governor, was against the law - it ran afoul of medicaid. Everyone knew it was and so Oregon went to the Feds for a waiver, which they got.

That plan is still in place and is now the basis for Kitzhaber's push for a health entitlement which he intends to take national.

I invite you to visit the Archimedes Movement web site. If they're offering it, try to get ahold of the DVD of his power point lecture that explains why the current problem is so bad and why universal health care would be so much better.

John G. said...

A Universal system certainly makes more sense. Our population recently reached a milestone of 300 million, 255 million enjoy some level of healthcare, 100% of lawmakers enjoy an elite healthcare program, 12 million illegal immigrants enjoy free healthcare. The 45 million without healthcare are the minority (they do however pay healthcare expenses through taxes or personal expenditures when/if they do seek healthcare) The odds of achieving Universal healthcare and pulling the 45 million under the umbrella are not good considering the numbers, it is not even being considered by congress. Several regional hospital administrators have responded back to me that although it is discussed everytime they go to Atlanta or Washington, the issue quickly fizzles in favor of other "more pressing" issues & this is not likely to change. Why not give the working uninsured regional options to help themselves?
Deb, you are exactly correct in what monthly premiums cost, yet has anyone actually stopped to consider what the average uninsured family spends out of pocket for healthcare over a one, five or ten year period? Your premiums become a bargain.
Nothing has moved forward on fixing the healthcare imbalances. It would stand to reason if financial institutions got involved, that would change in short order.

Richard Yarnell said...

The US model of employment based healthcare insurance/delivery began because of WWII wage/price controls.

Industry, in order to attract the best workers, could not offer higher wages so they offered free health insurance, not a large expense back then when retirees died not long after leaving the work force.

What possible incentive would banks and credit card companies have to get into the health insurance industry? If your answer is that there's profit to be made, just like the profits already being made by health insurance companies, then why would you want them?

John G. said...

Interesting history on the evolution of our U.S. healthcare system.
The Incentives for the banks in all honesty was not a frontrunner of my considerations & when it was, profits were the only incentive, which is not a bad thing.
Healthcare is a complex issue in our country, some of it makes sense, most of it does not.
Universal Healthcare is a novel IDEA, yet it is not likely to happen anytime in the near future. Too many people are complacent from coverage they already enjoy. they are covered, Why change? What incentive do they have?
Politicians and those in the healthcare industry are more programmed to target segments of society and develop plans which are tailored to fit each. All the while keeping the best interests of the healthcare industry and it's participants profitable.
Industry of today is made up of a growing number of small business and self employed entrenapuers. The healthcare options and reasons available after ww2 are non existent for them, although they exist.
Near all of these individuals have a positive economic impact on their communities, they also have bank accounts. Many with the same banks. If large employers can recieve better rates on healthcare based on number of employees covered, it would stand to reason banks could get even better rates based on number of customer's covered. If they can cut our healthcare costs and turn a profit in the process, why not?
It would also stand to reason if Universal Healthcare ever becomes a reality, the banks at some point will have to get involved considering the billions which flows through their businesses now under the existing system. What incentive do banks have to allow a universal healthcare system to ever become a reality?

Judy B. said...

I will jump in here again with my 2 cents worth...
Most people who have bank accounts already have health insurance... It tqakes a certain income for people to open a bank account...
Thje banks are not now interested in serving people who do not have money... what makes you think they would be interested in serving the un and underemployed people with health insurance....
I understand the idea of getting a larger population base to underwrite the costs for the lesser number who need it, but I really do not see it in the cards for the banks to be the on to do it...

deb said...

Universal coverage is the answer. The country wants it and we have to demand it. Sticking more band-aids on a flawed system isn't the answer. I completely believe that if people wake up enough to put Dems in the House, Senate and White House we will get the universal coverage. Dems need the trifecta that the Repubs currently have.

dan said...

I agree with Deb about health care coverage. I think the Dems will have enough power to pass a national plan by 2010. The "starve the beast" strategy of the neocons has made everything more difficult but not impossible.

John G. said...

Thank You for your views. The point again is the small yet growing segment who have bank accounts and no health insurance options. Here is an example, A local farmer has a wife which has worked in private industry for many years, she is ready to retire, but does not want to lose her employee sponsored insurance because there are no affordable options available to her family once she does. There are many more examples like this. Maybe in 2010, maybe not? In the meantime nothing is being done and the ranks of un or underinsured continues to grow.
regardless of which party ends up in power, neither will mount a serious challenge to make universal healthcare a reality because as Judy stated, the majority have coverage, lawmakers enjoy 100%, why would they change for the sake of a few? and then pay for it?
Below is an excerpt from an article by the head of the GAO which may be of interest...Universal health care would be a great thing, yet the last time it was seriously proposed it was beat back by nothing more than HMO'S. The leading proponent at that time (Hillary) even stated in a recent interview when asked if it would have helped if it had been made a reality in 93, "We will never know"
In the meantime the population of Americans without proper healthcare continues to grow...
Those with coverage can expect a steady decline in the level of care they receive, unless of course you are fortunate enough to get elected for some office, than you will join the ranks of the minority elite. Thanx again for your views...

"people who remember Ross Perot's rants in the 1992 presidential election may think of the federal debt as a problem of the past. But it never really went away after Perot made it an issue, it only took a breather. The federal government actually produced a surplus for a few years during the 1990s, thanks to a booming economy and fiscal restraint imposed by laws that were passed early in the decade. And though the federal debt has grown in dollar terms since 2001, it hasn't grown dramatically relative to the size of the economy.

But that's about to change, thanks to the country's three big entitlement programs - Social Security, Medicaid and especially Medicare. Medicaid and Medicare have grown progressively more expensive as the cost of health care has dramatically outpaced inflation over the past 30 years, a trend that is expected to continue for at least another decade or two.

And with the first baby boomers becoming eligible for Social Security in 2008 and for Medicare in 2011, the expenses of those two programs are about to increase dramatically due to demographic pressures. People are also living longer, which makes any program that provides benefits to retirees more expensive.

Medicare already costs four times as much as it did in 1970, measured as a percentage of the nation's gross domestic product. It currently comprises 13 percent of federal spending; by 2030, the Congressional Budget Office projects it will consume nearly a quarter of the budget.

Economists Jagadeesh Gokhale of the American Enterprise Institute and Kent Smetters of the University of Pennsylvania have an even scarier way of looking at Medicare. Their method calculates the program's long-term fiscal shortfall - the annual difference between its dedicated revenues and costs - over time.

By 2030 they calculate Medicare will be about $5 trillion in the hole, measured in 2004 dollars. By 2080, the fiscal imbalance will have risen to $25 trillion. And when you project the gap out to an infinite time horizon, it reaches $60 trillion.

Medicare so dominates the nation's fiscal future that some economists believe health care reform, rather than budget measures, is the best way to attack the problem.

"Obviously health care is a mess," says Dean Baker, a liberal economist at the Center for Economic and Policy Research, a Washington think tank. "No one's been willing to touch it, but that's what I see as front and center."

Social Security is a much less serious problem. The program currently pays for itself with a 12.4 percent payroll tax, and even produces a surplus that the government raids every year to pay other bills. But Social Security will begin to run deficits during the next century, and ultimately would need an infusion of $8 trillion if the government planned to keep its promises to every beneficiary.

Calculations by Boston University economist Lawrence Kotlikoff indicate that closing those gaps - $8 trillion for Social Security, many times that for Medicare - and paying off the existing deficit would require either an immediate doubling of personal and corporate income taxes, a two-thirds cut in Social Security and Medicare benefits, or some combination of the two."

Universal healthcare is not a likely outcome...

deb said...

"The federal government actually produced a surplus for a few years during the 1990s, thanks to a booming economy and fiscal restraint imposed by laws that were passed early in the decade. "

I regret to inform that this statement is not only a lie, but it is propaganda. The reason that the economy did so well in the 90's is because Clinton added a 1% tax to the richest Americans. This group is able to deduct most of their daily lives as a business expense. Meals, cars, travel, gas, etc. can be a business expense. The richest Americans pay less as a percentage of their annual net worth than I do.

The other thing that Clinton did was to shut down government until Congress sent him a balanced budget.

No matter how many times Repubs say that the economy of the 90's was "trickle down" finally working it doesn't make it is a lie.

SS is an easy one. Raise the cap and put the surplus into it's own account. I am for letting cities and states borrow against the surplus to bring jobs into local areas. Who's idea was that? Richard? Judy? I have shared that idea with my Congressional candidate, State Rep., and State Senate candidate. Thanks to whoevers' idea it was. I HOPE it will gain momentum.

If we take all of the money currently given to insurance companies for health insurance we can completely fund Medicare for all. Medicaid then becomes a non issue.

dan said...

John G, thanks for the post but you raise so many issues I really don't have time to respond to each point now. I'll just say that I disagree with many of your statements and conclusions.

A couple points:
A universal health care plan can provide improved care for everyone for less money then the country is currently spending.
The national debt under this Administration is not routine.

For now I'll just say I agree with Deb's post and I hope we can talk about these things after the election.

dan said...

Here's the printed version of a recent Bill Moyers speech. It's a lengthy report card on the state of the nation...a *must read* but only when you have some time. Some excerpts:

Current leaders:
"We know now that “a new nation, conceived in Liberty, and dedicated to the proposition that all men are created equal,” can, indeed, perish. And perish not under fallen battlements and bombs raining down and the sneak attack of some fanatical distant foe, but by the deliberate plunder of an organized minority – for our governing elites do not represent the majority of Americans – that methodically imposes its will on the laws and institutions of a people until the whole foundation has become their very throne."

Urban schools:
"Yet teachers now are expected to staff the permanent emergency rooms of our country’s dysfunctional social order. They are expected to compensate for what families, communities, and culture fail to do. Like our soldiers in Iraq, they are sent into urban combat zones, on impossible missions, under inhospitable conditions, and then abandoned by politicians and policy makers who have already cut and run, leaving teachers on their own."

The national debt:
"Nonetheless, President Bush acts as if he has a divine mandate to make the fiscal gap even worse. When he took office in 2001, his top priority was to give the richest of the rich hundreds of billions of dollars in tax cuts. (Vice President Cheney said they deserved it.) The President prevailed, even pushing through a second and third round of tax cuts despite increased spending on homeland security and fighting terrorists abroad. Bush’s 2001 tax cut alone gave the richest 1 percent of Americans $ 479 billion over ten years. His first two tax cuts account for a hefty 15 percent of the total fiscal gap going forward."

dan said...

...and another excerpt:

The middle class:
"It’s all right there in bold letters in the early manifestos of the Reagan Revolution – essential reading like William Simon’s A Time for Truth . He argued that “funds generated by business” would have to “rush by multimillions” into conservative causes to uproot the institutions and the “heretical” morality of the New Deal. An “alliance” between right-wing leaders and “men of action in the capitalist world” must mount a “veritable crusade” against everything brought forth by the Progressive era. Reading right out of the new reactionary playbook, the business press somberly concluded that “some people will obviously have to do with less…It will be a bitter pill for many Americans to swallow the idea of doing with less so that big business can have more,” BusinessWeek sermonized.

They succeeded beyond expectations. Instead of trying to keep a level playing field, government now favors the rich, powerful, and privileged. The public institutions, the laws and regulations, the ideas, norms, and beliefs which aimed to protect the common good and helped to create America’s iconic middle class, are now gone, greatly weakened, or increasingly vulnerable to attack. The Nobel Laureate economist Robert Solow sums it up succinctly: What it’s all about, he says, “is the redistribution of wealth in favor of the wealthy and of power in favor of the powerful.”"

deb said...

Terrific article Dan. I printed it to share at the Dem HQ, and sent a copy to my candidate for state Senate. He put the word out that he is interested in noteowrthy articles.

deb said...

This is a sad article, but I thought it might be helpful to your cause for improving hospital emergency room wait times, JG.

Hospitals, MDs Addressing Long Wait Time

christin m p in massachusetts said...

We need to see more news like this everywhere:

Home is Everything

deb said...

The "home" article actually shocked me with the prices considered affordable in HI. It's a Habitat for Humanity type situation being created for houses costing 300K and up.

I believe that housing prices are going to change. There just aren't THAT many millionaires. The WWII generation is passing away and within 10 years half of the baby boomers will have settled into retirement. Young people currently in their 20's and 30's aren't going to be able to afford housing at today's rate and yet there will be hundreds of thousands of homes vacated by the previous generations. Prices will fall.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Those are exactly the same prices that are considered "affordable" here in Massachusetts -- and this isn't even a resort area! It's easy to see how prices could have gotten that high in Hawaii, Southern California, or South Florida -- but there is only one reason why prices reached such obscene levels here in sleepy New England -- pure greed. That is why I've been so angry about the overinflated house values here since 2002.

In fact, any home priced below $350,000 in Massachusetts is usually either a fixer-upper (to put it kindly) or a very tiny summer cottage.

Many of our very modest middle class homes cost three-quarters of a million dollars -- depending on the city or town they're located in. I'd like to know how anyone can justify Hawaii and San Francisco home prices here in Massachusetts!

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Just to give an example -- the town of Sudbury, Massachusetts is only one town away from where I live. The median home price there is $875,771. And those homes -- although attractive and certainly spacious enough for most families -- are relatively modest in size and architecture.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

I almost forgot -- Many of the "garden-style" (apartment type) condos are priced under $300,000 as well. But all the townhouse condos are priced as high as single-family homes. Of course, even if you find a condo in the 200's, you have to add the always-rising monthly condo fee onto your mortgage payment. So, even garden-style condos end up being out of the reach of a lot of moderate-income families.

Richard Yarnell said...

At least in NY, one needs to distinguish between Co-op and Condo. The tax treatment is different. For example, in the Co-op in which ownership of shares in the corporation that owns the building, grants a proprietary lease on a specified apartment. (Usually) major portions of the monthly maintenance fee goes to paying mortgage and taxes on the building and is therefore deductable. The maintenance fees are controlled by a board made up of resident shareholders.

Rules governing Condos vary and are usually set up by the developer.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

No matter how many times I listened to my friend James and his NYC friends and relatives discuss co-ops, I still never completely understood what they are. I do remember that his Mom said a condo was a better deal than a co-op. Does there ever come a point where you own the co-op apartment outright -- where you get the deed to it? And do the monthly payments on a co-op inflate over time as they would with an adjustable rate mortgage, or are they inflation-proof as would be the case with a fixed rate mortgage? Lastly, what are the advantages a co-op offers over plain old renting?

Richard Yarnell said...

The maintenance fees increase as costs of running the building increase. You don't own the apartment itself, you own a share of the building and that ownership gives you the exclusive right to occupy the space your proprietary lease covers. If taxes rise, so does the maintenance fee. As labor costs go up, etc. Just as the costs of owning a house change over time. However, unless the Co-op owners decide to improve the building by installing new elevators, or unless some major system breaks down and has to be replaced, the increase is very gradual. Some Co-ops are run better than others. Mine, now my ex-wife's has had a good board most of the time we owned it. We charged a somewhat higher rate than was necessary to cover current expenses so that we could gradually accumulate funds to repair those systems we knew would break down. Essentially, we covered the depreciation on mechanical systems.

I bought the apartment for $20K in about 1975. It was appraised at $1.5 million when the divorce was settled. The maintenance rose almost every year, but no more than rent would have. Over half of the maintenance was attributable to the mortgage on the building and taxes, so that at least half of the maintenance was deductable, just as taxes and mortgage interest would be on the purchase of a house. I was able to afford a much large apartment, owning the Co-op, than I could have renting, and my investment appreciated handsomely.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

I almost choked when I read what the appreciation on your co-op apartment was. What year was that?

Judging by that appraisal, I'm guessing it's most likely located in either the 10007 or 10013 zip code?

Possibly 10012?

Richard Yarnell said...

West End at 105.

I'd shown the building as a r/e agent and new the line (9 rooms and about 4000 feet in a 1911 building). It was rent controlled before it was converted to Co-op by the _tenants_.

I bought the apartment unseen. I put down a bid that was $1 above the minimum price they could legally sell it for and told them to come see me when time got short. We signed at 11:30 PM on the last day. It took me two years to roust the rent controlled tenant - a very rich guy who didn't think the plan would go through. He was pissed and dug in his heels.

The appraisal was done in 1999. I bought it in 1977. At the time, most of the apartments in that line sold for between 45K and 85K depending on condition and floor. Mine was on the 7th and had a view of NJ. All rooms except the kitchen had views of at least the street.

It was a sweet deal.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Nine rooms and 4000 square feet of living space in an apartment? That explains its 1999 price tag. A 1911 building... I'm thinking that was a bit past the Gothic Revival period. What style of architecture is it?

This is a subject of major interest to me -- I dream of seeing the U.S. undertake a massive historical restoration project. I know that's unrealistic, but I feel that buildings -- both residential and commercial -- are at once undervalued and overvalued. They are undervalued as works of art and places to live in, and they are overvalued as commodities to buy, sell, and trade for profit.

My feeling is that each and every property owner should treat his/her building(s), land, home(s) very dearly. I know they are not living entities with feelings, but it still makes me sad to see a property neglected or treated as a cash cow. On the other hand, it makes me very happy when I see a property lovingly restored to its original condition -- you know, like the Victorian house in "It's A Wonderful Life". And even better, is when a nice family who continues to appreciate it and take good care of it, gets to live in it.

Instead, the money is wasted on war profiteering.

Judy B. said...

Christin... you might be interested in this article about housing in my area... Cowlitz county, and Washington State in general

Once upon a time you asked for "addresses" to our local news outlets.. If you are still interested, you can bookmark for my local newspaper... and for a portland tv station...
The biggest news right now is the weather....

Richard Yarnell said...

You can look at it yourself:

google map

924 West End Avenue, NYC 10025

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Judy, I got an error page on that first link, but I checked the second link and went into archives for the list of 11-13-06 articles. Was it the article about the drop in home prices?

I couldn't resist taking a peek at the rental listings in the home classifieds -- How have you guys been able to keep rents so reasonable? Seeing those excellent prices confirms my suspicions that the only reason for the inflated prices in the Northeast is avarice. This area has no more to offer its residents than any other region of the U.S. does. Based on everything I've ever heard about the Pacific Northwest -- including what you've told us, it's a really nice place to live. So I still would like to know why the PNW has been able to keep home prices within reach for the working class, while the Northeast Seaboard has not. There is just no justification for it.

At least it's comforting to know that there are some places left in this country where the majority of the people in power have decent values -- instead of this "winner take all" mentality.

Also, I checked -- I watched the video footage about the wind and flood damage there. I'm thinking about that family who had just recently dropped their flood insurance, and then had their home so badly damaged by the Sandy River. I'm guessing that the reason they dropped the flood insurance is because they couldn't afford it. If they're not wealthy, I wonder how they're going to be able to rebuild without insurance to pay for it...

christin m p in massachusetts said...

Richard, I was able to get a pretty good satellite close-up of the building's rooftop, but I wish I could find good views of the facade and the interior. I went to google images to see if any pictures of that address were posted on line. There were several from West End Avenue, but none from #924.

christin m p in massachusetts said...

I'd like to know what all of you think about the Alternative Minimum Tax.

Judy B. said...

What I really think you have to compare is big city prices to big city prices and rural prices to rural prices...

Judy B. said...

Christin... (continued)
Even here in Washington state Cowlitz County prices are much cheaper than in Portland or Seattle. In the Southern part of this rural county, close to I-5 (freeway) and 30 miles to Portland, the prices have escalated very fast.. the further north you go the cheaper it gets.
My property is only a mile from the freeway, but 50 miles to Portland, so it is considerably cheaper than Woodland, WA. People are starting to locate here from the city tho and prices have been reflecting that... until the energy crisis, when peoplr had to factor in gas prices vs home prices...
The drive from here to the nearest mass transit park and ride is 30 miles, but it is an easy drive on the freeway, and if you had a hybrid, the energy costs could be reduced a lot...
I expect in 10 years time my property will be worth a lot more than it is now, but I really do not want to see it developed..
Our health is making our decision to hold on a little longer not too viable...Time will tell.

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