Friday, October 18, 2013
Sunday, January 27, 2013
I know that the chance that the President will actually get to read this letter is less than minimal, but fractional odds are better than none at all.
Dear Mr. President,
I’m asking you as the head of the executive branch of the federal government to address a source of pervasive anxiety and despair among the people of our country. As a citizen, I feel obligated to alert you to the fact that we who follow the actions of our government cannot avoid recognizing that the constitutional principle of equal justice for all has vanished.
Frontline recently revealed wrongdoings by decision-makers in financial institutions that caused our recent economic crisis. But your administration's Department of Justice has chosen to ignore fraudulent behavior on the part of the leaders of the financial world. It appears that a line has been drawn so that persons whose total worth is in the millions or more are exempt from having to respect and obey laws that apply to every citizen. How can our government be a government of the people, by the people and for the people if laws that exist prohibiting financial deceit no longer apply once a certain level of income and assets has been reached?
I know that as an individual it is natural for you to consider human factors in your actions. As difficult as it may appear to you personally to call to task and ultimately bring to justice persons that you may have come to know in the course of your political career, I am asking you to rise above the ties of friendships and allegiances and to make sure that the Justice Department of your administration does not exempt persons above a certain level of income and assets from being called to account.
Posted by Howard at 5:49 PM
Saturday, January 26, 2013
Fot those of you who didn't catch this very short letter to Obama on Facebook, here it is again:
Posted by Howard at 9:00 PM
Monday, November 5, 2012
For background on Semmelweis: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ignaz_Semmelweis
Posted by Howard at 12:03 PM
Wednesday, June 6, 2012
On February 12, 2009 Colgan Air Flight 3407 crashed into a house in suburban Buffalo, N.Y., killing 50 people. Eleven minutes after take-off from Newark the crew noticed ice buildup on the plane's wings and windscreen and turned on the de-icing system. The flight continued on autopilot until the final approach when the aircraft's "stick shaker" sounded a strong warning that the aircraft's speed had deteriorated to a dangerously slow rate. Instead of following standard procedure of adding full throttle and lowering the plane's nose, the captain added only 75% power and raised it. This caused the aircraft to pitch up 31 degrees before diving at 45 degrees into a home near Buffalo.
The pilot meant well. He did not want the plane to go down, so he turned its nose upward thinking he would prevent a crash. He was wrong -- tragically wrong. He needed to burn more fuel, expend more energy. Had he gone full throttle and pointed the plane downward, he could have gained the necessary speed to recover from his dangerous stall.
Why did the pilot fail to realize that by raising the front of the plane he would further decrease its perilously low speed? The answer is simple. He lacked competency. Regional airlines practice austerity. To cut costs, the airlines' owners hired cheaper but less knowledgeable pilots. Pilots who lack training and experience cannot fly safely.
To perform any given task, a plane needs to consume energy. Just as a commercial aircraft is a system that cannot function without consuming fuel, a nation's economy cannot remain in good health without money. A plane will no more take off from a runway with an empty gas tank than an economy will pull out of stagnation without money. As Konrad Lorenz stated, "Money is the symbol for energy." People need to get paid to make a living, and if they get paid well, they will live better. Once their standard of living increases, other members of society benefit because with a higher standard of living everyone can afford to pay for services, which in turn gives an additional boost to the economy.
So what about austerity? As with the example of the regional airline's plane that crashed because the owners did not cover the cost for proper training and maintenance, austerity is a set-up for performance failure. Austerity brings with it lack and suffering, and stifles creativity. When people are perpetually worried about how to pay their bills, they lose confidence. Money is necessary for good morale, and good morale is a pre-requisite for good work, good health, rejuvenating play and the kind of expansiveness that makes a society prosper.
Who can supply the money? Where would it come from? Only from tax revenue from sources that are not already oppressed by austerity measures. Look for money among the likes of those who put up millions and millions to bid up art works for little other purpose than to increase their own net worth.
Posted by Howard at 1:59 PM
Tuesday, April 17, 2012
Q. What is your favorite joke?
A. In New York, a hungry guy stops at a hot-dog vendor's stand. The vendor asks him, "What will you have?" The guy answers, "A dog with everything on it." The vendor puts mustard, relish, ketchup etc. on the dog and hands it back to the guy. The guy hands the vendor a twenty-dollar bill and gets ready for the next customer. Before even taking a bite, the man asks the vendor, "Where is my change?" The vendor replies, "Change comes from within…"
Q. Are you sure this is joke? I can't see myself breaking out laughing.
A. Not all jokes will make you laugh out loud. Some will only want to make you scratch your head.
Q. So you are insisting this anecdote really is a joke? Or are we dealing with nothing more than a bit of nonsense?
A. Maybe. But not everything that appears to be nonsense is nonsense. When I first heard this joke, I certainly didn't laugh out loud, but something registered in my feelings. The vendor's reply seems crazy, but you cannot help having that second thought that underneath it all it is not that crazy, that at some level it does make sense.
Q. So what kind of sense does it make?
A. I don't want to answer this one. Explaining a joke kills it. You get more out of this one if you let yourself have that second, third, fourth, fifth and so on thought and see where it takes you.
Posted by Howard at 4:50 PM
Tuesday, November 15, 2011
Conservatives don't want the government to stimulate the economy because they claim that only private enterprise can create a recovery. When progressives point to the New Deal as a successful way of ending the Great Depression, conservatives claim it didn't really work: it was World War II that ended the depression.
The massive unemployment plight did indeed end when men were drafted into the military. As so many of the men were away fighting a war, women who had never worked outside of the home helped keep American factories going. Worries about keeping or getting a job simply vanished after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
So was it private industry that put the country back on its feet economically? No, it was the government that created jobs by asking private companies to produce whatever was necessary to win the war. Yes, private companies manufactured guns, planes and tanks, but the decisions of what resources to apply when and where were made by the Roosevelt administration.
Were corporations allowed to make profits? Yes, but only within reason. Getting rich from the war was generally condemned as "war profiteering." In 1941, then Senator Harry Truman began to travel from coast to uncover corruption on the part of companies involved in war production. President Roosevelt made sure that the government had the money needed by imposing tax rates of 92 percent on incomes over 100,000 dollars (which would be about 1.2 million in today's monetary value.)
The leadership that guided America through World War II, the country's greatest challenge in history, was not the management of a corporation but a government headed by Roosevelt and then Truman. It was under a democratically elected presidency that victory was achieved. The person holding the country's highest office was not a private individual running a corporation, but an elected official accountable to every citizen of the nation.
In the minds of some it may be acceptable for corporations to rule the U.S. if not the whole world. The recent decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that corporations are "persons" may even make it possible for them to wield such power legally. But these persons, having neither body nor soul, will never have the wisdom demanded of human beings qualified to lead the people of a democracy.
Once the war was over, the American economy, no longer fueled by war production, had to be kept from relapsing into pre-war depression. It was the Truman administration's resolute implementation of the Marshall plan that made it possible for the U.S. to have a prospering post-war economy while helping Europe and Japan rebuild what was destroyed in the war. America with its vast industrial base was able to supply the goods and services Europe and Japan needed to rebuild. With a steady demand for U.S. products, America's economy prospered for decades to come.
Posted by Howard at 3:36 PM