THE HOUSTON TRAGEDY: COULD IT HAVE BEEN AVOIDED?(Posted August 30,2017)
As we reflect on the tragedy unfolding in Texas and the city of Houston as a result of Hurricane Harvey, a number of observations are in order. In particular, a perspective on urban planning as currently practiced and its unintended consequences is appropriate.
Texas just happens to have a global-warming-denying governor, Greg Abbott, who has spent most of his political career decrying the evils of the big, bad, intrusive Federal government. Interestingly, he is now requesting assistance from that same big, bad, intrusive Federal government in order to deal with a weather calamity that may well have been greatly exacerbated by the very warming he denies. This invites both an analysis of political intent as well as the need for answers to two very important questions.
Could Houston and the state of Texas have done anything or been better prepared for a storm like Harvey? Time will tell; the city has expanded in recent years in a manner that is typical of the way American cities grow and develop. There appears to be a philosophy of “anything goes”, wherein the green light is always given to the big money managers to do whatever makes the most money, regardless of the long-term costs and RISKS.
Could Houston officials have been smarter in the way it managed its expansion? Likely. Wetlands, nature’s way of accommodating unexpected influxes of large amounts of water, have been filled in and drained indiscriminately to accommodate expansion activities; these precious natural resources have been replaced with concrete roads and plazas which, rather than absorb water, merely allow it to flow freely—into places that result in precisely the kind of devastation now experienced with any kind of excessive rainfall.
So, YES, the city could have done better in its contingency planning. But in order to do a better job of planning, perhaps the FIRST thing that should be done would be to eliminate the inclination on the part of their politicians to DENY the reality of climate change.
THE REPUBLICAN HEALTH CARE PLAN(Posted June 23, 2017)
It’s time to call the Republican health care plan what it truly is: Step1 of their overall tax cut plans.
Certainly they have added a number of health provisions as a means of fulfilling their promise to “eliminate and replace” Obama-care. But what they really need is the offset of providing $800billion in tax cuts to the corporate and high-income component of their base. The cuts to Medicaid serve that purpose. Otherwise there would be no way to offset the revenue loss and the Federal deficit would increase exponentially.
Thus the “so-called” health-care discussion is merely a charade. The Republican party has never firmly stated their objective in changing the American health care system. Thus a simple question: Is the party in fact committed to the idea of providing quality, affordable health care for all Americans?
I think not.
MISGUIDED FOREIGN POLICY(Posted May 23, 2017)
The Trump administration has announced a deal with Saudi Arabia whereby we will provide $110 billion dollars worth of weapons to the kingdom.
The middle east is the most violent, conflicted place on the planet. Yet, while attempting to curry favor with the US arms industry, our government has, in a pour-gasoline-on-the-fire moment, added more firepower to the seething cauldron.
What could possibly go wrong?
A QUESTION OF VALUES (Posted April 19, 2017)
In the actions of both the Trump administration and the current Congress we are seeing the worst aspect of human behavior, suggesting that we may be losing sight of who we are as a nation.
The President and Congress have breached all the norms of ethical behavior – not LEGAL behavior – ETHICAL behavior. I say this because they know the laws and are able to flaunt them very carefully, being ever-mindful that these laws were purposely written so that our “monied-class” would be able to circumvent them at will – just exactly as they are now doing.
The more unsettling aspect of all this is the extent to which we as a society seem willing to allow this sort of duplicity to occur. And so my question:
HAVE WE LOST OUR WAY? (Posted April 19, 2017)
The examples of this debauchery are stunning, and indeed are too numerous to recount in their entirety though here are a few examples:
My former US congressman, Tom Price, now Secretary of Heath and Human Services (HHS), made a complete farce of the legislative process as he BOTH 1) bought stock in companies and then wrote and passed legislation that benefited both the company and himself as an investor; 2) wrote and passed legislation that benefited a company and then bought stock in that same company.
Is there anything wrong with this? The answer here provides a clue as to the answer to my earlier question! I asked my US Senator, Johnny Isakson, about this and all I got back was a recitation of Mr. Price’s qualifications; when I reminded him by mail that I had asked about Price’s legislative hi-jinks, he replied ONCE more with a note summarizing Tom Price’s unique qualifications for the HHS job.
This is just an illustration as to how far we have strayed from the “straight-and-narrow” path of decency. A US Senator will not even discus the matter of depravity that everyone of us should be concerned about.
-Trump owns a hotel in Washington that foreigners, politicians and businessmen, are flocking to court favor with the President; he spends most of his time at his resort in Mar-a-Lago in Florida where, once again, businessmen and politicians line up to bestow riches upon Mr. Trump. He has businesses around the world to which he remains connected and from which profits flow as a result of most everything he does. Worst of all, he has not/will not release his tax returns so that the American people can assess whether his decisions are being made in his interest or ours.
-Trump has begun an all-out assault on our sacred American institutions. Consider:
- He has cast aspersions and doubt about the work of our intelligence agencies.
- He has insulted and questioned the validity of the American Judiciary (note his effort to enact a “Muslim” ban)
- He has put into effect an all-out assault on the free press in the USA (FAKE NEWS anyone?)
Amazingly enough, nothing is being done about this. And as long as it continues the danger to our American society is profound. We risk losing our fundamental institutions and with them, the essence of what we are – or should be – as a society. It is critically important for us to remember that out institutions will not save us, WE MUST SAVE OUR INSTITUTIONS!
The only way out of this is to rid ourselves of the pestilence within – yes, we need to address the real threat to us, i.e., the Trump presidency, And it is my hope that eventually (and SOONER rather that LATER) he will be removed from office by the most expeditious (and LEGAL) method available to us. Once we accomplish this, Congress should fall in line as they will have been sent a clear message: that WE WILL NO LONGER TOLERATE THIS ATTACK ON OUR FUNDAMENTAL VALUES!
MORE GUN-INDUCED INSANITY IN GEORGIA(Posted April 16, 2017)
The Republicans in the Georgia state legislature have been adding provisions that make it easier to carry guns into the public realm for years. This year’s fiasco, allowing guns onto College campuses, is a holdover from last year when even the Republican Governor, Nathan Deal, a gun-rights fanatic, feeling insecure enough about the insanity that has overtaken the legislature, was compelled to veto the 2016 version.
Meanwhile, those advocating for defeat of the measure have come up with credible research suggesting that, among states that have passed “right-to-carry laws” on campus, not one instance has occurred in which a gun has been used to prevent a crime anywhere in the USA.
Clearly, the statistics point out the futility of these kinds of “feel-good” measures. Unfortunately, our bought-and-paid-for legislature, in its annual rush to pay homage to the gun lobby, seems to think otherwise.
House Bill 280 would allow guns on campus ostensibly to promote safety which seems a trifle odd given the precise circumstances of guns in America. There are over 300 million guns in circulation in this country; if more guns in more places were the key to public safety, the USA would have to be the safest place on earth. I don’t believe that anyone as yet has tried to make that case.
Will we ever learn? We need LESS weaponry in our daily lives, not MORE. Governor Deal should do exactly what he did last year and veto this utterly idiotic legislation.
THE AMERICAN HEALTH CARE ACT (AHCA): A POST-MORTEM (Posted March 29, 2017)
The Republican majority in Congress failed to pass the AHCA for ONE simple reason, i.e., there was no agreement whatsoever on their purpose/objective. Some believed that their imagined ”dead-beats” must be removed from the Medicaid rolls; others wanted to “get government out of the health care business” while still others were doing the usual – finding ways to reward wealthy benefactors with ever-more tax cuts.
In passing the Affordable Care Act (ACA), the Democrats were united around a single principle: putting the USA on a path to securing health care for all Americans.
Let’s face it, the Republican party has not ever supported the idea of universal health care coverage. And it may never do so, as evidenced by its recent behavior. Witness the following:
-Despite controlling both the statehouses and legislatures in over 30 states, they have refused to implement the exchanges as allowed for under the ACA. This is critical to the success of the program and, as evidenced by states like Massachusetts, these options work as they allow states to tailor the system to their specific needs in an eminently FEDERALIST manner.
-They have steadfastly refused to allow any changes to the ACA law in Congress that likely would have solved the problems they now cite as evidence of the ACA’s “death spiral”. It seems reasonable to assume that, when making a change that affects one-sixth of the American economy, it is absolutely necessary to be able to make adjustments as they are needed. Instead, Republicans complained about President Obama’s use of Executive Orders in trying to do what Congress should have done to make the system work for everyone.
-They not only have refused to take any positive action to help, they in fact have gone to extremes to do things that would clearly make matters worse. Witness Senator Marco Rubio’s bill to eliminate “risk corridors”, causing insurance companies to abandon high-cost areas and send medical premiums sky-rocketing. These two factors, insurance companies abandoning exchanges and rapidly escalating costs, are the very same issues Republicans now cite as evidence of the afore-mentioned ACA “death spiral”. A self-fulfilling prophecy worthy of that great Republican Grand-Père, Ronald Reagan.
What options are left? There should be no doubt that the ACA can be improved to the point that it will work well for most Americans. But if we really want to solve the problems of our national health care system, why not take the obvious route? To make it simple, easy to understand and implement, a 3-word solution is all that is needed: MEDICARE FOR ALL! Let’s get President Trump to sign the bill right now and we can be on our way to health care for everyone!
While we’re at it, how about yet another easy, 3-word solution to one of our other great national problems: How to save the SOCIAL SECURITY Trust Fund? Answer: ELIMINATE THE CAP!
And once we’ve done all the “easy” stuff, let’s begin to address our real challenges:
1) Eliminate poverty in America; we live in the wealthiest nation on Earth, yet one in six Americans, including one in five children, live in abject poverty. THIS IS A NATIONAL DISGRACE!
2) Put the nation on a path to ensure that every child born in America has the opportunity to succeed in life by affording them access to the kind of education and job opportunities that will enable them to realize their God-given potential and to live the American dream!
A set of outcomes befitting a great nation, a truly exceptional nation!
ARE WE UP TO IT?