Monthly Archives: August, 2011


For all my voting life I have been pulling the lever for transportation bonds that put big bucks into highways. I do it to authorize the pocket change for public transit included in the small print.

Being both a car owner and bus rider I say it’s time to balance the funding and build up RIPTA.

Fuel costs, congestion and a tough economy make convenient and accessible bus service a good choice for commuting to work. If drivers spend less time in traffic jams that’s a plus for our economy and air quality.

RIDE transports Rhode Islanders who use wheelchairs to essential doctor’s appointments. Without RIDE, private ambulances would have fill that need, at a much higher cost to taxpayers. We save a lot with wise use of public services.

Our aging citizens are afraid to give up driving– even when they don’t feel safe– because they have no good alternative. We need more public transit, and will continue to need an increase year by year.

I was downtown last week, waiting 40 minutes for the #42 Hope Street— a busy route. It reminded me that every cut to numbers of runs leaves people waiting longer. For someone who takes the bus every day to work that’s a bite of their time, an example of how cuts are a tax.

Advocates for RIPTA are meeting at the State House this Wednesday, 8/17. You can get details here…
Save RIPTA Blogspot


Friend Kathryn has a story that will make you afraid to open your closet, or walk past it, or live in the same house where the closet is, or look in the rearview mirror as you drive desperately away from the house…

Click here if you dare.

Jobs Not Cuts

Thunderclouds at Sunset

Standing for Workers

So we’re standing on the State House lawn once again, this time for the working and unemployed Americans who are left out of the budget decisions– except as targets for austerity.

I came more to talk to people and not feel so alone with despair over what the past two weeks have brought us to. It’s a pleasant surprise that so many people in passing cars honk and wave and some give us the fist pump. Not one heckler– this is a record.

One speaker is opposing RIPTA cuts to public transit, a cause supported by Progressive Democrats of American and the Sierra Club. I took the bus to the demonstration– if I didn’t I’d still be looking for a place to park. It was a long wait in Kennedy Plaza for the number 42, but I was rewarded with a great view of the sky.

Today’s Providence Journal has great coverage-- I’m glad they were there.

Yellow Stripes and Dead Armadillos

It was morning in America until Barack Obama was elected, right? Dave Johnson at Campaign for America’s Future addresses the collective amnesia.

But here is some reality anyway, even if we’re not supposed to see it. Just ten years ago we were paying off debt at a rate that would have completely paid it all off by now. But under George W. Bush we cut taxes for the rich and more than doubled military spending. We deregulated and stopped enforcing laws. We let the big corporations run rampant. Our federal budget turned from huge surpluses to massive deficits, and Bush said it was “incredibly positive news” because it would lead to a debt crisis they could use to shock people into letting the corporate right privatize and thereby profit.

And then, under and because of Bush, our economy collapsed.

I see the Republicans lacking a leader with the decency to stand against the most crazy superstitions of their right wing– the Birthers, the privatizing profiteers and the Ayn Rand disciples who claim that paying taxes to your own country and local government is the equivalent of rape and slavery– though they’ll keep the clean water, paved roads and Medicare, thank you. If the blinkered and callous statements about the uninsured is any indicator– ‘they can just go to the emergency room’- these people are not only ignorant but happy and complacent in their ignorance.

I see the Democrats lacking the vision and daring to bring a 21st Century New Deal to the American people. They, like the Republicans, are caught in a system where fundraising takes precedence over governing. The Supreme Court decision that money is a form of free speech was one of the worst setbacks to Democracy we have seen in our history. If you want to burn down a house, or level a playing field, or start fresh– look at campaign finance. Our politicians, most of them, are more to be pitied than censured. Save them from selling themselves on the streets!

Our President, Barack Obama, is a decent, smart, principled man. He is leading in a time of crisis. I think he is looking ahead, and what he sees is something neither party will find conducive to their political narratives.

We have seven billion people on this planet. In the developed nations, people are blessed to live to advanced age. This brings us a graying population and new challenges. Medicare is one of the best solutions we have, along with the Veterans Administration, and should not be cut, but strengthened and expanded. However, ‘hands off Medicare’ is not realistic. The salvation of health care is constant assessment of what works and what doesn’t. Barack Obama’s disclosure that his grandmother had a hip replacement that did not gain her health or comfort reflects the uncertainties and hard choices I see every day in elder care. But when I attended Town Hall meetings about health care reform, I found myself staring down some guys who were holding a sign that said, ‘Obama Lies-Grandma Dies’. This is not only a vicious slur against a politician who disclosed a real truth about his actual family–it was a slur against health professionals. I mean, we nurses are all supposedly jonesing for a seat on the ‘death panels’. I wish more of our politicians knew how much hard labor it takes to keep a totally disabled person in comfort and dignity. Many ordinary Americans know, because we are caring for our families.

Health care rationing? We have had it from day one. Health is rationed out to the rich, always has been. Look at the stats. Race being less a mark of heredity than a marker of caste in our very mixed nation– you see that health is distributed unequally. This matches unequal access.

But I think using ‘rationing’ as a scare word veils the truth. We have to decide how much of our national wealth will go to health care rather than other legitimate needs, such as education and infrastructure. Throwing money at Grandma will make some medical providers rich, but won’t necessarily make her healthier or happier. We have to fund research that will question accepted treatments and judge the outcomes so that we can avoid wasting money on dead ends– treatments that are painful and do more harm than good. A national health program like Medicare will always be ‘hands on’.

Another reality we are facing is peak oil. ‘Drill Baby, Drill’ gets harder when we run out of areas where rich people won’t be inconvenienced. Worldwide the demand for fossil fuels is getting harder to fill without political and environmental damage. George Bush famously said that history doesn’t matter, because we’ll all be dead. Others believe in The Rapture. The vast majority of us, though, do think about what we will leave to our children. We can’t honestly promise an endless future of increasing consumption because physics doesn’t work that way. So what do we do? This ‘austerity’ will be working its way up from the people who are ‘used to it’ sooner rather than later. If we care about the future we have to invest in damage control today.

I hope that President Obama will get out of the middle of the road. As a former presidential candidate, Fred Harris, said, ‘The middle of the road has nothing but yellow stripes and dead armadillos.’

If Barack Obama is, as I believe, a good president in bad times, he needs our vocal support for his best ideas. If he is, as some of his critics say, just another politician– then we have to hold his feet to the fire.

Some are saying that a President Romney would galvanize the opposition and swing the pendulum to a new resurgence of the left. As I recollect the Reagan years, it doesn’t necessarily work that way. And after eight years of George Bush we are darn tired of holding signs in the rain and snow.

The time to organize is now. I’m not surrendering, and I’m not staying home on election day. The Bush administration drilled holes in the ship of state before handing it over, disaster capitalism has salvage profiteers ready. This is a mess, but if you blame the last two years of President Obama, you have to forget the previous eight when George Bush turned peace and surplus into war and deficit. That being said, it’s President Obama’s watch now. Our president and party need to offer the American people a New Deal.

Local Artist Explores the Alaskan Wilderness

Rhode Island artist, Kathy Hodge, is kayaking to a remote island on the Alaskan coast to experience the landscape first-hand. She has already encountered a polar bear and taken photos in close-up. See them here.

Too Much of a Good Thing

Sunshine, and embracing nature with all of your being has its hazards…

A 30-year-old man who slept nude on a boat dock suffered second-degree burns on 40 percent of his body and was taken to the hospital by helicopter, according to Austin-Travis County EMS spokesman Warren Hassinger.

The man jumped in Lake Travis, near Mc Cormick Mountain Drive in Hudson Bend, and refused to come out of the water,

Read the rest here.

When my friends and I were about 18 we stayed at a beach house. We were determined to get deep dark tans and went to the beach in our bathing suits around noon. I dropped out early because I get hot and bored fast, but even at that I was in pain by the evening, and my friends who stayed in the sun for hours were throwing up. We used a ton of Noxema, but pretty much turned a fun weekend into a life lesson on why you should use sunscreen. After that I decided that God made me pale, and I should not question His will.

Sunburn is bad, but nude sunburn that puts you in the hospital– what was he thinking?

Verse for Governor Rick Perry

Some improving words from the Bible–

12And Jesus went into the temple of God, and cast out all them that sold and bought in the temple, and overthrew the tables of the moneychangers, and the seats of them that sold doves, 13And said unto them, It is written, My house shall be called the house of prayer; but ye have made it a den of thieves.

Short Memory

Rep. Paul Ryan, on the vanguard of Medicare privatization, had this to say on Fox News, via Crooks and Liars…

Rep. Paul Ryan said Sunday that S&P’s downgrade of U.S. credit was a “vindication” Republican actions and his budget plan, which would end Medicare as it exists today.

“I am not very surprised with the downgrade,” Ryan told Fox News’ Chris Wallace. “We more or less saw it coming because we are the wrong fiscal path. We’ll find out what spike in rates we are going to get. Obviously not only does it hurt the federal government and its ability to close deficits, but it hurts people. Car loans, home loans, all these things are going to go up. And so, it is because Washington has not gotten its fiscal house in order.”

And to me, this is just more vindication of our actions. We passed a budget, which according to someone with S&P yesterday, would have prevented the downgrading from happening in the first place.”

“Isn’t that like a doctor saying, ‘I did the operation perfectly but the patient died?'” Wallace wondered. “In its announcement, S&P condemned the political dysfunction here in Washington, the grid lock here in Washington… isn’t the failure to compromise part of the problem?”

“Both political parties are responsible for the mess we have right,” Ryan admitted. “This is not a Democrat or Republican problem only. Both parties got us to where we are. I would argue, though, in the last couple of years, we’ve gone deeply in the wrong direction.”

“Yes, we haven’t been able to get the kind of compromise because our partners on the other side of the ailes had been unwilling to reform the [entitlement] programs that the cause of the problem.”

Yes, let’s look at the cause of the problem. Is it our greedy grandparents presuming to feel ‘entitled’ to their Social Security and Medicare? Is it the last 2 years, the Obama years, that tanked our economy? How soon we forget what the Obama administration inherited in January 2009. Here’s from the end of 2008…

NEW YORK ( — Stocks fell hard on Wednesday, with the Dow closing below 8,000 for the first time since March 2003, as ongoing anxiety about the economy and uncertainty about the future of the auto industry weighed on the market.

The Dow Jones industrial average (INDU) shed more than 400 points to close 5% lower. All 30 Dow components lost ground.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 (SPX) index slid 6% to its lowest level since March 2003. And the Nasdaq composite (COMP) lost 6.5% to settle at its lowest point since April 2003.

Stocks languished for most of the day, with the selloff accelerating near the close of trade. Wednesday’s dramatic retreat erases gains made in the previous session.

“The market is fearful of the fallout from the credit crisis and the global economic slowdown,” said Todd Salamone, market strategist at Schaeffer’s Investment Research.

Those fears were writ large in the plight of the nation’s automakers. Investors are grappling with a possible bankruptcy in the automotive industry, something analysts say could have dire implications for the broader economy, as a second day of congressional hearings on the matter ended without resolution.

We recall, of course, that the Iraq War began in March, 2003 and the violence and our military involvement have not ended.

During the past two years the stock market recovered slowly, and despite a terrible week the market is still in much better shape than when President Obama took office. Our auto industry is not headed for a crash just now. We are still adding jobs, though far from the job growth we need.

Here’s where we are now…

Over the weekend, Dow futures contracts were trading down nearly 250 points. The New York Stock Exchange invoked rules that allow for smoother trading when heavy activity is anticipated.

The Dow quickly fell 245 points after the opening bell but more recently was trading down 219.79 points, or 1.9%, at 11,224.82.

This debt crisis was a confrontation between a moderate Democratic president and the hard right of the Republican party, and the Democrats lost. Blame the President for failing to fight hard enough, for being too willing to compromise, for letting the small-government partisans go unchallenged in a time of crisis when we need strong government action. But don’t blame the President for a falling stock market, a deficit, unemployment that were all far worse when he took office than they are after two years of his administration.

A Small Victory at the Pharmacy

It doesn’t matter what you do for a living, when someone in your family is sick you lose your cool.

I’m trying to make sure my Dad gets all he needs, and grateful for six brothers and sisters tag-teaming as well as ADL home nursing on scene. I spent some phone time last week with the VA confirming his appointments. I would have like to have gotten him in sooner, but at least we have a date. I also made three phone calls, told by two people that I would have to stuff Dad in a car and drive him to VA or Kent to sign a release of records so his cardiologist could get his test results, and– third time a charm–, spoke to medical records at Kent where a pleasant woman assured me she would send everything ‘I’m printing them up as we speak’, and never even asked my name. They’re going from one hospital to another– what is the problem??? It’s not like they will be entrusted into my profane hands.

Kent Hospital changed Dad’s heart meds, so when he was discharged I took the new prescriptions to the CVS he used to use. I filled three of four, partially, hoping we could get them transferred to the VA which sends them in the mail, cost covered by the gummint. Well, this is going to take a while, fortunately he is on cheap pills.

A week later, my sister got Dad a digital med organizer that pings and says in a chirpy voice that it’s time to take your 4 o’clock– saving family from chirping and being growled at. I went to CVS to get Dad’s heart meds filled and was told they weren’t in the computer. I was picturing myself calling VA and Kent and going to Chalkstone Ave to pickup pills before Dad missed a dose of what is probably his most important med and despairing that the hospital had somehow sent him home without a vital prescription. I had handed over two pages to the pharmacy last week and had not photocopied them first, though I had a faint visual memory of there being all his prescriptions on the page.

As I waited for the other scrip to be filled, I recalled that computers mostly exist to foul things up, and just maybe the medication order was on one of those pages, and prevailed on the pharmacist to get it out of the file.

Problem solved. Apologies. Scrip filled.

Sweet News

Urban Bee

Some rare good news on the state of the ecosystem–Urban bees are flourishing. As an example, this photo of my bee garden, otherwise known as ‘weeds’…

With the world decline of honeybee population, an unexpected habitat is booming: the urban bee. Cities around the world –like London, Paris, Tokyo, New York City, and San Francisco–are becoming the home of urban beekeepers. Ironically, by some measures, urban apiaries are doing better than their rural couterparts. In many urban areas pesticides have been banned, making it easier for bees to survive. The diversity of flowers found in city gardens, parks, roof terraces, and balconies, offer a more varied and constant (albeit smaller) nectar source that than the monoculture flower crops typically found in rural areas.

Not only that, Rhode Island’s own Dr.Allen Dennison is doing research on a fact known to the ancients.
Honey heals wounds.

Honey is a mixture of concentrated sugars that immediately dehydrate a bacterial cell, rendering it immobile, though without necessarily killing it. Young Dr. Keith Monchik, of the Orthopedic Service at Rhode Island Hospital (RIH), went to Haiti with our team from the Ocean State to treat earthquake victims. They ran out of usual wound-care creams quickly but a senior military nurse reminded the team that sugar packs from their rations always work in a pinch to keep a wound from getting infected through the same mechanism. He reported gratifying results to the RIH medical staff.

The high osmotic value of honey draws fluids out of wounds. This decreases tissue pressure, thus admitting more new blood, with, of course, oxygen, as well as healing elements and protective immune-system cells. As the fluid hits the honey, small amounts of hydrogen peroxide are produced, very toxic to bacteria but not to fibroblasts and healing elements. Honey derived from medicinally active nectars such as tea tree and eucalyptus may have additional value, and the Food and Drug Administration has allowed their importation and marketing.

Read the whole Providence Journal article for the specifics of what kind of wounds and how the honey is used, especially if you’re considering trying this at home. As Dr.Dennison says, wounds due to diabetes or poor circulation need a doctor’s attention. (When my cat bit me on the hand I was on IV antibiotics in less than an hour– you can’t treat deep and infected with a topical ointment. I feel I have to say this because so many of us lack access to a doctor.)

This is pretty exciting research. I’ve taken care of people with various wound treatments and usually they get better, but the products are very expensive and not available to everyone.

It’s been a bitter week, so time for something sweet.


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