Wednesday, October 8, 2008

An Open Letter To FL Governor Charlie Crist

Following is a letter a friend of mine wrote to Florida's Governor Charlie Crist. This is a letter that needs to be circulated widely; I invite you to blog about it and e-mail it around:

Dear Governor,

I have lived in Sarasota for most of my life. I have eked out an existence working and having a few low end rentals on the side. This was a rough yet rewarding existence helping those folks who were down. Renting to the poor I have never been able to get first, last and security. People do not have it. Especially today. Now there is no work to be had in this town translating to a real shortage of tenants. The current batch are all so far behind I am facing having to evict three. I have not had to do an eviction in ten or more years. Imagine my chagrin when I discovered that it will now cost me OVER FOUR HUNDRED DOLLARS EACH to evict. That is if I do all the work myself and go through all the hoops myself and make sure not to cross one i or dot one t or it starts all over again from the beginning. All this in my free time. Even if the tenants do not fight leaving - because they cannot afford to go anywhere - I will be out several months rent and the huge repair costs to rehab three units. It is coming down to leaving the tenants in place and giving the property to the bank. I have worked my whole life for this. Shame on you and your ilk. Your approval rating with me just dropped its last ten points to zero. I am also letting everyone I know about this your alternate form of taxation. Shame on you.

Vincent Dessberg

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A Friend's Lament About The Demise of Newspapers

Following is a letter that a friend, Jan Slusmon, of Burlington, VT, sent to some friends and I:

An Amazing Change

About a month ago, my wife and I made an amazing change, one that is strange and deeply unsettling. For the first time in my adult life, I/we do not get a daily newspaper every day.

This is an astonishing change for me. I have always been a huge fan of newspapers. For much of my adult life, I read as many as three, four, or even five papers a day. There were days I'd spend a couple of hours reading them.

In addition, I spent about 15 years of my life working in the newspaper business, as a reporter and editor, and also have worked in both commercial and public radio, and for many more years indexing newspaper and magazine articles for scholarly databases.

And so this was a pretty drastic step.

We'd been talking about dropping our local paper for some time, and had vowed to do it when the price went from 50 cents to 75 cents a day.

Although money is a concern to me as I transition toward retirement, it was not the issue here. What has really happened is that there has been a very steep decline in the quality and comprehensiveness of newspapers, along with a very steep increase in price, one I'm no longer willing to pay. (I would gladly pay 75 cents a day for something, but I feel taken to spend the same amount on nothing).

Our local paper, the Burlington Free Press, is a Gannett paper, a member of the fast-food, lowest common denominator chain, where profits have always been far more important than quality. But it did have a fair amount of local news, even if the quality was not very good. In the past couple of years, the amount of local news covered by the Free Press has dropped off to almost nothing. It's all stories from the wire services, and a wrapping for advertising circulars. There's nothing in it, and they kept raising the price. In the last year or two, it's taken less than 60 seconds to read everything of interest in a 24 or 36-page paper.

I felt great dropping the Free Press, and had planned to switch to the Boston Globe, one of America's greatest newspapers, and the one strong regional paper for New England. The Globe is excellent in many ways--a real newspaper. But a week after the Free Press price hike, the out-of-town distributors who bring the Globe to Burlington hiked the price from 75 cents a day (which I was willing to pay) to $1.30 a day. At the same time, they raised the price of the New York Times (which I used to read daily and still read occasionally) from $1.25 a day to $1.75 a day, and $6 on Sunday. Even USA Today, which is pretty thin but has some occasional good stories, has gone from 50 cents to $1 a day in short order.

As late as the mid 1970s, I was buying two local papers from Vermont, the Boston Globe, and The New York Times, for a total of 50 cents or less a day! And some days I'd splurge and get the Montreal Gazette for another 20 cents.

And so I find myself frustrated. Some days I buy the Globe, other days USA Today, but for the very first time in my life I don't get a paper every day. And costs of everything are skyrocketing. My wife and I thought we were secure for a good retirement, but the prices of everything keep skyrocketing out of sight, and we find ourselves making decisions about buying all kinds of little things we never gave much thought to.

I find myself getting a lot of my news now from PBS (Macneil Lehrer) and NPR. But broadcast news is STILL not as good as the news from a good newspaper. I also (shudder) find myself getting a lot of news from the Internet. The Internet is an amazing medium, but I've never thought of it as a place for comprehensive, balanced news--it's more about entertainment, infotainment, and opinion, sometimes wacky opinion.

I do find myself reading The New York Times, Boston Globe, Christian Science Monitor etc. websites, as well as the websites of local papers. But I feel queasy doing this, like I'm cheating. This information is basically all coming from the newspapers, and if nobody pays to buy the newspapers, this information will disappear.

I find it amazing that in a few years we have gone from newspapers as a very strong, venerable tradition, one I've loved and thought would always be a part of my life, to one that is declining dramatically in quality and scope, and one that, instead of costing a pittance, would require me to spend a couple of hundred dollars a month to sustain my "habit", money I don't really feel like spending in view of my other needs.

We live in amazing times.....


Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Sarah Palin? No Way.

Sarah Palin believes teens should abstain from sex until marriage. She's opposed to sex ed in the schools.

That's just plain wrong, because:

(1) teens are never going to abstain; and
(2) There is zero discussion of sex ed in many families.

This leaves teen GIRLS unprotected, because they're the ones who are at risk of getting pregnant. Sarah does not believe in abortion, so those teenage girls who line up with her beliefs will risk having to bear children if they do get pregnant. Teenage girls shouldn't have to bear children; they should have the time to pursue their studies and prepare for careers. Teen boys shouldn't have to marry girls they impregnate if they don't choose to; and anyway, that's way too young for people to marry.

So, I feel sorry for the GIRLS who become victims from lack of sex ed knowledge.

Sarah expects other teens to abstain even though her daughter didn't. Why didn't her daughter use birth control? Is it because Sarah prevented local schools from teaching about it and because she never bothered to educate her own daughter?

It's an insult to all intelligent women for McCain to think any Hillary fans will vote for him because of this conservative woman he invited to join his ticket.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Hillary Heads Petition to Protect Women's Health

Hillary Clinton asks us to sign this petition.

She says the following about it, as the honorary chair of HillPAC, an organization dedicated to helping working families:

"It is our goal to fight for a better future for every child, and for every family. To keep fighting for those who get up every day, no matter what the odds, and never give in. For those who never back down, and those who always stand their ground.

"The Bush White House is working to rewrite the definition of abortion in federal regulations to include common forms of birth control. This would undermine women's health and put family planning services in danger. Simply, it puts women at risk -- it could even prevent victims of sexual assault from receiving emergency contraceptives.

"I need your help to speak up for the health of millions of American women who are in danger, once again, from the latest assault from the Bush administration.

"Will you join me in sending a strong message to Health and Human Services Secretary Mike Leavitt to put women's health ahead of right-wing ideology?"

 We share Hillary's concerns and hope you will sign the petition.

Thursday, June 12, 2008