FACE MASKS

Amie Home: “While the country continues to debate how we pay for and access health care, how about we reduce health care costs by keeping people from getting sick in the first place? As the family of five coughers filled the rows around me on a full plane last week I realized I was doomed. While I felt bad for the children and parents traveling (unmasked) while sick, I felt worse knowing what I was bringing home to my family. Sure enough, I caught swine flu and gave it to my 5 year old daughter, who has been battling 103 degree fevers for days now. People getting sick costs money and productivity. Why can we not have the will as a country to require masks for coughing people on planes, in doctor offices, and in other public places? Instead we throw up our hands and say, oh well, everyone is going to get it, and it becomes a very costly self-fulfilling prophecy. Just venting because my chest hurts, my oldest daughter is sick, and I dare not kiss my littlest one, all because a family decided they really needed to go on their Vegas vacation despite the fact that they had very sick children with them.”

☞ Ugh. I feel for you – and I thank you for increasing the likelihood I will actually WEAR one of the the little masks I bought (as every traveler should*) years ago – around the time of bird flu? – and have never worn because I’d feel like an idiot. But maybe now you’ve given me the courage to put health over embarrassment when I board Jet Blue tonight.

*But did I buy the right kind? I have no idea. Readers will chime in and enlighten us?

MORE LAMB CHOPS

Ralph Mason: “I like Obama. He’s a huge improvement. But it’s hard to see our President talk about reform and change while standing before a crowd of people paying 15k per plate, many of whom are part of the very fabric of what has gone wrong in our economy and who are apparently without any remorse or even doubt about their role. I think we need to see a little more FDR in Obama even if it means he loses a few plates at the next fundraiser. Here’s what most Americans see while Obama’s in NY.”

☞ Ralph links us to a Wall Street Journal story about political contributions. I’d like to take a minute to give you my take on this. The first thing to say is that anyone who fails to see the connection between money and politics must be four years old. And the second thing to say is that anyone who fails to favor “clean elections” or similar campaign finance reform must be a Republican. (Okay, that’s a little strong, but just a little.) But the third thing to say is that there is a big difference between the effect of contributions on individual legislators and the effect of contributions to the DNC (or, when he was running, to Obama’s campaign itself).

Because the fourth thing to say (don’t worry; I have only ten fingers) is that, thanks to a lot of pushing from our side, the amount of money any individual can give a party committee like the DNC in a given year has been reduced from “unlimited” – we had one guy who gave us $12 million in 2002 – to $30,400. That’s still a lot to you or me, but in a sea of more than $60 million the DNC will raise this year – the bulk of it from small contributions – $30,400 really doesn’t amount to that much.

A fifth thing to say is that – even though it legally could and the RNC legally does – the DNC accepts no money from federal lobbyists (of whom there are more than 10,000 in Washington, each intensely interested in legislation and each with a checkbook), just as the Obama campaign did not. Likewise, we do not (but the RNC does) take money from Political Action Committees.

So the truth is, no one is getting any bridges named after him – let alone a law passed, a regulation modified, or a policy changed – because of a $30,400 contribution to the DNC.

And, by the way, the donors at this dinner were not “part of the very fabric of what has gone wrong in our economy and who are apparently without any remorse or even doubt about their role.” At my table were one sculptor; one computer services executive; three lawyers; one art dealer with a strong side-interest in caulking America’s energy leaking houses; and one retired Republican entrepreneur whose wife and daughters had twisted his arm to do this (he was a good sport, but left only partially converted). Others in the room I knew included an heiress from Vermont and her son (an artist); a young hedge fund guy and the mother of his three kids (his passion is education reform); a magazine publisher; the former mayor of Denver; a labor lawyer and his very activist liberal wife; a retired advertising mogul and his wife; the employee of a mega-philanthropist; the head of a major bank that received no TARP money; and some real estate moguls.

Virtually everyone in the room was giving to see their taxes raised, not lowered; to see health coverage made universal even though they already have it; to see the President succeed with tough financial regulatory reform even though some of them are in finance.

That’s why they were at a DNC dinner, not an RNC dinner.

MUSIC ED.

James Musters: “That was a good high school orchestra you linked to last Friday [just listen to them play], but some Venezuelan kids have them beat. The Times of London music critic rated them #5 in the world – not #5 in youth orchestras of the world, #5 in the world amongst all the great orchestras. It’s an outgrowth of Venezuela’s providing a classical music education for everyone, rich or poor. Back in the USA we are still trying to figure out a way for everyone to get health care, while the countries that have had it for decades are working on quality of life: The Finnish government just made broadband Internet access a guaranteed legal right of all its citizens. And the Venezuelans are providing classical music education, and an instrument, to all kids, no matter how poor.”

☞ Well, first off, those Ohio kids were from just one high school. Your ringers were, basically, national champions, culled from an entire country – and some of them appear to be about 30. No wonder they play so well. Ringers, I tell you! Ringers! But of course it’s terrific to see how the Venezuelans are using violins to fight violence. That first link above tells the inspiring story.

Jacqueline Greenberg: “After sharing with all of us this wonderful high school orchestra, why not post information to help funds these kids. Many of your readers currently help the schools their own children attend, but we could all use the random acts of kindness of strangers (please excuse the mixed metaphor/literary quote).”

☞ Happily:

Newark High School Orchestra Fund
Park National Bank c/o Cindy Neely
P.O. Box 3500
Newark, OH 43058-3500

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