Israel Excels in Use of Sustainable Energy and Water Conservation Technologies

July 19th, 2012

Israel is a tiny country, two-thirds of which is inhospitable desert, with few natural resources, a population of less than 7.5 million, and it has been surrounded by intractably hostile neighbors ever since its founding 60 years ago. Israel sees sustainable energy use as a key to survival and has become a leader in the development of green technologies with some 1000 clean technology start-up companies.

Some examples:

 Better Place was founded by Shai Agassi who conceived the idea that the negatives attached to all-electric cars (eg. limited 140 mile range and battery cost) could be overcome by renting the batteries and having a country-wide network of re-charging stations, to complement at-home charging. To cover situations when there isn’t time to re-charge, there is a country-wide network of swap stations where you exchange a depleted battery for a fully charged one in the same time as it takes to fill a tank of gasoline.

In 2013 an all-electric car network is to open in Israel and they are being set up in Australia, Canada, Denmark, California, and Hawaii. The cars are built by Renault-Nissan while the batteries are provided by Better Place,

It has been long known that certain materials, including asphalt and concrete, generate electric current when they are deformed. Innowattech has patented a new breed of piezoelectric generators that can harvest mechanical energy, resulting from the deformation of roadway surfaces by the traffic passing over, by converting the mechanical energy to electrical energy. The more traffic and the heavier the vehicles, the more electricity is generated. The piezoelectric generators are installed inches beneath the upper layer of highway asphalt in a new roadway or during resurfacing of an existing roadway. It is also testing prototypes for airport runways and railways.

The company estimates that its generators placed along a half-mile stretch of a four-lane motorway would yield enough electricity to power 2,500 households. It is noteworthy that this is pure energy harvesting (parasitic energy), that it functions in all weather conditions, and that it can be utilized locally or routed into the grid. Just imagine, cars powered by electricity generated by their passage over the highway.

Much of Israel is desert and her main water sources are controlled by Syria and the Hezbollah in Lebanon. The risk of this geographic and political situation is mitigated by Israel’s recycling 70 percent of its waste water, and this is used for agriculture and fish farms in the desert.

More than 40 years ago, Israeli farmers revolutionized the manner of watering crops withthe introduction of drip irrigation. Water is transported directly to the roots of the plants through small tubes with tiny holes. The watering is set on timers that prevent excess water being delivered. This not only conserves water but also suppresses weeds and mold.

Netafim markets the technology to some 110 countries. The process has created self-sustaining agricultural communities in drought stricken countries particularly in Africa.

These technologies are both tools for Israel’s survival and they promote the ethical standards of sustainable use of natural resources. Other countries may adopt them for various reasons, including a preference for sustainable technology.

HOORAY FOR THE “HEALTH CARE FOR AMERICANS ACT”

July 14th, 2012

We should all be celebrating the US Supreme Court’s historic decision affirming the constitutionality of the Affordable Health Care Act that finally will provide health care for all Americans. It will further provide many innovations for better coverage for those fortunate enough to already have insurance, and provides for those who do not. The law was passed by Congress in 2009 after strong urging by President Obama and now after many inconclusive federal court challenges, has finally become the law of the land. IPPA maintains that, after decades of effort,what has been realized is that health care for all American citizens is a moral imperative. This places our country, finally, in concert with the other industrialized countries of the world.

Hooray! for the “ Health Care for Americans Act”: IPPA suggests  a new name for the Affordable Care Act.  The new name–Health Care for Americans Act–conveys the metaphor that health care for all is patriotic, and that we’re all affected by public health. It stresses that it benefits the entire country, and that it’s in the long tradition of Americans helping one another1.

Now let’s stop agonizing and grumbling over what is not in the bill and celebrate the many important benefits that are in the Health Care for Americans Act:

1. Perhaps the least understood and discussed, as far as a benefit to our whole society, is the provision for health care for the 30 million previously uninsured American citizens.

This represents a moral victory, the simple decency of providing health security for millions of American families. It also has  the potential for improving public health at large, and is a huge benefit for society as a whole2.

In addition, the new law3:

2. Terminates the “doughnut hole” in medicare drug coverage for millions of Americans.

3. Provides a long-overdue expansion of mental health care.

4. There is an end to limits on lifetime and annual benefits in existing and future health insurance coverage.

5. There can be no rejection in new or renewable health insurance policies for pre- existing conditions.

6. Children up to age 26 may stay on their parents’ health  insurance.

7. There is a requirement that medium and large size businesses provide essential coverage and pay at least 60% of the cost.

8. Health insurance policies must contain free access to preventive care including  immunizations, mammograms, and pregnancy prevention [formally called birth control]4.

9. Some additional benefits specifically for women include; elimination of gender rating, pap tests, domestic violence screening and assurances of continuation of maternity benefits and special considerations for nursing mothers at work5.

As an added benefit, in the Health Care for Americans Act are  many incentives for reducing future health care costs such as the one that requires insurance companies to spend at least 80% of premium cost on direct patient care. Also there are many pilot proposals to explore ways to control costs by changing existing fee for service payments and assisting changes in their organization so that health care institutions can be more efficient and responsive. There is also a premium placed on implementing patient safety throughout the health care system.

IPPA strongly encourages all of us to celebrate this historic progress in health care for all Americans.

1. Lakoff, George and Wehling, Elisabeth, The Little Blue Book, Free Press, New York             2012, p.116.

2. Too Quiet Again on Health Care. Editorial in NYTimes [NYT] July4, 2012

3. NYT July 4, 2012

4. Lakoff p.125

5. forbes.com/sites/brycecovert/2012/06/28/obamacare-decision-why-women-are-the-big-winners-health-care-supreme-court/

INCREASING LOSS OF JOBS IN THE PUBLIC SECTOR IS DRAGGING DOWN THE U.S.ECONOMY

June 28th, 2012

Summary: The continuing and accelerating loss of jobs in the public sector is a major factor in retarding our country’s economic recovery. President Obama has promoted a rational plan for new stimulus to stem the job losses at the State and local level intended to bring relief to the middle class —and alleviate the misery and hardship of these laid off workers and their families. The Republican members of congress have put up continual roadblocks to prevent implementation of such a plan. IPPA calls for a populist outcry of support for this very necessary stimulus—and direct communications with our representatives demanding passage of enabling legislation.

Private companies have been adding workers for more than two years, but in the public sector work force pink slips are still going out1. Since reaching employment peaks in August of 2008–largely due to the often maligned federal stimulus program–local governments have lost 496,000 jobs and state governments 159,000, through December 2011. 50% of the state losses and 30% of the local one occurred during 2011, indicating that the problem is accelerating2.

With the overall economy slowly expanding, state tax revenues have started to increase and are expected to reach pre-recession levels next year3. Even so governors and legislators are keeping a tight rein on spending, whether to rebuild the state “rainy-day funds” or because of political ideology. The effect of continued layoffs includes a siphoning off of $1.5 billion in spending power. The ill effects of this policy are not just economic. They also affect public service: they decrease local firefighter response; they reduce public safety with police layoffs. Businesses are hindered by losing middle class customers. Construction projects are delayed due to reduction of city inspectors. Read the rest of this entry »

Republican Leninism in America

June 20th, 2012

In January, 2012 IPPA.US posted a brief essay on  “Close-mindedness and Rigid Ideology” in the Republican Party, reflected  in Grover Norquist’s seeking pledges from candidates not to raise taxes;  and if they refused, he would tar and feather them in the eyes of their voters. No discussion on the issues allowed. Similarly, the Republican Susan B. Anthony (SBA) organization follows suit on women’s reproductive issues, blocking all debate on Life/Choice matters by Republican candidates for federal office. Sign the Pro-Life Citizens’ Pledge, or prepare to fear that SBA will publicly smear you! Among other things, the pledge signer must agree “to defund Planned Parenthood.”

This rejection of diversity of perspective illustrates how the Republicans have copied Soviet Leninism, which means once the Party Leaders decide what is right or wrong, no further discussion is permitted, and those who violate the policy will be punished. Now in Michigan, at the state level, this Republican Leninism is manifest again. In the State House, Republican State Representative Mike Shirkey said, “Until we completely eliminate abortions in Michigan and completely defund Planned Parenthood, we have work to do.” Along with other Representatives from his Party, he passed legislation on June 13, 2012, attacking women’s reproductive health. When Democratic State Representatives Lisa Brown and Barb Byrum tried to speak against the relevant bills, the House Speaker, Jase Bolger, using as an excuse a lack of decorum, banned them from speaking on the House floor.

Leninists present a unified force when they attack. And the Republican Leninists have started a War on Women.

CAN YOU CHANGE YOUR MIND IF YOU WANT TO? IPPA Might Help

June 3rd, 2012

YOUR MIND-Part One
From 1954-57 I was a young officer in the U.S. Navy. I loved the Navy and learned a lot that has served me well throughout my life. Even today I experience visceral awe at the sight of a naval ship—a somewhat sacred icon for me. But I learned something else in the Navy: total faith in the Chain-of-Command, from our President and admirals, right down to me, in all matters of national defense policy. That faith was shattered when, beginning around 1968- 1969 I gradually learned (from journalists and some academics), that Presidents and generals lie (in this case about the Vietnam War). I changed my mind about which moral authorities to trust, and changed my political perspective for the rest of my life. More on this experience later. Let’s get on with how IPPA may help with changing your mind.

First, let us get the history out of the way. What is this “mind”? In the West, until the late 1960s, even in psychological circles, the mind was usually divided into three parts: knowing, feeling, and acting (including motives). To change your mind meant reasoning something through and reaching a different conclusion from your previous one. In 1968 the standard Handbook in Social Psychology1 said, “The question arises of how closely the cognitive, affective, and conative components are related. If all three give approximately the same results, one should perhaps apply Ocam’s razor to reduce conceptual baggage.” [p. 56] The use of MRI and other technology in later decades showed that the aspects of the brain where the activities of these components take place are indeed interconnected. Where there is knowing, there is usually emotion, something the early Chinese Confucian texts also affirmed. So changing the mind involves a lot of emotional activity, which influences the knowing or cognitive parts of the brain. This is especially true when it comes to thinking or judging moral or political matters.

In recent years, the terminology has evolved. Following Daniel Kahneman,2  some people now divide the mind into effortless intuitions (including gut emotional responses), and effortful reasoning. In humans, the pupils of the eyes dilate when people exert mental effort. It takes effort to keep in one’s memory a couple of different ideas needing action. Where there are beliefs and considered choices, there is effort. In contrast, our effortless gut reactions owe much to their evolution in emergencies, as ways of quick survival for humans. They are without effort, not under voluntary control.

Jonathan Haidt goes a step further in The Righteous Mind (Pantheon: 2012). He tries to demonstrate that people cannot change their minds, or “moral foundations,” where those terms refer to effortless moral intuitions. It refers to them, because he says that those intuitions rule reason. Beliefs are simply post-hoc justifications or positions to which the gut intuitions have already led us. So now, the content of “mind” is primarily the ruling sentiments/social emotions/ intuitions, and secondarily, cognition. According to Haidt, one could divide people into two political stances based on the relative strength of certain intuitions: Liberals emote positively about Care, Liberty, and Fairness. Conservatives react primarily about Loyalty, Authority, and Sanctity. To repeat, most people cannot change their minds in their moral and political judgments, and their reasoning obeys these intuitions.

Is Haidt right? He has plenty of evidence that it is very difficult to use reasoning to try to change the specific moral intuitions that are dominant in anyone. So, I do not think IPPA’s target should be the very conservative right wing. The “change” we can hope for will not come by that group turning into progressives. The target should be the inactive liberals, and IPPA’s strategies should seek to persuade and push its target audience to decide to do something concrete—like vote, talk to neighbors about the issues, write letters, and donate time or money.  We should select tools for persuasion that appeal to emotionally laden values, including the the ones not cited by Haidt, that I identify below.:. Along with my experience at town meetings in the early 2000’s, Jonathan Haidt has led me to be pretty sure that this approach would be most effective.

FOUR INTUITIONS: WHY YOU MAY CHANGE YOUR MIND- Part Two
Let us consider Haidt’s list of moral intuitions: Care/harm, Fairness as proportionality/cheating, Liberty/oppression, Loyalty/betrayal, Authority/ subversion, Sanctity/degradation:

In contrast to his list, I believe there are intuitions shared by many people on both the left and right that he does not even mention. Their presence is important because they may open the door to modifying the sense of disunity between the political left and some who are passive, or even on the moderate right. I was shocked to find that those intuitions that pop first into my mind when I judge something as right or wrong were not also in a prominent place in Haidt’s list. He gives a descriptive account of values/virtues that he and others discovered through experiments. I do not say that his list is inaccurate, just that it is odd not to mention any of the four following intuitions. Read the rest of this entry »

IS PRIVATE EQUITY THE RIGHT JOB CREATION TRAINING FOR A PRESIDENT?

May 31st, 2012

There have been repeated public assertions by Mitt Romney in the past few months and by his campaign recently, that successful experience in leading a private equity firm is a very good indicator of ability to create jobs once elected as President. That this is a misleading conclusion has been pointed out of late. A recent article in the NY Times by Ashley Parker states “the driving force of private equity is to create profits for investors, and while job creation may be a happy byproduct of corporate turnarounds, it is never the stated goal, and jobs cuts are [also]very often a consequence”.1 In a recent oped piece, Steven Rattner claimed that President Obama set the right tone on this argument and ongoing very public discussion in his statement on 5/21/12. Rattner pointed out Mr. Obama emphasized that he wasn’t attacking private equity, but was questioning Mitt Romney’s Bain Capital credentials to be job-creator-in-chief. Mr. Rattner further stated that, in his opinion, “adding jobs was never Mitt Romney’s private sector agenda, and it’s appropriate to question his ability to do so”2

IPPA feels that managerial skills, such as running a private equity company, may not be the most important qualification to be a successful president. Just as important and perhaps more so would be the humaneness, experience and wisdom required to understand the sacrifices and needs as well and the policies that will be necessary to support all segments of our population; the underprivileged and the middle class as well as the most financially successful among us.

Notes:
1. Parker, Ashley, Both Campaigns Seize on Romney’s Years at Bain. NY Times 5/25/12
2. Rattner, Steven, Tall Tales About Private Equity. oped NYTimes, 5/22/12

UNFAIR AND DRACONIAN HOUSE REPUBLICAN BUDGET

May 17th, 2012

“Asks more from those who have less and less from those that have more” as stated by Steny H. Hoyer the No.2 House Democrat.1

As reported in the New York Times on 5/11/12 the House voted to shelter the $55 million automatic cuts for the Pentagon as agreed to in last year’s contentious debt ceiling deal. This continued the Republican ideologic strategy to demolish vital social programs for the less fortunate while at the same time preserving military budgets and what many feel are unjustifiably low tax rates for the very richest among us.2
Of the total $310 million in domestic cuts almost one-third directly affects programs that serve moderate and low income people. Read the rest of this entry »

LOW AND MIDDLE INCOME CUSTOMERS SHOULD BEWARE OF BIG BANKS CHASING HIGHER FEES: ??Consumer Protection to the Rescue

May 8th, 2012

There was a recent report about some large global banks trying to steer or entice low and middle income customers, who do not normally use banks, into relatively expensive products. This has been described as a potential $ 45 Million market. These banks are responding to billions of lost income due to recent regulations placing limits on interest and fees on debit and credit cards. The banks are now competing with non-banking check cashers, payday lenders and pawnshops.1

The products the banks are offering include prepaid credit cards, short term loans, money transfers as well as check cashing and payday loans which all may carry hidden high costs. Read the rest of this entry »

COMMUNITY BANKS Part four THEIR UTILITY FOR GENERAL BANKING

April 28th, 2012

Community banks need to have sufficient assets and have some branches where they can service several local communities. The New America Foundation in Washington D.C. was the first to propose (2008) as a vehicle a Community Bank Trust Fund, to be administered by the Treasury Department.8 Their study stressed that some such banks need funding sources beyond local depositors. They proposed that funding could come from a tax of about one-half of 1 percent of the dollar amount of asset-backed securities, to be collected by the SEC. As a precedent, they refer to the Federal Home Loan Banks that are required to give 10 percent of their annual net income for the Affordable Housing Program.9 This is a matter that voters should bring to the attention of their congressional representatives. Read the rest of this entry »

COMMUNITY BANKING Part three SERVICE FOR THE LOWER AND MID INCOME GROUP

April 26th, 2012

Some of us need credit, especially at the end of the month, for food or gasoline, or to pay utility bills. So our first remarks concern that part of the population. Although in 2009 12% of the population had no regular bank account into which to tap, the numbers are higher for Afro-Americans (28%) and Hispanics (30%). When economists write about this group, they refer to them as “low and mid income people (LMI)”. For some, there were no banks available. The number of banking institutions dropped BY 35% from 1975-95 and that included dropping branches in low income communities. Large banks bought up community ones and the number of the latter dropped from 14,000 in 1985 to 7,000 in 20081.3 Read the rest of this entry »