Saturday, December 26, 2009

Individual mandate constitutional?

Unconstitutional or not, the individual mandate is outrageous and offensive. Not because of asking people to take responsibility and pull their own weight, but because it mandates that everyone buys an over-priced and disgusting product from one or another giant financial corporation.

The Senate version is worse: it levies fines for not having insurance but tax breaks for the cost of insurance, while the House version subsidizes the cost of insurance for people with modest incomes, and imposes a tax penalty for no insurance.

The Senate version includes no restraint on their price-fixing and market-monopolization practices, and no public insurance option to restrain prices through competition. But either version would force some 20 or 30 million new customers into the maws of the giant insurance-company vacuum-cleaner, which sucks up and pockets or wastes our hard earned money, and employs armies of clerks and lawyers to haggle over what care we will be allowed in return.

In return we get some rules limiting their discriminatory practices, but they're still allowed to charge up to twice as much for older patients and four times as much for "pre-existing conditions". So older, sicker citizens will be priced out of the market, and will be fined (and maybe prosecuted) for it!

This is reform? Constitutional or not, it is a scandal and must be stopped.

Kerry, Coakley and McGovern, are you listening? This rising tide of protest is not a Republican or a Democratic thing - it's bigger than that. Your system is cracking at the base. Who will speak for us on the inside?

Friday, December 25, 2009

Why the "Democratic Monopoly" in Massachusetts?

Every election cycle we hear appeals to vote Republican in order to break the Democratic stranglehold on state politics. This is a plausible argument until you look at the details.

Today's Republican Party is far to the right of the Grand Old Party of yesteryear - and far, far to the right of the public on the real issues. Ballot access and press coverage is very poor for third-party candidates. This, combined with the awful state of Republican politics, has the effect of herding everyone else into the Democratic fold. People of widely differing views, representing widely divergent interests, must time and again come together in the general election to prevent well-funded Republicans from winning.

Thus most of the real politics in America - politics that is not about empty slogans, concocted "cultural issues" or campaigns to scapegoat one group or another - has to play out within the Democratic Party. It is a sign of the political health of the Massachusetts voters that - given the system we have - the real political contests here are played out in the Democratic Primaries.

Labor and neighborhood activists, small business leaders, non-profit leaders, activists from professional associations, professional bureaucrats and administrators, entrepreneurs and socially-conscious "old money" and financiers struggle over the Democratic nomination. Then everyone who isn't politically insane rallies around the winner in the general election. Of necessity we all maintain an attitude of civility toward each other, insisting that "we're all Democrats", since we need to all co-exist within the only framework available for sane people who want a shot at political power.

The recent primary contest for the Senate seat showcased this scenario, with very distinct constituencies coalescing around Coakley, Khazei and Capuano. Passions and rhetoric ran high; but if Brown showed signs of having a real chance we would all sober up and rally around Coakley.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Comparing Health Care Bills

Comment to Worc. T&G 12/24/09:

House bill: 6 million more covered than Senate bill, still leaving 18 million uninsured. House bill expands Medicaid to more 'working poor' than Senate plan.

House: paid for with taxes on wealthy; Senate: taxes on wealthy and upper-middle class, fines on uninsured and taxes on good insurance plans.

Senate bill fines the uninsured and provides a tax break, House bill imposes tax penalty on uninsured and provides a subsidy.

House requires employers to provide coverage and gives tax credits to help smallest businesses pay; Senate: small fine for employees not covered.

Senate bill would allow plans that pay only 60% of medical costs. House bill leaves that to a committee.

Both plans prohibit denial of coverage for pre-exiisting conditions. National physician and nurses groups point out these protections have many loopholes.

Both would provide voluntary long-term care plans.

House bill would close the drug coverage hole in Medicare, while Senate bill would make it smaller. Both would give drug companies new patent protections.

Both: a national insurance exchange. Senate: national plans, privately owned, would be offered. House: a public plan offered.

House bill, but not Senate's, would strip the insurance companies of their anti-trust exemption.

House would let the undocumented buy insurance on the exchanges with their own money, Senate would not.

Both would make abortion coverage rare in plans sold through the insurance exchange.

My call: Senate bill is a loser, a huge giveaway to the insurance industry, no cost control. If that is what comes out of committee, our legislators should vote to kill it.

House bill is marginally worth passing, with needed insurance reforms and some cost control - if the abortion restrictions can be pulled out of it.

Neither will end the health care crisis or meet the need for real reform. That will require an improved Medicare for all, and eliminating the parasitic health insurance industry.

On Paul Samuelson's obit.

Comment on Worcester T&G Editorial Footnote "An Economic Giant Now at Rest", 12/20/09:

I studied economics from Paul Samuelson's textbook many years ago. It was clear and effective, but deeply flawed.

This editorial mentions the debate between Samuelson and Milton Friedman on the role of government. But both held the same theory about how the economy worked. They only really disagreed on how much the government could do.

Samuelson like Keynes said that government can and should intervene in 'free market' economies to stabilize them and ease the pain to ordinary people when jobs or whole industries are lost. And he held that government needs to act to stop the growth of monopolies.

Friedman, whose theories guided the 'Reagan Revolution', said that anything the government did only made things worse.

There are much deeper problems with both of their theories.

1. Both said that the value of a thing is nothing more or less than what you can get for it on the market - which is no theory at all! So a million-dollar bet on the future value of a fund capitalized by bets on whether homeowners will be able to pay back their predatory loans is 'worth' as much as a million-dollar machine, as long as someone will buy it.

We see where this kind of thinking has led us!

2. Their view that we have something close to a free-market economy in American now is not supported by the facts. Whether you are trying to start a grocery store or a factory there is no level playing field - except for a little while with a new technology. The big boys and the insiders have a huge advantage.

3. Their view that labor is just another input and that working people can bargain over the fair price for their work is just wrong, as anyone who has tried to bargain with their boss one-on-one has found out the hard way.

4. Even deeper, their belief that every owner trying to maximize their own profits will somehow work out for the best for everyone - the 'Invisible Hand' of Adam Smith - is nothing but a false god, a religion of greed, masquerading as science.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Reid's Manager's Amendment to the Senate Health Care Bill contains

a. no public option,
b. no Medicare buy-in - and
c. a back-door version of the House's Stupak Amendment - that would effectively block abortion coverage in the health insurance exchanges and would probably result in its being dropped from most private plans as well.

(See NOW's bulletin:

If the liberals and progressives who elected Obama are to have any credibility, we must act to block this deeply flawed bill unless it meets bare minimum standards of doing more good than harm.

I am calling Kerry and Kirk (866-338-1015)and urging them to make clear that they will vote against this bill unless either a. or b. (or both) is included, and unless c. is removed. They must make it clear to the leadership that either no public option and no buy-in or removing abortion coverage is a deal-breaker.

The Blue Dogs need to understand that they will be running next time as candidates of the party that couldn't pass the health-care bill we promised - because of them - unless they back down. They've been playing "chicken" with us long enough; it's time to call them on it.

On Samuelson's death notice

I studied economics from Paul Samuelson's textbook many years ago. It was clear and effective, but deeply flawed.

This editorial ( mentions the debate between Samuelson and Milton Friedman. But both held the same theory about how the economy worked. They only really disagreed on how much the government could do.

Samuelson like Keynes said that government can and should intervene in the economy and regulate it to stabilize it, to ease the pain to ordinary people when jobs or whole industries are lost, and to stop the growth of monopolies.

Friedman, whose theories guided the "Reagan Revolution", said that anything the government did only made things worse.

There are much deeper problems with both of their theories.

1. Both said that the value of a thing is nothing more or less than what you can get for it on the market - which is no theory at all! So a million-dollar bet on the future value of a fund capitalized by bets on whether homeowners will be able to pay back their predatory loans is "worth" as much as a million-dollar machine, as long as someone will buy it.

We see where this kind of thinking has led us!

2. Their view that we have something close to a free-market economy in American now is not supported by the facts. Whether you are trying to start a grocery store or a factory there is no level playing field - except for a little while with a new technology. The big boys and the insiders have a huge advantage.

3. Their view that labor is just another "input" and that employees can bargain over the fair price for their work on the "labor market" is just wrong, as anyone who has tried to bargain with their boss one-on-one has found out the hard way.

4. At an even deeper level, both believed that every owner trying to maximize their own profits will somehow work out for the best for everyone - the "Invisible Hand" of Adam Smith. This is nothing but a false god, a "religion of greed", masquerading as a science.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Windmill City

Bootstrap pointed out something important: the turbines for these windmills came from Germany. That's a wakeup call!

We are spending a trillion dollars a year on a war machine with 700 foreign bases and troops in 130 countries - mainly to protect US control of the world's oil markets. If the war they are prepared for ever happens it will destroy our civilization, win or lose. But the oil-based technology they are protecting threatens to destroy our biosphere, and perhaps our species! The insanity of this picture is just mind-boggling!

What Princeton has shown is that the answer is right under our noses. If we could take that trillion dollars a year and spend it at home building wind, wave, solar, geothermal and (soon) fusion energy technology and electric vehicles that run on it, we would absolutely not need that oil!

We would put the people back to work, at good-paying jobs.

We would be makers of products the world needs and will buy.

We would be able to lift from our children's minds the dread of nuclear annihilation that most of us have lived with our entire lives, because the last reason for a world war would be gone.

And we would be able to start thinking again about leaving a beautiful world for our great grandchildren and their great grandchildren.

If Washington won't take the lead, Princeton can. And Worcester could too.

Imagine shipping crates being unloaded at the docks of Bremen and Calcutta marked "Another Worcester Windmill - Made with Pride in USA".

Imagine travel brochures at Heathrow Airport shouting "Visit Worcester Massachusetts, the world famous 'Windmill City' where the American Revolution began!"

Imagine being proud to tell people anywhere in the world that you're from Worcester - and everyone not only knows what you mean, they can pronounce it!

Why not?

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Republicans, Gambling and Addiction

Addictive and self-destructive behavior, such as gambling or voting Republican, is something very different from a habit, although habits are part of their mechanisms. In a human being these behaviors are mediated and maintained by belief systems; and are extremely resistant to any real or lasting change unless the belief system changes.

What all addictions have in common is the belief that there is something "out there" in the world which can take our pain away and make us feel good if we can acquire it, use it or get more of it. It involves making something or someone else responsible for our feelings, and then seeing ourselves as deprived, as having lost or given up something we need, when we don't get it. The actual physical withdrawal symptoms turn out to be relatively tolerable without this psychological component.

The Easy Way to Stop Smoking, and The Easy Way to Stop Drinking, both by Alan Carr, are two powerful applications of this framework for understanding addictive behavior, with very high long-term success rates reported. The user is asked to simply read the book - a detailed description of the physical and ideational processes whereby the addiction is maintained and how the user experiences these - while changing nothing. They examine their own experience and become observers of their own process. Then they pick a day and time, invite in witnesses, and have a last drink or smoke, and redefine themselves as a non-smoker or non-drinker from that moment forward.

I tried this. I read Carr's alcohol book fifteen months ago, after 47 years of regular and sometimes heavy drinking. Then I threw a "last drink" party for some friends, had my final drink and stopped cold. I do not regard myself now as an abstaining alcoholic or a reformed drinker; I am a non-drinker. I have open bottles of wine in my house now left behind by guests, and I trust myself not to touch them. Sometimes I feel the urge to take a drink when I'm really upset or discouraged about something, but then I think about it for a minute and the urge goes away.

I hadn't thought about voting Republican - and engaging in Republican rants - in this light, but it fits! The essence of it is the belief that there is something - someone -out there who is responsible for one's feeling bad, and there is something the authorities should do to take that pain away - more arrests, more imprisonment, more executions or police shootings, more mothers thrown off welfare, more kids thrown into boot camps or more teachers fired, more enemy cities bombed or terrorist supporters killed by missile strikes or death squads, more girls forced to have a baby they don't want or more addicts killed by dirty needles. Ranting about this seems to take away the feelings of powerlessness, anxiety and humiliation and make one feel powerful and in control again. It's never enough, but the lesson drawn is only that we need more. No amount of lessons from life that this does not further our real interests, that it only makes things worse, seems to be able to penetrate.

How do we change this?

Perhaps Carr could be prevailed on to write the book The Easy Way to Stop Supporting Republicans. And then we would have to get them to read it!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Social Inequality Class

Note to a young woman who just completed her "Social Inequality" class at a top college:

Your social inequality class continues for a lifetime, a step along the road to opening your eyes to the core reality of the world we inhabit and broadening your perspective on it.

The challenge to those of us who have chosen the path of understanding is to embrace, organize and unite the disempowered - from a broad and inclusive vision of who we all are, how we came to be hers and where we could be going - to change that reality.

Which means embracing and accepting the pain of being one of us; not just the pain of being Black or Latino or female, or the pain of being branded gay or fat, a "sped" or disabled, an "illegal" or a "felon", but the pain of being working-class. This pain doesn't go away, but if you commit to the struggle it will not stop you from living your living life joyfully, and it can be a source of power. ...

But if you try to run from it and deny it, it will follow you, and then it will run your life and twist you.

Been there, done that.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Capuano and Kennedy

For those of us who loved and admired Ted Kennedy, Mike Capuano would be a great choice.

Like Ted, Mike is a passionate and joyful warrior for the people and for democracy.

Like Ted, Mike is a man of principle, a man who speaks truth to power, a man who doesn't ask which way the wind is blowing before he casts a vote.

And Like Ted, Mike is becoming a master of strategy, of working the system to make things happen, from a position of principle.

Like Ted, Mike has a great BS detector, and listens to it.

Like Ted, Mike is unafraid to stand against war when war is not truly needed, and when the pack is baying for blood; someone who stands his ground when those around him are panicking and dodging for cover.

Like Ted, Mike sees democracy as meaning everybody in, nobody out. Everyone working together and supporting each other, not some of us trying to secure what we have by keeping others down. Everyone's children and everyone's grandparents equally precious.

Like Ted, Mike is unafraid to stand with Labor, and unafraid to work for the success and growth of business in Massachusetts, from the position of someone who represents and speaks for the working people who elected him.

And like Ted, for Mike none of this a strategy or a calculation; it is straight from the heart, from who he is.

But unlike Ted, Mike is not a child of wealth and privilege. He may have been educated in Ivy League schools, but he is one of us. The torch he carries is not that of one who has descended from the mountain to be among us - it is the flame in the heart of the "ordinary" working people of Massachusetts, longing for opportunity, respect, fair play and dignity for ourselves, for our children and for our children's children.

It is the flame of the American Dream.

Everyone says no one can replace Ted Kennedy. That may indeed be so, but in his way, Mike Capuano could prove to be an even greater Senator. The People's Senator.

Sunday, December 6, 2009


We need Mike Capuano in the Senate.

He is an experienced legislator with 11 years on Capitol Hill, with a proven track record, who knows how to get things done and can hit the ground running.

He is a straight-forward, passionate man who speaks and acts from his heart. He's had some fancy education, but he's still one of us, and speaks for us.

He is brave. His votes against the Iraq War and the Patriot Act, at a time when the country was in a panic, were votes of principle, as is his opposition to the escalation in Afghanistan.

His vote against the No Child Left Behind Act - he foresaw that it would not be funded and would become a setup for breaking the public schools - was another act of courage.

He's willing to play political hardball to get respect for the progressives, and for all the people who voted for Obama and Change last year.

For example, he has been a supporter of Medicare for All - Single Payer - since the beginning, and has worked hard to keep a strong public option in the Health Reform Bill. But he has joined with 40 other Representatives in pledging to vote against the bill if it comes out of the final committee with the Stupak amendment, which would strip tens of millions of families of the coverage they now have to support a woman's ability to choose whether to bear a child.

Our own Rep. McGovern and five other Mass. Representatives have endorsed him, as have many other state leaders, thirty state labor bodies and a great many local unions. His voting record on the Hill is nearly 100% in line with the positions of the Democratic Party, and the AFL/CIO rates his labor voting record at 97%.

This is not the result of a calculation or strategy. He belongs to us, but no one owns him. I have talked to him face to face, questioned him and studied his record. I am totally convinced that it comes straight from his heart, from who he is and from his deepest commitments.


Polls are open on Tuesday, 7 am to 8 pm. Be there.

Property Tax Crisis

This latest looming crisis underscores the need to greatly reduce reliance on property taxes to fund city services.

(See Nick's column:

Property taxes are the most arbitrary and regressive way of raising revenue. How property is valued often has only a loose relationship to people's ability to pay - witness the agony of retired workers who can no longer pay the taxes on their homes. Entire towns or regions which become unaffordable to the families who have lived in them for generations, because of "gentrification" leading to rising property values driving up taxes. For example, the families that had lived on Nantucket since the Vikings are largely gone now, driven out by the taxes.

And this crisis reminds us of how very unstable property values can be, and the chaos that can happen as assessors scramble to keep up with fluctuations - and owners struggle to cope with the unanticipated revaluations.

Studies over the years of who ultimately pays a tax indicate that landlords are able to (and must) pass along the entire burden of property taxes to their tenants, so that people in Green Island, who may pay half their income in rent, effectively pay a much larger portion of their income on taxes than people living in trophy homes in Princeton. This is invisible to them, but it is very real. Yet the inequity in the absolute amount of revenue per person between Worcester and Princeton means that the schools in the "hill towns" are much-better funded.

Revenue for schools in particular - the biggest local expense and the greatest source of social inequity - should rest reliably and securely on the state income tax, the fairest and most stable source. The use of property is a kind of income and probably should not be tax-free. But we need to get away from these periodic struggles to save our city services by squeezing more blood from the property-owners, which every few years produces a new disaster.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Letter to a Democratic Party forum:


Enough already about what a threat Afghanistan was or is to us. Everyone is treating that as the one piece of what Bush and Cheney did which is beyond question, but it's horse-ticky, like the rest of their lies.

Did you know that George Bush Jr. when he was in college was a fanatic player of Risk, the Parker Brothers "Game of World Domination"? And that he was notorious for changing the rules when he was losing? That might give some clue to the mentality of the man who allowed 9/11 to happen and then ordered the invasion of Afghanistan.

The Taliban government of Afghanistan, like most CIA-sponsored regimes, was pretty disagreeable from the point of view of a progressive, but the facts are that it did not organize or support any terrorist act against the US, and there was not one Afghani involved in any of them. Bin Laden and supporters had a training camp in Afghanistan - in territory over which the government had only loose control and involving a few hundred people.

The US demanded that Bin Laden and his supporters be arrested and turned over. The Afghan government did what any self-respecting government that valued its independence would do. They asked that the universal standard of protocol in criminal cases be followed: a presentation of evidence and a formal request for extradition. The Bush government branded this failure to obey - and obey quickly - as defiance and impudence, and responded by ordering an invasion. Our corporate media pulled one of its periodic crescendos of "manufactured outrage", and practically our entire Congress pissed all over themselves to be first in line to support it.

The fact that when US forces had Bin laden surrounded and cornered they let him get away is good evidence that the invasion of Afghanistan was never about catching him.

The map I saw yesterday of where US forces are concentrated in Afghanistan casts further doubt on the official line that "fighting terrorism" is the real mission in Afghanistan. The fighting is mostly south and east of Kabul, but nearly half the US forces are in the desert in the south-western provence. There are reliable reports that they have been supplied with large numbers of main battle tanks (useless against the Taliban.) From there it is a straight shot to Teheran - 700 miles or so of desert to the west, with no mountain ranges, rivers or major fields of sand dunes in the way, just one relatively small ridge to cross.

The whole thing stinks of imperialism, one giant Risk game with nuclear-armed players, and with our own towns and cities as hostages.

Our job, as I see it, is to get the American people to demand an end to these foreign wars, and to demand it so strongly that our Democratic representatives and administration will have to give in to it to keep us pacified. The Democrats can then take credit for it, and an energized people will turn out to reelect them.

That dynamic. around this and a range of other issues, can keep the Democrats in power in 2010 and 2012. Without that, the working people will stay home again, as happened in 1994.

So, paradoxically, to save the Obama Administration we (the people) have to unleash our rage at what he's doing, and take it to "the street". Our Rep. Jim McGovern, Rep. Mike Capuano and other representatives from Massachusetts clearly understand this. Pres. Obama has given us many signals that he does too. But we - the people, with the leadership of Democrats who get this - have to make it happen.

Electing Capuano to the Senate on Tuesday will help.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Capuano, Coakley or Khazei?

The civil liberties issue is going to be crucial - as will be the issue of whether our Senator is truly, gut-level, on the side of the working people or is just with us on a collection of issues and ways of doing things.

In case you haven't been paying attention lately, let me remind you that we are in the midst of a profound, world-historical economic, social, political and environmental crisis, and for the people it is continuing to get worse. The American people turned out in '08, in what by US standards (but not by world standards) was large numbers, to elect a Democratic President and Congress running on the promise of change. And they are not seeing it. There are many signs that the "Obama voters" are fed up with the entire political process, and with the failure of Obama and the Democratic Congress to deliver, and that they may not turn out in '10 and '12 to vote at all.

See for example:

In Hondouras a few days ago, 70% of the adult population failed to show up at the polls, almost al observers agreed that it was a decisive repudiation of the dictatorship that was running the elections. But few here saw it that way when 70% of the voters of Worcester didn't vote last month in City elections, but the meaning is the same. in District 4 only 8% of the adult population participated in a hotly-contested City Council race.

I've been at a lot of doors and in a lot of living rooms recently, talking to people about politics, government and their lives. I couldn't get many out to vote, but I can tell you they are paying attention, and they are getting angrier and more desperate. People stay home as a vote of no confidence - a massive, ongoing vote of no confidence in our whole electoral system, one that has been going on for generations, but no one is paying attention. People are very clear about that. If you doubt it, go out and ask them!

The only thing that can save the Democrats - and perhaps our democracy itself, such as it is - in '10 and '12 will be people taking to the streets and taking other direct action to demand the change we voted for in '08; and then only if the Democratic representatives, the President and the Democratic governors respond to that pressure - and take credit for that - the way Roosevelt did!

And it's going to happen. (The street heat, that is.) The pot is coming to a boil.

The question to ask about the Senator we nominate is: does he or she get it? Will he or she be on the side of the people in the crunch? Or will they side with the "law and order first" crowd and support the impulse to beat the people back with clubs and gas, injunctions, jails and detention camps?

Any sign of anti-union bias is a warning flag. The unions, such as they are, are the only organized voice the working people have right now, and their support for the Democratic Party is critical to our future.

I think Capuano gets this. My best guess is that at a gut level he is - and will be - on the side of the people, the side of democracy.

I have doubts about Khazei, and serious doubts about Coakley.

Ask about Martha: where would she have stood on the Flint sitdown strike, or the civil disobedience of the Civil Rights Movement?

Where would she have stood on Sept. 6, 1774, when 4,722 militia members from 37 towns gathered in the streets of Worcester and stopped the courts from meeting?

If - or rather when - she is forced to choose between the law and the people, between the law and democracy, what does her record show about where she would stand?

Teachers Vote No Confidence


Anyone who blames 'the teachers' or 'the unions' for the mess in our schools should try teaching for a week. What the schools *are*, the bottom line, is teachers in a classroom working with students. It is a difficult, demanding and exhausting job. Everything else, everyone else in the school, is just support and structure.

And anyone who thinks being a 'team player' always means going along with the principal, right or wrong, needs to do some re-thinking.

The fact that this is the first time in six years that the staff at a school has voted no confidence in their principal says buckets. I trust Dr. Boone will take this as seriously as it apparently deserves to be taken.

Teachers need and deserve to be respected and supported - and paid - as professionals. They organize in unions when they find they can't get that respect any other way. The union is the teachers. And the teachers are the schools.
Two homeless children broke into an abandoned building and lit a candle that set it on fire, and as it happened six brave fire-fighters died as a result. Dozens of family members were heart-broken, and a whole City shared in the grief. How could the punishment for that action possibly "pay for" what it caused, and still be appropriate to what those children actually did?

If you want to look for fault, why not ask why those children were homeless in the first place.

People forget that there was a time in this country - three decades in fact, the '50's through the '70's - when homelessness was practically unknown. Poor people could always find a room, and get help paying for it. There is no law of God or nature that says "the homeless will always be with us".

But while there are homeless people who need a place to get in out of the cold, and abandoned buildings they can break into, they will get into them - and they will light candles, and make fires to keep warm - and sometimes that will start building fires - and sometimes those fires will kill people.

No threat of possible punishment for something that could possibly happen if they make a mistake that they don't intend to make will stop them.

Now we're closing the PIP Shelter, and there will be even more people with no place to go. There are hundreds of abandoned buildings in the city, and more are being abandoned every week. We have fewer fire-fighters to deal with the fires that wil result, and they have farther to go. So when the next fire comes that takes a fire-fighter's life, whose fault will it be?

Will the blame lie with some homeless child who started it? Or perhaps some broken, homeless old man, who may once have been your fellow worker or your neighbor, but who now is just trying to survive another night?

Or does the blame lie with our failure as a City to deal with these twin disasters of homelessness and building abandonment?