Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Sylvia Sings (I Love You) More Than It Has Ever Rained

Written by Verlon Thompson and Sylvia Hutton




Sylvia is accompanied by John Mock on this video. She recorded the song on her 1996 album "The Real Story", produced by her and John Mock for her own independent record label, Red Pony Records.

Monday, August 29, 2011

A Few Recent Rough Sketches

Back on August 14, I posted some old sketches from the seventies. Several of you were wondering if I am still drawing. Though I have developed a slight tremor in my hand the answer is yes, but only occasionally.

I started this Blog back in October 2008. Since then I have posted several of my political cartoons and a few portraits of celebrities. (Check Blog Archive)

Here are a few rough sketches I did over the last couple of weeks:


Friday, August 26, 2011

From MSNBC The Last Word

 Dick Cheney Rewrites History



From Bauhan Publishing

OPENING THE WINDOW
Sabbath Meditations

by Leaf Seligman (a close and dear friend)

Why do we do what we do? What happens as a result? How do we make sense of, and find meaning in, our lives and in the world that contains us? How do we render wholeness out of brokenness, creating mosaics of beauty and functionality from the rent pieces of our lives? This collection of Sabbath meditations invites readers to inhabit the questions with intention and joy. With a pastor's sensibility, a writer's lyricism, and a generous heart, Leaf Seligman invokes poetry, thinking from diverse spiritual traditions, and stories from her own walk through life to grapple with enduring religious themes and contemporary challenges. It is the preacher's responsibility to be of use, to choose words with great care, and open the window so spirit can move in and out, she writes in her afterword. Indeed, these meditations the words themselves and their call to a more fully understood, more deeply felt life resonate long after the bookmark is tucked into place and the covers closed. Read them slowly and deliberately. Let them be your company as you journey through the Sabbath and into the week.

AVAILABLE NOW.
ISBN: 978-087233-148-8, 232 pages, $16.50

ORDER NOW AND GET FREE SHIPPING!

In these insightful and engaging Sabbath Meditations, Leaf Seligman invites us into a rich and spacious conversation marked by respect,  wisdom and joy. The conversation engages traditional texts often a challenge for religious liberals in creative, non-traditional ways, quietly encouraging us to reclaim this neglected resource. Her deep love for the craft of writing gives these meditations an unforced and graceful elegance that makes them a delight to read. --Rev. Dr. Paul Rasor, Director of the Center for the Study of Religious Freedom, Virginia Wesleyan College, and author of Faith Without Certainty: Liberal Theology in the 20th Century.

With penetrating insight into human life and a deep, scholarly engagement with the sacred texts, Leaf Seligman has lifted the art form of a sermon to a new level of integrity. --Rt. Rev. John Shelby SpongAuthor, Re-Claiming the Bible for a Non-Religious World     

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Steve Jobs Resigns

To the Apple Board of Directors and the Apple Community:

I have always said if there ever came a day when I could no longer meet my duties and expectations as Apple’s CEO, I would be the first to let you know. Unfortunately, that day has come.

I hereby resign as CEO of Apple. I would like to serve, if the Board sees fit, as Chairman of the Board, director and Apple employee.

As far as my successor goes, I strongly recommend that we execute our succession plan and name Tim Cook as CEO of Apple.

I believe Apple’s brightest and most innovative days are ahead of it. And I look forward to watching and contributing to its success in a new role.

I have made some of the best friends of my life at Apple, and I thank you all for the many years of being able to work alongside you.

Steve

Monday, August 22, 2011

Mound Bottom

by Dee Newman


Just up river from the Narrows in a horseshoe bend of the Harpeth River is an ancient aboriginal complex called Mound Bottom, consisting of several burial mounds, a central plaza, habitation area and a large platform mound (25 feet in height and some 47 square feet at its base).


Farther up river, another mound complex known as the Pack site, or Great Mound Division, is believed to have been a sister or contemporary site to Mound Bottom.

Together, the Mound Bottom site and the Pack site, contain 29 prehistoric mounds, including several flat-topped platform mounds that once supported large ceremonial buildings and/or elite residences.

At Mound Bottom, the remains of an earthen ramp leading from the plaza to the top of the large flat-topped mound can still be seen. The entire complex, archaeologist believe, once included hundreds of houses, surrounded by an earthen wall topped with a palisade constructed of upright logs.


When the first European settlers arrived in the area they reported seeing what they describe as “large fortifications” along the Harpeth River. Later, in 1823 John Haywood, an early Tennessee historian, asserted Mound Bottom to be an import aboriginal site.

After the Civil War in the late 1860s, Joseph Jones of the Smithsonian Institution, while investigating several prehistoric sites in Tennessee, took note of the "extraordinary aboriginal works" at Mound Bottom.


But, it was not until 1923 that the first modern investigation of the Mound Bottom site was actually conducted. William E. Myer, also working for the Smithsonian, uncovered evidence of 10 ancient houses at Mound Bottom, as well as, evidence of a structure and hearth atop one of the mounds at the Pack site a mile and half up river.

It was Myer who excavated the mound that sits on my land atop the ridge that overlooks the Narrows of the Harpeth. He determined that the mound was most likely an observation mound, housing a small shelter, that at the time provided a panoramic view of the Harpeth River valley that could easily be seen by the inhabitants of Mound Bottom a mile up stream.


In 1926, P.E. Cox, a Tennessee state archaeologist, followed up on Myer's discoveries, uncovering a number of burial sites and baked clay floors. In the late 1930s and early 1940s, excavations conducted by the University of Tennessee disclosed several house sites, graves, and sections of the ancient palisade that once help to provided protection for this prehistoric city.

Finally in 1972, the State of Tennessee purchased the Mound Bottom site in order to preserve it as a state archaeological area. Two years later, Carl Kuttruff and Michael O'Brien were assigned by the Tennessee Division of Archaeology to conduct major excavations at the site. Their radiocarbon dating of Mound Bottom showed that the site was occupied as early as 800 AD.


North, on a ridge (across and 300 feet above the river) overlooking Mound Bottom is “Mace Bluff”. There, atop a limestone cliff, is an ancient rock carving or petroglyph. The Mace Bluff Petroglyph depicts a mace (the ornamental head of a scepter or staff) used by a chief or priest in special ceremonies and rituals. Though we will never know its cryptic meaning, archaeologist believe the person who carved it belonged to the inhabitants of Mound Bottom.






Sunday, August 21, 2011

From Jack's Journal

The following was written 48 years ago by Jack Reeves:

August 11, 1962

We do not know why the processes of creation gave rise to life nor why matter evolved to the conscious level. It is as though the goal of life has been to become aware of its own existence, and then to live in fear of extinction. This is the cynical ethical ground which permeates morality.

Yet, if there is no god who takes responsibility for his own acts, and if there is no cosmic savior to whom man can turn, then creation reaches its pinnacle whenever an individual, in full awareness of this dilemma, will stand up and assert before this amoral order: “I am responsible!” This person is the crown of life, for in spite of egocentrism which acknowledges only its own will to live, and death, which mocks life itself, there is redemption in the refusal to participate in creation’s absurdity.

Friday, August 19, 2011

From TED (A Must View)

Following is a video of a presentation, "6 Ways That Mushrooms Can Save The World", given by Paul Stamets at the 2008 TED Conference.



To read more about Paul and his work with fungi click here.

From The Daily Show







Doug Marlette

by Dee Newman

In the late 1960s I was stationed in Sanford, Florida, at the Naval Air Station there in Attack Squadron THREE as an Aviation Electronics Technician. During that time I met Jack Reeves and his family. Jack was teaching psychology at Seminole County High School.

A young man by the name of Doug Marlette was enrolled in one of his classes. Doug usually sat on the front row, dividing his attention (multi-tasking) between taking notes on Jack’s lectures and drawing cartoons. After class Doug would often share his drawings with Jack.

Jack was impressed with the young man’s talent (his unique ability to create original cartoon characters) and encouraged Doug to pursue his remarkable gifts, assuring the young man that he had a future in the field.

After graduating from Seminole High School Doug attended Seminole Community College where he worked on the student newspaper as a cartoonist. Later he went on to Florida State University where he drew political cartoons for The Florida Flambeau (1969 to 1971) and illustrating the 1970-71 FSU yearbook, Tally Ho, including a wraparound cover.

Between 1972 and 1987 Doug worked for The Charlotte Observer developing his style and reputation as an outstanding cartoonists. It was at the Observer where he began writing and drawing the internationally syndicated comic strip Kudzu in 1981. In 1987 he began working for The Atlanta Constitution where he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1988.

He also collaborated with Bland Simpson and Jack Herrick of the Red Clay Ramblers on a musical comedy adaptation of his Kudzu strip – “Kudzu, A Southern Musical”.

Doug’s work regularly appeared in Time and Newsweek, as well as, other influential publications such as The New York Times and The Washington Post.

In 2002, he drew criticism from Islamic groups for drawing a cartoon depicting Mohammed driving a Ryder van with missiles pointed out the back with the caption – "What would Mohammed drive?"

Doug also became an award winning novelist. His first Novel, The Bridge, was published in 2001 by HarperCollins, winning the SIBA Book Award for fiction as the Best Book of the Year. His second novel, Magic Time, was published in 2006 by Sarah Crichton Books, receiving critical acclaim.

Doug died in Marshall County, Mississippi, in 2007. The Toyota pickup truck in which he was riding hydroplaned and struck a tree, killing him instantly. He was on his way to Oxford, Mississippi, to help students at Oxford High School prepare for their performance of Kudzu, A Southern Musical at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. He died less than a week after he delivered the eulogy for his father in Charlotte, North Carolina. At his funeral in Hillsborough, North Carolina, his best friend, the writer Pat Conroy eulogized him saying, "The first person to cry, when he heard about Doug's death, was God."

Awards and Honors (from Wikipedia)
In 1981, Marlette became the first cartoonist ever awarded a Nieman Fellowship. He won every major award for editorial cartooning, including the 1988 Pulitzer Prize for Editorial Cartooning, the National Headliner Award for Consistently Outstanding Editorial Cartoons (three times) and first prize in the John Fischetti Memorial Cartoon Competition (twice). In 1997, he won his second Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award. Two days after Marlette's death, North Carolina Governor Michael F. Easley awarded him the honor of membership in the Order of the Long Leaf Pine, the highest civilian honor bestowed by the governor of North Carolina.

At the time of his death Doug was with the Tulsa Daily World .

An Example of his work from The Atlanta Constitution:


Alicia Silverstone: The Kind Diet



From the LA Times

Bill Clinton talks about being a vegan

 Bill Clinton in Haiti
Former President Bill Clinton during a recent visit to Haiti. Clinton says that his vegan diet is 
improving his cardiovascular health. (EPA / Andres Martinez Casares)

By Eryn Brown, Los Angeles Times / for the Booster Shots blog

August 18, 2011, 1:38 p.m.

Former President Bill Clinton is speaking out about his plant-based, heart-healthy diet, saying that he believes the vegan regimen is helping to reverse the damage to his heart and blood vessels caused by cardiovascular disease.

"It's turning a ship around before it hits the iceberg, but I think we're beginning to turn it around," he told CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

It's not the first time Clinton has changed his famously Krispy Kreme-oriented eating habits to improve his health. When the former president had a quadruple bypass in 2004, he lowered the cholesterol in his diet. But when doctors last year had to implant two stents to open one of the veins from that surgery, the president took matters further and began following the advice of Dr. Dean Ornish, the diet guru who helped spark the notion of turning to vegetarianism to reverse coronary heart disease with the publication of this study (subscription required) in the Lancet in 1990, and Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn Jr., who runs the cardiovascular prevention and reversal program at the Cleveland Clinic Wellness Institute, and went vegan -- cutting out meat, dairy, eggs and most oils.

News of his new diet started trickling out after daughter Chelsea Clinton's July 31 wedding, an event at which guests dined on vegan dishes and a gluten-free cake, and at which Clinton appeared slim and healthy. By September, a flurry of reports had delved into the president's new eating habits, some questioning how the 64-year-old really felt about giving up meat for protein shakes and almond milk ("I like the vegetables, the fruits, the beans, the stuff I eat now," he tells Gupta now.) In December 2010, PETA named Clinton its Person of the Year, estimating that his diet shift spared the lives of 200 animals a year.

Vegan diets aren't always healthy. As Los Angeles Times reporter Jeannine Stein found last year when she peeked in the pantry of one vegan couple, cutting out meat and dairy can leave a lot of room for nutrient-poor choices like potato chips and Taco Bell burritos. But the right kind of veganism, according to Clinton, can promote good health. "All my blood tests are good, and my vital signs are good, and I feel good, and I also have, believe it or not, more energy," he said.


Clinton's interview with Gupta will air on CNN on Sunday. Here's a clip:



Click to play

From the Institute for Responsible Technology


Jeffrey Smith The leading consumer advocate promoting healthier, non-GMO choices  

Posted on 9:40 pm July 23, 2009
 
You’re Appointing Who? Please Obama, Say It’s Not So!

The person who may be responsible for more food-related illness and death than anyone in history has just been made the US food safety czar. This is no joke.

Here’s the back story.


When FDA scientists were asked to weigh in on what was to become the most radical and potentially dangerous change in our food supply—the introduction of genetically modified (GM) foods—secret documents now reveal that the experts were very concerned. Memo after memo described toxins, new diseases, nutritional deficiencies, and hard-to-detect allergens. They were adamant that the technology carried “serious health hazards,” and required careful, long-term research, including human studies, before any genetically modified organisms (GMOs) could be safely released into the food supply.

But the biotech industry had rigged the game so that neither science nor scientists would stand in their way. They had placed their own man in charge of FDA policy and he wasn’t going to be swayed by feeble arguments related to food safety. No, he was going to do what corporations had done for decades to get past these types of pesky concerns. He was going to lie.

Dangerous Food Safety Lies

When the FDA was constructing their GMO policy in 1991-2, their scientists were clear that gene-sliced foods were significantly different and could lead to “different risks” than conventional foods. But official policy declared the opposite, claiming that the FDA knew nothing of significant differences, and declared GMOs substantially equivalent.

This fiction became the rationale for allowing GM foods on the market without any required safety studies whatsoever! The determination of whether GM foods were safe to eat was placed entirely in the hands of the companies that made them—companies like Monsanto, which told us that the PCBs, DDT, and Agent Orange were safe.

GMOs were rushed onto our plates in 1996. Over the next nine years, multiple chronic illnesses in the US nearly doubled—from 7% to 13%. Allergy-related emergency room visits doubled between 1997 and 2002 while food allergies, especially among children, skyrocketed. We also witnessed a dramatic rise in asthma, autism, obesity, diabetes, digestive disorders, and certain cancers.

In January of this year, Dr. P. M. Bhargava, one of the world’s top biologists, told me that after reviewing 600 scientific journals, he concluded that the GM foods in the US are largely responsible for the increase in many serious diseases.

In May, the American Academy of Environmental Medicine concluded that animal studies have demonstrated a causal relationship between GM foods and infertility, accelerated aging, dysfunctional insulin regulation, changes in major organs and the gastrointestinal system, and immune problems such as asthma, allergies, and inflammation.

In July, a report by eight international experts determined that the flimsy and superficial evaluations of GMOs by both regulators and GM companies “systematically overlook the side effects” and significantly underestimate “the initial signs of diseases like cancer and diseases of the hormonal, immune, nervous and reproductive systems, among others.”

The Fox Guarding the Chickens
If GMOs are indeed responsible for massive sickness and death, then the individual who oversaw the FDA policy that facilitated their introduction holds a uniquely infamous role in human history. That person is Michael Taylor. He had been Monsanto’s attorney before becoming policy chief at the FDA. Soon after, he became Monsanto’s vice president and chief lobbyist.

This month Michael Taylor became the senior advisor to the commissioner of the FDA. He is now America’s food safety czar. What have we done?

The Milk Man Cometh
While Taylor was at the FDA in the early 90′s, he also oversaw the policy regarding Monsanto’s genetically engineered bovine growth hormone (rbGH/rbST)—injected into cows to increase milk supply.

The milk from injected cows has more pus, more antibiotics, more bovine growth hormone, and most importantly, more insulin-like growth factor 1 (IGF-1). IGF-1 is a huge risk factor for common cancers and its high levels in this drugged milk is why so many medical organizations and hospitals have taken stands against rbGH. A former Monsanto scientist told me that when three of his Monsanto colleagues evaluated rbGH safety and discovered the elevated IGF-1 levels, even they refused to drink any more milk—unless it was organic and therefore untreated.

Government scientists from Canada evaluated the FDA’s approval of rbGH and concluded that it was a dangerous facade. The drug was banned in Canada, as well as Europe, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. But it was approved in the US while Michael Taylor was in charge. His drugged milk might have caused a significant rise in US cancer rates. Additional published evidence also implicates rbGH in the high rate of fraternal twins in the US.

Taylor also determined that milk from injected cows did not require any special labeling. And as a gift to his future employer Monsanto, he wrote a white paper suggesting that if companies ever had the audacity to label their products as not using rbGH, they should also include a disclaimer stating that according to the FDA, there is no difference between milk from treated and untreated cows.

Taylor’s disclaimer was also a lie. Monsanto’s own studies and FDA scientists officially acknowledged differences in the drugged milk. No matter. Monsanto used Taylor’s white paper as the basis to successfully sue dairies that labeled their products as rbGH-free.
Will Monsanto’s Wolff Also Guard the Chickens?

As consumers learned that rbGH was dangerous, they refused to buy the milk. To keep their customers, a tidal wave of companies has publicly committed to not use the drug and to label their products as such. Monsanto tried unsuccessfully to convince the FDA and FTC to make it illegal for dairies to make rbGH-free claims, so they went to their special friend in Pennsylvania—Dennis Wolff. As state secretary of agriculture, Wolff unilaterally declared that labeling products rbGH-free was illegal, and that all such labels must be removed from shelves statewide. This would, of course, eliminate the label from all national brands, as they couldn’t afford to create separate packaging for just one state.

Fortunately, consumer demand forced Pennsylvania’s Governor Ed Rendell to step in and stop Wolff’s madness. But Rendell allowed Wolff to take a compromised position that now requires rbGH-free claims to also be accompanied by Taylor’s FDA disclaimer on the package.
President Obama is considering Dennis Wolff for the top food safety post at the USDA. Yikes!
Rumor has it that the reason why Pennsylvania’s governor is supporting Wolff’s appointment is to get him out of the state—after he “screwed up so badly” with the rbGH decision. Oh great, governor. Thanks.

Ohio Governor Gets Taylor-itus
Ohio not only followed Pennsylvania’s lead by requiring Taylor’s FDA disclaimer on packaging, they went a step further. They declared that dairies must place that disclaimer on the same panel where rbGH-free claims are made, and even dictated the font size. This would force national brands to re-design their labels and may ultimately dissuade them from making rbGH-free claims at all. The Organic Trade Association and the International Dairy Foods Association filed a lawsuit against Ohio. Although they lost the first court battle, upon appeal, the judge ordered a mediation session that takes place today. Thousands of Ohio citizens have flooded Governor Strickland’s office with urgent requests to withdraw the states anti-consumer labeling requirements.

Perhaps the governor has an ulterior motive for pushing his new rules. If he goes ahead with his labeling plans, he might end up with a top appointment in the Obama administration.
To hear what America is saying about GMOs and to add your voice, go to our new non-GMO Facebook Group.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Minton Sparks at The Station Inn

Minton Sparks (Jill Webb Hill, a friend) is a poet, song and short story writer, a character actor and a performer, extraordinaire. She has performed at the Lincoln Center in the American Songbook Series, at the Jonesborough National Storytelling Festival as a teller-in-residence, on NPR’s All Things Considered, at the revered Old Towne School of Folk Music, and shared the stage with the likes of Rodney Crowell, John Prine, and Nanci Griffith.

Last April, at the prestigious Conference on Southern Literature in Chattanooga, the Fellowship of Southern Writers gave her the first spoken-word award in its 24-year history.

If you have never witness one of her live performances you have truly missed out. Her latest album – “Live at the Station Inn” –accompanied solely by the remarkable acoustic guitar work of John Jackson (perhaps best known for having played with Bob Dylan), faithfully captures her colorful, instinctive and extraordinary gifts.

The album was recorded at Nashville’s premier bluegrass and root’s music listening room before a hometown crowd – folks who obviously enjoy listening to a good story told by a first-rate storyteller.

Next Thursday, August 25, she will, once again, appear at The Station Inn, sharing the bill with Marshall Chapman, who once said of her – “if she’s not the ghost child of Flannery O'Connor and Hank Williams, then cotton doesn’t grow in a cotton field." If you are in town I highly recommend attending the show.

Here’s a clip from one of her performances at MusicCityRoots:


"Mama's Purse"



Wednesday, August 17, 2011

AMERICA'S COMING REVOLUTION

by Jack Reeves

"The history of all previous societies has been the history of class struggles." -- Karl Marx

"It's the economy, stupid!" -- James Carville

Marx and Carville agree that wealth (the subject of economics) and what it creates (class, power) determines human society. When the accumulation of wealth and power resides in the hands of a few, causing intolerable social disparity revolution results. Economics is the core.

Ten examples: English, American ("Taxation without representation."), French ("Let them eat cake."), Russian ("Workers of the world unite."), Spanish, German ("Heil Hitler.") Indian, Chinese, Cuban, South African revolutions.

The American Civil War was economically caused. The South's economy was slave based. The Confederacy tried to preserve it by seceding from the Union.

Which brings us to America 2011. Economic disparity is greater than ever. A study released this week found that only 36% of Americans sampled could tap $1000 if needed for an emergency.

Congress has become the advocate and agent of the wealthy and corporations.

Government is dysfunctional, shameful and manifestly unredeemable.

Victimized Americans are helpless and "mad as hell."

Karl Marx, the Father of Sociology, was right: economics determine societies. It's a law of human behavior supported by historical examples.

The American Revolution was 13 Colonies vs. England. The seeds of our next revolution are more than sown. They have germinated and are being daily nurtured. There's a growing, pervasive national resolution that "[we're] not going to take this anymore!"

Monday, August 15, 2011

From The New York Times

Op-Ed Contributor
Stop Coddling the Super-Rich

By WARREN E. BUFFETT / August 14, 2011

OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors.

These and other blessings are showered upon us by legislators in Washington who feel compelled to protect us, much as if we were spotted owls or some other endangered species. It’s nice to have friends in high places.

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.

If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot.

To understand why, you need to examine the sources of government revenue. Last year about 80 percent of these revenues came from personal income taxes and payroll taxes. The mega-rich pay income taxes at a rate of 15 percent on most of their earnings but pay practically nothing in payroll taxes. It’s a different story for the middle class: typically, they fall into the 15 percent and 25 percent income tax brackets, and then are hit with heavy payroll taxes to boot.

Back in the 1980s and 1990s, tax rates for the rich were far higher, and my percentage rate was in the middle of the pack. According to a theory I sometimes hear, I should have thrown a fit and refused to invest because of the elevated tax rates on capital gains and dividends.

I didn’t refuse, nor did others. I have worked with investors for 60 years and I have yet to see anyone — not even when capital gains rates were 39.9 percent in 1976-77 — shy away from a sensible investment because of the tax rate on the potential gain. People invest to make money, and potential taxes have never scared them off. And to those who argue that higher rates hurt job creation, I would note that a net of nearly 40 million jobs were added between 1980 and 2000. You know what’s happened since then: lower tax rates and far lower job creation.

Since 1992, the I.R.S. has compiled data from the returns of the 400 Americans reporting the largest income. In 1992, the top 400 had aggregate taxable income of $16.9 billion and paid federal taxes of 29.2 percent on that sum. In 2008, the aggregate income of the highest 400 had soared to $90.9 billion — a staggering $227.4 million on average — but the rate paid had fallen to 21.5 percent.

The taxes I refer to here include only federal income tax, but you can be sure that any payroll tax for the 400 was inconsequential compared to income. In fact, 88 of the 400 in 2008 reported no wages at all, though every one of them reported capital gains. Some of my brethren may shun work but they all like to invest. (I can relate to that.)

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering.

Twelve members of Congress will soon take on the crucial job of rearranging our country’s finances. They’ve been instructed to devise a plan that reduces the 10-year deficit by at least $1.5 trillion. It’s vital, however, that they achieve far more than that. Americans are rapidly losing faith in the ability of Congress to deal with our country’s fiscal problems. Only action that is immediate, real and very substantial will prevent that doubt from morphing into hopelessness. That feeling can create its own reality.

Job one for the 12 is to pare down some future promises that even a rich America can’t fulfill. Big money must be saved here. The 12 should then turn to the issue of revenues. I would leave rates for 99.7 percent of taxpayers unchanged and continue the current 2-percentage-point reduction in the employee contribution to the payroll tax. This cut helps the poor and the middle class, who need every break they can get.

But for those making more than $1 million — there were 236,883 such households in 2009 — I would raise rates immediately on taxable income in excess of $1 million, including, of course, dividends and capital gains. And for those who make $10 million or more — there were 8,274 in 2009 — I would suggest an additional increase in rate.

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.


Warren E. Buffett is the chairman and chief executive of Berkshire Hathaway.

Sunday, August 14, 2011