Category Archives: Social Policy

Quick! Who’s Position is This…Bush or Giuliani???

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Okay, time for a little fun. Can you guess who said the following regarding various issues??? 

U.S. Policy toward Africa

He said the United States should focus its policy toward Africa on increases in trade. “U.S. government aid is important, but aid not linked to reform perpetuates bad policies and poverty.”

In May 2007, he was informed that he held between $500,000 and $1 million in investments in companies that work in Sudan.

U.S. Policy toward India

He views India’s rapidly growing economy as a potentially lucrative market, saying the United States should “take advantage” (CNBC) of the “large number of consumers that are emerging in India.” In particular, he said, the U.S. stands to “make a lot of money in India” in new energy technology.

Military Tribunals and Guantanamo Bay

He said he supports the detention camp at Guantanamo. He said in a June 2007 interview with the Wall Street Journal that he believes the allegations of prisoner mistreatment at Guantanamo have “been grossly exaggerated, and many of the reports that I see are that it’s not terribly different from any other prisons.”

Domestic Intelligence

He defended the domestic spying initiatives, saying “he did it to protect our national security and to try to find out information about people that might attack us and might be preparing an attack on us, in order to secure us, in order to protect us.” He said in September 2007 that electronic surveillance should not be “unrealistically” limited.

War on Terror

He responded to John Edwards’ criticism of the war on terror, saying in June 2007, “This is not a bumper sticker; this war is a real war.” He generally refers to “the terrorist war against us,” lately, rather than the “war on terror,” he told TIME.

Democracy Promotion in the Arab World

He believes in a larger goal of a democratic (AFP) Iraq and Middle East. But, he says, stability takes precedence over democracy. “Democracy can’t flourish unless people are safe. You can’t have democracy when people are being killed,” he said in January 2007.

Energy Policy

He has ties to various energy companies, many of which are fossil fuel-oriented including Duke Energy Corp., the National Petrochemical & Refiners Association, Valero Energy Corp, and FPL Energy. He has supported increased use of nuclear power.

Israeli-Palestinian Conflict

He has held up Israel as “the only outpost of freedom and democracy in the Middle East and the only absolutely reliable friend of the United States.” (Haaretz) In a 2002 speech, he stressed that Jerusalem must “remain the undivided capital” of Israel. He also said at that time that the Palestinian Authority is not a “moral equivalent” to the Israeli government, because “there is a difference between a nation based on law and democracy and one that harbors terrorism.” He called on the Palestinian Authority to create “institutions of political and economic freedom and religious toleration.” More recently, he said that in his view it “makes no difference” whether the Palestinian Authority is run by Hamas or Fatah leader Mahmoud Abbas. At a March 2007 fundraiser, he also said that the United States should “not push any peace process” until the Palestinian Authority recognizes Israel’s right to exist and condemns terrorism.

North Korea Policy

He supports the policy of China placing pressure on Pyongyang. “I think the strategy has produced enough results so far that you have to stick with it,” he said. He indicated it remains unclear whether Iran or North Korea is further along in developing a nuclear weapons program.

Cuba Policy

He is critical of Castro, which he made clear recently in a speech over whether or not to return Cuban child Elian Gonzales to Cuba in 2000 (He was an outspoken voice for keeping the boy in the United States).

He also attacked Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez for following Castro’s “model.” (AP) Speaking to a group in Florida, he said the United States must build an alliance with Mexico and Colombia to counteract the shift to the left of Latin American governments.

U.S. Policy toward China

He has not made many public statements on his views of China. However, he said in an CNBC interview that limiting China ’s ownership of U.S. debt is “generally a bad idea and generally self-defeating.” He said that the U.S. should build industries that we can sell” in China.

Defense Policy

He has called for an “offense-as-a-defense” (Journal-Register)strategy towards al-Qaeda, backing the U.S. troop surge and continued presence in Iraq.

He fully advocates the addition of thirty-five thousand troops to the army’s current level of 512,000 (AP).

In September 2007, he said the United States should pursue a nuclear missile defense system, as “America can no longer rely on Cold War doctrines such as ‘mutual assured destruction’ in the face of threats from hostile, unstable regimes.”

Iraq

He says we need a plan by which to measure progress but that does not include troop withdrawals. “You need statistics,” (FOX) he said in January 2007. “You need to be able to determine whether or not you’ve brought the violence down. If it doesn’t work, then you got to put more people in.”

He opposes any “artificial timeline” for troop withdrawal from Iraq, which he says would be tantamount to giving America’s enemies “a printed-out list of how it’s going to retreat (ChiTrib) to its enemy.” He is steadfast in his support for the war, which he considers part of the larger global war on terror.

Trade

In October 2007 he spoke in support of the pending Free Trade Agreements with Peru, Colombia, Panama, and South Korea, saying they “would be good deals for the United States.”

Homeland Security

In a September 2006 he stressed the need for a nuclear material detection system in the United States.

Iran

He has the United States should proceed diplomatically with Iran, but that “we will use a military option if we have to.” He said a military strike would be “very dangerous”but nuclear arms in the control of “an irrational person” like President Ahmadinejad was more dangerous.

His supporters are vocal advocates for bombing Iran preemptively in order to prevent it from obtaining nuclear weapons. 

Climate Change

He said he believes climate change exists (SFChron) and that something must be done to reduce pollution. However, he has not said outright that he believes climate change is caused by human activity. His statements with regard to policy on the issue have been rather vague.

Immigration

He supports some type of path (NYT) to citizenship for illegal immigrants. “If you have twelve million people, to thirteen to fourteen to fifteen million that are here illegally, it is much easier for terrorists and drug dealers to hide,” he said recently. He also said that he is in favor of a border fence and a database with which to keep track of all immigrants. 

As mayor of New York City, Giuliani opposed a law (NYT) that would have prevented illegal immigrants from receiving Social Security, food stamps and health care benefits.

United Nations

He has been extremely critical of the United Nations, which, he said, “proved irrelevant to the resolution of almost every major dispute of the last 50 years.” He says the institution’s primary capabilities are in humanitarian and peacekeeping missions, but “we should not expect much more of it.”

Specifically, he said the United Nations must hold accountable states that support or condone terrorism. “Otherwise, you will fail in your primary mission as peacekeeper,” he said. “It must ostracize any nation that supports terrorism. It must isolate any nation that remains neutral in the fight against terrorism.”

U.S. Policy toward Russia

He advocates commercial engagement with Russia, but has also expressed support for the planned missile defense shield in Eastern Europe. In October 2007 he called for an increase in military spending to “send a heck of a signal” to Russia.

Recently he traveled to Moscow to promote U.S.-Russian business relations.

And the answer is [dramatic pause…]

Rudi Giuliani

So if you vote for him, you clearly vote for more of the same neo-con nonsense. 

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Ron Paul Appears on ‘The View’ and Gets Grilled on Abortion Position…

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Ron Paul wasted no time crossing the writer’s picket line to defend his anti-abortion position on the daytime talk show, The View…and he took a verbal beating while he did it.

“I don’t think we’re ever going to reach a stage where there will no abortions,” Paul said, before indicating he would like to see Roe v. Wade overturned. Paul also repeated his position on state governments having the right to decide for themselves, “But I want to sort this out the way the constitution mandates, and that is at the local level.”

Ron Paul, a former OB-GYN, said his anti-abortion position was based on his view that a fetus was a human being with the same rights as any other person, just as he advocated personal privacy that would not give people the right to commit murder. Based on this, he does not view a woman’s claim to her own body as superior to the fetus’s right to life.

“It’s a legal position because I honor and respect the rights of the mother. I don’t want any government in your home: no searches without warrants, no cameras. But you can’t kill your baby in your home.”

Paul is the first candidate to appear on the popular daytime talk show since a writers strike began last month. Democratic candidates have said they would not cross picket lines to appear on The View while the strike persists. However, Paul did.

That speaks volumes on his position dealing with organized labor (post for another day). 

Paul’s and all the other candidates who have taken the – let’s-push-the-abortion-issue-onto-the-states, position, fail to understand one basic idea, and that is that the abortion issue has traditionally been used as a wedge issue to divide the electorate with the hope of distracting us from the unabated corruption that is perpetuated by both parties, and that most people know better. In fact, the only people that still seem to give a shit are the radical Christian right, and they’re a bit ignorant and naive anyways in my opinion (i.e. murdering abortion doctors, trying to convince people that the founding fathers were pro-religion and pro-God in government, etc.) 

If the test to see if you are a true liberal is woman’s right to abortion no matter the circumstances, than I guess that makes me conservative too! Can’t people just use birth control? The ‘pill’ can be gotten anywhere for free along with a ton of other free services for both men and women who are sexually active. I mean let’s be real here – they practically give condoms out like candy in most schools around the country. So what’s with the single moms with three kids by different dads?

Laziness I think. 

But the central problem with Paul’s position is that society has always acknowledged that compromise is necessary in circumstances such as rape and health concerns. Paul doesn’t buy into that, and that’s where he is wrong. In modern times there is birth control, contraception, day after pills, in addition to traditional abstinence. If you can’t handle the responsibility of having a child than you should be able to figure out how to avoid that possibility. However, if you are raped, why should you be held accountable? 

The fundamental flaw in Paul’s thinking and in the thinking of other anti-Supreme Court conservatives who claim that ‘liberal’ judges are legislating from the bench,  is that no United States court has ever legislated anything…ever…really! It is traditional in an adversarial legal system as we have in the United States, that the judicial branch is to determine the ‘constitutionality’ of our laws. This is what they did with Roe vs. Wade. They did not write a new law; rather, they interpreted the permissibility of existing law in the light of what the Constitution says. Seeing guys like Thomas Jefferson have been worm dirt for a few hundred years and we really cannot ask them how they feel about the issue in a modern context, we are forced to rely on the courts. Pretty simple really.

With all that being said, I think Roe v. Wade is on pretty sound legal footing. We do have the right to privacy even though it is not explicitly spelled out, and abortion rights should be based on this ideal as well as a woman’s right to bodily integrity. 
Abortion is not a big deal to me. 

I think the question we need to ask is – Why do we live in a world where we feel we might need to kill our children in the first place? Paul, nor do any other Conservatives, address this.  

Extreme Workers and the Ripple Effect of Long Hours on the Job…

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I’ve always been perplexed by those who are content with working their lives away. Of course I’m no one to talk. On more than one occasion I have been labeled a work-a-holic. But now there is a new term – ‘Extreme Worker. I first heard it on the radio a few years back but more recently on NPR. In the end, I did what I always do with new buzz words. I filed it under “another meaningless word to describe something equally meaningless that doesn’t deserve my full attention.” 

As it turns out, two reports were released last week, from two well respected organizations, in the field of life and work studies. 

The general message of both studies is that we spend far too much time at work. Moreover, the consequences of that extra work are far reaching, and destructive.

“Extreme Job” is the phrase coined by the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force of the Center for Work-Life Policy. According to this think tank, you have an extreme job if you work 60 hours or more a week and meet at least 5 additional characteristics from a list of 10. These include fast-paced work under tight deadlines, responsibility for profit and loss, a large amount of travel, an unpredictable flow of work, and work- related events outside business hours.

Based on two surveys and dozens of interviews and focus groups, the Hidden Brain Drain Task Force estimates that about 20 percent of high earners in the United States, defined as those in the top 6 percent of income levels, meet the definition of an extreme worker. That means 20 percent of those who make it to the top are working harder than any human can sustain for very long.

A 60-hour workweek, with a one- hour commute each way, means leaving the house at 7 a.m. every morning and not returning until 9 p.m. And more than half of extreme workers log longer hours than that.

Some say they love the thrill, the meaning, the challenge, the oversized compensation packages and the brilliant colleagues.

Of course the term “Extreme Worker” generally refers to those in the white collar world. However, does this phenomena also extend to the average service or blue collar worker as well?

In the U.S., working time has actually been increasing across all sectors. Many workers put in longer hours than the forty hour standard. Two weeks of paid annual leave is standard, with some workers receiving three weeks after long periods of service. Frequently, workers are afraid to take up their full entitlement in case it might jeopardize their job security.

In blue collar industries like service and manufacturing, hours are rising as well, and we all know about the two earner household being the new standard. The United States is an example of a country where workweek policies are not strictly enforced. The U.S. legally allows mainly two types of compensation, those being wage and salary labor. Wage earners are compensated on a per-hour basis, whereas salaried workers are compensated on a per-week basis. The 40-hour workweek, in effect, applies only to wage laborers, yet legally they may be required to work more than forty hours. The kicker…firms are only required to pay time-and-a-half, or 1.5 times the worker’s base wage, for each hour of work past forty.

As you might imagine, overtime is very popular with larger companies.

In some states firms are required to pay double-time, or twice the base rate, for each hour of work past 60. This provides an incentive for companies to limit working time, but makes these additional hours more desirable for the worker. It is not uncommon for overtime hours to be accepted voluntarily by wage-earning workers. In fact, unions often treat overtime as a desirable fringe benefit when negotiating labor contracts. 

Salaried workers however, are not covered by overtime protections. Some have argued, as I have, that the concept of being exempt from overtime is now being abused by many companies, as increasing a salaried worker’s working hours effectively reduces his or her per-hour pay, resulting in cheaper labor for the enterprise.

The current economically conservative and anti-worker political culture in the federal government, doesn’t help the situation much. Unlike Europe, our government doesn’t seem to care much about the health and welfare of the average American worker.

So what do Americans do in the face of constant job insecurity in the form of outsourcing, layoff, and a total absence of union protection that is perpetuated by the government in the interest of big business?

They work longer to keep their job at any cost – even those who say they love it. In reality they have no choice because some other fearful empty suit will be right in line behind them to scoop up their job. What is even more ridiculous, is that they do this having full knowledge of the consequences.  

Sixty-nine percent say their extreme jobs undermine their health, 46 percent say work gets in the way of a good relationship with their spouse, and 58 percent say it gets in the way of strong relationships with their children.

And what about those children?

Catalyst, a research and consulting organization that aims to expand opportunities for women at work, looked specifically at stress on working parents at the office, which they call “parental concern about after-school time,” or PCAST.

All those instances where child care falls through, all the hours children are left alone or with a sitter, all the hours people spent at the office knowing a child is home sick – affects close to 50 million employees in the United States, the Catalyst study says.

The solution, both groups say, is what Catalyst calls “the agile workplace.”

That means a philosophy of flexibility. On the specific topic of PCAST, that could include subsidies for after school care and backup care, and the ability to telecommute.

The alternative, the task force warns, is that today’s distracted and overworked employees will become tomorrow’s drag on the bottom line.

Are any of these proposed solutions being implemented? Of course not. Just ask yourself if you know of any free after school programs or care programs designed to help overworked parents?

You won’t find any. 

Harvard professor Juliet Schor (check out our book review here), author of the book, The Overworked American, writes:

A decade of research by Berkeley sociologist Arlie Hochschild suggests that many marriages where women are doing the “second shift” are close to the breaking point.  When job, children, and marriage have to be attended to, it’s often the marriage that is neglected. The failure of many men to do their share at home further problems. A twenty-six-year-old legal secretary in California reports that her husband “does no cooking, no washing, no anything else. How do I feel? Furious. If our marriage ends, it will be on this issue. And it just might.”

Serious as these problems are, the most alarming development may be the effect of the work explosion on the care of children. According to economist Sylvia Hewlett, child neglect has become endemic to our society.” A major problem is that children are increasingly left alone, to fend for themselves while their parents are at work.  Nationwide, estimates of children in “self”—or, more accurately, “no”—care range up to seven million.  Local studies have found figures of up to one-third of children caring for themselves.  At least half a million preschoolers are thought to be left at home part of each day.  One 911 operator reports large numbers of frightened callers: “It’s not uncommon to hear from a child of six or seven who has been left in charge of even younger siblings.”

Even when parents are at home, overwork may leave them with limited time, attention, or energy for their children. One working parent noted, “My child has severe emotional problems because I am too tired to listen to him. It is not quality time; it’s bad quantity time that’s destroying my family.” Economist Victor Fuchs has found that between 1960 and 1986, the time parents actually had available to be with children fell ten hours a week for whites and twelve for blacks.  Hewlett links the “parenting deficit” to a variety of problems plaguing the country’s youth: poor performance in school, mental problems, drug and alcohol use, and teen suicide. According to another expert, kids are being “cheated out of childhood…There is a sense that adults don’t care about them.”

In the end we must ask ourselves as a culture – is it worth it?

Another good link on this topic from Harvard here

Texas Science Director Fired for Mentioning Evolution…

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A Texas science education official was forced to resign in October for doing her job. 

The Austin-American Statesman has reported that. Chris Corner, science curriculum director, was fired following an email she circulated announcing an upcoming speech by Barbara Forrest, co-author of Creationism’s  Trojan Horse: The Wedge of Intelligent Design and an expert witness in Kitzmiller v. Dover, the lawsuit brought in 2005 by Dover, Pennsylvania parents upset with a school board’s decision to teach intelligent design. A federal judge sided with the parents and legally established intelligent design as religion, not science.

However in Texas, we know things run a bit differently.

Hours after Corner used her work email account to forward the announcement to friends, Texas Education Agency adviser Lizzette Reynolds emailed Corner’s bosses and called for her dismissal. A former legislative adviser to President Bush during his Texas governorship and later a Department of Education appointee, Reynolds wrote, “This is highly inappropriate. I believe this is an offense that calls for termination or, at the very least, reassignment of responsibilities.

Inappropriate?

Farting in church is inappropriate. Making ‘death jokes’ during a funeral is inappropriate. Hitting on your best friend’s girl is inappropriate. Teaching and promoting ‘science’, and that is exactly what evolution is…’science’, when one is a science teacher, is completely appropriate.

Lizzette Reynolds, and the rest of the legion of Bush loyalist idiots, cannot comprehend or moreover accept the fact that the idea of “Intelligent Design” (I can’t dignify referring to it as a theory), is nothing more than fundamentalist Christian blather, with the goal of squeezing rational scientific thought out of public classrooms, with the end goal of imposing God on those who dare question his existence. Reynolds should be fired, not Corner. Corner was simply performing her duties as a science teacher. Reynolds is trying to peddle a Christian agenda on the back of Corner’s livelihood.   

Education Agency officials mentioned Reynolds’ e-mail in their decision to fire Corner. Informing people about Forrest’s lecture, they said, “directly conflicts with her responsibilities as the Director of Science … [And] implies endorsement of the speaker and implies that TEA endorses the speaker’s position on a subject on which the agency must remain neutral.”

Neutral? I bet if her email said “We must protest this speaker because God is the almighty creator and his will be done at our hand…”, she would have been promoted. That’s how education works down South…especially in Texas. The problem here is that a science official, supporting evolution isn’t political; it’s scientific! But even if that were not the case, Corner’s views weren’t clear from her email, to which she’d simply added an “FYI” above the lecture’s announcement. Isn’t that “neutral” enough? 

As the Austin-American Statesman editorialized this weekend,

The education agency, of course, portrays the problem as one of insubordination and misconduct. But from all appearances, Comer was pushed out because the agency is enforcing a political doctrine of strict conservatism that allows no criticism of creationism.

This state has struggled for years with the ideological bent of the state school board, but lawmakers took away most of its power to infect education some years ago. Politicizing the Texas Education Agency, which oversees the education of children in public schools, would be a monumental mistake.

This isn’t the space to explore the debate over creationism, intelligent design and evolution. Each approach should be fair game for critical analysis, so terminating someone for just mentioning a critic of intelligent design smacks of the dogma and purges in the Soviet era.

As usual, “neutrality” is now used as the hammer to beat evolutionists over the head. I suppose it is okay to replace intelligent discourse with hearsay, fire anyone who disagrees, then label the hearsay as informed debate. 

All of the radical Christian educational agendas in all states is unsupported by verifiable fact. Government must step in and stop this lunacy or we risk returning to the days of Clarence Darrow and William Jennings Bryan, where teachers will be tried in court for teaching the truth. With any luck, the Texas Board of Education will be painted as the fools that they are next year when the state reviews the Texas Board of Education’s science curriculum. 

Happy Holidays from Your Friends at the Vermont Department of Social Services…

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Reprinted from the Canadian Press… 

A homeless man thought he was doing some good by standing at a supermarket for 10 hours a day to get shoppers to donate money into a red Salvation Army kettle.

The shelter where Paul Tucker lives doesn’t see it that way.

The Good Samaritan Haven ordered him out by Saturday, saying Tucker, 48, is spending his time raising money for the needy instead of finding a place to live or looking for work.

The 20-bed shelter offers emergency housing, clothing and food, and requires clients to leave each day at 7 a.m. to look for housing or go to work, executive director Paul Mascitti said.

The average guest stays 29 days, Mascitti said. Tucker has been there since May.

“If you’re not doing anything 10 hours a day, whether it’s lounging on a beach or working for the Salvation Army or sitting at a Dunkin’ Donuts, you’re breaking your contract with us,” Mascitti said.

“I can’t see someone saying, ‘I’m going to benefit mankind when I haven’t taken care of myself.”‘

The Salvation Army, which runs a soup kitchen he frequents, gave Tucker one of the bell ringer jobs two weeks ago. The gig pays $20 a day for meals.

“He’s a sweet man; he’d do anything for anybody,” said Capt. Louis Patrick, who runs the local group.

Dressed in a knit Salvation Army cap and wearing a Salvation Army coat, Tucker solicits the donations from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. under a sign that reads: “Sharing and Caring. Need Knows No Season.”

“It’s for generosity, really,” he said.

Tucker, who has worked as a painter, a farmer and a maintenance worker at a fast-food restaurant, has been getting well-wishes from shoppers who know of his situation and holds no ill will toward the shelter.

“I don’t find fault with them, but I don’t feel it’s quite right,” he said.

Tucker said he isn’t sure where he’ll go when he clears out of the shelter. There’s a hiking camp he’s heard about nearby and may go there.

Mascitti, meanwhile, makes no apologies. Rules are rules, he said.

“Here it is, the ‘Grinch’ time of the year, and this guy is being asked to leave the homeless shelter, no room at the inn. It’s an old story,” he said.

You think Mascitti is a ‘law-and-order’ Republican?

I think so.

Besides, if Tucker is getting paid by the Salvation Army ($20.00), doesn’t that qualify as work? Furthermore, if you don’t have a real job and no income, how do you find a place to live?

It’s the same old institutional double standard handed down by administrators driving Cadillacs and living in the suburbs, who are trying desperately to make “poor” disappear, or worse yet, criminalize them (another Republican platform). 

I don’t get it.

Merry Christmas.

Ho, Ho, Ho a No, No, No???

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Just when you thought the politically correct straight jacket was pulled as tight as possible, it just got a trifle tighter.

Santa is not allowed to say “Ho, Ho, Ho” in Australia.

No joke.

The reason?

It is offensive to women.

Santa Clauses in Sydney Australia have instead been instructed to say “ha ha ha,” the Daily Telegraph reported.

One disgruntled Santa told the newspaper a recruitment firm warned him not to use “ho ho ho” because it could frighten children and was too close to “ho”, a US slang term for prostitute.

“Gimme a break,” said Julie Gale, who runs the campaign against sexualizing children called Kids Free 2B Kids.

“We are talking about little kids who do not understand that “ho, ho, ho” has any other connotation and nor should they,” she told the Telegraph.

“Leave Santa alone.”

A local spokesman for the US-based Westaff recruitment firm said it was “misleading” to say the company had banned Santa’s traditional greeting and it was being left up to the discretion of the individual Santa himself.

My question is…what women are we offending exactly? Not that I have an overabundance of experience in the area of ‘street-walker etiquette’, but who the hell cares if someone says the word “ho” in front of a woman of high moral virtue. Those women surely know what a “ho” is, and would never be confused as such. Where do we draw the line?

Maybe we should ban mistletoe because we can’t be too sure that women are being treated as sex objects. We probably should scrap the color red because it denotes sexual promiscuity.

Maybe Australia should just ban the U.S. altogether, then our mindless slang wouldn’t be an issue at all.

Truth be told, they probably would be better off…and so would Santa.

  

Wounded Warriors Still Can’t Get Help from VA…

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Ty Ziegel once was a bright eyed young man with his whole life in front of him. His once boyish face is now burned beyond recognition by a suicide bomber’s attack in Iraq around Christmas 2004.

He lost part of his skull in the blast and part of his brain was damaged. Half of his left arm was amputated and some of the fingers were blown off his right hand.

Sounds like a no-brainer for VA benefits right?

Wrong. 

His next battle would be with the VA when he returned home as a wounded warrior. 

In an inteview with CNN he said, “Sometimes, you get lost in the system.”

“I feel like a Social Security number. I don’t feel like Tyler Ziegel.”

His story is in many that exemplifies how the VA is simply ignoring wounded vets from Iraq. Many wounded veterans return home feeling that the VA has abandoned them. 

“The VA system is not ready, and they simply don’t have time to catch up,” said Tammy Duckworth, a wounded veteran who heads up the Illinois Department of Veteran Affairs. 

VA Acting Secretary Gordon Mansfield said cases like Ziegel’s are rare. The majority of veterans are moving through the process and “being taken care of.” 

But are they?

More than 28,500 troops have been wounded in Operation Iraqi Freedom, including about 8,500 that have needed air transport, according to the U.S. military. A recent Harvard study found that the cost of caring for those wounded over the course of their lifetime could ultimately cost more than $660 billion.

In Ziegel’s case, he spent nearly two years recovering at Brooke Army Medical Center in Texas. Once he got out of the hospital, he was unable to hold a job. He anticipated receiving a monthly VA disability check sufficient to cover his small-town lifestyle in Washington, Illinois, but the check was much less than expected.

After many inquiries, Ziegel finally received a letter from the VA that rated his injuries: 80 percent for facial disfigurement, 60 percent for left arm amputation, a mere 10 percent for head trauma and nothing for his left lobe brain injury, right eye blindness and jaw fracture.

“I’m not expecting to live in the lap of luxury,” he added. “But I am asking them to make it comfortable to raise a family and not have to struggle.”

Miraculously, within 48 hours of telling his story to CNN this summer, the Office of then-VA Secretary Jim Nicholson acted on Ziegel’s case. The VA changed his head trauma injury, once rated at 10 percent, to traumatic brain injury rated at 100 percent, substantially increasing his monthly disability check.

My question is, why does it take bad publicity on CNN for our government to take proper care of our war veterans?

You have to wonder about the fact that maybe this country won’t remember in five years that there are war wounded that need to be helped, and that their president and the VA don’t seem to be advocates for substantial change in the benefit system for vets.

Garrett Anderson with the Illinois National Guard, for example, has been fighting the VA since October 15, 2005. Shrapnel tore through his head and body after a roadside bomb blew up the truck he was driving. He lost his right arm.

The VA initially rejected his claim, saying his severe shrapnel wounds were “not service connected.”

“Who would want to tell an Iraqi or Afghanistan soldier who was blown up by an IED that his wounds were not caused by his service over there?” said Anderson’s wife, Sam.

After pressure from Sen. Dick Durbin of Illinois, the VA acted on Anderson’s case. He has since been awarded compensation for a traumatic brain injury.

It is an outrage that that the VA system operates in a way that it takes people of power to get proper care to vets. 

In July, President Bush and a commission appointed to review the care of veterans returning from war announced the need for a complete overhaul of the disability ratings system, which dates back to World War II. The VA is now considering action on the commission’s recommendations.

However, no real change is happening.

We feed the war machine at the drop of a hat, but we never consider that the war machine comes home and that it also needs feeding there. 

I guess Americans just continue to pursue the path of least resistance…it’s easier to destroy than it is to repair, and when the destruction is in Iraq and the things that need repair aren’t in your living room, we can conveniently ignore them.

Over 35 Million Go Hungry in the U.S. in 2006…

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Here’s something to ponder while you’re gnawing on that turkey leg next week.

More than 35.5 million people in the U.S. went hungry in 2006 as the seldom discussed poverty problem in this country has reared it’s ugly head again. This figure is up from the previous year, the Agriculture Department said on Wednesday.

Single mothers and their children, as you might have guessed, were among the most likely to suffer according to the study.

The 35.5 million people, as previously talked about on the Shadow Democracy Radio Show, and written about on this blog, represent a whopping 12.1 percent of the total population. These people said they did not have enough money or food for at least some period during the year.  That is compared with 35.1 million people who made similar claims in 2005.

Of the 35.5 million people, 11.1 million reported they had “very low food security,” meaning they had a substantial disruption in the amount of food they typically eat. For example, among families, a third of those facing disruption in the food they typically eat said an adult in their family did not eat for a whole day because they could not afford it.

The survey was based on Census Bureau data and does not include the homeless, who collectively represent about 750,000 people in 2005, according to federal estimates.

Some quick facts:

Among all families, about 12.6 million, or 10.9 percent, reported going hungry for at least some period last year.

Single mothers going hungry (30.4 percent)

Black households going hungry (21.8 percent)

Hispanic households going hungry (19.5 percent)

Households below the official poverty line going hungry (36.3 percent)

States with highest prevalence of hunger from 2004-2006 included:

Mississippi (18.1 percent)

New Mexico (16.1 percent)

Texas (15.9 percent)

South Carolina (14.7 percent)

The most alarming statistic deals with children. Of the 35.5 million people reporting periods of hunger last year, 12.6 million were children.

“This report comes at a critical time for hungry Americans and those of us who help serve them,” said Vicki Escarra, president of the nation’s largest hunger relief group — America’s Second Harvest-The Nation’s Food Bank Network. “There simply may be no food for many families when the rest of the nation gathers to celebrate Thanksgiving and religious holidays.”

Jim Weill, president of the Food Research and Action Center, an anti-hunger group, said he is troubled by the report. He said figures for 2007 could prove to be worse, given rising food prices and an uneven economy this year.

And don’t forget about the price of fuel. That will surely drive prices up as well.

I urge anyone reading this to go through your cupboards if you can and donate anything possible to the food pantry. If you have nothing to give, then please go to your local store, if you have the means, and buy up some of that mac ‘n cheese at four for a dollar, and donate it. Anything helps…even small things. Remember, we are all Americans, we are in this together. This is a national problem that requires national action.

Don’t neglect your hungry neighbors. It’s the rules.

More information here: http://www.ers.usda.gov/publications/err49/err49.pdf

Gas Prices Set to Jump Again…This Time Twenty Cents…

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U.S. consumers will be paying more for gas just in time for the holidays…much more. By the Thanksgiving holiday gas prices could reach $3.45 per gallon on average with some areas already seeing prices at $3.90 and higher, according to the government’s top energy forecaster.

Guy Caruso, head of the U.S. Energy Information Administration, stated that gas prices have not topped out yet. The recent jump in crude oil prices has been reflected in recent motor fuel costs which have already jumped twenty cents since October. 

“We haven’t seen the full pass-through (of high oil prices) yet,” Caruso told reporters at a briefing on oil market conditions and futures held at the Energy Department headquarters. “I would say what’s in the pipe right now (for gasoline) is about another 20 cents.”

If the projected gasoline price materializes, it would be the most consumers have ever paid to fill up at Thanksgiving will break the all-time high of $3.22 a gallon set last May, putting additional pressure on middle class families just before the holiday season.

With oil hitting a record $98.62 a barrel last week, the forecast seems accurate.

Thus far, healthy gasoline imports from Europe and weaker driving demand for this time of the year has helped soften the blow, Caruso said, adding that high prices are the result of strong global oil demand and tight supplies.

“There’s very little cushion in the market … consumption outpacing production,” he said.

He also added that, “We’ve seen steadily declining (oil) inventories.”

OPEC is scheduled to meet in early December to review their current oil production policy and export numbers. Karen Harbert, the assistant energy secretary for policy and international affairs, said the Bush administration has not received any messages from OPEC officials on whether the group will increase output.

If they do not, it would appear that prices will certainly rise as predicted.

“We hope they will take action when it’s necessary to ensure there is a much more calm and mutually beneficial (oil) marketplace,” she told reporters at the same briefing.

Caruso warned that if the group does not boost oil production levels, crude oil prices will stay “well above” $80 a barrel and push gasoline costs higher during next springs busy driving season.

Is $4.00 a gallon the new floor? Moreover, will the Bush administration help ease this burden by releasing some domestic oil reserves into the supply for a short period of time as Clinton did?

I bet not.

World-Wide Recession Looming???

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From: Foreign Policy Passport 

U.S. Fed Chairman Ben Bernanke’s pessimistic testimony to Congress on Thursday has caused increased handwringing around the world, with new reports questioning whether the sub-prime fallout will lead to a worldwide recession. The general consensus is no — the damage will be contained to the housing sector and hedge funds, which irresponsibly invested in sub-prime.

But what if sub-prime’s use were actually more widespread? Some mutual funds have acknowledged small investments in the funds. This isn’t a big deal, as some risk is to be expected in those vehicles. But what about money-market funds, where most personal savings are invested? They offer a low rate of return and are considered one of the safest investment. But according to a recent Bloomberg article, money-market fund managers have invested $11 billion in sub-prime, including managers at Bank of America and Morgan Stanley. In other words, about $11 billion worth of personal savings are at risk.

In the grand scheme of things, $11 billion is a drop in the bucket. But as we’ve seen over the last few months, small problems like this tend to be more widespread, so it’s likely more money-market funds will be forced to acknowledge sub-prime investments, and peoples’ savings, which are already at historic lows, could disappear. If this happens, recession would be inevitable, and depression a real possibility.

Disney to Alter Famous Ride to Accomodate ‘Fat’ Americans…

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Coming this January, Disney Land in Southern California will be closing its most famous ride – the one where visitors pile into flat-bottomed boats and go on a shiny plastic water tour of Planet Earth. The ride has to undergo some renovation…a retrofit to accommodate fatter riders.  

The reason?

Disneyland’s visitors have been getting bigger, wider and fatter, and the boats as they are currently constructed are not designed to carry the ‘extra weight.’ In fact, the boats have a habit of running aground under all the extra weight.

Of course Disney denies that is the reason. The official reason for the retrofit according to the company is because a series of fibreglass patches on the bottom of the waterway have created obstacles that need to be cleared.

However, people who frequent the park and employees have a different opinion.

Former employees and self-appointed ‘Disney watchers’ all attest to the frequent occasions on which the boats, orginally built in 1964 when we were thinner and smarter as a nation, on “It’s a Small World” ride, back up because a vessel carrying too much weight simply grinds to a halt. In fact, Disney employees operating the ride try their very best to calculate the girth and size of the riders coming down the line, ‘guest-imate’ their weight, and purposely leave a row or two empty on many boats.” Even, then, those tactics sometimes don’t work! Riders today just pack too much beef per rider.

The solution?

Disney will be digging a deeper fibreglass channel and replacing the old fleet of boats with new, ‘more buoyant’ upgrades. Because much of the ride is indoors and invisible to its operators, it can take up to 10 minutes to get a boat ‘un-stuck.” Then comes the gridlock. Then comes the unhappy patrons.

It has been reported that overweight visitors are a problem at other rides too, including the Pirates of the Caribbean, Pinocchio and Alice in Wonderland.

The irony is that Disney has a joint marketing agreement with McDonald’s. At Disneyland and other theme parks, there is a plentiful supply of giant sodas, churros and ice cream, burgers, etc. And the Disney answer to people who get upset when their boat gets stuck?

The staff offers riders a free food ticket by way of apology.

Oh boy.

King George Denied at Last!

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Chalk one up for the good guys. 

Last week, in his ongoing effort to quash any meaningful piece of legislation that the Democrats try to pass, George W. Bush’s veto of a popular water projects bill was overridden by the U.S. House of Representatives today. The veto will enact legislation that would authorize $23 billion for nearly 900 projects across the United States, including flood control, transportation upgrades and construction of new water control infrastructure.

The House voted 361-54 to override the president’s veto. The Senate is expected to take up the water bill as early as Wednesday.

Bush cited too much “pork-barrel” spending in the bill.

This coming from the president who is the unprecedented heavy-weight champion of the world of peacetime pork…

If a similar swell of support occurs in the Senate, it would mark the first time Congress has mustered enough votes to override King George. 

Bush has vetoed five bills during his time in office…four against Democrats of course.

The President chose to stand in the way of this bipartisan legislation, this overwhelming bipartisan legislation, in an attempt to claim the mantle of fiscal responsibility,” said House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer from Maryland. “This is the wrong bill to have done so.” 

“No one is surprised that this veto is over-ridden,” White House spokesman Tony Fratto said. “We understand that members of Congress are going to support the projects in their districts. Budgeting is about making choices and defining priorities – it doesn’t mean you can have everything,” he said. “This bill doesn’t make the difficult choices; it says we can fund every idea out there.”

Yeah, $10 million for flood control in Mississippi and Louisiana is clearly unreasonable.

The bill would provide funding to do coastal restoration in Louisiana after Hurricane Katrina and improve the Florida Everglades. It also would include new locks to speed up freight traffic on the Mississippi River. Farm and business groups have campaigned for years to expand navigational capacity on the upper Mississippi, where many of the locks and dams date from the Depression era, in order to remain competitive in the global agriculture trade market.

Again, unreasonable in the eyes of the Bush administration.

Bush and Democrats are at a seemingly unresolvable impass over the Iraq war, and have been playing political volleyball with SCHIP. This override, if for no other reason, has breathed some life back into our system of checks and balances but moreover, has demonstrated to King George that we are not heading down the slippery slope of dictatorial control yet…not yet.

If You Had any Doubts that Ron Paul is a Conspiracy Nut, Check this Out…

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This letter was hand written a few weeks back by Ron Paul as a fund-raising appeal to his supporters. It has been authenticated as genuine…

The original copy is a bit tough to read so we re-printed it for you here…

Dear friend,

Our American way of life is under attack. And it is up to us to save it.

The world’s elites are busy forming a North American Union. If they succeed, as they were in forming the European Union, the good ol’ USA will only be a memory. We cannot let that happen.

The UN wants to confiscate our firearms and impose a global tax. The UN elites want to control the oceans with the Law of the Sea Treaty. And they want to use our military to police the world.

Our right to own and use property is fading because bureaucrats and special interests are abusing eminent domain.

Our right to educate our children as we choose is under assault. “No Child Left Behind” is seeing to that. And our right to say “no” to forced mental screening of our school-aged children is nearly gone.

The elites gave us a national ID card. They also gave us the most misnamed legislation in history: The Patriot Act. And these same people are pushing to give amnesty to illegal immigrants and erase our national borders. Record government debt is putting a burden on our children and grandchildren that is shameful.

Yes. Our American way of life is under attack. And it’s understandable that many are concerned, even discouraged, about the kind of country our children and grandchildren will inherit.

But we must never let discouragement become surrender.

One reason I am NOT discouraged is because I know I am not fighting alone. Each day I head out I know that you and thousands of other patriotic, freedom-loving Americans are right beside me, standing brave and true for what is good and right.

I need your help now, more than ever, to save the country we love…for the people we love.

My wife Carol and I celebrated our 50th wedding anniversary early this year. We are proud parents of five children and 18 grandchildren. We love them very much, as I know you love your family.

As a U.S. congressman, I always think about the well-being of my family and of all the families of our great nation when I cast a vote or introduce legislation. I also remember that I have sworn a solemn oath to uphold and protect the Constitution of the United States.

For me, upholding that oath is the first and best way to preserve and protect the blessed American way of life for our children and grandchildren.

And now you know why I’m running for president of the United States.

Anything else Ron? Maybe lions and tigers and bears!?!

Paul made a few interesting points in this letter but overall..does it get any weirder? At least his grammar was okay.

More Proof Ron Paul is a Racist…

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To add to my previous post, Ron Paul and his position on racism…

Racism is simply an ugly form of collectivism, the mindset that views humans strictly as members of groups rather than individuals. Racists believe that all individuals who share superficial physical characteristics are alike: as collectivists, racists think only in terms of groups. By encouraging Americans to adopt a group mentality, the advocates of so-called “diversity” actually perpetuate racism. Their obsession with racial group identity is inherently racist.

The true antidote to racism is liberty. Liberty means having a limited, constitutional government devoted to the protection of individual rights rather than group claims. Liberty means free-market capitalism, which rewards individual achievement and competence, not skin color, gender, or ethnicity.

More importantly, in a free society every citizen gains a sense of himself as an individual, rather than developing a group or victim mentality. This leads to a sense of individual responsibility and personal pride, making skin color irrelevant. Rather than looking to government to correct our sins, we should understand that racism will endure until we stop thinking in terms of groups and begin thinking in terms of individual liberty.

This explanation is lucid and relevant, but it fails to address the fact that white people enslaved an entire race of black people, then proceeded to systematically rob them of their civil rights and wealth for another 100 years after they were freed! Only in the last 40 years have many people of color been able to lift themselves up economically and socially, as a result of affirmative action and other common sense programs that have averted an all out racial war in this country. The very policies Ron Paul opposes are still needed to battle institutional racism today.

This explanation by Paul might also provide some insight as to why he is the darling of white supremacists.

It’s no secret that until he became the horse for the anti-war crowd, Ron Paul extensively pandered to racists. He’s been endorsed and has ties to Larry Pratt and Pat Buchanan. He has a 100 percent approval rating from the John Birch Society. We have already exposed his newsletter on this blog and the statements that most black men were criminals, welfare recipients or looters. He’s also blathered on about Jews controlling America and Asians embezzling the banks.

At the Storm Front website, a white supremacist web site, and in response to an article from the David Duke website (a well documented racist), racist Ron Paul supporters couldn’t heap enough praise on the man.

Some examples…

Cheimon: Ron Paul would collapse the Jewish infrastructure in this country.

AllWhiteAllRight: Anyone who doesn’t vote for Paul on this site is an ass clown. Sure he doesn’t come right out and say he is a WN, who cares! He promotes agendas and ideas that allow Nationalism to flourish. If we “get there” without having to raise hell, who cares; as long as we finally get what we want. I don’t understand why some people do not support this man, Hitler is dead, and we shall probably never see another man like him.

Pat Buchanan’s book “Where the Right Went Wrong” is a prime example of getting the point across without having the book banned for anti semitism. The chapters about the war in Iraq sound like a BarMitzvah, but he doesn’t have to put the Star of David next to each name for us to know what he means. We are running out of options at this point, and I will take someone is 90% with us versus any of the other choices.

Not to mention if Paul makes a serious run, he legitimizes White Nationalism and Storm Front, for God’s sake David Duke is behind this guy!

Woodsy: I believe Ron Paul represents a true opportunity for most of America. He’s the real McCoy. A humble, educated, honest and determined man who is a real, patriotic American. You want business as usual? Cast your lot with Giuliani the Mayor of Jew York or Obama the dark horse from Minnesota (?). This coming election represents the Internet vs. the Jew-controlled mass media.

President of Peach: Step foot outside of your cave/basement and start looking at the big picture: Ron Paul is the last chance the white race has for just 10% of its survival, much less America… And how do you know that’s not his priority? Remember: the game is rigged. Paul can’t come out swinging.

Ron Paul on his opposition to the Civil Rights Act of 1964…

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 gave the federal government unprecedented power over the hiring, employee relations, and customer service practices of every business in the country. The result was a massive violation of the rights of private property and contract, which are the bedrocks of free society. The federal government has no legitimate authority to infringe on the rights of private property owners to use their property as they please and to form (or not form) contracts with terms mutually agreeable to all parties. The rights of all private property owners, even those whose actions decent people find abhorrent, must be respected if we are to maintain a free society.This expansion of federal power was based on an erroneous interpretation of the congressional power to regulate interstate commerce. The framers of the Constitution intended the interstate commerce clause to create a free trade zone among the states, not to give the federal government regulatory power over every business that has any connection with interstate commerce.The Civil Rights Act of 1964 not only violated the Constitution and reduced individual liberty; it also failed to achieve its stated goals of promoting racial harmony and a color-blind society. Federal bureaucrats and judges cannot read minds to see if actions are motivated by racism. Therefore, the only way the federal government could ensure an employer was not violating the Civil Rights Act of 1964 was to ensure that the racial composition of a business’s workforce matched the racial composition of a bureaucrat or judge’s defined body of potential employees. Thus, bureaucrats began forcing employers to hire by racial quota. Racial quotas have not contributed to racial harmony or advanced the goal of a color-blind society. Instead, these quotas encouraged racial balkanization, and fostered racial strife.

Of course, America has made great strides in race relations over the past forty years. However, this progress is due to changes in public attitudes and private efforts. Relations between the races have improved despite, not because of, the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

In conclusion, Mr. Speaker, while I join the sponsors of H.Res. 676 in promoting racial harmony and individual liberty, the fact is the Civil Rights Act of 1964 did not accomplish these goals. Instead, this law unconstitutionally expanded federal power, thus reducing liberty. Furthermore, by prompting raced-based quotas, this law undermined efforts to achieve a color-blind society and increased racial strife. Therefore, I must oppose H.Res. 676.

More analysis here…

Ron Paul’s comments regarding the Civil Rights Act of 1964 are unfounded and a bit foolish.

The Civil Rights Act of 1964 was not drafted or passed to promote racial harmony as Ron Paul claims, it was passed to correct inherent injustices that were leveled at the black population at the hands of white conservatives in the South.

By defending the rights of property owners at all costs, he is implying that people have the right to be racists.

By claiming the act robbed people of individual liberty, Paul reveals his ignorance regarding people of color being able to vote, ride in the front of the bus, use public restrooms, marry white people, own certain properties, or eat at the same lunch counter as white people. I guess none of these things qualify as individual liberties in ‘Ron World.’ No pursuit of happiness here, huh Ron?

More to come on why Ron Paul is not fit for president…

Indian ‘Slave’ Children Found Making Low-Cost Clothes for Gap

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Another sad and absurd chapter has been written in the long, destrcutive saga that is the new ‘Global Economy.’

Child workers as young as 10 years old, have been found working in a textile factory in conditions close to slavery to produce clothes that appear destined for Gap Kids. Children described long hours of unwaged work, as well as threats and beatings. Gap said it was unaware that clothing intended for the Christmas market had been improperly subcontracted to a sweatshop using child labor.

I bet they weren’t aware. 

GAP announced it had withdrawn the garments involved while it investigated breaches of the self-imposed ethical code by the company three years ago.

All this, so suburban American white kids can look more fashionable, as their parents take them to the mall where they can over consume and perpetuate this cycle of exploiting the poor.  

Children working in filthy conditions in Delhi, India, has renewed concerns about outsourcing by large retail chains, and their garment production in third world countries. The United Nations has long recognized India as the world’s capital for child labor, yet little change as there are now an estimated 15,000 garment factories in India. According to one estimate, more than 20 per cent of India’s economy is dependent on child labor.

Despite its charitable activities with an eye on polishing it’s image, Gap has been criticized for outsourcing clothing production to the developing world many times in the past. In 2004, when it launched its social audit, it admitted that forced labor, child labor, wages below the minimum wage, physical punishment and coercion were among abuses it had found at some factories producing garments for the company. In the past year Gap has dealt with 23 suppliers reagarding workplace abuses.

Human rights violations in the form of illegal child labor are a logical extension of globalism, in that they serve to apply downward pressure on retail prices, so a debt driven Western economy can continue to over consume, and keep the world retail industry afloat. There is no other solution anything short of exploitation. That’s why human rights violations and child labor keeps happening…no matter what GAP, Wal-Mart or any other retailer wants you to believe. 

The fact is that companies like the GAP and Wal-Mart, are completely insulated from any legal liability or criminal prosecution as they hide behind nameless and faceless sub-contractors who wholesale clothes to these retailers on the backs of beaten children. When caught, they simply do what they always have done – declare that the practice is an outrage and pull product from their supply channels from that contractor, until they receive another shipment from the next contractor. 

If these retailers were really concerned about human rights, they would shift productions operations to countries where these types of abuses cannot happen – the U.S. might be a solid move in that direction…but we know that will never happen. Instead they continue to willingly sacrifice children in the name of profit. They do not care about these third world children because they own everything there is to own, including most governments, and they are simply above any real prosecution that has any teeth. 

Until consumers take action, this dynamic simply will not change, and there’s no sign American consumers, blinded by false prosperity and vanity, are willing to change their habits. Ensalved children aren’t even a blip on the radar to them.

This  deplorable and overtly criminal situation in India is a clear violation of international trade law as well as a gross violation of human rights. GAP executives should be prosecuted to the full extent of the law based on any knowledge they had regarding the use of sweatshops. Surely we can punish those who abuse children and send a message to the money and power elite that this type of activity will not be tolerated.    

Gap said in a statement from its headquarters in San Francisco: ‘We firmly believe that under no circumstances is it acceptable for children to produce or work on garments. These allegations are deeply upsetting and we take this situation very seriously. All of our suppliers and their subcontractors are required to guarantee that they will not use child labor to produce garments. In this situation, it’s clear one of our vendors violated this agreement and a full investigation is under way.’

That’s commendable on their part, but I say consumers in the West should be demanding answers from retailers as to how goods are produced and think twice about where they spend their money. Why you ask? GAP will not police themselves and willingly give up garments made for pennies, even if they are made by enslaved children. Quite frankly, profit trumps all other cards, even a moral conscious or human rights. That’s what globalism is at it’s core of mud – the blind pursuit of ever cheaper labor. It’s happening everywhere at the expense of the poor – child labor in India, wide spread and unrestricted pollution resulting in ‘cancer villages’ in China…all so we can have cheap jeans and lower cost sweaters. 

Proof is embodied in how GAP reacted. They did not immediately cut ties with the supplier it accused of improper subcontracting.

Company spokesman Bill Chandler said the company was taking the breach of its child labor policies “extremely seriously,” and continued by saying, “We’re willing to end relationships with vendors when they don’t meet our standards.” 

The problem is, they didn’t.

Why Do All the Buses Leak?

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I recently began riding the bus to work in the morning. I wanted to do my part. I figured I’d save money on gas, help reduce my carbon footprint, nap on the way in…whatever. However an annoying pattern has developed – whenever it rains the buses leak! All of them – and not just a little bit!

You might being saying to yourself right about now…Matt…who cares. There is a point buried here, just hang in there.

If major cities are trying to increase mass transit ridership, and as far as I know they are, then doesn’t it make sense to keep public transit assets in good repair? When I mentioned leaks, I’m not talking about a drippy window here and there or a bit of water coming through the roof. Yesterday, several seats in the back were literally under water! It was bad to the point where all of the riders had to huddle in the front! Some had to stand for the entire trip to downtown! Whenever the bus turned, water sloshed out of the seats and onto the floor! Drivers routinely complain about windshields that leak, roof hatches that leak, heat that doesn’t work…you name it. Of course I live in Buffalo where nothing works, but the situation is the same in other cities – so I hear.

The point is, if we are ever going to convince the American public that mass transit is a viable and even a necessary option for commuting to work, then transportation authorities must work to eliminate any excuses that suburban riders might use to justify not taking the bus or train. Leaky roofs and no heat qualifies!

Amtrak recently announced that ridership is up 25% for financial year 2006. This new wave of enthusiasm can be capitalized on at the local level if decision makers are willing to make the investment in their assets. The long and short of it is simple. Americans must be pried away from their cars if we are going to combat looming oil shortages, and you can’t use a leaky bus as a crow bar.    

Bush vs. Jackson…The Similarities are Striking…

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Andrew Jackson to George Bush – do they represent bookends of a centuries old ideology? Can the history of Native Americans in the United States offer any ideological understanding to the occupation of Iraq? Have we simply butchered other cultures in the name of ‘what we need or what we want?’To answer this question, one must define the framework and motives of American Imperialism.

The basic foundation of what I call ‘Resource Imperialism’ is comprised of capitalism, imperialism, and Christian fundamentalism. These three socio-cultural forces have slowly shaped American into a state that has greatly modified it’s political ideology over the past 100 years in order to preserve a way of life, often by eliminating whole cultures of people through war. The catalysts are quite apparent really. Capitalism constantly requires new markets and resources to survive, imperialism is present to secure those markets and resources via land grabs, and Christian fundamentalism provides a convenient veil for the true selfish reasons behind the violence – that is, the conquered must be made to understand that they are ignorant and thus must convert to a more culturally pure ideal in order to save themselves from damnation – Christianity.     

Since Gorbachev began dismantling the Soviet Union, the U.S. has engaged in a variety of military interventions including attacks against Bosnia, Sudan, Haiti, Yugoslavia, the invasion of Afghanistan and Iraq, the pillage of Palestine and now threats of new wars with Iran and Syria, as well as the attempted destabilization of Turkey which has resulted in recent Congressional debate regarding the Armenians. Throughout the 20th century, there have also been actions against Cuba, Vietnam, Korea – the list is long. George Bush’s current dominant political ideology of American Power is complex and aggressive. It covers up motives for war with abstract slogans and rationales such as building civil societies, opening free markets, instituting human rights, spreading democracy and freedom, national interests, security, and terrorism – much like the founding fathers did during the settlement of the West. In fact, one could argue that American violence directed at others cultures and nations surpassed more notorious regimes like Nazi Germany simply because the violence has taken place over a longer period of time. 

In 1830 the Congress of the United States passed the “Indian Removal Act.” Many Americans were against the act, including Davy Crockett – his non-support of the act would cost him his career. The bill passed and President Jackson quickly signed it into law. The Cherokees attempted to fight removal legally by challenging the removal laws in the Supreme Court and by establishing an independent Cherokee Nation. The court ruled against the Indians. In Cherokee Nation v. Georgia, the Court refused to hear a case extending Georgia’s laws on the Cherokee because they did not represent a sovereign nation. Native Americans were simply shut out in the name of land lotteries, rumored gold on Indian lands, and natural resources.   The Bush administration is simply applying the aforementioned ideology to modern times. 

The U.S is not interested in uplifting the Iraqi people from oppression. We invaded Iraq to secure scarce resources and entrench ourselves in Iraqi culture with the purpose of regional monopolization of power. Much like the Native Americans, the Iraqi government is not recognized as ‘legitimate’ in the strictest sense of the word. The United States, much the same way we took over all Indian territories in this country by imposing our culture and will on them, has done the same in Iraq. We are only interested in manipulating Iraq for position and power. In 250 years, nothing has changed.   Another equally important fact is that the U.S. virtually immune from international prosecution, that is to say that, the U.S. is unaccountable for all crimes it has committed since the time of the founding fathers. The U.S. has exterminated or killed Native American Indians, Africans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Nicaraguans, Filipinos, Koreans, Vietnamese, Panamanians, Serbians, Afghans, and Iraqis, or anyone else unwilling, afraid, or incapable of making the United States pay for its crimes or force it to change its policy of perpetual violence. As long as this dynamic is in place, this phenomenon will continue.

It begs the question…are the terrorists the first group in history willing to fight this continued exploitation, while being fueled by the current negative international sentiment regarding U.S. foreign policy? 

 

Nancy Pelosi and the Democrats Fail Once Again…This Time on SCHIP…

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US congressional Democrats today have failed us again. Another piece of key legislation went up in smoke as the House failed in their attempt to override President George W. Bush’s veto in response to their bid to expand a health care program aimed at millions of poor children.

The House of Representatives backed the override vote by Democratic leaders by 273 votes to 156, but fell 13 votes short of the two-thirds majority needed to check Bush. Bush vetoed the bill on October 3, arguing it was a step towards “socialized medicine,” complaining it would be too expensive and would tempt some families now using private insurers to switch to government-funded coverage.

A CNN poll found this week that 61 percent of Americans though Congress should override the veto.

Democrats immediately ripped into Bush after the vote. Maybe they should have ripped into themselves.

Nancy Pelosi may go down in my mind as the worst Speaker of the House in history. If you need someone to engage in wonkish debate that results in nothing – she’s your gal! However, if you need someone to crack some political skulls and get a policy that 72% of the American people wanted to begin with (SCHIP) and 61% now want passed via override, then she’s not your horse. You’re probably saying…but Matt, the Democrats are doing everything they can! There’s not enough votes! Bush is heartless and a moron to boot! Blah. Blah. Blah. I say, how about a quick look back to the President’s ‘Medicare Perscription’ bill.

In 2003, Bush famously signed into law the most expensive health bill in our nation’s history. The Democrats wilted. That bill had a price tag of $400 billion over 10 years compared to SCHIP which would cost half that over the same amount of time. It almost didn’t pass as you might recall. Tom DeLay had to strong arm one fiscal conservative with a political threat against his son to get the necessary vote! The press learned later that the administration already knew that the price tag was being understated by over $100 billion, but the actuary with that information was being muzzled by his boss, so Congress might pass it anyway! Here’s the real kick in the head, the money spent on Bush’s ‘Pill Plan’ would line the pockets of pharmaceutical companies and HMOs, and in the end, some seniors saw an out of pocket cost increase! Some projections have a ten year cost on Bush’s Medicaid fiasco as high as $1 trillion! 

I WANT MY DEMOCRATIC CONGRESSMEN AND SENATORS TO FIGHT LIKE REPUBLICANS DO…DIRTY!!!!

Enough of this political small talk. Enough Bush bashing. Nothing is going to change this knucklehead’s position on anything that the Democrats propose to help the middle class. I personally prefer RESULTS and so do the American people (take a look at Congresses approval rating). Instead what we got is another dropped ball. The Democrats do not twist arms like Republicans or they simply will not. The results have been monumentally disappointing.

Here is how they should respond.

The President’s beloved ‘No Child Left Behind’ bill is up for re-authorization shortly. The Democrats should make no mistake here. Stick it right up Bush’s ass. He needs Democratic votes to get it re-authorized. In no way should the Democrats cave on this. They are bashing Bush as heartless toward the needs of children and he will inevitably bash back, saying Democrats have abandoned the educational needs of our children.

So be it.

If this ass of a President wants to play obstruction pinball, then let’s play. At least we can claim stalemate. If the Democrats do cave in, that will be the last straw for me. I will personally begin an online campaign for the removal of Nancy Pelosi as speaker and I will also punish my party by crossing over for the first time in 2008. I am also prepared to support Cindy Sheehan’s Congressional election efforts.

There, I said it.

Some states have already run out of funds, and in instances children may be literally dying because their parents can’t afford the procedures they require. Get these people on the ball Nancy and let’s start doing the shit work we need to do, in order to get a win on something…anything…please! Dig for dirt, rat out Republicans if you have to. Play Tom Delay style ball. If the Republicans are willing to go over the hill with Bush then make them pay – all of them. No more ‘No Child Left Behind’, no more war funding, no more anything. It stops now.

So far, the Democrats as a whole have accomplished nothing. Personally, I’m tired of nothing.

Nobel Prize Winner Dr. James Watson, Using Garbage Science to Reinforce a Racist Agenda…

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The Science Museum in Great Britian cancelled a talk by American DNA researcher Dr. James Watson after he claimed people of color were less intelligent than white people. Watson won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1962 for his part in discovering the structure of DNA, was due to speak at the venue on Friday. But the museum has cancelled the event, saying his views went “beyond the point of acceptable debate”.

If he is suggesting that white DNA is intellectually superior to black DNA, he is wrong and a racist. If he is suggesting black culture may not or cannot prepare their own for educational and professional challenges, he may have a point. I think he meant the former.

Other have, and continue to wage Watson’s argument.

Richard J. Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life. outlines the social and economic advantages whites have over blacks is due to their greater intelligence. Among the many shortcomings of the authors’ logic is the simple fact that there is only one species of the human race and it cannot be broken into biological sub-units such as race. Furthermore, science has proved that DNA among all races is virtually identical and no anomalies have been discovered that would increase intelligence in whites over blacks. 

However, racism does persist.

Most blacks and whites have preconceived notions about each other. For instance, three-quarters of African-Americans believed in 1994 that whites are “insensitive to other people” and 42 percent said that Asian-Americans are “unscrupulously crafty and devious in business” (Harper’s Magazine, 1994). In 1990, the National Opinion Research Center asked a random sample of English-speaking Americans 18 years of age and older a series of questions dealing with characteristics of various racial and ethnic groups. Ironically, higher educated whites thought whites were smarter than blacks, and fewer higher educated blacks thought blacks were smarter!  

Efforts to prove the superiority or inferiority of different races have a long and undistinguished history, from the justifications of slavery, to the era of Darwin, to Nazi Germany.

Modern studies on race and intelligence have continued to create controversy.

In 1994, a dispute erupted over the best-selling book The Bell Curve, by Charles Murray and Richard Hermstein, which argued that there were IQ differences between races. These authors argue that welfare and other polices were diluting the intelligence of the population by inadvertently encouraging the “wrong” women (with low IQs) to have babies.

In 2002, Richard Lynn, a professor of psychology at the University of Ulster, also created an uproar with the publication of his book IQ and the Wealth of Nations. 

Arthur Jensen, a former professor of educational psychology at the University of Berkeley, California, published The g Factor: The Science of Mental Ability in 1998 suggesting that a “genetic component” lay behind the difference between whites and blacks in intelligence.

The cold fact is that people are intellectually equal, and that American culture is as divided as ever, as whites look for excuses to degrade blacks. The reason why blacks and Hispanics do poorly in jobs and education is because they are victims of racism on the institutional and professional levels. Minorities in general are forced to live in a sub-culture and life-style that oppresses them as a race and does not allow for upward societal mobility unless we legislate that mobility (i.e. affirmative action). If left to their devices, whites would have enslaved blacks for an indefinite period of time. Only the informed and those of high moral fiber initialized a process that changed all of that. To accomplish the goal, one million Americans had to die in the Civil War to alter this socio-economic dynamic.

I tend to agree with those who conclude intelligence within black culture is being eroded based on destructive cultural factors, however blacks are being force fed that culture at the hands of a white culture that holds supreme power over all financial, educational and institutional resources. Just look at inner city schools around the country. They are failing. Who attends those schools? Minorities mostly. Their parents are struggling financially and often kids in these schools cannot acheive simple things to help them along like new clothes, jackets, school supplies, etc. Simply put, they are setup to fail.

I’d like to ask Dr. Watson – if you swapped all whites kids and put them in inner city schools and took all of their money away, and put all blacks into cushy suburban schools, would this change the ‘intelligence’ dynamic? I bet it would.

It is patently foolish to suggest that whites are smarter than blacks based on biology, however as a society, if these people go unchallenged and their misguided beliefs are reinforced by other racists, their ignorance and racism will continue to take root and poison future generations. As a culture, we cannot progress until these people are throttled once and for all. 

  

California’s New Anti-Smoking Law Needed to Legislate Common Sense Yet Again…

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There would be no constitutional debate over California’s new anti-smoking law, SB7, that bans smoking while children are present in the vehicle. Smokers are in an uproar. I have an answer for them. Stop infringing on your kid’s civil rights by forcing them to inhale second hand smoke against their will. Use your head. Smoking poisons your body and that of your children. Get over it!

The American cancer society just released new information that cancer among all Americans has been steadily decreasing by about 2% every year since 1990, when it peaked. One can point to several things that have contributed to this progress. Since Richard Nixon declared a war on cancer in the early 1970’s, researchers and health professionals have been pecking away at treatment options, preventative measures and discovery of probable causes that fuel the disease. One of the universally accepted risks that is at the root of the most deadly cancer, that being lung cancer, is smoking. No one with an ounce of common sense can deny this. It has been well documented. Large cigarette corporations have been sued over it, health professionals have proved it and thinking people just know better. The fact is that studies suggest that smoking in cars is 10 times more risky than smoking in your home.

The core issue is that Americans aren’t very big on common sense! We continue to prove that almost on a daily basis…sooooo…legislatures are essentially forced to engage in the business of legislating common sense (which I patently disagree with by the way). But what other choice do we have? How can anyone look at their kids with a straight face and say…”Junior, I going to smoke in the car and you will inhale second hand smoke because you are my child and that is my choice. I have my rights and those rights supercede your health and well being.” It’s absurd to even think in those terms! I wouldn’t have to worry about that conundrum personally, because my wife would just knock me out with a frying pan if I ever tried it…and she should. That choice is just plain selfish. It just seems to reinforce the old saying that cigarette smoking is for the stupid. I agree.

As far as the constitutional argument goes, I feel it is without merit. You only enjoy civil rights and personal freedoms in this country as long as those rights and freedoms do not come at the expense of others. This has been established by the courts and the legal precedent is sound. We are not talking about the government controlling where you can smoke. If there are no kids in the car, smoke all you want and slowly poison yourself – that is clearly your choice. But imposing your destructive habit and the associated health risks on those who are in no position to control their own health situation is inherently wrong. 

“Who is the state to tell you how you can and cannot raise your children?” asked Robert Best of Ventura, state coordinator of the Smoker’s Club Inc. They are a smoker’s rights group. “There’s a fine line between protecting my child and moving in to raise my child,” added Best, who is not a parent. “A car is private property. … What will they do next, say you can’t smoke in your home if you have kids in it?”

Another opponent, Walter Williams, a conservative commentator, said even if smoking around children is a bad idea, it isn’t the government’s job to stop people from doing it. “If we justify things on the basis of what’s good for people, there’s no end in sight,” said Williams, an economics professor at George Mason University in Fairfax, Va. Williams, a smoker himself, asked if government should require an 8 p.m. bedtime for children, or educational television over video games.

I say to Mr. Williams, for every one responsible parent that doesn’t need the state to legislate the very common sense you speak of, I can show you fifty that do! Just look at the obesity crisis in this country. Some estimates have child obesity as high as 60%. Is that an adequate demonstration of common sense? We fail 30% of our high school seniors every year. Do really think parents are on top of things? I think I can make a pretty good case that they’re not. Sure this law takes a small bite out of your civil liberties and privacy but what do we – just let all of these people bombard their children with carcinogens until they develop asthma or cancer later on, in the name of that privacy? Maybe conservatives like you should just own up to the fact that smoking is a disgusting habit and basically a stupid activity to engage in and just quit. In the end, we wouldn’t need such draconian measures.  

Smoking ban author Sen. Jenny Oropeza, D-Long Beach, said prohibiting smoking in a car in public view is not an invasion of privacy, and she scoffed at the “nanny government” tag.

“When we’re talking about children’s health — life and death — I do think there’s a role for government,” said Oropeza, a liver cancer survivor who resurrected the ban after two previous failed attempts. “It’s foolish and irresponsible to do anything less than we can to prevent exposing children to this carcinogen.”

A ban proposed in Connecticut was suggested by a fifth-grader.

“If you can’t eat or drink or talk on a cell phone while driving a vehicle, how can you still smoke?” asked Justin Kvadas, 10 years old, of East Hartford, who testified before his state’s legislature. “I think the government should have a say because of all the dangers,” Justin said in an interview. “Kids breathe faster and are inhaling more of the toxic chemicals.”

Citing studies by the U.S. surgeon general and the California Environmental Protection Agency, the American Lung Association says babies’ and children’s exposure to secondhand smoke contributes to asthma, lower respiratory tract and ear infections and sudden infant death syndrome.

Arkansas and Louisiana passed similar laws last year, and the city of Bangor, Maine, followed this year. Other states including Arizona, Illinois, Massachusetts, Montana and Utah, are considering the law as well according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.

With any luck, the ban will take root nation wide. Let’s keep our eye on the ball people. Eradicating cancer and protecting the health of our children out-weighs a smoking habit. If Americans would ever grow a brain, accept that, and do the right thing, such laws wouldn’t be needed. In the meantime, we need to protect the selfish and the stupid from themselves once again.