Monday, December 15, 2008

Is The Latest Wall Street Scheme Justice Overdue?

Hedge Fund Superhero and past chairman of the Nasdaq Stock Market, Bernard Madoff, has bilked his super rich investors out of approximately $52 billion. Many of those investors admit that they could never understand how Madoff's fund consistently paid such high returns but in spite of their concerns most of them still invested in the phony fund. W.C. Fields said, "you can't cheat an honest man" with excessive promises of profit. Mr. Madoff has certainly proved that you can cheat greedy men and it is high time that some of them paid for their greed instead of Main Street Americans. I find this act of Justice more than a little satisfying.

When AIG and some of the biggest banks failed, or were about to, Main Street bailed them out with no strings attached. Some of them continued to spend lavishly on themselves with that money and have as yet not used it as Treasury Secretary Paulson promised. Paulson demanded that the bail out money be given without conditions so the taxpayers can only hope that it will be spent properly. Greed is winning that one.

Now the automakers have come to Washington DC begging for a bail out. $15 billion won't be enough to save the poorly managed automakers; experts predict that it will take ten times that much or more. The Democrats want to give them the money to save two million workers from unemployment. The Republicans won't agree to giving them any money unless the union workers give up one-third of their wages and some of their retirement benefits; the Republicans think that union wages and benefits are the reasons why U.S. automakers can't compete with U.S.-based foreign automakers who employ only non-union workers.

I think the management of the U.S. automakers along with Congress, who backed off the gas mileage requirements, and American consumers who prefer big gas-guzzling SUVs are responsible for the failure of the U.S. automakers. It wasn't the union workers who decided that GM would sell a $72,000 Cadillac Escalade "Hybrid" that gets 19 miles per gallon of gasoline. It wasn't the union workers that designed cars of such poor quality that they are not as reliable as the cars produced in the U.S. by foreign automakers.

I don't think the union workers are responsible for the failure of the U.S. automakers although I do think they should contribute something to save the automakers. However, the GOP wants more than reasonable concessions for the union; they want to bust the automobile workers' union just like the GOP broke the textile workers' unions in the South in the 1930's.

I don't think Congress should bail out the automakers since I have no faith that their management would redirect their companies to manufacture competitive products. A bail out will only delay the inevitable failures and the massive unemployment that will follow. I'd rather see Congress investing in companies that are developing or have developed energy efficient automobiles and public projects to create effective mass transportation systems. The U.S. automakers only deserve to survive if they can do so on their own.

Monday, November 24, 2008

7 Random/Weird Facts About Me

Karen at TSSO suggested that her readers share 7 facts about themselves at their blog site. The following are my "facts"...

  1. I was tattooed in Sasebo, Japan.
  2. I once owned and operated a bar.
  3. I wanted to be Artist when I grew up but it requires talent.
  4. I have ADD.
  5. I'm a liberal but most of my friends are conservative.
  6. I'm taking Swahili lessons.
  7. Christmas is my least favorite holiday because it is ONLY commercial.

Instructions to readers of this post: Share 7 random/weird facts about yourself in a post on your blog site. Identify the person that tagged you and tag 7 random people at the end of your post and include links to their blogs. Let each person know they've been tagged by leaving a comment on their blog.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Separation of Church and State

The separation of church and state only bans the government from promoting or opposing any religion. For example, the government is not allowed to conduct prayer in a publicly funded school, however, the government is also prohibited from restricting a student’s right to pray in school as long as it is not disruptive to the educational process, i.e. the student could not stand and pray out loud during class. Public schools are not allowed to teach or promote religion, however, students may and often do form religious groups and hold meetings in the school, when and where such non-educational activities are held, and promote new membership.

Every citizen is allowed to take any matter important to them into consideration when deciding how to vote. It is the government that must govern only according to the Constitution. Our government is obligated to consider all citizens equally. Therefore, legislators cannot enact laws that would enforce the dogma of a religion since it would impose that dogma on citizens that hold to a different belief. Therefore, a religious wedding ceremony is outside the jurisdiction of the government. The constitution does not prohibit two people of the same sex from living together as a couple and consequently the government should guarantee all couples the right to do so. I believe in same-sex civil unions and that same-sex couples should have the same legal rights as any married couple. However, religious organizations are allowed to limit the definition of marriage as their beliefs dictate, recognize only such marriages that are conforming and deny, if they choose, membership to persons that do not comply.

Elected officials are obligated to execute their jobs without religious bias. They must decide on such matters as abortion and marriage according to the Constitution without regard for their own personal religious beliefs. A juror must do the same thing when deliberating. The juror must limit the deliberation to the evidence presented in the trial, with respect only to the applicable laws and without regard for the juror’s personal opinion. Our politicians are obligated to govern in the same way.

I believe that many of our elected officials fail to perform constitutionally and obviously many of them actually make promises to religious groups in order to get their votes. Such conduct in my opinion is unconstitutional regardless of my own religious beliefs.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Income Tax versus Income

Remember Ross Perot? He has a website full of his Charts on all the issues.

This chart compares the taxes paid for various income groups.

It indicates that the bottom 50% of the taxpayers pays only 3.2% of the total Federal income taxes collected yet they earn 12.8% of the total income reported by all taxpayers. That doesn’t sound like an unfair burden on the bottom half.

But, Perot fails to mention that 32% of all taxpayers have a zero or negative tax liability and 90% of them are in the bottom 50% of wage earners.

Thus only 29.9 million of the 69.5 million taxpayers in the bottom 50% are paying 3.2% or $30 billion of the total federal taxes.

Therefore, the actual taxpayers in the bottom 50% are not paying at a rate of only 3.1%. They are actually paying at a rate of at least 7% which is about the same rate as 75% of the taxpayers are paying.

Another way that Perot might have looked at taxes is according to wealth. The bottom 50% of all taxpayers holds only 2.8% of the wealth of the country based on all assets while paying at least 3.2% of the total taxes. While the the top 10% of the taxpayers pay 68% of the taxes and hold 69.8% of the wealth. When compared to wealth the tax burden by income class seems more proportional. However, since less than 57% of the taxpayers in the bottom 50% are actually paying tax a disproportionate amount of the tax burden is still borne by the lower income wage earners.

I think a consumption tax on all purchases except necessities would be more appropriate than an income tax. It would encourage people to save more of their income and it might discourage the use of credit cards.

What do you think?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

School Vouchers - Update

I am opposed to federal vouchers that allow some students to opt out of their neighborhood public school and attend a different public or private school. The system as proposed by GW Bush and operating in Washington, DC is offered only to children of low income families. The objective is to make a better educational environment available to children in failing public schools whose families cannot afford to move their children to better schools. The expectation is that these students will perform better if they attend better schools, which without exception are private schools (72% are parochial schools). My issue is that a disproportionate amount of federal funding is spent on the few students that use vouchers, which leaves far less money to support and improve the public schools. How can we justify abandoning the majority of public school students to underfunded schools so that a small percentage of students can attend private schools?

Although the expectation is that these students will receive a better education in a better school, the reality is that these students are not performing better than they did in their neighborhood school.

The federal government subsidizes the Washington, DC schools as they do all school systems. The subsidy is intended to improve the educational system, i.e. more and better teachers, more and better equipment. Washington, DC receives an educational subsidy of $74 million of which $18 million is earmarked for the voucher system. The Washington, DC school system serves 71,629 students in public schools (37% attend charter schools). Private schools in Washington, DC serve 17,562 students. A total of 1,903 students attend private schools using vouchers.

Students using vouchers are only 2.6% of the total of public school students yet the voucher system receives 24% of the federal funding to Washington, DC schools.

One parent of a voucher student, Breanna, said the prospect of turning her daughter over to a public school was frightening. "I didn't feel that was a good environment," Ms. Walton, a single mother of two, said. "But I couldn't afford to send her anywhere else." Breanna is now a 6-year-old first-grade student at the private Rock Creek International School, where the average class size is 12 and the student-teacher ratio is 7-to-1. She has as classmates the children of international corporate executives and foreign ambassadors. Breanna's curriculum is the International Baccalaureate program, and she is taught regularly in English, French, Spanish, and Arabic. Trips abroad - to Europe, Africa, South America, the Middle East - are part of the curriculum, and Breanna will participate. The school's facilities are bright, colorful, and clean, on a quiet, tree-lined street in Georgetown. According to Ms. Walton, it's a far cry from what awaited Breanna at her local public school.

Although most if not all parents would prefer that their children attend such a school. It is not and never will be available to all the Washington, DC school children. The "children that are left behind" in the public schools can only expect that their educational experience will worsen as more vouchers result in less funding of the public schools.

In my opinion the voucher system is the means by which the federal government diverts educational funding from the public school system to the private school system. Is the ultimate goal to privatize education?

In January GW Bush will be out of the White House. Congress does not plan to extend the voucher system. I hope the next president will focus on improving the public school system rather than abandoning it.

Friday, October 17, 2008

Vote or shut up!

We all know one or more people who have decided to not vote for president. All of them that I know personally say they don't like McCain but they can't vote for Obama. That's throwing away one's greatest right and responsibility as a citizen of the United States of America. If we don't like the choices, voting is the only way to change the process that nominated the presidential candidates. If we don't vote we reduce the Power of the People.

Don't throw your hands up in disgust because none of the candidates suits you. Study the candidates - there is a difference - and cast a vote for the one that suits you the most or differs with you the least.

Voting for candidates is not your only responsibility. Make sure you know what your government is doing between elections. Let them know whether you support what they are doing. Don't piss and moan to your neighbor. Piss and moan to your representatives, your mayor, your governor.

If you don't like the party system that nominates political candidates, change it. Support legislators and legislation the will ultimately transfer the power back to the People and out of the hands of the political parties. If you like the party process but you don't like their choices, get involved in your party - don't just join, participate.

If you don't vote, don't complain and I don't want to hear a peep out of you after the election. If you opt out of the democractic process, if you don't express your opinion by voting then keep your opinion to yourself. It's only worth hearing if you will act on it.

Friday, September 19, 2008

GOP says Obama is not bipartisan

McCain's supporters call him a Maverick and say that a Maverick is what the voters need rather than a party man. They say that Obama has only crossed the aisle one time with a measure that was easily unanimous. They point out that McCain has voted with the Democrats and against his Republican party many times while Obama has always voted with the Democrats.

I suggest viewing the statistics differently. Anybody can be a Maverick but it only benefits the People when the aisle is crossed to vote the right way not just to be bipartisan. Obama only crossed the aisle to vote bipartisan one time because he had only one opportunity to do so AND cast the correct vote!

The majority of the GOP Senators and Representatives have been voting for their special interests or Bush's special interests but not in the best interest of the People. That's why the country is in such a mess: continuing to fight an unjust war only to avoid "losing"; a record high national debt; selling off America to other countries; violating the Constitution; violating international treaties; ignoring global environmental and energy issues. I'm thankful that Obama and the majority of the Democrats did not cross the aisle to vote with the GOP on their self-serving legislation.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Palin and the RNC teleprompter

Although it seems unbelieveable that she would lie about such a small matter, Sarah Palin claims that the teleprompter failed during her acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention. On the road, she told an audience of Ohioans that she was looking at the Ohio delegation when the teleprompter failed so she just kept talking to Ohio and didn't use the script. That's odd because the news agencies reported that her speech matched almost word for word the script that they were given beforehand.

Why lie about the speech when the risk of getting caught is so high?

She still maintains that she didn't use the teleprompter but she did't make it up as she went either since it was essentially the same speech as the script.

She's lied about the Bridge to Nowhere, she's lied about the earmarks, she's lied about her acceptance speech. When does she tell the truth?

She claims that she didn't fire Alaska's Commission of Public Safety because he didn't take her hint and fire her ex-brother-in-law but before being asked to testify she told the committee (3 republicans and 2 democrats) investigating the possible ethics violation that she would not testify. Has she told the truth about this matter?

If you can't trust her to be honest about the little things can you trust to be honest about the big things later one?

Social Security - Will you be needing it?

The current disasters in the financial market reminded me of my Social Security. With the election coming up its time to ask yourself whether you want to keep it.

Bush promised to privatize social security when he was running for election in 2000 and 2004. McCain supported privatization and bank deregulation. Obama opposed privatization and bank deregulation. Neither has changed their positions on these issues. Why are they issues?

If we had privatized social security all or part of your retirement benefits would have been invested in the stock market and managed privately. How have your private investments done in the last 4 years; in the last 8 years? If you lost money then add to that the cost of the wealthy fund manager’s salaries and bonuses for managing your privatized social security fund. Now add to that the current impact of the deregulation of banking especially mortgage banking. Many of the banks with which your retirement savings would have been invested are now being bought by you the taxpayer, being sold for pennies on the dollar or closed and forgotten, i.e. total loss. When the Dow lost 500 points yesterday imagine what would have happened to your privatized social security. It could now be worth as little as an Enron employee’s retirement – nothing. By the way, McCain's senior advisor Phil Gramm sponsored the deregulation that allowed Enron to rape the energy industry until they got caught cheating. Matter of fact that deregulation is still a law which the Democrats have not been able to overturn because McCain and his Republicans control the Senate and Bush will veto any measure to restore regulation of the commodity futures trading.

What you see happening to the stock market and investment banks would have happened to your privatized social security retirement if the Bush/McCain privatization act had been passed.

Bush and McCain said that privatization was the best way to save Social Security but there was another way. If we had increased the social security revenues by 0.54 percent of the Gross Domestic Product, which is equal to 3% of the federal budget (less than we spend in Iraq) Social Security would be funded at the current benefit levels into the 22nd century. That seems like a lot of money but it is only one-fourth as much as Bush’s tax cuts! Matter of fact it’s about equal to the tax cuts received by the taxpayers with incomes over $500,000 a year. Mind you now, I’m not talking about all their taxes, I’m only talking about the tax cut that little George Bush No. 43 gave them.

Well they needed that tax cut and Obama protected us from the latest attempt at privatization, so we still have our Social Security but it isn’t guaranteed beyond 2041. It’s hard to believe but Privatized Social Security was only projected to last until 2025. You weren’t worried about staying around until then were you?

So while you’re listening to the candidates telling you how they would fix this mess remember that only one of them got you here with deregulation and it could have been worse.

Your vote will count a lot this November. In part, it will determine whether you will have social security to go along with your huge retirement savings.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Thoreau on the moose

The great American writer found nothing heroic in hunting the gentle creatures. Rather, he saw their killing as a great tragedy.

By Paul Theroux September 14, 2008

All this talk about moose hunting! It is as though, because of the animal's enormous size and imposing antlers, bringing one down is a heroic feat of marksmanship. Nothing could be further from the truth. As Henry David Thoreau wrote in "The Maine Woods," killing these big, gentle, myopic creatures is more "like going out by night to some woodside pasture and shooting your neighbor's horses."

Thoreau's descriptions of the moose he saw in Maine are inspired and fanciful. "They made me think of great frightened rabbits," he wrote, and he alluded to the moose's "branching and leafy horns -- a sort of fucus or lichen in bone."

In all his descriptions there is affection and awe. The killing of a moose is, in Thoreau's view, always a tragedy. He witnessed one being shot, and "nature looked sternly upon me on account of the murder of the moose." In another passage, Thoreau grudgingly acknowledges that moose are hunted by Indians out of necessity -- for their meat, for their hides, as part of Indian custom and tradition. This was in 1853.

American politicians seldom take notice of American writers, especially the boldest ones, such as Thoreau, whose every word is at odds with their groveling and grandstanding and their sanctimonious cant. Think of the average politician today and then reflect on how Thoreau had no time for organized religion, how he mocked clergymen and jeered at missionaries, warmongers and Bible-thumpers. He was a defender of John Brown and the rebellious spirit in American life, a proponent of human rights.

He hated the thought of the wilderness being opened to development; he wrote scathingly of lumberjacks and logging operations. He would have cheered the demonstrators outside the Republican National Convention in St Paul, Minn. He would have mocked the people inside. He would have denounced the prison at Guantanamo. He wrote against injustice; he despised politicians and hunters.

And yet hunting seems to define a certain species of American politician. It's nothing new. When Teddy Roosevelt left office, he traveled to Africa and -- in the role of evil twin to the biblical Noah -- hunted and killed two (and sometimes 18) of every species of animal that could be found from the Kenyan coast to the swamps of the southern Sudan: total bag, 512 creatures. In his account of the safari, "African Game Trails" (1910), he wrote, "The land teems with beasts of the chase, infinite in number ... ."

"Infinite" is credulous hyperbole -- many of those animals are now extinct or severely endangered. Take the bongo, a large African antelope -- nearly as large as a moose -- now almost gone because of hunters and poachers. In Uganda, where it roamed in sizable numbers when I lived there, it has been wiped out. Maurice Stans, the Nixon administration Commerce secretary and Watergate defendant, helped to eradicate this gentle animal when, in the 1960s, he sicced his dogs on them -- the conventional way to corner a bongo -- then presumably gestured to his gun bearer ("Here is your bunduki, bwana") and shot two of them as trophies. It was not an incidental act: Maurice Stans defined himself politically as a big-game hunter.

You would be forgiven for believing that the Menendez brothers gave Dick Cheney lessons in handling a shotgun -- still, he is by all accounts a keen hunter. But who knew that Justice Antonin Scalia also hunts ducks? Perhaps it is not odd that someone who advocates physical harm to humans would not shrink from blowing a small bird apart. Earlier this year, asked about torture, Scalia said: "It seems to me you have to say, as unlikely as that is, it would be absurd to say you couldn't, I don't know, stick something under the fingernail, smack him in the face. It would be absurd to say you couldn't do that." Cheney agrees, so it is no surprise that these men are hunting buddies, huddled in the same duck blind, torturing animals to death with buckshot.

A lot can be told from the animals that people choose to kill. The French shoot the most melodious larks and turn them into pate. Many English people are still indignant that restrictions have been placed on the hunting of foxes, bongo style, chasing them with dogs, which tear them to pieces.

There is hunting for sport, and hunting for the pot, and of course hunting for votes. The name of Teddy Roosevelt, the hunter, the moose skinner, was invoked just the other day at the Republican National Convention, in Fred Thompson's praise of Gov. Sarah Palin. This mother of five is now celebrated as a moose hunter and, more than that, moose skinner, moose eater and perhaps hanger of moose-head trophies. As Palin was delivering her acceptance speech, an immense photograph of Alaska was projected behind her on the giant screen where, in the foreground, a moose could be seen, placidly staring at its reflection in water. And on the following day, in the video that encapsulated her life, Palin was described as having risen early on cold mornings with her father to go moose hunting.

Moose hunting is now seen as a possible Republican vote-getter, especially as the moose hunter in question is a slightly built and bespectacled mother of five. This casting against type presumably has the same effect on the public imagination as the revelation that defensive tackle Roosevelt Grier found relaxation in needlepoint.

I have no strong views on hunting, only the usual disgust when I see a creature senselessly slaughtered at no risk to the hunter. Thoreau called the moose "a fabulous animal," and in a book Palin probably has not read, he remarked on how moose sometimes weigh 1,000 pounds and how they "can step over a five-foot gate in their ordinary walk.

"While people cheered, Palin was lauded for knowing how to "field-dress" a moose. Thoreau, who watched such an operation, wrote, "Joe [his Penobscot guide] now proceeded to skin the moose with a pocket knife, while I looked on, and a tragical business it was; to see that still warm and palpitating body pierced with a knife, to see the warm milk stream from the rent udder, and the ghastly naked red carcass appearing from within its seemly robe." I read that and somehow am not provoked to cheer.

In one of the great passages, in the chapter "Chesuncook," Thoreau writes how the moose and the pine tree are linked in his mind. "A pine cut down, a dead pine, is no more a pine than a dead human carcass is a man." He continues, "Every creature is better alive than dead, men and moose and pine trees, and he who understands it aright will rather preserve life than destroy it."

Paul Theroux is the author of many books, including "The Great Railway Bazaar," "The Mosquito Coast" and, most recently, "Ghost Train to the Eastern Star."

Censoring Library Books - Palin like Bush

I can't find the part of the U.S. Constitution that empowers GW Bush and Sarah Palin to censor books in a library. I'm sure, very sure, that I will not find it. Yet, they both feel empowered to censor.

GW Bush has been censoring books for years. The order was issued by the Office of the Inspector General in the Justice Department. The Justice Department took this action to keep prisons from becoming:
“… recruiting grounds for militant Islamic and other religious groups. The Justice Department defended its effort, which it calls the Standardized Chapel Library Project, as a way of barring access to materials that could, in its words, “discriminate, disparage, advocate violence or radicalize. Christian books were not purged.

Sarah Palin has acknowledged that in 1996, while she was the mayor, she asked the librarian how books could be removed from the library. Later, Palin said it was only a rhetorical question but at that same time Palin's church was pushing for the removal of a book titled "Pastor I am Gay" from local bookstores. According to coverage in the local newspaper, the Frontiersman, Palin asked the librarian at a meeting "if she would object to censorship even if people were circling the library in protest about a book." The librarian is reported to have replied, "I will fight anyone who tries to indicate what books can go on the library shelves." Later the same week, Palin fired the librarian, claiming she was not "loyal" to the new administration and had supported Palin's opponent in the election. The good news is that the townspeople came to the support of the librarian and Palin rehired her.

Bush and Palin as with so many of their Evangelical brothers and sisters disregard our First Amendment right to Religious Freedom. They believe that the United States of America was founded by Christians for Christians and given the chance to do so, they both act according to that belief when governing.

Such people will not protect our individual rights and should never hold public office.

Palin says that Global Warming is not Man-made

"In an interview for the September issue of the conservative magazine Newsmax, Gov. Sarah Palin, R-Alaska, said she does not believe climate change is caused by human behavior.
“A changing environment will affect Alaska more than any other state, because of our location. I'm not one though who would attribute it to being man-made,” Palin said in the interview, which was posted online Friday."

Yet, in May, 2008, Larry Hartig, Alaska's Commissioner of the Department of Environmental Conservation included the following quotation in a presentation on the impact of the warming climate on Alaska.

“Arctic average temperature has risen at almost twice the rate as the rest of the world in the past few decades. Widespread melting of glaciers and sea ice and rising permafrost temperatures present additional evidence of strong arctic warming. These changes in the Arctic provide an early indication of the environmental and societal significance of global warming.”

Larry Hartig, appointed by Sarah Palin, is the Chairman of the Executive Sub-Cabinet on Climate Change whose Climate Change Mitigation Advisory Group is analyzing options for mitigating greenhouse gases in Alaska that contribure to climate change.

Why does Sarah Palin claim that global warming is not man-made while her own administration is trying to identify options for mitigating greenhouse gases which are without question MAN-MADE?

What motive does Palin have for lying about the real cause of global warming?

Saturday, September 13, 2008

The News Media is failing to provide relevant information!

I am upset that TV news shows are not providing relevant information to the voters regarding the qualifications of the candidates and their positions on the major issues. Instead they give us a one hour show about Sarah Palin’s life. If she gets elected there will be plenty of time to run the biography with a video of her shooting the winning shot in a high school basketball game. The news media is a willing participant in turning the race for the White House into a personality contest.

I’d like to see the major networks do a detailed impact analysis of each candidate's economic plan. We hear that Obama will raise our taxes and that McCain will not according to McCain’s campaign committee. And from Obama’s campaign committee we hear that Obama will cut taxes for 95% of Americans while McCain will cut taxes only for the richest 5% of Americans. Why doesn’t CNN have both plans analyzed on air – do what Perot did, get out the flip chart and the Excel spreadsheets and show us the impact. Do the same thing with their healthcare plans. Do the same thing with their energy programs. We told that McCain will give the oil industry $29 billion - what does McCain expect them to do with it and how might that effect the taxpayers and the price of gasoline? Analyze their plans for education and every other thing they are promising to do better than their oponent.

Why instead do we have to listen to a biography of Sarah Palin and Barack Obama and John McCain?

Alaska is a Disaster - what is Gov. Sarah Palin doing?

Note that contacts for confirming all the statements in the following article are provided at the end of the article. As always, check everything YOURSELF. For example, when Charles Gibson interviewed Sarah Palin he asked her what the Bush Doctrine is, her answer was incorrect. A Palin supporter who blogs for the LA Times stated that Gibson was wrong since there have been muliple definitions and Gibson only used one definition. The blogger failed to mention that Gibson told Palin, after she guessed wrong, that he was using the definition that existed in September 2002 prior to the Iraq War. In either case Palin guessed and guessed wrong instead of asking Gibson what the Bush Doctrine meant. A candidate's supporters tell lies when the truth will not suffice.

Alaska is a disaster
by Rob Rosenfeld

Rob Rosenfeld has a Masters Degree in International and Sustainable Development and has lived in Homer, Alaska since 1995, working
primarily with rural communities. He is a long time advocate for human
rights and fair distribution of government resources and opportunities.

After 11 years working in rural Alaska , I feel obligated to share my observations regarding the Third World living conditions facing more than 200 rural Native communities, and the State of Alaska 's lack of attention to the many inequities they suffer.

While Governor Palin claims "exemplary leadership" and attempts to become Vice President of the United States , the truth is rural Alaska is a disaster in multiple areas: human health, lack of infrastructure, the environment, and the economy are equal to that of Third World countries. Sarah Palin is a single issue governor who fails to effectively address these critical needs.

Alaska has the highest rates of homelessness per capita in the US , overflowing sewage lagoons in dozens of communities, and no running water in more than 150 villages – that’s 25% of the population without running water.

Governor Palin has demonstrated how out of touch she is20with Alaska while she continues to ignore the needs of the homeless, fails to recognize Third World living conditions in her home state, and ignores climate change victims, polluted waters, village health hazards and unattended military contaminate sites.

Alaska is a barometer for climate change. Access to some remote communities has been cut off, villages are flooding, landfill contents and overflowing sewage lagoons are contaminating communities, and several villages are being forced to pack up and move. Governor Palin says she doesn't believe climate change is caused by humans. Regardless of the cause, she remains unresponsive to the needs of climate change refugees and victims in Alaska .

More than 200 landfills in rural Alaska lack liners to prevent seepage and dozens of sewage lagoons receive annual discharge permits to discharge untreated and untested sewage into Alaska ’s salmon bearing rivers.

Alaska has the highest amount of military contaminant sites in the US with more than 500 sites that require extensive resources to assess, monitor and remediate. Alaska also has the highest rates of cancer per capita in the United States . Governor Palin is silent on this issue and is solely focused on the natural gas pipeline and oil drilling in protected and fragile places.

While Palin asserts that20resource extraction can be done responsibly, North Slope oil extraction has resulted in hundreds of spills and leaks monthly. On her watch, polluters have not been brought to justice and environmental regulations have been relaxed by her controversial appointee to head the Department of Environmental Conservation.

Larry Hartig, Palin’s pick for Commissioner, was the lead lawyer defending Red Dog Mine (owned by Teck Cominco) which is rated as the worst mine in the country for discharging contaminants into the environment. Red Dog Mine is number one on the national Toxic Release Inventory.

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation has continued to undermine the integrity of the Clean Water Act by ignoring the anti-degradation act, mixing zone laws and making discharge exemptions for oil companies allowing daily oil sludge discharge into the Cook Inlet resulting in
millions of tons of contaminants in Alaska ’s pristine waters.

Palin sued the federal government for trying to protect the polar bear population and, contrary to her rhetoric, she did accept federal dollars for the Bridge to Nowhere.

Alaska has the highest gas prices in the country, exceeding more then $9 per gallon in some villages. Alaska also the highest unemployment in rates in the country as more than 150 villages face 50 to 80 percent rates of unemployment.

Palin does not pay attention to any of the above realities as she fixates on the oil industry and has even created a Renewable Energy Fund that allows for natural gas extraction and coal bed methane; both of which are far from renewable resources and cause considerable environmental degradation.

Beyond the pretty face of Governor Palin rests an unaware, out of touch, rape and pillage resource extractor who is doing the bidding for the leading oil companies in the world while trying to open new areas for oil development.

_________________________________ ______________________________________________
Contacts to confirm information:

Janet Levin, Anchorage Homeless Coalition: Homeless facts - 907-272-0235 ()
Gershon Cohen Ph.D- Department of Environmental Conservation Facts - 907-766-3005
Bob Shavelson, Inlet Keeper 907- 235-4068 - 907-299-3277 (sludge discharge validation in the Cook Inlet and Dept. of Environmental Conservation laws being relaxed)
Unemployment rates: Department of Commerce in Alaska / Anchorage
Sewage / Solid issues / Climate Change: Joe Sarcone / EPA Alaska and Alaska Village Safe Water (907) 271-1316 or 907-677-8705
Discharge Permits: Tim Wingerter - Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation / Fairbanks or Anchorage
Pam Miller, Northern Center for the Environment in Fairbanks- Validation on 100's spills and leaks per month
Pam Miller (different than above) - Alaska Community Action on Toxics - Cancer rates and military site validation and information on Red Dog Mine (907)222-7714
Brian Hir sch Ph.D - Energy issues on renewable energy fund 907-299-0268 or 907-235-7164
Deborah Williams - Alaska Climate Change Solutions - 907- 929-9370 or 907-223-1518
(Polar Bear issues, Climate Change emergencies, flooding, villages having to move and village access facts and information

Women Against Sarah Palin

I hope everybody is studying the candidates through responsible resources rather than listening to the hype from the candidates, their parties and the political pundits. Responsible resources are indeed harder to find than the BS.

The following blog contains some posts that are well worth reading. These posts are only part of the evidence that Sarah Palin's opinions are not shared by a majority of American women. Being a wife, mother and hockey mom are experiences that are common to many American women but they do not qualify her to be vice president or president nor do they define her position on the issues that she and John McCain will be dealing with if they are elected.

I don't think that either campaign committee wants to address issues only and the news media, which could and should focus only on the candidates' historical position on the issues, fails to do so. Make sure that you study each of them well. Please pick the candidate that you believe will represent all Americans equally and obey our Constitution.

Here's the blog: Women Against Sarah Palin

The following site is what I think comes closest to representing Women For Sarah Palin. Let me know if you know of a better pro Sarah Palin site.

Friday, September 05, 2008

Troop reduction postponed to help McCain and Bush

Gen. Petraeus has recommended to the Joint Chiefs a delay of the large scale shift of troops from Iraq to Afghanistan, which he had predicted for this autumn. Troop reduction in Iraq will be delayed until Bush has left office in January. Bush and McCain take credit for the troop surge that has reduced the violence in Iraq and although neither feels that the US can pull out completely at this point they both characterize the was as won.

Bush wants to leave office having achieved victory or at least the appearance of victory. McCain claims that his role in the surge proves that he is qualified to be Commander-in-Chief and that Obama is not qualified because he opposed the troop surge. Victory or the appearance of victory in Iraq, especially due to the troop surge, is critically important to McCain campaign.

Experts feel that a troop reduction at this time and perhaps at any time in the next several years will result in a resumption of violence and a collapse of the Iraqi government. If this were to happen before the November election, McCain could lose the election because of it. If this were to happen before Bush leaves office then his already disasterous presidency would also be remembered for having never caught Bin Laden and losing the war in Iraq. If Bush can leave office while the war appears to be won, the next president will bear the responsibility for the outcome of the war.

A similar manipulation was carried out at the end of Jimmy Carter's presidency. George Bush, #41, GW's daddy, struck an aggreement with the Iranians to release the US Embassy hostages only after Ronald Reagan was sworn in as president. A petty act to be sure, yet not one that cost American lives.

On the other hand, keeping our troops in Iraq has and will continue to cost American lives. Having inadequate troops in Afghanistan also costs American lives. But, Bush is willing to pay that price with the lives of others so that he can claim a victory no matter how brief. And, McCain and the GOP are willing to sacrafice American lives so that they have a chance of winning the presidency. Just a chance. Just a few lives.

Finally, remember that we only invaded Iraq to destroy Saddam's weapons of mass destruction. Remember that weapons of mass destruction did not exist. Remember that Bush and the CIP intentionally lied to the American public and the world when they told us that the weapons existed.

Ask yourself if it is important to continue fighting and dying in an unjust war just to be able to say we won. Then cast your vote wisely on November 4th.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

School Funding and the Separation of Church and State

I found and old but interesting article about the subject of “separation of church and state”. The churches that demanded a constitutional separation of church and state now lead the effort to eliminate it. It’s all a matter of whether it is perceived as a benefit or not. I can understand why parochial schools would like to have their students’ allotment of the funding for the public schools that the parochial school students do not attend. But, I see two reasons why the educational vouchers will have a destruction effect on the public school system.

1. Vouchers were created by GW Bush to subsidize the education of students whose parents choose to transport them into a different school district or to a private school. The voucher is not enough to pay for the transportation of a student to a different school nor is it enough to pay the tuition of a private school. Therefore, most, if not all, of the students that will move to a better school district or to a private school are those whose parents can afford to move their children with or without the voucher. The school that loses the student and the funding associated with their voucher will find it increasingly harder to achieve competitive performance and the students left behind will suffer for it.

2. If the parents of school-aged children can withdraw their child’s share of the school’s funding to do with as they see fit, including home schooling. Then does the taxpayer who has no school-aged children have the right to withhold his share of the school’s funding? Why should the childless taxpayer be obligated to support a school which taxpaying parents will not support?

Schools and the education of our children are a benefit to the entire community rather than only to the students and the parents of the students. Imagine the future condition of our communities and society if we did not provide free public education to all students regardless of economic class. The English realized the need for this a couple hundred years ago when they created what became the public school. But, Bush and his elitist kind do not, in my honest opinion, care about the education of the economic underclass. They don’t care at all about the economic underclass as long as there is more than enough of them to fulfill labor needs. Labor rates, like the price of oil, can be and is manipulated to maximize the cost of oil and minimize the cost of labor. This is not done for the benefit of the masses. It is done only for the benefit of the economic upper class. McCain recently taught us who the upper class is; they earn more than $5,000,000 per year.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Peace Corps Update

It has been a few months since I last posted. I have been busy and just got out of the habit of making the rounds of my favorite blogs on a daily basis.

I am still in the process of joining the Peace Corps. A couple of weeks ago the NY regional office of the Peace Corps nominated me for an assignment in sub-Saharan Africa that would begin in February 2009. I would be teaching math to secondary school students. There are about 50 countries in sub-Saharan Africa and the Peace Corps serves in about one-half of them.

I just completed all the medical evaluations with my personal doctors. Medical is the last area to be evaluated. The next step is for the Peace Corps office in Washington, DC to either invite me or say "no thanks". I'm told that they could wait until the last minute to make that decision.

I'm hoping, first, that they approve me and, second, that they tell me soon what country I will be serving in so that I will have a few months to begin learning the language of the people that I will serve. I also hope that it is a language that is taught by Rosetta Stone or Berlitz. I've checked each of them; they teach a couple of the African languages but not all of them.

I also plan to prepare for the teaching assignment by volunteering at my local high school as a tutor or teacher's aide in the math department. I haven't been in a math class in more than 30 years. I'm sure that most of it will come back easily but not all of it, and tutoring will be more helpful to me than just studying with books. The course(s) I will be teaching range from General Math to Calculus.

The waiting is going to be painful. I've never been good at waiting to do something after I decide to do it. Once the decision is made I like to start yesterday. However, the Peace Corps, like the government, doesn't work like that - not even close. So, when something else happens - anything else - I'll post another update.

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Peace Corps

I've finally done it!. I have applied to the Peace Corps. I won't know for at least one month whether they will accept me. Most people respond positively to the news; a few think this is further proof that I need a full-time caretaker. I met with my medical doctor yesterday and asked him if he thought that I would be able to handle the challenge. I was glad but surprised that he approved so positively without any qualifiers. I was expecting him to say yes but only if I first lost enough weight to get back inside the normal weight range for my height.

I didn't specify a preferred location so I have no idea where they will send me if they accept me. I won't leave before this fall and perhaps not until next year.

I'm really looking forward to this opportunity to make a meaningful contribution.

Monday, March 03, 2008

More B.S. (Ben Stein) on Religion versus Science

I think this will be the first time that I have disagreed with a post at The Sword's Still Out a great blog by a wonderful person and friend. In a recent post she states "I think I'm in love with Ben Stein." I have often enjoyed Ben Stein's unique sense of humor but I generally disagree with his advice. I think Ben checks the breeze for the popular opinion before he wades in with his editorial pen.

This video is nothing more than marketing hype to drum up business for Ben's "movie" that condemns science educators that oppose the teaching of Intelligent Design as a scientific theory. He dares you to see his movie like so many e-mails dare you to forward them to 5, 10 or more friends and loved ones unless you don't believe in God! Ben's argument reminds me of how Bush and other supporters of continuing the war in Iraq condemn anybody that disagrees with them as non-Patriotic. When you lack the facts to defend and promote your opinion then attack the authority and credibility of your opponents. Follow the link to the Ben's video and judge for yourself.

Generally speaking science educators don't have an issue with scientific challenges of Darwin's Theory, after all, it is only a theory based on scientific study not a LAW. However, these science educators do disagree with teaching faith-based beliefs as scientific theory.

Creation or Intelligent Design (the code name for Creation disguised as scientific theory) is not the belief of all faiths. There are many different beliefs regarding the creation of the universe. If the Christian definition of Creation should be taught in schools should the schools teach all the faith-based Creation models? Not all Christians believe in a literal translation of the Book of Genesis and its description of the creation of the universe. How could educators decide which Christian concept of Creation to teach when Christian religions cannot agree on one concept?

I believe that every religious organization has the right to establish its own faith-based beliefs regarding the supernatural realm and the creation and purpose of the universe and mankind. I don't believe that any faith-based beliefs should be taught in schools as scientific theory.

I welcome Ben to dispute all the scientific theories regarding the creation of the universe and the evolution of species with the same scientific processes used to establish these theories. I also welcome him to present his faith-based beliefs regarding the creation of the universe and the evolution of species in the proper context - religion rather than science - and as long as he will recognize the right of all other religions to hold and profess their beliefs no matter how contrary they may be to Ben's beliefs.