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I am a high school English teacher in an urban high school in Oklahoma City. I am a member of the American Federation of Teachers, Local 2309. I am a Democrat, a union activist and a worker for social justice. I also am a Christian (Congregationalist). I play chess and coach our school chess team.

Monday, January 30, 2006

Audit: Funds for Iraq rebuilding squandered

(Editor's Note: Another bungle by our clueless administration)

from MSNBC

Tens of millions of dollars wasted through negligence, report finds

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Iraqi money gambled away in the Philippines. Thousands spent on a swimming pool that was never used. An elevator repaired so poorly that it crashed, killing people.

A U.S. government audit found American-led occupation authorities squandered tens of millions of dollars that were supposed to be used to rebuild Iraq through undocumented spending and outright fraud.

In some cases, auditors recommend criminal charges be filed against the perpetrators. In others, it asks the U.S. ambassador to Iraq to recoup the money.

Dryly written audit reports describe the Coalition Provisional Authority’s offices in the south-central city of Hillah being awash in bricks of $100 bills taken from a central vault without documentation.

It describes one agent who kept almost $700,000 in cash in an unlocked footlocker and mentions a U.S. soldier who gambled away as much as $60,000 in reconstruction funds in the Philippines.

“Tens of millions of dollars in cash had gone in and out of the South-Central Region vault without any tracking of who deposited or withdrew the money, and why it was taken out,” says a report by the Special Inspector General for Iraq Reconstruction, which is in the midst of a series of audits for the Pentagon and State Department.

Much of the first audit reports deal with contracting in south-central Iraq, one of the country’s least-hostile regions. Audits have yet to be released for the occupation authority’s spending in the rest of Iraq.

The audits offer a window into the chaotic U.S.-led occupation of Iraq of 2003-04, when inexperienced American officials — including workers from President Bush’s election campaign — organized a cash-intensive “hearts and minds” mission to rebuild Iraq’s devastated economy.

But the corruption and incompetence documented in the reports reveal that much of the effort, however well-intentioned, was wasted.

The failure of the rebuilding effort has been borne out most vividly by the rise of a virulent anti-American insurgency that has claimed most of the 2,237 U.S. military lives lost since the war began.

In some cases, auditors could find no trace of cash, much of which came from Iraqi oil revenues overseen by the occupation authority.

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Bush Censoring Scientist on Global Warming

(Editor's Note: Here is further evidence that the Bush White House is on a mission to control what you say, read, hear, and think. This is the White House that claims it needs more executive power to monitor the dissemination of information in this country. All of this is "for your own good." I ask again, what if it were found out that a Democrat had been engaging in this kind of censorship. The howls from Fox News, Rush, and the rest would be deafening.)

Climate Expert Says NASA Tried to Silence Him


The top climate scientist at NASA says the Bush administration has tried to stop him from speaking out since he gave a lecture last month calling for prompt reductions in emissions of greenhouse gases linked to global warming.

The scientist, James E. Hansen, longtime director of the agency's Goddard Institute for Space Studies, said in an interview that officials at NASA headquarters had ordered the public affairs staff to review his coming lectures, papers, postings on the Goddard Web site and requests for interviews from journalists.

Dr. Hansen said he would ignore the restrictions. "They feel their job is to be this censor of information going out to the public," he said.

Dr. Hansen, 63, a physicist who joined the space agency in 1967, directs efforts to simulate the global climate on computers at the Goddard Institute in Morningside Heights in Manhattan.

Among the restrictions, according to Dr. Hansen and an internal draft memorandum he provided to The Times, was that his supervisors could stand in for him in any news media interviews.

In one call, George Deutsch, a recently appointed public affairs officer at NASA headquarters, rejected a request from a producer at National Public Radio to interview Dr. Hansen, said Leslie McCarthy, a public affairs officer responsible for the Goddard Institute.

Citing handwritten notes taken during the conversation, Ms. McCarthy said Mr. Deutsch called N.P.R. "the most liberal" media outlet in the country. She said that in that call and others, Mr. Deutsch said his job was "to make the president look good" and that as a White House appointee that might be Mr. Deutsch's priority.

The fight between Dr. Hansen and administration officials echoes other recent disputes. At climate laboratories of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, for example, many scientists who routinely took calls from reporters five years ago can now do so only if the interview is approved by administration officials in Washington, and then only if a public affairs officer is present or on the phone.

Where scientists' points of view on climate policy align with those of the administration, however, there are few signs of restrictions on extracurricular lectures or writing.

One example is Indur M. Goklany, assistant director of science and technology policy in the policy office of the Interior Department. For years, Dr. Goklany, an electrical engineer by training, has written in papers and books that it may be better not to force cuts in greenhouse gases because the added prosperity from unfettered economic activity would allow countries to exploit benefits of warming and adapt to problems.

In an e-mail exchange on Friday, Dr. Goklany said that in the Clinton administration he was shifted to nonclimate-related work, but added that he had never had to stop his outside writing, as long as he identified the views as his own.

"One reason why I still continue to do the extracurricular stuff," he wrote, "is because one doesn't have to get clearance for what I plan on saying or writing."

Saturday, January 28, 2006

Working Family Agenda


I got this at my last meeting with the Central Oklahoma Labor Federation. I believe it to be the basis for a contract with America's working families. Let me know what you think:


In an effort to improve the lives of working families, within the jurisdiction of the Central Oklahoma Labor Federation, we submit these issues as our Working Family Agenda:



1, All workers must have the right to join a union without the fear of intimidation. We support legislation that will allow more freedom to join a union. We also support efforts to make employers bargain in good faith with unions and recognize public employee unions with binding arbitration on contracts and grievances.


2. Workers have a right to a Living Wage. We support living wage ordinances and laws at all levels of government. No full time worker should live below the poverty level and government should not use tax dollars to fund poverty.


3. Support Public Education. We will continue to support teachers and support personnel within the school districts in their efforts to improve public education for our kids.


4. More access to healthcare. Working families deserve access to affordable, quality healthcare. We will work with our unions and community allies to make sure workers receive access to quality healthcare.


5. Economic Development with Good Jobs. We will work to assure that economic development includes the creation of good jobs with living wages.


6. Repeal the So Called Right to Work Law. This law was sold as a way to bring in good jobs and increase pay for working families. Neither has been the case. Oklahoma has actually lost jobs since the passage of State Question 695 in 2001. (Note: This affects Oklahoma and about 25 other states, most of whom have lower average wages than the non-"right to work" states.)

7. Increase the State Minimum Wage. The federal minimum wage has not been raised since the early 1990’s. If the federal government won’t act on low wage workers’ behalf state legislatures must.


Along with these specific issues, the Central Oklahoma Labor Federation is committed to work with the National AFL-CIO and the Oklahoma State AFL-CIO on working family legislation at the federal and state levels.



Let it be known to all that we will fight against harmful legislation or acts against working families. We can no longer allow anti-worker groups or politicians sell the public a bill of goods like so called Right to Work and Workers Compensation Reforms that take away the rights of workers.

Friday, January 27, 2006

Is the US using Iraqi women to fight insurgents?

Blog Editor's Note: Imagine how we would feel if an Iraqi captured American soldiers' wives to force them to leave Iraq. This may put add a new angle to motives behind the Jill Carroll kidnapping.

From the Associated Press via MSNBC

Suspected insurgents' spouses jailed to force husbands to surrender

The U.S. Army in Iraq has at least twice seized and jailed the wives of suspected insurgents in hopes of “leveraging” their husbands into surrender, U.S. military documents show.

In one case, a secretive task force locked up the young mother of a nursing baby, a U.S. intelligence officer reported. In the case of a second detainee, one American colonel suggested to another that they catch her husband by tacking a note to the family’s door telling him “to come get his wife.”

The issue of female detentions in Iraq has taken on a higher profile since Jill Carroll kidnappers seized American journalist on Jan. 7 and threatened to kill her unless all Iraqi women detainees are freed.

The U.S. military on Thursday freed five of what it said were 11 women among the 14,000 detainees currently held in the 2½-year-old insurgency. All were accused of “aiding terrorists or planting explosives,” but an Iraqi government commission found that evidence was lacking.

Complete article at:
How U.S. used Iraqi wives for ‘leverage’

Thursday, January 26, 2006

America the Consumer Colony


Recently, I viewed a documentary on the life and work of Mohandas Gandhi. I got one big feeling of deja vu from a remark made by one man who was reminiscing on how Great Britain exploited India while India was a part of the British Empire. The discussion was on how Great Britain stripped India of its natural resources and denied Indians the capacity to manufacture their own goods. The remark was made, "We didn't even have the capacity to manufacture a safety pin."

That remark caused me to reflect that in America, we export more and more of our manufacturing base to countries where labor is cheap. The American work force employed in manufacturing has fallen to 11 percent from 30 percent in the mid-1960's.

Foreign countries, in turn, sell us finished products: clothing, electronics, computers, cars and so forth causing our trade deficits with these countries to rise and our dependency on them to increase. Corporations are, in effect, treating us much the same way in economic matters that Indians were treated by the British prior to Gandhi's non-violent revolution. We have become a consumer colony and a corporation cash cow.

How long this can continue, is uncertain. We cannot keep up the practice of exporting high paying jobs manufacturing while creating a country made up of the few well paid professions and the many low paid service sector employees. As Louis Uchitelle points out in his essay "Factories Move Abroad, as Does U.S. Power" (NY Times, August 17, 2003) "Too many products are no longer manufactured here. . . and the skill to make them has disappeared. Resurrecting that skill is difficult. . . . Nor [is] it easily woo back American companies that have invested huge sums in large, modern facilities abroad."

We need to demand that our economic policy reflect the high cost of cheap imported goods.

Elimination of Bush Tax Cuts Would Produce a Surplus

According to a report by the Congressional Budget Office, "the expiration of the Bush tax cuts would return the budget to a surplus of $38 billion by 2012. Keeping the tax cuts in place would put the government into a $289 billion deficit."

Source:

CBO Projects $337 Billion Deficit in 2006

Thanks to fellow blogger for justice at
Southern Gal Living North

More American Say, "Impeach Bush!"


A poll released last week by Zogby International showed 52 percent of American adults thought Congress should consider impeaching Bush if he wiretapped U.S. citizens without court approval, including 59 percent of independents and 23 percent of Republicans.

Tuesday, January 24, 2006

Army could be near breaking point according to Pentagon Study



Rapid troop rotations threaten institution, Pentagon-sponsored study says

A new Pentagon-sponsored report says the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency.

Stretched by frequent troop rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan, the Army has become a “thin green line” that could snap unless relief comes soon, according to a study for the Pentagon.

Andrew Krepinevich, a retired Army officer who wrote the report under a Pentagon contract, concluded that the Army cannot sustain the pace of troop deployments to Iraq long enough to break the back of the insurgency. He also suggested that the Pentagon’s decision, announced in December, to begin reducing the force in Iraq this year was driven in part by a realization that the Army was overextended.

As evidence, Krepinevich points to the Army’s 2005 recruiting slump — missing its recruiting goal for the first time since 1999 — and its decision to offer much bigger enlistment bonuses and other incentives. “You really begin to wonder just how much stress and strain there is on the Army, how much longer it can continue,” he said in an interview. He added that the Army is still a highly effective fighting force and is implementing a plan that will expand the number of combat brigades available for rotations to Iraq and Afghanistan.

The 136-page report represents a more sobering picture of the Army’s condition than military officials offer in public. While not released publicly, a copy of the report was provided in response to an Associated Press inquiry.

Illustrating his level of concern about strain on the Army, Krepinevich titled one of his report’s chapters, “The Thin Green Line.” He wrote that the Army is “in a race against time” to adjust to the demands of war “or risk ‘breaking’ the force in the form of a catastrophic decline” in recruitment and re-enlistment..

Monday, January 23, 2006

Abuse of Power Then and Now


Have you had a sense of Déjà Vu lately?


We somehow forget that we have been through this all before, but W seems hell bent on reimposing the bad old days on us.

For a link to this poster, use the following web address:

40 Years Ago, Wiretapping Innocent Americans Was An Abuse of Power. It Still Is.

Sunday, January 22, 2006

Halliburton Cited in Iraq Contamination


By LARRY MARGASAK, Associated Press Writer

WASHINGTON - Troops and civilians at a U.S. military base in Iraq were exposed to contaminated water last year and employees for the responsible contractor, Halliburton, couldn't get their company to inform camp residents, according to interviews and internal company documents.

Halliburton, the company formerly headed by Vice President Dick Cheney, disputes the allegations about water problems at Camp Junction City, in Ramadi, even though they were made by its own employees and documented in company e-mails.

"We exposed a base camp population (military and civilian) to a water source that was not treated," said a July 15, 2005, memo written by William Granger, the official for Halliburton's KBR subsidiary who was in charge of water quality in Iraq and Kuwait.

"The level of contamination was roughly 2x the normal contamination of untreated water from the Euphrates River," Granger wrote in one of several documents. The Associated Press obtained the documents from Senate Democrats who are holding a public inquiry into the allegations Monday.

Friday, January 20, 2006

Above the Law

Does a War on Terror Excuse Domestic Spying?


Gonzales, Cheney, Bush and the rest of the gang have been defending themselves for getting caught doing domestic spying. Their claim runs something like this:

We are at war on terror. The president must protect the citizens of America by all available means. If this means ignoring the Bill of Rights, then that's the price you pay for security during war time.

This claim is completely bogus. I would like to point out a few facts to W. (I beginning to believe that "W" must stand for "Whiney".)

Recently, the United States was involved in a little something called "The Cold War." In fact, this war heated up in a few places like Cuba, Hungary, Korea, and Vietnam.

Suppose that Presidents Truman, Eisenhower, Kennedy, Nixon et al used the fact that we were fighting a war, a cold war, against a dangerous enemy, as a pretext to sweep aside civil liberties and spy on domestic citizens? Don't you suppose that a few of us, this side of Joe McCarthy, might be a little bit concerned about the actions and the excuses for it?

So far, the Cold War has claimed more American lives than has the War on Terror. But we won it without the need to trash the Bill of Rights.

Thursday, January 19, 2006

TR on GWB



The President is merely the most important among a large number of public servants. He should be supported or opposed exactly to the degree which is warranted by his good conduct or bad conduct, his efficiency or inefficiency in rendering loyal, able, and disinterested service to the Nation as a whole. Therefore it is absolutely necessary that there should be full liberty to tell the truth about his acts, and this means that it is exactly necessary to blame him when he does wrong as to praise him when he does right. Any other attitude in an American citizen is both base and servile. To announce that there must be no criticism of the President, or that we are to stand by the President, right or wrong, is not only unpatriotic and servile, but is morally treasonable to the American public. Nothing but the truth should be spoken about him or any one else. But it is even more important to tell the truth, pleasant or unpleasant, about him than about any one else."

"Roosevelt in the Kansas City Star", 149 May 7 1918

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Martin Luther King's Prophetic Words



"We must rapidly begin the shift from a thing-oriented society to a person-oriented society. When machines and computers, profit motives and property rights are considered more important than people, the giant triplets of racism, militarism and economic exploitation are incapable of being conquered. A nation can flounder as readily in the face of moral and spiritual bankruptcy as it can through financial bankruptcy."--Dr. Martin Luther King, April, 1967


“In the days ahead we must not consider it unpatriotic to raise certain basic questions about our national character. We must begin to ask, ‘Why are there forty million poor people in a nation overflowing with such unbelievable affluence? Why has our nation placed itself in the position of being God’s military agent on earth...? Why have we substituted the arrogant undertaking of policing the whole world for the high task of putting our own house in order?’”—Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Where Do We Go from Here?

Saturday, January 14, 2006

The Iraq War is Degrading Our Armed Forces


We long ago substituted a "poverty draft" for a conscriptive draft. Our Armed Forces benefited from the fact that young people from poor families had few options in this country other than military service to escape poverty. That's was okay for them during peace time, but now that we have the "Endless War on Terrorism" being directed largely by rich, white men who nearly all could and did avoid military service, conditions have changed as noted in this article on Slate.

GI Schmo
How low can Army recruiters go?
By Fred Kaplan
Posted Monday, Jan. 9, 2006, at 5:06 PM ET


Three months ago, I wrote that the war in Iraq was wrecking the U.S. Army, and since then the evidence has only mounted, steeply. Faced with repeated failures to meet its recruitment targets, the Army has had to lower its standards dramatically. First it relaxed restrictions against high-school drop-outs. Then it started letting in more applicants who score in the lowest third on the armed forces aptitude test—a group, known as Category IV recruits, who have been kept to exceedingly small numbers, as a matter of firm policy, for the past 20 years. (There is also a Category V—those who score in the lowest 10th percentile. They have always been ineligible for service in the armed forces and, presumably, always will be.)

The bad news is twofold. First, the number of Category IV recruits is starting to skyrocket. Second, a new study compellingly demonstrates that, in all realms of military activity, intelligence does matter. Smarter soldiers and units perform their tasks better; dumber ones do theirs worse.

Until just last year, the Army had no trouble attracting recruits and therefore no need to dip into the dregs. As late as 2004, fully 92 percent of new Army recruits had graduated high school and just 0.6 percent scored Category IV on the military aptitude test.

"GI Schmo"

Friday, January 13, 2006

Hooray for the State of Maryland!

Big, rich companies like Wal-Mart should not expect US taxpayers to foot the bill for their parsimony. All workers deserve a living wage with adequate access to health care. Anything less is to deny human dignity.

Maryland OKs 'Wal-Mart bill'

Maryland first to OK 'Wal-Mart bill' By Stephanie Armour, USA TODAY
Fri Jan 13, 6:40 AM ET

The Maryland General Assembly became the first state legislature in the nation Thursday to approve legislation forcing Wal-Mart (WMT) to pay more for its employee health care, potentially paving the way for other states to follow suit.

The bill, which passed despite a veto by Republican Gov. Robert Ehrlich Jr., requires employers with more than 10,000 workers to spend at least 8% of their payroll on employee health care or else pay into a fund for the uninsured. At this time, only Wal-Mart is affected by the legislation.

Wal-Mart spokeswoman Sarah Clark said the company is exploring options to challenge the law, which takes effect in January 2007.

"Wal-Mart does believe everyone should have access to affordable health care, and this legislation does nothing to accomplish this goal," Clark says, adding, "This was about partisan politics. ... The General Assembly took a giant step backwards."

The legislation could prod other states into passing similar so-called Wal-Mart bills. Anti-Wal-Mart groups are working to get state legislatures across the USA to pass similar acts.

The legislation is the latest salvo in the growing fight by labor-union-supported anti-Wal-Mart groups, which are pressuring the discount retail giant into expanding health care coverage for its more than 1.2 million U.S. workers.

"This opens the way for dozens of states across the country to follow suit, and that's clearly a chilling message to Wal-Mart," says Tracy Sefl, a spokeswoman at Wal-Mart Watch, a Washington-based group focused on the megaretailer.

AFL-CIO President John Sweeney praised the Maryland action. "What the Maryland victory shows is that the tide is turning, because working people are not just fed up, they are ready to get active to set our country in a different direction, one state at a time," he said in a statement after the vote.

Wal-Mart officials have said they are being singled out because of their large size, which means they are more likely to have more employees on public health assistance. Over the past four decades, Wal-Mart has grown from a small chain to a global enterprise with 5,000 stores in 10 countries.

"This will accomplish very little, and this totally misses the mark, which is to take appropriate steps to slow the kind of double-digit health care increases we've seen," says Bruce Josten, executive vice president of government affairs at the U.S. Chamber of Commerce. "This is so far off the mark it's incredible."

Wal-Mart says it insures more than 600,000 associates and that more than three-fourths of Wal-Mart associates have health insurance.

Wednesday, January 11, 2006

Garth has Friends in Low Places

Thanks to Tim O'Connor of the Central Okalhoma Labor Federation AFL-CIO for this great clip!

Wal-Mart Workers Rights

Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Thought for These Times



"We cannot defend freedom abroad by deserting it at home."

Monday, January 09, 2006

Living in a Time of Corporation Power



God forgive us for we have been told over and over what we are doing is wrong.

Saturday, January 07, 2006

DeLay Resigns as Majority Leader



Enough is Enough! If anyone says that this is the end of the scandal s/he is either deceived or lying, probably lying.

Oklahomans Pay Some of the Lowest Taxes in the US

Oklahoma ranks 47th in tax burden with federal taxes figured and 40th without. So Brandon Dutcher and the Oklahoma Council of Public Affairs are once again shown to be the liars they always have been.

Link: http://moneycentral.msn.com/content/Common/Flash/P111507.asp

Back to the "Good Old Days???"


From the posts I have been getting on my commentaries about the Sago Mine Disaster, some people think that we do indeed need to get government out of the business of regulating workplace safety. After all, they argue, the government didn't prevent this disaster. What they ignore is that a government that has been working more and more as a tool of corporation interests and less and less in the interests of those who work for wages, has once again showed why the proper role government has in the workplace: to insure that employees' have an equal amount of power in their working environment. This is also why we need unions.

This is a lesson we seem to need to learn over and over again. Some in this country seem to want to return us to the "good old days" when government was less intrusive in the workplace. Well, as anyone who lived back then would tell you, the "good old days" weren't all that good. Case in point, the Sago Mine Disaster reminds me of another workplace disaster that took place when government truly stayed out of the affairs of business: the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire.

This is from the Labor Arts web page: http://laborarts.org/exhibits/union/triangle.cfm

"T]he Triangle Shirtwaist Factory. . .located 8 blocks south of Union Square [in New York City}] On Saturday afternoon, March 25, 1911, about five hundred employees were at work making shirtwaists--the high-necked blouses worn by working women of the day. At 4:30 pm there was a muffled explosion. Smoke poured out of eighth-floor windows. Within minutes flames ranged out of control; girls jumped to certain death from windows high above the street; locked exits and a fire escape that buckled under the weight of fleeing workers blocked escape. The fire lasted only eighteen minutes, and killed 146 workers, most of them Jewish and Italian teenaged girls."

So, should we return to the "good days" when government left business alone, or should we get real and realize that business looks after itself and that we need union and a vigilant government to protect those who work for wages.

You have to decide, but remember, you may be in the same position one day.

Friday, January 06, 2006

My Faith is Being Restored

News Item from MSNBC:

WASHINGTON - In an ominous election-year sign for Republicans, Americans are leaning sharply toward giving Democrats control of Congress, an AP-Ipsos poll finds. Democrats are favored 49 percent to 36 percent.

The poll was taken this week as Republican lobbyist Jack Abramoff pleaded guilty to tax evasion, fraud and corruption charges and agreed to aid a federal investigation of members of Congress and other government officials.

President Bush’s job approval remains low — 40 percent in the AP-Ipsos poll. About as many approve of his handling of Iraq, where violence against Iraqis and U.S. troops has surged.

(If you want to read the full article go to : http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/10740963/)

I have always held to the faith that the American people are much smarter than the politicians, pundits, consultants, and spinmeisters give them credit. As with all faith, my faith in the American body politic has been tested from time to time. Perhaps my faith is due for a renewal.

In 1994, the Republicans were swept into power by a brillant political maneuver: The Contract With America. In it, the GOP promised "To restore accountability to Congress. To end its cycle of scandal and disgrace. To make us all proud again of the way free people govern themselves."

Now, with the Republican Party mired in scandal, all it can do is claim that they are no worse than the Democrats. In Oklahoma, Rep. Ernest Istook who has declared himself a candidate for governor, is frantically trying to clean himself by donating some of the money he got from Abramhoff's PAC. Sorry, Ernie, that horse has already left the barn, especially since you already did the dirty work asked of you.

I hope that the good, Christian people of Oklahoma are starting to notice this:

My brothers and sisters in Christ, you have been betrayed by the people who took your faith for granted and have taken you to the cleaners. The Christian Right is not Christian in its actions, nor is it right in its morals.

Joe Conason in an editorial on Salon.com provides this example:

"Rarely has the contrast between the rhetoric of the religious right and the behavior of its leaders been so starkly exposed as in the Abramoff scandal. The most obvious example was the manipulation of Christian activists in Louisiana and Texas by Reed, former executive director of the Christian Coalition, who said he was helping them fight gambling when he was actually using them to promote Indian casinos (and to make a few million bucks for himself)."

Please remember brothers and sisters that Jesus while on earth was most bitterly opposed by the Fundamentalists of his day: the Pharisees. He was arrested by those in power in Judea where church authority and state power were one in the same. The man we follow said more about the abuses visited on the poor and weak by the rich and powerful than he said about nearly any subject including sexual behavior and proper religious observance.

My father taught me many things, but two things I particularly learned from him were:

1. Don't fight on the side of Goliath. Dare to be a David.
2. Don't worship like a Pharisee. Doing beats being. Faith is function, not form.

That's probably why I am a Democrat.

Wednesday, January 04, 2006

So We DO need a Federal Government

Feds vow full investigation into mine disaster

Labor secretary expresses sorrow over deaths of 12 miners in W. Va.

WASHINGTON - Federal officials expressed sorrow Wednesday over the deaths of 12 West Virginia coal miners and pledged a full investigation into what happened.

“Our hearts and prayers are with the families, friends and loved ones of the 12 miners who perished in this tragedy and our hopes and prayers are with the one miner who survived,” Labor Secretary Elaine L. Chao said in a statement issued before dawn.

I'm not going to play the "Blame Game" as the "lame" conservatives call it. Instead, let me point out what this tragedy should tell us about the role of government in this age of the "free market". Conservative philosophy would have it that these men knew the risks they were taking when they went down in the mines, so no one should be wringing their hands over the fact that this mine company had a history of safety violations but was still allowed to operate "business as usual."

And yet we are justly outraged. We can't understand why this was allowed to go on till this moment. In other words, we need regulations, workplace rules, safety requirements even when they affect the cost of doing business and the cost of our goods and services. Risk of injury on the job cannot be completely eliminated. Some jobs are in and of themselves risky and dangerous: miners, firefighters, oil fielworkerses, police, even teachers. But we have a right to a reasonably safe workplace made free of risks where humanly possible.

And we need a federal government willing to impose those regulations. As we see in this case, local communities, states, and workers are unwilling, unable, or just plaidesperatete enough to allow a business free reign creating whatever work environment it wants. We can't allow the "marketplace" to set work rules in some vague thought that workers will choose other, safer jobs thus forcing employers to make needed changes. These miners were working for $700 a week. Someone will be desperate enough to go down into the mine just to get a paycheck.

Justice and human dignity demand that we create as safe a working environment as we can and for that we must have regulations, workplace rules, and a government strong enough and willing enough to enforce them.

Monday, January 02, 2006

In America Smaller Wages, Greater Hunger, Fewer Services

From Parade Magazine, January 1, 2006:

"In 2004, for the fifth straight year, the number of children facing 'food insecurity'--lacking enough nutrition to lead a healthy life--surged, leaving 13.9 million of them in households with an erratic food supply. . . . [I]n the Midwest . . . the cost of everyday basics rose sharply, the average household income actually declined by 2.8 percent from 2003 to 2004, according to the U.S. Census Bureau" (Relin 14).

According to the 2005 US Census report, median family incomes in the United States in actual dollars, money not adjusted for inflation, declined .02%. Incomes for Americans who worked full time jobs declined from 2003 to 2004 by 2.3% for men and 1% for women (one result of male incomes falling faster than female incomes is that women actually gained on the percent of income they make relative to men up from 0.76 to 0.77). The poverty rate moved from 12.5% of Americans living in poverty to 12.7%. Over one million more Americans lived in poverty in 2004 compared with the previous year (Census).

In other words, folks, we are falling behind in the race between wages and expenses. More of us are becoming poor and more of our children are without basic necessities like food.

In spite of this the Republican dominated U.S. House of Representatives tried to cut $700 million from the Agriculture Departments' Food Stamps program. Only the resistance of the Senate Democrats and a few brave, moderate Republican senators stopped them. However, the poor and elderly will have to pay more for medical care. Medicaid and Medicare, the health-care programs for the poor and elderly, will be cut by $13 billion over five years, and more than $54 billion over 10 years of the budget (Cowen and Kenen). Soon poor and elderly Americans will be once again in the bad old days where they have to make choices between eating and filling their prescriptions.

Enough is Enough! We need a change of government if we are to save our Republic!

Works Cited:

Cowan, Richard and Joanne Kenen. "Republicans Reach Deal on Spending Cuts." Reuters News 18 Dec. 2005:

DeNavas-Walt, Carmen, Bernadette D. Proctor, Cheryl Hill Lee.

Income, Poverty and Health Insurance in the United States: 2004. The U.S. Census Bureau. U.S. Department of Commerce. August 2005.

Relin, David Oliver. "No Child Needs to Go Hungry." Parade. 1 January 2006: 14-15.

Sunday, January 01, 2006

Two Wolves--A Cherokee Tale



A Cherokee elder was teaching his grandchildren about life.

He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me...It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride and superiority.

The other wolf stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside of you and every other person too."

They thought about it for a minute and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?"

The old Cherokee simply replied..."The one I feed."

(Thanks to my good friend, Lori Cain, a great Democrat, for this story.)