It has often been hard to understand the breadth and complexity of the economic crisis of today. I've read several magazines and books to try to understand the different perspectives. I like comparing the editorials of more moderate magazines like Barron's or the Economist with the more leftist magazines like Z Magazine. Though there are areas of deep disagreement, there is a surprising consensus among more mainstream and progressive sources on the need for economic stimulus and the need for bank reforms. I made a cartoon in the March 25, 2009 issue of the Tri-City Voice on the reliance of the U.S. economy to China financing our debt.
The Texas Legislature will likely consider a positive and dramatic expansion of the state's Housing Trust Fund. Currently, Texas places a meagre $5.8 million annually into the fund. Now Senator Royce West and Representative Yvonne Davis have drafted bills that would establish a flat document recording fee of $10 on real estate transfer/sale documents. Such a fee would generate an estimated $30 million (conservative estimate) annually to the Housing Trust Fund.
In my mind, our nation and our world is at a defining moment. To this point, we have defined ourselves as individual countries within continents. We are are pitted with some and allied with others. We have decided who our friends and enemies are based on a few people within an entire nation.
We compete. We do our best to be at the head of the pack. We want the label of being the best and we want all of the blessings. "Buy USA!" "God Bless America!"
How does that language mesh with our spoken desire to help other nations? How does that language contribute to the good of people?
A lot going on with the Kentucky Young Democrats . . .
I’m running for Young Democrats of America Vice-President and I am Chair of the YDA Labor Caucus. This past week-end, I rode down to Kentucky from Michigan to attend the 2009 Kentucky Young Democrats Convention. My Teamster buddy and trusted mentor Daniel M. Geb and Bazil Thomas, Chair of the 14th District Dems Asian American Caucus rode down with me.
My column in the Dallas Morning News this month is about a bill in the Texas State legislature which would provide an alternative to closing low performing schools. It reads in part:
"The Austin group Save Texas Schools says that closing low-performing schools, which are almost exclusively in poor neighborhoods, is an unproductive strategy. This coalition of parents, students, teachers and community leaders is standing together to improve schools, instead of closing buildings. Among the group's work is urging support for HB 1238, which provides effective alternatives to school closure or "reconstitution."
This is a very real issue in Dallas, where 10 schools have finished two or more years rated academically unacceptable. Most immediately, Spruce and Samuell high schools could be closed if too many students fail the TAKS test this spring."
April is Sexual Assault Awareness Month(SAAM). In preparation for this event, I have been researching sexual assault statistics in an effort to find out what we all can do to reduce the number of horrific crimes that are committed in this country on a daily basis. Consider the horrible fact that in 2007(the most recent data I could find) 248,300 sexual assaults occurred. That number averages out to about 1 sexual assault every 2 minutes. If you have ever doubted that their is an epidemic of sexual violence in this country, just let that sink in.
1 sexual assault every 2 minutes.
This statistic is staggering and alarming. When coupled with the fact that 9 out of 10 rape victims are female, you discover that this is an issue that is absolutely crucial, not only to women, but to everybody in this country. However, as a man, I'm often asked the question "What can we do to help?" Well, I'm glad you ask, because there are many things that we, as men, can do to help lower the cases of sexual assault and to be supportive of survivors.
Kansas was singled out by President Obama when he gave example of wasteful government spending: millions paid in farm subsidies.
Obama cited a Government Accountability Office report that showed, from 2003 to 2006, "millionaire farmers" got $49 million of tax-payer money in farm subsidies although they earned more over $2.5 million which is supposed to be the cut-off amount for annual earnings.
"If it's true…it's a prime example of waste," Obama said. Latest figures show that “farmers,” many of whom are not actually farmers, rather they own or even rent property that at one time was used for farming, collected roughly $16 billion dollars per year from the federal farm program. That program is funded by you and me.
Over 2 million recipients of this money, who the USDA has not even verified meet set requirements to actually deserve receiving these lucrative checks.
Former Senator (and GOP primary flameout) Fred Thompson recently became the latest Republican to announce his hope for President Obama to fail. Don’t even bother scratching your head in wonder about Thompson’s patriotism, because this is nothing but calculus. If the President’s economic program succeeds, the old route to GOP power is dead. The President’s program is premised upon a new kind of politics, where partisan boundaries blur and pragmatic policies aim at reducing costs through strategic investment. The great paradox is that this budget is so expensive precisely because it is a deficit reduction program. It takes time and money to upgrade anything. Just making something more efficient often requires innovation and technology. And when you upgrade an entire economy, workers have to be trained or retrained, which means investment in education. But the payoff will only come down the road, much of it long after Obama’s second term ends, if there is one.
I recently read a story posted in the New York Times' online edition about a disturbing legal case which the U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to hear this term. Here's the link to the NYT's article. It involves a 13 year old, schoolgirl who was subjected to a "limited" strip search in the school nurse's office in an effort to discover whether she was involved in distributing prescription strength Ibuprofen. For many people reading the article, this case seems to be an outrageous reaction by school officials and that is in essence what the Supreme Court is being asked to decide in determining if the strip search was reasonable at its inception and scope. Many, such as the ACLU which is arguing the case on behalf of the student, believe the scales of justice have long been tilted against students and parents. While I hope the Supreme Court is taking this case to restore a semblance of balance, given the current composition of the Court, I fear the further erosion of our constitutional rights in the service of the War on Drugs.
Across the country, interest in eating locally produced food has grown sustainably over the past few years. I personally have been looking for ways to eat less processed industrial food and more natural, local foods. On Saturday I went out in the middle of a blizzard to the Eat Local Exhibition in Shawnee, Kansas. I went looking to take my step towards better eating and ended up taking a step towards quiet revolution. See the start of a my food revolution below the break.
I thought this was a brilliant analysis and exchange by Dr. Zibignew Brezinski on MSNBC's 'Morning Joe' the other morning.
Brezinski contextualized the anger on the part of many regarding executive compensation, bonuses and excessive wealth in our country.
It has been wealth not obtained by production and manufacturing, but built on a fiscal house of cards propped up just enough for you and I to be able to participate as consumers, with flat wages, more accessible credit and relatively low interest rates.
The most insidious part of the the culture has been perpetrated by representatives of the 5% of Americans in control of 85% of the country's wealth. They became highly skilled at getting themselves defended by those whom they deluded into believing that when 'their ship came in' they could be just like them! And that those who weren't benefiting were either lazy, incompetent, unlucky or unmotivated.
You know em... ya love em... its the elected officials and supporters of the Student VOTER Act joined together to talk about how important it is to pass!
Thursday's Press Conference was awesome. Rep. Wasserman Schultz, Rep. Tim Ryan, Rep. Meek, and Rep. Schakowsky all joined in support of this bill.
Rep. Schakowsky (pictured right)said that we want more people to vote in our elections not create more barriers. She further said "we have a special responsibility to promote civic education" talking about the very essence of voting and the civic duty we all have to participate in such a crucial part of our democracy. She assured the audience that they would get both parties to pass this bill.
The D.R.E.A.M. (the Development, Relief and Education for Alien Minors) Act, would provide certain immigrant students who graduate from an American High School, are of good moral character, arrived in the US as children, and have been in the country continuously for at least five years prior to the bill's enactment, the opportunity to earn conditional permanent residency. The students will obtain temporary residency for a lapse of six years. Within the six year period, a qualified student must attend college, and earn a two year degree, or serve in the military for two years in order to earn citizenship after the six years period. If student does not comply with either his/her college requirement or military service requirement, temporary residency will be taken away and student will be subjected to deportation.
We've worked so hard to help students have equal access to voting its rewarding to have it reintroduced into a legislature that will see it as a priority. As we speak in Washington there is a press conference announcing its importance and emphasizing the difficulties that young people face simply in casting a ballot each election.
According to a release from the Student Association for Voter Empowerment...
That unconditional acceptance is good and to be desired, and that conditional acceptance is bad and damaging, have come to be regarded as truisms. Without becoming sidetracked into a technical discussion, I can cite a statement by a psychologist that I read only this week, “Maslow and Rogers help us to understand that human beings have various levels of needs and that people do not thrive well when they are exposed to conditional acceptance.”
I truly do understand the point. Yet, as with many things, the devil is in the details (cliche' alert). To demonstrate that I understand the valid aspects of the statement, I will quote one piece of colorful folk wisdom from my military career, “One aws__t wipes out fifty attaboys!” To add to that, I have to say that my own mother had a very favorable attitude toward those who did something for her, or who accomplished something in which she could claim a share. However, one misstep by one of those favored individuals would move him or her to the opposite end of the continuum. (There was, in effect, no mid-range at all to her continuum.) That’s the undesirable sort of conditional acceptance.
Corporate opponents of workers' freedom to form unions repeatedly have shown they are not interested in the welfare of their employees or any of the pseudo-lofty ideals they cite while fighting the Employee Free Choice Act.
Now, they've made clear they will do anything--even destroy jobs, communities and harm the U.S. economy--to ensure that more American workers do not have a voice on the job. (And this just in--they're now using Joe the Plumber as an anti-Employee Free Choice Act spokes-idiot. That guy can't seem to keep a job.)
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