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« April 2012 | Main | June 2012 »

By Ken Poland on May 30, 2012

Budget cuts, tax cuts, welfare reform, foreign aid, military funding, etc. etc. is on the front burner in many people’s minds. I just read an article by Tom Vilsack, Ag. Sec’y.

Many of our service members come from rural America. Our values as a nation are rooted in rural areas of the country, and folks in rural America know that you can't keep taking from the land – you also have to give back. They know the same is true for a nation. They understand that we all share in an obligation to serve and to strengthen a country that has given each of us so much.

That might be why, while 16% of Americans live in rural America, nearly 40% of our military come from rural areas. And perhaps it's why more than 6 million of our veterans live in rural communities – a higher concentration than anywhere else in the country.
America's greatness rests on the shoulders of thousands of these men and women – and those who came before them. At USDA and across the Federal government, we're working hard to ensure our returning veterans have the support they need to find work and live the American dream.
USDA has invested in more than 50,000 rural businesses to help them create jobs. We've invested in more than 500 projects to improve VA clinics in rural areas. We've increased our own hiring of veterans in each of the past three years while helping provide valuable work experience and job search assistance for many more veterans.
And for the first time this year, all active duty service men and women and their dependents are now eligible for a free annual pass to more than 2,000 public lands, including National Forests and National Parks, across the country. This is a small gesture, but I'm proud that we can offer free access to these natural treasures for the folks who have given so much for our nation.

When ‘Farm Program’ discussions come up in public discussions, the first thing I hear is how the super rich farmers are all on welfare. Yes, it is true; we have a very small percentage of ‘farmers’ who are super rich and the farm subsidy programs make them richer. But, the vast majority of ‘true farmers’ are not wealthy and receive very little of the subsidy money. These small, truly family farmers, are struggling most every year to make cash flow for the farm and meet family living expenses. Many of them have to work off the farm at low paying jobs, just to make ends meet. (Rural areas don’t have very many high paying jobs available.) Out side investors and the ‘super rich’ farmers don’t have any problem with a 5 or 6 percent return on their investment. But, how much investment do you need to meet your yearly living expenses, at that rate? And, how long does it take to recover from a net loss (farm production, quite often, finishes the year at a loss. Not only did you lose a years income (salary) but you also lost last year’s or maybe next year’s. When you, as an employee, take a pay cut or even get laid off, you don’t lose last years income, too. And, you don’t have to come up with operating capital for next years business expenses. That doesn’t mean you aren’t suffering or in financial straits, but it isn’t like a business.

We here how livestock and grain prices are at record level highs. Well, do tell! So are expenses! And, those record high prices, when compared with the rest of the economy are well below parity. Our input costs are in line with the increases of labor, transportation, etc. that are determined by the overall economy of the nation. Transportation, labor, and fuel to get our products into the consumers hands have increased far more than our commodity prices. About a nickel’s worth of wheat is in that loaf of bread you buy. Less than a nickel’s worth of corn is in that box of cornflakes. Double the price of those commodities and the consumer wouldn’t notice the increase, except that the retailers scream that the raw product prices went up so they are justified in jumping the prices. A few years back the milk producers (there used to be a lot of small dairy herds) were asking for a twenty cent per CWT on their raw milk. The whole sale and retail outlets said it would necessitate a fifty cent increase in the price of a gallon of milk. You don’t have to be a math genius to figure out that you get several gallons of milk out of a CWT of raw product. The twenty cent increase certainly didn’t justify fifty cents increase in the milk case at the store.

As you can see by Sec’y Vilsack’s article, the farm program funds much more that direct subsidies to farmers. School lunches, food stamps, rural housing (farmers aren’t the only ones that benefit from rural housing and development), health care facilities, recreation facilities, and many other things, are funded out of the ‘farm program’.

By Angelo Lopez on May 17, 2012

At around 2007, I was visiting different churches and wondering whether I still wanted to be a Christian. I had been in some painful conflicts at a former church that really was very disillusioning to me. Then I found Crossleft, a progressive Christian blogsite, and I was thrilled to find a number of Christians who had liberal and progressive points of views. Though Crossleft no longer exists, I still keep in touch with a number of the former Crossleft bloggers. One of the most interesting individuals that I met there was Jim Ramelis. Jim Ramelis was born in Virginia, but raised in Detroit during the 1960s, where he witnessed the racial divisions that were affecting the country. A Vietnam War veteran, Jim's experiences led him to be a strong peace advocate and is a member of the Veterans for Peace, the Presbyterian Peacemakers, and the Michigan Peace Network. A progressive Christian, Jim volunteers his service as a lay pastor to the First Presbyterian Church Munising Michigan, is affiliated with the Progressive Christian Alliance, and is founder of the non-profit UP North Ministries. Jim is currently a trustee of the Mackinac County Department of Human Services Board and a member of the Board of Directors of the West Mackinac Food Pantry. He has lived all over the country, and has lived in for the past 22 years in Michigan. He has a family of three children.

Read more from this post here ...

By Stuart Elliott on May 16, 2012

Cross-posted from Talking Union 

AFSCME Pres. Gerald W. McEntee and Sec.-Treas. Lee Saunders released a statement applauding President Obama’s message. They said:

“President Obama’s announcement today recognizes a fundamental American right – that every citizen is entitled to respect and dignity, and the equal protection of our laws.  For too long, lesbian and gay Americans have been denied the right to marry the person they love, raise a family and live as equal citizens in our country.”

Read more from this post here ...

By Angelo Lopez on May 16, 2012

Last March the Christian gay rights group Soulforce has sponsored the Equality Rides to challenge LGBT discrimination in many of the Christian colleges across the nation. This is part of a growing group of Evangelical Christians who are challenging the homophobia within the Evangelical church and are fighting for the fair treatment of LGBT people in the Evangelical church. A younger generation of Evangelicals are challenging longstanding assumptions among older evangelicals on social justice issues, gay rights issues, environmental issues and immigration issues.

Read more from this post here ...

By Angelo Lopez on May 15, 2012

The big news of the past week has been President Obama's comments in an interview that he now supports same-sex marriage. Over the years, he has stated his opposition to gay marriage, but added that his views were "evolving". This has been an issue where many Democratic and Republican politicians have seen their views evolve to the point where they now support gay marriage. This issue cuts across ideological lines where now several conservative Republicans are joining their liberal Democrat colleagues in support of marriage equality. In an article by Helene Cooper and Jeremy Peters for the May 15, 2012 New York Times, they write:

“If you don’t know anyone who’s gay, then it’s an alien lifestyle,” said Theodore Olson, the former solicitor general for President George W. Bush who supports same-sex marriage. But, he added, when “you realize that that’s Mary from down the street, she’s a lesbian and she’s with Sally, what would it be like if they couldn’t be together?” people come around.

During the civil rights movement, many white Northerners — including some who had never before interacted with black people — joined African-Americans to fight for the principle of equal rights, often opposing white Southerners who had lived among blacks all their lives yet saw nothing wrong with the separate but equal statutes. Principle seemed to come before the personal in many cases.

With the gay rights movement, it often seems that the opposite applies. While there are many people who support gay rights because it is in line with their personal or political views, for many others, their approach on the issue is experiential, and comes down to a simple issue: knowing an openly gay couple. In fact, it can seem as if there are two Americas when it comes to gay rights: one in which same-sex couples interact regularly with their straight counterparts, helping to soften impressions of homosexuality, and another in which being gay or lesbian remains largely unspoken.

Read more from this post here ...

By Ken Poland on May 10, 2012

Cut taxes on the rich and increase them on the poor. Cut spending on regulatory agencies, consumer protection programs,education, and social welfare programs. Increase spending on the military. Increase jobs. What is their formula for that?

The old song and dance that cutting taxes on the rich will create jobs is a theory that has never proven its self. Why would the rich create jobs if the rest of the population have no money to buy, even their necessities let alone any non essential products.

The candidates across the board (local, state, & national) are trying to be more conservative sounding and more right wing religious right than their primary opponents; bash the homosexuals; take reproduction rights away from women; kick out the illegals; restrict immigration; throw out ‘Obama Care’; return to the unequal health care availability of the past; destroy labor union; make Christianity the National Religion.

By Diane Wahto on May 6, 2012

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Wichita, Kansas—Angelo Lopez is familiar to Everyday Citizen readers who enjoy his cartoons, his interviews with artists, poets, and activists and his other thoughtful Everyday Citizen blogs on a wide range of subjects. Angelo is one of those rare people who knew from a young age what he wanted to be when he grew up. As a child, he drew on any scrap of paper he could find. As an adult, he has realized his dream of being an artist in the same vein of artists who influenced him, artists as diverse as Charles Schulz, creator of Peanuts, and Missouri artist Thomas Hart Benton. His drawings and cartoons, while humorous, also reflect the social conscience that he first developed growing up in the Catholic church. He discusses his life, his artistic commentaries, his love of Charles Dickens, and his political activism in this interview. He, as a member of the younger generation, should give us hope for future.

Read more from this post here ...

By Randy Leer on May 5, 2012

On the Friday night edition of NBC Nightly News, they reported that there is chatter that Al Qaeda is discussing setting wild fires in the west as a form of terrorist attack. They discussed making “ember bombs” and even using lit cigarettes and magnifying glasses. We have all seen the terrible toll wildfires take in our dry years. Strategically speaking, it is an effective tactic that is incredibly simple to execute.

So now the question is, are we going to close off our natural wonders in this country?
How about banning magnifying glasses?
Surely we won’t ban cigarettes; we can’t even do that to save peoples’ lives.

I think this is a great time to sit back and reevaluate where we’ve come from and where we are. On the 10 year anniversary of the terrorist attacks on September 11th, 2001, I wrote an article (My Open Letter to the Detesters of America) in which I did a great deal of reflecting on our actions in response to those attacks and on the damage we have done to ourselves as a result. We’ve done a great deal of harm to our country, our liberties and our citizens. We’ve done far more harm than the terrorists ever could.

What have we achieved?
Do we even know?
We certainly aren’t happy with what we have.
Do we really feel any safer?

Read more from this post here ...

By Angelo Lopez on May 4, 2012

The second political cartoonist that I met after Steve Greenberg in the convention of the Association of American Editorial Cartoonists two years ago was Monte Wolverton. The son of famed MAD cartoonist Basil Wolverton, Monte was trained at Pasadena's Art Center College of Design and he also studied editorial photography with Look magazine's Earl Theison. His cartoons have been published in CB Radio magazine, Creative Computing, CARtoons and Youth Magazine. He did advertising, publication design and illustration work in L.A., Seattle, and Portland, running an innovative design business that produced advertising, corporate images, and comic illustration. In the last 1980s Wolverton was the design director for Plain Truth, a large faith-based publishing concern that produced magazines and promotional materials.

Since the mid 1990s, Monte began doing editorial cartoons for syndication by Cagle cartoons to over 850 publications weekly. His political cartoons also appear weekly in the LA Daily News.

Read more from this post here ...

By Ken Poland on May 2, 2012

Randy, I agree with much of what you've presented. The bureacracy doesn't change much from one administration to the next. We here the complaints from polititians on both sides of the aisle and talk show pundits about the 1,000 pages and more in laws passed. I'm afraid the bureacracy puts out multi times as many pages of regulations and procedures to implement those laws. Our legislators, from both parties, claim authorship for laws, but the lobbiests decide the main issues and professional writers, who may or may not agree with the law, put the words together. Some of the laws are intentionally obtuse to keep the common folks from actually understanding.

By Randy Leer on May 2, 2012

I’ve been analyzing details and numbers. I’ve looked at our current and past leaders in all three branches of our government. The prevailing truth is that the country is more or less going in a single direction and the only thing that varies, from election to election, is the speed at which it is going. If you look at the actions of the last four Presidents you will see a great deal of similarity, and let me be clear, I said actions and not policy. I question if their actions don’t actually describe their policy more than what they are declaring it to be.

I’ve been looking at this data for a couple of years now. I’ve continued to see a picture form. The picture is very large and it takes a great deal of information to paint it in one’s mind. This whole idea originates from a comment that I was told by someone, who at one time worked in intelligence. This person told me, a little before President Obama was inaugurated, that I “shouldn’t expect things to change too much, especially with international issues. The President might change but the people controlling the information and making the recommendations are still going to be the same.”

I didn’t realize how right this person was.

Read more from this post here ...

By Ken Poland on May 1, 2012

That sorrow which is the harbinger of joy is preferable to the joy which is followed by sorrow. -Saadi, poet (c.1213-1291) [Gulistan]

Our recent discussions about religion reminded me of this. The sorrow of death is the harbinger of joy in the hereafter for the Christian. The joy of the lascivious life for the non Christian is the harbinger of sorrow in the hereafter.

The Christian faith isn't the only religion/faith that views our earthly life as a time of testing and often sorrow. And, most religions look at death as freedom from our earthly woes. That doesn't mean we should prefer death to life. It does mean that we should be prepared for death, irregardless of our theology.

I sure wish we would get the comment system working.

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