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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Washington Follies

As this summer rolls on like a freight train running down the track, I have been following the latest foolishness from Washington D.C.  where another institution is barreling down like a train off the tracks:  our federal government.  I have, since the 2008 finacial "crisis," been disappointed by the partisan and negative tone from both sides of the political aisle.  Over the last few weeks as debate to increase our nation's debt limit has reached the point where decisions must be made, the tone has become quite harsh. 

President Obama has made speeches and held  press conferences where he has mentioned that failure to increase the debt limit will cause seniors to miss Social Security payments and those in college to miss student loans and this use of fear has not helped.  Nor has Speaker of the House John Boehner's sudden epiphany to balance the budget through draconian spending cuts helped inspire confidence.  Where was this fiscally prudent Boehner as President Bush was spending money year after year from 2001-2009?

These leaders are bringing our country closer to the edge and it's a shame.  During the Great Depression our leaders, led by FDR, inspired Americans to keep our chins up high with a eye towards a more prosperous future.  It truely is a shame that today's leaders, who are so caught up in the 24/7 newscycle madness of the partisanship of Washington, cannot inspire the electorate because any reach out towards the other side is seen as a sign of weakness from the other.  Also in my opinion, the influence of special interest lobbies and big business has harmed our political system.  There really is no voice for the average voter.  I don't have the money to donate to a candidate, yet elections cost a great deal of money.

During this political wrangling, there has been talk of restructuring the tax code.  Yes, I agree that the rich, let's say those with incomes over $200,000 should pay more taxes.  But reform should not come at the expense of the middle hanging on to survive.  In particular, the Mortgage Interest deduction and Student Loan deduction should still have a place in the tax rules.  These are vital deductions to me as I own a home, purchased during the bubble burst, and have a student loan.  The rich have reaped the benefits of the Bush era tax cuts and even the cuts were extended for two more years.  How can you fight two wars and finance it with tax cuts????  You can't, even President Reagan raised taxes every year except for one during his presidency.

Also, our government needs to be serious about taxing our corporations who have taken jobs away from Americans during this Great Recession.  For example GE paid no corporate tax from 14.2 billion in profits earned in 2010, 5.1 billion was earned in the USA.  For more on this story see link below:

GE is one of many US corporations which pay no federal income tax.  This is astounding that our leaders let them get away with it, even as they export jobs away.  Additionally, the compenastion for the heads of these companies is obscene.  For many of these CEO's compensation which includes perks, stocks, options and bonuses can reach as high as Viacom's Philippe Dauman whose total compensation in 2010 was 84.5 million dollars.  I'll never watch MTV and Nickelodeon the same way again.

I'm sure I wouldn't complain about being compensated this high but it is quite gross and I'm sure I wouldn't want such a high compensation package.  It also begs the question:  How much is too much?  It seems that there is such an emphasis on wealth that it comes at the expense of those who have nothing. 

In closing, I wanted to comment on the SOS, Save our Schools March on Washington this weekend.  Teachers have been the targets, unfairly, at most of the ills of society and the No Child legislation has not helped with its emphasis on high stakes testing.  Let's agree on some truisms regarding teachers:

Teachers don't control the poverty level in this country. 
Teachers don't control the mass media their students are subjected to at home. 
Teachers are not greedy folks looking to make huge sums of money on the backs of our children and community. 
Standardized Tests have nothing to do with lifelong learning and critical analysis. 

In fact, I've given you examples of what's wrong in this country and it certainly isn't teachers, so big business and partisan politcians simmer down on the rhetoric and maybe we can put an end to the follies I've described.

I would love to hear back from you so leave me note below.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Boogeyman

Boy this weekend has flown by.  In between some R and R for me and my family, I have watched and read coverage of the massacre in and outside Oslo, Norway which has left over 90 people dead.  In case you haven't heard about it, first there was a bomb explosion in central Oslo on Friday which was followed by a shooting rampage at a summer camp outside the city.  Police apprehended a 32 year old suspect.  This native Norwegian man is described as being a gun loving, Christian fundamentalist obsessed with Muslim immigration and globalization which he deemed as threats.

This is strangely similar to the Oklahoma City bombing which occured in 1995 where former soldier Timothy McVeigh was tried and executed for commiting that act.  While both these events were terrible, I wonder how does these tragic events benefit the ruling elite?  In Oklahoma City, obviously, President Bill Clinton received a bounce up in his approval ratings for his leadership and his Justice Department's swift apprehension of McVeigh.  I am not so sure about the internal politics of Norway to comment on how this tragic event will impact the Norwegian people.

In the short term, it seems to me that the "right-wing" Christian, gun enthusiast who expresses anti-immigrant views or is against globalization will be looked at with greater suspicion.  This is unfortunate because these are serious issues which need to be addressed and discussed without fear of being grouped as a member of some lunatic fringe.

Once again during my adult life, there has been a great push by business towards globalization and open borders.  During this time, the USA has seen its manufacturing base shrink.  Also, during the last 20 years, it seems to me that illegal immigration has hurt our country by denying citizens jobs which they could do and driving down wages.  Additionally, the crimes committed by illegals are a drain on our criminal justice system. 

In reflecting about this topic, I have a number of questions regarding these important issues:  How has globalization benefitted the citizens of the USA?  Has globalization made us less secure as a sovereign nation?   How much immigration can our nation absorb?  What should be our government's response to illegal immigration? 

Finally, our prayers should go out to the families of the victims of the Oslo massacre but also we should be wary of anyone proposing that anyone offering serious concerns about the issues of immigration and globalization be viewed as the Boogeyman and therefore be looked at with suspicion and fear. 

In my opinion, we need to be more concerned with the looting of our economy by the banksters and businessmen who put our country us in such terrible economic shape and then had large government sponsored bailouts to sustain and regroup their operations, they are the true boogeymen. 

I would love to hear your opinions and thoughts, so make your voice be heard and comment...


Monday, July 18, 2011

The Dog Days of Summer

Hello and welcome to the latest installment of my blog.  I realized today that I haven't posted a new blog post since the end of last month, I'm going to have to get busy to keep up with my quota from previous months.  July has been moving along pretty quickly.  Unfortunately, the beginning of the month found me with an annoying case of pink eye aka: conjunctivitis.  Once I saw the doctor and treated it with some antibiotic drops the eyes were back to feeling better and less red.

I have also been busy with an extended school year program at the school where I work.  Things are going along fine and I'm enjoying the time with my students.  Today, I began a unit of study centered around the story the Wizard of Oz.  I found the inspiration from another blogger who also works with students with multiple needs (  Today, my students viewed a powerpoint presentation depicting the beginning of the story up through Dorothy meeting the Scarecrow.  The powerpoints also had a script with cues to have the students use sensory input to experience certain parts of the story.  Following this presentation, we made collages depicting Dorothy's house in the cyclone and traveling to OZ. 

Here at home, I have been tending to my garden and my cherry tomatoes are growing nicely and in a few weeks it should provide quite a bounty.  I have two jalpeno peppers that appear to be ready to be taken as well as some cilantro.  The two rose bushes, planted on Memorial Day, are flowering nicely and I am very pleased with their growth.

Other than that, it has been a quiet summer with some trips to the pool with the family.  In news I have been following, the situation with Rupert Murdoch and the arrest of Rebecca Brooks, the former head of News International, the parent arm of the now defunct News of the World has been amazing with its salacious revelations.  Over in Britain its alleged that the News of the World had hacked into the cell phones of celebrities and the royals.  Also, its been reported that the phone hacking had extended to the phone of a missing 13 year old girl, raising false hope among her family that she was still alive.

Here in the states, the editor of Murdoch's Wall Street Journal resigned last Friday as allegations swirled around his role while employed at The News of the World.  Murdoch has attempted some damage control but in my view it's too little too late.  Mr. Murdoch is the owner of News Corp and chances are you consume your news and/or entertainment from his assorted properties which include the New York Post, Fox Studios, Fox News and Fox Network just to name a few. How is it that this man has been allowed over the last 35 years to amass so much influence and control over the press and mass entertainment?  What payoffs were made to Scotland Yard that allowed this abuse to take place in England?  What illegal actions has News Corp made in America? Did Murdoch know about the phone hacking and when did he learn it? 

Anyway, these are some of the questions I have regarding this news story.  But I have some final questions for my readers.  Do you think this story is important?  How do you consume your news?  Is the consolidation of news in the hands of the few important to you? 

I would love to read your thoughts to my questions so join the discussion. 
Signing off for now on this Dog Day Afternoon,