Tag Archives: government

Charter Charlatans?

27 Mar

If you live in the NYC area then you know that newly elected mayor, Bill DiBlasio, is working to fulfill a campaign pledge to charge rent to charter schools. The mayor said he wants to charge rent based on how much a school can afford to pay, and he also wants to slow or perhaps even stop the continued growth of the NYC charter school movement so that more focus can be brought back to the public schools. Naturally the charter schools are up in arms over this proposal because charter schools receive rent-free space in city buildings even though they are privately run.

During Mayor Bloomberg’s tenure, Money for charter schools increased from $32 million to $659 million and what was once a modest collection of 17 charter schools has now expanded to 159 charter schools within the city…and overall the NYC education budget has almost doubled to 25 billion dollars from the 13 billion dollars that was being spent when mayor Bloomberg took office.

But the city charter schools, along with receiving free rent from the city also raise quite a lot of money from the private sector including large donations from “philanthropists” like the Waltons of Wal-Mart fame, and the hedge fund billionaire Paul Tudor Jones, along with other prominent Wall Street tycoons, (You probably remember them from the great financial crash of 2008)… Anyway, That’s how Success Academy Charter Schools’ chief executive officer, Eva Moskowitz. can make nearly $500,000 a year to run only 22 “non-profit” schools.

That’s also how Mayor DiBlasio can be opposed by a “nonprofit” charter advocacy group called Families for Excellent Schools. They have organized rallies in Albany, created an internet website and spent 3.6 million dollars on commercials that can be seen constantly throughout the day on television here in the tri-state area. Charter school political action committees have even donated more than 100 thousand dollars to NY Governor Cuomo and other NY state politicians.

So is it a surprise that The Governor says that he is now “Excited” about charter school growth and that Mayor Di Blasio is now beginning to step away from his hardline campaign stance against charter schools?

Isn’t it amazing what money can do? Teachers and educators have always known that money makes a difference when it comes to your child’s education. Can your public schools use its public money to advertise in favor of the public school budget? Do your public schools have 3.6 million dollars that they don’t need for educating your children, to use for creating commercials to “convince” local politicians and influence you to support their efforts in passing the public school budget, let alone raising the school budget?

Money matters! And one has to ask why billionaires are so interested in paying large sums of money in order to gain control of and advertise for the privatization of the public schools in our country… What’s in it for them? And most importantly, what do you think is really in it for you and your children? In the short term privatization always looks good, especially when there is a multimillion dollar ad campaign to help you to try and make up your mind.

But in the long run? Just ask yourself this: When have Wal-Mart, Wall Street tycoons and billionaires ever been interested in spending money on the poorer classes of this country…except when it leads to greater class exploitation and increased profits for themselves?

 

 

 

 

Shameless

24 Mar

I’m always receiving lots of junk Email in my inbox. Probably you do too. Most of it goes straight to my spam folder but every once in a while some slip through to my inbox and that’s mostly because every once in a while I can’t help but open one up just to see what it says. I’m sure that sets off an alarm in my browser that tells the internet police, “Hey! This guy will read anything! Send him more!”

Today I couldn’t help but be intrigued by this one titled: Background Checks: Find Out Your Parents’ Past Crimes!

If you’re curious about your parents’ past crimes, it just might be time to pack up and leave the house…unless of course you feel  they’ve been cheating you on your allowance and owe you more money for the lookout work you’ve been helping them out with… or maybe you feel they’ve been moonlighting with another gang late at night after you’ve been sent to your room to do your homework.

Here was another Email with the heading: Shameless Liars and Thieves!

It was from a Republican newsletter and after I opened it, it immediately identified the shameless liars and thieves as…the government. (As if I didn’t already know) but what had they done this time? Apparently our government has been withholding the secret to a cure for cancer for over 85 years! (I guess that means Republicans have been in on in too!)

Anyway, the short memo, as it’s called, goes on and on and on and explains that the good Dr. Al Sears knows the cure for cancer, aging, obesity, arthritis, depression, Alzheimer’s, and even graying hair! In fact he knows the cure for everything! All you have to do is purchase his newsletter and buy and read his 5 volume set about how to cure everything. And somehow the government can no longer stop him! Hooray for the internet! Hooray!

Of course, as any English teacher can tell you, always read to the end before answering any questions or filling out any forms because if you scroll down to the very end of this rag sheet you’ll find this disclaimer:

* These statements have not been evaluated by the Food and Drug Administration.
This product is not intended to diagnose, treat, cure, or prevent any disease.

Well, I suppose you’ve got to give them some credit. After all, they did put the words Shameless Liars and Thieves right there in the title to their Email. You just had to read to the end to find out that they were talking about themselves…

Now, If only someone could find a cure for people who behave like that!…or is it being kept a secret?

Are You a Welfare Queen?

13 Mar

Do you live in a community that has received federal aid as part of a recovery from a natural disaster like a hurricane, flood or tornado? Have you ever participated in a job training program? Have you, your spouse or child ever received an education grant, like a Pell Grant as part of a student college loan? Did your child ever attend a Head Start for pre-schoolers program?  Was money ever spent on your behalf to enforce child support orders? Did you partake in a program that helped to improve your teachers’ skills? Have you been involved in any screening programs to detect breast and cervical cancer in you community? Has anyone in your family ever attended a college or university that received federal money as part of a program to strengthen their management and fiscal operations? Did you work for Americorps- which trains and places teachers in low income communities? Or do you live in a community that has received federal assistance in upgrading their water and sewage systems? Maybe you take a child tax credit or earned income credit on your tax return. Does your elderly parent or perhaps you, if you are a senior citizen, receive housing assistance?

Well then, according to the Republican party members in Congress, operating conservative think tanks and Fox news, you’re on Welfare!

Because, When so called conservatives lump all of these programs together and call them welfare and then calculate how much money is being spent on these programs and then divide that number by only those folks who are living under the poverty line, they come up with a whopping total of $61,320 spent by the federal government on welfare recipients, which is 168 dollars per day which means that people on welfare are making 21 dollars an hour per day, everyday, even on Saturday and Sunday, to sit around and do nothing! That’s 11,000 dollars more than the average middle class family earns in America! Aren’t you outraged?????

And then when you consider that President Obama himself is writing these checks, and licking the envelopes and stamps and then mailing them out to all of these welfare recipients (all of whom he knows personally… because they used to go to school together) (or rather skipped school and smoked marijuana together) Then aren’t you doubly outraged!!!

It’s no wonder the good old USA is going to hell in a hand basket. You work hard every day and pay taxes and yet no good lazy bums are lounging around all day with 61,000 dollars and change in their pockets doing nothing. And they get free healthcare too! Don’t forget that! All in all, when you consider all of the extra perks, besides the welfare checks, these good for nothing poor folks are making upwards of $80,000 and using food stamps to buy lobster and fresh fish and organic foods!

Aren’t you mad? Didn’t you get the Email about this? Didn’t you hear the Congressmen and Senators rage on TV about this inequality? Didn’t you see every single Fox News program air this story over and over again? Didn’t you notice the pretty blonde lady who occupies the conservative pundit’s chair on every day time talk show practically break down in tears over how her country is falling apart because of these entitlement programs for the undeserving poor?

I know that I certainly am appalled! I just want to know why all of these poor welfare recipients continue to live in squalor and degradation in some of the saddest inner cities the world has ever known, when they are each making over $80,000 per year in cash and prizes?! For goodness sakes, four of them put together have over a 1/4 of a million dollars at their disposal! Why are so many of them homeless and refusing to live in decent and safe housing?

I just don’t get it. Why do the poor live like they don’t have any money when they apparently have all of it? Why haven’t they moved into my neighborhood…or yours? They could all afford a nice townhouse in the pretty blonde lady’s co-op couldn’t they…or live in the high rise next to that middle aged guy with the rolled up sleeves, suspenders and bow tie, who gets red in the face and practically faints from apoplexy each night while commenting on TV about how entitled these poor people are?

According to Republicans We spend 1 trillion dollars on the poor each year, more than we spend on Social Security, Medicare and National Defense…put together! And all of it spent just so that the President’s lazy friends can pretend they are poor, sit around all day, pay no taxes, eat lobster and smoke crack in a whore house!

And if you believe all that…Then I just may have another tax break for the rich, and a food stamp cut for the poor, that I can sell you!

Moral of the story?: Stay in school, don’t believe everything anyone tells you, fact check and learn how to do math. The result is that a lot of Americans are woefully misinformed about what we spend on anti-poverty programs, and what those programs look like. Traditional welfare, now known as Temporary Assistance for Needy Families, costs the federal government just $16.5 billion (out of a 3.6 Trillion dollar budget)In the real world we spend about $25 per day on the needy or about $753 per month for each lower income American (persons in the lowest income-third of the population) and NOT the $61,320++, per year that Republicans and conservative pundits claim.

Guns Are Just Plain Bad For Business

24 Feb

 

Here’s another bit of anecdotal evidence concerning the gun control debate in the USA. Should we really have more guns or fewer guns? Which would make us safer? Well, if you want to ask the real experts just consider what happened when Toby Keith’s “I Love This Bar & Grill” opened in mid-December in Woodbridge, Va., outside Washington, D.C..

It seems that even though Virginia’s gun laws permit firearms in dining establishments Mr. Keith’s bar and grill has instituted a no-guns policy, which has caused some would-be customers to say that they won’t patronize the restaurant, and the restaurant’s Facebook page has drawn thousands of comments on the decision. One post announced, “If I have to be a defenseless victim to go there, NO WAY!” And another post added, “No guns allowed? Why does he [Toby Keith] hate America so much?

To be fair, other posts supported the decision to make Mr. Keith’s restaurant a “gun free” zone. And in fact although Virginia’s laws allow the carrying of weapons out in the open as well as concealed firearm permits, Carrying a concealed weapon and consuming alcohol in the state of Virginia is a Class 2 misdemeanor. So go figure. Bringing your gun into a bar pretty much means that you’re asking for trouble.

But more importantly, if you continue reading about why Mr. Keith decided not to allow guns in his restaurant, even though the good citizens of Virginia are allowed by law to bring them there, you will find that his spokespeople cited “insurance regulations” as the main reason for their decision…

And that’s really all you need to know, because insurance companies are in the business of making money (and you thought it was insurance) and as such they really, really, really hate having to pay out on any insurance claims…ever… And since statistics and mathematics and actuary tables figure quite prominently into how insurance companies decide on the probability of the company having to pay out on a claim to one of their insured, they know that nothing says trouble like a person carrying a gun.

Statistics tell us beyond any doubt that if a person carries a gun he or she is much more likely to shoot someone or get shot than a person who doesn’t carry a gun. And that means someone is going to get hurt, and that means someone is going to get sued, and that means that an insurance company is going to have to pay money to someone somewhere and that is bad! Forget about the fact that people are going to die or get hurt. If it means that an insurance company has to pay out on a claim, then 2nd amendment rights be damned! No guns!

Because guns ARE dangerous. And more guns DOES equal more violence…not less. It’s in the numbers and the statistics and any insurance company knows that. Virginia is 17th in the U.S.when it comes to gun violence and Mr. Keith’s restaurant is located outside Washington D.C. which is #1 in gun violence! So what would you expect at a bar where everyone might decide to bring a gun and then have a few drinks? Détente?…because everyone is armed? Then you’re no insurance company. They do their research and that is why Toby Keith’s place will be gun free.

Besides, if you do some research of your own about the “wild west” of days gone by, and check on the strategies of some of the most famous lawmen of that time, like Wyatt Earp, you’ll discover that when they were hired by distraught boom-town officials who wanted to stem the violence that was plaguing their citizens and townsfolk, The very first law enacted was always, “No Guns within town limits!” Wyatt Earp and his contemporaries didn’t hand out guns to make towns safer. They took away the guns! They made their towns “gun free zones”.

And it worked great. That’s why the west isn’t wild anymore. It’s such a simple concept that the very idea that we are even having a debate in this country over whether we should have more guns or fewer guns is proof positive that we have all gone stark raving mad! Oh, and by the way, did you notice while reading this article that our nation’s capital is the most dangerous place in our nation?! Imagine what other countries must think? We have all of the nuclear weapons! Who among us in the USA would advocate for giving all of the other countries some of our nukes so that the world would then be a safer place in which to live?

I guess maybe the other countries would…but would that make all of us safer?

The lesson of Toby Keith’s bar and grill is: If only we loved each other like we love our money…any insurance company could tell you how that would work out…

Is Justice in America, Blind, Deaf or Dumb?

23 Feb

In 2012, A 47 year old Florida resident who carried a concealed weapons permit, along with a concealed weapon, sat in his car at a Jacksonville convenience store when 4 teenagers pulled in next to him with their rap music blaring from their car stereo. The man complained about the loud music to the teenagers and asked them to turn it down. One of the teenagers argued with the man and angry words were exchanged. The Floridian said that he felt threatened because he thought that he saw a weapon pointed at him from inside the other car so he pulled out his gun and fired 10 shots into the SUV, killing one of the teenagers.

2 years later the man was brought to trial on 1st degree murder charges and after listening to the evidence and witnesses a jury of Floridians deliberated for 30 hours over 4 days and decided that the shooter was guilty…of ATTEMPTED murder! Even though he had shot and killed a 17 year old boy, attempted murder was all they could agree upon.

And even though there was no weapon found in the SUV and even though the jurors still had the option of finding the defendant guilty of second degree murder or manslaughter, with Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law in effect, the jurors decided that they couldn’t decide if the shooter was acting in self defense or not…after all he did testify that he “felt threatened.”

Wow! So, I guess it was a good thing that there were other potential victims in the SUV that he was able to attempt to murder because otherwise he would have gone home a free man…apparently in Florida the teenager that was killed doesn’t count as actually being hit with the bullet just because he happened to be shot to death.

And this is what we get with more guns owned by more people who are given more rights to carry them around with additional rights to defend themselves whenever they see fit to do so. Which is exactly what our Founding Father’s hoped for the future of flintlock wielding American militiamen, and their targets, when they composed the Second Amendment…isn’t it?

Still I know there are gun advocates everywhere who believe that more citizens carrying concealed weapons make for a safer world. But what we are seeing rather, is a world of aggravated, angry and now armed citizens who still do not feel really safe unless they shoot first and ask questions later. Why wait for the intruder to break into your house when you can go outside and stalk him first?

So citizens beware! From now on when you travel from state to state check the laws of that land because these United States are fast becoming 50 autonomous territories free to set their own interpretations of the 2nd Amendment into the pages of their own separate but equal law books. And if while traveling, you happen across an angry citizen of that free state, who tells you to turn down your music or put away your annoying cell phone or take off your hat or pull down your hooded sweatshirt or to just stop looking so suspicious, you’d better say, “yes sir!” or “No Ma’am!” or “Excuse me. I didn’t know that I was bothering you. May I please be excused?” And for god sakes smile, and raise your hands…but not too fast…palms open…and avert your eyes perhaps…anything you can think of to look non-threatening and friendly and subservient will do… I guess…

Otherwise you might wind up dead! Shot by a fellow U.S. citizen with their legally concealed weapon.

Unless of course a convoluted law and a confused jury say that you weren’t.

 

 

 

 

Afghanicare?

12 Feb

According to the Harvard University’s Kennedy School of Government 2013 report…The Iraq and Afghanistan conflicts, will be the most expensive wars in US history—together totaling somewhere between 4 trillion and 6 trillion dollars. This includes long-term medical care and disability compensation for service members, veterans and families, military replenishment and social and economic costs. The largest portion of that bill is yet to be paid.”

That’s 4-6 trillion dollars for 2 wars that President Bush said would cost between 100-200 billion dollars, one of which would pay for itself with Iraqi oil revenues. Boy was he ever wrong!

But forget about that because here we sit in 2014 with Republicans up in arms over the Affordable Care Act and still trying to do their darnedest to repeal it or nay-say it because they say it will be too costly for the American public to sustain… but when it comes to a  4-6 trillion dollar boondoggle designed to destroy American lives, foreign countries and hundreds of thousands of innocent Iraqi and Afghan citizens where is their public outcry? Or anyone else’s for that matter?

And now consider the fact that (by conservative estimates) we now spend 4 billion dollars each month in Afghanistan! That’s around 50 billion dollars per year spent in a country that has a GDP of 20 billion dollars! And then when you subtract the amount of money included in their GDP that comes from opium production and foreign aid (mostly ours) Afghanistan is pretty much worthless! (at least to us)

So we pump 50 billion dollars per year into a giant sink hole that is all set to revert back to the exact conditions we found it in, once we pull out in 2015, but we pull our hair and clench our fists and tie ourselves up in knots over whether or not we can afford to spend some money on each others healthcare…and no matter how much we spend it’s going to be money spent by Americans, on Americans, in America to make certain other American’s richer.

Boy is that a bad idea, huh?

Why feed Americans or house Americans or heal Americans or fix American cities when we can blow a hole in a foreign country and dump all of our money into the big black pit that we’re just going to leave behind anyway? Like we always do…

There must be an answer…right?

Anyone?

Give Peace a Chance?

7 Feb

 

Here is a very alarming statistic!

There are over 200,000 inmates in America’s prisons who are veterans.

That’s 14% of the U.S. prison population!

Which means that 1 out of every 7 American citizens who is incarcerated today, once served our country by participating in its armed forces.

And when you consider that:

Nationwide, 900,000 veterans live in households that rely on SNAP to provide food for their families.

57,849 veterans are homeless on any given night, according to the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

An investigation by the Department of Veteran Affairs concludes that Almost once an hour a military veteran commits suicide. That’s over 8,000 suicides every year.

And consider that government programs for food stamps, housing and mental health have all recently been cut.

Then…

When our nation’s young soldiers are recruited and advertised as heroic unselfish patriots fighting for national freedoms and yet later as veterans, treated as though they were worn out, discarded and forgotten appliances who can no longer be of any marketing value, then something is seriously wrong with what it is that we all think we, or rather our soldiers, are fighting for.

If the costs of waging war are so great that the costs of healing the wounded are considered too burdensome then it’s time to recognize the fact that war isn’t our most serious nor our most pressing problem.

Isn’t it?

Building a Better Tomorrow

31 Jan

Virtual sunlight: The LED screen shows the rising sun in Tiananmen Square which is shrouded with heavy smog on January 16, 2014 in Beijing, China. Beijing Municipal Government issued a yellow smog alert this morning

In West Virginia, investigators are still trying to figure out how 7,500 gallons of a chemical used to clean coal leaked from a storage facility into the Elk River, leaving 300 thousand people without potable water for several days.

Yes, I did just write “a chemical used to clean coal.” Funny, according to our government and the media, I thought we were mining “clean” coal! How did coal ever get so dirty that it now needs to be cleaned? Go figure!

 

Anyway, The spill is the third major chemical accident in the region in the last five years. How many minor chemical spills there have been is still a mystery…just like clean coal I guess, but companies that pollute state waters are rarely fined and most industrial facilities are rarely inspected. I believe that this particular company was last inspected in the 1990′s so how much could they have screwed up since then? I’m sure that where you work not once being inspected or evaluated or observed by your boss over the last 20 or so years would little affect your job performance…am I correct?

And get this…The federal government’s  main law regulating chemicals, the Toxic Substances Control Act of 1976, does not require manufacturers to show that their products are safe before they can be used, instead the law places the burden of proof on the Environmental Protection Agency. The result is that the E.P.A. has only tested around 200 of over 85,000 chemicals in use today..and you thought that after they killed Jaws it was safe to go back into the water.

But still there are many among us who cry out that government is too big and too restrictive and that we have too many regulations that keep companies and corporations from being profitable and making a decent living so they can provide jobs to our citizens. And now that corporations are people too you’d think that they might be held a little bit more accountable for the destruction they reign upon our environment and our citizens.

Try poisoning 7,500 gallons of coffee at work tomorrow and see if you get in any trouble. I bet there’s a regulation against your doing that. That’s just bad big government trying to spoil your productivity.

So what’s the big deal anyway? Most of us don’t live in West Virginia or in other polluted places where, well…people just don’t live…but the more we deregulate and the smaller and smaller and less responsive we let our government become the harder it is to stand up against large unregulated corporations and the harder it will become to find nice clean places to live…

Just get a load of China where just about everyone else lives, or at least 1 in every 6 of us, and there they have learned how to live with big unregulated corporations that help their economy to grow and grow while their environment coughs, wheezes and rubs its eyes. There as this season’s first wave of toxic smog rolled into their cities they put on their “air” masks (nice new name for a gas mask, huh?) and went outside to watch the sunrise…on television!

Yes, there the political leaders know just what the people need and want from their giant corporate fed government to help deliver them from rules, regulations and taxation as they all move forward into their bright bright future…

It’s certainly not bigger government that the people want… The people want BIGGER TVs!

Plans?

29 Jan

If you watched the Republican rebuttal to the President of the United States’ State of the Union speech tonight, could you please tell me what the Republican plans and solutions to our nation’s troubles are? The speaker kept talking about them but all I could discern from her speech was that every American should have a dollar, a dream and the blessing of God and that should suffice to help them obtain a successful future, just like the one she is enjoying.

Did I miss anything?

If you heard any specific, concrete and/or alternate Republican party plans or solutions for what ails Americans please let me know what they are in the comments section of this blog post. I’d hate to think that I missed something…

Thank you. I would appreciate it.

Get Out the Vote?

19 Jan

There are 118 electoral democracies in the world and all but 11 of them guarantee their citizens the “right to vote” within their nation’s constitution.

In 2005 the United States helped Iraq to write its new constitution which included the declaration that Iraqi citizens, both men and women, would have the right to vote. And now in Afghanistan thanks to the U.S. all citizens are also guaranteed the right to elect and be elected. When the U.S. army occupied Japan after World War II we helped them to write a constitution guaranteeing “Universal adult suffrage” and in Germany after that same war the new German constitution was written to include the phrase, “Any person who has attained the age of 18 shall be entitled to vote.”

By now you probably know where I am going with this…

Amazingly, The United States, is one of those 11 democracies that does not guarantee its citizens the right to vote within its own constitution. When the country was founded, the U.S. Constitution did not define who could vote and only non-Negro men with real property or sufficient wealth for taxation were permitted to vote. Since then several amendments have been ratified which have extended the right to vote to additional groups of U.S. citizens but ironically the United States, while always helping and encouraging new democracies to include the guaranteed right to vote for all citizens in their constitutions, has never adopted an amendment that afforded such a right to its own.

So what’s the big deal? Why doesn’t the United States have a constitutional amendment simply and explicitly guaranteeing all of its citizens the right to vote? Was this a right that our forefathers simply overlooked or was there method in their mistake by accidentally on purpose creating an escape clause that might come in handy someday when say a Congressman’s approval rate was at 12 percent while at the same time their reelection rate was over 90 percent?

How are those statistics in any way shape or form indicative of a democratic and representative form of government?

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court recently struck down several measures outlined in the Voting Rights Act of 1965, (an act of Congress that at least helped to strengthen and further define U.S. citizen’s rights to vote) freeing states to change their election laws without advance federal approval and effectively allowing individual states to decide what kind of voting rights citizens will and will not have and thus making it even easier for Congressmen to maintain and retain the lifestyles that they have become so accustomed to without having to worry about whether or not the will of the people, whom they are supposedly representing, is being served, let alone being heard.

Thank you Supreme Court! Whose side are you on? These are the same folks who declared corporations people…so I guess they’ve made it pretty clear.

And that leaves only one branch of the government left who might still be on our side: The president…. But in 2000, The Supreme Court stated in Bush v. Gore. “The individual citizen has no federal constitutional right to vote for electors for the President of the United States unless and until the state legislature chooses a statewide election as the means to implement its power to appoint members of the Electoral College.”

And what does that mean?

In the United States of America, a citizen’s right to vote is a privilege… which according to Merriam-Webster is: a right or benefit that is given to some people and not to others… and that is simply not right at all. So enjoy it, if you can, while you can, because if 90% of us don’t like the jobs our politicians are doing but 90% of us keep voting them back in then this is a privilege that apparently none of us even deserve!

 

 

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