Saturday, August 11, 2012

Occupying the Pizza Guy’s TP Rally


Occupy Reno showed up at end of AFP (Americans for Prosperity Plutocracy) rally on July 23 featuring guest speaker Herman Pizza Man Cain. Occupiers saw the event as an opportunity to protest the addiction to big money in politics. AFP is one of these wonderful new Super PACs with gobs of 1% money, in particular that of the Koch brothers. So many of our homemade signs were plays on themes around the names Koch and Cain, if you will.

Historically, I think the significance of this event is the marking of the first time that significant numbers of TPs and Occupiers met face to face in Reno. None knew what to expect but I think those who have the skills to critically evaluate will look back and realize there was a spark of energy from crossing charges between our two terminal posts. Although the jolt initially may have made us all step back, the memory of the shock lingers.

When we arrived many of the Tea Party (TP) types simply hurled insults and walked quickly away instead of having the courage of their convictions to stand their ground and engage in dialogue. One long haired guy who approached us looked totally out of place. He wore a tied dyed shirt and his buddy work one featuring the Communist Party hammer and sickle. Tie Dye told me my sign which featured the term “plutocracy” was ineffective: “You need to dumb it down a bit for this crowd,” he said.

One loud mouth radio DJ came over and yelled about being insulted by a sign referred to Cain as a Koch Whore. Seriously, most of us were also surprised by the sign, but thought it was pretty clever. And obviously provocative. So Mr. DJ in his shiny brown suit pulled out his camera and tried to interrogate us loudly about offending him as a large crowd of TPs looked over his shoulder. Really had the mob mentality. The courageous young man carrying the sign took the top of a small knoll beside the street and held his ground.

After a few minutes of watching the dynamics several of us closed ranks around him and took some of the heat off of him. We used a “diversity of tactics” from the standpoint of speaking/communicating styles to reach various ones in the group and to try to break off into dialogues. If you challenged him back his TP chorus start yelling defending him stating he was an American, and you know where that was supposed to turn. But I wasn’t going there with this unruly mob. So I told my comrade not to be concerned with this angry man with his shiny shoes and suit. Then the loud mouthed DJ turned his anger at me asking me why I didn’t like his suit. I told him what was wrong with it from an aesthetic point of view, but he tried to insinuate that I didn’t like suits, which is partly true, but again, they were trying to transition to one of their pro-business talking points.

My problem was the quality of his suit made him look like a slick used car salesman and a Koch "whore" should be able to do better, but obviously his pimp is not paying him well enough. But I didn’t get to make the “kill” point because one of my loving fellow Occupiers, speaking in caring, nurturing motherly tones, pointed out that I was a professional too and wore suits. Darn it, why did she have to “out” me? Eventually most of the TPs left once the two sides were no longer yelling. I thought transforming the conversation to clothing would help diffuse the anger and it had. But it was done in Occupier fashion, no one led, we held our group in solidarity.

Finally most of the TP freeloaders left with their bellies full of free Koch $ food, carrying their AFP/Koch swag. We were life with a group who were finally willing to engage in reasonable dialogue for the most part, although from time to time someone would invoke some crazy Faux news version of the fax. For example one told me matter of fact that Obama had been living off his Grandmother’s fortune for years. “You mean when he was growing up,” I asked. “No, until quite recently.” I told the man Obama’s grandmother was dead. He told me that Obama had two grandmothers and he was talking about the one who was American. I repeated she was dead. He said she left an immense estate. It was all in his book. I told him I had read both his books and it didn’t say that. He said he had the info in his care, and all of the sudden it felt really creepy, and I walked away.

Conclusions: It was clear from our experience that the TPs have way more crazy hangers on than Occupiers do (although admittedly we have had a few over the last several months). But we really did enjoy the opportunity to engaged the few who were willing to dialogue rationally with us. We know we share a lot of views regarding our inherent distrust with big government and governmental overreach, although we part ways regarding several key issues including the role of money and what parts of the government coffers should be cut.

Those who showed up to admire a pizza mogol and to get free stuff told us they think that money is free speech and the more the merrier. Occupiers will never share that mindset. Had we known there was free food we would have transported a bunch of homeless folks to the party. I think it would have been harder for the TPs to argue with us about minimum wage, which they want to eliminate, with hungry homeless people hanging around. One argued, why not send jobs overseas if you can get the job done for $1/hour? Their America is so self serving. 

Then I saw the AFP Koch staff packing up boxes and boxes of their free T shirts as they head for Winnemucca. We were still engaged with TPs while they licked their ice cream cones, it was hard to relate to the fact that they don’t know (or is it care?) that there are thousands of homeless people in our area. Occupy Reno is spending our spare hours feed hungry people and shopping thrift stores for blankets because it gets cold at night in Northern Nevada, even in the summer. I asked one about the t-shirts and he asked me if I thought it was a zero sum game. I didn’t really know what to say, because I realized he was now engaged in self gratifying dialogue, not the objective to help Americans, but rationalizing their actions and inactions to help themselves and their own addictions.

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Give Me Liberty or Give Me Car Insurance

Ever hear someone compare health insurance to car insurance? Why should we pay for health insurance to see a doctor when we don't have to pay insurance to see a mechanic?

I can think of only two similarities between health insurance and car insurance: 1) Americans will soon be required to buy some form of both of these so-called insurance types; and 2) In both cases insurance executives will be the primary beneficiaries of this gambling strategy known as "insurance"  which, like all gambling, is calculated to benefit the "house" in the short and long run.

This is where where auto and human insurance/coverage part ways. In most states people are only required to buy collision insurance for their vehicles; everything else is optional. If their care suffers from lack of care, at some point it will eventually simply die.

When people show up at the ER who cannot afford to pay, they expect someone will still take care of them without insurance. Ultimately it is the taxpayers who pay the bill. Theoretically the so-called "Affordable Care Act" is supposed to eventually take up the slack by putting everyone in the pay pool so that tax payers don't have the burden. But that won't happen until 2015 and when it does in reality it will only be another corporate payout to the 1%.

Rich people, including most members of Congress resent having to pay taxes to take care of others, which is ironic because most don't even pay their fair share of taxes (ca. 15-25% vs. 25-35% for average Americans).

Freeloading Tea Party members who now equate their "right" to not pay for healthcare with their liberty sure as heck aren't going to pay for coverage it if they can help it. They are standing of the steps of the Supreme Court to make that statement.

It is the moderates and progressives who willingly pay more taxes to provide services for the needy, but it is the poor that carry the burden of paying these taxes expenses disproportionately, especially if you live in a regressive state such as Nevada.

And any gains from the increases in health costs, like all income, 93% will likely go to the 1%. And the top CEOs in the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries make tens of millions in annual salaries. And then they buy off our government officials with the bribes we call campaign donations. That is the dirty secret about why our healthcare costs are out of control and our coverage is getting worse each year. What I don't understand is why the process of paying the middlemen in health care is called insurance; in most cases we are simply paying for access.

Back to the original question, why is it that we are not required to pay for a mechanic? Because truthfully nobody cares if you drive a beater, so long as you don't harm anyone else in the process. The collision insurance is to pay for the expense of hitting someone else with your vehicle, which would cause them financial and possibly bodily harm. In "health insurance" the harm can come from making someone else pick up the bill through an ER visit. That's the collision that can cause someone else financial harm.
So here is what I propose. We stop requiring any type of health insurance" other than emergency room visits and we call that catastrophic insurance, because we know if you pay half of what they charge for a typical visit to the E.R. it will be catastrophic to your checkbook. 

Set up coop exchanges (WITHOUT THE INSURANCE MIDDLEMEN) which can negotiate with doctors and clinics for office visits, lab tests, and minor procedures perhaps even major procedures).  And the government could help us set these up through oversight without actually paying for it. Shhhh, the government already does this through the existing Medicare process, as workers we could "buy" into the plan until we hit retirement age. I would be more than willing to pay for my share of this cost. Ultimately I would like Americans to receive a Medicare card when they are born and to pay into the plan when they are working, but that would be too Socialistic I guess, especially when the system is awash with dirty money to control what people think about this issue.


There are so many models to use to compare health care in the world  but no matter how you cut it, we Americans are getting significantly less bang for our buck than any other industrialized nation, and the price is skyrocketing relative to the rest of the world. To understand why it is getting worse you simply have to follow the money.

Am I grateful that President Obama spearheaded a revision of health care in our country? Of course! But we didn't get the universal health care, let alone the single payer plan, that so many of us fought for. Instead we got this "Affordable Care Act" which I think should have been called the "Health Coverage Act" because it obligates everyone to get health coverage. It is difficult now to see a doctor or use a health care facility without this coverage and more people are eligible for coverage than ever before. But, in my opinion, it is NOT insurance nor is it affordable care. It is coverage for the 1%, so that no matter who you are the 1% get their payday.

P.S. My car recently passed its smog check; I wish my labs were as good. But who has the money to see a doctor? My current deductible is $1950 (up from $500 a few years ago) and a payment of $125 just to see my doctor (compared with $20 co-pay last year) and don't get me started on recommended lab tests. Like many Americans, I am shopping around and  finding I pay for tests and procedures "out of plan" with good old fashioned cash. Rumor has it our Public Benefit Employment Plan managed has earned over $30 million in "excess saving" over the last year since they spiked our deductibles and many of us no longer use our so-called health insurance. Don't worry, the CEOs of the health unsurance "providers" and big pharma and the hospitals still get their cut.  Hurray for the money.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Too Much to Ask?

Returning from a rally on our state capital on President’s Day, I wrote on my Facebook page: Americans join the worldwide struggle to push back again rich, corrupt government officials in the pockets of multinational corporations. We demand the right to free speech, the right to assemble and the right to fair compensation for our work. We stand for the right of every American to achieve the American Dream. We stand for our heritage and America's destiny. We are not afraid any more.

To my surprise, my Colorado cousin (a stock broker) responded: What tripe, public workers whose incomes come from taxes should not be unionized, much less have the ability to strike. That is what those of us in private industry are doing-striking against paying more to the public unions and being their ...hostages. Solidarity against public unionism!! And then a Texas cousin (a nurse) “liked” what he said.

I wrote to her: … last I checked you are in a public sector field. If you don't want to earn a decent wage, that's your decision, but please don't deny us the right to earn one.

And she responded: No, maam (that’s Texan for “kiss my grits”), not everything in the medical/nursing field is considered to be 'public sector' related; I am an independent contract nurse & I also have a no-brainer job @ ***--I am dependent on no one but me.....totally agree with (our cousin) here!!

Well I guess the saving grace is that she said “here” meaning she is not lock step behind him. But my cousin is a nurse who is apparently anti-working class people, who doesn’t recognize her ties to the public sector, and who doesn’t realize these folks in the rallies across this country are her peeps?

I got on my high horse and retorted: Well lucky you, I guess, if you think you got to where you are entirely on your own without any help. I kind of think you have forgotten all the people who support from the public sector along the way, maybe you are an island.

So perhaps I am on a different side from my cousins in this current civil war. I am an educator by choice. I was in the private sector as a research scientist focused on the archaeology of Western North American and reconstructing historical landscapes using archaeological plant remains and historical records. But somewhere along the way I decided that educating the nation's next generation was more important than my scientific research about our past. The last 15 years of my career have been tied to idea that our country (and especially my state of Nevada) needs a quality educational system.

If memory serves me both of these cousins went to public schools most of their lives, just like most Americans do. None of us were born with a silver spoon in our mouths. We were all raised with Republicans in our homes some aspiring to be the upper elite. But I don’t think any of us quite made it there. Our generation is well educated; most of us have masters degrees. I believe I am the only one with a doctorate, but still, we are overall a professional bunch of people who live good lives. And I think all the next generation have made it to college or are college bound. So that makes us an exception for American families today. And in my home state of Nevada this is extraordinary. But regardless, all of us have struggled getting our educations or getting or keeping jobs because none of us have had an “easy in” like, say George W. Bush or Mitt Romney and today none of my cousins qualifies as rich, let alone uber rich.

Now if we Americans let the uber rich lead they will gut the public school system along with all our social systems. Why do they care? They don’t need a social safety net. If need be they can fly away to an island somewhere. They truly can be island. But our country's education system and economy will continue to be in free fall.

Do you have any idea how much money the Koch brothers have? Charles and David Koch are tied for 12th richest in the United States, 49th in the world. Each has 12 billion dollars which is based on what they inherited from their father who made his fortune in the oil industry. My cousins have nothing in common with them except our family was also tied to the oil industry. But somehow these two cousins acquired a disregard for the common American that I don’t understand.

When did my cousins become hegemonic in their support of the rich at the expense of the rest of us? I understand this is the culture of Wall Street and so I can fathom this mindset coming from my stock broker cousin, even though his sister has been liberal all of her life. But the Texas cousin that is a nurse…how did that happen? Family legend has it that she left home and took off with some hippies (aka gypsies) in a van and traveled the country as a young free spirit. How did she come to be an apologist for the uber rich and so anti-working class?

I am not denying that some teachers unions (and other unions) have at times made unreasonable demands. But it most cases their demands have been denied. And that is the nature of negotiation. Today most examples about out of control union workers are not about teachers or nurses or laborers. They are fire fighters or police. One thing I hear is complaints about fire fighters' pensions, but last I checked the same politicians complaining about this have some pretty healthy pensions themselves.

But back to education, should we go to a private school model so that only the rich can afford a decent education in the United States? I certainly could not have afforded my education. Could you? How quick my cousins forget their roots. Our family was never rich. What we inherited was a strong work ethic.

Our patriarchical grandfather was Republican and worked his way up the ranks in an oil company from mail room clerk to Vice President. He never went to college. He taught himself law and my grandmother quizzed him at night until he was able to pass the bar. And he was permitted to practice law before the U.S. Supreme Court in the matter known in history books as the Tea Pot Dome scandal. But that’s another story. My memory is that he was more of a Goldwater conservative which meant fiscally conservative.

I doubt our grandfather would have endorsed the great giveaways for the uber rich any more than I do. I do know that he was a giver and that he cared a great deal about other people and the planet earth and he did a great deal of good things in his life. He was in touch with his roots and he danced with our Cherokee cousins in Oklahoma and he is now with our ancestors. He was not only in it for the money. He never got rich even by his time period standards. He lived in a decent middle class home with three bedrooms and one full bath and 2 half baths. He was a good provider for his family and he cared about his friends. He was well respected in his circle and he revered nature as my father did and my brother and I were taught to do.

Because of the downturn in the oil industry in the 1960s about the time the old man Koch died, my father moved our branch of the family to Nevada so that my father, a petroleum engineer could work at the Nevada Test Site as a drilling engineer. When the test site shut down a few years later we really struggled. My father, as a professional engineer, had great difficulty getting a job because there was downturn in oil, nuclear testing and the space research, the three major industries that employed engineers at that time. I watched fathers of my friends die from heart attacks and suicides as Southern Nevada’s economy slumped.

My father felt he could not apply for unemployment because many private sectors people would look down on him and possibly not hire him if he did. My mother, who had a BS in education who was a stay at home Mom, got a job as a temp secretary, and then another. My brother and I got jobs in high school and we got by. I went to college, first at UNLV, then at SJSU. I worked my way through and from my sophomore year I began to get jobs in archaeology and I took out student loans.

While my father was unemployed in the 1970s he learned that the government was developing regulations for the new field of geothermal energy and my father began writing pages and pages of single-spaced highly technical recommendations and sending them off to be incorporated into to the new regulations.

When the U.S.G.S. had an opening for a professional engineer to help oversee geothermal leases, my father applied, they remember his contributions to the regulations, and he was hired. He retired from that job perhaps 20 years later. With some struggle he began as the son of a successful oil executive and ended up a regulator in the public sector.

Now I live in the state of Nevada where my father’s career was transformed. Today Nevada has one of the worst education systems in the country; we rank 47th in funding. Our tax rate is one of the best for business and yet businesses won't come here because we lack a skilled workforce. We need to turn this around. We have been in the process of doing just that through accountability. But what does our governor want to do? He wants to give public sector employees another pay cut.

Teachers and college faculty members who are young enough or otherwise not invested in our state are fleeing. This will not help us. As the state cuts our health and retirement benefits, teachers, college faculty and other public sector employees near retirement are saying they cannot afford to retire. This will not help our state either.

Our situation in Nevada is not unique to our state, that’s why we stand up with working class people in Wisconsin and every else in the U.S. and the world. But in Nevada we are in an especially poor situation because for too long we have relied upon the kindness of strangers by depending upon gaming and tourism for revenues instead of creating a more sustainable revenue stream. Historically Nevada has had a Boom and Bust economy and right now we are busted.

Nevadans cannot expect to continue to cut pay and benefits for teachers and college faculty and expect to get out of this hole we have dug. We need to continue in making our education systems more accountable and to find a ways to emphasize the importance of having a good education to our young people. This will come by highlighting success stories, rewarding good teachers and innovators, not by demonizing us. I am a good teacher, perhaps not a great one, but I work very hard. And every semester I turn people’s lives around. They tell me this and I can see it is their skill level. I can see it in their achievements.

I don’t understand why anyone would want to take money away from me simply because I am an educator. Our economy is in disrepair, and as an educator I am working very hard to help fix our schools and to help improve our future. Why should anyone want to balance the budget on my back? A decent wage for a decent day’s work--is that too much to ask?

Friday, October 22, 2010

Juan Williams and His Foxy Friends

The cancelation of Juan Williams’ contract was handled poorly by NPR and by Williams. Over the years I have grown to respect Williams as an objective professional journalist. But recently I have witnessed a transformation, perhaps in part due to his camaraderie with Fox and friends. Williams now follows the money and gets a huge pay raise as he smoothly transitions to Fox. I find myself wondering if Williams could have pushed the envelope a bit. Last week his close colleague Bill O'Reilly made hay out of his own bigoted remarks on "The View". Fox made no apologies for O’Reilly. Instead, Fox and friends have capitalized on the event, as they characteristically do when anyone pushes back at their subjective views. Subjectivity has no place in professional journalism. Subjective media outlets on the left and right are now aggressively usurping the role of objective journalism nationwide. This is causing serious injury to our democratic processes and the very fabric of our American society. NPR and PBS are two of the last sources in our country for objective reporting and critical analysis. We can’t afford to lose either one. Let's hope NPR can learn from their personnel mistakes and we can all put this issue to rest.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

On the Dole and Taking from the Rove

If you check politifact, Harry Reid gets a C for telling half truths, but Sharron Angle gets a D- for making statements that are false.
http://www.politifact.com/personalities/sharron-angle/

In the debate she said she is not a career politician but a grandmother and a teacher. TRUTH: she’s unemployed and technically living on her husband’s government pension check. She has a spotty record of unemployment. According to her web page her teaching experience includes teaching art at the Elko campus of WNCC as a lecturer (5 years), and running a very small (less than 30 students) Christian school for 2 years, and she also says she was a substitute teacher for 25 years which (meaning on any given day they call you can say no). She says she’s not a career politician but she’s made a career out of running for political office. She was in the State Assembly 4 terms (1999 to 2005) where she got a reputation for voting no, and she sought and failed to get elected to U.S. Congress in 2006. After that she began running for the U.S. Senate.

As for funding, she is not being bankrolled by Nevadans, but by George Bush operatives Carl Rove and Ed Gillespi (American Crossroads.org). If you had a problem with Bush, you are in the wrong camp. A comparison of her web sites before and after the primary and the RNC makeover reveal her official positions have shifted. Some of you criticize Reid for being a career politician. But so is Angle; she is an itinerant educator at best. You criticize Reid for making deals. So has Angle; they’ve been recorded on cell phone calls. You criticize Reid for half truths, but he is more honest than she is according to fact checkers.

This is not a glowing endorsement of Reid, but a reality check on Angle. Reid has channeled over a billion dollars our way since the economic crisis began because of his clout in the Senate. Sharron will not do the same. She has a history of trying to dismantle government and voting and has all but said she not get us one thin dime from Washington. This is no time for a “throw the baby out with the bath” mindset. We need solutions that infuse our state with the resources we need to build our education system so we will have the skilled work force necessary to grow our economy. And we need tax breaks for small businesses and moratoriums on mortgage foreclosures. Harry Reid has been passing legislation to do just that. Check his web page for recent accomplishments. Angle has little to show in legislative accomplishments. While she lives on the dole and takes funds from the Rove she seeks to improve her own situation with her own federal paycheck and a “Cadillac” benefits package.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Getting Partisan Clouds Out of the Picture So We Can See Clearly

Here in Nevada, we have two big elections in November, Governor (our current governor lost in the primary) and U.S. Senator (seat currently held by Harry Reid). To make it more interesting, the Democratic candidate for governor is Harry's son Rory. For me it is not about the personalities or the political parties of Sharron Angle or Harry Reid. Like many Nevadans I don’t vote along party lines. Even if I disagree with some of their ideas I generally prefer to vote for an independent thinker who honestly thinks they are doing their best for their constituents and their country. I was hoping that Sharron was an independent thinker. But the partisan rhetoric of her supporters and her recent website makeover are of deep concern. Has Sharron drunk the Kool Aid? Will she now be told what to say and do by the RNC machine just to get their money? Sharron is taking very few local interviews, only national interviews to build her war chest and this will make her forever indebted to the political powers that got her there. That is a big problem that many of us have with Harry Reid. He has a huge war chest from the DSCC but Angle according to her web site, she reached over a million last week and is well on her way to another million this week. I doubt most of this is Nevada money but it will have a profound effect on this election.

I wish we could get the partisan politics out of the way and Americans would consistently think about our country first. Unlike what bloggers say on Angle's Facebook page, it is irresponsible to blame Nevada’s financial mess on Obama; it makes no sense to take factoids out of context and to blame this immense financial crisis on one's political enemies. This is like the Nazis blaming their failed economy on the Jews. Millions of Americans were complicit in our financial meltdown. Know anybody who was into flipping houses? Every Nevadan who faked their paperwork on a financial application, or lender or appraiser who hedged their numbers on a house loan contributed to the fiasco. It was like looters during a riot. Just because everybody was doing it didn’t make it right. Where is sense of personal accountability?

In my opinion Governor Jim Gibbons (beginning when he was a State Assemblyman) contributed to the anti-tax fervor in this state which has led to a failing state economy. Every state in the union is strapped, but most are not failing. Tax revolts were justified in states with immense tax burdens (income tax, property tax, sales tax, excise tax). Our tax base has never been a burden; now it is insufficient to support essential services. Our state’s economic numbers are the worst in the country because Nevadans have relied on the kindness of strangers to come here and give us buckets of money, pan handlers if you will. One might predict that people who have not been accountable for how they have used other people’s money would blame their national leaders for not fixing their mess fast enough, but it doesn’t wash here any better than it did in the former Soviet Union. Note that they are a “former” socialist state. No accountability for individual actions has to be factored into their demise.

As for our national unemployment numbers, read the data: http://data.bls.gov/PDQ/servlet/SurveyOutputServlet?data_tool=latest_numbers&series_id=CES0000000001&output_view=net_1mth.
The data clearly indicate that under President Bush our economy was way off the tracks, with unemployment numbers in free fall. The worst month was the month President Obama took office (1/09). Were some Americans asleep the week in September ‘08 when McCain said the economy was strong and then the following week tried to stop the campaign to go back to DC and help solve the economic crisis? Remember the bipartisan meeting with Bush, Obama and McCain and leaders in Congress and Senate at a very long table, and a series of other meetings and hearings with leaders of the FED, Secretary of Treasury Paulsen and other financial leaders? I remember grave voices, gray faces and dire predictions all the way around? Obama was cognizant of the issues and worked hard with Bush and his administration and both sides of Congress to develop strategies to put into place to save us from a Depression. McCain just sat there like a lump on a log and said nothing. That is when McCain’s campaign really crumbled. The first week of October a bipartisan Congress passed TARP, the first stimulus package backed by Bush, McCain and Obama, the Fed and most of Congress (Democrats and Republicans). But it was insufficient to stop the bleeding. President Obama was left with stark choices and had to do some things that seemed quite radical to all of us. Congress, both sides of the aisle, for the most part, held their noses and supported the stimulus package.

After wards I think Republicans realized that Obama would get credit for turning around the economy they decided to vote against everything proposed by the Democrats. They developed a strategy of defeating Democrats in the midterms no matter what the cost was to the American people. It is a well established fact that they opposed health care reform, including opposing ideas that they had initiated, even though it will save us trillions on health care in the long run. Republican leaders even spun dangerous lies, like the totally fictitious granny death panels, to kill the bill. The irony is how many grannies die from poor health care.
The deficit is due to greed and corruption throughout the banking sector and throughout America, but also it is due to financing a misled and mismanaged war policy. Recall how President Bush took his eye off the Afghan ball and lied to us about WMDs. At least one member of the VP's staff was convicted (pardoned by Bush) for betraying an American spy who could counter the lies. The majority of troops were transferred from Afghanistan to Iraq beginning at the end of March 2003. Then on May 1, 2003 Bush made his did his infamous "mission accomplished” stunt while in fact he had just committed us to two protracted war fronts which allowed the Taliban to revive their terrorist activities in Afghanistan which has cost us dearly in more American lives and money.

Remember that virtually all Democrats and Republicans voted in lock step to support the war in Iraq; Obama was one of the few who had the foresight and character to vote no to the war in Iraq. We are now paying for that profound mistake with human lives and cost overruns today. It is questionable whether Americans will have the stomach to support these protracted wars to their safe conclusions for Americans. A protracted Afghan war contributed to the downfall of the former Soviet Union. So far the war in Iraq has cost us over 4700 American lives and over $730 billion. Afghanistan so far has cost over 1900 American lives and $280 billion. We are now spending $5.5 billion month in Afghanistan to help them build their government and military and lot of it is going to warlords who do or easily could back the Taliban. We need accountability for our investment and the media and well informed citizens need us to keep our elected officials' feet to the fire. I would like to know Sharron Angle’s and Harry Reid’s positions on both of these war fronts.

Back here in Nevada, we don’t have sufficient industry in Nevada to provide a revenue stream to support our citizens. Parts of the "north valleys" of Reno/Sparks have become post apocalyptic wastelands of foreclosures and rental signs. There are “for lease” signs all over the Truckee Meadows with no new ideas in sight to help us. Blaming our financial woes on Obama is a total cop out? Our state’s numbers are the worst in the nation because of state’s panhandling economy is based on waiting for everyone else’s numbers to improve so that visitors will return to Nevada. If they don’t, our economy is in the tank. We should be sucking it up, attracting new industries to create new revenue streams, opening our minds to new technologies, and improving our skilled work force by strengthening our education system. That is the only responsible way to come out of this crisis ahead of the game.

Unfortunately, Governor Gibbons has led the way to drastically gut our education budgets. Our schools are failing. Teachers and administrators are struggling to cover the basics and candidate Brian Sandoval appears to have dusted off Gibbon's education plan and put it forward as his own: privatize schools, cut tenure, punish failing schools, empower parents to make the decisions. We’ve already “dumbed down” our exit exams through the "leave no child behind" legislation which has created an exam-based social promotion strategy that has pushed the problem down the line. As a college professor I can tell you it is easy to create an exam that all students can pass. An outrageous number of our so-called millennial scholars are entering college and placing into remedial math and English because they don’t have basic college entry level skills. In Nevada we long ago cut art, music and physical education from our K-12 curriculum. Regardless of the simplicity of the curriculum and the exit exams, Nevada is dead last in our high school graduation rate nationwide. A contributing factor is that we are number one in the nation for teenage pregnancy. So how on earth would we Nevadans benefit from having 24 year old dropouts dictating our school curriculum? We cannot attract new industries without a skilled work force.

Senator Ensign has stated there is no economic crisis in Nevada, that we should tighten our belts; how can you tell a starving man to tighten his belt? Angle has not said much of anything about economic issues until today, relying on RNC fact-free spin. Last week Sharron Angle is quoted as saying it is "not the responsibility of a U.S. Senator to create jobs" and then suddenly in the last few days she rolled out an ominous music-based ad which blames Harry Reid for our unemployment with the tag line "help is on the way." Still there is no policy statement about how she intends to bring jobs to Nevada on her web page, none whatsoever. All she mentions at all is making Bush's tax cuts for the rich permanent. Trickle-down economics dried up long ago in the heat of the Nevada desert.

Sharron Angle's Energy Issues page on her website looks like it is out of the 1980s and does not take into account any of Nevada’s natural resources or the new clean technologies that we’ve begun to develop here in Nevada over the last several years. Ever since Senator Reid has been the Senate leader he has been funneling millions of dollars to Nevada to support these new technologies. I want to think our next governor and senator will continue the push for clean energy technologies. We can’t afford another period of stagnation.

We need new ideas for revenue stream and ideas to improve education in our state to stay afloat. I am looking to candidates for governor and legislators at the state and federal level for ideas. I’ve had enough of the tired closed minded partisan politics and biased historical factoids on both sides of the aisle. We should take the good of both parties and discard the failed policies of the past. Partisan politics aside, which candidate has the best comprehensive plan to help lead Nevada and the U.S. to a more prosperous future? Check their web pages:
U.S. Senator Harry Reid (http://reid.senate.gov/)
U.S. Senate candidate Sharron Angle (http://sharronangle.com/)
Nevada Gubernatorial candidate Rory Reid (http://www.roryreid.com/
Nevada Gubernatorial Brian Sandoval (http://www.briansandoval.com/).

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Fishing for an Angler

In Nevada we have a significant senatorial election approaching. Senate Leader Harry Reid is currently about 10 points behind the Republican challenger Sharron Angle. Although this new darling of the Tea Party (and now the RNC) has been in local and state politics for over a decade and has some clear ultraconservative ideas, ever since the primary the RNC has been trying to makeover her image so she will be more palatable to the mainstream. For example, there is much ado about whether Sharron Angle is for or against ending Social Security. Here is the actual quote from “Fox and Friends” (6/14/10): Steve Doocy: “Perhaps it's a misinformation or mischaracterization, but some have said that you are out to get rid of Social Security. That's not true right?" Sharron Angle:”Well that's nonsense. I have always said that we need to make the lock box a lock box. Put the money in there for our senior citizens. They came here in good faith, paying into a system that Harry Reid has put an IOU in. For 24 years, he has been raiding Social Security, and what we need to do is personalize Social Security and Medicare, so that the government can no longer raid it” (http://video.foxnews.com/v/4238236/fox--friends-exclusive).

Ok, now here are two concerns: First, nobody really and truly knows what "personalize Social Security" means but most of us think it is code for privatize. Note that this interview is after the RNC makeover. She now has professionals "handling" her and making sure she avoids saying something considered too “out there” for the mainstream; hence the extreme soft peddled leading question of Doocy: "that's not true, right?" Second, in her pre-makeover interview with Jon Ralston of the LV Sun (5/25/10), she said in reference to Social Security that "going forward we need to phase it out" (http://www.lasvegassun.com/videos/2010/may/25/3974/). FYI, in both of these links the actual quotes are at about 4:00 minutes into the interview.

As of 6/27/10 the latter quote is consistent to what is posted on the “issues” page of her official webpage where she talks about transitioning out of Social Security: “Social Security and its attendant Medicare are broken and bankrupt systems because we, as voting citizens, have allowed congress to transform these systems from insurance programs to and entitlement programs. The government must continue to keep its contract with seniors, who entered into the system on good faith and now are depending on that contract. Free market alternatives, which offer retirement choices to employees and employers, must be developed and offered to those still in their wage earning years, as the Social Security system is transitioned out. Young workers must be encouraged to investigate personal retirement account options (http://www.sharronangle.com/issues/).

Now I don't think it is slamming her to look at these actual quotes. I think some, perhaps many, of her original supporters agree with eliminating Social Security and Medicare, so there is no reason to sanitize this or mislead people on this issue. But that is what the RNC wants to do. I totally support her desire to make the Social Security/Medicare "lock box" a real "lock box" but I am equally opposed to phasing out or privatizing Social Security or Medicare.

This whole craze of privatization, in my opinion, has been a disaster. It has led to layers upon layers of federal bureaucratic regulators monitoring the private sector. Most local agencies and non profits are drowning in federal paperwork and oversight so that they have little time left to do what they are supposed to be doing with the money. Meanwhile many big fat cat no bid private contractors manage to keep one step ahead so they can steal us blind. Just look at the overruns in Iraq and what private contractors stole from us and ask the troops on the ground what a joke these contractors are.

I am in my mid-fifties and I certainly want the SSI fund that I have paid into all of my adult life to be there when I retire. I love the idea of a “lock box” to keep the dirty paws of Harry, Sharron, or whoever off my hard earned Social Security and Medicare checks. Let the private contractors go somewhere besides the federal government for a bailout. If we take the private sector middlemen out of the picture and have government employees do the necessary work, we can drastically reduce the size of the federal government. I don’t want to be phased out just when I am nearing my phase in.