Thursday, January 31, 2008

West Virginia Schools To Teach Children How To Shoot

No one could ever have any illusion as to the type of lifestyle led by the people who live in West Virginia. The people of the state enjoy their sport hunting as much or more than any other state. But recently, according to state officials, the deer popualation has been exploding due to the aging of the town's population. In order to try to offset this recent boom of pesky ruminant mammals, Senator Billy Wayne Bailey has introduced a bill to the legislature that would allow for the teaching of school kids in the handling, cleaning, and firing of weapons.
He says that in this way, the future generation of hunters will be assured, or even as the children learn how to fire their weapons, maybe they'll go out and shoot some of these herds of maurading beasts.
Even as West Virginia Governor Joe Manchin tries to avert having to resort to this plan by injecting almost two million dollars into law enforcement coffers, (The reson for the alarm is the decline in revenue from hunting liscences,) the Senator pushes ahead with his plan anyway.
Has the good Senator ever heard of Columbine? Did the esteemed gentleman from West Virginia ever go over the figures from the National School Safety and Security Services? No? Well, let's help him out.
Accoring to N.S.S.S.S., in the period running 2006-2007, there were almost 100 incidents of school violence involving a gun. Here's a couple of examples they give:
November 1, 2007: Fresno, CA
A 13-year-old male middle school student died as a result of an after-school fight in a parking lot near the school. The incident reportedly stemmed from an ongoing conflict with a 14-year-old male student who was fighting with him. The victim was knocked to the ground and then hit afterwards, and the assailant left. The 13-year-old later died from the injuries.
January 3, 2007: Tacoma, WA
An 18-year-old male high school student was arrested for shooting and killing a 17-year-old male student at their school. The suspect allegedly shot the victim in the face and then stood over him, firing twice more.
December 12, 2006: Springfield Township, PA
A 16-year-old male high school shot and killed himself with an AK-47 in the hallway of his high school. The student, reportedly despondent over his grades, had the gun concealed in a camouflage duffle bag and fired one round in the ceiling to warn other students to get out of the way before committing suicide.
And then of course there's Columbine. Without dragging up the entire history of what happened that day in Littleton Colorado, I would wonder what the people there think of this plan to teach children how to shoot guns in school. This isn't some after school opt in activity we're talking about, it will be a class curriculum, and all the boys and girls will now be proficient in how to operate, clean, and safely handle guns and ammunition. Top this off with the survival skills classes that will be taught alongside of these other gun classes, and the potential for disaster rises exponentially. Great. Now, not only have you taught volatile teens how to shoot properly, but you've taught them how to be stealthy as they do it.
In looking at West Virginia's violent crime rates, they have risen steadily since 1990, from around 2,700 incidents annually, to a whopping 5,900 last year. That may not sound like much, but in the context of the population of the state, that's astounding.
What in the world is Billy Wayne Bailey thinking? He's thinking about money, that's what he's thinking about. He's thinking of all those kiddies who will be applying for hunting liscences, and the millions of dollars for the state. But Billy Wayne doesn't envision the kids shooting at each other at school, because as he says" We're gonna teach 'em not to do that." Oh. Well then. Problem solved. This is the same Billy Wayne who proposed a four day work week to save on gas. That was a great idea, except that it would've crippled the economy, but hey, I'm all for that one.
No. I'm sorry, I have nothing against guns, or hunting. If parents want to take the time to teach their kids the right way to point a gun, fine. That's their right. But there's just some children who should never be taught how to fire a weapon, because we have all seen the horrors that ensue when they go a little off kilter and decide the whole world is against them. And instead of hunting deer, they start hunting people. Batmanchester
But, is the Senator going to be taking into account teenage hormones, or teenagers getting together and knocking back a few, then firing off a few rounds for fun?

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Vermont Town To Issue Arrest Warrant For Bush

In Brattleboro, Vermont, it's a safe bet to say that the people of the township have no love for George Bush or his Vice President, Dick Cheney. Echoing rising sentiment around the country, but actually having the tenacity to do something other than talk, the Brattleboro Select Board voted on Friday to vote on whether or not to issue an indictment of both the President and the Vice-President when the town holds it's annual meeting on March 4th.

Put on the March ballot by demands and petitions from the townspeople, the indictment, to include charges of war crimes, would lead to the immediate arrest of both Bush or Cheney should they ever set foot in the town of Brattleboro. Other charges include perjury, and lying the American people into war.

Although it's unclear just what force of law could actually be placed upon such an indictment, the issue that is very foremost in the minds of the townspeople is the message they intend to send to the White House and hopefully to the rest of the country. The message is this. Stand up for your rights America. Don't let them tear up the Constitution without a fight. Will the message sink in? Not if the frightened neo-cons have their way.

So terrified by this ballot measure in little Brattleboro, Vermont, the town's officials have been inundated with death threats from neo-cons across the land. Pouring in by the hundreds, the threats became so worrisome that town officials stopped answering calls, and routed all incoming phone calls to voice mail. Even though the indictment and arrest warrants would probably be unenforceable, according to the town's own officials, this terrifies the neo-con far right to such a degree that they are threatening the people of the town with death in order to try to frighten them into submission. Could it be that the right is afraid of this idea catching on all over the country? Is that the reason the Bush clan bought all of that property in Paraguay? You know, just in case?

The good people of Brattleboro aren't buying into the terror tactics being used by the neo-cons though. They intend to go ahead with their vote, and they fully expect that the measure will pass. Which would be a stunning win for the people in this country who would like to see the rule of law again, and public officials put back in their place.

The public is so angry and so confused as to what has occurred during these past seven years, that they are turning to the only place they have left that will listen, mainly their local public officials. They have to listen, because most of them pass these very same voters on the street every day, and being politicians, they know which way the prevailing wind blows, and know how quickly they can be voted out of office again.

Maybe that's what every township in this country needs to do. Have the guts and the pride to stand up like the citizens of Brattleboro and say "We're mad as hell, and we're not going to take it any more!" Say what you will, but at least they have the courage of their convictions, and if that terrifies the neo-cons so much they must send death threats to try to stop the people from doing their Constitutional duty, then we should all finally realize what the far right has been about all along. Stamping out dissent and the free flow of ideas.

Even if you disagree with the way these people are going about their protest, at least they are doing something other than wish Bush away. They're trying to make it a reality.

Everyone should send these people a vote of support to offset the cowardly threats by the right. Because if they succeed in scaring the town into silence, then we will be complicit in our own loss of freedom to voice our dissent. Oh, by the way. Bush has not set foot in Vermont since 2001. Smart man. Because the freedom loving people of New England are just patriotic enough to actually order the arrest of a President who has only his own and his corporate buddies' interests in mind. Batmanchester

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Why Won't Bush Help 9/11 Workers?

Last night, as the President of the United States stood before the Congress and the nation to deliver his final State of the Union speech, sitting in the gallery was a man named John Feal, a true American hero, who rushed to help in the aftermath of the horror we all witnessed on that September morning in 2001.

His left foot was crushed by a steel beam during the recovery operations, and who along with thousands of other 9/11 first responders, both emergency personnel and volunteer alike, put their lives on the line in an attempt to try to save lives and help in the recovery operations.

Now, more than six years after that terrible day, the Bush Administration has done virtually nothing to help these heroes, some of whom have died from toxic mixtures of asbestos and concrete dust, mixed with mercury and only God knows how many other chemicals that were in the air for months afterwards, even as the EPA was telling everyone the air was safe to breathe.

Some protesters are in Florida today, telling the world that Rudy Giuliani is not the hero of 9/11 that he pretends to be. These are firefighters and other first responders who are angry at the former mayor for not providing them with the basic equipment such as working radios and respirators and whom they blame for much of the chaos that ensued that day due to Giuliani's insistence on placing the Emergency Operations Center inside of the World Trade Center, even as top advisers argued for the place in Brooklyn that it is now located. The lack of radio equipment that worked was inexcusable, even by the account of John Farmer, a senior counsel to the 9/11 Commission, who also would like to know why Rudy never updated the system even after they failed after the first World Trade Center attack. They also want answers from the President.

Some of the illnesses that have been faced by 9/11 responders include such horror shows as Pulmonary Fibrosis, Chronic Lung Disease, Emphysema, and physical injuries that disable most, if not all of those involved.

Despite the fact that a national database of people who were taken ill after 9/11 numbers some 70,000 Americans, the Bush Administration has saw fit to cut funding for health programs for 9/11 victims that live outside the tri-state ares of New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut. Other funding for those inside the tri-state area has come in dribs and drabs, grudgingly, from the same man who uses the events of that day to justify his wars of convenience, and his disregard for our Constitution.

Mr. Feal, who has set up a foundation to try to help other 9/11 responders, who came from all fifty states, and who wasn't going to bother attending the State of the Union address, decided to give it another shot, to if nothing else, symbolize a rebuke of Bush. He said: ""I want to hear him say, 'I'm sorry,' "I want to hear him say that he's going to leave a billion dollars or more for 9/11 responders when he leaves office."

But he's not holding his breath. New York lawmaker Carolyn Maloney adds: "What kind of a nation are we?" "What kind of a message are we sending to future responders? 'You are rushing into tragedy, and we are not going to be there.' "

That about sums it up as the stonewalling continues, and more and more 9/11 responders get sicker by the day. Many have already died from the diseases they contracted from exposure to chemicals they weren't told about, and from the equipment they weren't given in the Bush Administration's attempts to discard all of the material at Ground Zero as quickly as possible. In the haste to remove every shred of evidence at the base of the Towers, they used these people, lied to them about their safety, and now consider them to be more acceptable losses.

They refuse to fund programs for their health, even as they use these very same people for photo ops, for political benefit, and as a cause for war. Even though Congress appropriated money to fund health services for the responders, the Center For Disease Control called off a request for proposals to establish a center. Why would they do that?

And so now, thousands of workers that stood up for our country that day will be left with no place to turn for medications, for health services, or for even counseling, and as one responder put it: "More people are going to end up dying than did on the day of the attacks."

We can not sit back and allow this travesty and injustice to happen. This nation owes these people a debt, and that debt must be paid, or we are morally bankrupt. We have seen how this President responds to crisis and people in desperate need. All one has to do is look at the continued suffering of the victims of Hurricane Katrina, at the place where Bush intends to hold his next meeting to push his North American Union summit, New Orleans. Stated as though this was going to be an event that would save and resurrect the entire Gulf Coast, we all know just how little the man has done for those victims.

All of the speeches, all the memorials, and all of the political posturing mean nothing if we allow these people to die because we were too lazy to type or write or call and make ourselves heard.

So, if you believe that the people that stepped up to the plate and jumped into the fray on the day the towers came down, then you owe it to them to write to the White House, write to Congress, write to your state's Governor, and keep writing until they hear us loudly and clearly.

Tell President Bush that we are not going along with his sweeping the issue under the rug. Tell Congress that they must act before another responder dies. Tell your Governor to put pressure on the White House on behalf of these brave souls. Here's a couple of numbers and email addys to get you started. Batmanchester

The White House1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NWWashington, DC 20500

Comments: 202-456-1111 Switchboard: 202-456-1414

U.S. House of Representatives, Washington, DC 20515

(202) 224-3121

To easily look up your Senator's email go here:

To find both your Governor's email and Congress person at the same time, go here:

Take action!

Monday, January 28, 2008

Perpetuating The Bin Laden Myth

Today, once again just in time for a Senate vote that will decide whether or not we hold accountable those who have disregarded the laws of the United States in order to further their neo-fascist visions of power, we are treated to headlines in the media about hand written letters sent by none other than the ghost of Osama Bin Laden himself.

If you have not detected the pattern of the timing of these events by now, you're watching too many episodes of the Simpsons. Every single time the Congress is to vote on any measure that deals with either our national security, or accountability for those who have broken the law, they trot out Bin Laden, dust him off, and start the fear campaign once again.

Today is no different. Newsweek ran a story today in which they say that Bin Laden has been writing letters to tribal leaders, as well as Taliban heads, consoling them for the death of the son of one leader who was killed, and exhorting them to continue the fight against the Jewish and Christian invaders. Uh huh. And we know this how? Oh. Because some guys in mountain caves said so.

Looking at intelligence from just Israel should clear this matter up right away. Israel's Mossad and Aman have both stated they believed Bin Laden is dead, and as such is not even being actively sought.

George Bush stated that Bin Laden wasn't high on his to do list. "i just don't think about him that much. I am truly not that concerned about him." We know. When he does think, why would he think about a dead man?

Hamid Karzai, former Unocal employee, and installed Afghan President has stated that Bin Laden is dead, but he believes that Omar is still alive.

Dale Watson, of the F.B.I.'s own counter terrorism section said he believed Bin Laden to be dead.

Pakistan's Musharraf believes Bin Laden is dead, and has said as much to the CIA, through the CIA's Pakistani arm, the ISI.

The Pakistani Observer reported over five years ago that top Taliban officials who escaped Kabul during the U.S. led invasion, attended Bin Laden's funeral, and gave a copy of Bin Laden's will to the paper to print, which it did.

So what is going on with all of this hype about Bin Laden? It seems very simple really. The powers that be must have a boogeyman in order to perpetuate the fear they have instilled into the psyche of Americans for seven long years now. Childish attempts at deception through fake video and audio tapes have been seen through by thinking people and called for what they are.

No one in MSM dares to voice out loud what millions of us know. Bin Laden is dead, the war on terror is a sham designed to allow tyrants to run roughshod over the rule of law, and all they have to do to scare everyone back into paralysis is to utter three little words. Osama Bin Laden.

looking at the vote to take place today in the Senate, I can refer to an Associated Press story from Jan. 24th that says this: "The companies were helping the administration carry out the so-called Terrorist Surveillance Program, a still-classified effort that intercepted communications on U.S. soil without oversight from the FISA court from Sept. 11, 2001, to Jan. 17, 2007."

Wrong! They started this program BEFORE the 9/11 attacks, way before, but now try to spin the story and weave it into a tale of Patriotism, much like the unconstitutional Patriot Acts.

So we have a dead terrorist who was funded by the CIA to the tune of six billion dollars writing letters to people telling them to kill Jews and Christians. Makes for good headlines and scare tactics on the eve of a Senate vote, but that doesn't make it true.

Watch for an ever increasing flow of audio tapes and videos from al-Zawahri to surface before the election, probably starting mid-summer. That's the pattern so far over the past years since 9/11, and with an historic election coming up, why would they change the pattern now?

The entire U.S. Military can't find him, the Pakistanis can't find him, the Israelis aren't even looking, and even the Super Size Me guy couldn't find him. Maybe they should send Super Rudy and his corrupt sidekick Kerik over there. Maybe then we could all put this myth to rest. Batmanchester

Sunday, January 27, 2008

An Open Letter To Senators Clinton And Obama

Dear Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama, Never before in the history of our great nation, save for possibly the tribulations of our civil war, has there been a time when we have had to fight against a tyranny in our land so great and so dangerous to our way of life.

We have watched in horror, all the criminal actions of this current regime, and some of us have demanded an accounting for the crimes of a false war, the lies of a President and his entire Administration, the bankrupting of our treasury, and the cronyism that runs rampant in the capitol of our country.

The people have been stunned by an attack on our country that at the very least, the people in charge at the time should have been held accountable for such gross negligence, but instead were elevated into positions of even greater power and influence. That same attack has been used to justify illegal spying programs, and the use of ever growing technology against the very people the current regime claims they are trying to protect. Mainly, the American People.

The recent scramble to give blanket immunity to telecom corporations for their roles in facilitating the illegal spying programs against both criminal prosecution, and civil liability, all in the name of false patriotism, has shown once again where the heart of our government truly lies. When the House voted in favor of this immunity scam, they showed the People that they could not be counted on to do what was in the People's best interest, but once again, backed Corporate America, despite cries from the People to the contrary. This, despite the fact that these programs have been proven to not be about terrorism, due to their implementation before the events of 9/11/01.

Knowing this, and knowing of the vote to take place on Monday, January 28th, 2008, in the Senate, we have heard the news reports of the planned absence of both of you from this most important vote. We understand that you are running campaigns for higher office. We would also understand your absence from a vote that was dealing with naming a post office after someone. But we will not understand the absence from the voting on this issue that goes to the very heart of the rule of law in our country. The number of Senate votes needed to prevent this travesty from occurring is 41. Right now, the vote stands at 36. Were you to board your planes and head back to Washington, D.C., your two votes, and those of the eight other Senators who have endorsed you both, would be more than enough to stop these madmen from giving what amounts to a criminal conspiracy the legitimacy it needs to go on and flourish.

Both of you claim to be ready to lead. But you can not lead from the side lines. One or both of you must take the reigns and steer this ship of state back onto it's original heading, or we will all be lost at sea. This is your greatest challenge during this Presidential campaign. Will you stand with the American people, and prevent this pandering to corporations from taking place? Or will you show us that your campaigns are more important to you than the restoration of the rule of law in our country? The time is now, and you have it within both of your abilities to make it back in time for this vote, and within both of your abilities to lead by example, and to show us, the voters, who stands with US, and who does not.

To the rest of the country: We have the ability to show the media that this issue is more important to us than any campaign. Stop what you're doing and take a moment to email the media and tell them how you feel about this vote, and the planned vacancy of both Sen. Clinton and Sen. Obama. The contact info is below. Batmanchester

Saturday, January 26, 2008

8 Pieces of Molding by Kirby Sommers

305 days after the launching of "100 Homes in 100 Days," and 205 days after its official end on the 4th of July of last year, criticism and allegations of misappropriated Katrina dollars continue to beleaguer the agencies involved. Among these are the two largest nonprofits in the country both of whom received the lion's share of Katrina donations: American Red Cross and Salvation Army, respectively.

879 days full of gut wrenching suffering, utter chaos, and a multitude of botched relief efforts, the survivors of Katrina and those who opened their hearts and wallets to help them in their hour of need discover the road to Katrina's disappearing dollars is a difficult one to trace.

Difficult, but not impossible.It's always flattering to hear your blog has an audience. However, it does take on a different meaning when those who've become regular readers are the very agencies that should have installed stronger checks and balances within their Hurricane Relief Programs.

Since my last article: "Red Cross under FBI eye for Alleged Katrina Fraud" on January 9th, additional information has surfaced. Perhaps I should rewrite that sentence and make it read: since my last piece about 100 Homes in 100 Days and the others that preceded it, I've been approached by those who say "cover-ups are definitely in high gear," and in one letter a recovery specialist offered this: "They are now trying to frantically finish the 100 Home project because of the scrutiny you have generated."

Following are excerpts from the January 9th piece:· The accusations include failure to follow required Red Cross procedures, improper use of money and supplies, and "partnering" with a possible felon, which is in violation of Red Cross rules. The allegations are wide ranging and may prove to be criminal. A Red Cross Press Release dated March 26, 2007 states:"Five organizations lead a coalition effort to renovate and rebuild 100 homes in 100 calendar days. The American Red Cross, Salvation Army, Mississippi Home Again, Hope Has a Face Foundation and Jackson County Community Services Coalition have created a project process that focuses on rebuilding entire neighborhoods in a compressed timeframe."· 100/100, as it is referred to within the agencies, was funded through the Red Cross's Means to Recovery program allotting a cap of $20,000 to be used per home. The Salvation Army added another $10,000.

Among the specific problems was that monies used by the program for each home were not used for the homeowner in whose name the money was drawn. Also in question by those working in hurricane recovery is that all money for all homes was "taken" even though the home may not have been repaired or rebuilt."The agencies are reading your blog to see what's going on," several of my sources have told me.

As many of you know I've been looking into Katrina fraud within the Red Cross and other agencies, so on the one hand it's encouraging to see I'm on the right track. Having said that, it's also downright disconcerting to have your worst fears confirmed: Katrina donations have been misappropriated, misspent and all of us have been duped.

Cleve Smith, a 59-year-old disabled homeowner is among those in the program. "By the time those people came by I had already used my money and fixed most of my home. They were in my house for 2 days," he said. "On the first day they cut my windows out, but they cut out too much. They didn't know what they were doing."The sense of the group not knowing what they were doing is one shared by other homeowners who claim the group seemed to know little, if anything, about construction, home building or home repairs."On the second day, I asked them to get me some materials and I would finish the job because really I didn't trust their labor. But that was a long time ago."

Smith told me when I initially interviewed him for this story two days ago. And then I contacted Home Depot and as Oprah has been known to say on her TV show: it got int'restinglyeer and int'restinglyeer. A spokesperson said the following verbatim about Cleve Smith and his account at Home Depot."?and he has several different [emphasis added] orders. Do you have an idea of what item you're looking for?"Then she said:"Okay he has paid for some molding that he has not picked up yet. I got a call earlier today that somebody is coming by I believe tomorrow to pick up some other supplies for some other houses and they're going to pick up the rest of his molding. I don't know if it's baseboard, or if it's door and window molding, but we have some that's paid for and not been picked up yet. The last thing I know about his house is that they had put all the baseboard and all the trim and they were a little bit short?they called and we got it paid for on the voucher and nobody picked it up yet. We do have several pieces of molding. Let me see, it is 112 linear feet of door and window molding, and somebody is supposed to come by tomorrow and pick it up tomorrow and take it to his house. David Houchins is going to install it in his home for him."

Okay, so I inquired who's David Houchins? And she said: "David is with 100 Homes 100 Days?from what I understand he is volunteering. He had three clients he had gotten close with during the course of the project and he said he would do it for them. One of them is Cleve Smith."

I tried calling Home Depot again and got stonewalled. No doubt someone had instructed them to say no more. So I called Mr. Smith again.-

8 PIECES OF MOLDING"Someone left 8 pieces of molding by my carport and that's probably because you called them," Smith told me. "It sure isn't 112 feet and David hasn't done anything in my home!"But wait there's more from Home Depot. The account for the 100 Homes project was set up by the Salvation Army in the amount of $10,000 per household for every home in the project. I was able to get Home Depot to send me a copy of their master list and as can be seen HERE most of the accounts have withdrawals. One would have to question how this could be since many homeowners claim no work has ever been done on their property. However, it corroborates allegations the group tapped into the homeowner's accounts.

According to the same spokesperson from Home Depot, only two people had access to the account: Jim Yancey and Keith Canfield. "By the time I took this job in June of last year Yancey wasn't coming in any longer. So Keith Canfield was the person who called and ordered on these accounts."The "accounts" are actually one account, which would make sense. What doesn't make sense is they're all filed under a California cell phone number belonging to Debbie Dismukes, Project Manager for Hope Has A Face. Why would an account holding at least $1,000,000 be so carelessly handled without someone from Salvation Army countersigning on withdrawals?Another revelation when speaking with Home Depot about the 100/100 program was the numbers of the homes involved.

When I first began to investigate the program, I learned there were only 99 homes, not 100. Then I started to hear about monies having been taken from the program and used on homes that did not belong to the program. Homes allegedly fixed by persons connected to the program to be sold for profit. As can be seen by the spreadsheet, there are 99 spots for names even though the page is numbered 1 through 100. The Home Depot spokesperson told me there were 113 homes in the 100/100 program. A second Home Depot employee on a different day also told me the number of homes in the program was 113 not 99 and not 100. So where are they and where is that money?"The Salvation Army closed all the accounts when the program ended," the Home Depot spokesperson said.

If that's the case, then why are some of them still labeled "OPEN," and why could someone still order from Cleve Smith's "Closed" account?-

SCANDAL ALERT My sources have confirmed internal investigations into the 100/100 program have been done by both Salvation Army and American Red Cross."The chief investigator for the Red Cross came down here a couple of weeks ago. They went into some of the homes and asked questions. But no one's talking. The fact that Paige Roberts hasn't been fired tells me they're doing a good job at covering all of this up," a recovery specialist revealed. (Paige Roberts is the head of Southeast Red Cross chapter and her extramarital affair with CEO Mark Everson was cited as the reason American Red Cross fired him last November).

It is rumored Paige Roberts wanted both Michelle Wilson and Carla Poole fired for speaking with me about the allegations. The matter is said to have been brought before the committee for review and both women's jobs were spared. "But, they've been told not to talk, only certain people are going to speak to reporters now," a source told me."People are scared. They're implicated by negligence. If these funds were stolen and went undetected, no one was looking into the 100/100 program," he added.-

MEANS TO RECOVERY On May 17th of last year I made a startling discovery. Having heard about some "secret" Red Cross money I called Red Cross at national headquarters in Washington, D.C. and spoke with Jeanne Ellinport who told me in no uncertain terms the Hurricane Recovery Program known as Means to Recovery was not to be made public. In other words, Red Cross had no intention of letting survivors know about the program. Ever. Although the program initially rolled out on October 1, 2006, there weren't many caseworkers and certainly no survivors who knew about the $20,000 per household "long term recovery" assistance. Initially the program was set at $10,000 cap per household, however because there hadn't been any outreach and the initial application was 45 pages long, few caseworkers applied for this assistance on behalf of their Katrina clients. I contacted The New York Times after getting some advice from former Mayor Art Agnos of San Francisco, who had his own run in with American Red Cross in 1989 when an earthquake rocked his city.

At the time Red Cross was going to leave with the bulk of donations received while many of the people of San Francisco were still in need. Mayor Agnos was successful in getting Red Cross to leave the money and it was used for those in whose name it was raised."I had pull," Agnos told me. "I was the Mayor. You have to keep going. Call The New York Times and tell them. Get someone to do a story and you might get people to see the problem."

And so, I did. Before the story ran I broke it on my own and it had a ripple effect with other groups across the country. On May 18th it was reported 100,000 people, old and young, infirmed and well bodied made it over to the Red Cross office in New Orleans where they were greeted with a "CLOSED" sign. If you happened to dial Red Cross' main 800 number during those days you would have heard: "Means to Recovery is a rumor." Other strange things happened and then Red Cross gave a weak confession of their secretive Means to Recovery program to the reporters from the New York Times.

In the August 10th piece called "Red Cross Faces Criticism Over Aid Program for Hurricane Evacuees," it states: "Evacuees and charities whose caseworkers have applied for money for their clients accuse the Red Cross of obstruction, pointing out that initially the application form was more than 20 pages long and that some families have waited months for a response. Because the program was not advertised, many families had no opportunity to apply. "Before we understand the 100 Homes in 100 Days Program, we have to understand Means to Recovery and how the Red Cross handled the program. It was disconcerting that many families had no opportunity to apply for this much needed help, as was mentioned in the article.

However, it was even more surprising to see how every household in the 100/100 program was pre-approved for Means to Recovery funds. The program, according to Red Cross, was supposed to assist 4,000 families. One of the initial complaints about Means to Recovery was that Red Cross was "picking and choosing who to help and who not to help." It seemed families who desperately needed help weren't getting it and families who seemed to be doing just fine on their own were being given the money. It didn't make sense to a lot of people: both insiders and survivors.

If one were to look at who received Means to Recovery funds, there wouldn't be more than a handful of people in the same area who were lucky enough to have been green lighted for the program. If you look at Pascagoula, Mississippi and into the 100 Homes in 100 Days, you would find every family helped received funding from Means to Recovery. That is, if the funding wasn't diverted to others, as alleged within this program.

Additionally, Means to Recovery came with a stipulation. It could not be tapped into with having a caseworker assigned to the family who would work with the family for a long period of time. The caseworker had to work closely with the client identifying long-term solutions before presenting the case to the Long Term Recovery Committee.After presenting the case before the Long Term Recovery Committee, only then could the case be presented to the Red Cross who had final say on who to approve and reject. All of this was alledgedly never part of the 100 Homes in 100 Days program.

So when in my last piece I stated Long Term Recovery Committee specialists had complained Red Cross broke its own rules, this is one of the rules it is alledged to have broken. No caseworkers. Additionally caseworkers assigned to take the person (and usually it was a family, individuals rarely received Means to Recovery funds) through the "recovery phase" were instructed by Red Cross to hand in receipts. If the paperwork wasn't there, caseworkers could not apply or receive Means to Recovery money. Receipts were needed BEFORE people were approved, before they spent a dime, receipts and the names of the stores with their tax ID numbers had to be submitted.

The paperwork and receipts for the 100 Homes in 100 Days program was another rule recovery specialists allege Red Cross broke. No receipts were provided. None of the obligatory stuff Red Cross wanted every agency and every caseworker to comply with. Paige Roberts was exempt from Red Cross rules. And, if we are to delve a little deeper here: let it be clear Red Cross told the reporter I contacted, Shaila Dewan of The New York Times (and probably Stephanie Strom who co-authored the piece) they allotted $80 million for Means to Recovery. $41 million to pay new caseworkers with the remaining $39 million to go towards Katrina, Rita and Wilma survivors.-

DONOR DOLLARS SHRINKING I've always said I have nothing against helping people, but frankly the money was raised to help Katrina survivors. Initially none of Red Cross money was being used for Rita and certainly not for Wilma. Before anyone knew what happened all Hurricane Relief Programs included survivors for all three hurricanes. And if survivors of these hurricanes would have been the recipients of monies collected, that would have been fine. But with the shrinking of those donor dollars from big wig salaries and then more salaries for every program to thefts which have already been proven and several on-going allegations of impropriety with donor dollars, we can ask: what's really left for survivors? Oh. I forgot. 8 pieces of molding might be what they get. That is, if they get anything at all.

By Kirby Sommers 2008 Copyright

Friday, January 25, 2008

Make A Wish When Death Calls

This is probably the hardest story that I have ever attempted to write, and do so because of another blogger on Newsvine who asked me my story, and to whom I gave no answer. I write it because of another story she wrote that dealt with the subject of letting go, something that touched me, and caused a stirring of warmth just large enough to allow me to attempt this. She'll know who she is if she ever reads this.

My son was four years old when he was diagnosed with leukemia. The shock that his mother and I felt at that moment is a feeling that I don't believe time will ever erase. Sure, we knew he'd been feeling a little tired and under the weather, but leukemia? Of course we had to have a second opinion, which confirmed the first, and our two year descent into hell itself was cemented in stone, a ride for which there was no off switch, nor even a way to pause the wreckage that ensued.

When they first started him on chemotherapy, he didn't immediately show the side effects that we were warned about, and so our hopes rose that possibly he wasn't really all that sick, and this would make every ok again. We would get through this relatively unscathed, and would be able to return to our normal routines.

But alas, we deluded ourselves with these false hopes , because before long, he started to show all of the classic symptoms that all people generally do when undergoing one of the harshest treatments ever known to man. He started vomiting everything that he ate, and his beautiful dark hair started to come off of the brush in clumps. Assured by the doctors that this was normal, we silently cried inside as we stood helplessly watching our baby degenerate into a malformed caricature of his former exuberant self.

It didn't take very long at all for the hospital visits to turn into a full time hospital stay, with one of us in his room at all times. Schedules were rearranged, jobs changed, and a 300 mile move was undertaken in order to be right near the hospital where he was being cared for, one of the best children's hospitals in the country.

Times would come during this two year period wherein he was able to come home for a few days, but even during those times, the sickness and the treatment had already taken their toll to such a degree that walking was difficult for him, and the games we used to play were no longer feasible, and so the Playstation became our constant companion. Meal making was an endeavor in and of itself, due to strict dietary necessities, and the orders from the doctors that all meals had to take into consideration a nutritional guideline designed to boost his immune system.

The second year saw things turn for the worse. Completely bald now, and barely able to speak at times, we were pretty much living at the hospital by now, as different variants of chemo were introduced, and more strict regimens were attempted. His little body rejected these invasions of chemicals that were introduced into him through a catheter that was implanted directly into his heart, and the pain and the cries breaking my heart, the morphine drip of little consequence even at maximum dosage.

I sometimes drifted off to thoughts of the days of yesterday, when he was healthy and playful and full of youthful pranks, such as the time he tried to feed my younger daughter worms that he had dug up in our yard. I remembered how we would prance around the living room calling out "Jerry! Jerry! Jerry!" in parody of his mother's love of the Jerry Springer show. Or how we snuggled up under the blanket to watch the Giants, and how I trained him to answer my question of who the greatest team that ever lived was, and he would answer in that all knowing child's voice, "Dad, it's the Giants of course!" But then I would shake myself, and come back to the anesthetic smell of the hospital room, and the realization that he was indeed going to die.

The worst part for me was that he knew it also, and he was the one who refused to see any tears in the eyes of his mother or myself, who would tell US that everything was going to be ok, and to stop worrying.

In early October of that year, the doctors told us that they didn't think there was anything more to be done. They spoke of bone marrow transplants, but a donor search had turned up negative, which I refused to accept, but his siblings were from a different mother, and therefore not compatible. Plans were made for experimental chemo, something they called 'Orange', and we were hit full in the face with a horror that no parent ever wants to hear.

Someone from the children's terminal ward contacted the Make A Wish Foundation. We would never have even thought of them at that time, we were concerned with comforting our dying child. A team from the local chapter showed up at the hospital one day, asking if they might visit with our son. They spoke to him at length about a variety of subjects, including his awareness of his situation. These were volunteers, but these people were the most caring and professional people I have ever met.

The choking sound was coming from me before I realized it, because the subject had gotten around to what he wanted most in the entire world. He told them that he knew he didn't have long to go. A six year old boy told them that he knew that he wasn't going to make it much further, and that he wanted to have one last Christmas before he went to see God. Leaving the hospital, I walked to a nearby park and raged with all of my heart at the same God that my son believed he was going to see soon, then returned to the ward to pray that He spare him and take me instead.

Within a few days, my son's hospital room looked like a display in Macy's store front. There was a tree decked out with all sort and manner of lights and baubles. Christmas lights were strung all over the walls, the windows, and his bed. There were even lights in the bathroom that he could not get out of bed to see. But Make A Wish wasn't done yet. Santa Claus walked into the room, and my son's eyes lost that old man's look for just a little while, as Santa had a line of helpers with him, carrying arm loads of presents, wrapped to perfection, and I mean a truck load of presents. Every game, every toy, every doll, and every possible thing that a child could ever want were eagerly torn open by my son, and the joy in his eyes made it seem for just that day, that everything was the way it was supposed to be. There are no words to express how I feel about the Make A Wish Foundation, a group dedicated to comforting dying and extremely sick children. There can be no greater calling than that, I think, to show love and compassion for children that did not come from you or yours, and these people are so full of love, that they take their time to do this.

My son refused any further treatment after this. He was done with the battle, done with the sickness and done with the pain. He refused to accept the experimental treatment put forth by his doctors, who were also the picture of compassion. And so, with a hospice worker and a gaggle of morphine, we went home. We played video games, me helping him use the controller, and watching him slip away a day at a time.

The day that he died, I was holding him in my arms, when he suddenly turned a sickly grayish color, and whispered to me "Daddy, I'm scared," exhaled, and simply left. They must have heard my outraged howls all the way down the street, or maybe it was the hospice worker, because the next thing I knew, there were paramedics and police there, one of whom gave ME a shot of something. I imagine it was meant to calm me down.

I won't go into all of the details of funeral arrangements or the aftermath. Suffice it to say that time does not heal all wounds, but I wrote this to try to make up for not writing about the Make A Wish Foundation before. I wrote this because the Giants are in the Super Bowl, and wherever my son now resides, he knows that the greatest team that ever lived is in the big dance, and when I watch that game, he'll be cheering along side me. I wrote this because I would like for you to know that not all charities are corrupt, even though I have blasted several of them recently. That the Make A Wish Foundation is a charity that is there to ease a child's mind when death calls, and that they should be supported by everyone. Please visit their web site, and if nothing else, send them an email of encouragement. Batmanchester

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Get Out Of Our Online Face At&T

Broken up in 1974 by anti-trust lawsuits brought by the Department of Justice, AT&T was widely known the world over by the materialistic call sign of 'Ma Bell.' The divestiture caused for the conglomerate to be split into seven regional carriers, or 'Baby Bells. This was done to foster an atmosphere of competition in the telphone and communications industries, and was completed in 1984.

But just as surely as AT&T has sought, fought, and bought it's way back from the rulings against it by getting deregulation laws passed by the corrupt Congress, and an even more corrupt Bush Administration, AT&T is starting to resemble little more than a huge criminal enterprise itself.

Putting aside the fact that while everyone was asleep at the switch in this country, AT&T has bought back and consolidated through mergers with SBC Communications, (the corporation that consisted of three of the merged 'Baby Bells) almost all of the original Bell corporations, including the recently acquired Bell South. Being very careful not to alarm the sleeping populace by making sure not to have any mention of the name 'Bell' in any of their new corporate make up's name, the new AT&T emerged as the same behemoth that the then not so corrupt government was trying to guard against.

But I digress. Last year we were all treated to the alarming news that AT&T was allowing the National Security Agency, or NSA, to illegally spy on American citizens. Mark Klein, who worked at AT&T for twenty years as a technician, blew the whistle on the scheme, and it was then that we came to find that AT&T was not alone in their illegal practice. Due to it's criminal liability, and the very real possibility that the corporation was now exposed to not only criminal prosecution, but massive civil liability, the corrupt Administration has tried to force the corrupt Congress to go along with a new plan to immunize all telecommunication companies that co-operated with what was a breaking of the law in the first place. It must be great to make the rules up as you go along. Luckily, there have been a few honorable Senators who have refused to go along with this insanity, and hold hearings to determine the extent of the invasion of privacy and illegal spying of American citizens.

But today, we now hear what should amount to the straw that broke the camel's back. AT&T has announced that it may begin to monitor online traffic by customers. They claim they want to do this in order to prevent online file sharing of copyrighted materials. The knot that hits the pit of your stomach isn't the fear that you may get caught up in some sort of sting operation, that is, unless you are illegally sharing these materials. No. That knot you feel is the fear that once again, just like Comcast has done, (even as they deny it, we all know it's true), the internet will be censored by some corporate bureaucrat, who will now have the power to decide what sites you may visit, and which ones will be deemed inappropriate.

Slice it any way you like. Swear it will never happen. We don't believe you. What can and will happen is that every click of your mouse will be recorded and stored in that infamous room 305 for the government to peruse any time they so choose. This is nothing more than an attempt to censor the internet by Big Business, and to stifle the free flow of ideas. The powers that be hate the fact that online, people across the world can reach out to one another to share information, and get to the truth of things being told to us by our respective government entities. They are trying to stamp it out under these phony, seemingly reasoned arguments, that are little more than an excuse to further break the law, further erode our rights, and control what information we are allowed to see or hear.

If you think this idea is far fetched, take a look at internet access in China, that, with the complicit help of U.S. corporations, is censored to a degree that access to websites the government doesn't want the people to see are blocked by the same U.S. corporations.

The internet should not become a playground for this government or these corporations to play around in, using it as a testing board to see how far they can push before the people revolt.

They use the argument that people share copyrighted materials over peer to peer networks and they, as righteous and upstanding citizens, can not stand idly by and watch what amounts to shoplifting go on. They are duty bound to do something about it. Oh really? Who deputized AT&T executives and gave them police powers? Peer to peer file sharing of copyrighted material is a minuscule part of what goes on daily on the internet, but AT&T, and by proxy, the fox in the hen house U.S. Government would have us believe that it is so rampant, they must now monitor and block access to sites that they don't like.

The next step will be blocking access to sites that dissent from the corporate government's handling of our country. Maybe AT&T needs to rethink this, and do so quickly. Maybe AT&T needs to get out of our online faces and go back to what they're supposed to be doing, mainly providing a service, and not playing policeman to the internet community. Because just maybe, if they go ahead with this plan, consumers will switch to other carriers all at the same time, and AT&T will become some obscure company that got bigger than it's shoes, and was tossed aside in favor of more freedom loving companies. Think about that, Mr. Stephenson. Batmanchester

Tuesday, January 22, 2008

Refuting Iowa State University's Phony Study

Yesterday's article by the Associated Press, included by newspapers and television stations around the country in their daily editions, was about the University Of Iowa's 'research' into childhood obesity. I use the word 'research' lightly, due to the sham formulas used by the university to try to discredit the widely held scientific data that poor children living in the United States do not get enough to eat, or enough nutritionally sound foods, and therefore end up becoming overweight.

Taking conventional formulas used to track obesity in poor children and tossing them out the window in favor of a completely baseless formula of their own, the 'study' reaches the conclusion that poor children are getting adequate nutrition, but comes to no conclusion as to why there is an obesity problem in poor children.

The timing of the 'report' itself is suspect, as it comes on the heels of calls by Congress to increase Food Stamp benefits to families living under the poverty line.

In coming to their in line with the administration's position 'report', the university used one of the most reprehensible, misleading, and factually baseless tactics to come to a false conclusion.

They asked the mothers of poor children " whether she had reduced the size of a meal due to lack of food or money, if her child skipped a meal because food wasn't available and if her child went hungry because she couldn't afford more food."

What mother would admit to any of these questions? Especially one that depends upon assistance programs for the very survival of their children? Would you admit to anyone that you could not afford to feed your child, or even that you could not afford to feed your child the foods they need to be nutritionally sound? The answer is no to both questions.

To add insult to injury, the university used data from 1999, almost 10 years old, to also base their calculations on. Oh please. In 1999, prices weren't skyrocketing out of control, the country wasn't heading into a recession, assistance programs hadn't been completely gutted as they are today, and food banks, designed to help supplement the diets of poor people, had food to give away.

The facts that anyone that has ever worked with the poor or the homeless will tell you are startling in their simplicity. One of those facts is that America has been conditioned to stop caring for those amongst us who have the least. Another is that this administration has done everything in it's power to cut the poor off from resources once available.

But one of the largest contributing factors to childhood obesity in poor children, (they are not economically challenged, they are poor), is the decline of purchasing power that families have. And we're not talking about just public assistance recipients. There are millions of families in the United States who survive on minimum wage salaries, receive no help whatsoever, and whose children are overweight due to unaffordable prices at the supermarket. This 'study' would have us believe that families whose income may hover at the $1,000 per month mark, (minimum wage earners), who receive no food stamps, no Medicaid, or any other government assistance, have the money to pay for rent, utilities, transportation, day care, and then have enough left over to purchase the types of food that a child needs to grow up healthy.

A recent trip to the market slaps this phony study right down. Purchasing a week's worth of nutritional food for a family of four in these days of high prices can cost over $100. And that's only if you buy all generic foods, little meat or fish, and stock up on all the cheapest food stuffs in the store.

Been to the market lately? Milk: $3.00 a gallon or more. Beef: Ground beef for hamburgers and such is at $3.00 or more per pound for the 80% stuff, and forget about buying roasts or steak, those average out at over $6.00 per pound. Chicken: The cheap store brand is going for $3.00 a pound. Cheese, vegetables, juice, combine all of the items in your refrigerator and cupboards, and tell me how much it costs to feed a family. Thus, the contention that low income families are not feeding their children hot dogs, hamburgers, and whatever other low cost, high fat content foods is a patent falsehood that could only be made by those who have never really taken the time to actually study what the poor actually go through, let alone be able to speak to the issue.

This says nothing for those who survive on assistance programs. They have even less purchasing power despite the widely held notion that they are somehow getting a free ride.

If you truly believe that the poor enjoy a high life while worrying what they'll feed their child after school with an empty kitchen staring themselves in the face, then you're as lost as the university that did this 'study'. Because this study also never included such little details of cost of living increases to the cash side of assistance programs actually causing a loss in purchasing power due to the new formulas put in place by the Bush Mean House that cause a reduction in the amount of food assistance a family receives when the cash supply increases, even by a mere $20.00 per month.

So before you go saying that there is no crisis in America when it comes to poor children eating poorly, and eating whatever fat laden foods they can in order to not starve to death, do a real study, not a hatchet job for the Bush Administration and the 'Compassionate Conservatives.' Get into the trenches at a soup kitchen, or bread line, or better yet, limit yourself to the same budget that poor families live on for a month, and your perspective may change completely. Or, if you have the time to do some real research, read a book entitled "Poor Women, Poor Children : American Poverty In The 1990s", and that will show this so called study for what it is, a sham. And we never even touched on the struggles that middle class families are having in feeding their kids! So shame on the Associated Press for running this story worded as though this were Gospel truth, when the 'researchers' themselves said they didn't actually have any answers at all. Batmanchester

Monday, January 21, 2008

If You Could Ask Al-Qaida A Question

Heralded on the front pages of many newspapers and news web sites around the country today, is the story about Al-Qaida sympathizers seeking answers from their guru, al-Zawahri, pertaining to Al-Qaidai's plans for the future.

The articles and news spots all extoll the same hysterical line, trying to make it appear that there is some sort of massive movement, sitting on the edge of their seats, and waiting breathlessly for the order to attack from the now acknowledged number one person in the Al-Qaida movement. Say what you will, but the media has become almost the sole spokespeople for Al-Qaida, almost begging them to issue another threat or video, in order to throw another good scare into the American people just in time for the November elections.

In reading through the AP account of the story of online seekers of advice, one would think there was an entire army, counting in the millions, pleading for the order to striket world wide, in an attempt to bring about the downfall of man. Oh, and lest we forget, every one of these articles brings up the 'boogeyman' himself. You know the one. He's 20 feet tall, bullet proof, able to leap tall buildings, sow fear into the very heart of the U.S. government, and cause mayhem around the globe at whim, even though by most accounts in Europe, he's already dead, and has been for some time. Yes, Bin Laden is still being talked about in every mention of Al-Qaida, as though he lurks around every corner, under every bed, and lies in wait inside the closet of every American child.

The funny aspect to this story though, is that they only highlight the questions that were posited to this certain web site from supposedly die hard jihad supporters, but not the ones that were put forth by those who sought to expose the entire affair as a scare tactic set up once again by the U.S. media and it's handlers, namely the U.S. government. The stories, in most cases at least, rightly point out that the deadline for Al-Zawahri to actually post answers to these questions came and past without a peep from the world's number two boogeyman without so much as a peep, but of course now someone will have to go and answer all of these people, but who that will actually be, no one will ever know.

So, if you could ask Al-Qaida a question, what would it be? One of the queries I would like answered would be where they got their original funding from, and where they continue to receive their weapons, their money and their global impact. Because were that question ever to be truthfully answered, we would have an entirely different outlook on this whole fear tactic used to try to perpetuate the police state mentality foisted on us by a corrupt government, and an even more corrupt corporate controlled media.

It was the United States and Great Britain who funded the rise of the Taliban, the rise of Bin Laden and his mujaheddin, now known as Al-Qaida, and it was the U.S. government who pushed the Israelis into training the Taliban and Al-Qaida fighters in the first place.

They hate us for our freedoms? Oh, please. They are a major global force to be reckoned with. Come on. The United States Military can and would have wiped out any such threat long ago, did such a grave threat actually exist.

I'd also ask Al-Qaida, or those linked to Al-Qaida, thought to be linked to Al-Qaida, or just any Arab looking person in the world I guess, why was it that the F.B.I. gave Al-Qaida the explosives used in the first bombing of the World Trade Center?

And for the Congress, I'd ask why they are planning to push through illegal legislation pardoning Bush and his criminal cadre for any and all war crimes they have committed during this phony war on a word. They do not have the power to do this, but yet, they do it any way. I would ask our government, if this were truly a fight to preserve the American way of life, why are you doing more to destroy it, than any passenger filled planes ever could? And why, when the entire American infrastructure falls down around our ears, do we divert more and more tax payer dollars to the military/industrial complex, and leave American families to starve and freeze to death? Was this the original Wolfowitz plan? Does Al-Qaida truly exist as a cohesive entity any more? Or are we being frightened into submission with the terror of attack by cave dwellers with mobile dialysis machines, in order to take away all right of dissent, such as the traitor from Maine, Susan Collins puts forth?

Remember these thoughts as you go and vote in the primaries. How stories of Al-Qaida terror appear now like clock work every election cycle. And then go and vote to restore the rule of law, and the Constitution of the United States. Because despite what the terrorist in chief might think and say, it is not just a piece of paper, it is our way of life, and we will not stand idly by as fools rush to destroy what our fore fathers have spent over 200 years to build. Batmanchester

Friday, January 18, 2008

How Mr. Bush Can Save $40 Billion Or More

President Bush today unveiled his economic stimulus plan intended to try to head off a recession in the United States. Anyone that has followed even a little of what Bush has done over the past seven torturous years knows that the maniac in charge always uses both made up and real life crisis' to do what the neo-cons always do, namely offer up yet more tax cuts.
Right thinking people's first reaction is that another $150 billion dollars worth of tax relief sounds pretty good, save the fact that Bush does not reveal how much an individual or family would actually receive under the tax relief plan.
So we went to the charts. We went and researched the GNP of the U.S. We went and figured out the total amount of U.S. foreign aid and where it's being spent. And we figured out where Mr. Bush could save at least $40 billion dollars a year, and use that money to give the American economy a quick shot in the arm.
Unknown to most Americans, whose knowledge of U.S. foreign aid is pretty much limited to the fact that we have some sort of program that disperses U.S. taxpayer dollars to other nations, and that's all they know, the United States' foreign aid system has become little more than a welfare program for multi national corporations. Everyone knows that a full 1/4 of all total U.S. foreign aid goes to the state of Israel, with Egypt being the second largest beneficiary, totalling about $5 or so billion, give or take a hundred million dollars. Why quibble about the small change? The rest of the money is distributed globally under various guises such as food aid programs, etc., but combined together, all of the various aid packages total about $40 billion to $45 billion dollars.
Here's the catch. The money doesn't go to the people the programs are set up to reach. With a wink and a nod from our Congress, the money is distributed to these foreign governments with the explicit understanding that they will use the money to enter into contracts with multi-national corporations for the services the recipient country needs, and in almost every case, the money was used to buy weapons.
Even Ron Paul, the Republican Presidential candidate, points out to us that in fiscal year 2007, the United States spent almost $1 billion dollars on something called the “Trade Capacity Enhancement Fund," which was nothing more than a bribery fund to foreign officials to enhance so called free trade agreements with the U.S. We've seen how Bush and company's 'free trade agreements' work. They often mean little more than the allowing of American corporations to open up shop in countries where the labor is a pittance of U.S. labor costs, and it spells the shipping of more American jobs overseas, paid for with your tax dollars. Ironic, wouldn't you say? We're paying for our own demise.
Going through the CRS Report For Congress, one can also see, in black and white, that the emphasis on foreign aid dollars, in the administration's mind, must be placed on combating 'terrorism', or in other words, foreign aid must be used to buy weapons from U.S. multi-national corporations.
Now we should give another huge tax cut to U.S. corporations at a time when our Treasury needs it the most? When we're spending how many billions a month on the phony wars in Iraq and Afghanistan? Look, Mr. Bush, you can fool some of the people and all that. Why don't you just take Israel and Egypt off of the American welfare rolls and that would save any where from $16-18 billion dollars a year, cut off all 'military aid' to the rest of the world, and you have a total savings of at least $40-45 billion dollars, and use that money to end homelessness in the United States forever?
I understand that this would be an un-neoconservative thing to do, but would it not be in line with the 'Compassionate Conservative' theme you always espoused? Because taking a look at the cost of living increase scam pulled by you and the Congress this past Jan.1st, I don't see any compassion at all. What I see is an attempt to make yourself and the government appear as though you gave recipients of TANF and Social Security cost of living increases of about $20.00 per month, but what you didn't explain to the country was that people actually ended up with $5.00 less a month because of the formulas used in allotting food stamps. The increase in cash given to recipients caused a decrease in the amount of food stamps they were eligible to receive, so they actually gained nothing.
I say you take the $40 billion or so (a billion here, a billion there) dollars given to the military/industrial complex through these 'foreign aid' packages, and disperse it to programs intended to help Americans, such as reinstating the cuts made to LIHEAP, TANF, the Dept. of Agriculture's Food Stamp program, S.S.I., the Veteran's Administration, school lunch programs, etc etc etc. Maybe then people wouldn't be feeling the squeeze of the corporate welfare programs instituted and furthered by your administration, and you wouldn't go down in history as the President who tried to imitate Herbert Hoover. Batmanchester

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Using The N Word: Free Speech Or Thought Crime?

Passaic County residents Adelson Cruz and Aregawi Kishen Were having an altercation about the way that Mr. Kishen had parked his public employee truck while fixing a No Parking sign that blocked Mr. Cruz's ability to move his own vehicle. During the heat of the argument, Mr. Cruz called Mr. Kishen the infamous 'N' word. Mr. Kishen filed a complaint, and Mr. Cruz was ordered to pay a fine of one hundred and fifty dollars.

It would seem to a casual observer that this is no big deal, and that the ruling against Mr. Cruz was probably the right thing to do in the cause of stamping out racism in this country. But if one were to look into the issue just below the surface, all of a sudden we start to see a pattern emerge that opens Pandora's Box for a type of thought police situation.

Several cities around the country are enacting or already have placed on the books, laws making it almost tantamount to a hate crime for using this epithet. Although agreeing in principle with the idea behind the laws, are these laws actually Constitutional? Or do they amount to the stifling of free speech? Do they protect one minority group from abuse? Or do these laws further force the belief upon people of color that they must be protected by government ruling from what amounts to an exchange of words?

Examining some recent celebrity firings such as Imus and 'Dog' Chapman, it starts to become clear that there is some sort of hysteria going on in this country over the use of words considered by right thinking people to be offensive. To be sure, the word is offensive by nature, but can we honestly say we want the government, already becoming way too intrusive in our daily lives, to now start dictating WORDS that we can be arrested for?

African Americans call each other the 'N' word on a routine basis. I myself, although as white as the driven snow, have been fondly called the 'N' word by friends of color, as in "You know you my 'N' right"? Should I have reported this to the thought police and had my friends fined? On the radio, the internet, and CD's made by world famous recording artists, the word is bandied about as though it means nothing whatsoever.

So when does a word become ok for one segment of society to use, but not for others? Do we now have to outlaw the use of epithets aimed at Hispanic Americans that begin with the letter 'S'? What are the word protections for people of Asian descent, so they aren't called things that rhyme with links? Can white people report other Americans that call them the 'H' word? Where does this road lead to?

As far as I know, there are no laws on the books outlawing the use of epithets such as the 'F' word, words describing excrement, human genitalia or other body parts, offspring of dogs, or illegitimate children. I can remember when they started to be included in Webster's Dictionary. Why then is one word being singled out and held up to such a degree that laws must be passed to ban the usage of that word?

Being suspicious of mind, or maybe just paranoid, I can see where this road eventually can lead. What if some day, a court decides that calling George Bush the idiot in chief can not be tolerated? That it's in the best interest of the country if these words were not uttered? Would that cause a stir? Or would that be a legitimate stamping out of what Bush backers consider 'hate' speech?

Somehow, these new laws seem to be singling out people of color, but only one color, not all, for 'special' protection from indelicate and spiteful speech, and in my mind, that's Unconstitutional.

If we're going to outlaw the use of racial slurs and epithets, then we must use the same criteria across the board, making everyone in this country liable for ANY word that might be considered racially offensive, no matter if it's people of the same ethnic group using it within the context of a friendly greeting, or people from outside that same group using it as basically what amounts to a curse word.

Looked at another way, could these laws actually be designed to further alienate people of African descent? By the passage of these laws, does it not say to them that they are too weak to withstand a verbal attack by weak minded racists, and therefore the government will protect these poor, weak people from the words that may hurt their feelings?

We speak so much about racism in America, and all thinking people agree that in this day and age, we must try to put an end to it. But this singling out of just one minority group for 'special' protection smacks of nothing short of racism in another form. Discrimination is discrimination, and thought and speech monitoring should not be the domain of government in any way, shape or form. If allowed to continue, it will, as sure as it's winter, lead to the eventual rulings I spoke of above. We may not like these words. We may think less of the people that use them. But that does not make it a criminal act, just because the government says so. It's my belief that people of African descent are able to shrug off these epithets in the same manner that the rest of all ethnic groups shrug off racial slurs.

No. These laws should be challenged as an attack on free speech, or one day we just may find that the 'N' word isn't the only one we aren't allowed to say. And now, all the hate mail may begin................Batmanchester

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

One Day That Killed Life Forever

Lawrence, or Larry as he likes to be called, was a business consultant who planned events for local and out of town night spots and establishments, as well as the occasional housewife planning a big shin dig at the family home. His many friends thought him not only warm and kind hearted to a fault, but knew him to be a good provider for his ever growing family. His children, Andrea 7, Jacob 5 and Theresa age 2, thought him to be an angel descended from Heaven, as did his wife of 10 years Angela. A good hard working American, Larry had plans to expand his business, and hire a couple of more consultants to his burgeoning enterprise.

Meeting Larry on the streets of Lincoln, Nebraska, one would never know or even consider that this was once a successful person who owned not only a growing business, but a beautiful home, two cars, and had been living the American dream. Larry doesn’t talk to many people these days, his life having gone from happy and hopeful, to a bottomless well of despair and toil in the blink of an eye. After having a shot of tequila at a dingy gin joint, Larry can still hear the screech of brakes from the truck that mowed his family down on a day trip to Omaha to visit the zoo, and feel the warmth bleeding out across his arms, as he held tightly to what was left of his family. Even after five years, the screams and the cries haunt his every moment, his only solace lying in the bottom of every bottle he can now obtain.

Arranging to meet with Larry to follow his routine, and to try to garner whatever information he was willing to part with, I awoke at 4a.m. to set off to find him. We met on the corner of O Street in the chill morning air, while everything was still closed, another hour till the first of any coffee shops opened, but Larry wasn’t concerned about coffee shops, his worry was how to scrounge out a few dollars for the day. Wondering if he’d at least spent the night at the shelter because of the cold, Larry said that he doesn’t like going there because of the no drinking rule. So on most nights, if it’s cold out, he’ll try to find an open apartment building door, and sleep in the relative warmth of a hallway, or rooftop landing. During the warmer months, he camps out in a sleeping bag he managed to glean from the distribution center run by the rescue mission.

We set off to the Labor Ready on Randolph street, the place where Larry goes to try to get a day’s worth of work in, and must be at by about 5:15 a.m. to sign in, or his chance of getting out that day decrease by the minute. Upon arrival, there were already a few early birds, waiting for the door to open, which it did about ten minutes after we got there. Larry said or nodded hello to a couple of people, but for the most part stayed to himself. As we warmed up, more and more wishful workers straggled in, some drawn no doubt by the free coffee that’s provided in the morning for those who wait.

As we sat there, Larry told me how he’d fallen to this degree of poverty, and made no excuses for his plight, only asked that I try to understand. After the death of his family, a complete accident by all accounts according to Larry, he just could not bear the burden of suffering, nor the guilt he felt for being alive when his loved ones were gone. Not even pretending to be interested in his business any more, he sold it to one of his employees for pennies on the dollar, spending the money in the casinos and bars on the Council Bluffs, Iowa side of Omaha, trying desperately to get lost in the murky haze that only a lot of bourbon can bring about. His house foreclosed because of his being lost in the horrifying pain, Larry found himself going back to Lincoln to use some of his remaining cash on low rent motels, and even lower rent bars. For a time, he thought about trying to make a comeback of sorts, dismissing the idea almost as soon as he thought it, becoming if not content in his new station in life, then feeling that this was all he deserved, still blaming himself for an event beyond all but God’s control.

Morning wore on, with Larry announcing that at this hour, there would be no new day job tickets arriving, and he wanted to get a head start back to the side of town where free lunches are served to the poor and the homeless. We arrived at The Matt Talbot Kitchen in time, taking up our place in line just as the doors opened and the hungry started inside. Everyone that worked there, all volunteers, were friendly enough, and welcomed these, those who have the least in our society, with open arms. The meal consisted of macaroni with meat and carrots mixed in, a salad mixture and some bread. Not steak and potatoes mind you, but with
the temperature outside being around 25 degrees, a welcome respite from the hardship of a futile morning. Hot coffee rounded out the meal, as well as a small piece of cake, and then it was back to the streets in search of someplace Larry might be able to score even a little cash to extinguish his growing thirst.

Inquiring as to whether or not he’d tried going the inpatient route at one of the detox centers, Larry said he’d been through the Center Pointe program about a year or so ago, but that it hadn’t taken, because he wasn’t ready to call it quits yet. He realized that he wasn’t done self flagellating, and didn’t know if that day would ever come. And so we were off to the spot under the O street bridge, which is being overhauled, and where homeless men gather during the day hoping for an hour or two’s worth of dumping garbage for the construction firms refurbishing the span. Having worked for two hours a couple of days before, Larry caught up with one of the foremen who said he didn’t have anything for that day, but if Larry were to come back early the next morning, he could use him for a few hours. Knowing the situation, this kind soul fronted Larry twenty dollars, taking his word for it that he’d show up the next day.

We made a direct beeline for a dingy bar, dark and dank outside, filthy and stinking of urine inside. Larry wanted a shot, to steady his nerves he said, which he had, and then we were off to a mini mart, where a twelve pack of Busch beer was the order of the day. Making our way to Haymarket park, the home of the Nebraska Cornhuskers baseball team, we sat under the concrete walkway that leads people into the park grounds, near some railroad tracks, where Larry opened his first beer. Lighting a cigarette, while drawing a great draught, for the first time, I saw the tension ease from Larry’s face. I sat with him while he smoked and drank, talking the small talk two people who barely know each other do, until the time came when the realization set in that Larry was pretty smashed. Expecting him to try to hit me up for some money, I was surprised when Larry said that he knew I had things to do, and actually thanked me for hanging out with him that day, without judging him, or telling him what he ought to be doing. Not being able to just leave him there that night, I called for a taxi on my cell phone, and brought him to a motel on 27th street, and got him a room for the night. The tears that came to his eyes made me wish that I had a million dollars to give this man, but alas, the best I could do was to leave him with an extra twenty dollars, and my best wishes. And so ended my day with Larry, a kind man who was struck down by a cruel flip of life’s coin.

The worst thing that I can imagine that could ever happen to someone happened to Larry. Good hardworking man. Played by the rules, paid his taxes, provided for his family. All of that was wiped away one day that killed not only a man’s family, but killed his life as sure as the bumper of that truck. Larry will never read this. He doesn’t go to the library to use the internet. His day to day existence is a struggle to find a day’s pay, food to eat, and maybe something to numb the searing pain in his mind. But Larry’s case is in no way indicative of the majority of homeless Americans, many of which are children, and the vast majority of whom live nowhere near a merciful city like Lincoln, where they go above and beyond to try to take care of those less fortunate. Something to think about on your way to and from work, as you pass those outstretched hands and decide not to fork over that sixty eight cents in change jangling in your pocket, because Heaven forbid! They might buy alcohol with the money! Maybe so. Maybe sometimes that’s all that’s left for people like Larry, solace at any cost. Batmanchester

Monday, January 14, 2008

Iranaphobia Or The Phony Middle East Visit

President Bush's Mid-East visit, ostensibly to drum up support from countries such as Bahrain, Israel, the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, and Kuwait in the Bush 'war on terror', turned out to be little more than a bully pulpit from which Bush could once again beat the drums of war against Iran. Besides his having almost no knowledge whatsoever pertaining to the governments of the countries he is visiting, calling them bastions of democracy, his threats against the Iranians are not even based in reality.

Citing the recent 'confrontation' between Iranian speed boats and massive U.S. war ships, Bush uses this as an example of Iranian intent, when accounts are trickling in that the 'confrontation' was not all that it appeared to be.

A native of Bahrain, Abduljalil Alsingace, tried to deliver a petition to the U.S. embassy in the U.A.E. just before Bush was due to arrive, calling for democracy in his homeland, but his attempts to deliver the petition were met with cool resistance by embassy officials. That is, until the media got wind of it, and only then did they grudgingly accept it.

See, Bush was over there extolling the virtues of these governments, without ever once calling for democratic reform in the host countries, because he needs them if he is ever to achieve his dream of bombing Iran back to the stone age. A quick look at the governments that Bush visited and then sung the praises of, shows the hypocrisy in all it's glory.

In the Palestinian territories, Bush gaffed and lost many a Palestinian supporter, when he jokingly told the gathered crowd that he didn't have any problem getting through the stifling Israeli check points with his 45 car motorcade. The Palestinian people are being systematically starved to death by these choke points, stopping movement within their own territory, by what amounts to an illegal occupation of Palestinian lands. Despite U.N. resolutions demanding the removal of these check points, and the withdrawal of Israeli troops from the West Bank and Gaza by the U.N., Israel defies international law with a stepped up and continued occupation.

But truth be told, Israel itself is the only country that Bush went to that even pretends to adhere to the principles of a free and democratic society.

Take for instance his visit to Saudi Arabia. The Saudis just beheaded another person on Saturday. A woman who they say was convicted of murdering her employer for financial gain, but whom others say was being abused by her rich boss to the point that the Indonesian woman killed her in order to get away. This is the same government that routinely whips women whose 'crime' is the audacity of going out and getting herself gang raped. Friends like these and all that.

The United Arab Emirates, another must see on Bush's daring Middle East mission, is little more than a safe haven for criminals the world over, corporate, terrorist, or just your run of the mill big time drug dealer. If you'll remember, this is where Halliburton just moved their headquarters to, in order to avoid any Congressional oversight and possible criminal liability in their rip off of American tax dollars. The government is a sultanate, or monarchy if you will, no democracy to be found here either.

Tiny Kuwait, another country for which American blood was spilled, is still not a democracy, almost 20 years after the first Gulf War. The royal family rules over all, paying lip service to American concerns of freedom for it's people.

But when one looks at the hypocritical words spoken by Bush to try and drum up support for some sort of an alliance against Iran, one could either laugh out loud at the absurdity of Bush's words, or, if so inclined, point out to our pinhead in chief, that what he spoke of amounted to the pot calling the kettle black.

Bush said that Iran is threatening the security of the world, as is the U.S. government.

Iran supports terrorists, as does the U.S. government by supporting the Iranian Resistance Movement.

Iran sends arms to the Taliban. Oh come on Mr. Bush! We, us, the United States, funded the rise of the Taliban back in the days of the Soviet occupation, and by proxy, funded Al-Qaida itself by providing Osama Bin Laden with over $6 Billion dollars!

Iran defies U.N. resolutions. So do we, as in there was no U.N. resolution for us to invade Iraq, in fact there was a vote calling for more negotiation with Hussein's regime, which was ignored and defied by Bush, who invaded any way. Little details, I know.

Iran refuses to disclose it's nuclear program, and thereby destabilizes the entire region. Hmm. We don't disclose anything about our nuclear program. We discard the treaties signed with the Russians, and so now they're rebuilding their stockpiles with bigger and better nukes, so who's destabilizing what again?

Even more laughable were his exhortations to his host countries to take Iraq's examples of democratic reforms, even as his own administration was saying that the Baath Party would be allowed back into the government. The same Baath Party we supposedly went over there to kick out. Or that we were now backing away from almost every benchmark we set for the Iraqi government.

So, this trip was about allaying the fears of Israel that we weren't going to attack Iran, and to drum up support among the most repressive and brutal dictatorial regimes in the region for such an attack. Just when we thought that the Iranaphobia was sliding off the slimy desk of Dubya, he decides the Iranians are the world's biggest threat after all, even as the Chinese send more defective products into the U.S., build up a military capable of taking on our own, and the Russians rebuild their nuclear arsenal. Not to mention the wide open borders and ports that anyone inclined to do so could smuggle themselves and whatever weaponry across or into whenever they so choose.

I would venture that the bigger threat to peace and stability is a President with a one track mind, albeit a small mind, and his determination to go out with another shock and awe campaign, leaving the rest of us holding the bag. Batmanchester