Archive for January, 2011|Monthly archive page

Earmarks Schmearmarks! Reposted to Celebrate the Obama/Reid Tussle

In Current Events, Economics on January 27, 2011 at 04:40

The cry to stop earmarks is echoing from the halls of Congress once again. Senators and House members feign to be against earmarks until they realize that earmarks are an easy way to get government spending into their district. They act as if earmarks are going to ruin us, while it is really a miniscule part of the budget. “”We can’t have 500 congressmen and senators who think it’s their job to bring home the bacon – and that’s what’s going to change,” South Carolina Sen. Jim DeMint told CBS’ “The Early Show.” http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2010/11/03/earlyshow/main7017689.shtml

Apparently DeMint, a leading Republican Senator, couldn’t remember that Congress has 535 members, so he used the number 500 as an estimate. Unless he was rounding to the nearest hundred. If so, he nailed it!

Earmarks are less than one percent of the budget. “In 2008, Congress earmarked $17.2 billion for special projects. That amounts to less than one half of one percent of all Federal spending last year. The figure is less than NASA’s 2008 budget ($17.3 billion) and less than half of the $35 billion the country spent on foreign aid last year.” http://freakonomics.blogs.nytimes.com/2009/11/06/do-earmarks-matter/ However, an earmark ban upsets lobbyists, so perhaps it’s not such a bad thing.  http://www.redstate.com/brian_d/2010/11/14/lobbyists-upset-about-demint-earmark-ban/

The American Spectator thinks these earmarks are outrageous:


“* $7.3 million for grasshopper research in North Dakota-FY1999” is noted as a problem.  

Outrageous, right? Not if you know your facts. North Dakota is one of the largest agricultural producing states in the nation, producing $8,270,517,000 of crops in 2008 alone http://www.ers.usda.gov/statefacts/ND.HTM . Moreover, one of the largest pests, pests that cause millions of dollars of damage each year, is grasshoppers. Why wouldn’t they want to study the pests and find a way to reduce their affect on their cash crops?

“* $1 million for a DNA study of bears in Montana-FY2003” is also considered outrageous by the Spectator.

Silly to study bears, right? Well, let’s look at the facts. Montana is one of the states that encompass part of Yellowstone Park. Yellowstone Park is one of the major tourist attractions in Montana, garnering millions for the state. Bears are major attractions in the park. If the bear population were to decrease, it might reduce the number of tourists to Yellowstone, losing Montana millions. Bears can also be major irritant for nearby urban areas. Understanding the biology of bears might help protect the bears and humans so future generations can safely appreciate these magnificent creatures.

“* $50,000 for a tattoo removal program in California-FY2002” That’s crazy, right?

Tattoo removal programs target former gang members and prison inmates as a way to assist them in making a transition to a productive way of life. http://www.cdcr.ca.gov/News/tattoo_list.html Thus, funding for tattoo removal can reduce gang violence and recidivism. Both are goals worth far more than $50,000.

Examples from the American Spectator: http://spectator.org/blog/2010/08/13/end-earmarks-plug-the-pork-sto

So, not only are earmarks a tiny part of the budget, they can be good investments in different states.

The real problem with the earmarks is how they are put into bills without consideration by the whole Congress. They are stealth spending that House and Senate members sneak into bills. Some of the so-called horrible earmarks can be good investments, as I pointed out above. Some can be a waste of money. However, Congress people don’t read the earmarks, so the author of the earmark can’t promote them, and Congress can’t make educated decisions about what spending is useful or not.

The other problem with earmarks is that they can lead to support for spending bills that would otherwise fail. Let’s say Congressman A is against the War in Iraq. To get his support for a war spending bill, Congresswoman B allows Congressman A to put an earmark in the bill, spending in his district for public transportation, to get his to vote for the military spending. This hand washing leads to a bloated budget far larger and problematic than the passage of a few earmarks.

A simple change to the earmark process would be for all earmarks to be read by the author of the earmark and voted on separately before being added to any spending bill. Thus, funds for levee repair along the Mississippi and bridge retrofitting could be passed in a transportation bill at the last minute, given that the members of Congress vote to put these earmarks in on a simple majority vote.

Like most things about Congress, it comes down to lack of gate-keeping mechanisms for spending. So instead of making common sense changes to the budgeting process, i.e. forcing all members of Congress to read all spending bills or read comprehensive summaries of bills produced by their staff, they come out against all earmarks, or they ignore the process and let the secret spending continue unabated.

Stop the stupidity in Congress; pass a READ THE BILL Act http://www.downsizedc.org/read-the-laws to keep them honest. Also, pass changes to the process on passing earmarks.


Top Earmarkers are Republicans–http://dyn.politico.com/members/forums/thread.cfm?catid=1&subcatid=1&threadid=3699656&sort=1


Get involve in Read the Bill Act

Tex Shelters

The President’s Address: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

In Current Events, Economics, Election Politics on January 26, 2011 at 20:16

The President’s Address: the Good, the Bad and the Ugly

This is a step by step review of the framing in Obama’s speech rated Ugly, Bad, and Good. (Quotes in italics)

First ugly moment:
That, too, is what sets us apart as a nation.
(ugly America first talk) (Applause.)

It’s whether we sustain the leadership that has made America not just a place on a map, but the light to the world.
(ugly, America is a light? Not so much anymore.)

We are poised for progress. Two years after the worst recession most of us have ever known, the stock market has come roaring back. Corporate profits are up. The economy is growing again.
(bad misleading claptrap. Where are the jobs if everything is going well? Why is the stock market more important than jobs? Yes, corporations are doing well, but where are the jobs?)

Many people watching tonight can probably remember a time when finding a good job meant showing up at a nearby factory or a business downtown. You didn’t always need a degree, and your competition was pretty much limited to your neighbors.
(bad: he puts the lack of jobs on workers to “compete” but ignores the reality that companies want cheap labor and getting more education won’t get you that job.)

America still has the largest, most prosperous economy in the world. (Applause.) No workers — no workers are more productive than ours. No country has more successful companies, or grants more patents to inventors and entrepreneurs. We’re the home to the world’s best colleges and universities, where more students come to study than any place on Earth.
(America’s number 1!, great and ugly patriotism that avoids the reality of job losses and lack of jobs’ programs)

Sustaining the American Dream has never been about standing pat. It has required each generation to sacrifice, and struggle, and meet the demands of a new age.
(Ugly: where is the sacrifice of Congress people, the corporations that got bailed out, the top 2% who kept their tax cuts. Why are the workers always sacrificing and not those that can?)

This is our generation’s Sputnik moment. Two years ago, I said that we needed to reach a level of research and development we haven’t seen since the height of the Space Race. And in a few weeks, I will be sending a budget to Congress that helps us meet that goal. We’ll invest in biomedical research, information technology, and especially clean energy technology — (applause) — an investment that will strengthen our security, protect our planet, and create countless new jobs for our people.
(Good and Bad: Great use of language, good idea, but what (space programs?) proposal do you have and where will the jobs come from?)

We need to get behind this innovation. And to help pay for it, I’m asking Congress to eliminate the billions in taxpayer dollars we currently give to oil companies. (Applause.) I don’t know if — I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but they’re doing just fine on their own.
(good joke, but where is the action to make the oil companies accountable, bad) (Laughter.)

Our schools share this responsibility. When a child walks into a classroom, it should be a place of high expectations and high performance. But too many schools don’t meet this test. That’s why instead of just pouring money into a system that’s not working, we launched a competition called Race to the Top. To all 50 states, we said, “If you show us the most innovative plans to improve teacher quality and student achievement, we’ll show you the money.” Race to the Top is the most meaningful reform of our public schools in a generation.
(Race to the Top is an ugly program that pits schools against each other for paltry sums of money)

One last point about education. Today, there are hundreds of thousands of students excelling in our schools who are not American citizens. Some are the children of undocumented workers, who had nothing to do with the actions of their parents. They grew up as Americans and pledge allegiance to our flag, and yet they live every day with the threat of deportation. Others come here from abroad to study in our colleges and universities. But as soon as they obtain advanced degrees, we send them back home to compete against us. It makes no sense.
(Good: stating the facts in support of the Dream Act is a promotion of solidarity for citizens)

So tonight, I’m asking Democrats and Republicans to simplify the system. Get rid of the loopholes. Level the playing field. And use the savings to lower the corporate tax rate for the first time in 25 years — without adding to our deficit. It can be done.
(Ugly: lower tax rates for corporations that don’t pay taxes? You better get rid of the loopholes first, and then maybe lower the rates)

To help businesses sell more products abroad, we set a goal of doubling our exports by 2014 — because the more we export, the more jobs we create here at home.
(ugly pandering to businesses. Where are the jobs?)

And last month, we finalized a trade agreement with South Korea that will support at least 70,000 American jobs. This agreement has unprecedented support from business and labor, Democrats and Republicans — and I ask this Congress to pass it as soon as possible.
(ugly: free trade agreements fail to create jobs and only boost profits for corporations already doing well.) (Applause.)

When we find rules that put an unnecessary burden on businesses, we will fix them.
(Bad, all regulation is seen as a burden to every company, who will decide what a burden is? ) (Applause.)

But I will not hesitate to create or enforce common-sense safeguards to protect the American people.
(good, because we need regulation for many things, or companies will kill us for money.) (Applause.)

What I’m not willing to do — what I’m not willing to do is go back to the days when insurance companies could deny someone coverage because of a preexisting condition.
(good, if this holds true) (Applause.)

We are living with a legacy of deficit spending that began almost a decade ago.
(Bad, the large deficit spending began under Reagan and continued with a slight reprieve under Clinton)

But now that the worst of the recession is over,
(Bad, there are no jobs, so who is the recession over for?)

So tonight, I am proposing that starting this year, we freeze annual domestic spending for the next five years.
(ugly, there are no jobs and you want to stop spending when we need work? And what about the bloated military budget?) (Applause.)

This freeze will require painful cuts. Already, we’ve frozen the salaries of hardworking federal employees
(bad: freezing salaries of workers first but not having the wealthy pay their share? Where did you get those ideas?)

The Secretary of Defense has also agreed to cut tens of billions of dollars in spending that he and his generals believe our military can do without.
(good, but not enough on this) (Applause.)

This means further reducing health care costs, including programs like Medicare and Medicaid (bad, what is the real plan?), which are the single biggest contributor to our long-term deficit
(bad, it’s misleading to bundle these programs together and ignore the military budget. Medicare and Medicaid help people, it is spending for people, the military is spending for war and to help military contractors).

Still, I’m willing to look at other ideas to bring down costs, including one that Republicans suggested last year — medical malpractice reform to rein in frivolous lawsuits.
(bad, lawsuits are NOT frivolous. If they are, they get quickly thrown out and the plaintiff has to pay for the court costs of the defendant. It’s call summary judgment. It’s a lie that there are “frivolous lawsuits” or that they are a major problem. No lawyer would take on a case if they couldn’t win and there are safeguards against frivolous lawsuits. Even people that were looking for frivolous lawsuits could only find two in over 3,000 cases they studied http://www.thenation.com/issue/march-7-2005 ) (Applause.)

And if we truly care about our deficit, we simply can’t afford a permanent extension of the tax cuts for the wealthiest 2 percent of Americans.
(good. now, what is he doing to do about it other than compromise it away?) (Applause.)

And so we must defeat determined enemies
(bad to use “us versus them” terms),
wherever they are, and build coalitions that cut across lines of region and race and religion. And America’s moral example
(ugly: what moral example, having a hit list, using drones to kill people, torture? What example?)
must always shine for all who yearn for freedom and justice and dignity.

(ugly, yes freedom to have tax cuts and be unemployed are great, but what about freedom of speech, freedom to not be spied on, freedom to have our vote count and have fair elections, etc?)

Look to Iraq, where nearly 100,000 of our brave men and women have left with their heads held high. (Applause.) American combat patrols have ended, violence is down
(ugly lie, violence is up in Iraq: link or link),
and a new government has been formed.
(ugly: a new corrupt government)
This year, our civilians will forge a lasting partnership with the Iraqi people, while we finish the job of bringing our troops out of Iraq. America’s commitment has been kept.
(ugly: what commitment?)
The Iraq war is coming to an end.

(bad: really?) (Applause.)

American Muslims are a part of our American family.
(good: this can not be said enough, it’s important that the President says this. Islamophobia must be addressed. ) (Applause.)

In Afghanistan, our troops have taken Taliban strongholds and trained Afghan security forces.
ugly: the Taliban have just moved on. You cannot defeat an idea with an army)
Our purpose is clear: By preventing the Taliban from reestablishing a stranglehold over the Afghan people, we will deny al Qaeda the safe haven that served as a launching pad for 9/11.
(ugly: more excuses for war by an American president)

Thanks to our heroic troops and civilians, fewer Afghans are under the control of the insurgency. There will be tough fighting ahead, and the Afghan government will need to deliver better governance. But we are strengthening the capacity of the Afghan people
(ugly: we are strengthening their capacity by killing and bombing them and destroying their homes? What? )
and building an enduring partnership with them. This year, we will work with nearly 50 countries to begin a transition to an Afghan lead. And this July, we will begin to bring our troops home.

(ugly, especially with the info that he want to extend our presence until 2014) (Applause.)

American leadership can also be seen in the effort to secure the worst weapons of war. Because Republicans and Democrats approved the New START treaty, far fewer nuclear weapons and launchers will be deployed.
(good: It’s good to reduce nuclear weapons and have a verification system, but it could go further to address uranium tipped weapons and head towards elimination of these weapons.)

Because of a diplomatic effort to insist that Iran meet its obligations, the Iranian government now faces tougher sanctions, tighter sanctions than ever before.
(ugly, the sanctions don’t hurt the Iranian government, it strengthens their anti-West ideology and hurts the people)

This is just a part of how we’re shaping a world that favors peace and prosperity.
(ugly lie)

Recent events have shown us that what sets us apart must not just be our power — it must also be the purpose behind it. In south Sudan — with our assistance — the people were finally able to vote for independence after years of war.
(good: if the United States was a positive influence in bringing about the vote, that’s good.) (Applause.)

And we saw that same desire to be free in Tunisia, (did I tell you, or what?) where the will of the people proved more powerful than the writ of a dictator. And tonight, let us be clear: The United States of America stands with the people of Tunisia, and supports the democratic aspirations of all people.
(ugly, ugly, ugly That’s a lie. We support the dictatorship in Egypt, the military government in Colombia, the fake Democracy in Pakistan and Afghanistan, we overthrew the Democratic government in Iran in 1954 and Guatemala, helped with the coups in Chile and Argentina, supported Marcos in the Philippines and Suarto in Indonesia, not to mention our meddling in Haiti the Dominican Republic and our support of death squads in Central America, and so on. I knew this lie was coming) (Applause.)

And with that change, I call on all our college campuses to open their doors to our military recruiters and ROTC.
(ugly x 10: universities are for learning, not recruiting. We should start drafting Congress people’s kids and those of CEOs in Fortune 500 companies. Why should the poor and middle classes fight the wars for the rich? Do you think Obama, Boehner, Pelosi or Palin, or the Koch brothers will send their kids off the war? Stop killing the children of the poor for corporate profit. )

That dream — that American Dream
(bad, it’s just bad promoting this myth to us President Obama. The American Dream is dead, and we must make a sustainable future, not fantasize about an unobtainable dream created in advertising board rooms in the 50s.)

Score: A+ in meeting stated purpose of appeasing the people, disarming the Republicans and starting the momentum for the 2012 election.

D in coming up with new ideas.

D for not addressing jobs and issues average Americans care about.

E on foreign policy and using the language of empire

Summary of the talking points

Ugly: It was full of pandering patriotism like all presidential addresses, and no proposals for the “future” (a word he used 15 times in his address).

Ugly: myth of America as a benevolent imperial power.

Bad: The promotion of U.S. exceptionalism over being a world citizen.

Bad: They myth that technology is the answer to all our problems.

Ugly: promoting Republican ideas like “tort reform”, a problem invented by Republicans who want to end corporate accountability.

Good: the idea that science and education are important.

Good: promoting Sudan independence.

Ugly: using gays in the military as a path to promoting ROTC at university compuses.

Ugly: Ignoring the genocide in Darfur and ignoring it in his speech.

Ugly: Race to the Top and it’s promotion as innovation when it’s just reheated No Child Left Behind but with higher stakes.

Bad: No mention of gun regulation that might reduce killings like those in Tucson.

Bad: no mention of the BP spill or climate change.

Listen to Democracy Now! and their guests’ reviews of the speech: http://www.democracynow.org/ including Harry Belafonte.

Tex Shelters

A Summary of the State of the Union Address

In Current Events, Humor on January 25, 2011 at 23:20

No need to see the address. Really, aren’t these always pandering, no matter who is president? Here’s a summary for you:

Obama’s coming State of the Union Address, or SOTU (with his running thoughts in parenthesis):


My Fellow Americans (shut up you eff’ed up birthers):

God reference stating Obama’s and America’s reverence for the mythical man in the sky. Blah blah blah we face challenges. Blah, blah, the end of the recession is near though we still face challenges.

Blah blah blah we must come together Democrats, Republicans, blahs and blahs and blahs and blahs and work for the common good blah blah blah.

We will freeze spending because blah blah blah and encourage job growth through incentives to business blah blah blah pander pander pander (I’m in as pres in 2012!)

Security, troops doing good job, security.

Economy turning around blah blah empty metaphor featuring ship and slow steering, (I hope they believe this load) spiritual reference that makes one think of MLK (god forbid not Malcolm X)

Reference to “those of us in our hearts still struggling for life” (Giffords) and those everywhere making America a safer place whether in foreign land 1, or 2, or 3, or 4 (see, I support the troops everyone, see?)

It is a new day in America paraphrase of Reagan to please the 18 Republican votes he got in 2008 (I hope the Republicans like me more now!)

We have accomplished much, but more work must be done. Another ass-kissing statement about bipartisanship for the Republicans.

We can’t be free until all citizens of the world are free oblique reference to Tunisia (I hope Americans don’t know we support the Egyptian dictatorship with a $ billion each year) and we will be the shining light for freedom for people around the globe.

Rah rah cheerleading patriotic god filled closing.

(Exit stage right)

Tex Shelters

Real Security Threats: Food

In Current Events, Economics on January 24, 2011 at 00:24

While the United States and the Obama Administration are chasing their tails in Afghanistan under the guise of national security, one real security threat that is being unaddressed by most in the West is food instability in the world.

““Famine and starvation create the conditions for extremism around the world, the same extremism our men and women in the armed forces are fighting right now in Afghanistan and Iraq and elsewhere,” said U.S. Representative Rosa DeLauro in a fiery speech. “We fight hunger and poverty and we undercut the recruiting base for those that would threaten our families.””

It should be noted that the major international terrorist organizations are well funded and the leaders face no food security issues.

However, terrorist activities by small groups or individuals in the occupied territories (Gaza and West Bank), in Somalia, Niger and other nations are often directly linked to economic suffering, including food insecurity. Moreover, well-funded terrorist organizations recruit from nations facing such insecurity.

In 2009, according to the UN, there were a reported thirty-four food riots in nations as diverse as Liberia, Cameroon, Haiti, Afghanistan, Mexico, Pakistan, Indonesia and others. (link)

Instability in these nations directly affect the security of regions and the stability of their government. Food riots in Pakistan during flooding last fall erupted in attacks on food convoys and violence between authorities, relief agencies and Pakistanis.

President Obama has even put the U.S. military on alert for “spring food riots” in 2011. If the irony hasn’t hit you yet, let me lay it out. The United States is spending over $700 billion on the military each year  and topped $1 trillion in spending in 2010 on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we spent 10% of this on food security and stopped dumping U.S. grains on poor nations, we could create international good will and more secure nations. We wouldn’t need to spend so much money on weapons. There would also be the added benefit of feeding people instead of bombing and killing them.

Food Insecurity: Niger Example
As a result of the food crisis in Niger, thousands of Nigeriens have entered the five northern Nigerian states of Katsina, Yobe, Jigawa, Sokoto and Borno. The Nigeriens are seeking casual labour to earn money to buy grain.(16) At the same time Northern areas of Nigeria are also suffering from a food security crisis. As many as 12 million people may be affected by shortage of food, the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) warned on 27 May 2010.(17) The influx of Nigeriens to an already struggling region may cause tension and fuel conflict. Conflict may exacerbate if the crisis continues over time as more and more people will migrate in search of food.  West Africa is already suffering from conflict within countries and between countries. Food shortage may fuel conflicts further. This crisis, if prolonged, may affect a region already strained by conflict and dispute.

Food insecurity and the potential for conflict
Food insecurity and conflict are closely related. Between 1992 and 2003, 35% of food emergencies were caused by conflict and economic problems.(18) In September 2003, 38 countries in the world faced serious food shortages requiring international assistance, 22 of these were African countries.(19) In West Africa, food insecurity is caused by both human natural disasters, making the situation more complex.(20) As a consequence of the food insecurity, ‘the conflict/post-conflict scenarios of mass migration, starvation, sectoral collapse and death due to hunger and disease (as opposed to combat-induced death) becomes more likely.’(21)

There are many causes of the global food crisis. There is the growing world population, degradation of soil and damaging weather events including droughts, floods, and unseasonably hot and cold temperatures. “Prices of grains surged in 2010, with wheat buoyed by a series of weather events including drought in Russia and its Black Sea neighbours. European wheat prices doubled, U.S. corn rose more than 50 percent while U.S. soybeans jumped 34 percent.”


The world food crisis is exacerbated by our beloved “free” markets. During the start of the world economic crisis in 2008, billions of dollars flooded the market from investors looking for a safe place to invest their profits. By infusing billions into the market, commodity prices rose dramatically, and this inflation has the most adverse affect on poor consumers in the third world who live on the margins. (link or link)

Speculation on food for profit by wealthy individuals and companies:

Deborah Doane of the World Development Movement has noted that more than $200bn has been poured into food markets since the financial crisis by speculators hunting for profit, creating volatility. The leading international grain-trading companies are doing well as a result. The US agricultural giant Cargill reeled in $1.49bn in windfall profits in its last quarter, three times its profits the year before…

It might seem like there’s nothing new here. Climate shocks, shoddy government policy, scalping by traders, speculation by bankers, biofuels, and a rising oil price. We’re not in 2008, though. The oil price isn’t quite in the $150-a-barrel recession-precipitating territory yet – but that’s as far as the good news goes. There are other reasons to worry. More than a billion people went hungry in 2009, and the shock of the past two years has stripped assets away from the poor – in order to survive poverty, many have been involved in distress sales. The last two years’ hunger and malnourishment will have indelibly affected an entire cohort of children. The recession has meant that more people are vulnerable to systemic shocks.

Another effect of the world economic crisis is the austerity programs that have been put in place around the world. Price supports and national food programs are often the first items to be cut in the third world whose budgets are ballooning in part to the rise in world food prices.

“Now that governments’ great enemy is inflation, the policies that feed the hungry are precisely the ones under the knife in a global push for market-friendly austerity. India’s home minister, P Chidambaram, recently admitted that he didn’t “have all the tools to control food inflation”. Although countries are scrambling to find ways of bridging the gaps, the great worry in 2011 is not only that inflation will eat away everyone’s earnings through higher food prices, but that the institutions and policies that might ward off the worst effects will be hexed by the markets too.”

What Price food Security
One obvious solution would be to disengage food prices from market speculation. Market solutions to hunger do not work and only exacerbate deprivation in the world. One problem United Nation’s and other international food programs encounter is that when they give food, the cost of the food they distribute is based on the market price of food. Those market prices can be manipulated by speculators out for profit. That creates an unstable market for staples. If we paid farmers of wheat, rice, corn and other foodstuffs a healthy wage, we could more easily feed the world have to worry about fluctuating prices. Alas, the free market is promoted as a solution by those who profit from it, so a few million starving people won’t be enough to change market policies.

The Small Cost of Feeding the World without Structural Changes in Commodities Markets

A ten year proposal estimates that a $90 billion dollar investment for the United States over 10 years can lead the way to food security and stop the 100 million deaths dues to malnutrition each year. The Borgen Project estimates the investment to me $40-60 billion for the U.S.  Either way, that seems like a minor investment compared to the hundreds of billions we spend each year for a military solution to our security problems.

The Borgen Project also lays out the choices for the desperately poor in the world:

A. Die from hunger or a preventable illness within the next five years.

B. Receive a free education and food from the only place that offers it to them; an extremist school that preaches hatred toward the U.S. and grooms its students for involvement with terrorist groups.

C. Rise out of poverty.  Over the course of their lifetime, they spend $30,000 on U.S. products, ranging from Colgate tooth paste (sic) to Levi Jeans and Washington Apples.

Guess which scenario is better for the U.S.? The cost of meeting these kids basic survival needs and giving them access to education is minuscule compared to the return on investment the United States receives; both in terms of economic prosperity and national securtiy (sic). The United States is essentially playing Russian roulette by ignoring the plight of these children and millions like them.

One thing is certain, competing for food is not the best global strategy for food security. We pay the price economically, politically and morally today for our inaction, and the price is rising faster than food prices.

Basic Background and basic solutions:

What to do? Go to this link, read and follow the suggestions given:

More world hunger facts:

Tex Shelters

Guns: 10 Rounds

In Current Events, Human Rights and the Constitution on January 19, 2011 at 22:14

A TextraNormal Presentation based on actual discussions of gun regulation.

Please visit the YouTube page. I could use more “hits”.  

Tex Shelters

Why We Remember Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

In History, Human Rights and the Constitution on January 17, 2011 at 16:52

When America celebrates our holidays such as Martin Luther King Day, it is important to remember why we celebrate.

Are we celebrating a man who helped focus the nation on racial inequality? Are we celebrating a movement that helped make America a more tolerant place despite our continued failings? Are we celebrating a man who embodied the sacrifice that called all Americans to give in the name of equality and peace? Let us not forget all the people in the movement, men, women, blacks, Jews, Whites, Asian, Native Americans, everyone. We celebrate a movement for which King was a leader, not just the man himself. Let us not forget the lessons King and so many others have taught us.

Howard Zinn on Dr. King and President Obama:

Tex Shelters



There is no Analogy for a Gun

In Current Events, Human Rights and the Constitution on January 12, 2011 at 19:27

Why do people defend the use of semi-automatic gun with magazines that hold more than ten rounds? That is a question I wonder when the guns before life crowd comes out of the wood work after yet another tragedy like we had in Tucson on Saturday, at Va. Tech, Columbine and other places.

One of the arguments is that knives kill people, so why not ban them. First, this is a technique used when one can’t defend their position. It’s called “distraction”. If you can’t defend the use of semi-automatic guns with high capacity magazines (more than 10 or 15 rounds), then make a false analogy to show how ridiculous banning weapons is. Do I really have to explain how a knife is different from a gun? Really?  I have yet to see a semi-automatic hunting knife that could shoot 30+ rounds form a distance in about two minutes. A knife is a poor substitute for a gun. If it wasn’t, the U.S. army and the Taliban would bring a knife to a gun fight. Alas for some, this distinction is not obvious.

Then there is the other false analogy: automobiles kill people, so why not ban them? First, I have never called for the banning of guns. That is the first error in the logic. Second, a car was not created to kill. A car was invented as a mode of transportation for people and goods. Outside of personal protection and hunting, both involving killing or wounding, guns have no other legal uses other than target practice, skeet shooting and so forth. I suppose you could use a gun as a hammer, but that would not be what the gun was designed for. I think using a hammer to kill would be more effective (as one gun defender suggested) than using a gun as a hammer. However, there is that trouble with the reloading the hammer to shoot at a crowd. Moreover, why don’t the people comparing automobiles to guns ever suggest gun insurance (like for cars) be mandated and what we have to take a gun use test and register our guns like we do our cars? It’s because people only use the analogies when it suits their defense of guns. If they actually thought it through, they would see the analogy is not apt.

Why can’t gun advocates admit that guns were created to kill? Isn’t that the point of a gun, to kill or wound an intruder or take down your dinner, deer, rabbit, quail or other game animal? That is the primary function of a gun. I don’t see a problem with that fact or admitting that fact.  However, those that feel compelled to come to the defense of guns at all costs can’t admit it. Even those that would support Democratic issues such as health care for all and are against the war come out to defend gun with false analogies.  Guns don’t need the help; they can defend themselves.  It’s okay, no one want to take your gun away. We want to reduce gun violence.

Why this disconnect with the reality of what a gun does? Is it that gun advocates on the left or middle of American politics are ashamed of their stance and have to deny the real purpose of a gun? Will it create cognitive dissonance to say that guns were created to kill? Most on the right have no such shame.

Yes, seatbelts can kill too, as one gun defender suggested. Really? Is that where our discourse has devolved, comparing seat belts to guns because sometimes a person dies wearing a seatbelt? Why discuss what a gun is at all then if it is like everything else? In reality, there is no analogy for a gun.

Now that we have learned that guns were created to kill, we must ask ourselves what is the best and most effective way to regulate the use of guns and how to reduce gun violence without interfering with the legal use of the tool that can kill. We can start by questioning who can get a gun and how many bullets we really need to hunt or protect our home and what type of guns we need for those purposes. The NRA, gun and bullet manufacturers, and other guns first people don’t want you to ask those question because it means that the paranoia will subside, a rational discussing will ensue, gun manufacturers will sell fewer weapons, and the influence of the gun lobby in D.C. will be reduced.

Tex Shelters

Regulate this! Even Insane Serial Killer Rapists Deserve a Gun!

In Current Events, Human Rights and the Constitution on January 10, 2011 at 19:17

This is a repost to highlight all the recent nonsense written against sane gun regulation in wake of the shooting in Tucson.

Post for all the people that think guns are more important than life, and for the lovely patriots who know guns are for hunting (for food) and defense at home.

God created guns so we could protect ourselves. He also created guns to piss off liberals. Only people who want to give up their rights would pass any kind of law regulating firearms! Remember, guns = liberty.   People in the United States are the best in the world at using guns, especially handguns. That means we’re the most freedom loving country in the world.

For example, we have the highest rate of firearm deaths of any industrialized country (http://www.wagv.org/gun-violence.php). Our firearm murder rate is nineteen times higher than that of thirty-five other high-income countries combined (ibid). That means we’re highly efficient at shooting guns and people in loser countries like Italy can’t fire a gun for crap.  That’s why the Italians change their government every six months. Our democracy functions so well, because of guns, that most of us don’t see any reason to vote. Now that’s democracy!

Here’s proof that firearms protect you. According to the Center for Disease Control (CDC), there were 500 “legal interventions” due to guns in the year 2000. That means 500 people protected themselves with guns. So you see gun haters, guns protect. It’s the best way to protect, unless you consider guards dogs. But dogs won’t get to kill intruders because people won’t enter if they hear them bark. With a gun, you get the good feeling of doing your civic duty and killing. That always makes me feel good.

Please don’t read any more of the CDC study and get the funny idea that the 776 unintentional gun deaths (accidents) prove anything about gun safety or gun misuse! So what if there were 276 more gun deaths due to accidents than protection. Moreover, don’t read the part that says there were 79 gun related homicides a day in the United States for a total of 28,663. Liberals will use that information to conclude that criminals shouldn’t own guns. But what about the Second Amendment, you leftist assholes! The Second Amendment doesn’t say criminals can’t own guns! Once they keep guns out of the hands of insane serial killer rapists, you know whose guns they’ll go after next. That’s right, yours, mine, and granny’s gun! We have a Second Amendment that guarantees the right to a gun, and don’t you forget it! (http://www.cdc.gov/mmwR/preview/mmwrhtml/rr5214a2.htm).

Liberals, who don’t know a thing about using guns, think that it’s a bad thing that so many young people, and especially young black males, get killed with firearms. It’s the number one cause of death for black males aged 15-24, and the number two killer of young Hispanics and whites (http://www.wagv.org/gun-violence.php). Just because people die, doesn’t mean we should do anything about gun violence.

Leftists in our midst want to say gun deaths are due to guns. However, I know all this gun violence is a result of not having enough firepower in these neighborhoods. If everybody had a gun in poor neighborhoods, there would be fewer deaths, just like carrying guns into universities would stop gun rampages on campuses everywhere. I just proved it, so shut up you liberals! You lost the argument! I am trying to protect the Second Amendment here and you are concerned with a few deaths (28,663) of people I never even met? What the hell is wrong with you?

If they take away guns from a few people, the next thing you know, they’ll be arresting you for making copies of protest flyers or talking on the radio and criticizing the president. You see, once they get the guns out of the hands of serial killing rapists, then we will have a fascist dictatorship where everyone will be arrested for any questionable speech! It’s a slippery slope we’re on, dear patriots.

So what if gun laws were passed because of gun violence. That doesn’t prove gun violence caused gun laws. No, gun laws caused the gun violence. Strict gun laws were passed in Washington, D.C. and gun violence just went up! That proves that anti-gun legislation doesn’t work and actually causes gun violence. You hate freedom and America if you suggest that guns from Virginia (a state with few gun-owning restrictions just a few miles across the Potomac) cause the gun violence in Washington, D.C. We have the Second Amendment people, and that supersedes any logical argument against gun violence.

The Nazis took away guns from their citizens just before they took over Europe. Gun regulation is the exact same thing as taking away guns (as the Nazis did), you liberal fascists! That proves that if you take guns away from insane serial killer rapists then we will have a fascist state! If only the Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, intellectuals, and other Nazi targets had had the Second Amendment, they’d still be alive.

If Tibetans protesting their treatment in China had owned guns, they could have protected themselves with groups of armed militias. The Chinese Army wouldn’t have had a chance against armed and determined Tibetans. Tibetans need a Second Amendment to ensure their freedom! Then they could have stopped the Chinese like the well-armed Branch Davidians stopped the FTA at Waco with their firearms.

Guns are also used in cases of domestic violence. Whatever happens in the family, including shooting, is private, so butt out! So what if “the risk of intimate partner homicide (is) more than five times compared to instances where there are no weapons (http://www.wagv.org/gun-violence.phpgd).” Besides, an abusive husband has just as much right to a gun as a loving husband under the Second Amendment! There is no clause that prevents a wife beater from owning a gun in the Constitution, so don’t think about it you fascists!

If wimpy kids had guns in schools, bullies could be shot! That’s why Tex Shelters Industries designed the 22 caliber Nerd-Slinger 3000. At only 4 inches long, it holds 4 deadly 22 caliber bullets and can be hidden in any PDA holder and put out of site. The plastic polymer design will easily get by all gun detectors at schools across America. Beware bullies; death is at your door!

The story of the eight teenage girls who beat up another girl was tragic. Why? Because they didn’t have guns! If the attackers had only had guns, they wouldn’t have had to beat up their victims. They could have just shot them! And the girls who did the beating and were so concerned with their looks? If they had used guns, they would have had only a few powder burns on them instead of nicks and cuts from the girl as she defended herself against the attack. What kind of country do we live in that gangs attack individuals without carrying the proper firearms? If they had been gangs in the hood, Italian, Black or otherwise, there would have been properly loaded guns on hand. Didn’t the girls know they had the Second Amendment right to have a gun?

Dads, are you prepared when you go to your sons hockey, baseball, or basketball games? We have the Ref. Alert-max mini 9 mm sniper rifle for silencing bad officiating at your daughters’ soccer games. That father who beat the other dad to death at a hockey game could have saved so much trouble if he only had at the Fan-Foe Silencer 22 mm. The dad who got killed could have protected himself if only he had bought the Fan-Foe before the game. It’s a tragedy when parents go unarmed to their children’s sporting events because some leftist Democrats hate life, America, the Constitution, and love fascism.

We need to bring guns to anti-war rallies and shoot the opposition. There’s no better way to show you are against violence and war than shooting someone. Anti-war protestors should form armed militias today.

Why do lawmakers insist on a minimum age (18 in most states) for gun ownership?! What’s next, a minimum age for drinking, voting, or driving! Damn those liberals! They want to keep guns out of the hands of two year olds! Isn’t that unconstitutional and against the Second Amendment? The Second Amendment TO THE CONSTITUTION doesn’t say we can keep guns out of the hands of 2 year-olds, so it shouldn’t be banned! In fact, we should be arming fetuses against their mothers who might want to abort them.

Shut up you liberals! There are too many guns out there to do anything, so why don’t you just give up trying to regulate them. Gun deaths are only a black problem anyway, so who really cares. Certainly not Republicans or most Democrats.

We shouldn’t let the courts decide if an insane serial killer rapist should have guns, just like we shouldn’t let the courts keep people from having sex with underage children if their religion says it’s okay. Why should the court prohibit us from forcing religion on heathen children? Any decision the courts make, like upholding freedom of speech, is fascist.

Owning is a gun is a right and we have the Second Amendment. Any attempt to regulate its use or access, as I have proven here, is bad! You’re either with us or against us! Some mealy-mouthed liberals talk about regulations like those that we have for cars, safety devices on guns, background checks for owners, and a waiting period to prevent rash decision making and killing. That is just the Nazi inside all liberals talking. Either you will allow anyone, anywhere, any time, have a gun, or you can go to hell!

Now go out and take your best shots, patriots!

Tex Shelters


Unlock and Unload

In Current Events on January 10, 2011 at 03:11

Most Americans are shocked and saddened about the shooting of Representative Gabrielle Giffords, and the others are pretending to be shocked and saddened. Sarah Palin, who put a target on Gabrielle Giffords district, a district I live in. Is Palin, who called for us to “reload”, genuinely shocked by the shooting she had metaphorically supported with the target on her district If so, perhaps Palin needs to apologize to the family of the 9 year old girl who was killed in the assassination attempt and Judge Roll’s family and four others who were killed and others wounded.

Sarah Palin’s remarks didn’t cause the shooting, but her rhetoric and that of Sharon Angle (and others) who called for “Second Amendment remedies” when we don’t get what we want politically create a supportive atmosphere for violence.

So, while we are all thinking once more about guns, gun violence, terrorism, politically violent rhetoric, the tea party and other issues related to this shooting, perhaps it is time for some self reflection about the violence this nation supports in our name.

From the “Beyond Vietnam” speech by Martin Luther King,

My third reason moves to an even deeper level of awareness, for it grows out of my experience in the ghettoes of the North over the last three years — especially the last three summers. As I have walked among the desperate, rejected and angry young men I have told them that Molotov cocktails and rifles would not solve their problems. I have tried to offer them my deepest compassion while maintaining my conviction that social change comes most meaningfully through nonviolent action. But they asked — and rightly so — what about Vietnam? They asked if our own nation wasn’t using massive doses of violence to solve its problems, to bring about the changes it wanted. Their questions hit home, and I knew that I could never again raise my voice against the violence of the oppressed in the ghettos without having first spoken clearly to the greatest purveyor of violence in the world today — my own government. For the sake of those boys, for the sake of this government, for the sake of hundreds of thousands trembling under our violence, I cannot be silent.

More Here

So while we are all shocked by senseless murder, murder enabled by multi-shot semi-automatic weapons, we should also ask ourselves, what about Afghanistan, and beyond.

Tex Shelters

Stop the Race to National Standards and Race to the Top

In Current Events, Education, Election Politics on January 8, 2011 at 20:29

Barack O’Bush has done his darndest to retain the 32 conservative votes he got in 2008, James Garner fans who were angry that McCain used the term “Maverick”. One of his ideas to keep those 32 Republican votes he got in 2008 is to promote the idea of “accountability” in our schools. And by “accountability”, Obama and his Education Secretary Arnie Duncan mean more testing, more uniformity, more charter schools and more punishment for creative teachers that try to help students love learning as autonomous human beings.

Obama’s success has been to outdo Bush’s No Child Left Behind and its race to the bottom with his own Race to the Top (RTTT). Race to the Top is a high stakes contest that pits state against state for a pool of $4 billion dollars to be doled out in two, or perhaps three or more stages depending on whether the funding is renewed.

Here’s how Race to the Top works.

The basic idea is to force state governments to compete for $4.35 billion in federal assistance, with the money going to those states which do the most to promote charter schools, utilize standardized testing, and weaken workplace rules for teachers. Essentially, the scheme sets up a bidding war among the states for desperately needed funds on the basis of an anti-public education agenda that has been promoted for decades by the right wing.

Pitting schools, districts, states and teachers against one another for measly sums of money won’t promote real educational reform. It will promote rule following and conformity.

From the Race to the Top website http://www2.ed.gov/programs/racetothetop/index.html :

Awards in Race to the Top will go to States that are leading the way with ambitious yet achievable plans for implementing coherent, compelling, and comprehensive education reform. Race to the Top winners will help trail-blaze effective reforms and provide examples for States and local school districts throughout the country to follow as they too are hard at work on reforms that can transform our schools for decades to come.

And by “educational reform” they mean how well they use tests to grade teachers and how many charter schools they plan to open.

To read about the application process, go here: http://edocket.access.gpo.gov/2009/pdf/E9-27427.pdf

Link to the Race to the top score card and points system

Instead of trying to fund the schools that demonstrate a need for funding based on material resources and help student’s need, Obama and Duncan assumed setting up a contest with winners and losers was the best way to get schools and local education agencies (LEAs) to do what Obama and Duncan want. Is competition between schools for dwindling resources the best way to improve schools? Is “racing” for money the best way to improve education, or is it just the best way to enforce compliance to a testing regimen that has failed in the past?

Remember, the states that get the grants are the states that have promised to, “implement merit pay for teachers, adopt national common core standards and assessment and expand charter schools all received higher points on their applications.”

So, teachers’ pay has to be based on how well little John or Sally or Juan or Chin or Liliana does on a standardized test that is only valid if you don’t considered the cultural and economic variations of all students everywhere. And, RTTT gives extra points for creating more charter schools. Both merit pay and charter schools are ways to bust teacher’s unions everywhere, but if you don’t start busting, you don’t get the extra $75 million as Hawaii received when they received the second round of pay outs for running schools the way the feds want them to. Where’s the tea party anger over Race to the Top that wants to create federal mandates and standards for schools that are run locally and by the states.

Many of the things promised on the Hawaii plan are already part of school districts all over the nation. They have to follow a core set of standards. Every school system and state follows a set of standards. But race to the top makes these standards national, as if every student everywhere has the same educational needs or not all standards adequately require math and English skills sufficiently to get them a job. http://www.alfiekohn.org/teaching/edweek/national.htm

You couldn’t trust teachers to follow the standards and they just might use creative non-linear methods to teach material, damn them. You must have some federal agency enforce a core set of standards. As one long time teacher pointed out to me recently, we now have a school superintendent in Arizona that never taught in public schools telling her, a 23 year veteran of Tucson Schools, what to do. He was elected because he is a wealthy Republican, not because he knows a thing about public education. We need laws that only certified teachers can be elected to head the schools in the state.

“Apart from the fact that they’re unnecessary, a key premise of national standards, as the University of Chicago’s Zalman Usiskin observed, is that “our teachers cannot be trusted to make decisions about which curriculum is best for their schools.”  Moreover, uniformity doesn’t just happen – and continue – on its own.  To get everyone to apply the same standards, you need top-down control.”

Once again, academics years away from the classroom, and politicians, few of who have experience teaching K-12 or teaching in a poor district or any where else for that matter, have decided what and how we should teach students. In addition, they decided we should compete for education money instead of providing funding as needed. This punitive model of education reinforces the stratification between students and districts.

Certainly there are bad teachers. And there are underperforming schools. But setting up a contest for schools to compete to see who will acquiesce to the federal government’s idea of what is good for students is more is something out of a reality TV than public policy. RTTT gives extra money to those schools and LEAs (Local Education Agencies) that promise to do what the government tells them to do. Only the schools that most successfully get students to regurgitate answers on a standardized test and thus get the highest scores will get the extra money. Also, the LEAs must promise the most uniformity and match what the federal government considers best.

So now comes “Race to the Top,” which the Obama Administration claims will reward only those states that raise their academic standards, improve teacher quality and expand the reach of charter schools. “This competition will not be based on politics, ideology or the preferences of a particular interest group,” said President Obama on Friday. “Instead, it will be based on a simple principle—whether a state is ready to do what works. We will use the best data available to determine whether a state can meet a few key benchmarks for reform, and states that outperform the rest will be rewarded with a grant.”


And Obama and those who have wholeheartedly bought the high stakes testing model will tell you what’s best. The problem with this is that academic improvement does not take into account the various systems’ needs and punishes schools with poor populations who have fewer resources to teach to the tests. Also, standardized testing is NOT the best way to gage educational advancement, it only tells us what communities have the money to teach to the test. (See Alfie Kohn’s The Case Against Standardized Testing.)

Alfie Kohn talks about Race to the Top in this interview for Education News:

I see this initiative – which, tellingly, has been spearheaded not by educators but by politicians, corporate executives, and testing companies – as a further tightening of the noose.  It’s an intensification of a top-down, test-driven version of school reform that goes the next step to deprive teachers and local communities of autonomy.  It’s a logical extension of what’s already been done to us:  the prescriptive standards and tests issued from state capitals, Many Children Left Behind, and the ghastly “Race to the Top” (which is like a TV reality show designed to see how far state officials are willing to abase themselves, and how many ludicrous and destructive policies they’ll be willing to adopt, for money).”


I wrote my comparison of Race to the Top to a reality show before reading this. But Mr. Kohn is absolutely correct in his evaluation of Race to the Top. Whatever happened to improving education for everyone? It’s sad to see that this idea has been driven from our national discourse by models pushed by those that will benefit politically and financially from schools in competition.

Another goal of RTTT is to create a national set of standards. Again, I wonder where the tea party anger is on this one?

Alfie Kohn crushes the idea of national school standards in this Education Week article:

“Are all kids entitled to a great education?  Of course.  But that doesn’t mean all kids should get the same education.  High standards don’t require common standards.  Uniformity is not the same thing as excellence – or equity.  (In fact, one-size-fits-all demands may offer the illusion of fairness, setting back the cause of genuine equity.)  To acknowledge these simple truths is to watch the rationale for national standards – or uniform state standards — collapse into a heap of intellectual rubble.”

Then Mr. Kohn takes on the irrational promotion of competition based educational models for improving our schools,

“…And then there are the policy makers who confuse doing well with beating others.  If you’re determined to evaluate students or schools in relative terms, it helps if they’re all doing the same thing.  But why would we want to turn learning into a competitive sport?”

Education is not a zero sum game. If one school, or class, or student does well, it does not follow that other schools or classes or students can’t do well also. The goal should be improving all schools, not rewarding a few to the detriment of others.

The ultimate goal of national standards is to create a top down model that takes the teacher out of the equation. It is the dumbing down or our education system and a return to the factory model of schools that was widely discredited in the 1960s and 70s. They want national control because they don’t trust teachers (or their unions). And if there are national standards, they have to create national tests and make more money off the sale of test materials.

“The goal clearly isn’t to nourish children’s curiosity, to help them fall in love with reading and thinking, to promote both the ability and the disposition to think critically, or to support a democratic society.  Rather, a prescription for uniform, specific, rigorous standards is made to order for those whose chief concern is to pump up the American economy and make sure that we triumph over people who live in other countries.”

Yes, we want excellent teaching and learning for all — although our emphasis should be less on student achievement (read: test scores) than on students’ achievements.  Offered a list of standards, we should scrutinize each one but also ask who came up with them and for what purpose.  Is there room for discussion and disagreement — and not just by experts — regarding what, and how, we’re teaching and how authentic our criteria are for judging success?  Or is this a matter of “obey or else,” with tests to enforce compliance?

The standards movement, sad to say, morphed long ago into a push for standardization.  The last thing we need is more of the same.

So, we can cede our responsibility over teacher to a national authority that seems more concerned with creating drones out of teachers and students. We can tell students that show interesting in topics out side the core standards that they are out of luck. We can tell them that education isn’t really for their good, it is for the benefit of our nation, in reality our corporations, and that they better learn what we tell them to learn. We can set national core standards and ignore teachers’ creativity and local educational goals and the interests of the children and do exactly what the national government dictates. Isn’t this what the Soviet’s did in their schools. Do we really want to emulate that statist model? Again, where is the tea party on this?

It’s good to have standards. But let’s not standardize education for all students everywhere. If we do, more students will be lost because the curriculum will not meet their individual needs, interests or match the culture and economy of the place and time they live in.

More articles by Mr. Kohn:

The best thing to do is reject national standards and Race to the Top at every school board meeting, every town hall, every PTA meeting and every classroom.

Give Education Secretary Arne Duncan the boot, petition:

Race to Nowhere, a new documentary film

The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
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Phone Numbers:
Comments: 202-456-1111
Switchboard: 202-456-1414
FAX: 202-456-2461 TTY/TDD
Comments: 202-456-6213
Visitors Office: 202-456-2121

Congressional switchboard 800-828-0498

Just ask for the office of your Senator or Representative

House of Representatives: http://www.house.gov/house/house_comments.shtml

Senate: http://www.senate.gov/

Tex Shelters