Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Seven Years Gone

It's a sad thing that it has taken me almost a week to sum up my feelings about the alleged attack on America by Al-Qaeda in New York.

Seven years ago something terrible did happen in New York City. Two commercial airliners flew into the Twin Trade Towers and this country and the world have not been the same since.

Our local paper, The Lompoc Record, published an editorial on the topic, concluding we must "remind ourselves how strong we really are." That's noble. We must also remember who we really are; that we have faced worse foes and defeated them in WWII.

Although my deceased Dad was a Republican most of his life, he was also a populist that did not believe everything the government said was true. In the aftermath of the "official" explanation about the "single bullet theory" in JFK's assassination, I also began to learn our government could and would lie to its citizens.

To this day, I remain skeptical of the official US Government explanation of the events surrounding JFK's death and many more matters. Start with Operation Northwoods.

In view of the foregoing, I've got two questions to ask at this point: do you feel you are any more safe now, than you were September 10th, 2001? And, don't you have any questions about the events of that fateful morning?

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Friday, September 12, 2008

Take The Social Justice Quiz!

The Santa Barbara Progressive Coalition's Jon Williams says our Defense budget is "the great 'third rail' of American politics, isn't it?" and adds, "I haven't heard either candidate talk about slashing what we lavish on the military-industrial complex."

Neither have I, but here's a quick set of questions Jon sent from a friend in Indiana that might provoke some thought about the topic.

Twenty Questions: Social Justice Quiz 2008 (Answers Below)

by Bill Quigley
Bill is a human rights lawyer and law professor at Loyola University New Orleans. His email: quigley77 at gmail dot com

1. How many deaths are there world-wide each year due to acts of terrorism?
2. How many deaths are there world-wide each day due to poverty and malnutrition?
3. 1n 1965, CEOs in major companies made 24 times more than the average worker. In 1980, CEOs made 40 times more than the average worker. In 2007, CEOs earned how many times more than the average worker?
4. In how many of the over 3000 cities and counties in the US can a full-time worker who earns minimum wage afford to pay rent and utilities on a one-bedroom apartment?
5. In 1968, the minimum wage was $1.65 per hour. How much would the minimum wage be today if it had kept pace with inflation since 1968?
6. True or false? People in the United States spend nearly twice as much on pet food as the US government spends on aid to help foreign countries.
7. How many people in the world live on $2 a day or less?
8. How many people in the world do not have electricity?
9. People in the US consume 42 kilograms of meat per person per year. How much meat and grain do people in India and China eat?
10. How many cars does China have for every 1000 drivers? India? The U.S.?
11. How much grain is needed to fill a SUV tank with ethanol?
12. According to the Wall Street Journal, the richest 1% of Americans earns what percent of the nation’s adjusted gross income? 5%? 10%? 15%? 20%?
13. How many people does our government say are homeless in the US on any given day?
14. What percentage of people in homeless shelters are children?
15. How many veterans are homeless on any given night?
16. The military budget of the United States in 2008 is the largest in the world at $623 billion per year. How much larger is the US military budget than that of China, the second largest in the world?
17. The US military budget is larger than how many of the countries of the rest of the world combined?
18. Over the 28 year history of the Berlin Wall, 287 people perished trying to cross it. How many people have died in the last 4 years trying to cross the border between Arizona and Mexico?
19. India is ranked second in the world in gun ownership with 4 guns per 100 people. China is third with 3 firearms per 100 people. Which country is first and how many guns do they own?
20. What country leads the world in the incarceration of its citizens?

Answers to Social Justice Quiz 2008

1. 22,000. The U.S. State Department reported there were more than 22,000 deaths from terrorism last year. Over half of those killed or injured were Muslims. Source: Voice of America, May 2, 2008. “Terrorism Deaths Rose In 2007.”

2. About 25,000 people die every day of hunger or hunger-related causes, according to the United Nations World Food Program (WFP). – Hunger and World Poverty. Every day, almost 16,000 children die from hunger-related causes--one child every five seconds. Bread for the World. Hunger Facts: International.

3. Today’s average CEO from a Fortune 500 company makes 364 times an average worker’s pay and over 70 times the pay of a four-star Army general. Executive Excess 2007, page 7, jointly published by Institute for Policy Studies and United for Fair Economy, August 29, 2007. 1965 numbers from State of Working America 2004-2005, Economic Policy Institute.

4. In no city or county in the entire USA can a full-time worker who earns minimum wage afford even a one bedroom rental. The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) urges renters not to pay more than 30% of their income in rent. HUD also reports the fair market rent for each of the counties and cities in the US. Nationally, in order to rent a 2 bedroom apartment, one full-time worker in 2008 must earn $17.32 per hour. In fact, 81% of renters live in cities where the Fair Market Rent for a two bedroom rental is not even affordable with two minimum wage jobs. Source: Out of Reach 2007-2008, April 7, 2008, National Low-Income Housing Coalition.

5. Calculated in real (inflation adjusted) dollars, the 1968 minimum wage would have been worth $9.83 in 2007 dollars. Andrew Tobias, January 16, 2008. The federal minimum wage is $6.55 per hour effective July 24, 2008 and $7.25 per hour effective July 24, 2009.

6. True. The USA spends $43.4 billion on pet food annually. Source: American Pet Products Manufacturers Association, Inc. The USA spent $23.5 billion in official foreign aid in 2006. The government of the USA gave the most of any country in the world in actual dollars. As a percentage of gross national income, the USA came in second to last among OECD donor countries and ranked number 20 at 0.18 percent behind Sweden at 1.02 percent and other countries such as Norway, Netherlands, Ireland, United Kingdom, Austria, France, Germany, Spain, Canada, New Zealand, Japan and others. This does not count private donations which, if included, may move the USA up as high as 6th. The Index of Global Philanthropy 2008, page 15, 19.

7. The World Bank reported in August 2008 that 2.6 billion people consume less than $2 a day.

8. World-wide, 1.6 billion people do not have electricity. 2.5 billion people use wood, charcoal or animal dung for cooking. United Nations Human Development Report 2007/2008, pages 44-45.

9. People in the US lead the world in meat consumption at 42 kg per person per year compared to 1.6 kg in India and 5.9 kg in China. People in the US consume five times the grain (wheat, rice, rye, barley, etc.) as people in India, three times as much as people in China, and twice as much as people in Europe. “THE BLAME GAME: Who is behind the world food price crisis,” Oakland Institute, July 2008. (pdf)

10. China has 9 cars for every 1000 drivers. India has 11 cars for every 1000 drivers. The US has 1114 cars for every 1000 drivers. Iain Carson and Vijay V. Vaitheeswaran, Zoom: The Global Race to Fuel the Car of the Future (2007).

11. The grain needed to fill up a SUV tank with ethanol could feed a hungry person for a year. Lester Brown,, August 16, 2006

12. “According to the figures, the richest 1% reported 22% of the nation's total adjusted gross income in 2006. That is up from 21.2% a year earlier, and is the highest in the 19 years that the IRS has kept strictly comparable figures. The 1988 level was 15.2%. Earlier IRS data show the last year the share of income belonging to the top 1% was at such a high level as it was in 2006 was in 1929, but changes in measuring income make a precise comparison difficult.” Jesse Drucker, “Richest Americans See Their Income Share Grow,” Wall Street Journal, July 23, 2008, page A3.

13. 754,000 are homeless. About 338,000 homeless people are not in shelters (live on the streets, in cars, or in abandoned buildings) and 415,000 are in shelters on any given night. 2007 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Annual Homeless Report to Congress, page iii and 23. The population of San Francisco is about 739,000.

14. HUD reports nearly 1 in 4 people in homeless shelters are children 17 or younger. Page iv – 2007 HUD Annual Homeless Report to Congress.

15. Over 100,000 veterans are homeless on any given night. About 18 percent of the adult homeless population is veterans. Page 32, 2007 HUD Homeless Report. This is about the same population as Green Bay Wisconsin.

16. Ten times. China’s military budget is $65 billion. The US military budget is nearly 10 times larger than the second leading military spender.

17. The US military budget of $623 billion is larger than the budgets of all the countries in the rest of the world put together. The total global military budget of the rest of the world is $500 billion. Russia’s military budget is $50 billion, South Korea’s is $21 billion, and Iran’s is $4.3 billion.

18. 1,268. At least 1,268 people have died along the border of Arizona and Mexico since 2004. The Arizona Daily Star keeps track of the reported deaths along the state border and reports 214 died in 2004, 241 in 2005, 216 in 2006, 237 in 2007, and 116 as of July 31, 2008. These numbers do not include the deaths along the California or Texas border. The Border Patrol reported that 400 people died in fiscal 2006-2007, 453 died in 2004-2005, and 494 died in 2004-2005. Source Associated Press, November 8, 2007.

19. The US is first in gun ownership world-wide with 90 guns for every 100 citizens. Laura MacInnis, “US Most Armed Country With 90 Guns Per 100 People.” Reuters, August 28, 2007.

20. The US jails 751 inmates per 100,000 people, the highest rate in the world. Russia is second with 627 per 100,000. England’s rate is 151, Germany is 88, and Japan is 63. The US has 2.3 million people behind bars, more than any country in the world. Adam Liptak, “Inmate Count in US Dwarfs Other Nations’” NYT, April 23, 2008.

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Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The CCNM As A "Wordle!"

One java app developer by the name of Jonathan Feinberg has created a word cloud tool and named it "the Wordle."

The little image here is what this whole CCNM blog page and posts looks like when pasted into the Wordle. Mighty cool, I think. Our image is part of their Gallery.

Try it yourself, make a great world-cloud picture, you'll have fun. It's licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution license.

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Monday, September 08, 2008

Who's Watching The Watchdog?

Could not leave well enough alone, and last Friday I drove around lil' Lompoc and listened to the radio. Caught part of Andy Caldwell's radio show where he talked on the phone with a conservative mentor by the name of Richard Cochran.

Caldwell is also Santa Barbara County's so-called watchdog according to many observers. The Santa Maria Sun's 2008 annual "Best Of" edition names Caldwell "Best Community Watchdog."

The "watchdog" title has been used by Andy for years to describe his activities on behalf of COLAB. The acronym stands for the Coalition of Labor, Agriculture and Business, the group of business honchos from each of these parts of our local economy.

When Andy mentioned that Lois Capps, representatives from SBCAN and other liberals won't appear on his radio show, my ears picked up. Now why would people who are usually promoting their latest fund-raiser refuse to go on the air and tell their story?

Could it be that Caldwell is not a "watchdog" at all, but in reality is a "lobbyist?"

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Wednesday, September 03, 2008

"Foreign-Born" Would Be The Phrase You're Thinking Of?

Since when does a news-talk station give two hours to a candidate running for Congress...and allow him to say whatever he wants? Free? I'm talking about two free hours disguised as a talk show.

Since today's Dave Congalton show on 920AM KVEC, when Matt Kokkonen discussed his chosen political issues. He had the microphone for two full propagandistic hours. Could not believe it!

One topic that prompted me to call in and disagree with Matt was the so-called "illegal immigrant" issue and its related one, that of granting benefits, including US citizenship to those born while on US soil.

Matt took some time to question the application of the 14th amendment, which states, in part: "All persons born or naturalized in the United States, and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside..."

He points out the line, "subject to the jurisdiction thereof..." and says it means if an alien resident crossed the US border (in an unlawful manner) with an intent to apply for social benefits, then that alien and any of its children born in the US should be ineligible for any social safety net dollars. No school lunch programs. No public health services. Nothing.

I told him that it is pointless to use a phrase such as "illegal immigrants." Kokkonen responded that he prefers the term, "unauthorized aliens." Same difference, eh?

Whatever term of residency status you want to apply, have we forgotten a person (in the US) is "innocent until proven guilty?" Until a legal judgement has been rendered otherwise in some court of law, any person as far as I know, is here lawfully.

And these foreign born deserve to be treated as I'd like to be treated, in fact, enjoying the same equal protections of the law as anyone else. Betcha the spirits of my immigrant forbears are smiling.

So, out with the name-calling phrases that imply something not proven!

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