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Friday, December 28, 2007

Common Sense? Or Corporate Neglect?

This week a promising young girl died from liver failure that followed a leukemia bone marrow transplant.

The insurance company, managing a self-insuring employer, claims it consulted with an in-house transplant expert and two outside doctors about her situation, then determined that the liver transplant she desperately needed was experimental and not covered under the insurance policy of her father's employer.

Then, supposedly out of the goodness of their hearts, they decided to pay for the procedure themselves, but only after family and friends of the girl began picketing outside their offices. Nothing gets the attention of companies like that quicker than bad publicity and public relations. But it was too late.

At the funeral, no one mentioned the insurance company's name, but apparently they will in court.

From what I have learned of such matters, once an organ fails a leukemia patient, their chances of living, even after such a transplant, are slim. We, as a society want to be compassionate, yet we must many times draw a line to this compassion. Doctors have to decide if one patient who needs the same organ might have a better chance of survival, for example. At this very moment, in an apartment across from mine, lives a child who is not even two years old who is awaiting a liver transplant. The doctors say, if they can find one in time, she has an excellent chance of getting to see her grandchildren.

It is not an easy choice to decide who lives and who dies. I for one do not envy any doctor who has to make such a decision, but it is the doctors caring for the patient who should make such decisions in cases like this, not insurance providers.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Growing Up

Helping someone research materials for a major term paper this week, I have had the extraordinary opportunity to learn more about an amazing leader of the civil rights movement. He is a greatly misunderstood and inaccurately depicted figure, cursed by some, be knighted with sainthood by others. I speak of none other than Malcolm X.

Malcolm's beginnings were somewhat less than inspiring. In his earlier years he went from a misunderstood and socially brutalized youth to a womanizing, drug-addicted street thug. This life of debauchery and criminality culminated in his being sent to prison for burglary, though it could just as easily ended with a bullet in his back, according to his descriptions in "The Autobiography of Malcolm X."

Being sent to prison actually turned into the turning point of his life. While in prison he continually wrote to his siblings, a habit they had all gotten into after the physical (but not spiritual or emotional) breakup of their family in the 1930s. During these correspondences, Malcolm's older siblings introduced him to the teachings of Elijah Muhammad, founder of the Nation of Islam.

Muhammad did not immediately embrace these teachings, but instead found his difficulties in reading and writing (caused by years of participation in what was then black society's counterculture) inspired him to seek self-improvement. Gradually, he came to accept Islam's teachings, choosing to embrace the peaceful nature taught by it as an antithesis to his previous life.

Upon his release, he became more involved in the Nation of Islam, taking first a humble position as an assistant at one of the mosques in the U.S., becoming later a key spokes person and advocate for the Nation of Islam and Islamic teachings in general. During this time, his animosity for white society became a prevailing feature in his life and public speaking, calling white people devils and blaming them exclusively for the plight of black society.

It was only after he began learning about significant corruption within the Nation of Islam and the Nation's censure of him for remarks made regarding President Kennedy's assassination that Malcolm broke his association with them. This break sparked his desire to more fully understand the teachings of Islam, leading him to partake in a pilgrimage to Mecca, Saudi Arabia. There he encountered Muslims from many different countries and ethnicity, altering his perception and understanding of black-white relationships.

When he returned from his pilgrimage, he became an outspoken critic of the Nation of Islam and its increasing militancy against white society, advocating respect for the cultural differences between blacks and whites. He further urged black Americans to accept personal responsibility for their own failings, not to simply blame their plight on white Americans. This advocacy earned him a death sentence from the Nation of Islam which they were successful in executing in early 1965.

One thing that strikes me about what I have learned about Malcolm X was his candor in admitting and accepting responsibility for his earlier conduct. He gave credit for the good he was able to do in society to Allah, but retained responsibility for his own mistakes.

I draw several fundamental lessons from Malcolm's autobiography (not the 1992 Spike Lee movie):

  • One - that people can change regardless of their past

  • Two - that people must take personal responsibility for their lives and the development of their communities

  • Three - that even good people can be mistaken in their beliefs

  • Four - that those who seek to change society are, without a doubt, going to make dangerous enemies

  • Five - those that are truly dedicated to their beliefs and desire for change won't give a damn about how dangerous the opposition is

My newly formed image and opinion of Malcolm X has further fueled my dedication to House Wyldstar and to this blog. I pledge here and now to be more responsible in the maintenance of this blog and in my efforts to establish websites for House Wyldstar and the Social Policy Center and to work harder at my participation in the social change movement.

Stay tuned for further developments!

Friday, December 21, 2007

Censorship of Opinions and Facts

Check out what I found on a blog allegedly ''discussing'' the issue of false accusations.

Note: Comments are limited to feminists or those who can be respectful of feminists and their efforts to fight sexual exploitation. If you want to excuse or minimize the behavior of those who harm others, make the person exploited responsible for their own exploitation, call those who label their experiences rape liars, or tell us that we should be focusing on more important issues, please do so elsewhere.

This is typical in most ''discussions'' on controversial issues. It's alright to talk about the issue, just don't say anything that disagrees with us or that might prove us wrong about it. Funny thing is, I read just this morning a report from a college professor who analyzed several hundred rape accusations at his college and local police department who found that one-half to two-thirds of those reports were either outright fictitious (lies) or unsubstantiated (not sure of the distinction between those two categories, to be honest).

Add to that the number of men convicted of rape managing to prove their innocence through DNA testing and it leads one to wonder ... just what is really going on?

Among the possible scenarios (other than the victim lying) include mistaken identity over who the actual rapist was, miscommunication (or lack of communication) between the man and woman leading to an assumption of willingness, and ''buyer's remorse'' where the woman claims rape because she suddenly decided having sex the night before wasn't such a good idea.

Any one of these can cause an innocent man to go to prison not just for years, but for decades for a crime he never committed or did not knowingly commit. It is a bit more serious than putting a man in jail for speeding in an area that has no posted speed limit, but the basic concept is the same.

Years ago women had an almost perfect blackmail weapon, called ''breach of promise'' that they used against men. Supposedly it was a law to prevent rapist men from seducing innocent women with promises of marriage, but it was rampantly used by women to blackmail men instead. Legislations nationwide recognized this problem and repealed the laws.

Today, women have things like ''date rape'' laws and the threat of a man getting branded a ''sexual offender'' or ''sexual predator'' for the rest of their lives to replace this lost blackmail power. Laws that have been instituted to protect women from exploitation have themselves become a form of rape, this time with the men being the victim.

This is another case of a ''wicked issue'' that has no simple solutions. We as a society need open, frank discussion on the topic, not censorship like the Alas blog apparently has.

Recommended Reading


Monday, December 17, 2007

A Perfect Example: TIAA-CREF Staff Misconduct

I want to relate to you a situation that happened today.

My fiance, until last week, was working as an independent contractor at the Denver, Colorado offices of TIAA-CREF. She is a fibromyalgia sufferer and has had an extended flare (very rare) for the past week, which caused her to miss several days of work. TIAA-CREF chose to terminate her contract with them, a technically permissible action, though questionable on the ethics. Friday, she sent a message to Bret Deardorff (bdeardorff@tiaa-cref.org) informing him that I would be coming this morning (Monday, December 17th) to retrieve her personal effects like her mp3 player and her purse, which she accidently left at work last week.

When I arrived at their office this morning, I went straight to their security desk, which is located on the 28th floor of the building they are in (note that I am leaving the actual address out, please) and attempted to request one of the TIAA-CREF staff retrieve her belongings. I had her security badge with me, in case they requested it, and the key to her desk. The security guard (Wes) stated he could not reach anyone to help unless I knew their LAST name. At the time, the information was on my fiance's Yahoo! Mail account. I tried to reach her by phone while I was there, but was unsuccessful. I informed the security guard that I would have to go back home to retrieve the information he requested, but he refused to allow me to leave unless I surrendered her badge immediately. Begrudgingly, I gave it to him, but kept her desk key, intending on contacting Bert Deardorff to request his presence when I returned. When I got home, we found a letter from Chris Weston (head of Global System Staffing) insisting on a contact phone number for Laura. It seems TIAA-CREF had told him that Laura gave me her security badge and that I was wandering around the building in violation of security rules, which was a blatant lie.

I sent an email informing them that the security guard's action to detain me was an illegal detainment which could subject them to civil litigation action by me and that their lack of cooperation in returning Laura's belongings were, under Colorado law, an act of criminal theft (failure to surrender property to its rightful owner when demanded), but that, as a professional courtesy between nonprofit organizations (I run House Wyldstar) I was willing to overlook this misconduct if they would simply return my fiance's belongings because she needs her ID for a plane flight Wednesday morning.

Chris Weston flamed back an email accusing me of threatening them and violating TIAA-CREF security, which I never did either of those, I merely pointed out the misconduct of their staff in the situation and reminded them of the potential effects of it.

I will admit, my last email was slightly more than heated, though I did my best not to become abusing towards them. I was originally, in response to their attitudes, going to have a civil escort go with me this afternoon. I thought it might be prudent to have an officer assist me with this crazy situation. Unfortunately the Denver Police Department did not have one available before 5pm, so I will have to do it in the morning.

Such misconduct is unbecoming to ANY organization, much less one with as much responsibility as TIAA-CREF. I would personally NEVER treat anyone like this and would NOT let a situation like this get out of hand like they have done, but after viewing the wide variety of consumer complaints against TIAA-CREF, I am really not surprised.

And by the way, if anyone from TIAA-CREF wishes to challenge my statements here, I have the emails mentioned saved and could easily post them online for everyone to view. Or we could post the security video of my visit there and let the rest of the world judge for themselves. Think about it.

December 20, 2007

This situation has been more or less resolved.

My fiance contacted the TSA (airport security) and learned that her student ID would suffice for boarding her airplane. Subsequently she had contact with Chris Webster (who is actually an executive with Global System Solutions, a TIAA-Cref contractor, and not TIAA-Cref itself) and agreed to have her belongings shipped to our home.

We were also informed that I have effectively been banned from the Denver TIAA-Cref occupied building by Mr. Webster, although I am not certain he has the authority to do that. Personally, I could care less if the building suddenly collapsed around him, except one of my favorite Starbuck's is also in the building. I guess one cannot truly consider themselves an activist until they have either been arrested during a protest (which almost did happen to me years ago, but that is another story) or have been banned from a facility for standing up to governmental or corporate misconduct and corruption. Perhaps I should take this incident as my ''coming of age'' event, maybe?

Friday, December 14, 2007

Social Forgiveness of Branded Men

I'd like to hold my head up and be proud of who I am
But they won't let my secret go untold
I paid the debt I owed them,but they're still not satisfied
Now I'm a branded man out un the cold
- Merle Haggard, Branded Man

I've been a fan of Merle Haggard ever since I was a kid. His songs seemed to strike a cord with me. The one that touches me the most is Branded Man, the story of a man who was in prison and paid his debt to society, but was discriminated against after his release.

It might be just another song if it didn't reflect exactly how our society treats ex-offenders. Long ago, a man released from prison could move out of the state and start over. Now, thanks to computer technology and registration requirements for many ex-offenders, there is not only nowhere to hide, there is nowhere to start over.

We complain about the rampant crime in our society, yet we fail to realize we are, in part, responsible for our own mess.

Multiple studies, academic, governmental, and independent, have shown that ex-offenders who have steady, stable employment, housing, and community support services are far more likely to never commit another crime. Yet two-thirds of employers, if they know someone is an ex-felon, won't give them the chance. Many apartment complexes refuse to rent to them. Sex offenders in particular are victimized by this phenomena, being the only class of ex-offender who is required to uniformly not only register with the state they are living in, but in most states to have their picture, crime, and address posted on the Internet.

The basic question is, does this make us and our children any safer in our society? Statistics indicate the answer is no. By not allowing ex-offenders a chance to start over after paying their debt to society, we are setting them up for repeat behavior and endangering ourselves and our families.

Maybe we need to rethink this.

Thursday, November 22, 2007

A Call for Parlay

Greetings, friends.

I know, it has been a while since I last posted. Time gets away from you when you are a** deep in research.

Pursuant to the cause of the Social Policy Center I am preparing manuscripts that will soon be published and available through CafePress.com and/or Lulu.com. Titles to be announced soon.

Today I would like to offer an idea.

With the recent popularity of the Pirates of the Carribean, I began to think about the concept of the pirate's right of parlay. The concept was supposed to be a type of peace talks between pirate leaders, a chance to come to mutually satisfactory agreement and to avoid bloodshed.

This concept reflects, in a way, my envisionment of House Wyldstar. House Wyldstar, in part, seeks to unify and coordinate the efforts of the organizations seeking to improve our society, either by direct action or by advocacy. Pursuant to the aim, I invite the staff and directors of other organizations to join me in a virtual parlay. Tomorrow I will establish the House Wyldstar Parlay on Google Groups to open the floor for discussion of the issues, negotiations for multi-organization partnerships, and coordinated fundraising efforts.

I look forward to learning from each of you, until then, be well.

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Tales Our Fathers Told

There have been great societies that did not use the wheel, but there have been no societies that did not tell stories.
Ursula K. LeGuin

It is surprising where we as activists get our inspiration sometimes. One of the best sources is from the stories our parents told us as children. Be it tall tales of the big fish in the river to dramatic stories of survival in the face of adversity. The movie ''Big Fish'' gives insight into the sources of such stories.

We have no doubt all heard the stories about our fathers and grandfathers having to walk five miles to school, in the snow, across a river, uphill both ways. But have you ever really listened to the stories they tell? If you have, have you thought about what lessons you could draw from them?

Take my father for example. I have know since I was a young boy that my father was in the Vietnam War and repaired helicopters there. But I learned something new about him my senior year in high school.

He was taking college courses at the time at San Jacinto Junior College in Pasadena, Texas, and was naturally required to complete an english class as part of his curriculum. I recall it was our ''Senior Skip-Day'', but my father needed help in typing up an english assignment. I took him up to the high school where I had access to computers, being a data processing student. I felt so special, having my father ask for my help like that. Little did I realize it was a day that would change my view of my father.

My father and his buddies were relaxing in their barracks, playing cards, talking about their families that they missed, the usual stuff guys thousands of miles from home talk about. Then the alarms sounded, the base was under attack.

My father and his buddies grabbed their weapons and dashed out to their defense positions. His position was located in the third defensive line, the last line before the base would be considered overrun by the enemy.

He could see the enemy approaching the base and hear the bullets flashing past him. The first line was wiped out within moments, left dead or dying as the enemy penetrated. The fighting was so fierce, he didn't have time to think. Round after round was fired from his rifle, trying to stave off the onslaught of Vietnamese soldiers. The second line of defense was forced to fall back, joining my father and his buddies at the third line. The base was in danger of being totally routed.

Suddenly, as quickly as it had begun, it ended. The enemy withdrew for unknown reasons and retreated back into the jungle.

My father returned to the barracks which had taken a mortar hit at one corner. Picking up his watch from his bunk he realized the whole thing had only taken fifteen minutes.

It was the first time I ever knew my father had actually seen combat. It had been over twelve years, yet he remembered. I felt honored to have him share this story with me.

Now you may ask ''what lessons could this man draw from such a story? How does this relate to social policies and activism?''

The answer is, several ways.

First, we as Americans are well known to face untold adversity when we are fighting for a good cause. We are willing to endure being separated from our families, deprive ourselves of even the most basic comforts, and even put our very lives on the line when fighting for something we truly believe in or in the defense of our families. Our national forefathers swore their lives and fortunes to the cause of American freedom. Can we say the same for our causes? Do we believe in them enough to risk everything we have and are to see them through?

Second, we are a nation truly at war, not just in Iraq, but throughout the world. It is mostly a war of beliefs and economics, but a war none the less. Our first line of defense has all but crumbled, giving in to the powers of globalization and corporate profiteering at the expense of our society and communities. Our second line of defense is our non-governmental organizations, our charities, schools, and churches. They are, even as we speak, under seige by organizations and movements that are undermining our American way of life. They have been infiltrated by subversives. Our organizations have been turned into bastions not of knowledge, compassion, or enlightenment, but of multiculturalism at the cost of knowledge, programs that encourage irresponsibility and self-victimization, and citadels of divisivenesss and conflict within our communities. It is up to us, the citizens of the United States, to stamp out these problems. A handful of organizations have fallen back with us in the third and final line of defense. Are we ready to pick up arms to defend what made America great?

Lastly, listening to such stories, we learn to never give up. It would have been easy for my father and his buddies to retreat, leaving the base for the enemy to take, but they were defending their home, what there was of it. Should we be doing any less, simply because all too often the face of the enemy is someone of our own nation? Or that wears the badge of a governmental agency?

Thomas Jefferson once said, "the price of liberty is eternal diligence." To ensure the strength and continuation of America, we must defend it and its founding principles against all enemies, foreign and domestic. If our government has failed us, then it is up to us to change things. If big businesses no longer serve the economic interests of our country, they are no longer worthy of our patronage. If any nonprofit foundations or organizations are taking actions that we disapprove of, then they should no longer benefit from our contributions.

Just as my father and all the other veterans of our conflicts have stood up for American values, so too must we today in our own society. If America falls because of us sticking to our values, then at least we have fought honorably for what we believe in. If it falls because we betray it and/or allow traitors to undermine it, then we are all dishonored and unworthy of anything more than slave collars about our throats.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Loyalty, Honor and Integrity

In my research, I have come across many complaints about the lack of loyalty in employees. This lack of loyalty is cited as a factor in the increased costs to businesses of hiring and training new employees. Due to this, many employers are today requiring a Bachelors degree or higher and/or three to five years work experience in hopes of limiting the amount of training they must do with a new employee.

The net effects of such educational requirements effectively shuts out a majority of newly educated or non-degreed employees who might otherwise be fully qualified to do the job. It has long been acknowledged that many potential employees who have a degree may or may not be ready for the job, being book-smart but not world-smart. It is also acknowledged by many that the lack of a degree does not necessarily mean the potential employee doesn't already have the skills for the job. Add to this the fact that most employers expect these highly educated/skilled employees to begin at the lowest pay rates in the company and one quickly begins seeing employee loyalty being undermined. Why should the employee show loyalty to a company that is disrespecting their skills, education and experience by not paying them livable wages?

For example, a new employee earning $8 an hour would have to work 40 hours normal time, plus 40 hours overtime, just to earn $40,000 a year, slightly over the amount the Colorado State government cites as being necessary for an acceptable quality of life here. This is based on a 2000 hour work year assuming 50 work weeks at 40 hours per week with two weeks unpaid vacation. The majority American workers do not get that many hours and many never qualify for the vacation time. As is my custom, let us turn to the words of our ancestors.

A wealthy landowner cannot cultivate and improve his farm without spreading comfort and well-being around him. Rich and abundant crops, a numerous population and a prosperous countryside are the rewards for his efforts.
Antoine Lavoisier

Rule #1 - Employers who expect loyal and skilled workers must be willing to pay a fair wage for them.

Another area of loyalty undermining is the practice of arbitrary and discriminatory promotion and firings. How many times have we heard of an employee getting promoted not based on skill or experience, but on currying favor by taking undue credit for themselves? Or a highly skilled employee getting passed over for promotion or even fired over getting sick and not being able to work for a short time? Or a seasoned, skilled woman getting overlooked for a management position because of her gender or age? Or a loyal white male employee who is highly qualified getting passed over because the company must show themselves diversified by promoting a less qualified woman or minority.

Throw in employers outsourcing good paying jobs to third world countries and laying off thousands of American workers and I think you get the point. Loyalty earns loyalty.

Sometimes, I feel discriminated against, but it does not make me angry. It merely astonishes me. How can any deny themselves the pleasure of my company? It's beyond me.
Zora Neale

Rule #2 - Employers who expect loyal and skilled workers must treat them fairly and reward their hard work and loyalty.

I read an article recently about a Japanese technology development company. Employees were encouraged to take naps when they needed them and to take activity breaks throughout the day. They must have been doing something right because they had a third the amount of employee sick days as we have in America and about twice the productivity. I'll let you read into that what you will.

Here in America we balk at being required by law to give our employees a couple fifteen minute breaks and a half-hour for lunch each day. Forget about naps, we'll just fire them if they make mistakes due to fatigue. God forbid an employee plays solitaire on our computers, even if it is during their fifteen minute break.

The companies that are more flexible on such issues laud the increase in productivity and profitability, yet most companies still don't get it.

Pleasure in the job put perfection in the work.

Rule #3 - Employers who expect loyal and skilled workers must never patronize nor underestimate the abilities or willingness of their employees.

In summary, if American corporate society wants American workers to be more loyal, they must be more loyal and respectful to the employees. When we ignore the needs of our workers, disloyalty and betrayal are the least of our worries.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Supporting the Cause

Al Gore has received a lot of criticism about his relatively new-found role as a 'planetary' advocate, but this week he put his money where his mouth is.

As a recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, Al Gore received a considerable sum of money along with it, but announced Friday (10/12/07) that the money would be given to the Alliance for Climate Protection (www.climateprotect.org), a year-old advocacy group fighting the effects of global warming and climate change.

Mr. Gore is truly setting a good example for any advocate. It would be easy for him to just keep the award money for himself, but he is putting it to good use. The first thing we as advocates must do is prove that we are truly behind our cause. We must be willing to dedicate considerable time campaigning for and be willing to financially support our cause.

It is not cheap to support a cause if you truly want to make a difference in the world. In the United States, even establishing your nonprofit/non-governmental status can cost 1000 USD or more. Add to this the expense of registering for donation solicitation with one or more states, the cost of organizational material publishing, and the cost of fundraising postage and it adds up very quickly.

If you have financial constraints, there is an option to get your project going without incurring this sizable expense. It is called a 'fiscal sponsorship' and can allow you to start your project by negotiating the sponsorship with an existing organization. In essence, the sponsoring organization would agree to accept accounting and management responsibilities over the project in exchange for a (usually) small percentage of revenues the project attracts. By entering into a fiscal sponsorship agreement, your small organization might also be able to attract foundation funding that it might otherwise not have access to before registering as an independent organization.

There are several nationally and internationally known organizations who act as fiscal sponsors, such as the United Way, but many of them require that you have a one to five year previous track record as an unregistered organization before they will accept your new organization or project.

Even beyond the idea of a fiscal sponsor, there are other avenues to potentially fund a fledgling organization. Fundraising-Ideas.org (http://www.fundraising-ideas.org) has an incredible list of creative fundraising ideas that small organizations can use. DIY Fundraising (http://www.diyfundraising.com) also has a great list. You can get some additional ideas and tips from the Squidoo Fundraising Lens (http://www.squidoo.com/diyfundraising).

Friday, October 12, 2007

Dude, Where's My Country?

When I started this blog, I had genuine concerns that we, as a nation, were bordering on becoming a de facto fascist nation. Little did I realize that it has already happened.

President Bush has, over the course of his presidency, signed over 700 new laws, and almost every time has included a presidential statement to the effect that he will follow the new law only if he thinks it is constitutional (regardless of what the Supreme Court says) and only if it does not impede his agenda for making the United States safer from terrorism.

The Brady bill, signed years ago, already made it possible for the government to track every gun owner in the nation and to deny gun ownership to anyone the Federal government deems undesirable. Several states have also made it a felony to militarily train yourself or to belong to a paramilitary organization not sanctioned by the state or Federal governments, whether you train with them or not.

The Federal government passed the Real ID Act two years ago, not by virtue of its merits, but by hiding it in a bill to reauthorize budgeting for the Department of Justice. Add to this the Federal courts' rejection of our long accepted right not to be required to carry an identification document and the increasing arrogance of and detainment of citizens by our law enforcement community, it may not be too long before someone with a hat and overcoat steps up to you and says, "Papers, please," just like Nazi Germany in the movies.

Am I over-reacting? I think not. There have been countless cases in the past five years especially where citizens have been arrested for refusing to show identification when arbitrarily demanded by law enforcement officers. After the Oklahoma City bombing, all the members of an otherwise peaceful paramilitary group in Colorado were arrested, most for simply being associated with the group, some for merely being on their mailing list. Several Arab-Americans have been arrested in the past six years, detained for months, subjected to brutal interrogations. Some of them have been released without so much as an apology, others are still MIA. Congress recently passed a law requiring the president to cooperate with Congressional investigations, a law which the president signed, then summarily declared he was going to ignore with or without the Supreme Court declaring whether it was constitutional or not.

Add to all that the administration's labeling of anyone daring to oppose them as unAmerican or potential insurgents and the governments long standing position that Federal laws supercede state laws, especially when the state laws seek to protect the rights of American citizens, and the recipe is almost complete for the United States to become the Fourth Reich.

To understand why I say these things are evidence, let's look at the typical characteristics of a fascist society. A fascist state is one where the needs of the state are viewed as outweighing the rights and needs of individuals and local communities. The following points are symptomatic of a fascist state:

#1 - Powerful and continuing nationalism

Fascists try to wrap themselves in symbols of the nation and encourage others to do the same. Flags end up everywhere and anyone who resists this trend is looked upon with suspicion of seditious tendencies. In the United States, this comes in the form of politicians rallying people behind ideas like a Constitutional Amendment making flag burning or desecration a Federal offense.

#2 - Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights

Read "approval of torture, extended imprisonment without charges, and denial of habeas corpus" in this one. All things our current administration is guilty of. Might as well throw in President Bush's effectively ignoring our right of representation by ignoring the laws passed by our duly elected Congress here, too.

#3 - Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause

Okay, this one is blatant. Let me think ... Iranians, terrorists, latent communists, sex offenders (all of them), anyone opposing the administration's policies, anyone who objects to the war in Iraq, and anyone wearing tennis shoes on planes. Oh, and let's not forget anyone who dares spank their kids for misbehaving.

#4 - Supremacy of the Military

What does that mean? In part it means the build-up of military forces and weapons at the expense of social support services, especially the cutting of funding for them that is diverted into military spending. Plenty of that going on these days.

#5 - Rampant Sexism

This includes "strengthening" gender roles, discouragement of alternate lifestyles including homosexuality, bisexuality, and BDSM, which the administration all considers deviant or asocial behaviors. None of that going on you say? What about the push for gender-specific education and gender-segregation in education? Or the push to outlaw same-sex unions? Pink and black triangles anyone?

#6 - Controlled Mass Media

Let's see here, control over the media ...

  • Imprisonment of reporters for refusing to divulge sources
  • Governmental censorship of key events by failure to make public notices
  • Illegal propoganda aimed at American citizens
  • Official denial of official actions
  • Arrest of reporters who "get too close" to the truth

Shall I go on?

#7 - Obsession with National Security

Does this really need any explanation or examples? Look at today's newspaper. Bet there is a story related to this issue again today.

#8 - Religion and Government are Intertwined

Officially they deny this has happened, but many years ago the Supreme Court recognized humanism as fitting the legal definition of a religion. Humanism is, for all intents, the refusal of religious icons as inspiring the concepts of right and wrong in favor of humans themselves embodying such concepts. Just look at how atheists have influenced our social policies over the past 40 years.

#9 - Corporate Power is Protected

Okay, several points on this one:
  • Corporate welfare (bailing out bankrupt corporations, subsidies, etc.)
  • Immunity to Constitutional provisions (freedom of speech/privacy)
  • Deregulation of industries (lowering safety and other expectations)
  • Tax breaks of shipping jobs overseas
  • Ignoring of anti-trust and monopolistic action laws (wanna go to Walmart anyone?)

No doubt there is more, but I am getting tired here.

#10 - Labor Power is Suppressed

Herein lies our dearly departed unions ... and any rights we had as corporate employees. (Walmart again, anyone?)

#11 - Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts

Okay, one side of this is obvious, the other, well, almost as obvious. On one hand we have multiple professors and teachers loosing their jobs or getting arrested for politically incorrect views and on the other we have "art" that insults the meaning of the word, entering into the realm of total obscenity in many cases while true, meaningful art languishes near death for funding.

#12 - Obsession with Crime and Punishment

How long have our politicians cried out every election "I'm tougher on crime than my opponent is!" Our jails and prisons are bursting at the seams and our leaders are all-too-ready to put more in them.

#13 - Rampant Cronyism and Corruption

Don't get me started on this one, you will be reading for the next three days.

#14 - Fraudulent Elections

Want some real insights into this issue? Read Arianna Huffington's "How to Overthrow the Government" and you will learn more than you want to know, I promise you.

Most lists like this stop here, but I am going to add one more to give you something to think about.

#15 - Charismatic/Popular Leader/Dictator

When Hitler and Mussolini came to power, they did so on the backs of peasants and down-trodden citizens whom they wooed with promises of a better future under their "benign" rule. I think this is the only thing missing before the United States becomes totally fascist.

From here, I leave you to think about all this, but first, I shall give you some sources for additional information.

First, Old American Century is the source of the original list I used in writing this blog entry. They have many links to support articles and information. I highly recommend them.
And second, a wonderful article from CommonDreams.org, The Rise of Fascism in America
And lastly, The Dawning of Fascism in America, an article from SpiritOne.com.

As our good Lord said more than once, "He that hath ears, let him hear."

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Hope for Expansion

I have sent several invites to people I respect in hopes that they will join me in publishing articles to the Social Policy Center.

Today I have invited Ernest Callenbach, author of Ecotopia, Ecotopia Emerging, Ecology: A Pocket Guide, Living Cheaply With Style, Bring Back the Buffalo,Humphrey the Wayward Whale (with Christine Leefeldt) and A Citizen Legislator (with Michael Phillips). Mr. Callenbach is a wonderful, intelligent man that I sincerely hope will accept my invitation to participate in the Social Policy Center.

I am also attempting to invite Joel Garreau, author of The Nine Nations of North America, Radical Evolution, and Edge City: Life on the New Frontier. Mr. Garreau is also a wonderful, intelligent man that I feel would make a wonderful contributor to the Social Policy Center

The third person I am trying to get on board is Arianna Huffington, political commentist and author of multiple books, not the least of which was How To Overthrow the Government, a book I have just finished reading and was impressed enough by it to include Mrs. Huffington in my invitations to the Social Policy Center.

If any of them are reading this blog to check it out before responding, I will state my solemn oath now that I will never censor a contributing author. I want your views and ideas to come through so that we can develop a dialog with the public about the truly important issues that are all too frequently ignored by mainstream politics.

Tuesday, October 9, 2007

Barnes Business College
The (non)Education That Keeps on Giving.

Over 20 years ago I made several major mistakes.

One was getting into trouble with the law, a mistake I am paying for to this day because so many potential employers slam the door in your face if you have ever had a felony conviction.

Another was signing up to attend Barnes Business College which is now defunct. Ironic, a business college that went bankrupt. I don't even bother to tell most people I ever went there out of sheer embarrassment.

Anyway, when I signed up for Barnes I was given many sweet-sounding promises. Full accreditation that would be transferrable to higher schools. To sum it up, a pack of salesman lies. I was just out of high school and was very naive. I started classes okay, but then I met a young lady with whom I ended up in serious legal trouble.

About half way through my training at Barnes, I was arrested and held in jail for almost six months. When I was released on probation, I was told by my probation officer that I would not be allowed out of my house past nine at night for the first six months of my probation unless it was for work. No sleep-overs at a friends, no nightclubs or concerts, and no night school until after the six months was over.

I finished the six months of intensive supervision totally without incident. The day after it was over and I was finally on regular probation, I contacted Barnes Business College to get back into classes as soon as possible. That was when I was given the bad news.

Because I had been out of classes for more than six months, Barnes Business College had closed out my contract with them, supposedly giving a refund of the unused tuition back to the bank. The problem with that was they also claimed I owed them close to $1,000 that I would have to pay before they would even talk about me getting back into classes. In addition, I would have to pay the new tuition rates that had increased by 20-25% just days before I called them.

So, here I was, unemployed and unable to complete my education to get a decent paying job in the first place. Over the years, my student loan with the bank sat collecting interest because of my inability to pay.

Finally last year the bank turned the loan over to the Department of Education and I began receiving collection calls, first from a company called Windham. I tried repeatedly to explain that by this time I was on total disability and was receiving only SSI as income. They kept insisting that I would have to pay at least 20% of the loan before we could even talk about rehabilitating the loan. By that time, 20% was like $2,000. No way in hell I had that kind of money and being on SSI there wasn't any bank that would lend me the money. After about two months, they finally took some information from me about my disability and told me I would hear from the Department of Education shortly about possibly getting the loan discharged due to my disability. That was like nine months ago.

Finally, I get a call from a new collection agency called Progressive starting the whole collection process over again last week. This time they started claiming they could seize my SSI payments if I didn't start paying at least 1/6th of my income to them immediately. Understand that on SSI the payment is currently $623 a month. 1/6th of that would be equal to half my food budget for the month. Because of my income and assumed expenses, food stamps would only give me $32 a month, even with me paying over $100 a month on my student loan. I went round and round with the collector for almost a half-hour over the phone about this, trying to get him to see reason to no avail. He insisted that I would have to make such payments for at least 9 months before I could even apply for a hardship consideration. Reluctantly I told him, before hanging up, that I would see what I could do.

Then I called the Department of Education.

I was informed that I would have to fill out a form to request discharge of the loan based on total and permanent disability and was told it would be 10 to 14 days before the form would arrive. Once the form was in (after being signed by my doctor) then it would be reviewed by them for approval. Never mind the fact I have been receiving SSI for the past four years after going through hell to prove I was disabled in the first place, they want confirmation from my doctor. Even then, it would only be a tenative discharge. The final discharge could take up to three years to finally be approved, during which time, as I understand it, they would monitor my disability to see if I improved enough to go back to work.

In the meantime, any tax returns I might be eligible to receive would be confiscated by them. Fine, let 'em. Maybe they will get an idea of how little I have been earning each year for the past twenty years because of this. Hard to pay $80-100 a month when you are earning minimum wage because you have a half-finished, worthless education.

Anyway, to top it all off, I discover that they can not take my SSI payments. Seems the Department of Education representatives and collectors need a lesson in Federal law. According to 31 CFR 285.4(2)(b), SSI payments are exempt from seizure. Section 285.4 is entitled 'Offset of Federal benefit payments to collect past-due, legally enforceable nontax debt' and describes various provisions and definitions that regulate what Federal benefits departments like the Department of Education can seize to pay things like defaulted student loans. The relevant portion reads:
Covered benefit payment means a Federal benefit payment payable to an individual under the Social Security Act (other than SSI payments), part B of the Black Lung Benefits Act, or any law administered by the Railroad Retirement Board (other than payments that such Board determines to be tier 2 benefits). The amount of the covered benefit payment payable to a debtor for purposes of this section will be the amount after reduction or deduction required under the laws authorizing the program. Reductions to recover benefit overpayments are excluded from the covered benefit payment when calculating amounts available for offset.

There are two interesting points here. One is that SSI payments are not included in the definition of a seizable Federal benefit payment. The second is, even if it were, then the limitation requirement would come into play. Guess what. SSI payments are less than the limitation amount in the first place and would thus not be touchable anyway.

Federal bureaucrats would do well to educate themselves on what the laws that apply to their activities actually say. Perhaps it would make them look less like heartless bastards.

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

The Age of Hipocrisy

It started out as a normal day, travelling the metro by bus after taking my fiance to work

Shortly after we left our start point, the driver called back to a young lady in the back of the bus to remove her feet from the walk space. At first, I took this in stride, recognizing this as a safety concern.

A couple miles down the road I heard an emergency siren approaching us and looked around to see where it was coming from. I quickly realized it was coming from behind us. I looked to the driver, expecting her to pull over and stop, as required by law, but she kept going, forcing the ambulance to come around us. This troubled me.

Understand, the old me would have simply walked away from the situation, but the new, activist me was upset by the hipocrisy of the driver.

When we got to the end of the line where I was to catch my next bus, I paused before getting off and looked to the driver. The conversation went something like this.

ME: Can I give you a piece of advice?
ME: Before you get onto someone about some dirt on their face, maybe you should wash the mud from your own. You got onto that girl earlier about her feet in the walk space and rightly so. Someone could trip and get hurt. But then you had an ambulance coming up from behind a few minutes later and you failed to pull over to let it by.
DRIVER: But it pulled to the left and went around, didn't it?
ME: And what if it needed to make a right turn at the corner? It is a safety issue and why the government requires drivers to pull over and stop. You do not know where that vehicle might have been heading. In Michigan such an act can get you a thousand dollar fine.
DRIVER: I see, perhaps I was in the wrong, I'll be more careful.

Yes, she really did accept responsibility, which in honesty surprised me. I smiled at her, tipped my hat, and headed off to catch my next bus. If I was sure she wouldn't get in trouble over the ambulance incident, I would call her supervisor and compliment the professional way she accepted my criticism.

It also made me think about my own responsibilities in life and the example I am setting for my young nephews.

My seven year old nephew at one point took to refusing to do his chores around the house. His excuse was that I and my 22 year old nephew were lazy and didn't do any work, so why should he.

Understand, I work almost exclusively on the computer with research, advocacy activities, and website development. My 22 year old nephew has ADHD, aspergers and Turet's syndrome, the combination of which makes it very hard for him to keep a job in the main stream economy due to employers not understanding the conditions and subsequently discriminating against him. Both of us have household chores to do like cooking, taking out the trash, cleaning our rooms, and doing dishes. All of which we normally do when my younger nephew is at school. When he is around, he sees me working on the computer and my older nephew playing games on the other computer.

I had to sit down with the younger nephew and explain everything that goes on when he is not there before he would once again begin doing chores at his house.

Children learn what they see us adults doing. At times, it is not what is actually going on, but how they interpret what they are seeing. If they don't see how hard we are working to make our households and communities work, they judge us accordingly and learn that perception. If they see us using aggression and violence to get what we want, they think that is the way to do things. Equally, if they see us cooperating with each other to make things better in our homes and community, they will learn this instead.

Personally, I am going to try harder and make sure my younger nephews understand the work I am trying to do with House Wyldstar and the Social Policy Center blog from now on.

The Home Team, Sports Fans, and Team Owners

Take me out to the ball game,
Take me out with the crowd!

Yeah, yeah, yeah, the Colorado Rockies are in the playoffs.

Oddly enough, thinking about the team made me realize there are some lessons for activists in sports. Follow me a moment...

In sports, you have a team who must work together to achieve their goal, much as you have such a team in your organization/cause who must work together to achieve their goal.

In sports, you have the fans who root for the team to win and who try to involve themselves in the game as much as possible (hooting loudly just as the pitch gets to homeplate, etc), much as you have fans in the real world rooting for your success as an organization/cause who help pay the bills and speak on behalf of the organization with authority figures.

In sports, you have a team owner or owners to whom the team answers for their performance. But who does your organization/cause answer to, you? In part, but not quite.

The ones your organization answers to is everyone affected by its activities, the government who expects you to account for your activities and the funding of the activities, and lastly the general public who frequently holds up a magnifying glass to every activity and report your organization produces.

Keeping all these people happy is not always easy, particularly if your activities/cause is controversial, or if it can be addressed by many different techniques. Finding a balance between these issues is complicated at times, but my advice is to never give in to what public opinion polls say the public wants. The polls can be influenced by too many things to go into in this blog. I would probably have to write a book to address that adequately. Let's use an example instead.

A few years back, Colorado had a significant surplus of tax revenues in its coffers. Rather than doing the smart thing by paying off some of the state debt or keeping the surplus in the coffers for leaner times, the government was badgered into giving the money back to the people immediately. The officials caved in to public pressure (via the polls) and hamstrung Colorado's opportunity to put itself in a better financial situation.

As social change leaders, we must often make controversial and/or unpopular decisions for the good of our society. This comes with the territory. If you can't make the hard decisions and stick to your guns, maybe you should try something safer, like skydiving or tiger-wrestling. Whatever you decide, go forward boldly. If you have make a mistake, accept the responsibility and learn from it, but the biggest mistake is to walk on eggshells the rest of your life.

I wonder what would have happened if Matt Holliday (Colorado Rockies winning run) had second-guessed himself about what to do in that thirteenth inning on the way to homeplate. Guess taking that head-first slide was the boldest decision of the evening.

Saturday, September 29, 2007

A System Run Wild

I just returned from an errand and happened to run into a woman who showed a great deal of interest in the book I was reading, How to Overthrow the Government by Arianna Huffington (www.huffingtonpost.com). I mentioned this blog and she proceded to tell me the following:

A couple years ago, she was arrested for driving without a license and no proof of insurance, two offenses she readily admitted to me. Apparently, a short time before she was to appear in court, she lost her apartment (no details on why) and was preoccupied with trying to establish a new residency. She forgot about her court appearance and, naturally, a bench warrant was issued for her.

Within a few days, she was arrested at one of the homeless shelters in Denver and her children were taken into the foster-care system. The system tried to place the children with their fathers (two children, two different dads), but one placement did not work out well when the father proved to be abusive and neglectful. That child was put back into the foster-care system and awaits a non-familial placement. Fortunately the other child fared much better. His dad took the situation seriously and is working hard to care for his son. Guess which father gets the blue ribbon of the day.

The mother served her time (in jail since she didn't show up for court) for her rather minor crimes and returned to the community. The problem got worse when the foster-care/social worker stated she could not get her kids back until she re-established her housing and employment situation, something that for someone who is homeless can take months, if not years.

Such demands and expectations, though seeming reasonable on first glance, can be a virtual life sentence for the kid, sentencing him or her to spend the rest of their childhood lost in the system. Statistically, to say this is a less than ideal situation would be an understatement.

Keeping any mother or father from their children because they are homeless is an insult to our community. Any of us could end up homeless for one reason or another. To label someone as unfit to be a parent because they lost a job or had a disaster occur that cost them their home is adding insult to injury.

It is high time we come up with realistic solutions to situations like this. The system as it stands is doing far more harm than good.

Thursday, September 27, 2007

Recognition of Our Potential

The sovereign being is burdened with a servitude that crushes him, and the condition of free men is deliberate servility.
Georges Bataille

Someone yesterday asked me why I am putting so much time into this blog and into House Wyldstar instead of getting a real job. It is an interesting question, especially when you ask yourself what a real job is.

I have had many real jobs in the past: warehouse order puller, cashier, fast food worker, shipping clerk, market researcher, typist (yes, there are male typists), furniture mover, carpet cleaner, and general laborer. In essence, I was a wage slave, working hard just to make someone else rich. I feel like the men waiting for Godot.

Let us not waste our time in idle discourse!

Let us do something, while we have the chance! It is not every day that we are needed. But at this place, at this moment of time, all mankind is us, whether we like it or not. Let us make the most of it, before it is too late!

But that is not the question. Why are we here, that is the question. And we are blessed in this, that we happen to know the answer. Yes, in this immense confusion one thing alone is clear. We are waiting for Godot to come.

Personally, I am tired of waiting.

When I was a kid, our government and big business talked about developing alternate fuels and energy in response to the oil crisis of the mid to late 70s. They are just now getting around to it thirty years later.

Denver has been talking about a comprehensive light rail system since about that time too. To date we have essentially two rails, the Chatfield/Downtown and the Parker/Downtown. We are still waiting for the Golden/Downtown, the DIA/Downtown, the Boulder/Downtown, and the Northglenn/Downtown lines to be done. Only one of them has even seen the design board.

We have been talking for decades about eliminating poverty, both in the United States and abroad. Children still go to bed hungry, even in the most developed nations. Tens of thousands are without a place to call home. Millions don't even have basic health insurance or services.

We talk about justice, yet we look the other way when our neighbors are arrested and convicted for crimes they never committed, especially if they are different in some way. And even when their punishment is over, we ostracize them until they are dead and buried.

We landed on the moon four decades ago and haven't been back in three decades, much less taken the time to establish a moonbase or lunar mining operations.

We made our first pieces of transparent alumina (aluminum oxide) five years ago, yet industrial applications haven't even made it to the drawing board yet. Not only is it transparent, but it is, according to the developers, three times stronger than steel! Imagine the possibilities!

House Wyldstar seeks to empower marginalized citizens. What better way than by large-scale economic and environmental development? By pushing forward with the developing technologies we can not only bolster our own economy, but help less-developed nations incorporate them from the beginning, saving them from many of the mistakes the developed nations have made in the past.

Taking the moral high-road on this, we can make economic slavery a thing of the past, once and for all. After that, the only ones wearing a ''collar'' will be the clergy and those who practice voluntary servitude. We cannot afford to wait for big business or the government to do it for us. We must do it ourselves.

Thursday, September 20, 2007

Learning From History

We worry about what a child will be tomorrow, yet we forget that he or she is someone today.
Stacia Tausher

Undoubtedly, you have noticed I use historic quotes frequently.

Through such quotes we can learn from our ancestors and founding fathers the wisdom of the ages. Through such quotes we can learn the original intent of those who wrote our Constitution and laws and they should be applied to the operation of our government and our society.

This understanding has led me to be an advocate for reducing the control and influence of our Federal government and for strengthening the sovereignty and self-sufficiency of our states and individual communities.

Our founding fathers feared a Federal government that held too much power, such as ours does now. The more centralized the power, they believed, the more easily it would be to corrupt and usurp governing authority from the will of the people.

This is further corrupted by activist judges who create new laws by judicial edict from the bench. Laws that were never approved of by Congress or the People of the United States and that have frequently proved disastrous to our society. Judges are supposed to enforce the laws as we, the people, have had instituted and to potentially punish those who violate these laws. Our laws provide not only what constitutes an offense, but what punishments are appropriate and even exceptional defenses to such violations that might mitigate the offense.

Now, granted the judges have to take action on occasion when a new or existing law is recognized as violating our Constitutional rights, but such decisions are always supposed to be in favor of protecting the rights of each and every citizen.

Too frequently these days our judges are bending to the pressures of political correctness and handing down decisions not based in law, but based in personal opinion and bias. Instead of true justice and equality under the law, they are showing favoritism and allowing Constitutional injustices to stand as law. They strike down the death-penalty as cruel and unusual punishment, for example, yet see nothing wrong with sentencing a man to serve two or more life sentences behind bars.

Is it any less cruel to keep a man imprisoned for the rest of his natural life, never to see his children grow up or even have a chance at emerging into a world he no longer knows? Is it any less cruel than silencing by intimidation an imprisoned man who continues to profess his innocence and dares to use media contacts or the Internet to plead his case before the public or to beg the courts to rehear his case because of new found evidence that may prove his innocence? Is the death penalty any more cruel than the cruelty of death the victims of the crimes experienced?

In giving unjust decisions that bend to radical factions of our society, judges violate their oath of office which has always included a statement of them swearing to uphold the United States Constitution and to protect the rights of all citizens under it.

Legislative corruption has led to laws in many jurisdictions protecting prosecutors and law enforcement agents from legal actions for the crimes of malicious prosecution, wrongful arrest, and false imprisonment. Judicial corruption has led to court decisions upholding these protections. These two trends, in particular, have undermined the basic rights of every citizen by making them more susceptible to wrongful arrest, detainment, and court involvement and leaving them no rights to seek remedy for the damage caused to their reputations, the loss of their jobs, and the economy devastation upon their lives.

What scares the hell out of me is these are some of the same conditions that Soviet citizens found themselves in during the Communist regime and that German citizens found themselves in under Adolf Hitler. Couple this with the liberal agenda of disarming American citizens and we have the recipe for the future enslavement of the United States.

Let's learn from history before we become a lesson for future generations.

The Power of a Single Man

Sometimes one man with courage is a majority.
Andrew Jackson

Talking with people yesterday on the buses about House Wyldstar and the Social Policy Center blog, I was asked if I really think my efforts will make a difference.

In truth, I do not know. My late aunt once told me that the true purpose of a warrior is not victory or conquest, but to struggle against adversity so that the people might survive. It is the struggle that is important. If man never attempts to prove himself worthy and to preserve the rights, liberties and freedom for himself and others, he condemns himself and those around him to mediocrity and slavery.

Until recently, I have lived a life of mediocrity as a common wage slave, travelling through time without a cause, a career, or discernible direction. But no longer.

Over the years I have experienced many things; mental illness, disability, imprisonment, homelessness, poverty, discrimination - they have all become a part of me, an epiphany if you will ... and given me an unexpected direction to my life. I can no longer sit by the sidelines and watch as our society slowly crumbles. I can no longer turn a blind eye to those I once thought beneath my attentions. I can no longer remain silent as our nation forgets the price of true liberty.

Will I make a difference? Perhaps, if I can educate people about the issues and needs of our society, get them to see and talk about what can be done to address them, and (if I am lucky) to inspire them to action. Some say this makes me a politician. Personally, I hate that title because of the social ineptitude associated with it today. I would rather think that it makes me a teacher. Perhaps one of the most important kind of teachers; one that gets his students to honestly and intelligently think for themselves.

Please understand, I do not pretend to be an expert on anything. I am an ordinary citizen. But I try to open my mind to see how each issue is linked to the others and how these interrelated issues affect each other. You can blame my world history teacher in high school, Mrs. Rowland, for that. She taught me to never look at an event or situation as isolated, but to look around it at the environment and the previous events that led up to the event or situation. By doing so, one gains more insight into the event or situation and can more readily see or design a response to it.

Can a single man make a difference?

With courage and an open mind, eager to find solutions to our problems, I believe he can.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Need a Band-Aid?

Today I strike against common sense. Common sense in that this idea is common to most Americans and, at face value, it seems to make sense.

What is it? The idea that if our governments (any level, take your pick) are showing a surplus at any given time, it should be given back to the tax payers immediately.

Seven years ago, when Clinton left office, our federal government was showing a financial surplus on its annual budget. It was a surplus that, I my opinion, should have gone to paying off some of our national debt.

Instead, the republicans swiftly realigned our budget to put us back on course for national bankruptcy in the near future. The surplus that should have paid off some of our national debt was instead given away as a tax cut that only helped the richest members of our society.

Why is this a problem, you ask? Simple. When our nation goes bankrupt in the next few years, the richest members of our society will simply hide in their gated- and armed guard-protected communities to ride out its aftermath. This leaves, guess who, outside to clean up the mess they have caused by their profiteering and outright greed.

The rich try to make it look like they are concerned for the welfare of the homeless, disabled, etc, etc. Yet percentage-wise, they give the least amount of income to programs to address the social needs of these populations. The same can be said for the government itself, which spends most of its money to guarantee that you and I will remain loyal little wage slaves, oblivious to the impending disaster, until it is too late.

This is the same thing that the Roman empire did during its last days. Back then they held daily circuses and gave away bread in a bid to convince the people that nothing was wrong. It worked. At least it did until Rome was burned by barbarian hordes. By then, of course, it was too late.

Is it too late for the United States? Only time will tell for certain, but I don't think we should wait to find out.

John Kerry - Silenced Student

This in from the University of Florida.

A student was tasered for allegedly getting out of hand during a question and answer session with candidate John Kerry. According to reports, the student supposedly used profanity during a series of questions that led the session moderators (read censors here) to cut off his mike and to have police remove the student.

This was, to put it lightly, poorly handled.

First, if the student was in the middle of a question when his time ran out, he should have been allowed to finish it and Mr Kerry given time to answer it before the student was asked to step aside. This would have been respectful of the student as both an adult and a human being.

Second, there are a lot better ways of handling a young man than tasering him. Those things have been known to trigger heart attacks and neurological damage and should be outlawed for everyone, including the police. Might need to list pepper spray in this too, one shot of that stuff would put me in the hospital with total asthmatic shutdown.

Third, seeing the obvious overkill in this situation, John Kerry, self-proclaimed defender of our civil liberties, should have been all over the police officers and officials about this incident and the sorry way it was handled. Guess I won't be voting for him after all.

Men in authority will always think that criticism of their policies is dangerous. They will always equate their policies with patriotism, and find criticism subversive.
Henry Steele

Monday, September 17, 2007

Constitution Day

Today is Constitution Day, the day in history when our U.S. Constitution was officially signed.

To signify this day, I offer the following quotes about government, and in the spirit of the original intent of the United States and House Wyldstar's association mission, I shall leave you to consider their meaning for yourself.

The only sure bulwark of continuing liberty is a government strong enough to protect the interests of the people, and a people strong enough and well enough informed to maintain its sovereign control over the government.
Franklin Roosevelt

It was once said that the moral test of Government is how that Government treats those who are in the dawn of life, the children; those who are in the twilight of life, the elderly; and those who are in the shadows of life, the sick, the needy and the handicapped.
Hubert Humpfrey

The citizen can bring our political and governmental institutions back to life, make them responsive and accountable, and keep them honest. No one else can.
John Gardner

A wise and frugal government, which shall leave men free to regulate their own pursuits of industry and improvement, and shall not take from the mouth of labor and bread it has earned -- this is the sum of good government.
Thomas Jefferson

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Crazy Policies Harm Communities

Today I would like to talk about a very controversial issue, our crumbling disease management policies.

Recently our news headlines burned into our memory the story of a tuberculosis patient who travelled by plane to Europe, exposing dozens of people to what was thought to be a deadly, drug-resistant form of tuberculosis. The public screamed about the irresponsibility of this act and rightly so. But let me remind you that another deadly disease is being spread without notice - AIDS/HIV.

Twenty years ago the existence of this disease became public knowledge, thought at the time to be only a homosexual community problem. Over the years, it quickly spread into the heterosexual community via the bisexual and drug-users community. It is a disease that can take a decade or more to blossom to its full lethal potential, once someone is infected.

Unlike the flu or common cold, the ways this illness is spread relates directly to human actions-blood transfusion (now rare) or body fluid exposure, the use of injected drugs with unsterilized equipment, and sexual contact. Years ago, outbreaks of infectious diseases were met with prompt public and governmental action. In many cases, it still is.

But when it comes to AIDS/HIV, our response has been dismal. Out of fear of stigmatizing individuals who are exposed, usually because of unsafe conduct on their part, we respond to the diagnosis as if it were nothing more serious than a common cold.

This lack of prompt, appropriate response has allowed this disease to get completely out of hand. It is currently estimated that 40 million people worldwide have this disease and many of them do not know it!!!

When this disease was first identified, our officials followed procedure and began tracking down those who might have been cross-infected by exposure to the diagnosed patient. Privacy advocates screamed about this saying it violated the patient's right to privacy, completely ignoring the right of those exposed to a deadly disease to know about it and perhaps prevent them from exposing others unwittingly.

This change in policy has hamstrung our efforts to get control over this disease for the past twenty years, leading to ten or twenty times as many people being exposed and sentenced to death.

Understand, I am a strong supporter for the right to privacy. However, when the right to privacy endangers the lives of others, that is where the right to privacy ends.

This is especially important when we consider the prospects of a pandemic outbreak.

With the "bird" flu showing signs of nearing the avian/human infection crossing, we should be strengthening our disease monitoring, treatment, and reporting. This reporting cannot be just to state and federal authorities. It must include anyone who may have been exposed to the disease in question so that they can seek treatment or change their activities to limit or eliminate exposing others.

We held this position regarding Mr Tuberculosis. We already have plans to hold this position when faced with a global pandemic. We should and must take this position regarding our response to AIDS/HIV as well.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Conservative or Liberal - Defining Who We Are

While in a chatroom earlier today, the participants started asking each other where they stood politically ... conservative or liberal. They all agreed that they could not categorize me in either of those.

This is simple to understand. I am neither fully. The closest political parties to whom I can be compared are the Natural Law Party and the Libertarians. I am very conservative when it comes to the role of government in our lives, feeling that the government should return to a state of original intent defined in the U.S. Constitution. At the same time, I am very liberal when it comes to the rights of individuals living their lives in peace (ie without interference from the government or majority of our society) and have equal opportunity when it comes to participation in our society, be that political, economic, or socially.

Unlike ''liberals'' who think this can only come under the authority and control of government (which contributes to our growing, unconstitutional government agencies), I feel these goals can be created by the citizens of the United States and other countries independently of government. For true change to come about within a society, one must first educate the people about why the proposed change is better than maintaining the status quo. And as Benjamin Franklin said, "this is not the work of a single day."

Our problems arise when liberal organizations and foundations fund litigation (lawsuits) to force social change down the throats of mainstream society, or when activist politicians pass ill-conceived laws to curry the favor of the social majority regardless of the negative impacts of such change or legislation.

The over-all impact of the liberal agenda in the United States has, to date, been a dissertation in how to destroy a country. The liberal activism of our politicians and foundations have lead to the near-disaster of the welfare programs, so-called education reforms, and out of control political correctness in our country.

Most liberals have been secretive about their agenda, but on occassion one of them slips up and says something that gives them away. Consider the following quotes and their sources. See if you can pick out which are liberals.

What country can preserve its liberties if its rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms
Thomas Jefferson

Before a standing army can rule, the people must be disarmed; as they are in almost every kingdom in Europe. The supreme power in America cannot enforce unjust laws by the sword; because the whole body of the people are armed, and constitute a force superior to any band of regular troops that can be, on any pretense, raised in the United States.
Noah Webster

One of the ordinary modes, by which tyrants accomplish their purposes without resistance, is, by disarming the people, and making it an offense to keep arms.
Supreme Court Justice Joseph Story, 1840

The most foolish mistake we could possibly make would be to allow the subject races to possess arms. History shows that all conquerors who have allowed their subject races to carry arms have prepared their own downfall by so doing.
Adolf Hitler

Ideas are more powerful than guns. We would not let our enemies have guns, why should we let them have ideas.
Joseph Stalin

Every Communist must grasp the truth, 'Political power grows out of the barrel of a gun.'
Mao Tse-tung

I do not believe in people owning guns. Guns should be owned only by police and military. I am going to do everything I can to disarm this state.
Michael Dukakis

When only cops have guns, its called a 'police state'
Claire Wolfe

For the record, I am not a gun-toting, card-carrying member of the NRA or any other such organization. Personally, I do not even own a gun and have never liked firing them, even when I was in the military twenty years ago. However, if provoked by invaders or our own government becoming oppressive to the rights of myself or my community, that could easily change.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Six Years Later

Well, here we are at the sixth anniversary of the World Trade Center attack. Have we learned anything?

I am not talking about our bumbling national security guards and intelligence agencies. I am talking about you and I as Americans.

We as Americans can no longer take for granted that we are safe at home. The foreign terrorists effectively confirmed that. But I wonder, are we any safer now?

The USA Patriot Act was passed shortly after the attack, on the premise that it would make us safer in the United States, but has it?

It is slowly coming to light just how far the USA Patriot Act has damaged civil and constitutional rights in the United States. Three years ago a federal judge ruled the portion forbidding giving expert advice and assistance to groups designated as international terrorist organizations unconstitutional, ruling it impermissibly vague and violating the First and Fifth Amendments of the United States Constitution.

Other provisions should also be declared unconstitutional.

One provision is the so-called 'sneak and peek' or 'delayed notification' searches of American households. Under this provision, government officials may enter your home or business without a search warrant and take anything they 'think' might incriminate you. All you know is you come home or enter your business later and find the place broken into and stuff missing. For weeks, months or even years you may think you were simply robbed. This was supposedly changed in the Patriot Act reauthorization recently to require the government to give you notice within 30 days, but with the opportunity for two 30-day extensions with the showing of good cause.

Another provision requires bookstores and libraries to make your viewing habits available to them upon request (ie without a court warrant) and forbids them from telling you the information was accessed. The reauthorization supposedly removed the automatic application of the gag order.

Under provisions of the USA Patriot Act, peace activists, social change advocates, members of the American Islamic society and even political opponents of sitting officials have found themselves denied the right to travel by commercial airliner because they have been included in the federal 'no-fly' list.

I am reminded of an old warning:

Those who would give up Essential Liberty to purchase a little Temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor SafetyBenjamin Franklin

Have we forfeited the essential liberty of ourselves and our children? Only time will tell, I just pray we do not find out too late.

Anyone care for a yellow star or black triangle?

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Colony Collapse - A Crisis In The Making

We have almost all heard it in the news, bee populations are on the decline worldwide. Doesn't sound important, does it? I mean aside from higher honey prices and future supply reduction, what's the problem?

The problem is, our domestic honey bees are our primary pollinator of crops and fruits. Less or no bees means a stark reduction in crop production worldwide. This at a time when our production levels are already under threat from drought and desertification effects from global warming.

This scarily reminds me of the warning in the Book of Revelations (last book of the Christian Bible for those who are non-Christian readers) where it tells of extraordinary prices for food stocks in the future.

This does not bode well for anyone on Earth. The less we can rely on our food stocks, the greater the chance for internal and international turmoil as more and more of our population goes hungry.

Fundamentally, this is a serious national security issue! And it is a condition that has been building for a long time. As we become increasingly dependent on limited areas of our country to provide the bulk of our food stock, any loss of production in those areas ripple through our entire economy. Case in point, the price of oranges and orange juice over the past few months, caused by the devastating hurricanes in Florida two years ago that damaged most of the crop producing trees.

I am not the only one noticing this potentially devastating pattern. Infoshop News has an article on the subject at the moment (http://www.infoshop.org/inews/article.php?story=20070901185325837).

The question is, what can we do about it?

First, we need research to learn what is killing off our bee populations and other pollinators. If we are doing it ourselves with toxins or something, we need to know so we can stop it. If the treat to them is biological, we must find a cure, quickly.

Second, we need to diversify our crops. The true number of food crops worldwide number in the hundreds, if not thousands, yet we rely on about 30 or 40 for the bulk of our diet. Organizations like Seeds of Diversity (Canada - http://www.seeds.ca/en.php) need to be encouraged and learned from. We constantly talk about cultural diversity when we need to be more interested in maintaining genetic diversity in our plants, animals, and food stocks.

Third, we need to decentralize our crop production. Currently several areas of the country are under biological quarantine which prevents crops being trucked into, out of, or through those areas. Each community across the nation once had crop farms surrounding them and providing them with food. Over the years, these have either been sold to make way for urban sprawl development or purchased and consolidated by the mega-agricultural corporations. This decentralized food supply needs to be re-established as soon as possible with urban sprawl encroachment slowed, if not stopped altogether.

These changes will not be easy and without a doubt will be resisted by the mega-agricultural corporations, but if we are going to maintain a sustainable, thriving society, it must be done, and soon.

Sunday, September 2, 2007

Days of Future Past - Remembering the Fallen

May you live in interesting times.
Chinese curse

Until six years ago, I never really understood that curse. We are approaching the sixth anniversary of the day that changed America, forever.

I finally had a chance to see the movie "World Trade Center" and could not keep back the tears remembering that day.

I was helping my niece, Jasmine, get ready for school that morning. The morning cartoons she was watching as she ate her breakfast were interrupted by the news of the first plane hitting the towers. Moments after they went live, the second plane hit, sending flames and debris into the morning sky over New York City. My niece looked confused and turned.

"Uncle James, what happened?"

All I could do, in the shocked state I was in at the time, was say that something very bad had just happened. To this day, I still do not know how to adequately explain to a child about that day.

Looking back in my mind while watching the movie, I wonder if we as a nation have learned anything. I, for one, have taken many lessons from this horrible, historic event.

First, Americans are capable of so much more than we are doing now for each other. During the events of September 11th, 2001, people rallied together to help dig survivors out of the wreckage, heal those who were wounded, donate much needed blood, and comfort those who lost loved ones in this unforgivable attack.

Second, it made me realize that we as Americans can never take our safety and freedom for granted. It is something that must be fought for and protected with our very lives if our children are to know what it is.

Third, it made me realize that we must continue the struggle against oppression and fascism which is still very much alive in our world. Where there are men and forces that would work to harm and intimidate mankind into slavish obedience to any philosophy or religious dogma, we must be ready to oppose it with deadly resolve.

The attack against the World Trade Center was an act of war, undeclared and cowardly, no different than another attack that happened over 60 years ago. Perhaps you have heard of a place called Pearl Harbor? If not, ask your grandparents.

During the Civil War, there were almost 500,000 deaths. During the First World War, over 100,000. During the Second World War, over 400,000. During the Korean Conflict (America's forgotten war), over 50,000. During Vietnam, over 90,000. During the Gulf War, a mere 2,000.

Now in Iraq and Afghanistan, so many in our nation are screaming over the deaths of just over 3,000 over the past three years. Have we forgotten how many have died before to secure and encourage freedom around the world?

Don't get me wrong. I hate war. I wish we as a race could come up with better ways to handle our conflicts. It is unfortunate that the tree of freedom must still be watered with the blood of brave warriors. I agree with Eve Mirriam when she spoke of one day having a child who would ask her "What was war?" But as John Stewart Mill said:

War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest of things. The decayed and degraded state of moral and patriotic feeling which thinks that nothing is worth war is much worse. The person who has nothing for which he is willing to fight, nothing which is more important than his own personal safety, is a miserable creature and has no chance of being free unless made and kept so by the exertions of better men than himself.

We as Americans must remember these words, least we loose our resolve to maintain the freedoms that we have so richly enjoyed. If we do, our children's futures will be poorer for it. Personally, I struggle not for myself, but for my niece and my nephews. I hope that one day they can take their children to a museum where our guns, bombs and machines of war will be displayed the same way that instruments of torture and archaic weapons are now. I hope they look upon them with startled amazement that such devices could ever have been used. I pray they look up at their parents and ask.

What was war?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

The Terminator Strikes Hard Against Key Health Care

News out of California!

Governor crushes programs to help homeless mentally ill and to help consumers save on prescription medications!

In a heartless move befitting his movie role as the mechanized 'terminator' from the future, Governor Schwarzenegger cut a $55 million program that has helped thousands of mentally ill citizens return to mainstream society and a $6 million program to require drug manufacturers to discount many prescription medications for citizens in need.

This is blatant short-sightedness at its worst. Instead of spending around $60 million in preventive medicine now, the Governor has chosen to spend at least two or three times more in other service areas in the near future in unnecessary hospitalizations, jail costs and loss of productivity in these extremely vulnerable populations. Politicians repeatedly cut critical services like these to 'save money' without thinking about the consequences of their actions.

This is the kind of stupid decisions that our politicians and leaders are making everyday lately. And yes, I know full well that these are fighting words. Bring it on, Terminator!

When will our politicians realize that preventing health problems is MUCH cheaper than reacting to them after the fact? THIS is why our health care programs cost two or three times more than anywhere else in the world, with only minor differences in the quality of care marginalized citizens receive. I like Arnold as an actor, but I give him an F on this one.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Transparent Equality

A few years back, the United States federal legislation passed a new law requiring certain transparency actions by major U.S. corporations. The nonprofit industry has since worked to apply the same standards to their operations to assure the American public as to their legitimacy and donation worthiness. While I commend them for their efforts at honesty and accountability to the American people, there is still an industry that refuses to apply these standards. That industry is the government itself.

The U.S. government (and most state, county and municipal governments) frequently operates behind a veil of misinformation and secrecy. Many times, laws and budgets passed for the good of America are unofficially ignored, adding to the lack of accountability.

An example is in order, I think.

A few years back, the United States was awe-struck as we watched the first test flight of the Delta Clipper, a prototype of a completely reusable space launch vehicle. Congress was so impressed that they passed budgeting for the Department of Defense (the Delta Clipper was designed under a 'Star Wars' development program) to build a full-scale Delta Clipper for testing and, if proven viable, for full production of a series of them. It was hoped that the Delta Clipper would replace our aging space shuttle fleet and secure the future of the American space exploration efforts. The problem was, the man in charge of releasing the funds to the program for its continuation didn't like the program and refused to release the funds, even after Congress approved it. Effectively, ONE MAN killed the Delta Clipper and continues to let his personal opinions and attitudes guide his actions instead of honoring the will of the American people. The only way he was willing to allow the funds to be released was if the Delta Clipper was taken into the 'black world' of secret government developments. Doing this effectively took the potential use of the Delta Clipper away from NASA forever, locking it into a 'military use only' blackhole.

This reflects an arrogant idealism that the American people cannot intelligently decide what technologies should be developed and, once developed, how they should be used. The idea of the Delta Clipper, if I remember correctly, was originally a CIVILIAN idea that was supposed to use a new design engine called a Star Spike that would improve the efficiency of space travel dramatically. It was also supposed to bring the cost of space travel down to less that one-tenth its current cost. Yet this tremendous potential was buried under the mountain of governmental/military secrecy. When might it return? Perhaps it will, perhaps it won't. It has become another secret program, funded by the American people without us ever knowing where the money is going or what progress is being made on the project.

How does this apply to nonprofit organizations? Simple.

The activities of nonprofit organizations are subject to public review at any time, by any member of the public. The annual 990 report to the IRS details what money was received by the organization, what taxes (if any) were paid, progress made on the organization's projects, how much money key personnel have been paid, it is like an on-going autopsy of the organization. Nonprofit organizations are not allowed to hide projects from the public in any way shape or form, nor do we feel our government should be hiding things. If they are sensitive enough or dangerous enough, one must ask, should we be involved in this activity at all. But once a project is shoved into the 'black world' it usually never sees the light of public scrutiny again ... EVER!

Billions of U.S. taxes are poured into the black world every year, without accountability in any tangible form. This is fundamentally wrong. To me, every project should be submitted to the government in the same way that a nonprofit project is, fully detailed in what it is to address, how it will address it, and how we will know if it is effective or not, thus knowing if the project is worthy of continued funding.

I've said my piece ... now it is your turn.