December 30, 2005

Did bin Laden win after all?

"Those who would give up essential liberty to purchase a little temporary safety, deserve neither liberty nor safety." - Benjamin Franklin

Robert Steinbeck says some things that I have thought for quite some time.

If, back in 2001, anyone had told me that four years after bin Laden's attack our president would admit that he broke U.S. law against domestic spying and ignored the Constitution -- and then expect the American people to congratulate him for it -- I would have presumed the girders of our very Republic had crumbled.

Had anyone said our president would invade a country and kill 30,000 of its people claiming a threat that never, in fact, existed, then admit he would have invaded even if he had known there was no threat -- and expect America to be pleased by this -- I would have thought our nation's sensibilities and honor had been eviscerated.

If I had been informed that our nation's leaders would embrace torture as a legitimate tool of warfare, hold prisoners for years without charges and operate secret prisons overseas -- and call such procedures necessary for the nation's security -- I would have laughed at the folly of protecting human rights by destroying them.

If someone had predicted the president's staff would out a CIA agent as revenge against a critic, defy a law against domestic propaganda by bankrolling supposedly independent journalists and commentators, and ridicule a 37-year Marie Corps veteran for questioning U.S. military policy -- and that the populace would be more interested in whether Angelina is about to make Brad a daddy -- I would have called the prediction an absurd fantasy.

That's no America I know, I would have argued. We're too strong, and we've been through too much, to be led down such a twisted path.

What is there to say now?


Never would I have expected this nation -- which emerged stronger from a civil war and a civil rights movement, won two world wars, endured the Depression, recovered from a disastrous campaign in Southeast Asia and still managed to lead the world in the principles of liberty -- would cower behind anyone just for promising to ``protect us.''


Are we agreeing, then, to give the king unfettered privilege to defy the law forever? It's time for every member of Congress to weigh in: Do they believe the president is above the law, or bound by it?

Bush stokes our fears, implying that the only alternative to doing things his extralegal way is to sit by fitfully waiting for terrorists to harm us. We are neither weak nor helpless. A proud, confident republic can hunt down its enemies without trampling legitimate human and constitutional rights.

Go read it all.

November 18, 2005

Lyon County Growth has impact all over

A quick perusal the Mason Valley News and Leader-Courier will confirm what you all are seeing on a daily basis: Lyon County is growing by leaps and bounds.

There is no stopping the growth. With real estate prices going through the roof in Reno and Carson City, it's only natural that families will be looking to find an affordable place to live. The question is, will we make sure that this growth is a win-win for all concerned?

Privatization and Medicare - No Choice for You

Paul Krugman's column this morning tackles the new Medicare prescription plan.

[. . . ]

Here's some background: the elderly have long been offered a choice between standard Medicare, in which the government pays medical bills directly, and plans in which the government pays a middleman, like an H.M.O., to deliver health care. The theory was that the private sector would find innovative ways to lower costs while providing better care.

The theory was wrong. A number of studies have found that managed-care plans, which have much higher administrative costs than government-managed Medicare, end up costing the system money, not saving it.

But privatization, once promoted as a way to save money, has become a goal in itself. The 2003 bill that established the prescription drug benefit also locked in large subsidies for managed care.

And on drug coverage, the 2003 bill went even further: rather than merely subsidizing private plans, it made them mandatory. To receive the drug benefit, one must sign up with a plan offered by a private company. As people are discovering, the result is a deeply confusing system because the competing private plans differ in ways that are very hard to assess.

[. . . ]

But confusion isn't the only, or even the main, reason why the privatization of drug benefits is bad for America. The real problem is that we'll end up spending too much and getting too little.

Everything we know about health economics indicates that private drug plans will have much higher administrative costs than would have been incurred if Medicare had administered the benefit directly.

It's also clear that the private plans will spend large sums on marketing rather than on medicine. I have nothing against Don Shula, the former head coach of the Miami Dolphins, who is promoting a drug plan offered by Humana. But do we really want people choosing drug plans based on which one hires the most persuasive celebrity?

Last but not least, competing private drug plans will have less clout in negotiating lower drug prices than Medicare as a whole would have. And the law explicitly forbids Medicare from intervening to help the private plans negotiate better deals.

Last week I explained that the Medicare drug bill was devised by people who don't believe in a positive role for government. An insistence on gratuitous privatization is a byproduct of the same ideology. And the result of that ideology is a piece of legislation so bad it's almost surreal.

November 6, 2005

Colorado rejects TABOR and Nevada should reject TASC

So, when Bob Beers starts making noise about TASC (TABOR under a new name) and Sharron Angle pushes for a Nevada version of Proposition 13, remember Colorado. Do you really want underfunded schools? No libraries? No rural health programs? Police and fire departments operating on a shoestring? Roads that cannot handle the traffic of expanding communities?

TASC turns our budgets into mathematical formulas and does not allow our elected officials any flexibility in moving funds around so that growing areas of the budget (education, for instance) get adequate funding while areas that slip down the priority ladder don't get more than they need.

Can you imagine running your household budget that way? When you are done paying off your car, do you continue to make payments on it? As your children get older, doesn't the cost of their clothing, food, and school and after-school activities go up? Sure would be nice to take that money no longer needed for a car payment to help offset the cost of your children's expenses, wouldn't it? If your budget was restricted the way TASC seeks to restrict government funding, you wouldn't be allowed to.

From the November 3rd Editorial in the NY Times:

How Colorado Got Its Government Back

In 1992, to the unmitigated glee of antitax types everywhere, Colorado voters amended the State Constitution to impose the nation's strictest tax and spending limits. On Tuesday, they decided that government was worth paying for after all. By 52 percent to 48 percent, they voted to suspend the fiscal limits for the next five years and told the state to keep $3.7 billion that would have otherwise been refunded to taxpayers.

The vote clearly has to do with the pain of a permanently underfinanced government. Middle-class and low-income residents were getting burned by ever deepening spending cuts in education, health care and transportation.

Colorado has the ninth-highest per capita personal income in the nation, and only Washington, D.C., and Massachusetts have larger proportions of college graduates. Yet over the past decade or so, Colorado has dropped to near the bottom among the states in funds for basic public services. Last November, Republicans lost control of both chambers of the Legislature for the first time since 1960, and Gov. Bill Owens, a Republican, then shocked his base by supporting the suspension of the budget restrictions.

Voters and legislators in nearly half the states are currently considering tax and spending limits, some of them quite severe, like Proposition 76 in California. Coloradans, who have the most experience with extreme budget constraints, have said "time out" and telegraphed their displeasure to elected officials. Taxpayers and politicians, including those in Washington, should take heed. This vote was a thumbs down on "starving the beast" - the Republican strategy of excessive tax cuts to force government to shrink.

September 16, 2005

Four years later...

Four years...four years. Four years after 9/11 we have had a massive restructuring of the US government that was specifically designed to correct all the screw-ups of 9/11 from lack of intelligence sharing to something as simple as emergency personnel being able to communicate with each other.

Four years later, under a Republican dominated administration and Congress, we are no less closer to that goal than we were on September 10, 2001.

In four years a Democratic-led administration and Congress had mobilized the military and defeated the Germans and the Japanese.

But according to Republicans and all the right-wing pundits, Democrats are weak on national security.


July 29, 2005

Congratulations to the workers at Quebecor World

It's the truth...unions are what made the middle class strong in this country, and the decline of the middle class can be directly linked to the decline of union membership in this country.

And even if you have never been a union member, you stand on their shoulders everytime you get overtime pay, have a weekend off or get a paid vacation. Do you get health care from your employer? When you are looking for a job, don't you at least look for one with "benefits?" Thank the unions. With less and less govenrment protection of workers, we need unions now more than ever.

Teamsters to represent Fernley Quebecor plant employees

Last Friday evening at the Fernley Senior Center, pressmen, production workers, technicians and other employees of Quebecor World in Fernley waited nervously as an election count was underway to determine whether a union would represent them as a bargaining unit on employee contracts.

A total of 207 employees were eligible to vote and 113 voted in favor of union representation while 52 employees voted against. A total of 42 employees didn’t vote and that number was included as a vote against the union and thus the election count was close with 113 in favor and 94 against.

Outside the Senior Center, some employees were overcome with emotion once they heard the vote and they cried and hugged each other, while others whooped it up knowing the Graphics Communication Conference of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters would be representing them.

The effort to organize union representation for Quebecor employees took two-years and union supporters indicated it was a challenging journey as some supporters lost friends over the issue. Further, supporters also charged they were targets of harassment and intimidated by company management.


Mark Rupert, who initiated the unionization drive, celebrated quietly and said, “It’s 1776 reborn. It took two years and it feels like a new baby has been born.”

“I can’t even describe it,” said Lynn Vasquez, who works in materials. “It’s been my life for the last two years. It means everything.” She indicated she is hoping for better working conditions.

Last Friday, Quebecor officials gave no comments to the Leader-Courier following the vote.

Now, according to Rupert, a survey will be distributed among employees to determine what they want the union to bargain for and then a priority list will be initiated.
Then in about two weeks a bargaining team along with union officials will meet Quebecor officials to begin negotiating for a labor contract.

“We want dignity, respect and better health care,” said Rupert.

Paul Dumine, a pressman, said he supported union representation after he was diagnosed with cancer and experienced the company’s health care plan. Now he and his family are homeless and living wherever they can find a place, he said.


Kathey Hurley is hoping for better working conditions as she charged there have been times when she was not allowed any break and even had to eat her lunch on the presses.

Last October the National Labor Relations Board issued a complaint against Quebecor World, Fernley, and at plaints in Corinth, Miss., and Covington, Tenn. concerning allegations of union busting.

At the Fernley plant, employees charged Quebecor management threatened employees who are supporters of the union would be arrested. Further employees charged Quebecore prohibited union material from being distributed and conducted illegal surveillances.

In January the NLRB, in a settlement, found Quebecor violated federal labor laws. A part of the settlement agreement indicated that Quebecor would “not tell employees that they should look for work elsewhere because of support for or activity on behalf of the Union.”

Also, the agreement said, Quebecor would “not create the impression of surveillance and/or interrogate employees regarding rumored Union activity.” Further, it says federal laws give employees the right to “form, join or assist a union and federal law gives employees the right to choose representatives to bargain on their behalf.”

Best of luck to you as you embark on collective bargaining. Here's to health care and decent working conditions!

July 16, 2005

More growth for Fernley

If it seems to you like houses are springing up in Fernley like mushrooms after a rain, you ain't seen nothin' yet.

Town fathers gave the thumbs-up to a huge development that is being proposed south of Fernley in the Fernley Hills area.


The Council also approved the BC Ranch tentative subdivision map to divide the project into 2,178 single-family parcels, 1,010 multi-family units, 39.68-acre commercial site, 11.74-acre school site and 180.91 acres of open space.


The build-out of the project is estimated at 15-20 years; and according to the BC Design Standards Manual, it will include a “mix of single family residential villages, multi-family housing sites, commercial properties, an elementary school site and open spaces.”
The manual further indicated, “A total of 13 individual single family residential villages with varying lot sizes are planned within the BC Ranch community.
“A full build-out, approximately 2,174 single-family dwelling units, are anticipated. Individual villages will be sold to various builders who may reconfigure lots during final design to accommodate specific product type.”
BC Ranch also has three areas that will be designated multi-family residential.
The manual reads, “These areas are designated for a maximum density of 20 units per acre.
“At full build-out, approximately 1,010 multi-family units are anticipated.”

July 13, 2005

False sense of security?

Last night I was out having dinner in a local establishment and happened to see KOLO-TV run a piece on the Lyon County Sheriff's Department which had spent the day fingerprinting children. I am sure you have seen such programs before. Parents, concerned over recent news reports of abducted children, line up in malls and outside grocery stores to have their children fingerprinted. Said fingerprint card is handed over to said parent. Said parent tucks card away for safe keeping, and then heaves a sigh of relief, believing her child is safe from harm.

Frankly, I don't really have any objection to these programs per se. I mean, they can't hurt, right? But what do they do to actually protect our children? And I'm curious to know, how much LCSD money is going toward this project which will do nothing, I repeat, nothing, to protect our kids from abduction? Seriously, what does this do but give some parents a false sense of security?

And is abduction really the biggest threat to our kids? Is that what keeps most of us up at night? I don't know about you, but I worry about the high cost of health care and the ability to provide for my family. I worry about the lack of after school care programs that give our kids a safe place to go. I worry about the meth lab that got raided other side of town and the scourge that meth use has become in rural counties all over the country. I worry more about a ballooning federal deficit that has forced cuts in programs that help our kids. I worry about the lack of good paying jobs. I worry that my daughter will be among the first generation of Americans that didn't have a better standard of living than the generation that came before her.

It's a start!!

The Lyon County Central Committee beat out the Fernley Republican Women in this year's 4th of July parade in Fernley.

It was hot, but not too, and we had enough candy (70 lbs!!) to get us to the end of the parade without having to tear our entry entry apart for something to give to the kids at the end of the parade route who notoriously get the short end of the stick as far as candy volume.

Many thanks to Robert G. for loaning his trailer, Rita for providing her truck, and the efforts of Maria, Nathaniel, Rita, Brad, Leigh and Carissa who all helped to decorate our entry and walk (Brad) and ride (the rest of us) the parade route and toss candy to the kids.

And many, many thanks to those Fernley folks who expressed support, both at the parade and at the park afterwards.

And most of all, thank you to all the veterans and current active duty, reserves and National Guard who put their lives on the line for us.

June 24, 2005


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