Tuesday, December 18, 2007

"It CAN Happen Here"

Not too long ago, in a not so distant land, a strange conversation ensued between the most unlikely people ever to have crossed paths in a convenience store. This is an account of that meeting.

Me: (in a long line to check out at the cash register) Gosh. I can't believe this 7/11 has no sugar free gum.

Curley Stewpet: (speaking up from behind me in line) We see these problems all the time now--illegal aliens buying up all the sugar free gum in the county when law abiding citizens should be getting sugar free gum. That's what this resolution is about--protecting our natural born Americans from gum chewers who have no right to even be IN a 7/11.

Me: (surprised...turning around to face him) Well, I just meant they used to carry more than they do now. I just see the sugary stuff.

Johnnie Stiritup: (speaking up behind Curley) This is the kind of crisis we can expect when we allow illegals to spread gum-chewing lawlessness in our county. When I was in Arlington, I experienced this lack of sugar-free gum myself. It was devastating. When I took over as Supervisor here, I said, there is no way I will allow sugar-free gum depletion to happen again. Not under my rule. I WILL stop this invasion of illegal gum-chewers!

Me: (embarrassed, muttering, looking at the floor) Well, I could just get the mints instead. I mean, tic-tacs aren't so bad.

Curley Stewpet: Are you aware that every tic-tac has 1.5 calories and that if you consume an entire container of tic-tacs, you have essentially increased your caloric intake by .00000367% for that day?

Me: (looking up curiously) Really? I didn't know that. Where did you get those figures?

Curley Stewpet: When I was running for re-election, I knocked on the glass windows of more than twelve 7/11's. Every person behind the counter....every single person....told me that their primary concern was tic-tac consumers taking on too many calories as a result of sugar-free gum depletion...depletion by ILLEGALS. The COMMUNITY is concerned about sugar-free gum. The COMMUNITY has spoken and I have answered the call.

Me: Wow. What incredible, anecdotal evidence! I never would have thought to even....

Johnnie Stiritup: (chiming in) When I authored the resolution, I was bound and determined to examine each purchaser of sugar-free gum. I made sure I included the stipulation that no gum chewer would be permitted to buy Trident, Extra, or any other gum containing aspartame without proper identification. 7/11 cashiers have been highly trained to analyze various forms of identification that can be reproduced illegally by aliens looking to take gum that does not belong to them. We want everything--birth certificate, driver's license, gas bills, and at least one receipt from Wal-mart.

Me: Um...what's the receipt for?

Johnnie Stiritup: To make sure they're stimulating the local economy, of course!

Me: Oh. Well, I had no idea sugar-free gum had become such a controversial issue.

Johnnie Stiritup: (striking his fist on the counter) The reason this must be addressed NOW is that our Federal Government has ignored the gum industry for too long! Now, we the people of this county must take back our gum! We are tired of people who jump the line, get gum when they shouldn't be allowed to and leave no sugar-free gum for the rest of us who rightfully deserve it! They're criminals! They have no rights to sugar-free gum or anything else!

Curley Stewpet: That's right. Johnnie knows what he's talking about. First it's sugar-free gum. Then it's tic-tacs. Then it's apple strudel! Before you know it, the 7/11 is bare because we have given it away to illegals! But that won't happen under my leadership.

Me: Oh! I take it you have a plan?

Curley Stewpet: Of course. Patent lawyers always have plans. Johnnie, I and some other members of the Board have formed a tremendous partnership with loud local community groups concerned about the 7/11's in their neighborhoods. In conjunction with national groups, we have authored the most innovative policy of the 21st century, one that will help us reclaim our national identity....one that will serve as a model for the rest of our gum-chewing country--OUR country!

Johnnie Stiritup: That's right, Curley. OUR country. Not some ridiculous North American gum-chewing union.

Dick Lessfair: (suddenly stepping up from behind) Don't forget our part in the resolution, Gentlemen.

Johnnie and Curley: (in unison) Dick Lessfair! We didn't see you standing there. Yes, tell her about your piece of the gum plan.

Dick Lessfair: What we have proposed will end sugar-free gum depletion forever.

Me: Oh? How will you do that?

Dick Lessfair: Every other person who demands sugar-free gum will either be deported or shot.

Gregory LeBeak: (sprinting from the back of the store, throwing his arms around Dick) At last! A REAL American!

Me: (getting out of line) If you'll excuse me. I think I'll get a Diet Coke instead.

In case you didn't get it, this is a satirical piece. The aforementioned events did not actually take place...but they might as well have.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Important Notice for Student Borrowers

Florida-based law firm, http://www.jameshoyer.com/ seeks African Americans and/orHispanics who have private student loans with Sallie Mae (SML Corporation) and also former SM employees to substantiate information to mount a class action case against Sallie Mae for specifically targeting low income minorities, which are more than twice as likely to fall lucratively into default.

See http://www.jameshoyer.com/problem_Sallie_Mae.html to fill out the complaint form referred to below.

"If you are African American or Hispanic and have a private student loan with Sallie Mae, we'd like to talk with you. We are currently investigating whether Sallie Mae's private student loan lending practices discriminate against minorities. One focus of our investigation concerns allegations that Sallie Mae’s private student loan underwriting process discriminates against minorities attending schools with a high percentage of minority students.

If you are a member of a minority class who has private student loans with Sallie Mae and believe that you have been charged unreasonably high interest rates or fees, feel that you have been given unfavorable loan terms, or feel that Sallie Mae has otherwise acted unfairly towards you on the basis of your race, please contact us by filling out the form below.

If you are a former Sallie Mae employee with knowledge of consumer complaints, or if you are a Sallie Mae customer who has experienced the problems discussed above, please fill out the form below and one of our attorneys or investigators will respond to your e-mail promptly. Our law firm, headquartered in Tampa, Florida, fights fraud on behalf of consumers across the country."

Untitled


someday I will fly with the geese

scissor the sky with feathers

levitate in wind to wait for my family

look ahead and aside but not down





my goslings will cross roads with me

holding up traffic and progress

enough for our line to waddle with notice

while we aim for more fertile grain


when I was a chick my beak was bound

gummed closed with muddy fear

I am an adult but the beak still sticks

I howl and tear when it opens


but my brood sees only flat feet and feathers

something soft and strong to follow

they hear low gear honks and heart beats

paving their way through today


my patience for bad drivers totters

my tolerance for turkey buzzards dead

I will carry my kindred across

show them how to raise wings for flying


Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
Draft 2
December 15, 2007

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Nation's Most Prominent Anti-Immigration Group has History of Hate, Extremism

FAIR and local related groups including those in Manassas are the ones who "authored" the immigration resolution in Prince William County. Please read the following crucial information from the Southern Poverty Law Center about FAIR and what this means to us as residents.

____________________________________________

The Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR), an organization that has played a key role in fueling the fierce backlash against Latino immigrants in the United States, has a long record of bigotry, according to a new SPLC report.

Because of its white supremacist views, the Southern Poverty Law Center has designated FAIR a hate group.

Dec. 11, 2007 -- The country's leading anti-immigration organization -- whose leaders have testified repeatedly before Congress and are frequently quoted in the media -- has ties to known racists and a long track record of bigotry, according to a new report released today by the Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC).

The group, the Federation for American Immigration Reform (FAIR) s the creation of a man who operates a racist publishing company and has compared immigrants to "bacteria;" has employed members of white supremacist groups in key positions; has promoted racist conspiracy theories; and has accepted more than $1 million from the Pioneer Fund, a racist foundation devoted to eugenics and to proving a connection between race and IQ. FAIR and its ties to white supremacy are examined in the latest issue of the SPLC's quarterly Intelligence Report.

The SPLC today added FAIR to its list of hate groups operating in the United States.

"FAIR's position on immigration is rooted more in its anti-Latino and anti-Catholic beliefs than in policy concerns," said Mark Potok, the director of the SPLC's project that monitors hate group activity. "Remarkably, it has still managed to infiltrate the mainstream and shape the immigration debate in this country."

FAIR helped defeat federal immigration reform earlier this year and has played a key role in fueling the fierce, anti-immigrant backlash in the United States. It was founded in 1979 by John Tanton, a man who has compared immigrants to bacteria and warned that high birthrates will allow Latinos to take over America. Still a member of FAIR's board, Tanton also operates The Social Contract Press, listed as a hate group for many years by the SPLC because of its anti-Latino and white supremacist writings.

"The sad fact is that attempts to reform our immigration system are being sabotaged by organizations fueled by hate," Henry Fernandez, a senior fellow and expert on immigration at the Center for American Progress, told the Intelligence Report.

The SPLC has documented a 40 percent increase in the number of hate groups since 2000, an increase that SPLC analysts attribute to the anti-immigrant fervor that is sweeping the country. The FBI recently released statistics showing a 35 percent rise in hate crimes against Latinos since 2003. A sampling of some of the most egregious acts of violence against Latinos over the past three years is included in the new issue of the SPLC's Intelligence Report.

http://www.splcenter.org/news/item.jsp?aid=295

Borrowers Beware!

Considering borrowing money for college? Tempted by loan companies offering $45,000 and more practically over night? Review the risks first.

According to Alan Collinge, Founder, www.studentloanjustice.org , "A recent study showed that for people borrowing more than $15,000, the 10 year default rate was 20%. This suggests that the lifetime default rate for people borrowing $15,000 or more is about 1 in four. This is a HUGE number, and the problem is FAR larger than the lenders, and the Department of Education would have us believe."

Both of these figures should be sounding alarm bells across the country. "The lenders and the federal government are MAKING, not losing money on defaulted loans." Collinge supplies some other disturbing information. Student Loans barely existed 40 years ago. Today, however, they have grown into an $85 billion dollar industry.

Student Debt is growing to outrageous proportions, the average undergraduate borrower leaving school with $20,000 in debt, and the average graduate borrower leaving with $42,000 in debt. The price of college has risen at double the rate of inflation for the past 30 years, and these costs have largely been shifted to student debt.

At the same time, the student loan industry has lobbied Congress to remove nearly all standard consumer protections for student loans, including: Bankruptcy protections. Refinancing rights. Statutes of Limitations. Truth in Lending Requirements. Adherence to Fair Debt Collection Practices (non profit state agencies were exempted from this requirement in a 1988 determination made by the FTC). Concurrently, Congressional legislation gave the industry collection powers the would "make a mobster envious," including wage and tax refund garnishment, suspension of state licenses, social security and disability garnishment, and others.

Legislation largely enacted by Congress since 1994 has made it more profitable for lenders when a borrower defaults on their loans. Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord bragged to shareholders in 2003 that their record profits were attributable to penalties and fees collected from defaulted debt, and their "fee income" grew by 107% between 2001-2004

This same legislation has made Sallie Mae executives and others obscenely wealthy. For example, Albert Lord has made about $452 million and attempted to purchase a major league baseball team. Sallie Mae has set aside a total of $3.6 billion in stock bonuses for their employees- equivalent to about $650,000 per employee--and this stock rose by about 1900% from 1995-2005.

Although the Department of Education boasts that the default rate is at an historic low, the TRUE default rate for people borrowing $15,000 or more is close to 25%-- far, far higher than the industry, and the Department of Education would have use believe.

Collinge says of previous borrowers who are not protected by the new laws that the previous "legislation has shattered the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans, and recently passed legislation does little or nothing to help them. Standard consumer protections remain absent for student loans. StudentLoanJustice.Org has received stories from citizens who have fled the country, who have been forced 'off the grid,' or whose family members have killed themselves as a result of their inability to pay the outrageous increases in their student loan debt."

This problem is not limited to Sallie Mae. Predatory behavior has been found to be widespread throughout non profit and for-profit student loan companies across the nation. One student loan collection company has even installed a 4000 gallon shark tank in their corporate headquarters. See it for yourself at www.premierecredit.com .

Collinge adds, "Hillary Clinton and Dick Durbin have sponsored legislation to return critical consumer protections such as bankruptcy and refinancing rights, but this legislation has stalled, and may be killed."With the student loan industry running as amok as the mortgage industry, families who borrow to pay for education are left with almost no consumer rights, contributing to these high default rates.

"Data released by the Department (of Education) showed that across all borrowers who left school in 2002, after 5 years, 10.6% had defaulted. This is HIGHER than the 10-year default rate (9.6%) found from 1993.

While comparing this data is tough to do, since the 1993 study only looked at graduates, and was a relatively small sample, the numbers indicate, potentially, an INCREASE in the default rate from 1993...not a decrease as the Department, lenders, guarantors, and universities would have us believe."

Collinge continues, "When I was interviewed for a 60 Minutes piece last year, the toughest question I was asked was why people should really care about this, given that defaults are at record lows. I didn't have a good answer for it then, but I do now. I've also been hearing from people (on the down low) who work for guarantors confirming my sentiments that they love defaulted loans," because guarantee agencies and the Federal government earn revenue from defaulted loans.

Student Loan industry executives frequently use the argument that defaulted borrowers are "a drain on the tax payers." In fact, the opposite is true--even the federal government MAKES, (not loses) money from defaulted student loans, getting back $1.20 for every dollar paid out in default claims.

Many students borrow not intending to default. However, life circumstances have forced them into this predicament, and absence of consumer rights has encouraged default. Tens of thousands of borrowers have been led to consolidate, and in doing so, turned their loans over to predatory lenders that hurt rather than help students and their families, especially in the middle and lower socioeconomic groups.

"For African Americans, the 10-year default rate skyrockets to 40%," reports Collinge. According educationsector.org, "Black students who graduated in 1992–93 school year had an overall default rate that was over five times higher than white students and over nine times higher than Asian students. The differences for Hispanic students are not as large, but are still substantial." These default rates reflect the poverty rates of minority populations. While the poverty rates for African American and Hispanic adults have dropped over the past decade, those rates are still disproportionally high, especially among children.

Minority families with children, the families least able to save for college, have become more dependent on the loan system.

The moral of the story for all borrowers?

Before you sign those papers, electronically or with a pen, consider how you will pay these loans.

Realize that in too many cases, if you miss even one payment, your lender can and often will take punitive action including assessing high fees, raising your interest rate, and engaging in collection practices most families are not prepared to deal with.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Send Your Comments, Support and THANKS!!

It must have taken an awful lot to get these folks to have to come out here. Obviously, we need it to help fix our needless but serious issues in our local government. Please write or call to thank Alfreda Greene and the Commission on Civil Rights for doing this.

Don't let the louder voices of anger and hatred overwhelm the peaceful, thinking majority of us!

Members of the public are entitled to submit written comments; the comments must be received in the Eastern Regional Office by December 31, 2007. The address is 624 Ninth Street, NW., Washington, DC 20425. Persons wishing to e-mail their comments, or to present their comments verbally at the meeting, or who desire additional information should contact Alfreda Greene, Secretary, 202-376-7533, TTY202-376-8116, or by e-mail: agreene@usccr.gov



72 FR 65291
FEDERAL REGISTER
Vol. 72, No. 223
Notices
COMMISSION ON CIVIL RIGHTS (CCR)
Agenda and Notice of Public Meeting of the Virginia Advisory Committee
72 FR 65291
DATE: Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Notice is hereby given, pursuant to the provisions of the rules and regulations of the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights (Commission), and the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA), that a briefing meeting of the Immigration Subcommittee of the Virginia Advisory Committee to the Commission will convene at 9:30 a.m. and adjourn at 12:30 p.m. on December 14, 2007, in the Board Chambers at the James J. McCoart Administration Building located at One County Complex Court in Woodbridge, Virginia.
The purpose of the briefing is to hear from local officials and advocacy groups about the recent immigration resolution in Prince William County. Following the briefing, the entire Virginia State Advisory Committee will conduct a planning meeting to discuss future activities.
Members of the public are entitled to submit written comments; the comments must be received in the Eastern Regional Office by December 31, 2007. The address is 624 Ninth Street, NW., Washington, DC 20425. Persons wishing to e-mail their comments, or to present their comments verbally at the meeting, or who desire additional information should contact Alfreda Greene, Secretary, 202-376-7533, TTY202-376-8116, or by e-mail: agre...@usccr.gov.
Hearing-impaired persons who will attend the meetings and require the services of a sign language interpreter should contact the Regional Office at least ten (10) working days before the scheduled date of the meeting.
Records generated from these meetings may be inspected and reproduced at the Eastern Regional Office, as they become available, both before and after the meeting. Persons interested in the work of this advisory committee are advised to go to the Commission's Web site, www.usccr.gov, or to contact the Eastern Regional Office at the above e-mail or street address.
The meetings will be conducted pursuant to the provisions of the rules and regulations of the Commission and FACA.
Dated in Washington, DC, November 13, 2007. Ivy L. Davis, Acting Chief, Regional Programs Coordination Unit. [FR Doc. E7-22605 Filed 11-19-07; 8:45 am]

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Saturday, December 08, 2007

Set in My Ways Already

It's time to come out of the comfort zone closet.

My computer is breaking down, and I don't want to upgrade.

But I have very valid reasons for this, dammit!

All my files are here. All my storage is here. All my saved emails and pictures and documents and poetry and fiction and...sniff. I have an emotional attachment to my computer. I know where everything is.

All my neat little folders and labels are already in place. I know my version of Windows and Word. I know my version of Outlook. My cookies are set, my toolbar in place, and I can work as rapidly as my Internet connection allows me.

Not so with the new computer. It has Vista. I have to install a new version of Word. I have to transfer all my files, but I can't back them up on CD because my CD drive is busted. And I can't change out the drive because it's an HP. See how they've got you coming and going?

Speaking of which, my printer won't work. It stalls and rebels on me. My husband bought a pack of HP cartridges. They are supposed to all fit but they don't. Now they are open, so I can't return them. I don't think this is fair.

I don't have trust in Vista. I don't know how it translates to a less upgraded world. I hear there are glitches, but I haven't found them yet. That's another exercise in frustration.

The metaphor is this: we don't adapt to technology. Technology doesn't adapt to us. The human being doesn't like so much change. We resist it whenever we can.

If we are all like this with computers, imagine how we are with opinions.

But my old system is breaking down.

It's time to learn a new one.

Friday, December 07, 2007

Another Why List...Mostly Local

There's a public meeting in Manassas next week. I doubt I will be able to say anything because usually, those things are crowded. So I've put together a list of questions which I will send off to my state Senator in Richmond. I've got enough support to justify each and every question, and if I don't have it handy, I surely can find it.

Nothing ever changes unless we question.

_________________________________________________

Why can't Congress or the state pass JUST a worker program for undocumented immigrants?

Why can't Prince William County enforce the over-crowding safety codes to clean up neighborhood complaints?

Why can't our great state of Virginia and/or Congress and/or the State Department tell Corey Stewart and John Stirrup, "You've overstepped your bounds. Knock it off" ?

Why doesn't our county protect people who are persecuted because of their religion, ethnicity, citizen status, disability, gender, and/or sexual preference?

Why doesn't our county protect its employees with better security systems?

Why do our county laws preside over state, federal, and Constitutional laws?

Why does this county allow hate groups to attack residents online, in the media, through the mail, in public, and personally?

Why does our county neglect the elderly and the physically and mentally disabled in this county by underfunding programs?

Why doesn't our county support more services for families most in need?

Why don't we have enough social workers to service our schools and our at-risk families?

Why do we have so much poverty in this county when there are so many resources available but not distributed equally?

Why doesn't our county hire enough fire safety and emergency service personnel?

Why doesn't our county hire enough police officers?

Why is our county overcrowding the jails with innocent people who have problems with paperwork and money?

Why is there little transparency in the operations of our Board of County Supervisors ("back room deals" in spite of what's televised)?

Why are only a few vocal residents permitted to dictate policy for our county?

Why does our BOCS refuse to take responsibility for its actions?

Why does our county allow houses to be built so closely together when the fire department knows siding is flammable?

Why does our county allow developers to build communities without building roads and schools?

Why does our county allow developers to strip the land of mature trees and wildlife? Why can't we keep our wetlands and make them pretty?

Why would the county even consider building a housing complex on an old landfill? (This is related to my "Why does Bristow smell bad when they are digging so close to us?" and "Why does part of our community overlook an industrial park?" questions.)

Why can't people sell their land to the county for parks instead of to developers who over-develop?

Why doesn't the county help people losing their homes?

Sunday, December 02, 2007

For All You Moms Out There..and Dads...and Caretakers

Too Tired to Love You

I’m too tired to love you.
The day’s just lived too long,
dirty dishes mating like bunnies,
crumbs stuck between my toes.
The floor will have to wait.

That phone is a demon scream,
words from an evil receiver,
Odyssey-length emails attack.
Numbers lurk in my metal mailbox.

Meetings still clog my ears,
the empty gas tank needs filling,
we’re out of milk again.
Did I exercise today?

There’s no matched socks
for tomorrow, the message machine
is still blinking, the kids got shots
at the doctor’s. THAT went over well.

I kiss you on the head,
ask how busy your day was.
Do you want some tea with honey?

I’m too tired to love you.
I fall right into bed.


Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
Draft 2
December 4, 2007

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Help Stop Hate Crimes

Please read the following announcement, click on the link, and read the template letter. You can edit the letter if you choose. Send it via email or fax through the website. It's THAT easy.

This is one step towards helping to protect our community and our families.

Local Law Enforcement Hate Crime Prevention Act (LLEHCPA)

Currently, many crimes perpetrated because of a victim's characteristics are not covered by federal hate crime laws. These are:

*gender identity, gender, and/or sexual orientation

*disability

The Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act would help facilitate investigation and prosecution of hate crimes against these communities. The Hate Crimes Prevention Act will broaden the definition of hate crimes to include these categories and will makes grants available to state and local communities to combat violent crimes committed by juveniles, train law enforcement officers, or to assist in state and local investigations and prosecutions of bias motivated crimes.

On May 3, 2007 the House passed LLEHCPA by a vote of 237-180 and on September 27, 2007 the Senate added their support to the act by adding the hate crimes legislation as an amendment to the Department of Defense Authorization conference report. The addition of the hate crimes legislation to the Department of Defense Authorization in the Senate but not in the House puts it at risk during committee meetings which will occur in the coming week.

Please email or fax the Armed Services Committee and let them know the importance of the inclusion of the Local Law Enforcement Hate Crimes Prevention Act in the Department of Defense Authorization conference report. Your voice in this matter is important in the final success of this legislation.

Source: UUA

Friday, November 30, 2007

PWC Violating Human Rights Once Again

According to an article in Potomac News, services to undocumented immigrants are being studied to see how much money we are allegedly wasting on our disadvantaged populations.

"This process may result in freeing up spaces for residents who are on waiting lists," Bahrns said.

That there is a waiting list at ALL speaks to the most disturbing aspect of our county. When we pick and choose which populations of the disabled, the elderly, and the mentally ill we will help and which we will not, we have human rights violations across the board.

Look at the pathetic numbers of people already being served, and yet there is a WAITING LIST??? I would like to know how long the waiting list actually is in each area, and how many people don't even MAKE it to the waiting list.

The remaining services include:

• tax exemptions for home renovations, which serves 33 residents;

• in-home medical aid for the elderly and disabled, which had 42 clients and 24 people on the waiting list;

• substance abuse programs for jail inmates, which served 139 people;

• a substance abuse outreach program for juveniles, serving 173;

• 115 people in the Homeless Prevention Program;

• 51 clients receive in-home services for aging that include personal care, bathing and respite for caregivers and 24 are on a waiting list;

• adult identification services that includes fingerprinting three time a year for the elderly and disabled who may wander away from home;

• and the Companion Aide Registry for the Elderly provides inhome services and minor home repairs, which served 42.

Every year I live in this county, it becomes clearer and clearer that our youthful, healthy board discriminates against the elderly and not so healthy. We need only look at their last year's proposal to close an elderly daycare program in Manassas that has been running for years and costs a mere pittance compared to the costs of this ridiculous, poorly thought out resolution.

The message here is not just one to undocumented immigrants. It's a loud, boasting message that if you are elderly and/or have health problems and live in Prince William County, you should move somewhere else.

Our human rights, needs, and family members mean nothing to these people.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

This Morning's Celebrations


Water color on wood cutting board made for my father in 2002.

1. A totally cleaned out e-mail inbox! I know it won't last, but how blank it looks for now.

2. The miracle of children and what they can bring to the world.

3. The holiday season and all it's shiny things.

4. Being busy but not TOO busy.

5. Peace and love in my heart.

May everyone be as blessed as I have been.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Send a Card of Thanks UPDATED

Update:

Turns out this can't be done. On the Walter Reed site it says:


"Walter Reed Army Medical Center officials want to remind those individuals who want to show their appreciation through mail to include packages, letters, and holiday cards addressed to 'Any Wounded Soldier' or 'A Recovering American Soldier' that Walter Reed cannot accept these packages in support of the decision by then Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Transportation Policy in 2001. This decision was made to ensure the safety and well being of patients and staff at medical centers throughout the Department of Defense.

In addition, the U.S. Postal Service is no longer accepting "Any Service Member" or "A Recovering American Soldier" letters or packages. Mail to "Any Service Member" that is deposited into a collection box will not be delivered.

Instead of sending an “Any Wounded Soldier” letter or package to Walter Reed, please consider making a donation to one of the more than 300 nonprofit organizations dedicated to helping our troops and their families listed on the "America Supports You" website, http://www.americasupportsyou.mil/

Other organizations that offer means of showing your support for our troops or assist wounded service members and their families include:
http://www.usocares.org/

http://www4.army.mil/ocpa/tooursoldiers/

http://www.redcross.org/
____________________________________________

So please disregard this posting:

When you are making out your Christmas card list this year, please include the following:

A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue,NW
Washington,D.C. 20307-5001

Saturday, November 24, 2007

Political Process or Just Plain Pandering?

At least a couple members of the PWC County Board of Supervisors now claim they voted "yes" on the immigration resolution to preserve their right to re-open the discussion at a later date.

Apparently, the BOCS voting procedure indicates once a Board member votes "no" on a proposed action, he/she may not re-open a discussion on the matter:

"Action on an ordinance, resolution or motion may be reconsidered one time and only upon motion of a Board member voting with the prevailing side on the original vote, which motion must be made at the same or immediately subsequent regular meeting as defined by Section A.1.(a) of these Rules of Procedure. A motion to reconsider may be seconded by any member."

Furthermore, "If action by ordinance is not required by law, the Board may act upon adoption of a resolution, with or without prior notice."

While these rules for voting might forward group process, in the case of the immigration resolution the process raises several questions, including the right for the Board to arbitrarily use a resolution to dictate personal preferences. Why would the BOCS abuse their right to implement a resolution with such far-reaching impact, all the while appealing to the "public demand" for such a resolution? If there truly was such a demand, why were we, ALL the people, not asked to be part of the process?

If the Supervisors who supposedly intended to vote "no" really did want to further discuss the resolution, why would they not publicly state their reasoning or have asked to meet with more community groups prior to making their initial decisions? Even now, with the Civil Rights Committee breathing down their necks, these closet good-guys have not stepped forward to voice their concerns. Apparently, their "I wanted to vote no" was not and is not as strong as they privately assert.

Unfortunately, even if some of them did have better intentions than we give them credit for, no matter what they choose to do now (if anything) will serve only to showcase them as hypocrites and/or political weaklings. Surely, someone on our Board should have had the guts to stand up to the thousand or so haters in our county, the bigoted Mr. Stirrup, and the aspiring dictator, Corey Stewart.

We should remind our Board that the road to hell is paved with good intentions.

In politics, of all places, actions matter.

Convoluted reasoning rarely makes a difference to voters.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Here's to Healthy Holidays!

Day after turkey day, and I remember some headline in the Washington Post Online about "keeping drama away from the turkey" or something like that. I might have to find that article or that blog later because I didn't get a chance to read it.

Fortunately, we don't HAVE holiday drama in my husband's family, at least not the kind that erupts into vocal volcanoes dripping lava in lieu of gravy. Sure, there is the usual prep stress: a not-so-great-cook in charge of the turkey and stuffing this year, I felt it the most. My husband was ham-man.

The turkey and ham turned out great---YIPPEE!

The stuffing....well....let's say it was moist. It got mistaken for oatmeal a couple of times. But it tasted okay. Se la vie. Our family brought enough other delicious food to feed the third world, so it hardly matters in the long run. By the end of the day, we all felt guilt-ridden stuffed with or without the stuffing anyway. But diets are another, less interesting story.

After the stuffing and the desert and the cider and the.....everything....we sat in the dining room and talked. Just that. Talked.

Always the analyst, I got to sit back for awhile enjoying and observing functional family holiday conversation in action. Not enough people get to do this....analyze, observe, participate in, or whatever....this kind of conversation. It's really too bad, too, since these conversations are our early models, and if we model poorly, we have difficulty later. Stress can turn to anger can turn to fights can turn to hatred can turn to violence...you get the picture.

So here are some things I noticed about this conversation and why it works, especially in a celebratory setting:

1. On some level, each member of the conversation cares about one another. It doesn't always have to be said or demonstrated in massive amounts of physical affection. In some cases, it's more overt, in other cases, subtle: a glance, a smile, an affectionate gesture.

2. Though everyone in the room is very different, those differences are respected and accepted. No one is put down for their differences, and no one feels the need to "act out" as a result.

3. The conversation isn't "polite" in the phony sense. It is real conversation on topics we all care about--family related, school related, etc. It includes some general, acceptable family crudeness (come on....men talk about turkey farts, okay?) but no one is really offended except perhaps the cat who perches too close to the more gaseous exchanges.

4. Family members don't dig up emotionally charged, negative topics that can ruin the holiday. Let's face it--we have the rest of the year to rant about all the bad things in the world and our lives. Why do it on a holiday?

5. There is lots of laughter, never the hurtful kind.

When we leave conversations like these, we feel fulfilled, like we have really celebrated. We've lived in the moment, we've taken time out to appreciate one another. I can't wait for holidays like these. There's not enough of them, and the kids feel the same way. That this holiday took place in our home meant it was even more special. We transformed home into the very womb of celebration. Okay, maybe that's a little over the top. But you get what I mean. It's pretty cool to give birth to joy. And my daughters' personal, written blessings reflected it all.

Authored and read by our older daughter, age 10:

Bless us on this great feast, and on this great turkey. We are thankful for the gifts of song, of art, and the gift of love. Amen.

And from the younger one, age 9:

Dear God,

Thank you for my big family. Thank you for the fat turkey and the big mash potatoes and thank you for the big school, too, God. Thank you for my cousins coming over to my home.

Love, Alex

P.S. Thank you for everything.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Student Loans: Borrower Beware

Considering borrowing money for college? Tempted by loan companies offering $45,000 and more practically over night?

Review the risks first.

According to Alan Collinge, Founder, http://www.studentloanjustice.org/, "A recent study showed that for people borrowing more than $15,000, the 10 year default rate was 20%. This suggests that the lifetime default rate for people borrowing $15,000 or more is about 1 in four. This is a HUGE number, and the problem is FAR larger than the lenders, and the Department of Education would have us believe.

"Both of these figures should be sounding alarm bells across the country.

"The lenders and the federal government are MAKING, not losing money on defaulted loans."

Collinge supplies some other disturbing information.

- Student Loans barely existed 40 years ago. Today, however, they have grown into an $85 billion dollar industry.

- Student Debt is growing to outrageous proportions, the average undergraduate borrower leaving school with $20,000 in debt, and the average graduate borrower leaving with $42,000 in debt. The price of college has risen at double the rate of inflation for the past 30 years, and these costs have largely been shifted to student debt.

- At the same time, the student loan industry has lobbied Congress to remove nearly all standard consumer protections for student loans, including:

a. Bankruptcy protections
b. Refinancing rights
c. Statutes of Limitations
d. Truth in Lending Requirements
e. Adherence to Fair Debt Collection Practices (non profit state agencies were exempted from this requirement in a 1988 determination made by the FTC)

Concurrently, Congressional legislation gave the industry collection powers the would "make a mobster envious", including wage and tax refund garnishment, suspension of state licenses, social security and disability garnishment, and others.

- This legislation, largely enacted by Congress since 1994, has made it more profitable for lenders when a borrower defaults on their loans.

- Sallie Mae CEO Albert Lord bragged to shareholders in 2003 that their record profits were attributable to penalties and fees collected from defaulted debt, and their "fee income" grew by 107% between 2001-2004

- This legislation has made Sallie Mae executives, and others obscenely wealthy (Albert Lord has made about $452 million, attempted to purchase a major league baseball team). Sallie Mae has set aside a total of $3.6 billion in stock bonuses for their employees- equivalent to about $650,000 per employee--and this stock rose by about 1900% from 1995-2005.

- Although the Department of Education brags that the default rate is at historic lows, the TRUE default rate for people borrowing $15,000 or more is close to 25%- far, far higher than the industry, and the Department of Education would have use believe.

- Student Loan industry executives frequently use the argument that defaulted borrowers are "a drain on the tax payers". In fact, the opposite is true- Even the federal government MAKES, (not loses) money from defaulted student loans, getting back $1.20 for every dollar paid out in default claims.

- This legislation has shattered the lives and livelihoods of millions of Americans, and recently passed legislation does little or nothing to help them. Standard consumer protections remain absent for student loans. StudentLoanJustice.Org has received stories from citizens who have fled the country, who have been forced "off the grid", or whose family members have killed themselves as a result of their inability to pay the outrageous increases in their student loan debt.

- This problem is not limited to Sallie Mae. Predatory behavior has been found to be widespread throughout non profit and for-profit student loan companies across the nation. One student loan collection company has even installed a 4000 gallon shark tank in their corporate headquarters. See it for yourself at www.premierecredit.com .

Collinge adds, "Hillary Clinton and Dick Durbin have sponsored legislation to return critical consumer protections such as bankruptcy and refinancing rights, but this legislation has stalled, and may be killed."

With the student loan industry running as amok as the mortgage industry, families who borrow to pay for education are left with almost no consumer rights, contributing to these high default rates.

Many students borrow not intending to default. However, life circumstances have forced them into this predicament, and absence of consumer rights has encouraged default.

Tens of thousands of borrowers have been led to consolidate, and in doing so, turned their loans over to predatory lenders that hurt rather than help students and their families, especially in the middle and lower socioeconomic groups.

"For African Americans, the 10-year default rate skyrockets to 40%," reports Collinge.

According educationsector.org, "Black students who graduated in 1992–93 school year had an overall default rate that was over five times higher than white students and over nine times higher than Asian students. The differences for Hispanic students are not as large, but are still substantial. "

These default rates reflect the poverty rates of minority populations. While the poverty rates for African American and Hispanic adults have dropped over the past decade, those rates are still disproportionally high, especially among children. Minority families with children, the families least able to save for college, have become more dependent on the loan system.

The moral of the story for all borrowers?

Before you sign those papers, electronically or with a pen, consider how you will pay these loans.

Realize that in too many cases, if you miss even one payment, your lender can and often will take punitive action including assessing high fees, raising your interest rate, and engaging in collection practices most families are not prepared to deal with.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Fighting Our Antichrists of Civil Rights

Civil rights committee to meet here
By KEITH WALKER
kwalker@potomacnews.com
Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Prince William Chairman Corey A. Stewart, R-at large, doesn't like that Linda Chavez is coming to town. Of course not. Bigots usually don't like Civil Rights people.

Chavez, the chairman of the State Advisory Committee to the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights, said she doesn't care. And well she shouldn't. Stewart brought this on himself and his Board.

The committee will convene at the McCoart Administration Center on Dec. 14 to examine Prince William County's anti-illegal immigration resolution. Hope that's an open meeting.

Stewart said Chavez was in no position to judge Prince William County, since her nomination to head the U.S. Department of Labor in 2001 was derailed over a woman who was an illegal immigrant from Guatemala. Even if this is true, you can't tell me politicians are innocent in all this. It is well known politicians hire undocumented immigrants all the time. They contract them. And Mr. Stewart's beloved developers do the same thing.

During her confirmation, some said Chavez hired the woman. Proof?

"During my vetting process, it became known that I had given shelter to a woman who was illegally in the country," Chavez said. "She actually worked for someone else."

Chavez, also a syndicated columnist, mentioned Prince William County in a column examining Republican politics and illegal immigration. I am sure it (justifiably) wasn't in a good way, either.

Stewart said his credulity couldn't be stretched enough to believe that Chavez could be objective. Why should she be? Stewart isn't objective either. Look at the minority of people he listens to when he develops policy.

"She's got no credibility. She's got an agenda, and she is the last person who should sit in judgement of our efforts to crack down on illegal immigration," Stewart said. "I have no respect for her personally with respect to the immigration issue." Stewart has no credibility, and there are enough of us out there who have no respect for HIM or his Board. When Stewart ignored thousands of people in favor of his own personal bigotry, followed the lead of racist Board members and hate groups, he certainly proved he has his OWN agenda.

Chavez said it's not about her. And it's not. It's about our county and the way hatred has been allowed to run amok at the whims of a few including our leaders.

"I'm not the subject here. The role of the Prince William County board of supervisors -- their decision to pass the sweeping legislative change -- what impact it's going to have on civil rights enforcement is the focus of concern," she said.

The final resolution the Prince William Board of County Supervisors passed denied illegal immigrants eight county services and directed that police officers be trained to enforce immigration law. And the services were denied to the most vulnerable of all: the new version of the resolution targets the elderly, the disabled, and the addict (mentally ill in too many cases). Undocumented or not, these people deserve care. This county has a history of neglecting its elderly population, and mental health has never been one of their priorities. The county doesn't have a good track record as it is, and now they have added to it with this resolution, taking aim at not only the marginalized immigrant population, but the weakest. That these efforts are supported by white supremacists makes it all the worse.

The 51 advisory committees, representing the states and the District of Columbia, are made up of local volunteers who are familiar with local civil rights issues, according to the commission's Web site. Committee members are appointed by the commission's staff director to two-year terms, but they can be reappointed, according to the Web site.

Chavez said the county's emergence onto the national scene over the resolution influenced the 12-member committee's decision to come to Prince William County. Thank God!

She said there are a lot of unanswered questions.

"One of the criticisms of what Prince William did was that there wasn't a whole lot of empirical evidence to show that illegal aliens were having onerous impact on the county," Chavez said.
Chavez said she would like to get some numbers.

The overall crime rate in Prince William County went down last year, according to county police.
The county Web site shows unemployment in Prince William County is about 2.5 percent.

"It's hard to make the case that illegal aliens are taking jobs from Americans," Chavez said. "Crime was actually down last year in Prince William County. You have to ask whether or not crime is an issue."

Stewart said that's not the point.

"Illegal aliens aren't supposed to be here in the first place," he said. And discriminating against them has become the job of county racists and a bigoted Board of Supervisors why?

Chavez wondered about the true impact of illegal immigration on the county. "The board moved ahead without having very much in the way of supporting evidence to show the impact," she said. "It's not to say that there isn't one. There may be. But they didn't marshal the facts."

Stewart said he had some facts.

"According to Immigration and Customs Enforcement, up to one-third of all the gang members in Northern Virginia are illegal aliens," Stewart said. "We know that 21 percent of the inmates in the jail are illegal aliens," he said.

Stewart said with one-fifth of the inmates in the jail being illegal immigrants, it stood to reason that they were committing a significant portion of the crime in the county. "If we can use federal immigration law to remove the bad guys, let's do it," he said. So if they are true, serious criminals, then those are the ones who need to be deported--assuming they really ARE criminals and aren't just being profiled. Outside of that, can we trust Stewart's numbers when we can't trust much else he spouts?

But after saying that, Stewart returned to his original point citing Chavez's writings on illegal immigration as proof that she is predisposed to condemn Prince William County. Stewart ought to realize many of us are predisposed to condemn HIS and STIRRUP'S actions.

"She has been an outspoken critic of attempts to crack down on illegal immigration," Stewart said. "I give her no credibility, and until she's removed from that position, I'm not going to give the results of that commission any credibility either." I give Stewart no credibility until HE is removed from HIS position. Likewise for Stirrup.

Chavez said Stewart's assault would not influence the committee. I should hope not.

"The idea of making personal attacks on the chairman is frankly not a very smart thing to do and it's certainly not going to deter us from doing our job," Chavez said. Stewart proves time and time again he isn't very smart. This shouldn't come as a surprise.

The committee, which has no enforcement authority, can make reports to the commission which is a civil rights watchdog organization. I would love to see those reports sent on to the ACLU and others....publicly.

What the Words Do

What the Words Do

They slam open your front door
bang the knob against sheet rock,
leave a hole where there once was a wall.

They plunk themselves down
on your worn out green couch,
put bare, filthy feet on your coffee table.

They don’t want coffee.
They want a cold beer.
You better take the cap off, too.

The words gulp and belch.
They spread open their legs.
“Suck my dick,” they say.

Don’t you do it.

Those words are weaklings.

Tell them to leave.

Now.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
Draft 1
November 20, 2007

Human Rights for All

PRESS RELEASE
From the Prince William County
Human Rights Commission

For Immediate Release
For More Information Contact:
(703) 792-4680


UNIVERSAL HUMAN RIGHTS DAY PROGRAM SCHEDULED


The Prince William County Human Rights Commission will celebrate Universal Human Rights Day on Friday, December 7, 2007 in the A. J. Ferlazzo Building Auditorium, 15941 Donald Curtis Drive, Woodbridge, Virginia at 7:30 p.m. The United Nations declared Universal Human Rights Day on December 10, 1948 to recognize the inherent dignity and equal and inalienable rights of all members of the human family as the foundation of freedom, justice and peace in the world.

The event will feature the annual Human Rights Awards given to members of our community for their unique contributions to human and civil rights will be distributed. You can nominate someone by visiting our website at www.pwcgov.org/hmnrghts or contacting the office for a nomination form. All nominations are due no later than November 23, 2007. The program will also include a presentation on National Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day and the progress made during WWII in diversifying the American armed forces. WWII veterans are invited to attend the program.

The community is welcomed to come and share in this important celebration. If you plan to attend, please RSVP the Human Rights office at (703) 792-4680.

Friday, December 7, 2007, 7:30 p.m.
Ferlazzo Building Auditorium
15941 Donald Curtis Drive
Woodbridge, VA
*Reminder: Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt and this blog do not represent the Human Rights Commission or any other organization.