Tuesday, March 04, 2008

Support SB441

SB 441 is the bill that makes it state policy that law enforcement officers will not routinely ask crime victims and witnesses questions about their immigration status.


Let your member of the House of Delegates know NOW that you support SB 441 and want him/her to vote YES when the bill is considered on the floor of the House of Delegates this week.

This bill is a public safety bill. We will all be safer if the bill passes because members of immigrant communities in the Commonwealth will be more willing to report crimes to police and to cooperate with prosecutors.

Most people who are not lawfully present in Virginia are not guilty of criminal violations of immigration laws. They are people who entered the US legally and overstayed their visas or are otherwise out of status. Nonetheless, because of their fear of deportation if identified, persons who are not documented (and members of their families some of whom may be citizens or otherwise lawfully present) are reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of crime.

To find out who your member of the House of Delegates is go to http://conview.state.va.us/whosmy.nsf/main?openform Then, use the contact information to send the member an email or call him/her at his/her office.

Or, call the constituent viewpoint line to make your views known: (800) 889-0229 (outside Richmond) or 698-1990 (Richmond area).

It is VERY important that members of the House of Delegates hear from supporters of SB 441 before the vote on Tuesday.

information courtesy of

Claire Guthrie Gastanaga
VACOLAO/VSDVAA Lobbyist
Claire Guthrie Gastanaga
CG2 Consulting
501 E. Franklin Street
Richmond, VA 23219
cg2@cg2consulting.com

----------------------------------------------------------------

My Email:

Dear Senator Colgan and Delegate Marshall:

Please protect our communities through SB 441.

This bill is a public safety bill. We will all be safer if the bill passes because members of immigrant communities in the Commonwealth will be more willing to report crimes to police and to cooperate with prosecutors. Statistically, most people who are not lawfully present in Virginia are not guilty of criminal violations. They are people who entered the US legally and overstayed their visas or are otherwise out of status. Nonetheless, because of their fear of deportation if identified, persons who are not documented (and members of their families some of whom may be citizens or otherwise lawfully present) are reluctant to cooperate with law enforcement in the investigation or prosecution of crime.

In Prince William County we are facing a crisis because the disputed Immigration Resolution is now in effect. This bill would mean ALL residents could breathe a little easier in what has become a fearful and divided community.

Thank you for considering my request.

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt

Planned Parenthood--I've Been Wondering About Them

I received this information via a forwarded email from Lynn Gordon, League of Women Voters (who is not on the PP Board)

"In Virginia, there are nine Planned Parenthood health centers, operated by four Planned Parenthood affiliates. Planned Parenthood is the nation's leading sexual and reproductive health care advocate and provider. Our mission is to ensure that individuals and families have the freedom, information, and ability to make their own informed reproductive choices.

NO STATE FUNDS ARE UTILIZED TO FUND ABORTIONS OR ABORTION RELATED SERVICES

OPPOSE

Senate Bill 30 - Budget Amendment Offered by Sen. Cuccinelli Senator
Cuccinelli's amendment would prohibit any Planned Parenthood entity from receiving state general fund, nongeneral fund, or special funds for preventative medical services. The language would prohibit the free access of women, particularly Medicaid recipients, from taking advantage of the necessary and critical medical services Planned Parenthood offers. Cuccinelli's amendment is unconstitutional because it singles out a specific entity, Planned Parenthood, for punishment by disqualification for eligibility for funding.

The core of Planned Parenthood affiliate medical service is contraception and accompanying health care, education, and information. The overwhelming majority of Planned Parenthood services focus on prevention.

  • Family Planning Counseling and Services
  • Free Pregnancy Testing and Options Education
  • Low Cost Birth Control
  • Emergency Contraception
  • Annual Gynecological Exam
  • Cancer screenings: Pap Smear, Breast Exams (Health services, cont'd
  • Colposcopy and Cryotherapy
  • HPV Vaccination
  • Testing and Treatment of Sexually Transmitted Infections (women and men
  • HIV Testing (women and men
  • Safe and confidential first trimester abortions
  • Adoption through a partnership with the Children's Home Society of Virginia
  • Prenatal CareEducation ProgramsPlanned Parenthood education programs cover many content areas, such as AIDS/HIV, contraception/family planning - including abstinence, family life education, parent-child communication, puberty education, safer sex, sexual orientation/homophobia, sexuality education, sexually transmitted infections, teenage pregnancy, and women's health.
In addition to education programs, training programs are provided to community agencies and professionals working with children, teens, and young adults.
  • Postponing Sexual Involvement is an abstinence-based program emphasizing communication skills, decision making and peer pressure refusal skills.
  • Becoming a Responsible Teen encourages the understanding of sexual development, feelings and values as well as ways to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted infections.
  • The Brothers is a mentoring program that pairs valuable male role models with 5th grade boys to help them make healthy choices and set future goals
  • More than Shelter pairs free clinic services for homeless women with educational programming on gynecological care, sexually transmitted infections and healthy relationships.
OPPOSE - House Bill 30 - Budget Amendment Item 4-5.04#1h
This budget amendment would prevent the most vulnerable women in Virginia from accessing medically-necessary abortion care.
Medicaid would still have to treat the serious health problem that resulted from not having access to abortion care.
Situations of severe, incapacitating fetal abnormality are tragic. The decision to terminate a non-viable pregnancy should be left to a woman, in consultation with her family and physician.
This budget amendment would further restrict Medicaid funding for abortions to circumstances when the woman's life is at risk, or the pregnancy is a result of rape or incest. It prohibits funding for women who have serious health risks or a non-viable pregnancy.
Currently, Virginia permits Medicaid coverage of abortions for these reasons, as required by federal law:
  • Rape
  • Incest
  • Life of woman
Additionally, Virginia allows Medicaid coverage of abortions for two circumstances beyond federal law:
  • Substantial endangerment to the health of the woman
  • Severe, incapacitating fetal abnormality."
Information Courtesy of
Jessica L. Honke, MSW
Director of Public Policy
Planned Parenthood Advocates of Virginia
3415 Floyd Avenue
Richmond, VA 23221
804.355.4358 ext. 16
804-355.5216 Fax
jessica.honke@ppfa.org
_________________________________________


Here's what I have been thinking.

First, I don't think it's right that PP has been singled out. To me, that says someone in Richmond has an ax to grind and a personal agenda.

Second, I would like to see PP and organizations like theirs come up with a plan and a goal to reduce referrals for abortions/abortions by 10% in two years. That would mean they re-direct two out of every 200 women over a two year period in addition to re-directs they already do. (Is that too many two's?) This adds up to THOUSANDS more abortions avoided.

An additional 1% reduction would be a goal for each consecutive year.

In this way, we slowly eradicate the need for abortion except in absolute emergencies by education, prevention, adoption, etc. And places like PP improve their public image which has largely come to equal "baby killers."

Just my two cents.

NOTE: I am not associated with Planned Parenthood.

Monday, March 03, 2008

Open Letter to Sec. of State, Dr. Condoleezza Rice

Dear Secretary of State, Dr. Rice:

I am writing to ask for immediate assistance in Prince William County VA where we have an emergency. One form of assistance could be establishing immigration embassies here in this county to help immigrants who are RIGHT NOW being persecuted in our local system. Another would be to grant temporary, emergency amnesty to immigrants who have lived and worked here and who have no criminal record.

As you might have heard, PWC has implemented a "crackdown on illegal immigration." That "crackdown" officially begins today in the form of a local "Immigration Resolution." But even before today, we have had immigrant families in crisis--fathers and mothers and family members in jail awaiting deportation while their children and families suffer without them.

The resolution was passed without full consent PWC citizens. The resolution was passed without evidence of need and implemented without having funds to pay for it. The resolution is putting our county in debt and raising our taxes. But more importantly, the resolution is violating human and civil rights. Racial profiling is already happening.

The resolution was created as part of a political stunt to elect the Chair of the Board of County Supervisors, Corey Stewart, and his counterpart, John Stirrup. These BOCS members took their policy from a "Help Save" group related to FAIR, a designated hate group. BOCS member John Stirrup and Chair Corey Stewart have made openly racist comments (on video) and have aligned themselves with racist, abusive, members of local groups that are targeting and harassing immigrants.

While Congress has dragged its feet in addressing immigration problems, local factions are creating hostile and frightening environments right here in the D.C. Metro area. I realize you can't ignore current law, but in times of crisis, I know you have the authority to use diplomacy and use emergency intervention.

Dr. Rice, these are hard working people with paperwork problems--they are not criminals. If any truly ARE criminals, then these are the ONLY ones who need to be deported, not the people who have worked here and have been contributing members to our communities.

Please do all you can to address the issues here, in Mexico, in Central America, and in Asia. Please do not allow hatred and violence in our county and in our country. Please do not allow another bloody Civil Rights era to wound our country and the world. We must help our international brothers and sisters before this erupts into global conflict.

Thank you for your time and your service to our country.

Sincerely,

Katherine Mercurio Gotthardt
sent via email, to be sent in hard copy as well

Sunday, March 02, 2008

PWC's Resolution to Persecute: A Conversation With Nadia

Our conversation began on a national listserv. The following is a partial transcript of our discussion. I will be adding more as I can (Gmail is being quirky, and I can't get to all the messages).
________________________________

Hi Katherine:

I lived in Virginia 16 years ago and kept visiting for the following 10 years or so. My parents in law lived in a small town called Emporia. My mother in law went back to Sao Paulo, Brazil after my father in law passed away.

I went to Virginia because I was offered a job in Mexico City to come to the States and teach Spanish in High School. My relationship to people was mediated by the fact that I was a middle class woman, a teacher and oftentimes in the company of white people. Brazil has a much wider spectrum of ethnicities than Mexico. Kevin and his family are European descendants with a mix of Jewish and Protestant heritages.

I have always been in touch with Mexican people in theUnited States and a lot of times they are the so called "illegal" people. This reminds me of Manu Chausong "Clandestine". You may want to listen to it in you tube.

The racism that you talk about is evident. The greed with which illegal workers are treated is also evident. To me the witch hunt is more a product of the candid belief that it is illegal people, those people, brown people who are coming to rob this country from its wealth and whiteness. Alas, African American can be quite resentful, too.

I honestly believe that it is always good for greedy governments to pit some groups against others. It is in the interest of businesses in the States to keep workers making much less than the minimun salary. However, as the recession seem to gain some momentum in the United States, illegal immigrants have become more and more the target to be blamed and hated. This is the saddest part. Hate really hurts and I know you agree with me because I have read your postings.

What does the Mexican government have to do with allthis? A lot. Mexico is a country with a milenary tradition, an incredible history of contesting and confronting power. Mexico has been the recipient of people in exile from Spain and most Latin American countries. This has enriched our intelectual tradition a lot. But, our history, Katherine, has been written with blood. In Mexico poverty is really democratic. You don't need to descend from a Mayan ethnicity to be poor. Surely ethnic groups are the poorest. And they are incredibly interesting. But, going back to my point. The majority of peoplein Mexico, light or dark are poor. The elite likes to have particular features and women tend to enjoy cosmetic surgery. But the Mexican "poltico" still tends to be Mestizo. Anyway, I find the Mexican government absolutely responsible for the exodus of poor people. Octavio Paz wrote in one of his first books "Zapata, is before and after neomarxists, and if Mexico doesn't die he will be after.

Thus the Zapatistas...and Subcomandante Marcos. One day I will tell you how I met him in Chiapas and even dared sending him a romantic note...

Best wishes and good day, Katherine.

Nadia
______________________________________________

Nadia, I just returned from an immigration meeting. The infamous "immigration resolution" is beginning tomorrow in our county....which means anyone who is determined to "seem" illegal can be jailed and deported, after being cited for something like driving with a broken tail light.

Nadia, my heart was breaking, just listening to the emergency plans immigrants should have in place in case they are pulled over or have the police come to their homes. Right now, there are about 400 immigrants in prison awaiting deportation. These immigrants have families and children who have depended on them. In some cases, both parents have been arrested, and children are left alone or in limbo. As I looked out into the sea of faces--workers, mothers, fathers, children, babies--I could not help but cry for them and for ourselves.

We have created another era of civil inequity, another era of marches and persecution and hatred just like we saw in the era of Rosa Parks, Martin Luther King, and the African American Civil Rights era. The people who have done this to the Hispanic and all immigrant populations are local leaders looking for political fame and a way to inflict their personal bias on the entire county. No one who has an accent or a skin color other than white is completely safe from the kind of persecution this resolution has caused. And no one who is white who wants to help the immigrant community is safe, either.

One blog in particular has openly harassed people they identify as "illegal sympathizers," posting names, addresses, and pictures on the blog, and open invitation to harass citizens exercising their free speech and right to demand social justice. The blog I am talking about demeans people with disabilities, mental illness, and those of particular religions.

Regarding Mexico, is there any way to get a delegation here to help Mexican immigrants, especially those who have worked and lived here for years, contributing to our community? I heard sometimes countries set up embassies to help their people get paperwork through. Why can't Mexico and other countries do this?
______________________________________________
I really don't know. It does not surprise what ishappening. But, are you asking about embassies as in the Mexican Embassy in DC?, or consulates as in the consulate say in NY City or Raleigh, N Carolina? Itseems to me that the Mexican government does resent what is happening but I am not sure that they are heart broken. Unfortunately I don't live in your area so that I don't know about social movements withc onnections to the Mexican Consulate and/or Latino organizations as La Raza. What I hear from you is that a real Nazi-like movement is emerging in your county and it has become strong enough to act without fear of political, legal or social consequences. Scary.

The Mexican people you are talking about seem to be going through hell. Personally, I think it is good that they are deported with their children. They will be poor but maybe their children will be spared from hatred. This is heart breaking for me, too, becauseit is exactly what you said, a reminder of the days when blacks where lynched.

In Mexico City we have a progressive mayor, Marcelo Ebrard. The city is vibrant with popular culture and countercultures. Yes, I know there is poverty, pollution, traffic and noise like in any other big city. And in the United States there is Obama, for me the hope that something will change in this country. So, I can only think of the song "Change is gonna come".

Another thing that has been really bugging me regarding politics in Mexico is whether or not we have the government we deserve. When I look at the history of Mexico, my country, my passion, (I am visiting within two weeks Mexico City) I tend to think that the answer is negative. Somehow, I feel that theories that look at ideologies and control (however we want to call them) have a lot to explain and explore when it comes to the rise and fall of social movements. I learned a lot from an American scholar in New York, Frances Fox Piven. She wrote a book called "Regulating the Poor". It is co-authored with Richard Cloward. It is a great book to read because it analyses the privileged moment when workers united and rose during the FDR era. Then they explain the dissolution of the movement. I should read it again.
It is because of the rise of the Zapatistas in Chiapas, a day after NAFTA was signed, that I wanted so much to go to the Southeast. From the point of view of history the Mayan and non Mayan ethnicities in the region have really shown that they are a lot more civilized than the West. Yes, despite the fact that they are poor and despite the movie directed by the same creator of the Passion of Christ....
Nadia
______________________________________________

We should NEVER separate children from their families. And sending them from hatred to poverty and danger are equal in my mind. BOTH are horrible, and neither is a real choice.

Nadia, tell me about Zapatistas and your love letter. : )

Seriously, there are so many misconceptions about La Raza and other Hispanic organized groups. Rumor has it that they are terrorists, that they are trying to overtake our country, that they are one big criminal gang. What's up with them?

_______________________________________________

La Raza, terrorists? Never heard of that. It reminds me of conservative attempts to rehash on Obama's Muslim background. The love letter is the least important thing. If you want to learn about the Zapatistas read "El durito de la Selva" prologued by Saramago, the Novel Price of Literature a couple of years ago. Or read a book co-authored with Paco Ignacio Taibo II.

As for separating families I suspect the groups of Neonazis might face human rights lawyers to defend the custody of parents of their biological children. In fact the Mexican government can defend them since they are children of Mexican citizens. I hope that people like you will be able to gather some muscle, legal help, grass roots organizations, and so on.

As for a take over of your country I would not worry. Just do research regarding the IFM and the World Bank to understand what peaceful take overs look like. Again, both a government in dire need of liquidity(the Mexican government) and speculators both inMexico and the States had a great time.

Your comments are interesting but sound a bit off themark. Wouldn't it be better to inform yourself a bit, do your readings and then define your own conclusions instead of looking at silly rumors and stupidity?

Nadia
__________________________________________________________
Oh I'm not telling you MY comments on all this. I am repeating "the word on the street" to get your opinon and help clear things up. We have some ignorant bigots in my neck of the woods. Most of what I have learned about Mexico has been from friends, some light reading, some attempts at translating, and my visit there. (My attempts at translating were bad, as you can imagine, because I was using my basic training in Spanish I and II....a literal translation of things like philosophy!)

Katherine

Friday, February 29, 2008

Help Maintain Strong, Healthy Families

Please contact the appropriate person (listed below) and help protect families at risk! Remember....it could be YOU or someone you love who needs this help next.
____________________________________________

The competing budgets have been adopted by the House of Delegates and the Virginia Senate. The increase in FAMIS Moms eligibility to 200% FPL is only in the Senate Budget, and it will not take effect until July 2009. This is the best we can hope for this year – and BUDGET CONFEREES NEED TO HEAR FROM YOU ASAP! Please call or email the conferees – and if you can generate more contacts from their constituents please do so! Our message:

“Please increase FAMIS Moms eligibility to 200% of the poverty line. Helping uninsured women get prenatal care is smart! We get $2 dollars for every state dollar spent, AND Virginia saves money on indigent care costs and the costs of treating premature or sick babies.”

Below is the list of conferees and contact info.

Budget Conferees 2008
Senator Charles Colgan district29@sov.state.va.us 698-7529
(Manassas)

Senator William Wampler district40@sov.state.va.us 698-7540
(Bristol)

Senator Walter Stosch district12@sov.state.va.us 698-7512
(Richmond)

Senator Edward Houck district17@sov.state.va.us 698-7517
(Spotsylvania)

Senator Janet Howell district32@sov.state.va.us 698-7532
(Fairfax)

Senator Richard Saslaw district35@sov.state.va.us 698-7535
(Fairfax)

Delegate Lacey Putney DelLPutney@house.state.va.us 698-1019
(Bedford)

Delegate Phil Hamilton DelPHamilton@house.state.va.us 698-1093
(Newport News)

Delegate Beverly Sherwood DelBSherwood@house.state.va.us 698-1029
(Winchester)

Delegate Kirk Cox DelKCox@house.state.va.us 698-1066
(Chesterfield)

Delegate Clark N. Hogan DelCHogan@house.state.va.us 698-1060
(South Boston)

Delegate Johnny Joannou DelJJoannou@house.state.va.us 698-1079
(Portsmouth)

information courtesy of John Horejsi, SALT (Social Action Linking Together) and Jill A. Hanken, Staff Attorney, Virginia Poverty Law Center

Monday, February 25, 2008

Health Care and Illiteracy: The Tragic and Frightening Epidemic in the United States

Special Announcement
From the Desk of Dr. Sandra L. Baxter, Director, National Institute for Literacy.

Join us as we tune into watch ABC's "World News with Charlie Gibson," thefirst installment in this special series airs Monday, February 25, 2008.(Please check local listings.)

From ABC NEWS: http://abcnews.go.com/
Text link: http://abcnews.go.com/WN/LegalCenter/story?id=4336421&page=1
Video link: http://abcnews.go.com/Video/playerIndex?id=4336780

Living in the Shadows: Illiteracy in America
Millions Live With a Crippling Secret That Affects Their Everyday Lives
By PIERRE THOMAS, JACK DATE and THERESA COOKFeb. 24, 2008

It's a chronic crisis of huge proportions, one that keeps millions ofAmericans living in the shadows. And for nearly all of her of 45 years, Monica Baxley had lived with the crippling secret.

"I cried a lot over this," she said, "when I was alone and just would wonder what could be done, you know, if there was any help out there for me."

Baxley, of the Florida panhandle town of Chipley, was functionally illiterate. She quit school in the ninth grade, and for 30 years kept her secret from friends, family and even her husband.

"I didn't want to be exposed, beyond anything else. That was the most important thing -- for no one to ever learn."

Baxley joins so many others with literacy challenges: 7 million Americans are illiterate, 27 million are unable to read well enough to complete a job application and 30 million can't read a simple sentence.

Her travel was limited because she was unable to read road signs. She was unable to read a newspaper or food labels in a supermarket.

Baxley never voted in an election. "I didn't know who or what to vote for,"she said.

Her illiteracy even impacted her physical health, as she avoided seeing the doctor out of fear she would have to fill out a medical form or read a prescription.

"My health is poor now, but I really believe that's because I never went to the doctor and had my physicals and stuff that I should have had," Baxley admitted.

A recent study from the Archives of Internal Medicine revealed patients who had difficulty reading prescriptions were 50 percent more likely to die from disease than patients who were literate.

"It is a life and death issue," said study author Dr. David Baker of Northwestern University. "Literacy affects your health in so many different ways," he said, from inability to properly follow instructions to not knowing about common conditions or what symptoms to look for.

"So when you put all of these things together it's not surprising that people with the lower literacy levels are more likely to die [earlier], "Baker said.

Baker said his team has interviewed hundreds of patients about their experiences, and Baxley's situation was a common theme -- hiding illiteracy from those close to them.

"It's very scary for people" when their first contact with the healthcare system involves filling out detailed medical forms. "That's not a great start," Baxter said, "and then when they are seeing their doctor they're given other information they don't understand" such as prescription information and instructions to take care of themselves.

"Many people are afraid to come in and see the doctor," Baxter said. They don't seek care, resulting in the worsening of their conditions and an increased likelihood of trips to the emergency room.

The American Medical Association Foundation did a private study of patients who could not read. One woman who provided a testimonial said signed a form agreeing to a medical procedure with no idea what it meant.

"The nurse said, how are you feeling since your hysterectomy?" according tothe testimonial. "And I acted as normal as I could, but inside, my mouth fell open and I thought to myself, how could I be so stupid as to allow somebody to take part of my body and I didn't know it?"

Another patient took her medication improperly, afraid to tell her physician about her difficulty reading.

"I didn't take it right. I admit it," her testimonial said. "I just didn't have they nerve to ask them and I didn't want anyone to know I couldn't read."

"It's a tremendous problem when you think about the costs for us, economically, health-wise," said Sandra Baxter, director of the National Institute for Literacy.

"For so many adults who don't have the education, it's embarrassing to haveto say, would you explain that to me?" Baxter said of potential problems during a doctor appointment. "And so they don't ask the questions that they need to.

"Undiagnosed learning disorders, poverty and an unstable home life are allf actors.

As for Monica Baxley, she confronted her illiteracy at age 42 and learned to read. But illiteracy persists for millions who continue to live with it in the shadows.

If someone you know needs help, contact your local library, or use one ofthe following resources:



Reading is Fundamental: http://www.rif.org/

To find a literacy program near you: http://www.literacydirectory.org/

To search resources by state:http://www.literacydirectory.org/?op=hotlines&type=contacts

Copyright © 2008 ABC News Internet Ventures

Student Loan Updates

Courtesy of Alan Collinge, www.studentloanjustice.org

Join the new Student Loan Justice Facebook Group!

Hey Everyone,

Welcome to the new members. I hope everyone is doing well, and taking actions to bring attention to the astonishing lack of consumer protections for student loans. I have seen an increase in blog entries regarding student loans, and so that is a good thing. Also, our facebook group is now up to 170 members. My hope is that we can get it up to 25,000 or so in the next 6 months, so please check it out, and help spread the word about it.

I am still very concerned at what the Blue Dog Democrats did to Danny Davis's amendment to return bankruptcy protections to private student loans. I hope that you all will check the list of BDD's who voted to kill this amendment, and if one is in your state, call them, and let them know your feelings. Her is the list of BDD's who voted to kill the amendment:

Baca, Bean, Berry, Bishop, Boren, Cardoza, Carney, Chandler, Costa, Davis, Donnely, Ellsworth, Giffords, Hill, Holden, ampson, Mahoney, Marshall, Matheson, Melanon, Moore, Murphy, Peterson, Ross, Herseth Sandlin, Schuler, Space, Taylor, Wilson

You can find their contact info at:

www.bluedogdems.com

Also, the private loan industry has asked the Feds to consider a bailout for their private loans (these are the high interest, non federally loans that have become hard to resell in the current credit crunch). I find it irksome that Congress is willing to consider this, and at the same time is unwilling to consider returning standard consumer protections to student loans. At every opportunity on Capitol Hill, the borrowers are relegated to second position behind the banks. This is what we need to change, folks. Now more than ever, your activism is needed.

Also, I've been asked alot recently to give an endorsement for the democratic presidential race. From my perspective, this is very easy to do. Hillary Clinton did more to restore standard consumer protections to student loans than any other member of Congress in the last Congress with her Student Borrower Bill of Rights (S.511), and so of course my endorsement goes to Senator Clinton. Ralph Nader, who recently entered the race, has written excellent pieces on this issue also, I should add, but has not specifically advocated for the return of consumer protections for student loans to date. Senator Obama has not done or said anything to my knowledge on this issue, nor has Senator McCain.

Having said that, it is incumbent upon us to make this a presidential campaign issue, regardless of who the candidates are. It appears to me that thus far, no candidate has been eager to discuss the astonishing lack of consumer protections for student loans. We can change this. I encourage you all to get with your state chapters, and see what you can do together as the campaigns come through your state. I think we've demonstrated pretty strongly that affecting media stories about the problem is the most efficient way to go about this, but please don't be limited to just this.

I know you all are struggling, and appreciate that. However, we have to devote our efforts to this issue. So please, don't get discouraged, and keep fighting!

Regards,

Alan
Please support the StudentLoanJustice.Org PAC

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Places I want to see

Not necessarily in this order:

Someday, I hope to see Tibet and the Dalai Lama (who probably will not be in Tibet).

India and the Taj Majal (which probably will still be in India). Maybe I can see His Holiness there.

Recently added: Bhutan.

Mecca.

The English countryside, London, English villages.

Rome and the Vatican and the Pope (who will probably still be in Vatican City).

Assateague Island and the wild ponies (which I hope will still be there by the time I get there).

Lebanon and Sicily.

The Korean countryside and villages.

Africa, African village life, African wildlife.

Australia, the aborigines (I hope there are some left), the wildlife, coral.

The Amazon, the rain forests, the bugs (but not on my body).

Mexico (again, this time more of the countryside and the people).

Bar Harbor and the national park there (the one with the mountains...can't recall the name right now but I camped there once).

New York (again but this time the Statue of Liberty).

Native American reservations.

If I ever get to see all or any of these things, it probably will be somewhat of a miracle. New York and Assateague might be within range. But the rest, I just live through with Internet pictures, writing (much of it from students), imagination and occasional movies.

I want to see people, nature, indigenous culture, architecture, churches, religion in motion.

I wish the world would leave indigenous cultures alone to be who they are. We have so little respect for natural living. But then, we have so little respect for life sometimes that this does not surprise me.

Always the dreamer, aren't I?

Friday, February 22, 2008

Imagine the BOCS in charge of all our schools!

School Board sends opinions to Richmond
__________________________________________________________


By CHERYL K. CHUMLEY

cchum...@potomacnews.com

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Of 30 education-related bills before the General Assembly for consideration, Prince William County School Board members have found one they seem to relegate to the category of detestable: House Joint Resolution 245.

The measure would amend the Virginia Constitution so that schools could be supervised by "a local governing body and locality's chief administrative officer," if the General Assembly enacted legislation toward that effect, according to the bill. In other words, laws could be passed giving the county supervisors and executive, say, authority to run the schools in place of the School Board and superintendent.

Board members voiced unanimous dissension for this bill via a written poll that's due for discussion at the Feb. 20 meeting at 6:30 p.m. The poll was aimed at gauging the support levels of each board member on the education bills awaiting decision in Richmond right now; the results will go to the school's legislative lobbyist. As of Jan. 18, HB245 -- which was introduced by Del. David Poisson, D-32nd and supported by Delegate Frank Hargrove Sr., R- 55th -- has sat in the Committee on Privileges and Elections, according to postings on the Virginia General Assembly's Web site. (See http://www.myinsidenova.com/insidenova/isn/news/local/article/school_board_sends_opinions_to_richmond/4732/for the rest of this article.)

____________________________________________

The horror! Let's, for a moment, put Corey Stewart in charge of the school budget. I know it's distasteful (especially first thing in the morning, so I want some kudos for even thinking about it before 8:00 a.m.), but imagine.

Parents would have to fight to get new schools to prevent overcrowding because in this "difficult budget year" which he and others did not plan for (but funded programs, paying for them even before the money was transferred), schools would just have to take a back seat.

Can you say "trailer time," people? Because that's where your children would be if they aren't already there already.

Teachers wouldn't get competitive raises. You know it and so do I because Corey and the BOCS have previoulsy resisted increasing teachers' pay to competitive salary rates for at least one budget cycle. Under-paid teachers mean turnover, difficulty recruiting, and short-staffed schools at a time when SOL's are still the stressful focus of the curriculum and the mark of school success or failure.

Can you say, "substitute teacher time"? Because that's what your kids would end up with, assuming the county deemed it necessary to get subs--that is, if they didn't decide instead to combine classrooms to ridiculous maximums.

Programs deemed by the BOCS as "unnecessary" would be cut. For all you folks out there who complain about international students not knowing the language, get ready to complain even more because you KNOW ESOL classes would be slashed in K-12 and Adult Education--Corey doesn't exactly support the international community, and this would be one more way to help him meet his pre-existing ambitions of purging public education of imaginary "illegals."

Can you say, "academic failure"? Can you say, "high drop-out rates"? I hope so. Because without adequate instruction, that's what would happen, and schools would be vulnerable to state and federal sanctions.

Specialists would be cut. IEP (individual educational plan) meetings for special education would become nearly impossible to coordinate, with more reliance on outside consultants. For those of you who have no idea what an IEP meeting entails, let me give you a sketch of what is LEGALLY required: at least one teacher besides the classroom teacher, the Vice Principal, speech and/or LD specialists, a counselor, a social worker and other professionals as appropriate. You can bet the schools would have to wait the maximum legal time allowed to set up these meetings because of staffing and funding problems. You can bet "child studies" to help educationally at-risk children would have to be put off even more so than they are now because they require meetings with multiple professionals.

Can you say, "mistreatment of the disabled"? I hope so. Because that is what would happen with a budget that is already too tight, that would be cut further by the BOCS in control.

There are a million other cuts the BOCS could (and would) apply to suit their own needs and political aspirations. If you think what they are doing to the libraries and other services is bad, just let this bill get passed.

We have two Boards in the county because our county voted to do so (source: League of Women Voters, Prince William Area).

We have Boards in this county because two Boards means we have checks and balances. It means we have educators running education, not professional politicians and lawyers with their own interests.

Whether or not we like our School Board or BOCS members is irrelevant.

Whether or not we agree with either or both Boards' decisions is also irrelevant.

What is most important is that Richmond is attempting to eradicate the democratic process, putting all the power in the hands of a single Board, and the ultimate power in the hands of someone like Corey Stewart.

House Joint Resolution 245 removes all checks and balances.

Contact your Delegates and State Senators. Tell them we resent and oppose their attempt to ax our state constitutional right to a democratic state.

Keep Virginia fair and educated.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

At What Cost THEIR Priorities?

According to The Bull Run Observer*, the budget is so tight, the BOCS is requiring all County Department Heads and other Boards to trim costs. For the libraries, this might mean closing one day a week, some including Sundays.

John Stirrup says, it's "incumbent on us to find cuts."

The Library Board of Trustees, of course, doesn't want to resort to such drastic measures, and for good reasons. Dick Murphy, Library Director, is reported as saying, "There's no good time to close the libraries....There's no slack time."

For families on the run and for families with small children looking for an educational outing, this is more than just true. Libraries run on extended schedules and tight budgets to support the diverse needs of the community. Sundays are often the only days working families can bring their children to the library for some uninterrupted quality time. Cutting hours can only mean, once again, cutting education and support of the family, in just one more sector.

Recall that among other services the BOCS intends to cut, PWC already has a waiting list for elderly and disabled services. The police department, fire departments, and other emergency services are already running at deficits from last year's cuts. The BOCS plans to cut even more health and safety programs by banning undocumented immigrants from gang prevention programs, providing substance abuse treatment, and cutting other health and safety programs. Social services for the poor, mentally ill, and the chronically ill operate on bare minimums already, providing hardly enough assistance to keep residents in their homes and off the streets. Schools have taken the hit for many of the BOCS's priorities, most of which target the least fortunate and the middle classes.

Yet, the BOCS today is about to push through use of their discretionary funds to pay for the controversial, expensive and what many say is discriminatory, immigration resolution. The resolution, specific to Prince William County, will cost millions to implement. While today's decision might fund the Criminal Alien Unit, one wonders first, how the rest will be funded, and second, how many more services the BOCS intends to deprive the communities of in their reach to satisfy the few?

Noting the tight budget, *Stirrup claims he and the BOCS will be closely examining every Board's budget to find cuts and trim the 'fat.' Why didn't the BOCS plan for such an economic emergency? Why doesn't PWC have more than just contingency funds to fall back on in a near-recession with a crashing housing market? Stirrup and Stewart plan to apply the panic process to service budgeting and every Board in the County.

Apparently, this process doesn't apply to their own Board, the Board charged with overseeing the well-being of the community. One wonders, "Who oversees the BOCS?"

No matter what we think of immigration policy and the immigration resolution, we must think carefully about how much we are willing to give up to fund what has become the political capstone on the BOCS and the resolution's supporters. Funds dumped into an endless pit of bureaucracy, racial profiling, liability, and ego deprive all of us of programs we need to take better care of our families.

If PWC is truly that concerned about taking on the federal responsibility of immigration control, why not start with increased policing of health hazards such as houses occupied over the occupancy limits, policing of truly criminal activity being run from homes, and environmental issues such as waste disposal?

Why not invest in adult education to teach all immigrants to assimilate and speak English and gain citizenship?

Does the budget truly reflect satisfaction of all County residents? How does the County actually measure satisfaction?

But most importantly, why not invest in services that support strengthening, educating and maintaining the health of all our families?

These are serious questions we need to ask of Stirrup, Stewart, and the BOCS.

It's time to demand answers NOW.

*information courtesy of The Bull Run Observer, "Tight Budget could cause library closing one day a week," by Gretchen L.H. O'brien, Feb. 15, 2008.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Dire Necessity of Student Loan Reform: A True Story

To:

Chuck Schumer, online comment link: http://schumer. senate.gov/ SchumerWebsite/ contact/contact. html

Dear Judicial Committee Member Schumer:

The good, recent work of our NYS Attorney General, Andrew Cuomo, investigating the student loan business, deserves to to be taken several steps further: I can not urge you too strongly to establish broad and possible-to-meet disability and poverty discharge standards for student loans legislatively.

Furthermore to preserve equal access to due process for people in bad financial straights, I feel there should be a 20 year term standard after which student loans are discharged in bankruptcy. After 30 years in default, student debt should be able to be discharged without even filing for bankruptcy.

Here is an example in the form of an absolutely plausible case study,which demonstrates the injustice of the current discharge standards for student loans: Imagine that a person you know came from below the poverty line and persisted there their entire life, dropping out of college because s/he could neither afford to continue nor was s/he likely to benefit from higher education. Suppose this person has a significant impediment to employment. Imagine that these troubles have contributed to his or her default on a federal student loan.

That person is likely to have had their meager bank account emptied, every low wage garnished at a rate of 15%, been blocked from any form of public employment and entitlement grants to complete education.

Imagine that the person became further disabled by one accident in middle age, and in quick succession another, incurring massive medical debt that s/he could not pay. Then s/he was fired from his or her entry-level job (s/he did not graduate from college- remember?). Bankruptcy was the only option, but, of course, even after 32 years in default and 38 years after the initiation date of the first loan when the student debtor was 17, since 1977 student loans have been excluded from discharge in bankruptcy.

Even though this debt is over 3 times older than the statute of limitations for any other type of debt on the books, it is being collected by a private, for-profit business. The original loan was sold off by the government at a profit to a guarantor 32 years before and then sold and resold, with 20% penalties tacked on each time the loan was flipped between collection agencies unilaterally for the companys' profit.

Imagine how this unfortunate friend feels to be staring down retirement age with the prospect of SSI or SSD being offset 15% for the an ancient student debt receivable which at this point has exploded 400% of the original and realistically will never be paid off.

Picture this person to have married late and badly and that s/he is the single parent of a talented child who luckily has no impediments to learning who just entered college and just signed up for the same amount of loans in one year that the undischarged debtor, now a senior citizen, borrowed in his or her entire college "career".

I am that 57 year old single mother with a disability, poor all mylife- and the above is MY story.

I feel that because of poor judgement when I was a hopeful 17-year-old that I am now a slave to student loans. The worst mistake I ever made was borrowing money to go to college. I never should have attended. Almost 40 years of harassment for such an old debt has ruined my prospects and my life. Sometimes I wish I were dead.

I thought our country was founded partly to provide a refuge from debtors' prison and indentured servitude. The laws as they stand on student debt collection are un-American, in my opinion.

Please initiate change in the law to allow discharge of student loans for disability and poverty and in bankruptcy after a setterm in default. Bring back standard consumer protections back to student loans in my daughter's lifetime!

Yours truly,

Heather Dunbar

22 Langford Street

Van Etten NY

Prevent Homelessness--You can help!

Please be responsive to save Rental Assistance.

Contact all. Act Now!

A House committee failed to act on the Rental Assistance Bill (HB 289), leaving it stalled but not defeated. The Senate passed the Rental Assistance bill (SB 761) unanimously on February 12th, and "communicated" it back to the House. Once again before the House, the bill now returns to the same sub-committee that previously failed to act: the Economic Development Sub-Committee of House Appropriations.

What can you do?

Contact members of the House Economic Development Sub-Committee and urge them to support the Rental Assistance Bill.

  • Chair: Delegate Cox (R - District 66) (804) 698-1066
  • Delegate Morgan, (R - District 98) (804) 698-1098
  • Delegate Hogan, (R - District 60) (804) 698-1060
  • Delegate Abbitt, (I - District 59) (804) 698-1059
  • Delegate O'Bannon, (R - District 73) (804) 698-1073
  • Delegate Phillips, (D - District 2) (804) 698-1002
  • Delegate Dance, (D - District 63) (804) 698-1063
  • Delegate Shannon (D - District 35) (804) 698-1035

    Evan Scully
    Virginia Coalition to End Homelessness
    PO Box 6044 • Norfolk VA 23508
    http://www.vceh.org/

Announcement courtesy of SALT via VCEH

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Where Have All the Flowers Gone?



I don't understand why I get emails about general election topics and voting practices from the Democratic Party but not the Republican or Independent parties.

To me, if you really want people to vote for your candidate, you have to give them the information to do so.

Now I realize there are plenty of voter informational groups and online materials out there. I belong and subscribe to several of these groups. They are incredibly valuable resources. But when the majority of Americans still do not understand the voting process or its worth, isn't it time to make this a priority among all parties?

There are certain things I probably wouldn't post here. One of them would be direct candidate endorsements (unless they are my own of course...my right as the blog owner); I mean "ads" for candidates. I usually write why I would or would not vote for a particular candidate. I'm usually pretty clear about that. It's my prerogative. But unless there is real discussion, campaign materials are useless.

There are certain things I DEFINITELY would not post here. Racial slurs, threats, insults directed at particular groups or individuals, degradation of people based on their religion, sexual identities....bias comments meant to generate hate and dissention rather than discussion do not belong on my blog.

Discussion of issues do belong on my blog. Art belongs on my blog. Poetry belongs on my blog. Creative ideas and solutions belong on my blog. Public service announcements belong on my blog. Why do I not receive any of these from parties other than Democratic, non-partisan, and bi-partisan groups?

I think it looks bad on Republicans and Independents that their image has become one of selectivity and invisibility.

I think it looks bad on people who actually DO hold opposing views that they don't make the effort to discuss ideas with the other party or group. Have we really come to see one another as "the enemy"?

Here's an example. My father would call me a raging liberal. Yet I am for socially and spiritually eradicating abortion. I am for interfaith support of human rights. I support workers and their right to work in safe, fair, environments. I support fair wages.

And yes.....I support the right of white male WASPS to be treated equally under the law, in the workplace, and anywhere else. I do believe there is discrimination among all groups, all ethnicities, all human communities. This must include "whites."

I believe in Veteran's rights. I believe we do not give Veterans the benefits and respect they deserve.

I understand the need for national security. I believe we MUST bolster national security here in the United States and within our own borders.

I believe in mandatory, one-year service. I believe we need to bolster our country's image worldwide.

I believe we need to know who is in our country already, helping the contributing members of our society become formally recognized, and ridding ourselves of crime that has been brought in from other countries. I believe we cannot do this fairly until we fight crime AND process paperwork at the same time. I believe we need police and Federal government help to fix this. Too much weight on either side will only bring more crime, poverty, and social ill.

I do not support bullying or the bully pulpit. Bullying hurts our country, our emotional freedom to express ourselves, and the ability to fully engage in democratic process.

I believe in saluting the Flag, not burning it, singing the Star Spangled Banner, not mocking it, and celebrating the 4th of July.

I believe in studying the full version of our country's history and heritage. I believe in the value of the Suffragists and Abraham Lincoln who strived to make our democracy work even better.

I believe defecating on the flag, throwing away religious articles, breaking into churches, hating atheists, and refusing to forgive are more than just bad....they are dangers to our democracy.

I believe we must help the world, but we must concentrate on our own country first.

I believe in the importance of family.

I believe if we do not heal our own country, we will never be able to help the world.

I believe in fulfilling the basic tenets of all religions: help the poor. Strive for peace. Understand we are all human and might not live up to our own expectations at times.

I believe in personal responsibility, that we are not all the victims we might feel we are, that we have more personal empowerment than we tend to believe. I believe people can be taught to see themselves this way and better contribute to our country.

How do any of these things make me a "raging liberal"?

Where are the silent parties in all of this?

Have they stopped believing in our country?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Our President Is a Sadistic Murderer

Is that an over the top title? I think not.

He supports war over education (and everything else we need in this country, for that matter).

Furthermore......

"Earlier this week, on a 51-46 vote, the Senate passed important anti-torture legislation that would prohibit all U.S. intelligence agencies, including the CIA, from engaging in torture or other so-called "harsh" interrogation techniques. This bill has already passed the House of Representatives and now it only needs the President's signature to become law. This is an enormous victory, and it is in part due to your efforts and the efforts of NRCAT. By emailing and calling your Senators, you made it clear to them that the American people expect Congress to take a clear stand against torture.

"Unfortunately, however, the President has already said that he plans to veto the bill rather than sign it into law. If he does so, he will repudiate the will of both houses of Congress and of the American people. Worse, he will keep us an immoral and destructive path.

"We ask you to call the White House at 202-456-1111, or to email the President at comments@whitehouse.gov to express your support for H.R. 2082 (the Intelligence Authorization bill). Tell the President that we cannot win the war on terror by abandoning the values that made us great, and that he can help return us to those values by signing H.R. 2082."

Sincerely,
Linda Gustitus, President, NRCAT
Richard Killmer, Executive Director, NRCAT
courtesy of National Religious Campaign Against Torture

Thursday, February 14, 2008

PWC BOCS Important Meeting Announcement

On Tuesday, February 19th at 2:00pm, Prince William County Supervisors will vote on using our Contingency Funds for financing the Immigration Resolution.

Speakers and writers: voice your opinions.

BOCS Contact Information

Chairman At-Large Corey A. Stewart
McCoart Administration Building
1 County Complex Court
Prince William, VA 22192
Phone: 703-792-4640
Fax: 703-792-4637
Aide: 703-792-5626
cstewart@pwcgov.org

Brentsville District
Wally Covington
8506 Wellington Road
Suite 101Manassas, VA 20109
Phone: 703-792-6190
Fax: 703-257-9792
Aide: 703-792-6191
wcovington@pwcgov.org

Coles District Martin E. Nohe, Vice Chairman
4360 Ridgewood Center Drive
Prince William, VA 22192
Phone: 703-792-4620
Fax: 703-792-4610
Aide: 703-792-4621
mnohe@pwcgov.org

Dumfries District Maureen S. Caddigan
Dr. A.J. Ferlazzo Building
15941 Donald Curtis Drive, Suite 145
Woodbridge, VA 22191
Phone: 703-792-4645
Fax: 703-792-4622
Aide: 703-792-4648
mcaddigan@pwcgov.org

Gainesville District
John T. Stirrup, Jr.Sudley North Government Center
7873 Ashton AvenueManassas, VA 20109
Phone: 703-792-6195
Fax: 703-792-7664
Aide: 703-792-6196
gainesville@pwcgov.org

Neabsco District John D. Jenkins
4361 Ridgewood Center Drive
Prince William, VA 22192
Phone: 703-792-4668
Fax: 703-792-4669
Aide: 703-792-4667
jjenkins@pwcgov.

Occoquan District Michael C. May
2241-B Tackett's Mill Drive
Woodbridge, VA 22192
Phone: 703-792-4643
Fax: 703-792-4833
Aide: 703-792-4644
mcmay@pwcgov.org

Woodbridge District
Frank J. PrincipiDr.
A.J. Ferlazzo Building
15941 Donald Curtis Drive, Suite 140
Woodbridge, VA 22191
Phone: 703-792-4646
Fax: 703-792-4993
Aide: 703-792-4647
fprincipi@pwcgov.org

How to Help Fund Higher Education

February 13, 2008
Complexity of Federal Financial Aid Wastes Billions, Study Finds

Needless complexity in the federal financial-aid system costs students and colleges approximately $4-billion per year, according to a new working paper by two Harvard University scholars who are prominent advocates of a simplified aid-application process.

The authors — Susan M. Dynarski, an associate professor of public policy at Harvard’s John F. Kennedy School of Government, and Judith E. Scott-Clayton, a doctoral fellow there — estimate that families spend 10 hours, on average, filling out the Free Application for Federal Student Aid, or Fafsa. Because the average hourly wage is now $17.50 and roughly 10 million Fafsa applications are filed annually, the scholars calculate that the Fafsa generates a “time cost” of $1.75-billion.

Colleges and the federal government, meanwhile, spend $2.3-billion each year to pay the salaries of administrators who process and audit the applications, the paper estimates.

Those costs might be tolerable if the system’s complexity were truly necessary, the authors suggest. But they argue that only a few of the 70-plus data components in the federal aid formula generate almost all the variation in students’ aid awards.

In a series of papers during the last few years — and in an essay in The Chronicle — Ms. Dynarski and Ms. Scott-Clayton have urged a radical streamlining of the aid process. Families should be able to apply for financial aid simply by checking a box on their income-tax forms, they suggest. The IRS would then forward certain information to the Education Department.
Skeptics have raised questions about whether their method would be well suited for older and nontraditional students, but the idea has found an audience. (Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, for example, has made it part of her platform.)

The new paper, “Complexity and Targeting in Federal Student Aid: A Quantitative Analysis,” is available for $5 from the National Bureau of Economic Research. —David Glenn

_______________________________________________

Okay folks....you want to know where additional funding will come to help support higher education (besides from the more obvious, wealthy sources)?

Here it is. Simplify, simplify, simplify.

Oh and you CEO's making millions off of students? Get out your wallets. We deserve most of that BACK.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Why I Like Obama. And Why I don't.

I'm really not into the rock star thing. I've heard Barak Obama has that kind of following.

I'm not into the impassioned speeches. Those can be empty. Uplifting, maybe, but empty.

In fact, I've only heard smatterings of Obama's speeches. Speeches don't mean a whole lot to me. Anyone can say anything, knowing most people will forget shortly after.

Writing means something else. It's a record. And I like what Obama put on his record.

Obama has a plan for the immigrants who are here. It sounds like a fair plan that won't punish immigrants who came over when the laws and the rules were different. It won't punish hard workers. It won't punish families. It will require responsibility from immigrants and it will make them wait in line as they go through the citizenship process. But it won't penalize immigrants for paperwork problems. We need him to help bring immigrants "out of the shadows" as he puts it. Obama recognizes the risk to the immigrant and the risk to national security that these shadows have created for too long.

National security. The war. Obama wants to end it. He has consistently voted to end the war. This doesn't mean he won't support national security. It means he doesn't want to dump billions of our dollars into a war that is depleting our domestic resources, distracting us from serious domestic issues, and compromising our borders.

Obama is not part of the "Dynasties," the Clintons, the Bushes, the Kennedys. Because of this, his views are more moderate, more independent, and hence, less likely to be influenced by thoughtless trends and Capital Hill gossip. We know he is more independent because he voted against the war when the majority did not. We know he is more independent because he has taken "the road less traveled."

Obama is a true icon of the American heritage. He comes from a multi-cultural background. He supports diversity and fairness among all populations. He has traveled, has lived overseas, has seen the bigger picture:

"Barack grew up with his mother in Hawaii, and for a few years in Indonesia. Later, he moved to New York, where he graduated from Columbia University in 1983."

Obama is not Islamic. He is Christian. But the Islamic root of his name, his multicultural heritage and his experience with different religions can truly help us mend our relationships with the Middle East and the world who are angered by our current President.

Obama has been immersed in more of our American inner cities and our religious organizations than all the other candidates:

"Barack put law school and corporate life on hold after college and moved to Chicago in 1985, where he became a community organizer with a church-based group seeking to improve living conditions in poor neighborhoods plagued with crime and high unemployment."

Because of his experience with and understanding of poverty, Obama will make this a priority that has been overlooked for too long. Because of his understanding of crime, he will fight for stricter gun controls.

Now...Obama engaged in Hillary slamming, just as Hillary did to Obama. This, for sure, is a turnoff.

Obama is too liberal in his views on abortion. However, some of those views probably come from his work in the inner city, his direct contact with lack of heathcare and drug use, and his understanding of crime and neglected children. His interpretation of Civil Rights probably has something to do with his views as well.

Obama has not come out with a solid plan to help past students resolve insolvent debt that has followed them for years. But since he does recognize poverty and the need for educational reform, we can at least hope some of these issues to be resolved. The Clintons have been partially responsible for the removal of consumer rights via their policies before the Bush administrations. Since Obama has such a following of young people, we can hope he will hear us.

Like any other candidate, Obama is hardly perfect. Like any other candidate, if he wins the presidency, he may not do what he set out to do if the forces in Congress do not support his efforts and goals. Like any other candidate, he might change his mind when he sits in the Oval Office. But I can hope, as he hopes, that won't happen.

And that's probably one of the most important characteristics that Obama holds: relentless hope in a time when our country has all but deserted confidence in an administration that cannot solve our domestic and international problems.

Barack Obama represents that hope.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Vote Today in VA Primaries

Here are a few details and rules that will help make the voting process run smoothly. Make sure to share these with your friends:

  • Polls are open from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m. You must be allowed to cast a ballot if you are in line when the polling place closes.
  • You can bring voter information materials with you to the voting booth.
  • You can vote a Special Ballot if your name is not on the voter registration list; if your eligibility is in question; if you are a first-time voter who has not provided identification; if you are unable to vote at your assigned precinct because of age or disability; if you are claiming a different party registration than what's listed; or if your right to vote has been challenged at the precinct for administrative reasons.
  • You can also update your address on Election Day by voting a Special Ballot.

Courtesy of:

EJ Scott Chair, Manassas/Manassas Park Cities DemocratsVice

Chair, VADC

703/368-4541

http://www.manassascitydemocrats.com/

Please note I am not a member of the Democratic Party or any party; however, EJ Scott sends emails and information which are very useful to the voter. The outreach from this particular branch is truly exceptional.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Making the Bed

There is something so satisfying about a made bed. I don't often do it. I got out of the habit when the kids were little and their dad worked nights. Since there was always someone SLEEPING in the bed, it didn't seem like a good use of time to make it. Besides, I had a baby and a toddler. Who cares about making a bed?

This week, I made the bed five days in a row. I reveled in it. I stood back and admired it. I derived such great pleasure in it, I might even continue to do it.

I found that once I made the bed, I wanted to do other things in the bedroom--other than the obvious things, that is. I wanted to fru-fru again, something I have not done in awhile. I wanted all the laundry put away. I wanted the place dusted. So I chartered some time each day and did it all. I even opened the blinds.

I realized then that open blinds are miracles. The room felt beautiful again. Now, it's hard to keep blinds open in a bedroom (for other obvious reasons) and the tendency is to keep them down because....after all. We'll just have to close them again. But opening the blinds gave me light and a view of tree-tops (even if sparse ones). I could see the squirrels. My daughter pointed to the sun shining on the tree trunks and said, "Look, Mom! It looks like a painting!" She stood by the glass and pointed, "Look at that blue bird!"

"That's a Blue jay," I told her. Amazing what you can see through an open window.

The other day, crews of men and women were in our neighborhood planting new trees. Some were being planted in front of our townhouse. On my way to drop the kids off at school, I unrolled the van window and gave them the "thumbs up." "Trees! YAY!!!" I shouted and smiled.

"Moooooooooom," my older girl groaned from the back. "Don't EVER do that again! That was SO embarrassing."

I've noticed the wetlands and ducks and geese are coming back to our subdivision. We've lived here for five years, and there has been virtually no wildlife. Walking the dog the other day with my husband, we went to the front of the subdivision, closer to the entrance, where there is a pretty little run-off that sometimes looks like a pond. There's a fence around it, and trees and sometimes, kids try to fish in there. I don't know if they ever catch anything, but on the day my husband and I walked with our Inu, Ducks quacked, geese honked, and little birds called from above. It was a joy I have felt deprived of ever since we moved here. I was grateful.

So was the dog. She had something to try to chase. She didn't appreciate the leash.

The Victorians used the outside for more than just leisure. They used it for health. Anyone suffering from melancholy was advised to visit the seashore and take daily walks. Picnics outside provided hours of pleasure, and these were traditional dates. There is nothing so soothing or healing as water, trees, and birds. Animals know we need them. It's we who forget that we do.

Cats on a cleared couch, dog in a clean patch of sunlight shining on a vacuumed rug, clutter removed from tables so we can see and feel it all, a gentle smell of real roses my husband brought home for me on a bad day, and of course, coats all neatly hung....these are the things that calm my mind and bring me tremendous joy.

When we first moved here, I got to do more of it. I got to be as anal as I wanted with our new home. I primped and prodded and organized and bathed in the bright and the clean. When things got crazy, I could no longer do that. Time and ambition just wouldn't permit it.

But being in a lot lately, I've gotten to remember how good it all feels.

I'm glad those feelings have returned.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Crowne Plaza Dulles Supporting White Supremacists

Oh this is a good one! We have a major hotel, Crowne Plaza Dulles in Herndon, VA, supporting a bunch of neo-Nazis.

I guess business is slow, huh Crowne?? What's the matter? Couldn't drum up enough decent people to stay at your hotel?

----------------- From the white supremacist website Stormfront.org: American Renaissance Conference
Feb. 22 – Feb. 24, 2008, Herndon, Virginia (near Washington, D.C.) In the Name of Our People.
This is the best WN (White Nationalists) event in the western hemisphere and is only held every 2 years, so don't miss out if it is at all possible for you to attend! The speakers include many of the best intellectuals in the WN movement, and many who have played a crucial role in communicating WN ideas to a larger audience of our people.
http://amren.com/conference/2008/index.html
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Speakers of the event are listed on the Southern Poverty Law Center's (SPLC) website which provides up-to-date information on hate groups and their supporters. The founder and president of American Renaissance (aka New Century Foundation) is well documented on SPLC's website along with his organization:

http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?aid=115

http://www.splcenter.org/intel/intelreport/article.jsp?pid=215#34

This conference is going to take place in Herndon on the weekend of Feb 22nd at the Crowne Plaza Dulles 2200 Centreville Road, Herndon, Virginia 20170.

Don't believe this group really is neo-Nazi? Read the description of their motivations (retrieved today, in case they change it later):

"In all parts of the world, whites are afraid to speak out in their own interests. Racial differences in IQ, the costs of 'diversity,' the challenges of non-white immigration—politicians and the media dare not discuss what these things mean for whites and their civilization."

Hmmmmm.....last I checked, we lived in a HUMAN civilization, not a WHITE one.

Want to verify the conference and tell Crowne how disgusted you are? Give them a call!

Wayne Thompson, Crowne Plaza Dulles Front Desk Manager/Complaints - To reach Wayne go through main number 703-471-6700 and ask for Wayne

Tim Thomasberg, Crowne Plaza Dulles Reservations - To reach Tim call 703-674-0448

Stevan Porter, Intercontinental Hotels Group President Americas Region - 770-604-2968

Then, email their coporate office that claims to support diversity: diversity&inclusion@ihg.com
Remind them that Crowne is part of their corporation, Intercontinental Hotels Group. They state a corporate diversity policy of:

"It is IHG's policy that there shall be no discrimination in respect of gender, marital status, pregnancy, sexual orientation, colour, religion, race, nationality, ethnic origins, disability, hours worked or age, and that equal opportunity should be given to all employees, treated with respect at work; and it is the Group's policy that harassment and victimisation will not be permitted or condoned."

I hardly think Crowne is living up to corporate or OUR expectations.

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Some information courtesy of Immigration Eagles, members of a coalition of non-profits and civil rights organizations. Commentary and righteous anger is my own, but it is obviously shared.