Monday, March 28, 2011

Hawaii was a state when Obama was born there

Yes, Hawaii is nearly 3,000 miles from the U.S. mainland, which makes it seem foreign to many Americans, particularly teabaggers and birthers who now count Donald Trump, a possible presidential candidate, in their bizarre circle of friends.

It looks like Trump has a lot of company because 51 percent of likely Republican voters do not think President Obama was born in America.

It's safe to say that there are still a lot of racists in this country. Either that or some truly ignorant people live here.

First, here's the link to that proved conclusively in 2008 that Obama was born in Hawaii on  Aug. 4, 1961. FactCheck includes more links to official and unofficial sources to back up this fact.

Hawaii joined the United States of America as its 50th state on Aug. 21, 1959, which is nearly two years before Obama was born there.

Can birthers count? Can they read? Do they know that Hawaii is one of our states?

The next time you are faced with a racist birther ranting about Obama's birth, direct them to

Tell them to learn to read, get educated. Tell them that racism isn't healthy.

There are other things to tell them, of course, and I urge you to do that as well.

It won't help, but you did your part.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Every child left behind?

With federal stimulus money mostly spent, the Great Recession is going to hit education hard next school year.

Sisters Elementary will go without a principal. More layoffs loom.

Now, poor leadership at American schools is one of the more significant under-reported stories across the country. Still, doing without a principal does seem a bit drastic.

At Sisters, though, it was either that or lay off two teachers and see classes grow to more than 30 students in split-grade-level classrooms. In fact, teachers may still face layoffs. The Oregon legislature is poised to scuttle the corporate tax increases that voters approved last year which could result in another shortened school year.

It's a scenario to be played out across the region, the state and much of the U.S.

It's what we choose as a nation.

We choose to cut money to education and reward the rich with even bigger tax breaks. Now, some Republicans are talking of slicing the top tax rate from 35 percent to 25 percent. It was 90 percent in the 1950s, 60 percent in the '60s and '70s, and 40 percent under Reagan. Can anyone connect the dots between tax cuts and deficits?

With teabaggers hyper-ventilating about the budget deficit (they were breathing pretty easy during Bush II's reign or error), Republicans are poised to make "major" cuts by eliminating funding for public broadcasting. Wow, who knew that tea carried such a caffeine kick.

Teabagging Republicans believe that teachers are overpaid, have it too easy with summers off and have benefits that much of the private sector no longer enjoys.

Some right-wing newspaper pundits believe that if teachers made less and less every year along with diminishing benefits, we wouldn't be in the budget mess that we're presently in. Of course, teachers have been taking pay cuts throughout the past decade, their insurance premium out-of-pocket expense is now 20 percent and their workload has increased.

That's not enough to the anti-union malcontents. To them, if the pay for teaching gets low enough, perhaps more people won't become teachers and we can all return to home-schooling our kids. If it was good enough for our Founding Fathers (there were no mothers, apparently), then, by god, it's good enough for us.

The goal is to diminish the livelihoods of all working-class Americans. Not too long ago, the goal was to raise the standard of living for everyone. Evidently, teachers are living too high on the hog and it's time to sell that old Subaru.

Even as we de-fund public education, though, the national debt won't diminish because the millions of students who can't afford college will make less money in the workplace.

Gee, maybe we should just skip education altogether and bring back child labor. Maybe then we could import jobs back to America for the pre-teen set and knock a few bucks off our trillions in debt.

Call it a tea for all.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

State of the media: NPR rules

Republicans are targeting NPR because,
well, they like to shoot things.

As most everyone knows, the daily newspaper continues its free-fall in circulation, employment and revenue.

But, the real astonishing news Monday from the annual State of the News Media report by the Pew Project for Excellence in Journalism, is that cable TV viewership took the biggest hit with a drop of 13.7 percent. 

Actually, I'm not entirely surprised since cable TV suffered its first declines ever in subscriptions last year because these hundreds of thousands of former subscribers found it not worth the high cost. Also, when you consider the dearth of real news on cable, as opposed to shrill commentary, most viewers just say "no thanks."

The big winner, as we all know, is the web, internet, the lifeblood of the masses. Web readership jumped by 17.1 percent. And, with more "smart" phones  debuting weekly, the distribution model for information is now the mobile telephone.

Radio also suffered. The report noted that "34 percent of Americans said they got some news on the radio 'yesterday,' down from 43 percent in 2000."

But, a clear winner in radio news has emerged and that is NPR or National Public Radio.

The report noted the difference: " NPR, by contrast, has flourished as commercial all-news radio programming has become scarcer. NPR’s audience grew 3 percent in 2010, according to NPR internal data, to 27.2 million a week. That is up 58 percent since 2000."

No wonder Republicans want to cut funding to NPR. The last thing they want is an informed electorate. Republicans bank on the ill- and un-informed citizen who craves the latest blather from Limbaugh, et al.

Americans turn to NPR for solid national and international information that is hard to get elsewhere. In fact, NPR and PBS are the only ones still regularly covering the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Read comments on the Wall Street Journal website to an article about the NPR funding battles, though, and you find how most of those commenters are unhinged from reality. These are the Faux News devotees. Sorry, to burst their bubble, but NPR is not the opposite of Faux News. The only "liberal" source of national news is MSNBC on cable TV. In actuality, though, the MSNBC website tones down the anti-Republican chatter and provides real, sold news, unlike the Faux News website, with its constant focus on how Democrats are to blame for everything.

Without NPR, we would be a nation more ignorant of the world around us than we already are.

Save NPR/PBS and you help save America.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Oregon friendly to business

For some reason, the media in this state love to report the falsehood that Oregon isn't friendly to business.

They do this, apparently, to shore up the argument for corporate interests to extract more concessions from taxpayers.

This recent Tax Foundation study shows Oregon is friendly to business.

Okay, we have slipped to No. 14 on the list of state's most friendly to business. For many years, Oregon ranked in the top 10. Still, we're just one spot down from Texas, which the GOP considers the poster state for pro-business climate. 

Texas, which has terrible land-use laws resulting in urban sprawl that puts California to shame, is really a mess with its Republican-controlled government.

In fact, Texas has one of the biggest budget deficits in the nation. Texas' deficit represents 31.5 percent of its budget. That's worse than California's 29.3 percent and Oregon's 25 percent.

Oregon has no sales tax while Texas has no income tax.

But, Texas has oil and Oregon does not. Texas also has far more federal dollars flowing its way through the military and NASA.  It has 57 Fortune 500 companies based there. Oregon has two. 

In other words, Texas is one of the richest, most mis-managed states in America.

With all that wealth, Texas has one of lowest-rated school systems in the country. We all know about their battles to re-write history with their new textbooks. But, Texas was the model for "No Child Left Behind," which, in true Orwellian fashion, means exactly the opposite. 

In many ways, Texas is a mirror of what has gone wrong with our country. It's all me, me, me instead of us. When you have the rich starve their state of needed resources to run it properly, you have a state headed downward. No wonder some there want to secede from the Union. Actually, these wanna-be secessionists believe Texas would be better off as its own country. I say, good-riddance.

Yes, we have serious budget problems in Oregon, but it's not as bad as what you read in the newspaper when compared to other, more "stable" states.

Business is expanding here, not contracting as newspapers claim would happen when we passed tax measures by comfortable margins last year. In fact, true progressive states know that when the going gets tough, everyone, including the rich, must chip in to help out. Oregon gets this. Texas does not.

Oregon will never be one of the "richest" states in the nation. But, if we invest more in education and alternative energy, while maintaining our respect for the environment, we will attract more businesses.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Forget Libya

As Cee Lo Green would sing, forget Libya and forget Iraq, too. Cee Lo would sing it another way of course, but this is a family-friendly blog.

As one who has never visited the Middle East or North Africa, like most Americans, let me weigh in on the changes going on in that Allah-forsaken part of the world.

Let them find their own destinies. 

It's always great to see people rise up against autocratic rulers. Granted, these upheavals may go the way Iran did in 1979 or Afghanistan 10 years later, but, it's the people's choice. If they want Islamic rule that encourages the stoning to death of women, that's what they want. If these newly radicalized countries then want to fight the U.S., well, it then simplifies the "war on terror." Instead of fighting a word all over the world, we'll be doing battle with tribes and clans stretching from Tehran to the shores of Tripoli. 

It would be a war that pulverizes that region of the globe.

Another great thing about these rebellions and demonstrations is that, for the first time in more than 40 years, they do not feature the burning of the American flag along with chants of "Death to America."

In fact, we're not in the middle of the Middle East revolutions at all. How sweet is that?

Now, the same folks that were cheerleaders for the invasion of Iraq, have dusted off their poms-poms and are chanting: "Do something, Obama!" and "No-fly zone!"

Naturally, those same folks, who have never served in a foreign conflict and never will (except for John McCain), are perfectly willing to send young men and women in harm's way for essentially nothing.

Okay, oil isn't nothing. Libya's got plenty of oil as do other countries over there.

The only reason any of this matters is because some Americans are upset that it now costs about $80 bucks or more to fill up their behemoth SUVs.

That is the price of freedom.

Pay up or shut up. 

Better yet, buy a Leaf. Or, take a hike.

We Americans are a thick-headed people sometimes. After the energy shocks of the 1970s, the Iraq Wars, 9/11, the massive oil spills and now the 2011 revolutions, we still don't get the message.

It is a simple one: kick our oil addiction. 

We can't even begin the 12-step process to fight this dependency on petroleum because we believe our oil addiction is perfectly natural and good for us.

This state of denial, sadly, will result in another catastrophic event that will dwarf the attacks of 9/11.

In spite of our resistance to forsake oil, it will be much easier to wean ourselves from the "black gold" than to change Islam into a secular-progressive way of life.

We must change ourselves, not force change on others.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Why the press picks on teachers

It's been a longstanding tradition in corporate-owned media to bash teachers because they are some of the last Americans to belong to a union.

Unions are convenient scapegoats whenever the economy goes into a tailspin. Republicans and corporate media have been so successful at demonizing unions, that only about 10 percent of Americans now belong to one, down from a third of the workforce in the 1950s. By focusing on unions, Republicans and the media shift attention away from how corporations run America, which is the real problem.

But, un-reported in all this union-bashing of late is that it is mostly directed at teachers, the majority of whom are women.

You don't see the same level of invective hurled at union police officers (except in Ohio) or firemen, the majority of which are men.

In fact, the anti-collective bargaining language in the Wisconsin bill excludes firemen and police officers. (In Ohio, though, all union workers are lumped together in that state's bill. In order to endear himself to Ohio state troopers, the Republican governor referred to them as "idiots.")

Along with the anti-union hysteria whipped up by the media and teabagging Republicans, we also have blatant sexism by Republicans and the media, which is also dominated by men.

Again, only a small fraction of American workers belong to unions. Reducing union pay and benefits, which is necessary during this Great Recession, won't solve our financial problems. Once upon a time, the teaching profession was ridiculed for how little it paid. Now, it's being blamed for bankrupting the country. Who knew that teachers would become the new Rockefellers?

States without unions have deficits just as bad as those with unions. If you keep taking money away from the many in the middle to give to the few at the top through tax breaks, you'll always have deficits. Also, the public has been conditioned to have what it wants without having to pay for it. 

Is it more responsible to tax and spend like Democrats of old or borrow and spend like Republicans and new Democrats?

But, enough of that. Let's get back to teacher-bashing.

The canard that unions prevent school districts from firing ineffective teachers is always trotted out when teacher-bashing revs up.  

But, the other under-reported story by the media is that the main problem with American education is not at the teacher level, but at the mid-management level, namely principals. Don't believe me? Check out this opinion piece from a man who is not in the union camp at all.

Schools fail to get rid of ineffective teachers because of poor management, not because of union interference. It's hard to find good managers/principals who are willing to be squeezed between district administration and the teachers and the students and the parents like a pimple on a high-schooler's forehead. Would you want that job? Okay, for $90,000 a year, I could handle it for a couple of years. And, I still get the occasional pimple.

The upshot of all this teacher-bashing is that it will weaken, not strengthen, education in America. Most teachers don't mind if their pay or benefits get cut during hard times. But, comparing them to the dregs of society, such as Wall Street types, goes a bit too far. Teachers are ticked off and even the best ones are leaving the profession. Diane Ravitch, who supported "No Child Left Behind" but now recants that stance, defends teachers in this recent article.

But, why spend time defending teachers when there is always Charlie Sheen to kick around.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Oregon among top 10 liberal states

No real surprise that Oregon, in a recent Gallup poll, ranks as the seventh most liberal state in America. It's been reliably "blue" now for the past 25 years.

What is surprising, though, is that the top 10 most liberal states don't even compare to the top 10 most conservative states.

The top liberal states are mostly in the mid-20 percent range, while the top conservative states are in the mid-40 percent range. For the source of this data check this link.

To be fair, though, the populations of all the top 10 most conservative states don't equal the population of one liberal state, New York, which ranks just ahead of Oregon at No. 6.

Washington D.C., which of course is not a state, ranks as the No. 1 most liberal "state" at 41 percent. Meanwhile, Mississippi is more than 50 percent conservative and is No. 1 in that list.

The most conservative states are in the South and the intermountain West, the least educated areas in the country.

The most liberal states are in the Northeast and the Northwest, the most educated areas of the country. Washington ranks 9th.

Idaho is not really considered the Northwest in this survey because Idaho is the second most conservative state at 48.5 percent.

To be honest, though, Oregon and Washington, east of the Cascade Range, are as conservative as much of Idaho. 

Also, while Bend is the only "liberal" city east of the Cascades in Oregon, a county in northern Idaho, the land of white supremacists, actually voted for President Obama. 

Of course, that was due to Latah County's most populous city, which happens to be Moscow, home to the University of Idaho whose colors don't include red.

Even though Oregon is only 26.3 percent liberal, it's one of the most progressive states in the nation. As mentioned in an earlier post, Oregon was the first with a bottle bill and it could soon have the first plastic bag ban bill. Also, we were the first state to vote for doctor-assisted suicide for terminally ill patients. Washington adopted a similar measure about a decade after Oregon. And Portland, the city that modernized land-use laws, has the best public transportation in the West.

Still, Oregon has a long way to go. Unemployment is still far too high here, which limits opportunities. We need to boost our education funding at all levels, particularly at our universities, which would expand our opportunities. And, western Oregon could use a little less rain.