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The Republican Congress, both the House and the Senate have been crying “Wolf” over the Trillions of dollars in deficit, but when there is money to be distributed to their wealthy constituents, the response is radically different. If one looks back over the last 60 years or more, the only people who have benefited from farm bills have been wealthy farmers and large corporate farms. The number of people engaged in farming has fallen from more than 30% during the depression of the 1930’s to less than 3% at present. Even large family owned farms have become incorporated, because the cost of machinery to operate a farm has become extremely expensive, so that the one farm, one family owned farms have become almost extinct.
The latest version of the farm bill cut food stamps which provide people with low incomes with affordable sources of food. My question is why we provide wealthy farm corporations with the equivalent of corporate food stamps and deny our needy, underemployed, and unemployed citizens the food they need to live? Another issue which was not addressed by the Farm Bill was the potential problem of genetically modified foods. Currently, a snip of DNA can be attached to plant DNA which alters the basic structure of the plant. For example, a snip of DNA can be attached to a given plant which provides the equivalent of Roundup which we use to kill weeds in our yards and gardens and fields. Spraying Roundup around a plant does not alter the genetics of the plant, but attaching a snip of DNA to plant so that it kills weeds that grow around the plant, means that we may be eating Roundup when we eat a carrot, corn, lettuce, etc. For example, I was exposed to Agent Orange when working for an irrigation district for two years. We had Agent Orange on our hands, in our face, and when we ate our lunch because we were spraying willows and other plants which grew in the irrigations canals and inhibited the flow of water in the canals. I became very allergic to all kinds of foods and would break out with watery blisters on my hands and with severe sinus infections. This went on until my late thirties.
Agent Orange is 245t and 23d combined and is a growth hormone which causes the plants to grow themselves to death. I used Agent Orange when I was 18 and 19 which was long before it was used in Vietnam to clear the jungles. It took the Department of Defense years before Agent Orange victims were compensated for the problems it caused the soldiers who were exposed in Vietnam. About four years ago, I called the Oregon Department of Agriculture and told them about my exposure. The official who answered the telephone asked me if I wanted sue the State of Oregon. I told him not at this late date which was 5o or more years later. I do know it causes prostate cancer which I developed in my late 60’s. The children born to women in Vietnam were often born with birth defects due to the exposure of the parents to Agent Orange. If one looks up Agent Orange, you will also find Agent Blue, Agent Green, and so on depending upon the combinations of chemicals which have been combined.
At present, there are no double blind tests given to animals and people when a plant is genetically modified. Monsanto, for example can genetically alter a plant without any oversight. If a drug is developed it has to go through at least three different stages of double blind tests to determine the possible effects of the drug on humans. Genetically modified foods should be subjected to the same kind of tests before they they are sold to the public. The Farm Bill had no such restrictions and it will cost the taxpayers more than one trillion dollars with support by the party of no–The Republican Party.
Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.
You would think that Senator Corker and Governor Haslam of Tennessee would take pride in a well trained workforce in their state, but they chose to threaten workers if they chose to form a union at the new Volkswagen Plant in their state. The German meaning of Volkswagen is peoples wagon or folks wagon. It was designed to be cheap enough to be available to the average worker in Germany. Although the design was basically approved prior to World War II, it did not come into production until 1946 after the war. The Germans have always valued engineering with highly qualified workers. In fact a now deceased German friend, who worked on the German missile program during World War II, told me that the German War machines were so highly engineered that if one broke down on the battlefield that they could not be fixed by the average German soldier. By contrast, the war machines built by the Allied Forces in World War II were considered sloppy by German Standards, but the US, Russian and other European Allies could repair them in the field and use parts from other machines that had been damaged but could be placed back in service by the American soldiers, who in civilian life had been rebuilding old cars using parts from junked cars. When the Humvee was introduced to replace the Jeep, it did not have any armor plating for the IED introduced by Iraq’s insurgent troops, so the US troops without authorization from the US Army did it themselves until the Defense Department finally got around to requiring manufacturers to include armor plate these vehicles.
If Senator Corker and Governor Haslam of Tennessee had the workers interests, instead of their own political interests in mind, they would not have tried to intimidate the workers at the new Volkswagen plant. A well trained workforce, who the management of the plant is willing include in the running of the plant, should be a desired outcome by management in any company. However, the Southern States have pursued discriminatory policies in both voting and worker rights since President Lyndon Johnson signed into law his Great Society Legislation, in 1964 and 1968, which included laws for civil rights for all citizens regardless of race. It is no secret that workers at the Volkswagen plant would include racial diversity with bargaining rights and employee representation. The German government has pursued these rights and has encouraged technical training because they understand that a well trained workforce can compete with any workforce in the world, and are also the most loyal workers in the world because they are not discriminated against because of race or ethnic origins.
My origins and sympathies are with the South, but when it comes to racial and ethnic discrimination, labor unions, voting restrictions, and other rights of the citizens of the United States in any region, I have no patience with any part of the United States which denies equal rights of its citizens to work, to organize, and to prosper. This is the reason the United States has become a magnet for other citizens of foreign countries who discriminate against the rights of their own citizens. The United States entered into a new era when the Supreme Court of the United States signed the Citizens United law which made a corporation a person. I would not be surprised if ALEC is behind this with its billionaire backers, such as the Koch Brothers. ALEC has been against labor unions, voting rights, and many other measures which guarantee equal rights of all our citizens.
If the State of Tennessee and the rest of the Southern States would still like to join the Union, known as the United States of America, we would welcome them as long as all their citizens are granted the freedom and dignity enjoyed by the more enlightened states. The Supreme Court Justices who claim that voting rights are not mentioned in the Constitution should read it again because neither are atomic bombs, nuclear accelerators, and many other scientific and technical devices such as modern operating rooms, computers in classrooms and homes, and also televisions. So for a state such as Tennessee and many other states north and south, east and west, to prevent and threaten their citizens from voting or participating and bargaining for salary, working conditions, and pay is backward and discriminatory.
When our dog Kalu died my wife was without her faithful companion, so she decided that life without a dog was not for her. She had watched a dog show where a Papillon had won “BEST OF SHOW” and was placed in the winners bowl. The Papillon fit into the bowl and literally preened as if to say, “I am beautiful”. So my wife looked up the available breeders of Papillons. She drove about 50 miles to meet the owners of the Papillon puppies. She had her choice of two male puppies and chose the one we now have which we named Nieko. He has several other nicknames depending upon his behavior. The one comment the woman made, who sold us Nieko, as she was driving away was, “Papillon’s do shed a lot”. That comment was the understatement of the century. Each day we have to use a dust mop to get all the dog hair off the floor or use a roller to get it off our clothes. My sweaters look like I am a hairy dog so I try not to get near Nieko if I am expected to look presentable. In fact, any clothing which has a slick finish is hair magnet, so I wear black jeans which have washed enough times to be Nieko proofed.
Another Nieko characteristic, which can be totally annoying when we are watching TV, is his barking whenever an animal appears on the screen. Since my wife has spent a lot of time in bed to severe back pain, Nieko loves to spend his time watching TV on the bed with her. Before the actual picture of an animal appears on the screen he knows the lead in and will sit up ready to bark. Watching Animal Planet is a forbidden choice if he is awake and not in his kennel for the night. A psychologist wrote a book claiming that animals do not possess a memory. I do not know what he was smoking, but he did not have a clue about animals. He probably could not tell the difference between stuffed animals and real live animals.
Nieko knows the sound of a UPS or Fedex truck when it comes by our house and alerts us immediately. It doesn’t help that the drivers ring the doorbell and give him dog cookies. He also barks at people who walk down the sidewalk or kids who are playing nearby. We do have a home alarm system with Nieko as a back up in case it fails.
When Nieko was a puppy, he had a coat to wear when it was cold or rainy outside, but once he grew a full coat of hair he would run if we tried to put on his old coat. He also loves a bath and will get in the shower when we get out the two towels we use to dry him. Kalu our dog previous to Nieko hated to take baths. Our dog Zach, who was supposedly a Minature Snauser, but weighed 29 pounds, also loved his bath, so it isapparent that to bathe or not to bathe depends upon the breed of the dog.
The most interesting characteristic about Nieko is that he howls like a wolf with his head raised and pointed at the ceiling. He did this spontaneously one day and now he will do so with prompting and has gotten so much attention that we, members of the family, can get him to howl by howling with him. My grandson took a picture of him howling with his iphone, and we were able to save it to my computer for others to see. Unfortunately, it is lost somewhere on my computer so I cannot find it to include on this post.
Finally, if you are not a dog lover, I can understand because I am not a cat lover, although I tolerate them because my stepdaughter and son-in-law are both dog and cat lovers. The cats and their dog live on the upper floor, so our combined household lives in animal harmony.
I should tell you that papillons come in black and white and brown and white with varying sizes and weights with ours being a little taller and heavier than others in the neighborhood. On October 1, 2012 Nieko jumped off the bed and ruptured a vertebrae in his back which left him paralysed. Luckily there is an animal hospital nearby where his disc was repaired, and he has been on a long recovery period. He can no longer run up or down stairs or jump on or off the bed. We keep a leash on him whenever he is on the bed attached our arm so that he cannot jump off the bed. We keep him away from large dogs because they could rupture a disc just by putting a paw on top of his spine. The surgery is the same as the surgeon performed on my wife’s spine about three years ago. When she told her surgeon recently about Nieko’s surgery, he was surprised because he did not know that veternary surgeon skills were as advanced as his own.
I published this post in January, but for some reason only the title was printed.
Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.
I recently viewed a TV special on poverty in the Portland, Oregon Metropolitan region where families were interviewed about their attempts find long term employment so that they could feed and house their families. It was the most depressing film I have ever seen on the subject. I know about poverty first hand because I grew up in a family of eight during a time when my father was in ill health due to working eighteen hour days as a contractor on irrigation projects during the great depression. We did have one advantage the people in the film did not have. We lived on a farm which we took out of the sagebrush as part of the homestead act which no longer exists. Under this act we paid $80 for 80 acres of land. We not only had to clear the land, but over a period of seven years, one had to make improvements such as building a house, improving the land and be able to make a living on the land.
In the film about poverty in Portland, Oregon, the unemployed people do not have the opportunity that we had to grow our own food, build our own house, and live in a place without the constant threat of having to move out and live in shelters or in their cars. This depressing film showed people evicted from their apartments or homes because the jobs they had were no longer available because the economy had gone from bad to worse starting in 2008 or earlier. Over and over, the people being interviewed stated that they had always worked and enjoyed working, but because of the 2000 depression they lived under the constant threat of being on public assistance which the latest US Congress failed to extend before they recessed to go home to their states. The grand bargain that Rep. Paul Ryan(Republican) and Sen. Patty Murray(Democrat) got passed in both the House and Senate voting did not include extending unemployment for these unfortunate people who will have to live out or their cars, or in a public shelter, or try to get food from the volunteer outlets which do not have enough food to go around. These people are not the mythical 47 per cent that Mitt Romney was deriding in his speech to the wealthy. They are people living under the constant threat of starving and living in unsanitary conditions. The primary reason for this problem is that we have allowed our largest corporations to relocate in foreign countries in order to escape having to pay taxes and pay workers a living wage which includes pensions for retirement. In the community where I live, we have a Wallmart Superstore being built, not because we need the store, but because one wealthy land owner got on the city counsel and was able to get approval for this ill advised project. The city violated the open meeting laws by passing this project without the people of this community approving or having an opportunity to vote on it. Wallmart is the face of corporate America which likes to claim that the United States is the wealthiest nation in the World, but that wealth extends only to the millionaires and billionaires, and not the other 99% of the population of the United States.
Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.
If you have been reading the press and watching the news lately, you may have noticed that cities like Detroit and Chicago and states like Oregon have looked to use pensions as a means of balancing budgets. Pensions were set up so that workers of all kinds could invest part of their salaries in a pension which was controlled by law with fiduciary experts who were supposed manage those pensions, with strict guidelines governing the actions of the managers who could be sentenced to prison terms for fraud and other misdeeds. One of the states leading the move to provide pensions for public workers was Wisconsin, until Scott Walker became the Governor, and decided to use those monies to balance the state budget. Scott Walker is a member of ALEC, a secretive organization made up of Corporations, Lawyers, Legislators, millionaires, billionaires, and mostly Republican Senators and Representatives, at both the State and National levels.
Cities like Chicago and Detroit have confiscated pension funds through bankruptcy and other means to build sports arenas. A federal judge ruled that in the instance of bankruptcy, that a city such as Detroit could confiscate pension funds to pay for the misdeeds of organizations such as ALEC, city managers, corporations who set up operations offshore to escape federal regulations and taxes, and use pension monies to pay for the misdeeds of others. In short, it appears that retirees, and union workers have no rights to the money that was set up for their retirement.
Several administrations, starting with President Reagan and including Presidents Bush, President Clinton and President Obama have turned a blind eye to the plight of union workers except when looking for donations for campaign funds. We have Raume Emanuel, the Mayor of Chicago, Secretary of Education Arnie Duncan and also the former Superintendent of Chicago Public Schools who have denounced Public Schools in favor of Charter Schools where teachers must work ten hour days and are not allowed to join unions. Supposedly the teacher’s unions protected inept teachers from being fired, so the way to fix the problem was to create Charter Schools and work to eliminate unions including teachers’ unions and industrial unions as well. In addition, since our industrial complex has been sent offshore where workers are paid so little that they cannot feed their families, that leaves the few existing unions pension funds to be plundered by persons like Walker and Emanuel in order to build sports complexes in both Chicago and Detroit as well as in other cities.
In order for the Republican Party to gain traction they have lost in recent elections, they have refused to raise the minimum wage, and have allowed corporations to fire workers who try to join unions. One of the most prominent of these is Walmart, which until recently had been a member of ALEC, until it withdrew its membership because it feared more adverse publicity because it sells more guns than any other corporation. The latest Republican fiasco is to eliminate unemployment for workers who have been unemployed for more than a year. This will leave people who have not been able to get jobs in the United States because those jobs have been shipped offshore. Like WallmartMcSrooge, we have RepublicanMcSrooge, a party which has abandoned the Middle Class workers in the United States.
Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.
I have never visited Detroit, but, after viewing Anthony Bourdain’s account of the city, I was saddened that American Companies had abandoned this city in order to find cheap labor in other parts of the world. This city was responsible for manufacturing our war machines when the Allied Forces were on the brink of collapse during World War II. It would have been unpatriotic and dishonorable to have abandoned this city at that time because the workforce was not only one of the most highly skilled in the United States, but that workforce was highly paid, unionized, and had pensions to support them when they retired. Now that Detroit has filed for bankruptcy, the promises of retirement with dignity has become a source for bailing out years of mismanagement of the city and the lack of patriotism by the companies for relocating the operations where slave labor and sweatshop conditions abound.
During several administrations, both Republican and Democratic, the nation entered into NAFTA, WTO, GATT, IMF, FTAA, MAI alliances with countries all over the world to accomplish two things: 1) Allow corporations to avoid taxation in the United States, and 2) provide corporations with the world’s cheapest labor so that these same corporations could then import those goods back into the United States duty free. President Clinton was one of the most ardent supporters of NAFTA and the other list of Treaties and the demise of the Glass-Steagall Act of 1933 which separated Banking and Investing institutions that had led to the Great Depression of the 1930’s. In 2008 we entered a period of meltdown with the combined Bank/Investment debacle where we had Banks and Insurance Companies such as AIG which were too big to allow to fail. To make matters worse, when TARP monies were transferred from the Treasury to the Banking/Investment firms, huge bonuses were awarded to the same executives who gambled away the monies entrusted to them in the stock market and in derivatives, a new form of gambling in the stock market. Even our Congress was involved by using insider information to invest in the stock market which could get a private citizen sent to prison. Congress passed a law to prevent the use of insider information to make them wealthy, but I have read that the law has been quietly rescinded.
The move to use monies from pension funds to bail out state and municipal treasuries continues. The Governor of Oregon has lowered the States’ commitment for the funding of pensions in order to use the money to balance the budget. We have individuals in highly paid positions who used outside sources of money to pad their pensions, such as the former Athletic Director of the University of Oregon, which has impacted the State of Oregon Budget. The Governor and his buddies in the Legislature passed this resolution, that has now been challenged and referred to the State Supreme Court.
In almost every instance, it has been the lack of appreciation for highly paid, skilled, and union workers which has led to the demise of our industries in the United States. Even within the United States, the move to avoid union labor has been to move industries from highly unionized states to the South where there are no unions. Most of the foreign car companies who manufacture cars in the United States are located in the South. Boeing, which has its home office in Seattle, when building the Dreamliner had to call in its contracts for parts which were scattered all over the world, because they had no quality control over those parts. This problem led to cost overruns because of the lack of quality control, so they had to use their union labor in Seattle, who were highly skilled and also highly paid to build the Dreamliner. It seems to have escaped their attention that in the long run, highly skilled and highly paid workers, are worth more than unskilled workers, because they are planning to relocate some of the manufacturing to non-union workers in North Carolina where they had poor quality control along with unqualified foreign contracts in the early stages of manufacturing the Dreamliner.
Finally, we need stringent laws to protect the pensions of those retired workers who spent the life in industry and other occupations. We need to have workers who are skilled and loyal, and who can look forward to good pay. Corporations like Walmart do not allow their workers to join unions, but yet Waltmart has asked their own workers to give some of their money for the support of their own employees who cannot make a living wage. Walmart, Inc. needs to be renamed WALSCROOGE, INC. WE need a new form of patriotism and commitment by the National, State, and Local governments to provide for the education and support of workers both union and non-union, so that the ordinary citizens can have a chance at the American Dream where we all succeed together through shared commitment and sacrifice.
By Walter L. Bell, Ph.D.
One of the most costly and time consuming practices in the House of Representatives are hearings held by some disgruntled member of the House into some real or imaginary abuse by the other party. Darrell Issa of California has wasted tax our money in fighting every piece of legislation passed by the Democratic Party when they were in the majority during the first two years of President Obama, when the Democrats passed the Affordable Care Act, also so known as ObamaCare.
If the Speaker of the House had any control over his Republican Members, he would appoint a hearing committee to look into members such as Issa to either do something positive to add to the overall good of this nation and or resign as the head of this committee. Issa made his fortune by attaching anti-theft devices to cars in California, and it appears that this fortune addled his brain so that it is totally dysfunctional. He is chairman of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee which is supposed to investigate waste, fraud, and abuse in the federal bureaucracy. It is unfortunate that he is unable to recognize his own waste, fraud and abuse in his own hearings where he abuses persons who do not agree with his point of view.
The answer of the day for education is to abolish labor unions which support teachers in the public schools so that teaching as an occupation can support not only a family but support a retired teacher as well. At present our governor in Oregon–Gov. Kitzhaber–is doing his very best to make teaching an occupation of last resort. He wants to use pension funds to fund the general budget even though during the last two years the retirement fund has returned about 1.5 and 2.8 billion dollars to the state of Oregon. He is calling the legislature back into a special session in order to cut the income of current retirees and future retirees even more than he did in the regular legislative session. Gov. Kitzhaber is supposedly a democrat, but he operates more like the infamous Gov. Scott Walker of Wisconsin who was struck by a similar bolt of lightning in going after pension funds of all labor unions. One wonders if he has been paid off by one of ALEC’s billionaires such as the infamous Koch brothers. Some of our state representatives and state senators from the Republican party have been. If you want to check for yourself, all you have to do is look up ALEC for your own state. I have done this for the State of Oregon and found that most of the senators and representatives who are members of ALEC are republicans. In the State of Oregon we have many democratic senators and legislators who are democratic in name only because for the most part they fly under the political radar. Gov. Kitzhaber, in his non-governor role, is a medical doctor but he loves politics much more than doctoring. He will also draw a pension when he retires for his 12 years as Governor of the State of Oregon. He may run for another term and very likely has spent time in the Legislature as well.
All public employees for state and local governments are members of the Public Employees Retirement System. This includes water districts, fire districts, state and local police, firemen, judges, college and university employees and many more. The largest sector used to be public school employees but at present there are no teachers on the PERS board. One of the biggest benefactors was the Coach and Athletic Director of the University of Oregon. When no one was paying attention, his salary included much more than was in his contract as coach and athletic director. He left the state with an income of about $45,000 a month or $540,000 per year. He has been gone from Oregon for several years and now works for some sports organization drawing an additional salary. His monthly salary is about equal to my yearly salary retirement salary, and under current law his salary is taxable in the state where he now resides and he gets an annual increase from the PERS in Oregon.
One of the paradoxes of this whole problem with pensions is that many of the recipients never bargain for their retirement benefits. Principals, Superintendents, and other like members of the management are on the other side of salary negotiations during bargaining. But as soon as the bargaining is completed the administrators get a nice increase in their salaries based upon the teachers’ salaries. At the State Universities level, there is no collective bargaining. If one is even suspected of trying to bargain, if that person does not have tenure, their contract will not be renewed. I spent three years as an administrator and got a double increase each year until I got at the top of the salary schedule. Judges, clerks, and many others who get PERS benefits never bargain for their salaries. College and University professors are supposedly paid on their ability to write, publish, get grants for research, and sometimes teach, but the whole system defies all logic. A professor may simultaneously teach, write, research, and administer, so many have no incentive to involve themselves in collective bargaining.
A final note on my view of the teaching profession is I really enjoyed teaching and had success in that role. I never liked administrative work because I sat for hours listening to administrators spout total nonsense. I thought many times of the outfielder for the Yankees who got so bored he would stand on his head, interacting with the fans in the stands, but I took the easy way out and did something I enjoyed and went back to teaching. Our politicians need to be contacted and told forcefully to quit trying to balance their bloated budgets on the backs of members of PERS, and do something meaningful such as working for a living. Teachers and other employees who work for a living are the messengers of our civilization, so stop Blaming the Messengers and robbing them of their retirement incomes.