Number losing unemployment benefits



Paperblog

Thursday, July 31, 2008

The Sad Case of the Uighurs

In your listing of the current injustices approved by our Justice Department, you mention the sad case of the Uighurs (Mr Mukasey's Justice, New York Times Week in Review, July 27, 2008: 9).

Why cannot the United States allow into the US the tiny number of innocent Chinese Uighurs still held in Guantanamo after being cleared of any wrongdoing? We also deported a few of these unhappy people to rot in a refugee camp in Albania, why can't these be allowed entry as well.

As Franklin Roosevelt noted, our progress is marked by how we treat the unfortunates among us. In this case, we are making sure that the unfortunates do not have a chance of living among us. That is not a sign of progress.

This should change, these blameless people should be admitted to the United States immediately.

Martin G. Evans

A culture of Debt

David Brooks (New York Times, July 22, 2008: A19) omits one of the major actors in the consumer debt crisis: the Federal Government.

It is a given in the Republican philosophy that markets are self regulating. It is no accident that the last two major financial crises occurred during the deregulatory regimes of Reagan (the Savings and Loan collapse) and Bush (the Mortgage crisis).

I hope that we learn from these errors and ensure that a robust regulatory regime is introduced so that we no longer have to bail out these failing organizations.

By the way, I hear no chorus of offers of restitution from the executives who benefited during the good years. They should be called upon to pay back some of their excessive bonuses to help rehabilitate the firms which were brought low by their rash lending decisions.

Sent to the New York Times

Monday, July 21, 2008

Foreclosure

You state that "Patrick needs the flexibility to spread the cuts
across the board" (Sharpen the shears, just in case, Boston Globe,
July 16, 2008). Across the board cuts are a disaster. The Governor
should know this from his service on several Corporate Boards. Across
the board cuts will punish those agencies that are running
effectively, it will punish those town and cities that are running a
lean operation. Across the board cuts should not be a weapon in the
Governor's arsenal.

I also believe that cutting state transfers at this time would be a
major mistake. They are the innocent victims of the fallout from the
foreclosures. The towns, cities, school boards that rely heavily on
income from property taxes are likely to suffer.

If, as is predicted, 7% of home owners are likely to see foreclosures
on their homes, these innocent bystanders are likely to see a drop of
7% in their revenue from property taxes. The state should not impose
additional cuts on these jurisdictions.

Of course, the best solution would be for the Federal government to
provide them with a bailout, just as banks and individuals are being
helped. The Federal Government should immediately announce a program
to make good their losses by providing an infusion of 7% of property
tax revenue to these jurisdictions. This will prevent a massive
reduction in local and state government programs at a time when the
social safety net will be most needed.

Sent to Boston Globe

Mortgage help needed for cities and towns too.

Over the last few months, the Federal Government has come to the aid
of failing banks; proposals have been made to help homeowners
refinance their mortgages (Plan to rescue mortgage giants faces
resistance, New York Times, July 16, 2008: A1); one group, which did
not get involved in making stupid over-extending decisions, has been
left in the cold.

The towns, cities, school boards, and states that rely heavily on
income from property taxes are likely to suffer. They too should get
federal aid.

If, as is predicted, 7% of home owners are likely to see foreclosures
on their homes, these innocent bystanders (towns, cities, and states)
are likely to see a drop of 7% in their revenue from property taxes.
The Federal government should immediately announce a program to make
good their losses by providing an infusion of 7% of property tax
revenue to these jurisdictions.

This will prevent a massive reduction in local and state government
programs at a time when the social safety net will be most needed.

Sent to New York Times

Red Line on Longfellow Bridge

I share Mr JOHN LaRUFFA's unease at crossing the Longfellow Bridge on
the Red Line (letters, Boston Globe, July14, 2008). I would be a lot
more comfortable if there were only one train on the bridge at a time
but frequently trains pass each other on the bridge doubling the weight.

A slight adjustment to the schedule, even if it meant short delays,
would be warranted to prevent overburdening the bridge.

By the way, where was Governor Romney while the bridge quietly decayed
on his watch?

Sent to Boston Globe

Warning: Habits May Be Good For You

According to a report issued by the Centers for Disease control in 2002 (Guideline for Hand Hygiene in HealthCare Settings, October 25, 2002 / 51(RR16);144), only about 40% of health care workers wash their hands between treating patients. As a result, infections have a good chance of being transmitted between patients. Perhaps the procedures developed by Dr. Val Curtis to encourage hand-washing in Africa (Warning: Habits may be Good for You, New York Times Business Section, July 13, 2008: page 3) could be adopted by hospitals in the United States.

This, if successful, would result in a drop in the number and severity of hospital infections and reduce the costs of hospitalization.

Sent to New York Times

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Obama and FISA: Another Flip-Flop

I cannot agree with your correspondent, James Tocco (Letters, July 11, 2008), that Senator Obama's yea vote on the FISA amendment act and Senator Clinton's war vote in November 2002 are similar in their motivation: to avoid being thought soft on terrorism.

Mr. Obama may well have voted for that reason; but the case of Mrs. Clinton is quite different. The war vote in November 2002 was a magnificent piece of realpolitik. The passage of the war vote led to Saddam Hussein allowing the Weapons Inspectors back into Iraq. Our tragic error was not taking the null findings of those inspectors seriously and pulling the President back from his misguided war in February 2003. She also has a second excuse for her vote (explained by your columnist Frank Rich on November 27th. 2005): the President knew that the intelligence on WMD and on the Al-Qaeda links was very weak; he did not pass that information along to the Senators.

Unlike your other correspondent, Bryan Erickson, I still support Mr. Obama; the alternative, four more years of a Republican administration is too awful to contemplate.

New Jersey's Painful Lesson

Where on eath is the state of New Jersey doing its borrowing (New Jersey's Painful Lesson, New York Times, July 8, 2008: A22)?

If paying down $650 million in debt will only reduce interest payments by $130 million per year, then New Jersey must be borrowing from loan sharks, or Credit Card Companies at 20% per year. Can't they restructure the debt to a more reasonable figure?


Sent to New York Times

Judge Michael O'Neill

Surely Mr. O'Neill's own words confirm his unsuitability for a position in the Federal judiciary.

He claims that his poor work methods led him to confuse his own work with that of others. Such poor work methods are unacceptable in a Federal judge. The essence of the judicial temperament is the ability to keep clear what the law says, what the plaintiff's lawyer claims the law to be, and what the defendant's lawyer claims the law to be. Mr. O'Neill has amply demonstrated his inability to keep such distinctions straight.

Mr. Bush should withdraw his nomination immediately.

Sent to New York Times

Just Following Orders

Americans have never accepted the Nuremberg defense of "I was just following orders" -- until now.

If the new FISA bill passes the Senate next week, it will allow the telecommunication companies to plead, just as the Nazis did, that they were just following orders from the government. This will be sufficient for them to avoid accountability for their illegal actions.

It is shameful that an American law contains this defense. It is imperative that the clauses embodying the Nuremberg defense be removed from the bill before it passes.

Sent to the New York Times

Some one Else's Alex

Mr Kristol deliberately misinterprets the MoveOn.org advertisement (Someone Else's Alex. New York Times, June 23, 2008: A25)

The mother is saying that Mr. McCain can't have her son Alex for this war, the Iraq war. She is not talking about the general defense of the United States.

It does not seem to me selfish to refuse to participate in an unjust war. This war was foisted on the American people by a President who selfishly lied about the causi belli so he could attain an important place in history. This war has been a pig trough for many contractors who selfishly placed their employees on the payroll of overseas subsidiaries so that they would not have to pay US taxes.

This was has been, until recently, a disaster in its execution because the generals of the high command refused to speak truth to the President about the troop levels needed so they could selfishly retain their positions; none wanted to follow the example of General Shinseki, a true patriot who paid the price of a curtailed career for telling us the truth.

Finally, all of us have selfishly carried on with business as usual, refusing to pay higher taxes to cover the costs of the war. Alex, our children and our grandchildren will have to pay the price.

Sent to New York Times

Constitutional Crisis

It seems to me that we are coming up to a severe constitutional crisis.

We have a president who lied to get us into the Iraq war. A president who lied by blaming torture at Abu Ghraib on some "bad apples" in the lower ranks of the military. Most seriously of all, we have a President who, if Sabin Willet is to be believed (Doing Battle with Due Process, Boston Globe, June 23, 2008: A15) is lying about former prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. The President claims that after their release, by the administration, they have "returned to the fight." According to Willet, the most that two of these former detainees have done is write or speak about their treatment in the prison at Guantanamo. Is this President really telling us that the Pen is mightier than the Sword.

How do we deal with a President who is a habitual liar? The Democrats in this election year have no stomach for impeachment, but to allow this presidency of deceit to continue is unacceptable. The President must do something else unconstitutional: he must set up a bipartisan council of Presidential advisors who will be responsible for vetting the veracity of all his utterances -- preferably before he makes them.

In this way, we can be assured that any policy initiatives undertaken by the current administration will be based upon verified facts rather than on the lies that have, up till now, been the hallmark of this administration.

Sent to Boston Globe

Obama's Financing Flip-Flop

Most commentators seem to agree that, by rejecting Public Financing, Barack Obama will continue to drive an enormous fund-raising machine.

I would not be so sure. Many of us were attracted to Obama because he supported public financing of elections. If we decide to close our checkbooks, as I am sorely tempted to do after his defection, he may find it more difficult to raise money for his campaign.

It is a great pity that he did not stick to his original commitment to accept public funding for his general election campaign.

Sent to Boston Globe

Obama's Financing Flip-Flop

Most commentators seem to agree that, by rejecting Public Financing, Barack Obama will continue to drive an enormous fund-raising machine.

I would not be so sure. Many of us were attracted to Obama because he supported public financing of elections. If we decide to close our checkbooks, as I am sorely tempted to do after his defection, he may find it more difficult to raise money for his campaign.

It is a great pity that he did not stick to his original commitment to accept public funding for his general election campaign.

Sent to Boston Globe

Obama's Flip-Flop

How do we deal with a leader who has let us down badly -- especially when he is the only reasonable choice?

Barack Obama promised to take Public Funding for the general election. He has now reneged on that promise because he says "The system is broken." It may well be but you don't help fix it by promising to do one thing (abide by the system) and then do something quite different.

As a supporter of public financing for elections, I will still vote for him. I am ambivalent about giving him any more money. I want to punish him for reneging on his promise, but if too many of us take that route then he may not be competitive with Senator McCain. What a horrible dilemma.

Browning's words about William Wordsworth resonate with me today:

"Just for a handful of silver he left us,
Just for a riband to stick in his coat--
Found the one gift of which fortune bereft us,
Lost all the others she lets us devote;
. . .
One wrong more to man, one more insult to God!"

Sent to New York Times

Luggage Charges

Of course the airlines have got it all wrong (Accessorize Like an Ascetic, Week In Review, June 15, 2008: A2). They should be charging people who want to bring large bags into the cabin, not charging for checking them in the hold. That would make planing and deplaning much easier. But of course that might upset their business travellers who can't be bothered to wait at a slowly primed luggage carousel.

Sent to New York Times