Naked Neighbors

What if I told you I was going to punch you in the face sometime in the future?

What would you give up to spare this unfortunate collision of knuckles and nose? A dollar? A twenty? Would you invest in a face mask, helmet and Kevlar vest? Would you stay at home and never come out? Would you give a stranger naked pictures of yourself  in exchange for a vague promise of protection? Actually I’m guessing you probably would just tell me to f-off, and/or punch me in the face depending on how hard core you were.

But, what if my name was Osama-Omari-Middle Eastern-Dark-Skinned-Man-with-a-Turban?

And what if Fox, CSPAN and Obama said that I was going to kill you, your family, and any cute floppy-eared puppies in the vicinity of your house? What would you give up then to spare this unfortunate collision of jet-liner with jenny & rover? It’s likely you would go all out, screw a $20, you’d give $2,000. Hell, you’d probably give naked pictures of yourself to all sorts of strangers in return for a vague promise of protection.

Actually, it seems that  you already are! Full body scanners, all the rage of the day, are taking off like co-workers on a Friday. Basically, if a low-income home owner or Mexican hasn’t already caused you to lose your job and you have some money to play with, you should invest in Rapiscan- one of two federally approved manufactures of full body scanners in the USA .

( I would give you their stock symbol, but Google finance says that’s private.  ERRrr? )

So let’s cut the chase and get to the point here. Basically some guy from Nigeria, whose parents forewarned the U.S. Government about his diabolic intentions, got on a plane and tried to blow up his underwear. The United State’s response? Obama made up a list of 14 “naughty countries” including the major island-nation of Cuba, USA-run Iraq, and reigning nuclear heavy weight Algeria; from now on, anyone flying to the USA from these terroristic nations will have to go through additional screening mechanisms.

In addition, with absolutely, positively no pressure from the United States government or corporate interests, several European nations are stepping up their use of full body scanners on passengers planning to fly to the United States from terror hotspots like Italy, Britain, and the notorious Netherlands.

(Some countries though are dragging their feet however, with Germany stating that before they use such scanners they want the ridiculous assurances that: “they increase security, that they are not a health hazard, and that the scans do to not harm the individuals’s rights)

So what’s the problem with these scanners? Well honestly it’s not that big of a deal, but let’s look at a few:

1)  Some guy takes a picture of you. Naked.

While it’s true that if you are uncomfortable with this technology you can request TSA personnel to personally grope you instead, there’s no guarantee this user-friendly alternative will always be an option.

You might say big deal, sucks to fly to the United States from somewhere else, but the fact is, these scanners have been tested in the US since 2003 and are already operational in 40 major US airports including:  Dallas, Baltimore, Denver, Tampa, Salt Lake City, Las Vegas, Miami, Phoenix San Francisco and Richmond.

2) There is no way to guarantee a passenger’s privacy. Officials say that personnel reviewing the Passengers Gone Wild! images sit in a remote room, will not see a distinguishable face and cannot save or print the images. Sounds great. Then why do I know what Susan Hallowell looks like naked? And how come this guy’s baby maker is on full display?

I highly doubt that Beyonce or President Obama (or me) are going to go through these scanners and the image won’t turn up somewhere.

3) How about this one: are we going to take naked scans of kids? 10 year old Johnny? 6 year old Susie?  Don’t think so? Wait till we get child bombers. Or what about the Muslim women who don’t even reveal their face in public? Are we going to tell them if they want to come to the US we have to check out their goods first? That’s going to make us a lot of Middle-Eastern friends.

4) Or how about health? Don’t the X-ray and MRI technicians always slap a lead vest on you and hide in the next room when they take scans?  These airport scanners are full body and last at least 15 seconds.  Free cancer with every 1,000 frequent flier miles!

5) Here’s another problem- follow the money. The former head of Homeland Security who has been pushing the government to purchase more of these scanners has just admitted that he has a consulting relationship with a full body scanner manufacturer. I’m willing to bet he’s not the only politician, past or present, that stands to gain from this lucrative business- each of these machines are retailing at over $170k, and the TSA just ordered 150 of them with plans to buy another 300.

Okay, so if you’ve stuck with me this long, now I get to the real issues, the aforementioned issues are really just sensationalistic fluff for those of you who saw the word “naked” on facebook and clicked on over.  The real problems are the deeper currents of growing government intrusion in our lives in the name of “security”.

Throughout history, the rights of people in this nation have been compromised for the “safety of the nation”. It seems to me that this line of reasoning got lots of nice Japanese folks kidnapped and locked up on the west coast during WWII.

It Seems to me that this got us a 1,000 page Patriot Act passed in the middle of the night after 9/11. And it seems now that its setting us on the proverbial and terribly cliché “slippery slope” of absolute governmental control over our selves. Nothing is more fundamental than our bodies. Without a right to the autonomy of our own body all other struggles are futile.

Today a guy sticks a bomb in his underwear and we wind up with naked imagery as a solution. This will be about as effectual as building a picket fence with Mexico to keep out immigrants. Know why? Because tomorrow some misguided soul is going to stick a bomb up their rectum- out of the reach of a body scanner. Then what? Full cavity searches for all passengers, spread your leg’s please mam?  Or some jackoff is going to swallow a chemical compound and then we are all going to have to purge in a personal bucket we can reclaim at the security clearance window, two heaves please sir?

Sure it is easy to sit in my cozy terror-free apartment enjoying a slice of sweet potato pie and criticize those who would sacrifice our liberties in the name of our safety

After all I wasn’t on Flights 11, 175, 77, or 93 in 2001, and I wasn’t on Flight 253 this past Christmas—but it is easier still to change the channel,  to turn off the radio, to close the webpage when I come upon a thorny issue that’s not easily reduced to black and white.  So perched up here on my soapbox, do I have some grand plan for national security? No, (actually I do)  but what I do know is that when we accept rapid national adoption of reactionary policies that infringe upon our liberty in order to negate  undefinable threats, we do ourselves a disservice as human beings and as thoughtful engaged citizens.

People are quick to jump on the bandwagon decrying how our government failed to protect us and let a terrorist slip through their fingers. I disagree. It is no more reasonable for us to believe the government can ensure 100% exclusion of foreigners who would do as harm, than it was for China to believe the Great Wall was going to keep all the Mongols out.

I will however, jump on the bandwagon of people who fault our government for not doing more to proactively reach out to the world in a positive way.  Here’s one idea- establish a Department of Peace– the legislation  has been raised in Congress over 100 times since 1935- including the last 8 consecutive years (yeah Kucinich!) .  

This singular act would do more for our security than 1,000 naked pictures ever could

You know what f- -k, it, I’m being too idealistic. For our children’s future, let’s all just get anal probes and start a war with Yemen.


Further resources:

Petition against body scanners


Warm & cuddly video on body scanners


Too Late, New York

346px-crimesvg Today the United States Supreme Court upheld a ruling on the statute of limitations. The case in a question- a double homicide, kidnapping, rape, molestation, embezzlement, and grant theft auto, was originally brought by the New York City District Attorney against “John Doe” late last year.

On October 1st, 2008, Mr. Doe, allegedly rushed into the Federal Reserve Bank of Manhattan wielding semi-automatic weapons. Apparently Mr. Doe had been embezzling money from various charities, and was seeking to destroy the financial records of the money transfers to his account.

After storming through the front door, and being told by the teller that she “didn’t have access” to his records, he shot and killed her. The security guard, too fell victim to Mr. Doe, as he unleashed a barrage of bullets at him. Mr. Doe, unsatisfied with his inability to erase his records, in a fit of rage demanded that the manager empty the contents of 6 drawers into his canvas bag, before ordering the manager out of the bank and onto the street at gunpoint.

Once he was outside the bank, Mr. Doe then pulled over a vehicle, firing 3 shots through the windshield at the elderly driver, Ms. Patterson, an 80-year old resident of Manhattan, who suffered minor injuries, described the criminal as “a crazy young man”. Authorities say, that Mr. Doe then forced the manager to drive to his home, where Mr. Doe then allegedly raped and molested various members of the manager’s family, whose names are not being released at this time.

The saga finally ended just over a month later, in November when authorities were able to track down and arrest Mr. Doe, following a tip from a neighbor who was worried by the the “bloodied clothing” she saw Mr. Doe disposing of. The various victims of Mr. Doe’s crime scheme were later shocked though, when the NY District Attorney’s case against Mr. Doe was thrown out of court by the judge, because the “statute of limitations bars the bringing of any civil or criminal charges against Mr. Doe; despite the seemingly heinous nature of his actions”.

It turns out that New York had an old, obscure law on the books that prevents the bringing of civil or criminal charges by the state against any resident for actions that took place over 30 days prior to their arrest. This little known law, referred to as Code 47-32, is an egregious example of statute of limitations gone wrong.

Despite the lives he destroyed on that fateful October day, Mr. Doe is apparently set to walk free next week, with the Supreme Court ordering not only his immediate release, but also compensation for the time he was “unlawfully incarcerated”. As charges cannot be brought against Mr. Doe, authorities have cautioned against using the 35-year old’s name in print, as his lawyers are expected to bring a defamation suit against the state.

Okay, so if you’ve read this far, you are likely floored by the absurdity of a known criminal who wreaked so much havoc through his actions, being allowed to walk free after 30 days because the “statute of limitations” have expired.

Before you get up in arms, I caution you, you will not find this story elsewhere online because I made it up. But, before you put your arms down, I say to you this is simply an exaggeration to demonstrate a very real problem with our judicial system.

Today on NPR I heard a story about a rabbi who molested a young boy twice a week for over two months. Years later when the boy told his parent about the abuse, the parents confront the school officials, who agreed to fire the rabbi.  However, 1 week after the boy turned 23, and the statute of limitations for civil or criminal suit expired, the school hired the rabbi back. I was dumbfounded by the absurdity of this, and then I thought of Lilly Ledbetter.

At the signing of the new anti-wage discrimination bill, I was struck by how ridiculous the whole situation was. There, on national T.V., at the White House, the President of the United States of America acknowledged that Goodyear had wronged her, broke the law even, but that there was nothing he, or anyone else could do about it (the supreme court really threw out her case due to the statute of limitations).

How can our system of justice protect wrong doers from prosecution simply because of a statute of limitations? If someone commits a crime and hurts another, it makes no sense to release them from liability because a certain amount of time has passed. Essentially the message here is- breaking the law is a crime- unless you get away with it for “x” years.

While the story I told above is a dramitization, the implications are real. We need to reform our penal code to protect victims of crimes, not the perpetrators.


A rose by any other name

rose1 Shakespeare so eloquently once stated: “A rose by any other name would smell just as sweet”. We ought to take this sentiment to heart when considering the nature of the “economic stimulus” legislation working its way through congress right now.

For once, the republicans have got it right (sort of). Many have decried provisions in the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act not as stimulus items, but as projects that democrats simply think would be a good idea. What exactly do they mean?

One representative drew a useful analogy:  former Treasury Secretary Paulson asked for funds in order to relieve banks of “toxic assets”, to which congress promptly responded by passing the Troubled Asset Relief Program (aka TARP- an apt acronym since congressional leaders evidently thought they could simply pull a financial tarp over the deep, systemic economic wounds the nation was suffering from). Then, once he got the money, Paulson decided that he actually didn’t want to buy toxic assets, but rather distribute the funds in a different fashion. So the problem is Paulson said he wanted the money for one thing (asset relief), but then used it on another.

In the same way, republican are accusing the democrats of simply pushing through funding under one name (stimulus), when they are actually pursing another goal (an agenda). A few examples: $20 billion for health information technology, $350 for military research on alternative energy usage for weaponry, $900 million to prepare for a pandemic influenza, $150 million for a repair backlog at the Smithsonian, etc…

Of course all of this spending will stimulate the economy in some way, but so would investing $250 million in toilet paper research. The question isn’t whether these programs will stimulate the economy- but whether they are the best vehicle for doing so. So what is the republican answer? Well, some of them are calling for massive tax cuts- one even proposed that all income tax be suspended for a year. The argument there is that American consumers can best stimulate the economy by  putting money in their pockets.

There are of course  a couple of problems with this philosophy, first and foremost- the previous stimulus payments made directly to consumers had very little demonstrative impact on the economy as many (wisely) choose to apply the money towards their debt burdens.  It is a reasonable assumption that in tough economic times as these, if Americans have more disposable income by way of reduced taxes they are not suddenly going to run out and purchase a new Prius, but rather pay down their debt, other obligations, or save the money. The net effect of these tax cuts would likely only enrich banks/creditors further, and only mildly stimulate the economy.

After the first round of $350 billion, the banks hardly showed an inclination towards resuming credit and investment, so it is unwise to assume that tax cuts that would largely benefit creditors would help get us out of the recession. A further point to consider is, whether the American people have been consulted on this notion of reducing taxes during a recession. By presumably borrowing money from foreign investors and making consumers involuntarily take the proceeds, we are in effect giving the American consumer a foreign backed credit card they didn’t ask for, without knowing the true future costs of that credit.

After all, if American’s really did go out and purchase big-macs, flat screen t.v.’s and Hummers, is that really how we want to try to stimulate the economy? More moderate republicans have suggested that while tax relief is indeed part of the solution, a greater part of the stimulus legislation should be focused on public infrastructure- and I tend to agree. Construction and repair of buildings, roads, homes, highways and public facilities should comprise a significant portion of the  economic stimulus as this will not only create long term benefits to the American people, but it will also immediately generate jobs and income.

The scope of the infrastructure projects that could be undertaken would be limited only by how much of the $825 billion was reserved for such purposes. Obama might be well advised to move towards a Tennessee Valley Authority or Civilian Conservation Corps type program as part of an economic stimulus. However all of this is not to say that the vast majority of spending in the stimulus legislation isn’t valuable, and  indeed necessary to the development of our nation, because it is; and it is certainly not to say that the republicans should be let off the hook and hailed as visionaries.

What Obama should do, is pursue a true program of economic stimulus spending on one hand, and then in another round of sweeping legislation, introduce and pass all of the other types of spending under a new “New Deal” type of contract with America. This would range from spending on education to healthcare to social services, and could represent a bold new policy agenda of which funding for these programs would be the beginning.

The benefit of such a strategy would be two-fold. First, if the democrats simply used the remaining $350 billion of TARP money for true economic stimulus side-by-side with separate, “New Deal” legislation that contained investment in all of the other programs they are seeking to fund, they would still get what they wanted: economic stimulus, and a new policy direction for the nation.

Second, and perhaps more strategic, by going along with republican demands that the stimulus solely consist of tax cuts and infrastructure programs they would demonstrate bi-partisanship, and then when seeking funding for a “New Deal”, they could expose the republican opposition for what it truly is: ideological opposition to spending on social services, alternative energy options, and in general, progressive, liberal programs. By removing spending for these programs from the tough-to-defend label of “economic stimulus”, republicans would only have ideological arguments to fall back on when voting against such programs.

By calling their bluff, republicans would look quite foolish in front of the American people denying the necessity of investment in education, alternative energy, health care and social service programs, during our worst economic downturn since the depression. But by trying to sneak funding for these programs in under the label of “economic stimulus” democrats try to subvert the legislative process, call the spending something its not, and give the republicans something to hide behind.

For too long, republicans have beaten the democrats at rhetoric, spin, and in general, the political game. If the democrats and the Obama administration are serious about a new mandate for America, they need to be smart and deliberate about their decisions.

After all, if we get an economic stimulus, and our social programs under different names, won’t they still smell just as sweet?


Today I stood for the Star Spangled Banner

american-flagOften chided by my foreign-born girlfriend for my cynical tirades about the state of America without giving credit to the multitude of freedoms and opportunities available within our borders, I usually acknowledge that yes, I do live in a great country, and it is marvelous that I am able to freely criticize the government without (too much) fear of retribution. Then I talk about how it is patriotic to critique our leaders, and why it is important to not just engage in “feel-good reflections” about the state of our nation while only casting a quick and furtive glance to the dark pages of our domestic and foreign policy playbook.

Today, however, I do feel compelled to express my gratitude for living in this nation. There is a lot to be bitter about, and there is much room for improvement, but watching President Obama address the nation and the world, I took solace in the fact that, even if he falls short of his lofty goals, that the nation choose to elect a leader who so forthrightly proclaimed to the world:

To the Muslim world, we seek a new way forward, based on mutual interest and mutual respect. To those leaders around the globe who seek to sow conflict, or blame their society’s ills on the West – know that your people will judge you on what you can build, not what you destroy. To those who cling to power through corruption and deceit and the silencing of dissent, know that you are on the wrong side of history; but that we will extend a hand if you are willing to unclench your fist.

To the people of poor nations, we pledge to work alongside you to make your farms flourish and let clean waters flow; to nourish starved bodies and feed hungry minds. And to those nations like ours that enjoy relative plenty, we say we can no longer afford indifference to suffering outside our borders; nor can we consume the world’s resources without regard to effect.

I am cautiously optimistic that in the coming years we will see a strengthening of civil liberties, a broadening of social protections, and a multilateral approach to foreign policy. For now,  I can say I am proud to belong to United States of America and hopeful about our future.


Socialism’s Sinister Strategies

spa-spaglobelogo2In the closing days of the campaign I heard a phrase being thrown around with a fervor not seen since Joseph McCarthy was providing his valuable service to the nation. The word? SOCIALISM. Kind of has an evil ring to it. Almost like racism or sexism, only much worse.

Clearly socialism is terrible. Everyone says so. So I decided to take a look at some of the sinister strategies of the demagogues over at the Socialist Party USA headquarter’s:

The Socialist Party is committed to full freedom of speech, assembly, press, and religion, and to a multi-party system. We are dedicated to the abolition of male supremacy and class society, and to the elimination of all forms of oppression, including those based on race, national origin, age, sexual preferences, and disabling conditions.

Very clever. Clearly this is only true in certain situations. Let’s read on:

Bigotry and discrimination help the ruling class divide, exploit, and abuse workers here and in the Third World. The Socialist Party works to eliminate prejudice and discrimination in all its forms.

Okay, well moving on from this silly rhetoric let’s talk about foreign policy. Maybe the socialists are nice to each other, but surely not to their neighbors.

The Socialist Party calls for ending of the war and occupation in Iraq and Afghanistan and bringing all the troops home now!

Whatever, lots of people want to get out of those countries. What do the socialists REALLY think about war?

The U.S. government uses its overwhelming military power to consolidate its strategic hold over the entire world and to defend and advance the interests of U.S. owned corporations as they exploit the working people and natural resources of the entire planet. We stand in total opposition to U.S. imperialism and the current “war on terror” which is just another subterfuge for U.S. imperialism.

People around the world have more in common with each other than with their rulers. We condemn war, preparation for war, and the militaristic culture because they play havoc with people’s lives and divert resources from constructive social projects. Militarism also concentrates even greater power in the hands of the few, the powerful and the violent.

Heh, heh. Ahem. Okay, so maybe they got us on that one. But what about MONEY? Isn’t that what its all about? The government pillaging  Joe the Plumber?

We call for a minimum wage of $15 per hour, indexed to the cost of living.

Those damn guys have an answer for everything. How about this: What if Joe the Plumber happens to be really, really, really rich? Like what if he is a CEO making 400 times what the average line worker makes? What then smarty pants?

We call for a steeply graduated income tax and a steeply graduated estate tax, and a maximum income of no more than ten times the minimum.

Well that just takes the cake. How is 1% of the United States population supposed to maintain 47% of the nation’s wealth under a silly policy like that? Whatever, moving along. How about health care? That’s probably one of the greatest sins of socialism…

We support a national health program with full standard and alternative medical, dental, vision, and mental health coverage for all, publicly funded through progressive taxation and controlled by democratically elected assemblies of health care workers and patients. The National Health Program should extend, and replace, Medicare and Medicaid. We call for a health care system that emphasizes preventative care, respects patient’s privacy, gives special attention to the needs of the physically and mentally disabled, and conducts treatment and research unimpared by sexism, racism, and homophobia.

Unbelievable. These people support gays? Bet they are tree hugers too.

The U.S. must immediately return to participation in international agreements, such as the Kyoto Protocol, limiting carbon emissions, and accept a major role in worldwide efforts to control global warming.

Great idea geniuses. That will cost us. At least we can still lean on developing nations for cash… right?

We demand cancellation of Third World debt. We call for the United States to pay off its debt to the United Nations.

Damn. Well, if we can’t trample on other nations can we at least Drill Baby Drill !?

We call for the development of alternative energy sources includign solar, geothermal, wind, hydropower, and biomass to end dependence on fossil fuels.

Okay I’m done. These folks are ridiculous. Now I understand why socialism is evil, and sinister and stuff. The crazy kooks are all about “justice“, and “equality“, and namby pamby things like “eliminating oppression” and “equal rights“. Oooh they’re so progressive. If they’re so great, why don’t they make a song about themselves?

Okay, now this is just getting out of hand. Before we know it we are going to be swimming in a socialist sea of swine! We must band together comrades, err, I meant friends, and fight off this evil menace!

Let us stand up and make sure that socialist theories are never incorporated into American politics!

NO UNIVERSAL HEALTH CARE!!!! (like in every other industrialized nation in the world who all happen to suck. Even if the World Health Organization ranks us 37th in the world in terms of meeting the health needs of our people)

MAINTAIN CORPORATE POWER!!!! (Lehman, Enron & Exon care about the little guy. Corporations are inherently benevolent)

DOWN WITH “WEALTH REDISTRIBUTION!!! (taxes bad. taxes are like murder. cold blooded murder. they’re almost as bad as that one time when they killed that Jesus guy)


Okay, so here’s the deal. I just made a case for socialism. I painted it as all nice & fluffy & conveniently culled quotes from their web page to make it look good. I even ignored some not-so convenient historic examples. In short- I only presented one side of the argument. Awful of me eh?

I would suggest that the real question at the end of the day is not whether a tremendous smear job has been done against socialist ideas, or whether I put lipstick on a pig called socialist sally. The question is whether Americans can bring themselves to consider ideas that are, *gasp* foreign.

Can we embrace the reality that we are imperfect and we can learn from the rest of the world?

Is socialism perfect? Far from it. Has evil come from it? Surely. Are the answers any different for capitalism?

The truth of the matter is we have already adopted socialist ideologies throughout our lives and just don’t realize it. Who pays to support the local library? Everybody. Who gets to use it? Everybody. Who pays to support the police and fire departments? Everybody. Who gets to use it? Everybody.

So the reality is, we have accepted the notion that sometimes its okay for everyone to pay for something, and then everyone to benefit. The trouble begins, when someone suggests that we take something for profit (say health care) and then suggest that everybody pays for it, and everybody benefits. Middlemen don’t like this very much, so neither should you. After all, Ronald Regan said so.



Policies for People

kids-diverseWhat’s a president to do? War, crime, poverty, education system, veterans benefits, social security,  human rights, Guantanamo bay, financial crisis, blight, sprawl, child abuse, elder abuse, animal abuse, cronyism, corruption,  war profiteerism, racism, sexism, xenophobia, homophobia, nuclear weapons, chemical warfare, suicide bombings, school shootings, blood diamonds, genocide, Israel/Palestine, Russia/Georgia, India/Pakistan, Iraq/Iran, North Korea/South Korea, child soldiers, slavery, sex trafficking, drugs, guns, health care, welfare, Chinese goods, missile defense systems, guided missile systems, Africa….

This is the world we live in, and for most of us, more often the world we indirectly observe…I asked readers before what the next president ought to focus on, and I’ve made humorous suggestions. But as Obama begins putting together his next administration, the time for surveys and satire are no longer enough. Here begins an Agenda for America* that I will forward to the President Elect after refinement and further exploration:

In 1943, Abraham Maslow wrote a paper entitled “A Theory of Human Motivation”; out of this paper came the famed Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs. For those unfamiliar, Maslow theorized that human behavior exists along a continuum motivated and influenced by individual needs. He suggested that as basic needs are met, people are able to move on towards securing the next set of needs. Here is a graphic representation:


I believe that there is merit to Maslow’s ideas, and since: 1-The principle role of the government is to provide for the safety and security of its people, and 2- The government made a promise that all have a right to pursue “life, liberty, and happiness”, I would argue that there is a compelling reason for the government to center its priorities around helping Americans secure their essential needs, while also providing a national environment where the pursuit of higher needs is actively supported.

*This Plan is Primarily Domestic in Nature

Policies for Physiological Needs:

These policies should be designed to ensure the stable and equitable distribution of food, water, and shelter.


The National Housing Trust Fund, which will be used for the production and repair of affordable housing, has its funding source currently tied to Sallie Mae & Freddie Mac revenues. A more secure funding source should be directed towards this Trust Fund, so that as the economy falls and home sales diminish, more, not less money is invested in housing.

The Neighborhood Stabilization Program is one step in the right direction designed to provide immediate relief to troubled states, but the funding should paid on an annual basis, as opposed to a one time payment.

In urban centers, fighting urban blight is an essential component towards creating stable neighborhoods and livable environments. Further, the administration shall adopt a policy to end homelessness that will be vigorously pursued regardless of cost. Part of this strategy should include the construction of more shelters, assisted living facilities, transitional housing, supportive housing and other special needs housing units in accordance with need in distinct geographic tracts.

Additional Low Income Housing Tax Credits shall be dispersed by the government to aid in the construction of affordable housing developments. Serious regulation shall be put on the lending and finance industry, and a pragmatic look needs to be taken at eviction and foreclosure regulations.

Existing affordable housing programs such as Section 8 should be increased in scope, and areas with the longest list of eligible applicants for affordable housing should receive priority funding through the National Housing Trust Fund.


The government should charge the FDA with establishing a basic, healthy, and sustainable diet plans for various demographics of the population (elderly, children, etc). The costs of these sample meal plans shall be directly tied to food subsidies such as WIC and Food Stamps.

The FDA should also create a policy that imposes an internal tariff of sorts on the sale of unhealthy foods, while at the same time, creating incentives and policies that reduce the cost of healthy foods, fruits and vegetables. Additionally, tax breaks should be provided to food vendors to encourage the expansion of healthy food retailers into underserved communities.

The government should require states to set aside of pot of money to be distributed to food banks and soup kitchens in accordance with local needs.

Subsidies should be given to farmers where necessary to maintain stabilize food prices.


The government should engage in a vigorous review of anti-pollution & dumping laws, and impose stringent penalties on companies that violate established rules.

Policies should be pursued that encourage private investment in technologies that would make the conversion of saltwater into drinkable water less expensive.

In order to prepare for emergencies, each state should establish a federally supported food/water bank.

Building codes for temporary shelters (FEMA trailers, etc) should be revised to insure the safety & security of those who use them.

Policies for Safety & Security

These policies should be designed to ensure the safety of the individual and the nation.


Over a period of time, due to aggressive and progressive poverty reduction tactics, coupled with a myriad of other social supports, a strong education system, and more equitable distribution of income, we can expect to see crime rates fall. However, until that time, several policies should be undertaken.

An aggressive, evidence based model of rehabilitation should be employed for all incarcerated individuals. Gun control laws should be largely returned to the states, with the exception of a few basic federal regulations. This will allow for policies that make sense in different geographic regions to be implemented.

Stronger hate crime legislation should be enacted, and the Elder Abuse Act should be passed. Additionally, white-collar crime that impacts the public should be more vigorously investigated and prosecuted, with harsher penalties.

Discriminatory sentencing disparities should be eliminated- such as crack/cocaine laws. Further, a judicial review of the sentencing patterns of courts in capital and other criminal cases should be undertaken. Jurisdictions with conviction and sentencing patterns heavily skewed should be temporarily put under a moratorium, and plans should be established to reduce the disparities.


Employment is central to personal fulfillment for many people, and full, equitable employment will reduce the need for excessive social spending. Any individual who wants to work should be able to find work, and the government should put together a federal employment program for individuals out of work. This program should be modeled after the Tennessee Valley Authority Program (out of the Great Depression), with projects largely designed around infrastructure repair/creation. For other skill sets, the program should also include community building aspects.

A basic living wage should be established and required in metropolitan areas and states.


A universal health care system should be established which complies with the Institute of Medicines 5 Principles for Health Care Reform:

1- Health care coverage should be universal- it should cover everybody

2- Health care coverage should be continuous, portable from job to job, and regardless of employment status.

3- Health care coverage should be affordable to individuals and families.

4- Health care insurance should be affordable and sustainable to society.

5- health care coverage should enhance health and well-being by promoting access to high-quality care that is effective, efficient, safe, timely, patient-centered, and equitable.

Under this plan, the following services should be covered: hospitals, health facilities, health care professionals, physicians, labs, diagnostic imaging, dentistry, medication, vision, mental health, preventative care, rehabilitation, durable medical equipment, eye glasses, hearing aids, immunizations, blood, dialysis, home health care, emergency care, podiatry, long term care, chiropractic, adult day care, substance abuse, nursing facilities, ambulance transport, language interpretation and hospice care (modeled after California One Care).

Additional funding for scientific research of diseases, and related health studies (including stem-cell research), should be supported.


Family planning services should be made available at public health centers, and laws protecting the right for women to have an abortion should be put in place. Child care should be made available for all children through the age of 16. This can be accomplished by the establishment of federally funded child care centers with affordable rates, or for families that live in areas without a federal child care center, vouchers should be offered for use at private day care centers.

The federal government should establish the right for individuals with children under the age of 18 to take up to 12 paid “family” days per year.


In order to protect individual’s right to property, more stringent burdens must be placed on any governmental entity that would seek to take over private property though eminent domain. Private property owners who allow their property to sit vacant, used, abandoned, or blighted for longer than an established period of time, may have their property co-opted by local land banks for the purpose of building affordable housing. Compensation for this seizure shall be at a rate below market value.

Areas currently established as Native American reservations should have legislation forever maintaining that status. Funding for the upkeep of such properties shall be allocated annually by the federal government.

Individuals who purchase manufactured housing and reside in a mobile home park shall be given a deed to the land upon which their home rests. This will prevent the sale of these parks for private development and eviction of tenants without just compensation.


The Department of Defense, originally named the Department of War, should be re-designated as the the Department of International Relations. The department should develop plans for promoting peace and stable relations with foreign nations, as well as realistic defense protocols. This will immediately promote the safety and security of all Americans.

Policies for Self Fulfillment (Love, Belonging, Self-esteem, Self-actualization)

After basic needs for survival are obtained, human beings seek to progress and develop. These developments include: inclusion in a welcoming community, self-esteem, and eventual development of one’s full potential. The following policies should aid American’s in their obtainment of these needs.


Every child in America shall be guaranteed high quality education. All schools will be federally assessed on several levels: Physical condition/environment, Physical resources (books/facilities), Quality of Instruction,  & Educational Achievement. Unlike the punitive No-child left behind policy, this extensive review of all public schools will be used to allocate and redistribute resources among schools.

The practice funding of public schools with local properties taxes shall be abolished and replaced with a state tax. The combined pool of taxes will be distributed to all schools within that state according to their needs as established by the aforementioned study.

Every state’s public universities and colleges shall be tuition free. Students may continue to receive grants, scholarships and loans to pay for related expenses: housing/books/transportation, etc. Universities will reimbursed for tuition by the state at a pre-established rate per student.

Community Development

The federal government should pass a law requiring certain community resources per a given population; i.e. for every “X” number of individuals in a city/town, “x” number of libraries, community centers, recreation centers, artistic venues, and other essential community resources should be available. The construction of such facilities should be considered an eligible project under the aforementioned government employment program. Priority for such jobs will be given to local residents.

Volunteer Programs

Funding for domestic volunteer programs such as Teach for America and AmeriCorps should be increased and widely publicized. Assistance for individuals who are unable to participate due to financial constraints should be eligible to apply for assistance for certain expenses such as airfare.

Civil Liberties

Defending the psychological safety of Americans is equally important as their physical security, so serious policies should be implemented to curb current practices.The oppressive Patriot Act shall be repealed, and policies such as domestic wiretapping should be closely monitored. The Terrorist Watch list, with nearly 1 million identified Americans should be seriously pared.

The Department of Homeland Security should be abolished, and fear inducing strategies such as the color-coded terror level system should be prohibited. The use of the military within the nation’s borders should cease, and domestic police forces should be closely monitored for abuse.

**This Agenda for America represents a rough sketch for how the United States government should actively work to ensure the safety and security of all Americans, while also promoting the ability for all to pursue life, liberty and happiness. I welcome comments and feedback before I forward this Agenda to the President Elect Obama.


Election 2008- The Winners & Losers

Now that the dust is beginning to settle, lets take a look at who the real winners and losers are following this campaign season:

sarah-palin-headshotSarah Palin, Winner

After decrying her critics as “jerks”, Palin remains the party’s favorite for a 2012 run for President.

ma27-homeless1-1004yLower Class, Loser

Joe-six-pack, Joe-the-pumber, and yes, bob-the-builder have been in the spotlight for the past few months. And why not? They are apparently the only people in the country who matter. I can’t think of a single reference to the “lower class” during the debates, or election cycle in general.

alaska_thumbnailAlaska, Winner

Alaska, that pesky state that curiously sits somewhere in the south pacific in all our maps, has risen to a level of national prominence not seen since it first became a state 50 years ago. Alaska’s love for loyalty has become unrivalved across America, as Senator Ted Stevens, recently convicted on 7 felony counts, has likely been re-elected to the Senate. If so, he’ll become the first felon elected to the Senate in history.

alg_turmoil_pollsElection System, Loser

Hours long waiting lines, malfunctioning equipment, voter intimidation, voter fraud,  varying voting requirements, a confusing electoral college- America’s outmoded election system has shown its flaws over the last few elections. Out with the old, in with a new federalized system.

barack_obama_head_shot1Barack Obama, Winner

An excellent orator & a thoughtful intellectual, Barack Obama garnered 52% of the popular vote- the highest of all time for any non-incumbent Democrat. Obama has united and excited the nation in a way not seen before, and is poised to become a great president.

republican_logoRepublicans, Loser

In this election, Republicans lost at least 20 seats in the house (50 since the 2006 elections), and so far- 6 seats in the senate. For the first time in decades, Democrats control the presidency, the senate, and the house. Many noteworthy republicans snubbed the party in endorsing Obama for President, and some are even predicting a split of the republicans into two parties- the republicans, and the conservatives.

. mccain-head-shot John McCain, Winner

In the span of three short minutes, McCain managed to gain my respect for a tasteful & appropriate concession speech. A cancer survivor at the age of of 72,  McCain can gracefully retire after the completion of his senate term.

guns008 Guns, Winner

Following Barak Obama’s election, gun sales have soared. Many gun shops report sales rising by 30% or more, as people fear a Barakdown on gun ownership

barack_obama_head_shotBarack Obama, Loser

After becoming the historic President Elect, Barack Obama has just inherited a whole lotta trouble: the economy, two wars, the housing market, crumbling infrastructure, a broken health care system, a staggering national debt…

socialism1 Socialism, Winner

Although the McCain/Palin campaign attempted to paint Obama as a dangerous Socialist in the closing weeks of the campaign, Socialism, has actually been doing quite well. The United States Government is now in the business of nationalizing banks to the tune of $700 billion, and following $25 billion in loans to the auto industry earlier this year, Democratic leaders are now urging a  bailout for struggling automakers.

sarah-palin-headshotSarah Palin, Loser

Sarah Palin, who came within a few million votes of becoming the first female vice-president. To add insult to injury, the Repulican National Committe is taking back all the clothes they bought her. Finally, her credibility has sunken so low, that she has been forced to deny allegations that she didn’t know whether Africa was a country or continent.

americaathome America, Winner

They just got Barack & Co




blogging, posting, talking, promoting

sleeping, sleeping, get up!

shower, shave, to the polls quick quick!


walking, waiting, sitting, voting

voters in lines, people on corners, volunteer time!

snacking, reading, getting ready

driving, phoning, phoning, driving

to the polls! to the polls! lets swell the ranks!


“this is what the ballot looks like” & “this is how you vote”

& “how do you feel?” & “are you ready to do this?!”


young people, homeless people, old people, ex felons, to the polls to the polls

– you can vote!

driving, driving, north philly, south philly, west philly

at the polls at the booths. judge of elections, thick poll book.

blue curtains around a machine

inside lights red & bright. and then go!

Push the green button! Lights go dark,you’ve done it!


hurry hurry go  go go!

theres more to vote!


sitting down, eating a snack, tired and worn,

“volunteer evaluation”, then

driving, driving  home in philly.


We’re off then-! We’re off to school. lets watch the results tonight

lets eat some snacks and hold our breath.

CSPAN, FOX, CNN, MSNBC…wait…Canadian cpsan? calling the election?

fipping flipping through the channels. its true! obama! obama!


quick quick hurry hurry get out, lets shout!

phone call, home call,  call those who care

west philly, center city and down town- beeping horns in the air

park the car, walk walk walk , join the crowd! join the fray!


Join the fray- its in the air! Dancing, Laughing, and shouting in the air

a parade of cars, wearing youth for jewlery, hanging, dangling in the night

Shouting yelling celebrating! Celebrating tonight in the streets.

Outstretched hands, hoarse throats, nervous police.


This-is-what-democracy-looks-like! clap-clap-clap-cla-clap-clap-clap!

This-is-what-democracy-sounds-like! clap-clap-clap-cla-clap-clap-clap!

High fives all around, the outstretched fingers on cars wizzing by,

horns and pots and pans wake the night


a melody of sound, a medley of people

such a beautiful thing

drive, drive home its late

honk the horn 1 more time, 1 more time for the dispersing crowds

arriving, finally arriving home its late

lets go to bed, lets go to sleep

because now we know what democracy looks like!


Election Day

your_vote_counts_button_3Let’s Do This.

American Prayer

So I don’t mean to get all sentimental, but tomorrows gonna be a big day. The results of the election will be one of the defining points of America that I have seen in my life so far, right up there with 9-11 & the Iraq War.

I’m not religious, but I appreciate the sentiment of a prayer for America. I pray that we will come together on November 4th as a nation & vote for a better future. I hope that we will vote no on ballot initiatives that would make gay marriage illegal, that would shut down affirmative action, that would limit ESL classes for children in our schools.

I pray that the majority of our country will stand up & demand we stop seeking out war, that we don’t suspend civil liberties, and that we become an ally to the world. I pray that this election will inspire people to action, and that it banishes apathy and desperation.

I pray we will not be silent about discrimination in all its forms, and we demand equality for all. I pray for the safety of Obama & his family from hate, and that we will hold hope above fear.

That is my American prayer.