|Keep Lewisville Beautiful
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2008/7/4 11:17:07 (1406 reads)
Democrats in Lewisville, Texas seized control of some territory this week along a major transportation route in Southern Lewisville, vowing to clean things up. In the few days since staking their claim, leaders of the group calling themselves "South Valley Democrats" can point out that on their territory, there has been a zero crime rate, and the streets are clean - all with zero new taxes.
Ah, ok - that's my attempt at creative writing for this morning. Actually, the Democrats of my precinct, Denton County Pct. 319, in Southern Lewisville are participating in Keep Lewisville Beautiful's "Adopt-a-spot" program. Our territory, which is the median of S. Valley Parkway on the Northern side of the intersection of Seneca and Valley, has got to be literally the smallest median section on the street, having only two trees and some grass. But that's okay - we'll take it.
I went out this morning to take a look at our new territory and do a quick survey and cleanup. (Click the image above for a bigger view) There wasn't much litter - only a few pounds, so I went ahead and got both sides of the street too.
If we want, and we get the plans approved by the city, we can do a bit of landscaping here. My thought is that if we do this, we should choose native plants that can stand the heat without so much water.
Southern Lewisville Democrats meet informally at the Bahama Buck's just down the street each Saturday night at 7:30 pm for conversation and coffee or smoothies. Come join us and share your ideas for our new "territory".
|Links, Thoughts, and Open Thread
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2008/7/4 9:18:58 (1229 reads)
Hey, Fellow Americans! Happy Independence Day! 232 years of independence from British rule...
Anyhow, here are some stories you might find interesting:
"Black" National AnthemAt Denver's annual Mayor's "State of the City" event, the singer of the national anthem substituted in the words from the "Black National Anthem", stirring up a big pot of shit with the shallowly patriotic, latent racists. That last link there is to the lyrics. Read them. Seriously. Compare the profundity of these lyrics to the Star Spangled Banner.
Filming the Dallas County JailIn Dallas, Sheriff Lupe Valdez asserted her independence from the Dallas County Commissioners in deciding to allow a film crew from the Discovery channel to film a documentary in her jail. The commissioners, apparently scared for taxpayers to see just what in the hell goes on over there, are scared shitless, and managed to obtain a temporary restraining order against the filming. District Attorney Craig Watkins defends Sheriff Valdez. My take: The commissioners court has no authority over this matter, since the Sheriff is in charge of the jail. The sheriff, as a directly elected public official, is not subservient to the commissioners. The commissioners have used the ostensible reason of "safety", but the sheriff knows better. I think this backfires on the commissioners.
It's a moot point now though: Discovery channel has changed plans.
Free Internet Radio: PandoraFor a couple of weeks now, I've been enjoying free internet radio on Pandora.com. It's a really cool concept, and it's great for me at my office, where radio reception is crappy. Basically you tell it a song or artist that you like, and they play music that is related. As you give it feedback on the songs you like or don't like, it plays new things and creates a customized "station" for you. I have created several stations, but WhosPlayin Country is my favorite.
Gas Prices This past Tuesday, two weeks after Republican congress-critters held a press conference in a closed Tom Thumb grocery store to push their one-size-fits-all-drill-here-drill-now "dog and pony show" on oil prices, 6 Democratic candidates for U.S. Congress in North Texas converged on a Dallas gas station to explain a variety of solutions. Coverage by the Dallas Morning News was shitty as usual, and missed the point. WhosPlayin was there, got pictures, and will post a recap when we get some time.
Linda Yañez for Texas Supreme CourtThe Texas Observer has a great article about Linda Yañez, candidate for Texas Supreme Court. (This is the highest court in Texas for civil cases only)
More "Big Bad John" CornynSenator John Cornyn also visited a gas station on Tuesday, but spent his time deflecting charges that an employee used a false name to post pro-Cornyn comments on liberal blogs.
We also found this website with some fabulous cartoons of Cornyn playing cowboy.
Sales Tax Revenue DownThere was this article about how the crappy economy has caused drops in sales tax revenue for various North Texas cities. I seem to remember that during our recent city council elections, one of our incumbents who "couldn't imagine" why we might need to raise tax rates got a bit of a lecture from us on the subject, where we warned of that very thing.
|Links, Thoughts, and Open Thread
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2008/7/3 10:30:16 (561 reads)
Consider this just idle bitching. It hasn't been a fun week. I've got a lot on my mind that I just need to dump out.
Foremost, the job issues. I've been with my company for 10 years, and they're great to work for. You couldn't ask for better pay and benefits, normally. I love all my coworkers. They give me creative freedom. I'm an IT Consultant - a full time employee paid by the hour to solve problems for people in a variety of industries. Last year, until August, I was pimped out to a major mortgage company in New York, and raking in as many billable hours as I wanted. Then all hell broke loose. Since then, the market has been really soft. I've done a little work in the steel industry, a little teaching, and a small project in the credit counseling industry. But dammit, I'm earning like $40k less this year than last year. It sucks. I don't know whether I'll be able to pay my office rent this month or not.
So I have this other job offer on the table. It's a corporate gig. It pays about 25K more than I'm making this year, but about $15K less than what I made last year.
Posted by Kit on 2008/7/2 18:10:25 (2304 reads)
What If we are wrong?
America’s policy of foreign intervention, while still debated in the early 20th century, is today accepted as conventional wisdom by both political parties. But what if the overall policy is a colossal mistake, a major error in judgment? Not just bad judgment regarding when and where to impose ourselves, but the entire premise that we have a moral right to meddle in the affairs of others? Think of the untold harm done by years of fighting-- hundreds of thousands of American casualties, hundreds of thousands of foreign civilian casualties, and unbelievable human and economic costs.
What if it was all needlessly borne by the American people? If we do conclude that grave foreign policy errors have been made, a very serious question must be asked: What would it take to change our policy to one more compatible with a true republic’s goal of peace, commerce, and friendship with all nations? Is it not possible that Washington’s admonition to avoid entangling alliances is sound advice even today?
In medicine mistakes are made-- man is fallible. Misdiagnoses are made, incorrect treatments are given, and experimental trials of medicines are advocated. A good physician understands the imperfections in medical care, advises close follow-ups, and double-checks the diagnosis, treatment, and medication. Adjustments are made to assure the best results. But what if a doctor never checks the success or failure of a treatment, or ignores bad results and assumes his omnipotence-- refusing to concede that the initial course of treatment was a mistake? Let me assure you, the results would not be good. Litigation and the loss of reputation in the medical community place restraints on this type of bullheaded behavior.
Sadly, though, when governments, politicians, and bureaucrats make mistakes and refuse to reexamine them, there is little the victims can do to correct things. Since the bully pulpit and the media propaganda machine are instrumental in government cover-ups and deception, the final truth emerges slowly, and only after much suffering. The arrogance of some politicians, regulators, and diplomats actually causes them to become even more aggressive and more determined to prove themselves right, to prove their power is not to be messed with by never admitting a mistake.
Truly, power corrupts!
The unwillingness to ever reconsider our policy of foreign intervention, despite obvious failures and shortcomings over the last 50 years, has brought great harm to our country and our liberty. Historically, financial realities are the ultimate check on nations bent on empire. Economic laws ultimately prevail over bad judgment. But tragically, the greater the wealth of a country, the longer the flawed policy lasts. We’ll probably not be any different.
We are still a wealthy nation, and our currency is still trusted by the world, yet we are vulnerable to some harsh realities about our true wealth and the burden of our future commitments. Overwhelming debt and the precarious nature of the dollar should serve to restrain our determined leaders, yet they show little concern for deficits. Rest assured, though, the limitations of our endless foreign adventurism and spending will become apparent to everyone at some point in time.
Since 9/11, a lot of energy and money have gone into efforts ostensibly designed to make us safer. Many laws have been passed and many dollars have been spent. Whether or not we’re better off is another question.
Today we occupy two countries in the Middle East. We have suffered over 20,000 casualties, and caused possibly 100,000 civilian casualties in Iraq. We have spent over $200 billion in these occupations, as well as hundreds of billions of dollars here at home hoping to be safer. We’ve created the Department of Homeland Security, passed the Patriot Act, and created a new super CIA agency.
Our government now is permitted to monitor the Internet, to read our mail, to search us without proper search warrants, to develop a national ID card, and to investigate what people are reading in libraries. Ironically, illegal aliens flow into our country and qualify for driving licenses and welfare benefits with little restraint.
These issues are discussed, but nothing has been as highly visible to us as the authoritarianism we accept at the airport. The creation of the Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has intruded on the privacy of all airline travelers, and there is little evidence that we are safer for it. Driven by fear, we have succumbed to the age-old temptation to sacrifice liberty on the pretense of obtaining security. Love of security, unfortunately, all too often vanquishes love of liberty.
Unchecked fear of another 9/11-type attack constantly preoccupies our leaders and most of our citizens, and drives the legislative attack on our civil liberties. It’s frightening to see us doing to ourselves what even bin Laden never dreamed he could accomplish with his suicide bombers.
We don’t understand the difference between a vague threat of terrorism and the danger of a guerilla war. One prompts us to expand and nationalize domestic law enforcement while limiting the freedoms of all Americans. The other deals with understanding terrorists like bin Laden, who declared war against us in 1998. Not understanding the difference makes it virtually impossible to deal with the real threats. We are obsessed with passing new laws to make our country safe from a terrorist attack. This confusion about the cause of the 9/11 attacks, the fear they engendered, and the willingness to sacrifice liberty prompts many to declare their satisfaction with the inconveniences and even humiliation at our nation’s airports.
There are always those in government who are anxious to increase its power and authority over the people. Strict adherence to personal privacy annoys those who promote a centralized state.
It’s no surprise to learn that many of the new laws passed in the aftermath of 9/11 had been proposed long before that date. The attacks merely provided an excuse to do many things previously proposed by dedicated statists.
All too often government acts perversely, professing to advance liberty while actually doing the opposite. Dozens of new bills passed since 9/11 promise to protect our freedoms and our security. In time we will realize there is little chance our security will be enhanced or our liberties protected.
The powerful and intrusive TSA certainly will not solve our problems. Without a full discussion, greater understanding, and ultimately a change in the foreign policy that incites those who declared war against us, no amount of pat-downs at airports will suffice. Imagine the harm done, the staggering costs, and the loss of liberty if the next 20 years pass and airplanes are never employed by terrorists. Even if there is a possibility that airplanes will be used to terrorize us, TSA’s bullying will do little to prevent it.
Patting down old women and little kids in airports cannot possibly make us safer!
TSA cannot protect us from another attack and it is not the solution. It serves only to make us all more obedient and complacent toward government intrusions into our lives.
The airport mess has been compounded by other problems, which we fail to recognize. Most assume the government has the greatest responsibility for making private aircraft travel safe. But this assumption only ignores mistakes made before 9/11, when the government taught us to not resist, taught us that airline personnel could not carry guns, and that the government would be in charge of security. Airline owners became complacent and dependent upon the government.
After 9/11 we moved in the wrong direction by allowing total government control and a political takeover by the TSA-- which was completely contrary to the proposition that private owners have the ultimate responsibility to protect their customers.
Discrimination laws passed during the last 40 years ostensibly fuel the Transportation Secretary’s near obsession with avoiding the appearance of discrimination toward young Muslim males. Instead TSA seemingly targets white children and old women. We have failed to recognize that a safety policy by a private airline is quite a different thing from government agents blindly obeying anti-discrimination laws.
Governments do not have a right to use blanket discrimination, such as that which led to incarceration of Japanese Americans in World War II. However, local law-enforcement agencies should be able to target their searches if the description of a suspect is narrowed by sex, race, or religion.
We are dealing with an entirely different matter when it comes to safety on airplanes. The federal government should not be involved in local law enforcement, and has no right to discriminate. Airlines, on the other hand, should be permitted to do whatever is necessary to provide safety. Private firms-- long denied the right-- should have a right to discriminate. Fine restaurants, for example, can require that shoes and shirts be worn for service in their establishments. The logic of this remaining property right should permit more sensible security checks at airports. The airlines should be responsible for the safety of their property, and liable for it as well. This is not only the responsibility of the airlines, but it is a civil right that has long been denied them and other private companies.
The present situation requires the government to punish some by targeting those individuals who clearly offer no threat. Any airline that tries to make travel safer and happens to question a larger number of young Muslim males than the government deems appropriate can be assessed huge fines. To add insult to injury, the fines collected from airlines are used for forced sensitivity training of pilots who do their very best, under the circumstances, to make flying safer by restricting the travel of some individuals. We have embarked on a process that serves no logical purpose. While airline safety suffers, personal liberty is diminished and costs skyrocket.
If we’re willing to consider a different foreign policy, we should ask ourselves a few questions:
What if the policies of foreign intervention, entangling alliances, policing the world, nation building, and spreading our values through force are deeply flawed?
What if it is true that Saddam Hussein never had weapons of mass destruction?
What if it is true that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden were never allies?
What if it is true that the overthrow of Saddam Hussein did nothing to enhance our national security?
What if our current policy in the Middle East leads to the overthrow of our client oil states in the region?
What if the American people really knew that more than 20,000 American troops have suffered serious casualties or died in the Iraq war, and 9% of our forces already have been made incapable of returning to battle?
What if it turns out there are many more guerrilla fighters in Iraq than our government admits?
What if there really have been 100,000 civilian Iraqi casualties, as some claim, and what is an acceptable price for “doing good?”
What if Rumsfeld is replaced for the wrong reasons, and things become worse under a Defense Secretary who demands more troops and an expansion of the war?
What if we discover that, when they do vote, the overwhelming majority of Iraqis support Islamic (Sharia) law over western secular law, and want our troops removed?
What if those who correctly warned of the disaster awaiting us in Iraq are never asked for their opinion of what should be done now?
What if the only solution for Iraq is to divide the country into three separate regions, recognizing the principle of self-determination while rejecting the artificial boundaries created in 1918 by non-Iraqis?
What if it turns out radical Muslims don’t hate us for our freedoms, but rather for our policies in the Middle East that directly affected Arabs and Muslims?
What if the invasion and occupation of Iraq actually distracted from pursuing and capturing Osama bin Laden?
What if we discover that democracy can’t be spread with force of arms?
What if democracy is deeply flawed, and instead we should be talking about liberty, property rights, free markets, the rule of law, localized government, weak centralized government, and self-determination promoted through persuasion, not force?
What if Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda actually welcomed our invasion and occupation of Arab/Muslim Iraq as proof of their accusations against us, and it served as a magnificent recruiting tool for them?
What if our policy greatly increased and prolonged our vulnerability to terrorists and guerilla attacks both at home and abroad?
What if the Pentagon, as reported by its Defense Science Board, actually recognized the dangers of our policy before the invasion, and their warnings were ignored or denied?
What if the argument that by fighting over there, we won’t have to fight here, is wrong, and the opposite is true?
What if we can never be safer by giving up some of our freedoms?
22. What if the principle of pre-emptive war is adopted by Russia, China, Israel, India, Pakistan, and others, “justified” by current U.S. policy?
What if pre-emptive war and pre-emptive guilt stem from the same flawed policy of authoritarianism, though we fail to recognize it?
What if Pakistan is not a trustworthy ally, and turns on us when conditions deteriorate?
What if plans are being laid to provoke Syria and/or Iran into actions that would be used to justify a military response and pre-emptive war against them?
What if our policy of democratization of the Middle East fails, and ends up fueling a Russian-Chinese alliance that we regret-- an alliance not achieved even at the height of the Cold War?
What if the policy forbidding profiling at our borders and airports is deeply flawed?
What if presuming the guilt of a suspected terrorist without a trial leads to the total undermining of constitutional protections for American citizens when arrested?
What if we discover the army is too small to continue policies of pre-emption and nation-building? What if a military draft is the only way to mobilize enough troops?
What if the “stop-loss” program is actually an egregious violation of trust and a breach of contract between the government and soldiers? What if it actually is a backdoor draft, leading to unbridled cynicism and rebellion against a voluntary army and generating support for a draft of both men and women? Will lying to troops lead to rebellion and anger toward the political leadership running the war?
What if the Pentagon’s legal task-force opinion that the President is not bound by international or federal law regarding torture stands unchallenged, and sets a precedent which ultimately harms Americans, while totally disregarding the moral, practical, and legal arguments against such a policy?
What if the intelligence reform legislation-- which gives us bigger, more expensive bureaucracy-- doesn’t bolster our security, and distracts us from the real problem of revamping our interventionist foreign policy?
What if we suddenly discover we are the aggressors, and we are losing an unwinnable guerrilla war?
What if we discover, too late, that we can’t afford this war-- and that our policies have led to a dollar collapse, rampant inflation, high interest rates, and a severe economic downturn?
Why do I believe these are such important questions? Because the #1 function of the federal government-- to provide for national security-- has been severely undermined. On 9/11 we had a grand total of 14 aircraft in place to protect the entire U.S. mainland, all of which proved useless that day. We have an annual DOD budget of over $400 billion, most of which is spent overseas in over 100 different countries. On 9/11 our Air Force was better positioned to protect Seoul, Tokyo, Berlin, and London than it was to protect Washington D.C. and New York City.
Moreover, our ill-advised presence in the Middle East and our decade-long bombing of Iraq served only to incite the suicidal attacks of 9/11.
Before 9/11 our CIA ineptly pursued bin Laden, whom the Taliban was protecting. At the same time, the Taliban was receiving significant support from Pakistan-- our “trusted ally” that received millions of dollars from the United States. We allied ourselves with both bin Laden and Hussein in the 1980s, only to regret it in the 1990s. And it’s safe to say we have used billions of U.S. taxpayer dollars in the last 50 years pursuing this contradictory, irrational, foolish, costly, and very dangerous foreign policy.
Policing the world, spreading democracy by force, nation building, and frequent bombing of countries that pose no threat to us-- while leaving the homeland and our borders unprotected-- result from a foreign policy that is contradictory and not in our self interest.
I hardly expect anyone in Washington to pay much attention to these concerns. If I’m completely wrong in my criticisms, nothing is lost except my time and energy expended in efforts to get others to reconsider our foreign policy.
But the bigger question is:
What if I’m right, or even partially right, and we urgently need to change course in our foreign policy for the sake of our national and economic security, yet no one pays attention?
For that a price will be paid.
Is it not worth talking about?
Posted by Kit on 2008/7/2 18:02:45 (1312 reads)
Vint Cerf Says Government Needs to Encourage Internet Competition
InformationWeek, July 2, 2008
By Mitch Wagner
Vint Cerf said this week that he never intended to seriously propose that the U.S. government should nationalize the Internet. But he does think the Internet is seriously broken, with an economic system that discourages competition and innovation and encourages harmful monopolistic practices. He argued that the Telecommunications Act of 1996, which governs Internet service providers, is obsolete and needs to be revised.
Cerf, who is vice president and chief Internet evangelist at Google, and sometimes called the "father of the Internet," told a TechCrunch reporter recently that "the Internet should be owned and maintained by the government, just like the highways." But after blogged the TechCrunch article, Cerf posted a comment here, saying nationalizing the Internet "was not intended as a serious proposition."
I talked to him about his ideas on Monday.
The current economic model for the Internet gives ISPs monopoly power, allowing them to block some applications and give others a priority track to customers, Cerf said. Most American consumers have at most two options for broadband Internet access -- their local telephone company for DSL, or their cable provider for a cable modem. Many consumers have only one of those options, and others have no broadband at all.
"What we have is not very much competition, and at best two competitors," Cerf said. "Two competitors don't produce the pressure of true competition."
Given the lack of alternatives, consumers have no choice when Internet service providers block some applications (for example, Comcast and other ISPs allegedly blocking BitTorrent). ISPs will likely try to filter traffic further, blocking access to specific applications and companies to increase their own profits. And the U.S. is lagging behind other countries, notably France, the U.K., New Zealand and the Netherlands, in broadband penetration, Cerf said.
"All of this is telling me that we didn't get it right" when the Telecommunication Act of 1996 was adopted, Cerf said. "When we wrote it, the Internet was barely visible to the public, and probably completely invisible to Congress." The Web itself had just started becoming popular two years earlier, Cerf said. "Maybe we should step back and ask ourselves how to do this better," he said.
The Internet is more like they highway system than it is like the phone or cable TV system. Phones and cable TV are networks that were purpose-built for individual applications -- voice and TV, respectively. The Internet is built for any application and information that you can digitize, just like roads are built for any wheeled vehicle, Cerf said.
"Maybe we should treat the Internet more like the road system, look for ways of creating incentives to make the Internet more accessible to everyone, and less likely to be abused by the private sector," Cerf said.
In my earlier blog post, I suggested the problem could be solved without additional government regulation, by encouraging other forms of Internet access, such as WiMAX and satellite Internet. But Cerf said that proposal is impractical -- WiMAX and satellite Internet both have technical problems. Moreover, alternate forms of Internet access will require huge capital investments up-front, and the incumbents -- telcos and cable TV companies - have a nearly unbeatable advantage, since they already have made that investment and serve most of the market.
"It's not likely you're going to want to have multiple roads owned by the private sector to get to your house. Generally speaking, that's true of the power system -- you don't have multiple wires going to your house to carry power."
The solution: Net neutrality, Cerf sayss. ISPs should be required to carry all traffic without filtering some of it selectively.
Regulators tried something similar in the 1996 Telecom Act -- requiring telcos to allow competitors to install equipment on other companies' lines, Cerf said. That proved impractical. But, under net neutrality proposals, no equipment installations are necessary.
I asked Cerf about a couple of the objections to net neutrality raised by opponents. One is that the new generation of multimedia and video applications -- including YouTube, owned by Cerf's employers at Google -- are overwhelming the Internet. Multimedia requires much more bandwidth than the text and static graphics that the networks were designed to carry.
Likewise, peer-to-peer applications like BitTorrent use the network at top capacity at all times, rather than the more typical peaks and valleys of usage that the network was designed for.
He responded that Internet service providers should sell tiers of access -- the more you pay, the more bandwidth you get. And ISPs should be prepared to deliver the bandwidth they promise. ISPs oversold the bandwidth that they actually deliver, like airlines overbooking flights and having to turn away ticket-holding passengers. "They're selling 1.5 megabits but they're not delivering except for 3 am -- the networks aren't built for the traffic they're selling," Cerf said. The ISPs should be required to deliver the bandwidth they promise.
This issue isn't new, but I haven't heard the arguments presented quite so logically and concisely as Cerf did. And it's probably true that I haven't been following this issue as closely as I should. I'm interested in hearing from opponents of net neutrality legislation -- what's wrong with Cerf's arguments?
Rural broadband is another area where the free market has failed, Cerf said. There is insufficient incentive for existing broadband carriers to to bring services to remote areas. The U.S. needs to institute something analogous to universal service for phones, but do so for Internet access.
Lack of broadband access isn't just an inconvenience -- it's disenfranchising some Americans, writes Linda Weight in a reply to my earlier blog post on nationalizing the Internet. Government agencies are closing regional offices, and referring citizens to the Web to get their business with the government done. This problem is worst in
underserved rural areas, and especially in certain demographics including elderly and poor of all ages. As a public librarian serving a community that includes those demographics I see people every day who, for example, need to take a food handler's exam to get a minimum wage job in a local fast-food restaurant. The county closed their local annex office to save money several years ago, so now the closest place to take the test in person is 60 miles away. But these people have no transportation, or it is unreliable, not to mention the cost of gas, and the offices are only open weekday hours when the person who needs the card is working. Studying for the test and taking it on-line is their only option. But these people are unlikely to have a computer, much less be able to pay for internet access, such as it is in this area. As is typical the last few years, the government agency blithly says, "You can access it at your local library", putting the onus on the library, also a tax-funded agency, to fund the set up and maintanance of a sufficient number of public computers that can connect to the Internet at a sufficient and reliable bandwidth.
The Internet is also the place to go for tax forms, social security forms, immigration forms, and more, Weight writes. "But if government agencies are going to balance their budgets by making access to their services, forms and information primarily available via electronic means, then there needs to be some sort of coordinated support for that access," Weight said.
TAGS: Future of the Internet Save The Internet broadband national broadband policy net neutrality Vint Cerf
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|Links, Thoughts, and Open Thread
Posted by WhosPlayin on 2008/7/2 15:50:00 (18105 reads)
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|Get Involved! - Rise to Your Higher Self
Posted by Kit on 2008/7/2 13:15:53 (1231 reads)
Just lifed this off the CNN newsfeed. Since Friday is the fourth of July maybe we can remember that soldiers got us that one too. Support our troops - till they get home, that is.
CNN) -- "I can't find the right words to describe when you are
homeless," says Iraq war veteran Joseph Jacobo. "You see the end of your life right there. What am I going to do, what am I going to eat?"
War trauma sends many veterans to the streets where they beg for survival.
Jacobo is one of an increasing number of veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan who come home to life on the street. The Department of Veterans Affairs is fighting to find them homes.
Veterans make up almost a quarter of the homeless population in the United States. The government says there are as many as 200,000 homeless veterans; the majority served in the Vietnam War. Some served in Korea or even World War II. About 2,000 served in Iraq or Afghanistan.
The VA and several nongovernmental organizations have created programs that address the special needs of today's veterans returning from war. In addition to treating physical and mental injuries, there are career centers and counseling programs. But the VA still expects the homeless rate among the nation's newest veterans to rise because of the violent nature of combat seen in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Officials say many more Iraq and Afghanistan veterans suffer post-traumatic stress disorder than veterans of previous wars. The government says PTSD is one of the leading causes of homelessness among veterans.
"They come back, and they are having night trauma, they are having difficulty sleeping. They are feeling alienated," says Peter Dougherty, the director of homeless programs for the VA.
The VA says 70 percent of veterans from Iraq and Afghanistan saw some form of combat, either through firefights, rocket attacks or the most common strikes on troops -- roadside bomb attacks on their vehicle.
Jacobo spent more than a year as an Army mechanic in Iraq between 2004 and 2006. He saw many of his fellow soldiers killed during attacks on his base. He suffers from PTSD and found himself homeless after being discharged from the Army in 2006, but recently moved into a VA-funded shelter in Washington.
Until he found the VA facility, he was sleeping in laundry rooms and washing himself in fast food restrooms until he would be kicked out.
Jacobo says he speaks to many veterans from Vietnam who say that if the programs veterans receive today were available to them, they would most likely not be homeless.
"Where would I be if it was not for this place? Where would I get a job to give an address to an employer? They have phones here where you can make calls, so this is the step every veteran needs to have. A place for an address, a phone where you can be contacted and this is really good," says Jacobo.
The VA and organizations that help veterans are trying to reach out to those who may not know there is help available or are not interested in assistance. Social workers walk the streets and scour soup kitchens looking for vets who might need help, working with organizations that offer shelter or medical assistance.
"Because we are convinced, and we know that the earlier the intervention happens, particularly when it is related to PTSD, the better the prognosis is for recovery," Dougherty says.
"Unfortunately, we have learned much to our detriment when we didn't recognize PTSD as an illness that people suffer with it for decades, and when they tried to get it addressed, it was a much longer and more difficult process to get that readjustment," Dougherty says.
While the VA is prepared for a rise in homeless veterans, it is taking a measured approach. Based on statistics from around the country, the number of homeless veterans is increasing slowly, which the VA attributes to the programs already in place.
Dougherty says the outlook is good for future veterans.
"We are also increasing significantly the level of services we provide, not only in homeless programs, but we are really focused more on the prevention of these veterans from ever becoming homeless in the first place," he said.
Can someome Please tell me why the candidates don't talk about this.
Posted by txdemjen on 2008/7/2 10:33:53 (1180 reads)
Every time I take a small break from politics, my re-entry seems like a Polar Bear Club plunge into a frosty lake in January. I swear I’m better off just staying in so I’m used to it and the shock doesn’t threaten cardiac arrest.
I had a lovely weekend playing with friends and family, giving my news frenzied brain a nap and finally working instead on my atrophying muscles normally dormant during long stints at a desk behind a computer. I’m starting to understand those annoyingly happy, vapid “I’m not into politics” people who jog. Yes, ignorance is bliss. See? I’m still putting off getting to the politics with two inane introductions that haven’t come close to the point.
Fine. I’ll just spew out the top three that rudely woke me from my pleasant political slumber: TX Supreme Court thinks exorcism is A-OK. Craig and Vitter co-sponsor Marriage Protection Act. Obama veers right, waaaaay right. I had been sucking up my disagreement and disappointment on FISA, NAFTA (depending on the day), and the death penalty but but but, wha?? Faith-Based Initiatives?? Are you kidding me?
And there’s the zero degree, ball shrinking, nipple petrifying, lung collapsing final descent into brain death plunge.
I know you’re trying to beat a Muslim rap, but I thought Rev. Wright pretty much sealed that deal. I know the bottom line is you’re a politician trying to appeal to “one America” and gently coax those scared, snarling animals who call themselves Evangelicals out of the corner they put themselves in, but you’ve gone too far, Dr. Dolittle.
Advertising “America: Now with 10% more Theocracy!” ain’t gonna throw you over the top in the general election. You might get a small percentage of the Bible Belters crossing over to you, but unless you start tossing out anti-choice and anti-gay and creationism and school prayer sound bites, you are not growing any kind of new base. You’re just hacking away at the one you already had.
I really do understand the need to play to middle, as I am the middle in many respects, but you missed your Middletown exit here and veered way off course. You know damn well that the government has no business paying churches to help clean up our problems. Don’t give me that patronizing, “all hands on deck,” and “we won’t ‘allow’ them to proselytize or discriminate” BS either. First, it’s impossible or costly at best, to regulate. Second, you’re a liberal, right? At least still a Democrat? Then why so shy about using taxpayer money to fund the previously successful programs that were gutted for Faith-Based Initiatives? Please explain how adding churches to government programs and monitoring them is less bureaucratic and more effective and noncontroversial than simply working with current non-religious federal, state, and local programs.
Faith-base initiatives are a good way to buy votes, though. I’ll give you that. Promising money to churches and religious organizations who have incredible power over their congregations is a great inroad. Oh yeah, they’re not “allowed” to influence people’s votes. Silly me for thinking they do anyway.
Ultimately, it is a dangerous enmeshment of Church and State. Government pays churches to help people. Churches don’t have to proselytize to gain loyalty. The help is inherent proselytizing. It’s also a clear message that MORAL = RELIGIOUS and that only religious institutions care about helping people. Way to embolden the small percentage of anti-constitutionalists who are just aching to “dispel the myth of separation of church and state.” Why not just let them cover public school textbooks with the Ten Commandments and erect crosses on our courthouse squares right now and get it over with already. I’m looking forward to the ensuing Christian America Holy War over whose brand to follow. My money’s on the Mormons. Nothing screams patriotism better than your own domestic Jesus.
|The Nimrods Never Cease to Amaze Me
Posted by Kit on 2008/7/2 10:18:03 (919 reads)
I have noticed some changes, lately. In my neighborhood it seems few of us have either the time or desire to do yard work. It is hired out. Not really that unusual, many people all over the country do the same. What is different are the people that do the work. Over a year of fear and hate mongering in this country has shown that even those willingly to do our labor cheaply can be replaced. Once rightly proud Mexican-Americans now bow their head, or at least their eyes as they pass by. I feel ashamed.
I grew-up in San Antonio, Texas. I never really thought of it as a unique American city, more a unique Mexican-American city. I thought, as younger person that the people were kind to allow us to share in their culture and life style. Even San Antonio seems to have lost much of that charm, just another dirty sprawling American city, eager to ignore and trample the less fortunate.
It seems tragic how stupid Americans have become since 9/11. Like December 7, 1941, the day will live in infamy. Do we have to as well? FDR told the people of America “all we have to fear is fear is itself” Bush told us to be afraid - very afraid. So we believe that, the way forward is with fear and hatred? I strongly disagree. The way forward is to understand the truth of what happened. We must remember to understand that the people that brought horror to our door are not all of the people of the Middle East. Just a group of malcontents that have been given more of a potence than they deserve. Fear always brings forth the worst of us. With fear come ignorance and hatred. Can anyone think clearly when filled with hate?
Before there was a USA, Mexicans traveled freely across the borderland areas. I can’t help but wonder, if Mexicans were Anglos, would we still be making all this fuss? Funny how that xenophobia crops up, just when we tell ourselves how balanced and accepting our society is, we find new demons. But really the Mexicans, haven’t we enjoyed their help for many years now, working in the fields at horrible wages, cleaning our homes, doing yard work and many other jobs Americans don’t really want to do; yet have to be done.
The question of border safety is a legitimate one. So why are we ignoring the very real threats? Our ports have been the sites for imports of questionable products and illegal goods for some time now. Since 9/11 I doubt that I could count the number of times I have read or seen reports on the quagmire of the lack of security around out ports.
Then there is our infrastructure, places that need a functional security, has that changed since 9/11, not at all. This nation has existed with open borders for all of its history, now it seems that must change. If that is a mandate by the American people, then let us demand that from our government. We don’t need scapegoats and objects of fear to muster some will. We are Americans, let us begin to act like it. This nation is now wanting to call itself a Christian nation, doesn’t that above all else mean compassion?