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This addresses natural gas extraction through horizontal hydro-fracturing from the Marcellus shale beneath our water tables & was published in a local paper in November, 2010:

True friends would protect natural resources

           

            It's a curious distraction that the color green is prominent on the "Friends of Natural Gas N.Y." signs on display throughout our area, when in fact it is a "mean green" (money, that is) that's driving this zeal to move ahead full bore and "Pass Gas" in our backyards and the surrounding countryside.

           

            If one reads the mission statement on the sponsor's website, which includes key words such as "common interest" and "best environmental practices," one might believe that "love thy neighbor" would equally apply.

 

            If the members of the Joint Landowners Coalition of New York are truly concerned for the interests of the people, who include their neighbors and other recipients of the effects of gas extraction and use on the air, water and land, then they should reject the corporate motives of profit and self-interest, and support initiatives for renewable alternatives that have positive environmental impacts and include both jobs and energy independence.

This was published in a local paper in mid-August, 2005:

LETTER IS SMOKING GUN

            To justify the U.S. invasion of Iraq, President George W. Bush submitted the following:

            "(1) reliance by the United States on further diplomatic and other peaceful means alone will neither (A) adequately protect the national security of the United States against the continuing threat posed by Iraq nor (B) likely lead to enforcement of all relevant United Nations Security Council resolutions regarding Iraq; and

            "(2) acting pursuant to the Constitution and Public Law 107-243 is consistent with the United States and other countries continuing to take the necessary actions against international terrorists and terrorist organizations, including those nations, organizations, or persons who planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001."

            The president used his secretary of state at the United Nations to manipulate public opinion, then lied to Congress when he said that Iraq posed a "continuing threat" as well as "aided the terrorist attacks" of 9/11.

            While the Downing Street minutes of July 23, 2002, suggest that the "16 words" in the president's State of the Union address were intentionally misleading, his letter to Congress on March 18, 2003, may in fact be the true "smoking gun" to justify his impeachment.

 

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This was published, following the Inauguration, in a local paper in January, 2005:

WORK FOR LAWS THAT REFLECT COMMON VALUES

 

            The presidential inauguration, with its pomp and presumption of "political capital," belies an arrogance that is likely to impede Mr. Bush's second-term agenda.

 

            Despite the banter from his supporters that they are the "right thinkers" and morally superior to those who voted against him, the president owes a great deal more to those who are ignorant of, or indifferent to, his failings.

 

            Nevertheless, given the fear-mongering from our leaders, and a complicit corporate media, we are wrong to argue that the majority of Bush voters have any less intelligence and moral character than those of us who voted otherwise.

 

            Granted, there are those who sustain the adage, "You can fool some of the people all of the time," and others who deceive through shallow bigotry.

 

            To this latter group, the biblical sentiment found in Proverbs 16:18 is aptly interpreted by Solzhenitsyn in The Gulag Archipelago: "Pride grows in the human heart like lard on a pig."

 

            As for the rest of Bush's supporters, a myriad of crucial issues compels us to work for laws that reflect our common values. After all, we go sometimes with the president we have, not the one we wish to have.

 

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This was published, just prior to the election, in a local paper in October, 2004:

SOUND BITES, NAME-CALLING OBSCURE THE TRUTH

 

            Do words account for much of anything these days? It's said that pictures speak louder than words; perhaps that's why TV political ads seem so effective at slinging mud. But when overlaid with crisp sound bites, those ads connect even more powerfully with our gut emotions.

            Since our society gets most of its information from television, candidates who lack positive issues to run on will turn to this most effective medium. And what better way for politicians to deflect public attention away from a record of failure than to use their opponents' own words against them?

            With the public's demand for near instantaneous information, the use of direct quotes to ridicule the opposition can be devastating. Is there any wonder, given the public's apparently short attention span, that name-calling such as "flip-flopper" wasn't far behind?

            Are there any words that can stem the tide of disinformation simply by speaking to truth alone? They would have to be brief enough to fit onto a bumper sticker.

            Perhaps, "Think! It's patriotic" might work.

            But then again, two whole sentences in one place might overdo it.

 

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This concerns The 9/11 Report from a letter published in a local paper in early August, 2004 :

 COMMISSION REPORT LEFT QUESTIONS ABOUT IRAQ WAR UNANSWERED

 

            In its final report, the 9/11 Commission glaringly omitted discussions of the U.S. invasion of Iraq. This was due not only to a strict interpretation of the mandate set by Congress, but also “to ensure nonpartisanship” among its members.

            Nevertheless, for both the security of this nation and the viability of our democracy, the American people deserve answers as to why, nearly three years since the terrorist attacks, the vast majority of that time has been squandered by pursuing a foolhardy “vision” for the Middle East.

             Why have nearly a thousand of our military men and women died in Iraq, with thousands more injured, along with greater than ten thousand “collateral” (civilian death) casualties, and yet those who have and will attack us here in our homeland remain at large?

             Why did our leaders ignore intelligence that correctly warned of looming terrorist attacks, but then they “cherry-pick” flawed intelligence to send us in the wrong direction?

             It is now up to the American people to answer these questions at the polls this coming election in order to determine our own “vision” for America, and to show the entire world what democracy and freedom truly are all about.

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This, following the U.S. invasion of Iraq, was published in a local paper in early June, 2003:

 NATIONAL PUBLIC RADIO IS WILLING TO QUESTION THE PREVAILING WISDOM

            It has been argued that the current ilk of one-sided radio talk shows is “overrun with right-wing mouthpieces,” and devotees counter that the alternative, National Public Radio, is “disgustingly liberal.”

            Having listened carefully to all those venues, by comparison, NPR has a long way to go if its intent is to match the propaganda found throughout corporate-owned commercial stations.

            Missing on NPR are such tactics as labeling and name-calling, loaded language, glittering generalities, yelling, repetition and other forms of close-minded denigration and intimidation.

            Recently, the host of NPR’s Talk of the Nation actually thanked a caller with an opposing viewpoint. Other NPR shows such as Morning Edition and All Things Considered actually highlight opposing viewpoints.

            Even Democracy Now! (gasp!) once interviewed an Iraqi citizen who had suffered under the atrocities of Saddam Hussein – hardly a winning tactic for those so-called “morons” and “bleeding hearts.”

            Since the Federal Communication Commission is allowing further deregulation of corporate media ownership, I am proud to be a new, supporting NPR member and to have helped put local funding for Democracy Now! over the top so it will continue to question the prevailing wisdom.

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This, an abreviated version on health care, was published in a local paper in late November, 2002:

MAKE HEALTH CARE A PILLAR OF NATION'S SECURITY POLICY

          [Local] counties have announced they must raise taxes, primarily as a result of increasing Medicaid and other health care costs. With a sagging economy and ever-increasing health-care costs throughout our nation, the number of Americans who either become uninsured or struggle to afford private health insurance will increase -- and so will our local and state tax burdens.

          While local leaders recognize that "higher levels of government" must assume a greater burden of these costs, they seem to focus on the state's responsibility and ignore the fact that the federal government has abandoned the states in caring for the poor and disadvantaged.

          Let's remove the stigma that the poor are to blame for our increasing tax woes. Instead, return the responsibility of affordable health care for all to the level of national debate, and let's strive to make national public health care one of the pillars of our national security policy.

          Through the use of fairly distributed national income taxes, affordable health care could be available for all, and a commensurate reduction of taxes at the local, county and state levels likewise could be a reality.

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This original version, although submitted prior to the above, was published later in January, 2003:

LOCAL TAX WOES REQUIRE LONG-TERM SOLUTIONS

 

            [Local] counties are struggling with property taxes, sales taxes, or both, primarily as a result of increasing Medicaid costs. In order to soften the impact, these counties’ legislators struggled to find ways to cut expenditures in other programs. A front-page article…affirmed, “The question isn’t whether you’ll pay a lot more to help keep poorer people healthy, but how.”

 

            As community members, let’s not allow our legacy to be reduced to a struggle between our public parks, libraries and transportation, and the need to provide even minimal health care to those who otherwise would be uninsured.

 

            Some suggestions range from clamping down on Medicaid fraud and abuse, and tightening the qualifications for Medicaid eligibility, to reducing the number of optional state programs under Medicaid.

 

            By all means, we must prevent theft of services & eliminate wasteful spending. Unfortunately, all of the options at the local, county and state levels combined are limited in their scope to significantly reduce the costs of Medicaid. In fact, even draconian cuts in other services would not prevent the need for increased taxes.

 

            With a sagging economy and sharply falling state revenues throughout the nation, the number of Americans who either become uninsured or otherwise are unable to afford private health insurance will increase accordingly.

 

            Even as routine health-care costs are woefully under-funded, New York is considering further reductions in its provider payments under Medicaid. With few incentives to ensure that people are healthier to begin with, more expensive critical or emergency room care must be utilized. Currently, Medicaid reimbursements do not pay the full share of a hospital’s costs to provide this level of care.

 

            Inevitably, since health-care providers do not routinely reduce services due to poverty, the remaining costs must be passed along through increased fees – or health insurance premiums. Many employers are experiencing the increasing costs of health care benefits, and require workers to shoulder more of the costs of premiums, prescriptions and deductibles.

 

            Moreover, many others that work full-time are unable to achieve economic independence from government subsidies. For a family of three, the U.S. Census Bureau defined the poverty threshold in 2001 to be at $14,630, and yet a single parent of two young children working full-time in a minimum wage job for a year would make $10,712 before taxes. Similarly, the poverty threshold for a family of four in 2001 was $17,650.

 

            While local leaders recognize that “high[er] levels of government” must assume a greater burden of Medicaid costs, they seem to limit their attention simply towards putting pressure on the state. Most ignore [the] fact (or, perhaps more accurately, yield to the political reality) that the federal government has abandoned the states to the unfair and inequitable burden of caring for the poor and disadvantaged.

 

            Another suggestion for reducing the local Medicaid burden is for New York to assume this responsibility altogether. Like all of the states, New York shares half of those costs with the federal government, and yet it is the only state to split its costs evenly with the counties.

 

            Local governments and school districts, however, are heavily dependent on state funding for a myriad of other services. Even if the state were to change its cost-sharing approach for Medicaid, it would result in a tradeoff of burdens among these local entities. In the short run, what might seem like a local victory would become an exercise in futility since, in the long run, it would have a negligible effect on looming tax increases.

 

            While our area’s leaders must face these tough realities, the long-term solutions must come through our nation’s policies, and they must be both fair and equitable for its entire citizenry.

 

            Let’s remove the stigma that the poor are to blame for our increasing tax woes. Instead, return the responsibility of affordable health care for all to the level of national debate. With the political climate notwithstanding, let’s strive to make national public health care one of the pillars of our national security policy.

 

            Through the use of fairly distributed income taxes -- and perhaps even a national sales tax -- affordable health care could be available for all, and likewise a commensurate reduction of taxes at the local, county and state levels.

 

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