Saturday, July 31, 2010

Struggle with Immigration Law

Recently Arizona’s controversial immigration law took effect on Thursday, July 29th. Maricopa Sheriff Joe Arpaio launched his 17th sweep against illegal immigrants and in response eighty demonstrators began protesting and were arrested.

The protesters against the tough-on-illegal-immigration policies trickled out of jails in Arizona the next day as a local sheriff continued one of his controversial operations that many say targets Latinos. Three illegal immigrants were reportedly arrested in the sweep.

Law enforcement officers are currently allowed to stop people who commit minor traffic violations and check their citizenship status. The controversy from this law stems from the obvious racial profiling that is enacted in order to be able to stop people in the streets to see if they are illegal immigrants.

And although a federal judge had barred most of the immigration law, SB 1070, from being implemented, that didn't stop hundreds of protesters from filling the streets and engaging in civil disobedience. Twenty-three were arrested at Arpaio's main downtown jail for blocking the entrance and their demonstration forced the sheriff to delay his sweep for several hours.

The current law requires the police to check only people they stop and believe are illegal immigrants. But it’s hard to tell if Arizona law enforcement officers will be able to discern who they believe are illegal immigrants from anyone of Latin/Hispanic decent.

A new Immigration law is to be taken up in November after the most controversial provisions were stripped away by a federal judge in the U.S. appeals court in California. Arizona's Republican Governor Jan Brewer appealed on Thursday against Judge Susan Bolton's decision and asked the court for an expedited appeals process. The Ninth Circuit court said that first brief hearings were set for mid-September and the case would begin on November 1 in San Francisco.

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Saturday, July 24, 2010

Missing Middle Class

The saying only the rich stay rich and the poor get poorer is starting to describe the American economic statuses today. We were once a nation marveled for our middle class. In fact the U.S. had the largest and most prosperous middle class in the history of the world once upon a time, but now that status has been forgotten.

So what made our happy beginning fall apart in this tragic trend? Researchers say globalism and "free trade" that our politicians and business leaders insisted would be so good for us have had some rather malicious side effects. With a "global economy" the middle class American workers have to directly compete for jobs with people on the other side of the world where there is no minimum wage and very few regulations. The big global corporations have greatly benefited by exploiting third world labor pools over the last several decades, but middle class American workers have found things to be increasingly difficult.

According to the Business Insider, Right now 83 percent of all U.S. stocks are in the hands of 1 percent of the people and 61 percent of Americans "always or usually" live paycheck to paycheck, which was up from 49 percent in 2008 and 43 percent in 2007. For the first time in U.S. history, banks own a greater share of residential housing net worth in the United States than all individual Americans put together.

The bottom 50 percent of income earners in the United States now collectively own less than 1 percent of the nation’s wealth while the top 1 percent of U.S. households own nearly twice as much of America's corporate wealth as they did just 15 years ago. In America today, the average time needed to find a job has risen to a record 35.2 weeks.

For the first time in U.S. history, more than 40 million Americans are on food stamps, and the U.S. Department of Agriculture projects that number will go up to 43 million Americans in 2011. Approximately 21 percent of all children in the United States are living below the poverty line in 2010 - the highest rate in 20 years and despite the financial crisis, the number of millionaires in the United States rose a whopping 16 percent to 7.8 million in 2009.
And with the top 10 percent of Americans now earn around 50 percent of our national income; our future has never looked so dim. The middle class is slipping away, and if something isn’t done soon we may see it completely disappear.

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Friday, July 16, 2010

Oil Spill Ceases; Clean Up Still Ahead

After three months of oil gushing into the oceanic waters of the Gulf of Mexico, the oil company British Petroleum finally figured out a way to stop the incredible disaster that they had created. On Friday, a new containment cap appeared to be holding with no signs of oil leaking. But BP is still conducting pressure tests to determine if the cap can stop the Gulf oil spill indefinitely, without damage.

The best engineers in the game dropped a dome over the leak, shot junk into the assembly from which the oil was gushing and stuck a siphon into a leaky pipe. They poked around for months trying to stop or slow the ecologic catastrophe that they had created.
In a way the Gulf oil spill has recast how companies will respond to future deep-sea accidents. Many experts say that we have learned our lesson as far as limiting the risk of future disasters like this, but in a way we really haven’t.

No one declared that we stopped off-shore- drilling. And no one really seems serious about limiting our dependency of oil. Sure we all say that we need to, but I still see people buying brand new Hummers.

For months I have seen pictures of dead animals in and around the gulf. I’ve seen tar covering the sands of our beaches and fisherman suffering from loss of business. Have we really learned our lesson, or have we just “covered up” the problem (pun intended).

And as we clean up the mess that we have made from our dependency of oil, I would like for you to keep in mind that eventually we won’t have oil available to spill into the ocean. We eventually need to find a source of renewable energy, not only because we are killing everything in sight or because it is expensive and cannot be reused. We need to find another solution because eventually there will be no more oil. We either change our ways or we’re stuck. And I just hope we choose to change soon before something like this ever happens again.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Survey a Trap for Gays

“Don’t Ask Don’t Tell” went out the window when they started tricking gay and lesbian soldiers into outing themselves. Many gay rights group are warning soldiers not to cooperate with the Pentagon “Don't Ask, Don't Tell” study. Gays in the military who participate in a new survey about repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" could be discharged for outing themselves even after they were assured that the questionnaire was confidential. And not surprisingly the Pentagon denies that survey respondents would run any such risk.

The survey, which Pentagon researchers are planning to send to 200,000 active duty and 200,000 reserve servicemen and women via email, asks soldiers if and how letting gays serve openly in the military will affect morale, according to CNN, which obtained a leaked version of the document.

The survey contains more than 100 questions. Questions like: “Would a repeal of "Don't ask, don't tell" prompt a soldier to reconsider serving in the military?” “Would serving under an openly gay commander adversely affect morale?” And “How would troops feel about sharing a bathroom or open-air shower with an openly gay comrade in a war zone?” were also on the tricky questionnaire.

All gay and lesbian survey takers are advised to take the survey in a manner that does not reveal sexual orientation, but until then, gay and lesbian military personnel have to lay low. The only thing about this questionnaire though is that you can out yourself most likely just by being tolerant of fellow gay service members still living with you or being members of authority.

If the Senate approves the measure this summer, the ban may be retired as early as next year, according to The Washington Post. The surveys are said to be designed to protect the individual’s privacy, but as long as “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” exists, gays and lesbians should probably just not take the survey.

Watch Barbara Starr explain the survey.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Min Wage Foiled by Old Technology for Now

Governor Schwarzenegger for the second time in two years has ordered most state workers' pay cut to the federal minimum wage because lawmakers missed their deadline to fix the state's $19 billion budget deficit. The Legislature's failure to act on time has left the state without a spending plan as the new fiscal year begins.

So let me get this straight. Because lawmakers missed the deadline to fix the state’s 19 billion dollar budget deficit state workers are now ordered a pay cut to min wage? Not only are we still in debt most California workers are receiving less pay as a punishment for the Legislature’s failure.

A state appellate court ruled in Schwarzenegger's favor Friday, but the state controller, who issues state paychecks, says he can't comply. One reason given by Controller John Chiang, a Democrat elected in 2006, is because the state's computer system can't handle the technological challenge of restating paychecks to the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour.

Chiang cited Friday's ruling by the 3rd District Court of Appeals, which said "unfeasibility" would excuse him from complying with Schwarzenegger's minimum wage order. He said a fix to the state's computerized payroll system won't be ready until October 2012.

But in the meantime, more than 200,000 state workers remain in an indeterminate state about the size of their July paychecks while Chiang asks the court for assistance on how to proceed. If wages are indeed cut to $7.25 an hour, employees will be reimbursed once a budget is signed but they suffer a not being able to pay all of their bills in the mean time.

The state's payroll system was designed more than 60 years ago and was last revamped in 1970, Hallye Jordan, state controller's office spokeswoman, said in an e-mail.

A report by the nonpartisan legislative analyst's office said an overhaul of the state's computerized payroll system was proposed by the controller's office in 2004. A year later, the Legislature approved $130 million for the effort, called the 21st Century Project.

The state fired the vendor carrying out the project in 2008 because the company went bankrupt. And as the project dragged on, the state has had fewer experts on hand who could thoroughly understand the programming languages used to design the system.

And what’s most annoying about this whole thing is that apparently the state isn't saving any money on paying them minimum wage. The average state employee makes $65,000 annually, according to the state Department of Personnel Administration. A cut to minimum wage would mean state workers would make the equivalent of $15,000 a year.

I’m just wondering why our Governor is continuing with this order if it really isn’t helping the state out in the first place.