So, in one election, we changed the majority party in both houses of the U.S. Congress. At first the Democrats said that they would change things for the better. They enacted some mild reforms that looked better than they were for solving the excesses of Congress. The Democrats limited inflating the budget with pork. They began some long overdue investigations of an administration that was too much in love with power.
However, in passing the latest huge and wasteful agriculture budget, they broke faith with all of us who thought that we were doing the right thing by electing Democrats to replace Republicans. There is no need to give any sector of the economy federal money when there is a healthy market for their products. Such subsidies encourage wasteful farming practices and hurt other nations who in turn send their poor into our nation to work on subsidized farms.
Government can do good
Tom Purcell is correct when he writes, "Our tap water is a reflection of our country -- a reflection of how incredibly successful America has been." ("Tapped out on bottled water," Times, July 25).
But Purcell lost me when he went on to then criticize those who think that government can do some things better than the private sector. My terrific tap water comes from East Bay Municipal Water District, which is a government agency.
Maybe, just maybe, government can do some things better -- like fire protection, tap water and (someday, Godspeed) national health insurance.
Barbara Wille, R.N.
National health care
It is a disgrace to our country that we do not have universal health care. The civilized world pities and laughs at us as shown by "Sicko". Bless Michael Moore for having the courage to expose, in such a factual and compassionate manner, the greed-driven "nonhealth care" system in the United States.
Moore's movie made the point so well. The question is: What is wrong with us as a people that we permit the government to continue intimidating people with fear and lack of concern for ourselves and others?
I'm ashamed of our nation, of our government. Countries with national health systems care about their citizens. Clearly our government does not. We, as a people, must demand national health care. And our elected representatives have the duty to do so as well.
How did a letter writer Michael Arata get a whole column (Times, July 7) to spread his misinformation about the Public Health Institute, Planned Parenthood and the value of comprehensive sex education?
The PHI is one of the largest, most comprehensive public health organizations in the nation, promoting public health statewide, nationally and internationally. Its report shows that medically accurate and comprehensive sex education, including abstinence and the proper use of contraception, remain the best methods of preventing sexually transmitted infections and unintended pregnancies.
These policies in California have led to a 46 percent reduction in the number of unintended teen pregnancies in a 12-year period.
A recent House Government Reform Committee study showed that federally sponsored abstinence-only programs were ineffective in preventing STIs or unintended pregnancies. Thus, Congress chose not to reauthorize or fund such programs recently.
Arata's other target, Planned Parenthood, a health provider, every year provides 5 million women, men and teens with the health information and services they need to make responsible decisions to protect their health, prevent unintended pregnancies and have healthy, wanted babies.
The PHI study showed that parents, knowing more, trust reliable information, rather than ignorance, for their kids' health.
Oil vs. lives issue settled
In response to John Whalen's letter titled "Blood on hands," I would like to point out to him that the American people, led by environmentalists and various state and federal court decisions, have already decided the issue of the value of oil vs. the lives of American soldiers.
By, blocking off-shore and other domestic drilling, these entities have decreed that military lives are less important than a pristine environment.
I agree that the war in Iraq has turned into a total mess. I do not know how it evolved into the situation that is has. But, unlike a lot of other Times readers, I have no solution to offer. My only point is that if this war is any way connected to oil, the issue of the value of oil vs. the value of American soldiers' lives has been settled.
Funding Exxon's fight
ExxonMobil is reporting yet another quarter of staggering profits near $10 billion. While we pay the high gas prices that pump up Exxon's profits, we are also paying for Exxon's campaign to block action on global warming.
ExxonMobil is the only oil giant directly funding groups that deny global warming. The company's own public records show that through 2006 ExxonMobil has spent up to $21 million bankrolling groups that deny global warming such as the Heartland Institute, -- which describes global warming as nothing more than "environmental alarmism."
Although ExxonMobil says it is taking action on global warming, the company's latest Corporate Citizenship Report shows that its own global warming pollution levels actually increased by over 5 percent last year.
Other oil giants are taking global warming seriously while continuing to make healthy profits. They invest their profits in renewable energy and set limits on their own pollution or support a federal bill that would do so. But ExxonMobil does none of these things.
Studies used by Congress show that if we increase our use of homegrown renewable energy resources like wind, solar, geothermal, and biomass, then consumer energy prices will drop and new high-paying jobs will be created. ExxonMobil is the only oil giant still refusing to invest in renewable energy.
Orwell wrong about year
In the novel "1984," George Orwell laid out a nightmare scenario of how totalitarian government might come about in a democratic society. He got only two things wrong: the place (Britain) and the time -- he was 20 years off.
It seems to me that we are in the midst of the first coup d'etat in American history: fascism on the installment plan.
The reality is that President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and the neocons are systematically eroding our two centuries of constitutional government, and if we don't wake up in time to remove these megalomaniacs from office soon, it may be too late. Bush and Cheney are, step by step, creating the political nightmare the Founding Fathers did their very best to make impossible via the principle of separate but equal powers.
Unless we want a New King George, we need to send these budding dictators home while we still have the chance. Don't expect that the next presidential election in 2008 will be a remedy: They managed to steal the last two by hook or by crook, and it appears they have no intention whatsoever of surrendering power, even if it requires some ruse under which martial law might be imposed. Wake up, America, or we will meet in Guantanamo.
The death of life
Democracy is like a dirty diaper -- messy but a necessary part of life.
Fascism is neat and clean, but it is the death of life.
What we are witnessing in the political life of our country today is the death of life.
Workers lost out
A strongly pro-union government would have had that injunction against Waste Management immediately upon the lockout, and a different company doing the pick up until negotiations were begun and the regular workers allowed to do the jobs they'd long been hired to do.
Not Assemblywoman Loni Hancock nor Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums, nor any elected body protects working people. Certainly the businesses do not. The labor unions do not!
What were the concessions? How much have the workers lost in this negotiation -- another losing negotiation, where the union leaders keep their jobs, the workers barely do, and the advantage goes to big business, again?
And how much did the business save by cutting out employees for four weeks?
Norma J.F. Harrison
Rep. George Miller, D-Martinez, ended his second Saturday town hall meeting by speaking passionately about his horror at the conditions he witnessed and stories he heard while visiting veterans injured in Bush's invasion and occupation of Iraq.
I couldn't help thinking Democrats were a decade too late in becoming concerned about the plight of our veterans -- in this case, Iraq war veterans.
Miller emphasized the Democrats had a "pay as you go" policy during the Clinton administration. Clinton and Gore were budget hawks: "re-inventing government," gutting the social safety net, and privatizing everything, including national parks (e.g., the Presidio).
Clinton and Gore refused to recognize that Gulf War Syndrome, which afflicted tens of thousands of veterans of the first gulf war, was a result of their service. Many brought it home to their families, as well: Their spouses developed strange maladies, and their newborns were plagued with birth defects.
Recognizing Gulf War Syndrome was a result of service in the gulf war would have obligated the Democratically controlled-Congress to spend billions for veterans' health care.
However, Clinton did recognize the need for $60 billion in pork to buy off Democrats to get them to vote for the North American Free Trade Agreement.
Sustak is a member of the Richmond Green Party.
Time for reform
I would like to see universal health care of all Americans.
I have a sick father who is part of the veterans' health care system, in which he receives poor health care.
I have an aunt with a rare condition, and she can't get all the services she needs because Medicare doesn't cover it. She can't afford to pay out of pocket.
It is time for reform!
This year, our family will export more peak electricity from our residential solar installation into the PG&E grid than we used during off-peak hours. Hooray!
It was our goal to lighten the load, as well as cover our own use. However, PG&E will get that extra electricity for free. The PUC-approved rates allow credits up to the dollar amount of PG&E's power we used off-peak, but nothing for any extra power we give PG&E.
Now, PG&E wants to build local polluting, power plants in Hayward to cover local summer peak-use loads. If they put that money into residential solar and let the rates be fair, we the people might easily cover peak-use loads with all our little residential solar installations.
It's the perfect solution: cost effective, clean, maintenance free, long lasting, and abundant power on those long sunny summer days when it's most needed.
Doesn't the PUC and PG&E want to be really effective in solving our energy and environmental problems?
Sharon Ryals Tamm
A most educational story by staff writer Douglas Fischer on liquid carbon dioxide as a dry cleaning solvent (Times, July 30). Most of us appreciate some relationship between carbon dioxide and global climate change. How completely is this carbon dioxide recovered? Does it all go out into the atmosphere when the washing machine is opened? Is it really the "greener dry cleaner"?
Read whole report
The Times editorial of July 27 ("Outrageous findings") did not reflect the full SIGIR report and the USAID response to it. As a long-term Bechtel employee, now retired, I am compelled to respond. The SIGIT audit report included a response from USAID to the unstated implication that the failure to meet original objectives represented a failure of contract management or execution:
USAID believes that focusing exclusively on the original objectives of individual job orders is not a proper way of determining whether job orders and the contractual requirements were successfully completed, and gives a distorted view of the overall success of the Bechtel contract. ... Job orders are a flexible mechanism through which USAID gives instructions to the contractor. This flexibility proved itself to be very useful as the fluid circumstances in Iraq necessitated frequent changes. ... In contrast to the original objectives standard, USAID views the success of the job orders in the context of their objectives as amended through the job order amendment process. Such amendments were undertaken with great consideration for effective use of U.S. taxpayer funds and maximal results for the Iraqi people.
Daniel B. Hardie