Friday, March 25, 2005

Topic: Miscellaneous -- Pot Luck.

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Blogger jonathan said...

The Declaration of Independence

The unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America

July 4, 1776

WHEN IN the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

We hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these Rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed, That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these Ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its Foundation on such Principles, and organizing its Powers in such Form as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness. Prudence, indeed, will dictate that Governments long established should not be changed for light and transient Causes; and accordingly all experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed. But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security. Such has been the patient Sufferance of these Colonies; and such is now the necessity which constrains them to alter their former Systems of Government. The History of the present King of Great-Britain is a History of repeated injuries and usurpations, all having in direct Object the Establishment of an absolute Tyranny over these States. To prove this, let Facts be submitted to a candid World.

He has refused his Assent to Laws, the most wholesome and necessary for the public Good.

He has forbidden his Governors to pass Laws of immediate and pressing Importance, unless suspended in their Operation till his Assent should be obtained; and when so suspended, he has utterly neglected to attend to them.

He has refused to pass other Laws for the Accommodation of large Districts of People, unless those People would relinquish the Right of Representation in the Legislature, a Right inestimable to them, and formidable to Tyrants only.

He has called together Legislative Bodies at Places unusual, uncomfortable, and distant from the Depository of their Public Records, for the sole Purpose of fatiguing them into Compliance with his Measures.

He has dissolved Representative Houses repeatedly, for opposing with manly Firmness his Invasions on the Rights of the People.

He has refused for a long Time, after such Dissolutions, to cause others to be elected; whereby the Legislative Powers, incapable of Annihilation, have returned to the People at large for their exercise; the State remaining in the mean time exposed to all the Dangers of Invasion from without, and Convulsions within.

He has endeavoured to prevent the Population of these States, for that purpose obstructing the Laws for Naturalization of Foreigners, refusing to pass others to encourage their Migration hither, and raising the Conditions of new Appropriations of Lands.

He has obstructed the Administration of Justice, by refusing his Assent to Laws for establishing Judiciary Powers.

He has made Judges dependent on his Will alone, for the tenure of their offices, and the amount and Payment of their salaries.

He has erected a Multitude of New Offices, and sent hither Swarms of Officers to harass our People, and eat out their Substance.

He has kept among us, in Times of Peace, Standing Armies without the Consent of our Legislatures.

He has affected to render the Military independent of and superior to the Civil Power.

He has combined with others to subject us to a Jurisdiction foreign to our Constitution, and unacknowledged by our laws; giving his Assent to their Acts of pretended Legislation:

For quartering large Bodies of Armed Troops among us:

For protecting them, by a mock Trial, from Punishment for any Murders which they should commit on the Inhabitants of these States:

For cutting off our Trade with all Parts of the World:

For imposing Taxes on us without our Consent:

For depriving us, in many Cases, of the benefits of Trial by Jury:

For transporting us beyond Seas to be tried for pretended offences:

For abolishing the free System of English Laws in a neighbouring Province, establishing therein an arbitrary Government, and enlarging its Boundaries so as to render it at once an Example and fit Instrument for introducing the same absolute Rule into these Colonies:

For taking away our Charters, abolishing our most valuable Laws, and altering fundamentally the Forms of our Governments:

For suspending our own Legislature, and declaring themselves invested with Power to legislate for us in all Cases whatsoever.

He has abdicated Government here, by declaring us out of his Protection and waging War against us.

He has plundered our Seas, ravaged our Coasts, burnt our Towns, and destroyed the Lives of our People.

He is, at this Time, transporting large Armies of foreign Mercenaries to compleat the Works of Death, Desolation and Tyranny, already begun with circumstances of Cruelty and Perfidy scarcely paralleled in the most barbarous Ages, and totally unworthy the Head of a civilized Nation.

He has constrained our fellow Citizens taken Captive on the high Seas to bear Arms against their Country, to become the Executioners of their Friends and Brethren, or to fall themselves by their Hands.

He has excited domestic Insurrections amongst us, and has endeavoured to bring on the Inhabitants of our Frontiers, the merciless Indian Savages, whose known Rule of Warfare, is an undistinguished Destruction, of all Ages, Sexes and Conditions.

In every stage of these Oppressions we have Petitioned for Redress in the most humble Terms: Our repeated Petitions have been answered only by repeated Injury. A Prince, whose character is thus marked by every act which may define a Tyrant, is unfit to be the Ruler of a free People.

Nor have we been wanting in Attentions to our British Brethren. We have warned them from Time to Time of attempts by their legislature to extend an unwarrantable Jurisdiction over us. We have reminded them of the Circumstances of our Emigration and Settlement here. We have appealed to their native Justice and Magnanimity, and we have conjured them by the Ties of our common Kindred to disavow these Usurpations which would inevitably interrupt our Connections and Correspondence. They too have been deaf to the Voice of Justice and of Consanguinity. We must, therefore, acquiesce in the Necessity which denounces our Separation, and hold them, as we hold the rest of Mankind, Enemies in War, in Peace, Friends.

We, therefore, the Representatives of the united States of America, in General Congress Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the world for the rectitude of our intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly publish and declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, Free and Independent States; that they are Absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political connection between them and the State of Great-Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as Free and Independent States, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which Independent States may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Tuesday, July 05, 2005 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Madness of King George III may have been his doctors' fault

By Carolyn Y. Johnson, Globe Staff | August 1, 2005

Nearly two centuries after King George III famously mistook a large tree for a Prussian king, peed red- and blue-tinged urine, and died blind, deaf, and mad, scientists are still finalizing his diagnosis.

In 1969, a mother-and-son team of psychiatrists with a penchant for diagnosing deranged, dead celebrities suggested that the king suffered from a hereditary disorder called porphyria. The diagnosis stuck, and the British king's legacy brought fame to the rare metabolic disease -- though it remained hotly contested.

Other possibilities have been floated over the years, too: the king who sat on the throne when the United States earned its independence could have had manic-depressive psychosis, or even pent-up sexual frustration -- the theory is that after being forced to marry an ugly German princess, the king, as a ''God-fearing man, had to remain faithful . . . and that put him over the edge," said Martin Warren, a biochemist at Queen Mary, University of London.

Now, using modern forensic techniques on a two-inch lock of the king's hair and retracing the royal family tree, Warren and his colleagues have uncovered further evidence that the king likely suffered from porphyria, which even today is frequently mistaken for mental illness -- and a possible explanation for his unusually long, severe episodes of madness. Their analysis, published late last month in the British medical journal, The Lancet, implicates arsenic -- a heavy metal known to aggravate and even trigger episodes of the disease.

The arsenic, researchers wrote, was probably a contaminant in his medications, meaning that as the royal physicians attempted to cure the king of his porphyria -- they may have been making him much worse.

''Of course, postulates such as this one are of the armchair variety," and not provable, but the paper is ''provocative," said Dr. Peter Tishler, a professor at Harvard Medical School, and a member of the advisory board of the American Porphyria Foundation. He has long been skeptical of King George's diagnosis.

Porphyria is a complicated diagnosis: Even today, the disease is nicknamed ''the little imitator" because it looks like dozens of other diseases on first examination. The genetic disorder interferes with metabolism, causing acute abdominal pain, muscle weakness, confusion, and red-tinged urine, which seems to have affected several of the king's offspring and relatives.

To support their diagnosis, researchers drew on the royal physicians' reports from the 1780s until the king's death in 1820: They were giving the king medications that -- unbeknownst to them -- commonly contained arsenic.

''His Majesty's medicine was given him by force at seven o'clock and this has certainly contributed to his irritation and irascibility which has prevailed ever since," one note from 1811 reads.

Nonetheless, controversy continues. Wilfred Niels Arnold, a biochemistry professor at the University of Kansas Medical Center who has written several papers suggesting that the impressionist painter Vincent Van Gogh had porphyria, said he is skeptical of the new claims. He believes the arsenic found in the hair may have been an external preservative and that several of the king's medications could have triggered episodes of porphyria. In an e-mail, he called the paper ''one of the worst so far in this field," because many of the king's medicines contained different compounds that could have triggered attacks of porphyria.

Like other subjects of ''pathography," a field of science that reconstructs illness long after a person has died (posthumous medical diagnoses have been offered in books whose titles include ''The Health of Presidents," ''The Madness of Kings," and ''Medical Biographies: The Ailments of Thirty-three Famous Persons") King George III has long excited both medical and historical curiosity -- although researchers cheerfully agree that such medical mysteries are ultimately unsolvable.

The king's madness often overshadows his most important achievements and his great failure: the expansion of the British empire, the defeat of Napoleonic France, mastery of the oceans, and the loss of the American colonies. Despite efforts to put one of the king's sons in power during a particularly debilitating episode of madness in 1788, King George was able to recover from the early episodes of derangement, and was one of Britain's longest serving monarchs. His oldest son, later King George IV, served as regent during his father's last nine years on the throne.

Disagreements over what felled long-dead celebrities may seem pointless, since such belated diagnoses aren't likely to illuminate much about how diseases work, and the dead can't campaign on behalf of their illness as Michael J. Fox has done for Parkinson's disease and Lance Armstrong for cancer. But their influence on modern medicine can't be discounted.

''It's interesting and instructive, and perhaps it explains something of where we're from," Tishler said, who sees patients who suffer the same fate as King George: given a wrong treatment that actually triggers a debilitating attack. ''Like a lot of history, we'd rather not repeat the mistakes of yesterday."

Carolyn Y. Johnson can be reached at cjohnson@globe.com.

Monday, August 01, 2005 10:09:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Boston Globe > Opinion > Op-ed

JOAN VENNOCHI

Swift's well-earned portrait
By Joan Vennochi, Globe Columnist

October 27, 2005

JANE SWIFT'S portrait deserves to hang in the Massachusetts State House, no matter how controversial her tenure on Beacon Hill.

The painting, unveiled this week, legitimately reminds people of a ''first" in Bay State political history. It is also a reminder of the specific challenges that went along with becoming the first pregnant working mother to become acting governor of Massachusetts.

Swift's stint on Beacon Hill was beset by pseudo-scandals. She asked State House aides to babysit, and she used a state helicopter to fly home to Western Massachusetts for Thanksgiving.

Her underlying problem, however, was stature. She couldn't change the perception that she lacked it.

But that doesn't negate Swift's right to be included in the historical record of those who governed the Bay State. Nor does it diminish the important symbolism of her tempestuous time there.

Swift made it to the governor's office the same way Paul Cellucci did. They were both lieutenant governors who became acting governors when the governor left office before his term was up.

When Cellucci ran for election in his own right, Swift was the GOP's candidate for lieutenant governor. She was also pregnant with her first daughter, Elizabeth. When Cellucci left the governor's office to become US ambassador to Canada, Swift was 36 and pregnant with twins.

Swift became a poster child for a working mother's difficulty in achieving the correct work/family balance. Maternity -- not policy -- defined her stint on Beacon Hill, along with questions about how she could manage the acting governor's job while commuting home to her family at the western end of Massachusetts.

Much of the so-called analysis of the Swift administration revolved around the acting governor's physical characteristics, during and after pregnancy. Another favorite media topic was her marriage to a contractor, not a power-broker, who opted to become a stay-at-home dad. That being said, Swift did make mistakes, most notably involving the Turnpike Authority. At the same time, she was never given credit for the tough budget-cutting decisions she was forced to make after Cellucci left town.

And listening to speakers at this week's portrait unveiling ceremony, it is also clear that Massachusetts voters never got to know the woman described by Cellucci and Swift's former state Senate colleagues as determined, serious, and policy-driven.

As acting governor, Swift couldn't shake her image as a political lightweight, and some of the criticism was her own fault. She ultimately dropped out of the governor's race in 2002. Her decision cleared the path for Mitt Romney to gain the GOP nomination and then the corner office.

Romney attended the portrait unveiling, but declined a speaking role. Lieutenant Governor Kerry Healey, who is poised to become the GOP gubernatorial nominee in 2006, was invited to attend but did not.

The current lieutenant governor tells people she is ''no Jane Swift." She will find out soon enough that being thin, blonde, and rich lends itself to other types of gender-related bias and analysis.

As former New Jersey Governor Christine Todd Whitman said during remarks honoring Swift, when a woman runs for office, ''the standards aren't always the same. . . . The questions aren't always the same."

Cellucci noted that future female candidates ''will be better off" because of Swift's role as ''Her Excellency." That will be true only if, instead of disdaining Swift, any future female candidates understand the pressures she withstood as trailblazer. Without such empathy, it will be a long time before a portrait is unveiled of the first woman to be elected governor of Massachusetts.

Thursday, October 27, 2005 8:15:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

The demise of the private pension plan

Boomer Bucks by Barbara Whelehan • Bankrate.com

Do you hear a faint, but ominous-sounding, bell? It's ringing the death knell for traditional pension plans.

Some folks believe that these so-called "defined benefit" plans will all but disappear over the next 20 years. These plans pay a lifelong pension benefit that is determined by an employee's tenure and salary.

Many plans are in deep trouble. Companies are supposed to fund their pensions each year to cover the benefits they're promising, but many aren't funding them enough.

The shortfall for corporate plans totals more than $450 billion, according to the Pension Benefit Guaranty Corp., a quasi-government organization that takes over pension plans dumped on it by financially troubled companies. The PBGC recently announced that its exposure to financially weak companies -- those flirting with bankruptcy -- rose to $108 billion in fiscal year 2005, from $96 billion the previous year.

The PBGC guarantees that workers will get the pensions promised them -- to an extent. It will pay the promised amount up to about $45,000 a year for workers who retire at age 65. The cap is lower for younger retirees, higher for older ones.

Public pensions are also in bad shape. These are the pension plans promised to government employees -- firefighters, policemen, teachers, etc. Some 90 percent of public employees are promised a pension for life versus 20 percent of corporate employees. But public plans are also short of funds, by as much as $760 billion, according to Barclays Global Investors.

If nothing is done, who's ultimately going to bail out these public and private plans? If you answered "the taxpayers," you are right.

Congress in action

Over the past year, members of the House and Senate have been working hard on legislation that addresses private pension deficits in an attempt to avert such a taxpayer bailout. Their goal is to put a finalized bill on the president's desk for his signature before the end of the year. A chief concern is the PBGC's own deficit of nearly $23 billion -- the difference between its assets of $56.5 billion and liabilities of $79.2 billion. A bill that recently passed the Senate imposes strict time limits, generally seven years, for companies to eliminate their funding shortfalls. It also calls for an increase in annual premiums to the PBGC, from $19 to $30 per covered employee.

Does that strike you as a ridiculously low premium payment, considering the guarantee that companies are getting? For 2005 alone, the PBGC received roughly $1.5 billion in premiums from companies. Yet in that same time frame the agency took over the payments of 120 terminated company plans, which were only half-funded on average, involving 235,000 workers.

The extra 11 bucks per person that the agency may collect, if the bill becomes law, won't even come close to eradicating the agency's current deficit, let alone future liabilities.

But companies are not thrilled about paying the $30 annual premium because it will add to their pension fund burden. And that's another reason why we are closer to the demise of the corporate pension plan.

Trick accounting

To make matters worse, the assumptions used by companies to determine whether they have enough money in their pension accounts are so dodgy that they're now under scrutiny by the Securities and Exchange Commission. The concern is that companies can fudge the numbers concerning future pension obligations as well as the quarterly profits they report to shareholders.

For instance, the discount rate is one assumption that companies use to determine whether they have enough money in their pension funds. That rate is used to calculate the present value of the money companies will need to pay future benefits. That's a tough concept to wrap your mind around, I know. But variations in the discount rate, even by as little as a quarter of a percentage point, can make a pension fund look flush or, conversely, anemic. The lower the discount rate used, the more money a company must pile into a fund. The higher the rate, the lower the pension-fund obligation.

The SEC is looking into how company managements arrive at the discount rate, and if they are massaging their firms' rates to present healthier, though inaccurate, fiscal reports to shareholders.

Companies, ever mindful of the effect of quarterly results on shareholders, can also, quite legally, "smooth" their earnings numbers over a period of years by using an "assumed" return for their pension plans rather than the actual return. Thanks to an accounting quirk, the assumed performance of pension assets can be reflected in quarterly net income.

In a recent editorial, former SEC chairman Arthur Levitt denounced the practice, saying "the smoothing of assets and obligations masks underlying volatility and is producing financial statements that are deceptive."

In response to these complaints, the Financial Accounting Standards Board announced in mid-November that it is planning to address some of these accounting issues, though approved changes won't go into effect until the end of 2006 at the earliest. One revision under consideration would require that companies include their pension surplus or shortfall on the balance sheet (instead of in the footnotes, where it currently resides). Also, changes in the value of the pension asset or liability would be excluded from net income.

The move to strengthen pension rules

In 2004, Congress passed a two-year measure that enabled companies to use a corporate bond rate as its discount rate, rather than the lower 30-year Treasury rate. That gave companies some breathing room, enabling them to put less money in their pension funds.

But the tide has reversed, and the Bush administration is now pushing for tougher pension-funding rules. In theory, that's a great idea. Companies shouldn't get away with any shenanigans with respect to something as sacrosanct as their employees' pension plans. But critics say that if regulations become too tough, that will cause more companies to terminate or freeze their plans, and that that's what the Bush administration ultimately wants: to free businesses of onerous pension obligations.

Well, it's hard to know what our president's goal really is. Maybe pension plans don't fit in with his vision of an ownership society. It's a vision that the president has to like because, quite frankly, he already owns a lot of stuff. According to financial disclosure forms he released earlier this year, our leader owns a 1,583-acre ranch worth between $1 million and $5 million, and a tree farm valued at about $600,000. On top of that he has about $5 million in Treasury notes and $1 million in CDs and checking and money market accounts. And after putting in eight years at the White House, the president will get, in addition to lifelong Secret Service protection, a nice big pension check every month.

I'm not saying he didn't earn all this stuff, but I wonder if he's in the best position to judge how important a pension check may be to the average Jane and Joe. I also wonder why he flip-flopped on the pension fund issue, first loosening the restrictions and now gunning for tightening them. To push for laws that make it tougher for businesses to offer pension plans may take a load off corporate America (though, incidentally, companies do get a big tax deduction for money they put into these plans), but the demise of pension plans will put a lot of pressure on workers.

The pension system will continue to live on in the public sector, no doubt, but what's being done to address those colossal deficits? The accounting rules that govern these plans are even looser than those of private plans. "We believe that public plans may be using an artificially high discount rate in their liability calculations," says Lance Berg, a spokesperson for Barclays Global Investors. (Remember: high discount rate, less funding required.)

There is no agency to protect or police public plans. The backup plan is that taxpayers will have to pay for the shortfalls, whether now or in the future.

For those of us who lack traditional pension benefits -- if we're unable to find government jobs -- we have no alternative but to create our own pension funds. We can do that by stockpiling a wad of assets. Then we can create our own pensions by using these assets to purchase immediate annuities that guarantee an income stream for as long as we live.

Of course, the tricky part of that plan is accumulating a big enough wad of assets. But that goes hand in hand with the vision of an ownership society, which in this case means: You're on your own.

Longtime financial journalist Barbara Mlotek Whelehan earned a certificate of specialization in financial planning.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005 8:11:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

December 10, 2005

Re: The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has fed me to the Wolves!

VIA Email

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

While in the U.S. Army, I was severely bullied, abused and very possibly tortured at the hands of a racist black Staff Sergeant named Clovel Oliphant. My life was threatened, I was excessively sleep deprived and given illegal orders that I was morally and legally obligated to disobey. I had a psychiatric breakdown after these events occurred. For these reasons, I was separated early from the U.S. Army with an Honorable Discharge on July 7, 2001. Following my separation, I submitted a claim for disability benefits based on my psychiatric records. The VA in Boston, Massachusetts swiftly denied my claim. After the denial, President George W. Bush ordered me an appeal hearing one block from the White House in Washington, D.C. My mother and I traveled to our nation’s capital city to attend my hearing in front of a Veterans Law Judge on July 19, 2004. The Judge remanded my claim to Cleveland, Ohio. By June of 2005, Cleveland’s VA Office showed Washington that compliance to all regulatory requirements had now been finally met. Moreover, a Manchester, New Hampshire VA psychiatrist evaluated me one-month prior to Cleveland’s bureaucratic hatchet job and wrote a very convoluted yet unfavorable recommendation for the purpose of denying me service connection. Yesterday, December 9, 2005, I received a December 5, 2005 final decision on my case that denied me service connection for VA Benefits. Now, I am at the point of either dropping my claim or taking on the whole military and VA system in U.S. Court.

I am just one man against many men. If I were to win my case at this point I would be David defeating Goliath. I feel like I am in a Kafka novel with no rights or power against two all-powerful false gods called the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs. By the VA’s actions, I will most likely become homeless, mentally ill, and physically unhealthy sometime in the future. By the President’s blessings, the VA had a chance to help me, a Veteran. That is the very point of why the VA exists and the VA bureaucrats have the nice paying, comfortable jobs that they work in. They, meaning the VA, are supposed to be here to help Veterans. I am a Veteran who has not only been not helped, but also now I am being fed to the Wolves by the VA system!

There is a sarcastic bright side, which is that State Representative Denis E. Guyer (D-Dalton, Massachusetts) should be very happy by this news. After all, Denis E. Guyer has slanderously told numerous people in the Pittsfield area that the VA should not help me because prior to entering the U.S. Army, I falsely and allegedly stalked an imaginary Jewish woman from Otis, Massachusetts, and that my real psychiatric problems in the U.S. Army and prior falsely alleged crime against a woman who does not exist showed this mean-spirited Crane family (of Crane & Company) gold-digger that I really belong in a psychiatric institution. Denis E. Guyer has made it a point to slander me to all of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, and his message was clear to all whom he has spoken to, which is that he hopes that I don’t win my claim for benefits before the VA. I am sarcastically glad to have brought a bullying smile to Denis E. Guyer’s wretched countenance. Maybe the U.S. Departments of Defense and Veterans Affairs will call on Denis E. Guyer if I decide to chase a quixotic windmill and be the one to finally put an end to Kafkaesque practices in the U.S. Government at home and overseas! I am sure if the money is good, Denis E. Guyer will be there for the U.S. Government with bells and whistles on. I hear the growing chorus singing louder and louder every day, and they are saying: “FEED JONATHAN ALAN MELLE TO THE WOLVES!”

Congratulations to all of my enemies. The VA has fed me to the Wolves!

Sincerely and In Truth,

Jonathan Alan Melle

Tuesday, December 20, 2005 2:38:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

January 3, 2006

Dear Berkshire Bloggers,

I attended the Manchester, N.H. Municipal Inauguration today. It was held at the Palace Theater on Hanover Street, which is the same street I currently live on. I listened to the newly elected and sworn-in Mayor’s speech. Mayor Frank Guinta wants to cut taxes, reduce crime and provide educators with the resources they need to provide a quality public education. He along with his public safety officials are going to travel to New York City to find out information on a crime fighting system that reduced violent crime there by 38% in recent years. Mayor Guinta’s favorite platform is government efficiency. He is going to intensely focus on the municipal budget to root out wasteful spending. I did not follow the many budgetary proposals he made in his speech, but he wants to look at spending over longer periods of time, not just once every year, to see the trends of where money is going to and where cuts can be made.

After the inauguration, I met Mayor Guinta, as well as my newly sworn-in Alderman and friend, who then introduced me to the Governor of New Hampshire, John Lynch. I never met Governor Lynch before, but I did see him campaign and I voted for him, too. I told Governor Lynch that I am very happy to meet him, and that I voted for him and wanted to belatedly congratulate him on his victory in 2004. I told Governor Lynch that he is a great Governor. He replied with a Thank You.

I also want to congratulations to all of the great public servants serving the beautiful and great City of Pittsfield on their inauguration. I think that Mayor Jim Ruberto is doing a really good job serving as Pittsfield’s Mayor. I see a bright future for both Pittsfield and the Berkshires under Mayor Ruberto’s leadership. The City Council is really promising. I am saddened that Pam Malumphy is no longer serving Pittsfield in an official capacity, but I hope she will be back in politics once again. While I resent the insider’s game in all local politics, especially in Pittsfield, I believe that all those who serve the American People have the best interests of the people whom they serve deep in their hearts. The best course for Pittsfield is to build on its strengths, attract businesses and economic development, and hope for a much better group of state government leaders who will someday pay much more attention to the needs of distant municipalities that care about their people, who are the lifeblood of any and every community.

God Bless America!

Jonathan A. Melle

Tuesday, January 03, 2006 12:17:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Re: Government Efficiency at the Municipal Level

Via Email

Dear Union Leader:

I have only lived in Manchester for one-year, but I have studied public administration in college and through my studies have found ways to create value in local government.

First and foremost, one needs only to look at the community’s public schools and the performance of the public school students. Why would this be important for government efficiency? The answer, like many of the following points, lies not in cutting costs but rather in increasing revenues by way of both new growth and citizen investment dollars. The number one investor in a community really is not businesses, but families. A family will be the one to take out the dreaded long-term mortgage and assume all of the fixed costs associated with investing in their future and the community they choose to live in. For Manchester to achieve an optimal level of municipal government operations, Manchester needs to have quality public schools or else many families are going to move elsewhere in the region. When families choose other places to live or move away from Manchester, then Manchester loses new growth and investment dollars.

Second and also foremost, one needs to look at the status of the public safety force. When a young high school girl was raped while walking to public school, that violent incident sent pain down every part of my body. As a citizen of Manchester, I asked myself how could such an event happen? The answer, along with Mayor Frank Guinta’s citing of an ever-increasing percentage of crime in the Queen City, is that Manchester needs not tens, but hundreds more police officers patrolling the city streets. How does this deal with economic efficiency? The answer is the same as before. With negative news like increasing crime and a girl being raped while walking to school, no young family in their right mind is going to be willing to relocate to Manchester and place their children in under-performing public schools and on violent and unsafe streets. Manchester is losing revenue by not providing the optimal level of basic public services to its citizenry.

Third and also foremost, we must explore the issue of business dollars. My mother is an artist. She is impressed with Manchester’s cultural selections. She often frequents the Currier Art Gallery and goes to performances at the Palace Theater. But, she is intimidated by the downtown’s selection of drug-infested nightclubs and seedy bars. Tourists such as my mother want less of a “Pottersville” feel to a downtown and more of a “Bedford Falls” feel. Manchester would do well to shutdown the ill reputed nightclubs and seedy bars by placing more inclusive and warm businesses in there place. What does this have to do with economic efficiency? Tourist dollars are increased government revenues. Without a stronger tourism economy, Manchester will be doomed to having very scarce public resources to provide the important aforementioned public services and will fall deeper and deeper into the cycle of violence and poverty it is currently spiraling into.

How can Manchester attract business dollars? My answer is for municipal officials to be more selective in what businesses they allow to come in to the community. Drive away the ill reputed nightclubs and seedy bars by inviting in more art galleries, movie theaters, restaurants, colleges, concert halls, and other safe and fun activities. Manchester needs to be for everyone, including children, adults and senior citizens.

In conclusion, Manchester’s problems are not only about the efficient management of very scarce dollars and cents, but the much-highlighted lack of common sense that plagues such a promising community filled with pride, families, friends and hope. Economic efficiency in municipal government is not achieved solely through the consolidation of entities and services to lower administrative and staff costs, but also by attracting new growth and investment dollars that will generate revenues for the long-term. The optimal way to achieve this end is for Manchester to attract young families who are willing to invest their money and lives into making their community into a fun, safe and prosperous place. No Wal Marts or other models of economic efficiency in the shark-infested business world will have the same positive impact on Manchester as will a mother and father who care about the place their children will grow up in. Manchester must attract businesses through lower taxes, but not at the cost of scaring away the people who pay the bills.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Thursday, January 05, 2006 3:53:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

I WILL ALWAYS SPEAK MY GOOD CONSCIENCE FOR AS LONG AS I SHALL LIVE!
-Jonathan A. Melle

Monday, February 13, 2006 10:56:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

VA patient recalled as lost, lonely
Family wants answers in brother's sudden death

By Maria Cramer, [Boston] Globe Staff | February 23, 2006

Thomas Tefft spent almost his entire adult life in hospitals. His family could not care for the Army veteran, who had severe mental health problems, and they committed him to the VA New England Healthcare System about four decades ago, when he was in his 20s.

On Sunday, he died mysteriously at the VA medical center in West Roxbury, and now his family is aching for answers, wondering whether someone might have killed him.

''Poor man never had a life," his younger sister Brenda Knerr, 61, said yesterday as she sat in her kitchen in Richmond, R.I. ''He never hurt anybody."

Boston homicide detectives are investigating the 64-year-old's death, which medical center officials have called ''unexplained." Authorities have not officially identified Tefft. They have refused to disclose whether Tefft died in his room, saying any details could jeopardize the investigation.

At the very least, Knerr said, she would like to know what he did in the last hours of his life.

''Did he eat breakfast? . . . Did he have any tests that morning?" Knerr asked. ''I want some answers."

''We want to know what happened to him," his older sister Carolyn Lavarini, 65, said in a telephone interview.

A medical center spokeswoman yesterday referred all inquiries about the case to the Boston Police Department. Autopsy results are pending, said David Procopio, spokesman for Suffolk District Attorney Daniel F. Conley, whose office is also investigating the death.

Until the final autopsy report is concluded, officials will not know the cause or even the time of death, Procopio said.

''We understand his family's frustrations in what is surely a terrible time for them," he said. ''Of course, we'll provide the family any information we collect once we ascertain the accuracy and credibility of that information."

Tefft was raised in Richmond, a town of some 7,200 about 30 miles south of Providence, where he grew up with two brothers and three sisters. He was quiet as a child and a teenager and had a tense relationship with his father, a difficult, stern man who forced his three sons to work for his carpentry business during the summers and rarely let them have free time, Knerr said.

When Tefft was 18, his father caught him drinking beer, she said. Furious, he ordered him to join the Army.

Tefft served two years in Germany, Knerr said. But toward the end of his service, his mental health worsened, and he was discharged honorably, she said. Knerr said his decline probably resulted from his unhappy childhood and the trauma of being sent so far away.

The signs of his instability became obvious almost immediately upon his return, Knerr said.

He would wander away from home without leaving a note. He could not keep a job. His brother would drive him to the bead factory where he worked, but usually Tefft would return, crawl into bed, and fall asleep.

Once, Knerr said, she left him with her infant daughter while she visited her next-door neighbor. Moments later, she looked out the window and saw her brother walking outside, leaving the infant inside. He became paranoid and was convinced people around him wanted to hurt him.

His mother decided to have him committed. He was sent to the VA medical center, in Brockton when he was in his mid- to late 20s. He spent most of his life there, under psychiatric care, except for a couple of years he spent in a Rhode Island nursing home, Knerr said. Officials at the home eventually sent him back to Brockton, saying he needed close attention, which they could not provide, she said.

Tefft had a lonely life. His father died about four years ago without ever reconciling with his son, Knerr said. He rarely saw his siblings or his mother because of the distance between Rhode Island and Brockton, and spent most of the time smoking or watching television, said Knerr's husband, Wilson Knerr Jr., who grew up next door to the family.

Tefft would get lost in his thoughts and pretend he was young again. ''Sometimes we choose to remember the good times, and he did that," Brenda Knerr said.

He even invented a family -- a wife and 20 children -- and often talked about them as if they were real, relatives said.

Occasionally, Tefft was transferred to the West Roxbury campus for medical tests. He had probably been there only a few days before he died, Brenda Knerr said, though she was unsure why he was sent there this time.

''Tom didn't deserve to be killed," Wilson Knerr said. ''He was a decent guy."

His sisters plan to bury him Saturday after a small graveside ceremony at Wood River Cemetery in Richmond, where he will lie next to his mother, who set aside the plot before she died last year.

''My mother wanted to make sure Tom had a place," Brenda Knerr said.

Thursday, February 23, 2006 3:02:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

--NEWS STORY--3/2/2006--

Massachusetts Gets Low Grade On National Mental Health Report

Massachusetts has been given a grade of C-Minus by a group that advocates for the care of the mentally ill. But that was better than the average national grade of D.

The report being released today by the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill says bureaucracy and funding shortages in Massachusetts force thousands of mentally ill citizens to wait for help, or go without it.

Thursday, March 02, 2006 1:48:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Bloggers,

Yesterday, I had to go to a Podiatrist to have an infected ingrown toenail cut out. Because the VA unfairly denied me Veterans Disability Benefits, and because I am also uninsured, I had to charge $420.00 to my credit card to pay for the medical treatment.

What bothers me is that under the law, I qualify for VA Benefits, including a set percentage of monthly disability compensation (from 0% through 100%) and free medical services at a VA Hospital. However, the BVA stated on December 5th, 2005, in a lengthy ruling against me, that everything that occurred during my military service would have happened anyway, and therefore, the laws that entitle me to Veterans Benefits do not apply to my case.

I find the VA's flawed and unfair logic so absurd. If events occurred against me in the military to aggravate my mental health disorders, but my plight as a Veteran was predetermined regardless of these events, then the law should still apply regardless of my "loser status" that the VA has ascribed to my name.

Let us take it another step further. If someone assaults a frail 85-year-old woman and she suffers injuries, but she lives in a high crime neighborhood and would have ended up assaulted anyway and injured regardless of her batterer, then a Judge would not be able to state to the elderly woman that these events would have happened regardless of the events that actually took place and, therefore, she has no legal recourse in the matter so she is denied legal remedies in helping her to recover from her injuries.

I am going to be HOMELESS in the near future due to the VA's denial of my benefits and my PLIGHT as a Veteran. When I do become homeless, I will be a burden to society. I will end up with mental illnesses that will lead me to become physically ill. When I am on the streets as a Veteran who is very mentally ill and physically ill, I will eventually die. This is my thanks for honorably serving my country, for protecting lives, including my own, when given illegal orders, and for peacefully resolving incidences of bullying (as noted in the BVA's decision) so no one got hurt by violence, including myself.

If I ever become stable, and if I ever become a future President of the U.S.A. someday, I am going to radically change the VA. The VA will face painful sanctions for feeding Veterans such as myself to the Wolves. Moreover, the Military will reform itself and be a symbol of toughness and compassion in our nation and abroad. If I ever become a future President, I will ensure that no one on this planet is poor and has to suffer the indignities of high credit card bills, debts and homelessness. I have worked within the system very peacefully for the past 4+ years, and this is the outcome. But hey, it would have happened anyway so the laws that protect people like me do not apply, according to the VA. What crap!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Thursday, May 11, 2006 2:01:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Bloggers,

Yesterday (5/15/06) afternoon, my mother and I traveled to Quincy, Massachusetts from Southern N.H. to tour the John Adams homesteads and Church. It was a wonderful day. I finished the book “John Adams” by David McCoullough last week and wanted to travel to his native hometown to see and hear about him from the professional guides. After spending 3-hours touring Adams’ homestead, I was reaffirmed of his great legacy to our great nation.

First, I was able to see the home he was born in. It was a simple home with old chairs and a table across from the large fireplace where colonial wives, such as his mother Susanna, would prepare meals. We also viewed an addition room that looked much like the first room but with more “modern” cooking tools. The last room we saw was the living room where the Adams’ would host company. John Adams’ father was a Deacon and a Selectmen who instilled public service into his famous son. The adjacent home is where John and Abigail Adams lived when John Quincy Adams was born. His father left John Adams this home because his son was an Attorney and the home did not have the best lot for farmland to subsist on since he had alternative means to earn a living. It was in this home that the Massachusetts Constitution was written with a “Bill of Rights” that included the important clauses for equity that the same sex petitioners recently argued was the basis for their state constitutional right to marry. The Massachusetts Constitution, as written by Adams in 1779 and ratified in 1780, is the oldest living document of its kind in the entire world.

Second, I was able to tour the much more fancy Adams home he and his family lived in from about 1787 until his death in 1826. The Adams home was full of beautiful European furniture from his time in France, Holland and Great Britain. The home was lived in by many successive generations of Adams family members and was a mixture of the late 18th Century through the early 20th Century. There were portraits of George Washington, Martha Washington, Abigail Adams, among other prominent people and members of the Adams family. In this home, we were able to tour the upstairs, too. It was in Adams study that he loved to read and greet visitors, as well as where he passed away on the afternoon of July 4th, 1826, with his last written words, “Independence Forever” to be delivered by a messenger to the crowd outside awaiting his appearance that he was physically unable to make.

Third, behind this home was the famous Library that was featured in the movie, “Amistad.” The library was built in 1870 and its portrayal in the movie featuring John Quincy Adams’ successful defense of the Meddi people of Africa in the late 1830’s was inaccurate. The library was filled with thousands of books, and once included the display of the Meddi Bible that was a gift to John Quincy Adams for setting these people free in U.S. Court. Unfortunately, this Bible was stolen and damaged after it was recovered in New Hampshire and is now under a steel case in the Library. Walking around the grounds of the President’s Home or “Peace Field” and the Library was very beautiful and pleasing.

Fourth and finally, I was able to sit at the “Adams pew” of the Town Church that was built several years after the President’s death. Below the Church’s main floor lie both President Adams and their respective wives. Standing in the middle of the crypt room, I stood in between the graves of two of America’s greatest Presidents and I felt a strong sense of honor and reverence for being in the company of two good men who founded the greatest nation on Earth, The United States of America!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Tuesday, May 16, 2006 2:38:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, Matt Kinnaman, President Bush, Mayor Ruberto, Rep. Bosley, Richard Delmasto, Jonathan Levine, Mary Carey, Joan Vennochi, Hiawatha Bray, Big Dave Vallette, Bill Everhart, Larry Kratka, Rep. Pignatelli, Stan Rosenberg, Jack Dew, Ned McGlynn, Glenn Drohan, Denis Guyer, & Massachusetts Newspapers:

I am sorry to say that my mom is having recurring health problems and is a past cancer survivor from 1989. I felt bad for Jim Ruberto's lovely wife, Ellen, when she had cancer, too. Pittsfield, Massachusetts is where we all grew up. In Pittsfield, The General Electric Company poisoned our land and water with cancer causing PCBs. I have witnessed many Pittsfield residents become ill and die from GE's pollution of cancer causing chemicals. I also want to take this opportunity to wish Stan Rosenberg well in his surgery. I hope Senator Rosenberg recovers nicely and we remain friends and I can support Stan when he runs for U.S. Congress as a healthy candidate someday in the future. I hope my mother's health issues are benign, and I hope Ellen Ruberto is healthy, too, and I hope Stan Rosenberg gets well, too. I love you all because I am a good man with a Christian heart of compassion. My mother told me yesterday that I am a very good and compassionate man.

Yesterday, my mother and I went on an outing to Boston. We boarded the train in North Billerica and arrived at North Station. We saw the matinee "The DaVinci Code" starring Tom Hanks at Loew's Theater on Tremont Street. After the movie, my mom cell phoned a Boston friend to join us for dinner in the North End, but this friend had to go to work soon. My mom's friend sarcastically joked that we were going to Hell for watching this "blasphemous" movie. My mom and I walked in the Boston Public Garden and saw all of the beautiful flowers and the sculpture of George Washington on his horse in front of a blue sky. We walked up to the State House through the Boston Common and I commented to my mom about what a pleasing building the State House is, but what stinkers there are inside of her walls. My mom told me that many of the state Reps. and Senators, et al, are really just money grubbers and don't mean the people any harm.

I then asked my mother why Denis Guyer would have so viciously slandered me to the Pittsfield area (where if I return I may be a victim of violence due to Guyer's vicious slanderous remarks against me) if what she said was true about the business and nature of government. My mom replied that Denis Guyer was simply doing reprisals against me because of my legal and legitimate retaliation against Nuciforo's 10 years of layered bullying against me. My mom said Nuciforo's decision not to be a state Senator anymore was due to me turning him into the Ethics Commission for profiting off of the state by his conflicts of interests as a private Corporate Attorney for a private Boston Law Firm serving the big banks and insurance companies, as she then pointed out to me the Prudential and John Hancock Buildings. My mom and I discussed how U.S. Senator John Kerry does the same illegal things as Nuciforo on the federal level and how he doesn't have to step down from his powerful elected post, but rather he even got to run for U.S. President 2-years-ago. It is different for John Kerry than for Nuciforo because John Kerry is much too powerful for a common citizen to have any influence for or against. My mom and I then discussed how Nuciforo's taking over Mary O'Brien's Registrar position is really just a step down the ladder rather than up by taking over John Olver's position in U.S. Congress. I explained to my mom that which she already knows to be true, which is that Nuciforo has bullied me for 10 years to this month, both directly and through layers of local and state employees, Mayors, opportunistic state Reps., such as Denis Guyer, among others. I told my mom that she cannot blame me for taking Nuciforo down after he unsuccessfully attempted to take dad down from his state position and put me in jail for Sheriff Massimiano to torture in the Spring of 1998. My mom replied to me that she knows all about what Nuciforo has done and would do to me if given the chance. My mom simply said that when she saw Nuciforo at the Hillary Clinton Colonial Theater Pittsfield even in the Summer of 1998, she assertively said to Nuciforo, "SHAME ON YOU!" My mom told me that she doesn't know what Denis Guyer looks like, but if I point Denis Guyer out to my mom she will say to Denis Guyer the same as she said to Nuciforo, "SHAME ON YOU!" I said to my mom, "Thank You!"

My mother and I then walked to Quincy Market and then had dinner at nice Italian Restaurant in the North End of Boston. We made our way back to the North Station and boarded our 7:30 P.M. train back to North Billerica and made our way home. I hope the best for my mother. I hope that I do not burden her with all of the crap heaped on me by Nuciforo and Denis Guyer. I hope that I may be a better son to my mother so she may live a low stress and happy life full of good health and healing. I truly want the best for everyone, including Nuciforo & Denis Guyer. "Smitty" Pignatelli told me something in 2003 after he was elected State Representative that I will never forget. Pignatelli told me that he is still the same man that served on the Berkshire County Commission with my dad. Pignatelli said that even though he is now a state Representative, that he is still "Smitty". Pignatelli told me the story of how his father's friend in World War II was named "Smitty" and that is why he carries this name. Pignatelli told me that he is not Nuciforo, but his own man and we can discuss our differences and he would take what I said into consideration. He is a good man. Also, Representative Dan Bosley said that we could disagree with issues and still be friends, too. My mom is right. While Nuciforo has bullied me for 10 years and acted with malfaesance towards my father, and while Guyer has slandered me with vicious accusations around the Pittsfield area as a reprisal to my stands against Nuciforo and his bullying of me, Representatives "Smitty" Pignatelli and Dan Bosley are not the same men, but rather Pignatelli and Bosley are good men who are my friends. I may dissent against President Bush, Reps. Bosley & Pignatelli, Mayor Ruberto, and I may agree with them, too, but they are all good men who are my friends. My mom made a good point and I hope that she recovers and doesn't have to go to the doctor's so much anymore in the near future. I also hope Ellen Ruberto and Stan Rosenberg get well, too, and are healthy.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Saturday, May 20, 2006 12:06:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

My thoughts on John Adams: A perspective of a good man in a new America
By Jonathan A. Melle on May 26th, 2006

John Adams’ life and faithful service to “Independence Forever”, which were his last written words to the American People, epitomized the humanitarian values of the late 18th Century. Like an “Oak Tree” in his will and spirit of Patriotism, our nation’s 2nd U.S. President was the strongest voice for the self-determination of the people’s will to have an Independent American Government free of British monarchy, colonialism and tyranny. However, as good of a man that John Adams truly was during these trying times for the causes of Independence and Liberty, all of the Founding Fathers also showed themselves to be flawed from the hypocrisies of the social injustices of the times. In many ways, both John Adams and the spirit of 1776 are symbols of both our nation’s finest ideals and worst inequities. But to understand this good man who led the cause for American Independence, the proper contexts of the time, history and events are needed to show that John Adams was indeed a good man with valuable contributions to our Republic of “Checks and Balances” within a written Constitution that protects our God given natural rights to Freedom.

John Adams loved to talk, give lengthy speeches, and stand for just political causes. Like many privileged men of his time, he owned land and farmed produce for subsistence and sale. Among the men he would meet with, books and writings were commonalities.

John Adams in one word was ambitious. He would choose public service before his family. He cherished his wife Abigail, with whom he would write romantic correspondences to on his voyages to Philadelphia and Western Europe, whom he inarguably loved dearly. Abigail Adams was among the many invaluable women and supporting cast members to the Founding Fathers’ causes for Liberty. But the sad truth in the short time we all have on this beautiful planet Earth is that John Adams chose important political causes before his wife Abigail and his children. Thank God for his decisions, but I feel that family is far more important to humanity than political ambition. John Adams traded off many of his personal interests for the good of the United States of America.

During the Revolutionary Era, many traditional citizens were land-rich farmers, but very few were estate owners and wealthy. Indeed, it was the wealthy citizens, such as John Hancock, that fared the worst under British Colonialism and led the cause for Rebellion and the Revolutionary War. While John Adams was a member of the elite in Massachusetts, he is still a good example of a farmer catching the fever of Patriotism pushed forth by the truly powerful protestors of British Colonial rule.

The cause of the Revolutionary leaders was to have a say in London’s Parliament before King George III concerning economic issues, especially taxation. The King of Great Britain would not consent to such demands, and enforced the laws of his nation’s Parliament against his Colonial subjects. This left the Colonial subjects of the British Crown with no representation in their Parliament in London, and British Monarchy became the enemy to be conquered by Independence. The irony of the Revolutionary Leaders’ protest of British Monarchy was that their real protests were with the public taxation policies of the English Parliament, which had nothing to do with the King except that he enforced their will over that of the Colonialists. In many ways, King George III was more of a scapegoat for the Revolutionary Leaders than he was the true villain he was made out to be. Nonetheless, American Democracy was the cause to overthrow British Monarchy, and so the Revolutionary War began with “the shot heard around the World” in Lexington, Massachusetts in the Spring of 1775.

Christian religion was ingrained in the thoughts and minds of our Founding Fathers. When Adams was a teen at Harvard University in the early 1750s, he had to start each day at 6:00 A.M. in Church. By 1776, John Adams was 40 and he and his colleagues were convinced that God blessed their cause of Independence and His Divine influence would lead us to victory.

The Massachusetts Constitution was written by John Adams in 1779 and has the distinction of being the oldest functioning document of its kind known to man. Initially, John Adams’ work, and his naming the newly independent state “The Commonwealth of Massachusetts”, excluded freedom of religion. Many years later, Adams supported this ideal of freedom of religion for the protection of the commonwealth’s Jewish citizens, but the measure was defeated and freedom of religion would not become a reality in Massachusetts until 1833, which was well after his death in 1826. If John Adams contribution to the structure of American government could be summed up in three words, they are: “Checks and Balances.”

The Founding Fathers were Christian men, but they also struggled with our nation’s most disgraceful symbols of shame: SLAVERY, the subordination of women to men in Government, the expulsion of the native Indians, and, to a lesser extent, some Anti-Semitism. During the Revolutionary War, Thomas Paine published many pamphlets urging the people to support the cause of American Independence and the signing of the Declaration of Independence. In one case, the Continental Congress ordered Paine to edit out his claims of King George’s monarchial rule as being similar to the Jewish people’s betrayal of Jesus Christ at the Crucifixion. With the much-debated issue of Slavery, the Founding Fathers’ did not provide Freedom for all men. Indeed, only landowners, elite statesmen and wealthy merchants of white male European backgrounds were granted the blessings of Liberty. For the Founding Fathers, Slavery was a social injustice and was the decided outcome of the evils of British Colonialism and Monarchy in the states, but they were unresolved to abolish this cursed form of wickedness and iniquity. Moreover, the native Indians had no standing when it came to the practical tenets of Classical Liberalism. It was the belief of the Founding Fathers that native Indians must assimilate into their agrarian ways of life in order to survive under the new order. Lastly, but not least, John Adams, who disavowed Slavery, made no effort towards complying with the humorous demand of his wife Abigail to “Remember the Ladies” in the Declaration of Independence, or to include women as equals to men in American government. While William Shakespeare said there are many truths said in jest, John Adams jokingly replied to Abigail’s letter by saying that women already governed men in their homes.

A current historian whom I have come to admire is William M. Fowler, Jr. of the Massachusetts Historical Society. Fowler pointed out in a 12/5/05 “Boston Herald” Op-Ed Essay that in December of 1775 the citizens of Pittsfield, Massachusetts, which is my native hometown, wrote to the Provincial Congress to form a new government with a written Constitution for Massachusetts. The towns of Berkshire County, (which I helped to unsuccessfully defend against the abolition and centralized state takeover of her long-standing county government from 1996 – 2000 while my dad, Bob Melle, served as the last Chairman of the Berkshire County Commission), in 1775 –1779 argued to their Boston counterparts that the power of the government should be invested in the people. In September of 1779, John Adams of Braintree, which in part later became Quincy, answered the call from PITTSFIELD and BERKSHIRE COUNTY by writing the Constitution with such principles as the Declaration of Natural Rights that would be the framework of the U.S. Constitution’s Bill of Rights, among many other valuable similarities.

DANIEL SHAYS’ contribution a decade after the Declaration of Independence was just as valuable to our Republic as those of our Founding Fathers. Shays’ Rebellion did not have the support of Eastern Massachusetts politicians, including John and Abigail Adams or their distant cousin Samuel Adams. The reason why Colonial Massachusetts rebelled over 10-years prior to Western Massachusetts (Berkshire, Franklin, Hampshire,and Hampden Counties; and parts of Central Worcester County) under Daniel Shays’ Militia was because of the provincial colonial government’s high DEBTS. In the mid 1770’s, Revolutionary leaders such as Samuel and John Adams revolted against British Colonialism and Monarchy because London’s Parliament would not bail out Boston’s financial insolvency, but instead implemented unfair high taxes that further sent the Colonial Government into bankruptcy. This was not the policy of the vilified British King, except that King George III enforced the will of his Parliament instead of the will of the people in his British Colonies. The same themes that held true for the Boston political establishment in the mid-1770’s now were the very similar issues facing the Veteran Revolutionary Soldiers of Western Massachusetts in the mid-1780’s. In 1786, Western Massachusetts’ Farmers were petitioning their state government for financial relief from high taxes and poor business earnings from declining farming outputs. The Boston politicians of the time, including then State Senator Samuel Adams, gave the same unfair response they received from London’s Parliament, which were higher taxes for the already poor and destitute Western Massachusetts’ Farmers and Revolutionary War Veterans. Daniel Shays, who was a Captain in the Continental Army, and his Western Massachusetts militiamen were intent on burning the City of Boston and the State House to the ground for Boston’s betrayal and hypocrisy towards Western Massachusetts.

While Boston withstood the threat of Shays’ Rebellion by defeating his militias with mercenary militias of their own, our nation now had a call to national unity under a stronger and more powerful centralized Government. This calling led to the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention and the gathering of the most brilliant group of men ever assembled to draft the Charter of our Freedoms: The U.S. Constitution. This precious document was framed by John Adams’ penmanship of the Massachusetts Constitution that was drafted 7-years prior to the drafting of our U.S. Constitution. This great national document was left incomplete until 1791 when John Adams, as President of the U.S. Senate, would support the first 10 Amendments to the U.S. Constitution known as “The Bill of Rights.”

Under the U.S. Constitution, the nation’s central Government elected George Washington as her first President of the U.S.A. with John Adams as the Vice President. John Adams was not a true insider in President Washington’s cabinet, but he did show an unquestionable loyalty to his Chief that other members of the Washington Administration did not. Throughout time, from the late 18th through the early 21st Centuries, U.S. Presidents have had to struggle with betrayal by those that served in their administrations. John Adams strongest virtues were those of loyalty to his causes, newly formed Republic, and George Washington both as a military General and then U.S. President. As President of the U.S. Senate, John Adams always supported and voted for, in the case of a tie vote, more Executive Powers for the Presidency. Adams’ position in support of Presidential Power led to suspicions by his critics that he was both a monarchist and an Anglophile from his time in Great Britain as a U.S. Ambassador to the Royal Court. These aspersions were not so, but the truth was that John Adams wanted a stronger American President than the Constitution initially granted because he was next in the line of succession when George Washington stepped down. Adams was not a monarchist, nor was he pro-British in the Anglophile traditions of Government, but he was an elitist when it came to him making distinctions among the classes of the American People that the Constitution and newly formed Government served. The debates that Adams found himself in about the U.S. Constitution put in to practice are still being discussed and debated well over 200-year later from his time as Vice President in the 1790’s.

As our 2nd U.S. President, John Adams is the first to inhabit The White House in Washington, D.C. He is best known as the Father of the U.S. Navy and for remaining neutral in the volatile Affairs of Western Europe, especially in his successful policy of keeping peace with an ever changing and militaristic France. In hindsight, France’s threat to President John Adams was absurd. France basically told the U.S.A. that after it conquered Great Britain, a nation that has not been conquered at home since the 11th Century (and now stands undefeated for almost nearly 1,000 years in the year 2006), that we were next to be doomed by the then insanity of French control. Adams never had anything to fear because France would never defeat Great Britain in battle in the British homeland.

John Adams’ presidency was full of betrayal by his Cabinet and former-long-standing Revolutionary friend and current then Vice-President, Thomas Jefferson. Adams was the last of the Federalist Presidents and would see the national government become divided by factions or political parties. It was in these turbulent times and threats from France that John Adams, previously known both for his “Bill of Rights” in the Massachusetts Constitution and then his support for the Bill of Rights in the U.S. Constitution, signed into law what is known as the modern day 2001 “Patriot Acts” of the Bush II Administration, which were the “Alien and Sedition Acts” of 1798. Because the Constitution of the United States of America is supposed to be more than just a piece of paper, John Adams is one of two U.S. Presidents who, to this point in U.S. History, will be known to have trampled the civil rights and liberties of American Citizens and Citizens of the World. John Adams signing of the Alien and Sedition Acts was the worst mistake of his Presidency. These unconstitutional laws, like the unconstitutional “Patriot Acts” laws President George W. Bush signed in 2001 and still supports in 2006, stood against everything John Adams had once stood for, which is an important distinction one should note when comparing him to our current U.S. President who never supported the civil rights and liberties measures John Adams had supported earlier in his political career. Later in his life, and after his four-year term as U.S. President, John Adams admitted his error in signing these unconstitutional acts in a written correspondence he would share with then former-President Thomas Jefferson after 1811. John Adams had integrity for admitting his errors, which is something I pray George W. Bush will do in his future old age after his 8-year term as our 43rd U.S. President. The one commonality I judge between Presidents John Adams and George W. Bush is that deep down in their hearts and souls, I see two good men who have served and now serves as President of the U.S.A. and who believe they have done and are now doing what is best for our great nation.

The election of 1800 was the first, last, and only time a sitting U.S. President was opposed by a sitting Vice President. In this election, like all others after, political factions, mud slinging and baseless accusation of slander and libel were deployed to discredit the opposing candidates. While Thomas Jefferson won out against John Adams, he ended up tied in the Electoral College vote count with Aaron Burr, who would not cede the race to Jefferson. What is a striking point of Adams’ integrity, President Adams did not use this event to help himself and/or either Jefferson or Burr, as the decision now rested with the U.S. House of Representatives where Jefferson ultimately prevailed as the Third U.S. President. With the passing of the Presidential Torch from Adams to Jefferson, this marked the first peaceful transition of power after a victory against a sitting U.S. President. In the end of his long and noteworthy political career, John Adams showed a respect for the institutions he helped build by allowing the American Democratic Experiment to run its course with his passing into his golden years of retirement from public life.

For the next 25-years, John Adams would be retired from politics in his Quincy home known as “Peace Field”. On May 15th, 2006, I was able to tour this site and see first hand the paintings and aesthetically pleasing land John Adams called home, making my readings and research feel physically real and personally reverential for our Second U.S. President. Retired in Quincy, John Adams would see his son become a U.S. Senator, and then later a Secretary of State who would author the Monroe Doctrine, and ultimately the 6th U.S. President. Nothing made old John Adams happier than the successes of his good son John Quincy Adams in both politics and life.

John Adams knew his place in history would not be a glorious as his past political contemporaries, such as and especially Thomas Jefferson, and also George Washington and Benjamin Franklin. This made Adams bitter in his old age because he believed he deserved the respect and historical celebrations that would befall his Revolutionary Brothers in the Founding of the greatest nation on Earth: The United States of America. In hindsight, Adams was right about his place in U.S. History, but he also knew that he would be long remembered for his valuable contributions as well.

Despite his bitterness, which afflicts the personalities of many elderly people even in today’s world, John Adams lived his golden years of old age with a sense of contentment, happiness and dignity. Sadly, Adams would outlive his wife, daughter and one of his troubled sons. Yet, he himself was blessed with good health and longevity, and would not pass away until the exact day of the 50th Anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence. Both John Adams and Thomas Jefferson lived until July 4th, 1826—a symbolic journey’s end to two very meaningful lives of two good and important men.

In closing, I believe John Adams was strong in character, reasoned with tempered passion in voice, a great leader in public service. To criticize his faults was much more the results of the context of history than the man himself. In hindsight, John Adams and our great nation all share the diminishing hypocrisies of the symbols of shame that come from our legacy of Government by self-determination, Freedom for all American Citizens and Citizens of the World, and the Natural Right to receive the Blessings of Liberty. In Adams’ life, he disavowed Slavery and came to fight for Freedom of Religion for his fellow Jewish Citizens. In many ways, John Adams symbolizes our nation’s long-standing struggle for Democracy for all Americans and peoples of the World.

In today’s political world, modern U.S. Presidents are more interested in building permanent partisan majorities instead of a Government for all Americans, catering to the wealthy multi-national corporations who do nothing more than outsource American jobs to faraway Continents like Asia in the name of a brave new world that prioritizes global capitalism over Natural Rights and Checks and Balances to Political Power, and dividing the World by using fear to lead instead of cultivating hope to empower. In the political world of John Adams, his distinction was to put America first instead of in a line for the benefit of military and corporate business interests.

John Adams’ leadership contributed to the Declaration of Independence and the ultimate defeat of British Colonialism and Monarchy on American Soil, the authoring of the Massachusetts Constitution with its democratic institutions of checks and balances, a “Bill of Rights” for the people in the commonwealth and then for the entire nation, and keeping America at peace and distant from European Politics. I strongly believe that if our modern U.S. Presidents went back to the classical leaders such as John Adams to reflect on their own public policies that is placing our great nation into strained alliances and colossal national debts that America would regain her true intent of serving the American People through self-determination, the rule of law, and a much greater prosperity for all American citizens than the great financial constraints we currently face as an aggregate. John Adams entrusted the governing of the American People to our democratic institutions, and put the American People first with good jobs and economic prosperity, which made our nation a symbol of greatness through Liberty, Freedom and Prosperity.

Friday, May 26, 2006 1:18:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Re: A group of enraged Marines entered homes in the Iraqi town of Haditha and murdered their occupants, including children, in cold blood

Dear Berkshire Bloggers,

The U.S. President, George W. Bush, ordered me a hearing for Veterans Disability Benefits that I attended at the central VA Office one block from The White House in Washington, D.C. on July 19, 2004. When I was in the U.S. Army, I disobeyed ILLEGAL ORDERS that could have resulted in the deaths of innocent civilians. My racist black Staff Sergeant ordered me to drive a military 5-ton vehicle on a non-combat mission after he sleep deprived me for 3 days and nights, had me written up with many one-sided and biased counseling statements, ordered my Platoon to issue 11 false Equal Opportunity complaints of discrimination against me that my Army Command had to throw out, and told me that I was to be the only one to be written up for disrespectful conduct after a soldier of lower rank held a steel bar to my head to maim and/or kill me and I told this bully "to go to hell" and then he backed off and then I reported this incident in full to my immediate military supervisor(s), not breaking my chain of support or command. After these incidences took place, I had a mental breakdown, was sent to the Army Psychiatrist for treatment and through the Army Psychiatrist's referral, I was Administratively Honorably Discharged from Military Service on July 7, 2001.

So what strikes me about this headline: "A group of enraged Marines entered homes in the Iraqi town of Haditha and murdered their occupants, including children, in cold blood."? The Answer to the $ 64,000 question IS the words "A Group." That is not the case, but only part of the problematic incident. In the Military, I experienced and now conclude that it is one "bad apple" that spoils the bunch of apples. One Marine Corps Soldier who led the group of Marines gave the order for this heinous act of murder within the context of President George W. Bush's ILLEGAL, UNJUST and never-ending War in Iraq for Regional DOMINANCE and CORPORATE POWER for OIL. This one Marine Corp Soldier did what my racist black Army Staff Sergeant did to me for standing up against INJUSTICE, which was to give me a choice: Either be a vicious killer or face being fed to the Wolves. I chose the latter.

Now, I am a poor man with no brightness in his future. As a Veteran of the U.S. Army, I don't have much, but I do have one thing that most ordinary civilians do not have: I can see through both the Military's use of Power and, more importantly, their misuse of power. Yesterday, I watched the nightly news, and I watched the same U.S. President, who took mercy on me--as I took mercy on innocent German civilians when I refused to be a murderer for the approval of my racist black Army Staff Sergeant--by ordering me the aforementioned VA hearing so I may have a Veterans Compensation Pension and full free access to VA Hospitals, which the Board of Veterans Appeals denied on December 5, 2005 and thereby overruled President George W. Bush's wishes for me to not be fed to the Wolves, look visibly upset with these Marine Corps Soldiers for doing the opposite of what I did when I was in the line of military service.

So, What is the point that Veteran Jonathan Alan Melle is making? The point is that look at what happened to me by the U.S. Army and the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs! I was given a similar choice that the group of Marines were given who then chose to murder 24 Haditha civilians in cold blood, but only I did the opposite of the group by refusing the illegal orders of my Army superiors. I then had a mental breakdown and was separated from the U.S. Army for life. I am now a Veteran who had the honor of the support of his Commander-in-Chief, U.S. President George W. Bush, by the President mailing me letters, photographs, always sending me his regards, and ordering me a hearing one block from his historic home on 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue, N.W., so I may have a Compensible Pension and VA Health Benefits. As much as I dissent against President Bush's policies, I believe he is a good man and that he did for me was what was the right thing even though the VA has since fed me to the Wolves!

In conclusion, both President Bush and Jonathan A. Melle have shown MERCY, me for the sanctity of life and him towards me for my merciful conduct as a U.S. Army Soldier serving under his Command, but the outcome for me is far different than the mercy we have shown each other. I am fed to the Wolves because I showed mercy in the U.S. Army. The Marines who committed murder were wrong and deserve to be punished and serve lengthy sentences inside the cold walls of a military prison, but if I was the example of what happens when one takes mercy for life and disobeys illegal orders then these Marines did not have much of a choice at all but to do what they did.

Sincerely and In sad Truth,
Jonathan A. Melle
Veteran

Thursday, June 01, 2006 12:50:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

I believe that every nation on this planet should prohibit and end the iniquity of Genocide in our World. We should be a Planet Earth that stands together in UNITY for LIFE, LIBERTY, & HUMAN RIGHTS FOR ALL PEOPLES!

Love,
Jonathan A. Melle
----------
The Washington Post Online - Editorial

The Genocide Test

Surely China does not believe Sudan's brazen lies.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006; Page A20


THE NEXT FEW days will show whether China means to let Sudan's dictatorship get away with genocide. A series of meetings at the United Nations in New York offers the best and possibly the last chance to persuade the Sudanese to allow U.N. peacekeepers into Darfur. The deployment is required by a Security Council resolution passed last month. It is supported by nearly all the leading powers and even by factions within Sudan's government. But China has so far refused to tell Sudan's isolated leaders to drop their opposition to a U.N. contingent, even though its extensive investments in Sudan give it the power to do so. If it wants to be regarded as a responsible power, China should use its leverage.

Consider the arguments for not doing so, as presented by Sudan's spokesmen. Yesterday, Sudan's deputy ambassador to the United Nations protested that blaming hundreds of thousands of deaths on his government was unfair: "The armed groups in Darfur are the real culprits," he asserted. But China's leaders surely know this is absurd: The leading murderers in Darfur are the Janjaweed militia, which has been equipped by Sudan's government. Meanwhile, at the World Bank-International Monetary Fund meetings yesterday, Sudan's finance minister argued that "what Darfur needs is not peacekeepers. . . . What Darfur needs most is resources for water, resources for schools, for hospitals."

But Sudan's air force has strafed Darfur's hospitals and schools, and its Janjaweed allies have addressed the region's water scarcity by poisoning wells with corpses.

Sudan's president asserts that "the U.N. forces have a hidden agenda in Sudan because they are not coming for peace in Darfur. They want to recolonize Sudan." His henchmen have indicated that, in place of U.N. peacekeepers, they might be willing to extend the mandate of the African Union force, which is due to leave at the end of this month. Before China accepts this preposterous description of the United Nations and embraces the supposed concession of a renewed African Union mandate, it should read the recent dispatches from journalists inside Darfur. The Post's Craig Timberg reports that Sudan's government has seized A.U. jet fuel and used it to fill its own military aircraft; indeed, the airstrip used by the African Union in North Darfur is controlled by Sudanese government forces at night, so fuel is regularly looted. Meanwhile, Janjaweed fighters recently demonstrated their contempt for the A.U. forces by assaulting civilians who had gathered to speak to them.

In short, Sudan's government is presenting the extension of the African Union's mandate as a concession, even as it destroys the organization's ability to operate. The A.U. presence is not preventing the government from mounting bombing raids on civilians with a frequency not seen since the height of the genocide in 2003; nor is it preventing the obstruction of humanitarian efforts in North Darfur, where more than 300,000 people have been cut off from food aid. The African Union has become almost irrelevant, and no responsible government can accept an extension of its mandate as an alternative to a real peacekeeping force.

Is China's a responsible government?

Tuesday, September 19, 2006 2:26:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Vast library, thoughts of John Adams displayed

By Brian MacQuarrie, Globe Staff

September 22, 2006

In the pantheon of Founding Fathers, John Adams is usually considered an also-ran. There is no memorial to him in Washington, no portrait of him on US currency, no singular achievement that is drilled into the heads of schoolchildren from Maine to California.

But opening today at the Boston Public Library is the first public exhibition of the second president's vast personal library, a priceless collection of 3,802 works whose breadth helps show why this Braintree farmer is gaining recognition as one of the true American giants.

Not only will the public be able to see the entire collection for the first time, but dozens of Adams's books have been laid open in glass cases to display the notes, musings, and commentaries he wrote in the margins of nearly everything he read. The free exhibit will continue until April, but the library already has embarked on a years-long project to digitize the books for public study on the Internet.

``God bless the man," said Beth Prindle, curator of the John Adams collection. ``It seems that a thought never trickled through his mind that he didn't write down."

Scholarly and scathing, catty and conversational, Adams's writings show strong opinions on many of the great events, leaders, and debates of his day.

``Not one of the Projects of the Sage of La Mancha was more absurd, ridiculous or delirious than this of a Revolution in France," Adams wrote in 1812 in the margins of Mary Wollstonecraft's ``Historical and Moral View of the French Revolution." In that book, whose author Adams alternately called ``a Lady of a masculine masterly Understanding" and ``this foolish Woman," the former president penned 10,000 words of analysis.

There's a forensic map, drawn by Paul Revere, that Adams used at trial in his defense of British soldiers in the Boston Massacre. And there's his personal atlas, published in Paris in 1778, that shows his native Massachusetts in careful, stunning detail.

David McCullough, the historian who wrote a Pulitzer Prize-winning biography of Adams, said the exhibit is of great national importance.

``John Adams was the most widely and deeply read American of his day, and there are his books!" said McCullough, who used the Boston Public Library, which has held the Adams collection since 1894, to research his biography. ``This is one of the most important Americans in our history, a man who was never wealthy, who believed in education, who was himself transformed by education, and who never lost his love of learning."

From his personal copy of the first printing of the US Constitution to the first Koran printed in the United States, the books show the staggering scope of Adams's intellectual interests and his impact on the nation's democratic experiment. The notes from Adams's pen are vivid evidence of that mind at work.

``His marginal notes are not the kinds of notes that most of us would make," McCullough said. ``They are conversations with the author, and there are some 50 different figures from the 18th century of huge consequence with whom he's having these conversations. . . . It's thrilling to sit there and listen to that conversation, to that effect."

Before this exhibit, the Adams library was kept largely out of public view in the rare books collection, accessible only to researchers willing to review individual books in near-seclusion. The researchers also had to know what to look for.

Now, with 30 volumes digitized from the Adams collection, an ambitious project has been launched to put as many of the president's books on the Internet as funding and technology will allow. The plans also include an electronic cross-referencing of Adams's reflections. .

Vivian Spiro, chairwoman of the board of directors of the Associates of the Boston Public Library, hopes the exhibit will kindle a love of learning for learning's sake in the public.

``I hope they will be inspired . . . by the fact that a man of modest origins, whose mother was illiterate and whose father was a laborer, went on to become one of the writers of the Constitution," Spiro said.

Friday, September 22, 2006 12:04:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Retirees' tab could break local gov'ts

By Bob Porterfield, Associated Press

Monday, September 25, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO — The bill is coming due for years of generous benefits bestowed upon the nation's public employees, and it's a stunner: hundreds of billions of dollars over the next three decades, threatening some local governments with bankruptcy and all but guaranteeing cuts in services like education and public safety.

This staggering burden is coming to light because of new accounting rules issued by the Government Accounting Standards Board. They require public agencies to disclose the future cost of health care and other benefits — such as dental, vision and life insurance — promised alongside traditional pensions to the nation's estimated 24.5 million active and retired state and local public employees.

Massachusetts' share is estimated at $13.2 billion out of a estimated $285 billion. Legislators there plan to reintroduce a bill next year that would establish a trust fund to cover the shortfall over time through annual appropriations from the state budget.

"It's serious, both in that it will take discipline to meet our responsibilities to future retirees and it's serious in that we dare not fail," said state Rep. Jay Kaufman, D-Lexington, one of the lead sponsors of the legislation.

Retiree health care costs have been quietly mounting for decades while public agencies have passed out generous retirement benefits during labor negotiations — often in lieu of salary increases. But government negotiators rarely considered the long-term financial consequences of awarding such perks, according to Brian Whitworth, a retirement benefits specialist with JP Morgan Chase and Co.

"A surprising number of public entities didn't even make informal estimates of long-term costs prior to the new accounting rules," Whitworth said.

Many cities and state agencies already are struggling to fully fund their pension obligations, but experts say those liabilities pale in comparison to the debt accumulated for other retirement benefits.

Last month, JP Morgan released what it considers the most comprehensive preliminary estimate. It projects the present value of unfunded health care and other non-pension benefits at between $600 billion and $1.3 trillion.

By comparison, the debt rating agency Standard and Poors estimates the country's total unfunded public pension debt at around $285 billion.

National union officials say it's not their fault municipalities put themselves in a hole by promising more than they can deliver.

"This is a monumental problem and government is going to have to deal with it," said Steve Regenstrief, head of the retirement division at the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

When the new accounting rules take effect in 2008, taxpayers will be able to see for the first time just how much they're paying to provide benefits to active and retired state and local public employees.

"When the numbers are produced, they're going to be shocking," said Ronald Snell, director of state services for the National Conference of State Legislatures. "They'll be in the hundreds of billions, and it's definitely something that policy-makers are going to have to take notice of and act upon. ... There are consequences of decisions made in the past."

The Government Accounting Standards Board is an independent nonprofit organization that establishes accounting standards for public agencies. Seeing a need to bring public sector disclosure rules in line with those of the private sector, the board unveiled the rules change in 2004 and gave governments several years to implement them.

The new rules don't require governments to come up with the money right away, just to disclose the present value of these future costs and estimate how much more money is needed to pay for them. To prepare for these disclosures, public officials across the country already are beginning to calculate how much they might owe.

So far, California, New York, and Maryland appear to have the biggest burdens, but that could change when estimates begin trickling in from Florida, Texas, Illinois and Pennsylvania.

Of the country's 10 most populous states, none has completed a formal estimate of their liabilities, but those that have completed preliminary assessments are reporting astounding numbers.

* The California Legislative Analyst's Office estimates $40 billion to $70 billion in retiree health care and related liabilities for the state. With cities and counties included, JP Morgan pegs California's debt at $70 billion to $200 billion. The state controller is just now beginning a detailed study.

* New York's preliminary analysis puts state liabilities between $47 billion and $54 billion. In a recent budget report, the state acknowledged "these costs are substantial and would significantly reduce or even potentially eliminate" New York's current $49.1 billion in positive net assets.

* Maryland has initially estimated its liability at $20 billion.

* Other states also have reported significant amounts: Alabama estimates $19.8 billion, Alaska at least $7.9 billion, and Nevada between $1.62 billion and $4.1 billion.

Many local governments also are beginning to acknowledge huge liabilities. The city of San Francisco reported its burden at $4.9 billion, and the Los Angeles Unified School District said its liability is $10 billion. New York City has yet to complete its analysis, but is expecting a large shortfall and already has set aside $2 billion to help cover it.

How this will impact citizens depends upon the size of their government's obligation and how it's handled.

At the least, experts say, the public can expect increased taxes and fees or reduced public safety and public works services as governments adjust their budgets to amortize the debt.

They probably can't expect much in the way of concessions from public employee unions, said Suzi Rader, director of district and financial services for the California School Boards Association. Any attempt to limit benefits already granted in future negotiations will be a contentious issue, she said, so employers must instead hold the line on granting additional perks to future retirees.

John Abraham of the American Federation of Teachers said union negotiators have long been aware that future retirement benefits must be paid from shrinking resources.

"If they haven't been looking at the numbers, shame on them," he said. "Do we recognize there is a cost problem? Absolutely. As costs have gone up we've made accommodations."

Lori Moore, spokeswoman for the International Association of Fire Fighters, said nothing is really changing except the need for cities to reveal how much they'll owe in non-pension retirement benefits.

"The liability has always been there," she said. "They had to know in the back of their minds that it was there."

Most governments now fund retiree health care on a pay-as-you-go basis, with annual appropriations from their general funds, focusing most of their attention on current expenses.

Under the new accounting rules, the liability can be paid over 30 years, just like a home mortgage, but it forces public officials to recognize the debt and calculate an annual payment.

If officials choose not to set aside additional money each year to cover the payment, it counts against net assets, potentially putting a city or agency deeper into the red. Because assets are a critical component in the credit ratings that allow governments to borrow money at lower interest rates, governments that don't handle their liability properly could end up insolvent.

Parry Young, director of public finance at Standard and Poors, said few governments are prepared for the annual contributions they'll be expected to make.

"It's been a growing liability that wasn't being addressed. But now the chickens are coming to roost," he said. "For some it's going to be a big credit issue depending upon what resources they have."

Young says one way governments can get a jump on their liabilities is by putting more money into retiree health care plans, something "easier said that done."

Public officials "might also choose to issue bonds, or review benefit costs and maybe make changes in the benefits themselves," he said.

Some states have taken a proactive stance. Ohio sought to address its future liabilities by establishing a Post Employment Health Care Fund containing more than $12 billion, an amount the fund's trustees say will not be enough. In order to cut health care costs, the state has reduced the amount it will pay for employees who retire with less than 30 years of service.

Utah, with a relatively small liability estimated at between $536 and $828 million, has taken a unique approach, earmarking unused sick leave for retiree health care expenses. Under a law passed last year and upheld by the Utah Supreme Court, retirees can no longer cash out unused sick leave earned after January 2006. Instead, 25 percent must be placed in an employee's 401K and the remainder in a Health Reimbursement Account.

"The law really stopped the out-of-control-escalation of health care costs," said John C. Reidhead, director of Utah's Division of Finance. "From a financial perspective it's a good deal. From the employee perspective, maybe not."

Monday, September 25, 2006 5:44:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

From: Jonathan A. Melle

October 19, 2006

To: Lou Dobbs of CNN

Re: Lou Dobb’s “War on the middle class” 10/18 CNN broadcast

Dear Mr. Lou Dobbs:

Over the past month, the political issue of the diminishing aggregate grouping number of the American middle class has been on the news media’s radar screen. Last evening, I took the time to watch your broadcast from Kansas City, Missouri with a live participating audience from a diverse demographic group of very financially constrained American citizens. I wish to take you up on your offer of sending letter writers such as myself a free copy of your new book on this important issue because I want to read your thoughts on the subject. I also want to let you know that I have been following this political issue for over 10 years and that I always let local through federal government and business officials have a piece of my mind when they neglect or pass over the “largest political constituency” (the middle class) for special or self interests. When I have political discussions with my dad, who was a local politician and a “George Bailey” fighter for the poor and middle class for longer than even my 31-years of age, I often mention your name as one of the top people whom I admire because you reflect the political values that both my dad and I hold so dear to our hearts: Ensuring that both government and business leaders pay attention to the needs and voices of all American Citizens in order for the providing of fair opportunities for every person to socially and economically provide for themselves and their family, friends and communities.

In my writing to you, Mr. Lou Dobbs, I am going to be critical of you, but I ask that you not take my thoughts on your journalistic work personally. Instead, I hope that you will be able to appreciate that there is someone else like you who tells it like it is with out all of the “political correctness” sugar coating that many sycophantic respondents do in reply to their wrong-headed politicians, business leaders, and journalists. I have had the benefit of telling all of the aforementioned powerbrokers what I think and I reinforce it with my statement that “I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live.” For being a political activist, like my dad before me, one state government “elected” machine politician from my native hometown of over two decades had threatened me twice and then went to the municipal police department in Pittsfield, Massachusetts and made false reports to them that I was threatening him so that his political friend, who was another machine politician and also county sheriff, would have further threatened me through both his jailer staff and inmate population in the corrupted correctional institution that is the Berkshire County Jail. Fortunately, the police apprised my dad, who was then also an elected local politician, of the whole plot, and the state Senator who had plotted my demise for legally participating in state and local politics in support of my dad’s political office and position was dealt a brutal blow of having his bullying tactics backfire on him and looking injudicious in the eyes of the law enforcement community. The point of my story, Mr. Lou Dobbs, is that I, like you, believe in telling it like it is instead of succumbing to the fear and brainwashing tactics of political correctness, bullying, and the strong arm of the state.

Herein are the answers as to why the United States Congress and the American President has failed the American People on the issue of the MIDDLE CLASS:

#1. Mr. Lou Dobbs, you did not make the most essential economic argument when you cited that failure of Congress and the White House on this important political issue. The argument for not having a middle class makes sense only in SUPPLY SIDE ECONOMICS in strong relation with the LARGE ECONOMY OF SCALE economic theories. For multi-millionaires and higher, the middle class is a drain on wealth. For the super-rich, their economic gain lies in destroying the middle class and it is, indeed, a rational argument, which has been made in Washington, D.C. since the late 1970’s through 2006 and onward. For the super wealthy among us, who from here on out I will refer to as “the corporate elite”, the American People are considered, in economics terminology, a Liability! Why? The answer lies in cost control. To illustrate, as the baby boomers are retiring in growing record numbers, federal government entitlement spending on Social Security and Medicare will reach record highs. As a resident of the great state of New Hampshire for over 2-1/2 years now, U.S. Senator Judd Gregg has not only argued against entitlement spending for universal healthcare, but he has also argued to his (liability) constituents for mandatory limits to be placed on the current federal entitlement programs. Senator Gregg’s argument is rational because to him, it is the large economy of scale institutions that matter and must be protected against the demands of the people and small business that place demands for services, employment, entitlements, and the like on these wealthy entities and elite people. In Supply Side economics, it is the people (or masses) and small businesses that are economically forced to accept the costs of the inefficiencies, wasteful excesses and financial shortcomings of the U.S. Congress, IBM, GE, Microsoft, and the like. In return for making up the differences, Congress and large corporations provide grants and donations back the states, municipalities and non-profit institutions, but not at an equitable level of compensation for their many harmful externalities and inefficiencies. Mr. Lou Dobbs, your level of intelligence on matters of big government and business far exceeds that of my own and I must conclude my first point by asking you, “Why did you not include the large economy of scale supply side theory and its related illustrations in your short-term timeline case study citations of the recent issues with almost three decades of corresponding economic trends?”

#2. Mr. Lou Dobbs, you did not focus on small businesses or municipal governments who are the economic losers over the past 5 years from the demise of the middle class. The laws of economics are not monolithic. For a small businessman or Mayor of a suburban community, the people are more valuable than businesses. This law of economics completely destroys the theory of supply side economics. When I was a graduate college student at the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, I had an insincere college professor with a Ph.D. in Economics from a prestigious California institution of higher education and who had also worked for the old Supply Side genius, U.S. President Ronald Reagan. This professor was straight out of the corporate elite conservative columnist, author, and journalist George Will’s thesis that Wall Street large-scale economic view of the world can apply to all demographic groups, even the spurious correlations of welfare mothers, the working poor, and multi-national corporations that exploit the global economy of countries such as China with forced labor and brain-washing tactics that make American-styled indoctrination look like enlightenment. But, Mr. Lou Dobbs, nothing gets by me, and this professor was the only educator who has ever given me a non-passing grade in the 18-years of my tutelage. So why was my U Mass Professor at odds with me? The answer is that he tried to indoctrinate me like old George Will and Judd Gregg do to the nation in that economic demand side theory is irrelevant. While he, Will and Gregg are partially correct in their myopic view of the greatly larger myopic world of economic rational thought, his theories become impractical and dare I say irrational when they become SPURIOUS and the monolithic world of the Washington, D.C. beltway is shown as a very badly skewed vision of the World, nonetheless the nation. For a small businessman, a suburban Mayor, a working poor laborer, a welfare mother, and the like, those people are no longer LIABILITIES, but rather the most valuable economic assets one could ever ask for. Most Americans, well over the 80% figure you spoke of, operate and organize their lives on a small economy of scale with immense social, economic and political influence by their Congressmen and Corporate Elites. The coin gets flipped from heads to tails, and now all of those entitlement dollars that Judd Gregg wants to place caps on are benefits instead of costs to the conglomerations of the myriad of small scale institutions and people, state lottery tickets that give greedy and special interest Legislators and their cohorts in their patronage laden state and local bureaucracies pay raises are now seen as a tax on the poor and the money that pours into state capitals is not going into their local economies, the record profits by then-CEO Jack Welch’s GE is now seen as many working poor laborers with lost wages, benefits and job in the aftermath of his so called social Darwinism downsizing: job layoffs and operations cuts, etcetera. Just as the large economies of scale institutions rely on the supply side theories, the small economy of scales rely on the demand side theories. This means that large businesses demand investment capital through the supply of business dollars (producers or SUPPLY), while the small businesses demand investment capital through the supply of citizen dollars (consumers or DEMAND). I conclude my second point of argument by crediting you with stating that Corporate America is the dominant lobbying and power group inside the corridors of power of Capitol Hill and the White House. While you did not state that his has been the documented and demonstrated economic trend in our nation since the late 1970’s, you are both correct and to be admired for pointing out that a great majority of our investment dollars have gone to the already wealthy at the expense of the middle class.

#3. THE RULE OF 72! Let us assume that wealth redistribution in the form of investment capital from the large economies of scale to the small economies of scale never takes place again. Let us do the math. A wealth institution receives 12% annual return on its investment dollars but pays the poor an annual 3% return on his yearly income. Over time, what happens? 72/12=6, while 72/3=24. What does this mean? If my U Mass Professor, George Will and Judd Gregg’s spurious correlations for small economies of scale hold true beyond our almost three consecutive decades of the diminishment of the middle class, then the wealthy will double their incomes every 6 years while the poor will double their incomes every 24 years. Over 100 years without change in economic public policy, the wealthy will have doubled their incomes over 16-times, while the poor will have doubled their incomes over 4-times. So what’s the solution? The answer, Mr. Dobbs, is INVESTMENT CAPITAL. As I have stated to the current Mayor of Pittsfield, I request that you watch the old movie starring James Stewart entitled, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. When you view this movie, sit as an economist instead of an audience member. This movie shows well the dichotomy between what life would be like if all investment dollars went to the corporate tycoon banker Henry F. Potter instead of the middle class small business banker George Bailey. The bottom line is that investment capital needs to go to the small economy of scale in order for the people to have the fair opportunity for economic growth and achieve or retain their status of the Middle Class.

In conclusion, Mr. Lou Dobbs, I think you are the man! My thoughts to you today are a statement of someone whom I greatly admire and compare only to what I have witnessed on a first hand basis of my father’s many valuable contributions to public service over the many years of my life. I have told my dad that there should be a plaque on the grounds of the reservoir/lake in Cheshire, Massachusetts bearing the legacy and value of Berkshire County Government and its last three County Commissioners: Bob Melle, Tom Stokes and Ron Kitterman. The reason why I believe that this one of the many accomplishments of public service by my dad for the people is so important is because for the many years my dad was a County Commissioner in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, the state government ignored this body of water while they appropriated and borrowed state taxpayer dollars and also begged the U.S. Congress with false economic reports for billions upon billion upon billions… of taxpayer dollars to fund the “Big Dig”, which is the most wasteful, expensive and dangerous and life-threatening public works project in the history of the United States of America. As the state Lawmakers, one of whom tried to Jail me, wasted taxpayer’s money on their inefficient state project and pointed their collective fingers at the inefficiency of Berkshire County Government, none other than my dad and his fellow County Commissioners audited the County’s dollars and gave them to the people of Cheshire, Massachusetts so that the public would once again own, maintain and ultimately save a dying lake before the state could assume the county governments assets under their July 1, 2000 takeover of Berkshire County Government. My dad not only saved a lake, but also demonstrated the power of a small economy of scale to provide value in the face of the skewed priorities of a large economy of scale. If you ever meet my dad and I, he will attest to you, Mr. Dobbs, how much I admire your good work!

Sincerely and always,

Jonathan A. Melle

Thursday, October 19, 2006 5:07:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear George Will,

On Sunday morning, 11/12/2006, I watched you on ABC News T.V., yet again give praise Mitt Romney per his candidacy for the 2008 Republican Party nomination for U.S. President. I must now strongly dissent against your columns and television discourses that give such high and undue praise for Mitt Romney's bid U.S. President.

My reasons for my dissent are as follows: (a) Supply-Side Economics is NOT the sole qualifier for being a candidate for U.S. President. I believe the sole reason you like Mitt Romney so very much is due to the fact that he represents the "Corporate Elite" or top 1% of wealthy people and/or entities in our great nation. Indeed, one can draw a direct parallel from Reagan to Romney in terms of his proposals for economic growth through limited government via low federal taxes and capped federal spending. Indeed, Reagan-omics has and Romney-omics will benefit the efficient economic growth of our great nation's GDP. BUT, your praise for Romney's Reaganesque Supply-Side Economics public policy is downright myopic! (b) Romney has NO foreign policy experience! We live in a global economy with powerful and wealthy multinational corporations that will begin to overtake national governments in terms of political power in the international community as we enter the 21st Century. Moreover, we live in a volatile world full of terrorism, nuclear threats, regional genocides and civil wars, and cultural violence. Mitt Romney's narrow focus on the super-rich will not be able to even begin to address a viable foreign policy platform. (c) Romney supports the current Executive Branch's usurpation of Constitutional powers and civil liberties. Indeed, Mitt Romney is on record in full support of the Bush Administration and the current Unconstitutional Patriot Acts. If Romney is President, there will be no balance of power left in our supposed system of checks and balances. And, (d) Mitt Romney's record for Massachusetts is terrible! When Governor Romney took office in January of 2003, state aid to cities and towns were already cut two times in a row--in the Massachusetts state budgets of fiscal years 2002 and 2003--and then what did the Governor do (against his own campaign promises in 2002)? The answer is, Mr. Will, Mitt Romney cut state aid to Massachusetts cities in towns not only once via his emergency cuts that same winter he took his oath of office, but also again in the FY2004 Massachusetts State Budget that took effect on July 01, 2003! So, while Massachusetts could not balance its own state budget for two straight years and then Mitt Romney campaigned that he had solutions, Romney's only solution was to further gut the Massachusetts municipalities' fiscal coffers twice again. What a fraud and phony the man you heap so much undue praise on really and truly is. In conclusion, George Will, I render to you only my strongest letter of dissent and find your political analysis on the 2008 Presidential Election and praise for Mitt Romney to be myopic!

Sincerely and In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

Monday, November 13, 2006 8:27:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

11/20/2006

Dear Berkshire Eagle's Editors, and Berkshire Bloggers!:

I am 100% agreement with your editorial: "A ray of hope for Darfur" (Berkshire Eagle, 11/20/2006)! Someday, I hope to be a Congressman and U.S. President, and when I am in positions of political power, I will always advocate for the right to life for all peoples of our beautiful planet. I will always invest in the people and end world poverty, which along with ignorance is the cause of social injustice. I will also always speak my good conscience as long as I live.

The United States' finest hour was winning World War 2 against the fascist Axis power(s) and his plans for world domination through totalitarian state control. The fall of the ruthless dictator Adolf Hitler is a blessing to humanity. What is sad, however, is the country that Hitler most admired other than Germany was the United States of America. I am not a historical expert on the matters of post World War 1 Europe and the rise of fascism, but from what I have cobbled together, Hitler was a fan of American racists philosophies, policies and leaders such as the Anti-Semetic Henry Ford. In post World War 1 America, the United States employed immigration policies that favored lighter skinned northern European immigrants while at the same time disfavored those from Southern Europe, such as Italian and Spanish peoples.

Moreover, in post-revolutionary Massachusetts, John Adams, who authored the state constitution and gave the name Commonwealth for the new republic, did not allow for the legal recognition of the Jewish religion, which was not allowed in the commonwealth until 1833 -- 7 years after Adams' death on July 4, 1826. After Adams came back to Quincy, Massachusetts in 1805, he did go on to argue for freedom of religion and equality under the law for Jewish citizens. Before Adams penned his famous and historical document (the Massachusetts Constitution), Thomas Paine published famous flyers urging for the Declaration of War against King George III, which is known as the Declaration of Independence. One of his most famous flyers, entitled "Common Sense", initially argued that King George III was like the Jews who betrayed Christ at the Crucifixion. Thankfully, the Founding Fathers made him edit out and omit this prepostereous claim of Anti-Semetism. As our nation progressed through the 19th Century, Slavery persisted, as well as the disenfranchisement and GENOCIDE of the native American Indians, which was pure racism.

Preceding the 2nd World War, the Commonwealth of Massachusetts practiced a racist policy called Eugenics. I am not sure what Eugenics was all about, but I do know that Massachusetts Citizens were discriminated against because of race or other involuntary factors; and, some citizens were even forced to have ABORTIONS based on the state policies. Because of Eugenics, people fled Massachusetts for more just states in the Union, but families and citizens were victimized and lives were ruined by racism.

In the year 1913, a law in Massachusetts was passed that did not allow a black man to marry a white woman, and so on. In the early 21st Century, Governor Mitt Romney used this racist law to prohibit out of state same sex couples from marrying in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. Romney's mis-use of this law defied logic and the racist intent of the law.

Back to Hitler. The 1930s' German Dictator, who genocided over 6 million Jewish people and another 6 million "others", was inspired by the racist policies and history of the United States of America and her Anti-Semetic leaders. During Hitler's terrible reign, Nazi-sympathizers such as Joe Kennedy argued that "Democracy was dead" and that we should draw a treaty of peace with the German government. Moreover, boats of Jewish people tried to enter American ports and were turned away.

The United States of America did not do its part to end genocide against Hitler in World War 2, but we did defeat him and exposed the Evil of Racism and Hate in our World! In the 1990s, Genocide showed its evil face in more regions of the World than ever before in our World's history. Hate and racism conitinue to this day in the Darfur region of Sudan, Africa. U.S. President Bill Clinton said that his worst failure of his presidency was not his love affair with a young Jewish woman from California, but his inaction in the 1994 Rwanda genocide. Now, U.S. President George W. Bush has an opportunity to finally put an end to genocide in the 21st Century. I hope he fulfills this mission of protecting human life above all else. Someday, when I become the President of the United States of America, I will either end genocide or uphold the end of genocide from an earlier administration -- hopefully that of our current President.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Monday, November 20, 2006 6:49:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear BERKSHIRE BLOGGERS, News Media, Politicians, & the People:

The moderate Middle Eastern Arab nations should stop focusing on the Bush Administration's Iraq pipe dreams for a model of democracy and stability in this ethnically divided and violent region of the world; and they should all instead listen to Israel's Prime Minister Ehud Olmert's, whom the Arab extremists nonetheless irrationally hate, proposals for Peace. I am impressed by Mr. Olmert's recent stance by his first offer of peace negotiations with Palestine in over 6 years after so much iniquitable and brutal conflict between the two nations. Furthermore, Prime Minister Olmert even had the decency to pay a compliment to Saudia Arabia's peace initiatives to bring normalized relations among Arab states with Israel in order to help Israel and Palestine ultimately broker a peace settlement.

If President Bush really wants democracy and stability in the Middle East (instead of for his real goals for usurping foreign OIL via AMERICAN CORPORATE POWER in the false name and pretenses of national security interests and fighting terrorism, and the like), he should start with practicing some humility and start following the lead of Israel's current Prime Minister by brokering a peace settlement that will make both (a) Israel more stable and secure and (b) Palestine a free, democratic and independent state.

Ehud Olmert is a true world leader and I am impressed! If true progress is made in the Middle East, I hope he wins and/or shares the Nobel Peace Prize next year.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Thursday, November 30, 2006 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Report: Women still lag in personal income, political representation

By Rick Heller, [N.A.] Transcript Statehouse Bureau
Article Launched:11/30/2006

Thursday, November 30, 2006

BOSTON — The majority of Massachusetts residents are women, but only 42 of 200 incoming state legislators are women, and none represent the Berkshires.

The Massachusetts Commission on the Status of Women held a Statehouse news conference Thursday to remind legislators that women continue to lag men in personal income and in political representation.

Commissioner Gloria Coney said the situation was worse in the state's congressional delegation, which contains no women at all.

"None have been elected since 1983," she said.

All the legislators who attended the event, held in front of the Grand Staircase, were women.

Speaking to a reporter, Sen. Pam Resor, D-Acton, said that after initial success, the numbers of women in elective office are no longer increasing.

"I get the feeling they've plateaued, and I'm concerned about that," she said.

Sen. Susan Fargo, D-Lincoln, a town selectman before she ran for the Legislature, said that women can start out at the local level but face challenges as they move up the ladder.

"One of the issues for running for Congress is funding," she said. "Women have a harder time raising funds, and women as contributors are beginning, finally, to realize they have a stake in this."

The news conference coincided with the release of a report, "State of Women," that contains a wealth of data about every county in Massachusetts.

In Berkshire County:

* The typical full-time female worker earned 61 percent of her male counterpart.

* 10 percent of women lived in poverty.

* 62 percent of all households in poverty were headed by a woman with no spouse.

* 11 percent of all households were headed by a woman with no spouse.

Nearly two-thirds of poor adults are women, according to Molly Mead, a Tufts University professor who contributed to the commission's report.

"We've certainly worked for a long time to try to improve these statistics," Resor said. "It's very frustrating."

Thursday, November 30, 2006 6:56:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Mary Carey, Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Pols, & the People:

Thank you, Mary, for writing about my written email participation in Massachusetts Politics! You are my favorite political commentator of all time! You are the best. If all political reporters were like you, there would be no more corruption in politics. That is for sure. I love your wittiness, Mary. TOTALLY AWESOME STUFF!

"MELLE VINDICATED" ...

&

"On the Geico Caveman: Jesus Christ..."

My Best Regards,

Jonathan A. Melle

Tuesday, February 06, 2007 4:33:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Race for Mr. (Ms.) Congeniality

By Robert F. Jakubowicz

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

PITTSFIELD

NEW YORK Sen. Chuck Schumer said, this past Sunday on "Meet the Press" that we have good presidential candidates but they have no party platform to run on. He said the party with a platform will be the majority party of the future. What do the better-known candidates, like Sens. Hillary Clinton, Barack Obama, John McCain and others including Rudy Giuliani, John Edwards and Mitt Romney stand for specifically as far as a comprehensive platform they intend to implement as president? So far, except for Edwards they have not said very much. And frankly, I don't expect too many specifics from them up to the 2008 election.

Without strong national political parties and party leadership, presidential primaries are now an open invitation to anyone with the ambition, money and the chutzpah to run for office. Such presidential qualifications as leadership, achievement, national distinction and the espousal of a party philosophy no longer matter. It's the candidates' popularity that has become the object of contention in presidential races.

The devolution of the presidential electoral process into today's popularity contest is the result of what one historian called the Founding Fathers' "clumsy" constitutional process for electing a president. The office of president was unique and bold for its time. The Founders obviously had difficulty deciding how to elect such a chief executive, which shows in the awkward procedure they inserted in the Constitution. They created the Electoral College, whereby each state legislature would chose presidential electors equal to the congressional representation of the state. These electors would then meet and chose a president and vice president.

James Madison anticipated that the electors for each state would nominate favorite sons from their states, none of whom could obtain a majority of electoral votes and the election would then rest with the House of Representatives. Madison thought this would happen "19 times out of 20," but it has only happened twice.

Ambitious favorite sons running for president and the electors in their states quickly learned that to win enough electoral votes required the formation of political factions or parties with their counterparts in other states. And since there were only 13 colonies at the time, two such political parties seemed to be the workable number of parties. These political factions or parties stepped in to nominate and elect presidential and vice presidential candidates right after the departure of the first president, George Washington. The presidential electors were eventually relegated to the role of simply voting for the candidates who received a plurality of the vote in their state.

Political parties were hated and feared by the Founding Fathers, yet when it came to running for the presidency the candidates formed such political groups for the practical purpose of winning the election.

Eventually the two political parties became very strong with strong party bosses who literally picked presidential and vice presidential party candidates in smoke-filled rooms at national party presidential conventions. Eventually, the excesses of the party bosses, which included political corruption and favoritism, led to calls for reform in the presidential electoral system.

In the early 1900s, the primary system of nominating presidential candidates emerged. The objective was to allow the candidates to bypass the political bosses and parties and go to the voters directly. The primary system caught on and with it political parties became mere political shells of what they had been, and the old party bosses became extinct. With this emasculation of political party power, presidential elections have become what they are today: more personality oriented than based on party philosophy. This has caused more voters to register as independent voters.

Nationally acclaimed political scientist James MacGregor Burns addressed this problem recently when he spoke to my class at Williams College. He has concluded that among other things, we should return to strong political parties and leaders, but this time the leaders, unlike the old party bosses, should be committed to establishing a basic party philosophy representing the traditional values of their party and they should be capable of building a party base of supporters and campaign war chest for party candidates. For Burns, this would allow party leaders and their parties to recruit or have a strong say in who will be the party candidates, to have some power over them to follow the party platform in office, and to be responsible for the actions of their candidates in office.

Obviously, Professor Burns's proposal is easier said than done. But he raises an important issue that should be debated in this country, namely, how to get the best candidates to run for the presidency and other high offices. Candidates of the two basic factions, Republican and Democrat, should stand for the distinct, traditional and specific political philosophies represented by their parties. Otherwise we are destined to continue to have popularity contests rather than real issue oriented contests in our presidential elections and this does not bode well for the future of America.

-----------

Political parties must mobilize the electorate

Letters

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

To the Editor of THE EAGLE:

Attorney Robert F. Jakubowitz's Jan. 31 op-ed column ("Race for Mr. (Ms.) Congeniality) emphasizes the importance of political parties in strengthening the whole national political system. When I had the pleasure of speaking to his class at Williams I emphasized also the importance of parties in mobilizing voters at the grassroots. We have a shockingly low turnout rate for a great democracy, and a crucial aspect of the 2008 election is whether the Democrats can mobilize their potential electorate.

This whole question has been a leading concern to Berkshire County Democrats and, even more, they have done something about it. They have created the Berkshire Brigades, whose job will be to help mobilize voters not only in Massachusetts but in possibly critical states like Pennsylvania in 2008.

I would like to add that Robert Jakubowicz has made a great contribution to Williams college students by speaking to them not only about the crucial questions of party and voting but also speaking out of his practical experience.

JAMES MACGREGOR BURNS

Williamstown, Feb. 1, 2007

The writer is a Pulitzer Prize-winning presidential biographer.

-----------

NOTE: My dad and I both participated in the formation of The Berkshire County Democratic Party group that is in operation today.

-Jonathan A. Melle
-----------

Tuesday, February 06, 2007 4:36:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

February 08th, 2007

Re: My friend Manny from the Sudan, Africa

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Politicians, & the People:

My thought for today is for the people in Sudan, Africa. At my working poor with no benefits (thank "the system") job in a mall retail store, I work with a diverse cross-section of society, including my friend Manny who is originally from the Sudan, Africa. He is such a nice guy. Every work day, I say "hi" to everyone -- as I love all of God's children. Manny always gives me a big smile and in a song-like voice says, "Hi, Jonathan!"

Last night, I asked my friend Manny where he is from. Manny replied to me that he is from the Sudan, Africa. I asked Manny if he was from Darfur where hundreds of thousands of black people were victims of Genocide in the 21st Century -- something that should have not ever happened again, millions of black people fled from, including the many black women who were systematically raped, to escape the Arab military soldiers led by the ruthless dictator Omar Hassan al-Bashir. Manny replied to me, "No. I am from the southern part of Sudan. But like Darfur, my region has been at war for over 21 years." I replied to Manny that I did not know this, but that I was sorry to finally hear about it.

Manny apprised me that Sudan's dictator, Omar Hassan al-Bashir, wants every man to join his military or else he will have them executed. I told Manny to stay here in the U.S. where he is safe so that he will not die at the hands of a mass murderer. Manny replied to me that he still plans to go back to his home in the Sudan, Africa because that is where almost all of his family lives. He told me that he has many problems with and dissenting views against his government, but that Sudan is where his home is. I told him to be safe, but that I understood his stance and personal feelings.

I told Manny that I saw the movie "The Last King of Scotland" the previous evening with my parents. Manny told me that Uganda borders his native country, the Sudan. The dictator in 1970s Uganda, who murdered over 300,000 of his people, was similar to the current Sudanese dictator. Manny told me that Omar Hassan al-Bashir does not give a (expletive) about human life and that he will kill a man without hesitation. The war between the Arab Muslims and the Black Christians has gone on for decades in the Sudan, Africa.

I thanked my friend Manny for sharing his views with me about his home country and the tragedies that have been and continue to occur there. Above all else, I thought to myself how fortunate I am not to be in "a hack 6-figure government job" giving phony feel good speeches about healthcare or human rights that have no standing and merit to them for the common man and/or citizens of the World, but rather to have made a paltry $13,000 last year, but with the honor of working with a good and courageous man like my friend Manny. May God be with Manny when he goes back home. He is one Sudanese citizen whom I will always remember for his dignity and honor.

In truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

Thursday, February 08, 2007 7:34:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Re: On my favorite journalist: Mary Carey!

Dear Mary Carey, Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Politicians, & the People:

You, Mary, are my favorite journalist! Do you want to know why? If so, my high opinion of you is due to that fact that you have the balls to say and call it like it is! To say it another way, if you were covering the Bush II White House, you would have been long before a hack D.C. area Judge, but there would have been no war under false pretenses in Iraq, and the president would have probably lost the 2004 election for his administration's unconstitutional transgressions against our civil liberties or, better yet, he would have been duly impeached due to your courage in news reporting and political punditry.

To read your description of yourself: A small time, ink stained wretch, is just not true to the value you bring to Western Massachusetts politics. It is almost ashame to me that someone with your skills has not won a Pulitzer Prize and covers Western Massachusetts instead of Washington, D.C. and the nation and World. I don't admire a man or woman for his or her money, political power, friends, class and status, but for their courage. If you, Mary, were behind bars for stopping the Bush II Administration from starting an illegal war of occupation in Iraq based on lies and taking away -- in part -- our constitutionally protected civil liberties to boot, I would still admire your work!

So why do I think you are the best thing since sliced bread in news journalism, Mary? The answer is that when I still had access to your newspaper's web page in 2004 and prior, you clearly defined the political issues facing the people of Western Massachusetts so that we were able to know the mostly negative impacts Beacon Hill had on our communities. If not for your work, Mary, I would have never knew that the Massachusetts State Legislature and Governors Jane Swift and Mitt Romney cut state aid to local communities for three straight fiscal years from FY02 - FY04. The fact that you always covered and addressed the "Big Dig" and the causal dramatic state cuts to local road and bridge projects, the demise of county governments in Western Massachusetts, while 7 still operate to this day in the Eastern half of the commonwealth, the drastic state cuts to public education, and the many other public policy issues facing the people of Western Massachusetts, demonstrates to me that you care about your duty as a reporter, as well about the people you are serving in your writings.

The fact that you, Mary, write about me in your blogs, is an honor and very flattering to me. I do serve a purpose, but I don't even compare to the great work you have done. Your title: "The incomparable Jonathan Melle..." if fitting for me. Here are the web links to Mary Carey's blogging of me:

aboutamherst dot blogspot dot com

ongeicocaveman dot blogspot dot com

In closing, Mary, I just want to say, "Thank You!" I am glad I went to UMass Amherst from the Fall of 1997 to the Spring of 1999 for many reasons. One of my many reasons was me having the beginning opportunity of starting to read The Daily Hampshire Gazette newspaper, including your news articles and political columns. Since graduating from UMass Amherst with a Master of Public Administration, I have not had the fortune of obtaining a hack 6 figure government job, but I have had the fortune of two distinct pleasures: (a) Learning about the political system and receiving the scorn of the Beacon Hill Pols you, Mary, have illuminated for me by your news journalism work so that I was better able to voice my dissent against them, and (b) being able to go on the Gazette's web page from after my graduation from UMass Amherst until my move to NH in the Spring of 2004 to read your journalistic work while the Gazette web page was still accessible to non-subscribers.

Keep up your good work in news journalism, Mary!

Thank you,

Jonathan A. Melle

Friday, February 09, 2007 12:26:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Re: Are you kidding? A Perverse/Irrational "cheesey" system!

NEWS ARTICLE from The Boston Globe:

Firefighters' windfall comes with a catch

Grant can't buy needed truck

By Raja Mishra, Globe Staff

February 9, 2007

When the fire department in the tiny Berkshire hamlet of Cheshire needed a new fire truck, it asked Uncle Sam for a little help.

The response last month was stunning: a $665,962 homeland security grant.

The award was nearly 26 times the annual budget of the volunteer fire department in the town of 3,500. And the rub: The department is not allowed to spend it on a fire truck.

Instead, the town won a grant to fortify the ranks of its volunteer brigade. Its selectmen plan to huddle later this month to hash out a spending plan.

Asked how the money will be spent, Cheshire Fire Chief George Sweet cryptically replied yesterday: "Rome wasn't built in a day."

Sweet said he couldn't say much more about the windfall. Indeed, Cheshire's officialdom is a nervous wreck over it and is reviewing federal grant guidelines.

"We've never had this much money dropped in our laps," said Cheshire town administrator Mark Webber. "People get fined and go to jail because they don't handle money like this properly."

Just as Boston, New York, and Washington complained last year when their homeland security grants were reduced while other less likely terrorist targets received more, the Cheshire money seemed to underscore the puzzling nature of some of the agency's spending habits.

The town does have the Cheshire Cheese Monument, a sizable concrete sculpture of a cheese press commemorating a 1,450-pound cheese hunk given by town elders to Thomas Jefferson in 1801. But its value as a terrorist target is not readily apparent.

Security specialist James Carafano of the Heritage Foundation, a Washington think tank, was blunt: "It's pure pork. It has nothing to do with homeland security."

The money comes from the Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response grants, a program that was absorbed into the Department of Homeland Security after the agency was established following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.

Asked about Cheshire's grant, Department of Homeland Security spokeswoman Val Bunting said yesterday that the town "presented a multifaceted project proposal." She said the grant could be spent over four years, but she would not elaborate .

Carafano said the emergency response program was designed to funnel money to small fire departments and has wide support in Washington "because everyone has a fire department in their district."

But now, Carafano said, "the money is spent under the big lie that it's about national security."

The Cheshire Fire Department wrote two grant requests, one for the fire truck and the other for boosting its 29-member volunteer force. It got a lot more than it bargained for.

And that is where its spending dilemma began.

Cheshire -- the smallest town in Massachusetts to get a grant, but the recipient of the largest amount -- is not alone. As part of $94 million in the emergency response grants awarded across the country, Fall River gets $621,000, Concord gets $414,000, Littleton gets $207,000, and Sudbury gets $101,970.

Cheshire's money can be spent to reimburse volunteers for wages lost at their regular jobs while on duty, new uniforms, and recruiting ad vertisement s. Sweet, who has been chief for 18 years, said the department could use about 10 new volunteers, though it has more pressing needs.

"We really needed the truck," he said.

Sweet said that the department has seven fire trucks, "plus an old antique we use for parades." Of particular concern is a 21-year-old refitted ambulance used to ferry medical equipment to fires. He had sought about $175,000 to refurbish or replace it.

But now that that's off the wish list, Sweet said he might use some of the money to recruit high school students. Or he might put some of the windfall into a marketing campaign to lure volunteers to Cheshire.

"It'll be on billboards, TVs, and radio stations, and that kind of stuff," he said. "We'll have to spend it wisely."

Friday, February 09, 2007 12:33:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

OMER ISMAIL AND COLIN THOMAS-JENSEN
Nations must enforce Darfur peace agreements

By Omer Ismail and Colin Thomas-Jensen | February 10, 2007

SITTING AROUND a pot of sweet tea in a small residential compound in eastern Chad, the Sudanese rebel leaders merely grinned and shook their heads when we mentioned the ceasefire.

"Ceasefire? " one of them remarked incredulously. "We don't need a new ceasefire. We signed a ceasefire in April 2004 but no one has bothered to enforce it."

He had a point. The date was Jan. 13, just three days after Sudanese President Omar al Bashir had met with New Mexico Governor Bill Richardson in Khartoum, Sudan and agreed to a 60-day ceasefire. Then again, as the rebels pointed out, the government had also agreed to a ceasefire in April 2004, a second in November 2004, and another one in May 2006 as part of the over-hyped Darfur Peace Agreement . Moreover, the most important rebel commanders did not actually meet with Richardson or agree to the conditions of the ceasefire. So what, then, was the purpose of all this?

Despite his good intentions, Richardson's trip to Khartoum is symptomatic of everything wrong with the international diplomacy on Darfur. For the past four years, Sudan's ruling National Congress Party has run laps around diplomats trying to find a peaceful solution to the conflict. As the regime pursues a divide and destroy strategy with rebel groups in Darfur, it also preys upon the disunity in international diplomatic circles over how best to respond.

The main tactic of the United States and other nations has been to send the occasional mid-level diplomat on hopeless missions to Khartoum, as if this might gently persuade the government that it is time to end its campaign of state-sponsored mass murder and negotiate peace with the rebels. And while the United States, European Union, African Union, and countries in the region flounder for a more effective approach, non governmental agencies such as the Save Darfur Coalition, which funded Richardson's initiative, are attempting to fill the void.

From Khartoum's perspective, however, Richardson's trip was a godsend. Al Bashir appeared as a peacemaker on CNN, knowing full well that his government would face no punitive action if it violated the agreement.

In the face of the regime's obstinate refusal to abide by its commitments to an array of international diplomats, including six separate pledges to disarm the Janjaweed militias, not a single senior government official has been held accountable . In the absence of coordinated multilateral punitive action, the calculations of the government of Sudan will not change, and the death toll will continue to climb. Sure enough, just one week after Richardson left Sudan, the government suffered no consequences when it admitted to a new round of bombings in North Darfur.

Accountability for crimes against humanity will build much needed leverage, but punitive actions such as targeted sanctions must be accompanied by a more vigorous international effort to rebuild a peace process that can produce a durable agreement.

While the government in Khartoum was smugly agreeing to yet another unenforceable ceasefire, we were in eastern Chad speaking to Darfurian rebel leaders. They expressed bewilderment with international peace building efforts.

Having refused to sign the Darfur Peace Agreement in Abuja, Nigeria, in May, numerous rebel factions regrouped and continued fighting under the loose umbrella of the National Redemption Front . Leaders of that group told us the mediation that led to the Darfur Peace Agreement was deeply flawed. They see the government's continued violence against civilians in Darfur as vindication of their decision not to sign and argue for new negotiations. But a couple of things need to happen first.

Until the rebel groups achieve a greater degree of political cohesion, there simply will not be a workable peace process. Poor rebel leadership is part of the problem, but the international community's efforts to forge rebel unity have been uncoordinated, sporadic, and are unlikely to work until it aggressively pursues a common approach. Toward that end, the the United States, African Union, and EU should assemble a team of diplomats based in Chad and Darfur and dedicated to the task.

Second, the international community needs to begin putting the pieces together for a new mediation that avoids the mistakes made in negotiating the Darfur agreement . At those talks, no fewer than 16 governments and organizations were international observers, and most of them failed to exert any leverage over the parties. The UN secretary general's envoy for Sudan, Jan Eliasson , and the African Union's chief mediator, Salim Ahmed Salim , should emulate the successful partnership between African mediators and a quartet of countries (United States, United Kingdom , Norway, and Italy) that helped realize peace in southern Sudan. The United States and EU have the necessary leverage and must use it in a new round of negotiations.

The rebel leaders we spoke to in Chad are serious about peace, but until the international community gets serious about peacemaking, this conflict will drag on and consolidate the government of Sudan's ethnic cleansing of Darfur.

Omer Ismail is a fellow at the Carr Center for Human Rights at Harvard University. He is from Darfur. Colin Thomas-Jensen is the Africa research and advocacy manager at the International Crisis Group.

Saturday, February 10, 2007 1:15:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Politicians, & the People:

There are 2 issues in our time that I believe have the merits of being debated:

#1 - The War in Iraq

AND

#2 - Same Sex Marriage

...BUT, I believe that the debates about these 2 distinct (and the like) issues are also, at times, very questionable.

First, The War in Iraq. For goodness sakes, talk about it, debate it, be passionate about it. But on the other hand, stop being so spurious in your arguments to win your side of the argument. Does anyone really believe that any reasonable person wants our troops to be cut off from their basis needs? "No!" Does anyone really believe that debating the war in Iraq will lower troop morale? "No!" Within the debate on the war in Iraq, find common ground and stop the absurd postulations. My argument in the debate on the war in Iraq is that the U.S. illegally invaded a sovereign nation under the false pretenses of bogus and juiced intelligence forced fed to the U.S. Congress by a calculating Vice President named Richard Cheney and an aggressive U.S. President with no deference to any institution and method of reasoning out fallacious logical judgments. Moreover, the war in Iraq represents an illegal occupation of a sovereign nation that must come to a resolution as soon as possible without injury to our troops and the Iraqi people. The real reasons why our U.S. Government fought the war in Iraq are (a) domination in the Middle East region for "political stability" and "security", which have FAILED, (b) OIL, as Iraq has the second largest oil reserves in the World (Saudi Arabia has the first), Corporate Power via the American and British political systems, which will be the real economic power of the 21st Century instead of nations, peoples, and governments. Take it or leave it, those are my arguments on the War in Iraq.

Second, Same Sex Marriage. Again, debate it, be passionate about it, and continue to talk about it. BUT, stop the spurious arguments about the right of homosexuals to marry under civil laws. Stop the cultural wars on both sides. Does anyone really believe that the same political and civil benefits afforded to heterosexual people should not be afforded to homosexual people? Does anyone really believe that same sex marriage will lead to 3 people being married or, worse yet, bestiality? "No!" and "No, again!" My arguments in the debate on same sex marriage are that (a) the Massachusetts Legislature and the new Governor should stop treating this issue like a political football! If the majority of Lawmakers and the new Governor believe in the rights of same sex couples to marry under civil law, the pass the laws guaranteeing these people the right to marry and enjoy their rights. Stop relying on a Supreme Judicial Court case to support your stand on the issue, and (b) Same Sex Married Couples are Entitled to the Rights to Marriage under Civil Laws, including the rights to adopt and the like to have families. It is only fair and just for same sex couples to marry under the civil laws of our nation so that all American Citizens' rights and liberties are protected by the Constitution and governments. As a brilliant political pundit, Alan Chartock, stated: "It is a matter of HUMAN RIGHTS!" Take it or leave it, those are my arguments on same sex marriage.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Monday, February 12, 2007 8:20:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

NOTE: It aint easy being cheesey!

---------

What's up with grant-writing fee?

Letters

The North Adams Transcript

Friday, February 9, 2007

To the editor:

According to your Feb. 7 article on the problems arising from a major grant award to Cheshire and Savoy, the grant author is "entitled to a writer's fee of 10 percent of the grant, or $66,000."

I believe this assertion deserves further investigation. Notwithstanding the grant writer's contract with Cheshire and Savoy, is a "writer's fee" an allowable cost under this federal grant program? Under most grant programs, private and public, paying for non-grant activities with grant funds is questionable at best, unethical at worst. The Association of Fundraising Professionals, for example, frowns upon this practice in its Code of Ethical Principles and Standards of Professional Practice.

To further illustrate the absurdity of paying by commission, consider that applying for $1 million instead of $660,000 would require minimal, if any, additional labor on the part of the grant writer. Under a 10-percent commission scheme, the grant writer would receive an additional $34,000! This fact might provide a grant writer with incentive to "pad" budgets with frivolous line items.

Jon Sussman

Baltimore, Md.

Feb. 8

Editor's note: We apologize for any confusion. The grant writer, under his contract with Cheshire and Savoy, would have to be paid by the two towns, not from the grant funds.

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EDITORIAL

Smoke and mirrors

The North Adams Transcript

Monday, February 12, 2007

Officials in Cheshire and Savoy should give grant writer Samuel Doncel a week's pay — at most — and send him packing.That's the best solution we can come up with for the towns' strange dilemma.

There's no denying Mr. Doncel should be rewarded — and roundly applauded — for obtaining a $666,000 federal grant for the towns to recruit and retain volunteer firefighters, provide firefighting education and a host of other good things that are outlined in detail in a letter on this page.

Indeed, it was the largest SAFER (Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response) grant awarded by the Department of Homeland Security in Massachusetts and one of the largest in the country.

To show just how remarkable the size of the grant was, a quick check of the numbers reveals that Fall River, which received the second highest grant in Massachusetts ($621,000) has a population of 91,000 and a paid professional department with a staff of 244. Cheshire has a population of about 3,400, Savoy about 725. They have about 40 firefighters, all volunteer. Their dedication, commitment and sacrifice is unquestioned. And the grant will certainly help both towns recruit and train much-needed others like them.

But just how much should the writer of this grant be rewarded? That's the $66,000 question in Cheshire at the moment — or is it the $90,000 question? Mr. Doncel has used questionable, if not downright unethical tactics, in trying to gain payment for his services. He either wants Cheshire and Savoy to pay him 10 percent of the grant — as apparently agreed to by the fire chiefs in both towns — or to hire him as the administrator of the grant at a salary of 90 grand — plus additional money for travel expenses. If they do that, the kind Mr. Doncel says, he will forego his 10 percent fee.

That's sounds all too much like blackmail. And, as Mr. Doncel may soon see, and the Selectmen undoubtedly have already found out, hiring a grant administrator will have to be put out to bid, as required by state procurement law. Even if that weren't required, one has to question the ethics of a grant writer applying to administer a grant he or she has written.

The Selectmen have already determined that, because they did not authorize the contract with Mr. Doncel for the 10 percent fee, they are not obligated by it. However, board members have speculated they would face equally high or higher lawyers' fees if they did not pay the fee and he fought it in court.

The bind is that Cheshire and Savoy cannot pay Mr. Doncel that fee out of the grant money — the $66,000 would have to come out of the towns' coffers — money they can ill afford. The solution: Pay him a fair fee for the services rendered and let him sue if he doesn't think it's enough. The case is clear: There was no legal contract. End of story.

What's a fair fee? Certainly not $66,000 for what couldn't have amounted to more than a week's work — if even close to that. The grant application consisted of supplying information on an e-mail form and writing a two-page narrative on what the towns would use it for.

Cheshire and Savoy should not get burned on this deal. Give the grant writer a week's pay and send him packing. And tell other towns to beware.

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Big grant is big pain for small town
By Ryan Hutton,
The North Adams Transcript
Article Launched: Wednesday, 02/07/2007

CHESHIRE — On the heels of a massive — unsolicited — grant, the Selectmen have issued a memorandum to all town department heads and boards requiring that any grant applications be reviewed by the board prior to submission.

"This is normal operating procedure," Town Administrator Mark Webber said at Tuesday night's Selectmen's meeting. "It's always been this way, we just wanted to state it."

Last week's memorandum came two days before a meeting to discuss the recently awarded grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security/Federal Emergency Management Agency grant. The Staffing for Adequate Fire and Emergency Response (SAFER) grant provides $666,000 for the recruitment and retention of firefighters.

The larger grant came as a surprise to the board, which had previously approved pursuing a $175,000 grant application for a much-needed rescue truck. That grant failed to come through.

Astorino said he was upset at the origins of the SAFER grant for Cheshire and Savoy and the signing of the contract with grant writer Samuel Doncel without proper authorization.

"He did not get (the fire chiefs) the new truck, but he promised them a grant. He knows what's easy so he went after it," he said. "If only (the chiefs) had come to us first."

Town officials are worried that the size of this grant means the likelihood of receiving future federal funding for more immediate needs are slim.

According to the minutes of last Thursday's night meeting on the grant, Doncel requested an executive session to discuss his contract as the its administrator. But Town Counsel Edmund R. St. John III advised the Selectmen not to enter executive session because the board does not have the authority to give the position to Doncel.

State laws

Under state procurement laws, any contract or agreement with the town between $5,000 and $25,000 must get three outside price quotes before a decision can be made, Selectmen Chairwoman Carol Francesconi said Tuesday. If the amount is above $25,000, the job must be officially put out to sealed bid. The administrator's salary is budgeted close to $90,000 in the grant, so it would have to be put out to bid. Since most of the line items in the grant are more than $5,000, especially the advertising phase which early estimates place at $300,000, the procurement laws have to be determined before anything can happen. Violation of the laws can mean penalties and fines.

Doncel claimed at last week's meeting that he had spoken to Homeland Security and was told the town was exempt form procurement laws. On Tuesday night, Webber said he had called Homeland Security and could not reach anyone to answer his question. The contact number given to the town had not been set up yet. He also called the state inspector general's office, which said the laws did apply.

"As elected town officials we have to protect the town," Astorino said. "We can't run fast and loose with just verbal say-so. We need written say-so."

According to the minutes of last Thursday's meeting, Francesconi said the town would wait to hear from Homeland Security before making any decisions. Doncel asked if he would be named grant administrator. The Selectmen informed him that if the procurement laws applied, the job would be put out to bid. Doncel said the grant was an exceptional opportunity that he had brought about.

"I did a service to the fire departments and there's a straw that breaks the camel's back," he said.

If Doncel is not made grant administrator, he will be entitled to a writer's fee of 10 percent of the grant, or $66,000. This means Cheshire and Savoy will owe $33,000 each. Because the fire chief had no authority to make a deal with Doncel, the town has the legal recourse not to pay him, but Francesconi said Tuesday it would be a waste of time and money.

"We'd have to hire a lawyer to fight it and we'd pay that bill anyway," she said. "We get hit one way or the other."

The Selectmen will meet again to discuss the matter with all parties involved Thursday, Feb. 22, at 7 p.m. Francesconi said town would look into transferring the grant to Doncel's control to take the town's name off it. She stressed that the ideal situation for the town would be if the fire departments got their money and the benefits that came with it.

"We don't want to be perceived as looking a gift horse in the mouth," Webber said. "But on the other side of it, we are bound by Massachusetts laws. We can't minimize them or dismiss them. We have to adhere to them first and foremost."

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 2:13:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

PARADE (Sunday News)

Who Is The World’s Worst Dictator?
By David Wallechinsky

Published: February 11, 2007

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No. 1: Omar al-Bashir
Sudan. Age 63. In power since 1989.

Omar al-Bashir retains his position as the worst dictator because of his ongoing deadly human-rights abuses in the Darfur region of Sudan. Over the last four years, at least 200,000 people there have been killed by pro-Bashir forces. Nationwide, 5.3 million have been driven from their homes, and more than 700,000 have fled the country. But at the UN last September, Bashir blamed international aid groups for exaggerating the problems as a ploy to raise money for their organizations. And in November, he argued that war-related deaths in Darfur were less than 9,000. Despite agreeing to a 60-day ceasefire last month, he has been accused by his people of ordering troops to continue their attacks.

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No. 2: Kim Jong-il
North Korea. Age 64. In power since 1994.

Last year, Kim Jong-il attracted attention by testing a nuclear bomb, but it is his domestic human-rights abuses that make him stand out. His citizens are more shut off from the world than those of any other nation. Kim is portrayed as a weirdo or a joke. But he is actually a well-informed, wily politician who was trained for this position by his father, Kim Il-sung. While North Korea is a Communist state, the real ruling model this family has followed is ancient Confucianism, with its highly centralized and paternalistic leadership.

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No.3: Sayyid Ali KhamEnei
Iran. Age 67. In power since 1989.

Although it is Iran’s president, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who has alarmed the world with threatening gestures, it is actually the Ayatollah Khamenei and the 12-man Guardian Council who control all decisions regarding Iran’s relations, its nuclear program and domestic freedoms. This regime has increasingly suppressed freedom of expression: Women can be stoned to death for adultery, and in November an Iranian man was publicly hanged for homosexuality.

------

No. 4: Hu Jintao
China. Age 64. In power since 2002.

China has become such an important part of the global economy that most countries ignore its abysmal human-rights record—even as it prepares to host next year’s Olympics. The U.S. State Department has identified 22 areas of human-rights abuses under Hu Jintao, among them torture, forced abortions, forced labor, detention of religious groups, government corruption and restrictions on speech and the media. Last year, citizens were executed for such nonviolent crimes as bribery and stealing oil.

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No. 5: King Abdullah
Saudi Arabia. Age 83. In power since 1995.

Because King Abdullah and the Saudi royal family control the world’s largest reserves of oil, the U.S. government has not acted to oppose the repressive and intolerant actions of their regime. In Saudi Arabia, it still is possible to be executed for witchcraft and flogged for being alone with an unrelated person of the opposite sex. It is illegal for a Saudi citizen to practice a religion other than Islam. According to a 2006 report by the Center for Religious Freedom, Saudi school textbooks continue to be virulently anti-Christian and anti-Semitic. Last year, the U.S. State Department judged Saudi Arabia one of the top eight offenders of religious freedom.

------

No. 6: Than Shwe
Burma (Myanmar). Age 74. In power since 1992.

One of the most secretive world leaders, Gen. Than Shwe is rarely seen in public but made a trip abroad last month for medical treatment. While his people continue to wait for a new constitution—p romised 17 years ago—Reporters Without Borders ranked Burma 164th out of 168 nations in its 2006 press freedom index. Among the numerous “offenses” for which Burmese have been arrested are selling tapes of CNN and BBC coverage of the 2004 tsunami and for “hiding in the dark.”

------

No. 7: Robert Mugabe
Zimbabwe. Age 82. In power since 1980.

Robert Mugabe once was hailed as a symbol of the new Africa, but under his rule the health and well-being of his people have dropped dramatically, which is as much an abuse of human rights as arbitrary arrest and torture. According to the World Health Organization, Zimbabwe has the world’s shortest life expectancy—37 years for men and 34 for women. It also has the greatest percentage of orphans (about 25%, says UNICEF) and the worst annual inflation rate (1,281% as of last month). He last allowed an election in 2002 but “won” only after having his leading opponent arrested for treason.

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No. 8: Islam Karimov
Uzbekistan. Age 69. In power since 1989.

Islam Karimov was fortunate to be president of the Soviet republic of Uzbekistan when the USSR collapsed. Using the old-fashioned Soviet tactics of torture, media censorship and fake elections, he has remained in power ever since. He has banned the study of Arabic in this largely Sunni Muslim nation, shut down all billiard halls and ordered the massacre of hundreds of his citizens in the city of Andijan. The 9/11 terrorist attacks turned out to be a break for Karimov: The U.S., which previously had shunned him because of his human-rights abuses, suddenly found him to be a geographically well-placed ally. But when the Bush Administration condemned the 2005 Andijan killings, Karimov ordered American troops to leave the country.

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No. 9: Muammar al-Qaddafi
Libya. Age 64. In power since 1969.

Among our Top 10, Muammar al-Qaddafi has been in charge the longest—38 years. He was only 27 when he seized power and has spent decades being a conspicuous enemy of the U.S. For most of that time, the U.S. had included Libya on its list of state sponsors of terrorism. In 2006, Qaddafi went six months without funding terrorism; in June, as a reward for doing so, President Bush removed Libya from that list. Libya now stands to reap even more economic benefits from its large oil fields. Still, it is a place where political prisoners disappear and where women who have been raped or accused of having sex out of marriage can be kept in “rehabilitation” homes indefinitely.

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No. 10: Bashar al-Assad
Syria. Age 41. In power since 2000.

Bashar al-Assad gradually has assumed greater control of the military and intelligence services. Recently, his administration was implicated in assassinations in Lebanon. A UN report, due in June, will detail Syria’s role. Assad is perhaps the unlikeliest of dictators: He was doing postgraduate work in ophthalmology in London when his late father, Syrian dictator Hafiz al-Assad,
summoned him home in 1994 and began training him to run the country.

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11) Teodoro Obiang Nguema, Equatorial Guinea

12) King Mswati III, Swaziland

13) Isayas Afewerki, Eritrea

14) Aleksandr Lukashenko, Belarus

15) Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan

16) Choummaly Sayasone, Laos

17) Meles Zenawi, Ethiopia

18) Hosni Mubarak, Egypt

19) Paul Biya, Cameroon

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20) Vladimir Putin, Russia
Age: 54. In power since 1999.

According to the U.S. State Department, Russia engages in 17 different categories of human rights abuses. Prison conditions are described as “frequently life-threatening.” In 2004 alone, according to official statistics, more than 2,000 prisoners died while in pretrial detention. Although Vladimir Putin has stated that he will not run for reelection in 2008, he has greatly centralized power in the executive branch, even eliminating the election of regional governors and appointing them himself instead. He has dramatically strengthened the secretive Federal Security Service, and appointed to almost all of the government’s most important positions people who, like Putin, served in the KGB or its successor agencies. A recently passed election bill forbids creating a “negative image” of political opponents, which means that challenging Putin or his policies will be illegal.

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THE WASHINGTON POST

Mr. Putin's Vision
The Russian leader thinks the world was better off during the Cold War.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007; A20

BEFORE considering the significance of Vladimir Putin's address to an international security conference in Munich on Saturday, it's worth pausing to admire the astonishing nerve of the Russian president. Mr. Putin claimed the United States had "overstepped its national borders in every way . . . in the economic, political and cultural policies it imposes on other nations." This from a leader who has imposed an economic boycott on Georgia and Moldova and who interrupted energy supplies during winter to Ukraine and Belarus; who supports separatist regions in Georgia and Moldova with money and troops; and who overtly intervened in the 2004 Ukrainian presidential election in an attempt to impose a favored candidate through fraud.

Mr. Putin suggested that the United States was responsible for "a greater and greater disdain for the principles of international law," and that consequently "no one can feel that international law is like a stone wall that will protect them." Tell that to Britain's Scotland Yard, where investigators are unable to pursue their probe of the murder of one of Mr. Putin's critics because the two leading suspects are being shielded behind a legal stone wall in Moscow.

The Russian president also said that U.S. policy "stimulates an arms race." Minutes later he breezily acknowledged that Russia, unlike the United States, is developing a new intercontinental ballistic missile, the Topol-M; that it recently supplied Iran with new air defense missiles; and that antitank missiles it delivered to Syria were used by Hezbollah against Israel in last summer's war. Yesterday Mr. Putin was in Saudi Arabia, where he reportedly was finalizing a sale of 150 Russian T-90 tanks, and where he offered to help the Saudis with nuclear technology.

What's the point of such bravado? No doubt it partly has to do with Mr. Putin's tour of the Middle East: The Russian leader is doing his best to take advantage of U.S. problems in the region. (In an interview with al-Jazeera, the favorite TV station of Sunni Arab nationalists, Mr. Putin deplored the execution of Saddam Hussein and contrasted the deaths of 3,000 U.S. soldiers with the "execution of around 148 people" that he said the former Iraqi president was charged with.) Mr. Putin may also have been seeking to preempt criticism of himself by European governments that have grown increasingly disenchanted with his regime.

But the Russian president also had a larger purpose: to proclaim the return of his country as a power that would "balance" the United States. Mr. Putin, who has described the collapse of the Soviet Union as a "catastrophe," spoke nostalgically about the Cold War: "We are indebted to the balance of power between these two superpowers," he said. "This was certainly a fragile peace and a frightening one. But . . . it was reliable enough. Today it seems that the peace is not so reliable." With its soaring oil revenue and its hold over European energy supplies, its modernizing nuclear forces, and its willingness to provide weapons and nuclear technology to such states as Iran, Syria and Saudi Arabia, Russia would regain a status such that the United States would be "afraid to make an extra step without consulting." That, anyway, is Vladimir Putin's clearly stated ambition.

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Who do you think is missing from our 2007 list? Add your choice(s) to the comments section on this page.

Jonathan A. Melle's pick for missing dictator: ANDREA F. NUCIFORO, Jr., Pittsfield, Massachusetts. Age 43. Former Berkshire State Senator. Current Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds.

Why? Because Nuciforo got away with breaking state election laws by strong-arming 2 women candidates out of a state election in the Spring of 2006 and then running unopposed for the "elected" position of Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds. Moreover, Nuciforo's past includes breaking numerous state ethics laws dealing with conflicts of interest. Nuciforo got away with breaking state ethics laws by illegally representing insurance companies via a private Boston Law Firm while at the same time serving as a legislative financial committee chair overseeing these same wealthy financial institutions in the Massachusetts State Senate.

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

Tuesday, February 13, 2007 3:36:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Politicians, & the People:

On 1/23/2007, the U.S. Court in Washington, D.C. remanded my Veterans case back to the Board of Veterans Appeals for readjudication. When I was granted a hearing before the Board on 7/19/2004 by President Bush's order, the sitting president was right to believe in me a former soldier who served our nation honorably in the U.S. Army. As Mary Carey recently wrote in her Amherst, Massachusetts BLOG: "MELLE VINDICATED" after the 1/16/2007 Boston Globe article exposing Luciforo's illegal political corruption and strong-arm tactics in Massachusetts state politics, I was vindicated a second time in the past month of January the very next week following the aforementioned Globe news article when my nation's judicial system ruled on my behalf, in concurrence with our sitting president, that I be granted service connection Veterans Benefits before the Board.

I stood by our nation, and I am happy that our nation, including the sitting U.S. President and now the U.S. Court in Washington, D.C., is standing by me. Good faith and love of country still matters in The United States of America!

In truth,

Jonathan A. Melle
Veteran

Wednesday, February 21, 2007 11:33:00 AM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Friends,

I lost 2 friends this week:

Judi Loeb, whom I met with as a resident of Becket, Massachusetts as part of the Democratic Town Committee from 1996 through 2003. And, I attended a political gathering for Denis E. Guyer, whom I once supported, at her Becket home in the summer of 2004 after moving to New Hampshire earlier that year.

Judi was a kind and thoughtful person. She loved her daughter more than anything in the World. When we were at the Becket Town Hall and her young daughter walked into the room, her face with light up with the warmest of smiles. I enjoyed her political thoughts and knowing such a nice person in local politics. I will miss Judi.

Lois Belanger, whom I met in the Spring of 2004 when I moved to New Hampshire and took the same retail job I hold today. Every workday, I had the pleasure of working with Lois, who was then in her early 70's and would talk my ear away with all of her interests and family, especially her daughter Judy (no relation to Judi). I would spend over 1 whole year working with Lois before she was diagnosed with cancer in the Summer of 2005.

Like Judi, Lois was a kind and thoughtful person. Like Judi, she loved to talk to me about her grown daughter, who was her joy in her life. While working with Lois, the rest of the employees in the store would pick on me for talking so much with Lois instead of focusing on customers, but I would do both nonetheless. Moreover, many employees were jealous of me because Lois would bake me cookies and sometimes buy me gifts from her trips to different places around the country. I always kept Lois' gifts to me.

It is a tragedy in life how you get to make such nice friends and then they pass away. My friend Jamie Cooney emailed me about Judi Loeb. Lois' elderly lady friend Pierette told me about Lois Belanger yesterday. I believe that in the end, it is the late friends whom we made that we will always remember.

May God Bless my respective friends Judi Loeb and Lois Belanger!

Peace,

Jonathan

Thursday, February 22, 2007 1:15:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Re: AMAZING GRACE

2/24/2007

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Pols, & the People:

Last night, my parents and I saw the new movie, "Amazing Grace." I learned a lot about the slave trade that I did not ever know beforehand. The British Empire built it Colonial Empire on the backs of Black African Slaves. I did not know how much of the British Empire's political power and wealth came from the slave trade. Moreover, I never heard about the story of how a British lawmaker, William Wilberforce, 200 years ago -- February 23, 1807, to be exact -- finally won a battle he had waged for two decades: Parliament passed a bill banning the slave trade in the British Empire.

According to columnist Rebecca Hagelin, the film is called “Amazing Grace” because the haunting, timeless hymn was written by one of Wilberforce’s contemporaries -- a man named John Newton who once made his living in the trade of human flesh by commanding a slave ship. He underwent a spiritual conversion and became a preacher, dedicating his life to service as an act of penance. His sermons and writings influenced Wilberforce and countless millions through the years. Hagelin goes onto call on us all to be the next William Wilberforce.

She points out that over 27 million people are enslaved today -- more than double the numbers at the height of the colonial period; and half the victims are children! That is a sad fact, indeed. And it is one that I hope that humankind will be able to end in the 21st Century. I don't understand how such evils as slavery and genocide still exist in the 21st Century. Right now we have a genocide by a dictatorial government in the Darfur region of Sudan, Africa, and the clear indications of a future genocide against the Jewish People in Israel by the extremist Islamic theocratic dictatorship government in Iran. I wish that I may be able to be a future president of the U.S.A. so that I may work with the fair leaders of the entire World to end slavery and genocide in the 21st Century.

At the end of the movie, I said to my parents that seeing the evils of humankind places in me doubts about the reality of God. I told them that seeing the evils of slavery makes me believe that Hell is on Earth. My mom said she could understand how I would have those doubts, and my dad said that evil is really a tragic phenomenon and that the movie did a good job portraying the iniquitable issue of the slave trade. I still believe in God, and I believe that God is Love. I just do not understand how humankind could turn away from God and commit such vile acts of evil against his fellow children of God for his own personal and political profit. I hope that I am a future President so that I can carry on the just legacy of such good men as William Wilberforce and John Newton!

For Social Justice! I hope that I will always be a good man who comes to all of God's children in the name of LOVE! I will always speak my good conscience as long as I live.

-Jonathan A. Melle

Saturday, February 24, 2007 3:32:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

GLOBE EDITORIAL
Light on the Darfur darkness
March 19, 2007

FUTURE GENERATIONS will not easily forgive the governments and international bodies that have allowed the genocide in the Darfur region of Sudan to continue uninterrupted and unpunished year after year. So a report this week prepared for the United Nations Human Rights Council by a "High-Level Mission on the Situation of Human Rights in Darfur" should be welcome as a beam of bright light pointed into this 21st-century heart of darkness.

Basing its recommendations on the 2005 UN affirmation of a "responsibility to protect" civilians not protected by their own governments, the mission's report tells some hard truths -- free of jargon or obfuscation.

It says the human rights situation is deteriorating, the areas in which humanitarian aid workers can operate are shrinking, and aid workers are often targeted by government-backed militias. "Killing of civilians remains widespread, including in large-scale attacks. Rape and sexual violence are widespread and systematic. Torture continues."

In an implicit condemnation of the National Islamic Front that rules Sudan, the report notes that "as violations and abuses continue unabated, a climate of impunity prevails." More explicitly, the mission finds that the regime in Khartoum has resisted and obstructed efforts by the United Nations and the African Union to put a stop to systematic human rights violations in Darfur and "grave breaches of international humanitarian law."

Even more damning, the report saysthe NIF regime "has itself orchestrated and participated in those crimes." And the mission report does not shrink from drawing the inescapable conclusion that, in light of Khartoum's role in perpetrating the genocide in Darfur, "the solemn obligation of the international community to exercise its responsibility to protect has become evident and urgent."

Sadly, the UN Human Rights Council cannot be expected to act upon the grave truths reported by the mission, which was headed by Jody Williams, winner of the Nobel Peace Prize for her efforts leading to adoption of the international treaty banning land mines. Even before the panel undertook its work, allies and clients of Sudan on the Human Rights Council objected to the very idea of investigating the Darfur genocide. And since its inception last June, the Council has passed only eight resolutions, all against Israel.

The helpful actions that the mission report recommends to the council and the Sudan regime are almost certain to fall into a void. Its recommendations to the UN Security Council to protect civilians through deployment of an effective peacekeeping force by the African Union and United Nations may be feasible. But that can happen only if enough international pressure is applied to persuade Sudan's petroleum partner, China, to stop protecting the perpetrators of genocide.

Monday, March 19, 2007 8:31:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Politicians, & the People:

On Thursday evening, April 5th, 2007, my dad and I attended NH's 2nd Congressional District's Congressman Paul Hode's community forum in Milford, NH. My dad and I sat together in the front of the room, while the Pignatelli clan -- cousins of Smitty -- sat together in the back of the room. To my dismay, I received a squinted eye look from Deborah Pignatelli, who serves as one of five NH Executive Counselors. That pretty much told me where I stand in Pignatelli-land politics.

Paul Hodes talked about his deference to the institution of Congress, serving on two important Committees, and being the President of the Freshman Class of Democratic Congressmen and Congresswomen. I asked Paul Hodes how Congress and the President could support the troop surge when the VA cannot handle its existing caselode of disabled Veterans. Baghdad, Iraq is the #1 area for casualties and injuries to our troops, and our President is going to surge over 20,000 combat troops into that area. Congressman Hodes thanked me for my question and replied that he has authored and co-sponsored a bill whereby a VA ombudsman will deliver services directly to the Veterans without meeting the needs of the VA bureaucracy first. Congressman Hodes is an opponent of the Iraq War and openly dissents against the poor leadership of the Bush Administration.

I am happy I was able to meet both of NH's new members of Congress this year. They are our only hopes against Beltway politics as usual.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Monday, April 09, 2007 6:06:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

RE: Darfur Mapping Initiative launched by Google and US Holocaust Museum

4/11/2007

Dear News Media, Politicians, & the People:

I find it fascinating that Human Rights and Anti-Genocide campaigns go on every single day in our World and our collective public record at stopping persecutions and mass murder is terribly deficient: both in the past and present day.

What are human rights? I believe that human rights are protections given to all peoples by a higher power than institutions and/or people. Human Rights include, but are not limited to, the entitlements to life, freedom, water, food, education, heathcare, jobs, safety, worship, livable housing, self-determination, democracy, and the like.

What is Genocide? Genocide is the antithesis of human rights! Genocide is the elimination, in part or in whole, of a group of people (and/or groups of peoples) by persecution, mass murder, and the taking away of freedom, water, food, education, healthcare, jobs, safety, worship, livable housing, and the like.

Who commits Human Rights Abuses and Genocide?

Primarily, GOVERNMENTS do! The United States Government genocided the Native American Indian population, as well as administered an iniquitable system of slavery based on racism against dark pigmented African peoples. The Nazi German Government genocided the Jewish people. The 1990's saw more genocides across the map of the World than any other decade in human history. Rwanda and Burundi, Africa, as well as the Balkan States of Eastern Europe saw terrible human rights abuses and genocides during this decade of 1991 - 2000.

Moreover, with the rise of corporate power and a global economic system, BUSINESSES also commit terrible human rights abuses and genocides. As the 21st Century progresses, economic development is heading from a concept of communal entitlements to regimenting man to fit the designs of his or her corporate masters. Businesses are more insidious than governments when committing human rights abuses and genocides because they support the brutal regimes conducting such strong-armed tactics.

I went to the U.S. Holocaust Museum in the Spring of 1996. I saw first-hand the depravity and cruelty of governments against humankind and the peoples of the World. The Holocaust took place in 1930's and 1940's Nazi German and occupied Europe. The time I went to this museum 11 years ago, genocides increased in scope, but not the size of the one documented by the Thomas Jefferson Memorial in Washington, D.C. Last year, my mother, who currently makes many trips to the Dana Farber Cancer Hospital in Boston, walked through the Holocaust Memorial in Boston, Massachusetts. I became so emotional looking at all of the names of the Jewish and other people killed by the Nazi regime that I had to walk out to catch my breath.

We, the Peoples of the World, allow our prejudices and intolerance to enable strong-armed politicians and businessmen to manipulate us into their control. In my emails I send out, my list of people diminishes everyday.

When I wanted to run for Berkshire State Senator in early-2004, many people said that if they supported me against Luciforo, then they would lose their jobs. One man who worked at the Berkshire Jail told me that Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. would fire him if he campaigned for me. I thought to myself 3 years ago, this is America? This is democracy? This is why our American Troops have fought and continue to fight for freedom? So that an elected state government seat can be manipulated and controlled by a political machine ran by incestuous special interests. Two years later, in the Spring of 2006, two women were running for Middle Berkshire Register of Deeds in another state government election. Luciforo entered this race and lo and behold the two women candidates dropped out of the state government election to give Luciforo the sinecure unopposed. To this day, Luciforo receives the praises of a majority of the manipulated news media and its political pundits, most notably Alan Chartock, who has yet to call for free and fair state government elections concerning Luciforo's strong-arm campaign tactics and deficient public record.

My point is that whether a citizen of the U.S.A. and World such as myself demands the protections of human rights and the end of genocide, or a politician like Luciforo demands political power and autocratic control of state government elections, or Omar al Bashir and the Sudanese regime is committing genocide as a means to meet an insidious political and business partnership end, We the Peoples of the World are allowing ourselves to be controlled and manipulated by the fear that some goddamned politician or business special interest is going to take away our job, our access to healthcare, our water, our food, our education, and ultimately, our lives.

That is why there is one good man by the name of JONATHAN ALAN MELLE who willl ALWAYS SPEAK MY GOOD CONSCIENCE AS LONG AS I LIVE! I am going to be a future President of the United States of America and always Citizen of the World, and I will always stand up for HUMAN RIGHTS and SPEAK OUT AGAINST politicians and business special interests such as Adolf Hitler, Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr., Omar al-Bashir, and the like. If it is the last breath I take, I will take it for my love of God and all of His children so that all peoples are able to inhabit this good Earth without fear of their governments and other forms of human ran institutions. When I am President, I will condemn the U.S. Government's genocide of the Native American Indians, the iniquitable system of Slavery, and our nation's turning away of Jewish refugees from Nazi occupied Europe in the 1930's and 1940's. When I am President, I will end all genocides and implement Worldwide public policies ensuring the end of genocides in the future. When I am President, I will protect and foster human rights around the World!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

Wednesday, April 11, 2007 12:14:00 PM  
Blogger jonathan said...

Friday, April 13th, 2007, 1:59 P.M.

Dear Editor of the NH Union Leader:

Manchester Mayor Frank Guinta's "leadership" on the municipal budget should be by him standing on the front lines only. His proposal to cut dental benefits and other health related programs for needy and at risk city children should only begin with him first going to the dentist and paying the good tooth doctor out of pocket to pull out all of his teeth. The inequitable Mayor should then go around the city with no teeth and without dentures and give toothless smiles to all of his constituents and say, "I lead only by example, not inequity. My budget proposals are equitable because I don't believe in my constituents having teeth!"

Morover, in his 2005 campaign of false promises, Mayor Frank Guinta promised to cut the property tax rate. In 2006, property taxes went up by 7%. In 2007, in what is to be yet another election year of false campaign promises, he promises to marginally cut property taxes by a paltry $18 per average homeowner on the backs of poor and middle class children in need of dental and other related healthcare services.

Until Frank Guinta actually leads by having his teeth pulled and gives toothless smiles to his constituents, he should not be inequitably pulling the teeth of Manchester's most vulnerable and needy population: the city's poor and middle class children. It is crystal clear that it is high time for a new Mayor of Manchester, New Hampshire!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle
30 Hanover Street
Apartment # 209
Manchester, NH 03101-2227
603-232-5538
Cell 603-289-0739
jonathan_a_melle@yahoo.com

NOTE: I WILL ALWAYS SPEAK MY GOOD CONSCIENCE AS LONG AS I LIVE!

Friday, April 13, 2007 2:02:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Politicians, & the People:

One may ask why I write to the Massachusetts Newspapers, Politicians (who marginalized me), and the People? One of my main answers is that I was victimized by some strong-arm Massachusetts Politicians, especially Andrea F. Nuciforo, Jr. (a.k.a. Luciforo), Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr., and most recently Denis E. Guyer! Luciforo tried to have my father fired from his state job and his son (me) put in jail under false pretenses in the Spring of 1998. Luciforo was going to send me to his Good Old Boy Network buddy Berkshire County Sheriff Carmen C. Massimiano, Jr. Moreover, Luciforo layered so much bullying on me that I could not even go to some of my classes at U Mass Amherst without feeling Luciforo, Stan Rosenberg, and his student interns, retaliations against me for speaking out in dissent against them. Sheriff Massimiano warned me not to write about what they tried to do to me after I moved to New Hampshire -- away from their local control and power brokerings. Most recently, Denis E. Guyer has spread vicious rumors against me all over the Pittsfield area. He has accused me of serious crimes that I responded to in many emails. Denis Guyer told the people of the Pittsfield area that I stalked a Jewish woman from Otis, I belong in a psychiatric institution, and that he is against President Bush's ordering me a hearing in Washington, D.C. for Veterans Disability Benefits, among other hate-filled rumors.

Now, I admittedly have mental illness diagnoses that moved the President of The United States of America, George W. Bush, to order me Veteran Disability Benefits after I protected the sanctity of human life as a Soldier in the U.S. Army. But for the smallness of a few Pittsfield, Massachusetts area politicians, they found ways to even discredit me for my deficiencies and heroism. For Denis Guyer to spread rumors around the Pittsfield area that I should not receive Veterans Benefits because I stalked a Jewish woman from Otis is so wrong on so many levels. Firstly, if I did something wrong, criminal, and the like, Denis Guyer should have handled the issue professionally through the courts. I even volunteered to drive to Massachusetts from New Hampshire to turn myself in if Denis Guyer's vicious rumors against me had merit. Secondly, if Denis Guyer knows I have diagnosed mental illnesses, he should not be trying to play on my vulnerabilities. That is predatory! Thirdly, Denis Guyer has played into Luciforo & Massimiano's hands by diminishing my character at the base character of the terrible machine politicians. Denis Guyer used a half-truth from my past friendship with a Becket woman (who is now married) for his own political gain with no regard for me or my past woman friend. Fourthly, Denis Guyer slandered me, and that is illegal. Moreover, if Denis Guyer tried to provoke me or instigate moblike trouble against me, then Denis Guyer incited violence.

I am too respected in the Pittsfield area for Denis Guyer to have been able to get away with his persecutions against me. But sadly, in other times and areas of my life, bullies like Denis Guyer have been able to overtly get away with bullying me. There were times in schools, college, the Army and workplaces. There were times when I have been so victimized by bullies like Denis Guyer that I have lost passing courses, wages, keeping my job, being able to be promoted, and the like. For some reason, the good element and good people of the Pittsfield area don't allow Luciforo, Massimiano & Guyer to get away with bullying me. For some reason, I have and continue to survive their persecutions and abuses of power.

One of the reasons why I am respected is because I always put human life and safety above my own interests. For me to have moved the President of the U.S.A. to order me a VA hearing means that even the president admires my commitment to human life when I protected human life at the cost of my own mental health and career in the U.S. Army. No matter where I have lived, there were bullies, but there was also me. While I have become a victim of all of these bullies like Denis Guyer out there, there seems to be a respect for me. That must really bother bullies like Denis Guyer! Despite the powerful's sincerest efforts to defeat me, I am not defeated, but respected. Just because I am victim of bullies abusing their power, that does not mean I am a coward. Instead, I am a good man who has proven bullies like Denis Guyer wrong. I have stood tall and protected life and safety even when my own interests were on the line, which is the opposite of what bullies like Denis Guyer, Luciforo & Massimiano have done all of their pathetic lives. My life has meaning, while the bullies lives have only banalities.

Unfortunately, extremism means that some people like me who are mentally ill go to the opposite extreme and become bullies themselves. In the tragic Virginia Tech mass murder massacre by a emotionally disturbed young man, he took extreme measures to right all of the wrongs done to him. This serial killer of 32 innocent lives was the example of a coward and disturbed-like animal. When one goes to extremes, even if he or she was the victim of abuse all of their lives, they have given into their fears. What I mean is that sometime it is better to lose than to win. Sometimes it is the bigger man who walks away from the violence, bullying and abuses of power. In my life, I have had troubles, sadness, anger, pain, heartbreak, and the like, but I have always stayed at my own level of dignity. When Luciforo tried to ruin my dad, jail me, layer bullies against me, I never gave into his level of indecency. When Massimiano let me know he was waiting for my arrival at his house of pain -- county jail -- as a persecuted political prisoner of conscience, made snide remarks when I spoke at local political events, and would wring his hands in power and schadenfreude, I never gave into his level of indency. When Denis E. Guyer spread the most vicious rumors against me all over the Pittsfield area, I never gave into his indency. I always stayed at my own level of decency, and I have always received the respect of the good elements and good people of the Pittsfield area even though I have not lived there for over 3 years now.

In the end, and the reason why I write today, is that unfortunately, bullies like Luciforo, Massimiano & Denis Guyer are to blame for negatively impacting the mentally ill. That does not give an excuse to the extremes victims of bullying and abuses of power go to, such as the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech. What it means is that when one bullies and victimizes another person, then they are pushing that person into a corner with no way out from their fears. It then takes the victim of bullies like Denis Guyer to face their fears, not be a coward to them. But it also takes good people in the Pittsfield area to have had the decency to tell me that Luciforo & Massimiano's persecutions of me included putting me in the county jail under false pretenses, and then telling me after I moved to New Hampshire that Denis Guyer was slandering me by accusing me of serious crimes and inciting hate-filled violence against me. The good elements of society and good people must respect the victims of bullies in order for them to know that persecution is a part of life all of God's children must bears, including our Lord, Jesus Christ. God sides with the persecuted and so must humankind. As a society, we need to have compassion and love for our neighbors, and stand up to fear and those who use it by bullying and abusing their power for their own interests.

Lastly, while Luciforo, Massimiano & Denis Guyer have political power, good jobs, healthcare plans, pensions, and the like, I have the one thing all of these persecutors don't have: RESPECT!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

Friday, April 20, 2007 12:19:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

News Article:

ABC News

AP: Senior VA Officials Get Big Bonuses

AP IMPACT: With Veterans Care Under Strain, VA Hands Out Hefty Bonuses to Senior Officials

By HOPE YEN
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON

Months after a politically embarrassing $1 billion shortfall that put veterans' health care in peril, Veterans Affairs officials involved in the foul-up got hefty bonuses ranging up to $33,000.

The list of bonuses to senior career officials at the Veterans Affairs Department in 2006, obtained by The Associated Press, documents a generous package of more than $3.8 million in payments by a financially strapped agency straining to help care for thousands of injured veterans returning home from Iraq and Afghanistan.

Among those receiving payments were a deputy assistant secretary and several regional directors who crafted the VA's flawed budget for 2005 based on misleading accounting. They received performance payments up to $33,000 each, a figure equal to about 20 percent of their annual salaries.

Also receiving a top bonus was the deputy undersecretary for benefits, who helps manage a disability claims system that has a backlog of cases and delays averaging 177 days in getting benefits to injured veterans.

The bonuses were awarded even after government investigators had determined the VA repeatedly miscalculated if not deliberately misled taxpayers with questionable methods used to justify Bush administration cuts to health care amid a burgeoning Iraq war.

Annual bonuses to senior VA officials now average more than $16,000 the most lucrative in government.

The VA said the payments are necessary to retain hardworking career officials.

Several watchdog groups questioned the practice. They cited short-staffing and underfunding at VA clinics that have become particularly evident after recent disclosures of shoddy outpatient treatment of injured troops at Walter Reed Army Medical Center in Washington.

"Hundreds of thousands of our veterans remain homeless every day and hundreds of thousands more veterans wait six months or more for VA disability claim decisions," said Paul Sullivan, executive director of Veterans for Common Sense. "The lavish amounts of VA bonus cash would be better spent on a robust plan to cut VA red tape."

Sen. Daniel Akaka, chairman of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee, said the payments pointed to an improper "entitlement for the most centrally placed or well-connected staff."

Seeking an explanation from Secretary Jim Nicholson, Akaka also asked the department to outline steps to address disparities in which Washington-based senior officials got higher payments than their counterparts elsewhere.

"Awards should be determined according to performance," said Akaka, D-Hawaii. "I am concerned by this generous pat on the back for those who failed to ensure that their budget requests accurately reflected VA's needs."

A VA spokesman, Matt Burns, said the department was reviewing Akaka's request. Burns contended that many of the senior officials had been with the department for years, with an expertise that could not be replicated immediately if they were to leave for the more profitable private sector.

"Rewarding knowledgeable and professional career public servants is entirely appropriate," he said. "The importance of retaining committed career leaders in any government organization cannot be overstated."

In 2006, the VA officials receiving top bonuses included Rita Reed, the deputy assistant secretary for budget, and William Feeley, a former VA network director who is now deputy undersecretary for health for operations and management.

Also receiving $33,000 was Ronald Aument, the deputy undersecretary for benefits, who helps oversee the strained and backlogged claims system that Nicholson now says is unacceptable.

The bonuses are determined by the heads of the VA's various divisions, based in part on performance evaluations. All requests are submitted to Nicholson for final approval.

In July 2005, the VA stunned Congress by suddenly announcing it faced a $1 billion shortfall after failing to take into account the additional cost of caring for veterans injured in Iraq and Afghanistan.

The admission, months after the department insisted it was operating within its means and did not need additional money, drew harsh criticism from both parties and some calls for Nicholson's resignation.

The investigative arm of Congress, the Government Accountability Office, determined the VA had used misleading accounting methods and claimed false savings of more than $1.3 billion, apparently because President Bush was not willing, at the time, to ask Congress for more money.

According to the White House Office of Personnel Management, roughly three of every four senior officials at the VA have received some kind of bonus each year. In recent years, the payment amount has steadily increased from being one of the lowest in government $8,120 in 2002 to the most generous $16,713 in 2005.

In contrast, just over half the senior officials at the Energy Department in 2005 received an average bonus of $9,064. Across all government agencies, about two-thirds of employees received bonuses, which averaged $13,814 in 2005, the most recent data available.

Steve Ellis, vice president of Taxpayers for Common Sense, said the VA bonuses appeared to reflect a trend in government where performance bonuses were increasingly used to reward loyal associates and longtime employees.

Put in place shortly after the 1978 Civil Service Reform Act, executive bonuses were designed to increase accountability in government by tying raises more closely to performance. But while bonuses can help retain key employees, damage can be done when payments turn into an automatic handout regardless of performance, Ellis said.

"Simply put, people who nearly shortchanged our veterans shouldn't get a bonus check at the end of the year," he said.

Joe Davis, spokesman for Veterans of Foreign Wars, one of the nation's largest veterans groups, agreed. His organization is awaiting Nicholson's explanation, saying that the budget shortfall was partly to blame for backlogs and other problems today.

"No one joins the government to get rich, and the bonus may be used as a retention tool to keep the best and the brightest, but it must be performance-based in award to be fair and impartial," Davis said. "Anything else could be viewed as favoritism."

Thursday, May 03, 2007 7:51:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear George Will and Rinaldo Del Gallo III:

First, Mr. Will. Re: "The World Bank's rationale is bankrupt" (By George F. Will, 5/10): I dissent against George Will's thesis that reducing global poverty is done through economic growth via free markets allocating private investment capital to efficient uses. Instead, I believe the reduction of global poverty should be done through the redistribution of wealth by governments to their communities for equitable uses. To be clear: communities should be mandated to meet the base human rights requirements of their residents. Moreover, George Will's thesis does not address the perils of past and/or future global economic depressions caused by many possible factors, including War, Famine, Natural Disaster, Collapsing Free Markets, and the like. On top of that, George Will does not even touch upon economic equity as a means of ensuring communal human rights.

Only when people(s) have political power through economic equity will they be able to work with their communities to eliminate the artifically set up moral hazards that otherwise places them (the poor and middle class) captive to the perverse incentives that only benefit the special interests who profit off of the poor and inequity. My best example is the state Lotteries. All they are are an inequitable tax on the poor, but are always supported by the politicians who pocket the special interest blood money of those government and business entities that profit off the poor; For example, State Representative a.k.a. Bureaucrat Bosley of North Adams, Massachusetts loves his campaign coffers filled through inequitable public policies!

Second, Rinaldo. The Massachusetts Governor's Council has proven to be a political hack utopia where 8 machine politicians get to earn $25,000 per year off of the state taxpayers for doing almost absolutely nothing. Rinaldo, your theories are right, but you fail to look at the reality of the situation. I dissent!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Thursday, May 10, 2007 2:55:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear Rinaldo Del Gallo III, news media, Pols, & the People:

I read a lot of Rinaldo's, et al, letters and essays about shared parenting. I will be 32 years old this coming summer and have not mutually selected a spouse and mutually made the decision to have children yet. I understand the trade-off I am making if I ever do mutually decide to both get married and have children. The trade-off of waiting to get married is, of course, that I am deferring the costs of marriage and having children towards my future years when finances may become even more constrained than they are in my recently past and current years.

The reason why marriage and having children matters is because for the average American citizen, it is the BIGGEST financial decision that one will ever make with another! Yes, getting married and having children is bigger than buying a home, going to college, investing in mutual funds, and so on. That message is lost on Rinaldo and his colleagues at the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition and elsewhere.

Let us do the math, please. I am the theoretical example. In my 32nd year, I meet the woman of my dreams. Whomever she is, I put aside all of my goals, interests and financial planning to "pop the question" to her. This woman says "yes, I will marry you, Jonathan!" We are so in love and the situation is so romantic that nothing else matters. Then, we get married. The ceremony is subsidized by our families so the $10,000 event is not a financial setback. Then, we go on our honeymoon, and my new wife and I have just spent several thousands of dollars on a trip to paradise for a week. Then, we put a down-payment on a home in a community my new wife and I want to live in and foresee our future children being happy in. We put $50,000 towards our new home and have a 30-year mortgage for $200,000 plus property taxes and home maintenance. When I am 35-years and my wife of 3 years and I decide to have our first baby, we must financially manage a minimum of $200,000 for our first child from the womb to his or her 18th birthday. Then, when I am 38-years and my wife of 6 years and I decide to have our second baby, we must financially manage a minimun of $150,000 for our second child from the womb to his or her 18th birthday. Then, I turn 53 and my first child is in college; and then I turn 56 and my second child is in college. My wife of 21/24 years will have to financially manage about $400,000 to educate our young adult children with skills they will need to have careers and self-sufficient futures in their lives.

Let me add up all of the math of my decision to get married and have children: (a) Marriage ceremony: $10,000, (b) honeymoon: $3,000, (c) downpayment of a new home: $50,000, (d) 30 year mortgage on $200,000 principle: $500,000; (e) basis living expenses $20,000 per year for 30 years: $600,000; (f) children expenses: $350,000; (g) future college expenses: $400,000. The minimal middle class costs of me getting married and having a family in today's world EQUALS around $2 Million over the next 30 years of my life from 32 until 62! Then, my new wife and I get to retire, which will mean we will have to have had saved another $1 Million dollars for the next 30-years. So, if I decide to get married at 32, my wife and I have to earn $3 Million in the next 30 years, or $1 Million every decade for the next 3 decades.

BUT, if my wife and I get divorced when I turn 42 then I am not only financially constrained, but now I am drowning in debt! THAT IS THE REALITY, GUYS!

When you guys got married and then got your divorces, you should have sat down and administered the financial costs of getting married and having children!

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

--------------

Gratitude to shared parenting moms
Sunday, May 13, 2007
To the Editor of THE BEKSHIRE EAGLE:
We at the Berkshire Fatherhood Coalition want to thank all the mothers out there who have decided to make shared parenting a part of their and their children's lives. While courts routinely deny shared parenting in litigated cases, it is now becoming increasingly common for mothers to voluntarily place their child in joint physical custody so as to put the child first.
We understand that there are financial inducements put in place by our legal system for you to do otherwise. You, shared parenting mothers, realize the path to hell is paved with greed. You understand that not every victory that can be had in a family court is a victory for the child. You understand the importance of both the father and a mother in a child's life. You have gone out of your way to make sure that the father is allowed to be at all important occasions in your child's life. You have made efforts to split parenting time, and have made every effort to civilly cooperate for the sake of your child.
You have made every effort to make sure your child maintains a good relationship with the paternal side of the family, including paternal grandparents, and paternal aunt's and uncles. You are a modern woman — you realize that simply because the divorce has ended the marriage, your ex-husband still is the father of your child. You respect men and fathers, and do not celebrate Mother's Day by having men and fathers engage in degrading pledges not to be a violent beast.
You, shared parenting mother, respect yourself as a breadwinner and respect the father as a nurturer. You, shared parenting mother, reject outdated stereotypes of gender roles so much embraced by people that call themselves "feminist," yet know nothing of the meaning of feminism by quickly calling the mother "nurturer" and father "breadwinner." You, voluntarily, provide equal time and access to both parents for your child's benefit.
You understand that the legal system's concept of a "primary" and "secondary" parent is anathema to God. You, shared parenting mother, embrace equality. To you shared parenting mothers, we send you our most ardent love and affection. May God bless you, and may his love shine upon you, this Mother's Day.
MARK DEMMING
Great Barrington May 7, 2007

Monday, May 14, 2007 2:39:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

OLVER E-NEWSLETTER

Veterans E-Update June 2007

Funding Victory for Veterans

I would like to share some important news regarding funding for our nation's veterans. Today, June 15, 2007, the House of Representatives passed the largest single funding increase for the Veterans Administration (VA) in the agency's 77 year history. As you know, the current VA healthcare system is struggling to care for wounded veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan . This dramatic increase helps fulfill our obligation to the men and women who risked their lives on behalf of a grateful nation. We must provide medical care that honors the gravity of their sacrifice. This bill is a momentous achievement for our nation's veterans, and it sets an important precedent to honor their service by fully funding veteran's healthcare in the years to come.

The Military Construction/VA spending bill passed today by the House of Representatives:

Increases the VA budget by $6.7 billion above the Fiscal Year (FY) 2007 level, the largest single increase in the 77 year history of the Veterans Administration

Ensures quality health care for 5.8 million patients, including about 263,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans, which the VA will treat in FY 2008.

Reduces the 400,000 claims backlog for veterans waiting for disability and other benefits by adding more than 1,100 new claims processors.

Provides much needed maintenance of VA health care facilities. A recent VA report outlined 1,000 specific problems at VA health facilities around the country, with a backlog of $5 billion in maintenance.

Provides $600 million more than the President's request for mental health, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Traumatic Brain Injury (TBI) and makes five polytrauma centers and three Centers of Excellence for Mental Health and fully operational this year to care for those returning from Iraq and Afghanistan. An estimated one-third of veterans returning from Iraq and Afghanistan are facing mental health challenges, and up to 300,000 troops are expected to return from Iraq suffering from TBI.

Develops and operates a toll-free telephone and web-based hotline for veterans to report on deficiencies in VA medical facilities and care.

I am proud to join numerous veterans organizations in supporting today's spending bill. Providing the small dignity of proper healthcare is incumbent upon such a wealthy and prosperous nation.

Sincerely,

John W. Olver
Member of Congress

Monday, June 18, 2007 12:29:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

2 Tough Questions

Question 1:

If you knew a woman who was pregnant, who had 8 kids already, three who were deaf, two who were blind, one mentally retarded, and she had syphilis, would you recommend that she have an abortion?





Read the next question before looking at the response for this one.





Question 2:
It is time to elect a new world leader, and only your vote counts.
Here are the facts about the three candidates. Who would you vote for?


Candidate A.

Associates with crooked politicians, and consults with astrologist. He's had two mistresses. He also chain smokes and drinks 8 to 10 martinis a day.


Candidate B.

He was kicked out of office twice, sleeps until noon, used opium in
college and drinks a quart of whiskey every evening.


Candidate C

He is a decorated war hero. He's a vegetarian, doesn't smoke, drinks an occasional beer and never cheated on his wife.





Which of these candidates would be our choice?





Decide first... no peeking, then scroll down for the response.

























Candidate A is Franklin D. Roosevelt.
Candidate B is Winston Churchill.
Candidate C is Adolph Hitler.








And, by the way, on your answer to the abortion question:

If you said YES, you just killed Beethoven.









Pretty interesting isn't it? Makes a person think before judging someone.


Wait till you see the end of this note! Keep reading..









Never be afraid to try something new.



Remember:

Amateurs...built the ark.
Professionals...built the Titanic









And Finally, can you imagine working for a company that has a little more than 500 employees and has the following statistics:

* 29 have been accused of spousal abuse
* 7 have been arrested for fraud
* 19 have been accused of writing bad checks
* 117 have directly or indirectly bankrupted at least 2 businesses
* 3 have done time for assault
* 71 cannot get a credit card due to bad credit
* 14 have been arrested on drug-related charges
* 8 have been arrested for shoplifting
* 21 are currently defendants in lawsuits
* 84 have been arrested for drunk driving in the last year...





Can you guess which organization this is?













Give up yet?











It's the 535 members of the United States Congress.

The same group that crank out hundreds of new laws each year designed to keep the rest of us in line.

Monday, June 18, 2007 12:34:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Gates vows to fix mental health system

By PAULINE JELINEK, Associated Press Writer
Thu June 21, 2007, 5:12 PM ET

Defense Secretary Robert Gates promised Thursday to speed up changes to the military's much-criticized mental health system, declaring "this is something that we can, must and will get fixed."

A study released last week said more money and people are needed to care for troops suffering depression, anxiety, post-traumatic stress symptoms and other mental health problems because of their war experiences. It also said the Pentagon needs to build a culture of support throughout the military to help remove the stigma of asking for and getting psychological help.

Gates told a Pentagon press conference that one proposal to give troops time off from the battle in Iraq might be hard to do. But he said he supports another proposal that would do away with the practice of asking troops about previous mental health treatment when they apply for a security clearance.

"Too many avoid seeking mental health help because of the fear of losing their security clearance," he said.

The Associated Press reported last week that the department is studying a proposal to change a questionnaire required by the Office of Personnel Management, the agency that does the majority of investigations for granting military and civilian government security clearances. It asks if applicants have gotten mental health care in the last seven years and asks them to list the names, addresses and dates they saw a doctor or therapist — a practice that critics say sends a mixed message in that it discourages troops from seeking treatment.

Gates said Thursday he would work "very aggressively" to get the question removed.

The Pentagon has been working for some time to end the stigma of counseling. Studies indicate that soldiers most in need of post-combat health care are the least likely to get it because they fear that others will have less confidence in them, that it will threaten career advancement and that it could result in the loss of their security clearance and possibly removal from their unit.

The yearlong study released last week was required by Congress, which wants a corrective action plan within six months. "I have no intention of waiting that long," said Gates, adding that he'd directed a plan be finished in 60 to 90 days.

A separate mental health report, released last month, recommended that after 90 days of combat, troops should get 30 days off. Some commanders have said it is difficult to spare the troops, and Gates was asked if the recommendation would be followed.

"I think, to be honest, it would be a challenge to manage that" with the number of troops in Iraq, Gates said, adding that it would be studied.

Moving troops off and onto the battlefield may not be the best solution, said Gen. Peter Pace, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who appeared at the press conference with Gates.

Normally, the highest casualties in a unit are in the first period of a deployment and in the last period, said Pace. "And a lot of it has to do with mind-set and having total focus. And the numbers of times that you put yourself into and out of a combat situation changes how you're thinking, what you're mentally prepared to do," he said.

On a recent visit to the Army's Landstuhl Regional Medical Center in Germany, Gates presented six Purple Hearts — decorations for the war wounded — including one to a soldier who was still unconscious and on a respirator, he recalled Thursday.

"It was a starkly moving and emotionally powerful reminder of the sacrifices these young men and women are making on our behalf," Gates said. "It is our moral obligation and duty to ensure that they are properly cared for in mind, body and spirit when they return from the battlefield to the homeland that they have pledged to defend.

"They have done their duty, we must do ours," he said.

Thursday, June 21, 2007 8:19:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Pearl film plays to sold-out theater

By Jessica Bachman, Berkshire Eagle Staff

The North Adams Transcript Online

Friday, June 22, 2007

GREAT BARRINGTON — A somber crowd filled almost every seat in the Triplex Cinema last night to pay their respects to Daniel Pearl, the former Berkshire Eagle, North Adams Transcript and Wall Street Journal reporter who was kidnapped and ruthlessly murdered by terrorists in Karachi, Pakistan, in 2002.

Berkshire International Film Festival and the Daniel Pearl Scholarship Committee fought long and hard to stage last night's advanced screening of "A Mighty Heart," the harrowing tale of Pearl's inexhaustible pursuit of journalistic truth at the expense of his life.

"It's a little strange that my friend has become a martyr for the freedom of the press," said Daniel Bellow, one of Pearl's former colleagues at The Berkshire Eagle who was asked by the film festival committee to introduce the film.

"I am here to tell you that everything you heard about Dan Pearl is true. He was a sweet-hearted guy, a terrific reporter. ... Unfailingly kind and generous," he recounted before the screening.

This Hollywood thriller, starring Angelina Jolie and Dan Futterman, is based on Mariane Pearl's memoir of her husband, Danny, detailing how faith in his vocation as an international journalist and unflagging love for his pregnant wife enabled him to meet his death — a gruesome, propagandistic beheading by a militant Pakistani terrorist group — with dignity and heroic fortitude.

Hoosac Valley High School graduate Brian Mastroianni of Adams was honored as the scholarship's 2007 recipient.

"He is an outstanding young man and will become a heck of a journalist if he keeps his role model in mind," said Bellow, also one of the scholarship committee judges.

Living in a place where this journalist began his career, many local residents in the audience felt honored to see the film before its national release today.

"I came to see it because it is an important film and Angelina Jolie has a lot of spiritual clout," said Valerie Locher of Housatonic. "I think truth will be told, and we don't get a lot of truth. ... I feel really privileged to be here."

Memorial

A humble posterboard memorial to Pearl, perched on a small wooden easel toward the back of the Triplex's entryway, added to the screening's special feel. On it were pasted pictures of Pearl and several articles he wrote during his time working in the Berkshires — between 1988 and 1990.

"Danny's presence in the Berkshires resonates with people, and they want to support the scholarship fund in his memory," said John Valente, general manager of the Triplex.

But the audience wasn't only local last night. Lynn Sibley of Pittsburgh had been anticipating the film's release for quite some time. "When I heard that Daniel Pearl worked here it seemed like a perfect place to see it," she said.

When the film ended and an eerie silence dissipated, John Orloff, the film's screenplay writer, was introduced to the audience.

"I would like to say that we flew him in at great expense, but it just fell into our laps," said Valente.

Orloff, who also wrote the HBO miniseries "Band of Brothers," recently moved to Columbia County, N.Y., and contacted the film festival to ask how he could help with the screening.

During the question-and-answer session with Orloff, one audience member asked why the film did not show U.S.-Pakistani political relationships of the time in greater depth.

"The film is a little purposefully opaque about it," Orloff replied. "This film is a microcosm. ... We tried to stay specific to exactly what we knew, what Mariane knew and when they knew it."

Although Orloff did not travel to Pakistan, he did spend 10 days with Mariane Pearl in New York before picking up a pen to begin his writing.

Tickets to the screening sold out on Tuesday; the net profits from ticket sales will go toward the Daniel Pearl Scholarship Committee, founded in 2003 by The Berkshire Eagle and North Adams Transcript. Each year, the committee grants one $1,000 scholarship to a Berkshire County high school senior planning to attend college as a journalism or music major. The Triplex donated time and screening space to the film festival.

-----

Mariane Pearl, widow of slain journalist Daniel Pearl, with actors Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt...

-----

Friday, June 22, 2007 4:05:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers:

Like I have said many times before, I will say it again now: I may never be the same again, but at least I saved my soul by protecting the sanctity of human life above all else in the face abuse and illegal orders during my honorable service in the U.S. Army. I may die in the streets as a homeless Veteran or rot behind bars as a mentally-ill prisoner or the like, but at least I sacrificed the quality of my own life on Earth so that innocent people in Germany may go on living their lives without ever knowing who I am or of my plight and fate. In the end, God knows who I truly am, and I will be redeemed for my many acts of love in Heaven. If the VA chooses to recognize my sacrifice and mental health disabilities then I may be protected from the streets or jail cells or the like. If the VA chooses to neglect my sacrifices, I will be martyred for righteousness like our Lord, Jesus Christ, was nearly 2,000 years ago. While I am no Christ, all who have passed through my life live, and I have even saved my now 97-year-old maternal grandmother's life in the late-Winter of 2004 before moving from Western Massachusetts to Southern New Hampshire to live with and amongst my family. In my life, I will always choose LOVE no matter the cost, situation or outcome. I LOVE and believe in God. I am happy that I must suffer for my acts of love by being neglected and/or persecuted by those who chose power for self-interest, money, and authoritative abuse without leaving behind any finger-prints. I choose to suffer in order to be righteous and love. Diagnose me with any mental health condition to fit a methodical design, throw me on the streets of an inner city, put me behind bars without true justice, but I will still choose LOVE! I am a leader, a believer, and a human being with rights and liberties. In the end, I will always be there for my fellow man, woman and child, as I have always been there throughout my entire life. I have endured so much in politics, school/college, work, and life, and yet I always stay at my own level of dignity and love. I saved lives as a Soldier in the U.S. Army because I care, I love, and I am a leader by example.

Human Rights for ALL Peoples! That is my legacy in my own life.

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

Friday, July 06, 2007 1:56:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Pols, & the People:

The Pope is demonstrating AUTHORITARIAN power, which means that one institution rules ALL peoples over the will of all other institutions without being accountable to the many "others" who do not consent to the system of power and rule; but this is NOT totalitarianism because it does not expel or end differing faiths, beliefs, allegiances and affiliations.

The Pope is reinforcing the divisions between his own Catholic Church and the rest of us. He is basically saying, "It is ALL or nothing." This is extremism, and Catholics across the World will be asked to give their primary allegiance to their own Church exclusively, while other institutional faiths and allegiances are treated as peripheral.

This new Pope is driving wedges between societal institutions in an AUTHORITARIAN manner at the expense of all but a select group of God's children.

In Dissent,
Jonathan A. Melle

-----

Pope: Other Christians not true churches
By Nicole Winfield, Associated Press Writer | July 10, 2007

LORENZAGO DI CADORE, Italy --Pope Benedict XVI reasserted the primacy of the Roman Catholic Church, approving a document released Tuesday that says other Christian communities are either defective or not true churches and Catholicism provides the only true path to salvation.

The statement brought swift criticism from Protestant leaders. "It makes us question whether we are indeed praying together for Christian unity," said the World Alliance of Reformed Churches, a fellowship of 75 million Protestants in more than 100 countries.

"It makes us question the seriousness with which the Roman Catholic Church takes its dialogues with the reformed family and other families of the church," the group said in a letter charging that the document took ecumenical dialogue back to the era before the Second Vatican Council.

It was the second time in a week that Benedict has corrected what he says are erroneous interpretations of the Second Vatican Council, the 1962-1965 meetings that modernized the church. On Saturday, Benedict revived the old Latin Mass -- a move cheered by Catholic traditionalists but criticized by more liberal ones as a step backward from Vatican II.

Among the council's key developments were its ecumenical outreach and the development of the New Mass in the vernacular, which essentially replaced the old Latin Mass.

Benedict, who attended Vatican II as a young theologian, has long complained about what he considers its erroneous interpretation by liberals, saying it was not a break from the past but rather a renewal of church tradition.

The Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, which Benedict headed before becoming pope, said it was issuing the new document Tuesday because some contemporary theological interpretations of Vatican II's ecumenical intent had been "erroneous or ambiguous" and had prompted confusion and doubt.

The new document -- formulated as five questions and answers -- restates key sections of a 2000 text the pope wrote when he was prefect of the congregation, "Dominus Iesus," which riled Protestant and other Christian denominations because it said they were not true churches but merely ecclesial communities and therefore did not have the "means of salvation."

The commentary repeated church teaching that says the Catholic Church "has the fullness of the means of salvation."

"Christ 'established here on earth' only one church," said the document released as the pope vacations at a villa in Lorenzago di Cadore, in Italy's Dolomite mountains.

The other communities "cannot be called 'churches' in the proper sense" because they do not have apostolic succession -- the ability to trace their bishops back to Christ's original apostles -- and therefore their priestly ordinations are not valid, it said.

The Rev. Sara MacVane, of the Anglican Centre in Rome, said that although the document contains nothing new, "I don't know what motivated it at this time."

"But it's important always to point out that there's the official position and there's the huge amount of friendship and fellowship and worshipping together that goes on at all levels, certainly between Anglicans and Catholics and all the other groups and Catholics," she said.

The document said that Orthodox churches were indeed "churches" because they have apostolic succession and enjoyed "many elements of sanctification and of truth." But it said they do not recognize the primacy of the pope -- a defect, or a "wound" that harmed them, it said.

"This is obviously not compatible with the doctrine of primacy which, according to the Catholic faith, is an 'internal constitutive principle' of the very existence of a particular church," said a commentary from the congregation that accompanied the text.

Despite the harsh tone, the document stressed that Benedict remains committed to ecumenical dialogue.

"However, if such dialogue is to be truly constructive it must involve not just the mutual openness of the participants, but also fidelity to the identity of the Catholic faith," the commentary said.

The top Protestant cleric in Benedict's homeland, Germany, complained the Vatican apparently did not consider that "mutual respect for the church status" was required for any ecumenical progress.

In a statement titled "Lost Chance," Lutheran Bishop Wolfgang Huber argued that "it would also be completely sufficient if it were to be said that the reforming churches are 'not churches in the sense required here' or that they are 'churches of another type' -- but none of these bridges is used" in the Vatican document.

The Vatican statement, signed by the congregation prefect, American Cardinal William Levada, was approved by Benedict on June 29, the feast of Saints Peter and Paul -- a major ecumenical feast day.

There was no indication why the pope felt it necessary to release it now, particularly since his 2000 document summed up the same principles.

Some analysts suggested it could be a question of internal church politics or that the congregation was sending a message to certain theologians it did not want to single out. Or, it could be an indication of Benedict using his office as pope to again stress key doctrinal issues from his time at the congregation.

In fact, the only theologian cited by name in the document for having spawned erroneous interpretations of ecumenism was Leonardo Boff, a Brazilian clergyman who left the priesthood and was a target of then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger's crackdown on liberation theology in the 1980s.

-----

Pope revives old Latin mass, sparks Jewish concern
By Phil Stewart | July 7, 2007

VATICAN CITY (Reuters) - Pope Benedict, in a decree issued on Saturday, authorized wider use of the old Latin mass and told the world's 1.1 billion Roman Catholics that his nod to Church traditionalists was nothing to be afraid of.

The decree met with mixed reaction from Catholics, ranging from concern among liberal lay groups to a wary welcome from schismatic traditionalists. Two cardinals who had warned about restoring the old rite supported the way the Pope had done it.

One prominent Jewish leader criticized the revival of a prayer for the conversion of Jews, saying the old text was "insensitive ... insulting" and said it could set back the historic reconciliation between Catholics and Jews.

In a letter to bishops, the German-born Pontiff rejected criticism within the Church that his long-awaited move could split Catholics and turn back the clock on reforms introduced in the 1960s, which are opposed by many traditionalists.

The Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) replaced Latin with local languages in the liturgy, reached out to other religions and struck out texts that Jews found particularly offensive.

"This fear is unfounded," the Pope wrote. "What earlier generations held as sacred, remains sacred and great for us too, and it cannot be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or even considered harmful."

Catholics around the world will have the Pope's blessing to ask local priests to celebrate mass in Latin or get baptized or married according to the old rite. Few are expected to want to return to the very formal rite in a language they do not speak.

The Pope said he wanted reconciliation with traditionalists, some of whom were so angered by the 1960s reforms that they broke with Rome, causing the first schism of modern times.

SCHISMATIC GROUP

Traditionalists thanked Benedict for the decree, but their further reaction differed according to whether they were still loyal to Rome or in the schismatic group led by the late French Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and excommunicated in 1988.

"The traditional mass is a true a gem of the Church's heritage, and the Holy Father has taken the most important step toward making it available to many more of the faithful," said Michael Dunnigan, chairman of Una Voce America.

The schismatic Society of Saint Pius X (SSPX), based in Switzerland, stressed it had to iron out doctrinal differences with the Vatican before a reconciliation could take place.

The decree made no change in the 1962 missal -- the main prayer book for the old rite -- which includes prayers on Good Friday for the conversion of the Jews and calls them blind to the Christian truth.

"The language is insensitive. The language is insulting," said Abraham Foxman, National Director of the Anti-Defamation League (ADL), a U.S.-based Jewish civil rights group.

The Second Vatican Council repudiated the idea of collective Jewish guilt for Christ's death and highlighted the Jewish roots of Christianity. Relations improved markedly under Benedict's predecessor, the late Pope John Paul II.

French Cardinal Jean-Pierre Ricard said the Good Friday prayer could be changed if it caused difficulties with Jews. Church sources said it would rarely be prayed because the old rite is an exception and the new rite -- which drops this text -- would be used in most churches around the world on that day.

(Additional reporting by Tom Heneghan in Paris and Sam Cage in Zurich)
-----

Thursday, July 12, 2007 2:54:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

8/24/2007

Re: I am part of our nation's healthcare insurance crisis!

SHARE YOUR HEALTHCARE INSURANCE STORY

I have no healthcare insurance.

The Healthcare Insurance Crisis affects me because when I apply for a low-wage job, it costs the employer more money to provide healthcare insurance coverage than to pay me my wages. I have been unemployed for over 20-weeks now. I have to receive food stamps to eat. I have applied for other related social programs. I have to rely on my parents for financial assistance.

I am a Veteran with a +6-year-old case before the VA's Board of Veterans Appeals in Washington, D.C. As a Soldier in the U.S. Army, I was abused and victimized by my Unit, purposefully victimized by my Staff Sergeant, who deprived me of sleep for a 72-hour period of time, and then he ordered me to drive a 5-ton military truck on wintery German civilian roads without proper certification to operate said vehicle and without the regulatory 6-hours of sleep. I was in field training, not combat duty. I disobeyed the illegal orders to protect human lives and property. I suffered a mental breakdown, and then I was honorably discharged on 7/7/2001. After the Army, Citizens Bank hired me as a Teller in Pittsfield, Massachusetts. I worked there from 9/4/01 - 5/22/02. I had healthcare insurance for 6-months. Since 6/1/02 - today (8/24/07), I have no health insurance.

Because I have a mental health disability, employers know my healthcare insurance cost are going to be higher than the average employee. Employers have told me that it is cheaper to hire about 6 part-timers than 1 full-timer due to the high costs of providing healthcare insurance coverage.

With the VA behaving like an unfair insurance company, employers behaving like unfair banks, and me having a mental health disability, I have 3 strikes against me in life. In short, I have no income because I have no healthcare. I am at risk of becoming homeless, jailed, or possibly dead someday sooner rather than later.

I saved lives and now I am being neglected by society.

I believe healthcare is a matter of HUMAN RIGHTS! Both myself and my fellow uninsured are victims of INEQUITY by "the system" ran by the Corporate Elite, who get richer while the poor get poorer.

In Truth,

Jonathan A. Melle

Saturday, August 25, 2007 5:40:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear Boston Globe Editorial Idiots!

The answer to regional/global politics is HUMAN RIGHTS!

The means to resolve global political conflicts is to set up clusters of regional governmental democratic federal entities that administers HUMAN RIGHTS programs to ALL the Peoples of the World.

The United States of America's failure, meaning Presidents George Herbert Walker Bush, William Jefferson Clinton, & George Walker Bush, in global politics is to SKIP "the MIDDLE-MAN". Politically, our nation has been and continues to be bent on the U.S. Government being the World's SUPER-POWER, which has the power and ability to police the World. Economically, our nation, along with several wealthy European nations, confictually views the World as a "Global Economy", which means that the Corporate Elite dictates the economic policies of the World's diverse political economies, which means that America is telling the World's national governments to institute democratic institutions or reforms, while the Corporate Elite has economic control or hegemony over these same institutions.

Think about it, Boston Globe Editorial Idiots! The political and economic reality is that on the one hand, the U.S. Government is militarially controlling the World with a Police State Intelligence/Military apparatus that is spreading the message of democracy, while on the other hand, the Corporate Elite is economically controlling the World with control of international economic institutional policies that put hegemonic constraints on the World's national governments. What a bunch of contradictions!

You publish all of these Editorials and Op-eds on Darfur, Sudan, Africa, Iraq, the Middle East, China, Asia, and elsewhere. You point your fingers at the World's Human Rights abuses. HOWEVER, you, Boston Globe Editorial Idiots!, do NOT look at the design that has caused or associated the World's Human Rights abuses.

The answer is to set up clusters of regional governmental democratic federal entities that administers HUMAN RIGHTS programs to ALL the Peoples of the World. The reason why the U.S. Government and the Corporate Elite does not do this is because the answer may be for the wealthy and elite to take a long look in the mirror. The Heart of Darkness may be those with all of the political and economic power.

In closing, I have long heard that the best judgement of a man's character is not when he is doing well, but when he is facing adversity. I disagree with this maxim. I believe the best judgement of a man is to see how he uses power of other men. In short and lastly, "the system" is by design! Think about it!

Sincerely,

Jonathan A. Melle

--

MOKHTAR LAMANI AND HE HANY BESADA
The other victims in Iraq
By Mokhtar Lamani and He Hany Besada | September 8, 2007

ARMENIANS, Chaldo-Assyrian Christians, Faili Kurds, Shabaks, Palestinians, Baha'is, Mandeans, Yazidis, Turkomans, and Jews, together with their Sunni and Sh'iite neighbors, form an intricate fabric that gave rise to today's modern Iraqi state. Ironically, they find themselves on the fringes of the Iraqi society. Tragically, last month's massacre of more than 400 Yazidis - one of Iraq's numerous religious minorities - and the international coverage it received, has placed the spotlight on a forgotten tale in that country's ongoing de facto civil war: the continuous and often-underreported violence, which ethnic minority leaders in the country portray as genocide of devastating consequences, against minority populations. Both Iraqi and US officials have blamed the attack on Al Qaeda-linked Islamic militants.

The brutal attacks against the Yazidis, who are predominantly ethnic Kurds whose religion blends elements of Islam, Christianity, Zoroastrianism, and Judaism, dating back more than 4,000 years, underscored the fear and the harsh reality that reflect the growing insecurity and anxiety gripping Iraq's minorities. Minorities are especially vulnerable given the lack of militias to protect their communities, a practice often used by the Shi'ite and Sunni populations. Notwithstanding press coverage of the daily atrocities, which have claimed the lives of hundreds of thousands of Sunnis and Shi'ites and, to a lesser extent, Kurds, the plight of the country's disappearing minorities, who are caught in the cross fire of the ongoing conflict, does not feature high in the international debate on Iraq.

With this tragic state of affairs and an absence of any semblance of normality, peace, and security, allowing both Shi'ites and Sunni extremists to use their discretionary power to bomb churches, massacre and rape women and girls, and engage in the forced conversion of numerous innocent Iraqi minorities every month, hundreds of thousands have fled the country since the overthrow of Saddam's secular Baathist-led government, and many more are attempting to run for their lives.

In what has become the rule rather than the exception, minority groups across the country are often required to either pay a "protection tax" or face banishment from their ancestral lands or conversion to Islam. The consequence of noncompliance with these ultimatums is usually punishment by death. According to relief agencies and religious minority leaders in the country, the smaller minorities are disappearing quickly. The Sabean-Mandean sect, which follows the teachings of John the Baptist, had a population of 25,000 in 2003. It now numbers less than 5,000.

Meanwhile, United Nations estimates show that approximately 50 percent of Iraqi Christians, who numbered 1 to 2 million at the last count in 2003, may have already left the country for neighboring states - Syria in particular and, to a lesser extent, Jordan, while others have managed to slip into Western states to join their extended families who fled with the toppling of Saddam Hussein. They leave behind the ruins of more than 30 churches destroyed by Islamic extremists.

Given the predicament that minorities find themselves in, and the eventual withdrawal of the US-led coalition from Iraq, many have begun contemplating the seemingly discouraging dilemma of figuring out for themselves what it means to be freed from a tyrannical system of dictatorship under Saddam Hussein, only to be left to the mercy of extremists, bent on exterminating all religious and ethnic minorities in the country.

A return to the fundamental understanding of what it means to be an Iraqi, something that involves an innovative approach to fostering a real dialogue among Iraqis, based on common citizenship, offers the best hope of ending the chaos and anarchy that have engulfed Iraqis, including the country's disappearing minorities. With precious time left, neighboring governments and occupying forces ought to muster enough courage, even to the detriment of their short-term foreign policy objectives, to treat Iraq's minorities with special care and consideration.

Mokhtar Lamani, a former Arab League special representative in Iraq, is a senior visiting fellow at the International Development Research Centre and a visiting research fellow at the Centre for International Governance Innovation in Waterloo, Canada. He Hany Besada is senior researcher at the Centre for International Governance Innovation.

Saturday, September 08, 2007 3:09:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan said...

Dear Berkshire Bloggers, News Media, Politicians, & the People:

The ultimate form of control in a free society are the continual messages sent to the masses by those among us with real power: The Corporate Elite. Noam Chomsky talks about this issue, but more in a structural than a cultural method. My point, as opposed to Chomsky's, is that American culture socializes the masses or "have-nots" into being figurative satellites spreading the indoctrination of the Corporate Elite's social control over society for the Corporate Elite's guaranteed economic gain. Put simply, "the system" or the structure of society is manipulated through the designs of the manufactured culture that empowers those without power to control others without power.

To illustrate my point, take a 1950's nuclear family where only the dad works in a factory and is able to support his wife and children with his Proletariat paycheck. The message to the dad at work is that labor is his only way to financial security, which is a complete lie, of course. For the 30 or so years the dad goes to work for his Corporate Elite masters, the only one getting rich or achieving financial security are the factory owners. The dad then buys into the message and becomes a figurative satellite, spreading the message to his children, who may want to achieve more in their lives than work in a factory like their old man. The dad tells their kids to learn a trade in school so that they will get a good job at the factory. That last sentence is the ultimate form of manipulative control by those who send the messages. Why? The answer is that the "Haves" or "Owners" indoctrinated the dad with so many misleading fallacies that now they do not have to be heard from, seen, and the like.

It is all kind of like the Matrix movie when Keanu Reeves character Neo understands that he spent his life being deceived by all of his 5 senses because he was living in a computer-generated virtual reality. When he realized that the messages being sent to his brain were all to manipulate him into believing in a false reality, his journey began to protect his fellow man and began to fight the system as a parallel to Superman. When fighting the system became useless, he stood for peace with the system for their mutual survival and saved those he spiritually loved, alluding to Christ's role as Savior.

On the Internet tonight, the 400 richest Americans are showcased. The news articles is titled, "The Forbes 400", and it begins by stating that: "One billion dollars is no longer enough. The price of admission to this, the 25th anniversary edition of the Forbes 400, is $1.3 billion, up $300 million from last year. The collective net worth of America’s plutocrats rose $290 billion to $1.54 trillion."

What does that all mean? The cultural message is for the majority have-nots to admire their Corporate Elite Masters' gains in wealth. There is no mention of inequity, of course. Someone like me is supposed to spread this information without explaining its being or subverting the manipulation.

The news article goes onto state: "Wall Street led the charge...Nearly half of the 45 new members made their fortunes in hedge funds and private equity." It goes onto point out how the list correlates with businesses tied to the Bush family: "William Conway, Daniel D'Aniello and David Rubenstein of the Carlyle Group,...Blackstone billionaires Peter Peterson and Hamilton "Tony" James also join the Forbes 400 for the first time,...oilman Harold Hamm, who landed on our ranking after taking his Continental Resources oil and gas operation public in May."

What does that all mean? The cultural message is for the majority of have-nots to not see the Carlyle Group and Blackstone linked to The Bush White House. Another manipulation!

In an ode to the state governments taking a cut of the loot from gambling, the article states: "The Fertitta brothers also recently took their Station Casinos gambling company private with Forbes 400 member Tom Barrack for $9 billion in cash and assumed debt."

The best statement from the news articles is the kicker! It states: "The youngest member of the Forbes 400 this year is 33-year-old John Arnold, a former Enron trader who now runs hedge fund Centaurus Energy and has amassed a $1.5 billion fortune."

Well, I guess I was manipulated because I am the have-not figurative satellite relaying the Corporate Elite's message. I live only to serve my corporate elite masters, but I don't know that I do. I don't see the structure or culture of my society. I am manipulated by the message. NOT!

In Dissent,

Jonathan A. Melle

-----

The Forbes 400
by Matthew Miller
Wednesday, September 20, 2006
One billion dollars is no longer enough. The price of admission to this, the 25th anniversary edition of the Forbes 400, is $1.3 billion, up $300 million from last year. The collective net worth of America’s plutocrats rose $290 billion to $1.54 trillion.
Wall Street led the charge, despite this summer's market jitters. Nearly half of the 45 new members made their fortunes in hedge funds and private equity. Money manager John Paulson joins the list after pocketing more than $1 billion short-selling subprime credit this summer.
Leveraged buyout titans David Bonderman and James Coulter of Texas Pacific Group make their first appearance on the list, along with William Conway, Daniel D'Aniello and David Rubenstein of the Carlyle Group. Blackstone billionaires Peter Peterson and Hamilton "Tony" James also join the Forbes 400 for the first time.
Other new members of the list include oilman Harold Hamm, who landed on our ranking after taking his Continental Resources oil and gas operation public in May. Brothers Frank and Lorenzo Fertitta scratched and clawed their way onto the list with their Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-view fight fest. The Fertitta brothers also recently took their Station Casinos gambling company private with Forbes 400 member Tom Barrack for $9 billion in cash and assumed debt.
Twelve people returned to the list, including computer memory mavens David Sun and John Tu, and John Catsimatidis, who made his fortune buying and holding an oil refinery and New York City real estate through his holding company Red Apple Group.
The youngest member of the Forbes 400 this year is 33-year-old John Arnold, a former Enron trader who now runs hedge fund Centaurus Energy and has amassed a $1.5 billion fortune. The oldest member of the list is potato king John Simplot, who is 98 years old and worth $3.6 billion.
The biggest gainer this year was Kirk Kerkorian, who padded his fortune by $9 billion as shares of his MGM Mirage casino outfit rose 135% over the past year. Kerkorian enters the top 10 along with Google Sergey Brin and Larry Page, who are up $4.4 billion and $4.5 billion, respectively; and brothers Charles and David Koch, who added $5 billion apiece to their fortunes on surging energy and commodities prices. They replace Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and four members of the Walton family.
Seven members of last year's list have died, including media mogul Barbara Cox Anthony; she is replaced by her two children, James Kennedy and Blair Parry-Okeden. Other notable deaths include Wal-Mart scion Helen Walton, real estate mogul Leona Helmsley and Cargill grain heir W. Duncan MacMillan.
Fifty people couldn't keep up. They include online gambling titans Ruth Parasol and J. Russell DeLeon, whose PartyGaming Internet poker company's stock has fallen 75% in the past 12 months. Also dropping off the list is caffeine king Howard Schultz, whose Starbucks stock has languished over the past year, and Campbell Soup heir Dorrance Hill Hamilton, who had appeared on every Forbes 400 list since 1982.

Saturday, September 22, 2007 1:50:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Melle said...

[The Boston} GLOBE [-] EDITORIAL

Ukraine: The struggle continues

October 3, 2007

ON SUNDAY, Ukraine held its third general election since the Orange Revolution of 2004, and the outcome reflected the country's nearly even split between pro-Russian forces and those that lean toward the West. This election will hardly resolve the East-West tension at the core of Ukrainian politics, and it cannot be expected to overcome deeply rooted corruption and stark economic disparities. Nevertheless, the openness of political debate and the politicians' quest for the consent of the governed suggest that Ukraine is not turning back from the Orange Revolution.

Because the West-leaning parties of President Viktor Yushchenko and former prime minister Yulia Timoshenko gained only a slight edge over the pro-Russian party of current Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovich and its Communist allies, the reconciled former rivals Yushchenko and Timoshenko may have to form Ukraine's next government by drawing smaller parties into a coalition. A patchwork of this sort can be awkward. It can lack a mandate for radical reforms. But it can teach the democratic virtue of settling differences by means of imperfect compromises.

Election observers from the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe attested to Ukraine's election being free and fair. This seal of approval applies not only to the conduct of Sunday's vote, but also to the indispensable conditions for a legitimate exercise in popular sovereignty. These include equal access to national media, the coverage and commentary of a free press, and a modicum of transparency from the parties about their plans and platforms.

Ukraine's advances along the path to an open society stand in striking contrast to the authoritarian petro-state being built in Russia. On Monday, while Ukrainians were tallying the ballots in their close and competitive election, Russian President Vladimir Putin was declaring that he himself would lead the Kremlin's United Russia Party in parliamentary elections scheduled for December. And then he dropped his first overt hint that he may assume the post of prime minister after he leaves the presidency.

This would be a premiership with expanded powers. It is left to the Russian public to guess how long Putin might wait before telling a hand-picked successor to step aside so that the former KGB officer could resume his role as president without violating a constitutional prohibition against three successive terms.

Ukraine may have its own oligarchs who buy political favors; Ukrainian politicians may be subject to petty vendettas, and the country's rust belt may be uncompetitive with Western industries. But Ukrainians, unlike Russians, have a free press and the right to change their rulers at the ballot box. Ukraine is moving toward Europe.

Wednesday, October 03, 2007 2:13:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Melle said...

The Surgeon from HELL!

NEWS ARTICLE:

Trail of misery follows doctor
Lack of disclosure, medical mistakes alleged in Mass.
By Scott Allen, Globe Staff | October 28, 2007

ATTLEBORO - Robert A. Whitney dreaded going to the bathroom. For almost four years after his 1997 hernia operation, the simple act of urinating caused bleeding and a fierce burning sensation that often drove him to his knees. The father of three young children became addicted to the narcotics his surgeon at Sturdy Memorial Hospital prescribed to dull the pain, and in the years that followed, he lost 40 pounds, his job, and his marriage.

Finally, a doctor in Boston told Whitney that the surgeon had made a terrible mistake, embedding surgical staples into his bladder. Whitney didn't know it at the time, but he wasn't alone: State regulators have alleged that *****Dr. Jose Veizaga-Mendez***** provided dangerously substandard care to at least seven other patients from 2000 to 2003, including two who died as a result.

But, by the time Massachusetts officials lodged formal charges against Veizaga-Mendez in January, the Bolivia-trained surgeon had already moved on to a new job at a veterans' hospital in rural Illinois - where he is in deep trouble again. The US Department of Veterans Affairs is investigating Veizaga-Mendez's role in *****the deaths of up to 10 patients over the past two years*****, including a 50-year-old Air Force veteran who died after what was expected to be routine gallbladder surgery on Aug. 9, 2007.

"When I heard about the veterans, I called my wife and said 'He's at it again,' " said Whitney, who has been pain-free since doctors at Brigham and Women's Hospital removed the last staple from his bladder in 2001.

"They survived wars and bombs, and they go in for a simple operation and they die . . . I blame [Veizaga-Mendez] for everything."

Now the two US senators from Illinois want to know how Veizaga-Mendez, 69, could get a job in their state in January 2006 while he was under investigation for negligence in another. Several national databases are supposed to provide information on doctors who have been sued or punished for providing poor care, a setup designed to prevent them from continuing their practice by moving to another state. But Veizaga-Mendez showed how easy it is to beat the system: He simply relocated to an out-of-state hospital before the Massachusetts Board of Registration in Medicine made public the results of an investigation that took more than two years.

Senators Richard J. Durbin and Barack Obama have criticized the Department of Veterans Affairs for not asking more questions about Veizaga-Mendez's background before hiring him. "This is an extremely alarming revelation that calls into question the adequacy of the oversight exercised by the VA as it evaluates and monitors those who provide care to our veterans," they wrote earlier this month to the VA, which has reassigned four administrators at the Marion VA Medical Center, pending results of an independent investigation.

But the case also illustrates an oversight system that sometimes protects doctors' rights at the expense of patients. Like medical regulators in many states, Massachusetts officials are not allowed to talk publicly about ongoing investigations, even to potential employers. As a result, when VA officials called to ask why Veizaga-Mendez had "voluntarily" agreed to suspend his Massachusetts medical license in the summer of 2006, medical board officials acknowledge that they said nothing about the ongoing investigation. In fact, the board listed the suspension as "nondisciplinary" with the tracking databases.

Meanwhile, Sturdy Memorial Hospital in Attleboro, where Veizaga-Mendez worked as a general surgeon for nearly 30 years, quietly disciplined Veizaga-Mendez in 2004, but allowed him to continue performing surgeries until he left Sturdy in 2006.

The hospital forwarded numerous allegations of substandard care to the state medical board for investigation, according to state records. But the hospital, saying it's a confidential personnel matter, will not discuss - or even acknowledge - the punishment or the report to the state.

A lawyer for Veizaga-Mendez in Chicago, A. Jay Goldstein, declined to comment, and attempts to reach the doctor through his wife, a cancer specialist at Sturdy Memorial, were unsuccessful. A woman who answered the phone hung up on a reporter.

Veizaga-Mendez's case is not isolated. Nearly 90 percent of the 5,000 doctors who faced disciplinary action in the United States last year had medical licenses in more than one state, according to the Federation of State Medical Boards, giving them the option of moving to another state to practice if they fear losing their license in the first. *****As Veizaga-Mendez's troubles deepened in Illinois in August, he applied for a license in yet another state, North Dakota.*****

Medical regulators have become far better at tracking dangerous doctors since the early 1990s when serial killer Michael Swango poisoned patients and co-workers at several hospitals, repeatedly landing new jobs with forged documents. In recent years, regulators using the federation's national alert service have caught numerous would-be border-jumpers.

But Dr. James N. Thompson, the federation president, acknowledges that the system remains vulnerable to doctors who deliberately deceive regulators. Massachusetts regulators say they would have known about Veizaga-Mendez's problems at least a year earlier if he had disclosed two malpractice lawsuits that had been filed against him, including one by Whitney, when he renewed his medical license in 2003. Instead, Veizaga-Mendez is facing licensing fraud charges four years after the fact.

"That's a tough situation," acknowledged Thompson. He said regulators have to keep investigations secret, but should do more to complete the work quickly and release their findings. "The sooner they can investigate and complete investigative actions, the less likely it is that someone can go to another jurisdiction."

That's not any comfort to Katrina Shank, whose husband, Robert E. Shank III, died from massive internal bleeding on Aug. 10, 2007, at Marion VA hospital one day after Veizaga-Mendez performed a minimally invasive surgery to remove his gallbladder. She has filed a notice of intent to *****sue the VA for $12 million*****, alleging that Veizaga-Mendez botched the operation, then waited too long to reopen her husband's incision to stop the bleeding.

She also alleges that the VA was negligent in letting Veizaga-Mendez perform surgery at all.

Veizaga-Mendez resigned three days later, and by the end of August, the 55-bed hospital had shut down all inpatient surgery amid concerns that the hospital had suffered a much higher-than-expected death rate in cases he was involved with.

Durbin and Obama have said that several of the 10 deaths under investigation involved complex surgeries that were beyond Veizaga-Mendez's skill level as a general surgeon without specialized credentials.

"The guy has no clue as to what his limitations are," Dr. Stanley Heller of Chicago, a lawyer who represents Katrina Shank, said in an interview. Heller said his firm is also investigating a surgery in which Veizaga-Mendez allegedly took out the wrong section of a cancer patient's lung.

Others wondered whether Veizaga-Mendez's skills as a surgeon had declined or his health had declined. In February , he underwent surgery for a detached retina.

Bennett Bergman, a Rhode Island lawyer, said he suspected Veizaga-Mendez was doing work he wasn't qualified for when he represented the family of a 58-year-old man who died of an infection in 2000 after the surgeon performed minimally invasive surgery for acid reflux. Bergman argued in a lawsuit that the surgeon was doing a procedure that he had learned to do during a weekend seminar in Cincinnati and that he lacked the skill to do it correctly. He also argued that the procedure was wholly unnecessary to treat the patient, Geronimo Coronado.

"Mr. Coronado had come in for burping up. Dr. Veizaga-Mendez saw a dangerous procedure that would potentially kill him, and he went forward with it," said Bergman.

Veizaga-Mendez's malpractice insurance company paid the family an undisclosed amount in 2004, but Bergman didn't drop the issue. Months later, when he did not see disclosure of the lawsuit in Veizaga-Mendez's profile at the Board of Registration's website, he mailed the board a copy of the doctor's testimony about Coronado's surgery.

By then, Sturdy Memorial officials had already reported to the state - as required by law - that they had disciplined Veizaga-Mendez for providing substandard care, triggering the medical board to conduct its own inquiry. For more than two years, the board interviewed witnesses and gathered evidence about seven patients who were injured or killed allegedly because of Veizaga-Mendez's quality of care, including a 20-year-old man who suffered a lacerated aorta when the surgeon tried to perform a minimally invasive hernia repair. The investigation also looked at a 72-year-old man who, like Shank in Illinois, died from postsurgical bleeding that Veizaga-Mendez was allegedly slow to treat.

Byron Taylor, the lawyer who represented Whitney, said he believes that Veizaga-Mendez's problems began in the 1990s as he started to perform minimally invasive surgeries, which are done using surgical tools and a miniature video camera called a laparoscope that are inserted through small incisions. Taylor said Veizaga-Mendez successfully repaired Whitney's hernia in 1981 using a standard 6-inch incision that allowed the surgeon to see the injury more easily. But when Whitney came back for hernia repair in 1997, Veizaga-Mendez suggested the laparoscopic surgery that ended so disastrously.

In the lawsuit, Veizaga-Mendez argued that the surgical staples embedded in Whitney's bladder drifted there from the site of the hernia operation, but in March, a Fall River jury ordered the surgeon to pay Whitney and his estranged wife $652,000 for their ordeal.

However, both the jury verdict and the findings of the state investigation released in January came a full year after Veizaga-Mendez had gone to work at the Marion VA hospital. Officials there said that when they hired him, Veizaga-Mendez had no limits on his medical license in Massachusetts and no history of disciplinary action.

Russell Aims, Massachusetts medical board spokesman, said the investigation into Veizaga-Mendez did not take an unusually long time considering that it involved multiple patients - a process that can generate thousands of pages of paperwork. He said the board urges doctors facing lengthy inquiries to consider voluntary license suspensions to protect patients, but acknowledged that doesn't help other states.

As a result, he said, Veizaga-Mendez essentially got more than two years' notice to find a job in another state before Massachusetts made its findings public.

"It may just be bad timing," said Aims.

Scott Allen can be reached at allen@globe.com.

Sunday, October 28, 2007 10:46:00 PM  
Blogger Jonathan Melle said...

SUSAN STEFAN
Wrong place for mental-health care
By Susan Stefan | November 7, 2007

HOSPITAL emergency departments are among the least appropriate and most expensive places in Massachusetts for patients in psychiatric crisis. Yet these departments are where police, families, group homes, nursing homes, and others routinely take people who are agitated, panicked, or threatening to hurt themselves. Emergency departments are also where people go at the end of the month when their medications run out, when their primary physicians can't see them for two weeks, when they are frightened or desperate and have nowhere to turn after 5 p.m. and their therapist's answering machine tells them to go to the emergency room.

Emergency departments and these patients in crisis are both victims of a healthcare system that increasingly relies on emergency care to cover gaps in basic mental health and social services. Once at the emergency department, psychiatric patients wait twice as long for help as other patients, often in escalating frustration. Their interactions with harried staff, who often have little mental-health training and resent the long-term occupation of emergency beds, can make matters worse. Emergency departments don't have much time to provide reassurance, and often resort to restraint and seclusion - sometimes even handcuffs and pepper spray. Many psychiatric patients recount harrowing and traumatic experiences: As the Globe reported this summer, psychiatric patients sometimes die and have bones broken in emergency departments. They are often stripped of clothing and left for hours.

This has to stop, for all our sakes: the emergency departments, people with psychiatric disabilities, and taxpayers who pick up the tab.

This problem isn't restricted to Massachusetts. Recently, Rhode Island's mental-health advocate sued the state, arguing that involuntary detention in nontherapeutic emergency rooms for days without treatment violated state constitutional and statutory obligations. A few months earlier, advocates in New York filed a far-reaching lawsuit to end emergency department overcrowding and mistreatment at King's County Hospital Center.

In Massachusetts, advocates and patients have sought help from the Legislature. In September, Massachusetts lawmakers heard witnesses tell horror stories of their experiences in emergency departments, sometimes after going there just for medical care. Bills filed by Representatives Ruth Balser and Peter Koutoujian would authorize regulations to protect people with psychiatric disabilities in Massachusetts emergency departments.

This legislation is desperately needed. Currently, there are no state rules limiting or even regulating the use of restraint, seclusion, handcuffs, or forced stripping in emergency departments. The public health and mental health departments, however, opposed the legislation, stating they would instead work with hospitals to voluntarily improve the treatment that people with psychiatric disabilities receive in emergency departments. We hope that these promises will yield concrete improvements; publicly available statistics about restraints of psychiatric patients in emergency departments (as is required of all inpatient psychiatric units) would be a good first step.

Yet while changing emergency department practices toward psychiatric patients is essential, it is equally essential to prevent as many of these emergency department visits as possible.

Yet the state could well take a step in the wrong direction. Proposed regulations by the Department of Mental Health would allow people who need psychiatric evaluations to be sent to emergency departments. A better option would be to increase mental-health services for people with psychiatric disabilities. This could include emergency service workers who provide crisis evaluation in the community; nighttime crisis services; and crisis beds outside emergency departments. Helping patients get to medical appointments, find primary-care doctors, and pay for medication would be more cost-effective and less traumatizing for patients than a visit to an emergency room.

Emergency departments were never meant to be a home for the most difficult clients of exhausted and underfunded social service agencies. People with psychiatric disabilities need a better option. The answers are out there; the question is whether the will to implement them exists.

Susan Stefan is director of the National Emergency Department Project at the Center for Public Representation.

Wednesday, November 07, 2007 4:49:00 PM  

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