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posted November 10, 2006

Let’s take care of our own problems first

As I read and listen to news reports about the tire burning at International Paper and the response of Gov. Jim Douglas and his administration as well as a few other assorted politicians posturing as if Vermont were free of pollution problems, I cannot help but think that there is a large amount of hypocrisy being displayed.
We should be looking at our own backyard. All of the toxic substances expected to come from the tire burn are already here in the form of exhaust from diesel engines in trucks, trains, and farm tractors. Vermont is in the rear guard when it comes to dealing with this problem which virtually all neighboring states and provinces have addressed in some form or other.
Diesel exhaust is one of the most carcinogenic substances known to humanity. While there are many compounds in diesel exhaust, there are four major ones — formaldehyde, dioxin, benzene, and low moleculed hydrocarbons — that bond deep into lung tissue. All of these substances have been identified not as mere possible carcinogens but are known to be carcinogenic and yet millions of pounds of these compounds are discharged into the air of our Green Mountain State.
Many people are convinced that this is a problem that cannot be dealt with and cite economic or political reasons that would interfere with solving this undeniable crisis. For the past two or three sessions, bills have been introduced to the Vermont Legislature that did address unnecessary idling and lack of inspection on equipment. These bills didn’t make it out of committee, being opposed by the trucking lobby and various police departments that are unprepared and unwilling to enforce potential laws and sanctions.
A bill to protect the citizens of Vermont, particularly the elderly and young children, is opposed because those charged with enforcing it would not like to do so. There is no economic or technical reason why trucks and other diesel powered equipment should run and idle at the will of inadequately trained farmers and truck drivers.
In addition to wasted fossil fuel consumption, long idling periods are actually harmful to the longevity of the engine. Moreover, diesel exhaust are a major contributing factor to the increase in asthma in children in this country, yet one frequently sees diesel powered school buses frequently idle for a half an hour before the children board them. This same exhaust invades the school building.
It is a myth that if you shut off a diesel engine in cold weather, it cannot be started again. This is completely erroneous. In New York, for example, the state that is going to send us pollution from International Paper, trucks, by law, are not allowed to idle for more than five minutes. These same engines are started without problems in cold weather. This is a curious equation where we balance the health of the diesel engine against the health of citizens who do not choose but must breathe in the toxicity of nearby trucks and farm equipment.
This year, a bill will be reintroduced to the Legislature to address this urgent problem. Whomever the next governor is, he should bring leadership on this issue and get behind improving our air quality and our health. Once we clean up our own backyard, maybe we will have something legitimate to say to International Paper.
George A. Trickett

Knowledge is power

I am angry at the Vermont Secretary of State’s office, as should all citizens be, for daring to minimize our constitutionally protected rights.
The question of picking which five rights are more important is an outrageous example of a government conditioning its people to give away their rights for a benefit (in this example, giving up some rights in order not to lose them all). Apparently, the citizens on Mars would never consider the option of fighting a dictatorial government in order to keep all their rights.
The “Ten Guarantees in the Bill of Rights” Deb Markowitz has recently touted in the media is not a complete listing of our rights. In fact, the first four choices are but parts of the First Amendment. The remaining choices given are only bits and pieces of a few of the remaining nine amendments in the Bill of Rights. Actually, the sum total of our rights cannot be listed. The Ninth Amendment states that the people have more rights than just those spelled out in the Bill of Rights.
It is vitally important that all our citizens become educated in our federal and state constitutions in order to prevent the rampant deception, conditioning, ignorance, and intentional “dumbing down” prevalent in our populace today. I ask everyone to please read the entire U.S. Constitution — it only takes about 30 minutes to do so — and resist the temptation to do any interpretation. The Constitution and statutes — in fact, all laws — are intended to mean what they say. The Supreme Court has ruled that any law not clear in its intent is “void for vagueness.”
There is a vast amount of information out there, but knowledge is power. Learn to take part in running your country or others will run away with it.
Kent Ramsey

Don’t Iraq Iran

By virtually any measure, Iraq is a disaster. Tragically, those who bear responsibility for the ruin in Iraq not only fail to view it as such, they also appear headed down a similar path in Iran.
More than three and half years after the invasion, Iraq is more dangerous, deadly, and either on the verge of or engaged in a civil war — depending on your definition.
Not surprisingly, nearly three-quarters of Baghdad residents polled by the U.S. State Department last month said they would feel safer if coalition forces left Iraq, with 65 percent of those asked favoring an immediate withdrawal. More than 70 percent of U.S. soldiers stationed in Iraq polled in February said they believed they should be out of Iraq within a year.
Pres. George W. Bush disagrees. In answer to a reporter’s question, he declared, “absolutely, we’re winning” in Iraq. What does the president know that the rest of the population does not? Possibly that the U.S. oil industry is poised to become an actual “winner” in Iraq with the passage of a new hydrocarbons law which Iraq’s oil minister recently announced would be passed this year. The law, which mirrors an earlier State Department proposal, opens Iraq’s previously nationalized oil industry to private foreign investment on terms that are unprecedented in the Middle East, or virtually any oil rich nation, in their bias towards the interests of private companies.
If, as the Iraqi government has all but promised, U.S. oil companies are among those awarded these contracts, they will have won that which they were denied prior to the war: access to Iraq’s oil under the ground. Of course, they’ll still need some security to get to work. That may well be where 140,000 U.S. troops come in.
Despite and because of the current situation in Iraq, U.S. foreign policy is repeating itself in Iran. The Bush administration is isolating and antagonizing Iran instead of negotiating and seeking resolution. As with Iraq, it is lobbing the same threats of sanctions and regime change. The administration specifically refuses to take the “military option” off the table, despite frequent requests to do so from our European allies.
Among its other benefits, Iran certainly has the lure of having the third largest reserves of oil in the world. The “victors” in Iran may well be the same as those in Iraq.
The Bush administration’s foreign policy, based on intimidation and violence to advance the interests of the few regardless of the harm to the many, is making war with Iran increasingly likely.
A war against Iran may well serve the interests of those who have benefited from the war in Iraq, but it will most certainly harm the rest of us. We simply cannot afford to continue the same failed foreign policy.
Rostam Pourzal
Rostam Pourzal is the president of the U.S. branch of Campaign Against Sanction and Military Intervention in Iran

Antonia Juhasz
Antonia Juhasz is a visiting scholar at the Institute for Policy Studies

Raed Jarrar
Raed Jarrar is the director of the Iraq Project of Global Exchange

Tax standards are not compliant with the law

The Brigham decision, handed down in 1997 by the Vermont Supreme Court, judged that all Vermont school children were entitled to an equal educational opportunity. The court also noted that the Constitution was silent on how to pay for education and withheld judgment on a portion of the case dealing with tax rate equity.
A short five months later, Act 60, our infamous tax law, was signed into law. Testimony was denied by Oreste Valsangiacome, the chairman of the House Ways and Means Committee. He stated that he didn’t want to hear anything about the Constitution.
Since Act 60’s implementation, repeated testimony to the those holding the seats of the Legislature has taken place as control of the House Ways and Means Committee, and control of the House, shifted between Democrats and Republicans.
The most recent events with the Legislature’s House Ways and Means Committee were to no avail in 2005 when testimony was given on how to return to a wealth based system of taxation and testifying that the Income tax is not a constitutional means of taxing in Vermont. The income tax is reserved to Congress. Our taxation method as noted in the Supreme Court affirmation is to be according to wealth, not income, according to the Vermont Constitution.
On July 31, 1998, a year and a half after Brigham and 11 months after Act 60, a property tax appeal reached the Vermont Supreme Court. In that ruling, they wrote: “He argues that the current property tax system, based on an appraisal of the fair market value of the property, is unconstitutional as applied because the appraisals in Moretown and other towns throughout the state [are] inaccurate resulting in disproportional taxation in violation of Chapter I article 9 of the Vermont Constitution. He also argues that the tax system is unconstitutional on its face because it does not tax members of society based on their wealth. We affirm.” The decision was signed by Justices John Dooley, Stephen Morse, and Marilyn Skoglund.
It is obvious that the Republicans and Democrats are stonewalling compliance with the rule of law. When there is no compliance with the rule of law, you have mob rule, people controlling and in this case taxing you to their own benefit.
The point is that the current system of taxation in Vermont does not tax according to a person’s wealth. The tax system the Republicans and Democrats have put in place with Act 60, and put Band-aids on ever since, as a foundation is designed to attack the poorer of us; there is no proportional taxation according to wealth. The Republicans and Democrats are acting in a discriminatory manner protecting the wealth of the richest.
Waiting in the wings is a new tax method that doesn’t comply with the rule of law. A committee created by the Legislature has been designing it. “Revolt and Repeal” is the propaganda program for implementing it.
William Brueckner
Waterbury Center

Hyprocrites of the United States

I have lived in the United States for 34 years, 11 months, 24 days, 15 hours, and 53 minutes and it never ceased to amaze me what a bunch of hypocrites live around me. All 300 million of them. It has been like a media “shock and awe” recently over the alleged affair between the esteemed White House connected Rev. Ted Haggard and a male gay prostitute. Also, the allegations involve probable drug use and prostitution that the reverend vehemently denies.
There is a sitting president who admitted to drug use, prostituted this country to foreign lobbyists, and has been screwing every man, woman, and child in the United States, Iraq, Afghanistan, Colombia, Palestine, Lebanon, and tens of other nations in the name of democracy and Judeo-Christian values, and no one dared raise a finger against him.
Can someone tell me please why the fuss over a sexual relationship between two adult individuals when a sitting president is depriving millions of children of health care, food, educational facilities to support his dreams left from a youthful era of drug and alcohol abuse? Could it be that the middle-aged men and women in the media in the United States are jealous of Rev. Haggard because he found him a hunk that most of us overweight middle-aged men envy for his stature? Give me a break and leave Rev. Haggard alone.
Riad Elsolh Hamad
Austin, TX