A Smoking Problem (2007)

(This was in response to an editorial, obviously.)


         In regards to your editorial "Up in Smoke" (6/20/07), I would suggest that the smoking problem is with both political parties.  If the real concern is for the health and welfare of the citizens of Pennsylvania perhaps the legislature needs to look at the smoking ban in a new light.  If the cost of caring for smokers and the victims of "second hand smoke" is bankrupting our health system, then real action is required.

         May I suggest a total ban on all tobacco products in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania?  As the general public can not be held responsible for their own actions, let's remove the temptation.  Make all tobacco products illegal, as well as, the importation of all tobacco products into the state. 


         Granted the loss of tax revenue might limit the ability of our elected leaders to pass pay raises, fund various pet projects and cut into some of their well deserved perks. However, I am confident that just as slots have lowered our property taxes the leadership in Harrisburg can raise taxes on another product that is dangerous to the health and welfare of the public; beer.  Although, I have heard rumblings of "second hand drunkenness" causing severe problems in public and often filling the emergency rooms on Friday and Saturday nights.  Perhaps the beer ban is next.

         I am looking for that brave and visionary leader in Harrisburg to campaign on, "Cigarettes today, beer tomorrow for a healthy future."  Or, "We are not responsible for our actions."  Wait a minute I believe that one’s been taken.

Dear Editor:

After reading Eric Heyl’s column Sunday (Just thought you’d like to know), I’d like to make a few suggestions to change the mess that is Harrisburg.

1) Slash the expense accounts of our elected officials. We, the great unwashed, have to live only on the paycheck we receive. It would seem that the geniuses in Harrisburg could also manage to live within their meager $83,000 salaries. The average pay in Pennsylvania is $59,000.

2) Given that the House and Senate were in session for only 67 and 59 days respectively; the legislature should become a part-time body, as in other states. Ninety days in Harrisburg would   seem to be more than adequate for our elected officials to continue their high standard of work. Of course the pay and benefits would be lowered accordingly. This change would save taxpayer’s money, inspire our elected leaders to get things done, have them return to their real jobs and live with the consequences of the laws they pass.

3) Scrap the tedious nominating petitions. The petition process is designed to keep citizens off the ballot and protect the political establishment.  Simply meeting age and residency requirements, as well as paying a reasonable fee to cover administrative costs would open the process to more people.  

Of course the royalty in Harrisburg would never make changes that might hurt them, especially when they can make cuts in education, health care, etc. The legislature’s attitude to the citizens of the Commonwealth can be heard in the words of Marie Antoinette, “Let them eat cake.”

(2010)

Taxman (2008)


Dear Editor;

Governor Ed Rendell has decided to increase the tolls on the Pennsylvania Turnpike. This tax on travel in the Commonwealth is worrisome.  In an economy that is already hurting, this move could possibly further damage businesses.  The excess cost on truckers and other delivery services will be tacked on to the cost of the products, in the end being paid by the consumer. Many truckers and families will stop using the Turnpike, adding to the cost of road repairs of the counties and local municipalities.

Not to worry, though.  The Governor of Oregon, Ted Kulongoski, has devised a plan to collect taxes to pay for roads; a mileage tax using satellite technology.  It seems that fuel efficient vehicles are hurting the revenues collected by the Oregon gas tax.  So your reward is to be tracked by satellite GPS technology to see how often, where and when you drive to collect a 1.2 cent tax for road usage.

 I’ll be honest, I don’t like taxes and don’t trust the government enough to believe they will lower or abolish the gas tax in favor of the mileage tax.  What concerns me the most is the violation of our personal freedoms.  What right does the government have to track your movements?  Surely this scheme is a blatant attack on our Constitutional rights?

Oregon officials say that no real time tracking or storage locations involved and that individual privacy is protected.  However, given the governments expanded use of the Patriot Act and other violations of personal liberty it may be only a matter of time before “National Security” trumps personal freedom.  After all, if you have nothing to hide; why should you care if the government knows where you are?    

Ah, the slope gets slippier and who is there to protect us from the reach of government? The Republicans? The Democrats? I don’t think so; unfortunately they are one and the same.

Democracy must be something more than two wolves and a sheep voting on what to have for dinner. – James Bovard

Dear Editor:

            The problem with the TTP (Trans-Pacific Partnership), is much the same as the other “great” free trade deals of the past, NATFA and GATT, is that in the end, it sells out the middle-class for big business. Neither of these agreements built the middle class or raised the standard of living south of the border to stem the tide of illegal immigrants. One could also argue, if a global warming or climate change groupie, that no trade agreement has reduced global emissions.

            Free trade deals are not free, the cost the middle-class and the working poor both jobs and pay. The quality of life for the majority doesn’t improve with each regional trade deal, the middle-class shrinks, the wealthy profit, and our elected officials benefit with campaign contributions that keep them in power. Free trade agreements do not make us more free, in fact, they infringe upon our sovereignty. 

            The focus, if not on individual trade agreements, in which parties could be held accountable, should be on fair trade that actually benefits the majority of the people it is allegedly signed to help.

(2015)


Free trade, isn't free (2012)


Dear Editor:


     We live in dangerous economic times.  Americans want to work, but many of the better paying jobs have left our shores. The free trade gang has sacrificed American jobs and security in an effort to build a Global Village.  Visit any local retailer and search for the “Made in USA” label.  Indiana Jones had an easier time finding the Ark of the Covenant.

            We were told that by sending production overseas we would benefit by paying less and helping other nations increase their standard of living.  It was a win-win situation.  The reality is if we were to go to war we would be unable to defend ourselves, as our means of production are scattered across the globe.  Do we have the capability to manufacture the steel to build naval vessels?  Do we have the fuel resources to keep our soldiers and sailors on the move?  Do we have the textile manufacturing facilities to even clothe our soldiers? No, no and no.

            Besides the security issues; what benefit is it to have cheap goods if no one is working or they are unable to afford them.  As corporations move, the employees are the ones who suffer the consequences.  To the economist a worker is capital, a tool that drives the economy at a cost, expendable, a small piece of a much larger equation.  Human capital has no more value, if not less value, than the machinery of a plant.

            It is amazing to me that during political campaigns everyone does their best to show that they are more patriotic than their opponent.  Yet, once they reach Washington the turn their backs on the American worker.  Our leaders, both political and business, have no problem putting profit over patriotism.  Until we as a nation are prepared to make the sacrifices to keep American companies here and our citizens working, we are vulnerable to outside forces that do not have our best interests in mind. 

Paging Mr. Marx, Mr. Marx ... (2008)


            I read with great interest, "Cigarette Venders Taking a Hit" and "Banks Ordered to Lend." (Pittsburgh Tribune-Review 10/29/08) It is ironic that these two stories should make the front page so close to Election Day.

            The Republicans bombard us with ads telling us how an Obama Administration would expand government to historic levels and our very freedoms are imperiled. The Democrats warn us that a McCain Administration would be four more years of Bush. The Supreme Court would take away our personal liberties and we will have four more years of deficit spending.

            Let’s be honest, neither party nor candidate is deserving of our vote. The Republican and Democratic Parties will not bring about change. When the government starts to tell you what you can do in your personal life: no smoking, or a business how it needs to do business: lend the money, we have almost reached the point of no return.

            Once again the voter is left with two substandard choices for president. Each election year we are implored by the party establishment to, "hold your nose and vote" or, "vote for the lesser of two evils." That’s a choice? This is what the Founders of our Nation wanted for us? This is why Arlington and other National Cemeteries hold our scared dead?

            My friends we must do better. We have an obligation not only to the future, but also to the past. Once this sham election is decided; I would encourage you to look to an alternate party that could challenge the two establishment parties and force them to offer better quality candidates. Why is it that both parties believe in competition, except in the political arena?

Perhaps Marx was wrong. It seems we are hanging ourselves with the rope we have made.

Free Trade, At What Cost (2009)


Dear Editor:

       

           Once again Patrick J. Buchanan hits the nail directly on the head (Buy U.S. or bye-bye USA, 02/11/09).  The free trade gang has sacrificed American jobs and security in an effort to build a Global Village.  Visit any local retailer and search for the “Made in USA” label.  Indiana Jones had an easier time finding the Ark of the Covenant.

            We were told that by sending production overseas we would benefit by paying less and helping other nations increase their standard of living.  It was a win-win situation.  The reality is if we were to go to war we would be unable to defend ourselves, as our means of production are scattered across the globe.  Do we have the capability to manufacture the steel to build naval vessels?  Do we have the fuel resources to keep our soldiers and sailors on the move?  Do we have the textile manufacturing facilities to even clothe our soldiers? No, no and no.

            Besides the security issues; what benefit is it to have cheap goods if no one is working or they are unable to afford them.  As corporations move, the employees are the ones who suffer the consequences.  To the economist a worker is capital, a tool that drives the economy at a cost, expendable, a small piece of a much larger equation.  Human capital has no more value, if not less value, than the machinery of a plant.

            It is amazing to me that during political campaigns everyone does their best to show that they are more patriotic than their opponent.  Yet, once they reach Washington the turn their backs on the American worker.  Our leaders, both political and business, have no problem putting profit over patriotism.  Until we as a nation are prepared to make the sacrifices to keep American companies here and our citizens working, we are vulnerable to outside forces that do not have our best interests in mind.

Smoke (2008)


Dear Editor;

         Let’s hear it for the Pennsylvania Legislature.  We can no longer say they do not care for the people, and Senate Bill 246 proves it; by banning smoking in over 90% of PA’s public places and work areas.  This carefully crafted piece of legislation protects the public from the dangers of second hand smoke, while banishing smokers to casinos, some hotels and taverns that meet other government requirements. 

          Are there no legislators left who believe in freedom?  What gives the government the right to tell a business owner who he can serve?  Or how his business should be run? If our elected officials wish to run a business, may I suggest they start one and try to manage it according to the rules and regulations they have imposed.  What can we expect next, “No smokers need apply,” signs in windows?

            I don’t understand the double standard.  Harrisburg uses the tax revenue from cigarettes to fund government programs.  In turn, the legislature punishes the activity they need to encourage to keep programs going.  If second hand smoke and smoking itself are dangerous activities that drive up health care costs, would we be better served to just eliminate it altogether? 

            Make it illegal to manufacture, sell or smoke tobacco products in the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.  That should drive down the cost of healthcare.  Once that is accomplished the leadership in Harrisburg could then start to concentrate on the tragic effects of secondhand alcoholic beverage drinking.  This could be done slowly, say by implementing a 10% drink tax, then . . .

            Israel (2011)


           It is always fun to read something from the blame-Israel-first-crowd ("Condemning Israel," Jan. 2). The argument that the Palestinian resistance is no different than the Founding Fathers' actions prior to the Revolutionary War is a stretch. Sam Adams and Patrick Henry did not shoot or lob cannon balls on innocent civilians. The young patriots of America did not call for the extermination of Great Britain, its people or its supporters.

            Unfortunately, the U.S. government gives money to both sides in the conflict so that they can continue to destroy each other. Any call for our government to withdraw support from Israel is shortsighted. A comprehensive plan in the Middle East would have the United States giving support to those countries in the region that do not support terrorist organizations or their front groups. A gradual withdraw of American troops from the region and a continued guarantee for support for Israel would serve a better purpose than just cutting them off.

            We are not popular in the region and will not be any time soon. Our goal should be the protection of American vital interests, our citizens and our soldiers. The problem does not lie with us, but with those who seek to destroy a nation because the people who live there are Jewish. What is the difference between Hamas, the Palestinians, the Iranians and Hitler? One is dead and the others seek to finish his work.

Letters to the Editor published in various newspapers and magazines.

Who Runs


Dear Editor;

The problem with Pennsylvania politics is not who votes, but who runs.  If our friends in Harrisburg want more people to vote, then move Election Day to the second Saturday of the month, and extend the time to 9pm.  This would allow qualified voters to vote, and given the Saturday date, long lines would be avoided as there would be no pre- or post-work rush at polling locations.

Real voter reform would be for our Legislators to support the Voters Choice Act and allow Third Parties the opportunity to compete in elections.  What real change in state government will we see if we have a 100% turnout for the lesser of two evils?  I would argue, none.  The corruption will continue, the good ‘ol boy and girl network will continue to rule, and real reform for the citizens of Pennsylvania will never happen.

It would be great if more people voted.  It would be better still if more people were allowed to run for office by removing the ballot access barriers imposed on third party and independent candidates for statewide office.  We want change.  Give us choices and allow us to vote for it.

(2008)