2006-12-15 / Columnists

The Progressive

Commentary By John Paul Culotta

Holiday Frenzy

Our lives at this time are dedicated to the holiday frenzy that occurs each year. Many of us are busy shopping in malls, department stores, boutiques, or on line. Trips are planned to be near loved ones in other parts of the country or our countries of origin. Some of us are expecting visitors to spend a few days at our own residences. Office parties are de rigueur. Theatrical performances are being attended. Radio City Music Hall’s Christmas Spectacular, The Nutcracker, The Grinch who Stole Christmas, and Broadway shows are packed. Festive parties are attended. Family banquets are being devoured. Weight is being packed on. Cholesterol levels are rising. Credit limits are reached. At this time of the year, many of us miss important political, economic, and social trends reported in the mass media. We are too occupied. As a public service, let me inform you of some I feel are important.

If you are using more electricity during the holidays, it may be appropriate to consider how this nation’s utility market delivery system is functioning. On November 21, 2006 the New York Times reported many giant industrial power users, consumer groups, and municipal entities are paying more now than when states regulated prices. According to the article: “They also contend the producers can withhold power or limit production with little risk of penalty, even when demand is at its highest, meaning prices soar.” Market pricing is not working according to many users of electricity.

City Councilman Robert Jackson (D-Manhattan), the head of the city council’s Education Committee, convened a hearing to investigate the fees paid to consultants hired by the city’s department of Education (DOE). According to the Daily News of November 21, 2006: “ Consultants are not only getting more than a million dollars apiece from taxpayers to find school cost savings-they’re also getting as much as $500 a day for expenses. And they don’t even have to submit receipts.” “Outrageous” says Jackson. Our DOE needs to use their personnel. Opening the processes of communication in the department can generate ideas. Consultants may be superfluous.

Students at the prestigious Stuyvesant High School are protesting the ban of cell phones in our city’s schools. There is now a lawsuit filed by parents and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) against the ban. On November 20, 2006 the New York Post reported: “Camella Price, a single mother of two public school students said she joined a lawsuit against the ban because a cell phone enabled her daughter to call for help when she was attacked on the way home from school.” Stuyvesant High School Student Union President George Zsiadis was reported in the same article to say, “The students will not respect irrational legislation” –his description of the ban. Is the DOE and our police department spending scarce resources enforcing the ban that would be of better use for educational purposes?

Many nations are recoiling from the death sentence received by Saddam Hussein. Most Europeans and many Canadians do not perceive Capital punishment as an appropriate penalty. Leaving Mr. Hussein aside, is capital punishment as a tool of the justice system appropriate? Many people who are in jail have been found not guilty of crimes that caused their incarceration because of improvements in DNA evidence analysis.

Recently, our media reported four of ten births are to single women. Unwed mothers have become acceptable. Children are born because of the union of two people. Why do we report that the children are born to single women and and not single women and irresponsible men? Society needs to address the fact that although one parent can raise children-it is preferable that children have two parents. Boys and men need to bear the responsibility of parenting as well as the girls or women. Many children are born to girls and boys that are still children themselves. This is an American tragedy.

Warren Buffett has been quoted in The New York Times of November 26, 2006 as saying, “There’s class warfare all right but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning” when criticizing our system of taxation. Our taxation burden falls clearly on the poorer segments of American. On November 25, 2006 Religion News Service reported the U.S. Department of agriculture has decided that Americans who go without food are no longer hungry – instead they possess “very low food security.” It has been estimated that 15 million Americans have very low food security. There are many who gripe this time of the year about the loss of their cherished religious symbols, the crèche, Christmas Trees hiding as “Holiday Trees, etc. Perhaps they should be more concerned with the loss of the Judeo-Christian ethic of communal responsibility that America was built on.

On November 20, 2006 the New York Sun reported that Mayor Bloomberg’s net worth might be near $20 billion. Americans applaud the acquisition of wealth and many of our most privileged citizens clearly are worthy of admiration because of their civic and cultural generosity. The question though arises: How can we ensure all Americans share in the bounty? Union Membership appears to give the poor a boost. Our present administration has hindered union growth. On November 26, 2006 the New York Times reported: “Ending a month long strike, the union representing 5,300 janitors in Houston and the city’s major cleaning firms reached a tentative contract that raises their wages by nearly 50 percent over two years and provides them health coverage.” Poverty can be fought not just by tax credits, a raise in minimum wage, charity, and education. It can be achieved by giving workers dignity and a voice and control over their fates. Honest unions can be used as a tool that gives workers leverage in the labor market. Worker safety can also be influenced by union membership. This year there has been a dramatic increase in deadly accidents at construction sites all over this city. Richard Mendelson, the Occupation Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) area administration for Manhattan, Brooklyn, and Queens said in the New York Times of November 22. 2006: “Unionized workers were not immune from accidents, but had a better safety record, There’s no reason why nonunion workers should have a lower level of protection. Obviously, there’s a disparity here.” Maybe, a voice in the workplace is the reason, Mr. Mendelson? Democrats should use their newly-found strength to encourage more union membership.

During the past year, many prominent Americans have gone on to their reward. It was easy to miss the obituary of Frank Durkan in the New York Times of November 19, 2006. He was the scion of the O’Dwyer political family. He was an advocate for the Irish in America. He used his skills as a lawyer to advocate for Irish causes. One of his clients was George Harrison who was accused of being a gunrunner for the Irish Republican Army (IRA). At his trail Mr. Durkin according to the Times was” able to convince the jury that the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) was behind the scheme’ to run guns to various groups. We should be aware that this nation sometimes uses terrorist groups to further our national objectives.

Santa is always in the news at this time of year. The Associated Press dateline Kansas City, November 18 reported: “For 26 years, a man known only as Secret Santa has roamed the streets every December quietly giving people money.” The man was revealed to be a wealthy businessman who has given out $1.3 million. He has given the money to people in need. His name is Larry Stewart. He now has cancer of the esophagus. Mr. Stewart encourages people to give money and time to those in need.

Happy Holidays!


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