Wednesday, January 31, 2007

ICE:750 illegal aliens have been removed from the United States or facing deportation in a seven-day effort.

US Immigrations and Customs Enforcement--

The Fugitives Operation Program which was established in 2003 to eliminate the nation's backlog of immigration fugitives, arrested more than 750 illegal aliens which have been removed the United States are facing deportation following a massive weeklong enforcement action. During the operation, ICE officers tracked down illegal aliens in Los Angeles, Orange, Riverside, San Bernardino, and Ventura counties. More than 150 of those arrested were illegal aliens who ignored final orders of deportation issued by immigration judges.
Operation "Return to Sender", which is an integral part of the second phase of the Secure Border Initiative (SBI) has resulted in more than 13,000 arrests nationwide since its launch in June 2006.
“As part of our commitment to the Secure Border Initiative, ICE is dedicating unprecedented resources to identifying and arresting criminal aliens and immigration fugitives,” said Department of Homeland Security Assistant Secretary for ICE Julie L. Myers. “This country welcomes law abiding immigrants, but foreign nationals who flout our laws and commit crimes against our citizens should be on notice that there are consequences for their conduct.”

“The goal of our enforcement efforts is two-fold. First, it’s about restoring integrity to our nation’s immigration system,” said Jim Hayes, the field office director for ICE detention and removal operations in Los Angeles. “Second, it’s about safeguarding our communities from those who brazenly disregard our laws and often prey upon other members of the immigrant community.”

Reentry into United States after deportation is a felony violation that carries a maximum sentence of 20 years in prison.
Currently, there are 52 Fugitive Operation Teams nationwide with that number expected to grow to 75 by years end.

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Should Eugene and Springfield each have their own say in their urban growth boundaries?


It’s time for Eugene and Springfield to go their own separate ways, says the Home Builders Association, stating that both cities have a different approach to growth.
Currently, if Springfield wants to expand its urban growth boundary it would have to go through Eugene.
"It would be a joint between Eugene, Springfield and Lane County so there'd be a fairly lengthy process," said Mayor Sid Leiken.

According to the Homebuilders Association, the area is quickly running out of and buildable land and would like to see Springfield to be able to grow on its own.
"Eugene just has a very different approach then Springfield," said Lane County Home Builders Association Director of Government Affairs Roxie Cuellar. "Springfield recognizes the problem, wants to add land to accommodate growth, the council's split four four."
Developer John Musumeci says splitting the urban growth boundary would have a lot of positive impacts on the area.
"Starter houses will be a lot cheaper than they are now it will be a lot more affordable and what it's going to do for the tax base is just going to be incredible."

I would love to see Eugene and Springfield separate. Springfield has proven over and over again in my opinion that it has its "shit together" in many different areas, from taxes to being business friendly.
The downside, Springfield is a small town that is growing, and going through growing pains. Personally, I prefer Springfield over Eugene because of its environment, it's cost of living, and the fact that it seems like Springfield government has its act together more than Eugene.
Do I really want to see Springfield grow? Not really to be honest. However, it is inevitable, and that's progress.

Monday, January 29, 2007

New word for the 21st-century "geoslavery"

Biometric, is a study of methods for uniquely recognizing humans based on one a more interested physical or behavioral traits[Wikipedia]
The use of biometric systems is not new, however, New York City government agencies Union claim that biometric scanners are a sort of " geoslavery” and will be used to track, label and control workforces.
"It's frustrating, it's kind of an insult," Dennis Colson, 53, a surveyor at New York City's Department of design and construction told Reuters. "They are talking about going to voice and retina scanners and that's an invasion of privacy in that they can track you wherever you go."

biometric systems give the city a license to obtain personal data, uniquely identifiable data to track workers, explains Jon Forster, of the Civil Service Technical Guild, which represents Department of Design and Construction workers
with GPS systems in cell phones and in cars, is biometric monitoring from companies really something new?
The survey of 526 U.S. companies also showed 36 percent of employers track computer content, keystrokes and time spent at the keyboard, while half of store and review employees' computer files and 55 percent retain and review e-mail messages.

The University of Georgia pioneered the use of a hand geometry when it installed scanners in the students dining hall in 1974.
next up, the implant

Friday, January 26, 2007

EmX: report shows... "Bus Rapid Transit Systems typically successful when population exceeds 750,000...

Register Guard-- link outdated

A 2003 authoritative report, "Bus Rapid Transit" issued by the Transit Corporate Research Program, which reports on 26 case studies of Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) systems, volume 1 and a Guide to Implementation of BRT, volume 2, offers a guide to doing BRT right, or deciding not to do it at all, emphasizes that where and when to build BRT systems must be based on a demonstrated need, and not on preconceptions..
The need for BRT in Eugene could reasonably be questioned. The report by the Transit Cooperative Research Program which was jointly prepared by industry and government, notes, "In the United States and Canada, BRT is typically most successful when the urban population exceeds 750,000 and employment in the central business district is, at a minimum, between 50,000 and 75,000."

Need relates to cost. While 80% of the funding for EmX was supplied by the federal government (taxpayers), it is not likely to shield Eugene/Springfield residents and businesses from the large tax burden for maintaining equipment, infrastructure, and operating costs over the years to come. [businesses and self-employed individuals already pay a yearly LTD tax]
Issues that need to be addressed are problems such as reduced parking, obstruction to pedestrian traffic, and impact on traffic in general.

a little bit of history
The US Department of Transportation's Federal transit administration awarded a $2,297,297 grant to the Lane transit District (LTD) for the design and construction of the EmX Project Springfield Station for the 4 mile corridor between Eugene in downtown Springfield. [MS Excel] --[FTA news and events]--

And finally, why EmX?
According to LTD, the EmX BRT project in part is due to federal and state mandates.
In the early 1990’s, the new federal Clean Air Act amendments and the Intermodal Surface Transportation Equity Act (ISTEA), federal transportation funding legislation, required communities our size to adopt transportation plans that would reduce auto-related air pollution. Given that half of the air pollution in Oregon is auto use-related, the State of Oregon adopted Transportation Planning Rule Goal 12. This law required communities our size to develop and implement a transportation plan that produced no increase in vehicle miles traveled (VMT) in 10 years, reduced VMT’s by 10 percent after 20 years, and reduced VMT’s by 20 percent after 30 years. In the 1994 Strategic Plan Retreat, the LTD Board of Directors challenged the District to be far more creative in its efforts to expand bus ridership and respond to the community’s desire to increase alternative travel modes. Historically, the number one reason that people have given for not riding the bus is that they perceive bus riding is too slow, relative to comparable auto trips in our community. BRT allows transit to be directly competitive with auto trips, and maybe even faster in some cases.

in short, another plan to get you out of your car.

A question I would like to put out there is with the EmX expanding to the new hospital in Springfield along Pioneer Parkway, what is going to happen when both buses and cars try to navigate through that crazy and dangerous roundabout in Springfield?
there aren't any traffic lights, that was the whole idea for the roundabout.

Thursday, January 25, 2007

Drivers: don't forget to look both ways before crossing the EmX bus line

Register Guard--

More than half of the 4 mile route between Eugene in Springfield, the EmX bus could be coming from the left or coming from the right at any moment.
There have been - knock on wood - no accidents. But plenty of motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians are forgetting to look both ways before crossing the bus lane, LTD officials say. [that's why trains have crossing gate and bells]

LTD as a precaution, has erected between 30 and 40 temporary signs, mailed reminders to residences, and also took out radio and TV ads reminding drivers to look both ways for the bus.
Additional problems are drivers pulling into the bus lane to use it as a turn lane [probably because it looks like a turn lane, especially on a dark rainy night] or suddenly moving into the bus lane without warning. Other trouble spots include stretches where curbside parking used to exist along E 10th Ave between Perl and high streets.

So how is the EmX bus doing so far?
The EmX "green line" as had an early next record with ridership about 4200. An encouraging jump compared to the 2700 average number of weekday boardings on Route 11 bus, which previously served the same corridor. [of course the fact that ridership is free and it is a new bus to try has nothing to do with it]
On 10 occasions so far, LTD has had to pull a bus temporarily from the EmX line after falling too far behind to keep to the schedule. But in most instances, Vobora said the EmX, with four buses on the route at any given time, has maintained its goal of stopping at each of eight stations every 10 minutes during weekdays and every 20 minutes during evenings and weekends.
at the time of the article, January 23, 2007, the EmX had been running for 10 days and on 10 different occasions, LTD had to "pull a bus temporary from the EmX line after falling too far behind..." while I am not a math major, that looks to me like at least once a day.
More tomorrow…

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

The driver kept repeating, "I can't stop, I can't stop..."


Craig Parsons, an associate professor of political science at the University of Oregon along with his two-year-old daughter Margaux and his five-year-old son Tor who loves trains and buses were getting ready to ride the EmX for the first time.

The family boarded the bus at 5 p.m. at the Hilliard stop and rode it to Eugene Station, then caught in eastbound bus to return home, and that's when things went horribly wrong.
At their final stop, he helped his children off through the back doors, and turned to retrieve a stroller. When he and another female passenger, also wrangling a stroller, attempted to get off, the driver closed the door and drove off, leaving Margaux and Tor alone near the busy avenue. ...

"It struck me as considerably less time than one usually has to get off the bus," Parsons said.
The driver was alerted to the fact that a two-year-old was left behind.
The driver kept repeating "I can't stop, I can't stop," Parsons said. He was not allowed to get off the bus until the next stop, Dad's Gates, slightly more than two blocks away.

LTD claims that this incident is under investigation and stated that EmX drivers have not been trained on what to do in situations like this.

"It's unacceptable, I think, for this to have occurred like that," LTD spokesman Andy Vobora said. "It's something we're going to learn from, and not make the same mistake in the future."

The EmX uses technology to give the bus a green light to speed the run between Eugene and Springfield stations, in order to catch the light drivers are trained not to halt for those who are late reaching the stop.
a failure in training or judgment? Or is there so much pressure to make the 16-minute deadline that they will do it at any cost?
who would be liable if something happened to the child?
Is this also a window into the future on this overpriced white elephant?
More tomorrow...

Hat tip to Bobkatt for the story

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

EmX Bus Plus: They call me mini me

Lane Transit District--

LTD is evaluating a new bus system known as "Bus Plus" to begin in 2007, and is scheduled for implementation in 2008. The idea behind the new Bus Plus system is to create several crosstown bus routes that would offer some of the amenities of bus rapid transit that may include:
#a simple route lay out with neighborhood connectors
#frequent service. Buses arriving every 15 minutes during peak weekday commute times
#fewer stops
#low lower level boarding
#parity traffic signals
#enhanced bus stops which would include transit information, lighting in shelters.

The reason for the new bus line according to LTD, is "... recent studies of public bus transportation in Los Angeles have shown that half the time a bus is in service is stopped, either at a traffic signal or at a bus stop to board patrons." [just like uncoordinated traffic signals and roundabouts slow vehicle traffic] LTD says that one of the key elements of the program is these bus signal priority system which is capable of extending the green phase or shortening the red praise of traffic signals.
personally, I think the idea of the smaller buses is a good idea. I also agree that having some control over the traffic lights is also a good and inexpensive way to decrease travel time. I disagree however with the idea of light rail on rubber wheels in this area due to the expense and lack of flexibility (Referring to the current EmX system) of the system itself.
More tomorrow...

Monday, January 22, 2007

Major Internet companies draw up an Internet code of conduct to protect free speech and privacy

Reuters news service--

Technology company Microsoft, Google, Yahoo and Vodafone said in a statement Friday that they aim to produce a code by the end of this year that would counter such trends as increasing jailing of Internet journalists, monitoring of legitimate online activity [IE government monitoring search engines activity--] and censorship.
The talks, which are being held up by a the Washington-based Center for democracy and technology, and San Francisco nonprofit business for social responsibility are trying to craft a code to hold companies accountable if a corporate with governments to suppress free speech or violate human rights.
"Technology companies have played a vital role building the economy and providing tools important for democratic reform in developing countries," said Leslie Harris, executive director of the Center for Democracy and Technology.
"But some governments have found ways to turn technology against their citizens--monitoring legitimate online activities and censoring democratic material," Harris said.

There were a record 134 people were jailed last year according to the CPJ census. One third were bloggers and online reporters.
"Governments around the world are jailing Internet journalists at a growing pace, with 49 bloggers, online editors and Web-based reporters behind bars at the end of 2006," said CPJ Executive Director Joel Simon.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

It is time once again for the "public safety tax" show...

Register Guard--

... the show that asked the question, "Will the public buy into another tax proposal?"
Yes, those friendly County Commissioners are at it once again with their crazy antics in hopes of passing a public safety tax.
That's right folks, if it was defeated the first 12 times, then it makes perfect sense to try again.

The Lane County commissioners feel that measure 20-114 lost by a mere two percentage points and might have a better chance of passing if that it more addresses voters concerns.
Given the deteriorating condition of the county public safety system, "doing nothing is not an option," Commissioner Bill Dwyer said Tuesday. "If it doesn't pass, I think we've met our responsibility."

The commissioners have not voted to put in income taxed before the voters; however, they have directed staff to draw up a potential ordinance. [we will get it one way or another] Issues that the commissioners will consider include "clarifying the ballot language so that the voters are simply asked whether to vote for an income tax that supports public safety." [and any other pet project that they deemed necessary.]
A post-election survey by the county found that the top reason for voting no in November was misleading or confusing ballot language. Nine percent of measure supporters incorrectly thought they were voting to limit taxes, not raise them, Eugene-based Lindholm Research found.

The commissioners will also discuss whether to earmark more money for crime prevention efforts or set aside some money for the Lane County animal revelatory authority.
While it is unclear whether Congress will renew annual payments, which benefits Lane County by $50 million a year annually ($40 million going to Lane County government), if Congress does not renew the payments then more than 175 of 660 positions which are paid out the general fund, and 50-75 of 220 positions which are paid out a road sign, may have to be cut.
Federal funding may not be decided until summer, however, if the board waits for the outcome and then has to make sweeping layoffs, there could be a public backlash.
"The citizens will say, 'You didn't do anything' " to avert the crisis. Said Bill Dwyer.
why do we need more taxes? According to Ted Kulongoski the economy is improving.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

"...Political bloggers would be forced to register as lobbyists--or face up to 10 years in prison."


In an attempt to rewrite federal lobbying laws after the criminal trial of David Safavian, a former Bush administration official accused of lying about his involvement with high-powered lobbyists Jack Abramoff .--
Much of the bill's wording is obtuse. But one section says that certain political bloggers who make or spend $25,000 per quarter and who encourage readers to contact their elected representatives would be forced to register as lobbyists--or face up to 10 years in prison.

The controversial requirement lies in section 220 of the massive bill, which supporters of the legislation say they intend to curb the practice of lobbyists setting up "Astroturf" groups.
We have concluded that this would certainly include bloggers," said Mark Fitzgibbons from American Target Advertising, which provides services to mostly conservative organizations. Fitzgibbons, who runs the advocacy site that opposes Section 220, warned that the legislation "has no regard for the media being used" and includes the Internet.
"... Attempt to regulate communications to the general public made by those who do not have Washington lobbyists, however, shift the blame away from the real culprit within Congress and Washington.

Grassroots lobbying is defined as persons who spends or receives at least $25,000 over any three-month period to encourage the general public to communicate their own views on issues to federal officials.
it is no secret that there are those in government who wish to stifle free-speech from bloggers and talk shows. Although publicly stated to the contrary, ideally the government wishes the public to be uninformed and uninvolved in my opinion.
hat tip to Daniel for bringing this to our attention--

Friday, January 19, 2007

Should English be the official language in Oregon?


Salem -- HB 2459 was introduced Wednesday by Oregon State Representative Donna Nelson (R-McMinnville) on the House floor, that would make English the official language of Oregon.
The purpose of the bill if passed would not require state, city, and county governments to provide services or information such as voters’ pamphlets in any other language other than English.
“Oregon should follow the lead of such other progressive states as California and Massachusetts that have enacted similar laws,” Representative Nelson said.
America is the greatest and most successful experiment regarding the integration and assimilation of people of differing cultures, languages and religions,” said Jim Ludwick, the director of Oregonians For Immigration Reform

Critics of the plan site the lack of opportunity for people to learn English, citing reduced federal funding and a long six months to a year waiting list for adult ESL.

According to a recent U.S. Census report, there are 138 languages spoken in the state of Oregon. Other states which have passed English only requirements include Arizona, California, and Massachusetts

hat tip to Daniel for bringing this to our attention--

A community or nation has to have a commonality to survive, language is one of those commonalities. English has been the common language in the United States for more than 200 years, however, that is starting to change.
In my opinion, is very frustrating to look at a job posting in which you are 100% qualified to do except for a new trend that is developing... "Spanish-speaking preferred"
On a sidenote, the State of Oregon pays 5% extra if you speak Spanish.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

State-funded health coverage for children of illegal immigrants...

Seattle Times--

Olympia -- Governor Christine Gregoire and Democratic lawmakers proposed to expand state-funded health coverage for children of illegal aliens. Republican lawmakers are protesting the idea.
They're not even citizens," said Rep. Bill Hinkle of Cle Elum, the ranking Republican on the House Health Care and Wellness Committee. "It doesn't make sense to cover illegal immigrants when there are so many other shortcomings in the state's health care system."

However, the move is receiving praise from hospitals, doctors and child advocates.
"In our opinion, every child should have medical coverage and be able to get medical care," said Jon Gould, deputy director of the Children's Alliance. "We shouldn't play politics with children."

Hospitals are required to treat any child who comes in with a medical emergency where they are insured or not. "... the cost simply get passed on and say "hidden tax" other patients who have insurance." Said Cassie Sauer, spokeswoman for the Washington State Hospital Association, "it's far less expensive to include those kids in health programs that provide basic preventive care, such as immunizations."
Fundamentally, [Gregoire] believes that kids are kids, irrespective of how their parents came here," Christina Hulet, the governor's chief health-policy adviser, told the House Health Care Committee on Monday.

Wednesday, January 17, 2007

"I’m not opposed to tolls...."

Portland Tribune--

Peter DeFazio, who was recently appointed chairman of the highway, transit and pipeline subcommittee of the house transportation and infrastructure committee explains, "I'm not opposed to tolls, as long as they are structured in such a way as to protect the public,"

DeFazio, in a recent interview with the Portland Tribune, commented that he believes tolls may be needed to help finance such large-scale project as the replacement of Interstate 5 Bridge over the Columbia River.

DeFazio however, is concerned about potential abuse of public-private partnerships on transportation projects.

After a testy exchange that occurred between DeFazio and Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels during a May 2006 on an existing toll road (part of Indiana Interstate 90 Tollway), Daniels testifies the State has leased to a partnership of two private companies, the Australia-based Macquarie Infrastructure Group and the Spanish firm Cintra, Concesiones de Infraestructuras de Transporte – jointly called MIG-Cintra.

MIG-Cintra as an example, paid Indiana $3.8 billion to lease the roadway and will be able to set and collect tolls for 75 years.
“They’ll get their investment back in 15 years and reap 60 years of profits,” predicts DeFazio

if the state [Oregon] decides to lease state owned roads to private companies, I hope that the people are allowed to have some say in the matter.

Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Can't Have Children... Rent a Uterus

New York Times--

Doctors in Saudi Arabia performed the world's first uterus transplant from a 46-year-old woman to a 26-year-old woman who had a hysterectomy due to a hemorrhage after childbirth. The transplant, which did not last more than 99 days due to blood clotting, was encouraging because it was the first step towards making childbirth possible for women who have had hysterectomies or urinary abnormalities.
Dr. John Fung, a surgeon at the University of Pittsburgh, questioned that view. He said: ''I think it is not appropriate when there are alternatives. This is not a lifesaving organ. You'd be taking a lot of risks.''
Dr. Fung indicated that the Saudi doctors should have done more research before trying the operation on a human. "If you're concerned that the blood supply is compromised by just a kink, what is going to happen when the uterus expands during pregnancy?" Fung said.
The uterus transplant would be temporary and would be removed once the baby was born.

Friday, January 12, 2007

House passes Federal $2.10 minimum wage increase

Houston Chronicle--

WASHINGTON -- by a vote of 315-116, the House voted Wednesday to increase the federal minimum wage to $7.25 an hour, which is an increase of $2.10 from its current $5.15 an hour to increment in three steps over 26 months.
The last increase of the federal minimum wage was in 1997, during President Clinton's term in office.
Supporters of the bill said that the increase is badly needed assistance for the working poor. However, business groups and other critics said it could lead to higher cost of good and services and for smaller companies to reduce labor.

Economists are also considering the effects that the increase will have on low income workers MSNBC--, citing that it will increase the use of illegal immigrants to offset higher costs.
with the increase in wages, also means the increase in state and local taxes for both the employer and the employee. In my opinion, if they really wish to help the low income worker, reduce the tax burden which in turn will allow employers to hire more workers, which will generate more tax revenue in the long run.

Thursday, January 11, 2007

Yvonne De Carlo Dies


Yvonne De Carlo who played TVs Lily Munster 1964-1966 slapstick horror-movie spoof "The Munsters." died of natural causes Monday at the motion picture and television facility in suburban Los Angeles.
De Carlo who also played Moses wife in "the 10 Commandments", and was also one of the biggest beauty queens of the 40s and 50s, including a key role in the landmark Broadway musical, Stephen Sondheim's "Follies."
De Carlo is mostly remembered by her role as Lily Munster along with actor Fred Gwynne who played her husband Herman the Frankenstein monster.

The Fat Police Strike Again


The war on trans fat started after New York City banned it from restaurant food is starting to spread.
LA County supervisors have voted to study the feasibility of banning artificial trans-fat from restaurants.
"I'm very concerned about the whole trans fat issue," Supervisor Yvonne Brathwaite Burke said after Tuesday's vote for the study. "Every time I buy something, I look to see if it has trans fat."

"what's next?" Asked Jot Condie, president of the 22,000-member California Restaurant Assn., "butter, cheese, or anything that has saturated fat..."
the Food and Drug Administration since last January required that trans-fats be listed on food labels on all packaged foods.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

EmX: Eugene to Springfield in 16....20....30.....45 Minutes


The new $29 million high speed (Choke) EmX bus line, which is scheduled to go live this Sunday with special roadways and priority traffic light controls promises to run between Eugene in Springfield within an average time of 16 minutes, versus 22 minutes over the current system.(source)
However, during five weeks of training, the new bus line has not even come close to that goal.
About that 16-minute goal, EmX driver “Don” says, “Well, anywhere from 40 minutes to 45 minutes is what I’ve been averaging."

LTD claims that getting pedestrians and drivers accustomed to the new light signals and traffic is going to be one of the biggest hurdles.
LTD supervisor Karl Hayes admits, "As with anything new, it's not perfected the first time out."

All rides on the new EmX buses will be free for at least the first three years.
several things I have noticed so far...
#1 with passenger loading/unloading in the middle of Franklin Blvd., which sometimes slows the vehicle traffic down due to college students walking against the light going to and from classes, how is this going to impact the EmX?
#2 from Franklin Blvd. going west on West 11th, if you have the EmX bus in the left-hand lane, and a regular LTD articulated bus in the right lane, it "appears" like it is going to be a very tight fit for the car in the middle.
#3 what will happen to the project if it never gets close to its promised goal?

Monday, January 08, 2007

Cage fighting for Eugene?


It will be a "no holds barred" competition were contestants are allowed to kick, punch and wrestle during their battles.

Are we talking about politics? Well sort of, if you're talking about the Eugene City Council and cage fighting.

No, we are not putting the Eugene City Council in a cage

Former counselor David Kelly last year brought the subject of cage fighting to the attention of Eugene City Council with the intention of banning the sport. However, instead of banning the sport, most counselors say regulating fights might reduce the risk of injury and keep the fights from moving to Springfield or other cities.

Two major things in the proposed ordinance is to require fighters to have blood tests and carry medical insurance for uninsured fighters as well as prohibiting people under the age of 18 from watching a cage fights.

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Illegal aliens: Social Security benefits?

the Washington Times--

Information obtained through the freedom of information act by The TREA Senior Citizens League regarding an agreement the Bush administration has reached with Mexico on Social Security benefits that would allow illegal aliens granted amnesty in the future to claim credit for the time that they've worked illegally.

"If you open up the trust fund to people who have been working in the country illegally for many years, that bankruptcy date can only come sooner," spokesman Brad Phillips said. "People on the other side of this, people who have been arguing that of course illegal aliens can't get their hands on Social Security benefits, now can't make that argument easily anymore."

Mark Lassiter, a spokesman for so security administration doesn't agree, stating that the agreement does not change US law.
"To get Social Security benefits, you do have to be legally in the United States. This agreement does not address in any way immigration, immigration laws or override current law," said Lassiter, adding that a 2004 law, the Social Security Protection Act, prevents illegal aliens from getting benefits.

The senior citizens group points out that the 2004 law also states that if those illegal aliens later get legal status, whether through an amnesty or some other legalization plan, that they would be able to collect the benefits based on the time as illegal workers.

President Bush has not yet signed it or submitted it to Congress. Once submitted to Congress, they would have 60 days to vote against it or it will automatically become law.

Friday, January 05, 2007

President Bush signed a statement to open your personal mail

the White House--
H.R. 6407, the "Postal Accountability and Enhancement Act" was signed by President Bush on December 20, 2006 primarily to improve the quality of the Postal Service and strengthen the free market for delivery services.
The executive branch shall construe subsection 404(c) of title 39, as enacted by subsection 1010(e) of the Act, which provides for opening of an item of a class of mail otherwise sealed against inspection, in a manner consistent, to the maximum extent permissible, with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances, such as to protect human life and safety against hazardous materials, and the need for physical searches specifically authorized by law for foreign intelligence collection.

The law requires government agents to get warrants to open first-class letters, however in signing the postal reform act, Bush added a statement saying his administration would construe that "in a matter of consistent , to the maximum extent permissible, with the need to conduct searches in exigent circumstances."

"The signing statement raises serious questions whether he is authorizing opening of mail contrary to the Constitution and to laws enacted by Congress," said Ann Beeson, an attorney with the American Civil Liberties Union. "What is the purpose of the signing statement if it isn't that?" -- the Baltimore Sun--

White House press secretary Tony Snow said that there was nothing new in the signing statement. " All this is saying is that there are provisions at law for - in exigent circumstances - for such inspections. It has been thus. This is not a change in law, this is not new."

Thursday, January 04, 2007

GuardRails -- No More Free


Being involved in an accident can be traumatic enough even if you're not injured. The experience of the accident and the expense of fixing and/or replacing your car can become a horrific experience.

Suddenly, the bills start to pile up. Car insurance increases, medical bills, car repair bills, guardrail replacement bills... guardrail replacement bills?

Yes, guardrail replacement.

The State of Oregon will start tracking down drivers who have smashed and mangled gardrails. Since 1997, ODOT has shelled out more than $700,000 replacing bent gardrails.
We'll also go through the Oregon Department of Justice and we'll get a court ordered restitution so we can recover that money. Keep in mind that any money O-DOT can’t recover, the taxpayer will have to cover,” said Joe Harwood, a spokesperson from O-DOT

ODOT says replacing the damage guardrails is top priority and that delaying such repairs places pedestrians and other drivers at risk.

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

same governor, same ideas -- ODOT gets closer to making GPS road users fee a reality

Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT)--

March 2006, ODOT launched its mileage fee project program in the Portland area. The program, which charges a "per mile" fee at the pump in lieu of paying state gas tax by installing a GPS system in each vehicle to track the date, time, and location of the vehicle to determine the amount of per mile tax to be charged.

The 2001 Oregon State Legislature authorized the creation of the "road users fee task force"[link]-- to study various alternatives for replacing Oregon's gas tax as a primary source revenue due to the decline of the purchasing power of the state gas tax which has eroded over several years.
the reasons cited include...
1. the gas tax has not kept pace with inflation;
2. voters have opposed increases in the gas tax; and
3. the fuel efficiency of new vehicles, especially hybrids and alternative-fuel vehicles, continues to increase, resulting in less gas tax paid.

Proponents claim that the road user fee is fair because it is simple and affordable way to generate revenue because it charges a fee based on actual miles traveled in Oregon. And because the fee is variable, policymakers could offer a lower rate per mile for vehicles that achieve a certain fuel efficiency, for motorists that avoid rush-hour zones or for those participating in other environmental friendly situations.
The final report for the evaluation is due for release by summer 2007.
consider the following factors of this road user fee
1. It is a variable fee based on...
a) which road you're traveling on
b) the time of day
c) the amount of traffic
d) which bridges you cross
2. also do the math...
a vehicle that actually gets 20 miles a gallon will actually pay less tax per gallon compared to a vehicle that gets 50 miles a gallon for traveling the same distance.
example, both vehicles traveling 100 miles with a road accident .02 per mile, the low mileage vehicle would burn 5 gallons of gas, and pay two dollars in road tax. At three dollars a gallon, the total cost of the trip would be $17.
Comparably, a high of mileage vehicle, which ranges about 50 miles to the gallon, would burn 2 gallons of gas, however, would still pay two dollars in road tax. The cost for the trip would be $7.
therefore,While some would argue that the fee will be more fair, in reality, the better your gas mileage, the more tax per gallon you'll be paying compared to the current system
3. two final points, #1 I do not want a GPS system in my car for the sole purpose of collecting a tax. #2, because it is a variable tax, it can change at any time.

both Saxton and Atkinson said that they would kill this project if elected.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Condos and office towers must be earth friendly???

the Oregonian--

Portland -- gold standards... Silver standards... green standards??? Commissioner Dan Saltzman, former engineer is out to require all private construction projects to be earth friendly which is part of a 1.5 million sustainable in industries project that Salzman is pushing for the next budget year.
Developers would have to get certified for green features, such as solar power or recycled rainwater in the johns, through the U.S. Green Building Council to the silver level. Already, all city-funded projects must meet gold standards, and ones funded through the Portland Development Commission must get silver. The new rule would affect privately funded projects

The new rule would affect privately funded projects, which could go into effect in 2010 are so if the council agrees to it.

while definitely a noble idea, how much more does this requirement add to the construction cost of the building?