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es, boys and girls it’s that special time of year again. That magical time when all the crazy Congress people nestle together in their offices and argue about whether they should let the economy fall into the ocean.

Merry Christmas, America, it’s the “fiscal cliff.” You know, that “gift” that the United States government left in our stocking the last time it couldn’t figure out how to pay for itself. Instead of Republicans and Democrats compromising and reaching a deal to create an economy more beneficial to more Americans, they just kicked the can down the road.

To force themselves to compromise, they instead created a ticking time bomb underneath the country’s economic foundation. That’s right, instead of solving the country’s budget problems, they invented a situation where everyone’s taxes will go up — the idea being that they would then have to come to a deal.

Indications are that no compromise is coming.

In a way it’s almost perfect, as the behavior of this country during the holidays has become much like what we see out of our elected representatives whenever they’re in session.

Christmas has, over time, begun to display some of the worst in people. The greed, the self-interest and the rabid, angry consumerism. Both in our people and in our government.

All this craziness is so contrary to the spirit of Christmas. Might I suggest splitting Christmas in two?

In the future, we should celebrate “Fiscal Cliff Negotiation Week” a whole week’s holiday to happen every year starting on “Black Friday.”

In the week that would follow, America, as a nation, will have to accomplish two things. The first would be to get all of its holiday shopping done in those seven days. No other special holiday deals will offered until the next year.

Simultaneously, it will be required by law for the United States government to pass a budget. If it doesn’t, the consequences will be the same as what might happen this year — tax rates will go up for almost everyone and the economy will go right back in the toilet. Then we as a nation can go back to our new favorite pastime — deciding which politicians to blame for our problems.

These fiscal cliff negotiations are the perfect backdrop for America to get out all of its pre-Christmas aggression and negativity that gets pent up leading to Dec. 25.

The holiday used to be a quiet time for the world to slow down and see their family and loved ones. Now, it’s a time when people trample over others in a Wal-Mart to buy overpriced gifts for the families they should probably be at home spending time with.

With the right marketing, “Fiscal Cliff Negotiation Week,” can mean big business for our country. ESPN can broadcast a “Black Friday Extreme Shopping Show” where thousands of shoppers are lined up in the country’s biggest Target or Wal-Mart, injected with performance-enhancing drugs and let loose in the store. The shopper with the most goods and people injured will be the winner.

News networks can cover the no-hold barred cage-wrestling match that will now be required to solve any impasse in Congressional budget talks. Any problems not solved in this manner will be the subject of a duel to the death.

This is all much better than the alternative, the slow, crushing grind of actual budget negotiations. The real result will be either two things, our government will not come to a deal and we will go over the “fiscal cliff” or, they do reach a deal and nothing much changes.

Oh well, merry Christmas.

 

Responses and comments can be sent to TravisDannerExpress@gmail.com.

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Jason Leskiw
Sports editor
November is National Adoption Month. There are two million adopted children in America today, some adopted during their infant years and some during their adolescence.  There are also 423,000 children living in U.S. foster care.  Of those that are lucky enough to avoid the U.S. orphan, most are likely to lead healthy and normal lives.
I am one of those.
Being adopted was something that I did not fully understand until I was around eight years old, but before then, I knew that I was.  The difference for me was that I had a larger vocabulary than most, not that I could comprehend what had happened in my earlier years.
I was taken by child protective services after what I understand was an alcoholic episode of my biological mother.
I was then placed in a foster home of two caring grandparents, one of whom I had contact with until her death in 2010.  Adopted by a pair of married teachers in 1987, they jumped through hoops in order for the state of California to declare their humble abode ‘safe.’
Comprehending my adoption was difficult growing up and even as an adult.  The “whys” would swirl and the questions sometimes grew with any given inquiry.  There was a veil of secrecy regarding certain facts, in large part to laws permitting little information being freely given to anyone without a state name tag.
I was somehow put in contact with my birth mother, by ways I do not know, when I was five or six.  Encounters were brief and our conversations were limited to the basics: school, weather and friends.
January of 2007 I went to a church in Sacramento, the last location listed in a people finder search.  I was looking for my father, a figure that I had heard virtually nothing of growing up.  He was not there and I heard stories of his death in jail, death in Mexico or death from anyone who knew him.
The trip back home was one that is difficult to put into words, but quiet for sure.  One year later however, I received a phone call at work.
The other party seemed excited and being the suspicious person that I am, I wasn’t sure that it wasn’t a prank call.  I told them that I’d call them later and I did.
“Your mother’s name is Pam?  You were adopted and grew up in Martinez?”
“Yes,” I responded, wary of the fact that those two facts would probably come up after five minutes of Google searches.
Then he asked a question to which no Google search could answer.
“Yes” I said, with my throat in my stomach and stomach near my throat.
The next day I left work and drove back to Sacramento, nearly one year to the day of my trip to the church.
I met my father for the first time and wasn’t a hint nervous until I shook his hand.  He had pictures of me as a baby and others that had been sent to him over the years.  We talked about a lot of things and I finally got the only answer that I believed as to why I was adopted.
It wasn’t surreal and it wasn’t an angry encounter.  I was excited, along with other feelings.  It was a soul-searching type of drive, three hours round-trip that couldn’t be put into words by Edgar Allen Poe or Hunter S. Thompson.  Of any moment of my life regarding being adopted, this was the most important.
I also knew to what extent that I was not alone.
I stopped by my friend’s house on the return trip and told him about it.  He wasn’t adopted but had not met his father.  A week later he mad the same journey, his to Reno.
The more I looked around, the more I saw so many people that were in the same predicament.  Whether adopted, seemingly forgotten or just lost, I was far from alone.

Barack Obama, you won a much-deserved second term as President and I offer you a heartfelt congratulations.
There were times recently when I doubted whether you could do it. Your first debate performance had me drinking more heavily than usual as I briefly had to consider the possibility of a Mitt Romney presidency.
But you managed to right the ship and once again became the man I was so excited to vote for in 2008.
Your victory speech was awe-inspiring, to say the least. I’ve never heard you sound more passionate. You hit all the right notes when you described the best qualities of these United States of America.
I’m back on board as a proud supporter of yours, Mr. President.
With that being said, you’ve got a lot of room for improvement. Your first term was good — now it’s time to be great.
As a liberal Democrat, I keep company with other liberals, shockingly enough. I can’t tell you how many times in the past four years I’ve heard them call you the worst possible slur imaginable.
A Republican.
The worst part of it is, there have been times that I’ve agreed with that assessment.
From your repeated caving in to Republicans on the Bush tax cuts for the wealthy, to your virtual continuance of George W. Bush’s hawkish foreign policy, to your ramping up of the failed “War on Drugs” — there have been times when I’m tempted to beat my head bloody against the wall because of your administration’s policies.
I understand that no one really knows what the job of President entails until you’re sitting in the big chair. As much as I may disagree with some of your decisions, there have to be days in the White House where there are no options other than to do things that will infuriate some people.
You’re a two-termer now, though. Welcome to the club. No one can compare you to Jimmy Carter any more. You’ve now got a mandate to carry out the promise of your first Presidential campaign. Change.
But, you must be willing to take tough stands for the people who have worked so hard to elect you twice. People who have been under-protected during your first administration.
You got 71 percent of the Hispanic population to vote for you. Yet your administration continues to deport a lot of hard-working Hispanic people who come to America to improve their lives. You can finally get the country behind an immigration reform bill, which will create an accessible, legal path to citizenship for newcomers to become part of our union.
People will be watching when your administration decides what to do with Colorado and Washington — two states which have legalized recreational use of marijuana.
Previously when dealing with this issue, your administration has continued the same detrimental policies that lock up otherwise law-abiding citizens who use marijuana to either relax or in some cases, to treat symptoms of various illnesses.
All the while, cartels in Mexico make obscene profits from illegal sales from a drug which, in terms of physical properties, causes virtually no harm to a human body.
We know you’ve got two young daughters and wouldn’t want to set a bad example for them by giving approval for the use of drugs.
But everyone knows how high you used to get, Mr. President and look where you are now. You know what the right side of this issue is and now you have the political capital to lead the country to a more sensible policy on marijuana.
The people of Colorado and Washington both helped you get your second-term. Stoners are a large portion of your constituency, whether you like it or not.
They feel the same as the struggling middle class who watch in horror as you become a party to the continued boondoggle known as “trickle-down economics.” You have been repeatedly led to comply with the Republican’s ridiculous notion that the wealthy should pay less taxes than the poor and middle classes.
Well, you’ve got another four years. Your job is safe. It’s time to stake your reputation to this issue and declare that the days where the wealthy get preferential treatment to the detriment of everyone else are over.
Your achievements are numerous, Mr. President. The cause of civil rights for gays has achieved victory after victory during your administration. You passed a health care law that, while flawed, will ensure coverage for many Americans who did not have access to it previously. Presidents have attempted to pass a health care bill for generations — but you actually did it.
You have been elected twice by people who yearn for better opportunities to live decent, prosperous lives but find themselves under the foot of a system that is stacked against them.
You can lead us to a better day. You can now be what we elected you to be — great.

Responses and comments can be sent to TravisDannerExpress@gmail.com.

At least 40 teachers at Las Positas College believe that a president “requires respect” and hard-working student journalists do not.

On Oct. 12, we at the Express published an article entitled “President Walthers on his way out.” Since its publication, the article has become the subject of a campus-wide controversy mostly because it uncovered a controversy brewing among school officials.

In response, we received the letter published above. Not only do we strongly disagree with the majority of its points — we feel it represents a lack of true understanding about the role of the student press and of journalism in general.

We understand that “not all faculty agree with the article.” That is a fair, yet expected point to raise.

But, the problem is that there is nothing for faculty to disagree with the article about. Our reporting on this issue was sourced from statements made at public meetings and from an interview with President Kevin Walthers himself.

In no way was the articled fabricated or embellished. In the above letter’s first paragraph, reference is made to “varying degrees of accuracy” contained in the article. No examples of inaccuracy are presented.

To make this charge is not only wrong, it is dangerous. To accuse journalists of inaccuracy is to call into question their competence, their character and their integrity.

Reporters who worked on this story not only conducted themselves professionally but also with great care to put forth the most accurate version of events possible. That included allowing president Walthers the opportunity to comment on the allegations made by the Academic Senate — an opportunity which he did not take full advantage of.

If taken at face value, the letter would lead one to believe that we at the Express have done something malicious. Perhaps it is implied that we have purposefully distorted events to paint a public figure in a bad light. Or maybe it’s being suggested that we have hindered the college’s ability to hire another president.

Which brings us to the most upsetting portion of the letter — the idea that a president “requires respect in order to be successful.”

Woodward and Bernstein did not let Richard Nixon slide because it was disrespectful to publish stories which painted him in a bad light. Bill Clinton’s sex life was the subject of television news every day during the Monica Lewinsky scandal. Fox News Channel personalities regularly refer to President Obama as “the worst president of all time.”

Title does not and should not shield a public figure from criticism. It’s not what the American media is about and it is not what the Express is about.

Freedom of the press is one of our country’s core liberties. Our founders thought enough of it to include in the very first amendment to the constitution. The challenging and questioning of authority figures is at the heart of this freedom.

Sometimes the truth is hard and cold. But it must still be told.

To not report on such a serious matter would do the entire campus a tremendous disservice. The students, faculty and staff of this school deserve to know any information that affects the campus so comprehensively.

Holding public figures to account is what allows our democracy to thrive. It is what the students at the Express are learning to do with increasing proficiency.

At the same time, in the letter we are admonished for not performing our jobs in a “balanced and respectful way” and that this is “essential if the integrity of the press is to be preserved.”

The article was balanced — President Walthers was allowed to comment. Balance in journalism is often, incorrectly, assumed to mean a story has equal amounts of positive and negative quotes. In the article, the Academic Senate had their say as did President Walthers. That is a balanced story.

Finally, we are asked to “figure out how to use (our) voice and what (our) legacy will be.”

We do not believe it is our job to paint the school in the best possible light.

That job belongs to the school’s leaders — its president, its administration and its teachers. Our job is to report on how well those factions carry out that task.

We hope our legacy in regards to this article is this — we covered a difficult topic, an important topic, and we covered it accurately.

We did not shy away from impending criticism.

We didn’t fudge the truth or become complicit in deceiving our readers.

As student journalists, we should hope that our lasting legacy is that we continue to hold ourselves up to these highest of standards.

If 40 teachers disagree with us, we completely respect their constitutional right to free speech.

As long as they remember, the freedom of the press is contained in the same constitutional amendment that guarantees them the right to that speech.

This is a letter to the Editors and Staff of The Express. Please share with all of those students who contribute to the publication. If you would like to include this in The Express Newspaper, we request that it be included in its entirety.

Respect and responsibility

Last Friday The Express wrote a news article regarding President Walthers facing criticism from various factions on campus and his announcement that he will be seeking a job elsewhere. The news article discusses some of the conflicts experienced this past year with varying degrees of accuracy; it should be noted that not all faculty agree with the article.

We are facing obstacles that are unprecedented in our district and conflicts have arisen that have left us frustrated and demoralized but we are continuing to think through ways of making the seemingly impossible possible.

The president of a college is our advocate during district meetings regarding resource allocation, our representative in the greater community and provides the leadership to ensure consistency in the student experience.

The person in this role carries a lot of responsibility and requires respect in order to be successful. It is a journalistic duty to report on issues and conflicts. To do this takes courage. To do it in a balanced and respectful way is challenging, but essential if the integrity of the press is to be preserved.

How an article is written can undermine the work of any future president, of any college leader (faculty and classified too) and may deter future candidates from wanting to work at our school.

Let it be noted that while five presidents have come and gone at Las Positas in the last 9 years, faculty are constant and faculty are the institutional memory of this college.

As Las Positas faculty, we strive to communicate our concerns on any topic in a respectful, constructive manner, and we hope that this tone sets an example for our students and community.

We support free speech and commend you on covering some very important issues facing our campus this year, such as how LPC layoffs have created transfer problems and highlighting our specialized 1440 degrees that offer a fast track for students to four year colleges.

As a newspaper that is read by many on our campus and in our surrounding community, you have a unique opportunity to highlight the obstacles students face and the efforts to continue to improve our students’ experiences in a way that compliments the values of Las Positas College.

These are issues that our students and community need to be aware of and what a powerful way to get the information out there. We need to constructively work through conflict and consider what impact our actions will have. Our time and resources are valuable, rare and powerful. When focused, what power they unleash – both positive and negative – is up to us.

We have a choice about what our legacy will be. As a newspaper that is read by many on our campus and in our surrounding community, you have a unique responsibility to figure out how to use that voice and what your legacy will be.

Sincerely the following faculty,

Kristine Woods, Colin Schatz, Debbie Fields, David Everett, Craig Kutil, Barbara Zingg, Terry Johnson, Richard Grow, Ashley McHale, Bill Paskewitz, Angella VenJohn, Bob D’Elena, Joel Gagnon, Heike Gecox, Teresa Henson, Keith Level, LaVaughn Hart, Moh Daoud, Adeliza Flores, Gerry Gire, Scott Miner, Mike Ansell, Jane McCoy, Mark Tarte, Christina H. Lee, Jim Gioa, Brian Owyoung, Greg Daubenmire, Randy Taylor, Barbara Morrissey, Cindy Keune, Ruchira Majumdar, John Gonder, Jason Morris, Eric Harpell, Thomas Orf, Lisa Weaver, Rajeev Chopra, Elizabeth Abril, Gilberto Victoria.

It’s telling of the Republican party’s mindset that they chose Mitt Romney as their candidate for president—the man represents the living embodiment of the belief that the rich owe nothing to the rest of society.

Even though that belief is wrong. Fundamentally, morally and demonstrably wrong.

Romney summed up how the wealthiest segments of society view the rest of us trying to scrape together even the slightest chance of achieving the American dream.

“You know, I think it’s about envy,” Romney said in a Jan. 11 interview on the Today Show.

“It’s about class warfare.”

Class warfare. Let’s define that term. At least what it’s meant to mean in modern political discourse.

If someone in the middle or lower income brackets of the country points out (rightly) that they’re getting screwed by the dominance of the wealthy over current economic policy, they’re a class warrior. It’s a common refrain used on conservative radio and television outlets.

One proposition on California’s ballot this Nov. 6 will pit the forces of the wealthiest one-percent of America against everyone else.

California’s Proposition 30, if passed, means to restore badly needed funding to the state’s K-12 and higher education systems. It will do so by raising the state’s (admittedly very high already) sales tax rate and, more importantly, the income tax rate of those earning more than $250,000 a year.

The opposition to Proposition 30 is well funded and has a history of defunding schools in the name of lowering taxes. The specific group is the Howard Jarvis Foundation.

The namesake of Howard Jarvis Jr. who in 1978 sponsored Proposition 13 which severely impacted California’s education system by gutting its greatest source of revenue—property taxes.

As I enter adulthood and I start paying real taxes (my fiancé and I just received our first property tax bill) I realize more and more how frustrating they can be.

But, I also realize that the world is much bigger than my tax bill.

The passage of Proposition 13 in the seventies led to the slow drip death of California’s education system as it existed at the time. Particularly community colleges, which have been taken from a system that educated the state for free to one that now costs $46 a unit and could be even more expensive if Proposition 30 fails.

Less people will have a chance to make something of themselves through education.

The official “No on 30” web site contains a two-page article titled “Myths and Facts About Prop 30.” In it, the opposition claims that “the politicians behind Prop 30 can’t keep track of the money they have,” and I found this to be quite funny. People tend to be what they accuse their worst enemies of being.

The article further states “the politicians and special interests behind Proposition 30 threaten voters by saying ‘vote for our massive tax increase or we’ll take it out on schools.’” Again, this is pretty hilarious as their position seems to be if “you threaten to raise our taxes, we’ll take it out on schools.”

If there is a class war going on, it is only being waged on one side of the argument.

The wealthy, corporations, right-wing politicians and various religious organizations have at one time or another all declared their intent to bleed the middle class dry through what they refer to as “trickle down economics.”

“Trickle down” meaning that if enough money is funneled upward to the richest Americans, then that money will “trickle down” to the rest of us. The key term is “trickle” not “rain” or “flood.”

“Trickle.”

As in tiny sprinkles of money may some day reach the rest of the country.

These policies are continuously pursued by the conservative movement, especially the current Republican presidential nominee Mitt Romney.

This despite the fact that they’ve been tried several times on a large-scale and never amounted to anything more than short-term gains in the economy followed by crippling recessions.

Recessions which affect the poor and middle classes only while the wealthy come away largely unscathed.

How anyone middle class or lower can vote for this type of thinking is at first mind-boggling but makes sense once you understand the most effective tool in the true class warrior arsenal.

Framing and messaging.

First, you frame the debate as something that appeals to the dreams of the poor and middle class by exploiting their honest belief that they too someday will be wealthy. So you say that the issue is one of “economic freedom.”

Instead of calling corporate and Wall Street people “nihilistic, inhuman, money-grubbing vampires,” they become “job creators.”

Secondly, you repeat these phrases over and over in print, television, radio and on the internet.

Next thing you know, you have an army of lemmings, willing to walk off the financial cliff to the benefit of people other than themselves. It’s been said many times that America has a long history of voting against its own interests.

Raising taxes on the wealthy is in your best interest. It is in the best interests of the country.

Ask anyone, liberal or conservative, about the years of Bill Clinton’s presidency, when taxes on the wealthy were higher, and they all become wistful.

They should be. Those were great years. For everyone

Responses and comments can be sent to TravisDannerExpress@gmail.com.

On Oct.3, we as a nation got to see a virtuoso display of political dishonesty.
When Mitt Romney hit the stage for the first of three presidential debates in 2012, he looked confident, energetic and in control of the entire event.

By contrast, President Barack Obama looked timid, tired and not too thrilled to be there.

When the debate was over, political pundits on each end of the spectrum were quick to pro- claim

Romney the night’s winner.

Romney’s performance definitely passed the eye test. But, while you were focused on how everything looked, Mitt Romney straight up lied to your face, repeatedly.

He claimed that he wouldn’t cut tax rates on rich people or cut $5 trillion in taxes that would go to the federal government. The nonpartisan Tax Policy Center has said that was false.

He claimed his health care plan would cover people with preexisting conditions. Post-debate, Eric Fehrnstrom, a top Romney campaign adviser, stated that wasn’t actually true.

But hey, Mitt looked convincing when he said it, so it must be true.

The truth is, Mitt Romney is one of the least principled politicians of all-time. He has held numerous positions on abortion and birth control. He has completely flip-flopped his position on gun control. He insists he is committed to cutting the federal deficit, yet at the same time he regularly advocates for mass revenue cuts and increased defense spending.

The truth about Mitt Romney is that he is willing to say anything, to hold any position, and betray every past conviction to get elected president.

Romney comes from the business world and it informs his way of thinking. The pursuit of the dollar is everything. It all comes down to the one all-consuming ultimate goal.

In his mind, Mitt Romney is running to be the first CEO of America. He sees everything as a series of pluses and minuses with dollar signs attached. Taking multiple positions on an issue will never be a problem for him.

Romney is a savvy enough politician to know that many voters only care what a candidate says right now, especially if it agrees with their chosen position. Most people don’t have the time to judge and critique every statement a politician makes.

So, instead, in the most recent debate Romney chose the set of positions which benefited him most at that time. He then presented it in a way that played well on television.

He was firm, aggressive and engaging.

Viewers ate it up.

Mitt Romney has been running for president five years straight, beginning his first campaign in 2007.

He’s had plenty of time to hone his debate skills. Barack Obama has been governing the United States of America for the past four years.

It’s much easier to say what you’re going to do when you’re not in a position to actually try and do it. President Obama on the other hand has a complex, constantly unfolding record of reality to defend.

The president’s performance was baffling to say the least but was at best less dishonest than Romney’s.

But while people were staring at Romney’s one hand — the other hand was concealing an easily discredited record.

It was a magic trick. A good one. It worked.

Responses and comments can be sent to TravisDannerExpress@gmail.com.