U.S. trade deals sanction human rights violations
While the June 17 editorial "GOP stalls trade deals that benefit Ky.," enumerates Sen. McConnell's motive for opposing the pending free trade agreements with Colombia, South Korea and Panama, it neglects to mention that these trade deals will prove disastrous for the working class and the environment, both at home and abroad.
Consider Colombia, a nation embroiled in a decades-long civil war. In 2010 alone, 51 unionized Colombian workers were murdered.
The impunity rate for these murders is an astounding 96 percent. Though President Barack Obama has worked with the Colombian government to address this grave crisis, these attempts have been at best superficial.
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Passing a trade deal with Colombia would be tacit approval of human-rights violations.
The agreement will also prove disastrous for Colombia's small farmers. If passed, subsidized U.S. grain will flood the Colombian market and leave an estimated 400,000 farmers without their previous source of income.
Many will be left with two equally unappealing options: become another of Colombia's 5 million-plus internally displaced people or begin producing the raw material for cocaine.
Any trade deal that turns a blind eye towards the mass murder of workers and spurs cocaine production should be a non-starter in Washington.
Kelly M. Miller
Colombia research assistant
Witness for Peace
Will lower default rate
The July 17 article, "A high degree of default," provided a number of troubling facts regarding student financial aid default rates among several schools of postsecondary education in Kentucky.
The graph accompanying the article also indicated the 2008 three-year default rate of Employment Solutions-College for Technical Education was 40 percent.
This letter is intended to place that statistic in context. As CTE is a new participant in the federal student loan program, the number of students in payment status totaled only 15.
During the three-year period used to determine our default rate, 2009-2010, a total of six students defaulted on their loans. These six, divided by 15, resulted in the 40 percent rate.
As the number of CTE students who enter payment status ramps up each year, it is anticipated that our default rate will decline precipitously. In the 12-month period that ended June 30, for example, 89 students entered into payment status, while no students entered default status.
I applaud the timely and important article. I also appreciate this opportunity to explain how our default rate was calculated and clarify that our rates will dramatically improve in ensuing years.
CEO, Employment Solutions
No way to win support
While downtown on the Fourth of July, I stopped and chatted with some of the Tea Party people at their booth. The gentleman in charge was wearing a shirt that said, "Yep, I'm racist." When someone asked about it, he beamed and turned around, showing the back that said "because I believe in..." and it listed talking points from bumper stickers and talk radio.
How can these people try to break their racist image when they jokingly wear shirts like this? It's not really shocking anymore, just par for course on the right. And they want to be taken seriously.
I was with a gay friend that day and he asked the Tea Party representative about his thoughts on gay rights. He replied, "It's against God's will" and told us he hates the sin and loves the sinner, then gave us his spiel about free will while denying himself free will by adhering to religious dogma.
I asked him if he would hug the gay man and show solidarity with a fellow American. He said, "Hell no, I'm not... " and trailed off, realizing his homophobia was exposed.
With representatives like this, the T-shirts should say "Yup I'm racist ... and homophobic."
George Weldon Burrows II
Terrorist trials patriotic
I am glad to see Sens. Rand Paul and Mitch McConnell so interested in protecting us from terrorists.
I just wish they had felt the same about making us targets after their party's never-ending wars in the Muslim countries we attacked, invaded and occupied for fraudulent reasons.
Ninety percent of terrorist attacks are in response to occupation by aggressors, and we are reaping what we sowed.
I even wish they had spoken out so forcefully to find fault when President George W. Bush ignored the warnings and allowed three — almost four — airliners to crash into major buildings.
I am embarrassed for my commonwealth, though, to know that McConnell does not believe that all people deserve the same human rights our founding fathers endowed us with in the Bill of Rights.
He also seems to believe that alleged terrorists are guilty until proven innocent, another violation of the noble ideals on which our country was founded. Good grief, even the Nazis got fair trials.
Last, he denies the truth with the claim that our justice system, we hope the best in the world, cannot achieve convictions. A high number of alleged terrorists have already been successfully tried in this country.
I call on all political leaders to be more patriotic, have more faith in and love for our country and refrain from destroying it by giving up our freedoms.
I thought the recent election of Rand Paul as a U.S. senator reflected badly on Kentucky, but the recent pronouncements of Sen. Mitch McConnell have topped it.
He stated that President Barack Obama occupying the presidency is the critical factor determining the outcome of the current fiscal crisis.
It is in extremely poor taste for any politician to interject such pure partisanship into an issue of such critical and vital U.S. interest as the potential monetary crisis we are about to witness, and probably suffer from.
Apparently he is still pouting that he can no longer use so many earmarks to assist his re-election, but he probably won't be running again anyway.
Just like the "Howdy Doody" puppet, he has acquiesced to letting Rush Limbaugh and Rupert Murdoch (who owns the Wall Street Journal) pull his strings.
Ronald B. Blackburn
End tax cuts, wars
As our political leaders argue about our federal budget, the deficit and raising the debt ceiling, little time is spent discussing two of the three major reasons our country is experiencing major financial and budgetary issues: the Bush administration tax cuts and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
(The third issue involves personal and corporate greed as demonstrated in the collapse in the real estate, banking and investment markets. Hopefully, we will not go there again.)
Meaningful promises about resolving the financial issues will be ineffective unless these areas are a major part of the discussion. Tax cuts for the wealthiest Americans have been defended for about 10 years now as a means for enhancing economic growth and job creation.
This has proven unsuccessful. Continuing the same practices while expecting different results makes no sense.
Tax increases for the wealthiest will help balance the budget and prevent a further widening of the gap between the wealthy and the rest of the country.
The wars in Iraq and Afghanistan are defended as necessary to keep our country safe, maintain stability in the Middle East and to further keep the Taliban from resurgence.
While I value the service of our men and women in arms, it is questionable whether our continued presence in these areas is worth sacrificing additional lives.
Our continued involvement comes at great financial cost that requires the reduction of valuable programs in this country which could enhance education, invest in technology and help to give the economy a boost.
strong>Memories of tobacco culture should be preserved
A tobacco warehouse has been bought by Centre College, and is in the process of being demolished. So why should we care? We know tobacco use, or abuse, is not good for the body. That said, I grew up on a farm in Lincoln County and treasure the memories of my grandfather, father and uncles working long, hard hours under the hot, humid sun. They did this to feed and clothe their families.
Back then, farmers helped each other harvest their crops. There was community. There were no polluting air-conditioned homes to run into. But the shade tree and a glass of lemonade gave a sense of well-being, a sense of a hard job well done.
Soon, the memories of the time when hard labor — farm work in particular — was valued will disappear. In their place, we have the young (with our full encouragement) tweeting, playing golf, sitting at computers and feeling quite entitled to do very little for large salaries.
This warehouse should have been kept, along with its memories of tobacco farmers who gathered there to sell their crops and swap their experiences. Within its walls, there could have been a museum dedicated to the proposition that a simple life and a rural culture should be remembered with pride.
The photograph illustrating the story was poignant. A large, now-empty, space but filled with a history Kentucky should never forget.