Passing Down the Farm

This morning, as I write this, cash corn is at $2.15 per bushel. My grandson and I are out cutting hay, while his mother is at the hospital having her second baby, which is our first granddaughter. This all gets me to thinking about my grandchildren and their future in agriculture, if they desire it. Will they be farmers, or will they move to the suburbs? In 30 years will No. 2 yellow corn be at $2.15 per bushel?

When my Mom and Dad had their first grandson, Kenneth Michael Bolin, in 1974, corn hit $4 for December 1974 delivery. My father and mother wanted all four of their boys to farm but knew their oldest, Roger, would be an attorney. The point is, they believed there was a future for all their family.

By the mid 1990s, just 20 years later, my parents questioned what the future was for any of us in agriculture. This shocked me, as I had never heard this from either of my parents growing up. They were always quietly optimistic.

In the '90s, they saw corn prices they had in the '50s and '60s when land was $300 an acre and living expenses were $2,000 per year, not three and four thousand per month. My point is about sustainability of our farms, families and rural communities.

Today many farmers do not want their children or grandchildren to farm in this economic and depressed market environment. We have taken away the hope of our old men. Had you told my father in 1974 that combines in 2006 will be $250,000, planters $50,000, living expense $40,000 and corn under $2, he would have said not possible and not sustainable no matter how many acres you farm.

Through the years, my parents were not closely involved in agriculture politics or policies. They were members of the Farm Bureau and carried their insurance. Like many farmers, they stayed home and left politics and policies to others. Before my parents passed away in 2002, they told me a story of two local farmers in 1965 that came on the farm to talk to Dad about ag politics, selling his hogs and grain with others, collective bargaining. They said that if we didn't work together, the family farm and the rural community would be lost.

My father had no time or patience for any of this. He was proud, independent and busy raising a family. He told them to go home and just work harder, and it would all work out if they just managed better.

My final point is, Dad never told those two NFO (National Farmers Organization) men who came to his farm in 1965 that he regretted saying what he said, and more importantly, that they were right. He told never them he should have listened. He should have listened not just for him and my mom, but for his children and grandchildren's future.

Keith Bolin
President of the American Corn Growers Association
Manlius, Ill.


Protect the Pages

I was a US House page seven years before Mark Foley was elected, so never met him. I can, however, shed some light on a page's perception of power and what it means to be the object of a congressman's attention. There is a system of oversight built-in to the page program, but it fell prey to politics. This time, political "damage control" led otherwise responsible adults to look the other way.

Most members of Congress utterly ignore pages. This may be a result of the page sex scandal in the early 1980s, but it's just as likely it's because most adults interact primarily with other adults. If a congressman knew me by name, I was shocked. It was different once I was assigned to the cloakroom, directly behind the House chamber, where members go to relax, get lunch, argue about a bill, or take a nap. When people talk about back-room politics -- that's the back room.

I worked in the Democratic cloakroom and every day I tended to the details of the day and members' needs as they arose. I'd get a sandwich for one, hang up a jacket for another, or relay a message from a member about the current debate to his legislative analyst or chief of staff.

Often, I led Rep. Melvin Price (D-Ill.), the oldest member of the House, by the arm. Despite his frailty, this 82-year old man was a powerhouse of leadership. In his 44 years of service, he had chaired numerous committees, including the Joint Committee on Atomic Energy, authoring significant legislation. I was particularly honored to witness his soft-spoken kindness as he ambled delicately to and from the House chamber.

In the cloakroom, members would regularly tease us, the way a teacher or coach might. Any number of them made fun of my uniform with a, "Nice tie, kid." Others regularly told us to cover our ears while telling racy jokes. One day, after I tucked a pillow under his foot, which was in a cast, Rep. Gerry Sikorski (D-Minn.) regaled me with the gory details of how, during his last district visit, he had cut off his big toe while mowing his lawn. He purposefully grossed me out, everybody laughed and then he took a nap. The environment mixed the comfort reminiscent of my own family's living room with the seriousness of a fast-paced workplace.

Rep. Dale Kildee (D-Mich.), who was and still is on the Page Board, was consistently kind and welcoming, regularly dropping by the Page Desk, asking the group how we were enjoying our work, and thanking us for our service. Instead of singling out individuals, he was passionate about the program and the opportunities it brings young Americans. I never left an interaction with Kildee without feeling uplifted and proud ... and protected. This is the type of interaction that feels right and every page knows it. I feel badly for any page who is singled out and approached on anything other than professional or collegial terms.

Because it was too far to travel back to my home in California, I accepted the invitation of a Capitol Hill staffer to join her family for Thanksgiving at her home in Virginia. She was one of the many adults who served as surrogate parents and confidantes as I struggled with homesickness and the typical ups and downs of my junior year of high school. Many adults on the Hill look out for the best interest of the pages, exactly because of our obvious vulnerability. I had many people I could talk to and trusted to look out for my best interests.

I am confident that if early concerns about Foley had been brought to the bipartisan Page Board, they would have been dealt with promptly and effectively. Moving forward, the greatest challenge will be restoring faith in the Congress -- that the politicians charged with the well-being of teenagers on Capitol Hill will treat them as if they were their own children.

John Crabtree-Ireland
Los Angeles, Calif.


Crowther's Right

[Hal Crowther's] poignant column in the 10/1/06 TPP struck me as one of the most accurate appraisals of our current position in the world, a world that once looked pretty well on the way to becoming a caring and protective planet. I don't see how the many middle-class folks fail to see how capitalistic greed is usurping our freedoms. Our national legislators so obviously are being bribed to continue to sweep up most of the capitalism that we, the under and middle class have created for them, while being denied our fair share.

Please keep up the good work. We all need each other to save ourselves from fascist greed.

Karl G. Sorg
Eugene, Ore.


Health for All

I love your publication but some of the writers are not in your hard-thinking progressive spirit. I refer to Joan Retsina's article on page 15 [10/1/06 TPP]. She does well to report the plight of us former middle-class persons. But when she speaks of the health insurance costs she merely repeats the mantra the insurance companies and media pundits have fed us for years.

Health cannot be insured! That is an oxymoron. As long as our thinking emphasizes insurance for all as the remedy there will be no solution. From 25% to 30% of payments go for billing and administration rather than to pay for health care. We must insist on direct payment of health costs by our government which has an effective Social Security system. The money must go to health care and prevention providers. Socialized medicine must be no longer a red flag. It must be given a new name: "Health for All" and adopted.

The most unabashed opponent of health care for all in Washington state has been the insurance companies. We've been trying to get health care for all since 1996. This observation is based on my personal experience with the effort.

Cora Lawrence, R.N., Ph.D.
Seattle, Wash.


You May Be Next!

President Bush wants the right to torture an untried and unconvicted prisoner of war.

It's not a huge stretch to be concerned that an untried and unconvicted American citizen could be the next target of his right-to-torture practice if the Congress grants it.

The frog is in the pot; the pot is on the stove; and the water is getting warm.

Percy Pascoe
Cuba, Mo.


Save the Polar Bear Joke

If the polar ice cap disappears because of global warming, I will no longer be able to tell people how to catch a polar bear: there won't be any. However, for the record: polar bears live on the ice cap of the North Pole. To catch a polar bear, you cut a hole in the ice, then open up a can of peas and sprinkle peas around the hole. When the polar bear comes up to take a pea, you kick it in the ice hole.

There was a mini-ice-age at the turn of the 13th to 14th centuries that caused a bubonic plague epidemic, or "black death" that killed one-third of Europe's population. Because the Earth's mantle gets thicker as its magma cools to rock, global warming may reverse some day.

Resources should go to universal health care to prevent such epidemics in the future.

Joseph Kuciejczyk
St. Louis, Mo.


Dems Need to Oppose

I am seriously concerned about the lack of Democratic will in opposing the president on his attaining nearly absolute power to run our country. I agreed with the New York Times editorial (9/28/06) that caving in to the White House without a filibuster by the Democrats represented a servile acquiescence to an imperial rule. Rep. Pelosi [House minority leader] is hopeful that this legislation will be decided on by the Supreme Court which will negate it. I have my doubts, however, that the court, which is already packed with supporters of the inherent authority of the president, will nullify this unlawful and onerous ruling that surrenders the humane foundation of prisoner rights of habeas corpus and the Geneva Convention.

Perhaps the writings of legal experts like David Cole, Lawrence Tribe and Frederick Koh may provide support for changing the law. Perhaps the public in a fearful outrage will storm the election barricades and vote the Republicans out.

Sidney Moss
Elkins Park, Pa.


Good Questions

Why was [Attorney General] Alberto Gonzalez in Baghdad recently? Why was one of the first things that President Bush did when he stole his first election to disengage our participation in the World Court? Why did President Bush in his first term almost immediately cancel or just walk away from many previous treaties and agreements to secure the future welfare of the world?

It sounds to me like a man with a plan.

Why did the US not join with all the other countries of the world in calling for an immediate cease-fire during Israel's recent invasion and devastation of Lebanon? What plans were made by the vice president and his oil henchmen in their secret energy policy formulation meeting in 2001? Given the havoc of Iraq and Hurricane Katrina and the volatility of oil prices, the congressional leadership of our country should be clamoring to make the contents of those meetings public knowledge. Why not?

Why are gasoline prices suddenly dropping just ahead of elections? Why is the recurring message in all of President Bush's communications to the citizens of the United States, "You are on your own. It's everyone for himself. If I am happy and rich, it is your responsibility to look after yourself. Just look at what my administration has accomplished for itself in just 6-1/2 years. Consider yourselves lucky to be living in the land of the free, and the home of the brave where I, The Decider will dictate what I get and what you won't." Why?

David Tierney
Lowell, Mass.

From The Progressive Populist, November 1, 2006

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