Thursday, November 6, 2008

Perhaps more naive than most, I did expect to see an African-American president elected in my lifetime. I still expect to see a woman, and I hope that she is Michelle Obama.

What I did not expect to see in my lifetime: A U.S. president whose election brought tears of joy and relief, not only to me, but to people across the world. I did not expect to see the election of a U.S. president who would restore dignity to the office he held. I did not expect to see the election of a president whom I consider brilliant in the ways that matter to me. I did not expect a president whom I consider sane. I did not expect my first choice of Democratic candidate to ever, ever win. And I did not expect that there would, in my lifetime, be any rational basis for hope for the future of this country.

The night that Bush "won" his second term, the only constructive action that I could think of was to make a CD of the "I Have A Dream" speech; MLK's speech against the war in Vietnam, which, arguably, led to his death; snippets from iconic figures ranging from Bobby Kennedy to Muhammad Ali; The Five Stairsteps' "Ooh Child," as well as every cover of the song (even the one by Cyndi Lauper); Rasputina's covers of "I Wish You Were Here" and "Hallelujah"; and every recording I could find of my beloved yoga teacher Michele Baker's Siva chants. I put the cd in the car and listened to it for six months straight. I figured I could at least dream.

Thank you, Barack Hussein Obama.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Sporadic Live Blogging of the 2008 Presidential Election

I am not an alcoholic. One and a half glasses of wine, and I'm spinning. That said, I'll keep this up until I start spinning. (You think I'm going through this "unmedicated"? I attended my first Obama rally in May 2007!)

6:13 CST: Predictions have consistently suggested that if Obama could hold a loss in Indiana to below 5 points, we'd have an extremely positive early indicator. But we cannot truly trust Indiana until Gary is counted. Gary is not counted and Obama is holding within five points.

I'm disturbed by reports of widespread voting machine malfunction in Virginia and Pennsylvania, strong Obama leads (in reality). If McCain squeaks out in either of those states, we must hit the streets. Office Depot is still open for the purchase of sticks, posterboard, and markers, just so you know. But once it closes, remember that you can still take to the streets, as I will, with your body only.

6:25 CST: At the moment, Obama is down in Virginia.

6:33 CST: Obama appears to have lost Virginia.

6:37 CST: Obama is no longer holding within five points in Indiana.

7:07 CST: I just tragically overcooked my edamame (my version of popcorn) with the bevy of states that came in at 7:00. Let me tell you, I'll be the naysayer until the end. The huge margin in Georgia for McCain and the current results in Virginia still rankle my soul. But, hey, Obama's got Pennsylvania. I'm from Florida and am thus quite skeptical about an Obama win there. We'll cross our fingers. Speaking of fingers, my edamame looks like them after about 5 hours of swimming in the ocean.

7:26 CST: Florida, you have been shameful in your electoral process for the past 160 years! Shame on you, Florida! Yes, folks, Florida has created yet another extremely confusing ballot in which absentee voters had to form an ARROW pointing to their candidate! Circles around the candidate, checks beside the candidate, and other clear indications of preference simply do not count. Florida is also comparing signatures. Ya'll: my mother registered to vote when she was 21. She has lived in the same place since then and now she is 72 YEARS OLD. Right, compare signatures. My mama had to vote by absentee ballot because she cannot stand long enough to wait in line. In addition, she put off her cataract surgery until Wednesday so that she "can see Obama win with both [her] eyes." I'm so disgusted with Florida over its continued electoral shenanigans. Florida, you are dead to me. Even if Obama wins Florida, Florida you are STILL dead to me.

7:58 CST: According to Nate Silver, if Obama came in with less than a 5% win in NH, we'd definitely have to worry about a Bradley Effect. Obama won big, so we don't. I never believed that, anyway.

8:25 CST: Obama has won Ohio! Thank every deity. Florida continues to wallow around in its own...well, we'll see. By the way, my criticism of Florida, my home state for 31 years, pales in comparison to what my criticism of Obama will be if he wins with a Democratic congress and does not put his foot to the floor. He's going to be accused of being a "socialist" no matter what he does, so he may as well be a socialist instead of the moderate conservative many of his policies suggest. Yeah, and I'm still under the one-and-a-half glass of wine limit. Just wait until later.

8:31 CST: New Mexico has gone to Obama.

8:50 CST: With victory in New Mexico, Barack Obama has won the election. He now has 200 electoral votes. California has 55, and Florida is breaking blue. Even with just California, Hawaii, and Oregon, he'd still win. But Colorado will be called soon. If I don't get back to ya'll tonight, be well. I promised I'd do an unassisted handstand in the middle of the room if this came to pass. I may enter the new era with a broken neck, but at least I'll have a fighting chance of getting health insurance in that eventuality. I have called my mother in Florida to assure her that no matter how her rogue state may have attempted to betray her, the die is cast. She said she'd believe it when she heard it on the news. Fair enough, Mama. Fair enough.

Just in Case Amorphous Funk is Your Source for Election Results:

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Office Hours: 24/7

My online class has turned into my blog this semester. No, I would not say (most of) the things to that (or any) class that I say here. It's simply that all of my formerly "free" time is spent uploading materials, answering questions, moderating discussion boards, and begging for assignments from this one of my four classes.

I will post on Tuesday, November 4, however, and probably more than once.

I miss everyone in my beloved online community and especially thank Charlotte for inquiring about the whereabouts of (what's left of) Funk. Somehow, I don't think that if I vanished from the online class there would be any such inquiry :)

Talk to you soon.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Not an Economist II

Now we have socialized the losses of a lion's share of predatory lenders. Sarah Palin refused press coverage of her meetings with prominent leaders. John McCain has declined to debate. Karl Rove, Sarah Palin, and her husband (whatever his name is) have all, with apparent immunity, refused subpoenas. And red is the color most associated with the Republican Party.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

I'm Not an Economist...

but does one really need to be to understand that the short-term profit associated with unregulated lending practices has been pocketed by the few while the enormous losses have been thoroughly socialized, and we're now just...fucked? If you are an economist, please talk me down. I'd love to be wrong about all the dismal statements I make here.

Anyway, my grandmother got married during the Great Depression. My grandfather could not afford a wedding ring, but as luck would have it, she found a rose gold woman's wedding band on the ground and wore it until she died. Someone else's initials are engraved inside. I have worn it for the past decade as a reminder not only of her but of the story behind the ring.

In the past few days, I've remembered a conversation I had with my uncle over 20 years ago, when I was in my late teens. He was talking about his retirement savings in Merrill Lynch, and I asked what was then perhaps a stupid question: "Is it okay to have all your money in one place like that?" He laughed and said, "If things got that bad, Funk, the value of the dollar would deflate to such a degree that it wouldn't matter anyway." He wasn't an economist, either.

Excuse the diversions. It just seems like a time for walking down memory lane. And I mean way down.

Thursday, September 11, 2008


Here's a comment I left at The Field Negro on 9/1 in response to some commenters who felt it necessary to inform each other that New Orleanians should come to terms with the dangers of living below sea level and move somewhere else because we are doomed. I want to make it clear that The Field Negro himself did not share that opinion. His post acknowledged our justifiable outrage, blasted Bush, and sent us heartfelt well wishes. One conservative commenter was so outraged that he kept posting repeatedly about how we should pull ourselves up (and away). He even went after a lady who posts as "Granny Standing for Truth" AFTER she told him that she'd lost someone in Katrina, it was a very upsetting subject for her, and that she was not going "to let [him] go there with [her]." Damn.

It's so sad (for them as well as for us) that so many people do not understand that we don't have only a New Orleanian problem, we have an American problem. ALL of our infrastructure is failing. What should have been a wake up call to everyone in the U.S. served so many as just an excuse to call us idiots (again).

Here's the comment:
Despite the 12 hour-drive to get only 250 miles out of New Orleans, the painful memories associated with the same drive three years ago, and the very real possibility of having no home and no job to return to, I still have a last nerve, which the GOP and mainstream media have managed to get all over. I've watched every Republican from the state governor to the president pat themselves on the back all day simply because the storm did not make landfall at quite a high enough intensity to breach the levees and because they have gotten enough of a clue not to have a party while a state is threatened with catastrophe. Mainstream media has allowed them to get away with that and has perpetuated the notion that "progress" is what saved us. No. The weakening of the storm did.

A barge, moored YESTERDAY near the same industrial canal that was breached by a unmoored barge three years ago, came loose today and happened not to have breached the same flood wall again. Is that really progress?

During Katrina, mainstream media got honest for about a week. During Gustav, they've not been honest at all.

I can move away from New Orleans to avoid hurricanes, but I'll also need to stay away from the entire Gulf Coast as well as much of the East Coast for the same reason. I shouldn't move back to New York because of the relative ease with which the subway system could be attacked. I'd also need to say away from any earthquake prone regions on the West Coast, as well as any of the Heartland, which sees devastating tornadoes [and flooding] regularly these days. I think at this point the best bet is Holland, where they got their floodwalls right the first time.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

To Students In My Online Course

Photo: marlandova

I did not send the following message:

Taking this course, or any course online, unless you are among a quite rare breed of self-motivators, will compromise your educational experience. But because you are enrolled (and I teach) at a third-tier university, hungry for your tuition dollars without especial concern for the quality of your education, we are embarking upon this experience together.

The hours that I have invested in designing this course to meet your online needs have earned me less than minimum wage, so you can surely imagine that I care about instructing you. If I did not, I would either do any number of less demanding jobs for much better pay or provide significantly less instruction in an effort to justify my salary.

You may be taking this course because of a rumor that online courses are easier. They are not. An online course requires that you spend three additional hours per week, hours that you would otherwise be engaged in real-time discussion with your peers and me, reading written instructions and following them. There's no getting around that self-evident reality.

Nevertheless, in the past two weeks, it has become apparent to me that many of you are quite resentful of the course requirement that you read assignments independently and complete them. I am baffled. Half of you, and you know who you are, seem to be mistaking this experience for WalMart shopping -- you feel entitled to a good grade for half the work, or even for no work at all.

I understand that the recent evacuation and the requisite post-traumatic stress are hard on all of us. I also realize that because I am not a familiar person to you but rather an email address and a set of instructions in cyberspace, I am an easy target upon which to vent frustration. Venting unwarranted frustration upon me, however, is extremely unwise since faculty have much more control over your comfort level than you seem to understand. We are not Walmart managers. You cannot demand that we exchange your faulty effort for a decent grade.

Rude emails informing me that assignments were due during evacuation and therefore must be rescheduled are bizarre. Had you taken the opportunity to read the current course announcement, posted since pre-evacuation, you would have noticed the clear message that the assignment schedule would likely fall a week behind and that the current assignment would be due Thursday, September 11. Rude demands that I explain how the schedule will be adjusted in the distant future are also out of line given that the University has not issued a clear statement on when or if the missed week will be made up. As soon as the University does so, I will present you with a thoroughly updated course schedule. This last point would not bother me nearly as much if many of you were not sending such demands in lieu of completing work that was due before evacuation.

Furthermore, only a 9th-grade reading level is necessary to understand the instructions that I have posted for you regarding immediate assignments and due dates. If you are senior in college and cannot understand them, then your prospects in the job market into which you will soon be thrust are quite bleak. I'll still work with you as best I can, but belated claims of confusion will not excuse missing work or lackluster performance.

Those of you who have exercised your critical thinking skill to ascertain that a week-long university closure necessitates a week-long postponement of assignments, and/or have addressed me in a polite tone with your questions and concerns, please excuse this truly unfortunate public down dressing of your peers.

Students attending on-site courses are doing just fine.

Saturday, September 6, 2008

The Perfect Candidate

Over evacuation, I met the nicest person -- a socially responsible, Obama-supporting Democrat who told me that she had recently done Karl Rove's nails. He owns a beach house in her area and came into the establishment where she works. Because she is not the owner, she did not have the authority to oust him. At first I thought that if I were her, I would have risked my job and put him out anyway, or at least I would have removed at least one of his nails. But this is a man who will have your house burned down for looking at him the wrong way. Would losing one's job (or worse) for refusing Karl Rove a manicure be an act of civil disobedience or just plain recklessness?

Speaking of Karl Rove's grooming, the man has escaped federal prison long enough to play an instrumental role in Election 2008. Unbelievable but true. And Sarah Palin is his perfect candidate. Anyone who wants to preserve the unbridled market forces we have at present needs another cosmetically qualified, marginally intelligent, easily manipulated, shockingly unempathetic, ethically impaired figurehead. McCain may have wed himself to Bush policies and the neo-conservative movement, but he's not to be trusted by the power machine, really. War is his solution to everything, but he is not going to be ordered around once in office. His temper combined with his scary delusions would likely lead him into one or more wars that even Halliburton et al wouldn't advocate, just because some head of state angers him. You know I'm not kidding. Bush was a whole lot easier to manipulate than McCain would be.

But he's a 4-year president, max. This Sarah Palin will be around for awhile. She's good for a few politically illiterate, disenchanted Hillary votes, sure, but that's not all. She's looking a whole lot like Bush to me, and he was the biggest Christmas present the most unsavory of capitalists could have ever hoped for. She's the New Year's champagne.

Her background as a beauty pageant contestant says enough about her character and ego strength (or lack thereof), but as an educator, I have to add that attendance at five colleges in six years rarely says much good about a student, except under dire circumstances, which she was not under. Her eagerness to please The Man coupled with that spotty education may contribute to her wilingness to spin propoganda more shamelessly than most by, for instance, claiming to have "taken on Big Oil" in Alaska while her inauguration speech was sponsered by BP. Or by rallying around abstinence(a.k.a "anything goes") education while her 17-year-old unmarried daughter is five months pregnant, a fact that is fair game since she's built a career on trying to legislate other people's children's sex lives, access to information about birth control, etc.

There's also the vindictive streak: She tried to ban books from the public library when she became mayor and then tried to have the librarian fired for being contrary. Apparently, she also used her influence as governor to have her brother-in-law, a state trooper, fired during his divorce from her sister, and then attempted to fire his supervisor for refusing to fire him.

There's also the all too familiar narrowness of experience, quite in the Bush tradition: Her first passport was issued 20 months ago because a requirement of governorship. Lots of brilliant and wonderful people have never left the country by age 42, and that's fine, but they're not running for president.

Finally, of course, Karl Rove wrote her substanceless yet strangely effective acceptance speech, as well as, most likely, most of what she has said since the surpise v.p. pick. What's worse, many seem to be buying into Rove's strategy...again.

What will it take to get this man out of our political process?

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Live Blogging This Shit

No, I'm not live blogging from New Orleans. I am simply alive, have completed the 12-hour-long, 250-mile evacuation, and have a dial-up connection. I am privileged: people who care, car, enough money, nice place to stay.

Once I was awake this morning and brave enough to face it, I caught one CNN news cycle on New Orleans. The points were presented in the following order:

1. The updated path and intensity of the storm.
2. A clip of Ray Nagin's statement that all "looters" will be sent directly to Angola.
3. An assurance that federal assistance will be provided to Alabama, Mississippi, Texas and Louisiana.

One: Muth-er-fuck.

Two: The CNN mannequin anchor as well as the people surrounding Nagin when he made this statement were positively gleeful. Let me be more specific: Their expressions ranged from extremely smug to so turned on that they were ready to get naked right there.

Three: Don't get me wrong, I'm a big fan of federal assistance to people. But a Category 4 is about to blast through Louisiana.

Where are ya'll?

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

I couldn't go to Rising Tide, and that makes me very sad

I was sincerely looking forward to it and had been since January. Then, Friday between 4 and 5 p.m., I was assigned a Saturday class (to teach, not to take). So it was my job or the Tide, and the choice was not an easy one. Friday night until 1 a.m. became the preparation phase, Saturday 9-11 a.m. the xeroxing phase, and Saturday 12-3 the actual teaching phase. Sunday involved hours more of teaching prep for the week to come. I know I missed out on a lot. I hope I catch you all in person next time, preferably sooner.

Thursday, August 21, 2008

What Say Ye, Gossips?

Photo credit: Tabbi Cat

Perhaps it is presumptuous to apologize for not having posted lately. Something about the peaceful memory of Jamaica temporarily stilled my urge to rant. Since school starts on Monday, however, I'm finding myself more or less back to normal.

Anyway, I was already feeling a little off this morning when I left the house, but after finding a "Sex Offender Notification" in the mailbox, I felt as though I had been transported to a bygone era -- specifically that of 17th-century New England.

Apparently, a woman convicted of a "crime against nature" has moved in down the street, right into the middle of Uptown. My first thought of course was that a nature offender might not find herself comfortable in a neighborhood where we all adhere to a strictly vegan diet, drive electric cars, recycle everything (with the loving support of Veronica White), conscientiously tend our compost heaps, boycott all pesticides, heat and cool our homes with solar panels, vote Green unanimously, hang our clothes out to dry, let it mellow if it's yellow, and travel nightly en masse to bless the River, whose present oily sheen moves us to tears. Such a person may fly in the face of all we hold sacred here on Annunciation Street.

My second thought was that I needed to know which of the many possible crimes against nature this felon may have committed, since the more specific information we have, the more vigilant we may be in preventing future transgressions against nature.

The information on the mailer led me to the website Sodomy Laws, which provided the needed information:
A. Crime against nature is:

(1) The unnatural carnal copulation by a human being with another of the same or opposite sex or with an animal, except that anal sexual intercourse between two human beings shall not be deemed as a crime against nature when done under any of the circumstances described in R.S. 14:41, 14:42, 14:42.1 or 14:43. Emission is not necessary; and, when committed by a human being with another, the use of the genital organ of one of the offenders of whatever sex is sufficient to constitute the crime.

(2) The solicitation by a human being of another with intent to engage in any unnatural carnal copulation for compensation.
Please send your prayers this way even if you find it necessary to avoid this area out of fear for your eternal salvation.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Jamaican Vacation

Photos: Strawberry Fields

I still cannot fathom that we were lucky enough for the top floor of this cottage to be our vacation home for eight days. The ocean crashes below three sides of house, and with open windows all around, one gets so used to the sound that a kind of withdrawal occurs later. No air conditioning is needed because of the cottage's design, and hot water is provided by solar panel. The retreat, Strawberry Fields, is in a still somewhat remote area--Robin's Bay in St. Mary's Parish, on the northeast coast. The remoteness won't last for long, though. Given that the EU has built a paved road from Ocho Rios, which used to be a four-hour drive but is now one and a half, developers are salivating. There was a casino deal literally next door to the retreat, but it fell through, thank god. The Robin's Bay people want development, but not mammoth resorts, certainly not casinos. They want eco tourism, from what I heard. One 1600-acre estate, formerly Greencastle Estate (for which Robin's Bay was the slave quarters until Emancipation on August 1, 1838), has sold a hefty portion of its acreage with a stipulation that it can be used only for eco tourism development. Absentee owners of much of the other land, who have demonstrated little interest for half a century, have started serving eviction notices to "squatters"--families who built and passed down little houses without electricity or indoor plumbing. Speaking of emancipation, the poverty in Robin's Bay is so glaring that I wonder just how much has changed there since 1838. The one school has no inside walls and no indoor plumbing.

I'm not laboring under delusions that Jamaican people aren't jacked up every time they turn around. 83 cents of every tax dollar goes to (mostly interest on) predatory loans from World Bank, the government is unabashedly corrupt, and the contrast between rich and poor is unapologetically harsh. Still, the situation there isn't one of constant smoke and mirrors as it is in the United States, and being there, I realized almost immediately that the energy I use unconsciously, on a daily basis, to reject the constant bombardment of lies and the distortion of reality from American media, was restored. I know this is a phenomenon familiar to anyone who spends time in any remote area--that sense of liberation that comes from realizing that one's perceptions are not constantly micromanaged from all sides, all the time. I also realize that I was a very privileged and pampered tourist, lucky enough to be provided conditions under which this realization could occur.

Talking to Jamaicans, Europeans, and Canadians throughout the trip (and no Americans, thankfully :), I realized that my conversational partners engaged me as though they were tiptoeing around a severely mentally impaired person. For instance, a co-owner of the retreat spoke to me at first quite delicately about the possibility of visiting Cuba, explaining that there was much love for Castro among Cubans, as he had liberated them from the corruption and brutality of Batiste. Once I told him not to worry, I didn't buy into American propaganda about Cuba, or the embargo, or the insane fear of communism, he was noticeably relieved, as though by some miracle he may be engaging one of the less insane Americans and was not going to have to invest nearly as much energy as he'd thought into protecting the delusions of the guest he was having breakfast with. He uttered a line that I ended up hearing from several people whose job it was to be nice to us: "Many people here believe that the American people are like Bush, but I tell them that's not true." He was the first person I had a conversation with, so afterward I started making a point of apologizing and expressing extreme embarrassment about the actions of my country. I often got an earful in return: "What are Americans thinking?" "You know, we're not strangers to water shortage, but you are." "We won't fly on any American airlines or stop in the U.S. until you stop the war." "I won't buy anything American if I can help it." "My daughter's husband works in Florida, but she refuses to apply for citizenship because she refuses to say the pledge." "Do Americans realize that their economy is collapsing?" "If you elect Obama, you might have a chance." "Americans are probably going to get scared and elect McCain, aren't they?" and "We're so glad you're sensitive to how the rest of the world feels about you. Most Americans aren't."

Enough said.

This was the greatest vacation of my whole life.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Funk on Vacation

A much needed vacation...but with quite sporadic internet access. Back August 7!

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Derrick Ashong and Soulfege

You may remember the remarkably gifted young man who, caught outside a primary debate, oratorically soared in his response to a reporter (obviously a Republican, obviously hoping to interview those who support Obama but can't explain why).

Here's a refresher:

That young man, Derrick Ashong, gives us more insight into his background here:

And it turns out that he's also a musician. His band, Soulfege, has released their first cd, which I listened to in its entirity, found reminiscent of Michael Franti and Spearhead, and wholeheartedly recommend. You won't be surprised that my favorite song is "Funkadocious." If you like what you're hearing from Derrick Ashong (or even if you don't share his political views), please visit the band's website and give a listen.

Here's an excerpt from the Vanity Fair review:
Here are musicians, poised with a positive vibe and with lyrics so uplifting that you actually believe, if only for one night, that slowly, out of a species-wide weariness for discord and conflict, a new world mood may emerge from the street and the Net, somehow defying the odds—a spirit of promise and hope and harmony, a spirit that denies dissonance. Soulfege lets us dream such sweet dreams, in vibrant colors.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Juvenile Justice, Louisiana Style (Part II)

Photo: publik16

Fortunately, the imbroglio that is Act 555, which mandates the closing of the overcrowded Jetson Center for Youth in Baton Rouge in favor of opening "13 or 14" community-based facilities, did not escape the national spotlight, nor did its conspicuous absence of planning to build new facilities.

In the NYT editorial "Louisiana Tries Again on Its Juvenile Justice System," Governor Bobby Jindal is urged to follow the lead of Missouri's infinitely more successful juvenile justice system:
Gov. Bobby Jindal needs to make sure that the state’s new plan truly follows the Missouri model and that Louisiana’s juvenile justice officials implement it this time.

The community-based centers in Missouri are considered a national model that stresses therapy, not punishment, and often includes parents as well as the children. Instead of housing minor offenders and more serious offenders in the same place, as too often happens, Missouri sorts detainees by the seriousness of their crimes.

The oversight continues even after the young persons’ release, through case managers who help former inmates with job placement, school issues and drug or alcohol treatment. Missouri’s system more than pays for itself by keeping recidivism rates low. After completing the program, officials say, less than 10 percent of detainees go back to prison through the juvenile courts.

A team of consultants led by Mark Steward, an expert on the Missouri juvenile justice system, is advising Louisiana on how to proceed. For the sake of some of the state’s most vulnerable children, the Jindal administration should embrace the advice and follow it.
2theadvocate printed a similar article, "Mo. juvenile prison expert to aid Jetson," praising the Missouri model and noting the legislature's seemingly good intentions but hesitation to act:
Mark Steward blames many of Jetson’s problems on the facility’s large population — ranging from 200 to 215 on most days recently. That number has risen from about 160 last summer.

Steward is the director of the Missouri Youth Services Institute and former director of Missouri’s Office of Youth Development. His team has come to Louisiana to teach juvenile prison officials how to implement what’s known as the Missouri model.

Missouri has been acknowledged as the state with the most progressive and best juvenile detention system in the nation. States across the country vie for Steward’s services.

Steward said the Missouri method is based on creating relationships with individual teens, along with a therapeutic group approach in small, regional, homelike facilities.

“It’s not based on power, but on creating respect,” Steward said.

Steward conceived the Missouri model years ago and implemented it in his home state.

“It does work,” he said. “Our recidivism rate is really low.”

Richard Thompson, the new head of Louisiana’s youth development agency, has said he wants the smaller, regional facilities — a reform that lawmakers supported five years ago.

But so far, none has been built.
Knowing what we do about the Jindal administration's tendency to "reform" state services by eliminating them, it's quite easy to imagine Jindal or Richard Thompson shaking Mark Steward's hand, slapping his back, smiling in his face, and sending him promptly back to Missouri.

However, some slight hope has recently been offered by Senator Sharon Broome, who has put a stop to the Office of Youth Development's closing of Jetson by December 31, 2008, and pledges to work with her legislative colleagues to reconsider the intent of Act 555 (legislation signed by Governor Jindal to close Jetson by June 30, 2009). Senator Broome took this action after meeting with Jetson staff who complained that the transition planning had excluded the input of those who work directly with youth detainees.

Senator Broome's concern about Jetson's closing is somewhat heartening, but serious questions remain:

1. If she intends to halt the closing of Jetson Center for Youth until more facilities are established, why are Jetson's employees being offered a 10% salary increase to transfer to the Bridge City Center for Youth, just outside New Orleans?
2. Will former staff of the Jetson Center be replacing Bridge City staff or augmenting it?
3. If the latter, has Act 555 in effect relocated the problems associated with Jetson's overcrowding to the Bridge City Center for Youth? If the former, though I'm sure that Bridge City can use the extra hands, more staff will not create the space to adequately house and serve the young people being transferred from Jetson.
4. Where exactly is the mandate, detailed plan, or commitment to establish more centers, without which no true reform can occur?
5. Will Senator Broome and her colleagues extend their concern about employees of the juvenile justice program to the youths sentenced to the program?

I want to live in a state where there is as much public attention to the treatment of our sociey's most disenfranchised members as to a potential pay raise for legislators.

See here and here for background information on Act 555.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Just An Idea

Photo: Supercapacity

From TP:
BATON ROUGE -- Facing unrelenting public pressure, Gov. Bobby Jindal suddenly reversed course Monday and vetoed a controversial bill that would have doubled the pay of state lawmakers.

Jindal said at a news conference that he vetoed the bill because its passage had become a white-hot political issue that has preoccupied government the past three weeks. Letting the pay raise become law, he said, would "diminish the people's confidence in government."...

While legislators had argued that the raise was long overdue, public opposition, expressed in recall petitions filed against five legislators and Jindal last week, had shaken their resolve.
Once this bill was pared down, I really put it at the bottom of my list of things to worry about. This article, though, turns on some lightbulbs. We could actually RECALL the governor for diminishing the people's confidence in government?

Petitions, anyone?

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Tags: New Orleans Schools, the Pharmaceutical-Industrial Complex, and My Head

Though this entry was inspired by Slag's recent brilliant piece "FISA: The Mullet of Compromises," this really did happen today.

I had an appointment with the only person that I have trusted for years to cut my hair. For some reason, almost every other person who has ever taken a sharp instrument to my head has had a compulsion to cut layers, even though I have insisted otherwise. So many times have I ended up looking like a Dr. Seuss character on this account, I tend to forgo haircuts altogether if I cannot get them from her. Because I trust her instincts so much, I'll often just ask her do whatever she thinks will look nice because I have little sense of style and trust her judgment. No worries, ever.

Today I wanted this haircut exactly:

And I almost had it.

Except...just as I saw that she, the stylist, had, as usual, perfectly emulated the cut, and all that was left was some loose snippets and the blow drying, I realized that she had been unusually quiet and seemed stressed.

Here is the conversation that followed:
AF: How's your son?

HS: (Deep sigh.) Well, did I tell you we were paying over $6000/year to send him to ___ [private school]?

AF: Yeah, how's that going?

HS: Well they say they want him on medication because he has behavior problems and that if he's not on medication then he'll be on "behavioral probation," and so I want to take him out, but I already paid next year's tuition, and they say it's nonrefundable. And I would take him out anyway, but there is only one public school in our area, and it's a charter school, and I can't get him in.

AF: (Struggling to choose only one of these outrages to focus on)--Medication for behavioral problems? But he's four, right?

HS: He's four, going on five.

AF: Does he have behavioral problems??

HS: I don't think so, and nobody else does, either, but they say at the school he's probably ADHD. Well, his last teacher says that, and so they're acting on what she says. His teacher from the first of the year told me not to listen to them, that he was fine in her class. He has a lot of energy.

AF: Aren't four-year-olds supposed to have a lot of energy?

HS: See, that's what I think, too. I took him to the pediatrician the other day, and she said that she couldn't tell and that he's too young to be accurately tested for anything like that. So she said she could just prescribe the medication anyway.

AF: (Restraining myself)--What do you think?

HS: I don't see why the doctor would prescribe medicine for something that he can't even be tested for to begin with. I think the problem is with the school so I want to take him out, but I've already given them $5000 and we couldn't even afford that, and they just won't give it back. And if he goes back on "probation" and they expel him, then the tuition is still not refundable. We can't afford to send him somewhere else, I'd have to pay some other school more money, so I don't know what to do right now.

AF: (Tirade, support of her conclusions, sympathy.)
It was at this point that I realized the razor had continued to fly rapidly through my hair throughout this conversation, and for that reason I no longer have the haircut above but rather very, very little hair. Very little.

I really don't care about the haircut. That's not the point. I do care about about this young woman, whom I've known for a decade, and her son, and the vicious, blind, profit-driven systems that nobody, anywhere, should be subjected to, ever.

If any of you know what she might tell the school to get her money back or have any other related advice, please tell me, and I will pass it on.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Memo from the President of a Tennessee Chapter of Builders and Contractors Associated:

From: Robin Collier []
Sent: Tuesday, June 24, 2008 10:42 AM
To: ABC Members
Subject: ABC Mid-TN - President's Message

By Pete Dickson, President

Last week, ABC National held their annual Legislative Conference in Washington, D.C. ABC members from across the country, including Mid-TN Chapter members, came together for one purpose - lobbying Congress.

There has never been a time in our industry when the slogan, "Get into Politics or Get Out of Business", applied more. During our visit with members of the TN Congressional delegation, it became very clear that the Democrats are increasing their efforts to oppose most every bill that would benefit or protect our industry and seek passage of legislation which would harm our industry. The greatest example is organized labor, with the help of the Democrats, is attaching amendments to most any bill to expand the use of Davis-Bacon wages.

The main topics of discussion with members of Congress, including Davis-Bacon expansion, Immigration, Union Only Project Labor Agreements (PLAs), Protect the Rights to a Secret Ballot, Salting Abuse, and removing the 3% withholding tax on business. Last but not least, the fuel crisis. When communicating with Congress, ask them to support a House Resolution to "Expand American Refining Capacity on Closed Military Installations". This should assist in reducing the price of gasoline and diesel by streamlining the refinery application process and by requiring the President to open at least three military instillations for the purpose of housing new American refineries.

In the past, you may have felt your voice wouldn't be heard in regard to political issues and elections. It's a new day and you must take the time to join with other ABC members to let your Representatives and Senators in Congress know your position on these issues.

You also must talk to your employees about the Presidential election. You are not allowed to tell your employees who to vote for but you can express your thoughts on the best candidate for our industry and the protection of their jobs. ABC has resources to assist you in communicating with your employees regarding politics.

The Democratic candidate has indicated he will work closely with organized labor if elected. There is "A Clear Choice" for our industry in regard to the Presidential election.

We must elect John McCain! Get involved! Don't wait!


Please contact ABC @ 615-399-8323 if you need additional information or materials for your employees.
ABC Mid-Tennessee Chapter
1604 Elm Hill Pike, Nashville, TN 37210
Phone 615-399-8323 * Fax 615-399-7528
h/t Kos

Saturday, June 21, 2008

Rant that You've Heard Before

Photo: twas_brillig
What bothers me a lot: Hearing that Bush's presidency has been unsuccessful. That he has been the worst president in American history is evident from any humanitarian point of view, but his presidency looks unsuccessful only if one imagines that the aim of his administration was ever to place human welfare above that of multinational corporate interests. He was the perfect figurehead for the neo-conservative movement: marginally intelligent, easily manipulated, unable to think critically, shockingly unempathetic, and preoccupied with a stilted and destructive perception of masculinity. That he has been the worst president in our history and simultaneously the most successful at accomplishing his party's agenda are not mutually exclusive points. That agenda was and is to move away from the concept of government as we understand it and toward not just a nation but a world that is entirely corporate dominated, entirely privatized. In those terms, Iraq is a success story, New Orleans is a success story, the budget deficit, the collapsing economy, crumbling infrastructure, and the health care disaster are success stories. The majority of us are closer to wage slavery than we could have ever imagined. Our educational institutions, health care, retirement benefits, prisons, and military move closer and closer to thorough privatization. And it doesn't help that our governor of at least the next 3 1/2 years is entirely complicit. It's also dangerously naive to believe that an ample number of Democrats have not been complicit, as well. The political landscape of the past twenty years has ventured so far right that a moderate conservative looks far left to most Americans.

Kos via NYT recently provided the clearest explanation of soaring oil prices that I've seen, one that exemplifies the kind of twisted success story I'm talking about:
Four Western oil companies are in the final stages of negotiations this month on contracts that will return them to Iraq, 36 years after losing their oil concession to nationalization as Saddam Hussein rose to power.

Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total and BP — the original partners in the Iraq Petroleum Company — along with Chevron and a number of smaller oil companies, are in talks with Iraq’s Oil Ministry for no-bid contracts to service Iraq’s largest fields, according to ministry officials, oil company officials and an American diplomat. ...

The no-bid contracts are unusual for the industry, and the offers prevailed over others by more than 40 companies, including companies in Russia, China and India. The contracts, which would run for one to two years and are relatively small by industry standards, would nonetheless give the companies an advantage in bidding on future contracts in a country that many experts consider to be the best hope for a large-scale increase in oil production.

There was suspicion among many in the Arab world and among parts of the American public that the United States had gone to war in Iraq precisely to secure the oil wealth these contracts seek to extract. The Bush administration has said that the war was necessary to combat terrorism. It is not clear what role the United States played in awarding the contracts; there are still American advisers to Iraq’s Oil Ministry.
And despite all that, Blackwater, Halliburton, KBR, Dyncorp, Bechtel, et al, few Americans seem to be able to come to terms with the fact that Obama is (have you heard??) biracial and his wife is just outright black (!), HRC is a white woman who lost the nomination (Dear God!), and McCain is old and crazy.

End of rant.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Self-Absorption (Updated)

I have always been fond of reading about the distinctions arrived at by the Myers-Briggs Personality Inventory. Therefore, I got really excited when I found this site, with a test included, that gives a more in-depth analysis of personality types than others I've seen. It doesn't sugar coat anything.

I'm ENFP (Extrovert/Intuitive/Feeling/Perceiving). The following excerpt gives me insight into a stable personality trait that I have struggled with and perhaps confused with dysthymia and other maladies:
Because ENFPs live in the world of exciting possibilities, the details of everyday life are seen as trivial drudgery. They place no importance on detailed, maintenance-type tasks, and will frequently remain oblivious to these types of concerns. When they do have to perform these tasks, they do not enjoy themselves. This is a challenging area of life for most ENFPs, and can be frustrating for ENFP's family members.
I hear that.

If you take the test and feel like sharing insights and surprises, please do.

Update: I couldn't help but include this find, the second comment beneath Jonathan Martins's article "DNC to file complaint to FEC on McCain." The comment is, by the way, a nonsequitur to anything reported in Martin's article:
Obama is an ENFP he will pick thinks off the floor and eat it . This type is not afraid of germs . Obama blew his nose at his raslly last week even telling everyone about it .
Well, now.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Levee Breaks and MSM

Photo: Spiritwood Images

I'm sure I'm not the only one who has noticed a curious lack of cause-and-effect reasoning from mainstream media sources regarding the 27 possible Mississippi River levee breaks in the past few days. Rachel Maddow did actually say the word "infrastructure" in a political context on MSNBC this evening, suggesting that the last effective focus on infrastructure was associated with the WPA. I apologize if I'm failing to credit other news sources who are not conflating overtopping with leaks and other malfunctions/design errors. All else I've seen or read matter-of-factly states that the sandbags just didn't hold up.

Jivamukti Yoga is Funky

Photo credit: geckonia

I just want to say that Jivamukti yoga really works for me. I say this as a former yoga-skeptic, attending classes here and there and not really understanding what the big deal was, for years. 1) Jivamukti is a serious workout, 2) It alleviates the back problems that I've had since age 27, 3) It lifts my mood, 4) It calms me down, 5) It makes me feel hopeful, 6) Classes provide a sense of community, 7) It is a real spiritual experience, 8) It tones the body as well if not better than strengh training, 8) It is the most likely means of turning around a day gone wrong, 9) A devoted practice can often have the effects of feel-good drugs (prescription or otherwise), without a prescription or, 10) I totally look forward to doing it (which is more than I could ever really say for my 15 years of running/strength training), and 11) It totally rocks.

These claims are mine alone and not those of any yoga school or teacher.

P.S. Thanks for bearing with the problems in parallel grammatical structure up there :)

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Come Again? (Updated)

Doubtless, everyone has seen this news by now:
By increasing lawmakers' base salary from $16,800 to $50,700, Senate Bill 672 challenges the concept of a Legislature comprised of citizens performing part-time public service in favor of representation that is compensated like a full-time job.

Even without considering the overall expense payments and per diems in the package, which would push the new compensation to about $67,000, the raise would put Louisiana in the top 10 among states nationwide in legislative pay, according to data from the National Conference of State Legislators.
I'm not one who believes that pay increases should be linked only to merit, nor am I one who believes that because I make a substandard wage, everyone else should as well.

On this matter, though, hold the fucking phone! This is the same legislature who is cutting 240 million from health care and education in Louisiana? That includes ensuring stagnant salaries and hiring freezes and other cutbacks that compel state employees to do more than one person's work in exchange for one person's salary!

FYI, Louisiana Legislature: You want your pay to meet national standards? As a state employee, I have yet to reach the same income that I received in Florida, that mecca of high pay, ten years ago for doing the same job. When you can manage to fix that problem, rather than deliberately making it worse, I'll get behind you on a pay raise.

But wait, I don't have to get behind you. You're behind yourselves. So go ahead and fuck off.

Update: Daily Kingfish weighed in with a less reactive solution:
I say drop the percentage to 20% of Congressional pay, which would still be a raise for Louisiana legislators, who have not seen a raise in pay since 1993. That would bring their base pay to $33,860, and with the expense account and per diem, which regularly adds an additional $18,000 to $21,000 to their base pay, legislators will still be sitting pretty.

Oh, and one more thing ... these pay raises should not go into effect until after the next round of elections, which would be 2012. That's only fair, as legislators wouldn't know if they were voting to raise their own pay or not. The voters can make that determination.
As did Editor B:
I guess I’m in a very small minority with this opinion, but I actually support our Louisiana state legislature’s efforts to give themselves a huge salary increase. It’s not because I think they deserve a reward them for a job well done. It’s not because I like big government or higher taxes. It’s because when I looked into the prospect of running for the legislature myself (yes, I know, ha ha ha) I have to admit the salary was a nonstarter. I understand public service entails some sacrifices, but the pay really is paltry — a joke. What is it, like $23K? Oh, it’s supposed to be a part-time job, but that’s a joke too.

I certainly understand the kneejerk reaction against the pay raise. But I find myself, surprisingly, in the camp that says we get what we pay for, and maybe if the job paid a decent wage we’d getter a better quality of applicant.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

Juvenile Justice, Louisiana Style

Remember the promise of SB 749, which ostensibly sought to address the needs of juvenile detainees by closing the humanitarian nightmare that is the Jetson Center for Youth in Baton Rouge? A refresher:
Under SB 749, Jetson would shut its doors by June 30, 2009. A provision would allow for an extension until November 2009 if problems develop.

The state would initially open three, 48-bed secure juvenile facilities in different regions into which Jetson residents would be transferred. No more than 12 juveniles could be housed in a unit.
That's a lie. The truth is that SB 749 contained no plan to establish more centers. It provided only a plan to close the Jetson Center.

The Bridge City Center for Youth (near New Orleans) will increase its population by over 50% in the next month thanks to this legislation. The harsh reality: Bridge City Center for Youth has too few guards to accomodate its existing population. One reason for that is probably Bobby Jindal's current hiring freeze on all state personnel.

If new or transferred staff appear at BCCY to ameliorate some of the problems associated with overcrowding, I'll let you know. I'll also try to find out if the State is ceasing to imprison adolescents for offenses such as possesion of marijuana or stealing a family member's necklace. But at the moment, it looks as though Louisiana's antidote to dangerous conditions for juvenile detainees in Baton Rouge is simply to recreate those conditions elsewhere.

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Energizer, Please Take Out the Battery

Photo: john mcnicholas

1. What did Hillary Clinton say this afternoon that she could not have said on Tuesday night, or back when it became mathematically impossible for her to win the nomination?

2. I'm going to try to believe that she suspended rather than ending her campaign so that she can still try to recover some of her 20 million dollars and for no other reason.

3. I was not thrilled that she seized yet another opportunity to popularize her vainglorious claim of victimhood:
"Although we weren't able to shatter that highest, hardest glass ceiling this time, thanks to you, it has about 18 million cracks in it and the light is shining through like never before."
4. Nor did I think that this statement was in particularly good taste:
"Well, this isn't exactly the party I planned but I sure like the company."
5. Enough said. I will suspend further commentary on Hillary Clinton pending any further outrageous behavior from her suspended campaign.


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Bobby Jindal's Intimate Friend

Photo: dsb nola

When someone sets about such reprehensible acts as freezing federal monies received by Louisiana state institutions in the aftermath of the Floods, cutting 240 million dollars from health care and education (in the midst of a state budget surplus), and simultaneously supporting a 300-million dollar tax cut, so that even when he leaves office the funding to restore services will be gone, I wonder what is wrong with that person.

I know that this behavior simply adheres to a neo-conservative agenda to starve all government services, lower taxes, and ultimately disabuse the populace of any idea that their government is good for anything but making war and protecting big bidniz. But what makes a person buy into that ideology?

Often I bandy about the term "evil" to describe the people who do, but I don't even believe in the simple equation of good vs. evil. Apparently Governor Bobby Jindal does.

Loki's recent post at Humid City, "The Exorcist, Jindal, and the Oxford Review," is an excellent read. She links to a 1994 article in which Jindal details his experience at the exorcism of an "intimate" but "platonic" female friend!

See what you think of the background information Jindal provided in the article:

Though she had not said anything, I knew something was wrong. Susan and I had developed an intimate friendship; indeed, our relationship mystified observers, who insisted on finding a romantic component where none existed. I called her after the University Christian Fellowship (UCF) meeting -- UCF is an Inter-Varsity Christian group composed of undergraduate and graduate students. Though the interdenominational group's weekly program of songs and prayers had produced the usual emotional high among most members, Susan had left the meeting in a very sullen mood. I asked her to join a group of us who were attending a Christian a cappella concert to be held on campus that same evening.

Despite our intimacy, Susan and I had not spent much time together this past year. We had succumbed to pressure from our friends and decided we should not be so emotionally interdependent without a deeper commitment. To be honest, my fears of a relationship and the constraints of commitment had kept us apart; our friends' objections merely provided a convenient excuse. Still, I felt comfortable asking her to come to the concert, and she accepted the invitation. Though Susan appeared composed throughout the concert, her sudden departure in the middle of a song convinced me otherwise and affirmed my earlier suspicions.

There was no doubt in my mind that I had to leave my friends and follow her outside. I was not exactly sure what I would do or say, but I knew I had to run after her. I found that she had not gone far, but was sobbing uncontrollably outside the auditorium. Since we had been very careful to avoid any form of physical contact in our friendship, I was not sure how to respond. My inaction and her sobs produced a very awkward situation. Fortunately, a female friend who followed us out was able to comfort Susan with hugs and soothing words of reassurance; her quick action was in stark contrast to my paralysis. Once Susan had regained her composure and fell silent, I knew I had to intervene. The female friend meant well, but did not know Susan well enough to provide the advice Susan was sure to seek.

Not even knowing the cause of this raucous scene, I asked Susan if she would like to talk, and volunteered to walk her home. Wanting to avoid any additional embarrassing scenes, I thought it best to remain in silence while we walked. I dared not cause another emotional outpouring until we were safely behind closed doors. When we finally reached her dorm room, I promptly sat Susan on a bed and placed myself in a chair located several feet across the room. This physical arrangement was hardly conducive to the love and support I was supposed to be providing, but I was too scared and unsure of myself to get any closer. (Loki's narration of the exorcism itself)
Jindal's obvious attempts to distance himself from a person he claims to care about, to bizarrely avoid the idea that he or anyone else is responsible for her emotional state, and to conclude that the culprit is The Devil him/her/itself, may be an inroad to understanding the personality of one who wreaks this kind of havoc on an already-hobbled state and feels great about doing so.

Just an idea.

P.S.: The New Oxford Review charges for a complete copy of the article. I have a complete copy.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Monday, June 2, 2008

Vetting Jindal

I cannot adequately describe the dread with which I clicked on this article, In Louisiana, Inklings of a New (True) Champion of the Right, in today's NYT. Here is an excerpt:
Members of the State House of Representatives, following Mr. Jindal’s campaign vows to rein in government spending, cut some $240 million in health and education spending. Mr. Jindal now says he wants that money restored to his $30 billion budget proposal.

Meanwhile the House is considering an income tax cut that would cost the state $300 million, an idea that did not originate with Mr. Jindal, though he has endorsed it.

Mr. Jindal’s spokeswoman did not respond to messages on Friday.
The article contains no information of which we are not already painfully aware. My more optimistic assessment is that national recognition of Jindal's assault on the services we need so desperately could benefit us in restoring them to some meager degree. It also suggests that the bigger the microscope under which Jindal finds himself, the better. Simultaneously, I realize that my most optimistic assessments are often the most naive.

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Hijacking Four Delegates

I was initially puzzled by the following statement from Harold Ickes:
"Hijacking four delegates is not a good way to start down the path of party unity."
I mean, why four, why not just say however many you want to say, which has got to be more than four. Why not 300?

Oh, because Obama has hijacked four delegates the same way that Osama hijacked four planes? That is so clever.

Worry not about the SUV or truck that you can't afford to put gas in and can't trade because its value has plummeted, the house you can neither pay for nor sell, the impending bankruptcy that you can no longer declare. Just relax and and let these simple, soothing little associations set you free. There will be plenty of them.

Calming the Nerves

This video, a lecture by Jill Bolte Taylor, has worked very well for me.

I'd post it here, but there's an error in the embed code.

Background from NYT:

JILL BOLTE TAYLOR was a neuroscientist working at Harvard’s brain research center when she experienced nirvana.

But she did it by having a stroke.

On Dec. 10, 1996, Dr. Taylor, then 37, woke up in her apartment near Boston with a piercing pain behind her eye. A blood vessel in her brain had popped. Within minutes, her left lobe — the source of ego, analysis, judgment and context — began to fail her. Oddly, it felt great.

The incessant chatter that normally filled her mind disappeared. Her everyday worries — about a brother with schizophrenia and her high-powered job — untethered themselves from her and slid away.

Her perceptions changed, too. She could see that the atoms and molecules making up her body blended with the space around her; the whole world and the creatures in it were all part of the same magnificent field of shimmering energy. Continued

Friday, May 30, 2008

I'll Say It Yet Again

I write this not because of the propagandized narrative that Clinton can still pull ahead in this campaign but rather because of the assaults on humanity and reason that she has considered evidence that she is fighting for "us" (whoever "us" may be, in her estimation).

As I have said here repeatedly, before Campaign 2008, my attitude was thus: I had expected Clinton to fight for "us" (everyone living in the United States) after 9-11, when it was clear to anyone paying attention that 9-11 was an excuse for an imperialist war, anti-immigrant sentiment, the previously unimaginable revocation of the Bill of Rights, and the transfer of the U.S. treasury to the military-industrial complex. She did not. I had expected her to fight for "us" (the working- and middle-class) when corporate predators of all stripe sought to transfer our personal assets to their stockholders and CEOs. She did not. When I lived in New York City, worked for the Family Independence Administration, and saw funds transferred from needy families into the hands of vendors--big, powerful corporations who claimed to be providing "job training" or "child care,"--I expected her to fight for "us" (everyone who has ever or may ever need a safety net). She did not. She was in my estimation yet another Democratic politician who had let "us" down. A list of all of her counterparts in U.S. government who had done exactly the same would be nauseatingly long.

I bear no animus toward her for the reasons that the notorious Clinton bashers of the 1990s did: that her husband is/was sexually compulsive, that she refused to spend her time as First Lady quietly obsessing over place settings and luncheons, that she claimed an active role in political leadership. In fact, I fought for her against the rabid right wingers and/or misogynists who attacked her for those reasons.

Meanwhile, Barack Obama had won his Senate seat despite standing up for "us"--on the war, on civil liberties, and against financial predators. He was one of few Democratic legislators whom I had seen take principled positions regardless of the very real political risks of doing so. His record is not perfect but has addressed "our" concerns much more directly. His fundraising success with donations of less than $200 was evidence of the groundswell that he created, the first positive one I had seen in my lifetime. He had a much firmer grasp on effective international relations. His books demonstrated to me that he is a first- rate thinker. The contrast was clear and the choice was easy.

In the aftermath of Presidential Primary Campaign of 2008, I do bear especial animus toward Clinton for her blatant emboldening of and subsequent exploitation of racist sentiment, for her coercive attempts to further a personal agenda at the cost of her party, for her rallying cry to white women to mobilize against her/their imagined mistreatment at the hands of Barack Obama, and for her attempts to retrocatively transform all the rules and the mathematics that resulted in her defeat.

Update: Check out this lady getting ejected from the RBC meeting for repeating Clinton campaign talking points:

(h/t Bark, Bugs, Leaves, and Lizards)

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Louisiana Legislature Moves to Better Serve Troubled Youth? I'm Unconvinced. [UPDATED]

The legislation linked below sounds like a fine idea: Close the overcrowded Jetson Center for Youth, the largest youth detention center in the state, which has lost its accreditation and is plagued by violent episodes between youth and guards, and move its residents to smaller, "community-based" facilities with a real focus on rehabilitation and recovery.


Yet I hear from inside one of the state's other existing youth centers that there is much concern over the fact that the three new facilities promised below or the "13 or 14" to be established or built at some vague point will not exist when the Jetson Center is closed. In fact, Richard Thompson, head of Louisiana's Office of Youth Development, admits that "No decisions have been made on location of the regional juvenile facilities because there must be discussions with community leaders and support 'to move a center like this into a community.'"

Approximately 221 youths will be transferred to other existing centers throughout the state, thereby overcrowding those youth centers, laying off some staff (or giving them the option of working in state adult correctional facilities) and overtaxing the remaining staff and resources. Bobby Jindal warmly supports the legislation. It seems to me that closing one center and overtaxing others without a clear plan, clear funding allocations, and a clear commitment to establish and staff new centers would save the state some money. It seems to me that Bobby Jindal has been known to cut back on critical state services before.

I'll be more than happy to be pronounced cynical or even paranoid if the youth of Louisiana ultimately benefit from this legislation. But I cannot find specific information about the funding in place to establish and staff new facilities when and if locations are approved. Isn't the cart in front of the horse here?

Also, why does the bill change the name of the "Office of Youth Development" to the "Office of Juvenile Justice" if its aim is to focus on youth development and not retributive "justice"?

UPDATE: Well, so much for finding out that this post was either cynical or paranoid. I wish for the sake of everyone who is in a youth detention center in Louisiana, everyone who knows or loves someone who is, and all of us whose lives will be touched by former youth detainees that it were.

But no.

An informed source tells me the following: There is no existing plan to establish youth centers throughout the state to better serve the 220 youths now warehoused in the Jetson Center. All that is mandated by SB 749 is closing the Jetson Center for Youth and sending its residents to already existing youth centers, which already operate at high capacity.

The Juvenile Justice Implementation Committee met on Friday. The Committee is led by Lt. Governor Mitch Landrieu, and among its members are Richard Thompson, Representative Don Cravins, and Representative Jetson. Richard Thompson, Jindal's Head of the Office of Youth Development, when pressed by other committee members for specific information about plans to open additional youth centers, clearly stated that he did not have a detailed plan. The Committee requested that he bring the (or a) plan to its June meeting. However, since the legislature will be out of session in June, there will be no venue to ask for funds at that time. Richard Thompson's details, when and if he provides them, will be too late: By then, if SB 749, which enjoys bi-partisan support, has passed, the Office of Youth Development will be forced by law to close the Jetson Center for Youth.

Currently, LSU provides medical and mental health services to the Office of Youth Development. There is speculation that Jindal's broader plan for "reform" involves removing LSU from this equation altogether. If he did so, where would social services for juvenile offenders come from? Or would social services come from anywhere at all?

What we see here is a blatant plan to warehouse troubled youth in Louisiana by further crowding and stressing the system. What's even more maddening is that the Louisiana Legislature is doing so under the guise of improving the lives of troubled youth and relieving an overstressed system.

Please join me in contacting all members of the House, urging them to vote No on SB 749, reminding them that the bill includes no plan to even attempt the reform it promises! Fellow bloggers, please help to get the word out about this literal miscarriage of justice.

Here is scant media information on SB 749:

The troubled Jetson Center for Youth would close in 2009 and its juvenile offenders transferred to smaller community-based facilities under a bill that cleared a state Senate committee on Tuesday.

The Senate Committee on Judiciary B endorsed a reworked Senate Bill 749, then shipped it to the full Senate for debate.

“It’s an old physical plant and part of an antiquated system” that fails to save juvenile offenders from lives of crime, said Sen. Don Cravins Jr., sponsor of the legislation.

Cravins, D-Opelousas, said it is long past time to change to a community-based system of rehabilitation that involves parents and local resources from education opportunities to mental health care.

He said 40 percent of juvenile offenders have mental health issues.

Today, Jetson is home to about 220 male offenders who range in age from 14 to 20 years old. They are incarcerated for crimes ranging from purse snatching and drug offenses to murder and armed robbery. The facility is on Old Scenic Highway near Groom Road in Baker.

Jetson has been plagued by violence, reported rapes, and guards and juveniles injured during confrontations. The state’s largest juvenile facility has lost its accreditation from the American Correctional Association.

Under SB 749, Jetson would shut its doors by June 30, 2009. A provision would allow for an extension until November 2009 if problems develop.

The state would initially open three, 48-bed secure juvenile facilities in different regions into which Jetson residents would be transferred. No more than 12 juveniles could be housed in a unit.

The number of community facilities would rise to 13 or 14, spread throughout the state in the coming years.

“This bill is going to be very productive,” said Richard Thompson, the head of the state’s Office of Youth Development. “It gets us from talking about reform to actually beginning the process of reform.”
(continue reading)

Monday, May 19, 2008

An Unfortunate Narrative

Like every other woman, I face sexism in some form, every day, in both my public and private lives. Whether it manifests in cat calls or unwarranted comments from strangers about my appearance; sexual harassment or, on a good day, mere discrimination in the workplace; constant comfirmation from all mainstream media that my weight, age, and overall appearance dictate my worth; lower salary and less career mobility than men doing the same work; automatic assumptions that I am stupid and/or incapable; denial of credit for my accomplishments; or in other ways that I can continue to enumerate, ad nauseum, I face sexism constantly. And if you are a woman, you do, too.

I teach literature from a feminist perspective. I am quite familiar with feminist theory. I act politically on behalf of women's rights and for gender equality both locally and globally.

I've been infuriated to sit on a few hiring committees who have passed over the most qualified and informed candidates (because they haven't been deemed "assertive enough") for less qualified and informed but louder, more "authoritative" male candidates.

I was raised by a single mother who never made a penny more than 18K/year in her working life. Her two brothers went to college. She was not given that option.

In short, you can bet your last dollar that I care about gender equality. You can also bet that I understand that my generation has fared a lot better than the last.

I am also aware that the vast majority of my successes and failures in life have not been the result of gender inequality. That I've been denied jobs for which I was less qualified than others is not a function of sexism. That I've alienated others by acting badly is not a result of sexism. That I must take responsibility for my own actions is not a result of sexism. That I consider myself an individual human being and expect others to do the same is not a function of sexism. These levels of awareness defy sexism.

For this reason, I am extremely disappointed by the narrative emerging about gender and the Clinton campaign. Many fail to recognize that HRC's campaign is not about women. Her campaign is about Hillary Rodham Clinton. And if we lived in a equitable society, that would be obvious to everyone. All those, male and female, who fail to understand this simple point are working at cross purposes with the very notion of gender equality. Basing attitudes about an entire group of people on the successes and failures or strengths and weaknesses of one person is the very definition of stereotyping, not its antidote.

The following segments from the New York Times article "Gender Issue Lives on as Clinton's Hopes Dim" spin the narratives that bother me the most:
Along with the usual post-mortems about strategy, message and money, Mrs. Clinton’s all-but-certain defeat brings with it a reckoning about what her run represents for women: a historic if incomplete triumph or a depressing reminder of why few pursue high office in the first place.
This false dilemma is galling, as is the assumption that follows: that Clinton's campaign has been unsuccesful simply because of her sex. Has Clinton failed to draw the male vote in larger numbers than any other runner-up in a political primary? No. Are opinion polls demonstrating that a significant number of voters are opposed to voting for a woman? No. Has the campaign strategy of any of Clinton's opponents been to suggest that the nation is not ready for a woman as president or that a woman wouldn't have "a broad enough coalition" on which to base a campaign? No.

“Women felt this was their time, and this has been stolen from them,” said Marilu Sochor, 48, a real estate agent in Columbus, Ohio, and a Clinton supporter. “Sexism has played a really big role in the race.”
Women felt this was their time? For what? Forget that the very phrasing is the same as the Victorian euphemism for menstruation. The idea that a woman in the Oval Office means other than symbolic progress for women is at best erroneous and at worst dangerous, in the same ways as assuming that any racial minority in power will see to the needs of all racial minorities. What, besides taking a pro-choice stance, has Clinton done to protect women from gender inequality? Especially women living in poverty. She promoted welfare reform, decreasing the availability of aid to mothers. In the face of overwhelming evidence rendering the rationale for war with Iraq deeply flawed (to state it nicely), Clinton supported that war. Our economy is drained as a result, and since women are still less educated, make less money than men, and are more likely to be raising children alone, women are in a more precarious position because of her actions. The war has also made conditions for women in Iraq far worse than they were under Saddam Hussein. Clinton has repeatedly supported exploitative trade agreements that grind under female workers in developing nations and outsource American jobs. Clinton seems to forget when she is asked about her stance on affirmative action that white women in her own age group have been the greatest beneficiaries of affirmative action, implying (appealing to a commonly held racist belief) that it aids only racial minorities. And Marilu Sochor, where is the evidence that "sexism has played a really big role in the race"? It's been "stolen" from women? In what other presidential campaign have voters been accused of theft? In what other campaign has the actual leader in delegates and popular votes been accused of stealing the nomination?

While the article does confront some of these questions, it goes on to quote another less than authoritative source on women's "progress":
“She’s raised this whole woman candidate thing to a whole different level than when I ran,” said Geraldine Ferraro, a Clinton supporter and the first woman to be the vice-presidential nominee of a major party, contrasting her own brief stint as a running mate in 1984 with Mrs. Clinton’s 17-month-and-counting slog.
Ferraro's language exemplifies the sloppy thinking of those who believe that voting for a woman on the basis of her sex is a shared sisterly duty. Only three words are operative here--woman, candidate, and level. So Clinton's anatomy, her bid for the presidency, and her level of success in that pursuit are the only issues worth consideration? Not her policies or suitability to meet the needs of the U.S. populace in the midst of two wars, environmental disaster, and economic meltdown?

Apparently the former is true for many of Clinton's supporters. The comments of this one were the impetus for this entry:

Cynthia Ruccia, 55, a sales director for Mary Kay cosmetics in Columbus, Ohio, is organizing a group, Clinton Supporters Count Too, of mostly women in swing states who plan to campaign against Mr. Obama in November. “We, the most loyal constituency, are being told to sit down, shut up and get to the back of the bus,” she said.
First, Cynthia Ruccia, those who support the losing candidate have always been expected to accept their candidate's defeat, and they always will be expected to do so. Though it's not clearly stated, I assume that Clinton Supporters Count Too [sic] prefer McCain? Yet they consider themselves the most loyal constituency, I assume, of the Democratic Party?

A word of advice to you, Cynthia Ruccia, and to Clinton Supporters Count Too [sic]: Unlike Barack Obama, John McCain and the Republican Party will waste no time in telling you to "sit down, shut up and get to the back of the bus." If you don't, they'll just throw you under it. Please consider this advice carefully before you fling the rest of us down there with you.

Nobody Can Pan Out Like Obama:

Friday, May 16, 2008

Working Title: What. The. FUCK???

From CNN:

During a speech before the National Rifle Association convention Friday afternoon in Louisville, Kentucky, former Republican presidential candidate Mike Huckabee — who has endorsed presumptive GOP nominee John McCain — joked that an unexpected offstage noise was Democrat Barack Obama looking to avoid a gunman.

“That was Barack Obama, he just tripped off a chair, he's getting ready to speak,” said the former Arkansas governor, to audience laughter. “Somebody aimed a gun at him and he dove for the floor.”

Obama supports extending the assault weapons ban, limits on gun sales, and a national law against carrying concealed weapons, with exceptions for retired police and military personnel. John McCain – whose legislative record was awarded a C+ rating by the NRA in 2004, but has received a perfect score – will address the group later Friday afternoon. His speech will include remarks "on the issue of unconditional negotiation with state sponsors of terror" that aides tell CNN’s Dana Bash are a direct response to Obama’s comments earlier Friday.
How the fuck does any of what Huckabee said make sense? How? Just how? How does it lead the reader into a paragraph about Obama's position on guns? What the fuck is this?

Revised title, now that I'm calmer: Baptist Preacher Mike Huckabee Tells a Bunch of Crazy Motherfuckers He Thinks It's Funny to Imagine Barack Obama Being Threatened with a Gun. Then Those Crazy Motherfuckers Laugh with Him.

Thursday, May 15, 2008


I've been disappointed in both of the Democratic candidates in the past couple days for not taking more of an opportunity to discuss the disasters in Myanmar and China. What bothers me tremendously is that all of our politicians, Democratic and Republican, waste no time reminding us every chance they get that a "global society" is inevitable, and I agree. But when they say "global society" they seem to be employing easily decipherable code for the statement, "Look, there's nothing I can do to keep your jobs from being outsourced to countries where workers are worst exploited. The market is a fact of life that no one can change."

Yet, a global society is much more than a market. Living in one means understanding the scientific evidence that global warming/climate change, wrought disproportionately by the United States, does cause earthquakes and volcanoes, as well as cyclones, hurricanes, tsunami, flooding etc. And the difference between Myanmar now and New Orleans then is the far greater number of victims who are suffering unimaginably at the hands of a brutal regime that seems to want them dead. The difference between Chengdu now and New Orleans then is the far greater number of victims suffering unimaginably under a brutal regime that also refuses to acknowledge its own hand in the global climate crisis. (See here, here, and here for evidence that earthquakes are included in the symptoms of abusing the planet.)

And back to markets: if there are not fair labor protections in a global society, then labor protections in the U.S. are worth nothing except for those in the very few fields that cannot (yet) outsource jobs. And that number of fields and jobs is ever-dwindling with technological advance, as are labor protections. I'm wearied of politicians repeating the phrase "competition in a global market" when what they mean is "wage slavery."

I want to hear our politicians admit in bolder terms that we have blood on our hands.

(photo: earthworm)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Thanks, Keith Olbermann

In case you missed Keith Olbermann's "Special Comment" to Bush, this is really worth watching.

Monday, May 12, 2008

Too Little, Too Late

Photo: Ana Luisa Lima

From The Nation:
A few weeks ago, our foremost climatologist, NASA's Jim Hansen, submitted a paper to Science magazine with several co-authors. The abstract attached to it argued--and I have never read stronger language in a scientific paper--"if humanity wishes to preserve a planet similar to that on which civilization developed and to which life on earth is adapted, paleoclimate evidence and ongoing climate change suggest that CO2 will need to be reduced from its current 385 ppm to at most 350 ppm." Hansen cites six irreversible tipping points--massive sea level rise and huge changes in rainfall patterns, among them--that we'll pass if we don't get back down to 350 soon; and the first of them, judging by last summer's insane melt of Arctic ice, may already be behind us.
From NPR:
The U.N. chief called on Myanmar's military rulers Monday to "put people's lives first," saying hundreds of thousands of survivors from a devastating cyclone could die unless international aid workers are allowed to deliver food, water and medicine.

Speaking at the United Nations, Secretary General Ban Ki-moon said the country's isolationist regime has repeatedly thwarted international efforts to get aid to as many as 1.5 million who have been affected by Cyclone Nargis, which made landfall on May 3.

"We are at a critical point. Unless more aid gets into the country very quickly, we face an outbreak of infectious disease that could dwarf today's crisis," the secretary-general said. "I therefore call, in the most strenuous terms, on the Government of Myanmar to put its people's lives first."