Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Democratic National Debate #20

I would have blogged this last night, but after enduring pre-debate coverage of Cunningham's introduction to McCain's speech (I won't dignify it with a link), I needed a a glass of wine. It was best for everyone not to hear the things I was willing to say after said glass of wine.

On health care: Despite repeatedly interrupting and re-introducing the topic for 16 minutes (by Brian Williams' count), HRC did not effectively counter the argument below, and it's a good one. Given the caving in and corporate pandering that is central to her voting record, there is no reason to trust that HRC's mandate on individuals to purchase health insurance will be coupled with mandates on the industry. She does not explain how she would enforce a mandate and she does not elaborate on the subsidies she would provide. And as I've said before, mandates on individuals tend to outlast regulation on industry, even if she did enforce regulation on industry. A mandate would enable her to say later, "When I took office, 48 million people were uninsured, and now..." (Pan out to all of us peeping through the bars of debtors' prison).

Additionally, her claim that 15 million people will be left out under Obama's plan is questionable. Perhaps there are 15 million people who "can [ostensibly] afford" health insurance but don't have it. What is the measure by which she can determine this? A crystal ball? She has no way of determining the financial obligations of those 15 million whose salaries suggest that they can afford health insurance. They may be paying child support, massive student loan debts, and/or sub-prime mortgages.

OBAMA: The reason she thinks that there are more people covered under her plan than mine is because of a mandate. That is not a mandate for the government to provide coverage to everybody; it is a mandate that every individual purchase health care.

And the mailing that we put out accurately indicates that the main difference between Senator Clinton's plan and mine is the fact that she would force in some fashion individuals to purchase health care.

If it was not affordable, she would still presumably force them to have it, unless there is a hardship exemption as they've done in Massachusetts, which leaves 20 percent of the uninsured out. And if that's the case, then, in fact, her claim that she covers everybody is not accurate.

Now, Senator Clinton has not indicated how she would enforce this mandate. She hasn't indicated what level of subsidy she would provide to assure that it was, in fact, affordable. And so it is entirely legitimate for us to point out these differences.

But I think it's very important to understand the context of this, and that is that Senator Clinton has -- her campaign, at least -- has constantly sent out negative attacks on us, e-mail, robocalls, flyers, television ads, radio calls.

And, you know, we haven't whined about it because I understand that's the nature of these campaigns, but to suggest somehow that our mailing is somehow different from the kinds of approaches that Senator Clinton has taken throughout this campaign I think is simply not accurate.
While we are on the topic of whining: HRC's whining to Tim Russert that she often gets the first debate question came off as immature and undignified. Obama was often wise to let her carry on in this vain. Whining that the press is Obama-biased is ridiculous, given that that man has 11 straight wins, and she should thank her lucky stars that commentators at large continue to spin for her. Notice that since it's now very unlikely that she will win Texas, the media focus is on her imminent win in Ohio. I've never seen a candidate maintain the spotlight because s/he is perpetually one state away from domininating the race. How long can this go on?

But back to health care and a blatant untruth that shouldn't be perpetuated:

CLINTON: We will continue to have a hidden tax, so that when someone goes to the emergency room without insurance -- 15 million or however many -- that amount of money that will be used to take care of that person will be then spread among all the rest of us.
When these 15 million (?) people go to the emergency room without health insurance, the debt is not spread among all of us. The uninsured patient is billed at a much higher rate than one who has insurance (which caps the amount that a hospital can charge for its services). If the uninsured patient is unable to pay, the hospital can and will hold that individual responsible in the same manner that any financial institution can and will. The only way of avoiding the debt is by claiming bankruptcy, which the 2005 Bankruptcy Reform bill, first introduced in 2001 with HRC's blessing, as Obama later pointed out in the debate, made it near impossible to do for anyone whose income exceeds the median income for their state. I've blogged on this before, and I hate to belabor the point, as I've accused her of doing. But she irks the hell out of me by trying to create a delusion about "universal health care," assuming we'll think that means a single-payer system.

Stumbles for HRC: Pro-Iraq war, then against it. Pro-NAFTA, then against NAFTA, well kind of. Confident on creating 5 million jobs, actually losing 30,000 once in office, then admitting her estimate was contingent upon Al Gore becoming president, then having the gall in this debate to promise 5 million jobs again. Gleefully joining into the Rev. Farrakhan smear (yet another attempt by the press to associate Obama with the concept of "Islam" one way or another--would he have to "denounce" Muhammad Ali's support, too?) when it was none of her business, implicitly accusing Obama of anti-Semitism, and, by a very weird extension, trying to march him into the appalling lock-step favoring Israel's policies carte blanche.

Good things for Obama to call her out on: Counting her period as First Lady as "experience," cherry-picking and taking responsibility for popular [Bill] Clinton legislation, and most most most of all, driving the bus into the ditch.

Full transcipt of the debate.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

Hey, Newsweek? The First Woman President?

Martin Linsky, don't go ripping off the Funk's premiere post, Man!

I want some royalties. I'm getting one of those creative commons copyright agreements, too. Is there a lawyer in the house??

Photo of the Day

(Photo credit: roadlust1, h/t Kos)

Too bad that the rules don't seem to be the same for every political figure dressed in customary apparel. I wonder why that is.

Comment of the Day

From bdogg, on Bobby Jindal's hiring freeze:

This centralized micro-managing harbors the moral authority of fascism and the efficiency of communism. Jin-“dull” has created a bureaucracy to judge the merits of bureaucracy! At the job position level, how will his appointed turtle-soup brained minions better determine if its worth the money than the local administrator? “Boobie”seems to federalist big government pumpkin-head of the 1st order.

Let's keep up the rippin' on that Reagan-Baby Jindal.

Update: Just to further clarify: Hiring freezes are not usually concurrent with news like this:
State's surplus expected to double
Posted by The Times-Picayune December 10, 2007 9:19PM
Categories: Breaking News
By Jan Moller
Capital bureau

BATON ROUGE -- Boosted by strong income-tax collections and high energy prices, Louisiana's rosy revenue picture continued to improve Monday, when a forecasting panel added $1.1 billion to the state's budget projections for the next 18 months.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Sesame Street Was Funky

This is the first time in my adult life that I've felt proud of America, too, Michele Obama.

You know, the last time I felt this much hope in the air was when I was between the ages of 4 and 6. I'm not kidding about this. I watched Sesame Street as a little kid, and that was one show that really did its work. First, it portrayed a reality that was not at all like what was up in my neighborhood, but it was able to convince me that this is what was up in other neighborhoods and I couldn't wait to find them.

It is obviously not a rich neighborhood that the little girl moves into on the first Sesame Street episode, but it's the hippest neighborhood there is. The first day she gets there, Gordon shows her around and introduces her to the neighbors. He respects her as a human, you know, something that you really appreciate when you're a kid. He even takes her by his house, and his wife, Susan, invites her over for milk and cookies. It starts to look like Sesame Street is a place where anybody will give you milk and cookies just any old time 'cause that's just the decent thing to do. Plus, Susan is pretty and she wears really cool dresses and shoes, and you know that if you take Susan up on her invitations, she'll also tell you straight about all the woman-stuff you need to know when you're 4-6, and she'll talk to you like a person and not like a child.

That little girl gets to meet everybody in the neighborhood, too. There is no discrimination. I mean, Gordon says he wants to introduce her to Bert, who lives in the basement apartment with his friend Ernie. Ernie is taking a bath at the time, singing "Ring Around My Rosie" and, next thing you know, Bert is the bathroom with him. And, hey, that's totally cool. Ernie is a little on the dramatic side, and he breaks into tears of revelry about beautiful things, like the number 2. Bert consoles him. They're both such good people. Gordon also introduces her to Oscar, who lives in a garbage can. He's not ever in a good mood, and you can dig that 'cause you wouldn't be either if you lived in a garbage can, but that's no reason not to dig Oscar, too. He lives in the neighborhood.

That Mr. Hooper is a pushover. And you know that Maria will teach you how to knit and crochet, but not like grandmother shit. She knits and crochets the good shit.

All that "10-9-8-7-6-5-4-3-2-1!" is totally psychadelic. And you also get to see kids outside the city milking a cow. You learn that milking a cow is best because milking machines might hurt the cow. The show pops in with little vignettes, like a black hand and a white hand shaking in friendship. You're 4-6, and you know there's hope in the air while you're watching Sesame Street. There was not hope in the air in my household and some rough personal things went down, but what I'm trying to say is that there was a good and hopeful vibe in the air at large.

In addition, Beatles movies came on network tv on Saturday mornings, and once that stuff was in my head, I just wasn't settling anymore.

A couple years later it seemed like everything had just gone to hell. All the sudden, everything was dangerous and the "hip" outlook was to be scared of everything and everybody and move to the suburbs, out by the WalMart. Reagan got elected when I was 13. It was all over. Clinton didn't undo any of that. And then the country got overthrown by fascists. It's been a long stretch.

This all may sound crazy, reductive, or stupid, and readers (all three of you :) may have three words for me: "Save To Draft." But there's a feeling in the air now, despite everything fucked up about the country and the world, that somebody can help us figure out how to get (how to get) to Sesame Street. And it's not that "It takes a village" lady, either. If this is a delusion, I say let it be. But also refer to all the wonky posts on the blog about policy differences. They're real.

Sunday, February 24, 2008

Amorphous Post

1. See Bark, Bugs, Leaves and Lizards' excellent post on one New Orleans woman's "road home."

2. Bobby Jindal's "ethics reform" is about as convincing as John McCain's. Knowing that McCain has no chance against Obama, I wish that McCain would beknight Jindal as his losing mate, thereby forcing Jindal out of his office more often and giving him less time to deprive Louisiana of state services, at least for awhile.

3. Bill on Hillary: "Her fate should be decided in Texas." I agree. But if Mr. Funk had uttered such a statement about me, I'd get a restraining order.

4. Will somebody please serve Ralph Nader some Obama-aid?

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Femicide in Ciudad Juarez and Guatemala City

(Photo credit: jtowns)

How NAFTA figures in (from Intercontinental Cry: "The Femicide in Ciudad Juarez"):

For more than a decade, the cities of Chihuahua and Juarez, near the US-Mexico border, have been killing fields for young women. Over 400 women have been murdered and an additional 4000 women have gone missing since 1993.

As relayed on the Juarez Project website,

“A significant number of victims work in the maquiladora sector - sweatshops that produce for export, with 90% destined for the United States. The maquiladoras employ mainly young women, at poverty level wages. In combination with lax environmental regulations and low tariffs under the North America Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the maquiladoras are amassing tremendous wealth. Yet despite the crime wave, they offer almost no protection for their workers. High profile government campaigns such as Ponte Vista (Be Aware), a self defense program, and supplying women with whistles have been ineffective and are carried out mainly for public relations purposes.”
More about femicide in Guatemala and how U.S. policies figure in (from "Femicide in Guatemala" by Risa Grais-Targow,

As the United States and the rest of the world focus their attention on the Middle East, atrocities are taking place in other regions of the world unnoticed by the international community. The violence that ravaged Latin America during the 1980s is not over. A wave of violence is taking place at this moment in Guatemala that is unknown to most of the world. The targets are young women between the ages of 15 and 26, and the murders are taking place primarily in or around the nation’s capital, Guatemala City. The pattern of violence includes sexual assault and physical torture before the women are killed and left in public places. In a country fraught with residual violence from its thirty-year civil war, murders are not front-page stories. This is particularly true when the victims are women, who are not valued by paternalistic Guatemalan society.

In the past three years nearly 1,500 young women in Guatemala have been murdered. Already this year, 257 women have been murdered, with the perpetrators going unpunished.1 In the Mexican border towns of Ciudad Juarez and Chihuahua, a similar pattern of violence against women has caught the attention of international human rights groups and non-governmental organizations. According to a new report by Amnesty International, 370 women have been murdered in Mexico during the last
ten years.2 Among the responses to the international press on the Mexican killings is a new resolution in Congress (H.Res 466), which calls for the United States government to work with the Mexican authorities in an effort to solve the cases.
This article (in PDF) is a must-read. When I first heard about femicide, via a co-worker, the details were so horrific that I hoped they were the stuff of urban legend. They're not.

Friday, February 22, 2008


Police concerned about order to stop weapons screening at Obama rally
By JACK DOUGLAS Jr.Star-Telegram Staff Writer

DALLAS -- Security details at Barack Obama's rally Wednesday stopped screening people for weapons at the front gates more than an hour before the Democratic presidential candidate took the stage at Reunion Arena.

The order to put down the metal detectors and stop checking purses and laptop bags came as a surprise to several Dallas police officers who said they believed it was a lapse in security.

Dallas Deputy Police Chief T.W. Lawrence, head of the Police Department's homeland security and special operations divisions, said the order -- apparently made by the U.S. Secret Service -- was meant to speed up the long lines outside and fill the arena's vacant seats before Obama came on.
More when I pick up my jaw off the desk.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

If Only We Were So Lucky

Isn't it a buzzkill to see all this promise in the national elections, only to return to the bleak reality that we're stuck with abysmal state and local leadership?

I promised I'd keep you informed with any anecdotal evidence on the state hiring freeze. (here)

The youth correctional facility in need of a direct healthcare provider is still awaiting approval from Bobby Jindal's office. It is unlikely that the unemployed provider of their choice will still be available as time passes, and passes, awaiting that approval. If the chosen candidate accepts other employment before (and if?) an approval is granted by Angele Davis/Bobby Jindal, the facility will have to choose another candidate and start from square one.

But we're all saving money here, right?

Not Breaking News

(Photo Credit: GirlforGirl)

With the exception of Katrina coverage, I've gotten my news the old-fashioned way for the past 10 years--by reading it (on the internets). Lately, though, with all the debates and primary coverage, I've cautiously returned to shoddy politicotainment of the tv "news" channels. So last night during *Hardball,* I was sucked right into the "Breaking News," interruption of programming and all, that was the flap over John McCain's decade-old near-dalliance. Upon hearing the first bit of the news, that McCain's top aides had found it necessary to "protect" the man "from himself," I flew out of my chair and entreated a prominent N.O. blogger who I already knew was quite busy at the moment to turn on MSNBC right away. Gee, did I ever feel stupid as the coverage dragged on...and on. Back in my day, they used to interrupt programming only when something really bad really had happened.

There is absolutely nothing that would ever sway me to vote for John McCain. But damn, I really don't care if he almost, maybe, or did have a thing with a lobbyist eight years ago. While the tv news networks tossed around the story as though it was NYT itself interrupting their programming, I noticed that the kinda-sorta-maybe-coulda-been sex scandal was not even the focus of the NYT story to begin with.

I felt the same way about the Bill Clinton scandal and agree with Howard Zinn:

What the [Monica Lewinsky] incident showed was that a matter of personal behavior could crowd out of the public's attention far more serious matters, indeed, matters of life and death. The House of Representatives would impeach the president on matters of sexual behavior, but it would not impeach him for endangering the lives of children by welfare reform, or for violating international law in bombing other countries (Iran, Afghanistan, Sudan), or for allowing hundreds of thousands of children to die as a result of economic sanctions (Iraq) (659-660).*
That's the worry with McCain, as well as all that is metaphorically exemplified in the photo above. And now there's McCain's unfortunate but predictable response: to "go to war" with NYT.

* Source: Zinn, Howard. A People's History of the United States, 1492-
. New York: HarperCollins, 2003.

Update: Further Reading: Joseph A. Palermo, "John McCain and Vicki Iseman: It's the Money, Stupid (Huffington Post)

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Advice to the Clinton Campaign

1. I've never before seen any campaign coverage after which one candidate has 10 straight wins and the punditry and headlines to follow are crafted from the bizarre notion that the losing candidate will win some later states and take back the lead because the remaining demographic is "custom-made" for the losing candidate.

2. Buoying my understanding that fallacious charges of plagiarism are a desperately ineffective campaign strategy is the tendency of commenters on political posts nationwide to repeat the charge that Barack Obama has "plagerized." A cursory reading of my own blog would surely demonstrate that I don't use the spell-check, but mass inability to spell this word is a sure indicator that people in general don't know what it means, and, as an educator, I can tell you from experience that they don't.

3. Last night, MSNBC quoted well-placed "insiders" from the Clinton campaign as heartened by Clinton's recent attack ads. The logic was that she hadn't lost by as wide a margin after the attack ads as she did before, and that, therefore, the ads were working. A 15+-point lead for Obama in Wisconsin and a 50+-point lead in Hawaii: Yes, by all means, keep up those attack ads.

4. I never heard of the "Cult of Reagan," the "Cult of [Bill] Clinton" or the "Cult of [George W.] Bush." A repeated Rove-like effort to turn a candidate's strength, in this case his widespread support, into a weakness just isn't working, maybe because it's too tired and too unpleasantly familiar to Democratic voters. Suggesting overtly that if you vote for the other candidate, you've lost your mind simply lacks substance.

5. Going after pledged delegates and then denying it looks very bad for you.

6. U.S. voters have come to understand that a vote for a corporate-sponsored Democrat is just as bad as a vote for a Republican. Try to demonstrate that Clinton legislation favored the poor, resisted corporate-sponsored corruption, and provided labor protections in its trade agreements. Try to demonstrate that "welfare reform," "three-strikes" legislation, favoring privatization (including that of the military to Blackwater) were really populist moves. Try to demonstrate that intelligence leading to the war was so convincing that not to empty the U.S. Treasury into the pocket of Halliburton would have been perilous. And back off the charge that a comparison of records (which you probably already intend to back off) would show a substantive difference. It would. It would show that the current catch-phrases about Obama's substanceless rhetoric are propaganda.

Just try to be nice and show people what you're about. Warning: this may result in the perception that you are copying your opponent...whom you've recently accused of copying Deval Patrick.

Addendum: Of course, you can't demonstrate any of the points in #6 because you've not been a friend of the poor or working class or "The American People." I included Bill Clinton's legislation here because you lobbied for/supported it. Anyway, so maybe now accusing Obama of employing tactics "straight out of Karl Rove's playbook" by showing you up on these points will work. I doubt it, though: it was Rove who always falsely accused the opponent of the very type of smears he manufactured himself.

Addendum II (2/25): Bow out gracefully after your fate has been sealed in Texas. If you're so confident that Barack is going to let us down, then your prospects for running against him will be bright in 2012. Between now and then, I don't want to hear from you. It's too annoying to have to witness hatemongering from you and the GOP at the same time, saying the same things. Enough.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Monday, February 18, 2008

That Dog Won't Hunt

No, Hillary. You will not cut inroads into the English-teacher vote by accusing Barack of plagiarism.


NIU, Louisiana State Technical College, Virginia Tech, West Nickel Mines School, Columbine. We can dissect each of these incidents (domestic terrorist attacks? suicide shootings?) on a case-by-case basis and include new groups of people among those who cannot legally buy guns. We can arm ourselves on college campuses. We can heighten security in schools. We can be more vigilant. We can give up our civil liberties. But none of those measures are truly equipped to eradicate these types of incidents. The problem is internal to our society, like cancer.

We will not in our lifetimes see a U.S. Supreme Court who will interpret the Second Amendment as antiquated, referring only to a "well-armed militia." Measures such as the Brady Bill and bans on automatic assault weapons demonstrate some effectiveness, and I'm all for those measures, for quicker alerts and responses from security personnel once an incident occurs, etc. But these solutions are bandaids.

Frightened, mean, intolerant, impoverished, isolated societies, brainwashed to believe that real meaning resides only in the external and that power equals self-actualization, are built from the top down and not from the bottom up. And they consume themselves from the inside out. Those with the least emotional and psychological insulation, those on the fringes, will always be the first to buckle. If someone is emotionally injured, desperate, and deprived enough to die for the blood of others, that person will. It's an ironic inversion of the story of Christ in a society at large maniacally fixated on the story of Christ.

I've spent over half my life in college classrooms and have encountered literally thousands of students. Of the thousands, there were two I believed capable of violent outbursts. One appeared long before the Va. Tech, and one after, but the only safety nets that colleges and universities can develop to "catch" people do not and cannot work. The first student was delusional. He believed that I could read his mind. He was given to fits of anger and outbursts about a woman in his life whom he termed "The Bitch." There was one administrative policy in place that would drop him, against his will, from my class, where he declared he wanted to stay even though he was failing. That measure was to require him to undergo one psychological evaluation before returning. I was dissuaded from resorting to that option, however, since, unless he demonstrated himself enough of a clear and present danger to himself or others to necessitate immediate, involuntary hospitalization, nothing could keep him from making his way back onto campus or into my classroom. The tack I took, right or wrong, was to roll up my sleeves and convince him, since he thought that I could read his mind and knew what was best for him, that what I was "reading" was this: it was in his best interest to drop the class. I walked him to the proper office to do so. Once there, he conducted himself meekly and professionally. Administators present were unable to see signs of the problems described above. Next day, he came back to campus to thank me for forseeing the legal problems, involving imminent court appearances, caused by "The Bitch," that were to erupt that very day. He said he'd have not had the time to continue college, anyway, because of her. I bid him farewell and took a long, deep breath.

The other had recently returned from several extended tours of military duty. He was sleep deprived, given to fits of irrational anger and/or grief. He was fixated on the topic of automatic weapons. He felt persecuted by me and fellow classmates. He was eager to return to the exhilaration of active duty. He argued articulately in favor of speedy execution for "lawbreakers" in this country. But he never made threats and never would have. The college's finely crafted "nets" for students who exhibit disturbing behavior would not have caught him. They caught students who mouthed off in class or otherwise pissed off their professors. They caught students whom professors wanted to "teach a lesson."

Maybe this last description is a clear example of literal blowback. But I argue that they all are, metaphorically.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

State Ethics Reform

Photo Credit: Miley and JonasBrothers

From TP, 2/16/08:

State officials take freebies on eve of ethics session
by Robert Travis Scott,
Friday February 15, 2008, 8:05 PM
BATON ROUGE -- As the Hannah Montana hit song says, "Nobody's Perfect."

That might be one assessment this week after revelations that Gov. Bobby Jindal's top aide and several legislators used free tickets from the governor's New Orleans Arena suite to treat their daughters and other relatives to the teen idol's recent live concert, at the same time the administration is pushing a bill to prohibit free entertainment tickets to lawmakers.

Jindal Chief of Staff Timmy Teepell gave tickets to his brother's family to attend the sold-out Jan. 26 performance of Miley Cyrus, the 15-year-old sensation known by her TV-show rock star name, Hannah Montana. Although Teepell was doing what many other state officials have done for years in using the governor's complimentary suite tickets for the show, the freebie struck some as a poorly timed contradiction given the standards the governor is trying to set during the current legislative session on ethics.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Bush 1 Amore

No matter how things go for you romantically on this corporate-driven occasion, you'll probably feel comparatively lucky after reading this note:

At the time, Bush had fallen behind in the polls in his contest with Democratic Gov. Michael Dukakis of Massachusetts.

“Sweetsie,” Bush wrote. “Please look at how Mike and [his wife] Kitty do it. Try to be closer in more — well, er, romantic — on camera. I am practicing the loving look, and the creeping hand. Yours for better TV and more demonstrable affection. Your sweetie pie coo coo. Love ya, GB.”
From Politico

Happy Valentine's Day, FEMA

Photo Credit: Minxy
From Times Picayune, 2/14/07:

A day after federal health officials urged trailer residents to seek "safer housing" because of dangerously high formaldehyde levels in the government-provided trailer homes, FEMA representatives are scheduled to discuss recent test results at a noon press conference today.

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Clear Policy Differences

Though the title is unfortunate because we (I) have had enough of people speaking for entire demographics, Particia Wald's "Speaking for the Older Women: On Obama and Clinton" (Huffington Post) is worth reading, emailing, thinking about. Here's a tidbit, but, really, read the whole thing:

As someone who cares mightily about restoration of our country to conditions under which my grandchildren live and flourish, I have carefully assayed the dueling claims of Senator Clinton and Senator Obama to lead the nation. Senator Clinton proclaims a decisive advantage in experience that notably bears responsibility for some damaging policies as well. During my time on the bench, I saw the largest incarceration boom in the nation's history even as crime rates slowed. The 1995 "tough on crime" legislation sponsored by the Clinton White House, for which the First Lady lobbied, expanded the federal death sentence and gave fiscal incentives for states to legislate "truth in sentencing" laws. The Administration also supported a federal "three strikes" law patterned after California's that overwhelmed prisons and legislations that pushed youthful offenders into adult institutions.

The cumulative result of the policies was a generation of young men and women, heavily tilted toward minorities, which suffered more severely than their crimes warranted. Credible researchers and political leaders later repudiated these policies for their costliness, ineffectiveness in improving public safety, and devastating impact on families and minority communities. Since then Senator Clinton has shown reluctance to support retroactive application of the sentencing reductions for those in prison for crack cocaine violations whose penalties have since been drastically cut by the U.S. Sentencing Commission.

Senator Clinton's career, in my view, is that of a cautious and expedient legislator. Her ambivalent attitude toward the Iraq war -- particularly her failure to read the critical intelligence report before voting to authorize military action -- gives me pause when considering her claims to leadership and change.

I am impressed with Senator Obama's record. His well-documented years organizing and unifying poor communities in Chicago give him first-hand knowledge of conditions on the ground that a new President will surely need in tackling the still intractable issues of race and poverty. He has been an unwavering supporter of women's right to choose, despite the Clinton campaign's repeated misstatements of his record. He has played a leadership role in Illinois for children's health insurance and tax credits for working class families. As someone whose career has been in law enforcement, I especially admire his unremitting honesty and respect for law. His opposition to the Iraq war at a time when political leaders overwhelmingly supported it reflects sound judgment.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

More Anecdotal Evidence Regarding Bobby Jindal's Hiring Freeze

A local youth correctional facility is in need of a health care provider. The position is not exempt from the state hiring freeze. That facility must choose a candidate, explain to the candidate that the position pends approval from Jindal's office, then send an exemption request and wait for an answer from Angele Davis. What are the chances that an unemployed health care provider in this area will still be available when/if the request is approved? Stay tuned and I'll tell you. Tick tock.

Amnesty for Domestic Spying

From Glenn Greenwald's "Amnesty Day for Bush and Lawbreaking Telecoms" (Salon):

The Senate today -- led by Jay Rockefeller, enabled by Harry Reid, and with the active support of at least 12 (and probably more) Democrats, in conjunction with an as-always lockstep GOP caucus -- will vote to legalize warrantless spying on the telephone calls and emails of Americans, and will also provide full retroactive amnesty to lawbreaking telecoms, thus forever putting an end to any efforts to investigate and obtain a judicial ruling regarding the Bush administration's years-long illegal spying programs aimed at Americans. The long, hard efforts by AT&T, Verizon and their all-star, bipartisan cast of lobbyists to grease the wheels of the Senate -- led by former Bush 41 Attorney General William Barr and former Clinton Deputy Attorney General Jamie Gorelick -- are about to pay huge dividends, as such noble efforts invariably do with our political establishment...

UPDATE: The Dodd/Feingold amendment to remove telecom immunity from the bill just failed by a whopping vote of 31-67 -- 20 votes shy of the 50 needed for a passage. A total of 18 Democrats joined all Republicans in voting for immunity: Bayh, Inouye, Johnson, Landrieu, McCaskill, Ben Nelson, Bill Nelson, Stabenow, Feinstein, Kohl, Pryor, Rockefeller, Salazar, Carper, Mikulski, Conrad, Webb, and Lincoln. Obama voted against immunity, and Hillary Clinton was the only Senator not voting. Thus, the breakdown on the vote was similar to what it always is:

Democrats -- 18-31

Republicans -- 0-49

Shame, shame, shame, shame on all of you who voted for immunity! Mary Landrieu, you'll hear from me (again). And what are you thinking, HRC?? Is this another instance in which your loyalties (to corporate interests vs. prospective voters) are split and, therefore, you did not vote?

Obama, et al, thank you for voting against immunity!

Doubtless, this will be another big primary day in which we hear repeatedly that there are no differences between our candidates except for charisma, gender, and race. Not so.

Monday, February 11, 2008

What Is It Good For?

Okay, I shamelessly stole this off the site Bark, Bugs, Leaves, and Lizards. dsbnola posted it first.

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Bobby Jindal and Angele Davis Have Got Your Back!

I'll have more to say when I'm able to calm down about this.

Division of Administration Commissioner releases information on hiring freeze
For Release On: February 04, 2008

Baton Rouge – Commissioner of Administration Angele Davis today released a first report of information pertaining to the limited state government hiring freeze, enacted by Gov. Bobby Jindal by executive order on January 15, his first full day in office.

The executive order authorized Commissioner Davis to grant hiring exemptions “on a case by case basis or by category,” and on January 17 the commissioner issued to state departments and agencies implementation guidelines for the exemption request process, consisting of a full, written, 10-point justification for the request, along with a notification that “only critical positions will be approved.”

Information relevant to Executive Order BJ 2008-03, “Limited Hiring Freeze”

Vacant positions in state government, as of December 2007: 4,089
Position exemption requests received, as of today: 488
Position exemptions approved: 140
Positions requested that were not approved: 87
Position exemption requests under review by Office of Planning and Budget: 261

Significant components of the reported numbers

53 of the position exemptions approved are for temporary, seasonal tax-related positions at the Department of Revenue.
52 of the position exemptions approved are for security and public safety personnel at the Department of Corrections (46 Correctional Security Officers, 6 Probation and Parole Officers).
180 position exemption requests are from the Department of Veterans Affairs, 175 of which are still under review.
46 position exemption requests, all still under review, are from the Department of Culture, Recreation and Tourism

Commissioner Davis released the following statement along with today’s report:

“This initial report shows that the hiring freeze is working and that we have successfully begun to execute Gov. Jindal’s order to limit the growth in government positions and to reach the goal of saving taxpayers at least $25 million. It also shows that the process for approving only critical positions, while subject to meticulous scrutiny, is working efficiently and effectively. To me, perhaps the most important item in this initial report is the number of requests compared to total number of vacancies, in that, as a result of great cooperation from Gov. Jindal's cabinet secretaries, the very existence of the hiring freeze appears to have restrained even the attempt to fill positions.

“And it’s crucial to understand the context of this hiring freeze and why it’s important. To start, even if you discount hurricane-related federal funding, between 2001 and 2008, Louisiana government expenditures increased by $4 billion or 42 percent. Last year alone, the state authorized 1,771 new jobs. We must begin to get a handle on this type of growth, and we can begin with these 4,089 vacancies, all of which I view as potential opportunities to begin saving money.

“While much attention is given to the state’s current surplus and excess revenue, not enough concern, in my view, is given to the fact that just a few years from now our state budget is projected to be in the red by an estimated $1.4 billion. We must not wait to begin preparing for a potentially worse financial picture ahead of us.

“A state hiring freeze, of course, is not the complete answer to this problem. It is a beginning of a much needed and continuing effort at fiscal reform. And the purpose of fiscal reform is to say that if government must spend tax dollars on certain projects and programs, it has an obligation to demonstrate to the taxpayer that they’re needed, achieving desired results, and being pursued with the least amount of money possible. But fiscal reform must also be applied to the bureaucracy itself. As with projects and programs, government should not be hiring people to fill vacant positions just because those vacancies exist and because filling them is just the way ‘it’s always been done.’ It should fill vacancies because those jobs are necessary to achieve desired results.

“Government that grows too big can prove cumbersome to the very people it’s supposed to serve, but it also poses a threat to the state’s economy because it saps resources from private citizens who instinctively know how to direct it more efficiently. To government workers and taxpayers alike, I offer the same assurance: excellent public service and taxpayer accountability are not mutually exclusive activities. In fact, the former is more often achieved by adhering to the latter.”

Additional Contact Information:

Contact Name Contact Phone Contact Email Contact Fax
Michael DiResto 225-342-7158 225-342-1057 _On_Hiring_Freeze.doc

My favorite paragraph of the the release is the rationale at the end: This is for your own good, State. Notice there's no discussion of saving money by creating a more competitive bidding process for state contracts or creating more transparency in that process.

Because I am able to comment with authority here only about the impact on higher education, that's not to say that I don't believe that many other state institutions are losing applicants (state health care support staff, included) to private institutions.

But here's anecdotal evidence from one department in the state university that I'm most familiar with: for several years since Katrina, there has been a critical need for a professor in a core subject area. Post-Katrina freezes and budget cuts prevented the position from being filled. Once funds were available because of a much-needed injection of state funding, the position was advertised. The university sent department administrators to the annual meetng of the most respected professional organization in the field to interview and shortlist nationally competitive candidates. Five candidates were brought to the university for an extensive interview process. When the hiring freeze took effect without warning, and these candidates were notified that the decision did not rest with the university itself but pended the approval of Angele Davis, all applicants moved on. The university hiring window that opens narrowly in the winter/spring cannot be gambled away by educators in need of employment.

The press release does not indicate what "desired results" are when it comes to positions that might be eligible for exemption from the hiring freeze. But if we assume that desired results are in keeping with the Republican strategy of the past couple decades, there is a blatant agenda to financially cripple state university and college budgets, not to avoid a deficit, but to erode the idea that "government" can compete with any sort of private enterprise. I think of the frequent comment of comedian Bill Maher, whom I often agree with: "The republicans run on the ticket that government doesn't work. Then they f--k it up and say, 'See?'

In the current situation, I guess if we want quality, we'd better look to the private sector? And I don't think that the 8 or so bucks we might save on our state taxes as a result of the $25 million savings is going to provide us as individuals with the extra cash to look there. I know it won't in terms of private vs. public tuition. But I guess it's true that you get what you pay for.

Friday, February 8, 2008

The Defender

"Quote of the Day" from Salon

Former President Bill Clinton, speaking to a reporter from a local NBC affiliate in Maine about his role in his wife Hillary Clinton's presidential campaign so far; he was responding to a question about whether he has any regrets about anything he's said or done:

"Everything I have said has been factually accurate. [Cough up evidence of the voter intimidation in Nevada. Correct mis-statements about "the African-American vote." And, of course, see below.]

"But I think the mistake that I made is to think that I was a spouse like any other spouse who could defend his candidate. I think I can promote Hillary but not defend her because I was president. [What does this sentence mean?] I have to let her defend herself or have someone else defend her. [Have you tried calling The Wolf?]

"But a lot of the things that were said [what and by whom?] were factually inaccurate. I did not ever criticize Senator Obama personally in South Carolina. I never criticized him personally.

"But I think whenever I defend her, I, A, risk being misquoted and, B, risk being the story. I don't want to be the story. [?]

"This is her campaign and her presidency and her decisions. [*Oh really?] And so, even if I win an argument with another candidate, it's not the right thing to do. I need to promote her but not defend her.

"And I learned a very valuable lesson from all that dust-up."

And, finally, have I missed the explanation of what HRC needs to be defended against?? And to humbly contribute to dsbnola's commentary on Hillary's overuse of "I," Bill has a whole 'nother thing going here: if this is about promoting HRC, would it hurt to start a sentence with "Hillary" or "She"? *Grammatically, every reference to HRC here is an OBJECT.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

Read Barack Obama's Speech from Tulane


And voila, Charlotte:

I beg to differ on some points, though, B.O.: it wasn't just "a few days after Katrina" that we saw terrible negligence. Another: that the storm was something that "President Cowen was able through" [read: able to exploit]. I think that the American Association of University Professors would agree on that one.

But I've truly never seen a more gifted orator running for any public office and certainly not for president. I'm always struck by the fact that even though Barack Obama returns to similar themes, his speeches are unique, stylistically impressive, and inspring to audiences. That is an amazing feat for someone who is speaking somewhere almost hourly. And despite that his speeches are intricately focused on a particular occasion, I never see him look at notes, and there is no teleprompter in the stump speeches. There's no way to do that without intense personal involvement in and conviction about the policies and ideas he is setting forth.

I've seen him twice in the past year, both times in Austin, and both times outside in the pelting rain, first speaking to a group of up to 20,000 and second to a group of 3500 (max capacity for the venue). People waited patiently through the rain for hours, and it's hard to feel "inspired" in the rain, but inspired the audiences were when he spoke.

His performances are a far stretch from what I saw of Al Gore in 2000. As much as I respect Al Gore for everything he has done, I was deeply troubled when I saw him speak at the River Walk. His speech ran about 10 minutes, and there were a few very superficial references to this city (The Big Easy, etc), but what followed was so staged that it truly resembled a music video...the same one I'd seen over and over. He seemed disconnected from the crowd. The catch phrases were hard to swallow: "accountability for teachers" (a concept I've always found revolting in its implicit accusation), "a strengthened Medicare system," blah blah.

The intellect and focus and connectedness we see in Obama are quite rare.

And: "To Barack Obama: New Orleans' Mental Health Crisis #2" rxfogarty

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Mardi Gras, Ups and Downs

Photo Credit: G.J. Charlet

Though Lundi Gras and the build-up to Fat Tuesday were fun and exciting, and I'm so glad to be in New Orleans, I was gripped by an unexpected and deep-seated funk on the big day. Made it to Zulu, which was wonderful, but afterward somehow didn't feel like doing much of anything for the rest of the day.

BUT, many links to great Mardi Gras photos from N.O. bloggers posted by Sophmom at DotCalm!

From Times-Pic, 2/5/2007, "Mardi Gras Uplifts a Beleaguered City":

"Things are pretty hard around here," Handy said. "People didn't have much before the storm and a lot less now. So a nice day with the kids having fun is a good thing."

As a more somber tone dominated on Ash Wednesday, it was clear Mardi Gras had delivered a much-needed tonic.

Hotels reported occupancy rates near 95 percent — an encouraging achievement considering Mardi Gras' early date kept away the spring break crowd.

With slightly smaller crowds and the attention of the national news media focused on the Super Tuesday elections, local residents found Carnival 2008 a time to relax and reconnect with neighborhood traditions.

Still, the fatigue of the storm — which flooded 80 percent of New Orleans and killed 1,300 in the area — could be felt.

Carnival provides a respite, but it also creates problems, said Dr. Mark Townsend, vice chairman at the Louisiana State University Health Sciences Center.

"From a psychiatric standpoint it lifts people's moods," Townsend said. "But it also stressed the psychiatric system that we have. We can't take care of many people now and this morning we have more than a dozen people here awaiting emergency beds."

Since Katrina, New Orleans has been gripped by a shortage of psychiatric services, with fewer than 100 beds available for acute treatment, Townsend said. Health groups have reported a surge in mental care needs attributable to the storm.

That's on top of the emotional free-for-all that accompanies the excesses of Carnival.

"Mardi Gras often causes an uptick in psychiatric problems because people are using alcohol or drugs or can't get their medications," Townsend said. "It's not a good time to have a psychiatric problem here."

And I have it from reliable local sources that though the hiring freeze was "lifted" for many state direct-care providers, it still creates myriad problems in filling a lot of direct-care and support positions quickly in state hospitals. And that is a huge sign of a big "psychiatric problem" in our state government.

Also, some must-reads: Maitri's in-depth post on "rebuilding below sea level." And Gentilly Girl's killer rant against corporatizing Mardi Gras.

Monday, February 4, 2008

Happy Lundi Gras!

"Bounty in a Clump" leads to "Lundi Gras Tree"

Yes! Of course I'm drunk! Cheers! And we have thus decorated the barren tree in the front yard. All passersby thought that this was a superb idea, helped wholeheartedly, and declared the project beautiful. What haunts my mind: I'm afraid that this is some kind of terrible evironmental offense, that everyone (else) knows the last thing you're supposed to do is throw beads into your tree. If that's the case, earnestly, I ask, please let me know. Otherwise, I am aware that plastic takes about 500 years to biodegrade, and I will therefore conscientiously collect the beads in due time from both tree and yard. But for now, Happy Lundi Gras again :)

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Toni Morrison Endorses Obama

Photo Credit: Pan-African Wire

Dear Senator Obama,

This letter represents a first for me--a public endorsement of a Presidential candidate. I feel driven to let you know why I am writing it. One reason is it may help gather other supporters; another is that this is one of those singular moments that nations ignore at their peril. I will not rehearse the multiple crises facing us, but of one thing I am certain: this opportunity for a national evolution (even revolution) will not come again soon, and I am convinced you are the person to capture it.

May I describe to you my thoughts?

I have admired Senator Clinton for years. Her knowledge always seemed to me exhaustive; her negotiation of politics expert. However I am more compelled by the quality of mind (as far as I can measure it) of a candidate. I cared little for her gender as a source of my admiration, and the little I did care was based on the fact that no liberal woman has ever ruled in America. Only conservative or "new-centrist" ones are allowed into that realm. Nor do I care very much for your race[s]. I would not support you if that was all you had to offer or because it might make me "proud."

In thinking carefully about the strengths of the candidates, I stunned myself when I came to the following conclusion: that in addition to keen intelligence, integrity and a rare authenticity, you exhibit something that has nothing to do with age, experience, race or gender and something I don't see in other candidates. That something is a creative imagination which coupled with brilliance equals wisdom. It is too bad if we associate it only with gray hair and old age. Or if we call searing vision naivete. Or if we believe cunning is insight. Or if we settle for finessing cures tailored for each ravaged tree in the forest while ignoring the poisonous landscape that feeds and surrounds it. Wisdom is a gift; you can't train for it, inherit it, learn it in a class, or earn it in the workplace--that access can foster the acquisition of knowledge, but not wisdom.

When, I wondered, was the last time this country was guided by such a leader? Someone whose moral center was un-embargoed? Someone with courage instead of mere ambition? Someone who truly thinks of his country's citizens as "we," not "they"? Someone who understands what it will take to help America realize the virtues it fancies about itself, what it desperately needs to become in the world?

Our future is ripe, outrageously rich in its possibilities. Yet unleashing the glory of that future will require a difficult labor, and some may be so frightened of its birth they will refuse to abandon their nostalgia for the womb.

There have been a few prescient leaders in our past, but you are the man for this time.

Good luck to you and to us.

Toni Morrison

Saturday, February 2, 2008

Mardi Gras Rolls On!

Muses was my great favorite so far. Psychadelic butterflies and shoes, gorgeous floats, unique and copious throws, as always! I'm not handy with a camera, but Bark, Bugs, Leaves, and Lizards has great photos here. And G-Bitch showcases some killer Muses shoes!

Friday, February 1, 2008

Guess What--

Photo Credit: Karl Philip M.G.

From John Nichols' "An Unreasonable Man May Run Again," The Nation:

Nader has been absolutely consistent in one thing, however, and that is his rejection of Hillary Clinton, who he dismisses as "a panderer" with "no political fortitude." Before the Iowa caucuses, Nader signed an anti-Clinton letter that asked: "Do you really believe if we replace a bunch of corporate Republicans with a bunch of corporate Democrats, that anything meaningful is going to change?"

"This has to stop. It's that simple," Nader and his allies said of the Clinton candidacy in particular and compromises on the part of the Democratic Party in general.

As for Republican frontrunner John McCain, Nader correctly characterizes the Arizona senator -- who is two years his junior -- as "the candidate of perpetual war."

There's not much question that Nader would be willing to run against Clinton and McCain. Whether he would want to join a race featuring McCain and Barack Obama -- whose candidacy has at least something of the insurgent character that Nader has sought to restore to American politics -- remains to be determined.

Conveniently, Nader will spend the month in which Clinton and Obama resolve their battle for the Democratic nomination exploring whether to mount a 2008 campaign of his own.