Tuesday, November 28, 2006
Anyway, I am consistently shocked by the amount of lies, misrepresentation, intellectual dishonesty, hypocricy, and hateful speech to be found on the shows of Rush Limbaugh, Sean Hannity, and Michael Savage.
(Okay, to be honest, I'm not really shocked - these are typical Republican tactics. What is a better way to say it - I'm disheartened that it is so brazen and people actually accept this tripe.)
There is too much of it to chronicle - but I'm especially apalled today by Sean Hannity. Back in the spring, he spent show after show after show defending the alleged rapists in the Durham, NC lacrosse team incident. What possible reason to defend such behavior? Astonishing.
Today on his show he proceeded to defend the Michael Richards racial slur incident - and push blame upon the minorities in the audience, one of whom was a guest on his show. Why defend such action? Astounding.
And then - in his next segment - he proceeds to defend the alleged murderers who fired over 50 rounds in killing an unarmed young groom at his bachelor party. Again, what possible use is there in defending such horrific behavior? Bewildering.
This is reprehensible - and anyone who listens to these shows should be offended. Even if you are a conservtive, or even a Republican - if you condone such reprehensible behvior you should rationally and critically think about why. Hannity certainly won't - he traded rational and critical thought for ratings years ago.
Monday, November 27, 2006
If anyone who is reading this blog plans to go see a movie over this holiday season, I would highly encourage you to go see Bobby.
Bobby depicts life in the Ambassador Hotel on the day that Robert F. Kennedy was assassinated there. The movie itself does not primarily follow the story of Bobby Kennedy that day, rather it focuses upon a series of fictional characters who were in the hotel that day. In so doing, it depicts the time and the feeling of the last moments of the 1968 Kennedy Campaign, and the first moments of America afterwards.
This is a time of America that I know less about than most others. And I don't know that I've ever spent time thinking about how significant a moment the assassination of Bobby Kennedy was in American history. Of course, I'd always lumped his death into the trifecta of 60's assassinations, along with his brother John F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr. But I have always felt those others were more "important." This movie made me re-think that.
To be fair, this movie is not a work of history - but fiction. The characters the film follows through the day are creations used to tell a broader story. But that story is significant, and this movie is a useful tool to tell it. The movie is unashamedly emotional - even before the assassination scene. It is unapologetically "pro-Kennedy" - when Kennedy is seen in the film it is in old news footage and his spoken word through various speeches. When the film is not using 60's footage, often the characters speak of "Bobby" in reverent and idealistic tones. These aspects are used to capture a feeling of a moment in time, a moment in American history that I was captivated by.
When Bobby Kennedy died, so did American optimism. I had never comprehended that before. It was a moment of utter change in the history of our nation - never since have we as a nation had a sense that something was coming that was better, that was more, that was deeper. That we are on the verge of the next American evolution. America doesn't feel these things anymore. Historian Michael Beschloss has said that you can almost date the death of liberalism in this country to the events of mid-1968. I think you can date the end of American optimism to the same date.
We used to feel such optimism.
America had Washington, Jefferson, Hamilton, and Marshall that gave us a united, free, representative government. Such as the world had never seen before.
America had Lincoln, who decided to keep his still-new nation united, and to free men and women held in the bondage of slavery.
America had Teddy Roosevelt who busted trusts and represented a new progressivism.
America had Franklin Roosevelt who told us all we had to fear was fear itself, led us through the most difficult economic trial our nation has faced, and through one of the most difficult international conflict the world has faced.
Then America had John Kennedy - for a very short time - who was showing us to ask not what our country can do for us, but rather what we can do for our country. But he was taken. We had Martin Luther King, Jr. - also for a very short time - who showed that character, integrity, and non-violence can lead to fundamental social change. Then he was taken.
And we could have had Bobby Kennedy, who was intently focused upon our inequities - racial inequities, financial inequities, etc. And, finally, Bobby was taken too.
That ended it. American optimism. It hasn't been the same since them. Since then we've had the power-hunger of Nixon, the trickle-down excess of Reagan, and the neoconservatism of the second Bush.
Within 30 minutes of this film's opening, I realized that was the story - the death of American optimism that accompanied the assassination of Bobby Kennedy. Such a thought had never occurred to me before, but it certainly struck me while watching this film.
That's why - even though the film overtly pulls emotional strings, and is no work of history - Bobby is absolutely worth seeing. Because it gives a glipse of how important a day that was in American history - through the impressions delivered by these characters.
My wife and I watched this film in Memphis, TN. After being so touched by the film, we drove by the Lorraine Hotel - the site of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. It just seemed to make sense. These senseless deaths - more than senseless, history-changing - took so much from what America could have been. At least it seems that way. It is a foolish conceit to ask "what might have been" questions about history. Whatever I perceive as "might have been" wasn't - and isn't. The question we should ask is not "what might have been." The questions each of us should ask is - Are we continuing the legacy? Are we standing for the same things these men stood for? Are we resisting inequity - promoting equality. Resisting violence - promoting peace? Are these the things we stand for?
We have to be willing to commit to create the things we wish had been. We - collectively - have to return optimism to America again. Sure, it takes great leaders to do that - but it also takes everyday people refusing to accept leaders who don't.
America is still full of possibilities. It's our responsibility to fulfill them.
Put simply, the rich pay a lot of taxes as a total percentage of taxes collected, but they don’t pay a lot of taxes as a percentage of what they can afford to pay, or as a percentage of what the government needs to close the deficit gap.
Mr. Buffett compiled a data sheet of the men and women who work in his office. He had each of them make a fraction; the numerator was how much they paid in federal income tax and in payroll taxes for Social Security and Medicare, and the denominator was their taxable income. ...
It turned out that Mr. Buffett, with immense income from dividends and capital gains, paid far, far less as a fraction of his income than the secretaries or the clerks or anyone else in his office. Further, in conversation it came up that Mr. Buffett doesn’t use any tax planning at all. He just pays as the Internal Revenue Code requires. “How can this be fair?” he asked of how little he pays relative to his employees. “How can this be right?”
Even though I agreed with him, I warned that whenever someone tried to raise the issue, he or she was accused of fomenting class warfare.
“There’s class warfare, all right,” Mr. Buffett said, “but it’s my class, the rich class, that’s making war, and we’re winning.”
In fact, the federal government collected roughly $1.004 trillion in income taxes from individuals in fiscal 2000, the last full year of President Bill Clinton’s merry rule. It fell to a low of $794 billion in 2003 after Mr. Bush’s tax cuts (but not, you understand, because of them, his supporters like to say). Only by the end of fiscal 2006 did income tax revenue surpass the $1 trillion level again.
By this time, we Republicans had added a mere $2.7 trillion to the national debt. So much for tax cuts adding to revenue. To be fair, corporate profits taxes have increased greatly, as corporate profits have increased stupendously. This may be because of the cut in corporate tax rates. Anything is possible.
The sad fact is that spending rises every year, no matter what people want or say they want. ... But spending has risen every year since 1940 except for a few years after World War II and a brief period after the Korean War.
The imperatives for spending are built into the system, and now, with entitlements expanding rapidly, increased spending is locked in. Medicare, Social Security, interest on the debt — all are growing like mad, and how they will ever be stopped or slowed is beyond imagining. Gross interest on Treasury debt is approaching $350 billion a year. ...
One would think that big deficits would be highly inflationary, according to Keynesian economics. But we have modest inflation (except in New York City, where a martini at a good bar is now $22). On the other hand, we have all that interest to pay, soon roughly $7 billion a week, a lot of it to overseas owners of our debt. This, to me, seems to matter.
Besides, if it doesn’t matter, why bother to even discuss balancing the budget? Why have taxes at all? Why not just print money the way Weimar Germany did? Why not abolish taxes and add trillions to the deficit each year? ... If deficits don’t matter, why not spend as much as we want, on anything we want?
It makes my head spin, and I guess it shows how old I am. But I thought that conservatives were supposed to like balanced budgets. I thought it was the conservative position to not leave heavy indebtedness to our grandchildren. I thought it was the conservative view that there should be some balance between income and outflow. When did this change?
Oh, now, now, now I recall. It changed when we figured that we could cut taxes and generate so much revenue that we would balance the budget. But isn’t that what doctors call magical thinking? Haven’t the facts proved that this theory, though charming and beguiling, was wrong?
Friday, November 17, 2006
Milton Friedman, Free Markets Theorist, Dies at 94
Milton Friedman, the grandmaster of free-market economic theory in the postwar era and a prime force in the movement of nations toward less government and greater reliance on individual responsibility, died today in San Francisco, where he lived. He was 94. ...
Conservative and liberal colleagues alike viewed Mr. Friedman, a Nobel prize laureate, as one of the 20th century’s leading economic scholars, on a par with giants like John Maynard Keynes and Paul Samuelson.
Flying the flag of economic conservatism, Mr. Friedman led the postwar challenge to the hallowed theories of Lord Keynes, the British economist who maintained that governments had a duty to help capitalistic economies through periods of recession and to prevent boom times from exploding into high inflation.
In Professor Friedman’s view, government had the opposite obligation: to keep its hands off the economy, to let the free market do its work. He was a spiritual heir to Adam Smith, the 18th-century founder of the science of economics and proponent of laissez-faire: that government governs best which governs least.
The only economic lever that Mr. Friedman would allow government to use was the one that controlled the supply of money — a monetarist view that had gone out of favor when he embraced it in the 1950s. He went on to record a signal achievement, predicting the unprecedented combination of rising unemployment and rising inflation that came to be called stagflation. His work earned him the Nobel Memorial Prize in Economic Science in 1976.
Prof. Friedman was one of the great thinkers of the 20th century. Altough he is now gone, his legacy will surely last for generations to come - just as the names Adam Smith and John Maynard Keynes are still rembered.
That makes two giants of economic thought lost this year. I posted earlier this year about the loss of John Kenneth Galbraith - another great thinker.
Prior related post:
Thursday, November 09, 2006
But, you know, everything old will be new again...
It looks like there are signs of life for the Texas Democratic party. Small signs, to be sure, but indicatations that the party is gaining strength nonetheless.
The Houston Chronicle has two interesting articles today about the Democratic signs of life: Warning for GOP in Harris County and Democrats Turn Dallas County a Shade of Blue.
From the first -
Harris County Democratic and Republican officials have looked at Tuesday's local election results and they agree: The GOP-dominated county government could be recaptured by Democrats as soon as 2008. ...This is a good sign for Democrats in Texas and Harris County...but it should be tempered with the caveats suggested in the article - this year in Texas was unique because of the 5-way Gubernatorial race and the national winds of Iraq and Republican corruption impacting so many voters.
In an election when many ethnic minority voters didn't vote, Republican judicial candidates on the bottom half of the Harris County ballot won by an average of fewer than four percentage points — 52 percent to 48 percent.
The average margin four years ago was more than nine points.
If minority voters had been energized, as they might be in the 2008 presidential year, it could have been a Democratic sweep, some analysts said.
They point to Dallas County, long a GOP stronghold, where Democrats claimed every countywide seat elected Tuesday. ...
But the demographic trends are long-term: The Hispanic population is booming and the Anglo population is not.
"The Republican Party is not attracting minority voters the way it should. I've been saying this for 10 years," [Republican County Commissioner Steve] Radack said. ...
Rice University political science professor Bob Stein said an immediate effect of Tuesday's local and national results could be interest from talented Democrats who realize they have a legitimate chance to be elected next time around. ...
But the demographic and political trends seem clear.
"Doomsday is coming," said UH political science professor Richard Murray.
Now the Dallas County story -
The home of glitzy restaurants, million-dollar condos and six-figure Neiman Marcus holiday baubles has a new distinction that has nothing to do with its oversupply of Hummers and BMWs.More good news. One key thing that both articles address - the long-term story is already written. Demographic changes in Texas are happening - and happening so fast - that over time this state will be turning back to the Democratic party.
Dallas County still calls its historic courthouse Old Red, but on Tuesday it went "blue."
A national wave of Democratic voting and changing demographics swept Republicans out of power in the county as the GOP surrendered 42 judgeships, the district's attorney office and the county judge's seat.
"Dallas has become a very competitive two-party county and very sensitive to changes in the national political mood," said Matthew Wilson, a political scientist at Southern Methodist University. "The difference in this election was that more Democrats came out and more voted a straight party ticket."
Wilson said demographic changes gradually have been turning the county of 2.3 million residents more Democratic. Hispanics, who locally have traditionally voted Democratic by a two-to-one margin, have continued to move into the city and aging inner-ring suburbs such as Irving, Grand Prairie and Garland.
Meanwhile, white middle-class residents who tend to vote Republican have continued to move to Collin County suburbs such as Plano and McKinney, while middle-class blacks, who lean Democratic, have moved to suburbs such as Lancaster in southern Dallas County.
Finally, he said, urban revitalization in the city center has brought young singles who also tend to vote Democratic.
Cal Jillson, another SMU political scientist, said he and others expected Democrats to slowly gain offices this year, in 2008 and 2010 because of those trends. "Instead, the national trend brought them in all at once," he said. ...
It will take at least one or two more cycles of Democrats holding gains before the county could be called safely Democratic, Wilson said.
Kind of explains the Right's irrational xenophobia.
It is a long-term process, but the Democratic Party is growing at the grassroots level. And - if it's not getting old yet - I want to give another tip-of-the-hat to Howard Dean. This is what the 50-state plan is all about - grow the grassroots party in every state, regardless of how red that state may be. Overtime, those investments are going to pay massive dividends.
Today, Dallas County, tomorrow, Harris, the next - Austin. Texas Democrats are coming back.
This demonstrates just how tragically incompetent and disconnected from the reality of Iraq that the Bush administration is/has been.
Iraqis today cheered the resignation of U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, blaming him for policy failures and scandals they say helped spawn the daily sectarian carnage wracking their nation.
"Rumsfeld's resignation shows the scale of the mess the U.S. has made in Iraq," said Ibrahim Ali, 44, who works at the Oil Ministry. "The efforts by American politicians to hide their failure are no longer working." ...
"I think that there will a shift in the U.S. policy in Iraq after his resignation," said Osama Ahmed, 50, a civil servant. ...
Whatever suggestions are put forward, however, Iraqis said Rumsfeld's departure was a positive move.
"Rumsfeld's resignation is a good step because he failed to keep security in Iraq," said Saad Jawad, 45, a former army officer who also works at the Oil Ministry.
Many Iraqis blamed Rumsfeld for spurring the emergence of Sunni insurgents and Shiite militias by disbanding the former Iraqi army following the April 2003 toppling of the former government of Saddam Hussein.
Although that order was actually issued by former top U.S. administrator in Iraq, L. Paul Bremer, such sentiments show how widely Rumsfeld is identified with failed policies in Iraq.
"I am happy with Rumsfeld's resignation because he played a major role in disbanding the former Iraqi army. He participated in building the new army on a sectarian basis," said Louai Abdel-Hussein, 48, a Shiite who owns a small grocery in Baghdad.
Ahmed, the civil servant, said Rumsfeld should also be held responsible for crimes by American forces in Iraq, particularly the abuse of Iraqis at Abu Ghraib prison that became known in 2004. "Rumsfeld's resignation is not enough," Ahmed said. "He should be put under investigation for his responsibility in the crimes committed in Abu Ghraib and the killings and rapes carried out by U.S. soldiers against Iraqi citizens, he said.
These are the opinions of the people we "liberated." I do not mean to suggest that the opinions of non-Americans need to drive our appointment of government officials. What I am suggesting is that if this is reflective of the opinions of the peoples whose nation we are occupying - it is evidence of the complete state of denial that Bush and his administration are mired in.
The real question, the difficult question, going forwad will be is George Bush ready to accept reality, admit tragic and monumental mistakes, and actually try to fix the mess he made in Iraq?
My guess is no. I think that starting yesterday, Bush has written Iraq off, and will proceed to concentrate on d0mestic issues for the next two years, in hopes of leaving office with some modicum of positive feeling from the populice. I don't think he's got it in him to take responsibility, admit mistakes, and do the hard work of making corrections.
That will be left for the next administration.
Wednesday, November 08, 2006
CNN.com is reporting that Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld is "stepping down." (No full story yet.)
Today truly does begin the New Direction for America!
Tuesday, November 07, 2006
Much better night than I expected.
Hopefully, this will indeed be a new direction for America. Maybe we can put behind us the past six disastrous years of the Bush administration.
Montana and Missouri are still out there...but both of them look reasonably good for the Democrats. If so - that's both the House and Senate. Unbelievable.
I don't know if I'll be the first to say it - but Kudos and Congratulations to Howard Dean and the 50 state plan. Governor Dean deserves much if not all of the credit for this landslide Democratic victory. Brilliant strategy, brilliantly executed.
It's been a good night. Now, let's all hope that this indeed portends a New Direction for America.
88% is in...and all of Memphis - and he's still almost 60,000 votes down. More than half of Nashville is still out, but I now don't think the numbers are going to work out. I think it will still close - but not enough.
(FYI - I though he would win Shelby by 100,000 plus votes. It turned out to be 76,000. I'll still bet money that he'll lose by right around that 24,000 difference.)
Webb is going to win Virginia. He's been down all night - but with 95% reporting he's only down by 12,000 votes...and Richmond is only 70% in.
These Democrats are going to win in two Republican seats becasue the cities are reporting late...
Right now, 9:55, Corker leads by 5% with 74% reporting...
I'm calling Ford the winner.
The most votes outstanding (I've been looking at the individual county analysis in Tennessee) are in Shelby Country and Davidson County - Memphis and Nashville.
This is going to be a last-minute comeback, and Ford will win...
Monday, November 06, 2006
Overall - Democratic Gain of 3
Important Races -
Rhode Island - Whitehouse picks up one for the Dems
Connecticut - Lieberman holds as an Independent Democrat
New Jersey - Menendez holds on to the seat for the Dems
Maryland - Too close to call - I'm giving this to the Rep Steele for the terrific campaign he has run...Republican gain
Virginia - I think the power of the incumbent will trump in this toss up race - Allen holds the seat for the Reps
Pennsylvania - Ding! Dong! The Witch is Dead! Casey picks up one for the Dems
Ohio - Good campaign by Sherrod Brown in a terrible year for Ohio Reps - pick up for the Dems
Tennessee - Harold Ford Jr. ran what may have been the best campaign in Senate history, making an improbably competitive run in a Republican stronghold...but the nasty, dirty Republican machine politics turned this race at the death - Corker holds for the Reps
Missouri - Oh, so close. I'm going to guess and say Reps hold...but could go either way
Montana - Tester is the perfect man for Montana, and will pick one up for the Dems
Arizona - This race has come from no where to get tight at the end, but Kyl will hold for the Reps without much problem
Overall - Democratic Gain of 12
I don't even pretend to follow too many individual House races, but I did some quick-and-dirty reading about some interesting and competitive races, and I think that the Democrats are going to be able to make some strong gains - though not nearly what the media is hyping. I think the interesting places to watch will be the races in Connecticut, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Wyoming - and of course TX-22.
I think there are two stories to come out of this election - the corporate-media story, and the real story.
First - I think that the big corporate media story on Wednesday will be the big "victory" of the Republicans, because they've managed to hold both Houses of Congress. Why? Because the Republicans have managed expectations so well this year - while the Democrats have gotten caught up in the hype.
The right-wing vote is not as disinterested and unmotivated as the Republicans have led the media to believe...in fact, they will turn out in large numbers, just as they always do. And that will tip the scale in the 70 or so competitive races. The Right has effectively been sending out negative signals so that even such a disastrous loss as what I am predicting can be spun as a victory. Very smart.
Second - in my opinion the real (but unreported) story will be the HUGE SUCCESS of Howard Dean's 50-state plan. When is the last time over 70 seats in the house, and 10+ races in the Senate were competitive? In the end, most of those races will end up staying Republican...but it is a miracle that they are competitive - especially in Republican strongholds like Ohio, Tennessee, Virginia, Montana, Missouri, Idaho, etc. And this is the first election of the 50-state plan. Even without taking either the House or Senate, the Democrats should be overwhelmingly excited about the first-cycle success of this plan. With perseverance, this is going to turn the map blue. Kudos to Howard Dean - and the tremendous slate of candidates that the Democratic party attracted in 2006.
Let's see what happens...
Prior related posts:
Midterm predictions for the Midterms...
First (and admittedly foremost) I was able to take my son to the Houston Dynamo's Western Conference Championship game, which the Dynamo won to make it to the MLS Cup Final in Dallas next weekend.
That was a great time.
But I had another great opportunity. I got to shake the hand of Jim Henley, who was doing some last minute campaigning outside the entry gate to Robertson Stadium before the game.
Jim Henley is running an uphill battle to unseat the incumbent in TX-7. In fact, it's probably a lost-cause sort of a battle. But Mr. Henley is a candiate worthy of support. From his website:
James B. Henley has dedicated his life to teaching since 1987. He has taught History and Debate at Sidney Lanier Middle School where he has won the praise and devotion of a generation of Houston students.
The Lanier debate teams have won three consecutive National Middle School Debate Championships. In fact, Mr. Henley’s teams are undefeated in debate competition since 2002. [See the news links in Lanier Debate section.] For the past eighteen years, Mr. Henley has directed an annual tour of Washington D.C. leading several thousand parent and students from his school community to meet national leaders from both parties.
Jim was born in 1947, the son of James B. Henley Sr., a World War II veteran and Laura H. Henley, a native of Belgium. They met and married after the war and raised seven children in Camden, Arkansas.
Jim graduated from University of the Ozarks in Clarksville, Arkansas. He served as pastor of the Second Baptist Church of Clarksville from 1967 to 1976 and graduated from Southwestern Baptist Theological Seminary in Fort Worth.
In addition, this is what the Houston Chronicle said in endorsing Mr. Henley in the Democratic primary:
IN the predominantly Westside Houston 7th congressional district, the Chronicle endorses Houston public schoolteacher Jim Henley, a debate instructor at Lanier Middle School, who is seeking to unseat entrenched incumbent John Culberson.
Seeking to capitalize on voter unease over ethics scandals in Washington, Henley is running a grassroots campaign using a cadre of former students and their parents as volunteers. He has vowed to take no political action committee contributions and is counting on small, individual donors to fuel his effort. He opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq and is calling for a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops by next December.
Henley favors banning automatic assault weapons, but believes hunters should have their rifles.
...He has established a reputation of high character and academic leadership during his 18-year teaching career. He opposes extension of portions of the Patriot Act that he feels erode citizens' constitutional rights and decries the warrantless NSA surveillance approved by the Bush administration.
Jim is a good candiate, in a tough district to try to unseat an incumbent. But I will always be proud to support good candidates like Mr. Henley - regardless of the result.
Jim Henley, Teacher for Congress!!
Okay - not exactly - I was just trying out an experiment in Republican-style rhetoric.
But, that actually is a quote from the White House - "a shabby piece of work" - in referring to an editorial in the Military Times publications (the Army Times, Navy Times, Air Force Times, and Marine Corps Times) urging President Bush to fire Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld. The editorial cited a loss of support from military leaders over the Iraq war.
Of course, coming from the an organization providing news to the military, the Bush Administration took this legitimate criticism to heart and decided to review it's current leadership, and attempt to forge a coherent Iraq policy going foward.
HA!!! Just kidding. This is the Bush Administration after all. They just ignore it - the White House press secretary Tony Snow dismissed the editorial as a "shabby piece of work."
I think the American people are realizing what is indeed a shabby piece of work:
George Bush, Dick Cheney and Don Rumsfeld think you’re stupid. Yes, they do.
They think they can take a mangled quip about President Bush and Iraq by John Kerry — a man who is not even running for office but who, unlike Mr. Bush and Mr. Cheney, never ran away from combat service — and get you to vote against all Democrats in this election.
Every time you hear Mr. Bush or Mr. Cheney lash out against Mr. Kerry, I hope you will say to yourself, “They must think I’m stupid.” Because they surely do.
They think that they can get you to overlook all of the Bush team’s real and deadly insults to the U.S. military over the past six years by hyping and exaggerating Mr. Kerry’s mangled gibe at the president.
Everyone says that Karl Rove is a genius. Yeah, right. So are cigarette companies. They get you to buy cigarettes even though we know they cause cancer. That is the kind of genius Karl Rove is. He is not a man who has designed a strategy to reunite our country around an agenda of renewal for the 21st century — to bring out the best in us. His “genius” is taking some irrelevant aside by John Kerry and twisting it to bring out the worst in us, so you will ignore the mess that the Bush team has visited on this country.
And Karl Rove has succeeded at that in the past because he was sure that he could sell just enough Bush cigarettes, even though people knew they caused cancer. Please, please, for our country’s health, prove him wrong this time.
Go read the rest of that great editorial by Thomas Friedman.
Friday, November 03, 2006
Houston mayor cancels free flu shots at polling places
The mayor of Houston, Bill White, and a private foundation came up with a great idea to distribute flu shots to those in need going into this winter season - one that had been used in several other cities around the country. Provide flu vaccinations to the poor and elderly at early voting locations around the city. If and when people come in for voting, at the same time they can get their flu shots.
This was a creative mix of public and private organizations working together for the betterment of the public health of our community.
Until Republicans got involved:
Mayor Bill White today ordered a halt to a privately funded drive to offer flu vaccinations at early voting sites in Hispanic and black neighborhoods, amid conservative criticism that the effort would boost Democratic votes.
Since Monday, the city had been offering the free vaccinations at four polling places around Houston under a national grant program, used in more than 20 other cities.
White defended the program at a news conference today, saying public health was the city's only motive in launching the initiative. Still, he said he decided this morning to abandon the plan after today to avoid perception that it could be viewed as an effort to draw certain voters to the polls. ...
"There was no political motive whatsoever to do it," he said. "I don't want to have to spend more money in defending a baseless lawsuit than we're giving away in vaccine — or allow anybody to question the integrity of the political process."
Critics of the program have been discussing the issue on conservative Web blogs and talk radio.
``I think the program was completely motivated by a plan to turn out Democratic voters,'' said [county Republican Chairman Jared] Woodfill, citing White's service as party chair and as a deputy energy secretary under former President Clinton.
He said the vote-vaccination plan violated a portion of the Texas Election Code that prohibits offering anything of value in exchange for votes.
This is simply beyond the pale. Rather than worry about the health of our community - and specifically our communities most vulnerable population - the Harris County Republican party is worried about their vice-grip on power. Shameful.
This program was a bright-light, an example of EXACTLY the way private and public entities should be working together:
Stephen Williams, director of the city's Health and Human Services Department, which has touted the program in recent days, said he hopes to get permission to use the vaccine in other locations.
The terms of the grant, he and White said, required a tie to polling places in medically underserved areas where populations are less likely to get a vaccination.
The city and Amerigroup Foundation got the 3,000 doses with funding from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, a philanthropic group that devotes funding to health care.
The Amerigroup Foundation, according to its Web site, is the philanthropic arm of the Amerigroup Corp., a managed health-care company with a focus on providing services to low-income communities.
A textbook example of Republican party principles - power above people.
Thursday, November 02, 2006
Overfishing, pollution, warming are destroying stocks, study finds.
If you like seafood - like I do - or if you simply like fishing, the outdoors, and the environment in general, it is disquieting to think that the vast majority of wild ocean species could be virtually gone.
If current trends of overfishing and pollution continue, by 2050 the populations of just about all seafood face collapse, defined as 90 percent depletion, a team of ecologists and economists warns in a study published in Friday’s issue of the journal Science.
There are serious consequenses to such an eradication of ocean species, beyond me not being able to eat some of my favorite foods. Including some scary economic and third-world nutrition impacts:
Joshua Reichert, head of the private Pew Charitable Trusts’ environment program, pointed out that worldwide fishing provides $80 billion in revenue and 200 million people depend on it for their livelihoods. For more than 1 billion people, many of whom are poor, fish is their main source of protein, he said.
As the population of the world - especially in developing nations - is exploding, and the thought of the loss of food-supply and jobs in those areas could produce massive instability in those regions.
On the positive side, it looks as if such impacts can be avoided with proper, and efficient, management:
The researchers called for new marine reserves, better management to prevent overfishing by large trawling fleets and tighter controls on pollution.
In the 48 areas worldwide that have been protected to improve marine biodiversity, they found, “diversity of species recovered dramatically, and with it the ecosystem’s productivity and stability.”
This is the sort of issue that should not be ignored by developing nations. We must look for leaders with the political will to tackle such dire - yet preventable - consequenses.
Wednesday, November 01, 2006
Hooray for Mr. Cuadra. He and his family have been through a lot over the past two years, and it is almost criminal that it took the Harris County DA's office this long to drop these completely false charges.
Harris County prosecutors acknowledged today that they don't have enough evidence to convict a former Houston ISD employee accused of falsely changing Sharpstown High School's student dropout records.
Assistant District Attorney Terese Buess asked state District Judge Brock Thomas to dismiss the felony charge of tampering with a government document against Kenneth Cuadra as lawyers on both sides prepared to pick a jury later this week.
After reviewing Houston Independent School District computer records, Buess said she concluded there was no way to prove that Cuadra was the person who changed the dropout numbers to make it seem that no students dropped out of Sharpstown High School in 2002.
Cuadra was a school computer technician and the only HISD employee charged
criminally in connection with a dropout scandal that uncovered similar
under-reporting of at least 3,000 dropouts from Sharpstown and other
The Houston Independent School District (HISD) was roiled with controversy several years ago when a state audit revealed that the state's largest school district underreported nearly 3,000 dropouts.
Few people were disciplined for the outrageous scandal - and only one was charged with criminal offense. And that charge was merely an attempt at scapegoat.
"It rehashes a very unpleasant period," said Gayle Fallon, president of the Houston Federation of Teachers. "I think the DA's office is going to be highly embarrassed when the results come down."
"This is a case that should never be in trial," Fallon said. "Going after the computer tech is the most absurd piece of prosecution I've ever seen."
This was merely the case of the DA's office attempting to push a low-level school district employee into pleading guilty in order to make a public show of holding someone responsible - although not anyone actually associated with the fradulent reports.
There are reports that as of yesterday, the DA's office was pushing Mr. Cuadra to settle - when the CLEARLY KNEW that they did not have any evidence against him to take to trial. Shameful.
It is upsetting that no one responsible for these fraudulent HISD reports was held responsible - and it is upsetting that HISD and the DA's office would try to pin responsibility (and in the process damage the reputation) on someone they thought they could bully into the scapegoat role.
Not this time.