Friday, July 31, 2009

Voter Rolls

This last election cycle included the usual agitation from both sides about voter registration. The left accused the right of using organizations to intimidate voters, the right accused the left of using organizations to register voters illegally. Everyone accused everyone else of counting votes incorrectly, and a lot of local election boards didn't have enough understandimng of their own proceedures to defend their actions adequately.

And faith in the system takes another hit (2000 popular vote, 2008 birth certificate, etc). If you listen long enough to political culture, so many elected officials have obtained their offices fraudulently that our government itself is a charade.

Sounds pretty third world to me. When questions of government and leadership legitmacy garner enough attention, society becomes less stable.

But, same as it ever was, as soon as the election was over, many of the cries and legal challenges (and therefore press) about our anarchic method of choosing who will allocate public monies to public projects has quieted down. It seems the only time we care about the process in which we choose our leaders is on the day we show up to choose our leaders (especially if our "side" loses). Well, besides the odd slow day on talk radio where the mere mention of ACORN can hype up the listeners.

Hell, we were more involved with the electoral processes of Iran this year than we were for our own. The ayatollahs who didn't want questions asked had to revert to machine guns, the powers that be over here just had to wait for Michael Jackson's funeral.

So where's the talk about fixing the system now that an election isn't looming? Where is the examination of politically gerrymandered districts (creating undefeatable machines at the extreme wings of each party)? Where are the examinations of campaign financing, and residency requirements? Where is the effort to simplify and coordinate our voting rolls so we know who is eligible and who isn't (since that always seems to be a problem)?

The only article that has come across my wire was from Foreign Policy.com where they compare our chaos to the efficiency of other Western democracies.

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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Six Months Off

I think we ought to go back to the six-months-on, six-months-off schedule for Congress. All that extra time they spend in Washington puts them closer to lobbyists and further from constituents. Plus, they don't seem able to get much more done in that extra time except get on Meet the Press and other media appearances.

They should also all have to take trains to and from their districts. Nancy Pelosi can have a pullman car.

When they come back to Washington, we can have them stay in a high-density project, so they don't have to maintain two homes.

With that out of the way, they can cut down on their staff assignments in DC, and increase staff in the district. This would lower the rents and the number of "insiders" in DC.

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New Plan

How about this for health care: We "forb[id] doctors to advertise, to sell drugs, or to own a financial interest in any lab or machinery they used to perform tests." We also make the maximization of profit a violation of the profession's ethics.

Sounds draconian right? But this guy interviews a doctor that reminds us, that's just the way it used to be.


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Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Cleaning Up Oil Spills

That phrase doesn't mean what you think it means. During the presidential election, I remember hearing a lot about a plan to "drill, baby, drill," and how safe our oil infrastructure is. No ecological damage would result from drilling in Alaska, they said. Just look at the Gulf Coast, they said.

That's right, the Coast Guard and Shell are cleaning up a 58,000+ gallon spill right now of the coast of Louisiana. So much for the "freedom of the press," by the way. More like the freedom to bury the story. But the Beer Summit at the White House is soon! And people still don't believe the President was born in this country! Let's not worry about crude oil spilled in our territorial waters.

If the Exxon Valdez spill happened today, the only way we would know is if it was in the background of a Sarah Palin press conference, or one of the boats from Deadliest Catch sailed into the slick.

Hell, I didn't know it until the Library Chronicles linked to the Mosquito Coast, who had to take a picture of the paper because the paper didn't put this blurb online.

This makes an estimated 338,800 gallons of petroleum products dumped into the water (that we know about) in the last 12 months. Gulf Shrimp, anyone?


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Simplicity

I keep wondering why the new health care bill keeps getting more and more complicated. First 1,200 pages long, then 2,000 pages long. And "no one has read it" except talk radio hosts who tell us that they found communism and socialism and totalitarianism deep inside it, even as they describe amendments offered by conservatives. Every think tank with a budget office throws out different figures.

Then I realize this is what happens when you try to please everyone.

Public Option? Sure, but only if everyone has to buy insurance, because insurance companies are scared of competing with big ineffiecient government. And even then only if we keep the payments of the young and healthy high enough to offset the payments of the sick people we could bilk the government for under the current system. And even then only if everyone looking for the public option is exposed to competing private plans in the health exchange. And then only if we remove the tax breaks to employers who pay into private insurance to employees so we can give tax breaks to people who don't pay taxes so they can afford whatever it is we're selling. Because after all this, we aren't sure anymore. Ditto a national non-profit co-op. Oh, and under this plan, still, not everyone is covered.

I wonder if this strategy is designed to make us want the single-payer system back.

Which is what I wish was still on the table. Write one up over break, submit it to committee and see if stands of falls. After that? Public option. Everyone can chose to be a part of a single payer government system. Write that up over break, submit it if single-payer falls, and work on that one. After that? National co-op. After that, massive tax breaks for regional private non-profit co-ops. And so forth. No thousand amendments. No bending over backwards because you think the GOP or the milquetoast Dems will vote for your legislation given enough amendments (they'll gut your bill, overcomplicate it, then vote it down while calling supporters communist totalitarians).

I'm just getting tired of the big comprehensive bills. They are political and policy losers, and the sooner we understand that, the more we can get done.


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Tuesday, July 28, 2009

About the Conflict Part

Quick overview:

Here's a major public-funded project designed to inspire private investment, create jobs, diversify the economy and develop a civic asset for public use. It is a project that could bring people and business to an underutilized but vital part of a city. The project is tied to a geographic feature and cannot be created elsewhere.

The planner of the project, and his father, buy property near and inside the projected areas in the hope that the civic project will increase the value of such holdings. Some of these properties were already highly valued.

In this city, such projects are rarely completed.

Is that a conflict of interest? If so, did the planner act improperly? If improper, is it also illegal? It makes me wonder about the nature of corruption.

While it would be awesome if everyone did their jobs based on altruism and work ethic, how far is too far when it comes to major civic projects? Especially if the project is highly publicized?

And, in a place where many projects never make it off the drawing board, is having a planner vested in the project's completion a good thing?

I guess it depends on the project, and if you think it will benefit the community.


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The Roof Is On Fire

We can't get no water let the .... burn.

USACE will be shutting off Atlanta's water, and they have the court case to prove it. Too bad Sonny wasn't able to get this issue resolved before the end of his 8 year term. With a GOP state legislature. And GOP control of the two other states involved. And GOP control of the nation as a whole. Heckuva job, guys.

Maybe it ain't his fault. I guess 8 years just ain't enough time to hash out an agreement with those intractable individuals in Alabama and Florida. Maybe there were other pressing matters on his agenda. I mean, how many of those 6 million people in metro Atlanta use water, anyway?

Bob Barr's a little peeved about the situation.

Speaking of the USACE and misuse of water, I'd like to remind Atlanta to be careful - you can't sue some government organizations for damages that may result of said organization's decisions. I mean, a city that has no legal access to nearby water? Why would anyone want to live there?

Lastly, the Chinese character for crisis combines "danger" and "opportunity." We have pipelines for oil and gas running from South Louisiana to Illinois & other points north. Let us now build pipelines for water. They can run from New Orleans' outflow canals up to Lake Sidney Lanier or anywhere in the Atlanta metro area that is convenient.

We could trade water in exchange for road construction crews to take down I-10 over N. Claiborne Ave. Or they could send us some of that red clay to make levees with. Or cold, hard cash. Whichever is easiest.


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Friday, July 24, 2009

Defensive & Divisive

You know what the whole "black professor vs white cop" thing teaches us? Everyone needs to step back, take a deep breath and be a little less defensive. And all the talk shows and talking heads manufacturing some sort of false outrage to boost their show's ratings needs to shut it.

Obama's comment is controversial? Fucking bullshit. I don't know a single person who hasn't sided with a friend over a cop when that friend is ticketed, harassed or arrested. It doesn't matter who was or wasn't there. If the scenario is "Freind vs Cop," everyone tends to side with the friend. Even if that friend is the drunk redneck who starts fights at the bar.

And tell me you wouldn't be pissed off after a twenty-hour flight from China, dealing with our airports and cooped up space for all that time, to get home and have to break into your own house. Then a cop shows up? Gates was already in meltdown mode.

And the cops. I have all the respect in the world for law enforcement officials, and I know plenty of folks who conduct themselves professionally at all times. I have seen officers give people every possible attempt to stay out of jail on some occasions. Most officers I have come in contact with return respect with respect, and have a tolerance for abuse that transcends the normal bounds of humanity. When I hear what they have to deal with during a regular day, I am usually stunned that they keep at their jobs.

That being said, I am SCARED TO DEATH of cops, because you never know which one is pulling you over - the guy who's a professional or the guy who's gonna take you to jail if you look at them wrong. Not a week goes by without some story about a police overreaction somewhere. A 5 year old arrested at a school; an old lady tased in her own home. There's a reason "Don't Tase Me, Bro" is a generational catch phrase.

I mean, was this a case of police overreaction? I don't know because I wasn't there. What I do know is this: if there weren't so many stories and personal experiences of police overreaction, this story would be a lot easier to figure out.

Update: Slate has a good article on this case.


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Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Real Story Behind the Birthers

Lots of folks wondering about those "birther" whack-jobs. You know, the ones who think Barack Obama isn't a citizen of the United States, so the last election doesn't count?

To the untrained eye, it appears that these folks have really experienced some serious psychological trauma at having their worldveiw roundly rejected in free and fair elections.

But, in all honesty, it isn't their fault. Here's the hard, hard truth to swallow.

This whole "birther" thing is a carefully crafted and flawlessly executed plan by those of us at Super Secret Liberal Takeover Headquarters to kneecap the right wing. Yes, we are playing with fire by stirring up the hornet's nest of highly unstable, overly obsessive and well-armed individuals with massive hallucinations that their nation has somehow been "taken" from them (in free and fair elections), but the juice is worth the squeeze in the long run.

Look how easily one of our operatives was able to hijack a meeting of a Republican congressman! Note the lemming-like reaction to the demand to say the Pledge of Allegiance in the middle of a meeting, after they had doubtless already said it as the meeting convened. If you say the Pledge more than once during a meeting, you have officially jumped the shark. Note the slack-jawed, stunned reactions on the faces of those running the meetings who were there for more mundane and normal political organization.

Do you think it is a coincidence it was all caught on video and uploaded to the web within minutes? ARE YOU NOT ENTERTAINED???

Fairly soon, no GOP representative or Senator will be able to hold public meetings without them running off the rails in such ways. The "birther" movement, in short, is a move to shut down the entire party apparatus of the Republicans from within.

Yes, yes, some GOP reps and Senators look like they are enjoying this sort of thing, trying to ride the coattails of this kind of fantasy to electoral victory. But those officials already represented hardened and well entrenched voting blocks of extremism.

It is the reasonable conservatives we want - those middle class Americans who used to be the backbone of the GOP. Sure, they dallied in the occassional corruption conspiracy or sex scandal drama, but look at today's pop culture, that kind of stuff sells in the mainstream. Sure, they're looking for "smaller government" and "tax justice," but after the 1994 to 2008 pattern of voting for the GOP and not getting what they asked for, they have to be demoralized and confused.

Into that situation, we stir up the really, really crazy folks, and the normal people leave the GOP faster than the homecoming queen bails on an X-Files convention.


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Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Flashpoint Jerusalem

Back when I was growing up and knew everything, I knew the solutions to all the problems in the Holy Land. I can't remember what I thought those solutions were anymore, but I do know that they were all wrong. What has happened there in my lifetime alone is tragedy beyond rational explanation, with no signs of resolution.

There was only ever one idea about the place that I ever got right: If all the Israelis got tired of it, packed up and left, in a week all the Arab nations would be facing civil wars. If all the Palestinians got tired of it, packed up and left, in a week Israel would be engaged in a civil war. The majority of folks on either side, who just want to go down the street and get a cup of coffee and play with their kids outside in the Mediterranean summer, would continue to suffer.

In the West, we can never stop our clumsy attempts to orchestrate peace. But we won't ever get there unless they get tired of fighting.

[T]o be a secular Israeli in 2009 is a demoralizing and demoralized affair. We are tired: tired of the Palestinians, tired of the bombs, tired of U.N. and EU condemnations, tired of having so much of our daily wages taxed to buy guns and missiles, tired of the army reserves, tired of being hated, tired of going to bed and waking up to reports of kids -- Jewish kids, Palestinian kids -- watching their parents die or dying in their parents’ arms. We are tired of our lives and tired of ourselves.


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Monday, July 20, 2009

Round and Round

There's a lot of traffic talk in my life recently. There is the discussion of New Orleans' infrastructure (or lack thereof), most recently concerning the removal of I-10 from N. Claiborne Avenue. Meanwhile, on the Eastern side of my life, I hear complaints from St. Simons that the construction of the third Island City roundabout is causing traffic backups due to construction.

That's right folks, Island City is building their third roundabout. The bitching is loudest this time because the latest installment (at the roadhead of Kings' Way) is backing up traffic on the FJ Torras Causeway.

Thass what happens when you have one road leading onto your island, folks.

The first roundabout is miles north of my parents' house, so construction was easy and didn't have much impact. The roundabout at Frederica and Demere was replacing the busiest intersection and traffic bottleneck on St. Simons Island. But construction moved as quickly as possible, and now the benefits of having the roundabout more than make up for the trouble.

According to sources close to me that live on St. Simons, the current project is making people lose their minds. But I used to commute that way for work, and I can tell you that traffic always sucked at "rush hour."

At least now there's a rhyme to the reason. There is a reason communities build roundabouts at traffic bottlenecks. As New Orleans considers putting traffic into the city when the Interstate comes down, alternatives to left-turn intersections should be considered.

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Friday, July 17, 2009

Talkin' That Trash

Meanwhile, in the world that is the college football offseason, we break from actual analysis and win-loss predictions to delve into the world of smack talk. Really insightful, inflammatory, and closer-to-the-mark-than-the-author-realizes smack talk. Like when the "you might be a redneck" jokes started describing your own family.

One o' dem Michigan fans be tryin' to play SEC fans, ya hearrd meh?

(HT: T Kyle King at Dawg Sports, who posts his own hilarious retort.)

Though, after reading all this, my heart aches for a real Chik-fil-a. Guess I'll be driving to Mandeville this weekend.

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Thursday, July 16, 2009

Saturday Night's Alright for Fighting

TV contracts will allow for more SEC night games this fall. The consequences?

"LSU fans everywhere are rejoicing while Mike Adams and Athens Law Enforcement Agencies weep openly."

True, true.

For me personally? Now I have a chance to get stuff done on Saturday mornings in New Orleans without having to wake up at the @$$crack of dawn. There will doubtless be some 11am CST kickoffs where I'll be mixin' Jameson in with my coffee & chicory, but less of those would be a welcome change.

And it means more than two hours sleep if I get a chance to commute to Athens for a big game.

Woof.

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You Have Died of Dysentery

"If you went to school in the 80's..."

Slate reviews the only reason I would ever get an I-Phone. Ever.

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Genius

If they could promote (and bother to try to pass) conservative legislation as well as they can attack opposing legislation more Republicans would still hold office. As soon as I saw this chart on Drudge I backed off my opinion that a public option health insurance program is inevitable. This could be big if they play it right. Pat is probably grumbling right now that the current model isn't much less complicated and he would be right. But that doesn't really matter. Big scary chart wins. Nothing strikes fear in the heart of the general populace like having to deal with a bureaucracy. They just charted out two (government and insurance companies).

There's really no defensive maneuver here. You could show the current system on a similar chart and it would be a mess, but it can't be as complicated because at best it's a subset of this chart. You could clean up this chart considerably but it would still be complicated so it wouldn't really accomplish anything. A good followup for Republicans would be to propose a plan that is less complicated and chart it. It would have no chance of passage even if it got to a vote but it would seriously impact the odds of the current health care reform passing.

I'm still not convinced the public option can be stopped but at least Republicans are working their defense and doing it well.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

GOP for Nagin

Yes, yes!! This is exactly what the GOP needs right now.

Defending the new (38 Years) Young Republican president from charges of racism by demonstrating that "she led the GOP effort to re-elect Ray Nagin (sic) over Mitch Landrieu, "Chocolate City" comments notwithstanding."

Way to put your party at the crossroads where racism meets really shitty government.

I guess now I have a very specific answer to the "how in the world did y'all re-elect Nagin?" question I always get when I visit the home state.

(Y'all remember us folks from Georgia, right? We're the ones who loudly and roundly booed both UGA President Michael Adams AND New Orleans Mayor C. Ray Nagin at the 2008 Sugar Bowl.)

That I can quote a respected conservative writer from a very respected (and majority conservative) Georgia political website ain't nothin' but gravy.

And everybody loves gravy.

Tip of the hat to Oyster, the "whiny liberal" who has been a leading illuminator of GOP support for Nagin all along.


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Family Dollar Values

You want to know why people in this country don't trust the government to do the right thing? A Georgia court has a man jailed for not paying thousands of dollars in child support, even though they know the kid isn't his.

But don't think this has a thing to do with political philosophy. In this case, the judge who signed off on it is a heavy contributor to Georgia Republicans. I wonder where this activity lands on the scale of family values, government invasiveness, and judicial activism.



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Six More Panels

on Health Care.

"We're here to help you help us."

Yup.


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Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Phase One: Prep

How to Remove I-10 from N. Claiborne Avenue as Painlessly As Possible (And Get a Bunch of Roadwork We Already Need In the Process)

While commentary and debate about the overall idea can be found at Adrastos and Library Chronicles (thanks for the links, guys), I just can't get over mapping everything I've thought about concerning New Orleans' highway infrastructure over the last few years.

Let me be clear: the reasons to remove the elevated interstate over N. Claiborne must be rooted in return on investment, economic development and transportation efficiencies. Removal will not automatically turn the area into an urban paradise, but it will remove one very significant artificial barrier to economic development in a previously dynamic, historic and strategically located neighborhood.

It should also be noted that this section of I-10 will need serious maintenance in the next few years, and like all major southern cities with internal interstates, the costs and disruptions will already be astronomical.

Third, there is no shortage of infrastructure projects needed around the city. We can set all of these up to support a removal of I-10 over N. Claiborne or we can set them all up as if they were not part of an American city's transportation network. Having an actual plan and strategy for urban transportation will save enormous amounts of money in the long run.

Having said that, if a plan to remove I-10 from N. Claiborne were to be adopted, here is a list of both major necessary and minor optional projects that might come along with a Phase One of implementation. The three major projects are separated from each other, and most of the minor projects feed directly in support of the major projects. The focus of this phase would be to ready I-610 to handle increased traffic during both the process and the eventual removal of I-10 over N. Claiborne.

If phase one took place in eastern or northern Georgia, I would expect it to take two years. It could be done here in that time if people who live here begin to demand and expect such things.


View Phase One: Prep in a larger map

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Marketing Fear

One thing I think of when I hear people discussing Health Care Reform is an old quote by Richard Jeni. He was musing about the capabilities of cigarette marketers when he said "these guys are so good at what they do, they now have the balls to tell you NOT to buy what they're selling."

That's what I thought of while reading Richard Cohen's op-ed in the Washington Post. (HT: Jmac at Beyond the Trestle) Those who don't want reform try to scare us with descriptions of the system we currently have. No wonder they're experts on what will happen. It ain't too far removed from what is already happening.

The money quote:

This means that whenever someone says something about "government bureaucrats," I smile because I was once a non-government bureaucrat. It is not government bureaucrats who say that certain treatments will not be covered, and it is not the government that purges insurance rolls of the sick or the old, and it is not the government that makes money -- lots of money -- on health insurance. It is private enterprise.


And you can leave the "If you think health care is bad now, just wait until the government controls it!1!" argument at the door. Especially over the half-measure that is the public option.

If da gubb'ment can't run anything effectively, why are you scared of competing with them?

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Hegemonic Behaviors

Bear with me.

You all know I've been a fan of Hip-Hop music since I started listening to music. You also all know that I believe most of today's 'Rap' music (with a few notable exceptions) destroyed the Hip-Hop genre I grew up on.

Furthermore, anyone who's read this blog for more than a month knows that the thing I compare most right-wing politicians (like Sarah "Media Hate Me" Palin)& outrage-as-news-radio and TV hosts (Beck, Hannity, Limbaugh, O'Reilly) to is gangsta rappers manufacturing controversy just to sell records (or books, advertising for the radio show, political donations, etc).

Lastly, you all know that I try and view International Relations through the lens of realpolitik, and despise the methodology and belief systems of neoconservative thinkers who (IMHO) have done nothing for the past 20 years besides weaken the United States internationally and play off the politics of fear to acheive their ends.

Rarely, do these three interests of mine ever intersect. But now I have something for the middle of the Venn diagram: "Jay Z vs. The Game: Lessons for the American Policy Debate."

You don't even have to know the music to understand why this makes sense.

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Monday, July 13, 2009

Talk About High Stakes

I'd heard about the CRCT cheating scandal affecting 4 Georgia elementary schools (including one in Glynn County), but arresting school administrators? Really? I know we have to come down hard on cheating, but arrests?

What ever happened to just firing people for doing bad jobs or lying at work? Oversight = good; overreaction = bad.

CRCT is Georgia's version of the LEAP tests, and I think this is a good example of terrible overreaction in defense of these tests. And what I mean is this: if you are arresting people because of a 5th grade test, then the test itself has become more important than education.

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Messin' With Texas

Commute to comedy at Hey, Jenny Slater!


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Sunday, July 12, 2009

Tear Down this ... Wall

The front page on the local newspaper's website* discusses the urban renewal plan to tear down the section of Interstate 10 through New Orleans that is elevated above N. Claiborne Avenue. They want to tear it down from Elysian Fields in the east to the Pontchartrain Expressway in the west, and restore N. Claiborne Avenue to an oak-lined boulevard, possibly with streetcars.

I think this would be a welcome change, as the current atmosphere under the I-10 elevation is one of the most blighted and non-commercial neighborhoods in the city, despite the fact that it should be the major east west corridor through the city.

Though it seems counterintuitive, these types of projects have met with success in other cities.

This kind of stuff is what I think about while driving around the city (I do my honest best never to take the interstate from one side of the city to another), and this idea has been banged around the blogosphere and at the bars in the past.

So I came up with a quick list of common sense things that would/have to change should New Orleans remove its I-10 over North Claiborne Avenue. At least, these are what I think are common sense things. Then I put them on a map. You can check them out below.


View New Orleans Interstates in a larger map

* (I'm going to try not to send any traffic to the local paper's website until they get some sort of handle on all the racist comments that follow every single article online.)


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Saturday, July 11, 2009

Fight of the Narrator

We already know what narrative will be told next week over the airwaves of outrage radio and outrage pundit TV: "Frank Ricci will testify in front of the Senate to prove Sonia Sotomayor is racist!!" This has been repeated since even before Sotomayor was nominated for SCOTUS (when the GOP was attacking any possible Obama nomination to the court), it was repeated after she was nominated (Newt who?), was repeated yet again when SCOTUS ruled on Ricci just weeks ago (Overruled!!11!1! A win for poor, oppressed white people everywhere...), and will now fill the airwaves even more - especially now that MJ, McNair and Palin have been laid to rest in their previous incarnations.

Ricci does cut a sympathetic figure, as someone who works through adversity just to have the system keep him down. The narrative takes this a step further, lionizing him as the normal joe that the ebil affirmative action and race conscious left just lined up to poo upon. This narrative holds water right up until you read about several things:

1. The lawsuit-ridden and race-conscious history of the New Haven fire department.

2. The history of the case in SCOTUS' official opinion (thanks, Dante). Even the majority opinion points to the test as causing adverse impact, combined with additional departmental factors (the rule of three) that magnified that impact.

3. Ricci's own history of litigating against his employers. Author Dahlia Lithwick sums it up thusly:

Ultimately, there are two ways to frame Frank Ricci's penchant for filing employment discrimination complaints: Perhaps he was repeatedly victimized by a cruel cadre of employers, first for his dyslexia, then again for his role as a whistle-blower, and then a third time for just being white. If that is so, we should all be deeply grateful for the robust civil rights laws that protect Americans from unfair discrimination in the workplace. I look forward to hearing Republican Sen. John Cornyn's version of that speech next week.

The other way to look at Frank Ricci is as a serial plaintiff—one who reacts to professional slights and setbacks by filing suit, threatening to file suit, and more or less complaining his way up the chain of command. That's not the typical GOP heartthrob, but I look forward to hearing Sen. Cornyn's version of that speech next week as well.
(Emphasis added, -HR)

Any wagers on which frame either side is going to take next week on television? I didn't think so. If I was running the show to guide the nomination of Sotomayor into SCOTUS, however, I would completely avoid the latter and I wouldn't let even the designated attack dog use that line of reasoning.

What I would use, again and again, is the quote from the SCOTUS majority opinion that overruled the Appellate Court decision the right wishes to highlight with their "reverse racism" narrative:

Courts often confront cases in which statutes and principles point in different directions. Our task is to provide guidance to employers and courts for situations when these two prohibitions could be in conflict absent a rule to reconcile them. Page 20
Emphaisis again added, -HR


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Monday, July 06, 2009

Palin Resigns & Other News You May Not Have Heard

DADvocate points us to the Reluctant Leftist's academic examination of feminism and Sarah Palin. The post is a long one, and the comments section is off the chain. My favorite comments examine the three make-believe characters we examined (Palin, Obama, Clinton) during the election cycle, and comparisons between feminism and racism. I was about to bloviate on DADvocate's comment section about this, so instead I'll just mull it over here.

A few thoughts now that I've had a chance to read the whole link (and I mean all 350+ comments at this point):

First of all, I was fairly sold on Obama before Palin even showed up on the scene. When she showed up on the scene, it was under the geas of the organization that had presented George W. Bush and Dick Cheney to the world over the last 8 years. Not a lot of credibility to be had in the "good government/fiscal conservative/sound foreign policy" arena.

Even having been a McCain fan for years (and constantly telling folks on both sides that either way the election went, we would be better off - which I still think is true), when Palin showed up and made appearances, her words cast her (in my ears) in the same mold as George W. Bush. If she was either intellectual or common sensical, it did not translate as she was reading from a sub-par script that played to the most base emotions of what I considered the bad parts of the Bush years. The real America? Again? After Bush, it didn't take much for me to get my liberal = traitor hackles all up.

There is also the fact that I apparently live in a completely different world than most people, as far as my information intake is concerned. First of all, I was teaching and had less time to keep up with the news drama of the day (my drama was much more localized). I don't watch a lot of TV news. I don't watch a lot of late night TV. I get most of my news from online sources like Slate and newspapers, and blogs - not even the "major" bloggers, but from sites like DADvocate, the Classic City & NOLA blogospheres, and items they link to. One thing I do listen to daily is radio - which has an extremely conservative bent where I am.

(In retrospect, this is almost the exact opposite of how my parents filter information, as Fox News is on all day at their house, and they rarely listen to talk radio. It makes some sense that their view of the world is completely different than mine.)

So that's me, not tuned in to whoever it was "attacking" Sarah Palin, and constantly listening to very visceral attacks on Obama. When I would read things about Palin being attacked constantly, I'm forced into a skeptical view because I was seeing the response first and not the slight. When all I see is someone (and her defenders) complaining about how awful people are, and then I listen to an Obama speech, I wonder what in the hell Palin and her defenders are talking about.

Hence the Sarah "Media Hate Me" Palin figure I blogged about during the election. I came of age watching hip-hop music destroy itself into rap music, and nothing sells records in that genre like a manufactured controversy.

The persona she allowed her handlers to market may or may not have been who she really is. I don't know. What I do know is that Obama's speeches during the election cycle were spot on to things I believe (the speech on race and the nomination acceptance stand out). Since the election, his continued speeches (Notre Dame, Cairo) and his response to the Iranian crisis have been, again, spot on to what I wanted to see from this presidency. Have their been missteps or mistakes? Absolutely. The "gifts" for PM Gordon and HM The Queen are embarassing, but even those were reported in the MSM, blogs, and made the Daily Show - all things that happened to GWB.

At the same time, Palin has continued to attract attention due to controversy. True, some of it was not her making (Letterman is an asshole as are Washington insiders who lose Presidential campaigns and need a scapegoat). Some of it was (are you really speaking at a GOP fundraiser? Resigning as governor?).

So I feel quite justified in my decision not to support Sarah Palin. If she was a man behaving in the same way, I would respond in the same way.

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When Our Enemies Do It

Sullivan gives you a quote and asks if you can figure out what country did it.

See if you can guess the right one!

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Changing the Game

Is the Supreme Court's Ricci case the new Plessy?

I'm not one to think so, but there will be far reaching effects of this case as well as unintended consequences. Many of those will start inside our divided political narrative between those who think Civil Rights laws extend special priviliges on one hand and those who think Civil Rights laws don't go far enough on the other. Neither side seems willing to use any empathy to realize where the other side is coming from, nor does either side seem willing to accept realities on the ground. Many folks outside the case itself and the legal academia and sociologists who study it will never truly get what happened here, and will instead have their beliefs filtered to them through the experts and pundits they choose to listen to. I can say this is unfortunate, even as I fall into that category (I've been following it on Slate, which is where my links will come from).

The case is a big one, and the first post-Ricci results that will affect the nation as a whole are political ones: the confirmation of Sonia Sotomayor and the exposition of conservative judicial activism. Both Sotomayor's decision to follow the laws as written and the supposed Constitutionalist wing of the Supreme Court used the bench to effectively overturn legislatively composed and executively approved law will be ignored in our 24-hour sound-byte-sans-in-depth reporting media.

While some experts think this decision will "burn down civil rights law," and I've seen the TV talking heads celebrating the decision while dismissing the 4 dissenters, I haven't seen much in-depth examination of the history or details of the case. As I said, I've been following the analysis on Slate, where their writers have worked on such aspects as why whites tested better than blacks, who wrote the tests and where they came from, and what a more just promotional examination battery could look like.

(Hint: I'd bet the written test they gave was cheaper than a more in-depth assessment, and someone in the decision making process had a brother-in-law who worked for the testing company, but that's just my cynicism...)

For me the lesson is completely different, and far reaching in a very different way. Look at this case, if you will, from an organizational aspect, and take out any bias you assume either vested party in having. An organization that goes through all the trouble, money and time to have a certain test designed for promotions, that then distributes the information that promotions will be based on this specific test, that then allows people time to spend money, time and effort preparing for that test - should not summarily throw out the test if the results they get aren't everything they wanted them to be.

That they took such action should infuriate everyone in the New Haven fire department (and the New Haven taxpayers), because it wasted everyone's time, effort and money. That the city then hid behind race to cover its mistake is unforgivable. That is a huge reason there is so much divisiveness on race in this country.

They should never use that kind of test again. They should have to examine every future test's impact before the test is given. If they keep the test, or go with any future test, knowing the disparate impact, then they could be up for a discrimination lawsuit. That would be a positive outcome of this whole mess.

I didn't see that in SCOTUS's majority decision, however.

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Sunday, July 05, 2009

An Examination of Health Insurance

I wonder how many more personal stories have to be related before our health care nighmare is addressed. I wonder how many more experts will have to come out and say it before people believe it. Hell, I don't even need them to believe it, but just start looking at it with an open mind and realize that the current way of doing things is killing us.

In a previous post, I mentioned some of my run-ins with our current "Health Care System," and noted that my benefits a former employer helped me "choose" cost more than my federal or state taxes combined, and that, even then, I was out of pocket for most of my medical expenses because of the high deductible.

But I guess (judging by family and friends' reactions) my own personal experiences are just irrelevant fantasies I have had over the course of my life. I don't say these things because I've actually experienced them, I say these things to score political points on my well-read and policy-driving blog. I don't work in medicine, so I don't know what I'm talking about. I'm not an expert in the Health Care System, or an expert on how "market-based" health insurance is supposed to work.

Luckily, I know Dr. Rigamer, who is, in fact, a highly respected expert on health care. Please take a moment to read what he had to say.

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Thursday, July 02, 2009

A Healthy Dose

Commuter Click. Loki has the goods over at Humid City, and posts a video where Karen Gadbois of Squandered Heritage discusses surviving breast cancer as it relates to the current health care debate.

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Scattered, Smothered & Taser-ed

Some officers in Gwinnett demonstrate how NOT to behave in public with weapons. It is one thing to incorrectly tase someone during the commission of a crime. It is another thing entirely to tase your Waffle House waitstaff while they're fixing your Patty Melt Plate.

When used correctly, tasers can be very effective non-lethal tools of law enforcement. I'm sure there are hundreds of lives that have been saved and thousands of crimes that have been stopped when this tool is used correctly by professionals. I'm also sure we never hear about those incidents in the media.

But when examples of improper use make the news or the rounds on YouTube, I wonder what is wrong with our training and certification programs that allow people to think this kind of behavior is in any way acceptable.

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