Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Obama Hits Back on the Gas Tax Stunt

I like this Ad. Barack is right on this one, no doubt. Let's move on and talk about the issues.

And today, Hillary Clinton's stunt regarding pumping gas while a 10 truck motorcade. Just ridiculous. Who is an elitist? She and McCain again on the same side of the issue. What? See Keith's take on this.

Seven Month High for U.S. Troop Deaths in Iraq

Not that you would know it. All we hear is Jeremiah Wright, Jeremiah Wright. We don't hear about the violence in Iraq or that we moved a new carrier into the Persian gulf to scare Iran. But, on Wednesday, 50 Americans were reported killed in Iraq for the first time in seven months (it is actually 51). The casualties are rising, no doubt. And of course the Iraqi casualties are always on the rise. In one battle alone 32 people were killed and 107 were wounded. A new report says that in the month of April alone at least 1,073 Iraqis were killed in fighting. These are astounding numbers when you can't even turn the T.V. on and get a report. And all we can talk about is things that do not matter to our lives. I know I am preaching, but it is shocking to me. What is that Steely Dan song? The things that pass for knowledge I can't understand..."

The Feds cut interest rates one more time to try and keep the recession or maybe even a depression at bay. I mean what the f***? If we spend 12 billion a month in Iraq (and of course the new forgotten war, Afghanistan) is there any wonder our finances are in a shambles? All this government cares about is keeping the dollar low for a high trade value and keep the oil prices sky rocketed so they can bilk us for the last seven months of this corporatocracy. Ughhhhh!!

nyc and new jersey local shopping cures a bad day!

on a recent visit to my favorite store in the west village, greenwich letterpress, to pick up birthday cards and mother's day cards, i indulged and bought a beautiful crafty necklace... it was a bad work week and i needed a pick me up... (see my friend sus shopping in this pix at greenwich.)after asking greenwich letterpress owner beth salvini about the necklace's creator, rebecca purcell, i checked out her bio and discovered that she makes clothes and has written books about "modern nostalgia" and "interior alchemy."

here are some necklace pix (mine is similar to this style).
and in light of recent independent store closings in hoboken (good kleen fun, wee beasties, mola, rue du jardin), more than ever we need to support local artists, designers, entrepreneurs and shop owners.

so take a stroll down christopher street to greenwich letterpress, tell beth i sent ya, and find your own local treasure. a sure remedy for any kind of bad day!

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Reverend Wright Throws Obama Under the Bus, then He Returns the Favor

We praised Reverend Wright's interview with Bill Moyers, I think rightly. But, after the last couple of days Reverend Wright gave Obama no other choice, but to repudiate him which he did today forcefully. Now, I don't disagree with everything Wright is saying and I am sure Obama doesn't either. But, it is ridiculous to think he can continue in a Presidential election campaign as Wright parades around the country taking shots at him. See for yourself. The video is below:

Sunday, April 27, 2008

how hillary can win the democratic nomination

Why Waiters Don't Start Unions

I have been reading Down and Out in Paris and London, by George Orwell, and while not his most famous work, by a long shot, it is still amazing. This afternoon, reflecting on class, Presidential elections and the inequality that is rampant down here in Brazil, and becomes more and more common in the richest country in the world (our beloved US and A), I thought I would share a tiny bit of this phenomenal book with you, my cherished reader.

"The moral is, never be sorry for a waiter. Sometimes when you sit in a restaurant, still stuffing yourself half an hour after closing time, you feel that the tired waiter at your side must surely be despising you. But he is not. He is not thinking as he looks at you, 'What an overfed lout'; he is thinking, 'One day, when I have saved enough money, I shall be able to imitate that man.' He is ministering to a kind of pleasure he thoroughly understands and admires. And that is why waiters are seldom Socialists, have no effective trade unions, and will work twelve hours a day--they work fifteen hours, seven days a week, in many cafes. They are snobs, and they find the servile nature of their work congenial."

I worked at the Central Park Boathouse restaurant for a month, and it was one of the worst jobs of my life. Orwell is completely right. I have never felt more servile, and was treated with arrogance by the biggest slaves of all in the restaurant business, the waiters. Of course, compared to the goon of an owner of that hell-hole, they were angels.

report from kabul

my cousin's latest news from afghanistan...

pix taken by his unit in downtown kabul during a "parade ... celebration to mark 16 years since the overthrow of the country's Soviet-backed rule."

the BBC news reported that "at least two people have been killed and 11 were hurt in an attack on a military parade in Kabul attended by Afghan President Hamid Karzai." the taliban claimed responsibility.

see the BBC video here.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Tim Wise on White Privilege

Tim Wise talks about white privilege with the honesty and truth only seen among truth seekers. Beautiful stuff.

new jersey football and god don't mix!

and yet another milestone in the fight for freedom from religion...

while the chicago tribune announced on 4/15/08 that Court says coach can't kneel, bow head as team prays (sorta a loaded title, huh?), NSBA legal clips gives us an unbiased summary:

N.J. district's policy against faculty joining student prayers upheld

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit (DE, NJ, PA, V.I.) has ruled that a New Jersey school district's policy prohibiting faculty participation in student-initiated prayer was not unconstitutional on its face or as applied to the high school football coach who challenged it. The court also ruled that the coach's silent acts of bowing his head or taking a knee during prayer violated the Establishment Clause because, when viewed in light of his 23 years of prayer activities with the team, they would appear to a reasonable observer to endorse religion. The decision reverses a federal district court's ruling that had struck down the policy and held that the coach's silent acts did not violate the Establishment Clause. Marcus Borden, head varsity football coach at East Brunswick High School, had traditionally participated in a team prayer before the pre-game meal and again before the team took the field. When some parents complained and threatened litigation, East Brunswick School District (EBSD) restated its school prayer policy and warned Mr. Borden that his participation, including standing and bowing his head and kneeling, would be considered insubordination and could lead to his discharge. Mr. Borden initially resigned as coach, but returned and agreed to abide by the policy while he brought a lawsuit. A U.S. district court ruled in his favor.

On appeal, the Third Circuit first rejected Mr. Borden's claim that the policy was unconstitutionally overbroad, finding that it merely prohibited expression that amounts to school sponsorship or endorsement of prayer and would violate the Establishment Clause. The court likewise rejected the contention that the word "participate" in the district's policy was unconstitutionally vague, finding that the policy sufficiently elaborates what constitutes participation. Turning to the as-applied challenges, the court noted that the free speech claim would be governed by the two-pronged test established for public employee speech in Connick v. Myers, 461 U.S. 138 (1983). Under the first prong of the test, the court found that the coach's silent acts of expression were not speech on a "matter of public concern" but were "personal to the [coach] and his team…." Because the speech was not protected, the court had no need to balance Mr. Borden's interest in the speech against his employer's interest in limiting it. Addressing the academic freedom claim, the court noted that by Mr. Borden's own admission his acts were pedagogical in nature, and the school district had the authority to deem his methods inappropriate. His freedom of association claim also was without merit, because that right only protects relationships involving a closeness "not present between a high school football coach and his team." As for the due process claim, the court found that because the policy was "not so vague that people of common intelligence must guess as to its meaning," he must demonstrate that it infringed on a fundamental right. However, "Borden has no interest—privacy, liberty, or otherwise—in behavior that violates the Establishment Clause."

Lastly, the Third Circuit concluded that "the school district has a legitimate educational interest in avoiding Establishment Clause violations," and that its policy was reasonably related to that interest. Applying the "reasonable observer" standard under the Establishment Clause's endorsement test, whereby the inquiry is "whether a reasonable observer familiar with the history and context of the display would perceive the display as a government endorsement of religion," the court determined that "[t]he history and context of Borden's prayer activities with the team, if challenged, could have been Establishment Clause violations." The coach's 23 years of leading the team in prayer "signals an unconstitutional endorsement of religion," and his involvement, as participant, organizer, and leader, would lead a reasonable observer to this conclusion. However, the court acknowledged, absent this history "if a football coach, who had never engaged in prayer with his team, were to bow his head and take a knee while his team engaged in a moment of reflection or prayer, we would likely reach a different conclusion because the same history and context of endorsing religion would not be present."

Religious Freedom Does Not Include the United States Military

Specialist Jeremy Hall organized meetings for atheists at Camp Speicher in Iraq. One day, he said he was excited to see an officer attend. But, within minutes of the meeting he was berated for his views as was the group: “people like you are not holding up the Constitution and are going against what the founding fathers, who were Christians, wanted for America!” Major Freddy J.Welborn said. The soldiers were threatened that they may be sent home or not allowed to re-enlist.

Last month, Specialist Hall and the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, an advocacy group, filed suit in federal court in Kansas, alleging that Specialist Hall’s right to be free from state endorsement of religion under the First Amendment had been violated and that he had faced retaliation for his views. In November, he was sent home early from Iraq because of threats from fellow soldiers.

“They don’t trust you because they think you are unreliable and might break, since you don’t have God to rely on,” Specialist Hall said of those who proselytize in the military. “The message is, ‘It’s a Christian nation, and you need to recognize that.’ ” Really? News to me.

The New York Times article goes on to quote the religious guidelines of the military which were implemented because of discrimination claims in the Air Force. In 2005, the Air Force issued new regulations in response to complaints from cadets at the Air Force Academy that evangelical Christian officers used their positions to proselytize. It seems the Army is no different.

Specialist Hall came to atheism after years as a Christian. He was raised Baptist by his grandmother in Richlands, N.C., a town of less than 1,000 people. She read the Bible to him every night, and he said he joined the Army “to make something of myself.”

“I thought going to Iraq was right because we had God on our side,” he said in an interview near Fort Riley.

In the summer of 2005, after his first deployment to Iraq, Specialist Hall became friends with soldiers with atheist leanings. Their questions about faith prompted him to read the Bible more closely, which bred doubts that deepened over time.

“There are so many religions in the world,” he said. “Everyone thinks he’s right. Who is right? Even people who are Christians think other Christians are wrong.”

Specialist Hall said he did not advertise his atheism. But his views became apparent during his second deployment in 2006. At a Thanksgiving meal, someone at his table asked everyone to pray. Specialist Hall did not join in, explaining to a sergeant that he did not believe in God. The sergeant got angry, he said, and told him to go to another table.

This type of discrimination underscore the type of bigotry that goes unreported by people like Specialist Hall and others. Atheism is a dirty word in many quarters in America, in fact most, but I can only imagine what it is like in the United States Army in Iraq.

Though with a different unit now at Fort Riley, Specialist Hall said the backlash had continued. He has a no-contact order with a sergeant who, without provocation, threatened to “bust him in the mouth.” Another sergeant allegedly told Specialist Hall that as an atheist, he was not entitled to religious freedom because he had no religion. Read the rest of the article here.
Thank you specialist Hall for ensuring our Constitution is enforced even in the most extreme cases.

Bill Moyers and Reverend Wright

Reverend Wright is so engaging a figure and Bill Moyers should be applauded for doing what should have been done, getting beyond the soung bites. We at the SG never bought it. See our defense of the Reverend. This man should be listend to, learned from and is a genuine American hero for what he has done and what the MSM has put him through. Here is a clip of the interview, but you should see it in its entirety at PBS. It only makes me proud to support Obama more because he has been influenced by this man.

Lastly, Bill Moyers is our greatest journalist, bar none.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Conversation with Naomi Klein

A Conversation with Naomi Klein at Big Think. Thanks, to Lady Liberal for this. Naomi Klein is a progressive guru.

Obama v. Hillary in Pa.

I have been contemplating this day, April 22nd for some time. What will happen? Who will win? Hillary of course, but by how much. The late breakers break for Hillary, "bittergate" Hillary's slam on the "activists" and move, Reverend Wright, etc.

Right now the Real Clear poll of polls has Hillary wining with a 6% margin, 49 - 43. approximately. Still with an eight percent margin of undecideds. Many pundits are saying Obama has a ceiling of 43% in the polls which does not bode well for him. "Bittergate" is going to hurt him. Mind you these are all the people seven weeks ago who said he will lose by 20 points in a landslide. Now a six percent margin is a net negative for him. Even if he loses by say 12 points, Hillary only picks up 15 delegates at the most, which he makes back up in North Carolina and a dead heat in Indiana. Where is that narrative?

Regardless, my take is Philadelphia and the suburbs will come out big for Obama and his operations (which magda of the SG was a part of) are legendary right now. I think this picks him up a couple of points. Tie this together with activist gate (because maybe the media does not think it a big deal, but progressives do) Philly breaks huge for him. But, in the end it will not be enough and I am going to predict a large single digit victory. 54 - 45 for Hillary with one percent going somewhere else as it always does. This is a win for Obama as far as I am concerned. At most I think this thing breaks 56-44. At least it can be a four point spread, but I think Hillary will win this thing clearly.
Though, check out the latest Public Policy polling. 49-46 for Obama. Their analysis is pretty succinct: With such a close race the final result tomorrow should hinge on turnout. If there is disproportionately high turnout in the Philadelphia metro area, where Obama has a 58-32 lead, he could pull out a victory. Clinton is dominating throughout pretty much the rest of the state. Go GOTV!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

The Waste Culture

I like to read a monthly from São Paulo called Piaui. It has some pretty crazy reports, satire and political commentary. One story in this month's issue is entitled: "Trash is Relative."

Here it is, translated to the best of my abilities:

"The United States? In a recession? This country is blessed! They have no idea what poverty is."

For the Ganaese Desmond Antubam, maintenance man at Port Authority Bus Terminal, or New York's bus station, the best thermometer of American society is not Wall Street, but garbage. Antubam works at the largest bus terminal in the US and the busiest in the world. In operation since 1950, Port Authority takes up to Manhattan city blocks. Every day, 200,000 passengers pass through it. People come and go, and almost every one leaves a trail, generally found in the trash cans. It could be a crumpled up piece of paper, but it also could be clothes, toys, newspapers, magazines, shoes, bicycles, radios, TVs--and all in good condition.

For eighteen years, from Wednesday to Sunday, from 3 in the afternoon until 10 at night, Desmond Antubam empties the cans in the terminal. Between unhurried sips of tea at a Starbucks, he gave us a taste of his experiences.

Last Christmas, at the entrance to the station, Antubam noted a young woman who was talking on her cell phone with her boyfriend. She held a giant wrapped present and a bouquet of flowers, but, from the sound of things, had been forgotten there by the guy on the other end of the line. The conversation heated up, and Wham!, she hung up on the bastard. And, without thinking twice, she threw everything into the can-- the present, flowers, and the phone. Antubam, a good-natured, calm and soft-spoken guy, waited until the end of the tantrum and, slowly approached the woman: "Miss, your cell phone went into the trash."

"Fuck off, you and that asshole! He bought the phone and I'm not going to get it! If he wants to, he can buy another!" And, thus said, she left in a huff.

With extreme serenity, Antubam, fished the cell phone out of the trash and stuffed it in his pocket. The device, which was worth more than $200, wouldn't stop ringing. He ended up answering it, but didn't want to talk to the boyfriend, who kept shouting on the phone. He let it ring for a day, until her decided to return it to the owner, for a reward. He told the guy: 'I saved your cell phone; the flowers and the present are gone.'

For Antubam, waste has its limits. he was born in Accra, the capitol of Ghana, in a family with 9 siblings. His father died when he was 10 years old, which led to the beginning of a life full of hardship. Later on, Antubam would study graphic design and move to Nigeria, a better-off country than Ghana. There, he obtained an American visa, but the intermediary, as if it want't enough that he had been paid $ 1,700 commission, stole his passport. He was able to arrive on American soil via the Bahamas, in 1985.

Antubam married for the first time with an American and got his green card. After two years, they separated and he traveled to Africa, where he met his present wife, today 27 years old. The couple have three children, ranging in age from 10, 4, and 2. The middle child remained in Africa, with his grandparents, due to a technical problem with registration. Due to this problem, Antubam must prove that he is the father and for this has not been able to bring his son to the US. 'Immigration here is very complicated.'

As far as his eldest daughter, he says: "She took a bite out of her bread and threw the rest away. Times like these, I remind her that I paid almost $3,000 to get ehr out of Africa, and not to see her waste bread." The girl retorts like a good American: at school she it told to throw away any leftovers. This public health rule extends to restaurants in the bus terminal. After 9:30 pm, it is Antubam who takes away the hundreds of bags of fresh food discarded by 16 eateries in the station. All of it gets thrown away.

Since the workers are authorized to hold onto anything that's thrown away, he has co-workers who send entire containers full of unused food to Africa. During the summer, sweaty T-shirts go into the trash. Unneeded coats, the same. When it rains, umbrellas ge their turn. sneakers that don't fit in the suitcase? Garbage. A bicycle that can't be taken on the bus? Trash. Parents that give up on carrying the baby stroller leave the burden right there, in the garbage can. At the time of lockers, before 9/11, the harvest was even more plentiful. Bags and bags were forgotten way past the three-moth pickup dealine. After this point, it became trash. One co-worker found a gold necklace that earned him $2,000.

Antubam finishes the tea. Before saying farewell, he takes a moment to give his two cents on today's big issue: 'I would really be happy if a democratice candidate won these elections.' In the New York primaries, his vote went for Obama, but if Hillary survives the Obama wave and gets nominated, he'll vote for her, even though he didn't like seeing her crying on TV: 'Leaders that lead don't cry."

Something is Happening in Philly

Is the tide truly turning? It feels like it to me. This video is a spontaneous march after hearing Obama speak in front of a record 40,000 people. Remarkable. Supposedly, 5,000 people marched through city hall and downtown.

Go Magda, go Alli, go angela. I am with you in spirit, preparing for another maddening week, but also doing some phone banking. I think this outpouring may make something happen truly game changing in Pa. Good luck.

Also, see an audio at the Huffington Post blasting the activists in the Democratic party. This is not news to me. But, I hope it will get the same play as the nontroversy that "bitter gate" did. As I have said I will NEVER vote for her. Include me in the statistics. Go Obama.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

I knew it Wouldn't Be Easy

I knew it wouldn't be easy taking the democratic party back from the corporatists who have controlled it since the days of Dukakis. Dukakis was the last of the democrats from the democratic wing of the democratic party until the Clintons moved in...then Gore and Kerry. Obama, despite some clearly warranted criticism is not like those corporatists.

But, last night was astonishing. 45 minutes before these fuckers asked a single question about substance. It was an all out attack on Barack Obama with Hillary Clinton doing her best to "twist the knife" as Barack says. All the blogs are talking about it. We knew the Clintons would not go down with out a fight, but who knew the corporate media (who hates the Clintons) would rather have them than a black man named Barack Obama. Who knew that these fuckers were so afraid of the people?

Last night was disgusting... But...I just found this video on Daily kos and Barack is making light of these fools and doing it well.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Condoleeza Rice Must Go!

A new campaign by Brave New Films. Go to the website and sign the petition.

The message is very simple:

America will not stand for a Secretary of State who approved torture and then misled Congress. We call on the Presidential candidates to ask Secretary of State Rice to resign

On Daily Kos they are asking if ABC will ask a question in the debate tonight. Last week, ABC news broke the torture story wide open and since then, the story has picked up steam online, but besides the Daily Show, the Nation, and Keith Olbermann, there has been a virtual media blackout on this issue since the story broke. Torture approved at the highest levels of government. The Secretary of State chairing meetings deciding how many times to punch, slap, or waterboard people in American custody.

hob'art group exhibit at garden of eden

Dear Friends,

We are pleased to let you know that Hob’art, a cooperative gallery of Hoboken, NJ will be presenting a group art exhibit at Garden of Eden on Sunday afternoon, April 20 from 3pm-6pm. As a co-operative gallery comprised of membership from Hoboken and the surrounding areas, we exist primarily to serve the community by providing a showcase for fine art. For the first time, the Garden of Eden has opened its gates to our membership. From this point forward, Garden of Eden will not be just a venue for great food, but an appealing place of peace, of gathering, of open invitation to view contemporary works by members of hob-art. Come join us and invite your friends for an afternoon of good conversation, a display of outstanding art work and enjoyment.

Michelle Obama on the Colbert Report

This is great. Michelle Obama being first lady may be one of my favorite things about an Obama presidency.

Just a little taste of what you will get if you watch:

Colbert asking her why she would want to be first lady: "You'd never get any sleep because as I understand it the phone keeps ringing at 3am."

Maybe we'll get to meet her when we work in Philly this weekend? Can't hurt to dream can it?

Monday, April 14, 2008

a bird's eye view-- THE AVIAN CODE

just when i thought the joy of reading and books was lost on the younger generation to the tech world of video games, ipods, wii, etc., i realized a good story will always find a home (even if that requires self-publication)! this weekend i picked up a new book, courtesy of my co-worker at legal services. we often talk books but this one is near and dear to his heart. written by his son, brendan when he was just 11 years old, the avian code captures a piece of the wild... from the viewpoint of birds, specifically a peregrine falcon, an osprey, an arctic tern and a swallow-tailed kite.

brendan knows a lot about birds, their diets and migratory patterns... he recently won second place as the young birder of the year 2007 and first place in the writing category from the american birding association.

in his first book, brendan imagines in clever, witty details the society of birds. when their book, the avian code, filled with the laws and rules governing the avian world, is carelessly stolen and discarded by the human children, a band of feathered heroes takes flight to recover it.
a string of close calls and adventures awaits the rescue team... and along the way, they encounter their worst enemies... the humans (hunters, children who trample on nature, TV watchers), a roving gang of cowbirds, and also the evil rogue shrike.

i enjoyed the interesting details about each type of bird, their descriptions, habits and avian vocabulary which are intertwined with the adventure story (the author provides explanatory notes for avian terms). more importantly, brendan addresses the theme of humans versus nature, and how humans treat their environment. whether describing the hunter who shoots the falcon or the children who throw stones & hunt the birds for fun, he brings a voice to the avian world: "maybe someday all people will get brain-washed from television and forget to pollute our lovely environment," hopes katie aka katrina, the prairie falcon who joins the rescue team.

brendan, now 15, remains an avid birdwatcher and expert on avians... what next? avian code: the series... keep writing brendan!

Citizens Twice as Likely to Land in New Jersey Prisons as Legal, Illegal Immigrants

This is not a rebuke of the terrible criminal justice system, but rather a rebuke of folks like that moron who ran for President from Colorado, Tom Tancredo.

U.S. citizens are twice as likely to land in New Jersey's prisons as legal and illegal immigrants, according to new data that counter some of the most widely perceived notions about the link between immigration and crime.

Non-U.S. citizens make up 10 percent of the state's overall population, but just 5 percent of the 22,623 inmates in prison as of July 2007, according to an analysis of New Jersey Department of Corrections and U.S. Census data by The Star-Ledger.

Immigration officials have been "scouring" the prison rolls to find illegal immigrants in prison. This find did not occur. The statistics fall directly in line with several other new studies by sociologists that consistently have found the immigrant incarceration rates equal or lower to that of U.S. citizens. The findings contradict one long-held conception about immigrants and crime.

"I first got into this because I heard all these terrible complaints that immigrants were a big part of the crime problem," said Anne Morrison Piehl, an economics professor at Rutgers University who has researched incarceration rates among immigrants in California.

"When you look at incarceration rates, you find immigrants much less likely than the native born to be incarcerated," Piehl added. "Once you control for the fact that immigrants are generally younger and less educated, then the data you find is even more surprising."

Let's get one thing straight, however, New Jersey as well as other states imprison its citizens at rates that are astronomical. But, the myth that occurred as a result of the Newark slayings is untrue. Undocumented citizens and legal immigrants are not the crime problem that has been protrayed in the press. It is actually despicable what has occurred in the press. Read the rest of the article here.

brazilian lights

our brazilian friend renato sent us this interesting eco-tip...
Here is a video about a clever and ingenuous invention. Light bulbs made out of plastic bottles. They are filled with water and a little bit of bleach (to keep germs away), then the caps are protected with photographic film (to protect them from being dried out by the sun rays), and bingo. Each bottle produces as much light as a 50W bulb. How come we never thought of that before???

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Obama Slams His Critics

Chris Mathews always talks about Bill Clinton as the master politician and that is surely true. But, Barack Obama has something Clinton will never have. Clinton made people feel like he gets it, he empathizes, he feels their pain, but he never truly did and just made people feel good all the while making things worse.

Obama gets it for real. In many ways he lived it. And to underestimate this person is to make great folly. Let's go after Pennsyvlania. Barack '08

John McCain and Hillary Clinton: the Real Elitists

It is mind boggling to me how Barack Obama is portrayed as an elitist by John McCain and Hillary Clinton. This is like Alice in Wonderland. I hope the people of PA. see through this. If you have not heard this yet, Obama remarked to a question that folks in Pa. are bitter because of government. Here is the full text:

"You go into these small towns in Pennsylvania, and like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing's replaced them.

"And they fell through the Clinton administration and the Bush administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are going to regenerate and they have not," he went on. "And it's not surprising, then, they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren't like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations."

"Everybody just ascribes it to 'white working-class . . . don't want to vote for the black guy,' " Obama said at the fundraiser.

"Here's how it is: In a lot of these communities in big industrial states like Ohio and Pennsylvania, people have been beaten down so long. They feel so betrayed by government that when they hear a pitch that is premised on not being cynical about government, then a part of them just doesn't buy it. And when it's delivered by -- it's true that when it's delivered by a 46-year-old black man named Barack Obama, then that adds another layer of skepticism."

Somehow McCain and Clinton are painting Obama looking down at Pa. voters and as an elitist. McCain and Clinton (I tie these two real elitists together) are of the same stripe, they don't get what working class voters go through and how hard it is to live fucking paycheck to paycheck. Obama, by his comments (and being raised by a single mom) does get it. And this exploitation of the working class voter to vote against their economic interests is as old as the country. I hope Obama succeeds here.

See CNN reporters who see it for what it is. Good for all of them.

Friday, April 11, 2008

The One Booming Economy: New Jersey Prisons

From the Asbury Park Press:

In New Jersey's booming prison economy, there are winners and losers. Inmates face financial ruin and state taxpayers lose, too — about $41,000 per year, per inmate. Prison entrepreneurs, for whom each inmate is a government-subsidized business opportunity, are the big winners.

Growing nationally by 3.4 percent a year for the past 10 years, federal, state and local prisons hold 2.3 million inmates — one half of whom are nonviolent and small-time drug law offenders.

In New Jersey the prison population has remained steady, but has not risen. Here are the staggering numbers: New Jersey's annual taxpayer contribution for state prisons and local jails, $1.9 billion in 2005 and rising, keeps the prison market hot. Here is how that money is used to exploit the losers and enrich the winners.

Public jobs: Of the 720,000 state and local corrections employees in the U.S. in 2005, 16,934 worked in New Jersey guarding 46,411 inmates. That means for every three new inmates locked up in New Jersey, one new corrections job follows. That is good news for job seekers but bad news for the three inmates who actually create each new job.

Private profiteers: A new book by Tara Herivel and Paul Wright, "Prison Profiteers: Who Makes Money from Mass Incarceration," tells how the prison gravy train works. In addition to supplying food, clothing and medical care, private companies profit in other, less visible, ways.

Exclusive phone service agreements went to firms offering price-gouging rates and large payments to operators of prisons. In the 1990s, 90 percent of the correctional systems nationwide received a percentage of these telephone profits. By 2000, the share going to the prisons ranged from 44 percent in California to 60 percent in New York.

Prisoners, of all people in the country, have the greatest need to rely on collect calls, especially to stay in touch with their families. What excuse is there for price-gouging these families, many of whom are already suffering the loss of a breadwinner?

More than 2,626 prisoners in New Jersey and more than 85,000 inmates nationally are held in private, for-profit facilities. To sell their services in state capitals, we learn in another chapter that "Corporations with a stake in the expansion of private prisons invested $3.3 million in candidates for state office and state political parties in 44 states over the 2002-04 election cycle."

On top of that, these companies support the American Legislative Exchange Council, an influential behind-the-scenes interest group working with state legislators to pass tougher sentencing laws that will increase prison populations.

Cheap labor: While U.S. laws prohibit importing products made by prisoners in other countries, Gordon Lafer, a University of Oregon professor, reports that about 80,000 U.S. inmates work in 30 states where laws permit private firms to use convict labor. In Ohio, for example, a Honda supplier pays prison workers $2 per hour. These private firms do not pay for vacations, sick leave or overtime and workers can be dropped at will.

Liberty for sale: According to a recent New York Times article, bail bondsmen occupy a unique, for-profit niche in the American justice system. In all states except Illinois, Kentucky, Oregon and Wisconsin, to avoid going directly to jail an accused person must pay a bondsman a non-refundable fee — often 10 percent of the bond — even if he or she appears for all court proceedings. In some states, the bondsman is even permitted to hunt down and capture a client who fails to appear in court, breaking into homes without a warrant, if necessary.

What can be done to end this tax-subsidized prison gravy train? First, the laws and policies made in Trenton must stop filling state prisons with nonviolent drug users who should be in drug-treatment facilities, not prisons. Second, the lawmakers must stop passing ever-longer, one-size-fits-all mandatory minimum sentences that only tie the hands of courtroom judges and needlessly fill our prisons.

Until then, prison profiteers will continue to exploit New Jersey inmates and citizens in whose name the state prisons are built and operated.

Ronald Fraser writes on public policy issues for the DKT Liberty Project, a Washington-based civil liberties organization.

Clintons and Colombia

What was this?

McCain Supports the Troops?

From think progress:

McCain’s support of “significant educational benefits” is ironic, considering that he is still “hedging on whether he will support a ‘GI Bill for the 21st Century,’” as Jon Soltz and Gen. Wesley Clark note in today’s LA Times. That bill, sponsored by Sens. Jim Webb (D-VA) and Chuck Hagel (R-NE), would help fund higher education for service members who had served in active duty since 9/11. Will the media ever call McCain on his flip flops and contradictions?

“As de facto leader of the party, McCain could signal to other Republicans to sign on to the bill and assure passage,” Soltz and Clark note. VoteVets and BraveNewFilms has released a video on the new GI Bill and McCain.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

jersey junot wins the pulitzer prize!

still haven't read the brief wondrous life of oscar wao that takes place in various locales of jersey including paterson and the rutgers campus???? what are you waiting for? it's officially one of my top 5 books...

junot diaz, jersey boy and rutgers alum, has won the pulitzer prize for fiction... read more about junot on the rutgers website and alumni news page. for more details about his childhood in old bridge, his recent "rome" prize and other thrilling details, see yesterday's star ledger article.

here's a snippet for our jersey readers:

New Jersey, a state worth discussing. Though much of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao takes place at Rutgers and in the Dominican Republic, a variety of New Jersey spots, from the Woodbridge Center mall to Wildwood, also get the Díaz treatment. “The same way I wanted to document the lives of my friends that nobody seemed to care about, that no one seemed to notice,” he says, “I also wanted to document a state which is the place where I learned to be human, to be an adult. That landscape helped shape my perceptions, my opinions, my vision of the world. It launched me into the world. On top of that, you feel like no one’s doing it, and you think, well, no competition.” No competition? What about Philip Roth? What about Díaz’s contemporary, Tom Perrotta? “It’s not that it’s not being done,” Díaz notes, “or hasn’t been done, it’s just that there’s so much more work to do. It’s a state worth discussing.”

camp phoenix, afghanistan

two photos from my cousin robert, stationed recently at camp phoenix in afghanistan
(near kabul) where he is gearing up for his mission.

Bill Buckner Comes Home

I watched this on ESPN yesterday and had tears in my eyes for this man. What he went threw as a Red Sox "goat" and could never set foot in Boston or Fenway. And anyone who watched this game, a thousand times for me knows he did not lose the game for the Sox, many players already helped lose it including Schiraldi, Stanley, Gedman, etc. It was a team collapse and the media placed the blame on Buckner. Sad. But, the fans welcomed him yesterday.

Anyone who doesn't think players feel pain just watch this video. 22 years in exile. I apologize for the fans of Boston.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Challenger Newell Calls Sheldon Silver on his "Back Room" Dealings

I received this in my mailbox today. I wondered last night what Sheldon Silver's challenger (the SG friend Paul Newell) would say about Silver's shutting down the democratic process over a bill that is clearly in the best interests of the city. I didn't have to wait long, this message was waiting in my email box. Good stuff:

Challenger Paul Newell Criticizes Sheldon Silver's Congestion Dodge

Today, Paul Newell, Sheldon Silver's challenger in this year's 64th Assembly District Democratic Primary, criticized Silver's backroom dealings denying accountable government to New Yorkers, saying "Sheldon Silver's failure to even schedule a vote on congestion pricing shows his contempt for both the democratic process and concerns of Lower Manhattanites."

Newell continued to criticize Silver's deceptive approach. "New Yorkers deserve a legislature that openly debates issues rather than quietly killing them behind closed doors. After 32 years in Albany, Sheldon Silver's culture of failure denies accountability and representation to 19 million New Yorkers, and stifles innovative policy solutions. Congestion Pricing is too important an issue to be swept under the rug by Sheldon Silver".

Silver's secretive pre-emption of any vote on the issue comes on the heels of his refusing to disclose his highly suspicious side income with a powerful NY law firm. "Silver's continuing trend of secrecy and his subversion of the voter's right to have their leaders actually lead had caused too much damage to our state," Newell added.

Congestion pricing is of vital concern to Lower Manhattan. Newell pointed out that the 64th Assembly District includes the Brooklyn, Manhattan and Williamsburg Bridges and the Brooklyn Battery Tunnel, with the Holland Tunnel just a few blocks away, saying "There is no community in New York State more directly impacted by traffic congestion than ours".

Only 2.3% of Lower Manhattanites drive to work and the vast majority of Downtowners use public transportation. These riders stood to gain from congestion pricing with urgently needed improvements at the Brooklyn Bridge, Whitehall Street, East Broadway, Bowery, Grand Street and South Ferry subway stations and increased service on the M15 bus line.

Noting that all three Lower Manhattan City Councilmember supported the home rule message, Paul Newell asked why Silver is so out of step with the district's needs. "It's clear that Silver views his constituency as the caucus in Albany and not the people of Lower Manhattan What is the point of being represented by the Speaker when he fails to stand up for our vital concerns?".

Campaign for New York's Future AD 64 fact sheet:

Daily News on Asthma zones 6/17/2007 -

Tri-State Transportation Campaign and the Pratt Center for Community Development on AD 64 -

NY Post 2/29/08 on Silver's side income-

Monday, April 7, 2008

bring your own bag

thanks to my ma for this news...

whole foods market is getting rid of the plastic bag option!!!!! hurrah!!!!!! whole foods wants customers to bring their own bags to shop... and you get a 5 cent discount for each bag you bring...

although it's pricey to shop there, whole foods is leading the way... nice move.

The Office Returns

Speaking Truth to Power: Take that Bill 0'Reilly

This video should be seen far and wide. It is some of the best arguments I have seen regarding this country and racism and the absolute hypocrisy of the media (in this case Fox news). He discusses Jeremiah Wright, Farrakhan and Martin Luther King and makes minced meat out of the O'Reilly Factor reporter. Pass this video along.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

paterson's da yunginz

from program director ron cope: On Thursday April 3, Silk City Media Workshop (SCMW) had the World Premier of the video "Who We Be" by the Da Yunginz. Da Yunginz are a newly formed rap group from Paterson NJ who met at the Paterson YMCA NJ After 3 Program at Alexander Hamilton Academy. The group has two talented young women and four gifted young men.

Their work was put together in collaboration with Arts for Kids Records (ATKR). ATKR's sent the Executive Producer Tony Lewis, to work with the group to complete this project and it was a masterpiece. The was shot and edited by the up and coming Video Director, Steve "Quick Fingers" Fiedeldey.

We would like to thank, the Paterson YMCA, NJ After 3, Ronald McDonald House Charities, and Passaic County Community College for their undying support for our innovative programs. We would also like to thank Gaby Rinkerman and Gregg Festa for their belief in our project.

See the video or check out silk city media. The CD and video will be on sale as a bonus, on the Global Youth Service Weekend album to support Relay For Life. If you need more info about Global Youth Service Weekend please contact Vicki Fernandez at 973.413.1626 or

Al Sadr at it Again? Five More U.S. Soldiers Killed and Scores of Iraqis

From the Associated Press:

Suspected Shiite militants lobbed rockets and mortar shells into the U.S.-protected Green Zone and a military base elsewhere in Baghdad on Sunday, killing three American troops and wounding 31, officials said.

The attacks occurred as U.S. and Iraqi forces battled Shiite militants in Sadr City in some of the fiercest fighting since radical cleric Muqtada al-Sadr ordered a cease-fire a week ago. At least 16 Iraqi civilians were killed and nearly 100 wounded in the fighting, according to hospital officials.

The deaths raised to at least 4,018 members of the U.S. military who have died since the Iraq war started in March 2003, according to an Associated Press count.

The surge in violence came as tensions rose in Shiite areas despite al-Sadr's cease-fire order issued March 30 that eased nearly a week of clashes in Baghdad, Basra and other cities in the Shiite south. The cleric stopped short of asking his fighters to surrender their weapons, and sporadic clashes have continued.

Violence also continued in northern Iraq. Gunmen seized 42 students off a bus near the city of Mosul — the last major urban stronghold of al-Qaida in Iraq — but later released them unharmed. The U.S. military said the college students were rescued by Iraqi soldiers, and three kidnappers had been detained.

Say it with me though, slow and methodically. The surge is working, the surge is working. You say it so many times in a row and maybe we will actually believe it.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

The Next President?

From Harper's Magazine:

American housing prices continued to fall, and financial institutions worldwide, which have lost $295 billion so far, were expected to lose hundreds of billions more.

1 2 McCain asked mortgage lenders to provide voluntary aid to homeowners, recalling that General Motors had offered no-interest car financing after September 11.

Senator Hillary Clinton suggested consulting former Federal Reserve Chairman Alan Greenspan. While Clinton conceded that Greenspan helped cause the current crisis, she claimed that he has a “calming influence” on Wall Street. “Don't ask me why,” she said, “because I never understand what he's saying.”

A Cartoon

When Blood is Running in the Streets

I guess I can't say it surprises me. In a Friday article in the New York Times, entitled, "Investors Stalk the Wounded of Wall Street," the Rothschilds are quoted as saying: "The time to buy is when blood is running in the streets."

Hedge funds managers specializing in 'distressed' businesses, ironically, are usually formerly distressed businesses themselves. For example: Countrywide Financial Corporation, one of the pushers of subprime lending. From the article:

A former executive of the Countrywide Financial Corporation, one of the mortgage giants that fostered subprime lending, recently helped start a company — to buy mortgages. And executives of the Blackstone Group, those lords of the now faded buyout boom, just raised $10.9 billion from investors to scoop up real estate.
The vultures are betting, and betting big, that some people have thrown the good out with the bad, and that the prices of some investments have simply fallen too far.

Amazing? Not exactly. 'Opprtunity investing,' as it is called in the business, is quite commonplace in times of panic. As I remember from the documentary, The Corporation, a Wall Street Commodities trader was quoted as thinking that when the World Trade center was destroyed: "With disaster comes opportunity."

This is exactly why these scumbags need to be seriously regulated. We, the mere mortals, are just pawns in their shell game.

From the article again:

“There are a lot of dead carcasses on the road, and the vultures are out sniffing,” said Andy Kessler, a former hedge fund manager. “This is the cycle of Wall Street. When bubbles crash, you get the value guys who come in and say, ‘This thing is cheap.’ ”

Friday, April 4, 2008

Martin Luther King: 40 Years Later

I have never been excited celebrating the death or the birth of Martin Luther King, jr. Today, I feel excited for the first time in my life. Watching Barack Obama's campaign rally and watching black, white, latino and others come together for a deeper and bigger cause, maybe there is hope, maybe this man did not die in vain.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

One Person's Socialism is Another Person's Smart Economic Policy

Oh, you mean it is our oil? Not, Exxon's or Shell or Luk oil. We own the oil? Oh that is right, only in Venezuela do they think that natural resources are actually owned by the people, not by multinational corporations. Oil profits benefiting citizens? Not in America, but in Venezuela. Call it socialism, call it economic populism, I don't care, but I want it here.

Venezuela is planning a windfall tax on what it calls "excessive" profits of energy firms to allow state revenues to benefit from high oil prices:

The tax will take 50% of oil revenues above $70 per barrel, and an additional 60% of revenues over $100 per barrel, legislator Angel Rodriguez said.

He told state news agency ABN that oil firms had surpassed "reasonable levels of profitability".
The move will affect foreign oil firms operating in Venezuela such as Chevron.
Oil is currently trading above $104 per barrel.

'Excessive earnings'
The proposed tax comes months after President Hugo Chavez's nationalisation drive forced out two of the world's largest energy companies - Exxon Mobil Corp and Conoco Phillips.

Exxon is seeking $12bn in compensation from Venezuela after its oilfields were nationalised last year.

The tax will also apply to state oil company PDVSA, which now controls all of Venezuela's oilfields.

"Because of high oil prices, oil companies have excessive earnings that go beyond reasonable levels of profitability," Mr Rodriguez was quoted by Reuters as telling state news agency ABN.
"One way to distribute them to our people, who are the owners of the oil, is to create this tax."
Mr Rodriguez said the measure would get initial approval from the country's Congress this week.

Budget Cuts are Giving Nature the Axe in New Jersey

One in five New Jersey state parks would be forced to close at the height of the summer season and 80 parks workers would be laid off as part of cost-cutting measures forced by Gov. Jon S. Corzine's austere budget.

The Department of Environmental Protection is proposing to close nine state parks entirely, slash services at three more, and reduce offseason hours at all 42 sites.

The list of parks slated for closure includes five in the Skylands region and two each in the Shore and Delaware River regions. Hours and services at three others would be drastically reduced. Parks targeted to close include High Point State Park and Round Valley Recreation Area in the north, Monmouth Battlefield State Park at the shore and Parvin State Park in the south.

The article goes on to say some 17 million New Jerseyans use these parks and the parks slated for closure had 2 million visitors last year alone. Environmentalists say the cuts are not worth the trade-off. Ya think?

This is so short-sighted to close parks to save a few million dollars. Right now New Jersey is so totally in debt, cutting this amount of nature and use to save is as someone says in the article: "draconian."

"We have too many people in government who don't understand how important parks are for the people of New Jersey," said Jeff Tittel, executive director of the New Jersey Sierra Club. "Not everybody can have a house on Long Beach Island or the Hamptons. This is where people go on their vacations."

Why is it I dislike Corzine more and more. He tries to run the state as if it is Goldman Sachs. Cut here, cut this. Raise taxes on the rich already! It is called progressive taxation. It is the only thing that will work that does not harm the economy, and hurts those with the most who will not even feel it. It is called populism, something I am sure Governor Corzine has not heard of often.

The list of nine state parks that would close:

-- Monmouth Battlefield State Park, 2,928 acres, Monmouth County. Visitor center, restrooms, closed.

-- Stephens State Park, 805 acres, Warren County. Camping area closed.

-- High Point State Park, 15,827 acres, Sussex County. Swimming, camping, interpretive center, office, closed. Trail access limited.

-- Brendan T. Byrne State Forest (formerly Lebanon State Forest), 36,647 acres, Burlington County. Camping, group picnic area, Indian King Tavern, office, closed. Trail access limited.

-- Round Valley Recreation Area, 3,684 acres, Hunterdon County. Swimming, camping, Wallace House, office, closed.

-- Parvin State Park, 1,952 acres, Salem County. Swimming, camping, interpretive center, office, closed.

-- Jenny Jump State Forest, 4,288 acres, Warren County. Camping and office, closed. Trail access limited.

-- Worthington State Forest, 6,584 acres, Warren County. Camping and office, closed. Trail access limited.

-- Fort Mott State Park, 104 acres, Salem County. Hancock House, historic sites, office, closed. Access to ferry service, open.

The list of three New Jersey state parks that would partially close under the proposed budget:

-- Ringwood State Park, 4,044 acres, Bergen and Passaic counties. Shepherd Lake swimming area closed; Ringwood Manor, reduced hours. State Botanical Gardens and Skylands Manor, open.

-- D&R Canal State Park, 5,379 acres, central New Jersey. Bulls Island Recreation Area closed to campers. Rockingham Historic Site and towpath, open.

-- Washington Crossing State Park, 3,126 acres, Mercer and Hunterdon counties. Significantly reduced hours at Clark House, Johnson Ferry House and the museum.

Winter hours at all remaining parks would be reduced. All but Liberty and Island Beach state parks would be closed Mondays and Tuesdays from Nov. 1 through March 31.

The Logic of Hillary '08

What is a Progressive?

"The American left is in the throes of an existential crisis. Some say it's a failure of nerve, others a loss of belief. It is the latter. Neoliberalism has sucked the oxygen out of the left by deflating the political sphere to the economic one. The left must articulate a new creed around three principles: empowerment (the economic is ancillary to the political); social justice (the disadvantaged have an unconditional claim upon the collectivity); and decency (the state may not humiliate anyone). To make its case, the left must redefine that most exalted form of self-interest, patriotism, as pride in a society that grants all of its members the means to belong." -Bernard Chazelle -

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Another Diner Bites the Dust

If you haven't heard, this is the news that broke on


A commenter to this blog (eeps) tipped me to the closing of the Cheyenne Diner, which I just covered two weeks ago upon the happy news of the Market Diner's re-opening. I called the diner to confirm and yes, sadly, this will be the Cheyenne's last week on earth after more than half a century at 9th and 33rd. Just as I thought life in New York was getting better for our diners, another is put out to pasture. Maybe it will follow the Moondance out to Wyoming. I just hope the autographed pics of What's Happening's Fred "Rerun" Berry will go with it.

I grew up in New Jersey. I went to college in the Bronx. I lived in Ridgewood and Bushwick. Each of these places had at least one thing in common: diners. The first time I went into a diner, it was probably the Candlewyck, in East Rutherford. My parents used to take my brother, sister and I on alternating weekends to that overly-mirrored paradise. I always ordered pineapple juice and hot chocolate with whipped cream. You could get anything, at any time.

New Jersey and New York, going way back to the Paterson caboose diners, specialized in the art of the diner. The closing of the Cheyenne, a place I went many a time with my Dad, who works two blocks from it at 2 Penn Plaza, is a travesty. I hope that the yuppies from Nebraska that buy up the apartments that the owner of Cheyenne will put up in its place, are somehow forced to face up to the fact that they are a part of the spiraling decline of New York history.

NINA (No Irish Need Apply)

from Folha de S. Paulo, Sunday 3/30/08:

The government of Ireland decided to mistreat the Brazilians arriving in that country. (By deporting 57 Brazilians in the first three months of the year, mainly under the suspicious "law" that says anyone traveling to the EU must carry a minimum of 75 Euros a day for the duration of their stay, even if they are registered to attend a conference where that amount would not seem to be necessary.) In a case resolved by Policia Federal (Brazilian FBI), half a dozen natives of Ireland were in turn deported, focusing on people who were working in Brasil with a tourist visa.

It's a shame that Ireland has forgotten the time when it exported 5 million of its wretched, destroyed by hunger and lack of work. These embattled masses were accompanied by stereotypes as barbarians, brawlers, and drunks.There was a period when American commercial establishments put up signs on their doors stating: 'We do not accept blacks, Irish or dogs.' The madames of New York and London advertised for housekeepers with a code: "NINA," (No Irish Need Apply).

This short piece only reinforces the fear of a world ever-increasingly smaller, and the inability of countries to remain 'pure.' Whether it is the US, Ireland, Spain, or Italy, amnesia is running rampant. The immigrant of yesterday is the know-nothing of today. And so it goes.

Chevron : TV Ad : Renewable Energy

Congress is finally going after OPEC for their obscene stranglehold on the world's energy. I was just watching this ad on CNN last night, and it looks so pretty on film, but last time I checked, Chevron wasn't richer than Lichtenstein due to their investment in geothermal energy. They, as far as I am concerned, will not do more than make nice ads unless countries force them to change. This and all the other Chevron ads are a great smokescreen. My question is: hw mcuh money will they spend to make sure they are in on the eventual Iraq oil rush?

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

Immigration Fiasco

I've been reading a lot lately about undocumented children in the US and the issues that arise because of their immigration status. They grow up in the US and can't legally work or attend universities.

Listen to this young man's story:

Then take action, here.

(Hat tip, feministing)

A Question of Fairness: Restore the Vote

"I done things I'm not proud of, and I'm different now; I'm a man," he said outside the hall. "But I can't go back and change what I did." Mr. McGowan said he doubts his rights will be restored in time. If he can, he will vote for Sen. Barack Obama. "I like Hillary; Hillary is all right, but Barack, Barack is something different," he said.

An issue that seems to be getting more and more traction in the news is felony reenfranchisement. Yesterday, another editorial in the Wall Street Journal of all papers argues felons case. Florida recently restored voting rights to felons. Charlie Crist went against the Republican machine in Florida, but the process has been slow and of course the 2008 election looms.

Florida's clemency board has restored voting rights to nearly 75,000 residents. But nearly 96,000 requests are pending, according to information through March 20. Activists say there might be an additional 400,000 people who have been rejected without explanation, making it impossible for them to be reinstated.

The issue will only gain more traction as the fall comes into focus. But, rest assured no state house will do anything this year to move felons vote in their respective states, but this does not underscore the fact that "5.3 million U.S. citizens unable to vote because of felony convictions -- including four million people who are no longer in prison, according to the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law."

Maine and Vermont are the only states that allow felons to vote while incarcerated. Thirteen others and the District of Columbia allow inmates to regain the right to vote after their release, according to the Sentencing Project, a Washington advocacy group. Other states limit voting based on factors including the severity of a crime, the completion of probation and the payment of fines.

This reenfranchisement is a question of fairness, of a society that expects people to pay their debt to society and then improve, do not move back into crime. But, what of a society that says, sorry - yes, you have paid your debt to society, but you still cannot vote, you are not a citizen, you are not a man. What of a society when most of those men (of course some women) are people of color, mostly black, is there something being said? What of these laws, these disenfranchisement laws come from the post slavery south that instead of denying blacks the right to vote outright, they sought laws on the books that those with a criminal record can't vote, then they arrested former slaves.

We need to end felony disenfranchisement, once and for all.

Speaker Pelosi Had to Intervene on Behalf of Congress Woman Tammy Baldwin's Domestic Partner on Military Flight

From Think Progress: How much longer do we have to put up with this shit? Let's see I will tell you how long: 294 days left.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was recently “forced to intervene with Defense Secretary Robert Gates” in order to get Rep. Tammy Baldwin’s (D-WI) “domestic partner on a military flight for a congressional fact-finding trip to Europe.” While House rules allow spouses to travel with members of Congress on such missions, “military officials were apparently unwilling to consider” Baldwin’s partner “a ’spouse’ within the meaning of the House guidelines.” Pelosi’s effort was successful, but the Politico reports that “[t]he Pentagon appears to be self-conscious about transporting gay domestic partners at a time when it continues to enforce a ‘don’t ask, don’t tell’ policy in its own ranks.” Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA), another openly gay lawmaker, suggested the military is perhaps “following orders” because “the [Bush] administration disapproves of same-sex marriage.”

Wealthy People Enrolled in New Jersey Health Care Program for the Poor

This could hurt (politically) Vitale's call for universal healthcare in New Jersey. Already some Republicans are calling the state not proficient enough to run a state healthcare insurance program. While, sure fraud exists, I think it is important to note the fraud is from those over qualified from this program, not people who are qualified and are so-called "double dipping." Health Care for all is absolutely essential and because possible fraud is possible is no reason to stop the call for universal healthcare. This is what was found:

Wealthy people are enrolled in a state-run health care program for working poor families and criminal investigators are examining another state health program for the poor, according to new state audits that found shocking displays of wasted money.

An audit found:

• Some beneficiaries failed to report all income on NJ FamilyCare applications. Applicants authorize the program to match applications with their tax return, but the state isn't checking all tax files, allowing people with incomes of $295,000, $186,000 and $177,700 to enroll.

• About 13,000 NJ FamilyCare participants weren't sent renewal applications, though regulations require eligibility be determined annually. The audit found $43.1 million was paid to these participants from July 2005 to September without knowing if they remain eligible.

• The state failed to try to collect $4.6 million owed to NJ FamilyCare by 16,300 people.

• The state paid $2.1 million from July 2005 to December for medical equipment that should have been paid for by nursing facilities.

• The state is failing to monitor medical equipment providers. For example, it found a provider billed the Medicaid program $30,000 for 48,000 adult incontinence briefs, though the audit found only 10,000 briefs were purchased. Auditors said they've referred this and other examples to state criminal investigators.

• The state isn't properly calculating Medicaid reimbursements. For instance, auditors found the state paid $8,181 for a wheelchair that should have cost $5,705.

• The state spent $6.7 million in state and federal money more than was needed to rent oxygen equipment and buy adult incontinence briefs.

• The state, from July 2005 to December, sent as many as three blood pressure monitors to Medicaid patients, even though many come with warranties and are replaced for free by drug store chains. The audit found the state could have saved $100,000 by denying these claims.