Sunday, January 31, 2010

We can still help Haiti

I just sent another contribution to Partners in Health so I thought I'd nag y'all a bit.

Here are a couple of links to people who have said it better:

Paul Farmer's testimony to U.S. Senate

Farmer was on the ground in Haiti years before this crisis. I've tried to talk up PIH without seeming like a shill. I just prefer donating to people who are helping Haitians help themselves.

James Rucker ( post at JJP

I know James Rucker's mama and I know Van Jones co-founded his organization so I'm biased. But I like what he's doing to support Haitian relief efforts and how he expresses it.

Census Smorgasbord

I've had a couple of conversations elsewhere this past week about the 2010 census, who gets counted, and who gets counted where. So pardon me while I collect myself! (Hat tip to morphus at JJP for posting several items that sucked me in.)

Thread #1:

[Original article, "Barack Obama opponents urge census boycott," is worth reading here at the Guardian (UK).]

Thread #2:

[Original article, "Inmates' Stock Is Rising in Albany District Fight," is worth reading here at the New York Times.]

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Counting Corporate Coup (We Just Got Tapped with the Stick)

From Prometheus 6 with due hat tip. There's a detailed post and active discussion there that support a meme I would like to spread. After the Supreme Court's 5-4 decision to expand the "free speech" "rights" of quite unreal "persons," I'm glad to see a constructive opinion that doesn't demand (in vain) that we all run out and amend the U.S. Constitution. In any case, I'd like to quote a sobbing anti-health care reform protester from the Summer of '09:

"I just want my America back."

On turning back the corporate coup

The Supreme Court's decision to remove all restrictions on corporate political spending has engendered the most cohesive national response seen since the 2008 national election. Yes, there are those that take the bizarre position that they "don't buy the idea that limiting corruption is a state interest sufficiently compelling to overcome the First Amendment interest in free speech". But most people were stunned, and the reaction from even media that would itself be freed by this decision ranged from Ruth Marcus' takedown of the hypocrisy of the decision to the Boston Globe's simple Corporations Are Not People. While a recent Gallup poll found public support for campaign finance law treating corporate donations the same as individuals' donations, 61% of Americans think the government should be able to limit the amount of money individuals can contribute to candidates and 76% think it should be able to limit the amount corporations or unions can give.

More, plus an interesting graph, at Prometheus 6 -->

Monday, January 18, 2010

Speaking of skin lighteners (though we weren't): Cartoonist lightens Robertson assistant Kristi Watts

So... here I was, assiduously avoiding the contentious skin-lightener thread at Prometheus 6 (and elsewhere, thanks to Sammy Sosa), not because of the topic itself-- my mom was a beautician back before they were hair stylists, and you can't scare me with the subject matter-- but because of the fact that P6 had to activate his devoweler (q.v.) just to keep the situation under control in the comments.

And dang if the topic didn't come in the side door via the Robertson/Haiti/pact with the Devil fiasco (which I first read about over at JJP). Tom Meyer, who is actually one of my favorite living editorial cartoonists, included the Robertson moment in his latest cartoon, but failed to capture the, er, essence of 700 Club faithful sidekick Kristi Watts:

The depiction looks more like a side view of journalist and frequent Nation columnist Naomi Klein than Kristi Watts, if you ask me. Wha' hoppen? Why did Kristi's skin fade from minority status in the artist's conception? Meyer is darned good, but I don't think he's subtly suggesting she might as well be white from her reaction to Robertson's blather. What do you think?

Netherworld reports record low temperatures

The area known as "the infernal regions" suffered an unusual cold snap on Sunday as former President George W. Bush continued to cooperate amicably with both President Barack Obama and former President Bill Clinton. In a joint appearance with Mr. Clinton on NBC's Meet the Press, Mr. Bush brushed aside comments from pundit-entertainers such as Rush Limbaugh who criticized Mr. Obama's response to the Haiti crisis.

Visit for breaking news, world news, and news about the economy

Meteorologists say that an "El Niño"-type increase in the black blogosphere linking to The Huffington Post item about Mr. Bush's statement also contributed to the low temperatures. Reports of freezing came in from various locales including Hades, Sheol, Acheron, Gehenna, Tophet, Niflheim and the River Styx.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Look up "dumber than dirt" and see a Texas map

“I’m disappointed,” Mr. Grier said. “It was potentially a lot of money for our state. I’m not one to sell my soul for money, but I have 100,000 kids in Houston who don’t read at grade level, and I don’t agree with people who say resources don’t make a difference.”

Texas must be jealous of my home state of California-- that's the only reasonable explanation for ol' Rick Perry's latest case of hoof-in-mouth disease. We in CA are riding our own education juggernaut nearer and nearer to the edge of the cliff. Texas apparently wants to nose us out of the way and tumble over the edge first. Refusing "Race to the Top" funds, even with that program's strings, puts Texas just a little ahead in the "Race to Meltdown." The first lemming to get there, one must keep in mind, is still a lemming. (And please pardon the mixed metaphors.)

January 14, 2010
Texas Shuts Door on Millions in Education Grants

Texas will not compete for up to $700 million in federal education money, Gov. Rick Perry said on Wednesday, calling the Obama administration’s main school improvement grant program an unacceptable intrusion on states’ control over education.

Mr. Perry’s decision, days before a Jan. 19 deadline, interrupted months of work by Texas officials and a consulting company financed by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation to prepare the application for the federal grant competition, known as Race to the Top. Texas had been eligible to win up to $700 million of a total of $4 billion the department will award for encouraging charter schools, improving teacher instruction, overhauling schools and joining an effort to adopt common academic standards.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Haiti: Time or Money

I was going to try to write something profound about the January 12 earthquake in Haiti. Instead, I'll just quote what a friend once told me about a family crisis: "You can put in time or money. Which will it be?"

Humanitarian organizations abound. Most are legit and most need support. Find one that comports with your worldview, vet it, and do what you can.

I'm partial to people who are on the ground in Haiti all the time, not just during crises when the cameras are rolling. My friend P6 says he'll probably go with Doctors Without Borders. I'm going with Partners in Health. Both organizations just show up and provide medical care, and ignore the naysayers who say that it can't be done, or that the problems are too big to solve.

You may prefer organizations such as the American Red Cross, which has already committed $1 million in resources from its International Response Fund.

Sunday, January 3, 2010

Will you be counted? Where? Are you an "all other person"?

Hat tip to Marc Anthony Neal at NewBlackMan for the Ron Daniels reference.

Most of us don't have to worry about whether we'll be counted in the 2010 census. Nor will we have to worry about which state or locality considers us to be residents. We might frown a little over which race/ethnicity boxes to check, and we'll all have opinions as to which boxes other people should check. (Be honest, now!) But for the most part we'll answer the questions and go about our business.

What is worth worrying about is that the census, however it turns out, directly affects apportionment (Congressional representation) across and within many states. And minority head counts (Black, Latino, and Native American, anyway) will once again cause controversy. Do we count all persons? Do we have to include people we don't want to count? Who is this "we"?

Let's start with a hard example: Do we count prisoners where they are being held, or where they and their families have official residence? Can we move prisoners for the sake of "packing" one district or another? Dr. Ron Daniels is not the first to discuss this but I like the way he frames it in his December 22, 2009 Vantage Point column:

The Constitution mandates that every person living in the United States be counted every ten years. As mentioned in a previous article, the Census is more than counting heads. The data collected is critical to the allocation of some $400 million annually in federal tax dollars to state and local governments for schools, housing, hospitals, transportation, roads and safety forces. Census data also determines the apportionment of political districts...

However, one issue surfaced, that Secretary [of Commerce Gary] Locke seemed perplexed about how to resolve, the huge number of incarcerated Blacks in the prison-jail industrial complex who are counted in the communities in which they are confined rather than in the communities where they and their families live. On the surface, it would not appear to be a major problem. However, in reality, if we recall that Census data is used for the distribution of resources to state and local communities and the apportionment of political representation, this anomaly has devastating consequences for Black communities across the country. According to information compiled by the Fair Count to Fair Share Initiative of the Praxis Project, there are at least 21 counties in the U.S. where incarcerated persons comprise 21% of the population. “In 173 counties, more than half of the Black residents reported in the Census are prisoners.” In New York, “most of the state’s prisoners (66%) are New York City residents, but the vast majority of them (91%) are counted as residents of upstate prisons.” Because of this fact, there are several state senatorial districts in New York that only meet the minimum population requirement because the incarcerated are included in their count. Indeed, there are probably congressional districts around the country that only meet the population requirement because of the incarcerated population.

Let me be clear, what this means is that all across this country, Black prisoners are being counted/used by communities as the basis for securing a share of the $400 million in federal tax dollars distributed annually and political representation to advocate for their interests at the state and national levels. Meanwhile, Black communities from which the vast majority of the incarcerated come are denied the desperately needed resources to correct the deplorable conditions that have created a pipeline to prisons in the first place. This is tantamount to an unwritten, unspoken, de facto modern day 3/5 Compromise... [emphases added]

Full article HERE.