Monday, March 31, 2008

Residents of Alabama's Black Belt hit hardest by high gas prices

***(Opinion) Throughout the United States, there are places so isolated and impoverished that residents are literally unable to access the basic economic and educational ladders of opportunity that so many others take for granted. The impoverished rural areas in Alabama's Black Belt region offer testament to a nation that appears to have forgotten vast swaths of its own people. In fact, some might say Alabama's Black Belt presents a case study of blatant economic injustice. Here is a story from "The Birmingham News" that illustrates just one, but obviously major symptom of that apparent truth.***
Cody Lyon
Monday, March 31, 2008
Birmingham News staff writer

SELMA - Alabama's Black Belt has some of the nation's poorest counties, and a recent survey suggests many of its residents are suffering more from high gasoline prices than most people in the nation.

According to the latest Pain at the Pump Index by the Oil Price Information Service, residents of Wilcox County spend more of their money on fuel than their counterparts in any other county in the nation.

The median monthly income in Wilcox is $1,460.50, according to the index. Each month, Wilcox residents spend more than 13 percent of that monthly income on gasoline. And the price they pay at the pump is 12 cents higher than the national median of $3.17.

Link to Full Story at "The Birmingham News"

Obama had greater role on liberal survey (from POLITCO)

by KENNETH P. VOGEL | 3/31/08
During his first run for elected office, Barack Obama played a greater role than his aides now acknowledge in crafting liberal stands on gun control, the death penalty and abortion — positions that appear at odds with the more moderate image he has projected during his presidential campaign.

The evidence comes from an amended version of an Illinois voter group’s detailed questionnaire, filed under his name during his 1996 bid for a state Senate seat.

Late last year, in response to a Politico story about Obama’s answers to the original questionnaire, his aides said he “never saw or approved” the questionnaire.


Sunday, March 30, 2008

(REUTERS) Clinton says China holdings threaten U.S. security

By Jeff Mason at REUTERS

INDIANAPOLIS, Indiana (Reuters) - The Bush administration has jeopardized national security and the ability to intervene in world crises because of the huge U.S. debt held partly by China, Democratic presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton said on Saturday.

The New York senator, who argues she is better prepared to deal with economic and foreign policy problems than rival Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, told a rally in Indiana that the United States' $9 trillion in gross national debt puts it at the mercy of other nations.


Footage and Brief Statement from Alabama's Former Governor Don Siegelman on The Day He Left Prison

Don Siegelman leaves prison

"The Birmingham News"

Saturday, March 29, 2008

James Carville-Disloyalty that Merits and Insult (Washington Post)

Saturday, March 29, 2008; Page A15
Last Friday the New York Times asked me to comment on New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson's endorsement of Sen. Barack Obama for president. For 15 years, Richardson served with no small measure of distinction as the representative of New Mexico's 3rd Congressional District. But he gained national stature -- and his career took off -- when President Bill Clinton appointed him U.S. ambassador to the United Nations and later made him energy secretary.

So, when asked on Good Friday about Richardson's rejection of the Clintons, the metaphor was too good to pass by. I compared Richardson to Judas Iscariot. (And Matthew Dowd is right: Had it been the Fourth of July, I probably would have called him Benedict Arnold.)


Friday, March 28, 2008

Politics on The Runway

By Cody Lyon

Each week, countless fans of Bravo Television’s smart reality show, Project Runway, get a kick out of hearing Heidi Klum, in her pronounced German accent say, “you’re out” to the losing contestant of the competition.

But before the final rendering, in the final moments on the program, viewers are treated to a fashion show, this being the moment when competitors parade their gowns, dresses or suits before the judges, often constructed under the most difficult situations.

The contestants represent, as models strut down the runway while Nina Garcia, Heidi and Michael Kors all take notes and then offer sometimes stinging critiques, building the drama for the commercial break, and when viewers return, Klum makes her final analysis and bids auf wiedersehen to one unlucky contestant.

At its very fundament, fashion is taking something ordinary and making it fabulous. Beneath all of that creation is fantasy and interestingly enough, it is fantasy that has bled into current day Democratic Party politics, fantasy that could potentially lead voters astray under the assumption that if you can’t beat them, join them, all in the name of party unity.

The beauty of Project Runway is that we the viewers get to watch, as contestants struggle with all manner of seemingly impossible obstacles to construct creations, utilizing everything from curtains to plants, sewn, stapled or taped together under what seem to be impossible time frames. The contestants argue, back stab or team up on each other often while dealing with personal drama, but in the end, they produce and dazzle or disappoint us with their end products.

Sometimes, these same patterns emerge in political races. But, at least on Project Runway, the final goodbye is saved for after the runway show. In the case of the contest between Hillary and Barack, the runway is still occupied and the show goes on, but, fantasy seeds of an already rendered final decision have been planted by some who would bid one candidate goodbye.

As has been widely witnessed, calls by pundits, some Democratic leaders and other people with platforms are being made for Hillary Clinton to step aside so that the prematurely anointed candidate Barack Obama, can have free reign over the direction of the upcoming general campaign against Republican John McCain.

According to a number of those calling for a Clinton departure, this longer than expected campaign is “dividing” the Democratic Party and hurting chances for a victory against John McCain and the Republican 527 machine of dirty politics sure to emerge in November.

Howard Dean, chairman of the national party, has called on both sides to stop being personal, to cool it with the bickering, yet, as anyone can read, the nastiness continues throughout the web and elsewhere as members of the media engage in what Howard Kurtz at the Washington Post called, “Open season” on Hillary.

But as Kurtz pointed out in his March 28 column, while 22 percent of Obama supporters say Clinton should leave the race, the same amount, 22 percent of Clinton supporters, feel the same about Obama, and that he should be the one who drops out, according to a Ramussen poll of Democratic voters.

In other words, while many in the media have given the Obama side a bullhorn in telling Hillary to hit the road, the reality on the ground seems to say otherwise, and apparently, that is what is keeping Hillary’s engines revved up for the prolonged battle in this truly close race.

Add that to what appears to be convenient lack of outrage over the Florida and Michigan delegate issue which would have closed any sense of a gap in the contest further.

One would think that whole issue was “settled”, at least according to the dearth of outrage from editorialists and pundits over what could prove to be one of the biggest cases of democratic party voter disenfranchisement ever, a case that has already sewn seeds of resentment in those swing states that will haunt Obama moreso than a loud Rev. Wright sermon, that is, if his supporters do indeed prevail in kicking Hillary out of the sandbox.

As Senator Obama told a voter this past March 20 who’d ask him when he’d get to vote for him in Michigan, a “re-do vote is very complicated.”

Indeed it would, but, what will prove more complicated is the convincing of those voters that you have their best interest in mind in November, especially after you did very little to see to it that their voices were heard in a Democratic primary, not some pre arranged caucus "arrangement" where the younger grass roots types prevail.

As some Democratic voters sit back and watch all of this unfold before their eyes, they wonder, should they too engage in the sort of shrill tactics being served up online and elsewhere over their displeasure at the sort of fantasy politics being sold them by some of the purveyors information?

Does the fact that Hillary Clinton won in big states like New York, New Jersey, Massachusetts and California, states that Democrats won in 2004 general election, serve as a realistic reminder that pushing Clinton out would do very little for party unity and that her victory in Manhattan serves as a note to the news folks, Clinton’s base also includes well read “latte liberals?”

Does the fact that Hillary won primaries in the crucial swing states like Ohio, and yes, Florida, give room for pause in the crusade to kick Clinton off the team?

And, what about Pennsylvania where she now leads in double digits?

The judges are still writing on their cards, the runway is still occupied with two models of American democracy and guess what, they both deserve to be heard until the final auf wiedersehen is pronounced by voters not pundits.

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Siegelman to be Released

Ex-Governor of Alabama Is Ordered Released (New York Times)
Published: March 28, 2008
Don Siegelman was ordered released from prison pending his appeal of a bribery conviction that Democrats say resulted from a politically driven prosecution.

Battles rage in southern Iraq (REUTERS)

(REUTERS)Mar. 27 - Fighting in Iraq's south between government-backed forces and Shi'ite militia continues for a third day.

Iraq's Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki vowed security forces would battle Shi'ite militia in Basra "to the end" despite thousands of protesters marching to demand his resignation.

Mehdi Army fighters loyal to cleric Moqtada al-Sadr remain in control of streets of Basra, Iraq's second biggest city and main oil hub, defying a three-day government offensive that has led to violence spreading across the south and Baghdad.

Michelle Carlile-Alkhouri reports.

The Uncle Al Election- Gail Collins at "The New York Times"

Op-Ed Columnist-"New York Times"
The Uncle Al Election
Published: March 27, 2008
The race between Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama has now turned into one long Uncle Al show. Everybody wins! Nobody loses! How do we make them stop?

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

White House Offers Grim Outlook for Medicare (New York Times)

From "The New York Times"
White House Offers Grim Outlook for Medicare
Published: March 25, 2008
The new reports, like those issued last April, said that Medicare’s hospital insurance trust fund would be exhausted in 2019, while Social Security’s reserves would be depleted in 2041.

Monday, March 24, 2008

What Does Iraq's Oil Say About The Iraq War? (Re-post)

by Cody Lyon (LINK TO FULL TEXT)
EXCERPTThe Iraqi cabinet approved the hydrocarbon law on Feb. 26 and sent it on to parliament where it now sits. If fully approved, Iraq's oil reserves would be opened to investment from foreign multinational oil companies. The current legislation would also provide oil companies the option for long-term contracts of up to 30 years. The laws would set up Profit Sharing Agreements, or PSAs, where revenue is based on the profit after oil companies' deduct their production costs. Reportedly, the remaining profits would then be divided among the Iraqi provinces.

Critics charge that the law offers excessive and unfair profits to the oil companies. Others worry that since Iraq is now a country experiencing horrific turmoil, the time is not right to debate such important economic legislation.

Supporters of the oil law disagree. They say the regulatory, legal and tax structure the oil law sets up, will invite the necessary outside investment the country needs to jumpstart its economy. They see the law as an enabler of market-based economic infrastructure that will produce streams of revenue, helping restore stability and prosperity for the Iraqi people.


A View From The Black Pulpit (Birmingham News)

by-P. BANNEKER HATCHERSON- Pastor at 23rd Street Baptist Church South- Birmingham, Ala., (Birmingham News)

excerpt 3/23/2008The recent and ongoing parley over a few "sound bites" of the Rev. Jeremiah Wright Jr., retired pastor of Trinity United Church of Christ in Chicago, demonstrates afresh the wide gulf existing between the black community and the white community.

Wright is and has been one of my favorite preachers. It is the freedom of the black pulpit that makes it so unique. It's not a freedom without accountability, for the black preacher is more scrutinized than probably any person in America. However, he is expected to "endure hardness as a good soldier" (II Timothy 2:3) and speak the truth regardless.


Barack Tells Cheney of Hezbollah Threat in Israel (REUTERS)

(REUTERS) Mar 24 - Israeli defence minister Ehud Barack has renewed fears about the threat posed by Hezbollah.

Barack said the Jewish State must be prepared to protect itself against Hezbollah threats to avenge the death of a top guerilla commander.

The comments came during the final day of a visit to Jerusalem by United States Vice President Dick Cheney.

Andrew Potter reports.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

What Politicians Say When They Talk About Race (New York Times)

What Politicians Say When They Talk About Race (FROM THE NEW YORK TIMES
Published: March 23, 2008
Whether Barack Obama’s speech on race helped or hurt him, the moment was unlike virtually any other in American politics since the civil rights movement.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

White House Computer Hard Drives Destroyed (CBSNEWS/AP)

(CBS/AP) Older White House computer hard drives have been destroyed, the White House disclosed to a federal court Friday in a controversy over millions of possibly missing e-mails from 2003 to 2005.

The White House revealed new information about how it handles its computers in an effort to persuade a federal magistrate it would be fruitless to undertake an e-mail recovery plan that the court proposed.


FROM PBS FRONTLINE:From the horror of 9/11 to the invasion of Iraq; the truth about WMD to the rise of an insurgency; the scandal of Abu Ghraib to the strategy of the surge -- for six years, FRONTLINE has revealed the defining stories of the war on terror in meticulous detail, and the political dramas that played out at the highest levels of power and influence.

Now, on the fifth anniversary of the Iraq invasion, the full saga unfolds in the two-part FRONTLINE special Bush's War, airing Monday, March 24, from 9 to 11:30 P.M. and Tuesday, March 25, 2008, from 9 to 11 P.M. ET on PBS (check local listings). Veteran producer Michael Kirk (The Torture Question, The Dark Side) draws on one of the richest archives in broadcast journalism -- more than 40 FRONTLINE reports on the war on terror. Combined with fresh reporting and new interviews, Bush's War will be the definitive documentary analysis of one of the most challenging periods in the nation's history.


Hopes for Wireless Cities Are Fading- (New York Times)

Hopes for Wireless Cities Are Fading
Published: March 22, 2008
Plans for municipal Wi-Fi grids have been tripped up by unrealistic ambitions and technological glitches.
Link to Full Story at "New York Times"

Friday, March 21, 2008

On Iraq: Time to Spread the Pain-(Re Post)

from 1/19/2007
also at Oh My News International (podcast link read by Claire George)
During an interview this week with PBS's "Newshour," journalist Jim Lehrer asked U.S. President George Bush, if the struggle in Iraq is so "important to all of us and to the future of our country, if not the world, why have you not, as President of the United States, asked more Americans and more American interests to sacrifice something?"

Lehrer, himself a former U.S. marine, noted that the only Americans actually sacrificing anything at this point were military members and their families.

The President responded that he thought Americans "sacrifice peace of mind when they see the terrible images of violence on TV every night. I mean, we've got a fantastic economy here in the United States, but yet, when you think about the psychology of the country, it is somewhat down because of this war."

True, much of the sadness Americans feel about Iraq is based on what we read, see, or hear in the media. But our bout with the blues is a minor inconvenience when compared to the pain and sacrifice of American military families.

Face it: Americans can choose to tune in or out and avoid news about the war if we want to. For many, Iraq is viewed as just another current event that may or may not spark political passions.

Keeping us safely on the sidelines is that word "volunteer" military, which appears to absolve many politicians of real guilt, responsibility or understanding of the gravity of what war is, especially when these things are in the planning stages.

In further response to Lehrer's question, the president was quick to defend tax cuts, saying that raising taxes was not an option.

That means the one percent of Americans who earn 16.9 percent of all income in the United States will continue to enjoy peace of mind if they don't watch the news. These are the same individuals who, according to the Economic Policy Institute, control 42.2 percent of all net financial assets in America. According to Bush, if they were asked to make a financial sacrifice through higher taxes, it might "hurt" our growing economy.

But the real tearjerker is that we are sending this financial sacrifice to our children. Our current national debt is $8.6 trillion, a figure that tacks on another estimated $200 billion in war costs each year.

Could it be time for a little soul searching when it comes to spreading the pain of this national debacle?

Is it moral to ask military families to make the tremendous sacrifices they are making, while not asking wealthy Americans to make financial sacrifices during a time of war?

During the PBS interview, Bush told Lehrer he wanted to make sure people feel like "life's moving on, that they're able to make a living and send their kids to college and put more money on the table."

Compare this to the collective psychology surrounding World War II and the days of President Franklin D. Roosevelt.

Roosevelt, with his dramatic -- what today might be called radical -- 1942 "Call for Sacrifice" said, "indeed in these days when every affordable dollar should go to the war effort, I do not think any American citizen should have a net income in excess of $25,000 per year after taxes." This translates into about $313,000 in the inflation-adjusted dollars of 2005.

That would surely send shivers down the spine of Student Loan Company Sallie Mae (SLM) CEO Thomas J. Fitzpatrick, who earned $39 million in 2006.

But, that leads back to Jim Lehrer's simple question. If the struggle in Iraq is so important, why haven't all Americans been asked to sacrifice something?

While no one can measure an entire nation's psychology with any real degree of certainty, if all Americans, regardless of wealth, were required to "sacrifice," for instance, a year or so of their lives to public service, rest assured the collective level of engagement would rise when it comes to issues that lead to military actions. And that's to say nothing of the positive shared experiences and connectivity.

For now, according to the president, the shared sacrifice is occurring when watching the evening news. My how we've changed.

Roosevelt said in 1942 that the price of civilization must be paid in hard work, sorrow. and blood.

Apparently, Roosevelt and his generation believed that war is fought through the real and tangible sacrifice of all its citizens, including the wealthy. And, Roosevelt, along with his generation, understood that war is a last resort.

Our current president appears to be more concerned with the impact of powerful images -- that the rash of negative news and journalism coming from Iraq is our shared sacrifice. He continues his arrogant spin, to try to spook us with false threats, in order to justify the images, the stories, the truth: a truth that is America's biggest foreign policy mistake in decades.

So, in what has become a time of crisis, where is the call for shared national sacrifice Mr. President? Why have you not asked all of us, as another president did some 20 years after Roosevelt, to ask ourselves, what we can do for our country?

Court Tosses Suit over Florida Dem Delegates(Atlanta Journal-Constitution)

The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Published on: 03/21/08

The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals has dismissed a federal lawsuit against the Democratic National Committee over the party's decision to strip Florida of its delegates to the national convention.

Socialized Compensation (The New York Times-Editorial)

Socialized Compensation
Published: March 21, 2008
Until bankers face a real risk of losing their shirts, they will keep ratcheting up risks to collect rewards while letting the rest of us carry the bag when their punts go bad.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

John Kerry on Barack Obama-from

Michigan Do-Over Appears To Be Out of the Question


LANSING — The Detroit Free Press is reporting...The huffing and puffing is over: Michigan Democrats dropped plans Thursday for a June 3 do-over presidential primary, conceding it had no chance of winning approval in the state Legislature.

The decision leaves unresolved for the foreseeable future the question of what role, if any, Michigan Democrat delegates will play in selecting the party’s nominee.

The remaining options — chief among them holding some form of party caucus election or challenging a national party decision to take away Michigan’s delegates to the nominating convention — have drawbacks of their own.


The Associated Press reported that Obama was questioned at a campaign stop Thursday in Charleston, W.Va., by Jeff Lynch, 48, of Mount Pleasant.

“When am I going to get to vote for you in Michigan?” Lynch asked.

“Probably in the general election,” Obama replied. “A redo vote is very complicated.”

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

A Memory from The East Village: My Shock and Awe

On March 19, 2008, New York City’s East Village neighborhood is cool, gray and wet as light rain dampens the aesthetic sprit of what is usually one of Manhattan’s most colorful and lively neighborhoods, a neighborhood filled with memories for so many.

The sky is thick, the view limited, obscured by the clouds and mist, the empire state building is no where in sight, the sidewalks sparse, as few brave the weather, only venturing to go from one boutique or thrift shop to a sushi bar or perhaps a deli for a newspaper or magazine.

On Avenue C at Eleventh Street, backhoes, asphalt cutters and men with red flags directing traffic sends muffled noises into apartments and co-ops, as water pipes, power sources or other infrastructure gets repaired.

A grocery store is filled with shoppers some speaking Spanish, a few notice the Turkey Hill Ice Cream is on sale for $2.99 a gallon while others see that WIC covers Peter Pan Peanut Butter.

There’s an old man, one of several standing who bags your groceries, he keeps a pile of coins in the corner hoping customers leave a nickel, dime or perhaps a quarter or more.

Later, a walk is taken, along the way, the phone rings, a friend is having some issues with her boss, she feels betrayed, but advice is given, she hangs up, the walk continues.

On a nearby schoolyard, two young men brave the mist, toss a ball to each other, they laugh and carry a conversation, a woman with a stroller pushes quickly past, she pays them no mind.

Black smoke billows from the chimney of a brown stained building, about 6 stories high, it rises straight into the sky, a slight breeze sends it west.

A yellow school bus, its driver wears a white shirt, children are sitting two to a seat, headed home after a day of learning, playing, being together perhaps engaging in mischief..

A woman with plastic shopping bags hanging from her pockets walks down Avenue B, around 5 dogs on a leash, a small erudite looking dachsund leads, the human lumbers along pulled by her canine team, she smiles as she passes.

On Avenue A, one thin young man, thick black hair wears a blue sweater, he’s also braving the mist and sits outside at a cafĂ© on 9th street under a canopy, the other tables empty, he reads a book, sips coffee from a white china cup on a saucer with green trim

Further west, on First Avenue at 10th Street, a young woman with blond hair, blue highlights around its edges, searches in an oversized black purse, finally, she finds that cigarette and struggles to light it. Her red and black tweed skirt with combat boots underneath, trigger memories of a neighborhood that celebrated individuality, a time in the late 1980’s, when a young man from Alabama, said hello to New York for the first time.

But, that particular memory is overshadowed by another, a more recent memory that has led to a shared painful reality, a reality that some say has divided and fatigued an entire nation, a reality most of us witness from the comfort of our homes and communities, a reality that is nightmarish, a shared but awful truth of where we the people find ourselves today.

In the five long years since the first bombs landed in Baghdad, this nation has seen countless sacrifices that most of us learn about through photographs and stories and occasional movies. But what most of us see, hear and read only begins to touch the deeper truths, truths that are too painful and awful to communicate by words, images or anything beyond experience itself.

And, as time continues to pass in neighborhoods and homes across the nation, as images of fireballs and thundering explosions fade yet another year away into our collective memory, millions still ask the question, was it all worth it.

Still, melancholic observations from New York don’t when compare to the memories and tears of a Mother in Indiana, a wife in Detroit or a Father in Mississippi who deals with the daily reality that their son, daughter or husband will not be coming home to walk the dog, go to the grocery store, play ball with a friend, go to school or push the baby in a stroller down the street?

There is a sense of collective sadness, helplessness and outrage in America today and it really began to burn itself into our conscience during news reports of military operations called shock and awe. But, are we still in shock over the bloodbath that has taken so many from us and from the Iraqi’s themselves?

Or, are we in awe of the memory that we allowed leaders and the nation itself to be misled into the belief that all of this was somehow, absolutely necessary?

Meanwhile in New York City’s East Village, the raindrops continue their long descent from the sky.

(ABC NEWS) Buried in Eloquence, Obama Contradictions About Pastor

March 19, 2008 Buried in his eloquent, highly praised speech on America's racial divide, Sen. Barack Obama contradicted more than a year of denials and spin from him and his staff about his knowledge of Rev. Jeremiah Wright's controversial sermons.

Bush Defends War During Speech (New York Times)

International / Middle East (NEW YORK TIMES)
Bush Defends Iraq War in Speech
Published: March 20, 2008
In remarks prepared for a speech on the fifth anniversary of the beginning of the war in Iraq, President Bush defended the conflict.

Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Obama Speaks About Pastor and Race

Mar. 18 - In a speech in Philadelphia, Democratic presidential hopeful Sen. Barack Obama said comments by Rev. Wright were "not only wrong but divisive." (Reuters)


Mortars kill Baghdad school children (Reuters)

Mar. 18 (REUTERS) - A mortar attack kills six children at a school complex in northern Baghdad.

The attack took place around 5.30pm at the Al-Ah'ali primary school on Monday (March 17).

The school's wall was pockmarked with shrapnel holes and bloodstains were still on the street near the school early on Tuesday.

The wounded children were taken to al-Sadr hospital in Sadr city for treatment.

Michelle Carlile-Alkhouri reports.

Monday, March 17, 2008

Bush, Praising Fed’s Intervention, Faces Criticism (New York Times)

Bush, Praising Fed’s Intervention, Faces Criticism (NYT)
Published: March 17, 2008
Critics accused the administration of bailing out a prestigious bank while ignoring the hardships of Americans facing foreclosures on their homes.


(REUTERS) March 17 - Bourses across Asia suffered heavy losses on Monday ignoring an emergency move by the Federal Reserve to stem a fast spreading credit crisis.

Banking stocks were badly bruised on news that U.S. bank stepped in to buy ailing peer Bear Stearns with worries that more financial institutions were suffering big losses.

Japan's Nikkei fell to a 2.5-year closing low. the dollar fell 3 percent against the yen as confidence eroded that the U.S. can avoid a deep recession.

Tara Joseph-Hui reports.

Sale Price Reflects the Depth of Bear’s Problems (New York Times)

Sale Price Reflects the Depth of Bear’s Problems
Published: March 17, 2008
In a shocking deal to save Bear Stearns, JPMorgan Chase agreed to pay a mere $2 a share to buy all of Bear — less than one-tenth the firm’s market price on Friday.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


U.S. Fed Cuts Discount Rate, Says Dealers May Borrow (Update2)

By Scott Lanman
Enlarge Image/Details

March 16 (Bloomberg) -- The Federal Reserve, in an emergency weekend decision, cut the rate on direct loans to commercial banks and opened up borrowing at the rate to primary dealers in government securities.

Thursday, March 13, 2008

Obama Ferraro Race Flap Roils Race (Huffington Post)

-Obama Ferraro Race Flap Roils Race-


(via-YOU TUBE) Jeremiah Wright- Senator Obama's Minister

More on Rev. Wright from
Wright's committee (via Ben Smith's Blog at Politico)

via POLITICOJeremiah Wright, in the news today because video of a sermon (parts of which had been reported, and disavowed, before) adds some heat to the discussion of his relationship with Obama, has generally been described as connected to Obama only informally — a religious figure with whom Obama has said he disagrees at times, a kind of cranky uncle.

But he also has a formal role on the campaign.

Wright is a member of Obama's African American Religious Leadership Committee — the sort of largely honorary, advisory body that in recent days has recently been used mostly to throw people off who say controversial things.

The Obama campaign couldn't immediately say whether he'd remain on the committee

Monday, March 10, 2008

Why Democrats Should Never Neglect the South

By Cody Lyon

Over the past few generations or so, the deep southern states of Georgia, Alabama and Mississippi have engaged in a sort of pecking order amongst themselves. Georgia people sometimes claim to be more sophisticated and worldly than the folks in Alabama while Alabamians have been known to say, well, at least we’ve got Mississippi.

But, those little put downs are the result of a shared regional psychology that extends back over the years as the South dealt with its many curses including a sense of defeat, the horrific sins of racism, along with a shared sense of defiance and pride in the face of a nation that made no secret of what part of the country was most looked down on.

And, despite dramatic social change over the past few decades and a greater integration into the economic national fold, there are still reasons for southern insecurity that are evidenced through inexcusable and dramatic social ills that should bother the conscience of every American who calls themselves progressive, and there is no place those ills are more evident than Mississippi.

Still, during national elections, the more progressive party, the Democrats, basically write off the South as un-winnable during national elections which in turn, further fuels a sense that parts of this nation have been truly left behind.

It’s as if Democrats gave up on the South after the successful Southern strategy by Republican candidates who first latched onto racism and later pedaled hot button right wing social topics that played well in the Bible Belt, while the truly immoral injustices of economic, health and educational equity continued to fester in many parts of the region.

In truth, it’s almost sad to watch horse race pundit powered Mississippi Democratic political primary coverage as Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton come calling for votes knowing full well that if the past is any indication, once November roles around, Barack and or Hillary probably won’t spend much time in Mississippi, Alabama or Georgia.

National Democratic leaders, inhibited by political strategy have proven lazy, almost timid in their approach to the vast swath of Southern voters who were hijacked by an empty right wing Republican social agenda. Perhaps now the time is right to repackage and aggressively sell a message that embodies the spirit of FDR, or perhaps more recently, John Edwards, a superior inclusive message that trumps the divisive, fear based tactics that have basically prayed upon deeply held beliefs while conveniently serving as political smokescreens that were used to further the economic interests of a few who end up doing more harm in Dixie than polluted dew.

There is no place that could benefit more from a confident progressive agenda than the Magnolia State, Mississippi, a state that year after year finds itself on the receiving end of one bad statistic after another.

For example, according to the American Community Survey, 21.6 percent of Mississippi citizens live below the poverty line.

A July 2007 “Washington Post” article titled “Poverty Tightens Grip on Mississippi Delta” said Fifty-Five percent of households in the tiny community of Coahoma Mississippi earn less than $15,000 a year.

The “Washington Post” article spoke to misperceptions many Americans have about rural areas saying “a lot of people believe it’s got to be cheap to live there (in rural areas) and food has got to be more available. But cheap is relative to income. Your ability to get yourself around is limited. There is no public transportation.”

Adding to the negative news, a June 2007 journal study titled “Preventing Chronic Disease” by Leonard Jack Jr. PhD said 51 percent of rural residents experience poverty levels that are hard for most Americans to imagine. That same report noted that from 2000 to 2003, the number of poor people in Mississippi increased by 38,000 to 456,000.

The 2004 “Kids Count Data Book” found that among the 50 states, Mississippi had the second highest level of children living in poverty with 13 percent living in “extreme” poverty compared to 8 percent nationally.

That sort of poverty translates into a sad report card on the general health of many of the state’s citizens.

In Morgan Quinto’s 2004 State Health Care Rankings that among other factors, looks at access to health care providers, affordable health care services and general health of a state’s population, Mississippi ranked last among all the states.

Adding to that, another report from the U.S. Census Bureau, from 2005 to 2006 found the number of uninsured Mississippi residents rose by 24 percent from 483,000 to 600,000. The number of un-insured children rose by 72 percent from 85,000 to 146,000 placing at the top of the list in the nation for that category.

As it stands today, around 17 percent of Mississippi’s citizens have no health insurance at all.

Another cruel symptom of poverty shows up in dietary choices since eating healthy costs more than high calorie junk food evidenced in Mississippi’s ranking as America’s most obese state with Alabama and Georgia not far behind on the scales.

And despite the hope that the 1954 Brown V Board decision would somehow equalize educational opportunities in the South and elsewhere, de-facto segregation and incredible funding disparities became the norm throughout the south.

Truth be told, this nation has yet to offer any sort of aggressive national public school education policy that seeks to address the epidemic of educational inequity so prevalent and obvious in the deep-south where a few wealthier districts funded by local tax dollars do exceptionally well, while a vast portion do poor in test scores, funding per pupil, drop out rates and other measurable factors. Mississippi education statistics, like much of the south are mind numbing, almost always at or near the bottom, all coupled with the fact that the state is home to one of the nation’s lowest literacy rates.

Still, according to 2004 Manhattan Institute report, Mississippi saw a 62 percent high school graduation rate which tied with Alabama and beat Georgia with its 54 percent rate of successful graduates.

But, that compares to a national average of 71 percent.

Proactive solutions are scarce if teacher pay is an indicator since Mississippi ranks 50th out of the 51 states including the District of Columbia in average teacher salaries.

Of course, a litany of statistics has the potential to bore people or perhaps ignite the usual dismissive, disparaging remarks about the South that are fueled by simplistic and ignorant stereotypes. And that sort of dismissive attitude is precisely when the ugly head of hypocrisy within the Democratic Party political strategy rears its ugly head.

Just miles away from the glass towers and majestic suburbs of places like Atlanta, Birmingham and Jackson are the real and living examples of Southern socio-economic injustice. They are found in countless isolated communities along back roads or in the poor often violent cities. These stories offer up evidence that we operate under a failed system run by a government that has in essence, relegated millions to cultures of poverty that continues to breed psyches of hopelessness and isolation. It is a system sorely lacking a national beacon of hope, direction and real solutions.

It would appear that ambitious programs like the New Deal, the Great Society are long gone, not even any sort of national education policy task force that seeks to target those desperate areas that need it most. Where and when did the Party and America lose its way and become such a fractious divided land where power grabs became the goal of politicians and where the collective goal to elevate all our people seemed to slide to a backburner of national indifference and individual greed.

Shrill tactics by Republicans created a pattern that neutered what should have been an aggressive plan to win Southern voters by offering policy solutions in a region where hope is a distant land that far too many can’t afford to visit. In the South, Democrats long ago failed to call the Republican bluff, and for that they should be ashamed. Perhaps it’s time to once again, explain and actively sell a progressive agenda that tells Southern voters what Democrats can do for them.

Otherwise, if national Democratic leaders continue the pattern of neglect, they are complacent in allowing its problems to fester since much of this region is a living laboratory filled with the ills the Party has long claimed it wanted to cure.

Thursday, March 06, 2008

In Florida, Worth Breaking the Rules

by Cody Lyon

There’s no denying that seating Democratic Party delegates from Florida and Michigan at the party’s convention in August would be controversial and potentially divisive since both States held their primaries on dates that violated party rules

As it stands, Senator Hillary Clinton stands to gain the most if they are seated and counted, so her campaign is working the system to try and make sure that happens.

Still, in Michigan’s case, a do-over of the primary, or a caucus, would probably be the only way to settle that state’s mess and re-empower voters since Clinton was the only candidate on the ballot in the state’s primary.

But down in Florida, it’s a different story altogether. While neither candidate campaigned in the sunshine state, both Clinton and Obama were on the primary ballot.

Further, there’s a common misperception fueled by the common rhetorical reference in the press and elsewhere to “Florida’s decision” to move the state’s primary to January.

It was not Florida Democratic ‘voters’ who made that decision, but instead, a Republican Governor and a Republican majority Legislature that passed HB 537 which changed the state’s primary date to January 29, ahead of February 5, which we all know now was in violation of national Democratic Party rules.

As a result of this violation, 1.75 million sunshine state voters may not be heard in August. Some are saying if that happens, the issue would move beyond politics and instead become a case of massive voter disenfranchisement.

And, while much of the growing effort to seat the Florida delegates in August has come from Clinton supporters who now see Florida as a decisive political factor that would work in their favor at the convention, there is a deeper concern for all voters that should be considered.

Any attempts by party officials to deny the voice of almost 2 million Florida voters would violate what many see as one of our most treasured rights.

It certainly would not be the first time in our nation’s history that “rules” have been used to discourage, take away or prevent entire swaths of US citizens from being allowed to participate in the political process. We now regard many of those rules with shame.

Regardless, it wasn’t so long ago that certain rules prevented Women and African American citizens from casting vote that would count in elections. Even as little as 50 years ago, in certain parts of the nation, black people were unable to vote thanks to absurd rules like poll taxes and other discriminatory tactics at polling places like reciting the state’s constitution before being allowed to even register to vote.

Fortunately, through the efforts of countless foot soldiers and brave political and judicial leaders, most of those rules rooted in racism and sexism were done away and eventually, voter empowerment for all citizens became an increasingly recognized as the precious right it is, and with that that we saw a greater attempts at distribution of voter equity in our democracy.

Despite the hard fought struggle for voter equality, over the past few decades, political disenchantment and other factors have led to decreasing national voter turnouts that have on average, been only around 50 percent according to the United States Census Beureau.

But, this particular 2008 election cycle is different.

The bells of politics are ringing through the internet, other media, street corners, bars, churches, activist organizations, school campuses and entire communities in every state, county and city all fueled by dialogue and debate that has led to a level of political engagement unlike anything witnessed in recent history.

There is a pronounced collective thirst for change and new leadership, largely the result of eight years of what many call a failed Republican White House and administration that has led to national malaise, partly the result of a nightmare called Iraq and an economy on the brinks of recession. Across the nation, voters are heading to polls in record numbers holding tight to the core belief that every person’s vote will count and effect the direction this nation takes in the future.

No doubt, our convoluted current system of selecting delegates to party conventions is confusing and flawed. But as it stands now, it’s the closest thing we can come up with in selecting the best candidates for the more important contest in November.

And, despite rules over when those votes were cast, any attempt to disenfranchise a voter, much less an entire state, regardless of what party officials point to as guidelines, is fundamentally wrong. Such a move threatens the very spirit of our democracy unless there is a tangible and workable solution that gives every voter a voice in the selection process.

According to a March 1, press release from the Florida Democratic Party, the state’s Party Chairwoman said “the party continues to move ahead with our delegate selection process, and we’re looking forward to our delegation being seated in Denver.”

The press release said the diversity of its delegation would be strong, representing the diversity that Florida is a delegation of multiple ethnicities, incomes, sexual orientations and genders.

And as Florida well knows, there have been questionable tactics and behaviors that have led to some of the country’s greatest scars in electoral history.

The hope is that in August, the elected delegates of Florida’s Democratic Party will be seated, and with them, the almost two million voices of Florida voters who went to the polls in January because that’s when their state’s officials told them they should go, will be heard. And, while some say that recognition of Florida’s delegates might threaten national party unity, there are still others who warn there are more important values within the concept Democracy itself that trump political aspiration and party cohesion.


Wednesday, March 05, 2008

From "The New Yorker"- The Other Obama

by Lauren Collins at "The New Yorker"
Excerpt below:
The other Chicago connection that dogs the Obamas is Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright, Jr., their pastor at Trinity United Church of Christ. Wright, who drives a Porsche and references Bernie Mac and Terry McMillan in his unorthodox sermons (“Take what God gave you and say, ‘In your face, mediocrity, I’m a bad mamma jamma!’ ”), officiated at Michelle and Barack’s wedding and baptized their two daughters. Barack took the title “The Audacity of Hope” from a sermon that Wright preached. In 2006, the Obamas gave $22,500 to the church.

Wright espouses a theology that seeks to reconcile African-American Christianity with, as he has written, “the raw data of our racist existence in this strange land.” The historical accuracy of that claim is incontestable. But his message is more confrontational than may be palatable to some white voters. In his book “Africans Who Shaped Our Faith”—an extended refutation of the Western Christianity that gave rise to “the European Jesus . . . the blesser of the slave trade, the defender of racism and apartheid”—he says, “In this country, racism is as natural as motherhood, apple pie, and the fourth of July. Many black people have been deluded into thinking that our BMWs, Lexuses, Porsches, Benzes, titles, heavily mortgaged condos and living environments can influence people who are fundamentally immoral.”

In portraying America as “a Eurocentric wasteland of lily-white lies and outright distortions,” Wright promulgates a theory of congenital separatism that is deeply at odds with Obama’s professed belief in the possibilities of unity and change. Last year, Trumpet Newsmagazine, which was launched by Trinity United and is run by Wright’s daughter, gave the Dr. Jeremiah A. Wright Jr. Trumpeter Award to Louis Farrakhan, leading to accusations that Wright was anti-Semitic.


Tuesday, March 04, 2008


There is more to this exciting political story...a new chapter in the season begins.

Sunday, March 02, 2008

Healthcare in America: Remote Area Medical's Lifeline

(Comment-Cody Lyon)This February 28, 60 Minutes report will probably go down as one of the most important and moving stories ever produced in television journalism. CBSNEWS' 60 Minutes holds up a mirror to America, and the reflection we see is a heartbreaking, cruel and unjust crisis in America's Health Care system. Absent from the story are the familiar policy wonks and debates over political rhetoric. Instead, viewers see and hear real life stories that illustrate the cold reality facing those who have no insurance or inadequate coverage at best.

But, it is also a story about real life angels like Stan Brock, founder of the organization "Remote Area Medical" or RAM, who works with teams of volunteer health care providers by setting up weekend clinics, that offer free health, dental and eye care to the often poor or working class who have inadequate policies or are fully uninsured.

As it stands, an estimated 47 million citizens of the world's wealthiest nation have no health insurance. While that's a startling number, even more startling are some of the real life stories shared in this report. It left this viewer asking, how is it that we as a nation allowed ourselves to become so indifferent to the plight of our own?

Thank you RAM for your efforts at providing some relief to these fellow Americans and thank you 60 Minutes for restoring some faith in the mission of modern day journalism.

FULL CBS NEWS 60 Minutes Report below:
CBS) One of the decisive issues in the presidential campaign is likely to be health insurance. Texas and Ohio vote on Tuesday, and those states alone have nearly seven million uninsured residents; nationwide, 47 million have no health insurance. But that's just the start: millions more are underinsured, unable to pay their deductibles or get access to dental care.

Recently, 60 Minutes heard about an American relief organization that airdrops doctors and medicine into the jungles of the Amazon. It's called Remote Area Medical, or "RAM" for short.

As correspondent Scott Pelley reports, Remote Area Medical sets up emergency clinics where the needs are greatest. But these days, that's not the Amazon. This charity founded to help people who can't reach medical care finds itself throwing America a lifeline.