Wednesday, April 30, 2008

from Advance Indiana: You've got to be kidding!

This post is from the blog Advance Indiana . I recommend a visit.

This has to rate as the absolute dumbest political move of this year's Indiana campaign cycle.

Remember those images of public schools which Jill Long Thompson's campaign used in a campaign TV ad that criticized Jim Schellinger for making "millions lobbying to raise property taxes to pay for schools he designed?"

When Schellinger complained that the images of the schools shown in the original TV ad were actually projects performed by another architectural firm which supported Thompson's candidacy, the Thompson campaign corrected the mistake and began using images of schools which CSO Architects had designed. Now, CSO's attorneys have served a cease and desist letter to Thompson's campaign to stop using images of its projects. The letters reads, in part:

Please be advised that Barrett & McNagny LLP represents Schenkel &
Shultz, Inc.(hereinafter referred to as “Schenkel & Shultz”). It has
recently come to our client's attention that the Jill Long Thompson campaign is
using images of Schenkel & Shultz projects in its TV ads without
authorization from Schenkel & Shultz. The projects included in the TV ads
are the Wayne Township Schools, Ben Davis High School and a Decatur Township
School projects. The Jill Long Thompson campaign does not have authorization to
use these images. Schenkel & Shultz is the architect of record for these
projects and is owner of the images which the Jill Long Thompson campaign has
used in its TV ads.

I'm a lawyer, but someone is going to have to help me out here.

If I take a picture of Ben Davis High School, then I have to get permission from CSO to use that image in campaign material for illustrative purposes because it happened to be the architectural firm which designed this publicly-owned school?

I think not. Maybe I should ask the school for permission to use an image of the school (although I doubt I'm legally required to do so), but I'll be damned if CSO owns the image of any public school it happened to design at taxpayers' expense. Even if CSO's position is legally correct for the sake of argument, it is an outrageous position for Schellinger to have to defend publicly. Good luck explaining this one, Jim. A big hat tip to Taking Down Words.

Demography is king

by David Brooks

New York Times

I can hear the howls of protest even as I type these words. "David Brooks on a progressive blog? The outrage!"

Well, that sort of thinking has always annoyed me. One of the best ways we can judge what we are doing, is to listen to thoughtful opponents. I wish the South Bend Tribune would trade Jonah Goldberg for Mr. Brooks - or at least Mr. Kristol. I guess Goldberg comes cheap. - DW

Fifty-five years ago, 80 percent of American television viewers, young and old, tuned in to see Milton Berle on Tuesday nights. Tens of millions, rich and poor, worked together at Elks Lodges and Rotary Clubs. Millions more, rural and urban, read general-interest magazines like Look and Life. In those days, the owner of the local bank lived in the same town as the grocery clerk, and their boys might play on the same basketball team. Only 7 percent of adult Americans had a college degree.

But that’s all changed. In the decades since, some social divides, mostly involving ethnicity, have narrowed. But others, mostly involving education, have widened. Today there is a mass educated class. The college educated and non-college educated are likely to live in different towns. They have radically different divorce rates and starkly different ways of raising their children. The non-college educated not only earn less, they smoke more, grow more obese and die sooner.

Retailers, home builders and TV executives identify and reinforce these lifestyle clusters. There are more niche offerings and fewer common experiences.

The ensuing segmentation has reshaped politics. We’re used to the ideological divide between Red and Blue America. This year’s election has revealed a deep cultural gap within the Democratic Party, separating what Stuart Rothenberg calls the two Democratic parties.

In state after state (Wisconsin being the outlier), Barack Obama has won densely populated, well-educated areas. Hillary Clinton has won less-populated, less-educated areas. For example, Obama has won roughly 70 percent of the most-educated counties in the primary states. Clinton has won 90 percent of the least-educated counties. In state after state, Obama has won a few urban and inner-ring suburban counties. Clinton has won nearly everywhere else.

This social divide has overshadowed regional differences. Sixty-year-old, working-class Catholics vote the same, whether they live in Fresno, Scranton, Nashua or Orlando.

The divide has even overshadowed campaigning. Surely the most interesting feature of the Democratic race is how unimportant political events are. The candidates can spend tens of millions of dollars on advertising, but they are not able to sway their opponent’s voters to their side. They can win a stunning victory, but the momentum doesn’t carry over from state to state. They can make horrific gaffes, deliver brilliant speeches, turn in good or bad debate performances, but these things do not alter the race.

In Pennsylvania, Obama did everything conceivable to win over Clinton’s working-class voters. The effort was a failure. The great uniter failed to unite. In this election, persuasion isn’t important. Social identity is everything. Demography is king.

Over the years, different theories have emerged to describe the educated/less-educated divide. Conservatives have gravitated toward the culture war narrative, dividing the country between the wholesome masses and the decadent cultural elites. Some liberals believe income inequality drives everything. They wait for an uprising of economic populism. Other liberals divide the country morally, between the enlightened urbanites and the racist rednecks who will never vote for a black man.

None of these theories really fit the facts. It’s more accurate to say that the country has simply drifted apart into different subcultures. There’s no great hostility between the cultures. Americans have a fuzzy sense of where the boundaries lie. But people in different niches have developed different unconscious maps of reality. They have developed different communal understandings of what constitutes a good leader, of what sort of world they live in.

They have developed different communal definitions, which they can’t even articulate, of what they mean by liberty, security and virtue. Demographic groups have begun to function like tribes or cultures.

We can all play the parlor game of trying to figure out why Obama, a Harvard Law grad, resonates with the more educated while Clinton, a Yale Law grad, resonates with the less educated. I’d throw in that Obama’s offer of a secular crusade hits a nerve among his fellow bobos, while Clinton’s talk of fighting and resilience plays well down market.

But these theories only scratch the surface. The mental maps people in different cultures form are infinitely complex and poorly understood even by those who hold them. People pick up millions of subtle signals from body language, word choice, facial expressions, policy positions and biographical details. Efforts to rebrand a candidate to appeal to down-market voters are inevitably crude and counterproductive.

The core message is that even if you take away the ideological differences between the parties, you are still left with profound social gulfs within the parties. There’s poignancy to that. The upscale liberals who revere Obama have spent their lives championing equality and opposing privilege. But they’ve smashed the old WASP social hierarchy only to create a new educational one.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Jill Long Thompson talks about her plans

Link to the interview:

Who will John Edwards endorse?

by Don Wheeler

People who know I volunteered for a year in John Edwards' Campaign To Change America often ask me this question. My answer now, just it has been since he left the race January 30, is that I think he won't because I think he can't.

I think people have the idea he's torturing (delicately) Mr. Obama and Ms. Clinton by withholding his approval, holding out for that last goodie. He had some fun with this idea on the Colbert Report . But I don't think that's what's going on here.

For one thing, when would his endorsement have had the most influence - when the contest was in doubt, or when it wasn't? In other words, I don't think he would have held out just to have some impact in North Carolina.

In the New York Times today, Julie Bosman seems to make the case that the Edwards are jerks for not endorsing SOMEONE. Check out this sentence (about a third of the way in)

"The silence, particularly from Mr. Edwards, is strange."

Really? But in the same pararagraph (oddly), comes a comment worthy of attention.

"Joni Barnes of Wilmington (NC) said she believed that he was waiting for a
nominee to be chosen. 'I think he doesn't want to create any more division
within the party,' Ms. Barnes said."

Me too, Joni. I'll also predict people will see so much of him in the general election campaign, they may grow sick of him. That's where I think he can bring serious juice. He will be critical in getting people like me enthused about someone who doesn't enthuse them much.

Let's go back to my assertion that he won't endorse because he can't.

If we assume there's a good reason for John Edwards to endorse someone, he nonetheless has a problem (or two).

It would be his inclination to support Barack Obama. Obama better epitomizes the Edwards "challenge the system" mentality. Edwards' entire campaign was designed to defeat Hillary Clinton - at least in part by emphasizing her connections with various and sundry entrenched powers.

But Obama's disparaging comments about the work it takes to create good public policy ideas and his own tepid policy proposals are discouraging. The kicker, of course, is his health care initiative.

If imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, then Hillary Clinton must think highly of John Edwards. Her health care proposal is nearly a clone of his. And since she's running (and he's not), it's her plan now.

The Edwards plan seemed likely to finesse into a single payer system, but wouldn't have turned everything upside down immediately. By requiring universal participation, the need for underwriting (investigating people's medical background, rating up premiums or denying coverage) would be eliminated. Underwriting is a huge expense, which provides no health care to anyone. Insurance companies' business would shift more towards reinsurance (ala Lloyd's of London) by bidding on "pools" (Health Markets in the Edwards plan) which would be community rated - the sytem used for large group policies.

The Obama plan, by contrast, leaves the need for insurance companies to underwrite intact. Without a mandate, the insurance companies must evaluate the specific pool of applicants, instead of judging the populace at large. One way requires significant investigation, the other simple mathematics.

Paul Krugman, noted economist and New York Times columnist, noted that there would be a pretty small overall cost difference between the Clinton and Obama plans. That means that, per person, the Obama plan is significantly more expensive. And each person is what we should care about, in all ways.

And as you go go down the line, Ms. Clinton's policy proposals are almost all a bit more progressive than Mr. Obama's.

So it's a bit of a hoot that the Republicans are rolling out this "Barack Obama is too far out of the mainstream" campaign. They're aiming it at the most conservative candidate to vy for the Democratic Party nomination.

Looks like they're running low on ideas...

At this point, you probably can see John's problem.

And mine, I might add.

The Governor's race and the issue of abortion

by Don Wheeler

One area of distinct difference between Jill Long Thompson and Jim Schellinger is that of abortion. Their positions on this "hot button" issue wouldn't have concerned me all that much eight years ago. This is a difficult matter for most people, and I try to be respectful of everyone's view.

But due to the current makeup of our United States Supreme Court, there is at least some chance that Roe v. Wade will be overturned. Should that happen, the individual states would once again determine their own policies. You can imagine which way the pressures would run in Indiana.

Prior to that landmark decision, I dated a girl (then aged 16) in High School for a while who'd had an abortion at age 14 or 15. This information came to me inadvertently, but she did give me some of the details. The part I'll share is that she was spirited out of state for the procedure and everything was kept very quiet.

She was luckier than many girls who were in similar situations at that time. Her parents had some money, were understanding, and had at least some connections. It could have been a lot worse.

Jim Schellinger states quite clearly that his religion teaches him that abortion is wrong. That seems to be all he wants to say on the topic.

Jill Long Thompson believes in a woman's right to make the decisions - rather than the state. I spoke with one of her staffers to get a bit more nuance, and what I got was very similar to the way Bill Clinton characterized his views on the matter. If you recall, he said that abortions should be safe, legal and rare - or something very close to that.

I don't think, though I am speculating, that Mr. Schellinger would actively work to outlaw abortion in Indiana. I'm more concerned with how he would react were he to be presented with a bill passed by the General Assembly which accomplished that end. From what I know, (which is limited) I would expect he'd sign it.

I believe I know what Ms. Long Thompson would do. I believe she would veto it.

Thought you might be interested.

Update: This post was up for only about an hour when the Schellinger campaign came by for a look. Isn't tracking software cool? BTW, it appeared to be from his company, actually.

Truthout roundup 4/29

Steve Weissman on the public signals that point to an attack on Iran; April death toll reaches 44 for US troops in Iraq; Paul Krugman on McCain's tax plans; insurgency spreading in Afghanistan; government witness testifies that Rezko said Fitzgerald would be fired; Supreme Court decision could lead more states to pass voter ID laws; GI bill falls short for many returning troops; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at t r u t h o u t 04.29

Steve Weissman Bomb Bomb Iran by Summer's End? Steve Weissman writes for Truthout: "when Senator John McCain serenaded reporters last April with his 'Bomb Bomb Iran,' I had to wonder. Was this a taste of his aging flyboy humor? Or was he telling us what to expect should he ever become president? We may never find out. If Vice President Dick Cheney has his way, he will beat McCain to the punch, possibly as soon as late May, after President George W. Bush returns from celebrating the 60th anniversary of Israel's creation."

Four US Troops in Baghdad Are Killed by Rocket Fire Ernesto Londono and Amit R. Paley, of The Washington Post, report: "four US soldiers were killed in two rocket attacks in Baghdad on Monday as clashes between US-backed Iraqi forces and Shiite militiamen intensified, the military said. Three soldiers were killed about 1 pm in eastern Baghdad, where fighters loyal to anti-American Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr have battled US and Iraqi troops. The fourth American soldier was killed at 4:15 p.m. in the western part of the capital, a US military spokesman said."

Paul Krugman Bush Made Permanent Paul Krugman, of The New York Times, writes: "if truth be told, the McCain tax plan doesn't seem to embody any coherent policy agenda. Instead, it looks like a giant exercise in pandering - an attempt to mollify the GOP's right wing, and never mind if it makes any sense. The impression that Mr. McCain's tax talk is all about pandering is reinforced by his proposal for a summer gas tax holiday - a measure that would, in fact, do little to help consumers, although it would boost oil industry profits."

Afghanistan's Insurgency Spreading North Anand Gopal, of The Christian Science Monitor, reports: "the attempted assassination of President Hamid Karzai Sunday came as the latest sign of a trend worrying Western officials: that the insurgency is spreading from the Taliban stronghold of the south to the central and northern regions of the country. The militant attack, the biggest in Kabul since mid-March, came during a public ceremony. Despite a massive security presence, militants managed to fire bullets and rockets at the president, killing two nearby lawmakers and a boy."

Witness: Fundraiser Spoke of Plan to Fire US Attorney Mike Robinson, of The Associated Press, reports: "a government witness testified Monday that a prominent political fundraiser for the governor told him three years ago that Chicago's chief federal prosecutor would be fired and replaced by someone chosen by then-U.S. House Speaker Dennis Hastert. Restaurant owner Elie Maloof testified that Antoin 'Tony' Rezko told him that the person picked to replace Patrick J. Fitzgerald as US attorney in Chicago would end a federal investigation into corruption under Gov. Rod Blagojevich."

Decision Is Likely to Spur Voter ID Laws in More States Ian Urbina, of The New York Times, reports: "far from settling the debate over voter identification, the Supreme Court ruling on Monday upholding Indiana's voter ID law is likely to lead to more laws and litigation, voting experts said. Lawmakers in at least four states may seek to pass stricter regulations in the next year or so, the experts said. In response, voting rights groups might sue on behalf of individuals or groups in an effort to exempt them."

Some War Veterans Find GI Bill Falls Short Susan Kinzie, of The Washington Post, reports: "two years after a rocket-propelled grenade hit Nathan Toews during an ambush in southern Afghanistan, sending shrapnel shooting into his skull and spiderwebbing through his brain, he has recovered enough to ask: What now? Like so many leaving the military, after years of taking orders, he's facing an almost infinite number of choices about his future."

Monday, April 28, 2008

Bush made permanent

by Paul Krugman
New York Times

As the designated political heir of a deeply unpopular president — according to Gallup, President Bush has the highest disapproval rating recorded in 70 years of polling — John McCain should have little hope of winning in November. In fact, however, current polls show him roughly tied with either Democrat.

In part this may reflect the Democrats’ problems. For the most part, however, it probably reflects the perception, eagerly propagated by Mr. McCain’s many admirers in the news media, that he’s very different from Mr. Bush — a responsible guy, a straight talker.

But is this perception at all true? During the 2000 campaign people said much the same thing about Mr. Bush; those of us who looked hard at his policy proposals, especially on taxes, saw the shape of things to come.

And a look at what Mr. McCain says about taxes shows the same combination of irresponsibility and double-talk that, back in 2000, foreshadowed the character of the Bush administration.

The McCain tax plan contains three main elements.

First, Mr. McCain proposes making almost all of the Bush tax cuts, which are currently scheduled to expire at the end of 2010, permanent. (He proposes reinstating the inheritance tax, albeit at a very low rate.)

Second, he wants to eliminate the alternative minimum tax, which was originally created to prevent the wealthy from exploiting tax loopholes, but has begun to hit the upper middle class.

Third, he wants to sharply reduce tax rates on corporate profits.

According to the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center, the overall effect of the McCain tax plan would be to reduce federal revenue by more than $5 trillion over 10 years. That’s a lot of revenue loss — enough to pose big problems for the government’s solvency.

But before I get to that, let’s look at what I found truly revealing: the McCain campaign’s response to the Tax Policy Center’s assessment. The response, written by Douglas Holtz-Eakin, the former head of the Congressional Budget Office, criticizes the center for adopting “unrealistic Congressional budgeting conventions.” What’s that about?

Well, Congress “scores” tax legislation by comparing estimates of the revenue that would be collected if the legislation passed with estimates of the revenue that would be collected under current law. In this case that means comparing the McCain plan with what would happen if the Bush tax cuts expired on schedule.

Mr. Holtz-Eakin wants the McCain plan compared, instead, with “current policy” — which he says means maintaining tax rates at today’s levels.

But here’s the thing: the reason the Bush tax cuts are set to expire is that the Bush administration engaged in a game of deception. It put an expiration date on the tax cuts, which it never intended to honor, as a way to hide those tax cuts’ true cost.

The McCain campaign wants us to accept the success of that deception as a fact of life. Mr. Holtz-Eakin is saying, in effect, “We’re not engaged in any new irresponsibility — we’re just perpetuating the Bush administration’s irresponsibility. That doesn’t count.”

It’s the sort of fiscal double-talk that has been a Bush administration hallmark. In any case, it offers no answer to the principal point raised by the Tax Policy Center analysis, which has nothing to do with scoring: the McCain tax plan would leave the federal government with far too little revenue to cover its expenses, leading to huge budget deficits unless there were deep cuts in spending.

And Mr. McCain has said nothing realistic about how he would close the giant budget gap his tax cuts would produce — a gap so large that eliminating it would require cutting Social Security benefits by three-quarters, eliminating Medicare, or something equivalently drastic. Talking, as Mr. Holtz-Eakin does, about fighting waste and reforming procurement doesn’t cut it.

Now, Mr. McCain isn’t unique in making promises he has no way to pay for — the same can be said, to some extent, of the Democratic candidates. But Mr. McCain’s plan is far more irresponsible than anything the Democrats are proposing, and the difference in degree is so large as to be a difference in kind. Mr. McCain’s budget talk simply doesn’t make sense.

So what are Mr. McCain’s real intentions?

If truth be told, the McCain tax plan doesn’t seem to embody any coherent policy agenda. Instead, it looks like a giant exercise in pandering — an attempt to mollify the G.O.P.’s right wing, and never mind if it makes any sense.

The impression that Mr. McCain’s tax talk is all about pandering is reinforced by his proposal for a summer gas tax holiday — a measure that would, in fact, do little to help consumers, although it would boost oil industry profits.

More and more, Mr. McCain sounds like a man who will say anything to become president.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Bowling 1, health care 0

by Elizabeth Edwards

To the New York Times:

FOR the last month, news media attention was focused on Pennsylvania and its Democratic primary. Given the gargantuan effort, what did we learn?

Well, the rancor of the campaign was covered. The amount of money spent was covered. But in Pennsylvania, as in the rest of the country this political season, the information about the candidates’ priorities, policies and principles — information that voters will need to choose the next president — too often did not make the cut. After having spent more than a year on the campaign trail with my husband, John Edwards, I’m not surprised.

Why? Here’s my guess: The vigorous press that was deemed an essential part of democracy at our country’s inception is now consigned to smaller venues, to the Internet and, in the mainstream media, to occasional articles. I am not suggesting that every journalist for a mainstream media outlet is neglecting his or her duties to the public. And I know that serious newspapers and magazines run analytical articles, and public television broadcasts longer, more probing segments.

But I am saying that every analysis that is shortened, every corner that is cut, moves us further away from the truth until what is left is the Cliffs Notes of the news, or what I call strobe-light journalism, in which the outlines are accurate enough but we cannot really see the whole picture.

It is not a new phenomenon. In 1954, the Army-McCarthy hearings — an important if painful part of our history — were televised, but by only one network, ABC. NBC and CBS covered a few minutes, snippets on the evening news, but continued to broadcast soap operas in order, I suspect, not to invite complaints from those whose days centered on the drama of “The Guiding Light.”

The problem today unfortunately is that voters who take their responsibility to be informed seriously enough to search out information about the candidates are finding it harder and harder to do so, particularly if they do not have access to the Internet.

Did you, for example, ever know a single fact about Joe Biden’s health care plan? Anything at all? But let me guess, you know Barack Obama’s bowling score. We are choosing a president, the next leader of the free world. We are not buying soap, and we are not choosing a court clerk with primarily administrative duties.

What’s more, the news media cut candidates like Joe Biden out of the process even before they got started. Just to be clear: I’m not talking about my husband. I’m referring to other worthy Democratic contenders. Few people even had the chance to find out about Joe Biden’s health care plan before he was literally forced from the race by the news blackout that depressed his poll numbers, which in turn depressed his fund-raising.

And it’s not as if people didn’t want this information. In focus groups that I attended or followed after debates, Joe Biden would regularly be the object of praise and interest: “I want to know more about Senator Biden,” participants would say.

But it was not to be. Indeed, the Biden campaign was covered more for its missteps than anything else. Chris Dodd, also a serious candidate with a distinguished record, received much the same treatment. I suspect that there was more coverage of the burglary at his campaign office in Hartford than of any other single event during his run other than his entering and leaving the campaign.

Who is responsible for the veil of silence over Senator Biden? Or Senator Dodd? Or Gov. Tom Vilsack? Or Senator Sam Brownback on the Republican side?

The decision was probably made by the same people who decided that Fred Thompson was a serious candidate.

Articles purporting to be news spent thousands upon thousands of words contemplating whether he would enter the race, to the point that before he even entered, he was running second in the national polls for the Republican nomination. Second place! And he had not done or said anything that would allow anyone to conclude he was a serious candidate. A major weekly news magazine put Mr. Thompson on its cover, asking — honestly! — whether the absence of a serious campaign and commitment to raising money or getting his policies out was itself a strategy.

I’m not the only one who noticed this shallow news coverage. A report by the Project for Excellence in Journalism and the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics and Public Policy found that during the early months of the 2008 presidential campaign, 63 percent of the campaign stories focused on political strategy while only 15 percent discussed the candidates’ ideas and proposals.

Watching the campaign unfold, I saw how the press gravitated toward a narrative template for the campaign, searching out characters as if for a novel: on one side, a self-described 9/11 hero with a colorful personal life, a former senator who had played a president in the movies, a genuine war hero with a stunning wife and an intriguing temperament, and a handsome governor with a beautiful family and a high school sweetheart as his bride. And on the other side, a senator who had been first lady, a young African-American senator with an Ivy League diploma, a Hispanic governor with a self-deprecating sense of humor and even a former senator from the South standing loyally beside his ill wife. Issues that could make a difference in the lives of Americans didn’t fit into the narrative template and, therefore, took a back seat to these superficialities.

News is different from other programming on television or other content in print. It is essential to an informed electorate. And an informed electorate is essential to freedom itself. But as long as corporations to which news gathering is not the primary source of income or expertise get to decide what information about the candidates “sells,” we are not functioning as well as we could if we had the engaged, skeptical press we deserve.

And the future of news is not bright. Indeed, we’ve heard that CBS may cut its news division, and media consolidation is leading to one-size-fits-all journalism. The state of political campaigning is no better: without a press to push them, candidates whose proposals are not workable avoid the tough questions. All of this leaves voters uncertain about what approach makes the most sense for them. Worse still, it gives us permission to ignore issues and concentrate on things that don’t matter. (Look, the press doesn’t even think there is a difference!)

I was lucky enough for a time to have a front-row seat in this campaign — to see all this, to get my information firsthand. But most Americans are not so lucky. As we move the contest to my home state, North Carolina, I want my neighbors to know as much as they possibly can about what these men and this woman would do as president.

If voters want a vibrant, vigorous press, apparently we will have to demand it. Not by screaming out our windows as in the movie “Network” but by talking calmly, repeatedly, constantly in the ears of those in whom we have entrusted this enormous responsibility. Do your job, so we can — as voters — do ours.

Elizabeth Edwards, a senior fellow at the Center for American Progress, is the author of “Saving Graces.”

Truthout roundup 4/27

Pentagon yields to pressure from New York Times investigation, temporarily halts feeding information to media pundits; brutal convergence of events led to current global food crisis; congress to investigate claim that Karl Rove worked to remove Chicago US attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald; Afghan president calls on British and American troops to stop undermining his government's authority; Iran says confrontation between US and Iranian forces on Friday did not occur; family and friends of Sean Bell denounce verdict and vow to continue protesting assault; Michelle Singletary on why mortgage sharks need to face criminal prosecution; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at t r u t h o u t 04.27

Pentagon Temporarily Halts Feeding Pundits" Jeff Schogol for Stars and Stripes reports, "The Defense Department has temporarily stopped feeding information to retired military officers pending a review of the issue, said Robert Hastings, principal deputy assistant secretary of Defense for public affairs. The New York Times first reported on Sunday that the Defense Department was giving information to retired officers serving as pundits for various media organizations in order to garner favorable media coverage.

"The New Economics of Hunger" Anthony Faiola reports for The Washington Post, "The food price shock now roiling world markets is destabilizing governments, igniting street riots and threatening to send a new wave of hunger rippling through the world's poorest nations.

"In the Rezko Trial, A New Name Surfaces: Karl Rove" Michael Isikoff for Newsweek reports on the curveball that prosecutors threw last week in the trial of Chicago developer and political fixer Antoin "Tony" Rezko: "Former Illinois state official Ali Ata is expected to testify about a conversation he had with Rezko in which the developer alleged Rove was 'working with' a top Illinois Republican to remove the Chicago US attorney, Patrick Fitzgerald.

"Leave Taliban Alone, Afghan President Tells West" Jason Burke reports for The Guardian UK: "Hamid Karzai, the Afghan president, has called on British and American troops to stop arresting Taliban insurgents in Afghanistan, saying that their operations undermined his government's authority and were counter-productive.

"Iran Reportedly Says No Confrontation with US in Gulf" Reuters: "Iran on Friday denied there had been any confrontation between its forces and a US ship in the Gulf, Iranian media reported, after a US official said a ship contracted by the US Military Sealift Command fired on an Iranian vessel.

"Bell Family, Friends Say, "It's Far From Over" John Eligon reports for The New York Times: "Nicole Paultre Bell, the woman who was to marry Sean Bell the day he was killed in a hail of 50 police bullets, vowed on Saturday to continue demanding accountability for his death, delivering her remarks in a tone that was a departure from her more familiar gentle demeanor.

"Michelle Singletary Prosecute the Mortgage Sharks Michelle Singletary writes for the Washington Post, "Based on my investigation of one mortgage operation, which has continued to arrange loans despite state sanctions, what's needed is more criminal prosecution, not another commission with little power. After all, we're talking about loan officers responsible for explaining mortgage products, some of which have complicated terms and high fees, the types of products that have led this nation into its current economic mudslide.

Some Young Religious Voters Steering Away From Anti-Gay Measures

by The Associated Press

April 25, 2008

(Chicago, Illinois) Beau Underwood is putting his faith in politics. He's a 22-year-old at the University of Chicago Divinity School, an active member of the Disciples of Christ and - in his spare time - he's showing candidates that the path to political righteousness doesn't always veer right.

Underwood and a growing number of other young, left-leaning believers are entering the political arena as campaign aides, lobbyists, grass-root activists and engaged voters. They are trying to expand the focus of faith-based politics beyond the religious right's hot-button issues of abortion and gay marriage. And they are placing social justice issues, like poverty and war, at the intersection of their moral and political decision making.

"The religious voice in politics is not one unified voice," said Underwood, a self-described moderate who has worked as an aide on several Democratic local and congressional campaigns in his home state of Illinois.

"There are times when the media paints a very narrow picture of the religiously minded voter as being very conservative and fundamentalist," Underwood said. "People and groups who don't fit that stereotype aren't given the same amount of attention."

But this election year the tide may be turning. Liberal, religious voters are making their voices heard. And the youngest voices are often the loudest, as a new generation of believers begins to reshape the public discourse on faith in America.

"In three decades I've never seen this sort of student-youth involvement," said Jim Wallis, author of the best-seller "The Great Awakening." "I do think there's a major shift under way."

The shift of young faith-based voters both dramatic and complex. "They're leaving the Republican Party in droves, but they're not automatically Democrats," Wallis said. "They're not going to jump in the pocket of the Democratic Party the way they did with the Republican Party."

A study in February by the Barna Group, a firm specializing in researching data on religion and society, shows the dynamism of this upheaval. It found 40 percent of likely born-again voters planned to vote Democratic this year, compared with 29 percent who planned to vote Republican. And, perhaps most surprising, large percentages of born-again and evangelical voters remain undecided compared with previous election years.

"The youth of America today is very divided," said Esther Winne, 18, a Christian conservative from Lancaster, Pa., who originally backed Mitt Romney for the Republican nomination but now favors Sen. John McCain. "I think we're looking for change. I think we're looking for something new. But I think people are looking in different places."

This is a notable change from the 2000 and 2004 elections, when the so-called religious bloc anchored GOP victories.

"The message of compassion and conservatism hasn't fallen on good soil," said Pastor Bill Devlin, president of Redeem the Vote, a nonprofit organization focused on engaging young believers in politics. "Young voters of faith don't see a genuine push from the Republicans to make that a reality."

Instead, many young faith-based voters are linking their religious callings with social justice efforts, such as quelling poverty and war.

"We're going to see a huge trend and shift as young voters of faith leave the Rs and move over to the Ds because they have a vision for social justice," Devlin said, adding that community service and outreach is at an all-time high among today's youth.

Wallis, an evangelical Christian who also runs Sojourners, a social justice community, said these young adults "want their faith to make a difference. They're asking the question of vocation more than of career."

This resonates with Underwood, who hopes to use his divinity school studies and political involvement as a vehicle for social change.

"The one thing that I do think that I'm called to do is to help bridge the gap between the moral voices coming from the church and the moral decisions being made by those running the government," Underwood said. "Faith can unite people across party lines."

That may help explain the strong following Sen. Barack Obama maintains with young faith-based voters of different denominations.

"The message that Barack Obama tends to have definitely appeals to people in my generation, especially people in the faith and justice movement," said Jon Gromek, a 22-year-old organizing associate at Network, a Catholic social justice group based in Washington.

Gromek, who favors Obama, majored in theology and political science and sees his faith-based social work as part of a larger generational shift. "There's a growing movement of people, especially youth, who are ready to work on these issues, whether from a political or social standpoint."

Part of this increased activism may be tied to technology.

"With the advent of 24-hour media it's easier to see the injustices, and it's very easy to see how these injustices affect everyone," Gromek said. The result is a generation of young people finding new callings and new, dynamic issues to engage in tandem with their religious pulls.

"This is the most globalized generation we've ever had," Wallis said. "They're not just stuck in an American framework. They talk to people around the world, they go to places around the world - which is changing their politics and changing their faith."

As someone who has been frustrated for many years by the noise created by the extreme religious right and their use of political power against the LGBT community,
I am so glad to see that a younger generation of religious individuals are speaking out and taking action on issues of social justice and are turning away from the divisive politics of gay bashing.


Maggie Kernan endorses Jill Long Thompson

from the JLT 2008 campaign

ARGOS, Ind. - Joining the growing chorus of Hoosiers backing her candidacy, former Indiana First Lady Maggie Kernan officially endorsed Jill Long Thompson for Governor.

"I have known Jill for many years and am confident that she has all the qualities needed to make an outstanding Governor. Throughout her career she has worked to make a positive difference in the lives of all the people she has served and time and again, she has done this successfully," said Kernan. "Jill is known for her vision, integrity and common-sense approach to getting things done. Her leadership is what we need now in Indiana."

"Maggie Kernan is a good as it gets," said Long Thompson. "Besides being a business executive, she has committed a great deal of her life to making her community and her state a better place for its citizens. I am truly honored to have someone of Maggie's caliber stand with me."

April commentary to air Wednesday

Progressives, South Bend's April commentary will air Wednesday, April 30, 2008 at 7:35 am and 12:30 pm on WVPE 88.1 FM - your NPR station.

Christmas in April
Saturday, April 12 was Christmas – at least for twenty-six families in South Bend, Indiana. That was the volunteer workday for the organization Rebuilding Together – St. Joseph County (formerly called Christmas in April).

As part of a nation-wide event, one neighborhood is selected each year locally for home repairs. Homeowners within the boundaries are chosen by need due to low income, disability or advanced age. Many contractors and union workers donate time and materials ahead of the volunteer work. Jobs like furnace replacement, roof replacement, electrical upgrades and the like are handled by the pros at no cost to the homeowners.

But on the Volunteer Day, you see our community leap to life.

This year I volunteered to “captain” a house for the program. I met with the homeowners – a gracious older couple – to assess their needs and determine what was possible to do in one day. I won’t mention their names because I didn’t ask permission.

These folks had raised eight children in a pretty small home. The home was clearly loved and maintained with care. But there were some things these folks couldn’t do on their own anymore.

Saturday arrived with temperatures in the 30s, wind, and a steady rain. At the staff meeting at LaSalle Academy, we were told to seriously lower our expectations of work to be done and to expect about half the number of volunteers we would have had.

As I headed towards “my” house, I could see that city workers from many departments and vehicles were all over the place – ready to shuttle tools and equipment as well as dealing with all the refuse soon to be delivered to various curbs.

Shortly after 8:00, I noticed a determined and cheerful looking group trudging down the sidewalk in the rain. About two dozen Notre Dame students presented themselves – ready to work.

We huddled together under the shelter of the front porch roof as I explained our objectives for the day. They determined work groups, picked leaders and we went to work.

I should mention that there is no rain day for this event. It either happens, or it doesn’t. Well, no one in this group wanted the homeowners short changed.

It’s hard to express what a great experience this was. Late in the morning, I asked the homeowners if they minded if we turned their basement into a temporary lunch room. They not only accommodated us, they dug up chairs for the nearly thirty people. Lunch was brief, though, these folks were on a mission.

By the end of the day, this crew had emptied the basement and yard of unwanted items, scraped and re-glazed the twelve windows of the home, demolished a dilapidated stockade fence and replaced it with a brand new one – as well as several other less extensive tasks. Many of these folks worked nearly eight hours in really miserable weather conditions.

I’d like to express particular appreciation to Mike of Nebraska, who was foreman of what I referred to as the Notre Dame “fencing team”. And if you’d like to see some of these fine people and the work they did, there’s a photo gallery on

Negativity is a wastive thing. Pointing out problems, real and perceived and doing nothing else sucks energy out of people and communities. That approach feeds cynicism and fatalism. People get convinced what they think or do doesn’t matter, can’t make a difference.

Well, it’s a lie!

The Rebuilding Together staff certainly put in many hours in preparation for the work. The House Captains put some hours in ahead of the event so that things would run smoothly. But what really made things happen were the hundreds of volunteers putting in a few hours each. It was those people who were rebuilding together.

So when someone says to you, “There’s nothing I can do” or “what I do won’t matter” – tell them this story - or better yet, one of your own. The important thing is not to let the lie stand unchallenged. Everyone makes a difference in what they do or choose not to do.

I say thanks to the students of St. Mary’s and Notre Dame, my fellow citizens, the city workers, union workers, private contractors and anyone I may not have identified who helped rebuild together. That Saturday you made me proud that I live in South Bend, Indiana. Again.

Don Wheeler
Progressives, South Bend

Saturday, April 26, 2008

On Gay Acceptance, Or, "Wheres Are Special Day?"

Unless Willie Brown was once your city’s mayor, the odds are pretty good that the gay community in your city is not as “out and proud” as they wish they could be.

In my little corner of the world, the plain fact is that it’s probably a lot easier to remain closeted than it is to deal daily with the little taunts and jabs that come your way—and of course for some, there’s the risk that they might end up like Matthew Shepard...a man who ended up out and dead.

There has been a reaction to that reality in high schools, which is why we are today visiting the public spaces just off the campus of Mt. Si High School in Snoqualmie, Washington (home of the Wildcats), where a local church group will be arriving to protest the school’s annual “Day of Silence”, an effort to acknowledge the pressures placed on the school’s gay population.

Displayed among the various protesters today was fear, ignorance, disingenuousness, and a strange mixture of self-righteousness and homoeroticism...and that was just among the people in the church group.

Were minds changed?
Did anyone make a new friend?
And how do Dr. Martin Luther King and the Pledge of Allegiance fit into the picture?
Follow along, and we shall see.

Today’s story, as with so much else, requires background and context...and this story actually began in January, when the school invited the Reverend Ken Hutcherson to speak to the assembled students about the King legacy.

Unspoken in the invitation is the fact that the good Reverend is also the local representative of the “God Hates Fags” community, and it is today unclear if that was an intentional slight or a question of ignorance on the part of the school administration. It is a known fact that the Reverend has children attending the school, and that he is part of the African-American experience in this country; these are the explanations commonly given for the invitation.

All of this came to a head during the school assembly on that day, when Kit McCormick, the faculty advisor to the Mt. Si’s Gay-Straight Alliance chapter publicly “called out” the Reverend for the apparent hypocrisy of giving a speech on diversity while basing a career on the exclusion of homosexuals from every facet of human life possible.

Apparently feeling the need to “reach out and touch someone” in response, a counter-protest was scheduled by Hutcherson to complain about the school’s willingness to allow the “Day of Silence” event to occur during classroom hours.

What is the “Day of Silence”, exactly? Conversations with current students describe it as an event that changes from year to year—one year students covered their mouths with duct tape during the school day, another year tie-dye armbands were the means of expression...and in each case, the point is to create an awareness of the plight of those who cannot come out, for fear that they might be victimized—and to symbolize solidarity with fellow students in such a plight.

To generate the noise required to drown out the “Day of Silence”, the Reverend had been telling the public of his plans to bring “1000 Prayer Warriors” to the school, which is why on this Friday morning at 9AM more than 40 police vehicles (I counted) are already in the parking lot of the local fire station—a parking lot that typically contains fewer than 10 vehicles, even on a busy day.

I managed to make it to the early morning press availability provided by the school Administration, and the message provided was basically that students are within their rights to protest, the Reverend will do what he is going to do, that the entire exercise is a good learning experience for the student body, and that there will be steps taken to isolate the protest to a location off the campus, which is intended to minimize disruptions to learning.

It was reported that about 1/3 of students would not be in attendance today; and that as with any high school, there will be students who come and go throughout the day, meaning it will be impossible to assure with 100% certainty that students and protest won’t come into contact along the way.

I’m also told by current students that there can be considerable social stigma attached to not participating in the otherwise voluntary “Day of Silence”, and that may provide an explanation for some of today’s high absenteeism.

Considering the number of police vehicles known to be in the immediate area, there are a very small number of visible, uniformed officers. There are one or two marked police vehicles at each entrance, about four uniformed officers and a sergeant in the “designated protest area”...and although I had my suspicions, I could only identify one person as being a plainclothes officer.

(I was told later by a student that there were officers in plain clothes in the back row of her classes, and new “custodians” working today that she had never seen before--which seems to tell its own story...)

It’s about 9:30, and the only people around are the police, a group of 10 or so supporting the gay community (my favorite sign: “I Believe In Separation Of Church And Hate”), and a substantial contingent of the local media, including all the local TV network affiliates.

Since the festivities haven’t really begun, I chose to take a coffee break (I’m dedicated enough to attend events so I can report on them for you, Gentle Reader, but this is 10AM, and that’s early for me...), and by the time I’ve returned things are starting to get under way.

There are about 75 to 100 of the Prayer Warriors assembled, and rather than the convoy of busses we were expecting, there’s on e “school bus” and groups of others who are walking up to the event from the parking places they’ve found in the surrounding neighborhood.

‘They are being met by about 30 counter-protesters...some of whom are suggesting that the Warriors might wish to perform certain acts upon themselves, supplemented by another who questions whether some of the Warriors might have been inappropriately touched as children. A sign questions whether the Reverend is another Larry Craig or Ted Haggard. Most of this is surprisingly good-humored; and the group appears to be mostly of student age or near student age.

Someone in the group has a small boombox...and they’re asking the cop that’s assigned to face them if he knew he’d be with the dancing group. He and they find that funny, and so do I.

When both sides had achieved their full strength, just about 150 of the Warriors were present, and about 30 or so on the other side.

And it’s at this point that we need to say a few words about the makeup of the Prayer Warriors’ group.

About 20% of the group was of student age, and the remaining 80% seemed to have been accompanying the Reverend. Of the students, my favorites were the “Straight Pride” group (6 people-I counted), all of whom had hand-lettered shirts with their message, front and back. One of the group chose to depart from the pattern of the others and put his own unique message on the back of his shirt...which is how we found the title of today’s story:

“Wheres Are Special Day?”

Now it’s easy to make fun of the foolish, but the group that the Reverend brought with him was another matter entirely—and by that I mean they were a bit...scary.

For starters, the group just oozed fear—and here’s just one example. A woman was carrying a sign that read “My Athlete Is Safe At Home”. When I walked up to her and asked what danger her athlete faced that would prompt such a message, the man next to her demanded to know who I was. When I asked him why he might ask such a question, both he and the woman holding the sign refused to say another word.

But the strangest display of paranoia came with the deployment of the Reverend’s “fake police”. He was surrounded by at least 8 men who were all trying to look exactly like plainclothes officers...and it appeared to me that at least one, and maybe two of the “pro-gay” protesters might have been part of his group as well...but then again, that could just be my paranoia at work.

And here’s another thing. The reverend seems to surround himself with what appear to be current or former athletes...and to be honest, they kind of looked like the guys that pat each pother on the butt just a bit too hard...and then go find a gay person to bash in order to prove their manhood.

I’m trying to be objective here, but to be completely honest, some of the Reverend’s group looked like a pair of assless chaps and a leather baseball cap would be all they need to make the transition from “Prayer Warrior” to “Leather Daddy”...and at least one other gentleman looked like he might have a bit of a “wide stance” himself—if you know what I mean.

Statistics suggest that out of 120 who appeared to have come with the Reverend, more or less a dozen are gay...and in that group, staying in the closet is likely a matter of daily stress and strain.

One other thing I found odd was the reluctance of the Reverend’s group to remain in the near vicinity of the gay-supporting group. When the Reverend’s group was forming they were within 20 feet of the other side, but by the time the whole group had assembled they had moved their core more than 50 feet away—and if I didn’t know better, I’d say they did it because they were afraid that by being too close they too might “catch the gay”, which, as I understand from their shouts, is apparently some sort of abomination that would instantly doom them to a life of...well, whatever it is, it must be pretty bad.

The requisite speech having been given and media footage having been captured, it was time for the event to end, as was indicated when one of the “fake police” told the group: “That’s it, let’s go”.

And they did.

I saw the Reverend do a media stand-up afterwards, and he told the reporter that he wasn’t ant-gay, or against the Day of Silence itself. What upset him, he reports, is that the event distracted from the learning environment (remember “Wheres Are Special Day”? I’d suggest that ship has already sailed...), and that the event was allowed to occur during the school day.

And that’s where we get to the “Pledge of Allegiance”. As it turns out, the United States Supreme Court, in a series of cases that begin with Minersville has ruled that students have a “right of silence” that allows then the complete freedom to exercise this sort of protest...and the fact that the Reverend was publicly not aware of this either speaks poorly of his own educational background or suggests he would prefer that topic not come up.

So that was pretty much it: the Reverend came to make his statement, he looked a bit silly doing it, 850 of the Prayer Warriors apparently had other things to do, his paranoia and fear were everywhere evident...and his use of “fake police” as a tool of intimidation appeared to intimidate no one.

I saw no minds changed on either side, roughly 60 students got a direct political education...and at least on one side, a fun time was had by all.

Truthout roundup 4/26

Senator Patty Murray accuses the Veterans Administration of lying about Veteran suicides; Bush fails to make progress on Israel - Palestine peace process; J. Sri Raman writes about Burma's new unpopular constitution; Democratic party leaders to rule on a plan to seat some Michigan and Florida delegates; the US military relies on a local warlord to secure supply line in Afghanistan; Western Republican doctor favors universal health care; the Senate Ethics panel hits Senator Pete Domenici over his role in US attorney firing scandal; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.orgt r u t h o u t 04.26

"VA Lying About Number of Veteran Suicides" Writing for McClatchy Newspapers, Les Blumenthal writes: "The Veterans Administration has lied about the number of veterans who've attempted suicide, a senator charged Wednesday, citing internal e-mails that put the number at 12,000 a year when the department was publicly saying it was fewer than 800.

"Abbas Says No Progress in Talks With Bush" Associated Press Reporter Mohammed Daraghmeh writes: "Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas said Friday he failed to achieve any progress in Middle East peace talks with President Bush and was returning home with little to show for his visit.

" J. Sri Raman Referendum and Resistance" Truthout Columnist J. Sri Raman writes: "It is a bestseller, but barely popular with its readers. The 194-page volume, which hit the bookstands in Burma on April 24, was the long-awaited draft constitution authored by the country's military junta, without consulting most of its people. The draft was published just a fortnight before the people are due to vote on it, apparently as a formality.

"Delegate Challenges Concerning Florida, Michigan to Be Heard Associated Press Reporter Nedra Pickler writes: "A plan to award half-delegates for the disputed Michigan and Florida Democratic presidential primaries will get a hearing before party leaders.

"US Afghan Supply Lines Depend on Islamic Warlord" Newspapers Reporter Saeed Shah writes: "The only thing standing between Pakistan's Taliban and the lifeline for U.S. and NATO forces in Afghanistan may be an Islamist warlord who controls the area near Pakistan's famed Khyber Pass.

"Pushing the Single-Payer Solution Amy Goodman, writing for King Features Syndicate writes: "As the media coverage of the Democratic presidential race continues to focus on lapel pins and pastors, America is ailing. As I travel around the country, I find people are angry and motivated. Like Dr. Rocky White, a physician from a conservative, evangelical background who practices in rural Alamosa, Colo. A tall, gray-haired Westerner in black jeans, a crisp white shirt and a bolo tie, Dr. White is a leading advocate for single-payer health care. He wasn't always.

"Senate Ethics Panel Admonishes Domenici Manu Raju, reporting for The Hill newspaper, writes: "The Senate Ethics Committee admonished Sen. Pete Domenici (N.M.) Thursday for contacting a U.S. attorney in his home state during a wide-ranging corruption probe, closing an investigation that clouded the Republican’s six-term Senate career."

on John Edwards

By Christine Dolan

Former CNN political director Christine Dolan is an insider in the race to claim the White House. She'll be blogging for during the campaign - and here explains why forgotten man John Edwards is setting the agenda even after pulling out of the race

John Edwards chose New Orleans - epicentre of the Katrina disaster - to announce his presidential candidacy. And he returned to the city when he dropped out of the race a year later.

It was symbolic. A deliberate act acknowledging his commitment to America's poor - part of his and his wife Elizabeth's continuing campaign against poverty and for universal health care in the US.Their priorities are clear: engage with nations globally on poverty, health, climate change and energy use.

John Edwards’ firm belief is that the next American president must fundamentally understand that what Americans do connects with what happens abroad and vice versa. That visionary leadership is essential to America’s position in the world. Elizabeth wants to concentrate on a national health care system and a new energy policy.

The fact that they are now independent voices –speaking out on the same campaign issues but through a different prism - adds strength to their messages.

The Edwards are not part of the bitter racism, sexism and bickering between Obama and Clinton that has fatigued the American public. They can address the bigger picture in this country and across the world.

Last week John spoke at Massachusetts Institute of Technology about poverty in America and poverty globally. In Boston, at the same time, Gordon Brown was addressing an audience on poverty and economic development.

Equally, Edwards obtained commitments from both Obama and Clinton on eradicating poverty in America and globally, and elevating it in their administrations while having a similar discussion with Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

This week McCain travelled to places which most Republican front-runners ignore - the poorest regions of Kentucky, Ohio and Alabama.

The message there was about helping the disadvantaged, the poor, and uneducated. "Not because of any other reasons other than John McCain personally cares about poverty, education and helping the disadvantaged," says Charlie Black, McCain’s Chief Strategist.

Poverty in America was a central theme of Edwards campaign. John and Elizabeth elevated that battle not just in America, but now around the world.

They may be out of the race for the White House - but, right now, they are setting the poverty agenda globally.

Friday, April 25, 2008

The "Kindergarten Roundup"

by Don Wheeler

This is something of a coda to a four part series I wrote about exploring Kindergarten options for our daughter, Sarah, and what I learned along the way. Our choices narrowed to Kennedy Academy - discussed here and Hay Primary Center - discussed here .

Comparisons were somewhat difficult because we were not allowed access to Kennedy while classes were in session. We attended two program sessions - which had a low grade militaristic feel. At Hay, there were no formal programs, but the Principal - Mr. Craig Haenes - spent nearly two hours with us. By the time he was done, I was pretty clear that this looked like a great place for Sarah. My wife, Paddy, was pleased with what she saw and heard, but wanted to explore the Kennedy option a bit further. It was her understanding that once our daughter was accepted, we would then be able to see the school in actual operation.

Our situation became a bit more complicated when we received a rejection for our daughter's application. This didn't worry us overly. Sarah is considered a top student in a top-notch preschool (Early Childhood Development Center at St. Mary's). She also suffers from congestion in her ears when she has a cold and hears very poorly then. She was in such a state when she "tested" at Kennedy. We pointed this out at the time, but those folks didn't strike us as great listeners.

We were confident of a successful appeal, but eventually even Paddy began to question whether it was worth the effort. We might get Sarah admitted, get a better feel for the operation and still have the same not-so-positive impression of it. For example, does it really seem like a good idea to assign a five year old homework after the child has been in school all day? And I really don't want Sarah's life to be all about discipline and regimentation. We work on manners at home. And Sarah loves to pick out her own clothes and delights in wearing some weird combinations now and then. It's one of the few things she has control of in her life.

So we made the choice for our very highly rated neighborhood school, and last night was the "Forest G. Hay Primary Center Kindergarten Round-Up".

I won't bore you with all the details, but it was wonderful and fun. The children got a short spin on the school bus and a tour of the classrooms. The parents got to hear from just about every teacher and staff member likely to interact with their child(ren) - all of whom seemed to like kids and each other. We left mighty pleased with our choice.

Sarah was too.

Our experience is a reminder that one shouldn't be afraid to challenge conventional wisdom. Thinking for one's self has an upside.

Self-inflicted confusion

New York Times

After Barack Obama’s defeat in Pennsylvania, David Axelrod, his campaign manager, brushed it off: “Nothing has changed tonight in the basic physics of this race.”

He may well be right — but what a comedown. A few months ago the Obama campaign was talking about transcendence. Now it’s talking about math. “Yes we can” has become “No she can’t.”

This wasn’t the way things were supposed to play out.

Mr. Obama was supposed to be a transformational figure, with an almost magical ability to transcend partisan differences and unify the nation. Once voters got to know him — and once he had eliminated Hillary Clinton’s initial financial and organizational advantage — he was supposed to sweep easily to the nomination, then march on to a huge victory in November.

Well, now he has an overwhelming money advantage and the support of much of the Democratic establishment — yet he still can’t seem to win over large blocs of Democratic voters, especially among the white working class.

As a result, he keeps losing big states. And general election polls suggest that he might well lose to John McCain.

What’s gone wrong?

According to many Obama supporters, it’s all Hillary’s fault. If she hadn’t launched all those vile, negative attacks on their hero — if she had just gone away — his aura would be intact, and his mission of unifying America still on track.

But how negative has the Clinton campaign been, really? Yes, it ran an ad that included Osama bin Laden in a montage of crisis images that also included the Great Depression and Hurricane Katrina. To listen to some pundits, you’d think that ad was practically the same as the famous G.O.P. ad accusing Max Cleland of being weak on national security.

It wasn’t. The attacks from the Clinton campaign have been badminton compared with the hardball Republicans will play this fall. If the relatively mild rough and tumble of the Democratic fight has been enough to knock Mr. Obama off his pedestal, what hope did he ever have of staying on it through the general election?

Let me offer an alternative suggestion: maybe his transformational campaign isn’t winning over working-class voters because transformation isn’t what they’re looking for.

From the beginning, I wondered what Mr. Obama’s soaring rhetoric, his talk of a new politics and declarations that “we are the ones we’ve been waiting for” (waiting for to do what, exactly?) would mean to families troubled by lagging wages, insecure jobs and fear of losing health coverage. The answer, from Ohio and Pennsylvania, seems pretty clear: not much. Mrs. Clinton has been able to stay in the race, against heavy odds, largely because her no-nonsense style, her obvious interest in the wonkish details of policy, resonate with many voters in a way that Mr. Obama’s eloquence does not.

Yes, I know that there are lots of policy proposals on the Obama campaign’s Web site. But addressing the real concerns of working Americans isn’t the campaign’s central theme.

Tellingly, the Obama campaign has put far more energy into attacking Mrs. Clinton’s health care proposals than it has into promoting the idea of universal coverage.

During the closing days of the Pennsylvania primary fight, the Obama campaign ran a TV ad repeating the dishonest charge that the Clinton plan would force people to buy health insurance they can’t afford. It was as negative as any ad that Mrs. Clinton has run — but perhaps more important, it was fear-mongering aimed at people who don’t think they need insurance, rather than reassurance for families who are trying to get coverage or are afraid of losing it.

No wonder, then, that older Democrats continue to favor Mrs. Clinton.

The question Democrats, both inside and outside the Obama campaign, should be asking themselves is this: now that the magic has dissipated, what is the campaign about? More generally, what are the Democrats for in this election?

That should be an easy question to answer. Democrats can justly portray themselves as the party of economic security, the party that created Social Security and Medicare and defended those programs against Republican attacks — and the party that can bring assured health coverage to all Americans.

They can also portray themselves as the party of prosperity: the contrast between the Clinton economy and the Bush economy is the best free advertisement that Democrats have had since Herbert Hoover.

But the message that Democrats are ready to continue and build on a grand tradition doesn’t mesh well with claims to be bringing a “new politics” and rhetoric that places blame for our current state equally on both parties.

And unless Democrats can get past this self-inflicted state of confusion, there’s a very good chance that they’ll snatch defeat from the jaws of victory this fall.


I received this piece in the mail yesterday. I can't put my finger on it, but something seems oddly familiar about this"new kind of politics". -- DW

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Suvey USA poll shows momentum shifting to Jill Long Tompson

3 Weeks to Indiana Democratic Gubernatorial Primary

Long Thompson Has Momentum:

In a Democratic Primary for Governor of Indiana today, 04/14/08, 3 weeks till votes are counted, Jill Long Thompson pulls ahead of Jim Schellinger and leads now by 8 points, according to a SurveyUSA poll conducted exclusively for WHAS-TV Louisville KY and WCPO-TV Cincinnati OH.

Today, it's Long Thompson 46%, Schellinger 38%. Compared to an identical SurveyUSA poll released two weeks ago, Long Thompson is up 7, Schellinger is down 3. Long Thompson, who represented Indiana's 4th Congressional District from 1988 through 1994, has made inroads among men, where Indianapolis architect Schellinger had led by 21, now leads by 5. Among women, Long Thompson had led by 13, now leads by 20. In greater Indianapolis, Schellinger had led by 9, now leads by 3. In Southern Indiana, Schellinger had led by 22, now is tied. Among white voters, Schellinger had led by 3, now trails by 5. The winner of the primary will face incumbent Republican Governor Mitch Daniels. 16% of likely voters are undecided. The outcome is anything but certain.

The breakdown:


Inside the numbers:

Some interesting things - JLT leads JS by 20 points with women voters and has nearly as strong a lead with African Americans. JS seems to have his biggest lead with self-described Republicans. But there's a real good chance at least some of them will support Mitch. I think it's becoming clear who our stronger canddidate is.


John Edwards to be honored

Realizing Democracy's Promise: Demos Celebration 2008

Thursday, May 15, 2008
5:30 – 8:30pm
Inside Park at St. Bart's
109 E. 50th Street at Park Avenue
New York City

Demos will host a celebratory fundraising event, marking our achievements over the past eight years and redoubling our commitment to make change in the next year and years to come.

The event will honor Senator John Edwards and Susan Berresford, Former President of the Ford Foundation, for their lifetime's work toward the America that Demos envisions: one with a vibrant and inclusive democracy, a prosperity that is widely shared, and a public sector with the capacity and accountability to plan for the common good.

Event Co-Chairs include: Henry Cisneros, Chairman of CityView and Former Secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development; Elizabeth Warren, Leo Gottlieb Professor of Law at Harvard UniversityRobert Franklin, President of Morehouse College.

The evening will feature a political art auction to benefit Demos, curated and featuring work by The New Yorker’s cartoonist Roz Chast.

Also including pieces by Jules Feiffer, Edward Koren and Frank Modell.

A limited number of Young Professional discounted tickets are available for $125 each. To purchase these, or any other tickets by phone, or for more information please contact Rachel Whiting at 212.419.8771 or

Truthout roundup 4/24

Corruption trial brings accusation that White House was involved in ouster of US attorney in Chicago; CIA considered investigations of interrogation techniques "virtually inevitable"; more than half of EPA scientists report political interference; Israelis claim secret agreement with US over settlements; US stores ration sales of rice; greenhouse gases rise sharply in 2007; Pentagon blocks media from Arlington funeral despite family's permission; and more ... Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.orgt r u t h o u t 04.24

White House Influence Is Cited in Corruption Trial" Eric Lipton reports for The New York Times, "A prominent Illinois Republican Party leader may have tried to use his friendship with the former White House political aide Karl Rove to push for the ouster of the United States attorney in Chicago, a federal prosecutor said in court on Wednesday.

"CIA Foresaw Interrogation Issues" Dan Eggen reports for The Washington Post, "The CIA concluded that criminal, administrative or civil investigations stemming from harsh interrogation tactics were 'virtually inevitable,' leading the agency to seek legal support from the Justice Department, according to a CIA official's statement in court documents filed yesterday.

"Hundreds of EPA Scientists Report Political Interference" Judy Pasternak, of The Los Angeles Times, reports, "More than half of the scientists at the Environmental Protection Agency who responded to a survey said they had experienced political interference in their work. The survey results show 'an agency under siege from political pressures,' said the Union of Concerned Scientists report, which was released Wednesday and sent to EPA Administrator Stephen L. Johnson.

"Israelis Claim Secret Agreement With US" Glenn Kessler reports for The Washington Post, "Israeli officials say they have clear guidance from Bush administration officials to continue building settlements, as long as it meets carefully negotiated criteria, even though those understandings appear to contradict US policy.

"Shops Ration Sales of Rice as US Buyers Panic" Andrew Clark, Rory Carroll and Julian Borger report for The Guardian UK, "The global food crisis reached the United States yesterday as big retailers began to ration sales of rice in response to bulk purchases by customers alarmed by rocketing prices of staples.

"Greenhouse Gases, Carbon Dioxide and Methane, Rise Sharply in 2007"
ScienceDaily reports: "Last year alone global levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide, the primary driver of global climate change, increased by 0.6 percent, or 19 billion tons. Additionally methane rose by 27 million tons after nearly a decade with little or no increase. NOAA scientists released these and other preliminary findings today as part of an annual update to the agency's greenhouse gas index, which tracks data from 60 sites around the world.

"What the Family Would Let You See, the Pentagon Obstructs" Milbank, of The Washington Post, reports: "Lt. Col. Billy Hall, one of the most senior officers to be killed in the Iraq war, was laid to rest yesterday at Arlington National Cemetery. It's hard to escape the conclusion that the Pentagon doesn't want you to know that. The family of 38-year-old Hall, who leaves behind two young daughters and two stepsons, gave their permission for the media to cover his Arlington burial -- a decision many grieving families make so that the nation will learn about their loved ones' sacrifice. But the military had other ideas, and they arranged the Marine's burial yesterday so that no sound, and few images, would make it into the public domain."

Immigration reform requires bold, creative thinking

Article published Apr 24, 2008 in the South Bend Tribune

Immigration reform requires bold, creative thinking


The advent of the presidential primary season has been the occasion for the question of immigration reform to recede, somewhat, from national prominence. Commentators noted how even during the later GOP debates the issue was only briefly discussed, if mentioned at all. In Indiana, attempts to pass immigration-related legislation have failed, collapsing as backers sought to distance themselves from embarrassing racially-charged comments made in support of Senate Bill 335.

Concerns over immigration-related matters may take a back seat during the remaining months before the November elections. But there does appear to be broad-based agreement on the need for reform that will compel legislative action.

Such reform must necessarily come from federal, as opposed to state or local level, legislation. Immigration involves federal policies regarding the treatment of undocumented workers, border security as well as consideration of the increasingly global and integrated nature of the economy. As such, attempts by state legislators to circumvent the unambiguously federal nature of immigration issues are misguided.

The subject of immigration is complex; it demands consideration of historical, economic, cultural and other factors in what must be a responsible, comprehensive policy change. To address immigration in a piecemeal fashion that deals with but one aspect -- "enforcement" -- while neglecting other facets is to oversimplify and, ultimately, exacerbate the situation.Certainly, it is both reasonable and responsible for the federal government to ensure the security of our national borders. It follows that, towards this end, an enforcement mechanism be in place. But in order to realize the best chance of effectively securing our borders, any enforcement mechanism must be constructed as part of broad reforms that acknowledge the realities of today's world. "Enforcement only" attempts have failed; Border Patrol funding has grown exponentially in recent years while the undocumented immigrant population has continued to grow and public alarm has increased.

Reforms must recognize the importance of immigrants to the health and well-being of our domestic economy and should demonstrate an appreciation for the tacit acceptance of undocumented laborers that existed for many years. It is because of this unspoken but understood historical reality that there are now millions of undocumented individuals and families living and working inside the United States.

The relatively recent shift in attitudes towards the topic of immigration comes as a direct result of several factors beyond the control of immigrants themselves. Understandable public distress at the uncertainties and disruptions associated with a globalizing economy that is fundamentally transforming the labor market and fears linked to the perceived threat of terrorism are among the most salient changes in circumstances that have contributed to the public's renewed focus on immigration issues.

Sadly, American history is fraught with examples of ugly, vicious treatment of immigrants who are cynically made into scapegoats for social problems. It is always convenient to dehumanize and blame an individual or group in a subordinate social position that hinders their ability to defend themselves. Perhaps most disturbingly, a limited minority continues to advance stances toward immigrants that can only be described as racist and xenophobic -- attacks that are, to some degree, encouraged by a short-sighted enforcement-only legislative debate.

Developing comprehensive immigration reform will surely entail bold, creative thinking on the part of our elected officials. Worthwhile legislation will unavoidably include a procedure by which existing undocumented individuals and families are afforded a reasonable opportunity to either pursue U.S. citizenship or "guest worker" status.It is in everyone's interest that the overwhelming majority of individuals and families who are now living and working as undocumented immigrants can feel safe, respected and valued for their contributions to our society. It is in no one's interest that these same individuals and families should be afraid for their livelihoods or look upon both law enforcement officials and members of the general public with fear, mistrust or any general sense of antagonism.

As this area's representative to federal government, U.S. Rep. Joe Donnelly must rise to the challenge presented by the immigration issue. He must have the courage to see beyond the contemptuous actions of some politicians who are willing to fan the flames of public discontent for political gain and instead demonstrate his true commitment to all of the 2nd District's working families. In particular, Donnelly must stand up for the thousands of immigrant soldiers and their families who depend upon "fast-track" paths to citizenship after serving full tours of duty while war widows face potential deportation.

Some rely upon a "divide and conquer" strategy that seeks to play segments of our community off of one another for private gain. Yet there is much more common ground in the everyday experiences and interests of all working people in the world today -- regardless of national boundaries or citizenship status -- than what divides them. This is an escapable fact of our globalizing world; we face a choice between cultivating a sense of universal humanitas (Latin for "humanity") that celebrates our commonalities and continuing to foster preventable conflict that does so much harm to so many.

The people of the 2nd District should urge Donnelly and other elected leaders to validate the sacred trust we place in them by passing responsible, visionary comprehensive immigration reform.

Take Back the Night March

‘Take Back the Night’ march on Thursday
Tribune Staff Report

A “Take Back The Night” march to end sexual violence is set for 7 p.m. Thursday downtown.

The event is free and open to the public.

The march will begin on the steps of the St. Joseph County Courthouse on Main Street. It will conclude at the College Football Hall of Fame, where there will be speakers, music and the opportunity for individuals to speak out against sexual violence.

The march is sponsored by S-O-S of Madison Center, the rape crisis center for St. Joseph County.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

This is what people do...

This what people do when they themselves haven't had to do the heavy lifting - which is what public policy is.

Jim Schellinger claims he's not a politician? You be the judge.

And be very afraid.

He's got a ton of money. And this is how he chooses to use it.

He had more money, early endorsements and a solid business background.

But he spent months on “listening tours” without taking significant policy stands. He also lost a campaign manager, a communications director and other staffers, causing many to question the legitimacy of his candidacy.

-- Ft. Wayne Journal Gazette

Late returns from the Governor candidates debate

Governor hopefuls joust

Democrats debate campaign ethics, abortion rights, gasoline tax caps

By Niki Kelly
The Journal Gazette

There was plenty of venom for Republican Gov. Mitch Daniels, but the Democratic hopefuls for governor also took verbal swipes at each other in the primary election’s only debate Tuesday night.

Topics included abortion rights, ethics, local government and the economy.

Jim Schellinger, 48, repeatedly told the audience at Indiana University-Purdue University Fort Wayne’s Rhinehart Recital Hall that he is not a politician and referred to Jill Long Thompson, 55, as “congresswoman” – referencing her six years in office representing northeast Indiana.

But Long Thompson directly answered more questions and criticized Schellinger’s role in property tax increases and a campaign finance inquiry.

The hall was half-empty for the debate, which involved questions from the audience and a panel of local journalists. In all, candidates took 10 questions and made opening and closing statements.

Schellinger, an Indianapolis architect, at least three times referred to growing up in a family of eight and working his way through college. Long Thompson repeatedly said she never voted for pay increases or tax increases while in Congress.

“I’m running for governor because Indiana can and should be doing better. We deserve better leadership,” Schellinger said in his opening statement. “We were promised a new style of leadership in this state, but instead we got arrogant leadership that is completely out of touch with the challenges and the problems we face every day as Hoosiers.”

Long Thompson countered by talking about being the first in her family to go to college.

“I believed then as I do now that anything is possible, and that’s why I’m running for governor,” she said. “Our state has great promise, but too many families are facing an uncertain future and too many communities are hurting.”

The most interesting exchanges of the night surrounded ethics and negative attacks. Long Thompson’s were direct, while Schellinger employed a more subtle approach.

Long Thompson started by questioning the use of Trident Air, a limited liability corporation formed by Schellinger and his business partners, three days before Schellinger announced he would run for governor.

Trident has since given $60,000 in in-kind donations to the campaign to cover Schellinger’s air travel. A complaint filed with the Indiana Election Commission questions whether the corporation should be registered as a political action committee if its majority purpose is to aid the campaign.

Long Thompson challenged her rival to open the books of both Trident Air and CSO Architects – Schellinger’s firm – to ensure both were following campaign finance rules and to make clear where money is coming from.

“I simply said what I believe is if you are a candidate for public office your public record is a matter of public scrutiny,” she said after the debate.

Schellinger responded that he would do so and said nothing about Trident has been illegal. However, his latest campaign finance report, filed Tuesday, shows he has accepted no further donations from the company.

Long Thompson also pointed to $500 million worth of school building projects that Schellinger’s architectural firm has advocated in front of a state tax control board.

He generally said some of her criticism distorts the truth but otherwise wouldn’t take the bait.

“This is where I’m supposed to come back at my opponent … but I’m not going to go there,” Schellinger said. “We’ve got a governor who has polarized this state. We need a governor that’s going to bring us all back together again.”

Other topics included abortion rights, where Long Thompson said it is important that a woman’s right to choose be upheld.

Schellinger said his faith teaches him abortion is wrong but that he would not focus as governor on adding or changing state restrictions on abortion rights. He was less clear about whether he would sign into law or veto such laws if presented to him by the legislature.

Both candidates were asked to choose one recommendation from a recent bipartisan report on local government reform they would ask the legislature to adopt.

Long Thompson said appointed boards – such as library boards – should not be able to levy taxes, but Schellinger did not endorse a recommendation, saying that some recommendations might be right for some counties but not for others.

Both spoke against Daniels’ use of privatization and outsourcing of state services.

“Government is not a business. It was never intended to be a business. It’s the entity that brings us all together and makes sure that none of us is left behind,” Schellinger said. “We should send a message together as Democrats … that the state of Indiana is not for sale.”

Long Thomnpson compared leasing the Toll Road to selling the farm to buy a new combine.

When asked about high fuel prices, Long Thompson outlined her plan to cap the state’s sales tax on gasoline. Indiana is one of a handful of states that applies the state sales tax to gas purchases.

But Schellinger criticized the high cost of the proposal and said, “We have to make responsible decisions and not knee-jerk decisions in an election year to try to win voters over.”

The primary election race has been overshadowed in recent months by the state legislative session and the presidential primary. From the outset, Schellinger was seen by Democratic Party insiders as the stronger candidate.

He had more money, early endorsements and a solid business background.

But he spent months on “listening tours” without taking significant policy stands. He also lost a campaign manager, a communications director and other staffers, causing many to question the legitimacy of his candidacy.

Long Thompson, meanwhile, has built on her name recognition in northeast Indiana and has generally been a more aggressive campaigner. She also was the first to start unveiling initiatives she would tackle if elected.

Feds Scrap $20 Million 'Virtual Fence'

Associted Press


The government is scrapping a $20 million prototype of its highly touted "virtual fence" on the Arizona-Mexico border because the system is failing to adequately alert border patrol agents to illegal crossings, officials said.

The move comes just two months after Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff announced his approval of the fence built by The Boeing Co. The fence consists of nine electronic surveillance towers along a 28-mile section of border southwest of Tucson.Boeing is to replace the so-called Project 28 prototype with a series of towers equipped with communications systems, new cameras and new radar capability, officials said.

Less than a week after Chertoff accepted Project 28 on Feb. 22, the Government Accountability Office told Congress it "did not fully meet user needs and the project's design will not be used as the basis for future" developments.

A glaring shortcoming of the project was the time lag between the electronic detection of movement along the border and the transmission of a camera image to agents patrolling the area, the GAO reported.

Although the fence continues to operate, it hasn't come close to meeting the Border Patrol's goals, said Kelly Good, deputy director of the Secure Border Initiative program office in Washington.

"Probably not to the level that Border Patrol agents on the ground thought that they were going to get. So it didn't meet their expectations."

The Border Patrol had little input in designing the prototype but will have more say in the final version, officials said.

Agents began using the virtual fence last December, and the towers have resulted in more than 3,000 apprehensions since, said Greg Giddens, executive director of the SBI program office in Washington. But that's just a fraction of the several hundred illegal immigrants believed to cross the border daily near southwest of Tucson.

The virtual fence is part of a national plan to use physical barriers and high-tech detection capabilities to secure the Mexican border - and eventually the Canadian boundary. Boeing was awarded an $860 million contract to provide the technology, physical fences and vehicle barriers.

"Boeing has delivered a system that the Border Patrol currently is operating 24 hours a day," Boeing spokeswoman Deborah Bosick said. She declined further comment.

Project 28 was not intended to be the final, state-of-the-art system for catching illegal immigrants, Giddens said. "I think some people understood that and some didn't. We didn't communicate that well."

Truthout Roundup 4/23

Clinton wins Pennsylvania at a cost to the Democratic Party; GAO calls Bush's restrictions on children's health care program illegal; former Justice official pleads guilty in Abramoff probe; Supreme Court hears arguments on campaign finance law known as "millionaire's amendment"; Steve Fraser on the silence of the second Gilded Age; UN says conflict in Darfur is worsening; public outcries make Chinese ship carrying weapons for Zimbabwe unwelcome at African ports; and more ...

Browse our continually updating front page at http://www.truthout.orgt r u t h o u t

04.23Clinton's Win in Pennsylvania Leaves Party
Reeling David Lightman reports for McClatchy Newspapers, "Hillary Clinton's Pennsylvania victory means that the Democratic Party's eventual nominee will be badly bruised and could have a tough time rallying the party in the fall.

"Report Calls Bush SCHIP Rules Illegal Mike Lillis reports for The Washington Independent, "The Bush administration has no immediate plans to rescind controversial guidelines restricting enrollment in a popular children's health-care program, despite a recent legal finding that they were administered illegally.

"Former Justice Official Pleads Guilty in Abramoff Probe The Associated Press reports: "The Justice Department lost one of its own to the Jack Abramoff lobbying scandal Tuesday as a former high-ranking department attorney pleaded guilty to conflict of interest.

"Supreme Court Reviews "Millionaire's Amendment " The Associated Press reports: "Chief Justice John Roberts, author of last year's decision striking down a campaign finance measure, could play the pivotal role in the Supreme Court's consideration of a law that allows candidates to receive larger contributions when their wealthy opponents spend heavily from their personal fortunes.

"Steve Fraser The Great Silence: Our Gilded Age and Theirs Steve Fraser writes for, "Google 'second Gilded Age' and you will get ferried to 7,000 possible sites where you can learn more about what you already instinctively know. That we are living through a gilded age has become a journalistic commonplace. The unmistakable drift of all the talk about it is a Yogi Berra-ism: it's a matter of deja vu all over again. But is it? Is turn-of-the-century America a replica of the world Mark Twain first christened 'gilded' in his debut bestseller back in the 1870s?

"UN Says Darfur Conflict Worsening, With Perhaps 300,000 Dead Edith M. Lederer reports for The Associated Press, "The conflict in Darfur is deteriorating, with full deployment of a new peacekeeping force delayed until 2009 and no prospect of a political settlement for a war that has killed perhaps 300,000 people in five years, UN officials said Tuesday.

"Southern Africa Ports Shun Ship Carrying Arms for Zimbabwe The Chicago Tribune reports, "Public outcries have forced a rusty Chinese cargo ship to avoid South Africa, Mozambique and Angola, leaving it at sea Tuesday with 77 tons of munitions bound for Zimbabwe, where an election crisis has reportedly turned violent."

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Jill Long Thompson honors Earth Day

"Growing up on my family's farm, my parents instilled in my brothers and me a healthy respect for the environment. We learned very early on that for the long term success of our farm, we had to protect and care for the land, water and air. Sadly, today we have a Governor that does not share those values.

Time after time, Governor Daniels has chosen to ignore environmental considerations when making decisions about the future of the state.

As we celebrate Earth Day, it's important that Hoosiers demand leadership that balances our economic and environmental needs - because we shouldn't be forced to sacrifice one for the other.

That's why as Governor, I will encourage businesses to invest in "green" technology and jobs, promote renewable energy and hold companies that violate our environmental standards accountable. I believe that to build the type of state we all want Indiana to be, we must continue to work together to not only grow and attract good-paying jobs, but to protect and improve the environment and our quality of life."

Area briefs 4/22

from The South Bend Tribune

Homeless walk raises funds for programs

Homeward Bound, a 5K walk to raise funds for local programs to end homelessness, takes place at 2 p.m. Sunday in downtown South Bend at the College Football Hall of Fame.

Participants may register beginning at noon on-site or in advance at the Web site www.homewardbound Church groups, schools and companies are encouraged to form a walk team and collect pledges; money can be designated to support a particular agency, or be shared among them all. There are incentive prizes for those who collect $125 or more in pledges.

Local agencies participating this year are the Center for the Homeless, Dismas House, Habitat for Humanity, Hope Ministries, Life Treatment Centers, Madison Center, St. Vincent de Paul Society, United Religious Community and Youth Service Bureau.

New Orleans pastor to visit local church

The Rev. Charles Duplessis, pastor of the Mount Nebo Bible Baptist Church of New Orleans, will talk about the rebuilding of New Orleans churches and homes at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Kern Road Mennonite Church, 18211 Kern Road, South Bend.

His Lower 9th Ward church and home were destroyed by Hurricane Katrina. A group from Kern Road Mennonite Church recently spent a week in New Orleans working with Duplessis and on other projects.

Mount Nebo is part of Churches Supporting Churches, an organization that partners New Orleans churches with churches across the country in an effort to rebuild Gulf Coast communities and churches. For more information, call (574) 291-0924.

Meet the candidates

Candidates for St. Joseph County political offices and current officeholders will be guestss at the German Township Neighborhood Association meeting at 7 pm in the Community Building, 51755 Portage Rd. Call 574-272-9398 for more info.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Video: Green Michiana Sustainability Fair @IUSB

His Love, his best friend and his most trusted advisor

Some readers may be aware I supported John Edwards' bid to be President.

In an article and video published by the UK's Daily Mirror, John and Elizabeth Edwards talk about what's happened to our role in world affairs and what the US needs to do now to make things right.

Elizabeth was feeling a bit off apparently, having just gone through cancer treatment.

Elizabeth Edwards says she does not want to be photographed.

"I've been with my doctor this morning. I'm pumped full of stuff. So please, take any pictures you want with John. Just not me."

That she has agreed to talk with us only hours after her latest cancer treatment is testimony to her strength.

That she later insists on being in the picture with her husband and children speaks volumes.
When the time for that photo comes, she doesn't want to be the missing face in her family. Not yet.

Tomorrow Pennsylvania is the location for the last major primary in the Democratic race for the White House between Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton.

The polls have Clinton leading in a state she must win to keep her campaign alive, and reduce Obama's national lead. The contest looks like going down to the wire and the support Edwards attracts makes him a potential kingmaker.

It's a role he denies. But, for a man who was John Kerry's running mate for the White House in 2004, and who many still believe would be the best Dem presidential rival to Republican John McCain in November, he seems destined to remain centre-stage.

With his wife right there beside him.

Watching the video, John's body language is striking. He's not running for anything, he just cares about this stuff and has ideas. He cares deeply for all the world's citizens. But that's how it was a year before he started his campaign.

The war on information


Yesterday, the New York Times exposed a secret Pentagon campaign to infiltrate the media with pro-war propaganda.

The scheme reaches all the way to the Bush White House, where top officials recruited dozens of "military analysts" to spread favorable views of the war via every major news channel -- without revealing they were working from Pentagon scripts and often lobbying for major military contractors.

Spreading "covert propaganda" is illegal under federal law. Congress must investigate these military pundits and their ties to the Bush administration, defense contractors and our national news media.

Tell Congress: Investigate the Propaganda Pundits

Signing this letter does work. If we can get 50,000 people to join this call to Congress, they will likely take action to stop government propaganda.

The more than 75 analysts exposed by the New York Times have become fixtures of war coverage on CBS, NBC, ABC, CNN, Fox News Channel and MSNBC. The front-page article reveals the many ways that the Pentagon fed them pro-war talking points and misinformation. The White House even has a name for these covert propagandists: “message force multipliers.”

The pundits trade on their access to the media and the White House to secure high-paying jobs as lobbyists, consultants and contractors -- vying for hundreds of billions of dollars in military business generated by the war.

Take Action: Investigate White House Propaganda

An administration secretly forcing favorable views via the press is not a partisan issue. This is a violation of every conceivable standard of journalism -- and possibly of federal law.

It's time the truth about the selling of this war came out. You can help make this happen.

Take action and then forward this e-mail to all of your friends.


Josh Silver
Executive Director
Free Press Action Fund

P.S. Read the New York Times' front-page exposé:

P.P.S. Help us spread the word. Tell your friends and join us on Facebook.

Take action on this important campaign at:

Tell your friends about this campaign at:

Sunday, April 20, 2008

On Cinema And Death, Or, Another Reason I Love Costco

There is something magical about Costco.

It is magical to me that for the price of a small can of tomato sauce, they sell a giant can. That they manage to make nice things available for what others charge for ordinary things.

And then of course, there’s the hot dog.
Mr. Sinegal doesn’t know it, but we met in a previous life...more than once...and we actually had a conversation about the hot dogs one evening.

I told him that the soon-to-be-built Qwest Field would be a better place with Costco hot dog carts instead of the “normal” stadium food, and he told me that the hot dog is at the philosophical core of what he does for a living...a simple thing of high quality, a good value—and a good price.

But today’s story isn’t about really great hot dogs.
It’s about really great cinema.

To make a long story short, Costco has begun to sell the films that you were previously only able to see at film festivals...and they’re putting them in four-packs for under $20.

I’m going to recommend one of them...and then two bonus films that will round things out just nicely.

Let’s start with what is destined to become my new favorite film: Rick Stevenson’s “Expiration Date”.

The story could have been told anywhere in the West, but it’s set in and around Seattle. The story begins as a story, told by an older member of a tribe to a young man who is planning to leave the reservation and move to the white man’s world...the City.

The tale told is one of inevitable fate: a tribal member who also moved to the City for opportunity, but was accidentally killed by a milk truck on his 25th birthday. Before his death, he bore a son...and he was also accidentally killed by a milk truck on his 25th birthday.

The grandson in the story, played by Robert Guthrie, is now 24—and his birthday is only eight days away.

I will not say too much, but it is giving away no secrets to tell you that Dee Wallace Stone and Sascha Knopf give fantastic performances as his mom...and the girl he happens to meet along the way.

It’s a strange little love story that leads us down a path of toenail painting and stalking and a fountain of milk and a dog named “Roadkill”.

I have attempted to make film myself (badly), and the lesson learned was that directors make the movie when they can create a natural environment for the actors to interact—and that was accomplished to tremendous effect by Stevenson.

The performances are absolutely natural, creating a “cocoon” within which the story can unfold...and the relationships are just as real as any you would encounter in life. The actors never force the performances, instead letting the odd nature of the story create the tension that sustains the entire movie

It is an amazingly real surreal performance that even offers us a great message: if you must die, die dancing.

Which takes me back to one of my very first favorite films: Hal Ashby’s “Harold and Maude”.

Harold is a shy young man who just can’t seem to turn the silver spoon he was born with into a thing of comfort...which causes him to commit suicide.

A lot.

In fact, it’s so common that his mother actually cancels a hair appointment after coming in the room and finding him hanging. As she leaves she tells him: “Dinner’s at eight, Harold—and do try to be more vivacious.”

It’s apparently not easy being the son of a prominent San Francisco socialite in the 60’s, especially one obsessed with funerals and a Jaguar XKE converted into a hearse. Satire takes us into the troubles of Vietnam during the war, the practice of psychoanalysis, questions of place and privilege...and a variety of other divertissement, as his mother would say—including the one where he slices his throat, the drowning, the self-immolation, the shooting (“Harold, please...”), and the hacking off of a hand at the dinner table.

Out of all this you might never expect a love story...but we find one waiting.

The very young Harold is romantically drawn to the 79 year-old Maude, and the two characters (played by Bud Cort, he with his own story, and the inimitable Ruth Gordon) provide a perfect foil to his mother, played by Vivian Pickles.

Maude becomes the child character in the story Harold can never be...until she teaches him a bit more about himself than he knew.

The courting occurs at a number of the burial services they both frequent...and the presence of a very real suicide is the defining moment of the picture.

Once again the theme is death and dancing—and for many the soundtrack to this film was their first introduction to the music of Cat Stevens.
There is a bright line that runs directly from Voltaire to the “Harold” and “Maude” characters—the strange and unobtainable love, the misunderstandings and societal disapproval...and if you love the one, you’ll love the other.

The connection to Voltaire is made even deeper because of scenes like the long, long shot of Golden Gate National Cemetery--the thousands of military gravestones all alike, standing at eternal attention in perfect rows—while Cat Stevens’ “Why Do the Children Play” fills the mental background.

See this movie...and see if it changes your life.

A story as old as Swedes making fun of Norwegians...and vice told in Bent Hamer’s “Kitchen Stories”. This 2003 film is a story of observers from a 1950’s Swedish efficiency institute who are dispatched to the Norwegian countryside to observe the kitchen habits of single male farmers.

The idea is for the observers to set up a platform not unlike a lifeguard tower in the corner of the kitchen, and then simply observe the subject in his use of the kitchen. Contact between the two is strictly prohibited...which is the basis of the primary story.

The movie explores questions of “city slicker versus country bumpkin”, the practicality of modern efficiency planning...and the far bigger question of which of the two character’s lives are really worth living.

All of this washed down with a big ol’ dose of 1950’s Scandanaviana—from the jazz soundtrack to the pickled herring that arrives in packages from time to time, to the fantastically campy Volvo and trailer combinations they convoy around the Norse countryside.

A big thanks to the Swedish Film Institute and the Norwegian Film Institute for funding this one (and hey, Sweden, while we’re having a moment—why hasn’t Maria Blom’s Dalecarlians yet found its way to DVD?), and even though you’ll have to search for “Kitchen Stories”, it’s very much worth the effort.

There has been a failure on my part to give credit that is truly due to the cinematographers involved in these three productions, but to be honest that would require much more space than I’ll use today; and I want to get you through this faster than I might on other days when we have much bigger stories to tell.

So that’s how we’ll end today’s story: by tying together hot dogs, dancing, death, and the magic of cinema.

Go seek out these films, and support not just some great filmmakers, but your own desire to see the world in new ways.

It will be worth it.

Another comment "gone wild"

by Don Wheeler

Our friendly fake consultant left a couple comments on an earlier post "Clinging to a stereotype". I originally intended to add a comment, but I had a lot to say and thought others might as well. If we want a Democrat to be President, it's my view we should think about this more than some would have us do.

fake consultant said...

this is not a question of whether people "cling to guns and god" in times of trouble.the point here is that when the voting population feels they are disassociated from their government, and they see no solutions to the economic problems they face, then politics that revolve around guns and god are what those voters cling to...because when you see youself as "out of the economic loop", what else is there to vote about?and the atwater/rove strategy was/is designed to revolve around exactly that thinking--which is why "swiftboats" and gay marriage were such a piviotal issue in '04...and why irrational fear of terrorism has carried the day in so many arguments over how we spend america's lives and treasure since.
April 19, 2008 6:39 PM

fake consultant said...

to reinforce the point: wait until the rs begin to attack either d candidate...and see if "they're gonna take our guns away" isn't one of the main arguments directed against that candidate in rural areas, whomever it is.not "john mccain will help make your eceonomic problems better" or "education matters to mccain...and we'll fix your schools", but instead: "them elitist liberals want to take your guns...and let fags marry."if this turns out to be true...then obama was exectlky and precisely correct in his statement.
April 19, 2008 6:48 PM

DonVila's reply:

These arguments you make reinforce or maybe even up the ante on the "elitism" perception - which in my view is not the most serious general election challenge posed to the Obama campaign because of this incident. I also think that whether Mr Obama was accurate in his depiction is not particularly significant.

You imply people are dumb enough to fall for the tactics you outline. That may be true of some people, but pointing itout isn't likely to win even one vote.

And who's job is it to correct these types of attitudes and impressions? A successful candidate is the answer to that. An unsuccessful one won't bother. Presidents Dukakis, Gore and Kerry all used that (I shouldn't have to bother) strategy.

I know people like David Brooks and William Kristol are sneered at by most activist Democrats, but they have some skill at analysis and we would do well to consider what they are saying about this. They are doing us a favor currently. I'll return to that thought in a bit.

A good friend of mine used to say "salesmen tend to 'bubble' themselves." He and I both had been in sales previously and I instantly recognized the truth of that. A lot of people's "analysis" - many Lefties included - consists of finding "evidence" that serves to reinforce that which they already believe, rather than challenging their ways of thinking occasionally to see if it stands up.

One of our Great Myths is that Liberals are inherently smarter than Conservatives. That in itself is problematic, but many of the believers extend that notion to thinking they are smarter than anyone who does not believe as they believe. Oddly, the targets of their disdain show a pronounced lack of regard for those folks.

As a corollary, some of us have been suckered into the myth that great masses of people vote for the "person they'd like to have a beer with". This depiction vastly overstates a truism that I think both Brooks and Kristol have been pointing out recently.

What they say - and what I believe - is that people want to vote for candidates that they feel some connection with. Young, energetic people connect with a campaign that is (supposedly) about hope and change, vets may connect with a man who served heroically and endured an enemy's prison. Those of us with more tenuous connections may well be brought up cold by a candidate we feel alienates us or for whom we feel no connection.

John Edwards' campaign foresaw this potential pitfall, and much of their strategy was based on avoiding it. Clinton was "inevitable" and Obama's focus was elsewhere. As a result, though Edwards would not prevail in the primary, his head-to-head numbers vs. McCain were far better than either Hillary's or Barack's for over a year. I think this incident gives us a glimpse of why that was the case.

Politics is like any other business in this way - blaming the customer will not build sales.

I have been highly impressed with David Axelrod's strategy up to this point. Like Joe Trippi did for Edwards, he has baited the Clinton folks and frequently allowed them to make themselves look foolish. Howard Wolfson has swallowed the bait so many times in the last year and a half, he should be on someone's trophy wall.

Axelrod and Obama need to put this matter to bed, and I believe they still can. Here's how:

People have affinity for people who admit their mistakes, then move on. Senator Obama started well by saying he had not put things as well as he should have. Unfortunately, he later turned defensive and allowed himself (for a change) to be baited into counterattacking the Clinton campaign. This approach does not look much like a "new kind of politics" nor does it show the confidence a presumed nominee should have at this point.

He could still rewind the clock. His original instinct was right - which bodes well for his leadership.

The way to cement the primary is to return to his normal demeanor and act like the nominee. And I think it would worth spending a lot of money to get the following message out.

After repeating his regrets about the original comments, frame them into something more sympathetic and say that he sees that he has a job to do. That job is to prove to people like those he characterized that he not only understands them - but that what he wants to do will actually address those problems that have made these folks feel so frustrated. Having proposals which will back that up would be nice, so offering something new, or making an earlier proposal a bit more aggressive or packaging earlier proposals into something that looks like an overall strategy might be useful.

In other words, turn a problem into an opportunity.

Surrogates can point out that going for months on little sleep is a perfectly reasonable explanation for being imprecise on a comment. I can certainly vouch for the effects of sleep deprivation. I ran a bakery route for a few months (years ago) with long and weird hours. A person's brain can't function optimally without adequate sleep. Clinton and Obama have both done amazingly well in this regard.

If he is attacked, Mr. Obama can say (a bit sadly), "Look, I've proved I'm not perfect - but I've said what I have to say about this. If others choose to twist it into something ugly, well... Maybe I think voters are a bit smarter than the folks who are attacking me do."

The opportunity should be taken. Failing to do so could drive enough people McCain's way to be a serious problem. And that problem means problems for all of us.

South Bend Mayor to Announce Environmental Initiatives

Calling all Supporters for a Sustainable Michiana
Mayor Steve Luecke to Address Sustainability in South Bend
Tuesday, April 22, 2008
1:00 p.m.
Potawatomi Conservatories & Greenhouse

According to an official notice released by the office of the Mayor of South Bend, Mayor Steve Luecke will reportedly announce new environmental initiatives to be taken by the city. These initiatives "will keep our community moving forward and result in reduced energy use, lower costs and enhanced beautification".

Citizens are urged to attend this important press conference to show their support and commitment for a cleaner, greener and more sustainable South Bend. I plan on attending and to ask Mayor Luecke and any other administration officials or Common Council members at the event about progress on hydroelectric power in South Bend.

Walk, ride your bike or take the bus to the event, if you can. Automobile parking is available in the Kids Kingdom parking lot located behind the Conservatories and Greenhouse. To enter the Conservatory, please walk through the park, along the west side of the facility and enter the building at the front doors on Mishawaka Avenue.
See you there!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Indiana unemployment rate jumps again

from the JLT for Governor campaign

Long Thompson worries about Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund

ARGOS, Ind. - As Indiana's economy continues to struggle, today Hoosiers received more unwelcomed news as the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics reported that the state lost 16,200 more jobs in March. The report, which was released earlier today, found that Indiana's seasonally adjusted unemployment rate jumped from 4.6 percent in February to 5.1 percent in March. The half point increase ties Indiana with California and New Mexico with the second highest month-over-month increase nationally, behind Louisiana.

"Under this Governor, Indiana continues to hemorrhage jobs," said Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson. "In just the past few weeks we have seen major layoffs and closings throughout the state, and unfortunately there is no end in sight."

"What makes matters even worse is because of Mitch Daniels' policies, the Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund is being depleted," added Long Thompson. "Estimates now put the fund at or below $100 million - and as the unemployment rate grows this problem will become even worse."

In a news conference in January, Long Thompson first called attention to the solvency of Indiana's Unemployment Insurance Trust Fund. The fund had a balance of more than a billion dollars when Daniels took office.

"Along with Indiana's high rates of bankruptcies and home foreclosures, this just illustrates why we need an entirely new approach to economic growth," added Long Thompson. "As Governor, I'll stand up for working families and by overhauling the entire tax structure, reforming our health care system, improving our schools and actively engaging all of our communities I'll ensure our economy's long term stability and vitality."

Friday, April 18, 2008

On Investigative Journalism, Or, More Obama Connections Come To Light

Your friendly fake consultant has been digging deep into the world of anonymous sources recently, which is why we were able to recently reveal the truth about Hillary Clinton’s Bosnian sniper story.

Today we take that effort further...which is why we are able to bring to light another exclusive peek into the past of a Presidential candidate...only today it’s Barack Obama.

We will examine his prior associations and as a result we will be able to draw new conclusions regarding his world view...and as we said about Clinton, you might be shocked...but probably not surprised.

How did all this get started?

We decided to investigate these connections following the Reverend Wright incident, because it was clear that America needed to know the entire picture before we made the momentous decision of choosing a President...and as Hillary has reminded us, you are only as good a person as your associates.

So what did we learn?

The first thing we learned was that even as a child Michelle Obama supported the sale of crack.

We were able to determine this because as a child she grew up on the South Side of Chicago...and as we all know, there are people there who go out in the streets and deal that drug.

Since she had to have seen a problem with crack, we have to ask the question: why didn’t she move out of that neighborhood if she did not support the sale of this most pernicious drug. After all, you can’t choose your relatives, but you can choose your pastor...and the place where you live. The fact that she wouldn’t disassociate herself by moving to a wealthier area shows she was unwilling to stand up and say “crack is whack”...and you’re never too young to “just say no”.

But it gets worse.

Through the development of a timeline, we were able to determine that for several years Obama supported the murderous regime of Suharto, the Indonesian President who felt human rights was something that could be worked on later.

How do we know he was actively supporting the Indonesian despot?

He actually moved from the US to Indonesia...and stayed there several years. No one would do such a thing if they weren’t entirely supportive of Suharto’s brutal rule.

He also apparently supports the use of biological weapons, including anthrax.

We know this because, as he describes in “The Audacity of Hope” he once visited a Ukrainian biological laboratory—and yet he never denounced the people working there or what they did.

It also turns out he supports robbery, rape and murder.

I determined this because he used to eat at a White Castle in Chicago which was also the place several robbers, rapists and murderers have eaten over the years—and yet he never once stood up against those people...and never gave up eating, either.

But it gets even worse than that...once, on a trip to Wichita, he ate at a BBQ joint formerly patronized by the BTK Killer. In fact, it appears that for the past 13 months he has been on a road trip visiting cities where crimes were committed—and never once has he disassociated himself from the thousands of crimes committed in those cities on those days.

The candidate was clearly on the Obama Loves Crime Tour—that’s what he must have been trying to tell us...if not in words, certainly through his actions.

Even now he’s planning a substantial effort in North Carolina in advance of that state’s primary—North Carolina...a former slave state. Despite my efforts, I was unable to determine why Obama supports slavery—and he’s not talking, either.

Forget about the connection between that Weather Underground guy and Obama—there’s an even more direct nexus between Obama and terrorism.

As it turns out, many of the 9/11 terrorists passed through Boston’s Logan Airport—and so has Obama. What could be more incriminating than that?

But if all that wasn’t horrible enough, new evidence has come to light that proves Obama “supports through silence” the slaughter of an entire planet’s population.

Not many know this, but the US Government recently identified several recent UFO sightings as coming from the Griznawoks, a race that lives on a planet near Alpha Centauri. For over 2000 years the Griznawoks have carried out a murderous campaign of intimidation, attack, and finally genocide against their planetary neighbors, the Fazznawaka.

Despite the fact that Obama was present on the planet Earth during the time of the Griznawok visits, he has never once stood up and condemned the Griznawok atrocities...but of course, once the last of the Fazznawaka are dead—who will be left to complain?

So this year, as you’re going to the polls, consider the alternatives: you can support Hillary Clinton...or you can support a candidate who embraces crack, crime—and interplanetary genocide.

I’ve it’s up to you to decide.

Clinging to a stereotype

New York Times

Mr. Obama’s comments combined assertions about economics, sociology and voting behavior. In each case, his assertion was mostly if not entirely wrong.

Start with the economics. Mr. Obama: “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.”

There are, indeed, towns where the mill closed during the 1980s and nothing has replaced it. But the suggestion that the American heartland suffered equally during the Clinton and Bush years is deeply misleading.

In fact, the Clinton years were very good for working Americans in the Midwest, where real median household income soared before crashing after 2000. (You can see the numbers at my blog,

We can argue about how much credit Bill Clinton deserves for that boom. But if I were a Democratic Party elder, I’d urge Mr. Obama to stop blurring the distinction between Clinton-era prosperity and Bush-era economic distress.

Next, the sociology: “And it’s not surprising then that they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy toward people who aren’t like them.”

The crucial word here isn’t “bitter,” it’s “cling.” Does economic hardship drive people to seek solace in firearms, God and xenophobia?

It’s true that people in poor states are more likely to attend church regularly than residents of rich states. This might seem to indicate that faith is indeed a response to economic adversity.

But this result largely reflects the fact that southern states are both church-going and poor; some poor states outside the South, like Maine and Montana, are actually less religious than Connecticut. Furthermore, within poor states, people with low incomes are actually less likely to attend church than those with high incomes. (The correlation runs the opposite way in rich states.)

Over all, none of this suggests that people turn to God out of economic frustration.

Finally, Mr. Obama, in later clarifying remarks, declared that the people he’s talking about “don’t vote on economic issues,” and are motivated instead by things like guns and gay marriage.

That’s a political theory made famous by Thomas Frank’s “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” According to this theory, “values” issues lead working-class Americans to act against their own interests by voting Republican. Mr. Obama seemed to suggest that’s also why they support Hillary Clinton.

I was impressed by Mr. Frank’s book when it came out. But my Princeton colleague Larry Bartels, who had an Op-Ed in The Times on Thursday, convinced me that Mr. Frank was mostly wrong.

In his Op-Ed, Mr. Bartels cited data showing that small-town, working-class Americans are actually less likely than affluent metropolitan residents to vote on the basis of religion and social values. Nor have working-class voters trended Republican over time; on the contrary, Democrats do better with these voters now than they did in the 1960s.

It’s true that Americans who attend church regularly are more likely to vote Republican. But contrary to the stereotype, this relationship is weak at low incomes but strong among high-income voters. That is, to the extent that religion helps the G.O.P., it’s not by convincing the working class to vote against its own interests, but by producing supermajorities among the evangelical affluent.

So why have Republicans won so many elections? In his book, “Unequal Democracy,” Mr. Bartels shows that “the shift of the Solid South from Democratic to Republican control in the wake of the civil rights movement” explains all — literally all — of the Republican success story.

Does it matter that Mr. Obama has embraced an incorrect theory about what motivates working-class voters? His campaign certainly hasn’t been based on Mr. Frank’s book, which calls for a renewed focus on economic issues as a way to win back the working class.

Indeed, the book concludes with a blistering attack on Democrats who cater to “affluent, white-collar professionals who are liberal on social issues” while “dropping the class language that once distinguished them sharply from Republicans.” Doesn’t this sound a bit like the Obama campaign?

Anyway, the important point is that working-class Americans do vote on economic issues — and can be swayed by a politician who offers real answers to their problems.

And one more thing: let’s hope that once Mr. Obama is no longer running against someone named Clinton, he’ll stop denigrating the very good economic record of the only Democratic administration most Americans remember.


What has been largely overlooked is the question Mr. Obama's answer addressed. Roughly speaking, "Why is it you're having trouble connecting with some voters?"

Normally, this would be where the candidate takes the blame. "I need to do a better job reaching those folks. If they were fully aware of what I propose, they likely would support me."

That would be a standard and more productive approach.

Instead, Mr. Obama appears to blame the voters. He points out that their defect is understandable, but still a defect. This sort of problem plagued John Kerry's campaign.


John Edwards on the Colbert Report

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Long Thompson wins Tax Day debate

by Don Wheeler

At least, that's how my wife saw it. Her view interests me, not just for the obvious reasons, but because she had no prior exposure to either candidate. And believe me, she's no pushover.

As an aside...I must say I'm terribly annoyed that there was no television coverage outside of Ft. Wayne, and no rebroadcast plans for out of the area that I'm aware of. We watched online. The sound and picture quality reminded me of the weak UHF signals we got on broadcast TV when I was a kid - and that was a bit distracting.

So, what struck us?

For one thing, there was a consistent pattern through the event. When Ms. Long Thompson was asked a question - she answered it directly. Mr. Schellenger, on the other hand, seemed to have rehearsed several phrases for general use. I imagine it was tactic to enable him to stay on message. But at least once he never came close to answering the question posed.

The questioner asked his take on privatizing state functions (which he has clearly opposed). Mr. Shellinger urged us to read his fabulous "Pick Up Indiana" plan. Ms. Long Thompson, understandably a bit puzzled, asked Wasn't the question about privatizing State functions? - or something of the sort - and then answered the question.

Mr. Schellinger took many opportunities to remind us that he is a business man - not a politician (despite the appearance of the contrary). This caused him a bit of a problem when he criticized Gov. Daniels strategy (later on) of privatizing State assets and functions. The State is not like a business, Mr. Schellinger declared. Oops.

In one of the few heated moments, Ms. Long Thompson leveled pretty serious ethical charges at Mr. Schellinger. One had to with his relationship with Trident Air (registered as an LLC, rather than a PAC), the other having to do with lobbying for school projects (I couldn't find anything useful on this topic).

What struck me as odd (remembering that this event was a first look for a lot of voters), was that Mr. Schellinger merely dismissed her claims as "politics as usual" and (surprise, surprise) reminded us he was a businessman - not polititician, was the sixth of eight children and worked his way through college in a machine shop.

They both sort of blew it on this one. Long Thompson was pretty clear on her Trident Air charges, but left me rather confused about the lobbying complaint. Mr. Schellinger assured me he did nothing wrong, but gave me no information to confirm that.

Should he be the nominee, this issue is not going to go away, and he'll need to do a lot better to put it to rest. It's already all over the pro Daniels blogosphere.

This was a bit of a pattern. Mr. Schellinger has a very detailed program for change in the way the state operates - as does Ms. Long Thompson. Yet he only referred to it by name, and suggested people read it. He never shared any of the parts of it during the debate. Maybe I like it better than he does.

Ms. Long Thompson typically is willing to be more specific, but seemed less than usual last night. She too has a very detailed, comprehensive plan she touts. And there are differences between the two plans.

In general, Jill Long Thompson answered questions head on, with only occasional use of campaign talking points. Jim Schellinger was more of a bullfighter and relied on them heavily.

I'd encourage everyone to look at their plans, and see which they think is better. You may not get to see Jim and Jill head-to-head again.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

On Cutting The Largest Earmark, Or, McCain = War$, War$, And More War$

It’s time, Gentle Reader, that we address some of the disconnected thinking coming from the Republican side of the Presidential campaign...particularly the idea that we’re facing the “transcendent challenge of our time” from “radical Islamic extremism”.

To defeat this enemy, the presumptive Republican nominee tells us, he will do whatever it takes...even maintaining an expensive military presence in at least two distant counties for many years to come—“why not a hundred?”, he has asked.

Yet at the same time, he speaks of the $35 billion in earmarks he would eliminate from a $2 trillion budget hugely in deficit—and at the moment that appears to be the only spending cuts to which he will commit.

Is it possible this whole obsession with earmarks is really what he thinks is the problem...and why won’t he address the largest earmark of all—the multi-trillion dollar cost of this war, the eventual “re-upping” of the worn out equipment, and the costs of the ensuing “eternal” occupation he supports?

Oh, and did I mention the cost of the eventual wars with North Korea, Pakistan, Iran...and presumably China and Russia?

Just to make it interesting structurally, I’m going to work backwards through the introductory questions here we go:

Who saw McCain with Chris Matthews at Villanova?

For a moment near the end the conversation centered on what would be the “tipping point” for a President McCain to order an attack on Iran; eventually Matthews was able to get him to commit that the attack would likely occur when Iran became a “strategic danger” to the US.

If that’s the standard for attack...well, who else meets the standard?

Obviously North Korea would have to be on the list—they have nuclear weapons and a delivery system capable of reaching US targets today, they have participated in the dissemination of weapons of mass destruction through involvement with the A.Q. Khan network, and they clearly bear us ill will.

Not to mention that other standard often cited: they participate in efforts to bully and destabilize both their southern neighbor and Japan, in an effort to garner greater influence in the region.

Pakistan? The spread of Islamist influence through the country’s “CIA”, the ISS, is rampant. The A.Q. Khan network’s efforts to “sell” nuclear technology were likely facilitated by elements within the larger national government. They also have delivery systems, although they are unlikely to today reach the US.

The influence of Islamist politicians is also growing daily. Waziristan, the North-West Frontier Province, and the Autonomous Tribal Areas are already becoming Taliban controlled states within Pakistan...and we see the inability of the Pakistani Army to establish control or authority in those areas.

The death of Bhutto has removed the last important non-military opponent of Islamism from the national political stage, future elections will likely increase Islamist influence at every level of national government; and it’s entirely reasonable to foresee an election—or coup, or civil war--that makes Pakistan into a nation ruled by a Taliban-like government that possesses the “nuclear codes” required to trigger a massively destructive attack on the US. There is also a very real possibility that this will be the quickest route by which nuclear weapons will be exported to “terrorist” groups.

The “transcendent challenge” theory suggests Pakistan could overnight become a strategic threat to the US, which begs the question: is McCain suggesting that in the case of Pakistan we should move to a “launch on election” posture?

China? They currently possess hundreds of nuclear weapons and have the delivery systems to launch right into the US heartland. That’s pretty much the definition of a strategic threat, suggesting they would also have to be taken out.

Of course, some might point out that the final element of a strategic threat is antipathy—the ill will another nation possesses toward yours.

Which brings us to Russia. For more than 40 years it’s been well-known that they intend to “bury” us, thanks to Khrushchev’s United Nations “shoe pounding” incident. They possess not hundreds, but thousands of nuclear weapons—strategic and non-strategic—along with air-, sea-, and land-based delivery platforms, many of which are forward-based and capable of being put into action on orders from lower-echelon opposed to the US practice that a National Command Authority equivalent (an older term referring to what is essentially a Head of State, such as the US President) should be the only controlling authority.

We have noted the recent “freezing” of US/Russian relations during the Putin Presidency years, and it now appears Putin intends to remain in charge as the new Russian Prime Minister--perhaps running again for President in four years. With no other political opposition and a huge desire on the part of the nation to return to its days of power and influence, it may be just a matter of time before they, too, return to the status of “strategic threat”...if they’re not there already.

Shall we bomb them all together, Senator, or do you support a “war du jour” kind of approach?

Moving on: is there any bigger earmark than a few good wars?

The costs so far for Iraq and Afghanistan are estimated at more or less $2 trillion (or beyond, depending on whom you ask), with the better part of a trillion required in the future to replace the aircraft, ships, and rolling stock that are quickly wearing out from the current wars. An example is found in the B-52 bomber, which will have to be replaced at least 10 years sooner than we might have had to had we not fought this war.

Other examples? The B-1 needs “life extension” (and if the A-10 isn’t quickly replaced it will, too), the F-22 and F-35 programs will need to be fully funded despite the fact that we don’t have the money, we are probably looking at having to replace an aircraft carrier or two...with their associated “battle groups” of support ships (also expect a move to expand the Navy to 330 or more ships, including a 14th or 15th aircraft carrier)...the KC-135 aircraft refueling tankers are being replaced...and of course, there’s the rolling stock. (Not yet in the budget conversation: the eventual replacement of two ancient but highly effective workhorses, the C-130 and A-10.)

I won’t even discuss the state of the military helicopter fleet or the additional $100 billion or more (double that amount is reasonably possible) we’ll need for military space operations.

Since we tend to “leapfrog”, rather than replace, costs for equipment go up even more quickly then they might otherwise.

The Humvee is a perfect example...we’ll be replacing unarmored rigs with (more costly) armored vehicles, and many of the vehicles will be replaced by the far more protected (and far more expensive) MRAP. This happens over and over again—BDUs (Battle Dress Uniforms—what the Army calls the “camouflage” clothing worn in combat) are improved and more costly as Gore-Tex has replaced cotton and helmets with cool cameras and night vision enhance a steel pot’s Kevlar cousin.

As elements of the Future Force Warrior system come on-line the cost of outfitting a trooper will again jump upward—and as with all of this, the more war, the more you need to buy.

One other huge, huge, huge expense I don’t hear McCain “straight talking” about: the medical care for those we sent to do our fighting...many of whom will need services for life.

I never would have thought that a product called the ”Magic Jack” would be used in the field of telecommunications (such a waste of a great porn name)...and every time I think about what all these “military earmarks” are going to do to my wallet I feel like it’s McCain that’s hoping to pull the “Magic Jack” on us for the benefit of a military-industrial complex that a General he admires warned us about half a century ago.

With that out of the way, a few words on today’s legislative earmarks:

McCain tells us he would ban earmarks, which are budget items added to a bill in a manner that bypasses the normal Congressional committee and floor vote process. He cites money spent on a study of cattle DNA as the classic example of what’s wrong with the practice.

He reports that this could lead to a savings of $35 billion or so, presumably impacting the current sad state of the Federal budget next year and going forward.

Those who support earmarks point out that the monies are often used for appropriate government purposes, including restoring cuts in Homeland Security spending made by the current Administration’s budget proposals.

Just a couple thoughts, Senator...and I’ll make it quick:

--If you ban all earmarks through the current process by vetoing the bills in which they’re contained, won’t lawmakers just agree to pass each other’s “former earmarks” through a normal process that forces you to either convince someone to pass a “line item veto Amendment”—quickly...or renders your pledge moot?

--Isn’t $35 billion just spit in a bucket compared to the absurd amount of deficit we are running today...and will be forever, if the “Bush tax cuts” are made permanent, as you propose?

As Peggy Lee might say about your ideas: “Is That All There Is?”

Think about it, sir: the biggest bite in this budget is either the Bush tax cuts of which you’re so...recently ... proud, or the crazy desire to pursue war to no good matter what the cost.

So when you tell me the “transcendent challenge of our time” is war, war, and more war, I have to ask: wouldn’t the real “transcendent challenge “ for a McCain Administration that’s raising spending while cutting taxes be finding the money?

Or will your Administration, just like the current one, seek to pass the “Magic Jack” on to the generations that are still here long after you’re not?

My guess: we won’t be hearing a “straight talk” answer to that one anytime soon.

Jill Long Thompson backs civil unions

from Advance Indiana

In a surprising but bold move, Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson announced this afternoon during a joint appearance with her primary opponent, Jim Schellinger, she supports civil unions for same-sex couples. Like her opponent, the former U.S. representative said she opposed SJR-7, the proposed constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriages and other similar rights for unmarried couples.

Schellinger told an audience of nearly 200 at today's HPR Forum he supports Indiana's current Defense of Marriage law defining marriage as between one man and one woman. He believes SJR-7 is unnecessary and sends a message of intolerance.

Thompson's position sets her distinctly apart from Schellinger and Gov. Mitch Daniels, neither of whom supports civil unions.

It will be interesting to see whether this emerges as an issue during her primary bid against the better-funded Schellinger. Religious right groups, like the AFA and Advance America, will predictably jump all over Thompson for her bold announcement today. Her position could help her garner support from Indiana's GLBT community, particularly in the state's more urban regions, but it could hamper her efforts in the state's rural areas.

The candidates also staked out their position on abortion today. Thompson unabashedly stated her support for the landmark Roe v. Wade decision. Schellinger's position was a little less clear. He said his faith teaches him abortion is wrong and he is against it personally, but he believes our current laws should be enforced. It's a position which gives him some wiggle room.

'Tiered' incentives would drive economic growth

by Jill Long Thompson

As Indiana communities, both rural and urban, continue to experience rising rates of unemployment and round after round of layoffs and factory closings, it's time for a new approach to growing Indiana's economy and securing good-paying jobs.

To be truly successful our state's leaders must do a better job of engaging all of our communities and citizens in economic development -- not just those in Central Indiana.

As someone who grew up and still resides in rural northern Indiana, I know that what works in one community may not work in another -- and that's why Gov. Mitch Daniels' "one size fits all" approach to economic development has been so disastrous.

If elected governor, I will lead Indiana in a new direction.

In addition to reforming our tax, health-care, education and infrastructure systems, I want develop a "tier" system in Indiana to help guide future development efforts. Modeled after successful programs in Georgia, Nebraska and the Carolinas, this approach would encourage businesses to build or expand in the state's most economically distressed areas.

Specifically, my plan would categorize the state's 92 counties into three different economic tiers based on a variety of factors, including a county's unemployment rate, median household income, population growth and assessed property value per capita. Counties within each tier designation would be allotted different tax incentives to help grow and retain good paying jobs.

For instance, companies that locate to the most economically distressed areas, Tier 1 counties, could receive a $3,500 tax credit for every new job that is created. Those moving to or expanding in a Tier 2 county might receive $2,500 tax credit per new job and Tier 3 counties could offer a $1,000 tax credit per new job.

This is an economical and efficient approach to luring new jobs to the areas of the state that need the most help, and because the incentives are based off of the creation of new jobs, it won't cost taxpayers anything.

My proposal also recognizes that not all jobs are good jobs. That's why, under my plan, only companies that offer their employees health insurance, cover at least 50 percent of the premiums and pay more than the county average wage would be eligible.

I would also restrict companies from participating in this program if they owe back taxes or have received a significant environmental violation within the last five years. As a former undersecretary for rural development at the United States Department of Agriculture, I managed numerous economic development programs that created and secured thousands of jobs annually in the country's most economically distressed areas.

For the long-term prosperity and sustainability of Indiana, we can and we must do more to recognize the value and potential of all of our counties, communities and citizens across that state.

Raising awareness with the South Bend Community Monologues

Please Pass this on!!

In four years, a person can graduate from high school or college. In
the last four years in St. Joseph County, 337 women have reported sexual assaults.

How many have had their day in court? The number will astound you!

Come to the "South Bend Community Monologues" to find the answer to
this and other questions about the rarely discussed experiences of the
women in our community.

On this Thursday, April 17th, a special gathering will be held at
Century Center (5:30 pm to 7:30 pm) to increase awareness about the issue of sexual assault, and to protest the continued pattern of sexual assaults in our community. Members of the cast and crew of the Monologues will be present to give a free t-shirt to everyone who buys a ticket to the Monologues performance. The goal is to give away 337 t-shirts, one for every victim of sexual assault. The t-shirts say "Every victim deserves a day in court" and have the YWCA logo on the back.

The premier of our local "South Bend Community Monologues" will be held at 7 pm on Saturday, April 19th at Bendix Theatre in the Century Center.

Tickets are $10, and all proceeds will go to the YWCA and SOS, two
agencies that provide assistance to victims of domestic and sexual violence in our community.

The "South Bend Community Monologues" will bring to life the
private and personal stories of local women. For the first time, monologues about the intimate lives of women in OUR community will be heard.

Some of the stories are tender and heartwarming. Some are amusing. Some are inspiring. Others are heart wrenching. The Monologues contain adult content and are not intended for children.

The YWCA, Sex Offense Services, and the Monologues cast believe that
all victims' voices need to be heard. Please join us in standing up
against sexual assault in St. Joseph County - and everywhere.

Come to the Century Center from 5:30 to 7:30 on Thursday. Buy a ticket to the Saturday Monologues performance. Make sure that the voices of women in our community are heard.

Contact Catherine Pittman (; 284-4533) for more

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

On Taking One For The Team, Or, Hillary’s “Sniper” Truth Revealed

There has been much made of Hillary Clinton’s recent Bosnian “sniper” incident, and many who have a lower opinion of her as a result.

For the first time ever, we can now reveal in this space that far from being untruthful, Senator Clinton in fact has taken a major political hit in order to protect an important national security program…the existence of which she has not been in a position to reveal.

Through the use of secret anonymous sources we will reveal the surprising reality…the “rest of the story”, if you will—and although you may be shocked, you probably won’t be surprised.

Most of you recall the scene…The First Lady leaving the aircraft, looking entirely comfortable despite the potential dangers she might encounter in Tuzla…and many of you recall her saying that she exited the aircraft “under sniper fire.”

Well it turns out there was some considerable truth in her claims—but as we will discover, it’s all buried in a cloak of extreme secrecy we can only now reveal.

Many of you will recall her story of being taught to shoot out there at her grandfather’s house on Lake Winola, but what you may not know is that her grandfather was a sniper for US forces in World War I who personally killed over 600 Germans with a Sharps .50 rifle he brought to Europe from Pennsylvania when he enlisted—the same rifle his father used to kill over 12,000 Indians during the conquest of the West.

Even her grandfather was amazed at Clinton’s ability to shoot—a talent not unnoticed by the CIA, who recruited her during her time at Yale Law School.

For more than 20 years she studied spycraft under their tutelage, gaining knowledge in training techniques useful during times of insurgency.

Once President Clinton ascended to the White House, it was time for the Agency to cash in. In one of the most closely guarded secrets of the 20th Century the Clinton Administration started in 1992 on a plot to “neutralize” Osama Bin Laden…a man they already knew posed the gravest of threats to America.

The plot?

Sending Hillary to train secret “sniper squads” of Bosnian Mujahedeen who would be willing and able to infiltrate Al-Qaeda and act as American “moles” today—and killers of Osama Bin Laden tomorrow, if need be.

She made visits to at least 85 countries that are publicly acknowledged during her tenure as First Lady—each time training, supporting, or recruiting personnel for the CIA…using her amazing marksmanship skills to cement friendships with men (and some brave women) who might be otherwise unwilling, for cultural reasons, to associate themselves with Western women—especially when the woman is “in charge”.

And while it was their sniper training that got them invited to Afghani training camps to prepare for careers as foot soldiers for Allah (PBUH), it was the inspiring example of an empowered, eagle-eyed Hillary that made them choose to secretly continue to support the USA.

That’s how we knew about Tora Bora, that’s why we actually have informants throughout Waziristan monitoring Bin Laden’s every move (if we didn’t, don’t you think we’d be saturation bombing the place?), and that’s why we made such a fuss out of the whole “wanted: dead or alive” episode…so that they wouldn’t know they’ve been infiltrated.

The process has taken several years, and it is only since 2002 that our people have risen to the highest ranks of Al-Qaeda…while others wait, in 85 countries, to inform if need be—or to do more.

Once it became clear that Clinton was going to run a cover story had to be put in place to preserve the operation…and that’s the part of the story we can only reveal now:

Top officials in the CIA’s Directorate of Operations approached Clinton and she agreed, in a spirit of extreme patriotism, to allow the Bosnia story to be brought out, but only after arranging for everyone present to deny that any snipers were present.

Clinton agreed to the ruse in order to discredit her own contribution, there and for the other 85 “cover trips”, creating the misdirection that those who met with her on her many visits needed to maintain the operational security that will allow the infiltration to go forward.

That very day in Tuzla, three of her own snipers killed a Yemeni hit squad that had been dispatched to the area by Al-Qaeda; and who were able to disguise themselves as airport workers until just before her aircraft landed, when their weapons were sighted by an alert spotter teamed with one of the snipers.

Remember the little girl? She was actually passing a message to Clinton in poetic code from a small group of Chechens who were reporting information from within that country at a most important time…and she was willing to come forward today and deny any danger because this mission cannot be compromised, even though a Presidential candidacy is on the line.

So there you go: Senator Clinton is actually one of the greatest rifle shots in the country today, her unique skills and position allowed her to “ramrod” one of the greatest espionage operations in the history of the CIA, and today she’s willing to risk everything—even her chance at becoming President—to keep the cover story from being blown.

And you wondered if she could handle those 3AM calls.
I’ll bet you don’t now.

Sex and state government

A little noticed recently enacted Indiana law recieved lengthy third page coverage in the Chicago Tribune. The story begins:

SOUTH BEND, Ind.—Planning to open a bookstore in Indiana? Maybe a newsstand? How about a pharmacy? You may be officially labeled a purveyor of "sexually explicit materials."

Now, if you'll just sign this registry, the secretary of state will accept your check for $250.

At the end of March's legislative session, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels signed House Act 1042, which requires all new businesses selling "sexually explicit materials" to notify the secretary of state and pay a licensing fee. Failure to comply is a Class B misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $1,000 and up to 180 days in jail.

Exactly who — or what — defines "sexually explicit" is the $250 question, and the crux of any test of the law's constitutionality.

Owners of two local bookstores - The Griffon and Erasmus Books were interviewed for the story.

"Sounds like they're really trying to restrict free trade," said Sara Bird, who co-owns The Griffon, a South Bend storefront where gaming enthusiasts and bibliophiles mix amid stacks of out-of-print books, model kits and quilting manuals. Her partner, Ken Peczkowski, is a former professor of Russian language and literature at the University of Notre Dame.

"We're both in favor of less government," he said. "At least as far as legislating morality is concerned."

Philip Schatz co-owns Erasmus Books, which takes up the first two floors of a prairie-style house just a few blocks from downtown. He has no plans to relocate his business or open a new branch, but he is certain that if he did, his used-bookstore would be subject to the licensing requirements.

The store sells "pretty much what you'd find at the public library," he said, but added: "We have books someone could find objectionable in our psychology section, or our art section, or our gay and lesbian section."

Full article:,0,6165215.story

Monday, April 14, 2008

Democratic Gubernatorial candidates to debate in Fort Wayne

By Peter Neumann

It may be no coincidence that Democratic Gubernatorial candidates Jill Long-Thompson and Jim Schellinger will face off in a live one-hour televised debate on "tax day" -- Tuesday, April 15th at 7 p.m..

After all, taxes are a big issue in Indiana, and what the candidates propose to do about them.Indiana's NewsCenter and IPFW's Mike Downs Center for Indiana Politics have partnered with University Democrats to invite the candidates to inform the voters be means of a debate.

The debate will be broadcast live by Indiana NewsCenter's WISE NBC33, and moderated by Indiana NewsCenter's anchor Linda Jackson.

The debate will also be streamed live on

The venue for the debate is the beautiful Rhinehart Recital Hall on the campus of IPFW in Fort Wayne. The audience will be made up largely of guests invited by the two campaigns.

Fifty seats will be available on a first-come first serve basis. Doors will open at 5:30, doors close at 6:30 P.M.. No campaign banners nor flash photography will be allowed. Cell phones should be turned off.

The questions for the candidates will be drawn from audience submissions, as well as from a three-person panel that includes representatives from Indiana's NewsCenter, The Journal Gazette, and IPFW University Democrats.

As far as I can determine, there will be no local broadcast or rebroadcast of this event. Please let me know if you have different information. Thanks, Don

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Building Community

by Don Wheeler

Saturday, April 12 was Christmas – at least for twenty-six families in South Bend, Indiana. That was the volunteer workday for the organization Rebuilding Together – St. Joseph County (formerly called Christmas in April).

As part of a nation-wide event, one neighborhood is selected each year locally for home repairs. Homeowners within the boundaries are chosen by need due to low income, disability or advanced age. Many contractors and union workers donate time and materials ahead of the volunteer work. Jobs like furnace replacement, roof replacement, electrical upgrades and the like are handled by the pros at no cost to the homeowners.

But on the Volunteer Day, you see our community leap to life.

This year I volunteered to “captain” a house for the program. I met with the homeowners – a gracious older couple – to assess their needs and determine what was possible to do in one day. I won’t mention their names because I didn’t ask permission.

These folks had raised eight children in a pretty small home. The home was clearly loved and maintained with care. But there were some things these folks couldn't’t do on their own anymore.

Saturday arrived with temperatures in the 30s and a steady rain. At the staff meeting at LaSalle Academy, we were told to seriously lower our expectations of work to be done and to expect about half the number of volunteers we would have had.

As I headed towards “my” house, I could see that city workers from many departments and city vehicles were all over the place – ready to shuttle tools and equipment as well as dealing with all the refuse soon to be delivered to various curbs.

Shortly after 8:00, I noticed a determined and cheerful looking group trudging down the sidewalk in the rain. About two dozen Notre Dame students presented themselves – ready to work.

We huddled together under the shelter of the front porch roof as I explained our objectives for the day. They determined work groups, picked leaders and we went to work.

I should mention that there is no rain day for this event. It either happens, or it doesn’t. Well, no one in this group wanted the homeowners short changed.

It’s hard to express what a great experience this was. I asked the homeowners if they minded if we turned their basement into a temporary lunch room. They not only accommodated us, they dug up chairs for the nearly thirty people. Lunch was brief, though, these folks were on a mission.

By the end of the day, this crew had emptied the basement and yard of unwanted items, scraped and re-glazed the twelve windows of the home, demolished a dilapidated stockade fence and replaced it with a brand new one – as well as several other less extensive tasks. Many of these folks worked nearly eight hours in really miserable weather conditions.

I’d like to express particular appreciation to Mike of Nebraska, who was foreman of what I referred to as the Notre Dame “fencing team”. And if you’d like to see some of these fine people and the work they did, there’s a photo gallery on

Negativity is a wastive thing. Pointing out problems, real and perceived and doing nothing else sucks energy out of people and communities. That approach feeds cynicism and fatalism. People get convinced what they think or do doesn’t matter, can’t make a difference.

It’s a lie!

The Rebuilding Together staff certainly put in many hours in preparation for the work. The House Captains put some hours in ahead of the event so that things would run smoothly. But what really made things happen were the hundreds of volunteers putting in a few hours each. It was those people who were rebuilding together.

So when someone says to you, “There’s nothing I can do” or “what I do won’t matter” – tell them this story - or better yet, one of your own. The important thing is not to let the lie stand unchallenged. Everyone makes a difference in what they do or choose not to do.

I say thanks to the students of St. Mary’s and Notre Dame, my fellow citizens, the city workers, union workers, private contractors and anyone I may not have identified who helped rebuild together. Last Saturday you made me proud that I live in South Bend, Indiana. Again.

On How The State Gave Me MRSA (Part II), Or, What, Me Worry?

We began a story this week that describes how poor clinical practice in a State-operated healthcare facility holds the potential to cause great injury and death to those vulnerable adults living in the facility, the workers charged with their care—and to members of the public who have never even set foot in the facility.

You might say it’s a bit of a “canary in a coal mine” situation, with pandemic flu hovering on the horizon and all. You also might say that since MRSA kills as many people in the US every year as six 9/11s the pandemic is already here.

So in today’s second installment, we’ll look a bit further: into facility management that now contends they are not required to follow guidelines that the Centers for Disease Control says “apply to all patients, regardless of suspected or confirmed infection status, in any setting in which healthcare is delivered”…into the concept that where your care is delivered should determine what protective equipment workers might require…and into a “magic ambulance” that apparently has the power to make you hazardous to some people--but not to others.

And just to add a twist--we have a Governor seeking re-election whom we hope to convince to put on her “superhero cape” by publicly coming to the rescue and making infectious disease control in all State facilities an important priority of her next Administration.

Because after all, do we really need six more avoidable 9/11s this year? And next year? And the year after that?

For those just coming to the story, let’s recap where we’ve been so far:

The Girlfriend (of over 26 years!), a nurse working for the State of Washington in one of the five “Residential Habilitation Centers” serving developmentally delayed individuals, recently brought home MRSA, which we now share—in our eyes.

MRSA, as you’ll recall, is one group among the variety of drug resistant organisms with which today’s medicine contends—drug resistant meaning that some, or virtually all, of today’s antibiotics will not “cure” the infection. There are several strains of MRSA, each with different drug-resistance characteristics. All this is discussed in more detail in the first installment of our adventure.

One reason this occurred is because the facility is lacking the most basic equipment required to prevent the spread of infection…and I’m not talking high-tech equipment here, either. For example, the facility does not see the need for sufficient eye protection for its medical care providers; this despite the fact that numerous procedures performed by each nurse daily (as well as other medical staff) “are likely to generate splashes or sprays of blood, body fluids, secretions and excretions” to quote again from the CDC.

IV. Standard Precautions
Assume that every person is potentially infected or colonized with an organism that could be transmitted in the healthcare setting and apply the following infection control practices during the delivery of health care.

--excerpted from the CDCs “Guidelines for Isolation Precautions in Hospitals

There is also a failure of perception among management, who maintain that the community of clients residing at the facility are somehow epidemiologically “safe”…meaning the current facility policy is that the Standard Precautions which apply to everyone else practicing healthcare, everywhere else in the world (including Tamil, India) do not apply when working with this client population.

The likely outcome is that MRSA will spread among the vulnerable adults—and the staff--that this facility (and the other four like it) serves, and considering that 1 in 5 who get MRSA die as a result of the infection…well, 1 in 5 are probably going to die from an avoidable cause.

As we said before, it’s estimated that about 18,000 who were exposed to MRSA in 2005 died from the infection…which is about 20% of the annual total of 100,000 “avoidable” hospital deaths in the US.

Presumably there will be other members of the community beyond the facility affected as well…just like me, and just like the friends and relatives of some of you who have commented on the first story.

The Girlfriend and I are in the middle of an irritating series of adaptations designed to make it less likely that the MRSA bacteria will either re-infect us, or remain present in a dormant, or “colonized” state, ready to reappear without warning at some future time.

The most annoying adaptation?
I’ve just finished putting antibacterial ointment up my nose, as I do twice a day. To recreate the sensation, stick a Vaseline-covered Q-tip up each nostril. (Warning: stunt nose used for demonstration purposes only. Do not try this at home. Trust me, it sucks.)

Of course, the surgical soap we use constantly is a bit of a pain as well…

But enough about me.

The more important question is…how did the facility react when presented with the news that they have an infection control problem?

Well, that’s where it gets weird.

There seems to be a feeling that it is the type of facility that determines what sort of precautions are applied, rather than making a decision about the correct choice of protective equipment based on the procedure being performed.

A phone call to the Washington State Department of Health confirms this line of thinking goes farther than just this facility—the individual to whom I spoke (I did not identify myself as gathering news, so I’ll leave their name out of the discussion) answered my question about whether Standard Precautions should be applied at all healthcare facilities by telling me that it might depend on whether a nursing home is a healthcare facility…as opposed to a hospital.

Further discussion brought us to a point where we decided a better answer might be found by consulting with others at the Department of Health—and I’m awaiting that person’s return call as of this writing. (Please note that it is the weekend as I write, so the fact that no return call has yet occurred should not be construed as somehow sinister.)

If this line of thought is carried to its logical conclusion, here’s what we get:

Client X is an individual who is fed through a “G tube” (a tube that is surgically implanted and delivers liquid food directly into the individual’s stomach) in a nursing home which we’ll call “Site R”.

In that environment, according to current policy at our imaginary “Site R”, the only required protective gear while working with the tubes is gloves and a mask. What kind of work? A nurse might plug in a feeding or medicine tube, inject medicine into a port using a syringe, or “flush” a plugged food tube to allow it to again deliver food. Any of these interactions can easily cause the splashes or sprays of body fluids that spread disease.

Now suppose Client X were to encounter a medical difficulty requiring a move to the hospital. According to the CDC guidelines (and the “facility-based “logic we’ve seen so far) that same G tube work would require gloves, a non-permeable gown (no liquid getting through), a face mask, and eye and mucous membrane protection for the worker (the clear plastic “face shields” you see in use, or something similar).

Meaning that either something happened in the “magic ambulance” on the way to the hospital that made Client X more hazardous than he was before…or “facility based” logic makes no sense.

My guess: the ambulance ain’t that magic.

In this conversation we’re talking about MRSA…but imagine if Client X has undiagnosed Hepatitis C…or AIDS?

Is the nursing home worker less entitled to protection than the hospital worker?
Is it sound public policy that some healthcare workers are allowed to spread MRSA, hepatitis, HIV, and who knows what else…but not hospital workers?

As we previously mentioned, what comes home from work is going to get into the community—but did you know drug resistant bacteria are also now appearing in other species besides humans?

Try to imagine avian flu and MRSA in one superbug and you might understand why infection control is so, so, so critical.

If you need a further demonstration, the next time you’re walking down the street, try this exercise: count the people you see, from one to dead.

One to dead, you say?
How’s that work?

It works like this: MRSA kills 1 in 5…so when you see people during the day, all you have to do is count “1, 2, 3, 4…dead”. Repeat the process a few times, and you begin to get an idea of the reality of a pandemic.

We’ve covered a lot of ground today, so let’s wrap it up:

It is beginning to appear that many in the infection control community believe the location where healthcare is delivered is how you decide what protection the worker needs.

Others would tell you that disease is disease is disease…and if you plan on doing open heart surgery, it shouldn’t matter if you do it in a hospital, or a makeshift clinic in the real “Site R”…or in a bullring, for that matter…you still need to take the same precautions, every single time, if you want to prevent 18,000 or so deaths next year.

In my State of Washington the Governor is running for re-election…and she only won by 8 votes last time…so I’m trying to encourage folks to send her a note expressing your feelings about all of this here. I hope to encourage her to turn this to her advantage and make it an “issue that matters”—and Governor Gregoire, as I’ve said before, it’s always good to save the lives of registered voters in an election year.

It’s your lives and mine that are at stake here; so let’s put some pressure on and see if we can’t cut six 9/11s down to five next year.

If nothing else, you’ll have earned the appreciation of your grateful antibodies.

Author’s Note: We aren’t done yet. In part 3 we’ll discuss the response from the Health Department, we’ll be calling new experts…and we’ll be discussing the history of intimidation that the employer involved here is trying to overcome.

Stay tuned.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Rebuilding Together '08 Photo Gallery

Despite an all day rain and temperatures in the 30s, over two dozen people came together to help a deserving family with needed repairs.

The remains of an old wire fence are carried out to the street. City of South Bend Workers and equipment were in action all day, removing refuse from all the Rebuilding Together event homes.

One of the first jobs of the day was to tear down and remove a wooden privacy fence from the back yard.

Meanwhile. several people started removing the screen/storm combination units in preparation for needed work on the wooden double hung windows.

The wooden windows (orginal to the home) had cracked glazing removed, the paint scraped, and fresh glazing coupound applied - to seal out drafts. Then the screen/units were replaced.
It had been the original plan to paint the windows as well, but the conditions made that impossible.

In the back yard, old clothesline wire was removed from the poles, and new wire was strung in it's place. The poles were scraped - for painting at a future date.

This group was so enthusiastic about getting the cable tight, that they snapped part of a turnbuckle in their zeal. But a replacement was obtained - and the mission was accomplished.

Time for Lunch

Erecting the new privacy fence was time consuming and a bit complicated. Here the Notre Dame "fencing team" posses after placing the first panel.

Now, nearly complete, the view of the new fence from the alley.

The finishing touch...A gate is designed, constructed and hung. And the work day is completed.

Friday, April 11, 2008

Health care horror stories

by Paul Krugman
New York Times

Not long ago, a young Ohio woman named Trina Bachtel, who was having health problems while pregnant, tried to get help at a local clinic.

Unfortunately, she had previously sought care at the same clinic while uninsured and had a large unpaid balance. The clinic wouldn’t see her again unless she paid $100 per visit — which she didn’t have.

Eventually, she sought care at a hospital 30 miles away. By then, however, it was too late. Both she and the baby died.

You may think that this was an extreme case, but stories like this are common in America.

Back in 2006, The Wall Street Journal told another such story: that of a young woman named Monique White, who failed to get regular care for lupus because she lacked insurance. Then, one night, “as skin lesions spread over her body and her stomach swelled, she couldn’t sleep.”

The Journal’s report goes on: “Mama, please help me! Please take me to the E.R.,” she howled, according to her mother, Gail Deal. “O.K., let’s go,” Mrs. Deal recalls saying. “No, I can’t,” the daughter replied. “I don’t have insurance.”

She was rushed to the hospital the next day after suffering a seizure — and the hospital spared no expense on her treatment. But it all came too late; she was dead a few months later.

How can such things happen? “I mean, people have access to health care in America,” President Bush once declared. “After all, you just go to an emergency room.” Not quite.

First of all, visits to the emergency room are no substitute for regular care, which can identify and treat health problems before they get acute. And more than 40 percent of uninsured adults have no regular source of care.

Second, uninsured Americans often postpone medical care, even when they know they need it, because of expense.

Finally, while it’s true that hospitals will treat anyone who arrives in an emergency room with an acute problem — and it’s wonderful that they will — it’s also true that hospitals bill patients for emergency-room treatment. And fear of those bills often causes uninsured Americans to hesitate before seeking medical help, even in emergencies, as the Monique White story illustrates.

The end result is that the uninsured receive a lot less care than the insured. And sometimes this lack of care kills them. According to a recent estimate by the Urban Institute, the lack of health insurance leads to 27,000 preventable deaths in America each year.

But are they really preventable? Yes. Stories like those of Trina Bachtel and Monique White are common in America, but don’t happen in any other rich country — because every other advanced nation has some form of universal health insurance. We should, too.

All of which makes the media circus of a few days ago truly shameful.

Some readers may already have recognized the story of Trina Bachtel. While campaigning in Ohio, Hillary Clinton was told this story, and she took to repeating it, without naming the victim, on the campaign trail. She used it as an illustration of what’s wrong with American health care and why we need universal coverage.

Then The Washington Post identified Ms. Bachtel, the hospital where she died claimed that the story was false — and the news media went to town, accusing Mrs. Clinton of making stuff up. Instead of being a story about health care, it became a story about the candidate’s supposed problems with the truth.

In fact, Mrs. Clinton was accurately repeating the story as it was told to her — and it turns out that while some of the details were slightly off, the essentials of her story were correct. After all the fuss, The Washington Post eventually conceded that “Bachtel’s medical tragedy began with circumstances very close to the essence” of Mrs. Clinton’s account.

And even more important, Mrs. Clinton was making a valid point about the state of health care in this country.

In other words, this was a disgraceful episode. It was particularly sad to see a number of Obama supporters (though not the Obama campaign itself) join enthusiastically in the catcalls against Mrs. Clinton’s good-faith effort to put a human face on the cruelty and injustice of the American health care system.

Look, I know that many progressives have their hearts set on seeing Barack Obama get the Democratic nomination. But politics is supposed to be about more than cheering your team and jeering the other side. It’s supposed to be about changing the country for the better.

And if being a progressive means anything, it means believing that we need universal health care, so that terrible stories like those of Monique White, Trina Bachtel and the thousands of other Americans who die each year from lack of insurance become a thing of the past.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Schellinger for Governor releases new ad

Elizabeth Edwards endorses! - a policy

and from the New York Times:

Even though Elizabeth Edwards strongly favors Senator Hillary Rodham Clinton's universal health care policy, she said neither she nor her husband would endorse a candidate for president soon.

Mrs. Edwards did not rule out an endorsement. But she said in an interview that she and John Edwards felt that they could be more effective as "nonaligned" and "honest brokers" on the issues they care about when talking to the remaining Democratic candidates...

...In reasserting her interest in public policy, Mrs. Edwards said her
husband, a former senator from North Carolina, had decided to attend to her
needs first because their lives had revolved around his past campaigns. While he
has not outlined a path for his future, she predicted he would focus on
antipoverty efforts.

In the long run, she said, she believed that the ways Mr. Edwards had
pushed his fellow candidates on issues like poverty and guided the party would
have effects far beyond this campaign.

Full article:

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Our Kindergarten Odyssey - epilogue

by Don Wheeler

Beginning with the Kennedy Academy Cattle Call , and followed by parts two and three , I have shared the process of enrolling our daughter into Kindergarten for the next academic year. This has turned out to be a very different process for Paddy and me than it was for my parents.

Growing up in Evanston, IL (District 65), my parents probably walked the two blocks to Willard Elementary School and registered me. Because I was born in the first half of the calendar year, I was placed in afternoon Kindergarten. Willard would have been the obvious choice. That school system was very good and remains so today.

In our case as parents, we considered four public school magnet programs, our neighborhood school, one charter school and two private school options. The private schools were terrifically expensive, and I'm a firm believer in participating in the public school system - unless there's serious evidence that doing so will harm your child's chances for a good outcome.

If everyone withdraws their advantaged child from the public school system it will soon become a Medicaid version of education. That's what people like Bush and Daniels are shooting for. The children in it will be from poor families, or developmentally challenged, or both. Class sizes which work fine for kids "ready to learn" don't work so well with kids who only eat at school, or have dysfunctional family lives or worse. The anemic Title 1 programs can't keep up with the current circumstances - there is no chance of them being able to handle every kid in every public school.

I've made this sound like a simple decision, but it isn't. It's very hard. Where does the line of your child's outcome intersect with you being a responsible citizen? I'd only suggest that it should be thought about carefully.

We have the incredible advantage of a good neighborhood school. Sarah will be able to meet kids in her neighborhood (as I did), whom she can form friendships with, invite here, etc. She will be going to Hay Primary Center.

But let's say we were living in my house on Dayton St., and the neighborhood school was Lincoln - everything would be different. The neighborhood school option wouldn't be nearly so attractive - we'd likely pick another option. All because we lived a few miles away from where we do; though in the same school system.

So I'll be happy Sarah's at Hay, and I'll be thinking about how we can make all our neighborhood schools more like Hay.

Democracy is not a spectator sport

John Edwards: To The New York Times

Broken Soldiers, and a Broken System

Published: April 8, 2008

To the Editor:

(Related Editorial Observer: For Wounded Veterans and Their Families, a Journey Without Maps (March 24, 2008)

In “For Wounded Veterans and Their Families, a Journey Without Maps” (Editorial Observer, March 24), Lawrence Downes missed an important opportunity to explain why both the Department of Defense and the Department of Veterans Affairs are unprepared to care for the service members who have been hurt in the Iraq war.

The reason is that the frequently reported number of the wounded in action (29,320 as of March 1) does not include everyone who’s been hurt.

The complete number of nonfatal casualties in Iraq is 60,645. Most assume the wounded number includes all, but it does not. It leaves out another 8,273 injured and 23,052 who became ill and required medical air transport from the war zone. The Department of Defense releases two reports: one with the weekly numbers of those wounded and killed, and then another monthly report with the complete numbers. After five years, it is time for respected news organizations to use the complete number.

The public needs this information so that we can better prepare for the care of all of our veterans from this war and others. The struggle for them and their families your article addressed is happening all across this country. Nearly 300,000 Iraq and Afghanistan veterans have already sought care from the V.A.

The system is broken. That is why so many veterans are still fighting for the care they earned. That is why their families struggle with paperwork and months of delay. And that is why 154,000 veterans sleep on grates or under bridges every night.

We have tens of thousands set to come home, and we aren’t prepared. Every day we should honor the more than 4,000 lives lost: every suicide, bullet or serious accident.

And every day we should honor those who have been hurt. That number is 60,645 and rising.

John Edwards
Chapel Hill, N.C.,
March 31, 2008

The writer is the former presidential candidate and former senator from North Carolina.

(Be sure to read the story referred to on the Editorial Observer link above) -- Don

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

On Controlling The Spread Of Disease, Or, The State Gives Me MRSA

It has been the practice of your friendly fake consultant to keep my personal life separate from the stories you see in this space; and where exceptions have been made it has been because I felt it necessary to tell a larger story.

The story we will begin to tell today must be offered with my own life deeply intertwined in the narrative.

Sadly, it will not just be me that will be affected by the events we will here discuss. Instead, the list of victims will include some of Washington State’s most vulnerable citizens—those developmentally disabled individuals who reside in the State’s “Residential Habilitation Centers”--and the workers who care for them…one of whom is my very own spouse.

We have within the tale all the usual suspects: a lack of safety equipment, managers who fail to do their jobs, a system that’s failing to protect either its own or those who can’t care for themselves…and now, just to give things a twist, pharmaceutical soap, little orange pills, and color-safe bleach.

Before we begin in earnest, a few words about privacy. There will be some considerable restriction as to what exactly I can say in this report due to the need to protect the privacy of both the clients and the workers involved.

In the case of the clients (residents of these facilities are not referred to as patients because they might not necessarily be suffering from disease or illness—although, as with all of us, that changes from time to time) the privacy requirements are a part of the Federal HIPPA law…and in the case of the involved workers, there are concerns regarding potential retaliation.

The best place to begin the story, I suspect, is to explain exactly what MRSA is.

MRSA is a type of staph virus (Methicillin-Resistant Staphylococcus Aureus) which, as the name implies, is resistant to some or all of today’s antibiotics.

There are several strains of the virus (USA100 and USA300 being the most common) and the universe of strains is broken down into two groups: hospital-acquired and community-acquired; they are each differently resistant to different combinations of antibiotics. The particular variety of MRSA which has infected me is from the hospital-acquired group and it is resistant to Ciprofloxacin, Clindamyacin, Erythromyacin, and Oxacillin.

About 85% of the estimated 95.000 exposures in 2005 can be traced back to the healthcare system, one way or another, and about 12% are community-acquired. “Community-acquired” MRSA exposures most commonly occur in gyms, prisons, and the military, and are primarily skin infections. Depending on where you live in the US the rate of infection in the general population might vary from roughly 20 per 100,000 to 120 per 100,000.

As you might expect, age and a compromised immune system make infection more likely.

Lucky for me, there are antibiotics that our virus (The Girlfriend and I have shared so much these many years…and now we’re sharing this) is sensitive to…which is why we’re taking Doxycycline twice a day.

The virus can enter the body through cracks in the skin, inhalation, or by the sorts of blood and fluid contacts that you might expect would spread this sort of thing from one person to another.

The virus can “colonize” itself without infecting the host or it can be in an infectious state. As a result it is possible to carry the virus for some time and become infected later, or not at all. This is common to many other forms of staph as well.

Infections can occur not only in the skin, but also in the body’s other soft tissues, or in the lungs, where it can cause pneumonia.

I’m told the “warm hairy areas” of the body are the most susceptible to colonization—face and head hair, armpits, and the crotch area in particular.

Without effective treatment, MRSA can most assuredly be fatal.

When drug therapy is successful the rate of relapse can be as low as 5%.

There are variants of the virus that are resistant to virtually all known antibiotics—and even when certain antibiotics will work there may be situations where the patient’s allergic to those antibiotics.

In those cases where drug therapy cannot be employed excision (the surgical removal of the affected tissue) and maggot therapy (yes, they sometimes use maggots for removal of affected tissue) are available options.

We’ll be returning to this topic as we go deeper into the story…but at this point we should probably take some time to discuss how the spread of disease is controlled in health-care facilities.

Readers will undoubtedly be familiar with the image of a surgeon in the operating room: the surgical mask, gown, gloves and face shields that are worn in that environment are just as important in protecting the patient from acquired infections as they are in protecting everyone else from that patient.

In settings other than the OR it is just as crucial that infection control be as close to 100% effective as possible; this is why those same protective garments are now a mandatory part of every healthcare worker’s arsenal. Those of you who are regular viewers of the “Discovery Health Channel” will probably recall seeing medical personnel “gowning up” to perform a procedure.

“Best practice” guidelines are provided by the Centers for Disease Control. Those best practices are known as “Standard Precautions”…and they’re fairly simple to explain. I’ll paraphrase:

--If you’ll be in contact with someone else’s body fluids, you should assume that person—no matter who they are—is infectious.

--For your own protection (and the protect Precautionsion of others) you’ll need gloves, gown, mask…and beyond that, a face shield for activities “that are likely to generate splashes or sprays of blood, body fluids, secretions, or excretions”.

--Although this will sound obvious, you don’t want to use the gloves, gown, mask, or face shield while moving from one person to another…instead, you need to change into new clean stuff before moving on to the next procedure.

By following these fairly obvious instructions you prevent “cross-contamination”—potentially saving the lives of yourself and all those with whom you will later make contact.

Which includes the family members back home, when the shift is over.

That’s where I come in.

The Girlfriend (of more than 26 years…hooray for us, eh?) informed me that we’ll be needing to take eyedrops for what we thought was her (relatively minor) case of conjunctivitis. We did, to no effect.

We were then prescribed Bacitracin Opthalmic ointment to resolve what had by now been diagnosed as MRSA (it requires a lab culture to confirm the diagnosis)…which meant putting this awful goo in our eyes four times daily…which did no good.

One week later we found ourselves in the office of an Infectious Disease Specialist

And now we have some…unusual…household routines.

In addition to the Doxycycline, we now use “Hibiclens” surgical soap for our washing and showering needs, as well putting Muriprocin ointment up our noses twice daily. The “ewww” factor is high, indeed on that one.

All clothing is now washed with color-fast bleach; and we mostly use paper towels.

All of this (except the antibiotics) for the next three months.

Hopefully it works, and the disease either is eradicated or returns to a “colonized” state.

All of this for an infection we did not have the pleasure of acquiring in Las Vegas.

So, you might be asking, if the infection control process exists, how does the infection manage to spread?

I’ve had a few conversations—and done a fair bit of reading--with the intent of finding the answer to that myself, and here’s what I’ve learned:

--Workers sometimes hang used gowns at the end of a client’s bed, go about their business, and then return later, reusing the same gown for later procedures.

--Other workers will wear the same gown for their entire shift, moving from client to client to client.

--There can be issues related to the way linens are handled and laundered that can cause the spread of infection.

--Although there are some face shields available at her facility, The Girlfriend tells me that their presence is, shall we say, sporadic—that is to say, they are not available in all of the locations where they are needed.

--There are procedures that, by their very nature, are inherently dangerous—particularly problematic are the feeding tubes which are surgically inserted directly into the client’s gastric system. These have almost universally replaced the older “nasal gastric” tubes (through the nose and into the stomach) that were often the unintentional cause of aspiration (the lungs fill with the liquid food, rather like drowning), should the tube become dislodged.

The opening in the body made to accommodate the surgically inserted tube can leak, there can be “deposits” of internal fluids on the outside of the body through the hole…and most commonly of all, the tubes can become plugged by the liquid food they are designed to transport into the body. The process of unplugging the tubes is, obviously, going to expose all and sundry to something, whether it be food or body fluids. The CDC confirms this is a huge problem.

--There is a lack of effort on the part of Infection Control management to educate and to correct these problems…and in some cases it appears that there’s a lack of awareness that these even are problems.

We will talk about this in more detail in the next part of the story, but for the moment we’ll say that since at least 2006 there have been warning signs of problems to come.

I try to keep my emotions in check when writing, as I find a dispassionate approach makes for more a clear understanding of research…not to mention an increased empathy for those about whom I write.

In this case, however, I have taken it a bit personally. You see, this is not the first potentially hazardous exposure The Girlfriend has suffered due to appallingly poor clinical practice at this facility…another subject we’ll address in considerable detail in the next installment of the story.

Since it was obvious to me that there was not going to be a change in culture imposed from the inside, I’ve decided I’m going to do it for them.

Which is why, in recent days, the emails began flowing--to the Governor, the Secretary of the State Department of Health, the Secretary of the State’s Department of Social and Health Services (the largest of Washington’s State Agencies), the Director of WISHA (the State’s OSHA equivalent), the State Attorney General (because someone’s getting a bill for my care eventually…), and the State Auditor, who is charged with investigating governmental misconduct.

(To be honest, I was a bit inaccurate in the note…I told the various parties that MRSA was the “flesh eating bacteria” disease, which was an error on my part. I blame myself, for being a bit overwrought as I wrote; and I do owe all involved an apology for the error…so Governor Gregoire, if you might see this: sorry about that—but the rest of the note is dead-on accurate.)

And that’s how we get to the part where I ask you for some help.

In the note I sent I reminded the Governor (who won in 2004 by a mere 8 votes) that not only was this affecting those vulnerable citizens who reside in the State’s facilities and the employees who are there for them--but that the problem, thanks to my infection, had now spilled into the community of…registered voters.

Not a good thing, in an election year.
But good for us, as it means we have a way to keep the Governor’s attention…focused.

So do me a favor, if you would…and drop the Governor a quick note, here at her official website, perhaps reminding her that all the State’s citizens matter when it comes to healthcare equality, or that infectious disease control is everyone’s business—even the State’s…or perhaps you might pose this question: if we can’t control MRSA, even in State facilities, how in the world are we going to control pandemic influenza in the general population when it eventually rears its ugly head?

We meet with management Monday to discuss the incident…which means part two of the story will also be a good one: we’ll talk more about past problems, we’ll asses management’s attitude today…and we’ll see if we can’t help the State find a better way going forward.

Put on your seatbelts, kids…it’s gonna be a rocky ride.

AUTHOR"S NOTE: As was mentioned by several of my new friends, MRSA is a bacterial infection, and not a viral one. My aplogy to the reader for the error.

Monday, April 7, 2008

Long-Thompson calls for more attention to Indiana's struggling communities

'Economic Tier' program targets investment, creates more efficiency and accountability

INDIANAPOLIS - Continuing her call to revamp the state's approach to economic growth, today Democratic gubernatorial candidate Jill Long Thompson proposed new measures designed to help the state's struggling communities create, attract and retain good-paying jobs. Long Thompson said if elected Governor, she would work with state and local leaders to develop a "tier" system to guide the state's economic development efforts.

Modeled after structures in several other states, Long Thompson would categorize the state's 92 counties into three different economic tiers and then allocate the state's economic development dollars accordingly. The tiers, which would be updated regularly, would be determined by a county's unemployment rate, median household income, population growth and assessed property value per capita.

"Mitch Daniels' one-size-fits-all strategy isn't working for a number of areas in our state - and the numbers prove it," said Long Thompson, referring to a report issued last week by the United States Bureau of Labor Statistics that showed Indiana had the fourth highest rate of job loss from January to February, shedding 9,600 jobs in one month.

"Indiana has a number of communities, both rural and urban, that are experiencing high rates of unemployment and round after round of layoffs and factory closings," added Long Thompson. "My leadership will recognize the unique challenges that these communities face, and my leadership will provide our local communities the tools necessary to be successful."

A former Under Secretary for Rural Development at the United States Department of Agriculture, Long Thompson has extensive experience in this area. As Under Secretary, she managed numerous economic development programs that created and secured 150,00o jobs annually in the country's most economically distressed areas.

"As someone who comes from a rural background, who had a parent lose her job when it was shipped off to Mexico and who has spent a considerable portion of her life working to bring jobs to struggling communities, I think this is the next logical step for Indiana to take," added Long Thompson. "We can utilize the tier system approach to help bring all of our diverse communities along, so all Hoosiers can share in prosperity and long term economic satiability."

Last month, Long Thompson announced her overall economic policy, which includes overhauling the state's tax structure and placing specific, performance-based incentives into the state's tax code. Those incentives would be available to all business that offer their employees healthcare, pay a living wage, invest in new technology, increase productivity and work to minimize their environmental impact. Long Thompson's tiers plan adds to that by aiding targeted business sectors that build or expand in the state's most economically distressed areas ("Tier 1" and "Tier 2" counties) by creating additional tax incentives and credits. Sectors eligible include manufacturing, telecommunications, information technology, research and development, warehouse distribution, life sciences and tourism.

Under each tier designation potential benefits, which would be determined following consultation with state and local elected officials, economic development officials and education and business leaders, could include: Tier 1 - $3,500 tax credit per new job with a requirement to create at least five jobs, and a 7 percent tax credit for eligible business property expenditures. Tier 2 - $2,500 tax credit per new job with a requirement to create at least 10 jobs, and a 5 percent tax credit for eligible business property expenditures of more than $1 million. Tier 3 - $1,000 tax credit per new job with a requirement to create at least 15 jobs, and a 3.5 percent tax credit for eligible business property expenditures of more than $2 million.

To be eligible, companies must offer employees health insurance and pay at least 50 percent of the premiums, pay above the county average wage, cannot owe back taxes and cannot have received a significant environmental violation notice from the state within the last 5 years. Retail businesses or companies that move from one county to another would not be eligible for the tier incentives.

"This is an efficient and economical approach t0 growing and sustaining our economy, and one that will provide assistance to Hoosiers that need it most."

Moving to economic tiers would not cost Indiana taxpayers any additional money. Information needed to conduct the economic assessments is already collected by the Indiana Department of Workforce Development, the U.S. Census Bureau and Indiana University's Bureau of Business Research and would just be repurposed. Additional incentives used in the various tiers tie directly to business investment and job creation, thus offset any costs.

"As Governor I will work to create and attract good-paying jobs everywhere in Indiana, because I believe that for our state to be truly successful, every Hoosier and every community must be engaged," concluded Long Thompson.

Grains gone wild

by Paul Krugman
New York Times

These days you hear a lot about the world financial crisis. But there’s another world crisis under way — and it’s hurting a lot more people.

I’m talking about the food crisis. Over the past few years the prices of wheat, corn, rice and other basic foodstuffs have doubled or tripled, with much of the increase taking place just in the last few months. High food prices dismay even relatively well-off Americans — but they’re truly devastating in poor countries, where food often accounts for more than half a family’s spending.

There have already been food riots around the world. Food-supplying countries, from Ukraine to Argentina, have been limiting exports in an attempt to protect domestic consumers, leading to angry protests from farmers — and making things even worse in countries that need to import food.

How did this happen? The answer is a combination of long-term trends, bad luck — and bad policy.

Let’s start with the things that aren’t anyone’s fault.

First, there’s the march of the meat-eating Chinese — that is, the growing number of people in emerging economies who are, for the first time, rich enough to start eating like Westerners. Since it takes about 700 calories’ worth of animal feed to produce a 100-calorie piece of beef, this change in diet increases the overall demand for grains.

Second, there’s the price of oil. Modern farming is highly energy-intensive: a lot of B.T.U.’s go into producing fertilizer, running tractors and, not least, transporting farm products to consumers. With oil persistently above $100 per barrel, energy costs have become a major factor driving up agricultural costs.

High oil prices, by the way, also have a lot to do with the growth of China and other emerging economies. Directly and indirectly, these rising economic powers are competing with the rest of us for scarce resources, including oil and farmland, driving up prices for raw materials of all sorts.

Third, there has been a run of bad weather in key growing areas. In particular, Australia, normally the world’s second-largest wheat exporter, has been suffering from an epic drought.

O.K., I said that these factors behind the food crisis aren’t anyone’s fault, but that’s not quite true. The rise of China and other emerging economies is the main force driving oil prices, but the invasion of Iraq — which proponents promised would lead to cheap oil — has also reduced oil supplies below what they would have been otherwise.

And bad weather, especially the Australian drought, is probably related to climate change. So politicians and governments that have stood in the way of action on greenhouse gases bear some responsibility for food shortages.

Where the effects of bad policy are clearest, however, is in the rise of demon ethanol and other biofuels.

The subsidized conversion of crops into fuel was supposed to promote energy independence and help limit global warming. But this promise was, as Time magazine bluntly put it, a “scam.”

This is especially true of corn ethanol: even on optimistic estimates, producing a gallon of ethanol from corn uses most of the energy the gallon contains. But it turns out that even seemingly “good” biofuel policies, like Brazil’s use of ethanol from sugar cane, accelerate the pace of climate change by promoting deforestation.

And meanwhile, land used to grow biofuel feedstock is land not available to grow food, so subsidies to biofuels are a major factor in the food crisis. You might put it this way: people are starving in Africa so that American politicians can court votes in farm states.

Oh, and in case you’re wondering: all the remaining presidential contenders are terrible on this issue.

One more thing: one reason the food crisis has gotten so severe, so fast, is that major players in the grain market grew complacent.

Governments and private grain dealers used to hold large inventories in normal times, just in case a bad harvest created a sudden shortage. Over the years, however, these precautionary inventories were allowed to shrink, mainly because everyone came to believe that countries suffering crop failures could always import the food they needed.

This left the world food balance highly vulnerable to a crisis affecting many countries at once — in much the same way that the marketing of complex financial securities, which was supposed to diversify away risk, left world financial markets highly vulnerable to a systemwide shock.

What should be done? The most immediate need is more aid to people in distress: the U.N.’s World Food Program put out a desperate appeal for more funds.

We also need a pushback against biofuels, which turn out to have been a terrible mistake.

But it’s not clear how much can be done. Cheap food, like cheap oil, may be a thing of the past.

From Krugman's blog- a follow-up:

Right on cue

In today’s column, I suggested a parallel between the vulnerability of today’s low-inventory world food markets to crisis and the vulnerability of our high-leverage, securitized financial markets. (Incidentally: yes, I reused a blog post title. I just thought it was appropriate.)

Sure enough, and right on cue, Bloomberg: Rice Run Prompts Curbs to Rival Credit Market Seizure:

From Cairo to New Delhi to Shanghai, the run on rice is threatening to disrupt worldwide food supplies as much as the scarcity of confidence on Wall Street earlier this year roiled credit markets.

China, Egypt, Vietnam and India, representing more than a third of global rice exports, curbed sales this year, and Indonesia says it may do the same. Investigators in the Philippines, the world’s biggest importer, raided warehouses last month to crack down on hoarding. The World Bank in Washington says 33 nations from Mexico to Yemen may face “social unrest'’ after food and energy costs increased for six straight years.

The upheaval parallels turmoil in global capital markets that seized up nine months ago when subprime mortgages collapsed. The difference between what it costs the U.S. government to borrow and the rate banks charge each other for three month loans ended last week at 1.36 percentage points. A year ago the gap was 0.33 percentage point.

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Report: Lack of health coverage linked to death rate

BY SUSAN ERLER or 219.548.4349
Sunday, April 06, 2008

Nearly nine Indiana residents die every week because they don't have health insurance, according to a report released Friday.

The study by Families USA said that in 2006 about 480,500 of the 3.5 million people living in Indiana between the ages of 25 and 64 lacked coverage and about 460 of them died because they didn't have health insurance. Between 2000 and 2006, an estimated 3,100 Indiana adults died because they lacked health coverage, the report said.

Uninsured people are more likely to forgo checkups, screenings and other preventative care, Families USA Executive Director Ron Pollack said.As a result, diagnoses of cancer and other diseases come at an advanced stage, reducing the chance of survival, Pollack said.

"Health insurance really matters in how people make their health care decisions," Pollack said.Families USA, a Washington, D.C., nonprofit health care consumers group, said the report is based on a national study by the Institute of Medicine, which in 2002 forged a direct link between a lack of health coverage and deaths from health-related causes.

In its 2002 report, the Institute of Medicine estimated that 18,000 adults nationwide died in 2000 because they did not have health insurance.

A 2006 update by the Urban Institute reported at least 22,000 U.S. adults died in 2006 because of a lack of health insurance, according to Families USA. U.S. Rep. Brad Ellsworth, a Democrat from Indiana, said in a prepared release from Families USA, that the Friday report, "reminds us that the lack of affordable health insurance has real consequences, often deadly, for the people of our country."

Stephen P. Skvara
USW district 7
SOAR Ex. Bd. Member
office: 219-881-6235

Life is not measured by the breaths we take, but by the moments that take our breath away.

Down ticket, way down, building the Progressive Movement (and Democratic Party) from ground up!

Posted by Karita Miraglia Hummer on April 5, 2008 at 10:19pm in The people's campaign! at Hobbs Community

Written on April 3, 2008, written to a National audience, on the importance of candidates like Richard Hobbs!! We are so fortunate to have him running in our own County, Santa Clara County in California!! KH
Cross-posted from EENR Blog

Today, is a quite lovely day in San Jose, CA, and I am preparing a fundraiser for one of the best down ticket candidates one could find, for Santa Clara County Supervisor, Richard Hobbs.

Now, Santa Clara County is known world-wide for the Silicon Chip and all that has gone with it. (Sadly, forgotten are the old orchards that made it the Garden of Heart's Delight some years ago.) What is not known maybe as widely is that we have lots of poverty here, too, many, many in the working poor (right alongside and in the shadow of the Silicon Valley giants) as well as discrimination, high rates of incarceration, pollution, and too much civic disengagement as well, because of how busy people are here running around in this valley industry, where the working poor hold two jobs (to the detriment of their children) and the working affluent work 60 - 70 hours + (to the detriment of their children.)

Now, here comes Richard Hobbs, running because of his strong advocacy for the working poor, for human rights and justice in all matters, the celebration and protection of diversity, for clean campaign money and transparency, for cleaning up our environment and for being a voice for peace in the world, from a County pulpit. In other words, Richard is for the common good. (Sound familiar, Edwards Democrats?)

It is imperative to get Richard Hobbs elected as County Supervisor in Santa Clara County, and all the other Richard Hobbs running for local offices, and on up the ticket. That is the way to build our progressive movement and to take our government back for the common good. Therefore, I encourage all Edwards Democrats, to look around at what (true) progressives might be running for City Council or County Supervisor or even County Party Councils and give them a boost by helping their campaigns. Thus, will we begin to take back our Party, and our Country. Think globally, act locally, and eventually, I believe we will prevail.
Karita Hummer :: Down ticket, way down, building the Progressive Movement (and Democratic Party) from ground up!

Here is a recent Press Release from Richard Hobbs campaign:

Cesar Chavez Post-Holiday Alert:

Dolores Huerta, United Farmworkers Co-Founder
Endorses Richard Hobbs for County Supervisor

Community Leaders Follow Suit; Hobbs Leads in Finances

(April 1, 2008 -- San Jose, CA) - Richard Hobbs, a San Jose/Evergreen Community College Board Trustee running for the Board of Supervisors of Santa Clara County, announced today that legendary UFW co-founder Dolores Huerta has endorsed his candidacy.

Hobbs has met several times with the recipient of the United States Presidential Eleanor D. Roosevelt Human Rights Award and has championed the rights of farm workers, the working poor, women, minorities, immigrants and all residents of Santa Clara County for several decades.

He is the Director of the Office of Human Relations of Santa Clara County, replacing the late Jim McEntee who also supported farm workers and marginalized communities.

Hobbs Scores Community Support
Just as Mr. Hobbs is not new to community advocacy, grassroots community leaders are lining up to support him. These include community advocates in the spirit of Dolores Huerta like Jaime Alvarado, Sal Alvarez, Barry del Buono, Chava Bustamante, Martha Campos, Hon. Laura Casas-Frier, Tak Chang, Rosylin Dean, Marta Donayre, Akemi Flynn, Hon. Paul Fong, Hon. Jorge Gonzalez, Hon. Autumn Gutierrez, Amanda Hawes, Sam Ho, Raj Jayadev, Lisa Jensen, Dennis King, Richard Konda, Father Bill Leininger, Terry MCaffrey, Randy Okamura, Rosa Perez, Jim Potterton, Ted Smith, Emy Thurber, Terrry Trumbull, and Andrea Villasenor-Perry.

States Ted Smith, Founder of the Silicon Valley Toxics Coalition: "I've known Richard for more than 25 years and he is one of the most passionate, honest, and dedicated advocates for justice that I know. It is rare that someone of his integrity and guts agrees to run for office. We need to support him so that we don't miss this rare opportunity to elect a community activist who will make a terrific Supervisor."

Hobbs Leads in Fundraising
According to the latest finance reports filed last week, Hobbs leads District Two challengers in available funds by a nearly two to one margin. Hobbs is respected for his decades of community involvement, honest leadership and cultural sensitivity. Election Day in June 3, 2008.

Richard Hobbs, for Santa Clara County Board of Supervisors

Now, if you happen to live in Silicon Valley, come on over an help in the campaign. And, anyone, of course, always is welcome to contribute as well. You can do both at:

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Ten day tickler

Soon after Dyngus Day, I sent the following to both the Jill Long-Thompson and Jim Schellinger campaigns. Neither has answered to this point. I sent a second request earlier today. I'll keep you posted.

To Jim:

Hi Jim,

It was a pleasure to meet you and Judy in South Bend on Monday. Although you folks indicated your publicity director would make contact with me, that didn't happen. So I decided to email you to follow up.

To Jill:

Hi Jill,

It was a pleasure to meet you last Monday. I was the guy who mentioned that I had tried to contact your campaign to verify (and publicize) your presence at the South Bend Dyngus Day events.

To Both:

Just a bit about me... I was a volunteer, blogger, and contributor for the John Edwards campaign for a bit over a year. The Campaign To Change America led me to a new kind of activism, and part of that had to do with the founding of the blog Progressives, South Bend

You had indicated a willingness to answer some questions for our readers. I'd like to start out with one in particular. After that, I can send one every now and then - or if you'd prefer - a short list you can deal with all at once. It makes no difference to me.

There is an effort to amend South Bend's Human Rights ordinance to provide protection from housing and work discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity - protections most of us already enjoy. Indianapolis adopted this policy around two years ago and our local proposal duplicates that language. Here is a summary we're offering potential endorsers:

Statement in Support of Amending South Bend's Human Rights Ordinance

I am signing this statement to encourage South Bend’s Common Council to amend the Human Rights Ordinance to extend to all individuals protection against discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation (heterosexual/ bisexual/lesbian/gay) or gender identity in the areas of housing, employment, education and public accommodations. Amending the Human Rights Ordinance would give individuals who believe they have been discriminated against on this basis the opportunity to turn to the South Bend Human Rights Commission for assistance.

Note: I understand that churches and religious organizations would be exempt from such an amendment if it conflicts with their beliefs.

So there are a couple of questions here.

1. Do you support our local effort?

2. Do you believe the state should have a similar policy?

Thank you in advance for your attention to this. I look forward to your reply.

Sincerely, Don Wheeler

"Stop Kiss" to be performed at St. Mary's College

April 2, 2008 (Notre Dame, Ind.)— Saint Mary’s College theater students will put on the production of the tragic comedy “Stop Kiss,” by playwright Diana Son, from April 10-13 in the Little Theater.

Son’s powerful script about two young women uses a powerful theatrical device of two converging timelines, alternating between the past and future with 23 short scenes. This has an engaging effect on audiences and presented challenges for the director, Associate Professor of Theater Katie Sullivan.

“The play’s unusual sequencing of events has quite a bit to do with the strong impact the play has on an audience. It is sophisticated in this regard, not formulaic,” she said.

Sullivan says the play has two strong female roles, which is hard to find in a script, and appealing to a theater instructor when your students are all female. “I am always looking for a play which features great roles for women. I am interested in supporting women playwrights, and I am particularly interested in contemporary plays which have been received well by the larger theatrical and literary community,” Sullivan said.

Stop Kiss has a mature theme and strong language and is not intended for children or youth. The play will be performed by students in Little Theater on April 10-12 at 7:30 p.m., and on April 13 at 2:30 p.m. Admission is $10 for adults, $8 for senior citizens, $7 for Saint Mary’s College, University of Notre Dame or Holy Cross College faculty and staff and $5 for Saint Mary’s College, University of Notre Dame or Holy Cross College students.

For box office information, go to

It's Christmas next Saturday

by Don Wheeler

On Saturday April 12, South Bend's Rebuilding Together Work Day will be held in a neighborhood on the northwest side. Our effort will be part of a nation-wide program involving approximately 250,000 volunteers rehabbing almost 8,000 houses and community centers.

Many years ago, while living on the south side of town, I noticed the sudden appearance of port-a-potties in scattered locations in the neighborhood. The following Saturday, the neighborhood was suddenly swarming with people cleaning, painting, fixing things, etc. This was my introduction to what was then called "Christmas In April".

Over the years since then, though I'd been involved with Habitat For Humanity projects locally, I had never gotten around to pitching in on this program - until last year, that is.

The John Edwards Campaign To Change America featured an organization called One Corps. One Corps was the social action component of the campaign, with chapters nation-wide. By early last spring I was a co-captain of our local chapter - One America for St. Joseph County - and this event seemed like a natural fit.

I discovered the opportunity kind of at the last minute, so we didn't get too many folks out to it. But I spent the day helping work on a home near Lincoln Primary Center. It was a lot of fun and rewarding to help someone out.

I have a lot of experience coordinating projects and quite a bit of renovation experience as well, so I thought I should check to see if Rebuilding Together had use for any new House Captains this year. Turns out that they did - and they chose to assign a home they felt was less challenging than some others for my first effort.

The two major tasks to be addressed will be reglazing windows (original to the home) and tearing down and replacing a wooden privacy fence in the back. There are few other minor repairs and some stuff to haul out of the basement. There are two other project homes nearby, so we'll be able to shift volunteers where they're needed most .

Anyone interested in rebuilding together - helping people in need and the community as a whole - can simply report to the command center at LaSalle Intermediate Center. Plan to be there by 8:00 AM. Lunch is furnished and generally the work day is not particularly long. Or, if you'd like to join in on my house, you can contact me directly at .

Lest we forget Habeas Corpus

As part of the Countdown 5th anniversary, voters elected this topic as number one. (Hosted by Rachel Madow of Air America fame).

And just to put the exclamation point on it, here is Keith Olbermann's Special Comment on the topic - my first exposure to the man and his program. The headline on my AOL screen that day was something like "Has Keith Olbermann gone too far this time?"

I'm guessing I'm not the only person not to have heard of Keith Olbermann before then. I made sure to hear a lot from him since then.

His "Special Comment" may have been a bit over the top; but it certainly did not go too far.

Thanks AOL, I guess you're good for something.

Dem Gov hopefuls release commercials

Both Jim Schellinger and Jill Long-Thompson have recently released campaign ads. Ms. Long-Thompson's ad is below.

Mr. Schellinger's ad was not available at his website, but I've posted a link to campaign videos of his. (His campaign doesn't offer links to individual pieces).

Friday, April 4, 2008

Resistance is futile...

by Don Wheeler

"resistance is futile - you will be assimilated"
-- the Borg

This attitude has been assimilated by many supporters and minions of Senator Barack Obama - though not by the candidate himself.

It is reminiscent of significant number of John Edwards supporters, when he very clearly left the race. These folks didn't believe him, or thought he could be coaxed back, or something. Likewise, this particular group of Obama folks don't seem to believe or honor their guy when he says clearly that Hillary Clinton should stay in the race.

Instead, through scolding, sarcasm. preaching, lecturing etc. they make it plain that they know what's best for us, the Democratic Party and the country. It's all quite condescending, and therefor, insulting.

This will be the first contested Presidential Primary in Indiana since 1968. Yet it seems there are those who wish to deny us our rare opportunity to actually weigh in on the matter. In so doing, they would also deny us a small bump in economic activity, which naturally accompanies major campaigns. Why?

One claim is that Barack Obama is already the nominal nominee - all that follows is mere formality.

If that's the case, then do what successful sports teams do in this situation - run out the clock.

What's more likely to be at work here is a preemptive paranoia about a "brokered convention".

Senator Obama will not go to the convention with enough pledged delegates to win a first round nomination. His roughly ten percent lead in pledged delegates (over Sen. Clinton) looks like a safe cushion and though Ms. Clinton could surpass him in the popular vote in theory, popular vote total is merely an interesting footnote in the process. So although Mr. Obama is in a superior position, the convention will be brokered in some sense and in any case.

A lot of these folks want to short circuit the process and claim that superdelegates have no role other than to rubber stamp the wishes of the plurality. This claim is to stare reality in the face and deny it.

The superdelegate concept was designed to deal with situations like this and we really haven't tested it since its inception. One can reasonably argue it's a bad idea, but one cannot reasonably argue it doesn't exist. So we might as well take it out for a spin and see what it will do.

And here's the most ludicrous claim: Hillary Clinton is coming up with negative observations of Mr. Obama the Republicans never would have come up with on their own. At least, that seems the implication.

I guess I'm naive, but I don't think Mud, Dirt and Mayhem, Inc. is counting on any of us for their material. Besides which, Mr. McCain is mighty fat target of his own.

The real irony is that this campaign of paranoia could become self-fulfilling.

I'd suggest we relax, let events play out, and get ready for a vigorous fall campaign.

Voodoo Health Economics

by Paul Krugman
New York Times

Elizabeth Edwards has cancer. John McCain has had cancer in the past. Last weekend, Mrs. Edwards bluntly pointed out that neither of them would be able to get insurance under Mr. McCain’s health care plan.

It’s about time someone said that and, more generally, made the case that Mr. McCain’s approach to health care is based on voodoo economics — not the supply-side voodoo that claims that cutting taxes increases revenues (though Mr. McCain says that, too), but the equally foolish claim, refuted by all available evidence, that the magic of the marketplace can produce cheap health care for everyone.

As Mrs. Edwards pointed out, the McCain health plan would do nothing to prevent insurance companies from denying coverage to those, like her and Mr. McCain, who have pre-existing medical conditions.

The McCain campaign’s response was condescending and dismissive — a statement that Mrs. Edwards doesn’t understand the comprehensive nature of the senator’s approach, which would harness “the power of competition to produce greater coverage for Americans,” reducing costs so that even people with pre-existing conditions could afford care.

This is nonsense on multiple levels.

For one thing, even if you buy the premise that competition would reduce health care costs, the idea that it could cut costs enough to make insurance affordable for Americans with a history of cancer or other major diseases is sheer fantasy.

Beyond that, there’s no reason to believe in these alleged cost reductions. Insurance companies do try to hold down “medical losses” — the industry’s term for what happens when an insurer actually ends up having to honor its promises by paying a client’s medical bills. But they don’t do this by promoting cost-effective medical care.

Instead, they hold down costs by only covering healthy people, screening out those who need coverage the most — which was exactly the point Mrs. Edwards was making. They also deny as many claims as possible, forcing doctors and hospitals to spend large sums fighting to get paid.

And the international evidence on health care costs is overwhelming: the United States has the most privatized system, with the most market competition — and it also has by far the highest health care costs in the world.
Yet the McCain health plan — actually a set of bullet points on the campaign’s Web site — is entirely based on blind faith that competition among private insurers will solve all problems.

I’d like to single out one of these bullet points in particular — the first substantive proposal Mr. McCain offers (the preceding entries are nothing but feel-good boilerplate).

As I’ve mentioned in past columns, the Veterans Health Administration is one of the few clear American success stories in the struggle to contain health care costs. Since it was reformed during the Clinton years, the V.A. has used the fact that it’s an integrated system — a system that takes long-term responsibility for its clients’ health — to deliver an impressive combination of high-quality care and low costs. It has also taken the lead in the use of information technology, which has both saved money and reduced medical errors.

Sure enough, Mr. McCain wants to privatize and, in effect, dismantle the V.A. Naturally, this destructive agenda comes wrapped in the flag: “America’s veterans have fought for our freedom,” says the McCain Web site. “We should give them freedom to choose to carry their V.A. dollars to a provider that gives them the timely care at high quality and in the best location.”

That’s a recipe for having healthy veterans drop out of the system, undermining its integrated nature and draining away resources.

Mr. McCain, then, is offering a completely wrongheaded approach to health care. But the way the campaign for the Democratic nomination has unfolded raises questions about how effective his eventual opponent will be in making that point.

Indeed, while Mrs. Edwards focused her criticism on Mr. McCain, she also made it clear that she prefers Hillary Clinton’s approach — “Sen. Clinton’s plan is a great plan” — to Barack Obama’s. The Clinton plan closely resembles the plan for universal coverage that John Edwards laid out more than a year ago. By contrast, Mr. Obama offers a watered-down plan that falls short of universality, and it would have higher costs per person covered.

Worse yet, Mr. Obama attacked his Democratic rivals’ health plans using conservative talking points about choice and the evil of having the government tell you what to do. That’s going to make it hard — if he is the nominee — to refute Mr. McCain when he makes similar arguments on behalf of such things as privatizing veterans’ care.

Still, health care ought to be a major issue in this campaign. I wonder if we’ll have time to discuss it after we deal with more important subjects, like bowling and basketball.

Satirists in Iraq?

by Emily Litella

What's all this fuss I keep hearing about - satirists in Iraq?

Everyone seems to be so worked up about them!

When I worked on Saturday Night Live, satirists were very important in creating the show. But nobody worried about them particularly.

I guess they must be a lot more important in Iraq, and they must be doing a bad job in some way. Maybe they aren't funny enough.

Oh well.

Thursday, April 3, 2008

On Confusion, Or, What’s The Point?

As has been indicated before in this space, I am far too addicted to television…and most of the time, even when the sound is off it’s still there to be seen.

But it’s so often confusing.
Here’s an example:

There is an ad running these days for a product called “extend” or “super grow” or “bigs a lot” or whatever the heck it’s called…and while the ad takes great pains to tell us that it can cause a “certain part” of the body to grow larger—it never exactly tells us which part they’re talking about.

Clearly, there are some body parts that it might make sense for someone to enlarge; but the commercial is so vague I just can’t tell what they’re getting at.

It’s that sort of confusion that drives today story…so come along and we’ll pursue the question of what a “make it bigger” product might actually do…and more.

So what body parts might this very confusing product affect?
There are a few that it would seem logical to enlarge:

Eyelashes, for example. It makes perfect sense, considering the amount of mascara a woman might use in a lifetime (and the time spent applying same) to be able to just take a pill and have larger eyelashes…but the fact that the product seems to be directed to men throws that theory right out the window.

Same with hair—men usually don’t use products that would “extend” the hair.

A bigger nose? Illogical indeed.

A product to extend muscle development…like a “Mega Mass” in pill form? I am leaning toward that theory—but there’s one other possibility that I’m mulling over, and it’s actually my leading contender for “most likely theory” at the moment.

Hands and feet.
Why, you ask, would anyone want to extend the size of their hands and feet?

At first this might seem weird, but work with me for a moment. Many of you might be familiar with the “old wives tale” that says a man with large hands and feet also has a large…well, you know.

And I think that’s what this product is intended to do—to make men’s hands and feet larger so that women (and perhaps, the occasional interested man) will think the user has a larger penis.

And speaking of confusion…am I the only one confused as to why Hillary is still in this race? And if she’s going to remain in the race, why is she running a campaign that looks more like Strom Thurman’s 1948 failed Presidential bid…or the campaign that McCain’s Vice President might run?

Seriously, Hillary, with the effort you’ve put forth to compliment McCain at the expense of Obama you’re starting to make even Mitt Romney and Charlie Crist nervous that the VP nomination might be ought of their reach.

It was bad enough when you felt entitled to a Democratic nomination; but the idea that you’re entitled to be nominated by whatever party will nominate you, for whatever spot on the ticket you can get…it really raises the “eewwwww factor”.

What are you thinking? That your only path to the Presidency is to ascend to the office upon the declaration of McCain’s incompetence?

Of course, as so many will point out, she has every right to run…but who cares?

I mean, let’s face it Hillary, I have a right to run too…and I could presumably also try to base my campaign on latent racism and an appeal to a long gone past…but wouldn’t that make me just another Republican, like Trent Lott, George Allen, and…lately, you?

The only thing missing from the picture would be for you to run a campaign ad (that is, if you could afford it) with a Christmas tree and a Cross in prominent view as you angle for the evangelical vote—and it wouldn’t surprise me at this point if she tries such a move.

I can already hear the response: “We must count every vote…then count states who broke the rules…then count electoral votes…then count only voters who voted for Clinton before…and if that doesn’t work, we’ll only count my vote—because I know what’s good for all those fools who voted for Obama, even if they don’t.”

It would have been different if you had cast yourself as better on issues than Obama—in fact, even now you could change the tone of the contest…something that would improve the standing of your campaign (and legacy—and future)…but that strategy won’t get you a victory, will it?

And as we are now well aware, you will do anything to win, no matter what that victory means to yourself—or the Democratic Party.

Which brings us to the big finish:

There is a choice to be made by our dear Hillary “at this juncture”. She can continue to pursue what is more and more looking like a “scorched earth” strategy—and if she gets lucky, McCain might just run with her as a VP.

Or she can “extend” her future in Democratic politics by extending her vision beyond the proverbial hood of her car…by, instead, looking farther down the road—where lots more elections lie ahead, and where a future as a Senate Majority Leader or Governor might still be possible.

Obscene amounts of fund-raising, from anonymous sources, for a future Hillary Presidential library?

Maybe not so much.

Edwards on Clinton and Obama

Former presidential candidate John Edwards makes his first public speech since ending his campaign. (Video courtesy of CNN).

South Bend Community Monologues


Saturday, April 19th at 7 pm
Bendix Theatre in Century Center
Downtown South Bend

South Bend Community Monologues

The “South Bend Community Monologues” will rock the South Bend community, bringing to life the true stories of local women who have bravely and anonymously shared their own intimate experiences. Some of the stories are tender and heartwarming. Some are amusing. Some are inspiring. Others are heart wrenching. Each monologue is written anonymously by a member of our own community and performed by another local woman. Come to support our local women in this courageous endeavor to address issues neglected for far too long: Break the Silence to End the Violence!

This April 19th production brings together a range of pieces from the Michiana Monologues and the Saint Mary's College Monologues in order to educate and entertain.

All proceeds will go to support the YWCA of St. Joseph County and SOS of the Madison Center.

Come early to enjoy information tables on women’s health and wellness!

Ticket Info

All tickets $10, general admission

Advance tickets on sale at CircaArts, The Beehive, Lula’s and Chicory CafĂ©.

Advance tickets also available from April Lidinsky (IUSB): 574-520-4528 or

Catherine Pittman (SMC) 574-284-4533.

Tickets will be available at the door.

Advertising / Sponsors

We are asking you to be a part of this historic moment by taking out an advertisement in our program. We expect this production to reach hundreds of people, and aim to raise thousands of dollars for the YWCA and SOS, agencies in need of financial support that are crucial to the lives of women and children in our community.

If you choose to take out an advertisement, you have two options. A business card size ad costs $50. To have your name appear in the program as a sponsor is $25. Contact April Lidinsky at or 574-520-4528 for more information. You may mail ad copy and a check made out to V-Club IUSB to: Professor April Lidinsky, IU South Bend, 2257 Wiekamp Hall, 1700 Mishawaka Ave, PO Box 7111, South Bend, IN 46634. Ads due to Dr. Lidinsky by April 14.

For more information please contact April Lidinsky, Faculty Adviser to IUSB’s “Michiana Monologues, or Catherine Pittman, Faculty Adviser to Saint Mary’s College’s “SMC Monologues.”

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Admission of incompetence by Bush administration on 9/11/2001?

Attorney General Robert Mukasey appears to confirm the Bush administration was asleep at the switch on 9/11.

From MSNBC's Countdown:

Obama Speech Fails to Assuage White Indiana Voters

So states a report from Bloomberg news.

From the article:

To be sure, this flies in the face of most polls taken after Obama's widely
praised March 18 speech on race and the Wright controversy. In a March 30 Gallup
survey, he had widened his lead over Clinton among Democratic voters to 10
points. A week earlier, he was also up 10 points in a Pew Research poll. ...

Still, there are stirrings of unease among white voters, including those
who fear the issue will hurt Obama in a general election. Pew also found that 39
percent of all white voters who had heard of the controversy, including
Republicans and independents, said it made them less favorable toward Obama.

John Friend, an uncommitted Democrat and Evansville city councilman, said
Republicans may use Obama's ties to the pastor much in the same way they
attacked Democratic candidate John Kerry's patriotism
in 2004.

"It's going to be like the Swift Boat thing,'' Friend said.

Last month, excerpts of sermons in which Wright is heard saying ``God damn
America'' and ``U.S. of KKKA'' were broadcast on television and distributed over
the Internet. In response, Obama delivered what his aides billed as a major
address on race on March 18 in which he condemned the remarks.

That didn't repair the damage for some white voters, said Trent Van
Haaften, an Indiana state representative from Mount Vernon who is backing

Full story:

Read David Sirora's Credo (Action) Commentary about Rev. Wright and the controversey here.

Tuesday, April 1, 2008

It's Christmas in April

by Don Wheeler

At least it used to be called that.

Several years ago the Christmas In April program affiliated itself with a nationwide event - Rebuilding Together. Here's a bit of background from the House Captain Handbook:

Rebuilding Together is devoted to the repair and rehabilitation of the homes of low-income, elderly, or disabled homeowners. The approach is simple: months of planning and preparation culminate in a National Rebuilding Day - when volunteers, both skilled and unskilled, in communities across America come together to repair and rehabilitate the houses of needy residents in their community.

Rebuilding Together performs most types of work on the homes of its beneficiaries, including carpentry, painting, plumbing, electrical, roofing, weather stripping, trash removal, and cleaning. Our goal is to leave each home safe, warm and dry. The program aids to add a bit of joy and dignity into the lives of the homeowners.

Volunteers do not need to be skilled in home repair, but any skills will be well utilized. Numerous community-minded organizations participate in Rebuilding Together, donating skilled help, as well
as trucks and tools. Without such skilled workers, many of the repairs could not be undertaken.

All repairs are paid for by Rebuilding Together.Homeowners are not expected to pay for services provided. They are asked, if able, to work with us on Rebuilding Together Day. Rebuilding Together receives money from churches, business, corporations, foundations, associations, and individuals. All donations are tax deductible. Rebuilding Together has affiliates in hundreds of communities across

Here's the national website:

The local angle:

Christmas In April - St. Joseph County began in 1989. In August of 2002, its Board of Directors voted to change the organizations name to Rebuilding Together, St. Joseph County. The name change
aligned the local effort with the national program and better reflects its mission of a community working together to rebuild neighborhoods.

In its history, the Rebuilding Together with Christmas in April program has had over 34,000
volunteers donating their time and skills, worth millions of dollars in market value, to rehabilitate 721 homes in South Bend. Rebuilding Together has worked in neighborhoods across the city.

The Rebuilding Together program succeeds based on its partnerships. Program funding and donations, in terms of volunteer hours, materials, and money, come from the City of South Bend; the St. Joseph Valley Building and Construction Trades Council; other trade contractors; the Home Builders Association; local businesses, churches, and synagogues; students from The University of Notre Dame, St. Mary's College, Holy Cross College, Bethel College, and Indiana University - South Bend; and from the community at large.

This is a nice story about Us. And it's a really big deal -judging from how many people keep it going locally.

The tradition here is that most of the trade work is done a week prior to the main volunteer day. This year Saturday April 5 has been designated for that, with April 12 as the large group work day.

There are something in excess of 25 homes located on northwest side, north of Lincolnway which will be involved in the event this year. These were picked from a much larger number of applicants for the program.

Jeff Young inspects all potential Rebuilding Together properties and homeowners. He mentioned to me that it (the selection process) sometimes is a bit tricky. You want to work in situations where the work will have a lasting benefit and the homeowners need to meet the qualifications for the program.

In a later conversation, Jeff pointed out that we only have this huge workforce for one day - there is no rain date - and everyone needs to be clear about that.

Soon I'll explain my impressions about and experience with (highly limited) the program, how I got involved, and about the project for which I will be House Captain.

Oh, and I'll ask you to join me.

From the Onion: The most important issue to voters is...

Poll: Bullshit Is Most Important Issue For 2008 Voters