And then dance and drink and screw, because there’s nothing else to do…

The lovely harlana notes that:

Ordinary people have sacrificed enough already. Come on! I saw 2 people on the blog last nite who have recently lost their jobs. I really wish we could have an open thread for that, for their stories, nobody around here seems interested.

I don’t know very much about struggle and hardship (not least because I’m imaginary), but I am happy to admit that in a week when London is burning, stockbrokers are behaving like Michele Bachmann in a k-hole, and thousands of Somali children starved to death, listening to those in our little community who are having hard times is much more worthwhile than yet another post about Sullivan or McArdle or Brooks.

Have at it.

ETA: Via Arguingwithsignposts:

The Slacktivist does this, I just noticed. Here’s his post format:

Job seekers: Let us know where you are and what you’re looking for.

Everybody: Skim through and see if you know something, or know someone, or know someone who knows someone, who might help out one of our job seekers.

Duly stolen. And yes, feel free to mention friends or family.

[Image: David Vinckbooms (1576-1632) – Distribution of Loaves to the Poor.]








credit where due

I’ve been criticized for failing to recognize the liberal victories of the Obama administration, and it’s a well-taken criticism. Here’s a good piece from NPR that highlights the Obama administration’s considerable and righteous efforts to make the American federal judiciary a more diverse institution. A justice system can only remain truly fair and impartial if it is made up of professionals who accurately reflect the composition of the nation. The Obama administration has to be commended for making this a priority.

Of course, there’s a Republican dicknose concern trolling.

“The Obama administration doesn’t have a coherent judicial philosophy so it’s not surprising that it’s falling back on diversity, which I think it sees among other things as appealing to its various political constituencies,” says Ed Whelan, a prominent conservative who used to work in the George W. Bush Justice Department.

Unless, of course, you happen to think that increasing diversity to be better representative of this country is a coherent judicial philosophy. That equality under the law was denied to so many classes of people for so long doesn’t change the fact that centuries of jurisprudence have proven the value and inherent justice of giving all constituents adequate representation among the judicial class. This kind of statement is classic GOP dreck, by the way; the idea that democratic republics such as ours have a legitimate interest in promoting the cause of equal representation is just dismissed out of hand. It’s got to be playing to political constituencies, the dread “special interests” that are code for “anybody Republicans don’t like.”

Note that the same Bush administration tool expresses the really important takeaway, to my mind: there is more diversity in large part because “There’s a much bigger pool of minority candidates with lots of legal experience….” It’s depressing, but not surprising, that he can’t see the disconnect here. There’s a much bigger pool of minority candidates with lots of legal experience precisely because of efforts like the one Obama is undertaking. Diversity breeds diversity. Years of affirmative action and other policies designed to give opportunities to underrepresented groups at all levels– law school, clerkships, in DA and public defender offices– have led directly to talented and experience minority candidates who can fill these vacancies and make the courtroom a more equal and fair institution.

Why, you might even say that those programs are helping America to more fully embody its best commitments.








Open Thread – Hey, Teacher! Leave our tags alone

Cupid Chastised - Bartolomeo Manfredi (1582-1622)

And for the love of fucking christ, can you other front pagers stop making stupid fucking categories you only use once?

I don’t know what you’re so grumpy about, Mr Cole.

Isn’t the world a better place for the #notintendedtobeafactualstatement tag category?

And “Sweet Fancy Moses!” makes me laugh every time I see it.

But then, I still don’t have my name in the Contact list, so what do I know?

btw – Open Thread.

Note: No new tags categories were created for the purposes of this post.

[Image: Cupid Chastised – Bartolomeo Manfredi (1582-1622)]



Vermont and Washington are also far apart

I’ve been looking into Vermont’s brand new single-payer health care law.(pdf). I’ll just pick out some highlights:

As provided in Sec. 4 of this act, upon receipt by the state of necessary waivers from federal law, all Vermont residents shall be eligible for Green Mountain Care, a universal health care program that will provide health benefits through a single payment system. To the maximum extent allowable under federal law and waivers from federal law, Green Mountain Care shall include health coverage provided under the health benefit exchange established under chapter 18, subchapter 1 of Title 33; under Medicaid; under Medicare; by employers that choose to participate; and to state employees and municipal employees.

The board shall negotiate payment amounts with health care
professionals, manufacturers of prescribed products, medical supply
companies, and other companies providing health services or health supplies in order to have a consistent reimbursement amount accepted by these persons.

Read the whole thing or just the good parts. It’s like liberal policy porn.

Maybe we can do a group analysis of the law here, because we don’t hear a lot from (sitting) liberal governors. There are apparently four available lots for rent on the valuable real estate that is commercial news, and those lots are reserved for Mitch Daniels, Scott Walker, John Kasich or Chris Christie.

The state-level policy debate stretches all the way from far Right in Indiana to far Right in New Jersey. In terms of geography it’s broad, I guess. Can anyone deny that Indiana is many miles from New Jersey? There you go. The media defense rests.

Reading the Vermont law, I think of Bernie Sanders. When I think of Bernie Sanders I think of community health centers. I’ve described my great experience with a community health center before. But I relied on a county community health center for affordable, sliding-scale fee pre-natal care (a long time ago). Mine wasn’t a federally qualified community health center. At the time I knew nothing of these distinctions, but I did know this was the only primary care provider that would take me because I looked.

This is the definition of a federally qualified community health center:

non-profit, community-directed providers that remove common barriers to care by serving communities who otherwise confront financial, geographic, language, cultural and other barriers. Also known as Federally-Qualified Health Centers (FQHCs), they: are located in high-need areas identified as having elevated poverty, higher than average infant mortality, and where few physicians practice; are open to all residents, regardless of insurance status or ability to pay; tailor services to fit the special needs and priorities of their communities, provide comprehensive primary and other health care services; provide high quality care, reducing costly emergency, hospital, and specialty care, and saving the health care system $24 billion a year nationally.

40% of the low-income uninsured in Vermont rely on a federally supported non-profit community health center for basic health care, now, today. Compare with Texas (12%), or Ohio (14%) or California (25%). Then compare with Washington. 47%. Take a look at all the states.

Is an existing non-profit or public primary care delivery system a good prerequisite to a universal single-payer payment mechanism? Or, does an existing non-profit or public primary care delivery system make a transition to a universal single-payer mechanism more likely?

I’d add the caveat I began with: federally supported community health centers are not the only non-profit or public health care provider. Looking at the percentage of uninsured who rely on this provider may be misleading. Perhaps Texas, for example, has a great network of county health department centers that aren’t (directly) established at the federal level. Of course we know that all health care delivery in the U.S., public or private, is federally supported one way or another, despite the persistent libertarian fantasies of media and conservatives.

Here’s where you can find a federally-funded community health center, if you’re looking for one.



The Sad Long Life of David Brooks

An Arab and his Dogs - Jean-Leon Gerome (1824-1904)

Yesterday I posted a link to David Brooks’ most recent magnum vomitus in which he referenced an article by Dudley Clendinen called “The Good Short Life”. Clendinen’s article is a beautiful, brutal, prickly and funny thing, which you should read immediately, if you have not yet had the pleasure. It will be the best thing you read all day.

Then, if you will, come back and I’ll dare to append some of my own poor scribblings. And a bit of ranting about David Brooks. There will be swearing and David Brooks’s writing may even be compared in a very insulting fashion to baked goods.

Off you go.

See what I mean? That’s the sort of extraordinary writing that David Brooks will never succeed in producing – because the Clendinen article is written by a fine, honorable and self-aware human being and David Brooks’ articles are written by … well, by David Brooks.

I have never met Mister Clendinen, and it saddens me that I almost certainly won’t have the chance to know him. I wish him much joy of the time he has left, much dancing and much walking of dogs, and a quiet and happy death.

On the other hand, David Brooks is a person I would move continents to avoid. While I wish him a long life and little pain – because that is the decent thing to wish for anyone, no matter how morally bankrupt and intellectually turnip-like they may be – I don’t say I wouldn’t be happy if he was to suffer a little accident which removed his ability to write, such as it is. To be frank, I’d probably open a bottle of champagne to celebrate, but it’s generally not something I actively wish for. Actually, if I’m brutally honest, I will admit that rereading both articles made me angry, and that there were moments where I allowed myself to imagine graphic acts of violence against Mr Brooks, but that’s as far as it went, I promise. It was something lingering involving two kilos of anchovies in his pants and an hungry petrel, I seem to recall.

Most satisfying. Very Tippi Hedren. Read more



Now that he’s admitted it, and he’s the secretary of state, doesn’t he have to do something to prevent it?

Finally:

The Ohio state Senate was set to consider this week what critics are calling the most restrictive voter identification law in the country. The push for restrictive voter ID measures in the Buckeye state is part of a trend of similar legislation sweeping Republican-controlled legislatures across the country. But Ohio’s measure is so restrictive — it requires the photo IDs to be issued by the state, so voters couldn’t identify themselves with their full Social Security numbers — that it lost the support of Republican Secretary of State Jon Husted.

“I want to be perfectly clear, when I began working with the General Assembly to improve Ohio’s elections system it was never my intent to reject valid votes,” Husted said in a short statement posted on his official website.

“I would rather have no bill than one with a rigid photo identification provision that does little to protect against fraud and excludes legally registered voters’ ballots from counting,” Husted said.

“I do not believe this is in any way a voter suppression issue,” said Tom Niehaus, the Republican President of the Senate. “This is about maintaining the integrity of the voting process.”

The Ohio Secretary of State is now admitting this legislation will “exclude legally registered voter’s ballots from counting”. He’s also denying it was ever his intent to “reject valid votes”. The GOP majority leader is denying “voter suppression”. He “does not believe” this is a voter suppression attempt. Finally. After 10 years of absolute bullshit on voter impersonation fraud, we’re getting down to what’s really going on here.

Don’t get too excited about Secretary of State Husted’s sudden and mystifying attack of conscience. He doesn’t have a great record, and he’s only been in office since January. His behavior in a 2011 case involving provisional ballots doesn’t inspire confidence. Second class (provisional) ballots are less likely to be counted, because provisional ballots introduce an element of pollworker, election employee, and election official discretion that just doesn’t come into play with a first class ballot. The chaotic mess that resulted when a close 2010 Ohio judicial race went to recount (that I’ve described below) is a good example of that.

Briefly, there was a very close race for juvenile judge in a county in Ohio in 2010. The results turned on whether provisional ballots were to be reviewed or excluded. The voters involved cast their provisional ballots correctly but due to pollworker error, those second class “provisional” ballots were accepted at the wrong precinct table. Hundreds of provisional ballots were thrown into question, and they came out of majority Democratic precincts.

It went to court, where conservatives won the right to exclude provisional ballots in the state supreme court. A federal court disagreed, and ordered that a review be conducted to determine whether the votes could be counted. Secretary Husted cast the tie-breaker vote to appeal that federal court decision. The case is complex. It now involves advocates for voters relying on Bush v. Gore – which is always amusing, in a bitter, sad way- to use that absolute piece of garbage decision against conservatives, and it goes on from where I stopped. You may read the details here, here and here.

Provisional ballots were the fail-safe, the back-up, and we were assured by conservative lawyers and judges that the provisional balloting process would prevent the disenfranchisement of valid voters. But provisional balloting is complicated- it involves several additional steps, more than one piece of paper, and lots and lots of pollworker instructions to the voter. Each step introduces the possibility of voter error, pollworker error, or a blatantly partisan discretionary call by an elections official or employee. The supposed “fail-safe” conservatives assured us would protect voting rights doesn’t work as intended, and in truth introduces a whole new set of problems.

If you want to see how bad it can get for voters who are shunted to a second-class ballot, follow the links above and wade through the thousands of pages of legal filings that resulted from one county court judicial race. Each one of those provisional ballots represents a voter, and each and every one of those voters is now at risk of having their vote thrown out, in a race that turned on a 23 vote difference. Every voter that entered that polling place has the right to assume their vote will be treated in a fair and equitable manner, and that’s not happening. Instead, we have a viciously partisan battle that has (so far) involved 4 courts and three conflicting decisions. And, what about the voters who had the misfortune to cast those second class ballots? Where are they in all this? Long forgotten. They don’t matter.

Every time I write about voting rights I get comments asking what Democrats or liberals are doing in states like Ohio to protect voters. There is a conference call for voting enthusiasts scheduled on July 15th, here in Ohio, and, as I mentioned, Vice President Biden raised the issue when he addressed Ohio Democrats last weekend. So, it’s on the radar and there will be a plan to help qualified voters get and vote a first class ballot. How well the plan will work, and how many legitimate votes by disfavored groups will be excluded, I do not know. Conservatives are constantly changing the rules, and it’s always a challenge to keep up with their endlessly creative and novel interpretations of what’s required to vote and have the vote counted.



Go back to where you came from

Over the last few days I have been privileged, by means of my various international connections, to have watched a reality TV show called “Go back to where you came from”, which has recently been broadcast over three consecutive nights on the Australian television channel SBS. (You probably won’t be able to watch the show at that link, but there is a massive amount of background information available.)

Immigration issues have been a matter of significant debate in Australia in one form or another since the 18th century. However, the debate is particularly heated in the context of what are called “boat people”.

The first boat people – an unauthorized boat carrying five Indochinese men – arrived in northern Australia in 1976, and was followed by a further 2059 Vietnamese refugees arriving by boat over the next five years. There was a further wave of predominantly Indochinese refugees from 1989 to 1998 at the rate of about 300 people per year. Since 1999, however, boat people arriving in Australia have been predominantly (and unsurprisingly) from the Middle East. It is worth noting that boat people have never made up more than a tiny percentage of migrants (or even refugees) reaching Australia.

Public reaction to boat people has been extremely polarized. The refugee issue was used successfully by the conservative Liberal government as a wedge issue in at least one election, finally resulting in the implementation of the so called “Pacific Solution” where boat people were prevented from landing on the Australian mainland (where they would have rights under the UNHRC rules) and instead were transported to detention camps on small island nations in the Pacific.

While these arrangements have come to an end, they seem in recent years to have been replaced by the “No One Has A Fucking Clue Solution”, and debate in Australia continues to rage.

In the SBS program, six ordinary (in some cases very ordinary) Australians were placed in the position of refugees, over 25 days retracing their steps backwards from Australia to the source countries of many refugees.
Read more