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Friday, April 28, 2006

Busy again. But also, I haven't had any "I have to get this on paper" posts in me. So for those of you interested, here's a list of what folks are reading over at Daily Kos:

And from the "worlds collide" file, I'd like to give a shout out to the Soul Patrollers over at Gray Charles. Keep voting for Taylor Hicks, America!!

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 2:18 PM 3 comments
Wednesday, April 19, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos)

I am a CNN News junkie.  I know, I know - it's the so-called mainstream media and information is difficult to come by.  But given that I work partially from a home office, it is very easy to have CNN on in the background to catch any breaking news that might be intersting.

As such, I was watching Lou Dobbs last night.  He had a great panel - Randi Rhodes of Air America, Mark Simone of ABC, and James Mtume of KISS FM.  The panel was discussing whatever administration subject Lou threw its way.  Until they got to Randi Rhodes.

That's when my face went white.  Make the jump.

From the transcript:

Mtume and Rhodes are generally discussing whether or not Democrats laid down when challenged at various points.

MTUME: But we laid down, Randi. We laid down.

RHODES: ... I did not come here to be partisan. I came here today, Lou -- I swear to you -- I came here today to ask you to do something. Seriously! My callers -- my listeners -- yours, too, I'm sure -- always get to this point and they go, well, then, James, what do you want us to do? What do we do? What do we do?

If every single camera that's available in the media -- cable- wide, network-wide -- is not in Nevada at the nuclear test site on June 2nd to watch 1.4 millions pounds of explosives be blown up so they can do the math and figure out how to make a tactical nuke, a smaller nuclear weapon that will represent that much firepower for Iran -- if we don't show America this mushroom cloud that will explode in Nevada on the 2nd of June, there is no hope for the American people, there is no hope for the media.

You asked me last time I was here, Who's fault is it? And I said, "It's our fault; it's the media's fault." We have to tell this story. This president is manifestly insane. Donald Rumsfeld is insane.

My emphasis added.  I guess it's shame on me for not having heard about this test before Randi Rhodes dropped that particular bomb on Dobbs' show.  Believe me, if you read the transcript, it wasn't in context at all.  Rhodes just wanted to get it out there, to raise awareness, and raise it she did.

So I headed on over to Randi's website to get more information.  A little way down the home page I see this:

And the Josh "You Need Hands" Bolten/WH Staff Shakeup BS has cable news enthralled to the point that we're the only ones taking about Bush's nuclear simulation tests and the psychos behind them.

The first reference quoted is about Josh Bolten's hobby, which is taking and collecting pictures of Bush's HANDS - but I digress.  I needed to find out more about the second reference, which took me to GlobalSecurity.org.  A few highlights from the article:

The DIVINE STRAKE full scale test is planned to be a large-yield, buried burst detonated at the Nevada Test Site. Divine Strake would appear to be associated with the Robust Nuclear Earth Penetrator RNEP, or possibly the B61-11 Earth-Penetrating Weapon, a fact that is obscured in most press coverage. Divine Strake is a high-explosive (HE) test sponsored by the Defense Threat Reduction Agency (DTRA) at the Nevada Test Site (NTS).


DIVINE STRAKE is one of several "DIVINE" efforts under the Hard and Deeply Buried Target Defeat (HDBTD) program.


The US Department of Energy's (DOE) National Nuclear Security Administration (NNSA) proposes to provide a test bed to be used by DTRA [Defense Threat Reduction Agency] to conduct a single large scale, open air explosive detonation in Area 16 of the NTS. The proposed detonation, known as DIVINE STRAKE, would occur tentatively in mid 2006 above the existing U16b Tunnel Complex. DIVINE STRAKE would supply a relevant full scale simulation demonstration with a tunnel complex to create a post test underground environment sustaining light to severe damage.

Exqueeze me?  Baking powder?  Jesus Christ on a Crutch.  They're going to conduct a devastating test of what appears to be a nuclear bunker buster in Nevada in June.  Highly ironic is the timing, close on the heels of the leaked information about nuclear plans with Iran.

Randi literally begged Dobbs to show up with cameras.  This test is the WEEKEND BEFORE YearlyKos as it stands now, in NEVADA.  If the so-called mainstream media won't show, I would hope some Kossacks who already live in the vicinity will capture and spread this word.  This can't be ignored.  I'm no bastion of news currency (sometimes life gets in the way!) but I would definitely consider myself better informed than the average Joe or Jane.  I hadn't heard of this.  Do you think they have??

I also would urge a letter to the President, to Don Rumsfeld (as suggested with contact information via links found below), and your Senators as a good starting point to vehemently oppose this blatant move in the direction of nuclear proliferation.

Disclaimer: I did a tag search on Randi Rhodes, Lou Dobbs, nuclear test and Divine Strake.  Yesterday, Blissing posted this diary on the subject of Divine Strake, referencing WaPo and a few other sources, and it kind of slipped into oblivion.  Blissing has a contact link to Don Rumsfeld as well.  I haven't repeated Blissing's information here - head on over there and give it a read.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 1:07 PM 1 comments

I'm not the only person who has written here about Thomas Paine. I was, however, pretty surprised to see that only 8 diaries had been previously tagged with Paine's name. No matter - Paine is a great subject and the story I'm going to tell is relevant not only to politics today, but to you specifically, because you're reading this and it's posted on a blog.

This will be a multi-part diary series. I'll complete additional parts as time allows. Each diary will stand on its own, however. The ultimate goal is to illuminate - to bring home to each and every one of you the relevance of Thomas Paine to your lives especially, and to the lives of Americans generally.

This diary and the ones that will follow arise out of my reading of an excellent book - Thomas Paine and the Promise of America. Follow me after the fold.

I would not call myself a student of American History.  I was an all-around good student in both high school and college, however.  For me, this meant that I did very well in a lot of things rather than doing exceptionally well in one thing.  I suppose that explains why I didn't become a doctor.  I know all the high points of American History from right before there was an America to the present day.  I can name all the big marquis names and I had heard of Thomas Paine prior to starting the book.  My impression of him was neutral - I certainly knew that he played an integral part in the American revolution, though I don't know that I could have told you how or why.  At best, I believe I would have been able to speak very generally of his most famous revolutionary work, Common Sense.  That would have been about the limit of my discourse on Thomas Paine.

You see, I really had no idea of the political climate in the decade running up to the American Revolution.  Like most schools, there was a lot of history to learn and my American History class focused on the high points.  Dissatisfaction with England.  Uproar over taxes.  A bunch of tea dumped into Boston Harbor.  The midnight ride of Paul Revere.  War.  Washington crossing the Delaware.  Victory.  America.

Shameful, I know.  Even more frightening is the fact that I can name those events where most graduating high school seniors today cannot.  I find that now, in my 30s, and thanks to the guidance of people in real life and right here on this blog, I am becoming better acquainted with the nuance of American history.


My first eye-opener came when I finished the first part of the book on Thomas Paine.

I'm likely not educating anyone here - I am certain that there are historical experts among our ranks - but pre-revolution America was a citizenry divided.  There was the "stay the course" camp, those who did not want to break away from the English monarchy.  From the book, p. 39:

The lawyers, merchants, landowners, and planters who debated in the Continental Congress and the colonial assemblies argued spiritedly and often radically.  The classes they represented would effectively direct the American Revolution.  Yet if history had to wait solely upon their deliberations, the rebellion might never have become a war for independence.  Even if it had by the time they got around to proclaiming the United States of America, it might well have been too late. And likely it would never have become the world-history-shaping event that it did.

America's working classes - farmers, mechnics, laborers, seamen, servants, and slaves - would make the American Revolution a revolution.  They would not all realize their dreams, but they would power the struggle, materially, martially, and politically, indeed, at a most crucial moment, literally.  The Declaration of Independence, though drafted by a Virginia arisotocrat and edited by a committee of colonial gentlemen, issued from the force of Common Sense, authored by an immigrant workingman who would proudly describe himself as a "farmer of thoughts".

Over many pages the book explains how the "establishment", landowners and aristocrats, were hesitant to leave the monarchy.  As late as 1767, the colonial establishment, while enraged at the monarchy, held to the idea that its origins were "divine, natural and honorable".  With less than a decade to go before the Revolution would be realized, more people were behind demanding their rights within the colonial structure than from breaking away and starting their own representative structure.  I can't escape the modern-day parallel to the many "work within the system" diaries I have seen posted here and on other blogs.  Common Sense changed all of that.

If you haven't read it, click here for a version you can read online.  What should leap out at you and what leapt out to those in the days of its release as well as to all the historians reflecting on Paine's place in American history (for good or ill) was that it was written in a way that would appeal to all classes.  We all make use of the term "bloviating" when we refer to this Senator or that politician waxing poetic on some issue or another, without ever really saying anything.  Common Sense is the antithesis of bloviation.  He truly spoke truth to power and spoke it in such a way that it touched all elements of colonial society.  It was the first widely-dsitributed expression of "politics for the people" and it had its detractors in those who feared giving a political voice to those not already in the landowner aristocracy.

Common Sense was originally published and republished as a pamphlet and widely distributed throughout the colonies.  Those who couldn't read had it read to them.  It was a seed for change in the months before the Revolution, and one which, some historians argue, tipped the balance towards declaring outright independence.

This is not an historical retrospective.  The high level at which I have covered Thomas Paine up to his authoring of Common Sense is absurd.  There's so much more to be said by those who are expert here within this community as well as by historians with a depth of knowledge in the nine or so years I reference prior to the American Revolution.  My interest in Paine and his life as laid out in this book is in how it parallels what we, as Americans, face today.  With each of the diaries I plan to write I will give whatever minimum background is required for a basic understanding of the point or points I want to make.  This one is no different.

My Observations

Paine was a revolutionary who foresaw the promise of America - a promise that included all classes of people.  His particular gift was in being able to write in a way that spoke to the common, everyday person.  He seemed to know that Independence was what was required and that gaining that independence would necessitate a revolution.  He looked across the landscape of public sentiment as well as to the makeup of the colonies at the time in which he lived, and knew also that the revolution would be fought and won by the working classes.  He knew that it was to these people he had to appeal, and that's what he did.  He did this in the communications form common to his day - in a pamphlet.  He was a pamphleteer.

The blog is the modern-day equivalent to the pamphlet of Paine's era.  Those who write and comment and shape a community of opinion through blogging are not very different in this modern day than Thomas Paine was at the birth of our country.  The power that each of us holds - to inform, to pursuade, to agitate - is not far removed from the power Paine had in writing his seminal pamphlet.  The rumblings of dissatisfaction were present in Paine's day.  The outrage at the monarchial governance was growing.  The situation was literally a powder keg and Paine was a match.

Where is the spirit of Thomas Paine today?  I would submit that it's alive and well in the blogging community today.  Today, dissatisfaction exists in the general public.  A smaller subset is outraged.  The state of America, its politics and its citizens is a powder keg.  Which one of us will be the match?

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 1:05 PM 2 comments
Tuesday, April 18, 2006

Currently on the Recommended list at Daily Kos:

  1. Cheney's shady charitable contributions net $2 million refund - by clammyc
  2. More (unintentional) comedy from Bush - by Bob Johnson
  3. White House Egg roll: Another family's experience - by wclathe
  4. Evidence Bush Knowingly Deceived Congress in 2003 SOTU Violating USC 18 Sections 1001 And 371 - by HoundDog
  5. BREAKING : Carl Bernstein drops the atomic bomb on Bush !! - by Ghost of Frank Zappa
  6. Dionne: It's Bigger Than Rumsfeld - by MLDB
  7. WALL ST. JOURNAL columnist pleads for single payer health care! - by nyceve
  8. Mascots - by melvin

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 1:55 PM 2 comments
Thursday, April 13, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, My Left Wing and ePluribus Media.)

(I found the above cartoon at this wonderful blog. Give it some love.)

Most of my friends and family know that I am (ahem) highly critical of the POTUS. I get all kinds of emails forwarded to me along that line - cartoons, articles, you name it.

Earlier this week I got one from a friend who was a former supporter (mildly) of Bush but who has since changed his opinion. After the flip, a question about the Medicare drug bill, and Bush's priceless response. It's worth reading, so jump with me.

I'd like to give a big shout out to Street Kid who is consistently and tirelessly writing diaries on Medicare Part D with only marginal attention. It's worth your while to bookmark his/her stuff because it's all very timely and highly informational. I can't recommend his/her work on Medicare D strongly enough.

The email I received came without attribution so I searched dutifully through the White House speech files to find the appropriate reference, found after the quote. It was a dark and lonely place, was the White House website. Filled with confusing rhetoric, factual inaccuracies and bloviating talking points. But I knew I had to press onward to appropriately verify and source the quote I received.

One last interesting little tidbit. I had to search the text of various speeches and the word I used to search was 'problem' because it appeared in the original question. In the full speech linked below, Bush refers to the 'problem' 24 times. 24!!

Bush Explains Medicare Drug Bill -- Verbatim

WOMAN IN AUDIENCE: "I don't really understand... How is the new plan going to fix the problem?"

Verbatim response: PRESIDENT BUSH:

"Because the -- all which is on the table begins to address the big cost drivers. For example, how benefits are calculated, for example, is on the table. Whether or not benefits rise based upon wage increases or price increases. There's a series of parts of the formula that are being considered. And when you couple that, those different cost drivers, affecting those -- changing those with personal accounts, the idea is to get what has been promised more likely to be -- or closer delivered to that has been promised.

Does that make any sense to you? It's kind of muddled. Look, there's a series of th ings that cause the -- like, for example, benefits are calculated based upon the increase of wages, as opposed to the increase of prices. Some have suggested that we calculate -- the benefits will rise based upon inflation, supposed to wage increases. There is a reform that would help solve the red if that were put into effect. In other words, how fast benefits grow, how fast the promised benefits grow, if those -- if that growth is affected, it will help on the red."

The official transcript of the actual speech given on February 4 2006 as well as the Q&A can be found by clicking here.

After reading that, it seems to me that the real problem is that our President doesn't understand health care, prescription drugs, or human beings. Not news, I know - just an observation.

Thanks for reading!

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 10:58 AM 2 comments
Monday, April 10, 2006

(Cross-posted at Daily Kos, ePluribus Media, and My Left Wing)

As I begin this diary today I have to admit up-front that I'm not sure where it's going to go or whether it's going to make sense.

You see, this diary will likely follow the concerns I have on all sides of the immigration issue and I haven't found any comfortable answers to date. One side of the argument sparks contradictions for me and the same is true for the other side of the argument.

Perhaps I can learn by being open about my opinions on the immigration issue and all of you can help me wade through the truth and the rhetoric. Follow me over the hump.

First, some disclosure. I am the granddaughter of legal Mexican immigrants. I don't know the exact year that my grandparents came to the United States, but it was likely in the 1930s. This makes sense - from an article I found on Mexican immigration in the 1930's, Mexican-born immigration went from about 103,000 in 1930 to 1,400,000 in 1932. There are many reasons for that, but follow the link to read them - an historical focus is not my aim in this diary.

Suffice it to say that my grandparents came here legally and had their first son in 1939 followed by a second son (my natural father) in 1941. Neither of the boys spoke or speak Spanish to this day. My grandparents were all about becoming Americans. They wanted to fully participate in the American dream - they learned English, they spoke it exclusively, they worked hard and they raised two successful children - American children. I find myself often wondering how they would feel about the immigration debate as it exists today. I can only speculate as they have both long since passed on.

Also in the interest of disclosure - I am married to a legal immigrant from Canada. At the time that my husband was trying to obtain his green card and move to the United States, entry was far from easy. My husband had a variety of work visas prior obtaining his permanent resident alien status. As a working musician, he would receive visas for tours of a certain longish duration. Prior to an especially long tour, my husband had determined that he wanted to move permanently to the US as he moved towards marrying a US citizen (not me - I'm his second wife). During a long tour for which he had a valid work visa, he took advantage of a break lasting several days to return home to Toronto and visit his mother for her birthday. He had his briefcase on him when he went home, but had mistakenly left his work visa on the tour bus in the US. The briefcase contained a variety of applications and affadavits relating to his permanent resident application. The US Customs agent discovered this at the border and made the assumption that my husband was a risky individual - in other words, that given his intent to immigrate to the US, he would enter and not return within the proscribed period of time. He was stoppped cold at the border and had to retain a lawyer before being able to re-enter the US. All of this, while frustrating, was within the immigration laws of the US at the time and he was caught in the middle of them. He took the advice of his counsel and eventually won his passage to the US and married. It wasn't an easy process for him and it wasn't made easy by the laws - but they were the laws, and he followed them.

I, therefore, am a second-generation Mexican American married to a Canadian citizen with legal permanent resident alien status.

So let's press onward. I have been thinking about this issue to a greater or lesser extent since the town of Herndon here in suburban Virginia approved the construction of its day laborer center. This has received national attention. In a nutshell, we have a large Hispanic population in Herndon and Reston. In Herndon especially, overwhelmingly Hispanic day laborers would congregate at an area 7-11 and gas station to pick up daily work. The residents in the surrounding area were not happy about the traffic that this created, nor about the overall effect of a large group of Hispanic men hanging around a particular area. Herndon, then, decided to use its own tax money to construct a day laborer center in another area. This polarized the issue because the prevailing opinion is that many of these workers are undocumented. The prospect of spending tax dollars on a center designed to assist in finding work for undocumented laborers rubbed people the wrong way, and I can understand that.

The Hispanic component attending Herndon High School has increased steadily through last school year, ranging from 14.7% at the beginning of 2002 to 17.34% in June of 2005. The percentage of those identified as speaking limited English is 15.67% and the percentage of those receiving meal assistance is 19.74%. [Note: The 'limited English' and 'meal assistance' measures are not cross-referenced by ethnicity - they are applied to the total school population] Compare these numbers with that of the demographic profile of neighboring rival Langley High School in McLean, VA (for those not from the Northern Virginia area, the Langley and Herndon High School districts are adjacent). At the beginning of 2002, Hispanic students were 2.82% of the student population and have decreased slightly to the June 2005 figure of 2.70%. Those identified as speaking limited English at Langley is 3.67% and those receiving meal assistance is 0.71%. You get the picture.

But it is only one piece of the picture, of course. The differences between Herndon and Langley cannot simply be chalked up to the Hispanic component present at Herndon and comparatively absent at Langley. It's also incredibly difficult to get an impact assessment of the relatively large Hispanic population of Herndon. Because large numbers of the Hispanic community are undocumented, many of the children attending school at Herndon come from undocumented households that do not substantively pay back into the tax base which funds the schools and other infrastructure items. We have a relatively low sales tax in Virginia and rely much more on payroll and property taxes for infrastructure investments. Because many in the Hispanic community live frugally and vehicle ownership is substantially lower within the community, there is an imbalance in tax receipts just for this one area. I have read many articles recently about the same effect in other parts of the country where the Hispanic population is sizeable.

Now, let me turn a corner. As a musician myself in a working band I have the pleasure of working with a gentleman who is Puerto Rican. He feels very connected to the entire Hispanic community and individuals within that community from Mexicao, Guatemala and El Salvador. I had an interesting conversation with him recently. He knows I'm an unabashed liberal - he's visited my blog, we've commiserated about Bush, etc. and so forth. He sent me an email recently about the protest marches taking place as I type this. He wanted to know, when we spoke, if I would participate and I told him that I'm really conflicted on the subject of immigration.

He sympathized and conceded that there are no easy answers. But having personal connections with people who are here illegally in the US, he was quick to tell me that they are not working for $3.00 an hour. Rather, they are coming here and working in landscaping and construction for $9.00 an hour - a fortune unachievable in their respective home countries. He explained that often, entering the US illegally to work is the difference between survival and going hungry. Another band member told a story of a conversation had with a person in Central America who had repeatedly come into the US illegally to work so that he might purchase a truck. A truck was all this person needed to secure his future - it was the difference between living in a shack and having a tour business. A truck was unattainable in his home country - but a few illegal trips into the US earned enough to buy that truck, a shining promise of a future secured for this man and his family, so that's what he did.

On a human level I can sympathize with desperation and a desire to ensure one's family is cared for. But the first example - the illegal individuals earning $9.00/hour in landscaping - I can't believe that there is an American who won't do that work at that wage. Rather, I think that that $9.00/hour under the table would cost, in burdened (wage + insurance requirements + healthcare + taxes, etc.) dollars, the employer about $15.00 per hour which would eat into the employer's profits. It's much more expedient, especially given that the US doesn't enforce its own immigration laws or proscriptions against hiring undocumented workers, to hire someone who you will essentially pay the same as an American contemporary yet costs you substantially less. It winds up being about profits.

I also pointed out that while I find the story about the truck both believable and remarkable, the fact is that this worker used American dollars to send money home to purchase what he needed to return home and start a business that would feed the economy of his home country. The dollars from those types of situations (whether or not the undocumented person in question desires to ever return to his/her home country) have an aggregate effect. If the figures of between 11 and 12 million undocumented aliens is correct, what is the total economic burden? You have to factor in all the intrinsic and extrinsic items - schools. Healthcare. Public services. Public infrastructure. Everything necessary to support a growing population and to catch up, on a State and local level, with the "real" numbers because census numbers are totally inaccurate in those areas with high Hispanic populations. There is a cost to it and that cost is not negligible and it effects every person and family who pays taxes. Schools are supported by census figures and by tax dollars and if the vast majority of illegal immigrants appear on neither roll, schools are supporting a student population disproportionate to the dollars they receive. There is a tacit advantage, then, to students graduating from schools where the Hispanic population is relatively low. See what I mean?

So the conclusion around the table during this discussion was to enable legal status for all these people to solve the financial issue. But I'm telling you - knowing what my grandparents did and my husband did and how difficult and costly it was for them to gain their legal access into America, I just can't get comfortable with waving a citizenship wand and making what was illegal suddenly ok. This sounds ridiculous, I know - but I was commenting this morning that the marches to demand rights for ILLEGAL immigrants seemed ludicrous to me. They aren't slaves - we didn't drag them into America and force them to work to fill a need that we had. They have willingly - circumstances notwithstanding - come to America illegally and to demand rights because they're doing "work other Americans don't want to do" doesn't fly with me at all. Despite the fact that I generally believe marijuana should be legalized, it isn't - and if I get caught with marijuana, I can be arrested and charged with possession. Coming to the US illegally is NOT a gray area for me - it's black or white. You either do it legally or you don't. Amnesty, to me, sends the wrong message.

But then on the flip-side, I don't have an answer, either. Do we scoop up the estimated 11 to 12 million illegals in the US today and send them back to their home countries? It would make a point, no doubt. Would it cripple our economy? I don't know - I know we'd have to adjust. Do we even have the capacity in terms of manpower and the wherewithal to find and deport illegals? I highly doubt it.

So is that the reason for amnesty? Is that the one sound argument? I don't buy that, either. Because there IS one thing we could do. We can already identify areas with high Hispanic populations as a percentage of overall population. We can also identify the businesses that function in and around those areas. We could demand that those businesses follow the law. We could crack down on the employers, who are really the ones, at this stage of the game, who are the sole beneficiaries of cheap illegal labor. Fining them would make a point, and if the fines were punitive enough, a big point. Some proportion of those newly-cited business would reach a cost-benefit breakpoint where hiring illegals would cost more than it gained. That would be the real test of whether Americans aren't willing to do specific jobs. I'd argue that the jobs have to be available to an American or legal resident alien before that claim can be substantiated.

Another issue I broadly have is the issue of language. I saw this piece on CNN earlier today highlighting the story of a man and his wife who came to the US by illegally crossing the border fifteen years ago. They've been here working illegally ever since. They've also had four children, American citizens by virtue of birth. The piece was a good one, highlighting the hard-working nature of the mother and father in this family, and the desire of their children to be educated and civic-minded. They cut to an interview clip with the father - in Spanish. He answered in Spanish. Fifteen years in the United States and he doesn't speak English. I have a problem with that and not for the reason you might think.

English is the language of commerce, advancement and success in America. When you enable non-English speaking people to live in the US and not learn English, you create a permanent underclass - a built-in, near-slave cadre of human beings who will never achieve serious success because of their language barrier. It used to be that you had to demonstrate English proficiency to survive in America - but now, you can get virtually everything in English or Spanish. 911 - Press "1" for English and "2" for spanish - the bank - the phone company - the power company - the driver's test (inexplicably, despite the fact that all ROAD SIGNS are in English) - you name it, you can get it in English or Spanish. How will Spanish-speaking peoples of any legal status learn the most valuable tool for getting ahead in the US - speaking English - if they are constantly enabled in this way? It makes me furious.

So in a nutshell (a looooong nutshell), here's a bulletized list of what I want:

Is this even possible? And what should be done with the illegal immigrants already here? Where is the line between humanitarian concerns and issues regarding national policy? Do we make what was illegal legal and potentially kick off a swell of illegal border crossings? I have no answers and the more I think about it, the greater my questions become. I don't want to arrest and charge arrested illegals as felons (ala the Republicans) but I also don't want to just say "Rule change! You're all legal!" (ala the Democrats and Presdient). It's also very difficult, even here, to find a concise synopsis of the costs and benefits associated with any of the proposals.

Thank you all for reading. I'm niether a xenophobe nor a protectionist. I am honestly looking for a policy that is balanced and sends the right signals and I am not convinced either side has achieved that in this argument. Your feedback would be very welcome.

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 2:19 PM 6 comments
Thursday, April 06, 2006

Currently on the recommended list on Daily Kos:

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 7:58 PM 0 comments
Tuesday, April 04, 2006

The Koufax Awards are in. Via Wampum, the folks who have labored through ensuring the Koufaxes get recognition:

The winners list:

Best Blog -- Non Professional
Crooks & Liars

Best Blog -- Professional or Sponsored
Josh Marshall of Talking Points Memo

Best Blog Community
Daily Kos

Most Deserving of Wider Recognition
Echidne of the Snakes

Best New Blog
Glenn Greenwald of Unclaimed Territory

Best Writing
Digby of Hullabaloo

Best Single Issue Blog
Jordan Barab of Confined Space

Best Expert Blog
Pharyngula by P.Z. Myers

Best Group Blog
Shakespeare's Sister

Best Post
Bag News Notes for Katrina Aftermath: And Then I Saw These

Best Series
FireDogLake for Plame coverage

Most Humorous Blog
Jesus' General

Most Humorous Post
Dood Abides for The Wizard of Oil

Best State or Local Blog
Bluegrass Report and Tennessee Guerilla Women

Best Commenter

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 9:00 AM 0 comments
Monday, April 03, 2006

Please extend a warm welcome to my new renter, Full Metal Photographer. I've spent more time than I have available scrolling through his site - it's filled with beautiful and really poignant photography. It's a real break from the things which consume my personal attention and remind me to look more closely - to consider - becuase the beautiful things are around us all the time. At least, that's what I thought about as I poked around his site.

Helpful navigation note: After you click his thumbnail to the left, you will go to his page. Use the back arrow at the top of the picture you see to navigate from newest to oldest post. Cheers!

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 8:31 PM 1 comments

There is a great post that went up yesterday on Daily Kos and has stayed on the recommended list. I have asked for and have received permission from the diarist to repost his work here in its entirety.

Katrina is a special issue for me - one that continues to resonate as I see what is and is not being done to help those in the Gulf region recover from this unparalleled disaster. The post which follows is from a New Orleans resident living in New Orleans as it tries to recover. Please enjoy it.

Only in New Orleans: I couldn't have made these events up myself
By bigbenbob

You never know what you'll find in New Orleans.  It's still living as I keep finding out.  

My name is Ben Rosow and I live in New Orleans.  I am an engineer
and a musician. I am one of the lucky ones because my Uptown house in the "Sliver by the River" did not flood after Katrina, although it did receive extensive damage that remains un-repaired to this day, due to the scarcity of contractors.

Continue after the fold for more.

Today is Sunday so this afternoon I decided to take a bike ride around the neighborhood to get some exercise and to force myself to get closer to the reality of what is going on all around me in my city in limbo. I tooled around the Tulane University campus where I saw a huge sports complex that occupies about half the ground area undergoing a massive renovation. This includes a brand new football practice facility which will double as a soccer and track stadium, and a total renovation of the baseball diamond. It made me question the shutting down of so many university departments (including mechanical engineering) and the essential gutting of many departments that the public has been told are being retained. We know so many professors who are leaving that it makes me wonder if Tulane can survive the harsh cuts that most residents feel are horrible management decisions.

But enough about Tulane...I next tooled up across Claiborne avenue where the flooding really got bad. I got my fill of deserted houses and the spring weeds that are starting to turn into jungles in the front yards. The hopeful signs I did see were that where 4 months ago I would see maybe one house every 2 blocks with some activity, now I was seeing about 5 houses with residents, trailers, or workers per block. This is MUCH better than what we had back then and I feel nothing but awed admiration for the families that can survive such total losses and still come back to destroyed neighborhoods to make our city whole again. They embody the resilience and determination that we Americans like to think we possess. We need to treat these people right, even when their neighborhoods are not fit for flood-free existence. If it's not practical for them to have their neighborhoods back, I feel that we owe it to them to find a way for these courageous "flood pioneers" to come back to rebuild our city. If you lived in a disaster area, wouldn't you want the most determined folks, who are willing to gut it out, to be the ones to help you rebuild?

It was a sunny balmy day this afternoon, the air clear and dry like California. But beautiful days like this are always laced with irony and sadness in post Katrina New Orleans. So after riding my bike through many blocks of flood zone on this gorgeous day, I was in a fragile mood when I crossed back over Claiborne Street by the empty McMain High School. I pulled over to the side of the street when I passed near the third floor room with the open windows where I used to stop to hear the band practicing on Wednesday and Friday afternoons. If you have ever heard a New Orleans High School marching band, then you know where jazz and rock and Roll came from. In an age where teenagers around the country are listening to mind numbing rap at hellish volume, or vapid post punk with no new musical content, this was the only city in the America where, on a Saturday morning, you could see 7 young black pre-teens walking down the streetcar line passing a saxophone or a euphonium back and forth and trying to be the macho man who could play the impossible lick from the days band practice that nobody could get right. What a sight! You know that music is part of the culture when teenage boys think that horn playing is a mans work.

So I stood on my bike on the sidewalk below the band room at McMain and I imagined that I heard the band playing, horribly out of tune, scratching out a new chart for the first time. I imagined I heard a loud sax player enthusiastically showing off his favorite tune of the week. No...No, I was actually hearing a sax player, and playing exceptionally well. It wasn't coming from the band room, but the auditorium was right next door so I moved a few feet down the street toward the auditorium door. But it wasn't coming from there either. It was coming from across the street at the Ursuline Academy. Now the ground around Ursuline is about 2 feet lower than that of McMain so where McMain took on about 4 feet of water, Ursuline took on about 6. But there is no flood line left on the walls of Ursuline and I noticed a few cars parked in a back access lot. So I crossed the street and started following the sound on my bike. I couldn't tell if it was coming from inside the chapel or if the music was outdoors but this was a seriously good player with a very full sound. The tune was something I definitely recognized but I couldn't quite place it. I followed the sound around a few corners until I came to a dead end between two wings of the building with a formidable plank door at the other end. THAT was where the sound was coming from.

As I sat and listened, an old nun appeared at a window and mouthed to me, "It's really loud isn't it? I think they can hear it down on Canal Street."

"Well I heard it on the street but it isn't so loud there," I said. "I like it."

"Would you like to come in?" she said, motioning to the heavy wooden door.

"Really? Yes, very much" I said, envisioning a lone guy enjoying the special sound of his horn in an empty chapel. I quickly parked my bike by the wall without locking it. Nobody would bother to steal it here away from the street. The old nun opened the door and I met her at the top of the steps. When I walked through, I felt like the Ronald Coleman character in the movie "Lost Horizon" when he stepped through the crack in the mountains and first laid eyes on Shangri-la. I never had imagined that the plain brick walls of Ursuline Academy hid from public view a beautiful court yard the size of a couple of basketball courts, with statues, benches, palm trees, and grassy knolls. It was filled with families today, black and white, hundreds of people. "Wow. What is this?" I asked the nun.

"It's our annual spaghetti dinner," she said matter of factly. "Come in. We do this every year. I hope it's not too loud for you."

"No, no...I love it. Thank-you." I was already starting to be overcome by emotion. I loved this, especially the fact that this event was so gracefully and calmly integrated. I began to walk to where I could see the sax player whose sound was much clearer inside the courtyard. His style was becoming more recognizable to me as I listened. When I got close enough to see a black man with a shaved head I began wondering. I turned to a guy in a folding chair. "Is that Gary Brown?" I asked. He just shook his head that he didn't know.

Now Gary Brown is a national treasure who has worked five nights a week down at a French Quarter clip joint for the last twenty plus years. He always has a wonderful band and he is a most charismatic performer, in addition to being a most lyrical and flat out hot horn player. He mugs for the women and looks into your eyes when he thinks that you need to really hear what he's about to play. A business associate from Denmark once said to me, "How come he plays in a dump in the French Quarter? If he played in Europe, he'd be famous. He'd play to sold out theaters. How come nobody knows him here?"

So there was Gary Brown on a stage in the middle of the beautiful courtyard on a sunny day playing to a harmoniously integrated crowd of families. He had a little boombox CD player patched into the PA system playing the backing tracks from one of his his CDs. A most cheesy setup but he was PLAYING FOR KEEPS. And that doesn't mean playing loud and honking. He was playing sweetly with every melodic trick he could think of. By this time there was a ring of about 6 little kids sitting on the patio right in front of the stage. So Gary pulled out his Sopranino, a tiny little sax, and began to play an exquisite ballad called Paper Mache. He came off the stage and stood directly in front of the kids and played just to them as if they wee the most important audience in the world. He would go up to each one of them in turn, the bell of his horn a foot from each little face. He'd take a breath and play special phrases directly to each one. And the children just sat there, mesmerized, gazing into his face. And this went on for song after song.

On this wonderful day, in this little Shangri-la behind the walls of a Catholic school started by the very first group of women that came to New Orleans in the 1600's, everything was so perfectly alive and healthy that, needless to say, I started crying. I tried to not make a fool of myself, but anyone who saw me knew. But I could not leave. I had to soak in it. I wiped my eyes with my bicycle glove and composed myself as I watched and listened to the very epitome of what makes New Orleans so special. Yes, we have inequality and incompetence. Yes we have graft, apathy, and seemingly immoveable inertia. Yes we are ridiculously close to sea level and we are at risk from the encroaching Gulf of Mexico. But we also have the key to life here in this crazy place. Those who don't want to see it, will never see it. Those who do, can't ever forget it. This nutty city is a treasure and a source of sanity for the rest of the country. To let it die of neglect would be like letting Boston or New York or San Francisco or Chicago die. America would never be the same without it. If you weren't sure that you know enough to believe that New Orleans is a treasure, take it from one who knows, that's me.

Katrina Relief Links:

Tipitina Foundation
Music Rising
Katrina-related charities - A list of 14 well-known relief charities working for the human and animal victims of Katrina
Shop NOLA - A list of NOLA businesses trying to survive. Patronizing them could mean the difference between survival or failure of the business. Won't you buy someone (or yourself) a gift from one of these businesses today?

You've Come This Far - So Read more & Comment!

posted by RenaRF at 2:06 PM 2 comments