Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Nifong needs a Waaaaambulance

Oh Puh-leeze! Mike Nifong's attorneys expect us to believe that while Nifong broke the rules, he didn't mean to break the rules.

Right. How many defendants did that work for in the cases Nifong prosecuted? Right, just what I thought.

The Charlotte Observer has the story and it carries probably the funniest quote from an attorney I think I've ever heard or read:
A lot of people have been rushing to judgment on both the underlying case and this case," attorney Dudley Witt said. "And after you allow someone to have a full hearing, I think you will find that he didn't do anything wrong."
OK, Dudley. Answer me this - who was the very first person to rush to judgment in the underlying case? Come on Dudley. You can do it bud. I'll give you a hint. He spoke to the media OFTEN. OK, we'll let you think on that one.

Seriously, now, after trying the Duke case in the media, Nifong wants people to give him a full hearing before passing judgment on him? Well, if that don't beat all.


Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Economics 101 - Dubya Style

Has anyone seen this article yet? If you can't take bad financial news, you might not want to read it.

Basically, here's what we're dealing with:

  • The stock market plunged more than 500 points before recovering slightly.

  • The economy may be decelerating more than anticipated.

  • Orders for durable goods dropped in January by the largest amount in three months.

  • Housing market slump isn't temporary - it's far from over.

  • Fourth Quarter GDP growth expected to be revised down to 2.3% from 3.5% tomorrow.

  • And we thought the Republicans and their annointed king couldn't fuck up our country any more than they already have. This goes way beyond cyclical for anyone who wants to whip out that argument.

    On the lighter side of financial news we find BOA customers cutting up their credit cards and mailing them in to protest BOA's new card that could be used by folks who are in the country illegally as they do not require social security numbers. Don't know about you, but I'm getting that new coke kind of feeling about these cards.


    Monday, February 26, 2007

    Growing the Base of Online Activists

    Written for BlueNC, but wanted to bring the blog links here

    BlueNC has grown tremendously over the past year. Each month brings more new registered users and unique visitors than the month before. Yesterday's polls show that we are missing out on important voices from minorities and women. It's time to actively do something to change this.

    A couple of times I've mentioned that I don't think simply inviting people here is the entire solution. Obviously, it's polite to invite folks to join in the conversation, but why don't we visit their communities too? I have to admit, I've found some excellent blogs. Not all are in North Carolina, but I haven't finished looking yet.

    We're all busy and some of us barely find time to keep up with BlueNC. I make the rounds of the standards - DKos, MyDD, Firedoglake, Scrutiny Hooligans, TalkingPointsMemo and that's about all I usually find time for. That's going to end today. There are some seriously excellent bloggers out there.

    I will start with a gentleman who has added his blog to the NC Blog Index and has linked to my blog. The name of the blog is Where is the Outrage? The name of the man is Errington Thompson and he's pretty amazing. He's a trauma surgeon, author, blogger and hosts a weekly radio show. Dr. Thompson (look at me being all formal) lives in the Asheville area with his wife. The Asheville-Citizen Times did a piece on him just this month if you'd like to know more about him. I like his writing and I share his opinion on just about all things political.

    A blog I found today and enjoyed in particular is African American Opinion. I don't know anything about the author, because he/she signs pieces on the site "editor/publisher." Apparently, community building is something others are thinking about as well, because the first post I saw was a list of American Indian blogs that a reader had sent in. The blog's author discusses more than politics. I enjoyed the writing style. Comments are moderated, however go up fairly quickly. Not only are there a couple different lists of American Indian blogs given in pieces on the front page, the blogroll is extensive and probably holds quite a few treasures.

    African American Political is also a great read. At least I enjoyed it. Once again, there is an extensive blogroll. This is what she/he has to say about Obama:
    He has less than 600 days to prove he is not just another man, with no program to address poverty in America. Senator Obama is not Black peoples’ savior. He does not walk on water, although his head seems to be getting pretty big lately. I guess he believes his own press. Candidly, I could care less if Obama is Black, White, Red or Yellow; it’s about the future of America. All America. We are not electing the President of Black America we are electing the President of the United States. If we were electing a President for Black America I would vote for Congresswoman Maxine Waters.
    Don't get your hopes up if you're a Clinton or Edwards fan. She/He seems to be equally skeptical of their abilities to truly address the concerns of this country.

    Jill Tubman from Jack and Jill Politics has been writing at MyDD for several months providing a weekly roundup of black political news. Jill has a great post up right now about Phyllis Schlafly's new Conservapedia. Here's a snippet:
    4) The Conservapedia's entry on Slavery focuses on the encouragement of the slave trade from 1455 to the 1800s by Africans themselves for profit. The style of the passage is best described as 4th grade book report. The Wikipedia entry on Slavery is lengthy and covers slavery throughout the ancient world, the same period as the Conservapedia and slavery as it exists today. The entry also describes the abolition movement, apologies and reparations, and links to other forms of human rights abuses.
    Follow the link to the site and read the entire post. Talk about your revisionist history. Schlafly has obviously lost her marbles.

    Here is what Jill says about African Americans as the Democratic Party's value voters:
    This really isn't that hard. The way you speak to African-American voters will also work with many other voters who are informed by big ideas, by a desire for a better future and by faith.

    Bill Clinton got it and won. Gore kinda sorta did and kinda sorta lost. Kerry didn't get and lost. Which candidate will get it this time finally and decide to win?

    I disagree with Willis on whether black churches are at risk of dying out as a political force. They remain as strong as ever -- the Bush campaign figured that out and used them as a wedge to increase their share of the Black vote in 2004. We're still out there but our priorities have changed. Democrats mis-read those shifts in what we are talking about -- education, the war, healthcare, Africa, building greater prosperity in our communities -- at their peril.
    I have to agree with Jill on much of this. In Charlotte, the African American churches remain a political force. The ministers are all careful to toe the line and do not endorse specific candidates. If one candidate is recognized or allowed to speak, they all are.

    Most of the African American blogs/bloggers were fun reads. Some challenged me more than others. AAPP and JJPolitics both were a little more politically oriented than AAO. I plan to check in frequently. For the most part I found myself inspired and lost in my reading.

    I have spent hours going through web sites and blogs. I know this is only four, but I figure if I keep the list small, we'll all find time to head over for visits. On most days I'm so busy that if I see a long list and I don't know where to start. I figure others feel pretty much the same way.

    I plan to do this more than once a week. Check out the sites and check out their blogrolls. Please post links to other blogs in the comments. There are so many to check out it's impossible for one person to do it all. Let me know what you find.

    Saturday, February 24, 2007

    BlueNC Women on Wednesdays

    This was written for BlueNC. Please join in the conversation there.

    As many of you have heard or read via Pam's House Blend, cskendrick, Anglico, Matt Stoller, Screwy Hoolie and Matt Hill Comer, in January there was a gathering in Raleigh at the Democratic Party Headquarters of a small group of North Carolina Bloggers. We met with NCDP Chair, Jerry Meek, Schorr Johnson(NCDP Communications Director), Matt Stoller(, Tim Cullen (Dodd for President), NC Senator Jim Harrell, III and Congressman Brad Miller to discuss the role of blogs in politics, how we do or might influence news in the corporate media and how we can help further the cause of progressive politics in North Carolina.

    At one point during the meeting, Matt Stoller asked why there are so few minorities using blogs to reach their audiences. He posed the question to the group, but directed it particularly to Pam Spaulding, the only minority in the room and one of only three women. Pam responded that he was asking the wrong person. Pam is a professional. Her African American peers have computers and use the internet. The conversation hovered around the men at the front of the room and I don't believe the question was ever fully answered, if answered at all.

    Seeking a solution to what many see as a problem is not as simple as you might think. There is no band-aid fix as people like Francis Holland would have you believe. Simply adding a link to your blogroll or a face to your front page isn't going to provide long-term solutions.

    It's true that the number of African Americans using the internet is growing, however, there is still a large part of the community that does not use the internet for political activism. I realize not all African American writers direct their message to other African Americans, however, traditional political activists probably consider the minority community a large part of their target group. If their purpose is political outreach and they aren't going to reach their audience by blogging, they aren't going to blog.

    Within most political blog communities women are also underrepresented. BlueNC's own Leslie H had this to say about a large contingency of women(moms) and their ability to find time for online activism:
    I can blog the little I do only because my children are grown, 20 and 17. They are and always will be my heart and my first priority, but they are so amazingly incredibly mature, intelligent and good that now I have time for reading and thinking and writing. Up until a few years ago, the reading of political matters was a challenge, the thinking about purely political matters couldn't be done in stretches and the writing about political matters was out of the question.

    Mothers, single or not, know the drill all too well; Raising the next generation is the most honorable of work. Indeed, there is none more important. But raising good people does not translate into anything immediately tangible to the outside world, like pay or publishing or recognition. We must either be wealthy enough to hire help or wait for our children to gradually grow into caring for themselves before our attention can be turned to other matters, like blogging.
    The above is probably true for all caregivers, male or female. Women, though, continue to fill the role of caregiver far more often than men. This is only one reason women make up a smaller portion of the communities at the different political blogs, but it's a big one.

    I've heard over the past year that communities at political blogs, especially at MyDD, are around 80 - 85% white and 65 - 70% males. DailyKos might have a different ratio, but most other big national blogs that I frequent seem to follow that ratio - especially among commenters. I wanted to find a way to start changing this ratio and to start from the roots up. Our front page and the front pages at sites like Scrutiny Hooligans, MyDD and Swing State Project reflect the face of political blogging. It is what it is. You don't change that by sticking more women and minorities on the front page and calling it a day. The problem goes much deeper than that and it takes more effort than that to bring about a solution. If you aren't willing to really put in the effort, then no amount of changes to front page ratios is going to change the face of the blogosphere.

    The owners, front page writers and the women at BlueNC have been working together to come up with a plan that will hopefully take a baby step in changing the face of our blogging audience.

    Knowing that we weren't going to add a writer to our front page group at BlueNC any time in the near future, I wanted to find a way to give women here a little bigger soapbox. I never once felt that women were ignored, belittled or undervalued in any way at BlueNC. That wasn't my motivation. I simply felt that shining a brighter spotlight every now and then might encourage other women to come out of lurk mode and speak up. This includes women of all skin colors.

    This coming Wednesday, BlueNC will host our first, "BlueNC Women on Wednesdays". It will be a day off for our regular front page writers as we highlight our women on the front page during most of the day. Men are certainly welcome to post and comment, however we ask that the front page remain reserved for our women between 10am and 4pm.

    In discussing BlueNC Women on Wednesdays, the three site owners and I agreed that the entire approach and feel of the day should be different. Not just posts on women's issues, but a woman's perspective. Not just women writing posts that typically show up on BlueNC. No need to bump the regulars from posting for that. It needed to have a different feel and tone. The post topics are up to the writer, but we will try to vary them. I will not write for the front page, but will facilitate the moving of posts to the front page and will help moderate. The posts will also be timed and planned as opposed to the unstructured feel we currently enjoy.

    As I said, the purpose is to highlight our women as a means to bring more women out of lurk mode and attract more women to the conversation. Lance said it better than I ever could:
    Affirmative action -- The program as I understand it would tend, over time, to improve and increase the overall participation of those who are a part of it. By focusing this toward women, the program may shift the overall balance of participation towards a more even male/female balance.


    Lab research -- My hope is that Women on Wednesdays will give us a glimpse into what a BlueNC with more ovaries than we have had on any given day would look like. Women draw conclusions about the world differently than men, and communicate differently, too. Is there something about BlueNC that makes it more inviting to men, resulting in sexism by selection? Is there something that we can learn about the site (which was designed and deployed by men in a disproportionately male context) by having the guys sit it out for a day a week? I suspect that there is, and I'm thrilled at the opportunity to find out.
    How does this attract minorities? BlueNC WoW does not, in and of itself, bring minorities into the community. That will take more active outreach. Starting tomorrow I will highlight blogs written by African Americans, hopefully blogs in North Carolina, and will challenge each of you to reach out to minorities in your community to invite them to BlueNC. Let them know we're trying to change the face of online activism and to enrich our conversations. I will do the same thing for blogs written by women.

    This isn't about who is writing on the front page at BlueNC or other political blogs. It's about changing the ratio of the community in the blogosphere and that doesn't happen by simply inviting people here once. The outreach is much more energy and time intensive. Pointing fingers and placing blame isn't going to solve any problems, but that seems to be all some people do. I plan to take a more active role and I challenge each of you to do the same.

    Some of you will think this is a bad idea - that it won't accomplish anything. Some will thing it's patronizing. It may very well turn out to be a bad idea and it may very well be patronizing. All I'm asking is that you give it a chance. I'm also asking that if you choose to criticize, you back up your criticism with a better solution.

    It is my sincere hope that we will wind up attracting so many women and minorities to BlueNC that we won't need a special day for anybody. Everyone will feel welcome. Everyone will feel encouraged. Everyone will feel that their voice is important.

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    Thursday, February 22, 2007

    NC Leading Way in Global War

    Not the war you're thinking about. Our state is taking steps in the battle against greenhouse gases. Granted, they are baby steps. Finally, it appears our state won't be trailing behind the rest of intelligent life on at least one issue.

    According to Margaret Lillard of the AP via The Charlotte Observer:
    As governments around the world look for ways to fight global warming, North Carolina lawmakers are eyeing a simple set of green guidelines that supporters hope will be the first steps in a successful war against greenhouse gases.

    A blue-ribbon panel that has spent the past year discussing climate change is to meet Thursday to draw up an interim report for state lawmakers on possible actions North Carolina can take to address global warming.
    According to the article, most of the measures will include actions that can be taken by energy consumers and providers.

    BlueNC writers didn't wait for the state to take action, though. In July, Lance wrote a piece that outlined nine things we can do now to slow climate change. Robert P. has discussed the benefits of compact fluorescent bulbs on several occasions. The linked article is from September.

    I'm sure our discussions won't end, but we need to make sure they don't end at the state level. Pricey Harrison is quoted in the article and there are 34 members of the panel/commission. We need to find out what we can do to help build support for the items on the list that might be met with opposition.

    Let's not all bombard Representative Harrison with phone calls and emails at the same time.

    Wednesday, February 21, 2007

    Merck Gives Up on Forcing HPV Shots on Little Girls

    It appears that Merck's profit motives got in the way and they are having to back down. Story is in the WaPo.

    I'm a mom of two girls and I understand the HPV vaccine's value, but if Merck was really concerned about preventing girls/women who are sexually active from catching HPV from boys/men they have sex with, the vaccine would have been for the carriers. The vaccine would have been for the men and boys who spread HPV.

    Ahhhhhh....but we wouldn't want to stigmatize all the precious wit'le boy carriers now would we? What a load of crap. Prevent disease at its source.

    I understand why they went after the girls. Parents of girls will take this seriously since it is their daughters who might die from cancer. Parents of boys don't have that same motivation. Still, if the vaccine is going to be required by law as Merck would have liked, it has to target the source and not the victim - or the source as well as the victim. (I know...victim is a little harsh. I'm just saying....)

    I fortunately have a little bit of time before we will make this decision with our girls. I figure if we talk with them about birth control options with their doctors at a certain age, then we can talk with them about HPV.

    Jim Black News Stories

    Who here is tired of Jim Black news? We're getting bombarded in Charlotte and I feel the need to share with you. I'm nice that way. heh

    There have been two recent articles that are worth reading. The first includes tidbits about the ongoing investigation. It was actually in Saturday's paper so I missed it. Apologies if you've seen this already.

    Something tells me there are some nervous tummies in Raleigh.
    RALEIGH - Federal authorities said this week they are continuing their public corruption investigation, even after a major target, former House Speaker Jim Black, pleaded guilty Thursday.

    They did not say who their next target is -- leaving a silence that is causing some discomfort among state lawmakers, lobbyists, campaign contributors and others who have a lot invested in N.C. politics.
    The article doesn't speculate which names might pop up, but does offer a list of folks who were called before the federal grand jury in Raleigh to chat about their mutual friend, Jim Black.

    The good news given toward the end of the article is that the purchased legislation will be reversed. I wonder if the buyers will get their money back?

    The second article was in yesterday's Charlotte Observer. Apparently in his state of the state speech last night, the Governor failed to mention Black's name. Not once. Hey Gov, I tried that whole "ignore the problem and it will go away" routine. Didn't work for me either.

    I'll let you read it so you can see what the Governor's goals are for his final two years. However, I do have to comment on one little bitty thing.

    You know how some politicians master the art of saying absolutely nothing, but making it sound like they're saying something? Witness, Robert Pittenger, Sue Myrick's special friend:
    "I want to see how it can add up," said Sen. Robert Pittenger, R-Mecklenburg. "There's a lot of great opportunity to do a lot of things, but how are you going to pay for it?"
    Words of Wisdom, Pitt, words of wisdom.

    And via today's Observer:
    Court documents on Tuesday detailed illegal payments from three chiropractors to Jim Black:

    Fletcher Keith
    Charlotte: Gave $8,000

    Steve Willen
    Greensboro: Gave $11,000

    Tom Brown,
    Charlotte: Gave $10,000
    I guess this is one of those, "it's going to get worse before it gets better" kind of things.

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    Tuesday, February 13, 2007

    Robin Hayes: Raging Hypocrite

    We don't have to travel too far in the way back machine to find examples of Robin Hayes' hypocrisy. Actually, there are so many stops on the Robin Hayes Hypocrisy Trail it is hard to choose which one to visit first. How about we start here - "Congressman Backs Alternative Fuel". Follow this link to find out what I thought of it at the time.

    For those of you who don't want to follow the links, in May 2006, Congressman Robin Hayes sponsored legislation that would have given a tax break to those distributors who installed pumps for E85 at their gas stations. He promoted the legislation with a stunt at one of only seven gas stations in the state of North Carolina that sells E85. In my post, I pointed out the fact that after almost eight years in congress, Hayes had failed to nurture any substantial legislation through the process. I doubted he would succeed this time. I was right.

    My charge that the publicity stunt was just for show was dead on. Robin Hayes might have discovered (at the pump that very day according to the N&O) that his Chevy Suburban was suited to running on E85, but the Beechcraft he sometimes flies into Washington......that baby runs on jet fuel. *

    How much jet fuel?

    After a basic search I couldn't find the model of Beechcraft Hayes owns, but based on when it was purchased and the amount of the loan, I'm assuming it is a medium class jet since many of the light jets had not been approved at the time of purchase. Let's assume he purchased a Beechcraft Baron G58. The price is about $1,200,000 as of May 2006 and Hayes' loan listed on his financials is between $1,000,001 and $5,000,000. According to this comparison, a Baron G58 costs about $335 per flight hour to operate. If Hayes purchased the Beechcraft King Air 690GT for close to $3,000,000 then his per hour operating cost more than doubles.

    In other words, Robin Hayes, the self-professed champion of energy independence spends on each flight to Washington, D.C. more than many families spend on gasoline each month.

    Take a second for that to sink in, folks.

    Congressman Robin Hayes is just an energy independence poseur. He talks the talk, but when it comes to walking the walk he doesn't bother to haul his carcass to his feet long enough to take the first step.

    That's not the only bit of hypocrisy at this stop on the trail.

    Both the Wall Street Journal and the Raleigh News & Observer reported that new ethics rules were going to put a crimp in Hayes' style. Apparently, the rules written to prevent members of congress from accepting flights on corporate jets also prevent them from "boarding any non-governmental airplane that is not licensed by the Federal Aviation Administration to operate for compensation or hire," unless they are headed to a fundraiser. Prior to the new rules members of congress could use their own jets for their weekly commute and they were reimbursed at taxpayer expense.

    That's right. We pay for the congressional commute. Reasonable people understand that commuting is necessary for an elected official to do the job. They are required to stay in touch with their district while doing the nation's business. However, there are other less expensive methods of travel. Traveling by car, train or commercial jet might take a bit longer, but the savings to those of us who pay the bills is significant. According to this site a special government rate could be obtained by members of Congress that represents a huge savings to taxpayers.

    My understanding is that travel expenses are reimbursed from the budget each member of congress is allotted in order to run his or her office. Imagine how much less our tax bill would be if exorbitant luxury expenses like personal jet fuel costs were limited or eliminated completely. Instead of watching out for the taxpayer, Congressman Robin Hayes, has decided to fight for his right to fly himself to Washington and keep us footing the bill for his personal jet fuel costs - at least according to the N&O piece linked above. That's right, he wants us to pay for his luxury commute to Washington.

    Then again, if we aren't paying for him to fly around in his jet, we're paying for him to cruise around in his land yacht at 16 miles per gallon. I don't know about you, but as far as I'm concerned Robin Hayes - the millionaire who rails against death taxes - has become too much of a tax liability.

    Thank you for joining us for today's trip down the Robin Hayes Hypocrisy Trail. Please make sure all trays are secured and all seats are returned to their upright position.

    * Without knowing the actual type of aircraft, I don't know exactly what type of fuel. A medium class jet burns about 280 gallons of fuel per hour and a light class about 180 gallons of fuel according to this chart at Helium Report. This is substantially more than Hayes' Suburban would burn and substantially more than would be burned for his portion of a commercial flight. Currently E85 is being developed for aviation use, but according to this report from 2005, jets are not yet being manufactured to use the fuel. I have not found anything more current to indicate this has changed.

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    Wednesday, February 07, 2007

    Illness and Injury on Charlotte City Council

    Our best goes out to Mayor Pro Tem Susan Burgess who had emergency surgery last night as an initial step for treating colorectal cancer. She called her fellow council members before the surgery and will continue to serve the city as she undergoes treatment for cancer.

    Mrs. Burgess worked hard in the past election to get the bonds passed and to support other Democrats running for office. Her enthusiasm and hard work made the intensity of that last weekend before the election bearable. I had the opportunity to canvass with her and she is a wonderful advocate for this city. Get well soon, Susan.

    I would also like to extend a big get well to my mother, City Councilwoman Patsy Kinsey, who fell and broke her wrist last night. Sorry, Mom. All this time I thought I picked up the clutz gene from Dad. I guess it was you all along. Love you and hope you feel better soon.

    The following picture is of Susan Burgess, Patsy Kinsey, Larry Kissell and my girls on that last weekend of canvassing in November.

    Sunday, February 04, 2007

    Weapons of Mass Destruction in Charlotte

    If a gathering of Young Republicans doesn't qualify as a weapon of mass destruction, I don't know what does. There was certainly something in the air this weekend as Young Republicans held their state convention in Charlotte, and that something was the aroma of the mingling of incompetence, greed and fear.

    The toddling neophytes of the Republican regime were lobbied by the list of GOP goobernatorial hopefuls including Former N.C. Supreme Courth Justice Bob Orr, Charlotte Mayor Patrick McCrory(?), State Sen. Robert Pittenger and "wealthy trial lawyer" Bill Graham. Patrick Ballentine was not able to attend.

    The Charlotte Observer has the story, as well as a few handy quotes from some of the hopefuls and also rans. I think the funniest quote is from our dear Mayor, Pat McCrory:
    McCrory emphasized the importance of building "cordial, not adversarial" relationships with the business community. He said having the future NASCAR Hall of Fame in Charlotte will ensure some of the brightest minds in technology remain in the area.
    Ahhhh, yes, because scientists and tech gurus are all big NASCAR fans. Sorry, Mayor Pat, you lost me on that one.

    The scariest quote came from Bill Graham:
    "What we've got to get back to is right and wrong politics, not right and left politics."
    I'll leave it to you to figure out what he thinks the difference is between right and wrong and I bet you don't even need a hint.

    The article doesn't talk much about the convention, so there's no gossip to pass on. I'm sure all the little "dear leaders" had the times of their lives.

    < / childish snark >

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