December 18, 2014

Tammy & Bryan welcome Abigail O’kalani Bowlsbey

Editor’s Note: Duckworth is a 2-time AAA-Fund Endorsed Candidate.

Rep. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., spoke at the 2012 Democratic National Convention. (H. Darr Beiser, USA TODAY)

We congratulate Congresswoman Tammy Duckworth and her husband Bryan Bowlsbey! Their statement:

My husband Bryan and I are thrilled to announce that we are the proud parents of a baby girl. Abigail O’kalani Bowlsbey was born on November 18. Bryan and I were deeply honored that Senator Akaka acted as Hawaiian elder and selected her middle name. We are grateful for the love and support of our family and friends. We also appreciate the respect for our privacy during this important moment in our lives.”

More at HuffPo.

Press coverage of AAA Fund & endorsees

Thanks to Asian Fortune and Jennie Ilustre for the extensive shout out on the rise of Asian American candidates. Also, congrats to everyone who ran for their leadership and courage.  -Caroline

Gautam Dutta, executive director of Asian American Action Fund, a political action committee based in the nation’s capital, is optimistic about Honda’s chances in November. “Having beaten his opponent by a 2-1 margin last June, Congressman Honda is in a strong position to win in November,” he said. Triple-A Fund has endorsed Honda and the other Democratic candidates for Congress. It enjoys a good batting average in its endorsements. “In the 2012 elections,eight of our 13 candidates won, a success rate of nearly two-thirds,” Dutta pointed out.

Other Triple-A Fund-endorsed candidates are: US Rep. Ami Bera (CA), running for reelection;U.S. Representative Judy Chu (CA-27), running for reelection; US Rep. Tammy Duckworth (IL-8)), running for re-election; US Rep. Mark Takano ((CA-41), running for re-election; Mark Takai of Hawaii, candidate for Congress; Rep. Tulsi Gabbard (HI-2); and Dr. Manan Trivedi, an Iraq War vet who’s running for an open congressional seat from Pennsylvania.

US Rep. Colleen Hanabusa lost in the tight primary for the US Senate to Hawaii Sen. Brian Schatz, who was appointed to fill the seat of the late US Sen. Daniel K. Inouye. Pundits say Schatz is a shoo-in in November.

At press time, Dutta said AAA-Fund has not decided on endorsement regarding Leland Cheung, who is running for election for Lieutenant Governor in Massachusetts. Other state races feature Stephanie Chang, candidate for the Michigan House of Representatives; and Pramila Jayapal, candidate for Washington State Senate.


In every election cycle, Asian American leaders note the importance of becoming candidates and also voter turn-out, citing the critical issues at stake. But due to recent news on immigration, for example, the stakes are higher, indeed.

Triple A-Fund Executive Director Dutta said this year is crucial, both for issues of concern to the community and to mainstream America. In telephone and email interviews from San Jose, California, he said, “Important issues that affect our families are at stake. The newly-elected Congress will be in a position to decide a number of critical issues, including immigration reform, education and economic opportunity.”

Midterm elections are notorious for low voter turn-out. “I urge everybody to turn up on Election Day,” said Dutta of Asian American Action Fund. He said voters can show up on Election Day, or mail their ballots through early voting.

 

Post-Mortem #42

Editor’s Note: Guest blogger Dale Edmondson last wrote “Why Do Both Parties Fare so Badly with the Public?” for us during the election.

A few observations (ok, maybe a bit obvious, but still an attempt to get beyond a Jim Carey in Ace Ventura II scream of “Yeeuuukkkkk”)

  1. Running against something rather than for something wins but lacks staying power. For quite a few cycles, elections seem characterized (oversimplistically but with some validity) as not a mandate for one, but rather a repudiation of the other. This election smacks of that. Rs don’t seem to have won because of a strong message on a widely approved policy agenda (by and large they didn’t offer one) but by running against the perceived status quo. Ds have done the same. That certainly wins elections. But it doesn’t give staying power – especially since the winner of last round becomes, in the public mind, the status quo. In this context, all victories look temporary, and lasting change proves elusive. Still…
  2. Running against something still beats running without any real message. In 2010 and 2014, Ds seemed not to stand for that much. They did not tout what accomplishments they had (possibly because their accomplishments don’t look that great when things overall remained unfixed). Instead they kind of cringed, didn’t really defend their work, didn’t really articulate why they were better alternatives, and hoped not to get slammed too much by the oncoming tide. There were reasons for this, but we saw how it worked out. In a lot of ways they’ve been seen as running not to lose (and when you play to not lose, too often, you do. Rather than offering a vision or a grand purpose, all they had was a “that guy is worse” narrative – one which they often didn’t even press very effectively (eg Braley). And when they did,
  3. “Even if you don’t like me, the other guy is worse” can work but has limits. Kay Hagan did about the best with this strategy and nearly pulled it out in a less blue state than CO or IA. But it only takes you so far, especially against an angry electorate that may feel that, Groundhog-day style, anything different is good, and has as its default “throw da bums out.” The negative approach has been disfavored at least in part out of fears of depressing turnout, and though it may be the best option (given that elections are in truth a choice between candidates far more so than anything else), it hardly inspires. On top of that..
  4. Ds can’t reliably count on Rs to scare away the center. For the last few cycles, Rs have shifted so far right as to frighten everyone not only conservative, but extremely conservative. That’s provided Ds a refuge of sorts, and an excuse not to really change their own side too much. Rs, however, saw this, and responded. With the arguable exception of Ernst (who won anyway given the tide, but by less and with a weaker opponent), the worst of teabaggery was harder to see. Whether newly reformed non-extremists like Gardner have moved to the center in truth (which would be a very good thing for a country that desperately needs a reasoned, compromising, more moderate while still right-side Republican option, but would also be a complication for Ds electorally) or whether their facial moderation was a smokescreen remains to be seen. But for election purposes, they succeeded in being seen as at least plausible/non-scary alternatives to the status quo. Which highlights the underlying problem that…
  5. When things suck, voters don’t seem to much care why. Here, the R attacks on things not being good resonated at least in part because they’re true. Things aren’t good for most people. Wages are falling, employment is low, the list goes on. Of course, the Rs offer little that shows promise of actually making things better, and show every sign of making things worse, as they did the last time they held power. But voters don’t seem to look that deeply. The Rs’ comparative lack of ways to do better, much less ways that have not been tried and failed before, didn’t seem to matter that much – at least, not to those who voted. Which underscores that
  6. Who shows up, wins – and Ds too often don’t. Turnout was down yet again. Maybe part of that is dispiritedness of the base due to scandals, lack of transformative change etc. Or maybe part is generally lower rates of participation -on average years. Regardless, Ds still haven’t found a way to crack this. That leaves Ds in a horrible place (although they did manage to do differently in 06). It also leaves decisions made by an increasingly small fraction of the electorate. (Of course that, compromises the force of any general themes directed at general voting public, including the ones here- but that’s a separate point). It’s hard to say democracy itself is failing when it’s voters’ own choices not to show up at all, and it’s hard to complain about something one has the power to fix but does not. Still, self-inflicted wound though it may be, the situation is a wound for the country, and one that results in decision-making that does not reflect the wills of most of the people. However,
  7. Low turnouts also highlight the prospect for change. Given how depressed turnout seems to be, it would take a correspondingly small shift in voter mobilization to dramatically swing outcomes. That would require shifts in individual desires to make such a change, as well as increased feeling that change would even matter or that either candidate is worth supporting. Such things may be daunting tasks, especially in an overall climate of disappointment on all sides and dislike of the other side being a prime motivator. Shifts like that do remain possible if the underlying factors prompting apathy can be addressed, and should be considered among the many other elements going into what to do next.

– Dale Edmondson

Key takeways from AAPI in-language Election Eve poll

Editorial Context: National Election Pool (NEP) is what AP, CNN and the major news services rely upon for exit polling data. It found AAPIs had a huge swing from 2012 and were the group that Republicans made the largest gains with, coming out 52D-48R (revised by them to 50D-49R.) This is slightly controversial as it doesn’t capture the Limited English Proficiency AAPIs in our population. I will also add that some of the debate around how pollsters got 2014 so wrong, some say is because pollsters pegged too closely to the US Census American Community Survey and therefore did not capture the midterm audience accurately (tends to be less diverse and older than voters in presidential years.) Also it should be noted that this in-language poll was taken pre-election.

Here are a few links about how  and why the polls were so wrong. Also any errors/ ommisions in typing were mine as I was taking notes on the call. For pretty graphics look at the presentation. -Caroline

Asian American Decisions did an in-language election eve poll of 2014 AAPI voters found here: http://vote.18mr.org/static/AAD_EE_Presentation.pdf

 

All findings from www.asianamericandecisions.com & Taeku Lee
1150 voters in 6 languages versus

National Exit Poll was of 129 voters in English, margin of error could be as high as 9%.

2-1 margins in favor of Dems 61-34%.
Although AAPIs have certain progressive values, most AAPIs do not identify as Democrats.

Texas Gov race: Asian Ams went 48-48 for Davis and Abbott.

VA Sen: AAPI 68-29 for Warner. Independents went 65-30 for Warner. Vote margin for Warner was estimated 25-30k votes, larger than Warner’s margin of victory.

Key issues:
Economy/ Jobs 32% (less prominent than 2012-2008)
Education Schools 22%
Health Care

40% of AAPIs indicated healthcare was either the most important issue or one of the top issues.

Immigration was lower down the list. 22% said immigration was not important in voting.

Partisanship:
Dem ID 97%
Republican ID 83%
Independent 58D.

Obama approval:
58-33 (15 pts higher than general population via Gallup)

Dem vote share went from 73% in 2012 to 66% in 2014

2012:
45I 14R 41D

2014:
40I 22R 39D

Partisan split on Obamacare
52 favorable 37 unfavorable

Immigration
60 support 26 oppose

Rep ID 47 support (more than oppose)

Min Wage
74-18 support

Rep ID: 57 support 32 oppose
Indep ID 67-24 support

Affirmative Action
63-26 support

Dem ID: 86-10 support
Rep ID: 38-48 oppose
Ind ID 56-30 support

Media consumption
37% internet
36% tv
12% paper

1 in 4 rely on ethnic media
1 in 6 rely on Asian language ethnic media

40% of sample was in language polling

56% were not contacted about voting

Contacted about voting by:
22 D only
11 R only
39 both parties
21 community org

2016:
65 D
35 R
33% said they were undecided or refused to give a response

Hillary Clinton:
62 favorable
23 unfavorable
2 not heard of
13 don’t know

GOP hopefuls have high unknowns, unfavorables.
Jeb Bush
25 fav 46 unfav 11 unheard 18 don’t know

Christie had 43% unfavorables.

Q & A:
Immigration sounds like it’s less important as an election issue than for the Latino community. Not single most important issue. 2014 is not a big change for AAPIs.

High no opinion rate that shows up in most polls. Party ID high portion of AAPIs either ID as independent or say they don’t know how to answer that q. Also for 2016 a high undecided portion. Tend not to share vote choice and partisanship in phone surveys until close to closing days.

Immigration linked to pathway to citizenship, were there other options provided for immigration reform? Big change between 2008 and 2012 in terms of big increase in AAPI support for immigration reform with pathway for citizenship. in 2008 it was 1 in 3. 2012 increased to majority. 2014 still a majority.

Since this is partnership between Asian American Decisions and Latino Decisions, any additional info on Young Kim & Janet Nguyen, 2 AAPI Republicans who won over Latino Dems in Orange County & implications?
Oversamples CA TX VA representative of AAPIs throughout the state. Didn’t ask horserace questions but will look into more info.

If you are only tapping English-only AAPIs, then that’s only one slice. NEP weighting moved from 52-48 D then they moved it to 50-49. This survey is pegged to Census weights. Still waiting to see why NEP they changed the weight. NEP is low sample size and they haven’t designed a way of getting an accurate picture of how AAPIs voted.

 

Last Weekend in VA, NC, CA

Proect the Vote Virginia This weekend is the last before the Tuesday election. If you’re reading, here’s what you can do this weekend. The stakes are high as, frankly, all the important races for us (Bera, Honda, Takai) are all within the margin of error or possible losses.

  1. Phone bank, canvass – either virtual (from home) or in person phone banking for critical Senatorial candidates like Kay Hagan of North Carolina (contact Jamie Maniscalco to volunteer) or Asian Pacific American candidates like our friends Mike Honda, Ami Bera, and Mark Takai. This phone banking is strictly for GOTV not for fundraising. Canvassing for critical VA races like John Foust in Virginia (contact Emil Trinidad to volunteer) or Kay Hagan in NC (closest key Senate race within driving distance). If interested in the APA candidates, contact Jian Zapata to volunteer.
  2. Protect the vote In VA: for my fellow lawyers, you could be especially helpful here but no need to be an attorney to do this. See training and details below from (contact Georgina to volunteer) and contact her above if you are interested. Also for more info on this, our resident expert since she has been leading several protect the vote efforts over the years is Erika Moritsugu.
  3. Protect the vote in VA for limited English proficient populations: for my bilingual speakers, you can help answer the voter hotline. No need to be a lawyer for this. Spanish speakers are especially needed and some Asian languages. Contact Georgina to volunteer.

For those of you who have helped in prior campaigns, you know the good feeling the day after the election knowing that we did all we could to fight for the candidates whose values and policies we support or that we protected the fundamental right of our fellow citizens to vote.

Find a way to use your weekend better!

Statement by the President and Attorney General Eric Holder

Editor’s Note: The below is a re-posting of “Statement by the President and Attorney General Eric Holder“. Our mission means we pay especially close attention to civil rights issues including the DOJ’s work in the such.

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
September 25, 2014
4:30 P.M. EDT

THE PRESIDENT: Hello, everybody.  Please have a seat.  Bobby Kennedy once said, “On this generation of Americans falls the full burden of proving to the world that we really mean it when we say all men are created free and equal before the law.”

As one of the longest-serving Attorney Generals in American history, Eric Holder has borne that burden.  And over the summer, he came to me and he said he thought six years was a pretty good run — I imagine his family agrees.  Like me, Eric married up.  He and his wife, Dr. Sharon Malone, a nationally-renowned OBGYN, have been great friends to Michelle and me for years.  And I know Brooke and Maya and Buddy are excited to get their dad back for a while.

So this is bittersweet.  But with his typical dedication, Eric has agreed to stay on as Attorney General until I nominate his successor and that successor is confirmed by the Senate.  Which means he’ll have a chance to add to a proud career of public service — one that began nearly 40 years ago as a young prosecutor in the Department that he now runs. 

He was there for 12 years, taking on political corruption until President Reagan named him to the bench as a judge.  Later, President Clinton called him back.  So all told, Eric has served at the Justice Department under six Presidents of both parties — including a several-day stint as acting Attorney General at the start of George W. Bush’s first term.  And through it all, he’s shown a deep and abiding fidelity to one of our most cherished ideals as a people, and that is equal justice under the law. 

As younger men, Eric and I both studied law.  And I chose him to serve as Attorney General because he believes, as I do, that justice is not just an abstract theory.  It’s a living and breathing principle.  It’s about how our laws interact with our daily lives.  It’s about whether we can make an honest living, whether we can provide for our families; whether we feel safe in our own communities and welcomed in our own country; whether the words that the Founders set to paper 238 years ago apply to every single one of us and not just some.

That’s why I made him America’s lawyer, the people’s lawyer.  That comes with a big portfolio — from counterterrorism to civil rights, public corruption to white-collar crime.  And alongside the incredible men and women of the Justice Department -– men and women that I promise you he is proud of and will deeply miss -– Eric has done a superb job.

He’s worked side by side with our intelligence community and the Department of Homeland Security to keep us safe from terrorist attacks and to counter violent extremism.  On his watch, federal courts have successfully prosecuted hundreds of terror cases, proving that the world’s finest justice system is fully capable of delivering justice for the world’s most-wanted terrorists.

He’s rooted out corruption and fought violent crime.  Under his watch, a few years ago, the FBI successfully carried out the largest mafia takedown in American history.  He’s worked closely with state and local law enforcement officers to make sure that they’ve got the resources to get the job done.  And he’s managed funds under the Recovery Act to make sure that when budgets took a hit, thousands of cops were able to stay on the beat nationwide.

He’s helped safeguard our markets from manipulation, and consumers from financial fraud.  Since 2009, the Justice Department has brought more than 60 cases against financial institutions, and won some of the largest settlements in history for practices related to the financial crisis, recovering $85 billion –- much of it returned to ordinary Americans who were badly hurt.

He’s worked passionately to make sure our criminal justice system remains the best in the world.  He knows that too many outdated policies, no matter how well-intentioned, perpetuate a destructive cycle in too many communities.  So Eric addressed unfair sentencing disparities, reworked mandatory minimums, and promoted alternatives to incarceration.  And thanks to his efforts, since I took office, the overall crime rate and the overall incarceration rate have gone down by about 10 percent.  That’s the first time that they’ve declined together, at the same tim, in more than 40 years. 

Eric’s proudest achievement, though, might be reinvigorating and restoring the core mission to what he calls “the conscience of the building” — and that’s the Civil Rights Division.  He has been relentless against attacks on the Voting Rights Act –- because no citizen, including our servicemembers, should have to jump through hoops to exercise their most fundamental right.  He’s challenged discriminatory state immigration laws that not only risked harassment of citizens and legal immigrants, but actually made it harder for law enforcement to do its job. 

Under his watch, the Department has brought a record number of prosecutions for human trafficking, and for hate crimes — because no one in America should be afraid to walk down the street because of the color of their skin, the love in their heart, the faith they practice, or the disabilities that they live with. 

He’s dramatically advanced the cause of justice for Native Americans, working closely with their communities.  And several years ago, he recommended that our government stop defending the Defense of Marriage Act — a decision that was vindicated by the Supreme Court, and opened the door to federal recognition of same-sex marriage, and federal benefits for same-sex couples.  It’s a pretty good track record.   

Eric’s father was an immigrant who served in the Army in World War II only to be refused service at lunch counters in the nation he defended.  But he and his wife raised their son to believe that this country’s promise was real, and that son grew up to become Attorney General of the United States.  And that’s something.  And that’s why Eric has worked so hard — not just in my administration, but for decades — to open up the promise of this country to more striving, dreaming kids like him.  To make sure those words — life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness — are made real for all of us.

Soon, Eric, Sharon, and their kids will be a bit freer to pursue a little more happiness of their own.  And thanks to Eric’s efforts, so will more Americans — regardless of race or religion, gender or creed, sexual orientation or disability, who will receive fair and equal treatment under the law.

So I just want to say thank you, Eric.  Thank you to the men and women of the Justice Department who work day in and out for the American people.  And we could not be more grateful for everything that you’ve done not just for me and the administration, but for our country.  (Applause.)  

ATTORNEY GENERAL HOLDER:  I come to this moment with very mixed emotions:  proud of what the men and women of the Department of Justice have accomplished over the last six years, and at the same time, very sad that I will not be a formal part — a formal part — of the great things that this Department and this President will accomplish over the next two.

I want to thank you, Mr. President, for the opportunity that you gave me to serve and for giving me the greatest honor of my professional life.  We have been great colleagues, but the bonds between us are much deeper than that.  In good times and in bad, in things personal and in things professional, you have been there for me.  I’m proud to call you my friend.

I’m also grateful for the support you have given me and the Department as we have made real the visions that you and I have always shared.  I often think of those early talks between us, about our belief that we might help to craft a more perfect union.  Work remains to be done, but our list of accomplishments is real.

Over the last six years, our administration — your administration — has made historic gains in realizing the principles of the founding documents and fought to protect the most sacred of American rights, the right to vote.

We have begun to realize the promise of equality for our LGBT brothers and sisters and their families.  We have begun to significantly reform our criminal justice system and reconnect those who bravely serve in law enforcement with the communities that they protect.

We have kept faith with our belief in the power of the greatest judicial system the world has ever known to fairly and effectively adjudicate any cases that are brought before it, including those that involve the security of the nation that we both love so dearly.

We have taken steps to protect the environment and make more fair the rules by which our commercial enterprises operate.  And we have held accountable those who would harm the American people — either through violent means or the misuse of economic or political power. 

I have loved the Department of Justice ever since as a young boy I watched Robert Kennedy prove during the Civil Rights Movement how the Department can and must always be a force for that which is right.  I hope that I have done honor to the faith that you have placed in me, Mr. President, and to the legacy of all those who have served before me.

I would also like to thank the Vice President, who I have known for so many years, and in whom I have found great wisdom, unwavering support, and a shared vision of what America can and should be.

I want to recognize my good friend Valerie Jarrett, whom I’ve been fortunate to work with from the beginning of what started as an improbable, idealistic effort by a young senator from Illinois, who we were both right to believe would achieve greatness.

I’ve had the opportunity to serve in your distinguished Cabinet and worked with a White House Chief of Staff — a White House staff ably led by Denis McDonough that has done much to make real the promise of our democracy.  And each of the men and women who I have come to know will be lifelong friends.

Whatever my accomplishments, they could not have been achieved without the love, support and guidance of two people who are not here with me today.  My parents, Eric and Miriam Holder, nurtured me and my accomplished brother, William, and made us believe in the value of individual effort and the greatness of this nation.

My time in public service, which now comes to an end, would not have been possible without the sacrifices too often unfair made by the best three kids a father could ask for.  Thank you, Maya.  Thank you, Brooke.  And thank you, Buddy.

And finally, I want to thank the woman who sacrificed the most and allowed me to follow my dreams.  She is the foundation of all that our family is, and the basis of all that I have become.  My wife, Sharon, is the unsung hero.  And she is my life partner.  Thank you for all that you have done.  I love you.

In the months ahead, I will leave the Department of Justice, but I will never — I will never — leave the work.  I will continue to serve and try to find ways to make our nation even more true to its founding ideals. 

I want to thank the dedicated public servants who form the backbone of the United States Department of Justice for their tireless work over the past six years, for the efforts they will continue, and for the progress that they made and that will outlast us all.

And I want to thank you all for joining me on a journey that now moves in another direction, but that will always be guided by the pursuit of justice and aimed at the North Star.

Thank you.  (Applause.)

END
4:41 P.M. EDT

Health disparities and Electronic Medical Records

I have been thinking in my personal life about electronic medical records (EMR.) A number of friends are doctors who service multiple hospitals, and they sometimes encounter different systems at each hospital (if the hospitals even have electronic medical records.)

As a privacy advocate, it might be weird for me to be advocating electronic medical records because of the potential hazards, but as a patient, it is much, much easier to have continuity of care with EMR. I don’t have to drag a paper printout of my test results with me to each new doctor. When I was insured via Kaiser, it literally took minutes from the time I walked from my doctor down to the pharmacy below for my prescription to be filled. The doctor had ordered the Rx while I was with her, and sent it electronically. It was truly a beautiful streamlined feat that I still wonder at. Like pressing the Staples “Easy” button.

Not being a medical professional, I don’t have to worry if I’m repeating back the precise medical jargon that was fed to me before. For patients who have limited English proficiency (LEP), it is easier than having family members serve as sometimes imperfect translators each and every visit. This doesn’t negate the need for each doctor or specialist to ask questions, but it can be helpful for establishing and cross-checking prior medical history. And it’s important for EMRs to be tailored to specific communities – recommendations for best practices are outlined by HHS and Partnership for Women and Families.

Obviously, having a nationwide EMR system exposes a ridiculous amount of HIPAA data to hackers, and there would have to be the most stringent measures taken to protect patient safety. However, there are already certain nationwide EMR systems such as the one used by the Department of Veterans’ Affairs, which was one of the early adopters of EMR. Despite some of the ways in which the VA is currently broken, the agency deserves kudos on this count. Doctors actually point to the VA EMR system as a model of efficiency even compared to systems at top university hospitals. (That the VA system and the Department of Defense systems don’t talk to each other is a whole other story.)

The same way that I can get a prescription filled in different cities because my information and insurance is in the system, it would be great if not only veterans, but all Americans, could see healthcare practitioners who understand their medical histories without having to wait for the home institution or doctor’s office to fax over information.

I could even see a system that has translations of diseases, causes, symptoms, and treatments that a patient could look over. This isn’t perfect because not all patients are necessarily literate in their native languages, but it could help to overcome some of the barriers. Obviously we still want more culturally and linguistically competent providers and translators at hospitals, but this is a way of bridging the divide. We can make tech work to increase voter participation and allow people to cast ballots in their native languages, why not to improve health outcomes?

–Caroline

Ferguson riots

[Written August 11th. This is as much an update for friends and family as it is a perspective from someone who is new to town.]

So I moved to St. Louis 6 weeks ago. Been out of town for about 3 of those weeks. Let’s count it as 3 weeks on the ground. Everyone is very friendly, strangers talk to you on the street. My A/C broke and my neighbors who I had only ever met once before offered me the use of both of their fans. (We only needed one for the bedroom.) Then I bumped into a new neighbor whom I had never met, and she offered to lend me her fans. Overall, St. Louis is great.

Everyone talked about the racial divide, the Delmar divide. We saw glimpses of it here and there. Fireworks in Forest Park and the 2 separate stops for folks coming from the East side and the West side. White and black divided by railcars moving in different directions. I was in Los Angeles, the site of racial riots in 1992, this weekend for the OCA convention when the Mike Brown shooting happened. Picking me up from the airport this weekend there was a police blockade. Now the cops are throwing tear gas bombs in Ferguson and shooting rubber bullets. My AFLCIO coworkers were at the FTAA in Miami in 2003 when they got shot with rubber bullets. They hurt. And actually were moved off the non-lethal list of weaponry. Last night a Walmart was looted and a gas station went up in flames. This is real and this is live. Here’s a good article about why Ferguson, why riots: http://www.stltoday.com/lifestyles/relationships-and-special-occasions/parenting/aisha-sultan/why-ferguson-burned-explaining-st-louis-area-riot-to-kids/article_725f501f-ba21-538a-acaf-f00221add91d.html

Brown’s own family members have said the destruction in their hometown is salt in their wounds. When peaceful protests turn to a city’s self immolation, there is no justice for anyone. What’s left is a community used to being unheard, roiling in the wake of a deadly police shooting. A powder keg of unemployment and poverty, of neglect and frustration, and those willing to exploit a tragedy for personal gain.

–Caroline

Futility of Peace

War Is Peace

I’ve blogged here since 2008 specifically about the toxic mix of religion & politics & notably how religion self-justifies personal flaws.

Today, let’s categorize Middle East crisis (now in its 2,500th year) camps:

  • Rational Historians: There’s been plenty written for centuries, especially recently, about the Mideast crisis. Most of what’s to be said has already been said.
  • Gave Up: A religious war 2500 years long with which self-justifies the mutual killing will end only when religion ends. Which is never.
  • Idealists: Let’s make peace! The endless stream of preachey & arrogant social media posts (i.e. “A Plea to Christian, Muslim and Jewish Friends“) by outsiders, especially white saviors & their kind
  • Jews: Peace is killing all the other side & taking their land.
  • Islamists: (see Jews)
  • Lawyers: Let’s defend religious expression with ethics and the rule of law. (as always, such folks are clueless & useless)
  • Killers: Busier killing the other side instead of bothering with futile social media posts like our friends’ & blogs like this.

So it goes on. And on. Until the end of time mortal. That’s not news, that’s daily life.

Bringing back earmarks?

There is an argument to be made that Congress functions better with earmarks than without. The latest version comes from Jim Dyer, a Republican who worked under Presidents Reagan and Bush, and served as Staff Director of the House Appropriations Committee. His point is that part of the reason that the Veterans Administration was not reformed before is that Congress hasn’t been able to use earmarks to microtarget problems and fund solutions.

After all, what good is a national transportation policy if we can’t fix the potholes on Main Street? What good is a national recreation policy if our local parks are unsafe? And while we debate climate change, can we at least repair specific cities and towns ravaged by hurricanes, floods and fires? And, if we are going to rightfully allocate $1.5 billion more in funds to the VA this year than last because our postwar era needs exceed prewar demand, can’t we at least arm the custodians of the purse with the power to ensure it is spent wisely? (Politico)

I am not wholly convinced that earmarks are the only way to go to fix the VA because let’s be honest, the issues there are systematic and very long-standing and precede the current moratorium of the past three years. However, there are so many issues that Congress has not moved on (such as reauthorization of unemployment insurance benefits or a larger jobs bill) that benefit Americans of all stripes and if it takes funding pet projects in districts to get bills passed, folks are questioning previous disdain for earmarks. Some writing from left of center argue that at this point, Congress is broken enough that we just need some levers to get it moving again. And if earmarks can spur action, so be it.

“There is no question that sometimes, to get bills through, you have to ask people to vote for things that are going to cause them political pain at home, and you ease that pain by compensating them with earmarks,” said former Massachusetts representative Barney Frank in an interview. Today, he added, there are other things a party leader can do to build support for legislation, but “earmarks were the best.” (Boston Globe)

Additionally, it’s not as if the process of earmarking has ended, it’s just gone underground as “lettermarking.” Or elected officials threaten to withhold votes for agency funding or appointees unless their pet project gets money. Or, in the worst case scenario, Congress just shuts down government.

While earmarks required publication of a pork project—along with the amount of taxpayer money being spent and identification of the elected official proposing the earmark—lettermarking allows for such expenditures without any identification of the project, sum and sponsoring legislator whatsoever. (Forbes)

No one wants bridges to nowhere, but Congressional dithering on other common sense issues such as transportation reform and VAWA that have previously passed with large bipartisan majorities could make progressives and conservatives alike rethink earmark opposition. Needless to say, federal funding spurs job creation and workforce training in the states. Sometimes the only thing worse than pork is a complete standstill.

–Caroline