Friday, July 17, 2009
A High-Tech Temper Tantrum
We've got to say to our children, yes, if you're African American, the odds of growing up amid crime and gangs are higher. Yes, if you live in a poor neighborhood, you will face challenges that somebody in a wealthy suburb does not have to face. But that's not a reason to get bad grades -- (applause) -- that's not a reason to cut class -- (applause) -- that's not a reason to give up on your education and drop out of school. (Applause.) No one has written your destiny for you. Your destiny is in your hands -- you cannot forget that. That's what we have to teach all of our children. No excuses. (Applause.) No excuses.
You get that education, all those hardships will just make you stronger, better able to compete. Yes we can. (Applause.)
To parents -- to parents, we can't tell our kids to do well in school and then fail to support them when they get home. (Applause.) You can't just contract out parenting. For our kids to excel, we have to accept our responsibility to help them learn. That means putting away the Xbox -- (applause) -- putting our kids to bed at a reasonable hour. (Applause.) It means attending those parent-teacher conferences and reading to our children and helping them with their homework. (Applause.)
And by the way, it means we need to be there for our neighbor's sons and daughters. (Applause.) We need to go back to the time, back to the day when we parents saw somebody, saw some kid fooling around and -- it wasn't your child, but they'll whup you anyway. (Laughter and applause.) Or at least they'll tell your parents -- the parents will. You know. (Laughter.) That's the meaning of community. That's how we can reclaim the strength and the determination and the hopefulness that helped us come so far; helped us make a way out of no way.
On The Right Side of Shakedown Street
The American Conservative Union asked FedEx for a check for $2 million to $3 million in return for the group’s endorsement in a bitter legislative dispute, then flipped and sided with UPS after FedEx refused to pay.[SNIP]
For the $2 million plus, ACU offered a range of services that included: “Producing op-eds and articles written by ACU’s Chairman David Keene and/or other members of the ACU’s board of directors. (Note that Mr. Keene writes a weekly column that appears in The Hill.)”
The conservative group’s remarkable demand — black-and-white proof of the longtime Washington practice known as “pay for play” — was contained in a private letter to FedEx , which was provided to POLITICO.
FedEx currently has one U.S. union contract for its entire express business. Under a change passed by the House and awaiting action in the Senate, FedEx — like UPS — would have to negotiate union contracts for individual locations, which FedEx claims would make it much more difficult to promise worldwide regularity for deliveries.[SNIP]
The American Conservative Union, which calls itself “the nation's oldest and largest grass-roots conservative lobbying organization,” took UPS’s side on Wednesday as part of a conservative consortium that accused FedEx of “misleading the public and legislators.” ACU's logo is at the top of the letter, along with those of six other conservative groups.
Just two weeks earlier, ACU had offered its endorsement to FedEx, saying in a letter to the company: “We stand with FedEx in opposition to this legislation.”
But there was a catch — an expensive one. ACU asked FedEx to pay as much as $3.4 million for e-mail and other services for “an aggressive grass-roots campaign to stop the legislation in the Senate.”
“For the activist contact portion of the plan, we will contact over 150,000 people per state multiple times at a cost of $1.39 per name or $2,147,550 to implement the entire program,” the letter says. “If we incorporate the targeted, senator-personalized radio effort into the plan, you can figure an additional $125,000 on average, per state” for an estimated 10 states. The total would be $3,397,550.”
Lane, the FedEx official, said the offer was refused. "The proposal didn’t fit with our strategy of taking a straightforward approach to discussing the issue,” he said.Good conservative help is hard to come by these days -- so, obviously, when it absolutely, positively, has to be there overnight, it's gonna cost you. And, if you can't pay up, well, you'll find out what brown can do to you. It's quite obvious that in these corporate battles, there is ultimately little difference for some conservatives between "principle" and "interest."
After the rebuff, American Conservative Union changed sides. ACU Chairman David A. Keene was one of eight conservative leaders who signed a letter to FedEx Chairman Frederick W. Smith, a champion of capitalism who in the past has been a favorite of conservatives.
The letter accuses FedEx of “falsely and disingenuously” labeling the rules change a “bailout” for UPS, since FedEx would become subject to the same arduous union structure.
The letter is also signed by Grover Norquist, president of Americans for Tax Reform, who is also on ACU’s board. FedEx is pushing its case with a website called www.BrownBailout.com.
Heading Into The E.R.
If President Obama's health care reform plan were a patient, it would be in the emergency room, its condition downgraded to critical. The prognosis may not quite be terminal, but long-term survival looks iffy.
Six months into a new administration and DC reality has sneaked in rather quickly -- and on three fronts.
1) House conservative Democrats began voicing their concerns as a group last week on the direction of health care. This week, one key Democrat lawmaker went from expressing reservations to out and out rebellion. And considering that Obama narrowly won Indiana last year, Rep. Baron Hill's opposition is particularly troubling: It endangers not merely the policy itself -- but the president's electoral chances in a key swing state.
2) A splash of cold-water from the director of the Congressional Budget Office won't help. Douglas Elmendorf blew a hole through the president's main reason for the health care overhaul -- that it will save money. Au contraire, says Mr. Elmendorf: "The coverage proposals in this legislation would expand federal spending on health care to a significant degree and in our analysis so far we don't see other provisions in this legislation reducing federal health spending by a corresponding degree."
The Democrats' response to Elmendorf's analysis contained an interesting irony:
[Connecticut Sen. Christopher] Dodd complained that CBO refuses to assume that government savings will occur from an increased focus on wellness and preventive health care.
“The only thing CBO does is tell you how much taxpayer money has to be invested to achieve those results,” Dodd said.
“We believe we have crafted legislation that does bend that curve, bring health care costs down and make it affordable for all Americans,” he said. “I appreciate their work, but frankly we’re on the right track, we have a solid bill and one that’s affordable.”
Dodd's words almost semm like the mirror image of Republican complaints on CBO's analysis of the impact of tax cuts. The GOP argued for decades that the CBO should adopt a so-called "dynamic scoring" model that would allow for the impact of tax cuts in stimulating economic growth. By doing that, Republicans argue, the CBO could see how much revenue would be brought in -- and thus the tax cuts wouldn't have such a negative impact on the deficit.
Democrats now argue that the CBO isn't taking into account the possibility that "wellness" growth will bring in as-yet-unrecognized savings which will keep annual deficits from rising.
3) A dissing of the president from one of solons of the Senate: The key committee chairman that all health-care observers are keeping an eye on is the head of the Senate Finance Committee, Max Baucus. A Montana centrist who's been known to vote with Republicans in the past -- much to the distress of activists on the left -- Baucus is essential in getting through the funding component of health care. Well, it's not so good for the effort when he mouths off that, the president, "is not helping us" structure workable legislation. Baucus apologized later. Nice thing about those quotes, senator: The dis gets the headlines. The apology? Nada!
Thursday, July 16, 2009
21st Century Advancement
And, as you may have heard, that man -- one Barack Obama -- happens to be black, or "colored" as was the word in vogue a century ago.
But if Obama's appearance -- and achievement -- can be rightly seen as the most prominent triumph of the civil rights organization's lengthy history, the group's archaic name stands as a perfect example of its need to reform and re-energize itself for the 21st century. "Colored people" isn't merely a quaint phrase of a day long past; in certain cases, it's an insult. The fact that language has now caused everything to come almost full-circle to encompass the phrase "people of color" means little. If anything "NAAPC" could actually stand for the National Association For the The Politically Correct.
Which, come to think of it, might be more accurate. Which is precisely the problem.
This is not to say that there aren't certain definite social problems that impact the African American community at a greater extent than the rest of society. That's manifestly true. But the NAACP must realize that Obama's rise -- while representing a great opportunity to show there really are no obstacles a black person can't overcome -- also presents a challenge.
Fairly or not, Obama's election may have alleviated whatever remained of "white guilt" within the broader public. Another way of saying this is that America believes that Obama represents the nation at last having gotten "beyond race." For African Americans, racism still exists, but it isn't seen as a debilitating obstacle for the broader society. And, compared to history, it's not.
If that's the case, the NAACP needs to be more than just another generic liberal organization campaigning for "national health care" as its chairman is now suggesting. The organization needs to think outside of the proverbial box. If it wants to advocate for health reform, fine. But it must also be prepared to pick fights with teachers unions that often block meaningful reform in many urban environments. That blocked reform -- charter schools or vouchers, for example -- proportionally harms black and other minority students more than white kids.
A black man has become president. That's wonderful and cause for the NAACP to celebrate. But advancing the African American cause in the 21st century requires a whole new way of thought.
Monday, July 13, 2009
Guns And Purse Straps Kill People
By this logic, boxer Arturo Gatti -- allegedly killed by his younger wife as he slept -- is, apparently a victim of Brazil's "purse strap" culture.
Rather than going for the easy, ahem, "target" of guns, the biggest lesson from the circumstances of these two incidents might be to tell male athletes not to cavort with women a whole lot younger.
Or at least not fall asleep on them.