Rant. Muse. Eat. Sleep. Recycle.
Wednesday, August 30, 2006
Judge says, 'Yeah. So what's your point?'
A Federal Judge in Michigan ruled yesterday that an anti Affirmative Action proposal can be put on the November ballot even though the judge acknowledged that the signatures on the petition to get the measure on the ballot were obtained through wide spread fraud.
The petition – sent out by the “Michigan Civil Rights Initiative” -- never even mentioned the words “affirmative action.” In fact, the petition appeared to be pro civil rights. I mean, just look at the name of the sponsoring group: the "Michigan Civil Rights Initiative."
These signatures, gained fraudulently, will go to support a measure that, essentially, bans Affirmative Action in Michigan. That would be like getting Jae to sign a petition for a measure that would ban the alternative press.
Can you say Bannana?
+ + +
DETROIT (AP) — "A federal judge on Tuesday allowed an anti-affirmative-action proposal to go before Michigan voters despite agreeing with opponents that it won a place on the November ballot through widespread fraud.
U.S. District Judge Arthur Tarnow, in a 34-page ruling, said opponents proved the Michigan Civil Rights Initiative "committed voter fraud in obtaining signatures in support of the petition." But they did not prove the MCRI violated the federal Voting Rights Act by depriving minorities of equal access to the political process, he said.
Opponents argued that the MCRI sought to defraud black voters in particular. "However, the MCRI appears to have targeted all Michigan voters for deception without regard to race," Tarnow wrote.
If approved by voters, the MCRI's proposal would amend the state constitution to ban race and gender preferences in government hiring and public-university admissions in Michigan. Lawyers representing the MCRI and state elections officials told Tarnow last month that Michigan residents would be harmed if they were not allowed to vote on the issue.
Opponents said the MCRI misrepresented the referendum's ultimate aims while petitioning to put the issue on the ballot. Witnesses testified before Tarnow that they were tricked into signing or collecting signatures on petitions circulated by the MCRI.
Tarnow sharply rebuked state officials whose "indifference to valid allegations of voter fraud" allowed the MCRI proposal to make its way to the ballot — allegations investigated only by the relatively powerless state Civil Rights Commission.
"With the exception of the Michigan Civil Rights Commission, the record shows that the state has demonstrated an almost complete institutional indifference to the credible allegations of voter fraud raised by Plaintiffs ... However, the Court cannot turn back the clock, and can only deal with the facts that are presented to it," Tarnow wrote.
The judge said in his ruling that "voters who were induced by fraud into signing the petition still have an opportunity to participate in the political process by voting against the proposal in the general election."
Jennifer Gratz, executive director of the MCRI, praised Tarnow's ruling but criticized his conclusion that fraud was committed.
"We are happy that he's ruled that the people are allowed to decide this issue," said Gratz, of Lansing. "However, the rest of his commentary is judicial activism at its worst."
Opponents, including an affiliate of the pro-affirmative-action group By Any Means Necessary, said Tuesday that they would ask the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals to keep the MCRI proposal off the ballot.
"Everything we've been saying for the last year and a half, we have the (Michigan) Civil Rights Commission, and now a federal judge, saying it's true," BAMN attorney George Washington said. "There are people who are against affirmative action who should be outraged at what's being done in their name. This should not be a con game."
The federal lawsuit was based in part on a report from the Civil Rights Commission, which said MCRI misrepresented its purpose to get voters to sign its petitions.
State courts ruled earlier that the MCRI proposal should be allowed on the ballot.
The MCRI submitted more than 508,000 voter signatures in support of its ballot drive, far more than the 317,517 required by state law. The ballot wording approved by state elections director Chris Thomas refers twice to a ban on "affirmative action," a phrase that does not appear on the MCRI petition.
The MCRI was formed after the U.S. Supreme Court in June 2003 upheld a general affirmative action admissions policy at the University of Michigan Law School. The high court also struck down the university's undergraduate formula as too rigid because it awarded admission points based on race. Gratz was one of two plaintiffs in the undergraduate admissions lawsuit.
"The citizens of Michigan now will be able to vote this November on whether to amend the state constitution to prohibit state agencies from granting preferences to individuals based upon race," said Terry Pell, president of the Center for Individual Rights, which represented Gratz in the undergraduate lawsuit.
A spokesman for One United Michigan said the bipartisan coalition of business, labor, religious and civic groups would continue fighting to defeat the MCRI proposal in November, regardless of the court battle.
"Their goal is to mislead Michigan about the true nature of this campaign, which would roll back progress for women as well as minorities," David Waymire said."
Posted by Kay
Tuesday, August 22, 2006
Henry David would be understand
I have my protest. It is simple; it's relatively anonymous (which is kind of a cheat) and it strikes me as fun. I have 12 "found" email addresses that I'm going to write to. I am going to send a simple message out into the ether: "Reasons not to like Bush." I will put ONE item on, sign my name and ask the recipients to do the same and pass it on to 12 more. FYI, my reason will be racial insensitivity; I'll let the others get to dishonesty, elitist, stupid, etc.
It's small, but it's a start. Feel free to send off your own missives.
Wednesday, August 09, 2006
Transparency is good...
By Roger Bate
What do Friends of the Earth, the Family Research Council, Phyllis Schlafly and the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force have in common? If you think not much, then you are partially wrong: They all love the new Federal Funding Accountability and Transparency Act. Introduced by senators Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Barack Obama (D-Ill.), the bill requires the Office of Management and Budget to establish and maintain a single public website listing the names and locations of all individuals and groups receiving federal funds, including the amount of federal funds received annually by program.
The idea of a transparency website -- replete with search engines that include subcontractors -- was born in May 2005 at a hearing on U.S. efforts to combat malaria. Officials from the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) squirmed as Coburn revealed that 93% of the agency's 2004 funding to eradicate malaria had been spent on administrative and advice-giving services. In addition, not enough of these funds were spent overseas; too much was absorbed by high-paid U.S. consultants.
Coburn, a doctor with a long record of monitoring international health spending, is fed up that U.S. tax dollars are being wasted. And so are a myriad of other individuals -- even those with normally diametrically opposed agendas. "Sunshine's the best thing we've got to control waste, fraud and abuse," Coburn says. "It's also the best thing we've got to control stupidity. It'll be a force for the government we need." Whether your pet concern is Halliburton in Iraq or the Academy for Educational Development's (AED) work in Africa, transparency will lead to more accountability.
In the case of USAID's efforts to fight malaria in Africa, the oversight returned quick results: "Once the agency figured out how they actually spent money, they couldn't justify the status quo and we saw dramatic reform," according to Coburn. "Now, lives are being saved in Africa because of USAID's malaria program. The hearing was a case study in how forcing transparency in government really can work miracles and save lives."
Congress's effort to break the bureaucratic triple threat -- too little competition, too little transparency, too few metrics to measure performance -- is long overdue. A recent Government Accountability Office (GAO) report on Hurricane Katrina spending showed between $600 million and $1.4 billion in improper and potentially fraudulent individual assistance payments. And that is just in our own country.
Audits of foreign spending are few and far between, and infrequent reports from the GAO often raise concerns of workforce planning limitations (i.e., workforces not being competent enough to integrate with the people on the ground to use taxpayer dollars effectively) as well as the need to improve oversight of organizational activities. Such limitations suggest that the problem of aid mismanagement pervades American action around the globe.
Aid-giving is a tough, gut-wrenching business, and the demands to spend for the sake of spending are constant. Without accountability, aid-giving bureaucrats often buckle under pressure to open the spigots, success be damned. Theoretically, private and for-profit contractors are meant to bring market-style efficiency, attention to the bottom line and new technologies to lower chances of fraud. Instead, bureaucrats and the private sector are bedfellows that oppose transparency. One reason for this comfortable relationship is that so many bureaucrats (from government agencies and Capitol Hill) move on to high-paying jobs with contractors because they know how to "win" contracts from their former bosses.
It is therefore no surprise that few of the largest government contractors support the Coburn bill. The long list of bipartisan nongovernmental organizations (NGOs) backing Coburn does not include any of the largest contractors, such as the AED, Chemonics International, Population Services International, Halliburton, Lincoln Group, Booz Allen Hamilton, Sprint, BearingPoint, Anteon, General Dynamics, Lockheed Martin, Raytheon, and SRA International.
Proponents of the bill suspect that companies accustomed to feeding at the government trough will band together to deep-six the Coburn initiative. Barring outright opposition to the bill's passage, the best hope for contractors is to promote a weak substitute. Remarkably, Representative Tom Davis (R-Va.), whose district includes such contractors among his most affluent constituents, has given them just the vehicle. Davis introduced a House version of the Coburn Bill, minus the transparency requirement for contractors, leaving only grant-recipient NGOs like Doctors Without Borders in the crosshairs. Representative Davis told the New York Times that "contracts are awarded in a much more competitive environment" and grants "are more susceptible to abuse."
The problem is that abuse -- whether by contract or grant -- is integral to the current system of aid. The time has come to shine light on the revolving door between government and contractors; to shine light on the corruption and inefficiency; to shine light on how taxpayer money is being spent. A little transparency will go a long way in benefiting Americans and the beneficiaries of their generosity overseas.
Monday, August 07, 2006
Why so complex?
As I read about the latest shenanigans of GOP lawmakers to pull the wool over the voters' eyes, it occurs to me that this is the computer age and what the U.S. Congress is working with is data. Laws are information and information is what we've gotten very good with in this country. We can transform 1's and 0's into purple Mona Lisa's or Blue Whale mating calls. And yet, legislators are piling pork in bills and tying unrelated items into single bills -- the latest and greatest being a single bill that raises the minimum wage, which is good for millions of people AND eliminates the estate tax which is FANTASTIC for a a few thousand people.
Why don't we tinker with how laws are passed? Make them clean and easily indexed, almost to the tune of One Issue-One Law. Cross-reference families of laws that then point to each other. For instance, if you're voting on the minimum wage, you should JUST vote on that issue. If there is a related issue that supports it, say increased SBA funding for new businesses, that should get a separate vote and be placed in the same "family" of bills. The old way of doing business is a recipe for political sabotage. For instance, if I'm a Dem voting against the minimum wage because of how much it will cost the country because of the estate tax provision, cyncial Republicans can point at me and say, 'See? He doesn't believe in the minimum wage.'
Politicans of all stripes have plenty of ways to hide their malfeasance; it seems absurd that the thing we elect them to do should be so fogbound. We should make sure that they know we're watching those votes ... AND we understand them. 1's an 0's people. It's not that hard.
Thursday, August 03, 2006
WHO exactly is guilty of class warfare?
A Wall Street Journal Editorial -
Unrelenting in their zeal to cut taxes for the richest Americans and unabashed about employing the most cynical of maneuvers to achieve this goal, House Republicans left town this past weekend for their five-week August recess -- after shipping over to the Senate a noxious package that combines an increase in the minimum wage with an outrageous near-repeal of the estate tax and an extension of expiring tax breaks. The House GOP win-win political calculation here is obvious: Marrying a tax break for the rich with a wage hike for the poor dares senators in an election year to cast a vote against increasing the minimum wage. That, combined with some extra goodies, might be enough to get the estate tax cut over the 60-vote Senate hurdle that has so far, fortunately, blocked congressional action. If not, Republican leaders wager, they've at least given nervous House members cover to assert (however insincerely) that they backed a minimum wage increase, only to be stymied by Democrats.
But this is a bad bargain -- unaffordable, unnecessary and, as usual, dishonestly presented. Senators shouldn't be snookered, or intimidated, into going along with it.
Whatever the case for increasing the minimum wage -- and there are points pro and con on that subject -- it doesn't justify nearly eliminating the estate tax. The House measure would raise the minimum wage, which hasn't been increased since 1997, from $5.15 an hour to $7.25 by 2009. According to estimates by the Economic Policy Institute, which favors the change, 6.6 million workers would enjoy an average yearly wage increase of about $1,200. But even assuming that's correct -- and that employers facing higher costs wouldn't respond by cutting jobs -- the benefit pales in comparison with the riches the wealthy would reap by the cut in the estate tax. Assuming that the 2009 exemption of $7 million per couple would be otherwise left in place, according to the Brookings-Urban Institute Tax Policy Center, the estate tax cut would give an estimated 8,200 estates an average tax break of more than $1 million.
The estate tax cut is being peddled as a less-expensive version of one already passed by the House and rebuffed by the Senate. Senators: Don't buy the new model. It's just a gimmick-laden version of the old one. Backers of the cut, which would raise the size of estates free from any tax to $10 million per couple and lower the tax rate on estates under $25 million to the capital gains rate, now 15 percent, argue that it would cost a mere -- mere ! -- $268 billion between 2007 and 2016, $15 billion less than the previous incarnation.
This is misleading on numerous levels. Because the cuts wouldn't actually kick in until 2010, that 10-year estimate is deceptively low, under either the old or new versions. The cost over the long term would be far greater: at least three-quarters of the cost of eliminating the estate tax entirely. From 2012 through 2021, according to estimates by the liberal Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, the new House measure would cost $599 billion, or $753 billion if the cost of extra interest payments on the national debt was factored in. And that's a low-ball estimate, because the new measure employs the now-familiar gimmick of phasing in cuts to make costs appear lower; the full effect of the change wouldn't be felt until 2015.
If that's not enough, the House bill includes $38 billion to extend popular expiring tax breaks -- iced with goodies for the timber and mining industries. The $1 billion tax break for the timber industry is designed to entice Democratic senators Maria Cantwell and Patty Murray of Washington state. The mining provision, which has the dual political benefit of putting pressure on West Virginia's Democratic senators to back the package and bolstering endangered mining-state Republicans such as Rick Santorum (Pa.) and Conrad Burns (Mont.), would cost $4 billion over 10 years and shift more of the costs of mine cleanup and retiree health benefits from mining companies to taxpayers. It involves something called the Abandoned Mine Land Fund.
What really should be abandoned is this ugly and cynical legislative trifecta.
Tuesday, August 01, 2006
Waiting for Fidel
As we lose our final shred of dignity (basically Bush salivated like Pavlov's dog in a bell factory when he heard news about Castro being ill) and dance in the streets waiting for Castro to die (and all the rich, conservative Miami citizens to get back on that island and subjugate the natives), I promise you this: I will not use a third set of parentheses in this sentence.
What I WILL do is give a little shout out to the other side and give CB some ammunition against those racist Dems. The following speech DID come from a Democrat, a former governor of Colorado. Enjoy.
"We all know Dick Lamm as the former Governor of Colorado. In that context his thoughts are particularly poignant. Last week there was an immigration-overpopulation conference in Washington, DC, filled to capacity by many of American's finest minds and leaders. A brilliant college professor named Victor Hansen Davis talked about his latest book, "Mexifornia," explaining how immigration — both legal and illegal — was destroying the entire state of California. He said it would march across the country until it destroyed all vestiges of The American Dream.
Moments later, former Colorado Governor Richard D. Lamm stood up and gave a stunning speech on how to destroy America. The audience sat spellbound as he described eight methods for the destruction of the United States. He said, "If you believe that America is too smug, too self-satisfied, too rich, then let's destroy America. It is not that hard to do. No nation in history has survived the ravages of time. Arnold Toynbee observed that all great civilizations rise and fall and that 'An autopsy of history would show that all great nations commit suicide.'"
"Here is how they do it," Lamm said: First to destroy America, "Turn America into a bilingual or multi-lingual and bicultural country. History shows that no nation can survive the tension, conflict, and antagonism of two or more competing languages and cultures. It is a blessing for an individual to be bilingual; however, it is a curse for a society to be bilingual. The historical scholar Seymour Lipset put it this way: 'The histories of bilingual and bi-cultural societies that do not assimilate are histories of turmoil, tension, and tragedy. Canada, Belgium, Malaysia, Lebanon all face crises of national existence in which minorities press for autonomy, if not independence. Pakistan and Cyprus have divided. Nigeria suppressed an ethnic rebellion. France faces difficulties with Basques, Bretons, and Corsicans."
Lamm went on: Second, to destroy America, "Invent 'multiculturalism' and encourage immigrants to maintain their culture. I would make it an article of belief that all cultures are equal. That there are no cultural differences. I would make it an article of faith that the Black and Hispanic dropout rates are due to prejudice and discrimination by the majority. Every other explanation is out of bounds.
Third, "We could make the United States a 'Hispanic Quebec' without much effort. The key is to celebrate diversity rather than unity. As Benjamin Schwarz said in the Atlantic Monthly recently: 'The apparent success of our own multiethnic and multicultural experiment might have been achieved! Not by tolerance but by hegemony. Without the dominance that once dictated ethnocentrically and what it meant to be an American, we are left with only tolerance and pluralism to hold us together.'"
Lamm said, "I would encourage all immigrants to keep their own language and culture. I would replace the melting pot metaphor with the salad bowl metaphor. It is important to ensure that we have various cultural subgroups living in America reinforcing their differences rather than as Americans, emphasizing their similarities."
"Fourth, I would make our fastest growing demographic group the least educated. I would add a second underclass, unassimilated, undereducated, and antagonistic to our population. I would have this second underclass have a 50% dropout rate from high school."
"My fifth point for destroying America would be to get big foundations and business to give these efforts lots of money. I would invest in ethnic identity, and I would establish the cult of 'Victimology.' I would get all minorities to think their lack of success was the fault of the majority. I would start a grievance industry blaming all minority failure on the majority population."
"My sixth plan for America's downfall would include dual citizenship and promote divided loyalties. I would celebrate diversity over unity. I would stress differences rather than similarities. Diverse people worldwide are mostly engaged in hating each other - that is, when they are not killing each other. A diverse, peaceful, or stable society is against most historical precedent. People undervalue the unity! Unity is what it takes to keep a nation together. Look at the ancient Greeks. The Greeks believed that they belonged to the same race; they possessed a common language and literature; and they worshiped the same gods. All Greece took part in the Olympic Games.
A common enemy Persia threatened their liberty. Yet all these bonds were not strong enough to over come two factors: local patriotism and geographical conditions that nurtured political divisions. Greece fell.
"E. Pluribus Unum" — From many, one. In that historical reality, if we put the emphasis on the 'pluribus' instead of the 'Unum,' we can balkanize America as surely as Kosovo."
"Next to last, I would place all subjects off limits ~ make it taboo to talk about anything against the cult of 'diversity.' I would find a word similar to 'heretic' in the 16th century - that stopped discussion and paralyzed thinking. Words like 'racist' or 'x! xenophobes' halt discussion and debate."
"Having made America a bilingual/bicultural country, having established multi-culturism, having the large foundations fund the doctrine of 'Victimology,' I would next make it impossible to enforce our immigration laws. I would develop a mantra: That because immigration has been good for America, it must always be good. I would make every individual immigrant symmetric and ignore the cumulative impact of millions of them."
In the last minute of his speech, Governor Lamm wiped his brow. Profound silence followed. Finally he said, "Lastly, I would censor Victor Hanson Davis's book Mexifornia. His book is dangerous. It exposes the plan to destroy America. If you feel America deserves to be destroyed, don't read that book."
There was no applause.