Previously on The Jersey Shore my C&L blog, the Situation ate a steroid-infused meatball sub I recalled the events of my unlawful arrest at a National Organization for Marriage anti-gay marriage rally.
And now the stunning continuation...
To say that I sweated through the night is no metaphor. The air conditioning was on the fritz and, although there was a temporary system pumping in air from a semitrailer outside, the cells were hot enough to give Sheriff Joe Arpaio a spring in his step.
I did some metaphorical sweating, too. This was the Erie County Holding Center. Although it's a relatively quaint 680-cell facility, its “suicide” rate is five times the national average. And although it's recently been dropped, the ECHC was the focus of a two-year DOJ investigation, which alleged such constitutional violations as “elevator rides” (guards taking inmates to a floor without cameras and beating them senseless) and Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome-style inmate-on-inmate combat – done, apparently, for the guards' amusement.
“Who run Bartertown?” I softly whispered to myself throughout the night. “Master Blaster.”
Rachel Maddow even did a segment on this place a while back. While Erie County Sheriff Tim Howard refused to let the Feds inspect the jail, he had no problem opening up the door to Keanu Reeves. He was researching a role – like he wasn't just going to play Keanu Reeves. I'm not kidding:
Is this just plain incompetence, or is Gov. Soylent Green making yet another one of his wingnutty libertarian points? Whatever the explanation, I'm sure it's just fine. It's not as if there are any sick or elderly people in Florida anyway!
In March, Gov. Rick Scott’s staff said he would accept a $35.7 million “Money Follows the Person” federal health grant.
But the Legislature appears to have decided otherwise. In the 2011-12 budget Scott just signed, lawmakers failed to give the Agency for Health Care Administration budget authority to draw down and spend the money.
Patient advocates were dismayed at the omission, because the money was to have been spent on home- and community-care programs that let disabled and elderly people move out of nursing homes or avoid them in the first place.
The likely reason seems to be that Scott wants to throw a monkey wrench into the implementation of the Patient Protections and Affordable Care Act:
Questions sent to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services press office today drew an unusually cryptic response: "We continue working closely with states to ensure the benefits of more affordable, quality health care choices are available to all consumers."
Patient advocates say the grant money would have served the interests of both taxpayers and patients by keeping patients in the community and out of nursing homes – and letting some who are already in nursing homes be released to less-confining, less-expensive residential care.
“You end up spending a ton of money…in long-term care” that could be avoided, said Dave Bruns, communications manager for Florida AARP.
McRay and Bruns said they weren't sure whether the omission was an oversight or a deliberate cut for a program that was re-authorized under the 2010 health law, the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act. Florida is leading a multistate challenge of the law in federal court, saying that it's unconstitutional because it requires all Americans to obtain health coverage or pay a penalty.
Back in the day, I was one of the kids who spent the week between Christmas and New Years' Day gluing flowers onto Tournament of Roses floats. The best place to be in those days was near the Dr. Pepper float, because they served hot Dr. Pepper with lemon to keep us warm in the decorating caverns. The flowers were locally grown from various farms around California, and the glue for them could get you high as a kite in about an hours' time.
Growing up in Glendale meant you knew at least one Rose Princess in your lifetime and considered the spectacle in next-door neighbor Pasadena to be as much yours as theirs. I've camped out overnight on Colorado Blvd, marched in the bicentennial parade, and never, ever miss it.
It has always been a huge corporate event. Even back when I worked on those floats it was the province of big corporations with a smattering of ingenuity from schools like Cal Poly. Though it was corporate, it was also local. Flowers came from local growers. Float decorators worked for local charities and youth groups. It was very much a California event.
Leading Saturday's 122nd Tournament of Roses will be a 35-foot fairy tale castle called "A World of Dreams," the first float to be powered by fuel-efficient hybrid technology. And the pace car will be the fuel-sipping Honda CR-Z.
But behind the World of Dreams will be a whirl of planet-warming emissions: 46 floats powered by V-8 engines, some supplemented with gasoline-powered motors for moving parts, that are expected to burn through about 800 gallons of gasoline by the time they finish their 2.5-mph cruise along the 5.5-mile route. Mixed in are 80 auxiliary trucks, 145 fleet cars and dozens of law enforcement vehicles — all of them powered solely by old-fashioned fossil fuels.
Festooned to the floats are an estimated 20 million flowers transported from around the world in aircraft and trucks: orchids from Asia; dried everlasts from Africa; roses from Colombia and other South American countries; and tulips from Holland.
The reason for the foreign-grown flowers? Trade agreements, of course.
The exact "carbon footprint" of the parade and related festivities is difficult to calculate. But California growers are quick to point out that their home-grown ingredients have been forsaken for energy-intensive but still less expensive imports. Those flowers became increasingly available after 1991, when the United States struck a trade agreement with Colombia and Ecuador in an effort to curtail cultivation and processing of coca for cocaine. That gave cut-flower farmers and floral exporters duty-free access to the U.S. market, where 70% of flowers sold now hail from Colombia, according to the California Cut Flower Commission.
I don't think anyone could take all of the magic away from the Tournament of Roses for me. It's too much a part of my New Year's Day tradition, and always will be. But I live in a small city sandwiched between strawberry and flower farms and know what a price they pay when flowers are exported from other countries. That, and parade organizers' reluctance to make the shift to hybrid motor technology to power the floats makes the whole spectacle a little less impressive.
C'mon, Tournament organizers. Set the trends, don't buck 'em.
Earlier this week the California Secretary of State gave the green light to Republican Michael Erickson to begin gathering signatures for his version of the Arizona immigration law that targets ethnic groups for heightened scrutiny by law enforcement officers. Erickson is the former head of the California Republican Party, current chairman of Republicans for the National Interest and the Support Federal Immigration Law Committee (full bio here). He also appears to be a xenophobic Tea Party bigot cast in the mold of Jan Brewer, Russell Pearce and Kris Kobach.
“Californians are under attack from a growing wave of drug related, gang violence. Now that Arizona courageously has resolved to crack down on the drug cartels in their state, we may presume that the murderous warlords will seek a safe haven in our state,” continued Erickson. “Frankly, under the circumstances, we no longer have the time for the phony political posturing and fence sitting that substitutes for real leadership on this issue.”
Noting that illegal immigration costs the state of California “tens of billions annually in education, health care, and incarceration,” Erickson scolded politicians as not being serious about solving our fiscal crisis when they “refuse to provide anything other than safe, poll driven clichés on this issue.”
It's so easy to make claims like this without substantiation. In fact, California's crime rate has been steadily decreasing, with 2009 seeing a 6.6% drop in violent crime over 2008. That drop isn't an anomaly either. Crime rates in California have been decreasing since 1992 at a steady rate, even as California's population has increased.
In order to get this initiative on the ballot, Erickson will need to gather about 434,000 signatures between now and 2012. He will surely employ the usual professional petition-gatherers, mobilize Tea Party supporters, and rely on conservative strongholds like Orange and Riverside counties to gain traction. As usual, the initiative and surrounding PR campaign have been crafted with some lip service to the exploitation of immigrant workers in order to fool people into signing the petition. Here's an overview:
Initiative supporters must gather at least 433,971 signatures of registered voters by April 21, 2011, to qualify for an election. Erickson said he'd aim to put the measure before voters during the 2012 election cycle.
The effort will rely largely on volunteers from California's Tea Party network, Erickson said.
The California proposal would make it a state crime for undocumented persons to seek work while hiding their immigration status, and a state crime for employers to "intentionally or negligently" hire an illegal immigrant.
The measure would also require all highway patrol, police, sheriff's deputies and other officers to investigate a person's immigration status if they are "reasonably suspicious" that a person who they stopped is in the country illegally.
The difference with Arizona's law, Erickson said, is that officers would have to contact federal immigration authorities and conduct such a check within a "timely manner" and could not hold a person for a long period of time.
Just like the Arizona law, it targets people of color and Latinos in particular, because after all, who would "reasonably suspect" a white person with a Canadian or Australian accent from being here illegally. Right?
There are two ways this can go, assuming he's able to gather the required signatures. If it lands on the 2012 June primary ballot, Erickson and his group are counting on a similar turnout to the 2010 midterms, giving it a greater chance of passage. If it lands on the 2012 general election ballot, chances will diminish for passage because of the higher turnout and more engaged electorate. I think he underestimates the clout of the Latino vote in California.
Let's hope it never makes it to the ballot, but if it does, I predict a solid rejection at the polls..
Yes, I know the teabaggers' wins are attention-worthy, but the mere thought of Paladino and O'Donnell anywhere near Washington DC turns my stomach. (And Rand Paul, and Sharron Angle, and, and, and...)
So I went looking for what's going right. To my surprise, there are good things afoot that are being buried in the never-ending Republican noise machine.
First, Elizabeth Warren is going to be appointed as a special advisor to the White House and Treasury Department for the purpose of setting up the Consumer Financial Protection Agency. This appointment is sure to raise all sorts of whining from Republicans, who will certainly bemoan their lost opportunity to stall yet another confirmation.
The appointment would place Warren in charge of the new watchdog agency she personally proposed three years ago to protect Americans against lending abuses.
The official said Obama plans to name Warren as an advisor to him and Treasury Secretary Timothy F. Geithner - giving her responsibility for shaping the consumer bureau in coming months.
The financial overhaul bill signed into law in July gives this consumer watchdog - and the person who leads it - broad autonomy to write and enforce rules governing credit cards, mortgages and other such loans.
Under the law, the Treasury maintains responsibility for setting up the new regulator until the president nominates a director, subject to approval by the Senate.
The White House is also urging all veterans who are entitled to retroactive stop-loss back pay to apply as soon as possible. The deadline is October 21st, and any veteran who was stop-lossed is entitled to receive additional back pay for that.
Meanwhile, in Congress, Republican Senators LaMieux and Voinovich joined with the Democrats to break the filibuster on the Small Business Jobs Bill. For small businesses who are tired of beating their collective heads on bankers' doors, this is welcome news indeed.
In other Senate news, the Johanns amendment repealing the 1099 reporting provisions of the Affordable Care Act by eliminating wellness and preventative health care funding has been defeated. The White House has signalled support for softening 1099 reporting requirements, but not at the expense of wellness and prevention.
Finally, the Department of Energy announced grants to incubate new green energy industries.
It's news like this that keeps me from stabbing myself in the eye over teabaggers' antics. It would be good if our mainstream media gave at least a small amount of attention to it, too, instead of breathing heavy every time one of the idiots opens their mouth.
Post-wellcapping reports of "missing" oil contributed to message failure by giving the impression that Obama's administration simply wanted the oil to vanish from media attention, and was therefore declaring "Mission Accomplished." The White House certainly could have done better. Steadily-climbing spill estimates should have been avoided by coming up with two or three scenarios and publicly crossing fingers. Widespread reports of BP harrassing, intimidating, and banishing reporters from beaches invited all the wrong comparisons to Katrina and Bush.
It really wasn't a fair fight. BP has practiced this scenario many times in the global south: corporate message-makers deny, minimize, and suborn state agencies. The EPA is in such a state of deep capture after three decades of anti-government governance that it lacked power to stop BP from inserting a Corexit spout directly into the flow of oil. BP also had the tools, personnel, and resources to deal with the blowout, whereas the United States government did not. Without any real way to produce results in the Gulf, White House message-men took advantage of the Beltway preference for narrative over things like fluid dynamics and chemistry. The facts?! Who cares...
And so we all wonder about missing oil instead of learning anything. See how that works? Much more after the jump and this very non-metal video:
How nice would it be to open your electric bill every month and read that you own exactly ZERO dollars? Well, that's a reality for this Delaware resident who took it upon herself to install solar panels on the roof of her home. In a delicious bit of irony, across the river from her house is the Salem, NJ, nuclear power plant. As the MSNBC anchor says, it's a perfect illustration of old school power vs. new school power. If solar panels and $0.00 energy bills are the future, that's something this blogger is really looking forward to.
I get to talk to John Amato multiple times a day, but it's easy for me to forget no matter how familiar and frequent that voice is in my ear, most other C&Lers don't know what John looks or sounds like. But luckily for all you curious C&Lers out there, Jason Linkins, HuffPo's roving reporter at the DNC, caught up with John in Denver and asked him his take on Maliki's insistence that the newly negotiated withdrawal of US troops from Iraq is a "real" withdrawal:
Iraq and the United States have agreed that all U.S. troops will leave by the end of 2011, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said on Monday, but Washington said no final deal had been reached.
"There is an agreement actually reached, reached between the two parties on a fixed date, which is the end of 2011, to end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil," Maliki said in a speech to tribal leaders in Baghdad's heavily fortified Green Zone.
"An open time limit is not acceptable in any security deal that governs the presence of the international forces," he said.
Maliki's remarks were the most explicit statement yet that the increasingly assertive Iraqi government expects the U.S. presence to end in three years as part of a deal between Washington and Baghdad to allow them to stay beyond this year.
Without a doubt, this addiction is one of the most dangerous and urgent threats this nation has ever faced - from the gas prices that are wiping out your paychecks and straining businesses to the jobs that are disappearing from this state; from the instability and terror bred in the Middle East to the rising oceans and record drought and spreading famine that could engulf our planet.
In response to these challenges, Obama announced his New Energy for America plan, which includes an immediate energy rebate to Americans struggling with high gas prices, the creation of five million new green jobs, and the elimination of our dependence on Middle Eastern oil in ten years.
To gin up support for off-shore drilling, the Right has an ace up its rhetorical sleeve: the Chinese in Cuba. Here's Vice President Cheney.
"[O]il is being drilled right now 60 miles off the coast of Florida. We're not doing it. The Chinese are in cooperation with the Cuban government... Even the communists have figured out that a good answer to high prices is more supply. Yet Congress has said... no to drilling off Florida.''
"Even the communists" is a nice flourish. Mix the red scare with the yellow scare and get Uncle Dick's own Orange Scare. Guaranteed to freak out Americans concerned about their energy security. Here's House Republican Whip Roy Blunt (R-MO), piling on:
"Even China recognizes that oil and natural gas is readily available off our shores; thanks to Fidel Castro, they've been given a permit to drill for oil 45 miles from the Florida Keys."
Adds House Minority Leader John Boehner (R-OH), "Right at this moment, some 60 miles or less off the coast of Key West, Florida, China has the green light to drill for oil in order to lower energy costs in that country."
Problem is, that's all false. Like, completely false. China is not currently drilling off the shores of Cuba; in fact, it doesn't even have a off shore drilling contract. What is does have is a permit to drill on Cuban land. "China is not drilling in Cuba's Gulf of Mexico waters, period,'' Jorge Piñon, an energy expert at the University of Miami's Center for Hemispheric Policy, told the Miami Herald. In fact, it is not yet drilling on Cuban land, either.