Politics


I write about prisons and prisoners a lot, so you might never know that it’s a really hard subject for me to write about, but it is. It’s not just numbers and statistics and information; it’s family. My mom is in prison, on drug charges, and would be much better off in a drug treatment program or in a psych hospital. But, like more than 1% of the adult population in the United States, she is in prison.

It’s even worse here in Texas, which leads the nation in inmate population. This is from Channel 10 in Amarillo:

Tougher state and federal sentencing is one of the main reason for the ballooning prison population. Legal experts say new laws will increase that population because punishment ranges are being extended every year. So people will get longer sentences. But some say it’s a problem that is much more deeply rooted in Texas history. For instance 1 in 9 inmates are of black males. With hispanics being a close second.

“Our system in Texas is absolutely broken that’s why all these people are coming out of prison now on DNA results. In 50 years we’ll look back and we’ll see our system incarcerated lots of innocent people. Former Texas Prison Board Chair Selden Hale said. Hale says he believes the numbers are more like 3 in one hundred blacks that are locked up and 4 and 100 hispanic.

I wonder if anyone really does want to change the current system.  Prisons are big business in the U.S. There is a private corrections industry in addition to the large number of federal, state and local jobs that revolve around guarding, feeding and monitoring prisoners. Someone suggested to me that prisons are our society’s way of NOT dealing with the poor and “stupid” among us.

In California,  

As the costs for fixing the state’s troubled corrections system rocket higher, California is headed for a dubious milestone — for the first time the state will spend more on incarcerating inmates than on educating students in its public universities.

Based on current spending trends, California’s prison budget will overtake spending on the state’s universities in five years. No other big state in the country spends close to as much on its prisons compared with universities.

And that does not take into account how many people are involved in each system. It’s even worse in other states:

Those states are (in order of spending the most proportionally on prisons in 2007): Vermont, Michigan, Oregon, Connecticut and Delaware. The state spending the least on prisons relative to higher education was Minnesota, where for every dollar spent on higher education only 17 cents was spent on corrections. The average for all states was 60 cents, nearly double the 32 cents spent 20 years earlier. Only three states saw gains in spending on higher education, relative to corrections: Alabama, Nevada and Virginia

This link allows you to

Click on a state to see how much its incarceration rate has grown, how its spending on prisons and higher education has changed, what proportion of its prisoners are drug offenders, and the racial disparity between its general and prison populations.

What does all this say about our society?  Nothing good.  Time for us to start thinking about people instead of prisoners, inmates or offenders.  Time to start thinking about helping people with drug problems instead of throwing them in jail for decades.  Time to start treating mental health problems instead of waiting until those problems lead people towards crime.  Time to start acting like a society instead of acting like prison wardens.


Dan Solis from ThinkYouth sent me this video along with this note:

If this doesn’t get you motivated to endorse Hillary on your blog, I don’t know what will.
I gotta admit, this video made me tear up a bit. Have you seen it already?

I’ve seen the video, and I am well convinced that Hillary should make a statement with her hairstyle. So why does her hair look so flat on the video? And why should any of that mean that people should vote for her?

Vote for the candidate who will be the best president! Vote for the one who will be able to fix all the things that Bush and the Republicans broke. Don’t vote based on gender or race.

Here is my tribute to Ann Richards the week that she died.

According to the New York Times, more teenage girls are blogging. The author of the article seems confused or surprised by this since “THE prototypical computer whiz of popular imagination — pasty, geeky, male — has failed to live up to his reputation.” Ack! Whose imagination?

animated pencil smileyThe Times describes many girls who have glittery sites (just like my about page and my valentine’s day post!) but they don’t write much about girls who blog about important things like news and politics.

Vanessa at Feministing wrote about the Times article, criticizing their portrayal of teenage girls. She encourages the Times to look for more content from girls.

huggy kiss teddy bear animatedWell some of us do all of the above! We blog about important things in the national news and we blog about the Dixie Chicks. We analyze politics and conduct interviews and find glittery valentine teddy bears.

If you want to read some good writing from teenage girls AND guys, check out these sites:

YOUTHinkLeft

Our Descent Into Madness

Peace Takes Courage

ThinkYouth

Politics, real life, and puppies. Cute fonts even on my site! Live with it NYT!

Hillary’s first public rally in Texas is this evening in El Paso. Our primary is March 4, so learn about the candidates and plan to vote!

Clinton launches Texas tour in El Paso

Locked in a tight battle for the Democratic presidential nomination, Hillary Clinton will kick off the Texas portion of her campaign in El Paso today with a free public rally at the Don Haskins Center, followed by a private $1,000-per-person fundraiser.

“The excitement is obvious,” said U.S. Rep. Silvestre Reyes, D-Texas, one of the organizers of Clinton’s El Paso visit.

The Clinton rally begins at 6 p.m. today She is scheduled to speak at about 6:30 p.m. However, to accommodate the expected large crowd, the doors at the Don Haskins Center will open at 4:30 p.m., officials said.

Among those who plan to attend the rally is West Side voter Yolanda Uranga. She’s going along with her husband and several friends.

“We’ve got to have a good turnout because she needs us right now,” Uranga said.

Reyes urged people to show up early because the arena holds 12,000 people, and entrance is on a first-come, first-serve basis.

“In 1996 the Clintons had a rally at the airport with 44,000 people, and what people forget is that we turned away another 12,000 people,” Reyes said. “That’s how much interest there is.”El Pasoan Rick LoBello, who is helping organize Illinois Sen. Barack Obama’s presidential campaign in El Paso, said some Obama supporters will have their own cordial rally outside the Don Haskins Center today.

“Just like there is a lot of support for Clinton in El Paso and it is going to show tomorrow, there is a lot of support for Obama, and if he ever comes to El Paso it will show, too,” he said.

Clinton and Obama are locked in a tight race for the Democratic Party’s presidential nomination. Among the states left to vote is Texas, which conducts its primary on March 4.

Reyes said former President Bill Clinton is also expected to visit El Paso in the next two weeks.

Ramon Bracamontes may be reached at rbracamontes@elpasotimes.com; 546-6142.

So far, Barack Obama has already won Washington State and Nebraska caucuses this weekend, as well as Louisiana and the Virgin Islands. Maine’s caucus results are not yet complete, but this is what MSNBC has so far:

NBC projects Obama will win Maine caucuses

With 59 percent of votes counted, he had 57 percent to Clinton’s 42 percent

NBC News and news services

AUGUSTA, Maine – NBC News projected that Barack Obama has defeated Hillary Rodham Clinton in the Democratic Party’s Maine caucuses on Sunday, a day after sweeping three other states.

Democrats in 420 Maine towns and cities decided how the state’s 24 delegates would be allotted at the party’s national presidential convention in August. Despite the weather, turnout was “incredible,” party executive director Arden Manning said.

With 59 percent of precints reporting, Obama had 57 percent to Clinton’s 42 percent.

And this is from his campaign website:

Image of Barack's profileObama sweeps three states

Sen. Barack Obama swept the Louisiana primary and caucuses in Nebraska and Washington state Saturday night… The Illinois senator also won caucuses in the Virgin Islands, completing his best night of the campaign.

Well I can’t go, but maybe you can.

CALLING STUDENTS AND YOUTH NATIONWIDE

 

Spring Break in Washington D.C. to End the Iraq Occupation

We invite you to invite yourself, your friends, and your peers to come to Washington D.C. to join youth and students from around the nation to

Break the War with Spring Break!
http://www.ourspringbreak.org

Come any time from March 7th to March 23rd to protest the Iraq War as it is forced into its sixth year. This spring our Generation steps up.

Events will include but are not limited to: Sit-Ins, Demonstrations, Marches, Rallies, Civil Disobedience, Music Performed by Head-Roc and Son of NUN and more

Spring break: one usually imagines these words screamed from bourbon filled mouths at a tacky beach resort. Let’s use this vacation as an opportunity to take concrete creative action to end this unjust war and show that we care.

Be There

Click facebook.com/group.php?gid=7034243829 to join the Facebook group!

Click groups.myspace.com/ourspringbreak to join the MySpace group!

Click www.youtube.com/watch?v=u7FheS2RFMs to see the YouTube video!

To organize for Our Spring Break, e-mail: contact@ourspringbreak.org

http://www.ourspringbreak.org

Our Spring Break is endorsed by: Artists Against the War, Backbone Campaign, Camp Casey Peace Institute, Campus Anti-War Network, CODEPINK Women for Peace, A.N.S.W.E.R Coalition, United for Peace and Justice, AfterDowningStreet.org, The Critical Voice, Democrats.com, Grassroots America, Gold Star Families for Peace, Kennebunk Peace Department, Not In Our Name, Progressive Democrats of America, World Can’t Wait! Drive Out the Bush Regime

So, if my parents or guardians made me sleep in a room like this

or spend all of my time lying on the floor face down like this …

they would probably get arrested, right?  Either for child abuse or neglect.

But what about if parents outsourced abusing their kids?  What if they sent thm to places where things like THIS take place?

Many who have been there describe a life of pain and fear. They say they spent 13 hours a day, for weeks or months on end, lying on their stomachs in an isolation room, their arms repeatedly twisted to the breaking point.

….

 “You could hear kids screaming when they were getting restrained,” Mr. Bucolo said. “It was horrible. They would do it behind closed doors. And say the kids were lying if they complained.”

What would you say about parents who spent $30,000 to send their kids to this place?  Or what about this one?

(more…)

On Blogging for Choice day, the 35th anniversary of the Roe vs. Wade decision on abortion, I wrote a post right here about anti-abortion eighth graders at a Catholic school. That post was read on the air and discussed on the Head On Radio Network, and you can hear the whole discussion here. If I’d known it was on, I would have called in!

Click to listen. Click the FREE version.

(Also, if you know how to post an audio file to wordpress, please leave me a comment! Thanks!)

I think this seems like a pretty good idea. Everyone should have rights and everyone should know their rights.  A bit surprising that the newspaper article doesn’t actually say what the rights are.  What do you think?

Texas drafts bill of rights for foster children

Similar list of rights failed in 2007 legislative session.


AMERICAN-STATESMAN STAFF
Saturday, January 26, 2008A proposed bill of rights for Texas’ 17,000 foster children died in the Texas House last year after a contentious debate that one opponent said would have children demanding designer jeans. But the head of the state agency that oversees the foster care system has been quietly working to make that list of rights a reality.

Shortly after the legislative session ended in May, Commissioner Carey Cockerell of the Department of Family and Protective Services decided the agency would draft such a list, a spokesman said. That quick action came as a shock to state Rep. Eddie Rodriguez, the Austin Democrat who sponsored the bill in the House and watched it get derailed on a technicality.

“I have to admit, I was very surprised — and obviously quite pleased — to hear of the department’s plans,” Rodriguez wrote in a letter to Cockerell last summer.

The agency’s list of 32 rights — plus 13 more for those 16 and older — is similar to the list in the failed legislation.

Starting in the next couple of months, foster children will be told of their right to, for example, live in a safe, healthy and comfortable place, officials said.

The children, their caregivers and their case workers will sign a form saying they have read and understand the rights.

And the state is planning to design a coloring book this summer to communicate the rights to young children, according to a draft state plan.

Texas officials say these are rights foster children already had under state law.

“The idea was, let’s collect them all and package them together and label them a bill of rights and make sure that when every child comes into care, he or she has a copy of this so there’s no misunderstanding and there’s full disclosure about what rights a child actually has and doesn’t have,” said Cockerell spokesman Patrick Crimmins.

The bill of rights made it through the Senate last year but encountered criticism in the House. State Rep. Debbie Riddle, R-Tomball, took issue with a provision that guarantees freedom from corporal punishment and another that guarantees foster children clothing comparable to that of other children in the community. Riddle, who said she has been a foster parent, suggested at the time that a child might “wave their bill of rights and say, ‘It is my right to have designer jeans because the neighbors have it.’ ”

But Rodriguez said that critics were simply afraid children would sue foster parents.

He said Tuesday the bill of rights would have been stronger as a state law rather than what it is now — a rule from a state agency. But he said the purpose is the same. “They have (these rights); they just don’t know that they have them,” he said.

I just saw this and I think it is really warped. 

Kids: The New Voice In The Abortion Debate

The bell rang and the eighth graders jumped up, eager to compare notes.

“I named my baby Kyle Patrick,” one shouted.

“Mine is Antonio!”

At the urging of an antiabortion activist, they had each pledged to “spiritually adopt” a fetus developing in an unknown woman — to name it, love it from afar and above all, pray daily that the mother-to-be would not choose abortion.

“Maybe one day you’ll get to heaven and these people will come running to you . . . and say, ‘We’re all the little children you saved,’ ” activist Cristina Barba said. She smiled at the students in their Catholic school uniforms. “Maybe you really can make a difference.”

Thirty-five years after Roe vs. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing abortion, opponents are pouring resources into building new generations of activists. Young people are responding with passion.

Today’s students and young adults have grown up in a time when abortion was widely accessible and acceptable, and a striking number are determined to end that era.

Pew Research Center polls dating back a decade show that 18- to 29-year-olds are consistently more likely than the general adult population to favor strict limits on abortion. A Pew survey over the summer found 22% of young adults support a total ban on abortion, compared with 15% of their parents’ generation.

Click here to continue reading

Here are some suggestions for those kids that might actually be more helpful than what they are doing:

  1. Learn more about how to NOT become pregnant.  This is called sex education.  The real stuff that includes contraceptives and how to use them.  Prayer might be less effective than condoms.  Just sayin’.
  2. Help change this country so that women who want to have babies can get daycare and healthcare and jobs that pay them enough to raise the babies.
  3. Spend your time opposing war, capital punishment, drunk driving, cancer, heart disease, child abuse and all of the other things that kill people.
  4. Help get national health care for the United States so that women who know their fetus will be a baby with health problems will be more likely to choose to have the baby.
  5. Focus on the choices you want to make for yourselves, but let the rest of us make OUR own choices.

By the way, this is my “blogging for choice” post. 

You know, people said I was a little weird and too interested in politics when I started a political blog at age 14.  But this is WAY too involved, WAY too violent and WAY too young!

A 15-year-old detained near the Afghan border has confessed to joining a team of assassins sent to kill Benazir Bhutto, officials said Saturday, announcing the first arrests in the case since the attack that killed the opposition leader.

the White HouseNo Mrs. Senator Clinton. The White House is a Palace!

Hillary Clinton feels the White House is like a prison

Also, Obama says he’s no bureaucrat, more California voters decline to pick party, Michigan GOP congratulates the wrong fellow and a Lou Dobbs draft?
By DON FREDERICK and ANDREW MALCOLM
January 20, 2008
Not that it’s going to diminish her ambition to get back in there again, but Hillary Clinton says she views the White House as something of a prison.She also thinks that if she is elected president, she’ll have to have a contest on what to call her husband because “first lady” wouldn’t be appropriate.
This and other minutiae Clinton shared with Tyra Banks during a recent taping of Banks’ syndicated TV show.”Do you ever get lonely?” Banks asked the New York senator. “Do you ever sit in your room by yourself sometimes and just feel alone?”

“I don’t feel lonely,” Clinton said. “But I do feel sometimes isolated. Because when you are in these positions that I have been in, it can be very isolating. It is one of the reasons I [used to] put on the dark glasses and the baseball cap and go out of the White House. President Harry Truman once said that the White House was like the crown jewel of the American penal system because you can feel confined.”

“And kind of [like jail],” Banks added.

“Yeah,” Clinton replied. “Because you feel so set off and really isolated.”

Banks also wanted to know what Clinton’s husband would be called if she won. “He will always be Mr. President,” Clinton said. “But now we need to do a nationwide contest for a name.”

“Like a reality show,” Banks suggested.

“Like a reality show,” Clinton agreed. “This is good, because think about it — here are some of the things that have been suggested like First Mate. His Scottish friends say ‘First Laddie,’ but we need ideas. I’ll just keep calling him Bill.”

Banks didn’t get around to asking policy questions, but she was curious about something that so many of us have also long wondered about: which reality show Clinton might like to be on someday — “Dancing with the Stars,” “American Idol” or “America’s Next Top Model”?

“In my dreams,” Clinton said, “I would be on ‘America’s Next Top Model,’ but in reality I would have to choose [among] my limited talents, and of them, dancing is better than singing. You do not want me to sing.”

Finally, Clinton announced her decision: “I think it would have to be ‘Dancing with the Stars,’ ” she said, “especially if I could have one of those really good partners.”

Update below!

Would someone please tell me why the story about Huckabee wanting to change the Constitution and start a theocracy here is NOT in regular newspapers? I am not allowed to use AlterNet or TPM or the blogs as sources for weekly “current events in politics” assignments. And if it isn’t even news for a high school history class, then it’s really not news for the American public!

Here’s what Google News Search had for the search terms huckabee “god’s standards” constitution:

Huckabee Advocates Changing the Constitution to Live By “God’s
AOL News Newsbloggers, VA – 1 hour ago
means what he says, he wants the turn the US into a Christian Taliban state, where we would be ruled by what Mike Huckabee believes is “God’s standards. .

Huck, the Constitution and ‘God’s standards’
MSNBC – Jan 15, 2008
WARREN, Mich. — Huckabee’s closing argument to voters here this evening featured a few new stories and two prolonged sections on illegal immigration and
Huckabee trades God for jobs in Michigan
Guardian Unlimited, UK – Jan 14, 2008
The former Baptist minister Mike Huckabee today discarded the emphasis on conservative social values that propelled him to victory in the Iowa caucuses
Huckabee, 3rd In Michigan, Looks Ahead To So. Carolina
WCPO, OH – Jan 15, 2008
By LIBBY QUAID, AP Writer LEXINGTON, SC (AP) — Mike Huckabee, nursing a second third-place finish in northern states, looked ahead to the South where he

Mike Huckabee Doesn’t Believe in Constitution
Stop the ACLU, PA – Jan 15, 2008
by Jay @ 9:42 pm on January 15, 2008. If I may quote a famouse liberal…”You say you wanna change the Constitution, well you know…we all wanna change your

Why not the New York Times or the Chicago Tribune or a newspaper my teacher accepts as real?!?!? Here’s what Huckabee ACTUALLY said:

“I have opponents in this race who do not want to change the Constitution,” Huckabee told a Michigan audience on Monday. “But I believe it’s a lot easier to change the Constitution than it would be to change the word of the living god. And that’s what we need to do — to amend the Constitution so it’s in God’s standards rather than try to change God’s standards so it lines up with some contemporary view.”

He’s a FFFFing candidate for President who has already won a state! Tell me why that this shouldn’t be front page news on all the newspapers this week.

Update: It IS in a real newspaper! Just not in the United States. The UK Guardian has the story.

I got this from a teacher!  Not one of my teachers, but even so, every little bit helps.  Should I sue the teacher who gave me an 84 on a paper that I wrote in Arial?

Put your paper into Georgia, a serif font, and your grades may rise.

Some enterprising fellow at Fadtastic did the research, and discovered Georgia-fonted papers tend to get A grades, Times Roman-fonted papers get A- grades, and Trebuchet-fonted papers get B grades (”The Secret Lives of Fonts).

Of course, that’s what the type designers, book designers and web designers have been telling us for 20 years — a serif font is easier to read, and makes the reader feel more at ease.  When graders feel good, the paper gets a good grade.  That’s logical.

I also discovered that when faxed to news editors, sans serif fonts get better play.  If the press release is legible, it goes farther.

And, when I was taking broadcast courses, my grades rose significantly when my IBM Correcting Selectric II arrived, and I started doing all my scripts in Orator font.  The teacher, an active newsman at the time, graded higher when he recognized the font more — it was roughly the same font on the teleprompter at his station.

Pick your font and your transmission method accordingly.

The author of this non-scientific study is a web designer, of course.

I’ll bet you’ll find that conclusion, backed with some sort of research, in the book design and web design texts.

Remember when we all used typewriters, and such choices were not options at all?

Tip of the old scrub brush to Graceful Flavor.

In tonight’s New Hampshire primary, Hillary Clinton has just been named the winner, but she is only a little bit ahead of Barack Obama. Here are the results as of now:

ELECTION RESULTS

New Hampshire

Democrats Vote %
Clinton 67,828 39%
Obama 62,736 36
Edwards 29,126 17
Richardson 8,212 5
Kucinich 2,478 1
Gravel 240 0
66% reporting

There are 30 delegates from New Hampshire, 22 of which are pledged to specific candidates. So Clinton gets 39% of 22 votes, or 8.58 delegates. Obama’s share is 7.92 delegates and Edwards gets 3.74 delegates. Richardson would receive 1.1 delegates and Gravel and Kucinich none. If all are rounded, then Clinton gets 9, Obama 8, Edwards 4 and Richardson 1.

For Hillary it is great because she was third (by a tiny percentage) in Iowa and because she was not predicted to have this many votes or to win in New Hampshire. But it is not a blow-out. And the race is very far away from being over.

Vaccine  I wrote about this issue once before. I am very glad that I got the vaccine and I hope that other states will do what Texas has done. Health care is more important than scaring girls into being celibate.

Here’s the update:

After controversy, more HPV vaccinations, doctors say

Some pediatricians say last year’s controversy over whether the state should mandate Texas schoolgirls to be vaccinated against the human papillomavirus has translated into more individuals getting the vaccine.

“It’s really kind of an interesting thing – the controversy has really helped us get the word out,” said Chris Turley, vice chair for clinical services at the University of Texas Medical Branch’s Pediatrics Department.

“We really do have moms coming and asking for it. … People forget about the tetanus shot because it’s been around forever, but they come in knowing about this and wanting it for their daughters.”

Since July, Galveston-based UTMB pediatric clinics have been administering about 60 doses a month, Turley said.

Gov. Rick Perry set off a political furor last year by ordering that girls get the vaccine, which protects against a handful of HPV strains that cause cervical cancer. His action irritated conservatives and the Republican-controlled Legislature later undid his executive order.

Texas would have been the first state to require the immunizations.

Since then, the Virginia and New Jersey legislatures passed a school vaccine requirement, according to the National Conference on State Legislatures.

HPV infects about 20 million people in the United States with 6.2 million new cases each year, according to figures from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Perry’s office said he is pleased his actions have prompted Texas families to talk about the vaccine.

“As the numbers are showing, many girls are being vaccinated, and the governor views that as a positive result of generating this debate in Texas and throughout the nation,” Krista Piferrer said.

Though Perry can’t legally order the HPV vaccine for schoolgirls for at least three more years, Piferrer said he hasn’t given up the fight.

“The governor still believes this is a valuable tool to protect young girls against cancer,” she said.

UTMB pediatrics professor Dr. Martin Myers said there are still some unanswered questions – such as who would pay for the cost of the vaccine and what sort of demand would it create on its manufacturer – that still make the idea of mandating the vaccine premature.

There was a “considerable interest in the vaccine” in 2007, said Jack Sims, immunization branch manager of the Texas Department of State Health Services.

He did not have information about how many Texans were vaccinated last year, but he said the state was collecting that information for the first time in a survey to be released this spring.

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