Monthly Archives: October, 2007

Drinking the Laffey Sand

Geoff Schoos has a review of Steve Laffey’s book in this week’s Cranston Herald. From the column:

Being a U.S. senator means being a leader. It means doing things instead of just saying things, it means persuading colleagues when you think they’re wrong, and sometimes it means rocking the boat. –Former Mayor Steve Laffey

This definition of leadership appears in Steve Laffey’s book, Primary Mistake: How the Republican Establishment Lost Everything in 2006 (and Sabotaged My Senatorial Campaign). In so many ways, this book is quintessential Laffey — blunt, boisterous, egocentric and, for the most part, superficial.

When I read this book, it quickly became evident that Laffey confuses bluster with leadership. Like his tenure as mayor, it seems he can only build himself up by tearing down others. Too often, Laffey seems to live in a one-dimensional world of absolutes. In his world of absolutes, Laffey is always right and those who have other opinions are subject to his scorn and derision. As demonstrated over his four years as mayor and reiterated in his book, Laffey’s style is closer to demagoguery than it is to any definition of leadership. [full text]

Be Fair to Those Who Care

A lot of us in health care are part-timers for various reasons, and it’s not unusual to have two or three jobs. I have a supervisory position, which is nice, although on a bad day I tell myself that I couldn’t supervise my way out of a paper bag. I enjoy having the corporate jet whisk me in to work where I sit behind my mahogany desk receiving gifts and sharing power lunches with other nurses on expense accounts.

Okay, actually I drive from home to home and look at skin rashes or take client’s shoes off to see if they need a podiatrist. Their small dogs yap at me. But I like my work. I know what home health care workers do because I started out as a nurse’s aid.

It’s a job that requires trustworthiness, good judgement, clinical skills and endless patience. Everyone doing it should be paid better than they are, but the flexibility is good for mothers and people whose own elderly parents need them. It can be very rewarding emotionally.

I don’t think a job that is so labor and time-intensive is ever going to earn a large hourly wage unless the old people pull off a revolution. It is more concerning that so many workers are delivering health care when they themselves lack benefits.

I was talking to a home health aid and we discovered that we had both worked at the same nursing home. She was there for fifteen years and receives a small pension because she belonged to Health Care Workers 1199. It got me thinking of the typical situation of workers needing to put in a minimum number of months before they can even sign up for the company health plan. Small employers struggle to keep up with the rising costs of insurance, even as workers see the deduction from their paychecks go up. I hadn’t even thought about the post-retirement. There are quite a few people I work with who are over 65. Much as we all love our work, I’m sure they need the paycheck.

As a mature person I appreciate how much Medicare and Social Security helps me by helping my parents. I can go to work knowing that even though my parents invested more in us than in growing their wealth, they can live in dignity.

Everyone should have security in their old age. We need advocacy, from unions and lawmakers, for home health workers. The Supreme Court recently decided that employers do not have to pay minimum wage or overtime for workers in the home. If home care can be designated as a category of work that does not get the protection that most other workers take for granted it makes sense to organize.

Throwing the Book of Mormon at Mitt Romney

GREENWOOD, S.C., Oct. 23 Barack Obama rallying a global terror movement? Mitt Romney might have still been a bit bleary-eyed on Tuesday morning when he twice confused Mr. Obama with Osama bin Laden when referring to the latter’s new recorded message for jihadists to fight in Iraq.

Mr. Romney should stop using those Gideon Bibles to fall asleep after a hard day of campaigning. The Bible is too darned stimulating. He should read the Book of Mormon instead. It rambles on for endless pages of King Jamesese that make the Bible seem like a racy page-turner. I know, because I tried to read the Book of Mormon once. Not a waste of time though — I came across this interesting passage from 2 Nephi 5, verses 21-24:

“Wherefore, as they were white, and exceeding fair and delightsome, that they might not be enticing unto my people the Lord God did cause a skin of blackness to come upon them.

22. And thus saith the Lord God: I will cause that they shall be loathsome unto thy people save they shall repent of their iniquities.

23. And cursed shall be the seed of him that mixeth with their seed; for they shall be cursed even with the same cursing. And the Lord spake it, and it was done.

–Book of Mormon Published by The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints 1977

Although Sen. Joe Biden once got in trouble for calling Barack Obama ‘articulate’ I have to say that Sen. Obama has managed to run his campaign without making embarrassing verbal slips or reckless statements that he has to disown. When he was running for the Senate against Alan Keyes all he had to do was make sense and he came across as a statesman. Keyes was not above race-baiting either, accusing his opponent of taking “the slaveholder’s position� among other crazy, spit-spraying statements.

Seeing as politics is ruthless, and Obama, at least, manages to get his opponent’s names straight, I can’t rule out the possibility that Mitt Romney deliberately took a verbal jab — a little cut at Obama’s race, ancestry and family — just to test him.

More likely, it was a ‘Barney Fag’ kind of mistake. A private joke coming out in public. A moment of confusion because Mr. Romney has a mental file drawer for terrorists, Democrats, and dark-skinned guys with ethnic names. He’s going to win one for the values people and everyone else had better take a step back.

Politics is ruthless. I think it’s fair to ask Mitt Romney how he interprets that passage from the Book of Mormon. And it’s fair to ask him what in his record he can show to assure us that if elected he will respect every American as an equal citizen.

Blood on Their Hands

With the misbegotten war in Iraq dragging on, it seems perfectly appropriate for those protesting U.S. policy to step it up a notch and engage in some good, old-fashioned guerrilla theatre / civil disobedience, as occurred today on Capitol Hill, per Reuters:

Protester waves blood-colored hands in Rice’s face

An anti-war protester waved blood-colored hands in U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice’s face at a congressional hearing on Wednesday and shouted “war criminal!”, but was pushed away and detained by police.

Rice, an architect of President George W. Bush’s Iraq policy, appeared unfazed by the incident, which occurred when she entered a House of Representatives meeting room to testify at a hearing on U.S. Middle East policy.

“Out!,” shouted the chairman of the Foreign Relations committee, Rep. Tom Lantos, as police moved in to hustle the woman protester away.

Lantos, a California Democrat, also demanded the removal of several other demonstrators from the Code Pink organization, an anti-war group that often disrupts hearings on Capitol Hill.

“What are you doing, what are you doing?” the protesters screamed as police dragged them away.

Capitol Police said later three people were arrested and charged with disruption of Congress. [link]

The irony (and tragedy), of course, is that those with fake blood on their hands are held accountable for disrupting Congress, while those–such as Bush, Cheney, Rice, et al.–who have real blood on their hands and have deceived and flouted Congress remain unaccountable. Go figure.

Zyprexa Drug Rep Tells All

Shahram Ahari, who worked as a drug rep visiting doctors and selling Zyprexa for Eli Lilly, explains some of the tactics he was taught to use in this video. He talks about how he was told to downplay the side effects. He states the Lilly told him and other reps like him that “that weight gain is really propaganda put out by our competitors.” As reported here in The New York Times, Eli Lilly recently put a stronger warning on its Zyprexa stressing the problems it causes with weight gain.

You can learn more about pharmaceutical influence at Pharmedout.org, a new publicly funded program (funded through the Attorney General Consumer and Prescriber Education grant program) that “empowers physicians to identify and counter inappropriate pharmaceutical promotion practices.”

Should Barack Obama Change His Name to Winston Noble?

It’s summer of 2008 and I’m at a party talking to a couple of people who plan to vote Democratic. We’re commiserating on the war and all the other disasters of the Bush administration while discussing the Democratic candidates. The party goers are older people, partisans of Hillary Clinton, who had recently debated Barack Obama. Here’s what they said:

‘That Osama guy, he’s too inexperienced.’

‘Yeah, and during the debate Osama made some remark about Hillary Clinton’s cleavage.’

I should have said something, but my mouth was hanging open.

It’s scary that even Democrats are making this Freudian slip — Osama instead of Obama. And the actual cutting remark that Sen. Obama made was a question to Sen. Clinton as to what distinguished her policy on Iraq from Dick Cheney’s.

The cleavage hysteria came from a writer for the Washington Post, who should be ashamed that trees were killed to print such nonsense.

It all reminds me of a passage from the dystopian novel, Farenheit 451:

‘Sounds fine,’ said Mrs. Bowles. ‘I voted last election, same as everyone, and I laid it on the line for President Noble. I think he’s one of the nicest looking men ever became president.’

‘Oh, but the man they ran against him!’

‘He wasn’t much, was he? Kind of small and homely and didn’t shave too close or comb his hair very well.’

‘What possessed the ‘Outs’ to run him? You just don’t go running a little short man like that against a tall man. Besides, he mumbled. Half of the time I couldn’t hear a word he said. And the words I did hear I didn’t understand’

‘Fat, too, and didn’t dress to hide it. No wonder the landslide was for Winston Noble. Even their names helped. Compare Winston Noble to Hubert Hoag for ten seconds and you can almost figure the results.’

I read this in high school, and it was an invaluable lesson in how political distraction can lead people so far away from the issues that they forget to take their brains into the voting booth.

Be prepared for lots of smoke and slime. Check this out from Republican candidate Mitt Romney.

“Actually, just look at what Osam– Barack Obama –” said just yesterday. Barack Obama, calling on radicals, jihadists of all different types, to come together in Iraq. That is the battlefield. … It’s almost as if the Democratic contenders for president are living in fantasyland. Their idea for jihad is to retreat, and their idea for the economy is to also retreat. And in my view, both efforts are wrongheaded.”

Romney apparently was referring to an audiotape aired Monday in which a speaker believed to be terrorist Osama bin Laden called for insurgents in Iraq to unite and avoid divisions. The authenticity of the tape aired on Al-Jazeera television could not be immediately confirmed.

This is not a slip of the tongue, he has Sen. Obama calling on jihadists. Is Romney suffering from early dementia, or was this not a mistake at all? Is he appealing to the part of the base that keeps a six-pack by the TV? Is he taking a cue from President Bush, who continues to link Iraq to the 9/11 hijackers and uses confusion and misdirection so successfully?

I have to say that while I am immensely proud that Hillary Clinton is a serious candidate for President, I am leaning to Obama. He keeps saying things that I like. She keeps saying things that I don’t like. I’m really trying to focus on the issues, but I’m expecting lots of lies, rumors and dirty tricks. We need to grow up, people. This election is our future.

Tainted Love

Just to point out that bigotry is something we all can share, here’s an interview by Clay Cane with the gospel duo, Mary Mary, by way of Pam’s House Blend, which is an excellent Black, Gay, Progressive, Human Rights Upholding site and funny too.

Clay: I’m not sure if you are aware of this, but you have an extremely large gay following — how do you feel about homosexuality and having a massive gay following?

Erica: We are aware. Ummm… how do I feel about homosexuality? I feel how God feels about it, but I still love them. I don’t agree with the lifestyle, but I love them. They can come to the concert; I’m going to hug them just like I hug everybody else. They have issues and need someone to encourage them like everybody else — just like the murderer, just like the one full of pride, just like the prostitute — everybody needs God. What your struggle is may not be what my struggle is, but we all need Him. So, that’s what our music is about giving and God, not to condone the lifestyle or to say, Oh it’s okay, but not to bash — but just to give them God. I mean, I’m appreciative of all of our supporters and fans. Hopefully what they’re hearing in our music is my love for God.

Jeeze, I could get the same love at family reunions. For anyone who hasn’t gotten one of those wonderful hugs from someone who thinks you are oozing with corruption, and outside the love of god until you change everything that is authentically you–let me tell you, it’s schizophrenic.

When it comes to love, I’ll take mine straight up, from people who like me as I am.

The California Fires

If you are like me, you are living in mortal fear for friends and/or relatives in various California communities who are facing these devastating fires. We have heard from family in the San Diego area that the fires are very close and they need to be ready to evacuate. It is like night all day there, so smoky, and they have been ordered to stay inside with the windows and doors closed, running the air. We are praying that the winds die down tonight and things will be better tomorrow.

Newport Review Flash Fiction Contest

I’m on the board of The Newport Review and will be one of the editors reviewing manuscripts for this Flash Fiction contest. The deadline is coming up — October 31, 2007. Here are the details:

Third Annual Newport Review Flash Fiction Contest

Prizes of $100, $75, $50 will be awarded in the annual Newport Review Flash Fiction Contest. The three prize-winning stories will be published in The Newport Review.

We are looking for works that are short in length but linger long in memory: small stories that pack a big emotional punch and make creative use of language.

Complete Contest Guidelines:

Deadline: Postmarked by October 31, 2007
Word Count: Short-short stories up to 750 words
Entry fee: $7 per story, 3 for $20
Mail manuscripts w/check or money order (made out to Newport Review) to:
Newport Review Flash Fiction Contest
P.O. Box 65
Warren, RI 02885

Manuscripts should include writer’s name and complete contact information. Include a business-size SASE for notification of contest results. Manuscripts will not be returned unless requested; include SASE with sufficient return postage.

Writers may submit a total of six entries. The contest is open to all writers, published and unpublished, except writers personally affiliated with the Newport Review, its editorial staff or board of directors. Past contest winners and those who have been published in the print edition of Newport Review are eligible to enter.

First, second and third prize-winning stories and stories receiving honorable mention will be published in a future issue of Newport Review. Other stories may also be considered for publication.

Censor-tivity Training in Texas?

From the Associated Press (via the First Amendment Center):

Texas teacher could face criminal charges over challenged book

TUSCOLA, Texas — A popular English teacher has been placed on paid leave — and faces possible criminal charges — after a student’s parents complained to police that a ninth-grade class reading list contained a book about a murderer who has sex with his victims’ bodies.

Kaleb Tierce, 25, is being investigated for allegedly distributing harmful material to a minor after the student selected Pulitzer Prize-winning novelist Cormac McCarthy’s Child of God off the list and read it.

Tierce, a third-year teacher and assistant football coach at Jim Ned High School, has not been arrested, but his case has caused an uproar in this West Texas town of 700 people. Last week, more than 120 parents and students crowded into a meeting where the school board voted to keep Tierce on paid leave.

Most parents say Tierce should be reinstated, regardless of whether the book is too graphic for teens.

“He’s a great teacher and coach and motivates the kids like no one else can,� said Chris Garcia, whose daughter was in one of Tierce’s classes. “If you’re trying to protect your kids from things in books, you may as well turn off the TV and video games. You try to protect them as much as you can, but these days kids are just exposed to so much.� [...]

In Tuscola, south of Abilene, Child of God was on a list of titles compiled by all of the high school English teachers for a pre-Advanced Placement class.

Although administrators’ approval was not required for the list, school officials have since removed the book because they deemed it inappropriate for ninth-graders.

The book tells the story of a town’s outsider who is falsely accused of rape, then begins killing people. The character ends up living in a cave with his victims’ decomposing bodies. The 1974 novel “plumbs the depths of human degradation,� according to its back cover.

The parents of one ninth-grade student filed a police report on Oct. 1 with the Taylor County Sheriff’s Office earlier this month. Before contacting law enforcement officials, they complained to the teacher and principal, said district Superintendent Kent LeFevre, who declined to reveal their discussions.

The superintendent placed Tierce on administrative leave on Oct. 9.

Sheriff’s Sgt. John Cummins said the case would be turned over to the district attorney once the investigation was complete. Distributing harmful material to a minor is a misdemeanor punishable by up to a year in jail and a $4,000 fine. [full text]

Gee, I wonder if the same standards would be applied—or affront taken—to military recruiters who distribute material promoting enlistment to students. I suppose “harmful” is in the eye of the beholder. In any regard, some parents and school administrators would seem to need censor-tivity training. Or at least remedial instruction in civics and mathematics, i.e., to learn that taking offense ≠ criminal offense, at least not in this case, and that protecting ≠ coddling or pandering to the uber-sensitive.

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