Monthly Archives: January, 2008

Cranston to Move 6th Grade Back to Elementary School

The Projo reports that the School Committee approved the plan to move the 6th graders in Cranston back into the elementary schools by a vote of 5 to 2.

While many people are concerned about this, we in Eden Park have particular reason to be concerned, as last night it was also proposed that, to solve the overcrowding problems that the move will cause at Waterman Elementary School, the 6th graders from that school will attend Eden Park Elementary. From the Eden Park PTO listserv:

[...] Waterman Kindergarten and first graders were to originally be redistricted and (bussed) to Garden City School, because of lack of space. After the out cries, and concerns of the Waterman parents, the school committee has put another proposal on the table for Waterman.

Instead of sending their babies to Garden City, they are now proposing to send their 6th graders to Eden Park School. Not only do we now have to find the space for our own two 6th grade classes, we also have to house ALL 6th graders from Waterman School. Either we will have four 6th grade classes or over crowd and stuff them into 2 or 3 classes, but the overcrowding is not our first concern.

At this time our two portables are not in any condition to house 2 classes of children all day long (which we may have to do if Waterman students are redistricted to Eden Park). The air quality is poor, the rugs are disgusting, and the heating system is not working ( as some of you know from December’s Holiday Shop). We wore our coats all day long because they were unable to get the heat to work. When the question of cleaning up the portables was brought up to Deb Greifer and Ken Bowling when they attended our PTO meeting in November, Deb Grieifer said immediately that there was no money in the budget to spend on cleaning existing portables.

However, if we have no choice but to make do with the situation, the Eden Park PTO will hire a company to come into the portables to check for mold, air and heating quality to make sure that both portables pass the inspection and restriction guidelines. With this documentation in hand, we will then be better equipped to fight for the City of Cranston to provide good quality and clean classrooms for our children.

Another issue is where will we put the second kindergarten class in two years when they make ALL DAY KINDERGARTEN? We are already giving up the library and reading room to house the two six grade classes, not four. Where will we put yet another kindergarten class, two more 6th grade classes from Waterman, a library room, reading room and music and art room? Will we get another portable? Is there enough space in the cafeteria for lunch? Will we have to resort to having 3 lunches? These are questions unanswered. We as parents of Eden Park Students have to be the voices for our children. Please call, write or e-mail to not only the school committee, but our Mayor, superintendent, and other city officials.

We will keep you posted as to this current situation.

As the Markets Get Manipulated

UPDATE #3: After making a new back-up of the site yesterday, I found that the spam issue had impacted the comments sections. Therefore, and much to my dismay, I have closed the comments on posts temporarily while the spam problem is fixed. We are making progress and hope to be back to normal soon.

UPDATED NOTE TO READERS: Wow, what a prophetic post for Kmareka to be stuck on — Nancy certainly called the turmoil in the markets today in her last two posts, and even printing up free money and giving away interest rates is only marginally stabilizing things.

In the meantime, Kmareka is having its own little crisis. Last Friday, we were attacked by a spambot which got into the site. We have regained security and removed the offending spam link droppings, but we are currently still seeking to restore the site to full functioning. The solution to this problem may or may not involve upgrading our platform, which could take a few days. In the meantime, comments on all of our posts still work, so feel free to talk amongst yourselves. In other words, please chat it up on a thread of your choosing. — Kiersten Marek

NOTE TO READERS: We seem to be having some technical difficulties with creating new posts. Please bear with us as we try to solve the problem. — Kiersten Marek

ORIGINAL POST:

I’m not an economist, but ever since the election of President Bush, shortly followed by the fall of Enron, the failure to prevent the terrorist attack of 9/11, the start of the Iraq War, I have heard astounding amounts of money being poured into this and that, as the rich enjoy one tax cut after another. I just assumed they were printing up Bush Bills in the basement.

You hear talk about fiscal responsibility when there’s another cut in services to low-income people, when the schools, hospitals, bridges and levees are shortchanged. Strangely, the same filthy lucre that is so corrupting to working people is a source of virtue to the rich. It’s a terrible thing to make someone pay taxes on inherited wealth. Tax the workers on their pay, or whack them at the supermarket with sales taxes, but leave those stock dividends alone.

Now it looks like the squeeze on ordinary people is affecting profits, and something has to be done. Last week put a scare into the stock market.

“Privately, the White House has discussed its support for a tax rebate of as much as 800 dollars for individual taxpayers, more than double the 300 dollar rebate featured in a 2001 effort to spur economic growth,” the Wall Street Journal said.

In a key concession to Democrats, the US administration appeared willing to accept stimulus legislation that does not include an extension of Bush’s tax cuts, the Journal said.

Congressional Democrats, meanwhile, are suggesting they would be willing to suspend their own budget rules and accept a tax break without first figuring out how to pay for it, the Journal said…
Breitbart.com

Why worry about how to pay for it? Just print up more Bush Bills. This president can’t run again, his party might not even want to win the election. How much better to let the Democrats get dirty trying to clean up the mess. George Bush will do a Tony Blair and get a cushy job consulting something for someone. And what kind of awful problems will we leave to the next generation?

Asked by Woodward how history would judge the war, Bush replied: “History. We don’t know. We’ll all be dead.”

I know I’m going to see the full force of the Bush Bills when my elderly clients, who worked in mills and offices and homes all their lives, see their pensions failing to cover the cost of food, heat, transportation, comfort. They gave a dollar’s work for a dollar’s pay, but the dollar is only worth what the economy can bear, and when Washington plays tug-of-war with the money, the working people lose.

Cranston Teacher’s Alliance: “Stop Runaway Train!”

UPDATE #2: Tonight is the night of the big meeting. The vote will be at Cranston West Auditorium at 7 pm. More people have raised important issues in the comments below.

UPDATE: School Committee member Andrea Iannazzi has provided some more information:

- The School Committee will be voting on two separate resolutions. The first, scheduled for a vote on Monday (1/14), states “SPONSORED BY THE SCHOOL COMMITTEE AND ADMINISTRATION NO. 08-1-2 ­ RESOLVED, that the 6th grade classes be housed in the elementary schools and that the middle school model will consist of the 7th and 8th grades commencing with the 2008-2009 school year.” After this vote, the School Committee will then discuss and debate curriculum (most likely at a future work session).

- Cost savings from this move range anywhere from 300,000 to 1.8 million dollars, depending upon which “Scenario” the School Committee votes for.

- The cost savings are achieved from reduction of FTES (teachers, administrators, and itinerants) and the closing of five of our nine portables. There are “add-backs” for additional elementary level itinerants.

- Each “Scenario” proposes eliminating the Family and Consumer Science program.

- Despite what may have been implied by the opposition, this topic was extensively studied. The subcommittee held a dozen plus meetings over a five month period. Additionally, many of the School Committee members involved discussed the potential move in other forums. For example, I attended Open Houses at six elementary schools (Garden City, Glen Hills, Orchard Farms, Peters, Stone Hill, and Woodridge), met with parents upon their request, and met with teachers at the elementary schools in my district.

ORIGINAL POST

The teachers are lining up with the parents in Cranston on one side of a battle, with school administrators and school committee members on the other side. The fight is over whether the 6th graders should be moved back into the elementary schools, to solve some of the overcrowding problems in the middle schools. Today the teachers sent a big mailer of a racing supermodern train on the front and an unfortunate-looking train wreck on the back. The text on the front reads “Stop This Runaway Train…” (train labeled Cranston School Committee Express) and on the back reads “…Before It’s a Train Wreck!” The rest of the text is as follows:

The Cranston School Committee and Cranston Schoool Administrators want to railroad through changes that will move Cranston’s 6th graders from their middle schools back to elementary schools and dismantle important educational programs, such as family and consumer science, arts and music classes. They say these changes will save money, but the savings will be less than 1% of this year’s school budget. Worse, they fail to tell you that it will have a profoundly negative impact on our children. In fact, the majority of the parents on the committee to study this issue were adamantly opposed to these changes.

This proposal will:

–put important educational programs at risk
–create minimal savings — with maximum disruption
–more temporary classrooms — increased class sizes

Don’t Let Our Children Get ‘Railroaded’

Attend the Cranston School Committee Meeting
January 14, 2008, Cranston High School West, 7 pm

An email I received from my elementary school listserv said that parents are targeting Steve Stycos and Deb Greifer as members of the committee most likely to be sympathetic to their concerns.

I was initially in favor of this proposal to move the 6th grade back, since some of our elementary schools have been closed for lack of an adequate census. However, the parents who have studied this issue are probably the best ones to listen to, and they are indicating many ways that this may cause problems for educating children in Cranston.

But it’s interesting that the teachers are coming out so strongly. One issue for teachers is the 6th grade teachers needing to be certified to work on the elementary level. I don’t know the details of how this was going to be worked out, but I know it was flagged as a problem early and often. I have heard people talk about how this will force a healthy number of retirements in the middle school teacher population, but I don’t know how true that is.

Sign Katha Pollitt’s Letter

Well-known feminist and writer Katha Pollitt has written an open letter about whether American feminism is taking an unfair bashing for not focusing on global issues enough. Here’s the letter.

An Open Letter from American Feminists

Columnists and opinion writers from The Weekly Standard to the Washington Post to Slate have recently accused American feminists of focusing obsessively on minor or even nonexistent injustices in the United States while ignoring atrocities against women in other countries, especially the Muslim world. A number of reasons are given for this supposed neglect: narcissism, ideological rigidity, reflexive anti-Americanism, fear of seeming insensitive or even racist. Yet what is the evidence for this apparently now broadly accepted claim that feminists don’t support the struggles of women around the globe? It usually comes down to a quick scan of the home page of the National Organization for Women’s website, observing that a particular writer hasn’t covered a particular outrage, plus a handful of quotes wrenched out of context.

In fact, as a bit of research would easily show, there are dozens, if not hundreds, of US feminist organizations involved in promoting women’s rights and well-being around the globe — V-Day, Equality Now, MADRE, the Global Fund for Women, the International Women’s Health Coalition and Feminist Majority, to name some of the most prominent. (The National Organization for Women itself has a section on its website devoted to global feminism, on which it denounces a wide array of practices including female genital mutilation (FGM), “honorâ€? murder, trafficking, dowry deaths and domestic violence). Feminists at Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch and the United Nations have moved those organizations to add the rights of women and girls to their agenda. Feminist magazines and blogs– Ms, Feministing.com, Salon.com’s Broadsheet feature, womensenews,com (which has an edition in Arabic) — as well as feminist reporters and commentators in the mainstream media, regularly report on and condemn outrages against women wherever they occur, from rape, battery and murder in the US to the denial of women’s human rights in the developing or Muslim world.

As feminists, we call on journalists and opinion writers to report the true position of our movement. We believe that women’s rights are human rights, and stand in solidarity with our sisters who are fighting for equal political, economic, social and reproductive rights around the globe. Specifically, contrary to the accusations of pundits, we support their struggle against female genital mutilation, “honor” murder, forced marriage, child marriage, compulsory Islamic dress codes, the criminalization of sex outside marriage, brutal punishments like lashing and stoning, family laws that favor men and that place adult women under the legal power of fathers, brothers, and husbands, and laws that discount legal testimony made by women. We strongly oppose the denial of education, health care and equal political and economic rights to women.

We reject the use of women’s rights language to justify invading foreign countries. Instead, we call on the United States government to live up to its expressed commitment to women’s rights through peaceful means. Specifically, we call upon it to:

–offer asylum to women and girls fleeing gender-based persecution, including female genital mutilation, domestic violence, and forced marriage;

–promote women’s rights and well-being in all their foreign policy and foreign aid decisions;

–use its diplomatic powers to pressure its allies — especially Saudi Arabia, one of the most oppressive countries in the world for women — to embrace women’s rights;

–drop the Mexico City policy–aka the ‘gag rule’–which bars funds for AIDS- related and contraception-related health services abroad if they provide abortions, abortion information, or advocate for legalizing abortion;

–generously support the UN Population Fund (UNFPA), which supports women’s reproductive health including safe maternity around the globe, and whose funding is vetoed every year by President Bush;

–become a signatory to The Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination against Women (CEDAW), the basic UN women’s human rights document, now signed by 185 nations. The US is one of a handful of holdouts, along with Iran, Sudan, and Somalia.

Finally, we call upon the United States, and all the industrialized nations of the West, to share their unprecedented wealth, often gained at the expense of the developing world, with those who need it in such a way that women benefit.

signed,

Katha Pollitt, writer
Marge Piercy, writer
Susan Faludi
Alix Kates Shulman, writer
Julianne Malveaux, president Bennett college for women
Anne Lamott, writer
Mary Gordon
Linda Gordon, historian, NYU
Jennifer Baumgardner, writer
Ruth Rosen, historian
Jane Smiley, writer
Anna Fels, MD, writer
Debra Dickerson, writer/blogger, Salon.com
Margo Jefferson, writer
Jessica Valenti, writer/blogger,www.feministing.com
Dana Goldstein, The American Prospect
Karen Houppert, writer
Gloria Jacobs, The Feminist Press
Carole Joffe, Sociology, UC Davis
Janet Afary, Middle East Historian, Purdue University
Barrie Thorne, Professor and Chair of Gender & Women’s Studies and Professor of Sociology, University of California, Berkeley
Catharine R. Stimpson
Lakshmi Chaudhry, writer
Rosalyn Baxandall, chair, American Studies SUNY-Old Westbury
Naomi Weisstein
Alisa Solomon,writer
Judith Ezekiel, historian, Wright State U/U de Toulouse
Barbara Bick
Amy Swerdlow
Kathryn Scarbrough
Bea Kreloff
Drucilla Cornell, prof political science women’s studies and comparative literature, Rutgers.
Sonia Jaffe Robbins, writer/editor
Laura X, activist
Linda Stein, sculptor
Stephanie Gilmore, historian, Trinity College
Ariel Dougherty, Media Equity Collaborative, co founder Women Make Movies
Amie Newman, Associate editor, RH Reality check
Merle Hoffman, Choices women’s Medical Center and On the Issues magazine
Adele M. Stan, columnist, American Prospect Online
Michelle Goldberg, writer

If you would like your name and professional affiliation added to this list, you can send an email to Katha Pollitt at kathapollitt@gmail.com.

Do you think male feminists can be on the list too?

Meditations on Dr. Laura

The debut of the Dr. Laura Action Figure got me remembering this inspired letter, which if you have not seen it is worth a read…

Dear Dr. Laura,
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God’s law. I have learned a great deal from you, and I try to share that knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind him that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate. I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the specific laws and how to best follow them.

When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord (Lev. 1:9). The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. How should I deal with this?

I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as it suggests in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?

For the rest of this inspiring letter, click here.

Dr. Laura’s early training must have formed the person she is today, a PhD in physiology who went into marriage and family counseling, according to Salon

Her doctorate was entitled “Effects of Insulin on 3-0 Methylglucose Transport in Isolated Rat Adipocytes.” According to one of her professors, she spent most of her doctoral training time “pulling fat pads off rat testicles.”

Well, someone has to do it. If you have a rodent problem you could try buying the Dr. Laura Action Figure and see if rats have a collective memory.

Another use for a tiny homunculus that yells at you when you push a button would be in exorcism, but that is another post. I already have about 700 stuffed animals that I am not allowed to throw out due to sentimental reasons, so I have to pass on buying a doll, but I’ll be looking for Dr. Laura at Job Lot.

Trailer Testicles

Thanks to Pam’s House Blend and Raw Story for this link to Associated Press…

Va. Lawmaker Seeks Ban on Replica Genitalia After Girl Spots Rubber Testicles on Trailer Hitch

BOB LEWIS
AP News

Jan 15, 2008 17:14 EST

It’s one thing to dangle fuzzy dice from a rear view mirror, but decorating a trailer hitch with a large pair of rubber testicles might be a bit much in Virginia.

State Del. Lionel Spruill introduced a bill Tuesday to ban displaying replicas of human genitalia on vehicles, calling it a safety issue because it could distract other drivers.

What could I possibly add to this? Except to say that the flashy billboards on Rt. 146 that look like giant TVs are the most distracting thing I’ve seen on the road yet. I agree with Lady Bird Johnson that we should take them all down, and keep America beautiful. It should be easier to ban billboards than to infringe on our Constitutional right to drive ugly cars, but the billboard lobby probably has more cojones with politicians than the truck testicle industry.

More Fame and Glory for Little Rhody

Congratulations to friend Nomi at I Dreamed I Saw Grace P. Last Night. She got publicly thanked on the frequently mentioned and frequently unmentionable site, Jesus’ General. She tipped the General off to the new ‘must have’ toy–The Dr.Laura action figure.

Thanks Nomi, for putting the quahog state on the map.

God Wants You to Send Me Money

‘Dear…Someone Connected With This Address’, the letter says, ‘God’s holy blessing power is in the enclosed prayer rug of faith we are loaning you to use!!!’ Papers fall out of the envelope, pictures and triple-underlined pages of rant.

I wish they had sent me a rug. I need a rug. But they sent me a picture of a rug. I can’t put a little piece of paper on my floor and use it for a rug.

I think it’s psychological warfare. They’re messing with me.

If I accept that this piece of paper is a rug, maybe I’ll believe that the scary picture of Jesus, with closed eyes that pop open when you stare at it, is a miracle.

How did St. Matthew’s Churches find me? I’m a Unitarian. And I have many people and causes right here at home to give my money to, not least of all my church which is expensive to maintain (it’s an edifice). I’m also a Pagan, so I can laugh this off, but the weird and slightly occult combination of warnings and promises scared my kid.

I had to explain that you can’t hex a person you only know as ‘someone connected with this address’.

Of course I Googled the sender. Ripoffreport has a long comments section. There ‘s people who gave biblical rationalizations for giving money to crooks and expecting God to bless you, and also some creative ideas like sending heavy stuff in the postage paid envelope so that it costs the sender.

But brethren, do you know the dark night of the soul? Do you know what it’s like to live in a permanent February? Have you ever been so sick of being broke that you start spending your last pocket change on lottery tickets? Have you ever gone days without anyone to talk to? Do you know anyone who is losing their grip on reality, or starting to forget things?

Then you know who these people prey on.

Alternet has a great article on a day of reckoning that may yet dawn…

The New Testament reports that Jesus rarely used fancy modes of transportation to get around. He walked most of the time, although Matthew and other gospels mention that he once rode a borrowed donkey into Jerusalem, where he burst into the Temple and tossed out the money changers.

Nearly 2,000 years later, some who claim to speak in Jesus’ name are taking a different view. Consider Bishop Eddie Long, who pastors a megachurch in Lithonia, Ga. With a salary approaching $1 million a year and a nine-bathroom mansion situated on 20 acres, Long’s choice of vehicles reflects his opulent lifestyle: He drives a $350,000 Bentley.

Far from casting out money changers, Long is likely to join them. In a 2005 profile in the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, he defended his high-flying ways, insisting, “I pastor a multimillion dollar congregation. You’ve got to put me on a different scale than the little black preacher sitting over there that’s supposed to be just getting by because the people are suffering.”

Long’s lack of humility has probably done him no favors. At the time, U.S. Sen. Charles E. Grassley (R-Iowa), expressed dismay.

“When I hear about leaders of charities being provided a $300,000 Bentley to drive around in, my fear is that it’s the taxpayers who subsidize this charity who are really being taken for a ride,” he quipped.

I’m glad Alternet mentioned that passage about the money changers. There’s also a lot of relevant stuff in the book of Matthew. In Matthew 19 verses 21-24 Jesus says to give to the poor. Not the rich. He didn’t say give to the rich. How sad that St. Matthew’s Churches got it all turned around.

Another enlightening passage is Matthew 18 verse 6, where Jesus says to be like a little child…

‘And whoso shall offend one of these little ones which believe in me, it were better for him that a millstone were hanged about his neck, and that he were drowned in the depth of the sea.’

I think Jesus sounds kind of upset in that passage. He sounds kind of protective of the vulnerable. If I were a believer, even a little, and I made a pile of money leeching off needy people, I’d worry about being awfully warm in the next world.

The Discarded Weapons of War

Can anything psychologically prepare young men and women for the demands and stresses of serving in a combat zone, sometimes for multiple tours of duty? It seems doubtful. The intensity and horror of wartime experiences—of repeated exposure to violence and death, and the threat of violence and death—are often more than the human psyche can bear. Yet those who serve in the military and at the pleasure of the generals and the politicians are somehow expected to psychologically soldier up, damn the costs and consequences. For the sad and cruel reality is that the troops, like the rifles they carry, are simply instruments of war. When they break down or outlive their utility, they are—for all intents and purposes—replaced and cast aside, shipped back from whence they came. While some may be restored in some measure, others never come close to regaining their previous condition. The damage has been done, and so this great nation becomes littered with the discarded (yet still dangerous) weapons of war. It should come as little surprise then when some of those weapons go off, as the New York Times reports:

Across America, Deadly Echoes of Foreign Battles

Late one night in the summer of 2005, Matthew Sepi, a 20-year-old Iraq combat veteran, headed out to a 7-Eleven in the seedy Las Vegas neighborhood where he had settled after leaving the Army.

This particular 7-Eleven sits in the shadow of the Stratosphere casino-hotel in a section of town called the Naked City. By day, the area, littered with malt liquor cans, looks depressed but not menacing. By night, it becomes, in the words of a local homicide detective, “like Falluja.�

Mr. Sepi did not like to venture outside too late. But, plagued by nightmares about an Iraqi civilian killed by his unit, he often needed alcohol to fall asleep. And so it was that night, when, seized by a gut feeling of lurking danger, he slid a trench coat over his slight frame — and tucked an assault rifle inside it.

“Matthew knew he shouldn’t be taking his AK-47 to the 7-Eleven,� Detective Laura Andersen said, “but he was scared to death in that neighborhood, he was military trained and, in his mind, he needed the weapon to protect himself.�

Head bowed, Mr. Sepi scurried down an alley, ignoring shouts about trespassing on gang turf. A battle-weary grenadier who was still legally under-age, he paid a stranger to buy him two tall cans of beer, his self-prescribed treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder.

As Mr. Sepi started home, two gang members, both large and both armed, stepped out of the darkness. Mr. Sepi said in an interview that he spied the butt of a gun, heard a boom, saw a flash and “just snapped.�

In the end, one gang member lay dead, bleeding onto the pavement. The other was wounded. And Mr. Sepi fled, “breaking contact� with the enemy, as he later described it. With his rifle raised, he crept home, loaded 180 rounds of ammunition into his car and drove until police lights flashed behind him.

“Who did I take fire from?� he asked urgently. Wearing his Army camouflage pants, the diminutive young man said he had been ambushed and then instinctively “engaged the targets.� He shook. He also cried.

“I felt very bad for him,� Detective Andersen said.

Nonetheless, Mr. Sepi was booked, and a local newspaper soon reported: “Iraq veteran arrested in killing.�

Town by town across the country, headlines have been telling similar stories. Lakewood, Wash.: “Family Blames Iraq After Son Kills Wife.� Pierre, S.D.: “Soldier Charged With Murder Testifies About Postwar Stress.� Colorado Springs: “Iraq War Vets Suspected in Two Slayings, Crime Ring.�

Individually, these are stories of local crimes, gut-wrenching postscripts to the war for the military men, their victims and their communities. Taken together, they paint the patchwork picture of a quiet phenomenon, tracing a cross-country trail of death and heartbreak.

The New York Times found 121 cases in which veterans of Iraq and Afghanistan committed a killing in this country, or were charged with one, after their return from war. In many of those cases, combat trauma and the stress of deployment — along with alcohol abuse, family discord and other attendant problems — appear to have set the stage for a tragedy that was part destruction, part self-destruction. [full text]

Fear of a Black President

My husband is a member of Service Employees International Union. The SEIU has organized some of the most underpaid workers, many of whom are minorities. Working in health care, and belonging to a union would, you think, lead to experiences and interactions with all kinds of people, working in solidarity and all. In a perfect world.

Last week my husband came to work and found an internet page on the table in the staff break room. The page warns Americans that Sen. Barack Obama is a dangerous, radical Muslim Atheist and his family is a bunch of subversives and his membership in the United Church of Christ is a cover. The page legitimizes this slander by citing Snopes.com, which actually says the opposite, and debunks all the lies and distortions. As Snopes says, most people won’t bother to click on the source.

But back to the Service Employees International Union—SEIU has given Sen.Obama an important endorsement… says the Los Angeles Times…

On the night that he came in second in the New Hampshire primary, Barack Obama came in first with the Nevada chapter of the large Service Employees International Union. He won that important union’s official endorsement a few minutes ago.

The influential union’s 17,500 health care and county worker members will come in very handy for Nevada’s Jan. 19 caucuses. The union’s choice will come as a serious disappointment for both Hillary Clinton and John Edwards, who both coveted it too. And the timing late tonight is likely no accident.

Proof that race will influence some voters comes in the Times reader’s comments–

I have seen the Kenyans who have come to the local college to get scolarships that could have helped locals in in adepressed area. Most of these people try to mary fat white girls to stay here.

I also remember comming home from a days work to find that one of the Kenyan crack heads had broke in my apartment and trashed it, also I remember the two windshields and door glasses broke out of my truck that resulted in my insurance being canceked.

Personally, I am not ready for one to be president

Well, that proves it, I guess. The problem is that most people are not so in touch with their prejudices, but rather try to rationalize them–that is, disguise them as rational. The naked bigotry in that misspelled post is almost laughable. But I heard some disturbingly prejudiced comments about Sen. Obama at a party when I was talking to some Clinton supporters. And how about Mitt Romney’s test jab, when he kept ‘accidentally’ confusing Barack Obama with Osama Bin Laden? How about columnist Robert Novak’s comment “… he’s clean. He isn’t a stereotype African-American.â€? Novak tries to pretend he’s channeling Sen. Joe Biden, who tripped over his own unconscious prejudice earlier in the race. No one is marveling that Sen. Clinton is articulate or Sen. Edwards is clean, so what’s going on?

From the New York Times:

In the Wichita churches this summer, Obama was the Democrat who drew the most interest. Several mentioned that he had spoken at Warren’s Saddleback church and said they were intrigued. But just as many people ruled out Obama because they suspected that he was not Christian at all but in fact a crypto-Muslim — a rumor that spread around the Internet earlier this year. “There is just that ill feeling, and part of it is his faith,� Welsh said. “Is his faith anti-Christian? Is he a Muslim? And what about the school where he was raised?�

“Obama sounds too much like Osama,� said Kayla Nickel of Westlink. “When he says his name, I am like, ‘I am not voting for a Muslim!’ �

You know, no one remarks wonderingly that Sen. Arnold Schwarzenegger is ‘clean’. No one is running conspiracy theories that he is an Austrian infiltrator. No one confronts him about his mother’s religion or his father’s politics. He has, to say the least, a colorful past, but hasn’t been accused of being in league with terrorists. In fact, some Republican politicians were talking about changing the Constitution so that a naturalized American could run for president. What a country! A man can become a citizen in 1983 and we amend the Constitution just for him.

But Sen. Obama, born in America, is being painted as an outsider. It’s still easier for a white immigrant than a Black native born American to enter some exclusive clubs, and some churches as well. It’s not like we don’t have history with Austria, but color counts. Just like that page of slander left in a union hospital, rumors and lies will be weapons against the first Black candidate to have a real chance at the presidency.

I trust Sen. Obama to run a good campaign. I trust the American people to want to do the right thing. But we have too often let race prejudice influence our vote, and let rumors and emotions substitute for clear thinking. I am hopeful, but I am sure that race will be a factor.

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