Friday, February 29, 2008

Ellen on hate in California

Paul over at blog@cliffdweller posted this Youtube video of Ellen's comments on the teen who was killed a couple of weeks ago in Oxnard, California for asking a fellow male classmate to be his Valentine. I had read about this and really couldn't find the words to talk about it. It both angers and scares me. One of these days, the haters are going to really figure out what kind of damage they do, to others and to themselves. I can hope anyway.

Anyway, what Ellen has to say is pretty profound.

And here is the rest of it.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Portland's Community Transitional School

I consider myself to be fairly well-informed when it comes to homelessness and hunger. It's a topic that I spend a lot of time reading up on and discussing with other folks. However, I came across a service that even I had never heard of when I went to the Project Homelessness Connect at Memorial Coliseum. The Community Transitional School, over on SE Belmont. It's a private school that serves children of families that are in transition, meaning homeless children (whether they are in shelters, staying on a friend's floor, barely int/about to lose housing. etc.). I checked out their website and I am amazed at what they offer. Things like transportation, two meals a day, supplies, clothing, field trips, food boxes...all for free. I was really impressed with the transportation. Here is how the school describes their system philosophy:

One challenge faced by homeless students is their inability to get to and from school each day. Bus services to neighborhood schools are not designed to handle the students' last-minute route changes due to frequent and sudden moves between shelters, cheap motels, friends' homes and even the family car. Even with free Tri-Met passes, public transportation can be a confusing prospect for children trying to get to school from so many different locations.

One challenge faced by homeless students is their inability to get to and from school each day. Bus services to neighborhood schools are not designed to handle the students' last-minute route changes due to frequent and sudden moves between shelters, cheap motels, friends' homes and even the family car. Even with free Tri-Met passes, public transportation can be a confusing prospect for children trying to get to school from so many different locations.

In response, we designed a transportation program to accommodate our students' complicated living circumstances. We make every effort to stay in contact with their families as they move around Portland. Many times the children themselves will call us with updates. We restructure our bus routes each day to keep pace with their families' mobility. Fifty-two percent of our students move at least once per school year. Over the past two years, one group of three siblings has moved 29 times. The oldest sibling makes the calls to tell us where they were staying. Our transportation program serves 60-70 children per day. As a result of this approach, our attendance rate hit an all-time high at 86 percent in 2005-06. This rate has steadily increased for the past three school years. Without this flexible program, the majority of our students would simply miss school.

Amazing. No judgements, no excuses, no strict rules of who is responsible for a child being in school. The children need to get to school and the school gets them there.

They don't skimp on quality in the classroom, either:

The foundation of our school is its strong academic program coupled with an emphasis on building student character. Most of our students come to us with gaps in their education. Our classroom goal is to ensure that these children are given the encouragement and tools to raise their social and academic level to that of children with stable homes who attend public schools. We have a kindergarten through 1st grade class, a 2nd through 5th grade class and a 5th through 8th grade class. All are taught by state-certified teachers, and with the help of two instructional assistants. In addition, Title I and special education services are provided on-site by Portland Public Schools. Many of our longtime classroom volunteers are retired teachers. Along with focusing on the "Three Rs," our curriculum weaves important character education lessons into every school day.

They even have the Multnomah County Mobile Medical Van come to the school twice a week for routine health check ups.

You can check out the rest, including ways to help them on their website. Someone told me yesterday that they think that the school is a part of Metropolitan Family Services (another great organization), but I don't see that on the site.

I was just really impressed.
And here is the rest of it.

Monday, February 25, 2008

PSU Bomb Threat

Ugghh I was SO over this kind of crap last year at PCC.

Evidently some
dufus has decided they didn't want to go to class today and left some kind of bomb threat in a bathroom on the PSU campus. The building has already been cleared and is due to reopen in about an hour.

I'm not on campus today so I guess I can afford to be more ticked than scared, but come on. What is it exactly that makes scaring people and completely disrupting their attempts to get the education that they are PAYING for, a fun and exciting thing for some people to do? Grow up, get a life, and get over it. And here is the rest of it.

Saturday, February 23, 2008

America's Second Harvest and Barilla

This is the second year that Harvest has joined with Barilla (pasta maker). There is an online cookbook that you can download (it's not overly large) that features celebrity recipes and ideas. During the month of February, every time the book is downloaded, Barilla will donate $1 to America's Second Harvest, up to $100,000.

It's quick and an easy way to benefit the organization, and the food looks REALLY good!

And here is the rest of it.

We are Not Afraid

I love it. From Crooks and Liars

Friday, February 22, 2008

Economy Downturn is Personal

In the last few months, I've been able to tell that the economy is not doing all that great. My electric bill went through the roof and my grocery bill has become painful. However, I consider myself to be extremely lucky because I am in school and at least have financial aid. I also lucked out and have a part-time job that is convenient for me. I do have to admit that I've had to use my cresdit cards more often over the last six months than before, but I'm at least in a position not to be maxed out, or in default. Things are tight but there is a great deal of security that comes with being in school. It's not perfect, but I know I'm lucky.
Others are not so lucky. Everyone I know is tightening their money belts and working a bit more to make ends meet. However, it wasn't until this week, that the downturn in the economy really hit home. The Columbian newspaper, based in Vancouver, Washington is hurting. Aside from eliminating positions, folks are being laid
off. Now, 30 people isn't a huge chunk of folks, I know. But my partner is among those laid off, and so it's really hit home for us. While I am glad that the paper is offering help in filing for unemployment and offering a severance package, that package amounts to about three weeks pay. Fortunately my girlfriend has accumulated a couple of weeks vacation pay, which she will receive, which means that she has close to two months pay coming. Things could be worse, but it's one of those things that just plants this little seed of fear in you (and me) about the future. I know it's the big shut downs and lay offs that make the news, but it's these smaller ones that I think most of us will be affected by, and I don't doubt that more of us will be affected as time goes on.
And here is the rest of it.

Friday, February 15, 2008

House grows some cajones too

Ok, if they aren't careful, this could begin to constitute a trend...

The video is Conyers' testimony yesterday on immunity.

And then, from The Gavel:

House Judiciary Committee Chairman John Conyers, Jr. released the following statement to President Bush’s commitment to work on foreign surveillance legislation through the recess:

“The President’s efforts to cast blame on FISA, echoed by his allies in Congress, show an appalling disregard for the facts. He threatened to veto any extension of the Protect America Act and, following his lead, every single Republican in the House voted against the 21 day extension I sponsored in the House. The President and House Republicans cannot have it both ways, simultaneously arguing that the PAA is essential to national security and also engineering the defeat of an extension of it. The consequences for inaction are their responsibility.
“Unfortunately, it is the same old tired rhetoric of fear that the country overwhelmingly rejected in the 2006 elections.

“From what I have seen from the Justice Department documents so far, there is no need to provide amnesty to telecommunication companies who are protected under current law, as long as they and the government are acting accordingly. I have not seen anything that leads me to believe, as the President seems to believe, that providing amnesty to these companies is a more compelling public interest than our Constitutionally protected right to privacy.

Chairman Silvestre Reyes of the Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence also issued a statement challenging Bush to “put partisanship aside” on the FISA debate:

The proper course is now to conference the House bill with the Senate bill that was passed on Tuesday. There are significant differences between these two bills and a conference, in regular order, is the appropriate mechanism to resolve the differences between these two bills. I urge you, Mr. President, to put partisanship aside and allow Republicans in Congress to arrive at a compromise that will protect America and protect our Constitution.
I, for one, do not intend to back down - not to the terrorists and not to anyone, including a President, who wants Americans to cower in fear.
We are a strong nation. We cannot allow ourselves to be scared into suspending the Constitution. If we do that, we might as well call the terrorists and tell them that they have won.

I could deal with that trend. Read on...

And here is the rest of it.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

Contempt of Congress

I know my posts are pretty sporadic at the moment. This term is kicking my butt. I wanted to put this up though. The Dems had a few cajones floating around the capital on several things today. This is one of them.
Here is what Majority Leader Hoyer had to say on the floor of the House today:

“Mr. Speaker, in 1885, a young scholar wrote an influential book about the United States Congress entitled ‘Congressional Government.’

“And, in that book, he offered the following observations about legislative branch oversight: ‘Quite as important as legislation is vigilant oversight of the administration.’

“He continued: ‘It is the proper duty of a representative body to look diligently into every affair of government and to talk much about what it sees. The informing function of Congress should be preferred even to its legislative function.’

“Many years later, in 1913, that young scholar – Woodrow Wilson – became President of the United States.

“I do not know if Wilson regretted his observations about the utility of Congressional oversight after he became President.

“But I do know this: He was exactly right.

“Congressional oversight of any Administration is absolutely imperative to the proper functioning of our government, to our system of checks and balances, and to the fulfillment of our constitutional duty.

“A President who is forced to answer for his Administration’s actions, decisions, and conduct is a President who is less likely to amass power beyond that which the Constitution prescribes for his office or to imperil the welfare of our republican form of government.

“And that is the Constitutional interest that today’s resolutions are trying to vindicate.

“I support the rule before us because I believe in a system of checks and balances in which no branch is able to defy the other two in an arbitrary and capricious manner, or to hide information that is not theirs to hide.

“The issue before this body is not, fundamentally, whether the current Administration acted properly and within the law when it dismissed seven U.S. attorneys in 2006.

“Nor is this a partisan clash between a Democratic House and a Republican President.

“Rather, the basic issue before this House is this: Whether this body and the committee system – which is central to our duty to perform meaningful and vigorous oversight – can simply be ignored by the executive branch when this body seeks testimony and documents relevant to an important public policy controversy?

“As the New York Times noted this morning: ‘If Congress fails to enforce its own subpoenas, it would effectively be ceding subpoena power. It would also be giving its tacit consent to the dangerous idea of an imperial President – above the law and beyond the reach of checks and balances.’

“And, as Bruce Fein, the Constitutional scholar and former Department of Justice official during the Reagan Administration, has stated: ‘If Congress shies from voting . . . For contempt [in this case], secret government will become the rule. . . . Congress will be reduced to an ink blot on the Constitutional map.’

“I urge my colleagues to vote for this rule.”

Keep it up.

And here is the rest of it.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

FISA Fight...Can the Repubs ever NOT Lie?

I realise that politicians of all stripes and colors fib and distort, but how the heck did we ever allow the Republican party (the current incarnation) to get so comfortable lying to us and distorting the facts? I REALLY hate having my intelligence insulted.

Daily Kos has an excellent write-up on all of current
amendments fight.

I like Feingold more and more.
Here is Feingold calling Senate Republicans on their crap.

I mean really..who is it exactly that is still falling for the fear-mongering? And why do they keep getting away with it?And here is the rest of it.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Iraq: No power, no water and LOTS of ICK

Not only is the vast majority of Baghdad subsisting on generator power and a severe water shortage, the sewage plants are either not working, or on the verge of not working.

One of three sewage treatment plants is out of commission, one is working at stuttering capacity while a pipe blockage in the third means sewage is forming a foul lake so large it can be seen "as a big black spot on Google Earth," said Tahseen Sheikhly, civilian spokesman for the Baghdad security plan.

Facilities that were already aging before the invasion are falling apart. Sheikhly is quick to point out the number of new schools and health clinics that have been built or repaired over the last year, but then he follows up with the fact that full electricity will take several years to restore because of the damage sustained during the fighting. What's the point of having a bunch of new buildings with no power to give them? What kind of service is a clinic with no electricity going to be able to provide? Too bad we didn't keep track of all that money that went missing or to fatten up the contractors, so that we could actually avoid turning Iraq into a Third-world country
.And here is the rest of it.

Friday, February 1, 2008

Signing Statements..FINALLY someone speaks up

Bush has issued more signing statements than I think all past presidents combined. It's how he has avoided boatload o' vetoes. Finally, someone in Congress is calling for some oversight and investigation. Representatives Barbara Lee , Lynn Woolsey, and Maxine Waters sent this letter to Pelosi and the House leadership.

February 1, 2008

Hon. Nancy Pelosi
US House of Representatives
The Capitol
Washington, DC 20515

Dear Speaker Pelosi:

President George W. Bush issued a signing statement on Monday, January 28, 2008 where he signaled his intent to ignore a provision in the FY08 Department of Defense Authorization Bill (PL 110-181) that prohibits permanent military bases in Iraq. We urge you to request the appropriate committee chairs to quickly schedule oversight hearings on this important issue.

We believe this is a particularly contradictory and serious development given that the President has signed similar provisions into law five times before. (PL109-289, PL 109-364, PL 110-28, PL 110-116, and PL 110-161.)

When a majority of the American people are committed to ending our occupation in Iraq on a timeline within a year, in making this proclamation President Bush has only reinforced what we have always known; that he intends our occupation in Iraq to be indefinite.

Sadly, this is a pattern of behavior from a White House that seems intent on cutting Congress out of any decisions relating to the permanent stationing of the US military in Iraq. At the end of last year, without any congressional input, President Bush and Prime Minister al-Maliki signed a “Declaration of Principles for a Long-Term Relationship of Cooperation and Friendship Between the Republic of Iraq and the United States of America” that will set the stage for future agreements on the disposition of US troops in Iraq and other wide-ranging aspects of this important bilateral relationship. (We introduced H.R. 5128, legislation disapproving of any agreement that doesn’t have the approval of both houses of Congress and that of the Iraqi Parliament, too)

We believe that Congress must find out and the American public made aware of the serious consequences of long-term military basing agreements or treaties that bypass congressional action as the ‘Declaration of Principles’. In addition, it is critical to shed light on the implications of the President’s signing statement and intention to ignore the law. At the same time it is also imperative to give greater scrutiny to the Bush administration’s efforts to maintain a long-term or indefinite military presence in Iraq. Holding hearings will complement the 166 hearings on Iraq that Democrats have held since you became our speaker in January 2007.

We appreciate your strong leadership and commitment in ending the US occupation of Iraq and look forward to working with you on this matter.


Member of Congress

Member of Congress

Member of Congress

All three women are members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and strong supporters for bringing our troops home from Iraq.
And here is the rest of it.

Equality is fair..and now its LEGAL!

Yeaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I just got home and in checking headlines I see this. Wow...I knew that it would eventually happen, but I was not expecting a Bush appointee to make such a quick decision. It tells me that the state made a great case (along with BRO) for the fairness and validity of Oregon's initiative system. I'm not naive enough to think that Judge Michael Mosman had an epiphany about what equal rights means, but he evidently knows that those outside interests overstepped their authority in their challenge. I'm relieved that he did not set the precedent of a petition signature equalling a vote. That would have been messy and just plain wrong. I don't have alot more to add to this other than the YEEHAW dance I'm doing right now!And here is the rest of it.

An Oregon Issue...

And here is the rest of it.