Friday, October 30, 2009

Forum on Health Care Reform with Dr. Milton Fisk

This past Tuesday, on a cool and rainy evening, about 30 citizens gathered at the First Unitarian Church to hear Dr. Milton Fisk, Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Indiana University. Fisk was in town to talk about the issue health care and to discuss various topics including what is happening currently with the public option, the potential benefits of a single payer system and how citizens can put pressure on the current administration to enact positive and meaningful change.

This forum was sponsored by Cincinnati Progressive Action, the Single Payer Action Network, the Intercommunity Justice and Peace Center, and The Cincinnati Beacon. (and though this may seem obvious: in full disclosure, I am a regular contributor to the Cincinnati Beacon).

From Dr. Fisk's website:

Milton Fisk was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky. Following the example of both of his parents, he became an academic. He received a BS in chemistry from Notre Dame and a PhD in philosophy from Yale. Prior to coming to Indiana University in Bloomington, he held faculty positions at Notre Dame and at Yale. He is the author of a number of books, including Nature and Necessity (1973), Ethics and Society (1980), The State and Justice (1989), and Toward a Healthy Society (2000).

Early in his career, he concentrated on a realist interpretation of physical science, which led him to develop a theory of causality based on a notion of natural necessity. An engagement with movements for social change led to his writing on issues in social philosophy and in political morality. In this work, one of his constant themes is that social divisions place a burden of proof on moralists who advocate universalism in ethics that they have not met. His recent study of health care reform led him to appreciate the important role public goods should play in political morality.

He served as a board member of the American Philosophical Association-Central Division, and is serving on the steering committee of the Radical Philosophy Association. He was a member of the Indiana Health Care Campaign and was active with Jobs with Justice, serving as a director of its Workers Rights Board for south-central Indiana. He is currently working on a living wage campaign in Bloomington.
At present, he is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Indiana University. His favorite activity is mountain walking, and his most difficult task is remembering the birthdays of his eight grandchildren.

Below are the full comments of Dr. Fisk as well as a Question and Answer session with members of the audience. I encourage you to watch this forum in full:

This piece is cross posted here.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Roundtable Discussion on Health Care Reform

As the debate over health care reform continues to rage on, the news program Democracy Now! hosted a round-table discussion today on this very topic. As both Houses of Congress work to negotiate versions of health care reform, it is important to continue a healthy and vibrant dialogue on the public option, single payer and why there are those who are so adamantly opposed to reforming this system. This discussion is worthy of watching as it discusses many of these issues.

Locally here in Cincinnati, there was a talk that was held by Dr. Milton Fisk on health care reform. I covered the event and will be making the video footage available of the entire talk in the very near future so be sure to check back for that.

Until then, here is the roundtable discussion from Democracy Now! featuring:

Elisabeth Benjamin, vice president of Health Initiatives at Community Service Society of New York, Dr. Oliver Fein, president of Physicians for a National Health Program and professor of clinical public health at Cornell University and Lois Uttley, co-founder of Raising Women’s Voices for the Health Care We Need.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Around the Horn: Reactions to the Resignation of the First U.S. Official Over the War in Afghanistan

The first U.S. Official has resigned in protest of the war in Afghanistan. From the National Post:

Matthew Hoh, a 36-year-old former Marine and Iraq war veteran, said he was stepping down as the senior U.S. civilian official in Zabul province, northeast of Kandahar, because he had "lost understanding of, and confidence in, the strategic purposes of the United States' presence."


Mr. Hoh, who served in military and civilian capacities in Iraq, is thought to be first civilian U.S. official to quit to protest his country's continuing presence in Afghanistan.

In brief remarks to reporters yesterday, he said, "We may be able to stabilize the Afghan government in five to 10 years, but stabilizing the Afghan government will do nothing to defeat al-Qaeda."

You can read Matthew Hoh's letter below:

Matthew Hoh first US official to resign over Afghan War

Here is some reaction from around the blogosphere to Hoh's resignation and the significance of this act during a time when President Obama is being encouraged to escalate the war effort.

Alan Block from Orange Punch:

I don’t know if it was ever as prevalent in reality as in lore, but resignation used to be considered the honorable course of officials who disagreed with policies they were asked to implement. It will be interesting to see whether Hoh gets more publicity as debate over the Afghan war perhaps heats up between now and after Nov. 7, when Obama has said he’ll announce his decision, or becomes a regular presence on cable TV or blog sites. I have no idea how articulate he is, but from the excerpts I’ve seen he writes a pretty good letter.

Joel at Infinite Monkeys:

If Hoh is right -- and there's quite a bit of his analysis that overlaps with Gen. Stanley McChrystal's -- then many of the insurgent groups lumped together under the label of "Taliban" are fighting against the U.S. and NATO because the U.S. and NATO are there. And we are there, fighting these groups, because they're there fighting. We're in a cycle in Afghanistan that we're fighting the war there because we're fighting the war there. That's not really a smart way to protect Americans from terrorism.

Glenn Greenwald:

How long are we going to continue to do this? We invade and occupy a country, and then label as "insurgents" or even "terrorists" the people in that country who fight against our invasion and occupation. With the most circular logic imaginable, we then insist that we must remain in order to defeat the "insurgents" and "terrorists" -- largely composed of people whose only cause for fighting is our presence in their country. All the while, we clearly exacerbate the very problem we are allegedly attempting to address -- Terrorism -- by predictably and inevitably increasing anti-American anger and hatred through our occupation, which, no matter the strategy, inevitably entails our killing innocent civilians.


Hoh told The Washington Post's Karen DeYoung that he's "not some peacenik, pot-smoking hippie who wants everyone to be in love" and that he believes "there are plenty of dudes who need to be killed," adding: "I was never more happy than when our Iraq team whacked a bunch of guys." Plainly, there's nothing ideological about his conclusions; they're just the by-product of an honest assessment, based on first-hand experiences, of how our ongoing occupation of that country is worsening the very problem we're allegedly there to solve.

Herschel Smith from The Captain's Journal:

The long war. That phrase that so many people are afraid to use, and which has been used so many times here at The Captain’s Journal. Jules understands. And I understand that Captain Hoh is an honorable man for sticking to his principles. He has a right to decide how he wants, just as I have a right to decide against his views. What I don’t get is why Captain Hoh is getting so much attention. So another State employee doesn’t want to see us in Afghanistan. How many more hundreds are there?

Finally, I find it rather embarrassing and gushy that State worked so hard to retain him. If he is so decidedly against the campaign in Afghanistan that he feels that he cannot work at State, then he should go rather than be begged to stay. The fact of the matter is that this thinking is systemic to not only State but the entire administration.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Interview with Dr. Brad Wenstrup, 2009 Republican Candidate for Mayor of Cincinnati

Dr. Brad Wenstrup, a lifetime resident of Cincinnati, is the 2009 Republican candidate for Mayor of Cincinnati. Wenstrup is a member of the U.S. Army Reserve and ran his own medical practice in downtown Cincinnati from 1986 to 2001. The Cincinnati Beacon reached out to the Wenstrup campaign on numerous occasions in attempts to get responses to our questions. Below is the outcome of our efforts:

CB: You suggest revitalizing neighborhoods with a model like between 3CDC and Over-the-Rhine. 3CDC received public subsidies to purchase abandoned buildings. How can this model work in the neighborhoods? Do you support more subsidies for private corporations to purchase buildings?

BW: (No response provided)

CB: You say the Environmental Justice Ordinance kills jobs. Can you point to one job that has been "killed" since the very recent implementation of this ordinance?

BW: (No response provided)

CB: What is one example by which a mayor can specifically stimulate job growth for minority-owned and women-owned businesses?

BW: (No response provided)

CB: What aspect of the streetcar's funding structure is "wasteful"? Do you deny that the streetcar brings economic development? If so, on what basis? If not, then why not support the plan?

BW: (No response provided)

CB: Is there a relationship between human service funding and crime? What role should human service funding play during tough budgetary scenarios?

BW: (No response provided)

CB: You call "spraygrounds" more modern than swimming pools. How are disadvantaged children supposed to learn how to swim?

BW: (No response provided)

CB: You say you support no cuts to the "frontline" in police and fire. What about administration? How many cuts can you support to bloated administrative costs with fire and police? How quickly will you implement these cuts?

BW: (No response provided)

CB: If elected, would you be willing to meet with online activists in designing a more transparent interface for tracking City Hall actions?

BW: (No response provided)

CB: You say you want to be engaged as mayor, attending public comment sessions. Will you require councilmembers to be attentive, or is it acceptable to use Twitter in open council chambers?

BW: (No response provided)

CB: If you went to a different community council once a week, you'd only see each community once a year. Isn't "Mayor's Night In" a more effective strategy to hear from concerned voters?

BW: (No response provided)

This interview is cross posted here.

Above photo is courtesy of here.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Reporter Fails to Disclose Involvement in Defamation Suit Filed Against Haap, Heimlich and Baratz

Earlier this month Kevin Osborne over at CityBeat reported on the dissolution of the Save-A-Life Foundation (SALF), an Illinois-based nonprofit organization founded by Carol Spizzirri. Spizzirri and the foundation came under fire in 2006 and 2007 after ABC 7 Chicago aired a multi-part investigative series which raised questions about Spizzirri's credentials as well as the accomplishments that were being achieved by the foundation.

Following the reporting of Chuck Goudie at ABC 7 in Chicago, the Beacon's own Dean of Cincinnati (Jason Haap) began raising similar questions about the Save-A-Life organization as well as questioning the relationship between the organization and local Doctor Henry Heimlich, creator of the "Heimlich Maneuver" and (then) medical adviser to the Save-A-Life Foundation.

After Haap began raising these questions, Save-A-Life Founder Carol Spizzirri and SALF sued the Dean for defamation along with two other critics of the organization: Peter Heimlich, the estranged son of Dr. Henry Heimlich, and Dr. Robert Baratz, President of the National Council Against Health Fraud. SALF claimed that these three had conspired to harm the reputation of the organization by circulating false information to agencies that gave SALF funding. SALF just recently dropped their defamation suit in July of this year and just two short months later on September 17, 2009, the organization filed the appropriate paperwork with the Illinois Secretary of State's Office for voluntary dissolution of the embattled non-profit.

Just prior to CityBeat reporter Kevin Osborne's piece on October 16 about the dissolution of SALF, Chicago-Tribune reporter Lisa Black posted an article entitled "Save-A-Life Foundation in Limbo" on October 11. Here is part of the that article:

Spizzirri, 63, has quietly closed the foundation's headquarters in Schiller Park. The organization, which once had 13 national branches and planned to go international, no longer receives public funding and is "in hibernation" until the economy improves, she said.

The subject of an unflattering television report in 2006, Spizzirri was embroiled for two years in a defamation lawsuit she filed in state court against several critics who alleged she couldn't prove that her organization had trained as many children as she said and that it wasted taxpayers' money. Spizzirri, who eventually dropped her suit, said it took its toll and helped prompt her recent decision to suspend operations.

"I can sleep because I know I did no harm," she said.

Not only is it reported (a month after the dissolution papers were filed) that the completely dissolved SALF is just "in hibernation" and "suspend[ing] operations", but the very title of the piece states that the Foundation is "in limbo".

Black's piece also goes into detail about the story behind Spizzirri's decision to create the organization and quotes Spizzirri multiple times throughout the piece. Here is another clip:

Carol Spizzirri's life changed the instant she learned the horrifying details of her daughter's car wreck. The teenager suffered a severe head injury, and her left arm was nearly severed after her Pontiac Grand Am slid off the road and overturned. Police, who found the 18-year-old lying outside the vehicle, testified they weren't trained in first aid and could offer little but comfort.


As the foundation's president, Spizzirri proved skillful at raising money and pitching her program at the state and federal levels. Until 2008, the Illinois Department of Public Health and U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention provided the lion's share of the foundation's annual income. The state contributed $600,000 to $700,000 annually most years, beginning in 1999, according to tax records.

The Public Health Department "completed all of the standard grant monitoring required by the grant agreements and found the money was spent appropriately," according to an agency statement.


Today, Spirrizzi is consumed with a new project: helping municipalities fight cyber-crime. She said she is starting a private business with close friend Rita Mullins, 64, former mayor of Palatine.

"I am," Spizzirri said, "a mom who lost a child, and that is all that is important."

It is interesting that Black paints such a simple picture of Spizzirri and SALF considering all of the criticism that has been raised and is on record about this organization and Spizzirri's credibility. While Black does mention that "critics have raised" some concerns about the organization, these points are largely glossed over and Black allows Spizzirri to have the final (and only) word on the controversies that she has been involved in. While Black glosses over the defamation lawsuit that was filed, it is important to note that the defamation case was the eighth most-viewed case on a Harvard University affiliated website that monitors cases involving issues of free speech.

In writing about both an organization, and its founder, that have come under intense fire, one may assume that more time would be spent on some of the claims that have been raised both about the credibility of Spizzirri and the organization itself. We know from Black's piece that Spizzirri dropped her defamation lawsuit, but we never find out why. In fact, the only person who was involved in any of these controversies who gets a voice in Black's piece, is Spizzirri, the woman who has been at the center of said criticisms. I don't see any quotes from Jason Haap, Peter Heimlich, or Dr. Baratz regarding their involvement with the lawsuit or getting their views on SALF and Carol Spizzirri.

One reason that may potentially explain the tone of Lisa Black's piece as well as her reliance on Carol Spizzirri as one of her few sources, is that Black was one of two Chicago Tribune reporters who were named as witnesses on behalf of SALF in the very defamation lawsuit that was filed against Haap, Heimlich, and Baratz. Black fails to disclose this fact in the very piece that not only discusses the lawsuit and relies on Spizzirri for the majority of the quotes, but also paints the status of an organization that is now dissolved as "in limbo".

Here is the list of witnesses. You will see that Black is number 14 and that there are some other interesting names on this list including Chris Finney and David Pepper:

Save-A-Life Foundation (plaintiff) Rule 26(a)(1) disclosures, 4/1/09

It would seem as though full disclosure of this conflict would be appropriate in this situation and the lack of disclosure only raises more questions about the nature of the relationship between the Chicago Tribune, Carol Spizzirri and the now dissolved Save-A-Life Foundation.

This piece is cross posted here.

Photo courtesy of here.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Hundreds of Tea-Party Members Gather Downtown to Oppose Health Care Reform Legislation

On Saturday afternoon, hundreds of people gathered outside the Carew Tower building carrying signs and chanting the phrase "We Surround Them" in order to voice their opposition to the health care reform legislation that is currently before both houses of Congress.

This event was organized by members of the Fairfield-based Cincinnati Tea Party as well as the Cincinnati 9/12 Project. While the march around Carew Tower was meant to send a message to Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH) of Ohio's first district (whose office is inside Carew Tower), there were many people in attendance who were not constitutes of Driehaus. One protester was commenting on how she drove from Liberty Township to attend the event while others commented that they lived outside of Driehaus' district.

This event was the culmination of a week of protests that were staged at various exit ramps off of I-275, where members would hand out leaflets and other information on health care reform. I-275 was a symbolic choice as the highway literally "surrounds" the city of Cincinnati and the message of "We Surround Them" has been a central theme in Glenn Beck's 9/12 Project.

After the march, the protesters gathered on Fountain Square to hear speakers, recite the Pledge of Allegiance and listen to Lee Greenwood's patriotic anthem "God Bless the USA".

Chris Littleton, Director of the Cincinnati Tea Party, was the first to speak and he drove home the point that the while the Tea Party movement "has no problem" with health care reform, they believe that government intervention in the health care system will lead this country down a "slippery-slope" toward a single payer system and eventually, wealth redistribution. Littleton made the statement that the current health care system is broken due to the government's attempts at regulations and challenged the crowd to name something good that the government has done in the past 100 years.

Littleton chided the creation of the Department of Energy as well as the Department of Education mockingly saying "...that has really worked out well hasn't it?" Littleton did not cite any specific statistics to explain why he believed that these Departments were a problem, but the crowd seemed to agree as a chorus of boo's came in response to the mention of the Department of Education. It was also unclear as to what Littleton meant when he stated that former President Carter created the Department of Energy to stop "our dependence on energy".

Founder of the Cincinnati Tea Party, Mike Wilson, then took to the stage to exclaim that he didn't really want to be at the rally since it was the homecoming game for the Cincinnati Bearcats, but that he felt it was important to make the time for this cause. Wilson, criticized the mainstream media for ignoring stories like that of the undercover operation that recently took place by two Conservative activists who sought advice from ACORN employees while dressing and posing as a pimp and a prostitute. It is unclear which media outlets Wilson feels have ignored the story as a quick Google search shows a wide-range of coverage on this topic.

Cheers erupted from the crowd as Wilson asked if anyone listens to Glenn Beck. Wilson claimed that Beck is one of those in the media who are bringing important stories to light. Wilson cited the resignation of Van Jones from the Obama Administration as an accomplishment to Glenn Beck and stated that the White House is so afraid of Fox News and talk radio because they are always "scooping" outlets like the New York Times and Washington Post. Wilson also spoke of Glenn Beck's latest target within the Obama Administration, White House Communications Director Anita Dunn. Wilson stated, as Beck has done, that Dunn said that two political philosophers that she turns to the most are Mother Theresa and Mao-Tse-Tung...apparently further "evidence" of socialism/communism in the Obama White House.

It is important to note that, Crooks and Liars has shown how Beck edited Dunn's quote to serve his purpose. Here is the Dunn quote that Beck ran:

"[T]wo of my favorite political philosophers, Mao Tse-Tung and Mother Teresa, not often coupled with each other, but the two people that I turn to most ..."

and here is the full quote:

"The third lesson and tip actually comes from two of my favorite political philosophers: Mao Tse-tung and Mother Theresa -- not often coupled with each other, but the two people I turn to most to basically deliver a simple point which is 'you're going to make choices; you're going to challenge; you're going to say why not; you're going to figure out how to do things that have never been done before."

This distortion was not addressed by Wilson, nor was the fact that Beck has lost dozens of advertisers on his program ever since he labeled President Obama as a "racist". What was addressed was how Wilson feels that the government is unfairly infringing in the lives of Americans and how health care reform is just another way that the government will be telling people what to do. Wilson's example of how government is currently overstepping its boundaries was how the school that his son attends apparently prevented his son from eating sugar-free pudding that Wilson had packed for him because it wasn't in one of the food groups that is approved of by the Department of Agriculture. "You know what? It's my life!" shouted Wilson.

The final speaker at the event was former Congressman Steve Chabot (R-OH) who will be running against Rep. Steve Driehaus (D-OH) to try and earn back his seat in Congress that Driehaus took from him in 2008. Chabot compared the Presidency of Barack Obama to that of the runaway balloon that received lots of coverage a few weeks ago: "Lofty and shiny at first, but found to be nothing but hot air and empty after crashing to the ground."

Chabot claimed that politicians and "their special interest friends" are trying to push through government health care that would "increase health insurance costs" and "increase the deficit". There was no mention of the score that the Congressional Budget Office gave the legislation put forth by the Senate Finance Committee which states that this particular bill will actually reduce the deficit by $81 billion over a 10 year period.

Chabot went on to claim that the Tea Party movement is important because they "are helping to educate your fellow Americans about the truth about what is actually taking place in Washington."

"The Washington establishment and their allies in the mainstream press said that you were just the Fox-watching political fringe, a temporary bump in the road. Well, they know better now," Chabot exclaimed. Chabot embraced the Tea Party movement and the 9/12 Project by associating himself with the movement, often using the term "we" and "us" in describing "Republicans or Conservatives or tea-partiers or 9/12'ers or whatever you want to call us..."

Chabot concluded by stating that the country will be "taken back" by Conservatives and Republicans. "No moderates!" shouted a woman from the crowd as Chabot insisted that the "left-wing agenda" of the last year can "do a lot of damage" and will be "hard to reverse" in the future. Chabot told tea-party founder Mike Wilson that he hopes to work with him once he is back in Congress and once Wilson gets elected to the Statehouse (which Wilson is running for to "fight back against the Federal Government").

There was much criticism of of Rep. Steve Driehaus by former Congressman Chabot due to Driehaus not agreeing to speak at this event. "It's unfortunate that Steve Driehaus chose not to show up today to listen to your concerns," Chabot stated, "and finally tell us where he stands on the important health care issue. Although he has been particularly cagey in letting his constitutes, you, know where he stands, he did find time to let Howard Dean know that he supports the so-called public option plan."

Though Driehaus did not speak at this event, it is important to note that it is not completely accurate to imply that Driehaus has been hiding from the public or failing to let people know where he stands on issues of health care. Rep. Driehaus has held multiple town hall meetings on the topic of health care, during which he was repeatedly shouted down and booed by members of the same organizations that sponsored this rally on Fountain Square. You can view footage of these town hall meetings at links here, here, here, and here.

The Fountain Square event concluded with the singing of "God Bless America" as well as a call for donations to help pay for the event on the square by members of the Tea Party organization. "It's on my credit card right now," joked Director Chris Littleton, "and that gets really scary for me."

Below is some video that I took at the event so that you can see what took place and discuss the topic further:

This piece is cross posted here.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Interview with Laure Quinlivan, Democratic Candidate for Cincinnati City Council

Laure Quinlivan is a Democrat running for Cincinnati City Council. She is a former I-Team Reporter with Channel 9 and currently describes herself as a mother and a new small business owner. Quinlivan is endorsed my Mayor Mark Mallory, U.S. Rep. Steve Driehaus, several current City Council members and various organizations such as CincyPac, Equality Cincinnati and the AFLCIO.

CB: On your website you state: "My experience as a watchdog for taxpayers will pay off for you. If you liked me on the I-Team, you’ll love me on City Council, and this time, I’ll be reporting directly to you." As a reporter, there is a certain level of trust that you must establish with the public so that they can believe the information that they receive is accurate and trustworthy. What measures of transparency will you establish so that the public can trust you as a "watchdog" who has their best interests at heart?

LQ: I would be in favor of posting online as much of our Cincinnati government budget items and expenses as possible, so the public can see what government is doing with tax dollars.

Another plan I have is to report directly to citizens through my web site, with stories and videos on important issues. For example, right now on, people can watch my in-depth video report on Streetcars. It shows what I found visiting Portland and some German cities with streetcars. I produced an animation of the proposed Cincinnati streetcar route so people can see where it’s going to go, because everyone I speak with wants to know detail like this.

CB: Do you support the proposed Streetcar plan? Why or why not?

LQ: I strongly support the streetcar plan because I think it’s the best thing we can do to repopulate downtown and OTR and grow our tax base who we have more revenue. The streetcar investment will bring us more than a billion dollars in private investment. I base this on my research and interviews with Portland’s Mayor and streetcar riders, and my transportation experts I met in Portland and Germany on my trips to investigate streetcars.

In addition, streetcars will be our first step in modern public transportation which we desperately need in this city. Transportation was the #1 priority identified by the thousands of people who participated in Agenda 360. Finally, streetcars will help our environment by getting people out of cars, the top source of pollution in Cincinnati.

CB: Would you support the implementation of a Domestic Partnership registry for the City of Cincinnati, as has been done in places like Toledo and Cleveland? Why or why not?

LQ: Yes, I think it’s the right thing to do. I believe in equal rights for everyone.

CB: On your website, you state that you will continue to make Cincinnati "green" by "creating more urban farms, community gardens, bike paths and green space." What will your first priority be to continue to "green" Cincinnati if you are elected to office?

LQ: Getting involved in the Banks project to ensure bike paths and public green spaces are part of the plan, I will talk to our city/county transportation and planning folks about how we can create more bike paths whenever we re-do a road.

I will also use my reporting skills to highlight the good “green” projects by neighborhoods and groups to help inspire and encourage other people and businesses to do the same.

CB: On your website you mention the importance of creating more public spaces in Cincinnati. Currently, 3CDC has taken more control in the operation of Fountain Square downtown. Are you worried about the influence of corporate interests on public spaces? If so, how would you work to ensure that people would be able to freely gather to express their opinions within newly created public spaces?

LQ: I am really not worried about that right now, because I think 3CDC’s changes to Fountain Square have been a major improvement. Many, many more people gather at FS than they did before. That said,I will always be in favor of ensuring people’s right to gather and express their opinions in public spaces.

CB: What is your position on ordinance 910-23, Cincinnati’s “anti-marijuana ordinance”? Should it stay on the books, or be repealed—and why?

LQ: If the ordinance has not produced good results for citizens and in fact, is a drain on resources, I’ll be in favor of repealing it. Iwant to talk to more involved parties before making a final decision, including police officers.

CB: GOP Mayoral Candidate Brad Wenstrup wants undercover outside agents to spy on Cincinnati police to monitor their behavior. Do you think this a good idea? Why or why not?

LQ: I’m not familiar with his plan. However, as a former I-Team reporter, I did undercover investigations which sometimes involved police. For example, a few years ago the I-Team partnered with ABC’s 20/20 to test several police agencies in our region, to get police reaction when a citizen asks about how to file a citizen complaint against police. We conducted this undercover test at more than 15 local police stations. A couple police officers from departments outside the city were very rude and intimidating to our citizen tester, but the Cincinnati Police district officers reacted very professionally. I’m not against undercover work, but it all depends on the proposal and the credibility of who’s doing the undercover work..

CB: In your experience as a reporter you have been privy to many of the inner-workings of the City of Cincinnati over the years. What is the biggest lesson that you have learned about politics in this City and how will that lesson shape your actions if you are elected to Council?

LQ: The lesson is: government is not efficient, open and responsive to citizens. I think it should be. Citizens (and journalists) find it hard to get through all the red tape, and service is slow. I’ve learned we need to put incentives in place to encourage city employees to help us find solutions, save money, and achieve excellence in our government. It would be money well spent.

This interview is cross posted here.

Above Photo Courtesy of here.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

Musicians Speak Out on Using Music as Torture, Closing Guantanamo

From Lisa Derrick at La Figa:

Musicians, including R.E.M and Pearl Jam, launched a formal protest of the use of music used in conjunction with torture that took place at Guantanamo Bay and other facilities. And they’ve announced they are supporting an effort seeking the declassification of all secret government records pertaining to how music was utilized as an interrogation device.

Both Tom Morello and Trent Reznor–the music of Rage Against the Machine and Nine Inch Nails were used as part the torture of inmates–are involved in the campaign. Says Morello in a statement:

Guantanamo is known around the world as one of the places where human beings have been tortured – from water boarding, to stripping, hooding and forcing detainees into humiliating sexual acts – playing music for 72 hours in a row at volumes just below that to shatter the ear drums.

Morello, Rage Against the Machine’s guitarist, adds:

Guantanamo may be Dick Cheney’s idea of America, but it’s not mine. The fact that music I helped create was used in crimes against humanity sickens me – we need to end torture and close Guantanamo now.

Also on board united in finding out about the abuse: Jackson Browne, Billy Bragg, Michelle Branch, T-Bone Burnett, David Byrne, Rosanne Cash, Marc Cohn, Steve Earle, the Entrance Band, Joe Henry, Pearl Jam, Bonnie Raitt, R.E.M., Rise Against, and The Roots. The campaign was organized by long time music fan and political organizer Trevor FitzGibbon.

You can go here to sign a letter, joining the musicians who are speaking out against torture and advocating the closure of the prison facility in Guantanamo Bay.

Here is what R.E.M has to say:

We signed onto the campaign in complete support of President Obama and the military leaders who have called for an end to torture and to close Guantanamo. As long as Guantanamo stays open, America’s legacy around the world will continue to be the torture that went on there. We have spent the past 30 years supporting causes related to peace and justice – to now learn that some of our friends’ music may have been used as part of the torture tactics without their consent or knowledge, is horrific. It’s anti-American, period.

and from the Roots:

When we found out that music was being used as part of the torture going on at Guantanamo, shackling and beating people - we were angry. Just as we wouldn’t be caught dead allowing Dick Cheney to use our music for his campaigns, you can be damn sure, we wouldn’t allow him to use it to torture other human beings. Congress needs to shut Guantanamo down.

Local Activists March in Favor of Health Care Reform

This past Sunday, close to 100 local activists and concerned citizens gathered on the corner of 5th and Walnut streets in Downtown Cincinnati to march in support of health care reform. Members associated with Organizing for America, the AFL-CIO, Cincinnati Progressive Action, and the local branch of the International Socialist Organization all helped to promote this event and their messages ranged from supporting President Obama's call for a public option to calls for pressing members of Congress to have a dialogue about the adoption of a single-payer health care system.

Activists began gathering a little before 11:30am on a chilly Sunday morning, carrying homemade signs and wearing clothing that expressed their support for health care reform. As organizers began to pass out materials and leaflets, about a dozen anti-health care reform activists (some wearing shirts indicating their membership in the Cincinnati Chapters of the Tea Party and 9/12 Project Organizations) made their presence known. They carried signs implying that President Obama is ushering Socialism and Marxism and voiced many of the same concerns that have been heard at the various town hall meetings that I and many others covered throughout the country this past August.

Unlike some of the town hall meetings, those who are not in favor of health care reform were outnumbered by those in favor of fundamentally amending the health care system. Local candidates for Cincinnati City Council Nicholas Hollan, Anitra Brockman and Greg Harris were also in attendance to show their support for health care reform and as you will see in the video that I have provided below, all three spoke at the event.

The march lasted for about an hour, snaking through the streets of Cincinnati and through the hoards of people who were making their way down to Paul Brown Stadium to attend the Cincinnati Bengals game. I even heard a few cries of "Who Dey for Health Care" as I covered the event.

Below is some video footage of the march including the speeches by Nicholas Hollan, Anitra Brockman, Greg Harris and organizer Nathan Lane:

This piece is cross posted here.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Rachel Maddow to Liz Cheny: "I Will Not Bite"

Liz Cheney, daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney, and Bill Kristol have launched a new organization called "Keep America Safe" whose mission statement reads in part:

Since 9/11, the United States Government, through our armed forces and our intelligence and law enforcement professionals, has succeeded in preventing any further attacks on the American homeland. This is a major achievement. By turning away from the policies that have kept us safe, by treating terrorism as a law enforcement matter, giving foreign terrorists the same rights as American citizens, launching investigations of CIA agents, cutting defense spending, breaking faith with our allies and attempting to appease our adversaries, the current administration is weakening the nation, and making it more difficult for us to defend our security and our interests.

Keep America Safe believes the United States can only defeat our adversaries and defend our interests from a position of strength. We know that America has, for 233 years, been an unparalleled force for good in the world, that our fighting forces are the best the world has ever known, and that the world is a safer place when America is trusted by our allies and feared and respected by our enemies. Keep America Safe will make the case for an unapologetic approach to fighting terrorism around the world, for victory in the wars this country fights, for democracy and human rights, and for a strong American military that is needed in the dangerous world in which we live.

They have also launched a new web ad:

Cheney's group is obviously targeting MSNBC in this ad though it is unclear whether the "they" that are referring to in the ad is MSNBC specifically or anyone who opposes the agenda of this conservative group. Regardless, Rachel Maddow responded last night on her show:

Considering that Rachel Maddow has invited many guests on her show to debate substantive issues in a respectful manner, it is going to be interesting to see if Cheney decides to take up Maddow's offer. I know one thing, if this does happen, it will be must see TV and I would like to see Maddow's full hour show devoted to this discussion.

Monday, October 19, 2009

They Hate us Because we are Free?

David Rohde is a New York Times reporter that was captured by the Taliban and held for seven months before he was released. He is currently writing about his time as a hostage in a series at the New York Times and in his second installment of the series today, he wrote:

For the next several nights, a stream of Haqqani commanders overflowing with hatred for the United States and Israel visited us, unleashing blistering critiques that would continue throughout our captivity.

Some of their comments were factual. They said large numbers of civilians had been killed in Afghanistan, Iraq and the Palestinian territories in aerial bombings. Muslim prisoners had been physically abused and sexually humiliated in Iraq. Scores of men had been detained in Cuba and Afghanistan for up to seven years without charges.

To Americans, these episodes were aberrations. To my captors, they were proof that the United States was a hypocritical and duplicitous power that flouted international law.

When I told them I was an innocent civilian who should be released, they responded that the United States had held and tortured Muslims in secret detention centers for years. Commanders said they themselves had been imprisoned, their families ignorant of their fate. Why, they asked, should they treat me differently?

Glenn Greenwald has been writing about this and reacts to this passage by Rohde by saying:

So much of this disparity is explained by a basic lack of empathy: imagine if every American spent just a day contemplating how they'd react if some foreign army from a Muslim nation invaded and bombed the U.S., occupied the country for the next several years with 60,000 soldiers, killed tens of thousands of citizens here, set up secret prisons where they disappeared Americans for years without charges or even contact with the outside world, imposed sanctions that blockaded food and medicine and killed countless children, invaded and ransacked our homes at will, abducted Americans and shipped them halfway around the world to island-prisons, instituted a worldwide torture regime, armed their allies for attacks on other Western nations, and threatened still other invasions.

Do you think Americans might be seething with rage about that, wanting to kill as many of the people from that country as possible? Wouldn't it be rather obvious that the more that was done to Americans, the more filled with hatred and a desire for violence they would be? Just consider the rage and fury and burning desire for vengeance that was unleashed by a one-day attack on U.S. soil, eight years ago, by a stateless band of extremists, that killed 3,000 people.

But..."they" hate us because we are free right?

Being Forced to Act as if we are Free

I am currently battling some computer issues that I am going to try and get resolved over the next day or two, so blogging may be somewhat sporadic until then.

One of the items that will go up a little later than I would like is my coverage of a Health Care reform march that happened locally here in Cincinnati over the weekend. I have a recap of the event as well as some video that will be posted once I can get my computer fixed.

In the meantime, I came across an interesting exchange between Amy Goodman and Juan Gonzalez (co-hosts of Democracy Now! ) and the Slovenian Philosopher Slajov Zizek during an interview last Thursday. The interview covered several topics and is well worth listening to in its entirety, but I would like to focus this segment on health care as it introduced a different line of thinking into this debate that had not occurred to me:

AMY GOODMAN: You write, “Is the bailout then really a ‘socialist’ measure? If it is, it takes a peculiar form: a ‘socialist’ measure whose primary aim is to help not the poor but the rich, not those who borrow but those who lend.”

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK: Yeah. I mean, this is my whole thesis, that capitalism always was socialism for those who are on the top. This is the basic paradox of it, no?

AMY GOODMAN: What about healthcare?

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK: Oh, now you touch my favorite topic. You know why? Because I think that here we see, when people—when I write on ideology, and people laugh at me—“Haha, didn’t you know this? We live in post-ideological era.” No, here you see ideology in its material force. We can—we should distinguish here two levels. On the one hand are those ridiculous right-wing paranoias, which, incidentally, I like to listen. They amuse me, you know, like that Sarah Palin idea of death panels. Some mysterious bureaucracy will decide, does your uncle live or not. That’s funny, I hope; at least for the time being, we can laugh at it. But then—

JUAN GONZALEZ: Not in a big part of America, unfortunately.

SLAVOJ ŽIŽEK: Yeah, yeah, yeah. But then the real problem, where the Republican critique of healthcare plan really works is by appealing to this basic gut notion of freedom of choice. And I think this is a problem; we have to confront it. The first we should make it clear is that in order to exercise the freedom of choice—one has to repeat this again and again—an extremely—to really exercise this, an extremely complex network of social, legal regulations, even, I would say, ethical rules, which are somehow accepted, and so on, has to be—have to be here. In other words, often less choice, at least less public choice, at a certain level means more choice at a different level.

Let me return precisely to healthcare. My idea is that healthcare should be at a certain level, like water and electricity. You can also say that you usually don’t choose your water supplier, no? OK, now we can play the Republican game and say, “What a horrible terror! They are depriving us of the fundamental choice to choose the water supply.” But we somehow accept that there are some things where it is much more practical that you are able to count on them. Sorry, but I gladly refuse the big freedom to choose my water supplier, the same as for electricity, although there things can get more tricky. Why not add to this series health? Europe demonstrates it can be done effectively, not to diminish our freedom, but to leave you much more space of much more greater actual freedom, and so on.

So, you see, this is the danger of this ideology of choice, because, you know, this is, in one sense, a central category today. There is an old Marxist card, which is played again and again, of we are only offered false choices, not real choices, like Pepsi or Coke, whatever, instead of the real choices. OK, there is a truth in it. But there is also another problem of ideology of choice, that often we are bombarded by choices—you really are free to choose—without being given the proper background to make a reasonable choice. John Gray, the British cynical skeptic, whom I otherwise admire, wrote very nicely that we are today more and more forced to act as if we are free. And this causes a lot of anxiety and so on. You know, one should be very specific apropos of choices. I’m all for the freedom of choice. I would just like to see the small—those, you know, in the footnote, the small print, what are the precise conditions of choice, and so on and so on.

And so, again, although I have no illusions about what Obama can do and so on, I am still proud that already before elections I supported him, although this had no great impact here, of course. But in contrast to my very more radical leftist friends whose motto was “he’s just a nice human face on the same imperialism,” “he will even serve better the interest of capitalism,” or whatever, no, I think we see now, apropos the healthcare reform, that we are fighting the central battle here.

The point that Zizek makes, that of less choice on one level resulting in more choice on another level, is a point that hadn't occurred to me in this health care debate. Are there times in society today that we, as Zizek mentions in his quote from John Gray, are being forced to act as if we are free? It is certainly worthy of consideration.

I also find Zizek's analogy to the water supply intriguing when we are speaking about the freedom of choice. There are some elements within a society that we don't choose and probably don't mind having chosen for us. Extending this way of thinking, that of knowing that something will be provided, to health care is an interesting way of thinking about this debate and the role that government should play in the lives of its citizens.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Interview with Nicholas Hollan, Democratic Candidate for Cincinnati City Council

Nicholas Hollan is a lifelong Cincinnatian and a Democrat running for Cincinnati City Council. Nicholas currently works for the Cincinnati Chapter of the American Red Cross as the Community Outreach/Disaster Services Coordinator and is endorsed by the Hamilton County Democratic Party, the Cincinnati Women's Political Caucus and the Cincinnati Federation of Teachers. You can listen to a previous interview that Hollan gave the Cincinnati Beacon by clicking here and you can visit Hollan's website by clicking here.

CB: What is your position on ordinance 910-23, Cincinnati’s “anti-marijuana ordinance”? Should it stay on the books, or be repealed—and why?

NH: I would push to repeal this inappropriate and unnecessary ordinance that results in non-violent offenders overcrowding limited jail space.

CB: You state on your website that: "What I have observed, all too often, is that our responses are reactionary. For our city to move forward, we must together and proactively address the root causes of the pressing issues we face." Can you describe ways in which you believe City Council has acted in ways that are reactionary to problems that face Cincinnati?

NH: One area of reaction that recently dominated the press was the proposed police layoffs.

While I believe that maintaining public safety is one of the most important functions of local government, I also think it is right and just to question how money is being spent. We are currently spending over $100 million on policing which essentially, reacts to crime and deters crime through the threat of imprisonment. Unless something changes, we are going to be spending $110 million in five years and $120 million in ten. I intend to work to break this cycle by proactively focusing on those root causes that initially lead people down this path: job training, education and healthcare. As more individuals achieve self-sufficiency, crime will diminish as will the request for federal, state and local assistance. Everyone wins in this scenario.

We should remember to fund the police to the best of our ability but not forsake those programs necessary to lessen their workload.

CB: You state on your website that you want to work with community councils to create a long-term vision for each of Cincinnati's neighborhoods. How do you plan to create a meaningful dialog with all 52 community groups?

My professional background is in human services but I can’t go into anyone’s neighborhood and tell the residents how I am going to fix them. The first step is reaching out to every community and listening, more than speaking, to truly understand the concerns of residents for their neighborhood. By collaborating with all of the stakeholders in each community and obtaining their buy-in, priorities can be established and a vision set forth.

Creating this type dialogue with all 52 neighborhoods is an enormous, yet necessary task. To accomplish this and my other objectives, I will serve Cincinnati residents as a full-time council member. A part-time representative will only produce part-time results. I believe the people of Cincinnati deserve elected officials who will make public service their top priority.

CB: You have stated that you want to encourage people to move into Cincinnati by elevating the quality of life. If you are elected to council, what is the first step that you would pursue to elevate the quality of life in the city?

NH: With the city facing a $50 million deficit next year, I believe the first step for all council members should be delving deeply into the budget to ensure that it is balanced while still meting out city services as easily and as efficiently as possible.

The point of contention will be what constitutes a core city service. I don’t want to live in a city where the only service offered is policing. Cincinnati boasts a renowned performing and fine arts community, a dedicated green initiative and a focus on providing our residents with a minimum level of care through human service programs. We need to find the funding to support these crucial life enhancing opporunities.

As your councilmember, I intend to work closely with all elected officials both in the city and county to ascertain cost cutting opportunities like the group purchase of salt. I think it is also important to point out that this level of focus on cost saving measures should be a basic function for stewards of taxpayer dollars and conducted when the economy is strong as well as weak.

CB: Do you support the local NAACP’s frequent petition drives, or do you think that organization is abusing City government? Please explain.

NH: All citizens have the right to garner signatures and put whatever issue for which they are passionate on the ballot for a public vote. However, I do feel this is a tool that is best used in moderation.

I am concerned that repeated use of these ballot referendums take us down a perilous path towards the California model of slow, ineffective government.

Local government officials are elected to make key decisions on behalf of all residents. If people disagree with the direction of leadership then they have the opportunity to remove council and replace them with candidates who more closely align with their particular interest.

CB: As you are probably aware, Celeste Thomas, the daughter of Councilmember Cecil Thomas, was recently tased during a traffic stop by Cincinnati Police. This act was quickly labeled as excessive use of force by the Chief of Police. This incident just added to the list of accounts throughout the country of questionable use of tasers. What is your position on the use of tasers by Cincinnati Police?

NH: The incident involving Councilmember Thomas’ daughter was exceptionally unfortunate and I commend the measured response from Councilmember Thomas as well as the swift condemnation of the act by the police administration.

Tasers, providing a non-lethal tool for police officers, are a tremendous asset that doubtlessly saves lives. We as a society authorize our police offers to make split second decisions under extreme stress regarding the use of force. My hope is that officers use force according to the prescribed guidelines and face repercussions when they go outside of accepted practice.

CB: With the debate over health care reform at the forefront nationally, one of your priorities on your website is: "to ensure children in our community are born healthy, are immunized and receive proper health and oral care." How do you plan to ensure that children in Cincinnati are born healthy? Are you implying more of an educational campaign or something more concrete for those who may not be able to afford proper prenatal care?

NH: With the issue of healthcare raging on the national news front, I believe that the need for healthcare reform is clear and immediate.

For proof of this as a concern, I cite our city’s deplorable infant mortality rate. Generally considered a good indicator for the overall health of a community, our children are dying at a rate that is twice the national average.

Certainly an educational program designed to reach at risk mothers is critical in an effort to alter potentially negative behavior and provide information regarding existing healthcare options. I also believe that the existing healthcare clinics must continue to receive the funding they need to operate. We are talking about an at-risk population that is statistically less likely to have a primary care physician, receive pre-natal care or care for the newborn after birth.

While the city as a whole has an infant mortality rate twice the national average, families receiving treatment from the Cincinnati Health Department are below the national average. That type of success must be encouraged and allowed to grow.

CB: Would you support the implementation of a Domestic Partnership registry for the City of Cincinnati, as has been done in places like Toledo and Cleveland? Why or why not?

NH: This is not a gay-rights issue as much as it is a basic issue of equal human rights. I am proud of my endorsement by Equality Cincinnati and support a Domestic Partnership registry as a step toward complete equality for all Americans in the eyes of the law.

This interview is cross posted here.

Yearning for the Days of Old...

You thought that Glenn Beck's antics were odd in the clips that I have posted before? Well, it now appears that they have devolved to completely delusional:

Thursday, October 15, 2009

The Muslims are Coming! The Muslims are Coming!

I came across a pretty amazing story today, the roots of which stem from the publishing of a new book that is described like this by acorcoran on the blog "Refugee Resettlement Watch":

In the mold of ACORN undercover investigators James O’Keefe and Hannah Giles, another young brave man has infiltrated CAIR (Council on American Islamic Relations), in this case as an intern, and has come out with mountains of documentation that the supposed Muslim civil rights group is really just a front for the radical Muslim Brotherhood in the US.

See New English Review or World Net Daily for the details on this amazing breakthrough that confirms what many of us have been assuming all along. I’ve just ordered my copy of “Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That’s Conspiring to Islamize America.”

and on top of the release of this book, some GOP members of the House have done this (from TPM):

Rep. Sue Myrick (R-NC)...Myrick and three other members of the Congressional Anti-Terrorism Caucus came to a news conference today armed with Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That's Conspiring to Islamize America (WND Books, $22.95). They called on the sergeant at arms to investigate whether, as Rep. Paul Broun (R-GA) put it, a group that "is connected to or supports terrorists [and] is running influence operations or planting spies in key national security-related offices."

WorldNetDaily describes the premise of the new book, i.e. the co-author's son getting into the Muslim advocacy group the only way he knew how, as a "bearded Muslim convert"

Uh-oh! Are scary Muslims really infiltrating our government to try and legitimize terrorism and convert us all to Sharia Law?

Michael J.W. Stickings has some thoughts from over at The Reaction:

Oooh. Ahhh. Even Politico admits that a much-ballyhooed CAIR strategy document "basically lays out a fairly straight forward public relations and lobbying strategy." And yet these GOP McCarthyites are still targeting this group, sullying its reputation and making some pretty damning accusations. It would be one thing if they actually had evidence. Without it, this just looks like profiling, an assault on a legitimate organization. And why? Because it's Muslim. And we all know what these bigots think of Muslims.

and what does Glenn Greenwald have to say about this?:

CAIR is a non-profit organization of American citizens who are Muslim and their "mission is to enhance understanding of Islam, encourage dialogue, protect civil liberties, empower American Muslims, and build coalitions that promote justice and mutual understanding." They stand accused of plotting to influence members of Congress and trying to help interns obtain positions in Congress in order to advance their political agenda. That's consistent with what virtually every political advocacy group in the nation does; it's normally called activism and democracy. But because, in this case, it's a group of Muslims who are doing this, these House Republicans are depicting it as some sort of nefarious espionage plot against the U.S. that demands a criminal investigation.


Just to underscore how extremist the House GOP caucus is, this hysteria is all based on a new book entitled "Muslim Mafia: Inside the Secret Underworld That's Conspiring to Islamize America." That's the source which these House members are using. In fact, one of the GOP House members, Rep. Sue Myrick of North Carolina, wrote the foreword to the book. One of the two authors of that book, Dave Gaubatz, maintains this website, where he's hawking the book through Paypal. Here's his mission statement at the top of the page:

"The donations will assist in exposing Islamic terrorist operations in America. The goal of the organizations: An Islamic Ummah (Nation) Worldwide, Under Islamic Sharia Law. These goals are widely distributed across America, yet ignored by most of our politicians and the Department of Homeland Security."

The entire site is filled with the most extreme and repugnant anti-Muslim paranoia imaginable, claiming that "CAIR represents the ideology of terrorist groups"; warning that "CAIR places 'insiders' into Congressional offices in order to push the CAIR and Islamic terrorist agendas"; displaying a photograph of Rep. Keith Ellison, the first Muslim-American elected to Congress, with this caption: "One of your leading elected officials (supporter of CAIR) with researcher Chris Gaubatz. How much information do we have on Carson and Congressman Keith Ellison?; and warning that "Young Muslim children are being taught across America to engage in violence against non Muslims and Muslims who do not uphold Sharia law."


This is the ranting, insane hatemonger who House Republicans are now using as their expert source to demand an investigation into CAIR's villainous plot to place interns on Congressional committees. It would be darkly humorous if it weren't so ugly and dangerous.

This kind of fear-mongering that is being advanced by these four GOP representatives is ridiculous considering that all that CAIR is being accused of, is lobbying Congress and trying to establish members in positions of power. As Greenwald points out, this is precisely what every advocacy group tries to do, the only difference is that CAIR is a Muslim organization. What the scary aspect of this story is, is that members of the House GOP are taking this kind of nonsense seriously.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

We're Number One...or "Fairly Average"

There has been a persistent talking point coming out of some on the Right when discussing the issue of health care reform. To make the case that the United States does not need radical health care reform, you often hear that the United States has the best health care system in the world.

New research has just come out from the Pew Research Center (h/t digby) and according to Americans, our health care system is "fairly average". Check out this chart (If you have problems reading the chart, click on it for a bigger version):

This piece is cross posted here.

Fox Only Covers the Protests That They Want you to See

The Daily Show is on a roll!

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Queer and Loathing in D.C.
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

"We Report, You Decide" or "We report on things that we want you to see and then help to frame your decision?"

CNN Factchecks SNL: Jon Stewart Responds

This clip is from The Daily Show on Monday night and is just another reason why this show is so valuable (and hilarious):

The Daily Show With Jon StewartMon - Thurs 11p / 10c
CNN Leaves It There
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political HumorRon Paul Interview

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Interview with Tony Fischer, Democratic Candidate for Cincinnati City Council

Tony Fischer is a Democrat who is running for one of the nine seats on Cincinnati City Council. Fischer served two tours of combat in Iraq from 2005-2008 and has the endorsements of the Hamilton County Democratic Party, the Cincinnati AFL-CIO Labor Council, the Cincinnati Women's Political Caucus, and the Miami Group of the Sierra Club. You can read more about Fischer at his website by clicking here.

CB: What is your position on ordinance 910-23, Cincinnati’s “anti-marijuana ordinance”? Should it stay on the books, or be repealed—and why?

TF: Jail space should be primarily utilized for violent offenders. That would be my primary goal in determining punishments the city has authority to consider.

CB: On your campaign page, you say you want to "Make targeted infrastructure investments to leverage Cincinnati’s physical position and transportation connections." What's the latest on the Queensgate terminal project, and how does that fit with your platform point above?

TF: We have to be concerned about any liabilities the city has outstanding. There are presently many active working terminals on both the east and west sides of the river. The statement I made was primarily focused towards the need to make local investments so that we can take advantage of new high-speed rail projects, specifically the 3-C corridor and the Midwest regional rail initiative. Cincinnati can not be bypassed by these projects.

CB: What is your position on the debate between how to define "basic services"? Are swimming pools, rec centers, and other human services "basic"? Please explain.

TF: Basic services that people expect from their city are public safety, transportation repair and maintenance, water and sewer services, garbage collection, public health, and parks and recreation. Basic services means not that we have a little bit of each service but that the services that are offered are effective.

CB: Do you support the local NAACP’s frequent petition drives, or do you think that organization is abusing City government? Please explain.

TF: Individuals and citizen groups have a right to circulate petitions to amend the charter by popular vote. That is a basic feature of American government on the state and local level.

CB: GOP Mayoral Candidate Brad Wenstrup wants undercover outside agents to spy on Cincinnati police to monitor their behavior. Do you think this a good idea? Why or why not?

No, I do not think this is a good idea. There is currently both an internal investigations section and the Citizens Complaint Authority to handle questions about police behavior.

CB: On your campaign page, you say you want to "Coordinate with neighboring rural areas to develop markets for local products and maintain healthy food sources for our citizens." Can you explain how this fits with your role as Councilmember? Please be specific.

The city owns Findlay Market, so it has been its business to "coordinate with neighboring rural areas to develop markets for local products and maintain healthy food sources for our citizens" for over 100 years. I think it is important for many of our neighborhoods that don't have a full service grocery (e.g. Avondale, as well as others) to have access to healthy and fresh fruits and vegetables.

Wouldn't form-based codes make it more difficult for neighborhoods to protest certain kinds of development from entering their areas? Please explain?

It is important that our neighborhoods function as centers of business as well as residential areas. It is much better to have neighborhoods that serve multiple functions than a single function. That single use suburban style development is not sustainable.

CB: Would you support the implementation of a Domestic Partnership registry for the City of Cincinnati, as has been done in places like Toledo and Cleveland? Why or why not?

TF: Yes, because it is the right thing to do.

This interview is cross posted here.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Gay Rights: Sunday's March on Washington, Obama's Speech, and Barney Frank

Tens of thousands of activists marched on Washington this past Sunday in support of equal rights for the LGBT community. From the Houston Chronicle:

Rainbow flags and homemade signs dotted the crowds that filled Pennsylvania Avenue for several blocks past the White House. People chanted “Hey, Obama, let mama marry mama” and “We're out, we're proud, we won't back down.” A few counter-protesters also joined the crowd.

The Hair cast members weren't the only stars to show. Cynthia Nixon, from HBO's Sex and the City, who hopes to marry partner Christine Marinoni next year, told the crowd to big cheers that Obama's words are not enough.

“The right sentiment just isn't enough anymore,” she said.

Another celebrity that joined the march, was pop-star and outspoken supporter of the gay community, Lady Gaga. She gave this passionate speech to supporters:

Lady Gaga's reference to Rep. Barney Frank (D-MA) was in response to his comments earlier in the week downplaying the planned march on Washington:

Rep. Barney Frank, an openly gay member of Congress, says he'd rather see gay rights supporters lobbying their elected officials than marching in Washington this weekend, calling the demonstration "a waste of time at best."

Frank said in an interview with The Associated Press that he considers such demonstrations to be "an emotional release" that does little to pressure Congress.

"The only thing they're going to be putting pressure on is the grass," the Massachusetts Democrat said Friday.

President Obama also gave a speech last week in which he expressed support for the LGBT community and committed to ending the military's "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" policy:

We cannot afford to cut from our ranks people with the critical skills we need to fight any more than we can afford -- for our military's integrity -- to force those willing to do so into careers encumbered and compromised by having to live a lie. So I'm working with the Pentagon, its leadership, and the members of the House and Senate on ending this policy. Legislation has been introduced in the House to make this happen. I will end Don't Ask, Don't Tell. That's my commitment to you. (Applause.)

It is no secret that issues of great concern to gays and lesbians are ones that raise a great deal of emotion in this country. And it's no secret that progress has been incredibly difficult -- we can see that with the time and dedication it took to pass hate crimes legislation. But these issues also go to the heart of who we are as a people. Are we a nation that can transcend old attitudes and worn divides? Can we embrace our differences and look to the hopes and dreams that we share? Will we uphold the ideals on which this nation was founded: that all of us are equal, that all of us deserve the same opportunity to live our lives freely and pursue our chance at happiness? I believe we can; I believe we will. (Applause.)

And that is why -- that's why I support ensuring that committed gay couples have the same rights and responsibilities afforded to any married couple in this country. (Applause.) I believe strongly in stopping laws designed to take rights away and passing laws that extend equal rights to gay couples. I've required all agencies in the federal government to extend as many federal benefits as possible to LGBT families as the current law allows. And I've called on Congress to repeal the so-called Defense of Marriage Act and to pass the Domestic Partners Benefits and Obligations Act. (Applause.) And we must all stand together against divisive and deceptive efforts to feed people's lingering fears for political and ideological gain.

Contrast Obama's speech with the reaction from the beltway as filtered through traditional beltway journalism:

Did you catch that? John Harwood characterized the march on Washington and those who feel that Obama hasn't delivered on some promises as the "internet left fringe" who need to (according to an Obama staffer) "take off the pajamas, get dressed and realize that governing a closely divided country is complicated and difficult." Isn't it fun when 2nd grade insults get aired on television by a beltway journalist who quotes an anonymous White House official? Especially when polls here, here and here seem to suggest that the U.S. is not as "closely divided" on gay rights as the non pajama-wearing Harwood would indicate.

I think that this time in history could provide an interesting opportunity for the LGBT community as well as all activists, gay and straight, who care about these issues. While President Obama has not committed his support for gay marriage, it is certainly clear that he is willing to make some considerable progressive steps on gay rights issues. Repealing "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" would be a fantastic step in the right direction, but like all issues, it is going to be crucial for outside activists to keep the pressure on the both Washington and the White House. There is definitely a window of opportunity that is open on this issue and I hope to see LGBT activists continue to turn up the heat on Washington.