Monday, February 28, 2011

Bad news for Public Radio in Virginia. . .

Martha note:  This morning I posted a memo from State Senator Mark Obenshain enumerating what was and wasn't to be funded in Virginia's budget. Initially, little cockeyed optimist that I am, I thought public radio's funding was left pretty much in place. But that balloon just popped, thanks to the following from Tom Duval.
Thought you would want to know what's really going on as well.
Here's Tom's note. . .
State funding for public radio will drop by 50% in the coming fiscal year.  The General Assembly reported that it had restored 90% of funding for public broadcasting, but that figure is misleading.   
I'll try to make this brief but clear... 
The Assembly restored all of the money, more than $1 million, that Governor McDonnell had proposed cutting from the Instructional Television Service (ITS) grants to public television stations.  Then the Assembly added almost $550,000 more to those grants.  The grants are used to produce and distribute instructional programming and materials to schools, not for broadcast programming. 
The Governor also proposed cutting 50% of the Community Service Grants (CSG) that public radio and television stations use for broadcast programming.  Although the Senate countered with a smaller, 20% cut, the House-Senate conference committee finally settled on the 50% figure. 
Because the ITS grants increased so much, the Assembly was able to say that the overall cut to public broadcasting was only 10%.

However, for WMRA, we still get hit with a 50% reduction - about $43,000. 
Additionally, we are losing $10,000 that originally was budgeted for us to air messages supporting the Virginia tourism.  So our total reduction in state funding this July will be $53,000.  We expect that the remaining $43,000 will be gone in July, 2012.

The Commonwealth's budget exits committee, with, among lots of interesting decisions, lukewarm good news for public broadcasting, and relatively bad new for food banks.

Martha note: This e-mail from State Senator Mark Obenshain was in my in-box this Monday morning. And I thought it might interest you.
Greetings!  I don't like to send out emails quite this often, but since yesterday's email, we've received the conference report on the budget and will be voting on it later today. Since searching the two hundred page conference report for noteworthy amendments is probably not on your to-do list, my office has prepared a two-page summary that may be of interest.... feel free to share your thoughts with me!
   With best regards,
   Mark D. Obenshain
Note: This is an unofficial working document from the office of Senator Mark Obenshain, prepared in advance of the vote on the conference report on the budget. Although we strive to represent budget actions as accurately and completely as possible within the confines of a two-page summary document, the conference report should be consulted where an authoritative account is required.
K-12 Education
  • Overall, provides $75.6M in additional K-12 funding
  • Includes $87.8M increase for school operating costs (Item 132 #6c)
  • Maintains hold harmless provisions for composite index (Item 132 #3c)
  • Contains a $5.9M decrease in textbook funding (Item 132 #3c) 
  • Backs out allocation for increased state share of funding for teacher retirement contribution 
  • for savings of $22.3M as part of the larger 5-for-5 plan (Items 132 #2c and #5c) 
 Higher Education
  • Distributes the $50M the introduced budget sought to provide in competitive grants to base 
  • operating support, STEM funding, and financial assistance
  • [Local note] For JMU, provides an additional $3.2M in STEM funding (Item 161 #1c), 
  • $1.1M in TJ21 monies (#2c), $0.9M in CISCO Partnership funding (#4c), $0.5M in base 
  • operating support (#5c), and $0.4M in financial assistance (Item 162 #2c), and provides 
  • $4.7M debt authority for Centennial Hall (Item C-85 #1c)
 Health and Human Services
  • Takes the House position of 375 ID at $14.4M plus federal match (Item 297 #12c) and 150 
  • DD waivers ($2.2M plus federal match at Item 297 #16c)
  • Restores Medicaid respite hours with $13.4M plus federal match (Item 297 #14c) 
  • Provides $50.6M plus federal match to restore Medicaid reimbursement rate (Item 297 
  • #13c)
  • Restores $1.9M plus match for prescription reimbursement levels (item 297 #24c)
  • Adds $30M to the Behavioral Trust Fund (Item 305 #3c)
  • Appropriates $20M NGF (federal funds) for Medicaid electronic health records incentive 
  • program (Item 295.1 #1c)
 Public Safety & Judiciary
  • Restores $6M for sheriffs, divided between Financial Assistance for Local law 
  • Enforcement and Financial Assistance for Court Services (Item 67.20 #1c) 
  • Provides $12.4M in HB 599 funding for localities with police departments (Item 386 #1c)
  • Fills many judicial vacancies at cost of $3M (Item 52 #2c) 
  • Adds $3M for trooper overtime pay (Item 408 #1c)
  • Restores $0.3M for foresters and firefighters (Item 93 #1c)
  • Language extends deadline for localities to opt out of Line of Duty Program, as they will 
  • continue to be required to contribute to the support of the program (Item 258 #1c) 
  • Cuts $10.1M proposed for the Sexually Violent Predators program (Item 319 #1c)
  •  Eliminates bonding authority of $7.3M for a new SVP facility 
  • Includes budget language conforming to 2010 clerks office funding changes (Item 248 #1c) 
 Economic Development & Conservation
  • Reduces proposed Research Commercialization Fund from $25M to $10M (Item 96 #2c) 
  • Reduces additional funding for Motion Picture Opportunity Fund from $1.5M to $0.5M 
  • (Item 96 #3c)
  • Adds $2.5M for the Enterprise Zone Program (Item 101 #1c)
  • Removes all Wet-Lab funding (Item 114 #3c) 
  • Eliminates a proposal to provide $7.5M to purchase properties around the Oceana Master 
  • Jet Base (item 96 #1c)
  • Provides $1M additional funding for Soil and Water Conservation Districts (Item 351 #2c)
  • Restores $1.2M for state park funding (Item 352 #2c) 
  •  Eliminates $1M for the Land Conservation Fund (Item 352 #3c) while restoring $0.7M in 
  • Purchase of Development Rights funding for farmland preservation (Item 84 #5c)
  • Local Governments & Social Services
  • Restores $5M for CSA services to non-mandated children (Item 274 #1c)
  • Provides $7.5M to restore funding for therapeutic foster care services through CSA (Item 274 #4c)
  • Reduces to $2M a proposed $4M for local crisis stabilization services (Item 305 #1c) 
 Government & Central Accounts
  • Adopts 5-for-5 plan, with associated costs of $40.1M for pay raises (Items 469 #1c and 
  • plus $15.1M to cover additional associated taxes to hold employees harmless with 
  • change (Item 469 #6c)
  • Embraces House proposal for VRS repayments, adding $41.7M to eliminate one quarter of 
  • the deferral (Item 469 #5c)
  • Reduces GF capitalization of Transportation Infrastructure Bank from proposed $150M to 
  • $32.7M (Item 452 #2c)
  • Raises threshold for vendors subjected to Accelerated Sales Tax from $1M to $5.4M, 
  • eliminating 80% (leaving 1,736 retailers in program), with one-time revenue loss of an 
  • estimated $45.7M (Item 3-5.08 #1c)
  •  Adopts House's $64M added contribution to Revenue Stabilization Fund (Item 256 #1c)
  • Saves $10.5M with an executive branch hiring freeze (Item 469 #3c)
  • Reverts the VDH food establishment fees to their lower FY08 levels at loss of $4.3M (Item 
  • 287 #2c), while eliminating the other tax and fee increases in the Senate budget 
  •  Requests the Liaison Office to seek a continued deferment of interest payments on our 
  • Federal Unemployment Account debt; if unsuccessful, Virginia will face an unbudgeted 
  • $11.9M in interest payments (Item 115 #1c)
  • Eliminates Senate budget's bonding authority for Capitol Complex improvements 
  • Contains $67M less in overall debt authorization than did the Governor's budget
  • Removes all direct funding for private non-profits like OpSail, food banks, etc.
  • Restores 90% of funding for public broadcasting (Item 123 #1c)
  • Provides $0.2M additional monies for the Capitol Guides program.

Note from WMRA:  Although 90% of public broadcasting funding was restored, it appears that the Instructional Television Service was the beneficiary of that action, and that the Community Service Grants (operating funds) for public radio and public television may still have been reduced by the originally-proposed 50%.  We are seeking clarification and will update this blog post when we get that.

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Big Wheel of Fortune moment, redux . . .

Robert Kent and his fiancée, Chuck
In October of 2010, in response to Rutgers student Tyler Clementi's suicide after being outed as gay by his roommates on Twitter, I blogged about watching a young man, Robert Kent, introduce his male fiancée on Wheel of Fortune.

Just to take you back . . . 
. . .I sat up straight up in my chair and and  looked at my husband. “Charlie,” I said, “this is truly a memorable month to be alive and American! First we inaugurate a black President; now we welcome an engaged, same-sex couple onto Wheel of Fortune.”

I remember so clearly being stirred to my counter-culture, anti-war demonstrating toes while listening to Bob Dylan sing that “The Times They are a Changing.” I watched Robert and Chuck celebrating their good fortune on Wheel of Fortune and asked myself if it could possibly be, after all these years, that the times have finally, really changed. 
If so, I guess, that change has yet to trickle down from Wheel of Fortune into college dorms. Let's just hope we haven't degenerated as a culture to the point that people find the kind of cruelty visited upon Tyler Clementi entertaining.
This morning, poking around the internet, looking for anything worth passing along to you on a Saturday morning, I noticed that a comment had come in about that long-ago post.

And low-and-behold, it was from the Man, himself, Wheel of Fortune Champ Robert Kemp, and it was about his (and his fiancée's) experience on that very family-friendly television show.

Thought you would both enjoy it and miss it, if I didn't repost it. So, here 'tis.
ok so that episode was great, I mean the staff at wheel was supportive and friendly to both me and chuck... they never edited out anything and they knew he was there and he was my fiance cause they ask ahead of time before the taping they never once regulated how I acted or what I said and I am grateful to have this opportunity, I mean they knew from the beginning I was gonna be myself and make no quams about it... and I thank everyone for their feedback about the show... thinking about it now I was not trying to make a statement I was just being who I normally am with no apologies.... my philosophy has always been take me as I am or not at all.... and the Wheel of fortune Show did... thanks a bunch everyone, Robert A Kent..

Friday, February 25, 2011

Thomas Estes introduces you to Omar

Martha note:  Hilary White Holladay, who teaches African American Literature at James Madison University, had what I thought was a great idea. She suggested that the last two Civic Soapboxes of Black History Month feature two of her students reading poems that are meaningful to them. Here is poem #2, offered to honor all the contributions of persons of color to our nation's history. 
The introduction is transcribed from a conversation I had with Thomas about his chosen poem. To listen to this conversation and to Thomas reading "Freedom Candy," click here.
My names is Thomas Estes. In my English 362 class, African American Poets, I was assigned E. Ethelbert Miller. So I was just reading it one day, and I liked it, and the next day someone said, hey, you want to read something on the air? And I said you know what? I know just what I'm going to read. I've read it all ready. And it's the perfect poem. 
I like it because in this book, How We Sleep on Nights We Don't Make Love, E. Ethelbert Miller created this character Omar. There's 6 consecutive poems about Omar. And this is the first one. And I read it. And I really liked the part where he said, "you know we should tell Mrs. Greenfield about herself  since it's Black History Month." I was like, yeah
I guess I was kinda like that person in school. Always  rebellious. I read this poem and felt the energy from it. 
I am close to being Omar. I laugh all the time. I could say I am Omar

E. Ethelbert Miller
Freedom Candy
        by E.Ethelbert Miller 
What kind of name is Omar
I asked this new boy at school.
You named after a candy bar or what?
You know you’re too light to be milk chocolate. 
Omar looked at me and laughed.
Since that first smile, he’s my best friend.
Maybe my best friend ever.
Folks call us the Inseperables
Like one of those old singing groups my daddy is always talking about. 
Omar’s a Muslim name, Omar tells me.
I think it sounds like a candy bar.
Like O’Henry. Baby Ruth. Mars. Or Almond Joy.
Maybe his mamma should have named him Snickers ’cause of the way he laughs. 
Omar’s name sounds like candy.
And the way he acts is sweet to me.
Every teacher except Mrs. Greenfield thinks so.
Mrs. Greenfield, she don’t like Muslims.
And the rest of us she calls natural born sinners cause of the way we talk and behave. 
Omar says, we should tell Mz. Greenfield about herself since it’s Black History Month.
So Omar stands up and says to Mrs. Greenfield,
How come you don’t lead us somewhere?
How come you’re not like Harriet Tubman?.
Why no field trips? Why no trips to the museum or zoo?
Why we never go nowhere?
Mrs. Greenfield, she don’t say nothing.
She just looks at Omar as if he is the last Muslim on earth and is about to die.
I think about how Omar says, Muslims pray five times a day.
And how cats have nine lives.
And just maybe Omar might make it to three o’clock.
Or maybe he won’t. 
Suddenly Mrs. Greenfield has one of those fainting spells
Like old Moses Tubman.
She has to sit down behind her desk,
So she tells me to go get her some water. 
I feel free as I race down the hall,
Wondering how Omar can be sweet sometime,
And get on everyone’s nerve the next. 
My daddy once told me M & M’s melt in your mouth
And your hands.
Especially if you’re colored.
Wait until I tell Omar.
 --Thomas Estes is from Washington D.C. He’s a junior, studying English, at James Madison University.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Did Newt drink the bong water?

I do love George Clooney.

And I figure that,  as a very happily married woman of a certain age, it's okay for me to make such a bald statement about one of our last true actor/superstars. I mean, Mr. Clooney not only delights on screen as an actor, he gets malaria trying to help the people of Sudan. And then best of all in my mind, rather than acting all brave and self-sacrificing in the interests of fueling his celebrity, Mr. Clooney makes light of  illness, saying, "I guess the mosquito in Juba looked at me and thought I was the bar." 

Two men who don't need to be identified, right?
Okay, so why have I suddenly confused the WMRA blog with a fan magazine? Especially since George Clooney, being a dishy and talented actor and a persistent advocate for the people of Sudan, is hardly news, right?

Because of his refreshing honesty and his astonishing lack of hypocrisy when asked in a recent Newsweek interview, if he was interested in running for elected office . . .
 . . . despite occasional overtures from the California Democratic Party, Clooney has rejected the constraints of conventional politics. “I didn’t live my life in the right way for politics, you know,” he said, sitting outside the Central Pub in Juba, scarfing down pizza. “I f--ked too many chicks and did too many drugs, and that’s the truth.” A smart campaigner, he believes, “would start from the beginning by saying, ‘I did it all. I drank the bong water. Now let’s talk about issues.’ That’s gonna be my campaign slogan: ‘I drank the bong water.’?
For me, that kind of forthrightness (in spite of the offensive crudeness of Mr. Clooney's reference to his well-publicized girlfriends) was like a long, cool drink of water. Here's someone who lives squarely in the public eye who, like Popeye, is comfortable admitting openly that, "I am what I am."

Speaking of forthrightness, the Obama administration finally put its policy where its campaign rhetoric was. As reported yesterday in the New York Times:
WASHINGTON — President Obama, in a striking legal and political shift, has determined that the Defense of Marriage Act — the 1996 law that bars federal recognition of same-sex marriages — is unconstitutional, and has directed the Justice Department to stop defending the law in court, the administration said Wednesday.
Hooray, again, for lining up what you say with what you do. Hooray for forthrightness!

Newt Gingrich made the news in the forthrightness department yesterday as well.

Caption from New York Magazine article:
Gingrich and his current wife.Photo: John M. Heller/Getty Images
New York magazine reports the story this way:

Someone Asked Newt Gingrich About All Those Affairs He’s Had

If Newt Gingrich is going to run for president, as it appears he will, he better gird himself for questions like the one he received last night during a forum with University of Pennsylvania students. As reported by Politico
Isabel Friedman
"You adamantly oppose gay rights ... but you've also been married three times and admitted to having an affair with your current wife while you were still married to your second," Isabel Friedman, president of the Penn Democrats, said to Gingrich. 
Not to mention the affair he had with the woman who would become his second wife while still married to his first! Sorry, didn't mean to interrupt. 
"As a successful politician who's considering running for president, who would set the bar for moral conduct and be the voice of the American people, how do you reconcile this hypocritical interpretation of the religious values that you so vigorously defend?" 
After trying to shame the questioner — "I hope you feel better about yourself," he told her — Gingrich basically answered that he can't reconcile it, and he hopes the voters don't mind.  
“I've had a life which, on occasion, has had problems,” he added. “I believe in a forgiving God, and the American people will have to decide whether that [sic] their primary concern. If the primary concern of the American people is my past, my candidacy would be irrelevant. If the primary concern of the American people is the future ... that's a debate I'll be happy to have with your candidate or any other candidate if I decide to run." 
Don't ask Newt about the past! It's totally not important at all! 

The exchange made UTube, which is, in my opinion, one of our society's great defenses against hypocrisy.

So call me crazy, but didn't Newt Gingrich just kinda admit (metaphorically) that he'd drunk the bong water?

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Unabashed Enthusiasm about Us

I would posit that WMRA and The Little Engine That Could are cosmic first cousins. Both run on hard work, great effort, and dedication; both remain optimistic and cheerful  in the face of daunting challenges.

That hill!

Those ever-decreasing state and federal funds.

I am, of course, anthropomorphizing both a train and a public radio station, but so what? We're all friends here, aren't we? As well as fans of both that bumptious train and that bumptious WMRA?

Tracey Brown (Mrs. Bob), Carl Kassel,
and WMRA's Mr. Morning Edition, Bob Leweke
I can't write anything reasoned, complex, or lengthy this morning, because I'm scheduled to be Bob Leweke's Morning Edition pitching partner today at 7 a.m. So, I've decided to just slap down a sappy little blog-ette about this screwily short fundraiser we're about to take part in again. And by we, my friends, I do mean all of us, everyone in the WMRA Community of Listeners and Workers; all of us who consider public radio an absolutely essential part of our national conversation.

So here's the deal -- at least, according to Martha . . .

Yes, WMRA, is already down $40,000 in state cuts. Yes, we're looking at quite possibly losing all state funding - half this July and the rest in a year. And yes, federal funding for public broadcasting has been completely zeroed out in the just-passed House budget bill, and faces the Senate funding guillotine next week.

What all this means is that our dearly beloved and deeply depended-upon public WMRA is possibly facing a 25% dip in revenue. Is this the time, you may well ask, to have  a short fundraiser?

Yes! I say. Yes! Loudly and enthusiastically.

It seems to me perfectly clear that there is too much going on around the world this week for us to take tons of time out of your news-listening day, for 10 days or so, to ask you to call and support the station.

I also believe that, as we are not a community of dummies, we'll quickly recognize that the station still needs supporting -- now more than ever!

I believe this short fundraiser is a great, WMRA Community-friendly idea. And I also believe that together we will raise the $125,000 needed to keep our little public radio station chugging along.

I know we can; I know we can; I know we can . . .

 I do love public radio in general, and WMRA in particular. How about you?

Are you willing to pick up the phone now, before this short fundraiser whizzes by,  and call (1-800-677-9672)e-pledge . Do whatever you can.

Yes, I was a cheerleader in a former life. And yes, I feel so lucky to work for WMRA so I still have something to cheer for!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Silent Clarence

Martha note: The 4 X 4 February Fundraiser rolls on, with only 10 hours of active fundraising left. You can help keep fundraising amazingly short by calling 1-800-677-9672 right now, or by supporting WMRA on-line!

Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas is scheduled to speak at U.Va.'s  annual Federalist Society Student Symposium for legal scholars and students on Feb. 26.

For me, the interest of this event  lies in its verb. The idea of Justice Thomas "speaking" is quite titillating, given that he has just marked his fifth anniversary of sitting through the Court's oral arguments in total silence.

Imagine, going five years of hearing people argue without feeling the urge to ask a single question? I can't get through five minutes of a staff meeting without peppering management with queries.

So does Justice Thomas' silence matter to us? To the Court? To Justice Thomas, himself?

Last week, The New York Times opined that it does. In an editorial titled, "The Thomas Issue,"  the Times' opinionist wrote:
This [5-year] milestone has stirred a wide conversation about his effectiveness as a justice following another about his ethics. They are actually related. How Justice Thomas comports himself on the bench is a matter of ethics and effectiveness, simultaneously. His authority as a justice and the court’s as an institution are at issue. 
The editorial goes on to worry about conflict of interest, because of Ginni Thomas' (Justice Thomas' wife) lucrative career lobbying against the health care law -- the constitutionality of which  is certain to end up before the Supreme Court.

The editorial then offers this:
Taking part in oral arguments would be good for the justice and the court. In a landmark article about judging, the scholar John Leubsdorf said a justice should abide by three principles: avoid basing a vote on personal considerations; avoid basing a vote on facts learned outside the case; and consider both sides’ arguments. Taking part in arguments is a way for Justice Thomas to convey that he honors the third principle. By engaging with lawyers for both sides in cases and showing open-mindedness in exchanges with them, he would show his dedication to the court’s impartiality and to its integrity as an institution.
The Denver Post ran a syndicated Bloomberg News article by court watcher Ann Woolner who complains that:
... by staying silent, Thomas is surely giving up potential influence. (This is fine by me because the less sway he has, the freer the rest of us are from his cramped view of the law.) 
It also makes him look weird. 
"What's wrong with him," a high school teacher asked one of her co-workers, a woman who had known Thomas in childhood, during a school trip to the high court, according to the 2007 book "Supreme Discomfort: The Divided Soul of Clarence Thomas." Why Thomas so easily cedes some of the power that comes with his position remains something of a mystery. His explanations, offered up in public appearances, vary. They include: 
• His Geechee accent (also known as Gullah, rooted among some African-Americans from the southeastern U.S. coast) made him self-conscious as a poor child from Pin Point, Ga. And as a high schooler at a virtually all-white seminary outside the city, he got into the habit of not speaking. 
• He thinks it's counterproductive to interrupt lawyers as they're making their points. 
• He learns more by listening than talking. 
• Other justices usually ask the questions he wants answered, anyway. 
• He thinks there's too much chatter from the bench already.
On the 4th anniversary of the Thomas Silence,  Tony Mauro wrote in the National Law Journal that :
... [At] the four-year mark, it may be time to take Thomas' silence more seriously. A recent law review article, titled "Why Justice Thomas Should Speak at Oral Argument," asserts that Thomas' silence actually damages the Court and its decision-making process — not to mention Thomas' own reputation. Author David Karp argues in the Florida Law Review that, by keeping mum, Thomas in essence hides the ball and shields his often provocative legal positions from being tested before they make their way into Court opinions. 
He has something to say, and he should say it in court. Argument would be enriched by his perspective," Karp said in an interview last week. . . 
Karp also argued that Thomas' silence needlessly tarnishes his reputation — especially when it appears that wakefulness, as well as words, escape him. When school groups visit the high court, it is one of the first things about which they ask their tour guides afterward. In a 2007 biography of Thomas, authors Kevin Merida and Michael Fletcher quoted students from Washington's Benjamin Banneker Academic High School who visited the Court and talked about Thomas' demeanor. "Maybe he stayed up all night reading the court case — he was tired," one student offered. Said another, "If you know people are going to be watching you, you'd think you should try to make yourself presentable."

Stephen Colbert has his own Stephen Colbert-ish  explanation for Justice Thomas' five year silence. 

The consensus appears to be that Justice Thomas' silence is tied to his rather rigid legal views. Writing as part of a NY Times debate addressing the question: Does Clarence Thomas's Silence Matter?, Jamal Greene, an associate professor at Columbia Law School and a former clerk for Justice John Paul Stevens, had this to say: 
Many of the reasons for oral argument assume that the justices are either keen to persuade others of their views or are open to persuasion themselves. There is little evidence that Justice Thomas fits this description. He is a judicial iconoclast, opposed to following constitutional precedents with which he disagrees and unwilling to moderate his positions to achieve consensus. He is the court’s most frequent lone dissenter, and to assign an important majority opinion to him is to risk losing your majority because of his uncompromising language. 
It is difficult for a silent justice to win over colleagues, but he may not care to.
In that same debate,  however, Vikram Amar, associate dean for academic affairs and professor of law at University of California, Davis  (as well as a former law clerk for Justice Harry Blackmun), downplays the heft of Clarence Thomas marathon silence in the sound and fury of oral arguments because, he says, they're "largely, but not completely, ceremonial."

The one thing that I, as a neutral observer, would opine is that Clarence Thomas seems unavoidably bedecked with controversy. He is, I think, the first public figure I've ever heard of who's gotten himself in trouble by not opening his mouth.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Who are those guys? Meet the three Republican House members who voted "no" on the budget bill

Martha note:  I'm deliberately not blogging about WMRA's 4 X 4 Fundraiser because I feel that the best way to get you to support it is to deliver an informative blog that helps demonstrate the station's worth in our community conversation. 
That, however, will not stop me from giving the phone number: 800-677-9672; or a link to on-line support.

Anyone else remember the scene in Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid when our (anti-)heroes are being pursued relentlessly by a posse of unidentified men whom Butch and Sundance just can't seem to shake?

Butch (Paul Newman) and Sundance (Robert Redford), peering
At one point in the movie, having abandoned their horses to scramble up a rocky ridge, Butch and Sundance peer out from behind a boulder. There, sure enough, just like death and taxes, are those mysterious guys. "Damn!" says Butch. "Who are those guys?

That same question came into my mind Saturday morning when I saw that House Republicans had not passed their budget bill in party lock-step. Three Republican congressmen had voted against it.

Hmmmmm, I thought.  Who are those guys? 

And why did they break party ranks to vote "no" on the House federal budget bill?

"Those guys" are Representatives Jeff Flake (Arizona), Walter Jones (N.C.), and John Campbell (Calif.).

Jeff Flake has been in Congress since 2001, representing Arizona's 6th district, which is mostly made up of the eastern suburbs of Phoenix. Mr. Flake "was rated the most conservative representative by VoteView.  He is one of only eight representatives to get a 100% rating from the American Conservative Union."

According to his website, "Congressman Flake consistently looks for opportunities to cut federal spending. He has been a leader in Congress on earmark reform and has called for the new Medicare prescription drug benefit to be canceled, or at a minimum means-tested, in order help defray its cost." Among other conservative cost-cutting measures, he favors ending federal funding for Planned Parenthood.

Extremely interesting to me, just before last year's midterms, Esquire ranked the extremely conservative Mr. Flake among the 10 best members of Congress, citing him for consistently applied principles:
Demagoguing an issue is cheap and easy, especially this year. And there's perhaps been no state where demagoguery has been a precondition to electoral viability this year more than Arizona. (See: McCain, John, reelection of.) And so by contrast it is stunning to see a conservative Arizonan keep his head and stick to his principles while all around him is chaos. In his five terms, Flake has been one of the steadiest and most articulate proponents of sane spending and restrained government. And it has cost him repeatedly: In 2007, he was stripped of his main committee assignment by his own party for being too critical of profligate spending by Republicans when they were in power. And this year he withstood a stout challenge from the right for (among other things) having the guts to oppose the awful SB 1070 in favor of comprehensive federal immigration reform.
As to that "no" vote on the budget, the only reasonably direct explanation I could find came from an article in the National Review online, that refers to Mr. Flake's vote as a member of the Appropriations Committee:
Flake Defies GOP on Cuts
February 8, 2011 11:13 P.M.
By Andrew Stiles
Following a contentious vote Tuesday night, the House Appropriations Committee will move forward with a GOP proposal to cut tens of billions in federal non-security spending for the remainder of the fiscal year (through September). The move puts Republicans one step closer to bringing a continuing resolution to the floor that will replace the one that expires on March 4. 
The 27–22 vote broke down by party, with two notable exceptions: GOP Reps. Jeff Flake (R., Ariz.) and Cynthia Lummis (R., Wyo.) joined with Democrats and voted ‘no’ in protest over cuts they viewed as insufficient. (my bold)
Jeff Flake recently announced that he will run for the U.S. Senate seat being vacated by Jon Kyl.

Next . . .

Congressman Walter Jones serves North Carolina's 3rd District, which rambles around Beaufort on the state's coast and includes the Outer Banks. Mr. Jones, a Republican first elected to Congress in 1995, is the son of a Congressman of the same name who was a Democrat (as was initially Jesse Helms, who was his partial Congressional contemporary).

Mr. Jones' voting record appears to exemplify hard-line fiscal conservatism; i.e. the U.S. government should not spend money it doesn't have. The Hill  reported he drifted from Republican Party ranks in a March 10, 2010 vote:

Five House Republicans joined 60 Democrats tonight in voting to pull out U.S. forces from Afghanistan. 
The measure, defeated by a vote of 356-65, was introduced by Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio) and co-sponsored by three of the Republicans who ended up supporting it: Reps. Walter Jones (R-N.C.), Ron Paul (R-Texas), and Tim Johnson (R-Ill.).
Walter Jones also broke political ranks when he recently sponsored an amendment (that was soundly defeated) to the just-passed (in the House) federal budget that would have eliminated the Afghanistan Infrastructure Fund. Jones stated, "We are trying to find $400 million to put in an infrastructure fund for Afghanistan, which is going to be borrowed money from the Chinese to begin with. It's not even Uncle Sam's money."

Walter Jones joined most of the rest of House Republicans in voting "no" on Health Care, TARP, the Stimulus and Energy Bills.

I also found this statement made by Mr. Jones that might help explain his recent  "no" vote on the federal budget. It was issued after his "no" vote on last year's budget (with the House under the control of the Democrats). At that time, Walter Jones commented:
“During difficult times, American families and small businesses make sacrifices and do what they can to tighten their belts and rein in spending. Most people expect the federal government to do the same. Sadly, Washington has chosen to go on a spending spree and ignore the pressing demand for fiscal discipline. Rather than scale back wasteful spending, this budget resolution is projected to nearly triple the national debt over the next 10 years.
But perhaps the clearest explanation for his "no vote" was delivered last Friday in the first paragraph of a Washington Post OpEd pieceWalter Jones co-authored the editorial with Congressman James McGovern, a Massachusetts Democrat:
No one, it seems, wants to talk about the war in Afghanistan. This week the House debated a budget bill that is touted as reflecting new fiscal restraint, yet borrows tens of billions more for the war.
And finally . . . 

John Campbell has represented California's 48th  District (encompassing Newport and Laguna beaches) since 2005. His vote also appears to have been a statement that Republican cost-cutting measures did not go far enough.

Mr. Campbell's website offers an article from Politico that details the last ditch efforts he made with his fellow fiscal conservatives to chop more out of the federal budget:

The central event was an amendment from the conservative Republican Study Committee to cut an additional $22 billion from domestic and foreign-aid spending, pushing these accounts all the way back to appropriations levels in the last years of the George W. Bush administration. . . . 
 . . . “All this amendment does is ask the government to spend what it spent two years ago,” countered Rep. John Campbell (R-Calif.). “Most Americans would probably like to do that. Why is that such a devastation?” 
“This amendment does not threaten government services. It is actually a step toward saving them.”
As to his "no" vote on the whole budget package,  Mr. Campbell made his reasons clear yesterday by writing on his website:

"I have been driven many times upon my knees by the overwhelming conviction that I had no where else to go."    - President Abraham Lincoln 
I'm exhausted. I wasn't good at pulling "all-nighters" when I was in college. Now, at age 55, my resilience from such things is even less. Congress had an all-nighter Friday night, after a "most of the nighter" on Thursday. Just before 5 AM Saturday morning, after being in session and voting for 20 straight hours, and after 90 hours of debate on over 600 amendments, the House passed a bill to fund the federal government from March 5th until September 30, 2011 spending about $62 billion less than last year. But, more important than my physical depletion is the profound melancholy I feel right now. Yes, a spending bill passed that actually reduces spending. Many of my colleagues who have been around much longer than I have remind me that it is a huge shift to talk about how much we are going to cut instead of how to slow the rate of  increase. I get that.  But, if you are in a car heading for a cliff, it is not enough to apply the brakes if that braking is insufficient to keep you from going over the cliff. You must brake hard. It looks like Wisconsin Governor Walker is doing that in Madison. But, we are not doing it in Washington. I think America is ready to do what is necessary to avoid national fiscal collapse and calamity. But, I'm not sure Congress is there yet. 
The vote was 235-189. Every Democrat voted against it. That surprised and disappointed me. The cuts are not that deep and I would have thought that a few of the remaining "blue dogs" who often speak about fiscal sanity would have voted yes. I was one of 3 Republicans to vote no. We all voted no because it did not reduce spending enough. I thought there might have been a few more to join our little band of rebels. 
So, there you have "those guys."

Any thoughts, comments, reactions? Any opinion, yourself, about whether the House Republicans cut enough, too much, not enough from the federal budget?

Friday, February 18, 2011

A poem that means a lot to someone in honor of Black History month

Martha note: I'm the editor of WMRA’s Civic Soapbox, and  Hilary White Holladay ,who teaches African American Literature at James Madison University, had what I thought was a great idea. She suggested that the last two Civic Soapboxes of Black History Month feature her students reading poems that are meaningful to them. And so here is poem # 1, offered to honor all the contributions of persons of color to our nations history.

My name is Vanessa Dunn, and I chose "Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou. I was in the 12th grade and we each had to chose a poem to read for our school poetry reading.  I thought this was the perfect poem. Our  society focuses on beauty on lot, and I think that this poem means being a woman is more than just beauty. We are unique in our own way. It's our personalities and what they have to offer to the world.
"Phenomenal Woman" by Maya Angelou 
Pretty women wonder where my secret lies.
I'm not cute or built to suit a fashion model's size
But when I start to tell them,
They think I'm telling lies.
I say,
It's in the reach of my arms
The span of my hips,
The stride of my step,
The curl of my lips.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.
I walk into a room
Just as cool as you please,
And to a man,
The fellows stand or
Fall down on their knees.
Then they swarm around me,
A hive of honey bees.
I say,
It's the fire in my eyes,
And the flash of my teeth,
The swing in my waist,
And the joy in my feet.
I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Men themselves have wondered
What they see in me.
They try so much
But they can't touch
My inner mystery.
When I try to show them
They say they still can't see.
I say,
It's in the arch of my back,
The sun of my smile,
The ride of my breasts,
The grace of my style.
I'm a woman

Phenomenal woman,
That's me.

Now you understand
Just why my head's not bowed.
I don't shout or jump about
Or have to talk real loud.
When you see me passing
It ought to make you proud.
I say,
It's in the click of my heels,
The bend of my hair,
the palm of my hand,
The need of my care,
'Cause I'm a woman
Phenomenal woman,
That's me. 
--Vanessa Dunn is from Sperryville in  Rappahannock County. She attends James Madison University, where she's studying Inclusive Early Childhood  Education.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

"Ward Words," blatantly cut and pasted from Radioactive Terry Ward's Facebook page so that you, too, can incorporate them into your vocabulary . . .

Terry as a floating face
Martha note: Around five, the WMRA offices pretty much clear out except for me, Tom DuVal (who never stops working) and Terry Ward, who's there to bring you All Things Considered. 
This is when Terry and I get to have our daily goof-ball conversations during which he says funny things (imagine Terry Ward being funny!), and I laugh. 
Yesterday, our conversation revolved around Terry's invention of the word "disimprove" to describe something some system had done to the WMRA on-air computer that makes it go dark while whoever's on the air is smack in the middle of reading an announcement. 
I'm proud to say that the Woodroofs have actually invented one Woodroof Word, completely by accident. Charlie was working a crossword puzzle, evidently incorrectly, for when he'd filled in all words but one, the remaining word came up as "repozzled." That has entered our family's vocabulary as a word meaning, "a feeling of puzzled wonderment of the ‘how-the hell-did-this-happen' variety." Or, as a secondary meaning, "the state of being completely flummoxed by a crossword puzzle. . ." 
Terry, however, seems to invent his wondrous words effortlessly and with no miss-worked crosswords necessary. 

Variable measure for any mind-blowingly large number of the sort that makes mere millions look like pocket change.  (It costs a boo-hillion dollars to build an aircraft carrier).

Disimprove, disimprovement
Changes imposed from above which are packaged as improvements but which make things worse or less usable.  Many bureaucratic adjustments, IT department moves, and Facebook automatic wall-format changes are dis-improvements.

Film made in the documentary manner with a non-neutral, activist perspective;  a documentary-style call-to-action film.
image by Galen Johnson

The global economic downturn/mess/meltdown 2008-201_  ;  AKA the Great Recession.

New Security
The post-September Eleventh changes through Homeland Security, TSA, FBI, and the rest ---everything from Orange Alerts to, "If you see something, say something," to TSA "gate rape" (latter phrase not used on-air ---found on the web).

Gulf War One
The 1990-91 Gulf war, Operation Desert Storm ---started speaking of Gulf War One circa 1999-2002 when it seemed like a Gulf War II wasn't far away.  Shortly after outbreak of the Iraq War (AKA Gulf War II) in 2003, the phrases Gulf War One and Gulf War II were in widespread use.

Hussein-ey hole
Any hidey-hole used by a deposed autocrat.  Named for temporary hole-dweller Saddam Hussein.

Britches Bomber
The attempted "underwear bomber", Umar Farouk Abdulmutallab ---accused of trying to crash Northwest Airlines Flight 253 on December 25, 2009 as it approached Detroit from Amsterdam.

The Acronym-Resistant Event
The annual "Active Shooter Situation" drill.   Occasionally area public safety forces participate in this exercise which sounds rude when acronym-ed.

False Return,
Tease Return
Broadcast scheduling format technique used widely in national AM radio shows in which a commercial break is followed by an apparent "return" to the show ---which in fact lasts only 40-90 seconds or so before going to another commercial break.  The sound of the show host's voice leads some listeners who'd lowered volume during the ads to raise the volume and assume that the show had returned ---only to be hit with a new onslaught of commercials.

Terry & I in an F.U. moment
F.U. value
Transitional phrase spoken at public broadcasting stations when segueing from regular programming to a local fundraiser pitch:  "if you value  that kind of broadcasting, well please call now and support it..."

Happy Friday
A greeting honoring the end of the work-week as the mini-holiday that it usually is ---used on-air since about 1988.  The phrase spread to some Music Through the Night-affiliated music radio hosts, and ---so the rumor goes--- from there to right-wing AM talker Sean Hannity who ---so the rumor goes--- uses it often while also bungling it by randomly wishing people "happy (any workday),"  even (horrors!) "happy Monday".  An email inquiry to the AM show went unanswered.  (Ward is uninterested in listening to the AM show for the purpose of confirming such rumors.)

Covering countryside with commercial sprawl ---from an early 1990's municipal meeting.

Tuvo-Scots reggae,
Gregorian slam-jazz,
Post-disco fado-hop,
Celto-uvular krunk,
Klez-yodel fusion,
Xylo-panpipe punk ...(etc)
Various nicknames for the sort of unlikely crossover music sure to be featured on "Morning Edition", "Weekend Edition", or "All Things Considered" at least five times per year ---mostly just because it is such an unlikely crossover.

A Facebook-only "friend" ---usable as noun or verb.

In the manner of Facebook, to DeFriend ---"oh what a mean comment; she'll get deefed for sure."

The  _(location)_  Shooter
On-air identification of various spree killers ---nearly-always-memorized but purposefully kept unnamed on air out of a principled belief that no one should get fame for murdering civilians.  They are identified instead as "The Arizona Shooter," "The Virginia Tech Shooter," "The Beltway Snipers," "The Columbine Shooters," et cetera, as a way of doing a small part to not-contribute to the media celebrity of (alleged) killer/s.

Social Self-Narration
When strangers who otherwise wouldn't converse are placed near each other by virtue of pot-luck or party snack table placement feel obliged to say something aloud and so make otherwise-inane declarative statements about their own easily-observable activity : "well, I'm gonna try a couple of those deviled eggs,"  "ooh I'm just gonna squeeze in here and get a napkin," "I think its time for more artichoke dip."

Fish-shaped chrome-colored car decorations, such as Jesus-fish things. 

To "pull a Spiderman"
While acting on stage, to fall into the orchestra pit.   By extension, any very impressive almost-but-not-quite fatal fall.
Soooooo, any comments on the Ward Words? Better yet, any "You Words" to contribute to the WMRA Community conversation?

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

This American Life outs Coca-Cola's Original Secret Recipe . . . maybe . . .

Wow!!!!!! Public broadcasting made Big News this week and it didn't have to be de-funded by Congress to do it. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported the story this way:
Move over, WikiLeaks. A nationally syndicated public radio show claims to have released one of America's most closely guarded secrets -- the recipe for Coca-Cola -- and it's causing an international frenzy. 
circa 1895 sidewalk ad
This American Life  found the list of ingredients deep within the archives of The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, in a 1979 column by Charles Salter. The radio segment aired on various public radio stations over the weekend. 
By Tuesday, the story had gone viral on the Internet and on Twitter; the radio show's website buckled for the first time ever under the weight of unprecedented traffic; the story had appeared in languages ranging from Portuguese to Arabic; and reporters and executives for This American Life  and The Atlanta Journal-Constitution were getting media requests from around the world.
Imagine that rascally journalist, Ira Glass, claiming to have unearthed Coca-Cola's top-secret, original recipe!  Complete with the murky and controversial ingredient (gasp! shudder!) "fluid extract of Coca."

Yesterday on her Los Angeles Times' blog "The Daily Dish: The Inside Scoop on Los Angeles" Rene Lynch passed on the perhaps no-longer-secret recipe.

Here's the recipe, from Time via "This American LIfe:" 

Fluid extract of Coca: 3 drams USP
Citric acid: 3 ounces
Caffeine: 1 ounce
Sugar: 30 (unclear quantity)
Water: 2.5 gallons
Lime juice: 2 pints, 1 quart
Vanilla: 1 ounce
Caramel: 1.5 ounces or more for color
When Katie Rogers blogged about the story on The Washington Post's  BlogPost; the site's Twitter feed went mildly wild, mostly with such snarkily blasé comments as:
Breaking: Not only was the #secretrecipe for Coca Cola deciphered. Desani water recipe also spilled.less than a minute ago via Twitter for iPhone

Fast Company, which bills itself as a magazine dedicated to reporting about how the "'fast companies,' entrepreneurs, and cutting-edge are doing what they do" scored an article yesterday written by Chuck Salter, the son of the Chuck Salter who'd locally outed the now internationally-outed recipe back in 1979.

Mr. Salter begins:
Maybe you heard the story that went viral today about how the original recipe for Coke may have been revealed after being closely guarded by the company for 125 years. ABC, CBS, NPR, TimeUSAToday--everybody’s on the case. Maybe you’ve seen the photo of the hand-written recipe in question (above). My dad, Charles Salter, took that photograph 32 years ago as a columnist for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Charles Salter, a sports columnist of the AJC, and hopefully the right Charles Salter
The column was called the "Georgia Rambler." He’d travel the state looking for colorful people and places, often stories with a historical bent. One of his best sources was the late Everett Beal, a fishing buddy of his who worked as a pharmacist in Griffin, Ga. One day, Everett showed my dad his prized possession, a leather-bound book of recipes that had once belonged to a pharmacist named John Pemberton. The John Pemberton who created the original syrup to make Coke. 
“Coco Cola Improved” was scrawled by hand on page 188, above a list of ingredients. My dad asked Everett if he thought it was the original formula for Coke. “I believe it is,” Everett told him.
Back in Atlanta, my dad showed a photo of the recipe to Coke and asked them the same question. “We don’t as a company comment on or confirm or deny any information you present to us about the formula for Coca-Cola,” my Dad quoted a spokesman saying. 
Coke stayed mum on the subject of their possibly no-longer-secret secret recipe most of yesterday, then around 7:30 last night, the Los Angeles Times' "Daily Dish"  revisited the story to report that . . .
. . . a historian for the soft-drink giant put it to a taste test and confirmed that it was not, in fact, "the real thing,"  [Kerry] Tressler [a Coca-Cola spokeswoman] said. ...[Tressler] did confirm the legend of the formula -- that it actually exists on paper, secure in a bank vault. As to rumors that only two people at the company know the formula at any given time? Well, that might be exaggerated. "We cannot confirm the number of people who are familiar with the formulation, but it is only a small handful," she said. 
Outed along with the possibly no-longer-secret recipe was the possibly no-longer-secret recipe for something named 7X . . .
The secret 7X flavor (use 2 ounces of flavor to 5 gallons of syrup):
Alcohol: 8 ounces
Orange oil: 20 drops
Lemon oil: 30 drops
Nutmeg oil: 10 drops
Coriander: 5 drops
Neroli: 10 drops
Cinnamon: 10 drops
The Straight Dope: Fighting Ignorance since 1973 (it's taking a bit longer than we thought) explains that the presence of 7X is all wrapped up with Coke's use of that aforementioned murky and controversial ingredient "fluid extract of Coca."

John Styth Pemberton

Coke was originally formulated in 1886 by one John Styth Pemberton , an Atlanta druggist and former Confederate army officer. Among other things it contained (and presumably still contains) is three parts coca leaves to one part cola nut. The new soft drink was one of many concoctions in that era containing cocaine, which was being touted as a benign substitute for alcohol. Coke, in fact, was promoted as a patent medicine, which would "cure all nervous afflictions — Sick Headache, Neuralgia, Hysteria, Melancholy, Etc. …" How much cocaine Coke actually contained and how much kick you got from it is not known (a Coke spokesman today says the amount was "trivial"). But for years Southerners called the stuff "dope" or "a shot in the arm," while soda fountains were called "hop joints" and Coke delivery trucks "dope wagons." 
In the 1890s, however, public sentiment began to turn against cocaine, which among other things was believed to be a cause of racial violence by drug-crazed blacks. In 1903 the New York Tribune published an article linking cocaine with black crime and calling for legal action against Coca-Cola. Shortly thereafter Coke quietly switched from fresh to "spent" coca leaves (i.e., what's left over after the cocaine has been removed). It also stopped advertising Coke as a cure for what ails you and instead promoted it simply as a refreshing beverage. 
Does the substitution of denatured coca for The Real Thing constitute a change in the magic Coke formula? Not according to Coke. The true source of Coke's unique flavor, the company contends, lies not in the coca/cola combination but in the special mix of oils and flavorings added.
There you have the straight scoop on Coke's possibly no-longer-secret secret recipe. Breaking Big News courtesy of Ira Glass and This American Life!

And you know, even after this groundbreaking reporting effort, some skeptics will still doubt the wisdom of spending taxpayers' money to keep public broadcasting alive and well and snooping around!