Thursday, February 5, 2009

Linked Up

As usual, my mind is racing in a thousand different directions. When that happens, I usually pour myself a cool glass of diet Limeade, grab a handful of raisins and start sorting through the links.

Thursdays are nice in that way:

1. One of the reasons I've never quite warmed to the legacy of the Clintons, particularly Bill, is because of his unseemly pride in pushing through the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act. Better known as welfare reform.

Well, Mother Jones has a disturbing piece from Georgia's "Black Belt" where hyper-aggressive "reform" - outright lies, book cooking, gross displays of cruelty - seems to have left thousands of women at the very fringes of our society. Here:

Even as it blocks potential applicants, Georgia is also pushing current TANF recipients off the rolls at a rapid clip. Sandy Bamford runs a federally funded family literacy program in Albany where single mothers can get their GEDS. TANF allows recipients to attend school, but Bamford says officials routinely tell her clients otherwise: In a single month, one caseworker informed three of her students (incorrectly) that because they had turned 20, they could no longer receive benefits while completing their degrees. One was about to become the first in her family to graduate from high school. She quit and took a job as a dishwasher. Students as young as 16 have been told they must go to work full time or lose benefits. The employee who threatened to drop the students, says Bamford, became "caseworker of the month" for getting so many people off TANF.
Other places have come up with their own twists on "reform":
Georgia isn't the only state that's found that dropping people from TANF is the easiest and cheapest way to meet federal work requirements. Texas reduced its caseloads by outsourcing applications to a call center, which wrongfully denied some families and lost others' applications altogether. In Florida, one innovative region started requiring TANF applicants to attend 40 hours of classes before they could even apply. Clients trying to restore lost benefits had once been able to straighten out paperwork with the help of caseworkers. In 2005, officials assigned all such work to a single employee, available two hours a week. The area's TANF caseload fell by half in a year.
If Clinton isn't careful, he's going to give "reform" a bad name. In fact, it's already too late. But The Nation set the record straight on his real record when it came to welfare.

2. What if Michael Phelps, America's golden boy, wore dreadlocks and played for the Chargers? Think everyone would shrug at his frat-boy antics? Via TBL, Dave Hyde raises some interesting questions.

3. I'm not calling Bill O'Reilly a racist. But he has some, uh, tendencies. Maybe you already knew that.

4. Rachel Maddow is a lesbian. There, it's all out in the open. But what does that have to do with her brains or personality or success? Nothing. Cerebral Itch is merely a one-trick pony.

5. Joe the Economist is a tad confused. “I don’t believe there’s two sides to every story. It’s black and white,” Wurzelbacher explained. “There’s right and wrong.” I admittedly struggle with math but ... wouldn't that actually be two sides to the story? I eagerly await the day when the GOP is being run by The Head Hockey Mom and Joe Six-Pack, chief GOP strategist and war correspondent. Now isn't soon enough.

6. I'm welcoming this kid to Tampa with open arms. I can't believe he got away from Miami.

7. I always liked Jeff Pearlman when he was at Sports Illustrated. I like him even more now, now that I know he's a little bit crazy. And he can see the craziness in others. I dig that.

8. Joe Klein sonns Dick. Cheney, that is.

9. A.H. Belo Corporation, owner of the Dallas Morning News, is a sinking ship. Just so happens that the rats continue to feed even as the water rises.

And, mercifully, No. 10. No stimulus for "Hollywood," eh? I had a brief response to this during an e-conversation yesterday. Me: As usual, I think Republicans are indeed being knee-jerk about this. And particularly short-sighted. The movie industry doesn't just line the pockets of producers, directors and Will Smith. The people that work on film crews are paid middle-class wages and have benefits. "Hollywood" is also a job creation industry. Ask Shreveport, which was desperate to keep movie studios and execs in town (following the Katrina-related relocation of many movie projects) to provide the sorts of well-paying jobs that are scarce in that region of the country or, well, many places these days. And city officials are thinking in the long-term, coming up with classes, schools and academies to teach locals how to work on movie sets and work in the film industry. It's not just about today. Much like infrastructure. There won't be an immediate payoff. But the key is the job creation and the long-term value of the project. I think, in a way, referring to the motion picture industry as "Hollywood" incorrectly gives the impression of Steven Soderbergh and P.T. Anderson and Steven Spielberg and Scarlett Johansson and rich California liberals to most folks, particularly some of the Republicans who oppose the bill. But they're not thinking of the thousands of people and communities that benefit when movie projects come to their town.

As a parting shot, I must mention that bipartisanship is overrated. Getting things done, the things promised on the stump, the things you believe to be best for the country, are all that matters. Republicans will whine, Dems will back down a bit and then GOP'ers will vote against the stimulus package anyway. Why bother? Get it done. Then let voters decide their preference in 2010 and 2012.

That's plenty. More later.


Anonymous said...

Bill O'Reilly makes my skin crawl.
And I hate how people throw around the word reform like some little kids playing catch. I just hope Obama gets it right for once.

blackink said...

If anything, I hope the Obama Administration reforms "reform."

I'm thinking specifically of welfare, our national drug war, our prison industrial complex and the death penalty, to name a few.

The Clintons really never got the buckshot they deserved from Dems and other liberals. Their record, particularly with minorities, has been grossly exaggerated.