Tuesday, August 31, 2010

"Social Business" pitched as fix for Haiti, 3rd world

Interesting concepts from the inventor of micro lending. From The Miami Herald:
One of his flagship social businesses is Grameen Danone Foods, a joint venture between Yunus' Grameen Bank and food conglomerate Danone. In that case, the multinational company agreed to make a special yogurt for Bangladesh that includes micronutrients lacking in the local diet. Two cups of the yogurt per week for one year can reverse the malnutrition that plagues about half of all children, Yunus said.

Sold at sustainable but cut-rate prices, former beggars are being recruited as the sales force.

Dollars not the only cost in war

The Congressional and Budget Office updated its 10-year budget and economic outlook this month in a 112 page document that you can download here.

This is a wide-ranging document, as you'd expect. But it's interesting the nugget people are mining out of it, and how it's being played, particularly by Fox News, it's affiliates and several other organizations.

With headlines like this one: CBO: Eight Years of Iraq War Cost Less Than Stimulus Act.

I suppose that's true. Unless you believe that human lives have value, and their loss a cost.

Monday, August 30, 2010

NC Dems: Legalize medical marijuana

The N&O's Under the Dome alerted me to this, but if you download the state Democratic Party's August 2010 resolutions, it's on page 23:
10. Asking the Legislature to Eliminate
Bureaucratic Bureaucratic Maneuvering and Pass NC House Bill 1380, An Act to Enact the Medical Marijuana Act

Whereas: A resolution to support NC HB 1380, The Legalization of the Use of Medical Marijuana when Prescribed by a Licensed Physician, was passed at the August 29, 2009 State Executive Committee Meeting;

Whereas: The Veterans Administration, in view of the above medical evidence, has recognized the benefits of Medical Marijuana (Cannabis) and is editing it’s pain management contracts to specifically exclude medical marijuana;

Whereas: PTSD is one of the single most difficult disorders to treat and Medical Marijuana has had such success in treating it that it now accounts for over 25% of New Mexico’s patients;

Whereas: North Carolina has one of the largest veteran populations in the country;

Whereas: The US Conference of Mayors passed, unanimously, a resolution calling for improved treatment and harm reduction, including removal of barriers to treatment of PTSD and other war wounds with medical marijuana;

Therefore Be It Resolved: The Democratic Party of North Carolina take immediate steps to affect passage of legislation to legalize medical marijuana and to remove these barriers to treatment with medical marijuana for veterans and other patients whose doctors determine the treatment to be appropriate; and

Be It Further Resolved: That a copy of this resolution be sent to each member of the North Carolina House of Representatives, each member of the North Carolina Senate, The Council of State, and the Governor.
I've added the italics/bold type. And this is from HB 1380, which has 5 sponsors (a relatively low number for house bills) and seems to have stalled in committee last year:
Compassion dictates that State law should make a distinction between the medical and nonmedical use of marijuana. Hence, the purpose of this Article is to protect patients with debilitating medical conditions, and their physicians and caregivers, from arrest and prosecution, criminal and other penalties, and property forfeiture by allowing the beneficial use of medical marijuana in a regulated system for alleviating symptoms caused by debilitating medical conditions and their medical treatments.

(8) This act is intended to make only those changes to existing North Carolina laws that are necessary to protect patients and their doctors from criminal and civil penalties and is not intended to change current civil and criminal laws governing the use of marijuana for nonmedical purposes.

(9) Based on data gathered from other states where medical marijuana has been regulated, this act will result in revenues for the State approximately sixty million dollars ($60,000,000) per year within four years of implementation.
Interesting stuff. It's bold to put it in the state party platform, even buried at the end of the health care section and listed in the table of contents by the bill number instead of the subject matter. I wonder if you'll see Republicans point it out in the coming elections.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Little fraud found in stimulus programs

From the federal government's stimulus accountability site:
As of July 31, 2010, the Recovery Board and the federal Inspectors General have received 3,806 complaints (up from 3,592 at the end of June) of wrongdoing associated with Recovery funds.

* 424 have triggered active investigations
* 141 cases were closed without action

The federal Inspectors General have also completed 689 reviews of activity involving Recovery funds – many of these reviews have resulted in recommendations for improving the uses of these funds.
Now, does it make you feel better, or worse, to hear that a program that approaches $600 billion in federal spending, has only triggered 424 active investigations?

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Sunday, August 22, 2010

North Carolina, this is not impressive

I moved to North Carolina 3 1/2 months ago. I came from Georgia where people are saying "Watch out for North Carolina, they're about to eat our lunch. They got these trains coming. People love it there. They're progressive."

But I gotta tell you, North Carolina, it didn't take much looking to find out you've got a speaker of the house in prison and a governor who's probably on his way there. More recently, your state bureau of investigation has apparently screwed up 230 cases, including three where people got the death penalty.

That's enough to condemn you alone. It's so bad, you actually get some points back for having a newspaper good enough to expose it in The News & Observer.

But you've got state troopers running wild and the governor backtracking on whether she helped the head guy get his job, which he has since resigned.

That seemed like a really big story, until it came out that SBI agents were just making things up to convict people, which seems worth mentioning twice.

There are questions about how some State Board of Elections contracts were awarded and the phrase "pay to play" just seems to be part of the lexicon here.

Oh, and this guy is head of the state NAACP. You keep arresting him at Wake County School Board meetings.

I don't even know what to think about this. The governor seems to have bent the truth here, too. And the state auditor says your employee reviews were clearly "inflated."

Even UNC football, it looks like they've been cheating.

I have to tell you, North Carolina, I'm ready to call Georgia and tell them to stop worrying.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Texting money to Pakistan

"Why throw money at problems? That is what it is for."
- Kurt Vonnegut

I'm sure you're well aware of the need. From prnewswire:
For those who want to donate to the relief effort, a simple text message pledges either $5 or $10. To donate:

* For Central Asia Institute, text the word CAI to 50555 to give $10. Central Asia Institute provides community-based education opportunities in Pakistan & Afghanistan.

* For CHF International, text the word PAKISTAN to 50555 to give $5. CHF International will provide transitional shelter, create livelihoods, and ultimately re-build Pakistan's economic and social foundations.

* For Islamic Society of North America, text the word RELIEF to 27722 to give $10. The Islamic Society of North America contributes to the betterment of the Muslim community and society at large.

* For UNHCR, text the word SWAT to 50555 to give $10. UNHCR emergency response teams are distributing tents, relief supplies, and humanitarian assistance to people displaced by the flooding.

* For World Food Programme USA, text the word AID to 27722 to give $10. WFP will use helicopters to transport food to people in isolated communities across the Swat Valley.

* For World Emergency Relief, text the word RESCUE to 50555 to give $10. Rescue Task Force is a San Diego County based non-profit relief agency that responds to natural and man-made disasters world-wide.

* For Zakat Foundation of America, text the work ZAKATUS to 50555 to give $10. Zakat Foundation has begun to address the immediate needs of flood survivors by providing food and clothing in four key Pakistani districts.
I'm familiar with the World Food Program, the UNHCR (which is the United Nations' refugee program) and the CAI, all of which seem to be good organizations. You might also consider contacting CARE, which is based in Atlanta.

I contacted CAI and the World Food Program to confirm that using this text service will, in fact, send the money their way. Spokespeople for both organizations confirmed it, though the CAI spokeswoman noted that their program doesn't provide immediate relief.

They build schools for children in Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Glenn Richardson as an albatross

Former Georgia Speaker of the House Glenn Richardson's case is a sad one, and I hope he gets help.

But, as Georgia heads into an election season that basically boils down to Republicans versus Democrats, it's entirely appropriate to question the wisdom of a party that, for the last several years, had a philandering and eventually suicidal man as one of its top leaders.

It's pretty obvious the speaker had an affair with a lobbyist. He acknowledges battling depression. He clearly got preferential treatment from the courts during his divorce. He played it fast and loose with campaign money. His ex-wife says he repeatedly harassed her and threatened to use the power of his office against her. She says he threatened suicide in an attempt to control her.

His ex-girlfriend tells much the same story.

In the wake of the speaker's resignation, there were plenty of insider lobbyists with an I suspected it all along story based on the speaker's behavior at some political function where, of course, alcohol was served. But even an initial suicide attempt wasn't enough for Republican leaders to remove Speaker Richardson from power. His ex-wife basically had to go on television and tell people he wasn't fit for office.

Over the years, most of us have seen friends in trouble. The warning sings are there. So where was the rest of the Republican Party's leadership through all this? Were they blind, or did they just turn a blind eye?

New Speaker David Ralston was one of a few GOP House members to stand up to Richardson before Susan Richardson forced the rest of them to. And, once that happened, we heard excuses.

We were afraid, GOP House members said. He would have punished us. We thought he could handle it.

That is essentially the opposite of leadership.

Now, how much of this should reflect on Nathan Deal? That's hard to say. But he's the Republican candidate for governor. He was Speaker Richardson's choice in the Republican primary. And, if the GOP mantra in this election is going to be that we can't afford a return to the horrors of a Roy Barnes governorship, isn't it fair to compare the Barnes administration to the way the GOP has managed Georgia for the last 8 years?

Because an awful lot of that management was carried out by a disturbed powder keg of a man who was backed by politicians afraid, or otherwise unwilling, to say anything about it.

If we're going to see pictures of Roy Barnes with John Edwards, isn't it fair to point out that Glenn Richardson remains one of Nathan Deal's political allies?

Or does a man attempting suicide negate all of that, because compassion and pragmatism are somehow incompatible?

The bad things already happened. Talking about them is not going to make Glenn Richardson's life worse, but it might make Georgia's future better.

News Corp. in bed with the RGA

From The Washington Post:
Murdoch's News Corp. has made a $1 million donation to the Republican Governors Association, triggering swift criticism from Democrats that a contribution of that magnitude casts a shadow on his media properties, particularly Fox News.
The Post story includes some context on other media companies, several of which made more balanced contributions to Republican and Democratic organizations.

But the real reason behind this donation may be in this Bloomberg story:
News Corp. opposes proposed federal rule changes that would weaken the position of its Fox network in negotiations with cable companies. Governors may have a stake in the issue. In March, for example, New York Governor David Paterson stepped in with a call for binding arbitration in a dispute over fees between Bethpage, New York-based Cablevision Systems Corp. and Burbank, California-based Walt Disney Co.’s ABC.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Congress' franking privileges often abused

From The Raleigh News & Observer:
"In every way these mailings resembled typical campaign ads, except they were paid for by taxpayers and not your campaign," (said) Ellmers, a Republican from Dunn who is challenging Etheridge, a Lillington Democrat.
Franking privileges allow a member of Congress to just put their name on mail, which will then be delivered without a stamp. It's meant to help members keep constituents abreast of things in Washington, D.C.

The mailer in question, The N&O reports, says things like "The issues that matter most to North Carolinians are Bob Etheridge's priorities" and "Main Street over Wall Street."

Those are pretty important updates.

Friday, August 13, 2010

What N.C. universities spend

From the N.C. General Assembly's Fiscal Research Division:
This database contains University of North Carolina operating and capital appropriations since 1971. The data was extracted from budget overviews/money reports prepared by the General Assembly's Fiscal Research Division and from legislative session laws. The database also includes budget special provisions since 1987.
You have to be careful not to put imaginary times in when you change the "before" and "after" settings, but it seems to be pretty usable.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

Ounces of prevention, pounds of cure

I have just finished Three Cups of Tea. I recommend it, as well as The Places in Between, to anyone who wants to learn about Pakistan, Afghanistan and the core solutions to very difficult problems.

From Three Cups of Tea:
"You know, Greg, I have to thank your president," Bashir said, paging through the flight schedules on his high-tech flat-screen computer monitor. "A nightmare was growing on our western border, and he's paid to put it to an end. I can't imagine why. The only gainer in the whole equation is Pakistan."

Bashir paused to watch a live CNN feed from Baghdad. Staring at a small video window inset into the flight manifests scrolling down his monitor, Bashir was struck silent by the images of wailing Iraqi women carrying children's bodies out of the rubble of a bombed building.

As he studied the screen, Bashir's bullish shoulders slumped.

"People like me are America's best friends in the region," Bashir said at last, shaking his head ruefully. "I'm a moderate Muslim, an educated man. But watching this, even I could become a jihadi. How can Americans say they are making themselves safer?" Bashir asked, struggling not to direct his anger toward the large American target on the other side of his desk. "Your President Bush has done a wonderful job of uniting one billion Muslims against America for the next two hundred years."

"Osama had something to do with it, too," Mortenson said.

"Osama, baah!" Bashir roared. "Osama is not a product of Pakistan or Afghanistan. He is a creation of America. Thanks to America, Osama is in every home. As a military man, I know you can never fight and win against someone who can shoot at you once and then run off and hide while you have to remain eternally on guard. You have to attack the source of your enemy's strength. In America's case, that's not Osama or Saddam or anyone else. The enemy is ignorance. The only way to defeat it is to build relationships with these people, to draw them into the modern world with education and business. Otherwise the fight will go on forever."

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Your shaky penmanship fills me with confidence

I'm a North Carolina reporter now, even if it's only part-time. So, as tempting as it's been during an interesting gubernatorial primary, I haven't written about Georgia politics.

But the fundraising letter below, from Georgia GOP Chairman Sue Everhart, showed up in my inbox today. And there was something about the handwriting that spoke to me. And it said: "Lucid Idiocy."

Said party spokeswoman Whitney Gibbs: "Our supporters respond really well to handwritten letters from her."

Interesting. I think I'll start sending my emails out in Morse Code.