photo by Michael Cantor
(WARNING: You may find the images of death and violence contained below disturbing. Please do not scroll down if you do not wish to see them.)
photo by Michael Cantor
Pete Seeger turned 90 on May 3rd. They threw him a 90th birthday celebration at Madison Square Garden. He is an American icon, a national treasure that embodies the heart of the great American soul of liberty and justice for all.
For more than 70 years he has been singing about freedom, justice, civil rights, human rights, for the workers, for the environment. Wherever someone struggled for freedom in America, Pete was there. On Barack Obama’s Inauguration he sang with Bruce Springsteen and closed out the event with every stanza of “This Land is Your Land” by Woody Guthrie. He fearlessly and to the glee of the revelers included the long unused stanza that called for the “breeching of the wall of private property.” He bounded off the stage like a man forty years younger. He was hugged and greeted by the new President.
He lives his beliefs as he sings them. When Senator Joe McCarthy and his dreaded House Un-American Activities Committee came after him, he refused to cooperate. He was blackballed and banned for ten years. He said “I don’t give a shit about my career.” When he returned, the Smothers Brothers brought him back to TV. He sang the anti-war and freedom folk song “Waste Deep in the Big Muddy.”
When he helped make Huddie Leadbetter’s, (aka Leadbelly’s), “Good Night Irene” into a hit, he made sure that Leadbelly got the royalties. He did the same for the family of Solomon Linda who wrote the African Freedom song that everyone sang in the fifties, sixties and seventies that became a rock‘n’roll hit, “Wimoweh.” He could have stolen the proceeds of the royalties and kept them for himself, as so many of the unscrupulous did to Black performers. Not Pete Seeger; he lives his life by his word, by work, by his politics, by his beliefs.
I first saw him as a young civil right worker singing with the Freedom Singers in Mississippi, a young Bob Dylan by his side. I grew up with his folk music because my mother always played him.
They say he has memorized more songs than any performer alive. Whenever he hears of a struggle for human rights in America, for the poor, for the infirmed, for our earth, he is there at 90. On his banjo, that he has had for over 60 years, are written the words “this Machine Surrounds Hate and Forces it to Surrender.”
He has become a sage. When asked why, in the face of so much opposition, of so many backward turns and some say the hopelessness of the causes he believes, why does he keep singing, pushing and fighting for justice, he gives a New Testament parable about a soldier who with his sword slashes open a bag of seeds. Some fall on the rocks and die, some seeds drown in the water, some are crushed under foot, but some fall onto fertile ground. They sink into the soil and grow a thousand fold. That is who we are he says. He knows the fight for freedom, for a just world is endless, and that every song we sing, every word we write, every story we tell, every oppression that is pushed aside brings more people to a better world and one day the fertile soil will win.
Peter Seeger, one of the few heroes I have in life …. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!
Christina here – I'm one of the interns on the show, and wanted to spread the word about a piece of legislation making its way through the City Council that would have a huge effect on small performance venues in Baltimore City.
Happy St. Patrick’s Day to all, and to my Mom, wherever your spirit is floating around. I am sure you are having a Guinness and shot. She is the reason that I am so Irish. Well, she was Irish by immersion. Maisie Anne Round Steiner grew up in the north of England, the daughter of North Country miners and a Scotswoman of the MacPherson clan. She was a wild, unruly, alive renegade whose mother sent her to a Catholic convent (though she was Protestant of Baptist/Methodist roots) in the mountains of Wales. It turned out that the nuns were a bunch of Irish pro-IRA radicals who embraced my mom as she embraced them.
So we were brought up on the legends of ancient Irish warrior kings like Brian Baru, IRA revolutionaries like James Connolly, the first Jewish Mayor of Dublin Robert Briscoe and the great Irish poets and writers who graced our bookshelves. The nuns imbued in her a sense of social justice. As a young British woman she embraced the IRA, anti-colonial struggles and love for humanity and human rights. Her mother sent her away to be disciplined and straightened out, so she could act more like an English lady. Instead, she came back with the fire, soul and love of life of the Irish. She passed it on to her children and breathed it deeply with each breath she took. She found four leaf clovers and had conversations with the leprechauns and the spirits. Though Eire did not flow in her veins, it lived in the depths of her being.
Thanks Mom, for making me Irish. I’ll have a Guinness and a shot for you tonight.
Michael Steele is making numerous headlines today for his apology to Rush Limbaugh. Locally, he is also making headlines after being called out by Baltimore School's CEO Andres Alonso at a public forum which also featured Governor Martin O'Malley last night at Frederick Douglass High School in Baltimore. Alonso demanded an apology from Steele for promises he made to that school in the past, which he never kept.
Our reporter Melody Simmons was there. Click the podcast player to hear her recording of Alonso's remarks on Steele, and also on Governor O'Malley.
Charles Blow, the visual op-ed columnist for the New York Times, is our guest today to discuss his most recent column titled "No More Excuses."
From The New York Times:
For the presidential inauguration, blacks descended on Washington in droves with a fanatical, Zacchaeus-like need to catch a glimpse of this M.L.K. 2.0. “Ooo-bama!” For them, he was it — a game changer, soul restorer, dream fulfiller. Everything. Ooo-K.
Representative James Clyburn of South Carolina, the majority whip, tapped into the fervor Monday night at the BET Honors awards in Washington when he proclaimed, “Every child has lost every excuse.”
What? That’s where I have to put my foot down. That’s going a bridge too far.
I’m a big proponent of personal responsibility, but children too often don’t have a choice. They are either prisoners of their parentage or privileged by it. Some of their excuses are hollow. But other excuses are legitimate, and they didn’t magically disappear when Obama put his left hand on the Lincoln Bible.
Representative Clyburn and those like him would do well to cool this rhetoric lest the enormous and ingrained obstacles facing black children get swept under the rug as Obama is swept into power. For instance:
• According to Child Trends, a Washington research group, 70 percent of black children are born to single mothers. Also, black children are the most likely to live in unsafe neighborhoods. And, black teenagers, both male and female, were more likely to report having been raped.
• According to reports last year from the National Center for Children in Poverty, 60 percent of black children live in low-income families and a third live in poor families, a higher percentage than any other race.
• A 2006 report from National Center for Juvenile Justice said that black children are twice as likely as white and Hispanic children to be the victims of “maltreatment.” The report defines maltreatment as anything ranging from neglect to physical and sexual abuse.
Most of these kids will rise above their circumstances, but too many will succumb to them. Can we really blame them?
Malcolm Gladwell probably said it best in a November interview with New York magazine about his new book, “Outliers”: “I am explicitly turning my back on, I think, these kind of empty models that say, you know, you can be whatever you want to be. Well, actually, you can’t be whatever you want to be. The world decides what you can and can’t be.”
So black people have to keep their feet on the ground even as their heads are in the clouds. If we want to give these children a fighting chance, we must change the worlds they inhabit. That change requires both better policies and better parenting — a change in our houses as well as the White House.
President Obama is a potent symbol, but he’s no panacea.
I have been thinking non-stop, as have many of you, about the Inauguration and coming Presidency of Barack Obama. Leaving behind for a moment all the political arguments from the left and right, from those who voted for him and those who did not, this is just an amazing moment. I look at the Obama family and can't keep from breaking out into a smile. We are facing the worst of times yet hope is the operative emotion that is coursing through the veins of this nation. You can read it in the latest polls but more importantly you can feel it when you listen to people, talk to your friends or when people of all stripes discuss this moment. I have never experienced anything close to this in political annals of our nation. The closest was JFK, maybe RFK but still, this moment is different.
Over the weekend I could not get Mack Parker out of my head. Who is Mack Parker? Fifty years ago he was lynched. He had been accused of raping a white woman. Subsequent investigations revealed he was most likely innocent. But that is not important. He was lynched by a white mob. White judges in Mississippi who were part of the White Citizen's Councils (a refined version of the KKK) refused to do anything about the crime. His brutalized chained body was found floating on the Pearl River ten days after the mob dragged him from his cell. I can only imagine the fear and pain he suffered.
When I was almost thirteen years old I opened a Life Magazine. The picture in the center of the Magazine was of a pair of work boots neatly placed under a cot in a prison cell. They were Mack Parker's boots left behind where he put them before a mob dragged him out to be tortured, mutilated and murdered.
I kept that picture on my wall for years. It haunted me. It reminded me why I fight for a new America that belongs to all of her citizens, breathing in, and living, the same air of equality.
Now Barack Obama is standing there fifty years later, an African American man about to become President of the United States of America. Many people have written that just because we have elected an African American President of the United States of America does not mean that racism will end. They are right, but I deeply believe that it is having and will have a profound effect on American consciousness.
It is an amazing time. I can't believe we are here. The hope is palpable. Let it be real.
What are you feeling now?
On today's show, we are welcoming Teresa DeCrescenzo, who is the executive director of GLASS Youth and Family Services, based in Burbank, Calif. She wrote an opinion piece titled "Where's the Bailout for Nonprofits?" that first appeared in the Los Angeles Times and then reprinted in the Daily Camera Boulder.
by Teresa DeCrescenzo
I am a social worker, not an economist, and what I know is this: The stock market is in free fall, financial organizations are being bailed out and the Detroit automakers might yet get financial help from Washington, D.C. But what about those of us in the nonprofit world? Where's our bailout?
Nonprofits depend on government funding and the generosity of business and individual giving, and those of us in the health-care field are facing the bleakest of landscapes. Where is the storm of media coverage, the persuasive rhetoric, the public outcry to save critically needed services, such as child care, assisted living, home health care and hospital services? Who is documenting our agony? Where are the desperately needed cash infusions to help us restructure in this troubled economy?
My child-care agency, supported largely by government contracts -- federal and state dollars partially matched by county funds -- went nine years without an increase in the rate of funding it receives. During those years, the cost of a child-care worker rose from $23,000 a year to $29,000 a year. Multiply that figure by our 100 child-care workers, and we are facing a $600,000 shortfall in just one job category. No industry in the public or private sector could have survived nine years of flat funding.
How will we make up that shortfall? Fundraising? Unlikely, in this economy. And investment losses have had a profoundly negative effect on endowed organizations. We need a bailout.
Earlier this year, the venerable River Oak Center for Children in Northern California announced the closure of its 42-year-old residential facility. Calling the closure heartbreaking, River Oak President Mary Hargrave said that the nonprofit agency has lost money on the residential care facility for years -- $1 million last year alone. In October, Kids First Foundation closed its residential child-care site in Los Angeles. Hathaway Children's Village, Vista del Mar, Hollygrove and other Los Angeles-area agencies have either eliminated or cut back the number of residential beds available.
State and county officials claim that foster homes and kinship care can absorb the children no longer in residential care. A national study, however, found that foster parents are paid less than the cost to kennel a dog, according to a 2007 lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court in San Francisco on behalf of foster parents and the children they serve.
Unlike some of the executives whose companies are getting bailed out, I have never received a bonus, although I did lend my pension money to my agency a few years ago to stave off insolvency. That money is all gone now. Maybe I could serve as a role model for the guys getting the $20-million golden handshakes. They could give back a couple of million to help their companies survive.
American Express has just informed me that the $100,000 balance on my corporate credit card is now my personal responsibility. That balance represents payments to house homeless children in $40-a-night motels while case managers searched for permanent housing for them. American Express said something about all corporate chief executives being personal guarantors of the company charges. I never really thought of myself as a corporate CEO. They even took away my accumulated points, despite the fact that the points were earned from fully paid card balances. Those miles are the only way I can afford to travel. Unlike the Big Three automakers, I don't have a corporate jet.
Sometime soon -- probably within the next 60 days -- our agency will file for bankruptcy protection. Nearly 200 employees, including child-care workers, case managers and social workers, could lose their jobs. The hundreds of children we serve will lose the protection we have provided for them. They are homeless, abused, abandoned and neglected. It would take $3 million to $4 million to save the day. That's million, not billion.
Where's my bailout?
© 2008 The Daily Camera
In 1962 there was a sixteen-year-old kid who had to survive in the streets of this city, terrified.
He was a confused kid in a lot ways. He read Hemingway, James Baldwin, Richard Wright, Langston Hughes, Spinoza, Bertrand Russell and Marx. He was a non-violent warrior in the civil rights movement who experienced the terror of violence by white mobs and cops. He was also a street corner boy. A jitterbug with his 20-inch pant cuffs with pleats, banlon shirts and porkpie hats. Drinking wine, shooting nine ball, looking for parties, talking shit and sometimes getting into trouble. All over the place he was, in the midst of violence but not violent, going for bad because you had to and standing up even when you knew you would be hurt. You had no choice on the corner.
This kid hung out on the Heights, the next neighborhood over was the Junction. Now the boys on the corner from the Heights and the Junction knew each other, didn’t war, walked through each other’s zones, intermingled and went to the same parties often but had different corners they owned and different pool halls and basketball courts they played on.
One day he went into Arundal’s Ice Cream parlor on the Boulevard, that long stretch of street that connected the two corners. Arundals was in Heights territory. They always had better spots on the Heights. Big Hand Bey and Blue Eyed Plu and the some of the boys from the Junction were hanging out there. As was custom, this kid walked up to Bey, a titular top dog from the Junction, and held out his hand palm down to slap five with Bey. Bey didn’t offer his hand, just a glare with a broke down mug that signified something was up and it wasn’t good. The other boys with him just postured and stared.
So, this kid knew something bad was going on and that these guys meant him some harm for some reason. He remembered just months before when Big Hand Bey beat down Blue Eyed Plu into submission on the corner. It was a bad beating but Plu now ran with Bey. At this point discretion was the better part of valor and that ice cream soda could wait a while.
Later that day he went over to the elementary school yard where the boys from the Heights hung to talk, play basketball, shoot craps and do whatever. When he got there Ronald said he should split because Bey and them had been up here earlier looking for him with a .45. All the brothers in the yard turned their backs on him, because he was a marked man and no one would stand with him.
It was a terrifying moment. He was alone. He turned to his walking partners Scott and Methu. They called Phillip Methu because he looked so much older than everyone else. Methu was short for Methuselah. Even though he was 16 he could pass for 21 and often bought the wine and malt liquor everyone loved. Methu was scared of no one.
At any rate, he turned to Methu and Scott and to his best friend Little Billy for help. He knew Scott and Methu would stand, or he hoped they would. Little Billy had taught him how to dance, fight with a knife, talk to girls and survive the streets. There was a deep bond between the two. All three said they would stand with him, as would Taz and Jerry. Taz was Ronald’s brother. Where Ronald was mean and a terror, Taz was sensitive, smart but a brave stand up guy and Jerry was cool. Always dressed cool, knew how win the ladies over and was a damn good boxer and a bit country to boot. Against Bey and them that wasn’t many guys but you knew they had your back.
They said we need a war council, so they all met at his house. To his surprise two of the older heads on the corner who were also two of the baddest boys around, period, Benny Lee and Meathead, showed up at the council that was held in the basement of his house.
Most of them thought that the only way to avoid a throw down with a much bigger force was to have him fight Big Hand Bey straight up, one on one. That was a terrifying thought. Bey was big, strong and bad. He had seem him fight before and knew that he could not win and would be badly beaten in a face off with Bey. He knew he may have no other choice.
If it came down to it on the corner or at a party everyone would throw down with him, come whatever. He knew they would stand with him, have his back, but his loyalty to them did not want to put them through it. The meaning of real and true friendship was defined as never before. That definition would define his life from that moment on.
He couldn’t understand why all this was happening? What was it? What had he done to incur the wrath of Bey and those boys!?
A few weeks earlier everyone had thrown in some money to buy some wine and malt liquor up at the bowing alley. This boy, Binky, took the money to buy everything. When he returned empty handed he gave some of the money back to everyone but him. So he said to Binky, where is my dollar? Binky said he wasn’t going to give him his dollar. Fuck you, Binky said. So, he said, Boy you are going to give me my money back. As Binky took off his coat he knocked him out with a flurry of punches. Then took a dollar from Binky’s pocket and walked away. He thought he was cool but Binky was one of Bey’s boys.
Then there was that night a month or so before when there was a party over on Bentalou. One of those blue lights in the basement parties. He was slow dancing with this girl who this other boy wanted but he kept on with her. He pulled her not the other dude. They went off together but the other boy threatened to fuck him up. He payed that no mind, the girl was just too fine, phat and willing to be with him to worry about that threat. Didn’t know the boy but he might have been one of Bey’s boys, he thought.
Or, was it because he was white? The only white boy on the corner, there weren’t too many like him. An easy mark for many … boys who did not like him, the cops or other white folks who saw him as a traitor and a freak.
Probably it was all of that but being white didn’t help … did not help at all …
One night he was going to visit his girl friend. The same girl he met at the party. Beatrice, really beautiful girl who was down from Harlem for the summer to visit her aunt. It was late. He was walking down a street with few lights but a peaceful, warm, quiet night. Earlier, he was going to go to a dance at the hall in his neighborhood but Scott and Methu said the Junction boys were there and it be best if he did not go. So, he split to see Bea.
As he walked a couple of blocks past the club on a residential street, a car slowed down. He could feel it sliding slowly over his left shoulder. He was aware of it, very conscious of everything around him, then a shot rang out, then another. The boys in that car were shooting at him.
He took the hat from this head and ran hard. Through the bushes, leaping a fence, another shot rang out, he leapt another fence was then faced by a Doberman, but he kept running, the Doberman hard at his heals, but he leapt another fence over into an alley as another shot rang out. He hid, then ran, then crept, knowing they were driving around looking for him. He saw them, but hid in the shadows behind a garage in a dark alleyway.
Then he made a dash for it down the alleys, around the corner and down another alley. He got to Bea’s crib, banged on the door, she answered, he pushed her inside, panting and out of breath, disheveled, socks falling down around his shoes, pants torn, drenched in sweat and fear. He spent the night there in her basement curled up beside her.
Little Billy had given him a switchblade. He wanted a gun. He carried the switchblade everywhere. At night he would walk with it open, up his sleeve. The handle of the knife rested in his palm, the blade resting on the underside of his forearm as he bopped with that pimp walk that was how you did back in the day. He was keenly aware of every shadow, every movement and would walk out into the street when he got to alleyways. He would turn to look down the alley, always terrified, always nervous and jumpy, leaping with fear at the slightest abnormality or sound.
One night he was coming home from a party. Scott and Methu peeled off to head in the opposite direction to their homes, Taz and Jerry walked a way but then they too left, walking west to get to their houses. He was once again alone for the next seven blocks to his house, switchblade open against the sweat of his forearm, head pounding with fear that made the eyes and throat dry and tight.
As he passed an alleyway he sensed some movement. A figure darted out, grabbed his left arm, spun him around. Then another figure punched him hard in the right side of his head, sent him twirling, almost losing his feet from under him. They were on him. The switchblade slid down his palm twisting the blade end out, He lashed out stabbing and slashing blindly as fists swung around him. He felt the knife hit something hard then soft, it was sickening sensation. He kept slashing and stabbing, one boy fell to the ground, and a knife skidded from his grasp down the alley. The other boy staggered back down the alley. He heard screaming and moaning as he glanced at the scene before turning on his heel to run. Run, he ran hard, scared, not stopping for blocks until he got to his house. The knife still in his hands as opened the front door. He ran to the phone, dialed the Operator, said two boys were stabbed in an ally, then hung up the phone quickly. He stumbled into his room, falling into his bed. His hands were covered with blood, his shirtsleeves were red with blood, blood all over his clothes.
What the fuck had he done. What was he going to do? Had he just killed someone? What was he going to do?
I stayed awake all night thinking about those boys. Did I kill somebody?! What was going to happen next. I knew they would find me, my hat was in the alley, they would snitch, one of them would die. I would go to jail forever, no one could save me, just like no one, not my parents, not the cops and not my brothers on the street could save me from the Junction.
I could not get this story of my past out of my head after reading about that 14-year-old child who was stabbed and killed at Lemmel Middle School on Friday. My first reaction was wondering what happened. What fear drove them to carry weapons? What madness lived under the reason for the killing?
At first people were saying it was gang-related. Now, one of the stories surrounding this young man’s death is that he was a bully and the kid who killed him was one of his victims. The child who did the stabbing turned himself into the police.
Many people do not understand the fear that so many of our children in the inner cities of America live with every day of their lives. I would venture to say that the vast majority of young people who carry weapons, be they knives or guns or clubs, do so out of fear and self-protection. You have to live with a mask of neutrality and fearlessness on your face at all times. That joy of youth that so many children in our nation enjoy cannot be allowed to blossom for most inner city kids. When gentleness can be a weakness, the hard cover you are forced to wear keeps the joy at bay.
So, if it is true that the poor boy who died was a bully, and this kid who stabbed him then turned himself in was in a corner with no where to go but slashing his way to escape, then what should our response be as a society who judges actions of others like this?
What do we do with this boy who took a life perhaps defending his own in a world where no one can protect you but yourself? What are we as a society and our government willing to do to invest in these children to be able to learn, live and find joy in their schools? Will we send an army of counselors and therapists into that school to help the children and their teaches cope with what just happened? Will we teach alternatives to violence? Will we invest in recreation centers staffed with counselors to reach out to street kids? Will we invest in the green economy to put their parents to work so we can build stable families?
Can we show we care? Can we build a society that cares enough to put people to work, to eliminate poverty and invest in our children the way we do highways, McMansions and prisons?
We can if we have the will. We can’t lose another child to the streets.
Last night, I went to my daughter Chelsea’s home to watch the returns. She was having a watch party. It was the perfect venue for that night for many reasons. Chelsea’s mom, Sayida Stone, my first wife and a dear friend, is African American. Chelsea is a Black woman, a mixed race child of America. She has three children, my grand children. Their father, Ebon, a schoolteacher, martial artist and musician, is Afro-Italian-Puerto Rican. From the beginning, Chelsea was deeply moved by Obama’s candidacy. It was their time, it was their day, and it is their time now.
Chelsea’s sister, Alana, her mom’s daughter with her husband who is Jamaican, is 21 years old, a brilliant artist and a junior at MICA. I call her my daughter once removed, she calls me Saba, which is Hebrew for grandfather. Alana was there with a dozen of her classmates. Young, African American, Latino, Asian, mixed race and white who worked for this campaign, who believed in this message of hope.
Chelsea’s friends who were there ranged from 28 to their early forties, every color of the American rainbow. Her mom, her husband Jenel, and others of our generation were there, as well.
The feeling in her home was electric and explosive, but explosive with peace and hope. When Obama was announced the next President of the Untied States of America, there was a pandemonium of joy, screaming, shouting, hugging, singing and champagne corks popping.
I looked around realizing this was their day. These young people believed so deeply and were so full of what the future might bring to us all.
While watching television it was hard not to notice the contrast between the Obama supporters in Grant Park in Chicago and the McCain supporters. Obama’s in a public park with thousands of people of every generation and race in America and McCain’s in a private club for the wealthy and all, well not all, but almost all, white.
This was an election of the two Americas from which we were born and in which we still live. Our great nation has no state religion. Our state religion is our democracy, our belief in freedom and liberty. The USA was founded on liberty and slavery in the same breath. Imagine that and think about that for a moment. Liberty and slavery are the foundations of our nation. The roots of the contradiction and the hope that dwell uneasily together in our nation’s soul were alive and palpable last night in this election.
Maybe the tenor is about to change. Race and racism hurt America. It is a deep wound in the Black American spirit. It is a burden of pain in white America, as well.
The man who was voted in to become the 44th President of the United States of America may be changing the tenor and tone of our nation. In the spirit of the civil rights warriors, he was unbowed and non-violent in his stand against his tormentors in this campaign. When Barack Obama was faced with lies and low blows dealt by his opponents, the Republican Party and their independent advocates, he responded with dignity, strength and love. So many of his supporters screamed that he should fight back, blow for blow and spit in their eye. Barack Obama chose to hold his head and his sense of morality and ethics high, so he kept walking straight ahead amidst the verbal blows and lies. He set a standard for his supporters and the America he believes in. The roots of that way of responding politically come from Martin Luther King, the Student Non Violent Coordinating Committee, Fannie Lou Hamer and the Mississippi Freedom Democratic Party and the civil rights movement of the 1950’s and 60’s that they gave birth to and that gave birth to them. It bodes well for what we may be able to do in America together.
I am not naïve about the difficulty that lies ahead of us. Barack Obama is not the savior; he is the embodiment of hope for many Americans. The struggle is now on to define our future. We can now fight for something rather than against it. We will have a seat at the table for the debate on our nation’s future. We have serious work ahead of us.
Good gumbo, too, last night... A gumbo of America in the room, a gumbo of America who voted Obama, and a great gumbo in the pot.
Here are some thoughts written late last night by CEM intern and UMBC student Stavros Halkias. We'd like to encourage everyone to send in their post-election thoughts. Post comments here, email us at email@example.com, or call us on the air today between 5-6pm at 410-319-8888.
Voting for the first time in my life was legitimately exciting. From the moment I entered my polling place, which happened to be my elementary school, I was overcome with emotion. In the building where I first learned what the office of the president was, I would have a hand in choosing the next person to occupy that office. Even better, I was supporting a candidate I actually believed in and held incredible hopes for. My nerves and elation were held together by an overarching sense of purpose. I was part of a societal change, with my ballot serving as tangible proof. Why can’t I feel like this everyday? Why can’t every day be Election Day?
Despite these feelings, as I walked out of that polling station I couldn’t help but wonder “What’s next?” Barack Obama had the kind of campaign and following that was unprecedented in this nation’s history. His campaign deposed Democratic royalty in the primaries, broke all kinds of fundraising records, and truly inspired vast numbers of people for the first time in decades. The sobering realization I came to was that campaigns and administrations are two very different things. Historically, the energy campaigns create largely dies after the immediate goal of election is met. We can’t allow that to happen this time. All the people who voted for Barack Obama on Tuesday, all the people that were part of the historic movement for change in our country, must challenge themselves further. To borrow a few words from the President elect’s victory speech, “This victory alone is not the change we seek. It is only the chance for us to make that change. And that cannot happen if we go back to the way things were. It can't happen without you, without a new spirit of service, a new spirit of sacrifice.”
So, don’t let things go back to the way they were before Barack came along. Don't rely solely on his administration to make change. Let Barack Obama's election be the beginning--not the end--of your efforts. Become more civically involved. Start helping your community in any way you can. Identify problems and work towards them yourself. Volunteer. Tutor at-risk youth. Protest injustice. Support more change-minded politicians. Study social change movements. Do something! Take the energy you put into the campaign and move it to your community, don’t let it go to waste. Don’t just get excited and wait for change-- make change and make everyday Election Day.
We got the two following emails in from local listeners who traveled to Virginia last night for Obama's final rally. Thought we would share them with you!
Click READ MORE below!
While the idea of Marc being even busier fills his producers and no doubt his lady Valerie with horror, we were pleased to see this very kind article by Examiner columnist Gregory Kane in which he suggests that someone should give Marc a second job as a teacher of the history of the Civil Rights Movement.
Deborah Sarsgard introduced us to Lucille Robinson, a grandmother in Baltimore who was raising a house full of grandchildren on her own. We had Lucille and some other grandparent caregivers discuss their lives and the challenges they faced on The Marc Steiner Show. Then we decided to spend more time with Lucille, and the interviews we recorded became the first three episodes of Just Words. We'd like to thank Deborah for sharing some of her thoughts and memories of Lucille with us, which you can read by clicking here.
Sonia Silbert, Co-coordinator of the Washington Peace Center, wrote last week with updates on the mass arrests and detentions by police of activists during the Republican National Convention in the Twin Cities. Here are some more reports from her from later in the week. You can also listen to her interview with us during the RNC on The Marc Steiner Show - click here.
John McCain gave a powerful acceptance speech tonight, devoid of artificial drama and devoid of gimmicks. More on that later.
Leading up to his speech was a moving tribute by his wife Cindy, a tribute which left no one in doubt about the genuineness of their union and both of their commitments to public service.
Preceding that address was a specific appeal which this critic found tremendously convincing.
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Let's begin with the topic of CHANGE.
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As I try and recover from the most derisive, hateful and misleading (Rudy Guiliani representing the joys of family values and small town America?) convention I have ever had the non-pleasure to witness, I'm sitting and pondering about the next few weeks and trusting that the actual issues and not I'm-a- hockey-mom-and-you're-not-you-elitist-rich-non moose-eating Democrats, will make way to discussing our soaring unemployment rate, our bizarro trade deficit, our over 40 million fellow citizens with no health insurance, poverty, HIV-AIDS...shall I continue?
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It’s the economy stupid! The famous words from Democratic political strategist James Carville flashed in my mind while Republican vice-presidential candidate Sarah Palin gave her speech. The McCain ticket is gambling big time that the trifecta: toughness, Iraq, and military service will pre-occupy voters mind. There’s something Reaganesque about the McCain approach too – it’s tried, true, and tired.
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Besides the usual tax and big government and vitriolic attacks against their opponents, several themes arose last night that may be the battlegrounds of the next two months.
Remember in 1992 when Clinton campaign chiefs Paul Begala and James Carville coined the phrase "It’s the economy, stupid?" It worked for Clinton. They tapped into the American angst of that moment.
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The Republicans really kicked it out last night. They laid out their battle plan and came out swinging a message that will resonate with that portion of the American public that could go either way in the election. Their votes could be the ones who will decide who becomes the next President of the United States.
Palin proved herself a combatative, tough, smart and savvy politician last night, and those who spoke before her provided a powerful build up to her speech. On Tuesday night, I thought well, these guys are boring and have no spark. I was surprised knowing how smart, and at times underhanded, their campaign strategists can be. They have the Karl Rove team in place, after all.
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Sarah Palin speaks. Lets give it to her, she was phenomenal. Her presentation, her engagement, her fiery delivery wowed the Republican base, and a new conservative mega-star was born.
As the loudspeakers played the Sly Stone dance maker “I'm Everyday People,” there was a moment of irony for me. Because unlike the Democratic convention, I didn't see the rainbow of “everyday” people I know. I saw an overwhelming white audience, oh yes they did find some black Conservatives and Latino delegates to be within camera shot.
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This is The GoodDoctor reporting once more....and I have shifted my attention that of the Republicans this week. As we know, their convention got off to a slow start due to Hurricane Gustav. (It seems that God answered their prayers to rain out Obama's speech one week too late.) But, now it seems they are "ready to go on the attack!"
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All I can say is “wow.” And when John McCain ascended the stage after Governor Palin’s speech, he said “wow” too.
What an amazingly auspicious speech for an aspiring Vice President candidate to give. In the Geraldine Ferraro era, all of the rhetoric of a major female candidate had a defensive cast. This speech was a confident, aggressive speech by a female candidate for Vice President who knows what she thinks and knows from what values her assertions come.
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Believing, as Barack Obama, that “We are not as divided as our politics suggest, that we are one people and One Nation,” has never been more challenging than it was last night. As I listened to Sarah Palin’s acceptance speech at the Republican National Convention, I became increasingly despairing of the power, the fear, the hate mongering and the delusional self-congratulatory platitudes that peppered her speech and gave comfort to a culturally and economically insecure public. Her words were cast out to embolden the xenophobia of a frightened country, words that were so irresponsible given the external and internal challenges we face. Clearly, the Republican Party has come out of the closet about their plan to exploit and deepen our traditional differences and create and shine light on ones lying beneath the surface.
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My producer Jessica Phillips just wrote a wonderful and intriguing blog that I agree with completely. It is abhorrent and abominable the way some are treating Sarah Palin. It is both sexist and classist (to coin a phrase). I have a known a lot of families like theirs in the rural worlds I have lived in over my life. She is no different than urban feminists, other than she knows how to shoot and dress a moose or that she drives her kids to hockey games rather than playing tennis and golf and driving kids to soccer games. She is a professional woman married to a working class guy. I think they are actually kind of cool. I am looking forward to hearing what she has to say tonight. I have never heard her speak. I want to see what she has to say for herself.
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Palin, Palin, Palin. The mainstream media is obsessed and the feminist blogosphere has been very interested in the choice of Sarah Palin as McCain's running mate. On many feminist blogs you'll see questions like "Is Sarah Palin a feminist?" or "Can someone who was given a free ride break a glass ceiling?" and an old favorite "Can someone who doesn't support reproductive choice be a feminist?" The Palin pick may cause a feminist identity crisis just as the Obama-Clinton primary season did.
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Sonia Silbert is co-coordinator of the Washington Peace Center. She's at the RNC, organizing and demonstrating for peace. Here are her first-hand accounts of the week so far.
I've never had a gun pulled on me, and I wasn't expecting that to happen last night, days ahead of the planned protests against the RNC in Minnesota. But last night the St Paul police department raided the convergence space, guns drawn, bashed down doors and detained everyone in there for hours.
I was at the convergence space with probably about 40 other people. I was sitting in the corner working on a training I'm supposed to put on today when cops burst in, guns pointing to the ground, and demanded everyone lie down on the ground. We demanded to see a warrent and speak to a lawyer - neither of which happened the whole time we were held. We were all hand-cuffed and searched. The cops went upstairs and broke down some locked doors and detained anyone they found up there as well.
The spirit downstairs was good - everyone was scared but also happy that we were all together and tried quickly to work out some solidarity techniques. They were basically taking all our info, searching our bags and releasing us one by one. They claimed they were searching for "things that would be used" at the RNC, but I never figured out what they were actually looking for. Later, someone outside was shown the search warrent, though no one was given a copy as they are legally required to do, and apparently they were looking for things that could be made into weapons - such as jars for molotov cocktails.
We were in a big group downstairs and were worried about people being alone upstairs - we also didn't like people being released one-by-one without any way to check on the folks being left behind. Some folks agreed not to give their names and info until we were assured about the people upstairs and were released as a group so that anyone they might target wasn't left alone in there.
I was finally released after about 3 hours of being handcuffed. They searched my belongings and took my photo, writing down info about my tatoo. I asked the last cop who was searching my bag if we were going to be allowed back into the building, and he said no that they were closing the building. He claimed there was a fire code violation and a fire door was blocked so it would be closed down. Correct me if I'm wrong, but usually if there's a fire code violation the fire department issues a ticket - the cops don't show up with guns drawn and detain everyone in the building for hours.
When I was released there were over 100 people waiting outside cheering, offering hugs and water, plus legal representatives to take statements and press to give interviews to. A great way to be welcomed!
This morning (Sat), three activist houses were raided - 2 houses of organizers of the RNC Welcoming Committee, 1 house of Food Not Bombs folk. We have four confirmed arrests and believe more will follow. The identities of the four arrestees are known, and we understand that they are being charged with conspiracy to riot, and other conspiracy charges.
We had two days of trainings and meetings planned for today and tomorrow in that space and we are scrambling to find community space to continue with these important events. The cops did this very strategically to disrupt the weekend that was going to build and strengthen the actions this week as well as the movement as a whole.
Dont' worry though - we won't let that happen. We've found parks to do our trainings and meetings in - there's a press conference going on right now and then a mass meeting in an hour, with trainings planned after that. Check www.washingtonpeacecenter.net for more details as the days go by.
We woke up Sat morning to the news that three houses had been raided early in the morning. Two were houses of lead local organizers and one was a house of Food Not Bombs folks - they were all awaken to cops raiding their houses with guns drawn and were all detained while the cops went through the houses. Everyone in the houses was released except for 3 or 4 main local organizers - they were arrested and are being held without bail for "conspiracy to riot", "conspiracy to commit property destruction" and (my favorite) "conspiracy to plan civil disobedience".
Friday night at the convergence space there were two activist parents with their 5 year-old son with them during the raid. He was understandably frightened out of his wits at the sight of all these cops with guns handcuffing his dad and all their friends. Unfortunately, he and his parents were staying at one of the houses that was raided Sat morning, so woke up to the sight, once again, of cops, guns, and parents being handcuffed.
Throughout the day, houses of local organizers continued to be raided by the cops - six houses in all. The cops in the raids were all accompanied by building inspectors who tried to find code violations that would shut down the homes. They got as far as to start boarding up one privately-owned home that they claimed had code violations. Apparently the only person who could talk to them about this plan was the house owner - unfortunately, she was in jail, being held without bail. Activists mobilized quickly to respond to these raids and get neighbors around to witness the cops raid and search. The house that was being boarded up got unboarded and reopened due to community pressure as well as many calls to the City Council members by local allies.
Also throughout the day, individual activists were targeted on the street. 2 more local lead organizers with the RNC Welcoming Committee were snatched walking down the street, arrested and are being held without bail through Tuesday or Wednesday. 6 local organizers are being held in all - 5 were members of the Welcoming Committee and were leads of the actions being planned. Stories continued to flood in of people being pulled over in bikes and cars, being searched, detained and released.
I was helping make props Sat afternoon when my friend Alexis called me from the street - she said she had just turned the corner and saw a bunch of cops who had pulled over a white van and had guns drawn and were making activists in the car walk backwards away from the guns. I gave her the legal hotline number and Sam and I ran down the street to where she was. There were 4 or 5 cop cars with lights flashing surrounding 5 activists kneeling on the sidewalk handcuffed. We got all their names (including an old ally from New Orleans who I haven't seen in years - funny where you run into people) and called them into the legal hotline and gave them some water and whatever support we could. They said they had been driving and were being followed by an unmarked truck for about 30 min until they were finally surrounded and pulled over at gun point. One of them was separated from the rest and they hadn't seen him since - it turned out he was in a car being questioned by the cops. Their car was searched and all of them were searched and IDed and released after about 30-45 minutes. There was no explanation given - it's just pure fear tactics. Everyone is feeling insecure traveling around and making sure we all stay in groups and be smart - especially locals who were lead organizers in this.
The amazing thing is that the infrastructure that the Welcoming Committee and others have put so long into organizing is functioning amazingly well, despite the leads being in jail. Within 10 minutes of our calling in the above incident there were legal observers on the ground, taking pictures and statements. After lots of pressure on the City Council and negotiations, the convergence center was reopened yesterday afternoon and meals continue to be served there. There are still computers and free wireless and they have found more programs and informational handouts for all.
The legal collective has been amazing and very responsive, the communication system is up and running - we all receive text messages of any updates - and the medics are everywhere. At the spokescouncil last night I was amazed at all the affinity groups who stood up with plans prepared, knowing where they were doing actions and with who. Perhaps the saddest thing about all the lead organizers being in jail is not that we need them right now to ensure the success of their actions - their hard work has prepped us for that - but they can't see that all their incredible efforts are paying off.
On a slightly different note, I caught the end of the Vets for Peace/Iraq Vets Against the War banquet last night during their national conferences, and they are planning great things over the next few days and year. People should check out IVAW's great action at the DNC last week, and stay tuned for actions this week.
The latest update is that Bush and Cheney are not coming to the conventions tomorrow - they want to prep for a photo-op in a disaster zone or McCain doesn't want them around or they're afraid of the protests - and we are all thinking of New Orleans and the Gulf Coast as Gustav approaches. It's hard to be prepped for one emergency situation while thinking that a major disaster might be about to hit. We'll see what happens over the next day and where our energies are directed. For now, I'm glad that I'm safe and I'm thinking of my friends at the other end of the Mississippi from us and wishing them safety and health as well.
For my story from Friday night's raid at the convergence center, go to www.washingtonpeacecenter.net.
The number of riot cops on the streets of St Paul on Monday was overwhelming. In the quiet neighborhood where I'm staying with a friend, 3 miles from downtown, there were lines of cops in full riot gear - helmets, pads, pepper spray, batons, etc - lined up because the student contingent was marching from nearby Macalaster College. Those students are pretty scary I guess.
I started the morning supporting Iraq Veterans Against the War (IVAW) as they marched to the Excel Center to demand a meeting with McCain's staff over his awful record supporting veterans issues, health care in particular. About 70 vets marched in uniform and full formation - one representative was escorted inside and was denied a meeting by the McCain staff. Despite being a vet and claiming to "support the troops", McCain has an awful record on vets issues - he votes with the vets on veterans issues only 20% of the time. Obama votes with them 80% of the time - way better but still pretty lousy given how much they all claim to be friends of the veterans.
It was a pretty intense action to watch, and even more so to be a part of it seems. A lot of the vets had emotional reactions to being back in uniform and marching again - some of them said it brought out an anger and arrogance they've tried to expunge from themselves when they returned from Iraq. Others were even more upset later on seeing how the cops treated protesters - one said that he had enough experience taking away people's rights and hated seeing others doing what he had done and now rejected.
ON THE STREET:
Afterwards I formed an affinity group with about 10 people who wanted to provide support for blockades and other direct actions but wanted to avoid risking arrest. We headed into the streets ahead of the large, permitted march that was still rallying behind us. Within three blocks we came across dozens of riot police blocking streets and donning gas masks - one person had been pepper sprayed and was sitting in serious pain being treated by friends. There were no protesters in sight, only a few dozen people (some with children) sitting on grassy lawn watching the cops march back and forth. As we kept walking, the city seemed deserted - the only people out were small bands of protesters and large groups of riot cops dressed all in black and blue groups of bicycle cops. We left the spot where the riot police were and headed to a report of a blockade and arrests a little ways away - as we walked we saw "Funk the War" the protest dance party organized by Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) come towards the cops and realized that that's who they had been waiting for. This was about 15 minutes after leaving the permitted space and we got the text message that the SDSers had been tear-gassed and pepper sprayed within minutes.
Soon we heard reports that the National Guard was on the street and we saw them soon after - camouflage tanks were rolling down the streets and National Guardsmen (and ladies) were in full camo, with helmets and rubber bullet rifles.
We spent the next few hours going from blockade to blockade, watching the cops search, detain and arrest people. We got to one of the main entrances for delegates right when many were walking and busing in. We had heard there had been a blockade there and would be one again. We met up with the Pagan Cluster, a group of about 20, and what remained of Funk the War, which was two big sound systems on wheels and perhaps 15 dancing folks. All of them walked right into the street in front of the delegate entrance and started dancing and spinning balls of yarn around so that delegates had to maneuver over and under a maze of yarn in order to reach the entrance. The delegates were mostly on foot and weaved through us in order to get in, passing right next to us in an odd opportunity for us to ask them to support our troops and let them come home.
Soon the cops brought out horses and stood around looking tough. Once they realized that the delegates were actually having to interact with the crazy protesters, they shepeared them all together and tried to keep them separate from us, but the dance party would just move to be in front of them. Then, in the weirdest decision, the cops on horses created a V and walked straight through the dance party, pushing all the protesters with the horses and keeping the delegates in the middle of the V up against the horses' butts. The protesters were all pushed over and scared by the horses, but the delegates were in the middle of this big mess, squeezed by the horses, and looked frightened out of their wits - some of them looked like they were in High School.
The police and horses got more and more confrontational, pushing people around as the dance party continued and the pagans started doing a spiral dance in the middle of the street. We got reports that they were diverting all delegate buses to another entrance on the far side of the Excel Center, and that there were other actions in need of support, so my group headed off.
Throughout the day we heard reports and met people (including journalists) who had been pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed and saw the cops use rubber bullets and concussion grenades.
We came across a mass arrest around 4 pm - arrests were happening on all three street corners. My buddy team stayed with 2 people face down in a parking lot with National Guardsmen standing over them with rubber bullet rifles. I went over and asked if they were okay and if anyone had called Legal yet - they were grinned at me and said they were Legal. They were members of the legal collective and I don't know why they were arrested - they looked a little too scruffy. When I called in their arrests, I asked the Legal line if anyone had called in the mass arrests across the street yet - There probably 50 riot cops and 30 or so arrestees, as well as 20 or so spectators being held back by the line of cops. The arrestees were handcuffed and sitting in a line in the sun (it's about 90 degrees) and I can see one guy's head is bleeding, even from 20 yards away where we're held. The arrestees start chanting "We need medics! We need medics!" but no medics are allowed in. Within a half hour, I see one of the medics that had asked to provide medical care arrested and handcuffed with the rest of the protesters.
Next thing, we realize that two members of our "non-arrestable" affinity group are being held with the other arrestees as well. Kari had been taking pictures all day and her buddy Jonathan stuck with her and were her eyes while she was in her camera mode. They had gotten swept up in that mass arrest and was taken away. We later found out that they were being charged with felonies - today is Wednesday and they still have not been released. Kari got one quick phone call to her mother who was freaking out. We're not in touch with her mom and we're hoping they'll be arraigned and released today. The felony charges are pretty wild though - they were with the 10 of us all day and hadn't been near any of the actions, let alone any violence.
My buddy pair stuck together and walked up to find the rest of our group - as we did, Amy Goodman of Democracy Now! ran past us - in the 5 minutes it took for us to walk around the block to where Jonathan and Kari were handcuffed, Amy was arrested along with two other producers of DN. The two producers were also charged with felonies. I know Amy is accredited and award-winning and everything, and her arrest was utterly illegal and unacceptable, but Jonathan and Kari are unaccredited journalists in their own right and their arrest while taking photos is just as illegal and unacceptable. Amy and her producers were released later that evening, as well they should've been, but our friends are still in jail.
After Jonathan and Kari's arrest, another buddy pair, David and Tobin, went up to a parking garage across the street to get a better view and see if we knew any other arrestees and could call their names into Legal. They were followed in by a gang of bicycle cops, detained and searched. We went to find them and were threatened with arrest by the cops also and crossed the street. David has short hair, tucked in shirt, etc, and they released him after searching him and his bags. Tobin is 17 years old, has long hair and baggy pants, and the cops claimed they recognized him from actions earlier in the day. Again, Tobin had been running with us all day long and we'd been doing our best to avoid any action that was vaguely arrestable. The cops cuffed Tobin and walked him across the street with the rest of the mass arrest and took him away as well. We didn't see him again. He's a juvenile, no record and did nothing wrong except fit a profile. It's now Wednesday and he too is still not out of jail - two nights spent there. His freaked-out dad took a plane here at 6 am the next morning and is anxiously stalking juvenile jail.
We waited a few hours to watch our friends be booked, photographed and taken away. While handcuffed, Kari managed to get the memory card out of her camera and hide it in a crack in the cement where she was staying. Jonathan then called over to us, in super-secret code language - that his "red car" had a "flat in the back right tire". We waited till all the cops had left, went searching and found the card! Now all we need is Kari and her camera to get released and we'll get to see documentation of hours of police harassment and illegal activities.
About 280 people were arrested that day and 130 of them were charged with felonies. This is an absurdly high number of felonies - usually their will only be 10 or so felonies in a group that size. If people like Jonathan, Kari and the producers of Democracy Now are being charged with felonies, it's not wonder the number is that high. I think they are charging us with felonies to justify the excessive amount of riot cops, peppers-spraying and tear-gassing that was going on. It might also be a tactic to get arrestees to plea bargain, and also to make it scarier to risk arrest in the future.
I have to run to a "peace conference" now (remember? we're here to work for peace!) but will write an update on jail solidarity soon. Suffice to say, most of the arrestees have not been charged or released and many have been denied medical attention. There are reports of one person who wasn't given water to wipe the pepper spray off here body and now has 1st degree burns and is still not getting medical attention. The men are apparently on hunger strike for medical care as well as to demand that they are either charged or released. Police harrassment, tear gassing and arrests have continued throughout yesterday (Tuesday). I will give more details and and update soon. Check back to www.washingtonpeacecenter.net.
HOW TO HELP:
If you want to help, Coldsnap Legal Collective is asking for people to call the jail and the mayor and demand that all arrestees receive proper treatment and access to medical services. Additionally, we demand that all protesters are immediately released and that all charges are dropped.
Ramsey County Jail -- 651.266.9350
St. Paul Mayor Chris Coleman -- 651.266.8510
Ramsey County Sheriff's office -- 651.487.5149
Sep. 03, 2008 | The Republicans are meeting down the hill from my house, helicopters are pounding the air, and there are more suits on the streets and big black SUVs and a brownish cloud venting from the hockey arena where the convention is assembled. A large moment for little old St. Paul, which is more accustomed to visitations by conventions of morticians and foundation garment salesmen and the Sons of the Desert, and so we are thrilled. It makes no difference that the city is Democratic. What matters is that, for a few days, TV will show a few pictures of the big bend in the Mississippi, the limestone bluffs, the capitol and cathedral, and a tree-shaded avenue or two, and some of the world will know that we exist.
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St. Paul, Minn. — The biggest “prize” so far in the quest to destroy Alaska governor Sarah Palin’s vice-presidential candidacy is the “news” that her unmarried daughter is pregnant. I have little to say about that because I don’t think the press should be saying much more about it.
But what is remarkable is how little that or other revelations matter to the GOP rank and file. Simply put: They love Sarah.
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Maryland Senator Ben Cardin joined Marc live in the studio to discuss the issues facing America today. They discussed the 2008 Presidential election, the budget crisis, energy policy, the economy, and more.