Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Theater of the Deaf is in trouble

Many years ago when I was just starting out in journalism I worked for a chain of weekly papers in Connecticut. One story that I particularly enjoyed writing was a feature about a unique theatrical group based in West Hartford that specializes in performing for deaf and hearing-impaired children. The National Theater of the Deaf put on several performances in the towns that I covered and it was a pure delight to watch the children enjoying lively theatrical performances that were geared specifically towards their special needs. Most of the actors in the troupe were also deaf.

So I was saddened last week to see this story in the NYT about the group’s recent financial troubles.

For nearly four decades it has provided a cultural bridge between the hearing and the hearing-impaired, but unless federal and state agencies come to some agreement about its financing, the National Theater of the Deaf may be unable to carry on much longer.

The NTD’s financial woes first became critical in late 2004 when the Bush Education Department notified them that the Republican Congress had eliminated a grant program that had been contributing $687,000 a year to the theater’s coffers.
Recently, though, Connecticut state lawmakers were preparing to come to the rescue with $200,000 in emergency funds intended to keep the theater going for another year or two. Unfortunately, the emergency funding is being held up after the inspector general for the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA) informed the head of NTD that they were calling in a $75,000 debt the theater owes on a 15-year-old federal grant.

Apparently, the NTD ran into financial difficulties in the early 1990s when a former executive director mismanaged some funds and left the theater unable to pay the old debt. The fact that it is being called in now is highly questionable. The NEA’s role is to promote the arts, not to enforce old budget deals that would result in shuttering one of the only theaters for the deaf in the country.
I, of course, blame President Bush for the NTD’s current fiscal crisis due to his mismanagement of the national budget - the tax cuts for the rich and the exploding deficits - that obviously led to the elimination of the grant program. But I am also suspicious that the NEA’s inspector general may also be a Bush appointee who is carrying out some twisted right-wing agenda with this sudden desire to collect on an old debt that should have been forgiven long ago. I could be wrong, but even if the guy is not a Bush appointee, surely the administration could do something to bail the NTD out of this predicament if they gave a damn about anything or anyone other than their wealthy campaign contributors and their massive tax cuts.

Chris who?

While visiting relatives in Lubbock last week, the gubernatorial race came up during a dinner conversation. Gov. Perry is actually from that part of the state and my wife’s aunt and uncle know Perry’s parents. However, while they tend to be fairly conservative, they expressed disatisfaction with his performance in office and seemed open to the idea of voting for someone else. They talked about Carole Keeton Strayhorn for a few minutes and didn’t seem terribly happy with her either, and Kinky Friedman seemed out of the question. Then there was a lull in the conversation.
Finally, I spoke up and said “What about the Democrat in the race?”
“Who is that?” they asked in all sincerity.
“Chris Bell,” I said.
Blank stares.
“Yep,” I concluded. “He’s the one who’s going to come in fourth.”

It may simply be unrealistic for Democrats to elect a governor in this state any time soon - although if Massachussetts and New York can have Republican governors, I don’t see why Texas can’t elect a Democrat. But putting a one-term former Congressman and political unknown in place as our nominee is clearly NOT the way to make any headway in winning statewide elections.

Santorum gets "Green" boost

Here is more reason for every true progressive to steer clear of the so-called Green Party.

Every single contributor to the Pennsylvania Green Party Senate candidate is actually a conservative -- except for the candidate himself.
The Luzerne County Green Party raised $66,000 in the month of June in order to fund a voter signature drive. The Philly Inquirer reported yesterday that $40,000 came from supporters of Rick Santorum's campaign (or their housemates). Also yesterday, we confirmed that another $15,000 came from GOP donors and conservatives. Only three contributions, totaling $11,000, remained as possible legit donations.
Today, I confirmed that those came from GOP sources.

I’ve previously expressed my disdain and disgust for the Green Party here and here. But I will just say again that anyone who voted for the Green Party in 2000 was a fool and anyone who would still vote for them today is either being stupid or is totally dishonest about their intentions. The Green Party is nothing more than a tool to help “get Republicans elected every November.”

Monday, August 14, 2006

Lieberman’s loss

Just before I left on vacation I picked up the local paper and saw that syndicated columnist Cal Thomas was calling supporters of Connecticut Democratic Senate nominee Ned Lamont “Taliban Democrats,” while Vice President Dick Cheney was asserting that Lieberman’s primary loss was a victory for the “al-Qaeda types.”
So I’ve been stewing over this for a few days now. The Cal Thomas crack was highly ironic coming from a Hezbollah (Party of God) Republican such as himself. But the Cheney statement was just flat out offensive and should earn him a one-way ticket into political retirement. I believe Sen. Hillary Clinton had the best reaction to Cheney’s comment:

“I don’t take anything he says seriously anymore. I think that he has been a very counterproductive, even destructive, force in our country and I am very disheartened by the failure of leadership from the president and vice president.”

Indeed. But what to make of the primary loss by the former Democratic vice presidential nominee? Is this really such a radical and surprising move? Not really. Lieberman simply adopted too many positions that were out of tune with his constituency back home. It’s really a common malady in Washington and one that conservatives harp on all the time.
Look at it this way: Lieberman was one of the most conservative Democrats (at least on foreign policy) representing a Blue state. He was essentially a Red Democrat from a Blue state. There are lots of other Red Democrats - Ben Nelson, Evan Bayh, Mary Landrieau, Ken Salazar, etc. But they all hail from Red states. Likewise, you have a few (not as many) moderate or Blue Republicans - Lincoln Chafee, Olypia Snowe, Arlen Specter - but they all represent Blue states. You don’t have any Blue Republicans from Red states, and I don’t believe there were any other Red Democrats from Blue states. Lieberman was an anomaly. His demise in the primary should not have been a surprise once he took such a radically conservative position on the defining issue of this generation.

Now it is still possible that Lieberman could retain his seat by running a successful campaign as an independent, but I expect his bid will start to lose steam now that the media will be forced to give Lamont serious consideration.

Lock-step diversity

The editorial page at my old newspaper The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal has always irritated me. While in Lubbock during my vacation, I had the opportunity to catch up on a week’s worth of the local paper’s editorials and the thing that struck me was the diversity of the syndicated columnists that they use, or rather the lack thereof.
In a typical week, the paper runs eight nationally syndicated columns, plus three local columns and one from Austin. Of the eight nationally syndicated colunists, four are black males and four are women - two Hispanic, one Asian, and one white.
That’s quite a diverse lineup, obviously meant to balance out the fact that the paper’s editorial board is composed entirely of white males. However, while you may have diversity of color, gender and ethnicity, there is almost no diversity of opinion whatsoever. All but one of the eight syndicated columnists are hard-right conservatives. They have three black male conservatives - Thomas Sowell, Walter Williams and Larry Elder - (Leonard Pitts is the sole liberal); two Hispanic female conservatives - Linda Chavez and Kathryn Jean Lopez; Suzanne Fields of the Washington Times and the loathesome Michelle Malkin. I guess the biggest surprise is that they don’t run Ann Coulter.
Maybe it’s just me, but I’ve always thought that having a diversity of opinion on the editorial pages is a greater service to the readers than anything else.
This brings me to the larger issue that has always bugged me and that is the expectation that so-called liberal papers like the New York Times and the Washington Post must run a balanced editorial section with equal number of conservative columnists to the liberals, while conservative papers like the Wall Street Journal and the Washington Times run solidly right-wing editorial sections without the slightest compunction.
Over at the NYT we get John Tierney and David Brooks while The Washington Post has made George Will and Charles Krauthammer into household names and the LA Times gives editorial space each week to Max Boot and Jonah Goldberg, among others. But the WSJ editorial pages and the Mooney Times are certifiably liberal-free. And I bet that if someone did a survey of newspapers across Texas, they would find that the Lubbock A-J is not alone in its lack of editorial diversity.

I’m back

We criss-crossed Texas last week on $3-a-gallon gasoline, driving first to Corpus Christi where we spent a cloudy morning at the beach and a sunny afternoon at the Texas State Aquarium. The next day we drove back to San Antonio to rest up for a day before heading off for a three-day trip to Lubbock to attend the wedding of my wife’s cousin’s oldest son.
We lived in Lubbock from 1995-2000, so it is always fun to go back and see how things have and have not changed. The Lubbock Avalanche-Journal where I used to work hasn’t changed much and many of the same people are still there.
The kids did amazingly well during the lengthy car trip and had great fun swimming at the hotel pools and playing with their cousins at my wife’s aunt and uncle’s house.
I have a lot that I would like to write about and will try to get to it as I have time.