Sunday, September 26, 2010

Sunday Reading

From Big Bucks to Small Change — The Miami Herald reports on how the stimulus is working in Florida.

A professor at Florida International University won $60,000 to research a rise in litigious Peruvians during the 18th century. Weight Watchers earned $1,200 under Florida’s program to help the disabled become better job candidates.

An arts program in Florida City secured $25,000 so it could continue inspiring prisoners with dance and other creative pursuits.

How does Washington pump more than $9 billion worth of stimulus money into Florida’s economy? With big checks, of course — $87 million for work on the Palmetto Expressway, $500 million for teacher payrolls — but also with thousands of small ones.

From a Key Largo doctor earning $250 for an office visit under a worker rehabilitation program to $2 million to fix public housing in Fort Lauderdale, Washington’s nearly $800 billion stimulus plan dropped money scattershot into almost every South Florida ZIP Code, federal records show.

The large recipients attract the most attention.

Florida Power & Light won $200 million to install ”smart” electric meters, devices that allow homes to monitor power use by the minute. The program is being rolled out first in South Florida.

Washington gave $70 million to Miami-Dade to upgrade the Palmetto Metrorail station, buy fuel-saving buses and fund other improvements.

Marathon is getting $10 million for a new sewage system, and Doral’s Health Choice Network, a nonprofit that provides technology services to community health centers, won $12 million mostly to digitize paper medical records.

But with the stimulus program a major fault line in the fall congressional races — Republicans generally lambaste it; Democrats praise it — the smaller payments offer a look at the breadth of the spending package.

”It’s probably not something most people think of when they think of stimulus dollars,” said Nicole Bible, executive director of Homestead’s Art Spring, which received $25,000 to pay its artistic director’s salary for several months. ”This allowed us to keep the position and essentially keep the organization alive.”

To see where the stimulus money is going in your neighborhood, click on Recovery.gov, the website set up by the Obama administration to track the spending. And chances are you’ll find some Republican who railed against the bill turning around and begging for money from it.

More below the fold.

Leonard Pitts, Jr: Stop Shouting.

Watching cable TV news — often a bad idea — one cannot escape a sense that everybody in America is yelling at everybody else.

But what about the rest of us?

People frame all this as a debate between political extremes, a mud fight between conservatives and liberals. I submit that it is more than that. I submit that because they are louder, more colorful, crazier, angrier, and thus, more entertaining, the fringe elements of American political thought — right, and, increasingly, left — have made themselves irresistible to the 24-hour cable and Internet megaplex which, like a shark, is always swimming in search of its next meal. In response, that megaplex has ceded those denizens of the fringe the center stage and given them a megaphone.

The result has been less a clash between ideologies than a clash between reason and its opposite, between those who are willing and able to talk a thing through, think it through, even argue it through, and those who are unwilling and unable to do so. We’re talking about people who believe what they believe because they believe. Their ignorance is bellicose, determined, an act of sheer will, and there is not enough reason in all the world to budge them from it.

So, for example, a large minority of Americans continues to believe the president to be a Kenyan-born Muslim, despite the fact that there is not a shred of evidence to support that dumbbell theory. And they don’t care. When have the fringes ever needed evidence? That’s why they are the fringes.

But what about the rest of us?

What about those of us who are busy raising our kids, paying our bills, living our lives, those of us who have concerns about the future, questions about the economy, maybe even disappointment with the president, but who are able to express those things logically, without reflexively screaming, invoking socialism or calling anyone Hitler? What about those of us who feel living in a civil society requires the ability to talk, compromise and reason, and that those who insist on behaving instead like a classroom full of five year olds deprived of nap time whenever they don’t get their way do not deserve center stage — deserve nothing, in fact, other than a chair facing the corner.

What about the rest of us?

It is Jon Stewart’s contribution to rational national discourse to remember and remind us that we exist. And, that for all the media megaplex has done to confer importance upon the fringes, a large minority is still a minority.

We, the rest of us, are the majority. And maybe it’s time we started acting like it.

Op-Ed at Forty: The New York Times looks back at the words and writers who have contributed to the “opposite editorial” page since its inception in 1970.

On Sept. 21, 1970, readers who turned to the last inside page of The Times’s main section found something new. The obituaries that normally appeared in that space had been moved, replaced by something called Op-Ed. The vision of John Oakes, the editorial page editor, and Harrison Salisbury, the eminent foreign correspondent, Op-Ed was meant to open the paper to outside voices. It was to be a venue for writers with no institutional affiliation with the paper, people from all walks of life whose views and perspectives would often be at odds with the opinions expressed on the editorial page across the way. (Hence, Op-Ed – Opposite Editorial.)

And so here we are. Four decades and nearly 15,000 pages later. This special anniversary section features artwork and adapted excerpts from a tiny fraction of the writing that has appeared on the Op-Ed page over the years, as well as selections from commentary published exclusively online.

Doonesbury: Red Rascal goes local.