Saturday, July 21, 2007

Edwards Travels, Addresses Poverty and Solutions

Thousand Islands Region
New York State

While I was away last week having a restful vacation, John Edwards made a very important trip.

Where he's been:

  • Concert with Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys
    Roanoke, Virginia

  • Dr. Ralph Stanley and the Clinch Mountain Boys join with John Edwards and perform during a free concert in Roanoke, Va. Photos by Rachel Feierman.

    (Man, am I sad that I didn't get to attend that concert! Dr. Ralph Stanley is one of my favorites.)

  • Wise, Virginia
  • Smitty said the impoverished Appalachian region is a hotbed of heart disease, lung cancer and black lung.

    However, the group said it didn't want Edwards' poverty tour to reinforce negative stereotypes of the region.

    "These challenges don't define the people of this area," Edwards responded. "Their strength and defiance and courage define them..."
    - AP

    A perfect example of that strength and courage the story that John heard from James Lowe, a 51-year old coal miner who had lived with a cleft palate, unable to speak for the first 50 years of his life because he could not afford the $3,000 operation to treat the problem. Last year a volunteer orthodontist with RAM performed the operation. Traveling with Senator Edwards, Mark Kornblau described the encounter, remarking that rather than being angry or complaining, Lowe was grateful. "It was remarkable humility," he said. He said Lowe reminded John of the men who worked at the mill with his father in South Carolina. He wrote, "Senator Edwards was enraged that James and people like him are often invisible to George W. Bush."

  • Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania

  • After Cleveland, the Road to One America tour moved on to Youngstown, then Pittsburgh, PA. Pittsburgh was the last stop of the day. John ended the day in Pittsburgh by visiting the Hill House community center.

    Over the past four decades, it is estimated that the Hill House has provided care and support for more than 500,000 children, adults and seniors living in an urban environment. In 2004, more than 70,000 individuals participated in Hill House programs and outreach.

    Today, John visited one of their "Mission Discovery" classrooms, an award winning after-school program that brings real-world science and technology experiences to Hill District middle school students. "John met some incredible kids here," John Davis writes from the road

    During the speech, John was onstage stage with a diverse group of community members. The audience applauded when John pointed out how unjust it is that "we don't just have racial segregation, we have economic segregation in our schools. We all know it."

  • Youngstown, Ohio
  • He began at Beatitude House, which provides housing and support to homeless women with children in the Youngstown area. Beatitude House opened in 1991 to "offer housing and support to any woman dreaming of better opportunities for herself and her children."

    The founder of Beatitude House, Sister Margaret Scheetz, saw a too-prevalent problem in Youngstown - a cycle of poverty and homelessness that many women and their children were caught up in. Believing that education was the best way out of poverty she sought to offer these women an opportunity....

    ... John went from meeting with women just getting on their feet at Beatitude House to meeting with business leaders at the Youngstown Business Incubator. It's a very different setting, but an organization working to do a very similar thing as Beatitude House - which is to create opportunity where there is none. Although it was once home to a thriving steel industry, the decline of Youngstown Sheet and Tube in the late 1970s was the start of economic challenges. In the past few years, the Youngstown Business Incubator has been instrumental in helping to turn the economy of this former steel town around, by creating high-tech, information age jobs in a city that was stuck in the industrial age and quickly deteriorating as a result....

  • Cleveland, Ohio
  • The Road to One America tour continued today, moving up into Ohio and starting the day off with a visit to the home of Mariah Crenshaw in the Mount Pleasant neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio.

    Cleveland has suffered a wave of home foreclosures in recent months as a result of a combination of job losses, predatory lenders and falling home prices. Predatory lenders and mortgage brokers have targeted the Mount Pleasant neighborhood, like many other working-class and predominantly African-American neighborhoods across the country.

    While subprime loans can be valuable to families without other credit opportunities, African-American and Latino borrowers are three times more likely to receive subprime loans than white borrowers with similar credit scores. Mariah is fighting to keep her family home of 30 years after a coercive and deceptive mortgage process.

    In Cleveland--a city with more than 13,000 foreclosures a year--ACORN is helping citizens like Mariah and organizing residents of economically distressed neighborhoods like Mount Pleasant.

    John Edwards knows that homeownership is the foundation of the American dream and fighting these predatory lenders must be part of the solution to moving people into the middle-class. He has presented a plan to fight these lending practices and help protect homeowners.

    In addition to meeting with Mariah, John toured the Mount Pleasant neighborhood with Mariah and organizers from ACORN.

  • Pictures from Marks, Mississippi

  • Marks, Mississippi

  • This afternoon John and the One America tour moved on to Marks, Mississippi. You don't have to tell anyone in Marks that poverty is still a problem in America--1 out of every 3 people here live below the poverty line. In fact, the people of Marks have a great deal to tell the rest of the country about their struggle for economic fairness, and they have been fighting to be heard for decades.

    Martin Luther King came to this town in 1968 to launch his Poor People's March. Though Dr. King was assassinated before the march could reach Washington, over 7,000 people continued all the way to the capital.
    And now a new generation is ready to sound the call to justice from these same streets in Marks, Mississippi--ready to continue the great journey towards justice that Martin Luther King began.

    Here's the report from John Davis, traveling with the group down historic Cotton Street:
    In Marks, MS we had one of the most moving moments of the tour. On our walk down Cotton Street we stopped at the home of Mrs. Sammie Henley. Mrs. Henley told Senator Edwards about hosting students during Freedom Summer in 1964. She also talked about the flood that came in 1968, and how Dr. King rowed a boat up to the house at the start of the Poor People's March when he famously described the situation as "an island of poverty" surrounded by an ocean of American wealth.

    Today John also spoke with Sam McCray, another long time local activist who participated in the Poor People's March in 1968. He met with Sonya Murphy, who led 40 members of ACORN from Jackson on a 3 hour drive to join the One America tour. He was introduced at a small gathering by Steve Simmons, who spoke powerfully about his struggles as a low-wage hospital worker without health insurance.

    It's important to know that the story of Marks is about so much more than the ravages of poverty--it's about some of the most daring and innovate work to fight poverty going on anywhere in the country.

  • Canton, Mississippi

  • In New Orleans, John met with community leaders who were working to create opportunities - through rebuilding and recovery programs in the 9th Ward, providing early childhood education and offering at-risk teenagers a choice between destructive behaviors and violence or constructive set of life skills and a career path. These organizations are working at the local level to create the opportunity for those who were struggling to get ahead.

    In Canton, John talked about the second part of this equation - rewarding work. Anyone who works hard should have the chance to get ahead. Yet, many industries routinely break basic labor laws, making getting ahead impossible.

    To address this problem, John Edwards will revive the Department of Labor and create a new task force to target the industries with the worst abuses of minimum wage and overtime laws. He will also stop the misclassifying of employees as independent contractors, and make workplaces safer by boosting funding for OSHA inspectors and extending OSHA protections to all workers.

    In addition, to make sure workers can take care of their families and themselves, John Edwards will make sure that all workers have at least seven paid sick days a year. Nearly half of all private-sector workers, and nearly 80 percent of low-wage workers, must forgo pay to miss even a single day when they get sick or have to take of a family member who is.

    These new initiatives are part of the Edwards agenda to reward work with a higher minimum wage, stronger unions, new protections for home health workers, universal health care, Stepping Stone jobs and smart trade policies that work for workers as well as corporations.

    You can read more details on his plan for rewarding work, here.

  • Kingsley House and Cafe Reconcile

  • Kingsley House was founded in 1896. Since that time it has been a safe haven for the children and families of New Orleans.

    Since 2005, Kingsley House has stepped up as a saving grace to thousands of families who were victim to the destruction of Hurricane Katrina. After sustaining $3.5 million in damage to their buildings and grounds from the hurricane, Kingsley House rebuilt and became even more focused on their mission of "educating children, strengthening families, building community." Kingsley House now serves as an essential resettlement and recovery center for thousands in Southeastern Louisiana.

    Yet despite the selfless efforts of Kingsley House and dozens of other relief organizations, large areas of the city still remain deserted and government services taken for granted in most American cities have become a luxury in post-Katrina New Orleans.

    John Davis writes in from the road:
    Over and over we have heard stories of folks getting caught up in red tape. Much of the city looks exactly as it did immediately following Katrina. The level of frustration among the residents is incredible but the commitment to the community is amazing.

    That commitment was demonstrated by the staff of Kingsley House, including, Dr. Keith Liederman, their executive director who led John and Elizabeth on a tour through the facilities.....

    ......Following their visit to Kingsley House, John and Elizabeth stopped at Café Reconcile where they met with dozens of young people who are part of their training program for at-risk youth.

    From the Café Reconcile describes their mission:
    In 1996, under the leadership of the late Rev. Harry Tompson, S.J., a group of concerned people of faith gathered together to began a course of prayer, study, research, observation and dialogue regarding the witnessed challenges facing out-of-school youth in New Orleans. The newspapers, police reports, television news, research and personal experiences all pointed to a multitude of young lives spiraling into destructive and violent behaviors.

    In an effort to stem that tide, to effect a glimmer of hope in the near-downtown community of Central City, this group of concerned and motivated people began the planning and research necessary to establish a safe and supportive place where at-risk youth could have the option of receiving the life, work and educational skills necessary to turn their lives on a productive path toward thriving and complete citizens of this city.....

  • Behind the Scenes: The GMA Town Hall

  • Video: The Lower 9th Ward

  • Walking in the Lower Ninth Ward

  • 8:37 p.m. - New Orleans, Louisiana

    We are walking around the Lower Ninth Ward, one of the areas hit hardest by Katrina. I have to say, this area is still devastated. It's hard to imagine that it's been almost two years since the storm hit. It really makes you realize how incredibly insufficient our government's response to the storm was and how many people's lives were ruined as a result.

    We just met a man named Henry Phipps. He's been living in a FEMA trailer for the last 2 years. These trailers are not big by any means - they could easily fit in your average driveway. Tomorrow he is putting in the baseboard at his home - almost two years later. He told us he has received no help getting back on his feet.

    9:31 p.m. - New Orleans, Louisiana

    We just finished a tour of the Martin Luther King, Jr. Charter School for Science and Technology in the Lower 9th Ward. This school is a testament to the dedication of this community. It was their effort that built this school and community center. The dedication of these teachers to the students and their community is heroic......

  • Rebuilding New Orleans Starts in New Orleans

  • In New Orleans, Senator Edwards will unveil his three-point plan to rebuild the city. The plan seeks to address the question of recovery with a focus on rebuilding infrastructure, creating jobs and keeping the city safe from future storms and rising crime.

    Rebuild: The rebuilding of infrastructure in New Orleans is stalled. The city needs new hospitals, clinics, schools and roads. John Edwards will call for building a new Veterans' hospital downtown, call on the VA to stop delaying site selection and choose downtown New Orleans, and then fast-track the design process so construction can begin. He will also propose building a 21st century infrastructure, integrating new housing, and preserving livable housing.

    Create: Edwards believes we need to create good jobs in New Orleans. He will propose hiring 50,000 Gulf Coast residents to fill stepping stone jobs dedicated to rebuilding infrastructure that will help local and returning residents gain skills and experience. He will also protect workers from contractor exploitation.

    Protect: Finally, Edwards believes we need to protect the city and the region from weather and crime. As president, Edwards will do whatever is necessary to ensure that Katrina never happens again, including building stronger levees and restoring coastal wetlands. Following Katrina, New Orleans has experienced an epidemic in violence. Edwards will strengthen public safety to end the epidemic of crime and violence.

    Edwards: Atlantic Editor Exposes Media Bias

    There have been recent (disturbing) indications that members of the national press corps have employed direct bias against John Edwards in their paid public appearances.

    Now blogger/associate editor Marc Ambinder of the Atlantic Online is indicating (through various edited versions of his blogpost) that a good number of the national press corps are predispositioned to be lined up to form a firing squad against John Edwards:

    ...fairly or unfairly, a healthy chunk of the national political press corps doesn't like John Edwards...

    - from the virgin edition of the blogpost by Mr. Ambinder

    What I found to be disappointing is that Mr. Ambinder doesn't seem to care to fight against the false (and apparently deliberate) framing of Mr. Edwards and his campaign. (read the entirety of the Daily Kos diary that exposes (even with each revision of the virgin blogpost) Mr. Ambinder's apparent justification for the false framing.

    I commented to Mr. Ambinder at the Atlantic website.

    Marc wrote:
    [Edwards] advances himself as the champion of regular people. His surrogates tout his ability to identify with the concerns of regular people. He goes out of his way to present himself as a regular guy.

    This is a tired and misleading concept. The mainstream media needs to get real in their reporting rather than playing in to false frames. There is no such thing in America as a "regular guy" becoming President. It takes a lot of dough...and the same national press corps that rips Edwards apart for seeking to alleviate poverty ignores him for not raising as much money as others. Who are the intellectually dishonest hypocrites, really - Edwards or the press corps who allegedly hate him?

    Edwards makes no pretense when he tells the story of coming up from an average (less than affluent) American family and working his way - the hard and honest way - to becoming economically successful. If he wants the same opportunity for others and will govern accordingly, it doesn't make him a liar or a hypocrite about who he is. He has nothing to hide.

    The fact (per Marc, who I believe needs to come clean with names) that the national press corps hates Edwards' guts is a real Fourth Estate problem of ethics and fairness.

    This could be a key to a much bigger story. Marc, perhaps you could expand on the real story here - which is blatant press corps bias. We all know that the media fancies themselves as Kingmakers. In this case, they appear to be deliberate Kingslayers. They have no right to employ bias in order to set up an American election in a society that we know is so media-saturated. No right.

    The first comment under the oft-edited Ambinder Atlantic blogpost says it best:

    YOU are the media. If you believe the press is being unfair to John Edwards, do something about it. Don't mask it in "fairly or unfairly" language like you did in your original post.

    Who do you know that doesn't like John Edwards and reflects it in their coverage? Out them.

    Posted by Anonymous | July 20, 2007 3:55 PM

    UPDATE - Jamison Foser has further commentary on media bias vs. Edwards.
    ...Now, if reporters dislike a candidate, that's their business. But when they wage a relentless and petty campaign to "bury" that candidate, that's our business. All of us.....

    Ambinder tells us:
    "If you're in politics and you talk about poverty, extra attention will be paid to the manner in which you display your personal wealth"
    But why? Why will extra attention be paid to the wealth of the candidate who talks about poverty rather than to the wealth of the candidate who wants to lower taxes for the wealthy? There is no logical reason; nor is there a legitimate emotional reason. Ambinder has already acknowledged there is no hypocrisy at play in the former case. In the latter, there is arguably self-serving greed. So why will "extra attention" be paid? Ambinder doesn't tell us -- he doesn't even seem to think the question needs an answer. Extra attention will be paid because it will be paid.