Ben Buchwalter


One-Way Tickets for Homeless?
November 22, 2009, 7:36 pm
Filed under: Economy, Mother Jones | Tags: , ,

July 29, 2009

In July, the New York Times reported that the city of New York has bought one-way tickets for homeless families to destinations including Florida, California, and South Africa since 2007. NYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg embraced the policy to reduce the strain on the city’s overcrowded homeless shelters and save the city a bundle. This follows a social experiment in Denver, in which city officials provided housing to the chronically homeless. The study found that subsidizing housing for approximately $10,000 per person — a third the price the city typically spends on this population in ER bills. Though such creative programs are appealing, they are politically tricky, as I wrote for Mother Jones. Here’s an excerpt:

On the surface, these experiements in New York, Denver and San Francisco sound like a homerun. They appease progressives because they offer social services to a disadvantaged population. And who doesn’t love a goverment program that saves money? But they are far from perfect, and raise questions about where to draw the line and how to guarantee that once the cash runs out, the homeless won’t end up back on the streets.



Pro-Lifers Hijack Health Care Reform
November 22, 2009, 6:27 pm
Filed under: Health Care, Mother Jones | Tags: , ,

July 28, 2009

This post grew increasingly relevant in light of recent developments with health care reform, which brought on the anti-choice Stupak amendment. I wrote in late July about a smear campaign supported by FOX News claiming that the Democrats’ plan amounted to government-subsidized abortion. Responding to this hysteria, a group of 19 Democrats wrote a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi saying that they would not “support any healthcare proposal unless it excludes abortion from the scope of any government-defined or subsidized health insurance plan.” The post received an incredible response from MoJo readers. Read it here.

President Obama is staying out of it. Louisiana Republican John Fleming claimed recently that “by being silent on this issue [Obama is] actually making an affirmative statement in favor of taxpayer abortions.” That wouldn’t be so bad, but instead it’s something much worse. As Ezra Klein points out today, the health care discussion is being run by centrist Democrats and conservative Republicans. So by staying silent on the issue, Obama is not effectively condoning government subsidized abortion; he’s letting it die on the table.



MoJo Video: United For Iran
November 22, 2009, 5:59 pm
Filed under: Crime and Justice, Foreign Affairs, Mother Jones | Tags: ,

July 27, 2009

On July 25, activists gathered in 110 cities worldwide in solidarity with the Iranians who were mistreated following Iran’s June election, which many criticized as illegitimate. With my co-worker Tay Wiles, I visited San Francisco’s city hall to speak with activists and city officials in attendance. We produced the following video to accompany our report:



How Restorative is Rwanda’s Justice?
November 22, 2009, 5:55 pm
Filed under: Crime and Justice, Foreign Affairs, Mother Jones, Race | Tags: , ,

July 17, 2009

Back in July, the US loaned Rwanda $44 million to continue its multi-layered restorative justice system that was implemented to help the central African country come to terms with the 1994 genocide which killed more than 800,000 Tutsis and moderate Hutus. Unfortunately, as I wrote for Mother Jones, this admirable goal has so far not lived up to its potential because the Tutsi-led government has too often used it for revenge rather than justice. A preview:

Gacaca, literally “on the grass,” is a restorative system which allows perpetrators responsible for crimes including isolated murder and destruction of property during the genocide to decrease their prison sentences if they plead guilty, apologize, and agree to supplement their shortened jail time with community service. But the gacaca courts have been instructed by the RPF to focus only on crimes that occurred during a limited timeframe, most of which were committed by Hutus. During the protracted civil war that preceded the genocide, though, The Tutsi Rwandan Patriotic Army was also responsible for murder, rape, and destruction of Hutu property. Also, gacaca judges are untrained and elected by the community, which raises concerns about international standards of due process and impartiality.



MoJo Interview with Eric Boehlert
November 22, 2009, 5:47 pm
Filed under: Media, Mother Jones | Tags: , ,

June 26, 2009

I’ve always been fascinated by the chronology of blogging and how it became the media bohemith it is today. Now, every newspaper, magazine, and even government agency has a blog. But when the movement began, it was defined by a cohort of unpaid independents who blogged secretly at work, or at nights and on weekends… whenever they could fit it in. Eric Boehlert, the Media Matters blogger who was once a Salon reporter, tied some of these stories together in his book Bloggers on the Bus. I spoke to Boehlert about Obama-era netroots, up and coming wonks, and the future of the blogosphere. Hear the podcast and read the interview.

Here’s an excerpt:

It’s interesting, the stories I enjoy telling were bloggers who really didn’t fit the classic caricature of a liberal blogger. The idea of someone right out of college with a laptop and black glasses and a beard typing away was never really accurate, but I think it got pushed in the press. I found, instead, people like Mayhill Fowler, who was a campaign correspondent for “Off the Bus” project last year. She’s the one who broke the “bittergate” story and she’s the one who broke, on the last day of the campaign, Bill Clinton going off on a Vanity Fair reporter on the rope line. She’s in her sixties, she’s a mother from the Bay area who had no connection to politics or journalism prior to the last campaign. People like Howie Klein who runs Down with Tyranny, who’s been very helpful in terms of getting funding for some of those insurgent Democrats. Those very liberal candidates who want to run for Congress. Howie used to be a record company president – Reprise Records – he had a very long and distinguished career in the music industry and then he turned 60, and decided that he wanted a second life and that it would be blogging. One other one that I’ll mention real quick is John Amato, who created Crooks and Liars in the summer of 2004. John was playing saxophone with Duran Duran as his last job before starting Crooks and Liars, which revolutionized blogging and liberal blogging by introducing video into the content. And of course this was pre-YouTube, when it was impossible just to get snippets of a TV show and put it on your blog. John cracked the code and was able to do that. John turned 50 during the campaign last year. So I enjoy telling the stories of people who had more of a life resume and came to blogging later in life and brought with them this unique perspective and unique talent that otherwise, without the Internet, never would have been tapped in to.



See No Evil, Read No Evil, Dump Your Evil: 5 Troubling SCOTUS Rulings
November 22, 2009, 5:33 pm
Filed under: Crime and Justice, Mother Jones, Supreme Court | Tags: ,

June 30, 2009

The Supreme Court’s 2008 term ended in June with a flurry of decisions that emphasized the Court’s ideological rift. Five of the rulings were particularly troubling for their denial of prisoners’ rights, approval of environmental hazards, and corporate favoritism. I summarized the issues and rulings behind the five most troubling SCOTUS rulings of the 2008 term. One tricky decision was Ashcroft v. Iqbal:

The Upshot: In a 5-4 decision, the Court ruled that Javaid Iqbal, one of the hundreds of Muslims rounded up after 9/11 and allegedly subjected to harsh treatment, could not challenge his detention in Court because he could not prove he was mistreated. In effect, the ruling increased the pleading requirements for prisoners, which could make it more difficult for prisoners to bring civil rights complaints to court.

See no evil: In the majority opinion, Justice Kennedy wrote that a prison supervisor is not required to challenge discriminatory practices based on the “mere knowledge of his subordinate’s discriminatory” actions.



5 Funniest Gibbs Moments
November 22, 2009, 5:16 pm
Filed under: Barack Obama, Media, Mother Jones, Random | Tags: , ,

June 11, 2009

There’s no doubt, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs is a funny dude. A Politico report found that in President Obama’s first four months in office, the press room stenographer recorded 600 separated instances of “laughter.” Back in June, I compiled the five funniest moments of the young presidency. Here’s the funniest: