Benny's World

Friday, February 04, 2005

Edwards to head UNC center

From Yahoo News and the News-Observer, February 4, 2005:

From staff reportsJohn Edwards, the former North Carolina senator and Democratic vice presidential candidate will head UNC-Chapel Hill's new Center on Poverty, Work and Opportunity.

The center will be non-partisan, according to a university news release. It will convene professors and public policy experts to examine initiatives for bringing more Americans into the middle class. It will have an advisory committee of senior faculty representing several disciplines across campus.

In his run for president, and later as John Kerry's running mate, Edwards stressed the theme of two Americas, one for the rich and one for the poor and middle class. In addition to leading the center, Edwards also will serve as a guest lecturer on campus.

"The fact that millions in this country go to work every day and still live in poverty is wrong and unacceptable," Edwards said in a news release of his own. "This is personal to me, and I believe that it is one of the most important moral issues of our time.

"Together with UNC, I will work hands-on to explore creative approaches to the difficulties that families in poverty face every day. We may not have all the answers right now, but I can promise you this: we will be asking the hard questions. We will work tirelessly so that America's bright light of opportunity shines on all of us."

Edwards attended the UNC law school, graduating in 1977 before spending years as a trial lawyer and spending six years in the U.S. Senate.

“John Edwards is a distinguished Carolina alumnus, and we are delighted that he will return to campus to bring together today’s best minds to focus on issues that affect us all,” Chancellor James Moeser said in the university's release.

At UNC, Edwards will be hold an alumni distinguished professorship, which is funded by private gifts. It takes effect Feb. 14, according to the news release.

Also check out this link to a cool photo of JRE:

I'm thrilled about this new center and career direction (for now). Professor Edwards, need a labor and business librarian? Sign me up!

Edwards' own trade spotlight

An opportunity for a contender to have a stage all to himself (story printed in the Charlotte Observer, Feb 4, 2005)

From David Sirota, fellow, Center for American Progress in Washington:

Shh! Do you hear that? It's the deafening silence from the Democratic Party on the issue of global trade. Even as speculation begins about which Democrat will run for president in 2008, almost none of the high-profile contenders has given voiceto the massive job loss brought on by a corporate-backed "free" trade policy.

For most of the potential contenders, talking about a U.S. trade policy that encourages corporations to troll the world for cheap labor is uncomfortable. Their votes for NAFTA and unfettered trade with China could come back to haunt them.

But for one contender, John Edwards, the issue presents a significant opportunity.
Edwards was the only major candidate in 2004 who had the guts to talk about the issue of class. Edwards realized that for too long Democratic politicians have cowered in the face of Republican charges of "class warfare." He understood that with inequality, poverty and joblessness growing, economic class is the issue confronting our country.

With his "Two Americas" platform, he took it a step further, bringing up the issue of trade. Showing that you can talk about the issue without being labeled a "protectionist," Edwards railed against a Washington establishment that has passed trade bill after trade bill with few -- if any -- labor, human rights or environmental standards. Without those standards, American companies are essentially encouraged to pack up shop for the world's most oppressive . That forces America to engage in an unending race to the bottom, both economically and environmentally.

Most pundits credited Edwards' success in the 2004 Democratic race to his sunny outlook and youthful looks. But in places such as Wisconsin, ravaged by trade-related job loss, Edwards' message on trade clearly resonated.

The U.S. trade deficit under this "free" trade policy has gotten so bad, the United Nations recently issued a plea for other industrialized countries to intervene for fear it might destabilize the world economy.

That means Edwards has a chance to propel his populist fight where a growing swath of the Democratic Party stays silent. In key red states such as Ohio, West Virginia and North Carolina, for instance, hundreds of thousands of people saw their manufacturing and textile jobs sent overseas over the last four years. These folks are waiting for a politician to speak to them about the immorality of a trade policy that forces Americans to compete with workers who have no minimum wage protections and no human rights. They are waiting for a politician to start talking about renegotiating NAFTA and China PNTR, and reforming the secretive World Trade Organization so that corporate concerns are not the only factors dictating economic decisions.
The electoral impact of trade has mostly been nil. But trade and economic inequality can be major issues if a high-profile politician is willing to persist and make them major issues.

This is where Edwards' opportunity lies. Though he gave up his Senate platform, he has an economic one. And as long he has that important stage all to himself, there will be an audience outside the beltway eager to listen.

And the first one to hear it will be in NH tomorrow night. Hope C-SPAN tapes it!

Update: the speech will be live on C-SPAN 7:30 CT; 8:30ET. Also from MSNBC today:

"Speaking of the 2004 campaign, we'll be hearing what the other half of the 2004 Democratic ticket plans to do with his time. John Edwards will be announcing, via a press release today and a speech to New Hampshire Democrats' 100 Club tomorrow, that he’s going to focus on poverty. Per an Edwards source, Edwards will join forces with the University of North Carolina to highlight poverty as "one of the great moral issues of our time." Edwards' 100 Club speech tomorrow night -- his first public appearance since he and Kerry conceded the election -- will be "optimistic," though the aide says Edwards also will talk about the President and "will probably address the State of the Union."

Thursday, February 03, 2005

The Chill of Winter

Last night, I watched the State of the Union address. Like some other bloggers, I was sad to see John Kerry, who would have given us some concrete steps how to make us all feel safer and get the deficit under control, in the audience and not at the podium. And many of us wanted to see John Edwards behind Kerry, smiling, and applauding.

I noticed that the atmosphere in the room was far more chilly last night than even four years ago. On the left, there were more gasps and noises of dissention, and the right side of the room applauded to try to keep the speech lively, even when Bush wasn't prepared for them to clap.

I guess this winter will be most chilly--and one of discontent.