Jeff Smith on NPR: Harnessing prison ingenuity to get ex-cons on their feet

When contributing RP Jeff Smith, a state senator representing St. Louis, found himself behind bars for political missteps, he discovered a unique business world churning in prisons.

He saw that a meager prisoner’s salary quickly leads to ingenuity. You have to figure out how to get what you want without much money. What Smith saw on the inside struck him as very similar to business leaders he had come in contact with outside of the penitentiary.

He’s been released and has landed a job teaching at the New School. One of his crusades is to figure out a way to harness the ingenuity he experienced behind bars and getting ex-cons back on their feet with a business plan.

Jeremy Gregg works with the same population that Smith found so underutilized and inspiring. Gregg is the chief development officer of the Prison Entrepreneurship Program, where inmates take classes on how to build a business.

Minnesota Public Radio’s “The Daily Circuit” discussed harnessing prison ingenuity to get ex-cons on their feet.


Click here to listen to the broadcast.

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John Y’s Musings from the Middle: The Johann Sebastian Bach of Grunge Rock?

jyb_musingsI have been listening this week to a lot of music from an alternative rock band from the late 80s and early 90s named “Mother Love Bone.”

I know. Great band but name is hard to explain away if I died unexpectedly in a car accident and the police on the scene noticed my IPod set to Mother Love Bone pictured with their gifted and androgynous lead singer, Andy Wood, who died before their debut album from a heroin overdose.

Which is why I am mentioning this now. If some tragedy befalls me and there is talk of my “disturbing interest” for a man my age in a rock band named (there is no subtle way to pronounce it) “Mother Love Bone” —please someone chime in and say it was just a “passing phase” and that I was much better known for my love of classical music, Beethoven, Bach and the boys.

Who, be quick to add, showed clear signs of androgyny too but no one ever mentions that and maybe they (Andy Wood, Beethoven and Bach) were just all great musicians and we should leave it at that.

Marin Cogan’s “House of Cads” — The psycho-sexual ordeal of reporting in Washington

Fascinating piece in this week’s The New Republic about how the brilliant Netflix series “House of Cards” reflects the misogynistic treatment of women journalists in Washington.  I can attest that the phenomenon Marin Cogan reports is equally true in Frankfort (and perhaps other capitals), and applies to women staffers as well:

In popular fictions of Washington, everyone is a prostitute in one way or another; when it comes to female journalists, though, the comparison is often tediously literal. “I can play the whore,” Barnes later tells her very own congressman, House Majority Whip Francis Underwood. It’s not that sex never happens between political reporters and their sources, as David Petraeus’s affair with his biographer, Paula Broadwell, recently reminded us. It’s not even that women (and men) don’t sometimes flirt in the process ofnews gathering. It’s just that the notion of sexy young reporters turning tricks for tips is not how news is usually made in the nation’s capital. For every Judith Miller, the ex–New York Times reporter who would sometimes quote her live-in lover, former Representative and Defense Secretary Les Aspin, there are dozens of female journalists for whom the power of appropriations is not an aphrodisiac. We have not “all done it,” as Skorsky claims. And yet, the reporter-seductress stereotype persists, in part because some men in Washington refuse to relinquish it.

As a political reporter for GQ, I’ve been jokingly asked whether I ever posed for the magazine and loudly called a porn star by a senior think-tank fellow at his institute’s annual gala. In my prior job as a Hill reporter, one of my best source relationships with a member of Congress ended after I remarked that I looked like a witch who might hop on a broom in my new press-badge photo and he replied that I looked like I was “going to hop on something.” One journalist remembers a group of lobbyists insisting that she was not a full-time reporter at a major publication but a college coed. Another tried wearingscarves and turtlenecks to keep a married K Street type from staring at her chest for their entire meeting. The last time she saw him, his wedding ring was conspicuously absent; his eyes, however, were still fixed on the same spot. Almost everyone has received the late-night e-mail—“You’re incredible” or “Are you done with me yet?”—that she is not entirely sure how to handle. They’re what another lady political writer refers to as “drunk fumbles” or “the result of lonely and insecure people trying to make themselves feel loved and/or important.”

These are the stories you don’t hear, in part because they don’t occupy the fantasies of the mostly male scriptwriters of Washington dramas and in part because women reporters are reluctant to signal to any source—past, present, or future—that they might not be discreet or trustworthy. Such stories tend to fall on the spectrum somewhere between amusing and appalling. Sometimes they reach the level of stalking: One colleague had a high-profile member of Congress go out of his way to track down her cell-phone number, call and text repeatedly to tell her she was beautiful, offer to take her parents on a tour of the Capitol, and even invite her to go boating back home in his district…

Studies suggest that men are more likely than women to interpret friendly interest as sexual attraction, and this is a constant hazard for women in the profession. The problem, in part, is that the rituals of cultivating sources—initiating contact, inviting them out for coffee or a drink, showing intenseinterest in their every word—can often mimic the rituals of courtship, creating opportunities for interested parties on either side of the reporter-source relationship to blur the line between the professional and personal. A source may invite you to meet at the bar around the corner from your apartment. If you agree, he might offer to pay for the drinks and walk you home. One Washington climate reporter remembers an environmentalist stroking her leg at one such outing and noting, disapprovingly, that she hadn’t shaved.

“I always remind young female reporters to be wary about falling victim to the ‘source-date,’ ” says Shira Toeplitz, politics editor at Roll Call. “You’re on a second glass of something, and it occurs to you, he may be misinterpreting this as a date. I advise them to drop an obvious clue along the lines of, ‘I’m going to expense this.’ ”

Click here to read the full article.


Your Daily Digest of Judd/McConnell Stories from The RP’s KY Political Brief





If you haven’t yet subscribed to The Recovering Politician‘s KY Political Brief (click here RIGHT NOW to do so), here’s what you missed over the past few days about the potential epic 2014 U.S. Senate battle between Ashley Judd and Mitch McConnell:

2014 SENATE DERBY — Most Kentucky state Democratic Senators lukewarm on Ashley Judd candidacy – KY Public Radio’s Rae Hodge – “Taken as a whole, Democratic state senators were unenthusiastic about the idea of a Judd candidacy. But not all. Walter Blevins (Morehead), Kathy Stein (Lexington) and Gerald Neal (Louisville) expressed direct support for a Judd candidacy. Three declined to answer: Louisville’s Perry Clark and Denise Harper-Angel, and Frankfort’s Julian Carroll, a former governor. The rest were lukewarm—and many expressed enthusiasm for Alison Lundergan Grimes, the Kentucky secretary of state and another rumored candidate. Regardless, a single thought emerged from each  response: Democrats must unify behind one candidate, if they want to replace McConnell.” [WFPL]

ICYMI: Jonathan Miller discusses possible Judd Senate bid on HuffPost Live [TheRP]

Judd’s decision on run at office may be close – CNHI’s Ronnie Ellis – “Actress and activist Ashley Judd may be getting closer to a decision on whether to challenge Republican U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell. Larry Clark, the Democratic Speaker Pro Tem of the state House, told CNHI News Wednesday Judd called him and they talked about the race. Later, House Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, said Judd had called his cell, but he hadn’t spoken with her so far.” [CNHI]

TWITTER TURNABOUT — Progress Kentucky apologizes to Mitch McConnell’s wife over ‘Chinese’ Twitter messages – WFPL’s Phillip Bailey – “The group’s Tweets accused former Secretary of Labor Elaine Chao, who was born in Taiwan, of moving American jobs to China and that her “Chinese (money)” was buying state elections. Critics slammed the comments as racially offensive, and a national backlash against the group was ignited. Progress Kentucky executive director Shawn Reilly says they remain dedicated to educating voters about McConnell’s record, but their messages “included an inappropriate comment on the ethnicity” of the former labor secretary.” [WFPL]

Group under fire for McConnell tweets also faces FEC questions [POLITICO]

WILL JUDD RUN? — Ky. voters react as Judd’s liberal positions are detailed – WHAS-TV’s Joe Arnold – “As Judd inches closer to a decision, her outspoken nature is yielding decades of pointed and controversial comments which Kentucky Democratic strategists concede are a gold mine for the campaign of potential opponent, U.S. Sen. Mitch McConnell (R).” [WHAS]

Daily Caller: Ashley Judd’s biggest problem: Her history of bizarre comments [Daily Caller]

Mother Jones: Ashley Judd is not the next Todd Akin [Mother Jones]

AL MAYOMcConnell Could Seize the Day, writing for KY Political Brief – “With the sequestration cuts looming, and a deadlock already in place between Senate Democrats and House Republicans, McConnell is in the perfect position to help effect an agreement via compromise.” [KPB column]

Josh Bowen: Love Who You Are

To preface this entry I would like to say the following; I am very opinionated and if you are easily offended, quit reading now.

Now, that we have crossed that bridge I’d like to get into the subject at hand.

I was in the Baltimore Airport recently and I went to the magazine stand to look for some reading material. There were dozens of different magazines covering subject’s matters from money to parenting to exercise. However, I started to see a trend that did not set well with me. It seemed like every magazine cover was obsessed with physical characteristics highlighted by “Ripped Abs in 30 days” “Lose 30 LBS without Dieting” or my favorite, “Reduce Your Belly Fat by Eating this Fruit.” If that isn’t bad enough, the covers of these magazines make things worse.

joshOn the “Muscle Mags” you have an Incredible Hulk like figure with muscles in places most people don’t have places. On the other side of the coin the magazines aimed at women have relatively thin, almost emaciated cover models. What is going on here? What is the “media” trying to tell our society?

Now, I have no issue with the people on the covers of these magazines, they are in great shape (in most cases) and it’s their job to look like that. I myself have trained; physique athletes, a Miss America contestant and other “body conscious” athletes. I have no issue in competing in something that judges your body in some way. What I do have issue with is the projected image of what is beautiful and in shape. It is unrealistic for the average people that picks up one of these magazines and expect to look like these people. Most of these individuals have been athletes all their life, have put in the hard work to look the way they do and have a great genetic profile. Should that stop them from trying? No! But should it convince them that because they saw this on a magazine cover that they are inadequate if they don’t look this way? Our society’s opinion on what is acceptable, beautiful and realistic is warped.

Read the rest of…
Josh Bowen: Love Who You Are

Jeff Smith: Dysfunctional Detroit

A study found that Detroit’s declining population, decimated economy and chaotic administration has led to its dysfunction. How can the city turn itself around?

Originally aired on February 26, 2013

Hosted by:


    • Adam Zemke @adamzemke (Ann Arbor, MI) Michigan State Representative


    • Jeff Smith @JeffSmithMO (Montclair, NJ) Assistant Professor in the Urban Policy Graduate Program at the New School; Former State Senator for Inner City St. Louis


    • John Celock @JohnCelockHP (Washington, DC) HuffPost State Government Reporter


    • John Patrick Leary (Detroit, MI) Asst. Professor of American Literature
    • Stefen Welch @stefenj (Detroit , MI) Partner Coordinator at Detroit Employment Solutions Corporation


The RP’s Weekly Web Gems: The Politics of Sequestration

The Politics of Sequestration









The drama continues to unfold as the nation nears March 1 and the across the board spending cuts which will follow.  Perhaps one of the few people in Washington D.C. feeling some relief this week is Leon Panetta.  The Defense Secretary’s replacement, embattled former Senator Chuck Hagel, was confirmed yesterday in a 58-41 vote.  Hagel will assume the office of Defense Secretary just as the department begins to endure $46 Billion in budget cuts. Peter Grier of The Christian Science Monitor examines the political consequences of the drawn out confirmation for a Defense Secretary with an immediate budget fight on his hands. [CSM]

Not everyone on Capitol Hill is overly concerned about the sequester however.  Tom Coburn (R-OK), accused the President of exaggerating the possible effects of the $85 Billion cuts while appearing on the Sunday morning talk show circuit.[CBS]

Meanwhile, the Speaker of The House provided us with one of the better sound-bites of the week if not the entire sequestration fiasco.  John Boehner (R-OH) was venting some frustration with perceived inactivity on the part of the Senate to agree on a plan to avert the sequester.  Mr. Boehner suggested that the House of Representatives, which has passed two sequester replacement measures, shouldn’t have to pass a third before the Senate gets “off their ass” and passes one.[Politico]

It seems as the pot starts to boil over in the Capitol, the public at large is beginning to feel the heat.  According to a new NBC News/Wall Street Journal poll the citizenry is becoming more engaged and discouraged.  Reportedly, 51% of respondents are less confident in the recovery of the economy as negotiations drag on without a solution in sight.   Though the possible cuts seem to have hurt consumer confidence, 53% suggested that they favor similar or deeper cuts in the future.  This sort of confusion among potential voters may explain at least some of the confusion and inaction in their representatives. [The Hill]


John Y’s Musings from the Middle: Too Young to be Old

jyb_musingsIf you feel too old to be young, chances are you are really just too young to be old.


If you think you are too old, past your prime, don’t have it “goin’ on” anymore….puleeez!

Don’t waste our time telling us it can’t be done because your age or can’t try now because, “What will people think?” We know what they’ll think.

The same thing you’ll think if you wait another five years, “Why didn’t I do this 5 years ago?!!”

Want proof your are cheating yourself and others with stories of being on the wrong side of the aging pendulum?

Watch Steve Winwood (the rock star) singing his classic “Dear Mr Fantasy” in “his prime” in 1972.

And then watch Steve Winwood (now the master) singing his classic “Dear Mr Fantasy” 35 years later, “in his prime.”

Someone, I’m sure, told Steve Winwood he was too old for this more recent concert…But he told them, I’m guessing, something like…. “Nah. You can’t be too old if you still haven’t peaked!. Come see me again in 30 years and we’ll talk then. I’ll get you back stage passes.”

Lisa Miller: Forgiveness and Triggers after Chicken

Sleeping DogMy dog is snoring beside me as I write this.  She looks adorable sprawled out on my bed—she likes to put her head on my pillow.   When animals do things that look human, we always think it’s great.  I’m looking at her innocent sweet face, and I’m tempted to kiss her head.

But I won’t wake her up; she is very tired.  She didn’t get as much sleep as usual because for some period of time over the course of the night, she helped herself to a leftover chicken.  Or maybe it only actually took 5 minutes and then she enjoyed a deeply replenishing tryptophan induced slumber for 8.75 hours.  I’ll never know.

I walked into the kitchen this morning, and the evidence was everywhere—the trash can tipped over, assorted garbage, mango skins, and the empty very clean roasted chicken containers were sprawled across the room—the cleanest garbage a person could ask for.

Lisa MillerBut I couldn’t believe it.  Our dog is 10 or 11 (the family of a rescue never knows for sure) and has been with us 7 or 8 years (a middle-aged-woman never remembers for sure), and I don’t think there has ever been an incident of kitchen trash trespass.  This was a little shocking—I stood staring for half a minute.  For 10 of those seconds I actually even surmised that it was a raccoon who had done it.  They have opposable thumbs you know.

So I tested my hypothesis by calling my pup to the crime scene.  I didn’t warn her with my tone that this was a test (and may I just say that this was very canny and professional behavior on my part, very, very canny and professional at 6:47 A.M after staggering out of bed with my dream all around me still.  I have had no formal crime scene training).

So she came wagging toward the kitchen but stopped on the threshold, head down, tail disappearing.  Aha! She had done it.  It was not a raccoon.  Mystery solved.  She slinked away to hide on my bed.

In this 8 minute video, people of varying faiths  discuss forgiveness.  I’m drawn to The Dalai Lama in the final 40 seconds who says, “Anger [doesn’t] help—only destroy[s] your own peace of mind.  Deliberately, try to keep your mind more calm.”

Herein people are discussing forgiveness in far more serious terms than the sins of a beloved pet, but I feel it’s worth saying here that we practice first at home.  What an opportunity to check-in with ourselves about our reactions.  I ask myself here if I can respond rather than react in general, to perceived slights from others.  What about when I’m kept waiting and it’s no one’s fault but a “stupid system” like traffic that has inconvenienced me AND caused me to be late?  What about later today when I have to deal with roasted-chicken-carcass-dog-vomit in my carpet?

Read the rest of…
Lisa Miller: Forgiveness and Triggers after Chicken

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