Thursday, October 20, 2016

NAACP Calls for No More Charters Until Privatized Schools Face Same Standards as Public Schools

From Alternet:

Seeking oversight, civil rights protections and transparency.

By Steven Rosenfeld October 18, 2016

The charter school industry is coming under increased attack by national civil rights leaders for its unequal and antidemocratic practices in the communities it purports to help by privatizing K-12 schools.

On Saturday, the board of directors at the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People ratified a resolution passed this summer at its national convention calling for a moratorium on charter expansion and strengthening charter oversight. The NAACP vote came after intense lobbying against the resolution from the industry and its allies, including editorials in the New York Times, Washington Post and Wall Street Journal, a letter from black pro-charter legislators from California (where the sector gets almost anything it wants), and out-of-state protesters who were bused in and interrupted the NAACP’s proceedings.

“We are moving forward to require that charter schools receive the same level of oversight, civil rights protections and provide the same level of transparency, and we require the same of traditional public schools,” said Roslyn M. Brock, NAACP chair, in a statement after the 63-member national board vote. “Our decision today is driven by a long-held principle and policy of the NAACP that high-quality, free, public education should be afforded to all children.”

“The NAACP’s resolution is not inspired by ideological opposition to charter schools but by our historical support of public schools—as well as today’s data and the present experience of NAACP branches in nearly every school district in the nation,” said Cornell William Brooks, NAACP president and CEO. “Our NAACP members, who as citizen advocates, not professional lobbyists, are those who attend school board meetings, engage with state legislatures and support both parents and teachers.”

There are now 6,700 charter schools across the country, educating 3 million students. The initial idea for charters was to create locally run experimental schools. However, as the industry has grown, especially since 2000, it has become dominated by corporate educational chains and franchises with ambitions to become national brands.

In a move increasingly typical of the K-12 privatization industry, the charter industry slammed the NAACP, claiming the industry is on the side of the children. This claim ignores what has become obvious to many in education circles: that charters are siphoning billions of public funds away from traditional public schools and leaving behind a trail of deep problems that need to be addressed, including unequal admissions and overly test-centered academics; private school boards replacing locally elected and appointed officials; and a business model that encourages fiscal corruption and self-dealing at taxpayer expense.

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The fight for LGBT equality is not over | Hillary Clinton

'Those that think terrorism has nothing to do with Islam are ignorant'

Respect for Women Means Defending Their Right to Choose

From Secular Values Voters:
Washington, D.C.– The Secular Coalition for America released the following statement in response to remarks made by both candidates during last night’s presidential debate.

Statement by Larry T. Decker, Executive Director of the Secular Coalition for America

“Following the release of a tape in which he casually discusses sexual assault, presidential candidate Donald Trump has repeatedly claimed that; “No one has more respect for women than I do.” Trump invoked this talking point yet again at last night’s presidential debate shortly after promising to appoint Supreme Court Justices who would overturn Roe. v. Wade. Donald Trump cannot claim women do not have the right to control their own bodies and, barely thirty minutes later, boast about how much he respects women. The core of Trump’s radical anti-choice position is the belief women’s voices can be disregarded and their medical decisions made by lawmakers. In defending this stance, Trump employed discredited myths about abortion care similar to those used by the religious right leaders who have advised his campaign.

If Donald Trump is at all curious what a platform respecting women would look like, it was displayed at the podium across from his by Hillary Clinton. When asked what sorts of justices she would look to appoint to the Supreme Court, Secretary Clinton did not hesitate to stress that any appointment she makes to the court will be committed to upholding Roe v. Wade. We applaud Clinton’s unequivocal and bold defense of a woman’s right to choose. Lawmakers have no right to impose their personal religious beliefs onto anyone, including women seeking access to abortion care. To do so is blatantly unconstitutional and deeply disrespectful.”

Contact: Casey Brescia,, (845)-380-6201

Tell America It's Great

It’s Time to Decriminalize Personal Drug Use and Possession. Basic Rights and Public Health Demand It.

From The ACLU:
By Tess Borden, Aryeh Neier Fellow at the American Civil Liberties Union and Human Rights Watch October 14, 2016

Police arrest more people for drug possession than any other crime in America. Every 25 seconds someone is arrested for possessing drugs for their own use, amounting to 1.25 million arrests per year. These numbers tell a tale of ruined lives, destroyed families, and communities suffering under a suffocating police presence.

For the past year I have been investigating how the law enforcement approach to personal drug use has failed. The resulting report, “Every 25 Seconds: The Human Toll of Criminalizing Drug Use in the United States,” calls on state legislatures and Congress to decriminalize personal drug use and possession. It comes at a time when the country is recognizing that the so-called “war on drugs” hasn’t stopped drug dependence and that we desperately need to address the problems of mass incarceration, race, policing, and drug policy.

For personal drug use, it is time to replace our criminal justice model with a public health one instead.

The consequences of arresting, prosecuting, and incarcerating people for personal drug use are devastating. I met people who were prosecuted for tiny amounts of drugs, in one case an amount so small that the laboratory could not even weigh it and simply called it “trace.” That man was sentenced to 15 years in Texas.

On any given day, nearly 140,000 people are behind bars for drug possession, while tens of thousands more are cycling through jails and prisons or struggling to make ends meet on probation or parole. Still others are serving sentences for other offenses that have been lengthened because of a prior conviction for drug possession. A conviction for drug possession can keep people from accessing welfare assistance and even the voting booth. It can also subject them to stigma and discrimination by potential landlords, employers, and peers.

I met a woman I’ll call “Nicole” in the Harris County Jail in Texas. Nicole was detained pretrial for months on felony drug possession charges for residue inside paraphernalia. While she was in jail, her newborn learned to sit up on her own. When the baby visited jail, she couldn’t feel her mother’s touch because there was glass between them.

Nicole ultimately pled guilty to possession of 0.01 grams of heroin. She would return to her children later that year, but as a “felon” and “drug offender.” She would have to drop out of school because she no longer qualified for financial aid. She would no longer be able to have a lease in her name and would have trouble finding a job. And she would no longer qualify for the food stamps she had relied on to feed her family.

Forty-five years after the “war on drugs” was declared, rates of drug use haven’t significantly declined, and criminalization hasn’t stopped drug dependence. In fact, criminalization has driven drug use underground, making it harder for people who use drugs to access the help they sometimes really want and need. The “war on drugs” has caused enormous harm to individuals and families — harm that often outstrips the harm of drug use itself. And it has made communities less safe by deeply corroding the relationship between police and communities of color and focusing precious law enforcement resources on nonviolent drug use instead of violent crimes, less than half of which result in an arrest.

Our research also reiterates that enforcement of U.S. drug laws and policy discriminates against communities of color. Although Black and white people use drugs at equivalent rates, a Black person is 2.5 times more likely to be arrested for drug possession. In many states that ratio is significantly higher. In Manhattan, a Black person is 11 times more likely to be arrested for drug possession than a white person.

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Anti-Semitism at My University, Hidden in Plain Sight

From The New York Times:
Providence, R.I. — Last semester, a group came to Providence to speak against admitting Syrian refugees to this country. As the president of the Brown Coalition for Syria, I jumped into action with my peers to stage a counterdemonstration. But I quickly found myself cut out of the planning for this event: Other student groups were not willing to work with me because of my leadership roles in campus Jewish organizations.

That was neither the first nor the last time that I would be ostracized this way. Also last semester, anti-Zionists at Brown circulated a petition against a lecture by the transgender rights advocate Janet Mock because one of the sponsors was the Jewish campus group Hillel, even though the event was entirely unrelated to Israel or Zionism. Ms. Mock, who planned to talk about racism and transphobia, ultimately canceled. Anti-Zionist students would rather have no one speak on these issues than allow a Jewish group to participate in that conversation.

Of course, I still believe in the importance of accepting refugees, combating discrimination, abolishing racist law enforcement practices and other causes. Nevertheless, it’s painful that Jewish issues are shut out of these movements. Jewish rights belong in any broad movement to fight oppression.

My fellow activists tend to dismiss the anti-Semitism that students like me experience regularly on campus. They don’t acknowledge the swastikas that I see carved into bathroom stalls, scrawled across walls or left on chalkboards. They don’t hear students accusing me of killing Jesus. They don’t notice professors glorifying anti-Semitic figures such as Gamal Abdel Nasser of Egypt or the leadership of Hezbollah, as mine have.

Nor do they speak against the anti-Semitism in American culture. Even as they rightfully protest hate crimes against Muslim Americans and discrimination against black people, they wrongfully dismiss attacks on Jews (who are the most frequent targets of religiously motivated hate crimes in the United States) and increasing anti-Semitism in the American political arena, as can be seen in Donald Trump’s flirtations with the “alt-right.” They don’t take issue with calls for the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state.

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On Abortion, Clinton Takes Ownership of Her Feminism

From The New York Times:

Well, that was exciting for me, as a Scotus nerd — the Supreme Court was up to bat first in the debate! And the exchange was sharply defining, most memorably on abortion.

In past elections, presidential candidates have soft-pedaled their views on the subject. This time, Mrs. Clinton sounded resolute and even righteous about defending a woman’s right to control one of the most “intimate and difficult” decisions about her health care.

Mr. Trump used strong language, too, describing how he wants to prevent the ripping of “the baby out of the womb” on the last day of pregnancy. This is what his base wants to hear: Many Republicans, especially religious ones, cite the prospect of future nominations to the court as their reason for supporting Mr. Trump, despite their distaste for, oh, just about everything else about him. So he checked that box. Though oddly, he didn’t simply say “yes” when the moderator, Chris Wallace, asked whether he wanted the Supreme Court to overturn Roe v. Wade.

Maybe his old pro-choice self couldn’t quite bear to say it. Or maybe he wanted to soften his stance a bit — I heard a bit of moderation in his promise to appoint “pro-life judges” who would send the issue “back to the states.”

Mrs. Clinton talked to her base, too. She talked about her opposition, and Trump’s support, for defunding Planned Parenthood; the polls are with her on that one. She got in a gibe, reminding Mr. Trump of his (quickly retracted) statement of support for punishing women who seek abortions. (It’s a fairly logical end once you go down the road of outlawing the procedure, but abortion opponents are trained to talk about jailing “abortionists” not women.)

She described the “most heartbreaking” circumstances that often led women to late-term abortion: risk to their own life or health, or the discovery of serious birth defects. That’s not the only reason for abortion after the first trimester, but it’s a significant issue.

I’ll confess I felt a small thrill: More than at any big moment since the convention, Mrs. Clinton owned her feminism. She sounded like the first woman running for president, defending other women — our autonomy and our control of our own bodies.

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

Judy Shepard Warns of Consequences of Donald Trump’s Hate-Filled Campaign

Hillary's America: Loved Ones

Are women people?

I've long been bothered by the reduction of woman from meaning an adult female to gender. This tends to reduce women to being people who fill a certain role that defines  adult female people as the second or lesser sex.  (See Simone de Beauvoir.  Her book is a slog to get through but is one of the best analyses of how gender oppresses women ever written.)

We have had over 40 years of right wing back lash against the progressive reforms of the 1960s.  This war against the 1960s has been anti-woman, anti-people of color, anti-LGBT and anti-Semitic.

Of course women are people.  Further these women come in all shapes and sizes.  They aren't women because of their adherence to corporate ideals of femininity.

Trump's insistence upon reducing women to sex objects valuable only as possessions is based solidly upon gender, gender, gender and the idea that women are women based on their adherence to a social role, that women who step outside that role, like Hillary Clinton, are some how not women.

From Salon:

The presidential election has turned into a referendum on whether women are full human beings or objects men own

Thursday, Oct 13, 2016

With the benefit of hours-old hindsight, it now seems inevitable that, with less than a month to go before the United States likely elects its first female president, the top trending topic on Twitter would be #repealthe19th. The hashtag was started by angry supporters of Republican candidate Donald Trump in response to a FiveThirtyEight analysis by Nate Silver showing that Trump would win in a landslide if women didn’t have the right to vote. That led to this demand, facetious or otherwise, that the United States end women’s suffrage.
 For good reason, Trump’s rise has largely been attributed to the forces of white nationalism engaged in a backlash against the first black president and growing racial diversity. But the past couple of weeks have demonstrated that this election is also a referendum on the question: Are women people?
It’s worth taking a moment to go back all the way to last week and consider Trump’s comments about the wrongful conviction of five teens, known as the Central Park Five, for the rape and beating of a jogger in 1989. Trump was heavily involved in the case at the time, taking out ads demanding the death penalty for the defendants. He refuses to apologize even in the face of overwhelming evidence that someone else committed the crime.

“They admitted they were guilty,” Trump said to CNN’s Miguel Marquez last week. He did not acknowledge extensive research showing that the police interrogation techniques that the five teenagers were subjected to are well known for causing false confessions.

Shortly after Trump said this, the “grab them by the pussy” “Access Hollywood” video was released. In it, Trump confessed — bragged, really — to its NBC host Billy Bush about sexually assaulting women and getting away with it.

Unlike the confessions of the Central Park Five, Trump’s confession was not coerced. On the contrary, he comes across as a man who is dying to talk about how he can do whatever he wants to women.

Since then, there’s been an explosion of women coming forward with stories of being on the receiving end of exactly the behavior Trump was describing.

And yet, Trump and his allies are dismissing his remarks as “locker-room talk” and MSNBC’s Joe Scarborough is wanking on that he’s “skeptical about the timing of all of this.”

The double standard in play here is largely about race, of course. As Jamelle Bouie of Slate noted, Trump has a history of painting black people “as helpless brutes leading disordered, degenerate lives.”

But it also goes back to Trump and his supporters treating women not as people but as objects to be owned and controlled by men.

If you look at women that way, the attitudes of Trump and his supporters make sense. Trump gets to grab all the pussy he wants because women’s bodies are objects put on this planet for his personal use. With the Central Park case, the truth of what happened matters less to Trump than the opportunity to use a woman’s body in his racialized drama about the dangers that black men supposedly pose to white men’s women.

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Friday, October 14, 2016

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Trump backers claim grabbing women's genitals is not sexual assault

From The Guardian UK:

‘He did not say the word “sexual assault”’, ‘I think that’s a stretch’ and ‘I’m not a lawyer’ among excuses trotted out by aides and surrogates about lewd comments

Monday 10 October 2016

The 2005 tape of Donald Trump bragging that his celebrity status allowed him to grope women with abandon has sent the Republican party reeling. But on Sunday night, the top spokespeople for the GOP and the Trump campaign had recovered their wits long enough to dispute whether Trump was actually describing a “sexual assault” in the 11-year-old recording.

“That’s a very unfortunate phrase, and people really should stop using it,” Kellyanne Conway, Trump’s campaign manager, told CNN’s Dana Bash. “He did not say the word ‘sexual assault’.”
Separately, longtime Trump supporter Senator Jeff Sessions told the conservative magazine Weekly Standard that he wouldn’t characterize unwanted touching and kissing as sexual assault. “I think that’s a stretch,” he said.

“I don’t know,” said Sean Spicer, the GOP’s top spokesperson, in reply to the same question. “I’m not a lawyer.”

On Tuesday, a spokesperson for Sessions followed up with the Guardian to say that the Weekly Standard “did not properly characterize” Sessions’ position.

“My hesitation was based solely on confusion of the contents of the 2005 tape and the hypothetical posed by the reporter,” the senator said in a statement.

“Of course it is crystal clear that assault is unacceptable. I would never intentionally suggest otherwise.‎”

The spokesperson has not responded to a follow-up asking Sessions to clarify whether he thinks Trump’s comments in the recording describe sexual assault.

Their remarks came just three days after the tape of Trump sent shockwaves through the Republican party and a few hours before the House speaker, Paul Ryan, without withdrawing his earlier endorsement, announced he would no longer come to Trump’s defense.

The tape, recorded while Trump and NBC host Billy Bush rode a bus to the set of Access Hollywood, captured Trump making lewd comments about actor Arianne Zucker – and women in general – while Bush egged him on.

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