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Wednesday, April 16, 2014

Graze King: From Welfare Queens to Simple Scofflaws

What a day April 15th was!

First, of course, it's the day we settle up with Uncle Sam. And for anyone who procrastinated, you bad. You got penalties now.

O yeah, and about that health care thing? If you haven't squared that yet, get yourself over to ObamaCareS, er, oops! It's last call (and I'm not talkin' alcohol!): Open enrollment is over for 2014! See if you can still get coverage! Come on now, spread the word! Did you get an email, holding your place?

Critics of the Affordable Care Act call it welfare. You know, like the fraudster reportedly zipping around in her Caddie. She rollin' ya know?

That description of the fictional "welfare queen" was first used by President Ronald Reagan.

But this week, another of President Reagan's legacies sprang into the forefront of national politics. It might be termed "Crazed Graze King."

President Obama, and/or one of his cabinet members, prudently decided to spare our nation and world of the debacle of massacring "women in front" over a 20 year old range fight. Stagecraft.

And the rumor mill can stop spinning: it has nothing to do with Harry Reid and cattle and solar.

Monday, April 14, 2014

GOP Voter Purges Undermine American Democracy

President Obama recently remarked at the National Action Network Convention that "Justice requires the right to vote."

So it behooves us to take a closer look at just one state that has played a pivotal role in the outcome of our national elections.

Of course, for the November 2014 elections, we're only looking at a non-Presidential election. But that election is pivotal to the timeline that our President has available to to implement meaningful change for all Americans. Unless, of course, you're a teabagger who believes that somehow, someway, President Obama will finagle a third term, however cloaked in the specious suggestion, down-low, that it is "political satire." That's Rand Paul's idea of humor: "suggest, mislead, chuckle. You fools." He published thAT red herring on his website. Sure hope his minions recognize they are being played for fools right up front, if they don't read the "fine print" at the bottom of the article.

But I digress. The point of this post is to look at what is happening in just one state, one critical state, in the upcoming "off-election" (meaning non-Presidential election year) and why this upcoming 2014 election is so important. The election results of this state dashed the Gore presidency, plunging our nation into two long wars for oil and an economic catastrophe. Florida 2000.

Under the guise of removing "non-citizens" from the Florida voting rolls, Governor Rick Scott and his appointed Secretary of State Rick Detzner have removed hundreds of voters from the rolls despite the fact that the national database used to cross-check voter identities is "not current enough for accuracy or reliability." Never mind doing it right, just do it, because the GOP doesn't care about accuracy - the GOP's goal is disenfranchising voters.

The targets of voter suppression tactics are those who the GOP calculates will vote Democratic: college students, disabled, people of color, and low-income voters. Indeed, the former Republican Party of Florida Chairman Jim Greer said: "'The Republican Party, the strategists, the consultants, they firmly believe that early voting is bad for Republican Party candidates,' Greer told The Post. 'It’s done for one reason and one reason only....'We've got to cut down on early voting because early voting is not good for us,’ Greer said he was told by those staffers and consultants.'"

The GOP is just reading the numbers which show that most early voters vote Democratic. "In 2008 Democrats, especially African-Americans, turned out in unprecedented numbers for President Barack Obama, many of them casting ballots during 14 early voting days. In Palm Beach County, 61.2 percent of all early voting ballots were cast by Democrats that year, compared with 18.7 percent by Republicans."

Among the multiple tactics used to suppress voters are: prosecution for voter fraud (which has been shown to be practically non-existent); registration restrictions; limiting early voting; residency restrictions; and, voting ID laws. Our former first black president, Bill Clinton, noted that putting photos on Social Security cards would represent "a way forward that eliminates error" without having to “paralyze and divide a country with significant challenges.” According to the Brennan Center for Justice, as many as 11% of eligible voters do not have government issued photo ID.

In the vanguard of voter suppression is the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), who ghostwrites state legislative bills, then sends them to state legislators for introduction and passage. Here's one example crafted to disenfranchise non-drivers, low-income, minority, elderly and students, for whom the state of Florida is currently blocking the use of a college union as a polling place, according to Senator Bill Nelson.

ALEC is funded through corporations, those very corporations where we spend our money. Using the Color of Change letter, you can tell CEOs to stop funding an organization determined to undermine Americans' voting rights.

As President Obama reminded us in 2012: "As citizens, we understand that America is not about what can be done for us. It’s about what can be done by us, together — through the hard and frustrating but necessary work of self-government. That’s what we believe."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Huntsville Board of Education Risks The Health of the Next Generation: What Does Environmental Justice Mean?

...probably asthma's next little johnny got a funny knob in his neck

so what the problem with that?...

On it, on it, we're so on it Gotta be on it if we ain't on it we're a goner

Who?

Me, you, everyone and their mama

It's our world, so defending it with honor On it, on it, we're so on it

If you ain't on it, this a warning Take a look at the world around..."

Excerpted lyrics courtesy of Black Educator Blogspot

Activists in Huntsville continue to protest the relocation of existing neighborhood middle and high school students' schools near a dust-ridden location with debilitating, lifelong consequences from exposures to unknown levels of potentially toxic levels of particulate matter.

What is environmental justice? Is there such a thing?

According to the EPA, environmental justice is "the distribution of environmental risks across population and income groups, and the policy responses to these distributions."

Dig a little deeper, and new parameters emerge. "The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defines environmental justice, as fair treatment and meaningful involvement of all people regardless of race, color, national origin or income with respect to development, implementation, and enforcement of environmental laws, regulations, and policies. Fair treatment means that no group of people should bear a disproportionate share of the negative environmental consequences resulting from industrial, governmental, or commercial operations, or the execution of federal, state, local, and tribal programs and policies. Meaningful involvement means that potentially affected community residents have an appropriate opportunity to participate in decision-making about a proposed activity that will affect their environment and/or health."

Back around a couple of decades ago, "...on May 6, 1993, Administrator Browner affirmed the need to address environmental justice: as we undertake programs to reduce risks, we must explicitly recognize the ethnic, economic, and cultural makeup of the people we are trying to protect. We now believe that people of color and low income are disproportionately affected by some environmental risks: the risk of living near landfills, municipal waste combustors, or hazardous waste sites; the risks posed by lead or asbestos in old, poorly maintained housing; the risk of exposure to pesticides in farm fields; and the risk of eating contaminated fish when fish is a mainstay of their diet.(2)"

Now we have a definition, and a direction. So, where are the children of Huntsville in this mix? Sounds like the Feds are on board to protect the children of Huntsville.

Huntsville is in Region 4, where environmental justice is "...is an integral part of Region 4's mission."

Super! What about the state?

Hmmm..."The Air Division has primary jurisdiction over all air emission sources within the State, except those emission sources located within Jefferson County or the City of Huntsville. The Air Pollution Control Programs in these areas are administered by the Jefferson County Department of Health and the City of Huntsville Department of Natural Resources, respectively. Air emission sources in these areas should contact these agencies for information regarding applicable regulations and permitting requirements."

Got it. The Feds turned it over to the State, who turned it over to the county and city, where the Board of Education muzzles parental input. Submit your question in writing before the meeting, so we have time to decide whether we want to answer it, or how we want to answer it. We're good, but on our feet? Well, you might be better. Don't want to take any chances, ya know? Might get folks thinkin' there's something rotten in the cotton, as the old sayin' goes.

How's that working out for Huntsville's children and their parents? In terms of environmental justice? Or, in terms of an "appropriate opportunity to participate in decision-making about a proposed activity" that will affect their childrens' health and well-being, who are the future citizens and workers of Huntsville?

Saturday, April 12, 2014

The White House Easter Egg Roll

Notice how Bo let's the youngster Sunny have all the fun with the Easter Eggs?

That's what big brothers do!

President Obama: "Justice Requires the Right to Vote"

We're six months out from the next election, and historically, voter turnout in mid-term, non-presidential elections is low. About 60% of American voters go to the polls in presidential elections, but only 40% show up for mid-term, non-presidential elections. President Obama urged the National Action Network Conference attendees to work hard to help voters register and then get to the polls.

He recognizes that voting rights are under attack by Republican legislators in states across the nation. Quipping about "souls to the polls," the practice in many churches of following worship and potlucks with a bus ride to the polls, he noted that it could be done on Tuesday night, if you had to. But to be fair, the President noted that one Republican State Senator, Dale Schultz of Wisconsin, said that limiting early voting was "fiddling with mechanics rather than ideas...Making it more difficult for people to vote is not a good sign for a party that wants to attract more people."

There doesn't appear to be any shortage of imaginative ways to restrict voting. In Miami-Dade county, with a population of 2.6 million people, the elections department may prohibit all voters from using restrooms at polling places, reasoning that "If no voters could go to the bathroom, the county argued, then it could not be accused of discriminating against only the disabled ones."

“This is a very clear way to suppress the vote,” Marc Dubin of the Center for Independent Living of South Florida said. “Telling people, ‘We have 12-hour lines but you can’t go to the bathroom?’ You can be guaranteed that people won’t come out to vote.” Maybe, but it Depends.

President Obama's message is clear: voting is a fundamental constitutional right that must be used, and defended, because "Justice requires the right to vote." He reminded us that James Earl Chaney, Andrew Goodman and Michael Henry Schwerner believed so strongly in the power of the vote that they died for it in Mississippi fifty years ago.

According to the ACLU, "During the 2011 legislative sessions, states across the country passed measures to make it harder for Americans – particularly African-Americans, the elderly, students and people with disabilities – to exercise their fundamental right to cast a ballot. Over thirty states considered laws that would require voters to present government-issued photo ID in order to vote. Studies suggest that up to 11 percent of American citizens lack such ID, and would be required to navigate the administrative burdens to obtain it or forego the right to vote entirely."

Of course, citizens foregoing the right to vote entirely is exactly what the oligarchic Koch Brothers want to happen. Their paper mill, ALEC, the American Legislative Exchange Council, drafts and distributes boilerplate legislative bills throughout the 50 state legislatures. ALEC's "...bills or resolutions would disenfranchise Americans and give corporations even more power to use their vast financial resources to influence elections in our democracy without full disclosure of that spending. These two focal points of recent ALEC proposals pose twin threats to American democracy, by limiting the right of citizens to vote while expanding the power of for-profit corporations and the shadowy front groups funded by billionaires like the Koch brothers to distort elections through pouring money into expensive attack ads cloaked as 'issue' advertising."

We have six months to organize voter registration drives and ready voters to go to the polls in the upcoming mid-term election. Let's give President Obama a House that will work with him to craft legislation to benefit all of us, instead of a House that wastes time and tax payer dollars obstructing him. And of course, we need the Senate, too.

So when President Obama urges us register and vote, he is also telling us to defend our democracy - because there are those nefarious forces that want to restrict our democratic constitutional rights to suit their corporate interests.

Do You Know When/Where To Register To Vote? Check at: My Time To Vote.com

Friday, April 11, 2014

Blog Interrupted Day 4




Today's Must Read
Blogging Can Be Dangerous to Your Freedom
An Alabama blogger posted a simple question on his website this week: “Why did it take five months for me to be released from jail?” - See more at: http://whowhatwhy.com/2014/04/05/get-jail/#sthash.hKnOOCuL.dpuf

RedEye's "Technical issues" still not resolved.  I HOPE to be back up and blogging soon.  In the meantime, read on, read often.

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

Untapped Talents: My Brother's Keeper Launches

It's always a pleasure to drop by, see what's up around here, and add a little something. Starting out, I was so impressed with this young man's talent, his enthusiasm, and joyous hope for the future. If you didn't catch Daniel Clarke Bouchard today on Ellen DeGeneres, you missed something very special. This young man of 14 years has already played Carnegie Hall. He proudly proclaims that classical music is his foundation, though now he's moving into jazz. Take a moment to hear the energy, joy and talent in this young professional's music.

Seeing this, one can't help but hope that Daniel Clarke Bouchard's shining spirit, bright as polished silver, isn't ever tarnished by the taint of racism. But today, parents still must have "the talk," about racial profiling in all its insidious variations, just as Attorney General Eric Holder admits his own father had with him.

“I thought of my father’s words years later, when – as a college student – I was pulled over twice on the New Jersey turnpike and my car was searched – even though I was sure I hadn’t been speeding,” he said, according to his prepared remarks. “I thought of them again some time after that, when a police officer stopped and questioned me in Washington while I was running to catch a movie – even though I happened to be a federal prosecutor at the time.”

It's said that all things new are old, and that applies to racism as well. Each generation must shoulder the burden of advancing the cause of social justice, of equality for all. And so it is with President Obama's recent initiative, My Brother's Keeper. In announcing the initiative, he outlined some dimensions of the problem.

Many boys and young men of color will arrive at kindergarten less prepared than their peers in early language and literacy skills, leaving them less likely to finish school. Labor-force participation rates for young men of color have dropped, and far too many lack the skills they need to succeed. The disproportionate number of African American and Hispanic young men who are unemployed or involved in the criminal justice system undermines family and community stability and is a drag on State and Federal budgets. And, young men of color are far more likely to be victims of murder than their white peers, accounting for almost half of the country's murder victims each year. These outcomes are troubling, and they represent only a portion of the social and economic cost to our Nation when the full potential of so many boys and young men is left unrealized.

Attorney General Holder, who admits to having his own skirmishes with the law because of racial profiling, "spoke on the importance of an open relationship between police and the communities they serve. He described plans to bring together “civil rights organizations and law enforcement leaders to identify areas of concern – and reduce the likelihood that race will play any role in the investigation and prosecution of crimes.”

“As it stands – in far too many places – a vicious cycle of poverty, criminality, and incarceration traps individuals, devastates families, and weakens communities,” he said. “It is long past time for us to break this cycle.”

President Obama detailed the need with the grim statistics.

For decades, opportunity has disproportionately lagged behind for boys and young men of color – particularly in our African American and Latino communities. As recently as 2013, only 14 percent of black boys and 18 percent of Hispanic boys scored proficient or above on the 4th grade reading component of the National Assessment of Educational Progress compared to 42 percent of white boys and 21 percent of black and Hispanic girls. Youth who cannot read “proficiently” by third grade are four times less likely to graduate high school by 19.

By the time students have reached 9th grade, 42 percent of black male students have been suspended or expelled during their school years, compared to 14 percent of white male students. While black youth account for 16 percent of the youth population, they represent 28 percent of juvenile arrests, and 37 percent of the detained population. While just over 6 percent of the overall population, black males of all ages accounted for 43 percent of murder victims in 2011.

The fraction of young men not working or enrolled in school is nearly twice as high for blacks than whites. Those neither working nor in school are not building the skills and experience needed to ensure their ability to succeed later in life.