My AM760 interview with Dem Senator/progressive hero @russfeingold is here (about two thirds of the way into the clip):…

On Feb. 2, when the House Democrats held their annual retreat in Williamsburg, Gerald W. McEntee,  president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, made it clear that Working for Us didn’t work for him.

“Our majority can disappear in a wisp,” he told the members. “I’m the sheriff of the incumbent-protection program, and if you need help, let me know. In Blue America, there’s no room for PACs to chase vulnerable members they have differences with.”

Young progressives stand up for voting rights

This post is part of PFAW Action Fund’s sponsorship of OpenLeft in a series of posts to highlight young progressive candidates running for office in this year’s election. -Adam

The 2000 recount calamity in Florida and the 2004 voting-rights debacle in Ohio remind us just how vital the Secretary of State really is.  After Citizens United and the flurry of corporate advertisements and challenges to campaign disclosure laws, the importance of the Secretary of State position has only increased in magnitude.  

That’s why the People For the American Way Action Fund is endorsing two young and prominent progressives for Secretary of State in 2010: Jocelyn Benson of Michigan and Ben Nesselhuf of South Dakota.  

The People For the American Way Action Fund is endorsing young progressive candidates across the country who are leading the battles to further equality, good government, and economic justice.  These young candidates are just at the beginning of their careers in public service, and the PFAW Action Fund is working to help them make a difference in today and tomorrow’s fights for progressive public policy and ideas.    

The upcoming Secretary of State elections highlight the rise in right-wing attacks on voting rights and transparency in politics.  Conservatives have long tried to undermine the right to vote through “vote caging” schemes, photo ID laws, and attacks on grassroots efforts to register young and minority voters.

Native Americans in South Dakota have historically been the victims of attempts to weaken voting rights, and history is repeating itself today as an overwhelmingly Native American county almost lost its ability to vote early in elections.  Ultimately a Native American group had to cover the costs of early voting, after foot-dragging from local and state Republican leaders in charge of overseeing the election.  

Ben Nesselhuf, the Democratic State Senator running for Secretary of State, spoke out against the “systematic disenfranchisement” of Native Americans in South Dakota.  After a series of elections in which Republicans erroneously accused Native Americans of voter fraud, Nesselhuf is leading the charge to stop attacks on voting access: “What does concern me is that the false issue of voter fraud has been used to deny citizens access to the ballot. Everyone who is eligible to vote should be able to cast their ballot on an equal basis.”

In addition to standing up for the Native American community, Nesselhuf has worked to block other attempts at marginalization: South Dakota passed a sweeping criminalization of abortion in 2008, which was later overturned by voters. Nesselhuf was one of 12 State Senators to vote against the ban, and was also one of 13 senators who tried to add sexual orientation and gender identity to South Dakota’s hate crimes law.  

Nesselhuf is also a critic of the Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, arguing that “we need to have a secretary of state committed to limiting the power of corporations.”  His opponent, Republican Jason Gant, is focusing his campaign around the phony issue of ‘voter fraud’ and his support for requiring voters to show a photo ID, a tactic often used to suppress the vote of disadvantaged groups.    

In Michigan, Citizens United and its deleterious consequences are taking center stage in the race for Secretary of State.  Law professor Jocelyn Benson is a progressive Democrat fighting to put the public interest over corporate interests, and she previously worked for the Southern Poverty Law Center, the ACLU, the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, and the Harvard Civil Rights Project.  

Now she is working to hold corporations accountable in elections by advocating for legislation such as the “Shareholders Bill of Rights,” disclosure requirements for political groups, and a ban on foreign companies and state-contractors from financing campaigns.  Such items will curb the influence of shadowy, pro-corporate groups in state elections. Benson, who managed Election Protection efforts in 2007 and 2008, will also work to protect voting access for all of Michigan’s citizens.

Her opponent, however, seeks to use the office to further the agenda of the Republican Party.  Ruth Johnson, a former state legislator, is the Republican nominee for Secretary of State.  In 2006, she was the running mate of gubernatorial candidate and businessman Dick DeVos.  DeVos is a leader in corporate advocacy in government, and his family foundation bankrolls many Religious Right and pro-corporate groups.  As Oakland County Clerk, Johnson co-chaired Mitt Romney’s presidential campaign even though she was overseeing the elections.    

While campaigning for Secretary of State, Johnson caved to the demands of the far-right American Family Association and renounced her “support for lesbian, gays, bisexuals and transgender people and disavow[ed] her 2002 endorsement by the statewide gay rights group Triangle PAC.”  A candidate beholden to right-wing interest groups, Ruth Johnson may end up becoming the Katherine Harris or Kenneth Blackwell of Michigan.

Please take time to check out Ben and Jocelyn’s campaigns to protect the integrity of our elections and defend civil rights, and see how you can help today!  

Support Jocelyn Benson

   Visit Her Website

   Contribute on Act Blue

Support Ben Nesselhuf

   Visit His Website

   Contribute on Act Blue



South Africa Today

By: Inoljt,

The World Cup has ended, and with it South Africa’s reputation has soared. The country has enjoyed a boost of free and entirely positive publicity from the event, in contrast to most reports from the Western media – which tend to focus upon the AIDS epidemic and the country’s complicated politics.

South Africa today is a product of Nelson Mandela’s work. It was Nelson Mandela’s continuous (and mostly successful) outreach to South Africa’s white minority ensured a degree of racial peace few dared hope would pass during after the days of apartheid.

Indeed, the more one explores the history of countries afflicted with similar problems, the more remarkable the man’s achievement seems.

More below.

When a subjugated majority overthrows the rich dominant minority, things often end very very badly. Too often the end result is something like Haiti and Zimbabwe, when an oppressed black majority won its freedom against a white minority but failed to end the racial hatred. Those hatreds ended up tearing both countries apart.

Then there is the example of Rwanda, when the dominant and minority Tutsis lost control to the majority Hutus, following colonization’s end. The majority Hutus discriminated against the Tutsis for decades afterwards, discrimination which cumulated in genocide. Today a Tutsi party once more holds the reins of power in Rwanda.

The scars left by apartheid are also deep and lasting. There is, for instance, the matter of continuing white flight. When the dominant minority loses control, those in the minority often flee in droves. This usually leaves a country in economic ruin, because only members of the minority have the skills to actually run the place. Although South Africa has generally avoided this due to the efforts of Mr. Mandela, the country is still experiencing a brain drain as whites leave, albeit at a much reduced pace.

There are other signs of continuing tension. Blacks – including the president – continue to sing songs such as “Bring me my machine gun” and “Shoot the Boer.” Whites rarely wave the national flag, which was changed in 1994 to replace the apartheid-era flag. They do not vote for the ANC. Nor do blacks vote for the Democratic Alliance, which many consider the party for whites.

These problems continue to plague South Africa. Since the end of apartheid, the country has not done extremely well.

But neither has it done too poorly. Compared to countries like Haiti, Zimbabwe, and Rwanda it counts as an unqualified success. The children of Mandela remain a symbol, however imperfect, of injustice transformed into reconciliation.

The Great Migration

One of the things that keeps me going on a daily basis, something I’ve relied on since 1996, is Democracy Now!  It keeps me going because it provides me with a constant flow of new inspirations, people I might not have heard about otherwise (though of course, some I already know) whose lives are an inspiration to me.  But every one in a while, there’s a segment where I say to myself, “Okay, inspiration.  I got it.  But this is ridiculous!”

Yesterday brought one such segment, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration: Isabel Wilkerson Tracks Exodus of Blacks from US South” an interview with the author of a massive history of America’s most profound virtually unknown event, an act of self-re-creation almost unparalleled in human history, involving six million Americans, for which more than 1,200 people were interviewed.  As I listened, I was paying close attention to what was being said, but I was always contended with all manner of other thoughts intruding.  On the one hand, there were constant instructions of bits and pieces of American history–African-American history, you might say, but not being African-American, I still feel it’s my history, as well, because it has touched my life in more ways than I will ever know.

And I kept thinking of how I’d known certain stories, and known that the Great Migration was the background to them–such as the various different streams of personal history that brought different activists into the Black Panther Party here in California, almost entirely with family backgrounds rooted in Louisiana, where there was a long-standing history of black resistence that they were carrying on. I had known this larger history, but only known of it in a relatively diffuse and abstract manner. And as I listened, I also marveled at how incredibly significant this history was, how much profound change it had produced–just thinking about American music alone, and how that in turn had changed the entire world at least five times over this past century–with jazz, with blues, with r&b, with soul, and with rap.  And I thought about how remarkable it was that this story had never been told before in this comprehensive way, and what a stark contrast that was, for example, with the way that the Civil War–essentially the story of a massive and destructive dead end–had had its story told so many countless times that we could never be free of its unending lies, and here was a vast, almost limitless ocean of truths and possibilities about which we know almost nothing as a nation.

And I was thunderstruck–not least by the fact that I’d never really thought about it before.

Of course, this is not just an incredibly specific historical story.  It’s also completely universal at the same time.  It’s a story that anyone who’s ever moved out into the unknown will recognize as their own at some level, too.  But that universality does not negate its specificity.  It only explains why it can touch each and all of us–if we are willing to be touched.

Here is how that segment began:

AMY GOODMAN: We turn now to a pivotal but largely overlooked event in American history: the mass migration of African Americans from the South to the North and West of the country. Some six million black citizens left the South during the period of the Great Migration, which began around 1915 and continued into the 1970s.

The Pulitzer Prize award-winning journalist and professor Isabel Wilkerson has spent, oh, close to fifteen years researching why millions of African Americans decided to leave the towns and farms of the South on such a large scale. Her own parents made this journey, from Georgia and southern Virginia to Washington, DC, where she grew up. Well, her book is just out, The Warmth of Other Suns: The Epic Story of America’s Great Migration. She’s also the the first African American woman to win a Pulitzer Prize and is currently professor of journalism and director of narrative nonfiction at Boston University. She joins me in the studio.

Welcome to Democracy Now!, Isabel Wilkerson.

ISABEL WILKERSON: Great to be here.

AMY GOODMAN: Absolutely remarkable book. What inspired you? Talk about your own family.

ISABEL WILKERSON: Well, in some ways, I think I grew up with the-almost born to be writing this book. I mean, I was the child, the daughter, of people who migrated from the South to the North. My mother migrated from Rome, Georgia, a small town, to Washington, DC. In a different decade, a little later, my father migrated from southern Virginia to Washington, DC. There they met and married. And had it not been for this Great Migration, I wouldn’t be here. And I would be reading-

AMY GOODMAN: Why did they leave?

ISABEL WILKERSON: They left because they wanted to be able to have better opportunities. They left because they were living under a caste system, which dictated and controlled every aspect of the lives of African Americans. In some ways I describe it as a defection as much as it was a migration. In many ways, they were seeking political asylum from a caste system that determined, for example, that in Birmingham, for example, a black person and a white person couldn’t play checkers together. Someone actually sat down and wrote that out as a law. There were places-there were courtrooms in the South where there was actually a black Bible and a white Bible to swear to tell the truth on.

AMY GOODMAN: You begin your book with the words of Richard Wright. Can you read them?

ISABEL WILKERSON: Yes, and I preface it by saying that, in some ways, it speaks to anyone who’s ever left one place that they-a place that they’ve never-the place that they’ve known all their lives for a place they’ve never seen. It speaks to the immigrant heart, and it reads, “I was leaving the South to fling myself into the unknown. I was taking a part of the South to transplant in alien soil, to see if it could grow differently, if it could drink of new and cool rains, bend in strange winds, respond to the warmth of other suns, and, perhaps, to bloom.”

AMY GOODMAN: And that’s where you got your title, The Warmth of Other Suns.

ISABEL WILKERSON: That’s where my title comes from, yeah.

AMY GOODMAN: So, in your book, you follow-you interviewed what? Twelve hundred people?

ISABEL WILKERSON: I stopped counting after 1,200.

AMY GOODMAN: It’s such a remarkable work and so beautifully drawn. The three different families that you follow illustrate the different migrations. Explain.

ISABEL WILKERSON: What the goal was was to capture the breadth and the scope of this migration, which was a national migration, from all parts of the South to all parts of the North, Midwest and West. In order to do that, I needed three people who would illustrate the three major streams of this migration.

So the first one was from-up the East Coast from Georgia, the Carolinas, Virginia, up to Washington, DC, Philadelphia, New York, Boston. That was the stream that my own family was a participant in. And the beautiful part about this whole migration is that it was very orderly; it was not just a haphazard unfurling of people. So, the person who represents that migration is a man who had-named George Starling, who had been-he had worked in the citrus industry. He’d been a fruit picker. He had also gone to college a little, had some college experience. And when he got out into the groves, he found that they were being mistreated horribly. It was dangerous work. They were being woefully underpaid. There was obviously no unionizing at that time. And he tried to organize the pickers to get a nickel more a box. And for doing that, his life was threatened, and he had to flee for his life. He left Florida for New York, for Harlem, in 1945.

The second stream was a stream from Mississippi and Arkansas to Chicago. And that was illustrated by Ida Mae Gladney, who was a sharecropper’s wife, who could-was very good in plowing and killing snakes, but she was very-really bad at picking cotton. She was really bad at picking cotton. And so, she was not much help in the field. Her husband and she and their two children left Mississippi for the North after a cousin had been wrongfully accused of a theft that he had not committed. The thing that they had accused him of stealing turned up the next day, but he had been beaten within-to within an inch of his life. And his-and when her husband discovered this, discovered the state that his cousin was in, he went home to his wife, and he said, “This is the last crop we’re making.” And they headed north to Milwaukee and then ultimately Chicago.

And the final leg of this migration, the final stream, is the one that’s written about the least, but in some ways is-some ways one of the most exciting things to write about, was the one from Louisiana and Texas out to the West, out to Los Angeles, Oakland and Seattle. And that was illustrated by Dr. Robert Joseph Pershing Foster, who was a surgeon in the Army during the Korean War. When he got out of the Army, it turned out he could not perform surgery or work as a doctor in his own home town of Monroe, Louisiana. And so he set out for a treacherous, unexpectedly treacherous journey across the desert at night alone, unable to stop. And that was a journey that I attempted to recreate myself.

AMY GOODMAN: And you did it with your parents.

ISABEL WILKERSON: I did it with my parents. I rented a Buick, as he had driven. He drove a Buick Roadmaster. And he would often say that if you had seen it, you would want it, too. He was a character in many ways. And we set out on this journey. And I told my parents, the rule was that only I could drive, because that’s what Dr. Foster had been forced to do. We got to the really treacherous part of the journey, where we were going-it was nighttime. We couldn’t stop, because he had not been permitted to stop. No one would take him in. He couldn’t find a room to stay.

AMY GOODMAN: Because he was black.

ISABEL WILKERSON:Because he was black. And he had not anticipated that. He thought once he got after-past a certain point, he’d be able to stop, but he found that not to be the case. And so, I tried to recreate that, and I wanted to experience what was it like to have your fingers get swollen from gripping the wheel for so long, for so many hours. Your eyes grow heavy, so heavy that they begin to ache. And yet there’s still more road, and there were hairpin turns, and it was dark, and you’re going miles upon miles upon miles. No settlements at all, even to this day. You’re driving around the mountains. They’re two-lane roads. And at a certain point, my parents said, “Let’s stop. Stop the car. Now. We must stop. And if you won’t stop, let us out”-because it was really-I mean, you’re going over the lines, and clearly I was weary and tired. We had no trouble finding a place, because it was no longer 1953, which is an indication of how far the country has come since that time. We still have a ways to go, though….

There is so, so much more.  And that’s only the inteview. (There’s a second part as well!)

Go read it all–or better yet, listen.  This is an utterly incredible story, without which, you really can’t understand America.  It’s something we really spiritually need as a nation, to understand who we really are.

Pseudo-democracies and double-standards

Apparently, we’re supposed to panic & do as the wingnuts & grownups command (aren’t we always?), but digby pushes back:

Disavowal Movement Resurgent

by digby

So, I’m hearing on the internets that liberals had better disavow Grayson’s Taliban ad or risk being seen as hypocrites when we complain about the other side doing it. All I can say is, “Oh dear, not that.” (And I have never been much for the bi-annual “disavowal ritual” in general. You can look it up.)

Ever since Jesse Helms ran this ad and Daddy Bush ran this one I’ve haven’t given the moral dimension of attack ads much thought at all. They are part of American politics and you can rail against them all you want, but they aren’t going anywhere. Fretting about such things is the province of very upright, highly moral liberals who believe that it is better to lose than to run ads which sink to the other side’s level. I guess I just don’t think ads are more important than keeping corporate sponsored theocrats from being in positions of power, so we will have to agree to disagree.

At this point in the United States it is permissible for Republicans to attack Democrats as treasonous, Godless/Muslim socialists and compare them to Hitler and Stalin but Democrats are only allowed to attack Republicans for their differences in policy. Can we see the asymmetry here? Is it any surprise that they have dominated politics for the past 30 years? Sure, every once in a while there are moments when their act gets old and the nation will look for hope and change rather than fear and loathing, but let’s just say that their willingness (and institutional support) will give them the advantage most of the time.

As for Webster, whether you call him the “T” word or not he’s a theocrat — the real thing:…

Liberals, Democrats, progressives, whatever, are supposed to drop everything and condemn any liberal, Democrat or progressive who says anything the least bit disrespectful of people who supposedly don’t fart, especially if it’s true.  That’s part of the rules, the Ten Commandments of Versailles.  So this attempt to ostracize Grayson is about as newsworthy as any other dog-bites-man story you’ll read this year, or next, or the year after that.

But what is worth noting is the content of what Grayson was saying, to wit, that rightwing theocrats are the enemies of America, on the same side of the global culture war as the Taliban and al Qaeda.

This is not just a minor, idle or theoretical point.  Theocratic religious fundamentalists are really dangerous people, in part because they are totally immune to reason, and in part because they feel commanded by God to kill everyone who gets in their way, if it comes to that.

They do not believe in checks and balances, much less in separation of church and state.  They believe in holy war. Period.  And the very best thing they get to help them out in that regard is other theocratic religious fundamentalists, who just happen to call God by a slightly different name.  That gives them a official designated enemy that they can hate absolutely, and more importantly it gives them an excuse for attacking everyone else who uses the same name of God that they do, but who isn’t stark raving mad.

All this is very simple, very elemental.  So much so that I almost feel like an idiot repeating it.  Except for the fact that it’s completely taboo to say of any of this.

Which is why Alan Grayson is being attacked in the first place.  Because he told the truth about who’s on which side in this War To End All Peace.

And we can’t have that.  Because, you see, if we had that, then the War To End All Peace would last about ten minutes. Fifteen tops.

And so we absolutely must, must, must! continue believing something somewhat like this:

The Enemy At Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for 9/11


From Publishers Weekly

    Conservative pundit D’Souza (Illiberal Education) roots the blame for the 9/11 attacks in the left wing’s “aggressive global campaign to undermine the traditional patriarchal family” in this mostly lucid but unconvincing argument. Pointing to Hillary Clinton, Britney Spears and Noam Chomsky, he decries those who have teamed up with Hollywood and the U.N. to foist an irreligious, sexually licentious, antifamily liberal culture-epitomized by Eve Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues and gay marriage initiatives-on a Muslim world that rightly reviles it. By deliberately attacking Islamic values, the left tacitly allies itself with al- Qaeda in its effort to defeat Bush’s war on terror and thus discredit conservatism at home, he asserts….

Of course, if you believe in “Liberal Fascism” and believe that Martin Luther King was a white conservative, then why the hell not?

All those who believe otherwise must die!

A DADT puzzle (for me, at least)

Just a note to self.

The legal basis for DADT is 10 USC 654.

But Obama can unilaterally – without the intervention of the Party of No! – suspend the operation of this provision under 10 USC 12305 – the stop loss provision. (See this PDF.)

So the opposition of the Party of No is clearly not what is holding him back.

Same for JFK and what eventually became his EO 11063, desegregating new Federally funded housing. He could have issued the EO on Day 1, but wanted to stroke the Southern gatekeepers of the Congress. (Not that that did him much good, of course.)

In the event, it came on November 20 1962.

Back to Obama: shows how useful the Congress is to him – another thing he and his (and their) corporate sponsors have in common.

Ms. Mary Mack Mack Mack, don’t send her back, back, back

Please consider chipping in to Mayor Steve Pougnet for Congress on ActBlue for today’s end of quarter deadline

So I was at a Gay and Lesbian Victory Fund dinner last night (they raise money for openly LGBT candidates). Speaker Pelosi came and spoke, and talked about how much progress she made by telling a story. She said David Cicilline, who is the openly gay mayor of Providence, RI and seemingly a lock to be elected to replace Patrick Kennedy, came to her office and said, “Madame Speaker, I would be the first openly gay person elected to Congress.” To which she replied, no, that was Tammy Baldwin. Then he said, uh, well, I would be the first openly gay man elected to Congress. No, she said, that was Jared Polis. Then he paused, and said, “Well, then I would be the first openly gay Italian-American elected to Congress!”

I’m telling the story because I think it illustrates the progress made by the progressive community in electing diverse candidates to office who start changing attitudes internally… from the Tammy Baldwins of the world to the first Muslim in Keith Ellison, and so forth.

There’s one more candidate this year who I think fits that important mold: Mayor Steve Pougnet from Palm Springs.

Photo credit: The Advocate

For some background, I’ve written about Steve before here and here, and we had him here on OpenLeft along with 5 other LGBT blogs for a live chat last week. He’d be the first married gay parent elected to Congress. No small deal in a Congress where so many of the electeds think every child, even the ones desperate to have adopted parents, need a mother and a father. No small deal in a Congress where so many of the electeds think marriage is between a man and a woman, because that’s how it’s always been.

His campaign sent me his creative new ad, which will start running today:

Background on Bono Mack’s attacks and the web ads she had to pull down can be found here

Secretary of Labor Hilda Solis was out campaigning for Steve last week at a big labor rally, and called Bono Mack part of “the team that put us in this hole, this mess, this ditch.” Not only is that true, she refuses to help get us out. She has this faux moderate aura about her, but votes with Boehner over and over again. She voted against the stimulus, opposed a public option, the financial reform bill, even the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. She refuses to take a position on SB 1070 in a district that is 38% Latino and borders Arizona. She voted against repeal of DADT, refuses to co-sponsor or express support for an inclusive ENDA.

And the part that really gets me? She supported the 1999 Largent Amendment to ban same-sex adoption in DC. So basically, she doesn’t think people like Steve and his partner should be even allowed to raise their two happy, healthy, smart children- much less go to Congress.

That’s not the only reason to support Steve. Steve also has gotten Palm Springs awarded an innovation hub for clean and renewable energy (only one of two in SoCal) and as an outdoors person, is a leader on clean energy, from pushing support for California’s AB 32 law to finding ways to save energy in Palm Springs government. He helped get medical marijuana dispensaries up and running in the city and is supporting Prop 19 this year. He’s been endorsed by Democracy for America, the California Nurses Association, California Teachers Association and Federation of teachers, Planned Parenthood, Council for a Livable World, HRC and the Victory Fund.

Today’s the end of quarter and you’re probably getting your inbox filled with e-mails from James Carville and Tom Daschle. While you’re considering them (or considering hitting the delete button on them), please consider tossing in a few bucks to Steve Pougnet who is now on our ActBlue Better Dems 2010 page.

Weekly Diaspora: Schools a Minefield for Undocumented Students After DREAM defeat

by Catherine A. Traywick, Media Consortium blogger

It’s no secret that anti-immigrant activists have a penchant for targeting youth, the most vulnerable of the undocumented set. But  the Senate defeat of the popular DREAM Act confirmed the obvious. The  war on immigrants is being waged not only along our borders, but within  our classrooms as well.


But depriving undocumented students with a pathway to citizenship  clearly wasn’t enough. From coast to coast, anti-immigrant forces are  trying to block undocumented students from attending college, keep  Latino teens from learning about their cultural heritage, and stop  immigrant children from knowing their rights.

Undocumented students need not apply

Georgia has become the latest state to consider banning undocumented students from college. While no federal laws prohibit undocumented youth from pursuing higher education, a number of states-like Arizona-have attempted to block access to college by denying in-state tuition and publicly funded scholarships. Georgia, however, is among the first to attempt an outright ban on undocumented students.

According to Prerna Lal at, North Carolina community colleges tried to implement a similar ban last year, but repealed it after realizing the law was causing the schools to lose money. Wary of meeting the same fate, Georgia colleges-including University of Georgia and Georgia Tech-are thinking about a more measured policy that would ban undocumented students only if schools lacked the space to admit all qualified candidates. Lal notes that such a policy would serve political rather than practical ends, as undocumented students make up less than one percent of Georgia college’s 310,000 students.

Ethnic studies are un-American?

Meanwhile, in Arizona, students of all ages are facing an uphill battle for ethnic studies curricula. A controversial law signed by Governor Jan Brewer (R) last May threatens to abolish a variety of ethnic-based academic programs by the end of the year. The law, which makes exceptions for Holocaust, African-American, and American Indian studies, seems to specifically target Raza Studies-a program that promotes Mesoamerican history, culture, and pedagogies.

Roberto Rodriguez at New America Media reports that school districts are standing against the  law and in support of the Raza Studies program which is proven to positively impact student success:

The consensus amongst Tucson’s Mexican- American community is that come Jan. 3, 2011, Raza Studies will be fully operational-continuing to educate and inspire minds and prepare students to attend colleges and universities nationwide. The program is virtually an anti-dropout program (more than a 90 percent graduation rate) and a college student factory (upwards of 70 percent go on to college).

State schools superintendent Tom Horne is a vocal proponent of the law, which renders him the target of a potentially historic lawsuit that some say could rival Brown v. Board of Education. The new law is just the latest in a slew of measures intended to make Arizona a hostile environment for Latinos, thereby discouraging immigration while driving attrition.

Know your rights

In response to growing hostility towards immigrant students of all ages, some schools have started educating youth about their rights-even distributing “Know Your Rights” cards.

As Elise Foley at the Washington Independent reports, a couple of San Diego schools have incurred a fair amount of controversy for doing just that. After receiving reports that undocumented students were having a hard time concentrating in school due to stress related to their immigration status, schools began disseminating pamphlets teaching kids to “protect yourself from immigration raids!” The pamphlets drew ire from local police, who argued that the illustrations portrayed them in a negative light.

Drop the I-Word

In the meantime, Colorlines has launched a campaign to counter negative depictions of the undocumented. They’ve teamed up with a host of other progressive organizations remove the term “illegals” from media discourse. The I-word, according to the campaign, “creates an environment of hate by exploiting racial fear and economic anxiety, creating an easy scapegoat for complex issues, and OK-ing violence against those labeled with the word.”

The I-word is particularly pernicious when applied to undocumented children, whose constitutionally protected right to a public education seems ever in question. By dropping the racially charged term, media outlets can better foster meaningful dialogue about immigrants and immigration instead of producing anti-immigrant sound bites that only foster division and hate.

The DREAM is not dead

In the same spirit of community empowerment, several non-profit organizations have launched a $300,000 Spanish-language campaign to leverage support of the DREAM Act into votes against the Republican Party. According to Sarah Kate Kramer of Feet in Two Worlds, the ads are being aired in nine crucial cities across the country, and feature a montage of voices claiming to be “the undocumented students of the DREAM Act.” They urge the public to vote Democratic, saying:

…who opposed this bill? Who wants to quash our dreams? Republicans. The same people who opposed the extension of unemployment benefits. Republicans. Who try to deny immigrant rights in Arizona and other states. Republicans. Who always seem to stand with big corporations against working families.

As mid-term elections draw nearer, anti-immigrant forces will likely come down harder on undocumented students whom they falsely claim are stealing public education from citizens. Fortunately, with Democrats promising to revisit the DREAM Act post-election, Latinos have everything to gain by getting out the votes.

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It’s not Obama’s character, it’s neo-liberalism’s

Peter Daou has a followup diary, “Liberal bloggers are bringing down Obama, part II: It’s NOT the economy, stupid, it’s Obama’s character”, and there’s some I agree with, some I don’t, but I want to focus like a laser on one particular part that I agree with, in order to take the argument further in the direction I think it needs to go–that it’s not just about Obama’s character, it’s about the character of neo-liberalism, which Obama embodies to a remarkable extent.

Here’s Daou:

Long before the American public rendered judgment on Obama’s economic policies, a core group of progressive bloggers and activists were expressing alarm at everything from gay rights to Gitmo to torture, women’s reproductive freedom to Afghanistan. They were essentially saying that Obama was betraying his implied and explicit promise to be the anti-Bush.

There’s a lot of denial revisionism about this now, but at the time, the fact that Obama gave a speech against the war while other top Dems had voted for the AUMF was utterly decisive for giving Obama a huge leg up on everyone else: the anti-Bush. Continuing:

As far back as May, 2009, I wrote:
    Over the past four months there have been a series of flare-ups between the Obama administration and the progressive activist community, centered mainly around the new administration’s willingness (or lack thereof) to reverse Bush-Cheney’s radical excesses in the realm of civil liberties, secrecy, detainee treatment, interrogation, and counter-terrorism.

    Ever astute and incisive, Digby raises what I think is the critical point in this entire debate:

Congressional Candidates’ Views on Clean Energy, Climate Change: AZ-08

Originally posted on The MarkUp.

This is the eighteenth article in a continuing series by the NRDC Action Fund on the environmental stances of candidates in key races around the country.

Tucson, Arizona has quite an environmental legacy. For 40 years it was the political base of the Udall brothers — Stewart, a U.S. Representative in the 1950s and Interior Secretary in the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, and Morris, a U.S. Representative for 30 years and a pioneering environmentalist. Most of Tucson, along with Arizona’s southeastern desert, make up the state’s 8th Congressional District. Politically this district leans Republican, but only slightly. John McCain carried the district in the 2008 election, and for more than 20 years moderate Republican Jim Kolbe represented the district in the U.S. House. Since Kolbe’s retirement in 2007, the 8th district has been represented by Tucson native and former state Senator Gabrielle Giffords (D). This November, Giffords is being challenged by Republican Jesse Kelly, an Iraq War veteran and “Tea Party” favorite, who won the August 24 primary in an upset victory over former State Senator Jonathan Paton.

Giffords has built on the Udall brothers’ environmental legacy, making solar energy one of her top legislative priorities, saying that she wants Arizona to be “the Silicon Valley of solar energy.” During her first three years in Congress, Giffords has voted the right way on just about every environmental issue, earning a career rating of over 90% from the League of Conservation Voters (LCV). Last June, she supported the American Clean Energy and Security Act (ACES), our nation’s first climate bill and an important step forward in creating green jobs. Her vote for ACES was supported by many Arizona community and business leaders. In a statement following the vote, Giffords said that ACES will “help jumpstart our economy. We’ve seen that right here in Arizona, where a small but vibrant solar energy industry is taking root. Arizona can be a world leader in solar energy production and use. The American Clean Energy and Security Act will help us achieve this goal.”

Kelly’s position on clean energy and climate couldn’t be further from Giffords. He believes we should “toss cap and trade,” which he calls a “massive tax increase & jobs killer.” The truth, according to according to collaborative research by the University of Illinois, Yale University and the University of California, is that ACES could lead to as many as 1.9 new jobs nationally; 24,000 in Arizona alone. And according to experts at the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, the bill would cost the average household $175 a year, or less than 50 cents a day.

Kelly doesn’t just stop at attacking ACES, he also takes issue with the overwhelming evidence of global warming, calling it “junk-science.” The experts at the National Academy of Sciences, our most authoritative scientific body, strongly disagree with Kelly’s claims, saying, “Some scientific conclusions or theories have been so thoroughly examined and tested, and supported by so many independent observations and results, that their likelihood of subsequently being found to be wrong is vanishingly small. Such conclusions and theories are then regarded as settled facts. This is the case for the conclusions that the Earth system is warming and that much of this warming is very likely due to human activities.”

Kelly’s stance on climate is unsurprising given that he has signed Americans for Prosperity’s “No Climate Tax Pledge.” Americans for Prosperity is the big oil funded think tank behind the tea party movementwhose campaign is being supported by ultra-conservative Koch Industries.

The NRDC Action Fund believes that it is important for the public in general, and the voters of specific Congressional districts, be aware of this information as they weigh their choices for November.