Type Title
Blog Post Poverty, Opportunity, and the 2012 Presidential Election

 A recent forum in Washington, D.C., sponsored by the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, provided an in-depth discussion into the level of concern in the United States about poverty and opportunity, particularly concerning children. Spotlight on Poverty also looked at whether or not these issues will be factors in the upcoming presidential election. Overall, people believe strongly that equal opportunity for children of all races is very important; that not all children currently have full access to opportunity; and that presidential candidates’ views on poverty are very important. But, many think that neither the candidates nor the media are discussing poverty enough.

Blog Post Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: 2010 is "The Year of the Woman?"

Women bring something different to the table; a perspective that is distinct from men’s. Both experiences are equally important, and both need to be incorporated in to decision-making and represented in power-circles if we hope to embrace all viewpoints and make progress as a society. Yet advancement for women and for gender equality seems to have stagnated, and considering how far we are from equality, stagnation is tantamount to decline.

Blog Post Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: Latinos, Politics and the Election

As an emerging demographic group in the United States, and as a growing percentage of the electorate, the political concerns of Latinos – and trends in their voting behavior – need to be well understood and acknowledged by policymakers and elected officials. Historically, Latinos tend to strongly support Democratic candidates, believing that Democrats are more concerned with the issues that are important to this key constituency.

Blog Post Reclaiming Our Story

Whatever Election Day looks like this year, the day after that should be Independence Day for progressives in America.

Blog Post Monday's Immigration Roundup

The issue of immigration flooded media outlets last week after the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in Arizona on Tuesday, challenging the state’s recent immigration law, formally known as Senate Bill 1070.

Blog Post Dr. Rand Paul or: How I Learned To Fear the Tea Party

When Rand Paul won a primary last Tuesday, becoming Kentucky’s Republican nominee for the Senate, he declared himself a national leader of the Tea Party movement.  It was an important moment for the movement as it, coming on the heels of the election of Scott Brown to the Senate, served as another step in its potential transformation from a loosely confederated group of grassroots groups into national level political force.  But, as Dr. Paul’s attacks on the Civil Rights Act of 1964 just two days later highlighted, the true implications of the movement’s ideology are chilling to say the least.  

Blog Post Corporate Cash Breeds Inequality

When the founding fathers gathered to declare independence, they were responding to consolidated power in the form of the monarchy and the church.  The system that they designed to govern the United States was intentionally complex and diffuse, with checks and balances in place to prevent any single individual or group from exerting undue influence over the process.  This past Thursday, with their ruling in Citizens United v. Federal Election Commission, the Supreme Court violated these intentions, enhancing the influence of a small handful of very powerful institutions and providing them with the tools to crowd out diverse voices.

Blog Post Flint, MI: A Bastion of Community Values

 As the American economy claws its way back from the edge of a cliff, Michigan serves as a powerful example of just how bad things are in some places, and, indeed, how bad they could get for the rest of the country.  The state continues to have the highest unemployment of any state, and, while the auto bailouts appear to have prevented the wholesale collapse of the industry, there is no question that American automakers will cease to exist if they do not thoroughly reform themselves, which would send the state’s unemployment rate still higher.   And yet, in Flint, a city at the center of the storm, where more than a third of residents live in poverty, citizens refuse to give up on their community.

Blog Post A Community-Minded Generation

Much has been made of the vitality that President Obama brings to the White House.  To be sure, this is in part the story of his relative youth—only Clinton, Grant, Kennedy, and Theodore Roosevelt were younger when assuming the office—but it’s also a function of his ability to convince the millennial generation (or vocalize the millennial generation’s belief) that their voices matter.  Given the size and scope of the challenges facing our nation, we need young people to see the stake that they have in their communities.    

Blog Post How Not to Blow It

It's hard to overstate the transformative moment that we're in as a nation and, particularly, as progressives. In just a few years, we've gone from the high point of conservative power to a stunning rejection of conservative federal leadership and the historic election of a progressive African-American president.

But the electoral sea change is just part of the extraordinary national moment. The financial meltdown and slide toward deep recession have crystallized Americans' anger over deteriorating economic security, stagnant mobility, growing inequality, and policies of isolation instead of connection. Americans are ready for a new social compact and a transformed relationship between the people and our government. They are calling for a new era of big ideas and different values than we've seen over most of the past three decades.

The electorate has shown an unprecedented willingness to overcome racial and ethnic barriers to take on daunting shared challenges. Young people, people of color, and low-income people turned out to register and vote in unprecedented numbers that bode well for a far more participatory and egalitarian democracy going forward.

Even before this year's remarkable events, opinion research showed a historic, progressive shift in Americans' views on issues that (not coincidentally) were barely mentioned in the election. Perhaps most striking is the shift on criminal justice and problems of addiction, where the U.S. public has moved broadly to support rehabilitation and treatment over incarceration and retribution, as well as assistance and integration for people emerging from prison.

But an unprecedented opportunity for progressive values and ideas is not the same as victory for a progressive social and policy vision. The stark challenges of rising inequality, faltering security, and broken systems of health care, immigration, and criminal justice are the same on November 5 as they were on November 4. What's changed is only the chance for transformative change.

History shows that progressives could easily blow this opportunity, just as conservatives blew their transformative moments after the 1994 elections and the attacks of September 11, 2001. A few principles can help progressives move from opportunity to realization in ways that profoundly benefit our country.

Blog Post The US Promises to Rehabilitate Prisoners, but Continues to Confine Them at Higher Rates
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has posted a New York Times article stating that nearly "one in every 31 adults in the United States was in prison, in jail or
    on supervised release at the end of last year."  The article continues with the findings of a new Department of Justice report:

An estimated 2.38 million people were incarcerated in state and federal
facilities, an increase of 2.8 percent over 2005, while a record 5
million people were on parole or probation, an increase of 1.8 percent.
Immigration detention facilities had the greatest growth rate last
year. The number of people held in Immigration and Customs Enforcement
detention facilities grew 43 percent, to 14,482 from 10,104.

The data reflect deep racial disparities in the nation’s correctional
institutions, with a record 905,600 African-American inmates in prisons
and state and local jails. In several states, incarceration rates for
blacks were more than 10 times the rate of whites. In Iowa, for
example, blacks were imprisoned at 13.6 times the rate of whites,
according to an analysis of the data by the Sentencing Project, a
research and advocacy group.

These statistics of mass incarceration and racial disparities highlight the fact that our government policies are failing to offer a second chance to citizens and immigrants alike.  Instead of spending millions of dollars to confine millions of people, we should invest in their personal development. In human
rights law, the International Covenant on Civil and Political
Rights
provides that “the penitentiary system shall comprise
treatment of prisoners the essential aim of which shall be their
reformation and social rehabilitation” -- and the United States has pledged to uphold the values in this United Nations treaty.

  • Over at The Huffington Post, Mike Garibaldi Frick has posted an interview with street artist and free speech activist Robert Lederman.  Lederman "was arrested over 40 times by the Rudy Giuliani administration for
    exercising his free speech and sued the city of New York to strike down
    permit requirements for artists in public spaces." The post discusses the way government restrictions on public spaces interfere with our constitutional rights -- and human rights -- to self-expression, a cornerstone of our democracy.

Though American democracy promotes "freedom of expression," regular
citizens are effectively blocked from creative and free speech public
space uses unless they have considerable financial or political
influence.

Opposition groups, nascent movements, students, artists and all
citizens need safe, free public space in which to communicate and
develop. Planned events, spontaneous gatherings and ongoing meeting
places that are autonomous from entrenched government and corporate
interests are vital to a free public speech. The health and well-being
of a true democracy requires free access to open public forums.

The post also includes a YouTube video of the interview with Lederman:

The Democratic Party finally released what appears to be their official strategy/talking points intended to counter the Republican immigration wedge.

The strategy in essence revolves around a few key concepts:

  • The Republicans are using the immigration issue for political gain

The Republicans had plenty of time to fix immigration and didn't

The Republicans have been unable to secure the border

The Republicans are using fear and bigotry to scapegoat immigrants

The scapegoating isn't working

Of course there's one glaring omission in this strategy …. there isn't any sort of a alternative plan proposed.

Nowhere
is there a word about what in fact the Democrats are going to do about
immigration. Not even the usual vague call for "comprehensive reform
that secures our border while providing a path to citizenship to
undocumented immigrants." And you can just forget about specifics.

In the absence of this vision, Migra Matters proposes its own strategies:

There have to be other, more complex, and comprehensive ways of controlling immigration:

  • Things like adjusting free trade agreements so they don't foster poverty in sender nations.

  • Things
    like working with foreign governments in sender nations to ensure that
    they not only respect human rights, but worker rights and economic
    justice.

  • Things like examining and reforming our
    immigration codes to make them more practical, fair, and reflective of
    economic realities.

  • Things like fixing our immigration
    bureaucracy so it can efficiently and humanely process the flow of
    immigrants in a timely and effective manner.

And these are but just a few of the things that should be talked about. There are many, many more.

 

Blog Post Heartland Forum Highlights Support for Community Values
  • As mentioned previously, this Saturday saw the Heartland Presidential Forum in Des Moines, Iowa, an opportunity to talk with candidates about 'real issues facing real people in our communities' with attention to our values and policies of interconnection. You can watch a webcast of the forum on the Center for Community Change's Movement Vision Lab blog. Additionally, The Huffington Post linked to a Des Moines Register article on the event, and Adam Bink over at Open Left liveblogged summaries of statements made by each of the participating candidates: Clinton, Obama, Edwards, Dodd, and Kucinich.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has reposted a Texas Observer article about the challenges faced in the expansion of drug courts in Texas.  While courts geared towards rehabilitation and redemption (rather than simply inflicting prison time) are much more effective than traditional courts in helping people overcome addiction, court practices vary widely according to the judge on the stand.

"Bennett and Leon Grizzard are the two judges who oversee Travis County's drug diversion court. They steer addicts into a court-supervised treatment program instead of prison. In the past decade, drug courts like the one in Travis County have successfully handled nonviolent defendants with drug and alcohol addictions—if success is defined as increasing public safety at the least cost to the taxpayer. People who complete drug-court programs rarely tumble back into substance abuse. According to four drug-court judges surveyed, about 10 percent of program graduates commit new crimes—a recidivism rate roughly one-fifth that of traditional probation routines. That means drug courts can ease the strain on overcrowded prisons and save taxpayer money. A study of the Dallas drug court by Southern Methodist University showed that every government dollar spent on diversion courts saved taxpayers more than $9.

Though criminal justice reform groups have advocated drug courts for years, Texas until recently lagged behind the rest of the country.

...

But as drug courts become more widespread, it appears that—like the narcotics they were created to fight—the courts can be abused. State and federal governments have instituted few regulations and set up no oversight. Judges have wide latitude to decide people's fates. In the hands of the right judges, the drug court model performs marvelously. Other judges appear to have trouble reconciling their punitive role with this new therapeutic one. The U.S. Department of Justice designed a set of guidelines and best practices—but they're the criminal justice equivalent of blueprints without building codes. The guidelines suggest that judges receive ongoing training and partner with treatment programs and community groups.

Because drug courts grow mostly from the local level, there is little standardization. Texas law broadly defines a drug court, but places hardly any restrictions on what judges can do. There is no oversight specifically for the drug courts. A recent case in Houston demonstrates the potential risks behind the courts' expansion. Judge K. Michael Mayes of Montgomery County is facing a federal lawsuit by a defendant who claims his treatment in Mayes' drug court was arbitrary and violated his rights to due process."

  • Firedoglake has written a post on a bill under consideration in the Senate known as the Violent Radicalization and Homegrown Terrorism Prevention Act.  This Democratically-authored legislation, which has already passed the House by a large margin, has many progressives questioning its vague definition of 'ideologically-based violence,' arguing that this law would be a step towards a fascist state in which citizens can by prosecuted for 'thought crimes.' We must remember that democracy in America is dependent upon our ability to raise our voices, on our rights to free speech and fair elections.  Any law that seeks to contradict our capacity to participate fully in our communities is a violation of our human rights.
  • In a related story, the Latina Lista blog has been the subject of a recent spam attack, bad enough that the site's commenting feature has temporarily been disabled.  Offering "Anything and Everything from a Latina Perspective," the blog often discusses issues of immigration, American history and culture.
Blog Post Framing the Immigration Debate
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog has revisited a 2006 essay by George Lakoff and Sam Ferguson about the language we use when discussing immigration.  Here's the abstract on the Rockridge Institute's website:

"Framing is at the center of the recent immigration debate. Simply
framing it as about “immigration” has shaped its politics, defining
what count as “problems” and constraining the debate to a narrow set of
issues. The language is telling. The linguistic framing is remarkable:
frames for illegal immigrant, illegal alien, illegals, undocumented
workers, undocumented immigrants, guest workers, temporary workers,
amnesty, and border security. These linguistic expressions are anything
but neutral. Each framing defines the problem in its own way, and hence
constrains the solutions needed to address that problem. The purpose of
this paper is twofold. First, we will analyze the framing used in the
public debate. Second, we suggest some alternative framing to highlight
important concerns left out of the current debate. Our point is to show
that the relevant issues go far beyond what is being discussed, and
that acceptance of the current framing impoverishes the discussion."

  • In other immigration news, Burger King is under fire for its refusal to join McDonald's and Taco Bell in an agreement to pay historically-underpaid migrant workers in Florida an extra penny per pound of tomatoes picked. Also, a federal court in Canada ruled in favor of a lawsuit challenging the Safe Third Country Agreement, which had designated the US as a
    "safe third country" for asylum-seekers, meaning "if they make it to the
    U.S. before entering Canada can be returned there."  The court found that "the United States fails to comply with Convention on Torture or Article 33
    of the Refugee Convention and [therefore] the U.S./Canada safe third country
    agreement was flawed as there was no ongoing meaningful review mechanism."
  • The DMI Blog points to this week's New York Times coverage of the successes of a re-entry program in Brooklyn which offers counseling, drug testing, and work and training programs to former inmates.  Re-entry programs not only support the value of redemption, or the right to a second chance, but they are also effective in helping people reintegrate into the community and remain there.  According to a recent study of the comAlert program,

"ComAlert graduates are less likely be
re-arrested after leaving prison and much more likely to be employed
than either program dropouts or members of the control group.
Participants who complete the Doe Fund work-training component do even
better. They have an employment rate of about 90 percent, somewhat
higher than the ComAlert graduates generally and several times higher
than the control group."

  • Finally, Jack and Jill Politics offers further analysis of inequities in Wednesday's CNN/YouTube Republican debate, as compared with its Democratic counterpart:

Of 34 total questions aired, 24 were from white men (including 2 cartoon versions) in the GOP debate.
That's 71%. For the Dem debate, counting was a little more challenging
since one video aired combined video submissions from several people.
Still I'd estimate 22 of 38 questions aired were from white men (I did
not count the snowman as white because snow does not have an ethnicity)
or 58%.

Further, there were 8 questions shown that featured African-Americans during the Democratic debate and a measly 2 in the GOP debate. Hmm.

Also, strikingly -- astonishingly, no questions whatsoever during the GOP debate on:

Healthcare in America
Katrina
Climate Change or Environment
Darfur
Iraq Troop Withdrawal
Afghanistan and Pakistan -- Resurgence of the Taliban
Racial Profiling
Voting Machines and Voting Rights
The Failure to Capture Osama bin Laden

Blog Post As Elections Near, We Need to Hear Candidates Debate Community Values
  • The Huffington Post offers an introduction to last night's CNN/YouTube debate for Republican presidential candidates, noting that "people from across the country submitted more than 3,500 videos posing
    questions" to the candidates, of which 40 were selected to be broadcast during the debates.  The Opportunity Agenda was among those submitting questions, with four videos created for the purposes of promoting community values in our nation's political debate.  Mike Connery has written two posts about the debate over at Future Majority, the first offering a comprehensive summary of the event and the second publicizing the fact that CNN did not coordinate with YouTube at all in order to select the forty questions that were aired.  By single-handedly shaping the content of the debate, CNN was able to bypass the debate's original intention, that of providing a voice to a diverse group of Americans.
  • In other event news, the Heartland Presidential Form will be held this Saturday December 1 in Des Moines, Iowa, only weeks before the Iowa caucus.  Five of the Democratic presidential candidates will be in attendance at the forum, the focus of which will not be on specific issues but on progressive vision and values.  According to the website:

The Iowa Heartland Presidential Forum is part of a new nationwide Campaign for Community Values
Iowa Citizens for Community Improvement, the Center for Community
Change is - and hundreds of grassroots partner groups - are
coordinating this groundbreaking effort to challenge the "go it alone"
mentality that has dominated politics and build a new politics for the
common good.

'Tis the season for presidential politics, and with it, the debate over what values propel voters to the ballot box.

A
recent debate in Florida claimed to represent and display the interests
of so-called "values voters." The dissection of the nation's "moral
values" took up a good bit of ink following the 2004 elections. And
we're all familiar with the "family values" that guided policy
throughout the '80s and '90s. But in all this talk of values, why are
so many core American values consistently missing?

Instead of concentrating on people's individual moral decisions, or
their family life, we should focus on our collective values, the ways
we can move forward together and the policies that work toward the
common good. We need to reintroduce to the debate the ideals of
equality, opportunity and fairness. And we need to acknowledge that our
individual stories and circumstances add up to a national community
best positioned to solve our problems together. In short, we should be
talking about our community values.

Blog Post The Katrina of Public Health
  • The Huffington Post published an opinion piece yesterday on health equity entitled The Katrina of Public Health. Author Jayne Lyn Stahl begins:

Some alarming, awe-inspiring, news today out of Washington, D.C., and
no, it's not Trent Lott's resignation. The results of a study, the
first of its kind, of HIV cases in the nation's capital are out, and
they show that AIDS has reached "epidemic" proportions in D.C. (WaPo)

In the five-year test period in question, ending in 2006, while
African-Americans comprise roughly 60 percent of the city's population,
they account for more than 80 percent of the more than 3,000 HIV cases
that have been identified. Ninety percent of women residents who tested
positive for the disease are African-American. And, nearly 40 percent
of reported cases were among heterosexuals showing, in the words of a
District administrator, that "HIV is everybody's disease" in D.C.

The presence of an epidemic of this magnitude so close to 1600
Pennsylvania Avenue can't help but make one wonder if federal policy,
or non-policy is at the nucleus of this health catastrophe. Yet, where
is the public outrage that a campaign of misinformation,
disinformation, or information/education blockade should claim the same
demographic casualties as that of Hurricane Katrina.

Stahl continues to cite the government policies that have contributed to DC's epidemic, public health negligence compounded by the absence of needle exchange programs in the area:

On this administration's watch, more than $100 million in grants have
been allocated for abstinence-only education programs. The president
pressured the Center for Disease Control and Prevention to eliminate,
from its Web site, anything that might promote the efficacy of using
condoms to prevent STDs, and AIDS. Roughly 90 percent of the $15
billion set aside for fighting HIV globally has been made available to
domestic groups for use in their ongoing worldwide campaign to promote
abstinence, and to discourage the use of condoms in the fight against
HIV/AIDS.

  • The Republic of T has highlighted a recent decision by Florida's Palm Beach Community College to provide health insurance coverage for employees' pets but not their domestic partners.  With the rationale that “Your pet is a member of your family — his quality of life is important to you,” the college trustees have provided employees with a 5 percent discount and
    group rates on a range of health insurance plans for their pets, covering "wellness care, vaccinations, X-rays,
    surgery and hospitalization (although pre-existing conditions may not
    be covered)." Yet in August the college opted not to extend the same affordable benefits to same-sex partners of their employees, despite the fact that it would not have cost them anything to do so.
  • Immigration News Daily discussed a new trend in which foreign consulates have begun providing health care services for immigrants in the US without medical insurance. Both the Salvador and Mexican consulates in Washington, DC are offering medical services, and are expanding the health programming around the country in collaboration with the Hispanic Institute for Blindness Prevention.
  • Immigration News Daily has also reported on a new initiative by Latino organizations in the US to register one million new Latino voters before the 2008 elections.  The coalition is hoping that current affairs such as the health care, education, the Iraq war and immigration will drive many voters to the polls for the first time.
  • Latina Lista has posted about Mexican TV network Azteca America's decision to produce and include English classes in its US programming.  The Spanish-language network does not intend to imply support for an English-only America but to recognize the benefits of a multilingual society. According to Luis J. Echarte, chairman of Fundación Azteca America and the Azteca America network:

Spanish-language television is often a first-stop and
point-of-reference for information for recently arrived immigrants. Our
community looks to us for guidance on immigration, legal changes, and
natural disasters, to name a few examples.

There’s no doubt that our community can better assimilate
themselves and increase their economic and political power with
increased linguistic skills.

Blog Post US Military Asking Wounded Soldiers to Return Signing Bonuses
  • Mirror on America reports that the US military has been asking soldiers wounded in combat to return the signing bonuses they received upon joining the armed forces. As the military is exhausting those Americans who are willing to sign up for duty, it has begun offering up to $30,000 in signing bonuses which it has then asked to be refunded when soldiers who have lost limbs, hearing or eyesight are no longer able to serve out their commitments.  In the case where America's foreign policies are proving responsible for the destruction of its own citizens, our country should honor and respect these sacrifices with additional support from the community, not less.
  • Ezekiel Edwards at the DMI Blog has written about a client and personal friend who was able to triumph over a drug and alcohol addiction that had brought her into contact with the criminal justice system.  Edwards uses her example to illustrate the difficulties people face when they are trying to make a new start:

It took her a number of months to find any sort of work. The road to
employment is difficult enough as a poor African-American woman with
little formal education, currently taking GED classes, but with a
criminal record, it becomes outright impassable. She finally found a
part-time job working four hours a day, five days a week, at $9 an
hour. She arrived 20 minutes early every day. After six weeks, she was
fired without explanation. Now she is looking for work again.

She cannot afford her rent, and is looking for public housing, but,
again, her criminal record (all for nonviolent offenses) limits her
options. She is trying to do the right thing, trying to become
gainfully employed, trying to further her education, trying to find
affordable housing, trying to spend time with her daughter, and, most
of all, trying not to drown herself in the bottle by remaining in her
program, but society is not making it easy, or even somewhere in
between easy and frighteningly difficult, to move forward. Even after
all she has gone through, there is no relief in sight.

  • The Pro Inmigrant blog has posted about a new coalition between the American Jewish Committee and a group of Mexican-American advocates to fight discrimination and demand comprehensive immigration reform in the US. Working with the idea that Jewish Americans who have successfully assimilated can and should help today's immigrant populations, the AJC just co-sponsored a three-day workshop with Mexico's Institute for Mexicans Abroad. According to Mexican Ambassador Arturo Sarukhán, whose grandfather came to Mexico from Armenia,

"Now, more than ever, we must underscore a self-evident truth:
Migrants are not a threat to the security of the US...They are important actors in
the fabric of what makes America great."

  • Along this same theme, the ImmigrationProf Blog has linked to a new report by UC Davis economist Giovanni Peri which found that "high immigration
    cities experienced higher wage and housing price growth. Immigration
    had a positive productivity effect on natives overall, but important
    distributional effects. Highly educated natives enjoyed the largest benefits while the less educated did not gain (but did not lose much either)."
  • The 'Just News' blog quotes an AP article discussing the fact that a serious backlog in the processing of citizenship applications may prevent thousands of residents from voting in the 2008 presidential elections. Hopefully this media attention will encourage immigration authorities to expedite the process so that all Americans will have a voice in electing our national leaders.
Blog Post A Real Values Debate
  • Alan Jenkins' newest piece is live on TomPaine.com. Entitled 'A Real Values Debate,' the opinion begins:

"Progressives have long been criticized for talking issues and
constituencies at the expense of vision and values. Linguist George
Lakoff has argued for years that progressives have ceded the moral high
ground to their detriment. And Thomas Frank has documented how
conservatives tell a larger story that connects with working people at
a values level, even while undermining their economic interests.

That critique has never been fully accurate. The continuing human
rights movements led by people of color, women, gay people, and
immigrants have always been rooted in the values of freedom, equality,
dignity and opportunity. As Van Jones of the Ella Baker Center for
Human Rights has said, "there's a reason why Martin Luther King Jr.'s
greatest speech was not called 'I have a complaint.'" The modern
environmental movement, too, speaks not only of our individual
interests but also of our moral responsibility as stewards of the earth
and its inhabitants.

But it is also true that progressive political discourse has
increasingly moved away from a discussion of shared national values and
toward a patchwork of issues and narrow policy fixes. That dynamic has
certainly played out this presidential election season, with last
month's "Values Voters Summit" priming candidates' commitment to
conservative values while progressives largely haggled over the details
of policy proposals.

But that's about to change. On December 1, a coalition of Iowa social justice groups will host the Heartland Presidential Forum: Community Values in Action,
in Des Moines, Iowa. Just four weeks before the Iowa caucuses, it will
be a presidential forum focused not on specific issues, but on
progressive vision and values."

  • The Inteligenta Indiĝena Indigenismo Novaĵoservo blog has reposted a Crooks and Liars piece about a Washington state assisted living facility that is evicting its residents that are on Medicaid.  Unlike other states, Washington does not have a law to protect its vulnerable senior citizens against such decisions by profit-minded nursing home corporations.
  • Prometheus 6 has posted about a New York Times article on the increasing presence of international medical crews providing health services in the US to the 47 million people without medical insurance, or 15 percent of the American population. One such service known as Remote Area Medical, or RAM, works most often in "Guyana,  India,  Tanzania  and Haiti," but has been noted for their expeditions in rural Virginia, where members of the community have begun lining up at 3am in order to be seen by medical workers.
  • In election news, Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama is proposing a plan to make community colleges free of cost for American high school graduates, a move that would greatly increase opportunities for many of our young people.  Meanwhile, Republican presidential candidate Rudy Giuliani has indicated his support for a 'virtual' border fence run by high tech surveillance, a policy which would not address the need for more comprehensive reform of our immigration and trade policies.

"Human rights are defined, most notably in the U.S. Bill of Rights. They

are defined because the Founding Fathers realized that if they were

not defined, they would be more likely to be abrogated or lost

entirely. The Founding Fathers understood the temptation on the part

of governments to give and remove human rights arbitrarily, because

they had experienced such things before the Revolutionary War -- in the

Stamp Act, in the quartering of British soldiers on American

households, and in illegal searches and seizures, in no taxation

without representation. They recognized that although British Law

customarily acknowledged various human rights, it was essential to

name, codify, and write them down to make it less likely that they

could be taken away."

Blog Post All Things Being Equal: Instigating Opportunity in an Inequitable Time

"One year from now, our country will choose a new president. And
while the candidates have debated extensively on individual issues like
health care, the war, the economy, and the environment, they have
offered far less in terms of a positive, overarching vision for our
country that both addresses and transcends individual issues.

While candidates' positions on the issues of the day are crucially
important, it's equally important to take their measure on what George
H. W. Bush called "the vision thing":
the clarity of ideals, values, and principles that inspire and shape a
president's approach to a broad range of issues, including ones that no
one could have anticipated on the day he or she was elected.

A new book by The Opportunity Agenda
offers such a vision on the domestic front; one to which we hope the
presidential contenders of both parties will respond. Not surprisingly,
that vision centers on opportunity, the idea that everyone deserves a
fair chance to achieve his or her full potential. In the book "All Things Being Equal: Instigating Opportunity in an Inequitable Time,"
a dozen leading thinkers paint a picture of what opportunity means in
our society, where we are falling short, and what must be done to
instigate opportunity for all. Their vision bridges myriad
issues—education, employment, housing, criminal justice, immigration,
health care, human rights—and disciplines—public health, economics,
criminology, law, sociology, psychology, education, social work. The
authors provide a clear and hopeful path to the future, a wake-up call
to our nation's current and future leaders, and concrete solutions that
promise to carry us forward.

As I've written before in this column, opportunity is not just a set of national conditions, but a body of national values:
economic security, mobility, a voice in decisions that affect us, a
chance to start over after missteps or misfortune, and a shared sense
of responsibility for each other-as members of a common society.
Analyzing their own and others' research through the lens of those
values, the authors of All Things Being Equal warn that opportunity is
increasingly at risk for all Americans and, therefore, for our country
as a whole. They find that many communities are facing multiple
barriers to opportunity that cannot be overcome through personal effort
alone. But, most importantly, they find that we have it in our power as
a country to turn those trends around."

  • The Immigration Equality blog has posted about yesterday's confirmation of Michael Mukasey as US Attorney General, after a long struggle in the Senate Judiciary Committee over his unwillingness to label waterboarding as illegal and torturous. The blog also notes that his position on the matter is being interpreted by some as a way of insulating the Department of Justice from future lawsuits or charges against government officials for human rights violations.

Racial_diversity_in_staffs_2

The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog reposted a recent New York Times article on the Surge Seen in Number of Homeless Veterans.  While many veterans have ended up the sort of post-traumatic stress disorder which often correlates with homelessness, it's unusual that veterans would show up in shelters as soon after deployment as have the most recent batch after duty in Iraq or Afghanistan.  Sexual abuse is another factor which correlates with homelessness -- the article states that "roughly 40 percent of the hundreds of homeless female veterans of recent wars have said they were sexually assaulted by American soldiers while in the military."

Finally, the Too Sense blog posted a graph of the racial diversity in campaign staff among the top 2008 presidential candidates.  While Clinton's staff is the most diverse, Giuliani's staff is 100% white.
Blog Post Writers Guild Fighting for Fair Pay While TV Networks Threaten To Cut Jobs
  • There has been a lot of discussion on The Huffington Post about the Writers Guild of America strike that started on Monday, as TV networks and screenwriters failed to reach an agreement before the end of their previous contract. Union members are essentially demanding that networks begin to distribute profits from new media airings of their work, but have made little headway in negotiations on the issue. In a move that will endanger the financial security of many Americans, some networks are now threatening large-scale firings of their employees. According to an opinion in the LA Times:

"A day after Hollywood's writers went out on strike, the major studios
are hitting back with plans to suspend scores of long-term deals with
television production companies, jeopardizing the jobs of hundreds of
rank-and-file employees whose names never appear in the credits.

Assistants, development executives and production managers will soon be
out of work, joining their better-paid bosses who opted to sacrifice
paychecks as members of the Writers Guild of America. At some studios,
the first wave of letters are going out today, hitting writer-producers
whose companies don't currently have shows in production."

  • Migra Matters has done an interesting post on the results of yesterday's election in Virginia, where the Republican party had chosen to make an immigration crackdown its biggest campaign selling point.  Curiously, the Democrats appear to have gained control of the state Senate, leading the author to advise us with respect to upcoming national elections: "If the Republicans were looking at immigrant-bashing as a silver bullet
    to stem the national tide against them, surely tonight's results in
    Virginia will should give them second thoughts."
  • The House of Representatives has begun debate on the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), a measure to extend federal workplace protections to those targeted for their sexual orientation.  Pam's House Blend discusses the fact that a coalition of civil and gay rights organizations announced their support yesterday for the current version of the bill which does not include the same protections for transgender individuals, thus leaving the LGBT community divided.
  • The Sentencing Law and Policy blog featured an editorial in today's New York Times about the Second Chance Act, a bill which has had bipartisan support in Congress since 2004 but has yet to move through the legislature. The Times describes the need for the government policies to support redemption, or the idea that we all deserve a second chance:

"If past patterns hold true, more than half of
the 650,000 prisoners released this year will be back behind bars by
2010. With the prison population exploding and the price of
incarceration now topping $60 billion a year, states are rightly
focusing on ways to reduce recidivism. Congress can give these efforts
a boost by passing the Second Chance Act, which would provide crucial
help to people who have paid their debts to society....

The Second Chance Act would add to what the country knows about the
re-entry process by establishing a federal re-entry task force, along
with a national resource center to collect and disseminate information
about proven programs....  The programs necessary to help former
prisoners find a place in society do not exist in most communities.
The Second Chance Act would help to create those programs by providing
money, training, technical assistance — and a Congressional stamp of
approval."

  • Last up, blogger Sudy is working on a video project to "feature, support, and highlight the work done by feminists of color."  She's included a preview of the video on her site which has been cross-posted by Vox et Machina.

Blog Post The Whole Story on Race

Opportunity in America is a two-way street. Each of us has a
responsibility to do our best, pursuing whatever pathways to success
are available to us. And our society has a responsibility to keep those
pathways open and accessible to everyone, irrespective of race, gender,
or other aspects of what we look like or where we come from.

That balance of personal responsibility and self-help on one hand,
while demanding fairness and equity on the other, has always been
crucial to the African-American quest for opportunity. That's why
Malcolm X and the Million Man March continue to occupy such important
places in the black consciousness, and why civil rights organizations
like the NAACP and the National Urban League continue to promote educational and self-help programs along with advocacy and anti-discrimination efforts.

Given that reality, it's disappointing that the media coverage of Bill Cosby and Alvin Poussaint's new book, Come on, People: On the Path from Victims to Victors, seems to be telling only half the story when it comes to the state of black America.

  • There has been a good amount of discussion in the past couple weeks about the election of Piyush "Bobby" Jindal as the next governor of Louisiana, as Jindal is not only the first governor of color since Reconstruction but is the child of Indian Immigrants.  While blogs such as RaceWire have asked valid questions about Jindal's politics, arguing that his policies are culturally self-effacing and will prove damaging to people of color, other immigration blogs such as the Immigrants in USA Blog have praised Jindal's election as a sign of progress in the process of accepting and integrating immigrants into our communities, as well as demonstrating the opportunities for success in our country. Jindal is quoted by ABC News as saying: "My mom and dad came to this country in pursuit of the American dream.
    And guess what happened. They found the American dream to be alive and
    well right here in Louisiana."
  • The Border Line and LA Times report that presidential candidate Bill Richardson recently spoke on the need to change our policies towards Latin America. As a Latino and former ambassador the the UN, Richardson advocated for both improved diplomatic relations and comprehensive immigration reform that will allow for a pathway to citizenship in order to enable the same sort of mobility that provided Bobby Jindal to opportunity to assume the Louisiana governorship.  Along the same topic, Migra Matters has just published a piece on the need to examine how our trade policies such as NAFTA are driving the very migration into the United States that many Americans are fighting.
Blog Post Race and Human Rights in Pop Culture

The Consumerist has advised us that popular grocery store chain Trader Joe's has decided to cave to consumer pressure and ban all single-ingredient products originating in China. The post states, "Though the announcement - the first of its kind among major retailers - will not make consumers any safer, it is the most pernicious indication yet of consumers skepticism towards foreign goods."

There are two movies coming out of note to the human rights community, both to do with the cultureand techniques of detention after 9/11.  There has been a lot of buzz about Rendition, a film concerning the American practice of extraordinary rendition, or removing terrorism suspects to foreign soil to allow for 'enhanced interrogation' practices or torture.  On the humorous end, spring 2008 will see the release of Harold and Kumar Escape from Guantanamo Bay.
  • Television network CW has just started a new series called Aliens in America, which tells the story of a Wisconsin family that decides to host an exchange student from Pakistan. The Louisville Courier-Journal says of the new series:

"Aliens in America" isn't preachy, and there are no overt references in
the opener to bigotry and discrimination, but the subtle undertows are
always present. The show is a fresh and new approach to
touchy topics, but it's done more for laughs than sermonizing....The comedy isn't really about Raja at all. It's about us. "Aliens in America" uses a funhouse mirror
to reflect the way too many of us see someone who doesn't look, dress
or pray like us, and it does it in an amusing and maybe even thoughtful
way.

  • Finally, Racialicious is helping to sponsor a cool new media initiative known as 10Questions, in which people are encouraged to create, submit and vote on video questions, ten of which will be presented to the presidential candidates for their responses.  Also in the veign of playing  out racial stereotypes, a recent video was posted with the question "Should we ban American Indian Mascots?" Feel free to go throw in your two cents with a comment!
Blog Post Congress Fails to Override SCHIP Veto
  • A multitude of bloggers remarked on the SCHIP re-vote in which Congress was unable to override President Bush's veto on the expansion of children's health care.  In the wake of this struggle, framing expert George Lakoff has stepped with another piece on how progressives can frame the health care issue, called 'Don't Think of a Sick Child,' summarized by Open Left.
  • Also on the issue of health care, Bloggernista has alerted us to the notable absence of discussion among presidential candidates of their policies on HIV/AIDS. The post cites GMHC's Robert Bank as saying that, “It is unconscionable that the United States, which has all the
    necessary resources to end the AIDS epidemic, does not have a
    comprehensive plan to stop AIDS deaths, reduce infections, and get
    people the medical care that they need.”  Accordingly, there are two new campaigns to increase the visibility of this issue in presidential campaigns: AIDSVote and National AIDS Strategy.
  • With respect to the media, Alas!
    blog reports on a lawsuit filed in Portland, Oregon, by a man who was
    tasered by police for videotaping a raid of his neighbor's house.
    According to one of the cops, Waterhouse "refused to drop the camera
    which could be used as a weapon.”  While it is reassuring to know that
    law enforcement officials have tremendous respect for the power of the
    media, this sort of unjustified force will do nothing to promote
    cohesion and democracy in our communities.
  • News on immigration policy is a mix as usual.  On one end of the spectrum, North Carolina is assuming a new role as the leading state in a new program that will enable local corrections officers to search and verify the immigration status of everyone in jail. 
  • The Immigration Policy Center has just released a report entitled 'Wasted Talent and Broken Dreams: The Lost Potential of Undocumented Students,' demonstrating the need for a DREAM Act to allow all students in the US the opportunity to get a higher education. 
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog notes that US Appeals Court Judge Harry Pregerson is challenging sixty deportation orders on grounds that ordering a noncitizen parent out of the country also forces unlawful deportation of his or her US citizen child.  This is a tough issue, but such a move would unfairly curtail options for the children deported. 
  • In public opinion, Happening Here? published the results of a new CNN poll which states that only 30% of Americans think all undocumented immigrants should be deported.  This figure is promising and hopefully lawmakers will take it into account before enacting future 'crackdown' policies. If America is to fulfill its promise of opportunity, we must implement an integration strategy that welcomes immigrants and gives newcomers and their families an equal chance to fully contribute to and participate in society.
Blog Post Columbus Day Protests Highlight Human Rights in America
  • Yesterday's Columbus Day holiday did not go smoothly, as 80 Native American activists were arrested at a sit-in protest of Denver's holiday parade. While claiming "that honoring Columbus in essence celebrates the foundation of genocide, racism, and slavery in the Americas," non-violent protesters were rounded up quite violently by police.  The intense controversy over this federal holiday is another flag of just how important is it to frame American history and policy with respect to human rights, or to focus on Bringing Human Rights Home.

The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog highlighted a series of articles over the weekend about different aspects of our system of incarceration, from the staggering debt that many prisoners face upon their release to the fact that many prisoners are being denied training and rehab.  In a post entitled 'What if our prison system wasn't just a reflection of society - but a force that shaped it?', writer Christopher Shea begins,

"What if America launched a new New Deal and no one noticed? And what
if, instead of lifting the unemployed out of poverty, this
multibillion-dollar project steadily drove poor communities further and
further out of the American mainstream?

That's how America should think about its growing prison system,
some leading social scientists are saying, in research that suggests
prisons have a far deeper impact on the nation than simply punishing
criminals."

These posts are definitely worth a read with attention to the way that our prison system values retribution over redemption, the idea that those who falter in their efforts or break societal rules warrant the chance for reconciliation, rehabilitation, and a new start.

  • Tennessee Guerilla Women posted a story about 2600 members of the Minnesota National Guard who just returned from 22 months of duty in Iraq to find that they were deployed one day short of the 730 days required to receive the college education benefits outlined in the GI Bill.  To knowingly deny veterans the chance to go to college is a disrespectful statement that in spite of government promises and their personal sacrifices, the soldiers must 'go it alone' and support themselves through school.  This myth that we should all 'pull ourselves up by the bootstraps' is contrary to our nation's long-held belief that our success as a country depends on the success of all, that we should be striving for the common good.  The policies of our government should be based in community values rather than punitive individualism.

An interesting post on the Immigrants in USA Blog discusses the way lack of transportation negatively affects immigrant populations.  Based on an article published in Alabama's News Courier about a lecture by sociology professor Stephanie Bohon, the piece discusses how transportation barriers "prevent [immigrants] from learning the language, learning about job or housing opportunities and having access to services."  If undocumented individuals are unable to obtain drivers licenses and there is no public transport available in their area, they are left dependent on expensive taxi fares and may choose to forgo outings such as taking their child for necessary vaccinations.

After recent crackdowns on the mobility of immigrant workers, a shortage of farm workers has left farmers threatening to leave fruit and vegetable rotting in their fields.  As a result, the Bush administration is quietly working to rewrite federal regulations on foreign labor.  This is a perfect example of how reactionary, anti-immigrant policies have not only failed to fix the problem but are making things worse for the American economy.  Immigration replenishes our country's workers, communities, and traditions.  Immigrants are central to our productivity and success, and help ensure that the US continues to be a land of wealth and opportunity.

Finally, Future Majority alerts us to a new campaign to get young Latinos to vote called Vota Por Tu Futuro (Vote 4 UR Future). A media campaign based on PSAs and in-show ads, Vote 4 UR Future is a partnership between the youth-focused TV channel Telemundo, mun2 and a coalition of political organizations such as Rock the Vote, the US Hispanic Leadership Institute, and Democracia USA. Thie campaign is a great step towards ensuring that the growing Latino population has a voice in electing our public officials.
Blog Post Happenings in Media
  • The Health Care Blog has run a series of posts about the Health 2.0 conference on September 20 in San Francisco.  Meant to empower consumers to take charge of their health decisions through new technology, the convention focused on the capacity of tools such as social networking sites, blogs, specialized medical search engines and video sharing sites to transform access to health care.
  • Racialicious and New Demographic have released the newest podcast in their 'Addicted to Race' series, themed on the 'New Yellow Peril.' The podcast discusses the recent increase in anti-Chinese narratives in the news.  Comments on the podcast are welcome.

"Between the lead paint toy scare, the tainted pet food scare, and the general rise of China’s economic and military might, all the anti-Chinese sentiments we’ve been hearing lately sound awfully similar to the anti-Chinese sentiments at the turn of the century."

  • Another great usage of Web 2.0 is the ImmigrationProf Blog's 'Immigrant of the Day' series.  In a corner of blogosphere focused largely on individual episodes of violence and legislative battles, it is refreshing to get a regular dosage of success stories which help remind us that people immigrate to the US in search of increased opportunity.  Recent features include Madeleine May Kunin, the Swiss-born ambassador and former governor of Vermont, and comedic musician William Hung from Hong Kong.
  • The Huffington Post highlights a MediaWeek article which reports that most political candidates are slow to adopt paid advertising on the internet, choosing instead to stick to traditional media such as television.  Despite a willingness to engage in social networking sites such as Facebook and Myspace and a well-defined focus on online fundraising, "most candidates were planning to spend roughly one percent of their total media budgets online, versus the seven percent that most mainstream brands typically spend on the medium."
  • Finally, our video 'What Do Human Rights Mean to You?' has been posted on the From Poverty of Opportunity Campaign blog presented by the Heartland Alliance for Human Rights and Human Needs.  The Campaign works to reduce poverty in the state of Illinois by using the framework of human rights to organize communities, advocates and policy leaders into creating social change.
Blog Post 'Sanctuary' Challenged in Illinois, While Senate Considers FEC Nominee
  • In the ongoing dilemma surrounding 'sanctuary cities', the Department of Homeland Security is now suing the state of Illinois over a new state law that bans employers from using the Social Security administration's no-match database until the agency can certify that it is 99% accurate.  The Bush administration contends that the state law preempts the new federal law meant to increase pressure on undocumented workers.
  • Regarding the progress of SCHIP reauthorization, the bill has passed in the House, but without the margin necessary to override a veto by President Bush.  It will next move on to the Senate for consideration.  Blogger Lane Hudson on the Huffington Post has referred to SCHIP legislation as a "defining issue that neither side can afford to lose." If the program is not reauthorized, 6 million children already enrolled will lose health insurance coverage.
  • Facing South reports that the Supreme Court has announced that they will consider a case on the constitutionality of lethal injection in Tennessee.  The ruling could problematize the 'three-drug cocktail' that thirty-seven US states use to administer the death penalty, on grounds that improper administration of anaesthesia could result in an excruciatingly painful death. We hope that the Supreme Court considers the American value of redemption in their analysis of the process of lethal injection. If nothing else, it is helpful to reiterate judicial support for the constitutional ban against 'cruel and unusual punishment.'
  • An appeals court also ruled yesterday to overturn a lower ruling which prevented holding military trials for detainees held at Guantanamo Bay.  According to the New York Times, "the ruling allows military prosecutors to address a legal flaw that had ground the prosecutions to a halt."  There are some 340 detainees waiting an indefinite period to exercise their right to a fair trial.
  • Finally, big news today is the Senate committee hearing on the confirmation of Hans Von Spakovsky, who has been nominated as chair of the Federal Election Commission (FEC).  A coalition of civil rights groups such as Think Progress are vehemently opposed to the nominee, is said to have “used every opportunity he had over four years in the Justice Department to make it difficult for voters — poor, minority and Democratic — to go to the polls.” We trust that the committee will remember how important it is that all American voters have a voice in electing our governing officials.
Blog Post YouTube/CNN Debate Tonight

Tonight is the YouTube/CNN debate.  If you haven't heard of it yet, the debate questions will be entirely composed by the public, submitted via YouTube.  Overall, I'm a little disappointed that there was no voting system to
allow users to decide which questions get selected for air during the
debate.  It makes this much less a citizen endeavor as CNN is still
playing a huge gate-keeping role.  The promise of
this debate is that it will showcase an intelligent array of Americans
asking hardball questions that the timid networks are afraid to ask.
My sense is that the debate will actually go one of two ways:
CNN will select a rather boring slate of questions, mirroring the
questions they would have asked anyway.  If that is the case, this will
be nothing more than a new coat of paint on and old car.  The worst
case scenario will be if CNN picks mostly stale questions but sprinkles
in some of the quirkier videos, making the American public look not
only uninformed, but freakish.

The Opportunity Agenda made a few videos of our own to submit as question.  Here's our interns, Allie, Amanda, Linda and Michael (clockwise), asking questions about opportunity, economic mobility, health care equity, immigration and restoring a sense of community and the common good.  Watch the debate tonight and cross your fingers that one of these videos will be featured:

Blog Post Lost Opportunity

Over at TomPaine.com, Alan Jenkins has a new opinion piece discussing the OECD report on Mobility in America (which we previously covered here).

both equality and mobility are at risk in our country, along with
other core elements of opportunity. And that's bad for all of us. In
discussing the OECD report, a recent New York Times editorial quotes Federal Reserve Chairman Ben Bernanke's argument
that while economic outcomes need not be equal, "economic opportunity
should be as widely distributed and as equal as possible." That
economic truth echoes our country's moral belief that where you start
out in life should not preordain where you end up, and that what you
look like or where you come from should not determine the benefits,
burdens or responsibilities that you bear in American society.

When those values are threatened, as they are today, it's time to
take bold steps. In a presidential election cycle, it's incumbent upon
all of us to ask what the men and woman seeking the presidency would do
to reignite opportunity for everyone.

Read the rest here.

Blog Post Opportunity in Images: Take Two

Earlier this year, we teamed up with students in the Masters in Media Studies program at the New School University here in New York.  As part of a media production class, we became the "client" and the students became graphic designers, tasked with creating images representing the core values of community, equality, and human rights apply to one of three initiatives: Immigration reform, health care equity, and the 2008 election.

Here's a sample of some of the great work they produced.  These images are creative commons licensed (Attribution), and the name of the designer can be found in the description.  We encourage everyone to Remix and Reuse them in your own work.  You can find the full set of images here.

Fernanda-OAGraphic-Larger OA_Buttons_2008Elections_ OA1 OA_Healthcare_1_notext_Braudaway

This is the second time we've worked with students at the New School on creating images illustrative of our Opportunity FrameYou can find past work here.

Blog Post Video the Vote - Election Stories

Before the election, we told you about a voter protection program called Video the Vote.  VtV had the idea to document problems at polling places using rapid response teams with video cameras.  Videos were stored and tagged on YouTube to document and publicize all voting irregularities. 

Here are some of the results from that project:

Watch more videos here.

Blog Post Responsibility and Opportunity

The Democrats captured the House last night, and there is a fairly decent chance that they will take the Senate as well.  Around midnight, I watched Rahm Emanuel, the chairman of the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee talk about the Democratic victory as an "opportunity to bring responsibility to Washington."

That's certainly a worthy goal.  Washington could use some real responsibility and accountability, but I couldn't help but think that Rahm had his words mixed up.   What he should have said - what would have been inspiring and tapped into our moral sensibilities and our aspirations as a country - was that, now elected by the people, the Democrats had a responsibility to create opportunity for all in America.

Over 46 million Americans lack basic healthcare - placing themselves and their families in jeopardy.  The minimum wage is at its lowest level since the 1950s.  As a nation of immigrants, we should welcome newcomers who help revitalize our community and contribute to growing our economy, yet  more than ever our government's policies are hostile to newcomers in our country.  Millions of our citizens are behind bars and disenfranchised for minor drug offenses.  Millions of our children are priced out of college or saddled with massive, unmanageable levels of debt.

Lately in America we talk a lot about security.  But terrorists aren't the only things keeping America insecure.  Our citizens are no longer secure in their personal health or their ability to support their family.  In a nation that prides itself on stories of Horatio Alger and "lifting yourself up by your boostraps," we find that economic and social mobility - the chance to achieve the American Dream - is more out of reach than ever.  In a religious nation that takes pride in its faith, we seem to have abandoned the concept of redemption in our criminal justice system.

Mr. Emanuel is right to call for accountability and responsibility in Washington.  We need it.  But even more, we need to restore opportunity to all Americans, and our elected officials have a responsibility to help set us on that path.  Last night, Mr. Emanuel missed a chance to remind all of us about our responsibility to the American Dream.

Blog Post Experiments in Democracy

With only four more days until Americans make their yearly trek to the polls, its hard not to think about what it means to be a citizen, and what political participation really looks like in America - both historically and practically. Here are some items I've been enjoying as I try to grapple with that problem.

A new poll by the Harvard Institute of Politics (pdf) suggests that, on Tuesday, young voters will shatter previous turnout records for midterm elections.  The poll - which has an incredible sample size of over 2,500 18-24 year olds (half on and half off the "college track") - concludes that turnout could be as high as 32%.  The previous record was 27% set in 1982.

The gang at Radio Open Source just finished a show about "Experiments in Democracy" with Lani Guinier.  The show explored the question of what participation looks like in America and in other democracies, and how we can truly make our electoral system more representative of the voices of the people it is meant to serve.  Listen to the show. (24mb mp3)

A rash of stories about Diebold machines are leaking into the media.  Problems are yet again arising with these machines, and the blogosphere is awash in conspiracy theories.  HBO is currently airing a documentary on the machines - Hacking Democracy - which premiered last night.

A citizen journalism outfit - the Polling Place Photo Project - is  asking folks to take a picture of their polling place and submit it to the project.  PPPP hopes to create a record of the voting experience in America in 2006.

In a more activist vein, I'll point people yet again to Video the Vote - a project that seeks to document and minimize irregularities in Tuesday's voting process.  If you've got some time on Tuesday and want to help safe-guard our democracy, this non-partisan group is looking for volunteers for a variety of tasks from filming sites, manning the phones or shuttling film crews in your car.

Finally, conservatives like to fear-monger about immigrants voting illegally.  Its the purported rationale behind many of the stringent voter ID laws they are trying to pass in the states.  So allow me to relish in a moment's worth of Schadenfreude as I introduce you to the new face of voter fraud.

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