Type Title Datesort icon
Blog Post Julian Castro Must Uphold Fair Housing

Last week, the U.S. Senate overwhelmingly confirmed San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro to lead the Department of Housing and Urban Development. One of Castro’s first official acts as HUD Secretary should be to concretize the Department’s duty to promote fair housing throughout its programs and activities.

Jul 15 2014
Blog Post Homeownership and Affordable Housing Remain Tough Goals

Despite negative experiences with the housing crisis, many Americans believe homeownership is an important part of the American Dream. While Americans are more confident in their ability to make housing-related payments, they also find obtaining a mortgage as difficult and costly. Recent data on falling home purchases and mortgage applications reflect these beliefs. Public opinion data also shows that Americans believe finding affordable housing is more difficult than ever. Affordable housing, an important way to invigorate communities and prevent poverty, is a top priority for minority groups and Millennials. However, the recession and the housing crisis have disproportionately affected these groups.

Mar 10 2014
Page Public Opinion Monthly (February 2014): Homeownership and Affordable Housing Remain Tough Goals

By Jhanidya Bermeo

Feb 26 2014
Blog Post A Year of Major Milestones for Home Opportunity...Let's Not Screw It Up!

There was major action on the Home Opportunity front in 2013, the result of persistent activism by advocates, joined by millions of everyday Americans.  The gains set the stage for much-needed relief to homeowners, more equal opportunity for diverse communities, a boost to our economy, and a reinvigoration of the American Dream.  But those outcomes are far from guaranteed, and we could easily screw it up.  Let’s not.

Jan 4 2014
Page Top Public Opinion Insights To Begin The New Year


Photo courtesy of Flickr/kelly88ros

By Jhanidya Bermeo 

Dec 17 2013
Page The Relationship Between Racial Integration and the Duty to Further Fair Housing

Download the memo here (PDF)

This memorandum discusses the contemporary relevance of residential integration to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development’s affirmative fair housing duties. Based on our review of legal jurisprudence, social science research, and expert opinion, we recommend a framework for incorporating integration considerations into housing and urban development decision-making.

Dec 12 2013
Page Amicus Curiae: Township of Mt. Holly et. al. v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action

Amicus Curiae: Township of Mt. Holly et. al. v. Mt. Holly Gardens Citizens in Action

Nov 8 2013
Page Housing Policy Expert on Republicans' Block of Rep. Mel Watt to Oversee Federal Housing Finance Agency

Housing Policy Expert on Republicans' Block of Rep. Mel Watt to Oversee Federal Housing Finance Agency

Blocking Watt “a thumb in the eye of millions of American homeowners and a blow to our economic recovery”

Oct 31 2013
Blog Post Why Conservatives Can’t Afford a Real Government Shutdown


President Obama should hang tough if conservatives in Congress continue their irresponsible threats.

It’s conventional wisdom that voters will mostly blame House Republicans if the federal government shuts down over their effort to defund the Affordable Care Act. That’s probably true, but it’s only part of what conservatives are risking. A real government shutdown, if it happens, will fundamentally undermine the conservative narrative in ways that could be profound and lasting for the right wing.

Sep 27 2013
Page Prominent Economic Analyst Available for Interviews on 50th Anniversary of March on Washington

Back to Press Releases homepage

Prominent Economic Analyst Available for Interviews on 50th Anniversary of March on Washington

 James Carr is a Distinguished Scholar with The Opportunity Agenda and Senior Fellow with the Center for American Progress. Previously: Senior Vice President at the Fannie Mae Foundation and as Assistant Director for Tax Policy in the US Senate Budget Committee. He is also co-editor of the book Segregation: The Rising Costs for America

Sep 10 2013
Page A Victory for Consumers as Richard Cordray is Confirmed as Head of CFPB

Back to Press Releases homepage

A Victory for Consumers as Richard Cordray is Confirmed as Head of CFPB

Cleveland, OH, July 17, 2013 – After a two-year battle, which ended last evening, the Senate confirmed Richard Cordray as Director of the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau by a vote of 66-34. This is a major victory for American consumers and common sense financial reform in the wake of the financial crisis.

Aug 28 2013
Page Treasury Department Still Not Enforcing Anti-Discrimination Rules For Federally Financed Programs Demanded by 1963 March on Washington, Passed through Civil Rights Act

Back to Press Releases homepage

Treasury Department Still Not Enforcing Anti-Discrimination Rules For Federally Financed Programs Demanded by 1963 March on Washington, Passed through Civil Rights Act

50 Years Later, Key Regulations Requiring Anti-Discrimination Measures in Housing and Finance Not Yet Adopted by Treasury

The following is a statement from Alan Jenkins, Executive Director of The Opportunity Agenda.

Aug 28 2013
Blog Post The Land(scape) of Opportunity

The photo above reads "Dear economy, don't eat my mom!" Removing unnecessary barriers to equal opportunity like antiquated zoning rules and concentrating residents in segregated neighborhoods is the smart thing to do. 

By Alan Jenkins

It’s the rare occasion when a significant social challenge is raised up in rigorous economic research and almost instantly answered by a creative and dynamic public policy response. Yet, in broad strokes, that’s what’s happening on a critical question of equal opportunity in America.

Aug 19 2013
Blog Post Calling on Congress to Advance Home Opportunity

In tough times, there’s some good news on the housing front. In slow but meaningful steps around the country, decisionmakers are adopting key elements of the Compact for Home Opportunity, and the reality for American homeowners and communities is beginning to improve. But there’s a hitch. The hitch is Congress.

Jul 17 2013
Blog Post A Hero's on His Way!

Change is coming to the most important government agency that most Americans never heard of. For many months, a broad coalition of housing, consumer protection, and civil rights groups has been calling on President Obama to replace the acting head of the Federal Housing Finance Agency or FHFA, the body that oversees the mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac. The agency’s acting head, Edward DeMarco, is a holdover from the Bush administration who has stubbornly blocked reforms that could prevent foreclosures, protect the public, and speed our economic recovery. In particular, DeMarco has stubbornly ruled out the option of adjusting the principal on Fannie and Freddie-held mortgages to fair market value, despite clear evidence from his own agency that doing so would save public funds as well as families’ homes.

May 21 2013
Page Take Action: Tell Congress It's Time to Hire a Hero!

Back to Home Opportunity homepage 

READ OUR STATEMENT: Housing Policy Expert on Republicans' Block of Rep. Mel Watt' to Oversee Federal Housing Finance Agency

 

May 1 2013
Blog Post The Fair Housing Act at 45: A Time for Celebration and Action

This blog is also available on Rooflines.org

April is fair housing month and, this year, it’s also the 45th anniversary of the passage of the Fair Housing Act. Adopted in the wake of the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., the Fair Housing Act transformed the legal rights that all Americans have to rent and own homes in communities across the country. It marks a giant step toward equal opportunity for all.

Apr 22 2013
Blog Post Progress and Peril for Home Opportunity

Photo courtesy of the Justice Policy Institute

David Sassaroli contributed reporting for this article

Home Opportunity is at a crossroads, and with it the American economy. Misconduct by banks, inadequate rules, and lax enforcement have cost 4 million families their homes since the financial crisis began, devastated communities around the country, and triggered a deep recession that we are still digging our way out of. A clear-eyed assessment of where we stand today shows progress, but also peril, and more work to be done.

Mar 13 2013
Page Jim Carr on CNN.com: Spending cut. Now, GOP, where are the jobs?

Home Opportunity homepage

This article originally appeared on CNN.com 

It's official: Deep cuts in federal spending are under way, $85 billion over the next seven months. The question we should all be asking soon is: Where are the jobs?

Mar 6 2013
Page Toppling Barriers to Opportunity

Visit our Home Opportunity page 

Feb 11 2013
Page Dump Edward De Marco!

Feb 5 2013
Blog Post Advancing Home Opportunity on Capitol Hill


Speakers at the Jan 22 Capitol Briefing (From Right to Left): Nancy Zirkin, Alan Jenkins, Nikitra Bailey, Janis Bowdler, Sharon Pratt, and James Carr. 


On January 22 I spoke at a Capitol Hill briefing entitled “A Compact for Home Opportunity: What America Can Do to Stop Foreclosures, Restore Communities, and Fulfill the American Dream.” Sponsored by The Opportunity Agenda, the National Council of La Raza, and the Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights, the forum brought together experts from the Home for Good Campaign with congressional staffers working on national housing and economic policy issues. The other speakers and I addressed a very full room. Here’s what I said:

Jan 23 2013
Blog Post DeMarco Must Go


Edward DeMarco (above) at a lecture at Vanderbilt University 

This article appeared originally at ourfuture.org

It’s time for President Obama to fire and quickly replace the Acting Director of the Federal Housing Finance Agency (FHFA), Edward DeMarco, with a Director who will uphold the Agency’s mission to “support housing finance and affordable housing, and support a stable and liquid mortgage market.” DeMarco, a holdover from the Bush administration, is interim head of the FHFA, which currently oversees Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Dec 19 2012
Blog Post Lost Opportunity

 

What must Brigitte Walker think about the presidential candidates? Ms. Walker is an Iraq War veteran, a former staff sergeant who served our country for 21 years until a spinal injury from a mortar attack forced her to leave the military. She comes from a proud family of veterans and service members, including a daughter in the army whose upcoming deployment, her third, will be to Afghanistan.

Oct 18 2012
Blog Post Low Down Payments Are Not Always High Risk

By Nikitra Bailey

This article was originally published by Politico 

Just as we are beginning to see signs of recovery in housing, federal regulators are considering a policy that could threaten economic progress and financial opportunities for middle-class families. This policy would require a 10 percent or other minimum down payment on home loans before the federal government will label them “safe” as “qualified residential mortgages.”

Oct 3 2012
Blog Post It's Time To Debate Home Opportunity

For months I’ve been part of a chorus of voices calling on the presidential candidates to talk about home opportunity. Their virtual silence on addressing foreclosures, restoring devastated communities, ensuring fair housing and lending, and resurrecting the American Dream has been both outrageous and baffling. Outrageous, because abuse by banks and inadequate consumer protections have cost millions of Americans their homes and visited untold suffering. Baffling, given the toll that the crisis continues to take on voters in battleground states like Nevada, Florida, and Ohio.

Oct 3 2012
Blog Post A Meeting at the White House on Homeownership

Last week I attended a meeting at the White House with Obama administration officials on the housing and homeownership crisis. I joined 150 faith, civil rights, consumer protection, and community leaders from around the country to express the urgency of the crisis, share our stories, and promote practical solutions.

Sep 17 2012
Page A Meeting Request to the Presidential Candidates to Discuss Housing Priorities

Back to the Home Opportunity Campaign

 

Sep 13 2012
Blog Post Campaigns Should Address the Home Ownership Crisis


This article appeared originally on the Minneapolis StarTribune

Now that the presidential campaign is entering the home stretch, President Obama and Mitt Romney need to address home opportunity - the cluster of issues from foreclosures to fair lending to affordable housing.

The housing crisis has harmed millions of American voters and their families. They deserve to know what solutions both candidates are offering.

Sep 11 2012
Blog Post It’s Time for the Candidates to Get Specific on the Homeownership Crisis

Now that the presidential tickets are set, it’s time for the candidates to get specific about problems and solutions critical to our economic recovery and future prosperity. Along with job creation, they should start with Home Opportunity—the cluster of housing, homeownership, and fair lending issues that are so central to the American promise of opportunity for all.

Aug 29 2012
Blog Post Voices on the Issue: Gabby, Ryan, and Home Opportunity for All

Even Olympians are, alas, not immune from America’s homeownership crisis. The Associated Press reported this week that the parents of U.S. Olympic swimmer Ryan Lochte are facing foreclosure in Florida, while the mother of gold medal gymnast Gabby Douglas filed for bankruptcy in Virginia last year, she said, “to protect my home.”

Aug 8 2012
Blog Post Voices on the Issue: It’s Time for Home Opportunity

Dramatic developments this month have underscored our nation’s progress, as well as our continuing peril, when it comes to Home Opportunity—the deeply held idea that everyone should have access to an affordable home under fair conditions. These developments, both positive and negative, should inform the national choices ahead, including in the presidential race.

Jul 26 2012
Blog Post Don’t Quit the Dream: A Vision for Homeownership Beyond 2012

This article originally appeared on Home for Good 

In polls, voters often identify the troubled state of the economy as their top concern. Most economists agree that housing remains the biggest drag on our recovery. Eleven million homeowners owe more than their home is worth. That’s 11 million people who are keeping themselves out of the consumer economy. Some of this is a good thing; people are paying down their debt and padding their savings. But for most, that negative equity looms large over the family finances. Not only is household consumption down, but families are delaying purchases of major goods that drive our economy, such as cars and houses.

Jul 23 2012
Blog Post Raiding Opportunity

6798932078_b544f4fe68_z.jpg

The ink’s barely dry on the historic settlement of “robo-signing” and other abusive foreclosure practices by five big banks. But, already, some states are raiding the settlement funds to finance activities having nothing to do with preventing foreclosures or preserving homeownership. Their actions are a second slap in the face to millions of Americans who were wronged by lender misconduct and inadequate consumer protections. They are unjust, shortsighted, and, quite possibly, illegal.

May 29 2012
Blog Post No More Excuses on Relief to American Homeowners

6798935328_b86c4ed62f.jpg

Read also: Home Opportunity Initiative

One by one, the excuses have fallen. Yet Edward DeMarco, acting head of FHFA, the agency that runs Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, still fails to offer the most effective relief available to American homeowners struggling with mortgages held by those entities. Economists, housing experts, and members of DeMarco’s own staff have concluded that reducing to affordable levels the principal owed on at-risk mortgages is effective in reducing foreclosures and their destructive fallout. But, inexplicably, he’s been unmoved by the mounting evidence.

May 17 2012
Blog Post Racial Discrimination by Banks Is Worsening the Foreclosure Crisis

4393414152_7cf3eb4672.jpg

Is there a house in your neighborhood that everybody hates to walk past? You know, the one with broken and boarded up windows, trash left to gather on the lawn, and grass so overgrown it’s becoming a habitat for rodents?

If you have a house like that in your community, you know it’s more than just an eyesore. Neglected, vacant houses depress property values throughout the community, and can threaten health and safety. They erode the sense of community and stability that creates vibrant localities, and they hamper economic resiliency. With a national foreclosure crisis still in full swing, such houses are all too common.

Apr 12 2012
Blog Post Protecting Fair Lending Is Key To Our Economic Recovery

6355360253_30e095425d.jpg

Most Americans correctly understand that the economic meltdown was caused by a perfect storm of misconduct in the lending and financial industries and inadequate rules and enforcement.  A 2010 Pew Financial Reform Project poll, for example, found that American likely voters overwhelmingly blamed banks for making unsustainable mortgages (42%) and too little regulation of Wall Street (24%) for the crisis.

Fewer are aware, however, of the role that racial bias and discrimination by lenders and brokers played in creating the crisis.  Understanding that role and the tools available to correct it is key to ensuring our nation's full economic recovery.

Apr 4 2012
Blog Post On Foreclosures: Too Little, But Not Too Late

dfdf
Our Compact for Home Opportunity calls on Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac to reduce the principal on loans they own or back to fair market value.

The Obama administration and states around the country have taken important steps in recent months toward putting American homeownership and financial security back on track. But it’s clear that more ambitious solutions are needed.

After a lull due to negotiations over fraudulent bank practices, foreclosures are expected to come roaring back this year, with hundreds of thousands of Americans newly at risk of losing their homes. As the scourge of foreclosures continues, the economic security of families and the stability of communities remain at risk. The crisis has deepened inequality throughout the country, and continues to hold us back as a nation.

Mar 21 2012
Page Amicus Curiae Briefs In Support of the Fair Housing Act's Disparate Impact Standard (2012)

Disparate Impact Discrimination and the Fair Housing Act

Read: Talking about Magner v. Gallagher
Read "Taling about Magner v. Gallagher" on Scribd.

Feb 17 2012
Blog Post Obama’s Wrong Note on Foreclosures

3899715321_797047dc69.jpg

As Election Day nears, President Obama is regaining his populist mojo. His State of the Union speech was mostly pitch perfect, evoking core American themes of opportunity and optimism, and calling for “an economy where everyone gets a fair shot, and everyone does their fair share, and everyone plays by the same set of rules.”

But the President has repeatedly hit a wrong note in talking about the foreclosure crisis. Not only is his story inaccurate, but he is promoting a harmful narrative that will make it harder to fix the problem.

Feb 8 2012
Page Compact for Home Opportunity

Back to Home Opportunity homepage

Compact for Home Opportunity 

What America Can Do to Stop Foreclosures and Fulfill the American Dream

Download the full report
Download the Compact for Home Opportunity Graph

Feb 7 2012
Blog Post Public Opinion Roundup: Equal Opportunity and Fairness

 Year after year, equal opportunity and fairness are critically important values on the minds of Americans. Surveys find a collective desire for greater economic equality, greater government involvement in employment and opportunity, and a more widespread distribution of wealth, but people don’t think that these values are reflected in the current economy.  For example, a November 2011 poll found that just over half of Americans said that a major problem in the U.S. is that “everyone does not have an equal chance in life.” The same number agreed with this statement in September 2010. More than two of three Democrats and one in two Independents agreed, but more than half of Republicans disagreed. 

 

Dec 21 2011
Blog Post December 6: National Day of Action

3430258704_e57e21e5ef-1.jpg

Photo by Quint Cobb

Access to an affordable home under fair and sustainable terms is crucial to our economic security and central to the American Dream. But misconduct by banks and lenders, inadequate rules and enforcement, and record unemployment rates are robbing millions of Americans of their homes and security while ravaging whole communities and holding back our national recovery.

Dec 6 2011
Blog Post The Occupy Movement Focuses on Foreclosures

5372618257_4d456f15e2_o.jpg

By Alan Jenkins

As the Occupy movement enters its third month, it is moving into a new phase. Colder weather in the north, combined with aggressive push back from city officials around the country, is requiring the movement to adopt new, innovative approaches that include, but transcend, public presence as protest.

Nov 30 2011
Page Public Opinion on Opportunity and the American Dream, Homeownership, and Housing

The Opportunity Agenda’s new research memo, “Public Opinion on Opportunity and the American Dream, Homeownership, and Housing,” synthesizes existing public opinion data regarding economic opportunity and homeownership, exploring three areas that are of particular interest to those working on housing policy: (1) perceptions of economic mobility, the American Dream, and the role of institutions; (2) the role that Americans believe homeownership and housing play in creating opportunity; and (3) the politics of housing.

Nov 21 2011
Page Public Opinion on Opportunity and the American Dream, Homeownership, and Housing

The Opportunity Agenda’s new research memo, “Public Opinion on Opportunity and the American Dream, Homeownership, and Housing,” synthesizes existing public opinion data regarding economic opportunity and homeownership, exploring three areas that are of particular interest to those working on housing policy: (1) perceptions of economic mobility, the American Dream, and the role of institutions; (2) the role that Americans believe homeownership and housing play in creating opportunity; and (3) the politics of housing.

Nov 21 2011
Blog Post Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: Opportunity and Homeownership

2539334956_87cef7e457_b.jpg

Photo by respres

Opportunity and Homeownership: The Politics of Housing

Owning a home is integral to the core American values of mobility and opportunity but the costs of down payment and closing on a home are overwhelming obstacles for many Americans. The June Public Opinion Monthly analyzes recent research on the public's attitudes on housing opportunities and challenges for those who advocate for housing finance reform. 
 

Jul 1 2011
Page Public Opinion Monthly (March 2011)

Homeownership and the American Dream

By: Jill Mizell

March 30, 2011

Mar 29 2011
Blog Post Biweekly Public Opinion Roundup: Homeownership and the American Dream

In anticipation of the upcoming March Public Opinion Monthly focusing on foreclosures, homeownership, and equal opportunity to achieve the American Dream, this week’s biweekly roundup focuses on recent public opinion studies on the topic, to be analyzed further in the Monthly.

Mar 28 2011
Blog Post Reforming U.S. Housing Finance Policy to Work for People of Color

On February 16, 2011, a group of economists, housing advocates, and civil-rights organizations met in Washington, D.C. to discuss the future and reform of government-sponsored enterprises, or GSEs.  The forum was hosted by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR) and partners; the National Fair Housing Alliance, The Opportunity Agenda, and the Center for Responsible Lending.

Feb 25 2011
Blog Post Cashing in on Broken Dreams

Most of us don’t understand derivatives and if or how they should be regulated, but we do understand that the Nevada Gaming Commission has a role in making sure that casinos don’t rip people off.

Apr 25 2010
Law and Policy Reforming HUD's Regulations to Affirmatively Further Fair Housing

As a crucial steppingstone to opportunity, fair and affordable housing for all of America’s communities is core to The Opportunity Agenda’s mission. We, therefore, applaud HUD’s efforts to revitalize its duty to administer all housing and community development programs “in a manner affirmatively to further the policies of [the Fair Housing Act].” Attached are our recommendations, and proposed model regulatory language, for changes to HUD’s existing affirmatively further fair housing (“AFFH”) regulations.

Mar 11 2010
Blog Post Housing and Opportunity: A Closer Look

For many, buying one’s first house is a major milestone, both financially and symbolically. The ownership of a home has traditionally led families towards long-term wealth, and a home is the foundation of the American dream, an accomplishment and a source of pride. Unfortunately, despite some talk of an improvement in the economy, there are still various factors preventing many people from realizing this dream.

Dec 14 2009
Communications Talking Points: The State of Opportunity Report (2009)

This memo offers guidance for using the 2009 State of Opportunity in America report, which examines various dimensions of opportunity, including health care, wealth and income, education, and incarceration. While expanding opportunity in America remains a goal of policymakers and advocates alike, this report finds that access to full and equal opportunity is still very much a mixed reality. Our recommendations to address this reality offer concrete ideas for moving us forward together.

Apr 15 2009
Video Alan Jenkins on MSNBC Discussing the Economy

Alan Jenkins, executive director of The Opportunity Agenda, appears on MSNBC to discuss the economy and our new report, The State of Opportunity in America.

Apr 15 2009
Research Report: The State of Opportunity Report (2009)

This is the 2009 State of Opportunity report.  Here you may download the final report, the final report with accompanying charts, a synopsis, and each of the indicators individually.

Read more about the report here.

SoO2009.png

Apr 1 2009
Blog Post An Uneven Journey

Earlier this year, I visited my father, who lives in the Bay Area. As we drove from the Oakland airport, the conversation quickly turned to the Obama presidency. Born in 1923, my dad survived the Great Depression, fought in World War II, endured vicious Jim Crow segregation and violence, participated in the Civil Rights Movement, and, this year, witnessed the inauguration of an African-American president of the United States.

Mar 24 2009
Research Report: The State of Opportunity Update (2007)

This is the 2007 update to the State of Opportunity report.  There are two files, the full chart of indicators and a summary.

SoO%202007.png

Mar 15 2009
Research Report: Home Ownership and Wealth Building Impeded (2006)

subPrime_0.pngContinuing Lending Disparities for Minorities and Emerging Obstacles for Middle-Income and Female Borrowers of All Races

Mar 1 2009
Research Report: State of Opportunity (2006)

SoO2006_0.pngIf the promise of opportunity is a core national commitment, it is essential to measure our success in fulfilling that commitment.  This report assesses the nation’s progress toward protecting and expanding opportunity for all Americans and encourages our policymakers, through bold leadership and innovative policies, to ensure the promise of o

Feb 15 2009
Blog Post Human Rights: More American Than Apple Pie

"Human rights is not marginal to who we are; human rights defines who we are.  The United States is a country defined by human rights.  ‘We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all persons are created equal’….

Dec 10 2008
Blog Post Announcing "New Progressive Voices"

The Opportunity Agenda is pleased to help announce, on behalf of the Progressive Ideas Network, the release of a new collection of essays outlining a new long-term vision for America.

"New Progressive Voices: Values and Policy for the 21st Century" brings together leaders from a wide array of organizations, of different backgrounds, to present a bold, progressive agenda for America's future.  Integral to the project is a commitment, not to just presenting a new direction, but also realistic approaches to solving our collective problems.

From the collection's introduction:

In recent decades, progressivism has faltered. It was conservatives who developed and moved the big ideas, while progressives triangulated, tweaked, and tinkered. Since the 1960s, progressives have been running on the fumes of the New Deal and Great Society, confining themselves largely to narrow issue silos and poll-tested phrases and positions. Content to play defense in many of the major political battles of the day, they have all too often been cowed into submission by the vitality and confidence of the other side.

Now that is changing. Instead of obsessing about what we are against, progressives have begun to think about what we're for -- to prepare once again to play our role as agents of bold ideas and political and social transformation. Finding new confidence and imagination, we have begun to renew our intellectual capital. The essays in this volume draw on that new store of capital to sketch the outlines of a progressive agenda for 21st-century America.

Our own Executive Director, Alan Jenkins, contributed an essay to the collection.  You can read "The Promise of Opportunity" here.

Sep 18 2008
Blog Post What's AIG got that your child doesn't?

If you've watched a news show, listened to the radio, picked up a newspaper or even just watched The Daily Show this week, you know that Wall Street is in trouble.  Years of irresponsible speculation and reckless lending policies--including the targeting of subprime mortgages in America's most vulnerable communities--have contributed to the threat of bankruptcy of some of the biggest names in banking and insurance.  Bear Sterns.  Fannie Mae.  Freddie Mac.  Lehman

Sep 17 2008
Blog Post Monday Health Blog Roundup

• A recent study has found that black men are more likely than white men and women to be unaware that they are suffering from high blood pressure, according to an article in Wednesday’s Reuters Health.  The researchers claim that this disparity stems from the fact that men are less likely than women to believe that they need to see a doctor.   Moreover, men, particularly African American men, are less likely to have access to a primary care physician:

What is not good, the researchers say, is that men were less likely than women to have a regular doctor, and they were four to five times more likely to say they had no doctor because they did not need one.

Study participants who did have a regular doctor were nearly four times more likely to know they had high blood pressure, and more than eight times more likely to be taking medication for it.

• The Kaiser Health Disparities Report has linked to a study on the prevalence of asthma that appeared in the Journal of Health and Social Behavior.  By looking at 10 different racial and ethnic groups in New York City, researchers examined how housing and neighborhood conditions might contribute to disparities among asthma patients:

Researchers found that Puerto Rican-Americans, other Hispanics and blacks had the highest levels of asthma, while Mexican-Americans, Chinese-Americans and Asian/Indians had the lowest levels. They also found that reducing minorities' exposure to deteriorated housing conditions and increasing levels of community unity, as well making improvements in other household factors, reduce asthma rates among blacks and Puerto Rican-Americans.

• An article in Saturday's New York Times discusses how rising gas prices have led to cuts in various services for the elderly.   Agencies have been forced to cut back on many programs, such as Meals on Wheels, because of the rising costs of transportation.  Elderly people, particularly those who are homebound, are among those most affected by these cuts, since they rely not only on the programs but on at-home volunteers as well:

Val J. Halamandaris, president of the National Association for Home Care and Hospice, said that rising fuel prices had become a significant burden for the 7,000 agencies represented by his group, with some forced to close and others compelled to shrink their service areas or reduce face-to-face visits with patients. A recent survey by the group concluded that home health and hospice workers drove 4.8 billion miles in 2006 to serve 12 million clients. “If we lose these agencies in rural areas, we’ll never get them back,” Mr. Halamandaris said.

The Washington Post is reporting that New Jersey is one of the states facing the harshest effects of the health care crisis - hospital closures.   New Jersey's state hospitals are required to treat any person that walks through their doors, and in turn the state is supposed to reimburse the hospitals.   However, the state’s budget crisis has led to cuts in reimbursements, and ultimately to hospital closures:

Six [hospitals] have closed in the past 18 months, and half of those remaining are operating in the red…

The situation has come to a head in this city [Plainfield, NJ] of 48,000 people -- majority black, largely poor and with many new immigrants moving in. The city's hospital of 130 years, Muhlenberg Regional Medical Center, is slated to become the latest casualty of this faltering system, closing its acute-care facility later this year. The obstetrics and pediatrics wards have already shut, and equipment is being packed up and wheeled out.

New Jersey is not the only state that has a problem of hospital closures.  To learn about the extent of the problem of hospital closures in New York, visit The Opportunity Agenda's GoogleMaps mashup site, Health Care That Works.

Jul 7 2008
Blog Post 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights

Yesterday was the 60th Anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, a ground-breaking document initiated and championed by the United States and Eleanor Roosevelt.  Frank Knaack of the ACLU Human Rights Program writes about the significance of the Universal Declaration in the United States and where we are today in fulfilling the promise of "the foundation of the modern human rights system":

The UDHR laid the foundation for a system of rights which are
universal, indivisible, and interdependent. The UDHR does not
differentiate between civil and political rights on one side and
economic, social, and cultural rights on the other. It realizes that in
order to properly enjoy one set of rights, you must also be able to
enjoy the other. As is often noted, one cannot properly exercise their
right to vote, think, or live if they have no food, housing, or basic
health services. It is from these principles that the modern human
rights treaty system (international human rights law) was born.

[...]

While much of the focus on the human rights record of the U.S.
government is in the context of foreign policy and the so called “war
on terror,” including the rendition, torture, and indefinite detention
of foreign nationals, and vis-à-vis its high rhetoric on spreading
freedom and democracy throughout the globe, it is of equal importance
to look at the state of human rights at home. From the government’s
inadequate response in the wake of hurricanes  Katrina and Rita;
to pervasive discrimination against racial minorities in the areas of
education, housing, and criminal justice, including death penalty; to
imposing life sentences without the possibility of parole on juveniles;
to abhorrent conditions in immigration detention facilities, it is
clear that the U.S. government has failed to abide by its international
obligations.

While the struggle for universal human rights is far from over,
there has been great improvement in the fight to bring human rights
home. More and more non-governmental organizations (NGOs) and
individual activists in the U.S. are utilizing the human rights
framework in the domestic advocacy and litigation. At the latest
session of the U.N. Committee on the Elimination of Racial  Discrimination
(the treaty body that monitors state compliance with the Convention on
the Elimination of All Forms of Racial Discrimination), there were more
than 120 representatives from U.S.-based nongovernmental organizations
(NGOs) in Geneva, Switzerland, who briefed the Committee members and
provided additional information to counter the misrepresentations and
omissions of the official U.S. government report on the state of racial
discrimination in the U.S. This information, in turn, led the Committee
to conclude that the U.S. should make sweeping reforms to policies
affecting racial and ethnic minorities, women, indigenous people, and
immigrants. The Committee’s recommendations garnered domestic and
international media attention, and were followed by a three week
official visit to the U.S. by the U.N.  Special Rapporteur on Racism.
This visit by the Special Rapporteur further opened up opportunities
for domestic NGOs to utilize the international human rights framework,
as was evidenced by the successful public education and media outreach
campaigns conducted by local NGOs throughout the US during this visit.
As this shows, human rights advocacy has become an effective tool for
social justice advocates in the U.S. to use to press for change and
enhance the protection of basic human rights.

The Opportunity Agenda is dedicated to bringing human rights home.  We are proud to work with coalitions such as the U.S. Human Rights Network and the Human Right to Health Capacity Building Collaborative to build the national, state, and local will to make human rights a real and effective tool for realizing American opportunity.

U.S. Human Rights Reports and Tools from The Opportunity Agenda:

Jun 19 2008
Blog Post Lakota Secede from the US, Claiming Human Rights Violations
  • The Unapologetic Mexican has posted on the decision of the Lakota to secede from the United States. The Lakota Nation, which includes portions of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming, has informed the State Department that it is withdrawing from all thirty-three treaties it has signed with the federal government, which it claims the US has not honored.  According to an article on The Raw Story:

Oppression at the hands of the US government has taken its toll on
the Lakota, whose men have one of the shortest life expectancies --
less than 44 years -- in the world.

Lakota teen suicides are 150 percent above the norm for the United
States; infant mortality is five times higher than the US average; and
unemployment is rife, according to the Lakota freedom movement's
website.

The Lakota were active leaders in the process of the UN's adoption of a declaration on the rights of indigenous people this past September.

  • Yesterday's protests outside New Orleans city hall saw residents
    attacked by the police with pepper spray -- and the council voted
    unanimously to demolish 4500 affordable housing units in spite of
    public opinion to the contrary.  Feministe and Too Sense have both reported on the day's events.
  • A family in California made a recent decision to take their seventeen-year-old daughter off of life support after CIGNA health insurance refused to pay for a liver transplant, claiming it was an experimental procedure.  A protest outside of CIGNA's office caused the insurance company to relent at the last minute, but the window of opportunity had already passed for Natalee Sarkisian and her health deteriorated further, impelling her family to let go.  Stories like Natalee's illustrate how imperative it is that we replace our broken health care system with an equitable system that will support the community rather than capital gain.
  • Tennessee Guerilla Women also linked to a story about a young Icelandic woman who was detained and imprisoned while entering the US on a recent vacation with friends.  Immigration agents claimed that Eva Ósk Arnardóttir had overstayed a visa by three weeks on her last visit to the US in 1995. Agents detained and then imprisoned her without sleep or food, denied her contact with the outside world, and shuttled her around chained up in public before finally sending her back to Iceland.

To begin with, because of the recent increase in border security, he
will not be able to land anywhere in the U.S. unless he would comply
with the Department of Homeland Security rule on advance passenger
manifests for flying private airplanes (and sleighs) (72 FR 53394,
9/18/07). Next, he will have to declare the value of all the gifts that
he is giving to the kids on the "nice list." That is in addition to the
strict search and X-ray of the bags in which he is carrying the gifts.
Because of the holidays, it may take U.S. Customs and Border Protection
a while to do all of this, so he can expect a few days before getting
the gifts back to be able to deliver them. Santa will have to obtain a
visa before entry into the U.S. Because we do not have a consular post
at the North Pole, he will have to go to a third country post for his
visa. He will have to have a valid passport before he can apply for a
visa. At the consulate he will be fingerprinted and photographed. Then
he will need to go through a security background check, which may take
a long time, sometimes up to a few years, to clear.

Dec 21 2007
Blog Post A Debate on Housing, Live from the New Orleans City Council
  • Louisiana news station WDSU is offering a live video feed from the New Orleans City Council meeting on the impending demolition of public housing.  In addition to those speaking at the meeting, hundreds of people are standing outside City Hall in protest of the lack of affordable housing in the region since the destruction caused by Hurricane Katrina two years ago. Present-day inequities in New Orleans are often framed with respect to human rights; the demand for affordable housing is just one aspect of ensuring that residents have the social and economic security needed to provide for their families with dignity.
  • Bloggernista has reported that Congress has lifted a nine-year ban on using public funding to support needle exchange programs in Washington, DC.  Despite the fact that syringe exchange programs have proven effective in reducing the spread of HIV/AIDS, this ban had held firm while the capital city has the developed the highest rate of HIV infection in the nation, a true modern epidemic noted for its immense racial disparities.
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog reposted an Associated Press article entitled 'State supreme court rules counties are liable for inmates' care,' including conditions that existed prior to imprisonment. It's great to see a court ruling in favor of the responsibility of the community to provide a basis level of health care for those in custody without other options -- this is a good step towards the recognition that all Americans deserve access to health care.

Justices voted 8-0 on Tuesday in favor of HCA Health Services of
Oklahoma, the parent company of OU Medical Center. The hospital sued
Oklahoma County commissioners and Sheriff John Whetsel over $2.2
million in medical payments for treating prisoners in the jail from
February 2003 through September 2006.

The county's argument was that much of the expense was to treat
conditions that predated the prisoners' arrests, Justice Marian Opala
wrote in the court opinion.

  • The DMI Blog analyzed a recent New York Times editorial on Arizona's new law intended to crack down on undocumented immigrants, offering praise for what it refers to as an 'example of smart immigration policy.' Author Suman Raghunathan expounds:

I am, in fact, waxing poetic on a stellar editorial in yesterday’s  Times.  This gem of a piece outlines in plain, centrist-liberal-speak why
going after employers who employ undocumented immigrants instead of
enforcing existing labor law makes for poor immigration policy.

What’s more, Arizona’s law (and believe me, there are many more in
the works across the country) will do nothing to address our nation’s
desperate need for smart and fair policies that welcome immigrant
contributions into our economy. Worse yet, it does nothing to bring
undocumented workers out of the shadows with a legalization program to
level the playing field on wages and labor conditions for all workers –
documented and undocumented, green card holders and US citizens.

Meanwhile, the Presidential election campaigns continue to work themselves into a fevered state, trying to say as little as possible on immigration policy (pick a party, any party) while sounding tough on undocumented immigrants (again, pick a punching bag, any punching bag). 

Here’s to hoping those high-falutin’ political operatives take a page from the Times’ editorial board’s playbook when they think about immigration. 

Dec 20 2007
Blog Post The Return of Redemption
  • Alan Jenkins' newest opinion piece is live on TomPaine.com. Entitled 'The Return of Redemption,' the piece contextualizes the recent crack sentencing ruling as well as the end of the death penalty in New Jersey as part of a larger shift in American values:

Together, these decisions reflect decades of difficult lessons:
about the folly of locking away people convicted of low-level,
non-violent offenses for decades; about how seemingly neutral policies
can have gravely discriminatory effects; and about the ineffectual,
discriminatory and dangerously inaccurate nature of the death penalty.

But information alone rarely leads to policy change, especially when
it comes to criminal justice policy. That political leaders could even
consider these changes in an election year speaks to a shift in public
values as well as public understanding. Each reform reflects a return
to the values of redemption and equality that are essential to a fair
and effective criminal justice system, and that polls and politics show are on the rise in our country.

  • RaceWire has shared a LA Times article on California's new plan for universal health care, a measure negotiated by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger and Assembly Speaker Fabian
    Nuñez (D-Los Angeles). On Monday the state Assembly approved the first phase of a
    $14.4-billion plan to extend medical insurance to nearly all residents by 2010. The legislation will provide subsidies and tax
    credits for people who have trouble paying their health insurance
    premiums.
  • Pam's House Blend has posted about a student at Southern Utah University who was denied housing because he is transgender. The university, which offers separate housing for men and women, demanded that Kourt Osborn provide the following in order to live in male housing:
  • a letter from the doctor that monitors his hormone treatment;
  • a letter from his therapist saying that he has gender identity disorder, or gender dysphoria; and
  • official documentation that he has had sexual reassignment surgery.

Like many transgender people, Osborn isn't interested in surgery or a clinical diagnosis of his 'disorder.' The post compares Osborn's situation with that of people of mixed racial backgrounds in decades past:

"When people do not fit into a structured, discriminatory and
binary system, the chances of discrimination against that person goes up."

Such is the case with Kourt. He is a person who does not fit into
society’s tidy binary system on gender. Because he has transgressed
society’s gender rules, the discrimination he faces on a daily basis —
including the denial of housing at a public university — is very real
and hardly ever subtle.

  • Finally, Firedoglake published a piece on media reporting (or lack thereof) on torture  in the United States. Blogger PhoenixWoman received a story in her email entitled CIA photos 'show UK Guantanamo detainee was tortured' from Britain's The Independent, which details the existence of photographic evidence proving that British citizen Binyam Mohammed has been abused while in American custody.  Mohammed's lawyers in the UK have expressed their worry that the photos will be destroyed, given the CIA's recent destruction of "hundreds of hours of videotapes showing the torture of detainees held by the US." Interestingly, while US-based CommonDreams.org has also picked up this story, Google News did not provide any matches for the article.
Dec 19 2007
Blog Post New Jersey Set to Abolish the Death Penalty
  • The Sentencing Law and Policy blog has reported that the New Jersey legislature has voted to outlaw the death penalty in the
    state. The governor has already indicated his support for the measure, so it will likely be signed into law soon. New Jersey will be the first state in more than 40 years
    to abolish capital punishment. While human rights law has called for a ban on the death penalty under certain circumstances (concerning juvenile offenders, for example), the UN has yet to impose a blanket ban. However, the practice is frowned upon internationally -- it is mandated that all nations seeking to join the European Union or the Council of Europe either abolish capital punishment or institute an official moratorium on executions.
  • RaceWire has provided us with another update on the struggle to preserve affordable housing in New Orleans, quoting an AP article:

Protesters wielding bullhorns and shouting “housing is a human right”
stopped demolition at a massive public housing complex Wednesday in
this hurricane-ravaged city in dire need of homes for the poor.

More than 30 protesters blocked an excavator from entering the
fenced-off area of the B.W. Cooper complex. It was the first of what
likely will be many standoffs between protesters and demolition crews
that are tearing down hundreds of barracks-style buildings so they can
be replaced with mixed-income neighborhoods.

  • The ImmigrationProf Blog has posted about the recent case of a security officer at a New Mexico high school who has been dismissed for reporting a pregnant 18-year-old student to immigration authorities. The Roswell school district has a policy preventing school officials from concerning themselves with the immigration status of their students. However, officer Charlie Corn decided to take matters into his own hands when he realized that Karina Acosta was unable to produce a driver's license. Acosta has been deported to Mexico in her final year of school, denying her the opportunity to complete her education.
  • The Latina Lista blog has covered another story about New Mexico, a recent raid of the Proper Foods, Inc tamale plant.  This raid was exceptional in some ways:

What's pleasantly surprising is that for the first time that we've
heard, ICE made sure that all the 21 undocumented immigrants
apprehended, as they shuffled out of the kitchens from making the
tamales that will be sold by the dozens for Christmas dinners, received
their full paychecks before being bused off for deportation.

However, the piece goes on to request an end to work-site raids this year, in the spirit of compassion, good will, and community, a set of values that seem closer to our hearts and minds during the winter holidays:

Because it is the Holiday season, the last thing ICE wants to be
caricatured as is the "Grinch Who Stole Christmas." Maybe that explains
the sudden change of heart in advocating for these workers' wages.

Yet, with only 12 days left before Christmas, there is one thing
more that the Department of Homeland Security can do to exemplify that
it is in the "Spirit of the Season" — declare a moratorium on further
raids and deportations for the month of December.

For every adult taken into custody and deported, who knows how many children are left behind?

Critics yell that these parents should take their children with them
but if there is no home to go back to, no relatives who can take you
in, no money to rent someplace, no clothes other than what's on your
back, then what kind of parent would rip their children from the
comforts, no matter how meager, of their lives here to take them where
they literally will have nothing?

To separate parents from their children, especially at
Christmastime, is perhaps more cruel than any kind of trauma, aside
from sexual and physical abuse, afflicted on a child.

We hope Operation Tamale is the last work-site raid for 2007.

Dec 14 2007
Blog Post Housing is a Human Right
  • The Facing South blog has provided us with an update on the impending demolition of public housing developments in New Orleans. According to Monday's Times-Picayune, a city committee has refused to approve the demolition of
    one of the four public housing complexes slated for destruction by the Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD). The matter will now go before the city council. At Monday's meeting, protesters were seen holding banners that said "Housing is a human
    right
    ."
  • Prometheus 6 has also posted a wealth of information on the housing crisis in New Orleans. As the public housing battle rages on, bloggers are referring to a 2005 Washington Post article which reported that Representative Baker of Baton Rouge was overhead saying "We finally cleaned up public housing in New Orleans. We couldn't do it, but God did." Additionally, there's a new video out on YouTube which does a great job of illustrating the housing conflict:

  • Jack and Jill Politics also mentions that the organization Color of Change (known for their work with the Jena 6) has posted an online petition to support a Senate bill that would reopen housing in New Orleans, guarantee a right to return for public housing residents, and provide housing assistance to renters. Curiously, Louisiana Senator Vitter is responsible for blocking this bill.
  • The ImmigrationProf Blog posted a great article on the work that the University of Texas Immigration Law Clinic is doing to improve conditions for children living in the Hutto immigrant detention center.  Other than last week's holiday toy drive, the clinic has filed a series of lawsuits to ensure that children are housed in "the least restrictive conditions possible" and that the facilities meet certain basic standards in their care and treatment.
  • And in today's pop culture news, from the LA Times blogs, a popular character in children's books will be featured in a new television series that will also educate kids about immigration issues:

After a three-decade-long hiatus, Paddington Bear
will return to children's lit only to find he's not as welcome as he
was in 1958. In a new set of stories by 81-year-old Paddington creator
Michael Bond, the refugee bear will face questioning by British
immigration authorities. But Bond promises that all will turn out well
in the end for Paddington who is, of course, a model immigrant,
regardless of his legal status.

Dec 12 2007
Blog Post Birth of a Movement

"The forum was revolutionary in at least two ways. First, it was
organized not isolated issues, but around shared values and a
progressive vision. And second, it featured real people—grassroots
leaders from around the country—sharing their stories and asking the
candidates pointed questions.

The grassroots leaders who took the stage voiced again and again the
ideas that embody Community Values—that "we are all in this together,"
that "we are all connected" and "share responsibility for each other,"
that we "love our neighbors as we love ourselves," and that it's time
to reject the "politics of isolation" and embrace the "politics of
connection."

But it was their diverse and compelling personal stories that brought that message home in vivid color."

"Poor and working people in New Orleans and across the globe are living
on property that has become valuable for corporations. Accommodating
governments are pushing the poor away and turning public property to
private. HUD is giving private developers hundreds of millions of
public dollars, scores of acres of valuable land, and thousands of
public apartments. Happy holidays for them for sure.

For the
poor, the holidays are scheduled to bring bulldozers. The demolition is
poised to start in New Orleans any day now. Attempts at demolition will
be met with just resistance. Whether that resistance is successful or
not will determine not only the future of the working poor in New
Orleans, but of working poor communities nationally and globally. If
the US government is allowed to demolish thousands of much-needed
affordable apartments of Katrina victims, what chance do others have?"

  • Rather than stand trial, Mychal Bell of the Jena Six has elected plead guilty to a juvenile charge of second-degree battery.  Skeptical Brotha
    has explained that Bell will serve eight more months in prison, as the
    eighteen month sentence will honor the ten months he has already spent
    in jail.
  • The last couple days have seen a few stories on human trafficking in the US.  Angry Asian Man has reported on a trafficking ring just busted in Vermont, and the New York Times has written about a newly-surfaced case of modern-day slavery on Long Island.
  • Finally, a number of immigration blogs have commented on the upcoming reality TV-show called "Who Wants to Marry a US Citizen."  With a new take on reality television, programming which blends contemporary political issues with the classic dating series, the show "aims to show love knows no borders. Besides, that is what America is about: a multi-cultural nation."  The Unapologetic Mexican has cited our 'national obsession with immigration' as pointing to the need for comprehensive reform of immigration policies.
Dec 4 2007
Communications Media Coverage: Heartland Presidential Forum - Campaign for Community Values (2007)

Held December 2, 2007 in Des Moines, IA, the Heartland Presidential Forum kicked off the Campaign for Community Values.  The resulting press coverage included a values dimension otherwise missing in much of the caucus coverage.

IAmedia.png

Dec 1 2007
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.
Nov 21 2007
Blog Post 'Reckless Optimism': People Really Are Able to Turn Their Lives Around
  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has reposted an interesting New York Times article
    on an innovative program providing prenatal care for homeless women in
    San Francisco. With nineteen years as a non-profit agency, and a staff
    of fifty-three people, half of whom have been homeless in the past, the
    program is a model of the core value of redemption, or the idea that we all deserve the support needed for a new start:

"The Homeless Prenatal Program has evolved from its original mission
of helping destitute women give birth to and then keep healthy babies
to become a resource dedicated to stabilizing entire families. It
offers what this particular woman excitedly described here as 'a
plethora of services' for mental health, housing and substance abuse
problems. It combines those with an array of alternative health
approaches not usually available to the poor, like yoga, massage and
chiropractic treatments.

'People call me a reckless optimist, and you have to be to do this
kind of work,' said Martha Ryan, founder and executive director of the
Homeless Prenatal Program. 'But I see enough success. I see people
really able to turn their lives around, and I see their children be
able to move forward and have a different life.'”
 

  • The Huffington Post has a great piece up by Sally Kohn of the Movement Vision Lab on the writers' strike. Speaking of the absence of the community frame in television or film media, Kohn praises the writers for joining together but contributes a larger cultural analysis of what has shaped our values of individualism:

"If you turn on your TV today or sit for a matinee at your local
cineplex, you'd wonder whether it's an entirely different crop of folks
holding the pens behind the scenes. After all, much of the shows and
movies they write promote extreme greed, competition and the notion
that we have to pull ourselves up from our individual bootstraps ---
NOT that we're all in it together, in solidarity. While most of us in
real life, like the striking writers, have learned that we can't
succeed without the help of others around us, most reality TV shows from American Idol to Survivor tell us that the only way to the top is fierce competition against one another.  Meanwhile shows like Desperate Housewives
tell us that selfishness is good and there's no such thing as too much
greed and status --- mind you, the same greed that is keeping the
Hollywood execs from sharing the wealth with writers. And in countless
movies, writers resort to racist and homophobic 'humor' that helps
further divide our country rather than unite us together."

  • The DMI Blog has written about the Coalition to Raise the Minimum Standards at New York City Jails, a multi-organizational campaign that achieved a number of victories this year as "the Board of Corrections (BOC) proposed a number of changes to the
    Minimum Standards for New York City Correctional Facilities" which cover rules and regulations for city jails. Author Ezekiel Edwards reports that while the BOC was not swayed on every issue of importance to prisoners and their families, significant progress was made in preserving and improving conditions of incarceration: "As a result of the Coalition's relentless efforts, the BOC voted
    against the 'overcrowding' policy, against putting those in need of
    protection in 23-hour solitary confinement, and against reducing
    Spanish translation services." 
  • Feministe has a new post entitled 'Housing is a Human Right' which provides information on upcoming protests against the fact that all public housing units in New Orleans are slated for demolition after a recent federal court ruling. The Facing South blog has also posted about the controvery over the formaldehyde-laced trailers provided as temporary housing -- while Gulf Area families have been living in the trailers, FEMA has cautioned its own employees against entering them.
  • Finally, Latina Lista has reported on a DailyKos post by the author of the Migra Matters blog called 'A progressive plan for immigration reform,' referring to the resource as "the most insightful, certainly most thorough and step-by-step approach into fully understanding the immigration issue." Given his opinion that immigration is the new topic du jour, author Duke1676 prefaces his summary with "I figured it might be a good time post up a diary that sums up
    everything I've learned in my past three years here posting on
    immigration issues." With some 454 comments by readers, it's worth a read.
Nov 13 2007
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.
Nov 9 2007
Blog Post Crackdown Policies Are Destroying Immigrant Families and Solidarity in Our Communities
  • We've previously mentioned Oklahoma's new law which targets American citizens for 'transporting' undocumented immigrants. BlogHer reported Saturday on further implications of the law, arguing that assisting a woman in labor or the victims of a car accident in getting to the emergency room could be grounds for a felony charge. While it is highly likely that the constitutionality of this legislation will be challenged, it definitely lies contrary to the core value of community, that we are all responsible for each other's well-being and that our successes and fates are linked.
  • The 'Just News' blog posted about an LA Times article stating the US has reached an all-time high in the number of immigration detainees it is holding in prison: more than 30,000 people, over 4,000 in the state of California alone.  A similar statistic reveals that "the immigration agency's budget for bed space skyrocketed to $945 million last year, up from $641 million in fiscal year 2005." Although the Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) denies that overcrowding is a problem, immigrants and advocates argue that facilities and short-staffed and detainees are not given proper medical care.
  • Both Citizen Orange and Latina Lista have told the story of a man who spent five months in a detention facility only to see his health deteriorate to a critical point.  Ricardo Gomez Garcia and his wife Juana left their four children in Guatemala years ago in order to come to the US in search of work to support their family.  While here Juana gave birth to their youngest child, who at the age of four has been diagnosed with autism and requires specialized care. Earlier this year, Gomez was arrested in the New Bedford immigration raid and held in an immigration prison before being deported.  Sick but desperate with worry over his wife and young son, Gomez managed to return to New Bedford, only to die later that night.  Juana, his wife of twenty years, is now seeking community support in order send Gomez's body back to Guatemala.
  • Finally, the Alas! and reappropriate blogs have written about US Border Patrol Agent Ephraim Cruz, who is being fired from his post for talking and complaining openly about inhumane conditions in the immigrant detention center where he worked.  Cruz has said that he observed countless "…violations of policies, training, state laws, fire and health codes,
    and illegal aliens’ civil and human rights within [the Douglas,
    Arizona] 'processing facility'." The blogs are also offering readers the chance to contribute to Cruz's search for affordable legal representation so he can defend himself against unfair termination of employment.
Nov 6 2007
Blog Post Crime is Not an Isolated Action, in New Orleans and Beyond
  • Bill Quigley at the Black Agenda Report has written a piece on the apparent meltdown of the criminal justice system in New Orleans, where violent crime rates are hovering at seven times the national average. Quigley speaks of the integral relationship between socioeconomic security and crime rates:

"Crime is not an isolated action. It is impossible to fix the crime problem if
the rest of the institutions that people rely on remain deeply broken....Only when the criminal justice system is supported by a
good public education available to all children, sufficient affordable housing
for families, accessible healthcare (especially mental healthcare), and jobs
that pay living wages, can the community expect the crime rate to go down."

  • The Real Cost of Prisons Weblog has highlighted a community in Western Massachusetts in which those without the financial means to post a few hundred dollars in bail are held for months before their trials. While eighty-five percent of women being held have substance abuse problems, and many have families to care for, the county has opted to spend thousands of dollars each month to keep women in newly-constructed jails rather than offer treatment programs that would offer inmates a chance at rehabilitation and redemption. Author Lois Ahrens notes that "holding women and men who are too poor to make bail results in
    devastating consequences: more jail building, greater impoverishment of
    the poor, and continued criminalization of addiction and mental illness."

Jack and Jill Politics has alerted us to the fact that the Bush administration is working with the Senate to discontinue federal downpayment assistance for first-time homebuyers. Some striking statistics from the post: "From 2000 through 2006, more than 650,000 buyers got their down payments through nonprofits" working with this program, and "the move to get rid of downpayment assistance programs will bar approximately 40% of African-American homebuyers from utilizing Federal Housing Administration insured loans. Also affected are potentially 30% of Latinos."
  • We'd previously noted that the California wildfires had resulted in undocumented immigrants turning themselves in to the border patrol because they feared for their safety. A number of blogs, however, have exposed other effects of the fires on immigrant communities. The Black Agenda Report has discussed raids of the displaced people at Qualcomm stadium as well as farmers not permitting their workers to evacuate. IntraPolitics talks about how the San Diego Sheriff's department is checking for ID among people returning to their homes, and continues to the draw further comparisons between the wildfires and New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina:

"The policies undertaken by law enforcement and developers in these
regions of natural disasters, in my opinion, is part of a general
scheme to displace the poor and minority property owners and renters.
The backlash against social programs designed to help people obtain
affordable housing, combined with the expected pitfalls of subprime
mortgage lending, have placed us in a crisis of vulnerable populations
losing the small allowances of economic power and self-determination
they've had."

  • 'Just News Blog' and the ImmigrationProf Blog have covered the story of 'a new low' in immigration raids: harassing a Latino community on their way to and from church services. Local law enforcement officials have been setting up roadblocks along two streets in Mount Olive, North Carolina in order to request documentation of churchgoers, many of whom are employed at the Butterball slaughterhouse two miles away.
  • Finally, in honor of the holiday, Racialicious has a very interesting post up entitled 'Reasons I Hate Halloween,' which discusses the prevalence of costumes that "reinforce the eroticized and/or dangerous stereotypes associated with Muslim and Middle Eastern men and women." Author Fatemeh Fakhraie provides a variety of examples to support her discomfort with the use of these stereotypes as 'dress-up' options.
Oct 31 2007
Blog Post As Americans, We Value Supporting the Vulnerable in our Communities
  • Yesterday saw the Senate's failure to pass the DREAM Act, thus ending further attempts to pass the legislation this year.  In an era in which college costs are rising at twice the rate of inflation, undocumented students who have grown up in this country are left without the means to finance their educations or gain the legal work status that would enable them to achieve their potential or productivity. The bill was sponsored by Senator Durbin, who described the youth in question as
    "'without a country'...though the U.S. is the only home these children
    know, it is an uncertain future that the government has condemned these
    students to live." Suman Raghunathan at the DMI Blog has just written about Smart Public Policies on Immigration, concluding:

"It’s becoming increasingly clear to me that local communities are going
to have to develop their own practical approaches to immigration policy
and make sure they trickle up to the feds, who remain more obsessed
with border fencing than with figuring out how to see immigrants
(particularly undocumented ones) as important economic contributors and
vital parts of our community."

  • Congress also voted to confirm nominee Leslie Southwick as a federal judge in the fifth circuit.  A good number of bloggers have expressed disappointment over his confirmation, including Pam's House Blend and Firedoglake, and the ACSBlog linked to a New York Times article on the vote.  Many progressives had called upon Southwick's history of homophobic and even racist rulings to argue that he will be biased and unfair in a region of the United States that has a strong history of structural inequality.
  • President Bush stated yesterday that he has every intention of vetoing the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA), regardless of whether or not it includes the protections for transgender individuals that are under consideration in Congress.  The legislation is intended to ensure that no Americans are unfairly targeted or dismissed in the workplace on grounds of their sexual orientation and gender identity.  Such an act by Bush would further contribute to a lack of security among the LGBT community as it remains unable to access basic and equal workplace protections.
  • People are starting to organize in order to help those displaced by the Southern California wildfires. BlogHer, Ezra Klein, Firedoglake, and the Angry Asian Man have all posted information on how Americans can support the members of our community whose livelihood and homes are at risk.
Oct 25 2007
Blog Post DREAM Act Vote Today in Senate
  • The DREAM Act legislation which would provide undocumented students the means to stay in the country legally if they attend college or join the military is up for a vote today in the Senate. The Border Line reports that it remains unclear if enough Senators will come out in support of the bill, measure which would provide many students who arrived in the US legally as young children with access to federal funding for continue their education in hope of giving back to their communities.

As the wildfires continue to rage in Southern California, Immigration News Daily has posted that about fifty undocumented immigrants have turned themselves into border patrol agents out of fear for their safety. Various bloggers such as Prometheus 6 are starting to draw comparisons between the immense devastation of the wildfires and that of Hurricane Katrina, and how the socio-economic status of the displaced populations has affected the care and attention each received.

RaceWire has done a piece about Blackwater's new bid to get involved with security on the US-Mexico border.  Author Seth Wessler explains how problematic this situation would be, despite apparent bipartisan support in Congress:

"Given Blackwater’s 'shoot first' policy, enacted with bloody clarity in Iraq and on the streets of New Orleans after Katrina,
the plans to expand to the border region do not bode well. With
vigilante groups like the Minutemen already taking their racist,
nationalist stance to the front lines, guns in hand, the addition of
Blackwater to the scene would only mean more dead immigrants with less
accountability.

In a political climate where the rhetoric on immigration employs the
lexicon of war, the possibility of Blackwater’s entry into the border
security scene seems to fit the frame. As if it were not enough that
the United States is building a wall along
the border and the the total number of deportations has increased by
over 400% in the past ten years, the border itself may be handed over
to private firms whose interests could not be less in line with the
common good."

  • The Unapologetic Mexican has joined the ranks of those reporting on a coalition of major newspapers and television networks who are petitioning to gain access to Jena Six member Mychal Bell's sealed criminal trial.  Bell's lawyer seems to agree that the media presence may help temper further questionable rulings by District Attorney Reed Walters, and that the case has been publicized enough to date that Americans have a right to know what is going on.

The Republic of T is spreading the news about the just-announced date of next July's 'Blogging While Brown' conference.  In a blogosphere in which people of color remain the minority, it is tremendously important for bloggers of color to organize themselves in order to maximize potential to publicize issues of import such as the Jena Six case.

Feministing posts that Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg spoke this past weekend about the Roe v. Wade abortion ruling, about how she doesn't forsee the ruling being overturned in the next few years.  She added, however, that if it were overturned, abortion would always be available to 'women of means' who could afford to travel to other states, but "would have a devastating impact on poor women."
Oct 24 2007
Blog Post California dashes DREAMs yet again
  • There has recently been commentary that the state of California's immigration policies are all over the place - just last week the governor signed an anti-discrimination law to protect landlords and tenants.  It's fresh news, however, that Schwarzenegger has vetoed the California DREAM Act for the second time, a measure which would have increased access for undocumented students to get a college education.  In the same swoop, the governor also vetoed gay marriage in California for the second time, while signing the California Student Civil Rights Act to prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation or gender identity in schools.
  • There has been much talk on the recent trial of a nurse and several guards from a Florida boot camp for adolescents who beat a 14-year-old black boy who claimed he was too tired to exercise and then died the following day; their acquittal on murder charges has fed recent discussions on the nature of these youth boot camps where at-risk children are regularly neglected and abused.  Forcing troubled youth to undergo starvation can only add to their sense of social abandonment and will not work to increase opportunities available to them to succeed.
  • The Facing South blog has published commentary on last Friday's New York Times piece on the impact of immigration raids on the Smithfield Foods' North Carolina slaughterhouse.  Asking the question "Who Benefits?," author Chris Kromm concludes that businesses suffer from a lack of a stable workforce, and that, "Immigration raids do nothing to improve this situation for workers. In
    reality, the costly raids end up separating families and tearing up
    communities -- all for a short-term solution to the long-term problem
    of immigration reform."  Especially because raids are failing to solve our broken immigration system, we need to start approaching the issue of immigration policy reform with consideration for what is best for the community at large.
  • Ending on a lighter note, the Immigrants in USA blog has posted on a Boston Globe article highlighting various Massachusetts employers that are offering English classes for their workers, catering to a high demand for the service.  This is a great example of the way businesses can effectively invest in their workforce and the community as a whole, as increasing communications skills will have ramifications across the board for marginalized populations.
Oct 15 2007
Blog Post Mychal Bell Back in Jail
  • In recent news, Mychal Bell of the Jena Six is back in jail, as a Louisiana judge has decided that he violated his probation from an earlier drug offense that was not tried.  Prometheus 6 and Too Sense have both weighed in on this seemingly continual obstruction of justice.  While Bell is now in juvenile prison, as opposed to a penitentiary for adults, the punishment he's been forced to endure remains out of sync with the crimes committed, highlighting the racism that still pervades our justice system.  We hope as his case goes forward that future decisions about his fate are grounded in the American ideals of equality and redemption, that we all deserve a second chance.
  • Big news today is that the Nobel peace prize has been awarded to former Vice President Al Gore along with the U.N.'s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.  Pam's House Blend has a post up which discusses the fact that global warming is "more than an environmental issue - it is a question of war and peace." From Africa to Alaska, communities that have based their security upon access to dwindling natural resources are at risk of political and economic instability.
  • The mailing of the Bush administration's 141,000 "no-match" letters
    aimed at targeting workers with proper documentation was stalled yet
    again by a preliminary injunction by a federal judge in San Francisco.
    Migra Matters reports that judge Breyer
    expressed "'serious concerns' over the legality of the Bush
    proposal that would force employers to fire an estimated 1.5 million
    employees whose Social Security records contain discrepancies." The
    letters will be held until the hearing of a lawsuit brought against the
    new requirements.
  • According to the Pro Inmigrant Blog, California has just enacted a law barring landlords from inquiring about tenants' immigration status. Nancy Ahlswede, executive director of the Apartment Association, California Southern Cities, praised the legislation for its attention to "huge anti-discrimination obligations" placed upon landlords by federal housing laws.  Similar to the pending "no match" lawsuit on employment, this law is a great example of a community coming together to voice their support for fair treatment in housing practices along with a progressive approach to the integration of immigrants into our society.
Oct 12 2007
Blog Post A Human Right to Health
  • First up, Alan Jenkins' newest opinion piece is live on TomPaine.com. Talking about A Human Right to Health, Jenkins begins:

News coverage of President Bush's recent speech
to the United Nations General Assembly has focused on his announcement
of economic and political sanctions against Myanmar. But the real news
about the president's speech is that he chose as a central theme the Universal Declaration of Human Rights,
which he described as "a landmark achievement in the history of human
liberty." In particular, the president focused on Article 25 of the
Declaration, which provides in part that "everyone has the right to a
standard of living adequate for the health and well-being of himself
and of his family, including food, clothing, housing and medical care
and necessary social services, and the right to security in the event
of unemployment, sickness, disability, widowhood, old age or other lack
of livelihood in circumstances beyond his control."

The president's focus on Article 25 was remarkable for at least two
reasons. First, although the United States played an important role in
crafting the Universal Declaration almost 60 years ago, our government
has, since the time of the Cold War, distanced itself from the economic
and social rights embodied in Article 25, at times denying that they
are rights at all. And second, less than two weeks after delivering the
speech, Bush vetoed legislation that would have expanded the popular
State Children's Health Insurance Program (SCHIP) to cover more of
America's 9 million uninsured kids.

  • On the same topic, the vote to potentially override President Bush's veto of the SCHIP legislation has been scheduled for October 18th.  In the meantime, the biggest thing happening in SCHIP news is the right-wing smear campaign against 12-year-old Graeme Frost, who assisted Democrats in delivering a radio address about the president's opposition to the bill.  After the family spoke about the big difference SCHIP has made in their lives, when Graeme and his sister were involved in a terrible car accident, conservatives have not only attempted to invalidate them by depicting them as rich kids pampered by the government, but they have posted the address and contact information of the Frost family online.  It's too bad that this family is having their major life decisions deconstructed in order to illustrate that they are not deserving of public assistance.  We're all deserving of affordable health care, and our government should be enacting policies that benefit the community as a whole rather than just private insurers.

Matthew Schwieger has a piece in the Huffington Post about 'the new class-based affirmative action.'  The New York Times has published a series of articles about new inititatives in California which are geared to increasing diversity without taking race into consideration, though that has been prohibited by the state's Proposition 209.  Schools such as Harvard and UNC-Chapel Hill have similar programs in place, in an effort to rectify the "stunningly meager number of low-income students enrolled at selective colleges." Given that "nearly 85% of Americans favor preferences based on socioeconomic status," this model may be successful in increasing opportunity for underprivileged youth. In discussing the importance of a college education, Schwieger cites Columbia professor Andres Delbanco, who notes that higher education is a "primary engine of social mobility."

Columbia University Teacher's College unfortunately had a noose-hanging of its own yesterday, as rope was found in front of the office of professor Madonna Constantine, a black psychologist and educator known for her contributions on addressing racism.  Too Sense has written an insightful post discussing whether or not people were surprised by the incident, arguing that "the idea that somehow the graduate school would be exempt from issues of race when it lies on the fault line between gentrifying Harlem and the Upper West Side is really hopelessly naive."  Author dnA continues:

"Surprise is really a failure to accept our own role in allowing racism
to continue by ignoring it, or believing it can simply be erased by
time or proximity, rather than asking hard questions both about
ourselves and the world around us."

  • In a post on Racialicious last Friday, Latoya Peterson does actually take the time to unpack her thoughts on gentrification in Washington, DC.  Defining gentrification as the premeditated process of displacing poor women and people of color by the raising of rents, the piece quotes a USA Today article which claims that the city's residents will be primarily white by 2015. Peterson further acknowledges her own hesitance to settle in an area with less amenities and security, courageously admitting that "as much as I may disagree with gentrification on principle, I complicity agree with it by my neighborhood selection practices." She does, however, offer us the example of progressive housing policies in her native Montgomery County that "require developers to include
    affordable housing in any new residential developments that they
    construct" in order to create socioeconomically mixed
    neighborhoods and schools.  Such policies are commendable for their support of the value of community, the idea that the strength of our nation lies in our diversity.
Oct 10 2007
Blog Post Race, Opportunity, and the YouTube/CNN Debate

Written and researched with (great) help from Amanda Ogus. Cross posted at Daily Kos.

Monday night’s YouTube debate gave the “average Joes” of America the chance to ask the Democratic presidential candidates their own personal questions.  Between the filter of CNN’s production team, who chose which videos would air, and the stump speeches that still weeded their way into many candidates’ discourse, the debate was not as natural as it could have been, but still offered a new way for Americans to have their voices heard. 

So, how did CNN do in picking questions that deal with the tricky topic of race, and how did the candidates do in answering them?  This is important.  As some have noted, the video submissions were dominated by white men – a demographic not representative of the diversity of America.  Whatever the reason – be it lack of broadband access or lack of savvy when it comes to New Media – CNN clearly made an effort to rectify that imbalance through their selection of questioners who were of color and questioners who  asked pertinent questions about race in America. 

Yet still, there were a lot of lost opportunities.  No one addressed the issue of racial disparities in health care, or recognized that equal access (through whatever insurance or universal health plan) does not necessarily guarantee equal treatment. Much more could have been said about equal access to and quality of education - especially in light of the recent school cases.  Next to nothing was said about comprehensive immigration reform.

Overall, we give CNN a "B."  They clearly tried to showcase diverse voices - especially tricky given the racial and gender imbalance in the questions submitted - yet they still failed to adequately address many topics.

 

In this post, we’ve compiled those questions, as well as evaluated the responses from the top tier candidates - Obama, Clinton, Edwards, and Richardson.  Check out the full transcript on CNN, and the video coverage on
YouTube.  For a comprehensive summary of media responses on the
debates, check out Jack Muse’s coverage on Huffington Post.

Question 6

Edwards: Immediately answering “no”, Edwards explained that he would pursue other goals to create more equality, citing a recent study that in Charleston, black people were paying more than white people for mortgages at a higher rate, even when taking income into account.  Edwards reiterated that to have true equality means fighting the big companies: “we can’t trade our insiders for their insiders…what we need is someone who will take these people on…That’s the only way we’re going to bring about change.” 

Obama: Responded to the question by choosing to focus on education, also focusing on South Carolina by profiling a low-income school in Florence, SC.  Focusing on education, Obama said, is “the kind of reparations that are really going to make a difference in America right now.”

Question 7

Richardson:  Richardson explained that in a future crisis, the government should work to “eliminate…any red tape” and “let those who live there come back first, instead of big moneyed interests.”  While he didn’t respond directly to the “race” aspect of the question posed, he did express his disagreement to the way the administration reacted.

It should be noted that during this question, Senator Dodd spoke eloquently about economic opportunity in the Gulf in the wake of Hurricane Katrina.

Question 8

Obama: Used this opportunity to explain how “race permeates our society.”  He details the failures of the government in denying programs to overcome the legacy of slavery and Jim Crow, and said that as president, “my commitment on issues like health care is to close the disparities and the gaps, because that’s what’s really going to solve the race problem in this country.”  Obama’s comments were the only mention of racial disparities in any candidates’ answer, and put a strong emphasis on the fact that racism still exists in many parts of society.  Trying to force “colorblind” legislation is ignoring these disparities, and only perpetuating further inequalities. 

Clinton: Maintained that the (presidential) race should not be about Obama’s race or her gender, but about “what is best for you and your family.”

Question 9

In a question from the Reverend Reggie Longcrier, the candidates - particularly John Edwards were asked about religion as a weapon for discrimination - particularly as a justification for slavery in the past and a tool to rob GLBT people of their civil liberties today. 

Edwards: spoke in favor of equal rights and civil rights and his determination not to let his own faith beliefs - which are not in favor of gay marriage - to dictate public policy and limit the rights of American citizens.

Obama: Spoke about equality before the state in terms of marriage and the civil rights it confers, but wants to leave actual determinations about marriage up to individual religious denominations.

Question 27

Richardson: Makes a brief mention of suppression of minority voters by the Republican Party.  No other candidate is allowed to respond.

Question 28

No one specifically mentions people of color, but this question on the minimum wage touches on themes of economic mobility and security, and is highly relevant to millions of low-income families and people of color.

Obama: He's really the only one who hits this out of the park, noting that it's almost the wrong question.  Presidential candidates tend to be rich.  They can afford to work for the minimum wage.  It's everyday people who need to be given a living wage.

Question 34

This question asks whether the candidate's health care plans would cover undocumented workers.  Only Dodd and Richardson are allowed to answer, and, while both answer yes, this was mostly a lost opportunity for a substantive discussion about two of the most important and hot issues facing our nation.

Jul 25 2007
Blog Post How will a new progressive blog fare in the big issues?

Timecover_2

  • Huffington Post offers side-by-side assessments of the U.S.
    Presidential Candidates’ health plans in easy-to-read charts.
  • As a new progressive blog opens its doors, Jack and Jill
    Politics
    ask some pertinent questions about race and religion in the
    blogosphere, and how blogggers who cover these topics can become more
    influential online and even make up for the shortcomings of "the Old
    Left.” Quoting eteraz’s Open Left Diary,
    Jack and Jill posts “The ultimate question is: race-conscious or race-blind;
    religion-conscious or religion-blind (referring only to those communities whose
    religion is already politicized); focus on under-represented people via
    minority-rights or economic-rights.”
  • To add to our previous posting on opinions following the Supreme Court schools decision, here are two more op-eds. NNPA Columnist George Curry reflects on the gains (or lack thereof) this country has made in desegregation since the 1954 Brown decision. Curry explains that this Supreme Court decision is just the latest in reversals of desegregation efforts.
  • Ron Walters takes Curry’s points one step farther in this Louisiana Weekly column, stating that the country has now returned to the
    “Separate but equal” doctrine of Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896.
Jul 12 2007
Blog Post Repercussions in States' Immigration Bills/June Report Card for New Orleans
  • As the immigration debate moves from a Federal to a
    states-based forum, different outlets are investigating the impact of various state-level bills. ‘Just News’ blog
    reports on the effects of new legislature in Arizona and Georgia. An article from the Arizona Republic
    interviews undocumented immigrants after the governor signed a bill recognized
    as the “toughest of its kind in the country” which could put companies out of
    business for hiring them. Many
    immigrants are considering migrating to another state, leaving behind labor
    shortages and housing market problems. An article on Governing.com describes the effects of Georgia’s new
    immigration law which force state and local government agencies to verify the
    legal residency of benefit employees.  It’s
    too soon to tell what such migration will do to these states enacting harsher
    laws. What is clear is that when the Federal government avoids creating a definite nation-wide policy, the differences in states' laws will likely cause many unforeseen problems in the economy.
  • The Center for Social Inclusion released their monthly “New
    Orleans Recovery Report Card” for June
    (pdf), an advocacy tool for monitoring
    rebuilding progress, assigns a grade for the 13 New Orleans planning districts
    based on performance in five categories: economy, utilities, health, housing,
    and public education. June’s report card continues the trend with not much improvement, especially in the categories of
    health and public education, both of which receiving grades of “F” overall.

                    Other details include:

    • As of this Report Card, 33% of childcare facilities have reopened in New Orleans, with six new childcare facilities reopening in June. The Lower 9th Ward, Venetian Islands, and New Aurora/English Turn still have no child care.
    • A report by PolicyLink, a national research and action institute, shows
      the Gulf Opportunity Zone Rental Housing Restoration Program, a $2 billion
      piece of the failed Road Home Program, will only replace 40% of the 82,000
      rental units damaged or destroyed in the 2005 hurricane season.
    • In a long-awaited flood-risk assessment for New Orleans, the federal government said the
      City is better prepared than before Katrina, but would still face severe
      flooding in the case of a 100-year storm or a major hurricane. Katrina was a
      400-year storm.

 


                    Check out
Jul 5 2007
Blog Post Daily Blog Round-Up 6/20/07: Part 2
  • Firedoglake reports on Dreams Across America train which we've posted about before here and
    here
    . The Dreams Across America train
    represents the melting pot of cultures America holds. Over the next week or so, we're going to feature some of our favorite "Dreamers" and exhibit their videos here on our site.  Our first featured dreamer is Yun Sook Kim Navarre,
    born in South Korea but
    adopted by a Detroit family. Yun Sook recognizes the strength of America's diversity and discusses her desire for better rights and less discrimination for her young daughter.
  • Pro Inmigrant reports on the controversial usage of the word
    “amnesty” for the immigration legislation, claiming that opponents of the bill
    use the word like a weapon. Pro
    Inmigrant points out the fallacy of calling this program “amnesty,” and urges
    all politicians to focus on a better compromise – and better wording.  We suggest "Pathway to Citizenship".
  • Racialicious reports on the Center for Migrant Rights, a
    small non-profit based in Mexico, and its efforts to educate Mexican workers about US labor laws, government agencies and
    previous civil rights struggles. Providing free legal aid to guest workers seeking compensation for
    injuries or missed pay, the Center started these workshops as a preventive
    effort in Mexico, as many workers in America are hard to reach because of fear of authorities. Many guest workers do not know the extent of
    their rights in the workforce, and much legislation aims at taking away rights
    they deserve. Among others, the 1996
    Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Reconciliation Act
    barred many
    documented and undocumented immigrants from basic federal programs that provide
    economic security.
  • The Connecticut newspaper,
    The Advocate, reports on the lack of progress in racially integrating Hartford and suburban
    schools. A review conducted by
    researchers at Trinity College shows that magnet schools have not attracted as
    many white suburban children into the city, resulting in only 9 percent of
    Hartford’s students (primarily black and Hispanic) attend schools that have
    enough white students to qualify as “racially integrated.” Following approval by the court and General
    Assembly, the state plans to spend millions of dollars over the next five years
    to subsidize programs that would foster immigration, like magnet and charter
    schools. This review is timely in light
    of the Supreme Court decision on school integration cases in Louisville and Seattle expected
    any day. Nationwide, the NAACP (pdf) found that nearly
    three-quarters of black and Latino students attend predominantly minority
    schools, and most white students attend schools where only one out of five
    students are from different racial groups. Without proper community programs, the already increasing levels of
    segregation will continue to rise, creating more barriers between us and failing to prepare our children to work in an increasingly diverse workforce and world.
Jun 20 2007
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.

May 14 2007
Blog Post State of Opportunity; State of the Union

Last night President Bush delivered his 6th State of the Union Address.  Thanks to a terrific interactive tool put out by the New York Times, we're able to determine that Bush mentioned opportunity 8 times in his speech - more than in any other State of the Union address he has delivered thus far.  In almost each instance, he referenced the need to spread hope and opportunity and build a brighter future for our country. 

It's wonderful to hear the President promote the value of opportunity
when addressing the nation, but unfortunately, opportunity has been on the decline since President Bush last ascended the podium to address the nation; and the President's proposed policies - centered less around expanding opportunity so much as promoting individual responsibility - will do little to increase opportunity for those most in need in our country.

Last year, just after the President's 2006 Address (in which one of the only references to opportunity came coupled with a broken promise to rebuild New Orleans - curiously absent from last night's speech), The Opportunity Agenda released a report - The State of Opportunity in America.  In this report, we measured America's progress in expanding opportunity along a variety of indicators and issues.  Our findings were not encouraging.

Next month, we'll release an update to the State of Opportunity Report.  For now, here's a sample of our findings:

  • A lower proportion of young adults earned high school degrees;
  • The number and rate of incarcerated people has increased, to 2.2 million today, consistent with a three-decade trend;
  • The wealth and income gap increased again, following a trend of growing economic inequality;
  • The gender poverty gap increased between 2004 and 2005, as a larger percentage of women fell into poverty in this period;
  • The number of Americans lacking health insurance increased from 45.3 million in 2004 to 46.6 million in 2005.

We'll have more in a few weeks.  Stay tuned.

In the meantime, you can fact-check the President's statements and policy proposals through this tool created by Think Progress.

We also recommend you check out the SOTU review offered by our friends at the Drum Major Institute.

What did you think of the President's address and his newfound commitment to spreading opportunity?

Jan 24 2007
Blog Post In Case You Missed It . . .

In an article with stunningly bad framing, the AP manages to blame poor african americans for getting ripped off by the insurance companies.  While the overall framing leaves much to be desired, the article does convey some important information, and a quote by our own Alan Jenkins, buried near the bottom, clearly states what should have been the story's principle message:

Alan Jenkins, a former Justice Department official in the Clinton
administration who lobbies for minority opportunities, said AP's
analysis reinforces a little-discussed reality exposed by Katrina.

"The
promise of opportunity isn't equally available," he said. "Race and
income has made a big difference in people's ability to start over."

Jenkins said state and federal agencies need to adopt different techniques to reach historically disadvantaged neighborhoods.

The Republic of T has about 5 great posts up analyzing the New Jersey decision on civil unions/gay marriage.  BlackProf has some good stuff on this issue as well.

Radio Open Source ran a fantastic show this week about identity politics in the '06 elections.  Listen to the podcast (mp3).

Finally, the Economic Policy Institute released a paper analyzing minimum wage research and trends.  The findings include:

There is a growing view among economists that the
minimum wage offers substantial benefits to low-wage workers without
negative effect. Although there are still dissenters, the best recent
research has shown that the job loss reported in earlier analyses does
not, in fact, occur when the minimum wage is increased. There is little
question that the overall impact of a minimum wage is positive, as the
following facts make clear:

If the minimum wage were increased nationally to $7.25:

  • 14.9 million workers would receive a raise,
  • 80% of those affected are adults age 20 or over, and
  • 7.3 million children would see their parents income rise.
Oct 27 2006
Syndicate content