How Prisons Rip Off and Exploit the Incarcerated


Truthdig columnist Chris Hedges discusses the forms of slavery and exploitation that thrive in today’s U.S. prison system with Eddie Conway, a former leader of the Black Panthers who was imprisoned for over 40 years.

 

It’s Time for a Children’s Bill of Rights


Colin Greer | AlterNet | January 8, 2015

Trespass on a property right or a patent ownership and you’ll cause a firestorm. It is convention to say that this country was established with a deep respect for the rights of property and frontier grit. In the course of time, we also learned that land was not just a personal asset but a national one. So we created land trusts, parks, public lands in a sense of common purpose for a major natural asset: our land. Perhaps we might think of our nation’s children as an asset of at least equal importance, an asset we can hold in common too.

Surely the revolutionaries who gave us the Bill of Rights (and for us too, in moment of good sense) cared at least as much about their children as their land. But not other people’s children. Yet all children are our greatest asset. From other people’s children have come robber barons and silicon sultans as well as all those who make the whole social enterprise work. The future lies with the brave, the inventive and the hard working. They are children now. Yet children in this country (and all around the world) are massively denied the most fundamental human rights. Indeed they are among the most impoverished and vulnerable among us. Perhaps we need a Bill of Rights for children to give us a reference point, to invite us to declare a commitment to reverse this sorry state of the child.

A Bill of Rights for the children would have to include the following:

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Pride and Professionalism Shape the Lives of Gay and Lesbian Teachers


Dr. Catherine Connell | Girl w/ Pen | Truthout | January 11, 2015

In a recent article in The Atlantic, writer and Teach For America alum Amanda Machado considered the difficulties of being an LGBT teacher in the contemporary US. Machado spoke to a number of teachers who struggle with how, when, or even whether to come out to their students and colleagues. Their stories closely mirror those of the gay and lesbian teachers I interviewed for my recent book, School’s Out: Gay and Lesbian Teachers in the Classroom. I interviewed 45 gay and lesbian teachers for the project; because I was interested in knowing how context matters for their experiences, about half of the interviews were with teachers in California, a state with multiple legal protections for LGBT teachers, and the other half in Texas, a state with none – LGBT teachers (and all non-federal employees, in fact) can be fired for their sexual identity in the state. In addition to varying the legal context, I also varied school level (elementary, middle, and high school), community (rural, suburban, and urban areas), and school size (small, medium, and large student populations). Across these varied settings, a common theme emerged—gay and lesbian teachers struggle to integrate the dictates of gay pride with the demands of teaching professionalism.

Some would argue that LGBT teachers who come out to students violate the expectations of teaching professionalism by exposing children to unnecessary displays of sexuality. Look no further than the comments on The Atlantic piece for ample evidence of this discourse! Of course, this position neglects the fact that heterosexual teachers put their own sexualities similarly on when they talk about or display pictures of their spouses and children. In the US, teachers have always faced intense levels of moral scrutiny. Gay and lesbian teachers feel even more under the microscope than others. As a result, they struggle with unsupportive administrators and fears of discrimination and harassment, just as Machado describes.

What Machado discusses less directly, however, is the countervailing pressure gay and lesbian teachers feel to live up to the expectations of gay pride. Today, LGBTs are expected to be “out and proud” at all times—this 2013 Huffington Post article by Margaret Cho explains why many feel so strongly about it. While there are compelling reasons to encourage coming out, as Cho enumerates, the insistence that coming out is a political responsibility for LGBTs has its drawbacks. Symbolically, it reinforces very black and white definitions of sexuality—the language of coming out suggests an “always was and always will be” model of sexual or gender identity, which may not be true for all people and limits the possibilities of sexual and gender fluidity. On a more practical level, the dictate to be out ignores the high risks associated with coming out for LGBTs disadvantaged by race, class, ability, health status, and a whole host of other factors. LGBT teachers weighing the costs and benefits of coming out consider much more than the psychological and pedagogical benefits of coming out that Machado describes in addition to the costs of potential discrimination. They must also consider the invisible cost of violating the ethic of gay pride. This added burden puts teachers in a no-win situation, stuck between twin uncompromising expectations of gay pride and teaching professionalism.

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Police Corruption Exposed


Margaret Kimberley | Black Agenda Report  | Truthout | January 11, 2015

The false narrative about the need for hyper policing has come crashing down and police themselves destroyed the well-cultivated propaganda. The awful truth which black people were well aware of is now out in the open for all to see. Police departments in the United States exist for the purpose of maintaining white people’s prerogatives as the group in control of everyone else. Enhancing public safety is a secondary consideration.

Under the Michael Bloomberg administration the New York City police department (NYPD) was infamous for its stop and frisk policies. Up to 575,000 people, almost all of them black or Latino, were stopped by police annually at the height of the stop and frisk program. A mysterious designation such as “furtive movement” was a reason for any person of color to be searched and harassed. Precinct commanders were pressured to meet quotas for stops, summonses, and arrests while also lying about the real crime rate in order to make the mayor and the NYPD look good.

All of that changed in the past two weeks. The NYPD have all but ceased writing summonses and making arrests and they have done so with the same zeal they once used in acting as the modern day slave patrol. The police union, the Patrolmen’s Benevolent Association (PBA) ordered the slowdown in order to punish current mayor Bill de Blasio. The behavior seems odd because the mayor reappointed as commissioner the architect of stop and frisk, William Bratton. Despite this and other pro-police actions, de Blasio doesn’t meet enough of the police terrorism threshold to please New York’s “finest.”

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No One Is Safe From Backlash When Criticizing the Police, Even the Police


Millions March in New York City, December 13, 2014.

Millions March in New York City, December 13, 2014. (Photo: Alan Greig / flickr)

Crystal Shepeard | Care2  | Truthout | January 11, 2015

In early December, an Instagram photo of Richmond, California Police Chief Chris Magnus began to circulate online. The uniformed police chief was holding a sign with the hashtag #blacklivesmatter during a peaceful protest. He, along with the Deputy Chief, had gathered with the 150 protestors outside a community center in one of hundreds of similar protests that had happened since two grand juries had failed to indict officers in the killing of unarmed black men in Missouri and New York City.

Under Chief Magnus’ watch, the police department had averaged only one police officer involved shooting since 2007. The record of no officer-involved killings since 2008 had been broken just two months before when a suspect was killed during a pursuit and subsequent struggle with an officer. The chief was so revered that the suspect’s family invited him to the funeral.

Nevertheless, when the photo appeared, the local police officers association took offense, saying that his participation in the protest while in uniform was a violation of law (it wasn’t). They were disappointed that the chief had chosen to participate in a political statement. As the backlash continued, Chief Magnus responded by asking, “When did it become a political act to acknowledge that ‘black lives matter’ and show respect for the very real concerns of our minority communities?”

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Human Rights Campaign Under Fire in LGBT Community


HRC Sign overshadowed

(Image: JR / TO; Adapted: Jerald Jackson, Geoff, Tom Haymes)

Toshio Meronek | Truthout | January 11, 2015

Queer groups call foul on the largest LGBT nonprofit, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC), for glorifying corporations the groups consider to be downright dirty.

Chevron. Goldman Sachs. Monsanto. None of these are brands that we tend to associate with bringing justice into the world. And yet these three corporations, along with many other Fortune 1000 companies, were awarded a “100 percent” rating in the 2015 “Equality Index” put out by the Human Rights Campaign (HRC).

Even if you’re not familiar with the name, you’ve probably seen the HRC’s stickers – a yellow equal sign against a blue background – on a bumper or in the window of a coffee shop somewhere. The campaign claims to be the biggest gay rights organization in the country and is a self-appointed voice for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) people everywhere.

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HRC Now Accepts Religious Liberty Bigotry


Cathy Kristofferson | Oblogdeeoblogda | January 11, 2015

IMG_7967cToday, the Human Rights Campaign (HRC) received their first lump of coal from Santa for 2015. Deliverers of Santa’s naughty list and coal at Christmastime, 1angryoldlesbian.org, returned barely two weeks into the new year following Thursday’s Washington Post article in which HRC’s vice president Fred Sainz gushed over presidential hopeful Jeb Bush’s new excuse for not accepting Florida’s recent legalization of marriage equality.

Part of Bush’s carefully crafted statement meant to placate all included the endorsement of “religious liberty” as the new acceptable evolution from plain old outspoken bigotry. With that undoubtedly carefully placed article, Fred has given Jeb Bush the HRC seal of approval.

In the Washington Post article ‘Has Jeb Bush shown Republicans a new way to talk about same-sex marriage?‘, Jeb Bush says..

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America’s 10 worst terror attacks by Christian fundamentalists and far-right extremists


Allen Graham - PDImages / Shutterstock.com

Supreme Court to weigh new religious rights case


Supreme Court (AFP)

Dublin priest receives standing ovation from congregation after announcing he’s gay


AStadsschouwburg Antwerp (Hans Stockmans, Creative Commons licensed)

 | Raw Story | January 11, 2015

An Irish Catholic priest in Dublin received a standing ovation from his congregation after stunning them with the announcement that he is gay, The Belfast Telegraph reports.

Father Martin Dolan — who has served as a priest at the Church of St Nicholas of Myra for 15 years — made the surprise announcement during a speech in which he urged his congregation to back the forthcoming Irish referendum on same-sex marriage.

“I’m gay myself,” he told them.

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