Newark Students’ May 22 walkout and protest over 2000 strong

Newark 1505 student walkoutOn May 22 2015, over 2000 students and supporters shut downtown Newark NJ down for several hours to create visibility and bring awareness to the horrors Newark students have experienced at the hands of Chris Christie, Cory Booker and Cami Anderson, who jointly created a plan to break the back of public education in this city.

Anderson’s “One Newark” plan has young children from a single family barred from attending the school local to their home and instead, being sent far outside their neighborhood to 4 different schools in different corners of the city. Each child must take 2-3 bus rides and spend an hour of commuting time each way to reach school. Throughout the city, public school students are denied books and sanitary food; the principals and administrative staff of the city’s most successful schools are fired; and police charges were filed against a PTA president for hanging flyers announcing the PTA’s next meeting.

As the walkout and protest clearly show, a growing number of students and their supporters are completely fed up. In the words of my esteemed friend and public education advocate Johnnie Lattner, “Enough is enough.”

Here’s some news coverage of yesterday’s walkout, many links courtesy of Bashir Akinyele, host of All Politics Are Local, America’s #1 political Hip Hop radio show

A short list of remarkable truth-telling journalists

speak truth to power
After reporting on Colbert’s public attack on David Koch at a Time Magazine Gala, journalist David Harris Gershon shares his list of truth-telling US journalists we should honor and pay close attention to.

Honor, because they are ‘swimming upstream’ in an era of cowardly and self-interested reporting. He starts off with, “Stewart. Colbert. Maher (at times),” and expands his list to include:

As According to Fish and kovie point out, it’s important to recognize those journalists and political commentators who swim upstream in their efforts to serve as truth-tellers, such as (to name just a few of my favorites) Amy Goodman, Bill Moyers, Robert Scheer, Paul Krugman, Matt Taibbi and Glenn Greenwald.

While some may disagree with the names listed above, the underlying point is this: that there are journalists working tirelessly, and with integrity, to serve as important checks on power, even as our corporate media class (those who sip champagne and celebrate themselves at such gatherings as TIME’s 100 and the White House Correspondents’ Dinner) slide inexorably into the propaganda abyss.

I want to add my own favorites – William Rivers Pitt, Truthout’s senior editor and lead columnist and New York Times Columnist Charles M. Blow.

Do you have a favorite?

Why America needs Elizabeth Warren to run for president

Elizabeth WarrenI love Bernie Sanders Bernie Sanders, but the politician that completely awes me is Elizabeth Warren. These progressives both speak powerful truths that America needs to hear, so maybe it’s a style thing – Warren is a bit more polished than Sanders – or, maybe it’s Warren being a woman. All I can tell you is that this lady has become very special to me. And I have a dream … that this outspoken advocate who believes in and champions decent values, dignity and living wages for working Americans, honesty and integrity in the business community; truth in politics and the media and students not being forced into a lifetime of debt in order to get college educated and protection of social security and other social safety nets … will run for president in the 2016 Election and win.

I want a candidate I can wholeheartedly get behind, and one who will truly and effectively fight for the America I believe in. For me, that person is Elizabeth Warren.

If you don’t know much about this courageous lady that fearlessly uses her position as US Senator to stand up to Big Monied interests and the governmental flunkies that support their getting away with thievery every day, watch this interview. I’m pretty sure you’ll end up charmed by Sen. Warren too.

In an introductory email Moveon comments, “The interview’s a little long, but it’s entirely worth it. And be sure to watch the part where the hosts play a special message from actor and activist Mark Ruffalo that he recorded especially for Sen. Warren — it’s just after the 21-minute point.”

Elizabeth Warren became my hero the day I heard her now famous speech: that no business person can claim to make it “on his own” because they all rely on public assets that are collectively bought and paid for.

Transcript: There is nobody in this country who got rich on his own. Nobody. You built a factory out there – good for you. But I want to be clear. You moved your goods to market on the roads the rest of us paid for. You hired workers the rest of us paid to educate. You were safe in your factory because of police forces and fire forces that the rest of us paid for. You didn’t have to worry that marauding bands would come and seize everything at your factory… Now look. You built a factory and it turned into something terrific or a great idea – God Bless! Keep a Big Hunk of it. But part of the underlying social contract is you take a hunk of that and pay it forward for the next kid who comes along.

Bill Moyer’s got some some interesting clips Elizabeth Warren Takes on Hillary Clinton and Alan Greenspan

If you too want Elizabeth Warren running for president in 2016 show your support at Run Warren Run. We might just get what we ask for.

Newark students – heroes in spite of being deprived of books and food

Support Newark studentsThe Student Heroes of Newark is a phrase coined by Daniel Katz in a Huffington Post article on how Newark, New Jersey students are handling the challenges of being starved by the Christie Administration and Cami Anderson, Newark Schools superintendent for classroom books and even food.

One student explains that there may be four textbooks in a classroom of over 30 children. Another, that there isn’t enough food in the cafeteria for both lunch and breakfast: if the staff serve one meal, they run out of food for the other. Take a look for yourself at this 3 minute video – these young people are powerful advocates and know how to tell their story.


Laws making it illegal to feed homeless in 33 cities must be reversed

not crime to feed homelessOn HuffPo, Rabbi Shmuly Yanklowitz writes about the 90 year old man arrested for feeding the homeless: “Arnold Abbott in Fort Lauderdale was arrested twice for publicly helping feed the vulnerable in his community.” And adds:

Astonishingly, according to the National Coalition for the Homeless, 33 American cities passed new restrictions on feeding the homeless between January 2013-April 2014.

Jews are commanded against following these laws, since we are obligated to feed and tend to the most vulnerable in our midst. The Shulchan Aruch writes:

If someone comes and says, “feed me,” you don’t check him to see if he is an imposter, but you feed him right away. If there is a naked person who comes and says, “give me clothing,” you check him to see if he is an imposter. And if you know him, you give him clothing right away (Yoreh Deah, Laws of Tzedakah, 251:10).

A News.Mic article makes a good case for the fact that that, “Essentially, (the laws are) designed to make being homeless within city limits so unpleasant that the downtrodden have no choice but to leave.” And points out, “In 2011, more than 20 members of Food Not Bombs were arrested in Orlando for sharing food.”

Rabbi Yanklowitz points out:

49,000 homeless veterans on any given night, although the National Council for Homeless Veterans estimates that an additional 1.4 million veterans are at risk of becoming homelessness due to poverty and a lack of support networks. These are among the people who we are now forbidden to feed?

…Unfortunately, it was left to English actor/activist Russell Brand to put things in sarcastic perspective: “America just had midterm elections where $4 billion was spent on campaigning… But feeding the homeless? That’s illegal.”

And urges a movement to repeal the ban against feeding our nation’s homeless:

From Henry David Thoreau to Martin Luther King, America has a strong tradition of objecting and even defying laws that violate core spiritual values in manners most egregious. It is not adequate to provide meager soup kitchens that one must travel to. Many need more and find themselves so desperate that they are begging in the streets. We must respond compassionately. This law must be repealed, and the Jewish people need be at the forefront of this call to action.


America’s war on compassion – and cellphone charging?

Street Roots Newspaper, PortlandAdd this story to the growing evidence that a war is being waged in America to make compassion a crime and to deny the most basic services to our #neighborswithnoaddress – the vast US homeless population of over half a million people. Which by the way ‘but for the Grace of God‘ could be you or me. Emily Green of Street Roots News reports on the plight of “Jackie”, whom police arrested for theft for charging her cellphone in an outside receptacle located in a planter box in Old Town, Portland. This story was reported by Street Roots, a Portland newspaper that serves the poor and homeless.

The net cost of Jackie’s alleged electricity theft was probably about 1/50th of a cent but this did not deter the justice system from requiring several court appearances, putting her in jail for a night and attempting to bully Jackie into pleading guilty, which would have annihilated the homeless woman’s chance at qualifying for a public housing subsidy. Jackie has MS and hopes to get housing now that she has begun receiving disability checks.

Gary L. Everest Tells about Street Roots newspaper:

“Street Roots” is a local newspaper with it’s home in Old Town. It’s dedicated to issues facing the homeless and sold on the streets around Portland by ambitious homeless men and women. It’s a great way for them to earn some money and I must say, the vendors are always respectful and never aggressive. At least one individual, who sold the paper outside of “Trader Joe’s” on NW Glisan was known for helping customers with grocery carts. When he passed away a year or two ago, there was quite an outpouring of feeling for this kind soul.

Wyndham, don’t persecute the homeless

Homeless coupleMy statement to Wyndham Hotels on their Facebook page:

Your ambiguous statement about the homeless couple you threw out into 9º weather altho a benefactor had paid for the room for them is just meaningless lip service. You need to do better with a policy change. You also refused to refund the room fee the benefactor paid. That’s plain nasty.

The generous benefactors paid for three nights for the homeless couple and did give it back, but only after 110,000 people signed a Care2 Petition condemning Wyndham’s actions.

Wyndham responded:

Super 8 has refunded the paying couple, and after receiving signatures from you and 110,000 other Care2 members, Wyndham Hotel Group CEO Geoff Ballotti apologized. He has promised that the company will send franchise owners “additional guidance for these types of situations in the future.”

Which is a fancy way of saying just about nothing.

Write on Wyndham’s Facebook page and demand a policy change.

What is capitalism?

Capitalism is an economic system in which a small group of people at the top of a financial hierarchy exploit others at lower levels according to the principle: buy low sell high. This small group uses profits to buy land and also control labor rates and conditions; food, water, transportation and processes others must buy, rent or use in order to participate in organized society – thereby setting in motion a self-perpetuating system of automatic wealth acquisition. As long as society functions, those holdings will be used and the holders of them will acquire greater wealth, which will translate into more acquisition in a never ending loop.

Eventually, capitalists own just about everything, at which point they become empowered to make decisions about who will be housed and who will not; who will have access to water and food and who won’t.

A small group of capitalists controls the larger group of citizens by granting or denying access to land and the processes needed to move from one place to another, communicate, carry out financial transactions, grow and obtain food; access water, heat, power and building materials. In 2014, this societal dichotomy is referred to as the 1% v the 99%. Today, 85 individuals own as much wealth as the poorest 3.5 billion of the world’s population.

By controlling communication mechanisms, capitalists are generally able to control information delivery. Which in essence means that capitalist strongly influence the minds and thoughts of citizens as well as our physical environment.

J4J report shares important data about attacks on public ed – Death by 1000 Cuts

School closings across the USA

School closings across the USA
The Journey 4 Justice Alliance has issued an important new report entitled Death By A Thousand Cuts which includes the number and location of school closings not previously gathered together by any major organization or media portal. It discusses the racist motivation of the misnamed “education reform” movement; the injustice that investor-based charters represent – institutions which are publicly funded but privately controlled; and is a must-read for any person interested in education equity.

How equity differs from equality

equity v. equality graphic

equity v. equality graphicEquality and equity may once have been completely interchangeable terms but in law and as pertains to social justice matters, they are not the same any longer. Equity speaks to making allowances for handicaps created by historic, economic or racially based lack of access in order to level the playing field for everyone. Equality is the goal of equity considerations: by giving a leg up to the underserved, we hope to become a society where all are truly equal.

Oxford Dictionary defines equity as “A branch of law that developed alongside common law in order to remedy some of its defects in fairness and justice, formerly administered in special courts.”

staggered starts for runnersThe Sex and Gender Based (SGBA) e-learning resource explains:

…we know that runners in the inside lanes have a distinct advantage over runners in the outer lanes because the distance they have to travel is shorter. As a result, equality – starting at the same place – doesn’t result in fairness.

The concept of equity …(leads) us to stagger the starting positions of the runners in order to offset the disadvantages facing those in the outer lanes.

The American Library Association (ALA) offers an entire page of detailed analysis about what equity and equality mean, and what sets them apart from each other linguistically and philosophically.

But, the best statement about equity is housed on the City of Portland, Oregon’s website:

The school of thought that says we should be “colorblind” and treat everybody equally, ignores the historic exclusion of those not considered white and the need to recognize and value our differences. In the context of race, being colorblind marginalizes negative racial conflicts, cultural heritage, and unique perspectives of people of color. Colorblindness stands in the way of our necessity to address racial differences and difficulties—we cannot be colorblind until we address all the issues that color consciousness has created.

Amen to that!

BTW, I found this statement about a Canadian government agency’s Employment Equity hiring policy thoughtful, and quite instructional.

How Koch Bros’ $25M gift to United Negro College Fund can hurt us

A mind is a terrible thing to waste (girl)

A mind is a terrible thing to waste (girl)A friend posted this on Facebook about the $25 Million gift given to the United Negro College Fund by the Koch Brothers:

If this money comes from sincerity (their heart) it is a blessing, but if it comes with “strings attached” the Koch brothers will have not surprised us. They will show us as usual their true colors! Win-win situation either way!

My thoughts are different:

Not necessarily, Maria. The insidious multi-level strategies that typically accompany gifts by the rich and powerful are designed to have subtle, but long-lasting and far reaching effect. First we should ask, what is being asked for as a direct trade for the gift? We may never know everything that was bargained away behind closed doors but we do know that two Koch Brothers designees will sit on a scholarship decision committee of three that will decide which students get that blood money. Right out of the gate, it’s clear that the money was not given with an open hand.

Second, the gift buys the public perception that Koch Bros are not that bad, after all because: Look! They gave millions to the United Negro College Fund. But that wouldn’t be true, because the Kochs are very bad.

Third. That large a gift is usually a solicited one, meaning it’s very likely that some board member or key administrator at UNCF is buddy enough with the Koch Bros organization to have solicited the donation. In the wake of this gift, it’s not inconceivable that in the future more board and key staff members with similar connections to Koch or other Big Money people might replace board and key staff members with community ties. Because, well. $25 MILLION.

Now let’s factor in the influence of the widely accepted adage, “You should never bite the hand that feeds you.” It’s pretty reasonable to assume that criticism of the Koch Bros will diminish at all of the institutions that benefit from UNCF funding – which now will also be Koch funding?

There’s also the issue of the scholarships this money funds and how they will affect families whose students receive them. Recipients and their families will be grateful and by extension their local and national communities will be too. And the public that learns of the scholarship awards will probably admire the brothers’ generosity without considering the insidious influencing strategy behind them.

Families may change their buying habits, buying Angel Soft toilet tissue and Brawny paper towels in the mistaken belief that supporting the Koch Bros will end up benefitting our communities’ children. But when you consider that Angel Soft is the leading US brand of toilet paper, bringing in 1.25 trillion dollars each year, you can see why it makes sense for the brothers to invest in public-relations stunts like this that are intentionally designed to keep the public buying Kochs.

So, buyers beware, America! Major influencers like the Kochs know better than most that the simple act of a well placed gift can topple a societal reform movement. As for the rest of us, we should not agree to be either bought or sold.

We should all boycott products made by the Koch brothers. Here’s a list of brands to stop buying.

Like Jobs and Winfrey, Suli Breaks will not let exam results decide his fate

Young people around the world are speaking up about education and careers. We need to listen to them because – this is their age. The age of information. And they know, much more than we give them credit for.

Suli Breaks - exam results

No dejaré que el resultado de un examen decida mi destino (subtitulado en Español)


Right now, there is a kid finishing parents evening in a heated discussion with his mother,
Saying why does he have subject subjects he will never ever use in his life…
And she will look at him blank eyed, stifle a sigh, think for a second,
And then lie.
She will say something along the lines of,
“You to get a good job you need a good degree and these subjects help you get a degree.
We never had this opportunity when I was younger”
And he will reply, “but you were young a long time ago weren’t you mum?”

And she won’t respond, although what he implies makes perfect sense; that society’s needs would have changed since she was 16.
But she will ignore this, grip his hand more sternly, and drag him to the car.

But what she does know is that
She didn’t ignore him to shut up…
She didn’t lie because they are just returning him from parents evening and an argument in the hallway would look bad on her resume…
She won’t lie because she had just spent the last hour convincing a stern face teacher that she ensure that her child studies more at home…

No. She will lie simply because she was never taught better herself.
Although, all her adult life, she has never used or applied
Pythagoras’ Theorem or pathetic fallacy,
And still doesn’t know the value of x.
She will rely on society to tell her child, who has one of the sharpest minds in the school, he is “unfocused, hyperactive, easily distracted, and wayward.”

How many equations, subjects, dates did you cram into your head weeks before an exam never to use again?!

How many times have you remembered something 5 minutes after the teacher has said, “stop writing”… only to receive your results a month later to discover you were only 1 mark short of the top grade?
So, remembering it 5 minutes earlier would have instantly made you more qualified for a particular job?
On an application form it would.

We all have different ability, thought processes, experiences, and genes.
So, why is a class full of individuals tested by the same means?

That means that Cherrelle thinks she’s dumb
Because she couldn’t do a couple sums.
And if this issue is not addressed properly,
It because a self fulfilling prophecy.

Then every school has the nerve to have policy on “equality”
Huh… the irony.
Exams are society’s methods of telling what you’re worth.
Society can’t tell you what you are.
Because this is the same society that tells you abortion is wrong, but then looks down on you for being a teenage parent,
Sells products to promote natural hair, looks, and smooth complexion
But the model on the box, is half PhotoShopped,
has fake lashes and hair extensions.
Governments that preach peace…
But endorse wars.

If you believe so much in the importance of higher learning and further education,
Why then increase the tuition fees every year?
I believed Miss Jefferson when she took me into the office said
my exams would be imperative to my success.
Then I took Jefferson out of the equation, learnt to think for myself, and I realized
We were always taught to follow when misled.
Huh… the irony.

Test us with tests,
But the finals are never final
Because they never prepare us for the biggest test (which is survival).
What I suggest is fairly outlandish…
I don’t except everyone to understand this
–Except the kids that know what it feels like to be
Worth no more than that D or that A
That you receive on results day…
The ones whose best stories
Where never good enough for your English teacher.
Because apparently you: “missed key literal techniques, did not follow the class plan,
and the language was too formal” for him to understand.
But then; he’d reference Hamlet, Macbeth
And you would fight the urge to express your contempt, by partially clenching your fist with only your medius finger left protruding in the middle on your hand,
And asking if she was aware that Shakespeare was known as the innovator of slang.
Or the kid at the back of the class who thinks “why am I studying something that doesn’t fuel my drive?”
But when confronted with a math problem his eyes come alive!!
So this one is for my generation
The one’s that found what they were looking for on Google
Followed their dreams on Twitter
Pictured their future on Instagram
And accepted destiny on Facebook.

This one’s for my “failures” and “dropouts,”
for my unemployed graduates,
My shop assistants, cleaners, and cashiers with bigger dreams,
My self-employed and entrepreneurs,
My world changers and dream chasers.

Because the purpose of “Why I hate school, but love education” was not to initiate
A world wide debate but rather to let them know that
weather 72 or 88
44 or 68
We will not let an exam results
decide our fate.
~ Suli Breaks

Bob Braun explores relationship between Christie and NJ violence

Screaming ChristieLots of things Bob Braun says are way too important to only be seen on Facebook. Like his thoughts on the relationship between Christie’s ranting/abuse and youth shootings motivated by a desire for “respect”:

If the governor of the state can suggest that someone should “take a bat” to a woman, why should we be surprised that a child shoots people because they “disrespected” him?

We live in a state in which the governor prides himself in bullying, misogynistic behavior, someone who shows his displeasure with threatening gestures and who refuses to defend gun restrictions in court. We live in a state whose voters re-elected this bully and elected as US senator a man who, as Newark mayor, laid off cops and presided over the worst carnage in almost a decade. We live in a state where the busiest interstate crossing can be held for political ransom despite the threat to public safety.

We live in a state where the unemployment rate is higher than the national rate. We live in a state where grinding poverty and Jim Crow era segregation lives side-by-side with affluence and all-white towns. Where greed is more highly prized than civic duty when the bully-in-chief proposes lower taxes on the rich. Where public services for young people have been eliminated. Where public education in communities that need it the most has been reduced to a mindless competition over numbers. Where the adults most likely to be in contact with young people with problems – public employees – are considered interchangeable drones who don’t have to be paid much or treated with respect. Where fair housing initiatives are suppressed.

Yet, somehow, we wring our hands and wonder why our children are killing each other in the streets. We have met the enemy, my friends, and he is us.

Follow Bob on Twitter

WSJ Op-Ed laments the waning of white supremacy

white supremacyAlternet author Adam Peck does a good job of showing the humour in Joseph Epstein’s massively egotistical and racist WSJ Op-Ed in which Epstein proposes, “we need more rich white men in power, preferably WASPs,” and goes on to say,

There are a lot of problems in Washington, D.C these days, but not many solutions to them. Inefficiency, an allergy to cooperation, and stiff resistance to pragmatism have all ground the federal government to a stand-still. But one op-ed contributor to the Wall Street Journal knows what the real problem is: not enough rich, white men.

In Saturday’s paper and online, author Joseph Epstein mourns the collapse of what he describes as the “genuine ruling class, drawn from what came to be known as the WASP establishment,” (WASP, the commonly-held acronym for White, Anglo-Saxon Protestant). Instead, he argues, we are living in a meritocracy, governed not by an elite subset of the uppermost crust of society but rather by a group of people who overcame some kind of adversity and achieved success thanks to their own merits, not based on what family they were born into. This, according to Epstein, is a tragedy.

Film: American Violet

Film: American Violet
African Violet Movie
American Violet is a film that shows us the criminal justice system being used as a tool to disenfranchise target communities from housing, jobs and social services – with no regard for whether detainees have ever committed a crime, or how the arrest of one member will impact the stability of an entire family.

People who are falsely detained and have children or parents at home who rely on them for support, are likely to succumb to coercion and plead guilty to crimes they did not commit in order to get released from jail and back to their families. But afterwards, they will face the consequences of being branded as convicts and the immediate loss of social support services their families rely on, including their family’s home if they live in public – or publicly supported – housing.

The IMDB review comments

(This) film tells the important story of Dee Roberts drug arrest in Melody, Texas in 2000. The story of the abuse of power by the criminal justice system is an important one that most Americans are not terribly familiar with.