Saturday, April 11, 2009

What Change?

David Gespass | What Change?

http://www.truthout.org/041109A

David Gespass, Truthout: "For those of us who were in Durban, South Africa, in 2001 for the World Conference Against Racism, Racial Discrimination, Xenophobia and Related Intolerance, the decision of the United States to leave before the conclusion was disheartening, but not surprising... There were two issues in particular the US did not want on the agenda. One was that of reparations for the slave trade and the other was the plight of the Palestinian people. While the US withdrawal was predicated on the latter, it remains an open question how much of a role each played in its decision."

Lisa Kudrow for Mother's Day for Peace


http://www.mothersdaypeace.org. Please join Lisa Kudrow in supporting Ploughshares Fund's Mother's Day for Peace campaign. Together we will work to eliminate nuclear weapons and create a safer, more peaceful world.

Filmed by: Andrew Park
Edited by: Scott Drapeau

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Courtesy of Buzzflash:

A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Chad Rubel

The right's silliness about gays has always seemed so uninformed. "Gays are recruiting your children." "If I shake hands with a gay person, it might rub off on me."

But if those on the right still believe gayness spreads like a virus, then they might think we're in an epidemic right now. Sure, Proposition 8 passed in California, but it was a lot easier to vote "yes" on a bill than "no."

"What a week for the gays," they might think. First, Iowa steps in and allows for gay marriage. Then, the Washington, D.C. city council gave legal recognition to gay and lesbian residents who have been married elsewhere. Then, Vermont kicks in with its legislature saying to the governor, "We're going over your head."

New York Governor David Paterson plans to re-introduce legislation making same-sex marriage legal, though the state currently recognizes same-sex marriages performed legally in other states.

Even Rick Warren is pretending he's not as concerned about gay marriage as he used to be.

There was something when California was fighting for this basic right that upset the conservatives. Perhaps it was because it was "left-leaning" California. Somehow, when Iowa and Vermont make their calls, suddenly the conservatives aren't as intense.

And you can hear the snide tones when the right-wing media points out that Vermont is the first state to approve gay marriage through the legislature, as if Massachusetts, Iowa, and California (for a brief time) weren't legitimate because the courts first figured it out. And the corporate media never calls on the conservatives' hypocrisy that they only cry "activist judges" when they disagree with the ruling.

The tide has definitely shifted from 2004 when Karl Rove and his cronies utilized false fears to get anti-gay marriage amendments passed, and to draw more conservatives to the polls. I remember distinctly being in downtown Cincinnati in the summer of 2004, horrified at being asked to sign a petition getting an anti-gay marriage initiative on the ballot.

Then, and in California in 2008, I figured out that you can't legislate away basic rights, no matter how hard the conservatives would try to do so.

Despite the advancements, especially this week, the conservatives are not giving up the fight. The ironically named National Organization for Marriage just spent $1.5 million to air a bogeyman ad, designed to scare and misinform.

The outtakes are especially wonderful -- watching actors read this vague dialogue that speaks but doesn't really say anything.

You would think if those who truly believe gay marriage is wrong, immoral, or evil spent money on a commercial, they would use the time to explain what really bothers them about gay marriage.

After all, they believe what they believe, and think their beliefs are more important than upholding basic rights to its citizens. I would expect Biblical verses and thorough explanations, extensively proving their case that great sorrow would come if gay marriage were made legal.

I wouldn't want just a few verses from Leviticus -- been there, done that. I want pillar of salt analogies, citing that God will strike down America if it allows gay marriage (I've actually heard this as an argument). Heck, if that were true, we might still be in trouble since God might strike down Canada, and we're right next door.

These people spend money and time saying gay marriage is bad, but they never explain to a mainstream audience what they really feel. When slavery was up for dispute, the people who favored slavery offered up reasons and logic, even if ultimately their logic was seriously misguided. This generation would prefer to hide behind vagueness wrapped in an enigma.

In the early part of the 21st century, if you want to fight for taking away basic rights, you better have something substantial to back that up. Otherwise, get the hell out of the way.

Gay marriage gains momentum, and its detractors fight back with inarticulate vagueness

Courtesy of Buzflash:

A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
by Chad Rubel

The right's silliness about gays has always seemed so uninformed. "Gays are recruiting your children." "If I shake hands with a gay person, it might rub off on me."

But if those on the right still believe gayness spreads like a virus, then they might think we're in an epidemic right now. Sure, Proposition 8 passed in California, but it was a lot easier to vote "yes" on a bill than "no."

"What a week for the gays," they might think. First, Iowa steps in and allows for gay marriage. Then, the Washington, D.C. city council gave legal recognition to gay and lesbian residents who have been married elsewhere. Then, Vermont kicks in with its legislature saying to the governor, "We're going over your head."

New York Governor David Paterson plans to re-introduce legislation making same-sex marriage legal, though the state currently recognizes same-sex marriages performed legally in other states.

Even Rick Warren is pretending he's not as concerned about gay marriage as he used to be.

There was something when California was fighting for this basic right that upset the conservatives. Perhaps it was because it was "left-leaning" California. Somehow, when Iowa and Vermont make their calls, suddenly the conservatives aren't as intense.

And you can hear the snide tones when the right-wing media points out that Vermont is the first state to approve gay marriage through the legislature, as if Massachusetts, Iowa, and California (for a brief time) weren't legitimate because the courts first figured it out. And the corporate media never calls on the conservatives' hypocrisy that they only cry "activist judges" when they disagree with the ruling.

The tide has definitely shifted from 2004 when Karl Rove and his cronies utilized false fears to get anti-gay marriage amendments passed, and to draw more conservatives to the polls. I remember distinctly being in downtown Cincinnati in the summer of 2004, horrified at being asked to sign a petition getting an anti-gay marriage initiative on the ballot.

Then, and in California in 2008, I figured out that you can't legislate away basic rights, no matter how hard the conservatives would try to do so.

Despite the advancements, especially this week, the conservatives are not giving up the fight. The ironically named National Organization for Marriage just spent $1.5 million to air a bogeyman ad, designed to scare and misinform.

The outtakes are especially wonderful -- watching actors read this vague dialogue that speaks but doesn't really say anything.

You would think if those who truly believe gay marriage is wrong, immoral, or evil spent money on a commercial, they would use the time to explain what really bothers them about gay marriage.

After all, they believe what they believe, and think their beliefs are more important than upholding basic rights to its citizens. I would expect Biblical verses and thorough explanations, extensively proving their case that great sorrow would come if gay marriage were made legal.

I wouldn't want just a few verses from Leviticus -- been there, done that. I want pillar of salt analogies, citing that God will strike down America if it allows gay marriage (I've actually heard this as an argument). Heck, if that were true, we might still be in trouble since God might strike down Canada, and we're right next door.

These people spend money and time saying gay marriage is bad, but they never explain to a mainstream audience what they really feel. When slavery was up for dispute, the people who favored slavery offered up reasons and logic, even if ultimately their logic was seriously misguided. This generation would prefer to hide behind vagueness wrapped in an enigma.

In the early part of the 21st century, if you want to fight for taking away basic rights, you better have something substantial to back that up. Otherwise, get the hell out of the way.

Op zoek naar Maria - Dans in het Centraal Station van Antwerpen

Play this loud! Very, very loud... let everyone in your office join in:

Wednesday, April 8, 2009

National Organization for Marriage's new tactic: fear-mongering without using the word 'religion'


From Bilerico:

National Organization for Marriage's new tactic: fear-mongering without using the word 'religion'

Marriage equality is gaining momentum across America.


Marriage equality is gaining momentum across America.

On Friday, the Iowa Supreme Court -- by a unanimous ruling -- made marriage equality the law of the land. Then the Vermont legislature overturned their Governor's veto of a marriage equality bill by a two-thirds margin on Tuesday.

And now the religious right is responding with a national TV ad filled with fear about a same-sex marriage "storm" gathering across the country.

This morning, the "National Organization for Marriage" launched a disturbing ad using actors to push lies claiming that marriage equalty threatens personal freedoms. The ad is going up on the airwaves across America -- eight times a day in California -- as NOM seeks to build what they are calling a "rainbow coalition" against equality.

We need your help to fight back right now against this deplorable ad. With many legal experts expecting the California Supreme Court to uphold Prop 8, our only option will be to place an initiative on the ballot to restore marriage equality. To repeal Prop 8, we will need to build a grassroots army for change in every county of California.

In response, the Dolby Family is challenging our community to raise $25,000 as a matching grant to fund Camp Courage trainings for marriage equality activists.

Can you help us respond to these lies and distortions by turning fear into hope? Watch this despicable TV ad now and then contribute to support more Camp Courage trainings by helping us meet this generous $25,000 matching grant from the Dolby Family -- thus doubling their amazing donation:

http://www.couragecampaign.org/TurnFearIntoHope

While NOM's TV ad uses actors to portray false victims, Camp Courage is mobilizing real people to speak from their heart, door-to-door across California.

Modeled on the "Camp Obama" training events that helped propel President Obama into the White House, Camp Courage uses the "Story of Self" to transform personal experiences -- each participant's unique inspiration for supporting marriage equality -- into compelling and authentic narratives that can persuade undecided voters.

Here's what Sara P., a participant, said about Camp Courage Los Angeles:

"At any time throughout the day I could look around the room and see a smile on someone's face, a tear running down their cheek, and the wheels turning in their head. Every moment, you could look to your left and look to your right and know that you were sitting next to a fellow soldier, someone that will be, or is, in the trenches with you fighting in the name of justice. How powerful is that?"

To build a movement to push back on the right-wing's lies and fear-mongering, we need to train and empower more people like Sara. These transformative trainings have been held in L.A. and Fresno and now San Diego and the Bay Area are next. Meanwhile, we've also mobilized grassroots organizers to launch 23 Equality Teams and 13 canvass events across California, with teams going door-to-door to talk directly to voters.

Please turn fear into hope. Watch this TV ad right now and then do what you can to help us continue to build an army for marriage equality. Your contribution will help us double the Dolby Family's amazing donation and expand Camp Courage into more locations:

http://www.couragecampaign.org/TurnFearIntoHope

We've made history in Iowa and Vermont. Now let's fight the right to make marriage equality a reality again in California.

Rick Jacobs
Chair, Courage Campaign

The Uniting American Families Act

The Uniting American Families Act – House bill 1024 and Senate bill 424 – is proposed federal legislation that would protect thousands of couples like Tan and Mercado. The bills were re-introduced February 12.

The act would enable gay Americans to sponsor their foreign same-sex partners for legal residency in the United States. Under the current Immigration and Naturalization Act, an American citizen can only sponsor his or her opposite-sex spouse for a green card, representing legal residency.

Congresswoman Jackie Speier (D-San Mateo), who represents the district in which the women live, and Senator Barbara Boxer (D-California) are co-sponsors of the UAFA.

Please contact your Representatives and Senators and ask them to sponsor this legislation.


Changing the Rules

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship | Changing the Rules

http://www.truthout.org/040809A

Bill Moyers and Michael Winship, Truthout: "A cartoon in the Sunday comics shows that mustachioed fellow with monocle and top hat from the Monopoly game - 'Rich Uncle Pennybags,' he used to be called - standing along the roadside, destitute, holding a sign: 'Will blame poor people for food.' Time to move the blame to where it really belongs. That means no more coddling banks with bailout billions marked 'secret.' No more allowing their executives lavish bonuses and new corporate jets as if they've won the mega-lottery and not sent the economy down the tubes. And no more apostles of Wall Street calling the shots."

Tony Blair To Pope: You're Wrong On Gays


From JMG:

Former British prime minister and new Catholic Tony Blair told the UK gay magazine Attitude that the Pope is wrong about homosexuality.

Tarsila do Amaral

I had a surreal bus ride to work today. I (for once) did not have to wait a minute, as the bus showed up when I got to my stop. Got on and woman, with her daughter sitting next to her, was yelling to her boyfriend on a cell phone for half the ride. What to do? Ipod time... and it shuffled to some nice Brazilian music, and I daydreamed, and something made me think of Tarsila... so here are some examples of her fine work:


http://www.yesongaymarriage.com/

Obama Echoes Bush on Education Ideas

Thanks to J. Becker for this:

*************************
From Education Week [American Education's Newspaper of Record],
Wednesday, April 8, 2009, Volume 28, Issue 28, pp. 1,18-19. See
http://www.edweek.org/ew/articles/2009/04/08/28obama_ep.h28.html?tkn=WNOFyTIKk%2F2NxAxoeX6F4ULVU0SXJoKkGS82
*************************
Obama Echoes Bush on Education Ideas

By Erik W. Robelen

President Barack Obama campaigned on a message of change, but when it
comes to K-12 education, he appears to be walking in the policy
footsteps of his recent predecessors, including George W. Bush.

Mr. Obama is sounding themes of accountability based on standards and
assessments. He's delivering tough talk on teacher quality, including
a call for performance-based pay. And he's promoting an expanded
charter school sector.

To be sure, his economic-stimulus package shows he is ready to pump
far more money into education than Mr. Bush did. And Mr. Obama says
he opposes private school vouchers, a consistent Bush agenda item.

Still, some observers see little difference between the two so
far-and aren't happy at the similarities.

"He is operating almost in a straight line from President Bush," said
Diane Ravitch, an education historian at New York University, who
co-writes a blog for edweek.org. She has criticized core elements of
Mr. Obama's K-12 agenda, such as his enthusiasm for the charter
sector and what she worries is an overreliance on standardized
testing to judge schools and teachers.
Sound Familiar?

The four most recent occupants of the White House have sounded
similar themes on education.

"Accountability, flexibility, tougher standards, a results-oriented
system-all of these have got to be out there on the table."
President George H.W. Bush
(Remarks at the education summit in Charlottesville, Va., Sept. 27, 1989)

"All successful schools have followed the same formula: higher
standards, more accountability, so all children can reach those
standards."
President Bill Clinton
(State of the Union Address, Jan. 27, 2000)

"We will insist on high standards and accountability because we
believe that every schools should teach and every child can learn."
President George W. Bush
(Presidential radio address, Jan. 3, 2004)

"We're seeing what children from all walks of life can and will
achieve when we set high standards, have high expectations, when we
do a good job preparing them. ... [W]e will cultivate a new culture
of accountability in schools."
President Barack Obama
(Address to the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, in Washington, March 10, 2009)

"Obama is, in effect, giving George W. Bush a third term in
education," said Ms. Ravitch, who served as an assistant secretary of
education under the first President Bush.

Alfie Kohn, an education author and longtime critic of standardized
testing, echoes that assessment.

"This is what passes for quote-unquote 'reform': an intensification
of the status quo that reflects the sensibility of politicians and
corporate executives rather than educators," Mr. Kohn said.

He warns that if Mr. Obama holds to that pattern, his agenda may pose
a challenge for some of his natural constituencies.

"A lot of liberals and those on the left desperately want to believe
that Obama represents a qualitative change, not just in education,
but in all kinds of domestic and foreign-policy issues," Mr. Kohn
said. "And even as many of them become slowly disenchanted, the
political issue becomes: How hard do we push?"

But Andrew J. Rotherham, a co-director of the Washington-based think
tank Education Sector, argues that the president is sending the right
signals, from promoting charter schools to pushing on teacher quality
and "improving accountability, not jettisoning it."

He said that even while he believes Mr. Obama's critics are wrong to
suggest there is little difference between him and Mr. Bush on
education, those hoping for a "radical departure" will be
disappointed.

"There was a lot of overlap between Bush I and Clinton, and between
Clinton and Bush II," said Mr. Rotherham, a former aide to President
Bill Clinton. "Not surprisingly, there's going to be a lot of overlap
between Bush II and Obama.

"That says less about any of them per se than the direction education
reform has been going for well over a decade."
Charting a Course

Analysts caution that it's still too soon to know exactly where
President Obama will come down on education. The key, they say, is
how the Obama administration translates its rhetoric into action and
detailed policy prescriptions.

For instance, how serious will the administration be in enforcing the
education accountability demands in the recently enacted stimulus
plan? How will it seek to define performance pay? And what specific
changes does Mr. Obama have in mind for the upcoming reauthorization
of the No Child Left Behind Act?

Leading teachers' union officials, at least publicly, sound receptive
to most of the president's ideas.

Randi Weingarten, the president of the 1.4 million-member American
Federation of Teachers, said Mr. Obama has laid out a "very broad,
comprehensive, and thoughtful agenda."

The president is wading into touchy territory for the unions with his
advocacy of expanding charter schools and promoting performance-based
pay, themes he sounded on the campaign trail.

"I know that these conversations sometimes are uncomfortable for us
to have, but we're willing to have them," Ms. Weingarten said when
asked about Mr. Obama's discussion of performance pay.

She and other union officials say that Mr. Obama's election brought
about a critical change that isn't about policy or money. It's a
belief-reinforced by the president's public statements-that teachers
and their unions will have a seat at the table in policy discussions.

"He's going to listen," said Anne T. Wass, the president of the
Massachusetts Teachers Association, an affiliate of the 3.2
million-member National Education Association. "There wasn't very
much trust in President Bush as far as our issues, and very little
access."
'The Same Old Debate'

The considerable attention President Obama has paid to education
since taking office has surprised many observers, especially given
the relatively minor role the issue played in the 2008 campaign and
the focus on the economic crisis.

The president and U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan have made
clear that they view the economic-stimulus law, the American Recovery
and Reinvestment Act-with some $115 billion in aid for precollegiate
and higher education-as a means to launch education plans from
improvements in standards and data-collection systems to performance
pay. The unprecedented, one-time infusion of federal aid is being
touted not only as a lifeline for schools but also a bargain of more
money in exchange for substantive changes. ("Stimulus Scale Seen as
Issue," Feb. 11, 2009, and "First Education Stimulus Aid Flows to
States," April 8, 2009.)

Last month, Mr. Obama outlined his education agenda in broad strokes
during an address to the U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, setting
the stage with a fairly stark portrait.

"[W]e've let our grades slip, our schools crumble, our teacher
quality fall short, and other nations outpace us," he said.

Some critics say Mr. Obama was unfairly negative and used flawed
information to make his case.

For instance, he said that U.S. 8th graders have "fallen to ninth
place" in math. Although the 2007 results for the Trends in
International Mathematics and Science Study, or TIMMS, do confirm
that ranking, it was an improvement from the 2003 U.S. ranking of
15th place. In 1999, the United States ranked 19th out of 38 nations.

The president appeared to be on solid statistical ground in some
other areas, however. He said that "just a third of our 13- and
14-year-olds can read as well as they should," which seems to refer
to the 31 percent of 8th graders rated "proficient" in the 2007
results for the National Assessment of Educational Progress.

He also lamented the "stubborn"-and widely recognized-achievement gap
between African-American and Hispanic students and their white peers.

Mr. Obama has been generally consistent in his stated education
agenda since taking office, reiterating much that he said during the
campaign. That includes improvement proposals touching on every
aspect of the U.S. education system, from early childhood to college
and the workplace.

He has trumpeted his goals repeatedly, from his address to Congress
in February to a virtual town-hall meeting on March 26. But he
articulated his vision most extensively in his March 10 speech in the
nation's capital to Hispanic business leaders.

"[W]hat we get here in Washington is the same old debate ... more
money versus more reform, vouchers versus the status quo," Mr. Obama
said. "What's required is not simply new investments, but new
reforms. It's time to expect more from our students. It's time to
start rewarding good teachers, stop making excuses for bad ones. It's
time to demand results from government at every level."

On the K-12 front, Mr. Obama called on states to develop stronger
academic standards and better student assessments, and urged a move
toward common standards across states-a point he did not make on the
campaign trail. He talked of extending the school day and year, and
increasing assistance for dropouts. He promoted efforts to recruit,
prepare, and reward teachers.

In addition, Mr. Obama called for more innovation in schools, and
pointed to some charter schools as exemplars. Going beyond his
campaign plan to increase federal aid for charters, he also urged
states with charter caps to lift them, provided those states ensure
"greater accountability" and have plans to "close charters that are
not working."

The president carefully couched his rhetoric in ways that make it
akin to a Rorschach test, with something for almost everyone.

He said he wants "tougher, clearer" standards, but also assessments
that "don't simply measure whether students can fill in a bubble." He
wants more "effective" charters, but also tougher action to close
those that fall short. He wants not only to hold teachers
accountable, he said, but also to treat them like professionals.
Political Balancing Act

"Obama has been very artful with this from the very beginning,"
Christopher T. Cross, a veteran education expert who was an assistant
education secretary under the first President Bush, said of his
ability to deliver multiple messages. "There's enough in there that,
depending on where you sit, you can see something you stand for."

As a result, his education vision has managed to appeal to a wide
range of education policymakers and analysts.

"He is saying a lot of things that sound all too familiar to me,"
said former U.S. Secretary of Education Margaret Spellings, pointing
to Mr. Obama's backing of teacher incentive pay, charter schools, and
high standards to help close achievement gaps. "I want to sing right
along."

John P. Bailey, a former aide to President George W. Bush on
education and labor issues, said that while he has been encouraged,
it shouldn't be surprising to hear familiar themes coming from the
new president.

"What it shows, to me, is there is an emerging consensus around some
real bipartisan, center-oriented reforms," Mr. Bailey said.

Indeed, leading congressional Democrats on education, including Sen.
Edward M. Kennedy of Massachusetts and Rep. George Miller of
California, were partners with the Bush administration in drafting
the bipartisan No Child Left Behind Act eight years ago, though they
later complained bitterly that Mr. Bush was not willing to fund it
adequately.

President Clinton-the previous Democrat to hold the office-was also a
champion of standards and accountability, and signed into law major
changes to federal policy that helped pave the way for NCLB. In
addition, he was an early and vocal proponent of charter schools, and
pushed for new demands on states and districts to improve teacher
quality.

For his part, President George H.W. Bush offered an agenda that
included advocating national goals and standards across states and
providing seed money for "break the mold" schools.

Still, the ideas Mr. Obama is embracing don't sit well with everyone.

Alex Molnar, an education professor at Arizona State University, said
that while he finds merit in some of Mr. Obama's plans for
early-childhood and higher education, he sees little to like in the
current administration's K-12 agenda, whether it's the "fascination
with standards and assessments" or the embrace of charter schools.

"He's just served up a plate of leftovers: leftover ideas, leftover
ideology, and I must say, he's serving leftovers of food that wasn't
very good to begin with," Mr. Molnar said.

Ms. Wass of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said that while
she supports many of Mr. Obama's plans, she is "less enthusiastic"
about performance pay.

"If it means paying individual teachers based on student test scores,
... we would have a hard time ever compromising on that," she said.

Secretary Duncan has said test data would be one component of
performance-pay plans.

Bruce Reed, the president of the centrist Democratic Leadership
Council and formerly President Clinton's chief domestic-policy
adviser, argues that the vast sums President Obama has secured for
education through the stimulus package will help build the political
leverage he needs with unions and others to achieve his agenda. The
administration estimates that the stimulus money will help avert
hundreds of thousands of teacher layoffs. ("As Stimulus Tap Turns On,
Districts Can't Escape Cuts," April 8, 2009.)

"Don't underestimate the value of money, especially in these hard
times," Mr. Reed said. "A leader's job is to push the envelope and
bring everybody along, and that's what Obama's trying to do."

But Frederick M. Hess, the director of education policy studies at
the conservative-leaning American Enterprise Institute, a Washington
think tank, isn't so sure what the president will get for all the
money being committed.

"What I see is lots of new money," he said, "and I see a whole lot of
ambiguity when it comes to which of these changes are actually going
to be anything meaningful."
***********************************************

The Chilling Rise of Right-Wing Hate in America

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