What Will You Do?

A wonderful and thought-provoking essay written by Lincoln County (Oregon) Democratic Party Chair and Central Oregon Coast NOW member, George Polisner.  Thank you George for the wake-up call!
May 31, 2015

Traveling on the subway, walking around in Brooklyn and NY -a powerful concept continued to present itself. Children playing in a schoolyard or sitting with their parent or parents, moms or dads holding their tiny hands while walking around the city.

Through the eyes of a child -beauty and wonder is all around. In a rainbow drawn into the sidewalk, a neon sign, a scooter -simple things bring joy. There is no color barrier -it is a common thread of humanity -you see it in the eyes of every child.

We speak of the American Dream -the house, the picket fence, the absence of intense worry about making rent and our ability to provide a better life for our own children – the next generation.

We all -right and left must take a moment to reflect -are we being responsible stewards to protect this dream -the amazement in a child’s eyes? Or are we allowing this dream to be stolen from us -and more importantly from our children and grandchildren?

I think we have a responsibility to protect nature, our skies, land, mountains, forests; our oceans, rivers and streams. This is not a liberal or conservative idea. I don’t know of any of my conservative friends that want to ruin our oceans or waterways, or allow refineries to emit toxic pollution into communities and towns.

Our responsibility also means the education of our youth is an imperative so future generations are prepared to face the monumental challenges ahead -especially in a global economy and a tense world. This isn’t about wasting money on a bloated and obscure system -that’s the Pentagon’s job.

We must examine how our investment into American society is being appropriated (look at http://nationalpriorities.org/ for more). Our investment is being controlled by those that are elected at the local, state and federal level. Are you happy that 55% of discretionary spending is on military and 6% is spent on education, 3% on science and 2% on transportation (https://www.nationalpriorities.org/budget-basics/federal-budget-101/spending/). I’m not happy about it. On both sides we have a great deal of anger and frustration. Democracy is not a spectator sport -we must all participate for it to work. I hear many of my friends on the left talk about these elections and express “two sides of the same coin -so I’m out”. Do you really think a House led by Paul Ryan, a Senate led by James Inhofe and a President Cruz is the same coin? Really? One look at recent SCOTUS decisions (as well as other high courts) and the clear affinity toward profit greater than people, religion over freedom from religion and other issues (meant to continue to divide us) are readily apparent.

We must vote -and we must do more. We cannot think of our government as a separate entity from us -it is us. At present the unprecedented corrupting influence of obscene wealth (to steal from our future) is profound. We must remember however -regardless of race, gender, beliefs, orientation, age -and the array of issues intended to divide and continue to conquer us -we are many. We are the 99%. Think about that. We must elect representatives and hold them accountable to represent the will of “We the People”. We must rise up and march together for the promise of America that is within our grasp.

I’m convinced that 2016 is pivotal for all of us. And 2016 is coming. Let’s start a revolution at the voting booths. One if by land, two if by sea? They are here and so is our moment in history.

What will you do?

National Organization for Women (NOW) Condemns Governor Jindal’s “Marriage and Conscience” Executive Order

Statement of NOW President Terry O’Neill

Washington, D.C. – The National Organization for Women (NOW) condemns Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal’s Executive Order BJ 15-8, a measure that uses religion to justify discrimination and denial of basic rights to same-sex couples.

NOW has decided not to cancel our annual national conference in New Orleans June 19 – 21, despite Governor Jindal’s homophobic action.  We are thankful that New Orleans’ Mayor Mitch Landrieu has confirmed that city’s acceptance and welcome to all. With Mayor Landrieu’s Counter Executive Order in mind, we will go forward with the conference.

LGBTQIA rights are among NOW’s core issues.  In our Statement of Purpose NOW makes clear that the organization promotes “freedom from discrimination because of race, ethnic origin, age, marital status, sexual orientation/identity, gender identity, gender expression, or parenthood.”   Many of NOW’s members, including in elected leadership positions, are LGBTQIA.  We will not rest until full civil and human rights are recognized for all LGBTQIA persons throughout our country — including in Louisiana.

Despite the gains made in recent years, women still face challenges in many spheres. This is particularly true in Louisiana, which has one of the highest poverty rates in the nation and has done little to narrow its gender and gender-race wage gaps, end employment discrimination, improve access to comprehensive healthcare or provide support for pregnancy, childbirth and raising children.  Governor Jindal’s cynical use of religion as a rationalization to discriminate against same-sex couples adds to the challenges faced by lesbian, bisexual and transgender women in the state.

In a 2013 poll conducted by LSU Public Policy Research Lab the people of Louisiana showed overwhelming support for treating LGBTQIA people fairly.  Mayor Landrieu has reaffirmed that support for fair treatment in his Counter-Executive Order to Governor Jindal’s Order stating that New Orleans “is an accepting, inviting city that thrives on its diversity and welcomes people from all walks of life with open arms.”  NOW looks forward to that welcome in New Orleans.


Elise Coletta , elise@now.org , (951) 547-1241

Mass Incarceration’s Impact on Black and Latino Women and Children

Posted: 02/20/2015 7:29 pm EST Updated: 04/22/2015 5:59 am EDT

Nationwide, the prison industrial complex is a phrase used to describe the rapid expansion of the U.S. prison population, and the intersecting interests of government and private industry that use surveillance techniques, overzealous policing practices, and imprisonment as solutions to budgetary, social and political problems. The phrase also attempts to describe the cyclical nature of incarceration. It seeks to explain how policies, practices, coupled with plaguing societal issues facilitate criminalization and incarceration. Moreover, this phrase has become increasingly familiar within poor communities of color. Much of the public and scholarly discourse and activism around incarceration have focused almost entirely on Black and Latino males. Few studies have explored the devastating impact of incarceration on women. The fact of the matter is — women, particularly Black and Hispanic women are disproportionately affected by incarceration.

According to The Sentencing Project Research and Advocacy for Reform website, more than one million women are currently under the supervision of the criminal justice system in the U.S. More than 200,000 of these women are confined in state and federal prisons or local jails. And the number of women in prison has increased at nearly double the rate of men since 1985. This research also points out the fact that women in state prisons are more likely to be incarcerated for a drug offense (29 percent vs. 19 percent) or property offense (30 percent vs. 20 percent) and less likely than men to be incarcerated for a violent offense (35 percent vs. 53 percent). Furthermore, Black women represent over 30 percent of all females incarcerated under state or federal jurisdiction and Hispanic women represent roughly 17 percent of all incarcerated women in the criminal justice system. According to the Southern Coalition for Social Justice, Black women are more than three times as likely as white women to be incarcerated in prison or jail, and Hispanic women are 69 percent more likely to be institutionalized.

These statistics are grossly startling and have a crippling and demoralizing influence on Black and Hispanic households. Arguably, Black and Hispanic children are more likely to have a parent or caretaker behind bars than their white contemporaries.Current research shows that 1 in every 14 Black children in the U.S. have at least one parent in prison, compared with one in every 125 white children. Black children are almost nine times more likely than white children to have a parent in prison; and Hispanic children are four times more likely to have a parent behind bars. This picture, after examining the hard facts, becomes even more clear that this phase “the prison industrial complex” is inherently and explicitly linked to race, especially when one looks at the fact that more than 8.3 million children, namely over 2/3 of Black and Latino children, have at least one or both parents under some form of community or correctional supervision.

Nevertheless, there are some who would suggest that if only these women would pull themselves up by their own bootstraps, or make better life choices, they would be in a better position to lead their families. If one is to make this claim, one must also consider the fact that how one develops is partly dependent on the type of environment one is planted in. One must also consider the adverse affect of inner city poverty prompted by social and economic isolation and inaccessibility. For instance, the lack of financial resources, the lack of access to quality education, the lack of sufficient health care, the lack of employment opportunities, the lack of familial support, and systemic oppression are all contributing factors in keeping women of color in a perpetual state of deficiency.

A criminal record significantly hinders a woman’s ability to get on her feet. Frequently, an arrest, not even an arrest that leads to a conviction, hinders a woman’s ability to maintain gainful employment. Contrary to popular belief, women are discriminated against just as much as their male counterparts. More importantly, in the digital age in which we live, employers often conduct an internet search on potential employees. Most employers won’t openly admit that they engage in discriminatory practices with respect to the hiring process; but most employers are apprehensive about hiring someone with a traceable arrest history. As a result of this surreptitious practice, women have to battle yet another obstacle, which serves to handicap one’s progress and limit one’s potential from contributing to the global economic marketplace.

As Americans, we know these issues all too well. We know the overwhelming impact incarceration has on our children and our communities. No longer can we afford to sit idle on the sidelines with bated breath and watch our communities deteriorate. Instead, we must place stronger demands on our government and our institutions, including ourselves to work harder in expanding and improving access to basic services for the formally incarcerated. We must help to put them on a road to recovery instead of a road to permanent failure. If there were ever a time in history that we should stand together to transform this system of incarceration, the time is now. We owe it to our children, our families, our communities, and to the next generation and beyond. We know that our families and communities are stronger and better served with familial stability, and when families have greater access to resources and opportunities.


NEWSFLASH: California Goes After Crisis Pregnancy Centers

We need similar legislation in Oregon.  This is even a problem in Lincoln County!  

May 28, 2015 by

Fake Clinics

It looks like crisis pregnancy centers (CPCs) may not be able to act with total impunity anymore. At least not in California if state lawmakers finish work on a disclosure bill.

The California Assembly passed a bill this week that would force CPCs to provide accurate information to pregnant women about all their options, which includes abortion.

Under the bill, CPCs are required to either post or distribute notices educating visitors on their reproductive rights. The notices must share the following:

California has public programs that provide immediate free or low-cost access to comprehensive family planning services (including all FDA-approved methods of contraception), prenatal care, and abortion for eligible women. To determine whether you qualify, contact the county social services office at [insert the telephone number].

Also if the CPC is not a medically licensed facility— which is often the case, workers in CPCs rarely have any medical background—it must also disseminate a notice stating so.

There are more than 3,500 CPCs across the country, and though they parade as health clinics, their main purpose is to dissuade women from terminating their pregnancies, often through deception.

A new study from NARAL Pro-Choice America showed that a shocking 91 percent of CPCs told visitors that abortion was linked to breast cancer, miscarriage, infertility or suicide—all myths that have been repeatedly debunked by the medical community.

The next stop for the legislation is the California Senate, where it could be voted on in a committee hearing as early as June 8th. After that it will go to the full Senate for a vote and then to Gov. Jerry Brown’s desk for final passage.

If the bill becomes law, it could go a long way to holding CPCs accountable for the inaccuracies they spread.

Anita Little is the associate editor at Ms. magazine. Follow her on Twitter.


Polluted Political Games

MAY 28, 2015 Nicholas Kristof

I’ve admired the Clintons’ foundation for years for its fine work on AIDS and global poverty, and I’ve moderated many panels at the annual Clinton Global Initiative. Yet with each revelation of failed disclosures or the appearance of a conflict of interest from speaking fees of $500,000 for the former president, I have wondered: What were they thinking?

But the problem is not precisely the Clintons. It’s our entire disgraceful money­based political system.

Look around: •

Gov. Chris Christie of New Jersey accepted flights and playoff tickets from the Dallas Cowboys owner, Jerry Jones, who has business interests Christie can affect. •

Senator Marco Rubio of Florida has received financial assistance from a billionaire, Norman Braman, and has channeled public money to Braman’s causes. •

Jeb Bush likely has delayed his formal candidacy because then he would have to stop coordinating with his “super PAC” and raising money for it. He is breaching at least the spirit of the law.

When problems are this widespread, the problem is not crooked individuals but perverse incentives from a rotten structure. “There is a systemic corruption here,” says Sheila Krumholz of the Center 5/28/2015 Polluted Political Games ­ NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/28/opinion/nicholas­kristof­polluted­political­games.html?_r=0 2/3 for Responsive Politics, which tracks campaign money. “It’s kind of baked in.” Most politicians are good people. Then they discover that money is the only fuel that makes the system work and sometimes step into the bog themselves. Money isn’t a new problem, of course.

John F. Kennedy was accused of using his father’s wealth to buy elections. In response, he joked that he had received the following telegram from his dad: “Don’t buy another vote. I won’t pay for a landslide!”

Yet Robert Reich, Bill Clinton’s labor secretary and now chairman of the national governing board of Common Cause, a nonpartisan watchdog group, notes that inequality has hugely exacerbated the problem. Billionaires adopt presidential candidates as if they were prize racehorses. Yet for them, it’s only a hobby expense.

For example, Sheldon and Miriam Adelson donated $92 million to super PACs in the 2012 election cycle; as a share of their net worth, that was equivalent to $300 from the median American family. So a multibillionaire can influence a national election for the same sacrifice an average family bears in, say, a weekend driving getaway. Money doesn’t always succeed, of course, and billionaires often end up wasting money on campaigns. According to The San Jose Mercury News, Meg Whitman spent $43 per vote in her failed campaign for governor of California in 2010, mostly from her own pocket. But Michael Bloomberg won his 2009 re­election campaign for mayor of New York City after, according to the New York Daily News, spending $185 of his own money per vote.

The real bargain is lobbying — and that’s why corporations spend 13 times as much lobbying as they do contributing to campaigns, by the calculations of Lee Drutman, author of a recent book on lobbying. The health care industry hires about five times as many lobbyists as there are members of Congress. That’s a shrewd investment. Drug company lobbyists have prevented Medicare from getting bulk discounts, amounting to perhaps $50 billion a year in extra profits for the sector. Likewise, lobbying has carved out the egregious carried interest tax 5/28/2015 Polluted Political Games ­ NYTimes.com http://www.nytimes.com/2015/05/28/opinion/nicholas­kristof­polluted­political­games.html?_r=0 3/3 loophole, allowing many financiers to pay vastly reduced tax rates. In that respect, money in politics both reflects inequality and amplifies it. Lobbyists exert influence because they bring a potent combination of expertise and money to the game. They gain access, offer a well­informed take on obscure issues — and, for a member of Congress, you think twice before biting the hand that feeds you. The Supreme Court is partly to blame for the present money game, for its misguided rulings that struck down limits in campaign spending by corporations and unions and the overall political donation cap for individuals. Still, President Obama could take one step that would help: an executive order requiring federal contractors to disclose all political contributions. “President Obama could bring the dark money into the sunlight in time for the 2016 election,” notes Michael Waldman of the Brennan Center for Justice at the New York University School of Law. “It’s the single most tangible thing anyone could do to expose the dark money that is now polluting politics.” I’ve covered corrupt regimes all over the world, and I find it ineffably sad to come home and behold institutionalized sleaze in the United States. Reich told me that for meaningful change to arrive, “voters need to reach a point of revulsion.” Hey, folks, that time has come.

☐ Follow The New York Times Opinion section on Facebook and Twitter, and sign up for the Opinion Today newsletter. A version of this op­ed appears in print on May 28, 2015, on page A25 of the New York edition with the headline: Polluted Political Games.