This MLK Day, Arizona moves forward

From the Restore Fairness blog-

In the aftermath of the shootings in Tucson, debates are raging over hate-filled rhetoric in the political sphere. According to Daniel Hernandez, the brave volunteer in Gabriel Zimmerman’s office who helped his boss amidst all the chaos-

“I think a lot of people are realizing that the political discourse has, for years, become completely destructive and more about tearing the other people apart instead of trying to work together to build up the nation and the state.”

Political analysts suggest that, while there are no obvious motives for the attack, the current theme in politics recently might easily give more people like Jared Lee Loughner the inspiration to resort to violence. Others are arguing for stricter gun control, an issue that has picked up momentum since the recent shootings.

As we celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day on the 17th of this month, we need to take a minute to sit back and introspect on why we have become a nation whose politics are filled with spewing hatred and fear. Taking a cue from Martin Luther King’s own life, struggles and politics, it is time to look forward and strive for a public discourse that is open and civil. President Obama, in his memorial address at Tucson, has also called for an end to the constant barrage of accusations and hatred against each other by all political actors-

…at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it’s important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Instead of starting a blame game, which inevitably leads to more word wars, why not celebrate Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year with a renewed fervor for civility? In an effort to counter the hatred on the political arena in the country, people have called for organized movements to bring back civility in political and public discourse. The Anti Defamation League has launched ‘Restore Civility,’ a call for a more respectful political debate. Another project to follow is the “History of Hate, Future of Progress” Story Collection Project, started by Alto Arizona, asking people to uncover stories of intolerance, hate speech and violent rhetoric in their own community.

In addition to remembering those we have lost, there is lots to do this Martin Luther King Jr. Day. Celebrate the spirit and courage of the man who continued in his struggles without resorting to political hatred, rancor or anger, despite facing stiff opposition along the way.

Besides the annual MLK Day parades in almost every major city in the country, here is a list of events you can attend to show your support for a more “civilized” public sphere!

Those living in the metro Phoenix area can celebrate Martin Luther King and the diversity that is this country by attending the Celebration Festival at the Mesa Arts Center. Come for live entertainment, food booths, medical screenings, a job fair and vendors.

New York
Lets teach our children tolerance, respect and an understanding of diversity and equality. Raising Citizens is a weekend-long Martin Luther King, Jr. Festival at the Children’s Museum. Kids experience discussions of Dr. King’s life and teachings, craft projects, and performances by the world-famous Harlem Gospel Choir.

Washington DC
Student sit-ins, roundtable discussions, drama, and music- at The National Museum of American History’s Martin Luther King, Jr. Holiday Family Festival you can be part of an inspirational tribute to the life and work of Dr King.

Los Angeles
Cheer on young volunteers as the City Year Corps Volunteers head to Thomas Edison Middle School to give the school a makeover on Jan. 17. From 8:30 a.m. to 2 p.m., volunteers will paint rooms, a mural, and landscape, and beautify the campus.

Boston is celebrating Martin Luther King by hosting a free tribute concert at Faneuil Hall Boston. Join the Boston Mayor’s Office of Arts, Tourism & Special Events, the Museum of African American History and the Boston Youth Symphony Orchestras (BYSO) in remembering a great man, and listen to poet and activist Nikki Giovanni who will deliver the keynote speech.

Northwestern’s Chicago Campus will be hosting Eboo Patel, founder and president of the Interfaith Youth Core, for a talk on spiritual symbols and frames of reference for unity in light of what Dr King thought about pluralism.

As Jon Stewart aptly put it:

Wouldn’t it be a shame if we didn’t take this opportunity, and the loss of these incredible people, and the pain that their loved ones are going through right now, wouldn’t it be a shame if we didn’t take that moment to make sure that the world that we are creating now, that will ultimately be shattered again by a moment of lunacy, wouldn’t it be a shame if that world wasn’t better than the one we’d previously lost?

Lets hope for a better tomorrow.

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Don’t Overestimate Rahm Emanuel

In several months, the great city of Chicago will select its next mayor. Following the retirement of Mayor Richard Daley, the field is wide open.

Enter Rahm Emanuel. A powerful Democrat and President Barack Obama’s former chief-of-staff, Mr. Emanuel currently looks like the front-runner for the office. With many strong candidates declining to run and his potential opposition divided, things look good for Mr. Emanuel.

And yet one shouldn’t overestimate Mr. Emanuel’s chances as media-anointed front-runner. Mr. Emanuel has a number of hidden weaknesses that may combine to badly damage his campaign.

A strong attack, for instance, could be levied against Mr. Emanuel as a Washington insider who doesn’t care for the little man. This attack is all the more damaging because its first portion is completely true: it is hard to find a politician more immersed in Washington than Mr. Emanuel.

There are other variations on this theme. There is the geography version: Mr. Emanuel is a carpet-bagger who hasn’t lived in Chicago and doesn’t care about it. There is the populist version: the Washington elite may have already declared Mr. Emanuel the winner, but Chicago doesn’t have to listen to what the elite say. There is the class version: Mr. Emanuel is one of the rich elite who don’t understand the concerns of the working-class. There is the race version: Mr. Emanuel is one of the white elite who don’t understand the concerns of Chicago’s minorities.

None of this possibilities has yet been tried out, or turned into a coherent critique of Mr. Emanuel. It is too early in the game for that. But already there are signs that Mr. Emanuel has limited appeal amongst Chicago’s poor and its minorities (who compose a majority of the city’s population).

Mr. Emanuel does have a lot of things going for him, more than for any other single candidate. He has the support of most of Chicago’s machine, the business community, the politically influential North Side, and probably President Barack Obama (although most pundits probably overrate the importance of an Obama endorsement). Other candidates would probably love to be in his position.

On the other hand, Harold Washington had all this interests aligned against him when he campaigned for mayor. Yet Mr. Washington – the first and to date only black mayor of Chicago – still won consecutive elections on the back of minority support.

Chicago has a run-off system, in which if nobody gets more than 50% of the vote, then the first two winners go on to a second-round.  Most experts expect Mr. Emanuel to get in the somewhere in the 40s, if not an outright majority of the vote.

But it’s also quite conceivable that Mr. Emanuel polls in the low 30s come election day, if he fails to attract the working-class and minority votes that he needs to win in a place like Chicago.



Federal government may not co-operate with Arizona immigration law

From the Restore Fairness blog.

Immigration has and always should be a federal issue. So even if Arizona has decided to pass an anti-immigrant law that will inevitably lead to racial profiling, the federal government still has the power to do the right thing. And that’s what seems to be happening, as the head of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) John Morton expressed skepticism about SB1070, stating that ICE would not “necessarily” process undocumented immigrants referred to them by Arizona. Like President Obama’s denunciation from a few weeks ago, Morton believes that “the Arizona law, or laws like it, are not the solution”, favoring a comprehensive federal approach rather than disparate state laws to address our broken immigration system.

But while John Morton’s criticism of Arizona’s draconian enforcement measure is encouraging, his desire for increased enforcement is not. ICE is planning to step up immigration enforcement in a number of states by expanding collaborations between federal and local law enforcement through programs like 287(g) and the Secure Communities. With a record high number of deportations carried out in 2009, and a 40% increase from that in 2010, a “sharp increase” in deportations of immigrants is predicted for the end of this year.

So what Morton is not addressing is that the very same programs that are being expanded have paved the way for bills such as SB1070, by sending a signal that collaborations between local police and federal immigration is encouraged, even though these lead to racial profiling and loss of trust from communities. Take the case of Eduardo Caraballo, a Puerto Rico born Chicago resident who was arrested in connection with a stolen car last week. He maintains his innocence with regard to the car, but while that was being investigated, his real nightmare began. After his mother posted bail on Friday, Eduardo, a U.S. citizen, was told that he was being turned over to Immigrations and Customs enforcement who were detaining him on the suspicion that he was undocumented. Eduardo says he repeatedly told the officers that he was born in Puerto Rico and an American citizen.

I’m pretty sure they know that Puerto Ricans are citizens, but just because of the way I look – I have Mexican features – they pretty much assumed that my papers were fake. They were making me feel like I can’t voice my opinion or I can’t even speak for myself to let them know that I am a citizen.

The officers interrogated him about Puerto Rico but since he had moved to mainland U.S.A. when he was 8 months old, he was unable to answer them. Even after his mother presented the officers with his birth certificate and state I.D., the officers maintained that he was facing deportation. It was only after his mother contacted Congressman Gutierrez in desperation, that Eduardo was released. Rep. Gutierrez, of Puerto Rican descent himself and a big advocate for immigration reform, said that the situation is going from bad to worse. He saw Eduardo’s case in Chicago  to be emblematic of everything that would go wrong if Arizona’s anti-immigrant law was to be implemented. 

In Arizona, they want everybody to be able to prove they’re legally in the country. They want everybody to prove that they’re an American citizen. Here we had an American citizen, that the federal government… could not determine, for more than three days, his status as an American citizen. It’s very, very, very dangerous ground to tread.

While Caraballo is considering legal action, Rep. Gutierrez is hoping that this outrageous incident will  demonstrate the risk involved in the local police enforcing immigration law, and open the eyes of Congress and the White house to the dangers of racial profiling.

The urgent need for a reversal of Arizona’s law and a broader immigration reform bill has led to a series of protests around the country. 37 people, including City Council and State Assembly members, were arrested yesterday in New York city, a second in a series of planned civil disobedience actions to put pressure on the Obama administration to put a stop to SB1070,  curb detentions and deportations that separate families and enact humane immigration reform. Organizers say that they will continue resisting until their demands are met.

And on May 29th, civil rights groups and immigrant activists are organizing a massive rally against Arizona’s SB1070 law. The boycott against Arizona has been put on hold for the weekend as thousands of protesters are expected to arrive from across the country to join in a march of defiance against the state. In addition to over 50,000 people, the rally will include speeches by the DREAM Act students, Rep. Gutierrez, representatives from the government of Mexico City and members of a number of indigenous communities. With marchers refusing to carry IDs, the goal is to terminate all ICE-local police initiatives and put an end to SB1070.

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Emanuel, Salazar to leave Administration? (Updated)

The Democratic exodus continues, with today’s emphasis shifting from the states and Congress to the administration: Rahm Emanuel is considering leaving his job as White House Chief of Staff to run for Mayor of Chicago, and Ken Salazar has no comment on whether or not he will resign as Interior Secretary to run for Governor of Colorado.

The Washington Post’s Sally Quinn has the scoop on Emanuel: “Emanuel is said to have told people that the chief-of-staff role is an 18-month job and that he is considering a run for mayor of Chicago.” Taeagan Goddard adds:

"Chicago Mayor Richard Daley's current term is up in February 2011 -- there is no term-limit on the office. Daley has had a difficult year both personally and professionally. His wife Maggie has been battling cancer, and his popularity has suffered from the botched privatization of the city's parking meters and the loss of the 2016 Summer Olympic Games."

This would be bad news for the White House, for at least two reasons. First, as Quinn points out, if Emanuel is worrying about his own political future, he might have less concerns for his boss’s. Second, is there anyone who could fill his shoes? Say what you will about his politics, but the man knows how to get things done. President Obama’s 2008 campaign manager David Plouffe writes in The Audacity to Win, “Rahm was a five-tool political player… I panicked at the thought Rahm might not go for [the job]. The gap between him and the next best contender was a gaping chasm.” The news also surprises me. I always assumed that Emanuel would eventually try to go back to the House and continue angling to eventually become Speaker of the House.

The other story comes from Colorado. Yesterday the conventional wisdom was that Governor Ritter’s retirement opens the door to a run from Denver Mayor John Hickenlooper, who would likely be a stronger candidate. But would he be the candidate if an even bigger name got in? Ed O’Keefe, also of the Washington Post, has the story:

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar dodged four questions about a possible campaign for Colorado governor during a previously scheduled conference call with reporters on Wednesday. Salazar is reportedly "under tremendous pressure" to make a run as the state's current governor, Bill Ritter, said he will not seek reelection

Asked by another reporter if he is considering a run or has a preferred candidate, Salazar said: “I’m not going to comment on that. The governor has not yet made his formal announcement and there are other conversations that are going on in Colorado.” Salazar ignored similar queries later in the call. He spoke during a call that announced new requirements for oil and gas companies before they can drill on federal lands…

In his first year Salazar has instituted a department-wide ethics overhaul, settled a major class-action lawsuit regarding American Indian trust accounts and has faced criticism from environmentalists regarding his decision to remove grey wolves from the endangered species list. Wednesday's announcement has also earned him the ire of oil and gas companies that accuse him of discouraging development on public lands.

This one has fewer ramifications for the administration but more for the Colorado landscape. Salazar would be a formidable opponent: unlike Hickenlooper or Republican Scott McInnis, he has already won state-wide office once. He’s also Hispanic, an advantage in the state with the nation’s 7th largest Hispanic population. He’s also seen as more moderate than Hickenlooper, and Colorado is a purple, not blue, state.

The fact that Salazar said “there are other conversations that are going” suggests to me he’s wondering what Hickenlooper will do: Will Hickenlooper defer to me? Will he run if I do? Does he know yet? Do we need to work out a deal? Am I willing to risk my current job and the party’s standings for a bloody primary fight? Do I even want the job with my kids now in DC? This is a situation worth keeping an eye on, to say the least.

[Update 01-06-09 13:11 by Nathan Empsall] Public Policy Polling is not so rosy about Salazar:

I'm a little skeptical about whether a Ken Salazar candidacy for Governor in Colorado is a good idea for Democrats politically. Even before going to the cabinet Salazar's approval numbers were not stellar- in August of 2008 he was at a 39/36 spread in the state.

And Colorado has not been good to Barack Obama since he won the state. His approval was already below 50% there in April, even before his numbers started their slide nationally. When Gallup released approval numbers for all 50 states in August his standing in Colorado ranked 43rd, behind places like Alabama and Kentucky where he got trounced at the ballot box. Salazar's association with the Obama administration is more likely to have hurt his standing in the state than helped it.

[End Update.] Overall, this exodus is an intriguing story, and not necessarily the negative one the press claims it to be. It’s good the storyline is coming when it does as it gives the party plenty of time to prepare – better now than in May. The specific known and potential retirements are a mixed electoral bag, despite what Politico’s headlines may have you believe: Dorgan and Emanuel are bad. Dodd is good, very very good. Cherry is neutral. Salazar is a crapshoot, given Hickenlooper.

Racial Segregation in U.S. Schools: Illinois Terminates Chicago's Desegregation Decree

All people should have the opportunity to succeed in life, regardless of their race. But a recent Illinois district court decision jeopardizes that possibility.

In U.S. v. Board of Educ. of City of Chicago, an Illinois district court ended a twenty-three year old consent decree, which was intended to ameliorate segregation in Chicago public schools. Viewing the Chicago public school system through the lens of the particular constitutional violations that had warranted the initiation of the decree in 1980, the court determined that the consent decree was no longer necessary, because those "vestiges of discrimination" identified in 1980 were "no longer."

With an eye towards racial progress and expanded opportunity in the United States, this narrow view of segregation in public schools is deeply problematic. Although we might hope that race does not matter, too often it does. Even though over fifty years have passed since Brown v. Board of Education, according to a 2005 report by the NAACP Legal Defense and Education Fund, almost 2.4 million students—including about one in six of both black and Latino students—attend schools in which the student population is 99-100% minority.  Nearly 40% of both black and Latino students attend schools in which the student population is 90-100% minority; conversely, only 1% of white students attend such schools. Additionally, 72% of black and 77% of Latino students attend schools in which minorities constitute a majority of the students.

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