Cashing in on Broken Dreams

For those of us trying desperately to wrap our heads around the Security and Exchange Commission’s allegations against Goldman Sachs, the Wall Street Journal’s recent article on the alleged fraud is a real boon.  The article is clear and concise (or at least as clear and concise as can be expected when a describing multi-stage transaction that involved more than 500,000 mortgages in 48 states), and, perhaps just as importantly, it frames the events in a way that recognizes that the economic collapse was a fundamentally human event—caused by human greed at the cost of human suffering, and leading to even greater human suffering.

According to the article, the allegations involve a massive bet, booked by Goldman Sachs and placed by hedge fund manager John Paulson, that would pay off if people across the country could not pay their mortgages.  He allegedly took a particular interest in adjustable rate subprime loans issued to people with poor credit scores, rightly believing that the people who had taken out these shady mortgages didn’t really understand how big their monthly payments would eventually become.  As we all now know, Mr. Paulson was all too right, and he profited to the tune of more than $1 billion as foreclosure rates shot up.

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The American Dream and the Ghost of Mobility

As Americans, we’re a remarkably hopeful people.  A belief that, no matter where you start, you can pull yourself up by your bootstraps, work hard, and plant the posts of your picket fence, is fundamental to our identity.  But, while we do lack the rigid class constrictions of Western Europe, the truth is that upward economic mobility is fundamentally unattainable for most Americans today.  The road to real economic opportunity is a long one, but it starts with a reorganizing of our priorities.

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Do We Need A Sesame Street Special On the Economy?

A new national poll released Friday shows that Americans are feeling more optimistic about the economy than they were in January 2010.  While this is good news, there is still work to be done.

Given the nearly-catastrophic downturn in the economy, most Americans would agree that regulation of the financial markets needs to change.  Unfortunately, a quick scan of the weekend’s “talking heads” shows reveals that the same tired partisan bickering and gamesmanship may derail the proposed financial reform legislation that may be debated in the Senate this week.  Neither party is blameless.  Conservatives are criticizing the proposed $50 billion fund to “close out” failing banks, while liberals are being accused of pushing ahead with the bill without sufficient negotiation with the opposition.

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Bi-Weekly Public Opinion: Do we know what our government does for us?

Low awareness of role of federal agencies and Tea Party fever With examples from widespread frustration about tax day and the census, we can get an idea as to the confusion that many Americans have regarding the role of the government agencies and actions and their benefits and roles. According to a survey by Ipsos, 65% of American adults think that the government does not do an adequate job of communicating its agencies services and benefits. When asked about particular agencies, respondents were more aware of these Federal agencies, but still unsure of their role and services. From the list of six agencies that the survey tested, the Federal Trade Commission was viewed least favorably as well as Americans being most confused over its role. However, once voters were exposed to more information about the agencies, they increasingly realized the daily influence of the agencies and viewed them more positively. These findings may yield good advice for the government. In increasing awareness about the impact of federal agencies and the benefits that they give to American citizens, support and satisfaction may increase.

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Immigrants in America: A Hollywood Perspective

Over the years Hollywood has produced a vivid record of the immigrant experience in America. Although many movies are controversial on matters of fact, they nonetheless provide a valuable insight into how immigrants are seen and represented in the mainstream.

The film industry is significantly positioned to examine America’s changing cultural identity and bring to the public’s attention the stories of immigrant communities. Ever since the 1920s studios have presented audiences with dramatized accounts of the individual immigrant’s experience adjusting to America and their attempts at upward mobility. Be they nostalgic or critical, such films helped fill a gap in the general public’s knowledge and pave the way for more socially conscious filmmaking.

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The Case for a Constitutional Visionary

The conventional wisdom is that President Obama’s nominee to replace retiring Justice John Paul Stevens won’t change the Supreme Court much, since Justice Stevens is part of the Court’s progressive wing and President Obama’s choice is likely to be of a similar stripe. That thinking is dead wrong. The next nominee could profoundly change the Court’s jurisprudence in ways that defy conservative-liberal labels and have a lasting impact.

The next nominee must, of course, be well qualified and committed to the Constitutional values of liberty, fairness, and equal justice for all. She or he must be someone who approaches each case with an open mind and an unbiased eye. But within those bedrock parameters, there is room for watershed change. President Obama has the opportunity to nominate a constitutional visionary—a justice who charts new pathways, crafted for America in the 21st century.

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April 14: The Next Landmark Day For Immigrant Equality

Wednesday April 14 will be a landmark day for ensuring the equality of all voices in the American public sphere.  It is the day that Ugly Betty, the popular ABC series chronicling a young Mexican-American woman’s adventures of beating the odds in the Big Apple, will come to an end after four seasons. That same evening, The Opportunity Agenda will convene artists, advocates, and media makers in New York City for conversation and collaboration on the power of arts, culture, and media activities in promoting the dignity and human rights of immigrants in the United States.  What do these two events have to do with each other and the broader fight for equality in America? Everything.

Giving equal respect to the stories and voices of all who live here is an essential democratic value and critical to expanding opportunity in America. Since 2006, Ugly Betty (starring actress America Ferrera) has confronted such hot-button subjects as body image, gay teenagers, and, notably, illegal immigration without becoming expressly political or polarizing. When the first season revealed that Betty’s father, Ignacio Suarez (Tony Plana), was undocumented and could be deported, the show received both cheers and jeers for touching such a sensitive issue at the height of the immigration debate during the Bush administration.

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Thursday Immigration Blog Roundup

This week's Immigration Blog Roundup covers new developments in policy, research, media, and more...

Senate Bill 1070 which would make it a state crime in Arizona to be in the country illegally has already passed in the Senate and two committees in the House is expected to be heard by the full House next week. 

A recent poll by USC College/Los Angeles Times reveals a shift in the mindset of Californians showing strong support for a guest worker program and creating a path toward legalization.  The poll also shows that they are much more conflicted on the question of services for illegal immigrants than in the past.

The Washington Post recently reported that ICE has implemented quotas and set goals to remove 400,000 illegal immigrants this year and have shifted their focus from deporting undocumented immigrants that have criminal backgrounds to bolstering efforts to catch undocumented immigrants whose only violation was lying on immigration/visa documents.

Watch "Immigration: More Rogue than Right?" from America's Voice

Read about "Living on the Border" a documentary by Karl W. Hoffman.

Civil liberties groups are applauding the Transportation Security Administration's decision to rescind a policy that called for enhanced security screening for passengers who held passports or were traveling from 14 predominantly Muslim countries. 

New research from the Immigration Policy Center examines the economic impact of immigrants, Latinos, and Asians in New Mexico and found that Immigrants made up 9.3% of New Mexicans in 2007 and if all unauthorized immigrants were removed from New Mexico, the state would lose $1.8 billion in economic activity, $809.1 million in gross state product, and approximately 12,239 jobs.

Finally, The Opportunity Agenda invites you to Immigration: Arts, Culture & Media 2010 on April 14th.

 

 

 

Immigration: Arts, Culture & Media 2010

A true shift in consciousness can only come when people begin to see the world not as it is, but as it should be. While advocates can provide powerful arguments and compelling data, it is artists and media makers who create a window into the possible.

To truly move hearts and minds, artists, advocates, and media makers must collaborate deeply, developing a shared vision and a coordinated set of strategies for achieving it.

It was with this in mind that The Opportunity Agenda launched our Arts + Culture Initiative. The hope is to create a space for collaboration, strengthening the work of advocates and allowing artists and media makers to make an impact on the issues that matter to them. Designed to move the social justice movement towards greater innovation, the Initiative serves as a catalyst for inspiration and action, incubating new ideas, relationships, and opportunities to move beyond traditional modes of organizing and activating constituencies.

Our next event is entitled Immigration: Arts, Culture & Media 2010; A Timely Conversation with Artists and Advocates. Taking place Wednesday, April 14, the forum will explore the power of arts, culture, and media activities in promoting the dignity and human rights of immigrants in the United States.

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An Upswing Is Good - Can It Be Better?

After a recent breakup, a friend of mine had an awkward conversation with her new ex. It began with this difficult question – “I know you’ve got a new man, but is he a good man?”

Some things are just hard to answer.  So when I read in the New York Times this Friday that the job market was brightening, I knew better than to question the statement.  Out loud, at least.

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Diaries

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