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GOP Candidates Are Frothing with Islamophobia — Will Any Major Democrats Stand Up Against It?

July 23, 2015 in Blogs

By Zaid Jilani, AlterNet

Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio are using code words and collaborating with some of the biggest fearmongers and not paying a price.

Cultural wedge issues have long been a feature of presidential campaigns, where Republicans in particular capitalize on the fears some have of the Other. 

In 2012, the Republicans gravitated toward a new target: Muslims. They courted extreme segments of the Evangelical community who worked themselves into a fever pitch about living under sharia law and the dealing with the overthrow of Christianity.

With the 2016 presidential race in full swing, this Islamophobia is resurgent. Here are a few examples.

  • Encouraging Targeting of Muslims: In January, Texas Senator Ted Cruz joked that it's “not ticked-off Presbyterians” the United States is fighting; this month, Florida's Marco Rubio stole his joke, telling an audience our enemy is “not Presbyterian radicalism.” The coded language hints that Muslims are the problem (even though the majority of terrorism the U.S. experiences is from non-Muslim right-wing extremists).

  • Standing Alongside the Godfather of Islamophobia: Frank Gaffney runs the so-called Center for Security Policy, which will be hosting a conference this weekend. Five presidential candidates — Ted Cruz, Rick Santorum, George Pataki, Carli Fiorina, and Bobby Jindal — will reportedly attend. Gaffney has suggested that Obama is a Muslim and that the Muslim Brotherhood has supposedly taken over the U.S. government.

  • Complaining That Their Opponents are Loyal to Islam: Although most of the GOP has dropped birtherism (with the exception of Gaffney, who some candidates are shockingly courting, as noted above), there is a new form of questioning Obama's loyalty. Mike Huckabee said earlier this year, “Everything he [Obama] does is against what Christians stand for, and he’s against the Jews in Israel. The one group of people that can know they have his undying, unfailing support would be the Muslim community.” This is probably news to Muslim Americans targeted by unfair spying and police tactics and Muslims abroad who give Obama very low approval ratings due to his continuance of hawkish foreign policy.

Unfortunately, even some among the Democrats have joined the pile-on. Former Democratic …read more


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Right-Wing ALEC Now Says School Vouchers Are For Kids in Suburbia, Not the Poor

July 23, 2015 in Blogs

By Jonas Perrson, PR Watch

Privatizers go where the money is: the middle class.

School vouchers were never about helping poor, at-risk or minority students. But selling them as social mobility tickets was a useful fiction that for some twenty-five years helped rightwing ideologues and corporate backers gain bipartisan support for an ideological scheme designed to privatize public schools.

But the times they are a-changin'. Wisconsin is well on its way toward limitless voucher schools, and last month, Nevada signed into law a universal “education savings account” allowing parents to send their kids to private or religious schools, or even to home-school them—all on the taxpayers' dime. On the federal level, a proposed amendment to the Elementary and Secondary Education Act that would have created a multi-billion-dollar-a-year voucher program was only narrowly defeated in the U.S. Senate.

The American Federation for Children (AFC), chaired by Amway billionaire Betsy DeVos, estimates that vouchers and voucher-like tax-credit schemes currently divert $1.5 billion of public money to private schools annually. But that is not enough. By expanding “pro-school choice legislative majorities” in state houses across the country the organization hopes that $5 billion a year will be siphoned out of public schools by 2020 and applied to for-profit and religious schools.

With vouchers gaining momentum nationwide, the American Legislative Exchange Council (ALEC), which is meeting in San Diego this week, has decided to drop the pretense that vouchers have anything to do with social and racial equity, and is now pushing vouchers for the middle class—a project which, if pursued enough in numbers, will progressively erode the public school system and increase the segregation of students based on race and economic standing.

ALEC Comes Clean, Vouchers Are for the Middle Class

The agenda for this week's ALEC meeting includes a presentation entitled: “Problems in Suburbia: Why Middle-Class Students Need School Choice, Digital Learning and Better Options.”

Perhaps more importantly, ALEC's revisions to three of its “model” voucher bills make clear that it is changing focus from underserved inner-city schools to middle-class suburbia. The talking points at the end of the bills state:

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Executives Dump Beer on the Heads of Lakota Tribe Children – and Face Almost No Punishment

July 23, 2015 in Blogs

By Sarah Burris, AlterNet

Yet only one of the men involved in the incident is being charged for the assault.

Every sports fan knows that when you mix beer with racists you're making a powder keg ready to blow with the slightest excuse to ignite. 

Such was the case when a group of academic achievers from the Lakota tribe were rewarded for their good work with a trip to a minor league hockey match in Rapid City, South Dakota. The third through eighth grade students from the American Horse School were with their middle school teacher Consuelo Means when she overheard adults in the the executive suite above them asking some of the young girls where they were from. The teacher was understandably concerned about seemingly drunk strangers talking to little girls and asked that the men leave the children alone. 

The men didn't listen, instead, they continued to talk to the children. When the team scored the men told the children they should shout later because they were “from the Rez.” The teacher immediately went to look for security to ask for help. When she returned, beer was dripping on her head. The men were dumping it on the children. She told other chaperones what was happening and they attempted to intervene. That's when the men allegedly shouted to the group to go back to “The Rez.” 

The children were silent on the drive back to the Pine Ridge Indian ​Reservation, one young girl crying.

“I didn’t think it was appropriate for [the men] to be talking to my students,” Consuelo Means, the middle school teacher explained to ThinkProgress. “We’ve been there five years and nothing like that’s ever happened.” While she completed an incident report for the stadium security, law enforcement was never contacted. 

South Dakota law considers any “malicious intimidation or harassment” a class 6 felony carrying a minimum punishment of two years in prison. Yet, only one of the men involved, Trace O’Connell, is being charged for the assault with “disorderly conduct,” fined a mere $500, and will receive 30 days in jail.

According to superintendent Gloria Kitsopoulos, the …read more


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Victory! Pro-Social Security Activists and Senators Halt GOP Plan To Kick 200,000 Off Benefits for Having Arrest Warrants

July 23, 2015 in Blogs

By Steven Rosenfeld, AlterNet

More theatrics and harsh proposals.

Protests by Social Security advocates and objections by Democratic U.S senators who support increasing its payments stopped an amendment to kick 200,000 people off retirement and disability benefits if those individuals had outstanding felony arrest warrants.

“Dropping the Social Security cuts from the Highway bill is the first encouraging sign we’ve seen from this Congress, when it comes to Social Security and Medicare, this year,” said Kim Wright, National Committee to Preserve Social Security and Medicare spokeswoman, speaking of the proposal that surfaced Tuesday and was deleted on Wednesday. “We certainly hope they’ve finally realized using these programs as an ATM for everything else under the sun simply won’t fly with seniors who’ve paid into these programs their entire working lives.”

The punitive proposal to slash the benefits of Social Security recipients who may have an outstanding warrant or parole violation—which in many cases is due to unpaid court fees, not criminal activity, according to senior law experts like Justice In Aging—arose as part of a 1,000-page transportation bill as a way to raise $2.3 billion for highway projects.  

The proposal has roots in the mid-1990s tough-on-crime heyday in Congress that led to a massive expansion of U.S. prisons and mandatory sentencing. As the Huffington Post reported today, it was “similar to a provision from the 1996 welfare reform law designed to stop benefits to ‘fleeing felons,’ a scheme that was broadened in 2005 and eventually stymied by federal courts. The program had ensnared some innocent people who happened to have the same names as felons and also stopped benefits to some people guilty of things such as writing bad checks in the distant past. In 2009, the Social Security Administration agreed to pay $500 million in back benefits to 80,000 people wrongfully cut off.”

The blocked proposal also was at odds with recent statements from Republicans on the need to take up meaningful criminal justice reforms, such as reduced sentences for non-violent crime. It also would have set a precedent of raiding Social Security funds for unrelated purposes, in this case transportation expenses.

As HuffPo’s …read more


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Shocking Video Shows LAPD Cops Shoot Man in Wheelchair With 3 Bean Bag Rounds and a Taser

July 23, 2015 in Blogs

By Matt Agorist, The Free Thought Project

The video shows 10 officers on the scene for this one man in a wheelchair.

Los Angeles, CA — Three rounds with a bean bag gun and a taser — deployed against a man in a wheelchair.

The LAPD is facing criticism after a video surfaced that shows them firing beanbag rounds at a man in a wheelchair and then hitting him with a taser.

According to LAPD Cmdr. Andrew Smith, the man in the wheelchair, Christopher Adam Zareck, 43, swung a pole at police when they tried to take him into custody.

Police were called to the scene around 7:00 pm last Friday after a man reported that he’d been in an altercation with Zareck. Ironically enough, the man claiming he’d been in an altercation with Zareck said he successfully defended himself against the wheelchair-bound man. However, nearly a dozen officers were deployed to stop this one man.

The video, taken by homeless skid row resident Hubert Jackson, shows 10 officers on the scene for this one man in a wheelchair.

Boom! Boom! Then a short pause. Boom! Three shots are heard as Zareck screams in agony and flails about in his wheelchair. The officers then swarm him, and a taser is then deployed.

“I hear a shot, then a second shot, and I hear the victim yelling in pain as if gargling over something. Then there’s a second pause and a third shot,” Jackson said.

While the pole is not visible from the first video, in a second video, taken from above, an officer can be seen dropping a short stick to the ground after Zareck was swarmed by cops.

Zareck was arrested and charged with assault with a deadly weapon and brought to a nearby hospital to be treated for his injuries.

“It didn’t appear that they were seriously worried about their safety,” said Pete White of the Los Angeles Community Action Network. “It was easy enough to approach and have a conversation with a man in a wheelchair.”

Imagine for a moment, a man threatening to hit you with a pole, who is in a wheelchair. He cannot …read more


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Why the ISIS Threat Is Totally Overblown

July 23, 2015 in Economics

By John Mueller

John Mueller

One of the most remarkable phenomena of the last year is the way the Islamic State, the vicious insurgent group in Iraq and Syria, has captured the imagination of the public in Western countries. And as usual, officials and the media have fallen over themselves to respond with urgency.

Americans had remained substantially unmoved by even worse human catastrophes in the past, such as genocide in Cambodia in the 1970s and in Rwanda in 1994, as well as sustained criminal predation in eastern Congo in the years after 1997.

But following a set of web-cast beheadings of Americans in the late summer and fall of 2014, some 60 to 70 percent of the American public now says ISIS presents a major security threat to the United States. Only 17 percent had advocated sending American ground troops to fight ISIS after it surprisingly routed American-trained (and spectacularly ill-led) Iraqi forces in Mosul, Iraq, in June 2014. However, the beheadings abruptly boosted that support to over 40 percent. For a while in February 2015, after the death of an American captive, Kayla Mueller, support spiked even higher — to upwards of 60 percent.

A similar phenomenon has taken place in Europe. In the Czech Republic, for example, the public has come to view Islamist terrorism to be the country’s top security threat, even though it has never experienced a single such episode.

Outrage at the tactics of ISIS is certainly justified. But fears that it presents a worldwide security threat are not.”

Outrage at the tactics of ISIS is certainly justified. But fears that it presents a worldwide security threat are not. Its numbers are small, and it has differentiated itself from al Qaeda in that it does not seek primarily to target the “far enemy,” preferring instead to carve out a state in the Middle East for itself, mostly killing fellow Muslims who stand in its way. In the process, it has alienated virtually all outside support and, by holding territory, presents an obvious and clear target to military opponents.

A year ago, the main fear was that foreign militants who had gone to fight with ISIS would be trained and then sent back to do damage in their own countries. However, there has been scarcely any of that.

In part, this is because, as Daniel Byman and Jeremy Shapiro have detailed in a Brookings Institution report, foreign fighters tend …read more

Source: OP-EDS

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Still Needed: Stronger Welfare Reform

July 23, 2015 in Economics

By Michael D. Tanner

Michael D. Tanner

We all — not just our presidential candidates — need to focus on welfare reform.

Last week, the House Ways and Means Committee’s Subcommittee on Human Resources began considering draft legislation to reauthorize welfare reform for the first time in five years. (The Temporary Assistance for Needy Families [TANF] program has essentially drifted along through a series of continuing resolutions and other short-term extensions since 2010.) The reauthorization, then, provides a rare and important opportunity to revisit welfare reform and remedy some of the flaws that have undermined the original legislation. However, the initial reports raise some red flags.

At the center of the expected debate will be the law’s requirement that recipients work or participate in other “work activities” in exchange for benefits. Moving recipients “from welfare to work” has been the focus of reform ever since the Republican Congress passed and President Bill Clinton signed the Personal Responsibility and Work Opportunity Act in 1996. Yet most states are less than zealous in honoring those work requirements. Nationwide, just 42.8 percent of adult welfare recipients were participating in work activities in FY 2012, the most recent year for which data are available. In some states, such as Massachusetts, fewer than 15 percent of adult recipients are participating in work activities even under the broadest definition.

The proposed reauthorization would nudge those rates upward by eliminating a provision that allowed states to reduce their work-participation requirements if their overall caseloads declined. States would also be prohibited from gaming the system by signing up people who were already working and counting them against meeting the targets. The reauthorization would also punish states that don’t meet work requirements by reducing their TANF block grant by 5 percent in the first year, with harsher penalties for repeat offenders.

We all — not just our presidential candidates — need to focus on welfare reform.”

Unfortunately, the legislation would simultaneously water down the work requirements by following an Obama-administration policy from 2012 that allowed states to seek a waiver that would expand the types of activities that could be counted as work. For most of us outside the welfare system, working actually means having a job. Not so for welfare, where work means all sorts of things that do not involve, well, work. Even going to college can be considered working. Nationally, only about one in five of those categorized as working are …read more

Source: OP-EDS