Ambassador Susan E. Rice’s Message on International Day Against Homophobia

Ambassador Susan E. Rice's Message on International Day Against Homophobia

U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice released a video message today in honor of International Day Against Homophobia.

“At the United Nations, the United States is standing up for the rights of lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender individuals and fighting to ensure that their voices are heard and protected,” Rice says in the video. “The United States was proud to co-sponsor and adopt an historic resolution at the UN Human Rights Council condemning human rights abuses and violations based on sexual orientation and gender identity.”

“We will continue to work in every possible arena to protect communities and promote societies in which everyone - especially LGBT youth - can live safely and without fear regardless of who they are or whom they love. We call on all nations and all peoples to join us in ensuring that human rights are universally protected everywhere every day,” Rice went on to say.

Ambassador Rice is the U.S. Permanent Representative to the United Nations and a member of President Obama’s Cabinet. She is likely to be tapped as the next National Security Advisor, according to a report in Foreign Policy.

Ryan Coogler’s ‘Fruitvale Station’ Gets Standing Ovation at Cannes

Ryan Coogler's 'Fruitvale Station' Gets Standing Ovation at Cannes

From Fruitvale to France, Ryan Coogler’s new film about the murder of Oscar Grant continues to impress audiences around the world. The film, “Fruitvale Station”, got a rousing two minute standing ovation after its premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. The film is set for release in the United States this summer. (Watch the film’s trailer here.)

“This is a little movie with a big, big heart,” Octavia Spencer, one of the film’s stars told USA Today. “This is our debut to the whole world.”

The film captured the hearts of viewers earlier this year at Sundance, where it won the coveted Grand Jury Prize. For Coogler, who’s an Oakland native, that was an incredible turning point. “To speak on the national stage, which is Sundance, was really something,” he told USA Today. “And to (now) be on the international stage, that means everything to me.”

Coogler has taken time off of his job as a counselor at a San Francisco juvenile justice center to help promote the film. He told reporters what it was like to work with Oscar-winner Octavia Spencer. “”I felt that Octavia was out of reach, she had just won an Oscar. But she agreed,” says Coogler. “The question was, could she take direction from a first-time director? She did. She’s a dream, a shining light as a human being. She lifted everyone’s game.”

Mourners Gather for Final Farewell to Malcolm Shabazz

Mourners Gather for Final Farewell to Malcolm Shabazz

A traditional Islamic funeral service will be held for Malcolm Shabazz today in Oakland, Calif. The service is scheduled to begin 10am PST at the Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California and will be followed on Tuesday by a private burial in Hartsdale, New York, where Shabazz’s grandparents are buried. Another memorial service is currently being planned to take place in New York City.

Shabazz, the 28-year-old grandson of Malcolm X, was beaten to death in Mexico City eight days ago. After a widely publicized troubled youth, Shabazz had recently gained prominence as an outspoken activist.

Two suspects have been arrested in his slaying.

How Foreclosure Undermined Black and Brown Wealth

How Foreclosure Undermined Black and Brown Wealth

Despite recent headlines trumpeting a return of America’s real estate market to its boom-time highs, a report released today by the Alliance for a Just Society shows how little of that has trickled into communities of color. The document, entitled “Wasted Wealth,” is a sobering reminder of the gap between top-line economic cheerleading and the reality of what’s happening on the ground.

As “Wasted Wealth” lays out, close to 2.5 million families lost homes in just three years. Communities that were majority people of color saw foreclosures take place at almost twice the rate as white communities, with an average loss of wealth 30 percent higher per household.

This foreclosure tidal wave is why wealth for blacks and Latinos is at the lowest level ever recorded. Housing is the leading wealth asset for these two communities.

Although the real estate market overall has regained $16 trillion in wealth lost during the recession, these gains are largely driven by a frenzy for high-end properties at the very top of the market. “Wasted Wealth” contrasts these highs with the fact that more than 13 million homes continue to remain at risk for foreclosure.

The good news contained in the report is that there is an actual way out of the mess. That’s because the crisis resulted from acts of policy in Washington and not acts of nature. Regulators allowed dodgy loans to be marketed disproportionately to communities of color, which is why these communities continue to suffer disproportionately. Consequently these same regulators can help turn things around. “Wasted Wealth” proposes a way to do just that.

By allowing at-risk homeowners to write down their over-priced mortgages to present-day market values, families could lower their monthly payments and be able to stay in their homes. The report believes that this can save an additional quarter trillion dollars in potential lost wealth and create 1.5 million new jobs.

Let’s hope that someone is listening.

New York Attorney General Investigates Fast Food Wage Theft

The New York State attorney general is investigating widespread practices of wage theft and other pay violations by fast food companies in the New York City. The investigation was announced as a new report released today reveals that the vast majority of New York City fast food workers say they work for below the minimum wage, don’t get paid for overtime hours or go unreimbursed for work expenses like gas for deliveries.

The investigation comes amid a wave of fast food strikes in five cities around the country. Workers in these cities are demanding raises to $15 an hour and the right to unionize.

According to the report commissioned by the group Fast Food Forward, which organized two strikes in New York since November, 84 percent of the 500 McDonald’s, Burger King, Domino’s and other fast food restaurant workers in the poll report wage theft of some kind. Nearly half of workers interviewed in the poll said they experienced at least three instances of wage theft. The report, which was conducted by the polling firm Anzalone Liszt Grove Research, found that 100 percent of fast food bike and car delivery workers were subjected to wage violations, including not being reimbursed for delivery costs.

Eric Schneiderman, New York Attorney General, issued subpoenas to several fast food franchises in New York and at least one parent company, for precisely these violations. A spokesperson for the attorney general, Damien LaVera, would not say which companies were under investigation.

In a statement LaVera said, “The findings in this report are deeply troubling and shed light on potentially broad labor violations by the fast food industry which employs thousands of New Yorkers.”

“We take the allegations seriously, which is why our office is investigating fast food franchisees,” LaVera added. “New Yorkers expect companies doing business in our state to follow laws set up to protect working families.”

The fast food workforce in New York is overwhelmingly people of color. Organizers with the group say nearly every worker who went on strike was black or Latino. Last month, three of these workers from a Brooklyn Wendy’s told me their checks regularly bounced. Shalema Simpson, a 24-year-old mother of a three-year-old girl, said, “I’ve worked at McDonalds, Hale and Hearty, Shake Shack and they are all bad but right now this is the worst establishment. Sometimes our checks bounce.”

Two other workers from the same restaurant said their checks also bounced.

A Wendy’s spokesperson told CNN that the company was unaware of bounced checks at its franchises.

Fast Food Forward has organized two worker strikes to call attention to abuses by the fast food industry and demand higher wages and union rights. Similar strikes emerged in four other cities since the initial New York walk-out late last year. Earlier this week, fast food and retail workers went on strike in Milwaukee.

‘Geography of Hate’ Maps out Racism on Twitter

'Geography of Hate' Maps out Racism on Twitter

A group of researchers from the Floating Sheep project - who also mapped racist tweets surrounding President Barack Obama’s re-election - have geotagged racist and homophobic tweets in the United States and plotted them on an interactive map.

Students at Humboldt State University in Arcata, Calif., looked at 150,000 geotagged tweets that contained slurs and were in North America between June 2012 and April 2013. The students read each individual tweet and manually coded the sentiment of each tweet to determine if the given word was used in a positive, negative or neutral way in a project called the “Geography of Hate.”

“The prominence of debates around online bullying and the censorship of hate speech prompted us to examine how social media has become an important conduit for hate speech, and how particular terminology used to degrade a given minority group is expressed geographically,” wrote Monica Stephens, a geographer at Humboldt State, wrote in an introduction to the map on the blog Floating Sheep. “As we’ve documented in a variety of cases, the virtual spaces of social media are intensely tied to particular socio-spatial contexts in the offline world, and as this work shows, the geography of online hate speech is no different.”

“Ultimately, some of the slurs included in our analysis might not have particularly revealing spatial distributions. But, unfortunately, they show the significant persistence of hatred in the United States and the ways that the open platforms of social media have been adopted and appropriated to allow for these ideas to be propagated,” Stephens went on to say. 

Why Are Non-Profits Banned From Politicking to Begin With?

Why Are Non-Profits Banned From Politicking to Begin With?

Yesterday, IRS acting director Steven T. Miller resigned at President Obama’s request after the agency admitted to targeting the applications of tea party groups applying for tax-exempt status for extra scrutiny. Major investigations in Congress and the Department of Justice are underway as to why this targeting happened. As we pointed out yesterday, such scrutiny may have been deserved for some tea party groups — especially by some of the loudest complainers.

Peter S. Goodman, executive business editor for The Huffington Post, wrote yesterday that the “IRS was dead right to scrutinize” tea party groups, because of the express political campaign work many of them have engaged in, which is a violation of IRS regulations for some tax-exempt (“non-profit”) classifications.

IRS officials were making sure that groups applying for these statuses weren’t campaigning and electioneering on the low. So they applied extra review on applications from organizations that had the keywords “tea party” and “patriot” in their names — both keywords associated with conservative groups, many of which fight against legislation that increases taxes and also sometimes run candidates for public office.

But it’s interesting to note how non-profits became forbidden from political campaign activity to begin with. For that, look back to Lyndon B. Johnson, the U.S. President who helped usher in the Voting Rights Act and stronger civil rights legislation. As a congressional Senator representing Texas, he helped change the IRS code so that it prohibited 501c(3) groups from intervening in elections.

A 2001 Boston College Law Review article from Patrick L. O’Daniel, currently a law professor at University of Texas at Austin, tells why LBJ made this change. At the time, 1954, Johnson was up for re-election for U.S. Senate, and wealthy, ultra-conservative forces were tooling up for his defeat. Johnson believed that two non-profit organizations backed by rich conservatives were working to undermine his re-election campaign.

One of those, the Facts Forum, was a “Red Scare” group that thought America was about to become communist. The other, the Committee for Constitutional Government, was regarded then as “the wealthiest and most powerful of the extreme rightwing groups in the United States.” It was founded by Frank Gannett, who ran one of the largest newspaper chains in the nation at the time (His Gannett Company Inc. still owns USA Today and dozens of other newspapers and news websites). These organizations had not only McCarthy-ites, but also anti-Semites and strict racial segregationists among their ranks.

Both non-profits claimed to be non-partisan and non-political, but raised millions of dollars and disseminated massive information in support of candidates challenging Johnson in the Senate race.

The CCG brazenly collected huge sums of money from corporations for political campaign work during a pre-Citizens United era when non-profits steered clear of that, mainly because it violated the Corrupt Practices Act. Donating to a non-profit gave contributors the liberty of anonymity while seeking to influence elections. In 1954, CCG was raising millions to support Johnson’s opponent Dudley Dougherty in the Senate primary.

Seeing the disadvantage posed by these campaign finance networks disguised as non-profits, Johnson’s allies complained to the IRS Commissioner, who did find CCG’s finance work sketchy. That summer of 1954 the House had set up a “special committee to investigate tax exempt foundations,” which was concerned about corporations using non-profits to finance and steer elections. But they also found that the IRS was poorly equipped to do anything about it.

Johnson fixed that by proposing the legislative amendment that officially shut down campaign activity by non-profits. As O’Daniel wrote in his article, “Johnson saw a cabal of national conservative forces, led by tax-exempt educational entities fueled by corporate donations, arrayed against him and wanted to put a stop to the meddling of these foreign interlopers.”

Non-profits have been barred from express politickin’ ever since. Except, many of them, 501(c)4s in particular, have flouted these tax-exemption laws in recent years — Karl Rove’s Crossroads GPS stands out as one clear example. But the IRS still seems helpless. Ari Berman over at The Nation says the IRS has done “virtually nothing” to close the political loopholes exploited by wealthy conservatives.

Looking at LBJ’s maneuvers, one could argue that the installment of political prohibitions on non-profits was itself a political move, since Johnson used it to quell a rising tide of wealthy conservatives looking to take him out of office. Without that political maneuver, though, Johnson perhaps doesn’t get re-elected to the Senate, and then maybe doesn’t later get elected President of the U.S. In that case, he never pushes for and signs into law the Voting Rights Act and a stronger Civil Rights Act.

Tea party groups today claim non-partisanship, despite clear evidence otherwise, but it looks like the history of tax exempt status for non-profits wasn’t politically neutral to begin with.

Columbia Doesn’t Feel So Great About Its Whites-Only Fellowship

Columbia Doesn't Feel So Great About Its Whites-Only Fellowship

It only took them close to a century, but let’s give credit where credit is due: Columbia University doesn’t want to have a whites-only fellowship anymore. Last week the Ivy League school filed an affidavit in Manhattan Supreme Court, the New York Daily News reported, to support a change of terms in an extremely specific endowment left by a Lydia C. Chamberlain of Des Moines, Iowa. The affidavit was filed in support of a similar move made by JP Morgan Chase, which is the designated fund administrator now.

Chamberlain, who left her $500,000 estate to the university in 1920, required that the trust only be used to benefit white students who hailed from Iowa. In order to qualify for the graduate and traveling support, students had to also commit to moving back to their home state for at least two years, and were barred from studying law, medicine, dentistry, veterinary surgery or theology, the NYDN reported.

“Circumstances have so changed from the time when the Trust was established” that it’s “impossible” for Columbia to comply with the terms of the trust, the university’s filing says, according to the NYDN. “Columbia University is now prohibited by law and University policy from discriminating on the basis of race.”

Columbia once defended the program, though. In 1949 the NAACP called on Columbia to give up the discriminatory scholarship. The college declined to do anything then. The fund is worth $800,000 now but has not been awarded since 1997.

Victory for Seattle Teachers’ Testing Boycott: High School MAP Test Optional Next Year

Victory for Seattle Teachers' Testing Boycott: High School MAP Test Optional Next Year

Four months after staging a boycott against their own school district’s testing regime, Seattle high school teachers and their student and parent supporters have won a huge victory. On Monday Seattle Superintendent Jose Banda announced that come the next school year, the controversial Measures of Academic Progress test will no longer be a required high school assessment, the Seattle Times reported.

Banda’s decision was informed by the recommendations of a specially assembled task force formed to deal with the fallout of the testing boycott, which began with teachers at Garfield High School in Seattle, and ultimately spread to five area high schools altogether. Some 600 students refused to take the assessment, which teachers, parents and students said was a waste of precious instructional time which tied up library and computer labs for weeks on end. Educators demanded that the district scrap the twice yearly administered test, but all other schools in the district must continue to give the test. And high schools must come up with their own assessments for students.

The Seattle teacher testing boycott is but one pocket of the resistance to high-stakes tests. Part of the resistance is a reaction to new state educational standards which have given rise to yet more new testing regimes, but much of it is a reflection of educators, parents, students and now lawmakers who are sick of overtesting. Check out Erin Zipper’s infographic mapping the backlash to high-stakes tests.

Lucy Liu: ‘People See Sandra Bullock In a Romantic Comedy, Not Me’

Lucy Liu: 'People See Sandra Bullock In a Romantic Comedy, Not Me'

Actress Lucy Liu has found trouble finding work as a leading actress in films and television shows. She was born and raised in Queens to a mother from Beijing and a father from Shanghai and that in itself may be what’s keeping her from leading roles.

Liu, 44, started her career in the early 1990s and has mostly found roles as a supporting actress. When she finds herself cast as part of a major plot line she’s usually some sort of supernatural action hero or villain character whos mastered the martial arts. Think “Charlie’s Angels,” and “Kill Bill.” Interestingly enough she’s typecasted even when she’s hired only for her voice: in her role as Viper in the animated film “Kung Fu Panda” she was a master at the “Snake style of Hung Ga Kung Fu” who tied up her enemies with ribbon. (Yes, she was a ribbon dancer too.)

Lui recently talked about race and being typecasted with the luxury online retailer

Here’s an excerpt from her interview with Net-a-porter:

“I wish people wouldn’t just see me as the Asian girl who beats everyone up, or the Asian girl with no emotion. People see Julia Roberts or Sandra Bullock in a romantic comedy, but not me. You add race to it, and it became, ‘Well, she’s too Asian’, or, ‘She’s too American’. I kind of got pushed out of both categories. It’s a very strange place to be. You’re not Asian enough and then you’re not American enough, so it gets really frustrating.”

Liu’s wary of playing the racism card, but admits that she had to “push a lot just to get in the room”. “I can’t say that there is no racism - there’s definitely something there that’s not easy, which makes [an acting career] much more difficult.”

Milwaukee Becomes Fifth City Where Fast Food Workers Strike

Milwaukee Becomes Fifth City Where Fast Food Workers Strike

As many as 200 fast food workers are expected to walk off the job today in Milwaukee, making it the fifth city in six weeks where strikes have hobbled chain restaurants. The strikers, organized by local groups with support from national unions, are demanding raises to $15 an hour and the right to unionize. Like Detroit, where fast food workers went on strike last week, Milwaukee in recent decades has seen dramatic decline in unionized manufacturing jobs and a corresponding growth in low-wage service jobs. The shift away from living-wage work has hit black workers particularly hard.

“Milwaukee has a really special history particularly for African Americans,” said Jennifer Epps of the group Wisconsin Citizen Action, which helped organize the strikes. “We had the highest per capita income for black workers in the country, now we have one of the lowest.”

A report from the University of Milwaukee found that in 1970, over 54 percent of black men in the city were employed in factories, more than twice the percentage of whites. But, as Milwaukee’s Sentinel Journal reports, 100,000 jobs in Delco Electronics, Pabst Brewing Company and other factories left the city since 1980. By 2009, under 15 percent of black men held manufacturing these jobs, about equivalent to the percentage as white workers.

As these jobs disappeared, Milwaukee’s rate of black unemployment spiked. Before the recession, the city rivaled Buffalo, NY with the highest rates of black unemployment, according to a report from the University. And those who have found work are now far more likely to be relegated to non-union, minimum wage jobs. The Wisconsin Department of Workforce Development projects that food preparation and serving jobs, including those in fast food, will grow by 12 percent in the next decade, three times the rate of jobs overall.

Amere Graham is an 18-year-old high school senior who works at a Milwaukee McDonald’s to help his mother pay for rent and save money for college. He’d like to become an EMT, but he says he can’t save any money at all on his $7.25 earnings.

“I am trying to save, trying to get somewhere, pay for college,” Graham told “I didn’t grow up in a wealthy family and there aren’t a lot of other options. If I was around 30 years back, Milwaukee’s actually used to be a hub of factory jobs. That’s not true anymore.”

The fast food workers from McDonald’s, Burger King, Wendy’s and Taco Bell are joined today by retail workers from Foot Action and Simply Fashion. The strikes follow similar actions in New York, Chicago, St. Louis and Detroit. In each of those cities, local groups organized fast food workers with support from SEIU, a national union. The strategy is one of spectacle: one to two day strikes that call attention to the conditions of low wage work. As such, organizers acknowledge that they’re a long way from winning major wage hikes or union rights at the chain restaurants. But they say, the actions build momentum toward that point.

“Because our grandparents and parents fought for good jobs in the factories, they were well paid,” Epps told me. “But those jobs are not coming back so from retail to fast food, workers are demanding better wages.”

Senate Amendment Limits Dangerous Deportation Practice

Senate Amendment Limits Dangerous Deportation Practice

Members of the Senate Judiciary Committee agreed to amend the immigration reform bill yesterday to limit a set of deportation policies known to put immigrants at risk of violence. The amendment, introduced by Sen. Chris Coons, D-Del., would curtail the practice of deporting migrants to dangerous locations along the U.S.-Mexico border, sometimes in the middle of the night. It would also limit removal practices that separate travelling companions and family members.

The amendment targets the Alien Transfer Exit Program. As described by a recent Congressional Research Service report, under the program, “certain Mexicans apprehended near the border are repatriated to border ports hundreds of miles away—typically moving people from Arizona to Texas or California—a process commonly described as “lateral repatriation.”

The federal government has long said that the practice reduces second crossing attempts by disorienting deportees. But recent government and non-governmental research suggests that lateral repatriation has little impact on whether people cross again and places migrants at risk of violence and trafficking by organized crime groups.

In the process of moving migrants far away from cities they know, deportees are often separated from family members. According to a recent University of Arizona report, “[w]hile, officially, only men go through ATEP, this leaves women travelling with male relatives or significant others deported alone to unfamiliar border towns” and vulnerable to violence.

On a recent trip to the border, I met a couple, Juan and Susana Peña, who’d been separated as a result of lateral repatriation. They were detained by border patrol as they attempted to return after deportation to reunite with their seven-year-old daughter in Georgia. When Susana and Juan heard their names hollered by a guard in the Arizona detention center, they assumed they’d be bused to the border and deported together. But instead, Susana was routed directly to Nogales, Arizona, while Juan was moved to a different detention center and then deported the next day in Mexicali, a border city in Baja California a day’s ride from Nogales.

“We asked the Migra to deport us together, but the guard said ‘no, they’re going to send him somewhere else’,” Susana told me. “When I got here to Nogales, I thought they kept him in jail or maybe he didn’t know I was here.”

It took days before the couple reunited. While she waited, Susana says she was scared to move around the city, even to find a meal to eat.

The Coons amendment would limit the Department of Homeland Security’s use of lateral repatriation as well as deportations after 9pm and to “location[s] where a dangerous lack of public order would threaten the life and safety of the migrant.”

In addition, the amendment would require DHS to return property to immigrants before they are deported. Many immigrants detained by Customs and Border Protection or Immigration and Customs Enforcement are deported without the belongings they arrived with. As I’ve reported previously, this includes their identification documents, without which many migrants find themselves effectively undocumented in Mexico.

The Committee passed a number of other amendments yesterday, in the second long day of work on the Gang of Eight immigration reform bill. And in a display of broad commitment to the bill’s basic outlines, 17 of the 18 members rejected an amendment from Alabama Republican Senator Jeff Sessions that would have dramatically reduced the number of immigration visas available to non-citizens. The committee also rejected an amendment from Sen. Sessions to implement a broad-based biometric ID system. The concept has come under attack from civil liberties groups.

The amendment process will last several more weeks, at which point the committee is expected to send the bill to the Senate floor. While the legislation is expected to gain enough support to pass the Senate, it faces a less certain path in the House.

True the Vote Says It Was Singled Out by IRS

True the Vote Says It Was Singled Out by IRS

In wake of the IRS confessions that they targeted tea party groups for heavy scrutinization, the voter ID and restrictive elections group True the Vote are claiming they have been victimized by the federal tax authorities. The IRS apologized Friday for singling out organizations seeking tax-exemption status that had the words “tea party,” “patriot” or “9/12” in their names for deep examination into whether those groups were engaging in political campaigning. For some tax-exempt classifications, an organization can not engage in any activity that primarily supports political candidates as they run for office.

True the Vote, which Colorlines reported extensively on last year, was engaged in plenty of work around elections and campaigns, and virtually all of the groups included in their network happen to be “tea party,” “patriot” and “9/12” groups — all conservative organizations that work both within the Republican Party and in support of its causes. And probably because those groups compose the bulk — if not all — of True the Vote’s membership, they are complaining that the IRS unfairly made them jump through hoops when registering as a tax-exempt group.

True the Vote, of course, advocates for voters to jump through hoops by showing proof of citizenship in order to register to vote, and show government-issued photo ID to vote by ballot. And while there were reports of True the Vote intimidating and harassing voters over the last couple of years, their director Catherine Engelbrecht is now accusing the IRS of doing the same thing to her organization. Engelbrecht is telling media that she applied for tax-exempt status over a year ago, and in return, she was probed for documents by not only the IRS but other federal agencies.

“This is what the beginning of tyranny looks like,” Engelbrecht told “If such politically-motivated governmental abuses of power can happen to us, they can happen to anyone.”

The IRS officials involved in the tea party-targeting have said that their work was not politically motivated, arguing rather that a high spike in tax-exemption applications while understaffed led to poor decisions. According to The Washington Post, new applications for 501(c)4 tax exempt status went from 1,741 in 2010 to 2,774 in 2012 while the staff of the Exempt Organizations Division fell in the same time period.

Either way, an inspector general report says that the IRS officials used “inappropriate criteria” to decide which applications deserved a closer eye than others. Treasury Sec. Jack Lew said, “While the Inspector General found no evidence that any individual or organization outside the IRS influenced the decision to use these criteria, these actions were inappropriate and did not reflect the high standards which I expect and the public deserves.”

President Obama called the actions “intolerable and inexcusable,” and Attorney General Eric Holder is launching an investigation, as are House and Senate committees in Congress.

Meanwhile, Sen. John Cornyn pointed specifically to True the Vote and their alter-ego King Street Patriots as groups targeted by the IRS, as well as the Waco Tea Party. Conservative blogger David Jennings said the Texas-based Clear Lake Tea Party was also targeted. The Wetumpka Tea Party in Alabama also complained that it’s tax-exemption application was delayed by the IRS. Attorney Cleta Mitchell of the Foley & Lardner law firm in Wisconsin is representing True the Vote (True the Vote isn’t known for being generous with legal help for the tea party groups it recruits).

But the Houston-based King Street Patriots, which shares leadership and membership with True the Vote, was found liable by a Texas judge for working too close with the Republican Party last year. Also last year, Rep. Elijah Cummings, ranking member of the House Oversight and Government Reform committee, launched his own inquiry into True the Vote’s activities around elections. Groups like Clear Lake Tea Party, Wetumpka Tea Party and dozens of other tea party groups have worked with True the Vote on election matters, as we showed in this map last year.

With all of that in mind, perhaps the tea party groups deserved extra scrutiny, or at least those involved in True the Vote’s political work. The NAACP was under the IRS’s magnifying lens under the Bush Administration; while both Planned Parenthood and NPR were interrogated by Congress for political reasons.

No organization deserves a discriminating eye from the IRS or federal government because of the direction it bends politically. Yet it’s hard to believe that a group like True the Vote shouldn’t get a thorough examination when they are still doing work on behalf of political campaigns and candidates, as seen today with the Rep. Allen West recount in Florida. That’s not what tyranny looks like, that might just be the federal government doing its job.

Study Finds People Of Color Nearly Invisible On Evening Cable News

Study Finds People Of Color Nearly Invisible On Evening Cable News

A new analysis released yesterday by the media monitoring group Media Matters found that evening cable news guests are overwhelmingly white and male. According to the report, titled “Diversity on Evening Cable News in 13 Charts,” women and other people of color are underrepresented as guests on evening cable news programs at MSNBC, CNN and Fox News.

Media Matters examined the guests of thirteen evening cable news shows on CNN, MSNBC and Fox News during the month of April 2013. During that time period, only 33% of MSNBC guests, 29% Fox News guests and 24% CNN guests were female. Latinos fared much worse. Only 3% of Fox News guests and 2% of CNN and MSNBC guests were Latino.

2 Arrested in Slaying of Malcolm X’s Grandson

2 Arrested in Slaying of Malcolm X's Grandson

Two men have been arrested in Mexico City in the slaying of Malcolm Shabazz, the 28-year-old grandson of Malcolm X. More from the New York Times:

The men taken into custody, David Hernández Cruz and Manuel Alejandro Pérez de Jesús, worked as waiters at the Palace Club, a downtown bar where Mr. Shabazz, 28, was beaten, in what the city prosecutor called a dispute over an excessive bill.

Two other bar employees who the authorities said participated in the beating, which left Mr. Shabazz with fatal skull, jaw and rib fractures, were being sought.

The body of Mr. Shabazz, who for years had wrestled with living in the shadow of his grandfather’s fame, was still at a city morgue on Monday while American consular officials worked to have it returned to the United States. A family spokeswoman said they would have no comment, and no funeral plans have been announced.

The younger Malcolm’s death last week sent shockwaves across politically active circles in the United States and abroad. Over at the New Yorker, Jelani Cobb wrote about the complicated legacy that Shabazz shouldered, and the one that he left behind:

Read his blog and what emerges is a young man who died at a time when he was still trying to define his life and identity, both separate from and yet very much tied to his grandfather’s. The first sentence on the blog reads “Malcolm is the first male heir of Malcolm X.” At twenty-eight he was literally the image of his grandfather. His March 9th post features a split screen image of him and Malcolm X, the latter in his iconic finger-to-temple pose. In an earlier post is a picture of Malcolm, fil, donning a fedora and recast as the mugshot of his ancestor during his Detroit Red days. Elsewhere he posed with a rifle, peering out a window. On one level that kind of mimicry was the most honest commentary possible. The sole directly related man in a family consisting of five aunts and an internationally recognized grandmother, Malcolm X was an identifiable male role model for him to imitate, even if it was posthumously. He was not alone in this pursuit—in his 1965 eulogy Ozzie Davis pointed to Malcolm as the working definition of black manhood, an idea that millions of young Malcolm Shabazz’s peers cosigned.

In his own writings, the younger Malcolm “given the storm of lies, and half-truths that come with being the descendant of El Hajj Malik el Shabazz…everything that I do; great or small, good or not so good, real or imagined is subject to controversy.” You can read more of Malcolm Shabazz’s writings on his blog.

At least one memorial service has been scheduled. It will take place at 10am PST this Friday at the Islamic Center of Northern California in downtown Oakland.

Federal Judge Says Obama Governs Like Bush on Reproductive Rights

Federal Judge Says Obama Governs Like Bush on Reproductive Rights

A federal judge last week denied a request to delay his ruling ordering the government to make “Plan B” emergency contraception available to everyone, without restrictions.

In 2011, the FDA approved emergency contraception, also known as the “morning-after” pill or “Plan B”, for women of all ages. But the Obama administration stepped in and reversed the decision soon after. “The FDA was reversed by the Secretary of Health and Human Services on the same day in a decision that was politically motivated and that, even without regard to the Secretary’s motives, was so unpersuasive as to call into question her good faith,” District Court Judge Edward Korman said at the hearing last Tuesday.

The government asked for a stay of Korman’s original April 5 ruling ordering them to make the pills available to everyone, saying it and the public would suffer “irreparable harm.” Korman called this “silly” and said the appeal was “taken solely to vindicate the improper conduct of the Secretary.”

The judge also took issue with the law requiring photo identification to access Plan B.’s Irin Carmon wrote about Friday’s “charged and dramatic two-hour hearing” in detail:

This morning, Korman repeatedly slammed his hand down on the table for emphasis, interrupting the government counsel’s every other sentence with assertions like, “You’re just playing games here,” “You’re making an intellectually dishonest argument,” “You’re basically lying,” “This whole thing is a charade,” “I’m entitled to say this is a lot of nonsense, am I not?” and “Contrary to the baloney you were giving me …” He also accused the administration of hypocrisy for opposing voter ID laws but being engaged in the “suppression of the rights of women” with the ID requirement for the drug. 


He cited Brennan Center statistics — which he said Eric Holder had also cited in a speech before the NAACP — showing that 25 percent of African-Americans of voting age don’t have a photo ID, and also dismissed the government’s suggestion that 15-year-olds, who usually aren’t eligible for a driver’s license, could use a birth certificate, since that’s not a photo ID. “You’re disadvantaging young people, African-Americans, the poor — that’s the policy of the Obama administration?” (He didn’t mention it, but immigrants would also face additional barriers.)

“It turns out that the same policies that President Bush followed were followed by President Obama,” Judge Korman went on say.

Judge Korman was nominated by President Ronald Reagan in October 1985.

Parent Trigger Hits Again in Los Angeles’ Watts Public School

Just weeks after their first triumph with the Los Angeles Unified School District, the parent trigger advocacy group Parent Revolution announced Monday that they’re going for another parent trigger win in the same district. Parents at Weigand Avenue Elementary School in Los Angeles’ Watts neighborhood, who organized themselves to pull the parent trigger with the help of Parent Revolution, filed a successful petition last month to overhaul their children’s school. LAUSD verified the parents’ petition.

Now, the parents’ chosen reform model, which calls for the overhaul of Weigand by replacing the principal and undergoing other deep institutional changes, will move ahead. The Weigand parent trigger effort, which marks the fourth time that the use of the parent trigger has been attempted, is the very first to call for an in-district reform. Past attempts have led to bitter court battles, charter school takeovers or greater charter school involvement in a school campus.

“We want to work with the district and the teachers to make our school a place where our children can learn and succeed,” Weigand parent activist Llury Garcia said in a statement.

Anti-Violence Blogger Among 19 Shot on Mother’s Day in New Orleans

Anti-Violence Blogger Among 19 Shot on Mother's Day in New Orleans

Journalist and documentarian Deborah “Big Red” Cotton was one of the 19 people wounded in the tragic shooting during a “second line” Mother’s Day parade yesterday. In total, ten men, seven women and two 10-year-old children were injured. Cotton had just launched her own website, which highlights off-the-beaten path restaurants and attractions normally ignored by mainstream media.

But Cotton also wrote about often-ignored problems in New Orleans concerning violence and poverty. The tragic irony of her being wounded in a second line parade is that she wrote about this very issue often in her blog. When a woman was murdered three years ago after a second line parade, and some journalists attempted to draw causations and correlations between murder and second line tradition, Cotton wrote:

The unfortunate murder that occurred on Sunday is not symptomatic of second line culture. On the contrary, it’s directly attributable to deep social ills that New Orleans has yet to get a firm grasp on: a broken criminal justice system that allows murderers to get off easily and maintains bad cops which in turn undermines residents’ faith in cooperating with authorities; a broken education system that leaves citizens unable to function as adults in the professional world; and an economy based on two sectors that thwart ambition and opportunities — tourism and government. To end the murder culture, one must acknowledge and address the legitimate root problems and depart from racial biases that serve to further marginalize a distressed community.

We can end the story right there and call “church.” Except that yesterday Cotton herself got caught in the crossfire of all of those broken systems that produced her shooter, as did the 18 others who were shot and wounded. In this video, posted eerily almost one year ago exactly by Park Triangle Productions, Cotton expressed her concern about New Orleans violence and also her compassion and love for black men in the city who are too often the perpetrators and victims of that violence:

FBI officials remarked that yesterday’s shooting was “street violence” not an act of terror, but Ariella Cohen, a friend of Cotton’s and editor of Next American City, questioned why that distinction is even necessary. Wrote Cohen:

This distinction is troubling because it distinguishes between crime that is seen as against ‘all Americans’ from crime that is seen as a byproduct of an urban American sub-culture, a subculture that happens to have racial and class associations.

Local attorney Samantha Kennedy, who’s also a capital mitigation specialist who worked in Tucson after the mass shootings there, questioned if trauma services would be available to the New Orleans communities as they were offered in Arizona and Colorado. “We have a multigenerational multi-layered PTSD in this community,” wrote Kennedy on Facebook. “Violence begets violence because trauma begets trauma. We live in a highly traumatized community. When are we going to take the biopsyhochemical and emotional needs of our people seriously?”

Gov. Jindal allowed a behavioral health program in Louisiana that served “at-risk,” low-income children to close, but has proposed legislation that would streamline case management services for that population of children.

Advocates To Obama: Stop Deporting Future Citizens

Advocates To Obama: Stop Deporting Future Citizens

Immigration reform advocates renewed calls on President Obama today to halt deportations of undocumented immigrants who would be eligible for the path to citizenship in the proposed Senate reform bill. On a call today, labor and immigrant rights groups said that Obama should get ahead of the immigration legislation by directing the Department of Homeland Security to stop removals of immigrants who could benefit from the legislation.

Obama has previously said that he would not issue a moratorium on deportations, suggesting that such an order could derail the legislative reform efforts by angering Republicans. But representatives of the AFL-CIO, the Mexican American Legal Defense and Education Fund, the National Day Laborers Organizing Network, and United We Dream, argued today that the introduction of the Senate immigration bill should change the equation: With the perimeters of eligibility for a path to citizenship now clear, the President should get a head start by protecting potential citizens.

“We’re not asking for the president to do something unilateral,” said Thomas Saenz, director of MALDEF. “He can apply quite easily the standards set forth in the bi-partisan committee.”

Speakers on the call rejected Obama’s previous decision to continue deporting non-citizens at a rapid pace while Congress considers the legislation.

“The President is not and con not be a bi-stander in the process,” said Pablo Alvarado, director of NDLON. “He has to intervene” to stop the deportations.

Alvarado added that stopping deportations will create the space for undocumented immigrants to take part in the immigration reform process. “It will give immigrants the breathing room to participate in the process,” he said.

The federal government has carried out well over 1.5 million deportations in the last 4 years. Many of those removed leave behind family in the U.S. Lorella Praeli of the group United We Dream, a coalition that successfully pressed Obama to implement the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals policy to stop removing DREAM Act-eligible immigrants, says her group wants protections for their family members.

“President Obama has deported more people than any other president and we will not stand by,” she said. “It’s very hard to say that you’re serious about solving the problem while you’re breaking up families.”

About 22 percent of deportees are the parents of U.S. citizen kids, according to data obtained by Many others have spouses, parents and undocumented children in the U.S. as well.

Yvette Martinez’s husband was deported to Guatemala last week, even though she says he has no criminal record. The couple was stopped while driving near Springfield, Mass. The Republican, a western Massachusetts paper, reported:

What they thought would be a quick trip to the store for toothpaste turned into a real-life nightmare for Yvette Martinez and her husband, Roger Sabora-Martinez.

The Springfield couple was stopped for a traffic violation by a state trooper on Chestnut Street on Feb. 18, and Sabora-Martinez, 33, was charged with driving without a license and failing to use a turn signal. When he was taken to the state police barracks on Armory Street, it was discovered that Sabora-Martinez is an undocumented resident.

The advocates say they are not asking the President for another Deferred Action program, but rather a stronger guarantee that the Department of Homeland Security will follow its existing guidelines and refrain from deporting so-called low-priority immigrants who have not been charged with a crime and could apply for provisional immigration status under the bill.

The immigration reform legislation is in early stages—the Senate Judiciary Committee began coting on amendments on Thursday—and few think it could become law before the end of the summer. If deportations continue at the rate they have for the past four years, between 100,000 and 150,000 more people could be removed before any undocumented immigrant could apply for immigration papers.

Sherri Shepherd Fuels Rumors ‘The View’ May Add Latina

Sherri Shepherd Fuels Rumors 'The View' May Add Latina

“The View” co-host Joy Behar announced in March that she is departing ABC’s long-running daytime talk show. Actresses Brooke Shields and Jenny McCarthy both are rumored contenders to fill in Behar’s seat but there are rumors the seat may go to a Latina.

Last Friday co-host Sherri Shepherd visited Jay Leno and mentioned comedian Debi Gutierrez was a guest co-host in the show, adding, “I think we need a Latina on the show.” Her comments fueled a number of rumors that ABC executives may replace Behar with a Latina.

If some of those rumors are true, the Latina joining “The View” may not be representative of your average Latina in the U.S. A 2012 Gallup poll found 51% of Latinos identified as or leaned Democratic, while a little less than a quarter (24%) identified with or leaned toward the GOP. Women and children of Latino immigrants are even more likely to identify as democrats.

But ABC executives may be looking for a ‘conservative Latina’ to replace Behar, according to sources interviewed by the U.K.’s “Daily Mail.”

Former “Real World - San Francisco” star and outspoken conservative Rachel Campos-Duffy and singer Gloria Estefan are being considered to replace Behar, according to the NY Daily News.

Contemporary Christian and Latin pop singer Jaci Velasquez, who also co-hosts her own radio show, is rumored to be in the running too.

An ABC spokeswoman told the Daily Mail that ‘at this time we have no comment’ regarding the rumors.

“The View” was the most watched daytime network talk show in 2012.

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