Category Archives: Politics

The Daily Dot: Inside the real world of Teach for America

Published at The Daily Dot, July 2014. 

Is Teach for America (TFA) a neo-liberal disaster contributing to the utter destruction of U.S. public schools, or is it an innovative program providing new opportunities to children growing up in underprivileged communities? Can the students of the Internet age help fix education? It’s one of the most controversial education reform initiatives in the United States, with passionate advocates on both sides of this question. As the 2014-2015 school year approaches, TFA graduates are completing their training and getting into classrooms, and this debate is becoming even more acute.

Read more at The Daily Dot.

xoJane: What Happened In Oklahoma Last Night Was Disgusting and Shameful

Published at xoJane, April 2014. 

What happened in Oklahoma on Tuesday night was disgusting. Watching it unfold was horrifying and shameful, and it reminded me of why I am so ferociously against the death penalty. It’s cruel and unusual punishment, it’s wrong, and it’s a fundamental human rights violation. Worldwide, 51 percent of countries have already stopped using it, and we’re in the company of human rights trailblazers like Syria, Iran, and Iraq. 

Read more at xoJane.

Truthout: GOP Refuses to Extend Jobless Benefits

Published at Truthout, December 2013.

Research on the effects of long-term unemployment benefits on the economy shows that for every dollar the government pays out, the economy benefits to the tune of $1.60. As people on benefits spend them on food and other supplies, they stimulate their local economies, engage local businesses and keep their communities economically functional. Without these benefit funds in the economy next year, already depressed and struggling communities could face even more problems, leading to a spread of economic depression including a surge in the unemployment rate as companies are forced to let people go. Thus, the refusal to extend benefits could have a long-term ripple effect with seriously negative outcomes.

Read more at Truthout.

The Guardian: Comment is free: Wendy Davis’ filibustering for abortion rights is a brave and great thing

Published at The Guardian, June 2013. 

It’s raining here, softly but firmly, and Wendy Davis is filibustering in Texas.

She’s speaking in a low, quiet voice in the other tab, talking about admitting privileges, standing quietly as Senators raise points of order, resuming her flood of speech flawlessly when the floor is returned to her. Her voice is calm and clear, measured, thoughtful, as she explains a subsection of SB5. My Twitter is flooded with commentary on Davis, on SB5, on reproductive rights. The Texas Senate is filled with people in orange, most of them women, coming out in droves to support the right to choose; to refuse the restrictions on abortion services embedded in SB5, the attempt to deprive them of access to basic medical services.

Read more at The Guardian.

ThinkProgress: Why Aren’t Mentally Ill Americans Invited To This Week’s Hearing On Their Own Privacy Rights?

Published at ThinkProgress, April 2013. 

This Friday, House Republican Tim Murphy is holding a hearing on whether the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) “helps or hinders patient care and public safety” in the context of mentally ill patients. The hearing, a followup to his hearing last month in which he reiterated false claims about mental illness and violence, will notably not include a single mentally ill witness. Why not? Because, according to Tim Murphy, mentally ill people are not “competent” to testify about how a relaxation of HIPAA rules would affect their own lives.

Read more at ThinkProgress.

Truthout: Rising Controversy Over Marijuana Cultivation in California’s Emerald Triangle

Published at Truthout, January 2012

Socially, this means that in counties where many people are living below the poverty line, local governments are ill-equipped to provide meaningful public assistance to low-income residents. Mendocino County, for example, has slashed its mental health services, particularly in Coastal Mendocino, and has gutted its library program. All three counties have problems with basic infrastructure like road maintenance, keeping parks and recreation centers open and wastewater treatment. These services are normally funded by tax dollars, but with an untaxable black market, counties have nowhere to turn.

Read more at Truthout

AlterNet: Is Cutting Benefits For Public Workers Actually Wage Theft? Reframing the Right’s Attacks On Unions

Published at AlterNet, July 2011

One option for public sector unions, says Tharp, may be turning to lawyers prepared to drill down through regulations and union contracts to determine whether it’s possible to take the matter to court, an option that such unions are no doubt considering. That would be much easier to do with public support, which requires changing the way members of the public think about public sector unions, pensions, and benefits.

Media reporting on the pensions crisis discusses “broken promises” to public employees, but a pension is not a promise, it is a legal obligation. Failing to accurately define public employee pensions, and what cuts really mean, results in a lack of understanding among the general public about what pensions are and how they work. This creates a situation where sentiment against public employees generates support, or at least acceptance, of pension cuts, because people do not understand what is actually happening. Wage theft is something that has the potential to affect all employees, and tolerating it creates a slippery slope and makes it that much easier for the next step. Social Security cuts, for example, are also on the table.

Read more at AlterNet.

Tiger Beatdown: Gun Registries Don’t Stop Suicide, Mental Health Services Do

Published on Tiger Beatdown, March 2011.

The claim is often made that society needs to be protected from people with mental illness when in fact, the situation is just the opposite; we need to be protected from society. In no small part thanks to attitudes about mental illness, again, particularly surrounding women. The pathologisation of women’s emotions and lives results in extreme danger for many women. The diagnostic disparities (what is post traumatic stress disorder in a man is borderline personality disorder in a woman) contribute directly to the stigma experienced by mentally ill women; not for nothing are women with emotions who aren’t afraid to voice them accused of having histrionic personality disorder. Not for nothing do young women with depression and suicidal ideation shoot themselves in mall parking lots instead of seeking help.

Read more at Tiger Beatdown.

The Guardian: ‘Psycho killer’? The Jared Lee Loughner case brings out the usual abuse

Published in Comment is free, January 2011

While speculating about the mental health status of the shooter, people also reinforced social attitudes about violence and mental illness, asserting that violence is an expression of mental illness and that mental illness makes people violent. The belief that mentally ill people are a danger to others persists – despite the fact that mentally ill people are actually 11 times more likely than the general population to be victims of violence, according to a Northwestern University study. People with “severe mental illness” are responsible for an estimated one in 20 violent crimes, a rate much lower than the general population usually supposes.

The media were initially more reticent when it came to drawing conclusions about the circumstances of the shooting. National Public Radio even posted a condemnation of speculation, after an initial slip-up where they prematurely reported the congresswoman’s demise. After years of substantial work on the part of the mental health community, a growing number of media outlets have turned to a more responsible journalistic approach when it comes to situations where mental illness may be involved.

Read more at The Guardian.

FWD/Forward: Crude Violations: BP Is Dumping Toxic Waste In Low Income Communities of Colour

Published at FWD/Forward, August 2010.

From the start, the oil spill has disproportionately impacted people of colour. Many of the cleanup workers were people of colour, and BP also used primarily nonwhite prison labour in oil spill cleanup and tried to hide it. Now, with the spill cleanup winding down, waste from the spill is being dumped on nonwhite communities even as these communities struggle to recover economically from the impacts of the spill. They can look forward to leaching of oil and chemicals from their landfills  in the coming decades, and reports on the ground also indicate that the waste is already poorly controlled, with oil slicks and tarballs showing up around communities being used as dumping sites.

Read more at FWD/Forward.