Calling the Piper’s Tune: Corporate Funders and Charity Endorsements

Too often big donors’ pressure on charities remains behind closed doors and affects only organizational issues or patronage. But sometimes the unseemly behavior of funders becomes a matter of record and should not remain unchallenged.

Charities being urged to support controversial public policy actions pursued by their corporate funders presents exactly such a moment.

Setting the stage for an investigation I just conducted in the nation’s capital, a recent example was revealed when the New York Times reported that friendly and politically-allied nonprofit groups funded by Comcast wrote to regulators in support of its now-discredited proposed merger with Time Warner Cable. More distressingly, the Times went on to note that “A similar pattern is evident with charities like the Urban League and more than 80 other community groups that supported the media company and that also accepted collectively millions of dollars in donations from the Comcast Foundation over the last Continue reading “Calling the Piper’s Tune: Corporate Funders and Charity Endorsements”

Justices Express Skepticism In Oral Arguments For Gay Marriage Case

WASHINGTON — Members of the Supreme Court questioned on Tuesday whether now is the right time to force states to allow same-sex couples to marry, pointing to how quickly public opinion has shifted on the issue of marriage equality.

Justice Anthony Kennedy, who was a key figure in striking down the Defense of Marriage Act in 2013, suggested that he might be worried about the court moving too quickly to force states to marry same-sex couples.

“This definition has been with us for millennia,” Kennedy said of male-female marriages. The justice also said it would be very difficult for the court to say it knows better than the public on the issue.

The questions came during the first session of oral arguments Tuesday for a historic case over whether there is a constitutional right to same-sex marriage. The justices were questioning Mary Bonauto, a lawyer representing same-sex couples who wish Continue reading “Justices Express Skepticism In Oral Arguments For Gay Marriage Case”

Pocan Open Letter to LGBT Community

Friends,

Last week, two openly gay business people held an event for GOP presidential hopeful Sen. Ted Cruz in New York City. Ian Reisner and Mati Weiderpass invited friends over to meet Cruz and hear his views on key issues – except, apparently, gay marriage.

Cruz’s views on the subject of marriage equality, whether real or created for political expediency, are atrocious. Repeatedly, Cruz has blown the dog whistle on the issue, trying to galvanize evangelical and conservative voters to his candidacy. He’s even introduced a constitutional amendment to give states the ability to refuse any Federal court ruling that would grant full marriage equality.

Yet Reisner and Weiderpass seemed unaware of Cruz’s disgusting views as they gleefully hosted and posted pictures of Cruz at their event last Monday. And within a week both have responded to the backlash and apologized for hosting Sen. Cruz.

People, we need to get Continue reading “Pocan Open Letter to LGBT Community”

A Bittersweet Victory?

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I remember June 26, 2013 vividly: what I was wearing and who I was with, the toasts made and hugs exchanged.

It’s hard to forget days you gain rights.

As a young, gay American, the dismissal of California’s Prop 8 and overturning of the Defense of Marriage Act were intimations of a brighter future. It was my country accepting how I was born and who I am — affirming that my love, as the President tweeted minutes after the decision was announced, is the same as any other.

Months earlier, I took the morning off work and joined thousands advocating for marriage equality in front of the Supreme Court. It was a defining moment for the gay rights movement, and for my generation. A similar rally is planned for this Tuesday, when the Court will hear arguments in a series of cases that could legalize same-sex marriage across the country. Continue reading “A Bittersweet Victory?”

Redneck Infantry Men for Hillary

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The ‘character war’ has begun, trashing the reputation of candidates and creating pseudo scandals in a lazy attempt to win elections without effective policies, ideas and even candidates. However, candidates are more than ideas and policies. They are people, and voters want to know what kind of people. On occasion, Twitter provides unintended glimpses of candidates and what they do.

While trading tweets with conservatives concerning how ‘liberals’ in general, and Hillary Clinton in particular, are changing America, veterans and the military entered the conversation. Democrats were, and continue to be the driving force aiding U.S. veterans in this century. From the New GI Bill to multi-year VA funding and tackling veteran homelessness, Democrats produced results. Yet, the conclusion of current wars and forced budget cuts are creating uncertainty in the lives of the troops and their families. Being denied any VA pension after serving over a decade in Continue reading “Redneck Infantry Men for Hillary”

A ‘College’ Closes, But Student Debt Lives On

This week Corinthian Colleges Inc. announced that it had “ceased substantially all operations and discontinued instruction” at its remaining campuses. That should have brought the indebtedness of its many defrauded students to an end. This “educational institution” was nothing more a profit-making scheme, morally on par with the banks who defrauded homeowners on their mortgages.

Corinthian Colleges has officially shut down. But for most of its students, and for a generation enchained by student debt, the need for action remains.

The Fall of Corinthian

Corinthian’s demise was expected, after a series of government actions brought its misdeeds to light and rendered it financially unsustainable. It came on the heels of an order from the state of California to stop enrolling new students. Regulators there cited concerns with the school’s finances, its legal issues, and the misleading reports it had submitted to government agencies.

But, though the closure was Continue reading “A ‘College’ Closes, But Student Debt Lives On”

Supreme Court Marriage Ruling: No Silver Bullet for LGBT Equality

As the Supreme Court is set to hear four cases on state marriage bans, it is no coincidence that so-called “religious freedom restoration” acts are popping up across the country to sanction discrimination by businesses, employers and public officials. Echoes of the civil rights movement serve as an important reminder that marriage is not a fix-all. What we do next will define the future of this movement.

Marriage equality captured the nation’s imagination in ways no one could have predicted. The movement highlighted the 1,138 protections afforded to married couples and seemed to promise that marriage would be a silver bullet for full equality.

Much in the same way, African Americans expected education to be the silver bullet to address racial inequality. We thought that if we got our people educated, everything would change. However, numerous structural and cultural barriers needed then, and still need, to be addressed simultaneously.

LGBT Continue reading “Supreme Court Marriage Ruling: No Silver Bullet for LGBT Equality”

Mortal Men and the City of Baltimore

“When sht hit the fan, is you still a fan?” — Kendrick Lamar

On the most talked about track (“Mortal Man”) on the most talked about album (To Pimp a Butterfly) of the year, Kendrick Lamar engages in a fictional interview with the late Tupac Shakur. Near interview’s end, Lamar inquires of Shakur, “I can truly tell you that there’s nothing but turmoil going on, so I wanted to ask you what you think is the future for me and my generation today?” In words recorded two decades before, Shakur states, “I think that n***** is tired of grabbing sht out the stores and next time it’s a riot there’s gonna be…bloodshed for real. I don’t think America know that…It’s gonna be like Nat Turner, 1831.”

As violent protests now rage in the City of Baltimore in response to the horrific death of Continue reading “Mortal Men and the City of Baltimore”

7 Netflix Documentaries Worth Streaming

Here is a set of documentaries to stream on Netflix for some educational programming in between your “Gilmore Girls” and “Friends” marathons. Please binge-watch accordingly.

“Fed Up”
“Fed Up” is as infuriating as it is eye-opening. Advocacy documentaries tend to be a bit short-sighted, reveling in their self-righteousness, but director Stephanie Soechtig has more than enough facts to avoid resting on pure outrage. Consider that, since the ’80s, the number of overweight children has gone from one in 20 to one in five. And while entire industries have ignited over weight loss, the number of those struggling to shed pounds only grows. “Fed Up” reveals the complex ways in which the government is inadvertently subsidizing the obesity epidemic through food lobbies. It guts the myth of personal responsibility (emphasized by the rhetoric of “eat more, exercise less”) and gets to the cause of our growing waistlines: processed food that has

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Continue reading “7 Netflix Documentaries Worth Streaming”

Baltimore Smolders After Riot Over Freddie Gray’s Death

By Ian Simpson
BALTIMORE, April 28 (Reuters) – Firefighters on Tuesday battled building fires in Baltimore sparked by rioting that erupted after the funeral Monday of a 25-year-old black man who died after suffering a spinal injury in police custody
Acrid smoke hung over streets where fire crews raced to contain damage from violence that broke out just blocks from the funeral of Freddie Gray and spread through much of West Baltimore.
The unrest – which saw looters ransack stores, pharmacies and a shopping mall and clash with police in riot gear – was the most violent in the United States since Ferguson, Missouri, was torn by gunshots and arson late last year.
Police said 15 officers were injured, six seriously, on Monday.
Gray’s death gave new energy to the public outcry over police treatment of African Americans that flared last year after police killings of unarmed black men in Continue reading “Baltimore Smolders After Riot Over Freddie Gray’s Death”

Just 42 Percent Of The Residents In Freddie Gray’s Neighborhood Are Employed

For two decades, Baltimore’s Sandtown-Winchester neighborhood was the target of multimillion-dollar revitalization efforts, according to the Baltimore Sun. — This feed and its contents are the property of The Huffington Post, and use is subject to our terms. It may be used for personal consumption, but may not be distributed on a website.

ISIS Shot, Stoned And Beheaded Over 2,000 Off The Battlefield In Syria: Monitor

BEIRUT, April 28 (Reuters) – Ultra-radical Islamic State insurgents have killed at least 2,154 people off the battlefield in Syria since the end of June when the group declared a caliphate in territory it controls, a Syrian human rights monitor said on Tuesday.

The killings of mostly Syrians included deaths by beheading, stoning or gunshots in non-combat situations, the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights said, urging the United Nations Security Council to act.

“We continue in our calls to the U.N. Security Council for urgent action to stop the ongoing murder against the sons of the Syrian people despite the deafness of members to the screams of pain of the Syrian people,” it said in a statement.

Islamic State, which also holds tracts of land in neighboring Iraq, is an offshoot of al Qaeda and has set up its own courts in towns and villages to administer what Continue reading “ISIS Shot, Stoned And Beheaded Over 2,000 Off The Battlefield In Syria: Monitor”

The Real Cost of Vietnam

The commemoration of the end of the Vietnam War this week in 1975 will be lost on many Americans who are too young to recall the tumultuous events of the Indochina wars. (We also bombed Laos and Cambodia mercilessly in the same period.) The iconic photographs of the U.S. helicopter about to lift off from the roof of the U.S. embassy in Saigon, with desperate Vietnamese scrambling to board, as the final reckoning are symbolic but also misleading. The image of the “pitiful, helpless giant” misleads because the U.S. military had almost completely withdrawn many months before after having laid waste to Vietnam, north and south, for nearly a decade.

What we will hear this week is heartbreaking: 56,000 American soldiers and marines killed in the war, tens of thousands more permanently scarred. They were young men, boys really, some pressed into service by the draft, Continue reading “The Real Cost of Vietnam”

Powerful Doctumentary Spotlights Artists Battling Segregation In Selma

Earlier this year, a spotlight shined on Selma, Alabama, in remembrance of the civil rights march on the Edmund Pettus Bridge that was brutally interrupted by police in 1965. Though the violence of Bloody Sunday catalyzed the successful battle against Jim Crow laws, the city of Selma remains fraught with racism and segregation.

According to the Freedom Foundation, 80 percent of the town is black, but its only country club remains open exclusively to white members. Dallas County, which encompasses Selma, experiences unemployment at two times the national average; the crime rate is five times higher. This is what President Obama was referring to, when he said in a speech he gave on the bridge on the anniversary of the event. “Our march is not yet finished,” he said, “but we are getting closer.”

Partaking in the metaphorical march is an organization called Random Acts of Theatre Continue reading “Powerful Doctumentary Spotlights Artists Battling Segregation In Selma”

Falling Through the Cracks: My Struggle to Survive as a Homeless Youth

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The sun has only barely begun to peek over the horizon but the faint brightness of the early morning sunrise stirs me in my sleep. I start to wake and for a brief moment I feel almost normal — perhaps even happy — suspended in a blissful state of ignorance as the sleep begins to leave my body and my mind wakes and adjusts to its surroundings.

Almost within the same instant, I am paralyzed, I can’t move or breathe, and an overload of anxiety begins to fill every fiber of my being. Reality sets in and I am suddenly all too aware that I am under a bridge and surrounded by cold concrete ringed with the piercing smells of asphalt and urine.

There were always moments like this, moments where I’d have to remind myself where I was and who I’d become. My mind seemed to be going through

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Continue reading “Falling Through the Cracks: My Struggle to Survive as a Homeless Youth”

Trouble in Paradise: How U.S. Ally UAE Crushes Dissent

Abu Dhabi — Backed by an impressively lavish lobbying and PR machine — more expensive than any other middle eastern country — the United Arab Emirates (UAE) is eager to show that it’s a safe and stable business environment, and a dependable U.S. military ally. “United in Security” with the U.S., declared the UAE state media this week, reminding readers it’s the “only Arab country to join the U.S. on six military operations over the last 25 years” (First Gulf war, Afghanistan, Somalia, Kosovo, Libya and ISIL).

Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Sheikh Mohammed Bin Zayed Al Nahyan met with President Obama, Vice President Joe Biden, and Defense Secretary Carter in Washington last Monday to discuss, according to him, “new steps to enhance the already deep security between the U.S. and the UAE.”

Sheikh Mohammed is a regular visitor to DC, commanding red carpet treatment Continue reading “Trouble in Paradise: How U.S. Ally UAE Crushes Dissent”

‘Vagina Monologues’ Production Reminds Female Inmates They Aren’t Forgotten

BEDFORD HILLS, N.Y. — Elisia Dones, 59, gazed out the window of the bus as it passed Bedford Hills Correctional Facility, New York’s only maximum-security prison for women, and made a left turn.

The scene in front of her was familiar. Dones spent 1982 to 2003 at Bedford after being convicted of murder in the second degree. Some years, she sang in the inmate talent show, belting out Michael Bolton’s “When I’m Back On My Feet Again.” Now, she was returning to prison voluntarily — this time to perform in “The Vagina Monologues.”

Dones was one of three formerly incarcerated women cast alongside actresses and activists to perform this past Wednesday at Taconic Correctional Facility, the medium-security women’s prison across the street from Bedford. The benefit production was a local effort within V-Day’s One Billion Rising Campaign to end violence against women. Eve Ensler, the playwright

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Continue reading “‘Vagina Monologues’ Production Reminds Female Inmates They Aren’t Forgotten”

Historic Same-Sex Marriage Case Finally Reaches Supreme Court

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court is set to hear historic arguments in cases that could make same-sex marriage the law of the land.

The justices are meeting Tuesday to offer the first public indication of where they stand in the dispute over whether states can continue defining marriage as the union of a man and a woman, or whether the Constitution gives gay and lesbian couples the right to marry.

The court is hearing extended arguments, scheduled to last 2 ½ hours, which also will explore whether states that do not permit same-sex marriage must nonetheless recognize such unions from elsewhere.

Same-sex couples can marry in 36 states and the District of Columbia.

The cases before the court come from Kentucky, Michigan, Ohio and Tennessee, four of the 14 remaining states that allow only heterosexual marriage. Those four states had their marriage bans upheld by the federal appeals court Continue reading “Historic Same-Sex Marriage Case Finally Reaches Supreme Court”

Challenging American Exceptionalism

President Barack Obama stood behind the podium and apologized for inadvertently killing two Western hostages – including one American – during a drone strike in Yemen. Obama said, “one of the things that sets America apart from many other nations, one of the things that makes us exceptional, is our willingness to confront squarely our imperfections and to learn from our mistakes.” In his 2015 state of the union address, Obama described America as “exceptional.” When he spoke to the United Nations General Assembly in 2013, he said, “Some may disagree, but I believe that America is exceptional.”

American exceptionalism reflects the belief that Americans are somehow better than everyone else. This view reared its head after the 2013 leak of a Department of Justice White Paper that describes circumstances under which the President can order the targeted killing of U.S. citizens. There had Continue reading “Challenging American Exceptionalism”

John Kerry Meets With Iran Foreign Minister As Senate Begins Debate On Nuclear Pact Review

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Obama administration moved on two fronts Monday to advance its nuclear diplomacy with Iran, with talks between top U.S. and Iranian diplomats and an aggressive effort to sell the emerging deal to skeptical American lawmakers and constituencies.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif met at the residence of Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations in New York for the first time since April 2, when world powers and Iran sealed a framework agreement that would limit Iran’s ability to build a nuclear weapon. They now have little more than two months to meet their own June 30 deadline for a comprehensive accord.

Neither man spoke to reporters as the meeting got underway, but earlier Kerry told a U.N. conference on nuclear non-proliferation that a deal would make the world a safer place. “I want you to Continue reading “John Kerry Meets With Iran Foreign Minister As Senate Begins Debate On Nuclear Pact Review”