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Paul Boden, a homeless rights advocate for 30 years, is helping groups around the country draft legislation to help the homeless.
January 11, 2013 |
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Editor's Note: In the next 10 days AlterNet will be launching an in-depth special coverage series on a wide range of stories addressing the shameful levels of growing inequality, poverty and homelessness in our nation. This interview is a preview of the topics we will be addressing. Veteran reporter Evelyn Nieves, who has covered these issues for a range of publications, will be contributing to the series.
Homeless shelters began opening en masse three decades ago, but the crisis is only getting worse. In a survey of 25 cities from every region of the country, the U.S. Conference of Mayors found more than half are experiencing a spike in homelessness. A majority of the cities said families seeking shelter were turned away for lack of space and that they expect an increase in homeless families. Yet more and more cities are addressing homelessness not by creating housing, but by banning activities such as sitting, sleeping or lying down in public, effectively making being homeless illegal.
This year, advocates for the homeless are fighting back. Until new policies and programs address the causes of homelessness--a lack of affordable housing, lagging incomes that have not kept pace with rising housing costs and the severe cuts in housing assistance programs for the poor—the nation must stop treating our most downtrodden fellow humans like criminals.
Last June, Rhode Island became the first state in the nation to pass a Homeless Bill of Rights, banning discrimination against homeless Rhode Islanders and asserting their right to use public parks, transportation and buildings like anyone else. In California, a Homeless Persons’ Bill of Rights and Fairness Act (AB 5) was introduced last month by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano, a San Francisco Democrat, Similar bills are expected to be introduced in several other states, including Massachusetts and Oregon.
Paul Boden, an advocate for poor and homeless people for 30 years, helped draft the California legislation as organizing director of the Western Regional Advocacy Project (WRAP), a coalition of homeless advocacy groups from several Western states. Boden will be criss-crossing the region and the country in the coming months, working with groups hoping to help draft homeless rights bills.
For Boden, who co-founded the San Francisco Coalition on Homelessness 25 years ago, ordinances designed to drive homeless people from public spaces are akin to laws that once discriminated against African Americans, Japanese Americans and the disabled. At a time when even cities considered liberal and tolerant have laws curbing the activities of the unhoused, homeless rights bills are likely to face tough public opposition. The California measure, for example, would grant legal protection to homeless people engaged “in life-sustaining activities on public property,” including sleeping, panhandling, urinating and “collecting and possessing good for recycling, even if those goods contain alcoholic residue.”
Editorial writers have sneered at the bill. The S an Francisco Chronicle called it “a non-starter ... an absurd reaction to restrictions on homeless conduct and tough-love ideas.” The M erced Sun-Star called it a “nightmare scenario.” But Boden says that by putting the laws that criminalize homeless people in a historical context and exposing how they do nothing to solve homelessness but much to demonize society’s most stigmatized members, the bills could turn the national discussion around. He spoke about the Homeless Bill of Rights strategy advocates are planning to use to force cities into moving the discussion away from homelessness as a public nuisance and toward solutions to homelessness.
Evelyn Nieves: Why a Homeless Bill of Rights?
Paul Boden: The Homeless Bill of Rights is an attempt on our part to validate in law that people regardless of their housing status have a right to exist in public space. More and more and more, we see private security, business improvement districts and policing programs with sit-lie or loitering or jaywalking or sleeping or park closures, where it really has come down to we don’t want you in this community.
In today's On the News segment: The bill the Senate is voting on next month to strengthen gun regulations could turn into one that actually enhances guns rights; nearly every state in our nation has reduced funding for public universities; the Westboro Baptist Church has a new neighbor; and more.
Thom Hartmann here – on the news...
You need to know this. Next month, the Senate will vote on gun control legislation, but provisions that the majority of voters support won't be in the bill. Yesterday, California Senator Diane Feinstein's assault weapons ban was pulled from the legislation, despite a Pew Research poll showing 55% of Americans support the ban. Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid said he will allow the weapons ban to be offered as an amendment, but he will only introduce one measure, which increases the charges and penalties for gun trafficking. As Republicans would mount fierce opposition to the ban on military-style weapons, Mr. Reid said he felt sympathy for Diane Feinstein, but that her bill did not have the 60 votes needed to prevent a filibuster. The final bill may also include provisions to strengthen background checks, but it could be weighed down with pro-gun amendments from the other side of the isle. According to the New York Times, if that happens, the bill meant to strengthen gun regulations could turn into one that actually enhances guns rights. In an interview with reporters, Feinstein said, "How many assault weapons do you need circulating? To have these mass killings is such a blight on everything that America stands for." So, the gun lobby wins again, and modest legislation, which would help keep military-style weapons out of criminals' hands, can't even be put up for a vote. The American people deserve to know which side their representatives stand on. Either Senators are with the majority of Americans that want these weapons off the street, or their with the gun lobby. As President Obama said in his State of the Union, "they deserve a vote," and now is the time for that vote to happen.
In screwed news... In the five years since the 2008 financial meltdown, nearly every state in our nation has reduced funding for public universities. According to a new report from the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, only North Dakota and Wyoming are investing in our future leaders at the same level they were before the Great Recession. The Think Progress Blog points out that some states have made these drastic cuts to education funding only to preserve tax breaks, leaving students on the hook for the skyrocketing tuition costs. Students in Arizona have been hit the hardest, with a 78% increase in college costs just since 2008 – all to preserve a $538 million corporate tax break enacted in 2011. So, while corporations in that state enjoy a 4.9% tax rate, students suffer with closed campuses, eliminated courses, inadequate school resources, and they pay nearly double the cost to obtain a degree. This is immoral... and extremely unwise. Our nation is 16th in the world at educating our future leaders, and huge cuts and ballooning tuition costs will only push us down further on that list. We must start investing in an educated workforce. If we're supposed to be the greatest country in the world, why don't we guarantee the right to a world-class education? This has to change.
In the best of the rest of the news...
Senator Elizabeth Warren is a warrior for the middle class. And in between taking on the banksters, and calling Republicans out for the pro-1% policies, Warren is also working on a book to document the battles she's fought on behalf of working people of our nation. In an interview with the Associate Press on Tuesday, Sen. Warren said the new book, called "Rigged," will tell the story of her time on a Congressional Oversight Panel, how she helped set up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, and how she ran a successful senate campaign to defeat Scott Brown. Warren said, "the title refers to how the economic system is too often rigged against families that work hard and play by the rules. The story is national, but it's also personal." Leave it to Senator Elizabeth Warren... not only does she fight everyday for the middle class, but manages to find time to document the story.
Next time you hear the Republican talking point about the U.S. having the highest corporate tax rate in the world, remember this: In 2012, some of our nation's largest corporations actually got huge refunds. For instance, General Electric made $81 billion dollars in profits last year, yet received a whopping $3 billion dollar tax refund. Bank of America is another tax-dodger, as the company earned over $75 billion last year, yet wrote off so many legal settlements the company was eligible for a tax refund of over $1 billion. It is a privilege to do business in our nation, and to make huge profits off of hard-working American citizens, yet we're actually paying corporations to be here. If Republicans are so worried about the debt and the deficit, they should be putting an end to this corporate welfare. If companies want to use our commons to make huge profits off our fellow citizens, let's demand they start paying their fair share.
And finally... The Westboro Baptist Church has a new neighbor. About six months ago, Aaron Jackson, a founding member of a charity organization called Planting Peace, bought the house directly across the street from the anti-gay group. The purchase is part of a new nonprofit he calls "Equality House." Mr. Jackson found out the house while playing around on Google Earth, and was struck with a brilliant idea. He said that as soon as he saw it was for sale he thought, "Oh my gosh, I could buy a house in front of the [Westboro Baptist Chuch]! And I'm going to paint that thing the color of the pride flag." And yesterday, that's exactly what he did. Out front of the newly-painted rainbow exterior, Mr. Jackson also flies the pride flag, and he is already working on the next steps in his fight for LGBT equality. Congrats to Aaron Jackson for standing up to Fred Phelps and his homophobic, hate group. In the words of Jesus, "love thy neighbor, as thy self." I wonder if that includes neighbors living in a rainbow covered house...
And that's the way it is today – Wednesday, March 20, 2013. I'm Thom Hartmann – on the news.
There’s talk about union, and then there’s acting in unison. As the President was talking about the State of the Union this week, the organizers of V-day were working with activists all around the world to pull off what will doubtless be the most public breaking-of the silence around gender violence that the world has seen.
One Billion Rising is the brainchild of Eve Ensler and the women and men of V-day. For fifteen years,the anti-violence mobilization V-day has used Valentines Day productions of Ensler’s play The Vagina Monologues, to draw attention to violence against women and girls. As Ensler says, V-day’s goal was to stop the violence that according to the UN, affects one in three women in the world. Fifteen years on, she decided it was time to escalate – and she put out a global call for one billion people to Strike Dance or Rise today – February 14, 2013.
The call went out a year ago today. At last count, people in more countries than there are countries had announced they would be Striking or Dancing or Rising today. That’s 202 countries and territories. Go to the website OneBillionRising.org. Type in your zip code and you’ll find a Google Map that is a mad mass of risings. You can watch the action in South Africa, India, Congo and many other places via live videostream from home.
The action began at dawn with indigenous women in Papua New Guinea. It is sweeping through Australia, Asia, Africa and Europe to the Americas. The Prime Minister of Australia and the President of Croatia are rising. Migrant workers, domestic workers, nurses, doctors, even the Dalai Lama. Solidarity pledges have come in from movie stars and Dalit women and the president of the United Steelworkers.
By this time tomorrow what will OBR have achieved? It’s not like some Mayan Calendar prediction of world transformation overnight. Some organizers have taken advantage of the rising to give momentum to legislation. In the US, in Washington, the One Billion Rising Rising will be calling for the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act. In London, Stella Creasy MP, has introduced a bill to demand more comprehensive sex education – and she’s calling it the One Billion Rising Act.
But OBR’s greatest impact may have to do with borders. Not only has the mobilization brought women from all over the world together into an organizing effort that puts a whole new spin on internationalism, but it has also shone a spotlight on the intersections between so called “social” issues and “economic.”
Women and the men now working in jobs typically held by women, have been the shock absorbers of our economy, said labor leaders on a panel sponsored by One Billion Rising held at Cooper Union last fall. There, National Nurses United co-president Karen Higgins made the point that “The issues women face as workers as well as healthcare providers are very personal to us.”
NNU is one of a slew of labor groups supporting OBR in this country and abroad, including the National Domestic Workers Alliance, the Restaurant Opportunities Centers, The United Steelworkers, the American Federation of Teachers and Working America. The largest unions in the Philippines and UK, Kilusang Mayo Uno and UNITE, are also participating. Said Higgins this November:
“We're seeing more and more the fall out from this economy. Violence against us is rising, not just against nurses, but all healthcare workers and we’re having to fight with employers who don't' want word to get out that we're facing that much violence. That silence hurts us too...Among our patients, heart disease in women is becoming more of a killer than cancer. And we're watching women, responsible for welfare of family, choosing between their own welfare and those of kids.”
Today women in the Philippines will be rising to end violence against women and simultaneously to raise wages. They are integrated movements. After breaking the silence around violence against women, will the global anti-violence movement take on breaking the silence about the violence of today’s economy?
© 2013 Grit TV
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Government is force. When it finds that soft force doesn’t work, it becomes more aggressive.
Having found itself unable to scare and/or coerce all Americans into “voluntary” vaccination compliance, now Congress has before it a bill titled the “Vaccinate All Children Act of 2015.” Of course this requirement is being done “in the public interest” and “for the greater good.”
It would accomplish the task of vaccinating all children by withholding federal funds from public elementary and secondary schools that enroll students who are not vaccinated according to recommendations of the Advisory Committee on Immunization Practices.
Of course, children are required by law to attend school, and most children attend public schools. And people are forced to fund those schools whether they have children attending them or not. Opting out of the public indoctrination camps passing as public schools requires jumping through special hoops and/or forking over large sums of cash to a private school.
And who sits on the Advisory Committee that sets the recommendations? Why, it’s health professionals who benefit — either directly or indirectly – from vaccination programs. And some get thousands of dollars from drug makers like Pfizer, Merk and GlaxoSmithKline for “consulting” and “speaking” fees. One member, Marietta Vazquez, M.D., pocketed more than $20,000 for three speeches.
Even if they worked and were without risk, vaccines only stimulate temporary immunity. By trading lifelong immunity for temporary vaccine-induced immunity, people become vaccine dependent. The winners of repeated mandatory vaccinations are the pharmaceutical companies. The losers are the people, who are first put at risk as children for vaccine adverse events and then put at risk as adults for repeated vaccinations that have already failed. The pharmaceuticals have discovered a money machine in mass vaccinations. But they need and have to have your body for the pretense.
The development of asthma, diabetes and autism in children has increased substantially in the last four decades, coinciding with the significant increase in childhood immunizations. People are finally recognizing the link and questioning Big Pharma, and more and more are beginning to “opt out.”
Public awareness has been manipulated. Why does no one question the authority of injecting agents of unknown toxicity into their body? Unbelievably, the general public is satisfied with the disinformation provided by the government. Unfortunately, now is the wrong time for apathy. We are on the verge of a vaccine mania and by the time our wakeup call comes, it just may be too late.
The worldwide market for human vaccine is now over $24 billion – and expected by the World Health Organization to rise to $100 billion in 2025 — with the underlying purpose cloaked by the guise of protecting public health.
The act of forcing people through intimidation and deception into dangerous medications is terrorism of the most malicious sort. This act by public authority constitutes assault, violating civil and human rights under national and international law.
There can be no “greater good” in this act of war against the American people.
© Personal Liberty Media Group
BREAK THE KOCH MACHINE
A number of billionaires are flooding our democracy with their money, drowning out the voices of the rest of us. But Charles and David Koch are in a class by themselves. They’re using their fortune – they’re the fifth and sixth richest people in the world — to create their own political machine designed to protect and advance their financial interests. The Koch machine includes:
1. Political front groups pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into elections at every level of our democracy, while disguising the sources of the money.
2. Giant advertising campaigns to convince Americans climate change is a myth, the Affordable Care Act will harm them, unions are bad, and wealthy people deserve tax cuts.
3. A network of think tanks designed to come up with findings the Kochs want. For example, over $23 million for studies arguing we should abolish the minimum wage or keep it where it is forever.
4. A campaign to suppress the votes of minorities. In the last presidential election, funding white “poll-watchers” where minorities vote, leading to complaints of voter intimidation. And peddling a Voter ID bill to state legislators across the country, designed to make it harder for many to vote.
5. A nationwide effort to bust unions. Funding anti-union campaigns in states like Wisconsin, and pushing an anti-union law that’s been used in dozens of states to undermine workers’ collective bargaining rights.
And 6. A long-term strategy to unravel America’s campaign finance laws, even organizing secret meetings with sympathetic Supreme Court justices.
The Koch political machine would be troubling in any circumstance. But it’s especially dangerous in present-day America, where wealth is more concentrated than it’s been in over a century and the Supreme Court has opened the floodgates to big money.
The problem isn’t that the Kochs are so rich, or their political views are so regressive. The problem is they’re using their exorbitant wealth to impose those views on the rest of us, undermining our democracy.
More than 200,000 of you have already signed my MoveOn petition denouncing the Koch brothers for undermining our democracy.
The Kochs won’t care what we say, but when a half a million of us stand up to them, politicians will have to think twice before taking their money. When a million of us stand up to them, their money will be a political liability.
Standing up to bullies is the hallmark of a civilized society. Please join our petition — and stand up for our democracy. The link to the petition is at the end of the video.
Our democracy is not for sale.
"TEHRAN, IRAN—A billionaire businessman at the heart of a $2.6 billion state bank scam, the largest fraud case since the country’s 1979 Islamic Revolution, was executed Saturday, state television reported.
"Authorities put Mahafarid Amir Khosravi, also known as Amir Mansour Aria, to death at Evin prison, just north of the capital, Tehran, the station reported. The report said the execution came after Iran’s Supreme Court upheld his death sentence.
"Khosravi’s lawyer, Gholam Ali Riahi, was quoted by news website khabaronline.ir as saying that his client was put to death without any notice."
Oh how I have dreamed of such a fate for the Wall Street thieves we bailed out in 2008. Alas, here in America we have a much more advanced legal process. Our justice system is much more deliberate (meaning, if you have enough money you can bombard prosecutors in enough paperwork to delay trial for years). You are permitted competent and committed legal representation (if you have the monetary wherewithal, that is). You are granted certain inalienable rights (unless, of course, you are African-American or Latino). You have the right to appeal to a higher court if you are convicted in a lower court (but don't appeal to the Supreme Court, the most corrupt and vial high court in American history). So summary execution of a U.S. billionaire would never happen (no one with that much money in this country will ever be tried of anything, much less convicted).
I wonder how long Sheldon Adelson would last in Iran? One can dream, right?