America’s largest police organization throws support behind Trump, eliminating any doubt as to what they really feel about those of us they’ve sworn to protect and serve

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When a friend told me this morning that the National Fraternal Order of Police, our nations’s largest police organization, with over 325,000 members, had endorsed Donald Trump for President, I thought that it had to be a hoax. “There’s no way,” I thought, “that they could support a candidate who has repeatedly promoted violence at his rallies and suggested that gun rights activists, if they really wanted to protect our nation, would assassinate his rival. It’s apparently not, though. The following comes by way of The Hill.

The Fraternal Order of Police (FOP) gave the GOP presidential nominee its endorsement after he received support from more than two-thirds of the group’s national board.

“[Trump] has seriously looked at the issues facing law enforcement today. He understands and supports our priorities and our members believe he will make America safe again,” said Chuck Canterbury, the FOP’s national president.

“He’s made a real commitment to America’s law enforcement and we’re proud to make a commitment to him and his campaign by endorsing his candidacy today.”

And, if you still don’t believe it, here’s the statement from the Fraternal Order of Police.

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As for what the police may find attractive about Trump, here’s what the folks at Slate had to say.

Priority one: Instill fear to make people less inclined to criticize the police.

Trump has repeatedly lied about how much crime there is in the United States, asserting at rallies and in interviews that the country is suffering through a violent crime wave, even though most places in America have never been safer.

Why the union likes this: Fear of crime makes people less inclined to criticize police.

Priority two: Try to kill the police reform movement.

Trump casts efforts to make police officers kill fewer people as a “war on police” being waged by criminals. In his prime-time “law and order” speech in August, Trump stated, “Our job is not to make life more comfortable for the rioter, the looter, the violent disruptor.” By associating activists and protesters with rioters and looters, Trump spreads the notion that people calling for police reform are doing so because they are violent law-breakers who want to weaken the ability of the police to keep the country safe.

Priority three: Make Americans feel so guilty for criticizing the police that they stop criticizing the police.

Trump makes the false claim that it has never been more dangerous to work as a police officer—eliding the much more reassuring reality that the number of American police officers who get killed in the line of duty has been declining for decades. This sends the message that ordinary people with ordinary jobs have no business criticizing the work of law enforcement.

Priority four: More fawning over police officers.

Trump only talks about the police in the most glowing terms, saying things like, “What you do is incredible,” and “the police in this country are absolutely amazing people.” This serves as a counterbalance to widespread calls for police reform that are based on the idea that police officers are not above criticism.

Priority five: Create the impression that this whole “police officers disproportionately kill black people” thing is wrong.

Last November, Trump memorably tweeted a racist meme that, in addition to falsely claiming that 81 percent of whites are killed by blacks, incorrectly suggested that police actually kill whites more often than they kill blacks. It is advantageous to the FOP if more Americans can be convinced, with fake numbers, that the Black Lives Matter movement exists to defend the rights of violent offenders, and that its underlying argument is a sham.

Like a lot of folks, I’d like to think that the instances of police violence that we’re seeing across America can be attributed to “a few bad apples.” When things like this happen, though, it reminds me that the problem goes a hell of a lot deeper.

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Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics | Tagged , , , , | 15 Comments

“School choice, metro Detroit’s new white flight”

Last week, as you may recall, I posted something here about how so-called “school choice” was adversely impacting our local school districts. Well, it just so happens that, in the most recent issue of The Center for Michigan’s magazine, The Bridge, they have a piece on that very subject, which goes into quite a bit more depth. Here, in hopes that it helps further our conversation, is a clip from the article, titled “School choice, metro Detroit’s new white flight.”

…Consider: The East Detroit school district is only 19 percent white, even though 40 percent of school-age children living there are white. And the flood of East Detroit students to Lakeview, which is 80 percent white, has produced yet another shift: the loss of students prompted East Detroit to solicit students from other cities, mostly Detroit.

“School choice has accelerated segregation by race, by class, by ability, by special education status and by language,” said Gary Miron, an education professor at Western Michigan University who has reported widely (and often critically) on Michigan’s school choice policies.

But defenders of school choice say the policies produce more good than harm by empowering parents – black and white – whose local schools are failing their children.

Gary Naeyaert, executive director of the Great Lakes Education Project, is one of the staunchest defenders of school choice in Michigan. He acknowledges that choice can financially harm the districts that are losing students.

But he and others contend that education policy should err on the side of supporting parents who want to move their children to schools that are better performing or safer.

eastpointe2Naeyaert said many more families would be hurt if the program was curtailed in an effort to reduce segregation that can accompany generous choice policies. He argues that, if anything, the state should make school choice less restrictive so poor families have more flexibility to take advantage of school options.

“I don’t know if it’s possible to rewrite the rules to (change) social behavior without eliminating options for people,” he said of segregation trends. “We can’t legislate morality and good intentions.”

Almost 50 years ago, the Kerner Commission, formed to study the causes of urban unrest in Detroit and other cities, concluded that African-Americans and whites in the United States were moving toward “separate and unequal” societies, including in the classroom.

Today, Michigan’s school choice law has led to several districts that are far more majority white, while creating additional districts in which minority students are in the majority, a Bridge analysis of state enrollment records shows.

The number of so-called majority-minority school districts statewide — where white students are in the minority — rose from 38 a decade ago to 55 last year. Meanwhile, the number of majority-minority charter schools went from 119 to 182…

School choice has been a popular option in Michigan for more than two decades. A byproduct of the 1994 adoption of Proposal A, which radically altered school finance in the state, students were able to switch to any district that opted to open their doors.

Today, over 300,000 students – more than 20 percent of all taxpayer-supported K-12 students in the state – are educated in either charter school or a traditional public school district other than the one in which they live. Whether choice benefits students academically is subject to debate…

Posted in Detroit, Education, Michigan, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 17 Comments

Was Hillary Clinton poisoned? World renowned forensic pathologist Bennet Omalu seems to think so.

Maybe it’s because we know with some degree of certainty that former KGB agent turned dictator Vladimir Putin has poisoned his adversaries in the past, or maybe t’s just because this election cycle has already been so incredibly insane that nothing would surprise me, but when Dr. Bennet Omalu, one of the world’s most renowned forensic pathologists, took to Twitter yesterday and suggested that Hillary Clinton may have been poisoned, I took it seriously… Here, if you haven’t seen it yet, is what Omalu, who was recently portrayed by Will Smith in the film Concussion, had to say on social media shortly after video surfaced of Clinton collapsing outside of a 9/11 memorial event.

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When I first heard that video existed of Clinton staggering and being helped into a car, I didn’t want to have anything to do with it. Given all the lies that have been told about her health over the years, I knew how devastating something like this could be to her campaign, and I didn’t want to think about it. I didn’t want to consider the very real possibility that a Clinton illness, no matter how trivial, could plant the seed in people’s minds that she was frail and weak… which, you can be sure, was exactly the intention of those on the right who first started these rumors.

It’s the Obama birth certificate all over again… As with that campaign, the end goal was never to prove that Obama was born in Kenya, as it couldn’t be done, seeing as how he was born in Hawaii. The objective was to cast Obama as an outsider, someone not like us, someone with different allegiances, someone that we couldn’t ever fully trust. And, in this case, I’d argue, it’s more of the same. The people on the right when they started this campaign didn’t expect to ever discover that Clinton has MS, AIDS or Parkinson’s, as have been suggested. They just wanted to plant the seed that she’s weak. They want to cast her as an “old woman” who wasn’t strong enough to defend our country. They wanted for us to think, every time she sneezes, that she at death’s door. They wanted for us to believe that, under pressure, she’d break… that she’d not be as strong and as virile as a man.

And, so, for all of these reasons, I didn’t intend to mention this most recent episode. I didn’t want to be just one more blog writer reinforcing a false narrative. And, plus, I knew that it was likely nothing. People faint and collapse all of the time. I’ve done it. Generals have done it. It doesn’t mean a goddamned thing… But then I saw this post from Dr. Omalu, the man credited with bringing chronic traumatic encephalopathy (CTE) to the nation’s attention, despite the overwhelming forces aligned against him, and it got me thinking about Donald Trump’s multiple ties to the Putin regime, the fact that Putin is thought to have poisoned several of his rivals, and the news that we’re told will break tomorrow in Newsweek about alleged ties between Trump, foreign politicians and members of the international criminal underworld, and I began to wonder if there just might be something to Omalu’s observation.

So, as hesitant as I am to join the ranks of those floating different conspiracy theories concerning Hillary Clinton’s health, I can’t help but wonder if, just maybe, there’s something to what Omalu has said. Why is it, after all, so hard to accept they possibility that Putin, who has poisoned adversaries in the past, would do so again? When you consider how much he’d have to gain by placing a proxy in the White House, is it really that hard to accept as a possibility? Given the number of presidents that we’ve lost to assassination in this country, why is it so hard to believe that a candidate might be poisoned, especially when so much is on the line? I’m not saying that it definitively happened. No, I haven’t gone that far off the deep end yet. But, with that said, the more I think about it, the less insane it sounds.

Posted in Politics, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 18 Comments

The ONE Campaign’s caravan to stop in Ypsilanti to discuss putting and end to global poverty

On Wednesday evening, representatives from the ONE Vote ‘16 Caravan will be pulling into Ypsilanti’s Cultivate Coffee and Tap House and engaging local voters in a discussion about global poverty and how critical it is that our elected leaders take the problem seriously. Following is my discussion with Juliet Vedral, the U.S./Canada Press Secretary for the ONE Campaign to end extreme poverty.

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MARK: So, do I understand correctly that the ONE Vote ‘16 Caravan will be making a stop in Ypsilanti this Wednesday evening?

JULIET: Yes, the ONE Vote ‘16 Caravan will be at Cultivate Coffee and Tap House from 5:00 p.m. to 8:00 p.m. tomorrow… The caravan features an adult-sized White House “bounce house” and a virtual reality experience that takes viewers into the day-to-day of a young girl and a woman living in extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa.

MARK: Would I be right to assume that the purpose of the Caravan is to engage people in conversations about global poverty and hunger prior to our November elections, with the hope that voters might then be more likely to support candidates who are serious about addressing those problems?

JULIET: Yes. We believe that the next president ought to have a strategy for fighting extreme poverty, especially in Africa, and every candidate for commander-in-chief should articulate that strategy for voters. Why? Because helping people climb out of extreme poverty and stopping the spread of preventable diseases is an important part of American foreign policy and our national security. Fighting poverty makes America safer. Helping poor countries build better health systems will stop the next Ebola from reaching us. And helping developing countries build stronger economies and democratic institutions will prevent terrorists groups from growing and festering in power vacuums.

MARK: I’ve seen the phrase “Poverty is Sexist” in some of your materials, and I’m wondering if you might be able to elaborate a bit on that.

JULIET: Poverty and gender inequality go hand-in-hand. Being born in a poor country and being born female is basically a double whammy for girls and women: they are significantly worse off than their counterparts in richer countries, and in every sphere they are hit harder by poverty than men. For example, women and girls constitute roughly half of the world’s population, but are hit the hardest by infectious diseases. In many parts of the world, adolescent girls and young women are at a much greater risk of contracting HIV than boys and men of the same age because of exploitative attitudes toward sex, the prominence of intimate partner violence, and the inaccessibility of education. Nowhere is this trend more problematic than in sub-Saharan Africa, where young women are twice as likely as young men to live with HIV and where 5,000 young women are infected with HIV each week. That’s more than 700 per day. Among adolescents in Africa, girls account for three-quarters of all new HIV infections.

But there’s good news–investments targeted towards girls and women pay dividends in lifting everyone out of poverty more quickly, and are essential in the overall fight to end extreme poverty everywhere.

MARK: Given everything that we’re dealing with here in the United State right now, do you think it’s likely that global poverty will even get a mention during the upcoming Clinton/Trump debates? I don’t seem to recall it having come up at all in the primary debates, except for maybe a passing mention in relation to terrorism, and the fact that poverty can, in some instances, contribute toward radicalization.

JULIET: We certainly hope it’s mentioned! Military leaders say that America’s development efforts make us safer. So should the candidates. We believe that no one should get to be President of the United States without publicly demonstrating an understanding and appreciation for the essential role of promoting hope in securing America.

A key factor in whether this topic will come up in the debates hinges on whether voters demand answers from the candidates. Which is why we’re traveling to key battleground states and congressional districts to engage voters.

MARK: As we’ve discussed here on the site before, it’s rare that poverty within the United States is even mentioned on during presidential campaigns, let alone global poverty. It just seems like an almost impossible task to get it on the national agenda… Do you see encouraging signs?

JULIET: Well, Secretary Clinton recorded a video for us explaining what she’d do to end extreme poverty in Africa. You can watch that here.

MARK: To your knowledge, has Trump ever discussed his views on America’s role in fighting global poverty?

JULIET: We would love to have Mr. Trump also record a video for us describing how he’d tackle extreme poverty, if elected president.

MARK: Would I be right to assume that Ypsilanti won’t be the Caravan’s first stop?

JULIET: That’s right. We started our caravan in Cleveland at the Republican National Convention in July. And, since then, in addition to a few stops around Washington DC, we’ve gone to Philadelphia for the Democratic National Convention, Great Neck (NY), Wilmington (DE), Pittsburgh, and Chicago. The caravan has also stopped at Michigan State University and the University of Michigan. But we’re very much looking forward to engaging with Ypsilanti voters.

MARK: And how have you found the experience thus far? Are you finding people receptive to your message?

JULIET: Yes! We’ve have almost 1,000 people sign our petition. We’ve also had 1,729 people cast their votes to end extreme poverty using “ballots” that describe how they would want the next president to go about making a plan to end extreme poverty. And well, it’s also an adult-sized bounce house, and that’s definitely drawn a lot of people.

MARK: How do you respond to people that you meet during stops like the one coming up tomorrow in Ypsilanti when they ask, “Why should people in the United States care about global poverty?” How do you get people to think beyond themselves, and the challenges that they’re facing personally, to consider something like global poverty?

JULIET: We don’t at all want to diminish the struggle that many Americans are facing. There are an array of amazing groups here in the United States that do incredible work trying to help poor Americans. But ONE exists to try to help those living in extreme poverty elsewhere in the world.

The extreme type of poverty we’re talking about affects people who earn less than about $2 a day and live in places where there simply aren’t hospitals and ambulances and doctors; or where they aren’t supermarkets or food supplies; or where there isn’t clean water, or basic roads. It’s very different than even the worst kinds of poverty we see in some parts of the United States.

Our VR experience–two films that depict a day in the life of a young girl trying to get an education and a 40-year old woman named Doris who is HIV-positive–is a way for people to immerse themselves in the lives of people living with extreme poverty in sub-Saharan Africa. We’re hoping that viewers will get even a small sense of that experience and take action to end it.

MARK: Given everything we know about poverty and it’s causes globally, what, in your opinion, is the best approach toward taking it on? Is education the key? Or would be be better served to focus on debt forgiveness? And, I should add, I understand that, ideally, we’d do a number of things. I’m just curious to know, as someone who studies this, what you think would be the most impactful.

JULIET: Here’s what ending poverty could look like: ending hunger and improving nutrition; stopping the spread of diseases and expanding access to health care; strengthening education and growing economic opportunity; promoting justice and building stronger institutions; and it means prioritizing girls and women, who are actually the key to breaking the intergenerational cycle of poverty.

MARK: The Caravan is a project underwritten by ONE, correct?

JULIET: Yes. The caravan is part of ONE’s election program, ONE Vote.

MARK: And how did the idea for the Caravan come about?

JULIET: We were looking for creative ways to bring this issue to voters. The bounce house seemed like a fun way to engage people and to drive home the point–that whoever next enters the White House, must have a plan to end extreme poverty.

MARK: Assuming there are people who read this who can’t come out tomorrow to meet with you in person, what would you like for them to know about the fight against global poverty? What can people do to get involved?

JULIET: People can check out our websites: onevote16.org and one.org and read up on the issues. There are also ways for someone to take action, if they wanted to.

MARK: And what can those who do come to the event tomorrow expect to find when they arrive at Cultivate? Do you have non-“bounce house” activities planned? Will people be writing letters to their elected officials about specific legislative initiatives targeted at global poverty and hunger?

JULIET: Participants will be given the opportunity to immerse themselves into the issues through our VR experience. Then they’ll be asked to cast their votes to end extreme poverty. (The ballots I mentioned before will be given to the candidates at some point, and, yes, there are also ballots available if you want to petition Gary Johnson or Jill Stein.) After that, they’re welcome to bounce in the “White House” for however long they want… or can. (It can be an intense leg workout, the more you do it.)

[For more information, see Cultivate’s Facebook event page.]

Posted in Civil Liberties, Politics, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 4 Comments

What a difference a few miles makes… Stanford data shows sharp division between educational outcomes across Washtenaw County following race and class lines

This past April, folks at the New York Times, using data collected by the Center for Education Policy Analysis at Stanford, created an online tool allowing users to explore the correlation between money, race and academic success across America’s school districts. Following are two screen captures. The first shows where the Ann Arbor school district falls on a graph where the X axis reflects the socioeconomic status of parents, with poorer communities on the left and wealthier ones on the right, and the y axis shows how far either ahead or behind children in that community are relative to their peers based on the results of standardized math and reading tests. As you can see, in Ann Arbor, which is significantly more affluent, the children test at 1.8 grade levels above average. Meanwhile, in Ypsilanti, just a few miles to the east, the children test at 1.3 grade levels below average. And, the disparity when it comes to race and socioeconomic status, as you might expect given the fact that we live in the eights most economically segregated region in the entire United States, is significant.

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It’s worth noting that in Ann Arbor schools, which, according to this Stanford research, are 56% white, 24% asian, 14% black and 6% hispanic, the median family income is $96,000 a year. In Ypsilanti, however, where the school population is 60% black, 28% white, 6% hispanic and 6% asian, the median family income is only $37,000.

You can draw your own conclusions as to what all of this means. All I ask is that, before doing so, your read through our most recent discussion concerning the various factors at play between our two districts, which have been pitted against one another by a state that has proven again and again that it has no interest in either educating its poor, or maintaining a strong public education infrastructure.

Following, by way of background, is a clip from the New Your Times piece noted above.

…The new analysis surveys data from about 200 million standardized math and reading tests given to third through eighth graders in every state between 2009 and 2012. Although different states administer different exams, Mr. Reardon and his team were able to compare the state results with scores on federal tests known as the National Assessment of Educational Progress in order to develop a consistent scale by which to compare districts.

Mr. Reardon said the analysis should not be used to rank districts or schools. Test scores reflect not just the quality of schools or their teachers, but all kinds of other factors in children’s lives, including their home environment; whether they attended a good preschool; traumas they have experienced; and whether their parents read to them at night or hire tutors.

What emerges clearly in the data is the extent to which race and class are inextricably linked, and how that connection is exacerbated in school settings.

Not only are black and Hispanic children more likely to grow up in poor families, but middle-class black and Hispanic children are also much more likely than poor white children to live in neighborhoods and attend schools with high concentrations of poor students.

These schools can face a myriad of challenges. They tend to have more difficulty recruiting and keeping the most skilled teachers, and classes are more likely to be disrupted by violent incidents or the emotional fallout from violence in the neighborhood. These schools often offer fewer high-level classes such as Advanced Placement courses, and the parents have fewer resources to raise extra money that can provide enhanced arts programs and facilities.

“If a school is in a neighborhood that is highly segregated serving students of color and under-resourced, that is going to have a devastating impact on those who are experiencing a crisis,” said Thena Robinson Mock, project director of the Ending the Schoolhouse to Jailhouse Track program sponsored by the Advancement Project, a civil rights group. “But the others who may not be suffering that crisis at home are also going to suffer from not having enough resources or high-quality teachers. So it will impact the entire school community if those factors are at play”…

Posted in Ann Arbor, Education, Ypsilanti | Tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 30 Comments

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