Celebrity Police State: Chris Rock Takes Selfies Documenting His Recent Harassment by the NYPD

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 9:21pm
Rock uploaded a photo of himself being stopped by police to his Twitter account.

New York City, N.Y. – Comedian Chris Rock has never been one to hold his tongue and is well known for using his comedy as a means of social commentary. One of his past routines entitled “How Not To Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police,” may have come in handy this past Monday, when Rock uploaded a photo of himself being stopped by police to his Twitter account.
 

This marks the third time in the past seven weeks that Rock has been pulled over by police.
Last week, the 50-year old, father-of-two uploaded a picture to his WhoSay account of himself being pulled over while in the back seat of a vehicle, with the caption: ‘I’m not even driving stop by the cops again (sic).’
 

Additionally, he uploaded another photo to WhoSay, on February 13, of himself sitting in a vehicle in broad daylight, with a patrol car behind him and the caption ‘Just got pulled over by the cops wish me luck.’


 

In all seriousness, the pandemic of racial profiling highlighted by these instances of a high profile celebrity being pulled over, speaks to the systemic nature of the problem. New York was ground zero for the implementation of the extremely racially biased ‘stop and frisk’ program, of which 85 percent of all stops were of minorities.

America is waking up to the reality of a militarized police force that often operates as armed revenue collectors and simple thugs for the ruling elite. Police across the nation are under intense scrutiny as incidents of police corruption, excessive violence and killing, and a pandemic of sexual assaults by officers have begun to penetrate the mainstream consciousness.

The calls for police accountability are resonating strongly across a vast cross-section of America. All those that operate in the public’s name must be held responsible for the actions they commit under the color of law.

While good to see Chris Rock taking the first step in documenting his encounters with law enforcement, we would like to see him film any future encounters with cops, as to truly ensure they are held fully accountable under the law at all times.

Below is the earlier mention skit titled, “How Not To Get Your Ass Kicked By The Police.”

 

 

Categories: Netted News

I'm a Married Woman and I'm Addicted to Porn

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 5:12pm
Many couples have tackled the taboo subject of racy videos and illicit orgasms. What happens when it’s the woman who can’t stop watching?

It’s past 2am and my husband’s breathing has become long and even. An opportunity presents itself. I slip my right hand down my pajama pants and move slowly, careful not to bump my elbow into his side rib, or bring my hips into it. Too much movement or sound will wake him, and to be found out for something like this is not just embarrassing but potentially destructive. He’ll think he doesn’t satisfy me, and men do not like feeling inadequate, especially when it comes to matters of the bedroom. Or maybe he’ll feel sorry for me. And who wants to fuck someone they pity?

Even worse, maybe he’ll finally say the words I’ve been waiting for him to say since I first told him that I am a sex addict. That he’s bored with it. He’s disgusted. He’s had enough.

I lift my wrist away from my body. I’m careful to keep my breath from becoming a pant, even as my pulse quickens, but this takes much concentration. The body desires the convulsion the mind denies. There is no letting go here though. This orgasm is a controlled, measured, calculated experience.

I have masturbated in this way next to the sleeping bodies of all my serious, committed partners who came before my husband. In some cases, as expected, it was because I wanted more sex than they could give me. I’ve been called “insatiable” and “demanding” one too many times. But this has not always been the story. Yes, I have an incredibly high sex drive, but even in relationships where I have great sex multiple times a week my nighttime stealth for self-pleasure has persisted.

My college boyfriend, burgundy haired and tattooed, had the high sex drive typical of most 19-year-old males. We fucked all the time, but even still, I wanted more, something only I could give me. One afternoon, after he’d fallen into a deep post-sex slumber, I serviced myself with my second, third, and fourth orgasm beside him. That was the first time I’d experienced such a level of both secrecy and shame.

I made a promise to my husband and to myself, long before we were even wed, to be austerely honest. He knows I’ve been a compulsive masturbator since I was 12 years old. He knows about my extensive fluency in the hardcore categories of various porn sites. He knows about the bad habit I used to have of hooking up with not-so-nice men because they were available and I was bored—and that I rarely used protection with any of them. And that I believed, for a really long time, that my addiction made me a broken person, a disgusting person, a person unworthy of love.

I told him these things from the start because I met him at a time in my life where I was ready and open for change. Because I liked him so much that I wanted to love him. Because I knew that the only way to love him, and be loved by him, was to be myself.

*****

“What’s your favorite porn scene?”

The man who will become my husband in less than a year asks me this question as he lies naked and vulnerable beside me. We’ve just had sex and although I am naked too, it isn’t until this moment that I feel just as vulnerable as him. While it might seem absurd to some, I know immediately this is a moment of great significance for us. It is an opportunity to finally do things differently.

The possibilities run through my head.

I can describe something vanilla: This one where a busty blonde gets banged by her personal trainer. Or perhaps something a little more racy: These two hot teens swap their math teacher’s cum after he made them stay late in the classroom. Chances are he’ll get hard again and we’ll end up abandoning the conversation for a second round. These are harmless answers. Expected answers.

They’re also lies.

The possibility of revealing the actual truth not only makes me nervous, but also physically sick. I feel a constriction in the back of my throat, a flutter in my belly, a tremble in my extremities. After all, we’ve only been dating a couple of months and he doesn’t love me yet. If I tell him, will he ever?

“Why do you ask?” I reach for the sheet, damp with sweat, a tangle of 300-thread-count cotton across our limbs, and yank it up to cover my breasts.

“I don’t know,” he says. “Curiosity?” He turns over on his side and props his head up on his left hand. His green eyes are wide with wonder.

“Seems like a weird question.” I tuck the sheet into my armpits and scoot my body a little to the left so we’re no longer touching. The tone of my voice has become defensive and he can tell.

“It’s just that I usually pick the porn,” he explains. “Do you like what I choose?”

I see what he’s doing. He’s trying to be considerate since we just had sex while staring at the laptop screen after searching terms of his choosing: Latina, real tits, blow job, threesome.

Maybe he feels guilty for getting off to them instead of me, even though I’m the one who suggested we watch porn in the first place. Even though I’m always the one who suggests we watch porn while we have sex.

“Yeah, sure.” I look up at the ceiling. “They’re fine.”

“Are you sure?”

I wish he’d stop prying, but I realize something else is happening here. Not only is he trying to be considerate; he’s also trying to get to know me. The past couple of months has allowed us to cover most of the basics—what ended each of our most recent relationships, what our parents are like, what we hope to do with our lives in the next few years—but there’s still a longing for something deeper, and I can’t think of anything deeper than knowing a person’s favorite porn scene.

It can speak volumes. For one scene to stand out amongst the rest, when so many others are available, there has to be something below the surface. What maintains its appeal? What keeps a person returning in the deep, dark recesses of a lonely night? Perhaps the answers to these questions are a great source of shame. I never thought of revealing such answers to anybody, and especially not somebody like him, somebody I could really like. It seems far too risky, preposterous even.

It also seems necessary. Too many of my past relationships were doomed by my inability to tell the whole truth, to fully be myself. Now I have the opportunity to go there, and to say to a person, “This is who I am. Do you accept me?”

“Well, there’s this one gang bang,” I start, looking over at his face to see a reaction of surprise and interest register at once.

“Go on.”

I take a deep breath and proceed to tell him, first slowly, then progressively faster about the scene. Like a busted dam, I can hardly hold back the rush of descriptors fumbling from my mouth: “Two women in a warehouse. One dangling from a harness. The other just below her. Both are waiting to take on fifty horny men…” and on and on.

I watch his face the whole time, not pausing when his smile becomes a frown and his eyes squint as if it hurts to look at me.

“Afterward, the women exit the warehouse through a back door while the men applaud.”

For a long moment after I’ve finished talking, there is silence between us, but there is also a sense of relief on my part. I have revealed something so dark, so upsetting, so impacted in shame, and he hasn’t immediately disappeared. He is still here beside me, propped up on his left hand, naked and vulnerable, and so am I. He sees me and I see him seeing me and we are in new territory.

But then he says, “I kind of wish I hadn’t asked.” It’s all I need to hear to send me into tears. Not just tiny, embarrassed sobs, but humiliated wails. I have myself a tantrum. He is confused now as he pulls me close to him, laughing nervously at my abrupt shift in disposition. I try to pull the sheet completely over my head, but he pulls it back down and covers my face with apologetic kisses. He can’t possibly understand why I’m crying. He can’t possibly know what I’ve just revealed to him. “What’s going on? Baby, what’s wrong?”

And so I tell him.

*****

Addiction to porn and masturbation is often grouped under general sex addiction because they all have to do with escape via titillation, pursuit, and orgasm, but I’ve always felt more pathetic about my predilections. Going out and fucking—even someone you don’t really like—is wild, dangerous, but essentially social and shared. Though I had periods of promiscuity throughout my 20s, my biggest issue has always been with what I do alone.

There’s something so sad and humiliating in imagining a person locked away in a dark room, hot laptop balanced on chest, turning the volume down low, scrolling, scrolling, choosing, watching, escaping, coming.

And then realizing that person is me.

But my proclivity for solo pleasure has strong, stubborn roots. I lost my virginity to a water faucet when I was 12 years old. I have Adam Corolla and Dr. Drew to thank for this life-shaking experience; it was their late-night radio show “Loveline” on L.A.’s KROQ that served as my primary means of sex-ed during my pre-teen years. This technique is one of the many things I learned, but I had a whole other kind of education going on, which had long filled my head with other ideas—sex is something that happens between a man and woman who love each other; masturbation is a sin. You know, your typical run-of-the-mill Catholic guilt stuff.

Just as oppressive as the Catholic guilt was my femininity. Girls weren’t talking about masturbation and sex. I had no company with whom to share my new activities and interests. And so this silence morphed into shame. I became a pervert, a loser, a sinner.

I tried to stop myself from taking long baths, from late-night undercover activities, from being alone too long, but the more I obsessed about stopping, the more I could not. I joined shame, secrecy, and pleasure in a daily orgy, whether I was tired, bored, angry, or sad. Whether I was single or coupled, it didn’t matter. Getting off required all of these components and I needed new, more extreme methods to stay engaged—more hours sucked away watching progressively harder porn like the warehouse video, complemented with dabbles in strip clubs, peep shows, and shady massage parlors. It became impossible to get off during sex without fantasy, my body over-stimulated to numbness. I was irritable unless I was fucking or masturbating or planning to do either of these things. Life revolved around orgasm to the detriment of any kind of real progress in my professional or social existence.

I was out of control.

*****

Little did I know that describing my favorite porn scene would be the first of many future admissions that would help peel back, layer by layer, a long and exhausting history of self-loathing. My future husband and I quickly learned that watching porn during sex wasn’t a harmless kink for us; it was a method I’d long used to remain disconnected from my partners. It took much discipline and patience for us to expel it from our relationship altogether, though every now and then we slip up.

Talking about my habits led me to examine them, which ultimately led to my desire for change. Holding a secret for too long is like being unable to take a full breath. I didn’t want to feel this way anymore. I needed to share—often and fully—what had for too long been silenced in order to reclaim who I was underneath my addiction. I needed to breathe again.

I found relief in Sex and Love Addicts Anonymous meetings, seeing a therapist I trusted, attending personal development courses like the Hoffman Process, and writing about my journey. I’ve managed to move away from porn for the most part, but when it comes to this addiction—to something I don’t have to seek out or purchase—control is like a wayward horse and my ass is always slipping off the saddle.

I constantly struggle with whether or not I should give up porn completely, but until I find a way to have some moderation with it, I avoid it as best I can. I wish I could just watch it occasionally, as some sort of supplement to my active sex life, but the whole ritual of watching porn is tangled up in too many other negative emotions. Watching porn takes me back to being that little girl alone in her bedroom, feeling ashamed and helpless to stop it. I can’t just watch one clip without needing to watch another after that, and another, until hours have passed and I’m back to binging every night.

If my husband leaves me alone all day and idleness leads me to watching porn, it’s the first thing I confess upon his return. Sometimes I don’t even have to say it. He can tell by my downturned eyes and my noticeable exhaustion. He shakes his head and takes me in his arms as I make another promise to try to leave it alone. When I visited a peep show on a recent work trip out of town, he seemed more amused than upset about the whole thing.

Unfortunately, I have yet to be as generous. If I find he’s been watching porn without me, when I’ve struggled to abstain for a stretch of time, I react with what might seem like unjustified rage. This frustration is only rooted in envy.

*****

Masturbating beside my husband while he sleeps is the last secret I’ve kept from him. Although I’m beginning to fear that it’s actually just the latest secret. My resistance in telling him only proves how fragile recovery is. This week it’s masturbation. But maybe next week it’s back to porn binging. Or obsessive scrolling through Craigslist personals. Or lying about my whereabouts. And so forth. Abstaining from these habits, when so readily available, without abstaining from sexual pleasure completely, or the shame I’ve long bound to it, is a challenge I face daily.

That’s why I need to tell my husband.

Not because I need his permission, his forgiveness or to offer him some act of contrition. But because I need him to see me. To witness. The act of telling the truth, especially about something that makes us ache, is often the only absolution we need.

Erica Garza is a writer from Los Angeles. Her essays have appeared in Salon, Substance, LA Observed, The Manifest Station and HelloGiggles. She is also a staff writer at Luna Luna Mag. Read more at www.ericagarza.com and follow her on Twitter @ericadgarza.

 

 

Categories: Netted News

American Police Killed More People in March (111) Than the Entire UK Police Have Killed Since 1900

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 5:01pm
A total of 111 people were killed by police in the United States in March of 2015. Since 1900, in the entire United Kingdom, 52 people have been killed by police. Yeah. Those numbers are real.

A total of 111 people were killed by police in the United States in March of 2015. Since 1900, in the entire United Kingdom, 52 people have been killed by police.

Don't bother adjusting for population differences, or poverty, or mental illness, or anything else. The sheer fact that American police kill TWICE as many people per month as police have killed in the modern history of the United Kingdom is sick, preposterous, and alarming.

In March:

Police beat Phillip White to death in New Jersey. He was unarmed.

Police shot and killed Meagan Hockaday, a 26-year-old mother of three.

Police shot and killed Nicholas Thomas, an unarmed man on his job at Goodyear in metro Atlanta.

Police shot and killed Anthony Hill, an unarmed war veteran fighting through mental illness, in metro Atlanta.

I could tell 107 more of those stories.

This has to end.

 

 

Categories: Netted News

This Red State Almost Expanded Health Insurance to 280,000 Poor People -- Then Koch Group Got Involved

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 4:43pm
The health care plan was killed, revived last week, and killed again.

Tracy Foster calmly explains that when she goes to doctors, all they can do is "poke" -- she makes a poking motion with her hand -- her bladder back into place, because it is falling out of her body. She has bladder cancer. She needs to have surgery immediately, the doctors all agree, but she doesn't have insurance and can't get the operation unless she hands over eight thousand dollars up front (two thousand for the doctor, six thousand for the hospital). She doesn't have that kind of money or a health plan to cover it. 

Foster had one surgery for her cancer when she was covered by TennCare, Tennessee's version of Medicaid, state-run health care for the poor. But she was dropped, she says, because her daughter turned 18 and as an adult with no dependent children she's no longer eligible for coverage. She's spent most of her life working in the health industry, tending to Alzheimer's patients in nursing homes, working in a hospital lab, administering EKGs. So she has no illusions about her situation. "They found the lymph nodes near my bladder enlarged," she sighs. 

She's tired and very sick, but she dragged herself down to Nashville from her home three hours away to take part in a Moral Monday demonstration for Insure Tennessee, a health care proposal that would bring insurance to an estimated 280,000 low-income people in the state. The plan, pushed by Republican Gov. Bill Haslam, aims to expand Medicaid coverage to Tennesseans who live 138 percent below the federal poverty level ($16,000 for an individual and $27,000 for a family of three). It also aims, desperately, to differentiate itself from Medicaid expansion that's associated with the Affordable Care Act (Tennessee is one of 22 states that refused to expand Medicaid under the ACA).

To that end, the plan contains potentially onerous premiums and copays as well as punitive measures like locking people out when they fail to make their payments. In another concession to anti-Obamacare conservatives, when the federal subsidy to the state drops from 100 percent to 90 percent, Tennessee's hospitals have promised to pick up the slack.

On Monday afternoon, Tracy Foster joined clergy and secular activists (clerical white collars for days, nurses in white coats and many students)  in a statehouse demonstration to support Insure Tennessee, organized by the community group Moral Movement Tennessee. They massed in the bright, expansive Capitol lobby outside of the Senate chamber. They waved palm fronds and crosses, singing songs like "This Little Light of Mine." Some suggested that if Jesus were around today he probably wouldn't be in favor of letting the poor die just to spite the President, and pleaded with legislators to "not do the politically expedient thing, but to do the right thing," as activist Brian Merritt put it in a fiery speech. 

As that night's Senate session beamed through a flat large screen in the hallway, Foster leaned back against a wall by the TV, looking small. She said she didn't think anyone who knew how hard her life is could oppose a plan that would give her, and thousands like her, health coverage.  

"I would hate for them to go through the pain I go through, but if they would feel one ounce of the pain that I go through everyday they would be for it. They would," she insisted. 

They didn't. The next day, the plan died in the Senate Commerce and Labor Committee, dashing the hopes of activists and sympathetic lawmakers who'd been energized by last week's resurrection of the proposal, after it had been voted down at a special emergency session in February.  And devastating people like Foster. The Governor has previously suggested that he would continue trying for some version of the legislation, but there does not seem to be a likely legislative route to reviving it this year, advocates say. 

***

It should not be surprising that anti-government conservatives backed by the Koch brothers gave torpedoing the plan their all. The day of the Moral Monday protest, Tennessee's chapter of Americans for Prosperity, the conservative advocacy group (David Koch heads AFP's Foundation), had relaunched its radio campaign against Insure Tennessee. 

AFP-Tenn has relentlessly hammered the proposal's parallels to Medicaid expansion under Obamacare, making things exceedingly awkward for its Republican backers. "Obamacare has been a disaster. Expanding Obamacare in Tennessee will be the same," the latest ad said. 

In February, when the plan was first introduced and defeated, AFP-Tenn had pulled out all the stops. They ran ads urging Tennesseans to call their representatives and bussed in members in red shirts to the statehouse. (Pro-health care advocates claim some were shipped in from out of state, but that has not been independently confirmed). 

As NBC and local media outlets reported at the time, AFP members jammed into the Capitol, intent on spooking legislators who had not yet made their stance on the plan public. A handful of unlucky Republican lawmakers found themselves sharing poster space with a picture of President Obama, in grey, sinister ads accusing them of "betraying" Tennessee. The fear campaign worked. The plan plan failed in the emergency session, despite a poll -- eagerly distributed by the Governor's supporters to GOP legislators -- that although 85 percent of Republican voters oppose Obamacare, only 16 percent opposed Insure Tennessee, reported NBC. 

"Radio ads, social media and grassroots activism led by AFP-TN was a significant factor in the defeat of the Insure Tennessee plan," the group boasted in a press release.

NBC noted at the time that the effort reflects a larger AFP strategy of impacting politics at the state level, especially in states in the South and West with Republican-controlled legislatures, where "policy debates are between more moderate Republicans and the party's conservative wing." 

"The vote was one of the clearest illustrations of the increasing power of AFP and other conservative groups funded in part by the Koch brothers," NBC pointed out. 

Andrew Ogles, the young director of AFP-Tenn, laughed off intimations of Koch-conspiracy, saying "Obviously David Koch is our chairman and we appreciate everything he does for us, but we're grassroots.” Ogles says that the group's opposition to Insure Tennessee is rooted in the ACA. "From the onset we've opposed Obamacare. Insure Tennessee is funded by the affordable care act and it's an extension of Obamacare." Toppling the ACA is a priority and their opposition to insuring low-income Tennesseans is part of that plan. 

He says there are huge problems with the state's health care system, but believes that there are better solutions, citing two that AFP is working on: one is opening up treatments that have passed phase 1 to terminal patients, and the other is telemedicine. "You can speak to your doctor via the phone, or FaceTime," he says brightly. 

***

On Tuesday, the day of the Senate Commerce and Labor committee vote, hundreds of Insure Tennessee supporters poured into the legislative plaza, in a demonstration organized by the Tennessee Justice Center. They came in purple t-shirts with "Insure Tennessee Now!" scripted on the front and the back, and many carried signs with their vocations printed above their support for the plan.

There were nurses for Insure Tennessee, grandmas for Insure Tennessee, veterans for Insure Tennessee, among many others. 

A "grandma for Insure Tennessee," Suzanne Lanier, said she doesn't see the downside of a plan that gives people insurance without adding taxes. "It will insure veterans, and people who are working, but who can't afford insurance," she said. "Reality isn't reality until it happens to you," she says wisely, pointing out that the legislators who might scuttle the plan are among the lucky Tennesseans who have state-backed health insurance. 

77-year-old vet Ronald Huddleston made a sharp point about Christian values. "The people who run this building consider themselves to be conservative Christian. I always thought the definition of a conservative Christian was one who followed the teachings of Jesus Christ, such as help the poor, feed the hungry, heal the sick ... I thought that was what Jesus said, over and over and over again." 

Morgan Wills, a tall, straight-backed doctor, identifies as politically independent and has never participated in a political rally before, he says. But he's here now, because the proposal just seems reasonable and also because of the horrors he encounters at work as head of a Nashville clinic for the uninsured. 

"I had a patient who had a gun shot wound and was scared to go to the emergency room,” he says. “He showed up in our clinic two days later."

He also describes how his own son had had an appendectomy last week, and he's doing just fine, in contrast to a child of one of his clinic's patients. "He had the same exact situation, and they were scared to go to the emergency room. They waited, and [his appendix] burst. He was gravely ill," he says. "Examples like that remind me that though the proposal is not perfect, it is better for people to have some insurance."

As the session approached, purple-shirted advocates lined the hallway the legislators passed through, singing and clapping to We Shall Not be Moved. "We're fighting for Tennessee ... and we shall not be moved," they sang. 

When the session got underway, hundreds of Insure Tennessee supporters packed the room; it got so full that an irate lobbyist sitting close to one of the doors kept leaning over and hissing "It's too crowded!" whenever more activists tried to make their way in. 

Two Republican Senators who backed the plan, Doug Overbey (a sponsor) and Richard Briggs, made their case to a committee composed of eight Republicans and a lone Democrat; their case largely being that this was not Obamacare, which they said over and over again.

"Now we have to address the 800-pound gorilla in the room. Is Insure Tennessee Obamacare? I can assure you, it is not." Sen. Briggs declared. 

Their sell was predictably pro-business Republican. They made market-friendly arguments, such as that a healthy workforce is essential to economic prosperity. They pointed out that many rural hospitals were at risk for closure due to the economic hit of treating the uninsured and noted that businesses might think twice about relocating to an area where their employees would not have access to a hospital.

"This is no free ride for the insurance-less," stressed Sen. Briggs, noting that participants in the program would have to pay premiums and failure to do so would make them ineligible. 

They assured their colleagues the plan would not cost Tennessee taxpayers, since it would be paid for by the federal government and hospitals -- a major concession from that industry. 

Sen. Overbey explained that despite initial reservations, he'd come around and was convinced it was good policy for the state; that it would make Tennesseans healthier and grow the economy. His concerns were also assuaged by assurances by the Governor and the Medicaid office that if either the federal government or the hospitals cut their funding, the state could opt out. 

"We may not trust the federal government, but we trust our Governor," Sen. Briggs said.  

In his final appeal, Sen. Overbey described the plan as a "home run" that would help Tennesseans without raising taxes and ended with a plea. "Vote yes. If you vote no, it kills the conversation this year.” 

The string of nays rang out swiftly. The committee voted 6 to 2, with one abstention, to kill the plan rather than allow it to go to the next committee for discussion. The activists started a round of "This little heart of mine, I'm going to let it shine" and filed out of the room. 

Outside, as depressed activists milled around, Michele Johnson, co-founder and executive director of the Tennessee Justice Center, managed to come up with a hopeful message. "What happens now is, we take this democratic movement to every part of the state. We'll keep telling the truth. Just keep telling the truth."

Here's a link to the Gofundme campaign raising money for Tracy Foster's operation. 

 

Categories: Netted News

Michigan High School Yanks Trans Equality Poster After Christian Parent Complains on Facebook

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 3:09pm
The bulletin board was intended to celebrate Transgender Visibility Day.

A bulletin board promoting transgender equality was removed by school officials in Marshall, Michigan in what some students are calling an attempt to silence them, WWMT reports.

According to members of the Gay Straight Alliance — who created the bulletin board to celebrate Transgender Visibility Day — the district removed it not because of a two-week limit on bulletin board space, but because a group of parents on Facebook complained about its content.

Kate Samra, the President of the Gay Straight Alliance, told WWMT that “this was surrounding a Facebook incident surrounding a mother that was very upset. She thought it was inappropriate for the school setting and that it didn’t exhibit Christian values.”

“I met with the principal of my school today and he said he felt like the situation needed to be diffused, so that’s why he did take the board down,” Samra said.

Marshall’s superintendent, Randy Davis, acknowledged that parental complaints did play a role in the removal of the bulletin board.

“We have had complaints once in a while from a parent about that,” he said. “In our environment, it doesn’t feel like there’s any controversy at all; in the world of Facebook, it seems like it’s on fire.”

“The parents expressed concern about our practice of allowing groups with alternative lifestyles to openly display posters in the school,” he further explained in an email to The Battle Creek Enquirer. “The administration underscored student rights to freedom of speech and equal access. The meeting was a reaction to our practice, and not the reason for changing the bulletin board.”

On Monday night, students simultaneously protested the bulletin board’s removal and celebrated Transgender Visibility Day. Members of the Gay Straight Alliance painted a rock as a means of showing that the students of the school stood behind their transgender peers:

I was part of something really important tonight. #transgenderawareness #TransLivesMatter pic.twitter.com/rc4jTEuSPx

— Allison Brownell (@Cats_or_die) March 31, 2015

As Riley Moreau told The Enquirer, “it seemed like they were speaking for the student body, like we didn’t accept transgender people or we’re that close-minded. And it’s not true. This is an act of solidarity to show them that they matter, they’re a part of us.”

Watch a report on the controversy via WWMT below.

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Categories: Netted News

This Conservative Anti-Tax Utopia Is Imploding

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 3:03pm
Kansas continues to bleed revenue.

Two weeks after the delusional Gov. Sam Brownback proclaimed in a radio interview that Kansas’ experiment in supply-side economics was “working,” the latest batch of numbers from the Sunflower State further put the lie to the governor’s assertion.

State figures released Tuesday showed that tax revenue came in $11.2 million below expectations in March, the latest in a string of lower-than-expected tax receipts.

Lawmakers must fill a $344 million revenue shortfall by June, and Brownback has moved to plug Kansas’ fiscal hole by slashing education funding, gutting the state’s pension fund and cutting infrastructure. Additionally, the governor has proposed new sales taxes, which disproportionately impact the poor, in order to proceed full steam ahead with his income tax cuts for corporations and the wealthy.

While personal income tax revenue was above expectations last month, the Topeka Capital-Journal reports that revenues from oil and gas sales and corporate income taxes were well short of what analysts had projected, largely owing to a state economy whose performance is less robust than the Brownback administration had predicted. Given that Brownback aims to eventually eliminate income taxes, the state will depend on those other sources of revenue in the years to come.

The administration’s spin is that things aren’t quite as disastrous as a year ago, when Kansas began attracting national attention amid its revenue freefall. Revenue Secretary Nick Jordan rejoiced that revenue is now $40 million higher than it was at this point a year ago; his analysts, however, had forecast that it would be more than $50 million higher.

“Kansas continues to bleed revenue as is evident by this month’s numbers,” Democratic House Minority Leader Tom Burroughs told the Capital-Journal. ”How we resolve this issue remains unknown as the legislative session is nearly over and we haven’t seen a comprehensive balanced budget.”

Brownback’s latest effort to clean up the mess his tax created came last week, as he signed an education funding bill that will reduce contributions to poor districts and cut $51 million in aid to districts overall. Prior to Brownback’s most recent round of education cuts, Kansas had already imposed some of the largest cuts in the nation.

Those 423,666 votes to re-elect Brownback sure are looking great right now.

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Why 'Broad City' Is the Perfect Comedy for the Student Debt Generation

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 2:45pm
The Comedy Central show allows millennials to laugh at the situation the 1 percent has handed them.

Walking in stylized slow motion, Abbi and Ilana look more like they’re swaggering through a Drake video than heading toward the sales counter at Beacon’s Closet, a selective thrift store in Brooklyn. Abbi proceeds to triumphantly unload a heap of clothes before the store’s fuchsia-lipped, painfully hip attendant. After some quick math, the cashier growls her offer: $13,000 in store credit—or $903 in cash. “Store credit for life,” Ilana cheers. Abbi, ever the responsible one, corrects her: “Dude, I need the money.”

So goes a scene from a recent episode of Broad City, one of television’s most talked about new(ish) showsFor those who haven't seen it, here are some other highlights from the episode (spoiler alert): Ilana (Ilana Glazer) finds herself masturbating—an elaborate ritual involving a mirror fort, an oyster and sea foam lipstick—to Internet porn starring Abbi’s boss, the ever-chipper Trey, otherwise known as the frosted-tipped "Kirk Steele”; Ilana talks a WASPy Park Slope preteen out of becoming another “useless, rich, old white man”; and Abbi (Abbi Jacobson) snorts Chex Mix rye chips for inspiration.

A recent profile of the duo in Grantland confirmed many viewers’ suspicions: that Abbi and Ilana are as funny and enthralling in person as they are onscreen. Ridiculous as they may seem, the characters on the show are only “15 percent exaggerations" of themselves, Glazer has said. Much of what they say and do is drawn from real life. Of the Season One episode where Ilana introduces Abbi to the joys of storing weed in “nature’s pocket,” Jacobson told Grantland: “We didn’t make that up. That really is the only way to travel.”

Pot storage aside, the series offers an all-too-intimate look at the minutiae of the lives of underemployed, educated, twenty-something Jewish women living in New York City. A niche demographic, sure, but one that’s received its fair share of artistic representation in the last few years.

A New Yorker profile of Broad City last year commended the show for being “sneaky in the way it simultaneously celebrates and lampoons naive impertinent millennials, who are at once better than and unready for the adult world they are half-trying to join.” Indeed, show creators Glazer and Jacobson’s onscreen “bra-mance” offers something slyly brilliant in its ability to capture life on the wobbly verge of adulthood in the 2010s. The millennials it speaks to, however, are neither naive nor impertinent—they’re reeling.

America’s college class of 2014 shared the honor of becoming history’s most indebted graduates, having walked across the stage with an average loan burden of $33,000. And while student debt jumped 35 percent from 2005 to 2012, median salaries declined in the same period. Many graduates are taking on low-wage work to make ends meet, or working unsteady, piecemeal gigs to join their cities’ overglamorized and underpaid creative class.

This beleaguered generation has provided the fodder for a new age of dramatized post-adolescence, populated by Abbi, Ilana, HBO’s GirlsFrances Ha, and Obvious Child, among others.

There might be no clearer illustration of how the Great Recession has shaped young womanhood than the gaping divide between the women of these shows and the ones who entertained us just over a decade ago. Amid the relative economic prosperity of the late 1990s, Sex and the City brought viewers the kind of hedonistic white femininity only money could buy. Four highly successful, fully arrived career women debated over luxuriant brunches whether it was really possible to have it all: thriving careers and good sex with beautiful men. To be a Charlotte or a Samantha was something to aspire to, whether for their impeccable taste in designer shoes or their carefree relationship to sex.

Post-2008, the market for TV comedies premised on Jimmy Choos and VIP party attendance appears to be running dry. Saddled with mounting debt and an increasingly precarious job market, even those of us occupying positions of relative privilege are deciding not between Mr. Big and the Russian, but between doing what we love and being able to pay the bills. Where Carrie Bradshaw could inexplicably afford designer handbags on the salary of a weekly newspaper columnist, Abbi and Ilana are selling off their wardrobes to pay the bills.

Still, Sex And the City was important: It paved the way for women on television to have frank, open conversations about sex and their bodies, and to drink with reckless abandon—a foundation on which Glazer and Jacobson happily dance. The point isn’t to say that Ms. Bradshaw was somehow morally bankrupt, only that she was, like all popular characters, a product of her time, as Abbi and Ilana are of theirs.

Whether it was losing their homes and 401Ks in the years after 2008 or seeing thousands occupy Wall Street, Americans across the political spectrum have developed what can be described as a healthy distaste for the ultra rich, which might explain why reviling the Real Housewives and the Kardashian family is as much of a national pastime as watching Mike Trout hit a home run. The financial crisis has taken extravagant wealth out of fashion and created a national conversation about income inequality. Even as Occupy waned, one researcher for Pew Social and Demographic Trends told the New York Times that the phrase had “moved off the business pages into the front page.”

Tellingly, the enduring meme of the 99 percent came to outlive any of the movement’s scrappy encampments. Millennials’ collective disgust for the 1 percent and their shared money woes, whether from student debt or underemployment, has given way to painfully raw media depictions of a certain kind of young adulthood, cultivated against the backdrop of endless war abroad and the dissolution of the middle class.

Networks are now feeling a push to represent a young person’s world where the possibility of making money and attaining traditional forms of success—Manhattan apartments, 2.5 well-educated kids, corner offices—is radically diminished. Like Instagram filters, though, these depictions of post-aught life are hardly monolithic. Broad City posits one way to get by. HBO’s Girls, the product of writer and mumblecore hero Lena Dunham, gives us another.

The titular Girls—Hannah, Marnie, Jessa, and Shoshanna—are all recent college graduates living in Brooklyn. Leaving behind their elite institutions (Oberlin and NYU), each struggles to find her footing in the city and build substantive bonds with other people. Although none of the characters on Girls ever seem that broke (managing to go out constantly and keep up miraculously spacious apartments) there’s a lingering unease about money and the ever-present need to maintain financial independence from their parents as they approach their varied quarter-life crises. The women’s journey is one, above all, for meaning: found through romantic relationships, ambitious professional callings and struggles with mental illness.

The 18-34 demographic has moved a long way from Sex and the City. Few long to be a Hannah or a Jessa, or even an Abbi, but the financial crisis has stripped away the notion that having it all—in a traditional sense—is even possible. Even so, Dunham’s characters, unlike Jacobson's and Glazer’s, are giving it a try. Where Girls’ Hannah vies for entry into the prestigious Iowa Writers Workshop, trying to follow a path to a successful writing career not unlike Carrie Bradshaw’s, Abbi and Ilana are content to find meaning in one another instead of career expectations that have been rendered unattainable.

The anxiety-ridden women of Girls and Broad City all help us feel through our generational neuroses about jobs, money, the future, and human connections. If they’re excruciatingly uncomfortable at times, it’s only because entertainment fails or succeeds on its ability to resonate with the deepest, darkest corners of its audience’s psyche.

Asked about Girls by a Fusion reporter, the women of Broad City were almost gleeful about the comparison: “It’s an honor to be in the same sentence as Girls and as Lena... it’s also an honor to be in a sentence about being on TV. Like, our show is compared to that other show? Okay!”

Both shows offer unique insights into big-city, thin-wallet life. Where Girls stews in heavy existential crisis, Broad City revels in the hijinks of living in the moment.

A do-it-yourself, riot grrrl cable show

Perhaps Broad City’s no-fucks-given approach to economic scarcity stems from its shoestring beginnings. Jacobson and Glazer created Broad City as a web series after meeting at the New York comedy troupe Upright Citizens Brigade, or UCB, where they were taking improv classes. The show started out slowly but developed a devoted base of YouTube followers. Things changed with the endorsement from UCB co-founder/mother hen Amy Poehler, and the show got picked up by Comedy Central in 2013. Much to the delight of its small army of fans, it’s been renewed for a third season.

The series’ modest roots give the more polished cable version a do-it-yourself, riot grrrl feel that resonates with its “digital native” audience. Broad City, after all, is the brainchild of its parents, who act in, write and edit each episode from start to finish. The duo's offbeat brand of lady-centric, THC-laced comedy has earned Jacobson and Glazer titles ranging from “id girls” to “unruly women.” Unsurprisingly for those who’ve seen their chemistry onscreen, the two are also best friends.

The women of Girls are a little different. Watching Marnie and Hannah willfully hurt the people who love them most makes us question whether they’re actually good people, and stretches us beyond a love-hate character-audience relationship. If Girls is achingly honest about the travails of self-loathing, Broad City rejects the concept entirely. Both shows offer messy, complicated visions of post-college humanity, where deriving meaning from work is not as easy as it once was; where Jacobson and Glazer thrive is in their endless capacity for unmonetized self-love.

Broad City allows millennials of a specific demographic—and even those outside of it—to laugh at the situation the 1 percent has handed them. Ilana works (more accurately shows up) at a sales startup called “Deals Deals Deals,” while Abbi cleans up pubes at a fancy gym for her kind-hearted but clueless new-age health-nut boss. Neither is thrilled with her current job, but doesn’t spend too much time in crisis mode trying to discern her true calling. Abbi and Ilana blow smoke rings into the widening divide between what’s expected and what’s possible. For those of us not making six, five or even four figures, depositing an "eight f**cking thousand dollar" check that goes to pay four, maybe five months of rent at a "beautiful railroad-style apartment" is an achievement worthy of celebration. The successful dental career of Lincoln (Hannibal Buress), Ilana’s fling, is an anomaly on the show, one Abbi and Ilana take full advantage of with free fillings and surgeries.

The beauty of Broad City is its ability to redefine expectations: We don’t want to hang out with its characters because they live some glamorous lifestyle, but because they make the absolute best of unfortunate, decidedly unglamorous circumstances.

The only amusements they need are each other and the funhouse of a city they both inhabit. Given the relatively small population they represent, it would be difficult to argue that Abbi and Ilana make up the quintessential voice of the post-2008 generation. The Great Recession created an uneasy asterisk to be added onto discussions of millennials, “Generation Me,” or whatever inadequate title you want to assign—an asterisk to describe young people who, dealing mostly with the economic fallout of the crash, have not settled comfortably into adulthood as it was previously defined. In forging a new one for those of us who can identify with it, Broad City might be the funniest coping mechanism we’ve got.

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How the Wealthy Rob Our Most Productive People

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 2:09pm
Lives are being trashed by klepto-remuneration: theft through excess rewards to rapacious bosses.

There is an inverse relationship between utility and reward. The most lucrative, prestigious jobs tend to cause the greatest harm. The most useful workers tend to be paid least and treated worst.

I was reminded of this while listening last week to a care worker describing her job. Carole’s company gives her a rota of, er, three half-hour visits an hour. It takes no account of the time required to travel between jobs, and doesn’t pay her for it either, which means she makes less than the minimum wage. During the few minutes she spends with a client, she may have to get them out of bed, help them on the toilet, wash them, dress them, make breakfast and give them their medicines. If she ever gets a break, she told the BBC radio programme You and Yours, she spends it with her clients. For some, she is the only person they see all day.

Is there more difficult or worthwhile employment? Yet she is paid in criticism and insults as well as pennies. She is shouted at by family members for being late and not spending enough time with each client, then upbraided by the company because of the complaints it receives. Her profession is assailed in the media as the problems created by the corporate model are blamed on the workers. “I love going to people; I love helping them, but the constant criticism is depressing,” she says. “It’s like always being in the wrong.”

Her experience is unexceptional. A report by the Resolution Foundation reveals that two-thirds of frontline care workers receive less than the living wage. Ten percent, like Carole, are illegally paid less than the minimum wage. This abuse is not confined to the UK: in the US, 27% of care workers who make home visits are paid less than the legal minimum.

Let’s imagine the lives of those who own or run the company. We have to imagine it because, for good reasons, neither the care worker’s real name nor the company she works for were revealed. The more costs and corners they cut, the more profitable their business will be. In other words, the less they care, the better they will do. The perfect chief executive, from the point of view of shareholders, is a fully fledged sociopath.

Such people will soon become very rich. They will be praised by the government as wealth creators. If they donate enough money to party funds, they have a high chance of becoming peers of the realm. Gushing profiles in the press will commend their entrepreneurial chutzpah and flair.

They’ll acquire a wide investment portfolio, perhaps including a few properties, so that – even if they cease to do anything resembling work – they can continue living off the labour of people such as Carole as she struggles to pay extortionate rents. Their descendants, perhaps for many generations, need never take a job of the kind she does.

Care workers function as a human loom, shuttling from one home to another, stitching the social fabric back together while many of their employers and shareholders, and government ministers, slash blindly at the cloth, downsizing, outsourcing and deregulating in the cause of profit.

It doesn’t matter how many times the myth of meritocracy is debunked. It keeps re-emerging, as you can see in the current election campaign. How else, after all, can the government justify stupendous inequality?

One of the most painful lessons a young adult learns is that the wrong traits are rewarded. We celebrate originality and courage, but those who rise to the top are often conformists and sycophants. We are taught that cheats never prosper, yet the country is run by spivs. A study testing British senior managers and chief executives found that on certain indicators of psychopathy their scores exceeded those of patients diagnosed with psychopathic personality disorders in the Broadmoor special hospital.

If you possess the one indispensable skill – battering and blustering your way to the top – incompetence in other areas is no impediment. The former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Carly Fiorina features prominently on lists of the worst US bosses: quite an achievement when you consider the competition. She fired 30,000 workers in the name of efficiency yet oversaw a halving of the company’s stock price. Morale and communication became so bad that she was booed at company meetings. She was forced out, with a $42m severance package. Where is she now? About to launch her campaign as presidential candidate for the Republican party, where, apparently, she is considered a serious contender. It’s the Mitt Romney story all over again.

At university I watched in horror as the grand plans of my ambitious friends dissolved. It took them about a minute, on walking into the corporate recruitment fair, to see that the careers they had pictured – working for Oxfam, becoming a photographer, defending the living world – paid about one fiftieth of what they might earn in the City. They all swore they would leave to follow their dreams after two or three years of making money; none did. They soon adjusted their morality to their circumstances. One, a firebrand who wanted to nationalise the banks and overthrow capitalism, plunged first into banking, then into politics. Claire Perry now sits on the frontbench of the Conservative party.Flinch once, at the beginning of your career, and they will have you for life. The world is wrecked by clever young people making apparently sensible choices.

The inverse relationship doesn’t always hold. There are plenty of useless, badly paid jobs, and a few useful, well-paid jobs. But surgeons and film directors are greatly outnumbered by corporate lawyers, lobbyists, advertisers, management consultants, financiers and parasitic bosses consuming the utility their workers provide. As the pay gap widens – chief executives in the UK took 60 times as much as the average worker in the 1990s and 180 times as much today – the uselessness ratio is going through the roof I propose a name for this phenomenon: klepto-remuneration.

There is no end to this theft except robust government intervention: a redistribution of wages through maximum ratios and enhanced taxation. But this won’t happen until we challenge the infrastructure of justification, built so carefully by politicians and the press. Our lives are damaged not by the undeserving poor but by the undeserving rich.

 

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Charged With Same Crime, Iowa Paper Shows Black Suspects’ Mug Shots While Whites Get Yearbook Photos

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 1:54pm
The paper has been accused of pro-white bias for its radically different treatment of the suspects.

An Iowa newspaper is accused of pro-white bias after it handled the same alleged crime between two different sets of suspects in radically different ways.

Blogger Rafi D’Angelo at SoLetsTalkAboutIt.com pointed out that in reports filed on successive days, the Gazette in Cedar Rapids printed mug shot photos of black burglary suspects and yearbook photos for white burglary suspects.

On March 23, the Gazette‘s Lee Hermiston reported that three University of Iowa wrestlers were arrested after being caught in possession of several items that had been stolen from local homes in Marion, Iowa. The three suspects — Ross Lembeck, Seth Gross and Logan Ryan, all 19 and white — were shown in the Gazette‘s pages in their freshman yearbook pictures, wearing matching coats and ties.

According to the Gazette, “The three wrestlers were charged with possessing alcohol under the legal age. Lembeck was charged with drunken driving. Gross was charged with interference with official acts because he fought with officers, police said. Ryan was cited and released.”

They are accused of at least seven burglaries in the area.

On the same day, Hermiston reported on four African-American suspects charged with a burglary in Coralville, Iowa. This group of suspects — Kwain E. Crawford, 36; Milton Whitehead, 50; Quentin D.W. Eatman, 24; and Curtis J. Johnson, 29 — were all pictured in their police mug shots.

The four men were charged with breaking into a residence on March 20 around 4am and assaulting the occupants. They were reportedly looking for a gun, but left instead with a TV, around $240 in cash and a cell phone.

Currently, the Gazette‘s website shows mug shots of the wrestlers, but D’Angelo obtained screen shots of the original article.

Someone on the Gazette‘s original Facebook thread about the article pointed out the disparity, only to have another commenter say, “Good point other than it’s safe to say those blacks didn’t have school pics.…”

Another commenter said, “Why are they referred to as ‘wrestlers?’ Are they wrestling in the story? I though they were burglars.”

BoingBoing’s Caroline Siede wrote, “As Rafi points out, regardless of what photos were available of the black suspects, the white suspects definitely had mugshots taken. In trying to justify the discrepancy, The Gazette explained they must make a formal request in order to get mugshots, yet they were clearly willing to take that extra step when it came to the black suspects.”

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An April Fool's Republican Party Platform

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 1:27pm
You won't believe the twist.

The Republican Party has published a new platform that seeks to revamp the GOP's orientation toward labor unions, the working poor, environmental activists, women, and other groups they have traditionally ignored in favor of Big Business.

Here are the main changes to the party's stances:

  • Boosting labor, benefits and wages:The platform boasts of past party achievements related to the expansion of social welfare, writing that "the Federal minimum wage has been raised for more than 2 million workers. Social Security has been extended to an additional 10 million workers and the benefits raised for 6.5 million. The protection of unemployment insurance has been brought to 4 million additional workers. There have been increased workmen's compensation benefits for longshoremen and harbor workers, increased retirement benefits for railroad employees, and wage increases and improved welfare and pension plans for federal employees." It calls for changes to the anti-union Taft-Hartley Act to "more effectively protect the rights of labor unions" and to "assure equal pay for equal work regardless of sex."
  • Massive infrastructure and job Investments:The platform demands "federal assistance to help build facilities to train more physicians and scientists." It emphasizes the need to continue the "extension and perfection of a sound social security system," and boasts of the party's recent history of supporting "enlarged federal assistance for construction of hospitals, emphasizing low-cost care of chronic diseases and the special problems of older persons, and increased federal aid for medical care of the needy."
  • Guaranteeing civil rights, gender equality and increased immigration:The platform supports "self-government, national suffrage and representation in the Congress of the United States for residents of the District of Columbia." With regards to ending discrimination against racial minorities." It also recommends to Congress "the submission of a constitutional amendment providing equal rights for men and women." Its section on immigration actually recommends expanding immigration to America, supporting "the extension of the Refugee Relief Act of 1953 in resolving this difficult refugee problem which resulted from world conflict."

Here's the truth behind the platform laid out above: it actually was the Republican Party's platform once upon a time—no joke. The quotations above are from the 1956 Republican Party platform, adopted during that summer's convention under presiding GOP president Dwight D. Eisenhower. Perhaps the real joke is that the party has moved so far away from its roots that this platform would be anathema to today's Republican lawmakers. 

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What's New: New Report Released: Still Working on the Edge

Socialist Project - April 1, 2015 - 1:00pm
The Ontario government has launched a review of the Employment Standards Act and the Labour Relations Act, during which it will undertake "consultations on the changing nature of modern workplaces." Members of the Workers’ Action Centre have spent the past year, building upon previous research, identifying key problems workers are facing in the labour market and developing priorities for change. At this historic moment, WAC's new report, Still Working on the Edge, brings workers' voices, experiences and recommendations to this conversation, contributing knowledge that will be essential to updating Ontario's labour legislation from the ground up.
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Photo Taken Inside Georgia Prison Shows 18-Year-Old Tormented by Fellow Inmates

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 12:30pm
The photo shows Cortez Berry with a bruised eye and a leash around his neck.

A Georgia mother is looking for answers after a photo emerged of her 18-year-old son, who is incarcerated at a Georgia correctional facility, looking badly beaten, WRDW-TV 12 reports.

In the photo, Cortez Berry, of Augusta, Ga., has a bruised, swollen eye. Two men stand behind him, one of them holding a leash that is tied around Berry's neck.

Berry’s mother, Demetria Harris, first became aware of the photo when it began circulating on Facebook last Friday. The caption on the Facebook post reads, “When you disrespect the Nation, it brings nothing but pain and suffering.”

The message is a reference to the gang G.D. Nation or  “gangsta disciples,” experts say.

The photo horrified Berry’s mother.

"I was like, oh my god! What happened? How'd it happen? It's a terrifying picture to see," Harris said.

The part of the facility where Berry was beaten is currently on lockdown.

Here is what the Department of Corrections told News 12:

The Department is fully aware and this incident is currently under investigation. The Department does not allow inmates to have access to cellphones, as possession of such contraband is deemed illegal. Introduction of cellphones into our facilities is a nationwide issue the Corrections system is facing. The Department continuously works to utilize extensive resources to combat this issue. We take very seriously our mission of protecting the public and running safe and secure facilities.

Berry was first locked up when he was 14 for assault, robbery and theft. Last year, Berry was sent to the Burruss Correctional Training Center, a medium security detention center in Forsyth, Ga., for violating his parole.

Berry’s aunt, Shavondria Wright, said she saw him on Saturday to try to find out what happened.

"Ten people jumped on him and just kept beating him and they choked him to sleep,” Wright said. “Pretty much they left him there for dead.”

Berry’s family has lots of questions, including the main one: Where were the guards?

"He didn't get checked on until 9:45 at night. It happened at 3:15 and he didn't get checked on until 9:45," said Harris.

She added that the attack should not have happened.

"They're not being protected,” Harris said. “I don't care what they're there for, they still need to be protected.” 

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The Right’s Made-Up God: How Bigots Invented a White Supremacist Jesus

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 12:10pm
We need to reclaim the narrative of Jesus’ life and death from the evangelical right.

Just in time for Holy Week, the State of Indiana has passed a new Religious Freedom Restoration Act. The law explicitly permits for-profit corporations from practicing the “free exercise of religion” and it allows them to use the “exercise of religion” as a defense against any lawsuits whether from the government or from private entities. The primary narrative against this law has been about the potential ways that small businesses owned by Christians could invoke it as a defense against having to, for instance, sell flowers to a gay couple for their wedding.

Any time right-wing conservatives declare that they are trying to restore or reclaim something, we should all be very afraid. Usually, this means the country or, in this case, the state of Indiana is about to be treated to another round of backward time travel, to the supposedly idyllic environs of the 1950s, wherein women, and gays, and blacks knew their respective places and stayed in them. While the unspoken religious subtext of this law is rooted in conservative anxieties over the legalization of same-sex marriage in Indiana, Black people and women, and all the intersections thereof (for instance Black lesbians) should be very afraid of what this new law portends.

Last year, the Supreme Court ruled in the Hobby Lobby decision that corporations could exercise religious freedom, which means that corporations can deny insurance coverage for birth control. Now this same logic is being used to curtail and abridge the right of gay people to enjoy the same freedoms and legal protections that heterosexual citizens enjoy.

And given our current anti-Black racial climate, there is no reason to trust that these laws won’t be eventually used for acts of racially inflected religious discrimination, perhaps against Black Muslims or Muslims of Arab descent, for instance. Surely this kind of law in this political climate sanctions the exercise of Islamophobia.

As a practicing Christian, I am deeply incensed by these calls for restoration and reclamation in the name of religious freedom. This kind of legislation is largely driven by conservative Christian men and women, who hold political views that are antagonistic to every single group of people who are not white, male, Christian, cisgender, straight and middle-class. Jesus, a brown, working-class, Jew, doesn’t even meet all the qualifications.

Nothing about the cultural and moral regime of the religious right in this country signals any kind of freedom. In fact, this kind of legislation is rooted in a politics that gives white people the authority to police and terrorize people of color, queer people and poor women. That means these people don’t represent any kind of Christianity that looks anything like the kind that I practice.

To be clear, because I’m an academic, I get static often from folks who wonder how I could dare ally myself in name and religious affiliation with the kind of morally misguided, politically violent people who think it reasonable to force women to have babies they do not want and who think their opinions about whom and how others should marry matters even a little bit.

I often ask myself whether I really do worship the same God of white religious conservatives. On this Holy Week, when I reflect on the Christian story of Christ crucified, it is a story to me of a man who came, radically served his community, challenged the unjust show of state power, embraced children, working-class men and promiscuous women and sexual minorities (eunuchs). Of the many things Jesus preached about, he never found time to even mention gay people, let alone condemn them. His message of radical inclusivity was so threatening that the state lynched him for fear that he was fomenting a cultural and political rebellion. They viewed such acts as criminal acts and they treated Jesus as a criminal. And all who followed him were marked for death.

This is why I identify with the story of Jesus. And frankly, it is the only story there really is. This white, blond-haired, blue-eyed, gun-toting, Bible-quoting Jesus of the religious right is a god of their own making. I call this god, the god of white supremacy and patriarchy. There is nothing about their god that speaks to me as a Black woman of working-class background living in a country where police routinely murder black men and beat the hell out of black women, where the rich get richer while politicians find ever more reasons to extract from the poor, and where the lives the church imagines for women still center around marriage and motherhood, and no sex if you’re single.

This God isn’t the God that I serve. There is nothing holy, loving, righteous, inclusive, liberatory or theologically sound about him. He might be “biblical” but he’s also an asshole.

The Jesus I know, love, talk about and choose to retain was a radical, freedom-loving, justice-seeking, potentially queer (because he was either asexual or a priest married to a prostitute), feminist healer, unimpressed by scripture-quoters and religious law-keepers,  seduced neither by power nor evil.

That’s the story I choose to reflect on this Holy Week. The Christian lawmakers seeking to use the law to discriminate against gay people are indicative of every violent, unrighteous, immoral impulse that organized religion continues to represent in this country. I have said elsewhere recently that it is a problem to treat racism as if it will simply go extinct. But as I watch the religious right engineer pain and obstacles for queer people in America’s heartland, I find myself wishing that this particularly violent and vicious breed of Christianity would die off.

I cannot stand in a church and worship on Sunday alongside those who on the very next Monday co-sign every kind of legislation that devalues the lives of Black people, women and gay people. I am a firm believer that our theology implicates our politics. If your politics are rooted in the contemporary anti-Black, misogynist, homophobic conservatism, then we are not serving the same God. Period.

And more of us who love Jesus, despite our ambivalence about Christianity, the Church or organized religion, need to stand up and begin to do some reclamation of our own.

I am heartened to say that there is a generation of young people of faith rising up, spurred on by the Ferguson events of last summer. A group of young seminarians at Union Theology Seminary in New York City have been at the fore of effort to #ReclaimHolyWeek. I spoke with one of the organizers, Candace Simpson, who told me that, “#ReclaimHolyWeek is a way for us to challenge and disrupt the sanitized stories we share during Holy Week. We refuse to pretend as though the main story of Jesus’ resurrection was that he ‘died for our sins.’ We need to be better in discussing the ways Jesus represented a threat to his empire, that his teachings disrupt power structures. We pretend that we would be mourning at his tomb, but it is clear in the ways we blame victims of the system that we are not as moral as we pretend to be.” They will spend this week protesting various forms of state-sanctioned violence against Black and Brown people.

What this vocal contingent of the religious right is seeking to restore is not religious freedom but a sense of safety in expressing and imposing dangerous, retrograde and discriminatory ideas in the name of religion. I continue to support the free and unimpeded expression of religion. And I am hopeful that Indiana Gov. Mike Pence’s call for “clarification of the law” amid a massive backlash will actually force the Legislature to explicitly ban discrimination based on gender and sexual orientation. Then perhaps the law could do what some legal scholars claim it was meant to do, namely, protect freedom of religious expression for religious minorities in the U.S.

Alongside that, I maintain that another kind of reclamation needs to occur. We need to reclaim the narrative of Jesus’ life and death from the evangelical right. They have not been good stewards over the narrative. They have pimped Jesus’ death to support the global spread of American empire vis-à-vis war, “missions,” and “free trade,” the abuse of native peoples, the continued subjugation of Black people, and the regulation of the sexual lives of women and gay people. Let us mark this Holy Week by declaring the death to the unholy trinity of white supremacist, capitalist, heteropatriarchy. And once these systems die, may they die once and for all, never to be resurrected.

 

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Indiana Pizza Shop Vows Not to Serve Gay People, But Owner Insists 'We're Not Discriminating Against Anyone'

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 12:01pm
The O'Connor family insists that they should retain the right to refuse gay customers.

All those times Indiana Gov. Mike Pence blathered on about how his state's new law wasn't actually a license to discriminate and how "I believe in my heart of hearts that no one should be harassed or mistreated because of who they are, who they love, or what they believe. And I believe every Hoosier shares that conviction," he might ought to have considered the caliber of the person who was then going to come out and announce they were taking advantage of the law and would be discriminating against gays going forward. Like for instance the O'Connor family, owners of Memories Pizza in Walkerton, Indiana.

“If a gay couple came in and wanted us to provide pizzas for their wedding, we would have to say no,” says Crystal O'Connor of Memories Pizza. [...]

“We're not discriminating against anyone, that's just our belief and anyone has the right to believe in anything,” says O'Connor.

Refusing to provide pizzas for someone's wedding because they're gay is not in fact a belief, it's an action. A discriminatory action, to be specific.

“I do not think it's targeting gays. I don't think it's discrimination,” says O'Connor. “It's supposed to help people that have a religious belief.”

Says the person who just announced her intent to discriminate against LGBT people because the law allows her to do so. It's supposed to help people who have a religious belief? What's it supposed to help them do? Discriminate—as you are so deftly showing.

“That lifestyle is something they choose. I choose to be heterosexual. They choose to be homosexual. Why should I be beat over the head to go along with something they choose?” says Kevin O'Connor.

I can't even. I mean, I guess ... thank you, O'Connor family? You have done a great job showing exactly why this law is so awful, the kind of mean-spirited bigotry it was passed to enable, and the degree to which all of Pence's talk of the Golden Rule and how Hoosiers are too nice to discriminate has been a shameless lie. You are the perfect voice for this, which is to say you are abhorrent, un-Christian people.

Of course we know the likely next chapter of this story: the O'Connor family goes whining to the right-wing media about how mean people have been to them (on Yelp, for instance) since they bravely expressed their bigotry and announced their intention to discriminate. Cry me a damn river.

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BREAKING - Justin Trudeau Pulls Out Of Federal Election

Operation Maple YouTube - April 1, 2015 - 11:30am
BREAKING - Justin Trudeau Pulls Out Of Federal Election
During a press conference this morning, Trudeau announced that he will no longer be running for Prime Minister. SUBSCRIBE and check out our other videos! http://www.operationmaple.com ... From: OperationMaple Views: 2513 17 ratings Time: 00:07 More in People & Blogs
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The Bullet: Israel: Fortress Racism

Socialist Project - April 1, 2015 - 11:30am
Israel sinks deeper and deeper into an abyss of strident chauvinism and endemic racism. Among its Jewish population there is an almost complete consensus that since Israel lives in a dangerous neighborhood it must be always ready on the draw. This consensus is frayed at its edges when social and economic issues are addressed but holds up when security policy is on the table. The war on Gaza last summer was hardly mentioned during the election campaign.
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Sound Familiar? I Went on Three Dates With a Guy and He Turned Into a Stalker

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 11:27am
He sent me 70 texts in a row, reminding me how good he was at "psychological warfare."

I wonder if any of the baristas at my favorite Starbucks notice that I don’t come in anymore. I wonder if they’ve wondered why one of their most reliable regulars no longer spends hours in the corner on her laptop, sipping lattes and eating croissants.

I wonder if their co-worker, the punk-rock barista with the dark eyes and artsy tattoos, told them that we went on three dates. I wonder if he told them that when I ended it, I filed a police report and stopped sleeping at night and bought mace to protect myself from him.

Yeah, he probably didn’t.

The cute barista and I had been making eye contact for weeks; one of us would smile and look away shyly, like teenagers who hadn’t yet figured out how to flirt. Eventually, he started talking to me about my drink orders, concocting new combinations for me to try and slipping me espresso shots, and finally, he slipped me his number.

In addition to being gorgeous, he was smart (a biologist!) and interesting (an amateur chef!). We hit it off quickly by text and phone, talking for hours at a time. Soon I felt comfortable enough to tell him some of my dating history, including the fact that my ex-boyfriend had committed suicide, and he felt comfortable enough to reveal that he struggled with borderline personality disorder.

Though his confession elicited red flags, I thought it would be hypocritical of me to run for the hills, given my own longtime advocacy on mental health issues. Besides, he assured me his condition was under control with therapy and medication. After sending me some materials about BPD, he explained how he managed his illness and how it sometimes manifested in his relationships. Wary but willing, I said I appreciated his transparency and maturity and that I still wanted to hang out.

Our first date was at a grilled cheese bar; the next day, we met for tacos for lunch, and a few days later, we had Thai for dinner. Each date was great, and I liked him a lot, but things were moving too quickly for me, and I started to get concerned. I wasn’t sure whether it was related to his BPD or not, but I began to feel uneasy.

Amid casual conversation, he mentioned that he had a gun on layaway in case he decided he wanted to kill himself. He told me he was only happy when dating someone but that maybe I was the person he’d stayed alive for. Most tellingly, he said he wasn’t in contact with his ex-girlfriend because he’d “made her life hell” post-breakup. Specifically, he used the term “psychological warfare.”

In retrospect, it seems incredibly naïve that I saw any positive potential in him, but his other attributes—charming, friendly, interesting—were so appealing that I put my concerns on hold. 

I shouldn’t have.

Soon, he wanted to hang out all the time. Once, when I said I needed a night to myself, he sent me a message demanding, “Which guys are you chatting with on Facebook?” Something was off. This guy was putting way too much value on a brand-new non-relationship, and I needed to put an end to it. 

I was worried about how to do it, though; I wanted to minimize confrontation and the likelihood of his getting emotional, so I sent him a polite text saying that while I had enjoyed our time together, I didn’t feel we were a good match.

He reacted calmly at first, saying he respected my opinion, but then his responses became measured. He tried to convince me I was misunderstanding my feelings and that I was acting out of a fear of commitment, reactions that reassured me I’d made the right decision. When I refused to change my mind, he told me he wished me well and backed off, and I thought it was over. I was relieved to have cut ties with relatively little negative reaction from him.

Within an hour, though, he sent me a message saying he was going to pay off the layaway on his gun and that it would be my fault when he killed himself. Over the next two days, he called me a liar and a whore, saying he would “never get over this.” He sent me photos of his legs, crisscrossed with self-inflicted bloody cuts. 

At one point, he sent me more than 70 texts in a row, reminding me how good he was at “psychological warfare” and promising that if I came back to his Starbucks, I could expect a “pleasant” encounter (which seemed more like a threat). And then he listed my car for sale on Craigslist so that I began receiving a barrage of texts from total strangers.

Did I mention that this guy knew where I lived?

I quickly blocked his phone number and locked my social media accounts. Then I blocked him on Facebook, changed my URL so he couldn’t find me, began using a pseudonym, and uploaded an unidentifiable profile photo.

Next, I made a beeline to the police station, where the officer who took my report was not particularly receptive. 

“We see this all the time,” he insisted. “He’s probably lying about the gun.” Still, he said he’d go to Starbucks to tell the barista to leave me alone.

I wasn’t convinced it would help, and feared it could make things worse, so I started taking measures to stay safe. I told my neighbor what was happening so she could call police if she saw him, and a friend ran his name through a state database to see if he had a history of violence or stalking. He didn’t, but I still dropped in to a local gun store to purchase a small canister of mace.

I couldn’t stop thinking of the phrase “psychological warfare,” certain more harassment was coming. My fear became so intense that I stopped sleeping and began having panic attacks. At night, I kept a baseball bat near the door and a knife on my nightstand. Every time I left home, I thought I saw him lurking around a corner. I was jittery, tearful, terrified—exactly like he wanted me to be.

As harassment goes, I was lucky. Soon after the police visited him at work, the barista stopped contacting me. Now that it’s been a month since I’ve heard from him, I wonder: Did I overreact? Sometimes I feel like I did. But then I remember the photos of his bleeding thighs and the text that said, “When I kill myself, it will be your fault,” and I know my reactions were warranted.

Above all else, this experience has taught me to trust myself. Going forward, I know I’ll listen to my instincts when I think someone is bad news, and I’ll never let a new guy know where I live until I fully trust him. Oh, and I’ll definitely never go back to that Starbucks.

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This Murder in Ireland Is Making Me Rethink My Sexual Practices

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 9:33am
Elaine O’Hara was killed by her BDSM partner.

In Dublin, Graham Dwyer, a married architect, has been convicted of the murder of Elaine O’Hara, a childcare worker with whom he was engaged in a BDSM relationship. The motive was sexual gratification. O’Hara was vulnerable, suffering from mental health issues, and Dwyer exploited this, banking on the likelihood that her disappearance would be read as suicide. He hid evidence of the murder at the bottom of a reservoir. If it were not for 2013’s unusually hot, dry summer, that’s where the truth would have remained, and Dwyer would be walking free.

A woman is dead, another victim of intimate partner violence. Treating her death with due respect should mean an examination of the social context that allowed a man to convince a woman that his sexual desire to stab and kill her was within the bounds of the acceptable. It should mean attention to the cultural mainstreaming of BDSM.

On Valentine’s Day this year, Universal Pictures released its film adaptation of EL James’s erotic novel Fifty Shades of Grey. Back in 2012, the Guardian asked me to review the book to mark the sale of its 10 millionth copy. I kept it light, riffing on James’ infamously terrible prose and characterization, and musing as to whether the far-away film version wouldn’t leave us feeling a little less glib and little more, well, worried. The day is come, and I admit a heavier feeling. What is, at heart, the tale of an abusive relationship in which a reluctant, inexperienced and infatuated young girl is controlled and beaten by a rich sadist, is now being offered up as a sweet Valentine’s Day treat for naughty couples.

BDSM communities have been quick to distance themselves from Fifty Shades, and indeed, from any beliefs or behaviors incompatible with informed, enthusiastic and uncoerced consent. This is because BDSM communities are often, in my experience, very politically switched-on places. However, it’s also my experience that kink communities are reluctant to acknowledge problems with the ideologies underlying their sexual practices, focusing instead on the pleasure or relationship benefits to be gained from BDSM.

I’m making this critique not as a judgmental outsider, but as someone who participates in BDSM behaviors and events and understands the excitement to be found therein. I’m making this critique not as a kink-shamer, but as a challenge to myself: what are my reasons and justifications for inviting or accepting male sexual violence? And at this point in history, when kink is becoming ubiquitous, I’m calling on all responsible, egalitarian kinksters to take a step back from personal desire and pleasure and ask similar questions.

We live in a sexist, racist, homophobic, transphobic, ableist society. This gross fact informs our identities, our beliefs and our desires: it’s part of us at the most fundamental cognitive level. A prevalent theory in kink communities is that BDSM creates a sandbox or play space around impulses that have their roots in sexism or other prejudice, consensually mirroring non-consensual societal power dynamics. The sandbox allows role play that expurgates, inverts or otherwise contains hierarchical desires. It may give subs control over situations that would in reality make them feel powerless, or allow doms to cathartically express violent urges: in short, the sandbox gets it all out of our systems.

Except, this isn’t how human psychology functions. We do not siphon off fiction or play from our social realities. Rather, the values and norms of the fictions we consume or participate in suffuse our world views and influence our actions.

Participating in violent sports or fictions does not always make us less violent, in fact it can do the opposite. Watching aggressive pornography does not quell our desire for aggressive pornography, but, contrarily, can create a desire for increased violence. If we know and believe this about video games, movies and porn, then why do we suddenly deny it when it comes to BDSM? Perhaps it’s because it makes us feel defensive, and so, instead of conscientiously examining a) the social conditions that have led to our fetishisation of female pain and submission, and b) the ways in which our sexual practices strengthen and reinforce those social conditions, we shout “kink-shamer.”

In the 1970s, this issue split second-wave feminism. Activists such as Robin Morgan, Alice Walker and Andrea Dworkinwrote smart, impassioned rhetoric against BDSM. And "sex-positive" feminists such as Susie Bright and Candida Royalle reacted just as passionately and intelligently, with publications and erotic projects proclaiming they’d fought long and hard for their sexual liberation and they weren’t going to be told what to do with their beds and bodies by priest, pastor or feminist sister. In 2015, at this powerful moment in feminism and with this sea-change in social attitudes toward BDSM, I believe it’s time to reopen the debate in a spirit of solidarity, openness and honesty. I believe we owe this to vulnerable women like Elaine O’Hara, whose submissive desires can leave them open to male aggression in the most tragic of ways.

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VIDEO: NYPD Officer Abuses Uber Driver in Xenophobic Rant

AlterNet.org - April 1, 2015 - 8:46am
"I don’t know what fucking planet you think you’re on right now," the officer yelled.

In a video uploaded to YouTube yesterday afternoon, a New York Police Department officer launches a profanity-filled, xenophobic tirade against an Uber driver. Officer Patrick Cherry, a detective in the joint terrorism task force, spends a full three minutes berating the rattled driver, who appears unsure why Cherry is so upset.

According to Sanjay Seth, one of the passengers in the Uber car who recorded the video on his cell phone, the officer was at fault. The driver honked at Cherry, who was attempting to park his vehicle on a busy West Village street without signaling or using hazard lights. Moments later, Cherry gets out of his unmarked car and approaches the Uber driver’s window. 

“Stop it with your mouth, stop it with your, ‘For what, sir,’” he yells at the driver. “You understand me? I don’t know what fucking planet you think you’re on right now.”

The driver repeatedly tries to diffuse the situation with respectful apologies, to no avail. Cherry continues making jabs at the driver's ethnicity, mocking his accent and English skills.

“How long have you been in this country?” he asks. “Almost how long? Two years? I got news for you and use this lesson: Don’t ever do that again. The only reason you’re not in handcuffs going to jail and getting summonses in the precinct is because I have things to do.”  

Seth and his fellow passenger were dismayed by the incident, publishing video of the exchange on Facebook and other social media outlets. According to NBC News, Seth wrote on his Facebook page, “Our Uber driver, Humayun, was abused by a police officer today in New York. The rage, door slamming, throwing items into the car, threatening arrest without cause was bad enough—but the officer’s remarks at the end really took it to another level.”

Review of the incident, which was initially being investigated by the NYPD’s internal affairs department, has since been turned over to the Civilian Complaint Review Board, an independent city body with subpoena power.

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Bill C-51: An Act to criminalize indigenous defenders of the land

Two Row Times - April 1, 2015 - 7:17am

The following is an edited version of Ellen Gabriel’s submission to the Parliamentary Committee dealing with Bill C-51. It was submitted to the Parliamentary secretary by email on March 23, 2015 and is reprinted with permission. Since I have not been provided with the opportunity to be a witness in person, I write today as […]

The post Bill C-51: An Act to criminalize indigenous defenders of the land appeared first on Two Row Times.

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