Thursday, February 27, 2014

More Amazing Policies From Barack Obama

The White House
Office of the Press Secretary
For Immediate Release
February 27, 2014

FACT SHEET: Opportunity for all: President Obama Launches My Brother’s Keeper Initiative to Build Ladders of Opportunity For Boys and Young Men of Color

“I’m reaching out to some of America’s leading foundations and corporations on a new initiative to help more young men of color facing especially tough odds to stay on track and reach their full potential.”– President Barack Obama, January 28, 2014

There are a lot of kids out there who need help, who are getting a lot of negative reinforcement.  And is there more that we can do to give them the sense that their country cares about them and values them and is willing to invest in them?”– President Barack Obama, July 19, 2013

President Obama is taking action to launch My Brother’s Keeper – a new initiative to help every boy and young man of color who is willing to do the hard work to get ahead. For decades, opportunity has lagged behind for boys and young men of color.  But across the country, communities are adopting approaches to help put these boys and young men on the path to success. The President wants to build on that work. We can learn from communities that are partnering with local businesses and foundations to connect these boys and young men to mentoring, support networks, and skills they need to find a good job or go to college and work their way up into the middle class. And the Administration will do its part by helping to identify and promote programs that work. That starts by using proven tools that expand opportunity at key moments in the lives of these young people.  The President believes this includes ensuring access to basic health, nutrition, and to high-quality early education to get these kids reading and ready for school at the youngest age.  But that’s not enough.  We need to partner with communities and police to reduce violence and make our classrooms and streets safer.  And we need to help these young men stay in school and find a good job– so they have the opportunity to reach their full potential, contribute to their communities and build decent lives for themselves and their families.

New Presidential Task Force to Expand Opportunity. 

President Obama will sign a Presidential Memorandum establishing the My Brother’s Keeper Task Force, an interagency effort, chaired by Assistant to the President and Cabinet Secretary Broderick Johnson, that will help us determine what public and private efforts are working and how to expand upon them, how the Federal Government’s own policies and programs can better support these efforts, and how to better involve State and local officials, the private sector, and the philanthropic community in these efforts. The Task Force will work across executive departments and agencies to:

Assess the impact of Federal policies, regulations, and programs of general applicability on boys and young men of color, so as to develop proposals that will enhance positive outcomes and eliminate or reduce negative ones.

Recommend, where appropriate, incentives for the broad adoption by national, State, and local public and private decision makers of effective and innovative strategies and practices for providing opportunities to and improving outcomes for boys and young men of color.

Create an Administration-wide “What Works” online portal to disseminate successful programs and practices that improve outcomes for boys and young men of color.Develop a comprehensive public website, to be maintained by the Department of Education, that will assess, on an ongoing basis, critical indicators of life outcomes for boys and young men of color in absolute and relative terms.

Work with external stakeholders to highlight the opportunities, challenges, and efforts affecting boys and young men of color.

Recommend to the President means of ensuring sustained efforts within the Federal Government and continued partnership with the private sector and philanthropic community as set forth in the Presidential Memorandum

Investments from Leading Foundations and Businesses to Advance the Achievement of Boys and Young Men of Color.  Leading foundations and businesses have long worked with others in philanthropy to create opportunities for young men and boys of color and today are committing significant resources to research critical intervention points in the lives of boys and young men of color; change the often-damaging narrative about them; and catalyze coordinated investments to seed, replicate, and scale up effective community solutions.The foundations supporting today’s call to action have already made extensive investments, including  $150 million in current spending that they have already approved or awarded. Building on that, today these foundations are announcing that over the next five years they seek to invest at least $200 million, alongside additional investments from their peers in philanthropy and the business community, to find and rapidly spread solutions that have the highest potential for impact in key areas, including: early child development and school readiness, parenting and parent engagement, 3rd grade literacy, educational opportunity and school discipline reform, interactions with the criminal justice system ladders to jobs and economic opportunity and healthy families and communities.The foundations will work over the next 90 days to design a strategy and infrastructure for coordination of these investments, which can be aligned with additional commitments from a diverse array of actors from other sectors.These foundations, who are joining President Obama at today’s announcement, include The Annie E. Casey Foundation, The Atlantic Philanthropies, Bloomberg Philanthropies, The California Endowment, The Ford Foundation, The John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, The Open Society Foundations, The Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, The W.K. Kellogg Foundation, and The Kapor Center for Social Impact. Many of the foundations are members of the Executives’ Alliance to Expand Opportunities for Boys and Men of Color – a coalition of philanthropic institutions committed to leveraging philanthropy’s role in improving life outcomes for boys and men of color.In addition to the leadership from the philanthropic community, the My Brother’s Keeper initiative will leverage participation from the business community and elected officials to support this cross-sector effort. 

As part of today’s announcement, President Obama will meet with a number of business leaders – including Joe Echevarria of Deloitte, Magic Johnson of Magic Johnson Enterprises, Glenn Hutchins of Silver Lake Partners, Adam Silver of the National Basketball Association and Thomas Tull of Legendary Entertainment – to discuss ways in which they and their companies can work with the Initiative to improve the life outcomes of boys and young men of color.The President will also be joined today by public sector leaders including General Colin Powell, Mayor Rahm Emanuel and the Honorable Michael Bloomberg.  Additionally, several other prominent members of the business community—including Rosalind Brewer of Sam’s Club, Ken Chenault of American Express, and Don Thompson of McDonald’s—have already expressed their support for this effort, and the White House expects additional commitments in the coming days and months.     *  * 
*Data shows that boys and young men of color, regardless of socio-economic background, are disproportionately at risk throughout the journey from their youngest years to college and career.  For instance, large disparities remain in reading proficiency, with 86 percent of black boys and 82 percent of Hispanic boys reading below proficiency levels by the fourth grade – compared to 58 percent of white boys reading below proficiency levels.  Additionally, the disproportionate number of black and Hispanic young men who are unemployed or involved in the criminal justice system alone is a perilous drag on state budgets, and undermines family and community stability.  These young men are more than six times as likely to be victims of murder than their white peers and account for almost half of the country’s murder victims each year.  The effort launched today is focused on unlocking the full potential of boys and young men of color – something that will not only benefit them, but all Americans.  The Task Force and new private sector partnership will take a collaborative and multidisciplinary approach to building ladders of opportunity.  Both the Task Force and the partnership will take action immediately while planning for long-term success.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

from todays white house press briefing: question on Uganda

Q Thanks, Jay. As you know, Ugandan President, Yoweri Museveni, signed today an anti-gay bill that in some cases would penalize homosexual acts with life imprisonment. I saw your statement, but my question is, what details do you have about the impact of signing that bill on U.S.-Uganda relations? The President earlier said signing that bill would complicate the relationship. Will that affect the $400 million a year the United States gives to Uganda in foreign aid?

MR. CARNEY: I think I would point you to our statement, which I believe reflects our strong disagreement with the decision to sign that legislation. It’s a sad day for Uganda. Instead of standing on the side of freedom, justice, and equal rights for its people, today, regrettably, Ugandan President took Uganda a step backward by signing into law legislation criminalizing homosexuality.

As President Obama has said, this law is more than an affront and a danger to the gay community in Uganda; it reflects poorly on the country’s commitment to protecting the human rights of its people and will undermine public health, including efforts to fight HIV/AIDS. We will continue to urge the government of Uganda to repeal this abhorrent law and to advocate for the protection of the universal human rights of LGBT persons in Uganda and around the world. What I can tell you about steps the United States might take in response is that we are undertaking a review of our relationship with Uganda in light of this decision.

Q When will that review come to an end?

MR. CARNEY: I’m sorry?

Q When will that review be complete?

MR. CARNEY: I don’t have a timetable for you, but we are undertaking a review.

Q And National Security Advisor Susan Rice -- you tweeted out last week I think that she had a conversation with President Museveni about the bill. I was wondering, were there any conversations with her and President Museveni? Or between President Obama and President Museveni, either immediately prior to or after the signing of that bill?

MR. CARNEY: Well, I think that in that conversation, Ambassador Rice made clear our very strong view on this matter, and unfortunately and regrettably the President signed into law this legislation, which has caused the reaction that we gave today.

Yes, Wendell.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Poverty Is Like Being Punched In the Face Over and Over On A Daily Basis


'Poverty Is Like Being Punched In The Face Over And Over On A Daily Basis'

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'The hunger is extraordinary. There is a constant gnawing in your stomach, an empty feeling that has taken up permanent residence. Even as you’re eating a meal, you feel the hunger.'
The last I heard, 46 percent of Americans are now officially under the poverty limit (even though it's probably more). I get so pissed when I hear people judging people like this, because I know what it's like. I know what it's like to be judged and get advice from people who, no matter how well meaning, don't understand that if there was any way out of this fucking trap, you would have already found it.
So the implication that you're just not as smart/motivated/willing enough to find a job (or a better one) just adds to the overwhelming stress and panic. (My personal favorite? "If you were desperate enough, you'd take anything you could get." Oh, the unintended humor.) The other problem is, people who aren't poor think everyone can get food stamps, or welfare. Short answer: Are you fucking kidding me?
If you know someone who's in this position, don't explain to them what's wrong with them -- just buy them a bag of groceries or a tank of gas. Via the Poor As Folk blog, this powerful piece called Jenn's Words:
Jealousy isn’t limited to clothing. I’ve been jealous that friends can do wild and crazy things like buy a full tank of gas, get new brakes for their cars, buy a pack of toilet paper, eat. Food is a big one. In this age of social media, one can guarantee that at least 3 ultra-filtered Instagram photos of a friend’s lunch will scroll on by on their computer screen each day. Back in the day, I would just note that so-and-so had a bagel for lunch and I’d go on with my day. Now, I just sit there and wish it was me.
I wish I had a plate full of good food to obnoxiously photograph, but I don’t.
It’s the food that really drove the issue home for me not too long ago. I had taken my children to Ikea. We weren’t there to buy anything. It was damn cold, we were tired of being cooped up in the house, and there weren’t many options for a free place to play. Ikea has a play zone for my older child. My daughter is more than happy to walk around the store, sitting on sofas and chairs. I love Ikea because it’s fun to imagine having different furniture and organization.

While there, I bought my kids lunch. They had one of their specials going and kiddie meals were free! My kids each had a meal, which included drinks. I didn’t get anything for me. As they ate, I would pick at their plates, stealing a bite here and there. I looked at everyone eating around me and that’s when the tears, which I fought very hard to hold back, started to flow. I wanted so badly to be able to order something for myself. I was starving and the little bites of steamed veggies and mac ‘n’ cheese weren’t very filling.
I hadn’t eaten yet that day and found myself just staring at the plates of strangers, wishing I was free to get myself something to eat. I found myself glaring at people through my tears as they took plates and bowls half full of food to the trash center – what a waste of food! Never before had I been tempted to say, “hey, I’ll take that,” than I was on that day. My son noticed me wiping tears and asked what was wrong. I lied and told him I took a bite of his sister’s squash and it must have had some sort of spice on it and I was reacting to that. He believed me for a moment, taking a last bite of his mashed potatoes before pushing the plate over to me and telling me he was full. More tears to fight off.
That brings me to the hunger. The hunger is extraordinary. There is a constant gnawing in your stomach, an empty feeling that has taken up permanent residence. Even as you’re eating a meal, you feel the hunger. It never goes away because you don’t know when you’re going to eat again. You don’t know if your next meal will be something proper or if it’ll be half a fun-sized bag of M&M’s that you hoarded from your kids’ Halloween haul or nothing at all. It’s an ever-present gastric uncertainty.
As food stamp benefits continue to be cut and food pantries struggle to feed communities, that uncertainty will just continue. I hate to think of my children feeling the same way. They get first dibs on all food that comes through this house. There are many days when my kids get their three meals and I get half of one and my husband….well, I never see him because he is working all the time, but he barely eats, too.
This is obviously unhealthy. Our health has tanked over the last year. I’ve been told I constantly look tired. My eyes are more sunken, devoid of light. My skin is dry, blemished, and overall just blah. My hair is brittle and I lose a lot of it on a daily basis. I’m constantly weak. My husband is a very strong man, but he has lost an alarming amount of muscle and strength in the past year. The two of us are constantly exhausted. Part of that is the hunger, part of it is emotional.
The emotions certainly take their toll. Hopelessness is unbearable. I was once someone that my friends would always look to for a positive thought and encouraging words. I always managed to see the good in every situation. I try my best to hold onto that, but it’s been slipping away quickly.
Fear is constant. You’re always afraid of what’s next. I’m afraid of opening my bills to find new late fees. I’m afraid of losing utilities. I’m afraid of being evicted because we can’t afford our rent. You want to think positive, but the idea of “what’s next” is always looming. Things that might seem minor to one person can spell disaster for a family in poverty.
Last week, my husband told me my tail light was out. This is typically not a big deal for many people. To us, it’s terrifying. We don’t have the money for a new tail light. But, it’s illegal here to have one out. Our cops here are very good at pulling you over for broken lights, outdated stickers, etc. Obviously, it’s the law to keep your car in check. We know this. I’ve always been great at keeping my car well-maintained. My inspections were always done on time, lights would be replaced immediately, oil is always changed, I never drove on gas fumes at the needle hovered on E.
It’s all different now. Small things are big things. Monumental things. The idea of needing a tail light, an inspection, or a new tire due to the 100′s of pot holes created by tons of snow this Winter is enough to send me into a panic.
Weather is terrorizing these days. Two of my husbands jobs can be called off due to snow or ice because the trucks can’t get to them, so they tell staff to stay home. We’ve had storm after storm after storm this season. My husband has missed so much work, not by choice, due to snow and ice. We added it up and discovered that he missed enough to pay for nearly two months of rent. Same for me – no doggies to walk in this weather because people are staying home.
Poverty is isolating. Friends eventually fade away because they think you’re ignoring them when you constantly turn down their invites to dinner or events. They take it personal no matter how many times you insist it’s not. Your children’s social lives suffer for the same reason – you can’t afford to send them to many birthday parties or playdates. Trips to zoos, museums, and other fun places with admission fees are extremely limited. People eventually tire of you being unavailable to come out for fun and they stop calling and texting. And maybe I should say those people aren’t friends in the first place, but it doesn’t take the pain away. It doesn’t make me hurt less for my children.
Conversely, you have friends who know you’re in poverty and they try to brainstorm, try to help you through it. You say thank you a million times, but it’s not enough. After a while, trying to save you is boring and when they realize they didn’t fix you, they get annoyed. I’ve been called everything by people who were supposed to be my friends. Because I can’t snap my fingers and make things work perfectly and because that fact depresses the fuck out of me, I’ve been called useless, manipulative, worthless, unmotivated.
No one wants to hear that you have tried all the options that they suggested and they didn’t work out. No one wants to hear that you know exactly why a suggestion won’t work. They don’t understand why you can’t “just move” or “just declare bankruptcy” or just swing around a pole (note: no one ever suggests that my husband sell his body for cash…but quite a few people have presented it as an option for me).
This isn’t to say they are not well-meaning – and they certainly are not under appreciated by me – but they eventually get exasperated when you explain time and time again why certain suggestions don’t work. They want to fix you, fix you now, get you to shut the fuck up about being poor. It’s hard for others to deal with the overwhelming depression and hopelessness that accompanies poverty. It’s hard for them to hear that you don’t want to get up in the morning anymore, that you just want to end it all. So, it’s sometimes easier to be angry at the poor person, to convince yourself that they just don’t want to work for it, and keep your distance from them. Many friendships have been strained by poverty.
However, no one can be as hard on you as you are on yourself. I spend hours per day telling myself how much I suck. If only I had done this or done that. I know our circumstances were beyond our control. I know how hard we try every single say. But, it doesn’t stop me from doubting myself, from putting myself down. It doesn’t stop the shame.
I feel like a leech. I’m told by my friendly clergymen, my wonderful politicians, and by people I know and once called friends that I am a burden on society. I’m a taker. If only I worked harder. If only I wanted to stop being poor and getting handouts, then everything would turn around and I would be rich. If only I would pray harder, attend the correct church, and read an ancient book that I have read cover to cover many times in the past. Then God would just bestow His blessings upon me.
Or, I should really just consider putting some positive energy out into the Universe. If I meditate and tell the Universe that I want money, money will come and everything will be fixed. The constant shouts from society’s peanut gallery telling me how the poor or worthless and damned help shape my inner dialogue and I begin to agree with them. I am worthless. I deserve the shame I feel.
It’s hard to accept help when your inner dialogue tells you that you are useless. People tell me to be willing to accept help, I’ll be able to pay it forward someday. Without friends and the kindness of strangers, we wouldn’t have had a Christmas for our kids. My car payment would not have been paid for a couple of months, my husband would still have holes in his boots, and my car would still be uninspected and I’d be in deep shit. And we’re still here, still in need.
I sit here now, writing this at my desk that is piled with overdue utility bills and a statement from my landlord telling us they are pursuing legal action against us because our rent is currently 17 days late. I have multiple windows open on my computer – several for job applications for me, several job applications for my husband to look at once he’s home from work, a few for charity searches, another for prayer requests, and another for a site that offers emotional support and solidarity for people like me. The future is more than uncertain and it feels that the ground under me can open at any moment and swallow me whole.
And so I do pray. I do hope. I work hard to get our family out of this hell hole and so does my husband. I am grateful in ways that I cannot fully express for all the help that has come to my family in recent months from both friends and strangers. It reminds us that even though life is pure shit right now, there are bright spots. The good exists. So, we continue to focus on that. I hope to eventually write about how we struggled, survived, and came out on top. Until then, be nice to the poor folk. You can have all the assumptions in the world about how they got there, how the feel, how much they “take,” but you can never really know their true story – humans deserve compassion.

Judy Morgan Responds To My Letter


Dear William,

Thank you for contacting me about House Bill 1858, sponsored by Rep. Steve Webber, and Senate Bill 757, sponsored by Sen. Jolie Justus.   As always, I welcome the opportunity to hear from constituents of the 24th District.

As you probably know, members of the LGBT community can be fired from their jobs, kicked out of their homes, or denied public accommodations just because they are gay.  And currently they have no recourse under Missouri laws.  This is so wrong.  HB 1858 and SB 757 would correct this situation by revising the definition of “discrimination” to include unfair treatment based on sexual orientation and gender identity. With passage of these two bills, members of the LGBT community would be able to file complaints with the Missouri Commission on Human Rights whenever any person or any entity has discriminated against them in the areas of employment, housing, or public accommodations.

Like you, I believe in equality for all.  I am most appreciative to Rep. Webber for sponsoring HB 1858 and I’m proud to be one of the other 51 co-sponsors.  I am also thankful to Sen. Justus for sponsoring SB 757 on the Senate side.  You can count on me to vote for these bills.

Thanks again for sharing your concerns with me.  I also wanted to let you know that I send out a weekly email update on what’s been happening in Jeff City. If you’re not already on our email list and would like to be added, please let me know at judy.morgan@house.mo.gov.

Cordially,

Judy Morgan
MO State Representative
24th District

________________________________________
From: Human Rights Campaign [hrc@hrc.org] on behalf of William Rosen [ohthebilldotcom@gmail.com]
Sent: Tuesday, February 18, 2014 5:11 PM
To: Judy Morgan
Subject: It's time to support equality in Missouri

Feb 18, 2014

Representative Judy Morgan
State Capitol, Room 101-G
201 West Capitol Avenue
Jefferson City, MO 65101

Dear Representative Morgan,

As your constituent, a supporter of the Human Rights Campaign, and a
person who believes in equality for all, I'm asking you to vote YES on
HB 1858 and SB 757 to protect all Missouri residents from
discrimination.

These issues matter to my family and me. I urge you to support all
citizens of Missouri by supporting equality for all.

Sincerely,

William Rosen
Kansas City, MO 64109-1408

Friday, February 21, 2014

Combined Post and Plug

So I realize that I've been really lax about posting here so I'm going to try and combine a few posts into one and kill a couple of birds with one stone. First, our performance of "We're Not Lost, We're Here" that I previously referenced on this blog was recorded *cough* and I uploaded it onto youtube..naturally. Here it is:


Unbelievably gorgeous isn't it? That's one of the most powerful songs and messages that we as a group and that I have participated in. So, speaking of powerful performances HMC is gearing up for a mulitple performances of "I Am Harvey Milk". It's so amazing to be a part of such an amazing group that is on the cutting edge of national performances. Heartland Mens Chorus commissioned this work last year and San Francisco Gay Mens chorus performed it last year and it's made its way around to us. Here's what the HMC website says about this show:

“You gotta give ‘em hope,” said a voice that would too soon be quieted by an assassin’s bullet.Gateway Men’s Chorus from St. Louis joins HMC in this gripping concert celebrating the man, the hero and the lasting power his words and actions would have on all of us. Written by Tony® and Grammy Award nominated composer Andrew Lippa and co-commissioned by Heartland Men’s Chorus, I Am Harvey Milk tells the moving story of Milk’s life—from his childhood to his rise as the first gay man to hold public office in California to his assassination.

Heartland Men's Chorus is excited to present two additional regional performances of I Am Harvey Milk across the state of Missouri.

Preview Performance

Saturday, March 8 at 7:00 pm
Missouri United Methodist Church
204 S 9th St, Columbia, MO
Admission is free and open to the public

Encore Performance

Saturday, April 5 at 8:00 pm
Washington University’s 560 Music Center
560 Trinity Ave, St Louis, MO
$25 tickets available online

and here is a preview of the soundtrack, which I can tell you from singing it...it's amazing in it's intensity and it's power and scope. While it is titled "I Am Harvey Milk" it really is about the bigotry and hate that is experienced by our community. Check it out for yourself and come out goddammit!