Seeking Justice for Cherise

Civil Rights Advocacy

In August 2013, Yellowstone County (Billings), Montana Judge G. Todd Baugh sentenced ex-teacher Stacey Rambold to thirty days in jail for raping one of his 14-year-old students . Baugh had followed a recommendation from Rambold’s lawyer by giving Rambold a sentence of 15 years in prison with all but 31 days suspended and a one day credit for time served. Even worse, the judge showed gender and racial bias against Cherise Morales—the 14 year old, Hispanic girl who Rambold raped. During the sentencing hearing, Baugh stated that  the girl was “as much in control of the situation” as her rapist and that she was “older than her chronological age.”

Upon hearing about this incident, Joanne Tosti-Vasey, former PA NOW president and current member of the PA NOW Executive Committee contacted Montana NOW President Marian Bradley. After consulting with each other, Montana NOW and Pennsylvania NOW decided to coordinate a state…

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Death Penalty Kills Innocent, ”Cruel & Unusual’

Nel's New Day

Law in the United States is controlled by nine people, six men and three women. It is the final recourse for injustices, and its decision determines legal edicts. That group of people is called the U.S. Supreme Court. They are not bound by any Code of Conduct or other rules.

The last court of appeals for innocent people in prison—even on death row—is the Supreme Court, now ruled by highly conservative justices. Last year, they heard a case about the 1996 Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act (AEDPA) that prevented prisoners from filing more than one “habeas corpus petition,” that sues the warden for release. After one year following the one direct appeal was lost, prisoners couldn’t even file this petition. The ruling in McQuiggin v. Perkins, however, allowed the petition at any time if new evidence could show innocence. The bar in filing the petition is high: the…

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Obamacare Terrifies GOP Leaders

Nel's New Day

What happens when GOP leaders accidentally tell the truth? There’s a lot of backpedalling!

What Rep. Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) said last week:

“We need to look at reforming the exchanges.”

The news that over 600,000 residents in Washington state probably led her to say that the Affordable Care Act will persist with reforms occurring within that structure.

What Rodgers said this week via her spokesman Nate Hodson:

“The headline is not an accurate or representative portrayal of what the congresswoman said in the interview, what her voting record reflects, or what she believes. She will continue fighting to repeal Obamacare at every opportunity moving forward and replace it with patient-centered reforms.”

What House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) said last week:

“[To] repeal Obamacare … isn’t the answer. The answer is repeal and replace. The challenge is that Obamacare is the law of the land. It is there…

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Bob Walton, CEO of Walmart

Walmart isn’t just reshaping work in America. The company’s largest shareholders, members of the Walton family, are also pouring money into reshaping how future American workers are educated, promoting and funding everything from individual charter schools to charter-friendly policies, voucher policies and legislative attacks on teachers:

In addition to giving grants to right-leaning think tanks like the Thomas B. Fordham Institute and the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research, the Walton foundation hired an education program officer who had worked at the American Legislative Exchange Council, a conservative business-backed group. Walton has also given to centrist organizations such as New Leaders for New Schools, a group co-founded by Jon Schnur, a former senior adviser to President Obama’s transition team and to Arne Duncan, the secretary of education.
In 2013, the Walton foundation spent more than $164 million across the country. According to Marc Sternberg, who was appointed director of K-12 education reform at the Walton Family Foundation last September, Walton has given grants to one in every four charter start-ups in the country, for a total of $335 million. […]

Although the foundation’s leaders say they are focused on helping children in poverty or stuck in low-performing schools, some of their actions support concepts regardless of whether poor children benefit. In 2012, for example, Walton gave $300,000 to the Douglas County School District in Colorado to help it fight a lawsuit brought by opponents of a voucher program. The median income of families in the district, where the public schools are high performing, is more than $99,000, according to census data.
Walton money has been behind the drive to close Chicago public schools while the city expanded charter schools, and has gone to attacking New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio for having the nerve to turn down a handful of applications by charter schools to take over space in public school buildings.
All of this is in the absence of evidence that, even with money pouring in from the Waltons and Bill Gates and Eli Broad, charter schools outperform traditional public schools on average (some do, some don’t, and the overall effects are a wash), while in many places, charter schools have many fewer special needs students, English language learners and homeless students. But really, you don’t need to look any further than the fact that this money is coming from the Walmart Waltons to realize that education and opportunity are not the goal. Because we know what Walmart is as an employer and as an economic force in this country, and what we know tells us for damn sure that education and opportunity rank exactly nowhere on the Walton priority list.


Originally posted to Daily Kos Labor on Mon Apr 28, 2014

Tea Party Follows Fallacies of Ayn Rand

Nel's New Day

Rep. Paul Ryan (R-WI) is once again on the campaign trail, trying to convince people that he has great concern for the poor—although it’s their fault if they live in an inner city. Ryan gets his ideas from Ayn Rand’s books, and Matt Yglesias has superbly summarized the Ryan policy to help the poor: “Rich people should pay lower taxes, middle class and working class people should pay more taxes, and poor people should get less food, medicine, and college tuition.”

It’s been over 50 years since I read Atlas Shrugged, but the book just won’t disappear, thanks to the irrational desires of white males to elevate Ayn Rand to sainthood. In a nutshell, Rand depicts corporate CEOs and one-percenters as the selfless heroes who will save society with all other people villains because they’re trying to drag down the rich instead of worshipping them in gratitude.

Rep. Paul Ryan…

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Is Religion Becoming More Reasonable?

Nel's New Day

The question surrounding some of this week’s religion news is whether the idea of separation of church and state is getting through to a few people. For example, a proposal in Louisiana have the Christian Bible as the state book has been dropped. State Rep. Thomas Carmody said that the bill had become a distraction. (I wonder if he actually meant “embarrassment.”)

State Rep. Wesley Bishop had earlier warned Carmody about potential difficulties: “You cannot separate Christianity from the Bible. If you adopt the Bible as the official state book, you also adopt Christianity as the state religion…. We are going to open ourselves up to a lawsuit.”

People in the U.S. military who don’t want to be classified as atheist but maintain reason over faith can now be classified as “humanist.”  In the military, 3.6 percent of members consider themselves humanists.

kamalaMarvel Comics has gone beyond…

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Loss of Net Neutrality = Loss of Free Speech

Nel's New Day

Rights and freedom are taking a beating this week from all three legs of the government. President Obama is traveling around Asia trying to get them to support the Trans Pacific Partnership (TPP) that will take away the last vestige of U.S. public control over corporations and move more jobs offshore. A theory for trade agreements is that economic interdependence will stop military conflicts by transferring power from governments to corporations. History shows that it never has.

The latest government move is to put corporations in control of the Internet through buying faster connecting times. Reclassifying broadband Internet access as a telecommunications service regulated in the public interest would benefit the vast majority of the people in the United State.

New rules in Europe outlaw attempts by telecom or cellphone carriers to charge content providers for better access to their networks, but the new FCC chair and former cable industry…

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