With the twitter wars, “He said, She Said” fights, and the outrageous and ridiculous things being said covered incessantly by the news, it is easy to get distracted. But I try hard not to fall for the “point and Look Over, to keep me from seeing what you are doing in front of me” trick. This week, while many were distracted by the Gold Star family controversy, a lot happened that gives progressives some hope for the future. So here is the weekly summary for 10/21/17 of what went right.
STANDING UP FOR IMMIGRANTS – One Two federal courts temporarily blocked the majority of the third version of the travel ban from taking effect, saying it suffers from the same problems as the previous order. Mexico filed an amicus brief supporting the lawsuit brought by Texas cities against the state for the law prohibiting “sanctuary cities,” saying the law forces Mexico to treat Texas differently than other states and interferes with diplomatic interests and ongoing negotiations on bilateral issues. National Immigrant Justice Center announced that with help from the City of Chicago Fund, and others, more than 20,000 people were provided with free representation in immigrant proceedings, legal screenings, and legal information through “Know Your Rights” events so far this year.
CRIMINAL JUSTICE REFORM – Dallas, Texas agreed to a cite-and-release program, instead of arrest, for possession of small amounts of marijuana, with opportunities for defendants to have cases dismissed. New York City announced a 90% drop in the number of criminal summons issued (more than 50,000 fewer) for the three and a half months since the implementation of the Criminal Justice Reform Act, which diverts quality of life crimes away from criminal court to civil court, without any increase in crime.
MOVING FORWARD NOT BACK ON LGBTQ RIGHTS – The California Governor signed the Gender Recognition Act, which recognizes a non-binary gender option on state-issued IDs, driver’s licenses, and birth certificates, and made it an easier for those who want to change their gender on legal documents. North Carolina’s Governor signed an executive order prohibiting discrimination by government agencies and government contractors on the grounds of race, color, ethnicity, sex, National Guard or veteran status, sexual orientation, and gender identity or expression in employment to counteract the state “bathroom bill.” The Arkansas Supreme Court reversed its prior ruling after the case was remanded back to them by the U.S. Supreme Court which found it unconstitutional, and Arkansas ordered a lower court to come up with a way to treat same-sex parents and heterosexual couples equally under the state’s birth certificate law. The ACLU sued to stop Montana’s ballot initiative which would prevent transgender and gender-nonconforming people from using public facilities that correspond with their gender identity. The ACLU is challenging the legality of a provision in the state health plan that bars medical services for gender transformations. A Circuit Judge in Fayetteville quashed a state effort to block requests for information and testimony from legislators about the motivation behind the state law that prohibits cities from enacting local ordinances that extend civil rights protection to gay people. A Maryland education panel voted to rescind taxpayer-funded vouchers from a Lutheran school that said it reserved the right to deny admission to gay and transgender students.
BREAKING GLASS CEILINGS BIG AND SMALL AND PROGRESS FOR PEOPLE OF COLOR – Lindsay Mintenko was named the first woman to lead the U.S. National Swim Team. Iron Mountain, Michigan hired its first female police officer. Kara Lawson was hired as the Washington Wizards’ primary television game analyst, the first woman in franchise history to fill the role. Dr. Yolanda Pierce was selected as the dean of Howard University’s School of Divinity, the first woman to hold the position. The American Legion Post in Madison, CT appointed its first female commander. Justice Mary Moreau was appointed the first woman Chief Justice of the Court of Queen’s Bench of Alberta, Canada. Ine Eriksen Soereide was named Norway’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, making her the first woman in the country to hold the post. The first all-female crew, including pilots, of a new Boeing 737 Max 8 took to the air on a Southwest flight. Zahira Torres was named the first Latina Editor/News Director of the 136 year old El Paso Times. Prince George’s County, Maryland did the right thing and charged a white man with a hate crime for allegedly stabbing a black college student to death “because of his race.”
SAVING THE PLANET – An Appeals Court reversed a lower court ruling and held that Miami and the Seminole Tribe can sue the Florida Dept. of Environmental Protection to challenge new rules allowing higher concentrations of toxic chemicals to be discharged into Florida’s rivers and streams. California’s Governor signed a bill to require ingredient labeling on cleaning products. An asbestos-disposal contractor is suing Montana for failing to crack down on the improper disposal of asbestos. Two DAPL activists, who were charged with felonies for their activities at the protests, had their charges reduced and will no longer face jail time, and charges were dropped against a journalist covering the protests. In Belgium, the Port of Antwerp is the first port in Europe to join Operation Clean Sweep, an international program aimed at preventing plastic litter from getting into the marine environment. A Federal Judge dismissed a racketeering lawsuit brought by Resolute Forest Products against Greenpeace and other environmental groups.
PROTECTING WOMEN’S HEALTH AND SAFETY- Amazon Studios Chief, Roy Price resigned, five days after he was placed on a “leave of absence” after a producer accused him of sexual harassment. The #MeToo moment has brought the pervasiveness of sexual harassment out of the shadows.
FREEDOM OF RELIGION – Governor Brown signed a bill barring state or local governments from creating, or assisting in the creation of, databases based on religion or national origin. A Federal Appeals Court ruled that a 40-foot, cross-shaped war memorial that has stood on public land in Maryland for nearly a century is unconstitutional because it “excessively entangles” the government with religion.
ELECTION AND VOTING WINS – Democrat Paul Feeney won a special election to fill a Massachusetts State Senate seat. The NAACP settled a lawsuit against Georgia under which the State agreed to no longer cut off voter registration beyond 30 days of any federal elections, including runoff elections and the State will use a shorter registration deadline if one is provided under state law.
FEEDING THE HUNGRY – A college professor and her students started the “Philando Feeds the Children” campaign in honor of the school food supervisor who was shot and killed by police. They raised $84,000, enough to pay off a year’s worth of school lunch debt for the 39,000 students in his school district, with money left over for the next year.
DAVID VS. GOLIATH – A group of 18 Democratic Attorneys General sued the Department of Education over its refusal to enforce regulations punishing predatory for-profit colleges that fail the “gainful employment” rule. University of Chicago graduate students voted to unionize. Northeastern University dining hall workers won an amazing contract which includes wage increases bringing full-time workers’ salaries to $35,000, an increase in the full-time schedules available, a $5.65 an hour increase, a health insurance plan with 97% paid for by the employer, enhanced protections for immigrant workers, additional sick days, and ability to join the union pension plan.
BECAUSE MONUMENTS AND NAMES MATTER – The Jefferson Davis Magnet IB, a public school in Jackson, Mississippi is being renamed to honor President Obama. The city of Centralia, Washington is raising money to erect a statue to honor the town’s founder George Washington, a former African-American slave who made a fortune after settling in the only area where residents didn’t enforce the racist laws that would have prevented him from living there. A stretch of Illinois highway has been renamed in honor of Sheriff Roger E. Walker Jr., the state’s first African-American sheriff. Louisiana’s Caddo Parish voted to remove the Confederate monument from courthouse grounds where it was erected in 1906. Lexington, Kentucky, removed two confederate statues from outside a former courthouse.
ANOTHER ONE BITES THE DUST – The nominee to be the nation’s drug czar, Rep. Tom Marino withdrew from consideration, following reports that he played a key role in weakening the federal government’s authority to stop companies from distributing opioids. Rep. Patrick Tiberi (R-Ohio) announced he will leave Congress this year. A total of 27 representatives, 10 Dems and 17 Republicans— have declared they will not seek re-election to their U.S. House seats. More seats up for grabs for the Democrats!
DOING THE RIGHT THING – The federal judge who oversaw the criminal case against racist former sheriff Joe Arpaio refused to throw out his conviction and said that while the presidential pardon removes the threat of punishment, it does not “blot out guilt” and goes on to say that by accepting a pardon, instead of appealing the decision, implies a confession of guilt.
FYI – After the Washington Post reported that 45 had promised a fallen soldier’s father a personal donation during a June condolence call but never made good on it, the administration reported that the money was sent the same day. A small business owner publicly apologized for attending a White House signing ceremony for the Executive Order dismantling Obamacare, saying he was lured there under false pretenses, and that he was told it was going to allow small businesses to form associations to negotiate better deals like big corporations do with insurance companies. Fox News aired a piece with a veteran who claimed to be a highly decorated Navy Seal who served in Vietnam and who praised 45 as the Commander-in-Chief. Two days later he admitted he wasn’t a Navy Seal, didn’t serve in Vietnam, and was never awarded a purple heart. Who’s the Fake News network now?
FOR YOUR AMUSEMENT – Vets discovered that the mate of a male 186 year old tortoise for the past 26 years whom they thought was female is actual male too, which explains their lack of offspring after 26 years of weekly “mating,” maybe the island of St.Helena will allow same sex marriage now. The White House Twitter account briefly used a photo of the White House with the Obama’s Portuguese water dog in front of it, in a tweet promoting tax reform. 45 saw his estimated wealth shrink by $600 million, and he dropped almost 100 places on the Forbes ranking of richest people, and reports show that his brand is declining in value.
AWESOME ACTIVISM – Thousands of people showed up at the University of Florida to protest the white supremacist Richard Spencer who came to give a speech, and his small group of supporters, and to let them know they weren’t welcome. NFL players and owners held a meeting to discuss the social issues leading the “kneeling” movement, with no decision to prohibit political expression during the anthem. Tom Steyer, a billionaire liberal, launched a campaign to impeach 45, releasing his first TV ad. A bus full of Sister District volunteers traveled to Virginia for the day and knocked on 595 doors to campaign for Danica Roem, a progressive democrat who is running for a Virginia State House seat.
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