Archive

June 15th, 2016

How unfair funding makes it harder to desegregate schools

    While Brown v. Board of Education eliminated de jure segregation in schools in 1954, in 1973 the San Antonio Independent School District v. Rodriguez decision all but guaranteed that de facto segregation would continue.

    That decision was about school funding. In Rodriguez, the Supreme Court ruled that a system of relying on local property taxes for supplemental educational revenue was nondiscriminatory, even though it meant that schools in poorer districts without a high property tax base would inevitably receive less funding.

    By limiting any federal oversight of states' school funding systems, the Rodriguez decision maintained a status quo in which states, not the federal government, were responsible for making sure school funding systems meet constitutional standards. This has not been a success: Despite dozens of state-level legal challenges about equitable school funding since the 1973 case, the condition of state school finance in most states remains unfair and inequitable, depriving millions of poor and minority students of the opportunity for school success.

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How Did the FBI Miss Omar Mateen?

    If you follow social media on the topic of the FBI and terrorism, you will find two themes predominate whenever a terrorist incident occurs in the United States. The first is promulgated by conspiracy theorists, anti-law enforcement social activists, and progressive-minded publications that assert that the FBI manufactures terrorism-related crimes to entrap innocent individuals - primarily young Muslims. These are crimes that would-be terrorists are incapable of committing on their own, they say, without the help of an FBI informant or undercover agent. In these scenarios, the FBI leads the poor, unsuspecting proto-terrorist by the hand through the various stages of planning, commitment, obtaining a weapon of mass destruction, and ultimately pulling the fake trigger. When the proto-terrorist is finally arrested, certain segments of the public, press, and pundits howl about how the FBI abused its power and authority to railroad an innocent person.

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Gawker gives itself a near-fatal shock

    Gawker was never going to make it. This is the site, remember, that once thought it a swell idea to help its followers find the personal telephone numbers of members of Sarah Palin's family. Or that a decade ago introduced the creepy Gawker Stalker map, to "visually pinpoint the location of every stalkworthy celebrity as soon as they're spotted." Or that seems to think that outing as gay an unknown and heterosexually married magazine editor would be great fun. No wonder Gawker's then-editor confessed nine years ago, "Not a week goes by I don't want to quit this job, because staring at New York this way makes me sick."

    This past week the site's proprietor, Gawker Media, filed for bankruptcy and put itself up for sale. The proximate cause was the refusal of a Florida judge to stay enforcement of a jury's $140 million verdict in the invasion of privacy lawsuit by the professional wrestler Hulk Hogan. But what really brought the site down was its desperate need to stay ahead of the manic forces that had created it.

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Being gay in America is still a radical act

    Forty-nine people were slaughtered over the weekend after a gunman opened fire inside an Orlando club filled with Pride Month revelers. We're learning more about the killer, who apparently has a history of violence and bigotry, often aimed at the LGBT community. According to reports, the killer's father said that his son had become "very angry" after seeing two men kissing in public several months ago.

    This is how we live our lives as lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people in the United States. Even in 2016, our mere existence can still be considered a threat.

    Our movement has made incredible strides in the battle for equality in recent years. A sitting president endorsed marriage equality. The Supreme Court made it legal for us to marry. At least 225 cities and counties across the United States prohibit employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation or gender identity. We are becoming more visible on television and in movies. It would be easy to think that the fight for equality is over.

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Will Orlando drive us from our corners?

     It only compounded the horror that the deadliest mass shooting in U.S. history called forth talking points that had been composed long before 50 innocents were murdered early Sunday.

    The immediate reactions on social media to the killings at Pulse Orlando, a popular gay dance club, etched a portrait of our national divisions, our mutual mistrust and our inclination to know what we think even when we lack all the facts.

    Even before President Obama spoke Sunday afternoon, there were declarations of great certainty that he would attribute the massacre to guns and not "Islamism" -- and would therefore feed support for Donald Trump.

    Trump did not disappoint. At 12:43 p.m., he turned to his communications medium of choice and tweeted: "Appreciate the congrats for being right on radical Islamic terrorism, I don't want congrats, I want toughness & vigilance. We must be smart!"

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We can't ignore America's homegrown homophobia

    "This was an act of terror and an act of hate," President Barack Obama said, addressing the nation after Sunday morning's deadly shooting at the nightclub Pulse in Orlando. Twenty-nine-year-old Omar Mateen, armed with an AR-15 and a handgun, killed 50 people and injured at least 53 more (as of this writing). According to the gunman's father, Mateen had seen two men kissing several months ago, and he became enraged.

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The target was all of us

    It happened late at night, and the early pictures released from the Pulse nightclub in Orlando were confusing, because they showed young men in their best party clothes leaning on each other in a way that could have been friends wandering home after a bartender's last call, but was instead people running for their lives.

    It happened, the shooter's father told a news station, because his son was angered by seeing two men kissing. It happened, the shooter told a 911 operator, because he had pledged himself to the Islamic State, so he then went and slaughtered 50 people and injured 53 more. An amalgamation of terrorism and hate that found its outlet in a gay club, but could have anywhere.

    It happened nearly a year to the day that the U.S. Supreme Court made same-sex marriage legal. In polls, Americans are increasingly accepting of homosexuality - but then, this.

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Once again, national tragedy drive Americans further apart

    In the hours after midnight Sunday in an Orlando nightclub, three of the most contentious questions in American culture and politics -- gay rights, gun control and terrorism -- collided in a horrific way.

    It is not entirely clear what inspired Omar Mateen to commit the worst mass shooting in U.S. history, or what might have been done to stop it.

    But it happened in a gay club, just two weeks shy of the first anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court decision legalizing same-sex marriage, and on a weekend when cities across the country, including Washington, D.C., were holding gay pride festivals.

    It was perpetrated during the holy month of Ramadan by an American-born man whose family originally came from Afghanistan. Shortly before the attack, he reportedly made a 911 call pledging allegiance to the Islamic State.

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Guns? Terrorism? Hate crime? Media go to their corners in reporting on Orlando.

    Call it news event as Rorschach test.

    It was only about 10:50 a.m. on Sunday, and very little was known about exactly what had happened in Orlando -- the death toll was still being given as 20 people -- but that didn't seem to stop politicians and pundits from making some definitive statements, often in highly partisan terms.

    If you favored gun control, this was further evidence of the legislative failures to stop slaughter. If you were wary of Muslims, this was an opportunity to paint an entire faith as terrorists. If you supported gay rights, this was a hate crime targeting the LGBT community.

    In too many cases, news outlets were busy amplifying the politics of blame. "This is not a hate crime," Sebastian Gorka, a counter terrorism expert, said on Fox News. He demanded that President Obama must "stop the political correctness" in a response that hadn't yet been made. What happened in Orlando was clearly "part of a military assault," implicating forces of global jihad.

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A horrible day for Orlando, gay pride and US history

    One year after celebrating the most joyous pride month in U.S. history with the Supreme Court ruling that legalized same-sex marriage in this country, the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) community and the nation as a whole are now in mourning. As of this writing, at least 50 people are dead and 53 were injured when a madman unleashed hell inside a gay nightclub in the wee hours of Sunday, June 12.

    This is by far the worst mass shooting in American history.

    Law enforcement officials identified the shooter as Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old American citizen who lives in Port St. Lucie, Fla. He was killed in a shootout with police inside the Pulse nightclub. In explaining a possible motive, Mateen's father told media that his son became "very angry" after seeing two men kiss in downtown Miami a few months ago. Authorities are calling this an act of terrorism.

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