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16 December 2009

"Welcome to Obama-ville" Sign at Colorado Tent City

via's End Homelessness Blog by Shannon Moriarty on 12/15/09

Last week, a mysterious sign appeared outside a Colorado tent city. It read, "Welcome to Obama-ville: Colorado's Fastest Growing Community." This simple sign prompted investigative news reports and a flurry of response from Colorado residents, wondering who created and paid for the sign.

Funny how a few words on a banner can get a rise out of people. But the people living in a tent city behind the sign? Well, they don't seem to shock us anymore.

KRDO News Channel 13 in Colorado Springs first spotted the sign in the woods off a highway on-ramp. Immediately, they launched an investigative report to identify the mysterious maker of the sign. This report generated a flurry of response. Some chided the misuse of money to create the sign, while others took issue with the political jab at Obama. Colorado's conservative media outlets whined about the lack of media attention being given to Colorado's tent city, and wondered if the sign read "Bush-ville" it would have the opposite effect.

All this banter about a sign in front of tent city. But the real question is this: would we be talking about this tent city in Colorado Springs if this sign was never there in the first place? Probably not.

Shame on us for not generating the same level of curiosity and concern about the people living in the tent city behind the sign as we have about this sign. Shame on us for politicizing homelessness and try and attribute it to any one person. Homelessness is the result of years of failed policies and whack priorities, for which people of all parties can be blamed.

If the goal of this sign was to get people talking, it has clearly worked. But don't let the sign in front of the homeless camp distract you from the real issues - the tough issues - that are manifested right behind the chain link fence. Who are these people? How did they end up homeless? Why aren't they staying in a shelter? What obstacles are preventing them from getting off the streets and into housing? These are the questions we really need to learn the answers to (perhaps through an investigative report?).

This story has an ending. Following the media flurry, the controversial "Obama-ville" sign was removed. It was replaced with another sign that reads: "Please Help: We Need Firewood, Propane, and Canned Food." Sadly, this message hasn't generated the same amount of outrage as the previous sign. It just doesn't seem to have much of a shock value.

Maybe our reaction to these signs say a lot more than the signs themselves.

Image & Video: KRDO

Posted via email from jimuleda's posterous

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Prisons and Public Safety: Learning from the "Gitmo North" debate

via Governing through Crime by Jonathan Simon on 12/16/09

President Obama's announcement that the federal government will buy a mothballed supermax prison in northern Illinois (the fact that the such a facility was empty is itself an intriguing signal that the war on crime is drawing down) is bringing a new wave of criticism (mostly from Republicans) that this endangers public safety. As Helene Cooper and David Johnston, reporting in the NYTimes, summarize the thrust of concern:

“The administration has failed to explain how transferring terrorists to Gitmo North will make Americans safer than keeping terrorists off of our shores in the secure facility in Cuba,” Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, the Senate Republican leader, said in a statement. Representative John A. Boehner of Ohio, the House Republican leader, told reporters he would not vote to “spend one dime to move those prisoners to the U.S.”

The upcoming debate is unlikely to be inspiring, but it will be revealing of two features of contemporary American political culture that have helped sustain mass incarceration.

1. Prisons are never enough to make us feel safe. We want them and gated communities. Even when we have a supermax prison it would be much better if those prisons that are separated by water and national borders. Now its true that the fear being expressed is not simply of the super terrorists themselves (who will apparently have a virtually 1:1 ratio with guards), but their colleagues who may decide to retaliate against ordinary Americans. But that "logic" does not hold up. What stops the terrorists now from retaliating against "ordinary Americans" by blowing up strip malls in northern Illinois or northern Kentucky for that matter? What is being expressed here instead is the profound influence of the "container" metaphor turned toward its carceral core.

2. Congress, whichever party is in or out of power, finds it very hard to be on the side of providing less protection to Americans against criminal violence of any kind. I argued in Governing through Crime, that Congress (and state legislatures) now find it natural to view themselves as representing American crime victims as the idealized citizens of the Republic. I predict plenty of Democrats will join with Republicans to block any actual transfer of prisoners.

If the Republicans get away with spinning this as Obama making ordinary Americans vulnerable in order to please liberal cosmopolitan elites (mostly in Europe), they will have effectively reprised the Nixon v. Ramsey Clark moves of 1968, despite a period of declining crime and rising environmental threat.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

NY: A Brutal Failure of a Juvenile Injustice System

via TalkLeft by Jeralyn on 12/16/09

The release of this draft report (pdf)on New York's juvenile justice system should be eye-opening. To call the system failed, horrific and beyond the pale of acceptable policy doesn't begin to describe it.

The New York Times reports here.

The report, prepared by a task force appointed by Gov. David A. Paterson and led by Jeremy Travis, president of the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, comes three months after a federal investigation found that excessive force was routinely used at four prisons, resulting in injuries as severe as broken bones and shattered teeth. The situation was so serious the Department of Justice, which made the investigation, threatened to take over the system.

The financial aspect is also absurd: New York is spending $210,000 per child to keep these juveniles, more than 50 % of whom were sentenced for misdemeanors, locked up. And,

More than 80 percent were black or Latino, even though blacks and Latinos make up less than half the state’s total youth population — a racial disparity that has never been explained, the report said.

This is a system in crisis, and New York needs to address it -- sooner, rather than later.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog

14 December 2009

What Matters Now: get the free ebook

via Seth's Blog by Seth Godin on 12/14/09

Now, more than ever, we need to shake things up.


Now, more than ever, we need a different way of thinking, a useful way to focus and the energy to turn the game around. I hope a new ebook I've organized will get you started on that path. It took months, but I think you'll find it worth it the effort. (Download here).

Here are more than seventy big thinkers, each sharing an idea for you to think about as we head into the new year. From bestselling author Elizabeth Gilbert to brilliant tech thinker Kevin Kelly, from publisher Tim O'Reilly to radio host Dave Ramsey, there are some important people riffing about important ideas here. The ebook includes Tom Peters, Jackie Huba and Jason Fried, along with Gina Trapani, Bill Taylor and Alan Webber.

Here's the deal: it's free. Download it here. Or from any of the many sites around the web that are posting it with insightful commentary. Tweet it, email it, post it on your own site. I think it might be fun to make up your own riff and post it on your blog or online profile as well. It's a good exercise. Can we get this in the hands of 5 million people? You can find an easy to use version on Scribd as well and from wepapers. Please share.

2downloadfree Have fun. Here's to a year with ideas even bigger than these.

Here's a lens with all the links plus an astonishing array of books by our authors.

Posted via email from the Un-Official Southwestern PA Re-Entry Coalition Blog


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