America: Judith Clark has changed. When will the US prison system?

From The Guardian UK:

This 1960s radical was given 75 years for driving a getaway car. It’s time to accept that perpetrators can be transformed
, Tuesday 17 January 2012

Judith Clark, a 1960s radical and the getaway driver of the 1981 robbery of a Brinks truck in Nanuet, New York, was the subject of a controversial article this Sunday, looking at her transformation in prison, and sparking a debate about rehabilitation.

At the time of the robbery, which left two police officers and a security guard dead, Judy was a member of an ultra-left group. Although she was neither a shooter nor armed – she was seated alone in one of several getaway cars – she received a sentence of 75 years to life. The sentence was so long because she refused to defend herself and made a spectacle of the courtroom.

I met Judy in 1996 at Bedford Hills correctional facility in upstate New York when, for five years, she participated in a writing group I ran. The group was mainly for long-term inmates who had committed violent crimes; the purpose was to give them a place, and a creative process, where they could come to terms with their actions, and take responsibility for their crimes, through writing – confessions, dreams, rants, memories.

It was an incredibly arduous, emotional process and in that time I got a deep look into the women in my group. I witnessed their bravery, their fear, but mainly their hunger for honesty – for themselves and each other. They were relentless in their insistence on discovering who they were, what drove them to do what they had done and, in the end, to make amends.

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Anderson – Transgender Children

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How Fares the Dream?

From The New York Times:

Published: January 15, 2012

“I have a dream,” declared Martin Luther King, in a speech that has lost none of its power to inspire. And some of that dream has come true. When King spoke in the summer of 1963, America was a nation that denied basic rights to millions of its citizens, simply because their skin was the wrong color. Today racism is no longer embedded in law. And while it has by no means been banished from the hearts of men, its grip is far weaker than once it was.

To say the obvious: to look at a photo of President Obama with his cabinet is to see a degree of racial openness — and openness to women, too — that would have seemed almost inconceivable in 1963. When we observe Martin Luther King’s Birthday, we have something very real to celebrate: the civil rights movement was one of America’s finest hours, and it made us a nation truer to its own ideals.

Yet if King could see America now, I believe that he would be disappointed, and feel that his work was nowhere near done. He dreamed of a nation in which his children “will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character.” But what we actually became is a nation that judges people not by the color of their skin — or at least not as much as in the past — but by the size of their paychecks. And in America, more than in most other wealthy nations, the size of your paycheck is strongly correlated with the size of your father’s paycheck.

Goodbye Jim Crow, hello class system.

Economic inequality isn’t inherently a racial issue, and rising inequality would be disturbing even if there weren’t a racial dimension. But American society being what it is, there are racial implications to the way our incomes have been pulling apart. And in any case, King — who was campaigning for higher wages when he was assassinated — would surely have considered soaring inequality an evil to be opposed.

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Protesters ready igloos to Occupy Davos

From Reuters:

By Emma Thomasson
DAVOS, Switzerland | Mon Jan 16, 2012

Reuters) – Occupy protesters with their sights set on the World Economic Forum, the annual gathering next week of the rich and powerful in the Swiss ski resort of Davos, unveiled their igloo accommodation on Monday.

When fully erected, Camp Igloo will include two heated teepees and a field kitchen alongside the ice houses to sleep about 50 people in sub-zero temperatures, activists said.

Davos, which brings together politicians, central bankers and business leaders, has become a byword for globalization.

The Occupy Wall Street movement burst onto the scene last year to focus attention on income inequality and the perceived greed of the rich and powerful. Copy-cat protests sprung up in cities around the United States and worldwide.

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Scouting a New Path: Girl Scouts of America Creates Inclusive Gender Policy

From RH Reality Check:

by Avital Norman Nathman
January 16, 2012

A few months ago, the Girl Scouts of America (GSUSA) found themselves in the midst of a unique controversy. A Denver, Colorado troop initially refused to let 7-year-old Bobby Montoya join. Montoya, who identifies as female, was denied entry to the troop when Felisha Archuleta, Bobby’s mother, first approached them. After protests from Archuleta, and some media coverage, the Colorado Girl Scouts of America ended up welcoming Bobby into the scouts, and released a statement through GLAAD, clarifying the organizations policy:

“Girl Scouts is an inclusive organization and we accept all girls in Kindergarten through 12th grade as members. […] If a child identifies as a girl and the child’s family presents her as a girl, Girl Scouts of Colorado welcomes her as a Girl Scout.”

However, not everyone associated with the scouts agreed with this message of inclusivity. Just last month, three troops in Louisiana have disbanded over this policy when their troop leaders resigned from their positions. One of the former troop leaders, Susan Bryant-Snure, claimed that the message from the GSUSA is “extremely confusing,” and that it “goes against what we (Northlake Christian School) believe.”

In addition to disbanding some troops, thereby not allowing any girl in these area the opportunity to join the scouts, some parents are calling on a cookie boycott to protest the GSUSA’s inclusion of transgender girls into their organization. With a video quickly going viral, a 14-year-old girl, identified as Taylor from California, speaks on behalf of the group, Honest Girl Scouts, and is calling for a boycott of Girl Scout cookies.

Not only is this video filled with an inaccurate description of transgender, but it does not seem to be espousing any of the Girl Scout values that I learned as a young scout. Compassion, diversity, education, and tolerance were all values that I, and my fellow troop members, held dear. In fact, part of the Girl Scout mission includes the following, “Girl Scouting helps girls develop their full individual potential; relate to others with increasing understanding, skill, and respect.”

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Muhammad Ali at 70: What he meant, what he means

From The LA Times:,0,4254175.story

The power to knock down prison walls. This is the power of Ali’s legacy and history.

By Dave ZirinJanuary 18, 2012

Muhammad Ali turned 70 on Tuesday, and the three-time heavyweight champion who doubled as the most famous draft resistor in U.S. history remains larger than life in the American mind, despite being ravaged by Parkinson’s disease. Two years ago, on a visit to Louisville, Ky., I was reminded why.

In a cab on the way to the Muhammad Ali Center downtown, I saw that my driver had a Vietnam Veterans of America patch on display by his license. I asked him about his experience in Southeast Asia, and he started talking a mile a minute about his time “in country,” how his “happiest days” were being a sniper in Vietnam. He even said: “You might not know this, being from Washington, D.C., but the most dangerous animal to hunt is man.” He then described the task in detail. He wanted to make sure I left his cab fully aware of his pride, patriotism and unwavering belief in the duty of going to war when country called.

I didn’t engage the driver in a debate about Vietnam or U.S. imperialism, but given my reason for being in Louisville, I couldn’t resist one question. I asked: “What do you think about Muhammad Ali? He opposed the war in Vietnam. He called it an illegal war aimed at increasing oppression throughout the globe.

“Now you’re in a city where there is a Muhammad Ali Street and you’re taking me to the Muhammad Ali Center. Does that bother you?”

Without skipping a beat, my cabdriver said, “Well, you have to love Ali.”

I asked why, and this produced a pause. “He believed what he believed and no one could tell him different. He stuck to his own guns and, well, you gotta love Ali.”

In recent years there has been a cottage industry in Ali revisionism that has been aimed at diminishing his relevance, courage and impact. Ali has been made safe for public consumption. When appearing in public, he’s presented as little more than a muted symbol of a troubled past. But in the answer I heard from the cabdriver, I think we can see why it’s been so difficult to erase his real legacy

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So what if America is the most religious nation?

From Salon:

if you compare creed and deed, the claim is hollow

By Bernard Starr
Sunday, Jan 8, 2012

Polls consistently tell us that America is the most religious nation in the industrialized world. More that 90 percent of our population say they believe in God, and that they pray regularly. The figure may even be higher when adding the majority of Americans who claim to be atheists but pray, one-third of them often, according to a Baylor University survey.

A Rice University study of 275 scientists at 21 “elite” research universities in the United States found that while 61 percent declared themselves atheists or agnostics, 17 percent have attended church services. Whether genuine devotees, just hedging their bets or doing it for the children (as some say), there’s little doubt that America is a religious nation.

But does professing religious beliefs translate into acting in accord with religious principles? Isn’t behavior the true test? In his New Testament epistle, James expressed the Christian view that “faith without works is dead.” Similarly, Judaism calls for “mitzvahs” — good deeds. And Islam requires acts of charity. Poet Ralph Waldo Emerson offered this challenging formula for sincerity: “Go put your creed into your deed.”

How do creed and deed match up? The 2011 report card for religious America.

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