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50 Years After Selma, Many Americans Still Face Barriers to Voting

50 Years After Selma, Many Americans Still Face Barriers to Voting

Last weekend I saw “Selma” after hearing rave reviews of the film from friends and colleagues. It was a moving and timely reminder of the sacrifices made by leaders of the civil rights movement who fought for – and sometimes died for- the right to vote for the black community. Their fight culminated in the National Voting Rights Act of 1965. Prior to this act, black Americans were excluded from the democratic process through subjective measures that left their eligibility to the discretion of election officials who often held deep-seated prejudices against them, especially in the South. In one scene of the film, civil rights activist Annie Lee Cooper attempts…
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The State of the Union Speech Obama Should Have Given

The State of the Union Speech Obama Should Have Given

Last night, a relaxed and upbeat President Obama gave his annual State of the Union address. It contained a lot that’s worthy of applause, but there are a few things he didn’t say that I wish he had. Here are a few: My fellow Americans, I come before you tonight to say that the progress we’ve made is real, but it’s not enough. Our economy is recovering, but relatively few have benefited. We need an economy where wages rise at least as fast as the stock market, instead of remaining stagnant as they have.  For that reason I am not only calling for an increase in the minimum wage, but…
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It’s Official, Climate Change Is Real

It’s Official, Climate Change Is Real

It’s official: 2014 was the warmest year on record. Ever. And the 10 warmest years since record-keeping began in the 19th century have all been since 1997. The good news is that California is doing something about it — and doing it in a way that brings cleaner air, jobs and opportunities to the low-income neighborhoods and communities of color that have been hit first and worst by pollution, climate change and the weak economy. Learn more at UpLiftCA.org.


Christmas with Langston Hughes

Christmas with Langston Hughes

I’m a word nerd. I’d rather have a good book in my hands than pretty much anything in the world, with the possible exception of chocolate (hey, we all have our weaknesses). So I spent a good part of my Christmas break curled up with a collection of Langston Hughes stories from the early 1930s entitled “The Ways of White Folks.” Like all good books, it got me thinking. These stories of interactions between white and black Americans portray a nation that in some ways no longer exists and yet still haunts us. It was a nation of segregated train cars and restaurants, in which – even in the north,…
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If You’re Not Outraged, You’re Not Paying Attention—Which Is How Comcast Likes It.

If You’re Not Outraged, You’re Not Paying Attention—Which Is How Comcast Likes It.

When I first started in my field and people asked me what I did for a living, I’d tell them, “I practice telecommunications and antitrust law on behalf of consumers.” I quickly learned, however, that if you need to make someone’s eyes glaze over in a matter of nanoseconds, one really effective method is to tell them that you practice telecommunications and antitrust law on behalf of consumers. So now when people ask me what I do for a living, I say, “I fight Comcast and Verizon and AT&T all day long.” People universally respond, “That’s awesome! I hate Comcast (or AT&T, or Verizon)!” That is an example of one…
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How I Learned that the Pain of Insurance is a Privilege

How I Learned that the Pain of Insurance is a Privilege

I have to be honest, dealing with my insurance company has been a pain. They’ve put me on hold so many times that I’ve memorized the rhythm and harmony to two different hold tones. When I got into a car accident three and a half weeks ago, I never imagined how frustrating it would be to navigate such a convoluted system, let alone find answers. And through it all, I’ve learned one simple lesson – I am blessed. Despite the headache it might cause, insurance coverage is a privilege that far too many people live without. Knowing that I can move on from this experience without having to incur any…
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Apparently, Everyone’s Entitled to Comcast and Verizon’s Opinion

Apparently, Everyone’s Entitled to Comcast and Verizon’s Opinion

Before I get started: the incredibly awesome Environmental Equity team here at Greenlining just launched this ultracool campaign called UpliftCA. Go check it out.   Sometimes corporate interests make my job just too easy. Today’s example: net neutrality. Specifically, the net neutrality comments that members of “the public” have filed with the Federal Communications Commission over the past few months. A little background:  FCC proceedings generally include two rounds of public comments. The first round consists of opening comments—everyone is free to file a comment expressing their support of or opposition to a particular FCC rule or decision (for example, imposing new net neutrality rules), as well as offering suggestions…
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Climate Change, Pollution and the Truth

Climate Change, Pollution and the Truth

When I was in high school, my family lived in an affluent, very white neighborhood on the Palos Verdes Peninsula, several miles southwest of Los Angeles International Airport. On top of a hill, we were literally above the smog that shrouded most of L.A. From time to time we would drive down the hill from our upper middle class perch into Wilmington, a nearby town that was predominantly Latino and much, much poorer. You could literally watch the air change as you went down the hill, into an area where frayed-looking houses and apartments were tucked in between oil refineries and enormous fuel storage tanks. There were no oil refineries…
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What to Expect from Immigration and Health Care Reforms: Thanksgiving Edition

What to Expect from Immigration and Health Care Reforms: Thanksgiving Edition

The Thanksgiving holiday comes at an interesting time – to say the least – for immigration reform and health advocates, especially in California. After months of posturing, it seems like President Obama finally got the memo. The President’s recent executive order (issued on Friday, November 20, 2014) represented an opportunity for relief for millions of undocumented immigrants. For instance, these executive actions expanded the eligible population for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program by allowing the parents of U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to request deferred action and employment authorization. For health care advocates, discussions around the implications for Medi-Cal eligibility began almost immediately. Many expect undocumented…
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After Ferguson

After Ferguson

On Monday night the county grand jury investigating the shooting of unarmed teenager Michael  Brown by Ferguson, Missouri police officer Darren Wilson decided not to indict the officer for the shooting.  For millions of black and Latino Americans, this was no surprise. The story isn’t over, of course. A federal civil rights investigation continues, and it could lead to action against Wilson or others for civil rights violations. Not having seen all the evidence, I’m reluctant to second-guess the grand jury’s decision, but I can’t help wondering whether the outcome would have been the same if Michael Brown had been white. Maybe it’s that over the weekend, another black kid,…
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