2011 - %3, March

WATCH: The Irvine 11: Free Speech on Trial (Video)

| Wed Mar. 9, 2011 5:20 PM EST

On Friday, March 10, eleven Muslim students will be arraigned on criminal charges for "conspiracy" to disrupt Israeli ambassador Michael Oren's 2010 speech at UC Irvine. If convicted, the students face up to six months in prison. Since heckling is common on college campuses, are these students being unfairly singled out? A Mother Jones video:

 

UPDATE 1, Friday, March 11, 3:06 p.m. PST: Reem Salahi, an attorney on the Irvine 11's legal defense team, tells me that the team has filed a motion to move the case to the California Attorney General’s jurisdiction. "We do not feel confident in the ability of the Orange County District Attorney (OCDA) to prosecute this case," Salahi said. "They have engaged in prosecutorial misconduct."

She claims that OCDA illegally used subpoenas reserved for felony cases to obtain confidential client-attorney emails as the basis for the Irvine 11's misdemeanor case. In addition, Salahi alleges there is discrimination involved; she cites an internal OCDA email with the subject heading, "UCI Muslim case," even though the OCDA’s charges do not involve religion. "It raises the question of whether this is truly a case about the First Amendment," Salahi said.

Orange County Assistant District Attorney Wagner told the Orange County Register that his office had used the "UCI Muslim case" subject line as "shorthand" for Muslim Student Union. He also insisted that the defense has not stated "any grounds at all that would lead to the suppression of the evidence [obtained]."

The judge will consider the defense's motion, and has rescheduled the arraignment for Friday, April 15. More updates will be added to this post as they occur.

UPDATE 2, Friday, April 15, 5:05 p.m. PST: At today’s arraignment, all 11 defendants entered "not guilty" pleas. Reem Salahi, one of the "Irvine 11" attorneys, told me the case raises questions about "whether dissent will become criminalized." The judge said the defense’s arguments to remove the Orange County DA from the case will be heard June 17. The judge also set a pre-trial date of June 30 and a trial date of August 15.

There is a possibility that media statements made by the Orange County DA’s office, including Susan Schroeder’s video interview with Mother Jones, will be entered as evidence of the DA’s "selective and discriminatory prosecution," Salahi says. "The DA viewed this case differently than other prosecutions. That’s clear from looking at the internal documents, and hearing some of the statements they made—including the video on your website where Susan Schroeder….insinuates that the students were anti-Semitic."

Schroeder was not available for comment, but Orange County Assistant District Attorney Dan Wagner said, "To put a finer point on it, what they were saying was certainly anti-Israel." Asked if anti-Israel and anti-Semitic was the same thing, Wagner replied, "I think they are making a distinction about that. To me, it’s about the same." He added later, "It’s pathetically slender evidence [they have] to say that we have religious bias against them."

Earlier this month, Jewish students at Brandeis University disrupted a Q&A session following Israeli parliamentarian Avi Dichter’s speech at the university. Students stood up one by one, accusing Dichter of war crimes, then left the room. Below is a video of the incident. Although the incident at UC Irvine was very similar in execution, the Brandeis students have not been prosecuted.

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Education Roundup: Does Class Size Matter?

| Tue Mar. 8, 2011 4:00 PM EST
  • Speaking of ridiculous, an "A" student at a Virginia middle school was recently suspended for opening the door for a visitor who had her hands full. (H/T Boing Boing) Apparently, his actions undermined a district policy that prohibits students from committing random acts of chivalry in entryways, The Tidewater News reports.

Fat Tuesday With Feufollet

| Tue Mar. 8, 2011 3:05 PM EST
Courtesy of Feufollet

On Monday, we told you the story of Amede Ardoin, the king of Cajun Zydeco music, who faded from public view in the 1930s after a severe beating at the hands of two white men. Ardoin's legacy lives on in the music of a new generation of young Cajun bands like the Pine Leaf Boys and Feufollet, a Grammy-nominated group from Lafayette, Louisiana. Performing entirely in French, Feufollet blends traditional Cajun music (think fiddles and accordions) with rock-and-roll influences; it's not your father's zydeco, in other words. I spoke with Feufollet's lead singer, Anna Laura Edmiston, about the Cajun dialect, mysterious swamp gases, and what it's like to write songs no one can understand.

Mother Jones: What's the latest song, good or bad, that super-glued itself in your brain?

Anna Laura Edmiston: "I was a landscape in your dream," by Of Montreal. Well, their version of it.

MJ: Three records that you never get sick of listening to?

ALE: Graceland by Paul Simon; Traveling Wilburys' Vol. 1; and Sunshine on Leith, by the Proclaimers.

MJ: If you could bring anyone back from the dead—or borrow them from a living band—for a big jam session, who would it be?

ALE: Oh my gosh. George Harrison. I think he's great. I love his music, and I know everyone else in the band does. Who doesn't like The Beatles? George has just always been my favorite, just because of his creative outlook on things and where he would take material. Plus, I just love his energy and his Zen-ness.

MJ: Anything you listen to but don't exactly like to publicize the fact?

ALE: I guess I like hip-hop. That's like the weirdest thing I listen to, compared to everything else.

MJ: Are there any Cajun rap groups?

What Women, Unions, and the Village Have in Common

| Mon Mar. 7, 2011 8:24 PM EST
Wikimedia Commons

I was watching PBS’s American Experience the other night and learned some interesting union history I thought I’d share. Namely, that the women (and children) who worked in the Triangle Shirtwaist Factory in New York City really helped to found the union movement.

The garment workers—young immigrant women aged 16 to early 20s—went on strike in November 1909 for things like: not being allowed bathroom breaks, having their pay docked for mistakes made by old or malfunctioning machinery, and working 75-hour weeks. The strike improved working conditions, but not before company-hired thugs beat the strikers, some multiple times. Despite the strike, which coincided with strikes by tens of thousands of New York garment workers, Triangle employees gained few concessions from management and did not unionize. In 1911, a devastating fire demonstrated just how badly changes were needed.

Fire broke out on March 25 in the multistory Triangle factory and fatalities were especially high because bosses had locked the only available exit door. The door was locked because the employers insisted on searching every worker before he or she left, to make sure they weren’t stealing from the company. The only fire-fighting equipment on the manufacturing floor (which was covered with cotton scraps) was a few buckets of water. The workers inside had nowhere to go (the lone fire escape stairway crumpled into ribbons from the heat), and even the fire department's ladders were not equipped to reach the 9th floor of the Triangle building. In total, 146 people died.

The fire kick-started the move for worker's rights. Shortly after, the New York State Factory Investigating Committee was formed and passed lot of legislation, including minimum wage guidelines, minimum age laws, work hour limitations, fire safety requirements, and laws governing proper light, toilet facilities, and ventilation. To learn more about Triangle, and how it affected the formation of national unions, you can go to the AFLCIO’s explainer here or watch the moving American Experience episode on PBS here.

The Last Trace of Amede Ardoin

| Mon Mar. 7, 2011 7:45 AM EST

Amede Ardoin
Mama, I’ll Be Long Gone
Tompkins Square Records

While playing his accordion at a local farmhouse in Eunice, Louisiana, in the late 1930s, Creole musician Amede Ardoin wiped his brow with a handkerchief given to him by a white woman. Two white men angered by the exchange between Ardoin and the woman followed him outside, where they beat him, backed over him with a Ford Model A truck and threw him in a ditch. He woke up crippled, with permanent brain damage. Fellow musician Canray Fontenot remembers how that night changed his friend: After that, "he didn't know whether he was hungry or not.... He was plumb crazy."

That's the point when Amede Ardoin, known today as the father of Cajun and Zydeco music, seemed to vanish. His friends—at least the ones who would later help compile the scant record we have of Ardoin's life—appeared to lose track of him. In fact, the only official traces of Amede Ardoin are his draft registration card, his name on a Census count, one washed-out photograph, and 34 recordings he made between 1929 and 1934, rereleased this month in one collection for the first time.

How To Keep Your Kids Safe Online

| Sat Mar. 5, 2011 7:00 AM EST
Terry/Flickr

As a parent, I worry a lot about what my kid is doing in the real world, but now I find I'm having to navigate the reality of him having an "online presence," which makes me shudder even to write. Aside from watching him like a hawk, how can I teach him how to have good web etiquette, and make sure he's safe, especially when it's hard for me to keep up with technology as it is!?

~Needs e-ducation

I was browsing Facebook about a month ago, when I noticed the suggestion that I friend my 7-year-old niece. I thought, there's no way that's actually her, especially because the Facebook age limit to join is 14. But it was! She was posing as a 17-year-old, and that alone was creepy enough for me to passive-aggressively report her to Facebook, which didn't do any good, much to my chagrin. But I pressed a button! What more do you want from me?

This is, perhaps, why I shouldn't have kids. Thankfully, I talked to some folks who have, and they had far more useful knowledge to impart than, "Panic! Then mope."

Walk the Walk

Don't want your kid playing Angry Birds at the dinner table? Then don't do it yourself. The same goes for texting or checking your e-mail obsessively. As my friend Julie put it, "Kids do what we do, and not what we say -- so we try to set good examples of being people who prefer face-time to screen-time, but we usually fail. Alas."

Pay Attention

Friend your kids on social networks if they're on them. You don't have to go all Sherlock Holmes on them, but keep an eye on their activities. A friend of mine's 9-year-old daughter is on Facebook, and before I could panic about that, my friend told me how she monitors all of her daughter's activities. "She doesn't use her full name or any info, or a real profile pic. She also rarely checks it, and when she does she posts passive aggressive Farmville messages like, If you care anything about animals AT ALL, please give this panther a home!"

Read the rest of my online etiquette column at SF Weekly

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The Top 5 Longreads of the Week [5]

| Fri Mar. 4, 2011 6:33 PM EST

Mother Jones guest blogger Mark Armstrong is the founder of Longreads, a site devoted to uncovering the best long-form nonfiction articles available online. And what better time to curl up with a great read than over the weekend? Below, a hand-picked bouquet of five interesting stories, including word count and approximate reading time. (Readers can also subscribe to The Top 5 Longreads of the Week by clicking here.)

Margaret Atwood Pwns E-Book Confab

| Fri Mar. 4, 2011 3:09 PM EST

Few novelists are more respected in the tech world than Margaret Atwood, the English language's most celebrated literary sci-fi writer. So imagine the reaction last month at the Tools of Change Conference in New York, a 3-day orgy of sessions on distributing e-books, creating iPad apps, and "Planning for Tomorrow's Digital Landscape," when Atwood savaged the hype. Maybe it should have been expected, given how much of her work tends towards the dystopian. "The stupid side of electronic information includes: One big solar flare and it's gone," she said. Yet some of her best attacks were as much visual as literary: Hand-drawn PowerPoint slides of a dead moose, a blood-covered knife, and a rampaging bear. 

 

Kevin Drum's Education Manifesto: Open Thread

| Fri Mar. 4, 2011 9:00 AM EST

Kevin Drum's fiery missive this morning has me thinking about evidence-based education reform. Is it true, as he writes, that we'd likely get more bang for the buck by spending $50 billion less on K-12 education and $50 billion more on early intervention programs? Here's Kevin on a rather depressing chart linking maternal/child education levels for life:

[James] Heckman argues that these achievement gaps—between black and white, between rich and poor—are today less the result of overt discrimination than they are of skill gaps that open up very early in life and persist in the face of a wide variety of both good and bad schools. What's more, these gaps aren't purely, or even mainly, the result of differences in cognitive ability. At least equally important are soft skills: "motivation, sociability (the ability to work with and cooperate with others), attention, self regulation, self esteem, the ability to defer gratification and the like."

In the face of this evidence, Heckman recommends that we abandon a scattershot approach toward education and instead focus far more of our resources on intensive, early interventions.

I dunno. Wouldn't it be far preferable to take $50 billion from, say, the defense budget, and turn it over to early intervention programs, rather than weakening existing K-12 reforms that might help kids like Pedro, Eman, and Natalie—but aren't scalable? Or lack good metrics to measure success?

What does a truly effective early intervention program look like, anyway?

Brilliant readers, over to you.

Hijab in the U.S.A.

| Wed Mar. 2, 2011 2:00 PM EST
A model wearing hijab.

The last time she was called a terrorist, Eman* was drinking coffee in a to-go cup and waiting for the train at the Powell Street BART Station in San Francisco. It was rush hour, and dozens of morning commuters stood near the Mission High School senior from Yemen.

She froze in fear when an older commuter in a suit and tie started yelling at her for wearing hijab and drinking coffee. "Why do you drink this? This is not your culture," she recalls him saying first. "Eat your own food if you want to wear the scarf!" The anti-Islam insults worsened, continuing until the train came, she says. Not one adult near her said anything to the man in the suit.

"Maybe they didn't hear it?" I ask Eman, who today is wearing a light blue headscarf with silver stitching around the edges. "They heard it," she assures me. "The man was yelling, and most people were looking at me. One person was even smiling."