Friday, February 22, 2008

Article discusses the KatrinaRitaVille Express coming to the Texas Presidential debates

Thursday, February 21, 2008

KatrinaRitaVilleExpress is coming to tonight's presidential debates!

Several Gulf Coast organizations have purchased two FEMA trailers that are now touring the country to raise awareness about the ongoing nature of the crisis in the region and the government's failure so far to rebuild in a manner that meets the needs of poor and minority residents. The trailers will be making a stop at tonight's CNN Democratic Presidential Debate from the campus of the University of Texas at Austin. At 7 p.m., the debate will be shown live on the side of one of the 32-foot trailers. For more details about the KatrinaRitaVille Express, visit the tour's Web site here.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

'Poverty Is Poison' By Paul Krugman

This article discusses the many dangers in our society that exist as a result of poverty. Hurricane Katrina is mentioned as an example of an event that exposed poverty in the U.S., making it an impossible issue to ignore.

Poverty Is Poison

Published: February 18, 2008

"Poverty in early childhood poisons the brain." That was the opening of an article in Saturday's Financial Times, summarizing research presented last week at the American Association for the Advancement of Science.

As the article explained, neuroscientists have found that "many children growing up in very poor families with low social status experience unhealthy levels of stress hormones, which impair their neural development." The effect is to impair language development and memory — and hence the ability to escape poverty — for the rest of the child's life.

So now we have another, even more compelling reason to be ashamed about America's record of failing to fight poverty.

L. B. J. declared his "War on Poverty" 44 years ago. Contrary to cynical legend, there actually was a large reduction in poverty over the next few years, especially among children, who saw their poverty rate fall from 23 percent in 1963 to 14 percent in 1969.

But progress stalled thereafter: American politics shifted to the right, attention shifted from the suffering of the poor to the alleged abuses of welfare queens driving Cadillacs, and the fight against poverty was largely abandoned.

In 2006, 17.4 percent of children in America lived below the poverty line, substantially more than in 1969. And even this measure probably understates the true depth of many children's misery.

Living in or near poverty has always been a form of exile, of being cut off from the larger society. But the distance between the poor and the rest of us is much greater than it was 40 years ago, because most American incomes have risen in real terms while the official poverty line has not. To be poor in America today, even more than in the past, is to be an outcast in your own country. And that, the neuroscientists tell us, is what poisons a child's brain.

America's failure to make progress in reducing poverty, especially among children, should provoke a lot of soul-searching. Unfortunately, what it often seems to provoke instead is great creativity in making excuses.

Some of these excuses take the form of assertions that America's poor really aren't all that poor — a claim that always has me wondering whether those making it watched any TV during Hurricane Katrina, or for that matter have ever looked around them while visiting a major American city.

Mainly, however, excuses for poverty involve the assertion that the United States is a land of opportunity, a place where people can start out poor, work hard and become rich.

But the fact of the matter is that Horatio Alger stories are rare, and stories of people trapped by their parents' poverty are all too common. According to one recent estimate, American children born to parents in the bottom fourth of the income distribution have almost a 50 percent chance of staying there — and almost a two-thirds chance of remaining stuck if they're black.

That's not surprising. Growing up in poverty puts you at a disadvantage at every step.

I'd bracket those new studies on brain development in early childhood with a study from the National Center for Education Statistics, which tracked a group of students who were in eighth grade in 1988. The study found, roughly speaking, that in modern America parental status trumps ability: students who did very well on a standardized test but came from low-status families were slightly less likely to get through college than students who tested poorly but had well-off parents.

None of this is inevitable.

Poverty rates are much lower in most European countries than in the United States, mainly because of government programs that help the poor and unlucky.

And governments that set their minds to it can reduce poverty. In Britain, the Labor government that came into office in 1997 made reducing poverty a priority — and despite some setbacks, its program of income subsidies and other aid has achieved a great deal. Child poverty, in particular, has been cut in half by the measure that corresponds most closely to the U.S. definition.

At the moment it's hard to imagine anything comparable happening in this country. To their credit — and to the credit of John Edwards, who goaded them into it — both Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama are proposing new initiatives against poverty. But their proposals are modest in scope and far from central to their campaigns.

I'm not blaming them for that; if a progressive wins this election, it will be by promising to ease the anxiety of the middle class rather than aiding the poor. And for a variety of reasons, health care, not poverty, should be the first priority of a Democratic administration.

But ultimately, let's hope that the nation turns back to the task it abandoned — that of ending the poverty that still poisons so many American lives.

Monday, February 11, 2008

Rep. Lofgren Releases "Dear Colleague" Letter to House Members

On Friday, Congresswoman Zoe Lofgren released the attached letter that was sent to all members of the House of Representatives. It is a "Dear Colleague" letter, and it asks her fellow House members to co-sponsor HR 4048: The Gulf Coast Civic Works Act. Significantly, the letter highlights the work done by students and faculty. And positively, Rep. Mike Honda has responded to this request and has signed on as a co-sponsor.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

Mardi Gras Events in support of HR 4048 on SJSU campus reported in Spartan Daily: Dressing, marching for Katrina

The following is the full article that was published in the Spartan Daily. They covered the events that took place at SJSU on Tuesday Feb. 5th in support of HR 4048:

Dressing, marching for Katrina

By Tommy Wright

To help bring awareness of the conditions in the Gulf Coast in the wake of Hurricane Katrina, members of the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project held a Mardi Gras celebration at SJSU on Tuesday.

"We are trying to draw attention to the bill we have in Congress right now, H.R. 4048, to help rebuild the Gulf because the Lower Ninth Ward is still not rebuilt," said Carlyn Steward, a senior behavioral science major and member of the group. "It's been two years."

"So, we're trying to do something about it, but we are all the way in California," Steward said. "So we're just trying to help bring awareness here in California by celebrating Mardi Gras in the traditional way that they would in New Orleans."

H.R. 4048, or the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act, was introduced to the U.S. House of Representatives by Rep. Zoe Lofgren with the purpose of rebuilding homes, public infrastructure, and community resources in the areas that were devastated by Hurricanes Katrina and Rita.

It would provide at least 100,000 jobs to those affected by the hurricanes.

"That's the dirty little secret, the reconstruction that has been done and the clean up that has been done didn't go to the people of the Gulf," said associate professor Scott Myers-Lipton, who runs the project. "It went to outside labor, cheap labor, exploited labor."

"I think people don't realize the extent of what's going on over there," said Julia Lang a sophomore sociology major and member of the group. "There's human rights violations, there's government negligence, but we're targeting this area because it's been exposed."

According to Myers-Lipton, the problem is nationwide.

"We're at the lowest level of investment in public infrastructure since the Great Depression."

He said they want to look at the problem as a whole, but they are using what they are trying to do for the Gulf Coast as a test.

"There's really a crisis in America, but the crisis is just more clearly seen in the Gulf Coast because four out of the seven hospitals are still down, 65 percent of all the schools are still down in New Orleans, and not just in New Orleans, in the larger Gulf," said Myers-Lipton.

The event started with sign and mask making at the Seventh Street Plaza. The group later met at the John Carlos and Tommie Smith statue to begin their procession around campus. The event featured New Orleans cuisine and the band Bug Horn Rex playing jazz music.

Myers-Lipton said the group hopes to gain the support of 100 members of the House of Representatives for the bill, which now only has Lofgren and two cosponsors on board, but they need help.

"There's tens of thousands of things to do … get involved," he said.

Tuesday, February 05, 2008

Mercury News Publishes Article on GCCWP Mardi Gras Events: SJSU students celebrate Mardi Gras with eye on aiding Gulf Coast

San Jose Mercury Newspaper reports on the Mardi Gras events that were held at SJSU, in support of HR 4048:

SJSU students celebrate Mardi Gras with eye on aiding Gulf Coast

By Dana Hull

San Jose State University is 2,200 miles from New Orleans. But on Tuesday the spirit of Mardi Gras filled the campus, which is leading a growing network of colleges pushing for a federal law to create thousands of jobs in the hurricane-battered Gulf Coast.

Sociology professor Scott Myers-Lipton and a group of his students are spearheading a nationwide campaign for HR 4048, the Gulf Coast Civic Works Act.

To drum up support for the campaign, students danced to a local brass band, passed out Mardi Gras beads and dished out red beans, rice and cornbread.

Drafted on the San Jose campus, the legislation calls on the federal government to create 100,000 jobs in New Orleans and along the Gulf Coast in communities destroyed by hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It's modeled on the vast public works programs created during the 1930s, when millions of Americans were put to work building highways, parks and public libraries.

Myers-Lipton's passion for activism has made San Jose State the leader for the bill, which Rep. Zoe Lofgren, D-San Jose, introduced in Congress. The challenge now is getting at least 100 members to sign on as co-sponsors.

Junior Roberto Garcia-Ceballos, 21, went to New Orleans for the first time last month. He spent three days helping to gut houses and clear lots in the city's Lower Ninth Ward, a low-income neighborhood devastated by Katrina that has become the focus of intense debate about how New Orleans rebuilds.

"The trip was very eye-opening about all of the social problems this country has," said Garcia-Ceballos. "They've torn down public housing, and there are huge homeless encampments under the freeways."

Two and half years after Hurricane Katrina pounded New Orleans, many of Myers-Lipton's students are stunned that so much of the city remains destroyed.

"I talked to people who have to travel four to 12 miles just to get groceries," said Kristin Rasmussen, 27. "Parts of the city feel like a ghost town."

Contact Dana Hull at or (408) 920-2706.

SJSU Mardi Gras Events A Success

Today, San Jose State University hosted incredibly successful Mardi Gras events.

Over 75 students participated in the procession around campus.

Students rallied in support of HR 4048 - The Gulf Coast Civic Works Act.

Monday, February 04, 2008

GCCWP SJSU Mardi Gras Event noted in San Jose Mercury Newspaper

Click here to link to the full article.

The following is an excerpt from a San Jose Mercury Newspaper article written by Sal Pizzaro:

FAT TUESDAY: The Super Tuesday/Mardi Gras collision is producing an interesting side effect at San Jose State University.

The politically minded students and faculty supporting the Gulf Coast Civic Works Project plan to parade around campus Tuesday with BugHornRex, a traditional New Orleans jazz band.

They plan to make politically themed signs and masks - whatever those are - in the morning before starting a procession at the statues of Tommie Smith and John Carlos just before noon.

The parade is supposed to wrap up with a New Orleans-style cookout at the Seventh Street Plaza barbecue pits.