Category Archives: Social Justice

March for Science – Minnesotans march to protest federal cuts

When I first posted mention of the March for Science a couple of months ago both the date and the concept seemed remote.  In recent weeks we have all learned more than we want to know about the  horrendous cuts to federal funding for science – everything from EPA to NIH to NOAA and more (https://www.nytimes.com/2017/03/16/climate/trump-budget-science-research.html?_r=0)

As a community and as a nation we experience the imperative to resist in a public way, to speak out, to stand up – and to march – essentially to remind ourselves and our nation that science matters. On Saturday, April 22, Earth Day 2017, thousands of Americans will gather in Washington, DC for a march not unlike the Women’s March in January – only warmer.

As with the Women’s March there will be satellite marches throughout the nation.  In Minnesota, a coalition of individuals from all walks of life will gather to march to the State Capitol.  Promoters of the Minnesota March say that these teachers, researchers, librarians, students, nonprofits, labor unions and faith groups share a common mission to (in the words of my high school teacher) “combat ignorance.”

The March will start at Cathedral Hill Park at 11:AM ( https://goo.gl/maps/dRjQxoPqS6Q2) with a Noon rally at the State Capitol. Marchers are encouraged to wear blue and green.  (Unlike the Women’s March, parkas, thermal underwear and boots are optional)

Learn much more here:  http://www.MarchForScienceMN.com/march

Minnesotans have a unique opportunity to learn and think about the mission of the March through a series sponsored by the East Side Freedom Library in St. Paul.  All are welcome to participate in the April 8 Solidarity Saturday: Science, Not Silence discussions:  http://eastsidefreedomlibrary.org/event/solidarity-saturdays-science-not-silence/

The web offers a wealth of information about the March – background, mission, examples of proposed and current budget  cuts, and why science matters more than ever.

One source of particular relevance is PLOS, a “peer-reviewed open access scientific journal published by the Public Library of Science. It’s a great – and accessible – update on what’s happening in the world of science.  A recent op-ed by PLOS co-founder Harold Varmus, explores “why Trump’s NIH cuts should worry us,” Another PLOS post by Judith Reichel speaks to the relevance of the March, “Standing up for science – Now more than ever.”  More about PLOS here.  https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/PLOS_ONE

Among other resources I enjoyed are book reviews of a current popular read entitled “Rigor Mortis: How sloppy science creates worthless cures, crushes hope, and wastes billions.   Though I have yet to read the book, the reviews motivate me to dip into what seems to be accessible to this lowly liberal arts major who knows little but cares mightily about the ongoing attacks on science.

Planners provide many options for keeping abreast of and engaged in plans for the Minnesota March for Science:

Email: info@MarchForScienceMN.com
Facebook: /MarchForScienceMN
Instagram: @MarchForScienceMN
Twitter: @ScienceMarchMN
Snapchat: @ScienceMarchMN

Equal Pay Day – In case you thought we’d solved that problem

A reminder before you get decked out for work that Tuesday, April 4 is Equal Pay Day 2017.  This is the symbolic day when women’s earnings catch up with men’s earnings from the previous year.  Some would have the public believe that the wage gap has been closed – these are the people who look at high paid female corporate executives, not at clerical workers or even long-term professional women whose lifetime incomes are affected by a host of obstacles to equal pay.

The early day reminder is that many women will decide to wear red on Equal Pay Day to emphasize how long it takes women to catch up.

It’s also worth remembering that it’s been over a half century since the Equal Pay Act became law.  After 54 years’ women now make an average of 82 cents for every dollar a man earns; at this rate, it could take at least 70 more years before the gap closes.

It’s generally assumed that the pay differential results from women’s choices, particularly to interrupt their careers by taking time to rear their families.  Still, Olivia Mitchell, director of the pension research council at the Wharton School, avers that this does not recognize other significant contributors including women’s lack of negotiating skills and the bias women face from employers – in other words, the “penalty” of childbirth and rearing are a biased excuse for a discriminatory situation.  I agree with Dr. Mitchell’s analysis – and would add a host of other reasonable explanations of what is a thorough explainable – and inexcusable – disputation.

A small sampling of resources for more on Equal Pay Day:

http://www.refinery29.com/2017/04/147705/what-is-equal-pay-day-gender-wage-gap-facts?utm_source=email&utm_medium=email_share

https://www.pay-equity.org/day.html

http://fortune.com/2017/04/03/equal-pay-day-2017-wage-gap/

Definitely check the excellent resource guide prepared by the American Association of University Women – a more systemic approach to a systemic problem.  http://www.aauw.org/resource/how-to-equal-pay-day/

For the lark of it, see how far you get with Cheryl Sandberg’s 20% counts campaign.  https://www.usatoday.com/story/tech/news/2017/04/03/lean-in-sheryl-sandberg-20-percent-counts-campaign-to-close-gender-pay-gap/99841634/

In any event, no matter where you fit into the world of work and pay for work, take time to think about the inequity of unequal pay and the impact of low for women not only on individuals but on families and on the long-term welfare of older women.

 

UPDATE: http://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/trump-pulls-back-obama-era-protections-for-women-workers/ar-BBzink0?li=BBnb7Kz&ocid=UE01DHP

UPDATE: http://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/04/trump-just-revoked-protections-women-workplace

 

 

“RestaurantsRising” to face immigration challenges

The Ides of March is one of the standout dates on the calendar.  So it should be easy to member that March 15, 2017, is a significant date to mark on your calendar.

In Minnesota diners will celebrate this year’s Ideas of March with a great meal at a local restaurant!  A host of Minnesota restaurants and retail establishments are collaborating to make the Ides of Marsh a day to support – publicly and financially –  the work of the Immigrant Law Center of Minnesota. (https://www.ilcm.org/)

The ILCM is one of the most visible of the Minnesota organizations – and individuals – stretched beyond their resources to meet the challenge to help people who are caught up in unprecedented immigration battles.

A host of eateries are joining forces to speak out.  The initiative bears the powerful name “RestaurantsRising.”  A large number participated in the successful Day Without Immigrants resistance.   That led to the Ides of March campaign to pledge a portion each restaurant’s daily profits to support the legal representation provided by IMLC and other legal services.

There’s a great website where you can find the names and logos of each restaurant as well as a clever indication of the percentage of sales the establishment will share with legal aid providers.    It’s a very impressive and growing collaboration.

Check the RestaurantsRising website (http://restaurantsrising.com) and follow RestaurantsRising on FB.

Freedom of Information Day 2017 – An unprecedented challenge

It strikes me that it is more than appropriate that Sunshine Week, March 12-18, 2017, begins on the first day of Daylight Savings Time!  Maybe an extra hour of sunshine will actually help!  One can hope.

I have written so often about open government, transparency, the right to know, the First Amendment and the free press that I mention just one recent blog post that perhaps best expresses my deep concerns about the crisis in which we find ourselves. https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/27/information-and-media-not-weapons-but-tools/  

As citizens of a threatened democracy we need to think more than ever about our rights, the role of the press, and our need to discern truth in an incredible barrage of data, misinformation, fake facts, propaganda and, happily, thoughtful exposition of ideas, issues and facts.  We can’t give up.  

Nationally, the week is sponsored by the American Society of News Editors and the Reporters Committee for Freedom of the Press.  The SW website offers an excellent introduction to the principles, the issues, a valuable Tookkit for local activists including a calendar of what’s happening around the nation. It’s an essential starting point and inspiration to take action.  All is revealed through multiple channels, including #Sunshineweek@asne.org, and on Facebook.

For many years the Minnesota Coalition on Government Information (MNCOGI) has commemorated Sunshine Week by sponsoring a Freedom of Information Day event. The history of FOIA Day (March 16) respects the birthday of James Madison, author of the First Amendment.  And so each year MNCOGI hosts a Freedom of Information Day public event.  This year’s event is set for Thursday, March 16, Noon at the Minneapolis Central Library.

Keynote speaker at FOI recognition is Patrice McDermott, founder and long-time director of OpenTheGovernment.org, a DC-based coalition of organizations that endorse government accountability and access.  Her talk is entitled “Secrecy and Accountability – Looking Forward, Looking Back.”  Member of the National Freedom Act Hall of Fame Dr. McDermott is a national authority on the principles and challenges to the right of the people to access to information by and about the government.  

At the same gathering the Coalition will honor Tony Webster, recipient of this year’s John R Finnegan FOI Award.  Webster  is a self-proclaimed “web engineer, public records researcher, and policy nerd”. (@webster)  MNCOGI chair Gary Hill observes that “Tony Webster is a shining example of the power of a single individual to make government more transparent and hold it more accountable.”   

Sponsored each year by the Coalition, the Finnegan Award honors Minnesota newspaperman John R. Finnegan, installed in 2011 as a member of the Freedom of Information Hall of Fame (http://www.nfoic.org/2011-open-government-hall-fame)

(https://www.minnpost.com/community-voices/2012/10/eulogies-john-finnegan-sr)

The FOI Day event is free and open to the public.

Related updates:

A powerful statement of press freedom endorsed by a broad coalition of agencies:  http://ncac.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/03/Press-Freedom-Statement-FINAL.pdf

Recipient of the James Madison Award, sponsored by the American Library Association Washington Office, is Jon Tester (D-MT).  The award will be presented at one of the main events of Sunshine Week, a gathering at the Newseum in Washington, DC, on Wednesday, March 15 – streamed live from the Knight TV Studio in the Newseum.  http://www.newseum.org/live/)

Holocaust Remembrance Day-Remember, Honor, Learn

“Remember the Holocaust didn’t start in the gas chambers, it began with the rhetoric of hate.” Rabina Khan

Possibly the best way to honor International Holocaust Remembrance Day (today, January 27) is simply to reflect on this profound thought.

Since 2005 the United Nations and its member states have held commemoration ceremonies to mark the anniversary of the liberation of Auschwitz-Berkenau and to honor the victims and survivors of the Holocaust.

Clearly, the main purpose of the day is to honor the victims; a secondary and related goal is to support the development of educational programs to remember the Holocaust and to prevent further genocide. Equally important is the commitment to reject any form of Holocaust denial, in part by preserving historic sites related to the Holocaust.

Drawing from the Universal Declaration of Human Rights the UN Resolution 60/7 condemns all forms of “religious intolerance, incitement, harassment or violence against persons or communities based on ethnic origin or religious belief throughout the world.”

“I swore never to be silent whenever and wherever human beings endure suffering and humiliation. We must take sides. Neutrality helps the oppressor, never the victim. Silence encourages the tormentor, never the tormented.”   Elie Wiesel

Read more about International Holocaust Remembrance Day here:

http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/2017/01/27/holocuast-memorial-day-eternal-vigilance-can-prevent-return/

https://www.yivo.org/cimages/richardbreitman-ottofrank-whitepaper.pdf?c=

http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/politics/2017/01/27/trump-fails-mention-jews-holocaust-remembrance-statement/97150252/

http://www.cnn.com/2017/01/27/us/holocaust-survivor-poverty/

 

 

Information and media – Not weapons, but tools

Informational Power is where a person possesses needed or wanted information. This is a short-term power that doesn’t necessarily influence or build credibility. Vivian Giang

The media’s the most powerful entity on earth. They have the power to make the innocent guilty and to make the guilty innocent, and that’s power. Because they control the minds of the masses. Malcolm X

The fact is, information and media are unique and powerful tools, to be wielded by sentient creatures for good or for evil. When the American Library Association was promoting the “information power” theme years ago I worried at the value-free assumption that the information would be put to good purposes. And when we hyped the potential of the communications media, from cable to the web, I wondered more….

My skepticism is affirmed today as we experience the reality of information and communications expertise brilliantly coupled to disrupt our democracy.

This should not be news. It was either Mark Twain or H.L Mencken who advised his readers to “Never pick a fight with a man who buys ink by the barrel and paper by the ton.”   The technology, but not the meaning, has been updated here. http://www.adweek.com/fishbowlny/ink-by-the-barrel-on-the-internet/252889

But that’s a diversion from the real fact – that the administration has effectively wed the power of information with the power of the media to shape reality.   Those in power wield information as a sword to silence, to pervert, to foment, to shape, to craft alliances and to conceptualize, then propagate, alternative truth.   We who are but “subjects” are ill-prepared to meet the challenge; we lack, or fail to unsheathe, the information/communications skills and attitudes to withstand the onslaught.

And still it is a real fact that we are not a passive people. The Women’s March and forthcoming March for Science clearly reflect our power to harness the human power to resist.

The first line of resistance to alternative facts is well-meant but knee-jerk –- placing blame and responsibility on the communications channels, or even the sources, of misinformation and disinformation is short-term and futile.

We are challenged to fully accept that information and communications technology have been “weaponized” – and that it is incumbent upon us to “arm” ourselves. We need to assume the responsibility to become critical thinkers – and to shape a learning environment that enhances the critical thinking of future voters, including both youth and future voters.

We can’t fall for the press-bashing and post-truthiness cleverly designed to divert our focus and our energy. Instead, we need to embrace the challenge to seek the truth and to stand firm when it is information is thwarted, perverted, suppressed, hidden from public view – or is not collected in the first place!

Thomas Jefferson, a man who dealt in truth, had this to say on the subject

Wherever the people are well informed they can be trusted with their own government.” –  Letter from Thomas Jefferson to Richard Price, Jan. 8, 1789

* * *

Related posts – Selected:

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/26/marchers-will-support-research-science-real-facts/#respond

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/discovering-truth-starts-with-independent-thinking/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2017/01/08/creating-a-culture-of-encounter-some-info-tools/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/12/23/relax-learn-then-resolve-to-resist-post-truth-thinking/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/10/03/information-literacy-universal-challenge-of-the-digital-era/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/information-literacy-curriculum/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/tag/national-information-literacy-awareness-month-2016/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2016/11/19/facing-the-facts-about-facts/

https://marytreacy.wordpress.com/2011/08/03/scrubbing-history-scrapping-the-facts/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Marchers will support research, science, real facts

It’s hard to specify the “tipping point.” It could have been the fact that the President considers climate change “a hoax”; or it could have been the gag orders issued to federal agencies; or maybe it was funding cuts for scientific research; or the team of researchers, archivists and librarians rushing to preserve essential scientific records. For many non-scientists it was simply the challenge to comprehend the concept of “alternative facts.”

Whatever the efficient cause, the effect is a planned March for Science – a march similar to the Women’s March, to be held in Washington, DC, in Europe, and in communities throughout the nation.

This is not to be a march of scientists but rather a March for Science. Planners describe a non-partisan march that “reaches far beyond people in the STEM fields and should concern anyone who values empirical research and science. “ Focus is on policy, including communication of findings from tax-funded research as well as funding for and nature of tax-funded research initiatives.   A fundamental premise of the initiative is that facts matter.

Details – including date – are in the works and should be out in the next few days. Meanwhile, stay informed – or get involved – through these channels:

Twitter: @ScienceMarchDC

Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1862739727343189/

Reddit: /r/scientistsmarch

Get Email Updates

To help: https://goo.gl/forms/zAdY02dBEz3Ykii42

Contact: scientistsmarchonwashington@gmail.com

Who can participate? Anyone who values empirical science. That’s it. That’s the only requirement.

As a concerned non-scientist I’m eager to get instructions for gear that will appropriately represent the cause! Knitting needles are poised for action!

UPDATE:  http://www.commondreams.org/news/2017/01/25/war-facts-sparks-momentum-scientists-march-washington