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Ten years ago I published a study about race and incarceration in Baltimore, Maryland. I found that over half (52 percent) of the young African American men (aged 20 to 30) in Baltimore were under justice control on any given day -- in prison or jail, probation or parole. Not quite 20 percent of them were actually in custody.

"You've got one in five young black men living in a cage," I told the Baltimore Sun at the time. "I saw that 'one in five' figure for Baltimore, and I wanted to cry."It made me sad and it made me angry.

Now people's anger is finally pouring out.

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We hear too many stories of our supersized justice system. Too many people locked up, the school-to-prison pipeline, etc. Here is another one: A 70 year old woman in Alexandria, Virginia, has been prosecuted for failing to take adequate care of her ailing, wheel-chair bound, 98 year old mother.

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Democrats generally lost on Tuesday. But liberal, progressive ballot initiatives generally won.

Five states voted to increase the minimum wage. Two states and the District of Columbia voted to permit marijuana for recreational use. Three states voted to protect a woman's right to choose. Californians voted to downgrade nonviolent felonies like shoplifting and drug possession into misdemeanors.

Many lessons emerge here. I list two but really care about the second.

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Sun Sep 21, 2014 at 10:56 AM PDT

Tired of the News? Try Making Manna

by Eric Lotke

The news is depressing these days. It’s either bad (ebola), stupid (voter ID laws) or tediously overdone (Hillary 2016?).

So I wrote a book of a different kind. We all need some uplift, some good old-fashioned American dream. I wrote a story where the good guys are nice, and they even come out ahead. Remember Horatio Alger? Rags to riches? America needs a Horatio Alger story.

Of course, it can’t all be good news. That would be boring. To have a happy ending you need a bad beginning. To overcome obstacles, you need obstacles to overcome.

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I worked the polls in Fairfax, Virginia on election day 2012. I opened the door at 6:00 am, logged voters in, operated the machines, and passed out "I voted" stickers on the way out. At 10:00 pm when our results had been tabulated and machines disassembled, I signed official documents to "certify that this statement of results and write-in certification are a complete record of this election and that all of the information entered here is true and correct."

I signed it. But it isn't true. I can certify no such thing.

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Bob Schieffer asked question after question on Middle East terrorism. Is nothing else important in the world? Does the rest of the world even exist?

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The private prison industry is on the march. In recent months the industry moved to take over 24 state prisons in southern Florida and buy five prisons in Ohio. Now it’s making moves in Michigan.

But the industry doesn’t always win. Resistance isn’t futile.

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I’ve been spending evenings and weekends recently with the Occupy protestors in DC. I can’t stay full time because, unlike many protestors, I have two children and a full-time job. But I clearly share their interests and I’m glad they’re making the ruckus.

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Yesterday evening I attended an event sponsored by my U.S. Representative, Jim Moran (D-VA). I accepted an invitation I received from his email list to a community forum called "Principles & Priorities: How would you balance the budget?"

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Enough with blaming public employees for all of America's problems. Last week public employees in Oregon marched on the state Capitol with a billion dollars worth of recommendations for government efficiencies and revenue enhancements. On Monday in Lansing, Michigan, public employees presented their own report, New Solutions for Michigan, with concrete suggestions on how state leaders can to reduce Michigan's budget deficit and improve services at the same time.

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Tue Mar 22, 2011 at 05:33 AM PDT

Breaking up the Banks: I did it!

by Eric Lotke

As the debate heats up over Elizabeth Warren to head the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau, I took a step out on my own. I got a divorce. I am no longer a wholly owned subsidiary of Wells Fargo Bank.

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Last year at this time the Supreme Court rendered its unprecedented decision in Citizen’s United v. FEC, officially declaring the rule of Big Brother, Inc.. and turning speech into a commodity. Corporations are people, and they can spend all they want to influence democratic elections.

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