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“Affirmative Action”: An Imperfect But Essential Way To Deal With A Persistently Unfair And Unequal Landscape

In all the well-justified furor over the Supreme Court’s review of voting rights and marriage equality issues, it’s easy to forget that when this term’s opinion roll out, the odds are high that the Court will strike a major blow against affirmative action programs for college admissions.

We are all familiar with the ideological dimensions of the affirmative action issues. But we have an original piece up on the website today, from Elias Vlanton, a distinguished public-school teacher in Maryland, that cuts through the hype and compellingly addresses the human element of affirmative action, and why it is an imperfect but essential way to deal with a persistently unfair and unequal landscape for college admissions. Here’s a sample:

Tramon, Morganne, Arnetta, and Anngie were all students of mine in Advanced Placement classes at Maryland’s Bladensburg High School . Bladensburg is neither a private school, nor a “we skim the cream of the crop” magnet public school. It is in one of Washington, DCs poorest suburbs, where family income ranks in the bottom quarter of the state, and a school where less than ten percent of any graduating class makes it through college.

This semester, while Morganne proudly posts videos of her next dissection and Anngie writes another long essay in French, the Supreme Court, in deciding Fisher v. University of Texas at Austin, will determine whether my students deserve to attend the colleges where they are being so successful. In addition to attending a low-performing high school, my kids are all African American and Latino. They were accepted into their elite colleges as part of those schools’ commitment to the mission of promoting diversity in higher education, the very diversity that affirmative action attempts to encourage—and that Fisher seeks to declare unconstitutional….

My four freshmen—my odds-beaters—had SAT scores hundreds of points below the average of the students admitted to their colleges. They took far fewer AP courses, and participated in fewer extra-curricular activities (since our school offers few activities other than sports). What set them apart was their class rank: they were all in the top two percent of the senior class, a function of their love of learning, their desire to do well, and their hard work to rise to the top. Despite the claim that, on the merits of their applications, they were “unqualified” for admission to the schools where they are getting As and Bs, all will graduate with honors from schools that are among the best in the country—joining my former students who graduated from Bowdoin College, Johns Hopkins University, Georgetown University, and Stanford University .

So Chief Justice Roberts, in the end, we agree: Discrimination is discriminatory. That is why colleges must be allowed to consider the social and economic circumstances of my students when making admissions decisions—as Bryn Mawr, Cornell, Dartmouth, and Middlebury have done. My kids don’t want a leg up; but neither do they deserve a kick in the chest.

Vlanton’s passionate essay is a reminder that while so many agonize over the “injustice” of affirmative action, our country is doing a terrible job (as Kevin Carey documented in his article in the January/February issue of the Washington Monthly) of providing anything like equal opportunity in higher education.

Yes, affirmative action programs are flawed, but not half a flawed as the “color-blind” system that will be left in place if affirmative action is discarded and something more systemic is not put in its place.


By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Washington Monthly Political Animal, March 29, 2013

March 30, 2013 Posted by | Education, Equal Rights | , , , , , , | 2 Comments

“Just Saying”: Dear Ann Romney, Allow Others The Choice You Made

I am a proud progressive, both socially and economically. My heart bleeds just as much for economic justice as it does for full equality for women and the LGBT community. As a progressive, as a liberal, the primary objective for which I fight is the right to self-determination: people, regardless of race, class, gender, orientation or any other fortuitous circumstance of birth, should have the ability to pursue their dreams. My liberal identity comes from the belief that government must take a proactive role in ensuring that those whose origins were more humble than others are free from discrimination and at least have a ladder to climb, instead of being forced to watch helplessly as the more fortunate dance on the top rung.

Because of that, I highly respect the decision of Ann Romney to stay at home and raise their five children. It goes without saying that being extremely wealthy makes that decision much easier: the ability to hire nannies and housekeepers when necessary certainly alleviates some of the stresses commonly associated with stay-at-home parenthood. But that isn’t the point: parents who choose to stay at home and raise children willingly risk forgoing the potential social prestige and economic benefits associated with developing an external career. My father, for instance, forsook a promising academic career to raise and home-school my brother and myself. Partly owing to personal experience, I feel that parents who feel that raising children is their calling should be highly respected for their choice: we, as progressives, should no more be in the business of telling parents, especially women, that they should work than the Catholic League should be in the business of telling them that they should sacrifice their ambitions to stay home with their children. What we as progressives must be in the business of doing is making sure that everyone has the ability to make that choice.

Here, however, is where my respect for Ann Romney ends. Once again, it is my job as a progressive to ensure that everyone has access to follow their dreams. Ann Romney, however, supports policies that will ensure that only people of her station will be able to make such sacrifices.

Back in 2003, current Senate candidate Elizabeth Warren co-authored a book called The Two-Income Trap. The main thesis was that even a decade ago, it took two incomes to maintain the same standard of living as one income could provide generations ago. The main culprits were the rising cost of education and the rising cost of insurance. Anyone who has been paying attention knows that these problems have only gotten more aggravated with the passage of time, further limiting the options of parents who might otherwise wish to stay home with children, but cannot spare the income, or in many cases forcing young people who just cannot figure out a way to get ahead of the game to delay marriage and child-rearing, waiting for an era of comfort and job security that may come far later than they expect, if ever.

Ann Romney wishes to be respected for her choice. Fair enough. But the fastest way for her to earn respect for her choice is to make sure such a choice is not the province of her class alone, and that idea is in direct contrast to the policies that her husband Mitt espouses. So here’s a simple message to Ann Romney:

If you care about making sure that parents can afford to stay home with their children, then you don’t support Scott Walker’s efforts to destroy the middle class. You don’t support Paul Ryan’s budget that destroys Medicare and Medicaid. You examine the fact that public education is becoming increasingly expensive, and you support efforts to fund it, rather than continue to watch it spiral out of control and ensure that it takes two incomes to afford any sort of higher education.

You support student loan reform so that new graduates don’t have to work their entire lives to pay off their debt. You don’t “get rid of” Planned Parenthood, which provides vital medical services and helps ensure that women are able to raise healthy children to begin with. You don’t let Detroit go bankrupt so that vulture capitalists like the one you married can sell off its scrap for investor profits. You don’t accelerate foreclosures and kick children out of their homes so that those same investors can make more money from their rental fiefdoms. You do everything you can to ensure that health insurance is not tied to employment (to be fair, Mitt deserves some credit on this).

You support the reauthorization of the Violence Against Women Act to ensure that women who do choose to stay home are guaranteed some sort of recourse against partners who turn bad, instead of being forced into a devil’s choice of being stuck in a violent relationship or out on the streets. You support increases in the minimum wage so that those who do work don’t have to work multiple jobs just to put food on the table. You strengthen social security and its associated death benefit so that widows (or widowers) who chose to stay home have something left to live on in the worst case, instead of privatizing it so that (stop me if this sounds familiar) investors like your husband can figure out how to make even more money off of a program that’s doing just fine as it is.

You support investing in America again through stimulus and public works so that both men and women have good-paying jobs and a much more livable transportation system. And most importantly, you support tax reforms that require the super-wealthy (like your husband) and the gigantic corporations they run to pay their fair share in taxes so that all of these other things can happen.

If you were serious, Ann, these are just some of the things that you’d do. Otherwise, you’re just another spoiled Republican telling people that as long as you can do what you want, then everyone else can go to hell.


By: Dante Atkins, Daily Kos, April 15, 2012

April 16, 2012 Posted by | Election 2012, Equal Rights | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Sexist-Enabling Jackass”: Committee Chair Darrell Issa Blames Democrats For Rush Limbaugh’s “Slut” Attacks

When it comes to defending Rush Limbaugh and his attacks on a college student who had the audacity to testify at a hearing, thus earning multiple days of namecalling and sexual insults from Rush, the hits from Republicans just keep on coming. Via The Hill:

Democrats are largely to blame for the name-calling and personal insults of the contraception debate, Rep. Darrell Issa (R-Calif.) charged Friday.

Conservative radio host Rush Limbaugh has spent part of his last three shows referring to a Georgetown University law student as a “slut” with “boyfriends … lined up around the block.” But Issa said Democrats are also complicit in the deteriorating rhetoric, accusing them of insulting people of faith.Issa didn’t allow the student (or any ‘anti-mandate’ women) to testify during his hearing on how certain religious-minded menfolk were so very sad they couldn’t tell their employees to go to hell rather than give them the same contraceptive/medical coverage required of all other employers.  The Democrats had to hold a separate hearing themselves to allow testimony from those women, which is exactly what led to Rush Limbaugh and his “slut” rampage against a college student who dared to attend.

Issa? Issa doesn’t give a rat’s ass. He apparently thinks it’s the Democrats’ fault.

“While your letter raises important concerns about these inappropriate comments and the tone of the current debate over religious freedom and Obamacare, I am struck by your clear failure to recognize your own contributions to the denigration of this discussion and attacks on people of religious faith,” Issa said in response to Cummings.

Hey, want a denigration of the discussion? Issa’s a crapsack. He always has been. It’s entirely likely he’s a crook, too, although he always seems to have a story for why these felonies that happen around him had nothing to do with him.

Once again, you can see that Republicans will tolerate any rhetoric from Limbaugh. No matter how racist, no matter how sexist (and really, calling someone a “slut”, asserting they have boyfriends “lining up” and suggesting they should be posting sex tapes—that’s beyond even Limbaugh’s usual daily venom, and it’s amazing to see even this not get more than the mildest of tsking reactions from Republican leadership), can anyone name any other so-called “political voice” that would be defended for such things? Oh yes yes, it’s “inappropriate”. But, Darrell Issa asks, is it really more appropriate than you calling those women to my hearing? Why, my religious folks might have had to make eye contact with them or something! How rude!

I can’t wait to hear what rhetoric Issa comes up with that he considers so very outrageous, compared to what Limbaugh said (or to the attacks Issa himself glories in, because they make, in his words, “good theater.”) I suspect he won’t even bother coming up with any, though. He’s probably too occupied planning how his Oversight Committee can most effectively keep from Overseeing a damn thing.

So now we’re to the point where someone who dares give non-conservative-approved testimony to the House of Representatives gets labeled a “slut” and gets told they should be posting sex tapes. That’s where we are. And it’s still doesn’t count as bad enough for Republicans to distance themselves from it.

As for Limbaugh, anyone that advertises with him, or interviews him, or identifies themselves with him in any way knows full well what he stands for and what he says on a daily basis. If they’re still willing to chain themselves to that cannonball even after this, they own it. Sign the petition and let’s rid ourselves of these stupid “oh, we don’t control what he says” advertisers. No, you don’t control it. You just keep paying him a mountain of cash to do it, you sexist-enabling, racist-enabling jackasses.


By: Hunter, Daily Kos Staff, Daily Kos, March 2, 2012

March 3, 2012 Posted by | Equal Rights, Women | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

Partisanship: Blame Grover Norquist, Not The Founders

Everyone recognizes that Washington is not working the way it should. This  has led some on the left, like Harold Meyerson, to question whether the Founders “screwed  up.”

Many on the right, meanwhile, are promoting radical changes to our  constitutional system. They talk about a version  of a Balanced Budget Amendment, which would require a super-majority for most  changes in financial policy. This would enshrine in our Constitution the right’s  do-little government philosophy.

But the Constitution is not the problem. If we want to get  Washington working again, we should listen to the Founders — not blame them for  problems of our own making or change the ground rules of the system of  government they bequeathed to us.

True, the Founders established a deliberative democracy, with a series of  checks and balances designed to prevent the majority from running roughshod over  the rights of political minorities. But these checks and balances have served  our nation well.

The problem is not the democratic system bestowed upon us by George  Washington, Alexander Hamilton and James Madison. The problem is the additional  obstacles to action – the filibuster, hyper-partisanship,  and special  interest pledges – that our Founders would have found abhorrent.

Our Founders struck a delicate balance  between the promotion of majority rule – the essential predicate for a  democratic government of “We the People” – and the desire to protect minority  rights and prevent the “tyranny of the majority.” The Constitution is designed  to delay and temper majority rule while allowing a long-standing majority to get  its way.

So, for example, the Constitution staggers the election of senators so that  only one third of the Senate can change hands in any one election. As a result,  it usually takes more than one election for any one party to gain a governing  majority.

Modern politicians have placed layer after layer of lard on this deliberative  system of government, ultimately producing the gridlock now plaguing Washington.  The Senate Republicans now use the filibuster rule as a virtual requirement.  Every piece of legislation must enjoy a super-majority of 60 votes in the Senate — meaning a determined minority can permanently stop the majority from getting  its way.

President George Washington, in his farewell  address to the nation, warned about just such “alterations” to our  constitutional system. He said this would “impair the energy of the system.”

Washington also decried political parties. He passionately warned the nation  against any effort “to put in the place of the delegated will of the nation the  will of a party.”

While political parties were forming and solidifying even as Washington  uttered these words, our modern politicians have enshrined hyper-partisanship  through tricks like the “majority of the majority” rule, whereby the House  speaker will only bring to the House floor legislation that has the support of  the majority of his political party.

It is hard to imagine a more powerful example of the precise  party-over-country danger Washington warned us about.

Washington may have had the likes of Grover Norquist in mind when he warned  that some men “will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp  for themselves the reins of government.”

Even anti-tax Republicans, like Sen. Tom Coburn (R-Okla.) and Rep, Frank  Wolf, have now decried the oversized role Norquist’s no new taxes pledge played  in forcing the debt ceiling showdown and helping to prevent any solution that  would have included new revenues. Coburn and others have warned their colleagues  against putting Norquist’s “no–tax” pledge over their oath to support the  Constitution and to serve “we the people” – not Norquist or any other special  interests.

Washington today has serious problems, but we should not blame the city’s  namesake for them. Rather, politicians of both parties should support a reform  agenda designed to remove from our political system the modern procedural  obstacles that have produced our current gridlock.

Maybe even in these divided political times we can all agree that when  casting blame for what ails Washington, the fault it not with George Washington  and our other Founding Fathers. It’s with the causes of our current gridlock – including figures like Norquist and his no-tax pledge.

By: Doug Kendall, Opinion Contributor, Politico, October 22, 2011

October 24, 2011 Posted by | Class Warfare, Congress, Democrats, Elections, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Ideologues, Ideology, Lobbyists, Middle Class, Republicans, Right Wing, Teaparty | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Women, Watch Your Back: Anti-Choicers Are Gambling With Your Life

In a medical emergency, the last thing we should be worried about is whether a  hospital is going to put ideology ahead of the care we need to protect our  lives and health. But if anti-choice lawmakers get their way, women and their loved ones will have to watch their backs.

Yesterday the House passed an unprecedented bill that would allow hospitals to let women die at their doorsteps. It sounds almost unbelievable — but utter disregard for the well-being of women who need abortion care has tragically reached new levels in the House.

The  bill, the so-called “Protect Life Act” does anything but.  Indeed, it gambles with women’s lives.  It could allow hospitals to ignore the Emergency Medical Treatment and Active Labor Act (EMTALA) which requires that  patients in medical emergencies receive appropriate medical treatment, including abortion care if that’s what’s medically indicated.

The  bill’s proponents will first tell you that this is necessary to protect  religiously affiliated hospitals, and then claim that there’s no such thing as  emergency abortion care (which begs the question of why they’re so intent on  overriding it).  They’re wrong on both fronts.

First,  the denial of appropriate medical care to a woman suffering from emergency pregnancy complications can be devastating.   The following story recorded in the American  Journal of Public Health is just one example:

A woman with a condition that  prevented her blood from clotting was in the process of miscarrying at a  Catholic-owned hospital.  According to  her doctor, she was dying before his eyes, her eyes filling with blood.  But even though her life was in danger, and  the fetus had no chance of survival, the hospital wouldn’t let the doctor treat  her by terminating the pregnancy until the fetal heartbeat ceased of its own  accord.  She ended up in the I.C.U.

Second,  even the Catholic Health Association, the leadership organization for Catholic  hospitals — hardly an anti-religious or pro-choice lobby — has told Congress  that they don’t “believe that there is a need for the [refusal] section to  apply to EMTALA.” The very  institutions on whose behalf this heinous provision has been proposed are  saying “don’t do this.” But so  far, the bill’s sponsors remain unmoved.

Every representative who voted for this bill should hear from you and be made to think about the woman, mid-miscarriage, bleeding and scared out of her  wits, who rushes to the nearest hospital only to be told by her doctor that he’s  not allowed to treat her.  Think about  that woman, and then tell us — what  are you going to do?


By: Sarah Lipton-Lubet, Policy Counsel, ACLU Legislative Office, Published in RH Reality Check, October 14, 2011

October 14, 2011 Posted by | Affordable Care Act, Anti-Choice, Congress, Conservatives, Democracy, Equal Rights, GOP, Government, Health Care, Ideologues, Politics, Pro-Choice, Republicans, Right Wing, Women | , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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