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“Republican’s Right-To-Discriminate Debate”: At The Intersection Of Reproductive Choices And Discrimination

Under current law, in every state in the union, it is illegal for employers to discriminate on the basis of race, color, religion, sex, or national origin. That, however, is the floor – some areas choose to go further.

Irin Carmon recently reported on a new policy in the nation’s capital, where policymakers approved a bold new law – the “D.C. Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Amendment Act” – which adds “reproductive decision-making to anti-discrimination provisions.”

So, for example, an employee in D.C. cannot be fired for being on birth control, using in vitro fertilization, exercising her right to terminate a pregnancy, or getting pregnant outside of marriage. Those are private matters, the D.C. law says, which cannot serve as the basis for a dismissal.

As it turns out, this quickly became the latest twist in the right-to-discriminate debate, and Roll Call reported late last week on congressional Republicans intervening in city law.

In a largely symbolic move, the House voted mostly down party lines late Thursday night to block a District of Columbia bill that D.C. officials say would combat workplace discrimination.

A corps of mainly Republicans passed a joint resolution of disapproval 228-192…. Conservatives argued the act could force employers to violate their religious beliefs.

It was, the article noted, the “first time in nearly 25 years the entire House voted to block a D.C. law.”

The ridiculous push from House GOP lawmakers didn’t change city policy – the Senate chose not to act on the matter – and the local law took effect over the weekend.

But as it turns out, there’s a presidential angle to this.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) took it upon himself to go after the D.C. anti-discrimination policy, issuing this press release on Friday.

U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, released the following statement urging Congress to formally disapprove of the Reproductive Health Non-Discrimination Act (RHNDA) and the Human Rights Amendment Act (HRAA) recently passed by the District of Columbia in order to protect First Amendment rights for D.C. citizens.

“The D.C. Council has proposed two measures that trample the very rights the First Amendment was designed to protect – the right of citizens to freely practice their faith,” Sen. Cruz said. “The Constitution gives Congress the authority to exercise jurisdiction over the District of Columbia ‘in all cases whatsoever.’ And both the House and Senate have a constitutional duty to protect citizens’ religious liberty, as enshrined in the First Amendment.

The Senate GOP leadership ignored Cruz’s cries, but Roll Call reported this week that Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) “appears to support the effort to block the law.”

In other words, two Republican presidential candidates apparently believe employers should be able to fire workers if bosses don’t like employees’ personal reproductive-health decisions. One of the two candidates is ostensibly from the GOP’s libertarian wing.

This strikes me as a great litmus-test issue for the rest of the Republicans’ 2016 field. How about it, candidates? Should Americans lose their jobs if their employers disapprove of their reproductive choices?

 

By: Steve Benen, The Maddow Blog, May 6, 2015

May 9, 2015 Posted by | Discrimination, Reproductive Choice, Women's Health | , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“What Could Possibly Go Wrong”: Gun Advocate Plans July 4th March In Washington, With Loaded Guns

A former Marine, candidate for Congress, and self-defined libertarian radio talk-show host has sparked some controversy over a Facebook event gone viral. Adam Kokesh, host of Adam vs. The Man, created an event on Facebook entitled, “Open Carry March on Washington #OpenCarry130704” to promote an individual’s Second Amendment rights. In a July 4 march from Virginia to D.C., the participants will pass Congress, the Supreme Court, and the White House—all while carrying their loaded guns.

According to the Facebook page, over 30,000 people have been invited, more than 1,500 have confirmed they will attend, and nearly 1,500 have declined — and the numbers are continuing to grow.

Virginia’s lenient gun laws grant protestors the right to publicly load their guns within state lines. Since Washington, D.C. has strict gun laws, law enforcement may be able to arrest any Open Carry March participants if they cross state lines with their loaded guns.

The description on Kokesh’s Facebook page states, “This is an act of civil disobedience, not a permitted event. We will march with rifles loaded & slung across our backs to put the government on notice that we will not be intimidated & cower in submission to tyranny. We are marching to mark the high water mark of government & to turn the tide. This will be a non-violent event, unless the government chooses to make it violent.”

Kokesh said that the event website needed 10,000 supporters and at least 1,000 confirmed marchers by June 1st for the march to take place. This goal was met Monday afternoon, when Kokesh posted an update confirming that he’d reached the required number. “Now that it’s undeniable that this is going to happen, allow me to make clear how. There will be coordination with DC law enforcement prior to the event,” he wrote. “Failing to provide that commitment to safety, we will either be informed that we will only be allowed up to a certain point where we would be arrested. If this is the case, we will approach that point as a group and if necessary, I will procede [sic] to volunteer myself to determine what their actual course of action with someone crossing the line will be at which point fellow marchers will have the choice of joining me one at a time in a peaceful, orderly manner, or turning back to the National Cemetery.”

Kokesh is a former Marine who received a general discharge, one step below an honorable discharge, after wearing his uniform to an anti-war protest. His radio talk show on Russia Today, a Russian-sponsored network that is critical of American policies, was canceled after he supported and fundraised for Representative Ron Paul’s (R-TX) presidential campaign. Kokesh stands for anti-government policies and his past run-ins with authorities show he is not afraid to make a statement for the sake of his political cause—in fact, two of his latest tweets include: “It’s time to abolish the US federal government,” and “When the government comes to take your guns, you can shoot government agents, or submit to slavery.”

There is no doubt that Kokesh’s views have become a bit extreme and radical—marching across Washington D.C. militia-style is just one way his ideology is sadly rubbing off on right-wing gun nuts across the country who relentlessly believe the government is trying to take away their guns. It is still uncertain if Kokesh will actually go through with the march, or if the event will achieve what he hopes. After all, arguing to uphold one law he enjoys by breaking another and triggering arrest wouldn’t make him a hero or patriot — it would make him a criminal.

 

By: Allison Brito, The National Memo, May 6, 2013

May 8, 2013 Posted by | Gun Violence, Right Wing | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Taxation Without Representation”: American Citizens Sould Be Treated Like American Citizens

Vice President Joe Biden is right: There should be two senators from the District of Columbia, not to mention at least one voting member of the U.S. House. Americans living in the U.S. capital, in other words, should have the basic rights of citizenship that they are currently denied.

The fact that more than 630,000 U.S. citizens living in the United States of America are not represented in Congress is an outrage and an insult to the most fundamental right due to all American citizens: representation in government. Remember the American Revolution (and the original tea party)? They were complaining about taxation without representation. More than two centuries later those residing in what should be the living symbol of democratic ideals of representative government are experiencing taxation without representation.

As a point of comparison, imagine the outrage if Boston (with an estimated 2011 population of more than 625,000) was removed from the congressional map; or Seattle (more than 620,000 as of 2011); or Milwaukee (597,000 in 2011); Las Vegas (589,000 in 2011); or Atlanta (432,000 in 2011).

This is a mostly but not entirely partisan issue, though it is often seen through that rather puerile lens. It’s gotten support from prominent conservatives like Ken Starr and Viet Dinh. And at least partial restoration of these basic American rights nearly occurred four years ago before it was derailed by – wait for it – a squabble over gun rights.

Parting thought: For the first 10 years of the District of Columbia’s existence, before it became the seat of the federal government in 1800, D.C. citizens had congressional representation. When Maryland and Virginia ceded the land to the government for the creation of the District, those living there were still allowed to vote in their old states’ congressional and legislative races. Once the federal government moved to D.C., those basic rights were revoked. That revocation is a festering wound on the country’s democratic spirit.

Congress gaveth and then tooketh away … it’s time it giveth back.

 

By: Robert Schlesinger, U. S. News and World Report, May 3, 2013

May 6, 2013 Posted by | Civil Rights, Democracy | , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“The Racket With Standardized Test Scores”: Treating Test Scores The Way A Corporation Might Treat Sales Targets Is Wrong

It is time to acknowledge that the fashionable theory of school reform — requiring that pay and job security for teachers, principals and administrators depend on their students’ standardized test scores — is at best a well-intentioned mistake, and at worst nothing but a racket.

I mean that literally. Beverly Hall, the former superintendent of the Atlanta public schools, was indicted on racketeering charges Friday for an alleged cheating scheme that won her more than $500,000 in performance bonuses. Hall, who retired two years ago, is also accused of theft, conspiracy and making false statements. She has denied any wrongdoing.

Also facing criminal charges are 34 teachers and principals who allegedly participated in the cheating, which involved simply erasing students’ wrong answers on test papers and filling in the correct answers.

In 2009, the American Association of School Administrators named Hall “National Superintendent of the Year” for improvement in student achievement that seemed, in retrospect, much too good to be true. On Georgia’s standardized competency test, students in some of Atlanta’s troubled neighborhoods appeared to vault past their counterparts in the wealthy suburbs.

For educators who worked for Hall, bonuses and promotions were based on test scores. “Principals and teachers were frequently told by Beverly Hall and her subordinates that excuses for not meeting targets would not be tolerated,” according to the indictment.

But there was a sure-fire way to meet those targets: After a day of testing, teachers allegedly were told to gather the students’ test sheets and change the answers. Suddenly a failing school would become a model of education reform. The principal and teachers would get bonuses. Hall would get accolades, plus a much bigger bonus. And students — duped into thinking they had mastered material that they hadn’t even begun to grasp — would get the shaft.

State education officials became suspicious. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution wrote probing stories. There seemed to be no way to legitimately explain the dramatic improvement in test scores at some schools in such a short time, or the statistically improbable number of wrong-to-right erasures on answer sheets. But there was no proof.

Sonny Perdue was Georgia’s governor at the time, and in August 2010 he ordered a blue-ribbon investigation. Hall resigned shortly before the release of the investigators’ report, which alleged that 178 teachers and principals cheated over nearly a decade — and that Hall either knew or should have known. Those findings laid the foundation for Friday’s grand jury indictment.

My Post colleague Valerie Strauss, a veteran education reporter and columnist, wrote Friday that while there have been “dozens” of alleged cheating episodes around the country, only Atlanta’s has been aggressively and thoroughly investigated. “We don’t really know” how extensive the problem is, Strauss wrote, but “what we do know is that these cheating scandals have been a result of test-obsessed school reform.”

In the District of Columbia, for example, there are unanswered questions about an anomalous pattern of wrong-to-right erasures on answer sheets during the reign of famed schools reformer Michelle Rhee, who starred in the documentary “Waiting for ‘Superman’ ” and graced the cover of Time magazine.

Our schools desperately need to be fixed. But creating a situation in which teachers are more likely than students to cheat cannot be the right path.

Standardized achievement tests are a vital tool, but treating test scores the way a corporation might treat sales targets is wrong. Students are not widgets. I totally reject the idea that students from underprivileged neighborhoods cannot learn. Of course they can. But how does it help these students to have their performance on a one-size-fits-all standardized test determine their teachers’ compensation and job security? The clear incentive is for the teacher to focus on test scores rather than actual teaching.

Not every school system will become so mired in an alleged pattern of wrongdoing that officials can be charged under a racketeering statute of the kind usually used to prosecute mobsters. But even absent cheating, the blind obsession with test scores implies that teachers are interchangeable implements of information transfer, rather than caring professionals who know their students as individuals. It reduces students to the leavings of a No. 2 pencil.

School reform cannot be something that ostensibly smart, ostentatiously tough “superstar” superintendents do to a school system and the people who depend on it. Reform has to be something that is done with a community of teachers, students and parents — with honesty and, yes, a bit of old-fashioned humility.

 

By: Eugene Robinson, Opinion Writer, The Washington Post, April 1, 2013

April 3, 2013 Posted by | Education Reform, Educators | , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

What’s In The Compromise Spending Bill?

After a marathon four-day bill drafting session, the House Appropriations Committee early Tuesday morning unveiled compromise legislation to fund the federal government for the remainder of the fiscal year and cut $38.5 billion from current spending levels.

House Republican leaders struck a deal with Senate Democrats and the White House late Friday after pushing to cut $61 billion from current spending levels. GOP leaders hope to put the bill on the floor Wednesday, with Senate action expected Thursday. The current stopgap funding measure expires Friday.  

Overall, labor, health, and education programs received a $5.5 billion cut from last fiscal year’s level, including the cancellation of 55 programs for savings of more than $1 billion. The final legislation prevents 218,000 low-income children from being removed from Head Start and rejects education grant funding that would have cost approximately 10,000 jobs and reduced educational services to 1 million students, according to Senate Appropriations Committee summary.

Here’s where the spending cuts (and, in the case of Defense, the increases) come from:

  • TRANSPORTATION AND HOUSING. These programs would receive the largest cut under the compromise, $12.3 billion from fiscal 2010 levels, including a total of $2.9 billion in cuts for high-speed rail, $991 million in cuts to transit programs, and a $3.2 billion rescission of highway funding, including $630 million worth of old earmarks. The Department of Housing and Urban Development’s community development fund would get a $942 million cut.
  • SCIENCE. The continuing resolution also blocks funding for the establishment of a Climate Service at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration; for the approval of new fisheries catch-share programs in certain fisheries; and for NASA and the Office of Science and Technology Policy to engage in bilateral activities with China.
  • AGRICULTURE. Agriculture programs would see $3 billion in cuts from fiscal 2010, including a $10 million cut to food and safety inspection, but the plan allows “for uninterrupted meat, poultry, and egg products inspection activities of the” Agriculture Department, the committee said. The USDA’s Special Supplemental Feeding Program for Women, Infants, and Children, also known as WIC, received $6.75 billion, which is a $504 million cut from the fiscal 2010 level.
  • ENERGY. Energy and water programs were reduced by a relatively modest $1.7 billion. The bill funds the Army Corps of Engineers at the president’s request level of $4.9 billion and supports existing applications for renewable energy loan guarantees at the Department of Energy.
  • WASHINGTON, D.C. The compromise restores a long-standing provision against the use of federal and local funds for abortions in the District of Columbia, and includes the reauthorization of the D.C. Opportunity Scholarships, along with a $2.3 million funding increase, to stop the termination of the program and allow new students to participate.
  • HOMELAND SECURITY. A $784 million net reduction over last year, including a $786 million cut to Federal Emergency Management Agency first-responder grants and elimination of $264 million in funding that was previously targeted to earmarks.
  • DEFENSE. Funded at $513 billion in the CR, about $5 billion above last year. The bill also includes an additional $157.8 billion for overseas contingency operations (emergency funding).

By: Humberto Sanchez, National Journal, April 12, 2011

April 13, 2011 Posted by | Budget, Congress, Deficits, Economy, Education, Energy, Environment, Government, Health Care, Homeland Security, Jobs, Labor, Politics | , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

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