Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Green Stimulus

By Kathleen Rogers

A massive stimulus package of nearly $600 billion holds promise for the economy, and could mean more federal spending on infrastructure and energy efficiency projects. An estimated $400 billion in that bill will repair lots of bridges and roads, but what will they all lead to? Nothing -- unless we first start building bridges and roads between our economic, climate, and education concerns, and start appreciating the way they’re all connected.

New policy and stimulus needs to take into account that we’re not just trying to save our economy with roads, bridges, and buildings: We’re trying to save ourselves.


Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Can Common Ground Prevail?

By Cristina Page

When it comes to the abortion conflict in the U.S. a fascinating new consensus is emerging: the need for common ground. Americans, it seems, are weary of the acrimonious and seemingly endless fight. People want pro-choice and pro-life advocates to work together to reduce the need for abortion.


Monday, December 22, 2008

The Solution for Our Health Care Disaster

By Mary Ellen Bradshaw and George Pauk

It’s time for the big insurance companies, pharmaceutical companies, medical equipment and supply companies, for-profit hospitals and for-profit providers’ groups to stop obstructing real health reform.

There are 140 Arizona members of Physicians for a National Health Plan and many thousands more nationwide. We submit there is only one way to effectively address our country’s crisis in health care: the enactment of single-payer national health insurance, an expanded and improved Medicare for all.


Friday, December 19, 2008

The Wisdom of Pardons

By Kemba Smith

The nomination of Eric Holder as the next U.S. attorney general has renewed concerns about the end-of-term clemencies granted by President Clinton.

High-profile names such as Marc Rich grabbed headlines at the time, but many other people with no political influence benefited from the president's mercy.

I am one of those people.


Thursday, December 04, 2008

Helping Foster Children During the Holiday Season

By Harriet O’Neill

The holiday season is here. It’s a time for giving and also a good time to pause and reflect on the many blessings for which we are thankful.

As a parent, my children top the list. Every day I am grateful for the joy, and the challenges, they bring. Their safety and well-being are my first and last thoughts of the day. I am counting the hours until they return home for the holidays, eager to hear their voices, listen to their stories, and share their dreams. All across the nation, families are making preparations to connect with loved ones.

Think for a moment of what it would be like to have no one expecting you home; No one looking out the window awaiting your arrival; No one to lament if distance or circumstance prevent you from being there; No one to give thanks that you are part of their life.

Thousands of Texas children know that feeling all too well.


Sunday, November 30, 2008

The Power of the Latina Vote

By Jessica Gonzalez-Rojas

It is undeniable that the Latino vote had a tremendous impact on the election. Approximately 17.9 million Latinos are currently eligible to vote, 9.1 million of whom are women, and since 2004, the number of Latinos registered to vote has doubled.

Early exit polling suggests that Latinos overwhelmingly supported Obama, with 67 percent voting for Obama and 30 percent voting for McCain. According to the University of Massachusetts's Center for Women in Politics and Public Policy, Latinas have become increasingly engaged in politics, making up 5 percent of total voter turnout (Latino men made up 4 percent). Latino overall support for Obama became especially significant in the battleground states of Colorado, Florida, Nevada, New Mexico and Virginia; all of which have large and growing Latino populations, and all of which were carried by Obama. These statistics are just proof of the fact that the Latino vote matters more than ever before.


Friday, November 21, 2008

What the Unmarried Women’s Vote Means

By Page S. Gardner

More than a week after an historic election, political analysts still are sifting through the results, trying to figure out how different segments of society voted, why they cast their ballots as they did, and what their political preferences and patterns of participation mean for the future.

But three lessons are inescapably clear: The electorate that changed America reflects a changing America -- younger, more racially and ethnically diverse, and less likely to be married.


Thursday, November 20, 2008

Women fill Boston Globe’s Op-ed page

Today, the Boston Globe’s opinion-editorial page is comprised entirely of essays written by women. Since the Women’s Monitor began tracking its opinion pages, this is the first time the Boston Globe has run an op-ed page featuring only women. Back in March, we observed a similar occurrence in the New York Times, but only because the women were writing about Elliot Spitzer’s scandal. While an all-male op-ed page isn't an uncommon occurance, the all-woman day is so rare we always take notice. We applaud the newspapers for increasing the volume of women voices in the mainstream media and hope to see continued exposure.

It’s Time to Look at the Way We Vote

By Linda Brown

More than 112,000 voters in Maricopa County were forced to cast provisional ballots on Election Day. That is 16 percent of those that went to the polls, well more than the margin of victory for several races and ballot measures. We still don’t know how many of those were counted.

Was the turnout 72 percent, or was it higher? We have no way of knowing for sure. A good number of registered voters went to the polls and left without voting at all.

Arizona has been labeled by Mother Jones magazine as one of the worst places to vote in America. Polling places frequently move. It is estimated that nearly 40 percent of polling places in Maricopa County have shifted locations during each of the last two major election cycles.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Churches Won’t Lose Tax Exemptions for Performing Same Sex Marriages

By Patricia Cain

The proponents of Proposition 8 have unleashed an ad in which a law professor proclaims that unless marriage rights are denied to same-sex couples, churches risk losing their tax exemptions. The claim is pure nonsense and any lawyer who makes such a claim should apologize for misleading the many religious leaders and congregations in this state who, because they are not legal experts, rely on those of us who are.


Thursday, October 23, 2008

A Rescue Package for Working Women

By Ellen Bravo

Wall Street tycoons behave irresponsibly, bring the country to financial brink, hold out their hands for an eleven-figure bailout -- and lobbyists applaud that as a rescue.

Women achieve daily miracles fulfilling responsibilities to their employers and their families, ask for modest protections so they won’t be fired for having a sick kid -- and lobbyists denounce that as mandates.

What’s wrong with this picture?


Amendment 48 Goes Too Far

By Patricia Schroeder

My very first job after graduating from Harvard Law School was as a part-time lawyer for Planned Parenthood of the Rocky Mountains in Denver. I was working on cases related to expanding access to birth control to all couples regardless of their marital status. At the time the birth control pill was recently approved as safe, but it was not yet legal in all states for all women. The Supreme Court in 1965 established basic privacy rights to birth control, but only for women who could produce a marriage license.

Fast forward to 2008, 40 years later. In my worst nightmare, it never crossed my mind that voters in Colorado would be considering a constitutional amendment that could outlaw birth control pills.

Click Here to Watch the Video and Full Commentary

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Clean Energy Initiative Works for Missouri

By Erin Noble

This election Missouri voters will have the opportunity to secure clean, renewable energy and more energy independence for our state. Backed by the names of 163,000 Missourians, a statewide Clean Energy Initiative has been certified by the Secretary of State and will appear on the November ballot as Proposition C.

The initiative requires the investor-owned utilities Ameren, Kansas City Power & Light, Aquila, and Empire to obtain 15 percent of their electricity from renewable sources by 2021. The initiative defines renewable energy as wind, solar, biomass (not to be confused with corn ethanol) and small hydropower.


Monday, October 20, 2008

Affirmative Action: The Numbers Don’t Lie

By Deirdre Bowen , J.D., Ph.D

On November 4, Coloradoans are being asked to vote on the Colorado Civil Rights Initiative which proposes, among other things, to ban affirmative action in college admissions. Make no mistake in thinking that this proposal supports equality. Passage of Amendment 46 would be a giant step backwards.


Friday, October 17, 2008

Don’t Ignore the Constitution During Election Season

By Kathleen Taylor

America is in the midst of an election season, nearing an Election Day with what likely will be far-reaching consequences. Public interest is extraordinarily high, and candidates are debating many critical issues. Yet we have heard little or nothing about the Constitution and its Bill of Rights – the touchstone of our individual freedoms.

The most significant words of the U.S. Constitution may be the first three: “We the people.” Not “I the King,” not “I the Grand Religious Leader,” not even “I the elected President.” Our governing structure was created by the people, and ensuring that it works for the people is a continuing legal, moral, and political journey.


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Missouri Should Use Paper Ballots

By Cynthia Richards

As Election Day nears, it’s hard not having the new political thriller Cassandra, Chanting on my mind. Written by an anonymous “election world insider,” it is about a race to reveal a high-tech plan to fix the upcoming presidential election after warnings about the precariousness of electronic voting have gone unheeded.

The novel’s title is apt. Surely all of us in the election integrity movement who have been speaking out about the dangers of this technology have felt like the mythical Trojan seer. Being dismissed as half-baked lunatics goes with the territory -- no matter how well-founded our concerns are. Recently, however, many states have begun to listen, and have taken bold action to protect the vote. Unfortunately, Missouri isn’t among them.


Friday, October 10, 2008

Which Side Are You On?

By Ellen Bravo

It can happen anywhere.

Recently, I sat in a room in Milwaukee filled with people clutching Bibles and babies and spewing venom. They were visibly enraged.

Granted, there’s a lot to be angry about these days: the persistence of poverty in our community, the lack of resources for our children’s education, the number of people who can’t afford health care, the gang of hoodlums on Wall Street holding a gun to our heads, the fact that hard-working parents can be fired for staying home to care for a sick child, and the continuing number of soldiers in harm’s way.


Where do the Candidates Stand on Women’s Health

By Suzanne Petroni

We’re in the waning days of the Bush administration and the ideologues are working furiously to get in their last licks. Women, including the most underprivileged and poor in the world, are their target yet again.

A third of the world's population lives on less than $2 a day. The vast majority are women and children. Many are forced into marriage at 10 or 12 years of age. Many have six to 10 children, because they have no access to education or services, and no authority to decide on sexual matters in their marriages. As a result, more than 500,000 women die each year just because they get pregnant: they gave birth too young, too old, too often, or they live too far away from any trained health care provider. And increasingly, they are becoming infected with HIV/AIDS.


Wednesday, October 08, 2008

A Mom Before the Prom

By Cristina Page

Now that the national attention on Bristol Palin's pregnancy is fading (for the time being) it seems the only discussion it inspired was about John McCain's vetting process and, by extension, his decision-making abilities. But there is another far more important subject raised by the 17-year-old's pregnancy. For decades, teen pregnancy has been viewed as a problem, a danger to the children of young mothers and a hurdle to the success of the adolescent mothers.


Wednesday, October 01, 2008

When Your Child is Disciplined at School, Get Involved!

By Rebecca Lightsey

The excitement and optimism that accompany a new school year can fade quickly when a disciplinary problem surfaces at school.

School discipline is a serious matter -- particularly when it means that a student will be removed from the regular classroom for a long period of time, or when the court becomes involved.

It is serious for the student, whose permanent school or court record may be affected; it is serious for the parent, who must make sure that behavior problems are not undermining their child’s capacity to learn and that the school is applying discipline appropriately and equitably; and serious for the school, which must maintain a safe learning environment while constantly evaluating the long-term impacts of its disciplinary policies.


Monday, September 29, 2008

Protecting The Vote: Live From Main Street Columbus

By Laura Flanders

Voter registration deadlines are just over a week away in many states. Polls open in just over a month. In an election that could well be decided by new voters, voter registration efforts are in overdrive. But signing people up might be the easy part: after that, there's voting. As the last two elections have shown, just showing up at the polls isn't a guarantee of a smooth ride to the ballot box.

In 2000 and 2004, all across the country, thousands of voters were removed from the rolls, without their knowledge, in official purges of voter lists. On Election Day in 2004, boxes of registrations remained unprocessed in at least two cities we know about -- Cleveland and Toledo, Ohio. On the radio that election night, I received calls from Columbus voters who had stood for hours in line because of a shortage of voting machines in the inner city, even as, in nearby wealthy suburbs, voters were able to cast their votes in a matter of minutes. As one caller put it, "Jim Crow isn't dead."


Thursday, September 25, 2008

What’s That Smell? Burning Trash Isn’t Clean Fuel

By Debra Fastino and Lee Ketelsen

It’s commonly known that burning anything isn’t good for the environment, because whatever you incinerate doesn’t actually disappear. Wafting through the air, pollutants often become even greater health hazards. That is why Massachusetts took great strides toward a cleaner environment when it imposed a moratorium on new incinerators in 1989. The state made the right decision to emphasize recycling and waste reduction, which is far better for the environment and the economy than burning garbage.

The policy still makes sense today, considering what we know about climate change and the need for clean energy. However, Governor Patrick’s administration is now looking into lifting the ban on new incinerators. Such a move would tarnish our state's efforts to clean up the environment with clouds of toxic smoke.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Revitalizing Our Communities and the Environment

By Susan Estep and Bethanie Walder

After all those fights over “jobs versus the environment,” people have finally realized that the color of money and the color of environmental protection are on and the same: green.

The emerging green economy is all the rage in political and media circles, and especially in discussions about how to fix the ailing economy while also fixing some of our energy/climate problems. But this new economy, at least as currently envisioned, is quite urban, and energy focused. What about rural America? What about forests, rivers, grasslands, and deserts that need restoration, and the economic benefits of that?

We’ve spent more than a century extracting resources from our public lands and it’s time to invest some resources back into these special places.


Tuesday, September 23, 2008

All Chicagoans Should Benefit from Olympics, Not Just a Privileged Few

By Jay Travis and Diane Doherty

Eulonda Cooper is in the eye of the storm. A spirited, hard-working mother of four who lives in an affordable rental unit in the Kenwood Oakland community, she is being denied the safety and security that any hard-working American deserves. She sits on the local school council of two elementary schools and is a member of the Kenwood Oakland Community Organization.

In a community that has rapidly gentrified since the mid-90s, she is concerned about the impact the Olympics would have on the price of housing in her neighborhood. Many of the people she knew in the neighborhood are gone; priced out due to escalating rents or moved out due to the CHA Plan for Transformation, which resulted in the loss of over 3,000 rental units. "The Olympics cannot be used as a tool to finally push all of us out. I want my children to live in stable, quality housing in this neighborhood." For her, the fear that the Olympics could mean very real.


Monday, September 22, 2008

Building a Foundation for Success

By Sharen Hausmann

A new school year is underway and with it brings continued hope and excitement, particularly for the youngest of learners.

For many children though, that excitement is replaced by nervousness -- they are not ready for school.

By most national estimates, about a third of the children who are starting school aren’t ready. Unfortunately, by the time they reach third grade, many of these students will still be falling short of what their schools expect them to be learning.

As they make their way through grade school, middle school, and high school, many under-achieving youngsters will continue to lag behind what their classmates are achieving and their schools are requiring. Worse yet, they will fall far short of what the job market will be demanding at a time when the new economy places a premium on high skills and the ability to adapt to new technologies.


Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Important Life Decisions Are Private Family Matters

By Friedrike Merck

Sarah Palin and I have a lot in common. We were athletes and both became hockey Moms, we have held public office in small towns, we like to fish, (I am proud of my marksmanship skills but just can't seem to rustle up what it takes to shoot for sport one of God's creatures), we both have a can-do attitude and serious spiritual lives but we disagree when it comes to matters of privacy and family planning.

Maybe it's my independent New England roots or the tolerant Quaker in me that planted the simple belief that personal choices across a range of important life decisions, like when to have children, are absolutely a private family matter. The choices other people make about the size and timing of their family is never anyone else's business to talk about. Where I come from that’s called gossip. Neither is it anyone else's business how a family chooses to cope with the issues of dignity in dying, that's morbid prying. It is no one's right, in this country at least, to insist that there is only one way to believe in or to name a Higher Power, that there is only one way to honor the sanctity of life, that's the kind of holier than thou attitude that drove our ancestors from distant lands to this place of hope for individual liberty.


Tuesday, September 16, 2008

Using Pseudo-science At HHS

By Kathleen C. Barry

I thought the battle for women's rights had largely been won but the extremists are coming out of the closet with their real agenda, the assault on birth control. This fringe has won converts for its warped pseudo-science at the Department of Health and Human Services, where a proposed rule would codify that anyone receiving federal funding could not be required to provide birth control under the basis that it might violate their religious views.

The new rules would mean that all health care providers -- including pharmacists and medical staff at hospitals and clinics, medical schools and even family planning centers -- could refuse to provide all forms of contraception. Women’s rights are being put at the whim of their providers who could now claim a “conscience” clause to refuse to cover birth control in medical plans or provide pregnancy prevention to rape victims.


Georgia is Pushing Gun Law Boundaries in Wrong Direction

By Alice Johnson

A few months ago, Georgia made it legal for people with permits to carry firearms in a concealed manner into state parks and recreational areas, onto public transportation and into restaurants that serve alcohol.

The General Assembly passed these very serious public safety provisions even though no committee ever held a meeting about them. There was no scrutiny by any professional law enforcement personnel or restaurant owners, never any opportunity for public comment.

The language was added in a conference committee on the last day of the session -- a committee that met without posting any notices, in a room in the basement of the Capitol, without openness or oversight. And 60 percent of legislators voted for it two hours before the session ended on the most hectic and chaotic day, as the clock wound toward midnight and the end of the General Assembly for another year.

Currently, the Senate Firearms Law Study Committee is preparing to remove what is left of the “public gathering” section that the new law decimated -- making it possible for firearms to be carried in churches, in schools, on college campuses and in government-owned buildings. Their plan is to allow carrying concealed handguns anywhere, at any time, by anyone who can pass a fingerprint background check and pay the $15 application fee the state requires.

Does it make sense to do these things? Is there a public safety imperative that justifies these changes in the law? Can we trust a permit holder to shoot straight, know safety rules and practice emotional good judgment when no training is required to get a permit? Why do these kinds of crazy bills get passed?


Severe Poverty Hiding Behind the Brighter Headlines

By Carol Spruill

The Census Bureau recently announced the good news that the official poverty rate in 2007 was "not statistically different" from 2006.

But upon digging deeper into the Census Bureau’s full 71-page report the “not statistically different” poverty rate was an overall national increase from 12.3 percent to 12.5 percent. This meant that the number of additional people living on incomes below the poverty line in this country had increased in one year by over 800,000.


Thursday, September 11, 2008

Why North Carolina Needs A Pay Equity Study

By Polly Williams

The recent passage of the Paycheck Fairness Act in the U.S. House of Representatives has drawn national attention to the continuing disparity between women’s earnings and men’s. Equal pay for equal work is fair -- we all seem to agree on that -- yet women’s wages continue to lag behind. The gender gap has narrowed so that women now make 77 percent of what men do, yet even recent gains for women only appear because men’s average earnings rate went down.

Since our state government, with about 90,000 employees, is North Carolina’s largest employer, wage disparities between men and women are, or should be, of prime concern to legislators. Yet The Studies Act of 2008 failed to include the proposed Pay Equity Study Commission. The proposal would have resulted in a study of wage disparities by both gender and race. Four such proposals have been introduced in recent years, without result.


Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Art Drives the Vote in Missouri

By Sue McCollum

It’s a bird! It’s a plane! It’s a giant squid?

When you look up in the sky while driving Missouri’s highways during the next few weeks, don’t be surprised if you see something unusual. You won’t catch a glimpse of Superman, but you may encounter a giant squid brandishing gas pump nozzles like a six shooter, Captain America or a field of sunflowers--all super-sized images with one central message: to encourage Missourians to register and vote in this November’s election.

Featuring the work of eight contemporary artists, 70 billboards with the language, “Vote: Your Future Depends On It” and, began appearing across Missouri in the beginning of September. Look for the billboards on major highways across the state and in urban areas like Kansas City, Springfield, Cape Girardeau, Hannibal, St. Louis, Kirksville and Columbia. The billboards are sponsored by Art the Vote, an initiative of the Missouri Billboard Project, which is using art to inspire voter registration and voting in this November’s election.

The billboard images, sometimes subtle, sometimes provocative, reflect the artists’ thoughts on many of the key issues facing our state and nation, including fuel prices, the environment and the war. The billboards were created by seven nationally renowned artists and the winner of an Art the Vote online billboard competition. Four of the artists are Missourians--Tom Huck, Peregrine Honig, May Tveit and competition winner Karen Kay. The other artists, Annette Lemieux, Willie Cole, Mark Newport and Martha Rosler are known for their political artwork.

Like all art, the images on the billboards may receive mixed reviews. Some may like it. Some may not. But, whether you like the art or not, we all can agree on the importance of the billboard’s message and the artists’ desire to inspire young voters to register and vote this fall.


The Politics of Teenage Pregnancy

By Joan Lamunyon Sanford

Much has been said about 17 year-old Bristol Palin’s pregnancy and the so-called “right” decision she made to choose parenting over abortion. But we should remember that what is the right decision for Bristol may not be the right decision for all young women with an unplanned pregnancy.

Bristol is fortunate to have loving parents who support her decision, and all of our youth deserve the same. Loving parents who will support them in whatever decision they make. Sadly, this is not always true.


Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Listen Up! America’s Families Demand Action

By Luz A. Vega-Marquis

In McAllen, Texas, Martha Sanchez doesn't dare drink the water that runs out of the tap, for fear of getting sick. In Augusta, Georgia, Sunny Johnson, a single mother of two, thinks that working full-time as a certified nursing assistant should earn her a wage that puts her above the poverty line. (It doesn't.) In San Francisco, California, Cathleen Muhammad wants justice and good health for her children, who appear to have been made seriously ill by exposure to asbestos from a nearby construction site.

These three stories exemplify the different struggles families are facing in America today; meanwhile we have 37 million people -- 7.7 million families -- living in poverty.


Thursday, August 07, 2008

E-Verify: A Flawed Approach to Immigration Reform

By Suzanne Brown

The federal government has continually failed to address fundamental, structural problems with the country’s broken immigration system. Missouri’s leadership hasn’t done us any favors either by approving the Illegal Aliens and Immigration Status Verification law. This law does not adequately deal with Congress’ failures to provide options for employers to hire legal workers or to keep families together because an “enforcement-only” approach is not a viable solution.

There are three main problems with the new law.


Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Hiroshima, Nagasaki, and Tehran

By Rev. Amanda Hendler-Voss

This week the words of Wendell Berry come to mind: “We concluded in 1945, after our atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, that we had made war ‘unthinkable’ -- and we have gone on thinking of it, preparing for it, fighting it, suffering and profiting from it ever since.” Who could have imagined, in the midst of a disastrous war in Iraq, that we would be in such desperate need of remembering Hiroshima and Nagasaki? After all, war is utterly destructive and incredibly costly -- win, lose or draw.

And yet, according to former chief UN weapons inspector Scott Ritter, “the war between the United States and Iran is on.” More than 230 members of Congress are co-sponsoring a proposal, which includes language that sounds an awful lot like a unilateral naval blockade of Iran -- deemed by the UN to constitute an act of war unless sanctioned by a Security Council resolution. And in case you missed it, Congress already approved $400 million to fund a major escalation of covert operations against Iran (which may include a major air attack and a nuclear option).


Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Title IX: Ensures Equality In Education

By Janet Bandows Koster (pictured on left) and Betty Shanahan

Recent efforts by federal agencies to verify university compliance with Title IX are under scrutiny. Some claim Title IX compliance reviews are a “new” way to apply the law to science, technology, engineering and mathematics (STEM), but this law has been applicable to all educational programs receiving federal funds for 36 years. Title IX compliance can open the doors to the so-called “male-typical pursuits” in STEM fields to women, just as equal opportunity mandates have done for once-closed careers of firefighters, police officers and military personnel.

Title IX of the Education Amendments of 1972 prohibits sex-based discrimination in education programs and activities receiving federal financial assistance. It requires gender equity for boys and girls, men and women in every educational program that receives federal funding - not just in college sports. It also authorizes and directs federal funding agencies to implement the provisions of the law.

A 2004 Government Accountability Office report noted that the federal agencies have not discharged their obligations to ensure that educational institutions comply with the statues. In fact, most only passively receive statements of compliance with Title IX -- usually in the form of a pro forma assertion.

Title IX compliance reviews can help to confirm that academic institutions receiving federal funding establish a climate that ensures a representation of women in STEM disciplines that reflects their level of interest. Any difference in participation, then, is a result of the personal interests of women and not due to environmental factors that discourage them from entering or remaining in these fields.

There have been several recent articles arguing that women don't want to be scientists and engineers, and that those of us advocating for more women in these fields are not acknowledging innate gender-specific career inclinations. In fact, the problems encountered by women considering a STEM career vary by discipline. The low number of women earning degrees in physics, chemistry, computer science and engineering is often attributed to a lack of interest, but the fact that many women with excellent academic performance enter but later abandon these fields suggests otherwise.


Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Railroading Immigrants…and the Constitution

By Kathleen Walker

Federal immigration officials swept into Postville, Iowa in May and detained nearly 400 workers at a kosher meat processing plant. Swiftly, local enforcement and U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency arrested, charged with crimes, extracted pleas, and sentenced 297 of these individuals by the end of the following week. Apparently, this shock and awe strategy was specially designed to drop the hammer on undocumented workers doing backbreaking jobs under reportedly sub-optimal conditions.


Wednesday, July 23, 2008

HHS Proposal Undercuts State Birth Control Laws

By Cristina Page

The Bush administration's Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) has been called "ground zero for the ideological wars in this country," and a new HHS proposal leaked this week proves why. In a spectacular act of complicity with extremists on the right, HHS is proposing to allow any federal grant recipient to obstruct a woman's access to contraception.

The American public is nearly unanimous in supporting contraception: 90 percent favor wide availability for birth control, and 90 percent of sexually active women of reproductive age are using it. It is simple common sense: the average woman spends nearly three decades of her life attempting to be sexually active without getting pregnant, and access to contraception is the only proven way to avoid an unintended pregnancy.


Thursday, July 17, 2008

G8 to Poor Women: Let Them Eat Dirt

By Yifat Susskind

Last week, leaders of the world’s richest countries, the Group of Eight (G8), met to chart the course of the global economy at the luxurious Windsor Hotel Toya Resort and Spa in Toyako, Japan. While President Bush and his colleagues discussed world hunger over a six-course lunch, women in Haiti were preparing cakes of dirt for their children’s dinner.

Eating dirt, mixed with salt and vegetable shortening, is the latest coping strategy of Haitian mothers trying to quiet hungry children in a year when the cost of rice (Haiti’s staple food) has risen nearly 150 percent.


Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Creating a Stronger, Safer Juvenile Justice System

By Frances Deviney

Texas’ juvenile justice system is necessary and critical for protecting our citizens and helping to rehabilitate troubled youth. Unfortunately, it has not done either very well in recent years.


Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Rebate Checks Alone Won’t Rebuild the Economy

By Blanca Rojas

As millions of Americans receive their tax rebate checks in the mail, the government is waiting to see whether this cash infusion will trigger a mass spending spree. Supporters believe this strategy will create rebate-fueled purchasing power that will give consumers the confidence they need to purchase that new flat-screen TV or simply pay off their overdue bills, jolting the economy back to life in the process.

The problem with this scenario is that no one can predict whether the rebate checks will do the job. Rebate checks are only one piece of the economic recovery equation; Congress must also create a growth package that contains proven initiatives for pulling the country out of a recession. This package should include four things: an expansion of unemployment insurance, a temporary increase in food stamp benefits, increased aid to state and local governments, and investment in infrastructure projects that would immediately put people to work.


Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Eating American on the Fourth of July

By Rinku Sen

On this Fourth of July, I will be eating hot dogs. While I was trying to fit in as an Indian immigrant child throughout the 1970's, they represented the quintessential American food. I begged my mother to let me have them for dinner every night instead of chicken curry and rice. She nixed the hotdogs but sometimes allowed spaghetti and meatballs -- straight from a can. Hotdogs were "invented" by German immigrants serving their traditional sausages in the hustling streets of the new world, and spaghetti, everyone knows, came from Italy. If I had been celebrating Independence Day 150 years ago, however, neither would have been on the menu. In those days, Germans and Italians weren't considered Americans, or even white. When they fought over the most lucrative street corner for food vendors in the 1880's, the press reported these incidents as "race riots."

I'll be sharing this holiday with a group of restaurant workers, largely immigrants. Along with the hotdogs, we'll have tacos, samosas, falafel. According to one side of the immigration debate, we can keep our goodies to ourselves. America doesn't want them, or us.


Monday, June 30, 2008

No Girls Allowed In Golf

It turns out that the Augusta National Golf Club in Georgia isn’t the only “no girls allowed” golf club. Veronica at WorkItMom points to a New York Times article about Phoenix, Arizona country club, where women’s weren’t allowed in the men’s dining room.
Women at the club are not permitted to have lunch in the men’s grill room with their husbands after a round of golf; they have been barred from trophy ceremonies after tournaments, even ones they have sponsored, and may not participate in one of the most sacred rituals of the men’s grill room — sealing a deal over a beer with a client.
Of course separate but equal, right?
“The ladies’ grill is a very small room where a bunch of little old ladies gather to play cards,” said Wanda Diethelm, a health care executive. “And if you make any noise, they shush you.”
The fact is most so-called "private clubs" aren't private at all -- and instead benefit from companies that get tax benefits to underwrite the clubs. As Veronica writes:
These clubs may not have to be fair, but the companies that we work for do. They should not be allowed to pay for memberships to any group that discriminates and certainly should not encourage workers to take clients to discriminatory places either. We’re not that far from the time when business meetings were held at strip clubs too.
Martha Burk of course has been writing and protesting about this injustice for years but few people have been listening. It seems that even the spouses of the women of Phoenix Country Club, can’t even advocate for change without having their lockers defaced. The spouses should consider themselves lucky. Martha's gotten death threats.

--Rachel Joy Larris

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Bias in Cocaine Sentencing Remains

By Kara Gotsch

Willie Mays Aikens was not a drug kingpin, but he received a kingpin-sized sentence for selling crack cocaine. A former Kansas City Royal and 1980 World Series record holder, Aikens received a 21-year sentence for selling 63 grams of crack. At the end of his baseball career he had become addicted to powder cocaine but had no previous record for drug distribution when an undercover officer asked him to sell the drugs that led to his lengthy incarceration in 1994. This month Aikens received a sentence reduction after 14 years in prison -- authorized due to the U.S. Sentencing Commission’s determination that penalties for crack cocaine offenses are unnecessarily harsh. He returned to his major league hometown, Kansas City, to enter a halfway house, and hopes to soon reunite with his daughters, who live in Mexico with their mother.

Aikens’s release coincides this month with the 22-year anniversary of the death of Len Bias, another prominent sports figure who played basketball at the University of Maryland. His legendary cocaine overdose on the night he was drafted by the Boston Celtics launched the punitive legislative reaction by Congress that would later subject Aikens to a stiff mandatory sentence for selling crack cocaine.


Friday, June 06, 2008

Food Policies Leave People Hungry

By Yifat Susskind

This week the U.N. convened world leaders in Rome to hammer out solutions to the food crisis. Once again policy leaders are forgetting that food is about people. Over the past few months, 30 countries have been wracked by food riots. The government of Haiti has been toppled. Rice reserves in the Philippines are now under armed guard. And U.S. corporate agribusinesses have a starring role in this disaster. Farmers in poor countries have gone broke by the millions because they can't compete with the artificially low prices of U.S. food imports.

Take Mexico, for example. Under the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), the U.S. demanded that Mexico open up its markets to cheap U.S. corn. Since NAFTA took effect, U.S. corn exports to Mexico have tripled, flooding the Mexican market and causing domestic corn prices to drop by more than 70 percent. As a result, most of the country’s 15 million corn farmers have gone from being poor -- but getting by -- to watching their children go hungry. Mexican President Felipe Calderon explains the food crisis in his country as a direct outcome of U.S. food policy.

The same story is repeated in nearly every country where the food crisis is raging. Millions of rural families from Colombia to Cameroon have been forced to go from growing their own food to buying imported staple items, putting them at the mercy of global markets. In the past year, the costs of basics like corn, rice, and wheat has doubled and tripled. Farming families whose livelihoods were destroyed by U.S. agribusiness can no longer afford to buy food from these same companies. That injustice -- not any absolute “food shortage” -- is at the heart of today’s crisis.


The Anti-Family Planning Movement: Coming to a Bedroom Nearest You

By Cristina Page

Like lawn ornaments in summer, protesters outside the local abortion clinic are fixtures in many places in the United States today.

Their presence and message have long been so predictable that, without looking or listening, people believe they understand the point. And so you might not notice that the protest taking place outside your local clinic today has fundamentally changed.

It is no longer about abortion. June 7 is the anniversary of Griswold v Connecticut, the 1965 Supreme Court decision that granted married people the right to use contraception. To mark the day, anti-abortion groups are taking to their normal posts outside clinic entrances not to convince Americans to oppose abortion but rather to stop using contraception.

The national campaign is called "Protest the Pill Day 08'" and it is organized by several leading anti-choice groups including the American Life League and Pharmacists for Life. The groups’ website is full of unscientific, medically inaccurate information.

Anti-contraception activism has been working its way up the priority list of the anti-choice movement in the United States in recent years and today's campaign is one of the most organized and visible displays of this broadening agenda.

Currently, there is not one pro-life organization in the U.S. that supports contraception. In fact, the multi-pronged attack against the right to use contraception is led entirely by anti-abortion groups. Their initiatives (to name just a few) include opposing health insurance of contraception, urging pharmacists to deny women's birth control prescriptions, and attempting (with no scientific rationale) to reclassify the birth control pill, and all other hormonal forms of contraception, as abortion methods with the goal of banning them. This represents an important and frightening shift in focus by the anti-abortion movement.

Despite the fact that contraception is the only proven way to prevent unwanted pregnancy and reduce abortion rates, anti-choice groups would forgo these benefits, and even risk dramatically increasing abortion rates, in favor of a larger, more insidious goal: changing Americans' sex lives.

As the American Life League, the nation's largest pro-life educational organization, explains in its materials, "The American Life League denies the moral acceptability of artificial birth control and encourages each individual to trust in God, to surrender to His will, and to be predisposed to welcoming children." The American Life League prefers to put the choices in the hands of God, a choice they want to impose on everyone. "It must be clear that couples understand that when they ask God to not send them another child just now they are also saying, ‘If it is Your will to send us another child at this time, we praise You for Your divine providence,’” the group says.

Buoyed by their success in rolling back abortion rights, these groups seek nothing less than a complete American lifestyle makeover: sex can't ever exclude the possibility of procreation. But instead of convincing Americans to see things their way, groups like the American Life League have decided the more expeditious path is to attack the right to use contraception.

The right to use contraception is relatively new: the Griswold decision was rendered in 1965 and Supreme Court granted single people the right to use contraception as recent as 1972. But the changes these decisions set in motion now form a list of what Americans won't live without. Today, 95 percent of people have sex before marrying. Indeed, studies show that most Americans in a relationship are having sex, on average, once a week. The typical American female is fertile for approximately 30 years of her life. For about 23 of those years she is trying not to get pregnant. Much of our lifestyle, and the architecture of our most intimate relationships, is rooted in family planning. And we should be grateful for this.

In the 1950s, when there was no sex education, no birth control, no legal abortion (the exact legislative agenda of today's pro-life movement!) teen birth rates soared and have not been equaled since. Today, the rate of teen motherhood, not coincidentally, has been reduced by more than half.

The right to plan your family to the size you want and can support is a cherished, and frequently exercised, American family value. So, the next time you pass by the protest outside your local clinic listen carefully: their real target is your way of life.

Page is the author of How the Pro-Choice Movement Saved America: Freedom, Politics and the War on Sex and spokesperson for
Copyright (C) 2008 by the American Forum. 6/08

Thursday, June 05, 2008

Immigration Raids Lead U.S. to a Moral, Legal Crisis

By Raquel Aldana

Postville, Iowa has been turned into a ghost town. Nearly a third of its residents, mostly undocumented workers from Guatemala and Mexico, sit in jail convicted of identity crimes or awaiting deportation. Hundreds more hide in fear. Their children, too scared to go to school, have left the town’s classrooms nearly empty. For this, Postville should thank their local police, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement Agency (ICE), and a failed immigration policy.

Aided by local law enforcement, ICE arrested 389 workers during the largest single-site immigration raid in U.S. history at the Postville meatpacking plant, the area’s major employer. In an unprecedented move, ICE criminally charged 302 of these workers with aggravated ID theft and/or using false social security numbers. Within days, ICE resolved their fate: 297 men and women pled guilty and were sentenced to prison and subsequent deportation. Only a few await criminal trials or immigration hearings.

Postville is one of the latest in a series of immigration raids that have intensified in the past three years. These raids are leading our nation to a moral, legal and humanitarian crisis.


Thursday, May 08, 2008

Unfinished Business on Women's Issues

By Polly Williams

With the General Assembly about to start its “short session” – it is important to remind the legislature of its unfinished business on issues of women’s equality.

North Carolina Women United’s recently released report card on the 2007 legislature is a good assessment of what was accomplished in 2007 – and a blueprint for what needs to happen on some issues in the upcoming session.

While the report focuses on women, the truth is that many of these measures benefit men as well. What is good for women and families also benefits everybody.

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Playing Political Games In Doctors’ Offices

By Kellie Freeman Rohrbaugh

Over 700,000 Missourians don’t have access to adequate health care coverage. The fact that women experience this disparity more intensely than men, is further compounded if they live in rural Missouri. Politicians in Jefferson City just don’t understand the struggles of women and families living in “outstate Missouri.”

In order to access health care, rural Missouri women make an appointment, often well in advance, make sure they have time off work and childcare, and then fill the gas tank for the long ride into the doctor’s office. The last thing anyone wants to deal with is more politicians and lawyers telling them how and when to talk to their doctor.


Monday, May 05, 2008

Many Women Unaware of Access to Emergency Contraception

By Alison Mondi

Since emergency contraception was approved by the FDA in 1998, Washington’s pharmacists and lawmakers have led the nation in ensuring that women have access to this safe and effective form of birth control. Yet many women are still unaware of the many resources and programs our state provides to ensure that they can access Plan B.

The FDA approved Plan B for over-the-counter sales to women over the age of 18 in 2006. However few women are aware that Washington passed a law in 1998 allowing pharmacists to dispense emergency contraception without a doctor's prescription. This program -- known as Pharmacy Access -- allows all women, regardless of age, to obtain Plan B without a prescription at participating pharmacies and goes a long way toward removing the age-barrier to over-the-counter Plan B access.


Thursday, May 01, 2008

Fair Wage Engenders Basic Human Dignity

By C. Melissa Snarr, Ph.D.

The United States first introduced minimum-wage legislation in the midst of the Great Depression. Recognizing the failures of unregulated markets, the nation chose to draw a moral line below which no market economy could fall; desperate people should not be required to work at desperation wages.

Citizen-emboldened politicians understood taking advantage of people's economic vulnerability was morally unconscionable, even amid economic turmoil.


Monday, April 28, 2008

Juan’s Story: Undocumented But Not Un-American

By Sally Kohn

The first thing I noticed about Juan when I met him is his presence. For a young man, just graduated from high school --- that period when most of us were shy and awkward at best --- Juan is confident and vocal, the kind of person with clear potential to be a leader in whatever field he might choose.

The second thing you notice about Juan is the sadness in his eyes. His country, the only home he has ever known, decided his potential is irrelevant --- that no amount of talent and passion and vision and drive could ever overcome the fact that he and his family once crossed our nation’s borders without permission. It’s as though Juan the person doesn’t exist without Juan the paperwork. In our country, he’s treated as a number --- one to be reduced or feared.

Read more and watch a video of Juan telling his story...

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Who Really Pays for Taxes in North Carolina

By Meg Gray Wiehe

Two workers arrive at the office at 8 am. By 8:34, one of the workers has earned enough money to pay his share of state and local taxes for the day. The other worker must keep going for another 17 minutes to earn enough to pay his share. The difference between these two workers is their income, but not in the way you make think.

In North Carolina today, it is the state’s poorest taxpayers who pay the highest share of their incomes in state and local taxes and the wealthiest taxpayers who pay the least.

State and local taxes pay for many of the things that keep North Carolinians safe and enhance their quality of life. These include physical structures like roads, jails, and school buildings, and services like health care, education, and restaurant inspections.

Because these investments benefit everyone, each North Carolinian should contribute an appropriate share of his or her income to pay for them. It should be a common goal that all North Carolinians pay similar shares of their incomes in state and local taxes. A good case can also be made that wealthier taxpayers should contribute a greater share of their incomes.


Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Mind the Pay Gap

By Mary Beth Maxwell

Recent headlines reveal what many of us already know -- Americans are witnessing the highest inflation rates seen in over 20 years. According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, food prices climbed nearly five percent in 2007, and as housing and energy costs skyrocket out of control, working families are getting squeezed. In these difficult times, we should also be reminded that women face even greater financial struggles when weathering this economic storm.

With the observance of Equal Pay Day on April 24, we mark how far into each year a woman must work to earn as much as a man did in the previous year. Recent wage data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics does not give cause for celebration. In 2007, women earned only 80 cents for every dollar a man earned. This pay gap was substantially greater for minorities, with African-American women making only 70 cents and Hispanic women making only 62 cents for every dollar earned by their male counterparts. While women are more reluctant to negotiate salaries and are often employed in underpaid professions, one grim reality remains -- gender-based discrimination still inherent in our society has largely caused the pay gap that persists today.