Monday, August 13, 2012

Kelly urged to do his job

I recently had a letter to the editor published in my local newspaper (Erie Times News) regarding Congressman Kelly's reference to the Affordable Care Act being a "day that will live in infamy." Enjoy!

"A day that will live in infamy?" Are you kidding me? Our congressman, Mike Kelly, said that Aug. 1, 2012, will be such a day because that is when the contraceptive portion of the Affordable Care Act went into effect and the attack that it presents on religious freedom.

I criticized Erie County Executive Barry Grossman a couple of years ago about using that phrase in regard to the community college being voted down and when I saw that the congressman said it, I was appalled. There are many facets to that statement that are wrong.

First is the use of that hallowed phrase. It is used to describe horrific events that have great loss of life and change the way we think and act as a community or country, like the attack on Pearl Harbor, 9/11 attacks, Columbine, Virginia Tech and Aurora, Colo. The implementation of a law is not a horrific event on this country, especially one like the Affordable Care Act. That brings me to my next point.

Congressman Kelly said the law is an attack on religious freedom. I did not realize that companies and businesses were suddenly people with constitutionally protected rights. Businesses can't impose their religious beliefs on their employees and should not deny their employees access to certain types of health care. And it does not force anybody to get the coverage, just makes it more widely available.

I have a piece of advice for Mr. Kelly: Rather than make these outlandish false statements, do the job that the people of the Pennsylvania's 3rd District elected you to do. I have yet to see a jobs bill, legitimate budget and a plan to get the country back on track. Instead, it has been endless bills about abortion, giving the wealthiest more tax cuts and threatening to push the country to the brink of economic collapse.

Congressman Kelly, do your job!

Monday Memes

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

The CRA: Christian Republic of America

(Disclaimer: I am a Christian and this is in no way supposed to generalize all Christians, but rather point out and criticize the radical factions on the Right and the implications they could have on the country.)

Welcome to the Christian Republic of America, or at least that’s what the conservative Christians on the right want to have. That’s right, a theocracy where the law of the land is based on Biblical law, much like the Islamic Republic of Iran and their Sharia Law. But Robert, you’re thinking, that’s crazy talk. The Establishment Clause of the First Amendment separates church and state to prevent such a thing from happening. But’s that not what the Republicans are saying. Sarah Palin said back in 2010, “Go back to what our founders and our founding documents meant -- they're quite clear -- that we would create law based on the God of the bible and the Ten Commandments.” Rick Santorum earlier this year advocated for Judeo-Christian Sharia Law saying, “our civil laws have to comport with a higher law: God's law.” What Palin and Santorum don’t realize is that the Founding Fathers did not want religion and government to mix. Their beloved Thomas Jefferson, one of the most brilliant men this country has ever seen was in fact an atheist and advocated strongly for the separation of church and state. The Constitution in fact makes no reference to God or Christianity except the reference to religion in the First Amendment, giving everyone the freedom to practice as they wish and the government cannot establish an official state religion. Simple enough, right? Apparently not. Republicans use religion as an argument for banning same-sex marriage, and somehow get away with it. Their justification for banning it is that it protects the sanctity of marriage. Except sanctity means holiness, which means religious. Therefore their argument is unconstitutional and those laws should be stripped from the books, except they won’t be. And that puts us one step closer to a theocracy, the Christian Republic of America

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The State of Public Education in the US

"Out of the public school grows the greatness of a nation" - Mark Twain
Nothing is truer than that quote by Mark Twain. This country was founded on the principles of freedom and the ability to make something of yourself, no matter what your background in life is. Presidents Andrew Jackson and Abraham Lincoln were born and raised in humble life styles before achieving their greatness and that same value continues today with President Obama, the son of a single mother, working his way through school, to one day become the first African-American president in this great country. One of the principles that have made this country great is the premise that every citizen, no matter the economic class or family history, has the right to a free and fair public education. The first public school in this country opened its doors before we were even an independent nation, the Syms-Eaton Academy in Virginia in 1634. Unfortunately though, the public education system is under attack currently by who else, the Republican Party.
Ever since President Carter established the Department of Education in 1979, Republicans have wanted to defund and/or dismantle it, saying it should be up to the states to regulate education. That notion is fine, but with fifty different states, there would be fifty different standards of education rather than one unifying standard across the country, as is the current dilemma the Department is trying to remedy. Creating a national standard of what should be taught will put our country back on the right path to being a dominating force the in the global economy, set us back on the track to exploring more of space, and make us the technology leader we used to be before the 1980s. The Republicans don’t see it that way though, they think deregulating schools will make them more competitive, which is a blatant falsehood.

The problem is though, while the Republicans in Washington want to pass the problem off to the states, Republicans in governor’s mansions and state assemblies also don’t want to deal with it. In Pennsylvania, Governor Corbett has drastically cut the funding to public schools since he was elected in 2010. School districts have had to make draconian cuts in their budgets, layoff scores of teachers, and close down schools to make ends meet. Teachers in the bankrupt Chester Upland School District have been working for free since the first of the year after their district ran out of money and the state refused to step in and help. Last year the Erie School District laid off 200 teachers, 20% of the teachers in the district, in order to close a $26 million budget deficit.  This year the district is closing three elementary schools and evaluating other steps that can be taken in order to close the budget hole. Meanwhile, Governor Corbett also cut funding to the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education, which oversees fourteen universities in Pennsylvania. Consequently, tuition increases are likely at these schools, whose low rates attract lower and middle income students. These students will either go deeper into debt trying to get an education or else just drop out of college all together. Corbett has done this while continuing to refuse to tax the Marcellus Shale gas drilling, which could solve and funding issues.

We need to reinvest in education in this country. Our schools are crumbling, filled with outdated textbook, obsolete technology, and teachers lacking the resources needed to take their students to the next level. We need to not only pump up reading, writing and math, but also physical and social sciences and the arts. We currently rank #25 in the world for math and science scores. Since No Child Left Behind went into effect almost a decade ago, the arts have been gutted from public school because the funded was redirected into meeting the asinine standardized tests so school could meet Annual Yearly Progress. Thankfully NCLB is coming to an end as President Obama has authorized that states can opt out of the program and set their own process up. Once NCLB is completely scrapped, education can once again begin to blossom and our country can be the top of world again. Just remember this quote I found my student teaching advisor’s office door: “Those who can, teach. Those who can’t, make laws about teaching.”

Monday, March 26, 2012

War on Women's Health: a follow up

Last week I wrote on the Republican Party's "War on Women's Health". Well, as it turns out, there is more craziness out there. The Arizona state legislature was debating a bill that would allow empoyers to fire female employees just because they use birth control. That's right, Arizona wants to give employers the right to intrude on their employees medical records and use them to fire an employee if they take a certain medication. Luckily that bill is dead in the state legislature, so it will not reach the governor's desk. What those people fail to realize is that there are other uses for birth control, other than the obvious.

A really close friend of mine at the Biologist's Madness blog recently did an article about the medicinal uses for birth control (Get the Facts Before you Judge). It can be used for women who suffer from polycystic ovary syndrome, endometriosis, dysmenorrhea, and other less sever conditions like acne. Since I am a historian and not a biologist, you can read more at Biologist's Madness.

An even more insane law being debated is in Georgia where a woman would be forced to carry her still born child through the entire term of the pregnancy until she goes into natural labor. This is no only horrible because she would be carrying a child not alive, but it puts her life at risk. This was part of a Huffington Post article that mentioned more laws against women's health rights. The others were:
*Criminalizing misscarriages as murder
*Giving zygotes personhood rights while taking them away from women
*Penalizing women for having an abortion through additional taxes

When will this madness end? When will Republican's realize that they are digging their party's grave with these bills? For their sake, they better realize soon before it's too late.

Sunday, March 18, 2012

The War on Women's Health

It seems like the GOP has run out of ideas for political fights to pick, either because they know they can’t win on the economy or global issues or because they’re just plain nuts, so they decided to hop into their DeLorean and travel back sixty years to the 1950s. They have decided that their big political fight for 2012 will about women’s reproductive rights, specifically contraceptives and abortions and it all seemed to start with some comments made by the poster boy of the Religious Right, Rick Santorum:

Then came President Obama’s executive order for all employers to cover birth control in their prescription drug and health insurance plans. This set off an uproar for conservative Christians, claiming that their freedom of religion was going to be impeded on by this new law, despite the fact the First Amendment guarantees an individual’s right to freely practice their religion, not for the employer to force their religion upon their employees. Despite that fact, the president revised the language of the executive order to appease the Catholic Church, but Republicans still don’t like it. Congress then convened hearings on the medical purposes of birth control, except the Republican controlled committee brought in an all-male panel of so called “experts” that only told what the Republicans wanted to hear. Democrats weren’t happy about this, so they convened their own hearing and brought in their person to testify, Sandra Fluke, a law student at Georgetown University. Her testimony was about the medicinal uses of birth control from the experience of one of her friends. The right wing talk show clown Rush Limbaugh took that testimony and twisted it in the most sick manner ever, calling Ms. Fluke a slut and prostitute because she can no longer afford birth control since she is having so much sex, despite Ms. Fluke not referring to herself at all in the testimony. And so far none of the Republican candidates have disavowed Limbaugh, further distancing themselves from female voters. Republicans in the Senate even wrote a bill to override this new executive order, called Blunt-Rubio for the co-sponsors, which would give employers the right to refuse to cover certain medical treatments based on their moral beliefs.

The other firestorm sweeping the nation for women’s health is the stricter laws Republican controlled states are putting in place for women who wish to get an abortion. Starting with Virginia and now spreading to other states like Kansas, Texas, and even Pennsylvania, Republican controlled state legislatures are drafting bills to make it mandatory for women seeking an abortion to have an unnecessary and medically invasive vaginal ultrasound against the will of the woman, essentially state sanctioned rape. This too has ignited a fire storm, even more than the birth control debate. In some states to protest the measure, female Democratic lawmakers have proposed amendments that would force to men to get equally unnecessary and medically invasive rectal exams if they want prescription for ED medication, which I believe is only far. Pressure in Virginia has forced state lawmakers to rewrite the bill, taking out the vaginal ultrasound language. Hopefully pressure from elsewhere will cause the same to happen in Texas, Pennsylvania and elsewhere across the nation.

The GOP picked the wrong battle to fight this year, especially since it’s a presidential election year. If they are seen as being against women’s rights in anyway, it’s the kiss of death and they can forget about taking back complete control of Washington for a good long time.