Wednesday, December 24, 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.

According to Faith in Public Life Poll, the vast majority (83 percent) of voters, including white evangelicals (86 percent) and Catholics (81 percent), believe elected leaders should work together to find ways to reduce the need for abortion.

For years, pro-choice groups have pushed measures designed to prevent unwanted pregnancy. They have promoted social programs that support poor pregnant women who are forced to make decisions based on economic need. They have pushed prevention over punishment. And now, after decades of resistance, some in the pro-life movement are stepping forward in support of at least some of these pro-choice goals, even if that means jeopardizing their standing in the established pro-life community.

Monday, December 22, 2008

A New Day for Medicaid Reform


By Timothy D. McBride

The increase in the uninsured to 729,000 in Missouri and 45.6 million nationwide can be traced in part to a sluggish economy. When people lose jobs they lose access to employer sponsored health insurance, and in Missouri almost 17,000 jobs have been lost in the last 12 months.

Spiraling health insurance costs have also made insurance unaffordable and led employers and employees to drop health insurance. Premiums have doubled in the last eight years, well above the 20 percent increase in inflation. This has led to an unprecedented drop in the percentage of firms offering health insurance from 69 percent to 60 percent nationwide.

Rising health insurance premiums are also cutting into the take home pay of workers. While health insurance premiums were doubling since 2000, wages increased only 24 percent. Thus, when employers set aside money for wages and benefits -- they had little left over for wage increases.

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By Damon Circosta

As the election fades and the holiday season is upon us, our collective attention shifts away from campaigns and towards more festive matters. But before we put a bow around this past campaign season, let us take a look back at some of the issues surrounding money and politics in 2008.

I don’t know if Santa takes into account campaign finance reports when he makes his list of who has been naughty and who has been nice, but maybe he should. If he did, he might not be climbing down as many chimneys. Sure, the folks who got elected have the opportunity to bring good tidings of great joy when they take office, but the process by which money enters the political system is still more pernicious than stale fruitcake.

Political fundraising broke records this year. Some of this can be attributed to the influx of small donors and the rise of Internet-driven fundraising appeals. And while small donations from everyday citizens is generally a good sign of a healthy democracy, the specter of elected offices being bought and paid for by large contributors still blankets our democracy not unlike a winter blizzard.

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.

The electorate of Arizona has spoken by defeating Proposition 101: people want real change. They want comprehensive, high-quality, and affordable care. They want to go to the doctor or hospital of their choice.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Accessible Housing Still A Dream For Many


By Aviva Rothman-Shore and Sean Caron

Since the election of Barack Obama, there have been frequent discussions about the implications of this historic election on the state of inequality in the nation. Many have said that the landslide election of an African-American raised in a humble setting by a single parent demonstrates that while racism and socio-economic inequality are stains on America’s history, they are no longer a significant part of our societal fabric.

However, this pivotal moment should not cloud the truth about social and racial inequality in the Commonwealth today. Greater Boston remains one of the most segregated metropolitan areas in the nation. The bulk of the Commonwealth’s people of color, regardless of their incomes, reside in urban centers.

In fact, the Commonwealth’s seven largest cities (Boston, Springfield, Worcester, Lowell, Brockton, New Bedford, and Fall River) have only 20 percent of the total population, but are home to 41 percent of the Commonwealth’s people of color and 40 percent of residents living below the federal poverty line.

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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. If I had not received a commutation, my first-time conviction for a non-violent offense would have kept me in prison until 2016 (with good behavior) because of the harsh mandatory sentencing laws for crack cocaine. My 1994 prison sentence grew out of my boyfriend's trafficking in crack. After he was murdered, the government charged me with conspiracy to distribute the crack that his drug ring distributed. During my court hearings, prosecutors acknowledged that I never sold, handled or used any of the drugs involved in the conspiracy.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Prescription for a Healthier Economy

By Steven Edelstein

As policymakers debate how to stabilize the sagging economy, it’s time to think about how to help more than 3 million low-wage workers who hold the answer in their busy and burdened hands.

The recession is hitting hardest in low-income communities, and, if we’re serious about stimulating the economy, we need to make sure that recovery efforts reach the people and places that need it the most. In today’s aging society and service economy, at least one in 10 low-wage-earners is a direct care worker.

These hard-working, hard-pressed Americans provide healthcare and assistance services to older adults and people with disabilities in private homes, nursing homes, and day programs that provide non-residential, non-medical services. Their jobs -- home health aide, personal and home care aide and nursing aide, orderly and attendant -- include two of the three fastest-growing occupations in the nation.


By Phil Schoggen

It’s about time we introduce some commonsense into the discussion about how to stimulate the economy. Whether we’re talking about the state or national economy, the worn-out mantra seems to be the same -- to stimulate the economy, we need to cut taxes. But such short-sighted action is likely to do more harm than good to both the economy and the common good.

The argument that taxes are simply bad for the economy is based on the false assumption that, somehow, after these taxes are collected, the money just magically vaporizes into thin air. But it’s not that simple, because there’s another side of the coin that gets ignored in this anti-tax narrative.

The money that is collected through our tax system gets invested in things like healthy kids and seniors, new schools, retaining good teachers, stocking libraries, improving roads, expanding mass transit, building parks, and paying our hard-working police officers just to name a few. These are things that we as a community have decided are important investments for us to make in order to strengthen the common good and the communities we live in.

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By Dave Wells

Facing an enormous revenue shortfall, the current secretary of state and soon to be governor, Jan Brewer, has expressed her potential openness to raising taxes. Meanwhile the outgoing Speaker of the House Jim Weiers is convening a blue-ribbon committee to study the Arizona tax code. These represent steps in the right direction.

When Gov. Janet Napolitano took office in 2003, she faced a $1 billion deficit. Relative to the economy, state general fund spending fell 20 percent below its norm for the past three decades. In response, she formed a Citizens Finance Review Commission, but refused to risk her political future by calling for significant revenue reform that would run into Republican opposition.

This year's state budget situation is far worse; $1.2 billion this fiscal year and double that next year. While both parties share blame, revenue reform must become part of the solution.

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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.

Monday, December 1, 2008

We Must Maintain Immunization Laws


By Dr. Joe Donaldson

Just 100 years ago when childhood diseases like measles, mumps, and whopping cough were more prevalent, too many children lost their sight, their hearing, their mental aptitude, or worse, their life.

That is why Mississippi, just like every other state, requires that before children enter school they receive vaccinations to prevent what used to be common but serious childhood diseases.

Unfortunately, some parents in Mississippi are pushing to broaden exemptions from vaccination requirements from the current medical necessity exemption in the state law. Many of these parents simply do not believe in the efficacy of vaccinations. Some believe strongly that vaccinations contribute to childhood developmental problems, including autism, despite all science and evidence to the contrary.

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Wednesday, November 26, 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.

The Latino vote has led to the great strides for women and Latino candidates and increased their representation in the federal government. In 2008, Latinos ran in over 37 states across the country for both federal and state legislative seats. The 25 Latino members of Congress added another colleague to the list who will serve in the U.S. House of Representatives. The 111th Congress will include seven Latina Congresswomen from Florida, New York, and California. They’ll be joining the 64 re-elected incumbents in the U.S. House of Representatives.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Preventing Unintentional Racial Impacts


By Sen. Mattie Hunter and Rep. Arthur Turner

Suppose you're a white person who uses drugs. Now suppose you're a black person who uses drugs. Think you run the same risk of being arrested and incarcerated?

Think again: Recent reports highlight vast differences in the way blacks and whites are treated, despite similar rates of drug use. Fortunately, Illinois has just enacted a measure that lays the groundwork to help address this inequity.

Using new data from 34 states, Human Rights Watch found that black men are nearly 12 times as likely to be imprisoned for drug convictions as adult white men. Illinois had the highest black drug offender admission rate and the second highest black to white ratio of prison admission rates for drug offenses.


By Adam Linker

For much of its history North Carolina was known as a state with bold leaders and progressive ideas. It built Research Triangle Park, one of the nation’s best community college systems and created pioneering early childhood education programs. The state was even a leader in expanding health care to its citizens.

In the 1940s a group of influential businessmen and politicians came up with a series of recommendations, dubbed the “Good Health Plan,” to boost the number of doctors in the state, create a teaching hospital at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, and expand Blue Cross insurance. At the time, Gov. Gregg Cherry said, “Only less sacred than the right of a child to obtain an education is his right to get a fair chance of health in his youth.”

Despite the work of these early visionaries, there are still more than 250,000 uninsured children in North Carolina.

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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. The largest demographic group within this new American electorate -- unmarried women -- played a pivotal role in electing Barack Obama as president, building a bigger margin for Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, and delivering the largest Democratic margins in national politics since 1964. And, for progressives from the White House to both houses of Congress, there is no more urgent challenge than addressing the needs of unmarried women -- especially for economic security -- and ensuring that they continue to participate in the political process.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

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.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Remembering The War To End All Wars

By Mike Ferner

At the stroke of the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918 the roaring guns fell silent. Our holiday that marks the end of “The Great War” is now called Veterans Day, yet it’s worth taking a moment to recollect when it was called Armistice Day and meant more than midnight madness sales at department stores.

Thirty million soldiers were killed or wounded and another 7 million were taken captive in that war. Never before had people witnessed such industrialized slaughter. Congress responded to a universal hope among Americans that such a war would never happen again by passing a resolution calling for “exercises designed to perpetuate peace through good will and mutual understanding…inviting the people of the United States to observe the day in schools and churches with appropriate ceremonies of friendly relations with all other peoples.” Later, Congress added that November 11 was to be “a day dedicated to the cause of world peace.”While it is a good thing to honor the country’s military service veterans, the original intent of Armistice Day -- promoting peace -- has gotten lost over the years. One veterans’ organization is trying to recreate that original intent. Its name, appropriately enough, is Veterans For Peace.

Friday, October 24, 2008

One Consequence of Question One


By Leo V. Sarkissian

Meet Caitlin Hadley. She is proof of how well individuals with Down syndrome and other special needs succeed when given the chance. She's also just one example of why we should not eliminate income taxes through Question One as doing so would severely hurt services to children and adults with disabilities and others.

Caitlin was hired as an assembler at Milton Roy in Acton. She performed well there with an outstanding record. When a quality control position became available, Caitlin was a natural fit. After a short time on the job, she was promoted to quality control specialist. In this role, she checks pump subassemblies for accuracy. But Caitlin doesn't stop at her job description. She is extremely helpful and occasionally mentors substitute assemblers who are learning the job.

Wednesday, October 22, 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?

Not so long ago, we were surrounded by ashtrays and smokers wherever we worked, ate or traveled. Babies sat on our laps in the car. Most paints were lead-based.

In each case, public health experts alerted us to the dangers. Values shifted; what once seemed normal no longer met the test of public acceptability. Groups of concerned citizens petitioned government representatives to do their job and set new standards.

By Margaret Martin Barry and Penny Berger

Make no mistake – the so-called “Civil Rights” Initiative currently on Nebraska’s ballot has only a negative connection to the Civil Rights Movement in our country.
The initiative is intended to put an end to what remains of affirmative action. Discrimination and exclusion on the basis of race and gender have made a mockery of our democratic ideals. Affirmative action has been the principle means of achieving the inclusion that was the goal of the Civil Rights Act.

Affirmative action as a tool to achieve equality is admittedly an imperfect instrument. It is also the only tool that has shown any capacity to address the issues of racism and gender discrimination across America.

Although the Civil Rights Act of 1964 represented progress toward the goals of our democracy, most people understood that the new law, by itself, could not achieve racial and gender equality. Specific steps were needed to change the habits and institutions of discrimination and exclusion. Affirmative action became an enforcement mechanism designed to give meaning to the Act. It required employers and educational institutions to act in ways that would ensure participation and acceptance of minorities and women.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

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. Emergency contraceptives could also be illegal under Proposition 48, a form of birth control that if taken up to 72 hours after intercourse can prevent an unwanted pregnancy, especially used by rape and incest victims.

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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.

A vast majority of Missourians support the Clean Energy Initiative because Proposition C works for our economy, for Missouri schools, for public health and for the environment, while protecting consumers from high-energy costs. Kansas City Power & Light also announced its support earlier this year, joining a diverse coalition of labor, public health, environmental and faith-based organizations that endorse Proposition C, including the United Steelworkers, Restoring Eden - Christians for Environmental Stewardship, and Republicans for Environmental Protection.


By Bill Faith

Ohio partisans have set aside their usual election-year differences and have joined together to urge a “yes’’ vote on Issue 5. Gov. Ted Strickland, a Democrat, agrees with Republican legislative leaders on this one. The two major party contenders for Ohio attorney general are also in agreement.

Issue 5 asks voters to accept or reject Ohio’s new law that caps interest rates on payday loans at 28 percent annually, down from 391 percent APR allowed under the old law. Ohio lawmakers approved the 28 percent interest rate cap after a year-long legislative debate. Ohio legislators authorized payday lending in 1995. By 2007, Ohio had nearly 1,600 payday storefronts -- and payday lenders had more than 300,000 Ohio customers trapped in a cycle of debt, contributing to everything from a rise in demand for food pantries to an increase in home mortgage foreclosures.

While it’s easy for some to blame the victim, our legislators rightly concluded that the problem with payday loans is their flawed design. They are very easy to get but very hard to repay.

By Angela Onwuachi-Willig

For years, affirmative action opponents have pointed to stigma as a reason for dismantling the policy. They have argued that affirmative action engenders feelings of inferiority and dependency in racial minorities and unfairly burdens racial minorities with others’ doubts in their abilities.

Do not believe the hype. The Nebraska Civil Rights Initiative, which would end affirmative action in the state, would cause a startling lack of diversity in Nebraska’s universities. In the summer and fall of 2007, I, along with Professor Emily Houh of the University of Cincinnati College of Law and Professor Mary Campbell of University of Iowa Sociology, explored the relationship between stigma and law school affirmative action admissions policies by conducting a survey of both white students and students of color at seven, high-ranking public law schools in United States.

Four of these schools—the University of Cincinnati, the University of Iowa, the University of Michigan, and the University of Virginia—employed race-based affirmative action when our subject class—the Class of 2009—was admitted, while the remaining three—UC Berkeley, UC Davis, and the University of Washington—did not use such programs. In conducting our study, we generated new descriptive evidence that counters the stigma arguments that are commonly advanced against affirmative action.


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.

The campaign incorrectly asserts that passage of similar anti-affirmative action initiatives in California, Washington and Michigan did not end in the dire results that opponents of such bans predicted. Ask the under-represented minority students who attend schools in those states if they agree.

A recent national study I conducted of 335 high achieving under-represented minority students majoring in the hard sciences from 33 states shows grim results for those students attending schools in the aftermath of anti-affirmative action campaigns.


By Nell Levin

Imagine earth-shaking explosions, rock and debris flying through the air, and mountains blasted to smithereens by explosions 100 times more powerful than those that blew up the federal building in Oklahoma City. When the dust settles, the remaining land looks like another planet: no trees, no plants, no animals -- just a barren moonscape.

These are the shocking images of Jeff Barrie’s documentary, "Kilowatt Ours," that prompted me to write the song, “Don’t Blow Up the Mountain.”

Although I don’t live in Appalachia, I have a great love for the culture of the mountains. I play old-time music and love the rollicking beat of a group of fiddles and banjos playing together. But who will teach these age-old fiddle tunes to the next generation if communities are forced from the mountains and figuratively and literally torn apart?

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By Bryan Warner

Emerging from the stifling heat of Independence Hall, where the 1787 Constitutional Convention was held in a closed-door, shut-window session, a sweltering Benjamin Franklin was asked by a passing woman, “Well, Doctor, what have we got, a republic or a monarchy?” Franklin replied, “A republic -- if you can keep it.”

Franklin’s challenge speaks to the very foundation of our nation. If we are to have a government of the people, by the people and for the people, it requires that we the people put a bit of effort into choosing those who would represent us.

With a ballot that elects more statewide officials than most other states, North Carolina voters bear that responsibility more than many of their peers. For instance, this fall we will elect nine members of the Council of State, an executive-branch body made up of officials often appointed by the governor in other states, such as the commissioners of agriculture, labor and insurance.

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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.

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.

Our country was founded on the principle of separation of church and state. The U.S. Constitution guarantees separation of church and state. It also guarantees that an individual’s right of religious liberty is protected in every state in this country.

The California constitution provides similar guarantees. The California Supreme Court, the institution charged with construing the California constitution to ensure that it applies to all Californians equally, recognized the importance of these guarantees in its decision in the marriage cases. As the Court explained:

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Friday, October 17, 2008

Merit is More than Numbers

By Jose J. Soto and Deborah Waire Post

Most people think of affirmative action in the context of access to education. Whether we call it affirmative action or diversity, there is a widely shared belief that any process that considers race or gender in evaluating an application for admission is unfair. Actually, the reverse is true.

Those of us who support affirmative action also oppose an admissions policy that relies exclusively on numbers because we believe that a person is more than a number. Schools and testing agencies promote the use of test scores or an index created from the grade point average and the test scores to decide who is in and who is out. In the rarified world of psychometricians, a point difference on a test score may be meaningless, but in the imaginations of parents and students, "fair" means who are "first" or who has the highest number. What most parents do not know is that the game is rigged. Just as an “A” in an honors English class is worth more than an “A” in a regular English class, an “A” from an elite school is worth more than an “A” from a school farther down the educational pecking order.

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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.

Missourians for Honest Elections has been working to alert Missouri voters and public officials about the issues surrounding electronic voting for several years. Unlike Cassandra, we don’t have the gift of prophecy. What we have – not acquired from Apollo but through our own dogged research is the gift of facts. The following are some of the most sobering:

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.

Controlling one’s own reproductive decisions is important for all women, but especially for women in poor families. Birth control is a critical component in ensuring that rates of unwanted pregnancy and abortion continue to drop, and that women and their children are able to live healthy lives.

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Thursday, October 9, 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.

But the object of the rage of folks surrounding me wasn’t any of these things. It was the loving, long-term, committed relationships of people who happen to love someone of the same gender.

We were at a Milwaukee school board meeting, debating a resolution to end discrimination in benefits for same-sex couples in non-bargaining unit positions – estimated to be about 1 percent of staff in those jobs. The cost isn’t very much, especially considering an earlier item on the agenda about the need to retain experienced employees. Treat people right and they’re more likely to stick around.

Tuesday, October 7, 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.

But recent public displays of contraceptive failure by girls of visibility and means gives the misleading appearance that teen motherhood might be a lifestyle upgrade. Clearly one of the exacerbating factors is that someone like Bristol Palin is part of what feels like a growing trend: the normalizing of teen pregnancy and teen motherhood in the United States. Bristol is not alone in suggesting that to be a 17-year-old mother is not only acceptable, but exciting. Last year Jamie Lynn Spears, Britney's then 16-year-old sister, had her baby. (The Spears', it's worth noting, were proponents of abstinence-only too.) Last year also featured the movie Juno, in which star Ellen Page played a 16-year-old whose quick-wit and sarcasm made her unwanted pregnancy seem as challenging as a bad case of acne. The attention garnered by each of these girls stripped away layers of what had for years been cautions against this very fate.