Sunday, March 28, 2010

Dane101: MGHS racism must end

My high school alma matter, Monona Grove High, is in the midst of trying to figure out what to do about a gang of racists that call themselves “The Hicks.”

The group identifies themselves by wearing camouflage caps with fishhooks inserted on the brim. They openly acknowledge their distaste for minority students, and have taken part in various acts of racism over the past few years.

These acts include speeding up their cars in parking lots and splashing minority students with puddles, leaving dead deer carcasses on the hood of a car of a minority student, and harassing two young women -- one Hispanic and one African-American -- by tailgating them and waving a Confederate flag behind them. Several other students have complained about racially derogatory comments and actions in the hallways as well as outside of school.

Read on at

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Americans now support health reform

The Democratic National Committee raised over $1 million in a single day -- without directly asking for donations -- after the health reform package passed.

Public opinion overall swayed drastically, too, since the bill passed. 49 percent of Americans now support the package that was signed by President Barack Obama yesterday, as opposed to 40 percent who view it negatively.

Previously that number was reversed, with more opposing the package than supporting it. However, that was due in part to a good one-in-ten Americans who wanted an even more liberal reform bill. The numbers of those who support the law today reflect that.

As more positive aspects of the health care law become common knowledge, you can expect to see a higher number of Americans supporting it.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Congress passes health care reform

History was made today, and the lives of millions of Americans will be better off for it.

A major mileston in health care reform was passed by Congress tonight, allowing millions of Americans greater access towards achieving their health care needs. Though without a desired public option, the reforms passed will expand Medicaid to millions and grant millions more the opportunity to purchase private insurance with the assistance of government subsides if they are unable to afford it. The reform package passed tonight also grants millions of Americans more choice in health insurance plans.

In the near future, it will also be illegal for any insurance company to deny a client coverage based upon a pre-existing condition.

All of this was done while lowering our deficits by $130 billion over the next ten years, and $1.2 trillion over the next twenty.

Republicans have already vowed to repeal the bill, assuming they will take control of Congress in the 2010 midterm elections and the presidency in 2012. If they decide to make this bill an issue in the future, they will do so at their own peril: while many Americans said they didn't support the bill being passed tonight, when each individual aspect being affected by the bill was mentioned, support for reform shot up. Most Americans supported reforming a broken system, and in the vote tonight they got what they wanted.

Politically, the bill's passage is a huge victory for President Barack Obama, as well as for Democrats overall. The president had much to lose if the bill failed, perhaps staking his entire presidency upon it. However, when he eventually signs the bill, he will have done something that presidents since Teddy Roosevelt have been dreaming to do: enact reasonable reform that will cover nearly every American in the process. The people will not soon forget that accomplishment.

The fight doesn't end here: there's still much work to be done to help Americans struggling with health care needs. Still, tonight is a night worth celebrating. Somewhere far away from here, a Kennedy is smiling upon us.

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Texas education will soon have conservative bias

When you have the ability to rewrite history, you can shape minds. The Texas State Board of Education is doing just that, eliminating key portions of American history while changing other parts to fit a conservative point of view.

Among the changes, the board is now requiring that students learn the importance of Christianity during the founding of America. However, the board is leaving out some significant points -- that religious persecution motivated the Pilgrims to sail to the New World in the first place, and that many of our founding fathers were, in fact, deists, with those who were Christian advocating a secular state.

One conservative board member, David Bradley, came right out and said, "I reject the notion by the left of a constitutional separation of church and state. I have $1,000 for the charity of your choice if you can find it in the Constitution."

The First Amendment of the Constitution, in fact, reads: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof." If Bradley needs it spelled out for him further than that, then I challenge him or anyone else for that matter to find in the Constitution where murder is illegal, or where the federal government has the right to grant marriage rights -- for straights, or anyone. My point? Such a narrow interpretation of the Constitution is ridiculous, and Bradley's notion that the Constitution doesn't create a separation of church and state is just as absurd.

Though the changes mark a drastic shift from a secular founding to a Christian one, the changes aren't just religious in nature. Students in Texas will also have to learn about specific conservative movements and groups, such as the Contract with America and the Heritage Foundation. These groups will be portrayed in a positive light, without any objective views being thrown in.

Historical events that involve conservatism need to be discussed. But will liberal events in American history get such a fair treatment? No. In fact, the Texas board has changed many of those events to include caveats and doubts, meant to make liberalism seem inept at doing anything positive.

The Civil Rights curriculum, for example, will include an emphasis on Black Panther violence as well as problems that arose out of Title IX of the Civil Rights Act, which created gender equality in schools nationwide.

Perhaps most troubling will be the vindication of McCarthyism during the early years of the Cold War. Instead of emphasizing the fanatical rantings of the troubled Senator from Wisconsin, Joe McCarthy, the Texas board voted to point out that some communist infiltration did indeed happen during this time, essentially justifying the mad-man's witch hunt during the 1950s.

None of these changes are inherently false -- but they do omit a large deal of information or emphasize points that aren't important to the overall curricula. Yes, the acts of some violent Black Panthers clouded the Civil Rights movement, but it shouldn't detract from the work and goals of Dr. King and others that the movement sought to accomplish. Yes, there were some communists in America in the 1950s, but their significance was so minute and McCarthy's exaggerations so severe that emphasizing their importance would vindicate the tactics of a man obsessed with power and prestige. And America's founding, though Christian in its beginnings, should also emphasize the important role that religious choice played, as evidenced within the First Amendment and the Pilgrim's voyage to begin with.

Rewriting history to tailor your political views isn't beneficial to society. It doesn't preserve the conservative society that you'd like to have -- it instead creates an ignorant citizenry that will repeat the mistakes of the past, all because people lacked a reasonable, formal education.

The provisions that conservatives want to include should be mentioned but not emphasized to the extent that they want them heard in order to put doubt in the minds of people who might consider some history (that happens to be liberal in nature) important. Likewise, conservative board members shouldn't omit important information they'd like to disregard. Both sides of the story should be told, without bias, on the history of our nation.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

The GOP: putting states' rights above your child's

Republicans in Congress don' want your child to be safe in school.

That's the impression one might have after a vote last week in the House of Representatives. Most every Republican lawmaker voted against the "Keeping All Students Safe Act," a bill that would ensure uniform standards for schools across the country regarding what actions would be acceptable for disciplining students. None from the GOP voted in its favor.

Practices that are surprisingly common, such as the use of restraints and seclusion of students, would be banned unless absolutely necessary for the safety of others, and only allowed when administered by a trained staff member.

Hundreds of cases of student abuse and even death have occurred over the past two decades because of such incidents. Children as young as kindergartners, sometimes even younger, have been subjected to such tactics. In one gruesome example, a teacher "disciplined" a student by restraining them in a face-down position while sitting on them. The student suffocated and died struggling for air, their pleas ignored by the teacher inflicting the punishment.

I don't personally believe that Republicans advocate such punishment. They don't want students harmed in such a manner, their lives on the line when administrators utilize these "disciplinary" tactics. But one might ask themselves, for what reason would anyone be against such legislation?

The answer: Republican lawmakers are placing states' rights ahead of your children's rights.

"The underlying message [of this bill]," says Rep. Louie Gohmert (R-Texas), "is you people back in your states...are a bunch of morons." You can't figure out that sitting on a precious little child and killing them is inappropriate."

Such an argument strikes at the hearts of small government advocates -- who do these Democrats think they are?! They're elitist snobs for thinking we can't figure this out for ourselves!

Except there's one problem for that line of thinking: the states HAVEN'T figured this out. Any parent in any part of the country will tell you this is wrong -- but only 23 states have actual laws in place to protect your children against such "discipline," with another seven states having "weak" legislation that does little to remedy the situation.

So while the GOP portrays the Democrats as being elitists, the fact remains that the states Republicans are defending have done nothing to defend their students from such harm. In other words, GOP lawmakers are more concerned with the rights of states to not take this into their own hands than the students in the classrooms they supposedly represent.

If more states had dome something by now, Republicans could feasibly make the argument that the federal government has no place mandating such protections. But the states haven't acted. It isn't about who is stupid or not, who is elitist or not == it's about the actions we have or haven't taken in order to protect a student's life.

No, not every student is in danger. Most schools don't hire teachers like this, and it's likely that your son or daughter will never see the effects of this legislation implemented. But it COULD happen SOMEWHERE. What Democrats are trying to do is prevent the opportunity for harm to come to your child. With documented evidence available to us, we do know that, though it's rare, it sometimes happens...and it's sometimes fatal.

The major question is this: Is there any reason to oppose this legislation? Are the Republicans genuinely concerned over states' rights rather than their constituents' students' rights? Or is this just another example of attempted obstructionism, of opposing every Democratic bill that comes their way?

Monday, March 1, 2010

Human, economic costs will be higher without reform

A common complaint by conservatives within the health care debate is the effects that reform might have on the economy. The health care industry currently comprises about one-sixth of the economy overall, and with the economy being as fragile as it already is (so the talking points usually follow), it is seen by those on the right as a mistake to try to tackle anything that might disrupt it.

But this is a flawed argument; it ignores many basic understandings about how our economy works. Most notably, it ignores the fact that, when reform passes, that one-sixth won't suddenly disappear. In fact, most of it (if not all) will remain in the hands of private sector insurance companies, especially if a plan is passed without the public option.

Conservatives also tend to mistakenly believe that having the health care industry in control of every dollar out of six is a good thing. Again, if this is changed (it won't under the proposed plans), that money wouldn't suddenly go away -- it would instead go into the pocketbooks of citizens who could otherwise spend that money in more productive ways (read as: invigorating other parts of the economy). Six out of every ten bankruptcies are due in large part to outstanding health care bills -- but reform can help alleviate those costs, with that money being used instead on important life expenses (home ownership, a college education, debt reduction, etc.).

Finally, the conservative argument is crippled by another mistaken (though sometimes unsaid) belief: that reform is the only situation that would drastically change health care. In fact, by doing nothing, it's almost certain that private insurance costs will go even higher, becoming one out of every FOUR dollars spent by some estimates!

Higher costs will also mean trouble for small businesses, who will have to drop plans for employees to save costs, adding even more to the number of uninsured across the country.

What can we take from all of this? The costs of doing nothing on health care will far outweigh the supposed burdens placed upon the privileged, higher wage-earning Americans if we pass meaningful reform. With more Americans losing insurance -- which will undoubtedly happen if we fail to act -- the human cost will rise significantly higher than the 45,000 we already are seeing die annually due to inadequate health coverage.

The prices we pay by doing nothing, both economic and human, are monumental. The time to act is now.