‘Born and raised’ Texans forced to prove identities under new voter ID law | US news | The Guardian

Eric Kennie is a Texan. He is as Texan as the yucca plants growing outside his house. So Texan that he has never, in his 45 years, travelled outside the state. In fact, he has never even left his native city of Austin. “No sir, not one day. I was born and raised here, only place I know is Austin.”

You might think that more than qualifies Kennie as a citizen of the Lone Star state, entitling him to its most basic rights such as the ability to vote. Not so, according to the state of Texas and its Republican political leadership. On 4 November, when America goes to the polls in the midterm elections, for the first time in his adult life Eric Kennie will not be allowed to participate.

via ‘Born and raised’ Texans forced to prove identities under new voter ID law | US news | The Guardian.

Crying In Our Morning Cup Of Coffee

Our country’s political system still is not functioning equitably for all participants yet its landscape has not changed in many years because too many of us have failed in our responsibility as American citizens. We can, and must be the catalyst that brings about a tectonic shift in politics that will include a shift in its primary driver.  Young Americans must be the foundation of this catalyst because they are our future.

Hopefully, this change will cause us to refocus on those things that made America great in the first place.  Once this is accomplished, it should help catapult America back to the number one position that we held in the world in all of those areas in which we were once dominant.

Money has long been the primary driver in our political system but, since the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United decision, it has all but morphed into the personification of the god of reelection.  As a result, politicians are relegated to all but non-stop fund raising in their effort to be elected or reelected.  And as voters, we are just as responsible for this circumstance as they are.  We allowed money to become king of politics by shunning our responsibility as citizens.

Because of the many roadblocks that have been constructed to either prevent or obstruct us from voting, we decided that rather than confront those inconveniences we would just stay at home and not vote.  What a copout!  Many of us long ago decided, “my vote won’t count anyway so, why should I waste my time?”

How sad it is that so many of us have come to this conclusion.  There is no doubt that the top one percent of Americans loves this.  Ironically, because of their greed, they fail to realize that many of the potential bills that have been stifled and prevented from becoming law because of this “prevent or obstruct” tactic will ultimately have a negative impact on them and, potentially, bring about their ruin.

At the same time that I accuse many among the one percent of being so greedy that they fail to realize that their unwillingness to share the wealth is charting a path to their own ruin, I must also say that I can understand why some of them are defiant.  They don’t want to write another check because they genuinely feel that they are already doing their fair share.

Although they are rich they feel that they worked hard to get where they are – justifiably so, and deserve to be there.  They don’t want to be forced to give some portion of that wealth away simply because they can afford to do so.  This is exactly why we need dialogue in Washington instead of gridlock.  Dialogue at least provides the potential to hammer out a solution.

Still, the 99% must step up and live up to our responsibility.  Rather than crying in our morning cup of coffee and complaining about our situation and what politicians and the government should be doing to assure that we can prosper if we work hard, we must resolve ourselves to fulfill our responsibility as American citizens.

Something must be done to take big money out of politics; and election reform can play a big part in making this happen.  Let’s not conduct ourselves as lambs being led to the slaughter.  Why should one percent of the country be allowed to bully the other 99%?

The one percent should no doubt have their say and get their fair share of tax breaks in order to stimulate the creation of jobs to help improve America’s economic recovery and sustain it.   But we must be aware that they are not the only ones who impact on the potential recovery and America’s ability to sustain it.  We must convince them that it is in our mutual best interest for them to more equitably share the wealth.  If we cannot convince them to do this then we must force them to do it by pressuring our elected officials to do the right thing through our vote.

We have to realize that the highly publicized rhetoric of politicians is the reason why the media’s main focus is on the impact that the one percent can have on the recovery.  It is also important to realize that the one percent, which is virtually synonymous with big money, plays a major role in determining whether or not politicians are elected or reelected and this is why the 99% is quietly pushed aside, especially during election cycles, and temporarily ignored.  It is under these circumstances that self-preservation, driven by the god of reelection, takes precedence.

Let us first step up to our responsibility as voters instead of just complaining and crying in our morning cup of coffee.  After that, perhaps we will be able to figure out a way to force our elected officials to come up with election reform that will take big money out of the election process and thereby eliminate their need to constantly rely on fundraising.

Eulus Dennis – author, Operation Rubik’s Cube and Living Between The Line

Quality Teaching Is More Than Test Scores

While it is true that for many years Denver Public Schools (DPS) forced schools to accept tenured teachers who would have otherwise been let go, to simply flip the script and call that change is unacceptable. In other words, to fire teachers for reasons other than their inability to meet legitimate teaching standards is unfair to those teachers.  It is not only unfair, but it is illegal.  Putting a law into place, like Senate Bill 191, that allows DPS to shirk its responsibility to address the real problem and make real change is ludicrous.

There is no doubt that Senate Bill 191 allows the district to avoid paying the salaries of unwanted teachers; however, the questions that need to be answered are who is it that does not want them and

This picture was taken by Gerry Boughan.
This picture was taken by Gerry Boughan.

why is it that they don’t want them. All stakeholders want DPS children to receive a top quality education because it would be in the best interest of all of them.

It seems that it would be easy for DPS to do the right thing and base its decisions to either retain or release teachers primarily on their ability to teach and motivate their students to learn. Though the answer to what for many years has been referred to by DPS as “The dance of the lemons” would appear to be simple, it is not.  Politics and money, not necessarily in that order, have long played a major role in DPS’s decisions.

The Race to the Top (RTTT) provides a good example of how both politics and money can impact on school districts’ decision making. One of the requirements of RTTT is that the applicant schools must be able to show “measureable results,” which too many DPS leaders interpret solely as high standardized test scores.  When students do not perform well on tests this is not empirical data that confirms that they have not received quality instruction.

The preponderance of DPS teachers love what they are doing, love their students, and are doing a great job of educating our children. There are some, like in all professions, who do not meet standards that must be let go; but they should be let go for all the right reasons.  Those who are let go, for whatever reason, reserve the right to be represented by their union and given due process.

To blame the teachers’ union for carrying out its lawful fiduciary responsibilities to its members and attack it and an arbitrator for their dissent on Senate Bill 191 does not make sense. Instead, it smacks of the attacks on public and private sector unions that legislatures in states like Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin, are pushing.  With the situation that DPS is in now and knowing that the futures of Denver’s children are at stake, this is not the time to play politics, posture and pursue a partisan ideology agenda.

The fact that I believe that RTTT provides a good example of how both politics and money can impact on school districts’ decision making does not mean that I also believe that it is a bad idea or that it is the wrong approach to use to solve the problem of “The dance of the lemons.”   Likewise, the fact that the teachers’ union and an arbitrator disagreed with some portion of Senate Bill 191 does not necessarily mean they believe it is a bad Bill or that the spirit of this Bill is off base.

If we are serious about providing Denver’s school-age children with the best education possible, let’s put politics aside and work together to solve this problem. There is no doubt that we can do this but in order to be successful we cannot give DPS a “shirk your responsibility” free card just so that they can win RTTT money.

Eulus Dennis

Women Beware And Meet The Challenge

For politicians to pontificate about what women’s place in life should be is neither new nor shocking. One can reasonably argue that the thought that it is fine for women to reach their full potential as long as they do it within the boundaries set by their male counterparts has existed since the beginning of time.

In politics, this subject has long rested just beneath the surface of many mundane political issues and ebbed or flowed at the whim of politicians who deemed it politically expedient to them to resurrect it.  The use of this tactic had the same effect on a campaign as a shot of adrenaline does on the human body; it helped to spike support for the politician who employed it and catapult them ahead of their opponent before losing its effect.  Once the desired effect was accomplished, the tactic was discontinued.

This time; however, as the 2014 midterm elections approach, things are different.  Women are under siege.  They are under siege by Republicans who have declared war on them for personal political gain.  Whether this war is being waged by mainstream Republicans or those on the fringe, is not the primary concern.  The primary concern is that if they are successful in their effort to roll back the clock to pre Roe vs. Wade, women will be in real trouble.

There is no doubt that many women are aware of this struggle and are monitoring it and will cast their vote to let our lawmakers know where they stand no matter which side they support.  But there are likely many women who, for various reasons, prefer to skirt politics.  This is extremely dangerous under today’s circumstances for any woman who is interested in the right to make her own decisions and retain control over her own body.

This women’s right fight goes beyond a woman’s right to choose when she wants to start a family and how many children she and her spouse want to have.  There is also an equal pay for equal work battle that is being waged.  For some unknown reason these same politicians who are against women having control over their own body are against women receiving equal pay for equal work.  Currently, women receive about 77 cents on the dollar for doing the same work as her male counterpart and they make up more than 60% of all of those who earn a minimum wage.  This is not right.

I read an article in Woman’s Day Magazine that was written by Ruth Moore titled Fighting for What’s Right.  The gist of the article was that she fought a very long and hard battle that spanned decades before she was vindicated and received, at least, some degree of satisfaction for what she was forced to suffer through.

My takeaway from her article was her vigilance, tenacity and determination.  Because of these attributes she was able to establish a pathway to justice for other women in the military.  All female soldiers, including other victims who are still seeking justice, can now stand on her shoulders and feel more secure in their surroundings.  They can then create even broader inroads for women to comfortably enter the military and excel while serving our country.

In light of the current issues that are being pondered by politicians, which will have a major impact on women, it is incumbent upon all women to act in their own best interest and weigh-in on the 2014 midterm elections so that their voices will be heard.  They must begin right now – if they haven’t already done so – to follow politics and incorporate the same kind of vigilance, tenacity and determination into their quest for justice that Ruth Moore demonstrated for decades during her struggle.

Eulus Dennis – author, Operation Rubik’s Cube and Living Between The Line

Leadership, President Obama’s Problem or Ours?

So many of us Americans are constantly lambasting President Obama for what we perceive as his failure to lead and we lament his many failed promises. We ask; why doesn’t he show more anger and retaliate against ISIS for publicly beheading two innocent American journalists?  Why doesn’t he focus on jobs for Americans and growing our economy?  Why doesn’t he do something about the immigration problem?  Why doesn’t he do something about the NSA Mass Surveillance problem?  Why doesn’t he do something about gun violence; he has executive power, why doesn’t he use it?

We are right when we assert that the President has executive power, which he is capable of using. However, those of us who follow politics closely yet still wonder why he does not move forward and simply accomplish everything that he needs to accomplish by way of his executive power need to put aside our frustration and anger so that we can think more clearly.  Those of us who do not closely follow politics need to put aside our anger and frustration and commit ourselves to becoming more informed and staying that way.

We as American citizens, especially those of us who are eligible to vote, have a responsibility too; each individual has a responsibility to lead when it comes to our country and the franchise! Too many of us take our responsibility too lightly to stay informed on important issues and vote then hold those who we voted for accountable to properly represent us!  This is a democracy – it is not perfect – that all Americans know and love and that is why it is so important to vote!

As Americans, we may disagree on many things but all of us love our country. No one should ever try to swing things into their favor by working to prevent or obstruct eligible voters from voting no matter how strongly that we disagree on an issue: that is the wrong thing to do!  Instead, if they feel that the system is not operating as it should be, they should work to win the confidence of, not only their constituents but that of the rest of the American people then change things in the right way.  Yes, there will be those who disagree – some of whom may be constituents, but at least we will be working toward a “more perfect union.”  This way, although we know that we will always have problems we must confront, we can have confidence that we are bringing change and building hope.

To do this will require courage and leadership throughout our democratic system; the executive branch, legislative branch, judicial branch and – although this is not an official branch of our government, the American people. Although in the eyes of many of those who strongly supported him in the 2008 and 2012 elections President Obama has fallen short of the great expectations that they had of him, he has accomplished a lot under daunting circumstances and they would be remiss to ignore this.

Those who are using language like “the President has thrown us under the bus” should consider the kind of damage that they are doing to their cause and tone down their rhetoric. This does not mean that they shouldn’t criticize him if they feel that they must but that they should do it in a more diplomatic manner.  Everyone, including the President, will still know that they are upset with his decision-making.  The upside of this less harsh language will be that, in the shadow of the midterm elections, the negative impact on their cause will be mitigated.

Our country is faced with many important issues that need to be debated and resolved yet congress has refused to address them. This is likely due to the upcoming midterm elections; they are afraid that their decisions might upset their constituents.  This is not leadership and neither is our unwillingness to hold them accountable and demand that they do their job.  Instead of considering their voting record and voting for or against them based on it, we listen to their election-season advertisements, which are paid for by rich individuals and special interest groups seeking special favors, and vote for them based on that.  These election-season ads where most politicians say what they know their constituents want to hear are to us what the sirens of folklore were to sailors of old; and they usually bring about the same results.  We are drawn into situations where we crash and are ultimately doomed by our haphazard choices.

Republican politicians continue to play a cat-and-mouse game with President Obama with regard to the use of his executive power. They encourage him to exercise it when it comes to issues that they do not have the courage to address and suppress it when issues involve easy choices that will make them shine in the eyes of their constituents.  They cannot have it both ways and effectively do their job.

While it is true that President Obama has executive power and can use it, let’s not forget that the Republicans recently sued him for abusing this power. Let’s remember too that there are three official branches of government and each must do its part if we are to have meaningful and effective governance.  Although not official, we are the forth branch so we must also do our part.  The responsibility does not rest with President Obama alone!

Eulus Dennis