Friday, March 30, 2007


Four states currently prohibit ex-felons (those who have completed their sentences) from voting for their lifetime--Florida, Virginia, Iowa and Kentucky. [Gov. Vilsack of Iowa did issue an Executive Order July 2005 that allows for ex-felons to vote after serving their time, though the ban remains on Iowa's law books.] Forty eight states prohibit felons while in prison (and on probation/parole) from voting. The thinking behind disenfranchisement is that the criminals have broken the 'social contract' and do not deserve to vote. Two states--Maine and Vermont--allow felons to vote while in prison.

If one of the purposes of prison is to punish the person so that they will not commit crimes against society when they re-enter society, it probably serves society well , at minimum, not to disenfranchise the ex-prisoners. This would re-incorporate them back into society, making them part of the polity. Studies have shown those who do vote after serving their sentences have less of a likelihood to commit further transactions against the state. All ex-prisoners, ex-felons, should have the right to vote. And, teaching prisoners about their rights and responsibilities as citizens while they are in prison might make them better citizens when they are released.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Blind Faith

Blind Faith--accepting, believing and acting without (critically) thinking

Friday, March 16, 2007

Gay in the Womb

Rev. Albert Mohler's march 2 website ( had an interesting post promoting prenatal treatment to reverse a fetus' sexual orientation.
This is very interesting, and very reminiscent of the play and film "Twilight of the Golds," for it changes the playing field for those members of the Religious Right.
One: It shows that homosexuality is not a life style choice. Who would choose to be discriminated against? And, if it is not a choice, than perchance we are ALL G*D's children--homosexual, heterosexual, transsexual/transgendered, bisexual, or asexual. And, thus, all deserve equal rights.
Two: What are the implications of using prenatal treatments? Is the Reverend suggesting that we play G*D in this instance? Than why limit it to prenatal treatments? Does this reasoning allow for stem cell research? End of Life issues?
Three: Who is to say that homosexuality needs to be corrected? What affect would that have on the world? If G*D creates all life...
Four: How easy it might be to move from prenatal treatments to aborting fetuses...would the Reverend suggest this? [This might keep abortion legal :) ]
When do we stop? Do we not allow fetuses with the gene for Huntington's Chorea--and thus, might not have the next Woodie Guthrie among us?

a. proof that if there is a G*D . . .
b. playing G*D

c. abortion...

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

W's American Idol

The other day I was providing commentary for a radio show that featured clips of historical political speeches of the the late 20th century. I was struck by the similarities between Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew, and George W. Bush and Dick Cheney.

Nixon is considered to be the first 'imperial president' because of his actions concerning Viet Nam, Watergate, Policy making and , of course, trying to keep presidential records secret. (Nixon did open China, and by executive order set up the EPA). Nixon resigned so that he would not be impeached.
W. acts as though he is an imperial president. He has lied that got us into Iraq, the federal prosecutors, signing statements that re-write legislation, and , of course, sealing presidential records.

Agnew, who resigned as Nixon's vice president because of tax evasion, acted as Nixon's pit bull against the anti-war protesters and the media.
Cheney is W's pit bull, calling people unpatriotic, STILL making the connection between Al Qaeda and Iraq, and dissing the media.

And, we all thought that Reagan was W's inspiration, who knew?

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Land of the Free Thinkers

Teaching people to think is hard endeavor, especially when you have politicians who would rather have unthinking followers.

Case in point: there are bills in the state house of Arizona and Virgina in which a college professor's freedom of speech and academic freedom are to be curtailed.

I am an American, and very proud of what principles our country was built on. Freedom of speech is to allow the mix of ideas into the public square. Academic freedom is to allow even unpopular ideas and theories to be discussed and studied.

In an high school in Westchester young women used the word "Vagina" appropriately--not as an epithet--in a reading of Eve Ensler's play"the Vagina Monologues."The school administration is censoring them.

An awarding winning children's book is being banned in libraries because it uses the word "scrotum." again, the word is being used appropriately to describe anatomy.

What happens when ideas and words are censored?
For anatomical words they become "dirty," prohibited speech, we revert back to a time when we referred to our genitals as "down there" a place unseen and untouched. We revert to ignorance.

For ideas that are censored, we become ignorant, compliant citizens. Citizens who consume but do not question. Citizens who follow,but do not lead.

I think the purpose of teaching is to make thinking citizens. John Dewey among others believe the only way a democracy will survive is with educated citizens. I tell my students that I do not care which side of the political spectrum they fall on, just that they can substantiate their arguments with facts (not other people's opinions), they interview people with other view points and try to substantiate those view points.

Thinking is critical.

Monday, March 05, 2007

Slave Labor

In yesterday's (3/4//07) NYT there was an article inside the first section that is very worrisome: "Inmates Will Replace Migrants in Colorado Fields."

Seems that Colorado's immigrant migrant farm workers are disappearing due to stringent laws being enforced, and farmers need this labor--for all aspects of crop to market work. So the Corrections Department is suggesting that the farmers pay the agency a fee, low risk inmates would volunteer, and get paid 60 cents --sixty cents-- a day. Other states are also looking towards the prison population to supplement field labor. As it is migrant farm workers are the lowest paid in our labor force--on average being paid much less than minimum wage-- not to mention without benefits, and they have highest incidence of injury of all workers according to a Cornell report (2001)

Not only is this slave labor and wages underwriting the cost of growing crops--which we would enjoy at the supermarket with lower prices for these crops--but begs for a continual supply of this very cheap labor.
Angela Davis identified this as the Prison-Industrial Complex in 1998. She also spoke that fall at Colorado State University on this. Here is a link to all the prisons using prisoners as labor forces within the systems and hiring them out to corporations, with articles and links: (Prison labor has undercut union labor, and non-union labor...but it helps make corporations more profitable, and prisons entrepreneurial cost centers).

Using prison labor in the fields not not solve any of agriculture growers problems in the long term but perpetuates the incarceration of low level criminals so that prison population has enough labor to sell. It does not solve the problem of immigrant workers. It does not make our streets safer. It does not help to rehabilatate prisoners. It does not really cut the costs of our prison system when you look at the impact on keeping those prisons stocked with labor. The only good that comes is that farmers get even cheaper labor, and can turn a profit, and we the consumer will supposedly get cheap food. (Use this same construction for all prison labor--the owners of the business get to reap the biggest profit.)

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