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by German Lopez 05.09.2012
 
 
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Education Reform Struggles in Ohio Legislature

Kasich faces opposition from fellow Republicans

Ohio Gov. John Kasich has been put at odds with his own party during the past few days over a battle for education reform. On Tuesday, Republicans in the Ohio Senate pushed to slow down Kasich’s reforms, which would call for tougher reading standards and report-card rating systems in Ohio schools and districts.

The tougher reading standards could potentially hold back 12 percent of Ohio third-graders, according to The Columbus Dispatch.

With the new rules, kids would be tested every year starting in Kindergarten. Any kids who are below standards would receive special tutoring, and any who fail to improve to “proficient” or above by the time of the third-grade reading test would be held back.

Similar standards were passed in Florida a decade ago. While it was rough at first with 13 percent of third-graders in Florida being held back, scores have begun improving, Patricia Levesque, former education advisor to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, told The Dispatch.

However, research shows holding kids back hurts them more than helps. After reviewing decades of research, the National Association of School Psychologists found that grade retention has “deleterious long-term effects,” both academically and socially.

Kasich has also proposed tougher grading standards for schools and districts, which he hopes will hold schools more accountable.

Republican critics don’t necessarily oppose all the reforms, but they would like to see the reforms implemented more carefully and slowly. School officials, state education groups and teachers unions have repeatedly asked for more time to tell parents and teachers about the upcoming changes.

The news comes at a time when states around the country are moving to enact education reform after years of disappointment. In 2010, the U.S. fell to a rating of “average” in the international rankings released by the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development. The U.S. ranked No. 14 out of 34 OECD countries in reading, No. 17 for science and a below-average No. 25 for math.

One bright spot was found earlier this year when a report showed U.S. high school graduation rates had increased to 75.5 percent in 2009, up from 72 percent in 2001.

President Barack Obama has tried to encourage widespread education reform with his “Race to the Top” initiative. The program pushes states to compete for funds with education reform plans. The states with the best programs are then rewarded federal funds as they implement reform.

Former Gov. Ted Strickland won funds for Ohio with his reform plan, and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan congratulated Ohio for being on schedule with reforms earlier this year.

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.20.2012
 
 
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Dems, Unions Protest Romney Visit

As Mitt Romney gets ready to attend a $2,500 a plate fundraiser at downtown’s Great American Tower, the local Democratic Party chairman says the presidential hopeful’s economic plan “would do nothing to create jobs now.”

Hamilton County Democratic Party Chairman Tim Burke released a statement this afternoon describing why he believes a Romney presidency would be disastrous for middle-class Americans.


Meanwhile, a group of community leaders led a protest outside of the East Fourth Street office building as attendees arrived for the fundraiser. The protest was organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) District 1199, which represents more than 30,000 health-care and social service workers across Ohio, Kentucky and West Virginia.

“Mitt Romney holding $2,500 per person fundraiser at the Great American Tower is a perfect example of exactly who he is and who he represents,” said Becky Williams, SEIU’s district president, in a prepared statement. “While Romney is hobnobbing on the rooftop with his wealthy donors hosted by American Financial Group, ordinary Ohioans are struggling to find work and provide for their families.”

The co-host for the fundraiser is S. Craig Lindner, co-president and director of American Financial Group Inc., whose total compensation in 2010 totaled $8.3 million, according to Forbes magazine.

“Nothing Mitt Romney says can change the fact that he spent his career as a corporate buyout specialist who put profits over people and lined his pockets by outsourcing jobs, closing down plants and laying off workers,” Burke said.

“His 59-point economic plan would do nothing to create jobs now, fix America’s economy or help struggling homeowners avoid foreclosure. His tax plan would benefit the ultra-wealthy and do nothing to help middle-class families in Greater Cincinnati,” Burke added.

In preparation for Romney’s visit today, the Democratic National Committee pointed out that the investment firm once led by the candidate, Bain Capital, rejected a government offer to invest in General Motors (GM) during the 2008 financial crisis.

Romney has said on the campaign trail that he opposed the government bailout of U.S. automakers because the private market would have provided loans so GM and Chrysler Corp. could go through managed bankruptcy. But sources told The New York Times that Bain turned down an offer to help GM at the time.

“To go through the bankruptcy process, both companies needed billions of dollars in financing, money that auto executives and government officials who were involved with Mr. Obama’s auto task force say was not available at a time when the credit markets had dried up,” the article stated.

It added, “The only entity that could provide the $80 billion needed, they say, was the federal government. No private companies would come to the industry’s aid, and the only path through bankruptcy would have been Chapter 7 liquidation, not the more orderly Chapter 11 reorganization, these people said.”

 
 
by 02.04.2010
Posted In: News, Republicans, President Obama at 01:56 PM | Permalink | Comments (5)
 
 

GOP Poll Is Revealing

If its findings are accurate, a poll released this week should embarrass and shame Republican politicians and party leaders. It probably won’t, though, because if we’ve learned anything about the GOP in the past 20 years is that it can be pretty shameless.

The poll of 2,003 self-identified Republicans found that a large portion believe in unfounded conspiracy theories about President Obama, including a majority who think he’s a socialist.

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by Andy Brownfield 10.11.2012
 
 
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Seelbach Touts Obama's LGBT Record, Urges Early Voting

On National Coming Out Day, Obama campaign releases new ad featuring LGBT activist

On National Coming Out Day, Cincinnati’s only openly gay city councilman told CityBeat that equality for America’s Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgendered people would take a hit under a President Mitt Romney.

“On day one (of his presidency) he (Romney) could hurt gay families by reinstating Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell and hurt security for our country,” Seelbach said. “We need as many people serving as possible.”

Councilman Chris Seelbach spoke to CityBeat as he waited to vote early outside of the Hamilton County Board of Elections.

Proponents of the measure that prevented openly gay service members from serving in the military have said repealing Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell would damage the country’s combat-readiness. 

A study published by the Williams Institute at University of California Los Angeles Law School in September found that there has been no overall negative impact on military readiness, unit cohesion, recruitment, retention or morale.

Seelbach said there would be a stark contrast for LGBT people under President Barack Obama and his GOP rival. He pointed to the Obama administration’s refusal to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court; his vocal approval of same-sex marriage; anti-discrimination measures signed by the president that, among other things, give same-sex partners the right to visit their loved ones in the hospital and make medical decisions.

He said the next president would also likely have the opportunity to appoint new justices to the U.S. Supreme Court. The court will likely decide the fate of California’s Proposition 8, which outlawed gay marriage.

"If you care about equality, you've got to vote," Seelbach said. "The easiest way to vote is to vote early."

The Obama campaign in Ohio plans to release a new online ad touting the president’s accomplishments for LGBT people.

The ad, made available to CityBeat, features Zach Wahls, a gay-rights activist born to a lesbian couple via artificial insemination. Wahls is known for his testimony before the Iowa House Judiciary Committee against a constitutional amendment that would ban gay marriage in that state.

In the ad, Wahls touts the president’s accomplishments and exhorts Ohioans to reelect Obama.

“We want to make sure that we’re all doing everything we can this fall to get out, register voters, canvass, knock on doors, get our family members and friends out to the polls so that we can re-elect the best president this country has ever seen on LGBT rights,” Wahls said.

 
 
by Andy Brownfield 09.01.2012
 
 
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Romney Lays Out Recovery Plan in Cincinnati

Local Democrats say GOP nominee's plans would hurt middle class, Hamilton County

Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney on Saturday laid out five steps that he said would have America “roaring back” during his first campaign stop since formally accepting the Republican nomination.

At Cincinnati's Union Terminal, Romney was joined on stage by his wife Anne, who spoke briefly, echoing her convention speech meant to humanize her husband. 

He said his plan involved encouraging development in oil and coal, implementing a trade policy that favored American companies and not “cheaters” like China, making sure workers and students had skills to succeed in the coming century, reducing the deficit and encouraging small business growth.

“America is going to come roaring back,” Romney told the crowd of thousands packed inside Union Terminal.

Not everyone was so impressed with the GOP nominee’s promises.

About an hour after the Romney campaign event, Cincinnati Democratic leaders held a news conference to rebut the Republican’s speech.

“Much of his (Romney’s) speech was like his speech in Tampa, which is where Romney gave Cincinnatians nothing more than vague platitudes, false and misleading attacks without one single tangible idea on how to move forward,” said Democratic/Charterite Cincinnati City Councilwoman Yvette Simpson.

Simpson, along with Democratic Councilman Cecil Thomas and Bishop Bobby Hilton, attacked the tax plan put forward by Romney and his running mate, Wisconsin Rep. Paul Ryan. They said it would cut taxes for the richest Americans while raising taxes on the middle class by about $2,000 per household, citing an analysis from the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center.

“Mitt Romney’s plan would take Ohio and Cincinnati backwards, and we don’t have time to go backwards,” Hilton said.

Hilton credited Cincinnati’s revitalization and urban development in part on federal money obtained from Obama’s stimulus plan.

“We deserve better than this. We deserve better than Romney/Ryan,” he said.

Romney would have disagreed with Hilton’s assessment of Cincinnati’s growth. During his speech he praised Ohio Gov. John Kasich, crediting him with bringing jobs and businesses to the state.

Romney also took time to attack President Barack Obama’s record in office. The GOP nominee said in preparation for his convention speech he read many past convention speeches — including Obama’s.

“He was not one of the ones that I wanted to draw from, except I could not resist a couple of things he said, because he made a lot of promises,” Romney said. “And I noted that he didn't keep a lot of promises.”

Romney also criticized what he called the bitterness and divisiveness of Obama’s campaign, saying as president he would bring the country together. He mentioned the “patriotism and courage” of the late Neil Armstrong, who was honored in a private service in Cincinnati on Friday.

“I will do everything in my power to bring us together, because, united, America built the strongest economy in the history of the earth. United, we put Neil Armstrong on the moon. United, we faced down unspeakable darkness,” Romney said. 

“United, our men and women in uniform continue to defend freedom today. I love those people who serve our great nation. This is a time for us to come together as a nation.”

The candidate’s remarks ignited the crowd of thousands, many of whom wore shirts with slogans like “Mr. President, I did build my business,” in response to a remark made by Obama about businesses being helped to grow by government contracts and infrastructure, and “Mitt 2012: At least he never ate dog meat,” referring to a passage in Obama’s 2008 memoir during which he recalls being fed dog meat as a boy in Indonesia.

Steve Heckman, a 62-year-old environmental consultant from Springfield, Ohio, said he voted for Obama in 2008 but will likely vote for Romney in this election. 

He said he’d written “some pretty ugly stuff” about Romney in the past but felt jobs was the No. 1 issue and thought the Obama administration’s policies were sending them out of the country.

“The EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) has, to me,  become a little too almost like a fringe group, putting so much pressure on businesses that they are moving to Canada,” Heckman said. “Things like air permits, the EPA is taking too long to issue them. It’s not just power plants they’re affecting, but all manufacturing.”

Heckman said he didn’t blame the president personally but thinks whoever he put in charge of the agency is being too strict.

“I grew up when the EPA was first put in place in the '70s, and they were, in my opinion, doing God’s work,” he said, citing the cleaning up of rivers such as the Cuyahoga near Cleveland, which famously caught fire because of pollution in 1969.

“I support the EPA, but it’s driving businesses out of here.”

Speaking ahead of Romney were U.S. House Speaker John Boehner, Sen. Rob Portman, U.S. Rep. Steve Chabot, Ohio treasurer and GOP senatorial candidate Josh Mandel and Republican U.S. House candidate for Ohio’s 2nd District, Brad Wenstrup.

“This election is all about changing Washington,” Mandel said. “The only way to change Washington is to change the people we send there.”

 
 
by Kevin Osborne 02.15.2012
Posted In: 2010 Election, Tea Party, Republicans, Congress at 12:57 PM | Permalink | Comments (0)
 
 
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Rand Paul to Speak Locally

His father might be busy trying to score the GOP’s presidential nomination, but U.S. Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) is taking the time to speak at a Town Hall-style meeting in Northern Kentucky next week.

Paul is scheduled to attend an event organized by the Northern Kentucky Tea Party on Feb. 24. It will be held at the Calvin Perry Community Center, 8536 W. Main St., in Alexandria.

The meeting, which is free and open to the public, will begin at 2 p.m. and last for about an hour. Paul will speak first, then answer questions from the audience.

In the Tea Party’s announcement of the event, Paul is described as “a true champion of freedom” who has “worked to stop the EPA's war on coal.”

Paul, 49, is the son of U.S. Rep. Ron Paul (R-Texas) who is seeking the Republican Party’s presidential nomination.

Elected to the Senate in November 2010, the younger Paul is also a practicing ophthalmologist in Bowling Green, Ky.

Paul made headlines during his campaign when he said he disliked portions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964, the landmark legislation that outlawed discrimination based on race, color, religion or national origin in hotels, motels, restaurants, theaters and all other public accommodations engaged in interstate commerce.

A restaurant or other private business with no government funding should be allowed to discriminate, he said. “In a free society, we will tolerate boorish people who have abhorrent behavior,” Paul added.

 
 
by Deirdre Kaye 02.29.2012
Posted In: Religion, Healthcare Reform, Poverty, Republicans at 11:57 AM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 
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Anti-Health Care Fight Is Un-Christian

There are protesters who have been standing outside of a pediatrician’s office almost daily since at least the summer. Why? Someone else in that same tiny complex is offering abortions. A woman who has taken her special needs daughter to that pediatrician’s office for more than 20 years was recently told by her minister’s wife that she needed to switch pediatricians. Abortion is “murder,” of course, so going anywhere near the “scene of the crime” must make her a co-conspirator.

On the opposite side of town is a Catholic organization made up of young people who were praying the rosary daily in hopes of a veto on the law that required Catholic employers to provide health care that included birth control coverage. Furthering their attack on small families are two Republican candidates for president. Rick Santorum and Mitt Romney seem to want to reverse the bill that legalized the sale of contraception.

Yes, the Bible says “Be fruitful.” The Bible also says to take care of children. Statistics from UNICEF report that in 2009 roughly 2.1 million children are currently orphaned in America. Who is taking care of them? Should anyone be so adamantly against birth control when they’re also clearly unwilling to help take care of the result from a lack of birth control?

Before abortion was legalized, women were forced to take to back alleys in order to end unwanted pregnancies. Those terminations consisted of the use of things like scalding water or hangers. Many women contracted infections from those unsterile and unsafe methods. Too many women died from those infections. Why wasn’t anyone looking out for them?

Many of the comments we’ve received at CityBeat in response to coverage of these issues have focused on the sinfulness of abortion and birth control (and, of course, homosexuality). Why are they overlooking all the other “sins” the bible suggests?

Click the jump for a list of all the crazy things the Old Testament says are also sins.

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by Kevin Osborne 09.08.2011
 
 
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Ron Paul Jumps the Shark

Some progressive Democrats share a modest admiration for Ron Paul, a U.S. congressman from Texas and perennial darkhorse contender for the Republican presidential nomination.

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by German Lopez 01.20.2014
 
 
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Modern Republicans Would Oppose Martin Luther King Jr.

The civil rights icon embraced many progressive causes

If his speeches and other comments are any indication, Martin Luther King Jr. would likely stand in sharp opposition to modern Ohio Republicans and many of their proposed policies.

In reviewing King’s work, speeches and quotes, it’s clear he was a progressive on a wide range of issues — from voting rights to collective bargaining rights to reproductive rights. In contrast, modern Republicans are doing their best to dilute such rights and scale back progressive causes on a host of other issues.

Given that it’s Martin Luther King Jr. Day, what better time to look back at some of King’s positions and analyze what they could mean in terms of today’s politics? Warning: The results might upset some Republicans.

On voting rights:

“So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote, I do not possess myself,” King said, according to PBS. “I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others.”

King and other civil rights activists saw the right to vote as the most crucial stepping stone to equality. In fact, one of the defining accomplishments of the Civil Rights Movement was the Voting Rights Act of 1965, which attempted to ban discrimination in the voting booth.

“Give us the ballot and we will transform the salient misdeeds of blood-thirsty mobs into calculated good deeds of orderly citizens,” King said.

More specifically, the Voting Rights Act helped undo several voting restrictions taken up against minority voters in the South. The restrictions rarely outright banned black voters; instead, Southerners took up backhanded standards, such as literacy tests and poll taxes, that many black voters couldn’t meet.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because, by at least one top Ohio Republican’s admission, growing restrictions on early voting also help curtail black voters — who, by the way, happen to vote for Democrats in droves.

“I guess I really actually feel we shouldn’t contort the voting process to accommodate the urban — read African-American — voter-turnout machine,” said Doug Preisse, chairman of the Franklin County Republican Party and close adviser to Gov. John Kasich, in an email to The Columbus Dispatch.

In other states, Republicans are taking similarly restrictive approaches and passing stringent voter ID laws, even though one study found it discriminates against young, minority voters.

Especially given Preisse’s comments, it’s clear King would not approve of Republican actions. King saw enough oppression in Southern voting booths to know better.

On labor unions and “right to work”:

“In our glorious fight for civil rights, we must guard against being fooled by false slogans, such as ‘right to work.’ It is a law to rob us of our civil rights and job rights. Its purpose is to destroy labor unions and the freedom of collective bargaining by which unions have improved wages and working conditions of everyone,” King said, according to the Economic Policy Institute. “Wherever these laws have been passed, wages are lower, job opportunities are fewer and there are no civil rights. We do not intend to let them do this to us. We demand this fraud be stopped. Our weapon is our vote.”

In this statement, King unequivocally disavows restrictions on unions and collective bargaining rights.

Meanwhile, Gov. Kasich and top Ohio Republicans remain mum on whether they support anti-union laws like “right to work,” much to the chagrin of tea party groups that strongly support such efforts.

But it’s clear Kasich and Ohio Republicans support some restrictions on unions and collective bargaining. In 2011, the Republican-controlled legislature and governor approved Senate Bill 5, a bill that significantly curtailed public unions and their collective bargaining rights.

Almost immediately, labor unions rallied in opposition to the effort and took the issue to referendum. Voters overwhelmingly rejected S.B. 5 the following November, dealing a major blow to Republicans and a huge political boost to unions and Democrats.

Despite the rejection, some conservatives continue pushing anti-union causes. The tea party-backed group Ohioans for Workplace Freedom aims to get an anti-union “right to work” initiative on the ballot in 2014.

Considering King’s strong pro-union statements, it’s clear he would stand against Ohio Republicans’ and the tea party’s anti-union efforts if he lived today.

On the death penalty:

“I do not think God approves the death penalty for any crime — rape and murder included,” King said, according to Stanford University. “Capital punishment is against the best judgment of modern criminology and, above all, against the highest expression of love in the nature of God.”

King’s comment clearly disavows the death penalty, even for the gravest crimes, based on his religious perspective and study of criminology.

Perhaps more than any other issue on this list, King’s stance on the death penalty could upset some Democrats as much as some Republicans. But even though support for the death penalty crosses partisan lines, it’s much more pronounced on the Republican side of the spectrum.

In recent days, the debate over the death penalty reignited in Ohio after Gov. Kasich’s administration took 26 minutes to execute a gasping, grunting convicted killer with a new cocktail of drugs that was never tried before in the United States.

The prolonged execution, the longest since Ohio resumed use of the death penalty in 1999, led some legislative Democrats to push new limits or even an outright ban on capital punishment. It’s expected the Republican majority will ignore the bills.

Based on his claims, King would oppose the state-sanctioned killing of a convicted killer, and he certainly would reject any defense that touts vengeance as a justification for killing another human being.

On health care:

“Of all the forms of inequality, injustice in health care is the most shocking and inhuman,” King said, according to Dr. Quentin Young, who attended King’s speech at the 1966 convention of the Medical Committee for Human Rights.

Whether King’s quote indicates support for Democrat-backed legislation like Obamacare or other measures, such as a single-payer system, is completely unclear. But King’s rhetoric certainly comes closer to Democrats’ support for universal access to health care than Republicans’ opposition to governmental incursions into the U.S. health care system.

To Gov. Kasich’s credit, he helped alleviate the “inequality” and “injustice in health care” King referred to by aggressively pursuing the federally funded Medicaid expansion.

But Kasich was in the minority of the Ohio Republican Party in his pursuit. The state legislature’s Republican majority refused to approve the Medicaid expansion in the two-year state budget and later bills. When Kasich finally got the Medicaid expansion done through the seven-member Controlling Board, several legislative Republicans joined an unsuccessful lawsuit to reverse the decision.

Accordingly, King would probably praise Kasich for opening up access to health care, and it’s doubtful he would support Republicans in their attempts to block health care for the poor.

On reproductive rights:

“For the Negro, therefore, intelligent guides of family planning are a profoundly important ingredient in his quest for security and a decent life,” King said, according to Planned Parenthood. “There are mountainous obstacles still separating Negroes from a normal existence. Yet one element in stabilizing his life would be an understanding of and easy access to the means to develop a family related in size to his community environment and to the income potential he can command.”

King’s comments on reproductive rights came as he accepted the first round of the Margaret Sanger Awards from Planned Parenthood, an organization now demonized by Republicans for its support for abortion and reproductive rights.

Now, nothing in King’s comments implies he supported abortion rights, even though some historians believe King, a strong Christian, accepted a more liberal interpretation of the Bible.

But King’s comments — and even his mere acceptance of the Planned Parenthood award — show strong support for reproductive rights for low-income men and women. In that respect, King is clearly going against Ohio Republicans’ pursuits.

In the 2014-2015 state budget, a Republican majority passed new funding restrictions on Planned Parenthood and other comprehensive family planning centers. Some of the restrictions hit family planning clinics that don’t offer abortions.

Even though King’s stance on abortion is unclear, his comments clearly contradict efforts to restrict access to family planning clinics and reproductive rights. Once again, he would not approve of the Republican agenda.
 
 
by 01.10.2011
Posted In: Congress, Democrats, Republicans, Tea Party at 05:55 PM | Permalink | Comments (3)
 
 

Violence and False Equivalencies

After the tragic shootings Saturday in Arizona involving a U.S. congresswoman and a federal judge, some progressive commentators were quick to note the heated rhetoric and provocative imagery used by Sarah Palin's political action committee (PAC), with many blaming it for helping incite violence.

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