How Proposition 107 Threatens Battered Women’s Shelters and Breast Cancer Screening Programs

The operation of domestic violence shelters will be threatened by Proposition 107, and this post explains how.

There’s one consensus that both sides of Arizona’s Ballot Proposition 107 can agree on: the effects of passing this ballot proposition will be widespread. However, what the “Yes on 107” folks won’t tell you is exactly how widespread those effects will be.

Not only will Proposition 107 eliminate public education, public employment and public contracting programs that promote affirmative action programs that benefit women and minorities, but passage of Proposition 107 will threaten many public service programs that our community need, such as battered women’s shelters and breast cancer screening programs.

As evidence, again, we need only look at a few important lawsuits that were filed in California in the wake of Proposition 209’s passage. Most of you should remember that Proposition 209 is California’s version of Proposition 107, and was passed by our neighbours to the west in 1996.

Both Prop 209 and Prop 107 say that they will only affect “public employment, public education, or public contracting”, which suggests that women’s shelters and breast cancer sceening programs — targeted public service programs — will not be affected by Proposition 107’s passage. Indeed, this is the argument that the “Yes on 107” side makes.

Measures like Prop. 107 are carefully crafted and precisely worded. The language clearly applies to government employment, contracting, and education, with the purpose of preventing the government from making race or sex a job or admissions qualification.

However, what “Yes on Prop 107” won’t tell you is that the scope of this ballot measure remains, in legal terms, unclear and subject to further interpretation. While we intuitively know what constitutes a “public employment, public education or public contracting” program, those definitions aren’t explicitly stated in the law. In other words, Proposition 107 is “carefully and precisely worded” — to allow for a vague and open interpretation, which is exactly how its backers want it.

Yes on 107 dismisses these concerns in regards to domestic violence shelters and breast cancer screening by saying, “Domestic violence shelters don’t fall into [the categories established in Prop 107]. Even if they did, Jennifer Gratz told me, there would be an exception [in Prop 209] for bone fide qualifications based on sex.”

While it’s true that Proposition 107 includes a caveat that prohibits “bona fide qualifications based on sex”, this is what I like to call a “political” exception, not a legal one. In other words, it’s included in Proposition 107 to give its political backers some wiggle room while trying to get the measure pass by saying that certain beloved programs would qualify for an exception, but legally, it is not clear exactly what a “bona fide qualification based on sex” actually means. There is no certainty that domestic violence shelters and breast cancer screenings would fall under this exception; in fact, following Proposition 107’s passage, lawsuits would be necessary to determine how Arizona would interpret Proposition 107 and the exceptions it outlines.

Don’t believe me? This is exactly what happened in California with Proposition 209, which is worded exactly the same as Arizona’s Proposition 107, and which includes the “bona fide qualifications based on sex” caveat. Despite having this caveat in Proposition 209, domestic violence shelters and breast cancer screening programs were still subject to lawsuits.

Following Proposition 209’s passage, a lawsuit was filed against the state of California by Ward Connerly, whose California-based political action group organized and funded both Proposition 209 and Arizona’s Proposition 107Connerly vs. State Personnel Board challenged the constitutionality of several state programs and was intended to have California’s Supreme Court decide the true scope of Proposition 209 and exactly what sorts of publicly-funded programs fall under its purvue. And, that was despite the fact that Connerly’s group crafted this “precisely worded” ballot measure. 

In Connerly vs. State Personnel Board, the judges decided that (as summarized here) “Proposition 209… prohibits discrimination against or preferential treatment to individuals or groups regardless of whether the governmental action could be justified under strict scrutiny.” Strict scrutiny essentially refers to specific cases where the state government deems racial or gender classifications to be necessary to achieve a very narrow and specific purpose. Although Proposition 209 itself only applied to public employment, public contracting and public education, the court’s decision established that California would interpret Proposition 209 as superceding any instance where the use of racial or gender classifications was appropriate under strict scrutiny. In short, this single statement expanded the scope of Proposition 209 beyond its original writing.

In the wake of this decision, two cases were filed against battered women’s shelters that limit their services to female victims of domestic violence: Blumhorst vs. Haven Hills and NCFM LA vs. State of California. The second lawsuit, additionally, challenged state funding for breast cancer screening programs that target women. NCFM stands for the National Coalition of Free Men, and is a group dedicated to “men’s rights”, and they have challenged anything they deem as preferential treatment for women, including women-only bathrooms on airplanes. In the case of domestic violence shelters, limiting entry to female victims is intended to protect those women — many of whom are recovering from recent rape or assault — from their abusive husbands, and from additional psychological trauma. Although both lawsuits failed to eliminate female-specific battered women’s shelters or breast cancer screening programs in California, this was due in part to California statutes explicitly establishing protection for such programs; I’m not aware that Arizona has similar legal protections for women’s health programs in this state.

Further, the financial and political costs of such legal wrangling was damaging both to the state of California and to the specific programs in question. Correct me if I’m wrong, but with passage of Proposition 107 here in Arizona, a similar history of legal wrangling would be required to establish this state law’s exact scope. Arizona would be at the mercy of state judges to determine exactly what constitutes a public education, public employment and public contracting program, and how Proposition 107 will be applied to other state-funded programs. A decision by Arizona judges that might broaden the scope of Proposition 107 could, as it did in California with Connerly vs. State Personnel Board, open other state-funded programs to further lawsuit.

It would be non-factual to say that with passage of Proposition 107, women’s shelters and breast cancer screening programs would cease to exist in Arizona; this is not the argument I am making, nor would such an argument be supported by the fact that California statutes, independent of Proposition 209, protect funding for women’s health. Let’s be clear: California still has domestic women’s shelters and breast cancer screening programs.

But, simply put, Proposition 107 will, like its predecessor in California, invite years of additional legal debate and wrangling to establish the measure’s specific scope and interpretation. Arizona can ill-afford to go through such a litany of lawsuits, both financially and politically. Each of these lawsuits means thousands, if not millions, of dollars spent by the state in defending themselves in court. In addition, each of these lawsuits invite another public relations nightmare for a state that has already been characterized so negatively in the national media when it comes to civil rights. 

And worst of all, Proposition 107 will open women’s shelters and breast cancer screenings to criticism and scrutiny that could hamper their mission and day-to-day operation.

Please protect the health of women in Arizona and vote no on Proposition 107 tomorrow.

Cross-posted: Blog for Arizona

How the “Yes on Proposition 107” Side Gets it Wrong on Higher Education

Why the anti-affirmative action folks get it really, really wrong.

Several months ago, I wrote a series of posts on Arizona’s latest ballot proposition — Prop 107 — which is part of the American Civil Rights Initiative’s latest effort to eliminate affirmative action in this state. One of my pieces, Proposition 107: Arizona’s Students Under Attack!, has been widely shared and remains one of the only blog posts on the Internet documenting why and how Prop 107 will hurt Arizona’s future. In brief, I draw upon the precedents set in California, which eliminated affirmative action in the mid-nineties, to demonstrate how higher education in Arizona will suffer with Prop 107’s passage.

Last week, the Yes on 107 side posted a response to my post on their website. In the interest of public information, I approved their comment publicizing their response on this site, but didn’t read it until just now.

I am sorry to say this, but the Yes on 107 argument is filled with the same kind of faulty logic that has come to characterize their side of the debate.

The Yes on 107 side would have you believe that with affirmative action policies — programs that promote recruitment and retention of underrepresented or underserved  women and minorities — in place, women and minorities are enrolling in college — but are simply not equipped to handle the rigours of a university campus. Women and minorities aren’t good enough to be in the best schools, argue the Yes on 107 crew, and consequently they are enrolling in and graduating from second-tier universities.

Instead of attending the top couple of public universities in those states, more women and minorities are attending less competitive colleges, where their chances of graduating are much better. Instead of shunting them into universities they are not academically prepared for, leading them to embarrassing failure, they are able to obtain a university education in a school where they have a realistic chance of graduating. 

Yes on 107 would have us believe that women inherently and academically under-perform compared to men, and therefore it is unkind or “embarassing” to “shunt” female students into competitive universities where they are doomed to fail out. Yet, the facts simply do not support this bizarre — and offensive — assertion.

Nationally, women are academically out-pacing men in virtually all measures. Girls have a lower high school drop-out rate (75% vs. 62%), and thus a higher high school graduation rate, compared to boys. On average, female students out-number male students on most college campuses by 57% to 43%. Male students have lower-than-average GPAs and college matriculation rate compared to female students, prompting what some policy analysts have termed a “Male Gender Gap” in higher education. One study of enrolled students at Florida and Texas universities concluded:

We find that males take fewer credits and earn lower grades than females in their first semester of enrollment. Male students are also less likely to persist and graduate from college and earn fewer cumulative credits and lower cumulative grades. The male/female differentials are not generally driven by differences in demographics, the quality of high schools and neighborhoods, high school test scores, or the selectivity of the university attended by male and female college enrollees. In fact, many of these factors tend to favor male enrollees. Instead, male enrollees have lower high school grades upon college entry, and this single factor (controlling for test scores and other factors) explains approximately three-quarters of the gender differential in credits earned and GPA in the freshman year.

This trend is mirrored in Arizona (according to a study by Arizona Minority Education Policy Analysis Center, AMEPAC), where female students graduate from high school at rates higher than male students (74.5% vs. 67.3% for the Class of 2001). More women demonstrate sufficient aptitude to meet the acceptance criteria for Arizona’s public schools (43.6% vs. 38.2%). Women receive 55.2% of college degrees compared to men. And, women out-number men in Arizona’s top universities (shown here in graphical form, because everyone loves graphs!):

Women out-number men on Arizona's college campuses.

Arizona’s state universities are public, but I hardly agree with Yes on 107’s disparaging remark that women only out-number men on college campuses that are “less competitive”, which would seem to refer to our state’s schools. Incidentally, I should point out that the academic programs in Arizona are highly competitive. At the University of Arizona (where I currently study), we have one of the best undergraduate physiology programs in the country. Our Optical Sciences graduate program is ranked #1 and is a destination program for engineers.

Further refuting Yes on 107’s claim about women, and how “realistic” it is for them to graduate from college, women are equally represented compared to men in top private schools such as Harvard or Princeton, where they seem to be doing a perfectly fine job of graduating: Harvard boasts a 97% graduation rate.

All this isn’t to say that women are smarter than men, but it is to refute the claim by Yes on 107 that women are somehow stupider than men, and therefore we are doing them a disservice by enrolling them in college. This is to demonstrate that affirmative action policies, that have helped support, recruit and retain female college students, are working: female student have excelled in higher education as a result, in just a short fifty years since the first female students were accepted into prestigious colleges like Princeton.

(Incidentally, these same statistics also refute Yes on 107’s bizarre claim that “[race] preferences favor minorities over women”. Not only are women of all races demonstrably succeeding academically under affirmative action, but Yes on 107’s argument actually seems to suggest that there is no such thing as a minority woman.)

Now, of course, the successes seen for women are simply not evident for racial minorities. In the same study that I cite above from AMEPAC, Black and Latino students were found to have lower high school graduation rates compared to White students. But the reasons for this are not because Black and Latino students are simply incapable of going to college but are thrust into that environment anyways, as Yes on 107 would suggest, causing them to suffer an “embarassing failure”. Instead, it may be because affirmative action policies haven’t done enough to recruit and retain Black and Latino students in high school and college.

As evidence, let’s turn to George Mason University, a public university in the Northern Virginia area. According to its Wikipedia page, GMU is the largest university in the Commonwealth of Virginia, and is recognized for its strong undergraduate programs in economics, creative writing and computer science, as well as its law program. The U.S. World and News Report ranked GMU #1 in “Up-and-Coming National Universities” in 2008.

GMU also is one of a handful of schools nation-wide that have an equal graduation rate for minority and non-minority students. Administrators of these schools attribute this to the broad recruitment and retention programs — affirmative action — they have implemented to support minority students.

The authors wrote that the key to eliminating achievement gaps may rest with “what colleges do with and for the students they admit.”

Colleges with high minority graduation rates tend to aggressively recruit a “critical mass” of black and Hispanic students, support them with pre-collegiate preparatory programs and then cultivate a culture of academic success for the entire student body. When a college president sets minority completion “as an important goal and as a priority, that really filters down through the university,” Lynch said.

What GMU has done is two-fold: 1) they have increased their recruitment of minority students, and thereby enhanced their pool of highly-qualified minority students, and 2) they have implemented a number of retention programs, including scholarships and tutoring programs, that help all students, regardless of race or gender, succeed. There’s no way to get around it: these are affirmative action programs.

And, at GMU, affirmative action programs are working. Not only is GMU one of the most diverse college campuses in the country, but they are ranked exceptionally high, academically. Yes on 107 would have you believe that a school cannot be competitive while accepting women and minority students, but the facts simply do not bear that assertion out.

In summary, the argument that Yes on 107 presents is both non-factual and offensive: they argue that women and minorites are currently unprepared, and therefore incapable, of succeeding in a collegiate environment. They say:

Trying to force them there after they complete high school, when they haven’t been adequately academically prepared, isn’t the right way to do it. It only serves to embarrass them and ensure they will fail. 

But, in truth, Proposition 107 would seek to eliminate recruitment and retention programs that have demonstrably benefitted, male and female students of all races and backgrounds. If anything, Arizona should look to the model set by schools like GMU, and implement better affirmative action programs to further help recruit and retain our minority students to our state’s high schools and universities.

On November 2nd, please vote no on Proposition 107.

Cross-posted: Blog for Arizona

In Defense of Anonymous Blogging

I've got passion, but "authority"?

NPR’s firing of news analyst Juan Williams last week has caused much consternation in the mainstream media and throughout the blogosphere about the boundary between traditional, unbiased journalism and opinion journalism. Many have argued that it is impractical and unfair to expect journalists to not have opinions; others have argued that all opinions aside, journalists are ethically obligated to avoid even the appearance of bias.

Let’s be straight: journalists, like everybody else, have opinions. Often, because they are so well-informed about current events,  they have some very strong opinions. Juan Williams has a right to his opinion, and to voice it. What Williams does not have is the right to work for NPR, particularly in violation of their employment policies (by exercising his right to spout hatespeech).

But, the whole Williams debacle has raised a larger question for me: what is the real difference between bloggers and journalists?

Here in Arizona, a local reporter, Josh Brodesky, railed against the supposed bias of local bloggers in an opinion piece published Sunday in the Arizona Daily Star. In it, Brodesky laments the inherent bias of bloggers, and complains that social media and the Internet is rife with rumour and innuendo that has replaced real news-reporting. Brodesky reserves special vitriol for the prolific, influential, and well-read AZBlueMeanie, one of my fellow bloggers over at Blog for Arizona. Brodesky pretty much blames the Meanie for all the “truthiness” in Arizona politics today:

Welcome to life in the era of “truthiness” – a word comedian Stephen Colbert has famously used as a proxy for ersatz truth. It no longer matters if information is locked down and factual: It just needs to look and sound like it is. Throw it up online and see if it sticks. Who cares about the consequences?

Brodesky further argued that the Meanie’s anonymity allowed him to make wild, and false, accusations.

As the Blue Meanie, White can name-call a now-former journalist a “talentless hack” or a politician “the wannabe tin-horn dictator of Tucson.” He just can’t risk having his name tagged to it.

We get it, Mr. Brodesky — you don’t like bloggers, and you especially don’t like the Meanie.

Brodesky claims that because reporters, unlike bloggers, sign their names to their stories, they are morally and professionally obligated to be truthful. By contrast, Brodesky laments that anonymous bloggers like the AZBlueMeanie “cause the targets of his attacks harm” by writing carelessly and libellously about them. Well, one might make the same argument against journalists who publish stories that take down any public figure. Eliot Spitzer’s political career was destroyed in part by journalists who mercilessly reported on the “Client-9” debacle; did those journalists deserve condemnation because of the consequences of their writing? Obviously not. By extension, the Meanie should only be criticized for causing his targets harm if he lied to do so. Being a blogger might make Meanie biased, but it does not, de facto, also make the Meanie a liar. Yet this, argues Brodesky, is why journalists are superior to bloggers.

Journalists are required to sign their names to their stories, and they also answer to an editorial board that fact-checks their stories. It’s difficult — but not impossible — for a reporter to blatantly lie in their stories. Bloggers, on the hand, answer to no one. We occasionally “report” news, but more often than not, we opinionate. We self-publish, and are generally (but not always) protected from libel and defamation lawsuits. What keeps a blogger from lying through his or her teeth? Nothing but his or her own personal code of morality and ethics. But, I would argue that the same is true for journalists: traditional reporters can apparently go a long time fabricating the news without getting caught.

Further, does the discerning reader actually defer to the blogosphere rumour mill as their unfettered source of news? Brodesky cited recent rumours that Governor Jan Brewer is deathly ill (a rumour started by a former Democratic candidate for governor) as evidence that people will believe anything bloggers tell them. But it seems to me that most of the politicos who had heard the “Brewer is sick” rumour characterized it as just that: an unsubstantiated rumour. Then again, Brodesky claims he doesn’t read blogs, so maybe he puts more weight on online rumours than the average, intelligent blog reader does.

But the bigger question is: are bloggers like myself or the AZBlueMeanie passing ourselves off as traditional journalists, trying to replace the Josh Brodeskys of the world? 

Livejournal is NOT a real journal...

Although I’m relatively young, I consider myself a veteran blogger; I have been maintaining this blog for nearly ten years. In that time, I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to witness, and report on, news-making events. I’ve been lucky enough to meet and interview bonafide news-makers. I’ve been given the opportunity to advance screen movies, review books, and even attend events on a press pass. Occasionally, I find myself — much to electroman’s chagrin — accidentally referring to myself as a journalist or a reporter. It’s a bad habit of mine.

I’m not a journalist. I’m a blogger.

I’ve never gone to journalism school (for as much as that matters). I don’t have an editor. I don’t care (much) about readership (re: pageviews) or headlines or trying to sell papers. I write what I think, nothing more. And, I am completely, and totally, biased. You should not be coming here for unbiased reporting of the news. I don’t have the spare time to go be an investigative journalist, anyways.

But, we also can’t get around the fact that, since their inception, blogs have grown exponentially in popularity, while traditional news outlets are suffering a slow death. Bloggers are unfettered by the need to consider only “news-worthy” stories; local stories find their way onto blogs far more often than they do in the real world. The Iranian protests of last year, for example, were far better covered on Twitter than in the mainstream news. And CNN just picked up the story of anti-Asian bullying in Southern Philadelphia high schools, eleven months after the incident was first reported in the Asian American blogosphere. CNN has recognized the power of “amateur journalists” to break compelling news, and has incorporated a blogging community — called iReport — into their main news site.

The bias exemplified — hell, embraced — by most bloggers is also why blogs attract so much readership. Bloggers are the very definition of opinion journalists; we are the original, online Jon Stewarts and Stephen Colberts. And, let’s face it, that shit is entertaining (and also occasionally informative). Given the choice between watching Stewart and watching CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, most would choose to watch Stewart. Opinion journalism has all the appearance of authenticity, while providing the added “benefit” of entertainment.

But, let’s not pretend that bloggers still have a monopoly on opinion journalism. With the growing popularity of the blogging medium, mainstream news outlets have thrown all pretense of being unbiased out the window. A quick perusal of CNN, MSNBC, and FOX news at primetime reveals a wide variety of opinion news shows — O’Reilly Factor, The Rachel Maddow Show, Countdown with Keith Olbermann — have replaced traditional anchor news shows. Regardless of the broadcaster, all opinion news shows have the same format: a gregarious personality yells at you for an entire 10-15 minute segment, prompted in their ranting by current events. In all cases, they deliver the same, biased message: Vote for this guy, and not that guy, because that guy’s stupid.

Arizona is no different. Most of the political coverage in this state depends upon two or three well-known traditional journalists, many of whom are biased in their coverage. The Weekly, the Star, and the now-defunct Citizen: politicos in this state know exactly where the editorial boards of these papers stand, and how candidates on either side of the aisle will be treated by them. The most well-read source for political coverage in Southern Arizona is The Skinny written predominantly by Jim Nintzel in the Tucson Weekly, and in it, Nintzel hardly pretends to be unbiased.

So, if traditional journalists are starting to look and act a little more like bloggers every day, why the perpetual condescension from “old school” journalists against bloggers? Because, as Brodesky asserts, bloggers are anonymous?

In my decade as a blogger, I have tried (and failed) to blog anonymously. I didn’t use my full name. I didn’t post pictures of myself. I tried to draw a boundary between my professional life and my online life.

It was not, as Brodesky suggests, because I wanted to be able to “name-call” without having to put my name behind it. It was a matter of protection.

Unlike reporters, who carry the full weight of a paper’s legal team when they write, bloggers are literally out on a limb by ourselves. We are not paid to blog, and few of us do it for a living. We literally have no cover from those whom we write about, particularly if they choose to retaliate for something we wrongly — or rightfully — say about them. We write often because we see no one else covering the topics we think should be covered, but in so doing, bloggers make ourselves exceedingly vulnerable.

For me, I am still developing my professional career. I will have to go through numerous job search processes before I will be settled into a permanent position. My political views shouldn’t affect my job search, but we all know that they might. To that end, I have tried to anonymously blog to protect my future career aspirations. Folks like Brodesky don’t have to worry about that.

Other anonymous bloggers also have legitimate reasons for choosing to blog under a pseudonym, and most of their reasons involve avoiding “Juan Williams”-ing themselves. Most bloggers who blog anonymously believe they are providing a valuable service as an amateur opinion journalist, but — because they don’t have the kind of protection that traditional journalists do — choose to blog anonymously to protect themselves, their families, or their employers. When a traditional journalist says something inflammatory or controversial, they do so knowing that their editorial board and legal team will back them up. When a blogger says something inflammatory or controversial, they’re on their own. The legal system is still struggling to figure out the legal rights and protections of bloggers; until they do, it’s not cowardly for a blogger to decide that they will not, or cannot, endanger themselves or those around them by writing under their own names.

Now, obviously, the Brodeskys of the world would argue that no one forces a blogger to write, and in so doing put ourselves out there. And that is true. But, at the same time, if what bloggers offer were of no value (or blatantly false), no one would read them. Clearly, bloggers are filling a niche that traditional journalists are failing to fill.

The bottom line is that traditional journalists are a necessity, but they are also a dying breed. I don’t think the move towards opinion journalism by major mainstream news outlets is a good thing. We, as a society, need unbiased news sources in order to check and balance those in power.

No one wants to see all traditional journalism devolve into opinion journalism.

But at the same time, part of that system of checks and balances is for the populace to have an outlet with which to express their dissatisfaction with the powers-that-be. Blogs are our contemporary town square, our “Letters to the Editor section” on a massive, global, self-published scale. Blogs are where the Average Joe can find a voice to talk about our personal narrative, to present our views to the public, and to spark discussion with our fellow constituents. Blogs allow public officials to take the pulse of their constituency, and to (hopefully) represent us better, as a result. And blogs also serve to tell traditional journalists when they are fucking up.

It serves no useful purpose for a traditional journalist like Brodesky to rail against bloggers for doing a piss-poor job of being a journalist. Bloggers aren’t journalists, but nor are we really trying to be. We simply don’t have the resources, or the institutional protection, to be journalists. We are merely opinionators with the power to self-publish our thoughts — any blogger who claims to be anything else is delusional. Journalists who are angry that bloggers are winning the war against newspapers shouldn’t be angry at bloggers whom people like reading more than journalists; instead, maybe journalists should try doing their own jobs better.

When a traditional, or “old school”, journalist beats up on bloggers (and uses their institutional power to do so), all they’re reacting to is the fact that we no longer want or need them to filter our news for us.  The average reader still needs journalists to uncover and deliver the unbiased news, but we don’t like the idea of journalists or editors deciding whether our Letters to the Editor are worth publishing, anymore. As Alex Wilhelm of TNW writes:

What we don’t need is for journalists to claim that they are the only useful… (writers) to be found. Yes, people do want the hard facts. And yes, they do want to know what they mean. That is where blogging comes in, we provide perspective along with the facts.”

Some traditional, “old school” journalists apparently can’t handle losing control over the news. Newsflash: get over it.

Oh, and unmasking an anonymous blogger in a newspaper op-ed just ‘cuz you don’t like him is about as asshole-ish, as immature, and as petty as one can get. If that’s an “old school” reporter’s idea of “news-worthy”, I think my point regarding the demise of traditional journalism is pretty damn clear. I’m just sayin’.

It’s Karaoke Night with Rodney Glassman!

Rodney Glassman has been singing "Sweet Home Alabama" on Guitar Hero Expert level for too long.

Okay, okay, I know. As good Democrats, we should not criticize fellow Democrats running for elected office, particularly against loathsome Republicans. And while I’m no fan of Rodney Glassman, former Tucson city council member currently running to unseat Senator John McCain (I favoured John Dougherty), I have kept mum since the primary out of respect for the Democrats on the ticket this year.

But, oh God, how Mr. Glassman is making that hard on me.

Check out this — it would be charitable to call it a “campaign ad” — officially sanctioned Youtube video released by the Glassman campaign today. It’s too good to pass up.

What. The. Hell. Are. You. Thinking. Mr. Glassman?

Sure, audio of Rodney singing Christmas carols made the rounds earlier this year. But, nothing — and I do mean nothing — compares to the smirking, finger-pointing, barn-roof raising, pelvic thrusting spectacle that is Mr. Glassman’s karaoke-style rendition of “Sweet Home Alabama”.

Yes, we live in a viral video powered post-Palin, post-O’Donnell, post-Angle era of American politics, when humanizing moments are cherished and embarassing gaffes are commonplace. But, really, is this a senatorial campaign Mr. Glassman is running, or a donor-funded audition for American Idol?

Mr. Glassman is already being criticized for his youth and for his inexperience. He has been lambasted for not launching a serious senatorial campaign, and even been the target of rumours that he is already planning a run for Tucson mayor in anticipation of his trouncing by John McCain next month.

Does this video do anything —  anything — but add fuel to that fire? Does this video make Mr. Glassman look more mature, more distinguished, more serious, and more competent?

No, this video is an uninvited insight into Guitar Hero family video game night at the Glassman residence.

A Rasmussen Report recently showed that Glassman is trailing McCain by a whopping 21 percentage points. Given those humiliating poll numbers, should Glassman really be spending his time, and his donor money, making country-western music videos?

I will give credit to the Glassman campaign for one thing: this video has all the makings of going viral, and it does include some good anti-McCain talking points. But, I think there’s a fine line between having viewers laughing with the candidate, and having viewers laughing at the candidate. And Glassman’s not just treading that line, he just took a flying leap across it.

If this video weren’t so gosh darned funny, it would be insulting to John Dougherty, Randy Parraz and Cathy Eden — all of whom actually wanted to run real and serious campaigns against Senator McCain; not treat this election cycle like one great big hootenanny. 

Filed under: Rodney Glassman, your smarmy is showing

Cross-posted:  Blog for Arizona

Jason Williams, AZ School Superintendent Candidate, Opposes Ethnic Studies Ban

This is the second part of my posts on the responses I received from Arizona School Superintendent candidates on Arizona’s recent ethnic studies ban. Before continuing on this post, you should read what Margaret Dugan — the sole Republican to write back to me — had to say about ethnic studies.

As I wrote previously, I created a petition to urge Arizona school superintendent candidates to make a pledge to reinstitute ethnic studies in public schools if elected. Interestingly, both Democratic candidates in this race responded back to me on the topic of ethnic studies.

Jason Williams

Jason Williams

Jason Williams is the former Executive Director for Teach for America in Phoenix, who ran for School Superintendent in 2006. His Director of Research and Policy, Kelly McManus, wrote this email to me on the subject of the ethnic studies ban:

Jenn,

Thank you for your message! Jason firmly believes instead of censoring content, we should celebrate diversity, recognize the contributions of all groups, and encourage different points of view.  We live in a pluralistic society.  A robust discussion of ideas is a cornerstone of what it means to be American.  Teaching our students to critically think and allowing them to utilize those skills to come to their own conclusions makes a great educational experience.  He believes in local control, as long as schools are improving student outcomes.  When he is Superintendent of Public Instruction, he will support innovative programs that demonstrate quite clearly higher rates of academic achievement and work with the legislature to stop this trend of censorship.

Please let me know if you have any additional questions!

My best,
Kelly

Okay, so when I received this email from Kelly, I had to scratch my head. Does Williams support ethnic studies? Does he support diversifying our existing school curricula? It was a little tough to deduce from the email message, which spent more of its time celebrating diversity than discussing ethnic studies.

Then, I stumbled upon this video clip on YouTube, of four of the candidates discussing their positions on ethnic studies. And Jason Williams’ response — he is last on the video, starting around 5:00 — is positively electrifying.

Wow. Jason Williams’ position on the ethnic studies ban in Arizona is so cogent, so spot-on, and so well-reasoned, that I’m actually finding myself taking a second look at his candidacy in general. His answer is so far removed from the rather obfuscating answer given by his Director of Research and Policy that it’s almost like they came from different campaigns.

Note also that Penny Kotterman, who starts the video off, is the other Democratic candidate in the race, and she also appears to oppose the ethnic studies ban. However, her answer was a little tough to understand — I had to listen to it twice before I figured out that she is also opposed to the ethnic studies ban.

Sadly, I also received an email response from Penny Kotterman in the wake of the petition, but my overly-aggressive spam filter deleted it sometime last week. In any event, I gather it was very similar to what she says in the video clip above.

Act Now! The primary is next week, August 24th. On the topic of the ethnic studies ban in public education, the Democratic candidates couldn’t be further from the Republican candidates. If you are a Democrat who votes in Arizona, please go to the polls next week and choose between our two Democratic candidates for Arizona School Superintendent. With Arizona’s abysmal standing when it comes to public education, this race in November couldn’t be more important in dictating the future of our state.

Cross-posted: Blog for Arizona