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The Dream Continues- Anniversary of March on Washington

Tuesday, August 28th, 2012

August 28, 2012 marked the anniversary of the March on Washington where Dr. Martin Luther King gave his I have a dream speech in 1963. Over 250,000 people turned out on the Washington mall for a march for jobs and equality for blacks. The massiveness of the march could not be ignored and ultimately led to the banning of poll taxes, the passage of the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 ending segregation in public accommodations.

President Obama’s dream for hope and change is just as real as Martin Luther King’s dream speech in 1963. Today with the divisiveness in politics, the dream seems just as deferred as the hope and change ideals of President Obama’s campaign. The Martin Luther King monument opened a year ago commemorating the works of Dr. Martin Luther King. But has much really changed since the March on Washington?

Today, the state of black America has the highest foreclosure, incarceration and unemployment rates. Ward 8 of the nation’s capital, home for many African Americans, is also home to the highest unemployment in the country. Our education system is failing many of our youth. America still faces hatred and bigotry, war, poverty and elimination of unions and social programs.

The GOP takes pride in dismantling labor unions which provide a decent job with decent pay and benefits for many in the work force. Despite our economic woes and high unemployment, the Republican controlled Congress has done nothing to help our economic situation. Much like the Jim Crow southern whites, the modern day GOP led Congress has turned its back on helping improve the economic and jobs front.

The Republican leaders during their convention have repeatedly talked about leadership. And leadership is needed to bring about the type of massive change that occurred in the 1960’s following the March on Washington. That change did not occur merely because President Lyndon Johnson waved a magic wand. It occurred because Congress and the Senate worked together with the President to bring about the change. Until we get our leaders in Congress to act like leaders and lead, the dream will continue but it may be deferred.

The dream will be deferred until we can get true leadership in the Congress again. Most people cannot wait forever for a change. This November is our opportunity to vote not only for the President but for many Congressional and Senate seats. If change is to come, we must support those who work for change. That includes President Obama and excludes the destructive Republican controlled Congress.

This election is not just about the presidential race. We must race to the polls to vote out the non-working, non-leading Republican Congress. On this the 49th anniversary of the March on Washington, We must continue to work towards Dr. King’s dream.

Happy Women’s Equality Day- August 26, 2012

Sunday, August 26th, 2012

Women have come a long way since the early days of women’s suffrage which ultimately led to the passage of the 19th amendment- granting women the right to vote on August 26, 1920. On July 19, 1848 a controversial resolution seeking the vote for women was passed at the first women’s rights convention. Elizabeth Cady Stanon also called for the right to exercise free speech. The move was necessary because public speaking was considered an unwomanly act. Thomas Jefferson declared it would result in a “depravation of morals.” Ironically, that first convention was presided over by a man – James Mott, husband to suffragist Lucretia. It was not until 1920 that women earned the right to vote.

As we celebrate Women’s Equality Day on August 26, marking the day women received the right to vote in 1920, a move is now affront to disenfranchise women, whether indirectly or directly, the result may be the same. Voter ID laws enacted now in over half the states, requiring voters to present some form of identification as a requirement to vote will place unreasonable burdens on many women who may well be unaware of the difficulty they could face when casting their vote in the 2012 election.

States requiring voters to register with proof of citizenship is more problematic for women than for men. A survey by the Brennan Center for Justice at NYU law school shows that only 66 percent of voting-age women with ready access to any proof of citizenship have a document with their current legal name. Women who have recently married or divorced and have changed their names—and whose passport, naturalization papers or birth certificate are in their former names—will then be required to obtain a certified court document showing the divorce decree or marriage certificate. These documents vary in cost from state to state but can cost upwards of $25 plus any time off work to obtain them. The certified court documents may not even be in the state where you now reside, further delaying and complicating matters.

For those women who are already registered to vote, the same problem will hold true. The photo ID must be in the same name that is registered with the Election Board. Hence, any recent changes in name from divorce or marriage will require certified proof of the name change along with the new photo ID. Of course, most men need not endure such onerous paper trail requirements. But U.S. women change their names in 90 percent of marriages. Karen Celestino-Horseman, an attorney for the League of Women Voters, says “women in particular are going to be impacted,” by requirements that they produce documents authenticating every name change in cases of marriage and divorce.

Equal access to the polls is paramount for all. Women and particularly women of color who fought so hard for suffrage and became the last to get that right, some may now be the first to lose it.

Women hold the keys to the 2012 election. Since the 1980’s women have been voting more than men. In 2008 10 million more women showed up at the polls than men. And in battleground states where women outvote men in the hundreds of thousands, women’s votes are crucial. The only battleground state where women don’t outvote men is in Nevada. And even there, it’s not by much that men lead women.

In Pennsylvania, women outvoted men in 2008 by 400,000. In Ohio, women outvoted men by 275,000. In North Carolina, the figures are women over men by 358,000. Currently, Romney is winning when it comes to white men. But women hold the key to this election. With the Republicans war on women from Planned Parenthood, paycheck fairness for women to calling Georgetown student Sandra Fluke a slut, the Republicans are not trying to win favor with women.

And November, 2012 will show the power of women 92 years after suffrage. Happy Women’s Equality Day.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She also writes for the Huffington Post.

Updates from GOP and DNC Conventions

Wednesday, August 22nd, 2012

Taxes, Medicare and Abortion Trip Up GOP

The Republican Party is facing its own lions, and tigers and bears much like the in the Wizard of Oz. The only difference is there is no wizard of Oz to save them. First, the debate was about Mitt Romney’s refusal to be transparent and release more than one year of his tax returns. Many prominent Republicans insisted that Romney release more tax returns. But, Romney refused even the advice of those prominent in his own party.

Next came the announcement of Rep., Paul Ryan (R.WI) as Romney’s vice presidential running mate. Ryan is known for his conservative ideas to turn Medicare into nothing more than a voucher system for senior citizens. He is also known for calling Social Security a Ponzi scheme. Ryan’s ideas and plans would adversely affect not only seniors but everyone who lives to become a senior.

We next hear that abortion has tripped up the Republicans with Rep. Todd Akin’s comments about a woman cannot become pregnant from a “legitimate rape”. He apparently thinks a woman’s body has ways of avoiding pregnancy if they are raped. And that there are “legitimate” and illegitimate rapes. That sick comment even caused most Republicans to call for Akin to resign from the Senate race. Of course, Akin is hearing nothing about resigning.

Then there’s Isaac, the pending hurricane that is threatening to ruin their GOP party and convention. There’s even more bad news. Ron Paul has still not conceded to Mitt Romney. He won’t go away quietly. He’s taking a page out of Akin’s book, only worse. At least Akin agreed to refrain from attending the Republican convention. Akin realizes that he’s not wanted at the convention. But, Ron Paul is threatening to wreck the convention . Of 40 Minnesota Paul delegates, 32 are still committed to Ron Paul and plan to cast their votes for him at the GOP convention.

To say the least, the Republican party is fighting for its own survival. It doesn’t seem that anyone is leading the party. At least when George W. Bush was president. Republicans knew Karl Rove was in charge of the situation. He appears to be watching Romney and his followers self-destruct.

I know the GOP can do nothing about the weather and the possible hurricane. But one would think they could do something about their lack of a platform for women, seniors and the middle class. The Republican Party’s platform supports the Romney-Ryan plan to turn Medicare into a voucher plan and includes the Aiken amendment which forbids abortion even in cases of rape or incest. Of course, if you believe Rep. Akin, women don’t become pregnant from rape.

Democrats Court Women at DNC Convention

Meanwhile, Democrats are taking the opposite approach when it comes to women. Instead of assaulting, insulting, ignoring and devaluing women and women’s rights , the Democratic Party has done everything to be inclusive to women and women’s rights in its platform. Presently, women make up more than 50% of voters. So women hold the key for either party come November.

The Democratic National Committee has added a significant amount of women to speak at the convention in Charlotte beginning on September3. Those who have been announced to speak at the Democratic convention include, in no particular order:

• Congresswoman Tammy Baldwin
• Nancy Keenan, Pres. NARAL Pro choice
• Caroline Kennedy
• Senator Barbara Mikulski along with the women of the U.S. Senate
• Cecile Richards, Pres. Planned Parenthood Action Fund
• California Attorney General Kamala Harris
• Lily Ledbetter – the lead plaintiff in the employment discrimination case that caused Pres. Obama to sign as his first piece of legislation- the Lily Ledbetter Act which supports fair pay for women
• Massachusetts Sen. Candidate Elizabeth Warren

As Republicans are devaluing women, Democrats are realizing the value that women have and are bringing them front and center at the DNC convention. I will be attending the DNC convention to live blog about all the happenings and particularly those affecting women and minorities.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She also writes for the Huffington Post.

Lynching and Beatings Replaced Now With Voter ID Laws

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

There are no dogs, lynching and police beatings to take away voting rights in the 21st century. Republicans have a much more sophisticated method this time called voter ID laws. The result is the same. Many blacks and minorities will be systemically denied the right to vote under the pretext of these new voting laws. Vice President Biden knew exactly what he was saying and to whom he was speaking when he referred to the GOP as “trying to put y’all back in chains”.

Unfortunately, many blacks and other minorities do not yet fully grasp the extent of the GOP’s disenfranchisement efforts. The effects will linger and go far beyond President Obama and the 2012 election, if not stopped. And once a train starts moving quickly, it’s not as easy to stop it. Rest assured that the GOP voter suppression train has left the station in terms of taking away voting rights. It is probably en route to a state near you, if not already arrived.

Voter ID laws, under the guise of protecting voter fraud, enacted now in over half the states, require voters to present some form of identification as a requirement to vote.

Fourteen states require a government issued photo ID when voting in person. At the time of registering to vote, other states like Kansas and Alabama further demand proof of citizenship beyond the federal legal requirement that citizens swear they are citizens. During the 2011 legislative session, five states—Wisconsin, Texas, Tennessee, Alabama and South Carolina—joined Georgia and Indiana by enacting the strictest form of photo ID requirement for voters. Overall nineteen states changed their voter ID law in the past 2 years. Court challenges are pending in many of those states.

The Justice Department blocked the South Carolina and Texas voter ID laws under the Voter Rights Act of 1965. Both sued the Justice Department. The South Carolina case goes on trial on August 27. The Texas trial has not been decided yet by the federal court. A Pennsylvania state court held this week that even with officials’ admission of the absence of voter fraud in Pennsylvania and the nation, an injunction cannot be issued against the state’s voter ID law. An appeal will follow but may not be ruled upon in time before the 2012 election.

A new and comprehensive national report released by News21, a national investigative reporting project, found “scant” evidence of voter fraud since 2000. News 21 gathered public information available from all 50 states. The report concludes in person voter fraud, upon which 37 states passed new voter ID laws, is virtually non-existent.

While the legal battles are waging in court, persons on the ground and online must help voters to become aware of the new voter laws. Voters , who have voted in previous elections, may not be able to vote in 2012 without proper ID. The laws are not just aimed at new voters but any voter seeking to vote in the 2012 election. And the laws will have a disproportionate effect on blacks, minorities, seniors and students. In Pennsylvania, it is estimated that almost 800,000 voters as of yet, do not have the requisite ID needed to vote. Of that number, many live in the urban areas where many blacks reside.

Just as in the Jim Crow south days, this is a time to rise to the occasion. The battle must be fought on the ground, in the courts, in civic engagement, online and anywhere else necessary to right the wrong. Voting is the bedrock of democracy. As President Lyndon Baines Johnson said in 1965, voting is the right by which in its absence, all other rights are meaningless. No qualified citizen eligible to vote should ever be denied the right to vote due to partisan efforts to win an election.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She also writes for the Huffington Post.

Biden’s Putting Y’all Back in Chains Remark Rings Truth

Wednesday, August 15th, 2012

Republicans attacked Vice President Joe Biden for speaking to a Virginia crowd this week and saying that bank deregulation would amount to the Republicans and Mitt Romney “going to put y’all back in chains”. Many in the audience were blacks. Biden has never been known to mince words when speaking to a crowd. Subtlety is not his strong point. Speaking boldly has its place and strength.

In law school, we were taught that truth is a defense to anything that appears to be libelous. Vice President Biden’s comments do not offend me because they are rhetorically true.

I see Vice President Biden’s comments no different than many of the conservative Republicans and particularly the Tea Party crowd. They claim to want to “take our country back.” As an African American, I see that rhetoric means back to a time when blacks were not in power, knew their place and whites ruled over them. With the Republican voter ID laws, which will disenfranchise many blacks and minorities, it will take us back to a time when many blacks could not vote. Whether it will take blacks back to a time of chains may be debatable.

On Wednesday, a Pennsylvania judge ruled that the Pennsylvania voter ID law is constitutional despite the fact that many hundreds of thousands of Pennsylvania voters, particularly many minorities, will lack the identification needed. He upheld the law as constitutional despite the fact that many voters who have always voted will not be able to vote due to inability to obtain the required ID. Testimony was heard from one 93 year old black woman who has not been able to obtain her birth certificate despite the fact that she has voted ever since she got the right to vote.

When I see the Judge’s ruling on the Pennsylvania voter ID trial that the state’s voter ID law is constitutional even when it will disenfranchises blacks and minorities, I suspect that Vice President Biden’s words may be correct. A voting law which has no basis other than to disenfranchise minorities with no proof of voter fraud is intended to do exactly what Vice President Biden stated. Pennsylvania lawmaker Mike Turzai boldly stated that the Pennsylvania voter iD law will allow Mitt Romney to win Pennsylvania. Biden was speaking in terms of bank deregulation but he might as well been talking about voting rights. And voting rights are the bedrock of democracy.

I don’t quite frankly mind Vice President Biden’s words and the use of the “chain” analogy. Someone needs to say and speak clearly what’s at stake in this country for minorities in the upcoming election. Vice President Joe Biden is doing his job of being the attack point person. I applaud his efforts at speaking plainly and clearly to what the Republicans and Mitt Romney are attempting to do, if elected. And the GOP is the last group that should be discussing race baiting. The GOP voter ID laws are nothing more than a race bait effort to suppress the black vote and “take back our county”.

Thank you Joe Biden for speaking your words. Thank you for doing everything to prevent Romney and the Republicans from “taking our country back”

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She also writes for the Huffington Post.

Romney-Ryan Bus Hits Women, Minorities, Seniors and Youth

Sunday, August 12th, 2012

Now that Mitt Romney has named Rep. Paul Ryan (R. WI) as his vice presidential running mate, we now know what’s at stake for women, minorities, students and seniors. Ryan’s ultra conservative plan intends to throw all of them under the bus. Everything is on the line in this election. We are fighting for the soul of our country. In one corner is Romney-Ryan, who will destroy programs for women, minorities, youth and seniors. In the other corner is Obama-Biden who have been fighting for women, minorities and the middle class. The choice is clear if you are in one of these categories. But, don’t take my word for it. Looking at the facts of the Romney-Ryan team will tell the tale.

On women, Ryan shows them zero respect. Ryan not only voted to defund Planned Parenthood but co-sponsored the so-called nick named “Let Women Die Act.” This act would have forbid hospitals from providing emergency abortions for women, even if a woman’s life depended on it. Defunding Planned Parenthood would have the same effects on loss of lives for women. Planned Parenthood provides breast cancer screenings and well women exams for many women who cannot afford to go to other facilities. Less than 10% of Planned Parenthood’s funding is used for abortions services. Nancy Keenan, President of NARAL Pro Choice says the “Romney-Ryan ticket is dangerous to women’s health.”

Seniors will fare no better than women. Ryan has called social security “a Ponzi scheme.” Many seniors rely on social security and would be destitute without it. And for seniors who rely on Medicare for their health services, Ryan wants to get rid of Medicare and replace it with vouchers. A CNN opinion research survey found that 74% of the elderly, including 54% conservative voters, disapprove of Ryan’s Medicare plan. Most Americans believe in Medicare.

One does not need to be a woman or elderly to be hit by the Romney-Ryan bus. It’s coming after youth and students, too. Ryan wants to get rid of Pell grants for more than 1 million students. Pell grants help to defray college costs for many low income and minority students. And these days with soaring college costs, Pell grants are needed for many students. Without them, many students would not be able to afford the cost of a college education. A higher education is crucial not only for students that attend college but for America.

Unless you are the 1% wealthy and won’t ever need social security, Medicare, college tuition aid or women’s health care, then the Romney-Ryan ticket is not in your best interest. Unless you want to be run over by a bus, get out and register to vote and vote. The addition of Paul Ryan was not meant to attract additional voters. It was done to assure the Republican conservative base that Romney supports its ideals to take our country back to a time when Social Security, Medicare, quality health care and a college education were non-existent. And election of Romney-Ryan will take us back even farther than we can imagine.

No one deserves to be run over by a bus. If you vote Romney- Ryan, that’s exactly what will happen. Only in this case, it’s many Americans that will be run over by the bus and left for dead. While 2008’s election was about hope and change, this election is about fighting for the soul of America.

Washington, DC based Debbie Hines is a former prosecutor and founder of LegalSpeaks, a progressive blog on women and race in law and politics. As a legal and political commentator she has appeared in national and local media including the Michael Eric Dyson Show, NBC, ABC and CBS affiliates, RT TV, CBC- Canadian TV, NPR, XM Sirius radio, the Wall Street Journal, Washington Post, USA Today, Black Enterprise among others. She also writes for the Huffington Post