The Equality Act and why it shouldn’t pass

On the surface, the goal of H.R. 5: ‘To prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex, gender identity, and sexual orientation, and for other purposes,’ is an important one. The Equality Act will amend portions of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 to include the words ‘gender identity’ and ‘sexual orientation,’ which at first glance makes sense. All citizens deserve equal protection under the law. There’s no argument there, but upon further reading, the Act creates a hierarchy between sex and gender identity placing the latter at the top. Under the sections titled ‘Unlawful Employment Practices’ and ‘Other Unlawful Employment Practices,’ it states: ‘in a situation in which sex is a bona fide occupational qualification, individuals are recognized as qualified in accordance with their gender identity.‘ Gender identity is an individual’s internal sense of being male, female, neither or something in between. It is subjective and according to quite a few sources, expansive.

There are gender identities like pangender, which includes more than one gender identity and genderfluid, wherein an individual’s identity shifts between different genders. If a job specifically requests a person who identifies as a woman, would someone who’s pangender or genderfluid be able to apply or only those who identify exclusively as women? If a job indicates sex as a specific qualification because of the service population, for example, a position where an employee would be in regular contact with cisgendered women who suffered traumatic abuse or a role that works closely Jewish men, what consideration is made for the service population and whether or not their needs will be appropriately met?

Different gender identities have different lived experiences. Does that matter for sex specific occupations? Why or why not? What, if any, protections will the federal government make to ensure that the self-reported model is not abused?

Abuse is a very serious subject to address especially as it pertains to another amendment in the Equality Act:  ‘(with respect to gender identity) an individual shall not be denied access to a shared facility, including a restroom, a locker room, and a dressing room, that is in accordance with the individual’s gender identity.‘ Again, there are a few gender identities which do not align with male or female, which facility should these individuals use? Is it fair that they should have to choose when those aligned with other gender identities do not? Are there concerns that people who are unwell or deceptive will identify as a specific gender for inappropriate purposes? Why or why not?

These questions, anchored not in transphobia or discrimination, are what’s holding the Equality Act back. To gain support, it will be necessary to: explain the shift from an objective standard to a subjective one, show how faith based employers will be able to meet the requirements without breaking with moral standards established within their beliefs and focus on why the country will be better.

Call me naïve, but I believe people can be convinced with a good argument or at the very least, they’ll be reduced to simply saying, ‘that’s just what I think/believe.’ It’s not enough to want to be on the right side of history, it’s even better to be clear about why it’s the right side.

Trump Wins!…by beating the Constitution.

That’s not really something to celebrate, but that’s the short summary as Trump’s second trial ends in an acquittal. The question of whether or not it was even constitutional to try him after he has left office is only addressed in a handful of statements within the Constitution:

If it’s constitutional, say this: Judgment in Cases of Impeachment shall not extend further than to removal from Office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any Office of honor, Trust or Profit under the United States: but the Party convicted shall nevertheless be liable and subject to Indictment, Trial, Judgment and Punishment, according to Law. (Article 1, Section 3)

If it’s unconstitutional , say this: The President, Vice President and all civil Officers of the United States, shall be removed from Office on Impeachment for, and Conviction of, Treason, Bribery, or other high Crimes and Misdemeanors. (Article 2, Section 4)

There are some who are concerned that impeaching a private citizen would set a dangerous precedent, but it would seem to me that allowing an individual who was elected or appointed to office to escape judgement by leaving office is supremely more dangerous. Why? Pardons are not permitted in the case of impeachment, but they are, of course, allowed for federal crimes. Those intending to subvert the will and purpose of the Constitution need only to resign to ensure no legislative punishment and, even more insidiously, receive a pardon from the executive branch for offenses committed and get off scot-free (see Richard Nixon).

I find it hard to imagine that the framers intended this to be possible, but those defending the trial as unconstitutional, are leading the country right down that path. Obviously, I am not an expert on constitutional matters, so I nerded out and looked up the last relevant example of the impeachment of an individual no longer in office: William Belknap, former Secretary of War, who had been impeached by the House after he had resigned.

Many of the arguments I read (and I didn’t read all 1,166 pages…I’m not that much of a nerd) would be convincing even today. Here’s how the house managers and lawyers of 1876 answered the questions asked in 2021:

If Trump is no longer President, is this trial unconstitutional?

We claim that the limitation of the Constitution is not as to time, it simply relates to a class of persons and the word ‘officer’ is used as descriptive…an officer in one sense never loses his office. He gets his title and he wears it forever and an officer is under this liability for life; if he once takes office under the United States, if while in office and as an officer he commits acts which demand impeachment, he may be impeached. (excerpted)

Can a private citizen be impeached?

It is obvious that the only persons liable to impeachment are those who are or have been in public office. All executive and judicial officers from the President downward, from the judges of the Supreme Court to those of the most inferior tribunals, are included in this description.

The Constitution requires removal from office upon conviction. If the Senate cannot remove him (since his term expired), how is this trial not a sham?

It is argued if the court cannot inflict the whole punishment prescribed by law, it has no jurisdiction and cannot inflict any portion of it. Such a statement in the ordinary courts of justice would meet with little favor. In larceny, the judgment usually prescribed is that the goods be returned with fine and imprisonment. If the criminal was likely to be prosecuted, he could go back and restore the goods, and, if this principle should hold, plead that the whole sentence which he had the lawful right to receive could not be inflicted and therefore he would not submit to any trial or punishment.

Like Trump, a majority of Senators present voted for Belknap’s conviction, and also like Trump, he was acquitted.

Shall any man be above justice? Above all, shall that man be above it who can commit the most extensive injustice?

How the Left Was Won

…by (gulp) learning from the President

It seems as the campaign trail moves closer to 2020 and the likely Democratic nominee appears less obvious, the realization that a Trump repeat is on the horizon strikes fear into my heart. I fear what ignorance and intolerance at the head of a nation will do for another four years. I remember thinking, not long after he was elected, that he would be impeached. Now, I see that less as wishful thinking and more evidence that those in government, who are left leaning, have lost their way and their guts. And the way to get back on track? Take a page from the President.

Trump’s ability to say whatever, regardless of its lack of accuracy, honesty, consistency or diplomacy, is completely antithetical to what we expect (or used to expect) of elected governmental officials; men and women, who come election time, sing sweet sounds of debt elimination, insurance for all and more and better jobs; each speech and soundbite is finely tuned to elicit the greatest number of cheers (plausibility, be damned).

I listen to a variety of Democrats discuss issues ranging from #MeToo, to reparations, student debt, climate change and immigration. I hear a lot of solutions, but what I don’t hear a lot of is booing.

There’s no way that anyone is going to say what is desirable at all times. Is no one willing to deliver some hard truths? That the conversation on reparations is thoughtful, but just that: a conversation; that Medicare for All is not possible because too many private hospitals and private insurance companies are in the back pocket of too many legislators so anything that would eliminate or minimize their business isn’t happening; that giving healthcare to illegal immigrants solves nothing and is offensive in light of the fact that there are American citizens who go without on a daily basis.

Trump taught us that you can say a whole lot and still galvanize your base. With no political experience or couth, this man ascended to the highest office in the land and he did it unapologetically, saying some difficult things. How much more successful would a gifted public servant be, if they would do the same, coming from a place of knowledge, respect, authenticity and experience. The problem with the Left is they’re busy catering to a vocal and savage minority who have mastered the art of attention and know how to capture wandering eyes, and damage careers with one public misstep.

But the win lies in the hands of a silent majority: people who don’t care about what’s trending or trendy and don’t agree with what going on, but who say nothing for fear of reprisal. Their vote goes to the person who has the courage to say what their thinking and the leaders on the Left have to get a clue quick or else…many of us are going to live again with what we’re dreading.

Today in the Constitution: Younger than AOC

I have not read the Constitution. When I was a kid, we were responsible for memorizing the Preamble, which I did (minutes before I had to recite it), but I must say, they are some powerful words. It’s incredible that so much could be covered in 52 words:

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

So other than a really empowering opening, what else we got going on in there? Let’s start with my favorite parts from Article I:

No Person shall be a Representative who shall not have attained to the Age of twenty five Years – this age minimum, set for members of the House, means there’s a chance that AOC will not remain the youngest person ever to serve in Congress.

The Number of Representatives shall not exceed one for every thirty Thousand, but each State shall have at Least one Representative – we have approximately 325 million people in the United States and 435 representatives in the House; that’s a ratio of 1:747,126 which means it’s time for an upgrade. Fun fact: before the first census in 1790, the states were apportioned representatives and Virginia had the largest representation with ten.

The Senate of the United States shall be composed of two Senators from each State, chosen by the Legislature thereof, – in the beginning, ‘We, the People’ didn’t choose ‘Them, the Senators.’ I never knew that citizen voting wasn’t a thing in the 18th century.

The Congress shall assemble at least once in every Year, – there was a time in our nation’s history when a single meeting of the House and Senate was considered sufficient to do business. <mind blown>

They shall in all Cases, except Treason, Felony and Breach of the Peace, be privileged from Arrest during their Attendance at the Session of their respective Houses, and in going to and returning from the same;am I understanding this correctly? That Senators and Representatives have a type of immunity? So misdemeanors, ok, but high crimes? That’s a no.

Still on the books (unamended): the President doesn’t have to sign bill in order for it to become law. If the bill is sent to the Commander in Chief and ten days pass without return or comment, it becomes law.

Funding to ‘provide for the common defense,’ i.e, the military, was not supposed to surpass two years. Although maintenance of a Navy was permissible.

Still shocking (amended): at the time of its ratification, the Constitution included a provision preventing the abolishment of slavery prior to 1808.

 

 

 

The SHSAT is fine. Here’s What’s Not

Full disclosure: I’m a Brooklyn Tech alum and I’m quite proud of the fact that I had what it took to get into an elite school. The primary reason why I got in wasn’t because of expensive test prep or a legacy of attendance at competitive schools; my single, working class Mom enrolled me and my siblings in an after school program called Science Skills, which taught advanced science and math to elementary school aged children. By the time I took the SHSAT, I had already passed the Biology, Sequential I & II Regents and I was only 13.

You can’t start prep at 12 and think that’s enough. The quality of education leading up to the age of eligibility to take the specialized high school exam has to be on par with what’s on the exam, otherwise the trends will continue. And I should add, it wasn’t always that way. There was a time when Brooklyn Tech was almost 40% Black/African American. It would be interesting if a study was done to find out what attributed to the shift, but that would take work and might not yield an answer as simple as ‘dump the test!’. Truth is, getting rid of the test doesn’t necessarily guarantee diversity. A brief, from the Research Alliance for New York City Schools, found that of all the reviewed alternate entrance methods, only one: admittance of the top percentage of 8th graders, affected the demographics (but was insignificant in the standing of Black students). So, why not just use that alternative? Problem solved!…Not really. Here’s three reasons why:

Not a lot of 8th graders take it

Approximately, 25,000 out of the 80,000 eligible students take the SHSAT citywide. That’s roughly a third of 8th graders and of that amount, 20% receive offers, representing about 5,000 students total. It is quite admirable to want greater representation of Black and Hispanic students, but they have to take the test first. Of the 591 schools included in the data, 137 had ten or fewer students take the test and 470 schools had 5 or fewer students receive offers. When you’re surrounded by those odds, it’s understandable if many kids don’t bother (see nyc-shsat-data).

Not everyone wants to go

There’s only eight specialized high schools (excluding LaGuardia) and 430 other district high schools across the city and this number doesn’t include private or charter schools. Children have varied interests (and quite a few options) and they are not entirely centered on STEM. Some get into one of the elite 8 and elect not to go, others would prefer schools closer to home or that require less travel.

Not everyone is ready to get in

It’s been years since I was a student at Tech so I can’t speak to the academic standards they have today, but I am comfortable saying that not everyone is ready for it. Specialized high schools are for a certain type of student. Getting in is one hurdle, but staying in and succeeding is another. An often referenced statistic is that 10 NYC schools represents 1,200 of the near five thousand offers made. What does that say about how middle schools are preparing students for the rigors of an intense secondary education? The 800-pound gorilla that is yet to be addressed is inequity in middle school education; for the 2018-2019 school year, the entire borough of the Bronx had 7 gifted and talented programs, District 2 in Manhattan had 8. This kind of disparity suggests that children aren’t being given equitable foundations that would spring board them to success in an elite high school and that issue is more worthy of scrutiny than any standardized test.

Bonus: Not all of it is segregation

The term segregation has been used heavily (and inaccurately) in this debate to polarize the conversation. Segregation is not a choice. The test is. The dominance of Asian students in the city’s specialized high schools has been going on for years and to suggest that state law which requires the test is a de facto form of racism is dishonest . To imply that Black and Hispanic students are being kept out by the test (which was harder years ago and, as I mentioned at one point, was in place when Tech had a majority Black student body) ignores history and offers overly simplified answers that ignores most of the reasons above.

Traitors in the White House: What the NY Times Op-Ed Really Means

“I, AB, do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will support and defend the Constitution of the United States against all enemies, foreign and domestic; that I will bear true faith and allegiance to the same; that I take this obligation freely, without any mental reservation or purpose of evasion; and that I will well and faithfully discharge the duties of the office on which I am about to enter. So help me God.”

This oath was taken by the author of the editorial written in the New York Times, two weeks ago (yes, I know I’m late to the party). So what does it mean when the same person who spoke allegiance to the Constitution chooses to undermine a democratically elected President whose administration s/he serves in? What should we think about a person: who anonymously (along with others) has ‘vowed to do what we can to preserve our democratic institutions while thwarting Mr. Trump’s more misguided impulses’? Who praises the unsung, unknown heroes of the West Wing who work to isolate the rest of us from the commander in chief’s poor, erratic decisions? I have a word: coward.

We don’t know who this person is, but if accounts by Bob Woodruff and Michael Wolff are to be believed, backstabbing is a pastime in the White House. Perhaps this individual is jockeying for a more favorable position and, knowing the President’s anxieties, reached out to the Times and offered an op-ed in an attempt to give confirmation and false comfort to the general public, but primarily, to push the President to cut off competitors from within his inner circle.

I am not assuaged by self congratulatory statements about the ‘steady state’ and ‘adults being in the room’. This individual described a sitting President as being amoral, anti-democratic, and as having a leadership style that is petty, adversarial and ineffective, but to Trump’s face, likely says otherwise. What would we call someone in the real world who does that?

The author describes early talk of invoking the 25th Amendment, but claims ‘no one wanted to precipitate a constitutional crisis.’ And I get it, specifically, if by ‘constitutional crisis’, they mean precipitating certain career suicide. Who wants to risk self when you can maintain the status quo (with all its horrors) and double talk the President and the public into thinking you’re on their side?

It’s clear to me that this person is quite clever and manipulative. They might think that after enough time, they will be able to reveal themselves and be considered a hero of sorts, a truth teller in a time of alternative facts, but they are not deserving of such a title. True heroism requires sacrifice, something not embodied by taking papers off a desk. Furthermore, if you have to go that far and still choose to be a silent witness, then it’s not about sticking around to preserve the democratic institutions you claim to love or the Constitution you are sworn to uphold, it’s about self preservation and maintaining party dominance.

Removing Trump from office through impeachment or the 25th Amendment requires those ‘resisting’ in the shadows to make their truth publicly known. There will be backlash and shouts of ‘traitor,’ but I believe deeply that those voices will be silenced when they see a unified front of members of both parties and houses of Congress agree that their leader is incapable. The only way to get the Never Trumpers and the MAGA crowd to wake up from their blind allegiance/hatred toward the President is through an act of courage. Courage is truth in action and people respond to truth and that’s undeniable, no matter which way you lean.

(random thought: it’s not the 25th amendment or the Mueller investigation that’s going to end Trump’s presidency, it’s the emoluments clause of the Constitution.)

Why Huma Got It Right

There are some people who look at Huma Abedin and think she’s crazy; others think she’s crazy like a fox. I don’t fall into either camp. Based on what I can tell from her resume, she appears to be an intelligent woman: graduate of George Washington University and long-time aide to Hillary Rodham Clinton. Since the second scandal with her husband, mayoral candidate, Anthony Weiner, people have been asking ‘why’ non-stop. Why would a common sense woman forgive her husband after committing such an egregious act? Publicly embarrassing her, not once, but twice? And worse still, making her look like a liar (to some, co-conspirator), cheerfully posing in People magazine as a ‘normal family,’ while he continued sexting. Some have posited that Abedin has political aspirations for herself and for her family that trump the stain of any scandal. That doesn’t make much sense to me. She’s been in the political world long enough to know how hard it can be to come back from minor missteps, let alone major ones and to do so twice is practically unheard of. No, I think this is a woman who is married to a man who has a problem, possibly an addiction, and has decided to stick it out. This is admirable to me, but mine is the minority voice in the court of public opinion.

Apparently, you’re only supposed to forgive your spouse interminably for minor offensives: the sporadic snide remarks or forgotten special occasions. But the big stuff? The painful stuff, the actions which test the concept of unconditional love, that’s the stuff you kick them to the curb for. Marriage is incredibly difficult, not just because of the merging of two separate lives, but because of the commitment to love this person, ‘for better or worse.’ What does ‘worse’ mean? And once you define it, can you love someone through that? And whatever your ‘worse’ is, would you want someone to love you through it?