A few weeks ago I went to Politics and Prose to hear Doug Smith talk about his new book: ‘Former People’.
Smith, a historian and former State Department USSR analyst, draws his title from the Soviet term for the Russian nobility. Focusing his narrative on three generations of two dynasties, Smith traces the fall of the upper class from its pre-1917 wealth and privilege to the punishing treatment—ranging from impoverishment to execution—meted out to class enemies.
In his remarks Smith noted he’s gotten some curious comments and looks from both Russians and Americans for writing about what many consider to be an unpopular subject: What it was like for ‘the other side’ (the losing side) following the Revolution. To me, it doesn’t seem that strange. Did people deserve to be imprisoned, or even killed simply because they were born into a certain social status? Maybe the division of wealth wasn’t (isn’t) fair, but like Smith said, any time a an entire class of people are sought out and killed, that’s wrong.
The book follows events surrounding two noble families:the Shermetevs and the Golitsyns. Smith says by the end of the book, you feel like you get to know them. Sounds like an entertaining way to work your way through some serious Russian history. I, for one, look forward to reading ‘Former People’, as well as the three other books he’s written.
If you’re in DC, keep an eye on Politics and Prose for future interesting events. Or even better, just subscribe to my DC Russian Events Calendar, and I’ll let you know when something related to Russia is coming up!
I combed through the submitted legislation to be heard at the Virginia 2013 General Assembly, and found significant bills in the areas of: Elections, Education, Employment and Public Benefits, Taxes and Finance, Prisoners and Crime, LGBTQ Concerns, and Reproductive Rights and Related Issues.
Here are the worst that I saw, which will require strong opposition during the upcoming legislative season:
1. HB 1: The Fetal Personhood Bill, back again for another round. Establishes “personhood” as beginning at conception, outlawing all abortion and processes that could interfere with a fertilized egg.
2. SJ 17: A proposal to amend the state constitution to allow the Virginia Board of Education to establish charter schools. Meaning, to establish private schools with public monies. This is yet another attack on public education by privatization interests.
3. SJ 25, HJ 536: Proposes a constitutional amendment to disallow union-only shops. Establishes Virginia as a “Right to Work” state. This was conceived not to protect workers from exorbitant dues or to provide for employee choice regarding professional associations, but instead to prevent unions from becoming large enough to effectively bargain collectively. Declares unions that have achieved “an employment monopoly in any enterprise” to be a criminal conspiracy.
4. HB 487: Proposes that convicted prisoners should be charged for their transport to a jail or prison. This would be yet another charge- in addition to rent, fees for medical attention, cost of stationary, stamps, sanitary materials, and additional food- incurred by a population that tends to come from poverty, and that rarely makes even close to minimum wage while working in prison.
5. HB 567: Eliminates the continuing contract for teachers who have not achieved contracted status by the 2013-2014 school year. Instead, contracts will be meted out in three year periods, and to be eligible for a contract, a new teacher must first teach for five years. This bill is a major threat to educators, who will now be in a position of even less job stability than they currently have. This will also make it harder for teachers to oppose administrators and advocate for the needs of themselves and their students. Here is the Virginia Education Association’s fact sheet on continuing contracts and why they’re necessary for quality education.
6. SB 692, HB 248: Eliminates corporate income tax, effective 2014. This would exempt corporate entities from paying into the public funds that provide things like infrastructure, education for their workers, copyright protections, industrial subsidies, and, in the case of minimum-wage employers like Walmart, the public assistance that keeps their underpaid employees alive. As this report from the Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission shows, Virginia depends on the revenue generated by corporate income tax, but already has a very low rate, and is conservative in which corporations are eligible to be taxed.
7. HB 1001: Calls the state police to publish an explicit agreement with US Immigration and Customs Enforcement’s policies regarding undocumented immigrants, and to “perform federal immigration law-enforcement functions in the Commonwealth after arrest of an alien.” Meaning, to adopt a policy of beginning the deportation process upon arrest, regardless of if the arrested party is guilty of a crime.
8. HB 1112: Eliminates the HPV vaccine requirement for girls entering public school. The driving motivation of this bill is the colloquial belief that protecting girls from Human Papillomavirus, a sexually transmitted infection that can cause cervical cancer, will cause them to become promiscuous. This has potentially wide-reaching public health implications, and is based on a misconception.
9. HB 1315: A Conscience Clause exempting employers from covering contraception, sterilization, and abortificant drugs in their employee insurance plan, for any reason. This bill operates in tandem with HB 1314, which requires insurance companies offering employee policies to offer policies that omit contraception coverage, so that employers may deny their employees that kind of reproductive care. This puts the personal, private medical decisions of employees- mostly women- in the hands of their employers.
10. Open space for any late-submitted travesties that may arise. Stay tuned!
“ Virginia Republicans who helped pass a law requiring women to get an ultrasound before an abortion found their political Facebook pages flooded this week with the kind of information normally reserved for the ob/gyn. ”
[T]he proscription of abortion has never resulted in its complete abolition … The only results of proscription have been illegal abortions that usually result in the death of the would-be mother from [hemorrhaging] or, at best, permanent [sterility]. Until the advent of the pill in 1960, married women did not have access to effective birth control (unmarried women won that right in 1972, courtesy of “Eisenstadt v. Baird”). Medicines can alter the efficacy of the pill. Despite women’s best intentions (and those of their partners), unintended pregnancy is always a possibility. There’s no morality whatsoever in [compelling] a woman to submit to unsafe surgical practices (assuming that Plan B has also been proscribed under said circumstances). No woman who doesn’t wish to become a mother should be sacrificed to prove some kind of so-called moral point. If legal abortion takes away the potential for human life, illegal abortion kills both extant and potential human life. There is no moral safety net for the “pro-life” movement.
I have made typo corrections in brackets, but did not make any substantive changes to the original post. - sweetcommie