Monday Reads: As the SCOTUS churns

165584_600Well, it’s Monday and it feels like a Monday to me.

There are more Supreme Court decisions out today on all kinds of things.I’m going to give you a brief description of the major ones.  It’s hard to top the Marriage Equality ruling and the saving of tax credits for “Obamacare”.  However, a few of them are just as important in their own right.

One of the most stand-out decisions today had to do with voting and voter id.

The U.S. Supreme Court refused to consider letting states require evidence of citizenship when people register to vote for federal elections, rejecting an appeal from Arizona and Kansas.

The rebuff is a victory for the Obama administration and voting- and minority-rights groups that battled the two states in court. It leaves intact a decision by a U.S. agency that blocked the states from requiring proof of citizenship for voters in federal elections.

It’s the second high court defeat on the issue for Arizona. The state has a law that requires evidence of citizenship, but the Supreme Court ruled in 2013 that it couldn’t be enforced when people use a standard registration document known as the “federal form” to register to vote for Congress and the president.

That 7-2 ruling left open the possibility that Arizona could impose its requirements through a different avenue. The court said the state could submit a request to the agency that developed the form, the U.S. Election Assistance Commission, asking it to tell Arizona voters they needed to supply proof of citizenship.

SCOTUS also struck down three provision of the various Three Strikes laws that were designed to penalize “career” criminals. Scalia wrote the majority opinion in this case.

While the country was busy celebrating the Supreme Court’s long-awaited marriage equality ruling, the justices issued another ruling in the Johnson v. United States case that dealt a crucial blow to the prison industrial complex. The SCOTUS ruled that a key provision of the Armed Career Criminal Act, which lengthens the sentences of “career criminals,” is unconstitutionally vague. The ruling paves the way for thousands of prisoners to have their sentences reduced and will cause the private prison industry to lose millions of dollars in profits.

In 1984, Congress passed the Armed Career Criminal Act (ACCA), the law required judges to sentence people to 15 years to life if they have three prior convictions for “serious drug offense” or “violent felonies.” However, what exactly qualified as a “violent felony” was frustratingly vague and was used as a sentence enhancer in many non-violent cases. A “residual clause” in the ACCA allowed third time felons to be sent to prison for any crime that ” presents a serious potential risk of physical injury to another.” That potential risk could include drunk driving, fleeing police, failing to report to a parole officer and even attempted burglary. It seemed to be used as a catch-all sentence enhancer for the sole purpose of throwing people in prison for years longer than they deserved to be. This practice has become increasingly more common as more states allow for-profit prisons in their states.

In the Johnson case, the government used the ACCA to enhance Samuel Johnson’s prison sentence because of a prior conviction of possession of a sawed off shotgun. Johnson argued that he shouldn’t be subjected to a harsher sentence, because the definition of what was considered “violent” was unconstitutionally vague. The SCOTUS agreed with Johnson and issued a 7-1 ruling in his favor.

5888077939_4a120fd991_bAnother finding allows independent panels to redistrict congressional and other political districts.  This could be a key step to stopping the practice of gerrymandering. Arizona’s decision to let independent panels redistrict was declared constitutional.

By ruling that Arizona’s Independent Redistricting Commission is constitutional, the Supreme Court of the United States kicked plutocrat-loving Republicans in the gut.  Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg wrote the 5-4 majority opinion, joined by Justices Breyer, Kagan, Kennedy and Sotomayer.

The crux of the majority’s reasoning can be found in last paragraph of the ruling.

Our Declaration of Independence,  drew from Locke in stating: “Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed.” And our fundamental instrument of government derives its authority from “We the People.” U. S. Const., Preamble. As this Court stated, quoting Hamilton: “[T]he true principle of a republic is, that the people should choose whom they please to govern them.” Powell v. McCormack, 395 U. S. 486, 540-541 (1969) (quoting 2 Debates on the Federal Constitution 257 (J. Elliot ed. 1876)). In this light, it would be perverse to interpret the term “Legislature” in the Elections Clause so as to exclude lawmaking by the people, particularly where such lawmaking is intended to check legislators’ ability to choose the district lines they run in, thereby advancing the prospect that Members of Congress will in fact be “chosen . . . by the People of the several States,”

Even though this case got much less attention from the media compared to the health care and marriage equality cases it is in some ways as important as the aforementioned cases.  The reason is it will shape the meaning of vote equality in the years to come. Had the court ruled the other way, frankly, it would have removed the last real hope of stopping the Koch controlled Republicans from rigging elections in their favor.

In one disappointing decision, SCOTUS removed EPA limits on Air Pollution.5631103843_5db90091cb_b

The US supreme court struck down new rules for America’s biggest air polluters on Monday, dealing a blow to the Obama administration’s efforts to set limits on the amount of mercury, arsenic and other toxins coal-fired power plants can spew into the air, lakes and rivers.

The 5-4 decision was a major setback to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and could leave the agency more vulnerable to legal challenges from industry and Republican-led states to its other new carbon pollution rules.

The justices embraced the arguments from the industry and 21 Republican-led states that the EPA rules were prohibitively expensive and amounted to government overreach.

But the EPA pointed out that most plants had already either complied or made plans to comply with the ruling.

“EPA is disappointed that the court did not uphold the rule, but this rule was issued more than three years ago, investments have been made and most plants are already well on their way to compliance,” the agency said in a statement obtained by Reuters.

The EPA “remains committed to ensuring that appropriate standards are in place to protect the public from the significant amount of toxic emissions from coal and oil-fired electric utilities and continue reducing the toxic pollution from these facilities,” the agency added.

Monday’s decision, written by Justice Antonin Scalia, ruled that the EPA did not reasonably consider the cost factor when drafting the toxic air-pollution regulations.

The Clean Air Act had directed the EPA to create rules to regulate power plants for mercury and other toxic pollutants that were “appropriate and necessary”.

images (6)There’s some discussion in legal blogs about a possible softening of the Court in terms of it’s tendency to follow Scalia and Thomas to hard right conclusions.  Are Kennedy and Roberts becoming more moderate or showing a bit more judicial restraint and temperament?  Here’s some analysis by Tom Goldstein writing for SCOTUSBlog.

There is a lot of commentary about the unusually liberal results of this Term.  I thought I would mention a few data points which back up that view of things.

For present purposes, I treat four Justices as sitting to the Court’s left: Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan.  I treat four Justices as sitting to the Court’s right:  Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas, and Samuel Alito.  I treat Justice Anthony Kennedy as the Court’s “center.”

I count 26 cases this Term that were both close (5-4 or 6-3) and ideological (in the sense that they broke down principally on ideological lines, with ideology seemingly an important factor). 

Of the 26 cases, the left prevailed in 19.  Those included the first 9 of the Term.  The right prevailed in 7.

In the 26, a Justice on the left voted with the right a total of 3 times.  In 2 cases, those votes determined the outcome and produced a more conservative result, because Justice Kennedy or one of the conservatives voted for the more liberal result.

In the 26, a Justice on the right voted with the left 14 times.  In 6 cases, those votes determined the outcome and produced a more liberal result, because Justice Kennedy voted for the more conservative result.

I also considered the 10 cases I consider most significant.  Of those, the left prevailed in 8.  Those included the first 7 of the Term.  (I mention the early cases to give a sense of how the results must have appeared inside the Court as the Term went along.)  The right prevailed in 2, both in the final sitting of the Term.

In the 10, no Justice on the left voted with the right; the four Justices on the left voted together in every one of those cases.  A Justice on the right voted with the left 4 times.  Those votes determined the outcome in 2 cases, because Justice Kennedy voted for the more conservative result.

Note that the analysis above is skewed against finding the Term particularly liberal by treating Justice Kennedy as the Court’s “center.”  That is true ideologically, but he is certainly a conservative.  If he were characterized that way for my analysis, the number of defections to the left would be much higher.

By that measure, a Justice on the right voted with the left 25 times (compared with 3 times the reverse happened).  That occurred in all 10 of the 10 major cases (because no Justice on the left voted with the right in any of those cases), and determined the outcome in all of them.

Real Clear Politics also had a take on this. It’s obviously an interesting question to ask given the current hissy fits happening with in movement conservatives who are calling for the essential overthrow of the 5928104071_8f42d73da8_bcurrent court since a few decisions did not go their way.

Conservatives were disheartened by the Court’s rulings Thursday in King v. Burwell and Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs v. The Inclusive Project. They probably will be disheartened if the Court rules that gay marriage is a constitutional right, which seems likely. I suspect I got the authorship of the Arizona redistricting commission case wrong in my Supreme Court Bingoarticle: the opinion assignments make more sense if Justice Kennedy lost his majority in Din, which would suggest Justice Ginsburg is writing the redistricting commission opinion. That means conservatives may well be disappointed in the outcome of that opinion as well.

Unsurprisingly, conservatives are up in arms about the supposed “selling out” from Chief Justice John Roberts. Their reaction is something along the lines of Obi-Wan’s final words (from Obi-Wan’s point of view) to Anakin Skywalker: “You were the chosen one! It was said that you would destroy the Sith, not join them!”

plenty of today’s “liberal” decisions would have been considered downright reactionary in the 1960s (or 1970s). Consider the NFIB case, which upheld Obamacare in 2012, while finding that the individual mandate could not be supported by the commerce power. Until 1995, many scholars believed that the Commerce Clause had all but given Congress a general police power; the Lopez decision, which placed the first limits on congressional power in 60 years, was on the outer fringes of even conservative legal theory. NFIB actually reinforces, and to a certain extent expands that decision.

This says nothing of the Court’s holding that there are real limits to the spending clause, which garnered the votes of seven justices. I’m not sure there would have been more than one or two votes for this in the 1960s. By the standards of the 1970s, NFIB was a radically conservative decision, even when the substantive outcome is taken into account. By the standards of, say, the 1920s on the other hand, this was a radically liberal opinion, insofar as it accepts the basic New Deal framework (that there is at least one justice who is prepared to jettison that framework entirely shows just how far to the right the Court has gone).

Or consider the opinion validating Obamacare’s subsidies. While the plaintiffs’ theory of the case was perfectly plausible under current statutory interpretation principles (enough so that several Democratic-appointed lower court judges were cautious when ruling against plaintiffs), it also represented something of a reductio ad absurdum of textualism. If we were to have a debate over textualism in, say, the 1970s, one can imagine a purposivist asking, “So what if there is an obvious drafting error in a section that threatens an entire massive statute? What then?” The fact that conservatives expect the Court to go “full textualist” even in that circumstance – and that even liberal scholars like Abbe Gluck accept the basic textualist framework – again shows how far the debate has moved in the past 30 years.

What about the redistricting commission case? Assuming conservatives lose this one, it’s worth remembering that this position on the elections clause only had the support of three members of the Court in 2000 (when a similar argument was raised in Bush v. Gore); Justices Kennedy and O’Connor avoided the issue and may well have been against it. So even a 6-3 ruling against conservatives here would probably reveal no net shift in the positioning of the Court over the past 15 years. It is just that the expectations for conservatives have shifted.

The article is interesting because it compares some of the different courts over the last 50 years and you can see exactly how illiberal this court still is.5894062539_dff4c78611_b

One more case is worth discussing.  This one will be in the works.  “The Supreme Court on Monday agreed to consider whether the University of Texas’s race-conscious admissions plan is constitutional.”

Two years ago, the court voted 7 to 1 to send the plan back for further judicial view and told the lower court to apply the kind of rigorous evaluation that must accompany any government action that considers race.

“Strict scrutiny imposes on the university the ultimate burden of demonstrating, before turning to racial classifications, that available, workable race-neutral alternatives do not suffice,” Justice Anthony M. Kennedy wrote.

This will be another interesting case to watch.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 


Lazy Saturday Reads: No Joy in Wankerville

Hope your weekend is going great!

dare to be stupidIt seems Republicans are having terrible, horrible, very bad weeks because even when you attempt to stack the Supreme Court with wankers, there are still times when some of them respect the constitutional rights and civil rights of individuals.  They also occasionally respect the lawmaking process. Aren’t they sorry they can’t clone Uncle Clarence Thomas, the right wing rubber stamp of all things truly UnAmerican?

I seriously think that a lot of today’s Republicans have mental health issues. Is there a syndrome for reaction to losing privilege or is that just some kind of perverse temper tantrum best left to unruly toddlers? They definitely have a warped sense of what is moral.
Louisiana Governor Bobby Jindal jumped the shark a long time ago with his insistence that Birmingham, UK had No Go Zones where Muslims ruled with shariah law.  This is odd given he’s been trying to make Louisiana a No Go Zone for anything but radical evangelical, right wing christianists.

Jindal continues to show just how much he’s losing it with the idea that we’d save ourselves a lot of money by just getting rid of the Supreme Court.  Read your constitution much PBJ?  How much do you hate this country?

Jindal’s office also provided remarks on the court’s ruling from a speech in Iowa on Friday.

“The Supreme Court is completely out of control, making laws on their own, and has become a public opinion poll instead of a judicial body. If we want to save some money lets just get rid of the court.

“Yesterday, Justice Scalia noted that in the Obamacare ruling “words have no meaning.

“Today, Chief Justice Roberts admitted that the gay marriage ruling had nothing to do with the Constitution.
Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that.

“Hillary Clinton and The Left will now mount an all-out assault on Religious Freedom guaranteed in the First Amendment.

“Regardless of your views on marriage, all freedom loving people must pledge to respect our first amendment freedoms.”

Jindal is among the many Republican using religious freedom as an excuse to discriminate and disobey the law.  You also hear the worn out refrain of state’s rights.  These are the same arguments that were used to protect slavery, continue segregation, deny interracial marriage, and promote all kinds of basically evil things. If any one is guilt of promoting the tyranny of religious rule, it is folks like Bobby Jindal.  It’s also the same throwback states refusing to carry out the SCOTUS decision legalizing marriage equality. Louisiana’s Governor and Attorney General are being complete assholes about issuing marriage licenses to gay couples.  The elected officials in many southern states are acting like cheeky, spoiled little brats who didn’t get their way.

Louisiana and Mississippi are the only two states left in the country not issuing marriage licenses to same sex couples, according to Washington Post reports.

In Louisiana, Attorney General Buddy Caldwell on Friday indicated that he will not instruct parish clerks of court to immediately issue marriage licenses to gay couples.

In a statement, Caldwell’s office wrote that “it has found nothing in today’s decision that makes the Court’s order effective immediately.”

“The Attorney General’s Office will be watching for the Court to issue a mandate or order making today’s decision final and effective and will issue a statement when that occurs,” the statement noted.

In the statement, Caldwell expressed disappointment in the high court’s ruling.

In Mississippi, Attorney General Jim Hood said in a statement: “The Office of the Attorney General is certainly not standing in the way of the Supreme Court’s decision. We simply want to inform our citizens of the procedure that takes effect after this ruling. The Supreme Court decision is the law of the land and we do not dispute that. When the 5th Circuit lifts the stay of Judge Reeves’ order, it will become effective in Mississippi and circuit clerks will be required to issue same-sex marriage licenses.”

Before the Supreme Court’s landmark ruling Friday, Louisiana and Mississippi were two of 14 states with a constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. After the court’s ruling, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska, Texas, Michigan, Ohio, Missouri, Kentucky, Tennessee, Arkansas, Georgia and Florida began issuing licenses.

Clearly, many folks in the South still haven’t gotten the idea that we’re a country ruled by laws and not their pet religious fetishes.  Even the dissenting SCOTUS justices were way off the petulant scale and not only images (5)on the wrong side of history, but wrong about history.  Chief Justice Roberts cited a list of civilizations that supposedly had his modern, wanker christianist view of marriage in the dissent.  Simple research and googles would have disabused the Justice of his conveniently wrong views.

In his written dissent to the Supreme Court’s decision to effectively legalize gay marriage in all 50 states in the United States, Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. made a conspicuous gesture to the rest of the world. He referred to the “social institution” that the majority of the court was “transforming,” and anchored its legitimacy in the currents of history.

…the Court invalidates the marriage laws of more than half the States and orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs. Just who do we think we are?

It’s not quite clear to WorldViews why Roberts decided to implicate these four particular cultures in his opposition to the legalizing of gay marriage. But we can suggest reasons why they are hardly exemplars of “traditional” unions between men and women.

It’s absolutely funny how completely wrong definitions of “traditional marriage” can be.  Here’s the actual practices of the Kalahari Bushmen.

These hunter-gatherers in sub-Saharan Africa have long been the world’s stock image of “primitive man,” and presumably that’s why Roberts referenced them — as the stereotype of an atavistic people, whether it’s fair or not. (It’s not, but let’s move on.) The Kalahari Bushmen don’t have very strong wedding practices, and don’t pay much attention to ceremonies around mating.

Early European accounts of tribes and kingdoms encountered in southern Africa included details of warrior women styling themselves as kings (not “queens”), polygamous households where lesbianism was common, and even ancient Bushmen rock paintings depicting explicit homosexual sex.

Ouch. I already mentioned the misogynous and incest-based traditional marriages of ancient Greece yesterday.  You really have to look to the Dark Ages to get even a remote historical resemblance to what these crack pot religious whackos describe as “traditional marriage”.

In fact, when you really dig into the history of marriage, the only consistent feature is change. My own professional group, the American Historical Association, filed an amicus brief that leveraged the combined expertise of twenty historians of marriage. The AHA brief used examples drawn largely from American history to show that marriage has never been solely about procreation, with issues like property management taking center stage. Moreover, Ruth Karras, author of Unmarriages, told me in an interview that marriage has almost never been about joining one man and one woman, but instead about “two families.” In that sense, same-sex couples looking for equal protection under the law with respect to healthcare and property rights are pretty consistent with “traditional marriage.”

That is, if there even is such a thing as “traditional marriage.” Karras began studying the multiple forms of medieval marriage—or at least the socially-accepted and often semi-legal long-term forms of relationships—because of her frustration with the idea that, “there was some sort of time that we could go back and look at where marriage was this perfect ideal between a man and woman for purposes of reproduction or creating family. The Middle Ages clearly haunts that formulation.” In fact, Karras continued, for many medieval people, “traditional marriage didn’t even exist. Yes, for aristocrats there was this system, but it’s really not very possible to know much about how people without any money formed and possibly didn’t form their marriages. People seem to have this idea that until the 1960s in America, everybody was pro-marriage—in fact, in the Middle Ages a lot of people lived in other kinds of relations besides what was recognized formally as marriage.”

So many of these folks have views based on what they read in the incredibly fabricated St James Bible which was put together in the early 17th century. marriage_equality-1381553

The King James Bible is considered by many today to be the ‘original’ Bible and therefore ‘genuine’ and all later revisions simply counterfeits forged by ‘higher critics’. Others think the King James Bible is ‘authentic’ and ‘authorized’ and presents the original words of the authors as translated into English from the ‘original’ Greek texts. However, as Tony points out, the ‘original’ Greek text was not written until around the mid fourth century and was a revised edition of writings compiled decades earlier in Aramaic and Hebrew. Those earlier documents no longer exist and the Bibles we have today are five linguistic removes from the first bibles written. What was written in the ‘original originals’ is quite unknown. It is important to remember that the words ‘authorized’ and ‘original’, as applied to the Bible do not mean ‘genuine’, ‘authentic’ or ‘true’.

We have an entire group of people–including elected officials and SCOTUS justices that basically can’t get beyond a nearly completely fabricated, contradictory, and false account of what may or may not be a set of fictional characters.   Thank goodness the Constitution isn’t grounded in promoting religion even if so many of the whackadoos in public life build their entire life’s delusions around it.

Some of the most disturbing comments have come from crazy Mike Huckabee who is still running for President and searching for relevance beyond a small group of Southern Baptists.

Republican presidential candidate and former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee (R) said Friday in a statement that he would not “acquiesce to an imperial court” and its decision to make gay marriage legal in all 50 states.

Huckabee’s comments came after the Supreme Court’s decision on gay marriage in Obergefell v. Hodges.
“The Supreme Court has spoken with a very divided voice on something only the Supreme Being can do-redefine marriage,” Huckabee said in the statement. “I will not acquiesce to an imperial court any more than our Founders acquiesced to an imperial British monarch. We must resist and reject judicial tyranny, not retreat.”

Huckabee called the ruling “unconstitutional.”

“This ruling is not about marriage equality, it’s about marriage redefinition,” Huckabee said. “This irrational, unconstitutional rejection of the expressed will of the people in over 30 states will prove to be one of the court’s most disastrous decisions, and they have had many. The only outcome worse than this flawed, failed decision would be for the President and Congress, two co-equal branches of government, to surrender in the face of this out-of-control act of unconstitutional, judicial tyranny.”

Huckabee also questioned the authority of the Supreme Court.

“The Supreme Court can no more repeal the laws of nature and nature’s God on marriage than it can the law of gravity,” Huckabee said. “Under our Constitution, the court cannot write a law, even though some cowardly politicians will wave the white flag and accept it without realizing that they are failing their sworn duty to reject abuses from the court. If accepted by Congress and this President, this decision will be a serious blow to religious liberty, which is the heart of the First Amendment.”

Again, we have some people that are totally unhinged and seem to have no concrete knowledge about even the most basic facts about the creation of our Republic and the Constitution.

Religious liberty is not a right to force your religious fetishes on others.  Religious liberty deals with the ideal that the Government cannot establish a state religion and force its tenets on every one in the country.  What these whackos do in their homes, churches and minds are their own business.  What they do with our government and public lives is something completely different.  You don’t have to be a constitutional scholar or lawyer to grok that.

equality_3Here’s another short list of what the Republican Candidates for President say about the ruling.  Can there be any doubt that these folks are out of step with the majority of people in the country and will only be relevant in outback states where they wreck the economies and persecute minorities?  I wrote about Bush and Rubio yesterday so I’ll just fill you in on the other troglodytes.

Of the reactions released so far, all by Republican presidential candidates opposed the Supreme Court ruling, as expected. But they differed in tone.  Some were defiant, others appealed for respect.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker, who is expected to enter the race soon, called the ruling “a grave mistake” and reiterated his support for a constitutional amendment.

“The only alternative left for the American people is to support an amendment to the US Constitution to reaffirm the ability of the states to continue to define marriage,” Governor Walker said in a statement.

Such an amendment would be impossible to pass, observers say, given the requirement that three-quarters of the states ratify it, and so his pronouncement is effectively a symbolic gesture. Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, another 2016-er, is the biggest champion of a marriage amendment.

Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana, who announced his candidacy Wednesday, was also clearly not in the “court has spoken” camp.

“Marriage between a man and a woman was established by God, and no earthly court can alter that,” Governor Jindal said in a statement.

As the governor of a state that did not already recognize same-sex marriage, Jindal’s posture toward Friday’s ruling has special significance. Ditto Ohio Gov. John Kasich, who is expected to enter the race soon.

“Neither governor would be able to do anything to stop same-sex marriage in their state,” in light of Friday’s decision, National Journal notes.

“But they could take actions to speed up or delay implementation of the ruling – actions that would surely become a topic of the presidential campaign over the next year.”

At press time, Governor Kasich had yet to release a statement on the decision, though in April he told reporters at a Monitor luncheon that he would be willing to attend a gay friend’s wedding, suggesting some ease with the issue. But he was also clear that he supports only the traditional definition of marriage.

It is still unbelievable to me that we can literally be held hostage by reactionaries in mostly lowly populated, insignificant states and the rural populations of some of the mid-sized states.  Popular support for the issues like marriage equality are at all time highs and continue to show upward trends.  Still, horrible reactionary pundits and republican politicians continue to thwart progress towards full enfranchisement of racial and religious minorities, ethnic minorities, GLBTs, and women.  I’ve been reading some of the worst things ever from the always wrong Bill Kristol. This man should not be allowed a public forum other than his irrelevant rag. Since when is granting civil rights “Peak Liberalism”?

We see a French Revolution-like tendency to move with the speed of light from a reasonable and perhaps overdue change (taking down the Confederate flag over state buildings) to an all-out determination to expunge from our history any recognition or respect for that which doesn’t fully comport with contemporary progressive sentiment. The left’s point, of course, is not to clarify and sharpen appreciation for our distinctive history; the point is to discredit that history.

And the point is not to advance arguments and criticize alternative views; it is to deny the legitimacy of opposing arguments and to demonize opponents and purge them from the public square.

We see a pitiful aversion to standing up to barbarism abroad and a desperate willingness to accommodate and appease. This requires an amazing ability to shut one’s eyes to reality, and an extraordinary refusal to make tough decisions and assume real responsibilities. As Harvey Mansfield put it in the 1970s, “From having been the aggressive doctrine of vigorous, spirited men, liberalism has become hardly more than a trembling in the presence of illiberalism. .  .  . Who today is called a liberal for strength and confidence in defense of liberty?”

Since when is liberty defined as the right to take liberty away from others?

Maybe, these assholes should pick up a few things written by Thomas Paine and embrace the true roots of revolution.Life,_liberty,_equality_(9181901536)

“Whatever is my right as a man is also the right of another; and it becomes my duty to guarantee as well as to possess.”
Thomas Paine, Rights of Man

The real struggles for complete civil rights still exist.  There is ENDA and there is still the ERA.  There is correcting the Supreme Court’s evisceration of the Voting Rights Act.   In those last links you will see that there is work going on  to get all of these things on track.  Until we are all safe from discrimination in our public lives including in our jobs, in our ability to live where we choose, in our ability to exercise our voting rights and to achieve pay equity, none of us are safe.

No matter what these jerks say, their religion isn’t a get out of complying with our laws free card.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Reads: Welcome to the Jungle

Justice Kennedy delivers opinion in same sex marriage

Justice Kennedy delivers opinion in same sex marriage

How very ironic that it is my day to post and it’s the very day that all my gay friends get access to the one institution that I tell every one I know and love to avoid like a plague.  You can ask my daughters. My first response is that you really don’t have to do this because you’re educated, can make your own life, and you don’t have to continually have your assets, energy, will to live, and dreams drained away from you over time.  Just hang out with him until the inevitable drift to hell becomes obvious.  Please, don’t do it.  It hasn’t worked so far. Just a few months ago, yet another long time, long married friend confessed to me that she–and others she knows–would have the kids and everything else but never do the husband thing again. That’s pretty much where I’m at with an institution designed to make you disappear into chattel v. meal ticket status.

No one can make you happy but you.  That’s basically a head trip. Marriage, however, absolutely gives another person the right to make you miserable in ways that you’d never even dreamed about when you’re lost to bonding hormones.  You can’t ever ever know how to properly enunciate “till death to us part” until you’ve been stuck at least a good 15 -20 years in the institution. Then you realize, it’s pretty much akin to a death row sentence where the things you really wanted to do with your life were left outside the doors.

Bill Murray showed up–seemingly drunk–on Lawrence O’Donnell’s show in May when the nice young gay couple looking to get married that were filmed in  that Hillary Clinton commercial were interviewed.  He pretty much expressed my views exactly.  I really hope you all make a better situation out of it than straight people generally do. Knock yourselves out!  I want nothing to do with any of it!  I frankly think that there’s hope for some change given the rigid expectations that come with an institution that’s generally been defined by really awful stereotypical sex roles and where it may not treated as a purely breeder institution.

So, with you knowing that I am a conscientious objector to the entire institution for any one, I give you the day that marriage equality happened in the USA.  To my knowledge, nobody’s church has crumbled to the ground and no one’s sanctified marriage has been taken away by any angry sky fairy.   This gives legal access to huge numbers of subsidies, tax benefits, and rights that were never available to gay couples before.  For that, I am very happy.  All the spoils that government provides the institution should be available to any one that wants to try to go the distance; especially if they do so with children.

The Supreme Court has given gay couples the right to be married every where in the United States and its territories.  Just think on that one given Scalia, Thomas, and the religious-politico harpies of the the-honeymooners-pow2Republican party.  Teenagers, now is the time to go to law school and become a divorce lawyer.  An entirely new and huge market segment has just opened up. Until then, welcome to the boom in wedding paraphernalia and hoopla.

“Under the Constitution, same-sex couples seek in marriage the same legal treatment as opposite-sex couples, and it would disparage their choices and diminish their personhood to deny them this right,” Justice Anthony Kennedy wrote in the majority opinion. He was joined in the ruling by the court’s liberal justices Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Stephen G. Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.

All four of the court’s most conservative members — Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Justices Antonin Scalia, Clarence Thomas and Samuel A. Alito Jr. — dissented and each wrote a separate opinion, saying the court had usurped a power that belongs to the people.

That sums it up and it happened just about the way every one thought it would. Kennedy has always seemed open to the idea that civil marriage was a civil right.  I’m not sure how access to a legal institution basically is a power that belongs to the people, but that appears to be the argument by the court’s hyper religious sour grapes.

Here’s the analysis from SCOTUSBlog.

Putting itself back in the forefront of the gay rights revolution, the Supreme Court ruled by the narrowest margin on Friday that same-sex couples across the nation have an equal right to marry.  The five-to-four decision was based firmly on the Constitution, and thus could be undone only by a formal amendment to the basic document, or a change of mind by a future Supreme Court.  Neither is predictable.

Explicitly refusing to hold off deciding the issue to see how other parts of society may deal with the rising demand for gay acceptance and legitimacy, the Court declared that two clauses in the Fourteenth Amendment mean that a “fundamental right to marry” can no longer be denied because the partners are of the same sex.   It did not create a new right, but opened a long-existing one to those partners.

The ruling was the most important victory in a cultural revolution that began almost exactly forty-six years ago, when patrons of a gay bar — the Stonewall Inn in New York City’s Greenwich Village — fought back against a police raid.  The events that began on the night of June 28, 1969, are widely known as the beginning of “gay pride” and an unapologetic campaign for equality.

The decision in Obergefell v. Hodges expressly overruled the Court’s only prior ruling directly on same-sex marriage — a one-line decision in the 1972 case of Baker v. Nelson, declaring that a claim to such marriage did not raise “a substantial question” for the Court to resolve.

Over the last two years, the right to marry has been extended rapidly and widely for gays and lesbians, ultimately expanding the places where they may marry legally to thirty-six states and Washington, D.C., through new laws, court rulings, or voters’ approval.  From a 2003 ruling by the highest state court in Massachusetts allowing same-sex marriage, the movement to gain marital rights had spread from coast to coast, with lawsuits in every state where the right had not yet been recognized.

The decision on Friday will open marriage legally in the remaining fourteen states, and will give new legal protection for those who got married under court rulings that actually could not be considered truly final until the Supreme Court itself had decided the constitutional question.  The decision nullified bans on same-sex marriage as well as bans on official recognition of such marriages performed outside a state.   Both prohibitions, it said, violate the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantees of due process and equal protection.

6993425243_70e116e576The dissenting justices evidently strongly dissented. Quelle Suprise!

Chief Justice John Roberts not only dissented from the Court’s ruling but also read a summary of his dissent from the bench.  It was the first time that he has done so in his ten Terms on the Court, and it signaled how strongly he disagreed with the Court’s ruling.  Roberts forcefully criticized the majority for side-stepping the democratic process and declaring that same-sex couples have the right to marry when, in his view, such a right “has no basis in the Constitution.”  The Court’s decision, he complained, “orders the transformation of a social institution that has formed the basis of human society for millennia, for the Kalahari Bushmen and the Han Chinese, the Carthaginians and the Aztecs.”  “Just who,” Roberts laments, “do we think we are?”  The other three Justices echoed Roberts’s sentiments, sometimes in even more strident terms:  Justice Antonin Scalia characterized the decision as a “judicial Putsch” and suggested that, before he signed on to an opinion like the majority’s, “I would hide my head in a bag.”

I always love that historical and religious marriage is always defined by modern terms.  They so overlook the traditional old man and harem mold.  It’s always amazing to me when people that should be smart and well educated just get so hung up in the frames of their bias that they conveniently overlook a huge amount of history that contradicts their halcyon view. Marriage has had many forms over history. The rich and powerful basically treat it as a protocol for more property, power, and strategic alliances. Beyond the breeding requirements, historically, it’s more of an economic and political arrangement with the exceptions of the old common law marriages of the masses.  Most of those were never even registered or recognized by the state. Here’s the typical ancient Greek marriage according to one scholar.

Closely endogamous marriages between uncles and nieces (and sometimes half-siblings), marriages in which women retained almost no property rights or independence and were regularly both physically segregated and violently abused, and a system in which marriage was designed explicitly to increase and safeguard the property of closely related men while encouraging the production of definitely legitimate male heirs to those men through tightly restricting access to their wives.

Scalia was unhinged, as usual.

“‘The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality,'” he quoted from the majority opinion before adding, “Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie.”

So, while, I’m just a grumpy pessimist who thinks the entire institution and its subsidies/financial incentives should go away, the 2016 GOP candidates are on their barn burning fatwas.   Which gas bag should I quote first?  Hmmm…. let’s go with the Jebster of love.

“Guided by my faith, I believe in traditional marriage. I believe the Supreme Court should have allowed the states to make this decision. I also believe that we should love our neighbor and respect others, including those making lifetime commitments. In a country as diverse as ours, good people who have opposing views should be able to live side by side. It is now crucial that as a country we protect religious freedom and the right of conscience and also not discriminate.”

Prop8-gay-weddingAh, yes, HIS faith should triumph, every one else’s can go to hell, and if we don’t agree with his faith than were oppressing him.  His brain should explode from this basket of contradiction if it were functional enough to fire a synapse to set off the explosion.

Rubio actually tried the pragmatic dogmatic approach. I’ll be interested in seeing how that flies with the hate groups that now comprise the republican base.

I believe that marriage, as the key to strong family life, is the most important institution in our society and should be between one man and one woman. People who disagree with the traditional definition of marriage have the right to change their state laws. That is the right of our people, not the right of the unelected judges or justices of the Supreme Court. This decision short-circuits the political process that has been underway on the state level for years.

“While I disagree with this decision, we live in a republic and must abide by the law. As we look ahead, it must be a priority of the next president to nominate judges and justices committed to applying the Constitution as written and originally understood.

The most interesting thing about this bit of dogma dancing is that Kennedy rooted the finding in the Constitution which solomonwivesmakes what Rubio said flagrantly out to lunch.  (Is it just me or does Rubio always say things that just are not grounded in the facts on the ground?)  Kennedy carefully crafted the decision in light of a constitutional right.

The first line of the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Obergefell v. Hodges, on the legality of same-sex marriage in the United States, is as breathtaking as it is legalistic.

The Fourteenth Amendment requires a State to license a marriage between two people of the same sex and to recognize a marriage between two people of the same sex when their marriage was lawfully licensed and performed out-of-State.

There it is, the ruling that gay-marriage advocates and opponents have been waiting for since April when the Court took up the case—but really, for years long before that. There is now a constitutional right for people of the same sex to get married in the United States.

He even crafted the ruling’s logic to follow the precedent of similar constitutional rights.

Second, Kennedy writes, marriage is a distinctive institution: “It supports a two-person union unlike any other in its importance to the committed individuals.” Here, he points to the Court’s opinion in Griswold v. Connecticut, which affirmed the right of married couples to use birth control. “Same-sex couples have the same right as opposite-sex couples to enjoy intimate association.”

So, my gay friends and family, you have total access to the institution of marriage  in these United States.  Please make it a better arrangement for everyone!


Saturday Reads

Happy Saturday and the day after Juneteenth!

Emancipation_Day_celebration_-_1900-06-19Juneteeth is the largest holiday celebrating the end of slavery in the US. It has an extremely interesting history.  As most of us know, Texas is a particularly stubborn and bothersome state.  Texas either deliberately ignored or “accidentally” missed hearing about the Emancipation Proclamation, so slaves there were held in bondage illegally for more than two years.

Juneteenth is the oldest known celebration commemorating the ending of slavery in the United States.  Dating back to 1865, it was on June 19ththat the Union soldiers, led by Major General Gordon Granger, landed at Galveston, Texas with news that the war had ended and that the enslaved were now free. Note that this was two and a half years after President Lincoln’s Emancipation Proclamation – which had become official January 1, 1863. The Emancipation Proclamation had little impact on the Texans due to the minimal number of Union troops to enforce the new Executive Order. However, with the surrender of General Lee in April of 1865, and the arrival of General Granger’s regiment, the forces were finally strong enough to influence and overcome the resistance. Later attempts to explain this two and a half year delay in the receipt of this important news have yielded several versions that have been handed down through the years. Often told is the story of a messenger who was murdered on his way to Texas with the news of freedom. Another, is that the news was deliberately withheld by the enslavers to maintain the labor force on the plantations. And still another, is that federal troops actually waited for the slave owners to reap the benefits of one last cotton harvest before going to Texas to enforce the Emancipation Proclamation. All of which, or neither of these versions could be true. Certainly, for some, President Lincoln’s authority over the rebellious states was in question   For whatever the reasons, conditions in Texas remained status quo well beyond what was statutory.

The images on today’s post are froms celebrations of Juneteenth. Many of them occured around the turn of the 20th century.

The one thing that I’ve learned from watching far too many seasons of “Criminal Minds” is that serial killers that kill for ideology tend to leave manifestos around.We saw this clearly in the 2011 mass shootings in Norway by Anders Brevik. Ted Kaczynski–known as the unabomber--wrote an extensive manifesto.  We have vast social media networks today, so finding Dylann Roof’s manifesto was only a matter of time as he stuck true to the form of this classic FBI killer profile.  He appears to have been obsessed with Rhodesia.  I took a Colonial Africa history course when I was an undergrad and wrote the semester’s thesis on that very country. I found it striking that he had a picture of the former country’s flag. It’s now Zimbabwe and is still one very messed up little sub-saharan country.

This is a brief description from the Daily Beast.

A website that appears to have been created by Dylann Roof was found Saturday morning. The “Last Rhodesian” was registered in February 2015. (On his Facebook account, Roof wore a Rhodesian flag in a photo taken before his alleged attack Wednesday on a Charleston black church.) Photos of Roof hosted on the website were taken this spring, according to metadata. The writer of the text says he was “not raised in a racist environment,” and that the shooting of Trayvon Martin led him to investigate what he called “black on white crime” through the webpage of local hate group Council of Conservative Citizens. “I have no choice. I am not in the position to, alone, go into the ghetto and fight. I chose Charleston because it is most historic city in my state, and at one time had the highest ratio of blacks to Whites in the country,” the author writes. “We have no skinheads, no real KKK, no one doing anything but talking on the internet. Well someone has to have the bravery to take it to the real world, and I guess that has to be me.” The site includes references two films, Romper Stomper (in which Russell Crowe plays a neo-Nazi) and Himzu, a Japanese film in which the protagonist “attempts to improve society by killing ‘bad’ people.” The Daily Beast’s Shane Harris reports that the Federal Bureau of Investigation says it is aware of the website but has no further comment at this time.

As you know, there are still active KKK chapters all over the country. I’m not exactly sure what makes a 21 year old feel so disenfranchised that he has to go above and beyond their existent presences in our country after images (2)
all these years, but it does bear some discussion.   It lets us know that not all of them are dying off.  How many heads does this Hydra have?  I had figured he’d been active in the various white supremacist websites and that sooner or later we’d dig stuff up on him. 

In one picture, Mr. Roof is shown posing with wax figures of slaves. In others, he posed with a handgun that appears to be a .45-caliber Glock. He had a .45-caliber Glock in his car when he was arrested Thursday, the police said.

Mr. Roof is alone in all the photos, which appear to have been taken at a slave plantation and at the Museum and Library of Confederate History in Greenville, S.C. He has the same gloomy look in many of the photos — no one else is shown — but others depict nature scenes and what appear to be vacation photographs.

Several photos show him with the number 88 or 1488 written in sand. The numbers are well-known white supremacy codes.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center’s glossary of skinhead terms, “Fourteen stands for the ‘14 words’ slogan coined by David Lane, who is serving a 190-year sentence for his part in the assassination of a Jewish talk show host: ‘We must secure the existence of our people and a future for white children.’” The letter H is the eighth letter of the alphabet, so 88 is a known code for “Heil, Hitler.”

The website’s links contain several passages of long racist rants, saying Hispanics are enemies and “Negroes” have lower I.Q.s and low impulse control. The writings are not signed.

Watchdog groups that track right-wing extremism say the language of the manifesto reflects the rhetoric found in white supremacist forums online and dovetails with what has been said about Mr. Roof thus far, including that he had self-radicalized, and that he did not belong to a particular hate group.

“It’s clear that he was extremely receptive to those ideas,” said Mark Pitcavage, the director of the Anti-Defamation League’s Center on Extremism. “At the same time, he does not have a sophisticated knowledge of white supremacy.”

So, he is the typical lone wolf shooter.  But, his particular brand of motivating hatred has deep cultural roots that are alive many places throughout this country.  There have been two significant peaks in the activity of these kinds of shooters.  The last peak was during the Clinton administration.  Of course, this current binge is due to the Obama presidency.   Here’ is Sheila Kennedy’s take.

America’s inability to overcome our deeply entrenched racism, however, is at the top of that list.

I’m seventy-three years old. I’ve seen overt racism decline substantially over my lifetime. We passed civil rights laws. Nice people stopped telling racist jokes at cocktail parties. Intermarriages increased and disapproval of those unions decreased. We prepared to elect a biracial President. It seemed that the arc of history was–in Martin Luther King’s words–bending toward justice.

Then Barack Obama was elected, and overt racism came roaring back.

All the old white guys (and let’s be honest, plenty of old white gals) who’d been trying to cope with the fact that their lives hadn’t turned out the way they’d hoped, who’d been getting up each morning to a world in which they were no longer automatically superior simply by virtue of their skin color, suddenly had a black President. And they just couldn’t handle it.

The rocks lifted. The nastiness, the resentment, the smallness oozed out.

The internet “jokes,” the Fox News dog-whistles, the political pandering that barely tries to camouflage its racial animus–they’ve all contributed to a new-old social norm in which racism is winked at, and if noticed at all, justified with urban legends about African-Americans and outright lies about the President.

Every inadequate excuse for a human being who has forwarded a vile email about the President and his family, every gun nut claiming that people wouldn’t have been killed if only the pastor had been armed (in church!), every snide “commentator” who has spent the last six years making a nice living by playing to racist stereotypes–every one of them created the culture within which this terrorist acted. Every one of them is a co-conspirator in this mass murder.

And don’t get me started on a culture that lets any man insecure in his masculinity–no matter how mentally ill, no matter how demonstrably violent– substitute a deadly weapon for that missing piece of his anatomy.

I think that social media and the ability to get at metadata has made it much easier to find these folks out.  Most overt racists are not likely inclined to massacre people in a church, but they exist and do damage 24939f8fc50f8b2a7c8531e9adff5814from all kinds of places.  Take the judge, for instance, who has just heard Roof’s illegal weapons charge.  When I heard he told every one to remember the shooter’s family as well as the victims I heard the long, slow blare of the good ol’ boy dog whistle.  Sure enough, some intrepid journalist found these things.

Charleston County Magistrate James B. Gosnell began Friday’s bond hearing for mass-murderer Dylann Roof by declaring that the killer’s family members were victims as well.

At least he did not repeat an opinion that he offered in another proceeding a dozen years ago.

“There are four kinds of people in this world—black people, white people, red necks, and n—rs,” Gosnell advised a black defendant in a November 6, 2003 bond reduction hearing.

If you really want an eye-opener, try googling KKK membership and police officers. The most recent news is from an Alabama City.

Josh Doggrell is a Lieutenant on the force. He is also the founder and chair of his area League of the South chapter. The League of the South (LOS) is a white supremacist organization that calls for southern states to secede and establish a Christian theocratic state run by “Anglo-Celtics.” Doggrell has belonged to the group since 1995.

During a 2013 LOS meeting, Doggrell told the gathered crowd that his supervisors at the department were not only aware of his racist affiliations, they actively agreed with them.

“The vast majority of men in uniform are aware that they’re southerners,” Doggrell said from the podium. “And kith and kin comes before illegal national mandates.”

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, the concept of kith and kin comes from “an explicitly racist ideology called ‘kinism,’ which calls for “laws against racial intermarriage, an end to non-white immigration, expelling all ‘aliens’ (‘to include all Jews and Arabs’), and restricting the right to vote to white, landholding men over the age of 21.”

“I went in and told the chief last year,” Doggrell told the assembly of white supremacists, in recounting his no-secrets policy at work about his LOS affiliation, “I’m not going to sell out my position with the League, as something I believe in strongly. If it came down to it, I’d choose the League.”

“Is there anything you want to ask me?” Doggrell wanted to know of his supervisor.

“You just answered every question I have… We pretty much think like you do,” Doggrell’s chief reportedly replied.

Doggrell’s colleague, Wayne Brown, attended the LOS meeting as well and also currently serves as a Lietuenant with the Anniston police.

The Southern Poverty Law Center recently learned of video footage from the 2013 meeting, which the Southern Nationalist Network originally posted two years ago. The civil rights advocacy group promptly alerted the Anniston police, who referred the matter to the city manager, Brian Johnson. Johnson said a police officer shouldn’t be fired for belonging to a hate group, even if they belong to the Ku Klux Klan.

“I do not believe that someone could be terminated solely based on their private sector membership in a properly formed legal organization,” Johnson says, “as hateful as the KKK might be.”

On the League of the South’s website, Doggrell’s biography says he has been a “peace officer in his home city/county for sixteen years.”

Juneteenth-2014-008-1024x768Yes, League of the “South” is probably one of those clubs that loves to fly the Confederate Flag and claim pride in culture.  When will elected officials in the south see this as something other than simple tribal pride?  Dylann Storm Roof is the tip of the iceberg here. Almost a year ago, two Florida cops were found to have KKK membership.

Echoing the once-segregated South, a Florida deputy police chief has resigned and an officer has been fired after the FBI reported that both belonged to the Ku Klux Klan

Fruitland Park Deputy Chief David Borst has denied involvement with the notorious white-hooded hate group that emerged after the Civil War and continued to terrorize and murder blacks through the mid-20th century.

The 49-year-old Borst, a department veteran of more than 20 years, was also fire chief for the Lake County city of 5,000, about 40 miles northwest of Orlando. He resigned both posts Thursday after being confronted with the FBI report.

Officer George Hunnewell, who was demoted last year over performance and attitude complaints, was fired Friday by Chief Terry Isaacs.

The state attorney’s office is reviewing every arrest made by the officers and giving particular scrutiny to cases involving minorities, Isaacs said.

It is the second time in five years that Klansmen have been found in the Fruitland Park Police Department. In 2009, Officer James Elkins resigned after photographs showed him in a white robe and pointy hood, and he later admitted he was a leader of the local KKK.

In the current cases, the Florida Department of Law Enforcement gave Isaacs a summary of an FBI investigation based on information from a confidential source who linked both officers to the Klan. No criminal wrongdoing was found, and the FBI said no other officers were linked to the white supremacists.

Chief Deputy State Attorney Ric Ridgway, whom Isaac contacted for advice, told the Orlando Sentinel that the report contained “a lot of fairly substantial evidence that tends to support” Borst’s and Hunnewell’s Klan membership.

But he pointed out that it’s not illegal to belong to the KKK “even if you are the deputy chief.”

“It’s not a crime to hate people. It may be despicable, it may be immoral, but it’s not a crime,” he said.

emancipationIt may not be a crime to hate people and it may not be illegal to belong to the KKK but it certainly is a feature that would twist the actions and thoughts of some one policing a diverse community.  Five years ago, The Orlando Sentinel interviewed an Imperial Wizard who boasted that many police officers were members of the KKK.

The Imperial Wizard of the United Northern and Southern Knights of the Ku Klux Klan is guarded about discussing his organization’s membership.

But this much Cole Thornton openly shares: Florida cops belong to his Klan group because he said they like its rigid standards and its adherence to a strict moral code.

“They [police officers] like the fact that we support law enforcement,” said Thornton, who is based in the Gulf Coast community of Englewood. “These guys are out there putting their lives on the line, and we back them.”

He would not name those law-enforcement officers, but Thornton said he thinks that being a member of a “traditional Klan” group “makes them a better cop.”

Thornton’s comments come in the wake of the firing of an Alachua County corrections officer who acknowledged he was a member of Thornton’s Klan organization. Wayne Kerschner was fired Dec.29.

A year ago, the Fruitland Park Police Department investigated one of its officers who was linked to Klan groups. James Elkins denied he was associated with a Klan chapter and resigned.

Florida ranks third nationally, behind California and Texas, in the overall number of identified hate groups, according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, an Alabama-based group that provides tolerance-education programs, offers legal representation against white supremacists and tracks hate groups. The center defines a hate group as one that states other groups or people are somehow lesser or inferior.

Mark Potok, director of the center’s Intelligence Project, which investigates such groups, said membership in organizations such as Thornton’s have swelled in recent years.

However, Potok has found no evidence that Klan membership by police officers in Florida — or any other state — is on the uptick. He knew of one other case, in Nebraska, of an officer being removed because of his Klan affiliation.

Dylan Storm Front is quite deluded if he thinks that the Klan is just a group of chat buddies on the web. He’s also less dangerous than folks that appear to take them seriously.  Raise your hand if you still believe the Steve Scalise didn’t know what he was doing when he attended a convention of white supremacists or when he and other Louisiana Republican politicians went after David Duke’s mailing list?

How Rep. Steve Scalise, the third-ranking Republican in the House, came to speak at a white supremacist rally in 2002 —  or right before it — remains a confusing controversy as Congress returns for its new session on Jan. 6.

Conflicting accounts and the fog of time have all clouded the events of May 2002, when the European-American Unity and Rights Organization held a conference in the New Orleans area. The group, identified by the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group with anti-semitic and racist writings, was headed by David Duke, a former grand wizard of the Ku Klux Klan and prominent Louisiana politician.

Readers first tipped us off to Scalise’s alleged involvement with the Duke group on Dec. 29, 2014, hours after a Louisiana blogger first broke the story. Later, Scalise, a Louisiana Republican and House majority whip, admitted, to a degree, that he spoke at the rally, though he also said he doesn’t remember doing so and denounced the group. An organizer for the event now says Scalise didn’t even attend. So far, we’ve found no videos or photographs from the event.

Republican leaders have stood by Scalise, and he isn’t in danger of losing his leadership position when the new Congress begins.

Scalise was given the benefit of the doubt. But, the fact remains that there are very active white supremacist groups in Louisiana and they are able to get access to nearly anyone.  I always link to the Southern Poverty Law Center because it openly monitors these groups. Right Wing Watch–affiliated with People for the American Way–is also a good watchdog of these extremists.

My point in all of this is not to take away the focus on Dylann Storm Roof who massacred 9 Black Americans in a church with historic connections to abolition. My point is to say that how many police offers with ties to the KKK exist for every one Dylann Storm Roof?  How many judges with obvious sympathies?  How many right wing Republicans with staff, connections, and voters that identify thusly?  After all, why is it so damned hard to get that flag put into the same category as the Nazi Swastika?   Lindsay Graham is a long serving US Senator and he continually defends the use of the flag of slavery, treason, and oppression.

Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina came to the defense of the South Carolina Confederate flag display yesterday, describing it as an integral “part of who we are”

While Graham did admit to CNN that the flag has been “used in a racist way” in the past, he argued that “the problems we have in south Carolina and the world are not because of a movie or a symbol, it’s about what’s in people’s heart.”

He added that South Carolina’s “compromise” of having both a Confederate War memorial and an African American memorial at the state capitol “works.”

Other Republican supporters include Mike Huckabee and Rick Perry.picCoppinJuneteenthBlog-767916

During his last presidential campaign, Rick Perry came under scrutiny for his efforts to oppose the removal of the Confederate flag from display at the statehouse when he was lieutenant governor of Texas. In a March, 2000 letter to the Sons of Confederate Veterans obtained by the Associated Press, Perry wrote, “Although this is an emotional issue, I want you to know that I oppose efforts to remove Confederate flag to remain on government buildings and public property.

It’s an incredible coincidence that the day of the slaughter also saw a Supreme Court that decided a Texas License Plate lawsuit over the confederate flag.  It’s an incredible shame that we still have to remind people of what that flag stands for.  There are way too many symbols that are allowed to carry on with explicit sanction by State and Local Governments.  That’s the bigger issue here.  So many so-called leaders want to believe that this is just an expression of “southern pride” and not the history it truly represents.  Individual citizens can certainly display bigoted views and objects as is their right.  But when it looks like a governmental sanction of hatred, the community should draw the line and draw it boldly.   It’s pretty obvious when even this Supreme Court recognizes it as “government speech”.  I’d also just like to say it’s a damned shame that the black man that sits in Thurmond Marshall’s seat is the only dissenter.

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday that messages displayed on specialized license plates are a form of government speech and Texas is free to reject a proposed design that features the Confederate flag.

Justice Clarence Thomas, the court’s only African American justice, split with fellow conservatives and joined the court’s liberals in the 5-to-4 decision. The majority held that the design proposed by the Sons of Confederate Veterans would not simply reflect the views of the motorist who purchased it, but implicate the state in speech it did not want to endorse.

No more confederate flags flying over government institutions!  PERIOD!  It’s time to recognize it for what it is all over the country.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Friday Read: “Weaponizing” Angry White Men

Good Day!

birthers-forgot-racismI was waiting to write this until we got more information on the Charleston church shooting and shooter.

I feel like I spend a lot of time writing blog posts on angry–mostly young–white males with easy access to weapons who go on shooting sprees.  I very much related to the President yesterday when he stated that he had spent far too much time dealing with the aftermath of mass shootings which are extremely rare in all other developed countries.  We have a small group of powerful and wealthy men who forge their profits and might in the fire of white male anger and resentment. Far too often, they set the laws and agenda that encourage, enable, and let loose the hounds of hell.

I personally believe that when you have one political party and an entire “news”network fueling anger and resentment for the purposes of turning out the votes of angry, resentful white people that they should be held responsible for “weaponizing” these young men.  Much like shouting “fire” in a theater, right wing media continually feeds the demons in people like Dylann Roof. This should give us pause and compel us to action.  Reality TV shows also make celebrities of some very sick minds.  The Duck Patriarch comes to my mind.

Giving platforms to antisocial, violent, racist, misogynist, and homobigot lies and anger gives these folks the idea that they are some kind of warped heroes.  The Roof kid actually said he “had to do it” being fully convinced he was doing the country a favor.  But, it’s very easy for him to find TV News anchors, radio jocks, reality TV personalities, and social media sites that feed his illness and give him easy access to weapons of destruction.  These same folks worship guns and ensure that any whacko in the country has easy access. The combination is just sick and deadly in so many ways that I’m sure some one could write a book on it if one or a dozen hasn’t been written already.

The most disgusting thing is that the same groups of politicians and media personalities are trying hard to twist the latest shooting spree as an attack on churches and the latest right wing screed of “religious liberty”.  It was clearly an attack on black America and our American commitment to a diverse plurality.  Rick Santorum denounced the shooting as an attack on religious liberty.  Is he really that obtuse?

Republican presidential candidate Rick Santorum on Thursday called the tragic church shooting in Charleston, S.C. — which left nine people dead — a “crime of hate” and connected the event to a broader “assault on our religious liberty.”

“You just can’t think that things like this can happen in America. It’s obviously a crime of hate. Again, we don’t know the rationale, but what other rationale could there be? You’re sort of lost that somebody could walk into a Bible study in a church and indiscriminately kill people,” Santorum told radio host Joe Piscopo Thursday on AM 970, a New York radio station. “It’s something that, again, you think we’re beyond that in America and it’s sad to see.”

The former Pennsylvania senator pointed to what he described as anti-religious sentiment.

Lindsey Graham says that “the shooter may have been looking for christians to kill.”

But despite the fact that the Justice Department has labeled the attack a “hate crime,” Graham was not willing to go that far. “There are real people who are organized out there to kill people in religion and based on race, this guy’s just whacked out,” he said. “But it’s 2015. There are people out there looking for Christians to kill them.”

Jeb Bush is confused too.reverse-racism

As more becomes clear about the motives of the man believed to be behind the Charleston church shooting, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush was hesitant to connect Dylann Storm Roof’s alleged actions to any racial prejudice.

When asked about whether he thought the attack was racially motivated, Bush told a Huffington Post reporter, “It was a horrific act and I don’t know what the background of it is, but it was an act of hatred.”

When pressed again about whether race motivated the attacks, Bush said, “I don’t know. Looks like to me it was, but we’ll find out all the information. It’s clear it was an act of raw hatred, for sure. Nine people lost their lives, and they were African-American. You can judge what it is.”

The question came after a speech Bush made at a Faith and Freedom Coalition summit in Washington.

“I don’t know what was on the mind or the heart of the man who committed these atrocious crimes,” Bush said in his remarks. “But I do know what was in the heart of the victims.”

How many of you actually believe Jeb can empathize with the victims?

Rich, privileged, white Republican men!  Not every fucking thing is about you and your delusion that you’re under attack! You’re part of the problem!  Your speech weaponizes these little white boys with dick issues who don’t have the where withal to access your level of privilege!  They get to believing that every one else must be taking it away from them! Then they go on “missions”.

Racism_b28d1c_4450441This morning  we have learned more about mass murderer Dylann Roof and his racist inclinations.  Dylann was on a mission and was looking for ways to display a manifesto supportive of segregation and racial discord. We’ll undoubtedly hear more about how he choose his victims. Rev. Clementa Pinckney’s name undoubtedly came from the South Carolina Plantation owner and former Governor that signed the US Constitution–along with his cousin–for South Carolina.  He introduced the Fugitive Slave Act and was a well known foe of the clause that bans “religious tests”.  He was definitely one of the first angry, young white men in our country. (I’m also one of his descendants and not a very proud one tbh.) Clementa’s ironic last name and his strong showing of civil rights leadership undoubtedly were a red flag to this very disturbed young man with hate in his heart and a father that put a gun in his hands as a right of passage. The church’s historical mission was much more important to Roof than the religion practiced there.

So, we are learning more about Dylann Roof.  Early this morning, Roof confessed to the murders.

Dylann Roof, the man accused of gunning down nine parishioners at a historically black church in Charleston, South Carolina, has been charged with nine counts of murder and illegal weapons possession, police said.

Roof confessed to the horrific killings at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church in downtown Charleston on Wednesday night, two sources confirmed to NBC News.

Roof, 21, has told police that he “almost didn’t go through with it because everyone was so nice to him,” sources told NBC News.

And yet he decided he had to “go through with his mission.”

Yes.  Roof characterized it as a “mission”.  We have only heard from an uncle who insists that Dylann was not raised to be a hero for Storm Front.  He’s even offering to press the button should Roof be given the Death Penalty.

The uncle of a 21-year-old man accused of opening fire inside a Charleston church — killing nine people — says he will “push the button myself” if his nephew receives the death penalty, which is legal in South Carolina.

Carson Cowles said he can’t forgive Dylann Roof, who was arrested Thursday after he allegedly opened fire on a Bible study group at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina. He was taken into custody by authorities in Shelby, North Carolina, about 250 miles away, but has since been extradited to South Carolina.

“I’ll be the one to push the button. If he’s found guilty, I’ll be the one to push the button myself,” Cowles said. “If what I am hearing is true, he needs to pay for it.

I’m waiting to hear about the father who gave a gun to a son with a growing criminal record related to drug issues.

UPTOWN_racism_cartoonHowever, I’m not willing to put this little boy into the category of lone wolf and sick individual which is where most little white boys that become spree shooters wind up.  He can only be seen in context.  That context is the white anger and resentment sowed by right wing media and politicians at all levels.  I just pulled this out of the NYT from last February.  There are far too many of these racist fueled crimes to not wonder in what ways our society encourages and condones them.

Judge Carlton Reeves of United States District Court sentenced Deryl Paul Dedmon, 22, to 50 years; John Aaron Rice, 21, to 18 and a half years; and Dylan Wade Butler, 23, to seven years on the most serious count against them, commission of a hate crime. All three men are from Brandon. They were charged in the death of James Craig Anderson. Prosecutors said the men had harassed or assaulted black people who they thought were homeless or intoxicated. Victims were chosen because the men thought they would not tell the police, the authorities said. The harassment began in April 2011, culminating in the death of Mr. Anderson. Seven others are awaiting sentencing.

When young angry white men go off, they take black people, women, children, any combination of GLBT people, and bystanders with them.  I hate to completely project, but it always seems like it’s pathetic losers who think they’re entitled to the life and times of Donald Trump and they blame every one around them for their lackluster social and economic status. They frequently hook up with hate groups that eventually wind them up and turn them loose.  Extreme christian, right wing men are at the heart of many of the worst mass killings we’ve seen.

When white males of the far right carry out violent attacks, neocons and Republicans typically describe them as lone-wolf extremists rather than people who are part of terrorist networks or well-organized terrorist movements. Yet many of the terrorist attacks in the United States have been carried out by people who had long histories of networking with other terrorists. In fact, most of the terrorist activity occurring in the United States in recent years has not come from Muslims, but from a combination of radical Christianists, white supremacists and far-right militia groups.

I’m not the only one that thinks that Republican politicians and right wing media outlets weaponize these cretins. Yesterday, I pointed to Donald Trump’s horrible remarks about Mexicans as an example. Today, Hillary Clinton has done the same.

Hillary Clinton didn’t call The Donald out by name, but she suggested in an interview Thursday that comments like ones the real estate tycoon-turned-Republican presidential candidate made during his recent announcement speech could “trigger” events like this week’s church shooting in Charleston, South Carolina.

“We have to have a candid national conversation about race, and about discrimination, hatred, prejudice,” Clinton said of the Charleston shooting in an interview with Jon Ralston on his show “Ralston Live.”

“Public discourse is sometimes hotter and more negative than it should be, which can, in my opinion, trigger someone who is less than stable.”
Clinton, the Democratic presidential candidate, did not say Trump’s name, but went on to explicitly mention remarks he made during his announcement speech on Tuesday, the day before a white gunman opened fire in a historically African-American church, killing nine people.

“I think we have to speak out against it,” Clinton explained. “Like, for example, a recent entry into the Republican presidential campaign said some very inflammatory things about Mexicans. Everybody should stand up and say that’s not acceptable.”

Trump did not respond to a request for comment by ABC News.

During his announcement speech Tuesday, Trump said “the U.S. has become a dumping ground for everybody else’s problems” and said people who immigrate here from other countries, like Mexico, are not the “right people.”

“When Mexico sends its people, they’re not sending their best. They’re not sending you. They’re not sending you. They’re sending people that have lots of problems, and they’re bringing those problems with us,” Trump said. “They’re bringing drugs. They’re bringing crime. They’re rapists. And some, I assume, are good people.”

In actuality, we’ve had net negative immigration from Mexico for quite a few years. It’s truthfully less than zero.images (1)

I’ve written about this before. The last time was when the Sikh Temple massacre occurred or was it the man that went after Jewish children and people in Kansas City?  I have a really hard time remembering each time in 7 years of blogging that I’ve written about this.  Here’s one from 2012.  And a real big one from 2011.  Here’s one from BB from 2014.

We have a growing threat from Home Grown, White male, right wing terrorists.  The FBI has said this many times but always runs afoul of white male, right wing congressmen.

…right-wing extremists averaged 337 attacks per year in the decade after 9/11, causing a total of 254 fatalities, according to a study by Arie Perliger, a professor at the United States Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center. The toll has increased since the study was released in 2012.

Other data sets, using different definitions of political violence, tell comparable stories. The Global Terrorism Database maintained by the Start Center at the University of Maryland includes 65 attacks in the United States associated with right-wing ideologies and 24 by Muslim extremists since 9/11. The International Security Program at the New America Foundation identifies 39 fatalities from “non-jihadist” homegrown extremists and 26 fatalities from “jihadist” extremists.

I’m sure we’re going to be treated to many white male media figures explaining why this little boy had drug issues and was the poster child for (insert mental health issue here). It’s a hell of a lot easier when a hell realm being doesn’t look like you, isn’t it?

South CarolinaThere will be no context that includes how many of the countries right wing political outlets found a way to press his many buttons or those of a long list of his predecessors.  Pay no attention to the confederate flag of treason flying over the state capitol of South Carolina.  Pay no attention to Donald Trump’s fatwa on Mexicans. Pay no attention to the number of Republican politicians that race bait and confuse “religious freedom” with gay bashing that become actual assault and battery in many, many places.  Pay no attention to all those messages that tell men that they own women and children so they can do with them whatever they will.

Meanwhile, we can just follow Huckabee’s suggestion that we all carry concealed weapons while waiting around for one of his followers to go after us.  Never mind the cognitive dissonance that should occur when a preacher suggests we should all carry concealed weapons to “prayer” meetings.

Yes, you’re at fault if you die by a shooter because you didn’t pack heat and take him out first. Or, if you dare suggest that not every one in American should have a gun or easy access to a gun.

NRA board member Charles Cotton blamed Clementa Pinckney, a victim of the shooting at Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church, for his own death. He also blamed Pinckney, the pastor of Emanuel AME and a state senator, for the deaths of the other eight people killed.

As a state senator, Pinckney supported tougher gun regulations and opposed a bill that would have allowed people to carry concealed guns in churches. On TexasCHLForum.com, a message board, Cotton wrote that “Eight of his church members who might be alive if he had expressly allowed members to carry handguns in church are dead. Innocent people died because of his position on a political issue.”

So, I sit and think.   Several hundred years ago my ancestors and Clementa Pinckney’s ancestors lived a shared existence on very different terms. Our country was built on both promise and deeply shameful actions. Rev. Pinckney’s political legacy is in our hands now.  South Carolina Governor Charles Pinckney may have signed the Constitution, but it is South Carolina Senator Clementa Pinckney who has shown us its promise through his work.  I hope we can both honor and carry that promise into the future.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

P.S.  South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley:  Take that damned flag of treason and slavery down!!!


Friday Reads: Bump on the Fast Track Trade Deal

Good Afternoon!

wo-ai678c_jtrad_g_20120206184206I’m moving slow today.  I was in a recording studio on the North Shore yesterday and it just wore me out. So, I’m catching up on life right now. A meteor could’ve hit the planet yesterday and I probably wouldn’t have noticed at all.

So, the House just tanked Obama’s demands for enhanced negotiating ability on the Pacific region trading deal.  The President actually showed up on the Hill to lobby for the bill.  (Wonk Trigger Alert!)

House Democrats rebuffed a dramatic personal appeal from President Obama on Friday, torpedoing his ambitious push to expand his trade negotiating power — and, quite likely, his chance to secure a legacy-defining trade accord spanning the Pacific Ocean.

In a remarkable rejection of a president they have resolutely backed, House Democrats voted to kill assistance to workers displaced by global trade, a program their party created and has stood by for four decades. By doing so, they brought down legislation granting the president trade promotion authority — the power to negotiate trade deals that cannot be amended or filibustered by Congress — before it could even come to a final vote.

“We want a better deal for America’s workers,” said Representative Nancy Pelosi of California, the House minority leader who has guided the president’s agenda for two terms and was personally lobbied by Mr. Obama until the last minute.

Republican leaders tried to muster support from their own party for trade adjustment assistance, a program they have long derided as an ineffective waste of money and sop to organized labor. But not enough Republicans were willing to save the program.

4prObama seems to be staking the end game of his Presidential legacy on this deal which begs the question “Why Does Obama Want This Trade Deal So Badly?”.  William Finnegan writes this bit for The New Yorker.

The Senate passed fast-track last month, sixty-two to thirty-seven, with only fourteen Democrats voting yes. Boehner and Ryan expect to be able to produce two hundred Republican votes. That means eighteen Democratic votes are needed. Nancy Pelosi, the minority leader, is reported to be working closely with Boehner and Ryan to come up with the number they need—although she still hasn’t said which way she’ll vote herself. That’s how strange the legislative politics of the T.P.P. have become. Nearly every constituency in the Democratic Party opposes it; and the more they learn about it, the more they oppose it. And yet their leader, Obama, wants it badly.

But why? Maybe it’s a better agreement—better for the American middle class, for American workers—than it seems in the leaked drafts, where it appears bent to the will of multinational corporations. John Kerry, the Secretary of State, and Ashton Carter, the Secretary of Defense, co-authored a column on Mondayin USA Today arguing, in evangelical tones, that the T.P.P. will usher in a glorious new era of American-led prosperity, a “global race to the top” for all parties. Meanwhile, the A.F.L.-C.I.O. sees only a race to the bottom. Organized labor, by all accounts, plans to punish any elected Democrat who supports the T.P.P., or even supports fast-track for Obama, in the next campaign. It’s difficult, again, to evaluate the agreement when we can’t see it. And it will be difficult for Congress to do its job if its members can’t study each part of the many-tentacled T.P.P. on its merits, but must simply vote yes or no on the whole shebang. What’s the rush? Is it simply Obama’s wish to make his mark on history and to complete his pivot toward Asia before his time is up? Politicians are often accused of supporting pro-corporate policies to please wealthy backers, looking toward the next campaign. That can’t be Obama’s motive now.

I’m going to use my own analysis here and will begin by letting you know that my doctoral dissertation and my research area is the existing trade and development deals in the region of ASEAN+3.  ASEAN is a group of small countries that are quite diverse that first banded together under the CIA to oppose the spread of communism in the region.  Now, the group actually has some of those very communist countries it feared in its numbers.

It includes some of the most politically and economically diverse countries in the world.  Seriously.  It’s members include the Sultanate of Brunei, Singapore, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Lao PDR, Malaysia and Indonesia.  Indonesia is an Islamic Democracy.  Brunei is a monarchy. Myanmar is for all intents and purposes run by a military junta.  You’ll notice there are also several single party communist states.  Brunei has oil. Singapore is an offshore banking haven and international financial center. Many of the other countries are mostly agricultural and traditional economies with production facilities of other countries basically paying labor badly while ignoring any environmental impact of the manufacturing process.  But the deal is that this small group of countries along with their plus three neighbors (Japan, South Korea, and China) are the economic dynamos of the global economy for the next century.

It’s the region and area where the most potential for economic growth and development will occur.  So, the US needs to be there for many reasons that include economic and political.  Most of these countries are emergent democracies and most of these countries are liberalizing their markets which means less state ownership of things.  New Zealand and Australia are huge players in the region already. For many reasons, we need to get into their trade deals to remain relevant in THE KEY region of the next century.

The biggest deal with this region is that it doesn’t have the political instability and outright strife that’s impacting Southern Africa and MENA. It’s also not stagnant like Europe.  It has political issues but they haven’t blown up into perpetual terrorism and even the near dictatorships are reforming peacefully.  Contrast this to what’s going on in the Middle East, then look South to Africa. Those regions appear to be clusterfucks into eternity.

So, it’s atppre safer place for Western Foreign Direct Investment and it’s economies are developing at phenomenal rates. There are plans to turn the region into a European style Union in the works with a single currency and banking system.  All of this decreases the tricky parts of international trade in a region. The region has already successfully negotiated huge trade and currency deals with its neighbors.  They all are serious about development.  The US cannot maintain its leader of the world nation status and not be a major player in this region.  It clearly hands the role over to the PR of China if we can’t get in there. And believe it or not, it makes Australia more of a player than Europe in the near future. The TPP also includes Latin America Countries that border the pacific so it’s a diverse group of nations.

The deal is, however, at what cost do we join in?  Why do we seem to be negotiating so much independent power for multinational corporations (MNCs)?

While every other president from Ford onward has been granted similar powers, today’s vote has turned out to be anything but routine. Critics who oppose the TPP and other pending agreements are working to stop the bill—and thwart the anticipated trade deals.

The fast-track process was set out in 1974’s Trade Act, which empowered Congress to pass Trade Promotion Authority bills—like the one slated to be voted on today—that allow presidents to negotiate and sign trade deals with less involvement from the legislative branch. Congress still gets to vote yes or no on any final agreement, but amendments are generally prohibited. In exchange, TPA bills let legislators lay out trade priorities and negotiating objectives for the president, and set requirements on how and how often the administration must check in while negotiations are underway.

This TPA, if passed, will guide presidential trade negotiations through 2021. It builds upon a bill that expired in 2007, and is likely more complex than any other in history, expanding congressional oversight and consultation while including new provisions on intellectual property, cross-border data protection, and the environment and human rights. It also increases transparency, requiring presidential administrations to make agreements public 60 days before signing them.

So, the bill does include increased transparency despite many charges that it does not. It’s just not now and and it’s a fairly small window for reaction.

Nancy Pelosi stood with organized Labor and against the President today.tpp2

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) in a meandering but dramatic floor speech on Friday announced her vote against a measure providing assistance to workers displaced by trade.

“If TAA slows down the fast-track, I’m prepared to vote against TAA,” Pelosi said.

Pelosi announced her opposition to the Trade Adjustment Assistance (TAA) program just before it went down in the House, with 302 lawmakers voting against it.

The failure of TAA could sink a broader trade package that includes President Obama’s request for fast-track trade authority.
Pelosi’s move is a rare split with Obama, who visited Capitol Hill on Friday morning and pleaded with Democrats to back the measure.

The California Democrat had been under pressure from liberal groups to oppose the trade package. While many had expected Pelosi to vote against fast-track, also known as Trade Promotion Authority (TPA), her opposition to TAA took many by surprise.

Pelosi argued that opposing TAA now would give Democrats leverage for a trade package they view as more favorable.

“We want a better deal for American workers,” Pelosi said.

A group of liberal House Democrats opposed to the trade package, including Reps. Rosa DeLauro (Conn.) and Brad Sherman (Calif.), applauded when Pelosi announced her opposition to TAA.

Richard Trumka, the president of the AFL-CIO who has been aggressively lobbying Democrats to vote against the fast-track deal, praised Pelosi in a statement just minutes after the TAA bill failed on the House floor.

TPP protest new yorkObama is rightly focused on the region and the need to get in there before the US is inched out of the deal. The majority of fears are based in the NAFTA deal that caused some economic chaos–especially with traditional labor union jobs–that went south.  I’m going to do something that will probably shock and say that it’s likely that these concerns are unfounded.

Sending jobs to Mexico is relatively easy. It’s close, stuff ships over land routes, and even though Mexico still has the feel of a narco-state, many of its regions are developed and there’s not anything in the way of civil unrest.  Locating production facilities in Mexico for shipment of final goods and services to the US is a low cost no brainer.

You’re not exactly going to see that happen with Myanmar or Brunei.  Also, there’s so much going on already in places like Vietnam that it’s hard to imagine it’s going to get much worse.  My data and scooby sense tells me that any business located there will be shipping regionally there so I doubt it will have the same impact that the Mexican deal did.  All of these countries have blossoming middle classes that are going to be shopping happy during the next decades. They’ll be able to sell stuff there much more easily than shipping it way over here to a steady state economy.  (That means we’re just about as developed as we’re going to get).

Obama had rushed to Capitol Hill on Friday morning to make a last-ditch plea to an emergency meeting of the Democratic caucus. The president urged members to vote with their conscience and “play it straight,” urging them to support the financial package for displaced workers, which Democrats have long supported.

“I don’t think you ever nail anything down around here,” Obama told reporters on his way out of the Capitol. “It’s always moving.”

But anti-trade Democrats pushed hard to block the financial aid plan, knowing that its defeat would also torpedo a companion measure to grant Obama fast-track authority to complete the TPP. That bill was later approved with overwhelming Republican support in what amounted to a symbolic vote because it could not move forward into law without the related worker assistance package.

The package for displaced workers should be put in place. I’m sorry to see it used as a political tool because Republicans hate it to begin with and it’s a necessary component of any trade deal.  The only issue here–which is the main issue for organized labor–is that many of the displaced workers would likely come from union jobs and go to jobs that are less likely to be union like health care workers. That’s what happened with NAFTA passage. Clinton insisted on the displaced worker clause, got it, and then many Ladies Garment Workers in the South became Nurses as a result.  So, in many ways, this could really change the face of organized labor.  However, labor unions need to get better footholds in the services industries since trade and technology has already eroded its member base.  This deal just exacerbates an already existing issue, if anything.

I’m frankly more worried about the legal implications of making MNCs out of reach of a country’s laws. I expressed that concerned in an April, 2015 post.  Here’s a link to my earlier post on the TPP listing some of the most germane concerns.

But, you can see, Obama’s backers on this deal were definitely Republican in general. Politics continues to make strange bedfellows.17679_600

On the GOP side, Speaker John Boehner (Ohio) cast a vote in favor of TAA. Speakers cast floor votes on relatively rare occasions.

Only 40 Democrats backed TAA, while 144 voted against it. On the GOP side, 158 Republicans voted “no,” while 86 Republicans voted “yes.”

The vote against TAA is a humiliating defeat for Obama, who had spent weeks lobbying House Democrats to support his trade agenda in the face of overwhelming opposition from liberal groups and organized labor.

Under the procedure established for considering the trade package, TAA had been packaged with fast-track authority, and a vote against either doomed the total package.

In a slight surprise, House Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) announced after the TAA vote that the House would still vote on the fast-track measure, as well as a separate customs bill.

In the vote on fast-track, the measure was approved in a 219-211 vote. Twenty-eight Democrats backed fast-track, while 54 Republicans voted “no.”

House Republicans said they would bring the TAA bill up for another vote by Tuesday.

House GOP lawmakers maintained that voting on TAA again next week would give the Obama administration time to lobby more Democrats to support it.
“The president has some work yet to do with his party to complete this process. This isn’t over yet. And we hope that they can get together and make sure that we finish this so that America is back leading,” House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) said in a hastily scheduled press conference with members of the GOP leadership after the vote.

But it is difficult to see why the Democrats who objected to it on Friday to prevent movement on fast-track would shift their strategy, particularly after Pelosi’s words.

Despite the rebuke from House Democrats, the White House still expressed optimism about passing its trade package.
Press secretary Josh Earnest described the defeat as “another procedural snafu,” comparing it to a failed test vote last month in the Senate on the trade package, which eventually passed the bill.

So, my political scooby senses still say that this move was to basically appease organized labor and environmental concerns.  I’m not sure they’ll win much but a few good enough concessions in the long run.

So, again, sorry for the late posts but my life is bipolar at the moment and it’s wearing on me.  At least I make the bills.  Now, if I could only get a schedule that doesn’t exhaust me.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Monday Reads: Take our Governor, Please!!

resizeGood Morning!

So, I’m going there.

I never really thought it possible for one politician holding one political office to do so much damage to one state but Louisiana stands out these days as an example of who not to elect as Governor.  Kansas, Florida, Wisconsin, and Ohio  also have governors that are doing an extraordinary job of tanking their economies, public institutions and services, and general standard of living.  However, Bobby Jindal stands head and shoulders above the rest.  It’s undoubtedly because the state puts a lot of power into the office via its Constitution and that he’s being enabled by some of the worst state legislators in my life time.  Mind you, I come from Nebraska which has some of the most pathetic state government officials in the country so I do know bad elected officials when I see them.  Bobby Jindal may go down in history as the worst elected official ever.  He’s definitely got a shot at it.

Jindal’s most recent national headline is this: “As he nears a 2016 bid, Louisiana’s Bobby Jindal hits political bottom”. 

Just weeks before he is expected to announce his presidential campaign, Bobby Jindal is at the nadir of his political career.

The Republican governor is at open war with many of his erstwhile allies in the business community and the legislature. He spent weeks pushing a “religious freedom” bill that failed to pass, while having little contact with legislators trying to solve Louisiana’s worst budget crisis in 25 years.

Jindal is now so unpopular in deep-red Louisiana that his approval rating plunged to 32 percent in a recent poll — compared with 42 percent for President Obama, who lost the state by 17 percentage points in 2012.

Shorter Poll Results:  We hate him here. And why not?  His last few years in office have been more about his run for the presidency than for governing our state.  When he does “govern”, his moves are calculated to please Grover Norquist or the Dinosaur Jeebus Vote.

In recent months, Jindal has focused his political energy here on trying to appeal to social conservatives nationally by pushing the Marriage and Conscience Act, which would have prohibited the state from taking “adverse action” against those opposed to same-sex marriage. But the measure died last month in the legislature amid opposition from major corporations that feared boycott threats by gay rights groups viewing such measures as sanctioning discrimination.

The legislature is also in the final days of grappling with the budget crisis, which was caused, in part, by personal and corporate tax cuts passed under Jindal’s watch that haven’t paid for themselves.

Yet he has kept up his thinly veiled 2016 travels, having appeared at political events Monday in New Hampshire and Tuesday in Florida. Jindal will announce his plans in New Orleans on June 24.

National news coverage of Jindal has been scathing but it appears he has reached that point of craving attention so badly that he’ll take anything that makes him look relevant and pseudo-tough.  The oddest144881_600 recent political remark made by Jindal is on Lincoln Chafee and the metric system.  The manchild once hailed as a science wunderkin and policy wonk has stooped to allowing and enabling state schools to teach Dinosaur Jeebus stories as science and screeching on national TV about the perils of adopting a metric system.  I’m pretty sure that no other Republican official quite represents the “stupid party” as well as the Governor who has made a total mess of our state.

According to a report in Politico published Thursday, a reporter asked for Jindal’s take on the metric system as part of a larger story about how Chafee had “inadvertently touched one of the more obscure third rails of American politics” when he announced he was running for president. The governor’s response, according to the report, came from Jindal staffer Mike Reed.

“Typical Democrat — wants to make America more European,” Reed said. “Gov. Jindal would rather make the world more American.”

Reed confirmed the response to Politico in an email. Vox called the comments “the greatest attack of the 2016 campaign so far.”

As Politico notes, the metric system has hardly been a pressing subject for presidential candidates. But in a huge field of Republican candidates running or exploring running for president, Jindal is indicating there’s no issue too small to outline his position on.

Bob Mann, LSU professor, blogger, and politico, neatly sums up the floundering governor’s hat dance to find relevancy.

He has the scent of desperation about him. He’s made too many gaffes and too many dumb statements. It’s not just his nationally televised face plant in 2009, responding to President Obama’s speech to Congress (most recently ridiculed by Jimmy Fallon on “The Tonight Show”); it’s a puzzling stream of gaffes and strange statements that usually seem to get him into the news for all the wrong reasons. For example, instead of making news for his foreign policy expertise, Jindal was ridiculed for a week or more over his strange and unsubstantiated allegations in London about European “no-go zones.” Most recently, there was his silly attack on former Rhode Island Gov. Lincoln Chafee over the metric system. Jindal once lectured his party about the need to stop acting stupid. Too often, these days, Jindal looks like the leader of his party’s Stupid Wing.

large_jindalJindal’s cult-like devotion to Grover Norquist has been gathering more and more interest from politicians and locals alike.  The entire state budget is hung up in a crazy attempt to keep some kind of “no tax” pledge while careening towards eminent financial disaster.

The governor has threatened to veto any budget plan or tax bills that don’t meet Norquist’s “no tax” requirements. Currently, the governor is pushing the Legislature to adopt a controversial higher education tax credit — commonly called SAVE — that Jindal says will make the budget comply with Norquist’s wishes.

Robideaux and others don’t like SAVE and have argued the tax credit could lead to tax hikes in the future. Through the letter, they are asking Norquist to push back on the SAVE legislation.

“We are deeply concerned about the clear and present danger posed by this bill. As conservative Republican legislators, we firmly believe SB 284 is the biggest threat to fiscal responsibility our state has ever faced,” wrote Robideaux, head of the Legislature’s tax-writing committee, in his letter to Norquist.

If passed, SAVE would set up a new higher education tax credit to cover a nonexistent student fee. In spite of the name, the credit wouldn’t save families and students money on college bills. Primarily, it would create the illusion of a tax break, which Jindal can say will “offset” other tax increases in the budget pan.

“SAVE is a misuse of the tax system. The purpose of a tax system is to generate revenue to support needed public services. SAVE does not generate dollars for the state. … It is being used merely to masquerade and promote tax increases,” said the Louisiana’s Public Affairs Research Council,  a nonpartisan state think tank, in a recent report.

In his letter, Robideaux argues SAVE would create a dangerous precedent. The legislation would give future lawmakers a loophole for raising taxes, without being held accountable for doing so, he said.

“If enacted into law, this bill would successfully and irreparably establish the precedent that future legislatures and Governors can raise taxes on a nearly unlimited basis, and then claim revenue neutrality solely based on the creation of a purely fictional, procedural, phantom, paper tax credit,” wrote Robideaux in his letter.

Robideaux asked that Norquist consider Louisiana’s record over the last five to seven years when evaluating Jindal’s “no tax” pledge record. The Legislature and the governor may raise taxes this year — to help close a $1.6 billion budget gap — but they have cut taxes more, when their record over the last few years is taken into account.

“A five-year look on the tax cuts we have already passed, would more than suffice to offset this year’s activity,” wrote Robideaux.

The Governor created a lopside state income statement nearly from the get-go by allowing the legislature to gut a tax policy passed by the voters and designed to even out a tax burden that has always placed the highest burden on the poorest in the state.  Then,he’s spent the last few years robbing all kinds of rainy day funds and selling off state assets like we need a fire sale to make ends meet.  I actually bobby_Jindal_No_Go_Zone_ColorWEBthink he thought he could fool us all until he was well out of office.  However, when you refuse to consider anything remotely “revenue enhancing” you are left with accounting tricks and fire sales. He’s robbed every Peter to enrich Pauls like the film industry.

These days it’s hard to think of anyone who has as much influence over what Jindal’s willing to do than Norquist, whose rigid rules for what constitutes a tax increase line up perfectly with Jindal’s. In practice, that means the governor has insisted that the budget be balanced without tax increases, despite the prospect of devastating cuts to higher education and health care, the two main areas that don’t enjoy constitutional or statutory protection.

And it means some revenue-enhancing ideas the Republican-dominated legislature might support, specifically a reexamination of giveaways to specific industries, are off-limits—because eliminating a tax exemption without an offset that reduces another tax or cuts spending, according to ATR, is raising a tax.

That’s how the inventory tax wound up in everyone’s crosshairs, despite the fact that eliminating the rebate but not the underlying tax would hurt businesses, and getting rid of the tax would devastate some parishes (that’s Louisiana for county). Many companies, it turns out, receive rebate checks that exceed their state tax liability, and in Jindal’s view that makes eliminating the payouts a spending cut, not a tax increase. “Corporate welfare,” he labeled it in his opening address to the legislature, prompting chuckles from those who’ve watched him promote business incentives for years.

In fact, perhaps the most remarkable aspect of the frustration with Jindal is that it transcends partisanship.

It’s not just the Democrats who are bristling. It’s many a Republican.

Louisiana Blogger Lamar White–writing now for Salon–believes Jindal’s been crippling the state economy and doing extremist whacky things to capture the “Duggar vote”.  Given that Rick Santorum and Mike Huckabee have spent decades trying to sew that up I can’t imagine Jindal will be able to peel off any of those tighty whities.  Jindal appears to be launching his campaign in New Orleans to basically tout the state’s post Katrina efforts to break teacher unions and send children to christianist Madrassas and failed and failing for profit McEducation franchises. This plays right into the heart of the paranoid right. It’s always amazing to me that Jindal finds ways to position failing policies as Reaganesque anti-government successes.  These things are not successes. They are state-funded embarrassing failures.

“Bobby Jindal. No one is more popular,” Stephen Colbert joked a few months ago. He meant it literally. “No one” polls higher than Jindal does.

As Harry Enten of FiveThirtyEight recently pointed out, Jindal enjoys support from only 1 percent of evangelical, born-again Christians, which seems staggering. This, after all, is the same core constituency he has been aggressively courting since the day he took office.

One of the very first bills he signed into law, the Louisiana Science Education Act, was intended to promote the teaching of new earth creationism, under the rhetorical guise of “intelligent design,” in the public school science classroom. When 78 Nobel laureates and the world’s leading scientific organizations publicly urged Jindal to repeal the law, he instead doubled down. The law represented a major victory for the religious far-right, which had worked for more than three decades to find a way around the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Edwards v. Aguillard (a case that involved, perhaps not coincidentally, a Louisiana statute requiring the teaching of creationism).

This year, with the state facing a $1.6 billion budget shortfall, Jindal, in a speech to the Legislature, announced his support for only one specific piece of legislation, a bill that would have, among other things, allowed private businesses to refuse to serve anyone who supported marriage equality. Not a single legislator — not even the bill’s own author — applauded when Jindal waxed poetic about the existential threats to religious freedom. After the bill failed in committee by a 10-2 vote, Jindal immediately attempted to resurrect it via executive order, and a few minutes after issuing his order, he was on television talking about religious freedom.

No one has worked harder than Bobby Jindal for the support of evangelical Christians. He even invented an award just so he could give it to Willie Robertson; and, in exchange, he became the subject of an entire episode of “Duck Dynasty.” Heorganized a prayer rally on the campus of LSU, which was officially hosted by the American Family Association, a noted anti-gay hate group. He traded in his khakis and buttoned-up polos for belt buckles and cowboy boots. So far this year, he has already tweeted two different photos of himself holding a gun; his Christmas card was of him and his family, dressed in camouflage, posing in a golf cart on the grounds of the Governor’s Mansion as if they were somehow on a hunting expedition. On the increasingly rare Sunday mornings that he spends in state, he is usually in the backseat of his helicopter, shuffling between church services in North and Central Louisiana.

None of it seems to have made any difference. But it could, eventually. He intends on defying conventional wisdom, and he has a plan.

635675690240390340-GANNETT-DECISIONSThere are so many Republican politicians in the presidential race that all it takes is success with one of its many cults to get to the small amount it would take to win a state primary.   My guess is that Senator Aqua Buddha can mind control the cult of Crazy Uncle Liberty much better than Jindal will be able to harvest the fecund quivering.  The Republican establishment and money continues to look for its great white hope and may be coming up with Scott Walker with a little Rubio VP on the side. They realize the need to add some kind of flavor to their angry old white man brand. Jindal just really has no place to go. They polls indicate this.  So, the question is wtf is he up to?

There have been a variety of hypotheses floating around by those of us in the state that care about such things.  Some people argue that he may have actually swallowed the koolaid and that he is now a full fledged member of the Krewe of Dinosaur Jeebus. Others feel he is trying to find a job on K Street where he can get his kids into some posh private schools so they don’t have to learn the crap that Jindal is allowing the Krewe of Dinosaur Jeebus to teach here.  Then, there’s a few that think he’s actually aiming for the VP spot.  Frankly, I’m beginning to think he’s totally lost it and is surrounded by sycophants whose job it is to keep him as far away from reality as possible.  He thinks his destiny is the White House and no one is going to deter him from finding out about the strawberries.  Cue the rattling of steel balls in manic hands.

Whatever his goals or delusions, he’s taking an entire state down with him.  It’s also apparent that much like an unwanted reality show, we’re going to have to watch the entire thing play out  on TV and media.  Meanwhile, I was one of the first ones signed up to protest at his announcement on the 24th and I invited everyone I know.   Let it be known, at least, that New Orleans didn’t sign up for any this.

Gov. Bobby Jindal is expected to finally reveal his presidential ambitions this month. Last week, his adviser Timmy Teepell told Politico.com that Jindal will appear at an event in New Orleans on June 24 to, most likely, formally announce he has thrown his hat into the ring for the Republication nomination.

That week, Christopher Williams made a Facebook event —  no location, no time, just June 24 — to “Protest Bobby Jindal Presidential Announcement.” It attracted a few hundred attendees in the first couple of days. By Friday, there were 600. As of this post, there are more than 1,700 people who clicked attending. That number keeps climbing. “I knew there was disgust with Jindal,” Williams told Gambit in an email, “but I didn’t realize that it would lead to this much attention.”

Last month, the “Bobby Jindal Exploratory Committee” was formed, and it’s hosting two major events this month — one’s a fundraiser (requesting $2,700 per person) and the other is a reception at the Governor’s Mansion with special guests Les Miles of LSU football and New Orleans Saints coach Sean Payton. Those events are Saturday, June 27, a few days after Jindal’s New Orleans event.

End of rant.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?