Tuesday Reads

L'Estaque, by Andre Derain

L’Estaque, by Andre Derain

Good Morning!!

I think my poison oak outbreak is improving a bit. The rash is still spreading and it’s still very itchy, but it’s a little better than it was. At least it doesn’t feel like my skin is on fire. I stopped taking the powerful antihistamine/anesthetic the doctor gave me and went back to Benedryl. I’m still very groggy this morning, but I think if I can put up with the itching and avoid taking more Benedryl, my brain fog should clear up by this afternoon.

I can’t really focus enough to do any serious reading, so this will just be a link dump of recent news stories.

I wish Donald Trump would just go away, but he’s determined to completely embarrass himself first.

TPM reports: Trump Lashes Out At Critics, Makes Incendiary New Claims About Mexico.

In the three-page-long statement posted online, the billionaire reality TV star reprinted the text in question from his now-infamous presidential announcement speech, which he says “is deliberately distorted by the media.”

“What can be simpler or more accurately stated? The Mexican Government is forcing their most unwanted people into the United States. They are, in many cases, criminals, drug dealers, rapists, etc.,” he said in the statement.

Trump went on to say “many fabulous people come in from Mexico,” and also broadened his call for immediately securing the border by saying Mexican leaders are much more “cunning” when it comes to trade deals with the U.S. and that infectious disease is “pouring across the border.”

A Cup of Tea, Andre Derain

A Cup of Tea, Andre Derain

Read the entire creepy statement at the link. A little more from Business Insider: Donald Trump just released an epic statement raging against Mexican immigrants and ‘disease.’

“The largest suppliers of heroin, cocaine and other illicit drugs are Mexican cartels that arrange to have Mexican immigrants trying to cross the borders and smuggle in the drugs. The Border Patrol knows this,” Trump wrote. “Likewise, tremendous infectious disease is pouring across the border. The United States has become a dumping ground for Mexico and, in fact, for many other parts of the world.”

Shortly before releasing his statement, Trump gave an interview to Business Insider where he described the idea that the Mexican government is deliberately “pushing the bad ones” to the US as the one element of his position on immigration that hasn’t gotten enough attention….

Trump also argued the Mexican government “not our friend” and is taking advantage of the US on “bad trade deals.”

“The Mexican Government wants an open border as long as it’s a ONE WAY open border into the United States. Not only are they killing us at the border, but they are killing us on trade … and the country of Mexico is making billions of dollars in doing so,” he wrote. “I have great respect for Mexico and love their people and their peoples’ great spirit. The problem is, however, that their leaders are far smarter, more cunning, and better negotiators than ours. To the citizens of the United States, who I will represent far better than anyone else as President, the Mexican government is not our friend…and why should they be when the relationship is totally one sided in their favor on both illegal immigration and trade.”

Trump concluded by taking shots at some of the businesses who have severed ties with him.

“I have lost a lot during this Presidential run defending the people of the United States. I have always heard that it is very hard for a successful person to run for President. Macy’s, NBC, Serta and NASCAR have all taken the weak and very sad position of being politically correct even though they are wrong in terms of what is good for our country,” Trump wrote.

A man reading a newspaper, Andre Derain

A man reading a newspaper, Andre Derain

According to Business Insider, Republican donors are getting increasingly nervous about Trump: One GOP donor wants to block Donald Trump from the debate stage.

WASHINGTON (AP) — Worried about “Republican-on-Republican violence,” top party donors are taking action, with one firing off a letter calling for more civility and another seeking to block businessman Donald Trump from the debate stage altogether.

Foster Friess, a Wyoming-based investor and one of the party’s top 20 donors in the last presidential contest, issued a letter to 16 White House prospects and the Republican National Committee late last week calling for candidates to stay on the “civility reservation.”

“Our candidates will benefit if they all submit to Ronald Reagan’s 11th Commandment, ‘Thou shall not speak ill of a fellow Republican,'” Friess wrote in a letter sent to Republican National Committee chairman Reince Priebus. A copy was obtained by The Associated Press.

In the dispatch, Friess cites the backing of casino magnate Sheldon Adelson and Chicago Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts. “Would you join the effort to inspire a more civil way of making their points?” Friess wrote. “If they drift off the ‘civility reservation,’ let’s all immediately communicate that to them.”

Good luck with that.

Speaking of creepy people, Bill Cosby is back in the news.

The AP reports: Cosby said he got drugs to give women for sex.

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Bill Cosby testified in 2005 that he got Quaaludes with the intent of giving them to young women he wanted to have sex with, and he admitted giving the sedative to at least one woman and “other people,” according to documents obtained Monday by The Associated Press.

The AP had gone to court to compel the release of the documents; Cosby’s lawyers had objected on the grounds that it would embarrass their client.

The 77-year-old comedian was testifying under oath in a lawsuit filed by a former Temple University employee. He testified he gave her three half-pills of Benadryl.

Cosby settled that sexual-abuse lawsuit for undisclosed terms in 2006. His lawyers in the Philadelphia case did not immediately return phone calls Monday.

Cosby has been accused by more than two dozen women of sexual misconduct, including allegations by many that he drugged and raped them in incidents dating back more than four decades. Cosby, 77, has never been criminally charged, and most of the accusations are barred by statutes of limitations.

Portrait of a woman, Andre Derain

Portrait of a woman, Andre Derain

From NBC News: Judge Explains Why He Unsealed Bill Cosby Court Documents.

A federal judge said one of the reasons he unsealed court documents in which Bill Cosby admits he gave a woman drugs before sex is because of the disconnect between the comedian’s upright public persona and the serious allegations against him.

“The stark contrast between Bill Cosby, the public moralist and Bill Cosby, the subject of serious allegations concerning improper (and perhaps criminal) conduct is a matter as to which the AP — and by extension the public — has a significant interest,” Judge Eduardo Robreno wrote in a memorandum Monday. The documents were released after a request from The Associated Press.

Cosby said in a 2005 legal deposition that he had obtained prescriptions of a powerful sedative to give to women with whom he wanted to have sex, according to the documents. His testimony was part of a civil suit involving a woman who accused him of drugging her and sexually assaulting her.

The actor was not charged in connection with these claims and the case was dismissed in 2006.

His lawyers had fought the documents’ release, saying it would be “terribly embarrassing.” Last month, Cosby’s lawyers and lawyers for the AP argued over whether Cosby was a public figure entitled to a lesser degree of privacy.

Robreno wrote Monday that the case “is not about the Defendant’s status as a public person by virtue of the exercise of his trade as a televised or comedic personality. Rather, Defendant has donned the mantle of public moralist and mounted the proverbial electronic or print soap box to volunteer his views on, among other things, childrearing, family life, education, and crime.”

Crazy GOPers

Yesterday, a GOP state senator in South Carolina flipped out during the debate over removing the Confederate flag from the state house grounds, according to Raw Story.

The Dance, Andre Derain

The Dance, Andre Derain

‘The devil is taking control': Watch SC senator derail Confederate flag debate with insane gay marriage rant.

South Carolina state Sen. Lee Bright (R) began debate about removing the Confederate flag from the statehouse grounds on Monday with a passionate plea for lawmakers to focus on same-sex marriage instead.

As the senators prepared to debate a measure that would remove the flag, Bright took to the floor to point out that President Barack Obama sang “Amazing Grace” at the funeral for nine black church members in Charleston and then later that night the White House was illuminated in rainbow colors to celebrate a Supreme Court decision that legalized same-sex marriage.

“I watch the White House be lit up in the abomination colors!” Bright said. “It is time for the church to rise up…. Romans chapter 1 is clear, the Bible is clear. This nation was founded on Judeo-Christian principles and they are under assault by men in black robes who were not elected by you.”

Bright argued that lawmakers should be protecting county clerks from the “tyranny” of having to issue marriage licenses to gay and lesbian couples instead of debating the Confederate flag.

“Our governor called us in to deal with the flag that sits out front, let’s deal with the national sin that we face today!” he exclaimed. “We talk about abortion but this gay marriage thing, I believe will be one nation gone under like President Reagan said. If we’re not one nation under God, we’ll be one nation gone under.

Read the rest of Bright’s rant at Raw Story.

A couple of stories on the Democratic nomination race…

National Journal: Here’s the Real Reason Hillary Clinton Has a Lock on the Democratic Nomination.

Hillary Clinton is a near-lock for the Democratic nomination for many reasons, but among the most significant is that her challengers have minimal appeal to the party’s base of African-American voters….

Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders, the challenger with the most momentum, represents a state that’s 95 percent white, where Asian-Americans and multi-racial voters outnumber blacks. He’s focused most of his campaign message on income inequality, constraining Wall Street excess, and campaign finance reform, while avoiding discussions on race relations, urban policing, or gun control. Only 25 percent of non-white Democratic voters said they’d even consider backing the senator’s presidential bid, according to last month’s NBC/Wall Street Journal survey.

Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley, despite representing a state where nearly half of Democratic voters are black, has been unable to make inroads with his onetime political base. In fact, he drew some jeers when he returned to Baltimore in the wake of violent rioting that tore apart the city. As mayor, his tough-on-crime measures were popular with Maryland voters, but the no-tolerance approach alienated many African-American voters in the state’s largest city. Even some of his base-pleasing accomplishments as governor—such as his early support for gay marriage—hold limited appeal with black voters. In a recent speech, he awkwardly compared his experience as a “minority white candidate” for mayor to the broader African-American experience.

Meanwhile, Clinton’s other rival is more conservative than the entire Republican presidential field when it comes to the Confederate flag. Former Sen. Jim Webb, who was the Democrats’ Senate majority-maker less than a decade ago, now finds himself badly out of step with his party on civil rights issues. On Facebook, he called for “mutual respect” when considering the Confederate flag in a way that “respects the complicated history of the Civil War.” He will struggle to make inroads with minorities, given how out of step he is with an increasingly progressive Democratic base.

Polls in Iowa and New Hampshire may show Clinton with less-than-commanding leads over Sanders and everyone else, but take those results with a grain of salt; they don’t mean much going forward. Iowa and New Hampshire have among the most homogeneous Democratic electorates in the country, demographically disconnected from the party’s base in most other states.

The Trees, Andre Derain

The Trees, Andre Derain

At Vox, Jonathan Allen admits that reporters still follow the Clinton Rules: Confessions of a Clinton reporter: The media’s 5 unspoken rules for covering Hillary.

The Clinton rules are driven by reporters’ and editors’ desire to score the ultimate prize in contemporary journalism: the scoop that brings down Hillary Clinton and her family’s political empire. At least in that way, Republicans and the media have a common interest.

I understand these dynamics well, having co-written a book that demonstrated how Bill and Hillary Clinton used Hillary’s time at State to build the family political operation and set up for their fourth presidential campaign. That is to say, I’ve done a lot of research about the Clintons’ relationship with the media, and experienced it firsthand. As an author, I felt that I owed it to myself and the reader to report, investigate, and write with the same mix of curiosity, skepticism, rigor, and compassion that I would use with any other subject. I wanted to sell books, of course. But the easier way to do that — proven over time — is to write as though the Clintons are the purest form of evil. The same holds for daily reporting. Want to drive traffic to a website? Write something nasty about a Clinton, particularly Hillary.

Read Allen’s take on the Clinton Rules at the link.

Finally, from Slate’s Jamelle Bouie: Why Bernie Sanders Is the Left’s Ron Paul.

In just a few months, Sanders has moved from the periphery of American politics to the mainstream, as the most visible and popular alternative to Clinton, vastly outpacing former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and former Virginia Sen. Jim Webb, who recently announced his candidacy. But visibility isn’t viability, and there’s almost no chance Sanders will become the Democratic Party’s presidential nominee, even ifhe sustains his momentum into next year.

Despite the polls and the voting, presidential primaries aren’t popularity contests. Instead, they’re closer to negotiations, where interests and individuals work to choose a leader and representative for the entire group. That person has to appeal to everyone, from ideological factions and political power centers to wealthy donors and ordinary voters and activists. The candidate also has to show that he or she can do the work of a national campaign, from winning debates to raising money.

Clinton has done this. She came close to winning the 2008 nomination and spent the next seven years—right up to the present—building her stature in Democratic politics. A moderate liberal committed to most of Barack Obama’s domestic and foreign policy agenda, she’s acceptable to almost everyone in the party—in a national poll of the Democratic field from NBC News and the Wall Street Journal, she has a whopping 75 percent of the vote.

Which brings us back to Bernie. Sanders is a fascinating candidate with a vital, underrepresented message in American politics. But the same qualities that make him unique—relative independence from the Democratic Party, a foundational critique of American politics—make him unsuited for a major party nomination, much less the Democratic one. The more moderate and conservative parts of the Democratic coalition won’t support a left-wing candidate like Sanders, and the more strategic voters—party stalwarts like black Americans—will be skeptical that Sanders could win the White House, even if they agree with his ideas and policies.

Read the whole thing at the link.

So . . . . what else is happening? Please let us know in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday.


Fourth of July Reads

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Good Morning and Happy 4th of July!!

The media is continuing to breathlessly report that 73-year-old registered Independent Bernie Sanders is threatening Hillary Clinton’s chances for the Democratic nomination in 2016. Can you get the Democratic nomination if you are not registered as a Democrat? Earth to media: it’s not even 2016 yet–not even close. Sigh . . .

CNN: Sanders snags key endorsement in New Hampshire. Wow! Some woman with a strange name that no one has ever heard of before is rooting for Sanders. Bernie-Mentum!!!

Longtime New Hampshire Democratic activist Dudley Dudley told CNN Friday that she has decided to endorse Bernie Sanders for the Democratic 2016 nomination. Her decision comes less than two months after she hosted O’Malley at both her Durham, New Hampshire homes.

Since then, according to a recent CNN/WMUR New Hampshire primary poll, frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s lead over Sanders has shrunk from 38 percentage points to 8, with O’Malley trailing both. Likely Democratic primary voters are now more apt to see Sanders as the candidate who “best represents the values of Democrats like yourself,” the poll found.

Sanders recently finished a two-day swing through the state that saw 500-person crowds and high attendance at more intimate house parties.

Dudley told CNN she was won over by Sanders focus on money in politics, but was particularly impressed by his style of delivering his message.

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How nice for Bernie and Dudley Dudley. Meanwhile Hillary “the fighter” Clinton is defending her liberal record, according to Politico.

Hillary Clinton: ‘I take a backseat to no one’ on liberal record.

Hanover, N.H. — Hillary Clinton arrived in this liberal New England enclave with a message for anyone thinking about voting for Sen. Bernie Sanders of next-door Vermont: “I take a backseat to no one when you look at my record in standing up and fighting for progressive values.” ….

“We have to take on the gun lobby one more time,” said Clinton, speaking without notes or a teleprompter in front of a crowd of about 850 Dartmouth students and native Granite Staters. “The majority of gun owners support universal background checks, and we have to work very hard to muster the public opinion to convince Congress that’s what they should vote for.”

She said it was the “height of irresponsibility not to talk about it.” Sanders, who represents a pro-gun constituency, has voted against the Brady Bill, which required federal background checks for gun purchasers, as well as other major bills supported by gun-control advocates.

She also signaled that she would have no problem defending President Barack Obama’s domestic agenda.

“If the country elects a Republican president, then they will repeal the Affordable Care Act,” she warned. “Let’s elect a Democratic president who is committed to quality affordable health care.”

She praised Obama’s moves to help the country recover from the economic crisis and said Republicans who say the recovery is too slow “just don’t know the theory of original sin,” blaming “the kind of poor management and bad economic policies that put us into the ditch in the first place.”

Go to the link to read some ignorant negative comments about Hillary that CNN was able to dig up.

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If I sound irritable, it’s because I am. I read JJ’s Friday night post before I started this one and got really angry about the woman who was denied life-saving care at a Catholic hospital. That and the constant burning and itching that is still spreading all over my body are making me so agitated that I’d like to find the nearest low-information voter and strangle him or her.

ABC News on Hillary:  Hillary Clinton Not Fazed by Bernie Sanders’ Crowds.

During a campaign stop in New Hampshire on Friday, the Democratic presidential front-runner responded to a question from a reporter about the massive crowds her challenger, Vermont Sen.Bernie Sanders, has seen at his own campaign events this week.

“We each run our own campaigns and I always knew this was going to be competitive,” Clinton said at Dairy Twirl ice cream shop in Lebanon, New Hampshire, when asked about the growing support behind Sanders and how he’s seeing crowds even bigger than she is.

“I want to have a great debate in the primary and caucus around the country and that is what I am looking forward to,” she added.

Not that anyone in the not-so-liberal media will take her words at face value. They will continue to insist that she is in danger of losing to someone who isn’t a Democrat and that she’s worried sick about it.

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George Talei had the temerity to speak the truth about Clarence Thomas a couple of days ago, and now he has been pressured into apologizing.

Huffington Post: George Takei Calls Justice Clarence Thomas A ‘Clown In Blackface’ Over Marriage Equality Dissent.

George Takei has come under fire this week for calling Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas a “clown in blackface” over the judge’s stance on marriage equality. However, the “Star Trek” actor insists that his comment was not racially motivated.

During an interview with Fox 10 Phoenix, Takei, who is gay, discussed the Supreme Court’s recent landmark ruling to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide. Takei said he was “angry” at Thomas, who dissented to the decision, for his position on the issue.

“He is a clown in blackface sitting on the Supreme Court,” said Takei. “He gets me that angry. He doesn’t belong there.”

What did Thomas say that made Takei so angry? Some pretty awful stuff.

In his dissent, Thomas, who is black, wrote that “human dignity cannot be taken away by the government,” adding: “Slaves did not lose their dignity (any more than they lost their humanity) because the government allowed them to be enslaved. Those held in internment camps did not lose their dignity because the government confined them.”

Takei, whose family was held inside a Japanese internment camp during World War II, took issue with this logic.

“For him to say slaves have dignity, I mean, doesn’t he know that slaves were in chains? That they were whipped on the back?” Takei said. “My parents lost everything that they worked for in the middle of their lives, in their 30s. His business, my father’s business, our home, our freedom and we’re supposed to call that dignified?… This man does not belong on the Supreme Court. He is an embarrassment. He is a disgrace to America.”

I think Takei was absolutely right about Thomas. But the pressure was too much for him, I guess.

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CNN reports: George Takei walks back ‘blackface’ remark about Clarence Thomas.

Takei said on Friday that his words “were not carefully considered.”

“When asked by a reporter about the opinion, I was still seething, and I referred to him as a ‘clown in blackface’ to suggest that he had abdicated and abandoned his heritage,” Takei said in a Facebook post. “This was not intended to be racist, but rather to evoke a history of racism in the theatrical arts. While I continue to disagree with Justice Thomas, the words I chose, said in the heat of anger, were not carefully considered.”

The full apology is on Takei’s Facebook page.

A few follow-ups to previous big stories:

WBAL TV11: Sign inside Baltimore police van under investigation. Sign posted inside van: ‘Enjoy your ride, cuz we sure will!’

The Baltimore City Police Department has launched an internal investigation after a WBAL-TV 11 News viewer shared four photographs of a sign inside a city police wagon.

The photos show the doors of the parked police van left open. On the inside of the back door is a sign, attached or possibly stenciled on, that reads: “Enjoy your ride, cuz we sure will!”

The pictures were taken Tuesday near the Central District Police Station on Baltimore Street.

The sign’s placement makes it clear that this is a message for people who are arrested to see after they’re put in the back of the van and the doors are shut.

Police Department officials told 11 News the photos are real and they triggered an internal investigation.

Nice, after the BPD killed Freddie Gray with a rough ride in a police van.

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Now deceased prison escapee Richard Matt sent a letter to his daughter before he and David Sweat broke out of a “maximum security” prison in Dannamora, NY.

From the Buffalo News: ‘See you on the outside,’ Matt said in letter delivered to daughter in Buffalo suburb.

“I always promised you I would see you on the outside. I’m a man of my word,” a portion of the letter stated, according to information obtained by The Buffalo News from law enforcement officials.

The letter was postmarked prior to the June 6 escape and arrived June 9.

Matt had maintained a correspondence with his daughter while serving a prison sentence of 25 years to life for murder, acquaintances of the daughter confirmed.

But authorities say the daughter had no idea in advance that her father was planning an escape from Clinton Correctional Facility. Once he and David P. Sweat broke out, she fully cooperated with investigators. In fact, she requested round-the-clock protection, fearing that Matt would attempt to see her while he was on the run. That never happened.

The State.com: EXCLUSIVE: Charges possible against church shooter’s associates.

A joint state and federal investigation into the activities of accused Charleston church shooter Dylann Roof has widened to include other persons of interest, according to multiple sources familiar with the ongoing investigation.

The expanded scope of the investigation now includes people with whom Roof associated in the weeks before the June 17 shootings of nine African-Americans at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the sources said. Roof, 21, of Columbia, is white.

Although it appears Roof traveled alone to and from Charleston on the day of the killings, it is possible others had some knowledge of what he planned to carry out, said the sources, who are not being identified because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the investigation.

Investigators began to explore how much Roof’s associates knew, and when they knew it, after reviewing his cellphone and computer records, the sources said.

Prosecutors are still studying exactly what charges, if any, some of those associates might face, the sources said.

The New York Times Friday, citing sources with knowledge of the investigation, also said federal and state authorities have found Roof had been in contact with white supremacists online, though it does not appear they encouraged him to carry out the massacre.

More details at the link.

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Do you have blue eyes?

If so, you might find this story from Pioneer News interesting and/or alarming: New Study Suggests Potential Link Between Alcoholism and Eye Color.

Alcoholism is a major problem in the United States. Previous studies have identified that genetics may play a factor in dependency but a new study suggests that blue eyes might also encourage the eventual development of alcoholism.

Study co-author Dawei Li is an assistant professor of microbiology and molecular genetics. He says, “These are complex disorders. There are many genes, and there are many environmental triggers.”

Additionally, lead study co-author Aris Sulovari is a doctoral student in cellular, molecular, and biological sciences at the university. He adds, “This suggests an intriguing possibility – that eye color can be useful in the clinic for alcohol dependence diagnosis.”

The researchers looked at data from 10,000 people—mostly those of African or European America descent—who had been diagnosed with more than one psychiatric disorder which might include schizophrenia, bipolar disorder, and depression, in addition to alcohol or drug dependence.

So . . . what else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a fabulous holiday weekend.


Friday Reads

Good Morning!

I guess Dakinikat told you about what happened to me. I did some yard work on Monday and had a terrible allergic reaction to something–probably poison oak, judging from the pictures on the internet. My nephews and I were cutting down a bush that had other weeds entwined in it, but the boys didn’t have any reactions.

I’ve gotten this rash before in my mother’s yard, but this time it was much worse than I’ve ever experienced. It started on my left inner arm where I was holding things to cut. Soon it was on my right arm, and next all over my face and neck. I had huge hives under each eye. I even have it on my eyelids! My face is completely red and it has spread into my ears, behind my ears, the back of my neck, my outer arms, hands, and upper arms.

I tried to treat it with Benedryl and anti-itch creams, but yesterday I felt so sick that I went to an urgent care clinic where they gave me Prednisone. I took the first dose yesterday, but the stuff is still spreading and I have new hives on my arms this morning. I’m taking Allegra, and the doctor told me to take 50 mg of Benedryl every six hours on top of that. So please send me some good vibes, and thanks for your sympathetic comments yesterday. I hope you’ll understand if this post isn’t too fancy.

Now for some news:

Bobby Jindal continues to be a dick about the SCOTUS same sex marriage decision. As of Wednesday night, he was still refusing to recognize gay marriages in Louisiana. First he claimed that he needed to wait for a lower court ruling; and when that court told him to allow marriage equality, he said he still had to wait for a another court decision. That kind of bigoted might work in Southern states and maybe Iowa, but I don’t think it will go over too well in New Hampshire.

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The Times-Pickayune reports that as of today, the Bobby Jindal administration will start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples in downtown New Orleans.

New Orleans is finally allowed to join the rest of Louisiana and issue marriage licenses to same-sex couples.

Following a court ruling ordering it to do so, Gov. Bobby Jindal‘s administration agreed Thursday (July 2) afternoon to allow the state Department of Vital Records in downtown New Orleans to issue the marriage licenses. Every other marriage license office in the state began doing so earlier this week.

“Today the Eastern District Court of Louisiana ordered the Louisiana Department of Health and Hospitals to begin issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples who complete a marriage application at the Department’s Office of Vital Records in Orleans Parish,” said Olivia Hwang, spokeswoman for the agency on Thursday afternoon.

Orleans Parish is the only place where a state agency — not a court clerk — is in charge of authorizing marriage documents.  So, unlike elsewhere in the state, Jindal had more control in Orleans over the issuing of marriage licenses. Same-sex couples who wanted to be married in Orleans were having to travel to the 2nd City Court in Algiers for a license this week.

The administration was forced to relent following Thursday’s U.S. District Court ruling that struck down the state’s same-sex marriage ban. The district court was responding to the decision made by the U.S. Supreme Court last week to recognize same-sex marriage in all 50 states.

Is there a bigger asshole on earth than Bobby Jindal? Come to think of it, he has lots of competition among the GOP presidential candidates. Case in point, Donald Trump.

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CNN: Trump defends inflammatory comments, asks ‘Who is doing the raping?’

Businessman Donald Trump continued his verbal attack against illegal immigrants on Wednesday, in an interview on CNN Tonight with Don Lemon.

He has stirred up controversy in recent days for claiming “rapists” and “killers” are migrating over the United States’ southern border. Univision and NBC Universal have cut ties with the businessman, refusing to air the “Miss Universe” pageant he partially owns as a result, and Macy’s announced Wednesday it was also discontinuing his clothing line.

On Wednesday, Trump, who is a Republican presidential candidate, told Lemon he was pulling his facts from a Fusion article.

“Well if you look at the statistics of people coming, you look at the statistics on rape, on crime, on everything coming in illegally into this country it’s mind-boggling!” he told Lemon, in a clip previewed on CNN’s “Situation Room.”

“If you go to Fusion, you will see a story: About 80% of the women coming in, you know who owns Fusion? Univision! Go to Fusion and pick up the stories on rape. It’s unbelievable when you look at what’s going on. So all I’m doing is telling the truth,” Trump said.

Lemon replied that the press stories are about women being raped, but not about criminals coming across the border.

“Well, somebody’s doing the raping, Don! I mean somebody’s doing it! Who’s doing the raping? Who’s doing the raping?” he asked.

Coffee-House-Interior

At the National Journal, Lauren Fox asks, Why Is Donald Trump Polling So Well?

Macy’s is ditching him, NBC has let him go, and Univision refuses to broadcast his famed beauty pageant. But American voters are still entertaining the idea of President Donald Trump.

In a Republican presidential field rich with esteemed governors and senators, tough-talking businessman Trump has managed to rise in the polls to be a top-tier candidate even after he elicited controversy for his statements about Mexican immigrants during his campaign announcement.

A CNN/ORC poll released Wednesday showed Trump had 12 percent of the vote among Republicans and Republican-leaners, second only to former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, who earned 19 percent. A Quinnipiac poll, which was also out Wednesday, revealed Trump was also tied for second with Dr. Ben Carson among likely Republican caucus voters in Iowa. Carson and Trump each had 10 percent of the vote. Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker led the pack with 18 percent.

Fox writes that “so many qualified Republican presidential contenders out there, Trump’s rise is not expected to last.” I wonder who these GOP candidates she thinks are so “qualified”?

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The media mavens are all excited because Bernie Sanders is attracting big crowds. From The Christian Science Monitor: Support swells for Bernie Sanders, he attracts biggest crowd to date (+video).

Presidential candidate Sen. Bernie Sanders (I) of Vermont joined the Democratic race for the White House as a long shot, but he continues gaining momentum since he first emerged as Hillary Clinton’s biggest primary challenger.

The self-described “democratic socialist” has been gaining ground on the front-runner in Iowa, an important early marker of primary success. His support has more than doubled since May, with 33 percent of Democratic caucus-goers in the state favoring the Vermont senator, compared with 52 percent for Clinton, according to a new Quinnipiac poll.

A stop in Wisconsin on Wednesday garnered his biggest crowd to date, with 10,000 people packing the Veterans Memorial Coliseum in Madison.

I don’t know why anyone is surprised that Sanders has some strong support in Madison, Wisconsin, but good for him.

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KONICA MINOLTA DIGITAL CAMERA

From ABC News: How Bernie Sanders Is Attracting Monster Crowds (and Whether Hillary Should Be Worried).

The event [in Madison] was not an anomaly either. In June, 5,500 people came out to see Sen. Sanders in Denver, Colorado. In May, another 3,500 people attended a rally in Minneapolis, Minnesota, for Sanders. And approximately 5,000 people gathered in April in his hometown of Burlington, Vermont, for his campaign launch, roughly the same number who attended frontrunner Hillary Clinton’s campaign kickoff event in New York City.

“Also impressive,” Briggs added, “In Rochester, Minnesota, this morning — on a Thursday morning — we had 600 people for an hour-long town hall meeting,” The list of these smaller, but still relatively impressively well-attended events goes on and on. In the end of May, 300 people turned up for an event for Sanders in Kensett, Iowa, a rural town where only around 240 people live.

The campaign gauges interest in upcoming events based on RSVPs through their website and has had to change venues on more than one occasion based on a large number of people signed up to attend. It has already changed its venue for an event in Portland, Maine, on Monday, where the campaign expects more than 5,000 people to attend.

All this buzz is translating to movement in the polls, too. According to a Quinnipiac poll out today, the independent Vermont senator now trails Clinton (52–33 percent) among likely Democratic Iowa caucus goers. And in New Hampshire, WMUR has Sanders within eight points of Clinton (43-35), when just two months ago a previous poll there had him down by over 20 points.

Sanders does not have a PAC and he says he does not want donations from corporations. Still, according to a note out from the campaign today, he has raised an impressive $15 million since launching his campaign on April 30. They say that total comes from 250,000 individual donors, with the average donation size around $33 dollars.

I don’t want to hear any of these Sanders fans complaining about Hillary Clinton’s age. He’s 73 and she’s 67. BTW, Jim Webb, who announce his candidacy yesterday if 69. Has anyone remarked on how old he is?

muvesz_coffee_house

Meanwhile, Hillary raised a stunning $45 million in primary money over the first quarter. From The Washington Post: Here’s just how impressive Hillary Clinton’s $45 million haul is, by Philip Bump.

Hillary Clinton’s team teased its first fundraising numbers on Tuesday, suggesting that the campaign had pulled in over $45 million from April to June. That’s a lot of money by “normal American” standards. It’s also a lot of money by “presidential primary candidate” standards.

First, some perspective. If I handed you a dollar bill every second, starting at midnight on April 1, you wouldn’t have $45 million until September. If I handed you a $5 bill every second — you still wouldn’t have as much as Clinton raised by the time July 1 rolled around.

According to the Federal Election Commission, Clinton’s quarterly total is the highest for a non-incumbent in the year before an election. She even raised more than two of the three quarters Barack Obama was fundraising as an incumbent president in 2011.

Check out some charts at the WaPo link.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a great Fourth of July weekend!

 


Thursday Reads

jackson squareGood afternoon!

BostonBoomer got into a bad fight with a bush that needed trimming and came out the loser yesterday.  She’s laid up at her mother’s house with a terrible, horrible, awful, very bad rash.  So, I’m writing today’s post and it’s on the tardy side as usual these days.  I’ve never been a morning person but now I have no reason to be since all my lectures, etc. happen in the evening. So, I’m just going to get us caught up on some thoughts today on the cultural shift of the last few weeks and give you a few suggested reads.

There’s some interesting things going on in New Orleans that I thought I’d share with you.  We’re a southern city in a southern state even though our history is more nuanced that some of the other southern states and cities.  There are two very prominent statues in the city from our past.  The first is one of Andrew Jackson atop a stallion to recognize his role in the Battle of New Orleans.LA-Bldg_0170_1_2_3_4_tone-merge-1024x605

The second statue stands on top of a huge column and is part of a traffic roundabout called Lee Circle.  It is, of course, a statue of Robert E. Lee the Confederate General.  Lee looks more than a little defiant with his back to the Mississippi and his arms crossed. He faces due North.  

Mayor Mitch Landrieu has decided that he’d like to take down the statue and rename the circle because he feels that it’s a little too much of a monument to a confederate general.  My question is when do we cross the line from glorification of past sins to erasing some history that we need to really discuss and understand.

Lee was not exactly Nathan Bedford Forrest, the ex-Confederate General who helped to found the KKK. Nor, was Lee a particularly gung-ho Confederate General to start out with if you remember your history.  Lee did something completely different than Forrest after the Civil War.  He became an educator and an advocate of educating black Americans. Lee also freed his slaves 10 years before the war. So, he was a complex man with a complex history as are most of our historical figures.  Still, both of these men who led an insurrection need to be understood without glorification. Can a monument area become an outdoor teaching museum made to elucidate instead of glorify just as many of our National Parks and Museums already do.

After the Battle of New Orleans, Andrew Jackson became a U.S. President who is notable for the “Trail of Tears” which was the policy of forcibly and violently removing Native Americans from their land.  The Chocktaw nation was removed from their land in the south and sent on what amounted to a death march west to what is now Oklahoma.  There are two National Parks where Jackson figures prominently. One is the Chalmette Battlefield site where the Battle of New Orleans took place.  The other is Trail of Tears National History Trail.   One is a site of national pride.  The other is a site of national shame.  Jackson, you may recall, is still etched on our $20 bill. If any one’s statue needs to come down it is surely that of Andrew Jackson.

However, history is a nuanced bitch and should never be white washed or banned or removed.  While I fully support removing the Confederate Battle Flag off of public buildings that aren’t museums, I question the wisdom of Mitch Landrieu and others who want to remove monuments rather than use them as an opportunity to teach.

Again, If any one deserves to have all his monuments torn down it is the genocidal Jackson.   Yet, without the win at the Battle of New Orleans we might have a totally different history with the British.  The citizenry who could vote at the time made him President.  He was an extremely controversial President and at times very unpopular for a variety of reasons.  Studying the variety of reasons helps us to learn about past mistakes and the ramifications of these mistakes to our present and future.

Andrew Jackson had long been an advocate of what he called “Indian removal.” As an Army general, he had spent years leading brutal campaigns against the Creeks in Georgia and Alabama and the Seminoles in Florida–campaigns that resulted in the transfer of hundreds of thousands of acres of land from Indian nations to white farmers. As president, he continued this crusade. In 1830, he signed the Indian Removal Act, which gave the federal government the power to exchange Native-held land in the cotton kingdom east of the Mississippi for land to the west, in the “Indian colonization zone” that the United States had acquired as part of the Louisiana Purchase. (This “Indian territory” was located in present-day Oklahoma.)

The law required the government to negotiate removal treaties fairly, voluntarily and peacefully: It did not permit the president or anyone else to coerce Native nations into giving up their land. However, President Jackson and his government frequently ignored the letter of the law and forced Native Americans to vacate lands they had lived on for generations. In the winter of 1831, under threat of invasion by the U.S. Army, the Choctaw became the first nation to be expelled from its land altogether. They made the journey to Indian territory on foot (some “bound in chains and marched double file,” one historian writes) and without any food, supplies or other help from the government. Thousands of people died along the way. It was, one Choctaw leader told an Alabama newspaper, a “trail of tears and death.”

This is what Mitch says about removing the Lee Statue and redoing Lee Circle. 

Now is the time to talk about replacing the statue of Robert E. Lee, as iconic as it is controversial, from its perch at the center of Lee Circle, Mayor Mitch Landrieu announced Wednesday (June 24) during a gathering held to highlight his racial reconciliation initiative.

“Symbols really do matter,” he said. “Symbols should reflect who we really are as a people.

“We have never been a culture, in essence, that revered war rather than peace, division rather than unity.”

[Listen to Landrieu’s speech on why Lee Circle should be renamed, or read a full article on his announcement here. ]

The slaying last week of nine black people in a historic Charleston, S.C., church at the hands of Dylann Roof, an avowed white supremacist, has sparked heated debate about whether the Confederate battle flag and other symbols associated with the country’s racist past ought to be displayed in public places.

Just two days ago, Landrieu was noncommittal when asked whether the Lee statue should be removed, though he called for a larger discussion on it and other Confederate monuments in New Orleans. The 2018 Tricentennial Commission, whose tasks include addressing the city’s complex racial history ahead of its 300th anniversary, would also examine the propriety of the monuments continued display on public property, the mayor’s office said.

“These symbols say who we were in a particular time, but times change. Yet these symbols — statues, monuments, street names, and more — still influence who we are and how we are perceived by the world,” a spokesman said in a statement. “Mayor Landrieu believes it is time to look at the symbols in this city to see if they still have relevance to our future.”

Now, I will give him credit if he manages to get Jefferson Davis Parkway renamed.  That shocked me the first time I saw it.  But, there’s an opportunity lost in the Lee Circle suggestion.  That opportunity is to highlight a complex moment in history and a complex man.  One of his former slaves Rev. William Mac Lee wrote some fascinating bits about their lives together.  

There are many more things that we could learn about the horrible institution of slavery and the men that enabled it. That’s a real conversation we need to have about race.  That institution has shaped race relations in this country.  We can’t bury or white wash the past by removing all elements of it.  We need not glorify the men, but we do need to understand the history and work to ensure we correct the sins and errors of the past. We also, need to instruct on how their actions inform our lives now by including more into these monuments or parks. Rev William Mac Lee wrote this about his former owner.

I was raised by one of the greatest men in the world. There was never one born of a woman greater than Gen. Robert E. Lee, according to my judgment. All of his servants were set free ten years before the war, but all remained on the plantation until after the surrender.

trailoftears05We have an opportunity in these places where monuments reside to discuss the sins, the complexities, and all of the people impacted both past, present and future.  There’s more than enough land there to introduce us to William Mac Lee and his descendants as they struggle to navigate the post Civil War South as well as understand the ways that Lee atoned and evolved.

Even statues of the nasty Nathan Bedford Forrest give us an opportunity to put a face and history on the horrible acts of the KKK including lynchings which were frequent and savage in many parts of our country. So, rather than just bury this history and these men, why not use the sites to explore the history of the lives they shaped?  Lee became an advocate of black education even while maintaining the racist notions of the time that African Americans were savages that could eventually be brought to full status through education.  That’s an attitude that needs elucidation because it still informs many in the South. I remember thinking of Lee when Barbara Bush made her pronouncement at the AstroDome on Katrina refuges.  Forrest created the original domestic terrorist organization.  How did these men take such different paths? How far have we come or not come since then?

So, in all of this call to bring down monuments, I hear no similar call to remove the statue of the genocidal Jackson that is also surrounded by enough land for us to be regaled not only with his victory at the Battle of New Orleans but his savage treatment of the Southern Tribes.  The square could be used to connect the Jackson of Chalmette Battlefield to the Jackson of The Trail of Tears.  For some reason, we seem incapable of grabbing teaching moments when they are upon us.  But think, no one plowed under the major concentration camps and there are Holocaust Museums.  They are are there for us to learn, understand, and evolve.

The SPLC has asked that holidays celebrated in the names of Jeff Davis and Robert E Lee be dropped.  This is appropriate.  It’s important to remove the glorification even while we search for deeper understanding of the acts, men, and history.

The Southern Poverty Law Center has launched an online petition asking that Alabama and four other states drop holidays honoring Jefferson Davis and Robert E. Lee.

“It’s time to stop the celebrations,” the petition says. “We should honor those who represent American ideals, not those who led the fight to preserve slavery.”

The other states listed are Arkansas, Florida, Georgia and Mississippi.

The petition follows other calls to remove symbols honoring the Confederacy since the murders of nine African-American worshipers at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, S.C., two weeks ago.

Gov. Robert Bentley had Confederate flags removed from a monument on the north side of the state Capitol last week.

In Birmingham today, a city board voted to explore removal of a Confederate monument from Linn Park.

SPLC President Richard Cohen said it was a good time to act on the organization’s concerns about holidays honoring Confederate President Davis and Lee, the South’s top general.

“We thought that now, while the public is sensitive to these issues and in some sense has a broader understanding of the nature of these kinds of symbols, that it would be a good time to put this issue on the public agenda,” Cohen said.

He said the petition was a way to start conversation.

“Why we honor people who fought to preserve slavery is a question I think the public has to ask itself,” Cohen said.

Again, it is a completely different thing to revere or honor bad actors.  So, I’m a firm advocate of museums, parks, and national historic sites that tell the full picture.  I’m not in favor of glorification.  Maybe, we should also have a conversation on the true stories behind the Thanksgiving myths eventually.  Plus, some one needs to talk to Mitch Landrieu about Andrew Jackson.  The man committed genocide plain and simple. But that’s enough from me!!!

Here’s a few interesting things that you might want to read today.

So, that’s my thoughts and suggestions for today.

What’s on your reading and blogging list?


Tuesday Reads: Indiana Summer Blogging

Summer thunderstorm in Indiana

Summer thunderstorm in Indiana

Good Morning!!

I’m still staying with my mother in Indiana. Her 90th birthday party was a huge success. Everyone that we expected showed up, and I got to talk to some cousins I haven’t seen in ages–except on Facebook. The weather sort of cooperated. It had been raining for days, but we just had intermittent showers on Saturday, the day of the party. We had the canopy set up over part of the driveway so the tables were on solid ground. We had too much food, so we donated some of it to a local homeless mission, ate some leftovers, and froze the rest. Since that day, we’ve had gorgeous sunny weather.

The image above of the first lighting strike of an Indiana thunderstorm comes from Schweiger Photo. I’m including other scenic photos of various parts of Indiana throughout this post.

Supreme Court Decisions and Reactions to Them

A country road in Randolph County, Indiana

A country road in Randolph County, Indiana

The U.S. Supreme Court continues to dominate the news today. I know you have already heard about the terrible decision to allow Oklahoma to continue using drugs that cause intense, extended pain for their inhuman executions. The U.S. Constitution forbids cruel and unusual punishment, but Samuel Alito thinks it’s much more important to preserve the death penalty than to worry about whether the victims feel like they are being burned alive.

Carimah Townes at Think Progress: It’s ‘The Chemical Equivalent Of Being Burned At The Stake.’ And Now It’s Legal.

By a vote of 5-4, the Supreme Court ruled Monday that the use of the lethal injection drug midazolam does not constitute cruel and unusual punishment. The ruling comes more than a year after the botched executions of several inmates who remained conscious and experienced pain as they were put to death.

According to the majority opinion written by Justice Samuel Alito, “petitioners have failed to establish a likelihood of success on the merits of their claim that the use of midazolam violates the Eighth Amendment. To succeed on an Eighth Amendment method-of execution claim, a prisoner must establish that the method creates a demonstrated risk of severe pain and that the risk is substantial when compared to the known and available alternatives. Petitioners failed to establish that any risk of harm was substantial when compared to a known and available alternative method of execution. Petitioners have suggested that Oklahoma could execute them using sodium thiopental or pentobarbital, but the District Court did not commit a clear error when it found that those drugs are unavailable to the State.”

In her dissent, Justice Sotomayor wrote, “as a result, [the Court] leaves petitioners exposed to what may well be the chemical equivalent of being burned at the stake.”

The Indiana Dunes at Lake Michigan

The Indiana Dunes at Lake Michigan

Alito’s “reasoning” is that since the death penalty is “settled” law, whatever drug is available must be used even if it causes extreme pain and does not cause unconsciousness. Remember when Clayton Lockett “gasped for 43 minutes” before he finally died?

Cristian Farias at New York Magazine: In Lethal-Injection Case, the Supreme Court Essentially Ruled That Death-Row Inmates Have to Pick Their Poison.

Now we know why the Supreme Court left Glossip v. Gross a contentious case about the constitutionality of lethal-injection protocols — for the very last day of its term. Four out of five justices who had something to say in the case announced their opinions from the bench — an extremely rare occurrence that the American public won’t get to hear for itself until audio of the session is released sometime in the fall.

In a 5-to-4 decision, the justices ruled that the death-row inmates in the case failed to establish that Oklahoma’s use of midazolam, a sedative they claimed was ineffective in preventing pain, violated the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition on cruel and unusual punishment. The case’s various opinions and dissents run a whopping 127 pages — far longer than even the Obamacare and marriage-equality decisions. And they’re a sign that states’ methods of punishment are a major point of conflict at the court.

But Justice Samuel Alito, who wrote the lead opinion, went further: He said it is up to the death-row inmates and their lawyers — and not up to Oklahoma — “to identify a known and available alternative method of execution that entails a lesser risk of pain,” which is “a requirement of all Eighth Amendment method-of-execution claims.” In other words, it is the responsibility of those condemned to death to plead and prove the best alternative method to execute them. They have to pick their poison — otherwise, no harm, no foul under the Constitution.

And just so that there aren’t any doubts, even though the case was not about the death penalty proper, Alito went out of his way to remind us that “we have time and again reaffirmed that capital punishment is not per seunconstitutional.”

Samuel Alito should never have been approved by the Senate. He’s a monster.

Indiana corn, "knee high by the Fourth of July."

Indiana corn, “knee high by the Fourth of July.”

The Court ordered that abortion clinics in Texas could remain open for the time being. Ian Millhauser at Think Progress: BREAKING: Supreme Court Allows Texas Abortion Clinics To Remain Open.

The Supreme Court issued a brief, two paragraph order on Monday permitting Texas abortion clinics that are endangered by state law requiring them to comply with onerous regulations or else shut down to remain open. The order stays a decision by the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, which imposed broad limits on the women’s right to choose an abortion within that circuit.

The Court’s order is temporary and offers no direct insight into how the Court will decide this case on the merits. It provides that the clinics’ application for a stay of the Fifth Circuit’s decision is granted “pending the timely filing and disposition of a petition” asking the Court to review the case on the merits.

Ugh. I can hardly wait for the final decision./s

And then there’s the continuing unhinged right wing response to the Supremes’ decision on gay marriage. Texas Senator Ted Cruz has been in dangerous meltdown mode ever since the announcement on Friday.

A Converse County, Indiana road.

A Converse County, Indiana road.

Politico reports: Ted Cruz: States should ignore gay-marriage ruling.

“Those who are not parties to the suit are not bound by it,” the Texas Republican told NPR News’ Steve Inskeep in an interview published on Monday. Since only suits against the states of Ohio, Tennessee, Michigan and Kentucky were specifically considered in the Supreme Court’s Obergefell v. Hodges decision, which was handed down last Friday, Cruz — a former Supreme Court clerk — believes that other states with gay marriage bans need not comply, absent a judicial order.

“[O]n a great many issues, others have largely acquiesced, even if they were not parties to the case,” the 2016 presidential contender added, “but there’s no legal obligation to acquiesce to anything other than a court judgement.”

Izzat so?

While Cruz’s statement may be technically true, federal district and circuit courts are obligated to follow the Supreme Court’s precedent and overrule all other states’ same-sex marriage bans as unconstitutional.

The Texas senator then went on to suggest that Republicans who have called for following the court’s decision are members of a “Washington cartel” and are lying when they say they do not support same-sex marriage.

“[Republican Party leaders] agree with the rulings from last week, both the Obamacare ruling and the marriage ruling,” Cruz said. “[T]he biggest divide we have politically is not between Republicans and Democrats. It’s between career politicians in both parties and the American people.”

I guess Cruz hasn’t bothered to look at the polls that show most Americans support same sex marriage–or, more likely, he couldn’t care less what Americans think about it. Get over it, Ted. Marriage equality is “settled law” now.

Another view of the Indiana Dunes.

Another view of the Indiana Dunes.

From The Hill: Cruz bashes ‘elites’ on Supreme Court.

Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) on Monday bashed “elites” on the Supreme Court for imposing their will on America’s heartland in its decision to legalize same-sex marriage.

“You’ve got nine lawyers, they are all from Harvard or Yale — there are no Protestants on the court, there are no evangelicals on the court,” the 2016 GOP presidential candidate said on NBC’s “Today,” echoing criticism from Justice Antonin Scalia’s dissenting opinion.

“The elites on the court look at much of this country as flyover country; they think that our views are simply parochial and don’t deserve to be respected.”

ROFLMAO! Earth to Ted: You graduated from Princeton and Harvard and worked under former Chief Justice Rehnquist. Obviously you think the inhabitants of “flyover country” are too stupid to know that.

A couple more reactions:

AL.com: Roy Moore: Alabama judges not required to issue same-sex marriage licenses for 25 days.

The Texas Tribune: Some Counties Withholding Same-Sex Marriage Licenses.

Following the Charleston Massacre,

A windmill on an Indiana farm

A windmill on an Indiana farm

a number of black churches have been burned in the South, according to Think Progress.

According to the Southern Poverty Law Center, at least six predominantly black churches in four Southern states have been damaged or destroyed by fire in the past week. While some may have been accidental, at least three have been determined to be the result of arson.

The first arson fire was on Monday at the College Hills Seventh Day Adventist Church in Knoxville, Tennessee. The Knoxville fire department has said that the arsonist set multiple fires on the church’s property and the church’s van was also burned. On Tuesday, a fire in the sanctuary of God’s Power Church of Christ in Macon, Georgia was also blamed on arson, although the investigation is ongoing. And on Wednesday, a fire at the Briar Creek Baptist Church in Charlotte, North Carolina was determined to be caused by arson, destroying an education wing that was meant to house a summer program for children, impacting its sanctuary and gymnasium, and causing an estimated $250,000 in damage.

The cause of a fire that destroyed the Glover Grover Baptist Church in Warrenville, South Carolina on Friday is unknown, while lightning is suspected in a fire that destroyed the Fruitland Presbyterian Church in Gibson County, Tennessee on Wednesday and a tree limb that fell on electrical lines is suspected in a fire at the Greater Miracle Apostolic Holiness Church in Tallahassee, Florida on Friday that destroyed the church and caused an estimated $700,000 in damage.

That is truly frightening. Read more details at the link.

A log cabin in Brown County, Indiana

A log cabin in Brown County, Indiana

Blue Nation Review: EXCLUSIVE: Bree Newsome Speaks For The First Time After Courageous Act of Civil Disobedience.

Over the weekend, a young freedom fighter and community organizer mounted an awe-inspiring campaign to bring down the Confederate battle flag. Brittany “Bree” Newsome, in a courageous act of civil disobedience, scaled a metal pole using a climbing harness, to remove the flag from the grounds of the South Carolina state capitol. Her long dread locks danced in the wind as she descended to the ground while quoting scripture. She refused law enforcement commands to end her mission and was immediately arrested along with ally James Ian Tyson, who is also from Charlotte, North Carolina.

Read all about it and see photos at the link.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread below and have a terrific Tuesday!

 


Thursday Reads: Upcoming Supreme Court Decisions and Other News

The Tea Party, Matisse Forman

The Tea Party, Matisse Forman

Good Morning!!

The Supreme Court justices will convene this morning at 10AM. No one knows which rulings they plan to release. Will we learn their decision on same sex marriage? I hope so. I’m guessing they will leave the announcement of their decision on the Affordable Care Act for last. But who knows?

ABC News reports: Supreme Court Has Seven Final Cases to Decide, Including Gay Marriage and Obamacare.

The high court is saving the high drama for the end of its term.

As June dwindles, seven cases are left for the Supreme Court to decide — including one that could legalize same-sex marriage across the country and one that will significantly affect the future of Obamacare.

The court is scheduled to announce decisions Thursday, Friday and Monday, and it could add days beyond that. There’s no indication which decisions will be released on which days.

Mad Hatter tea party

The seven cases are summarized at the link. On the two most prominent cases:

Same Sex Marriage

In a landmark decision, the court will confront two questions. The first is whether states can ban same-sex marriage. The second is whether states must recognize same-sex marriages performed legally in other states.

All eyes are on Justice Anthony Kennedy, who wrote three of the court’s most important opinions on gay rights. At an oral argument in April, Kennedy asked tough questions of both sides, and at one point he said “it’s very difficult for the court to say, oh, well, we know better” what defines marriage than centuries of tradition limiting it to the union of a man and a woman.

Affordable Care Act

The justices could deal a potentially crippling, if not fatal, blow to President Barack Obama’s signature health law.

The challenge centers on whether the federal government is violating the act by offering subsidies to lower- and middle-income people who live in states that haven’t set up their own health care insurance “exchanges.”

Sixteen states have exchanges up and running. The remaining 34 rely on the federal exchange. The law says the subsidies can be made available only to people living where exchanges have been “established by the state.”

The plaintiffs argue that the subsidies are illegal because the federal government isn’t a state. The federal government argues that it was always clear that the subsidies would be available to anyone who bought insurance on an exchange. The insurance industry argues that if the federal subsidies are struck down, Obamacare itself would enter a “death spiral,” with costs rising for a shrinking number of participants, eventually causing the system to collapse.

Read about the other cases at the link.

The Tea, Mary Cassatt

The Tea, Mary Cassatt

Possible Outcomes on Same Sex Marriage

Although no one can really know what’s going on in Anthony Kennedy’s confused mind, most pundits expect the Supremes to decide that states cannot ban same sex marriage. I hope they’re right.

Richard Wolf at USA Today: Anticipating high court’s blessing, same-sex couples plan weddings.

Mark Phariss and Vic Holmes have sent out “Save the Date” cards and plunked down thousands of dollars for their November wedding, which promises to be Texas-style big.

Brittany Rowell and Jessica Harbuck are busy laying plans for a January wedding in Mississippi, with traditional white dresses and all the trimmings.

Tim Love and Larry Ysunza have reserved their church for an October wedding in Kentucky, about the time of their 35th anniversary together.

Liz Neidlinger and Erika Doty have their sights set on an outdoor sculpture garden in Michigan next May.

Jon Coffee and Keith Swafford were engaged last October in Tennessee and decided to marry in a year, regardless of court action. If it had to be merely symbolic, that would be sufficient.

What sets the five couples apart from your average wedding planners is a small impediment: They can’t get married in their home states — not yet, anyway. But they’re so confident the Supreme Court will change that in the coming days that they already are making plans for the big day.

Tea, Henri Matisse

Tea, Henri Matisse

Chicago Tribune: Coming gay marriage ruling triggers anticipation, anxiety in gay couples.

Chantel and Marcela Gatica-Haynes, who live in Arizona, were married in a garden ceremony at an Ojai, Calif. bed-and-breakfast on Sept. 7, 2013. The wedding came less than three months after a U.S. Supreme Court ruling ended Proposition 8, California’s ban on same-sex marriage. They returned home to Flagstaff and were married again last October after a federal judge ruled Arizona’s ban on the marriages was unconstitutional.

Though many observers predict the coming ruling will open the door wider to same-sex marriage, Chantel Gatica-Haynes worries her marriage could be impacted by a ruling against the unions. She worries more that a ruling upholding state bans could affect Marcela’s attempt to adopt Chantel’s 1-year-old daughter, Aspen.

“We’re just in this holding pattern,” she said. “The things that are hanging out there will affect our daughter’s future even when we’re gone.”

More at the link.

Summer Afternoon Tea in the Garden, Theo van Rysselberghe

Summer Afternoon Tea in the Garden, Theo van Rysselberghe

The Boston Globe: Supreme Court same-sex marriage decision still in question.

When it comes to same-sex marriage, the justices have considered two principal questions:

1) Does the Constitution require a state to license a marriage between two people of the same sex?

2) If same-sex couples marry in one state, where it’s legal, must other states recognize their marriages?

If the justices say yes on the first question, then same-sex couples in all states will be able to marry. If the justices say no to the first question, but yes to the second, then same-sex marriages will be recognized in every state, but states will not have the duty to marry same-sex couples.

If the justices say no to both questions, then states without same-sex marriage will be neither required to perform same-sex unions, nor to recognize unions performed out of state.

At oral arguments earlier this year, Justice Anthony Kennedy, widely viewed as the swing vote on the case, asked the petitioners early on about the role of the court in changing a definition of marriage that has been used for “millennia,” instead of allowing citizens to engage with the issue through the states.

But Kennedy, who spoke only 17 times during the hearing — the least of any justice barring famously silent Clarence Thomas — also spoke of the ability of same-sex couples to recognize the “nobility and sacredness” of marriage.

Read the rest at the Globe.

TEA PARTY painting

NPR: Maps: What The Supreme Court’s Ruling On Same-Sex Marriage Could Mean.

It’s always tough to predict how the court will rule but, broadly speaking, there are three main possibilities: the simplest is that the court declares state marriage bans unconstitutional, meaning states will all perform and recognize same-sex marriage. That’s a pretty simple outcome, but things get much trickier in the other two cases.

One other possibility is that the court decides to uphold bans. That means states that currently have bans could continue having theirs. But it also leaves 20 states up in the air legally. That group includes states where federal action struck down state bans. If the Supreme Court says bans are constitutional, those states could go back to having bans in place.

And there’s also the possibility of the court saying bans are constitutional, but that all states must all recognize marriages performed in other states. This option retains the messiness of the above possibility, but it does mean that couples would be recognized equally nationwide.

While you can break the decisions down into three neatly color-coded maps, there is a complicated web of state laws at work, and it means outcomes could vary widely by state if the court decides bansare constitutional. Adam Romero, senior counsel at UCLA’s Williams Institute, says the states where federal action struck down state bans are where things could get really complicated.

Read more and check out the maps at the NPR link.

The Affordable Care Act Ruling

Afternoon Tea, Susan Rinehart

Afternoon Tea, Susan Rinehart

From New York Magazine: Chief Justice Roberts’s Big Health-Care Moment, by Cristian Farias.

Chief Justice John Roberts has big plans after the end of the current Supreme Court term. He will be hopping on a plane to Japan, half a world away from any fallout that may result in the aftermath of King v. Burwell, the closely watched challenge to the Affordable Care Act. According to SCOTUSblog, that decision could come as early as this Friday.

Three years ago, when Roberts first saved President Obama’s signature law, he headed for the other side of the globe, to Malta — a CBS Newsscoop about a vote switch and internal “arm-twisting” by Roberts aroused such conservative wrath, the Mediterranean island seemed like a good place for him to teach some law and weather the controversy. “After ruling, Roberts makes a getaway from the scorn,” said the Times.

No one knows where the chief justice stands in King, but there are real-world, pragmatic reasons for him to side with the government again — even more so than with NFIB v. Sebelius, which threatened a law still in its infancy and not yet fully implemented. Now the prospects of unraveling insurance markets and millions losing health-care subsidies with an adverse ruling are real, and Roberts more than any of the justices cares about these things because the court bears his name and anything the court does, whether he had something to do with it or not, falls under his legacy. He’s the most accountable member of the least accountable branch.

But consider also that by the time a decision is announced, Roberts will have finished his tenth year on the Supreme Court — a milestone legal scholars and commentators will seize on to discuss that legacy, his jurisprudence, and whether he has delivered on his promise to be the kind of chief justice who merely “calls balls and strikes,” as he famously said during his confirmation hearings. Just yesterday, the Upshot suggested the court is leaning leftward more than any other time in recent history. And other retrospectives have begun to roll out: the Constitutional Accountability Center, a legal advocacy group, has published a series of reports on Roberts’s first decade and his record — on civil rights, campaign finance, access to justice, the environment, equality. The kinds of cases the public cares about. And yes, that includes health care.

Much more interesting analysis at the link.

Tea Party, Martha Walter

Tea Party, Martha Walter

Washington Post: Supreme Court ruling could push health industry agenda to back burner — again, by Catherine Ho.

The health care industry was hoping this would be the year it could move beyond the Obamacare fight in Washington and on to new priorities, such as improving drug development and patient care.

But the Supreme Court’s upcoming ruling in King v. Burwell threatens to derail those ambitions.

Industry advocates are concerned that no matter how the court rules on the legality of certain insurance subsidies provided under the law, the health care debate in Congress will once again become dominated by the political divisions over the Affordable Care Act (ACA).

“It has the potential for serious chaos and disruption,” said health care lobbyist Ilisa Halpern Paul, who represents hospital systems and health advocacy groups.

The court is expected to rule as early as Thursday on whether to strike down a critical part of the law by invalidating subsidies to 6.4 million Americans in the 34 states that have federally run health insurance exchanges.

If the court rules against the subsidies, Republicans will be scrambling to figure out whether they should find a way to keep them in place until after the 2016 election when they hope a Republican president and GOP-controlled Congress can repeal the law in its entirety. The concern for Republicans is that if they don’t find a way to keep the subsidies in place until a new plan is ready, they will face backlash from constituents who currently use them to offset the cost of their health insurance. The legislative focus on the subsidies would mean all other health-related legislative initiatives that have gained traction recently are likely to come to a halt, at least temporarily.

More at the WaPo.

And some maps of the possible results of the decision at Slate: These Maps Show How Radically the Supreme Court Could Upend the Health Care System.

Once again the fate of the Affordable Care Act rests in the hands of the Supreme Court. In King v. Burwell, the court is weighing whether the federal government can legally provide insurance subsidies to people who have purchased their health care through one of the federally run exchanges in 34 states. Whatever the court decides could also theoretically extend to three other exchanges—in Nevada, New Mexico, and Oregon—that are state-based but federally supported. Altogether, roughly $1.7 billion in tax credits and the health insurance of more than six million people is at stake. It’s arguably the biggest existential challenge to Obama’s signature health care reform since the Supreme Court upheld the individual mandate in 2012.

The crux of the case is a perilous clause buried in the ACA’s hundreds of pages. According to the law’s exact wording, people become eligible for federal insurance subsidies if they’ve purchased care through “an Exchange established by the State.” Because of those last four words, the plaintiffs in King v. Burwell argue that federal subsidies can only be available on state-based exchanges, and not on the federally facilitated ones in most of the country. The Obama administration has countered that the purpose of the law is to make health care accessible, and that “established by the State” should be read with that in mind. Several of the people who helped pen the legislation have dismissed the clause as a drafting error.

 Check out the maps at Slate.
The Tea Party, Jules Cayron

The Tea Party, Jules Cayron

Other News, Links Only

#NotOneMore: Undocumented Transgender Woman Who Interrupted President At White House Pride Event Calls to End Deportation.

CNN: Obama shuts down White House heckler: ‘You’re in my house!’

Buzzfeed News: Bobby Jindal’s Plan To Stop Being A Punchline And Actually Win. [Good luck with that.]

Christian Science Monitor: Bobby Jindal was supposed to be the ‘next Reagan.’ What happened? (+video).

Slate: Bernie Sanders, Gun Nut. He supported the most reprehensible pro-gun legislation in recent memory.

NYT: Ex-Advisers Warn Obama that Iran Nuclear Deal “May Fall Short of Standards.”

AP via ABC News: Funeral Plans for South Carolina Church Shooting Victims.

Daily Mail: Harvard professor who covered up Ben Affleck’s slave roots could be dropped from PBS after he is slammed by broadcaster for ‘breaching standards.’

CNN: 2nd prison worker charged in connection with inmates’ escape.

TPM: Lindsey Graham: Charleston Shooter Showed ‘Mideast Hate’ (VIDEO). [WTF?!!]

PIX11.com: Chilling letters from ‘The Watcher’ force NJ family to flee $1.3M dream home.

ABC News: Small Ohio Town Is Focus of FBI Probe After Strange Deaths and Disappearances.

10WAVY.com: NYC: Whole Foods mislabels prepackaged items, overcharges.

WaPo: Whole Foods under investigation for overcharging in NYC.

What else is happening? Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread and enjoy your Thursday.


Tuesday Reads: The Republican Party’s Mess

 tea-party-confederate-flag-rally

Good Morning!!

I’m sure you’ll recognize the image at the top of this post. The photo was taken at a Tea Party rally in Washington, DC, a couple of years ago. I’ve included other similar photos in this post. Don’t tell me the people holding these flags don’t understand that it is a symbol of racial hatred.

Since Barack Obama was elected President of the United States, we have seen shocking overt racism on display by right wing Republicans, and so called “mainstream” Republican elected officials have done nothing to stop it. The simple truth is that the Tea Party is a racist hate group that was formed in reaction to the election of a black president.

As a consequence of Republican officials’ refusal to call the Tea Party what it is, we have seen extreme right wing candidates like Ted Cruz elected to high office and stupid and hateful people like Sarah Palin and Michelle Bachmann treated seriously by the media. It’s a national disgrace, and we should begin to hold Republicans responsible for it.

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Nikki Haley was elected governor of South Carolina in 2010 as a Tea Party candidate, although she has since fallen out of favor with the group. Yesterday Haley made a cowardly, mealy-mouthed public statement calling for removal of the Confederate flag from the state house grounds, and yet today she is being celebrated in the media for her “courage.” Here’s part of it:

For many people in our state the flag stands for traditions that are noble. Traditions of history, of heritage and of ancestry.

The hate-filled murderer who massacred our brothers and sisters in Charleston has a sick and twisted view of the flag. In no way does he reflect the people of our state who respect, and in many ways, revere it.

Those South Carolinians view the flag as a symbol of respect, integrity and duty. They also see it as a memorial. A way to honor ancestors who came to the service of their state during time of conflict. That is not hate, nor is it racism.

At the same time, for many others in South Carolina, the flag is a deeply offensive symbol of a brutally oppressive past. As a state, we can survive and indeed we can thrive as we have done whilst still being home to both of those viewpoints. We do not need to declare a winner and a loser here.

We respect freedom of expression. And that for those who wish to show their respect for the flag on their private property, no one will stand in your way.

But the statehouse is different. And the events of this past week call upon us to look at this in a different way….

One hundred and fifty years after the end of the Civil War, the time has come. There will be some in our state who see this as a sad moment. I respect that. But know this, for good and for bad, whether it is on the statehouse grounds or in a museum the flag will always be a part of the soil in South Carolina. But this is a moment in which we can say that that flag, while an integral part of our past, does not represent the future of our great state.

It is South Carolina’s historic moment, and this will be South Carolina’s decision. To those outside of our state, the flag may be nothing more than a symbol of the worst of America’s past. That is not what it is to many South Carolinians. The state house belongs to all of us. Their voices will be heard, and their role in this debate will be respected….

But we are not going to allow this symbol to divide us any longer. The fact that people are choosing to use it as a sign of hate is something that we cannot stand. The fact that it causes pain to so many is enough to move it from the capitol grounds.

Confederate-Flag-Flying-in-the-Sun

Why couldn’t Haley just admit that the flag on the her state house grounds is a symbol of resistance to integration and to legal recognition that African Americans should have equal rights; and that decades after the changes brought about by Civil Rights Movement they are still not treated equally by many, including police officers? By the way, maybe she should also consider opposing the efforts of Republicans in South Carolina to prevent African Americans from voting.

Last night I watch Rachel Maddow’s show for the first time in months, and I’m very glad I did. Maddow presented a detailed history of the Council of Conservative Citizens, the group whose website inspired Dylann Roof to murder nine African Americans at a prayer group meeting at the Emmanuel AME Church in Charleston, SC last week. The Council of Conservative Citizens grew directly out of the White Citizens Councils  that fought to maintain racial segregation in Southern cities in the 1950s and 1960s. From Wikipedia:

The Citizens’ Councils (also referred to as White Citizens’ Councils) were an associated network of white supremacist organizations in the United States, concentrated in the South. The first was formed on July 11, 1954 After 1956, it was known as the Citizens’ Councils of America. With about 60,000 members across the United States, mostly in the South, the groups were founded primarily to oppose racial integration of schools, but they also supported segregation of public facilities during the 1950s and 1960s. Members used severe intimidation tactics including economic boycotts, firing people from jobs, propaganda, and occasionally violence against civil-rights activists.

By the 1970s, following passage of federal civil rights legislation in the mid-1960s and enforcement of constitutional rights by the federal government, the influence of the Councils had waned considerably. The successor organization to the White Citizens’ Councils is the Council of Conservative Citizens, founded in 1985.

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Maddow pointed out that in 2010, Haley Barbour was quickly eliminated from the race for the GOP nomination when he publicly praised the White Citizen Council in his home city of Yazoo, Mississippi. Maddow also interviewed SC Rep. James Clyburn about the history of the Confederate flag that still flies on the SC state house grounds. He explained that that flag was a Virginia flag flown by Robert E. Lee and that it has nothing to do with South Carolina history. It was put up over the SC state house in 1962 as a direct response to the battle for civil rights for African Americans.

Why couldn’t Nikki Haley simply admit that in her statement? Frankly, the Republican Party has allowed itself to become the party of racism and hatred; and it’s time for decent Republicans to face up to that and and deal with it honestly.

Here’s what Melissa McEwan wrote about Haley’s statement:

She couldn’t even be bothered to say that the thing is a racist symbol. Which has nonetheless not stopped members of her party from celebrating her courage.

The thing is, it’s not really “brave” to take down a flag that never should have been flying in the first place.

I see what Haley is doing as approximately as “brave” as when I clean up cat vomit. You’re supposed to clean up gross messes in your home….

let’s not pretend that it’s a Great Leadership moment, when it took 150 years of fluttering insult, and nine deaths in the last week at the hands of one of the many white people to embrace that contemptible symbol of white supremacy, to pull it off the flagpole.

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I completely agree. As I wrote in a comment yesterday, the Confederate flag is a symbol of hate and fear that should be in the same category as the Nazi swastika and the “n” word. Why should people be allowed to fly it on their own property? Why should more intelligent and sensitive neighbors or even people driving by have to see it?

It’s way past time for Republicans to stop beating around the bush and clean up the disgusting mess in their party, and it’s time for all Americans to recognize that racism in any form is evil.

Here’s a more serious discussion of the meaning of the Confederate flag by Ta-Nehisi Coates at The Atlantic:

What This Cruel War Was Over. The meaning of the Confederate flag is best discerned in the words of those who bore it.

This afternoon, in announcing her support for removing the Confederate flag from the capitol grounds, South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley asserted that killer Dylann Roof had a “a sick and twisted view of the flag” which did not reflect “the  people in our state who respect and in many ways revere it.” If the governor meant that very few of the flag’s supporters believe in mass murder, she is surely right. But on the question of whose view of the Confederate Flag is more twisted, she is almost certainly wrong.

Roof’s belief that black life had no purpose beyond subjugation is “sick and twisted” in the exact same manner as the beliefs of those who created the Confederate flag were “sick and twisted.” The Confederate flag is directly tied to the Confederate cause, and the Confederate cause was white supremacy. This claim is not the result of revisionism. It does not require reading between the lines. It is the plain meaning of the words of those who bore the Confederate flag across history. These words must never be forgotten. Over the next few months the word “heritage” will be repeatedly invoked. It would be derelict to not examine the exact contents of that heritage.

This examination should begin in South Carolina, the site of our present and past catastrophe. South Carolina was the first state to secede, two months after the election of Abraham Lincoln. It was in South Carolina that the Civil War began, when the Confederacy fired on Fort Sumter. The state’s casus belli was neither vague nor hard to comprehend:

…A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction. This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

In citing slavery, South Carolina was less an outlier than a leader, setting the tone for other states, including Mississippi

Please go read the whole thing at the link.

Republicans are now arguing that Democrats are responsible for the confederate flag symbolism and for the South’s history of racism. It’s true that Dixiecrats fought to maintain segregation, but most of those old guys switched to the Republican Party back in the Civil Rights era. The Republicans own the mess now, and they need to get busy cleaning it up.

As always, this is an open thread. Please post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comments below.