Stormy Monday Afternoon Reads

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Good Afternoon!

We’re experiencing some really typical spring weather down here today! It’s going back and forth between torrential downpours and sun. Most of the surrounding areas and states are under tornado watches and warnings.  It’s like the weather is really trying to rock and roll us into spring!

So, I’m old enough to remember when we actually celebrated Lincoln’s Birthday and Washington’s Birthday separately.  Today is President’s Day which just never has the same feel to me but we do have MLK day to provide some balance and perspective to our national celebrations.  I’m still waiting for the day when Columbus day is used to celebrate our indigenous peoples.  I’d also like to see the anniversary of votes for women become a national holiday.  It’s about time we recognize that every one contributes something to our story.

This brings me to the idea of how modern leaders contribute to the national dialogue.  Lincoln was one of our greater leaders and orators.  Today, one of his phrases comes to my mind.  It is doing things with “charity for all, and malice towards none”.  This famous phrase comes from Lincoln’s second inaugural address in 1865.  It was a speech meant to bring the nation together after the Civil War.

“With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation’s wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations.”

If ever there was a need to bind the wounds of a divided nation, it would be now.  We’re facing an election and the appointment of a Supreme Court Justice.  The death of Antonin Scalia ends his 30 year war on modernity.  The current election is a continuing battle against it and most of his written and spoken words will not be remembered kindly by historians.  Some times I feel like we’re in this place so aptly described by Lincoln.

Both parties deprecated war, but one of them would ‘make’ war rather than let the nation survive, and the other would ‘accept’ war rather than let it perish, and the war came.

There’s been a lot of pearl clutching by folks on how some of us are truly celebratory about whatever it took to get Scalia off the court. I’m frankly of the opinion that not speaking ill of the dead is fine for one’s drunk uncle but when it comes to a person in power that truly did so much damage while hating on so many people that decorum is unnecessary.  Scalia spent his life being controversial and his death shows us that he continues to create havoc.  This is from First Draft and my friend Peter.

Now that I’ve praised Scalia, I’m glad that we’re burying him. There are a series of important cases that would have pushed the law even further to the right that now look like 4-4 draws. It will be interesting to see how the other Supremes handle these cases. They can put them on hold or allow the lower court rulings to stand. In either event, an eight person Supreme Court isn’t good for the country, which is one of many reasons to be glad the President plans to nominate a replacement some time soon.

It’s obvious that the GOP controlled Senate is going to either slow walk or put in the deep freeze any nomination put forward by President Obama. They’re hoping to win the 2016 election and put a Scalia clone on the court. Ordinarily, I’d give them a 50-50 shot at denying the Dems a third consecutive term but the wild rhetoric in the GOP primary race makes a loss more likely than not. Usually, the Republicans are slyer about calling their opponents liars, leaving the dirty work to surrogates. Slyness has gone by the wayside in the era of the Insult Comedian and Tailgunner Ted. They have the perfect stealth wingnut candidate in John Kasich but he’s not extreme enough for the current GOP; a scary thought given how far to Reagan’s right the Ohio Governor is.

So, the Republicans continue to let loose the dogs of war.

The true character of the man shone through during the time on the court when its “conservative” majority could push through decisions that weakened the Voting Rights Act in particular.  His need to continually denigrate GLBT , women, and African Americans came through in many of his minority opinions.  Let’s also not forget that no court had ever found a right for the individual to bear arms in the second amendment until Scalia discovered it there.  He was an originalist when convenient.  I’m not going to praise Scalia because it’s going to take a long time to bury the damage the man did.

Here are some of his worst and incendiary quotes. This one is happened when sodomy was decriminalized in Texas.

‘Today’s opinion is the product of a Court, which is the product of a law-profession culture, that has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda, by which I mean the agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct…. [T]he Court has taken sides in the culture war, departing from its role of assuring, as neutral observer, that the democratic rules of engagement are observed.’

There are many more notable slurs that were totally unnecessary to whatever the finding was of the court. Scalia never held back.51Oy0yweb8L

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s remarks suggesting African-American students perform better in “less-advanced schools” has stoked a firestorm of criticism.

Scalia has been rebuked by the White House and compared to Donald Trump by Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.), who called the remarks racist.

The conservative justice made the comment Wednesday during oral arguments in a case challenging the University of Texas’s admissions policy.

Scalia questioned whether considering a prospective student’s race in the admission process actually helped blacks, going on to question whether many might be better off at less-selective universities.

Scalia highlighted a friend-of-the-court brief, making it clear he did not necessarily agree with the arguments in the brief.

“There are those who contend that it does not benefit African­-Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less­-advanced school, a slower-­track school where they do well,” he said.

“One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas.”

Those comments were far from the first controversial remarks by Scalia.

51OUiEZrKMLOne of the best things I’ve read is actually a KOS diary by a lawyer that works with the Death Penalty.  Please read this link.  It’s a wonderful essay.

I differed most with Scalia on the death penalty and the treatment of condemned people. Today, I’ve watched as fellow criminal defenders have posted pictures of the justice, and even as some lamented the harsh treatment of the justice. One broke down her opinions as a mere “disagreement” on ideological grounds. She acted as if her and Scalia agreed on the importance of educating our children, but disagreed on the proper way to do it. That’s a political disagreement. With Scalia, it’s much deeper than that.

I’m friends with Anthony Graves, the 12th man ever exonerated off of death row in Texas, the 138th exonerated nationally. He’s a black man who was sentenced to death for a mass child murder that he knew nothing about, only after prosecutors hid evidence, coerced witnesses, and manipulated the jury in the media. He was exonerated only after 18 years in custody. He suffered immensely, enduring solitary confinement, missing out on birthdays, Christmas mornings, and Easter egg hunts with his children. That he’s now out and using his voice to change the world does not make up for the wrong that was done to him. My friend petitioned the Supreme Court to take up his case after his appeals were denied in state court and the lower levels of the federal system. As in most death penalty cases, the Supreme Court declined to take up my friend’s case. Antonin Scalia left my friend to die. He didn’t care.

And why would he? Scalia once famously declared:

This Court has never held that the Constitution forbids the execution of a convicted defendant who has had a full and fair trial but is later able to convince a habeas court that he is “actually” innocent.  Quite to the contrary, we have repeatedly left that question unresolved, while expressing considerable doubt that any claim based on alleged “actual innocence” is constitutionally cognizable.

For the uninitiated, the justice was saying, in effect, that the constitution is no barrier to executing a man who is actually innocent so long as that death sentence has been obtained in a nominally “legal” manner. He had other death penalty opinions that stood out, too. In 1994, Justice Harry Blackmun wrote an opinion questioning the constitutionality of the death penalty. Scalia responded by picking out what he perceived to be the worst of worst in death penalty cases. He picked Henry Lee McCollum, writing that McCollum’s case was a great example of why the death penalty was still necessary. He wrote:

“For example, the case of an 11-year-old girl raped by four men and then killed by stuffing her panties down her throat. How enviable a quiet death by lethal injection compared with that!”
McCollum walked off of death row in 2015 after DNA evidence proved his innocence. So much for Scalia’s model case. You see, Scalia was prone to pronouncements that amounted to little more than demagoguery. His statements contributed to decades of operation of the machinery of death, which took lives in brutal state-sponsored murder.

Of course he didn’t stop at the death penalty. He dissented in Lawrence v. Texas, standing short in his belief that states should be allowed to jail gay people for having sex. His most recent headlines came when he suggested in an affirmative action case that black men might be better off at “less advanced schools,” where they might do better.

To cloak these moral distinctions as “political differences” is disingenuous. It’s the sort of stuff that will allow an Antonin Scalia monument to be erected somewhere in honor of his “passion” or “service” in the decades to come, as the younger public is duped into believing that his opinions were just the product of a different kind of legal reasoning. Since when did adjectives like “passionate” become a good thing without context? A man who is passionate about causing pain isn’t one to celebrate. In fact, it would have been better if he’d pursued his agenda with far less passion. The “service” of a man who dedicated his career to marginalizing the already marginalized is not a service we should honor. That man would have been better off choosing a high-dollar law firm, where he could have marshaled his considerable legal skills in favor of money before running himself into the ground.

Death does not wash away the stench of planned cruelty. Scalia holds more moral responsibility for his decisions than the average villain. His weren’t in-the-moment mistakes made under pressure. They were calculated judgments made after hours, days, and weeks of reflection. They were opinions written with the greatest of care.

To reduce these opinions, and these differences to the unmoving label of “political” does a disservice to the pain his decisions brought to actual human beings. Like the little man with the teenage beard, Scalia’s actions weren’t without a victim. When he wrote of the death penalty, he directly weighed on my friend Anthony and plenty of others, too. When he ruled in Lawrence, he laid the groundwork for much of the hate that’s made assaults on gay men and women a thing that we must tackle in 2016. If you call these political differences, as if they’re just different methods of solving a problem, you demonstrate a stunning lack of understanding that when Antonin Scalia spoke and wrote, his words carried unique power that often led to death, added to prejudice, and threatened to set America back a hundred years.

That last statement deserves a mic drop.   It’s a total disservice to the people he killed and did great damage to with absolute carefully crafted glee to not be relieved that his pen is now silenced. c4921d726f804df4f3f271d88902de69

I have to admit that I used to have some degree of admiration for Senator Bernie Sanders. I even wrote about his time spent in symbolic filibuster in 2010.  You may remember that we lived blogged it too.  Sanders was joined by Senator Sherrod Brown and my then Senator Mary Landrieu.  It was about a piece of compromise legislature that essentially extended some of the Bush Tax Cuts.

I’ve always seen him as a gadfly who doesn’t accomplishment much but does these kinds of things so that he provides an important voice that you don’t much hear coming from many places.  We really don’t have much of a really leftist movement here in the US .  The more his campaign does just plain wicked nasty stuff like stealing data from Senator Clinton’s campaign when given the opportunity, the more I really have started taking an active dislike for the man.  I think that his absolute tin ear on the issues of intersectionality of income and wealth inequality and racism and sexism horrifies me more than anything.  He appears to live in the 1970s and doesn’t look very interested in updating since then.

So, here’s my suggested reading on Bernie’s treatment of Hillary today by Joe Conason:  His Respected Friend: But What Does Bernie Really Think Of Hillary? Joe Conason is my age.  He’s a journalist, author and liberal political commentator.  This article was written for National Memo but he also a column for Salon and a number of books. You may have heard about Big Lies  where he outlines myths told about liberals by conservatives.  He points out the hypocrisy in Sanders assumption that Clinton is sullied by taking any Wall Street money while refusing to consider what that infers about his contributions from big Unions including the one that produced the movie that led to Citizens’ United.  (Another abomination for which we can thank the late Justice Scalia.)

Still, to Sanders the mere act of accepting money from the financial industry, or any corporate interest, is a marker of compromise or worse. Why do the banks spend millions on lobbying, he thunders, unless they get something in return? The answer is that they want access – and often donate even to politicians who don’t fulfill all their wishes. They invariably donate to anyone they believe will win.

Meanwhile, Sanders doesn’t apply his stringent integrity test to contributions from unions, a category of donation he acceptsdespite labor’s pursuit of special-interest legislation– and despite the troubling fact that the leadership of the labor movement filed an amicus brief on behalf of Citizens United, which expanded their freedom to offer big donations to politicians. (That case was rooted, not incidentally, in yet another effort by right-wing billionaires to destroy Hillary Clinton.)

By his own standard, Sanders shouldn’t take union money because the AFL-CIO opposed campaign finance reform, which he vociferously supports. Or maybe we shouldn’t believe that he truly supports campaign finance reform, because he has accepted so much money from unions.

Such assumptions would be wholly ridiculous, of course – just as ridiculous as assuming that Clinton’s acceptance of money from banking or labor interests, both of which have made substantial donations to her campaign, proves her advocacy of reform is insincere.

Political history is more complex than campaign melodrama. If critics arraign Clinton for the decision by her husband’s administration to kill regulation of derivatives trading, it is worth recalling that she was responsible for the appointment of the only official who opposed that fateful mistake. She had nothing to do with deregulation — but as First Lady, she strongly advocated on behalf of Brooksley Born, a close friend of hers named by her husband to chair the Commodity Futures Trading Commission. One of the few heroes of the financial crisis, Born presciently warned about the dangers of unregulated derivatives.

lincoln-02You may recall that Sanders voted to deregulate derivatives.  That action was most likely a lot more responsible for the Financial Crisis than anything else and I’ve repeatedly written about how we need to standardize and regulate them strictly.

Yet a year later, Sanders voted in favor of legislation to exempt whole swaths of the banking sector from regulation. The discrepancy appears to be due in part to sloppy voting by Sanders, and in part to Gramm’s legislative guile.

“No one has a stronger record on reforming Wall Street and breaking up too-big-to-fail banks than Senator Sanders,” said Warren Gunnels, senior policy adviser to Sanders. “He strongly spoke against repealing Glass-Steagall because he was afraid that it could cause a financial crisis like the one we saw in 2008. And he’s going to do everything possible to break up the too-big-to-fail banks.”

When Sanders voted for the House version of the CFMA in October 2000, the bill was not yet a total debacle for Wall Street accountability advocates. The legislativetext Sanders supported was clearly designed to curtail regulatory oversight. The GOP-authored bill was crafted as a response to a proposal from ex-Commodity Futures Trading Commission Chair Brooksley Born to ramp up oversight of derivatives. But the version Sanders initially voted for was more benign than the final, Gramm-authored version, and it didn’t draw any of the protests that the 1999 repeal of Glass-Steagall did. In October 2000, the bill passed the House by a vote of 377 to 4 (51 members didn’t vote), and then sat on the shelf for weeks.

But in December, Gramm — after coordinating with top Clinton administration officials — added much harder-edged deregulatory language to the bill, then attached the entire package to a must-pass 11,000-page bill funding the entire federal government. After Gramm’s workshopping, the legislation included new language saying the federal government “shall not exercise regulatory authority with respect to, a covered swap agreement offered, entered into, or provided by a bank.” That ended all government oversight of derivatives purchased or traded by banks. He also created the so-called “Enron Loophole,” which barred federal oversight of energy trading on electronic platforms.

So, Secretary Clinton is responsible for what her husband’s administration did while Sanders isn’t responsible for an actual vote.

I guess if I can say anything about today’s post is that I’m tired of folks acting like the horrible shit of some people doesn’t stink when it does.  Death doesn’t wipe out the fact that Antonin Scalia was a horrible bigot.  He may have gotten a few things right, but it doesn’t excuse how he used his position of power to absolutely denigrate some of the weakest among us.  I’ve never been one to mince words. We all do sincerely stupid things and we should own up to them.  Clinton has said repeatedly she’d switch that vote for the Iraq Resolution knowing what she knows now.

I just want every one held to consistent standards.  Enthrallment and death shouldn’t cause us to lose complete sight of things bigger in life than any one person.  Character should will out.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?

 

 

 


Live Blog: Six Men Standing (and one dead Justice) for Tonight’s Republican Debate

128175_600Well, tonight’s Republican Debate will surely be a lively matter. CBS gets the honorsat 9 p.m. EST.First, there are only six candidates left and we’ve determined they pretty much hate each other.  Also, we’ve got the issue of one dead Supreme Court Justice.  Antonin Scalia–perhaps one of the most evil men I’ve had the displeasure of reading–died in his death in a Texas Hotel while joyously killing small animals.  According to our Constitution–which is the thing that Fat Tony did his damnedest to rewrite–President Obama will appoint a new justice with the advice and consent of the Senate. Currently, the Republicans are no longer a party that wishes to govern under our Constitution and SCOTUS with Scalia has become their enabler.  They’re a party of insurrection and some of the worst of them will be up on that podium tonight trying to impress the voters in the home state for the nation’s historical insurrectionists.  So, the rhetoric will be amped up as they compete to eulogize the dead man in black.

The six remaining Republican presidential candidates will be on stage in Greenville, South Carolina Saturday night for the CBS News Republican debate.

The stakes are high for the remaining candidates, as they head into a period of the primary season that relies less on retail politicking. A strong debate performance could be crucial as the candidates try to reach the voters who are next in line to cast their ballots — in South Carolina and Nevada.

South Carolina will determine the survival of Jeb Bush among some of the others.  It seems clearly to be in its historical insurrectionist corner with the xenophobic narcissist Donald Trump.  However, there are 1455347302412.cachedother narcissists on the stage.  The Punditry is betting on a Trump-Cruz slugfest.

After splitting the first two votes, the New York billionaire has relentlessly hammered away at Cruz on everything from his campaign’s tactics to what Trump sees as the Texan’s character flaws. And on Friday, Trump warned that he has standing to sue Cruz over questions of his birth and constitutional eligibility to serve in the White House.

“If @tedcruz doesn’t clean up his act, stop cheating, & doing negative ads, I have standing to sue him for not being a natural born citizen,” Trump tweeted of his rival, born in Canada to an American mother.

Asked about the threat, Cruz did not back down. “There’s more than a little irony in Donald accusing anybody of being nasty given the amazing torrent of insults and obscenities that come out of his mouth on any given day,” he told reporters. “Suddenly every day he comes out with a new attack.”

Trump is expected to carry these attacks onto the stage on Saturday at the final candidate forum before South Carolina votes. It’s a fight Cruz’s allies say they are ready for, as they prepare to assault Trump’s Republican credentials with an eye on the conservative, religious and security-focused voters throughout the south.

The dynamics on Fat Tony’s demise will likely mean a group orgy of ass kissing.  The Republicans have already promised to to block any potential nomination by the President. McConnell indicated that the next 128340_600president should pick the new SCOTUS.  This seems like a dead end argument to me.  The Election math is clearly behind the D’s this time and any obstruction would likely create an avalanche of Obama Supporters to the Polls.  I’m not the only one who thinks this.

Just 18 days ago, former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was asked about nominating President Barack Obama to the Supreme Court and she said, “That’s a great idea!”

Politico reported:

Asked by an Iowa voter at a town hall event here what she thought of appointing President Barack Obama to the Supreme Court if she were to become president, Democratic front-runner Hillary Clinton seemed delighted by the prospect. “I’ll tell you, that’s a great idea!” a beaming Clinton told the crowd of 450 packed into a theater, noting that she’d never heard the question before.

Well. It’s an even greater idea if it is something that would happen immediately after the election, effectively motivating the same turnout as surprised the beltway for Obama in 2012.

They may posture for awhile, but they will also have to avoid going on any recess to avoid a recess appointment that would likely sail through a Dem-controlled Senate.  Again, the math indicates this a statistically likely outcome.  Also, if the Republicans manage to nominate one of their more obnoxious candidates, it will bring record numbers of minorities and women to the polls in states that aren’t safely red.

The 2016 elections are the Democrats’ best shot at wresting back control of the Senate for the rest of the decade, given that the 2018 off-year elections will force Democrats to defend 25 of the 33 seats on the ballot (including the two seats held by independents who caucus with them).

In a recent interview, Republican National Committee Chairman Reince Priebus acknowledged the steep challenges Republicans face in 2016. When asked how Republicans will overcome the Democrats’ huge Electoral College advantage next year, Priebus summed up his party’s chances for the presidency this way: “[W]e have to be about perfect … and the other side can be about good. And so the fact is that we do have the higher burden.” In a year like 2016, their burden will extend beyond the presidential to the Senate as well.

Scalia's ExcuseSo, go ahead Rethugs, pick a fight!   Sounds really good to me. As for the Scalia death, I couldn’t be more celebratory.  It’s difficult for me to read anything the man wrote without seeing the face of evil. He was an “originalist” only when it suited his politics and theology.  He didn’t die under any kind of tragic circumstances other than he’s rotting in hell right now by his own religious beliefs since no priest heard his last confession.  Ironic that.  This does impact the election and we can only hope and pray that it removes that 5th vote that seeks to maintain white male, christian hegemony in all aspects of life.  Next month, a huge abortion case is on the docket.

This would be the case of Whole Woman’s Health v. Hellerstedt.

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Docket No. Op. Below Argument Opinion Vote Author Term
15-274 5th Cir. Mar 2, 2016 TBD TBD TBD OT 2015

Issue: (1) Whether, when applying the “undue burden” standard of Planned Parenthood v. Casey, a court errs by refusing to consider whether and to what extent laws that restrict abortion for the stated purpose of promoting health actually serve the government’s interest in promoting health; and (2) whether the Fifth Circuit erred in concluding that this standard permits Texas to enforce, in nearly all circumstances, laws that would cause a significant reduction in the availability of abortion services while failing to advance the State’s interest in promoting health – or any other valid interest.

Again, I believe that the Republicans should hope Obama appoints a moderate and just go with it because a Clinton appointment with a Dem majority senate would rock their world.  Well, see if POTUS takes the in your face or practical route.

 Here are some reactions from SCOTUS blog.

The most immediate implications involve the presidential election.  President Obama of course has the power to nominate a successor, with the consent of the Senate.  In the ordinary course, because the opening was unexpected, the nomination would not be forthcoming for a couple of months and then the confirmation process would take several more months.

Theoretically, that process could conclude before the November election.  But realistically, it cannot absent essentially a consensus nominee – and probably not even then, given the stakes.  A Democratic president would replace a leading conservative vote on a closely divided Court.  The Republican Senate will not permit such a consequential nomination – which would radically shift the balance of ideological power on the Court – to go forward.

There is the related question of the Court becoming an issue in the election.  Before today, it was unlikely that many voters would choose a presidential candidate for this reason, given the importance of issues like the economy, terrorism, and immigration.  But the fact that there is an immediate vacancy – and a vacancy that could tip the Court’s ideological balance – makes the future of the Court much more concrete.

In the political primaries, the Court is not an issue that divides candidates of the same party.  Both Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders, for example, are clear that they would want to appoint a more liberal successor that would oppose decisions like the Citizens United campaign finance ruling.  The leading Republican candidates would all make clear their support for a nominee who would oppose the Court’s rulings upholding the Affordable Care Act.

In the general election, the Court is also an issue that tends to drive the base of each party, so it may be most relevant to turn-out rather than to changing voters’ minds.  In general terms, conservatives have been more focused than progressives on the Court as a presidential legacy.  But both parties have groups of voters – on the left, supporting abortion rights, and on the right, supporting gun rights and opposing abortion, for example – for which the Court has outsized importance.

Because there remains almost a year in his Term, President Obama is likely to feel an obligation to put forward a nominee rather than completely accede to Republican objections to confirming anyone.  That may also be good presidential politics, as Democrats seek to paint Republicans as obstructionists.  Three potential nominees are easy to identify from among current appellate judges:  from the D.C. Circuit, Patricia Millett and Sri Srinivasan; and from the Ninth Circuit, Paul Watford.

But tonight we live blog the sound and the fury from some of the most extremist candidates the Republicans can offer.  Then, there’s Jeb Bush who is just more of the same old same old.2008-05-05-scalia-old-news

Let’s dig in!

 


Thursday Reads: I Don’t Belong in This World

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Good Morning!!

I hardly know where to begin today. Following the news these days is like going through the looking glass into an alternate reality.

So often in my life I’ve felt that I don’t belong in this world. I have that feeling today. There are so many people and events that I just don’t understand.

I’ll begin with yesterday’s Supreme Court arguments in an important case about affirmative action. Yesterday in a comment, Dakinikat posted this article from Mother Jones: Justice Scalia Suggests Blacks Belong at “Slower” Colleges.

Scalia’s comments came during arguments in Fisher v. University of Texas, a case over whether the university’s use of race in a sliver of its admissions decisions is constitutional. The University of Texas-Austin is being challenged over its use of race in admissions decisions for about 25 percent of its freshman class. About 75 percent of the students at UT-Austin are admitted through what’s known as the Top Ten Percent program, in which any student graduating within the top 10 percent of his or her class is guaranteed admission, regardless of race. The other 25 percent are admitted via a “holistic” process that takes race, and other factors, into account. It’s the “holistic” program that Abigail Fisher—who was denied admission for the university in 2008—is challenging.

The University of Texas has determined that if it excluded race as a factor, that remaining 25 percent would be almost entirely white. During the oral arguments, former US Solicitor General Greg Garre, who is representing the university, was explaining this to the justices. At that point, Scalia jumped in, questioning whether increasing the number of African Americans at the flagship university in Austin was in the black students’ best interests. He said:

There are those who contend that it does not benefit African Americans to get them into the University of Texas, where they do not do well, as opposed to having them go to a less-advanced school, a slower-track school where they do well. One of the briefs pointed out that most of the black scientists in this country don’t come from schools like the University of Texas. They come from lesser schools where they do not feel that they’re being pushed ahead in classes that are too fast for them.

He went on to say, “I’m just not impressed by the fact the University of Texas may have fewer [blacks]. Maybe it ought to have fewer. I don’t think it stands to reason that it’s a good thing for the University of Texas to admit as many blacks as possible.”

Boys-reading-in-the-snow-007

This morning some writers are claiming that Scalia’s comments weren’t racist because he was referring to studies by respected researchers and not expressing his personal opinion.

Alex Griswold at Mediaite: Media Jumps The Gun, Attacks Scalia For Perfectly Reasonable Question.

First of all, it’s worth noting that oral arguments are not an avenue for justices to share their views on the case at hand; it’s an opportunity to suss out any holes in the arguments of both parties. To that end, justices often advance arguments and theories they do not necessarily hold….

As it happens, Scalia was pretty accuratelyciting a brief filed by two members of the U.S. Civil Rights Commission. They point to a study showing that black scientists are much more likely to have graduated from historically black colleges, even though those schools are less academically stringent than elite universities:

With only twenty percent of total black enrollment, these schools were producing forty percent of the black students graduating with natural science degrees, according to the National Science Foundation. Those same students were frequently going on to earn Ph.D.s from non-HBCUs. The National Science Foundation reported, for example, that thirty-six percent of the blacks who earned an engineering doctorate between 1986 and 1988 received their undergraduate degree from an HBCU.

Why have HBCUs been so successful? [The authors] believed that unlike at mainstream institutions, African-American students at HBCUs were not grouped at the bottom of the class. Roughly half were in the top half of the class.

Scalia isn’t citing some crackpot theory that only these two civil rights officers are worried about, by the way. The“mismatch effect” is a pretty common critique of affirmative action in academia that’s based on pretty hard data. The most prominent book on the subject wasn’t written by cranks, it was written by UCLA and Stanford law professors.

Reading by the fireplace. Photo by Caroline Jensen.

Reading by the fireplace. Photo by Caroline Jensen.

OK, but Scalia did express a personal opinion at the end of his remarks. Furthermore, these studies apparently do not address the issue of whether diversity in the student bodies and faculty at “elite” universities is a good thing for the college experience and for society as a whole.

James Warren also defended Scalia’s remarks at Poynter: Media muddle: Was Scalia being racist?

And then there’s the question of why so many Americans love their guns more than life itself–or at least the lives of their children and fellow citizens. Many of these people are the same ones who are constantly claiming they are “pro-life.” Someone please explain to me why this makes any sense.

The Christian Science Monitor: Why are gun rights activists planning a fake mass shooting?

Two gun rights groups in Texas have planned a mock mass shooting event on Saturday in order to raise awareness about their view of the relationship between gun rights and mass shooting casualties. They believe that by increasing open carry rights, mass shootings can be reduced or even prevented.

Gun control advocates have been vocal about their desire to enact new restrictions on ownership of certain kinds of guns in the wake of two mass shootings in Colorado Springs, Colo., and San Bernardino, Calif., in less than a week. The groups hosting the mock shooting event say that it will demonstrate how the intervention of responsible gun owners can reduce the number of lives lost in a mass shooting scenario.

The two groups, Come and Take it Texas and Dontcomply.com, had originally planned to hold their event at the University of Texas but later moved the event off campus after meeting with university officials.

Sorry, but I have no clue how this exercise could relate to an actual mass shooting event.

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And what about the phenomenon of Donald Trump? Why does he think it’s useful to fan the flames of racism, nativism, and Islamophobia and in the process increasing the visibility of hate groups and encouraging violent attacks on minority groups in the U.S.?

Politico: White supremacist groups see Trump bump.

The Ku Klux Klan is using Donald Trump as a talking point in its outreach efforts. Stormfront, the most prominent American white supremacist website, is upgrading its servers to najlepszy hosting. And former Louisiana Rep. David Duke reports that the businessman has given more Americans cover to speak out loud about white nationalism than at any time since his own political campaigns in the 1990s.

As hate group monitors at the Southern Poverty Law Center and the Anti-Defamation League warn that Trump’s rhetoric is conducive to anti-Muslim violence, white nationalist leaders are capitalizing on his candidacy to invigorate and expand their movement.

“Demoralization has been the biggest enemy and Trump is changing all that,” said Stormfront founder Don Black, who reports additional listeners and call volume to his phone-in radio show, in addition to the site’s traffic bump. Black predicts that the white nationalist forces set in motion by Trump will be a legacy that outlives the businessman’s political career. “He’s certainly creating a movement that will continue independently of him even if he does fold at some point.”

Reading by the fire, Edward Lamson Henry.

Reading by the fire, Edward Lamson Henry.

Are Trump’s statements actually likely to energize hateful individuals to resort to violence?

According to experts at the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center who monitor hate groups and anti-Muslim sentiment, Trump’s call on Monday to halt the entrance of Muslims to the United States is driving online chatter among white supremacists and is likely to inspire violence against Muslims.

“When well-known public figures make these kind of statements in the public square, they are taken as a permission-giving by criminal elements who go out and act on their words.” said Mark Potok of the SPLC. “Is it energizing the groups? Yeah. They’re thrilled.”

Marilyn Mayo, co-director of the ADL’s Center on Extremism, said Trump’s proposal this week to halt the entrance of Muslims into the United States is only the latest statement to inject vigor into the racist fringe of American politics. “Since the beginning of Donald Trump’s candidacy, we’ve definitely seen that a segment of the white supremacist movement, from racist intellectuals to neo-Nazis have been energized,” she said.

Check out this piece by Steve Benen: Trump spokesperson: ‘So what? They’re Muslim.’

Katrina Pierson, a spokesperson for Donald Trump’s campaign, argued this morning on CNN that her boss’ proposed Muslim ban has merit because “never in United States history have we allowed insurgents to come across these borders.” Reminded that Trump’s policy would block lots of peaceful people who have nothing to do with violence, the spokesperson was unmoved.
“So what?” Pierson replied. “They’re Muslim.”
reading-by-the-fire
How are voters responding to Trump’s hate speech against Muslims?
As for public opinion, it’s too soon to gauge polling reactions, but we already have a sense of Republican voters’ general attitudes on the subject.
Public Policy Polling published results yesterday on GOP voters’ attitudes in North Carolina. Among the findings:
* 48% of North Carolina Republicans endorse the idea of a national database of Muslims.
* 42% of North Carolina Republicans believed thousands of Middle Easterners cheered in New Jersey on 9/11.
* 35% of North Carolina Republicans support shutting down American mosques.
* 32% of North Carolina Republicans believe practicing Islam in the United States should be illegal.

WinterTan

We are certainly seeing plenty of attacks on Muslims around the country. On Tuesday I posted a story about someone leaving a pig’s head at a mosque in Philadelphia. Today, I saw this on Raw Story: Texans begin nightly smashing windows of Muslim family only six weeks after they move in.

A Muslim family in Plano, Texas fear that they may have been targeted with a hate crime after rocks smashed through their windows at least two times in the last week.

The family told KTVT that they moved to Plano six weeks ago, and that they believe that the people throwing the rocks may be sending a message about their religion.

Windows in the home have been smashed twice in the last two days. At their request, the names of the family members were not being released.

Council on American Islamic Relations (CAIR) spokesperson Alia Salem explained to KTVT that there had been a spike in anti-Muslim hate crimes in recent weeks.

“Right now, we’re getting multiple hate crime reports every single day,” Salem said.

Why? This is not the America I want to live in. I’d rather escape into a book, but somehow I feel compelled to stay aware of what is happening.

What stories are you following today?


Friday Reads

4681461189_7fc9f4772e_oGood Morning!

I’ve been sick the last few days and also busy trying to get the car fixed so I can safely drive it around town again.  I’m going to have to make this shorter than usual because for the last couple nights I’ve spent a lot of time in the bathroom and then basically collapsing on the bed.  So, here are a few in depth articles you may want to read.

The Atlantic profiles what it says are the last days of the powerful and dread pirate Antonin Scalia.

Since Scalia’s appointment in 1986, he has succeeded brilliantly in seizing the spotlight, establishing himself as a conservative hero. He told one questioner to “get over it!” when asked about Bush v. Gore, and responded to pro-choice protesters with an indecent Sicilian hand gesture. Confronted politely by a gay student, he snapped, “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder?”

But Scalia may have outdone himself in his 2013 dissent in the case of United States v. Windsor. For years, he has been unrelenting in opposing constitutional protections for gays and lesbians. In his 2003 dissent in Lawrence v. Texas, Scalia warned darkly that the Court majority “has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda” even though “many Americans do not want persons who openly engage in homosexual conduct as partners in their business, as scoutmasters for their children, as teachers in their children’s schools, or as boarders in their homes.”

In Windsor, the Court’s majority struck down Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act, which forbade federal recognition of same-sex marriages that were legal under state law. In an opinion by Justice Anthony Kennedy, the majority concluded that its “purpose and effect” were “to disparage and to injure those whom the State, by its marriage laws, sought to protect in personhood and dignity.”

The opinion was the triumph of the “homosexual agenda” Scalia had denounced.

Scalia has been one of the worst justices ever.  He’s been responsible for some authentic judicial overreach to push his theocratic agenda. The only thing that will 18316asave us from the likes of him and more is it seems we’ll be getting Democratic Presidents for awhile.  I doubt he’ll outlast another President Clinton.

An interesting article at The New Republic suggests that Officer Darren Wilson will not be convicted since laws are written that basically give cops a license to kill.

In any clash of witness testimony, police officers begin at huge advantage. Although the courts insist that juries give policemen no extra credence because of their badges as an “essential demand of fairness,” that’s not how jurors actually think or behave. Large percentages of potential jurors readily admit to giving police testimony extra weight, and many more likely act on this implicit bias. And in this case, the favoring of police testimony is compounded by another more pernicious bias: racial prejudice. Extensiveresearch shows that Americans are far more likely to believe that African Americansand especially young black menhave committed crimes and display violent behavior. It therefore won’t take very much to convince a jury that Officer Wilson was acting out of self-defense.

But these cultural biases are only part of the story of why a conviction will be near-impossible. The central reason is a recent trend in many states’ criminal laws. Throughout history, claims of self-defense and compelling police activity have served as justifications for the use of deadly force. Most people intuitively understand that self-preservation is a basic right and that police must sometimes use violence to protect society and apprehend criminals. But generally, we expect situations of justified violence and legal killing to be the rare exception, and most people would probably imagine that policemen and citizens raising claims of justifiable homicide must meet a substantive burden of proof. But today, in states like Missouri, these justifications barely require any evidence at all.

imagesMother Jones has a fairly substantive list of what happens to officers who shoot black men.

It remains to be seen whether Wilson will face criminal charges, but a limited review of similar killings by police suggests that the officers more often than not walk away without an indictment, and are very rarely convicted. Delores Jones-Brown, a law professor and director of the Center on Race, Crime, and Justice at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, looked at 21 publicized cases from 1994 through 2009 in which a police officer killed an unarmed black person. Of those, only seven cases resulted in an indictment—for criminally negligent homicide, obstruction of justice, conspiracy, or violation of civil rights—and only three officers were found guilty.

Let’s take a closer look at five specific cases in which an unarmed black man was killed by officers while allegedly fleeing or resisting in some fashion.

I think you’ll remember most of these cases and the outcomes are disheartening.

What companies are getting rich providing little towns and cities with weapons of war that are usually confined to military use?  Here’s a quick list at Alternet.

The companies getting mileage out of the unrest in Ferguson are vast. The LRAD Corporation manufactures the long-range acoustic devices that have emitted piercing noises at protesters in Missouri. These sound devices can cause headaches and other types of pain. The police in Ferguson are also using the Bearcat armored truck manufactured by Lenco. That vehicle, costing $360,000, was paid for with Department of Homeland Security grant money, according to the New York Times. Since 2003, over $9 million in grants from Homeland Security have flowed to police in St. Louis, according to the Times. Overall, since the September 11 terror attacks, $34 billion in such grants have been given to law enforcement agencies across the country, showing it is the federal government fueling police militarization.

The Ferguson police department has received two armored Humvees, a generator and a trailer from the U.S. military, according to the Associated Press. Police departments around the nation have received the military’s surplus equipment, which has brought weapons used in Afghanistan and Iraq to local towns and cities. Congress first passed a law authorizing the funneling of surplus military equipment to domestic law enforcement in 1990. It’s now known as the 1033 program, referring to the section of the program in the Pentagon budget.

The Justice Department has also gotten in on the action. Justice Department grants have paid for tear gas and rubber bullets, though it’s not clear if police in Ferguson used those grants to buy their own tear gas.

Whoever paid for it, the companies that make tear-gas are sure to benefit from the Ferguson demonstrations. Two corporations’ tear-gas products have been fired on demonstrators in recent days: Combined Tactical Systems (CTS) and Defense Technology. CTS, headquartered in Pennsylvania, is well-known for being a leading supplier of tear gas around the world, including to the governments of Israel, Egypt and Bahrain, which buy the weapons with the generous amounts of U.S. military aid given to them. Defense Technology, also based in Pennsylvania, has likewise profited from tear gas sold to Israel, Egypt and Bahrain, in addition to Yemen, Turkey and Tunisia.

I’ve seen some pretty outrageous examples of white privilege recently on Facebook and Twitter.  I’m amazed by the number of people that really don’t realize wbasket1920that most black men are not unemployed by choice and that most black people don’t live on the government dole.  Why do these damned tropes still exist?  What can white people who abhor racism do about it?  Here’s a bit from Truthout on Abolitionist Echoes.

In any unequal society, the dominant group receives intense ideological targeting. Thus, as a dominant group member, an urgent goal must be to resist the intoxicating ideologies – and material perks – that are so blinding, and to face the discomfort of being caught up in structural inequality. We have to see and own our privileged positions. Since these positions are defined structurally, we cannot simply wish them away because we don’t agree with them or we don’t want to be involved, or decide that we are not racist. Just as black people cannot wish away racism because they don’t like it, neither can white people. One of the lessons of structural inequality that is often crystal clear to oppressed groups is that this structural position has nothing to do with whether you are personally invested in them or identify with them. A black man cannot simply tell the police officer standing over him with a billy club, “I don’t see color” or “I don’t participate in racism.” Many individual white people, myself included, abhor racism and do not want to participate in reinforcing the oppression of others. And yet, like it or not, our position in the matrix of domination is such that we benefit from the system, at the expense of others, regardless of how nice we are or how much critical race theory we read.

We have to see and own our privileged positions.

In addition to facing and understanding our privileged positions as white people in a white supremacist society, we must also make sure that this awareness of our structural privilege position is translated into action and activism. Otherwise this process can turn into a paralyzing exercise in white guilt that helps no one. Worse still, it ironically turns racism into a problem of how white people feel, leaving white people’s needs and issues as the central focus of dealing with racism. The goal is not to see and then bemoan racism, but to actively fight against it. We have to face the bitter truths of our position and then ask ourselves, given where we stand in the matrix, how we can leverage that position to work to dismantle the system of structural inequality that we simultaneously occupy and abhor. Thus, how to fight and which actions to take must become the focus of white antiracism. Given that these structural inequalities are both longstanding and deep, the actions required to dismantle them will also need to be longstanding and far-reaching. There are multiple ways to take action, but what is essential is to be in service of dismantling the structural systems of inequality, including the unequal distribution of economic and political power and the structures of control from the legal to the ideological that are wielded to enforce them.

The old insult of “throwing like a girl” may have died this year.  Here’s New York Magazine with all 6 of Mo’ne Davis’s strikeouts from Wednesday night.Bennett-sisters-vintage-boxing-womens-sports-management-degrees-online

Mo’ne Davis, the 13-year-old pitcher from Philadephia’s Taney Youth Baseball Association, burst onto the national scene by throwing a shutout in the Mid-Atlantic regional final, then became a full-on star by becoming the first girl to throw a shutout in the Little League World Series tournament. How big a deal is she? She’s on the cover of this week’s Sports Illustrated, and more than 34,000 people watched her team play in Williamsport, Pennsylvania, Wednesday night. Davis lasted just two-and-a-third innings in that game, and left the mound with her team down 3-0. (They’d go on to lose, 8-1, to the team from Nevada.) But of the seven outs she recorded, an impressive six were via strikeout. Said Davis earlier this week about her repertoire: “I throw my curveball like Clayton Kershaw, and my fastball like Mo’ne Davis.” So yeah, despite not getting the win, she remains fully awesome.

Have a great Friday!  What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


Tuesday Reads: Are Women People?

women people2

Good Morning!!

Question for today: Are women human? Are we people in the eyes of our government? We’ve been told that corporations are people. We know that white men are people–that was established by the U.S. Constitution when it was ratified in 1789.  Since that time, there have been amendments that granted some rights to non-white men and to women. We can vote now. Does that mean our government recognizes our humanity?

Today our ultra-conservative, mostly Catholic Supreme Court will hear two cases that bring this question to the forefront, and the Court’s decisions may give us some answers to the question of whether American women are officially people with individual rights.

From MSNBC: Supreme Court to hear birth control case

Depending on whom you ask, Tuesday morning’s oral argument at the Supreme Court is about whether Obamacare can keep treading on religious liberty – or it’s about a woman’s right to access contraception on her employee insurance plan, no matter what her employer thinks of it. Either way, it is the first time the Affordable Care Act will be at the nation’s highest Court since it was first largely upheld as constitutional. The same two men as in that case, current Solicitor General Don Verrilli and former Bush administration solicitor general Paul Clement, are facing off to argue over a narrower provision.

Before the Supreme Court decides whether the contraceptive coverage required of insurance plans under the Affordable Care Act violates a 1993 law governing religious liberty, it has to settle the threshold question: Does a corporation even have religious liberty?

women human

I think the question about the rights of women is far broader than that. Without access to birth control and abortion, a woman has no real autonomy as a human being. If she becomes pregnant–even through rape–she loses the ability to make choices about her future life. It has been a relatively short period of time since women have had the power to make those choices. But that power has led to other advances for women–such as the right to prosecute a rapist or an abusive boyfriend or husband, the right to have credit in her own name, the right to an education, and entry into careers from which women were previously blocked. We can only hope that the justices see clearly what their decisions will mean for women’s lives and women’s personhood.

Back to the MSNBC article:

Hobby Lobby Stores, an Oklahoma-based, evangelical-owned craft chain with about 13,000 employees, and Conestoga Wood Specialties, a small Mennonite-owned cabinet maker in Pennsylvania, sued the administration and got two very different answers from the lower courts. The Tenth Circuit Court of Appeals declared of Hobby Lobby that “such corporations can be ‘persons’ exercising religion.” In ruling on Conestoga’s bid for exemption from the requirement, the Third Circuit disagreed: “For-profit secular corporations cannot exercise in religious exercise.”

The companies are among the 47 for-profit corporations that have objected to their company plans complying with the minimum coverage requirements under the Affordable Care Act. Under those regulations, contraception is covered fully, without a co-pay, as preventive care. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood object to a handful of contraceptives that they speculate can block a fertilized egg, which is neither documented in the science nor the medical definition of abortion. Other for-profit plaintiffs object to any birth control coverage at all….

The Obama administration says that the government has a compelling interest in women’s health and in gender equality. The Department of Health and Human Services agreed to classify contraceptives as preventive care after considering testimony from medical experts, who cited the country’s high rate of unintended pregnancy and the persistence cost barriers to accessing effective birth control.

Some legal experts argue that to rule for Hobby Lobby would be imposing religion on others, by forcing the women who work for such companies to pay the cost of their employers’ religion. Frederick Gedicks, a law professor at Brigham Young, has even argued in a brief before the Court that doing so would violate the establishment clause of the First Amendment.

What will SCOTUS decide?

women people4

At NPR, Nina Totenberg offers some scary quotes from Steve Green, the president of Hobby Lobby:

“We believe that the principles that are taught scripturally is what we should operate our lives by … and so we cannot be a part of taking life,” explains Hobby Lobby President Steve Green.

“It’s our rights that are being infringed upon to require us to do something against our conscience,” adds CEO and founder David Green.

Using birth control is “taking a life?” Apparently one of the arguments Hobby Lobby is using that–contrary to scientific facts–some forms of birth control are equal to abortion. So is every sperm is sacred too? Should men be prosecuted for masturbating? But those questions are not likely to be asked, because it is already legally established that men are people.

 

At the WaPo, Sandra Fluke writes: At the Supreme Court, a potential catastrophe for women’s rights.

Unlike my congressional testimony in 2012, which was about Georgetown University — a Catholic-affiliated university — refusing to include contraception in student insurance because it was a religiously affiliated school, the institutions arguing before the Supreme Court are not houses of worship or religious non-profits. The Affordable Care Act already includes special arrangements for those types of organizations. These are private, for-profit corporations — a craft store and a cabinet manufacturer — that want to be excluded from health insurance and employment laws because of bosses’ personal views.

Laws that include religious protection have never given corporations the right to have religious views, and it would be a terrible idea to make such an enormous change to our legal precedent now. Our laws protect individuals’ private religious beliefs, but when you cross over into the public sphere to become a corporation and make a profit off of the public, you must abide by the public’s laws.

Depending on the court’s rulings, the cases’ outcomes could deny millions of women coverage of any or all forms of birth control, limiting women’s ability to control their reproductive health, plan their pregnancies and manage their lives. As I testified, women also need birth control for many other medical reasons, including relief of painful health problems like endometriosis.

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And, Fluke argues, recognizing a right for corporations to hold religious views will open the door to

Allowing any private employer to dictate which laws fit inside its religious beliefs could upset the necessary balance of both religious liberty and employee health and safety laws. Depending on the exact ruling, any for-profit corporation could cut off its employees’ insurance coverage for blood transfusions, vaccinations or HIV treatment — all of which some Americans have religious objections to. Any critical health coverage the boss doesn’t agree with could be eliminated.

Furthermore, SCOTUS could not limit these proposed “religious freedoms” to Christians.

Although this country predominantly descends from a Judeo-Christian tradition, our valuable religious protection laws ensure that anyone is free to practice any religion they want, including religions whose belief systems and practices many of us would disagree with vehemently. In fact, far-ranging beliefs that are not associated with any organized religion could be used to justify a corporation’s practices as well.

Sahil Kapur of TPM points out that Justice Scalia, who might be expected to vote in favor of a corporate “right to religious freedom,” will have to deal with one of his previous rulings: Justice Scalia’s Past Comes Back To Haunt Him On Birth Control.

In 1990, Scalia wrote the majority opinion in Employment Division v. Smith, concluding that the First Amendment “does not require” the government to grant “religious exemptions” from generally applicable laws or civic obligations. The case was brought by two men in Oregon who sued the state for denying them unemployment benefits after they were fired from their jobs for ingesting peyote, which they said they did because of their Native American religious beliefs.

“[T]he right of free exercise does not relieve an individual of the obligation to comply with a valid and neutral law of general applicability,” Scalia wrote in the 6-3 majority decision, going on to aggressively argue that such exemptions could be a slippery slope to lawlessness and that “[a]ny society adopting such a system would be courting anarchy.”

“The rule respondents favor would open the prospect of constitutionally required religious exemptions from civic obligations of almost every conceivable kind,” he wrote, “ranging from compulsory military service, to the payment of taxes, to health and safety regulation such as manslaughter and child neglect laws, compulsory vaccination laws, drug laws, and traffic laws; to social welfare legislation such as minimum wage laws, child labor laws, animal cruelty laws, environmental protection laws, and laws providing for equality of opportunity for the races.”

That opinion could haunt the jurist if he seeks to invalidate the birth control rule.

“Scalia will have to reckon with his own concern in Smith about the lawlessness and chaos created by liberal exemptions to generally applicable law,” said Adam Winkler, a constitutional law professor at UCLA. “For him to uphold an exemption now is to invite more of the lawlessness that he warned about.”

women human5

At Think Progress, Ian Millhiser addresses the right wing organizations that have waged a concerted war against women’s rights during the past several years: Read This One Document To Understand What The Christian Right Hopes To Gain From Hobby Lobby.

2009 was a grim year for social conservatives. Barack Obama was an ambitious and popular new president. Republicans, and their conservative philosophy, were largely discredited in the public eye by a failed war and a massive recession. And the GOP’s effort to reshape its message was still in its awkward adolescence. If the conservative movement had a mascot, it would have been a white man dressed as Paul Revere and waving a misspelled sign.

Amidst this wreckage, more than two hundred of the nation’s leading Christian conservatives joined together in a statement expressing their dismay at the state of the nation. “Many in the present administration want to make abortions legal at any stage of fetal development,” their statement claimed, while “[m]ajorities in both houses of Congress hold pro-abortion views.” Meanwhile, they feared that the liberals who now controlled the country “are very often in the vanguard of those who would trample upon the freedom of others to express their religious and moral commitments to the sanctity of life and to the dignity of marriage as the conjugal union of husband and wife.”

The signatories to this statement, which they named the “Manhattan Declaration,” included many of America’s most prominent Catholic bishops and clergy of similar prominence in other Christian sects. It included leaders oftop anti-gay organizations like the National Organization for Marriage, and of more broadly focused conservative advocacy shops such as the Family Research Council. It included university presidents and deans from Christian conservative colleges. And it included the top editors from many of the Christian right’s leading publications.

Perhaps most significantly, however, the document’s signatories includes Alan Sears, the head of one of the two conservative legal groups litigating what are likely to be the two most important cases decided by the Supreme Court this term. Indeed, the Manhattan Declaration offers a virtual roadmap to understanding what religious conservatives hope to gain from Sebelius v. Hobby Lobby and Conestoga Wood v. Sebelius, two cases the justices will hear Tuesday which present the question whether a business owner’s religious objections to birth control trump their legal obligation to include it in their employee’s health plan.

Read the gory details at the link.

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Finally, I ask that everyone read this year-old article at Time Magazine by Jessica Winter, Subject for Debate: Are Women People? It is both darkly humorous and deadly serious.

All my adult life, I’ve been pretty sure I’m a sentient, even semi-competent human being. I have a job and an apartment; I know how to read and vote; I make regular, mostly autonomous decisions about what to eat for lunch and which cat videos I will watch whilst eating my lunch. But in the past couple of months, certain powerful figures in media and politics have cracked open that certitude.

You see, like most women, I was born with the chromosome abnormality known as “XX,” a deviation of the normative “XY” pattern. Symptoms of XX, which affects slightly more than half of the American population, include breasts, ovaries, a uterus, a menstrual cycle, and the potential to bear and nurse children. Now, many would argue even today that the lack of a Y chromosome should not affect my ability to make informed choices about what health care options and lunchtime cat videos are right for me. But others have posited, with increasing volume and intensity, that XX is a disability, even a roadblock on the evolutionary highway. This debate has reached critical mass, and leaves me uncertain of my legal and moral status. Am I a person? An object? A ward of the state? A “prostitute”? (And if I’m the last of these, where do I drop off my W-2?)

Please go read the whole thing. It’s not long.

So . . . those are my recommended reads for today.  What stories are you following? Please post your links on any topic in the comment thread.

 


The World According to Fat Tony

scaliaThere are so many things wrong with Antonin Scalia that it is really difficult to pick a place to start. Jennifer Senior interviews the man in black for NYM. To know him is to abhor him. For example, some of his best friends are probably closeted gay people.

The one thing I did think, as he said those somewhat welcoming things to gay men and women, is, Huh, this really does show how much our world has changed. I was wondering what kind of personal exposure you might have had to this sea change.
I have friends that I know, or very much suspect, are homosexual. Everybody does.

Have any of them come out to you?
No. No. Not that I know of.

Has your personal attitude softened some?

Toward what?

Homosexuality. 
I don’t think I’ve softened. I don’t know what you mean by softened.

If you talk to your grandchildren, they have different opinions from you about this, right?

I don’t know about my grandchildren. I know about my children. I don’t think they and I differ very much. But I’m not a hater of homosexuals at all.

Okay, so is this a softer, gentler Scalia since or before, say, December 2012?

Justice Antonin Scalia, always eager to prove himself in the ongoing competition known as America’s Top Relic, whipped out another doozy on Monday while speaking at Princeton University. A gay student named Duncan Hosie got up and asked Scalia about his avid support for bans on “sodomy,” i.e. same-sex couples doing it, and Scalia answered with this:

“It’s a form of argument that I thought you would have known, which is called the ‘reduction to the absurd,’” Scalia told Hosie of San Francisco during the question-and-answer period. “If we cannot have moral feelings against homosexuality, can we have it against murder? Can we have it against other things?”

Scalia said he is not equating sodomy with murder but drawing a parallel between the bans on both.

Then he deadpanned: “I’m surprised you aren’t persuaded.”

That would be because boldly stating stuff without really bothering to make an argument for it isn’t persuasive, something you’d have thought Scalia’s law professors would have taught him.

The reason I bring this particular part of Scalia’s interview up is that there’s been some weirdness lately about what he has said about marriage equality in recent cases and likely to do this term.  Here’s some coverage from The Advocate.

Scalia’s verdicts in both marriage equality cases this summer included strong language, referring to the majority rationale of the court in the DOMA case as legal “argle bargle,” essentially rejecting the court’s conclusion that it was unconstitutional for the federal government to recognize one set of legal marriages (opposite-sex) while denying the existence and equal treatment of others (same-sex).

This perspective clearly put Scalia in the minority on the court and, according to numerous public opinion polls, in the minority of Americans who believe that same-sex marriage is not legally equivalent to opposite-sex marriage. But Scalia is no stranger to standing in opposition, and isn’t concerned with how history will portray him and his legacy.

“Frankly, I don’t care,” said Scalia when asked how the world would view his opinions in 50 years. “Maybe the world is spinning toward a wider acceptance of homosexual rights, and here’s Scalia, standing athwart it. At least standing athwart it as a constitutional entitlement. But I have never been custodian of my legacy. When I’m dead and gone, I’ll either be sublimely happy or terribly unhappy.”

Scalia has been on somewhat of a publicity tour since the Supreme Court recessed in June, appearing at numerous conferences, universities, and in several interviews before the court’s next session, which begins today. Last week he told a crowd at Tufts University in Massachusetts that he had not yet expressed his views on “gay marriage.” In August he said the Supreme Court should not “invent new minorities,” as he alleges it did with the DOMA decision. And in July he told a group of lawyers that federal judges were not qualified to legislate “homosexual sodomy.”

I’m not sure what he’s up to in this current interview but frankly, he has expressed some views and they are worrisome.

Oh, and we should believe in a “literal” DEVIL. Why wouldn’t we?

Can we talk about your drafting process—
[Leans in, stage-whispers.] I even believe in the Devil.

You do?

Of course! Yeah, he’s a real person. Hey, c’mon, that’s standard Catholic doctrine! Every Catholic believes that.

Every Catholic believes this? There’s a wide variety of Catholics out there …

If you are faithful to Catholic dogma, that is certainly a large part of it.

Have you seen evidence of the Devil lately?

You know, it is curious. In the Gospels, the Devil is doing all sorts of things. He’s making pigs run off cliffs, he’s possessing people and whatnot. And that doesn’t happen very much anymore.

No.

It’s because he’s smart.

So what’s he doing now?

What he’s doing now is getting people not to believe in him or in God. He’s much more successful that way.

That has really painful implications for atheists. Are you sure that’s the ­Devil’s work?

I didn’t say atheists are the Devil’s work.

Well, you’re saying the Devil is ­persuading people to not believe in God. Couldn’t there be other reasons to not believe?

Well, there certainly can be other reasons. But it certainly favors the Devil’s desires. I mean, c’mon, that’s the explanation for why there’s not demonic possession all over the place. That always puzzled me. What happened to the Devil, you know? He used to be all over the place. He used to be all over the New Testament.

Right.

What happened to him?

He just got wilier.
He got wilier.

Isn’t it terribly frightening to believe in the Devil?
You’re looking at me as though I’m weird. My God! Are you so out of touch with most of America, most of which believes in the Devil? I mean, Jesus Christ believed in the Devil! It’s in the Gospels! You travel in circles that are so, so removed from mainstream America that you are appalled that anybody would believe in the Devil! Most of mankind has believed in the Devil, for all of history. Many more intelligent people than you or me have believed in the Devil.

I hope you weren’t sensing contempt from me. It wasn’t your belief that surprised me so much as how boldly you expressed it.

I was offended by that. I really was.

So this man is also going to hear a case on birth control and a variety of other things this term. We should be very afraid.


Thursday Reads: Aftermath of SCOTUS Voting Rights Decision

SCOTUS KKK

Good Morning!!

This is going to be a quickie post, because I’m feeling kind of sick this morning.

Although I’m thrilled with the DOMA decision yesterday, I still can’t get past my anger and sadness about the Supreme Court’s gutting of the Voting Rights Act. So I’m just going to post the (above) “official 2013 photo” of the U.S. Supreme Court and some accompanying links that demonstrate the damage the Court has done in its horrendous decision on the Voting Rights Act.

I’ll begin with this excellent post by Linda Greenhouse at The New York Times: Current Conditions, which neatly summarizes the Court’s “conservative” wing’s blatant “judicial activism,” to quote a frequent charge of conservatives against “liberal” judges.

These have been a remarkable three days, as the Supreme Court finished its term by delivering the only four decisions that most people were waiting for. The 5-to-4 decisions striking down the coverage formula of the Voting Rights Act and the Defense of Marriage Act will go far toward defining the Roberts court, which has concluded its eighth year. Monday’s place-holding ruling on affirmative action in higher education, although it decided very little, is also definitional, for reasons I’ll explain. There is a great deal to say about each decision, and about how each reflects on the court. My thoughts are preliminary, informed by that phrase in the chief justice’s voting rights opinion: current conditions.

By this phrase, the chief justice meant to suggest that there is a doctrinal basis for drawing a boundary around Congressional authority, for judicial insistence that a burden that Congress chooses to impose on the states has to be justified as a cure for a current problem. In the context of voting rights, an area over which the 15th Amendment gives Congress specific authority, this is a deeply problematic position that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg’s dissenting opinion demolishes.

Please go read the whole column–it’s difficult to get Greenhouse’s thesis into an excerpt. The blatant hypocrisy of the “conservative” justices–especially Scalia is mind-boggling, especially when the stunning effects of the Voting Rights decision on “current conditions” are already obvious and dramatic–just as were the disastrous effect of the Citizens United decision. A few examples.

The Guardian:  Texas rushes ahead with voter ID law after supreme court decision

Officials in Texas said they would rush ahead with a controversial voter ID law that critics say will make it more difficult for ethnic minority citizens to vote, hours after the US supreme court released them from anti-discrimination constraints that have been in place for almost half a century.

The Texas attorney general, Greg Abbott, declared that in the light of the supreme court’s judgment striking down a key element of the 1965 Voting Rights Act he was implementing instantly the voter ID law that had previously blocked by the Obama administration. “With today’s decision, the state’s voter ID law will take effect immediately. Photo identification will now be required when voting in elections in Texas.”

Greensboro News and Record: NC senator: Voter ID bill moving ahead with ruling

Voter identification legislation in North Carolina will pick up steam again now that the U.S. Supreme Court has struck down part of the Voting Rights Act, a key General Assembly leader said Tuesday.

A bill requiring voters to present one of several forms of state-issued photo ID starting in 2016 cleared the House two months ago, but it’s been sitting since in the Senate Rules Committee to wait for a ruling by the justices in an Alabama case, according to Sen. Tom Apodaca, R-Henderson, the committee chairman. He said a bill will now be rolled out in the Senate next week.

The ruling essentially means a voter ID or other election legislation approved in this year’s session probably won’t have to receive advance approval by U.S. Justice Department attorneys or a federal court before such measures can be carried out.

Northwest Ohio.com: Voter ID and restricted early voting likely after SCOTUS ruling

ATLANTA (AP) — Across the South, Republicans are working to take advantage of a new political landscape after a divided U.S. Supreme Court freed all or part of 15 states, many of them in the old Confederacy, from having to ask Washington’s permission before changing election procedures in jurisdictions with histories of discrimination.

After the high court announced its momentous ruling Tuesday, officials in Texas and Mississippi pledged to immediately implement laws requiring voters to show photo identification before getting a ballot. North Carolina Republicans promised they would quickly try to adopt a similar law. Florida now appears free to set its early voting hours however Gov. Rick Scott and the GOP Legislature please. And Georgia’s most populous county likely will use county commission districts that Republican state legislators drew over the objections of local Democrats.

AL.com:  Alabama photo voter ID law to be used in 2014, state officials say

MONTGOMERY, Alabama —  Today’s U.S. Supreme Court decision clears the way for Alabama’s new photo voter ID law to be used in the 2014 elections without the need for federal preclearance, state officials said.

Alabama Attorney General Luther Strange and Secretary of State Beth Chapman said they believed the voting requirement, which is scheduled to take effect with the June 2014 primaries, can simply move forward.

“Photo voter ID will the first process that we have gone through under this new ruling,” Chapman said today.

Memphis Business Journal: Mississippi voter ID law could start next year

Voters in Mississippi may have to start showing a photo ID to vote by the middle of 2014, according to Secretary of State Delbert Hosemann.

According to the Associated Press, Hoseman spoke Tuesday after the U.S. Supreme Court ruled that certain state and local governments no longer need federal approval to change election laws. That ruling opens up the possibility that Mississippi will implement a voter identification requirement.

According to Think Progress, Arizona and South Dakota  will likely be trying to pass Voter ID laws soon. I’m sue that won’t be the end of it.

Just a few more links:

Joan Walsh: The ugly SCOTUS voting rights flim-flam

Ari Berman: What the Supreme Court Doesn’t Understand About the Voting Rights Act

Stephen Hill: So the Voting Rights Act Is Gutted—What Can Protect Minority Voters Now?

I’ll end there and leave it up to you guys to link to other important news stories. What are you reading and blogging about today?