Tuesday Reads: RIP Bobby Vee and Tom Hayden

 

Bobby Vee

Bobby Vee

Good Afternoon!!

Two notable deaths hit home for me yesterday. One was 1960s activist Tom Hayden, and the other was one of my teen idols, singer Bobby Vee. I’ll start with him.

RIP Bobby Vee

I was in 6th grade on February 3, 1959, when three pop stars, Buddy Holly, Richie Valens, and JP “The Big Bopper” Richardson died along with their pilot Roger Peterson in a plane crash near Clear Lake, Iowa. They were on their way to a concert in Moorhead, Minnesota.

Holly’s band members Waylon Jennings, Tommy Alsup, and Carl Bunch, stayed behind with their broken-down tour bus. The Big Bopper had the flu, so Jennings gave up his seat, and Richie Valens won a coin toss to get his. Years later, that tragic day became known as “the day the music died.” after the Don McLean song.
Moorhead is just across the river from Fargo, North Dakota, my birthplace. Bobby Veline (later Bobby Vee) was a 15-year-old rhythm guitar player from Fargo who had recently joined a garage band. The awful crash led to Veline’s big break. The call went out for local bands to fill in for the lost stars. From The Fargo Forum: How ‘The Day the Music Died’ launched Fargoan Bobby Vee into music stardom.

Fifteen-year-old Fargoan Bobby Vee and his new band The Shadows stepped up to fill the bill at the Moorhead Armory show. With that, the singer/guitarist took his first step into rock history….

Robert Thomas Velline was born April 30, 1943, to Sydney and Saima Velline of Fargo. Raised in a musical household, young Bobby followed suit and started playing saxophone at Central High School.

“I wanted to rock out. We were playing all the standard band pieces, but I wanted to play ‘Yakety Yak,'” Vee recalled on his website biography….

The shadows

The Shadows

When his older brother, guitarist Bill Velline, started playing with bassist Jim Stillman and drummer Bob Korum, Bobby begged to join, but they thought he was too young. He won them over with a velvety smooth voice. The group hadn’t played together much and didn’t have a name until just before taking the stage at the Moorhead Armory that fateful night.

“I remember being petrified when the curtains opened,” Vee told The Forum 19 years later. “I was blinded by the spotlight and just numb all over.”

The nerves didn’t last. That June he and The Shadows recorded “Suzie Baby” and the song was on the radio later that summer. Hits like “Devil or Angel” and “Rubber Ball” kept coming. In 1961 he would release his only No. 1 song, “Take Good Care of My Baby,” written by Carole King and Gerry Coffin. The follow-up, “Run to Him,” peaked at No. 2 and in 1962 he would reach No. 3 with “The Night Has a Thousand Eyes.”

Velline’s band didn’t even have a name when they went on stage. The emcee asked him for a name, and he looked at his bandmates and saw their shadows in the spotlight; so he told the emcee their name was “The Shadows.” Afterward, an agent gave Velline his card and the rest was history.

When Bobby Vee’s hit song “Take Good Care of My Baby” (written by Carole King and Gerry Goffin) came out in July 1961. I bought the 45 rpm record and played it over an over again. When I found out that the singer came from Fargo, I became his number 1 fan. I bought all his albums for the next couple of years before I moved on to more sophisticated rock music.

In this Dec. 18, 2013 file photo, Bobby Vee poses at the studio console at his family's Rockhouse Productions in St. Joseph, Minn. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen, File)

In this Dec. 18, 2013 file photo, Bobby Vee poses at the studio console at his family’s Rockhouse Productions in St. Joseph, Minn. (AP Photo/Jeff Baenen, File)

One thing I never knew until yesterday was the connection between Bobby Vee and Bob Dylan (then Bob Zimmerman). Dylan grew up in Duluth, Minnesota–not that far from Fargo, and Dylan’s first paying gig was as a member of The Shadows.

Despite the sad circumstances, the Shadows’ gig was considered a success, with Vee calling the Moorhead show “the start of a wonderful career.”

Vee and the Shadows soon recorded a regional hit with “Suzie Baby,” which resulted in Vee signing a record deal with Liberty Records. Minnesota native Bob Dylan, who called Vee in 2013 “the most meaningful person I’ve ever been onstage with,” would later cover “Suzie Baby” in concert [Vee was in the audience].

Dylan, who played in the Shadows with Vee in 1959, also praised the singer in his Chronicles, Volume One. Vee “had a metallic, edgy tone to his voice and it was as musical as a silver bell,” Dylan wrote. “I’d always thought of him as a brother.” Dylan briefly joined Vee’s backing band as a pianist after Vee’s brother brought Dylan, who called himself “Elston Gunnn,” in for an audition. “He was a funny little wiry kind of guy and he rocked pretty good,” Vee said.

More about Vee and Dylan’s connection from Heavy.com.

Dylan and Vee both “escaped” the Midwest, as Dylan wrote in Chronicles. Vee was born in Fargo, North Dakota, and Dylan was born in Duluth, Minnesota. Vee was still playing in the region when his backing group, The Shadows, thought they needed a pianist. Dylan met Vee in a record store in Fargo and heard they wanted a piano player. He introduced himself as Elston Gunnn (with three n’s).

According to Expecting Rain, Vee told Goldmine in 1999 that Dylan claimed he just came off the road with Conway Twitty. They were impressed, but later learned that he could only play in the key of C. They hired him for $15 a night, but the job didn’t last long. As Vee explained:

It was ill-fated. I mean, it wasn’t gonna work. He didn’t have any money, and we didn’t have any money. The story is that I fired him, but that certainly wasn’t the case. If we could have put it together somehow, we sure would have. We wished we could have put it together. He left and went on to Minneapolis and enrolled at the University of Minnesota.

Years later, Vee and Dylan met in Greenwich Village.

Dylan was now a folk singer and Vee was a pop star. According to Vee, they met again in a record store.

“I was walking down the street. There was a record store there, and there was an album in the front window. And it said, ‘Bob Dylan.’ And I thought to myself, ‘Looks a lot like Elston Gunnn,’” Vee recalled.

In Chronicles, Dylan sounds like he regretted seeing Vee go from rockabily singer to pop star. He wrote that “Take Good Care of My Baby” was “as slick as ever.” Dylan wrote:

He’d become a crowd pleaser in the pop world. As for myself, I had nothing against pop songs, but the definition of pop was changing.

Bobby Vee and Bob Dylan in 2013

Bobby Vee and Bob Dylan in 2013

Despite their different career paths after that one meeting in Greenwich Village, Dylan said he still thought of Vee as a brother since they came from the same part of the country.

“I wouldn’t see Bobby Vee again for another thirty years, and though things would be a lot different, I’d always thought of his as a brother,” Dylan wrote in Chronicles. “Every time I’d see his name somewhere, it was like he was in the room.”

Isn’t that great story? Vee died after a five-year struggle with Alzheimer’s disease. The Associated Press: 

Vee was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease in 2011, and performed his last show that year.

Vee had been in memory care at The Wellstead of Rogers & Diamondcrest in Rogers, about 25 miles northwest of Minneapolis, for the past 13 months and in hospice care in recent weeks, his son said.

Vee died peacefully surrounded by family, Velline said, calling it “the end of a long hard road.”
He said his father was “a person who brought joy all over the world. That was his job.”

RIP Tom Hayden

Tom Hayden led an amazing life. The New York Times obituary: Tom Hayden, Civil Rights and Antiwar Activist Turned Lawmaker, Dies at 76.

Tom Hayden, who burst out of the 1960s counterculture as a radical leader of America’s civil ri(ghts and antiwar movements, but rocked the boat more gently later in life with a progressive political agenda as an author and California state legislator, died on Sunday in Santa Monica, Calif. He was 76….

During the racial unrest and antiwar protests of the 1960s and early ’70s, Mr. Hayden was one of the nation’s most visible radicals. He was a founder of Students for a Democratic Society, a defendant in the Chicago Seven trial after riots at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, and a peace activist who married Jane Fonda, went to Hanoi and escorted American prisoners of war home from Vietnam.

Tom Hayden

Tom Hayden

As a civil rights worker, he was beaten in Mississippi and jailed in Georgia. In his cell he began writing what became the Port Huron Statement, the political manifesto of S.D.S. and the New Left that envisioned an alliance of college students in a peaceful crusade to overcome what it called repressive government, corporate greed and racism. Its aim was to create a multiracial, egalitarian society.

Like his allies the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. and Senator Robert F. Kennedy, who were assassinated in 1968, Mr. Hayden opposed violent protests but backed militant demonstrations, like the occupation of Columbia University campus buildings by students and the burning of draft cards. He also helped plan protests that, as it happened, turned into clashes with the Chicago police outside the Democratic convention.

Read the rest at the NYT link.

Tom Hayden, beaten by white segregationists in McComb, MS, October 1961

Tom Hayden, beaten by white segregationists in McComb, MS, October 1961

After the 1968 protests, Hayden stood trial in Federal court as one of the Chicago 7, along with Bobby Seale, Abby Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, Rennie Davis, Dave Dellinger, John Froines, and Lee Weiner, accused of conspiracy, inciting to riot and other charges. The Chicago Tribune:

With Rennie Davis, Abbie Hoffman and other radical leaders, Hayden went on to plot the massive antiwar demonstrations that turned Chicago’s streets into a battleground for five days in August 1968.

“Let us make sure that if our blood flows, it flows all over the city,” he told throngs of young protesters in the city’s Grant Park on the day Vice President Hubert Humphrey became the Democratic presidential nominee.

Confronted by Democratic Mayor Richard J. Daley’s 12,000 Chicago police in addition to 6,000 Army troops and 5,000 National Guardsmen, Hayden exhorted the demonstrators to “turn this overheated military machine against itself.”

After arrests and injuries ran well into the hundreds, Hayden and seven others were charged with conspiracy to incite violence. The Chicago Eight, as they were initially known, became the Chicago Seven when Black Panther leader Bobby Seale was separated from the case. Hayden was found guilty but the conviction was overturned in 1972 by an appeals court, which cited improper rulings by an antagonistic trial judge.

Hayden went on to become a traditional politician, serving as a California legislator. The LA times:  ‘The radical inside the system’: Tom Hayden, protester-turned-politician, dies at 76.

Hayden later married actress Jane Fonda, and the celebrity couple traveled the nation denouncing the war before forming a California political organization that backed scores of liberal candidates and ballot measures in the 1970s and ’80s, most notably Proposition 65, the anti-toxics measure that requires signs in gas stations, bars and grocery stores that warn of cancer-causing chemicals.

Hayden lost campaigns for U.S. Senate, governor of California and mayor of Los Angeles. But he was elected to the California Assembly in 1982. He served a total of 18 years in the Assembly and state Senate.

During his tenure in the Legislature, representing the liberal Westside, Hayden relished being a thorn in the side of the powerful, including fellow Democrats he saw as too pliant to donors.

“He was the radical inside the system,” said Duane Peterson, a top Hayden advisor in Sacramento.

Defendants in the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial hold a news conference in Chicago on Jan. 5, 1970. Standing are, from left, John Froines, Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, Lee Weiner and Abbie Hoffman. Seated are Rennie Davis, center, and David Dellinger. (Chicago Tribune)

Defendants in the Chicago Seven conspiracy trial hold a news conference in Chicago on Jan. 5, 1970. Standing are, from left, John Froines, Tom Hayden, Jerry Rubin, Lee Weiner and Abbie Hoffman. Seated are Rennie Davis, center, and David Dellinger. (Chicago Tribune)

In April of this year, Hayden endorsed Hillary Clinton for president in a piece at The Nation: I Used to Support Bernie, but Then I Changed My Mind. Here’s what he had to say about Hillary:

Hillary is, well, Hillary. I remember seeing her on Yale’s green in 1969, wearing a black armband for peace while a kind of Armageddon shaped up during the Panther 21 trial and Cambodia invasion. Even then, she stood for working within the system rather than taking to the barricades. Similarly, in Chicago 1968, she observed the confrontations at a distance. If she had some sort of revolution in mind, it was evolutionary, step-by-step. In her earlier Wellesley commencement speech, she stated that the “prevailing, acquisitive, and competitive corporate life is not the way of life for us. We’re searching for more immediate, ecstatic, and penetrating modes of living.” But from there it was a determined decades-long uphill climb through those same institutions that had disenchanted the young Hillary.

There are two Hillary Clintons. First, the early feminist, champion of children’s rights, and chair of the Children’s Defense Fund; and second, the Hillary who has grown more hawkish and prone to seeking “win-win” solutions with corporate America. When she seems to tack back towards her roots, it is usually in response to Bernie and new social movements. She hasn’t changed as much as the Democratic Party has, responding to new and resurgent movements demanding Wall Street reform, police and prison reform, immigrant rights and a $15-an-hour minimum wage, fair trade, action on climate change, LGBT rights, and more.

Hayden had grown more supportive of Hillary’s “evolutionary, step by step” approach and was concerned about Bernie’s all-or-nothing policies as well as his ability to deal with an all-out assault from the GOP and the media. In the end though, it came down to race.

I intend to vote for Hillary Clinton in the California primary for one fundamental reason. It has to do with race. My life since 1960 has been committed to the causes of African Americans, the Chicano movement, the labor movement, and freedom struggles in Vietnam, Cuba and Latin America. In the environmental movement I start from the premise of environmental justice for the poor and communities of color. My wife is a descendant of the Oglala Sioux, and my whole family is inter-racial.

What would cause me to turn my back on all those people who have shaped who I am? That would be a transgression on my personal code. I have been on too many freedom rides, too many marches, too many jail cells, and far too many gravesites to breach that trust. And I have been so tied to the women’s movement that I cannot imagine scoffing at the chance to vote for a woman president. When I understood that the overwhelming consensus from those communities was for Hillary—for instance the Congressional Black Caucus and Sacramento’s Latino caucus—that was the decisive factor for me. I am gratified with Bernie’s increasing support from these communities of color, though it has appeared to be too little and too late. Bernie’s campaign has had all the money in the world to invest in inner city organizing, starting 18 months ago. He chose to invest resources instead in white-majority regions at the expense of the Deep South and urban North.

I know there is much more news out there, and I hope I haven’t bored you by writing about two symbols of the greatest passions of my youth–Rock ‘n’ Roll and Politics. I’ll leave it to you to post more links on any topic in the comment thread below.


Monday Reads: The Struggles Continue

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Good Morning!

Those of you that know me also know that my most profound and motivating interest lay with social justice issues. I think I was profoundly impacted by watching the evening news as a child. I still remember watching body counts from Vietnam and the images of small children being attacked by hoses and police dogs in places I couldn’t believe were associated with my country. Julian Bond–one of the most vibrant and high profile leaders of the civil rights movement–died on Saturday at the age of 75. His life stands as a tribute to all that has been gained and as a reminder of all the work that continues as we strive to ensure that all our citizens achieve equal status under the law and equal access to economic well being, knowledge, and power.  Bond was also a leader in the anti-war movement as one of the founders of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. He leaves a tremendous legacy of social justice.

The Southern Poverty Law Center, where Bond served as president in the 1970s, announced his death in a statement on Sunday. The SPLC said Bond died Saturday evening in Fort Walton Beach, Fla.

“With Julian’s passing, the country has lost one of its most passionate and eloquent voices for the cause of justice,” the center’s statement read. “He advocated not just for African Americans, but for every group, indeed every person subject to oppression and discrimination, because he recognized the common humanity in us all.”

The Associated Press writes: “The Nashville, Tenn., native was considered a symbol and icon of the 1960s civil rights movement. As a Morehouse College student, Bond helped found [SNCC] and as its communications director, he was on the front lines of protests that led to the nation’s landmark civil rights laws.”

Bond played a major role in sit-ins and freedom rides and the 1963 March on Washington.

The New York Times says: “He moved from the militancy of the student group to the top leadership of the establishmentarian N.A.A.C.P. Along the way, he was a writer, poet, television commentator, lecturer, college teacher, and persistent opponent of the stubborn remnants of white supremacy.”

When he was elected to the Georgia Legislature in 1965, the chamber refused to seat him, citing his support for a group that called U.S. actions in Vietnam “murder.” He took the fight all the way to the Supreme Court, which ultimately ruled in his favor. The Times notes that he spent his two decades in the state’s legislature, “mostly in conspicuous isolation from white colleagues who saw him as an interloper and a rabble-rouser.”

In 1986, Bond ran against his long-time friend and SNCC co-founder John Lewis to represent Georgia’s 5th Congressional District, but was narrowly defeated in runoff.

6762-004-F361DF9CI can only hope to eventually achieve his status of “interloper and rabble-rouser” for justice.  There are many recent events that remind us that none of the struggles in which Bond interloped and rabble roused are solved or even ameliorated.  Even after the disastrous adventures of both Vietnam and Iraq, we continue to have folks who study and bark for war.  Here’s a good example of some one in Democratic leadership who does both and should be very ashamed that he shills for constant war mongering.   As Josh Marshall points out, Chuck Schumer is smarter than his actions and words on the Iran deal.  Decision-making on such vital interests should not be captive to vast, foreign lobbying interests or folks that profit from perpetual violence.

Fareed Zakaria had a column out yesterday dissecting and demolishing New York Senator Chuck Schumer’s argument for opposition to the Iran nuclear deal. I won’t try to duplicate his arguments on the merits. I don’t think I can improve on them. But I have wanted for the last week to address Schumer’s decision.

As you may know, in the midst of last week’s Fox-GOP-Trump debate, Schumer leaked the news that he planned to vote against the deal when it comes before the Senate for review. There are a few things to say about the manner of the leak. As the Senator himself would no doubt agree, no one is more adept, experienced, or desirous of press attention than Schumer. The timing was no accident. It seemed aimed at creating as little splash as possible. Given his status as a prominent, senior, and outspokenly pro-Israel Senator from New York, there is only so much that he could do to limit the impact and reaction. But this was clearly an attempt to do so. And it did get buried to some degree in the Trump Debate/GOP Meltdown/Blood Drama. Schumer has also said that since this is his position, he will of course lobby others to follow his lead. But he has done so not altogether convincingly. Take all this together and I think it is possible that Schumer believes this to be a free vote for him personally – that he can vote in opposition, either knowing that it will pass (sustain a presidential veto) or at least that he won’t be blamed for it going down.

 We’ll know after the vote how that all shook out. And in terms of what one makes of Schumer, there is some difference over what the truth turns out to be. Just after Schumer’s announcement, James Fallows said that it was one thing for Schumer to vote this way himself but if he lifts a finger to lobby other senators against the deal, he should be disqualified from becoming the next Senate Majority/Minority Leader, an office he very much wishes to fill.

I would take it a step further. I think Schumer should be disqualified on the basis of this decision alone. In fact, I would personally find it difficult to ever vote for Schumer again as my Senator, though I doubt he’ll lose much sleep over that since he is amazingly entrenched as New York’s senior senator.

julian-bond-martin-luther-king-voteIt’s obvious when politicians are more beholden to the patron class rather than citizens.  It truly amazes me that one of our major parties no longer even supports voting rights.  This is something that has been unthinkable for the decades since Kennedy and Johnson pushed the Voting Rights Act forward.

On July 20, 2006, the United States Senate voted to renew the Voting Rights Act for 25 more years. The vote was unanimous, 98 to 0. That followed an overwhelmingly bipartisan vote in the House of Representatives, which passed it by a vote of 390 to 33. President George Bush signed the renewal with apparent enthusiasm a few days later.

This bipartisan support for the Voting Rights Act — first enacted into law 50 years ago this month by Lyndon B. Johnson — was not unusual; indeed, it was the rule throughout most of the legislation’s history on Capitol Hill. And if you want to understand how dramatically Congress’s partisan landscape has changed in the Obama era, it’s a particularly useful example.

 As it happens, two bills introduced in the past two years would restore at least some of the act’s former strength, after the 2013 Supreme Court decision in Shelby v. Holder, which significantly weakened it. And both are languishing, with no significant Republican support and no Republican leader willing to bring them to the floor for a vote. What was, less than a decade ago, an uncontroversial legislative no-brainer is now lost in the crevasse of our partisan divide.

Given the number of Black Americans killed by police actions, it’s difficult to understand how Republican shills like Dr. Ben Carson can continue to say that Planned Parenthood is the number one murderer of Black people. Of course, Republicans these days have spurious notions of “people”.  They let black children starve and languish while spending tremendous efforts to protect clusters of cells.  Here’s an ABC report that shows some reporters actually do due diligence and fact check the outrageous statements of some politicians.    NPR has also debunked this blatant lie.

ABC’s Martha Raddatz debunked GOP presidential candidate Dr. Ben Carson’s claim that Planned Parenthood engages in racist population control by targeting black communities.

On the August 16 edition of ABC’s This Week, Carson spoke with Raddatz on the campaign trail in Iowa. Raddatz asked Carson about his controversial comments he made on August 12, when he said Planned Parenthood is targeting African-American communities to control their population by placing “most of their clinics in black neighborhoods.” Raddatz debunked this claim, saying, “Planned Parenthood estimates that fewer than five percent of its health centers are located in areas where more than one-third of the population is African-American” …

The most telling thing about the pushback on all social justice strides these days is Donald Trump’s standing in Republican Polls get_item_viewer_imageand his angry white man shtick showing that much of it is blowback against modernity and rational thought.

Many insiders were sure that Trump would be widely disavowed after charging that undocumented Hispanics, even the ones who aren’t rapists, are “bad. They’re really bad.” When this didn’t do Trump in, just as many, maybe more, were certain he would be cashiered after his disparagement of McCain. It didn’t work out that way, and Trump went into the first debate leading the national polls among Republicans. Then came his gynecological speculations about Kelly, and the political media were steadfast in their conviction that now, at last, he had crossed a red line that no red state partisan could accept. It was perfectly OK for him to carry the torch for birtherism, to vilify an entire ethnicity, to impugn the reputation of a decorated veteran — but now he had insulted Megyn Kelly of Fox News! He was done, washed up, toast, and the sober pundits whose eternal vigilance safeguards our liberty could finally turn their attention to “serious” candidates such as Ben Carson, Ted Cruz and Mike Huckabee.

As I write this, the most recent post-debate polling shows Trump on top with a 10-point lead over his nearest rival.

When you repeatedly get something wrong, you need an explanation — an account of your error that gets you back on track by identifying its source. (It goes without saying that the preferred account attributes the error to something other than ignorance on your part.) In our present case, that explanation is the meme, repeated ad taedium if not ad nauseam, that the GOP base likes Trump because he seems asangry as it is. His pugnacious manner, his willingness to insult opponents — or just anyone who disagrees with him — his brusque tone and dismissive gestures: All these things, we’re told, are like catnip to the Republican faithful. Mostly older and white and male, and wholly pissed-off, these folks are tired of namby-pamby politicians who whine about “bipartisan solutions” and want to find ways to “work with the other side.” They want someone who calls ‘em as he sees ‘em, and who sees, as they do, that “the other side” largely consists of fools, traitors and knaves. Trump, it turns out, is their tribune.

As explanations go, this one isn’t completely off-track. It does get one (very important) thing right: the GOP base is mad as hell. But as a theory of Republican politics, it’s sort of like attempts to attribute the Napoleonic Wars to Bonaparte’s shame over his small stature. There has to be something more than anger at work in the GOP, because anger alone doesn’t explain the distinctive shape of its obsessions. The real question is this: What is it angry about?

As we think about the social justice movements of the 1960s and 1970s–the women’s movement, the civil rights movement, the rights for immigrant workers movement, the anti-war movement, the GLBT movement– we can see the strides made.  But, each time we lose a leader of those movements, we gain a perspective that we have miles and miles to go before we can sleep. There are many forces that would like to erase all of that progress. Many of them sit on the Supreme Court.  Many of them sit in statehouses, Congress, and governor’s offices.   We must be vigilant and persistent in pursuit of human dignity.

The Struggles continue.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?


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!

 


Tuesday Reads: Utter Exhaustion Edition

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Good Morning!!

I finally arrived in Boston yesterday after driving for three days. With the days so short, and the nights so dark, I ended up having to stop for the night earlier than I would have in the summer. I was tired last night, but I’m even more exhausted this morning. Everything hurts, and my brain isn’t working properly. I’m supposed to drive up to New Hampshire for Christmas, and I have no idea how I can do that.

I’d like to write a beautifully organized post, but I don’t think I’m capable of it. So here are some news stories that caught my flawed attention this morning.

Another police officer gets away with murder, this time in Milwaukee. From the Journal-Sentinel:

In one of the most highly anticipated legal decisions in recent memory, Milwaukee County District Attorney John Chisholm announced Monday that former Milwaukee police officer Christopher Manney will not be charged in the fatal shooting of Dontre Hamilton at Red Arrow Park.

Chisholm determined that Manney’s use of force was justified self-defense.

Hamilton’s family has repeatedly called for Manney, who has since been fired, to face criminal charges.

Speaking to supporters outside the federal courthouse in Milwaukee, Hamilton’s brother Nathaniel said he and the other family members would not waver in their determination.

“We deserve justice,” he said. “Justice is our right.”

As you’ve probably already guessed, Dontre Hamilton was a black man, and Christopher Manney is white. This is getting to be a regular thing, and it’s really getting old. The police unions can complain all they want. The simple truth is that police officers are killing a hell of a lot of black men.

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The NY Daily News reports that the Department of Justice will review the shooting to determine whether Hamilton’s civil rights were violated.

There’s been some pushback on the claims by police unions that protesters of police-involved deaths like those of Michael Brown and Eric Garner and government officials who sympathized with their families are responsible for the recent murders of two NYPD police officers in Brooklyn. Here’s an essay by Kareem Abdul Jabbar in Time Magazine: The Police Aren’t Under Attack. Institutionalized Racism Is.

According to Ecclesiastes, “To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose.” For me, today, that means a time to seek justice and a time to mourn the dead.

And a time to shut the hell up.

The recent brutal murder of two Brooklyn police officers, Rafael Ramos and Wenjian Liu, is a national tragedy that should inspire nationwide mourning. Both my grandfather and father were police officers, so I appreciate what a difficult and dangerous profession law enforcement is. We need to value and celebrate the many officers dedicated to protecting the public and nourishing our justice system. It’s a job most of us don’t have the courage to do.

At the same time, however, we need to understand that their deaths are in no way related to the massive protests against systemic abuses of the justice system as symbolized by the recent deaths—also national tragedies—of Eric Garner, Akai Gurley, and Michael Brown. Ismaaiyl Brinsley, the suicidal killer, wasn’t an impassioned activist expressing political frustration, he was a troubled man who had shot his girlfriend earlier that same day. He even Instagrammed warnings of his violent intentions. None of this is the behavior of a sane man or rational activist. The protests are no more to blame for his actions than The Catcher in the Rye was for the murder of John Lennon or the movie Taxi Driver for the attempted assassination of Ronald Reagan. Crazy has its own twisted logic and it is in no way related to the rational cause-and-effect world the rest of us attempt to create.

Those who are trying to connect the murders of the officers with the thousands of articulate and peaceful protestors across America are being deliberately misleading in a cynical and selfish effort to turn public sentiment against the protestors. This is the same strategy used when trying to lump in the violence and looting with the legitimate protestors, who have disavowed that behavior. They hope to misdirect public attention and emotion in order to stop the protests and the progressive changes that have already resulted. Shaming and blaming is a lot easier than addressing legitimate claims.

More at the link.

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The Washington Post and Los Angeles Times have each editorialized on the issue.

WaPo: The blame game over police deaths in New York goes too far.

LA Times: Protesters didn’t cause slayings of New York police officers.

The Daily Beast: The NY Police Union’s Vile War with Mayor De Blasio.

And from HuffPo: Police Unions ‘Standing Down’ After Controversial Comments In Wake Of NYPD Shooting.

Despite all the complaints about Obama’s leadership from Republicans, the economy is growing; and wealthy Americans sure seem to be doing okay.

The Hill, GDP grows by 5 percent as US economy picks up strong pace.

The economy grew at a 5 percent rate from July to September, the fastest pace in 11 years.

The strong growth recorded by the Commerce Department adds to the sense that the economy is approaching full speed for the first time since the recession of 2008 — and since President Obama was first elected….

The government found consumer spending grew by 3.2 percent from July to September, compared to 2.5 percent in the previous quarter.

The Commerce Department also shifted its estimate for the second quarter, finding strong growth of 4.6 percent between April and June. That’s up from its previous estimate of 3.9 percent.

Reuters, Dow Tops 18,000 for First Time on Upbeat GDP Report.

The Dow Jones Industrial Average broke through 18,000 for the first time Tuesday, propelled higher by a better-than-expected report on the economy in the third quarter. If the Dow closes above 18,000, it will have taken the index only six months to climb there from 17,000.

It took only seven months to get from 16,000 to 17,000.

The independent living in chula vista has been good news for Americans who own shares, including the wealthy, corporations, financial firms and workers with retirement funds and pensions invested in stocks. For those who don’t own shares, it could mean a widening wealth gap, however.

How much wider can it get?

exhausted puppy

But there’s also good news for us ordinary folks. From CNN, 89 straight days of lower gas prices.

The streak, the longest on record according to AAA, has shaved nearly $1 off the national average price of regular gas, taking it to $2.38 a gallon for the first time in five years. September 25 was the last day prices were higher for drivers. That day they increased by only a tenth of a cent. Prices have tumbled 36% since the high of the year, which was back in late April.

Not only have they been falling, but the plunge in gas prices has been picking up speed, tumbling nearly 2 cents between Monday and Tuesday.

Prices were 15 cents higher only a week ago and 44 cents higher a month ago. In numerous cities — including Dallas-Fort Worth, Kansas City, Missouri, Tulsa, Oklahoma, and Topeka, Kansas — the average price now stands less than $2 a gallon, according to AAA. Springfield, Missouri became the first state to break the $2 average price last week. Missouri drivers are enjoying the lowest statewide average price at $2.05 a gallon.

The plunging price of oil — a 50% drop off the cost of barrel of crude since April, is the main driver in the gas price slide. But there are many other factors also affecting prices. Weakening economies in Europe and Asia, as well as more fuel efficient vehicles worldwide, have all cut demand for gasoline.

Unfortunately, I can testify that gas prices on the New York Thruway are still very high, with regular priced at close to $3.00 a gallon.

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North Korea suffered a major internet breakdown yesterday. Was the NSA responsible? The CIA. If so, good work! From Reuters, North Korea’s Internet links restored amid U.S. hacking dispute.

North Korea, at the center of a confrontation with the United States over the hacking of Sony Pictures, experienced a complete Internet outage for hours before links were restored on Tuesday, but U.S. officials said Washington was not involved.

U.S.-based Dyn, a company that monitors Internet infrastructure, said the reason for the outage was not known but could range from technological glitches to a hacking attack. Several U.S. officials close to the investigations of the attack on Sony Pictures said the U.S. government had not taken any cyber action against Pyongyang.

U.S. President Barack Obama had vowed on Friday to respond to the major cyberattack, which he blamed on North Korea, “in a place and time and manner that we choose.”

Dyn said North Korea’s Internet links were unstable on Monday and the country later went completely offline. Links were restored at 0146 GMT on Tuesday, and the possibilities for the outage could be attacks by individuals, a hardware failure, or even that it was done by North Koreaitself, experts said.

Matthew Prince, CEO of U.S.-based CloudFlare which protects websites from web-based attacks, said the fact that North Korea’s Internet was back up “is pretty good evidence that the outage wasn’t caused by a state-sponsored attack, otherwise it’d likely still be down for the count”.

Almost all of North Korea’s Internet links and traffic pass through China and it dismissed any suggestion that it was involved as “irresponsible”.

So what happened then, I wonder . . . . ?

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Here’s a story that should please JJ: Dish Network dumps Fox News, setting off social media war on Facebook.

Satellite-TV provider Dish Network dropped the Fox News Channel and Fox Business Network on Saturday night after the companies couldn’t come to terms on a new distribution contract, reports TVNewser.

According to Fox Executive Vice President of Distribution Tim Carry, contract talks have broken off and nothing is happening, depriving Dish’s 14 million subscribers of Fox News’ “fair and balanced” approach to current event coverage.

“Our phone line is open, we’re willing to talk,” Carry said. “Am I negotiating right now? I’m not.”

Executives at Dish say Fox is playing hardball with them by attempting to use the news channel as  leverage to increase fees for their sports and entertainment channels normally covered by separate contracts.

“It’s like we’re about to close on a house and the realtor is trying to make us buy a new car as well,” said Warren Schlichting, Dish Network’s Senior Vice President of programming. “Fox blacked out two of its news channels, using them as leverage to triple rates on sports and entertainment channels that are not in this contract.”

Hahahahaha! The Fox fans in Banjoville must being going nuts. But at least they can watch Turner Classic Movies.

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And here’s some even more scary news for racist Southerners. From Raw Story: Southern whites have more black DNA than whites in the rest of US: study.

Some of the states with the most racially charged attitudes towards African-Americans are also the states where the most whites have black ancestors, according to a recently released study.

Researchers examined 145,000 DNA samples provided to genetic testing company 23andme for ancestry analysis to determine that at least six million Americans who called themselves white had 1 percent or more African ancestry.

The study published this month in the American Journal of Human Genetics found that whites in the South were far more likely to have at least 1 percent black ancestry than any other part of the country.

“European Americans with African ancestry comprise as much as 12% of European Americans from Louisiana and South Carolina and about 1 in 10 individuals in other parts of the South,” the authors wrote….

And black Americans living in the South also had more African ancestry than any other region of the country. African-Americans in West Virginia and Oregon had the lowest percentage of African ancestry.

So . . . . what stories are you following today? Please post your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a terrific Tuesday!


Super-Lazy Saturday Reads

 cat-readingGood Morning!!

It’s just one thing after another these days. I’m all stressed out again, because my mother broke her clavicle and I need to get out to Indiana ASAP. Unfortunately, I also have to go to the dentist this afternoon and then I have to figure out what to do about the jury duty I committed to in October, get the car checked out, and pack. Meet the top pediatric dentist near nyc, Elan Kaufman DMD. On top of that my car is due for an inspection sticker at the end of October. I’ll have to try to figure out if I’ll be back here by then or whether I should get the inspection done early.

Anyway, I’m hanging in there, realizing that my problems are nothing compared to so many other people in this crazy world. So what’s happening out there this morning?

Donald Trump continues to dominate the media. The good news is if they’re focusing on him, they can’t beat up on Hillary Clinton at the same time–or can they?

Trump’s misogyny knows no end–yesterday he turned his attention to fellow GOP candidate Carly Fiorina. From Ken Walsh’s Washington at U.S. News:

Another day, another insult from Donald Trump – and still another feud in the making.

This time, the Republican presidential front-runner belittled former business executive and presidential competitor Carly Fiorina, who has been making gradual progress in the polls but still lags behind Trump in the GOP race.

Rolling Stone magazine reports that Trump was watching Fiorina recently on a television newscast, in the presence of Rolling Stone reporter Paul Solotaroff, when the billionaire real-estate developer said, “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that? Can you imagine that, the face of our next president?”

Trump added: “I mean, she’s a woman, and I’m not supposed to say bad things, but really, folks, come on. Are we serious?”

Watching Trump run for president is like watching a 5-year-old boy act out with no restraints.

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The Guardian reports on Fiorina’s response: 

Fiorina, speaking on Fox News to Megyn Kelly – who has also been targeted by Trump – said she considered his remarks to be “very serious”.

She added: “Maybe, just maybe, I’m getting under his skin a little bit because I am climbing in the polls.”

Trump has forged a consistent lead in polling for the Republican candidacy, with former Hewlett-Packard chief executive Fiorina considerably further behind, polling in single figures.

Maybe. Or maybe Trump is just a gigantic asshole. He also attacked Ben Carson and tried without success to defend his comments about Fiorina. From The Washington Post: 

Carson attacked Trump in unusually sharp terms yesterday, seeming to question his faith. On Thursday, Trump went after Carson’s energy level — and played down his medical accomplishments, saying he was only an “okay doctor” (Carson was the first neurosurgeon to separate conjoined twins attached at the head.)

“He makes [Jeb] Bush look like the Energizer bunny,” Trump said on CNN Thursday morning. “Who is he to question my faith? … When he questions my faith, and I’m a believer big-league in God, the Bible…I will hit back for that.”

“He was a doctor… perhaps an OK doctor,” he also said, adding that “Ben Carson will not be the next president of the United States.”

Trump’s comments, which are the most aggressive he has made about Carson, come less than a day after the retired surgeon pointed to his faith when asked what he believes to be the biggest difference between himself and Trump.

“The biggest thing is that I realize where my success has come from, and I don’t any way deny my faith in God,” Carson Wednesday night. “And I think that probably is a big difference between us.”

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Can you imagine having a president who says things like “I’m a believer big-league in God?” Is this really happening? On Fiorina:

Trump defended his comments on Fox News Thursday morning, dismissing the notion that he was talking about Fiorina’s physical appearance.

“Probably I did say something lik that about Carly,” Trump said. “I’m talking about persona. I’m not talking about look.”

So criticizing a woman’s face is not about her appearance? Yeah, right. Not much of defense. But the media won’t hold Trump accountable no matter what he says.

Meanwhile traditional conservative pundits profess to be utterly mystified by Trump’s success in his “campaign” so far. Brian Beutler at The New Republic: Donald Trump’s Biggest Conservative Enemies Helped Create Him.

Donald Trump’s durable lead in Republican primary polls, and improving approval ratings, continue to befuddle people who ought to have better insight into the state of the conservative mind. Writing for National Review, Jonah Goldberg and Charles C.W. Cooke have each diagnosed Trumpism as a failing of the conservative voters who comprise Trump’s base.

Cooke believes that Trump “has succeeded in convincing conservatives to discard their principles,” begging the question of whether Trump’s supporters ever really shared the principles that animate conservative organizations and National Review writers. Goldberg insisted that “no movement that embraces Trump can call itself conservative,” which helped give rise to #NRORevolt, an online backlash, thick with white nationalists and other conservatives who are fed up with elites who try to write non-conformists—from moderates to protectionists to isolationists to outright racists—out of the movement.

The anti-tax group Club for Growth is a big part of that purification apparatus. It is currently organizing and raising money for an effort to excise Trump before his view that hedge fund managers should pay their fair share in taxes metastasizes through the Republican primary field.

Republican consultant Steve Schmidt, who presumably sympathizes withNational Review and Club for Growth, described their frustrations as the described their frustrations as the result of a fatal disjunction between mass conservatism and the ideology that’s supposed to underlie it. “We’re at this moment in time,” Schmidttold NPR recently, “when there’s a severability between conservatism and issues. Conservatism is now expressed as an emotional sentiment. That sentiment is contempt and anger.”

This explains Trump’s rise and persistence, but fails to account for how“contempt and anger” became such valuable currency in Republican politics today. That omission is predictable, because such an accounting would implicate nearly everyone who now claims to be astonished and dismayed by the Trump phenomenon.

Read the rest at TNR.

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A couple of weeks ago, I made a resolution that I would read Nate Silver’s FiveThirtyEight blog and Peter Daou and Tom Watson’s #HillaryMen blog every day. I’ve been doing it, and the effort has been paying off in terms of maintaining my equilibrium in an insane media atmosphere.

Silver had a nice, level-headed post on Trump and Bernie Sanders yesterday: Stop Comparing Donald Trump And Bernie Sanders.

A lot of people are linking the candidacies of Bernie Sanders and Donald Trump under headings like “populist” and “anti-establishment.” Most of these comparisons are too cute for their own good — not only because it’s too earlyto come to many conclusions about the campaign, but also because Trump and Sanders are fundamentally different breeds of candidates who are situated very differently in their respective nomination races.

You can call both “outsiders.” But if you’re a Democrat, Sanders is your eccentric uncle: He has his own quirks, but he’s part of the family. If you’re a Republican, Trump is as familial as the vacuum salesman knocking on your door.

Silver lists 7 differences between the two candidates–check them out at the link.

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And from #HillaryMen, another sensible post: The Sad, Sisyphean Struggle of Hillary Haters.

Writing for Politico, Jack Shafer explains why he thinks “Being a Clinton apologist is a hard life.”

Which got us thinking: what must it be like to be a die-hard Hillary hater? Obsessing over one of the most accomplished and resilient public figures on the planet? How depressing and demoralizing is it to latch onto fabricated scandal after fabricated scandal, only to have every one fade away?

How frustrating is it to expend so much time and mental energy bashing, bashing, bashing, only to have Hillary come back stronger than ever?

And how awful is it to be on the wrong side of women’s history, to help reinforce the gender barrier that prevents women and girls from realizing their full potential?

We’re not talking about fair-minded critics and principled political opponents. They have every right to disagree with Hillary and to dislike her if they’re so inclined. We’re talking about haters, people who have a pathological need to savage Hillary. People who make an industry of their hate.

Think of the self-righteous rants on Morning Joe, the seething vitriol of Maureen Dowd, the feverish swamps of rightwing trolls. Think of the reporters and pundits who mindlessly repeat Rove-funded frames and narratives, hoping to taint Hillary’s public image, to sully her character. Think of the Republican and conservative operatives who have tried in vain for more than two decades to silence her.

Go over to #HillaryMen to read the rest.

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As a bonus, here’s a nice column by Brent Budowsky at The Hill: Big truths about Hillary.

In olden days, great columnists such as Walter Lippmann and James “Scotty” Reston would periodically step back and put great events into perspective.

As America’s summer of political discontent and distemper ends, and as Americans shift from the fun of enjoying our favorite political performer to the mission of selecting our next president and as a pope of epochal significance prepares to address a joint session of a vastly unpopular Congress, let’s look at matters from a larger perspective.

It is revealing that while GOP presidential front-runner Donald Trump gets a pass from many in the media for repeated comments that were verbally abusive toward women, the candidate who would be the first female president, Hillary Clinton, is treated like a pinata by pundits on television news — which, according to Gallup, is one of the least trusted institutions in America.

When Clinton stands with virtually all of America’s democratic allies by forcefully supporting a plan to prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons and stands with Pope Francis in support of treating refugees and immigrants humanely, she is acting like a stateswoman, commander in chief and humanitarian.

Meanwhile, the policies of GOP presidential candidates would leave Lady Liberty crying in New York Harbor as the pope arrives in America.

It is a big truth that Clinton would be the first female president, an achievement equal in historic magnitude to President Obama becoming our first black president.

If she is elected, moms and dads from Topeka to Tangiers will be telling their daughters that they too can achieve anything if they work hard and dream big.

By contrast, the Republican front-runner describes moms and daughters as fat pigs, dogs, slobs, disgusting animals and bimbos.

More big truths at the link. The piece is well worth reading.

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A bit more news, links only:

Japan Today: More than 100,000 flee floods in eastern Japan; 7 missing.

New York Daily News Exclusive: James Blake, former tennis star, slammed to ground and handcuffed outside midtown hotel by white NYPD cops who mistook him for ID theft suspect.

Chron.com: Baltimore police arrest pastor a week after Gray protests.

The Daily Beast Exclusive: 50 Spies Say ISIS Intelligence Was Cooked.

Politico: David Brock: The New York Times has ‘a special place in hell.’

Gawker: Reporter Claims He Was Fired for Asking Louisiana Senator David Vitter About His History With Prostitutes.

CNN: Homo naledi: New species of human ancestor discovered in South Africa.

National Geographic: This Face Changes the Human Story. But How?

What else is happening? Please Share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a nice Thursday.


Early Morning Open Thread: The Voting Rights Act

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act, 1965

President Lyndon Johnson signs the Voting Rights Act, 1965

Lyndon Johnson: Voting Rights Act Address

Delivered March 15, 1965, Washington, D.C.

I speak tonight for the dignity of man and the destiny of democracy.

I urge every member of both parties—Americans of all religions and of all colors—from every section of this country—to join me in that cause.

At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.

There is no Negro problem. There is no southern problem. There is no northern problem. There is only an American problem.

And we are met here tonight as Americans—not as Democrats or Republicans—we are met here as Americans to solve that problem.

This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose. The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, north and south: “All men are created equal” — “Government by consent of the governed” — “Give me liberty or give me death.”…

Those words are a promise to every citizen that he shall share in the dignity of man. This dignity cannot be found in man’s possessions. It cannot be found in his power or in his position. It really rests on his right to be treated as a man equal in opportunity to all others. It says that he shall share in freedom, he shall choose his leaders, educate his children, provide for his family according to his ability and his merits as a human being….

Many of the issues of civil rights are very complex and most difficult. But about this there can and should be no argument. Every American citizen must have an equal right to vote. There is no reason which can excuse the denial of that right. There is no duty which weighs more heavily on us than the duty we have to ensure that right.

Yet the harsh fact is that in many places in this country men and women are kept from voting simply because they are Negroes….

Experience has clearly shown that the existing process of law cannot overcome systematic and ingenious discrimination. No law that we now have on the books—and I have helped to put three of them there—can ensure the right to vote when local officials are determined to deny it.

In such a case our duty must be clear to all of us. The Constitution says that no person shall be kept from voting because of his race or his color. We have all sworn an oath before God to support and to defend that Constitution.

We must now act in obedience to that oath.

Wednesday I will send to Congress a law designed to eliminate illegal barriers to the right to vote….

To those who seek to avoid action by their National Government in their home communities—who want to and who seek to maintain purely local control over elections—the answer is simple. Open your polling places to all your people. Allow men and women to register and vote whatever the color of their skin. Extend the rights of citizenship to every citizen of this land. There is no constitutional issue here. The command of the Constitution is plain. There is no moral issue. It is wrong—deadly wrong—to deny any of your fellow Americans the right to vote in this country. There is no issue of States rights or National rights. There is only the struggle for human rights.

I have not the slightest doubt what will be your answer….

But even if we pass this bill, the battle will not be over. What happened in Selma is part of a far larger movement which reaches into every section and State of America. It is the effort of American Negroes to secure for themselves the full blessings of American life.

Their cause must be our cause too, because it is not just Negroes but really it is all of us, who must overcome the crippling legacy of bigotry and injustice. And we shall overcome….

This great, rich, restless country can offer opportunity and education and hope to all—all black and white, all North and South, sharecropper and city dweller. These are the enemies—poverty, ignorance, disease—they are our enemies, not our fellow man, not our neighbor. And these enemies too—poverty, disease, and ignorance—we shall overcome.

Montgomery Advertiser, February 26, 2013: Has South changed enough to end Voting Rights Act?

Lyndon Johnson had been a southern U.S. Senator from Texas.

He had fought all civil rights legislation with as zealous an effort as the other bloc of southern senators. This southern bloc of U.S. Senators totally controlled the Senate through their seniority and prowess. They were a formidable coalition. However, Lyndon had now become a national politician. He had ascended to the presidency at the death of John Kennedy and aspired to win the brass ring on his own in 1964.

When Lyndon Johnson set his sights on something nothing or nobody better get in his way. Whatever it took or by whatever means necessary, Lyndon Johnson was determined to win.

Johnson called George Wallace to the White House to meet with him. Wallace was cocky and full of vim and vinegar. At barely 5’8” he was like a bantam rooster. Although he was used to being the cock of the walk, it did not take long for the tall, tough, crude, intimidating Johnson to put Wallace in his place.

Johnson scowled at Wallace and told him he was nothing more than a redneck, tin horn demagogue and he could shout segregation and racist jargon as much as he wanted but it was not going to make a bit of difference. Johnson went on to say that by the end of the year he was going to pass a civil rights bill and sign it. He told Wallace that Strom Thurmond and his allies could filibuster all they wanted but at the end of the day it was going to be the law of the land and it was going to propel Johnson to victory in 1964. Wallace came back to Alabama with his hat in hand. He knew Johnson meant business.

The bill passed and Johnson signed it. Being a southerner Lyndon Johnson knew the ramifications when he signed the Civil Rights Act. He looked up and said, I have just signed the South over to the Republican Party. His words were prophetic….

In 1965, Johnson set his sights on a higher goal and passed the Voting Rights Act. He took aim at the Deep South and bestowed his renowned retribution extraction in Section 4B and Section 5. It requires that those five states and certain regions that voted for Goldwater must have any changes to their voting laws or procedures approved by the U.S. Justice Department.

Voting Rights Act Signing (1)


Monday Reads

Good Morning!

Wow.  I almost feel human this morning!  I spent the last few days with a terrible flu.  First, I couldn’t get warm, then I couldn’t cool down.  My joints and muscles hurt like crazy.  I also had congestion and stuffiness everywhere possible.  I gave up on trying to accomplish anything on Friday and just took to bed.  Watching TV was too much effort even!   Hope you can avoid whatever that was because it made me miserable.

There is one bit of new news.  Huntsman is quitting the GOP race for President. 

Jon M. Huntsman Jr. informed his advisers on Sunday that he intends to drop out of the Republican presidential race, ending his candidacy a week before he had hoped to revive his campaign in the South Carolina primary.

Mr. Huntsman, who had struggled to live up to the soaring expectations of his candidacy, made plans to make an announcement as early as Monday. He had been set to participate in an evening debate in Myrtle Beach.

It looks like I missed a lot of theatrical politics for the benefit of the American Taliban this weekend.  I did enjoy hearing about the Broncos-Pats games.  The Saints outcome was gut and heart wrenching.  Tewbow’s endzone piety leads to a good question, imho.  Can’t we have at least one area of our lives where we don’t have to be subjected to endless shows of self-righteousness?  Do football players really have to wear hairshirts on the field?  We certainly would take see many folks take issue with football players insisting on prayer rugs and bowing to Mecca down there on the field.  Wouldn’t people fight the idea that we stop playing games on Friday night so Jewish football players don’t disrespect the Sabbath?  This is getting worse than those nasty Mel Gibson movies.

Sports used to be a refuge from the division and hatred which permeates the media nowadays. Not anymore. This all began in 2010 when Tebow and his mother starred in a controversial pro-life commercial sponsored by FOTF during the Super Bowl aired by CBS. What made it so controversial is that CBS had already turned down ads from left-leaning organizations like PETA and MoveOn.org. There was no room for their message on Super Sunday, but just like last night CBS has no problem airing evangelical right wing messages.

Of course the reason the FOTF commercial was aired in the first place was because Tebow was playing in the game. The Tebowization of the NFL will continue in this year’s Super Bowl as Randall Terry (Who is running as a conservative Democrat challenging President Obama) plans to air a gruesome commercial featuring aborted fetuses. The Right has found their savior in Tebow and the NFL, which is obviously willing to turn Denver Bronco games into Christian recruiting lovefests.

Now don’t get me wrong. I’m sure that Tim Tebow is a nice guy. However when you make the decision to wear your religion on your sleeve, you are pushing your beliefs on people who do not want to hear or see them, especially during an NFL playoff game. I don’t begrudge anyone their own personal beliefs. When you push them and use your position as an NFL player as a platform to foist them on the public, that’s out of bounds. Tebow also energizes the evangelicals who see him as a vessel to push their political agenda. (Rick Perry and Michele Bachmann have already co-opted the Tebow mystique.)

Thanks to CBS and Tebow’s followers, we are headed down a slippery slope. Would it be too much to ask that sports be declared a no-religion zone?

You just can’t get away from the sanctimonious these days. Our local ABC affiliate has now picked up the slogan “God Bless Louisiana”. They’ve got it festooned on billboards and TV.  Why this sudden urge to play Pharisee every where I look?  I refuse to watch the entire line up now on that station.  It’s like an assault.  Sorry ABC.  I don’t care what you run.  I’m not watching until you tell your affiliate to put a sock in it.

I couldn’t even watch TV news this weekend with out enduring the Christian Taliban Hate Fest down there in Texas.  We’re fricking infested with these pests!  Somebody grab the Constitution and swat them please!  At least, remove take tax exempt status away from these guys so they have less money to throw around!

Right now, there’s a somewhat frantic effort among some on the Christian right to corral their movement behind Santorum, who has already proved to be the favorite of evangelicals in Iowa. Many religious right figures are still haunted by their failure in 2008 to rally to Mike Huckabee, which they feel enabled the victory of John McCain, who they distrusted even more than they do Mitt Romney.

On Saturday, more than 150 leading religious conservatives gathered in Brenham, Texas, to see if they could agree, this time, to coalesce behind a single candidate. Perry was eliminated on the first ballot. By the third, when some attendees had already left, Santorum won the group’s imprimatur with 85 votes, compared to 29 for Gingrich. In a conference call about the results, Tony Perkins, head of The Family Research Council, said we could expect fundraising drives and other sorts of activism on Santorum’s behalf from the group’s participants.

Gloria Hein, one of my prayer breakfast tablemates, said the Texas group’s Santorum endorsement made her more likely to vote for him. “I’ve been rooting for Santorum, but I thought he didn’t stand a chance,” she said. “I think that’s a great encouragement that they’re behind him. I’m getting chills right now!”

Maybe she’s just got the flu that I had.

So, today is MLK day.  It seems we have a long way to go on all fronts of civil rights.  The current discussion over FLOTUS is just one example. Women get the bitch and anger labels whenever they have strong opinions.  The usual suspects lined up to point fingers.

The political downsides for both of the Obamas are clear enough. In using the words she did, she risked reactivating an entire narrative that had surrounded her in 2008. This idea that she was in some nebulous way radical and less-than-fully American had been a corrosive one, buttressed most powerfully by her now-infamous campaign trail statement that “for the first time in my adult life I am proud of my country.”

That image was one that it took a great deal of time and work to undo — beginning, perhaps, with her ostentatiously patriotic address to the 2008 Democratic National Convention and continuing with her signature White House initiatives on the most uncontentious of issues: childhood obesity and the welfare of military families.

Last week’s remarks opened the door for ideological opponents of Obama to argue that she was up to her old antics. They needed no second invitation to march through it.

“She comes from a very angry, black nationalist background,” David Webb, a conservative radio talk show host and Tea Party activist who is himself African-American, told The Hill.

In Webb’s view, Obama had emerged from a family of modest means, had been afforded “enormous opportunities” and had gone on to the crowning heights of the White House. Given her official role, he said, she ought to realize that “you have to couch your views, because you’re representing the nation.”

Webb added that the danger in Obama’s remarks was their capacity to turn off even the ideologically uncommitted.

“It’s un-American,” he said, referring to her raising of racial issues. “The majority of Americans do not like that approach, this underhand way of doing things.”

So, here’s a great story from The Christian Science Monitor that highlights 8 peaceful protests that usheredin civil rights laws.  One of the most effective was the Montgomery Bus Boycott that

Rosa Parks and Doctor Martin Luther King

lasted a year.

The protest began, on Dec. 1, 1955, after African-American Rosa Parkswas arrested for refusing to give up her seat on a bus to a white person. The next day, Dr. King proposed a citywide boycott of public transportation at a church meeting.

The boycott proved to be effective, causing the transit system to run a huge deficit. After all, Montgomery’s black residents not only were the principal boycotters, but also the bulk of the transit system’s paying customers. The situation became so tense that members of the White Citizens’ Council, a group that opposed racial integration, firebombed King’s house.

In June 1956, a federal court found that the laws in Alabama and Montgomery requiring segregated buses were unconstitutional. However, an appeal kept segregation intact until Dec. 20, 1956, when the US Supreme Court upheld the district court’s ruling. The boycott’s official end signaled one of the civil rights movement’s first victories and made King one of its central figures.

This made me think about the gender-segregated buses in Israel.   I think the US should refuse to fund any country that allows this kind of thing. Here’s a link to the New Israel Fund that is committed to democracy, justice and equality for all Israles.  It’s hard to believe a modern democracy could do this to women, isn’t it?

  • Israel’s High Court of Justice has given Transport Minister Israel Katz (Likud) until December 27 (update: the deadline has been extended) to present his position on gender- segregated bus lines. The order followed a report by a special committee set up by the Ministry of Transport, which ruled that these bus lines are illegal because they humiliate and discriminate against women passengers.
  • The Ministry of Transport committee was set up following a petition in 2007 by veteran New Israel Fund grantee Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC) for Progressive Judaism (Reform) and novelist Naomi Ragen against the gender-segregated bus lines. The court ordered the committee to consider, rule on and regulate the matter.
  • More than ten years ago, the ultra-Orthodox (haredi) community asked Israel’s public bus company, Egged, to provide segregated busses in their neighborhoods.  By early 2009 more than 55 such lines were operating around Israel.  Typically, women are required to enter through the bus back doors and sit in the back of the bus, as well as “dress modestly.”
  • Some buses operate in or through mixed neighborhoods and are the only buses running on particular routes.  In Jerusalem, the segregated buses actually charge lower fares than ordinary Egged busses.  Women who refuse to sit in the back of the bus are frequently threatened verbally and physically by haredi men who “enforce” the segregation system.
  • In October, the special Ministry of Transport committee recommended a year-long trial in which men and women could choose to enter the buses by separate doors and sit separately, but stressed that all seating on public buses must be voluntarily and no coercion must be used. The committee further stressed that there is no separate, publicly-run bus system for haredi communities, and every member of the public has the right to use buses in accordance with basic human rights and the principle of equality.
  • Many Israelis fear that the right-wing governing coalition, which includes all but one of the major religious parties, will pressure the Minister into rejecting the committee report and supporting the continuation of segregated and discriminatory public transportation.

It seems that a lot of countries are having problems with their fundamentalist religious sects who are demanding that discriminatory, hateful, and unreasonable practices be enacted.   Our country must respect the right of each individuation to practice their beliefs, but our laws, civil rights, and culture should not be skewed to bow down to these narrow beliefs.

Happy MLK Day!  I can hear the parade going down Claiborne as it goes through the Ninth Ward to Down Town.  Let’s remember the dignity of no person should be limited due to the narrow views of any religion.

What’s on your reading and blogging list today?