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Showing posts from June, 2015

Teamwork on the Supreme Court

Now that the current term is over for the Supreme Court, analysts are digging into the record to draw conclusions about what happened. In a fascinating analysis, Adam Liptak writes: Supreme Court Tacks Left, With Push from Disciplined Liberals . The stunning series of liberal decisions delivered by the Supreme Court this term was the product of discipline on the left side of the court and disarray on the right. In case after case, including blockbusters on same-sex marriage and President Obama’s health care law, the court’s four-member liberal wing, all appointed by Democratic presidents, managed to pick off one or more votes from the court’s five conservative justices, all appointed by Republicans. They did this in large part through rigorous bloc voting, making the term that concluded Monday the most liberal one since the Warren court in the late 1960s, according to two political-science measurements of court voting data. “The most interesting thing about this term is the acc

From "Lame Duck" to "Fourth Quarter"

It seems to me that the job of political scientists is to identify patterns in political history as a way to predict the future. One of those patterns that has been pretty generally accepted is that once a presidential campaign begins to replace a second-termer, the White House occupant goes into "lame duck" status. That is certainly what everyone was expecting from President Obama after the huge losses Democrats suffered in the 2014 midterms. But as we all know by now, the President decided he'd start a new that saw his remaining two years as a "fourth quarter" in which he vowed to play to the end. His success in being able to do that hinged on several factors. 1. A scandal-free presidency During my lifetime, no two-term president has managed to escape the drag of either scandal or terribly flawed policies at the end of their second term. Johnson had Vietnam. Nixon had Watergate. Reagan had Iran/Contra. Clinton had impeachment. Bush had tort

Photo of the Day: Fearless

I don't know about you, but I've shed a lot of tears over the last 10 days. Some have been tears of grief and some of joy. It's hard to miss that we're going through a great historical moment in this country. And so I wanted to mark this occasion with a few important words that have been written about it. Inside Obama's "Amazing Grace" Moment  by Joshua DuBois Obama's Grace by James Fallows Understanding Obama in the Fourth Quarter by Dan Pfeiffer The Time Has Come to Recognize President Obama's Game-Changing Liberal Legacy by Gregory Krieg Ten Days in June by David Remnick Barack Obama is officially one of the most consequential presidents in American histor y by Dylan Matthews Ten Days That Turned America Into a Better Place by Michael Cohen The theme, of course, is that we have been led both to and through these last 10 days by a great who has been fearless.

President Obama on Patriotism and Faith

For over seven years now, Republicans have fueled the racism of their base by claiming that our first African American president was neither patriotic nor Christian. On the other hand, a group of what some call "blackademics" have claimed that he wasn't "black enough ." I would like to point out to both groups that President Obama articulated his patriotism at the 50th anniversary celebration of the Selma march and gave voice to his Christian beliefs in his eulogy at one of the original Black churches in this country after its minister was gunned down in an act of racial hatred. Some have already noted how the President talked about patriotism and love of country at Selma. What greater expression of faith in the American experiment than this, what greater form of patriotism is there than the belief that America is not yet finished, that we are strong enough to be self-critical, that each successive generation can look upon our imperfections and decide th

Hate Won't Win

Wow - yesterday was such an emotionally powerful day! I remember reading my twitter timeline late in the morning as some folks were struggling with the desire to celebrate the SCOTUS ruling making marriage equality the law of the land - and yet preparing themselves for the home-going service of a minister/public servant who had been gunned down by a white racist. And then came the amazing sermon by our Rev. President Barack Obama . OH MY!!!!! The juxtaposition of these two long struggles for equality in our country reminded me of another day when the two came face-to-face. On November 4, 2008 this country elected our first African American president. But on that same day, California said "yes" to Proposition 8 - a constitutional amendment banning same-sex marriage. I will never forget what terrance - a black gay man - wrote in response. It has been a strange couple of weeks. Just last week, I saw something that I never thought I’d see in my lifetime, and felt like I was

Was Blind, But Now I See

It's hard to avoid feelings of despair when a 12 year-old black boy is gunned down by a Cleveland police officer for playing with a toy gun and yet people continue in their denial that racism was a factor. That kind of thing has been happening on a regular basis these last few months. It was getting difficult to maintain any hope that things could change. But then last week a young white man who was filled with hate gunned down nine black people in their church. The explicit nature of the racism was too difficult to ignore. That's why the tears started to flow for me at this point in Reverend President Barack Obama's eulogy today. We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history. But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act. It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress. An act that he imagined would

Photo of the Day: Equality Wins!

To commemorate the historic decision from the Supreme Court today: Equality wins! From Justice Kennedy's ruling : No union is more profound than marriage, for it embodies the highest ideals of love, fidelity, devotion, sacrifice, and family. In forming a marital union, two people become something greater than once they were. As some of the petitioners in these cases demonstrate, marriage embodies a love that may endure even past death. It would misunderstand these men and women to say they disrespect the idea of marriage. Their plea is that they do respect it, respect it so deeply that they seek to find its fulfillment for themselves. Their hope is not to be condemned to live in loneliness, excluded from one of civilization’s oldest institutions. They ask for equal dignity in the eyes of the law. The Constitution grants them that right. The judgment of the Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit is reversed. It is so ordered .

President Obama and Risk-Taking

One of the critiques of President Obama that has some merit is that he is pretty risk-averse. He doesn't take a lot of chances on things that might prove to be failures. For example, the President has been very clear about the fact that he would have preferred a single payer health insurance system. But he knew that the chances for failure with that were way too high (see: Vermont ) and so he went for a more modest change to our current system with Obamacare. The one time I can think of that the President took a big risk that didn't pay off was when he attempted to negotiate a Grand Bargain with Speaker John Boehner. That one failed. But I also think that after all his talk of wanting to engage in bipartisan reform, he had to at least give it a go or prove himself to be yet another politician made of empty promises. I suspect that Obama's risk-aversion is tied to his competitive desire to win. We've gotten a pretty big taste of that this week with the SCOTUS Obamaca

Happy 60th Birthday to a Very Wise Latina!

On a day that the Supreme Court upheld Obamacare and disparate impact , what a great way to celebrate the 60th birthday of one of the greatest gifts President Obama has given us - Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor!

It's Time to Open the Doors to the Benefits of Medical Marijuana

According to Pew Research , a little over half of Americans (53%) support marijuana legalization. That number has risen 11 points since 2010. But an even larger majority - 78% - support its use for medicinal purposes. No one has done more to increase support for the use of medical marijuana than a young girl named Charlotte Fiji. She suffers from a rare form of epilepsy and by the time she was 5 years old, was having several hundred seizures a week. Desperate, her mother took her to Colorado Springs to ask for help from the Stanley brothers , who were operating a small medical marijuana dispensary. Wary about giving marijuana to a young girl, the Stanleys took a strain called “Hippie’s disappointment” that was low in THC (the chemical that gives the buzz), and created a new blend, high in cannabidiol (the chemical with the medical potential). Charlotte could take it in small doses. Remarkably—the Stanleys might say miraculously—Charlotte’s seizures decreased dramatically. The

Does Racism Require Intent?

For months conservatives refused to accept that police officers killing unarmed Black men was a sign of the racism that still exists in our police departments and criminal justice system. Even when the Department of Justice produced it's report finding that the Ferguson Police Department engaged in a pattern and practice of racial discrimination , the denial persisted. But for most (certainly not all) conservatives, it became too difficult to deny that racism is what motivated Dylann Roof. Initially they tried, but the facts became overwhelming. And it has been his embrace of what the Confederate flag symbolizes that has led so many to call for its removal. The reason so many people had to accept that Roof's actions were racist is that he made his intentions clear. If his statement at the scene of the shooting about how his African American victims were "raping our women and taking over our country" weren't enough, his published manifesto made it irrefutable.

Huckabee is As Wrong About Racism As He Was About the Duggars

Here is a video of Mike Huckabee on Fox News earlier today. During the first couple of minutes, he's busy back-pedaling on his initial comments about the Confederate flag. But what grabbed me was what he said at the end. It starts at about the 2:05 mark. I keep hearing people saying we need more conversations about race. Actually we don’t need more conversations. What we need is conversions because the reconciliation that changes people is not a racial reconciliation, it’s a spiritual reconciliation when people are reconciled to God. That kind of thinking touches a nerve with me because it is what led to my initial journey to question my own roots as a fundamentalist Christian. It all started for me when I graduated from a Christian liberal arts college and stumbled into a job as a counselor in a residential treatment program for chemically dependent teenagers. There were 5 of us counselors who worked with 15 youth in the program. According to my beliefs at the time, the o

President Obama on the Viability of Politics to Make Change

Back in 2005, when Barack Obama had just been elected to be the United States Senator from Illinois, his wife Michelle described him this way: Barack is not a politician first and foremost. He's a community activist exploring the viability of politics to make change. In about a year and a half, that exploration will come to an end when his tenure in politics is over. One of my fantasies lately has been that at that point I'd have the opportunity to interview the President and ask him what he's learned about the viability of politics to make change. But Marc Maron may have beaten me to the punch. During his interview with the President, he made the cynical but provocative observation that perhaps the presidency was simply "middle management" in a system that is already entrenched. President Obama didn't necessarily disagree. But here's what he said (I'll summarize because I haven't been able to find a transcript): The emphasis on "hope

Don't let the media pull your strings!!

I've got a little rant to let loose. Today we all got to listen to the conversation between Marc Maron and President Obama . But based on what I'm reading/hearing, you'd think all the President did was walk into Maron's garage, say the N-word, and walk out. All day today I've been seeing people either blast the President for using that word or defend the context. Let me add my 2 cents: THAT'S NOT ALL PRESIDENT OBAMA SAID! Over the course of an hour, he talked about some fascinating topics, like: How/why he was able to craft an identity for himself, as a Black man, that was different from his father. How he still believes that the American people are better than our politics. The angriest he's ever been at Congress was when - after all those babies were killed in Newtown - they still couldn't pass common sense gun control. The thing that makes him happiest is to watch his daughters grow into such kind, compassionate young women. How turning th

How Does Your Community Commemorate the Confederacy?

It's beginning to look like the movement demanding that South Carolina take down the Confederate flag is having an effect. Republicans who at first refused to take a position are increasingly being pressured to call for it's removal. My position all along about this is that it's important for us to remember that flying the Confederate flag is a symbol. In that sense, it is a reflection of the problem rather than the problem itself. And yet symbols have great meaning. And so, as Republicans join the call for the flag's removal , they are affirming that we can longer celebrate the ugly past the flag represents. That means something. These symbols abound. For example, as I wrote last weekend, on the SC capitol grounds very near where the Confederate flag flies is a statue commemorating reconstruction era terrorist Benjamin Tillman. But it isn't just South Carolina and it isn't even just the Southern States of the Confederacy. I happen to live in the very

Small Steps Towards Progress in Libya

President Obama greets Gulf State leaders at Camp David If you're like me, your knowledge of what's been happening in Libya is limited to the fact that the country is in chaos. But apparently that's not simply because of the involvement of terrorist groups like al Qaeda and ISIS. Qatar and the United Arab Emirates have been fighting a proxy war in that country. The Qatar-backed, Islamist-aligned Tripoli government controls most of western Libya, while the UAE-linked, internationally recognized Tobruk government dominates the east... Qatar and its ally, the Islamist government of Turkey, have proved willing to back Islamist groups throughout the Muslim world in the wake of the Arab Spring. The UAE and its ally, Egypt, which often equate political Islam with extremism, have gone so far as to intervene directly to undermine Islamists, launching air strikes within Libya. President Obama put this issue on the table back in May when he hosted the  Gulf States Summit at

Reclaiming the Turf

I'm growing increasingly weary of the kind of political analysis exemplified most recently by Dana Milbank . He takes a look at some recent polling that suggests more people are identifying themselves as liberal and prefers this explanation. A third theory, which I find compelling, is that the rise in liberalism is a backlash against the over-the-top conservatism displayed by the tea party movement. The Pew Research Center and others have documented a dramatic increase in ideological polarization within political parties over two decades. The Republican Party has long been dominated by conservatives, and the recent rise in liberalism among Democrats may be a mirror image of that — the beginnings of a tea party of the left. A "tea party of the left?" Oh puhleeze! Let's spend just a moment recapping some history. First of all, with the routing that Ronald Reagan gave Walter Mondale in the 1984 presidential election, a lot of Democrats decided that it was time to mo

Catholics Mobilize on Climate Change

According to Coral Davenport , Republican presidential candidates aren't just going to be hearing about climate change from the Pope. As the steamy hurricane season descends on Miami, the city’s Roman Catholic archbishop, Thomas G. Wenski, is planning a summer of sermons, homilies and press events designed to highlight the threat that a warming planet, rising sea levels and more extreme storms pose to his community’s poorest and most vulnerable... Archbishop Wenski will repeat those messages in his sermons, and he hopes that they will resonate with two members of his flock in particular: Florida’s junior senator, Marco Rubio, and former Gov. Jeb Bush, both Catholics and both Republican presidential candidates... Florida is not the only crucial presidential state where Catholic bishops will push the pope’s climate message. In Iowa, the bishops of Des Moines and Davenport are planning a news media event at a wind turbine manufacturing facility, where they will highlight finding

Right Wing Media and Their "Racialized Political Fodder"

In what is purported to be Dylann Roof's "manifesto ," he writes that this is where it all began: The event that truly awakened me was the Trayvon Martin case. I kept hearing and seeing his name, and eventually I decided to look him up. I read the Wikipedia article and right away I was unable to understand what the big deal was. It was obvious that Zimmerman was in the right. But more importantly this prompted me to type in the words “black on White crime” into Google, and I have never been the same since that day. The first website I came to was the Council of Conservative Citizens.  Reading that reminded me of how Ta-Nehisi Coates had meticulously laid out the process by which the killing of Trayvon Martin by George Zimmerman became "racialized political fodder" for right wing media. The reaction to the tragedy was, at first, trans-partisan. Conservatives either said nothing or offered tepid support for a full investigation—and in fact it was the Republi

This one seems to be beyond them

Apparently Republicans think it's easier to understand young people on the other side of the globe who join ISIS than they do the racists in their own back yard.

For Republican Candidates, It's White Evangelicals 13/Latinos 1

Remember that Republican Party autopsy after the 2012 election? One of their six big take-aways was that GOP candidates needed to do a better job of reaching out to Latinos if they ever wanted to win back the White House. Well... that's not happening . An obvious place to start would be the nation’s annual “Latino political convention” here this week in Las Vegas, where more than 1,200 Hispanic leaders have gathered for, among other things, a presidential candidates forum. Yet out of the GOP’s 16 declared or likely presidential candidates, only one — retired neurosurgeon Ben Carson — showed. The absence of the others — including former Florida governor Jeb Bush, who made outreach to Latino voters a central theme of his Miami campaign launch Monday — illustrates the gulf between the GOP’s urgent need to present a more welcoming face to Hispanics and how far those running to be the party’s standard-bearer are willing to go to do so. Of course all the no-shows cited "sc

Quote of the Day: Finding Truth

I have to say that this is something I've really been feeling the last couple of days. There are times I've felt overwhelmed with grief and can't imagine being able to write a rational word. And so I've tried to just let those moments be. But then the need to say something returns. As I write, I feel myself once again being moored in my own truth. And when I'm done...relief. Its a blessing.

The Racist Fear: "You're Taking Over Our Country"

It's hard to believe that just three months ago we were celebrating the 50th anniversary of the march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma. But today I'm thinking of something President Obama said at the time. We do a disservice to the cause of justice by intimating that bias and discrimination are immutable, that racial division is inherent to America. If you think nothing’s changed in the past 50 years, ask somebody who lived through the Selma or Chicago or Los Angeles of the 1950s. Ask the female CEO who once might have been assigned to the secretarial pool if nothing’s changed. Ask your gay friend if it’s easier to be out and proud in America now than it was thirty years ago. To deny this progress, this hard-won progress -– our progress –- would be to rob us of our own agency, our own capacity, our responsibility to do what we can to make America better. That one goes down a little harder today than it did three months ago. As I said yesterday , the shooting at

"Until Justice Rolls Down Like Waters"

That is a picture of the Civil Rights Memorial at the Southern Poverty Law Center in Montgomery, AL. In the background is a paraphrase from the book of Amos that was used by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in his "I Have a Dream" speech at the beginning of the Montgomery Bus Boycott: "...Until justice rolls down like waters and righteousness like a mighty stream." I'm thinking about that quote as I continue to contemplate the shooting at the Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, SC. Will the prosecution and conviction of the shooter - Dylann Storm Roof - bring justice? It's hard not to think of the tie that binds this event to the bombing of the Sixteenth Street Baptist Church 52 years ago in Birmingham that killed four little girls. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr . spoke that their memorial and had a much bigger view of what justice requires. He talked about the message we should hear from those four little girls. And so this afternoon in a real sense they

Children Will Listen

Last year I wrote about how my good-hearted grandmother, who grew up in Kentucky, learned to be racist. While I can't particularly point to this textbook, I'm sure she was taught what we now call scientific racism in school. According to this textbook, the white race is the most advanced in the world. Most other races, schoolchildren were taught, tended to have a “savage” character, living in remote areas without industry and Western-style education. A few months ago, as we approached the 150th anniversary of the end of the Civil War and the beginning of the period of "reconstruction" in the South, I found this prophetic poem by Charles Dinkins : When fails the sword, the better way Becomes the soldier’s part to play; The south will whip the north some day With ink and pen. That poem captured what I was taught as a child about reconstruction and the particular brand of racism that I learned growing up mostly in Texas. Will Moredock , who was raised in So