Archive | Politics

A Canadians View on the Disrespect of President Obama’s Presidency

There was a time not so long ago when Americans, regardless of their political stripes, rallied round their president. Once elected, the man who won the White House was no longer viewed as a republican or democrat, but the President of the United States. The oath of office was taken, the wagons were circled around the country’s borders and it was America versus the rest of the world with the president of all the people at the helm.

Suddenly President Barack Obama, with the potential to become an exceptional president has become the glaring exception to that unwritten, patriotic rule.

Four days before President Obama’s inauguration, before he officially took charge of the American government, Rush Limbaugh boasted publicly that he hoped the president would fail. Of course, when the president fails the country flounders. Wishing harm upon your country in order to further your own narrow political views is selfish, sinister and a tad treasonous as well.

Subsequently, during his State of the Union address, which is pretty much a pep rally for America, an unknown congressional representative from South Carolina, later identified as Joe Wilson, stopped the show when he called the President of the United States a liar. The president showed great restraint in ignoring this unprecedented insult and carried on with his speech. Speaker Nancy Pelosi was so stunned by the slur, she forgot to jump to her feet while clapping wildly, 30 or 40 times after that.

Last spring, President Obama took his wife Michelle to see a play in New York City and republicans attacked him over the cost of security for the excursion. The president can’t take his wife out to dinner and a show without being scrutinized by the political opposition? As history has proven, a president in a theatre without adequate security is a tragically bad idea.

Remember: “Apart from that, Mrs. Lincoln, how did you enjoy the play?”

At some point, the treatment of President Obama went from offensive to ugly and then to downright dangerous.

The health-care debate, which looked more like extreme fighting in a mud pit than a national dialogue, revealed a very vulgar side of America. President Obama’s face appeared on protest signs white-faced and blood-mouthed in a satanic clown image. In other tasteless portrayals, people who disagreed with his position distorted his face to look like Hitler complete with mustache and swastika.

Odd, that burning the flag makes Americans crazy, but depicting the president as a clown and a maniacal fascist is accepted as part of the new rude America.

Maligning the image of the leader of the free world is one thing, putting the president’s life in peril is quite another. More than once, men with guns were videotaped at the health-care rallies where the president spoke. Again, history shows that letting men with guns get within range of a president has not served America well in the past.

And still the “birthers” are out there claiming Barack Obama was not born in the United States, although public documentation proves otherwise. Hawaii is definitely part of the United States, but the Panama Canal Zone where his electoral opponent Senator John McCain was born? Nobody’s sure.

Last month, a 44-year-old woman in Buffalo was quite taken by President Obama when she met him in a chicken wing restaurant called Duff’s. Did she say something about a pleasure and an honour to meet the man or utter encouraging words for the difficult job he is doing? No. Quote: “You’re a hottie with a smokin’ little body.”

Lady, that was the President of the United States you were addressing, not one of the Jonas Brothers! He’s your president for goodness sakes, not the guy driving the Zamboni at “Monster Trucks On Ice.” Maybe next it’ll be, “Take Your President To A Topless Bar Day.”

In President Barack Obama, Americans have a charismatic leader with a good and honest heart. Unlike his predecessor, he’s a very intelligent leader. And unlike that president’s predecessor, he’s a highly moral man.

In President Obama, Americans have the real deal, the whole package and a leader that citizens of almost every country around the world look to with great envy. Given the opportunity, Canadians would trade our leader, hell, most of our leaders for Obama in a heartbeat.

What America has in Obama is a head of state with vitality and insight and youth. Think about it, Barack Obama is a young Nelson Mandela. Mandela was the face of change and charity for all of Africa but he was too old to make it happen. The great things Obama might do for America and the world could go on for decades after he’s out of office.

America, you know not what you have.

The man is being challenged unfairly, characterized with vulgarity and treated with the kind of deep disrespect to which no previous president was subjected. It’s like the day after electing the first black man to be president, thereby electrifying the world with hope and joy, Americans sobered up and decided the bad old days were better.

President Obama may fail but it will not be a Richard Nixon default fraught with larceny and lies. President Obama, given a fair chance, will surely succeed but his triumph will never come with a Bill Clinton caveat – “if only he’d got control of that zipper.”

Please. Give the man a fair, fighting chance. This incivility toward the leader who won over Americans and gave hope to billions of people around the world that their lives could be enhanced by his example, just naturally has to stop.

Believe me, when Americans drive by the White House and see a sign on the lawn that reads: “No shirt. No shoes. No service,” they’ll realize this new national rudeness has gone way, way too far.

 

Egberto Willies, the Fifth Estate

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Federal Judge Richard Posner: The GOP Has Made Me Less Conservative

Judge Richard Posner, a conservative on the 7th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Chicago, has long been one of the nation’s most respected and admired legal thinkers on the right. But in an interview with NPR, he expressed exasperation at the modern Republican Party, and confessed that he has become “less conservative” as a result.

Posner expressed admiration for President Ronald Reagan and the economist Milton Friedman, two pillars of conservatism. But over the past 10 years, Posner said, “there’s been a real deterioration in conservative thinking. And that has to lead people to re-examine and modify their thinking.”

“I’ve become less conservative since the Republican Party started becoming goofy,” he said.

Posner, who was appointed to the appeals court by Reagan, speculated that the leaks about the deliberations over the national health care law — which are apparently designed to discredit Chief Justice John Roberts’ opinion upholding the law — would backfire. “I think these right-wingers who are blasting Roberts are making a very serious mistake,” he said.

“Because if you put [yourself] in his position … what’s he supposed to think? That he finds his allies to be a bunch of crackpots? Does that help the conservative movement? I mean, what would you do if you were Roberts? All the sudden you find out that the people you thought were your friends have turned against you, they despise you, they mistreat you, they leak to the press. What do you do? Do you become more conservative? Or do you say, ‘What am I doing with this crowd of lunatics?’ Right? Maybe you have to re-examine your position.”

In addition to his work as an appeals court judge, Posner is the author of more than three dozen books on subjects ranging from law and economics to aging and literature.

 

by NINA TOTENBERG, NPR

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Student Loan Crusader: How Elizabeth Warren Wants to Reduce Debt

As a first-term senator from Massachusetts, Elizabeth Warren is advancing her fight for middle-class families with a legislative agenda focused on college affordability and student debt. “Rising student-loan debt is an economic emergency,” she says. “Forty million people are dealing with $1.2 trillion in outstanding student debt. It’s stopping young people from buying homes, from buying cars and from starting small businesses. We need to take action.”

Warren’s bills range from pie-in-the-sky progressive – she called for college loans to be issued at the same, nearly free, interest rates that Wall Street banks receive from the Fed – to soberly bipartisan. Her proposal to refinance outstanding student-loan debt at less than four percent interest (financed by a new minimum tax on America’s top earners) nearly cleared the Senate in June, and will return to the Senate floor for a new vote this fall. “This country invests in tax loopholes for billionaires,” she says. “And forces college students to pay for them through higher interest rates on their loans. That makes no sense at all.”

College affordability is not a new problem. Tuition costs are up 500 percent since 1985. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell says the solution is that “not every­body needs to go to Yale.” That sounds cynical. But is there some pragmatism there? Is it time to admit that a traditional college education has become a luxury good?
Mitch McConnell’s idea that people should dream a little smaller is deeply flawed. And let me add: The problem is not limited to private universities. States used to pick up about three out of every four dollars it cost to educate someone at a public university. Now it’s about one in four. In America today, a young person needs more education after high school just to have a chance to make it in the middle class. Not a guarantee, just a chance to make it.

What can Congress do about it, on the front end, to rein in tuition?
One way is to force schools to have some skin in the game. I’ve co-sponsored a bill with Sen. Jack Reed [D-R.I.] that requires colleges with high student-loan defaults to pay back some of the federal student aid they use.

The major thrust of your work hasn’t been in trying to lower tuitions, but in making college cheaper to finance. Why is that the right approach?
Just the little slice of loans that were issued between 2007 and 2012 are projected to produce $66 billion in profits to the federal government. Think about that. The role of government has to be helping young people, instead of taxing them for making the effort. I would like [to set student loans] at the same rate that the government currently charges the financial institutions. I tried that last year [laughs].

Your latest proposal is to let people with outstanding student debt refinance loans at the same rate currently being offered to students.
Homeowners refinance their loans when interest rates go down. Businesses refinance their loans. But right now, there’s no way for students to be able to do that. I’ve proposed that we reduce the interest rate on the outstanding loan debt to the same rate Republicans and Democrats came together last year to set on new loans [3.86 percent]. For millions of borrowers, that would cut interest rates in half or more. Unfortunately, the federal government can’t just reduce the interest rate. It has already built those expected profits into the budget. So we propose stitching up tax loopholes that are available only to millionaires and billionaires, and requiring them to pay taxes at the same rate most American families pay. That would more than pay for the cost of reducing the interest rate on student loans.

What’s the status of that bill?
Every single Democrat supported it. Both Independents supported the bill. And even three Republicans voted to move it forward. But the rest of the Republicans filibustered.

We will be voting on it again in September. As a country, we can either invest in tax loopholes for billionaires or lower-cost student loans for young people who are trying to build a future. Billionaires or students: It’s a pretty stark choice.

From Rolling Stone, Tim Dickinson

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Ro Khanna Campaign Silent Following Homophobic Rant by Republican Supporter Ernie Konnyu: Editorial

 

Ro Khanna Campaign Silent

Ro Khanna Campaign Silent

Congressional candidate Ro Khanna should  immediately take action and publically denounce the support of homophobic former Congressman Ernie Konnyu, Khanna’s highest-profile Republican endorser.

Konnyu, a one-term Silicon Valley Congressman who was voted out of office following a sexual harassment scandal, made news last week for orchestrating Tea Party support for Khanna, who is hoping to unseat longtime U.S. Rep. Mike Honda, D-San Jose.

But this week Konnyu took his right-wing vitriol a step further, using Facebook to publically attack the San Jose Silicon Valley Chamber of Commerce PAC for supporting openly gay Campbell Mayor Evan Low in his State Assembly race against former Saratoga mayor Chuck Page.

Konnyu waged his attack last Friday on a Facebook comment by former Chamber CEO Jim Cunneen, calling it “sick” that the Chamber PAC would support “a liberal so left that he wants to change the law to allow blood donations by gays. This, even though the current law forbids it since such blood has a risk of transferring the deadly AIDS virus. Yes! Gay pride is worth more with Evan Low than our citizens’ lives.”

Despite Cunneen’s efforts to prevent Konnyu from doing more damage by “counting to 10 before posting on Facebook,” Konnyu instead redirected his attack on Cunneen. “I am wiser, more experienced, and a lot older than you,” he said.

The San Jose Inside blog broke the story Wednesday but so far we’ve heard nothing from the Khanna campaign. By contrast, following last week’s news about the Tea Party’s support, Khanna’s campaign immediately responded with a “with friends like these…” shake of the head.

Konnyu is becoming a tremendous liability for Khanna, and we’re shocked that Khanna hasn’t denounced Konnyu’s misguided statements and support.

Let’s face it; Khanna doesn’t have a shot at defeating Honda, a seven-term incumbent with a proven track record of fighting for civil rights and same-sex equality.  However, that’s no excuse not to stand up and speak out against this kind of discrimination and homophobia – in his district and on his endorsement list.

 

 

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Splunk Technology Co. To Occupy 270 Brannan St.–Groundbreaking Draws Mayor Lee, SKS Partners, Mitsui Fudosan America

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Mayor Ed Lee today joined SKS Partners, Mitsui Fudosan America and more than 50 dignitaries at a ceremony today to officially break ground on 270 Brannan St. – the new 213,000 gross sq. ft. office building located in the heart of San Francisco’s SOMA neighborhood.  The space is already 100 percent leased to machine data player Splunk, which has another leased office building within the block of the new development.

“Our City’s South of Market neighborhood is going through an exciting renaissance, transforming an underutilized warehouse district into a growing, modern mixed-use area with office space, housing and small businesses,” said Mayor Lee. “I am thrilled to break ground on the 270 Brannan St. office building with SKS Partners and Mitsui Fudosan America who are committed to working with the community to ensure this neighborhood thrives economically yet maintains its historic presence.”

The building is being developed as a joint venture between San Francisco’s SKS Partners and Mitsui Fudosan America. The building was designed by prominent local architect, Peter Pfau, and Charles Pankow Builders is the general contractor.

Splunk, the big data technology company, will occupy the building when it opens in Dec. 2015.

“270 Brannan is the realization of the City’s 2008 Eastern Neighborhoods plan, creating a new office building for the growing economy that respects the historical context of the South Beach neighborhood,” said Dan Kingsley and Paul Stein, the Managing Partners at SKS.

City planners have praised the design of 270 Brannan St. for incorporating the character and history of the neighborhood while meeting the needs of its tenants.

The building will include a 5,000 sq. ft. internal atrium which will connect the building’s five-story front section and seven-story rear section. The building is targeting LEED Platinum Certification by the US Green Building Council and has many environmentally-friendly features such as roof-top solar panels.  It also includes spaces for 52 bikes along with adjacent showers and lockers in its basement. Automobile parking is limited to 12 spots in the building’s underground garage.

The building’s design will feature a pattern of alternating aluminum curtain wall windows and terracotta cladding on its Brannan Street façade, consistent with the surrounding South End Historic District. The rear façade, which fronts on DeBoom Street, will feature terracotta cladding on the lower floors with a floor-to-ceiling glass curtain wall on the top two floors.

“This groundbreaking is happening during a truly important time for environmental responsibility, both locally and globally. We are making real and lasting investments to improve our city, while protecting our environment and creating new jobs,” said Yukio Yoshida, President of Mitsui Fudosan America. “This building is believed to be one of the first to feature more bike parking spaces than car parking stalls in the history of San Francisco real estate developments and that, in and of itself, is a huge indication that we are opening a new chapter in San Francisco’s history of progress.”

The new 270 Brannan St. is scheduled to open in December 2015.

For more information, visit www.270brannan.com

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The Gorilla Foundation Announces New Focus, Key Hires and Important Organizational Changes

KoKo gorilla

Koko gorilla

San Francisco–The Gorilla Foundation announced a series of important changes today, including anticipated new management positions, potential new Board members and a certain new focus, all designed to strengthen one of the world’s leading organizations for great ape understanding, care and conservation. “We have come to a crossroads in our Foundation’s history, and we have recognized the need to do more for the cause of the great apes through building global empathy for their preservation and care”

These improvements, made after an extensive internal review with the help of the Foundation’s Scientific Advisory Board, Governing Board and outside consultants, seek to balance the vital goals of caring for and protecting the gorillas (Koko and Ndume) while refocusing and reinvigorating the organization’s core mission of learning about gorillas through direct communication, and applying that knowledge to advance great ape conservation and prevent their extinction through education, compassionate care and empathy worldwide.

“We have come to a crossroads in our Foundation’s history, and we have recognized the need to do more for the cause of the great apes through building global empathy for their preservation and care,” said Dr. Penny Patterson, the lead researcher behind the Foundation’s groundbreaking “Project Koko,” which is to date the longest running interspecies communication project in history and the only one involving gorillas.

“Koko and her family have taught us so much over many decades and now, more than ever, we feel it is incumbent on this organization to share what we’ve learned with people across the globe, as a way to help put an end to poaching and build compassion for enhancing the care of gorillas and other great apes everywhere,” she said.

The Gorilla Foundation was founded in 1976 by Dr. Patterson, Ron Cohn and philanthropist Barbara Hiller to expand the groundbreaking and unique work of “Project Koko,” the first-ever project to study the linguistic capabilities of gorillas through sign language. Today, after decades of research and learning, Koko is able to use more than 1,000 signs, understands as many words of spoken English, and demonstrates the amazing ability to communicate her thoughts and express her feelings through sign language.

With the goal of protecting and honoring this legacy for generations to come, the Foundation’s leadership today announced, in addition to organizational changes, a series of goals and programs that are designed to make better use of what Koko and her family have taught us over the years. These include:

RESEARCH:

1. Gorilla Emotional Awareness Study (GEARS) will provide an analysis of Koko’s awareness of her emotions (introspection) and the emotions of others (empathy), in research made possible by her unique communication abilities.

2. Digital Data Archival of Project Koko for Future Crowd-Sourced Research will involve a partnership with a major university to digitize and preserve four decades of unique Gorilla Foundation data and archive it in a form that will facilitate analysis and collaboration.

EDUCATION:

3. Koko Signing App will allow the public to learn to sign with Koko and to understand her in videos designed to advance the public’s knowledge about gorillas and learn about their need for compassionate conservation.

4. Project Koko Interactive Database will be made available to scientific colleagues and great ape facilities so that they can make use of our direct experience and data, gained through years of communicating with gorillas.

CONSERVATION:

5. Publication of new book (with video), Michael’s Dream, about the remarkable life of Koko’s gorilla friend Michael, who, on several occasions, communicated (in sign language) his memory of witnessing his gorilla mother being killed by poachers in Africa. This was documented on video.

6. Wide Distribution of Koko’s Kitten & Michael’s Dream Books and Educational Curricula throughout Africa, to strengthen compassionate conservation values and support the preservation of endangered gorillas In their homelands. This builds on our successful distribution of Koko’s Kitten (and curriculum) to over 100,000 students in Cameroon.

CARE AND WELLNESS:

7. Enhancement of Koko & Ndume’s facilities to enrich their lives, expand their options for exploration and privacy, and create capacity for a larger gorilla family.

8. Gorilla Interspecies Communication Work/Play-Station will provide the gorillas with the use of interactive computer technology (including “tough tablets”) to allow them to have fun, express their preferences and have more control over their environment.

ORGANIZATIONAL INFRASTRUCTURE:

9. Expanding the Foundation’s Board of Directors to include more experts in our highly specialized field, as well as strategically selected business, finance and fundraising experts.

10. Developing a new executive team for leadership, fundraising and building strategic alliances.

These changes are being made as part of a focused process with three primary goals: 1) to ensure the care and protection of Koko and Ndume now and into the future and 2) to better apply the lessons learned by the Foundation to protect and enhance the lives of gorillas and other great apes worldwide, and 3) to allow our enlightening dialogues with Koko, Ndume and other gorillas to continue.

The Foundation’s leadership is tremendously appreciative of the contributions of its Board of Directors, Advisory Board, and its many consultants and colleagues, who were integral to the development of this new vision.

For more information about the Gorilla Foundation, visit www.koko.org.

 

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In Kansas Primaries Yesterday, The Kochs Lost. Badly. by

From The Daily Kos

The Kansas primaries yesterday taught us a great many things, but one lesson that we learned is that large money spending in races by Koch backed Americans for Prosperity and Kris Kobach backed Prairie Fire PACs backfired.

I’ll talk about the results in many races, but I want to highlight a few:

Kansas House District 122

R-J. Russell “Russ” Jennings     1,475     65%
R-Stan Rice     802     35%

Kansas House District 9

R-Kent L. Thompson     1,505     60%
R-Chad E. VanHouden     1,005     40%

Kansas House District 21

R-Barbara Bollier     1,777     59%
R-Neil Melton     1,215     41%

Kansas House District 19

R-Stephanie Clayton     2,322     68%
R-Jennifer Flood     1,107     32%

These numbers out of these Republican state Primaries should put a smile on the face of every moderate to progressive in Kansas and send a giant red flag up to the Kochs.  Why?

The Republican primary has long been the deciding ground for many races within Kansas.  In 2012, unhappy with the level of moderates in the Kansas Republican Party, Sam Brownback engaged in an effort to sweep them out by running primary opponents against them who would be lock step with his issues.   This campaign against moderates was largely successful, and we ended up with the current slate in the Kansas Statehouse.

Last night, however, the same tactic failed miserably.

Kris Kobach spent significantly in mail pieces and an ad campaign against Thompson and Russ Jennings.   He did so on the back of a single issue:  Kobach wanted Turn Gay Away legislation and they voted no.

But Kobach and Chamber of Commerce spending was all for naught, as the moderate Republican walked right through.    The real story of the night came out of Johnson County proper, where Stephanie Clayton – a moderate Republican who has been under fire, whipped her opponent, a hand picked Koch candidate who stood with them and against Stephanie on significant issues like Renewable Energy, education, etc.

Clayton faced a high money campaign against her, with mailpieces from Kansas Chamber of Commerce, Americans for Prosperity and door knocking campaigns going on to oust her from office.

What happened?   Clayton walked away with 68% of the vote in a clear rebuke of all the money spent.   Clayton couldn’t match AfP or Chamber in dollars, but her performance at the League of Women Voters and her ability to reach out to her constituents and explain the issues proved to be the ultimate trump card – and despite the big money spend, she was never in any real trouble it seems.

This is a huge rebuke of the way Koch, AfP and the Chamber of Commerce have done business in Kansas.

Numerous races in Kansas last night went much farther than they should have, and resulted in some odd moments.

Sam Brownback, facing a significant protest vote was ON VIDEO declaring that the reason why Pro-Pot Jennifer Winn garnered so much of the vote was because of Obama.  That’s right.   Obama caused people to vote for Jennifer Winn.

In Western Kansas, Tim Huelskamp went down to the wire, giving up 47% of the vote to “Not Tim Huelskamp” LaPolice in a primary.   People have written off District 1, but the momentum behind “Not Huelskamp” is in fact pretty real.   The question is, can Democrats capitalize on that?   We’re going to have to find out.

Margie Wakefield Had to have a wry smile as Lynn Jenkins found herself with a protest vote that also went over 20% – what makes that troubling for Lynn Jenkins is that Jenkins spent significant money in the last few weeks going up with ad buys in the Pittsburg/Joplin area and out of Topeka.   This was not an expected result, as most felt that Jenkins wouldn’t be sullied by the Brownback problem as part of the Republican leadership and unconnected with the Huelskamp fiasco, but she also couldn’t escape getting hit with some of the debris.

The one dark spot  For all the good news, there was one race in Kansas that had a pretty troubling result.  Kansas House District 30, Olathe Kansas had a potentially scary result in that Randy Powell, anti-choice, anti-gay minister managed to be one of the very few tea conservatives who cleared through the primary.   He’s in a district that is fairly divided and where a Democrat last ran with a micro-campaign netted 47% of the vote.

Randy Powell is one of those candidates that has a real shot to cause real damage in the state house, and Liz Dickinson’s campaign becomes much more important for Democrats to win and overturn.   Powell, who is openly committed to re-advancing Turn Gay Away legislation and ‘anything’ that can stop choice, birth control, etc. makes for a dangerous potential candidate.   The upside is that he won a divided Republican primary where the moderates split away and left him a thin margin win.

It is now pretty important that Democrats actually commit to helping Liz Dickinson win if we want to not just flip a house seat but we have a desire for sanity.

 

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Child Migrants Have Been Coming to America Alone Since Ellis Island

And no, we didn’t just send them packing.

It's hard to say exactly how many of Ellis Island's child migrants were unaccompanied, but Moreno says they were in the thousands.

It’s hard to say exactly how many of Ellis Island’s child migrants were unaccompanied, but a leading historian says they were in the several thousands. National Archives

An unaccompanied child migrant was the first person in line on opening day of the new immigration station at Ellis Island. Her name was Annie Moore, and that day, January 1, 1892, happened to be her 15th birthday. She had traveled with her two little brothers from Cork County, Ireland, and when they walked off the gangplank, she was awarded a certificate and a $10 gold coin for being the first to register. Today, a statue of Annie stands on the island, a testament to the courage of millions of children who passed through those same doors, often traveling without an older family member to help them along.

Of course, not everyone was lining up to give Annie and her fellow passengers a warm welcome. Alarmists painted immigrants—children included—as disease-riddenjob stealers bent on destroying the American way of life. And they’re still at it. On a CNN segment about the current crisis of child migrants from Central and South America, Michele Bachmann used the word “invaders” and warned of rape and other dangers posed to Americans by the influx. And last week, National Review scoffed at appeals to American ideals of compassion and charity, claiming Ellis Island officials had a strict send-’em-back policy when it came to children showing up alone.

Col. Helen Bastedo posted bond for 13-year-old Osman Louis, a Belgian stowaway, February 1921

Col. Helen Bastedo posted bond for 13-year-old Belgian stowaway Osman Louis, February 1921. Augustus Sherman/National Parks Service

That’s not true, according to Barry Moreno, a librarian at the Ellis Island Immigration Museum and author of the book Children of Ellis Island. The Immigration Act of 1907 did indeed declare that unaccompanied children under 16 were not permitted to enter in the normal fashion. But it didn’t send them packing, either. Instead, the act set up a system in which unaccompanied children—many of whom were orphans—were kept in detention awaiting a special inquiry with immigration inspectors to determine their fate. At these hearings, local missionaries, synagogues, immigrant aid societies, and private citizens would often step in and offer to take guardianship of the child, says Moreno.

In Annie’s case, her parents were waiting to receive her; they’d taken the same journey to New York three years before, looking for work. But according to Moreno, thousands of unaccompanied children came over without friends or family on the other side of the crossing, many of them stowaways. Moreno doesn’t know of an official count of how many children were naturalized this way, but he says it was fairly common. And he can point to at least one great success story, that of Henry Armetta, a 15-year-old stowaway from Palermo, Italy, who was sponsored by a local Italian man and went on to be an actor in films with Judy Garland and the Marx Brothers. “He’s one of the best known of the Ellis Island stowaways,” Moreno says.

Eight orphan children whose mothers were killed in a Russian pogrom. They were brought to Ellis Island in 1908. Augustus Sherman/National Parks Service

Other children journeyed to Ellis Island alone because they had lost their parents, often to war or famine, and had been sponsored by immigrant aid societies and other charities in America. The picture above shows eight Jewish children whose mothers had been killed in a Russian pogrom in 1905. The Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society had obtained “bonds” to sponsor their immigration, and they arrived at Ellis Island in 1908. As Moreno notes in his book, thousands of orphans came over thanks to such bonds, and after landing, many would travel on “orphan trains” to farms and small towns where their patrons had arranged their stay.

New York, N.Y. Children's Colony, a school for refugee children administered by a Viennese. German refugee child, a devotee of Superman.

A German refugee child and Superman devotee at the New York City Children’s Colony, a school for refugee children run by Viennese immigrants  Marjory Collins/Library of Congress

Ellis Island officials made several efforts to care for children detained on the island—those with parents and those without—who could be there for weeks at a time. Around 1900 a playground was constructed there with a sandbox, swings, and slides. A group of about a dozen women known as “matrons” played games and sang songs with the children, many of whom they couldn’t easily communicate with due to language barriers. Later, a school room was created for them, and the Red Cross supplied a radio for the children to listen to.

And of course, many of those kids grew up to work tough jobs, start new businesses and create new jobs, and pass significant amounts of wealth down to some of the very folks clamoring to “send ‘em back” today.

From Mother Jones

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Iowa’s Ernst dabbles in nullification extremism

In 2010 and 2012, Republican primary voters nominated some pretty outrageous candidates who were so extreme, they alienated the American mainstream and helped deliver key victories to Democrats. The names are as familiar as they are infamous: Todd Akin, Sharron Angle, Richard Mourdock, Christine O’Donnell, et al.

There’s a sense that the GOP learned valuable lessons from these fiascos, and made a conscious, concerted effort to nominate fewer extremists for statewide contests in 2014

Iowa’s Joni Ernst is a notable exception.

As Rachel Maddow noted on her show last month, Ernst has said she would ban abortions and many forms of birth control; she would privatize Social Security and abolish the minimum wage; she would back an anti-gay amendment to the Constitution; she’s open to impeaching President Obama for unknown reason; and she believes there’s secret information that Saddam Hussein really did have weapons of mass destruction.

Yesterday, Ben Jacobs ran a report that’s arguably the more alarming revelation to date: the right-wing U.S. Senate candidate “appears to believe states can nullify federal laws.”

In a video obtained by The Daily Beast, Ernst said on September 13, 2013 at a forum held by the Iowa Faith & Freedom Coalition that Congress should not pass any laws “that the states would consider nullifying.”

“You know we have talked about this at the state legislature before, nullification. But, bottom line is, as U.S. Senator why should we be passing laws that the states are considering nullifying? Bottom line: our legislators at the federal level should not be passing those laws. We’re right … we’ve gone 200-plus years of federal legislators going against the Tenth Amendment’s states’ rights. We are way overstepping bounds as federal legislators. So, bottom line, no we should not be passing laws as federal legislators – as senators or congressman – that the states would even consider nullifying. Bottom line.”

Jacobs’ report added that Ernst, during her brief tenure as a state senator, hasn’t sponsored pro-nullification legislation, but she did back a resolution that says “the State of Iowa hereby claims sovereignty under the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States over all powers not otherwise enumerated and granted to the federal government by the Constitution of the United States.” It was introduced in response to “many federal mandates [that] are directly in violation of the Tenth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.”

I can appreciate why issues like nullification may seem esoteric to everyday concerns on the minds of Iowa voters, but it’s important to appreciate how this fits into a simple truth: the more the picture of Ernst comes into sharper focus, the more radical she appears.

In this case, Ernst didn’t explicitly call for the nullification of a specific law, but that’s not really the point – Ernst seems to have a general belief that states can nullify federal laws they don’t like, which puts the right-wing Iowan on the furthest fringes of modern American thought

To be clear, this is not in a legal gray area. This isn’t a judgment call. It’s not a question that could go either way if tested in the courts. Rather, the question of whether states can invalidate federal laws they don’t like was decided in the middle of the 19th century – in something called the Civil War – and it was a dispute the nullification crowd lost.

That a competitive U.S. Senate candidate is making comments like these, out loud and on purpose, is pretty scary, to put it mildly. We’re not talking about the usual Democrat-vs.-Republican, left-vs.-right debate; this is settled American law vs. looney tunes.

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Poll: Boehner’s pre-impeachment lawsuit is backfiring

If you think House Speaker John Boehner’s pre-impeachment lawsuit against President Obama for failing to implement Obamacare quickly enough makes him look like an obstructionist jackass who is more interested in political stunts than doing the right thing for the country,you’re not alone:

A majority of Americans view House Speaker John Boehner’s (R-Ohio) lawsuit over President Obama’s delayed implementation of ObamaCare’s employer mandate as a “political stunt,” according to a new poll released Monday.The survey, commissioned by liberal advocacy group Americans United for Change, found that 51 percent of voters don’t believe the lawsuit is legitimate, versus just 41 percent who do.

Moreover, 56 percent say the lawsuit is wasteful spending, with just 36 percent saying it is a good use of taxpayer dollars.

Here’s the kicker:

The survey found that a plurality of Americans — 46 percent — say the suit makes them less likely to vote for Republicans in the upcoming midterm elections. By contrast, three in 10 say the suit makes them more likely to vote for the GOP.

And why is that? Perhaps because of this:

Some 58 percent of voters say the suit will not help improve the lives of people like them, and 63 percent say Congress should be more focused on taking action to create jobs.

On the one hand, these results are heartening, because it’s always good to know that a solid majority of the country hasn’t gone completely bonkers. On the other hand: Who the hell are the 37 percent of morons who wouldn’t rather see Congress focused on jobs instead of Boehner’s pre-impeachment lawsuit?\

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When Conservatives Engage in Islamophobia and Homophobia, and Then Evoke Nazi Analogies, Hitler Smiles Gleefully In Hell

 

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Conservative media personalities from Glenn Beck to Rush Limbaugh, as well as lawmakers and think tanks like the Heritage Foundation, have done their best to create a revisionist historical narrative of the Holocaust, Third Reich, and Nazism.Saddam is another Hitler, therefore we must invade Iraq and engage in nation building through a decade of insurgent war. Liberals who admonish Bill O’Reilly are engaging in Nazi tactics by lying, even though politicians throughout history have lied and lying (although relevant) isn’t what allowed Hitler to engage in genocide or conquer Europe. Another great leap of logic is the talking point claiming Nazi Germany didn’t allow citizens gun ownership, so therefore anyone who advocates gun control is allowing another Nazi Germany.

Well, Hitler also had a German Shepherd and was a vegetarian, but that doesn’t make PETA a fascist organization or vegetarians Nazis. In addition, making childish leaps of logic is the hallmark of those who claim Islam is responsible for terrorism, even though George Bush never had a problem dancing with a Saudi prince and said verbatim after 9/11 that, “The enemy of America is not our many Muslim friends.” There are many other examples of conservatives mangling historical accuracy to further an extreme agenda, but these historically inaccurate analogies often begin with an altered definition of words. Altering words in the hopes of marginalizing and demonizing groups based on their identity, for example condemning someone for having a beard or labeling homosexuals asabnormal, is how Goebbels, Hitler, and the Nazis killed six million Jews and millions of other human beings-including homosexuals. According to the University of Minnesota, up to 63,000 men were convicted of homosexuality in the Third Reich and about 15,000 or more were murdered in concentration camps.

In order to legitimize a new, right-wing version of history (a history where the NRA would have overthrown Hitler), people like Glenn Beck in particular have worked hard to change the definition of words like, “racism.” Whereas the Willie Horton ads of years past once served a purpose for Republicans, today even mentioning something is racist is met with a similar response. To Glenn Beck, for example, racism is no longer minorities claiming persecution because of the color of their skin or ethnic background. Rather, racism according to many conservatives like Beck is having the audacity to claim someone is racist for making outlandish statements like, “Obama has a deep seeded hatred for white people or the white culture.”

Furthermore, Islamophobic diatribes from Bill O’Reilly like, “he absolutely looked like a Muslim… I stand by it” are also used by Republicans and conservatives to demonize, or marginalize a segment of the population. Apparently looking like a Muslim is a bad thing to the Fox News pundit, even though we’ve spent over a decade in two insurgent wars trying to help Muslims and engaging in nation building within two Muslim countries. Also, the LGBT community has never been immune to ignorant statements from conservatives, including Rick Perry’s recent gem (the same Rick Perry with the N-word at the entrance of his Texas ranch) when he stated, “I may have the genetic coding that I’m inclined to be an alcoholic, but I have the desire not to do that, and I look at the homosexual issue the same way.” As for the level of vitriol the LGBT community has faced for decades, conservatives have often times utilized religion to claim homosexuals could be “cured” from their homosexuality, as well as claiming for years that homosexuality was a sin.

The GOP’s level of homophobia is far more reminiscent of the Third Reich than any of the ridiculous analogies of liberals being fascist for wanting to make gay marriage legal or enact sensible gun legislation. According to the Auschwitz-Birkenau Memorial and Museum, homosexuals were a targeted group in the Third Reich:

Hatred of homosexuals was determined by both party ideology and the personal obsessions of the leaders, and especially of Heinrich Himmler, the main originator of the plan to exterminate homosexuals. For Himmler and other Nazi ideologues, homosexuals — like Jews — were the incarnation of degeneracy. They saw Jews and homosexuals as outsiders and inferior human beings who threatened the purity of der Volk…They accused Jews and homosexuals of using the fact that they were different as a weapon against society.

No, Republicans are not Nazis. However, many in the GOP see homosexuals as “outsiders” and have often claimed a “homosexual agenda,” or conspiracy to further LGBT rights. As Republican National Committeeman Dave Agema posted on his Facebook page a little while back, “Part of the homosexual agenda is to get the public to affirm their filthy lifestyle.”

As for other types of fear mongering, a recent Heritage foundation conference exemplified a sad display of Islamophobia. During the panel discussion, American University Law student Saba Ahmed made the relevant point that most Muslims are good people, yet are labeled as threats by the media and lawmakers. Brigitte Gabriel, a panelist at the Heritage event, responded by using the following illogical and dangerous analogy:

“When you look throughout history, most Germans were peaceful, yet the Nazis drove the agenda and, as a result, 60 million died…”

“On Sept. 11, we had 2.3 million Arab Muslims in the United States. It took 19 hijackers, 19 radicals, to bring the United States to its knees… the peaceful majority were irrelevant.

What better way to combat prejudice and ignorance than focusing on 19 terrorists while completely marginalizing 2.3 million innocent human beings? Reducing all of WWII to less than three sentences was also classic.

The truth of the matter is that genocidal regimes are started through words and propaganda that marginalize a certain group; a minority of people who are blamed for the perceived or actual infractions of a few within their religion, race, or ethnic group. While Rutgers University Professor Emeritus Peter Golden has explained that anti-Semitism and Islamophobia are ”two ugly twins”, the fact that both hatreds begin with prejudice and dangerous leaps of logic (“the peaceful majority were irrelevant”) speaks volumes. Also, as explained by Edward Kissi inAuschwitz: Inside the Nazi State, genocides are enabled by fear, prejudice, and myth making:

Genocide happens through a combination of factors: 1) ethnic prejudice, racism, and other forms of hatred; 2) fear of the other; 3) extreme forms of nationalism; 4) radical and absurd ideas of social change; 5) myth-making–just simply the idea of creating mythologies around a group, constructing the group as the embodiment of all evil; and 6) the desire on the part of the state to engage in extreme propaganda against the group that motivates large numbers of people to go out and destroy that particular group.

Which political party in the United States engages in “fear of the other?” How do both political parties in the U.S. view the LGBT community, Muslims, illegal immigrants, and people on government assistance? Which political party furthered the myth that President Obama is a Kenyan with a forged birth certificate, or that the ACA will lead to death panels?

As Jasjit Singh of SALDEF eloquently penned in a recent article, ignorant statements hurt all Americans:

“They have fostered a climate of fear and hostility, which has threatened the safety and liberty of millions of Americans — Sikh, Muslim and otherwise. We must stand up, not just as Sikh Americans, but as Americans, to defend tolerance and acceptance. The beard is not a threat. It is our right.

The political goal of making a different group become the enemy and “the other” is what every Hitler analogy should revolve around, not the vapid uses of quotes from Nazis that could apply to all politicians.

With every accusation that links all Muslims with terrorism, gay people with some genetic abnormality, or allegations painting a political rival as a traitor (Anne Coulter’s book, example), Adolf Hitler smiles gleefully from a blazing inferno below.

 

H.A. Goodman, from Huffington Post

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Ten Reasons Women Are Losing While Gays Keep Winning

Even as gay equality becomes one of the fastest-advancing civil rights causes in history, reactionaries are still turning back the clock for women. Why?

The Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision, among its many troubling consequences, is yet another entry in the latest disturbing trend of civil rights cases, in which gays win, and women lose.

Juxtapose Hobby Lobby with the recent fate of Arizona’s “Turn the Gays Away” bill. In Arizona, a religious exemption that would allow business owners to refuse to serve gay people died a fiery death. The issue was basically the same as inHobby Lobby: when businesses can discriminate on the basis of religion. Yet gays won, and women lost.

This has been going on for years. Consider: in 2004, being gay was a fireable offense in a majority of states and in the U.S. military. The first same-sex marriage case, in Massachusetts, had just been decided. It had only been a year since “sodomy” was illegal in 14 states. Gay politicians were few and far between; gay celebrities were closeted.

This week, a same-sex marriage ban was struck down in Kentucky, yet barely made the national news. Kentucky.

In the same 10 years, women’s autonomy to make their own healthcare decisions has been steadily eroded. Fifty-four abortion clinics have closed since 2010 alone, out of fewer than 800 nationwide. “Conscience clauses,” originally intended to allow doctors to refuse to perform abortions, have expanded to include entire health systems. Gag orders are in effect around the world. It hasn’t been this hard to get an abortion in 40 years.

Why is this happening? Why has the progress on LGBT equality been accompanied by regress on women’s equality? And can advocates for women take any lessons from advocates for LGBTs?

There are many possible answers to these questions. Here are my top 10.

1. Born This Way. In the 1970s and 1980s, gay liberation was about the liberation of sexual choice. “Homosexuality” was as much an act as an identity—as it still is today in some quarters of the Christian Right. Only in the 1990s did the mainstream LGBT movement (to the continuing consternation of radicals) start saying that gays are “born that way”—i.e., that sexual identity was a fundamental, and ultimately unchangeable, trait.

Abortion and contraception, however, are acts—as is the sexual act that brings them into necessity. And pro-choice activists have repeatedly failed to reframe them as issues of discrimination against women. Look at how Hobby Lobby went down: as long as women can purchase contraception elsewhere (act), who cares about the harm to their humanity (identity) that comes from an employer making decisions for them?

Unfortunately, even the name “pro-choice” reinforces that the movement is about acts and not identity: freedom of choice, not equality of status. This may be a noble goal, and it is one which many more left-wing LGBT activists still hope to pursue, but it is also one that plays badly at the polls—as the mainstream gay rights movement learned in the 1990s. ‘Thick’ liberation appeals to the left but alienates the center.  At present, many Americans oppose discrimination, but they’re okay with restricting personal freedoms. Sucks, but there it is.

2. Love is Love But Abortion Isn’t Childbirth. Together with the LGBT movement’s identity frame, it has successfully defined same-sex marriage in terms of universals to which everyone can (supposedly) relate: love, family, equality. The pro-choice/reproductive justice movement has not yet been able to do so. Yes, autonomy, freedom, and liberty are important, but the context in which those abstract values are enacted remains particular, not universal. Men cannot relate to being pregnant. Conservative women cannot relate to “choosing” to end a (prospective) life. And so far, there has not been a universalizable narrative in part because there is no …

3. Edie Windsor, by which I mean, poster children for the cause with compelling mainstream narratives. Personal stories have been shown, in several polls commissioned by the LGBT equality movement, to be the single most effective way to change minds and open hearts. The LGBT equality movement has many, from Ellen to Edie to Laverne Cox. The pro-choice movement? Not so much. Because of the continuing shame and stigma associated with abortion, and because abortion just is not that joyful, few women have shared their pro-choice journeys—and I can’t think of any who have done so as a redemptive celebration of life and freedom. Look what happened to Sandra Fluke, who was shamed as a slut for defending the right to control her body. (More on that below.) But even setting aside such outrageous rhetoric, abortion and contraception are just not as photogenic as weddings at City Hall. It’s easy to shame, stigmatize, other-ize. And shaming is a cycle: because women are ashamed to come forward, the stigma persists, shaming more women, etc.

4. Rights Lose. In addition to lacking compelling personal narratives, the “pro-choice” frame is itself a loser. This is why LGBT activists don’t use the term “gay rights” anymore: because no one likes them. In the nineties, “gay rights” came to mean “special rights,” which may be ridiculous, but which was a successful opposing frame. As with the act/identity dichotomy, “rights” also isn’t existential enough to persuade people. So LGBT activists changed their tune, shifting from rights-talk to love-talk, equality-talk, language about basic humanity. Gloria Steinem famously said that feminism is, at its core, humanism. But this message hasn’t trickled through. Many Americans still think reproductive justice is about the act of abortion, rather than the humanity of women.

5. It Pays to Have Dumb Enemies. Let’s face it: anti-gay zealots did themselves in.  Their cartoonish exaggerations of LGBT people, their closeted-gay leaders, their Bible-thumping—these play well to the base, but alienate moderates. So too the inability of all but a few conservatives to articulate a non-religious, non-bigoted-seeming objection to homosexuality. To be sure, there are wackos on the anti-choice side, with their photos of fetuses and extreme rhetoric. But the anti-choice mainstream has gotten much more sophisticated. They are putting women on the front lines (and unlike the “ex-gay” crowd, these women are only slightly creepy). They are winning incremental battles under the pretense of health regulations and parental consent. They are smart and methodical. And they don’t seem dumb, because…

6. Reasonable People (Including Women) Disagree. Arguably, reproductive freedom should not be controversial among small-l liberals.Whether a fetus is a “person” or not is a complex moral question, and since we can’t decide it as a society, it should be left up to the woman in whose body the fetus resides. But unfortunately, abortion remains controversial. It’s morally complicated, and it’s not discussed in polite company. I have no idea what celebrities or culture-makers think about it. (See: shame, above). Many people are ambivalent about it, including many ardent pro-choice activists. Think of the phrases “anti-abortion but pro-choice” or the view that abortions should be “safe, legal, and rare.” Can you think of reasonable analogues among LGBT activists? I can’t. And then there’s the brutal fact of how abortion is seen by its opponents. As loathsome as gay marriage may be to religious conservatives, at least it’s a perversion of marriage. Abortion is a kind of murder.

7. Capitalism. Because LGBT equality has been successfully framed in the context of discrimination and fairness, and because it has many privileged male champions, it has been easy for corporations to line up behind it, and reap the financial rewards of being seen as pro-gay. Sure, there are a few anti-gay outliers:Chick-Fil-A, Hobby Lobby, whatever. But this past month’s Pride festivities were like a showcase of Fortune 500 companies: banks, airlines, insurance companies. Meanwhile, I can’t think of a single A-list brand that is out, loud, and proud for reproductive freedom. That makes a big difference in terms of movement dollars and public awareness. Once again, more radical queers may bemoan the corporatization of the LGBT movement, but capitalism has a way of winning.

8. Feminism Has An Image Problem. If the pro-choice movement hasn’t been capitalist enough, it also hasn’t been grassroots enough. “Feminism” is now unfairly associated with a certain kind of privileged, coastal, irreligious white woman. For a variety of problematic reasons, it’s been disclaimed by celebrities and politicians who are obviously feminist in values but who aren’t “Feminist” by label. Most of this is unfair. But at the same time, the leadership of Planned Parenthood, NOW, and the other major mainstream organizations does tilt in that demographic direction. There is hope: younger organizations like Choice USA are more grounded in people of color, people of faith, and rural communities. And the majors are trying sincerely to catch up. But then there’s…

9. Religion. Contrary to the myth of “God vs. Gay,” progressive religious leaders have been instrumental in the LGBT equality movement from its very beginning. Like African-American civil rights leaders, they have made not just a neutral case but a positive moral case for equality. Where are the religious leaders preaching the gospel of bodily autonomy for women? Yes, there are excellent organizations like the Religious Coalition for Reproductive Choice, Catholics for Choice, the National Council of Jewish Women, and many others. But in my experience, I haven’t seen the message trickle down into the pews.  Nor are faith leaders are central to the pro-choice movement as they seem to be in the LGBT movement. Just a few years ago, it seemed like the religious obsession with homosexuality was a curse. But it turned out to have been a blessing, because it provoked the ‘down-home’ moral conversations that changed people’s minds. Secular arguments about the separation of church and state may play well to the base. But they don’t move the middle.

10. Sexism. Finally, and maybe it should have been first, is sexism. Men, including gay men, have much more access to power and privilege than women do. And while masculinity may be threatened by effeminate gay men crossing gender boundaries, the threat is far more immediate when it’s your own wife or daughter. If women can control their own bodies … well, what about my wife! Meanwhile, since women aren’t really people entitled to make decisions for themselves, it’s okay to slut-shame Sandra Fluke, claim (as one GOP Senator recently did) that birth control is for “recreational behavior,” and decide for everyone that fetuses are people. “Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve” has been used as a weapon against gay people for some time. But Adam and Eve has been a weapon against women since the moment the myth was invented.

I, for one, am hopeful that Hobby Lobby becomes a rallying cry. I hope it gets liberals to vote this November, and gets moderates to rethink their positions. But there’s also a danger of continually playing to the base, and that is ignoring the tactics and strategies that appeal to the movable middle. For that reason, I also hope Hobby Lobby helps create a revitalized, intersectional, pragmatic, faith-affirming, message-savvy pro-choice, reproductive justice, gender justice movement.

Unlike the tidal wave of state restrictions on reproductive choice, Hobby Lobbytook place in the spotlight, on the national stage. It remains to be seen whether it also signals a change in direction.

Jay Michaelson, as originally published in the SF Bay Times

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Oakland Mayor’s Race: Candidate Bryan Parker is Focus Of Unfair Domestic Violence Attacks

Bryan Parker, Candidate for Oakland Mayor, Faces Unfair DV Attacks

Bryan Parker, Candidate for Oakland Mayor, Faces Unfair Domestic Violence Attacks

Bryan Parker, the man I’m backing in the Oakland Mayor’s Race, is the focus of an unfair and hidden attack, writes Oakland blogger Zennie Abraham in his Zennie62.com blog. The rest of his post from yesterday is a fascinating overview of the silent attacks in political campaigns in Oakland, and in general.  We publish the column here for our readers:

For months, there’s been a whisper campaign brewing among Oakland insiders about the problems and issues of most all of the candidates. One of the most insidious rumor campaigns is about Bryan Parker. With 20 candidates now in the race for Oakland Mayor (not including Charlie The Dog) it was only a matter of time before the attacks started.

Soon after those whispers started, I received an anonymous package with two unverified, but authentic looking police reports filed against Parker a decade ago that describe two separate domestic issues between him and two different women, one in 2003 and one in 2006.

I have reached out to both of these women for comment and noticed that one is actually a volunteer on his campaign. I have chosen not to identify the women involved until at least I have the chance to discuss it with them.

As for the allegations in these reports, they show heated arguments between Parker and the women involved. They paint a less-than pretty picture and allege such things as harsh words and the brandishing of a hand gun used for intimidation purposes.

Bryan and I have talked about this issue before.

I reached out to Parker and he provided me with the statement that appears here (Bryan Parker Statement On Smear Campaign), saying he, too, had also received these police reports anonymously several months ago when someone left them in his fiancé’s mail box (which, if you think about it, is a form of harassment and intimidation).

 

Although Bryan was not surprised these incidents had come forward given the competitive mayoral campaign, he also had no awareness that these reports existed until now.
This made me curious as to the source of the information.

Considering the timing, all logic would suggest it was an operative of Mayor Jean Quan who was distributing these reports in an attempt to eliminate potential competition. Parker was one of the first candidates to announce and has remained a formidable frontrunner, although the field has recently grown widely.

Whether or not Quan’s campaign is behind this (and I’m told that it is, so Mayor Quan’s going to have to stop texting and driving and talking) there’s no doubt that the distribution of these reports are tactics being used by an opposing campaign.

For me, the question becomes should this be an issue?

These police reports were taken at the request of the women involved. No follow up investigation or reports exist about whether Parker was ever personally contacted by police about these allegations.

More important, no charges were ever filed against him because it appears the facts of both cases did not merit further investigation or action.

If all that is true – and these reports do in fact document heated disagreements between Parker and past partners – should they matter in this Mayor’s race?

As so often the case in politics, opponents are prone to cast broad and damaging allegations supported by little proof. Those of us who cover politics are accustomed to smear campaigns.

Character does matter and while it seems that Parker may have had some anger issues as a young man, but by all accounts there is just no semblance of that by anyone who has worked or dealt with him currently, including his fiancé Kamala Peart. (Kamala Peart Statement On Smear Campaign)

When reached for comment, Peart told me that she and Parker have shared the ups and downs expected of long-term relationships, saying: “While Bryan is not perfect, I know he is a man of kindness and compassion who has never been in trouble with the law or otherwise. I am proud to know that I am marrying a man who cared enough about his own self-improvement to seek counseling and work on his spirituality so that he could learn how to be the best man and partner he can be. I would never expose my children to a person who was anything other than kind and loving.”

I also spoke to some of my friends in law enforcement. They said that that they take and such reports seriously – if they had any merit, they would have followed up on them with urgency. The fact that they did not can only mean that officers found the allegations to be less than credible.

As I considered my pick for Oakland’s next mayor, I’ve weighed all of the issues against my own experience as Economic Advisor to Oakland Mayor Elihu Harris, and President Of The Super Bowl XXXIX Bidding Committee, including character, vision and, more important, a candidate’s ability to lead. Bryan Parker is still my top contender, and in rank choice fashion followed by Oakland Councilmember Libby Schaaf and Joe Tuman, 1, 2, and 3.

Not only does this latest incident demonstrate personal growth in Bryan, but it also shows integrity – here’s a candidate who is not shying away from his past and who is using personal experience to become a better person and leader in the future.

Meanwhile, Mayor Quan still has to talk about the active lawsuit filed against her by Donna White, who asserts that an “entourage” representing Oakland Mayor Jean Quan blocked Ms. White from sitting in an area that’s normally designated for the disabled.

Stay tuned.

By Zennie Abraham of Zennie62.com, an Oakland political blogger and opinion leader.

 

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George Takei: What if Muslims Owned Hobby Lobby and Tried Imposing Sharia Law on Employees?

I’ve often said that these conservatives wading into the tricky waters of claiming “religious freedom” to justify breaking (or passing) laws should really be careful what they wish for.  It’s advice I’d give to all of those conservatives who are celebrating the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby ruling.

And based on his brilliant response to that ruling, George Takei seems to be an individual who understands this as well.

Posting his response on the website for his play Allegiance, Takei made several fantastic points concerning not only the hypocrisy of this ruling, but the dangerous precedent it could set going forward.

Takei wrote, “The ruling elevates the rights of a FOR-PROFIT CORPORATION over those of its women employees and opens the door to all manner of claims that a company can refuse services based on its owner’s religion.”

“Think about the ramifications: As Justice Ginsberg’s stinging dissent pointed out, companies run by Scientologists could refuse to cover antidepressants, and those run by Jews or Hindus could refuse to cover medications derived from pigs (such as many anesthetics, intravenous fluids, or medications coated in gelatin).” he continued.

And that’s the slippery slope for which this ruling potentially opens the door.  Where will the line be drawn where you say to a company, “Sorry, but your religious beliefs aren’t protected?”

What if someone who owns a corporation is anti-vaccine?  What if they then say it’s against their religious beliefs for their company to offer health care that covers vaccines?  Based upon this Supreme Court ruling, they could theoretically be within their rights to claim that.

But the best point Takei made was in a direct shot at right-wing ignorance.  He wrote, “In this case, the owners happen to be deeply Christian; one wonders whether the case would have come out differently if a Muslim-run chain business attempted to impose Sharia law on its employees.”

As we all know, when these conservatives talk about “religious freedoms” they’re really only referring to Christianity.

He also went on to make the point that Hobby Lobby has invested in companies which produce the morning after pill and it gets much of its inventory from China, a country where forced abortions are common.

In other words, they’re blatant hypocrites.

“Hobby Lobby is not a church. It’s a business — and a big one at that,” Takei continued.  “Businesses must and should be required to comply with neutrally crafted laws of general applicability. Your boss should not have a say over your healthcare. Once the law starts permitting exceptions based on “sincerely held religious beliefs” there’s no end to the mischief and discrimination that will ensue. Indeed, this is the same logic that certain restaurants and hotels have been trying to deploy to allow proprietors to refuse service to gay couples.”

Once again, he’s absolutely right.

For some reason conservatives seem to think that a lack of options equates to “more” freedom.  Before this ruling, women working at Hobby Lobby had the option to have access to these contraceptives.  Now they won’t.

If the owners of Hobby Lobby reject specific types of contraceptives, that’s fine.  They don’t have to use them.  But now their beliefs are being imposed on women who might not share those same beliefs.

Take a good look, because that’s how an employer can determine an employee’s health care coverage.  Because a woman working at Hobby Lobby now can’t get health care coverage for certain contraceptives, not because she’s against them, but because her employer is.

How exactly is that respecting her religious freedoms?

Takei also points out religion is a way many conservatives have tried justifying discrimination against homosexuals.  These “religious freedom” bills that essentially give businesses the right to deny service to homosexuals based on their religious beliefs.

The bottom line is, religion has no place in government or in business.  If someone wants to express their religious views to others, they need to start a church – not a for-profit corporation.

- See more at: http://www.forwardprogressives.com/george-takei-muslims-owned-hobby-lobby-tried-forcing-sharia-law-employees/#sthash.ZcPXE80H.dpuf

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Supreme Court conservatives side with Hobby Lobby on contraception

When the legal challenges against the Affordable Care Act’s contraception mandate were first filed, they seemed destined to fail. The law already exempts houses of worship and religious non-profits, and as the 3rd Circuit explained, courts have “long recognized the distinction between the owners of a corporation and the corporation itself.” Ruling that “a for-profit corporation can engage in religious exercise” would “eviscerate the fundamental principle that a corporation is a legally distinct entity from its owners.”

And yet, as Irin Carmon reports, conservatives on the high court found a way to side with Hobby Lobby anyway.
The Supreme Court has ruled that a closely-held company can be exempt from the contraceptive coverage under the Affordable Care Act. […]

The Religious Freedom Restoration Act, the law at issue in the case, has never been applied to for-profit entities. The Court had to decide whether corporations even have religious exercise rights – making the beliefs of the employer synonymous with the entire company – and weigh that question against the potential harms to the employees.
It was a 5-4 decision, with the five Republican-appointed justices siding against the contraception policy and the four Democratic-appointed justices ruling in favor of it. Note, it’s not a short decision: there’s the majority ruling, a concurrence, are three separate dissents.

Of particular interest, the court seems to make a distinction between for-profit corporations and “closely held” for-profit corporations, which are businesses in which no more than five individuals own most of the corporation.

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Editorial: Good Riddance to George Lucas Vanity Museum: Chicago Be Careful What you Pray For

 

Alfred E. Neuman artwork is part of George Lucas 'art collection."

Alfred E. Neuman artwork is part of George Lucas “art collection.”

 

It was great to read the San Francisco Chronicle today and see two of its leading writers, Chuck Nevius and John King, both essentially say “Hasta la Vista, Baby!” to the vanity museum that Star Wars filmmaker George Lucas wanted to build in San Francisco’s Presidio.

The real story isn’t that Chicago “won” the Lucas Cultural Arts Museum, but rather that San Francisco was victorious in rejecting a poorly-designed monstrosity that would have housed the personal collection of George Lucas’ kitschy art collection.  Chicago has “won” Lucas’ oversized ego, his childish behavior, his grumpy development team, and his collection of art that would be best exhibited in a suburban mall.

All we can say is: Thank goodness for the leadership of the Presidio Trust which turned down this monument to Lucas’ bad taste.

The Presidio park is a jewel and is enjoying nearly 20 years of success by doing the right thing and planning properly for this National Landmark and Bay Area treasure.  The cheap and cheesy museum proposed by Lucas didn’t belong on a bluff overlooking the Bay, the Golden Gate Bridge and the Pacific Ocean.  We should all thank The Presidio Trust for acting in the best interest of the public and not in the interest of a vein Hollywood millionaire and rejecting what Chicago has all-too-quickly accepted.

Bravo Presidio Trust. Good luck Chicago.

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Wall Street nervous as Sen. Sherrod Brown vies for Banking Committee chair

Well, this would be amazing: U.S. Sen. Sherrod Brown of Ohio is vying for the gavel of the powerful Senate banking committee in the next Congress – a possibility that has excited consumer groups but put big Wall Street banks on edge.

So, how did the relatively junior Brown—he has “only” been in the Senate for eight years and currently ranks fifth in seniority on the committee—come to be a top prospect for a powerful committee chair? Well, retirements have Senate Democrats playing a little game of musical chairs:

  1. Sen. Tim Johnson (D-SD), the current committee chair, is retiring.
  2. Sen. Jack Reed (D-RI) is currently next in line on the committee. But…
  3. Sen. Carl Levin (D-MI), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, is also retiring. Reed is also next in line to lead this committee. He can only lead one major committee and is expected to take the reins of Armed Services.
  4. Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is next in line after Reed. Schumer still wants to be majority leader someday and becoming Banking chair would force him into the awkward position of overseeing Wall Street, a home-state industry, at a time when most Senate Democrats want to get tougher on big banks. Schumer could take a pass on becoming Banking chair and remain chairman of the Rules Committee.
  5. Sen. Bob Menendez (D-NJ) is next in line after Schumer. But Menendez is already chair of the prestigious Senate Foreign Relations Committee, a gig previously held by Vice President Joe Biden and Secretary of State John Kerry.
  6. Brown is next in line after Menendez.

Brown is already saying he wants the job, so we could end up with one of the Senate’s best Wall Street watch dogs overseeing big banks. It would be an awesome win for progressives and makes holding the Senate this fall all the more important.

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Recology Wins Resounding Victory Over False Claims by Disgruntled Ex-Employee

San Francisco, Calif. – A San Francisco jury today cleared Recology, San Francisco’s recycling and resource recovery provider, of all 154 allegations of filing false claims to the State of California in a lawsuit filed by a disgruntled former employee that claimed the company mischarged the State of California’s recycling redemption program.

The same jury returned a verdict against the recycling company on one of the five separate allegations of filing a false claim to the City and County of San Francisco. This verdict, if it stands, claims the company wrongly benefited in the amount of $1,366,933. Recology disagrees with this finding and will appeal.

“We are thankful for the jury’s determination that cleared Recology of 158 of the 159 allegations of false claims,” said Sam Singer, a spokesman for Recology. “This is a resounding victory for our company and its employee-owners.”

“Unfortunately, the complicated nature of this case has resulted in one finding against the company,” he added.  “We will be appealing the one verdict, as the facts simply do not support it.”

Recology is an industry leader in recycling and resource recovery programs and has helped San Francisco become the greenest city in North America, diverting 80 percent of its waste away from landfill. Recology programs have been replicated throughout the country and serve as a national model for resource recovery initiatives.

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KRUGMAN: Eric Cantor and the Death of a Movement

How big a deal is the surprise primary defeat of Representative Eric Cantor, the House majority leader? Very. Movement conservatism, which dominated American politics from the election of Ronald Reagan to the election of Barack Obama — and which many pundits thought could make a comeback this year — is unraveling before our eyes.

I don’t mean that conservatism in general is dying. But what I and others mean by “movement conservatism,” a term I think I learned from the historian Rick Perlstein, is something more specific: an interlocking set of institutions and alliances that won elections by stoking cultural and racial anxiety but used these victories mainly to push an elitist economic agenda, meanwhile providing a support network for political and ideological loyalists.

By rejecting Mr. Cantor, the Republican base showed that it has gotten wise to the electoral bait and switch, and, by his fall, Mr. Cantor showed that the support network can no longer guarantee job security. For around three decades, the conservative fix was in; but no more.

To see what I mean by bait and switch, think about what happened in 2004. George W. Bush won re-election by posing as a champion of national security and traditional values — as I like to say, he ran as America’s defender against gay married terrorists — then turned immediately to his real priority: privatizing Social Security. It was the perfect illustration of the strategy famously described in Thomas Frank’s book “What’s the Matter With Kansas?” in which Republicans would mobilize voters with social issues, but invariably turn postelection to serving the interests of corporations and the 1 percent.

In return for this service, businesses and the wealthy provided both lavish financial support for right-minded (in both senses) politicians and a safety net — “wing-nut welfare” — for loyalists. In particular, there were always comfortable berths waiting for those who left office, voluntarily or otherwise. There were lobbying jobs; there were commentator spots at Fox News and elsewhere (two former Bush speechwriters are now Washington Post columnists); there were “research” positions (after losing his Senate seat, Rick Santorum became director of the “America’s Enemies” program at a think tank supported by the Koch brothers, among others).

The combination of a successful electoral strategy and the safety net made being a conservative loyalist a seemingly low-risk professional path. The cause was radical, but the people it recruited tended increasingly to be apparatchiks, motivated more by careerism than by conviction.

That’s certainly the impression Mr. Cantor conveyed. I’ve never heard him described as inspiring. His political rhetoric was nasty but low-energy, and often amazingly tone-deaf. You may recall, for example, that in 2012 he chose to celebrate Labor Day with a Twitter post honoring business owners. But he was evidently very good at playing the inside game.

Now, if we could just get past all the ‘god-talk’ and religious-based morals, etc. My feelings for those in Washington mirror many expressed…

It turns out, however, that this is no longer enough. We don’t know exactly why he lost his primary, but it seems clear that Republican base voters didn’t trust him to serve their priorities as opposed to those of corporate interests (and they were probably right). And the specific issue that loomed largest, immigration, also happens to be one on which the divergence between the base and the party elite is wide. It’s not just that the elite believes that it must find a way to reach Hispanics, whom the base loathes. There’s also an inherent conflict between the base’s nativism and the corporate desire for abundant, cheap labor.

And while Mr. Cantor won’t go hungry — he’ll surely find a comfortable niche on K Street — the humiliation of his fall is a warning that becoming a conservative apparatchik isn’t the safe career choice it once seemed.

So whither movement conservatism? Before the Virginia upset, there was a widespread media narrative to the effect that the Republican establishment was regaining control from the Tea Party, which was really a claim that good old-fashioned movement conservatism was on its way back. In reality, however, establishment figures who won primaries did so only by reinventing themselves as extremists. And Mr. Cantor’s defeat shows that lip service to extremism isn’t enough; the base needs to believe that you really mean it.

In the long run — which probably begins in 2016 — this will be bad news for the G.O.P., because the party is moving right on social issues at a time when the country at large is moving left. (Think about how quickly the ground has shifted on gay marriage.) Meanwhile, however, what we’re looking at is a party that will be even more extreme, even less interested in participating in normal governance, than it has been since 2008. An ugly political scene is about to get even uglier.

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McCain’s Politics at their Most Hypocritical

Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) ran into a little trouble last week. The Republican senator, a little too eager to condemn the Obama White House, complained about the prisoner swap that freed an American POW despite having already endorsed the exact same plan a few months prior. After getting caught, McCain falsely accused his critics of “lying.”

Making matters slightly worse, the Arizona lawmaker, himself a former POW, complained to the media that he hadn’t learned anything from a classified briefing on Bowe Bergdahl’s release, neglecting to mention that he’d left in the middle of it.

Despite – or perhaps, because of – these embarrassments, McCain scored another Sunday-show invitation, where he somehow managed to add insult to injury.
Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) on Sunday called the five Guantanamo detainees released in a prisoner swap for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl “hardcore military jihadists who are responsible for 9/11” and said he expects them to return to fighting against the U.S.
In context, looking at the full transcript, it’s hard to say whether McCain believes these five detainees were “responsible for 9/11” or whether he believes all of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay were “responsible for 9/11,” but either way, the senator is plainly wrong.

McCain added, in reference to the Bergdahl prisoner-swap, “I wouldn’t release these men, not these men. They were evaluated and judged as too great a risk to release.”

That’s wrong, too. In fact, the former chief military prosecutor at Guantanamo Bay told msnbc’s Alex Witt over the weekend that at first he didn’t even recognize these detainees’ names. “To trade five of them for a U.S. service member, in my estimation, and I’m often critical of President [Barack] Obama, I think they struck a pretty good deal,” retired Air Force Col. Morris Davis said.

What’s more, just a few months ago, McCain personally endorsed the plan to transfer these exact same Taliban prisoners. When he says he wouldn’t have completed the swap for “these men,” he’s neglecting to mention that he’d already expressed public support for swapping “these men.”

And all of this led to the creme de la crème:

“I believe that there are other prisoners, some of whom we have already released, that we could have released that – in exchange,” McCain argued.

If someone could explain what this means, I’d appreciate it. Putting aside the fact that McCain already endorsed the plan to swap these exact same prisoners before he changed his mind and denied changing his mind, it’s not at all clear how U.S. officials could have swapped prisoners “whom we have already released.”

It’s tempting to think that, one of these days, the Beltway will stop looking to McCain as an expert on matters related to national security and the military, but I’ve been waiting for that day for quite a while. It never seems to arrive.

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A Lawmaker May Have Just Accepted An Illegal Bribe In Order To Flip The Virginia Senate To The GOP

The Washington Post reports that Virginia state Sen. Phillip P. Puckett, a Democrat, “will announce his resignation Monday, effective immediately, paving the way to appoint his daughter to a judgeship and Puckett to the job of deputy director of the state tobacco commission.” Currently, the Virginia senate is evenly divided between Democrats and Republicans, with Democratic Lt. Gov. Ralph Northam holding the balance of power. If Puckett resigns, Republicans will gain control of the body for at least as long as it takes to elect a replacement.

The full details of this arrangement, including whether or not Puckett was explicitly offered the position as deputy director of the tobacco commission in return for his agreement to resign his senate seat, are not yet known. Although the executive director of the commission is appointed by the governor — who is currently Democratic Gov. Terry McAuliffe — the deputy director is appointed by the commission itself. Both the chair and the vice chair of the commission are Republicans.

If Puckett was offered the seat on this commission in exchange for his decision to resign from the state legislature, however, he may have committed a very serious crime. Under Virginia’s bribery law, it is a felony for a state lawmaker to “accept[] or agree[] to accept from another … any pecuniary benefit offered, conferred or agreed to be conferred as consideration for or to obtain or influence the recipient’s decision, opinion, recommendation, vote or other exercise of discretion as a public servant or party official.”

Given this statutory language, two questions need to be answered before Puckett could be prosecuted. The first is whether Puckett agreed to accept the tobacco commission job “as consideration for” his resignation from the state senate — that is, whether there was a quid pro quo deal where the job was offered up as the prize Puckett received if he agreed to resign. The second is whether Puckett’s resignation counts as an “exercise of discretion as a public servant.” Based on a search of Virginia court cases using the legal search engine Lexis, there does not appear to be a court decision answering this question.

In any event, the circumstances of this anticipated resignation — in which a Democratic senator throws control of the state legislature to the GOP, and then immediately receives a job from a commission controlled by a Republican chair and vice-chair — is suspicious. It also could have very serious consequences for Virginia’s least fortunate residents.

Gov. McAuliffe is currently embroiled in a fight with Republicans, who control the state house, over whether Virginia should accept Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. If Republicans take the state senate, even briefly, they can use their control over the entire legislature to pass a budget that does not include the Medicaid expansion. Though McAuliffe could veto the budget, Republicans could use that veto to try to blame him for an ensuing government shutdown.

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CPUC PG&E Chicanery? California Commission Sudden Halt into PG&E Gas Pipeline Safety Raises Serious Questions, San Bruno Says

San Francisco, Calif. – The City of San Bruno today criticized a decision by the California Public Utilities Commission to halt its investigation into thousands of missing Pacific Gas & Electric Co. pipeline strength test records – a sudden and shocking reversal that’s prompted concerns of a possible backroom deal brokered between PG&E and the state agency tasked with regulating it.

 

The CPUC’s Safety Enforcement Division this week quietly halted its inquiry into the safety of 435 miles of gas pipelines across California after PG&E refused to turn the information over to regulators— causing speculation that PG&E may have applied outside pressure to compel the regulatory agency to end its investigation.

 

San Bruno officials are now calling upon the CPUC to immediately re-open the investigation to force PG&E to produce accurate strength test records for 23,761 segments of pipe covering more than 435 miles – records that PG&E explicitly told the CPUC it would produce by 2013.

 

State and federal investigators identified PG&E’s faulty recordkeeping as a leading cause of the fatal 2010 pipeline explosion and fire in San Bruno that killed eight, injured 66 and destroyed 38 homes.

 

“PG&E continues to play a lethal game with the lives of the public. We are deeply concerned by their persistent failure and unwillingness to produce accurate pipeline records, without which we cannot know whether our communities remain at risk for the same devastating and fatal explosion that we experienced in San Bruno,” said San Bruno Mayor Jim Ruane. “Yet even more troubling is the CPUC’s decision to not pursue an investigation of these missing records even after preparing a motion to do so.”

 

“We question the CPUC’s sudden decision this week and are concerned it may be the result of inappropriate pressure applied by PG&E at the expense, once again, of public safety,” Ruane said.

 

The CPUC’s latest inquiry came about as part of the ongoing penalty proceeding to determine how much PG&E will be forced to pay for its gross negligence that caused the fatal explosion and fire in San Bruno. The CPUC’s administrative law judges are now considering penalties and fines against PG&E of up to $2.45 billion.

 

Yet, following unsuccessful attempts to obtain missing strength test records for more than 435 miles of pipeline directly from PG&E, the CPUC’s safety and enforcement division submitted a motion on May 30 to re-open the penalty proceeding’s record for the sole purpose of forcing PG&E to produce the documents.

 

San Bruno strongly supported the CPUC’s motion and its inquiry of the missing records, which city officials say are critical to instilling the public’s confidence in the safety of PG&E’s embattled pipeline system. San Bruno filed its own motion officially supporting the safety enforcement division’s request to obtain the missing records.

 

City officials are now questioning the division’s sudden decision to withdraw the motion and suspend the inquiry – a decision the city can only speculate as resulting from outside attempts by PG&E and its proxies to influence the CPUC’s actions.

 

“We are concerned that this decision is just further evidence of the cozy relationships that continue to jeopardize the CPUC’s ability to objectively regulate PG&E,” Ruane said.

 

San Bruno officials say this latest incident further underscores the need for an Independent Monitor, who would serve as a vigilant third-party watchdog over both PG&E and the CPUC.

 

“Only an independent monitor – free of the CPUC’s conflicts of interest and cozy relationships with PG&E that have jeopardized pipeline safety – can help guarantee that PG&E maintains good records and ensure that the CPUC provides the adequate and consistent oversight needed to keep our communities safe so that what happened in San Bruno never happens again,” Ruane said.

 

Ironically, PG&E has been spending millions of dollars on advertising its new “culture of safety,” with advertisements that stress the utility’s gas pipeline safety improvements since the San Bruno explosion and fire.  Yet, Ruane said, the utility can’t back up their advertising with proof that what they are telling the public is true.

 

Also this week, PG&E revealed that the U.S. Federal Prosecutor’s office expects to file additional legal actions against the utility for its gross negligence in the San Bruno case.  In April, the federal government charged PG&E with 12 felony violations of federal safety laws.

 

Is there a dirty deal between CPUC Michael Peevey and PG&E Executives?

Is there a dirty deal between CPUC Michael Peevey and PG&E Executives?

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Standing in the way of the GOP’s minority outreach

The Republican Leadership Conference wrapped up its three-day gathering over the weekend, offering attendees all kinds of speeches and presentations from notable party leaders and personalities.
But as Benjy Sarlin noted, the head of the Republican National Committee seems to have approached the event with some questions on his mind.
RNC chairman Reince Priebus, invoking the legacy of abolitionist leader Frederick Douglass, asked a question at the Republican Leadership Conference in New Orleans that many prominent Republicans have asked in recent years: Why does the party of Abraham Lincoln not get more credit as the party of tolerance?
“We’re the party of freedom and we’re the party of opportunity and we’re the party of equality, we’re the ones with that history,” Priebus said in his speech Thursday. “It’s the other side that has a shameful history, but you wouldn’t know it because we don’t talk about it.”
Let’s go ahead and skip the history lesson in which we remind the right that white segregationists transitioned from the Democratic Party to the Republican Party in the middle of the 20th century.
Instead, let’s consider the speakers who followed Priebus at this year’s Republican Leadership Conference:
* Reality-television personality Phil Robertson spoke at the event, despite his recent defense of life for African Americans in the South during segregation. “I never, with my eyes, saw the mistreatment of any black person,” Robertson said in an article published earlier this year. “Not once. Where we lived was all farmers. The blacks worked for the farmers. I hoed cotton with them. I’m with the blacks, because we’re white trash. We’re going across the field … They’re singing and happy. I never heard one of them, one black person, say, ‘I tell you what: These doggone white people’ – not a word! … Pre-entitlement, pre-welfare, you say: Were they happy? They were godly; they were happy; no one was singing the blues.”
* Reality-television personality Donald Trump also spoke at the event, defending his birther crusade. “I think a lot of people love me for it,” he told the Republican Leadership Conference over the weekend. “I got [President Obama] to produce his so-called birth certificate, or whatever it is.”
* Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) was a featured guest, despite his history of anti-immigrant rhetoric.
* Dinesh D’Souza was there, despite his racially charged “anti-colonialist” thesis involving the president.
* Sarah Palin was also there, despite her “shuck and jive” condemnations of the president.
Priebus wants his party to get more credit as the party of tolerance? Even if he didn’t stick around for the whole Republican Leadership Conference, couldn’t he at least look at the guest list?
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Marriage equality hits a milestone

Last week, marriage equality hit a milestone.

When judges in Oregon and Pennsylvania declared those state’s marriage bans unconstitutional and state officials decided not to challenge the decisions, we had marriage-equality states Nos. 18 and 19. Less than a week earlier, Arkansas and Idaho had their marriage bans declared unconstitutional. More than 300 couples in Arkansas married before the state got an injunction.

In addition, judges in Utah, Oklahoma, Michigan, Texas and Virginia declared those state’s marriage bans unconstitutional and judges in

Tennessee, Kentucky and Ohio ruled those states must recognize out-of-state marriages, at least in certain cases.

That makes 29 states — more than half — with marriage equality or marriage equality rulings.

Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg cautioned the court not to legalize same-sex marriage before states were ready. She used the example of Roe v. Wade, the Dallas case that legalized abortion nationwide.

In 1973, when the ruling was issued, only four states — New York, Washington, Hawaii and Alaska — had abortion on demand. In 16 states, abortion was legal under certain circumstances but illegal in 30 states under all circumstances, including threat to the woman’s health.

Ginsburg believes had the court ruled incrementally, opposition to legalized abortion wouldn’t have been as strident as it’s been.

Ruling too soon backfired in the case of sodomy.

The U.S. Supreme Court upheld the constitutionality of Georgia’s sodomy law in Hardwick v. Bowers in 1986. Just 17 years later, the court decision was overturned in Lawrence v. Texas.

States were moving in the direction of loosening restrictions on sodomy, but the court wasn’t ready to side with the LGBT community in Bowers. In 1960, every state had sodomy laws on the books. Five years later, the U.S. Supreme Court took a contraception case that recognized a married couple’s right to privacy. By 1986, fewer than half the states had repealed their sodomy laws, but by 2003, only 10 states still had sodomy laws on the books. Of those, four applied only to gay men.

Everyone in the LGBT community is anxious for the Supreme Court to give the Defense of Marriage Act and marriage discrimination a final blow. Appeals court rulings are expected soon in the Utah and Oklahoma cases, so the court could decide to take one or both of those cases.

Since the Windsor decision that invalidated parts of DOMA last June, marriage equality has won in every court where it’s been heard. A number of additional cases have upcoming dates. In June, Colorado and Louisiana cases will be in court. In July, a Florida hearing begins.

Wisconsin’s trial begins in August and, in September, Idaho and Alabama are set for hearings.

Rulings are expected at any time in a number of cases including the Texas divorce case pending before the Texas Supreme Court.

Several cases may be ready for the U.S. Supreme Court by next session. The Utah and Oklahoma decisions are expected from the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals any time, and Virginia is expected as early as this summer.

During the 2014-15 session, the Supreme Court could decide to hear any one of the cases decided by an appeals court, or it may choose to sit it out another term to see how all of the cases play out in lower courts.

As of this week, every state except North Dakota has at least one case filed. The cases are diverse, covering more than just the right to marry. In some states, the cases involve the right to stay married. If a couple is married in one state and then travels to another, do they have the right to expect their marriage to continue to be considered valid?

Several cases involve divorce, including a Texas case. While a couple may marry anywhere, residency is required to file divorce. If a couple is married in one state, but lives in another, must the state recognize the marriage for the purposes of divorce?

And in another Texas case, two straight men filed for the right to marry. They’re claiming simple sex discrimination is keeping them from tying the knot. Should marriage be about more than sexual attraction and allow two people who simply want to take care of each other to marry?

The Supreme Court may just let the lower courts sift through all of these questions for another year before tackling the issue again.

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