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Si Robertson, ‘Duck Dynasty’ Star, Says Atheists Don’t Exist

There’s no such thing as an atheist, according to one of the stars of the reality TV show “Duck Dynasty.”

Si Robertson, known to fans of the show as “Uncle Si,” told the Christian Post that anyone who uses the date is acknowledging Jesus.

There’s no such thing as an atheist,” Robertson told the website. “I’m serious, because there’s too much documentation. Our calendars are based on Jesus Christ. Whether you believe in him or not, every time you sign your calendar, you add down the day’s date, you’re saying he’s here, OK? That’s documented.”

While the widely used Gregorian calendar introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582uses years based on the approximate birth of Jesus Christ, the names of many of the months and days of the week retain their pagan origins. March, for example, is named for Mars, the Roman god of war. Tuesday is based on Tiu or Tiw, the Germanic god of war.

Robertson, a Vietnam War veteran, also cited a variation of the maxim, “there are no atheists in foxholes,” claiming that people turn to faith when they are in trouble.

“If you get in a serious bind, the first thing you’ll do is say [God], please help me,” Robertson told the website.

Robertson is promoting the film “Faith Of Our Fathers,” which is about two men who served in the Vietnam War, one of whom is devout while the other is a skeptic.

Skeptics, apparently, do exist.

“There’s a lot of skeptics,” Robertson said.

The movie focuses on the two men as well as their sons, who meet years later. According to IMDb, Robertson has a role in the film as a gas station clerk.

“Faith Of Our Fathers” currently has an 11 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes based on nine reviews, and a score of 20 on Metacritic based on five reviews.

The Huffington Post   |  By
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True Leaders at the Presidio Trust: Nancy Bechtle, William Hambrecht, Charlene Harvey: Editorial

1 presidio trust

San Francisco should be justly proud of the independent and visionary leadership of outgoing Presidio Trust President Nancy Hellman Bechtle and board members William Hambrecht and Charlene Harvey.   Their hard work, independence and dedication to serving the public deserves praise from every San Franciscan and California resident.

During their tenure, and because of their leadership–along with the guiding hand of recently retired Presidio Trust Executive Director Craig Middleton–the Presidio is financially self-sufficient and a thriving example of public-private partnerships that exemplify the very best in public parks, recreation and conservation in the World today.

In the face of overwhelming political pressure, these individuals and other Trust board members Paula Robinson Collins and Alex Mehran created new opportunities for San Franciscans, Californians and visitors to access one of the great treasures of American parks—The Presidio. Our Presidio.

And, just recently, the leadership of these individuals was demonstrated for everyone to see: they unanimously stood up to megalomaniac billionaire Star Wars director George Lucas, whose proposed vanity museum would have been a disgrace to San Francisco and the Presidio Trust.  Through open hearings, transparency and fairness their process concluded that not only should Lucas’s horrific design be rejected, but that two other competing proposal should turned down as well.

They took this action against the political and social pressure of Mayor Ed Lee, Sen. Dianne Feinstein, and Congresswoman Nancy Pelosi.  That, in itself, is no small feat. They also stood strong against venture capitalist Ron Conway, who became a one man sycophant for Lucas and his museum.  Even now, in defeat, Ron Conway continues to embarrass himself by claiming a conspiracy against George Lucas.

We believe and hope that new members Lynne Benioff, Nicola Miner, Janet Reilly, and John Keker will continue to keep the independent leadership exhibited by Bechtle, Hambrecht and Harvey alive.  The legacy left by Bechtle, Hambrecht and Harvey is an important milestone in San Francisco and Presidio history.  And, it is something that would have made Congressman Philip Burton, who championed the Presidio’s preservation, very proud.

 

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Can PG&E Be Trusted? Carmel Puts Pacific Gas & Electric Co. on Notice in Carmel Explosion

Jason Burnett, Mayor of Carmel, California

Jason Burnett, Mayor of Carmel, California

 

Five years after a devastating pipeline explosion ripped through the city of San Bruno, killing eight, and a year after another explosion destroyed a house in Carmel-by-the-Sea, the Pacific Gas & Electric Co. still doesn’t have accurate records of the gas pipes around our homes, neighborhoods and businesses, the business practices to compensate for their inaccurate records, or the tools in place to immediately halt a gas leak. Each day this situation is not fixed puts the public’s safety at risk.

That’s not my opinion alone, but the concern of the California Public Utilities Commission, which opened a formal investigation of PG&E’s practices and record-keeping after recent pipeline accidents in Carmel, Mountain View, Milpitas, Morgan Hill and Castro Valley highlighted the risk to public safety of PG&E not having accurate records or maps of its vast pipeline network.

The proceeding — which could lead to more penalties and fines against PG&E — follows a report by the CPUC’s Safety Enforcement Division finding that PG&E’s pipeline records are too inadequate and too flawed to be trusted when making critically important, ongoing safety decisions. The public remains at risk until these issues are resolved.

It’s the same problem that caused tragedy in 2010, when PG&E’s record-keeping errors led to a fatal fire and explosion in San Bruno. PG&E is now facing a $1.6 billion penalty and fine for its mistakes.

And it’s the reason that another explosion shook Carmel, when in 2014 bad records misled construction crews replacing a gas-distribution line at Guadalupe and Third Street. The pressurized “live” line was punctured, causing gas to escape into a nearby house. PG&E knew it had caused a leak but allowed this dangerous situation to persist for more than 30 minutes without calling 911. Our police and firefighters were therefore not alerted and were not able to evacuate the area. The house exploded, sending building debris just over the heads of crews and residents walking nearby. Shrapnel was hurled into neighboring houses and windows were blown in by shock waves. It was a miracle nobody was killed, but we cannot rely on miracles to protect the public safety. The incident should have been prevented.

Yet bad records seem to be only part of the problem with PG&E in the Carmel region, which has suffered a string of incidents and life-threatening service delays since the initial incident.

Immediately prior to the 2014 explosion, construction crews realized they had accidentally tapped into an inserted plastic main, a main that records did not indicate existed. Once the main started leaking, PG&E did not have the “squeezer” tools in place to immediately stop gas flow.

PG&E crews were forced to halt the leak manually and it took them more than 60 minutes to do so. It was too late — the house exploded within 30 minutes.

PG&E has since been fined $10.8 million for its role in the Carmel explosion, with more penalties to come, depending on the outcome of the CPUC investigation.

Despite PG&E’s lip service and empty promises of recovery, five subsequent pipeline accidents and leaks in the Carmel area have shaken our confidence in the company’s commitment to safety.

Last year, shortly after the house explosion, another gas leak was reported in a major hotel. PG&E took more than five hours to respond. Weeks later another gas leak threatened Carmel when a third-party construction crew hit a pipe outside another hotel. A 20-foot gas cloud lingered for 20 minutes before PG&E crews finally arrived and they took over an hour to stop the leak.

While PG&E was able to halt these leaks before tragedy struck in the crowded area, the incidents underscored our urgency to make sure PG&E implements several potentially lifesaving safety measures to prevent future pipeline breaches from threatening this community again.

These include better training of construction crews with the necessary emergency tools to make sure gas leaks are stopped quickly. Crews must respond to odor calls in a timely fashion, and a project manager must be designated to monitor construction projects and make regular site visits for possible pipeline interference.

As we prepare to participate in the upcoming CPUC investigation of PG&E’s record-keeping and safety practices, we intend to require these measures as part of any penalties levied. We simply can’t trust that PG&E will impose these measures on its own. The safety of our communities and the lives of our residents depend on our diligence.

Jason Burnett is mayor of Carmel.

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Man posts amazing letter to Facebook about letting the Confederate flag go

Josh Clark is a self-described “country boy stuck in the city.” He grew up near Nashville and, like many kids, was told that the Confederate flag stood for Southern heritage and Southern pride. As a result of the events in South Carolina and the revisiting of what the Confederate flag means to Americans, Josh too has had to rethink his relationship to the Confederate/Rebel flag. He took to his Facebook page and wrote a very eloquent and thoughtful piece. He talks about growing up and what he was told and what he believed the flag to mean—and therefore, what it meant to him.

It’s no big secret to my friends that I love to hunt, fish, camp and do pretty much anything outdoors. I have always considered myself to be a country boy stuck in the city. One of the ways that I used to show pride for my lifestyle was wearing t-shirts with the Confederate/ Rebel flag on them. In high school, I even had a bumper sticker on my truck that read “Keep It Flying”. I had grown up seeing the flag regularly, and although I had seen it used in negative ways on occasion, I chose to accept the “Heritage not Hate” and “Pride not Prejudice” interpretation of the flag. If you had asked me back then, I would’ve told you that it was a symbol of southern pride and had nothing to do with racism.

He goes on to talk about becoming more independent as he entered college and the age when most of us begin to separate ourselves as critical and independent thinkers. He looks back at how he lived with the flag and how that may have effected those around him.

Although I never meant anything racist by sporting the Confederate flag, I couldn’t help but think of what some of my black friends thought about it. I really can’t think of a time that I was confronted about it. Did it not offend them? Were they too nice or afraid to confront me about it? The more I researched about the history of the flag, the worse I felt. What I had been told about its history was wrong. Thousands of southerners still fly the flag with no racist intent. They still defend the good things they’ve been told about the flag. They, like I once was, are WRONG. The flag is a symbol of a way of life that was wrong. Not that it needs to be stated, but slavery is one of the most evil and cruel things this world has ever seen. The Confederate flag represents this evil. Where is the pride in that? The Confederate flag is also a sign of division. How can you truly be a patriot of this country and fly this flag? Do we really need to fly a flag to show that we are southern, or that we like to hunt and fish, especially when it’s offensive to so many? It is not a kind thing, a good thing, or the right thing to do.

You can read the whole piece here on Josh Clark’s Facebook page or below the fold. It takes a courageous person to admit fault and an intelligent person to communicate with compassion.

 

Something has been weighing pretty heavily on me the past few days. I have had a few small discussions on the issue, but haven’t gotten too far into it. I wanted to share this, not for attention, but because I thought it needed to be done.It’s no big secret to my friends that I love to hunt, fish, camp and do pretty much anything outdoors. I have always considered myself to be a country boy stuck in the city. One of the ways that I used to show pride for my lifestyle was wearing t-shirts with the Confederate/ Rebel flag on them. In high school, I even had a bumper sticker on my truck that read “Keep It Flying”. I had grown up seeing the flag regularly, and although I had seen it used in negative ways on occasion, I chose to accept the “Heritage not Hate” and “Pride not Prejudice” interpretation of the flag. If you had asked me back then, I would’ve told you that it was a symbol of southern pride and had nothing to do with racism.

I was raised pretty close to downtown Nashville and grew up with kids of all races with all kinds of backgrounds. I played baseball, basketball and football on teams where sometimes whites were minorities. I am very thankful for this. As I continue to grow and learn, I realize that we tend to fear things just because we don’t understand them. Because of where and how I was raised, I never feared people of other color or background. I was able to realize that we are all the same underneath. I have had white friends, black friends, Asian friends, Middle Eastern friends, Latino friends, Christian friends, Muslim friends, Atheist friends, etc. Thankfully, I have never had a racist bone in my body.It wasn’t until well into my college years when I began to start thinking for myself. I no longer let the people I was raised by tell me how to view every issue and tried my best to be more open-minded. I believe that one of the most important things for us to do as humans is to try putting ourselves in others’ shoes before we make any kind of judgement.

Although I never meant anything racist by sporting the Confederate flag, I couldn’t help but think of what some of my black friends thought about it. I really can’t think of a time that I was confronted about it. Did it not offend them? Were they too nice or afraid to confront me about it? The more I researched about the history of the flag, the worse I felt. What I had been told about its history was wrong. Thousands of southerners still fly the flag with no racist intent. They still defend the good things they’ve been told about the flag. They, like I once was, are WRONG. The flag is a symbol of a way of life that was wrong. Not that it needs to be stated, but slavery is one of the most evil and cruel things this world has ever seen. The Confederate flag represents this evil. Where is the pride in that? The Confederate flag is also a sign of division. How can you truly be a patriot of this country and fly this flag? Do we really need to fly a flag to show that we are southern, or that we like to hunt and fish, especially when it’s offensive to so many? It is not a kind thing, a good thing, or the right thing to do.

To those against removing the flag, I do not think you are a bad person. I know what it once meant to me. I do, however, challenge you to do your research. Step outside of what your family taught you and be open-minded. Even if you believe in a different history lesson, is flying a flag worth the pain it causes others? Please try to view these issues from the other side of the argument.

To those I may have offended in the past, who never confronted me, I apologize. I was WRONG.

As our country continues to move forward on equality issues, I believe the only place for the Confederate flag is in our history books.

Walter Einenkel, Daily Kos

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The Verdict is in: Guess Who’s The Worst President in US History?

Americans love to debate about who was the best or worst president in US history. This is a subject that is too important rely on opinion polls which are skewed by individual bias and political views. While It’s difficult to rate how good or bad any president may have been in comparison to another, a careful look at the facts shows one president failed in virtually every aspect of the job to a degree unrivaled by any other.

When you review the facts below and consider his impact on our economy, foreign policy and domestic policy, by almost any standard, it’s difficult to find any president who did more harm and left the country in worse shape than George W. Bush.

As you read this article, please feel free to fact check everything as well as checking the links I provided to verify these facts.

1. President Bush took growing budget surplus and left us with the biggest deficit in US history.

Although he was the first president in decades to inherit a budget surplus, George W. Bush wasted no time in wiping out that surplus, turning it into the biggest budget deficit in history (exceeding one trillion dollars per year by the time he left office) and adding more debt than every president before him combined..

2. Bush had the worst record of job creation since Herbert Hoover.

When George W. Bush was sworn in as president, he inherited an unemployment rate of just 4%. By the time he left office, unemployment was skyrocketing and the economy was shedding 750,000 jobs in a single month.

Bush’s reliance on tax cuts for the wealthy to stimulate the economy and create jobs was a dismal failure.

Looking at the jobs created during each presidential administration, you would have to go all the way back to Herbert Hoover to find a president with a worse record of job creation than George W. Bush.

Jimmy Carter, who is often ridiculed by Republicans, oversaw the creation of ten million new jobs during his 4 years in office compared to less than 3 million net jobs during Bush’s 8 years in office

3. After promising not to touch Social Security, President Bush took billions from the Social Security trust fund.

While running for president, George W. Bush promised not to touch the Social Security trust fund. Yet barely six months after taking office he broke this promise and began siphoning money from Social Security to make up for the budget shortfall.
After taking hundreds of billions from the trust fund, he then said Social Security was broke and he attempted to privatize it

4. Bush reversed all the trends of peace and prosperity from the Clinton years.

Here is what President Bush inherited from President Clinton when he came to office:

  • 4% unemployment,
  • A $200 billion budget surplus,
  • A stock market that had tripled in value over the previous 8 years,
  • The best rate of job creation in history (22 million new jobs in 8 years).

Bush brought all that prosperity to a screeching halt. By the time he left office we had:

  • Unemployment heading toward 10%,
  • A trillion dollar budget deficit,
  • A stock market collapse,
  • A crash of the financial system,
  • The worst rate of job creation since Herbert Hoover.

Census Bureau statistics showed that the nation’s poverty rate, which dropped every year during the Clinton presidency, rose by more than a million people per year for six of Bush’s 8 years in office.

 

5. Bush gave us the worst economic collapse since the Great Depression.

While the economy always has ups and downs, it is exceedingly rare for a president to preside over two economic recessions during their term in office. The economic collapse of 2008 was the worst since the Great Depression and required taxpayers to spend nearly a trillion dollars to bail out the financial industry. By the time Bush left office, economists were predicting 20% unemployment within a few months.

6. Bush ignored repeated warnings about an imminent terrorist attack in the months before 9/11.

According to NSA adviser for counter-terrorism, Richard Clark, President Bush was uninterested in the many briefings he received from the CIA and NSA about likely terrorist attacks being planned against the US prior to 9/11. 

Richard Clark and CIA director George Tenet believed the system was “blinking red” with warnings of impending terrorist attacks and tried to express this urgency to the president. .

On August 6, 2001, President Bush received a CIA briefing entitled “Bin Ladin Determined to Attack the U.S.” which referenced the World Trade Center and discussed terrorist plans to hijack U.S. airplanes with New York City as a possible target.

In the weeks after receiving that CIA briefing, Bush spent a month fly-fishing, golfing and clearing brush at his ranch in Texas. Barely a month after that warning, the US experienced the worst terrorist attack in history.

7. Bush rejected many opportunities to fight or prevent terrorism

In February, 2001, after President Bush rejected proposals from the National Commission on Terrorism to create a Homeland Security agency, commission member Paul Bremer (later Bush’s administrator in Iraq), said ”The new administration seems to be paying no attention to the problem of terrorism. What they will do is stagger along until there’s a major incident and then suddenly say, ‘Oh, my God, shouldn’t we be organized to deal with this?’ That’s too bad. They’ve been given a window of opportunity with very little terrorism now, and they’re not taking advantage of it.”.

In 2002, Bush’s National Security Adviser for counter-terrorism, Randy Beers, complained that Bush refused to go after al Qaeda and was holding back troops and resources from Afghanistan to prepare for the war they were planning in Iraq. Beers later quit the Bush administration out of frustration with Bush’s lack of interest in destroying al Qaeda

8. After 9/11, Bush allowed New Yorkers to be exposed to dangerous levels of toxins from the World Trade Center

After the World Trade Center collapsed, the EPA had information indicating that there were dangerously high levels of toxic substances like asbestos in the air. But the Bush administration pressured the EPA to issue a statement saying the air in and around ground zero was safe to breathe and encuraged New Yorkers to return to work. In fact, the level of toxic chemicals was many times higher than what the EPA considers safe.

9. Bush used false information to justify going to war with Iraq

Leading up to the Iraq war, President Bush used questionable information from dubious sources to convince Congress and the American people that we needed to go to war in Iraq. He claimed in his 2003 State of the Union address that Iraq had attempted to acquire uranium from the country of Niger even though the CIA had removed that claim from a previous speech after they concluded it was untrue.

Bush claimed that Iraq acquired aluminum tubes which could only be used for building nuclear weapons. But U.S. intelligence confirmed before the war that the tubes had nothing to do with any nuclear program.

He rejected information from his own weapons inspectors that he sent into Iraq who told him that Iraq had no nuclear weapons program.

He also claimed there was a direct connection between Saddam Hussein and Al Qaeda even though the CIA and NSA said there was no such connection.

10. Bush started the two longest wars in our nation’s history.

After initially overthrowing the Taliban government in Afghanistan, Bush withheld troops and resources from that war to prepare for the war in Iraq. This allowed the Taliban to retake large portions of Afghanistan within two years.

The Iraq war, which started under false pretenses, was arguably the single biggest foreign policy blunder in US history. After sending hundreds of thousands of Americans off to war with the promise of a quick victory, and a short war that would pay for itself, these wars dragged on for years costing thousands of American lives and trillions of dollars. The overthrow of Iraq led to the creation of several Islamic militant groups and a lengthy civil war that completely destabilized the entire Middle East region.

The most direct result of the war was an increase in worldwide terrorism.

11. Bush and Cheney allowed war profiteers like Halliburton to make billions on the war.

After the invasion of Iraq, Halliburton, which had given Dick Cheney a $40 million severance package, received a huge contract to run the Iraqi oil fields without having to bid against any competitors

Halliburton made at least $39 billion over the course of the Iraq war and overcharged the government tens of millions of dollars. Cheney’s stock options in Halliburton earned him millions of dollars after he became vice president
President Bush looking out the window of Air Force One observing the devastation of hurricane Katrina.

Source: Reuters

12. Bush continued to vacation for several days after Hurricane Katrina devastated New Orleans

While thousands died and tens of thousands were struggling to survive due to the flooding in New Orleans following Hurricane Katrina, President Bush continued to remain on vacation.

After the levees broke and New Orleans flooded, Bush sprang into action by flying to Arizona to play golf. Then he flew to San Diego to play guitar with a country singer. 

It was not until 3 days after Katrina hit that public outcry was loud enough that Bush decided to end his vacation, but he still took time to play one more round of golf before flying back to Washington.

13. Bush frequently used 9/11 as an excuse to violate the U.S. Constitution.

  • He violated the 4th Amendment when he authorized the NSA to illegally wiretap American citizens’ phones without a warrant.
  • He further violated the Constitution when he managed to get a provision into the Patriot Act giving him sole authority to imprison people indefinitely without due process of law.
  • He violated the 8th Amendment (in addition to US laws and international treaties) by authorizing the torture of detainees who had not even been charged with any crime despite the fact that torture is the most ineffective and unreliable method of getting information.

14. Bush was terrible for the health of the American people

George W. Bush broke his campaign promise to enact stricter emissions standards for Carbon Dioxide while he relaxed standards enabling polluters to put more toxins such as mercury into our atmosphere. He relaxed clean water standards to allow higher levels of arsenic and mercury in our drinking water and he weakened workplace health and safety standards to benefit big corporations.

 In 2003, Bush gutted the Clean Air Act so that energy companies could substantially increase the amount of pollution generated by older energy generating plants.

15. Bush lied to Congress about the cost of his Medicare Prescription Drug program

In 2003, Congressional leaders refused to support the Medicare Prescription Drug bill if it exceeded $400 billion. So President Bush told them it would cost exactly $400 billion. We now know that Bush was aware that the actual cost would be over $550 billion (cost estimates eventually reached $1.2 trillion). Medicare official Richard Foster was even threatened with termination of his job if he revealed the true cost of the bill to Congress.

Ironically, the same Republicans in Congress who voted for the Medicare Prescription expansion which added over a trillion dollars to our debt, voted against Obamacare which actually reduces the deficit.

16. Bush lowered America’s standing in the world community.

Most of America’s traditional allies condemned the invasion of Iraq and the use of torture on detainees. The Iraq war inspired unprecedented hatred for America in much of the world. Even US allies like Egyptian president Hosni Mubarik said the Iraq war “will create a hundred more Osama bin Ladens”.

In 2004, former Air Force chief of staff, General Tony McPeak said President Bush had “alienated our friends, damaged our credibility around the world, reduced our influence to an all-time low in my lifetime and given hope to our enemies.”

After leaving office, President Bush even had to cancel a trip to Switzerland due to large scale protests calling for him to be arrested.

That’s 16 reasons that would easily justify impeachment

…and we haven’t even mentioned doubling the price of gasoline, exploiting 9/11 for political gain, setting the record for most time spent on vacation, cutting veterans benefits, suppressing scientific findings about global warming, flying in hecklers to disrupt the 2001 recount in Florida, refusing to testify under oath before the 9/11 commission, outing a covert CIA agent for political reasons and leaving office with a 30% job approval rating.

Yes, other presidents have had their failures.

Herbert Hoover presided over the economic crash of the Great Depression, Lyndon Johnson dragged us into the Vietnam War, Nixon and Reagan had more people in their administrations convicted of serious crimes than any other presidents and James Polk started the Mexican-American War under false pretense

President James Buchanan

The weak leadership of President James Buchanan is often blamed for the Civil War, leading some to consider him the worst president in history.

Yet none of these men, not even Buchanan, failed so thoroughly at so many different aspects of their job as did George W. Bush

There’s Only One Inescapable Conclusion

We are all influenced by our own political bias, including this author. But setting political opinions aside and just looking at the facts, it’s hard to imagine any other American president who inherited a better overall national and international situation while leaving the country in more dismal shape than George W. Bush.

Before you leave any comments, read this note.

This article was not intended to be a detailed analysis of all US presidents to determine who was the worst among them.

This article is an explanation of why the author believes George W. Bush to be the worst president in history. It mentions some other presidents who are often regarded as having done a poor job, but it was written specifically for the purpose of discussing the George W. Bush presidency.

The opinion poll at the end of the article exists primarily for the purpose of measuring the reader’s views, but it is not by any means a scientific poll of a cross section of the American people and it has nothing to do with the content of the article.

 

From jeff61b.HubPages.com

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July 4th Note to Tea Partiers: Your Politics Would Baffle the Founding Fathers

Editor’s note: These days, if you see a protester donning a tricorn hat and waving a Gadsden Flag, it’s a safe bet that he or she is a Republican activist who’s furious about “death panels” or the prospect of the government meddling in the Medicare program. But the tea party movement isn’t the first to claim itself to be the true defenders of the Constitution, or to enlist its Framers in a political cause. Throughout American history, activists across the ideological spectrum have insisted that the Framers would roll over in their graves upon encountering the perfidy of their political opponents. 

The reality is that the Framers disagreed about almost everything, and produced a Constitution that was filled with expedient compromises. As Jill Lepore, a professor of American history at Harvard University, pointed out in her book, The Whites of Their Eyes: The Tea Party’s Revolution and the Battle Over American History, “Beginning even before it was over, the Revolution has been put to wildly varying political purposes.” Between 1761, when the first signs of discontent with England became apparent in the Colonies, and 1791, when the Bill of Rights was ratified, Lepore wrote that Americans debated an “ocean of ideas” from which “you can fish anything out.”

One of the few areas where the Framers approached a consensus was a belief that their Constitution shouldn’t be fetishized. According to Lepore, it was none other than Thomas Jefferson who wrote, “Some men look at constitutions with sanctimonious reverence, and deem them like the arc of the covenant, too sacred to be touched. They ascribe to the men of the preceding age a wisdom more than human.” And in Federalist 14, James Madison wondered if it was “not the glory of the people of America, that… they have not suffered a blind veneration for antiquity, for custom, or for names, to overrule the suggestions of their own good sense, the knowledge of their own situation, and the lessons or their own experience?”

Below is an excerpt from Jill Lepore’s book. In it, she explains the origins of, and historical problems with, the notion of “Constitutional originalism.” 

*****

Originalism as a school of constitutional interpretation has waxed and waned and has always competed with other schools of interpretation. Madison’s invaluable notes on the Constitutional Convention weren’t published until 1840, and nineteenth-century constitutional theory differed, dramatically, from the debates that have taken place in the twentieth century. In the 1950s and 1960s, the Supreme Court rejected originalist arguments put forward by southern segregationists, stating, in Brown v. Board of Education in 1954, that “we cannot turn back the clock” but “must consider public education in the light of its full development and its present place in American life throughout the Nation.” Constitutional scholars generally date the rise of originalism to the 1970s and consider it a response to controversial decisions of both the Warren and Burger Courts, especially Roe v. Wade, in 1973. Originalism received a great deal of attention in 1987, with the Supreme Court nomination of Robert Bork. Bork’s nomination also happened to coincide with the bicentennial of the Constitutional Convention. “Nineteen eighty-seven marks the 200th anniversary of the United States Constitution,” Thurgood Marshall said in a speech that year. Marshall (who went to Frederick Douglass High School) had argued Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and, in 1967, after being nominated by Lyndon Johnson, became the first African American on the Supreme Court. In 1987, contemplating the bicentennial of the Constitution, Marshall took a skeptical view.

The focus of this celebration invites a complacent belief that the vision of those who debated and compromised in Philadelphia yielded the “more perfect Union” it is said we now enjoy. I cannot accept this invitation, for I do not believe that the meaning of the Constitution was forever “fixed” at the Philadelphia Convention. Nor do I find the wisdom, foresight and sense of justice exhibited by the Framers particularly profound. To the contrary, the government they devised was defective from the start, requiring several amendments, a civil war and major social transformations to attain the system of constitutional government and its respect for the freedoms and individual rights, we hold as fundamental today.

Marshall was worried about what anniversaries do. “The odds are that for many Americans the bicentennial celebration will be little more than a blind pilgrimage to the shrine of the original document now stored in a vault in the National Archives,” rather than the occasion for “a sensitive understanding of the Constitution’s inherent defects, and its promising evolution through 200 years of history.” Expressing doubts about unthinking reverence, Marshall called for something different:

In this bicentennial year, we may not all participate in the festivities with flagwaving fervor. Some may more quietly commemorate the suffering, struggle, and sacrifice that has triumphed over much of what was wrong with the original document, and observe the anniversary with hopes not realized and promises not fulfilled. I plan to celebrate the bicentennial of the Constitution as a living document.

Even as Marshall was making that speech, the banner of originalism was being taken up by evangelicals, who, since joining the Reagan Revolution in 1980, had been playing an increasingly prominent role in American politics. “Any diligent student of American history finds that our great nation was founded by godly men upon godly principles to be a Christian nation,” Jerry Falwell insisted. In 1987, Tim LaHaye, an evangelical minister who went on to write a series of bestselling apocalyptic novels, published a book called The Faith of Our Founding Fathers, in which he attempted to chronicle the “Rape of History” by “history revisionists” who had systemically erased from American textbooks the “evangelical Protestants who founded this nation.” Documenting this claim was no mean feat. Jefferson posed a particular problem, not least because he crafted a custom copy of the Bible by cutting out all the miracles and pasting together what was left. LaHaye, to support his argument, took out his own pair of scissors, deciding, for instance, that Jefferson didn’t count as a Founding Father because he “had nothing to do with the founding of our nation,” and basing his claims about Benjamin Franklin not on evidence (because, as he admitted, “There is no evidence that Franklin ever became a Christian”), but on sheer bald, raising-the-founders-from- the-dead assertion. LaHaye wrote, “Many modern secularizers try to claim Franklin as one of their own. I am confident, however, that Franklin would not identify with them were he alive today.” (Alas, Franklin, who once said he wished he could preserve himself in a vat of Madeira wine, to see what the world would look like in a century or two, is not, in fact, alive today. And, while I confess that I’m quite excessively fond of him, the man is not coming back.)

Lincoln was a lawyer, Douglas a judge; they had studied the law; they disagreed about how to interpret the founding documents, but they also shared a set of ideas about standards of evidence and the art of rhetoric, which is why they were able to hold, over seven days, such a substantial and relentless debate. Falwell and LaHaye were evangelical ministers; what they shared was the art of extracting passages from scripture and using them to preach a gospel about good and bad, heaven and hell, damnation and salvation.

“My faith is the faith of my fathers,” Mitt Romney declared in an address on faith, in 2007, just before the presidential primary season, during which Romney sought the Republican nomination. Romney’s Founding Fathers weren’t the usual ones, though. Historians of religious liberty have typically referred to four foundational texts: Madison’s 1785 “Memorial Remonstrance against Religious Assessments” (“The Religion of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man”), a statute written by Jefferson (“our civil rights have no dependence on our religious opinions any more than our opinions in physics or geometry”), Article VI of the Constitution (“no religious test shall ever be required as a qualification to any office or public trust under the United States”), and the First Amendment (“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof”). Romney, though, skipped over Jefferson and Madison in favor of Brigham Young, John and Samuel Adams and the seventeenth-century Puritan dissenter, Roger Williams, in order to accuse modern-day secularists of being “at odds with the nation’s founders,” and of having taken the doctrine of separation of church and state “well beyond its original meaning” by seeking “to remove from the public domain any acknowledgement of God.”

Precisely what the founders believed about God, Jesus, sin, the Bible, churches and hell is probably impossible to discover. They changed their minds and gave different accounts to different people: Franklin said one thing to his sister, Jane, and another thing to David Hume; Washington prayed with his troops, but, while he lay slowly dying, he declined to call for a preacher. This can make them look like hypocrites, but that’s unfair, as are a great many attacks on these men. They approached religion more or less the same way they approached everything else that interested them: Franklin invented his own, Washington proved diplomatic, Adams grumbled about it (he hated Christianity, he once said, but he couldn’t think of anything better, and he also regarded it as necessary), Jefferson could not stop tinkering with it, and Madison defended, as a natural right, the free exercise of it. That they wanted to preserve religious liberty by separating church and state does not mean they were irreligious. They wanted to protect religion from the state, as much as the other way around.

Nevertheless, if the founders had followed their forefathers, they would have written a Constitution establishing Christianity as the national religion. Nearly every British North American colony was settled with an established religion; Connecticut’s 1639 charter explained that the whole purpose of government was “to mayntayne and presearve the liberty and purity of the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” In the century and a half between the Connecticut charter and the 1787 meeting of the Constitutional Convention lies an entire revolution, not just a political revolution but also a religious revolution. Following the faith of their fathers is exactly what the framers did not do. At a time when all but two states required religious tests for office, the Constitution prohibited them. At a time when all but three states still had an official religion, the Bill of Rights forbade the federal government from establishing one. Originalism in the courts is controversial, to say the least. Jurisprudence stands on precedent, on the stability of the laws, but originalism is hardly the only way to abide by the Constitution. Setting aside the question of whether it makes good law, it is, generally, lousy history. And it has long since reached well beyond the courts. Set loose in the culture, and tangled together with fanaticism, originalism looks like history, but it’s not; it’s historical fundamentalism, which is to history what astrology is to astronomy, what alchemy is to chemistry, what creationism is to evolution. 

In eighteenth-century America, I wouldn’t have been able to vote. I wouldn’t have been able to own property, either. I’d very likely have been unable to write, and, if I survived childhood, chances are that I’d have died in childbirth. And, no matter how long or short my life, I’d almost certainly have died without having once ventured a political opinion preserved in any historical record, except that none of these factors has any meaning or bearing whatsoever on whether an imaginary eighteenth-century me would have supported the Obama administration’s stimulus package or laws allowing the carrying of concealed weapons or the war in Iraq, because I did not live in eighteenth-century America, and no amount of thinking that I could, not even wearing petticoats, a linsey-woolsey calico smock and a homespun mobcap, can make it so. Citizens and their elected officials have all sorts of reasons to support or oppose all sorts of legislation and government action, including constitutionality, precedence and the weight of history. But it’s possible to cherish the stability of the law and the durability of the Constitution, as amended over two and a half centuries of change and one civil war, and tested in the courts, without dragging the Founding Fathers from their graves. To point this out neither dishonors the past nor relieves anyone of the obligation to study it. To the contrary.

“What would the founders do?” is, from the point of view of historical analysis, an ill-considered and unanswerable question, and pointless, too. Jurists and legislators need to investigate what the framers meant, and some Christians make moral decisions by wondering what Jesus would do, but no NASA scientist decides what to do about the Hubble by asking what Isaac Newton would make of it. People who ask what the founders would do quite commonly declare that they know, they know, they just know what the founders would do and, mostly, it comes to this: if only they could see us now, they would be rolling over in their graves. They might even rise from the dead and walk among us. We have failed to obey their sacred texts, holy writ. They suffered for us, and we have forsaken them. Come the Day of Judgment, they will damn us.

That’s not history. It’s not civil religion, the faith in democracy that binds Americans together. It’s not originalism or even constitutionalism. That’s fundamentalism.

 

Jill Lapore, Moyers.com

 

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‘We Do!’ — Episcopalians OK Marriage for Same-Sex Couples

The Episcopal Church took a giant step forward Wednesday by removing barriers for same-sex couples desiring to be married in the church. Meeting in Salt Lake City, the General Convention an overwhelming majority of the House of Deputies concurred with the actions of the House of Bishops earlier this week, adopting two resolutions: A054 (authorizing new marriage liturgies for trial use) and A036 (removing references to marriage as being between a man and a woman in the church’s canons.)

Taken together, these actions make marriage — which the Supreme Court ruled last week is a “fundamental right” for all Americans — equally available for all Episcopalians. Carefully and prayerfully crafted, they provide as wide a tent as possible for the historic diversity that characterizes the Episcopal Church — guaranteeing access to marriage liturgies to all couples while protecting the conscience of clergy and bishops who dissent theologically.

The genius of today’s action is that the conscience of a dissenting bishop is protected but not at the price of denying same-sex couples access to the sacramental rite of marriage. It will be a “bridge too far” for some and not far enough for others. But it is an exemplary illustration of the hard, faithful work of a church refusing to let the perfect be the enemy of the good as it strives to become a more expansive and inclusive church.

The journey to this day has been long and the challenges have been great. We have worked, prayed, argued, debated and compromised to this moment. We have been on a 40-year journey in the Episcopal Church working to turn the ‘full and equal claim’ promised to LGBT Episcopalians in 1976 from a resolution to a reality.

There is still work to do to reach the audacious goal of a church where there are no barriers to full inclusion for any member of the Church but today we celebrate an important and incremental victory toward that goal. It is a proud day to be an Episcopalian as we journey together into God’s future — a diverse people united in our commitment to the Jesus Movement our Presiding Bishop-elect has called us to claim and to proclaim to a world hungry for love, justice and compassion.

Susan Russell, Huffington Post

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There are 6 Scriptures about homosexuality in the Bible. Here’s what they really say.

I’m the daughter of two ministers and still spend every Sunday in church, so I grew up studying the Bible pretty closely. But in all my years, I’ve never heard the scriptures about homosexuality explained this way. I’ve had the pleasure of meeting this guy, and I can tell you that, like me, he loves his faith very much. So who better to explain and challenge it? What he found just might be a game changer.

For a quick overview, here are the six specific passages: 

The Story of Sodom & Gomorrah (Genesis 19)

This story in Genesis 19 is probably the most popular passage used to condemn homosexuality. Here is how Vines explains it:

 ”God sends two angels disguised as men into the City of Sodom where the men of Sodom threatened to rape them. The angels blind the men, and God destroys the city. For centuries, this story was interpreted as God’s judgment on same-sex relations, but the only form of same-sex behavior described is a threatened gang rape. “

So gang rape = not good (also not the same thing as homosexuality). But the recap of Sodom & Gomorrah found in Ezekial 16:49 highlights the real point of the story:

 “Now, this was the sin of your sister, Sodom. She and her daughters were arrogant, overfed, and unconcerned, they did not help the poor and needy.”

In other words, everyone using this story as evidence of the sin of homosexuality, might be missing the point entirely.

When God calls homosexuality an abomination
(Leviticus 18:22) (Leviticus 20:13)

Yep. We’ve all heard that Leviticus is where the Bible straight-up says that homosexual behavior is an abomination. And yes, it does. It also says that homosexuals should receive the death penalty (!!!). It also says the same thing about eating pork or shellfish, charging interest on loans, and a whole bunch of other restrictions that were a part of the Old Testament Law Code. But for Christians, the Old Testament doesn’t (dare I say “shouldn’t?”) settle any issue because Romans 10:4 says that Christ is the end of the law. Which is probably why most Christians today eat meat, use credit cards, wear makeup, and support equality for women. Because, as Hebrews 8:13 says, “the old law is obsolete and aging.”

When people turn away from God (Romans 1:26-27)

 ”Even their women exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones; in the same way, men committed shameful acts with other men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error.”

This is where Vines does a great job of explaining the cultural context. In Biblical times, same-sex behavior was primarily seen as happening between adult men and adolescent boys (masters and servants — yikes), via prostitution, and by men who were married to women. In all of those cases, we can see why it would have been viewed as sinful, excessive, lustful, and against God’s law. But he makes no mention of love, commitment, faithfulness, or the type of same-sex relationships that are at question in the debate around marriage. (By the way, Paul also says that men having long hair is “unnatural” and that women shouldn’t speak in church, so it’s clear Paul himself may have had some issues of his own.)

Uses of the Greek works “Malakoi” and “Arsenokoitai”
(1 Corinthians 6:9-10) (1 Timothy 1:10)

These words are included in the New Testament’s lists of people who will not inherit God’s kingdom. And there has been much debate over their original meaning. (Translating ancient words is hard, guys.) Some believe them to mean homosexuality and sodomy, whereas others have said that the closest modern translation would be “dirty old men.” Ha! Here’s how Vines explains it:

Many modern translators have rendered these terms as sweeping statements about gay people, but the concept of sexual orientation didn’t even exist in the ancient world. Yes, Paul did not take a positive view of same-sex relations (nor did he support women speaking in church…), but the context he was writing in is worlds apart from gay people in committed, monogamous relationships. The Bible never addresses the issues of sexual orientation or same-sex marriage, so there’s no reason why faithful Christians can’t support their gay brothers and sisters.

Fascinating, right?

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On Scene with Bill Wilson — Harvey Milk, the United Nations and a Very Historic Day

Photo AUN Secretary General Ban Ki –moon receives Harvey Milk medal from Anne Kronenberg, Stuart Milk and Anette Trettebergstuen, member of Parliament from Norway.

So much history took place on June 28th that this may have been missed, but I think it is very significant. The Harvey Milk Foundation presented UN Secretary general Ban Ki Moon with a medal for the Free and Equal UN campaign for GLBT equality. At a luncheon in his honor he made the following remarks,

“I am truly honoured by this lunch and by your recognition by this medal. It really gives me another opportunity to motivate myself, and commit myself much more than before to work for free and equal rights of everyone. I am especially thrilled to be with you on today of all days — a day we celebrate not only the birth of the United Nations but marriage equality for all Americans. Truly, this is a day for the history books!

When I woke up this morning knowing that there would be a historic decision by the Supreme Court I was not sure what kind of decision it would be. Fortunately, time passed three hours ahead of me so I was immediately able to see the news. Then I had an ABC interview today [this morning] and I thought, what should I say?

So this is what I said,

‘I welcome the decision of the Supreme Court of the United States that paves the way for gay and lesbian Americans to have their relationships legally recognized, no matter which part of the country they live in.

I have been a strong believer in equality, and in the equal worth and dignity of LGBT people. Denying couples legal recognition of their relationship opens the door to widespread discrimination. This ruling will help close that door and marks a great step forward for human rights in the United States. I join the LGBT community and its million of allies in celebrating this historic decision.’

Since arriving in San Francisco last night, I have been constantly reminded of the remarkable connections between this city and the United Nations. Few other cities, places, embody as proudly as San Francisco the values of diversity, equality and inclusion. It was from this building, some 40 years ago, that Harvey Milk helped to set in train America’s gay rights revolution – a revolution that continues to this day not just in this country but around the world. The measures he advocated here – including new laws to protect people from discrimination – are the same measures that, today, we advocate to Governments everywhere.

The arguments he made – about not just “tolerance” but true inclusion and acceptance – are the same ones we use today as we work to convince the world’s Governments to embrace, protect and value all their people – including those who are lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender.

Photo BUN Secretary General with Theresa Sparks

As the Secretary-General of the United Nations, I have been travelling to many countries and where there was discrimination, I talked to Heads of State or Government. Sometimes, I have been successful.

One day, for example, in — I just forgot the country and the name — I talked to the president quietly. There was [a] gay couple that was put in prison for many years. It became big news in the world. So I told him, “this is a violation of human rights principles; can you release them? I’m not going to say publicly but if you release them, I will welcome your decision. He said that I don’t agree with your point but since you are the Secretary-General of the United Nations, saying and asking for that, I will consider what I can do”.

I thought that it would take about two or three months for his decision. Then, when we were having a joint press conference, he announced, “I’m pardoning this couple, right now.” Then they were set free on the same day. It was Malawi. This President unfortunately passed away and his brother is now President, and he made the immediate decision and he set them free. I was successful.

But in some other countries, when I raise this issue, of course, we have some confrontational dialogue. But they listen to my appeal, and I will continue to help those who are being discriminated.

I still have a year and a half to go before I stand down as UN Secretary-General, and we still have a great deal to get done before then. But I know already, that when the time comes to look back on my tenure, I will feel enormous pride in the fact that I have been the first UN Secretary-General to push hard for equal rights and respect for LGBT people around the world.

For me, as for many people who have come to this cause later in their lives, it has been a journey.

Growing up in Korea in the 1950s and 60s, I didn’t know anyone who was LGBT – or, at least, I didn’t know I knew anyone. Sexual orientation and gender identity were not issues we spoke about. They were taboo, at that time. Korea as you know is heavily influenced by Confucianism.

I eventually learned to speak out when I realized that people’s lives are at stake. It is that simple.

Millions of people, in every corner of the world, are forced to live in hiding, in fear of brutal violence, discrimination, even arrest and imprisonment, just because of who they are, or whom they love.

Today, I stand with them. With the bullied teen rejected by his parents. With the homeless transgender woman denied healthcare and employment. With the young couple jailed and tortured simply for loving one another. With the activist arrested for daring to stand up for human rights. The abuses and indignity suffered by members of the LGBT community are an outrage – an affront to the values of the United Nations and to the very idea of universal human rights.

 Photo C UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon with Stuart Milk, nephew of Harvey.

I consider the struggle to end these abuses to be a great cause on a par with the struggle to end discrimination against women and on the basis of race. I am proud of our work to repeal discriminatory laws and to open people’s hearts and minds to change. In 2013, the UN Human Rights Office launched a unique campaign against homophobia and transphobia: the Free & Equal campaign.

When I first became Secretary-General, I knew that there was many staff who were living, hiding themselves, who were very afraid of coming out. Then I invited some of them. Of course, when the Secretary-General invites, they should come. They all came in a group and we wanted to take a photo but they said no, no photo, we don’t want to take a photo. They were the first people [who] refused to take a photo with the UN Secretary-General. There are so many people who want to take a picture.

Then I asked, “why are you afraid of taking a picture?” Because they did not want to be exposed and known to other people. So I told them I would only keep [the picture] for my record and I would just give it to you only, personally. So we took a picture and I kept my promise without letting them be exposed or known. Then I declared that I would make the United Nations the best workplace in the world, where people living with different sexual orientation would have no obstacles, no discrimination. That was highly praised at the time. Then next year, they came with a calendar, 6-page calendars, with their photos in the calendars, every month. So they feel very proud.

 

Photo DUN Secretary General advocating for LGBT rights as human rights.

 I am an unwavering champion of this campaign and I invite you to become champions too.

The fight for justice cannot wait – as Harvey Milk knew well. We will do our best to revere his legacy by working every day for the rights of LGBT people everywhere.

Thank you for the honour of this medal, and for the work that each of you is doing to advance the ideals of freedom and equality for all.

Let us work together to make this world better for all, where everybody’s human rights and human dignity will be respected and promoted.

I am committed to that. Thank you very much for your leadership and commitment.”

 

Photo EUN Secretary Ban Ki-moon

 

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Obama earns high marks around the globe

Republicans are heavily invested in the idea that President Obama lacks international respect. There’s new evidence that suggests the GOP has it backwards.It was just a few months ago that Jeb Bush insisted that during the Obama era, “We have lost the trust and confidence of our friends. Around the same time, Scott Walker and Donald Trump reportedly had a chat about “how poorly” the United States is now “perceived throughout the world.” Mitt Romney added, “It is hard to name even a single country that has more respect and admiration for America today than when President Obama took office.”

Actually, it’s incredibly easy to name countries that have more respect and admiration for the United States today than when President Obama took office. The Pew Research Center published a reportlast week on “Global Attitudes & Trends” and found that America’s overall image around the world remains quite positive – and in much of the world, impressions of the U.S. have improved since the end of the Bush/Cheney era.

More specifically, though, President Obama is an especially popular figure in many parts of the world.

Half or more in 29 of 40 countries surveyed say they have confidence in President Obama to do the right thing in world affairs. Throughout his terms in office, Obama has received particularly strong ratings in Europe and Africa, and that continues to be the case this year. Majorities in every EU and sub-Saharan African nation surveyed give him positive marks. […]Overall, Obama’s image has improved in the last year. In 14 countries of the 36 countries where trends from 2014 are available, more people now say they have confidence in the U.S. president. The largest gain occurred in India, which Obama visited in January. Almost three-in-four Indians express confidence in Obama, up from 48% a year ago. Double digit gains are also found in Ghana (+22 points), Turkey (+21), Nigeria (+20), Uganda (+11) and Brazil (+11).

It’s probably time for Republicans to update their talking points.
In fairness, Obama’s popularity is not universal. He fares far less well in the Middle East – including a drop of support in Israel, where Netanyahu allies have soured on the U.S. leader – and the president is wildly unpopular in Russia for reasons that should be obvious.

But in general, across the board, particularly among U.S. allies in Europe and Asia-Pacific, Obama enjoys considerable public support.

Just as important is the fact that we can compare international impressions of Obama with those of his immediate predecessor. I found this Pew Research Center report from late 2008, which found much of the planet losing respect for the U.S. and rejecting George W. Bush to a striking degree.

And therein lies the irony of contemporary GOP whining – Republicans seem absolutely convinced that President Obama is seen abroad as a hapless failure, but the argument is completely backwards. Obama is quite popular across much of the planet, while it’s Bush who was reviled abroad. GOP candidates promising to restore global respect for the White House have a problem: they’re six years too late.

The sooner Republicans realize this, the better. It’s not just a matter of saying things that are true – though I tend to think that’s an appealing quality in a presidential candidate – it’s also the fact that GOP confusion is causing some Republicans trouble. Remember, it was just a couple of weeks ago that Scott Walker said British Prime Minister David Cameron told the governor directly that he’s unsatisfied with Obama’s leadership. The incident quickly blew up in Walker’s face.

If Republicans want to argue that Obama shouldn’t be popular abroad, fine. But reality is not in dispute.

Steve Benen, MSNBC

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Another Republican Candidate who does not know the Constitution: Ted Cruz Wants To Be Able To Vote Out Supreme Court Justices

After calling the last day “some of the darkest 24 hours in our nation’s history,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) is now calling for Supreme Court justices to face elections.

In a National Review op-ed published Friday, Cruz chastised the high court for its decisions to reject a major challenge to Obamacare and to legalize same-sex marriage nationwide.

“Both decisions were judicial activism, plain and simple,” Cruz writes. “Both were lawless.”

To challenge that “judicial activism,” Cruz said he is proposing a constitutional amendment to require Supreme Court justices to face retention elections every eight years.

“The decisions that have deformed our constitutional order and have debased our culture are but symptoms of the disease of liberal judicial activism that has infected our judiciary,” Cruz writes. “A remedy is needed that will restore health to the sick man in our constitutional system. Rendering the justices directly accountable to the people would provide such a remedy.”

Under Cruz’s proposed amendment, justices would have to be approved by a majority of American voters as well as by the majority of voters in least half of the states. If they failed to reach the required approval rating, they would be removed from office and barred from serving on the Supreme Court in the future.

Cruz, who is running for president in 2016, was among many Republican candidates criticizing the justices after a strong week for liberals at the court.

Wisconsin Gov. Scott Walker (R), who is expected to jump in the presidential race soon, also offered up a proposed constitutional fix to combat the Supreme Court’s marriage equality decision. In a statement, Walker argued for an amendment to define marriage as between one man and one woman — a proposal Cruz has also floated.

 

Huffington Post

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I am about to offend someone

Let me just say it from the start: I’m a white, Western, able-bodied, straight, cis-gender, Christian, middle-class person of privilege. So in any expressions of thought or opinion, I am bound to offend someone. Don’t get me wrong; I’m all for political correctness. But even in my my most well-meaning attempts, I sometimes step on a land mine. Trouble is, what’s a land mine to one person may not be one to another.

Years ago, in a conversation with a gay activist, I used the phrase “has his head screwed on straight” and got roundly chastised. Years later, I was (half) jokingly telling members of my congregation that I’d been worried about the part of the scripture reading that day when St. Paul visited “a street called Straight.” They thought I was being pretty silly, so I told them the story of the “head on straight” debacle. They thought the activist’s reaction was pretty silly, too. So – who’s right?

A lot of metaphorical ink has been spilled since the Charleston shootings about racism and white privilege. Of course, that’s been going on since #BlackLivesMatter. What role do white allies have in protests and demonstrations? I tried to talk about this dilemma at a dinner party recently and a Jewish guest immediately explained to me how I also could never understand her history as an oppressed person.

I get that. I really do. But I’m worried that we have become so siloed in our own stories that we aren’t able to communicate with those in other silos or  join together with everyone for the good of all. For example, a friend who is lesbian was chafing against being lumped into the “white privilege” category without a recognition of her own history of marginalization. She’s not against accepting her place of privilege, but would like there to be a better way for us all to talk about these maters.

In a way, I get Rachel Dolezal. I don’t condone what she did and I don’t know all of her story to really know why she did it. But in a way I get that to be accepted as an advocate for a particular group pf people, you have to have experienced their oppression first-hand.

Back in my Buffalo days, we tried a program of getting folks from white congregations in the suburbs to visit black churches in the city, not just for worship but also to sit down and talk. One pastor of a suburban church was honest enough to express his anxiety at the start of the conversation time. He said right up front that he was afraid he was going to say something that would come out sounding racist.

I’ve had that same anxiety – in many circles. After all I’m a white, Western, able-bodied, straight, cis-gender, Christian, middle-class person of privilege. And I know that I’m probably being offensive in even asking if we can somehow come out of our silos – a least for a little while – in order to talk together openly and honestly. Could we agree to be respectful, listening to one another’s stories, gently correcting one another’s misconceptions and errors?

Could we, in a spirit of interdependence, explore ways to advocate for one another that honor the unique experiences of one group without excluding the gifts of another?

Maybe we have to be willing to risk offending and being offended. This is big, I know. One category where I can claim marginalization is as a woman and a woman in a male-dominated occupation. So my feminist hackles can go up pretty quickly. I know how challenging it will be for all of us to take these risks.

Still I wonder. Is it time?

 

Susan Strouse, Pastor of the First United Lutheran Church of San Francisco

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Read the Most Brutal Paragraph From Clarence Thomas’ Same-Sex Marriage Dissent

Justice Clarence Thomas has a fervent dissent of the Supreme Court’s historic decision to invalidate same-sex marriage bans. His argument, joined by Justice Antonin Scalia, quibbles with the definition of liberty itself. “Since well before 1787, liberty has been understood as freedom from government action, not entitlement to government benefits,” Thomas writes. Working from this principle, Thomas insists that the petitioners in the case “have in no way been deprived” of their liberty. “They have been able to travel freely around the country, making their homes where they please. Far from being incarcerated or physically restrained, petitioners have been left alone to order their lives as they see fit.” And yet he takes the argument even further—because human dignity “has long been understood in this country to be innate,” here’s who else Thomas thinks hasn’t been deprived of it:

thomasdissent
 Alan Griswold, Slate.com
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Vatican: We should be polite to people with ‘homosexual tendencies’ while opposing their rights

The Vatican has instructed members of the Catholic Church to be polite to people with “homosexual tendencies”, while continuing to work to oppose equality.

Documents released ahead of the Church’s Family Synod quashed hopes that the Church would make any move to relax its anti-gay policies – despite fears it is becoming rapidly out of touch.

Plans to ‘reach out’ to gay couples were abandoned at last year’s Synod following a humiliating climbdown from the Pope. Despite hopes similar proposals would return this year, a working paper released for this year’s synod fails to include the issue of how the Church should reach out to homosexual couples as a key topic.

However, despite no plans for outreach or relaxation of anti-LGBT policies at the gathering of Catholic bishops, which will be held at the Vatican in October, the document did urge “respect”, in a section titled “Pastoral attention to persons with homosexual tendencies”.

It says: “Every person, independently of their sexual tendencies, is respected in their dignity and should be received with sensibility and delicateness, both in the church and in society.

“It would be desirable that diocesan pastoral projects reserve a specific attention to the accompanying of families with persons of homosexual tendencies, and of the persons themselves.

Despite a recent PR blitz attempting to bolster his gay-friendly image, the Pope is yet to lift any of the actively homophobic and transphobic policies of his predecessors.

He has also rallied against same-sex marriage, inviting representatives from listed hate groups to a ‘traditional marriage’ conference last year, and recently urged Slovakians to vote against equal marriage.

The Catholic leader has also compared transgender people to nuclear weapons.

From Pink News

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Deeply Embarrassed White People Talk Awkwardly About Race

One day in front of a class of art history students at Cornish College of the Arts, I say, “Raise your hand if you’re a racist.” I hadn’t planned on this.

That class period I was focusing on James Baldwin and Glenn Ligon, both gay men, both African American, and it hit me that because there wasn’t a black person in the room, things were getting abstract. This art is valuable and has to be taught—there really is no arguing against Baldwin, and Ligon’s painting Black Like Me #2 was one of the first President Obama brought to the White House—but how do you teach someone to have a relationship to it?

So I throw it out there: Raise your hand if you’re a racist.

As my students do that thing where they sort of just look at you, perplexed, I raise my own hand. I am deeply embarrassed, but I feel I have to be honest if I am asking them to be.

“You’ve never had a negative thought based on racial bias?” I ask.

Very slowly, arms begin to rise. I understand their confusion. Theirs is a generation in which we have elected a mixed-race president, but affirmative action has been struck down for being racist.

It was white Seattle parents (and a few from Kentucky, too) who fought all the way to the United States Supreme Court in 2007 so that race would be eliminated from consideration as a tiebreaker in competitions for placements in public schools. Despite the fact that racial inequities remain steady year after “post–civil rights” year—across indexes of health, wealth, and education—racial balancing, according to the 2007 ruling, is no longer a “compelling state interest.”

The racial tiebreaker in Seattle was originally instituted to end de facto educational racial segregation. But now segregation across Seattle schools is worse than it was in the 1980s. A few years ago, the Seattle Times published mind-blowing maps of the data; this same backslide has happened around the country.

“The way to stop discrimination on the basis of race is to stop discriminating on the basis of race,” declared US Supreme Court chief justice John G. Roberts Jr., in 2007, siding with the Seattle parents whose kids didn’t get into Ballard High because they were white. This is legal color blindness. It has dubious precedent: In 1883, 18 years after the abolition of slavery, US Supreme Court justice Joseph P. Bradley wrote a majority opinion that ended reconciliation laws because former slaves must “cease to be the special favorite of the law.”

Today the same argument is made under the precious neologism that laws intended to redress racial inequity are themselves racist. “Racist is the new nigger,” says Riz Rollins, the writer, DJ, and KEXP personality. “For white people, the only word that begins to approximate the emotional violence a person of color experiences being called a nigger from a white person is ‘racist.’ It’s a trigger for white people that immediately conjures pain, anger, defensiveness—even for white people who are clearly racist. ‘Racist’ is now a conversation stopper almost like that device where you can skew a conversation by comparing someone to Hitler. It’s an automatic slur. And only the sickest racists will own up to the description.”

White people in Seattle are more likely to own rather than rent. White people are more likely to have health insurance and a job. White people are more likely to live longer. White people are less likely to be homeless. White people are less likely to hit the poverty level. White people are less likely to be in jail. White kids are nine times less likely than African Americans to be suspended from elementary school (in high school, it’s four times higher; in middle school, it’s five times, according to the district’s data). Nonwhite high-school graduation rates in Seattle are significantly below white graduation rates—even if you’re Asian, regardless of income level.

And then there’s the white Seattle police officer beating “the Mexican piss” out of a guy. The white Seattle police officer punching a 17-year-old African American girl in the face. The Seattle Police Guild newspaper editorial that called race-and-social-justice training classes “the enemy,” “socialist,” and anti-American.

Not that racial experience is monolithic. It’s not black and white. But it’s real. And across all measurable strata, white people in Seattle have it better.

Yet nobody is racist.

The 2010 US Census data led to reports of Seattle being the fifth whitest city in the country—reinforcing the perception of this place as a white place. But if you look at the actual numbers, 66 percent of people in Seattle identify as white, which means that one in three people are not white. That’s not a white city. It only seems like a white city when you’re in, say, Ballard or Wallingford or Fremont. If you walk the street expecting every third person you see not to be white, well, then you’ll see how weird it is to be in Ballard or Wallingford or Fremont, where almost everyone is white. If you walk the street in Rainier Valley, the opposite is true.

“In Seattle, there’s really a small amount that you have to do to be labeled a hero of diversity,” says Eddie Moore Jr., the Bush School’s outgoing director of diversity, who describes Seattle as “a segregated pattern of existence.”

He adds, “It’s just that there’s really no real challenge to how the structure in Seattle continues to assist whiteness and white male dominance in particular. When you say ‘white supremacy’ or ‘white privilege’ in Seattle, people still think you’re talking about the Klan. There’s really no skills being developed to shift the conversation. How can we be acknowledged to be so progressive, yet be identified to be so white? I wish that’s the question more Seattleites were asking themselves.”

Back at Cornish, a week after that awkward classroom moment, the vice provost has called me into her office. My classroom was in the basement; this office is on the top floor, beyond a waiting room that doubles as a gallery of finely framed alumni art and behind a wing of administrative assistants typing quietly in cubicles. I’ve never been here before, I’ve been teaching only two years, and I am scared. I’m invited into a closed office where the blinds are partially drawn to block out bright sun, to sit at a table across from the vice provost’s desk. A third white person in the room, the director of student affairs, pushes a piece of paper across the desk to me.

A student from my class—white, male—has asked for my head. His charge is that by admitting to racism, even though I described it as a problem that had to be named in order to be solved, like any other problem, I could only have been trying to recruit white supremacists. In his letter, he compares me to Hitler. I spend the next hour rehashing, in detail, the tone and content of my lecture. I am trying to be honest and I am trying to wrap my head around the accusation. I am trying to admit to being a racist while at the same time defend my ability to teach about black art history. It is, to say the least, a tortured conversation.

The charges are dismissed; the other students didn’t share his theory.

But it suddenly hits me how alien it has become just to try to define racism, and admit to it.

Every conversation about race is tortured—palpably awkward, loaded with triggers, marked by the blind spots of perception and presumption—but that doesn’t mean you’re doing it wrong or should stop doing it, says Scott Winn. That means you have to keep on.

“Once I realized I was racist, it was, well, what am I going to do about it?” says Winn, a mild-mannered white guy in his 30s. “That shifts the defensiveness.”

Ten years ago, Winn cofounded CARW (you say “Car W”), or the Coalition of Anti-Racist Whites. For him, getting involved in antiracism “ultimately was not a moral shift but a strategic one.” He already knew the world was racially fucked. He just had to figure out what to do next, and he began by examining whiteness as the invisible structure that defines everything—that needs to be explored and then exploded.

“Whiteness is the center that goes unnamed and unstudied, which is one way that keeps us as white folks centered, normal, that which everything else is compared to—like the way we name race only when we’re talking about a person of color,” Winn says. “We can name how some acts hurt people of color, but it’s harder to talk about how they privilege white folks.”

CARW holds an open meeting every month at the downtown Y, one of those early-20th-century brick buildings whose architecture is especially, absurdly on this occasion, Anglo. More than 20 people show up usually, sometimes up to 50. They’re young and old, male and female, straight and gay. The only thing that would tip you off from the outside that this isn’t, like, a giant poker tournament is that participants ask each other to share which gender pronoun they prefer during introductions. There’s plenty of overlap between antiracist and LGBT activists in Seattle—Others know from Othering—and the message of these intros is simply that people are not necessarily what you think they are, whatever that is.

The radical thing about CARW is that its purpose is to force awkwardness into the open. It could just as well be called Deeply Embarrassed White People Talk Awkwardly About Privilege. The first half of every meeting is devoted to group discussion of a theme. The second half is spent in committees, each attached to a separate racial-justice organization run by people of color. CARW is fueled by the philosophy that white people need to follow the lead of people of color on matters of race. (It sounds simple; what’s surprising is how seldom it occurs.) One concrete result of that idea is that CARW members volunteer as support staff—waiters, babysitters, whatever—for the activities and events of groups in the Duwamish, African American, Latino, and Filipino communities.

How have I lived in Seattle for more than five years and never heard of CARW until a year ago?

After the first meeting I go to, I describe to CARW member Esther Handy my sense that this is a conversion experience, that everything around me has begun in recent years to look different, with a totality that feels spiritual—waking up to white privilege. (For me, embarrassingly, the real awakening began late, with a 2008 story about transracial adoptees that I wrote in The Stranger, and it continues, propelled selfishly by the fact that I am marrying into a family of color. I come late, and I mean to come humbly.) Gently bringing me down to earth and shifting the focus away from me, Handy says, “Our coming around to figuring out that we should be thinking about and talking about and doing work around racial justice is great and it can be spiritual, as you mentioned. But it is in service and in honor to the awesome organizations and leaders of people of color who have been doing this work for decades… The truth is that communities of color are thinking about racial justice all the time. They’re living it and breathing it, and there’s a group of white folks supporting that work, but it’s only a small fraction of the white community at this point.”

I ask her how to talk about racism with people who don’t want to see it. I’m not talking about Tea Partyers; I’m talking about people like some of my friends and family, lefties who care, people who are on my team. Attempts to bring up race in editorial meetings at The Stranger have been as klutzy as anywhere. Even for perfectly decent, well-meaning, progressive people, it can be hard to see the connection between unintended acts of racism and actual racial injustice.

“I start with the facts,” Handy says. “It’s clear these injustices exist. I say I’m trying to understand the systems that create these inequities, and what’s my role in working to change things. Reaching out and sharing these concepts with families and friends is absolutely part of the work, it’s just not all of the work. Getting our racist uncle to stop saying bigoted things is not going to change the system. But we’re not going to change the system without talking to our friends and family about it. While it benefits us not to talk about race, let’s look at these disparities that just don’t seem right.”

I ask how often she encounters resistance to conversations about race among white people in Seattle who consider themselves progressive.

“I’d say every day,” she says. “We’re confused about it and we’ve been taught to be defensive about it. I don’t think we should be too surprised about that.”

Winn says, “Exposure is often the key thing that trips people into awareness.” The old “black friend” routine. Yes, it helps to seek out friends who are racial minorities if you want to understand racial injustice. Yes, this is weird. But so is the history of judging people based on something as arbitrary as skin color; we have to work with what we’ve got.

“After that, I think many white people are integrationists in that ‘beloved community’ way, but integration usually means assimilation,” Winn says. “As in, you’ve gotta act like us for this to work. So exposure on the terms of people of color is important. At CARW, we create a space that’s not a PC space. If you say something that’s not cool, we say here’s why language matters. That talking about it is a skill.”

At the two CARW meetings I attend, nobody tells anybody that anything’s not cool. But people vary in how much experience they have in talking and thinking about race. A very experienced turquoise-eyed lady who lives on Beacon Hill tells a story from her neighborhood: She’d been looking forward to meeting her nonwhite neighbors at a block party, but only the white neighbors showed up, talking about how they wished a Trader Joe’s would move in. “Not a Trader Joe’s!” she gasped as she told the story, laughing. “That is the definition of gentrification in Stuff White People Like.”

There’s a quiet, older woman at the meeting who comes across as a little more awkward, endearingly so. She mentions a cousin who went on a medical tourism trip to Costa Rica and returned with some choice racist remarks written in a family e-mail. She’s struggling to find a way to talk to him about it, and this isn’t the first time. “I tend to start out a little soft,” she says, gently, “and it never goes anywhere. I just need some opening lines.” Other CARW members help her figure out how to begin.

“The test of how racist you are is not how many people of color you can count as friends,” I recall someone telling me—I can’t remember who now. “It’s how many white people you’re willing to talk to about racism.”

Through CARW, I find out about WEACT, or Work of European Americans as Cultural Teachers, a group of educators who give presentations on white antiracism in Seattle schools. The reception to these presentations varies widely depending on the school. Like, at Ballard High School, the reception tends to be disbelief and defensiveness (i.e., “What are you talking about?”), whereas at Franklin High School, students go, “Yeah, duh.”

The antiracist white movement in Seattle is growing.

If you’re white and you tell a white friend you’re going to a community meeting about zoning or bike lanes or homelessness, that seems normal—like you might even make a difference in your little way. But try saying you’re going to a meeting of white antiracists.

“Jen, people won’t get it,” said a white friend, an art scholar and lifelong radical whose first serious boyfriend in the 1970s was an organizer for the African Liberation Support Committee and the Black Action Society. Her father didn’t know that; he already wouldn’t let the guy in the house just because he was black. (My father would have done the same; my dad’s attitude to the black men I’ve dated over the years has changed from “I forbid you” in college to “Why?” to, finally, “He’s going to make a great son-in-law.”) Years later, when my friend and her white partner were living in Seward Park, a white man came to their door canvassing for the NAACP.

“On some level, I felt funny that a white person was doing it,” she said. “Not funny, but surprised. Or suspicious. I don’t know, but I was suspicious. I guess I wondered, do you really care, or are you just paid to canvas?”

She wishes she’d asked him directly.

White people saving trees: check. Ending poverty: check. Improving racial equity: What’s the catch? If you’re white and talking about race, or working for the NAACP, people will ask you to explain yourself.

Doing it isn’t pretty. I’ve made a fool of myself. I’ve been accused of being a race traitor. A comment on a recent Slog post I wrote reads, “You’ve got some issues of your own, there, sweety, and it’s not the first time you’ve used ‘white’ as a pejorative. Let go of just a tiny bit of your guilt complex, and you just might find that white people can be wonderful, too.”

But how would the conversation be different if Seattle were as progressive on race as it is on the environment? This city isn’t as green as it should be, but at least we’d like it to be—nobody proposes color blindness when the color in question is green. And opportunities find us on a daily basis should we want to help make Seattle greener.

At my first CARW meeting, I shared a story from when I lived in the Central District. Driving the narrow streets, I’d notice that young black men would sometimes walk in the middle of the street and refuse to move for cars. They’d downright lope, slow like the South, where African American families coming to work at Boeing in the 1950s hailed from when they moved to this neighborhood—the only area of the city where they were allowed to live until the middle 1960s. To me, this loping was a form of historical communication, intentional or not: This is our street.

But the reason this communication was happening was the opposite: Clearly, this was no longer their street, as the neighborhood steadily homogenized, growing whiter as well as wealthier by the year. I would drive slowly behind them, as in a funeral dirge. We were getting nowhere. But I noticed that often, white drivers would honk at the men to move aside. It seemed to me the reason they honked was that they were irritated at having an experience that people of color know well: that you’re not just entitled to live anywhere you please, that there might be consequences. Honking was an attempt to reassert privilege.

The United States was started by white people, for white people. That’s the premise of the White Privilege Conference, founded in 1999 by Eddie Moore Jr., the former Bush School diversity director quoted earlier. Today, the conference is held in a different city each year, and where it used to bring maybe a couple hundred people, now more than 1,500 attend.

“It is not a conference designed to attack, degrade, or beat up on white folks,” its website reads.

“There’s some pancakes I’m not gonna be able to flip over,” Moore says. “But what I say up front is that what whiteness does, as a structure, is to limit your ability to listen to people of color, to hear people of color, to believe people of color. I would encourage people to embrace that as true, and then start to work through it—and to use me as a resource. I’m not trying to villainize anybody.”

So one answer to the question What can I do? is simple: Listen. Believe.

“I had to stop talking to white people about race, because I kept getting retraumatized,” an African American friend told me about her days as a diversity trainer. “They just wanted to talk about why they weren’t racist.”

As Moore argues, segregation—whether enforced or voluntary—teaches us to disbelieve racism. I grew up in a middle-class white suburban neighborhood. Although we never had a black family over for dinner, every house on our street hosted black men doing perp walks through our living rooms on the news. I didn’t realize the contradiction until much later—that our seemingly all-white existence was predicated on keeping other people other.

“It’s really important to recognize that race affects everything you do—and that to act otherwise is just naive,” says Julie Nelson, the director of the Seattle Office for Civil Rights (she’s white; her predecessor was an African American woman).

Every city has one of these Offices for Civil Rights, to deal with legal antidiscrimination claims, but Seattle has an additional arm of government (only two and a half full-time positions, but supported by a small army of volunteers) devoted to racial justice, called the Race and Social Justice Initiative (RSJI). It began in 2006—it was the first of its kind in the nation—in response to an anti–affirmative action initiative sponsored by Tim Eyman. (Thank you, Tim Eyman.)

At least in Seattle, racial balancing is a compelling goddamn state interest. The RSJI is officially anti-color-blind. Not finding a racially equal world, it does not pretend at one. The city worked around the fact that Eyman’s initiative specifically disallowed “quotas” or “set asides”—rather, the city strengthened the conditions of eligibility for getting city contracts by using the terms that are allowed in order to do the same thing: “good faith efforts” and “aspirational goals.” The result has been a rise in contracts to minority-owned firms. Based on statistics that show that racial minorities in Seattle are still less likely than whites to hold diplomas and college degrees, the RSJI worked to remove unnecessary degree requirements from city jobs, which earned the RSJI a mocking on the local Fox News (a sign you’re doing a good job). The RSJI reaches into every department. It influenced Seattle City Light to change its streetlights policy, which used to be replaced on a call-and-complain basis—a system that works fine in affluent, native-English-speaking communities where people know to look on a light pole, call the provided number, and trust that the city will come out to fix the problem. Now streetlights are changed on a fixed rotation that begins in the South End.

None of this is perfect—and more people of color still work in lower-paying jobs in the city’s own 10,000-strong workforce, Nelson says—but at least the City of Seattle acts like it recognizes the existence of racism.

Nelson’s office high up in the municipal building is full—really, full—of paintings by the African American street artist Darryl, who for years has been sitting on corners throughout the city, selling his scrawled paintings on cardboard. They say things like “What in the hell WRONG with my ass.” (My fiancé bought one that sits in our living room and reads, “100 YEARS OF BLUE MOONS.”) I didn’t imagine I’d see the phrase “What in the hell WRONG with my ass” scrawled across anyone’s office in this tower high above the city, but the sound of Darryl’s voice way up here emphasizes the distance down to the street.

What Nelson says is this: If you’re white, you have to own it. None of this I’m-not- white, I’m-beyond-it-and-I’m-Norwegian stuff. White people have to see race according to the terms they actually benefit from. Not that whiteness is a monolith, any more than nonwhiteness is. As Mab Segrest writes: “Women are less white than men, gay people are less white than straight people, poor people less white than rich people, Jews than Christians, and so forth.” But what might matter, what should matter, is that whiteness is a real force that you’ve personally benefited from in one way or another if you’re white.

The work of art that illustrates this story you’re reading, by Seattle sculptor Sean Johnson, is two halves of two couches, one painted white and one painted black (the couch started out brown), sawed from their wholes and set next to each other. They don’t balance right, so you can’t sit on them, and there’s a gaping hole between them. The title is False Identity. Johnson is half black, half white, and originally from Columbus, Ohio. He says Seattle’s racism is unlike the racism anywhere else, because Seattleites act like they’re above it.

“I’ve had a conversation [about privilege with someone] like once a week for a while now,” Johnson says. “It’s a denial that’s almost more offensive than somebody just coming out and saying a racist word to us. I’ve been arguing about this in a bar and been thrown against the coals like I don’t know what I’m talking about—that there’s no way Seattle’s racist, there’s no way Seattle’s segregated—yet I’m the only black person in the room. Yeah, it is.”

He goes on, “I have this friend from Mississippi, and we were both saying that we’ve never encountered anything like it before. There’s a collective thought that it’s a progressive place, so that everything has been done to make things equal, and any form of ‘No, it’s not enough’ is either greeted with passive-aggressiveness or ‘No, you don’t know what you’re talking about.’”

“Remember: Seattle doesn’t have a race issue,” Tali Hairston says, laughing, during a pause in a heated public conversation about race at Taproot Theatre in June. Hairston, a Rainier Valley native who directs Seattle Pacific University’s John Perkins Center for Reconciliation, Leadership Training, and Community Development, is descended from white plantation owners and black slaves. His family was the subject of the 2000 book The Hairstons: An American Family in Black and White.

The production at Taproot, Brownie Points, concerned an African American woman, a Jewish woman, and a white woman who go on a camping trip and end up debating race, religion, and motherhood. The director of the play had organized this public talk about race because the same audience that had flocked to an anti-Nazi play before this one now was telling her race issues seemed passé (and not buying tickets).

Backstage during rehearsals for Brownie Points, Hairston had asked each cast member how important race had been for them growing up. Their rankings, on a scale of 1 to 10, ranged from 2 (a white actress) to 10 (an African American actress).

“Your life story produces a racial filter,” he explains in a conversation after the panel. “It might be a lens so thick that everything gets drawn into looking like it’s about race, or so thin that when someone says something is racial, you go, oh hell no, it’s not. As a white person, you have to own the development of your own racial lens. Because whether you’re aware of it or not, you have one.”

It reminds me of something said by the white man sitting on the other end of the panel, Ron Ruthruff, a close friend and neighbor of Hairston’s.

“The number 7 bus tells me things about myself,” Ruthruff had said.

“Seattle people, we are really nice on the outside,” he said. “The problem, I would argue, is that many of the things we struggle with regarding race in Seattle are covert. What do I see? I’ll be really honest. I see two school districts in Seattle, one in the north end, one in the south end. You know what kids in the community call Garfield? They call it the slave ship, because the white kids are on the top two floors and the black kids are on the bottom two floors. I see my son walk into a classroom with his [African American] best friend [Hairston's son], one receiving the benefit of the doubt, the other being questioned—same thing in a movie theater.”

Ruthruff pointed over to Hairston, wearing a suit; Ruthruff wore jeans. “He can’t wear jeans and get taken seriously,” Ruthruff said. “Tali can’t carry no plastic bag on an airplane. In our neighborhood, I’m affirmed for living in the Rainier Valley. Meanwhile, people look at Tali and say, ‘You’re still in the Rainier Valley? We thought you were moving on up.’”

(Ruthruff’s mention of Hairston’s formal dress reminded me of the time recently when NPR’s Michele Norris, an African American woman, tried to explain to Steve Scher, KUOW’s white morning-talk-show host, that her parents felt they always had to make sure their kids were dressed better than the white kids in the mostly white neighborhood where they grew up. Scher—perhaps the archetype of the unaccountable Seattle white liberal—asked Norris if she saw that as an opportunity.)

On the number 7 bus, which runs from Rainier Beach to downtown, a woman once scolded Ruthruff for calling a young African American kid a boy. He was a boy, and Ruthruff almost ignored the woman because she was drunk. But he was feeling open, and instead he asked her to tell him more. She explained that masters used the term “boy” to belittle slaves; it’s still a charged word for black males of all ages. That was 25 years ago, and Ruthruff is still riding that bus in the same spirit. “I think for many of us, we have to just keep listening,” he said. “Could we as white people be willing to be wrong? Could that just be okay?”

After talking to Hairston, I approach a young African American man I’m overhearing. “I’d love to interview you; you’re so eloquent,” I tell him, immediately hearing myself sound like one of those people who said candidate Obama was so well-behaved (well-groomed, polite, pick your nice adjective) for a black man.

“I can’t believe I just called you eloquent,” I say. He gives me a knowing look, we both laugh, and start talking.

“Three hundred years of affirmative action for white people,” is how author and activist Sharon Martinas sums up American history.

The original “whites”—well-bred, high-class people, not those dirty Irish or Italians—were based on someone’s dim memory of the beauty of women from Georgia, on the Black Sea, historian Nell Irvin Painter writes in her new book, The History of White People. (The word “Caucasian” might have been “Georgian,” except that the German man who coined it knew there was an area called “Georgia” in the nascent United States, and didn’t want to confuse people!) Layers of ridiculousness piled up, like a lie compounding. Science was pushed and pulled. Tomes full of charts and graphs demonstrate that the race scientist’s most sophisticated tool for centuries was—wait for it—measuring human heads with a ruler. True.

African American scholar Cornel West suggested in 2008 that the somewhat more wounded, struggling Americans of the 2000s rather than the Americans of, say, the 1950s, are well-positioned to feel race. After 9/11, “for the first time in the whole nation, my fellow citizens had the blues across the board: they felt unsafe, unprotected, subject to random violence, hated for who they are. It’s a new experience for a lot of Americans.”

He continued, “It’s a very American thing, in many ways, to be sentimental, to create your little world of make-believe, live in your bubble. And then sooner or later—like Wall Street—boom! Here comes reality. Boom, here comes history. Boom, here comes mortality.”

Right around September 11 was when a handful of white people began the current movement of white antiracism in Seattle—and not too soon. I can’t help but think that in many ways, the natural white allies for the needed next generation of racial justice work—progressives who still may not have heard of CARW or antiracism—are instead unwittingly playing into the hands of race-baiting right-wingers simply by remaining silent.

“Diversity, at least in the short run, seems to bring out the turtle in all of us,” Rich Benjamin writes in his 2009 book Searching for Whitopia, in which he spent a year in the growing, increasingly white neighborhoods that are creepily cropping up all over the country. A 2008 study from the Pew Research Center showed that racial segregation in this country is worse than income-level segregation.

Is Seattle in danger of becoming a whitopia? The largest swaths of racial minorities are now living far north and far south, keeping racial separations alive, for various reasons, economic and otherwise. In some ways, we don’t seem to want to live in racially mixed neighborhoods. Instead, we consume polarizing simplifications. In May, a study by Harvard and Tufts researchers made headlines around the world. The study was called “Whites See Racism as a Zero-Sum Game That They Are Now Losing,” and came to the stunning conclusion that white people believe they are the real victims of contemporary racism (reverse racism). But look closer at the study—it surveyed 417 people total. You can fit more people than that on some buses. The sample was not even close to statistically significant. Yet like the idea of Seattle as a “white city,” word about it spread fast.

“Our racial thinking needs a truly twenty-first-century upgrade,” Benjamin writes. “Identity politics is letting America down, on the one hand. Race and structural racism still matter, on the other.”

“Rather than thoughtfully discussing race,” he writes, “Americans love to reduce racial politics to feelings and etiquette. It’s the personal and dramatic aspects of race that obsess us, not the deeply rooted and currently active political inequalities. That’s our predicament: Racial debate, in public and private, is trapped in the sinkhole of therapeutics.”

There’s a riddle at the heart of our racial lives, he writes: “It’s common to have racism without racists.” He means the redneck, Deliverance-style kind—easy to identify, easy to marginalize.

How else to explain a generation of people who voted for Obama, and who cried tears of happiness at what his election meant, but are doing nothing to eliminate racial inequality where we live?

“Awash in its racial conundrum, America has delightful people who are perfectly comfortable with widening segregation and yawning socioeconomic inequality that often breaks along racial lines,” Benjamin writes. “Let’s call that a problem.” recommended
Jen Graves, The Stranger

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The Supreme Court Just Admitted It’s Going to Rule in Favor of Marriage Equality

Early Monday morning, the Supreme Court refused to stay a federal judge’s order invalidating Alabama’s ban on same-sex marriage. In doing so, the justices immediately set up a constitutional crisis between the state’s lawless chief justice and the federal judiciary. They also effectively admitted what court-watchers have suspected for months: The court is preparing to rule in favor of nationwide marriage equality at the end of this term.

Here’s how Monday’s decision reveals the justices’ intention to strike down gay marriage bans across the country. Typically, the justices will stay any federal court ruling whose merits are currently under consideration by the Supreme Court. Under normal circumstances, that is precisely what the court would have done here: The justices will rule on the constitutionality of state-level marriage bans this summer, so they might as well put any federal court rulings on hold until they’ve had a chance to say the last word. After all, if the court ultimately ruled against marriage equality, the Alabama district court’s order would be effectively reversed, and those gay couples who wed in the coming months would find their unions trapped in legal limbo.

But that is not what the court did here. Instead, seven justices agreed, without comment, that the district court’s ruling could go into effect, allowing thousands of gay couples in Alabama to wed. That is not what a court that planned to rule against marriage equality would do. By permitting these marriages to occur, the justices have effectively tipped their hand, revealing that any lower court’s pro-gay ruling will soon be affirmed by the high court itself.

Don’t believe me? Then ask Justice Clarence Thomas, who, along with Justice Antonin Scalia, dissented from Monday’s denial of a stay. (Oddly—and perhaps tellingly—Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Samuel Alito, two other foes of marriage equality, didn’t bother to join Thomas’ dissent.) The court’s “acquiescence” to gay marriage in Alabama, Thomas wrote, “may well be seen as a signal of the Court’s intended resolution” of the constitutionality of gay marriage bans. Thomas and Scalia meant this to be a grave warning. The rest of us, however, should take it as a white flag—and a cause for celebration.

Marc Joseph Stern, Slate

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Heritage, Hate and and the Juvenilization of Free Speech

I am a Southerner. I have lived in 3 cities in my life; 18 years in a rural town in North Alabama, 5 in Atlanta and 12 in Birmingham, Alabama. I grew up middle class, white in a small racially divided town. I grew up in a culture where rebel flags were flown off the back of pick up trucks, they were worn on hats and raised on makeshift poles in people’s yards. I was taught that these were symbols of heritage, reminders of who we were and who we are.

I grew up with parents that used the word “nigger” in regular conversation, when they were angry and when they talked about the people who lived in “pepper town”.

One of my earliest memories of my dad is him coming home from work covered in wisps of cotton, a machinist in the local cotton mill, wearing a white t-shirt and his black, fishnet work hat embossed with a rebel flag. I remember being very young and carefully helping him place a bumper sticker on his lime green, late 70’s beat up pick-up truck.

The sticker was a rebel flag with the words “Keep It Flyin”

I remember being in 4th grade and calling another little boy, an African American 5th grader, “nigger” because that is what he was in my world. A nigger.

This is my pedigree.

The school principal, who was also my baseball and basketball coach heard me say this and called me into his office.

“Why did you call him that?” he asked

“Because that is what he is,” I told him with out flinching.

“What do you think that means?” he asked.

“It is another word for a black,” I said (it is important to note that we did not call them “black people.” I think subconsciously that was a little too humanizing for us. Calling them “blacks” was more simple, more to the point and noted them for what they were, a color not a person.

My principal spent the next two weeks with me (in detention) talking with me about that word, what it means and what it does to people when they hear it. He spent 2 weeks, every day with me in his office talking, working through these ideas and helping me understand that words and symbols carry deep, impacting meaning and they should be handled with great care and respect.

He was my salvation.

He saved me from the depravity of racism, the ignorance of inequality and the suffocating quicksand of hatred.

Years later when I realized what I had done, how I had been raised to think and who I was going to be, my stomach sank.

Thursday morning I felt that sinking all over again. I felt it because I began to hear the voices of my childhood in the comment sections, the Facebook posts and in the justifying soliloquies of the defenders of what they call “heritage.” Outrage over the rebel flag began almost immediately as the state of South Carolina lowered all of its flags to half mast, all except the rebel flag. The racial fissure in our country’s bedrock began to pull apart again. People talked of heritage, history, southern pride. Posts were shared explaining in great detail how the civil war was not about slavery, “only 1/4 to 1/3 of southerners even owned slaves” cites one story.

I love how the word “only” is used to try subdue the gag reflex of the soul.

Contrary to what you might think, I am not here to argue with these historical claims. I really do not care what they “historically” may or may not have stood for. Are rebel flags appropriate? Sure, in movies, museums and history books that recount the civil war it make sense because it has context. Which is the problem we are facing today, context.

In graduate school I took this incredible class on the study of semiotics. Semiotics is a discipline that studies symbols, words and their adoptive and adaptive meanings. One of the primary principles of semiotics is that there is never a pure meaning that any symbol carries intrinsically. In other words, a symbol’s meaning is always being redefined, interpreted and evolving.

Take the swastika for example. It was a symbol that was very prevalent in eastern religions and even early Christianity. You can find it in unbelievable amounts of ancient art, pottery and architecture. It was benign and decorative.

That is the heritage and history of the swastika.

That is until it was adopted by the SS and Hitler’s Nazi Germany. It is a symbol and the definition of that symbol changed, and changed dramatically. It was assigned a new definition, a definition of hate and genocide.

Here is the problem with the “it’s not racist, it is a symbol of our heritage” argument. It makes assumptions about the static nature of symbols that are simply wrong.

The meaning of symbols are fluid, they are never static. When a majority of people understand the symbol to point to another definition then the definition of that symbol changes.

When KKK members adopted it as the symbol of their hate, it changed.

When it was waved proudly as a banner for segregationists, it changed.

When it became synonymous with burning crosses, white hoods and ropes thrown over magnolia trees looped around lifeless brown necks. It. Changed.

When a 21 year old young man from South Carolina writes a manifesto on his website proclaiming in horrifying detail his hatred for all minorities, posts pictures clutching in one hand the rebel flag and a gun in the other just before he goes out and kills 9 innocent people in a prayer meeting… it changed.

If you want to wear the “stars and bars” on a t-shirt or hat, be my guest.

If you want to fly it proudly on your lawn, go ahead.

If you want to make it a law that it has to fly on the lawn of your state capitol, feel free.

But know this…

When you do this you are throwing your lot in with racists, segregationists, white supremacists, neo-nazis, bigots and murderers. You will be counted, not among a group of people supposedly celebrating “heritage” but among those whose lips drip with the venom of hate.

You have free speech, that is true, but that speech is not without consequence. Consequences like what we saw a few days ago in Charleston.

Let me be clear the rebel flag did not cause that man to kill those 9 people meeting for prayer and worship. It is just the primary symbol of a sick and vile sub-culture that produces people like that man who killed those 9 people meeting for prayer and worship.

I know that culture; I am a refugee and dissenter from it and an organizer against it.

Make no mistake: it is not heritage it is hate.

organicstudentministry.com

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Shooters of color are called ‘terrorists’ and ‘thugs.’ Why are white shooters called ‘mentally ill’?

Police are investigating the shooting of nine African Americans at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston as a hate crime committed by a white man. Unfortunately, it’s not a unique event in American history. Black churches have long been a target of white supremacists who burned and bombed them in an effort to terrorize the black communities that those churches anchored. One of the most egregious terrorist acts in U.S. history was committed against a black church in Birmingham, Ala., in 1963. Four girls were killed when members of the KKK bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church, a tragedy that ignited the Civil Rights Movement.

But listen to major media outlets and you won’t hear the word “terrorism” used in coverage of Tuesday’s shooting. You won’t hear the white male shooter, identified as 21-year-old Dylann Roof, described as “a possible terrorist.” And if coverage of recent shootings by white suspects is any indication, he never will be. Instead, the go-to explanation for his actions will be mental illness. He will be humanized and called sick, a victim of mistreatment or inadequate mental health resources. Activist Deray McKesson noted this morning that, while discussing Roof’s motivations, an MSNBC anchor said “we don’t know his mental condition.” That is the power of whiteness in America.
U.S. media practice a different policy when covering crimes involving African Americans and Muslims. As suspects, they are quickly characterized as terrorists and thugs, motivated by evil intent instead of external injustices. While white suspects are lone wolfs — Mayor Joseph Riley of Charleston already emphasized this shooting was an act of just “one hateful person” — violence by black and Muslim people is systemic, demanding response and action from all who share their race or religion. Even black victims are vilified. Their lives are combed for any infraction or hint of justification for the murders or attacks that befall them: Trayvon Martin was wearing a hoodie. Michael Brown stole cigars. Eric Garner sold loosie cigarettes. When a black teenager who committed no crime was tackled and held down by a police officer at a pool party in McKinney, Tex., Fox News host Megyn Kelly described her as “No saint either.”

Early news reports on the Charleston church shooting followed a similar pattern. Cable news coverage of State Sen. and Rev. Clementa Pinckney, pastor of Emanuel AME who we now know is among the victims, characterized his advocacy work as something that could ruffle feathers. The habit of characterizing black victims as somehow complicit in their own murders continues.

It will be difficult to hold to this corrosive, racist media narrative when reporting on the shooting at Emanuel AME Church. All those who were killed were simply participating in a Wednesday night Bible study. And the shooter’s choice of Emanuel AME was most likely deliberate, given its storied history. It was the first African Methodist Episcopal church in the South, founded in 1818 by a group of men including Morris Brown, a prominent pastor, and Denmark Vesey, the leader of a large, yet failed, slave revolt in Charleston. The church itself was targeted early on by fearful whites because it was built with funds from anti-slavery societies in the North. In 1822, church members were investigated for involvement in planning Vesey’s slave revolt, and the church was burned to the ground in retribution.
With that context, it’s clear that killing the pastor and members of this church was a deliberate act of hate. Mayor Riley noted that “The only reason that someone could walk into a church and shoot people praying is out of hate.” But we need to take it a step further. There was a message of intimidation behind this shooting, an act that mirrors a history of terrorism against black institutions involved in promoting civil and human rights. The hesitation on the part of some of the media to label the white male killer a terrorist is telling.

In the rapidly forming news narrative, the fact that black churches and mosques historically have been the targets of racial violence in America should not be overlooked. While the 1963 Birmingham church is the most historic, there also was a series of church burnings during the 1990s. Recognition of the terror those and similar acts impose on communities seems to have been forgotten post-Sept. 11. The subsequent Islamophobia that has gripped sectors of media and politics suggests that “terrorism” only applies in cases where the suspects are darker skinned.

This time, I hope that reporters and newscasters will ask the questions that get to the root of acts of racially motivated violence in America. Where did this man, who killed parishioners in their church during Bible study, learn to hate black people so much? Did he have an allegiance to the Confederate flag that continues to fly over the state house of South Carolina? Was he influenced by right-wing media’s endless portrayals of black Americans as lazy and violent?

I hope the media coverage won’t fall back on the typical narrative ascribed to white male shooters: a lone, disturbed or mentally ill young man failed by society. This is not an act of just “one hateful person.” It is a manifestation of the racial hatred and white supremacy that continues to pervade our society, 50 years after the Birmingham church bombing galvanized the Civil Rights Movement. It should be covered as such. And now that authorities have found their suspect, we should be calling him what he is: a terrorist.

Anthea Butter, Washington Post

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Virginia Just Banned Using ‘Cuss Words’ In Public

No, this law was not written in the 1800s, and yes the police are actually enforcing a Virginia ban on using “curse words”.

If you are in the City of Arlington, you could be faced with a $250 if you say words that county officials have defined as “profanity”.

The Arlington County Board recently approved the bizarre measure which increases penalties for both public intoxication as well as what they are calling “blue language” from $100 to $250.

This code change was adopted during last Saturday’s board meeting, not in 1852. It came at the request of the Arlington Police Department itself, which reported making 664 arrests for public inebriation as well as “potty language” in 2014 alone!

Now, they say they want more latitude, to include a wider array of words that they can arrest people for.

We asked the police as well as city officials how many of those 664 arrests were specifically for the use of such “blue language,” but both declined to tell us the break down.

The city officials did note, however, that the new revised regulation replaced the word “drunkenness” with “intoxication” so they can more easily crack down on anyone if they appear “intoxicated” even if they do not have any alcohol in their system.

This ordinance adopted by Arlington is not unique to the city. It actually brings the city in line with the broader, statewide Virginia law which bans “profanity” and classifies it as a Class 4 misdemeanor, punishable by a fine of up to $250.

Help SPREAD THE WORD, if you believe the government and police should not be allowed to tell you which WORDS you are allowed to use!

M. David and S. Wooten, CounterCurrentNews

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From Limbaugh to Bush, GOP rejects Pope on climate

When Pope Francis indicated late last year that he intended to focus much of his attention in 2015 on combating the climate crisis, there were skeptics who wondered just how far he was willing to go.

The answer is getting much clearer. The pope has already hosted a major summit on global warming with U.N. Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, and this week, the public received  a leaked copy of Francis’ encyclical on climate change, which holds human activity responsible for the crisis. Just as important, the pope characterized the crisis as a moral issue.

When Republicans and the right first started pushing back against Francis’ work, they did so carefully, so as to not offend. But in the weeks that followed, that caution has faded. Rush Limbaugh condemned the pope yesterday, complaining Francis “doesn’t even disguise” his Marxist beliefs about global warming.

The more mainstream GOP line is that the pope has no business even participating in the discussion. Here was Republican presidential hopeful Jeb Bush yesterday in New Hampshire:

“I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope,” Bush said.

“And I’d like to see what he says as it relates to climate change and how that connects to these broader, deeper issue before I pass judgment. But I think religion ought to be about making us better as people and less about things that end up getting in the political realm.”

Climate deniers in Congress were less subtle. Rep. Steve King (R-Iowa) told National Journal this week, “When you talk about unpredictable science, I have to ask where’s the nexus between that and the theology of the Vatican?” Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.) added, “I’m not a Catholic, but I’ve got a lot of friends who are, who are wondering: Why all of a sudden is he involved in this? I don’t have the answer for that.”

Presidential hopeful Rick Santorum and Rep. Jeff Duncan (R-S.C.) have pushed similar lines.

As we talked about in May, the conservative line is increasingly amazing. It wasn’t long ago Republicans like Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal argued that leaders from the faith community should “rise up and engage America in the public square with Biblical values.” He added, “The time has come for pastors to lead the way and reset the course of American governance.”

The rhetoric was hardly unusual. In culture-war debates over gay rights and reproductive rights, for example, the right routinely argues that policymakers should heed the appeals from religious leaders. More generally, conservatives express alarm about the left trying to push voices from the faith community “out of the public square.” It’s these religious leaders, the GOP argues, that should help guide public debate.

Except when the climate is on fire, at which point the pope is apparently supposed to keep his mouth shut?

To hear Bush and his fellow Republicans tell it, there’s simply no moral dimension to addressing the climate crisis at all.

To be sure, not every GOP politician has embraced such a posture, but the chorus of Republicans urging the pope to pipe down is growing. It’s an unsustainable approach to the debate.

Steve Benen, MSNBC

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GOP’s ‘numbers guys’ struggle with Obamacare details

House Ways & Means Committee Chairman Paul Ryan (R-Wis.) sat down with Fox News’ Chris Wallace over the weekend, and the host confronted the congressman with some pertinent details about the Affordable Care Act.

“Under Obamacare, 16 million Americans have gained health coverage. Healthcare costs have risen at their slowest level in 50 years and up to 129 million Americans with pre-existing conditions are no longer in risk of losing coverage.

“And meanwhile, for all of the complaints, Congressman, we’re five years into Obamacare, Republicans have still not come up with a coherent plan that will ensure that all of those millions of uninsured people get coverage.”

Wallace’s summary had the benefit of being true. Ryan responded by ignoring the good news and noting that some congressional Republicans offered alternative proposals, which is true – though none was endorsed or embraced by GOP leaders, and none offered the kind of comprehensive solutions found in the Affordable Care Act.

The host asked, “Do you have a plan that would make sure that, for instance here, 16 million Americans who didn’t have health insurance will get health insurance?” Ryan replied, “Yes, we will,” but after five years of Republican promises, it was clear that such a plan does not currently exist.

The broader political context matters, of course. Paul Ryan, despite his routine difficulties with the basics of health care policy, is often seen as one of the sharper and more knowledgeable voices in his party. Indeed, few congressional Republicans seem to enjoy the kind of Beltway credibility Ryan has as an ostensible policy wonk.

If anyone else in GOP politics has that kind of reputation, it’s former Sen. Judd Gregg (R-N.H.), the former chairman of the Senate Budget Committee, and even a former Commerce Secretary nominee in the Obama administration. Maybe he can offer a more accurate Republican take on health care developments?

Well, he probably could, though last night on msnbc, Gregg was no better than Ryan.

The New Hampshire Republican sat down with Chris Hayes, who seemed a little taken aback when Gregg said the costs of the ACA have “gone up significantly” and added that the uninsured rate hasn’t plummeted. “It has not plummeted,” the former senator insisted. “It has gone from 44 million [uninsured] to 40 million.”

The two went back and forth for a couple of minutes, before Gregg told the host, “Your ability to understand your numbers is worse than Obama.”

So, 12 hours later, who was right? I’m afraid Judd Gregg, despite his apparent interest in the subject, was badly confused about, well, everything. He said the cost of the law has gone up, but it’s actually gone down. He said the uninsured rate hasn’t plummeted, but it has. He effectively argued that only 4 million uninsured consumers have gained coverage, but that number is topped by Medicaid expansion totals alone.

Given the circumstances, “Your ability to understand your numbers is worse than Obama” seemed like a rather ironic thing to say. The president’s grasp of the data is fine, as is Chris’.

The broader point, however, is that folks like Paul Ryan and Judd Gregg are supposed to be the best the GOP has to offer. Among inside-the-Beltway Republicans, these two are supposed to be the best “numbers guys” available. Some rank-and-file freshmen may flub the details, but Ryan and Gregg are the knowledgeable experts

And yet, even they don’t seem to be up to speed on ACA basics.

Steve Benen, MSNBC

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Dallas police shooter’s father says ‘liberal people’ drove son to ‘breaking point’

The father of a man who opened fire on Dallas police headquarters blames liberal policies for his son’s obsessive anger.

“Every one of us has a breaking point,” said Jim Boulware. “He hit his.”

A police sniper shot and killed 35-year-old James Boulware — described as a conspiracy theorist who had made threats against schools, churches, and family members – after he fired gunshots and detonated explosive devices shortly after midnight Saturday at the police station.

His father told CNN his son was enraged at police – who the younger man blamed for taking away his son in a custody battle.

Jim Boulware said liberal policies had spurred a Child Protective Services investigation after he choked his mother two years ago, which landed him in jail for three weeks – until his father bailed him out.

“I knew he was angry at police, he blamed them for taking his son,” the elder Boulware said. “I tried to tell him the police didn’t do it. The police were doing their job to enforce the laws. If you want to get to that, you’ve got to go back to the liberal people that put these laws in place, to where CPS and all can grab kids.”

The elder Boulware said his son was broke and unable to find work due to his criminal record, although his son had purchased an $8,250 armored vehicle on eBay that he used during the assault on police headquarters.

“He said, ‘Dad, I have lost my house, my tools, my son. I’m going through every dime I’ve got. I can’t find a job because I got domestic violence on my record,’” Jim Boulware said. “He said, ‘I’ve lost everything.’”

A court awarded custody of his son to Jeannine Hammond – James Boulware’s mother and the boy’s grandmother – in April over mental health concerns.

James Boulware ranted in court that he knew about news events – such as Osama bin Laden’s hiding spot – before they happened, and family members and court personnel feared that he would target them for violence.

Hammond said her son had threatened to shoot at school, but not kill any students, to demonstrate why armed guards were necessary.

She considered having him committed but feared that might worsen his mental health issues, which dated back to his teenage years and included a suicide attempt and schizophrenia diagosis.

“I really kept hoping he would straighten himself up,” Hammond said. “But he couldn’t — he really couldn’t.”

Travis Gettys, RawStory

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Court Rules Living ‘Off The Grid’ Is Illegal

OffGrid

For many it’s a live long dream to get “off the grid” and live self-sufficiently. But unplugging from municipal services has been ruled illegal by a court in Cape Coral, Florida.

Special Magistrate Harold S. Eskin ruled that Robin Speronis is not allowed to live on her own private property without being hooked up to the city’s water system.

He admitted that she had the right to live without utility power, but said that her alternative power sources must always first be approved by the city.

Speronis has been taking a stand for years not against the city of Cape Coral. Back in November of 2013 a code enforcement officer attempted to evict her for “living without utilities.”

The city’s argument is that the International Property Maintenance Code was “violated” by her reliance on rain water rather than paying the city for water. The IPMC also would make it a crime for her to use solar panels instead of being tied into the electric grid.

“It was a mental fistfight,” Todd Allen, Speronis’ attorney said regarding Eskin’s review of the case. “There’s an inherent conflict in the code.”

Allen says that at this point the argument is just that Speronis must “hook up” to the grid, even if she doesn’t use utilities from it.

Speronis explains that she has won on two of three counts already, but there is still a big fight ahead of her.

“But what happens in the courtroom is much less important than touching people’s hearts and minds,” she explained.

“I think that we are continuing to be successful in doing just that and I am so pleased — there is hope! The next morning, as I took my two hour walk, there was a young man unknown to me, who drove by me, tooted his horn and said, ‘Robin, congratulations on your victory yesterday, keep up the fight and God bless you.’ That is beautiful.”

The local Press-News newspaper said that Eskin “admitted that the code might be obsolete.”

 

“Reasonableness and code requirements don’t always go hand-in-hand… given societal and technical changes that requires review of code ordinances,” Eskin told the paper.

He argues, however, that he has an obligation to enforce the code. Still, he acknowledges that some of the charges against her are unfounded.

“I am in compliance,” Speronis said in an interview with the local News-Press. “I’m in compliance of living… you may have to hook-up, but you don’t have to use it. Well, what’s the point?”

Speronis has long been living “off the grid.” The city didn’t seem to even notice until she publicly discussed her home with Liza Fernandez, a local news reporter. After that appearance, a code enforcement officer designated her home as “uninhabitable” and gave her an eviction notice.

In March, at a code compliance hearing before Eskin, Speronis was a no-show. Local WTSP 10 news reports that “her company, Off-the-Grid Living Inc. is a litany of violations. Out of 48 violations, Speronis had been previously found guilty of 45. There’s been no appeal or movement to comply.”

“We will continue to use due process and legal measures available to enforce the codes of the city,” Connie Barron, spokeswoman for the city of Cape Coral said. “The building official has pulled the certificate of occupancy… this was the next step we decided to take to bring the property into compliance. Legally, she cannot be in the house.”

Barron acknowledges that it is “unusual for the city to escalate a case to this level.”

“Even if they board the house up, I’m not leaving,” Speronis explained. “They did the best they could when they took my dogs and arrested me. It fell apart because I’m unshakable.”

The International Property Maintenance Code is still being used by cities throughout the United States and Canada. While it stands, it holds that even if you have power and running water, you can be evicted from your home if you remain “off the grid.”

Reagan Ali, Press-News and Off The Grid News

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Women and Religion: How do different faiths incorporate gender?

What IS a Roman Catholic womanpriest?  How are women REALLY viewed in the Quran?  What’s up with all those goddesses in Hinduism?

Gender is one of the most misunderstood issues in modern religion.  Therefore, First United Lutheran Church in San Francisco has chosen gender as a topic for their annual Pluralism, Summer.  At the FULC’s weekly worship in June, July and August, representatives from different faiths will present the truth from their perspectives about gender in their religion.

Muslim, Jewish, Shinto, Mormon, Brahma Kumaris and Shinto leaders will answer questions about their religious points of view and how their teachings have been interpreted to adapt to modern society.

Pluralism Summer is a program of First United Lutheran Church which seeks to foster relationships and dialogue among people of diverse religious communities. The Gender series follows a very successful program last year that examined each religion’s relationship with the Earth.

First United is a Christian church in the Lutheran tradition, which is welcoming to people of all faiths or no faith. Members of the wider community who want to have a deeper understanding of others religions are invited to attend these interfaith-friendly services.

Speakers for the 2015 series include:

Dr. Amineh Pryor, International Association of Sufism

Rev. Masato Kawahatsu, Konko (Shinto)

Rev. Craig Wiggins, The Christian Community (Movement for Religious Renewal)

Sister Chandru, Director of the West Coast Brahma Kumaris Centers

Mitch Mayne, Church of Latter Day Saints

Hatice Yildiz (tentative)  Pacifica Institute (Muslim)

Rev. Ron Kobata, Buddhist Church of San Francisco

Sridevi Ramanathan, Hindu

 

Others  will be included in the summer TBD.

For additional information, contact Susan Stouse, 415 359-1025

 

 

 

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Warren: ‘I fully understand’ global banking system

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is pushing back at criticism she doesn’t completely comprehend global finance, saying banks might even like it better that way.

“The problem is not that I don’t fully understand the global banking system,” Warren said during an interview with The Huffington Post’s “So That Happened,” which aired on Thursday night.

“The problem for these guys is that I fully understand the system, and I understand how they make their money,” she said. “And that’s what they don’t like about me.”

Warren was striking back against JPMorgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon for comments he made about her financial knowledge earlier this week.

“I don’t know if she fully understands the global banking system,” Dimon said on Wednesday during an event in Chicago.

Warren also doubled down on her recent criticism of the proposed Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) trade agreement.

“Look, I believe that TPP could give too much to multinational corporations and not be a good deal for America’s working families,” she said.

“This is not personal; I have gone back and forth with the president over what I believe are the risks associated with this deal,” Warren added of her disagreements with President Obama over the deal’s details.

“I don’t doubt President Obama’s sincerity when he claims that this trade deal is going to be tough, that it is going to have unprecedented protections for workers or for the environment,” she said.

“The problem is that we have heard narrow promises from trade agreements for more than 20 years, from President Clinton, from President Bush and from President Obama himself,” Warren added.

She further argued on Thursday that federal regulators could do a better job keeping up with new practices in the banking world.

“When you do regulations that wait until, you know, the bank invents something else in order to trick people or to take on more risk and shift it over to the taxpayers, and regulators are always two steps behind trying to figure it out, that one is a tough approach,” she said.

The Massachusetts lawmaker argued, a problem is how Wall Street approaches its maneuvers within the financial system.

“If you want to go out there and take on risks, OK, go out there and do it, but don’t do it within the structure of a bank that gets backed up by the federal government,” she said.

 

From The Hill, Mark Hensch

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