Point of View Columns

A History Lesson for Supporters of Bernie Sanders

As the Democratic presidential campaign moves from a New York State of Mind towards the inevitable Finale in Philly, it is quite possible that Hillary Clinton might be experiencing a sense of déjà vu – every time she runs for President a little known but charismatic senator comes out of nowhere to challenge her for the nomination. Except this time it looks like she is going to come out as the winner and supporters of Bernie Sanders are not happy – and that is why it is time for a history lesson.

Many supporters of the Vermont senator are passionate in their belief that he is a leader who will bring about “real change” in “the system”. Indeed, Bernie Sanders himself is calling for a “revolution”. And it is pretty clear that if revolution is the goal a moderate progressive like Hillary Clinton is going to seem like weak tea after swigging Red Bull Bernie ideology.

The dismay in supporting a losing candidate is understandable and commendable in a very real sense. It is good when people believe in positive change in this country. What is not commendable, what is both pernicious and dangerous, is when some Sanders followers say that the differences between Secretary Clinton and Senator Sanders are so profound that they would rather vote for Donald Trump so that the revolution that they seek will occur sooner- out of the rubble that a Trump presidency would create.

Susan Sarandon, a prominent Sandersphile, has actually articulated the Trump alternative to Sanders supporters and Susan Sarandon should know better. As a millionaire many times over, she will not suffer one bit if Trump or Rafael Cruz or John Kasich become President and follow the Teapublican playbook and begin to dismantle the governmental apparatus and infrastructure. Additionally, since she was 22 years old in 1968, Susan Sarandon is old enough to know better.

In 1968 there was a tremendous amount of passion flowing through the Democratic Party. The Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson announced that he would not run for reelection in large part because of the raging opposition to the war in Vietnam, much of that opposition led by Democratic Senator Eugene McCarthy. Senator Robert F. Kennedy also entered the fray and brought with him the passion of a Restoration, in this case restoring the Kennedy Camelot that had been blasted to pieces in Dallas just five years earlier.

Hubert Humphrey, Lyndon Johnson’s Vice President was also a Democratic candidate and he was viewed by the raging McCarthy supporters and the passionate Kennedy supporters as a status quo agent of the “establishment” and absolutely unacceptable. And then this boiling political cauldron became superheated.

First, Martin Luther King, Jr. was assassinated in Memphis in April of 1968. The national black community, a major cohort in the Democratic Party after the passage of the Civil Rights of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965, was outraged and tried to burn many of America’s cities to the ground. Then Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles in June of 1968. And with his death dreams of the Restoration of Camelot evaporated and Kennedy’s followers were despondent.

Then came the Democratic Convention in Chicago with the police sanctioned violence and storms of political protest generated when supporters of Kennedy and McCarthy clashed with the police. The ensuing catastrophe of carnage was broadcast worldwide and “Chicago” became the synonym for Democratic disaster and dysfunction.

And out of the ashes of that convention Humphrey emerged as the party’s wounded nominee. And many supporters of McCarthy and Kennedy saw him as representing the “establishment” and either opposed his candidacy outright or were lukewarm in their allegiance. The prevailing thought that there was very little difference between Richard Nixon and Hubert Humphrey and that election of the outright conservative Nixon might hasten the revolution that was sorely needed in this country.

The outcome was that Richard Nixon was elected president. The outcome was that Richard Nixon turned out to be far worse than the most wretched predictions of the McCarthy/Kennedy followers. The outcome was that Richard Nixon brought about the wave of conservative ideology which continues to sweep across this country.

Because the supporters of Kennedy and McCarthy stayed on the sidelines Richard Nixon begat Ronald Reagan who begat George H.W. Bush who begat (literally) George W. Bush. In the process we have seen the mass incarceration of the national black community, the onset of massive income inequality, the engagement of this country in regime change misadventures at the cost of trillions of dollars and incalculable loss of life. In the process we have seen Clarence Thomas, John Roberts, Antonin Scalia and William Rehnquist sit on the Supreme Court and roll back the reproductive rights of women along the with the marginalization of affirmative action and the gutting of the Voting Rights Act.

So before the Sanders Supporters decide to opt out if/when they lose in Philadelphia, let’s hope they learn from history and that they remember that as bad as Richard Nixon was – Donald Trump, Rafael Cruz and John Kasich – embedded with the most conservative Congress in history – will be so much worse.

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Point of View Columns

The Teapublican Road to Perdition

Since January 20, 2009, the Teapublicans in Congress and throughout this country have pursued a constant and consistent strategy of endeavoring to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama. It is the stuff of legend, but it is undeniably true that on the evening of Inauguration Day Senator Mitch McConnell and Congressman John Boehner and other leading Republicans (that had yet to evolve into Teapublicans) met and decided on a strategy that could be summarized as “Just Say No to Obama”. And they have spent the better part of seven years doing just that – and only that.

It is nothing short of remarkable, indeed it is miraculous that the Obama Administration has been able to achieve anything, much less the historic accomplishments that will be remembered long after names like McConnell and Boehner are mere footnotes written in italics in the narrative of American history. Salvation of the automobile industry, a Stimulus Program that helped to rescue the American economy, record job growth, record corporate profits, institutional change in the financial services industry; historic appointments to the Supreme Court and this country’s first national healthcare system are part of the real “change” that Senator Obama promised during his first campaign for president.

The Republican/Teapublican response has been, channeling their inner Nancy Reagan, to just say “no”. And that nihilist response has gone so far as to justify shutting down the government of the United States and coming close to seriously damaging the international credit of this country by taking all of us to the brink of default.

And it should be clear that a great deal of the Teapublican opposition to Barack Obama is not based on some great philosophical divide. President Obama was twice elected President of the United States by margins that dwarf the victory margins of George W. Bush or John F. Kennedy. Obamacare is largely based upon a healthcare plan devised by a Republican think tank. The bailout of the financial industry began with legislation passed during the presidency of George W. Bush.

Nevertheless, there has been a concerted effort to delegitimize the presidency of Barack Obama. Whether it has been calling him a liar during his speech to Congress (that would be Congressman Joe Wilson, another living breathing footnote to a footnote) or refusing invitations to attend state dinners at the White House, many Teapublicans have refused to accept the reality of an Obama presidency. The question is why?

The answer is a matter of race.

Consider that opposition to the Obama Administration’s support of a nuclear energy limitation agreement with Iran was legitimate. But the unprecedented act of 47 United States Senators sending a letter to Iran’s Ayatollah cannot be explained by a simple matter of policy differences. Those 47 senators simply cannot bring themselves to truly accept the Obama presidency. The question is why?

The answer is a matter of race.

Although Barack Obama’s mother was born in Kansas and there has always been a Hawaiian birth certificate to further confirm his citizenship, the “birther” controversy has surrounding the 44th president has never died. Although Bernie Sanders father was born in Poland, Donald Trump’s mother was born in Scotland and the fathers of Marco Rubio and Ted Cruz were born in Cuba, no one has ever uttered a word about the birth certificates of these men. The question is why?

The answer is a matter of race.

And now, with the death of Antonin Scalia we hear the Teapublicans claim that President Obama should not be able to even nominate a replacement on the Supreme Court because……………it appears the rationale is that seven years of Barack Obama as president is enough. The call for “letting the people decide” on the choice of the next Supreme Court justice is a straw man, the people never have decided who should sit on the Court.

The people have always decided on who nominates Supreme Court justices, and right now that person is Barack Obama. Sixty five million American citizens elected Barack Obama to a four year term, not a three year term. Why would the Teapublicans seek to nullify sixty five million votes?

The answer is a matter of race.

The danger in the Teapublican strategy, in addition to the corrosive effect of racist behavior, is that in trying to delegitimize the Obama presidency they will delegitimize the presidency itself. Barack Obama’s legacy will be secured in history. The damage that the Teapublicans are doing to the institution of the presidency may turn out to be irreparable. It is very difficult to unbreak an egg.

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The New Supreme Court Justice is…………….

Since January 20, 2009, a significant segment of this country has lost its collective mind and tossed law and logic to the wind. Demented by his two national victories, Teapublicans have now decided that their beloved Constitution notwithstanding, Barack Obama’s presidency is valid for only three of the four years to which he was reelected. And a new tradition has been invented which requires a president to replace a departed Justice with a philosophical replica.

Before revealing the name of who the new Supreme Court Justice should be, a word about the Teapublican opposition to President Obama even nominating a replacement for Antonin Scalia. The Teapublicans have proven themselves to be masters of invention. Consider the claim that there is a tradition that justices should not be nominated during an election year. History indicates that fourteen Supreme Court justices were nominated in an election year.

The Hate Anything Obama crowd would have this country believe that there is simply not enough time for a Supreme Court nominee named by President Obama to be considered prior to the election. In point of fact, of the remaining eight members of the Court, the confirmation hearings of seven lasted sixty days or less. The outlier in this case is Clarence Thomas, and the less said about the Silent Justice the better…..and even his confirmation hearing lasted a little over ninety days.

And speaking of Clarence Thomas, the Teapublicans have also literally invented the bogus “historical tradition” that requires Justice Scalia’s replacement on the Supreme Court to be his ideological heir and his philosophical doppelganger. The nomination of Clarence Thomas proves that lie, as Justice Thomas replaced Thurgood Marshall.

Thurgood Marshall was an icon of the civil rights movement and lead counsel in the major court cases that resulted in seismic changes in the concepts of race and class in this country. In choosing Clarence Thomas, a known neo-conservative, President George H.W. Bush proved once and for all that this so–called tradition is simply not a tradition at all.

As it turned out, Clarence Thomas has been the exact polar opposite of Thurgood Marshall. He is the only justice who believes teenagers have no free speech rights at all. He is the only justice who believes that it is unconstitutional to require campaign funders to disclose their identity. And Clarence Thomas is the only justice who voted to strike down a key provision of the Voting Rights Act. So much for the Teapublican claim of the existence of an “historical tradition”.

And the final fiction offered by the Teapublicans and the out of the closet Obama-haters is that with the election nine months away, “the people should decide” who should be the next Supreme Court justice. Of course the Constitution clearly excludes the Supreme Court justices from the electoral process and there is no basis for making the November 2016 a “referendum on the Supreme Court”.

It is hoped that President Obama will nominate Attorney General Loretta Lynch to the Supreme Court. She would be the fifth woman ever to be a Supreme Court Justice and her presence on the Court would mean that there would be an historic four women on the bench. She would be the first African American woman and the third African American to ever serve on the highest court in the land. And less than one year ago she was confirmed by a 56-43 vote in a Senate with a Republican majority.

It would be a delicious dish of irony served up by Chef Obama to watch the Teapublicans oppose the nomination of a person that was confirmed by a Republican Senate less than a year ago. It would be a pay-per-view spectacle to watch Teapublicans squirm and twist and contort as they explained why the historical confirmation of Loretta Lynch should be denied.

It is more than amazing to watch the convenient distortions of history and pathetically blatant misrepresentations of the Constitution being employed in the Teapublican effort to oppose President Obama one last time. To paraphrase Franklin Roosevelt, President Obama should “welcome their hatred” and nominate Loretta Lynch.

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The Real Life of Antonin Scalia

The sudden death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia is understandably a matter of great moment in American history. There is no doubt that as one of the longest serving Supreme Court justices ever, he wielded immense influence on the direction of the Court and hence impacted on the critical and key issues of modern America. But Scalia’s influence was not neutral and his impact was certainly not benign. His legacy has been the subject of debate for years and with his demise it is fair and just to assess his entire body of work as a jurist.

Given his demi-godlike status on the right wing of the right wing, it should come as no surprise that the Scalia eulogies give him credit for everything but the rising of the sun. There is no reason to doubt that he was a dedicated family man and that he loved his wife and nine children and 28 grandchildren dearly. And there is no reason to doubt that those who knew him personally (including fellow Supreme Court justices with whom he profoundly disagreed) found him to be gregarious, gracious and full of personal grace.

However, Justice Scalia’s legacy cannot be assessed in terms of his gregarious, and gracious private persona. During his thirty years on the Supreme Court he wreaked havoc on the people of the United States. The real damage that he caused to this country is almost incomprehensible and that he was able to so publicly flaunt his misdeeds and calamitous accomplishments is a sad and meager inheritance that he has bequeathed to the people of this country.

Justice Scalia’s espoused “originalism”, essentially that the Constitution’s meaning should be fixed at the time of enactment, i.e. 1787. In other words, every word, clause and sentence written and ratified by a group comprised entirely of white men (many of whom were slave owners) and in the absence of any women or any persons who could be considered working class (or even middle class), should be taken literally – word for word. Even Pope Francis does not treat the Bible that literally, but Scalia’s fundamentalist approach became as widely held as that of the religious fundamentalists who believe that Adam and Eve actually walked with the dinosaurs.

Consider that in 1787 there was no internet, women could not vote, black Americans had no rights, there were 4 million people living in thirteen states and the average American life expectancy was 38 years. In 2015 there are over 300 million people living in this country with a life expectancy of 78 years.

In 2015 black American, women and descendants of immigrants from every country on this planet enjoy the rights of citizenship in spite of continued and sustained efforts to deny and restrict those rights. Social Security, free public school education, the election of senators by the direct vote of the people and Medicaid were inconceivable to even the most progressive of the framers of the Constitution. The electricity, automobiles and scores of life changing technological advances have resulted in a country that could not possibly have been considered by the bewigged white men in Philadelphia in the summer of 1787 (with Benjamin Franklin and Alexander Hamilton being possible exceptions).

Indeed, the only reason that the Constitution has continued as the governing document for over two centuries is because it has been subject to interpretation. If, as Justice Scalia contends, genius was in that room in Philadelphia, then it was genius in providing the document with flexibility and empowering the elected representatives and jurists to interpret it that have ensured its survival, and therefore the survival of the United States itself.

And, by the way, Justice Scalia was more than willing to engage in a veritable orgy of interpretation when he participated in the theft of a presidential election in the Bush v. Gore case, even as his son worked as a partner in one of the law firms that represented George W. Bush.

As a result of this theft of a presidential election that Justice Scalia helped to engineer, President Bush destabilized the planet with misguided wars while presiding over the near collapse of the American and global economies. And there is nothing in the Constitution that sanctions the politically motivated theft of a presidential election, “originalism” notwithstanding.

In the cases of Citizens United v. the Federal Elections Commission and McCullough v. the Federal Elections, employing incredibly tortured interpretation, Justice Scalia helped to legitimize corporate purchase of elections. These cases have empowered the millionaires and billionaires of this country to exert incredible influence over every election in every state, county, city and of course, throughout this nation. And there is nothing in the Constitution that sanctions the empowerment of the wealthy to have undue influence over the political and governmental processes, again, “originalism” notwithstanding.

There are dozens of other cases where the smudged Scalia thumbprint can be found, cases that have profoundly affected the people of America for the worse. The Bush v. Gore, Citizens United and McCullough cases are some of the more egregious examples of the harm caused by Justice Scalia.

Antonin Scalia may rest in peace. Thanks to him, the people of America will not enjoy that blessing.

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Fast Backward

When Barack Obama was inaugurated as the first American president of African descent in the history of the United States, many observers proclaimed the beginning of something called a “post-racial America”. By now, in the midst of seven years of Teapublican dog whistle symphonies that have aroused the most malignant racist demons of this country, very few are making that claim. However, in 2009 few would have thought that an Obama presidency would mark a regression in racial attitudes in White America. But that is exactly what has happened.

A facile explanation of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s racist screed in the recent Fisher case would be that he was just channeling his inner Angry White Man. But Justice Scalia simply said what too many people actually think – black people are inherently inferior to white people.

In that regard Justice Scalia was consistent with his ideological ancestors on the Supreme Court who ruled in the infamous Dred Scott decision in 1857 that “a black man has no rights which a white man need respect”. The majority opinion in spectacular and outrageous judicial endorsement of white supremacy was written by Scalia’s fellow Harvard Law School alumnus, Roger B. Taney.

And Scalia’s opinion was also fully consistent with the Plessy v. Ferguson Supreme Court decision in 1896 which upheld the constitutionality of state laws mandates racial separation in all public facilities. This endorsement of Jim Crow institutionalized and guaranteed the suffering and degradation of black Americans deep into the 20th century.

And now, in the second decade of the 21st century, we are forced to witness the regurgitation of debunked and abandoned concepts of white supremacy and black inferiority by no less than a Supreme Court Justice of the United States of America. By using the selective argument that less prepared black students underperform at predominantly white universities and colleges, he conveniently neglects to note that this is also true for less prepared white students and the affirmative action process has also enabled absolutely prepared black students to evenly compete at these institutions.

A bit of history is useful here. The National Scholarship Service and Fund for Negro Students – NSSFNS – was founded in 1955 in an effort to provide admissions opportunity for qualified black students who were traditionally barred from most predominantly white colleges and universities in America. There are exceptions that can be cited prove the rule, but there are too many pathetic examples of one or two black students in classes of 1000+ white students in the 1950’s and 1960’s to avoid the unfortunate conclusion that there was an unspoken policy in American higher education that black Americans simply would not be admitted regardless of their qualifications.

By 1970 NSSFNS had identified thousands of young black men and women who were qualified to compete with young white men and women at colleges and universities throughout the country, including the vaunted Ivy League schools, those last bastions of presumed white intellectual superiority. The results provided evidence that intellectual superiority was never a matter of racial capabilities. And the sky did not fall. The laws of gravity were not repealed.

The only slightly recognized efforts of NSSFNS that provided the opportunity for change  as well as the basis for further initiatives that opened college doors that had been welded shut when black Americans applied. These initiatives included affirmative action programs that recognized the subjectivity of college admissions and the importance of diversity on the college campus.

The reality is the rationale for affirmative action programs is no different than the justification for admitting veterans, star athletes or sons and daughters of alumni. However, to the extent that affirmative action programs provided opportunities for black Americans, there has been and continues to be simmering outrage in the national white community. And Justice Scalia gave voice to that outrageous outrage while sitting on the bench of the highest court in the land.

It is not the first time, nor will it be the last time, that vile and hateful words are cloaked in the black robes of a Supreme Court justice. It is also clear that the tools of racism and injustice will not be easily pried from the grip of those who stand in the way of justice.

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Weekend Edition – July 5, 2013

There have been plenty of Teapublicans assuming their natural naysaying negative posture who have been claiming that sequestration hasn’t been “that bad”. Of course if they left their right wing fantasy world for a few moments a dose of reality would lead them to a very different conclusion. Meanwhile the implosion of the presidency in Egypt and the continued carnage in Syria has heightened calls for President Obama to “do something”. Fortunately President Obama knows the cost of “something”. And finally, within days of the Supreme Court’s damnable Voting Rights Act decision there was great haste to drive an electoral wedge into this country’s racial divide.

Sequestration Secret?

The July 5, 2013 editorial of the New York Daily News mocks President Obama’s earlier claims that sequestration would have a calamitous effect on the American people. It seems that since this country has not ground to a halt there is proof in the wisdom of sequestration.

The only problem with the News editorial board and its fellow travelers is that they are not telling the truth. In point of fact the entire federal government has been shifting monies to keep various programs functional. But national parks are closing or operating on reduced hours. Children are already being denied spaces in Head Start programs that will begin in September. And we should never forget the shameful delays in treatment and services that are being suffered by veterans every day.

The spectacular air traffic delays occasioned by sequestration were addressed by Congress because members of Congress felt the pain. But the News editors and members of Congress don’t feel the pain of federal furloughs and the consequent impact on small businesses in the communities where the furloughed workers live.

It seems like some people are living in a dream land that is a nightmare for everyone else.

Middle East Mystery?

The implosion Egyptian president Mohammed Morsi’s government has led to predictable questions about the future of Egypt and its impact on a Middle East region that is already in turmoil. Civilian slaughter continues in Syria, Iraq wobbles on the brink of chaos and Iran and Israel continue their Texas Death Match choreography.

Some observers of this ball of confusion are calling for President Obama to “do something”. Thankfully, up to this point President Obama has been very restrained in crafting this country’s response perhaps keeping in mind that when the United States has done “something” in the Middle East the results have not been salutary.

The United States did “something” in Iran in 1953 overthrowing a democratically elected president and that “something” has engendered ill will in that country and throughout the region for over half a century. This country did “something” in Iraq in 2003 and pushed that country in a maelstrom of blood and destruction while sacrificing the blood and treasure of this country needlessly.

And it should be noted that if this country does “something” else in the Middle East there is a good chance that the consequences will be felt not only in that region but here in the United States as well.

SCOTUS Fallout

The ink was barely dry on damnationworthy the Supreme Court decision that eviscerated the Voting Rights Act before scores of state and county governments issued various  proposals that would have the effect of suppressing voter participation, especially among minorities. This could not have been a surprise to anyone with a pulse.

Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia had already termed the VRA an instrument of “racial entitlement”. And while the SCOTUS majority contended that there was no longer a need for the protections afforded by the VRA they made this contention with the full knowledge of the voter suppression tactics employed in the 2012 presidential election.

The shame of the SCOTUS VRA decision is extravagant in that it not only condones racist practices, it actually encourages them.

And the worst is yet to come.

Have a great weekend and stay strong!

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Why SCOTUS Should Remember Harry T. Moore

The recent United State Supreme Court decision virtually disabling the Voting Rights Act is arguably the most racially negative decision since Plessy v. Ferguson in 1896. In that decision SCOTUS confirmed the constitutionality of state-sponsored racial segregation, legalizing most iterations of Jim Crow in the process. In the wake of this most recent decision it is time for all of us, especially the ScaliaAlitoThomasRoberts gang to remember Harry T. Moore.

While there is plenty of time for legal experts to parse through the armada of arguments that justify the evisceration of a key foundation of the modern civil rights era, it is time to put this entire issue into a human perspective. The Voting Rights Act was never just about enabling black Americans to vote, it was also about putting into law a key element of full citizenship – citizenship that had been explicitly denied to black Americans since the founding of this country.

The issue of race has been a source of contradiction and hypocrisy, cruelty and denial, virtually from the time that the first European settlers came to that part of North America that eventually became the United States. The establishment of a slavery system totally based upon race was historically unique and particularly malignant because it created the malignant slime of racism that has been immune to the vaccine of emancipation and liberation.

The Slave Codes, the Dred Scott decision, the calamitous end of Reconstruction and the abandonment of the newly freed slaves, the blind eye turned to the rampages of the Ku Klux Klan, the case of Plessy v. Ferguson – all of these historical facts and many more have contributed to the American institutional effort to make America a living Hell for black Americans.

The slow and grudging progress towards some semblance of equal rights and the attainment of full citizenship took place in the face of outright violence. Justice Antonin Scalia should be ashamed of himself for referring to the Voting Rights Act as “racial entitlement” as if the VRA was part of some grand legal exercise. In point of fact the VRA arose out of the need to protect and preserve the place of black Americans in this very critical aspect of citizenship – the only “entitlement” in the VRA is meant to “entitle” black Americans to the same rights that Justice Scalia’s Italian immigrant parents obtained as soon as they could pass an English literacy test and a perfunctory civics exam.

From the earliest colonial times terrorism of black Americans was literally the law of the land in the American colonies. And, because literacy could be a key to liberation, access to literacy was severely limited when it came to black slaves.

The United States Constitution, ratified by such icons as George Washington (slave owner), Thomas Jefferson (slave owner), James Madison (slave owner) and James Monroe (slave owner) referred to black slaves as 3/5th of a person for electoral allocations but even that 3/5th designation failed to protect black Americans from the twin depredations of slavery and institutional racism.

After the Civil War the displaced slave hierarchy in the South immediately realized that upon emancipation the battle lines for depriving black Americans of citizenship no longer would be drawn at the point of literacy, but rather at the point of enfranchisement – voting rights. The Ku Klux Klan was born as a terrorist organization dedicated to keeping black Americans from voting. After the death knell of Reconstruction was sounded in 1876 as the bastard child of yet another soulless political bargain, every Southern state immediately established as many statutory barriers to black enfranchisement as possible.

For almost a century black voters have had to risk their lives and livelihoods just to get the right to vote. And that is why SCOTUS should learn about Harry T. Moore, the head of the Florida NAACP who, in 1951 was blown up along with his wife, for having the temerity to attempt to secure the right to vote for black Americans.

The Voting Rights Act was the legacy of Mr. and Mrs. Moore and the thousands of black and white Americans who literally died in order to this right to become a reality. To suggest that 50 years of the VRA is enough to erase the racial slime of over three and a half centuries is sadly preposterous and a dangerous proposition.

The rights won by these martyrs are not so safe and secure – as the voter suppression campaigns of 2012 proved.

June 24, 2103 was a shameful day for SCOTUS.

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Weekend Edition – March 15, 2013

This past week saw the presidential elections in Kenya conclude with Uhuru Kenyatta being declared the winner. The United States commended the Kenyan people on having orderly elections – one can only hope that some people noted the irony. Meanwhile recent news articles have detailed numerous black and Latino advocacy groups allying themselves with soda manufacturers. This is more than ironic, it is shameful. And finally, in some random reading I came across the Emmitt Till Unsolved Crimes Act of 2007. That there is a need for such a law speaks volumes.

The Land of the Blind the One-Eyed Man is King

The Kenyan presidential elections concluded with Uhuru Kenyatta being declared the winner and the new president. Uhuru Kenyatta is the son of the legendary liberator, Jomo Kenyatta, and he was elected by a narrow margin. So narrow that his opponent is challenging the election results in court as you are reading this.

The United States State Department issued a statement commended the Kenyan people on holding free, fair and peaceful elections. And at first glance it would seem a gracious commendation from the bastion of democracy to an emerging democracy in a key African country.

But we cannot escape the irony. The United States is where over 25 state legislatures have proposed legislation specifically limiting the right to vote in order to suppress voting by minorities and the poor. The United States is where the Voting Rights Act of 1964 is under attack and on the Supreme Court chopping block.

And then there is this scenario – a presidential candidate loses the popular vote but is able to contest the election through irregularities in a state where his brother is the governor. The election is decided by a Supreme Court where two of the nine judges were appointed by that candidate’s father. One of the judges refuses to recuse himself when it is discovered that his son is a partner in the firm arguing in favor of the candidate. And the candidate wins by stealing the election.

Did this happen in Kenya? Nope.

Try the United States of America in 2000. George W. Bush was the candidate. Jeb Bush was his brother governor. George H.W. Bush was the father president who appointed the judges. Antonin Scalia was the Supreme Court justice who refused to recuse himself.

It would seem that the good old USA needs to do some serious housecleaning before pronouncing judgment on other democracies, emerging or otherwise.

Sugar Shame

News reports last week detailed a (perhaps not) so strange relationship between numerous black and Latino advocacy groups and the soda industry. That would be the same soda industry that is vigorously fighting any attempt to limit their ability to persuade Americans to guzzle more and more cheap empty calories in the name of refreshment and…………get this…………..freedom.

Unfortunately it is common knowledge that diabetes, obesity, high blood pressure and heart disease are plagues in the black and Latino communities. Guzzling huge amounts of soda and eating gargantuan portions of fatty, salty fast food only exacerbate this crisis.
So why would black and Latino advocacy groups partner with the purveyors of slow death in their communities. As the saying goes, “follow the dollar”.
And that is a sugar shame.

The American Nightmare

There is something called the Emmitt Till Unsolved Crimes Act of 2007 that was passed with bipartisan support by the Congress and signed into law by George W. Bush. The purpose of the law was to reopen investigations into 112 unsolved murders in the South that were almost certainly perpetrated by white supremacist terrorists. Imagine such a bill being passed today!

The fact that such a law was necessary is truly a sad commentary on the history of the civil rights movement in this country. The fact that six years later 90 of those 112 cases are still unsolved is shameful.

But in this age of right wing partisanship, Teapublican assaults on government and the faux “post-racial” wonder dust that is being sprinkled around, it is unlikely that the resources necessary to bring about justice will be allocated anytime soon.

Justice delayed is justice denied.

Happy St. Patrick’s Day and have a great weekend!

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The Difference Between White Robes and Black Robes

Sometimes irony just isn’t very funny. The Supreme Court is currently considering a case where it is contended that the Voting Rights Act of 1964 should be overturned as it is no longer necessary. Wouldn’t you know that the case is being brought by the State of Alabama. And wouldn’t you know that Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia thinks that is just fine.

A quick tutorial – the Voting Rights Act was passed in 1964 to provide a legal framework that would protect black people in the South who were regularly lynched, bombed and massacred for trying to exercise their right to vote. The fact that much of the violence directed against black men and women (and their white supporters) was sanctioned by the southern state and local governments made it absolutely necessary for the federal government to step in.

The law has stated that before any state can make any fundamental changes in the voting process those changes have to be approved by the United States Department of Justice. Not surprisingly, there are nine states on the federal government’s “watch list”, and all nine states are southern states, each with a bloody and grisly history of violence against black people, especially when it comes to voting.

We now fast forward to 2013 and the attorney general of the state of Alabama comes before the Supreme Court of the United States and argues with a straight face that the Voting Rights Act of 1964 is no longer needed because Alabama, like the rest of this country is in a post-racial era and there need be no further worry about government-sponsored discrimination against black people or other minorities.

Incredibly, if you are reading this during the daytime, the state flag of Alabama, a St. Andrew’s Cross modeled after the Confederate flag is flying over the state capital in Montgomery. For some perspective, imagine a German provincial government disavowing anti-Semitism while flying a flag “modeled after the Nazi swastika” and you can understand why the United States Department of Justice along with black people of Alabama look at that state’s post-racial contention with something less than confidence.

Now comes Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, he of the ScaliaRobertsAlitoThomas right wing cabal. Although he had a singularly undistinguished career as a lawyer he somehow has stumbled onto the pages of American history as one of the architects of the highjacking and theft of an American presidential election in 2000.

Not satisfied with that unfortunate distinction, Justice Scalia is now taking the lead in rolling back the legal and legislative accomplishments of the civil rights movement. During oral arguments he had the temerity and reptilian insensitivity to refer to the Voting Rights Act of 1964 as another example of “racial entitlement”.

Where does one begin with racism soaked in stupidity and ignorance? In 1964 Justice Scalia was 28 years old and a lawyer who had already graduated from Georgetown University and Harvard Law School. It is impossible that he was not aware of that Birmingham, Alabama was known as “Bombingham” because of the relentless bombing attacks carried out by white citizens against black people who sought to exercise their right to vote.

Antonin Scalia may feign ignorance, but he had to know about the four black girls that were killed in a Birmingham church bomb because that church was the base for civil rights efforts. He had to know about Schwerner, Cheney and Goodman and Medgar Evers and Viola Liuzzo and the Ku Klux Klan and George Wallace standing in the doorway of the University of Alabama blocking the entry of a black woman who wanted to attend school.

To term the Voting Rights Act or any civil rights legislation “racial entitlement” is either ignorant or racist. That is because one would have to be ignorant of the institutional racism that consistently denied civil rights and humanity to black people since the ratification of the Constitution that sanctioned slavery in 1789.

One would have to be a racist to think that dismantling an legal and legislative infrastructure that imperfectly protects the rights of blacks and minorities could possibly be a good thing. Antonin Scalia is the son of an Italian immigrant family that never faced obstacles to the exercise of his civil rights as his father could literally get off a boat from Sicily and immediately walk a paved road to citizenship.

How dare Antonin Scalia and the AlitoRobertsScaliaThomas cabal try to deny that right to black Americans or anyone else? There may be a day when specific civil rights legislation to protect the rights of blacks other minorities and women is not necessary.

This is not that day and Antonin Scalia should know that.

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Point of View Columns

Weekend Edition – January 28, 2011

The first month of the new year has seen the renaissance of the Obama presidency, a massacre in Tucson and revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt. Looks like 2011 is off to a flying start:

A Tale of Three Justices

Tradition holds that for the State of the Union address all of the members of Congress, the Cabinet (save one Secretary for security purposes) and the Justices of the United State Supreme Court are in attendance.

For the attendees it is not an optional event, it is part of the job. Attending doesn’t indicate political or philosophical support for the President; it is a matter of respect for the institution known as the government of the United States.

Somehow three Supreme Court justices didn’t get the memo. Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito and Clarence Thomas did not attend -Justice Scalia having accepted a speaking engagement in Hawaii that conflicted with his being present in Washington on that day.

The fact that these three neo-con icons saw fit to disrespect the President and the institution that they represent should come as no surprise. They have routinely imposed their right wing political vision in the guise of judicial pronouncements.

The theft of the 2000 election by Justices Scalia and Thomas will go down as one of the great heists in history. The institutional damage to democracy in this country wrought by the three of them in the Citizens United decision is beyond calculation.

The absence of these Three Judicial Amigos was little noted but it should have been. Chief Justice John Roberts is no less a conservative than Scalia, Alito and Thomas, but at least he had the decency and respect to be present last Tuesday.

I guess they didn’t get the memo.

Along Comes Ms. Bachmann

At the beginning of this year’s Congress Representative Michele Bachmann from Minnesota was appointed to the House Intelligence Committee. For anyone familiar with Ms. Bachmann’s mindless ranting and raving this sounds like a punch line waiting for a joke. But its no joke, it is true.

This is a member of Congress who has called President Obama and his supporters Un-American and has publicly stated that the “Founding Fathers” were always against slavery. Of course, these would be the same Founding Fathers who were slave owners (George Washington and Thomas Jefferson among many, many others).

She claimed that President Obama’s recent trip to Asia cost $200 million per day (a lie). And she is now conducting an ongoing seminar on constitutional law for members of Congress – one of her faculty members is Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia (can you say “conflict of interest” or “impropriety”?).

And, by the way, she is contemplating running for the presidency. I just don’t believe that Barack Obama could be that lucky.

Alternative Universe

Anyone watching the State of the Union address saw newly enthroned House Speaker John Boehner looking like a man who had swallowed a lemon and had a train to catch. I hope he doesn’t play poker because he doesn’t have a poker face.

He was clearly not pleased to have to listen to President Obama for almost an hour.
He also wasn’t listening.

The entire planet heard the President say “…..the United States is the greatest country in the world…” Then within 48 hours Speaker Boehner was quoted as saying that Barack Obama doesn’t believe in American “exceptionalism”.

Huh? We know that John Boehner is addicted to smoking cigarettes and that smoking is bad for your health. Obviously it is also bad for your hearing.

Have a great weekend!

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