06 September, 2014

Carry it On!

New American Standard Bible                       Micah 6:8
 “He has told you, O man, what is good; and what does the LORD require of you but to do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?”

In the eulogy for Michael Brown, Reverend Sharpton, began with the above Biblical reference. For believers this should be a compelling guide to proper conduct, but like other wise words it seems to get lost in the transmission. How complicated is the good?  Not very it seems: do justice, love kindness, and show humility.  These three things are possible for us all, but they are not common practice. Not only can we do better, we must do better.

Those who must do better, in this case includes all Americans. It does not pertain only to Black Americans, White Americans, Hispanic Americans or any subgroup of Americans. Every one of us who has ever been proud to be an American and who has ever claimed to love America must put the words into action and once and for all become the people we have always boasted of being.

One hundred and fifty years have passed since the Emancipation Proclamation and America is still a house divided. Now, however, it is more divided than ever. The political process is infested with internal subversion from a group of Neoconfederates who want to roll back the elapsed century and a half. Religious fundamentalists and seditious proponents of Posse Comitatus are driving fissures throughout the culture. One faction rejects science and the other one denies the legitimacy of the federal government.  Despite all these centrifugal forces, Americans of goodwill must remember and defend the principles and purposes that form the basis of the Republic and our birthright as citizens.
As Reverend Sharpton said, “We must turn our chants into change and turn our demonstration into legislation.” It is time to turn the tragic moment into a dynamic movement. We must, once again, “Carry it on”.

“There's a man by my side walking
There's a voice within me talking,
There's a voice, within me saying,
Carry on, carry it on.”

Literally or figuratively, each of us must see the person beside us walking; we must hear the voice within us talking, and the word within us saying: Carry on, Carry it on! Over the course of nearly two and one half centuries, Americans have basked in the glow of noble ideals. Many acts of heroism have been committed on behalf of these uplifting premises and enduring purposes. Nonetheless, we, as a people, have been nowhere near as good as our words. In a nation founded on the premises of human equality and unalienable rights, a large proportion of the population was enslaved.

This moral contradiction persisted until the internecine blood bath known as the Civil War drowned it out. After nearly four years of war committing families against families and section against section, the Slave Power was defeated and actual, legalized slavery was destroyed. It was only a short time, however, that the bigotry nurtured in the Slave Power reasserted itself and ushered in nearly a century of unabashed White Supremacy and rampant race-based injustice under the general caption – Jim Crow.

Almost as soon as the guns fell silent in the Civil War, Southern states instituted a practice known as “convict leasing.”  This scheme essentially restored slavery and provided "one of the harshest and most exploitative labor systems known in American history." Due to zealous and selective law enforcement and biased sentencing, African Americans, mostly adult males, made up the vast majority—but not all—of the convicts leased. Douglas A. Blackmon describes convict leasing as follows: “a system in which armies of free men, guilty of no crimes and entitled by law to freedom, were compelled to labor without compensation, were repeatedly bought and sold, and were forced to do the bidding of white masters through the regular application of extraordinary physical coercion.” It is vital to note that this practice peaked in 1880 through 1928, but actually persisted until 1944 when Mississippi finally abandoned it.

They will tell their empty stories,
Send their dogs to bite our bodies,
They will lock us up in prison,
Carry on, carry it on.

Perpetrators of oppression and racial injustice will lie and propagandize. They will provide disinformation rather than information; they will impugn the character of the victims of injustice and extol the virtue of the purveyors of injustice. They will use dogs, fire hoses, rubber bullets, tear gas and laser sighting to harm or threaten those who protest. They will arbitrarily imprison and unfairly intimidate protesters and those covering the protests.

“The people of Ferguson and those in solidarity with them took to the streets within a context of racial repression broader than just one horrific shooting. Between 2005 and 2012, African-Americans have been killed by white police officers at the rate of nearly twice a week. In the month preceding Brown’s slaying, police in this country killed at least four unarmed black men. And in a state like Missouri, African-American drivers are the targets of 92 percent of vehicle searches conducted by police, even though illegal items are found in less than 25 percent of these searches.” This zealous and selective law enforcement persists until this day. Black men are imprisoned at wildly disproportionate rates. For White males, roughly 1 in 106 are incarcerated versus 1 in 15 for African American males and 1 in 36 for Hispanic males. Although Black and Brown people are roughly 30 percent of the general population, they are 60 percent of the prison population. “African Americans were twice as likely to be arrested and almost four times as likely to experience the use of force during encounters with the police.” 

Furthermore, African American women are imprisoned three times more often than white women although women are generally imprisoned at low rates overall.

These disparities in the criminal justice system also deprive Black Americans of their civil rights in many insidious ways. 5.3 million Americans are denied the right to vote based on a past felony conviction. Racial disparities in felony conviction in the criminal-justice system, ultimately denies 13 percent of African American men the right to vote. Such policies have resulted in 11 states denying the right to vote to over 10 percent of their African American population.

This zealous and selective law enforcement, mass imprisonment and consequent over-representation of minorities within the criminal justice and prison system; have imposed an adverse impact on people of color and on their communities. American citizens have met barriers to reintegration into society and to engagement in the democratic process. “Eliminating the racial disparities inherent to our nation’s criminal-justice policies and practices must be at the heart of a renewed, refocused, and re-energized movement for racial justice in America.”

When you can't go on any longer,
Take the hand, hand of your brother,
Every victory brings another,
Carry it on, carry it on.
Carry on, carry it on.

At the heart of racial profiling lurks a presumption of guilt and danger that is unjustly applied to every black person living in America. This changes the relationships among the citizenry and of a portion of the citizenry with authorities.  Black Americans must be on guard against challenges, confrontations, and charges, in a way utterly unfamiliar to White Americans. “Racial profiling does long-term damage to the self-image, self-esteem and ego of the African American,” and it does pervasive damage to the unity and vitality of the body politic. While we White Americans have not directly experienced this toxic suspicion and simmering hostility, we know it exists unless we are willfully ignorant or consumed with prejudice.  Brief reflection would make it clear this situation is neither just nor beneficial. If we do not unite with our fellow Americans to seek and destroy this persistent malady, it will mortally sicken the nation we claim to love.

As you read these words, consider for a moment, actions each of us can take to help expunge the affliction of racial bigotry from our society. March in solidarity, write to our state and national representatives, speak out at city council and school board meetings, blog or write to editors of periodicals, the options are as diverse as each of us. The only thing we must not do is to sit silently by, and to let the death of Michael Brown become just another statistic in a depressing list of them. 

The picture below shows twenty-four people either killed by police or who died in police custody under dubious circumstances over a period of twenty-four years. 

In addition, many other citizens have been subjected to harassment, false imprisonment, and various indignities mainly because they were Black. Selective, overzealous, law enforcement affects Black women as well as Black males.  Alberta Spruill, a 57-year-old New York City employee who was just about to leave for her job, died shortly after a battering ram broke down her apartment door and a flash grenade was heaved into the apartment at 6:00 a. m. The cops handcuffed the quiet church-going Black woman, who tells them she has a heart condition. An ambulance was finally dispatched at 6:32 a. m. Upon arrival at the hospital at 8 a.m., an hour and a half later, Alberta was pronounced dead. What did police find in her apartment? Nothing – no guns, no drugs, and no vicious dogs – they were in the wrong place if there even was a right place. This raid was wrong from the start and the way it was conducted displayed no concern for the human beings inside the targeted apartment.

Kametra Barbour, a mother of three children ages 6, 8, and 9, was pulled over by police in Forney, Texas, following up on a 911 call. The caller described a tan or brown Toyota with four Black males waving a gun. Ms. Barbour drives a burgundy Nissan, is a woman, and had three children and no guns in the car. Despite this, police claimed she and her children “fit the description.”  The only thing Ms. Barbour and her children had in common with the caller’s description was that they were Black. http://www.msnbc.com/politicsnation/watch/mother-mistakenly-handcuffed-by-police-323448899852?cid=eml_mpn_20140902

To paraphrase President Kennedy's Civil Rights Address from June, 1963, “We preach freedom around the world, and we mean it, and we cherish our freedom here at home, but are we to say to the world, and much more importantly, to each other that this is the land of the free except for Blacks; that we have no second-class citizens except Blacks; that we have no class or caste system, no ghettos, no master race except with respect to Blacks?” Of course in 1963, President Kennedy said Negroes, but his words still apply today, as do these:

“One hundred years of delay [151 years] have passed since President Lincoln freed the slaves, yet their heirs, their grandsons, are not fully free. They are not yet freed from the bonds of injustice. They are not yet freed from social and economic oppression. And this Nation, for all its hopes and all its boasts, will not be fully free until all its citizens are free.”

Our country, our compatriots, our children and we deserve better than this. This is not a problem that concerns only our Black sisters and brothers. It is a problem that concerns us all and one that should engage and enrage us all. It is time for us to be as good as the magnificent words to which every American has fallen heir. We must now join together, work together, and stick together until this nation is finally as good and as great as it was meant and ought to be. 

A quote attributed to Benjamin Franklin, says, “Justice will not be served until those who are unaffected are as outraged as those who are.” Regardless of who said it, the observation is true. All White Americans of goodwill and authentic patriotism must become outraged by the flagrant and widespread injustice of overzealous policing inflicted on Black Americans [and to a lesser extent, Latino Americans]. It is time for every American to look past the hue to the human. The time for indifference is long since passed because when one American’s rights are violated all Americans’ rights are violated.

As you read these words, consider for a moment, actions each of us can take to help expunge the affliction of racial bigotry from our society. March in solidarity, write to our state and national representatives, speak out at city council and school board meetings, blog or write to editors of periodicals, the options are as diverse as each of us. The only thing we must not do is to sit silently by, and to let the death of Michael Brown become just another statistic in a depressing list of them.

14 August, 2014

We Need a Revolution!


I say we need a revolution.
I say it’s time to change the world.
I say we can’t wait on evolution.
Right now - let our banner be unfurled.

Don’t talk to me about destruction.
You know the police brought all this about
We know they won’t do right.
I say it’s time we rise and fight.

We know there is a real solution
We know we have faced these goons before
Now is the time for revolution
So peaceful lads will be shot dead no more

I say we cannot timidly stand by. 
I say we must do all we can.
Now is the time for revolution. 
Now is the time to do or die. 

People with small minds just have to hate
I’m telling you now it's not too late
We will act to set this right.
We won’t be cowed by shows of might.

You know it is in the Constitution.
We truly have the right on our side.
You know bigotry is an institution.
I say, it’s time that institution died.

We will fight alongside our brothers.
And with our sisters make a stand.
This time we ain't going to let them fool us
Freedom must ring throughout the land.

Don’t you know we’re going to fight!
We are fighting for the right!
We will keep going day and night.
Until justice is done and things set right!

26 July, 2014

IF - Inclusive


If you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all people doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:
If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don't deal in lies,
Or being hated don't give way to hating,
And yet don't look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream---and not make dreams your master;
If you can think---and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:.
If you can bear to hear the truth you've spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build them up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: "Hold on!"

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Monarchs---nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all persons count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds' worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that's in it,
And---which is more---among them all you’ll be the one! 

According to Wikipedia:

"If—" is a poem by British Nobel laureate Rudyard Kipling, written in 1895[and first published in Rewards and Fairies, 1910. It is a tribute to Leander Starr Jameson,and is written in the form of paternal advice to the poet's son. As poetry, "If—" is a literary example of Victorian-era stoicism.
The well-known Indian historian and writer Khushwant Singh claims that Kipling's If is "the essence of the message of The Gita in English."

As a trifling few adjustments make obvious, IF is not applicable only to males. The message it conveys is pertinent to and valuable for any human being.

24 July, 2014


“Two Republican judges on the D.C. Circuit Court have ruled that the equivalent of a typo is enough to strip health care subsidies from up to 5 million people, dealing what would be a death blow to the Affordable Care Act if the decision is allowed to stand. The one Democrat on the panel dissented.”  

This blatantly partisan action reveals that the judicial appointees of the last few Republican presidents cannot discharge their duties in a manner commensurate with the dignity of their office and ideals of equal justice under law. It may be asked why this same verdict is not rendered upon judicial appointees of Democratic Presidents and that is a fair question.

Using this recent decision of a three judge panel of the D C Circuit Court as the launching pad, there are several reasons to label many Republican appointed judges as partisan hacks. First, Obamacare is a colloquial term for both the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (PPACA) and the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act (HCERA). These two laws are printed on a total of 961 pages have a total of approximately 381,517 words. The decision by the two Republican appointed judges essentially turned on a single word of two letters in length.  These judges emphasized this phrase from the law as the basis of their ruling “a federal Exchange is not an 'Exchange established by the State.”  The crucial word is by. If that word had been in, the entire argument would have collapsed.  Therefore, in order to reach their conclusion, these two judges had to willfully ignore everything else in the law and the legislative history of the law. Second, every member of Congress involved in drafting the law affirmed that this wording reflects a typographical error. They also attested to the fact that they had no intent to exclude federally operated exchanges from the subsidy provisions of Obamacare. Third, Carter-appointed Judge Harry T. Edwards correctly observed, the Appellants filed the suit in a not well veiled attempt to sabotage Obamacare. He called the majority’s interpretation that Congress planted "a poison pill to the insurance markets in the States that did not elect to create their own Exchanges,” is surely is not anything Congress intended.”  In this context, it bears mentioning that all votes for the health care reform came from Democrats.  It defies rational belief that Democrats would embed a seed of destruction into a major legislative achievement they took all the risk to enact.  Fourth, the interpretation relied on by the Republican judges to explain their ruling is a complete fabrication by the Appellants and it is utterly fantastic. The Appellants contended “Congress wanted to incentivize states to create their own exchanges and withhold financial assistance for residents of those states that didn't.”  In response to this Judge Edwards wrote: "The simple truth is that Appellants’ incentive story is a fiction, a post hoc narrative concocted to provide a colorable explanation for the otherwise risible notion that Congress would have wanted insurance markets to collapse in States that elected not to create their own Exchanges." It is clear that Judge Edwards is on point. The contention that intended states to have the ability to destroy the law they worked so hard and risked so much to enact is ludicrously laughable. Finally, in order to reach their decision by focusing on the word by, the Republicans needed to ignore another word in a different section of the law if a state does not establish an exchange “the federal government shall establish and operate such exchange." In this context it should be recalled, such means “of the kind specified.” In short the law stipulates the federally established and operated exchanges are of the kind specified as state exchanges. The reasoning of the Republican judges is fallacious on every count. 

The only absolute requirement for judges to discharge their duties honorably is that they be judicious.  In other words, judges must act in a manner characterized by good or discriminating judgment so that their actions seem to be wise, sensible, or well-advised.  It is not which party they favor or how they dress during hearings and trials. The essential qualities judges must exhibit are discernment and logical, evidence-based adjudication. Focusing on one two-letter word out of nearly 400,000 and accepting a contention that is wholly unsupported and dubious on its face are not actions showing discernment and logical, evidence-based adjudication. Such actions exhibit the opposite of judiciousness.  Such actions are injudicious; they are irrational and unwise. These actions are tantamount to conduct unbecoming in judges.

There are huge practical consequences if this injudicious decision is allowed to stand. The map below shows the scope of the havoc that could result.

Without subsidies, private insurance become unaffordable for many people who have already enrolled. Although the judicial process is still playing out, a recent analysis from the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation indicates this decision could affect over 7.3 million people expected to receive federal subsidies in 2016.

“If the plaintiffs prevail and subsidies are withdrawn, healthy people would drop their coverage, and only the people who are very sick — and therefore very expensive to insure — would keep their plans.
This sets up the classic insurance "death spiral". By putting coverage out of financial reach for so many people, it would undermine the entire purpose of the Affordable Care Act.”

In a final bravura performance of injudiciousness, the Republicans asserted: That “after ruling to overturn the law passed by both chambers of Congress, they did so in order to defend the principle of legislative supremacy." If it had been debatable previously, their injudicious behavior is now revealed in its full oligarchic, partisan splendor by their own brazen hypocrisy.

In order to drive home the plutocratic oligarchic nature of this duos ruling consider these statistics:

“Compared to people living in states that set up their own exchanges, the residents of states with federally established and operated exchanges are also more likely to report that they are unable to see a doctor due to cost, more likely to have been diagnosed with diabetes, more likely to be overweight, and more likely to live in communities identified as medically underserved because of poverty and limited access to primary care. On top of all of that, these states are home to 68% of the America’s uninsured, including 84% of all uninsured low- and moderate-income African Americans, and 60% of such Hispanics.”

Apparently these judges believe if you are poor, Black or Brown then don’t hang aroun’.  It is supremely difficult to get more plutocratic and oligarchic than that.

Our response to this D C Circuit Court panel’s decision should be guided by Elie Wiesel’s cogent observation. “There may be times when we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to protest.”

Citizens - arise!

17 July, 2014

Arise My Sisters!

I make no presumption, but I cannot be silent in the face of evident foolishness, duplicity, and apparent betrayal.

"Buzzfeed recently featured women holding signs that explain why they don’t need feminism.

Some of the reasons these women stated they don’t need feminism:
- They are not victims.
- They don’t blame men for everything.
- They respect all humans, not just one gender.
- They don’t feel the need to demonize men."

Then, an elected Republican member of Congress, Renee Ellmers declared:

“Men do tend to talk about things on a much higher level… Many of my male colleagues, when they go to the House floor, you know, they've got some pie chart or graph behind them and they’re talking about trillions of dollars and how, you know, the debt is awful and, you know, we all agree with that. …
We need our male colleagues to understand that if you can bring it down to a woman’s level and what everything that she is balancing in her life — that’s the way to go.”

There is something happening here; what it is - is exactly clear! Various female Americans are misrepresenting most female Americans in order to advance an ideology and agenda that denies the full-fledged citizenship and equal humanity of American women.
For a long while, the true story of Women's Suffrage was told in high school history or civics classes.  Over the past four plus decades, the tortuous struggle for unimpeded, unmediated access to safe, legal abortion services and effective contraceptive medicines and methods has been obscured while these same gains have been under stealthy, but relentless attack.

"Women’s health clinics have been closed because Neoconfederate evangelicals falsely assert they are nothing more than abortion mills. Elected officials say that women are dependent on government because of our out-of-control libidos. They say our bodies can naturally reject a rape pregnancy. They have also said that a baby that is created out of rape is something that God intended – all in an effort to ban choice," or even to deny access to effective contraceptive medicines and methods. Those who seek to return America to the 1850's claim contraceptive pills and devices cause abortions when they do not and the Supreme Court declares that the absurdity of this assertion does not matter if those making it believe their falsehood is true.

Representative Ellmers experienced blow back on her ludicrous remarks and declares her: “comments were ‘taken completely out of context’ in the Examiner story. ‘I am a woman, and find it both offensive and sexist to take my words and redefine them to imply that women need to be addressed at a lower level,’ she wrote, blaming ‘certain leftist writers’ for engaging in ‘gotcha’ journalism." She then accuses a former Heritage Foundation writer to be a leftist.

My sisters, as women, are you okay with the fact that in many states, pharmacists can deny your prescription of birth control because they say it is against their religion?  Are you on board with the right of rapists to sue their victims for custody and visitation rights in at least 30 states, if a baby is born as a result of the rape? Do you think employers should have the right to impose their religious strictures on any employee especially female employees regardless of what the employees think? Are you okay with employers being allowed to discriminate based on gender because there is purportedly nothing in the Constitution that specifically mandates equality for males and females?

Looking back in history, we can thank so many women for their struggles and their bravery.  Harriet Tubman risked her life to free slaves and she was a fierce advocate for women’s suffrage. Gloria Steinem was the first female journalist to write about having an abortion and Malala Yousafzai took a bullet in the head because she was determined to get an education – and she still fights. How can you say this is victimhood?

I choose to fight for all women. I want all of us to be recognized as equal in the constitution. I choose to fight so the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) will be ratified. If you are not familiar with the text, have a look:

Equality of rights under the law shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of sex.

Although, I believe the Fourteenth Amendment has settled the question of equal rights for all persons born in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction of its laws, the reprehensible state of practice makes it clear that the intent has not been carried into anything like full effect. Therefore, let us join together and strive to pass a Twenty-eighth Amendment that will make the equality of rights for all unmistakably clear. 

Let us come together as sisters and brothers and fulfill the definition of feminist stated by Gloria Steinem: “A feminist is anyone who recognizes the equality and full humanity of women and men.”  For me, labels are only important insofar as they are informative. If asked, I would characterize myself as a humanist: one who believes human dignity, interests, well-being and fulfillment in the natural world through the application of reason, scientific inquiry and constructive benign action. As Ms. Steinem makes evident, the two terms are highly compatible.

That being the case, let us call one another brother and sister and go forward arm in arm to make the assertion of human equality uttered so long ago in such audacious confidence the truly exceptional attribute of America in her third full century.


04 July, 2014

We Are American Girls!

We fell in together at a parking lot
Sat on a car and talked and thought
We spoke of our dreams and how we would make them all  
Come true one day, even if on the way, we had to rise after a fall
We don’t need men or mommies getting in our way
But if you have open minds then we can play
Just remember if you think we are haughty
We each control our own body
We won’t stay if you’re snobby
And we'll risk being called naughty

Yes, we are proud to be American girls!
Hot blooded and raring to go and make our way in the world
Hot blooded, all American girls - we were raised with a vision    
Every day we’re on a mission with or without your permission!

We want to reach for the stars and go were few have yet been                    
We have bold, young hearts and many successes to win
Cause we’re born in a free country and we can try anything
We don’t bow to a preacher, a teacher, a parent or a king                              We each control our body; if we choose we’ll be naughty                               Though some may say we’re haughty, we won't listen to drivel                 
Or to blaming and shaming. Nor will we ever quaver or snivel

Yes, we are proud to be American girls!
Hot blooded and raring to go and make our way in the world
Hot blooded, all American girls - we were raised with a vision                         E
very day we’re on a mission with or without your permission!

We're going to shine, oh so bright and we won’t hide our light       
We're going to keep up the fight                                                                    We’re going to strive to do right and share some of our grace             
We know we’ll be all we can be and we won’t be put in our place            
We’re not ashamed of our beauty 
So don’t you berate or get snooty.         
If you can’t handle our pride,                                                  
Step right off to the side - because we’re undaunted American girls!

Yes, we are proud to be American girls!
Hot blooded and raring to go and make our way in the world
Hot blooded, all American girls - we were raised with a vision
Every day we’re on a mission with or without your permission!

Happy Birthday, America!         Rock on, American Girls!

Larry Conley, 4 July 2014

03 July, 2014

The Opposite of Progress


A joking, anonymous quote, asks "If con is the opposite of pro, is Congress the opposite of Progress?" As often happens, things said in jest convey a good deal of truth.

The only problem is flippancy is not a guarantor of accuracy. Congress has institutional and procedural characteristics that make it susceptible to paralysis, but it also has many dedicated public servants who sincerely struggle to do what needs to be done. Unfortunately, the good intentions and worthy efforts of these people can impaired, impeded, or thoroughly invalidated by the actions of a fractious faction that seeks not to actualize government of, by, and for the people, but to maximize their own or their parties gain.

In the 21st century battle lines have been drawn along partisan lines. The Republican Party has become the party of NO. NO in this context means – no legislation; no cooperation; no constructive engagement; no partnership in governance. The Democratic Party is not without flaws, but it is the party of governance and it tries almost to a member to govern. For all its scars and all its shortcomings, it is the only national political organization regularly trying to implement governance of, by and for the people.

If Congress is to be anything but an imprecise punchline, filibusters must be curtailed and the Hastert Rule must be scrapped. Filibusters are far more likely to be used by Republicans when they are in the minority in the Senate. The Hastert Rule is a creature of the Republican Party entirely. More than these procedural details, however, the Republican ideology has become virulently anti-government. This is shown by the number of Congressional Republicans who consider default on the full faith and credit of the United States a trivial matter and who urge shutting down the government whenever they are not catered to. As President Clinton has said, “A major American political party is for the first time rooting for the American government to fail.” 

As things now stand, Congress could shed the characterization as the opposite of progress by attending to six critical items. 

1.    Restore Employees’ Right to the Free Exercise of Religion
90 percent of corporations are considered to be "closely held." In his majority opinion, Justice Samuel Alito wrote that "a corporation is simply a form of organization used by human beings to achieve desired ends" and claimed there was nothing radical about extending rights "whether constitutional or statutory" to for-profit secular corporations. His opinion conflated these businesses with non-profits just as right-wing media had urged. The religious rights of employees are now held hostage by their employers' moral objections, but this did not appear to make much of an impact on the Court's conservative majority. It was enough for Alito that the Greens "sincerely believed" that the contraceptives at issue in the case are "abortifacients" -- echoing right-wing media's constant confusion of the two -- even though they really, really aren't.

2.    Restore the Voting Rights Act
As of now, a few months before the 2014 midterm elections, new voting restrictions are set to be in place in 22 states. Ongoing court cases could affect laws in six of these states.  Unless these restrictions are blocked, citizens in nearly half the nation could find it harder to vote this year than in 2010. Partisanship played a key role. Of the 22 states with new restrictions, 18 passed entirely through GOP-controlled bodies, and Mississippi’s photo ID law passed by a voter referendum. Race was also a significant factor. Of the 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008, 7 have new restrictions in place. Of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic population growth between 2000 and 2010, 9 passed laws making it harder to vote. And nearly two-thirds of states — or 9 out of 15 — previously covered in whole or in part by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because of a history of race discrimination in voting have new restrictions since the 2010 election. Social science studies bear this out. According to the University of Massachusetts Boston study, states with higher minority turnout were more likely to pass restrictive voting laws. A University of California study suggests that legislative support for voter ID laws was motivated by racial bias.

3.    Enact Principled, Humane Immigration Reform
President Obama said he Speaker John Boehner last Tuesday at a White House event honoring professional golfers, said he would not be bringing an immigration bill to the floor “at least for the remainder of this year.”  Speaker Boehner’s office confirmed the discussion. House Republicans are aware of the problems with existing immigration laws but are unwilling to take action. This dishonors fundamental American ideals and cause real and severe problems for both immigrants and American citizens.

4.    Expand and Improve Veterans Benefits
Senate Republicans derailed a sweeping $21 billion bill that would have expanded medical, educational and other benefits for veterans — in another chapter of the ongoing feud over amendments, spending and new sanctions on Iran. Democrats came up four votes short of the 60 needed to keep the bill moving forward on a procedural budget vote, 56-41. This stalling and obstruction simple exposes the hypocrisy of many members of Congress who seek to use veterans and active duty military personnel as props at photo opportunities, but do nothing to help them or their families. Let us care for those who have borne the brunt of battle!

5.    Restore Emergency Unemployment Compensation
In December, Congress allowed federal unemployment benefits to expire, cutting off aid to more than 1 million people who had been out of work for 27 weeks or longer.
Since then, that number has tripled to 3 million Americans who would qualify for the jobless benefits, creating an economically marginalized and increasingly desperate subset of people struggling to make ends meet as the economy slowly recovers.

6.    Ensure the Ongoing Solvency of the Highway Trust Fund

The Department of Transportation (DOT) predicts that the Highway Trust Fund, which has traditionally drawn its revenue from the federal gas tax of 18.4 cents per gallon, will be depleted by late August. The funding that states get from the federal government for highway projects - about 45 percent - will start to shrink. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx warned that letting the account expire could lead to 700,000 Americans losing jobs in road work, bridge-building and transit maintenance as 112,000 highway projects and 5,600 transit projects underway will come to a screeching halt. This will be economically disruptive and will endanger people who travel on deteriorating and structurally unsound roads and bridges. 

It is not that these six things would address all the pressing issues that rile and rend our society now, but they would keep us from perpetuating gross insults to our most fundamental ideals in the first three, and bolster economic activity in the last three. If the Republicans in Congress would abandon their relentless obstructionism and perform the duties they swore a solemn oath to as faithfully and well as they are able, real progress toward being one nation, indivisible with equality, justice, liberty, and prosperity for all could be enabled.  

21 June, 2014

The Minuteman Game


Come all you flag-wavers; listen tight while I sing,
Ideological frenzy n is a terrible thing.
It banishes reason with the speed of a flame,
And it makes us all part of the Minuteman game.

My name is O'Reilly, and I’m often on screen.
My show is on Fox News, where I vent my spleen.
I spend all my life saying Obama’s to blame,
So I am recruiter for the Minuteman game.

This America of ours has been taken away.
We suffer so badly under a tyrant today.
Of course the liberals and the lefties are mainly to blame,
For threatening our guns and the Minuteman game.

I’ve told how Obama’s election was in no way fair,
I’ve questioned his credentials from the start on the air.
The truth I have twisted with glee and no shame,
To rile you up for your part in the Minuteman game.

It's been many years now I’ve blathered away,
With every canard and slander I could think of and say,
I've called killers heroes, and I urged more of the same,
To gin up the fury of the Minuteman game.

I don't mind a bit if you shoot down police,
They are really oppressors, not keepers of peace,
And yet at liars and scoundrels I never take  aim,
For they are the heart of the Minuteman game.

And now as you lie there, all riddled with holes,
You see I’m a charlatan who bargains in souls,
And you wish that your reason had recognized the frame,
Hung on you by we hucksters of the Minuteman game.

20 June, 2014

50 Years and Counting

“This week, as we commemorate the three young men who lost their lives at the start of Freedom Summer 50 years ago, it’s wise to remember not only the injustice of their deaths but also the race-based calculus that determined whether or not the national media would report on violence in Mississippi. We should also heed Rita Schwerner’s call to remember not only her husband but also those who had gone before—and who would come after—and the wider context of the fight for freedom in Mississippi for which they gave their lives.” 

Despite their murders and the sacrifices of so many others, 90 restrictive voting bills have been introduced in 33 states. Nine have become law and others are moving quickly through Republican controlled statehouses. Not only are nearly two thirds of the states refusing to remember this atrocity, they are actively working to dishonor these fallen heroes.

Election laws and regulations have long been susceptible to politicization, but for decades there were no major legislative movements to restrict voting. The last major historical legislative push to cut back on voting rights was after Reconstruction. The 2010 election, however, marked a major shift as Republicans gained control of many state governments. “From early 2011 until the 2012 election, state lawmakers across the country introduced at least 180 restrictive voting bills in 41 states. By the 2012 election, 19 states passed 27 restrictive voting measures, many of which were overturned or weakened by courts, citizen-led initiatives, and the Department of Justice before the  election. States continued to pass voting restrictions in 2013 and 2014.While this discriminatory legislation embodies the spirit of Jim Crow, the legislative efforts are not restricted to the former Confederacy as the map below show.

Thus in advance of the crucial 2014 midterm election, numerous new voting restrictions have been put in place. Some laws are in place for the first time in 2014. Major lawsuits still could affect this year’s elections. Unless these restrictions are blocked, voters in nearly half the country could find it harder to cast a ballot in the 2014 midterm election than they did in 2010. The restrictive measures range from photo ID requirements to early voting cutbacks to voter registration restrictions. “Partisanship and race were key factors in this movement.  Most restrictions passed through GOP-controlled legislatures and in states with increases in minority turnout.”
In 15 states, 2014 will be the first major federal election with these new restrictions in place. The courts will play a crucial role in 2014, with ongoing suits challenging laws in seven states. Voting advocates have filed suits in both federal and state courts challenging new restrictions, and those suits are ongoing in seven states — Arizona, Arkansas, Kansas, North Carolina, Ohio, Texas, and Wisconsin. There is also an ongoing case in Iowa over administrative action that could restrict voting. More court challenges are possible and truly needed as the election draws nearer. With control of the Senate at issue, these partisan and prejudice-driven measures could damage the effective of national governance for years to come. Even if the national coup is derailed or delayed, more than half the states are striving to supplant the spirit of the Fifteenth Amendment through thinly-veiled prejudiced, partisan voting laws and administrative regulations.

Racial bigotry is a significant factor in these restrictive efforts. 7 out of 11 states with the highest African-American turnout in 2008 have new restrictions in place. 9 of the 12 states with the largest Hispanic population growth between 2000 and 2010 passed laws making it harder to vote.  “And nearly two-thirds of states — or 9 out of 15 — previously covered in whole or in part by Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because of a history of race discrimination in voting have new restrictions since the 2010 election.”

Social science studies at the University of Massachusetts - Boston and the University of California show that, [1] “states with higher minority turnout were more likely to pass restrictive voting laws” and [2] “legislative support for voter ID laws was motivated by racial bias.”
The broken bodies of the Goodman, Schwerner, and Chaney were found buried deep in an earthen dam, 44 days after their disappearance. These young men died because they believed their freedom was tied up in the freedom of all Americans. They died trying to get the nation to keep its promise to all of its citizens. They died because they knew the truth of Theodore Roosevelts’ assertion: “This country will not be a great place for any of us to live in until we make it a good place for all of us to live in.” So as we remember them, let us also remember those who came before and those who followed in the war for America as it might and ought to be in Mississippi and throughout the land.

Let us now summon renewed devotion to the cause for which they lived, struggled, and ultimately died. Let us resolve to finish the noble work remaining before us and ensure that Jim Crow will neither survive in his ancestral region, nor spread throughout the land we love.