Saturday, May 31, 2014

Zero Tolerance, Zero Sense

There are 983 miles between the Ohio state capital of Columbus and the predominantly black city of Miami Gardens, Florida   But in one important respect, they are quite close.  In March, CNN reported

Ten-year-old Nathan Entingh doesn’t understand why he got suspended from school for three days.

According to his father, Paul Entingh, one moment the boy was “goofing off” with his friends in fifth-grade science class, and the next the teacher was taking him out of the classroom, invoking Ohio’s zero-tolerance policy.

The offense? Nathan was “making his fingers look like a gun, having the thumb up and the pointed finger sticking out,” said Entingh, describing the February 26 incident.

“He was pointing it at a friend’s head and he said ‘boom.’ The kid didn’t see it. No other kids saw it. But the teacher saw it,” he said. “It wasn’t threatening. It wasn’t hostile. It was a 10-year-old kid playing.”

The next morning Paul Entingh escorted his son Nathan to the principal’s office, where they met with Devonshire Alternative Elementary School Principal Patricia Price.

“She said if it happened again the suspension would be longer, if not permanent,” said Entingh, who also received a letter explaining the reason for Nathan’s suspension as a “level 2 look alike firearm.”

The letter, which Entingh shared with CNN, read, “Nathan put his fingers up to another student’s head, simulating a gun, and said, ‘BOOM,’ “

Price’s office referred CNN’s call to Columbus City Schools spokesman Jeff Warner.

Price “has been warning the students for some weeks,” said Warner. “We’ve had a problem at this school. The boys have gone around fake shooting and making paper guns at class. It’s inappropriate. She has sent notes to parents for the past three weeks alerting them of the problem.”

In the Miami-Dade city of Miami Gardens, a city of 109,000 people long beset by gang violence and other promiscuous street crime, police have stopped and frisked individuals at a rate six times that in New York City, with a far lower arrest rate.  Last September, the Miami-Herald (from which the photo below- store owner Saleh on the left- is taken) explained

Earl Sampson has been stopped and questioned by Miami Gardens police 258 times in four years.

He’s been searched more than 100 times. And arrested and jailed 56 times.

Despite his long rap sheet, Sampson, 28, has never been convicted of anything more serious than possession of marijuana.

Miami Gardens police have arrested Sampson 62 times for one offense: trespassing.

Almost every citation was issued at the same place: the 207 Quickstop, a convenience store on 207th Street in Miami Gardens.

But Sampson isn’t loitering. He works as a clerk at the Quickstop.

So how can he be trespassing when he works there?

It’s a question the store’s owner, Alex Saleh, 36, has been asking for more than a year as he watched Sampson, his other employees and his customers, day after day, being stopped and frisked by Miami Gardens police. Most of them, like Sampson, are poor and black.

And, like Sampson, many of them have been cited for minor infractions, sometimes as often as three times in the same day.

Saleh was so troubled by what he saw that he decided to install video cameras in his store. Not to protect himself from criminals, because he says he has never been robbed. He installed the cameras — 15 of them — he said, to protect him and his customers from police.

Since he installed the cameras in June 2012 he has collected more than two dozen videos, some of which have been obtained by the Miami Herald. Those tapes, and Sampson’s 38-page criminal history — including charges never even pursued by prosecutors — raise some troubling questions about the conduct of the city’s police officers.

The videos show, among other things, cops stopping citizens, questioning them, aggressively searching them and arresting them for trespassing when they have permission to be on the premises; officers conducting searches of Saleh’s business without search warrants or permission; using what appears to be excessive force on subjects who are clearly not resisting arrest and filing inaccurate police reports in connection with the arrests.

“There is just no justifying this kind of behavior,’’ said Chuck Drago, a former police officer and consultant on police policy and the use of force. “Nobody can justify overstepping the constitution to fight crime.”

Repeated phone messages and emails to Miami Gardens Police Chief Matthew Boyd and City Manager Cameron Benson asking for comment on this story were not returned.

Boyd did release a statement, saying that the department is committed to serving and protecting the citizens and businesses in the city.

But Howard Simon, executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union Florida, said that’s exactly what Boyd is NOT doing.

“Where is the police chief in all this? In a police department in a city this size, this kind of behavior could not escape his attention. Doesn’t the City Commission know that they are exposing the city to either massive liability for civil rights violations? Either that, or they are going to wake up one day and find the U.S. Department of Justice has taken over its police department.’’

Saleh and his attorney, Steve Lopez, are preparing to file a federal civil rights lawsuit, contending that the police department has routinely, under the direction of the city’s top leaders, directed its officers to conduct racial profiling, illegal stops and searches and other activities to cover up illegal misconduct...

Saleh, whose store is tucked between a public park and working-class neighborhoods, contends that Miami Gardens police officers have repeatedly used racial slurs to refer to his customers and treat most of them like they are hardened criminals.

“Police line them up and tell them to put their hands against the wall. I started asking myself ‘Is this normal?’ I just kept thinking police can’t do this,’’ Saleh said.

Last year, Saleh, armed with a cache of videos, filed an internal affairs complaint about the arrests at his store. From that point, he said, police officers became even more aggressive.

One evening, shortly after he had complained a second time, a squadron of six uniformed Miami Gardens police officers marched into the store, he says. They lined up, shoulder to shoulder, their arms crossed in front of them, blocking two grocery aisles.

“Can I help you?” Saleh recalls asking. It was an entire police detail, known as the department’s Rapid Action Deployment (RAD) squad, whom he had come to know from their frequent arrest sweeps. One went to use the restroom, and five of them stood silently for a full 10 minutes. Then they all marched out.

These situations obviously are cases of overreaction, in one case by law enforcement and in the other, seemingly by school authorities. Additionally, however, they stem from the same policy. The CNN piece continued

Entingh said he never received a notice, but was aware of school authorities telling students, including Nathan, that any gun-related behavior would have serious consequences.

“I don’t know if it’s to the point it happened so much they needed to punish somebody to set an example. I don’t know, it blows my mind,” said Entingh.

Warner acknowledged there was likely no ill-intention in Nathan’s actions. “I know he (Nathan) felt it was funny and in jest, but the teacher felt it was inappropriate given the warnings that were given.”

Warner said Nathan wasn’t singled out as an example, but that his was the first incident after Price gave “her final notice last week.”

Ohio’s “zero-tolerance” rules in public schools came under attack in January when state Sen. Charleta Tavares introduced bill SB 167 to reverse or reform the original 1998 law introduced as part of SB 55.

The 1998 bill mandated schools “adopt a policy of zero tolerance for violent, disruptive, or inappropriate behavior, including excessive truancy.”

The city suffers when over-zealous legislators figure implementing a zero-tolerance policy for whatever is a lay-up.  It sounds so good, and so manly.  The Miami Herald continued

For 17 years, Saleh has owned 207 Quickstop. Saleh has come to know his customers by their first names, and even by their nicknames. He has watched some of them grow from toddlers into young men. He feels for them when loved ones die, and has celebrated with them when their babies were born.

“To me, these people are like family,’’ said Saleh, a native of Venezuela who is of Palestinian descent.

About three years ago, Saleh said police asked him to participate in what they called a “zero-tolerance” program to reduce crime. He gladly signed up, not realizing at the time how much it would impact his business and customers. Under the program, Miami Gardens police are given broad powers to stop and arrest people who appear to be loitering or trespassing at the participating business.

The idea behind the program is based on the “broken window theory,’’ a concept that has been employed by police around the country. The theory holds that a community that rids itself of petty crime, such as shoplifting, vandalism and trespassing, can eradicate more serious crime because criminals won’t have anywhere to hide.

Or maybe police can concentrate on serious crime, rather than trespassing, and improve their relationship with the community.   But then the city fathers (or mothers) couldn't tout zero-tolerance.

Moreover, it's still going on. On Thursday, Gawker's Adam Weinstein wrote

Two Miami Gardens police officers who blew the whistle to Fusion said specific groups were actively being targeted in order to make astronomical quotas. "The target to stop in Miami Gardens: he wants all black males stopped between the ages of 15 and 30 years old," the cop said of his supervisor.

He added that police would frequent "the parks, the apartment complexes in what they consider the projects… just grab people and stop them, pat them down and search them." People were written up for stops even though they were already in jail, just to make numbers. About 1,000 people in the city have been stopped and frisked, without an arrest, more than 10 times. Just over two dozen have been stopped more than 50 times.

That's commonly called a quota, and quotas are very rarely a good thing.  Stop-and-frisk, by contrast, can be constitutional and effective.  But when the fashionable "zero-tolerance" rears its ugly head, things get absurd, as in Columbus and Miami Gardens- and sometimes very ugly, as in Miami Gardens.

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Friday, May 30, 2014

Patrick Murphy Says Eric Shinseki 'Kicks Ass." Obama Should Kick His.

Leave it to Bernie Sanders to get it right.

Two Democrats, former national chairperson Howard Dean and former U.S Representative and Iraq War veteran Patrick Murphy of Pennsylvania, don't see it the same way.  Appearing on MSNBC's "The Last Word with Lawrence O'Donnell" (video at link) to discuss the heat on General Eric Shinseki for the crisis at the Veterans Administration, the former Vermont governor and presidential aspirant told ongoing guest host Ari Melber "I don't think he has done anything wrong but he needs to clean house" (no sexism from Dean, calling on a man to clean his house).

A visibly angry Patrick Murphy- who appears to have been angry each time he has appeared on MSNBC to discuss the scandal- remarked "He's pissed. He has now fired seven people." Shinseki, Murphy commented, "needs to get in front, as the governor said, out in front of the American people, and let them know... that he's ticked off and unbelievably pissed about this IG report- that he ordered- that shows this is a system issue."

Melber followed by noting Senator Sanders (I-VT.), chairperson of the Committee on Veterans Affairs,  has stated "...At a time when the VA has seen a huge increase in its patient load in recent years, I urge the Secretary to review whether the Department's goal for seeing patients within 14 days is realistic under its current budget." Melber suggested the standard may have prompted employees to falsify records and asked his guest to respond.  Murphy credited Shinseki with the 14 day standard, maintained that 26 hospitals have "cooked the books," and applauded Shinseki for "taking quick action (though) he needs to do more."

No.  The standard set by the Secretary has not prevented the problem but caused it. (Rachel Maddow blames Congress- which deserves considerable blame- below.)  Thursday evening, MSNBC's Chris Hayes cited the "mismatch" between the needs of veterans, which have increased dramatically, and the resources available to the V.A.  Shinseki could have responded with the courage (and foresight) he displayed when- inviting misguided condemnation from Republicans-  he told Congress a month before the USA invaded Iraq in 2003 "several hundred thousand troops" would be needed to secure the country.   Instead, he passed the buck downward- actually, punched downward- setting a standard he knew, or should have known, was unrealistic.  He pleased his superior(s) while placing his subordinates in an untenable position.

The GOP, as usual, is on the wrong track. Politico reports "to Republicans, Shinseki is fleeting- a figurehead who could be gone any moment. To push for his resignation lets Obama off the hook, they say."  Subjecting this issue as they have so many others the past five+ years to the "is it good or bad for Obama?" test clearly is not serving the country.  But as Senator Sanders seems to understand, the root of the immediate problem- falsifying records- lies in the requirement that new patients be seen within 14 days.  It was General Eric Shinseki who established that requirement,  and it's General Shinseki who, despite a noble record, should be relieved of duty.


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Thursday, May 29, 2014

Hold Your Tongue And Do As You Like

Slate's movie critic Carl Wilson, by his own admission, hesitated before writing about an incident involving white rapper Macklemore (photograph from Slate, below), even after the "predictable outrage" over what he concedes was "an apparently anti-Semitic stage costume." It was, however, not much of an outrage; Wilson links to numerous Twitter comments, which is less outrage than murmur.

Given it has not erupted into a major controversy, I hesitated to blog about the matter, but finally recognized how important this story is precisely because it hasn't blown up.  Consider Donald Sterling and numerous other public figures who have made bigoted remarks and found themselves the subject of seemingly endless criticism in the media and among people everywhere.  Wilson explains

The Internet collectively face-palmed last weekend when photos were released of Macklemore wearing what looked like a stereotypical old-Jewish-man costume, complete with false hooked nose and beard, in a surprise show at the EMP Museum in his hometown of Seattle. Worse, the Grammy winner was performing his hit “Thrift Shop” at the time, which made it seem like he was wisecracking about cheap Jews and retail schmattas.

I’ve never thought Macklemore particularly savvy, but the idea that he deliberately went out in anti-Semitic costume seemed out of character. While neither his songs nor his persona appeal to me, what’s usually annoying is how painfully earnestly he strains to show what a sensitive, enlightened, big-hearted bro he is.

Most famously there’s his straight-dude-touting-gay-marriage anthem “Same Love,” which he performed at the Grammys while dozens of same-sex couples in the hall were joined in matrimony. But he’s also one of the few white rappers who’s admitted feeling conflicted about his racial position—in his early song “White Privilege,” he fretted about appropriating and “gentrifying” hip-hop: “I give everything I have when I write a rhyme/ But that doesn’t change the fact that this culture’s not mine … We still owe them 40 acres/ Now we’ve stolen their 16 bars.” Could this really be the same guy prancing around the stage in a shoddy Shylock outfit?

It took a few days for Macklemore to respond with anything longer than a tweet, but if his eventual statement is anything other than sincere, it’s an improbably masterful execution of a “play dumb” strategy. He explains in awkward prose that he’d just grabbed a random collection of costume pieces—including a “witch nose”—as a disguise, so that he could be unrecognized in the crowd before making his appearance. He describes the costume as one part Lincoln, one part Ringo, or maybe “Humpty Hump with a bowl cut.” He just didn’t realize, he says, that anyone could see it otherwise. Finally he apologizes to those he offended and says (again, rather awkwardly) that the silver lining is now he knows about the “incredible” Anti-Defamation League.

On behalf of his organization, Anti-Defamation League President Abraham Foxman responded by asserting "we welcome Macklemore's apology," apparently in part because "we know that Macklemore is someone who has used his platform in the past to stand up and speak out against intolerance and bigotry, particularly homophobia."   (Foxman, a Holocaust survivor, pretends not to notice anti-Semitism is not identical to homophobia.  It is as possible to welcome gay people and not Jews as it is to welcome Jews and not gay people.)

Still, Macklemore- who hid behind the standard and odious "I truly apologize to anybody that I may have offended"- did "acknowledge how the costume could, within a context of stereotyping, be ascribed to a Jewish caricature."

Nonetheless, Wilson minimizes Macklemore's behavior when he argues

What we're undergoing is an escalation of awareness now that social media can circulate such images so widely and rapidly- along with critics' complaints about them,and the backlash to the complaints, and the backlash to the backlash.  The cycle can be numbing, and the temptation to indulge in the easy pleasures of condemnation and judgment- wanting not to miss out on joining each chorus of disapproval- tends to reduce all the cases to the same thing. But in fact, Macklemore's ignorant boneheadedness isn't alike with Coyne's arrogant obnoxiousness, and Katy Perry's ersatz SNL skit shouldn't be too casually equated with her dad's sectarian bigotry.

Katy Perry's father, Keith Hudson, recently preached at a church in Ohio "You go to L.A. and you own all the Rolex and diamond places. Walk down a part of L.A. where we live and it is so rich it smells. You ever smell rich? They are all Jews, hallelujah. Amen."  Wilson does not link to "Katy Perry's ersatz SNL skit" and, not being as culturally attuned as a movie critic, I have no idea what it was beyond the writer's passing remark that Perry apparently "drape(d) herself in Asian textiles for 'exotic' effect."

And that reflects a growing problem in media criticism and public umbrage. Wilson realizes entertainers should "take a harder look in the mirror when pulling a 'random' costume out of the collective unconscious, and seek second opinions from aides with a minimum of cultural literacy."  But he adds "as audiences in this mongrel land we call planet Earth, I think we're going to have to be prepared to be baffled by racial mix-ups, gaffes, and confusions for a long while yet."  

Donning a conservative hat, one could complain "ridicule blacks and get blasted in the media. Ridicule Jews or Asians and you get a pass."  But that would probably be inaccurate, and surely missing the point. Macklemore's and Perry's acts were exactly that: acts.  The comments by Sterling, Roger Ebert, George Allen, Harry Reid, and others (interesting sideshows from Ranker and The Huffington Post here and here) are comments, the spoken word, and resulted in a greater outcry.  Trent Lott may stand as the greatest example: after a long and extremist career culminating in election as Senate Majority Leader, Lott was brought down by a terrible statement commending the late segregationist Strom Thurmond. "Speed kills" has been replaced by "speech kills." Careers (sometimes).

Take a look around the cultural and political landscape.  "The chorus of disapproval" cited by Wilson usually is a response to what some individual says, rather than what he or she does.That is the primary reason you heard over and over again about Donald Sterling but little or nothing about Katy Perry or Macklemore, and have forgotten David Vitter.

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Tuesday, May 27, 2014

The Post-Racial NBA

Lenny DeFranco notes that of 49 majority owners in the National Basketball Association, only one is black while 76% of the leagues players are black.  The NBA is often described as suffering from a plantation mentality, which will not change when Donald Sterling's Los Angeles Clippers are sold. He argues

The least Adam Silver could have done was announce a lifetime ban, but his action fell far short of the nobility suggested by the emetic outpourings on ESPN and in sports columns. What’s really called for is a total overhaul of the business model—a total removal of the owners’ control over our teams. The teams collect fans’ ticket money, are broadcast on public airwaves, and play in stadiums often built by taxpayer dollars. Most of all, they are cash cows precisely because of we the people who love them. These teams belong to us. It would be nice to cut out the megalomaniac middlemen.

And so it would. But Adam Silver has turned the team over to Donald's wife, and DeFranco explains

Nothing illustrated the sham victory of deposing Sterling more than the Clippers’ hearty embrace of his estranged wife Rochelle. “I am not a racist,” she said when the tape was first released. “I never have been, I never will be. The team is the most important thing to my family.” Instructive words, these. Just in the same way that “racism” in this story has been portrayed as a binary medical condition, something akin to pregnancy, so does her statement admit that her take on race is relevant only as it pertains to the men who her family employs to play basketball. She was smart to have specified that, lest one conflate her feelings on Clippers blackness with the feelings she is known to have about the unremarkably black and Latino tenants of her residential properties. During her day job as Cruella de Vil, Shelly Sterling has accumulated nearly the same record of outright racism as her piece of shit husband, who, let’s not forget, she has been married to for almost 60 years. She once impersonated the health inspector to obtain a racial census of her buildings. But no, she is not “a” racist. The tests came back negative.

As these morality plays so often happen, all that matters is that Rochelle Sterling can claim the virtue of having not been recorded on the surreally racist tape that did in the old man. Her reward? A pass from the media and a good word from Clippers coach Doc Rivers, the likeliest person to emerge as the protagonist when they make the Sterling TV movie. “It’s a tough one for Shelly, really,” Rivers said. “She didn’t do anything wrong. You have compassion for her.” Indeed, it must have been hell for this wealthy and bitter estranged wife to watch the world pile on her ex-husband and his young mistress.

No fan of the Sterlings (2012 photo below from USA Today) , DeFranco nonetheless noted "part-time NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned the owner from even thinking about the NBA ever again. "

DeFranco's insights are even more valuable than he realizes. In noting "part-time NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned the owner from ever thinking about the NBA ever again," DeFranco identifies what would be a horrifying aspect of this saga, in the unlikely event a similar response were made to a similar offense.  In the press conference announcing he was fining Mr. Sterling, banning him from any association with his team or the NBA, and asserting his influence to force the Clippers to be sold, Silver- honestly and without any sense of irony- stated "The views expressed by Mr. Sterling are deeply offensive (and) sentiments of this kind are contrary to the principles of inclusion and respect..."

Silver said nothing about any actions on the part of the team owner, and in fact, there is little or no evidence that Sterling's behavior, past or present, private or public, played any role in the commissioner's response. Consider this: "the views expressed" by the subject reflected reprehensible "sentiments."  Go and sin, again, Mr. Sterling, do anything you wish; just make sure your private thoughts aren't recorded.

One of the reporters at the press conference asked the commissioner "should someone lose their team for remarks shared in private as this is a slippery slope?"  In a reversal of the "whatever happens in Vegas, stays in Vegas" approach, Silver replied "whether or not these remarks were initially shared in private, they are now public, and they represent his views."

That suggested this could be the infamous "slippery slope," but there is little to fear, as reflected in DeFranco's observation

There has been far too much high-fiving over this. ESPN out-schlocked even itself covering the Clippers’ subsequent playoff victory over the Warriors, which came the night after civil rights crusader and part-time NBA commissioner Adam Silver banned the owner from even thinking about the NBA ever again. Following this swift decision, which no doubt bent Dr. King’s cosmic arc a bit closer to justice, fans were then morally free to attend the Clippers game and hold up heartfelt signs. No word on whether the ticket money from all these social justiceniks was routed to somewhere besides Donald Sterling’s pocket. (Probably because it wasn’t.)

DeFranco realizes

The slogan in the Donald Sterling scandal is ”There is no place for this in our game.” This is one of those weirdly eloquent phrases that loses its honesty in robotic mimesis, like when a tech support worker says “I see” too many times as you describe your problem over the phone. It’s the perfect response to the situation at hand—sympathetic, non-committal, attentive—which makes it that much clearer why it was written into the script. The concept of there being “no room for that in our game” operates likewise. It assumes a high moral vantage and conjures an image of crowding out, of post-racial magnanimity having so overtaken the NBA and the culture at large that small-mindedness just starves for sunlight and dies. The sentiment is more powerful and optimistic than merely condemning Sterling’s statements as ignorant; it’s a dismissal. It’s a verdict. Adam Silver chose the line to punctuate his ruling on Tuesday: “We stand together in condemning Mr. Sterling’s views. They simply have no place in the NBA.”

Oh, please; there is, has been, and will continue to be,  a place for those views in the NBA, especially in light of Adam Silver's actions.  Sterling told girlfriend Viviano she could have sex with blacks and "can bring them in, you can do whatever you want" but not "bring them not my games." He warned her not to put Earvin Johnson "on an instagram for the world to have to see so they have to call me."  He didn't want to look bad in front of his fellow billionaire owners, but now that the NBA has cracked down on a bigoted old man, it has purged itself of racism.

This should sound familiar. Rush Limbaugh turns it on its head, though, when he contends "Voting for Obama was supposed to erase the notion that this nation was racist or bigoted or what have you.  If a bunch of white people voted for a black man to be president, that alone would supposedly end any argument that this was a racist, sexist, bigoted country."  But voting for Obama never was "supposed to erase that this nation was racist," though conservatives used the Democrat's victory to claim it proved that racism had ended. And now, bless his soul, Adam Silver can pretend this problem is on its way to resolution, that his league is a beacon of light in the darkness.

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Monday, May 26, 2014

Hail To The Chief

Let's skip all the corruption-inducing money-raising from the Big Money Boyz (formerly known as "fat cats"), the seemingly endless speeches and debates, the choreographed political convention and, most of all, imposing upon voters in a democratic society the privilege of voting for their top leader.

Let's go right to the inauguration of Hillary Rodham Clinton as the 44th President of the United States.

Mrs. Clinton's nomination was heavily favored in 2008 but as Politico's Maggie Haberman reports, former Ohio governor (and Clinton acolyte Ted Strickland) maintains "Secretary Clinton's inevitability, or what appears to be inevitability, is something that is happening (on its own). So what to do about it? You accept it for what it is- a grass-roots movement. I don't know that there's a lesson to be learned from what happened several years ago.  The circumstances were very different then.

Acolyte is a little strong, but few descriptions of Ed Rendell are unfair.  The former Pennsylvania governor, critic of Social Security/Medicare, private-equity apologist, and fracking advocate contends "the rank-and-file Democrats, the political Democrats, the donor Democrats.... are of the strong belief that only Hillary can pull this (victory over the Repub nominee) off“.. People come up to me on the street and say 'How can I write a check to Hillary?' I've never seen anything like it, including in my own" campaigns."  And veteran Democratic strategist Tad Devine contends "I don't think... this tak of inevitability is a negative to her. I think it's more of an asset than a liability. She is stronger than any challenger has ever been. She has the strength of an incumbent president seeking reelection. That's her position... I don't see some anti-Hillary movement rising up in the Democratic Party. She's not a polarizing figure within the Democratic Party."

Agreed: in all likelihood, Hillary Clinton will run for the Democratic presidential nomination; if she does, she'll probably be successful; and if nominated, she'll probably defeat her opponent.

But one of Mrs. Clinton's assets could, and with a diligent media likely would, prove to be an obstacle to either her nomination or her election. Devine reportedly "added that Clinton has been helped in part by being a team player with Obama and in part because her husband's poll numbers are now so high."  

The Bill factor.  William Jefferson Clinton (initially) helped his wife attain political credibility.   But now that she has built upon that foundation by being a United States Senator and Defense Secretary (and accrued a tremendous following on the way), President Clinton's record is fair game.  And his statements and actions will be so for the GOP in a general election, and they should be for Democrats during the nominating process.   One of the former has helped, in its small way, with a movement gaining traction in Repub states, especially now that, as CBS News explained

Louisiana is the fifth state to adopt a law that requires abortion doctors to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Opponents say the laws are designed solely to close abortion facilities. Supporters say they make health care safer.

Louisiana's house passed the bill by a vote of 88 to 5.

Democrat Katrina Jackson sponsored the legislation.

"It ensures that physicians that do abortions in Louisiana do so in a safe manner and they are also held to the same standards as any other physician doing surgeries in this state," said Jackson.

Dr. Radha Raman does not perform abortions, but she worries because the bill could force at least three of the five abortion facilities in Louisiana to close.

"The thing is, you're decreasing the access to care by a big percentage," she said.

But then, as they say: that's a feature (actually, asset) rather than a bug.

The article continues

Often, doctors in abortion clinics do not have local admitting privileges because they travel from town to town to do the procedure.

Raman expects her patients in New Orleans may have to drive 300 miles away to Shreveport for abortion services.

"They're going to be overwhelmed over there, they could be booked out for months," said Raman.

Louisiana's bill is modeled after laws in Texas, Alabama, Mississippi, and Wisconsin.

Louisiana would make five (as the accompanying map indicates), once Governor Jindal signs the bill.

But now there are six.   According to Tulsa World, the Oklahoma state senate has approved a bill which "would require abortion clinics to have on site during the procedure a doctor with admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of the facility." The bill now goes back to the House, which likely will approve it and send it to Repub Governor Mary Fallin, who would sign it.

Do you want a beachfront property in Arizona ?  You'd have to compete for its purchase with Louisiana's Jackson (photo of the genius, from Tulsa World, below), who claims the legislation she sponsored "ensures that physicians that do abortions in Louisiana do so in a safe manner and they are also held to the same standards as any other physician doing surgeries in this state." She apparently doesn't understand an admitting privilege.

is the right of a doctor, by virtue of membership as a hospital’s medical staff, to admit patients to a particular hospital or medical center for providing specific diagnostic or therapeutic services to such patient in that hospital. Each hospital maintains a list of health care providers who have admitting privileges in that hospital.

Citing the definition, a Daily Kos blogger last November- in the midst of controversy over legislation in Texas- typed 

when there’s an emergency, admitting privileges become irrelevant. Under a1986 federal law known as EMTALA, hospitals are required to provide care to anyone who needs emergency care [with or without insurance, by the way.] This requirement includes pregnant women who need a life-saving abortion, are in labor, or are suffering the effects of a botched abortion. [Sadly, in 2011, a bill was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives that would have allowed hospitals to turn away patients arriving in the ER in need of a life-saving abortion or other medical help related to abortions. Fortunately, that bill went nowhere, but the fact that it was introduced at all is very disturbing. Opponents of that inhumane notion called it the “Let Them Die” bill.]

Think of it this way: If you’re walking down the street and have a heart attack, it doesn’t matter who your personal doctor is, or whether he/she has admitting privileges at a hospital within 30 miles of where you are: You can be taken to any hospital emergency room, get admitted, and receive treatment, even if your doctor isn’t there, and even if you don’t know a doctor within 30 miles of the hospital.

Also, if a woman is at home and experiences a pregnancy-related emergency, emergency responders will transport her to the closest hospital, regardless of where her doctor has “admitting privileges,” and—again, under federal law–she’ll be cared for there, no admitting-privileges questions asked.

It’s also important to realize that the notion of admitting privileges does not jibe with contemporary norms in inpatient hospital care. Today, many hospitals employ staff physicians to provide inpatient care, and whether an abortion provider has admitting privileges at a particular hospital plays little or no role in determining which hospital may be best suited to care for the patient.

As the Oklahoma bill was considered by the state senate, the executive director of the American Civil Liberties Union of Oklahoma told RH Reality Check that admitting privileges laws "are nothing more than smokescreens to their real intent of restricting access to reproductive health-care services."   However, they are the third leg of Bill Clinton's prescription- "safe, legal, and rare"- for abortion.  If anyone is paying attention, the inevitable President Clinton 45 will not be able to avoid confronting whether this is a positive legacy of her husband's presidency.

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Sunday, May 25, 2014

Easy To Judge This Judge

It's nearly Memorial Day- and probably already will be by the time most of you read this- so the state of Mississippi deserves credit.    As indicated by this 2010 map from The Atlantic's Richard Florida, Mississippi is among the states with the greatest number of members of the military per capita, more even than adjacent Louisiana, Arkansas,Tennessee, or Alabama.  It may attest to the lack of economic opportunities there, the courage of its (mostly young) men and women, or a myriad of other reasons.

This, however, from the Clarion-Ledger, is not as positive:

In an echo of Mississippi's past, a Justice Court judge here is accused of striking a mentally challenged young man and yelling, "Run, n-----, run."

The family has filed a complaint with police against Madison County Justice Court Judge Bill Weisenberger, who is white, alleging he struck their 20-year-old African-American son, Eric Rivers, on May 8 at the Canton Flea Market.

"This is 2014," said former Canton Mayor William Truly, president of the Canton branch of the NAACP, "not 1960, where someone could slap a young man and call out, 'Run, n-----, run."

Darlene Ballard, executive director of the state Judicial Commission, said if the allegations are true, they would "violate multiple canons" of the Judicial Code of Conduct.

Truly called on Weisenberger, a former law enforcement officer and former emergency operations director in Madison County, to step down from hearing cases until the matter is resolved — or simply to resign.

"No citizen should have to face justice before a judge who holds such a high degree of racial animus and hatred," Truly said in a news conference Friday.

Weisenberger did not return telephone calls asking for a response to the allegations.

Truly expects a Madison County grand jury to eventually hear the matter. He said the NAACP plans to file complaints with the Judicial Performance Commission, the state attorney general's Vulnerable Adult Unit and the Justice Department.

Cathy Hendrix of Tuscaloosa, a vendor at the Canton Flea Market, told The Clarion-Ledger that she and other vendors rely on local people to help load and unload their vehicles, paying for the help.

On May 8, she saw Rivers standing on the sidewalk, asking if they needed help, she said. "That young man was wanting to work to earn money to buy a bike."

Her sister, Tammy Westbrook, also of Tuscaloosa, told The Clarion-Ledger she saw Weisenberger "rear back and slap" Rivers twice.

The young man bolted away, and she said she heard Weisenberger yell out, "Run, boy, run," and "run, n-----, run."

She said she overheard Weisenberger brag afterward about what he had done.

She felt furor because her own son suffers from autism, she said. "I was angry."

Both sisters initially thought Weisenberger was a law enforcement officer because he was dressed in a security officer's uniform — only to find out he was a judge.

Hendrix praised the help she received from "many wonderful deputies during our visit to Canton" but was angered by what she witnessed, she said.

"I do not care if this young man was being a nuisance," said Hendrix, who is white. "I do not care if he were breaking a law, I do not care if he were loitering, but I do care that a man of authority, one that is sworn to protect and serve, was slapping a young man."

She said Weisenberger "seemed to be suffering from an authoritative complex and was making sure that everyone knew that."

Hendrix said after Weisenberger's encounter with Rivers, she saw the judge "jump" a female vendor, "telling her he would make her park far away and make her walk to load her goods."

When the woman replied that he could "change his tone" with her, the judge replied he would only deal with her husband because he didn't take orders from a woman, she said.

She said the judge has no business working with the public "if he is going to slap a mentally challenged child and be rude to vendors that are paying good money to be there."

On his campaign website, the judge declared that he believes "Justice Court IS the people's court."

This might be an isolated incident.  But the real moral of the story is suggested by the next line(s) in the article, in which the reporter notes

Under Mississippi law, the only requirement to be elected a Justice Court judge is a high school diploma. After taking office, the judges are required to take up to six hours of training a year.

A 2007 legislative task force concluded that Justice Court judges needed higher degrees, preferably law degrees.

Preferably, indeed. That would seem, as George Herbert Walker Bush would have put it, only "prudent." But if that standard had been in place, I would not have had the excuse of posting this song from the late, great Phil Ochs:


                   Have a happy- or better yet, reverential- Memorial Day

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Saturday, May 24, 2014

Oh, How Alarmed We Are About School Segregation!

The speech (excerpt, below) in Topeka, Kansas marking the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court's school desegregation ruling should have been good for a few yucks because

First lady Michelle Obama marked the 60th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision that ended school segregation during a speech on Friday before graduating high school seniors in Topeka, Kansas.

In her prepared remarks, the first lady praised the legacy of that decision, Brown v. Board of Education, noting the diversity of the crowd before her. But she also warned that the specter of school segregation is returning as people of different races cluster in separate communities, urging the graduates to continue striving for inclusion and mutual understanding.

"I think it's fitting that we're celebrating this historic Supreme Court case tonight, not just because Brown started right here in Topeka or because Brown's 60th anniversary is tomorrow, but because I believe that all of you -- our soon-to-be-graduates -- you all are the living, breathing legacy of this case," she said. "Just look around this arena. Look at all the colors, cultures and faiths represented here tonight."

That diversity "would have been unimaginable back in 1954," she said, when a group of black parents in Kansas took their fight for school integration all the way to the Supreme Court.

"Today, 60 years later, that probably seems crazy to all of you in this graduating class," she said. "But remember, not everyone has grown up in a place like Topeka."

"You see, many districts in this country have actually pulled back on efforts to integrate their schools and many communities have become less diverse as folks have moved from cities to suburbs," she explained. "So today, by some measures, our schools are as segregated as they were back when Dr. King gave his final speech. As a result, many young people in America are going to school largely with kids who look just like them."

That segregation, Obama said, is worsened by the fact that many schools serving predominantly minority communities are not as well-equipped as schools in other areas.

She also said the problems created by a lack of diversity don't stop in the classroom.

Even funnier was the Secretary of Education when he remarked (as Diane Ravitch reported) on Tuesday at the national seminar of the Education Writers Association

While the Education Department has promoted a number of programs and measures to improve the achievement of disadvantaged students, the singularly thorny problem of racially isolated schools has remained and has worsened... While [Brown v. Board of Education, 347 U.S. 483, 107 LRP 36247 (1954)] struck down de jure segregation as unconstitutional, de facto school seg- regation has worsened in many respects in the last two decades, Since 1991, all regions of the nation have experienced an increase in the percentage of black students who attend highly segregated schools, where 90 percent or more of students are students of color. Here in the South, more than a third of black students attend such racially isolated schools. In the Northeast, more than 50 percent do.

Both of these people seem to be interested in integration.  But Michelle Obama is married to President Barack Obama, who appointed Arne Duncan as his Secretary of Education. Shortly after being approved to the position, Duncan raved "The charter movement is absolutely one of the most profound changes in American education, bringing new options to underserved communities and introducing competition and innovation into the education system."  He warned "states that don't have charter laws or put artificial caps on the growth of charter schools will jeopardize their applications under the Race to the Top fund.  Simply put, they put themselves at a competitive disadvantage for the largest pool of discretionary dollars states have ever had access to."

One critic responded by charging "He's blackmailing states, saying you either have to have charters... or lift the caps, or your stimulus money will be at risk. There's no evidence out there to justify it."

Oh, but there is a justification- it's called segregation.

Experimental psychologist and education researcher Iris C. Rotberg has found

Studies in a number of different states and school districts in the U.S. show that charter schools often lead to increased school segregation (Bifulco & Ladd, 2007; Booker, Zimmer, & Buddin, 2005; Cobb & Glass, 2003; Clotfelter, Ladd, & Vigdor, 2013; Frankenberg, Siegel-Hawley, & Wang, 2011; Furgeson et al., 2012; Garcia, 2008; Glenn, 2011; Michelson, Bottia, & Southworth, 2008; Nathanson, Corcoran, & Baker-Smith, 2013), a finding that is consistent with research in a number of other countries, including Australia (Luke, 2010), Canada (Yoon & Gulson, 2010), Chile (Elacqua, 2012), Denmark (Rangvid, 2007), England (Burgess, Wilson, & Lupton, 2005), Germany (Pietsch & Stubbe, 2007), Israel (Nir, Inbar, & Eyal, 2010), the Netherlands (Karsten, Felix, Ledoux, & Meijnen, 2006), New Zealand (Thomson, 2010), and Sweden (Böhlmark & Lindahl, 2007). In many cases, school choice programs exacerbate current school segregation and, in more heterogeneous settings, lead to the stratification of students who were previously in integrated environments.

The primary exceptions to increased student stratification are in communities that are already so highly segregated by race, ethnicity, and income that further increases are virtually impossible, or they occur in school choice programs that are targeted to increase diversity — not a goal of most charter schools or school choice programs generally (Kahlenberg & Potter, 2012; Ritter, Jensen, Kisida, & McGee, 2010).

Michelle Obama may be excused for bloviating about school resegregation, given that she is not in a policy-making position, and her speech was as much a platform to promote same-sex marriage and immigration reform, and to slam racial profiling.

But Arne Duncan is the man appointed by Obama to be his point-man to undermine (or as their educational allies call it, "reform") public education with charter schools, which promote segregation and whose results are at best on a par with the traditional public school.  The YouTube video below is amusingly entitled "MIchelle Obama warns of encroaching segregation."  She can talk all she wants, but the policies advanced by her husband and his Education Secretary promote that very same segregation.

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Thursday, May 22, 2014

The Patriots Went 16-0. They Lost The Super Bowl And Haven't Won It Since.

On Tuesday, the Guardian neatly summarized the status of same-sex marriage in the USA when it reported

Same-sex couples can now marry in all north-eastern US states after a federal judge struck down Pennsylvania's ban on Tuesday, a day after a similar law was overturned in Oregon.

The Pennsylvania ruling marks the latest victory in what has been a spectacular year for marriage equality. The ruling is the 14th consecutive legal win for gay marriage advocates since the US supreme court's Windsor decision in June 2013 that found part of the federal Defense of Marriage Act (Doma) unconstitutional.

Spectacular, indeed.  After 14 victories, only two are needed to approximate a perfect regular season (16-0) in the National Football League.  Slate's Mark Joseph Stern, in a paean to U.S. District Judge Jones who ruled in the Pa. matter), (perhaps inadvertently) explained this extraordinary run when he maintained "federal judges across the country are writing impressively cogent and increasingly eloquent defenses of marriage equality. These judges know this is their shot at a very specific kind of immortality, and they seem to be in subtle competition with each other to write the one marriage equality opinion that history remembers."

If this analysis is accurate, judges are in a competition not only to write the most memorable passages, but probably also to be the next to rule prohibition of same-sex marriage unconstitutional.

While the equal protection and the due process clauses of the Fourteenth Amendment are typically cited by the judiciary, much of the underpinning of the reasoning lies in the concept of marriage as a fundamental right, with laws limiting the right thus subject to strict scrutiny. A year before the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the Defense of Marriage Act, the American Foundation for Equal Rights identified fourteen (fitting, though completely coincidental) cases- spanning the years 1888 through 2003- in which the High Court found that marriage is a fundamental right.

It is ironic- and advocates of gay marriage should be forgiven a wry satisfaction- that the right to same-sex marriage, resisted by (most)  conservatives, should be ushered in by reinforcement of a value held dear by many on the right.   The website of the National Organization for Marriage, thus, features two articles (of three) which are explicitly supportive of the institution of marriage. They are "National Organization For Marriage Announces Governor Mike Huckabee As Honored Guest And Featured Speaker For June 18th March For Marriage In Washington, D.C."  and "Pro-Marriage Notre Dame Student Remains Resolute" (the third: "Share This Far & Wide!"). Courts to conservatives:  there is a fundamental right to marriage so its restriction to straight individuals violates equal protection.  Conservatives: darn right marriage is the ideal!

And to square the circle, comes a photograph from the Associated Press of a happy Pennsylvania couple, one of the women especially glad because she has gotten an engagement ring because, presumably, there can be no greater aspiration for a woman than to get married:

Thrilled to get the bling.  You've come a long way, baby.

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Wednesday, May 21, 2014

More Than One Way To Win Elections

Voter suppression activists want us to believe obtaining identification valid for voting is as simple as a trip to a government office.  Not so, apparently, as the New York Daily News (from which the photograph below is taken) reports

A frail 92-year-old woman is the latest victim of new voter identification laws sweeping across the U.S.

Ruby Barber, a senior citizen in the small town of Bellmead, Texas, has been unable to vote because she can’t find her nearly century-old birth certificate that she’d need to obtain a voter ID under a new state law.

“I’m sure (my birth) was never reported because I was born in a farmhouse with a coal oil lamp,” Barber, 92, told the Waco (Texas) Tribune. “Didn’t have a doctor, just a neighbor woman come in and (delivered) me.”

Barber visited the state’s Department of Public Safety office last week to request the newly required election identification certificate, but was declined after she didn’t have a birth certificate.

Under Texas’s new strict voter ID law, enacted in June 2013, all voters must show one of six forms of valid photo identification — including a driver’s license, a passport, a military ID or concealed gun permit — to be able to vote.

Those who lack a valid photo ID, can apply for an election identification certificate (EIC) — a process that requires a birth certificate or other proof of citizenship.

Barber, unfortunately, no longer has any of the documents she’d need to obtain a ballot.
According to the Tribune, her driver’s license expired in 2010 and her marriage license was lost in a 1992 house fire.

But all she had to do was prove that she is a citizen, or of age, or a resident of the state.  Not so, given that

She took her Medicare card, Social Security card and expired driver’s license to state officials when she sought her EIC, but agency staff insisted she needed to provide a birth certificate.

But that is only one person who was denied the right to vote. Surely, that pales in comparison to all the other individuals which such laws would prevent from improperly voting. Brad Friedman explains that legislative Democrats in Iowa thus far have blocked have prevented GOP efforts  to enact a photo identification restriction law.  He notes

On Friday, the Sec. of State released the long-awaited results of his two-year, $250,000 investigation into Iowa voter fraud. Iowa's Division of Criminal Investigation (DCI), commissioned by Schultz to carry out the probe, was able to find just 117 cases of illegal voting in the last two years.

Out of more than 1.5 million votes cast in the 2012 general election alone, the allegedly illegal votes cast in the state amount to an infinitesimal 0.008427933%. Still, even that number overstates the incidences of voter fraud Schultz was able to find in Iowa, which happens to include zero cases of in-person voter impersonation that Photo ID laws are supposedly meant to deter. Zero.

With courts striking down photo ID laws in Arkansas, Wisconsin, and Pennsylvania, Friedman observes

While prosecuting criminal voter fraud is indeed important --- no matter how small the amount --- the utter failure to cite any evidence of voter fraud at the polls that might be deterred by Photo ID restrictions has perhaps hit a tipping point. In case after case, at both the state and federal level, repeated findings by courts that far more votes stand to be blocked than illegal ones prevented seems to be reaching a critical mass. 

Michael Gerson and Peter Wehner have found "If the country’s demographic composition were still the same in 2012 as it was in 2000, Romney would now be president. If it were still the same as it was in 1992, he would have won in a rout.  But it's not.  And Republicans know it.  Their ace in the hole is voter identification laws, and they will keep trying.

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A Reformer, For Better And Worse

The American people are not stupid.  They- or we- are very, very sharp. Following a meeting in March held by three members of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus, one of the trio, Representative Luis Gutierrez of Illinois, stated "we made abundantly clear to the president the kind of pain and the kind of demand which exists throughout the immigrant communities of this nation for a more humane process when it comes to deportation, the breaking up of families, the children left without parents."  And Politico reported Tuesday that Gutierrez (shown in photo, from Politico, below)

has long been a fierce advocate for immigration reform. In 2011, he was arrested in front of the White House while participating in an immigration rally. He has often criticized President Barack Obama for his deportation policy and for what Gutiérrez called his failure to address the issue adequately during his first term. He was also reportedly part of a group of Hispanic lawmakers who almost blocked a vote on the Affordable Care Act in 2010 in the interest of forcing the president to act on immigration reform.

And yet, with a record number of deported immigrants and failure to obtain comprehensive immigration reform, President Obama secured 71% of the vote of Hispanics in 2012, and-despite a recent drop in support- remains more popular with this rapidly growing demographic group than with the public at large, which remains suspicious of the sort of immigration reform the vast majority of Democrats (and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus) supports.

Both opponents of reform and the Hispanic community, while unaware of details, snese where Obama stands on granting legalization to illegal immigrants already in the USA.  Last month the L.A. Times found

... the portrait of a steadily increasing number of deportations rests on statistics that conceal almost as much as they disclose.  A closer examination shows that immigrants living illegally in most of the continental U.S. are less likely to be deported today than before Obama came to office, according to immigration data.

Expulsions of people who are settled and working in the United States have fallen steadily since his first year in office, and are down more than 40% since 2009.

On the other side of the ledger, the number of people deported at or near the border has gone up- primarily as a result of changing who gets counted in the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency's deportation statistics.

The vast majority of those border crossers would not have been treated as formal deporations under most previous administrations. If all removals were tallied, the total sent back to Mexico each year would have been far higher under those previous administrations than it is now...

Until recent years, most people caught illegally crossing the southern border were simply bused back into Mexico in what officials called "voluntary returns," but which critics derisively termed "catch and release."  

Those removals, which during the 1990s reached more than 1 million a year, were not counted in Immigration and Customs Enforcement's deportation statistics.

Support for President Obama in the Hispanic community recently has taken a hit, in part because of plunging approval of the Affordable Care Act.  But the President continues to rate more highly with that electorate than with the electorate at large. This suggests that, despite criticism of immigration activists, Latinos recognize that Obama and his party are on their side, a sentiment not shared by the nation at large.

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Monday, May 19, 2014

Go Ahead. Talk About Race. I Dare You.

Michelle Obama supports Donald Sterling. She hasn't said so, of course, and probably has little more than contempt for him because of what he believes, though as an Obama, she probably admires him for the obscene wealth he has been able to accumulate.

At the height of the controversy over Sterling's thoughts, Brayden Goyette of The Huffington Post noted the Los Angeles Clippers' owner had been sued twice, in 2003 and in 2006, for housing discrimination and

The first suit, brought by 19 tenants with the help of the nonprofit Housing Rights Center, accused Sterling of forcing blacks and Latinos out of his rental properties, and ended in a confidential settlement in 2005. The second accused him of refusing to rent to African-Americans in Beverly Hills and to non-Koreans in LA's Koreatown. It ended in a record $2.725 million payout to the Justice Department. Sterling denied wrongdoing in both cases.

Most people were not aware of Sterling's apparent history of racial discrimination and even fewer cared, at least among the monied interests which control the NBA and the mainstream media. Sterling was spared appropriate opprobrium in the court of public opinion because he had acted nefariously, rather than engaging in offensive speech, which would have raised more eyebrows.

Sterling instead has been banned from the National Basketball Association, which appears not to have cared a whit that the owner of one of its teams profited handsomely from illegally restricting the housing choices of blacks whom, you may have heard, constitute a substantial portion of the players in the NBA.  Instead, he has been punished and ostracized for what would more fittingly be termed thoughts, rather than behavior or even speech. Sterling's conversation with his girlfriend was conducted in private, not for attribution, and thus did not even rise to the level of the storied speech in the public square, constitutionally protected from government regulation.

That should have brought him support from the First Lady (photo below from Politico), who marked the 60th anniversary of Brown v. Board of Education by telling high school seniors in Topeka "This issue is so sensitive, it’s so complicated, so bound up with a painful history. No matter what you do, the point is to never be afraid to talk about these issues, particularly the issue of race, because even today, we still struggle to do that."

Inadvertently, Donald Sterling talked of race, and it is proving to have been a very, very costly mistake.   Mrs. Obama really didn't mean there should be an honest, if uncomfortable, discussion of race, given that it was a mere prelude to the more sincere "We know that today in America, too many folks are still stopped on the street because of the color of their skin, or they’re made to feel unwelcome because of where they come from, or they’re bullied because of who they love."  Advocacy of illegal immigration and of same-sex marriage, as well as opposition to racial profiling are issues supported by the Democratic establishment, ones conveniently dovetailing with causes the donor base is comfortable with.

No surprise there, coming from the creator of the "Let's Move" campaign, in which the First Lady boldly came out in favor of exercise while fooling some of us into thinking she was deeply concerned about diet and nutrition. Following publication of  "Fat Chance: The Bitter Truth About Sugar" by pediatric endocrinologist Robert Lustig," The Guardian in March 2013 reported Lustig explaining

"Government has tied its wagon to the food industry because, at least in America, 6% of our exports are food. That includes the legislative and executive branches. So the White House is in bed with the food industry and Congress apologises (sic) for the food industry.

Michelle Obama appeared to be onside when she launched her Let's Move initiative in February 2010 with a speech to the Grocery Manufacturers Association of America. "She took it straight to them and said, 'You're the problem. You're the solution.' She hasn't said it since. Now it's all about exercise.

"Far be it from me to bad-mouth somebody who wants to do the right thing. But I'm telling you right now she's been muzzled. No question of it." In his book he tells of a private conversation with the White House chef, who he claims told him the administration agreed with him but did not want a fight with the food industry.

So Michelle Obama speaks of immigration and gay rights, issues which will not offend the interests which have controlled her husband's Administration.  And she criticizes racism and declares that we all should not be afraid to talk about race.   Donald Sterling tried that, in private.  Good luck doing that in public, unless the views expressed are compatible with those of certain people.

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Saturday, May 17, 2014

Rubio Believes It, So Everyone Else Does.

Must we educate Marco Antonio Rubio?  He clearly is an adult, within two weeks of his 43rd birthday. He is even reputed to have graduated college and attained a law degree.  So it's only reasonable to ask how this accomplished young man, questioning whether human activity contributes to climate change,  recently stated to Sean Hannity

Let me give you a bit of settled science that they’ll never admit to he science is settled, it’s not even a consensus, it is a unanimity, that human life begins at conception. I hope the next time someone wags their finger about science, they’ll ask one of these leaders on the left: ‘Do you agree with the consensus of science that human life begins at conception?

The Senator (photo from AP via Think Progress), anxious to steer the conversation away from floods, droughts, and other climactic events worsened by climate change, veers off into conception.  Does life begin when a the lungs of a fetus function: at about the 23rd week, hence when a fetus can survive outside the womb, the generally understood point of viability? By the 27th week when there is"well-organized" brain activity- or approximately five weeks later when fetal brain activity is similar to that of a baby at birth?

Or perhaps life begins when the fetus can feel pain, at about the seven month, or 29-30 weeks into pregnancy. Pinpointing the beginning of life can hinge on a person's values- or be determined depending upon the individual's opinion of whether abortion should be approved.As Gregg Easterbrook argued in 2000

the notion that sacredness begins when sperm meets egg hinges on the assumption that it is God's plan that each act of conception should lead to a baby.

But new science shows that conception usually does not produce a baby. "The majority of cases in which there is a fertilized egg result in the non-realization of a person," says Dr. Machelle Seibel, a reproductive endocrinologist at the Boston University School of Medicine. What exists just after conception is called a zygote. Research now suggests that only about half of all zygotes implant in the uterine wall and become embryos; the others fail to continue dividing and expire. Of those embryos that do trigger pregnancy, only around 65 percent lead to live births, even with the best prenatal care. The rest are lost to natural miscarriage. All told, only about one-third of sperm-egg unions result in babies, even when abortion is not a factor.

Two years earlier, Dr. Allen J. Wilcox of the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences in Research Triangle Park, N.C had found that 31% of all pregnancy ends in miscarriage, usually early in pregnancy and often before women even know they're pregnant.  That, of course, includes only those zygotes which become embryos.

Easterbrook- who made a compelling pro-choice argument for the first two trimesters and pro-life argument for the third- was only half-right when he maintained the idea of when "sacredness begins" is "derived from interpretation rather than from Scripture- the Bible says nothing about when the spark of life is struck."

The pro-life notion of "sacredness" does derive from interpretation rather than directly from Scripture- but for good reason.   Genesis 2:7 (ESV) reads "then the Lord God formed the man of dust from the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living creature."  Typically, a fetus "practices breathing" at week 32, according to the Mayo Clinic.

When Marco Rubio claims there is unanimity that life begins at conception, he is wrong on the science. And he is wrong on the Bible. But he is not only wrong, having claimed not that life begins at conception, or that life it evidently begins then, or that most people believe it.He says there is "unanimity."  Marco Rubio has become the Florida Fabricator.

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Friday, May 16, 2014

Faulkner Among Us

When  "Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures With Exceptional Americans” was called "basically historical fanfiction that Rush Limbaugh has written about himself," Washington Post columnist Alexandra Petri probably could not have imagined the talk-show host would garner the Author of the Year award of the Children's Book Council.

But it has happened, as Salon's Prachi Gupta explains:

The children of America have spoken, and they want more Rush Limbaugh (before continuing, please take a moment of silence for America’s future). On Wednesday night, the conservative radio commentator and “quivering rage heap,” as Jon Stewart has called him, accepted the “Author of the Year” award at the 7th annual Children’s and Teen Choice Book Awards charity gala in New York.

“Rush Revere and the Brave Pilgrims: Time-Travel Adventures With Exceptional Americans,” which has been on the New York Times bestseller list for nearly 30 weeks now, is about a substitute teacher with superpowers — conveniently named “Rush Revere” — and his time-traveling horse. It’s, as the Washington Post called it, basically “historical fanfiction about himself.” The two travel back in time to visit the Pilgrims, sharing what Limbaugh has called “the true story of Thanksgiving.” It’s gotten mixed reviews from critics, though the worst (and therefore, best) calls it “God-awful … really, breathtakingly, laughably terrible.”

When it was announced that Limbaugh’s book was listed among the “Author of the Year Award” finalists in March, the Children’s Book Council felt compelled to remind the public that the books in the category “are determined solely based on titles’ performances on the bestseller lists,” and the rest is left to a vote by children. Ultimately, though, Limbaugh’s book beat out Veronica Roth’s “Allegiant,” Rachel Renee Russell’s, “Dork Diaries 6: Tales From a Not-So-Happy Heartbreaker,” Rick Riordan’s, “The House of Hades,” and Jeff Kinney’s “Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck.”

“This is unexpected,” said Limbaugh at the podium when accepting the award (at the 59:20 mark in this video). “But it’s a thrill.”

“I love America. I wish everybody did. I hope everybody will. It’s one of the most fascinating stories in human history,” Limbaugh continued. “It’s a delight and it’s an opportunity to try to share that story with young people so they can grow and learn to love and appreciate the country in which they’re growing up and will someday run and lead and inherit.”

Yes, he loves America. And here is how he loved it, four days before inauguration of the 44th President: 

If I wanted Obama to succeed, I'd be happy the Republicans have laid down. And I would be encouraging Republicans to lay down and support him...

Were the liberals out there hoping Bush succeeded or were they out there trying to destroy him before he was even inaugurated? Why do we have to play the game by their rules? Why do we have to accept the premise here that because of the historical nature of his presidency, that we want him to succeed? This is affirmative action, if we do that. We want to promote failure, we want to promote incompetence, we want to stand by and not object to what he's doing simply because of the color of his skin?

And here is how, five days later and one day after the inauguration, he loved his country when buddy Sean Hannity threw him a life preserver:

Why would I want that to succeed? I don't believe in that. I know that's not how this country is going to be great in the future, it's not what made this country great.

So I shamelessly say, no, I want him to fail, if his agenda is a far- left collectivism, some people say socialism, as a conservative heartfelt, deeply, why would I want socialism to succeed?

The Children's Book Council has its rules, and they cannot change them in the midst of discovering a hyper-partisan extremist is about to win one of their awards.   Still, self-examination is in order when an organization finds itself honoring, and arguably presenting as a role model to children, a $50 million a year man who so humbly (his humble abode, below) declared on the first of those occasions "I'm happy to be the last man standing. I'm honored to be the last man standing. Yeah, I'm the true maverick."

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Racehorse Genes

Credit the discovery to Michael D'Antonio.  He conducted a series of interviews with Donald J. Trump in 2014, of whom Donald Trump Jr....