On March 7, 1965, six hundred civil rights marchers began what was supposed to be a fifty mile march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in order to demand the right to vote. Six blocks later, they reached the crest of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and discovered that their path was blocked by what march leader and future Congressman John Lewis (D-GA) describes as a “sea of blue” — row after row of Alabama state troopers on foot and on horseback, armed with billy clubs, bull whips and tear gas. Within minutes, the troopers set upon the marchers, choking the marchers with gas, trampling them with horses and beating them with their weapons. Lewis still bears the scar from a blow that fractured his skull, and seventeen marchers were hospitalized for the crime of demanding something already guaranteed to them by the Fifteenth Amendment of to the Constitution.
Footage of the police’s cold and systematic brutality soon led national newscasts, some of which can be viewed here:
Within a week, national outrage reached such a crescendo that President Lyndon Johnson, a Southerner with a very mixed record on race, could no longer remain silent. On March 15, 1965, a president who voted against every single civil rights bill during his first 20 years in Congress — including bills aimed at ending lynching — entered the House Chamber to speak to a joint session of Congress. In the half hour that followed, a clearly reformed President Johnson laid out the framework for what became the Voting Rights Act of 1964, and he twice uttered the rallying cry of the Civil Rights Movement — “We Shall Overcome.”
Lyndon Johnson signed that law 47 years ago today, and with it dealt one of the final and most penetrating blows to American apartheid. Yet it is also true that Jim Crow had many executioners. One was a law Johnson signed just a year earlier banning discrimination in workplaces, public facilities and many places of business. Another was the growing determination of the Civil Rights movement, buttressed by a national sense of outrage, as Americans repeatedly watched peaceful protesters willingly submit themselves to brutality.
And many of Jim Crow’s executioners wore black robes.
Twelve years after Brown v. Board of Education revived the constitutional guarantee of “equal protection of the laws” that had been stolen by eight justices from another era. Southern states asked the Supreme Court to invalidate the Voting Rights Act based on arguments closely resembling more recent attacks on Congress’ power to address national problems. Like the Affordable Care Act’s opponents, the Jim Crow states insisted that extending the promise of democracy to all Americans exceeded the national government’s power. And like the Affordable Care Act’s opponents, they insisted that the law must be unconstitutional because it was in many ways unprecedented.
Pointing to the Voting Rights Act’s requirement that Jim Crow states preclear any new voting restrictions with the Justice Department or a federal court, South Carolina complained that “there is no precedent in the history of the Union for such an abuse of  power.” Virginia’s amicus brief attacking the law claimed that the power to set voter qualifications “remains with the States . . . and it has never been lodged anywhere else.” Alabama’s brief warned that this power “has never been delegated to the Federal Government.” And Georgia called it “the most drastic law ever proposed.”
The Supreme Court rejected these arguments, with every single justice but one joining the majority opinion in full.
Today, however, America has a very different Supreme Court, and several states have filed new lawsuits similar to the ones that failed more than four decades ago. These lawsuits are widely expected to succeed in a Supreme Court that has shown little regard for voting rights, or for preserving the hard fought gains of the Civil Rights era.
As these new lawsuits proceed, we will certainly have a lot to say about how they endanger voters’ ability to protect their own voting rights, and how they will embolden conservative lawmakers backing new efforts to keep unwanted voters from voting. On this anniversary of the most important voting rights law in American history, however, we remain deeply grateful that the Roberts Court did not sit in the 1960s — and that the viability of the Voting Rights Act was never truly in doubt when it faced its first challenge in the Supreme Court.
Rupert Murdoch is evidently not a fan of paid sick leave. Over the weekend, the media mogul trashed the New York Times for its editorial supporting New York City’s paid sick leave bill, arguing that small businesses shouldn’t be required to let employees take a day off if they’ve got the flu or have to stay home to care for a sick child.
Murdoch, who owns two other New York papers and so may have a vendetta against the Times, posted his thoughts over Twitter:
Somebody needs to stand up to NYT which today editorialises strongly for absurd city council actions which will truly hurt small businesses
— Rupert Murdoch(@rupertmurdoch) August 5, 2012
Following on Murdoch’s comments, the New York Daily News editorial board also came out against the sick day initiative, praising City Council Speaker Christine Quinn (D) for opposing the bill.
The proposed law would require any business in New York City with over 20 employees to give a total of nine paid sick days a year; for those with 19 or fewer employees, five paid sick days would be required.
The people who are most affected by a lack of paid sick days are low-income people who work hourly wage jobs. Single mothers, in particular, are hit hard when they risk losing money, if not their job, to take care of a sick child.
Studies suggest that employees who get paid time off end up healthier. Indeed, access to paid sick leave leads to a decrease in occupational injuries. Plus, when sick employees have paid time off, they don’t risk losing their job or their wages by taking a day to recover, and thus they don’t show up to work sick, possibly spreading disease to coworkers and causing an overall drop in productivity.
The International Energy Agency was, until recently, a conservative and staid body. When I was at the U.S. Department of Energy in the 1990s, we ignored most IEA reports, because, like the vast majority of energy forecasters, they inevitably projected that the future would simply continue the trends of the recent past.
But now, of course, if we stay on current trends, we are going to utterly destroy a livable climate and ruin the lives of billions of people. Even so, attention must be paid when a major international body is so uncharacteristically blunt, when they actually lead their website with this bombshell headline from their own news release!
Anyone who follows the IEA or Climate Progress knows that they and many others have been issuing this warning for the last year or two (see “Yes, Deniers And Confusionists, The IEA And Others Warn Of Some 11°F Warming by 2100 If We Keep Listening To You“).
And because the world just keeps blithely dumping more and more carbon pollution into the air, the leadership of the IEA has been increasingly blunt. Their chief economist, Fatih Birol, said late last year that the world is on pace for 11°F warming, and ?Even School Children Know This Will Have Catastrophic Implications for All of Us.? If only school children ran the world!
The IEA news release is about the recent remarks of Deputy Executive Director Richard H. Jones:
Ambassador Richard H. Jones warned that if energy policies do not adapt, enough carbon dioxide will be being emitted to reach 1,000 parts per million in the atmosphere. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change that equates to 6º Celsius increase in temperature by the end of this century. ?That?s basically Miami Beach in Boston,? he said.
Of course, 1000 ppm is also the Pacific Ocean all over Miami Beach, so Miami beach has to go somewhere.
Kudos to the IEA for telling it like it is. Is anyone listening?
State Rep. Larry Pittman (R) had a strong reaction to a recent email from Planned Parenthood that appealed state legislators not to cut funding to the organization. Pittman responded to the email, which was sent to each member of the NC House of Representatives Health and Human Services Appropriations committee at the end of May, with allegations that Planned Parenthood is a “murderous organization”:
PITTMAN: [Planned Parenthood] is a murderous organization?getting wealthy on murder for hire. It deals out nothing but deception, death, personal devastation, and moral degradation. Never will I agree to give that bloody, indecent, immoral organization one penny. I will not be satisfied until it is outlawed.
North Carolina’s Planned Parenthood clinics are facing budget cuts that will essentially serve to defund the organization, a tactic that Republicans across the country are using to attack Planned Parenthood. The Republican-controlled legislature passed a budget in July that strips state funding for the organization and its affiliates.
Some North Carolina residents are criticizing Rep. Pittman’s harsh email response, pointing our that “regardless of anyone’s stance on abortion, the point of this story is how unprofessional and inappropriate our elected government official has acted.” When the Independent Tribune asked Pittman to comment on this criticism, he simply doubled down on his overblown rhetoric:
PITTMAN: My sources tell me that 75 percent of [Planned Parenthood?s] income comes through abortions. To say that they would try to reduce the incidence of abortion is like saying a baker would go around trying to get people to stop eating bread.
Pittman’s sources are wrong. Nationwide, abortion services contribute to just three percent of Planned Parenthood’s total health services. In North Carolina alone, Planned Parenthood’s health clinics provide over 18,000 tests for sexually transmitted infections, over 11,000 breast and cervical cancer screenings, and contraceptive services to more than 61,000 women.
This is not the first instance that Pittman, who is running unopposed for reelection in his district, has circulated his radical anti-choice views over email. In January, he sent an email to every member of North Carolina’s General Assembly to say he favors bringing back public hangings for abortion providers.
A new report in the medical journal The Lancet details the available data about how stigma against homosexuality across the globe is interfering with efforts to slow down the spread of HIV. The article notes that “most global cases of HIV are not due to homosexual transmission,” but anti-gay laws, harassment, intimidation, silence, and invisibility still have a major impact on the effectiveness of HIV advocacy and outreach:
Almost everywhere, rates of HIV infection are higher in men who have sex with men than in the rest of the population. This is partly because of inadequate information, denial of resources for prevention services of all sorts, and because heterosexism and homophobia marginalise people and make them less able to adopt preventive techniques, even if they are available. Although difficult to prove conclusively, good evidence shows that greater stigma and criminalisation helps increase vulnerability to infection.[...]
Homophobia both increases vulnerability and reduces access to services. Prevention programmes directed towards homosexual men are often harassed by police, and official silence means that some men mistakenly believe that homosexual intercourse is safe. In much of the former Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Africa, and the Middle East, where any recognition of rights or citizenship is denied to homosexuals, programming of services to include MSM is difficult to achieve. Homophobia affects HIV in direct ways by driving discussion about MSM and homosexuality underground, legitimising fear and prejudice, and compromising AIDS service organisations so that they cannot work publicly with LGBT and MSM communities.
This argument jibes with reports that HIV rates in Uganda actually increased as what seems to be a backfire of the abstinence-based advocacy required by President George W. Bush’s AIDS relief plan (PEPFAR). When all gay sex is condemned ? or even simply when marriage equality is denied ? abstinence messages sound to gay men like sentences to a life of chastity, a life without love. Sexual health can only be addressed when sex is actually acknowledged and discussed, and homophobia continues to be the largest barrier to that education taking place.
A new survey shows that nearly two-thirds (64 percent) of Australians believe same-sex couples should be allowed to marry. As polls in the U.S. have similarly shown, women are more likely to support the freedom to marry (70 percent) than men (58 percent). The country’s legislature is tentatively exploring passing a same-sex marriage law and received over 45,000 supportive responses in April when it opened the issue to public comment. A new ad from Australian Marriage Equality shows how marriage “is about family, everyone’s family”:
Last week when republican Rep. Mike Kelly of Pennsylvania compared the mandate that insurance companies cover contraception with no co-pay to the attacks on Pearl Harbor and September 11, 2001 I mocked him and the idiots who nodded approvingly mercilessly. I've had about all the deep-fried bigotry I can stand and I'm not ignoring them any longer because I tried that, and they didn't go away. I have read my history and I have been paying attention for a long time. I know what real attacks on religious freedom look like, and I always have. That's why I have no patience for the hyperbole of nitwits and jackasses who try to paint Christians as some sort of "persecuted" class in this country.
Real religious persecution happened twice yesterday. If anyone wants to mark a day on their calendar to acknowledge and mourn attacks on religious liberty they should skip over August 1 and go right for August 5. That is the day that six worshipers killed in a Milwaukee Sikh temple and also the day that a mosque in Joplin, Missouri was burned to the ground in the middle of the night. That same mosque was the site of an arson attack on July 4. That crime remains unsolved and it looks like the perpetrator or perpetrators went back and finished the job.
The religious bigotry in this nation has reached epidemic proportions. Right-wing evangelical Christians use their faith as a cudgel to condemn, vilify and demonize not just other faiths, but other Christians who don't believe the same way they do. Especially the ones who go around acting like that dirty effin' hippie Jesus Christ told them to...you know, feeding the hungry, clothing the naked, comforting the afflicted and afflicting the comfortable.
The anti-Muslim bigotry has troubled me since September 12th, 2001. That is the day I answered the phone in a public health clinic that served a large immigrant population of Islamic Somali refugees and was told by a gravelly voice on the other end of the line that I should have my throat slit for being a traitor to my country and delivering competent, quality healthcare to non-Christian immigrants. "And you'll get it, too, Bitch. Maybe it'll be a white person who puts you down for being a traitor, but it will probably be one of them 'Mooslum n*ggers' you love so much. You make me sick. I could kill you myself you miserable America-hating cunt." That call was the first, but certainly not the last that was in that vein. We vacated the place several times in the following weeks because we took all of the bomb threats that were called in seriously.
I was mortified a few days later when I learned that a Sikh gas station owner in Arizona had been murdered because a so-called "patriot" thought he was a Muslim and gunned him down in cold blood, but I still thought -- naively it turned out -- that sanity would be restored shortly, once the initial shock of what had happened wore off and the realization that it's a tiny fraction of not just American Muslims but Muslims everywhere who held extremist views. That belief was bolstered when then-President Bush declared that we were not at war with Islam, we were at war against terrorists.
But I was wrong about that. Not just wrong, but more wrong than I have been about anything, ever. The last eleven years have driven that point home over and over again. Every time a mosque has been vandalized, an immigrant has been attacked, a school child has been called a terrorist...I really woke up when a planned community center in an abandoned Burlington Coat Factory in lower Manhattan was mischaracterized as the "Ground Zero Mosque." I was horrified by Congressmen and other politicians who made proclamations that no new mosques should be built in this country and that feeling of being horrified was intensified by Rep. Peter King's anti-Jihadist, well, for the lack of a better word, Jihad. Especially when one stops to consider his open support of the IRA, a true terrorist organization that targeted not just the English they viewed as occupiers but Irish Protestants as well (who, let's be fair, are far from innocent of ethnic hatred and had much blood on their hands from killing Irish Catholics in the name of their religion).
I am horrified that in this country, a nation that is built on a foundation of religious liberty that we have not, in the 400 years since the Pilgrims landed having fled persecution, we have embraced the intolerance and hatred they were fleeing.
Today, as I absorb the events of yesterday, I weep for my country every bit as much as I did eleven years ago, when another group of extremists who followed a bastardized version of another religion hijacked four planes and flew them into the twin towers of the Word Trade Center and the Pentagon. Because the hatred and bigotry are threatening to succeed in destroying this country from the inside, and playing right into the hands of the terrorists who failed to do it from the outside.
Read The Full Article:
Nelson Schwartz reports that the prospects of Congress allowing the country to fall over the fiscal cliff, that combination of tax hikes and spending cuts set to trigger at the end of the year, has already led to businesses pulling back on hiring.[...]
Read The Full Article:
Ralph Reed, first executive director of the Christian Coalition 20 years ago and founder of the Faith and Freedom Coalition, admits that marriage equality has less resonance for the Right than it did not very long ago. The Democrats' decision to add marriage equality to party platform for 2012 sparked only a single media call to the organization, Reed said. But, he said, Mitt Romney should make a point of the issue "at every opportunity."
And that is exactly what Romney is not doing.
Neither he nor the Republican National Committee had a word to say about the Democrats move to include marriage equality on the platform.
Maggie Haberman and Emily Schultheis report:
[T]he comparative quiet from party leaders would have been unimaginable even four years ago, when public opinion hadn?t yet shifted so rapidly on a signature social issue. And it marks a dramatic change among some of the top Republican donors and opinion-makers, who are supporting same-sex marriage in state-based gay legislative and legal fights, even as the official GOP platform will remain centered on traditional marriage.
?Most Republican Party leaders seem to have lost the stomach for this fight,? said Dan Schnur of the Jesse M. Unruh Institute of Politics at the University of Southern California. ?Some of that results (from) the number of large-scale donors who support same-sex marriage, some of it?s a result in an increasing number of party leaders who support same-sex marriage, and a lot of it is public opinion polling which shows a shift in the way voters feel about same-sex marriage,? he added.
Some of those large-scale Republican donors are even backing the fight for marriage equality in upcoming state initiatives on the subject. For more than a decade, the party has backed one state initiative after another that bars marriages between same-sex couples, and in several instances civil unions as well. In 2004 alone, 13 states passed such initiatives.
But the national attitude has changed markedly since then. In 2004, only 40 percent of Democrats supported marriage equality (at a time when almost nobody called it that), and now 65 percent do, according to the latest poll by the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. (That percentage moved from 59 percent after President Obama stated his view in May that marriage equality should be the law of the land.) And while Republicans have only gone from 17 percent in favor to 24 percent in the same period, something that may be spurring Romney and the RNC to remain quiet are the 51 percent of independents who back marriage equality compared with the 37 percent who did just eight years ago.
Team Romney has resolutely repeated the presumptive GOP candidate's view that marriage is solely between a man and a woman. And the talking points have been issued, but the fire has died down:
?The Republican Party is committed to the timeless, foundational values of family, traditional marriage and life,? RNC spokeswoman Kirsten Kukowski said.Local Republican candidates will no doubt be much in evidence on the side of the one-woman, one-man definition of marriage when the voters in Maryland, Washington and Maine vote on referendums in November. But whether the party's social conservatives will object to the GOP giving marriage equality the silent treatment and try to rejuvenate the issue with a floor fight in Tampa remains to be seen.
A spokesman for Virginia Gov. Bob McDonnell, who is spearheading the GOP?s platform committee, would say only that ?The Republican Party is committed to the timeless foundational values of family, traditional marriage and life.
A second fire in less than five weeks occurred at a mosque in Joplin, Missouri early Monday morning. The cause of the latest inferno is still unknown, but Monday's flames were much more devastating than those that occurred July 4, in an incident that authorities later determined was an act of arson.
Video shot by local television news station KSNF on Monday captured massive flames engulfing the building.
Firefighters were called to the scene at the Islamic Center of Joplin around 3:30 a.m., according to KSNF.
The Jasper County Sheriff's Office told TPM a news conference has been planned for Monday afternoon, and that ATF and the FBI will be involved in the investigation.
"The building was completely destroyed; along with the security cameras," Jasper County Sheriff's Office spokesperson Sharon Rhine said in an email. "We don't know at this time if it was arson."
A call to the FBI was not immediately returned.
The FBI was involved with the investigation of the July fire, which was also set at approximately 3:30 a.m. The fire was contained on the roof, and extinguished by the Jasper County Fire Department. On July 16, the FBI announced that surveillance video showed "an unidentified white male walking up to the building and throwing an ignited object onto the roof." The bureau released a still image of the suspect from the video, and announced that the FBI and ATF were offering a combined reward of $15,000 for information leading to the arrest and indictment of the person or people responsible.