Featured Posts

Let Our People Vote

Today, Democrats in Congress will introduce the Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015, a bill intended to repair the damage done to the Voting Rights Act by the Shelby County v Holder Supreme Court ruling two years ago.

The bill will face an uphill battle because one of our major national parties (sadly, the one in a majority right now) is bent on shrinking the franchise in order to continue to hang onto power. But it is important to present the Good Government alternative to their obstructionism:

The Voting Rights Advancement Act of 2015 would compel states with a well-documented history of recent voting discrimination to clear future voting changes with the federal government, require federal approval for voter ID laws, and outlaw new efforts to suppress the growing minority vote.

The legislation will be formally introduced tomorrow by Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, and leaders of the Black Caucus, Hispanic Caucus, and Asian Pacific American Caucus in the House. Civil-rights icon Representative John Lewis will be a co-sponsor. The bill is much stronger than the Voting Rights Amendment Act of 2014 (VRAA), Congress’s initial response to the Supreme Court’s decision, which garnered bipartisan support in the House but was not embraced by the congressional Republican leadership, which declined to schedule a hearing, let alone a vote, on the bill.[…]

The 2016 election will be the first in 50 years where voters will not have the full protections of the VRA, which adds urgency to the congressional effort.

The 2016 election can be summed up pretty succinctly as the “Use It Or Lose It” election as Democrats, including our likely nominee Hillary Clinton, have lined up on the side of expanding voting rights … and Republicans have made it clear that they have no interest in fixing any of the problems with our current system (the bill has no Republican sponsors).

Leonard Pitts: “Where can we find sanctuary?”

Leonard Pitts, widely syndicated opinion writer for the Miami Herald, published an editorial yesterday: There is no sanctuary

He begins with the definition of “sanctuary”:

The main hall of a church is called a sanctuary.

It is where you go to worship, to seek fellowship and solace, and commune with your maker. The dictionary definition of the word adds an additional layer of resonance. A sanctuary is where you are sheltered and protected. A sanctuary is where you are safe.

Wednesday night, Emanuel AME church in Charleston, S.C., was a church without a sanctuary. Wednesday night, Emanuel AME was a killing ground.

The killer, dishonoring sanctuary, shouted out his manifesto of hatred:

“I have to do it,” [confessed killer Dylann] Roof is quoted as saying. “You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

If there is reason to believe the Rev. Pinckney or any of his congregants guilty of raping anyone or plotting to overthrow the government, it has not yet come to light.

But of course, when Roof said “you,” he did not mean “you,” singular. Rather he meant, “you,” plural. “You” people. “You” all. Individuality is, after all, the first casualty of racism.

In a country that Pitts points out is in the grip of gun fetishism, he suggests that this crime is not surprising. And he goes on to talk about the myth that allows people who should know better to declare that our country is post-racial and challenges them:

Let them go to any of a hundred cities and talk to black people who are sick of hearing how America overcame, learned its lesson, reached the Promised Land, yet somehow, sister can’t get a loan, dad can’t find a job, brother has to factor stop-and-frisk encounters into his travel time to and from school, and Walter Scott gets shot in the back while running away. All for rapes they never committed and government takeovers they never planned.

This!

Solange Knowles, sister of Beyonce, put it as follows Thursday in a tweet: “Was already weary. Was already heavy hearted. Was already tired. Where can we be safe? Where can we be free? Where can we be black?

Where, in other words, can we find just a moment to breathe free of this constant onus? Where can we find sanctuary?

It is up to white allies, people of goodwill, willing to own our part in what our country has become, to declare ourselves people who refuse to bury our heads in the sand, people who won’t just say “this has to stop” but will vow to MAKE IT STOP.

The promises of Abraham Lincoln in the Emancipation Proclamation (underscored by the sacrifices of those who died to preserve the union and end slavery) should not be left unfulfilled 150 years later, the promises of Lyndon Baines Johnson and the Democratic Congresses of the early 1960s (passing into law the Civil Rights Act and the Voting Rights Act) should not be left unfulfilled over 50 years later. It is time we, all Americans, fulfilled those promises … and provide sanctuary.

Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. You can help.


Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, Charleston, SC

If you are feeling the need to immediately do something to help the congregation of Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal (AME) Church, you can donate directly to the church, which accepts paypal and credit cards.

The mayor of Charleston has also announced a fund:

Charleston’s Mayor Joseph P. Riley, Jr. has set up “Mother Emanuel Hope” fund at Wells Fargo bank. The city has already pledged $5,000. The fund will help family members pay for funerals, counseling and other financial needs. Donations can be made by walking into any of Wells Fargo’s 6,200 banking locations. An online portal to donate will be live soon, but for now you can make a check out to “Mother Emanuel Hope Fund” and send it to the address below:
Mother Emanuel Hope Fund
C/O City of Charleston
P.O. Box 304 Charleston, SC 29402.

Thank you in advance.

Editors Note: Original Post Date of June 19, 2015 @ 10:52 changed to re-promote in Featured Posts.

Weekly Address: President Obama – Creating New Pathways of Opportunity for Americans Like You

The President’s Weekly Address post is also an Open News Thread. Feel free to share other news stories in the comments.

From the White HouseWeekly Address

In this week’s address, the President spoke to his priority of growing the economy and opening new avenues of opportunity for hardworking Americans. While the United States has already made economic progress, with more than 12 million new private sector jobs created over the past five years, there’s still more to be done. That’s why the President has continued to press for strong, high-standard trade agreements that are good for American workers and good for American businesses. And it’s why his Administration has partnered with mayors and governors across the country on issues such as minimum wage and paid leave that impact hardworking Americans. The President discussed impactful initiatives like these in his address before the Conference of Mayors on Friday.

Odds & Ends: News/Humor

I post a weekly diary of historical notes, arts & science items, foreign news (often receiving little notice in the US) and whimsical pieces from the outside world that I often feature in “Cheers & Jeers”.

OK, you’ve been warned – here is this week’s tomfoolery material that I posted.

President Obama: “The world noticed”

On Saturday, June 6, President Obama delivered a eulogy in honor of Beau Biden, the son of his friend and vice-president, Joe Biden.

PRESIDENT OBAMA:

Without love, life can be cold and it can be cruel. Sometimes cruelty is deliberate –- the action of bullies or bigots, or the inaction of those indifferent to another’s pain. But often, cruelty is simply born of life, a matter of fate or God’s will, beyond our mortal powers to comprehend. To suffer such faceless, seemingly random cruelty can harden the softest hearts, or shrink the sturdiest. It can make one mean, or bitter, or full of self-pity. Or, to paraphrase an old proverb, it can make you beg for a lighter burden.

But if you’re strong enough, it can also make you ask God for broader shoulders; shoulders broad enough to bear not only your own burdens, but the burdens of others; shoulders broad enough to shield those who need shelter the most.

To know Beau Biden is to know which choice he made in his life. To know Joe and the rest of the Biden family is to understand why Beau lived the life he did.

Like his father, Beau did not have a mean bone in his body. The cruelty he’d endured in his life didn’t make him hard, it made him compassionate, empathetic. But it did make him abhor bullies.

Beau’s grandfather, Joe’s father, believed that the most egregious sin was to abuse your power to inflict pain on another. So Beau squared his broad shoulders to protect people from that kind of abuse. He fought for homeowners who were cheated, seniors who were scammed. He even went after bullying itself. He set up a Child Protector — Predator Task Force, convicted more than 200 of those who targeted vulnerable children.

You know, anyone can make a name for themselves in this reality TV age, especially in today’s politics. If you’re loud enough or controversial enough, you can get some attention. But to make that name mean something, to have it associated with dignity and integrity –- that is rare. There’s no shortcut to get it. It’s not something you can buy. […]

That’s what our country was built on –- men like Beau. That’s who built it –- families like this. We don’t have kings or queens or lords. We don’t have to be born into money to have an impact. We don’t have to step on one another to be successful. We have this remarkable privilege of being able to earn what we get out of life, with the knowledge that we are no higher than anybody else, or lower than anybody else. We know this not just because it is in our founding documents, but because families like the Bidens have made it so, because people like Beau have made it so.

As hard as it is right now, through all the heartache and through all the tears, it is our obligation to Beau to think not about what was and what might have been, but instead to think about what is, because of him. Think about the day that dawns for children who are safer because of Beau, whose lives are fuller, because of him. Think about the day that dawns for parents who rest easier, and families who are freer, because of him. Some folks may never know that their lives are better because of Beau Biden. But that’s okay. Certainly for Beau, acclaim was never the point of public service.

Jill, Joe, Hallie, Hunter and Natalie — the world noticed. They noticed. They felt it, his presence. And Beau lives on in the lives of others. And isn’t that the whole point of our time here? To make this country we love fairer and more just, not just for Natalie and Hunter, or Naomi, or Finnegan, or Maisy, or Malia, or Sasha, but for every child? Isn’t that what this amazing journey we’ve been on is all about -– to make life better for the next generation?

Full transcript below.

An ode to the Butterfield Blues Band

While I had other musical favorites in my youth, the Paul Butterfield Blues Band earned their recent induction into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame – in addition to its talent pool – its nature as an integrated band (along with Sly & the Family Stone, at a time when that was rare), its innovative blend of musical styles (deviating from pure blues) as time went along and its helping to establish Chicago electric blues as the most popular style in the US, away from the Delta acoustic blues that was the dominant style at the dawn of the 1960’s.

Among the reasons why the band was unable to become a household name (despite its obvious talents) were the numerous personnel changes – something of a revolving door – and while the changes expanded the group’s sound, it also led to an inconsistent sound.

The passing of Beau Biden

Last night, Beau Biden, son of Vice President Joe Biden, died of the brain cancer he had been battling since 2013.

This is Beau Biden at the DNC in 2008, introducing his Dad:

(grab kleenexes)

From the White House: Statement by the President on the Passing of Beau Biden:

Michelle and I are grieving tonight. Beau Biden was a friend of ours. His beloved family – Hallie, Natalie, and Hunter – are friends of ours. And Joe and Jill Biden are as good as friends get. […]

… for all that Beau Biden achieved in his life, nothing made him prouder; nothing made him happier; nothing claimed a fuller focus of his love and devotion than his family.

Just like his dad.

Joe is one of the strongest men we’ve ever known. He’s as strong as they come, and nothing matters to him more than family. It’s one of the things we love about him. And it is a testament to Joe and Jill – to who they are – that Beau lived a life that was full; a life that mattered; a life that reflected their reverence for family.