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A commendable letter by the President, in response to a fine article published last week about the history of efforts by the GOP to roll back the Voting Rights Act.
President Obama’s Letter to the Editor
I was inspired to read about unsung American heroes like Rosanell Eaton in Jim Rutenberg’s ‘‘A Dream Undone: Inside the 50-year campaign to roll back the Voting Rights Act.’’
‘‘We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union. ...’’ It’s a cruel irony that the words that set our democracy in motion were used as part of the so-called literacy test designed to deny Rosanell and so many other African-Americans the right to vote. Yet more than 70 years ago, as she defiantly delivered the Preamble to our Constitution, Rosanell also reaffirmed its fundamental truth. What makes our country great is not that we are perfect, but that with time, courage and effort, we can become more perfect. What makes America special is our capacity to change.
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But as Rutenberg chronicles, from the moment the ink was dry on the Voting Rights Act, there has been a concentrated effort to undermine this historic law and turn back the clock on its progress. His article puts the recent push to restrict Americans’ voting rights in its proper context. These efforts are not a sign that we have moved past the shameful history that led to the Voting Rights Act. Too often, they are rooted in that history. They remind us that progress does not come easy, but that it must be vigorously defended and built upon for ourselves and future generations.
I am where I am today only because men and women like Rosanell Eaton refused to accept anything less than a full measure of equality. Their efforts made our country a better place. It is now up to us to continue those efforts. Congress must restore the Voting Rights Act. Our state leaders and legislatures must make it easier — not harder — for more Americans to have their voices heard. Above all, we must exercise our right as citizens to vote, for the truth is that too often we disenfranchise ourselves.
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President Barack Obama, Washington
Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Aug 12, 2015, 07:46 AM (1 replies)
Wait . . . any malicious sexual conduct by guards against inmates MAY violate inmates' Constitutional rights???
Any Sexual Abuse by Guards May Violate Inmates’ Rights, Court Says
By STEPHANIE CLIFFORD AUG. 11, 2015
Any malicious sexual contact by prison guards against inmates may amount to a constitutional violation, a federal appeals court ruled on Tuesday, noting how standards of decency have changed in the past two decades.
“Sexual abuse of prisoners, once passively accepted by society, deeply offends today’s standards of decency,” said Judge John M. Walker Jr., writing in a unanimous decision by a three-member panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit.
The decision allows a lawsuit filed by two former prisoners of a state prison in Napanoch, N.Y., to proceed, and reverses an earlier ruling by a district court judge, who dismissed the case because he said the men had failed to state a complaint properly.
At issue are events that occurred in 2011, when James Crawford, now 47, and Thaddeus Corley, now 31, were inmates at the Eastern Correctional Facility. Mr. Crawford had been convicted of robbery, and Mr. Corley of manslaughter. Both are now free on parole.
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Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Aug 12, 2015, 01:39 AM (17 replies)
Here is a comment I posted to this horrific article (an excerpt and link appear below my comment):
32 minutes ago
Frankly, we have no right to be surprised by any of this. As a nation, we still refuse to hold to account those in the CIA, the military and the previous presidential administration who authorized and carried out torture in our name in the course of the war on terror Instead, we made excuses for something we had previously nearly universally held to be abhorrent and an affront to human decency, even ignoring something we had long known: i.e., that torture doesn't work. In refusing to come to terms with what was done, we virtually ensured that the practice of torture would be extended to other contexts -- always, of course, on the argument that THIS particular set of circumstances warrants an exception.
The acceptance of torture -- even in the wake of an event such as 9-11 -- is a cancer on the ethics and morality of our society as a whole.
And here is an excerpt of the article:
After 2 Killers Fled, New York Prisoners Say, Beatings Were Next
By MICHAEL SCHWIRTZ and MICHAEL WINERIP AUG. 11, 2015
Night had fallen at the Clinton Correctional Facility in far northern New York when the prison guards came for Patrick Alexander. They handcuffed him and took him into a broom closet for questioning. Then, Mr. Alexander said in an interview last week, the beatings began.
As the three guards, who wore no name badges, punched him and slammed his head against the wall, he said they shouted questions: “Where are they going? What did you hear? How much are they paying you to keep your mouth shut?” One of the guards put a plastic bag over his head, Mr. Alexander said, and threatened to waterboard him.
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For days after the June prison break, corrections officers carried out what seemed like a campaign of retribution against dozens of Clinton inmates, particularly those on the honor block, an investigation by The New York Times found. In letters reviewed by The Times, as well as prison interviews, inmates described a strikingly similar catalog of abuses, including being beaten while handcuffed, choked and slammed against cell bars and walls.
They were also subjected to harsh policies ordered by the State Department of Corrections and Community Supervision: Dozens of inmates, many of whom had won the right to live on the honor block after years of good behavior, were transferred out of Clinton to other prisons. Many were placed in solitary confinement, and stripped of privileges they had accrued over the years — even though no prisoners have yet been linked to Mr. Matt’s and Mr. Sweat’s actions.
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Posted by markpkessinger | Tue Aug 11, 2015, 10:46 PM (12 replies)
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Aug 9, 2015, 08:42 PM (0 replies)
(Note: The original title for this OP read, "An update on the apology that wasn't from BLM (and no, they weren't paid operatives either)." Upon consideration of some things a friend pointed out, I have removed the parenthetical portion of the title. The young woman who wrote the apology apparently believes the two women who disrupted Bernie's rally are not paid operatives. But she really only has the word of those two women to that effect, and they are hardly a credible source. So we still don't know if they were paid agitators, and if they are members of an actual BLM chapter, or an imposter organization. I sincerely wish someone from the national BLM organization would issue a statement clarifying (1) whether or not the organization these two women claim to have founded is actually a local chapter of BLM, (2) if it is not, whether these two women are members of an actual local chapter iof BLM, and (3) whether their actions were carried out under the auspices of a legitimate chapter of BLM. BLM needs to clarify this, and soon!)
As most of you probably know by now, what was widely hailed as an 'apology' by BLM was not by BLM at all. It was by a 16-year-old named Nikki who started a Facebook page called "Black Lives Matter Seattle," without clearing it with the local chapter of BLM. Nikki was, to her great credit, appalled by the action against Sanders, and was eager not to see the entire BLM movement tainted by it. She later changed the name of her page to "Black in Seattle. Here is a statement she posted today on that page:
Black in Seattle - 4 hrs ·
Hello. My name is Nikki and this will be my first time posting on this page under it's new name. I would like to address all points of confusion with my page as well as my thoughts on yesterday's rally.
1.) I started this page under the name Black Lives Matter Seattle with out realizing I had to check with the official chapter members of Seattle and the national network. The name has since been changed to Black in Seattle
2.) The two women that were at the rally yesterday were actually members of BLM Seattle
3.) I have spoken to them and as far as I know, they are not conspirators with any other democratic candidates or the GOP
4.) I personally support Bernie Sanders. But I can not apologize for them or speak for them about what happened yesterday and they have not apologized
Ok, now that that those points are cleared up, I would like to talk about the reasoning behind the interruption. I can see that there are thousands of you who have viewed my page and a lot of you have written in to show your displeasure about it. I was watching MSNBC this morning and women from BLM really shed some light on what happened. This is not the first time a candidate has been interrupted on stage by BLM and it won't likely be the last. Those women, like many others, are on the front lines of a movement. They are trying to send a message to the candidates that their sympathy is not enough. There needs to be some real change. It may have looked rude to many, but the message must be sent through whatever means necessary and every opportunity must been taken (even if the delivery was poor). Please, let go of your anger towards the women and direct it towards police brutality. Do not let yourself be distracted from the deaths!! People are still dying!! Every28 hours there is another death. THAT is what truly should disgust you. Not everything in a movement can be perfect. But our allegiance to them must still be strong. I still support BLM and I think you all should too.
I posted the following comment in response to Nikki:
Mark Kessinger Nikki, I am a strong supporter of the cause(s) BLM is fighting for. I appreciate what you say about the importance of staying focused on the issues and on the message BLM is trying to send, and about the imperfect nature of any movement. Those are very good points. But while it is often unfair the way the actions of a few members can taint the perceptions of an entire organization or movement. Any experienced activist will tell you that while passion for a cause is critical to its success, so also is remembering the critical importance of the method by and context in which a movement sends its message: that is, how, where, when and to whom the message is sent.
These two women shut down an important appearance by the ONE candidate in this race who has actually put himself on the line in the cause for civil rights. He is the ONE candidate who, not only during this race but throughout his political career, has consistently spoken out on issues such as police brutality and economic injustice -- both of which are issues that are not exclusively issues of race, but which play out disproportionately along racial lines. In this race, he is the ONLY one talking about youth unemployment, especially among African American and Latino youth. Thus, to shut down a candidate like Bernie Sanders, whose candidacy is already thought by many to be a long shot against extremely well-funded opponents both in the primary and, if he is nominated, in the general election, is simply inexcusable. After all, he won't be able to do anything if he isn't elected.
You say he isn't the first nor the last to be challenged by BLM. Okay, yes, they also did something similar to O'Malley, another progressive. But to date they have given all 17 of the GOP candidates a pass. And that fact, by itself, undermines the excuses being offered for the action against Sanders.
The allegations by some that these two women were political operatives paid by Hillary, or the Koch brothers, or the GOP are telling, because they indicate that people really _want_ to believe the best about the BLM movement, and had a hard time believing that BLM had actually sanctioned this action. It was actually easier to believe they were paid operators rather than that their actions genuinely spoke for the BLM movement. But, I should point out, we still don't know that they weren't political operatives. It's not like they would tell you if they were.
Look, these two women did something all human beings do at one time or another: they screwed up, and big time. For the sake of their own credibility and that of BLM, and more importantly for the sake of the success of the fight against the very issues BLM is fighting against, they should acknowledge their error and apologize.
Posted by markpkessinger | Sun Aug 9, 2015, 08:22 PM (7 replies)
There is an article at ThinkProgress, titled, "The Science Of Why You Are So Upset About Cecil The Lion." (I think it has already been shared here, so I won't bother providing an excerpt.) It is an interesting discussion of why many people will become incensed over the plight of some species, while remaining largely indifferent to that of other, equally or more endangered species. But somehow, the article failed to satisfy as an explanation of the outrage I and many others experienced upon hearing of the circumstances of Cecil's death. One readermade the point that the anger is not just about this one animal, but about human disregard for all animals and indeed the natural world as a whole. I think that is an accurate observation. I posted the following comment, in which I tried to further contextualize the anger I and many others have experienced in response to the killing of Cecil the lion:
I agree entirely with @Kim Sisto Robinson that this is about more than one animal. But I wouild go even a step further. For many (including myself), the intensity of our anger stems in part also from the selfish, entitled arrogance of this well-to-do dentist, and from the fact that, for many people around the world, he will be seen as being representative of white, Northern European and American culture. Now, it is true this guy is probably not representative of most of us. But we can hardly blame those who will see him as such, because this man's entitled arrogance, his apparent belief that his money should entitle him to be as reckless and cavalier towards the world's biological riches as he wishes, partakes of the mindset that typified the imperial/colonial mindset of European and American societies for much of the past 600 years concerning the biological, botanical, mineral and even human riches of the other countries of the world. Everything was ours for the taking, so it seemed. That imperial/colonial mindset has been directly responsible for plunder and exploitation of the natural world that has wreaked incalculable environmental despoliation across the globe. But much of whatever 'benefit' of that global plunder has been disproportionately enjoyed by those of us who had the good fortune to be born in North America or Western Europe.
The civilized among us recognize that our lives of relative comfort were purchased at a terrible price -- a price paid not by us nor, for the most part, by our ancestors, but by those people and other creatures who had the misfortune to be born outside of Imperial Europe or one of Imperial Europe's direct progeny. While we cannot alter history, we can recognize that the relative privilege and comfort we enjoy also carries with it a unique burden of responsibility by those of us who are its beneficiaries to exercise special care and concern for the world's natural riches. And to see someone be so cavalier and irresponsible as this dentist was -- someone who seems to be a present-day incarnation of the worst excesses and abuses of our imperial/colonial past -- it's almost more than we can bear.
Posted by markpkessinger | Mon Aug 3, 2015, 02:00 AM (45 replies)
Members of the House and Senate introduce the Equality Act, a comprehensive LGBT equality bill that could make history for millions of Americans.
Scheduled to begin at noon EDT.
Read more: http://www.thenewcivilrightsmovement.com/davidbadash/watch_live_now_members_of_congress_introduce_historic_expansive_lgbt_civil_rights_bill
I posted this originally in GD (see http://www.democraticunderground.com/10027002662)
The entire video is worth watching, but John Lewis, at 15:45, is especially moving. Also, the testimonies of people who have been the victims of precisely the kinds of discrimination this bill would prohibit, in particular a lesbian couple, whose infant daughter was turned away from a pediatrician because of her parents' sexual orientation, at about 32:00. There are also fine speeches by, among others, Senators Jeff Merkley and Cory Booker, Steny Hoyer, Nancy Pelosi and Jerry Nadler.
The bill so far has over 155 co-sponsers, including 40 in the Senate. And the political timing is perfect, as it will put Republican opponents on the defensive as we enter the 2016 election season!
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Jul 23, 2015, 04:27 PM (3 replies)
We can all be very proud of Congressional Democrats today! As one of the speakers at the news conference introducing the bill pointed out, the reality of last month's Supreme Court ruling permitting same-sex marriage is that in the majority of states, LGBTQ folks are now free to get a marriage license on Friday, get married on Saturday, and then get fired or evicted on Monday. This bill extends the already existing federal protections from discrimination based on race, sex, religion and ethnic heritage to LGBTQ persons. This law is needed. And it is long, long overdue!
Posted by markpkessinger | Thu Jul 23, 2015, 01:47 PM (17 replies)
Superb editorial. Here is the text of a comment I posted to it. An excerpt of the editorial itself follows.
I understand that many people, especially on the political right, have sincere and deeply held moral, ethical or religious objections to abortion. (Actually, many of us on the left have moral and ethical concerns as well, but simply believe it is a decision that must rest with the woman who will carry the child.) But if conservatives truly believe abortion should be illegal, then they should make that argument honestly and openly, and see if they can convince enough of their fellow citizens as to the moral truth of their position. The fact is most Republican legislators lack the guts to tackle the issue directly, so they continue to try to put into effect a de facto abortion ban, making it unavailable to women by attacking Planned Parenthood through thoroughly dishonest attacks such as this one, or by imposing outrageous and unnecessary requirements upon medical facilities that provide such services.
This entire stunt -- from the deceptively edited video, to the right-wing media's promotion of it, to Republican legislators' calls to defund and investigate Planned Parenthood -- is taken right out of the James O'Keefe/ACORN playbook. That infamous stunt, and the current one against Planned Parenthood both stand as illustrations of the right's political amorality and its thoroughgoing contempt for honest democratic process!
And here is the editorial itself:
The Campaign of Deception Against Planned Parenthood
By THE EDITORIAL BOARD - JULY 22, 2015
A hidden-camera video released last week purported to show that Planned Parenthood illegally sells tissue from aborted fetuses. It shows nothing of the sort. But it is the latest in a series of unrelenting attacks on Planned Parenthood, which offers health care services to millions of people every year. The politicians howling to defund Planned Parenthood care nothing about the truth here, being perfectly willing to undermine women’s reproductive rights any way they can.
The nine-minute video clip released by the Center for Medical Progress, an outfit apparently created in 2013, invites viewers to “Hold Planned Parenthood accountable for their illegal sale of baby parts.” In it, Dr. Deborah Nucatola, Planned Parenthood’s senior director of medical services, is seen discussing the collection of fetal tissue in a lunch meeting with two people posing as potential tissue buyers. A second video, released on Tuesday, shows another Planned Parenthood staff member discussing fetal tissue.
After the first video’s release, Senator Rand Paul of Kentucky pledged to “introduce an amendment to pending Senate legislation to immediately strip every dollar of Planned Parenthood funding.” Senator Ted Cruz of Texas called for defunding and for “an investigation of Planned Parenthood’s activities regarding the sale and transfer of aborted body parts.” The House Energy and Commerce Committee is undertaking an investigation, and Gov. Greg Abbott of Texas and Gov. Bobby Jindal of Louisiana have ordered investigations in their states.
The full video of the lunch meeting, over two hours long and released by the Center for Medical Progress after complaints by Planned Parenthood, shows something very different from what these critics claim. Clearly, the shorter version was edited to eliminate statements by Dr. Nucatola explaining that Planned Parenthood does not profit from tissue donation, which requires the clear consent of the patient. Planned Parenthood affiliates only accept money — between $30 and $100 per specimen, according to Dr. Nucatola — to cover costs associated with collecting and transporting the tissue. “This is not something with any revenue stream that affiliates are looking at,” she said. Under federal law, facilities may be reimbursed for costs associated with fetal tissue donation, like transportation and storage.
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Posted by markpkessinger | Wed Jul 22, 2015, 02:40 PM (47 replies)
I often find Parker's obtuse musings to be annoying, but this one particularly so. Here is a comment I just posted to her Washington Post column, followed by an excerpt of the column itself.
4:35 PM EST
Public symbols are important, and the Southern Cross flag was a toxic one. It was long overdue to come down. But really, Ms. Parker, we are not even a month out from the racially-motivated killings of nine African Americans at the hands of a white supremacist in Charleston, and you're ready to declare a "new day" in South Carolina?
Perhaps you haven't noticed that there remains a not insignificant number of South Carolinians, and indeed of people across this country, who are furious that the flag has come down. Perhaps you haven't read about the effort by the Republican leadership in the U.S. House of Representatives to amend a domestic appropriations bill to permit that same flag to be displayed in federal cemeteries. A statement such as this is almost as empty-headed as were statements after President Obama was elected that America was now a 'post-racial' society.
Sadly, your rush to proclaim a "new day in South Carolina" is all too typical of conservative whites in America, who will seize upon any small step in the right direction as evidence that problems of entrenched racism are behind us and need be given no further thought. That is, always has been and, for the foreseeable future will remain, a dangerous delusion!
Here is an excerpt of the column:
A new day in South Carolina as the Confederate battle flag comes down
By Kathleen Parker
The past may not be past, as William Faulkner put it. But it sure seems to be leaving.
As I watched the broadcast of the Confederate battle flag being brought down from its post on the South Carolina statehouse grounds Friday morning, my thoughts went to Gen. Robert E. Lee, who surely would have raised a toast to this new day.
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Friday’s ceremony in Columbia was brief, dignified and profoundly moving for the many gathered, as well as those watching from afar. Gov. Nikki Haley (R), surrounded by fellow officials and lawmakers, looked resplendent in a white suit that was reminiscent of a white flag offered in surrender and in peace. I don’t mean the South’s surrender to the North, or of the Sons of Confederate Veterans to the NAACP, which has fought for the lowering of the flag in South Carolina for more than 20 years.
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Adding to the layers of symbolism, it was Haley, an Indian American and the first female governor of the state, who called for the flag to come down. Although she once supported the flag as a part of history, Haley recognized the urgency of its removal as so many others finally did. It may have been overdue, as critics who never take a vacation will say, but it is done.
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Posted by markpkessinger | Sat Jul 11, 2015, 05:14 PM (10 replies)