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Thieves in the Day

There is a reason why burglars and bank robbers usually do their best work at night – they don’t want to get caught. Thieves realize that theft has unpleasant consequences and so the darkness is their ally. That is why it is even more brazen for the Teapublican terrorists in Congress and in state houses all over the country to conspire to steal the right to vote from American citizens – in broad daylight.

Last year the Supreme Court of the United States eviscerated the historic Voting Rights Act which reversed over a century of the legalized disenfranchisement of black citizens in the United States. In a stunning and blatant illustration of racism barely hidden by judicial robes, the Voting Rights Act was termed a form of “racial entitlement”, fully ignoring the undisputed facts that for too long for too many black people, exercising the right to vote was a death-defying act.

In what would appear to be some kind of satanic synchronization, immediately upon the Supreme Court’s infamous Shelby v. Holder decision, scores of states, counties and other election districts moved to put in place restrictive voting measures that would not have been permitted the day before. In the year since the Shelby decision over a dozen states have passed laws that make it far more difficult for people to vote and there should be no doubt that these laws are clearly aimed to reduce the number of minority voters who would otherwise be eligible to cast their ballots.

We are supposed to believe that the reason for closing the gates on polling booths is to prevent voter fraud. But there is no research or data to indicate that voter fraud is even a small problem in any part of the country. Indeed, the greatest case of voter fraud in the history of the United States was committed by the Supreme Court of the United States itself in the Bush v. Gore case when the presidential election was given to candidate George W. Bush.

The history of denying the rights and benefits of citizenship to black Americans is as old as this country itself. At one point black Americans were constitutionally defined as 3/5th of a human being. The Supreme Court at one point ruled that black Americans had no rights that a white person needed to respect. And, of course, it was against the law in many parts of the United States for a black person to learn how to read and right.

After the Civil War and the abolition of slavery, the battlefield for racists moved from denying literacy and the actual humanity of black people, to denial of the rights of citizenship. And that denial of citizenship began with denial of the right to vote. While the Ku Klux Klan always made noises about protecting white womanhood, the real mission of that malignant gang of terrorists was to deny any kind of power to black Americans, beginning with the right to vote.

Lynching, murder, bombing and general mayhem were all within the rules of the racists who sought to deny the voting franchise to black Americans, and most of the time, being the craven cowards they were, they operated in the night, in the shadows and away for the light of day. The black death toll from this state-sponsored terror will never be fully known, but the deaths only compounded the day to day terror of the survivors resulting in black people being excluded from the democratic processes in this country – from voting to serving on juries to holding elected office.

The Voting Rights Act was intended to change that and in many ways it has. It should be clear that the resistance of the racists, in and out of the South, did not disappear, but change has occurred during the past half century. And now the ghosts of the Klan must be overjoyed to know that the Supreme Court has taken up its bloody banner and the lynch mobs and night bombers are certainly glad to know that the Teapublican terrorists have placed enough legal linen around their damnable motives so there are people who actually don’t see a real problem with the tsunami of voting restrictions that are sweeping across this nation.

And the worst part is that these thieves, who are seeking to steal rights and citizenship, are operating in broad daylight.

The Weekend Edition features a good news story that also is a bad news story – all because a young black man applied to eight Ivy League schools and was admitted to all of them. And this week the Teapublicans in the House of Representatives gave every American a reason to vote in November as they passed the draconian Ryan budget – a budget that would ensure pain and displacement for all but the wealthy. And, under the heading of news that should not be news, recent reports indicate that New York City may be one of the most racially segregated cities in the United States.

When Good News is Also Bad News

Kwasi Enin is a high school senior in Long Island, New York who had this bright idea to apply to all eight Ivy League schools. Kwasi is a very accomplished student with high SAT scores, excellent grades and outstanding community and school service participation. Nevertheless in a case of lightning striking eight times Kwasi was admitted to all eight schools.

This is a great story and a wonderful example of the intersection of achievement and opportunity. That is where the story should end. But it doesn’t.

Because Kwasi Enin is African American, haters deluged the internet with denunciation and vitriol. Somehow Kwasi’s admission to all eight of the Ivy League schools was seen by too many as just another example of unqualified black people getting undeserved opportunity at the expense of……………..you guessed it………….qualified white people.

The fact is that by any standard Kwasi Enin is qualified to attend any university in the United States. It is also a fact that college admissions are a subjective process. And it is a fact that white people have not suffered due to the implementation of affirmative action initiative.

And it is a fact that those who choose to hate will hate, regardless of the facts.

The War on America

During this past week the Teapublican Terrorists in the House of Representatives formally declared war on the American people. By passing the so-called Ryan budget, Congress has proposed to abolish Obamacare, obliterating healthcare for the 7 million people who have already signed up for this important coverage.

The Ryan Budget also calls for the virtual shredding of the American social safety net by reducing, eviscerating and amputating programs ranging from Medicare to Social Security to Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Programs.

As things stand today, there is no way that the Ryan Budget will get past the Senate. And if it did, it is guaranteed that President Obama would veto such a budget.

But elections do matter, and if the Teapublicans increase their control of the House and take control of the Senate, they will have the ability to override President Obama’s veto. All of which gives every American to use the only weapon that will work in the Teapublican War Against America – vote!

When Shall We Overcome?

A few recent studies have reported some interesting results. It turns out that New York City has the most racially segregated public school system of any city in the United States. Additionally, racially segregated housing has resulted in racially segregated communities in the most diverse city in the United States.

Ironically, despite the incredible diversity of its population, racial segregation persists and thrives in the Big Apple.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

The members of the Roberts/Alito/Scalia/Thomas right wing cabal of the United States Supreme Court have regularly showed their disdain for the American people and their convenient disregard for the United States Constitution when it serves their right wing purposes. The most recent exhibition of blatantly partisan jurisprudence was on full display last week in Washington.

In the case of McCutcheon v. Federal Elections Commission – the right wing of the Supreme Court actually ruled that any limits on campaign contributions to congressional elections amounted to an unwarranted restriction on free speech. As a result of this decision, there are still limits of approximately $5000 that an individual can give to a single congressional candidate. However, that same individual can now contribute that maximum amount to as many congressional candidates as they might choose.

To put this decision in context, there are 435 congressional races being held this year. To achieve a majority, either party must elect at least 218 members of Congress. There are 33 senate races this year. There are 50 Democrats, 47 Republicans and 2 independents (one seat is vacant due to the death of the incumbent).

Simple math will reveal that the 50 members of the existing cohort of right wing billionaires and multimillionaires can easily – very easily – spend $1.125 million each in order to take absolute control of the House of Representatives and the United States Senate. In effect the Supreme Court has organized the greatest garage sale in the history of the planet, making the United State Congress available for the low, low price of $50 million.

It is also important to note that the McCutcheon slithers in the same self-serving slime as Citizens United where the Roberts/Alito/Scalia/Thomas conservative hit men in robes recognized the previously unknowable corporate right of free speech.

The results of that decision resulted in a tsunami of cash cascaded into the elections of 2012, and the fact that President Obama was reelected should not obscure the fact that at local, state and congressional levels the right wing noose was tightened around the neck of the American body politic.

Think of it – with the right wing of the right wing infusing its cash into the veins and arteries of Congress as never before, there is no limit to what the ultraconservative partisans can achieve. The impeachment of President Barack Obama will be high on the list, along with the dismantling of Obamacare, Social Security and the entire social safety net that has been part of the American claim to true exceptionalism.

This scenario seems extreme only when the facts are ignored. The facts are that the superrich in America have established a loose but effective coalition that has virtually unlimited funds. Everyone has heard of the Koch brothers and Sheldon Adelson, but not everyone has heard of Kenneth Langone and the dozens of billionaires who are committed to dismantling the federal government as we know it and, in the process unraveling the social safety net until it is a shredded imitation of what it once was.

What is so ironic about this current iteration of the Supreme Court is that it is so clearly partisan in its interpretation of the Constitution. It consistently rules that there should be no limit to the constitutional rights to put money in political campaigns or to own guns. But it also rules in favor of draconian limitations of a woman’s right to make health care choices or for black people to vote freely and without encumbrance.

Slowly but surely the rights and protections of the American people, indeed American democracy, are being sliced and diced in plain view. What is clear is that elections do matter. The superrich know this and are willing to invest their millions. Hopefully the rest of us will come to realize the importance of elections and invest our votes accordingly.

There is a tendency for Chris Christie/Bridgegate fatigue to set in because everyone has seen this movie before. A high ranking government official has obviously done something wrong, yet they continue to deny until it seems that they were born on the banks of a river in Egypt. And then the truth comes out and either they take the hit and move on, or the tides of time and circumstance sweep them into the Sea of the Forgotten.

The facts that we know is that the George Washington Bridge, which connects New York City with New Jersey, is the busiest bridge in America. We know that in September of 2012 access to the bridge was seriously curtailed for four days, causing incredible hardship and inconvenience for commuters, truckers, tourists, school children and the residents of Fort Lee, New Jersey. We know that the George Washington Bridge fiasco was ordered by a member of the executive staff of Governor Chris Christie and a Port Authority New York and New Jersey direct appointee of Governor Chris Christie. And then it gets interesting.

Governor Christie has gone to Gulliverian lengths to assert that he knew nothing, nothing, about the shutdown of the George Washington Bridge traffic. That assertion requires us to believe that during the week in September 2012 in question, he didn’t read a newspaper, listen to the radio or watch television or……that he didn’t think that gargantuan traffic disruption on the George Washington Bridge did not require the attention of a self-described micromanager.

Since then, Chris Christie and his Teapublican enablers have tried to minimize the very real damage caused by Bridgegate, alternatively throwing every Christie associate under the bus until the bus simply cannot move. Governor Christie has also tried to minimize Bridgegate, continue to claim ignorance, and/or blame the entire imbroglio on partisan politics and a liberal media vendetta.

And, in an interesting pirouette for a man weighing over an eighth of a ton, Chris Christie spent $1 million New Jersey taxpayer dollars to pay for an “internal investigation” conducted by Randy Maistro. That would be the same Randy Maistro who was a deputy in the administration of Rudy Giuliani that would be the same Rudy Giuliani who has been a longtime and ardent supporter of Chris Christie. Pigs will fly before Randy Maistro ever issued a negative “internal investigation”.

And the pigs are still grounded as the Maistro Report stated that Chris Christie knew nothing about Bridgegate, and even if he did he has forgotten. The Maistro Report also extricated some Christie appointees from under the bus to throw them back under the wheels of the Chris Christie Rolling Thunder Tour Bus – with a pinch and a dash of sexist snark to make it all the more interesting.

As Chris Christie traveled to Las Vegas last weekend to genuflect at the throne of billionaire right winger Sheldon Adelson, he actually claimed that Bridgegate was now conclusively over. He said this notwithstanding the fact that investigations by the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New York, the United States Attorney for New Jersey and the New Jersey state legislature have yet to be concluded.

Clearly Chris Christie is operating under the theory that if he says something loud enough or rudely enough or just over and over, that it will take on the appearance of truth. At least, he seems to think, enough truth that will allow him to fandango his way to a presidential campaign in 2016.

It remains to be seen whether Teapublican voters will validate P.T. Barnum’s maxim about a sucker being born every minute.

Taking a page from “American Idol” or the “Miss America Pageant”, right wing billionaire Sheldon Adelson is summoning Teapublican candidates to audition – the prize? His multimillions. Meanwhile, New Jersey Governor Chris Christie spent $1 million taxpayer dollars on an “internal discussion”. The takeaway from this “impartial” report – Chris Christie knew nothing about Bridgegate and can’t remember anyway. And finally, as Americans and the United Nations continue to bemoan the Russian annexation of Crimea, a short history lesson on annexations is in order.

Showtime for Sheldon

Sheldon Adelson, best known for being the eighth wealthiest man in the world (he owns the Las Vegas Sands Company) with hotels and casinos in Las Vegas and Macao. In the last few years he has been making a name for himself as the personal piggy bank of rightwing causes having given over $30 million to conservative candidates in 2012 alone.

Now he has organized what can only be described as a series of auditions for prospective Teapublican 2016 presidential candidates. He has virtually summoned over a half a dozen of these hopefuls to come and dance before his Las Vegas throne in the hopes that he will anoint one of them with the holy oil of his fortune.

Aside from the unseemly sight of the possible next president of the United States kowtowing before the head of a gambling empire, it is unsettling to know that the pursuit of campaign cash has now come to this golden rule. He who has the gold makes the rules.

Elephantine Memory Loss

New Jersey Governor Chris Christie commissioned an “internal investigation” headed by an attorney who is a former deputy of Rudolph Giuliani, a major supporter of Chris Christie. Clearly this “internal investigation” is missing even a gossamer thread of impartiality.

The “investigation” trashes the Christie staff members who Governor Christie already deposited under the bus two months ago. It also concludes that Governor Christie knew nothing about Bridgegate in real time and that, in any event, he cannot remember anything that was said to him about the four day tie up of the busiest bridge in America at the time the George Washington Bridge was intentionally blocked.

It remains to be seen whether federal or state investigations will vaporize the implausible notion that a known serial micromanager would allow the George Washington Bridge to be blocked without his consent, or at least its knowledge.

But if Chris Christie thinks that anyone will actually buy the results of his “internal investigation” I have a bridge that I would like to sell to him.

Calling Peabody and Sherman

It is fair to say that at the beginning of this year most Americans, and certainly most Teapublicans, couldn’t find Crimea on a map even if you led them to the Black Sea. Now, of course, the Russian annexation is being touted as one of the worst acts of international thuggery since…? Actually, that is a good place to start because this country and many others (who voted to condemn Russia in the United Nations last week) have employed annexation as a very real part of foreign policy.

Consider the history of U.S. annexations in a fashion very similar to the Russia-Crimea scenario – West Florida – 1810, Texas – 1845, New Mexico – 1848, Hawaii – 1898, Puerto Rico, Philippines and Guam – 1898.

Of course annexation has a global tradition. Consider Indonesia – East Timor, 1975, Morocco – Western Sahara – 1975, Israel – East Jerusalem, 1967.

The point is that annexation is far from unknown in world history, right up to the present. And while there may be very real objections to Russian annexation in Crimea, it is more than a little disingenuous to suggest that this is one of the more outrageous international actions ever seen. In reality, we have always seen that annexations take place when they serve the foreign policy objectives of the annexing country.

Have a great weekend – stay strong and be great!

While many of us were anxiously awaiting the news about the lost Malaysian Airlines jet and others were watching the NCAA basketball tournaments (Men and Women), the United Supreme Court has agreed to hear a case that has incredible ramifications regarding the definition of religious freedom. A number of corporations are plaintiffs in a case claiming that their religious freedom is being violated because they cannot impose their religious beliefs on their employees.

Mitt Romney is on record as saying that corporations are people. The Supreme Court in the infamous Citizens United case has ruled that corporations have First Amendment rights and can therefore hurl untold gobbets of cash into the political fray. Clearly this mindset has emboldened the plutocrats and billionaire Masters of the Universe who believe that their wealth translates into moral superiority in all matters.

The toxic combination of the entitled one percent united with religious zealots who believe that their personal understanding of spirituality should dominate has produced an alternate universe where religious freedom means religious oppression and domination. In this bizarre logical inversion the Supreme Court is being asked to affirm religious freedom at the expense of the rights of others.

The current case before the Supreme Court is based upon the contention of corporations that the Affordable Care Act, which requires private sector employers must provide contraception and related services. The plaintiffs contend that, being required to do so will offend and violate their religious principles.

The problem with this case is that it is a classical slippery slope. If employers have religious beliefs that are not consistent with contraception and are entitled to deny such services to their employees, there is a long of line of alternative believers who also will need to be heard. There are religious adherents who oppose blood transfusions, vaccinations and, in some instances, any traditional medical care whatsoever.

People are entitled to adhere to those beliefs but it is unconscionable to suggest that these beliefs should be imposed on people simply because they are employees. Indeed, if a condition of employment means submitting to the religious beliefs of the employer, we are about to witness the tyranny of religion that would make Savonarola smile.

There is also a need for a real world discussion regarding religious liberty. From the inception of the Republic, it has been clear that every American citizen should be free to practice their religion and expression of spirituality in whatever fashion they deem appropriate and satisfying. The corollary to this right is that no American citizen has the right to impose their religious beliefs on another citizen.

This is a fairly simple and fair concept. But there are those who are using the right of freedom of religion as a cudgel to bash and batter their fellow citizens into their belief universe.

This is dangerous, wrong and unfortunate in the extreme. We can only hope that the Supreme Court will, in this case, observe the original intentions of the Framers of the Constitution and not confuse religious rights with the right to oppress in the name of religion.

The constant, consistent and persistent efforts to obstruct, erode and diminish every aspect of the Obama Administration are as regular as the heartbeat of a malignant creature. Ever since his inauguration in 2009, President Obama has been confronted with a seemingly seamless wall of opposition by the right wing of the right wing, and sometimes by members of his own party. The recent debacle concerning his appointment of Debo Adegbile to the lead the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice is a sad case in point.

Debo Adegbile is an outstanding attorney whose many accomplishments include leading the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, one of the premier historical forces for good and justice in this country. A graduate of New York University Law School and currently senior counsel to the Senate Judiciary Committee, one would think that his confirmation by the same United States Senate where he works would be merely a procedural matter. And one would be thinking wrong because in these days and times we live in The Land of No – certainly when it comes to All Things Obama.

In an act that reeks of hypocrisy, bigotry and double standards, the Teapublican rightward wing in the Senate opposed Mr. Adegbile’s nomination by President Obama. The gossamer fig leaf for the general opposition by the Teapublicans is that Mr. Adegbile participated as an attorney in the successful appeal to prevent Mumia Abu-Jamal from receiving the death penalty.

One can begin with the fact that the Constitution and the United States Supreme Court have clearly established that all citizens of this country have a right to a fair trial and counsel. It is also axiomatic that attorneys who ensure that every person receives representation in a criminal case are not to be characterized by the crimes for which that person is charged.

If a doctor treats a murderer for an illness, that doctor is not criticized. If a priest, minister, rabbi or imam counsels a rapist in prison, that person is not reviled. Until the matter of Mr. Adegbile, no attorney has been criticized for representing a defendant in need of counsel, no matter how reprehensible the crime.

Yet the Teapublican wing of the Senate, along with some Democrats who clearly live in fear of the right wing, opposed Mr. Adegbile’s nomination and to date it languishes in the procedural limbo of the Senate where many nominations and much legislation go to die. And this opposition is false and transparently hypocritical because of the Chief Justice of the United States Supreme Court John Roberts.

As an attorney, Chief Justice Roberts did pro bono legal work for death row inmates, including a serial killer. During his nomination to be Chief Justice this legal work was never raised as a point of criticism or a reason for opposition to his nomination. And it has certainly never been raised since he has been on the Supreme Court. And it never will be raised by the Teapublicans because who it is not, and should not be an issue.

That is, unless the issue of an attorney’s clients can be used to block a nomination by President Obama.

It is shameful that the shameless oppositional strategy of the Teapublicans continues 24/7 and will until the day that Barack Obama leaves the presidency. In the meantime not only does his Administration suffer, the American people suffer.

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