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Fri Dec 05, 2014 at 05:02 AM PST

The Last Southern Democrat

by therehastobeaway

There was a time when Southern Democrats were a powerful force in politics: fearing that party disunity might lead to the passage of civil rights legislation few whites in the South actually wanted, many whites in southern states who would have otherwise voted Republican consistently cast their ballots for Democratic candidates. But after a reluctant John F. Kennedy, who had little interest in equality for blacks but was leery of the political consequences of simmering social unrest in the streets during the era, "finally proposed strong civil rights legislation to Congress", Congress got to work to put together an Act that LBJ championed and eventually signed in 1964. With the Civil Rights Act now law, many Southern whites who had been voting for Dems out of a fealty to unity against civil rights no longer had an incentive to stay and began casting their votes for Republicans. That, my friends, was the beginning of the end for Southern Dems as we know them, an era that may be culminating this very weekend should Mary Landrieu, The Last Southern Democrat, lose the Louisiana run-off.

Perhaps it should be the end of an era in which many politicians used the unpopularity of racial equality to siphon away Democrats to the GOP and Southern Democrats did little to counter:

...denouncing the forced busing policy that was used to enforce school desegregation, Richard Nixon courted conservative Southern whites with what is called the Southern Strategy.


In 1980, the Southern Strategy would officially see fruition when Ronald Reagan announced that he supported states rights and that welfare abuse justified the need for it. Lee Atwater, who served Reagan's chief strategist in the Southern states, claimed that by 1968, a vast majority of southern whites had learned to accept that racial slurs like "nigger" were very offensive and that mentioning "states rights" and reasons for its justification had now become the best way to both use the politically valuable race card and appeal to southern white voters.

-Southern Democrats, Wikipedia

If you've ever wondered why politicians or pundits who use words like "welfare" are said to be pandering to racists, now you know why. Republicans turned the anger many Southern whites felt about desegregation and used that anger to attract many of those citizens to the grand old party's alternative—social conservativism—by using veiled, coded racism and tugging at Jeffersonian heart strings like "state's rights" in order to limit the federal government's ability to enact broad social reforms. Does that sound familiar to you?

(I bet most people don't even know that the Race Card was something created by racists for racists, and only in recent times has, in an evil and brilliant use of projection, come to be used by racists to deny their racism by shaming their opponents with the Race Card itself, but I digress.)

No one here disputes that the South has been a bastion of racism and coded post-racial antipathy since the nation's inception. What may not be readily apparent is that many Democratic candidates in the South over the last 50 years have been willing participants in the long game of racial-political Double Dutch in order to survive. How exactly did they do so? This excerpt from The New York Times article Demise of the Southern Democrat Is Now Nearly Complete offers up a clue:

Today, nearly all of the Democrats holding federal or statewide office in the South will represent so-called “majority-minority” districts or areas with a large number of new residents from outside the region. In the states of the former Confederacy, Democrats will control Senate seats or governors’ mansions only in Virginia and Florida. Not coincidentally, those are the two Southern states where people born outside the state represent a majority of the population. These Democrats bear little resemblance to the Southern Democrats who won by attracting conservative white voters.
They've survived by running for office in places where people of color make up solid population majorities, no doubt championing themselves as The Good Guys without necessarily campaigning for ideals that are actually Good. Inconvenienced by progress, they took the easy way out, a way out that lasted fifty ears, a way out that, thankfully, is coming to an end. Maybe we need it to. Because, honestly, those aren't the kinds of Democrats I want on my ballots anyway.*
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As you may have heard by now, Obama has been sued by 17 states who think keeping families together is bad for America:

Texas. Alabama. Georgia. Idaho. Indiana. Kansas. Louisiana. Maine. Mississippi. Montana. Nebraska. North Carolina. South Carolina. South Dakota. Utah. West Virginia. Wisconsin.

The lawsuit, filed in federal court in Brownsville, Tex., was the first major legal challenge to initiatives Mr. Obama announced Nov. 20 that will provide protection from deportation and work permits to up to five million immigrants in the country illegally.

-17 States Suing on Immigration

How will the future look back on this day? What will it say to those seventeen states for taking up arms against a democratic ideal that sought to serve the powerless and keep them bound to their families, honoring the work ethic of millions of the hardest-working people on the planet who found themselves on American soil?  Will we look back at this day as the political equivalent of dogs and firehoses unleashed on honest people just trying to carve out a small slice of the American dream?

Or will history say, "It made all the sense in the world, given the many other faults in your Republican stars"? The only time in American history that an entire House of Congress has sued a sitting President of the United States happened last week because that President passed a law to help grandmothers get better care at the hospital and parents offer their children a healthier childhood and working families afford the costs of taking care of the people they work so hard for in the first place. After Obama and Democrats found a way to pass universal health care, Republicans voted 50 times to repeal or cripple the new law. 50 times. Republicans voted 50 times to hurt you and me and the 291 million American citizens that make us who we are. They spent nearly $50 million dollars doing that, enough to build an elementary school or two and still have money left over to buy books and buy every kid at that school breakfast and lunch for who knows how long.

But Republicans don't care about schools or books or food for undernourished kids. They don't care about building a brighter future. Their leader, John Boehner, has said outright that its number one priority is rolling back Obamacare, a healthcare law representing the luckiest break women and young people in urban and rural areas alike have caught in decades.

They don't care about your beloved aunt battling fibromyalgia, or your first-born son navigating the world with autism either. They don't care about your daughter the brilliant young scientist who aspires to greatness, if there's even a world left for her to actually do great things for after Republicans are done with it.

Republicans like Texan Governor-elect Greg Abbot, who has sued Obama 31 times since 2008 and just launched an unprecedented 17-state lawsuit against the Obama administration for offering to help 5 million people who will contribute $25 billion in deficit reduction over the next ten years to our economy stay with their families, have nothing to offer our country but anger:

The suit added to the broadside by angry Republicans against Mr. Obama’s unilateral actions. In Washington, Republicans in the House of Representatives moved toward holding a largely symbolic vote on Thursday on a bill to dismantle the president’s programs, with a plan to vote next week on a spending bill that could fund the Department of Homeland Security, the agency administering the new programs, for only a few months.

The states’ lawsuit also argued that the Obama administration had failed to comply with requirements the federal government must follow in issuing new rules, and it warned that Mr. Obama’s measures would encourage a new wave of illegal crossings at the Southwest border, forcing Texas and other states to spend additional funds on law enforcement, health care and education.

The President has only authorized a paltry 1.3% of all Executive Orders ever authorized by presidents of the United States, but because some of those executive orders actually help big swaths of people in our country, and despite the fact that both Reagan and Bush Senior executed similar immigration measures in their days, the GOP is happy to spend its days suing the first black President of the United States for attempting to help people:
“I go into the office, I sue the federal government, and I go home,” Mr. Abbott has told audiences at public events and political rallies. But with being joined by other states, Mr. Abbott’s new lawsuit seemed likely to become a primary vehicle for Republicans’ efforts to halt Mr. Obama’s immigration actions through the courts.
Republican millionaires abusing their power in order to sue the government to prevent it from helping people who earn 27 times less. Think about the fact that we used to help certain immigrants get in, and now our Democratic presidents have to go it alone in order to keep immigrants from being thrown out. Think about that the next time you have the chance to vote for a Democratic governor or senator or president but choose to sit it out.
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In an otherwise straightforward piece about Loretta Lynch titled, Nominee’s Past Offers Insight On Race Issues, Pulitzer Prize winner Matt Apuzzo of the New York Times writes:

She would be taking over the Justice Department just as it has begun a nationwide effort to improve police relations in minority neighborhoods in the aftermath of violent protests in Ferguson, Mo., over the shooting death of a black teenager by a white police officer.

But her remarks could put her at odds with some law enforcement groups, who say the Obama administration has unfairly tarnished police officers in its comments about the shooting of 18-year-old Michael Brown.

Cops sticking up for cops is nothing new, but blaming the President for "tarnishing" their reputation is not something I'm used to seeing, and it's the sort of escapist flight-of-fancy that speaks volumes about cops today. There are no doubt hundreds of thousands of good cops in our streets and communities, but there are countless rotten ones too who pillage and murder and often get away with it or get rich quick doing so. When the good cops and good police unions are unwilling to stand with their communities against the bad cops and their defenders, all cops lose their credibility and our trust. Don't blame Obama for doing something you've done to yourselves. Obama's not the one arresting black men for walking with their hands in their pockets, or shooting twenty-three year-old fathers in the back on train station platforms, or firing bullets into defenseless twelve year-old boys at playgrounds within seconds of arriving, or choking gentle giant forty-somethings with heart conditions on sidewalks. Cowards.

Obama's not the one macing young college students in the face for standing up to corporations, or bringing riot gear and military tanks and combat-zone weapons of war to neighborhoods falling apart with pain. It's police unions and their precincts and their macho mayors who are doing that, treating our communities like Cold War theaters worthy of a police arms race.

People in cities across the country aren't protesting due to urban myths created by Obama; they do so because so many cops brutalize, repress, and criminalize them that they don't feel safe around the very people tasked with the legal power of life and death and the duty to serve. It isn't fair, it isn't imaginary, and it most certainly isn't Obama's fault.

The article continues:

“Whatever has happened in America to cause these feelings of resentment, it’s not a failure of law enforcement,” Jeff Roorda, the business manager of the St. Louis Police Officers Association told CBS on Monday. He added that the police should not be asked to change tactics to address larger societal problems. “It’s decades of racial disparity, and economic disparity. It’s not a problem with the police.”
It's not a problem with the police? It's not a problem with the police? Old men hold signs with the words, "Stop killing us" precisely because of a problem meted out by the police. American police kill people--black people and poor people especially--67 times more often than the runner-up, Australia. The question, Why Do U.S. Police Kill So Many People? isn't one asked by posh business magazines because there's nothing better to ask. The FBI estimates that 400-500 people per year are killed by police. FiveThirtyEight estimates the real number to be 1,000 people annually. To put that in perspective, more Americans have been killed by police than American soldiers killed in Iraq in the same amount of time.

A thousand Americans each year. Not at the hands of racial disparity, or economic disparity, or Obama, but at the hands of the very people Loretta Lynch said many Americans fear:

When people say they fear the police, as bad as that is, they are also expressing an underlying fear, that when they are confronted with the criminal element in our society, they will have no one to call upon to protect them. And that feeling of vulnerability and utter helplessness is the worst feeling that we can inflict upon fellow members of our society.”
Loretty Lynch didn't say those words last week after the Ferguson verdict. She said those words fourteen years ago. That her words are even truer today than they were at the turn of the 21st century tells you everything you need to know about the real source of the tarnish.
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The New York Times posted an article titled, Republicans Try to Balance Immigration Action While Avoiding a Shutdown, in which clearly stymied Republicans are depicted as exercising the full extent of their wit cells to bring about a solution, any solution, to the problem of Obama's recent immigration announcement:

WASHINGTON — Congressional Republicans returning to Washington on Monday found themselves facing a treacherous 10 days as they try to balance their desire to fight President Obama’s executive action on immigration with the political imperative not to shut down the government.

Congress must pass a broad spending bill before Dec. 11 to prevent a government shutdown. But Mr. Obama’s executive action last month, which could allow up to five million people now in the country illegally to live and work without threat of deportation, has inflamed Republicans and complicated their calculation over what has often been a routine spending fight.

Republicans who can't do political math? Expending over-time brain cells to find some way to get in the way? Really? Unheard of.

But this is the part at which things get truly sweet:

A complicating factor, however, is that the primary agency responsible for carrying out the president’s executive action is the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, which is financed entirely through fees collected from immigration applications and therefore cannot be defunded in the appropriations process.
Bahahaa! Do you think Obama huddled for months secretly poring over reams of legal documents with fellow lawyer Jeh Johnson without considering your silly, plebeian Republican ploys to undermine such a big immigration initiative with so pedestrian a maneuver? Heh. The man may not always play chess, but he sure does know how to play politics.

Stymied, the sore-loser Republicans are considering suing the lawyer:

House Republicans also are considering taking legal action, either adding an immigration component to a lawsuit Speaker John A. Boehner filed last month against the Obama administration over the Affordable Care Act, or filing a new suit challenging the president’s executive action.
Which of you geniuses out-geniused the other geniuses by cooking up this idea? Not only is it an incredibly stupid precedent of Congress to sue a sitting president, something that has never before happened in all of U.S. history, but also it is crumbling spectacularly and slated to go down in history as the pathetic stunt built on a faulty premise that it is.

My #3 problem with Republicans, right behind its well-established historical and modern racist roots and its insistence on protecting a world-view that nourishes the longevity of those roots, is that it tries really, really hard to do things that hurt people, don't help people, or help companies do things that in turn hurt people.  Instead of helping the sick, the young, the elderly, the ailing, and the poor, Republicans go to every length possible to do wrong by the people and to do right by its party roots. Republicans don't do a single thing that steps in the direction of anti-racism or populism.  The very meaning of conservativism--the retention of traditional social institutions in the context of the culture and civilization--presupposes that those traditional social institutions are good and right and just to begin with, when we can all here at Daily Kos agree, whether we disagree on Obama or Gitmo or drones or trees or Hillary or whatever else it is that gets us to sling pies at one another in one stupid internal imbroglio after another, that the past was not better than the present for women, for persons of color, for immigrants, for kids, for working people, for education, or for nearly anything of substance to the larger project for equality and fairness and all those other things we often forget comprise the very historical arc that we say bends slowly towards justice. I don't care that the world was greener fifty years ago, because 50 years ago our world shunned the Alan Turings for being gay and killed the Luther Kings for being black. I don't want that world; I want the one in which you can be gay or black or undocumented or poor or a woman but you sure as hell get to sit at the table of scientists and engineers and doctors and politicians trying to come up with solutions to the problems our less fair iterations as a society created in the first place.

And THAT, my friends, is why we need to unite around here to absolutely decimate the right in this coming election and every single one that ever follows it.

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The Atlantic has a great new piece out titled Deval Patrick Won't Run for President in 2016. Among other things, Patrick admirably asserts that he didn't run for Governor as a stepping stone to the White House--that he ran for the job in order to do the job (well). But the real attention-getter is the following excerpt regarding Hillary Clinton's presumed bid for the presidency:

Patrick did, however, offer advice to the Democratic leader in 2016 preference polls: Hillary Clinton should find a way to tamp down the "inevitability" talk.

"Secretary Clinton has been an extraordinary public servant and would be a terrific candidate for president," said Patrick. "But I think that the narrative that it's inevitable is off-putting to regular voters."

"I don't mean that as a criticism of her; I just think people read inevitably as entitlement," he said.

This is really key. Being rich and politically-connected (Romney, anyone?) aren't good enough reasons to serve in the country's highest public position. Running for a seat in the Oval Office isn't something anyone should ever do because there's nothing else to do or because there aren't any other checkboxes to tick off. There has to be a "there" there to why someone wants to be President of the United States, and I take Patrick's point to be that suitors of the job need to convince voters that they deserve their votes. There's something to the Clintons that has always made me think they were Type A go-getters in high school who sat down at the ages of 16 and made a long list of accomplishments they needed to rack up in order to successfully run for office, then executed their checklist over the next several decades. Or maybe I read that in a book somewhere years ago. The difference between helping people as a byproduct of leadership skills and seeking to lead because you want to help people is very important. The former wreaks of power-hungry entitlement whereas the latter speaks to what I think should be the reason any elected official runs for office. Hence the poignancy of Patrick's next point:
"And the American people want, and ought to want, their candidates to sweat for the job, to actually make the case for why they're the right person for the right time."
Precisely. Though she hasn't yet announced running for the position, it's practically a foregone conclusion that she will. Personally, I've yet to find or hear a compelling argument for how Clinton will make the country better, advance the needs of the population, or build a wave of progressive action I should get behind. This is something I hope Clinton will address in the coming election. In the interim, and in the interest of preemptively finding evidence of a story I can rally behind, I've liberally clobbered together a summary of Clinton's political story from her extensive Wikipedia page:
Despite spending her formative teenage and first few college years working to advance Republican aims (canvassing for Republican candidates, serving as president of the Wellesley Young Republicans, interning at the House Republican Conference, and attending the 1968 Republican National Convention), Hillary built a track record as a serious researcher of children's rights and conditions faced by migrant workers. After failing the DC bar exam but passing the Arkansas bar, she moved to that state to be with Bill; racked up a number of important, gender-related firsts; worked for law firms while advancing interests in child and family law; and became a hot thing in certain scholarship-activism circles. She served on various advisory boards, became Arkansas's First Lady, traded cattle futures contracts, sought to reform the state's public education system, fought gender inequality in the law sector, served on the boards of many corporations (pushing for more environmentally friendly practices at Walmart), and became First Lady of the United States. During that time, she sought to make employer-provided universal healthcare a reality, helped implement various advances in the provision of healthcare to children of the poor and to women, and worked to improve women's rights at home and abroad. She later became a two-term US Senator, ran for office in 2008, and became our Secretary of State.
I think it's inspiring that Hillary has devoted her life to advancing the needs of children as well as championing gender equality. We absolutely need that in the world, and we absolutely need that in our country as a precursor to all sorts of progressive pursuits. Change begins with the sorts of tools that can only be built by taking care of children and minding our fundamental equal rights as people. Additionally, Clinton has shown herself to be a reliable leader in all sorts of contexts, private and public.

But, honestly, I also want the romance. Maybe Obama set the bar too high by being such an inspiring campaigner and having a far more (to me) compelling backstory ("community organizer reluctantly seeks office in order to fight for unity and structural change" reads as more interesting than "career-minded politician lines up a series of ducks in order to run for office"). I don't care: I want the romance. I want to get behind the social movement to ensure equal access for all genders. I can get behind the story of a woman who for years refused a man's marriage overtures because she thought that might derail her career. It's not a sexy story, but it's an important story. It's worth telling. I want my sister to hear that story. But I want Clinton to sell me. Sell me on wanting the job because of what the job will allow you to do for the people. Sell me on wanting the job not because it's been a lifelong dream, but precisely why it's been a lifelong dream and how securing it will create a better world here and abroad. Convince me, like Patrick did, that you haven't been racking up jobs in order to land another one. The right is motivated by hatred; the left is motivated by inspiration. Avoid the trap that has ensnared every Democratic front-runner in the last 50 years.

Sweat for the job. Make the case. 2016 is not guaranteed.


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The major papers are picking up a story that a communications director for Stephen Fincher, Republican Congressman from Tennessee, has done the incredible and incredulous: claim that President Obama's 13 year-old and 16 year-old daughters have no class and dress like they want a spot at the bar.

This of the daughters of the President of the United States.

From GOP aide'€™s online dig at Obama daughters creates backlash--

The communications director for a Republican member of Congress ignited a firestorm this weekend after she criticized President Obama'€™s teenage daughters in a Facebook post that touched a nerve even for Americans accustomed to political mudslinging.
Let me sprinkle some context here. This isn't a random "aide". We're talking about the Communications Director. The Communications Director. The Communications Director of the Republican Congressman from Tennessee, the #4 Most Racist State in the U.S. according to the crowdsourced website The Top Tens.

Tennessee, home of Memphis, posited to be The Most Racist City In America.

Tennessee, where Republicans work "to remove information related to slavery and our founding fathers from Tennessee textbooks".

Tennessee, where "One In Six Tennesseans Admits To Telling Unfunny Racist Jokes About The President".

Tennessee, where white supremacists gather, smiles and all--where over 30 legally-protected American white supremacy groups call home, a place from which one of only two white nationalist radio shows are broadcast.*

Tennessee: nicely, done!

If the Communications Director for the Republican Congressman from Tennessee, and former "New Media Political Manager" for the RNC, doesn't have enough prescience to understand the gravity of her breach of decorum in an era in which even devout Christian candidates for office claim that a 17 year-old pregnant daughter of a political candidate is off-limits politically--common sense, one would think!--then she should be fired, as communications is clearly not a forte of hers.

The Lauten diatribe is disdainful and snide at best and race-influenced at worst (even if that's hard to prove, as racism generally is). The first black First Daughters of the United States should not be made to sound like libertine seductresses dressed for lechery or jezebels eager to score drinks at a bar. Sasha Obama and Malia Obama are teenagers years out from legal drinking age who were dressed appropriately for teenagers and were reacting to lame jokes from their father before flashing pretty young smiles. But Elizabeth Lauten couldn't help herself:

Dear Sasha and Malia, I get you're both in those awful teen years, but you're a part of the First Family, try showing a little class. At least respect the part you play. Then again your mother and father don'€™t respect their positions very much, or the nation for that matter, so I'€™m guessing you'€™re coming up a little short in the good role model€™ department. Nevertheless, stretch yourself. Rise to the occasion. Act like being in the White House matters to you. Dress like you deserve respect, not a spot at a bar. And certainly don't make faces during televised public events.
For the record, the only other examples I could find of adults who criticize the children of sitting presidents were the National Rifle Association, who criticized Obama as a supposed hypocrite for assigning Secret Service details to protect his daughters (an innovation and perversion of power of the Obama era, as no other president has ever assigned Secret Service to protect his family before) and GOP Congressmen like Iowa's Steve King, who agreed with a radio show caller that it's "hard to stomach" seeing Sasha and Malia on vacation at nice resorts.

Last week, a British politician resigned after poking an innocent picture that belied disdain for a 39 year-old working class White Van Man. You would think that in America, the same would be true of a politician's communications director who calls the teenage daughters of a sitting president little less than opportunists who dress scantily in order to score free alcohol.

Elizabeth Lauten should resign.


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One of the things I'm generally intrigued by in politics is behind-the-scenes stories of how things actually get done. After Obama won re-election in 2012, I remember reading stories like The Data Miners: Tech Secrets From Obama’s Re-Election Geek Squad and Inside the Secret World of the Data Crunchers Who Helped Obama Win about the national team of "statisticians and organizers and analysts" assembled to pull off what ended up being one of the greatest and most dramatic re-elections I can remember. There's something about that Oceans 11-y edge to politics that transfixes me.

Yesterday, the New York Times published an article with a bland title, White House Tested Limits of Powers Before Action on Immigration, that belies a sexy premise:

Months before President Obama took executive action last week to reshape the nation’s immigration system, Jeh C. Johnson, the secretary of Homeland Security, quietly convened a small group of advisers to explore the legal limits of the president’s powers.

Working in secrecy, Mr. Johnson’s team huddled for hours each day under orders to use “our legal authorities to the fullest extent” on a new deportations policy, a senior administration official said. In five White House meetings over the summer, Mr. Johnson and Mr. Obama, both lawyers, pored over proposed changes together, eventually concluding that the president had the authority to enact changes that could affect millions of people and significantly alter the way immigration laws are enforced.

First of all, immigration reform is massively big news, but the fact that Obama had to find a workaround that took months of secret, imperturbable, daily work to deduce and enact makes that news even more amazing. That Obama didn't even "[want] to be in the position of taking executive action" as "it was not the way he wanted to fix the system” but “at the end of the day...felt this was the only option he had” and got to work to make that option feasible is the kind of stuff that fills documentaries, inspires young people to run for office, and makes one grab buckets of popcorn to celebrate what can only be the sheer rage felt by Boehner and company as well as its recently emboldened supporters:
The decision has infuriated Republicans just as they take full control of Capitol Hill — “We will not stand idle as the president undermines the rule of law in our country,” Speaker John A. Boehner pledged this month — although it remains unclear how the new Congress will react.
That's because there's nothing the new Congress can do. The Executive Orders are 100% legal and fully within the scope of influence a President--any President--is able to wield. Obama just figured out a way to wield the power in a way that helps working individuals and families instead of corporations and the rich. I love it when Democrats work within the realm of the possible to hamstring Republican efforts to stop our inevitable march towards fairness and equality under the law and the arc's decidedly slow but perceptible bend towards justice.

Anyhow, the article sheds additional light on what ultimately forced Obama to go (such sweet, sweet irony) rogue. Apparently, Obama pressed Boehner for six straight months for an immigration bill that would actually help the 11 million undocumented workers in the country and not just beef up border security. Every time Boehner visited the White House, Obama and his aides tackled the mercurial Speaker to discuss immigration. Unfortunately, Boehner dragged his feet--no surprises there--and a cauldron of Democrats eyeing re-election opted to put their personal needs above party efforts, imploring Obama to make no immigration-related announcements. Thankfully, "most of those Democratic senators lost anyway."

Now Republicans, ahead of the 2016 election, have lost any ace in the hole they might have otherwise claimed in order to court the Hispanic vote, and Obama has, in the course of also doing the right thing, delivered an additional political gift to the Democratic party. More importantly, it's a gift to millions of families who can now focus on raising their young without the pervasive fear that they'll be separated or deported.

File this one under, "Thanks, Obama."

You can read the full scoop over at the NYT.

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According to Coral Davenport of The New York Times, "President Obama could leave office with the most aggressive, far-reaching environmental legacy of any occupant of the White House."

Apparently, the man who oversaw the saving of our economy, the killing of Bin Laden, the passing of healthcare reform, the end of the Iraq War, the overhauling of our broken financial system, the U.S. auto industry's incredible comeback, the death of DADT and related cultural milestones like the first mention of gay rights in an inauguration address and his unprecedented affirmation of support for gay marriage in 2012, as well as the fundamental transformation of federal judgeships to include more women than ever before in history isn't even done yet. The real sauce may yet come in the form of his adroit usage of the 1970 Clean Air Act, "the most powerful environmental law in the world", in order to "issue a series of landmark regulations on air pollution, from soot to smog, to mercury and planet-warming carbon dioxide" and "to push forward in a way that no president ever has" a far-reaching, coherent national agenda for tackling global warming and "reshaping major sectors of the economy, specifically auto manufacturing and electric utilities."

Predictably, Republicans are apoplectic in their displeasure, strongly ironic given the now-impermeable but then-functioning bipartisan membrane of 1970: at the time, the Clean Air Act passed with a 73-to-0 Yes vote and granted the EPA, which is now a frequent flogging block of the GOP's, fairly broad powers to do its job. Interestingly, private industry seems to be gearing up for the inevitable impact of Obama's environmental protections:

Officials at the Edison Electric Institute, which lobbies for privately owned electric utilities, said the regulations were forcing the industry to drastically reshape the way it does business. “He’ll have dozens of these rules under his watch,” Quin Shea, vice president of the institute, said of the president. “Taken together, they will have a far-reaching effect of transforming the electric power sector for the next 20 years.”
Unlike Republicans, who quixotically suspend their duties only to be rewarded by their gerrymandered (albeit dwindling) clients, businesses cannot afford to ignore reality. They have to learn to work within it in order to watch the bottom line and stay soluble.

It's great to see a well-accomplished President using his last two years in office to deliver on moving the needle Forward on immigration reform and on seeking to significantly improve upon and invest in our environment. This is even more remarkable when one considers his kept-to-broken ratio of environmentally-focused promises since 2008 in the contextual furnace of Republican obstructionism.

Despite racking up significant "game-changers" in the last six years, President Obama continues to explore socioeconomic and political progress in areas assumed by some to be forgotten, and he continues to pursue a larger project of positioning America as a leader among global superpowers, most recently on display in that historic deal with China. It's certainly the sort of leadership we demand from those we entrust with our nation's highest position of service, but it's nice to witness just the same--especially when it's poised to be felt even decades into the future.

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Below is a diary that I penned on August 15th and somehow forgot to Publish. I discovered it in my Drafts folder tonight and decided that it summarized my emotions from the last few days, represents something far more cogent than I could come up with today, and is worth sharing. Sadly, my prediction of exoneration turned out to be true.


From Police Name Officer in Michael Brown Shooting, Suggest Unarmed Teen Was Robbery Suspect

Ferguson Police Chief Thomas Jackson named Darren Wilson as the officer who shot and killed unarmed Michael Brown, 18, in the St. Louis suburb on Aug 9.

But the police also suggested on Friday that Brown was the suspect in a convenience store robbery that took place shortly before he was shot. Jackson released a report that named Brown as "the primary suspect" in the incident.

Brown was shot after the officer encountered him and another man on the street at 12:01 p.m. local time after responding to an armed robbery call, and Brown fit the description of the suspect, Chief Jackson said on Friday.

This diary is not about whether or not Michael Brown robbed a convenience store. We have a fairly reliable, if imperfect and racially skewed, criminal justice system in place in our society to deal with such questions and mete out legally sanctioned, if imperfect and racially skewed, consequences.

This diary is, instead, about what it means to "fit the description of a suspect" and how various assumptions we make about people based on color lead to particular outcomes, often at a great physical and moral cost.

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Thu Nov 27, 2014 at 02:59 PM PST

It's a Good Time to be Black

by therehastobeaway

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I was born in the 80s, twenty years after an era in which "white people, mostly white men, occasionally went berserk, and grabbed random black people, usually men, and lynched them," something the work of Martin Luther King, Jr., among others, helped to make less frequent. That's a lot of progress in just twenty years. I'm thankful for that.

It's been another thirty or so years since then, and I must say that things have improved markedly. Sure, we still have a few problems here and there: cops occasionally grab random black people and arrest them for dancing. It's true that white neighborhood watchmen occasionally stalk young black young men and kill them for holding Skittles and defending themselves. It's also true that white cops occasionally kill twelve year-old black boys playing with snow in playgrounds for holding legal pellet guns in open-carry states. You hear about white police officers occasionally chokeholding older black men to death for selling cigarettes and resisting handcuffs. But it used to be a lot worse. Remember when you could be murdered for flirting with a white woman at the age of 14?  If someone had told black children in the 50s and 60s that we'd someday come to a point in society in which they could only be arrested or killed for dancing in public or waving legal toy guns around in playgrounds, those children would gladly trade places with us. Things are really good these days. Just today, I went to brunch with a black friend of mine and we weren't turned away at the door or forced to sit in a blacks-only section. We've basically got it made. I'm thankful for that too.

As for the news, I try not to pay too much attention to all the overreactions. Look at this, for example:

As part of a study published in the American Psychological Association's Journal of Personality and Social Psychology in March, researchers analyzed the records of 176 mostly white, male police officers, and tested them to see if they held an unconscious "dehumanization bias" against black people by having them match photos of people with photos of big cats or apes. Researchers found that officers who dehumanized black people in the test were also likely to be the ones who had a record of using force on black children in custody.


In the same study, researchers interviewed 264 mostly white, female college students and found that they tended to perceive black children age 10 and older as "significantly less innocent" than their white counterparts.

-From "Police thought 12-year-old Tamir Rice was 20 when they shot him. This isn't uncommon."

That is such a 21st-century, first-world problem. A few weeks ago while walking home, a police cruiser slowed down as it approached me, and the officer rolled down his window as if to profile me, but then kept going--maybe I was initially perceived as not innocent while walking, but that officer left me alone. Considering that cops kill black people at a higher rate than white people, I'm just lucky to be here today to type this up on my Macbook Pro as I listen to Radiohead on Spotify. This probably wouldn't have been true 30 years ago (and I don't just mean the Spotify). I'm thankful for that as well.

Here's another news article that makes things seem worse than they actually are: Study shows whites think blacks are superhuman, magical--

The results suggest superhumanization of black individuals may contribute to the undertreatment of pain for black patients because they're viewed as being able to endure more, which supports earlier research from the same authors that showed nurses of any race see black patients as less sensitive to pain than white patients. The authors assert superhumanization may also explain white tolerance for police brutality against black people.
I just don't see what the big deal here is. The way I see it, we've come a really long way since the days when blacks were barred from going to hospitals in the first place. Can you imagine telling Martin Luther King, Jr. that, in an era in which we have our first black president (who passed our nation's first universal healthcare system), we're unhappy about being prescribed fewer painkillers than white people out of a lingering stereotype that we have stronger muscles or less sensitive nerve endings or magical superpowers or whatever? MLK would probably say, "It's a good time to be black, and it's about time you realized, and were thankful for, it."

Don't let the Mike Brown case or the countless ones just like it make you think otherwise.


How good do you think black people have it?

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Fact: Since planting its first American flag on Boston soil in 1776, the United States has been at war, domestic and externally, during every single decade with the exception of the 1830s.

Let that statement sink in, and then allow its implications to wash over you before pondering the number of lives lost to the sum total of all those wars or the nearly incalculable sum of money we've spent on war in nearly 250 years as a nation (if you must know, the total, adjusted for modern dollars, is $8,695,112,000,000--$8.6 Trillion).

Though we comprise just 4.5 percent of the entire world's population, we spend 39% of the world's annual military budget.

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One day, I'm going to write a diary about how transformative a president Obama has been, a diary that will serve both as a condemnation of conservative Republicans' ultimately unsuccessful attempts to sabotage his presidency and as a condemnation of some progressive Democrats' insistence that Obama hasn't really done all that much or didn't deliver what we entrusted him to. That diary will come, but this one isn't it.

I want to talk here about a fairly specific example of social progress we can all believe in and should be proud of, because President Obama has tonight committed to a most admirable, bold, and necessary act of transformational justice: to make the lives of millions of people within America's borders better, to protect the sanctity of the family in a population of human beings who came here to flourish, and to create an environment in which people are rewarded for contributing to our nation's future rather than punished for choosing our nation over another in their past.

Five million people will no longer have to live in fear of being separated from others who they love and depend on. Said our President during his announcement tonight on immigration reform:

“Are we a nation that tolerates the hypocrisy of a system where workers who pick our fruit and make our beds never have a chance to get right with the law?” ...Whether our forebears were strangers who crossed the Atlantic, or the Pacific, or the Rio Grande, we are here only because this country welcomed them in.”
America, harrowing and complicated a past as it has, is only as great as its willingness to give people a chance to move forward, to hope and to dream, to progress along an arc that perpetuates progress rather than regression, that honors the importance of change in reaching for better and more just rather than settling for protections for the powerful at the perpetual expense of the powerless. Allowing individuals who come here without any power the opportunity to create new futures for themselves and their young while improving on the imperfect experiment that is America is a capstone of our democracy if one can be said to exist. Occasionally, we need our lions to remind us of that.

As Peter Beinart of The Atlantic puts it, Obama "has decided once again to trigger the hatred of defenders of the status quo because, I suspect, he knows American history well enough to know that real moral progress doesn’t happen any other way".

The would-be-activist-turned-President tonight declared, "We shall not oppress a stranger, for we know the heart of a stranger — we were strangers once, too." In doing so, and in putting forth a plan to fold those strangers into our society, Obama lived up not only to what Beinart describes as "the promise that a black man with a Muslim name who had worked in Chicago’s ghettos—a man who had tasted what it means to a stranger in America—would bring that memory with him when he entered the White House", but also to the promise of his Nobel: "extraordinary efforts to strengthen...cooperation between peoples".

On display tonight was a truly extraordinary and indisputably progressive effort to strengthen our nation through reform that will make millions of peoples' lives better and our society a more cooperative, symbiotic place on which to build a foundation for a brighter future.

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