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“Screwing Up A One-Car Funeral”: House Republicans Three-Headed Monster Of A legislative Vehicle For Its Views On Iran

One of the few things we all thought we could count on when Congress returned from its August recess was a quick vote in the House on a resolution of disapproval for the Iran Nuclear Deal. After all, (1) it’s an issue on which all congressional Republicans seem to agree, (2) there’s a mandated timetable for dealing with the resolution that everybody agreed on months ago, and (3) it’s all kinda Kabuki Theater right now because Democrats have the votes to filibuster the resolution in the Senate.

But sometimes with these birds even the simplest things come unglued. Suddenly today a “revolt of House conservatives”–by no means the first or last–occurred, and now pending a meeting of House GOPers that’s currently underway, the Party of Responsible Government looks likely to produce some sort of three-headed monster of a legislative vehicle for its views on Iran, per Politico‘s Jake Sherman:

They are moving toward voting on a measure asserting Obama did not submit all elements of the agreement with Iran, a concept first raised by Reps. Mike Pompeo (R-Kan.) and Peter Roskam (R-Ill.), a former member of GOP leadership. Second, Republicans are working on a bill to try to prevent Obama from lifting sanctions against Iran. Third, the House would vote on a resolution to approve of the Iran pact. The original plan was to vote on a disapproval resolution.

This first gambit is based on the growing right-wing furor over “side agreements” between the Iranians and international nuclear monitors, plus alleged other “secret” deals, which conservatives claim cancels the procedural timetable for any votes and also makes the administration vulnerable to lawsuits. Boil it all down, and it’s an effort to add the Iran Nuclear Deal to the long list of things on which the Tyrant Obama supposedly broke the law and violated the Constitution.

In other words, House GOPers are talking to themselves, and to the almighty base.

The third gambit supposedly makes the treasonous nature of Democrats more obvious by requiring them to vote for the deal, not just against a resolution of disapproval.

Trouble with that one, and with the whole package, is that it’s not being coordinated with the Senate, where it’s totally not welcome (guess Ted Cruz is too busy in Kentucky trying to get into photos with Kim Davis to serve as the liaison between House and Senate wingnuts). So what should have been the easiest of maneuvers in a very crowded and complicated schedule has become a fiasco (Greg Sargent calls it “snatching defeat from the jaws of defeat.”), and congressional GOPers have become the people who could screw up a one-car funeral. Just amazing.

 

By: Ed Kilgore, Contributing Writer, Political Animal Blog, The Washington Monthly, September 9, 2015

September 10, 2015 Posted by | House Republicans, Iran Nuclear Agreement, Senate | , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Confederate Flag Treated Like Fallen Hero”: Many Still Miss The Point Of What The Confederacy Stood For

In June, the South Carolina Highway Patrol honor guard carried the mortal remains of the murdered Sen. Clementa Pinckney up the State House steps and into the rotunda.

Members of the honor guard flanked the open coffin, spit polished and erect, eyes straight ahead in a silent show of respect as thousands of mourners filed past. A black cloth had been draped over one of the windows to spare anyone who might be offended by the Confederate battle flag flying out front.

A bill called the Heritage Act passed in this very building prevented the flag from being lowered even to half-staff, much less taken down without a two-thirds vote of the legislature.

But on Thursday, the legislature voted to do just that and set a 24-hour deadline on having it done.

On Friday, the honor guard returned, this time to lower the Confederate battle flag, which had been designed by William Porcher Miles, a onetime mayor of Charleston who had been a prominent “fire-eater,” as the most ardent proponents of slavery and secession leading up to the Civil War were called.

The honor guard had performed countless other ceremonies, but this one was a little different. And they had not been given much time to work out exactly how it should go.

The flag was being taken down in the first place because it was seen by many people—African-Americans in particular—as a hateful symbol of slavery and oppression. Some rightly view it as a shameful banner of treason.

But it had been hoisted there in the first place because it is viewed by others—none of them African-Americans—as a symbol of an idealized heritage and history.

And the very fact that the honor guard had been chosen to lower it was an implicit nod to those people.

At the appointed time on Friday morning, the guard went about lowering the flag with the same ritualistic respect as it would with the Stars and Stripes.

Two of the officers took the lowered banner in their white gloved hands.

And for a moment, it seemed as if they might fold it as they would an American flag that had covered the coffin of a fellow cop or a U.S. solider who had made the supreme sacrifice.

Instead, they rolled it, presumably an echo of the way Confederate regiments furled their battle flags in surrender at the end of the Civil War.

A black sergeant was the one who then took the furled banner. He had done this at American flag ceremonies where race was not issue, but it was hard to believe that he had been chosen by chance in this instance.

He seemed to be an attempt to compensate for the bigotry associated with what he now carried so solemnly over to the State House steps. The director of the South Carolina Relic Room and Military Museum waited to receive it.

For a second, truly terrible moment, the ritual was too much like that performed when the flag from a hero’s coffin is presented to a grieving loved one along with the words, “On behalf of a grateful nation.…”

Thankfully, the sergeant uttered not a word. The director, Allen Roberson, was also silent as he took the furled flag.

“Nothing was said,” Roberson later told The Daily Beast. “I felt like that was appropriate.”

Roberson was escorted up into the State House.

“I just wanted to make sure I didn’t trip when I was carrying the flag,” he recalled.

He then descended to the basement, where an armored car was waiting to transport the flag to the museum.

Upon arriving, Roberson brought the flag in through a back door. The flag was unrolled, smoothed and carefully folded.

“So it wouldn’t crease,” Roberson said.

The museum’s registrar, Rachel Cockrell, and an intern named John Faulkenberry placed it in an “acid-free textile storage box, padded with acid-free tissue.” The box was stored in the museum’s “secure, climate-controlled Artifact Storage area.”

“Locked and alarmed,” Roberson said.

Roberson dismissed as not entirely accurate reports that there had been a tacit agreement as part of a legislative compromise to store the flag in a multimillion-dollar facility funded by the taxpayers—which would include, necessarily, the descendants of slaves.

He allowed that there had been some brainstorming with various architects and planners, but nothing had been decided and whatever was ultimately done would not likely be so grand.

He noted that he has not been able to get added funding for anything in recent years.

“Our budget has not increased at all,” he said.

Back at the State House, the flagpole where the banner had flown was now bare, but a monument to the Confederate dead remained. The inscription on the north side reads:

“This monument
perpetuates the memory,
of those who
true to the instincts of their birth,
faithful to the teachings of their fathers,
constant in their love for the State,
died in the performance of their duty:
Who
have glorified a fallen cause
by the simple manhood of their lives,
the patient endurance of suffering,
and the heroism of death,
and who,
in the dark house of imprisonment,
in the hopelessness of the hospital,
in the short, sharp agony of the field
found support and consolation
in the belief
that at home they would not be forgotten.
Unveiled May 13, 1879”

The fallen cause they glorified included sedition and slavery. The people at home included slaves who had suffered horrors that outdid even war.

There is also an inscription on the north side:

“Let the stranger,
who may in the future times
read this inscription,
recognize that these were men
whom power could not corrupt,
whom death could not terrify,
whom defeat could not dishonor
and let their virtues plead
for just judgment
of the cause in which they perished.
Let the South Carolinian
of another generation
remember
that the State taught them
how to live and how to die.
And that from her broken fortunes
she has preserved for her children
the priceless treasure of their memories,
teaching all who may claim
the same birthright
that truth, courage and patriotism
endure forever.”

The truth is they died fighting to deny fellow human beings the right to life and liberty. Their legacy is racism and hate.

The flowery falsehoods on the monument remain, now that the flag has been taken down in somber ceremony with white gloved hands and tucked safely away by a very nice museum director in an acid-free box, locked and alarmed.

 

By: Michael Daly, The Daily Beast, July 11, 2015

July 12, 2015 Posted by | Confederate Flag, Slavery, South Carolina | , , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“Enlightenment On Confederate Flag Was Long Overdue”: This American Swastika Is Unfit For Human Consumption

“You can always count on Americans to do the right thing — after they’ve tried everything else.”

That’s an observation widely credited to Winston Churchill, though it’s one he may or may not have ever made. Whoever said it, the truth of the axiom has seldom been more obvious than now, as we watch the fall of the Confederate battle flag. It is too early to say whether this will prove lasting. But the signs certainly point toward a seismic shift.

In South Carolina, where the Confederacy was born, a motion to allow debate on removing the flag from the grounds of the state Capitol passed by a vote of 103-10. Alabama has already removed its flag. Meantime, a number of major retailers, including Amazon, eBay, and Arkansas-based Walmart, have announced they will no longer carry the flag. Perhaps most amazing, Valley Forge Flag, a 133-year-old flag maker in Pennsylvania, has said it will no longer manufacture it.

We appear to be on the verge of a long-overdue national consensus that this American swastika is unfit for human consumption. And to think: All it took was the blood of nine innocent people.

Ever since 21-year-old white supremacist Dylann Roof shot up Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, the ground has been shifting beneath that flag, so beloved of the white, conservative South — especially after images emerged of Roof posing with one. “God help South Carolina if we fail to achieve the goal of removing the flag,” said South Carolina senator and presidential aspirant Lindsey Graham last week. He said this just days after telling CNN the flag was “part of who we are.”

The suddenness of the change in attitude toward that flag is bracing, reminiscent, in an odd way, of when the Berlin Wall fell: Nobody saw it coming — it happened. That said, it is hard to be wholly invested in cheering what is happening here.

Consider: The Confederate battle flag was not somehow made more racist by Roof’s alleged rampage. Notwithstanding claims by Graham and others that it has somehow been misused as a racist symbol by the likes of Roof, the fact is, the thing was used as such from the moment the first thread of the first flag was sewn in support of a treasonous regime that was, to borrow Mississippi’s words, “thoroughly identified with the institution of slavery.”

The flag was certainly understood as racist — that was the whole point — by those who resurrected it to signal massive resistance to the civil rights movement. It is still understood that way; why else is it ubiquitous at white supremacist rallies?

So what happened at Emanuel did not change the flag’s meaning; it only made that meaning harder to ignore. And while its fall is significant, you have to wonder if it really marks a fundamental change in the mind of the white, conservative South. Particularly since you can’t turn around in Dixie without running into some road, bridge, statue, or park honoring some individual who took up arms against the U.S. government in the name of perpetuating slavery — or without meeting someone eager to rationalize that, hiding behind abstracts like “honor” and “duty” to avoid admitting what the Confederacy really was.

The tragedy at Emanuel has forced a moment of clarity into this fog of cognitive dissonance. In days to come, we’ll see just how much that’s worth in terms of real change. Because at some point, the people of the white, conservative South must themselves take responsibility for their own racial education, for facing — and growing from — the truth about their beloved Confederacy.

Consider that it took an act of mass murder before they were willing to reckon honestly with their flag and its meaning. Yes, one is pleased to see that finally come to pass.

But the price of enlightenment seems awfully high.

 

By: Leonard Pitts, Jr., Columnist, The Miami Herald; The National Memo, June 29, 2015

June 30, 2015 Posted by | Confederacy, Confederate Flag, Slavery | , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

“Stochastic Terrorism”: Did The Four Dissenting Justices In Gay Marriage Case Just Suggest Treason?

In controversial cases, is the role of jurist to inflame controversy, or quell it?

In Loving v. Virginia, the 1967 case which found race-based marriage bans unconstitutional, Chief Justice Earl Warren built a 9-0 consensus—just as he’d done years earlier in Brown vs. Board of Education. He knew that a country divided by race ought to be united, if possible, by a Supreme Court mindful of fundamental values—even if the Court was, as the constitution requires, overturning the will of the majority.

The four dissents in the landmark case on same-sex marriage, Obergefell v. Hodges, one by each of the conservative justices on today’s Supreme Court, take a very different view. With invective and hyperbole, they pour fuel on the fire of the controversy over same-sex marriage. Rather than merely state their views and disagreements, they use heated language to accuse the five-person majority of imperialism, a “putsch,” and worse.

Thus, the unprecedented calls of elected officials for open revolt against the Supreme Court—a shocking display of treason—are now accompanied by calls from within the Court itself that Obergefell is illegitimate, and the Supreme Court itself no longer worthy of full respect.

Ironically, in alleging a new low for the Court, these four justices have brought one into being. Justice Scalia has, as usual, grabbed the spotlight with juvenile taunting usually reserved for the playground. But in fact, all four opinions are shocking.

Chief Justice Roberts (joined by Scalia and Thomas) makes a solid, and unsurprising, substantive case. There is, after all, no explicit right to marriage (for gays or anyone else) in the Constitution; it is, rather, a fundamental right inferred into the Fourteenth Amendment’s guarantees of due process and equal protection. Thus, one might expect a judicial conservative like Roberts to be suspicious of expanding it, particularly when doing so runs against the expressed will of a majority of state legislatures.

But the way he chose to cast his argument ill befits his status as chief justice. “The majority’s decision is an act of will, not legal judgment,” he writes. That is absurd: the court’s decision runs thirty pages, full of all the legal judgments, precedents, and statements of principle one would expect.

But that’s just the beginning. Across four pages, Chief Justice Roberts analogizes Obergefell to the Lochner v. New York decision, one of the most notoriously wrongheaded in Supreme Court history. Lochner means nothing to most people, but to anyone who’s finished the first year of law school, it’s a swear word.

He’s still not done. The Chief Justice of the United States then states (quoting a concurring opinion by Justice Kennedy) that “the legitimacy of this Court ultimately rests ‘upon the respect accorded to its judgments.’ That respect flows from the perception—and reality—that we exercise humility and restraint in deciding cases according to the Constitution and law. The role of the Court envisioned by the majority today, however, is anything but humble or restrained. Over and over, the majority exalts the role of the judiciary in delivering social change.”

In other words, the majority is arrogant, unrestrained, and thus not to be respected. It has an “extravagant conception of judicial supremacy.” “Those who founded our country would not recognize the majority’s conception of the judicial role.” And “The Court’s accumulation of power does not occur in a vacuum. It comes at the expense of the people. And they know it.”

Why not just tell the Religious Right to buy pitchforks and blowtorches? Chief Justice Roberts’ ironic opinion is immoderate in alleging immoderacy, extreme in alleging extremism.

Justice Scalia came next. And he begins thus: “I join THE CHIEF JUSTICE’s opinion in full. I write separately to call attention to this Court’s threat to American democracy.”

It seems inevitable that rhetoric like this will stir the next Confederate flag-waving zealot to an act of, if not domestic terrorism, at least outrageous revolt. How could it be otherwise? And yet this, too, was only the first line.

The next line is, at best, disingenuous: “The substance of today’s decree is not of immense personal importance to me.” As if. This from the man who, 12 years ago, wrote in his Lawrence v. Texas dissent that the Court “has largely signed on to the so-called homosexual agenda promoted by some homosexual activists directed at eliminating the moral opprobrium that has traditionally attached to homosexual conduct.”

Is that what the LGBT equality movement is about? Throughout Justice Scalia’s hysterical writing in LGBT-related cases, he has doggedly maintained that their subjects are merely “homosexual conduct” and “homosexual sodomy.” That there are, in fact, gay and lesbian people is not part of Justice Scalia’s worldview, as he has shown time and time again. There is only homosexual conduct.

And yet he says, like a “no homo” jock in a locker room, “Hey, I don’t care if you’re gay.”

Once again, just getting started. “Today’s decree says that my Ruler, and the Ruler of 320 million Americans coast-to-coast, is a majority of the nine lawyers on the Supreme Court.” That is outrageous rhetoric and an outrageous sentiment. The decision is not a “decree.” The Court is not a “Ruler”—it is an Article III interpreter of the Constitution, at its most important when it protects minorities against the will of the majority. Even demeaning Supreme Court justices as “lawyers” is a sign of disrespect.

Other statements are similar. “This is a naked judicial claim to legislative—indeed, super-legislative—power; a claim fundamentally at odds with our system of government.” “What really astounds is the hubris reflected in today’s judicial Putsch.” And, “With each decision that is unabashedly based not on law, but on the ‘reasoned judgment’ of a bare majority of this Court—we move one step closer to being reminded of our impotence.”

Others have already quoted Justice Scalia’s rhetoric—“jiggery-pokery” and the rest—at length, so I won’t spend much time with it here. Because in fact, his jurisprudence is far more shocking. Watch this:

When the Fourteenth Amendment was ratified in 1868, every State limited marriage to one man and one woman, and no one doubted the constitutionality of doing so. That resolves these cases. When it comes to determining the meaning of a vague constitutional provision—such as “due process of law” or “equal protection of the laws”—it is unquestionable that the People who ratified that provision did not understand it to prohibit a practice that remained both universal and uncontroversial in the years after ratification. We have no basis for striking down a practice that is not expressly prohibited by the Fourteenth Amendment’s text, and that bears the endorsement of a long tradition of open, widespread, and unchallenged use dating back to the Amendment’s ratification.

I have quoted this passage at length so there is no misunderstanding. What Justice Scalia is saying here is that if it was “universal and uncontroversial” in 1868, it’s obviously okay now. That principle, of course, would allow states to ban interracial marriages, including that of Justice Thomas. It would allow states to bring back the doctrine that a woman surrenders all her rights to her husband upon marriage. It is shocking.

To be sure, it is also of a piece with Justice Scalia’s “originalism” and is not, as such, novel. But its strict application here places Justice Scalia in a bizarre twilight-zone of 19th century values.

Likewise, Justice Thomas’s description of “the dangerous fiction of treating the Due Process Clause as a font of substantive rights.” That “fiction” has protected rights to contraception, to abortion, and to all kinds of intimate family matters. Justice Thomas’s reactionary jurisprudence would erase half a century of gains in the area of civil rights.

And likewise Justice Alito’s talking-point dictum that the opinion will be “used to vilify Americans who are unwilling to assent to the new orthodoxy.” This, of course, is a commonplace on the Religious Right—but its appearance in a Supreme Court opinion is nonetheless shocking.

But it is Justice Alito’s parting jab which resonates the most.  Obergefell, he writes, evidences “the deep and perhaps irremediable corruption of our legal culture’s conception of constitutional interpretation.”  This from someone who joined an opinion overturning fifty years of due process jurisprudence, and another arguing a return to 1868’s family values.

“All Americans,” he concludes, “should worry about what the majority’s claim of power portends.”  Claim of power—as if the Constitution does not empower the Court to do exactly what it has done: use reasoning and interpretation to defend constitutional rights against laws that would abridge them.

These are, as the saying goes, fighting words, and more importantly, they are words that will inspire others to fight.  They are what some call “stochastic terrorism,” the broadcasting of a message so incendiary as to inspire some “lone wolf” to violence—if not actual violence, then precisely the kinds of anti-democratic, anti-American defiance we have already seen among some politicians.

Were the targets of such acts only gays and lesbians, it would be bad enough.  But these four dissents have encouraged disrespect of the Supreme Court itself.  Agree or disagree with the Court’s method of interpreting the Constitution, they are acts of vandalism against one of the foundations of our democracy.

 

By: Jay Michaelson, The Daily Beast, June 27, 2015

June 30, 2015 Posted by | 14th Amendment, Marriage Equality, U. S. Supreme Court | , , , , , , , , | 1 Comment

“We Have Been Teaching Fiction Instead Of American History”: Unraveling The Threads Of Hatred, Sewn Into A Confederate Icon

This blighted boy with red hate in his eyes but otherwise colorless curdled milk skin — this boy is a failure. It takes more than a weak stick like him to start a race war.

Personally, I pray that the lives of nine Charleston, S.C., martyrs serve this purpose: Instead of hammering and whispering on racism, we finally reach a tone of agreement based in simple self-truth. Surely we all can shake on the idea that the murder of preachers, teachers and librarians in the name of color demands that we examine how such an old, infectious poison got into the veins of a newborn American boy. And that requires admitting that we have been teaching fiction instead of American history. We have romanticized the roots of hate with crinoline and celluloid.

If you went to Germany and saw a war memorial with a Nazi flag flying over it, what would you think of those people? You might think they were unrepentant. You might think they were in a lingering state of denial about their national atrocities. The Confederate battle flag is an American swastika, the relic of traitors and totalitarians, symbol of a brutal regime, not a republic. The Confederacy was treason in defense of a still deeper crime against humanity: slavery. If weaklings find racial hatred to be a romantic expression of American strength and purity, make no mistake that it begins by unwinding a red thread from that flag.

Yet it is easier for the governor of South Carolina to call for the execution of this milkweed boy than it is for her to call for the lowering of that banner. Why?

This lack of political will and failure of self-recognition is not hers alone. It has repeated itself, on a large scale and small, generation by generation for 150 years, a self-lying sentimental tide. “It seems inconceivable,” Stanley Turkel wrote in “Heroes of the American Reconstruction,” “that the losers of the bloodiest war in history were allowed to wrap their traitorous acts in the description of their so-called noble cause.” Yet in 1957, John F. Kennedy won the Pulitzer Prize for “Profiles in Courage,” in which he distorted and maligned the character of Union Medal of Honor winner Adelbert Ames, chased from the Mississippi governor’s office during Reconstruction by White Line terrorists, while instead lauding L.Q.C. Lamar as the more heroic figure. Lamar drafted Mississippi’s ordinance of secession and raised the 19th Mississippi Infantry Regiment.

Maybe it wouldn’t have done any good for Charleston shooting suspect Dylann Roof, who we’re told repeated the ninth grade, but he and his classmates should have been required to read “The Bloody Shirt” by Stephen Budiansky, which describes in vivid detail how between 1867 and 1877 the defeated South was permitted to overthrow new state governments representing black citizens, killing more than 3,000 of them with terrorism. Roof should have been required to read “Redemption” by Nicholas Lemann, who documents how President Ulysses S. Grant effectively gave back everything he had won in the war when he lacked the will to enforce the 14th and 15th amendments with troops, instead abandoning Ames to the White Line terrorists.

All wars are romanticized by those who have never felt bullets fly through their coats. But there is something deeply pernicious in the continued attempts to soft-focus the causes of the Confederacy, its aftermath and its lingering effects. South Carolina’s part of the Declaration of Causes of Seceding States, also signed by Mississippi, Georgia, Virginia and Texas, stated that secession was the direct result of “an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding states to the institution of slavery.”

We will have truthfully reckoned with our racial history when high school and college students quit going to Heritage Balls wearing butternut military tunics and sashes and understand that Jeff Davis and Bobby Lee should have spent the rest of their natural lives in work camps, breaking rocks with shovels, instead of on their verandas — and the fact that they didn’t was a profound miscarriage. And when they understand that the South was in fact deeply divided along class as well as racial lines. Enforced conscription and edicts such as the Twenty Negro Law allowed the wealthiest slaveowners to sit out the fight. Something else Roof should have been required to read is Mark A. Weitz’s book “More Damning than Slaughter,” which shows that dissension from within and the desertion of well over 103,000 disillusioned Confederate soldiers defeated the South as much as any battles.

In 1872, another much-maligned patriot, Sen. Charles Sumner of Massachusetts, introduced a resolution that would have forbidden placing the names of Civil War battles on regimental colors of the U.S. Army. Sumner felt that conflicts in which Americans killed Americans should not be romanticized or celebrated. He was shouted down and censured.

Maybe Dylann Roof’s alleged acts have killed the impulse to romanticize atrocity anymore. Maybe instead of provoking a race war, he has provoked the wish to clean out this brutal wound once and for all with the astringent of truth. We are all unutterably weary of bloody internal estrangements. Can we not agree to run up the same flagpole? And to lower those crossed and starred banners, the bloody shirts with their inverse reds and blues? Personally, I would like to burn them and bury the ashes in an unmarked grave, keeping just a few for the museums.

 

By: Sally Jenkins, Sports Columnist for The Post and Co-author with John Stauffer of “The State of Jones”; The Washington Post, June 20, 2015

June 21, 2015 Posted by | Charleston SC Shootings, Emanuel AME Church, Race War | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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