Showing posts with label GOP racism. Show all posts
Showing posts with label GOP racism. Show all posts

Oct 9, 2014

Brad Schimel Is Unfit for Office

Republican Waukesha County District Attorney Brad Schimel said he would have defended the ban on interracial marriage had he been Wisconsin attorney general before states' ban on interracial marriage was struck down as unconstitutional in 1967. (Marley, Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel)

Schimel is a candidate for Wisconsin attorney general running against District Attorney of Jefferson County, Susan Happ.

This is really all you need to know about Brad Schimel.

As part of the new Republican Party, Schimel has little regard for the Constitutional rights of Wisconsin citizens; would not stand up for Constitutional rights; and would make a horrible attorney general.

Schimel's position is of course in keeping with an open hostility by the Republican Party to people of color.

Aug 16, 2014

Mindless Menace of Violence Goes On and On

"We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort."
-- Robert F. Kennedy at the Cleveland City Club; April 5, 1968

Difficult to imagine a country united in a common effort when one major political party, the Republican Party, inflicts onto the body politic a constant barrage of racial taunts to demonize black and brown (and now female) Americans.

The effort of the Republican Party to marginalize and prevent entire segments of American society from voting, from working, from organizing, going to good public schools, and even controlling their own bodies is an effort that must be defeated.

When I read Julia Ioffe's piece in The New Republic on the reaction of white citizens of Olivette, Missouri (15 minutes from Ferguson) applauding deadly police action, disrespecting whole communities and emitting hate after the police murder of a black 18-year-old, I was not surprised.

Without continually sounding racist dog whistles, the Republican Party apparently believes it can not survive as a power center.

The GOP is a toxic presence in American society, and needs to be named as such.

"We are united in common values, and that includes belief in equality under the law; a basic respect for public order and the right to peaceful public protest; a reverence for the dignity of every single man, woman and child among us; and the need for accountability when it comes to our government," said President Obama.

Nothing could be further from the truth, we are not united.

Behind the scenes the Scott Walkers, the Tea Baggers brag to billionaires on GOP schemes to "divide and conquer" working families. (Nichols, The Nation; May 2012)

Even blocking voting remains a high GOP priority.

GOP hate radio thrives with no Republican dare crossing it.

Violence solves nothing; but violence would hardly be contemplated if Republican hate were marginalized instead of people.

This is a time of shame and sorrow. It is not a day for politics. I have saved this one opportunity to speak briefly to you about this mindless menace of violence in America which again stains our land and every one of our lives.

It is not the concern of any one race. The victims of the violence are black and white, rich and poor, young and old, famous and unknown. They are, most important of all, human beings whom other human beings loved and needed. No one - no matter where he lives or what he does - can be certain who will suffer from some senseless act of bloodshed. And yet it goes on and on.

Why? What has violence ever accomplished? What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by his assassin's bullet.

No wrongs have ever been righted by riots and civil disorders. A sniper is only a coward, not a hero; and an uncontrolled, uncontrollable mob is only the voice of madness, not the voice of the people.
Whenever any American's life is taken by another American unnecessarily - whether it is done in the name of the law or in the defiance of law, by one man or a gang, in cold blood or in passion, in an attack of violence or in response to violence - whenever we tear at the fabric of life which another man has painfully and clumsily woven for himself and his children, the whole nation is degraded.

"Among free men," said Abraham Lincoln, “there can be no successful appeal from the ballot
to the bullet; and those who take such appeal are sure to lose their cause and pay the costs."

Yet we seemingly tolerate a rising level of violence that ignores our common humanity and our claims to civilization alike. We calmly accept newspaper reports of civilian slaughter in far off lands. We glorify killing on movie and television screens and call it entertainment. We make it easy for men of all shades of sanity to acquire weapons and ammunition they desire.

Too often we honor swagger and bluster and the wielders of force; too often we excuse those who are willing to build their own lives on the shattered dreams of others. Some Americans who preach nonviolence abroad fail to practice it here at home. Some who accuse others of inciting riots have by their own conduct invited them.

Some looks for scapegoats, others look for conspiracies, but this much is clear; violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleaning of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul.

For there is another kind of violence, slower but just as deadly, destructive as the shot or the bomb in the night. This is the violence of institutions; indifference and inaction and slow decay. This is the violence that afflicts the poor, that poisons relations between men because their skin has different colors. This is a slow destruction of a child by hunger, and schools without books and homes without heat in the winter.

This is the breaking of a man's spirit by denying him the chance to stand as a father and as a man among other men. And this too afflicts us all. I have not come here to propose a set of specific remedies nor is there a single set. For a broad and adequate outline we know what must be done. When you teach a man to hate and fear his brother, when you teach that he is a lesser man because of his color or his beliefs or the policies he pursues, when you teach that those who differ from you threaten your freedom or your job or your family, then you also learn to confront others not as fellow citizens but as enemies - to be met not with cooperation but with conquest, to be subjugated and mastered.

We learn, at the last, to look at our brothers as aliens, men with whom we share a city, but not a community, men bound to us in common dwelling, but not in common effort. We learn to share only a common fear - only a common desire to retreat from each other - only a common impulse to meet disagreement with force. For all this there are no final answers.

Yet we know what we must do. It is to achieve true justice among our fellow citizens. The question is now what programs we should seek to enact. The question is whether we can find in our own midst and in our own hearts that leadership of human purpose that will recognize the terrible truths of our existence.

We must admit the vanity of our false distinctions among men and learn to find our own advancement in the search for the advancement of all. We must admit in ourselves that our own children's future cannot be built on the misfortunes of others. We must recognize that this short life can neither be ennobled or enriched by hatred or revenge.

Our lives on this planet are too short and the work to be done too great to let this spirit flourish any longer in our land. Of course we cannot vanish it with a program, nor with a resolution.

But we can perhaps remember - even if only for a time - that those who live with us are our brothers, that they share with us the same short movement of life, that they seek - as we do - nothing but the chance to live out their lives in purpose and happiness, winning what satisfaction and fulfillment they can.

Surely this bond of common faith, this bond of common goal, can begin to teach us something.

Surely we can learn, at least, to look at those around us as fellow men and surely we can begin to work a little harder to bind up the wounds among us and to become in our hearts brothers and countrymen once again.

Jun 26, 2014

Advocates Keep up Pretension James Sensenbrenner Cares about Voting Rights

Writing in The Nation, Ari Berman assumes the visage of a puzzled man who cannot grasp why Republicans are blocking the Voting Rights Amendment Act (VRAA).

That Republicans for well over a decade have committed their Party to obstructing minority voters seems to escape Berman's ruminations.

Berman also, if a reader takes his piece seriously, notes that former House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jim Sensenbrenner (R-Wisconsin) deserves praise for the reintroduction of the VRAA, implying this is a good thing.

Actually, the VRAA's new formula is to codify as constitutional and consonant with the Voting Rights Act state voter obstruction photo voter laws such as Wisconsin's, and create a new voter obstruction formula to replace the 2006 formula that was decimated by Shelby County v. Holder.

In its current form, the VRAA (HR 3899) "proposes a new coverage formula, through which states will be subject to preclearance if they have five or more voting rights violations in the previous fifteen years, at least one of which is a statewide violation; and through which subjurisdictions will be subject to preclearance if they have three or more violations, or one violation and a demonstration of extremely low minority turnout in the previous fifteen years. It also enhances preclearance by ensuring that courts have the tools necessary to order it as a remedy for additional jurisdictions. Where neither route is available, it enhances plaintiffs' abilities to obtain preliminary injunctive relief to stop certain types of voting changes preventing discrimination in real time. In addition, it offers new notice and transparency standards and reinforces and expands the role of federal observers," as noted by the People for the American Way.

Five statewide violations of voting rights and the DoJ could step in. Justice at last. Most of what People for the American Way writes above is spin, and they know it.

Berman and virtually the entire civil rights community are behind this atrocity of a civil rights bill, hoping against hope Republicans will change their mind about their voter obstruction project, amend HR 3899, and state publicly, 'You know obstructing voters is just wrong, we need to jump on this fix to the Voting Rights Act and amend this bill to make it right."

As for Sensenbrenner, Sensenbrenner calls the Wisconsin's photo voter ID law "common sense," and says of Texas’ Voter ID law enacted in 2013 (the most anti-voting rights legislation the GOP has passed on the state level so far), after being challenged by the DoJ:

Congressman Sensenbrenner: "I regret that the Department of Justice announced its intent to file a lawsuit against Texas’ Voter ID law citing Section 2 to the Voting Rights Act.  The Texas legislature passed Voter ID, and Governor Perry signed this legislation into law in 2011. Voter ID laws are an essential element in protecting the integrity of our electoral process and do not have a discriminatory intent or effect."

But Sensenbrenner's a Voting Rights champion, just ask him, and Ari Berman.

What is clear is that the Democratic Party, Sensenbrenner and other pretenders are concerned about appearing to fight for the Voting Rights Act fix, instead of actually fighting for the Voting Rights Act post-Holder.

"Excludes from the list of violations triggering jurisdiction retention authority any voting qualification or prerequisite which results in a denial or abridgement of the right to vote that is based on the imposition of a requirement that an individual provide a photo identification as a condition of receiving a ballot for voting in a federal, state, or local election," reads the text of HR 3899, the VRAA. (emphasis added)

It bears repeating who Sensenbrenner is and what his motives are regarding voting rights.

There are of course serious efforts to protect voting: The Pocan-Ellison Right to Vote Amendment.

Sensenbrenner supporting this mega voting rights guarantee, and going against his Party's voter obstruction project is as likely as Sarah Palin winning a Nobel Prize in physics.

We noted here last November that in 2005-06, Sensenbrenner was chair of the House Judiciary Committee so he likes to preen that he was the champion of the renewal of the various sections of the Voting Rights Act that passed 390-33 in the House and 98-0 in the Senate and, history should remember, was signed into law by President George W. Bush.

In fact, Bush did one hell of a job of conjuring LBJ in the White House, and as noted by Gary May and Joseph Morgan Kousser cajoled Congress into passing a 25-year reauthorization in the Republican-controlled Congress.

Writes May:
(D)uring his second term Bush found it necessary to court black voters. The president's slow response to the devastation caused by Hurricane Katrina, which hurt blacks disproportionally and revealed again the presence of widespread poverty in the South, damaged Bush's standing. In an attempt to recoup his political fortunes as congressional elections approached in 2006, Bush turned to the black community. On a trip to Memphis visited the Loraine Motel and stood on the balcony where Martin Luther King was assassinated in 1968. He also agreed to address the NAACP's annual convention, which he had ignored for six years. There Bush was received coolly but won a standing ovation when he expressed his support for the Voting Rights Act, urging congress to enact it then, one year before it was due to expire. This was not simply rhetoric. Behind the scenes Bush's staff encouraged Republicans, who now controlled both houses of Congress, to extend the Act. And this time the Republican congressional leadership in both the House and Senate were receptive to such appeals because if you weren't a southerner, there was no political payoff for attacking the now-iconic Voting Right Act. (pp 273-274)
So, House Judiciary Committee Sensenbrenner was going to defy Bush and Rove on the Voting Rights Act reauthorization of 2006? Right.

And Sensenbrenner is now going to declare war on the GOP's war on voting? Right.

Berman and the civil rights community should realize what they are up against in the Republican Party, and start organizing and fighting again because nothing else is going to repair the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and its progeny, certainly not HR 3899.

Jun 11, 2014

The Lesson for GOP: Open Season on Immigrants

Update II: Buses carrying migrant families were rerouted to a U.S.-Mexican border station after being blocked by protesters waving American flags in a suburban Southern California city Tuesday.

Protesters, some yelling, "They're not born here!" and "Go back to Mexico!" stood in the street, blocking the buses as they were headed to the suburban border patrol station in Murrieta.

Update: For a glimpse into the racial politics of the Republican Party, see The Unelectable Whiteness of Scott Walker: A journey through the poisonous, racially divided world that produced a Republican star; by Alec MacGillis.

The defeat of House Majority Leader, Eric Cantor is being characterized as everything from the "Fall of an Apparatchik" (Krugman) to a signal that House Republicans will become even more unproductive and destructive than usual,(Cillizza) engendering a virtual cessation of House legislative activity.

What is omitted is the defeat of the massively outspent Cantor will result in a surge of anti-immigrant rhetoric from the White Party with the predictable consequence of open and deadly attacks on perceived immigrants who don't belong in 'our' country.

Republican forbearance on going too far in bashing darkly complected humans is gone.

Amy Goodman reports the U.S. has revived the federal Domestic Terror Unit shelved after 9/11 in the wake of the killing of two Nevada police officers by white supremacists.

Federal action is called for, because we are going to need it as the forces of white hate are loosed upon a population already targeted by the rightwing.

Someone perceived as a Latino will soon be murdered; you can count on it.

May 18, 2014

Nineteenth Century Raciology Comes Back to Welcoming GOP

The Raft of the Medusa by Théodore Géricault (1819)
Racism is a pillar of today's Republican and Tea Parties.

American right wingers and myriad know-nothings feel a need to dress up their ugly appeals to racism in the cloak of academic research or at least the appearance of a reasoned argument.

Republicans' near-constant appeal to racism and their collection of racial taunts that comprised Mitt Romney's 2012 Republican general election campaign are apparently not sufficient.

Racists need a sense of security, a psychological justification, an authoritative purpose to legitimatize their pathological racial contrivance from whom they need to take their country back.

Nicholas Wade fulfills this need in his A Troublesome Inheritance: Genes, Race and Human History (Penguin Press, 2014), along with Charles Murray, Jason Richwine, the American Enterprise Institute, the Wall Street Journal, hate Radio, and Fox.

Wade attempts to bring back the conception of race as a legitimate means of the classification of human beings who, in Wade's view, have a range of intelligence and character differences associated with their "race" that Wade maps out.

It's an old and ludicrous argument properly met with scorn and derision. See Jonathan Marks at In These Times, for example.

There is no need to grapple with Wade; it's akin to arguing biological evolution or climate change with a fundamentalist. Waste of time.

"(I)rrational, unscientific and demonstrably nonsensical," racists longing for purity from unclean, foreign others should be exposed and denounced, not given the legitimacy of drawing serious conclusions, as Norman Cohn reminded the world some 50 years ago.

It is worth considering Wade's conclusions—echoing nineteenth-century racist anthropology—and asking, "What social or ideological needs do they serve," as Noam Chomsky notes of nonsense like Wade's in Chomsky's classic 1971 update of his dismantlement of B. F. Skinner and behaviorism, 14 years prior.

Exposing Wade, George Will, Scott Walker, Paul Ryan, the whole bunch of race baiters is easy.

It has been clear since Nixon's Southern Strategy, and Ronald Reagan's infamous racist dog whistles sounded when Reagan kicked off his 1980 general election campaign at the Neshoba County Fair a few miles from Philadelphia, Mississippi and declared "I believe in states’ rights."

States' rights. Sound familiar today?

The White Party has made the calculation that white racists are necessary to its political coalition and minorities need to be further marginalized.

The GOP welcomes racists into the ranks of their party provided they use properly coded language in polite racist company; openly racist chatting is fine unless the racism is exposed a la the Scott Walker emails.

As for Nicholas Wade and his comrades Limbaugh, Walker and the more subtle Paul Ryan with his concerns about the large "urban" vote in 2012 and the "tailspin of culture in our inner cities," even as the five GOP justices on the U.S. Supreme Court continue their program to dismantle efforts combating racism using the same rationales and rhetoric as that assailing Reconstruction (see Raskin, Z Magazine; May 1995), Wade's work of Reconstruction-era raciology should be noted and understood for its service to the Republican Party and racism.

May 4, 2014

Wisconsin Republicans: Oh, We Want to Diversify Our Party

Stop voting and quit trying to pass your
selves off as real Americans, says GOP.
Get the message.
Justice Anthony Kennedy remarked in orals of Shelby that “it’s not clear to me that there’s that much difference” between Section 2 and Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act

"Conscious of the challenges their overwhelmingly white party faces in an increasingly multiracial country and state, at its party convention Saturday, Republican leaders emphasized the importance of reaching out to minority communities," writes Jack Craver of the Capital Times, reporting from the Wisconsin GOP convention this weekend.

Republicans are funny, known for their sense of irony.

The Republican electoral strategy remains disenfranchising African-Americans and Latinos—efforts thwarted by the Wisconsin Constitution, the United States Constitution, and Voting Rights Act— and as always using white resentment of minorities, as a piece in today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel by Craig Gilbert demonstrates anew that the artifacts and reality of white flight and housing discrimination remain staggering in the metropolitan Milwaukee area.

Meanwhile Rep. James Sensenbrenner (R-White People) continues his push for the Voting Rights Act Amendment (HR 3899), an attempt to codify unconstitutional state voter obstruction laws, and creating a new voter obstruction formula to replace the 2006 formula protecting voters from racist states and municipalities, that was decimated by Shelby County v. Holder.

This is because Republicans want equality and not discrimination, Justice Roberts assures us.

Sensenbrenner who like Roberts deceitfully pretends to champion voter rights and equality—even calling Wisconsin's restrictive Voter ID law "common sense"—co-authors HR 3899 offering states four free voter obstruction laws (as found by federal courts) before a political jurisdiction would be subject to a preclearance regime by the U.S. Department of Justice.

Sensenbrenner even let on at a public listening session that he's gaming HR 3899 so that a horribly restrictive voting bill in the Voting Rights Act Amendment, contrary to the VRA's very rationale, can be used as a wedge issue between President Obama and the civil rights community.

Even Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act remains in jeopardy as long as the five members of the Roberts bloc remain on the Court. At oral arguments, Justice Anthony Kennedy remarked in orals of Shelby that “it’s not clear to me that there’s that much difference” between Section 2 and Section 5.

The first thing that needs to happen is to kill HR 3899.

But the civil rights community and House Democrats are so desperate to appear to do something about Shelby that they'll settle for passing voter obstruction.

This is what years in Washington will do, when the civil rights community atrophies: GroupThink and StupidThink in Washington take over.

Do Democrats and major civil rights groups really believe Republicans will allow a fix to the Voting Rights Act to pass?

Do they similarly believe Republicans will pass amended pro-voting rights legislation in light of the fact that the political right has spent so many years fighting voting rights?

Some call this magical thinking. I call it stupidity.

Apr 16, 2014

Racism Is Winning Issue, Republicans Believe

U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull (ret)
compared romance of Obama's
parents to bestiality
The key in contacting voters on political knock-and-drops has always been: Listen and keep it local.

Most people don't mind contact at the door, and will listen to a political pitch, provided you're there to listen.

'Obama is running for president. Yeah, you know those damn kids keep leaving litter on my lawn.'

'Your guy is running for County Board, what are ya going to about all those burglaries getting closer to our street.'

Keep it local, and bring it home.

Things are changing though.

Some folks are taking on a hard edge, voicing openly racist sentiments that—anecdotally anyway—were not encountered as often before President Obama and Scott Walker assumed office.

Increasingly, talk at the doors is about the grave threat of "the brothers" and "blacks," and so forth. And this is in Dane County, not Iron County.

Wonder why these conclusions are being drawn?

It's not contemplation on the merits of 19-century raciology. Its unthinking sentiment and it's getting uglier.

Near constant racist appeals by the Republican party—and its more brazen allies in the Tea Party and racist radio—continue as pundits write hosannas to old-school Republicans like retiring Rep. Tom Petri (R-Fond du Lac) who never raised one word of objection to the GOP project of racist appeals that, incidentally, play very well in Fondy.

J. P. Green takes Republicans to task this morning:
[The] Republican Party has a significant -- and growing -- problem with racism in its ranks. GOP leaders and conservative pundits who refuse to address it are complicit, no matter how unbiased their personal views may be. ... The all-out assault on voting rights, for example, has reached a level of shamelessness not seen since before the Civil Rights Movement. The GOP is doing everything it can to obstruct the voting rights of African Americans and Latinos, even to the point of risking alienation of other voters with restrictions on early voting opportunities. That the Republicans on the Supreme Court have been eager partners in voter suppression shows that the moral rot in their party has burrowed deeply.
Seemingly every achievement of the Civil Rights movement is coming under open attack, as in disdain that businesses that still have to serve them. Writes Green:
It's not just voting rights Republicans oppose. Sen Rand Paul, by some estimates the Republican front-runner for the 2016 presidential nomination, still gets away with mealey-mouthed waffling about the Civil Rights Act of 1964. Other Republican Governors and state legislative majorities have done all they can to harass and intimidate Latino immigrants.

You would think that some of the more prudent conservative pundits would pick up the slack left by political leaders on the right and challenge their party to embrace racial justice and a higher level of interracial goodwill. But apparently they buy into the strategy that suppressing minority votes is an acceptable price to pay for holding power. It's a sad commentary on the shrinking reservoir of conservative patriotism.
Getting a start on 2016, one of the first comments Wisconsin's Paul Ryan made after the Romney-Ryan ticket went down to defeat is Ryan's dog whistle to racists all around real America: Surprising turn-out in those "urban areas." (WISC TV-Madison) (Shear and Steinhauer. NYT)

This is not a matter of distasteful comments offending the public square.

Appeals to racism have consequences.

One might conclude by stating Republicans should watch their appeals to racism before someone gets hurt, but that ship has sailed.

This brings to mind the nice man in Fitchburg, Wisconsin with whom I shared a cold beer recently on a beautiful Saturday afternoon.

Hit it right off. Talked about the great weather that day, and the rash of burglaries on Madison's far west side.

He proceeded to show me his concealed-and-carry permit, his Derringer pistol strapped to his right hip, and two thin red shells holding shotgun-like bullet pellets.

He is said he is "ready" for "the brothers."

I'm sure he is.

Apr 10, 2014

Civil Rights v. Republicans, Time to Choose a Side

President Barack Obama delivers remarks as First Lady Michelle
Obama, Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., and LBJ Presidential Library
Director Mark Updegrove, listen at right at the LBJ Presidential
Library in Austin, Texas, April 10, 2014. They attended a Civil Rights
Summit to commemorate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the
Civil Rights Act.
(Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)
Today, 50 years after President Lyndon Baines Johnson signed the Civil Rights Act into law, President Obama spoke at the LBJ Presidential Library to honor the work and legacy of our nation’s 36th president.

“As we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, we honor the men and women who made it possible,” President Obama said. “We recall the countless unheralded Americans, black and white, students and scholars, preachers and housekeepers -- whose names are etched not on monuments, but in the hearts of their loved ones, and in the fabric of the country they helped to change.”

“But we also gather here,” President Obama said, “deep in the heart of the state that shaped him, to recall one giant man’s remarkable efforts to make real the promise of our founding:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”’

April 10, 2014

Remarks by the President at LBJ Presidential Library Civil Rights Summit

Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library
Austin, Texas

12:16 P.M. CDT

THE PRESIDENT:  Thank you.  Thank you very much.  (Applause.)  Thank you so much.  Please, please, have a seat.  Thank you. 

What a singular honor it is for me to be here today.  I want to thank, first and foremost, the Johnson family for giving us this opportunity and the graciousness with which Michelle and I have been received. 

We came down a little bit late because we were upstairs looking at some of the exhibits and some of the private offices that were used by President Johnson and Mrs. Johnson.  And Michelle was in particular interested to -- of a recording in which Lady Bird is critiquing President Johnson’s performance.  (Laughter.)  And she said, come, come, you need to listen to this.  (Laughter.)  And she pressed the button and nodded her head.  Some things do not change -- (laughter) -- even 50 years later.

To all the members of Congress, the warriors for justice, the elected officials and community leaders who are here today  -- I want to thank you.

Four days into his sudden presidency -- and the night before he would address a joint session of the Congress in which he once served -- Lyndon Johnson sat around a table with his closest advisors, preparing his remarks to a shattered and grieving nation.

He wanted to call on senators and representatives to pass a civil rights bill -- the most sweeping since Reconstruction.  And most of his staff counseled him against it.  They said it was hopeless; that it would anger powerful Southern Democrats and committee chairmen; that it risked derailing the rest of his domestic agenda.  And one particularly bold aide said he did not believe a President should spend his time and power on lost causes, however worthy they might be.  To which, it is said, President Johnson replied, “Well, what the hell’s the presidency for?”  (Laughter and applause.)  What the hell’s the presidency for if not to fight for causes you believe in?

Today, as we commemorate the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act, we honor the men and women who made it possible.  Some of them are here today.  We celebrate giants like John Lewis and Andrew Young and Julian Bond.  We recall the countless unheralded Americans, black and white, students and scholars, preachers and housekeepers -- whose names are etched not on monuments, but in the hearts of their loved ones, and in the fabric of the country they helped to change. 

But we also gather here, deep in the heart of the state that shaped him, to recall one giant man’s remarkable efforts to make real the promise of our founding:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal.”

Those of us who have had the singular privilege to hold the office of the Presidency know well that progress in this country can be hard and it can be slow, frustrating and sometimes you’re stymied.  The office humbles you.  You’re reminded daily that in this great democracy, you are but a relay swimmer in the currents of history, bound by decisions made by those who came before, reliant on the efforts of those who will follow to fully vindicate your vision.

But the presidency also affords a unique opportunity to bend those currents -- by shaping our laws and by shaping our debates; by working within the confines of the world as it is, but also by reimagining the world as it should be.

This was President Johnson’s genius.  As a master of politics and the legislative process, he grasped like few others the power of government to bring about change. 

LBJ was nothing if not a realist.  He was well aware that the law alone isn’t enough to change hearts and minds.  A full century after Lincoln’s time, he said, “Until justice is blind to color, until education is unaware of race, until opportunity is unconcerned with the color of men’s skins, emancipation will be a proclamation but not a fact.”

He understood laws couldn’t accomplish everything.  But he also knew that only the law could anchor change, and set hearts and minds on a different course.  And a lot of Americans needed the law’s most basic protections at that time.  As Dr. King said at the time, “It may be true that the law can’t make a man love me but it can keep him from lynching me, and I think that’s pretty important.”  (Applause.)

And passing laws was what LBJ knew how to do.  No one knew politics and no one loved legislating more than President Johnson.  He was charming when he needed to be, ruthless when required.  (Laughter.)  He could wear you down with logic and argument.  He could horse trade, and he could flatter.  “You come with me on this bill,” he would reportedly tell a key Republican leader from my home state during the fight for the Civil Rights Bill, “and 200 years from now, schoolchildren will know only two names:  Abraham Lincoln and Everett Dirksen!”  (Laughter.)  And he knew that senators would believe things like that.  (Laughter and applause.)

President Johnson liked power.  He liked the feel of it, the wielding of it.  But that hunger was harnessed and redeemed by a deeper understanding of the human condition; by a sympathy for the underdog, for the downtrodden, for the outcast.  And it was a sympathy rooted in his own experience.

As a young boy growing up in the Texas Hill Country, Johnson knew what being poor felt like.  “Poverty was so common,” he would later say, “we didn’t even know it had a name.”  (Laughter.)  The family home didn’t have electricity or indoor plumbing.  Everybody worked hard, including the children.  President Johnson had known the metallic taste of hunger; the feel of a mother’s calloused hands, rubbed raw from washing and cleaning and holding a household together.  His cousin Ava remembered sweltering days spent on her hands and knees in the cotton fields, with Lyndon whispering beside her, “Boy, there’s got to be a better way to make a living than this.  There’s got to be a better way.”

It wasn’t until years later when he was teaching at a so-called Mexican school in a tiny town in Texas that he came to understand how much worse the persistent pain of poverty could be for other races in a Jim Crow South.  Oftentimes his students would show up to class hungry.  And when he’d visit their homes, he’d meet fathers who were paid slave wages by the farmers they worked for.  Those children were taught, he would later say, “that the end of life is in a beet row, a spinach field, or a cotton patch.” 

Deprivation and discrimination -- these were not abstractions to Lyndon Baines Johnson.  He knew that poverty and injustice are as inseparable as opportunity and justice are joined.  So that was in him from an early age.

Now, like any of us, he was not a perfect man.  His experiences in rural Texas may have stretched his moral imagination, but he was ambitious, very ambitious, a young man in a hurry to plot his own escape from poverty and to chart his own political career.  And in the Jim Crow South, that meant not challenging convention.  During his first 20 years in Congress, he opposed every civil rights bill that came up for a vote, once calling the push for federal legislation “a farce and a sham.”  He was chosen as a vice presidential nominee in part because of his affinity with, and ability to deliver, that Southern white vote.  And at the beginning of the Kennedy administration, he shared with President Kennedy a caution towards racial controversy. 

But marchers kept marching.  Four little girls were killed in a church.  Bloody Sunday happened.  The winds of change blew.  And when the time came, when LBJ stood in the Oval Office -- I picture him standing there, taking up the entire doorframe, looking out over the South Lawn in a quiet moment -- and asked himself what the true purpose of his office was for, what was the endpoint of his ambitions, he would reach back in his own memory and he’d remember his own experience with want. 

And he knew that he had a unique capacity, as the most powerful white politician from the South, to not merely challenge the convention that had crushed the dreams of so many, but to ultimately dismantle for good the structures of legal segregation.  He’s the only guy who could do it -- and he knew there would be a cost, famously saying the Democratic Party may “have lost the South for a generation.” 

That’s what his presidency was for.  That’s where he meets his moment.  And possessed with an iron will, possessed with those skills that he had honed so many years in Congress, pushed and supported by a movement of those willing to sacrifice everything for their own liberation, President Johnson fought for and argued and horse traded and bullied and persuaded until ultimately he signed the Civil Rights Act into law. 

And he didn’t stop there -- even though his advisors again told him to wait, again told him let the dust settle, let the country absorb this momentous decision.  He shook them off.  “The meat in the coconut,” as President Johnson would put it, was the Voting Rights Act, so he fought for and passed that as well.  Immigration reform came shortly after.  And then, a Fair Housing Act.  And then, a health care law that opponents described as “socialized medicine” that would curtail America’s freedom, but ultimately freed millions of seniors from the fear that illness could rob them of dignity and security in their golden years, which we now know today as Medicare.  (Applause.)

What President Johnson understood was that equality required more than the absence of oppression.  It required the presence of economic opportunity.  He wouldn’t be as eloquent as Dr. King would be in describing that linkage, as Dr. King moved into mobilizing sanitation workers and a poor people’s movement, but he understood that connection because he had lived it.  A decent job, decent wages, health care -- those, too, were civil rights worth fighting for.  An economy where hard work is rewarded and success is shared, that was his goal.  And he knew, as someone who had seen the New Deal transform the landscape of his Texas childhood, who had seen the difference electricity had made because of the Tennessee Valley Authority, the transformation concretely day in and day out in the life of his own family, he understood that government had a role to play in broadening prosperity to all those who would strive for it.

“We want to open the gates to opportunity,” President Johnson said, “But we are also going to give all our people, black and white, the help they need to walk through those gates.” 

Now, if some of this sounds familiar, it’s because today we remain locked in this same great debate about equality and opportunity, and the role of government in ensuring each.  As was true 50 years ago, there are those who dismiss the Great Society as a failed experiment and an encroachment on liberty; who argue that government has become the true source of all that ails us, and that poverty is due to the moral failings of those who suffer from it.  There are also those who argue, John, that nothing has changed; that racism is so embedded in our DNA that there is no use trying politics -- the game is rigged. 

But such theories ignore history.  Yes, it’s true that, despite laws like the Civil Rights Act, and the Voting Rights Act and Medicare, our society is still racked with division and poverty.  Yes, race still colors our political debates, and there have been government programs that have fallen short.  In a time when cynicism is too often passed off as wisdom, it’s perhaps easy to conclude that there are limits to change; that we are trapped by our own history; and politics is a fool’s errand, and we’d be better off if we roll back big chunks of LBJ’s legacy, or at least if we don’t put too much of our hope, invest too much of our hope in our government.

I reject such thinking.  (Applause.)  Not just because Medicare and Medicaid have lifted millions from suffering; not just because the poverty rate in this nation would be far worse without food stamps and Head Start and all the Great Society programs that survive to this day.  I reject such cynicism because I have lived out the promise of LBJ’s efforts.  Because Michelle has lived out the legacy of those efforts.  Because my daughters have lived out the legacy of those efforts.  Because I and millions of my generation were in a position to take the baton that he handed to us.  (Applause.)

Because of the Civil Rights movement, because of the laws President Johnson signed, new doors of opportunity and education swung open for everybody -- not all at once, but they swung open.  Not just blacks and whites, but also women and Latinos; and Asians and Native Americans; and gay Americans and Americans with a disability.  They swung open for you, and they swung open for me.  And that’s why I’m standing here today -- because of those efforts, because of that legacy.  (Applause.)

And that means we’ve got a debt to pay.  That means we can’t afford to be cynical.  Half a century later, the laws LBJ passed are now as fundamental to our conception of ourselves and our democracy as the Constitution and the Bill of Rights.  They are foundational; an essential piece of the American character. 

But we are here today because we know we cannot be complacent.  For history travels not only forwards; history can travel backwards, history can travel sideways.  And securing the gains this country has made requires the vigilance of its citizens.  Our rights, our freedoms -- they are not given.  They must be won.  They must be nurtured through struggle and discipline, and persistence and faith. 

And one concern I have sometimes during these moments, the celebration of the signing of the Civil Rights Act, the March on Washington -- from a distance, sometimes these commemorations seem inevitable, they seem easy.  All the pain and difficulty and struggle and doubt -- all that is rubbed away.  And we look at ourselves and we say, oh, things are just too different now;  we couldn’t possibly do what was done then -- these giants, what they accomplished.  And yet, they were men and women, too.  It wasn’t easy then.  It wasn’t certain then. 

Still, the story of America is a story of progress.  However slow, however incomplete, however harshly challenged at each point on our journey, however flawed our leaders, however many times we have to take a quarter of a loaf or half a loaf -- the story of America is a story of progress.  And that’s true because of men like President Lyndon Baines Johnson.  (Applause.)

In so many ways, he embodied America, with all our gifts and all our flaws, in all our restlessness and all our big dreams.  This man -- born into poverty, weaned in a world full of racial hatred -- somehow found within himself the ability to connect his experience with the brown child in a small Texas town; the white child in Appalachia; the black child in Watts.  As powerful as he became in that Oval Office, he understood them.  He understood what it meant to be on the outside.  And he believed that their plight was his plight too; that his freedom ultimately was wrapped up in theirs; and that making their lives better was what the hell the presidency was for.  (Applause.)

And those children were on his mind when he strode to the podium that night in the House Chamber, when he called for the vote on the Civil Rights law.  “It never occurred to me,” he said, “in my fondest dreams that I might have the chance to help the sons and daughters of those students” that he had taught so many years ago, “and to help people like them all over this country.  But now I do have that chance.  And I’ll let you in on a secret -- I mean to use it.  And I hope that you will use it with me.”  (Applause.)

That was LBJ’s greatness.  That’s why we remember him.  And if there is one thing that he and this year’s anniversary should teach us, if there’s one lesson I hope that Malia and Sasha and young people everywhere learn from this day, it’s that with enough effort, and enough empathy, and enough perseverance, and enough courage, people who love their country can change it.

In his final year, President Johnson stood on this stage, racked with pain, battered by the controversies of Vietnam, looking far older than his 64 years, and he delivered what would be his final public speech. 

“We have proved that great progress is possible,” he said.  “We know how much still remains to be done.  And if our efforts continue, and if our will is strong, and if our hearts are right, and if courage remains our constant companion, then, my fellow Americans, I am confident, we shall overcome.”  (Applause.)

We shall overcome.  We, the citizens of the United States.  Like Dr. King, like Abraham Lincoln, like countless citizens who have driven this country inexorably forward, President Johnson knew that ours in the end is a story of optimism, a story of achievement and constant striving that is unique upon this Earth.  He knew because he had lived that story.  He believed that together we can build an America that is more fair, more equal, and more free than the one we inherited.  He believed we make our own destiny.  And in part because of him, we must believe it as well.

Thank you.  God bless you.  God bless the United States of America.  (Applause.) 

12:46 P.M. CDT

Apr 9, 2014

Racism Thriving, Scott Walker Is Counting on It

Former Madison, Wisconsin Police Chief David Couper has a new piece out in which he writes, "my family is bi-racial. My wife and I adopted two Asian daughters. They are now adult women. As they grew up, I could have written an article similar to (Prof. Christopher E Smith's), 'What I learned about racism by watching my two minority daughters grow up in a liberal Midwest city.'"

Couper refers to what should be Smith's literary sensation shocking the conscience of America, What I Learned About Stop-and-Frisk from Watching My Black Son - The 'special tax' on men of color is more than an inconvenience. A father shares his firsthand observations and fears.

Smith writes:
When I heard that my 21-year-old son, a student at Harvard, had been stopped by New York City police on more than one occasion during the brief summer he spent as a Wall Street intern, I was angry. On one occasion, while wearing his best business suit, he was forced to lie face-down on a filthy sidewalk because—well, let’s be honest about it, because of the color of his skin. As an attorney and a college professor who teaches criminal justice classes, I knew that his constitutional rights had been violated. As a parent, I feared for his safety at the hands of the police—a fear that I feel every single day, whether he is in New York or elsewhere.
While the Republicans Party and many racist, vicious police continue their organized campaign against younger people of color, the stories appear to be getting worse every day.

I often walk to the Meadowood shopping center on Madison's far-west side on Raymond Road.

On almost every occasion, I see a white person nervously grab a look or cast a look of askance at a young black man walking by. It seems young black men know better than to walk as a group, or god forbid: Run.

I could have written a similar piece of Smith's about growing up in Fond du Lac, Wisconsin and the entire Fox Valley for that matter.

Anecdotal, but one gets the distinct impression American white people are becoming increasingly moronic.

Here in Wisconsin without Paul Ryan, the Koch brothers and the Republican Party constantly sounding their racist dog whistles, not to mention obstructing the votes of people of color and that "urban vote," vermin such as Scott Walker would not stand a chance.

Lots of good folks around. I recommend The Advancement Project, the Grio,  and the Rev. Al Sharpton.

Mar 14, 2014

Scott Walker v. Mary Burke—Forfeited by Ms. Burke and the Loser Is Wisconsin

Horse Latitudes - Wisconsin,
you're the horses
Mary Burke has the same chance of being elected governor of Wisconsin as Scott Walker does of becoming the next president of the United States.

I wish to thank Ms. Burke for sticking Wisconsin with Scott Walker for another four years; appreciate this, extraordinary work from the campaign that can't shoot straight.

As anti-citizen bill after anti-citizen bill wafts from the GOP-dominated Wisconsin legislature, Mary Burke decided the prudent communications strategy to employ is that used by Sen. Michael Ellis (R-Neenah), Sen. Alberta Darling (R-River Hills) and Scott Walker: Go dark, be silent and hope no one notices.

Brilliant. I had never even considered doing nothing as a winning game plan.

Yet, the reasoning behind the Burke campaign's lack of action appears unsound.

Of course, there is an opposing view on campaign communications.

For example, when Republicans and only Republicans attack voting (Senate Bill 324) a candidate could actually point this out, repeatedly.

[Note to Sen. Kathleen Vinehout (D-Alma), there is still time to get on the ballot for governor, if only to light the equivalent of a white phosphorus grenade under the Burke campaign's collective ass. (This is a metaphor—met·a·phor [ méttə fàwr ]—for the benefit of the Burke communications team.)]

Another example of Republican chicanery of the most foul, that surely penetrated the brains in the Burke campaign are Senate Bill 300 and Senate Bill 13.

SB 300 helps cancer victims and their families get affordable chemo treatments and is being blocked in the Senate by Republicans after being unanimously passed by the Senate Committee on Insurance and Housing in late January.

Silence emanates from the Burke campaign on SB 300 though likely not because Scott Walker and Republicans get loads of money from the health insurance, finance and real estate industry.

Nationally, this anti-democratic sector gave $129,843,765 to federal candidates since 1990, and is trending Republican fast. Walker's take from the insurance industry and finance sector is well into the $ millions.

Burke's reasoning here is unclear.

Then there's Senate Bill 13 (Senate Substitute Amendment SA1-AB19) that blocks veterans, veterans!, and other cancer victims suffering from Mesothelioma.

Senate Bill 13 passed without comment from Burke.

The thing with cancer survivors and the people who die from it is that cancer—Mesothelioma, Leukemia and too many to list—this condition, this trauma, is what high-priced political consultants and political scientists refer to as: Really bad.

Comforting and pitching in to help a family member or friend dying from cancer is the type of experience that resonates with people, as would the unbelievably callous actions of Republicans and the health insurance industry, if so noted.

Check with your political consultants on this one, Ms. Burke; nevermind, I guess that time has passed.

Mar 12, 2014

Republican Effort to Disenfranchise 100,000s of Wisconsin Voters Began in 2011

Scott Walker's convicted top aides and friends are likely
cheering on Walker and Republicans today.
In 2011, Scott Walker and the Republicans shortened the Wisconsin early voting period by some 18 days, passing Act 23 that limited early voting for all towns, villages and cities to only 12 days. 

Before Act 23, in-person, absentee (early voting) could start when the ballots were printed and clerks received them, providing as many as 30 days of early voting.

Republicans also eliminated early voting on the weekend directly preceding election day in Act 23, passed with sole Republican support.

Now, Republicans today, passed a "bill (that limits) 'early voting' to between 8 a.m. and 7 p.m. Monday through Friday leading up to an election. A municipality would also be limited to 45 hours per week of accepting the in-person absentee ballots," reports Quorum Call.

Republicans in 2011 also extended the residency requirement for voters from ten to 28 days, suppressing the votes of citizens who have recently moved.

Republicans in 2011 also cut the time period allowed for absentee ballots to be cast from 30 days before elections to 14 days.

Republicans' voter ID law, Act 23, has been found to be unconstitutional and is under judicial deliberation in state and federal court.

Now, a host of anti-voting bills is being considered because of the fear Republicans have of voters casting votes. Inaccurately described as preventing voter fraud, these bills are designed to suppress the democratic right of citizens to vote.

No doubt Scott Walker's former staff and close aides, Tim Russell (who embezzled from veterans) and Kelly Rindfleisch (who committed misconduct in the public office held by Scott Walker) are cheering Walker and the Republicans on.

By the way, Mary Burke, you can comment on these matters. If you don't, what does that say about your commitment to defending the constitution? Hello, Mary, Mary?

Wisconsin Republicans Target Veterans and Voters Today

Update III: GOP shafts veterans again. "Sen. Julie Lassa, D-Stevens Point, said the bill presumes that 'somehow the corporations are the victims here, and not the men and women who were willing to put the lives on the line for their country.'" (Quorum Call)

Update II: Republicans slash early voting, no weekend voting, no night voting.

Update: To keep abreast of developments on how Republicans aim to diminish Wisconsin democracy and injure our veterans suffering from Mesothelioma cancer, check out Quorum Call or Wisconsin Eye.

The Republican, gerrymandered legislature is targeting voters and veterans today.

Senate Majority Leader Scott Fitzgerald say he "hates" his colleagues' anti-veterans bill (Wisconsin Senate Bill 13) hurting veterans, therefore he is supporting this anti-veterans bill because "it's just something that has to be done."

This has to be done because the insurance industry, the Koch brothers and other special interests want this done.

Fitzgerald's powers of logic are on a par with our dumb governor Walker.

"Every vets group oppose this bill because it's unfair to vets," said Sen. Fred Risser (D-Madison), notes Quorum Call.

Fitzgerald and the Republicans should reject the money they get from special interests supporting this anti-veterans bill, and instead take a heap of asbestos and breathe in deeply, sharing the remainder with the whole Republican caucus except Sen. Dale Schultz (R-Richland Center).

Republicans know much of what they will pass is unconstitutional. So, they are also trying to corrupt the judicial process.

Republicans last month took up Senate Bill 154 [replaced by a vague SENATE SUBSTITUTE AMENDMENT 1, TO ASSEMBLY BILL 161 that is now passed by the legislature] reading in part:

"If a circuit court or a court of appeals enters an injunction, a restraining order, or any other final or interlocutory order suspending or restraining the enforcement of any statute of this state, the injunction, restraining order, or other final or interlocutory order is immediately appealable as a matter of right."

What if a Court orders a trial and temporary restraining order on a GOP-passed statute like Dane County Circuit Court Judge David Flanagan did in March 2012 on Scott Walker's unconstitutional photo voter ID law?

Injured Wisconsin citizens get no day in court while an unconstitutional law inflicts damage?

What exactly do Republicans fear from the rule of law, and voters?

Mar 11, 2014

In Nation's Most Segregated Urban Region, Scott Walker, GOP Fan Flames of Racial Violence

Racist T-shirts sold in Milwaukee at the "Republicans
for Wisconsin" booth at the 2013 Wisconsin State Fair
Update: Republicans pass voter "suppression effort" mandating poll workers "from those outside a community to dictate how elections are run," reports Quorum Call. Republicans inflict another hit on local control, and insult and inflame the African-American communities in Milwaukee and other urban centers.
Scott Walker and Wisconsin Republicans know their objectives in their anti-voter election bills in the state legislature.

It's not only about rigging elections.

Walker and the GOP want to use the nation's most segregated urban area and pass legislation that will plant white election inspectors and obnoxious white election observers from out of the African-American wards in a terribly irresponsible and reprehensible effort to promote violence, confusion and chaos at the polls on election day.

This is what Republicans spend their time doing, Senate Bill 20.

State Sen. Tim Carpenter (D-Milwaukee) said Sen. Mary Lazich (R-New Berlin) "hates blacks and Latinos" on the floor of the Wisconsin state senate. (Quorum Call. WisPolitics)

Yes. What Walker and the Republicans are doing is sociopathic and certainly hateful.

Carpenter was referring to Senate Bill 20, an opportunity to provoke Milwaukee African-Americans and, Republicans hope, infuse some chaos on election day, a situation that they hope to achieve by repealing early voting, ("push(ed) off (for) a final vote on the measure until (Wednesday)").

The Republicans' I hate you, blacks is intended to met in turn.

It's not enough that the GOP's Stand Your Ground and Castle Doctrine has already given license for racist whites to kill young black kids, for example Bo Morrision of Slinger, Wisconsin shot and killed by a white racist protected by the Castle Doctrine in 2012. You can bet Scott Walker cried no tears for young Mr. Morrison.

Walker surrounds himself with racists, all getting laughs from racist jokes told among this tight group.

There will be black observers in Milwaukee on election day, as well civil rights workers from the U.S. Dept. of Justice to help keep the peace in the face of white racists brought in by Walker.

There should not have to be.

This is 2014 Wisconsin, not 1966 Alabama:
Nor had violence disappeared as a form of political intimidation (after the Voting Rights Act of 1965). Poll watcher Andrew Jones, a quiet man who was passionate about voting, was struck in the back of the head while on duty in Fort Deposit, (Alabama) Klan bastion [in Lowndes County as, known "Bloody Lowndes" because of the lynchings, and other murders of blacks]. Stokeley Carmichael went ballistic and, with a California friend named Huey Newton, organized a group of armed blacks to search for Jones's attacker. But they never found him. [(Frye Gaillard, "Notes and Quotes: The Interview for Cradle of Freedom, 2000-2002," 45, Frye Gallillard Papers, Alabama State University; Southern Courier, November 12-13, 1966, 2. Cited in (Bending Toward Justice - The Voting Rights Act and the Transformation of American Democracy (Gary May. Basic Books; 2013; p.233) ]

Dec 18, 2013

Poll: No movement in historically low numbers for GOP

Think that much publicized outreach to minorities, young adults and women is gaining ground for the Republicans?

Look at this happy family that obtained healthcare, and they're
black! This must stopped at all costs; they breed, you know?
How about continual attacks on the working poor obtaining affordable healthcare.

Forget it.

By Erica Seifert of DCorps:

The final Democracy Corps battleground survey of 2013 belies the conventional wisdom that Republicans have enjoyed a major rebound over the last few months. On the contrary, our survey of the 50 most competitive Republican House seats and the 30 most competitive Democratic seats shows that there has been no movement. Furthermore, the second tier of less vulnerable Republican target districts has actually destabilized -- meaning that there may be more Republican seats up for grabs than many believe right now. ...

[T]his poll finds that Republican members are damaged by their total focus on Obamacare. Voters increasingly believe that these vulnerable Republican incumbents are part of the gridlock in Washington, are too focused on battles with Obama, and are too aligned with Speaker Boehner, whose plans have not helped the economy or the jobs situation. We tested a series of messages and attacks (both for and against Republican incumbents), and found that battling on Obamacare is their weakest case for re-election. In fact, it undermines it.

Nov 20, 2013

Glenn Grothman: Those Prevented from Voting "really got a problem," their problem

Glenn Grothman has made idiotic statements his trademark.
In 2012, campaigning for Rick Santorum he said
"money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job,
maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday,
ma be a little more money-conscious. To attribute everything to a
so-called bias in the workplace is just not true.”
Grothman made his remarks about women and money
"following Gov. Scott Walker's decision to repeal his state’s equal pay law,
a move that makes it more difficult for victims of wage discrimination
to file lawsuits for lost earnings and back wages,"
reported Aliyah Shahid in the New York Daily News
Simpletons populate any political jurisdiction, but in Wisconsin are over-represented in the state legislature, in which State Senator Glenn Grothman (R-West Bend, Wisconsin) has reached the level of the most prominent dolt in Wisconsin's upper house.

From Emma Rollor in Slate Magazine:

If there were an annual award for Zaniest State Legislator of the Year, Glenn Grothman probably wouldn't win, but he'd come close. ... Grothman has spoken out against Martin Luther King Jr. Day and denounced Kwanzaa as a liberal scam. ...

Now, Wisconsin Senate Assistant Majority Leader Grothman is speaking out on behalf of black Wisconsinites again, this time on the issue of voter ID:
Wisconsin Republicans are pushing a bill to end early voting on the weekend. The measure would make it harder for people in the state’s most populous areas to cast a ballot—and it would hit blacks especially hard.
But state Sen. Glenn Grothman, a Republican who is sponsoring a Senate version of the bill, told msnbc it’s already easy enough to vote.
"Between [early voting], mail absentee, and voting the day of election, you know, I mean anybody who can’t vote with all those options, they’ve really got a problem," he said. "I really don’t think they care that much about voting in the first place, right?"
Understandable that Grothman's arguments on voting were not proffered in open court or in briefs by Wisconsin Dept of Justice attorneys in the federal, potentially landmark trial on states' voter ID laws just concluded.

Grothman has made off-the-wall political remarks over his long career in the Wisconsin legislature his trademark.

Glenn Grothman campaigning for Rick Santorum in April, 2012 also said "money is more important for men. I think a guy in their first job, maybe because they expect to be a breadwinner someday, may be a little more money-conscious. To attribute everything to a so-called bias in the workplace is just not true.”

Grothman made his remarks about women and money "following Gov. Scott Walker's decision to repeal his state’s equal pay law, a move that makes it more difficult for victims of wage discrimination to file lawsuits for lost earnings and back wages," reported Aliyah Shahid in the New York Daily News during the 2012 race for Republican nomination for president.


 (S)crapping weekend voting will hit African-Americans particularly hard, Rev. Willie Brisco, who leads an alliance of Milwaukee churches, told msnbc. "A lot of people in our community are working two or three jobs, odd hours, having difficulty with childcare," said Brisco. "So the weekend and the early voting reaches a lot of those people. Brisco said his organization ran a "Souls to the Polls" drive last year, encouraging congregants to vote en masse after church on Sunday. "We really need our community to stay engaged in the political process, and to be a determining factor," Brisco said. "And there is a concerted effort to make sure that doesn’t happen."

Oct 4, 2013

Contempt for People Defines GOP Project

Update: See The White Man's Last Tantrum. "American pundits are missing the bigger point about the Republican shutdown of the U.S. government and the GOP’s threatened default on America’s credit. The real question is not what policy concessions the Tea Partiers may extract, but rather can a determined right-wing white minority ensure continuation of white supremacy in the United States?"

The reason Republicans lie repeatedly without shame is not just a lack of conscience.

Republicans are engaged in implementing their project to disenfranchise out-of-favor Americans, and lies are imperative.

The Project has been launched and every Republican will toe the line.

In Wisconsin—where Republicans hold sway in the legislative, executive, and judicial branches of government through the injection of tens of millions of dollars into the GOP—one can see clearly the GOP objectives of repressing non-favored Americans by stripping people of their rights to organize, associate, and exercise community control of their local governments.

This American GOP social engineering project is fascistic; it's not just Greece or far-off countries where fascism is consciously pursued.

Women, college students, Americans of color, unions, environmentalists, attorneys enforcing rights of citizens, and citizen groups, earned social insurance programs; all are defects in Republican society to be corrected, problems to be solved.

Shut down the government, they are taking away our country. 

Misogyny, religious fanaticism and racism are the rallying cries for The Project: Engineering American society as a Republican homeland.

That's why shutting down the government, even threatening the world economy are acceptable as the scope and mission of The Project creeps outward.

One illustration, in Madison, Wisconsin one doesn't have to travel far to see in person the contempt the Republicans have for the black and brown citizens trying to pass themselves off as good Americans. The nerve.

Locally, in my neighborhood on the Madison-Fitchburg, Wisconsin border, the Meadowood Shopping Center represents a paradigm as hard-working people at the library, community center, and other small businesses contend with the racism inflamed by former Republican Dane County Supervisor David Blaska and the staff at GOP-infested Best Cleaners who just cannot stand the sight of black children walking past their establishment.

Call in some JPM security to yell and harass those children, a frequent occurrence.

The fact is Republicans do not regard black and brown Americans as full-blooded human beings, much less full-fledged citizens of the American republic.

"So long as I do not firmly and irrevocably possess the right to vote I do not possess myself. I cannot make up my mind — it is made up for me. I cannot live as a democratic citizen, observing the laws I have helped to enact — I can only submit to the edict of others," said Martin Luther King.

Submitting to the GOP edict.

This is the GOP project.

As long as you are alive and breathing in GOP land, your function is to submit to GOP edicts.

Challenge this project where you see it.

It may not appear so, but the GOP project is a house of cards.

Sep 3, 2013

Republican Racism: Full Speed Ahead

Labor Day weekend is for many reasons a mirth-filled holiday.

This particular weekend began with the American observance of the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington, and Martin Luther King Jr.'s I Have a Dream speech.

To anyone with the slightest respect for civil rights and those who have given their lives, marking King's address was inspiring.

Republicans have a different view on civil rights; they're against them and racism remains as Republican as opposing a woman's choice.

While some Republicans cynically pay lip service to critical care for the Voting Rights Act, Republicans are reinvesting in racism, exclusion and disenfranchisement.

Locally in Wisconsin, the GOP's Christian Schneider dove deeper into the sewer, deciding that mocking MLK's address in a deplorable video posted by Schneider in the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel's Purple Wisconsin is acceptable to his GOP audience.

I'm betting Republicans are wrong in calculating racism's politcal efficacy. Racist efforts will ultimately fail.

But it won't be for lack of trying.

Aug 29, 2013

Civil Rights Movement Is Right; GOP Is Wrong

President Barack Obama, First Lady Michelle Obama, and
former Presidents Bill Clinton and Jimmy Carter walk past
the statue of President Lincoln to participate in the
ceremony on the 50th anniversary of the historic
March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom and
Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech,
at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., Aug. 28, 2013.
(Official White House Photo by Chuck Kennedy)
Congressional Republicans were a no-show at the 50th anniversary of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom, and Martin Luther King, Jr.'s "I Have a Dream" speech.


Republicans are on the other side of the Civil Rights Movement as the GOP makes common cause with racism.

This is not to rah-rah the Democratic Party but on the issue of civil rights, there simply is no comparison between the two major parties.

The Republican Party, trapped in its "diseased, hate-filled minds" of its white base truly is the Party of fascism, "standing alone in (its) own diminishing circle," to borrow from Ralph McGill.

More to the Parties of course but on this point of racism and hate, the perpetration of political terrorism and hate against racial minorities by today's Republican Party is not in dispute among serious minds.

Racism ought not to be a matter of small import in this American experiment.

Remarks by the President at the "Let Freedom Ring" Ceremony Commemorating the 50th Anniversary of the March on Washington

Lincoln Memorial

3:07 P.M. EDT
THE PRESIDENT:  To the King family, who have sacrificed and inspired so much; to President Clinton; President Carter; Vice President Biden and Jill; fellow Americans. 

Five decades ago today, Americans came to this honored place to lay claim to a promise made at our founding:  “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”

In 1963, almost 200 years after those words were set to paper, a full century after a great war was fought and emancipation proclaimed, that promise -- those truths -- remained unmet.  And so they came by the thousands from every corner of our country, men and women, young and old, blacks who longed for freedom and whites who could no longer accept freedom for themselves while witnessing the subjugation of others.

Across the land, congregations sent them off with food and with prayer.  In the middle of the night, entire blocks of Harlem came out to wish them well.  With the few dollars they scrimped from their labor, some bought tickets and boarded buses, even if they couldn’t always sit where they wanted to sit.  Those with less money hitchhiked or walked.  They were seamstresses and steelworkers, students and teachers, maids and Pullman porters.  They shared simple meals and bunked together on floors.  And then, on a hot summer day, they assembled here, in our nation’s capital, under the shadow of the Great Emancipator -- to offer testimony of injustice, to petition their government for redress, and to awaken America’s long-slumbering conscience.

We rightly and best remember Dr. King’s soaring oratory that day, how he gave mighty voice to the quiet hopes of millions; how he offered a salvation path for oppressed and oppressors alike.  His words belong to the ages, possessing a power and prophecy unmatched in our time.

But we would do well to recall that day itself also belonged to those ordinary people whose names never appeared in the history books, never got on TV.  Many had gone to segregated schools and sat at segregated lunch counters.  They lived in towns where they couldn’t vote and cities where their votes didn’t matter.  They were couples in love who couldn’t marry, soldiers who fought for freedom abroad that they found denied to them at home.  They had seen loved ones beaten, and children fire-hosed, and they had every reason to lash out in anger, or resign themselves to a bitter fate.

And yet they chose a different path.  In the face of hatred, they prayed for their tormentors.  In the face of violence, they stood up and sat in, with the moral force of nonviolence.  Willingly, they went to jail to protest unjust laws, their cells swelling with the sound of freedom songs.  A lifetime of indignities had taught them that no man can take away the dignity and grace that God grants us.  They had learned through hard experience what Frederick Douglass once taught -- that freedom is not given, it must be won, through struggle and discipline, persistence and faith.

That was the spirit they brought here that day.  That was the spirit young people like John Lewis brought to that day.  That was the spirit that they carried with them, like a torch, back to their cities and their neighborhoods.  That steady flame of conscience and courage that would sustain them through the campaigns to come -- through boycotts and voter registration drives and smaller marches far from the spotlight; through the loss of four little girls in Birmingham, and the carnage of the Edmund Pettus Bridge, and the agony of Dallas and California and Memphis.  Through setbacks and heartbreaks and gnawing doubt, that flame of justice flickered; it never died.

And because they kept marching, America changed.  Because they marched, a Civil Rights law was passed.  Because they marched, a Voting Rights law was signed.  Because they marched, doors of opportunity and education swung open so their daughters and sons could finally imagine a life for themselves beyond washing somebody else’s laundry or shining somebody else’s shoes. (Applause.)  Because they marched, city councils changed and state legislatures changed, and Congress changed, and, yes, eventually, the White House changed.  (Applause.) 

Because they marched, America became more free and more fair -- not just for African Americans, but for women and Latinos, Asians and Native Americans; for Catholics, Jews, and Muslims; for gays, for Americans with a disability.  America changed for you and for me.  and the entire world drew strength from that example, whether the young people who watched from the other side of an Iron Curtain and would eventually tear down that wall, or the young people inside South Africa who would eventually end the scourge of apartheid.  (Applause.)

Those are the victories they won, with iron wills and hope in their hearts.  That is the transformation that they wrought, with each step of their well-worn shoes.  That’s the debt that I and millions of Americans owe those maids, those laborers, those porters, those secretaries; folks who could have run a company maybe if they had ever had a chance; those white students who put themselves in harm’s way, even though they didn't have; those Japanese Americans who recalled their own internment; those Jewish Americans who had survived the Holocaust; people who could have given up and given in, but kept on keeping on, knowing that “weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” (Applause.)

On the battlefield of justice, men and women without rank or wealth or title or fame would liberate us all in ways that our children now take for granted, as people of all colors and creeds live together and learn together and walk together, and fight alongside one another, and love one another, and judge one another by the content of our character in this greatest nation on Earth.  (Applause.)

To dismiss the magnitude of this progress -- to suggest, as some sometimes do, that little has changed -- that dishonors the courage and the sacrifice of those who paid the price to march in those years.  (Applause.)  Medgar Evers, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, Michael Schwerner, Martin Luther King Jr. -- they did not die in vain.  (Applause.)  Their victory was great.

But we would dishonor those heroes as well to suggest that the work of this nation is somehow complete.  The arc of the moral universe may bend towards justice, but it doesn’t bend on its own.  To secure the gains this country has made requires constant vigilance, not complacency.  Whether by challenging those who erect new barriers to the vote, or ensuring that the scales of justice work equally for all, and the criminal justice system is not simply a pipeline from underfunded schools to overcrowded jails, it requires vigilance.  (Applause.)

And we'll suffer the occasional setback.  But we will win these fights.  This country has changed too much.  (Applause.)  People of goodwill, regardless of party, are too plentiful for those with ill will to change history’s currents.  (Applause.) 

In some ways, though, the securing of civil rights, voting rights, the eradication of legalized discrimination -- the very significance of these victories may have obscured a second goal of the March.  For the men and women who gathered 50 years ago were not there in search of some abstract ideal.  They were there seeking jobs as well as justice -- (applause) -- not just the absence of oppression but the presence of economic opportunity.  (Applause.)

For what does it profit a man, Dr. King would ask, to sit at an integrated lunch counter if he can’t afford the meal?  This idea -- that one’s liberty is linked to one’s livelihood; that the pursuit of happiness requires the dignity of work, the skills to find work, decent pay, some measure of material security -- this idea was not new.  Lincoln himself understood the Declaration of Independence in such terms -- as a promise that in due time, “the weights should be lifted from the shoulders of all men, and that all should have an equal chance.” 

And Dr. King explained that the goals of African Americans were identical to working people of all races:  “Decent wages, fair working conditions, livable housing, old-age security, health and welfare measures, conditions in which families can grow, have education for their children, and respect in the community.”

What King was describing has been the dream of every American.  It's what's lured for centuries new arrivals to our shores.  And it’s along this second dimension -- of economic opportunity, the chance through honest toil to advance one’s station in life -- where the goals of 50 years ago have fallen most short.

Yes, there have been examples of success within black America that would have been unimaginable a half century ago.  But as has already been noted, black unemployment has remained almost twice as high as white unemployment, Latino unemployment close behind.  The gap in wealth between races has not lessened, it's grown.  And as President Clinton indicated, the position of all working Americans, regardless of color, has eroded, making the dream Dr. King described even more elusive.

For over a decade, working Americans of all races have seen their wages and incomes stagnate, even as corporate profits soar, even as the pay of a fortunate few explodes.  Inequality has steadily risen over the decades.  Upward mobility has become harder.  In too many communities across this country, in cities and suburbs and rural hamlets, the shadow of poverty casts a pall over our youth, their lives a fortress of substandard schools and diminished prospects, inadequate health care and perennial violence.

And so as we mark this anniversary, we must remind ourselves that the measure of progress for those who marched 50 years ago was not merely how many blacks could join the ranks of millionaires.  It was whether this country would admit all people who are willing to work hard regardless of race into the ranks of a middle-class life.  (Applause.)

The test was not, and never has been, whether the doors of opportunity are cracked a bit wider for a few.  It was whether our economic system provides a fair shot for the many -- for the black custodian and the white steelworker, the immigrant dishwasher and the Native American veteran.  To win that battle, to answer that call -- this remains our great unfinished business.

We shouldn’t fool ourselves.  The task will not be easy.  Since 1963, the economy has changed.  The twin forces of technology and global competition have subtracted those jobs that once provided a foothold into the middle class -- reduced the bargaining power of American workers.  And our politics has suffered.  Entrenched interests, those who benefit from an unjust status quo, resisted any government efforts to give working families a fair deal -- marshaling an army of lobbyists and opinion makers to argue that minimum wage increases or stronger labor laws or taxes on the wealthy who could afford it just to fund crumbling schools, that all these things violated sound economic principles.  We'd be told that growing inequality was a price for a growing economy, a measure of this free market; that greed was good and compassion ineffective, and those without jobs or health care had only themselves to blame.

And then, there were those elected officials who found it useful to practice the old politics of division, doing their best to convince middle-class Americans of a great untruth -- that government was somehow itself to blame for their growing economic insecurity; that distant bureaucrats were taking their hard-earned dollars to benefit the welfare cheat or the illegal immigrant.

And then, if we're honest with ourselves, we'll admit that during the course of 50 years, there were times when some of us claiming to push for change lost our way.  The anguish of assassinations set off self-defeating riots.  Legitimate grievances against police brutality tipped into excuse-making for criminal behavior.  Racial politics could cut both ways, as the transformative message of unity and brotherhood was drowned out by the language of recrimination.  And what had once been a call for equality of opportunity, the chance for all Americans to work hard and get ahead was too often framed as a mere desire for government support -- as if we had no agency in our own liberation, as if poverty was an excuse for not raising your child, and the bigotry of others was reason to give up on yourself.
All of that history is how progress stalled.  That's how hope was diverted.  It's how our country remained divided.  But the good news is, just as was true in 1963, we now have a choice. We can continue down our current path, in which the gears of this great democracy grind to a halt and our children accept a life of lower expectations; where politics is a zero-sum game where a few do very well while struggling families of every race fight over a shrinking economic pie -- that’s one path.  Or we can have the courage to change.

The March on Washington teaches us that we are not trapped by the mistakes of history; that we are masters of our fate.  But it also teaches us that the promise of this nation will only be kept when we work together.  We’ll have to reignite the embers of empathy and fellow feeling, the coalition of conscience that found expression in this place 50 years ago.

And I believe that spirit is there, that truth force inside each of us.  I see it when a white mother recognizes her own daughter in the face of a poor black child.  I see it when the black youth thinks of his own grandfather in the dignified steps of an elderly white man.  It’s there when the native-born recognizing that striving spirit of the new immigrant; when the interracial couple connects the pain of a gay couple who are discriminated against and understands it as their own.

That’s where courage comes from -- when we turn not from each other, or on each other, but towards one another, and we find that we do not walk alone.  That’s where courage comes from. (Applause.)
And with that courage, we can stand together for good jobs and just wages.  With that courage, we can stand together for the right to health care in the richest nation on Earth for every person.  (Applause.)  With that courage, we can stand together for the right of every child, from the corners of Anacostia to the hills of Appalachia, to get an education that stirs the mind and captures the spirit, and prepares them for the world that awaits them.  (Applause.)

With that courage, we can feed the hungry, and house the homeless, and transform bleak wastelands of poverty into fields of commerce and promise.

America, I know the road will be long, but I know we can get there.  Yes, we will stumble, but I know we’ll get back up.  That’s how a movement happens.  That’s how history bends.  That's how when somebody is faint of heart, somebody else brings them along and says, come on, we’re marching.  (Applause.)

There’s a reason why so many who marched that day, and in the days to come, were young -- for the young are unconstrained by habits of fear, unconstrained by the conventions of what is.  They dared to dream differently, to imagine something better.  And I am convinced that same imagination, the same hunger of purpose stirs in this generation.

We might not face the same dangers of 1963, but the fierce urgency of now remains.  We may never duplicate the swelling crowds and dazzling procession of that day so long ago -- no one can match King’s brilliance -- but the same flame that lit the heart of all who are willing to take a first step for justice, I know that flame remains.  (Applause.) 

That tireless teacher who gets to class early and stays late and dips into her own pocket to buy supplies because she believes that every child is her charge -- she’s marching.  (Applause.)

That successful businessman who doesn't have to but pays his workers a fair wage and then offers a shot to a man, maybe an ex-con who is down on his luck -- he’s marching.  (Applause.)

The mother who pours her love into her daughter so that she grows up with the confidence to walk through the same door as anybody’s son -- she’s marching.  (Applause.)

The father who realizes the most important job he’ll ever have is raising his boy right, even if he didn't have a father -- especially if he didn't have a father at home -- he’s marching.  (Applause.)

The battle-scarred veterans who devote themselves not only to helping their fellow warriors stand again, and walk again, and run again, but to keep serving their country when they come home -- they are marching.  (Applause.)

Everyone who realizes what those glorious patriots knew on that day -- that change does not come from Washington, but to Washington; that change has always been built on our willingness, We The People, to take on the mantle of citizenship -- you are marching.  (Applause.)

And that’s the lesson of our past.  That's the promise of tomorrow -- that in the face of impossible odds, people who love their country can change it.  That when millions of Americans of every race and every region, every faith and every station, can join together in a spirit of brotherhood, then those mountains will be made low, and those rough places will be made plain, and those crooked places, they straighten out towards grace, and we will vindicate the faith of those who sacrificed so much and live up to the true meaning of our creed, as one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.  (Applause.) 
3:36 P.M. EDT