On Women’s Rights And The ERA

Women’s rights … it has taken us centuries to have the right to own property, to marry who we choose, to divorce him if it doesn’t work out, to VOTE, to earn equal pay for equal work, to have the right to make our own decisions in matters pertaining to our bodies.  What may have taken centuries to build, has taken very little time to destroy.  Two cases caught my eye in the news yesterday.

The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has ruled that Texas may prohibit a common second-trimester abortion procedure.  Isn’t it funny that people claim they have control over their body when it comes to getting vaccinated or wearing masks, but when it comes to we women having control over our body for something as life-changing as pregnancy, the Courts will decide what we can or cannot do?  I think, in order to avoid being seen as sexist, or a double standard, the Courts should immediately order every person over the age of 12 to be vaccinated!

Out in California, one of the most progressive states in the union, Larry Elder is one of the candidates hoping to unseat Governor Gavin Newsom next month.  Elder is, apparently, a misogynist, or as we used to call them, a male chauvinist pig.  It is illegal to ask a female employee when or if she plans to become pregnant.  Mr. Elder, however, sees no reason for that law.  He says …

“Are there legitimate business reasons for a venture capitalist to ask a female entrepreneur whether & when she intends to have children? Hell, yes. I’m not quite sure why it’s the govt’s business to intrude on it.”

What a guy, eh?  Now, seems to me that if he supports asking women that question, it would also be only fair to ask male employees and applicants when and if they plan to sire a child, and how many?

Why do we have to keep fighting the same old battles?  The U.S. Constitution was ratified in 1787, yet it would be 133 years later, in 1920, before the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified, ensuring women the right to vote.  And it would be 1984 before the State of Mississippi finally ratified the 19th Amendment, granting women in that state the right to vote.

In 1973, the Supreme Court ruling Roe v. Wade makes abortion legal.  And ever since, religious groups have been trying to get it overturned.  This isn’t about, as they will try to tell you, “right to life”, for the proponents in favour of overturning Roe don’t care about life.  They largely support the death penalty, they hunt to kill, most own guns … no, it isn’t about the right to life, it is about controlling women, it is about taking back women’s rights.

In 1923 the first version of the Equal Rights Amendment was introduced. It says, “Men and women shall have equal rights throughout the United States and every place subject to its jurisdiction.”  Today, nearly 100 years later, the Equal Rights Amendment still has not been passed by Congress!!!  Can anybody explain this one to me?

Phyllis Schlafly … you remember that witch, right … campaigned against the ERA saying that the measure would lead to gender-neutral bathrooms, same-sex marriage, and women in military combat, among other things.  😱  Oh horrors!  Every single one of those things came to pass anyway and our nation is a better place because of it!  Take that, Ms. Schlafly!!!

By 1977, only 35 states had ratified the ERA. Though Congress voted to extend the ratification deadline by an additional three years, no new states signed on. Complicating matters further, lawmakers in five states — Nebraska, Tennessee, Idaho, Kentucky, and South Dakota — voted to rescind their earlier support.

Tell me again that this isn’t very much a man’s world!  We women, in their minds, serve at their pleasure.  Period.

A Powerful Voice … The Voice Of The Future

Dear friends …

I haven’t been blogging much this week, and likely won’t for the next few days, for my “little bit under the weather” has worsened and I just don’t feel up to doing much besides sleeping.  But no worries … I will bounce back … soon, I hope.  Meanwhile young Greta Thunberg is back with a powerful piece that we should all take note of …


This Is the World Being Left to Us by Adults

Greta Thunberg, Adriana Calderón, Farzana Faruk Jhumu and 

The authors are youth climate activists from Sweden, Mexico, Bangladesh and Kenya, working with the international youth-led Fridays For Future movement.

Last week, some of the world’s leading climate change scientists confirmed that humans are making irreversible changes to our planet and extreme weather will only become more severe. This news is a “code red for humanity,” said the United Nations secretary general.

It is — but young people like us have been sounding this alarm for years. You just haven’t listened.

On Aug. 20, 2018, one child staged a lone protest outside the Swedish Parliament, expecting to stay for three weeks. Tomorrow we will mark three years since Greta Thunberg’s strike. Even earlier, brave young people from around the world spoke out about the climate crisis in their communities. And today, millions of children and young people have united in a movement with one voice, demanding that decision makers do the work necessary to save our planet from the unprecedented heat waves, massive floods and vast wildfires we are increasingly witnessing. Our protest will not end until the inaction does.

For children and young people, climate change is the single greatest threat to our futures. We are the ones who will have to clean up the mess you adults have made, and we are the ones who are more likely to suffer now. Children are more vulnerable than adults to the dangerous weather events, diseases and other harms caused by climate change, which is why a new analysis released Friday by UNICEF is so important.

The Children’s Climate Risk Indexprovides the first comprehensive view of where and how this crisis affects children. It ranks countries based on children’s exposure to climate and environmental shocks, as well as their underlying vulnerability to those shocks.

It finds that virtually every child on the planet is exposed to at least one climate or environmental hazard right now. A staggering 850 million, about a third of all the world’s children, are exposed to four or more climate or environmental hazards, including heat waves, cyclones, air pollution, flooding or water scarcity. A billion children, nearly half the children in the world, live in “extremely high risk” countries, the UNICEF researchers report.

This is the world being left to us. But there is still time to change our climate future. Around the world, our movement of young activists continues to grow.

In Bangladesh, Tahsin Uddin, 23, saw the impacts of climate change in his village and other coastal areas and was moved to action. He is passionate about climate education and has created a network of young journalists and educators to spread awareness, all while organizing cleanups of waterways teeming with plastic waste pollution.

In the Philippines, Mitzi Jonelle Tan, 23, has had to complete her homework by candlelight as typhoons raged outside and wiped out her community’s electricity. She told us there were times she was afraid of drowning in her own bedroom as water flooded in. Now she is leading youth in her country to respond to the aftermath of those typhoons and other hazards through sharing food, water, clothes and support with the most affected communities.

In Zimbabwe, Nkosi Nyathi, 18, is worried about a potential food crisis if weather patterns continue. Heat waves made school a challenging experience for him and his peers. Now he speaks to leaders from around the world to demand the inclusion of young people in decisions that affect their future.

The fundamental goal of the adults in any society is to protect their young and do everything they can to leave a better world than the one they inherited. The current generation of adults, and those that came before, are failing at a global scale.

The Children’s Climate Risk Index reveals a disturbing global inequity when it comes to the worst effects of climate change. Thirty-three countriesincluding the Central African Republic, Chad, Nigeria and Guinea, are considered extremely high-risk for children, but those countries collectively emit just 9 percent of global carbon dioxide emissions. The 10 countries with the highest emissions, including China, the United States, Russia and Japan, collectively account for nearly 70 percent of global emissions. And children in those higher-emitting states face lower risks: Only one of these countries, India, is ranked as extremely high-risk in the UNICEF report.

Many higher-risk countries are poorer nations from the global south, and it’s there that people will be most impacted, despite contributing the least to the problem. We will not allow industrialized countries to duck responsibility for the suffering of children in other parts of the world. Governments, industry and the rest of the international community must work together to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, as 195 nations committed to do in the Paris Climate Agreement of 2015.

We have less than 100 days until the U.N. Climate Change Conference, also known as COP26, in Glasgow. The world’s climate scientists have made it clear that the time is now — we must act urgently to avoid the worst possible consequences. The world’s young people stand with the scientists and will continue to sound the alarm.

We are in a crisis of crises. A pollution crisis. A climate crisis. A children’s rights crisis. We will not allow the world to look away.

For The People Act Cannot Die — Here’s Why

After the Census Bureau released detailed population and demographic data from the 2020 census yesterday, states and local governments are set to begin the once-a-decade process of drawing new voting district boundaries known as redistricting. And gerrymandering — when those boundaries are drawn with the intention of influencing who gets elected — is bound to follow.

The current redistricting cycle will be the first since the Supreme Court’s 2019 ruling that gerrymandering for party advantage cannot be challenged in federal court, which has set the stage for perhaps the most ominous round of map drawing in the country’s history.

In the unlikely event that the For the People Act passes the Senate, gerrymandering will be relegated to the annals of history, but since that is about as likely as me growing a pair of wings and flying far, far away, I will take this opportunity to redux my explanation of gerrymandering from a post I did back in 2019:

Gerrymandering, for any who may be unclear on precisely what the term means, is a means of re-drawing district maps to manipulate the boundaries in order to favour one party over the other.  The Washington Post published an excellent article explaining the process  back in March 2015  that I urge you to take a look at.  The graphic below, taken from that article, provides a pretty good visual explanation.

Every 10 years, states redraw their legislative and congressional district lines following the census. Because communities change, redistricting is critical to our democracy: maps must be redrawn to ensure that districts are equally populated, comply with laws such as the Voting Rights Act, and are otherwise representative of a state’s population. Done right, redistricting is a chance to create maps that, in the words of John Adams, are an “exact portrait, a miniature” of the people as a whole.

Trouble is, it is almost never ‘done right’.

While legislative and congressional district shapes may look wildly different from state to state, most attempts to gerrymander can best be understood through the lens of two basic techniques: cracking and packing.

Cracking splits groups of people with similar characteristics, such as voters of the same party affiliation, or perhaps the same … skin colour … across multiple districts. With their voting strength divided and diluted, these groups struggle to elect their preferred candidates in any of the districts.

Packing is the opposite of cracking: map drawers cram certain groups of voters into as few districts as possible. In these few districts, the “packed” groups are likely to elect their preferred candidates, but the groups’ voting strength is weakened everywhere else.

While historically both parties have used gerrymandering to their advantage, today it is largely the Republicans who do so in order to disenfranchise certain groups, among them Blacks, the elderly, college students, and the working poor.  Now, coupled with the blatant voter suppression laws that are being proposed and legislated in 42 of the 50 states, and … well, you can see the problem.  Black people’s voices will be diluted, as will the elderly and others, while white Christians will have their voices amplified.  One piece of legislation can halt both voter suppression laws and gerrymandering in their tracks:  the For the People Act.

In a nutshell, this bill, which has already passed in the House of Representatives and is lying dormant in the Senate today, will …

  • Make it easier for every eligible voter to register to vote
  • Make it easier for every registered voter to vote
  • Make election day a public holiday
  • Ban partisan gerrymandering by prohibiting adoption of any map that has the intent or effect of “unduly favoring or disfavoring” one political party over another
  • Require that congressional redistricting be transparent and participatory, with open meetings and public hearings, opportunities for the public to review and comment on proposed maps
  • Require that states carry out congressional redistricting using independent commissions that:
    • prohibit current and recent lawmakers, staff, and lobbyists and others with conflicts of interest from serving on the commission;
    • include an equal number of Republican, Democratic, and unaffiliated or third-party members selected through a rigorous screening process, with voting rules designed to ensure that maps can pass only with support from all three groups; and
    • include members who are representative of the state’s demographic makeup and different geographic regions, with enough members from racial, ethnic, and language minorities to give those groups a meaningful opportunity to participate in the redistricting process

There is much, much more in this bill that would bring equity and fairness back into our election process, and I do plan to cover more of it in the near future, but … the bill is on the chopping block and desperately needs to be resuscitated.  It is subject to the senate filibuster, an archaic, racist tool that is used by the minority party to keep legislation they don’t like from ever passing any legislation.  In this case, however, We the People need to step up to the plate, we need to fight tooth and nail to get this legislation passed!  This may, in fact, be the single most important bill on the docket of this Congress — even more crucial than the infrastructure bill.

Why, exactly, don’t the Republicans want to allow the For the People Act to see the light of day?  Because in a fair and honest election, few Republicans would stand a snowball’s chance in hell of being elected.  Ever since they showed their racist side in response to a Black man being elected president, and then backed a raving madman with zero qualifications for the presidency in 2016, the Republican Party has been on a downhill path, eschewing sound policymaking and instead engaging in lies, cheating, conspiracy theories, and such nefarious practices to win elections.  In 2016, their hero lost by 2.8 million votes, but due to gerrymandered districts, was placed in the Oval Office by the Electoral College.  The minority ruled.  Last year, that same hero lost by more than 7 million votes, and the Republicans are determined not to allow that to happen again, even if it means stopping the votes of the majority.  And if all else fails, there is little doubt in my mind that they will have a ‘Plan B’, likely something along the lines of what happened on January 6th.

If we care at all about this nation, if we care about how our government spends our hard-earned tax dollars and how they treat people, then we must DEMAND that the Senate pass this damn bill!!!  Otherwise, welcome to the Plutocracy of the dis-United States.

Simone Biles, Sexual Abuse, and Mental Health

I’m not into sports, don’t pay any attention to the summer Olympics, but during the past weeks, my curiosity has been roused as I kept hearing some very strong opinions, both pro and con, for a young Olympic gymnast named Simone Biles. I kept meaning to further investigate, but other topics have kept me busy. So, I was pleased to see Brendan’s post today about Ms. Biles, a positive view, thankfully. Thank you, Brendan!

Blind Injustice

Simone Biles. Agência Brasil Fotografias, CC BY 2.0 https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0, via Wikimedia Commons

Content warnings: Sexual abuse, suicide

One of the major stories of the recently concluded Summer Olympics was how decorated American gymnast Simone Biles was ultimately not involved in several of the events that she qualified for as a result of her struggles with mental health. Reaction to this seemed a bit split: many praised her for prioritizing her mental health, while some critics thought of her as a quitter.

Just to clarify, I fall into the former category, not the latter. I think Simone Biles did the right thing in prioritizing her mental health, even if it meant missing some major events this Olympics. To do otherwise would’ve been a danger to her mental and her physical health, which is more important than any Olympic medal.

Yet, at the same time, it seems like there’s often been…

View original post 565 more words

On Boot-Lickers, Pakistan, and Karen

The snark-o-meter is spinning madly tonight … partly, I think, from being treated to an hour or so of my daughter’s bagpipe practice 🧏 !  But there’s more than that … there is … life.  Reality.  News.  Politics.  People.


Why oh why are they still licking his boots???

I will never understand why the Republican Party has hitched its wagon to the former guy and won’t let go.  NEWS FLASH, Republicans … Donald Trump is NO LONGER the president of this nation, he has absolutely ZERO power, unless you give it to him.  He was, on the whole, the single worst, most corrupt president the United States has ever known, and we breathed a collective sigh of relief on January 20th of this year when the former guy went back to his estate at Mar-a-Lago and President Joe Biden took the oath of office.

The congressional Republicans are digging their own grave, shooting themselves in the foot … pick your analogy.  The former guy has threatened Republicans in Congress who sign on to the current and much overdue infrastructure bill … WTF???  He’s nothing … a nobody … why in hell are they cowering in their tracks at the slightest hint of displeasure from that asshole?  What, specifically, has set me off this time?  A statement by Ohio Senator Rob Portman …

“I have encouraged President Trump to take credit for this. President Trump’s effort to raise the level of awareness about the need for infrastructure improvement should help us get this done. You know, he proposed a $1.5 trillion infrastructure bill.”

No, STUPID … NO NO NO NO NO … he is NOT the damned president and he deserves LESS THAN ZERO credit for a bill that has happened under President Joseph R. Biden!  How low, Rob Portman, are you willing to go.  You’ve licked his boots for years, are you now willing to kiss his posterior as well???  And why, one has to ask … Trump has no power and Portman is retiring from the Senate at the end of 2022.  The only thing I can come up with is that Portman is kissing Trump’s ass in hopes of currying favour and becoming his vice-presidential nominee in 2024.  Either way, I used to think that Rob was one of the better Republicans in Congress … I no longer think that.


Something to ponder …

I often criticize society and life in general here in the United States, and in truth there IS much that is wrong.  Racism, both systemic and societal.  Greed, arrogance, lack of attentiveness to climate change, corruption in our government, an education system that has been in decline in recent years, political chaos, the worst healthcare system in the western world and more.  But, something I read tonight made me thankful to live in a western nation, if not specifically the U.S.

In Pakistan, an 8-year-old boy was arrested and may face the death penalty when he comes to trial.  Yes, you heard me right … 8 years old.  What, you ask, did he do?  He peed in a library.  How many 8-year-old boys have taken a dare by friends, or just decided to show off, and peed in inappropriate places?  Likely most all of them.  Heck, some people on our street have a teenager who routinely pees in our birdseed!  I might yell at him when I catch him doing it, but I’m damn sure not going to call the cops!  And even if I did, he would not even face jail time, let alone the death penalty.

This boy, not named by The Guardian where I saw the story, is the youngest person ever to be charged with blasphemy in the country.  According to the story …

The boy’s family is in hiding and many of the Hindu community in the conservative district of Rahim Yar Khan, in Punjab, have fled their homes after a Muslim crowd attacked a Hindu temple after the boy’s release on bail last week. Troops were deployed to the area to quell any further unrest.

On Saturday, 20 people were arrested in connection with the temple attack.

The boy is accused of intentionally urinating on a carpet in the library of a madrassa, where religious books were kept, last month. Blasphemy charges can carry the death penalty.

Speaking from an undisclosed location, a member of the boy’s family told the Guardian: “He [the boy] is not even aware of such blasphemy issues and he has been falsely indulged in these matters. He still doesn’t understand what his crime was and why he was kept in jail for a week.

“We have left our shops and work, the entire community is scared and we fear backlash. We don’t want to return to this area. We don’t see any concrete and meaningful action will be taken against the culprits or to safeguard the minorities living here.”

Blasphemy laws have been disproportionately used in the past against religious minorities in Pakistan. Although no blasphemy executions have been carried out in the country since the death penalty was introduced for the crime in 1986, suspects are often attacked and sometimes killed by mobs.

I understand and respect that different cultures have different social norms, values and laws, but … pardon me, I think to hold a child such as this accountable for an act that harmed nobody, that is easily enough repaired, is a violation of human rights.  Yeah, sometimes it’s not so bad living in the U.S. … relatively speaking.


But then … are we really so far from similar atrocities?

On a recent Sunday …

“46-year-old real estate agent Eric Brown was showing off a Wyoming, Michigan, home to 45-year-old Roy Thorne and his 15-year-old son Samuel. Thorne, an army veteran, was in the market to buy a home and Eric Brown has worked in the Grand Rapids area of Michigan selling people homes for two decades. At some point during the 30-minute walk around the prospective homeowner was doing, six uniformed Wyoming police officers surrounded the property with their guns drawn. All three men were forced to exit the home with their hands up as officers pointed their guns at and then handcuffed them. The men were then placed in three separate police vehicles.

Eric Brown, Roy Thorne, and Samuel Thorne are all Black. According to the Wyoming Police Department, the officers were responding to a 911 call from a neighbor that claimed the home was being burglarized. It was only after spending around 20 minutes in handcuffs that the three were released. Brown told a reporter that he would be lying if he didn’t believe race played a large part in the 911 call and police response.”

Hell yes race played the entire part in the 911 call AND in the officer’s treatment of the men.  No doubt some Karen made the call, but the police might have bothered to assess the situation before arresting the men … and teen.  Perhaps we’re not as far off from Pakistan as we’d like to think.

A Couple Of Thoughts …

You may remember the killing of a Black man, Botham Jean on September 6th, 2018, but in case you’ve forgotten, allow me to refresh your memory.

Mr. Jean, a college graduate and an accountant, was sitting in his living room on the 4th floor of his apartment building watching television and eating ice cream on that fateful evening.  Dallas police officer Amber Guyger was off duty and returning home from her shift.  Her apartment was one floor below Mr. Jean’s, on the third floor, but she somehow mistakenly went to the 4th floor and allegedly believed Mr. Jean’s apartment was her own.  She claims that his door was ajar, she assumed there was a burglar inside, and when she entered and saw him sitting there, she shot him dead.  When she called police, the dispatcher asked for her location, and she had to go look at the number on the door to see where she even was.  I don’t know about you folks, but if I walked into an apartment that wasn’t mine, I would immediately know I was in the wrong apartment!  And how many burglars are going to sit around in their shorts, watching television and eating ice cream???

When I first wrote about this murder shortly after it happened, I sensed that if Mr. Jean had been a white man, he would still be alive today.  Nothing I have read has changed my mind. A number of my readers also commented that there seemed to be some missing pieces, that there was likely more to the story than met the eye.

At any rate, it was several days before Guyger was arrested, and then she was only charged with manslaughter.  The charges were later upgraded to murder, and on November 30, 2018, Guyger was indicted on murder charges by a Dallas County grand jury.  The following year, on October 1st, 2019, Guyger was convicted on the charges of murder and sentenced to ten years in prison.   On August 7th, 2020, Guyger’s attorneys filed an appeal, alleging that insufficient evidence existed to convict her of murder. The appeal sought either an acquittal, or a reduction in charge to criminally negligent homicide with a new hearing for sentencing on the reduced charge.

This week on Thursday, August 5th, a panel of three state judges on the Texas appeals court upheld the murder conviction, denying her appeal.  She remains in prison and will become eligible for parole in 2024.  Sadly, Mr. Jean will not be eligible to have his life restored.  This is one of only two cases I am aware of in the past decade where a white police officer has been held fully accountable for the murder of an unarmed Black person, the other of course being the conviction of Derek Chauvin for the murder of George Floyd.  It is good to see justice work, but there are so many more who need the long arm of the law to encircle them and carry them off to prison, such as officers Myles Cosgrove and Joshua Jaynes in Louisville, Kentucky, who shot and killed a Black woman, Breonna Taylor, while she slept in her own bed!

And since I’ve mentioned George Floyd and the conviction of Derek Chauvin, let me just touch on another topic that is disturbing me.  A coalition of news media outlets has asked the judge who oversaw the trial of Derek Chauvin to release the identities of jurors who convicted him in the death of George Floyd.  Attorneys for the coalition, which includes Fox ‘News’, the Associated Press, and even The Washington Post, is asking not only for the names of the jurors, which would be bad enough, but also for the juror profiles that would include such things as age, address, place of employment, etc.

Judge Peter Cahill had previously ordered the information sealed for the safety of the jurors.  Think about it … how many white supremacists were incensed by Chauvin’s conviction and sentencing to 22.5 years in prison?  How safe would you feel if you had been on that jury and one of these media outlets released your name to the public?

Attorney Leita Walker said the media and public have a right to information about a jury and said that that Chauvin’s trial is over “and there is no way that jurors’ fears of intimidation, harassment, or violence can unfairly impact their deliberations.” She also wrote that the coalition knows of no threat to any juror or prospective juror.  Well duh … did you think they would contact you and say “We plan to kill harass, intimidate, and kill the jurors, so give us their names”? She said the court’s desire to protect jurors from unwanted publicity or harassment are not grounds to keep their identities sealed under law, and that “much has changed” in the months since the jury rendered its verdict “and at this juncture, resistance to releasing their names appears based on little more than a desire to have them left alone.”

Make no mistake … I am all for freedom of the press, and transparency to the extent that it makes sense and is not endangering people.  However … jury duty is an important responsibility that ALL of us should take seriously, and most of us do.  We do not, however, undertake this responsibility in order to be harassed and intimidated, to feel that our lives are in danger.  Sorry, media, but this time you’re just plain wrong.

And Speaking of Voting Rights …

I had considered doing a Saturday Surprise post today, but … frankly, my heart wasn’t in it and my mind kept going back to an editorial I read yesterday by Attorney General Merrick Garland.  Perhaps there might be a Sunday Surprise tomorrow, but for today, please read AG Garland’s words, think about them, put them into the context of the post I wrote yesterday about Freedom Summer in Mississippi in 1964.  Then ask yourself … WHERE are we headed?  WHY should a person’s right to vote be infringed upon because of the colour of their skin?  And WHAT, if anything, can We the People do to stop this runaway train that will disenfranchise hundreds of thousands of law-abiding, tax-paying citizens, rob them of their voice in our country’s government?


Merrick Garland: It is time for Congress to act again to protect the right to vote

Opinion by Merrick B. Garland

Friday, 06 August 2021

Merrick B. Garland is attorney general of the United States.

Our society is shaped not only by the rights it declares but also by its willingness to protect and enforce those rights. Nowhere is this clearer than in the area of voting rights.

Fifty-six years ago Friday, the Voting Rights Act became law. At the signing ceremony, President Lyndon B. Johnson rightly called it “one of the most monumental laws in the entire history of American freedom.”

Prior attempts to protect voting rights informed his assessment. The 15th Amendment promised that no American citizen would be denied the right to vote on account of race. Yet for nearly a century following the amendment’s ratification, the right to vote remained illusory for far too many.

The Civil Rights Act of 1957 marked Congress’s first major civil rights legislation since Reconstruction. That law authorized the attorney general to sue to enjoin racially discriminatory denials of the right to vote. Although the Justice Department immediately put the law to use, it quickly learned that bringing case-by-case challenges was no match for systematic voter suppression.

Things would not have changed without the civil rights movement’s persistent call to action. By the time a 25-year-old John Lewis was beaten on the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala., the Justice Department had been embroiled in voting rights litigation against the surrounding county for four years. Although the county had approximately 15,000 Black citizens of voting age, the number of Black registered voters had only risen from 156 to 383 during those years.

By 1965, it was clear that protecting the right to vote required stronger tools. The Voting Rights Act provided them. Central to the law was its “preclearance” provision, which prevented jurisdictions with a history of discriminatory voting practices from adopting new voting rules until they could show the Justice Department or a federal court that the change would have neither a racially discriminatory purpose nor a racially discriminatory result.

By any measure, the preclearance regime was enormously effective. While it was in place, the Justice Department blocked thousands of discriminatory voting changes that would have curtailed the voting rights of millions of citizens in jurisdictions large and small.

One thwarted change involved McComb, Miss. A large group of Black residents in the city had long voted at the Martin Luther King Jr. Community Center, which was close to their homes on the east side of railroad tracks that run through the city. In 1997, the city tried to move that group’s assigned polling place to the American Legion Hut on the west side of the tracks. To cross those tracks, Black voters on the east side — many of whom lacked transportation — would have had to travel substantial distances to find a safe crossing. Recognizing that difficulty, the Justice Department blocked the change.

While the Voting Rights Act gave the Justice Department robust authority, it also imposed checks on that power. Jurisdictions had the option to go to federal court to show that their voting changes were lawful. This ensured fairness and accountability, but without the inefficiencies and ineffectiveness that existed prior to 1965. It was a balance that worked and received broad support: Congressional reauthorizations of the act were signed into law by President Richard M. Nixon in 1970, President Gerald Ford in 1975, President Ronald Reagan in 1982 and President George W. Bush in 2006.

That invaluable framework was upended in 2013, when the Supreme Court’s decision in Shelby County v. Holder effectively eliminated the act’s preclearance protections. Without that authority, the Justice Department has been unable to stop discriminatory practices before they occur. Instead, the Justice Department has been left with costly, time-consuming tools that have many of the shortcomings that plagued federal law prior to 1965.

Notwithstanding these setbacks, the Justice Department is using all its current legal authorities to combat a new wave of restrictive voting laws. But if the Voting Rights Act’s preclearance provision were still operative, many of those laws would likely not have taken effect in the first place.

In a column published after his death, Lewis recalled an important lesson taught by Martin Luther King Jr.: “Each of us has a moral obligation to stand up, speak up and speak out. When you see something that is not right, you must say something. You must do something.”

On this anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, we must say again that it is not right to erect barriers that make it harder for millions of eligible Americans to vote. And it is time for Congress to act again to protect that fundamental right.

The Summer That Will Always Be Remembered …

At 1:00 a.m. this morning, the time I would normally be responding to comments, catching up on the day’s news, and trying to find a focal point for my afternoon post, I began watching a documentary.  Our friend Keith recommended this one a while back, and I had watched only the first few minutes at that time, but kept it pinned to my taskbar so that I wouldn’t forget about it.  I thought, at 1:00 this morning, that I would watch 15-20 minutes of this nearly two-hour program, then get busy on comments and such.  But before long, I had watched 50 minutes, mesmerized, sometimes with tears in my eyes.  I paused for a bathroom break and to make myself a piece of toast to settle the acid in my stomach, then returned to the video.  At 3:00 a.m., the documentary was done, the toast eaten, and a lump in my throat the size of … Mississippi.

The documentary?  Freedom Summer.  Mississippi 1964.  The year that 1,000 college students from all over the United States traveled to Mississippi in an attempt to help Black people register to vote, to gain a measure of control over their own lives.

In 1964, less than 7% of Mississippi’s African Americans were registered to vote, compared to between 50 and 70% in other southern states. In many rural counties, African Americans made up the majority of the population and the segregationist white establishment was prepared to use any means necessary to keep them away from the polls and out of elected office.

For years, local civil rights workers had tried unsuccessfully to increase voter registration amongst African Americans. Those who wished to vote had to face the local registrar, an all-powerful white functionary who would often publish their names in the paper and pass the word on to their employers and bankers. And if loss of jobs and the threat of violence wasn’t enough to dissuade them, the complex and arcane testing policies were certain to keep them off the rolls.

In 1964, a new plan was hatched by Bob Moses, a local secretary for the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee. For ten weeks, white students from the North would join activists on the ground for a massive effort that would do what had been impossible so far: force the media and the country to take notice of the shocking violence and massive injustice taking place in Mississippi.

This was the summer that three of those students, James Chaney, Andrew Goodman, and Michael Schwerner were brutally killed in a plot hatched by County Sheriff Lawrence A. Rainey and eight other white male community ‘leaders’, their bodies buried deep in an old farm pond.

This was the summer that almost no Blacks were allowed to register to vote, for few could pass the “literacy tests” required of Black people in order to vote.  Even attempting to register could get them fired from their jobs and evicted from their homes.

I strongly urge you to take the two hours to watch this video.  The widow of Michael Schwerner has a role, as does Bob Moses, a civil rights activist who took part in Freedom Summer, was a leader of the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee (SNCC), and who died just over a week ago at the age of 86.  Here is a link, for any who are interested in this very important piece of U.S. history.

Fifty-six years ago today, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  Largely because of that, I have always had a great deal of respect for former President Lyndon B. Johnson, but frankly after watching this video, the only word I could think of to define him was ‘bastard’.

This documentary … people risking their lives to ensure that ALL people have a right to vote, to have a voice in the governing of this country … is even more meaningful today when 42 of the states in this nation are doing their level best to once again take the right to vote away from Black people, Hispanics, the elderly, college students and poor people.  Are we headed back to the days of Jim Crow?  Will we find ourselves in just a few short years sending busloads of young people to Florida, Alabama, and again, Mississippi, to help in the fight to ensure people from all walks of life and of all ethnicities can do something so simple, so basic, as to vote?  Think about that one for a minute … and please do watch the documentary … you won’t regret the time spent.

The Games People Play

I titled this post as I did for a very good reason … our lawmakers at every level are playing games … with our lives.  They are playing with our right to vote, with the bridges that just waiting for a heavier-than-average rush hour to collapse and kill thousands, they are playing with the rights of Blacks, Hispanics and those of Asian descent to … well, to live, actually.  And they are playing with numbers … how they can profit the most from the 98% of us who live from paycheck to paycheck.  Oh yes, folks, our lawmakers are great games players, just not very good representatives of We the People.


For the People …

Over the past 2 weeks, I have spent hours pouring over the For the People Act, the legislation that is currently collecting dust in the United States Senate.  This is legislation that, in addition to much else, would guarantee every eligible person age 18 or over the right to vote.  But the Senate seems to think … wait, let me amend that before I go any further … the Republicans and two Democratic members of the Senate … seem to think that We the People should not have a voice in the government we support financially!  The more I study this bill, the more I am growling, for there is literally NOTHING in it that should give rise for concern.  If, that is, we had legislators who put country above party, who truly cared about the future of this nation, who treasured integrity and honesty above profit and power.  Sadly, we don’t.

I will have a post, more likely 2-3 posts, summarizing this bill, what it would mean to you and I, and the Republicans’ objections to it within the next week or so, but for now, suffice it to say that as long as our elected officials care more about themselves than about us, as long as they are tethered to the former guy’s wagon, and as long as there are enough uneducated people in this nation who will fall for their lies, this bill is likely to be burned at the stake before it gets a chance to see the light of day.  It’s a damn shame that we will almost certainly end up trashing the democratic principles on which this nation was founded so that the likes of Mitch McConnell and Kevin McCarthy can stay in power and keep the money rolling in … to their bank accounts.


Now about that infrastructure bill …

There has been much hassle over the infrastructure bill while bridges and roadways further erode, while people are still drinking water that is proven unsafe, but hey … let’s thank those bloody Republicans for keeping our tax dollars safe, shall we?  Oh yeah … rather than spend them on our safety, they can spend them to build and buy more military hardware, better guns, even more nukes that will someday in the not-so-distant future destroy us all!

Today, the CBO (Congressional Budget Office) announced that the infrastructure bill, often touted as a bipartisan bill, though I question this, would add in excess of $250 billion to the already bloated federal deficit over the next decade.  Well duh … bridges, roadways, water & sewer systems … they cost money!  They also save human lives, but hey … no biggie, right?

Now, since the CBO is so happily crunching numbers … I have another request for them.  How about calculating the amount of additional revenue this nation would garner if every single person with a net worth over $1 million was forced to pay a fair share in taxes as the rest of us have been doing for all our lives?  Yeah … I want to know how much of that money required for infrastructure could be covered if the likes of Jeff Bezos, Exxon Mobile, Smith & Wesson, and every other corporation or individual worth millions paid the same rate in taxes as the rest of us do.  I’m betting these assholes could more than cover the infrastructure, upgrade our schools, and cover Medicare for All if they just opened their wallets and paid … the same progressive income tax that the rest of us pay!  How ‘bout it CBO … you game for calculating this one?

During my career years, ages 13-57, I never once begrudged Uncle Sam the amount I spent on federal income taxes.  I am a CPA and for years have prepared clients’ tax returns, but I refuse to lie or cheat on their behalf.  But I admit that I see red when I see that certain corporations paid zero income taxes, or that a multi-millionaire, nay billionaire, paid somewhere around 1% – 2% while the average John Doe is paying 12% – 25%.  C’mon, Congress, close the damn loopholes!  Tax the wealthy … they can afford it … I can’t!


On April 19th, 1863, President Abraham Lincoln spoke these words in his infamous Gettysburg Address …

“ … that these dead shall not have died in vain– that this nation, under God, shall have a new birth of freedom and that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”

That government of, by, and for the people is perishing from the earth.  It has had a dagger thrust into its heart and is just now gasping its last breaths.  Are you content to let it die?  Will we sit back and watch as those with money take power unto themselves and subjugate the rest of us?  Sigh.  And on that note, I bid you a good night.

Access to Clean, Safe Drinking Water: A Racial Justice Issue

One of the most basic human needs is … water. Without it, we die … it’s that simple. Brendan over at Blind Injustice has written a post to remind us first of the importance of potable water, and second, how water supplies around the globe, and yes even here in the U.S., are diminishing. Thanks, Brendan, for a wake-up-call post we should all be reminded of.

Blind Injustice

An image of water. Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

When some of us (particularly those of us of means) in the United States think of places that lack access to clean drinking water, we think of certain countries on the African continent. And, it is true that parts of Africa struggle to access even the most basic of water services—nine of the ten worst countries in the world in terms of access to clean water are located on that continent.[1]

However, I am concerned that many of us may be blind to issues of water access at home, in the United States of America. Furthermore, I am concerned that many of us may be blind about how this access to water is a racial justice issue.

Sure, a major report on the water crisis in Flint, Michigan, a few years ago cited systemic racism as being at the core…

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