An Anniversary To Remember …

Yesterday marked the 65th anniversary of the Supreme Court decision on Brown v Board of Education of Topeka, the landmark decision that established that racial discrimination in schools is unconstitutional.  To honour this anniversary, I would like to share with you a post by the Jon S. Randal Peace Page that tells the story better than I could.

She just wanted to go to a good school, to be with her friends.

She lived in an ethnically diverse neighborhood, growing up playing with children of all races.

The school she wanted to attend, where her friends were, was only four blocks away.

Her father would take her to that school, the Sumner School. Being a part of the neighborhood, the family received a registration form for the school in 1952. She was so excited, to be able to attend a school nearby with her friends from the neighborhood.

But, when they arrived there, the principal would take her father to the office and close the door. She didn’t know what was happening, why the principal had to speak to her father alone. She heard her father’s voice begin to rise. After a few minutes, her father opened the door, he was upset, and he just took her hand and walked back out of the school.

The school had apparently sent the registration form to her family by mistake. They thought the family was white, Linda Brown and her parents were black and Sumner was a whites-only school.

“I just couldn’t understand what was happening,” she would say, “I was so sure that I was going to go to school with Mona and Guinevere, Wanda, and all of my playmates.”

Linda-Brown.jpgLinda Brown did not realize that she was unable to attend the school because of the color of her skin. This was because the elementary schools in Topeka, Kansas, were racially segregated, with separate facilities for black and white children.

“I didn’t comprehend color of skin,” she said later. “I only knew that I wanted to go to Sumner.”

She and other black children were barred from sharing the same buses, schools and other public facilities as whites because of the “Jim Crow” laws.

Brown would be forced to walk 6 blocks through the dangerous Rock Island Switchyard in order to catch a bus to the segregated all-black school.

According to the Washington Post, Linda’s father, the Rev. Oliver L. Brown, an assistant minister at St. Mark’s African Methodist Episcopal Church, “felt that it was wrong for his child to have to go so far a distance to receive a quality education.”

Linda’s father would join several other parents, and, together, led by a young, NAACP attorney named Thurgood Marshall, would take the case, Brown v. Board of Education before the U.S. Supreme Court.

On May 17, 1954, the Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Earl Warren, would rule in their favor, saying that school segregation violated the equal protection clause of the 14th Amendment. The unanimous ruling declared segregation in public schools unconstitutional.

Brown v. Board of Education would be the basis for many other rulings that led to desegregation, motivating the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s.

But, not only did black students benefit from the ruling, Native American children were also affected. Native American communities had to deal with segregation laws as well, with native children being prohibited from attending white institutions. After tribal leaders learned about Dr. King’s desegregation campaign in Birmingham, Alabama, they would contact him for assistance, resolving the problem.

Although Brown’s family was just one of 13 plaintiffs who sought to ensure the city fully integrated the rest of its schools, Brown would be burdened with the publicity because her family’s name was part of the case name. Her family would briefly leave their home in Topeka, Kansas, when she was a teenager, but she would return to Topeka after her father died in 1961.

She would also take on the civil rights mantle of her father, becoming an educator and civil rights advocate.

Brown was part of a group of Topeka parents who, in 1979, joined with the American Civil Liberties Union to successfully argue for the reopening of the Brown case. The parents argued that because of housing patterns in Topeka, racially segregated schools remained in the city, in violation of the 1954 ruling.

In a 1985 interview for “Eyes on the Prize,” a PBS documentary series on the civil rights movement, Linda Brown said, “I feel that after 30 years, looking back on Brown v. the Board of Education, it has made an impact in all facets of life for minorities throughout the land. I really think of it in terms of what it has done for our young people, in taking away that feeling of second-class citizenship.”

When Brown died on March 25, 2018, at the age 76, the Kansas governor paid tribute to Brown, saying:

“Sixty-four years ago a young girl from Topeka brought a case that ended segregation in public schools in America. Linda Brown’s life reminds us that sometimes the most unlikely people can have an incredible impact and that by serving our community we can truly change the world.”

In an interview with the Washington Post in 1994, Brown had said, “We feel disheartened that 40 years later we’re still talking about desegregation. But the struggle has to continue.”

Sixty-five years later.  Everybody accepts that racial intolerance has no place in our schools, in our society, right?  Wrong.  A number of Trump’s recent judicial nominees have flat-out refused to affirm the Brown decision.  One even went so far as to say she did not agree with the decision in 1954. Why???  Are we, in fact, headed on a backward slope in terms of racial discrimination just as we are in terms of women’s and LGBT rights?  Suffice it to say that with the recent rise in white supremacy and Trump’s pandering to the right-wing hate groups, it is something we cannot afford to ignore.

A Child … Just A Child

It seems to me that this nation places too much value on rites and rituals and not enough on substantive issues.  When an eleven-year-old child is arrested … yes, arrested by police … for exercising his right to free speech by refusing to recite the pledge of allegiance, something has gone awry with our values as a nation.

It all began on the morning of February 4th, when a young boy at Lawton Chiles Middle Academy in Polk County, Florida, refused to stand for the pledge of allegiance.  The boy had refused to stand for the pledge for the entire school year, and had written permission from his mother to do so. But on this day there was a substitute teacher, Ana Alvarez.  When Ms. Alvarez asked the boy why he didn’t stand, he told her he believes the pledge represents racism.  Ms. Alvarez’ responded …

“Why if it was so bad here you do not go to another place to live.”

And when the boy replied, “They brought me here,” Alvarez said …

“Well you can always go back, because I came here from Cuba and the day I feel I’m not welcome here anymore I would find another place to live.”

Perhaps Ms. Alvarez forgot she was talking to an 11-year-old child who has neither the autonomy nor the means to choose his own place to live?

“Then I had to call the office because I did not want to continue dealing with him.”

A school resource officer with the Lakeland Police Department eventually responded to the classroom and arrested the boy.  Arrested a child.  An African-American child who did not break any law.  According to a statement by Polk County Public Schools, the child “became disruptive” and “refused to follow instructions.”  Excuse me, but the boy is eleven years old!  He was no doubt frightened and felt threatened!  He was not an adult who might have been able to understand and deal with the situation in a moderated voice!

This case, naturally, brings to mind that of Colin Kaepernick who was unduly ostracized and penalized for exercising his first amendment right to refuse to stand for the national anthem.  If Colin Kaepernick had been Caucasian, would the results have been different?  If this 11-year-old boy had been Caucasian, would the results have been different?  We will never know for sure, but my best guess is that yes, in both cases the refusal to stand would have been largely overlooked.

On Tuesday, Brian Haas, the state attorney for the 10th Judicial Circuit in Florida, said that his office would not prosecute the boy despite statements by the police that he had made threats after disrupting class. “The case is closed,” Mr. Haas said.

However, the boy’s mother, understandably, is not satisfied, nor is the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  Dhakira Talbot, the lad’s mother, declined an offer from prosecutors on Monday to drop the case if the boy completed a so-called diversion program, which could include a fine and community service.  She has obtained an attorney who plans to file a civil-rights complaint with the federal Department of Education this week.

A personal note here.  Throughout my childhood I refused steadfastly to stand for the pledge or to engage in the morning prayer that was requisite in the Catholic schools I attended.  The nuns did not like it and more than a few times I was smacked on the hands and even the head with the metal edge of a ruler (Catholic schools in the 1950s were notorious for corporal punishment).  But, being the stubborn girl I was even back then, I did not give in.  AND … I did not get arrested.  I seriously doubt that calling the police ever crossed their minds!

According to the New York Times article from February 19th

Across the country, black students are disciplined more often and face harsher consequences than their white peers. At Lawton Chiles Middle Academy, black students made up 17 percent of the student body last school year but represented 39 percent of disciplinary actions, according to data from the Florida Department of Education.

Systemic racism.  Perhaps the biggest shame of this nation.  And an 11-year-old boy has suffered an experience he will never forget.  He has been shown, first-hand, that black people are treated with less respect, less dignity than those with pale skin.  What lasting effect will this incident have on a young child’s life?  There is no way to know, but we can rest assured that it will colour his views for the rest of his life.

On The Rights Of People …

Two things have my angst on edge tonight, both involving humanitarian rights.


From The Guardian, Friday 04 January 2019 …

US halts cooperation with UN on potential human rights violations

The Trump administration has stopped cooperating with UN investigators over potential human rights violations occurring inside America, in a move that delivers a major blow to vulnerable US communities and sends a dangerous signal to authoritarian regimes around the world.

Quietly and unnoticed, the state department has ceased to respond to official complaints from UN special rapporteurs, the network of independent experts who act as global watchdogs on fundamental issues such as poverty, migration, freedom of expression and justice. There has been no response to any such formal query since 7 May 2018, with at least 13 requests going unanswered.

Jamil Dakwar, director of the American Civil Liberties Union’s human rights program, said the shift gave the impression the US was no longer serious about honoring its own human rights obligations. The ripple effect around the world would be dire.

Externally, Trump has forged an increasingly unilateral path on foreign policy: in June he shocked the world by pulling the US out of the UN human rights council, complaining it was a “cesspool of political bias”, and he has caused further consternation by siding with the Saudi crown prince, Mohammed bin Salman, despite evidence linking Prince Mohammed to the murder of the Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi.

Domestically, Trump has run roughshod over the constitutional rights of asylum seekers at the US border, attempted to deny the legal existence of transgender people and introduced tax cuts that have greatly exacerbated income inequality in a country in which 40 million people live in poverty, among many other controversies.

In any democratic form of government, oversight is a key component to ensure that corruption does no run rampant and that the rights of the people are not being trampled.  One of the functions of the United Nations is to provide such oversight, to ensure that the rights of the people are being honoured and protected by the government.  In the case of the U.S. under Donald Trump, those rights are being neither honoured nor protected, and now one of the main overseers has been disabled.  We have literally been hung out to dry.  Which leads to my second source of angst …

From The Washington Post, 03 January 2019

Trump administration considers rollback of anti-discrimination rules

The Trump administration is considering a far-reaching rollback of civil rights law that would dilute federal rules against discrimination in education, housing and other aspects of American life, people familiar with the discussions said.

A recent internal Justice Department memo directed senior civil rights officials to examine how decades-old “disparate impact” regulations might be changed or removed in their areas of expertise, and what the impact might be, according to people familiar with the matter. Similar action is being considered at the Education Department and is underway at the Department of Housing and Urban Development.

In the first year of Trump’s tenure, 18 civil rights prior rulings were cancelled, either by agencies within the administration, or by executive order.  Some of these rulings pertained to women’s rights, some protected minorities from discrimination in the areas of law enforcement, education, housing and employment.  Until now, the rulings were reversals or rollbacks of rulings by the Obama administration, in keeping with Trump’s master plan to eradicate every good thing that Obama had done.  But now, with the plan to rollback disparate impact regulations, the nation is stepping back even further to Title VI of the 1964 Civil Rights Act.


It seems to me that the main role of any legitimate government, certainly one that claims to stand on democratic principles, is to protect the rights of its citizens.  Our government seems to have forgotten their role, abandoned the principles to which the framers of the Constitution adhered.  For a period of nearly two hundred years, this nation mostly progressed.  Oh sure, we made mistakes, took a few steps backward from time to time, but overall, we came a long way in human rights … civil rights.  But in just the past two years, we have slid back in time, back to a time when African-Americans were considered second-class citizens, when homosexuality was taboo, women were subjugated by men.

Where is this nation headed?  Right now, we have a tin-pot dictator who has made the U.S. the source of derision throughout the Western world.  Worse, our government is eroding the freedoms, the basic human rights, of large groups of people, giving more consideration to corporations that are largely owned by disgustingly wealthy people, than to the majority of people who pay taxes and work hard to take care of their families.  Our rights are being violated and it’s time for it to stop.  Human rights, civil rights … these don’t even require thought, or at least shouldn’t require thought in this, the 21st century!  We fought a Civil War to end slavery, we’ve come through the women’s rights movements, the Civil Rights era, we’ve seen people die standing up for the rights of Native Americans, African-Americans and others.  Do we really need to go backward and have to start all over???  I surely hope not.

Election Night Observations …

I wasn’t sure what I could write tonight for my morning post, for the election is really the only thing on anyone’s mind, and the results won’t likely all be in by the time I need to have this post finished.  Watching the election results has been much like watching a ping-pong game, but knowing that the stakes were quite nearly a matter of life and death … the life or death of a nation.  But here, at the end of the day, I have decided to go with a couple of observations … probably snarky observations, given my current mood.

georgiaThe Georgia election is a sham and should be declared null and void.  Never in my life have I seen so much blatant corruption in one single state in a single election.  Brian Kemp should be on his way to the federal penitentiary for his tricks to suppress the vote, but instead he is likely on his way to the governor’s mansion in Atlanta.  While running for governor in this election, he was serving as Georgia’s Secretary of State, and thereby overseeing this farce of an election!  Talk about putting the fox in charge of the henhouse!

So, under Mr. Kemp’s watchful eye …

  • Some 390 absentee ballots were thrown out in Gwinnett Country alone … a county that is largely comprised of African-Americans, Latinos and Asians. Thrown away!
  • Approximately 53,000 voter registrations were “placed on hold” for minor discrepancies between the registration and other form of voter I.D. such as a driver’s license or passport. The discrepancies were as minor as a missing hypen in a hyphenated name, or one letter off in the name of a street address.  Kemp insisted on every registration being an “exact match”.  Even an extra space was enough to disqualify the registrations.
  • There was the bus filled with about 40 African-American senior citizens being taken to the polls for early voting, but when they arrived, a county clerk forbade the elderly people from getting off the bus.
  • An African-American city commissioner who spent the day driving citizens to the polls one day during early voting, was arrested twice in one day on trumped-up charges.
  • On Sunday, with absolutely no evidence to support the claim, Kemp claimed there were hacking attempts and ordered an investigation … two days prior to the election and with zero evidence.
  • Yesterday morning, the lines to vote in Fulton County, Georgia, were long and the average wait time was three hours. Why?  Because somebody mistakenly sent only three voting machines to the polling place, when many more were required.  Fulton County covers a large portion of Atlanta.  Many voters left … you know how it is … they had jobs and had to get to work!  The idiot responsible for the mistake apologized.    Gee.
  • And back in Gwinnett County, where 60% of voters are minorities, somebody forgot to bring power cords for the machines, so once the batteries died, the voting machines were … dead. The lines stretched, people left to go to work, and there was a 4.5 hour-long wait for most voters.  Mostly African-American voters, that is.  Are you starting to see a pattern here?

There has been no integrity in the Georgia election for governor and I personally am declaring it null and void.  My solution is to send every single registered voter an absentee ballot and allow them 10 days to fill out the ballot and return it.  This process and the counting of the ballots should be overseen by either the Georgia Supreme Court, or else members of the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  Nothing less is acceptable.

Stacy AbramsThe candidate challenging Brian Kemp is Stacy Abrams, an African-American woman.  In addition to all the above shenanigans, she has had to put up with lies, lies, and more lies told by none other than Donald Trump.  Trump has claimed that Abrams plans to “get rid of” the second amendment (false) and also that she would turn the entire state of Georgia into a giant sanctuary city (both false and irrelevant).  Now, to those of us with a working brain, these are blatantly made up rumours by the ‘man’ who calls himself a president, but how many of the under-educated white people in Georgia believed him and cast a vote for the bigoted Brian Kemp?  Another blow against election integrity in the state of Georgia.

My second observation is that I think we need some rules here.  Why is the so-called president of this nation allowed to put his two-cents’ worth in?  The U.S. Congress is one of three branches of the United States government, and per the U.S. Constitution, is intended to be entirely independent of the executive branch and is supposed to serve as a check on the power of the presidency.  Isn’t that independence lost when the president is actively and avidly campaigning for specific candidates, those of his own party?  Isn’t this a matter of carrying partisan politics too far?  Donald Trump has not likely spent a full hour doing his job — the one we pay him to do — for the past two months, for all he has done is attend rallies on behalf of republican candidates where he spoke ignominious lies about the democratic challengers. voting toonElection reform is needed, for this has been a year of dirty pool all the way around, in the congressional races and governor races alike.  Can we not at least require honesty, if not integrity, from our candidates?  We have blatant white supremacists running, people who are affiliated with hate groups, and yet we have a president who is championing these abominable people.  Is this civil?  Is it even sane?  Is it fair?  Is it just?  The answer to all of these questions is that no, it is not.  The 2018 mid-terms, no matter the outcome, has been the dirtiest, most unfair, nastiest election in the history of this nation and it has left me with a terrible taste in my mouth, pain in my heart, and a feeling of deep shame for the country I once respected.

One result made me happy … the defeat of Mr. Voter Fraud, Kris Kobach by Laura Kelly for the Kansas governor’s race … Kobach is a Trump clone, filled with lies and dark toxins.

On the downside, I was deeply saddened by two losses in particular … Andrew Gillum in the Florida governor’s race, and Beto O’Rourke for the Senate seat held by Ted Cruz.  Both of these men would have been valuable additions to our government and both were defeated by two of the most corrupt the GOP has to offer.  As of this writing, there is still hope, albeit slim, for Stacy Abrams in Georgia, despite all of Kemps unconscionable manipulations.

And as I close up shop for tonight and head up to bed for a bit of shut-eye, it appears that the democrats have gained a majority in the House of Representatives!!!clip-art-wooo-clipart-4.jpg

 

“We the Peoples” Right To Vote Is Under Serious Attack By Republicans

Yesterday, I wrote a post about our voting rights and rights to voting privacy being trampled by the current administration. My post, however, was more narrow in scope than this one by my friend Gronda. She has done her research and reports on three additional areas where our voting rights are being threatened. Though much is horribly wrong in our nation right now, I see three areas as being THE most important: the environment; freedom of press/speech; and voting rights/security/privacy. All other issues will depend on these three. This is too important to let slide into the shadows, and Gronda does an excellent job shining the spotlight on the issue of voting rights, so please take a few minutes to read her post … and be sure to let her know what you think! Thank you, Gronda, for all your hard work and this very informative post!

Gronda Morin

Image result for photos of jeh johnson“We the People” have the constitutional right to be able to vote without undue obstacles, put in our way, to block some of us from exercising this precious right. It appears that republican lawmakers and their allies have been specifically designing strategies to do just that.

When the republican President Donald Trump and his administration should be acting to protect out states’ voting systems from foreign manipulations, as the former head of the Department of Homeland Security, Jeh Johnson described in his June 2017 testimony before the US Congress when he described Russia’s attempts to attack 21 US states’ voting data for nefarious purposes, they are in the process of attempting to cut off funding from the very office which is designated to address this problem.

President Trump gestures to Russia’s ambassador to the U.S., Sergey Kislyak, as he speaks to Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov in the Oval Office

View original post 1,382 more words

Our Voting Privacy — VIOLATED!!!

Although there was no credible evidence of major or wide-spread voter fraud in the 2016 presidential election, the person who won that election claims there was.  I see this as a smoke screen to hide the bigger issue that Russia, probably with assistance from Trump and many associated with his campaign, actually DID interfere with the election.  But the Russian interference is another story and has been much-covered already.  Donald Trump, based on his false claims of voter fraud, formed a ‘Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity’ to take a magnifying glass and look for those mostly non-existent fraudulent voters. Trump established the commission on 11 March via one of his multitude of ‘executive orders’. A waste of taxpayers’ money, to be sure, but so are Trump’s weekly golf outings.

golfThis commission has now, however, crossed a line.  On Wednesday, all 50 states were sent letters* from Kris Kobach, the vice chair of the commission, requesting information on voter fraud, election security and copies of every state’s voter roll data. The letter asked state officials to deliver the data within two weeks, and says that all information turned over to the commission will be made public. The letter does not explain what the commission plans to do with voter roll data.  The data they requested would include:

  • Name
  • Address
  • Date of birth
  • Party affiliation
  • Last four digits of social security number
  • Voting history from 2006 thru present
  • Information regarding felony convictions
  • Information regarding military status

kobachThe first three on the list are not atypical and not of particular concern, though I do not wish John Q. Public knowing my address.  And even party affiliation is easily accessible, as most states make this information available to political campaigns … for a fee.  What is disturbing, however, is the request for social security number, even though it is only the last four digits, that number is the key to everything about us and should be safeguarded.  And the most disturbing item on the list is the request for ten years’ voting history!  This blows to shreds the theory of a secret ballot, the theory that nobody should know how we voted unless we choose to share that information, and in this case we are not being given that choice.

The notation that the information will be made public is potentially a disaster, and very concerning, since obviously little or no consideration of privacy rights has gone into this. Unfortunately, many may have failed to even notice this story because all the headlines have been focused on Trump’s ugly, sexist tweets against a member of the media.  Did he do that as a smoke screen?  It’s too bad that we automatically question his motives every time he opens his mouth or engages his tiny tweeting fingers, but history has shown us to trust nothing he says or does.

Some states and civil rights groups were not pleased by this letter:

“I have no intention of honoring this request. Virginia conducts fair, honest, and democratic elections, and there is no evidence of significant voter fraud in Virginia.” – Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe

Connecticut’s Secretary of State, Denise Merrill, said she would “share publicly-available information with the Kobach Commission while ensuring that the privacy of voters is honored by withholding protected data. [Kobach] has a lengthy record of illegally disenfranchising eligible voters in Kansas … given Secretary Kobach’s history we find it very difficult to have confidence in the work of this Commission.”

“The concern is that this is going to be used to justify regressive and disenfranchising federal law. Why does a random member of the public . . . need to know when you last voted and what your political party is? I think that access to this data in the wrong hands could always leave the opportunity for mischief. In this particular instance, I’m worried about harassment as well.” – Myrna Pérez, deputy director of the democracy program at New York University Law School’s Brennan Center for Justice

Vanita Gupta, chief executive of the Leadership Conference on Civil Rights and former head of the Justice Department’s civil rights division, said on Twitter that the letter is “laying the groundwork for voter suppression, plain & simple.”

“You’d think there would want to be a lot of thought behind security and access protocols for a national voter file, before you up and created one. This is asking to create a national voter file in two weeks.” – Justin Levitt, a professor at Loyola University School of Law and former Department of Justice civil rights official.

My concerns are multi-fold.  First, of course, is the plan to make this information public — a move that could compromise our personal security.  Second, and of perhaps in the long run of even greater concern, is that I do not trust Donald Trump.  He claims that the Democrats and the press are engaged in a conspiracy against him, so … if given easy access to our political affiliation and our voting record for the last ten years, what mischief might he perpetuate against those who are registered Democrats, or who voted for someone other than Trump last year?  And third, there is Kobach himself.

kobach-2

This picture in itself makes me distrust Mr. Kobach!

Kris W. Kobach serves as the Kansas Secretary of State, a position he has held since 2011.  He is known for his hardliner views on immigration, as well as his calls for greater voting restrictions and a Muslim registry. Kobach regularly makes claims about the extent of voter fraud in the United States that several nonpartisan studies have shown are unsubstantiated. I would almost call him a conspiracy theorist. He has implemented some of the strictest voter ID legislation in the nation and has fought to remove nearly 20,000 properly registered voters from the state’s voter rolls. He was also a part of Trump’s conspiracy over the faux ‘birther’ issue, questioning President Obama’s place of birth.

Kobach did, after much time and money wasted on researching voter fraud, successfully secure convictions in nine cases of voter fraud … the nine individuals were not illegal immigrants but rather most were older registered Republicans!

Last October, a federal judge ruled that some of Kobach’s proposed ID requirements constituted a “mass denial of a fundamental constitutional right.” And earlier this month, a Judge James O’Hara fined Kobach $1,000 for presenting misleading arguments in a voting-related lawsuit.  This man sees illegal voters behind every tree, it seems, and apparently has no qualms about disenfranchising thousands with his restrictive voter I.D. laws.

The chairman of the commission is none other than Mike Pence, who seems to be taking a backseat and letting Kobach run the commission. So, to recap, the three main people involved with collecting our data and using it in ways that we are not being told, then making it publicly available, are Donald Trump, Mike Pence, and Kris Kobach, each of whom are proven racists, and highly untrustworthy individuals.  I call on every state official who may be involved in the decision, to decline to accede to the demands of the Presidential Advisory Commission on Election Integrity.  We The People do not trust the members of this commission and do not want our information shared with them.  Okay, folks, time to start sending those emails and making those phone calls again!

Update:  As of this writing, at least 3  5  25   27 states are refusing to comply!

* Copy of Letter Sent to All 50 States

Will Civil Rights Become Only A Piece Of History?

Civil Rights:  the rights that every person should have regardless of his or her sex, race, or religion

Civil Rights:  the rights of citizens to political and social freedom and equality.

Civil Rights:  rights to personal liberty established by the 13th and 14th Amendments to the U.S. Constitution and certain Congressional acts, especially as applied to an individual or a minority group.

Civil Rights:  Personal rights acquired by an individual by being a citizen or resident, or automatic entitlements to certain freedoms conferred by law or custom. Certain civil rights (such as the right to equality, freedom, good governance, justice, and due process of law) are inalienable like human rights and natural rights, whereas others (such as the right to hold a public office) depend on one’s conduct and can be lost. Also called civil liberties.


By any definition, the civil rights of the LGBT community were trampled today.  Last May, the Departments of Justice and Education issued a Joint Guidance to Help Schools Ensure the Civil Rights of Transgender Students that was sent to schools across the country, advising universities and K-12 institutions to allow trans students to use the bathroom, changing room, and locker room that most closely corresponds with their gender identity, rather than the sex they were assigned at birth.  For some reason that is well beyond my comprehension, this has been the most controversial issue in the U.S. for the last 50 years, at least. Yesterday, Trump rescinded protections for transgender students that had allowed them to use bathrooms corresponding with their gender identity.

Admittedly, this is new territory for some, and there has been much confusion over how to protect the rights of all.  But … would somebody please tell me why people have a problem with this?  Let the kids, let adults, for that matter, go into whichever bathroom they feel most comfortable with!  Why not make all public restrooms “unisex”? This, folks, is not rocket science!  But it would seem that most states, particularly those south of the Mason-Dixon line, are appalled by the idea of equality for the LGBT community.  Their excuse is that they fear males, posing as transgender women, would invade women’s restrooms for the sole purpose of assaulting women.  Come on … seriously???  Assaults in public restrooms have been few and far between … you are much more likely to be assaulted in the mall parking lot than the restroom.  Can we use a bit of common sense here?

What does this mean, and what is likely next? In the most general sense, what it means is the Trump regime does not believe that civil rights protections should include transgender people.  According to Mara Keisling, executive director of the National Center for Transgender Equality. “These young people already face incredible hurdles in their pursuit of education and acceptance. With a pen stroke, the Trump Administration effectively sanctions the bullying, ostracizing, and isolation of these children, putting their very lives in danger.”

But on the other hand, Chase Strangio, a staff attorney for the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), wrote on Tuesday:

“Rescinding the guidance does not change the rights of students under Title IX [the federal law prohibiting sex discrimination in education and activities]. Trans students are protected from discrimination by federal law and the administration can’t change that.”

So what did Trump hope to gain, and what has the LGBT community lost?  Apparently the decision to rescind the guidance was the brainstorm of newly-minted, racist Attorney General Jeff Sessions, long-time foe of the LGBT community. Sessions was in a hurry to roll back the guidance because of two pending court cases that could have upheld the protections and pushed the government into further litigation. Interestingly, newly-minted Secretary of Education, Betsy DeVos, opposed the idea, but was told basically that she could either get on board, or resign.  She chose the former and agreed to go along, although she remained uncomfortable with it.

8-ballWhat does this mean for the LGBT community as a whole, going forward?  I have no magic eight-ball, but if I had to guess, I would say that states will have a somewhat easier time passing laws that enable discriminatory practices.  Those laws can still be challenged in the courts, but with Mr. Sessions at the helm in the AG’s office, and with Trump able to fill between 1-3 Supreme Court positions in the next year or two, the outcome for civil rights justice remains uncertain. The one thing that is clear, however, is that we are unlikely to see the same push for equal rights for the LGBT community that we have seen for the past several years, and that may well lead to setbacks in civil rights as a whole.

 

CHAOS!

The photo above was the scene at JFK Airport in New York last night. On Friday, Trump signed one of his now-infamous ‘executive orders’ to ban Muslims from seven Middle Eastern countries, effective immediately.  The hue and cry was tremendous, both here in the U.S. and abroad.  Last night (Saturday), a federal judge, Judge Anne M. Donnelly, temporarily blocked a portion of Trump’s order, halting the deportation of those who have arrived in the U.S. with previously approved refugee applications or were in transit with valid visas. Judge Donnelly issued her ruling Saturday evening as a result of a habeas corpus petition filed by the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) on behalf of the two Iraqi men who were detained at John F. Kennedy International Airport on Friday after Trump signed his order. Leonie Brinkema, a federal judge for the Eastern District of Virginia, made a similar ruling shortly thereafter. In fact, Trump’s order created havoc in many airports around the nation, as many who would be affected by his ban were already in the air, U.S.-bound, at the time he signed his order.

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Note the irony of the “Welcome” sign in the background

Many of the people detained at airports around the country were legal permanent residents, people who have jobs here, whose children attend school here … and under Trump’s order, they were to be detained and returned to the country from whence they arrived.  It did not take long for protesters to arrive, and on their heels lawyers, brought together by the International Refugee Assistance Project, many of whom were volunteering their time and legal expertise in the cause of justice, the cause of humanity.  This, my friends, is what we need more of … this show of compassion for others is what I thought our country was about to begin with, and this reaffirmed for me that at least some of us still have that spirit, and that there are some who will not allow the likes of Trump and his minions to crush that spirit.

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Federal Judge Anne Donnelly

Legally, the judges’ rulings mean that none of the people being detained by Customs and Border Protection (CBP) can be sent back to the countries they came from, but it stops short of allowing them entry into the country, and they could be held in detention centers.  CBP reportedly defied the judge’s rulings and according to several reports, some legal permanent residents were actually put on planes and returned to the country from which they arrived.  It was, according to all, a night of chaos and there is still much dust to settle before all facts are known, but this, folks, appears to be the disjointed, unorganized sort of fallout we can expect from the new administration in Washington.

The response to Trump’s ban has been widespread, both in the U.S. and abroad.  Predictably all Democrats in Congress are against the ban, and there are 22 Republican congresspersons who are either not in support, or only partly support the ban.

The international backlash:

  • The United Nations urged Trump to reconsider his ban. “The needs of refugees and migrants worldwide have never been greater and the U.S. resettlement program is one of the most important in the world,” the organization said in a statement.
  • France attacked Trump’s decision as isolationist. French President François Hollande told reporters that Europe must unite and provide a “firm” response to the executive order. “When he refuses the arrival of refugees, while Europe has done its duty, we have to respond.”
  • Germany has taken in more than 1 million refugees and migrants since 2015. The country’s leaders condemned Trump’s executive order. “The United States is a country where Christian traditions have an important meaning. Loving your neighbor is a major Christian value, and that includes helping people,” German Foreign Minister Sigmar Gabriel said at a news conference in Paris. “I think that is what unites us in the West, and I think that is what we want to make clear to the Americans.”
  • In the wake of Trump’s executive order, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau reaffirmed Canada’s commitment to resettling refugees, saying that Canada “will welcome those fleeing persecution, terror and war regardless of your faith.”
  • The Church World Service released a statement signed by more than 2,000 faith leaders decrying the “derogatory language that has been used about Middle Eastern refugees and our Muslim friends and neighbors. Inflammatory rhetoric has no place in our response to this humanitarian crisis,” they wrote. “The U.S. Refugee Resettlement program has been and should remain open to those of all nationalities and religions who face persecution on account of the reasons enumerated under U.S. law.”

Trump’s order should never have been put into place as it was.  It should have been reviewed by scholars of Constitutional Law in order to determine if it met the test of constitutionality, and the potential ramifications needed to be considered.  Right now, there are college students and families who have made their homes in the U.S. but are being detained and not allowed to return to their homes despite having a legal right to do so.  This is an abomination, as is the man who signed the order on Friday. Trump claims that his ban is what it takes to keep Americans safe.  If discrimination against people for no reason other than their nationality or religion is what it takes to “keep us safe”, then no thank you, Donald Trump … I will take my chances with being in danger.  I am more afraid of the man with the bad hair who is sitting in the Oval Office than I am of any immigrant who comes to our once-great country.

Sue??? Who’s suing who’s suing whom? or … No More Potties

coffeecinnrollsWelcome!  Pull up a chair, coffee is brewing, and I will also have some fresh-baked cinnamon rolls ready in just a few.  Relax and enjoy the ride, because by the time you finish this, you are going to feel as if you just got off of the world’s wildest ride.  Or perhaps you will feel like you have entered a new dimension, another world altogether.

 

ncLet me begin by saying that I used to like North Carolina.  I remember more than a few weekends spent at Nags Head on the Outer Banks, trying to put a broken psyche back together again.  I loved it there, especially in the off-season.  I also love the Smokies, and although I am partial to the Tennessee portion, I like the North Carolina side also.  So no, I do not hate North Carolina per se. I mention this, because I caught some flak on my original post from readers and a personal friend about ‘south-bashing’, so I am trying to be kinder.

However … NC is the hotbed for Controversy (with a capital C) at the moment.  On April 2nd, I published a post titled ‘Let the South Secede’ both here and also on Dailykos, an on-line, liberal publication.  The post was about an unconstitutional law that North Carolina had passed through both houses of the state legislature and signed into law by Gov. Pat McCrory, all within a record 12 hours.  The law, essentially, blocks local governments from passing anti-discrimination rules to grant protections to gay and transgender people. At the time of my original post, I chose not to discuss one aspect of the bill, but since that one point has become the biggest domestic issue in the news today, I find I must address it at this time.  That is the question of what, if any, public restrooms transgender people should be allowed to use.  This is, in my mind, the most ludicrous issue for lawmakers to waste their time on and I am still stunned (though obviously not speechless) that it has raised such a stink (pun intended).

So, what happened after the bill was passed and signed into law in March? First, over 100 companies expressed their displeasure with the discriminatory law and some announced plans to curtail or cease business operations within the state of North Carolina.  Several musicians cancelled scheduled concerts in the state. Within a week after passage of the legislation, the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU), Lambda Legal and Equality North Carolina all filed lawsuits suing the state, specifically McCrory, Attorney General Roy Cooper III and W. Louis Bissette Jr., the chairman of the Board of Governors of the University of North Carolina. They argue that the law: deprives the residents of their constitutional right to equal protection under the law; violates their right to privacy; violates their freedom to refuse unwanted medical treatment by forcing them to undergo medical procedures to use facilities in line with their gender identity; and violates Title IX protections against discrimination based on sex.

Have another cup of coffee?  Just wait … this is only the beginning of the ride.  North Carolina’s Attorney General, one Roy Cooper (a democrat) refused to defend the state in the lawsuits (he is actually running for governor against McCrory this year). Last week, the federal Department of Justice announced that the North Carolina law is in violation of the 1964 federal Civil Rights Act and its ban on discrimination based on sex. The governor was advised that he had until Monday, 09 May, to repeal the law, else risk losing hundreds of millions of dollars in federal funding.  McCrory’s response was that he felt it was a ‘common-sense’ law about privacy, and every indication was that he would not step away from it.

Monday, 09 May – Governor McCrory makes his position clear by filing a lawsuit against the Department of Justice, accusing the federal government of “baseless and blatant overreach.”  THEN … {drumroll, please} the Justice Department filed its own lawsuit, claiming the North Carolina law is discriminatory and violates civil rights.

McCrory accuses the federal government of “being a bully”.  Meanwhile, in somewhat more mature language, Attorney General Loretta Lynch said, “This action is about a great deal more than just bathrooms. This is about the dignity and respect we accord our fellow citizens and the laws that we, as a people and as a country, have enacted to protect them.”  She does not sound like a bully to me.

By my count, there are currently at a minimum, five lawsuits pertaining to this highly discriminatory law.  Each of these lawsuits will cost taxpayer dollars … lots and lots of taxpayer dollars.  Meanwhile, at least five federal agencies are considering withholding further funding from the State of North Carolina, among them the Department of Education which provides more than $4 billion in aid to North Carolina, much in the form of student loans.

Amidst all the lawsuits, the pros, the cons, the screaming and yelling, the transphobia, a woman named Kayel Tator posted the following on her Facebook page:

“Was it a man in the woman’s restroom? I cannot say for sure because I was in the stall but every indication tells me it was a man. There were 3 stalls, they checked the first one then came into the middle one that was next to me. I could see their feet. They had on blue jeans and blue/white Van slip on tennis shoes. I didn’t think anything of it until I soon heard them peeing and their feet were still in front of and FACING the toilet. WTF! I sat there frozen in disbelief, my mind trying to come to grips with what I was visually seeing and hearing. Were they peeing, were they puking? Whatever they did, it was a one shot and as soon as they were done they left the restroom without washing their hands. Everything tells me this was a man in the woman’s restroom. I was in there alone so no chance of asking someone.

I walked out and peered into the nearby bar area to see if I could see the ‘shoes’ that I would recognize in a heartbeat but I didn’t. I don’t know if the person went back in the restaurant or the bar, but I know what I saw! I was prepared to confront the shoe wearer if I spotted them and it was not a woman. I was already on my way out the door when this happened so not easily seeing ‘those blue jeans and feet’ that was the end of it.

Like really, am I going to have to start going into the bathroom with the video keyed up on my phone and ready to roll for crap like this?

WHY did this have to happen to me? *grrrrrrr*….”

This woman has more serious problems than she realizes.  I find her to be pathetic, disgusting, homophobic, and other adjectives too numerous to list here.

My money is on the federal government in this race, however remember that the wheels of justice turn very slowly most times. Meanwhile, however, no matter what the eventual outcome, which is likely to be at least a year away unless McCrory decides to capitulate, there can likely be no real winner and there are a lot of losers, including you, me, and everyone who pays taxes in this nation.  The law has come to be known as the “bathroom bill”, which is truly a misnomer, because, as I said in my original post, the language has far broader implications for the LGBT community, such as the right to equal employment opportunities and being able to be expect service in public restaurants, etc. It would seem to me, then, that the only real solution to this manufactured problem is to do away with public restrooms altogether.

Thank you for listening to my rant … hope you don’t feel too ill after that wild ride … just leave your coffee cups in the sink on your way out, please.

First Amendment Rights DO Have Limits!

What to do when the most notorious racist organization in the nation claims that they are being discriminated against?  This is the dilemma facing the Georgia Supreme Court this week as they begin hearing arguments about whether the KKK has, in fact, a constitutional right to “Adopt-A-Highway” and have “IKK Realm of GA, Ku Klux Klan” appear on a highway sign.

The dispute began in 2012 when two members of the KKK, April Chambers and Harley Hanson, submitted an application to claim a one-mile stretch on Route 515 in the Appalachian Mountains near the North Carolina border. “We just want to clean up the doggone road,” Hanson told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution at the time. “We’re not going to be out there in robes.”  The Georgia Department of Transportation (DOT) responded with the following letter:

kkk.denial.letter

The KKK then took their case to the Fulton County Superior Court, claiming that the state violated the state constitution by denying them their “right to free speech”.  The case has since bounced around between county and appellate courts, finally landing squarely on the docket of the state supreme court in November 2015 and on Monday, the state supreme court agreed to hear the case.  My best guess is that it will end up in federal Supreme Court before all is said and done, but that will be years away, no doubt.

What I find most interesting is the sheer arrogance of members of the KKK for thinking that they have the right to claim discrimination, they who have throughout history murdered thousands of people simply because of the colour of their skin.  Constitutionally, the “right to free speech” was intended to enable citizens to engage in free discourse without censure by the government.  It was never intended to provide a vehicle from which to engage in hate-filled rhetoric, pornography, or any of the other vile uses for which the 1st Amendment has been used as a defense.  Free discourse among citizens is one thing.  A highway sign promoting a group whose very name conjures images of violence and hatred is another thing entirely.

Enter the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).  In general, I think the ACLU sits on the right side of the fence and I support many of their humanitarian causes.  At times, however, I disagree strongly with their stance, as when they defended a neo-Nazi group in Chicago in 1978, or when they defended a pornographer’s right to internet privacy in 2011.  This is not the first time they have defended the KKK, either.  In 2012 the ACLU defended a branch of the KKK in Missouri when the City of Cape Girardeau refused to allow them to place printed handbills on the windshields of parked cars.  My view on that last one is this:  My car is my personal, private property and nobody has a right to place anything on it!  I get annoyed when some church or AA or local business clutters my windshield … I can only imagine how I would react to garbage placed there by the KKK!  At any rate, on this issue, I believe the ACLU has overstepped their bounds.  The right to free speech stops at the point where it intersects with the right of others to live in peace.  This is what separates the civilized from the non-civilized.

So, the Georgia Supreme Court will spend the next several months hearing and deciding the case, undoubtedly in favour of the state, as there can really be no other outcome.  Then the ACLU and KKK will take the case to the next level, the U.S. District Court, the U.S. Court of Appeals, and eventually, in 3-4 years, the case will end up in the Supreme Court of the United States (presumably we will have a full court with nine justices by that time).  How much time and money will be wasted, when the eventual outcome, by necessity, must be that the KKK is denied the right to advertise their organization on a state highway at the expense of citizens?