Fifty years ago today: President Lyndon Baines Johnson

At times history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man’s unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama.

There, long-suffering men and women peacefully protested the denial of their rights as Americans. Many were brutally assaulted. One good man, a man of God, was killed. […]

There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. And we are met here tonight as Americans—not as Democrats or Republicans–we are met here as Americans to solve that problem.

This was the first nation in the history of the world to be founded with a purpose. The great phrases of that purpose still sound in every American heart, North and South: “All men are created equal”—”government by consent of the governed”—”give me liberty or give me death.” Well, those are not just clever words, or those are not just empty theories. In their name Americans have fought and died for two centuries, and tonight around the world they stand there as guardians of our liberty, risking their lives.[…]

Experience has clearly shown that the existing process of law cannot overcome systematic and ingenious discrimination. No law that we now have on the books—and I have helped to put three of them there—can ensure the right to vote when local officials are determined to deny it. […]

The real hero of this struggle is the American Negro. His actions and protests, his courage to risk safety and even to risk his life, have awakened the conscience of this Nation. His demonstrations have been designed to call attention to injustice, designed to provoke change, designed to stir reform.

He has called upon us to make good the promise of America. And who among us can say that we would have made the same progress were it not for his persistent bravery, and his faith in American democracy.

For at the real heart of battle for equality is a deep-seated belief in the democratic process. Equality depends not on the force of arms or tear gas but upon the force of moral right; not on recourse to violence but on respect for law and order. […]

This is the richest and most powerful country which ever occupied the globe. The might of past empires is little compared to ours. But I do not want to be the President who built empires, or sought grandeur, or extended dominion.

I want to be the President who educated young children to the wonders of their world. I want to be the President who helped to feed the hungry and to prepare them to be taxpayers instead of tax-eaters.

I want to be the President who helped the poor to find their own way and who protected the right of every citizen to vote in every election.

I want to be the President who helped to end hatred among his fellow men and who promoted love among the people of all races and all regions and all parties.

The Voting Rights Act was passed and signed into law on August 6, 1965.

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Posted by: JanF | March 14, 2015

A Once in (most people’s) Lifetime Pi

The long awaited once in a century Pi Moment, March 14, 2015 at 9:26am RPT (3.141592653) has finally arrived. Well, I don’t know if it was long awaited but it was mentioned at least once around these parts.

So that means it is time to freshen up our Paean to Pi.

This!

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Posted by: JanF | March 10, 2015

Vice President Biden’s Reply to Sen. Tom Cotton


Senator Tom Cotton (R-AR)?

Statement by the Vice President on the March 9th Letter From Republican Senators to the Islamic Republic of Iran

“I served in the United States Senate for thirty-six years. I believe deeply in its traditions, in its value as an institution, and in its indispensable constitutional role in the conduct of our foreign policy. The letter sent on March 9th by forty-seven Republican Senators to the Islamic Republic of Iran, expressly designed to undercut a sitting President in the midst of sensitive international negotiations, is beneath the dignity of an institution I revere.

This letter, in the guise of a constitutional lesson, ignores two centuries of precedent and threatens to undermine the ability of any future American President, whether Democrat or Republican, to negotiate with other nations on behalf of the United States. Honorable people can disagree over policy. But this is no way to make America safer or stronger.

Around the world, America’s influence depends on its ability to honor its commitments. Some of these are made in international agreements approved by Congress. However, as the authors of this letter must know, the vast majority of our international commitments take effect without Congressional approval. And that will be the case should the United States, the United Kingdom, France, Russia, China, and Germany reach an understanding with Iran. There are numerous similar cases. The recent U.S.-Russia framework to remove chemical weapons from Syria is only one recent example. Arrangements such as these are often what provide the protections that U.S. troops around the world rely on every day. They allow for the basing of our forces in places like Afghanistan. They help us disrupt the proliferation by sea of weapons of mass destruction. They are essential tools to the conduct of our foreign policy, and they ensure the continuity that enables the United States to maintain our credibility and global leadership even as Presidents and Congresses come and go.

Since the beginning of the Republic, Presidents have addressed sensitive and high-profile matters in negotiations that culminate in commitments, both binding and non-binding, that Congress does not approve. Under Presidents of both parties, such major shifts in American foreign policy as diplomatic recognition of the People’s Republic of China, the resolution of the Iran hostage crisis, and the conclusion of the Vietnam War were all conducted without Congressional approval.

In thirty-six years in the United States Senate, I cannot recall another instance in which Senators wrote directly to advise another country—much less a longtime foreign adversary— that the President does not have the constitutional authority to reach a meaningful understanding with them. This letter sends a highly misleading signal to friend and foe alike that that our Commander-in-Chief cannot deliver on America’s commitments—a message that is as false as it is dangerous.

The decision to undercut our President and circumvent our constitutional system offends me as a matter of principle. As a matter of policy, the letter and its authors have also offered no viable alternative to the diplomatic resolution with Iran that their letter seeks to undermine.

There is no perfect solution to the threat posed by Iran’s nuclear program. However, a diplomatic solution that puts significant and verifiable constraints on Iran’s nuclear program represents the best, most sustainable chance to ensure that America, Israel, and the world will never be menaced by a nuclear-armed Iran. This letter is designed to convince Iran’s leaders not to reach such an understanding with the United States.

The author of this letter has been explicit that he is seeking to take any action that will end President Obama’s diplomatic negotiations with Iran. But to what end? If talks collapse because of Congressional intervention, the United States will be blamed, leaving us with the worst of all worlds. Iran’s nuclear program, currently frozen, would race forward again. We would lack the international unity necessary just to enforce existing sanctions, let alone put in place new ones. Without diplomacy or increased pressure, the need to resort to military force becomes much more likely—at a time when our forces are already engaged in the fight against ISIL.

The President has committed to prevent Iran from obtaining a nuclear weapon. He has made clear that no deal is preferable to a bad deal that fails to achieve this objective, and he has made clear that all options remain on the table. The current negotiations offer the best prospect in many years to address the serious threat posed by Iran’s nuclear ambitions. It would be a dangerous mistake to scuttle a peaceful resolution, especially while diplomacy is still underway.

Bolding added
(h/t TPM )
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Posted by: JanF | February 24, 2015

There is no one left to sing

As a Wisconsinite, I am incredibly sad about what has happened to our state under the “stewardship” of Gov. Scott Walker and his legislative accomplices.

But I am a little surprised at the dismay that people are expressing over the fast-tracking of right-to-work laws in Wisconsin.

Scott Walker won reelection in 2014 by 137,607 votes and he couldn’t have done it without the help of the nearly 170,000 people from union households who voted for him and the votes from those who believed that state workers deserve to be protected by unions but who voted to re-elect the person who killed those unions.


Divided and Conquered

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Posted by: JanF | February 13, 2015

Why can’t we do this?

From the Brennan Center for Justice: Bipartisan Bill Introduced: Congress Must Restore Voting Rights Act

To mark the 50th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act, members of Congress [on Wednesday, February 11th] reintroduced a bipartisan bill to strengthen and restore the law’s core protection, which the U.S. Supreme Court gutted in 2013.

The measure is sponsored by Reps. James Sensenbrenner (R-Wis.), John Conyers (D-Mich.), and others. The bill was also introduced last year, but the Senate held just one hearing on the legislation, and the House refused to hold a hearing.

“Fifty years ago, tragedy in the streets of Selma galvanized our nation to pass the Voting Rights Act and bring equality to the ballot box,” said Nicole Austin-Hillery, director and counsel of the Brennan Center’s Washington, D.C., office. “Today, that core protection is in tatters and discrimination continues to tarnish our elections. America was founded on the principle that we are all ‘created equal.’ To fulfill that promise, we need an election system that works well for everyone, and doesn’t tolerate discrimination against anyone. We urge Congress to quickly pass this bill and ensure Americans have strong voting protections in time for the 2016 election.”

Here are the key provisions:

The Voting Rights Amendment Act would, among other changes:

– Require jurisdictions with a recent record of repeated Voting Rights Act violations to pre-clear election law changes.
– Expand the current “bail-in” procedures, which allow courts to subject jurisdictions to preclearance.
– Create a uniform requirement to inform voters of certain pending voting changes.
– Enhance the ability of lawyers to halt discriminatory election measures before they can harm citizens.
– Allow federal observers to monitor elections to ensure compliance with laws protecting the rights of Americans who speak limited English.

The VRA has been continually reauthorized since it was passed in 1965 and has always had bipartisan support. The most recent reauthorization, in 2006, was with a Republican Congress and a Republican president. Voting rights should not be a partisan issue: the right to choose our government is the most basic right in a democracy.

So why can’t we do this?

Because the Republican Congress is controlled by the teaparty with its scorched earth politics of exclusion. Their hold on power depends on disenfranchising those who disagree with them because their ideas are repulsive to the majority of Americans.

If there are any Republicans who still care about small “d” democracy, they should pressure their leadership to bring this bill to the House floor for a vote, get it passed and then send it to the Senate for a vote.

We can do it and we must.

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From the White House:


(Transcript below)

On January 29, 2009, President Obama signed his very first piece of legislation: the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act. The law, named after a woman who discovered her employer was paying her less than men doing the same job, makes it easier for Mrs. Ledbetter and others like her to effectively challenge unequal pay.

Lilly Ledbetter took her pay discrimination complaint all the way to the Supreme Court, which ruled in 2007 that claims like hers had to be filed within 180 days of an employer’s decision to pay a worker less—even if the worker didn’t learn about the unfair pay until much later, as was the case for Mrs. Ledbetter.

To make sure that people can effectively challenge unequal pay, the law President Obama signed shortly after taking office amended the Civil Rights Act of 1964 so that unfair pay complaints can be filed within 180 days of a discriminatory paycheck—and that 180 days resets after each paycheck is issued.

Since then, the Roberts Supreme Court has succeeded in undermining many other rights, including the right to vote and the right to fair elections – elections free of the corrupting influence of dark money. The difference was that in 2009, the president had partners in Congress who were willing to do the people’s work and fix the mistakes of the court. So much has changed, so much work that will not be done until we can elect a Congress that reflects the values of the majority of our people. That will not happen with the 114th Congress, dubbed “America’s New Congress ™” by the Republican majority – dubbed “America’s Nightmare Come True ™” by the majority of Americans.

We can fix this, we must fix this.

Between now and November 2016, tell everyone you know of the enormous power each and every citizen has: the power to choose our government. Talk it up, pump them up … so that when we all exercise that “most basic human right”, we can once again have a government creating laws like the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Restoration Act.

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Posted by: JanF | January 25, 2015

Thank you, Washington State!!

Wisconsin’s Dane County has been reviewing a tar sands oil pumping station permit from Enbridge Energy, the people who gifted Michigan with the $1.2 billion oil spill into the Kalamazoo River.

The county wants Enbridge to provide additional insurance to cover any spills so that Dane County and Wisconsin taxpayers are not left holding the bag as taxpayers were in Michigan. Enbridge is resisting because … free enterprise should be free!!: “Enbridge has said that its $700 million in system-wide insurance is sufficient, along with state and federal cleanup funds“. There you have it, vulture capitalism in a nutshell: privatize profits and socialize costs.

However, thanks to Washington State, who managed to extract an insurance concession from Enbridge, the Good Government people on the County Board may be convincing them to relent:

Enbridge has maintained that the federal law forbids local pipeline safety regulation. [County Board member and chairman of the zoning committee Patrick] Miles and others have expressed concerns about a costly court battle. But attorneys from the Environmental Law & Policy Center provided the county with a Jan. 9 opinion indicating it was unlikely a court would block a cleanup requirement.

“Financial requirements are not safety requirements,” the center said. “Such (cleanup) requirements are economic requirements, and well-justified ones in light of Enbridge’s track record of costly spills in the Midwest.”

Miles said he shares environmentalists’ concerns about high energy consumption and impact on climate change associated with extraction of tar sands crude, but the county doesn’t have authority to deny the permit based on those considerations – or based on worries that the pipeline can’t handle an increase in flow. But he said the county can act to protect residents’ welfare after a spill.

“That is an area where we do have some latitude in terms of what we can do in the interest of the public,” Miles said.

Kirkland, Washington, enacted an ordinance in 2011 requiring the Enbridge-owned Olympic line to purchase $100 million in general liability insurance and $50 million for pollution liability. The law is modeled on one enacted in Bellingham in 2001, two years after a 16-inch gasoline pipeline broke, spilling 237,000 gallons, which ignited, killing three teenagers and causing $45 million in property damage.

The final decision is expected this Tuesday. Will Enbridge blink? If not, I hope that the County Board spends my money to battle them in the courts: it is time to draw the line.

Posted by: JanF | January 25, 2015

Solid Waste from Iowa

On Saturday, the best and brightest of the Republican Party met in Iowa to plumb the depths of their descent into madness*.

Rep. Steve King (R-IA) invited the 2016 GOP presidential hopefuls to strut their stuff (sorry for the visual!) at the Iowa Freedom Summit. King is most recently “famous” for calling young Latino college students, who were sitting with the First Lady at the State of Union, “deportables”.

The Iowa Freedom Summit was a Very Important Event: one can tell because it has “freedom” in the title and it is a “summit”. And IOWA!! The place of the first nominating contest because nothing says Bellwether like a state that is 98% white and which selected Mike Huckabee in 2008 and Rick Santorum in 2012 as the Republican standard bearers. Finger on the pulse of America, Iowa, finger on the pulse.

Eric Wolfson @EricWolfson
If ignorance is bliss, #IAFreedomSummit must be the happiest place on earth.

Watching the assault on our democracy, and on our common sense, unfold would be more entertaining if it were not for this sobering observation:

BWD @theonlyadult
One of these people might be the next president. Nothing funny about this #IAFreedomSummit

PLEASE don’t let that happen.

LOLGOP @LOLGOP
The one thing every Republican candidate seems to have in common with normal people is they don’t think Jeb Bush or Mitt can beat Hillary.

And with that, let’s follow the summit of freedumbs on Twitter …

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A recent Vox-planation about the options available to Republicans as they decide what to “do” with the Affordable Care Act had this marvelous comment from one of the leading lights on the right, Cato’s Michael Cannon:

“Conservatives are falling into the same trap now that they fell into with fighting the Clinton health plan … they’re conceding the left’s premises that the government should be trying to provide everybody with health insurance”.

Indeed, the conservatives would not want to fall into the “trap” of believing that letting people get sick and die is somehow wrong!! :( I hope that they never control all three branches of government … they should never be given the option of testing their theory that we simply need to invest in enough carts to wheel away the dead.

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Posted by: JanF | January 9, 2015

“Thanks, President Obama!” #FreeCommunityCollege

From the White House: The President Proposes to Make Community College Free for Responsible Students for 2 Years

Today, the President unveiled a new proposal: Make two years of community college free for responsible students across America.

In our growing global economy, Americans need to have more knowledge and more skills to compete — by 2020, an estimated 35 percent of job openings will require at least a bachelor’s degree, and 30 percent will require some college or an associate’s degree. Students should be able to get the knowledge and the skills they need without taking on decades’ worth of student debt.

This is a win-win for the economy and for the next generation. Cash-strapped states (many of which strapped themselves to tax-cut fever which is burning up their seed corn) are cutting back on their funding of higher education. A recent story in NPR reported that tuition now outweighs state aid as the major source of revenue for public colleges. Tuition that is paid for by student loan debt and parent loan debt … or the high cost of which has made it impossible for low-income students to afford college.

Why is a college education important? This:

According to new data, based on an analysis of Labor Department statistics by the Economic Policy Institute, Americans with four-year college degrees are not only equipped for a fulfilling adult and professional life but made 98 percent more an hour on average than those without a degree. And, the wage gap is only increasing, up from 89 percent five years ago, 85 percent a decade earlier, and 64 percent in the early 1980s.

College graduates are also more likely to be employed full-time than their less-educated counterparts, and are less likely to be unemployed, 4 percent versus 12 percent, according to a survey by the Pew Research Center.

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