Tag Archives: civil rights

Best Quotes of the Week – May 7, 2022

“We need more mechanics, not MBA’s.”

Paul Begala, former presidential advisor and current political commentator, on “Real Time With Bill Maher” 05/06/2022 (min. 38:20)

The panel was discussing the possibility President Joe Biden may cancel trillions in student debt.

“As we’ve warned, SCOTUS isn’t just coming for abortion — they’re coming for the right to privacy Roe rests on which includes gay marriage and civil rights.”

Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, regarding the possibility the U.S. Supreme Court could overturn the 1973 Roe vs. Wade decision

“As “Gilded Glamour and White Tie” pays homage to the period of rapid prosperity, industrialization and growth in the US from 1870 to 1890, some have called it ‘out of touch’.”

Maya Yang, about the annual gala that raises money for the Metropolitan Museum of Art’s Costume Institute, in The Guardian

The event regularly attracts the wealthy and powerful, mostly from the entertainment community.  While figures for the 2022 affair are unavailable, seats for the 2021 gala started at $35,000, although those on a highly selective guest list aren’t charged anything.  Last year’s event raised more than $16 million.  The MMA’s Costume Institute is the only department at the museum that is required to raise its own funds.  A smattering of the night’s excess can be found here.

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Tweet of the Week – January 22, 2022

Kentucky U.S. Senate candidate Charles Booker responding to a Tweet by Sen. Rand Paul

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Best Quotes of the Week – January 22, 2022

“The best thing to do when faced with voter suppression – and my friends, this is what voter suppression looks like – the best thing to defeat it is to go vote. The best thing to do is fight back.”

Dana DeBeauvoir, Travis County, Texas District Clerk, offering advice to voters

“Donald Trump, Donald Trump, Jr., and Ivanka Trump have all been closely involved in the transactions in question, so we won’t tolerate their attempts to evade testifying in this investigation.”

Letitia James, New York State Attorney General, in a statement released January 18 in which she alleges former President Donald Trump and his family inflated the value of his properties and misstated his personal worth in representations to lenders, insurance brokers and other players in his real estate empire

“History will not remember them kindly.”

Martin Luther King III, the son of the late civil rights leader, comparing Sens. Kyrsten Sinema and Joe Manchin to the White moderates his father wrote about during the civil rights battles of the 1950s and 1960s – who declared support for the goals of Black voting rights but not the direct actions or demonstrations that ultimately led to passage of landmark legislation

“COVID is real; COVID is a threat. But even more serious than COVID, as real and scary as it is, is to see thousands and thousands of thousands of voters not being able to vote, and it was on our watch. We refuse to stop. We refuse to turn around.”

Rev. Adolphus Lacey, a pastor in New York’s Brooklyn borough, announcing ongoing voter registration efforts despite the ongoing coronavirus pandemic

“This case is a disaster for the rule of law and a grave disservice to women in Texas, who have a right to control their own bodies.  I will not stand by silently as a State continues to nullify this constitutional guarantee.  I dissent.”

Sonia Sotomayor, Associate Supreme Court Justice, condemning severe abortion restrictions established by the state of Texas

5 Comments

Filed under News

Martin Luther King Day 2022

“We must accept finite disappointment, but never lose infinite hope.”

Martin Luther King, Jr.

Image: Paul Daniels

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Strained

On September 1, several new laws went into effect here in Texas – 666 to be exact; a number that surely makes evangelicals tremble.  Some, like Senate Bill 968, which bans “vaccine passports”, became law immediately when Gov. Greg Abbott signed them in June.  Others, such as House Bill 2730, which deals with eminent domain, go into effect January 1, 2022.

Overall, it appears that some of them are designed to oppress the basic human and constitutional rights of certain groups.  The Texas State Legislature meets every two years and, in 2019, their principal goal was to loosen gun restrictions even more than they already were.  Those of us who aren’t obsessed with firearms (meaning we don’t suffer from Pencil-Penis Syndrome) wondered how much more lax these rules could become.  Stupidity never ceases to amaze me, and conservatives in the Texas State House always deliver.

This year’s session, though, has raised eyebrows and tempers across the nation – and mainly because of two of those 666 laws in particular.  One deals with voting and the other with abortion.  Abortion has always been an open wound for social and religious conservatives.  To them it’s worse than the growing economic inequalities in the country, the prescription drug epidemic, or the fact that so many children in the U.S. live in poverty.  Pro-life conservatives are “pro-life” – up to the time that baby is born.  Once it pops out of the placental oven, it’s pretty much on its own.

Known as the “fetal heartbeat” bill, it is the most ardent assault upon reproductive freedom since the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade decision.  It bans abortions no matter the circumstance (including rape, incest and danger to the mother’s life) after the sixth week of pregnancy, which is usually before most women learn they’re pregnant.  It bears that moniker because an embryonic heartbeat allegedly can be detected at the sixth week.  In reality, the heart hasn’t developed by that point; only the muscles that eventually will become the heart have formed.  The term is misleading.  The sound of a heartbeat is generated by the opening and closing of the heart valves.  Those valves haven’t formed yet at 6 weeks.  When someone detects this so-called “fetal heartbeat”, it’s the sound generated by the ultrasound machine.  But self-righteous conservatives in the Texas State Legislature don’t see it that way.  It doesn’t conform to their narrow view of reality.  In other words, a group of (mostly male) politicians have decided they know more about human development and reproductive health care than actual medical professionals.

But the “fetal heartbeat” law goes even further – allowing anyone who assists in an abortion after that sixth week to be held liable as a criminal accessory and sued for up to $10,000.  This isn’t aimed strictly at those in the medical industry.  Giving a woman a ride to an abortion clinic, for example, opens them to criminal charges under this law; which means cab drivers are subject.  Perhaps comforting a woman after the abortion could be considered criminal.  Would a plumber who repairs water pipes in a women’s health clinic be deemed a criminal?  It’s not the state that would bring the charges; the $10,000 penalty is for any individual who files suit under the law.  Thus, if someone is upset (gets their feelings hurt) because of an abortion, they’re entitled for up to $10,000 compensation.

I’m upset there’s so much stupidity in the world.  Where’s my financial compensation?

Meanwhile, the U.S. Supreme Court delivered a blow to abortion rights when it refused to take up the new Texas law for consideration.  Previously, it’s overturned similar laws passed by other states.  But for the past few years, conservatives have been pushing these draconian measures for the mere sake of having the High Court review the Roe v. Wade decision and ultimately overturn it.  The Court’s refusal to examine this Texas law is a blatant nod to right-wing extremists who feel divinely appointed to control other people’s lives.

The other new law gaining notoriety is Senate Bill 1, which targets the voting process.  SB 1 limits the early voting period and bans 24-hour and drive-through voting.  The drive-through voting idea was proposed last year in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the 2020 elections.  Perhaps the most alarming feature of this law is that it allows poll watchers greater access.  Voter intimidation is not just rude; it’s felonious.  But don’t tell that to Abbott and the rest of the Republican mafia in Texas who symbolize ongoing efforts by conservatives nationwide to undermine the right to vote – the very genesis of democratic societies.  It’s something we’ve tried to instill in other countries, such as…well, Iraq and Afghanistan.  But, just like the World War II generation moved Heaven and Earth to stop fascism in Europe, yet did nothing to end it here in the U.S., conservatives want people in developing nations to be able to vote in clean and fair elections – without putting the same amount of effort at home.

Like most of the nation, Texas is still in the shadow of the COVID-19 pandemic with a resurgence of infections and increasing hospitalizations.  This past February the Texas power grid system almost completely collapsed with the onset of Winter Storm Uri.  Scores of people died.  Much of the rest of the state’s infrastructure – mostly roads and bridges – are in dire need of repair or replacement.  And, of course, all those children in Texas and across the nation who are uninsured…doesn’t pro-life also mean taking care of them?

The new gaggle of laws has a few other gems – good and bad.  HB 1535 allows people to utilize marijuana for medicinal purposes.  SB 224 simplifies access to the Supplemental Assistance Program for older and disabled citizens; individuals can forgo the normally required interviews and have a shortened application process.  Now this measure is what I would deem pro-life!

On the other hand, we have HB 2497, which establishes an “1836 Project” committee produce educational materials dedicated to Texas history.  In 1836, the Battle of the Alamo launched Texas’ separation from México.  It’s in contrast to the “1619 Project”, which examines U.S. history from the arrival of enslaved Africans.

Moreover, HB 3979 limits teachers from discussing current events and systemic racism in class.  The bill also prevents students from receiving class credit for participating in civic engagement and – wait for it – bans teaching of the aforementioned “1619 Project”.

I attribute these social studies bills as efforts by White conservatives to undermine the true history of the United States; that Native Americans were more civilized and intellectual than many realize; that the “founding fathers” weren’t devout Christians; and that the Civil War really was about keeping an entire race of people enslaved and not states’ rights.  Like the presidency of Donald Trump, it’s a strike back against decades of progressive thought and ambition.

I never know what to think of these right-wing fools in elected office.  Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to put up that sign on my front lawn offering free rides to abortion clinics.

2 Comments

Filed under Essays

Tweets of the Week – January 23, 2021

Bernice King

Bruce A. Heyman

Leave a comment

Filed under News

Retro Quote – John Lewis

“Yes, I was beaten, left bloody and unconscious.  But I never became bitter or hostile, never gave up.  I believe that somehow and some way if it becomes necessary to use our bodies to help redeem the soul of the nation, then we must do it.”

John Lewis

In Memoriam: John Lewis, 1940 – 2020

Leave a comment

Filed under History

Wait? We have.

I looked at Tom* with what he later described as a scowl.  “Are you serious?” I asked.

“Um…yeah,” was his only reply.  He then looked embarrassed – almost as if he realized he’d just said the wrong thing.  Or, in this case, just pissed me off.

It was the fall of 2002, and we’d known each other for a few years and been roommates since May.  Things weren’t turning out as well as I’d hoped.  Pooling resources is supposed to help people get through tough time.  So far, the only thing that had turned out well was the new puppy he got in August, after the death of his last dog.

I like Tom – for the most part.  You never really know someone unless you either spend the night with or move in with them.  Tom and I had never spent the night.  I do have standards!  But Tom was smart and highly-educated; something of a wild man with few bounds.

He was a little like me: a native Texan of mixed ethnicity (in his case, German and Indian) who graduated high school in 1982 and attended the University of North Texas (although I didn’t arrive there until 1984).  But he was more conservative, and our political discussions on race and gender often went sideways with his right-wing logic.

This evening’s conversation was a perfect example.  I can’t remember what set it off, but I had mentioned that the modern civil rights movement “had to occur”; that it had to take place.  He refuted that claim; calmly stating that it had been completely unnecessary; that eventually society would “come around” and realize it was only fair to give all people a chance; that folks just “needed to wait”.

Thus, my…scowl.

“Wait?”  People had already waited – more than 400 years, from the arrival of the first Europeans to the 1950s, when Martin Luther Kind launched his quiet revolution.

People had waited through the American Revolution, the U.S. Civil War, World Wars I and II, Korea and Vietnam.  People had waited through every major political and social event since the Salem Witch Trials for an equal place in American society.  People had waited through the name-calling, beatings, shootings, stabbings, lynchings and relocations.

People had waited.  Long enough.  And that’s why everything finally exploded in the 1960s.  I believe the catalyst was the assassination of John F. Kennedy.  Just a few years into the decade, the first U.S. president born in the 20th century was cut down by a delusional madman (or a cavalcade of them, depending on who you ask); thus squelching a promising future to an American that was moving irreversibly forward.  But the centennial of the Civil War – a conflict about one group of humans owning another group, not property – helped fuel the embers of dissatisfaction.  People had finally said, ‘I’ve had it.  This is it.  We’ve done everything possible to make ourselves valuable and worthy of a seat at that great American banquet table.’

And, in the midst of the mayhem, old White fools like Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan stood around saying, ‘I don’t know why they’re so upset.  They live in a free country.’

Define free.

A high school English teacher once said all that happened in the 1960s was boiling in the 1950s.  The Korean War – the sadly “forgotten war” – was a blight in an otherwise great decade.  It was marked by the creation of the grandest economy at the time and included the seminal Brown v. Topeka Board of Education.

Tom didn’t know what to say to me after my rant.  It was more of a lecture.  I can get emotional with those sensitive issues, but I’d maintained my decorum – each of us standing there in boxer shorts chugging beers.  He was truly speechless – a rarity for him.  But alas… he had to concede I was right.  Or more, that he could see my point.

Wait…no longer.

*Name changed

Leave a comment

Filed under Essays

Truth Amid the Obstruction


No time is right for a health pandemic, but COVID-19 couldn’t have arisen at a more inconvenient period for Americans: at the start of the 2020 presidential election race.  Things had been proceeding somewhat normally until March, when concerns about the “novel coronavirus” began altering the social landscape.  When I saw that this summer’s Olympics in Tokyo had been postponed – possibly to next year – I knew our world had been capsized by this invisible biological menace.  Viruses, like facts, always have a way of sneaking into our lives and making us rethink everything we’ve ever learned.  Facts, however, are good things.  But, while a crisis of any kind can bring out the best humanity has to offer, it can also bring out the worst.

Right now political conservatives in the U.S. are trying to finagle the COVID-19 miasma into an obstructionist nightmare for the voting populace.  Last week thousands of voters in Wisconsin were forced to leave their homes and venture out to designated polling places to cast their votes for a candidate in the Democratic primary.  On April 6, the U.S. Supreme Court, in a 5-4 decision, refused to allow an extension of absentee voting in Wisconsin; thus, forcing the primary to go on as planned on April 7.  On April 2, a federal judge had ruled that absentee voting can be extended.  But unsurprisingly, the Republican National Committee appealed the ruling, which landed on the docket of the High Court.

In her dissent, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg wrote that “the court’s order, I fear, will result in massive disenfranchisement.”  She went on: “Because gathering at the polling place now poses dire health risks, an unprecedented number of Wisconsin voters – at the encouragement of public officials – have turned to voting absentee.  About one million more voters have requested absentee ballots in this election than in 2016.  Accommodating the surge of absentee ballot requests has heavily burdened election officials, resulting in a severe backlog of ballots requested but not promptly mailed to voters.”

Political conservatives don’t like it when people they consider insignificant actually have the audacity to practice their right to vote.  For a good part of American history, they’ve done just about everything they could – including intimidation and violence – to stifle voting rights; which, they’ve obviously forgotten, is one of the fundamentals of a democratic society.  The right to vote is clearly mentioned in the 1st Amendment of the U.S. Constitution!  Then again, they may not necessarily forget about it, as they just ignore it.  And they always seem to skip over to focus attention on the 2nd Amendment, which addresses firearms.

Conservatives established and enforced such obstructionist tactics as “grandfather clauses”, literacy tests, and poll taxes.  Voting advocates had to fight for confidential voting.  Early feminists had to do the same to get the 19th Amendment ratified.  When President Lyndon Johnson signed the 1965 Voting Rights Act into law, he conceded that he and his fellow Democrats had probably handed the South to the Republican Party.  And he was right!  Slowly, but surely, over the ensuing decade, many White southerners began switching to the GOP.  A number of well-known U.S. politicians, such as Strom Thurmond and Jesse Helms, also changed their allegiances to the Republican Party.

The election of Barack Obama solidified in the minds of many conservatives the horrors of expanded voting.  They then launched a number of efforts – both at the national and state levels – to ensure that would never happen again.  A slew of voter identification rules were suddenly enacted.

The COVID-19 scourge has prompted calls across the nation for expanded absentee voting, such as mail-ins, which has been rebuffed by conservatives who holler voter fraud could result.  This week Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton opined that fear of catching the virus does not qualify voters to vote by mail

But State Judge Tim Sulak ruled that Texans afraid of catching COVID-19 should be allowed to vote by mail during the pandemic, using the state’s disability clause in the state’s election code, and said he will issue a temporary injunction.  The Texas Democratic Party and several had filed a lawsuit over concerns that voters in this July’s elections, including the primary runoffs, could come in contact with infected people when voting in person.

“Based on the plain language of the relevant statutory text, fear of contracting COVID-19 unaccompanied by a qualifying sickness or physical condition does not constitute a disability under the Election Code,” Deputy Attorney General Ryan M. Vassar wrote in a letter to Fort Worth State Rep. Stephanie Klick, a fellow Republican.

And, of course, Paxton was “disappointed” that Sulak had “ignored the plain text of the Texas election code to allow perfectly healthy voters to take advantage of special protections made available to Texans with actual illness or disabilities.”

The voter fraud claim is the default mantra of right-wing politicians every time they enact legislation that impacts the voting process.  Texas Republicans have long opposed the expansion of mail-in voting.  In 2017 the GOP-dominated state legislature stiffened penalties for election fraud.

“Our state is better off when more Texans participate in our democracy,” said Gilberto Hinojosa, chair of the Texas Democratic Party.  “Voting by mail is safe, secure and accessible.  It allows more voters to participate in our democracy, and it’s a common sense way to run an election, especially during a public health crisis.”

Like the Texas Innocence Project, you know the Texas Democratic Party has their work cut out for them!

Currently, residents over age 65, military members, those who will be away from their residence during voting and people with disabilities can request mail-in ballots.  Democrats argue that a disability, defined as a “sickness or physical condition that prevents the voter from appearing at the polling place on election day without a likelihood of needing personal assistance or of injuring voters’ health,” covers all Texas voters under the age of 65, including those who are afraid to catch the COVID-19 virus.

In his letter to Klick, Vassar naturally disagreed, stating that fears of catching the virus is neither a sickness nor a physical condition, but an emotional reaction to the pandemic is not “sufficient to meet the definition of disability”.

It’s ironic that Vassar regards concerns of contracting COVID-19 as emotional.  Throughout Obama’s presidency, conservatives screamed that his administration would ban all firearms, abandon Israel, and force churches to conduct same-sex weddings.  None of that happened.  It never has and most likely it never will.  Yet, liberals are always justifiably concerned that voter suppression is a real possibility when conservatives are elected to office.  Justifiably concerned because many state legislatures, such as Texas, actually have moved to enact legislation to combat the ubiquitous pandemic of voter fraud.

During Black civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, news cameras captured horrific scenes of police physically assaulting individuals or using water hoses to attack groups of African-Americans.  I’ve seen some of that footage – startling black-and-white images of mostly peaceful citizens wanting to vote or be able to enter a restaurant and have a meal.  We don’t see that now.  Instead, we see elected officials use the power of their position to suppress voting.  Firearms have metamorphosed into pens – but they pose no less of a risk.

While I have my own doubts about the effectiveness of the voting process – the fraud-ridden elections of George W. Bush and Donald Trump being the most recent examples – people in any truly democratic society have the right to cast a ballot.  And eventually, the obstructionist tactics of those elected (not ordained) politicians will reveal the truth behind their dubious motives.

2 Comments

Filed under Essays

Best Quote of the Week – August 23, 2019

“For the first time in history, we were able to have Presidential candidates treat us equally.”

O.J. Semans, executive director of Four Directions, a voting rights group that organized a seminar at the Orpheum Theatre in Sioux City, Iowa, for 2020 Democratic presidential candidates to address Native American concerns.

Leave a comment

Filed under News