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Obama’s War on the NFL. And America Of Course. Let’s Not Forget His War on America

[ 39 ] June 27, 2013 |

This is even stupider than the usual Republican paranoia. Evidently, Obama is trying to destroy the NFL–by planning to run ads during NFL games this fall explaining the details of the health care bill as it goes into effect.

It’s just one scandal after another with this administration. Did you see that it is now trying to destroy the NFL? This is what’s happening, according to certain quarters of the Internet. Here’s the skinny: the Health and Human Services department is ”in talks with the National Football League to promote [Obamacare]’s insurance marketplaces that begin enrolling people Oct 1.” Who knows how deep this corruption goes — HHS secretary Kathleen Sebelius also ”said the administration is also talking to other major sports franchises about improving public awareness of the Obamacare online insurance exchanges.”

Kaiser Health’s story also notes that during the media push for Massachusetts’ similar health care law, “the campaign was advertised during Red Sox games at Fenway Park. That marketing is widely credited with helping build public acceptance.” Once again in the health care field, the federal government is just following Mitt Romney’s lead.

Conservative media outlets are getting upset at this co-opting of America’s favorite sports franchises, coerced to do the dirty work of promoting the most evil law in the history of the universe. Perhaps this top comment, on The Hill’s story, left by one “MR FOOTBALL,” epitomizes the attitude: “Goodbye NFL!” MR FOOTBALL’s presumably got all sorts of things goin’ on and with football, he can take it or leave it.

We’ll see if this deal comes to fruition. It may turn out that the NFL’s rates are too high to justify the expenditure. And not everywhere in the country is like Massachusetts, where Red Sox players can order any person in the state to do anything – fix up a pre-game cheese plate for them, enroll in subsidized health insurance plans, whatever – at any time.

Poor football fans.

The System Works

[ 158 ] June 27, 2013 |

Jeebus.

Jeff Olson, the 40-year-old man who is being prosecuted for scrawling anti-megabank messages on sidewalks in water-soluble chalk last year now faces a 13-year jail sentence. A judge has barred his attorney from mentioning freedom of speech during trial.

According to the San Diego Reader, which reported on Tuesday that a judge had opted to prevent Olson’s attorney from “mentioning the First Amendment, free speech, free expression, public forum, expressive conduct, or political speech during the trial,” Olson must now stand trial for on 13 counts of vandalism.

In addition to possibly spending years in jail, Olson will also be held liable for fines of up to $13,000 over the anti-big-bank slogans that were left using washable children’s chalk on a sidewalk outside of three San Diego, California branches of Bank of America, the massive conglomerate that received $45 billion in interest-free loans from the US government in 2008-2009 in a bid to keep it solvent after bad bets went south.

The Reader reports that Olson’s hearing had gone as poorly as his attorney might have expected, with Judge Howard Shore, who is presiding over the case, granting Deputy City Attorney Paige Hazard’s motion to prohibit attorney Tom Tosdal from mentioning the United States’ fundamental First Amendment rights.

“The State’s Vandalism Statute does not mention First Amendment rights,” ruled Judge Shore on Tuesday.

Evidently, the Constitution does not apply to state law unless the relevant parts of it are explicitly mentioned in each statute. And I’m sure 5 Supreme Court justices would agree.

Our corporate overlords will not be challenged. Especially by chalk.

…..In a related story, a Pennsylvania health care activist was arrested last night for writing in chalk on the sidewalk in front of the governor’s mansion that Governor Tom Corbett has health care and we should too.

Today in Humans Destroying the Planet

[ 28 ] June 26, 2013 |

1. You like Canadian tar sands? Then you’ll love domestic Utah tar sands, as Tara Lohan reports!

2. The EPA dropping a fracking study linking the practice to contaminated groundwater in Wyoming is just embarrassing and again suggests the one step forward, one step back approach to the environment under Obama. As Sarah Gilman at High Country News (the best newspaper on western environmental issues, you all should read it!) states:

On a higher level, though, it’s yet another example of the Obama administration coming out guns a-blazing, aiming at the high middle of progressive ambition on an environmental policy issue, only to shrink back (or roll back proposed rules) when things get politically ugly. It’s something HCN staffers have tracked with bemusement since Obama’s election in 2008. There were those new ozone limits that the administration had trumpeted as a necessary step to protect public health, for example, which it later withdrew and endlessly delayed for further review after a political flogging from the Republican-dominated House of Representatives. There were the Bureau of Land Management’s first-ever hydraulic fracturing rules, which the administration first tried to spin in terms of clearing the industry’s name and then later were systematically weakened after a top White House official met several times with industry groups.

Before last fall’s election, when Obama still had everything to lose by taking a stand that could be construed as anti-economy, his agencies’ wishywashyness sort of made sense. (Only sort of, though, since politicizing legitimate public health concerns actually doesn’t make moral sense at all.) Now, though, it’s baffling.

We can only hope that the lofty language and goals Obama laid out in his June 25 speech on how he (FINALLY!) plans to address the biggest environmental problem of all – climate change — won’t suffer the same fate as so many other of his administration’s environmental initiatives.

Yep.

3. In our focus on energy, let’s not forget the joy of pesticides. Certainly people in Wilsonville, Oregon won’t forget:

Target shoppers in Wilsonville, Oregon found a tragedy in the parking lot as tens of thousands of of bumble bees were found dead and dying on the pavement, along with honey bees and ladybugs. Shoppers notified Rich Hatfield, a conservation biologist with the Portland-based Xerces Society of Invertebrate Conservation, who went to the scene to investigate.

Oregon officials say preliminary results point to an insecticide that was used on the nearby European Linden trees. The trees were sprayed with a pesticide called Safari to kill aphids, an insect that destroys plants and vegetation. Safari is part of a group of pesticides called neonicotinoids that are known to kill pollinators such as bumblebees, Associated Press reports. The investigation is still under way. If the pesticide is the confirmed cause and it wasn’t used according to the label instructions, civil penalties could be handed down ranging from $1,000 to $10,000 per violation for gross negligence or willful misconduct, Dale Mitchell, program manager in the Agriculture Department’s pesticide compliance and enforcement section, told AP.

Why is this pesticide even legal? But hey, I’m sure that a pesticide that kills 50,000 bees has no effect on humans. So. Much. Confidence.

If We Are Declaring Civil Rights Legislation Unconstitutional, I Guess We Might As Well Return to Discredited Jim Crow Era Theories about the Civil War

[ 127 ] June 26, 2013 |

Forbes is a terrible magazine in general, but now that it is reviving the idea that the tariff was the real reason for the Civil War, it’s adding bad history to its usual bad economics and bad politics. This David John Marotta column is really awful. The tariff of course was an area of disagreement between the South and North–but the fundamental point of the disagreement was around whether the nation should favor the slave plantation economy or a manufacturing economy. This is like saying, as some have, that the Civil War was fought over westward expansion without noting that the only bone of contention around that issue was whether those western lands should be slave or free. But what is really bad is when Marotta actually talks about slavery:

Slavery was actually on the wane. Slaves visiting England were free according to the courts in 1569. France, Russia, Spain and Portugal had outlawed slavery. Slavery had been abolished everywhere in the British Empire 27 years earlier thanks to William Wilberforce. In the United States, the transport of slaves had been outlawed 53 years earlier by Thomas Jefferson in the Act Prohibiting the Importation of Slaves (1807) and the Abolition of the Slave Trade Act in England (1807). Slavery was a dying and repugnant institution.

The rewritten history of the Civil War began with Lincoln as a brilliant political tactic to rally public opinion. The issue of slavery provided sentimental leverage, whereas oppressing the South with hurtful tariffs did not. Outrage against the greater evil of slavery served to mask the economic harm the North was doing to the South.

The situation in the South could be likened to having a legitimate legal case but losing the support of the jury when testimony concerning the defendant’s moral failings was admitted into the court proceedings.

No. There is absolutely no evidence that slavery was on the wane as any historian could tell you. Cherry picking from other nations abolishing slavery and fifty year old laws against the importation of slaves is some pretty weak evidence that ignores all the other actual evidence about the cotton economy, the massive profits made by slaveholders, the rush for westward lands to expand slavery, the desire for the US to take over Cuba in order to expand slavery. Oh yes, and the actual words spoken by Southerners when they seceeded from the Union. The South Carolina Declaration of the Immediate Causes Which Induce and Justify the Secession of South Carolina from the Federal Union:

The General Government, as the common agent, passed laws to carry into effect these stipulations of the States. For many years these laws were executed. But an increasing hostility on the part of the non-slaveholding States to the institution of slavery, has led to a disregard of their obligations, and the laws of the General Government have ceased to effect the objects of the Constitution. The States of Maine, New Hampshire, Vermont, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island, New York, Pennsylvania, Illinois, Indiana, Michigan, Wisconsin and Iowa, have enacted laws which either nullify the Acts of Congress or render useless any attempt to execute them. In many of these States the fugitive is discharged from service or labor claimed, and in none of them has the State Government complied with the stipulation made in the Constitution. The State of New Jersey, at an early day, passed a law in conformity with her constitutional obligation; but the current of anti-slavery feeling has led her more recently to enact laws which render inoperative the remedies provided by her own law and by the laws of Congress. In the State of New York even the right of transit for a slave has been denied by her tribunals; and the States of Ohio and Iowa have refused to surrender to justice fugitives charged with murder, and with inciting servile insurrection in the State of Virginia. Thus the constituted compact has been deliberately broken and disregarded by the non-slaveholding States, and the consequence follows that South Carolina is released from her obligation.

The ends for which the Constitution was framed are declared by itself to be “to form a more perfect union, establish justice, insure domestic tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general welfare, and secure the blessings of liberty to ourselves and our posterity.”

These ends it endeavored to accomplish by a Federal Government, in which each State was recognized as an equal, and had separate control over its own institutions. The right of property in slaves was recognized by giving to free persons distinct political rights, by giving them the right to represent, and burthening them with direct taxes for three-fifths of their slaves; by authorizing the importation of slaves for twenty years; and by stipulating for the rendition of fugitives from labor.

We affirm that these ends for which this Government was instituted have been defeated, and the Government itself has been made destructive of them by the action of the non-slaveholding States. Those States have assume the right of deciding upon the propriety of our domestic institutions; and have denied the rights of property established in fifteen of the States and recognized by the Constitution; they have denounced as sinful the institution of slavery; they have permitted open establishment among them of societies, whose avowed object is to disturb the peace and to eloign the property of the citizens of other States. They have encouraged and assisted thousands of our slaves to leave their homes; and those who remain, have been incited by emissaries, books and pictures to servile insurrection.

For twenty-five years this agitation has been steadily increasing, until it has now secured to its aid the power of the common Government. Observing the *forms* [emphasis in the original] of the Constitution, a sectional party has found within that Article establishing the Executive Department, the means of subverting the Constitution itself. A geographical line has been drawn across the Union, and all the States north of that line have united in the election of a man to the high office of President of the United States, whose opinions and purposes are hostile to slavery. He is to be entrusted with the administration of the common Government, because he has declared that that “Government cannot endure permanently half slave, half free,” and that the public mind must rest in the belief that slavery is in the course of ultimate extinction.

This sectional combination for the submersion of the Constitution, has been aided in some of the States by elevating to citizenship, persons who, by the supreme law of the land, are incapable of becoming citizens; and their votes have been used to inaugurate a new policy, hostile to the South, and destructive of its beliefs and safety.

Right, so it’s all about the tariff.

In case anyone needs a primer on the history of myths about the origins of the Civil War, here’s James Loewen, who addresses some of the classic howlers used by Marotta.

Chauncey on the Court Decisions

[ 9 ] June 26, 2013 |

The historian of gay America, George Chauncey, with an excellent essay on the history behind the move toward gay marriage. In part:

The lesbian and gay liberation movements of the early 1970s did not make marriage a priority — quite the opposite. Activists fought police raids, job discrimination and families’ rejection of their queer children. Most radical activists scorned the very idea of marriage. But a handful walked into clerks’ offices across the country to request marriage licenses. State officials suddenly realized that their laws failed to limit marriage to a man and a woman; no other arrangement had been imagined. By 1978, 15 states had written this limitation into law.

A “traditional family values” movement arose to oppose gay rights and feminism. Anita Bryant and other activists took aim at some of the earliest local anti-discrimination laws, and by 1979 they had persuaded voters in several cities to repeal them. In some 140 local and state referendums, gay-rights activists were forced to defend their fledgling protections. This, not marriage, consumed their energies.

It was the 1980s that changed things. The AIDS epidemic and what came to be known as the “lesbian baby boom” compelled even those couples whose friends and family fully embraced them to deal with powerful institutions — family and probate courts, hospitals, adoption agencies and funeral homes — that refused to recognize their relationships at all.

The gay partner of someone with AIDS confronted hospitals that could deny him visitation privileges, not to mention consultation over treatment. He couldn’t use his health insurance to cover his partner. He risked losing his home after his partner’s death if his name wasn’t on the lease or if he couldn’t pay inheritance taxes on his partner’s share of it (which would not have been required of a surviving spouse).

Militarization

[ 64 ] June 26, 2013 |

Good that John McCain is so giddy about creating what he calls the most militarized border since the Berlin Wall with the immigration bill. I mean, that turned out pretty well for everyone, no?

We Shall Overcome

[ 64 ] June 25, 2013 |

Maybe so Lyndon. But it didn’t last forever. Now we have to overcome again.

John Lewis on what the Court decision means, stabbing the civil rights movement “in its very heart.”

The Climate Speech

[ 63 ] June 25, 2013 |

Kind of an unfortunate day for Obama’s climate change speech, not that it is his fault. I’ll distract my attention from my outrage at the overturning of a huge part of the civil rights movement for a moment to make a couple of notes.

First, Obama is absolutely correct to simply sidestep Congress here. In the long run, arguably the biggest impact of Congressional dysfunction could be that presidents regardless of party begin to ignore it and we move closer to unilateral rule. Of course, filibuster reform would help with this. Anyway, Obama still has significant power within the Executive Branch to shape policy and it is here he will leave his climate legacy.

Second, increasing carbon emissions standards on power plants is absolutely the best way to go about this, or at least it’s a very good first step. If it is a war on coal, then it is a war on coal. I know the UMWA and coal companies hate him for it, and what we really need is a clear program of green jobs in coal country to replace the jobs lost to environmental regulations, but sometimes you just have to make these hard decisions. Of course, the vast majority of coal jobs have already disappeared due to automation and industry disinvestment in Appalachia for new coal seams in Wyoming.

Third, Obama needs to take two steps he doesn’t want to take to show he is serious. First, he needs to not allow the Keystone XL Pipeline. If he lets that be built, it demonstrates that he is unwilling to do what it will actually take to slow climate change. Second, he needs to fight against coal exports to China. The Powder River Basin in Wyoming is now basically an enormous coal mine, mostly to serve an export market. West Coast cities are fighting against having their ports used for coal exports. Obama needs to step in here. I am skeptical on both counts.

Fourth, the plan really needs a more vigorous green jobs program and clean energy subsidies to replace dirty energy subsidies, but without funding from Congress, it’s hard to do too much here.

Fifth, none of this will probably make a molehill’s worth of difference in the ultimate battle against climate change. But a start is a start and you have to do something. Overall, it’s a positive speech, for whatever that’s worth.

As a sidenote, it’s also worth reading this essay by environmental justice scholar Robert Bullard on the need for historically black colleges to take climate change seriously. It’s an environmental justice issue. Unfortunately, even those affected don’t always see it that way because unlike a toxic waste dump in your backyard, you don’t notice it every day.

….Or as Pierce says, Obama’s bailing the ocean out with a thimble.

The Roberts Court Would Like to Add a Film to Its VRA Decision

[ 97 ] June 25, 2013 |

It seems the Roberts Court also made a film expressing its views on American race relations and the proper order between the races. You can watch it below.

Open Thread on Supreme Court Ruling of Section 4 of Voting Rights Act Unconstitutional

[ 209 ] June 25, 2013 |

It’s worth having an open thread just to express anger and frustration over our Plessy-nostalgic Supreme Court ruling the most important section of the most important piece of civil rights legislation passed since the 14th Amendment unconstitutional.

Will anti-lynching laws soon be ruled unconstitutional as well? We’d probably have to pray for a Kennedy swing vote on that one.

I wonder how reasonable moderate Sam Alito voted? Maybe St. Ralph would like to pontificate about this a bit as well?

Reasonable Moderate

[ 64 ] June 25, 2013 |

Not only does reasonable moderate Sam Alito show us that there is no difference between the two parties and elections don’t matter and therefore because of Edward Snowden we should all vote for Gary Johnson or whoever the Green Party spits up in 2016, but he’s also just a classy guy who treats his colleagues with the respect they deserve!

Strengthening the Fair Labor Standards Act

[ 20 ] June 24, 2013 |

The labor historian Jefferson Cowie on why the government desperately needs to recommit to and strengthen the Fair Labor Standards Act:

It’s true that we are in the middle of a seismic shift in the way we structure our work lives. Both workers and employers want more flexibility. But that similarity of interests shouldn’t mask the fact that employers will always have more power than their employees, and that it’s in their interests to make those employees work as long and as cheaply as possible.

In Roosevelt’s day, the courts found most wages and hours legislation unconstitutional based on the doctrine of “liberty of contract.” The idea was as simple as it was pernicious: wages and hours legislation violated an individual’s freedom to make an independent (read: worse) deal with his employer.

We can’t afford to drift further back to the bad old days of liberty of contract. Americans are drastically overworked and underpaid compared to workers in other advanced countries, and our workers are trapped in a rigid pattern of inequality that has ended a historic claim to being the nation of upward mobility.

Roosevelt did not bother with economic arguments when it came to hours and wages. He offered a simple framework, both moral and patriotic. “A self-supporting and self-respecting democracy,” he proclaimed, “can plead no justification for the existence of child labor, no economic reason for chiseling workers’ wages or stretching workers’ hours.” That is as true today as it was then.