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Game of Thrones podcast: Season 5, Episode 10 — “Mother’s Mercy”

[ 74 ] June 19, 2015 |

This episode is notable not only for Steven’s barely contained rage, but because — obviously — is the last Game of Thrones podcast we’ll be doing for nine months.

Have no fear though! We will still be podcasting! Starting this week, we will be hosting a podcast on the new BBC series Jonathan Strange & Mr Norrell. We hope those of you who enjoyed listening us talk about one television show adapted from thick novels will join us as we talk about another television show adopted from another thick novel.


Today in Brilliant Jurisprudence

[ 28 ] June 19, 2015 |


Clarence Thomas hit a new high in Supreme Court decision writing:

Thomas’ case in point: Warrick Dunn, the author of the 2008 memoir Running for My Life: My Journey in the Game of Football and Beyond. Dunn, formerly a star NFL running back, is a minority owner of the Atlanta Falcons. Brumfield murdered Dunn’s mother when Dunn was 18. Here’s how Thomas sets up the case:

This case is a study in contrasts. On the one hand, we have Kevan Brumfield, a man who murdered Louisiana police officer Betty Smothers and who has spent the last 20 years claiming that his actions were the product of circumstances beyond his control. On the other hand, we have Warrick Dunn, the eldest son of Corporal Smothers, who responded to circumstances beyond his control by caring for his family, building a professional football career, and turning his success on the field into charitable work off the field.

Thomas spends several pages in his 27-page dissent contrasting Brumfield with Dunn. In case his meaning isn’t clear enough, Thomas adds a footnote, saying, “Like Brumfield, Warrick’s father was not a part of his life. But, unlike Brumfield, Warrick did not use the absence of a father figure as a justification for murder.” Thomas goes on to spend another few paragraphs detailing all of Dunn’s charitable contributions and activism, before taking a dig at Brumfield for filing too many appeals. Thomas accuses the majority justices of being insensitive to the horrific nature of the crime and for ignoring the victims in this case. To drive the point home, he attached a photo of Dunn’s mother (copied from Dunn’s memoir) to his dissent.

Several pages! Photos!

Can this please start a trend of citing NFL players’ lives in Supreme Court cases? A few possible examples:

1) How about Alito citing Kurt Warner’s autobiography about how turning to Jesus and hard work to support your dream is constitutionally superior to relying on government programs if you are poor? Seems like a great cite for eliminating the Fair Labor Standards Act!

2) Or perhaps Anthony Kennedy citing Brett Favre’s brilliant autobiography on why drug sentences should be reduced. For certain people anyway.

3) And maybe, just maybe, Scalia will cite the life of OJ Simpson to show how poor African-Americans rise to have successful careers and therefore the Civil Rights Act of 1964 is unconstitutional.

Really the possibilities are endless.

Rhodesia 1976

[ 63 ] June 19, 2015 |

A friend of mine pointed me toward this 1976 Australian TV documentary about the nation of Rhodesia in its last years of trying to maintain its white nationalist government. Very sadly, this has taken on a new relevance in the last 48 hours. The “best” part comes at the 18-20 minute mark, when Ian Smith insists he is not a racist. Because as we know today, the only real racists are people of color oppressing white rights to dominate said people of color. Amazing stuff.

Friday Links

[ 6 ] June 19, 2015 |

Jack Rollins, RIP

[ 38 ] June 18, 2015 |

The legendary producer of Woody Allen’s 70s films and incredibly influential figure in the comedy of that era has died at the ripe old age of 100. Among his many achievements was working with Woody Allen to make him into the brilliant comedian and director he became.

The Most Glorious Sight I’ve Ever Seen

[ 113 ] June 18, 2015 |

Burn baby burn.

What Are the Odds That a Symbol of Treason in Defense of Slavery Would be Associated With A Racist Nut?

[ 68 ] June 18, 2015 |


Via gocart mozart in comments, this is priceless:

We reached the national spokesman for the Sons of Confederate Veterans just moments ago, just after he had been told that early reports out of South Carolina suggest that the man police have arrested in connection with last night’s massacre at a historic black Charleston church had a confederate plate on the front of his car.

Ben Jones, a former Georgia Congressman made famous for his role as Cooter in Dukes of Hazzard, reacted bitterly to the news.

“Now to hear that this son of a b**ch had a Confederate plate,” Jones said in an interview with The News moments ago. “That said it all for me. Those people are the ones who are defining this issue and not the millions and millions of good people who see it as a symbol honoring their ancestors. It’s a crying shame. Symbolism is a power thing. Carl Jung said that. And it’s the winners who write the history. There’s nothing we can do about it. You can’t appeal the Supreme Court.

“But it won’t make me feel any differently [about his ancestors}. Except to make me more angry at the bigots and racists who desecrate the Confederate symbols,” he said.

Admittedly, this puts Jones one up on Nikki Haley, who asserted that we can’t possibly know what motivated Dylann Roof. Right, trying to determine Roof’s motives is impossible, like trying to determine why South Carolina started flying the Confederate flag at its capitol in 1962.

Speaking of which, I think Coates deserves to be linked twice.

Moral cowardice requires choice and action. It demands that its adherents repeatedly look away, that they favor the fanciful over the plain, myth over history, the dream over the real. Here is another choice.

Take down the flag. Take it down now.

Put it in a museum. Inscribe beneath it the years 1861-2015. Move forward. Abandon this charlatanism. Drive out this cult of death and chains. Save your lovely souls. Move forward. Do it now.

Charleston: The Latest Example of White Terrorism against African-Americans

[ 54 ] June 18, 2015 |


Ku Klux Klan rally, South Carolina, 1951

Heather Cox Richardson places the Charleston shooting in its proper historical context:

Congress stood against Klan terrorism with an 1871 law making their political intimidation a federal offense, a distinction that enabled President Grant to stop the depredations of the Ku Klux Klan by imposing martial law in parts of the South and by having federal courts, rather than local courts, try offenders. For the next twenty years, white southerners controlled black political voices by finding ways either to work with black voters or to silence them. This was imperative, they insisted, for black voters were only interested in social welfare legislation that would cost tax dollars and thus “corrupt” the American government.

In 1889, the threat of a new Republican administration to mount a federal defense of black voting brought a new construction to the idea of the corruption of government. A new generation of white Democrats worried far less about political than about social issues. They insisted that black men must not vote because if they voted, they would take local political offices. This would give them patronage power, for in the nineteenth century, local positions depended on the goodwill of local politicians. Black men would, for example, become school principals. There, they would use their power to hire teachers to force young innocent white girls to have sex with them in exchange for jobs. This political exchange very quickly turned to the idea that black political power meant widespread rape. By the early twentieth century, lynching black men was almost a civic duty for white citizens: only by purging the government of black voices could the nation be made safe.

When Roof said: “I have to do it. You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go,” he was echoing the fear of black political power laid down in the aftermath of the Civil War, when white American men had to face the reality that this nation is, in fact, made up of far more women and people of color than it is of white men. That fact inspired terror – and terrorism – among white men in the late nineteenth century. It did so again after 1954, when Brown v. Board warned white Americans that they would again have to share their country with African Americans. Then, as in the late nineteenth century, white Americans turned to terrorism against black political voices as, for example, when four Ku Klux Klan members bombed the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, Alabama, and murdered four little girls.

South Carolina could at the very least take steps to undermine this white supremacist terrorism. First, it could take down the Confederate flag from the statehouse. Second, it could pass hate crimes legislation. It is highly unlikely to do either because white supremacy is still deeply embedded in the moral compass of much of the state’s population.

The Pope, Climate Change, and American Conservatives

[ 92 ] June 18, 2015 |


It’s very interesting to watch American conservatives, including conservative Catholics, freak out over the Pope talking about issues that are not their own. With the pope deemphasizing the fight against abortion and gay marriage and talking about poverty and, now, climate change, one can almost feel conservative Catholics wanting to call Pope Francis illegitimate. We should hardly be surprised that American conservatives are only interested in institutions that reinforce their current policy positions, i.e. Rick Santorum saying “The church has gotten it wrong a few times on science, and I think we probably are better off leaving science to the scientists and focusing on what we’re good at, which is theology and morality.” Theology and morality. Right. Because poverty and climate change is not moral issues to Santorum, but are to the leader of his church, they are not moral issues.

Given how often these very people threw terms like “cafeteria Catholic” at pro-choice Catholics who were unhappy with the direction of the church, one wonders if we might see a move the other way, with conservatives temporarily distancing themselves from the Catholic Church because the Pope doesn’t want the world’s environment transformed in catastrophic ways.

Confederate License Plates and the First Amendment

[ 53 ] June 18, 2015 |


Today was probably not the ideal day for four members of the Shelby County majority to find that Texas was constitutionally required to issue a specialty license plate with the Confederate flag. Unlike Shelby County, Alito’s dissent is not unreasonable.  But I think the majority (the 4 Democratic nominees + Thomas) drew the line in the right place. 

Essentially, the question in this case is whether specialty plates are private speech or government speech.  If the former, then Texas’s refusal to print the Treason In Defense of Slavery plate is plainly unconstitutional viewpoint discrimination.  If the latter, refusing to endorse white supremacist symbols is certainly within the state’s discretion.  There’s a companion pending case about whether North Carolina can offer a “Choose Life” plate but not a pro-choice one that allows one to focus on the speech issue rather than the flag per se.  I remain inclined to think that the Court is right that this is government speech and while states can celebrate lawlessness in defense of apartheid on government IDs if they choose to, I don’t think they are required to.

Alas, this does mean I won’t be able to start a campaign arguing that Virginia is constitutionally obligated to issue a license plate featuring Sherman and Grant burning the Confederate flag.

The Horror in South Carolina

[ 290 ] June 18, 2015 |

EP-141009948.jpg&MaxW=520&q=85Above: a state capitol. In 2015.


I don’t think I have anything to tell you about the killings in South Carolina that you don’t already know. I can tell you that the Charleston Post and Courier has been doing absolutely remarkable work, and that Jamelle Bouie’s piece on Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church is essential.

How the Obama-McConnell-Boehner Coalition Moves Forward

[ 48 ] June 18, 2015 |


This how Obama and his Republican trade friends are going to try and pass fast track.

The process is likely to begin in the House Thursday, when the chamber plans to vote to give Obama fast-track trade authority to negotiate the Trans-Pacific Partnership, the largest trade agreement in history. If it passes, McConnell would then take up the measure next week, hoping to win the support of at least a dozen Senate Democrats to send it to the president’s desk. The Senate would then amend a separate trade bill with Trade Adjustment Assistance, a program to aid workers who lose their jobs due to trade deals.

The convoluted process is needed to surmount opposition from House Democrats, who last week blocked a program they support — TAA — in order to stop the larger trade package from getting to Obama’s desk. The Senate had passed a bill last month that included both the worker aid and negotiating authority, but further changes in the House have forced senators to take up the proposal again, prompting a whole new round of negotiating and posturing ahead of decisive votes in the coming days.

The entire process hinges on support from Senate and House Democrats who support free trade but insist that the government also provide aid and job training to help workers hurt by foreign trade. House Democrats, led by veteran Wisconsin Rep. Ron Kind, were eager to get the trade deal done, and were looking for assurances from their Senate counterparts. Senate Democrats, meanwhile, wanted a pledge from McConnell that he would clear TAA before they commit to voting for the fast-track bill.

In a joint statement Wednesday afternoon, McConnell and Boehner began to provide some of those assurances.

“We are committed to ensuring both TPA and TAA get votes in the House and Senate and are sent to the President for signature,” the leaders said in a joint statement. “And it is our intent to have a conference on the customs bill and complete that in a timely manner so that the President can sign it into law.”

At the White House Wednesday, pro-trade Democrats and Obama discussed the possibility of sticking together as a bloc so they can get TPA, TAA, a customs enforcement and perhaps an extension of the Export-Import Bank charter, which lapses at the end of the month.

“I and all the other members there are looking for a guarantee … for a deal to be good it’s got to have enforcement, TAA, I think it’s got to have Ex-Im reauthorization,” said Sen. Tim Kaine (D-Va.). “A lot of [the meeting] was to talk about that very question of: What is a sufficient assurance?”

Yes, there’s a lot of votes that need to be delivered and yes a lot of Democrats don’t trust Republicans. But this feels like a familiar script, where Republicans are able to bring just enough votes with Democrats who really do want to support the president’s position and are more comfortable with supporting their corporate funders than American workers. I do have trouble seeing this many votes flipping today though.

The best move the anti-TPP coalition has is rewarding its friends and punishing its enemies. It’s considered the latter, by seeking to primary Democratic congressman Jim Costa, who comes from a district that should support workers but instead he is a pro-corporate and pro-TPP. If labor and greens want to express political power, punishing enemies who can be defeated is an important way to do it. Let’s see how it goes.

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