Political MoJo

Bree Newsome Explains Why She Tore Down the Confederate Flag in South Carolina

| Mon Jun. 29, 2015 6:29 PM EDT

On Monday afternoon, Bree Newsome, the woman who scaled the flagpole at the South Carolina statehouse on Saturday and took down the Confederate flag, made her first public comments since her arrest, which were published on the progressive website Blue Nation Review. She detailed her recent history of activism and described her motivation:

The night of the Charleston Massacre, I had a crisis of faith. The people who gathered for Bible study in Emmanuel AME Church that night—Cynthia Marie Graham Hurd, Susie Jackson, Ethel Lee Lance, Depayne Middleton-Doctor, Tywanza Sanders, Daniel Simmons, Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, Myra Thompson and Rev. Clementa Pinckney (rest in peace)—were only doing what Christians are called to do when anyone knocks on the door of the church: invite them into fellowship and worship.

The day after the massacre I was asked what the next step was and I said I didn’t know. We’ve been here before and here we are again: black people slain simply for being black; an attack on the black church as a place of spiritual refuge and community organization.
I refuse to be ruled by fear. How can America be free and be ruled by fear? How can anyone be?

So, earlier this week I gathered with a small group of concerned citizens, both black and white, who represented various walks of life, spiritual beliefs, gender identities and sexual orientations. Like millions of others in America and around the world, including South Carolina Governor Nikki Haley and President Barack Obama, we felt (and still feel) that the confederate battle flag in South Carolina, hung in 1962 at the height of the Civil Rights Movement, must come down. (Of course, we are not the first to demand the flag’s removal. Civil rights groups in South Carolina and nationwide have been calling for the flag’s removal since the moment it was raised, and I acknowledge their efforts in working to remove the flag over the years via the legislative process.)

We discussed it and decided to remove the flag immediately, both as an act of civil disobedience and as a demonstration of the power people have when we work together.

Explaining why she worked together with fellow activist James Ian Tyson, she continued:

Achieving this would require many roles, including someone who must volunteer to scale the pole and remove the flag. It was decided that this role should go to a black woman and that a white man should be the one to help her over the fence as a sign that our alliance transcended both racial and gender divides. We made this decision because for us, this is not simply about a flag, but rather it is about abolishing the spirit of hatred and oppression in all its forms.

Read Newsome's whole statement here.

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The Supreme Court Just Stopped Texas From Closing Almost All Of Its Abortion Clinics

| Mon Jun. 29, 2015 4:13 PM EDT

The Supreme Court on Monday halted key portions of Texas's anti-abortion law from going into effect that would have shutdown all but nine abortion clinics in the state. The stay will remain in place while abortion rights advocates prepare to take their case seeking to overturn portions of the Texas law to the Supreme Court.

The court's four most conservative justices, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Antonin Scalia, Samuel Alito, and Clarence Thomas, dissented from the order, indicating they would have let the clinics close.

From the New York Times:

The case concerns two parts of a state law that imposes strict requirements on abortion providers. One requires all abortion clinics in the state to meet the standards for “ambulatory surgical centers,” including regulations concerning buildings, equipment and staffing. The other requires doctors performing abortions to have admitting privileges at a nearby hospital.

Other parts of the law took effect in 2013, causing about half of the state’s 41 abortion clinics to close.

Read the order:

 

Supreme Court Justice Calls Death Penalty Drug "Equiva­lent of Being Burned at the Stake"

| Mon Jun. 29, 2015 10:45 AM EDT

On Monday, the Supreme Court upheld the use of the drug midazolam for lethal injections in a 5–4 decision that pitted the five conservative justices against the four liberal ones. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who wrote her own dissent, argued that the use of the drug, which prolongs the execution process and sometimes doesn't work at all, was in violation of the Eighth Amendment's prohibition on "cruel and unusual punishment." Then she went a step further, comparing the drug to a more notorious form of punishment—the burning of heretics at the stake:

[T]he Court today turns aside petitioners’ plea that they at least be allowed a stay of execution while they seek to prove midazolam’s inadequacy. The Court achieves this result in two ways: first, by deferring to the District Court’s decision to credit the scientifically unsup­ported and implausible testimony of a single expert wit­ness; and second, by faulting petitioners for failing to satisfy the wholly novel requirement of proving the avail­ability of an alternative means for their own executions. On both counts the Court errs. As a result, it leaves peti­tioners exposed to what may well be the chemical equiva­lent of being burned at the stake.

Later in her dissent, Sotomayor added a few more comparisons for good measure. "Under the Court's new rule, it would not matter whether the State intended to use midazolam, or instead to have petitioners drawn and quartered, slowly tortured to death, or actually burned at the stake."

Justice Stephen Breyer, in a separate dissent, went a step further, arguing that the death penalty itself might be unconstitutional.

The Supreme Court Just Struck Down Obama Regulations on Power Plants. Read the Opinion Here.

| Mon Jun. 29, 2015 10:45 AM EDT

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled against EPA regulations to limit mercury emissions and other pollutants at power plants. Read the opinion in its entirety below:

 

Watch Badass Woman Scale Statehouse Flagpole, Take Down Confederate Flag

| Sat Jun. 27, 2015 12:18 PM EDT

A woman named Bree Newsome just scaled the flagpole in front of the South Carolina state capitol and took down the Confederate flag. She was then arrested. Badass. Too bad state workers promptly put it back up.

Texas County Clerk Refuses to Issue Marriage Licenses to Gay Couples

| Fri Jun. 26, 2015 2:38 PM EDT
Supporters of gay marriage celebrate outside the US Supreme Court.

Despite this morning's landmark Supreme Court decision to legalize gay marriage across the country, at least one county clerk in Texas has refused to issue marriage licenses to two same-sex couples.

The Denton Record-Chronicle reports:

Denton County Clerk Juli Luke issued a statement that she would defer to guidance from Denton District Attorney Paul Johnson before issuing any marriage licenses in Denton County today to same sex couples.

"It appears this decision now places our great state in a position where state law contradicts federal law," Luke wrote.

A sign posted at the clerk's office stated that it would not issue licenses until it addressed "a vendor issue." But county officials may also be waiting for guidance from Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, who criticized the high court's ruling in a statement on Friday, calling it "a dilution of marriage as a societal institution." The Austin American-Statesman reported that at least two other counties are holding off issuing licenses, but that three—Travis, Bexar, and Dallas—had already done so following the ruling.

Tod King and Casey Cavelier, who visited the Denton County clerk's office on Friday morning to obtain a license after being together for 19 years, told the college newspaper North Texas Daily: "We were really excited this morning...We took a rainbow flag and hung it on the house. Then we came down here and got a little disappointed that they weren’t prepared for this."

Other couples were disappointed as well:

Obstacles to same-sex marriage weren't just remaining in Texas. Mississippi Attorney General Jim Hood said in a statement on Friday that clerks would have to wait until the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals lifts a stay on a federal judge's order to overturn the state's ban on gay marriage.

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Genius Conservative Compares Gay Marriage to 9/11, Pearl Harbor

| Fri Jun. 26, 2015 12:18 PM EDT

So, you're a conservative and you're upset that every state is going to be forced to be nice to gay people, so you take to Twitter to share your outrage and you reach for a simile. Not just any simile but, like, a good simile—one that has a strong tradition and is emotionally evocative and will let everyone know you mean business. Ding! Ding! Ding! You've got it!

Now you're getting those faves, you're getting those retweets, you're getting those hateful replies. You're liking this feeling. You're flying high. You're on a cloud. You're on the moon, my love. You are a starship leaving this goddamned solar system! You want to chase the feeling. You want more. You want to never stop feeling like this. Why would anyone ever want to not feel like this? But how can you top Pearl Harbor?

You know what to do, baby. You know what to do:

Bryan Fischer, ladies and gentleman.

Mike Huckabee Set the Bar Really High for the Worst Reaction to the Same-Sex Marriage Ruling

| Fri Jun. 26, 2015 11:22 AM EDT

As of 10:01 a.m. on Friday, marriage equality was the law of the land, effectively ending one of the most divisive debates in American politics over the last decade.

Unless you're former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee, that is. Earlier this week, even before the Supreme Court issued its ruling, the GOP presidential candidate called on conservative Christians to engage in a massive "Biblical disobedience" campaign against the "false god of judicial supremacy," comparing the widely expected majority decision in the gay marriage case to the Dred Scott case that upheld the Fugitive Slave Act:

For a lot of believers, the question comes, do we have civil disobedience, or do we have Biblical disobedience? For many of us, civil disobedience—when we believe that the civil government has acted outside of nature, and nature's god, outside of the bounds of the law, outside of the bounds of the Constitution—we believe that it's the right and the moral thing to do. Now I understand that's a very controversial thing to say. But Todd, what if no one had acted in disobedience to the Dred Scott decision of 1857? What if the entire country had capitulated to judicial tyranny and we just said that because the Supreme Court said in 1857 said that a black person wasn’t fully human—suppose we had accepted that, suppose Abraham Lincoln, our president, had accepted that, would that have been the right course of action? And I don't know of anyone, I mean seriously, I don't know of anyone who believes that the Supreme Court made the right decision in Dred Scott.

In the war for marriage equality, Huckabee is the lonely Japanese soldier dutifully defending his island bunker years after the last shots were fired. He just doesn't know it yet.

The Supreme Court Just Legalized Gay Marriage Everywhere. Read the Opinion Here.

| Fri Jun. 26, 2015 10:02 AM EDT

On Friday, the Supreme Court ruled in favor of gay marriage in the historic case of Obergefell v. Hodges, a decision which effectively invalidates bans on gay marriage.

Read the opinion in its entirety below: 

 

John Roberts Just Saved the Republican Party From Itself

| Thu Jun. 25, 2015 11:32 AM EDT

The Supreme Court's Thursday ruling, written by Chief Justice John Roberts, that upheld a core tenet of the Affordable Care Act is good news for the millions of Americans whose health insurance was on the line. But it's also, in a strange way, good news for a completely different group: the Republican politicians who have all but called for Obamacare to be shot into space on a rocket.

Had the court gone the other way, gutting federal subsidies while leaving the shell of the law on the books, congressional Republicans, as well as GOP governors such as Scott Walker and Chris Christie, would have been put in the uncomfortable position they've managed to avoid since Obamacare was signed into law—having to fix it. The Associated Press outlined Walker's dilemma neatly on Wednesday:

About 183,000 people in Wisconsin purchase their insurance through the exchange and nine out of 10 of them are receiving a federal subsidy, according to an analysis of state data by Wisconsin Children and Families. The average tax credit they receive is $315 a month.

Health care advocates who have been critical of Walker for not taking federal money to pay for expanding Medicaid coverage have also called on the Republican second-term governor to prepare for the subsidies to be taken away.

And many of those Wisconsonites enrolled in the federal exchange are there because Walker put them there. As Bloomberg's Joshua Green noted in a prescient piece in March, Walker booted 83,000 people from the state's Medicaid program and put them on the federal exchange instead. That's not the kind of crisis you want to be dealing with in the middle of a presidential campaign—or ever.

Conservatives would have been thrilled with a ruling in their favor on Thursday. But Roberts' decision spares Walker and his colleagues from what would have come next, and frees them to continue lobbing rhetorical bombs at the law they're now stuck with. As previous generations of Washington Republicans can advise, it's much easier to go to war if you don't need a plan for how to end it.