Scott Galindez | Reader Supported News | April 29, 2015
n what is expected to be a low-key announcement sometime Thursday, Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont will announce his intention to seek the Democratic Party nomination for President of the United States. Sanders is expected to hold a larger rally in a few weeks in Vermont before heading to New Hampshire and Iowa. The news comes on a day of what can be seen as good news for the Sanders campaign.
A new poll puts Sanders in second place with growing support in Iowa. Sanders was at 14 percent in the survey by Public Policy Polling. Sanders is now polling at double digits in both Iowa and New Hampshire. He leads the non-Clinton candidates in name recognition at 56%, followed by 34% for O’Malley, 31% for Webb, and 25% for Chafee. Sanders is also the most frequently named second choice.
The bad news for Sanders is that Hillary Clinton is still polling at 62%, 48 points higher than Sanders.
WASHINGTON, D.C. — Before oral arguments began in Obergefell v. Hodges, the consolidated cases challenging marriage discrimination under the Constitution, a Supreme Court decision in favor of marriage equality seemed like a near certainty. After Solicitor General Donald Verrilli, the second of two lawyers to argue in favor of equality, took his seat, the outcome of the cases seemed much less sure.
The Court’s conservatives fixated upon their belief that same-sex marriages are a very new institution. “Every definition [of marriage] I looked up prior to about a dozen years ago,” Chief Justice John Roberts claimed, limited marriages to opposite-sex couples. Advocates for equality, Roberts continued, are “seeking to change what the institution is.”
Meanwhile, Justice Samuel Alito argued that even “ancient Greece,” a society he perceived as welcoming to same-sex relationships, did not permit same-sex marriage. Justice Antonin Scalia insisted that “for millennia, not a single society” supported marriage equality.
During Tuesday’s marriage equality arguments in the Supreme Court, several of the Court’s conservative members suggested that same-sex couples should not be given equal marriage rights because these couples have not enjoyed those rights for most of the past. As Justice Antonin Scalia summed up this argument, “for millennia, not a single society” supported marriage equality, and that somehow exempted same-sex couples from the Constitution’s promise of equal protection of the law.
Not long after her conservative colleagues raised this argument, however, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg explained exactly why marriage was long understood to be incompatible with homosexuality in just five sentences:
[Same-sex couples] wouldn’t be asking for this relief if the law of marriage was what it was a millennium ago. I mean, it wasn’t possible. Same-sex unions would not have opted into the pattern of marriage, which was a relationship, a dominant and a subordinate relationship. Yes, it was marriage between a man and a woman, but the man decided where the couple would be domiciled; it was her obligation to follow him.
There was a change in the institution of marriage to make it egalitarian when it wasn’t egalitarian. And same-sex unions wouldn’t — wouldn’t fit into what marriage was once.
Justice Ginsburg’s point was that, until surprisingly recently, the legal institution of marriage was defined in terms of gender roles. According to Sir William Blackstone, an eighteenth century English jurist whose works are still frequently cited today to explain the common law principles we inherited from our former colonial rulers, “[t]he very being or legal existence of the woman is suspended during the marriage, or at least is incorporated and consolidated into that of the husband; under whose wing, protection and cover, she performs everything.” As late as 1887, fully one third of the states did not permit women to control their earnings. And married women could not even withhold consent to sex with their husband until shockingly recently.
As the GOP embraces the reactionary politics and anti-government zealotry of the Tea Party, it is steadily purging “moderates” and empowering extremists. Nothing shows this trend more clearly than the lineup of potential Republican presidential candidates.
In order to compete in early caucus and primary states such as Iowa and South Carolina, Republican presidential hopefuls must engage with a voter base that leans significantly farther to the right than the average American voter. Pro-corporate groups, often working outside of the public eye, have invested millions of dollars in creating a political infrastructure that has pushed the party to the extreme fringe, leading candidates to increasingly rely on a small class of mega-donors who seek to bankroll the campaigns of their personal favorites.
Candidates are already competing to see who is more skeptical of the science behind climate change, critical of any reform of America’s immigration system or financial industry, and vocal about the dangers of a Big Government that is purportedly crushing religious freedom and bent on seizing people’s guns. As the GOP moves farther to the right, its presidential candidates are moving with it.
The following is an excerpt from the introduction to Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption:
This book Just Mercy: A Story of Justice and Redemption is about getting closer to mass incarceration and extreme punishment in America. It is about how easily we condemn people in this country and the injustice we create when we allow fear, anger, and distance to shape the way we treat the most vulnerable among us. It’s also about a dramatic period in our recent history, a period that indelibly marked the lives of millions of Americans – of all races, ages, and sexes – and the American psyche as a whole.
When I first went to death row in December 1983, America was in the early stages of a radical transformation that would turn us into an unprecedentedly harsh and punitive nation and result in mass imprisonment that has no historical parallel. Today we have the highest rate of incarceration in the world. The prison population has increased from 300,000 people in the early 1970s to 2.3 million people today. There are nearly six million people on probation or on parole. One in every fifteen people born in the United States in 2001 is expected to go to jail or prison; one in every three black male babies born in this century is expected to be incarcerated.
We have shot, hanged, gassed, electrocuted, and lethally injected hundreds of people to carry out legally sanctioned executions. Thousands more await their execution on death row. Some states have no minimum age for prosecuting children as adults; we’ve sent a quarter million kids to adult jails and prisons to serve long prison terms, some under the age of twelve. For years, we’ve been the only country in the world that condemns children to life imprisonment without parole; nearly three thousand juveniles have been sentenced to die in prison.
“Tell me of the night your son was killed by the police,” I asked. She sat up and a deep sorrow moved in her eyes. “I had a habit of looking out the window to see my son,” Danette Chavis said. “But that night, I said to myself, ‘oh leave the boy alone’ and took a nap. The phone woke me up and my daughter was rushing out of the door. I followed her and saw police tape, cops standing around a body. I yelled to see if it was him. But they wouldn’t let me close. Later, I went to the morgue and identified my son.”
We sat in the café, a few seconds passed in silence. She looked away as if seeing him dead for the first time and I regretted asking the question. Around us, people typed on laptops or chatted over coffee. They were so carefree. How do we reach a city that mostly looks at people of color in contempt or pity, but not solidarity? How do we get them to listen?
I looked up from my notebook. “Ms. Chavis,” I asked, “What do you miss most about your son?”
Late last week, legislation moved forward that would give President Obama authority to negotiate two contentious trade deals: the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP). But for the most part, these aren’t trade agreements at all. They’re a gift to corporations, here and in partner countries that view purely domestic regulations as restraints of trade.
If these deals pass, the pharmaceutical industry could get new leverage to undermine regulations requiring the use of generic drugs. The tobacco industry has used similar “trade” provisions to challenge package label warnings.
A provision in both deals, known as Investor State Dispute Settlement, would allow corporations to do end runs around national governments by taking their claims to special tribunals, with none of the due process of normal law. This provision has attracted the most opposition. It’s such a stinker that one of the proposed member nations, Australia, got an exemption for its health and environmental policies.
An unarmed black person is six times more likely to be killed by police than is a white person who carries a weapon.
As cities erupt after decades and centuries of oppression and violence at the hands of police, calls for nonviolence can be deafening. “Violence isn’t the answer,” the moralists scream. They are right. But they are telling the wrong people.
On April 12, Baltimore resident Freddie Gray made eye contact with a police officer and ran. When he was detained, he was found in possession of a switchblade. Gray was taken into police custody where his spine was severed. One week later he was dead; by the time of his funeral on April 27, neither his family nor the community yet know what led to the fatal injury.
After Gray’s family laid the 25-year-old to rest, and after days of peaceful protests, Baltimore erupted into what has become an all-too-familiar sight. Police donned riot gear as buildings and cars burned.
A century of federal, state, and local policies have quarantined Charm City’s black population in isolated slums.
(AP Photo/Patrick Semansky)
A boy runs from a public housing development toward the intersection where Freddie Gray was arrested, Friday, April 24, 2015, in Baltimore. Gray died from spinal injuries about a week after he was arrested and transported in a police van. But the unrest that followed is as much a comment on 100 years government housing policies that continue to the present day as it is about unjust policing.
In Baltimore in 1910, a black graduate of Yale Law School purchased a home in a previously all-white neighborhood. The Baltimore city government reacted by adopting a residential segregation ordinance, restricting African Americans to designated blocks. Explaining the policy, Baltimore’s mayor proclaimed: “Blacks should be quarantined in isolated slums in order to reduce the incidence of civil disturbance, to prevent the spread of communicable disease into the nearby White neighborhoods, and to protect property values among the White majority.”
Whenever young black men riot in response to police brutality or murder, as they have done in Baltimore this week, we’re tempted to think we can address the problem by improving police quality—training officers not to use excessive force, implementing community policing, encouraging police to be more sensitive, prohibiting racial profiling, and so on. These are all good, necessary, and important things to do. But such proposals ignore the obvious reality that the protests are not really (or primarily) about policing.