Craig bows to the inevitable and will resign

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photo by Buddy Stone courtesy of Flickr

Idaho Republican Sen. Larry Craig will resign from the Senate amid a furor over his arrest and guilty plea in a police sex sting in an airport men’s room, Republican officials said Friday.

Craig will announce at a news conference in Boise Saturday morning that he will resign effective Sept. 30, four state GOP officials told The Associated Press, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Word of the resignation came four days after the disclosure that Craig had pleaded guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge arising out of his June 11 arrest during a lewd-conduct investigation at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport.

The three-term Republican senator had maintained that he did nothing wrong except for making the guilty plea without consulting a lawyer. But he found almost no support among Republicans in his home state or Washington.

Idaho Gov. C.L. “Butch” Otter appeared Friday to have already settled on a successor: Lt. Gov. Jim Risch, according to several Republicans familiar with internal deliberations.

Craig’s spokesman, Dan Whiting, had said earlier that the senator would announce his career plans Saturday. The spokesman would not say whether Craig intended to resign.

Craig has been out of public view since Tuesday, when he declared defiantly at a Boise news conference: “I am not gay. I never have been gay.” But Republican sources in Idaho said he spent Friday making calls to top party officials, including the governor, gauging their support.

There has been virtually none publicly.

Asked Friday at the White House if the senator should resign, President Bush said nothing and walked off stage.

Republican officeholders and party leaders maintained a steady drumbeat of actions and words aimed at persuading Craig to vacate his Senate seat.

GOP lawmakers, hoping to get the embarrassment to the party behind them quickly, stripped Craig of leadership posts on Wednesday, one day after they called for an investigation of Craig’s actions by the Senate Ethics Committee. Craig complied with the request.

With his wife, Suzanne, at his side, Craig said he had kept the incident from aides, friends and family and later pleaded guilty “in hopes of making it go away.”

Craig, 62, has represented Idaho in Congress for more than a quarter-century and was up for re-election next year.

Republican officeholders and party leaders wanted Craig to give up his seat in the Senate as soon as possible. Their preference, according to several officials, was for a successor to be selected and ready to take the oath of office when the Senate returns from its summer vacation next week.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell called Craig’s conduct “unforgivable” and acknowledged that many in the rank and file thought Craig should resign.

Republicans, worried about the scandal’s effect on next year’s election, suffered a further setback Friday when veteran Virginia Sen. John Warner announced he will retire rather than seek a sixth term. Democrats captured Virginia’s other Senate seat from the GOP in the 2006 election and have sought to line up former Gov. Mark Warner to run if the seat became open.

The contest for control of the next Senate was already tilted against Republicans, who must defend 22 of 34 seats on the ballot next year, before the Craig scandal and Warner’s announcement.

With a GOP candidate other than Craig, Republicans would stand a much better chance of keeping his Idaho seat in 2008. Idaho is one of the nation’s most reliably Republican states. The GOP controls the statehouse and all four seats in Congress, and Bush carried the state in 2004 with 68 percent of the vote.

Risch, the lieutenant governor, served for seven months as governor last year after former Gov. Dirk Kempthorne was named interior secretary. Risch had said earlier he was interested in Craig’s Senate seat if Craig did not seek re-election in 2008.

Rep. Mike Simpson, R-Idaho, also had been mentioned as a possible replacement for Craig, but the officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because Craig has not resigned, said Otter would choose Risch.

Mark Warbis, a spokesman for Otter, said the governor would not comment until he hears from Craig.

Craig served in the House before winning his first Senate term in 1990 and compiled a strongly conservative voting record.

On Thursday, the Minneapolis airport authorities released a tape recording of Craig’s interrogation minutes after he encountered a plainclothes officer in an adjacent stall in an airport restroom.

Craig and airport police Sgt. Dave Karsnia disagreed about virtually everything that had occurred — including whether there was a piece of paper on the floor of the stall and the meaning of the senator’s hand gestures.

Craig denied that he had used foot and hand gestures to signal interest in a sexual encounter.

“I’m not gay. I don’t do these kinds of things,” Craig told the officer. “You shouldn’t be out to entrap people.”

Karsnia accused Craig of lying and grew exasperated with his denials.

“Embarrassing, embarrassing. No wonder why we’re going down the tubes,” Karsnia said

Larry Craig’s revised statement to the Media

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Sen. Larry Craig, an Idaho Republican, made the following statement at 4:30 p.m. ET Tuesday.

BOISE, Idaho  — “First, please let me apologize to my family, friends, staff and fellow Idahoans for the obvious and unnecessary lie I’m about to tell. I did nothing at the Minneapolis airport I’m willing to cop to. I regret my stupid decision to plead guilty and the shame and derision that has brought to my wife, family, friends, staff, and fellow Idahoans. For that, I offer this, the lamest apology in the history of all mankind.

“In June, I overreacted, told the truth, and it was a politically poor decision. While I was not involved in any inappropriate conduct at the Minneapolis airport or anywhere else, somehow, for the second year in a row, I keep being exposed as someone with the proclivity to solicit sex in a public toilet.  I chose to plead guilty to a lesser charge in the hope of making it go away. I did not seek any counsel, either from an attorney, staff, friends, or family. That was a stupid mistake, and I deeply regret it. I could have lawyered up and muddied the waters sufficiently to get this charge thrown out, but I didn’t for rather transparent reasons.  I have now retained counsel and I am asking my counsel to review this matter to see if he can get me out of this s#*tstorm.

“For a moment, I want to put my state of mind into context on June 11. For eight months leading up to June, I had been relentlessly and viciously exposed for what I am by the Idaho Statesman. If you’ve seen today’s paper, you know why. Let me be clear: I am not willing to admit to being gay and never have been.

“Still, without leaving me a shred of dignity, the Statesman has exposed my extra curricular fornication. In pleading guilty, I overreacted in Minneapolis, because of the stress of the Idaho Statesman’s persecution and the deliciously sarcastic gossip it has fueled around Idaho. Again, that overreaction was a mistake, because if my Republican colleagues were willing to let  the obvious lies of  Scooter Libby, Karl Rove, and Alberto Gonzales pass unchallenged for years, I don’t understand why they can’t back me up one more time. Furthermore, I should not have kept this arrest to myself, and should have immediately hired an attorney and public relations mouthpiece to spin the lie of the century on my behalf. I wasn’t eager to face the music, but I should have done so anyway.

“I love my wife, family, friends, staff and Idaho. But I love serving Idaho in Congress more. Over the years, I have accomplished nothing for Idaho, and I desperately hope Idahoans will allow me to continue to do that. There are still fascist goals I would like to accomplish and hypocrisy I’d like to revel in.  I still cling to the delusion that I can be an effective leader for the religious right. Next month, I will announce the fact that I will not seek re-election.  I am just putting this face-saving B.S. out there as a Hail Mary pass to see whether or not there are enough gullible troglodytes left in Idaho to vote me back into the Senate.  

“As an elected official, I fully realize that my life is open for public ridicule and scrutiny, and I take full responsibility for the “brilliant idea” of blaming the Media for exposing my hypocrisy and the mistake in judgment I made in attempting to handle this matter myself.”

“It is clear, though, that through my actions I am obviously lying to Idahohans and the American people. For that, I ask the people of Idaho on bended knee to please look the other way and let this pass down the memory hole like Vietnam, Watergate, Iran-Contra, Iraq, Impeachment, and all the rest of the crap in Washington. Pleeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeezzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzze let me be a Senator again!!!!!!!!”

Southern Political Report

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Complicating Harold Ford, Jr’s nascent bid for the Tennesse Governor’s mansion is the fact that Uncle John, a former state Senator, has been sentenced to 66 months in prison for taking bribes. The Memphis Commercial Appeal has the scoop:  

John Ford sentenced to 66 months in prison

John Ford was sentenced to 66 months in prison this morning for his April conviction of accepting $55,000 in bribes in the FBI’s Tennessee Waltz public corruption investigation.

U.S. Dist. Court Judge J. Daniel Breen carefully noted his interpretation of advisory federal guidelines that suggest enhanced punishment for factors such as the amount and number of bribes, threatening witnesses, acceptance of responsibility and the fact that Ford was an elected official.

The judge said he was not convinced that Ford truly believes he did anything wrong and that the sentence must be a deterrence to others.

“The court is not convinced that a reduction for acceptance of responsibility is warranted in this case,” Breen said. “This trial reflects a person of greed and avarice, but at the same time a man with the ability to help others. This is the tragic dichotomy of this case.

“The sentence, therefore, should reflect the serious nature of this offense.”

Breen said he would impose no fine.

Ford, who showed no reaction to the sentence, will remain free pending notification from the U.S. Bureau of Prisons when and where he will report.

Ford, 65, was one of 12 lawmakers or aides charged in the sweeping statewide investigation, 11 of whom have pleaded guilty or been convicted in trial.

Earlier this morning defense attorney Michael Scholl criticized the media and the government for “the persecution of John Ford” over the years.

“What I have seen is John Ford singled out in all of this,” Scholl told the judge, noting that other legislators have been convicted and faced lighter sentencing. “John Ford could have gone out and robbed and shot somebody and he would be facing less time than he is now. What I want to emphasize here is all the good that John Ford has done. We can’t just wipe out 30 years in the legislature.”

Witnesses have testified that the county has suffered in money it gets from the legislature because Ford is no longer there, Scholl added.

He also issued a plea for the judge to consider Ford’s support responsibilities for seven of his 12 children.

“John Ford has suffered for two years,” Scholl said. “They have taken everything he has. One of the things I’ve seen in this case is the awesome power of the government.”

Federal prosecutor Lorraine Craig said Scholl’s comments reflect the problems that the government has with Ford.

“He has been persecuted? He has suffered?” she said. “Is it a surprise that his family and friends did not see the side that we saw on those (undercover) tapes? This was Mr. Ford, the man who makes the deals. The man who goes first class. That’s the Mr. Ford we saw.”

She said Ford accepts no responsibility for his offense.

“The only thing he says he did wrong was that he trusted too much,” Craig told the judge. “No one persecuted Mr. Ford. He is here in this courtroom because of his own criminal conduct.”

 Speaking of Memphis Politics, Nikki Tinker, the corporate protege of Harold Ford, Jr is ramping up her campaign to take back Tennessee’s Ninth Congressional District for the Congressional Black Caucus against Steve Cohen.  The Memphis Commercial Appeal has the scoop:

WASHINGTON — Nikki Tinker began her 2008 campaign for the 9th Congressional District seat the night she lost the Democratic Party Primary to Steve Cohen last August by just 4,459 votes.

Cohen did too.

Cohen, who is white, says voters in Memphis will consider the job he’s doing rather than his skin color in deciding whether to re-elect him. Meanwhile, he tells anyone who will listen that he votes with the sensitivities of a black woman.

He and others suspect that a recent brouhaha among members of the Baptist Ministerial Association over his support of hate crimes legislation may be the opening salvo in a battle that Tinker would like to have center on, as she puts it, changing “the face and pace of our leadership.”

Tinker did not respond to repeated phone calls for this story, but her Washington-based spokesman, Cornell Belcher, explained Friday that she’s not interested in talking issues or Cohen’s record yet.

“Here’s where we are, to be straight with you: At this point, we want her talking to voters and raising money,” said Belcher, a partner in Brilliant Corners Research and Strategies. Talking about her differences with Cohen “is something that we really would rather not get into right now. … It will come, but it’s just not going to come right now.”

Cohen isn’t waiting. He says he doesn’t know where his opponent stands on most issues, and points out she’s never cast a legislative vote.

Tinker has spoken to the ministerial association and arranged for the company she works for as general counsel to provide a free airplane ride to members of the ministers’ congregations in June — after declaring her candidacy. Pinnacle Airlines flew the group in circles around Memphis on June 23 but, through spokesman R. Phillip Reed Jr., said the flight was “not directly or indirectly associated with the Tinker for Congress campaign.”

The ministers say the hate crimes bill passed by the House would limit what they could say about homosexuality from their pulpits, although the language of the law indicates it won’t. It’s pending in the Senate.

Among those who suspect that politics is involved in the hate crimes issue is Downtown developer Henry Turley, who has been Cohen’s campaign treasurer since he ran for the Shelby County Commission in the late 1970s.

“You can’t help but wonder, is this an effort to discredit Cohen?” Turley said last week. “It certainly makes you wonder since it’s an incorrect or spurious charge. …Why would they make that incorrect statement? … Why would someone say that unless there was an agenda?”

The issue didn’t draw fire during Ford’s terms. Records show Ford co-sponsored the hate crimes bill, broadening federal jurisdiction over crimes motivated by the victim’s sexual orientation, four times between 1997 and 2004 and voted for it in 2005. His stance never made headlines or drew criticism from the churches.

Turley said Tinker’s prodigious fund-raising in 2006 was impressive and he attributed it to two things: the influence of her boss, Philip H. Trenary, CEO of Pinnacle Airlines, and her endorsement by the pro-abortion rights group Emily’s List, whose acronym stands for Early Money Is Like Yeast.

Some in Memphis publicly objected to Tinker receiving the February 2006 endorsement, saying Cohen’s abortion rights bona fides were better established, but hundreds of thousands of dollars poured in for Tinker from across the country.

A spokesman for Emily’s List, Ramona Oliver, said last week that no decision on an endorsement in the 9th Congressional District race has been made.

Cohen acknowledges he’s asked “a few people at the national level” to help derail future Emily’s List endorsement. The group endorses women only.

“I’d be shocked if Emily’s List would get involved in this election,” Cohen said.

African American State Senator Vivian Davis Figures is gearing up to challenge ignorant confederate incumbent U.S. Senator Jefferson Sessions in 2008

MOBILE — Democratic State Sen. Vivian Figures said Saturday she is running against Republican U.S. Sen. Jeff Sessions in the 2008 election, pledging to give Alabama “new progressive leadership.”

Figures, 50, made her announcement at Mobile Government Plaza where she began her political career in 1993 on the City Council. She moved from the council into her husband Michael Figures’ legislative seat after his death in 1996 and has served 11 years.

Sessions, 60, also of Mobile, won his second term in 2002 and will seek re-election. No other challengers have announced plans to run.

Senator Figures is delusional if she thinks she can win in Alabama.

Turning to Louisiana, State Treasurer John Neely Kennedy announced his change of party from Democratic to Republican in preparation for a run for U.S. Senate against Democratic Senator Mary Landrieu, in 2008:

Sen. Mary Landrieu (D-LA)

BATON ROUGE — State Treasurer John Kennedy has switched political parties and will seek re-election to a third term this fall as a Republican, he announced Monday.

The change immediately vaults Kennedy to the top of the list of potential challengers to U.S. Sen. Mary Landrieu, D-La, who is up for re-election to a third term in 2008 and is considered vulnerable by national Republicans.

Kennedy has been publicly considering the party switch for months, and he has become an increasingly ascerbic critic of Gov. Kathleen Blanco and the Democratic leaders in the House and Senate on a variety of spending issues. 

In an e-mail message to supporters, Kennedy cited “certain fixed, bedrock principles” that he believes are more in line with the Republican Party than the Democrats, and said GOP officials have been more responsive to his proposals in recent years.

“For the past several years, it has increasingly been the case that those public servants who have embraced my ideas and my philosophy of trying new approaches are primarily Republicans,” Kennedy wrote.

He had been courted to switch parties by U.S. Sen. David Vitter, R-La., and met recently with senior White House aide Karl Rove to discuss the matter.

The switch comes at a time when Republicans are losing ground nationally, having lost control of the U.S. House and Senate in the 2006 mid-term elections, but appear to be ascendant in Louisiana, where U.S. Rep. Bobby Jindal, R-Kenner, enjoys a wide lead in the governor’s race.

Gonzales resigns

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Hat Tip: by Todd J. Gilman, Dallas Morning News

WASHINGTON – Al Gonzales was a corporate lawyer with little political experience when Texas’ newly elected governor stopped by his office to size him up. They hit it off instantly, the scion of a political dynasty and the son of migrant workers.

Mr. Gonzales became counsel to the governor, and for the last dozen years, hitched his career to that of his patron.

But the ride has ended. Mr. Gonzales announced his resignation Monday morning after more than two years as the nation’s first Hispanic attorney general. He submitted the resignation to the president last Friday, and the president accepted Sunday during a meeting at his ranch in Crawford, Texas.

“It has been one of my greatest privileges to lead the Department of Justice,” Gonzales said, announcing his resignation effective Sept. 17 in a terse statement. He took no questions and gave no reason for stepping down.

The announcement ends a months-long battle with Republican and Democratic critics who said Mr. Gonzales should be forced out over the handling of FBI terrorism investigations and the firing of U.S. attorneys.

It’s sad that we live in a time when a talented and honorable person like Alberto Gonzales is impeded from doing important work because his good name was dragged through the mud for political reasons,” President Bush said Monday in Waco, portraying Mr. Gonzales as the victim of “months of unfair treatment.”

Mr. Bush called him “a man of integrity, decency and principle,” and touted among Mr. Gonzales’ accomplishments some of the same legislation and policies that have most angered civil liberties groups, including the Patriot Act and the law allowing accused terrorists to stand trial by military commission.

Solicitor General Paul Clement will be acting attorney general until a replacement is found and confirmed by the Senate, Bush said.

Homeland Security chief Michael Chertoff was among those mentioned as possible successors, though a senior administration official said the matter had not been raised with Chertoff. Bush leaves Washington next Monday for Australia, and Gonzales’ replacement might not be named by then, the official said.

When Mr. Gonzales moved to the White House, he became the legal architect of some of the administration’s most controversial policies – on torture, domestic snooping, detention of terror suspects – and a central player in fights over reshaping the judiciary to the president’s liking.

It was a mutually beneficial relationship, until the uproar over the bungled, politically charged firings of U.S. attorneys.

“They just bonded. Al is a very, very fine lawyer. He has a way of being direct and thorough and was just a great counselor, a great consigliere,” said Houston attorney Pat Oxford, a longtime friend of the president who was with him that day in Houston, when Mr. Gonzales’ career turned and Mr. Bush became his sole client. “It’s worked perfectly, until this moment.”

The Harvard-trained lawyer from Humble, Texas, loyally protected George W. Bush’s secrets and pushed the Bush agenda through five assignments, endearing himself with utter discretion on such matters as the governor’s youthful brushes with the law, and with valued legal advice on such knotty topics as death row clemency requests..

Mr. Gonzales worked for Mr. Bush as counsel to the governor, Texas secretary of state, justice on the state supreme court, White House counsel and, finally, U.S. attorney general – a cabinet post, the nation’s top law enforcement official, an achievement far beyond the dreams of his immigrant parents.

It was a meteoric rise, and a spectacular fall.

Critics say Mr. Gonzales can blame himself for the bungled firings, providing Congress with contradictory and misleading explanations and opening the administration to allegations of cronyism, politically-motivated interference and plain bad judgment.

“Embodying the American dream is not sufficient reason to serve as attorney general,” Senate Democratic Leader Harry Reid of Nevada said recently. “The attorney general of the United States is the people’s lawyer, not the president’s lawyer.”

Now, it’s back to private life for Mr. Gonzales. Mr. Oxford said in a recent interview that, “Any law firm in America would be honored to have Al Gonzales. … His career is still on the upward trajectory.”

The departure lets the president shed a major political albatross, but also costs him a longtime confidant. And it marks the near-purge of Mr. Bush’s Texas inner circle. Political guru Karl Rove’s last day at the White House is later this week. Adviser Dan Bartlett and White House counsel Harriet Miers, a former Dallas councilwoman, quit earlier this year.

It’s not clear why, after months of demands for his firing, Mr. Gonzales finally succumbed.

Texas Sen. John Cornyn, speaking Monday morning on Fox News, called it a “sad day” and blamed a “hyperpartisan atmosphere” in Washington for the attorney general’s ouster.

“I think he was probably just worn down by the criticism,” said Mr. Cornyn who, like Mr. Gonzales, had served as a justice on the Texas Supreme Court. “I guess Al Gonzales had had enough.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy, D-Vt., said Mr. Gonzales had turned the Justice Department into “a political arm of the White House,” and had “suffered a severe crisis of leadership that allowed our justice system to be corrupted by political influence.”

House Judiciary Chairman John Conyers Jr., D-Mich., emphasized the “cloud of suspicion” that continues to hang over the attorney general.

Accusing him of manipulating the nation’s justice system for partisan political gains, Mr. Conyers indicated that Congress will keep pressing the administration for more details about political motives behind the firing of U.S. attorneys. “The continued stonewalling of the White House in the U.S. Attorney scandal has deprived the American people of the truth. If the power of the prosecutor has been misused in the name of partisanship, we deserve a full airing of the facts,” Mr. Conyers said.

Matthew Orwig, a Dallas lawyer who served President Bush for more than five years as chief federal prosecutor in East Texas, said Mr. Gonzales still has plenty of friends in Texas and will be welcomed home “with open arms” – and, probably, a decent private sector job.

But “whether he’s at the height of his marketability – that’s been somewhat devalued. Even his friends will have to say that his term was not successful,” said Mr. Orwig, who stepped down three months ago as U.S. Attorney and is now managing partner at Sonnenschein Nath & Rosenthal’s Dallas office.

“To a person, every one of the US attorneys who was asked to leave has more talent and integrity than the people who wanted them to leave, and I still don’t think there’s any plausible explanation of a good reason for the administration to ask them to leave,” Mr. Orwig said. “…At the beginning of his term people were concerned that Al Gonzales didn’t have the experience or talent to be attorney general, and by the end of his term people were concerned that Al just didn’t have the character. Why he held on, I don’t know.”

The Associated Press contributed to this report

Bishop Weeks: The Devil made me do it.

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Juanita bynum's husband

Hat Tip: by S.A. Reid, Atlanta Journal Constitution 

Global Destiny Ministries members on Sunday circled their spiritual wagons around their pastor, Bishop Thomas Weeks III, now charged with beating his estranged wife, the nationally known evangelist Juanita Bynum.

Most congregants approached for interviews after Sunday’s 8 a.m. service declined to comment on the marital problems of Weeks, 40, and Bynum, 48.

Those who did urged caution in taking sides in the issue and passing judgment on two people they consider spiritual giants, but also human.

“There are three sides to every story,” said Clarkston’s Shannon Mayers, a frequent visitor. “Nobody has the right to judge anybody. God is in the midst of that and will work it out.”

Member Maurice Adams, 26, of Atlanta said he was disappointed to hear the news but still considers Weeks his bishop.

“We all make mistakes. He deserves another opportunity,” Adams said. “I’m hurt, but I do respect him for being man enough to show his face today.”

Weeks took the pulpit two days after his surrender to authorities in connection with the alleged attack on Bynum. His remarks included appreciation for the prayers and support that he said have come in for him and his wife and thanks to those in attendance in spite of the controversy.

Weeks sparked thunderous applause and cheers when he asked members to tell those seated next to them: “We’ve got certain things going on right now, but I refuse to stop coming to the house God built.”

Weeks, wearing a dark suit and his customary bow tie, blamed the devil for the accusation that has him facing two felony charges. He didn’t, however, offer any specifics before introducing a guest minister who preached in his stead, then exiting the room.

The bishop is charged with aggravated assault for allegedly choking, kicking and hitting Bynum on Tuesday night in a parking lot at the Renaissance Concourse Hotel and with making terroristic threats to kill her. Both are felonies.

After turning himself in, he spent six hours in the Fulton County Jail before being released on $40,000 bond Friday.

The couple reportedly met at the Renaissance to talk about reconciliation after having been separated for several months.

Bynum, known for her fiery sermons that empower women, has been in seclusion since the attack and was not present at Sunday’s 8 a.m. service.

Global Destiny is a ministry the couple co-founded and pastor. In addition to Duluth, other church locations are in Los Angeles, Washington and London.

The charges are only the latest of Weeks’ troubles.

Authorities went to his Duluth home in June to serve an eviction notice.

Six months earlier, a former employee complained to police that Weeks got physical with her in escorting her from the church property.

Weeks is due in Fulton County Superior Court on Sept. 7.

Michael Vick’s Hall of Shame

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AMFOOT-NFL-FALCONS-VICK-DOGS

Hat Tip: Michael Wilbon, Washington Post 

It’s right there in black and white, on page 9 of the papers Michael Vick and his attorneys filed in federal court yesterday. Vick agrees and stipulates that he himself helped kill dogs. Damn. The exact words are “collective efforts.” Vick admits he participated in this ruthless act with his co-defendants. It’s no longer an allegation or simply the word of some ex-friends ratting him out to save their own hides. It’s Michael Vick, star NFL quarterback, admitting he endorsed the killing of dogs by methods including hanging and drowning. Wow. That’s the showstopper for a lot of us, not whether he’s guilty of a conspiracy charge, not even that his dogfighting enterprise involved illegal gambling activities.

Of course, it’s all one big sordid mess, from the dog killings to the gambling and lying about everything, which led NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell to announce yesterday afternoon that Vick would be suspended indefinitely. Of course, he needs to be sent away for a while. The statements of facts are even worse than many of us expected. Turns out it’s just as the co-conspirators said, just as Vick’s estranged daddy said when he told The Washington Post and the Atlanta Journal-Constitution this week that his boy has been involved in dogfighting for years.

Personally, I’d like to see Vick locked in a cage with six to eight of those pit bulls and nothing but his hands to use in his own defense.

Goodness, yes, an eye for an eye is sometimes the only just punishment.

Short of that, Vick needs to simply go away for a while. Don’t expect a long discussion here on whether he should or shouldn’t have the chance to play again. He should. If he pays his debt to society in the way this country’s legal system demands, and if somebody in the free market that is the NFL wants to employ him once he is reinstated, then he should play and face whatever the consequences might be.

And yes, Goodell is going to provide Vick with the chance to be reinstated at some point. When? Who knows. Maybe before the 2009 season, perhaps 2010. Even with what the NFL calls “lifetime bans” for players who have run afoul of the league’s substance abuse policy for a third time, there is opportunity for reinstatement.

The moronic Vick apologists will want to spin this ahead and say, “It’s behind him now” when it’s anything but behind him. It’ll take years to put this behind him. People will be harder on Vick for this than they would be for battering his wife, the logic of which, frankly, escapes me. Still, if Vick thinks his 4.4 speed will allow him to quickly outrun this he’s so wrong.

No, it’s all in front of us to digest, like Vick admitting that he provided most of the “Bad Newz Kennels” operational and gambling funds. You think that doesn’t scare the NFL? A star quarterback involved in the enterprise that attracts all manner of people looking for “inside” information and a way to manipulate the nation’s most important sport for huge financial gain? The gambling admission scares the NFL more than the dog killings because the G-word brings it all a little too close to home.

This whole Michael Vick episode just gets sleazier every day. Even while revealing to reporters that he tried to get his son to stop being involved with dogfighting, Vick’s daddy, Michael Boddie, reveals himself as a total sleaze. It was chilling to read the sentence from one of the interviews with him: “I wish people would stop sugarcoating it. This is Mike’s thing.” It’s not that I doubt the father’s word in this instance, just that his motives are so obvious and he’s so brazen in setting up what he hopes will be a money grab.

His boy, remember, is paying his rent. His boy, the QB, has been giving him cash payments every month to keep pop flush. And what does daddy do after asking for $1 million then $700,000, but rat him out? Hey, now that the meal ticket has blown more than $100 million of a $130 million contract, not to mention tens of millions in endorsement contracts, appearance fees and perks, the old man has to market himself, right?

Can’t you just see daddy coming out with a tell-all book of his own in the coming months to try and cash in the only way he can?

Sometimes when you look at the father you’ll get a hint into why the son has no clue as to accountability or even humanity.

Now, all that’s left are the pictures and sound of Vick in court in Richmond on Monday, Vick in the orange jumpsuit or whatever color it is as he walks into prison, and Vick being interviewed by Larry King or Barbara Walters or maybe on the “Tom Joyner Morning Show” as he tries to begin his personal rehabilitation. Every step along the way, for the five weeks since Vick was indicted, we think it can’t get any worse, any more bizarre, any more unsavory. But it does, and with reaction that this is sure to elicit, with the protests and examinations of race and culture and how we try to make sense of something that is so senseless, it shouldn’t surprise anybody if this story simply keeps on keeping on.

John Singleton involved in fatal L.A. accident

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HAT TIP: TMZ 

John Singleton, acclaimed director of “Boyz in the Hood,” was involved in a fatal accident Thursday night in Los Angeles.

LAPD officers tell TMZ Singleton was driving his 2001 Lexus SUV around 8:00 p.m. on a Los Angeles street when a female pedestrian, not in a crosswalk, suddenly stepped out in front of Singleton’s car. Police say Singleton immediately stopped and waited for police and ambulances to arrive. The 57-year-old woman, identified as Constance Russell of Los Angeles, was taken to a nearby hospital where she unfortunately died Friday morning.

Police tell TMZ Singleton was not speeding at the time and was not under the influence of alcohol or drugs. Cops say their investigation has concluded and they’ve determined that this is a “very, very unfortunate accident.”

Singleton will not be cited for any violation.

A call placed to Singleton’s agent was not immediately returned

Juanita Bynum domestic violence saga

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photo by psalm 11, courtesy of flickr

Hat Tip: D. Aileen Dodd, Mike Morris, Atlanta Journal Constitution  

Thomas Weeks, the 54-year-old bishop who shares an international ministry with estranged wife Juanita Bynum, was released on bond Friday after surrendering on charges that he assaulted his wife.

Weeks spent about six hours inside the Fulton County Jail before emerging at 1:40 p.m., holding a finger to his lips to signal that he had no comment. He climbed into the passenger seat of a silver, four-door Jaguar and rode away.

In a brief hearing at the jail, bond was set at $30,000 on a charge of aggravated assault and $10,000 on a charge of terroristic threats, and a magistrate ordered Weeks to have no contact with Bynum or her sister, Tina Culpepper. Weeks, dressed in a gray suit and bow tie, sat silently in the small jail courtroom, his cuffed hands in his lap.

His next hearing will be Sept. 7 in Fulton County Superior Court.

Bynum, a fiery national evangelist whose sermons empower women to walk away from dead-end relationships, was allegedly struck by her husband Tuesday in a hotel parking lot after the pair had dinner together to discuss a reconciliation.

Police said Bynum, 48, has been whisked away by family as they decide what to do next.

A lawyer for Weeks said he will continue his ministry and try to reconcile with his wife after the allegations are dealt with.

“He is extremely sad over the events that have taken place,” said Edward Garland, one of the two attorneys representing Weeks. “I think there is hope on his part that the relationship can get past these difficult moments.

“He has never had any accusation of any sort like this from her or anyone esle,” said Garland. “There are a lot of circumstances surrounding these events that will be explained at a later time. He is turning it over to the court system at this point.”

Weeks, Garland said, will meet with “a variety of pastors over which he presides, and with his father, who is a minister, and he’s going to make a prayerful decision as to how he proceeds. He’s dedicated his whole life to the ministry, and we’re very hopeful that he will be able to continue to lead the ministry.”

Bynum and Weeks are co-founders of Global Destiny Church in Duluth. They were married in 2002 in a lavish televised wedding that featured a 7.76-carat diamond ring. They separated three months ago, said Bynum’s sister, Tina Culpepper.

According to an Atlanta police incident report, Bynum said her husband “choked her, pushed her down, kicked and stomped her.”

She told police Weeks “continued stomping” her into the ground until a hotel bell man pulled him away. Police also said Weeks threatened Bynum’s life.

Culpepper said the couple was meeting for dinner at Concorde Grill in the Renaissance Concourse Hotel near Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport Tuesday night.

Police said the couple had met to work out their differences. Things soured, and Weeks walked out to the parking lot about 10:30 p.m., police said. He then turned back around and attacked her, said Officer Ron Campbell.

Weeks also threatened Bynum’s life during the attack, police said. “Anytime you tell a person, ‘I’m going to kill you,’ that moves it up to a felony,” Campbell said.

The bruises found on Bynum also were serious enough to bring felony aggravated assault charges against Weeks.

In a comment posted on her MySpace page, the Pentecostal evangelist said, “I am currently recovering from all of my injuries and resting well … this too shall pass.”

Her publicist, Amy Malone, said Bynum wants to keep the matter private.

“People are interpreting it to mean the two of them were fighting,” Malone said. “They were not fighting. She was assaulted.”

Clergy across metro Atlanta said they were saddened by the news of the public beating of Bynum, a respected “prophetess” whose star rose under the leadership of Bishop T.D. Jakes. Bynum is one of the leading speakers at Megafast, which has attracted hundreds of thousands of people to metro Atlanta in recent years.

Mixing love and ministerial work can take its toll on relationship for pastors with successful followings, clergy say.

“It is tremendously hard to balance a relationship,” said the Rev. Cynthia L. Hale, pastor of Ray of Hope Christian Church. “If you happen to be more successful than your spouse or make more money or have greater prestige that is where the challenge comes in. There are many men who are secure in life, but there are also men who are insecure and they have struggled with having their wives [or girlfriends] excel in ways they don’t.”

Weeks has retained two lawyers: the well-known Garland, who in the past has represented NFL star Ray Lewis in his murder trial and millionaire James Sullivan, who ordered the murder of his socialite wife; and Louis Tesser.

The couple had a home in Duluth, Culpepper said. Upon their separation, Bynum moved to Waycross, where her administrative offices are located.

Members of a Georgia non-profit group, Love for All People, were working late Thursday to hire two bodyguards to protect Bynum. Culpepper said Bynum was appreciative but that it would not be necessary.

Word of the public fight spread to clergy across metro Atlanta who have either met the couple or know of them.

Once a homemaker, a hairdresser and a flight attendant, Bynum’s big break came when televangelist Bishop T.D. Jakes invited her to speak at one of his conferences several years ago.

Jakes, who has worked closely with Bynum, had no comment, his spokeswoman said.

Operators at Bynum’s ministry in Waycross, Juanita Bynum Ministries, asked the public “to be in prayer for her.”

Laura Richardson’s brush with racism shaped future

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Hat Tip: Rachel Kapouchunas, CQ Politics

Personal acquaintance with racism has prompted many members of minority groups to enter the political arena. But few say they had that path set for them as young as Laura.

Richardson, the Democratic state lawmaker from California who on Tuesday won a special election runoff to become the newest member — and the 40th African-American — in the current U.S. House.

Richardson related to CQPolitics.com prior to the runoff in California’s 37th District that she is a child of a mixed-race marriage, with a African-American father and a Caucasian mother who divorced. Richardson said she watched her mother struggle with racism as she raised her and her sister in California during the turbulent 1960s, and recalled as a young child asking her mother why strangers threw eggs at their car and cursed at them while they shopped at stores.

“My mother tried to explain all those things to me, but eventually she just said to me, ‘You should be a person who makes better laws,’” said Richardson, who now is 45 years old. “And that’s what got me since the age of about six of wanting to be a public servant.” She added that her mother exposed her to politics and the news.

Richardson’s career trajectory is symbolic of the political progress made by African-Americans over recent decades. She won the special election to succeed the late Rep. Juanita Millender-McDonald, also a black Democrat, who was Richardson’s former boss and whose mentorship helped Richardson launch her own political career in local office and the California Assembly. Millender-McDonald’s death of cancer on April 22 created the vacancy that Richardson will fill after Congress returns to work from its summer recess.

In fact, the special election primary that ensured Richardson’s ultimate victory in the overwhelmingly Democratic 37th put a different spin on racial politics in the “minority-majority” district, which is located in Los Angeles County and is centered on the city of Long Beach.

Black activists who wanted to maintain African-American representation in the district mainly rallied around Richardson. Hispanics, who now make up a larger share of the district’s population but whose voting participation has lagged, found a candidate to champion in Democratic state Sen. Jenny Oropeza.

Running in a single-ballot June 26 primary that included a total of 17 candidates — 11 of them Democrats — Richardson prevailed by 37 percent to 31 percent over Oropeza. Though Richardson fell short of the majority vote needed for an outright victory, the seven-week runoff campaign was a formality: She won Tuesday’s contest with two-thirds of the total vote and a margin of well more than 2-to-1 over the Republican nominee, police sergeant and Iraq war veteran John M. Kanaley.

Though race and ethnicity were inescapable factors, particularly in the primary, Richardson told CQPolitics.com she was “disappointed” that most of the news coverage was focused on these matters rather than the candidates’ views on policy issues.

“I don’t run only from the basis of being African-American,” Richardson said. “That’s who I am, but when I’m running, I’m running to represent the people in my area, whoever they might be.”

Richardson believes her educational background — including a master’s degree in business — and her years working in the private sector combined with her political experience to boost her to a win. Before her six-year stint as a Long Beach City councilwoman, Richardson worked for Democratic Lt. Gov. Cruz Bustamante, and prior to that, as a field deputy for Millender-McDonald.

Richardson states that public officials should advocate for issues that may not be popular and speak out for those who lack a strong voice in the political process. She will be representing a district that includes some of the state’s most underprivileged communities as well as a large portion of middle-class Long Beach. Minorities make up almost 85 percent of the population in the district: More than two-fifths of the total population is Hispanic and about one quarter of the district’s residents are African-American.

Richardson said she was eager to continue some of the late congresswoman’s legacies, such as her practice of holding “senior briefings” for residents in the district, which offered issue lessons on topics such as elder abuse and identity theft.

Richardson also intends to work with the late congresswoman’s daughter, Valerie McDonald, on remedying disparities in the health care system. McDonald was one of Richardson’s competitors in the special election primary.

Richardson would like to improve the region’s education and transportation systems and also reduce the number of unemployed residents in her district. She said the jobless rate in the 37th hovers close to 14 percent. Richardson also hopes encourage Congress to re-examine trade agreements which she believe do not help domestic unemployment rates.

The war in Iraq and its financial impact on the country are among Richardson’s major concerns.

“I just find it’s ironic that we can find money to fight a war but we can’t find money to help our own people in our communities,” Richardson said. She added that redeploying troops and placing the National Guard back in the states “can’t happen soon enough.”

Richardson likely will take liberal stances on many issues that will make her a reliable vote for the Democratic Party leadership. She already has been strongly critical of President Bush, to whom she has penned letters slamming his education, health care and Iraq policies — which she posted on her campaign Web site.

She hopes to win an assignment to the coveted Ways and Means Committee, but noted she would be pleased to serve on the Transportation or Homeland Security committees.

Richardson is cognizant of the fact she will enter Congress mid-session but said the outpouring of support she’s already received from members has helped her to feel comfortable entering her new position.

In addition, she portrays herself as having a strong work ethic that will help establish her early as an active participant in the lawmaking process.

“What I believe people know about me and respect about me is that I work extremely hard,” Richardson said. “I’m not going to Washington to go to another chicken dinner. That’s not what we’re here to do. We’re here to work.”

The Audacity of Evasion: Barack Obama and the Reparations debate

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Barack Obama nimbly evaded the question of reparations last month in CNN’s Youtube debate and tried to turn the question toward something more “mainstream” in calling for more funding for education for our schools.  It was a deliberate and craven deception that calls into question his true love for African people in this country and throughout the diaspora.

While increasing numbers of us are singing Kumbaya with white liberals over his ground-breaking candidacy, there are people like me who believe that his reparations equivocation is yet another affirmation of white supremacist capitalist patriarchy. 

Obama, a former constitutional law professor, rarely sprinkles any of his stump speeches with critical race theory. Some of our contributors, like NMP and yogo, are lawyers and have found no contradiction between support of Obama or Hillary and their support for the African American community.  I am not so sanguine.  

One candidate had the cohones to support reparations for African Americans and Congressman Kucinich is to be commended.  Hillary, Biden, Richardson, and Dodd didn’t comment.   Edwards and Obama shot the idea down and yet we still shout Barack’s name from the rooftops.  Why?

Obama’s peers in the constitutional law community are not so sanguine either, and many have written extensively  regarding the need for and the ample legal precedent supporting the call for slave reparations.  I’d like to explore some of those with you here. 

Professor David Hall of Northeastern University School of Law has written, “Reparation is deeply rooted in the American legal system.  All first-year law students during their course in contracts are made aware of the contractual injury of unjust enrichment.  The legal remedy for unjust enrichment is restitution, one of the three main remedies for contractual breaches.”

“Reparation, though generally thought of as applying to collective or group remedies, is merely another form of the historic and accepted remedy of restitution.  Some authors have presuasively demonstrated how restitution, and thus reparation, in addition to their longstanding legal tradition, have deep spiritual roots within various religious traditions.  Thus, our culture and our legal system have a long-standing affinity with these remedies.”

Opponents downplay and reject the concept of historical enrichment by their ancestors and question the necessity for restitution. Alfreda Robinson, Associate Dean of the George Washington University Law School has written, “In contrast, reparations opponents contend that reparations discouse and demands for reparations unnecessarily “trouble ‘settled’ waters.”  In their view, reparations discourse creates racial and ethnic strife by resurrecting painful memories that Americans would rather forget.” 

“Reparations opponents further argue that the reparations debate wastes sparse intellectual, social, political, and economic resources that African Americans should direct elsewhere, that it focuses on ancient claims, blames inappropriately present day white Americans for the sins of their deceased ancestors and racial blood group, and holds African Americans captive to an underserved and debilitating victim’s image.”

This seems to be the side that Obama’s on.  The side that would rather not have this discussion and the side the rejects out of hand a discourse of restitution.   His collegues reject that handkerchief head talk and have moved forward to initiate litigation despite the presence of resistance. 

Again, Professor Hall, “Despite this resistance, the idea of reparations for African Americans for the atrocities and unjust gains of slavery and the slave trade has now reached center stage.  The prominence is due in large part to recent lawsuits that have been filed against corporations, and against govermental entities.  But reparations for African Americans is not a new topic or issue. It has always been with us, yet we have always managed to keep it locked up in the closets of our collective consciousness.”

The question of restitution is clearly locked up in the double consciousness of former Harvard Law Review President Barack Obama, and will not ever be set free as long as he believes himself to be a viable Presidential candidate.  Y’all may not like that, but it’s the damn truth.  I see no need to let the “Safe Negro” slide on that.   In the place of reparations, we see the cruel and deceptive attempt to graft the candidacy of Obama, as if by its mere existence, it has the power to heal the deep wounds of genocide, slavery, and white supremacy. It doesn’t. 

The healing that needs to take place can only take place by advancing the discourse reparations and by creating a framework that leads to resititution.  Professor Hall writes, “As we go through the difficult and technical issues related to reparations in the context of American slavery and racism, it is important not to lose sight of the spiritual dimensions and realities of this remedy within this context. For if understood properly, we could begin to see that reparations, like all legal remedies, are attempting to do more than just transfer resources form one party to another.

“The legal system, through its system of remedies, is also trying to address deep wounds and restore broken relationships.  If there is a compelling scenario where psychic wounds and broken spirits exist, it is within the collective experience of slavery and racism in America.  Reparations, despite its long delay and its numerous procedural and substantive challenges, offers this nation a great opportunity for spiritual cleansing.”

Healing and spiritual cleansing are both advanced subliminally by the Obama campaign as traits he has the capacity to bring to our nation as President.  The reality is that we”ll get neither if he doesn’t have the courage to acknowledge the necessity for reparations.  The conundrum of power in this country is that those who demonstrate the cohones to lead rarely get elected or stay elected to do so.

Bloomberg bows out

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 Michael Bloomberg Takes Press Questions at The Commonwealth Club of California

 Hat Tip: By Rachel Capochunas, CQ Politics

New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg issued a definitive-sounding denial that he will run for president in 2008 during an interview with television newsman Dan Rather taped for airing on the HDNet cable network Tuesday night.

And Bloomberg, according to a partial transcript provided to CQPolitics by HDNet, is outdoing even the famed non-candidacy announcement of 19th century Republican William Tecumseh Sherman.

When the Civil War general made his “Shermanesque” statement rejecting entreaties that he run for the 1884 GOP nomination, he acknowledged the possibility that he might win, stating that he would not serve if elected. Bloomberg, on the other hand, tells Rather that “nobody’s going to elect me president of the United States.”

This is not a matter, according to the transcript, of self-doubt on Bloomberg’s part. Instead, the longtime Democrat who won for mayor in 2001 and 2005 as a Republican moderate and then switched again this June to independent contends that his willingness to take politically contrary views would limit his appeal as a national candidate.

Bloomberg stressed that his beliefs are not “tailored to what is politically popular.” continuing, “I believe that certain things and if somebody asks me where I stand, I tell them. And that’s not a way to get elected generally.”

The comments came after Rather raised the speculation that Bloomberg, a billionaire media magnate, might stage an independent presidential bid — a topic that has drawn intensified interest since Bloomberg, who holds strongly liberal views on most social issues, quit the Republican Party earlier this year.

When asked by the former longtime CBS Evening News anchorman if he would run, Bloomberg first simply stated “no.” When Rather pressed further, asking if there were any circumstances under which Bloomberg would run for president, Bloomberg first responded that he didn’t know, then added, “If I don’t say ‘no’ categorically, you’ll then read something into it. The answer is no.”

Laura Richardson coronation today

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The run-off election to replace the late Juanita Millender McDonald will take place this evening and California State Representative Laura Richardson can take her place as the newest member of the Congressional Black Caucus.   There has been little news to report in the last several days and I’ve been trying to put some finishing touches on a few opinion pieces. 

This past Sunday’s debate was interesting in that it didn’t really make any news.  Obama did quite well and Hillary held her own as usual and tried to stay above the fray.   The state of the Iowa race is still in flux but it now appears that from two of the latest polls that Mrs. Clinton has opened up a lead in both Iowa and South Carolina.   Her South Carolina lead is statistically insignificant over Obama.   If Iowa doesn’t go Hillary’s way, South Carolina will become a significant battle ground.

Tell me what’s on your minds.   Consider this an open thread. 

A recipe for indifference

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I love cooking shows and the Food Network.  I’ve been bothered by the lack of ethnic diversity on the channel, but I am buoyed by creative and cheerful southern cooks and restaurateurs like Paula Deen.   Miss Paula is probably my favorite. People with her charm and warmth are part of what make living in the south tolerable.   Her recipes are full of rich ingredients and served with love.    It’s more than just cooking for Miss Paula; it’s almost her way of saying thank you to God for the many blessings he’s bestowed, and for the comfort of good food, good friends, and close family.   

Fine dining is a combination of all of those important ingredients and she understands that intuitively.  Like entertaining and fine dining, column writing is an art.  Among the ingredients of good column writing:  a sense of humor, a strong vocabulary, and the ability to tell a story.    George Will, the conservative Washington Post Columnist that also has a gig on ABC’s public affairs program, “This Week with George Stephanopoulos,” is reputed to be a columnist of legendary prowess.   

He and other conservatives have overplayed the sanctimony in their crocodile tear commentary over the last several years.  We’ve been consistently treated to well coordinated campaigns of right–wing talking points while they’ve been surreptitiously engaged in a long ideological march to remake our courts in their overwhelmingly white, right-wing and indifferent image.   George Will’s latest Sunday column is no different.  However, along with a dash of tasty hypocrisy and indifference, he also adds some special ingredients: fantasy and prevarication. 

Will measured the ingredients in his column to deliberately poison people like me with severe allergies to white supremacist capitalist patriarchy.  Will’s foils this week are liberals, and by extension, Barack Obama.  Obama announced his “opposition” to the Leslie Southwick nomination some time back.  As I’ve said before, he must do a helluva lot more than issue a press release to stop my criticism. He gon’ hafta do some heavy lifting’ instead of going through the motions of opposition as he usually does.  

Anyhoo, Will does a great job of minimizing the racial insensitivity of this nomination and this nominee.  He has the audacity to criticize African American critics of this nomination and dismisses out of hand the fact that only one African American sits on the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals and more than 37 percent of Mississippians are African American, Will says, “This “diversity” argument suggests that courts should be considered representative institutions, like legislatures, and that the theory of categorical representation is valid: people of a particular race, ethnicity or gender can be understood and properly represented only by people of that same category.”   

I hate taking mofo’s to school, but I’m forced to in this instance. First, Will’s argument with respect to the courts not being representative institutions, like legislatures, is totally, and completely disingenuous.  We all know that for purposes of ideology, the makeup of the courts are methodically tracked by liberals and conservatives alike and any omission that fails to recognize this constitutes hypocrisy.    

According to the Alliance for Justice,  “Judge Southwick’s views are especially critical because the Fifth Circuit has been subject to extraordinary partisan engineering: during the Clinton administration the Republican Senate blocked two moderate nominees to that court to hold seats open for the next president. For one of the seats, President Clinton first submitted a nominee in mid-1997; for the other he submitted a nominee in early 1999.”   

“Indeed, Judge Southwick’s home state Senator Trent Lott stated about the Senate’s role in confirming Clinton judges: “Do I have any apologies? Only one: I probably moved too many judicial nominations already.” Benefiting from this obstructionism, President Bush exploited the opportunity to appoint deeply conservative judges like Priscilla Owen and Edith Brown Clement to the court.”  

Second, there is the issue of this nominee’s more ominous rulings regarding employment discrimination.  The Richmond v. Mississippi Dep’t of Human Services, case is instructive of Southwick’s views on racial discrimination. Again, the Alliance for Justice, Bonnie Richmond, a social worker for the Mississippi Department of Human Services was fired when, at a meeting that included top agency executives, she used a racial slur, referring to an African American co-worker(who was not present at the meeting) as a “good ole n*****.” The Mississippi Court of Appeals, in a 5-4 decision joined by Judge Southwick, upheld the Mississippi Employee Appeals Board’s decision to reinstate her.   

“The majority found that, taken in context, this slur was an insufficient ground to terminate her employment, because there was no specific rule she violated, because it “was not motivated out of racial hatred or racial animosity directed toward a particular co-worker or toward blacks in general,” and because it did not give rise to workplace problems other than offending the coworker who was called a “n*****.”   

“Two of the dissenters, deeply troubled by the majority’s preoccupation with context and its failure to acknowledge the “inherent offensive [ness]” of the slur, observed: “The … majority opinion seems[s] to suggest that absent evidence of a near race riot, the remark is too inconsequential to serve as a basis of dismissal. Such a view requires a level of myopia inconsistent with facts and reason.”  

This legal analysis fascinates me because it seeks to minimize the power of the most inflammatory racial epithet in the lexicon.  It is disingenuous in the extreme to rule that the Mississippi Department of Human Services had no legal basis for terminating her.  They damn sure did and the fact that everyone in that room was white should speak volumes.  This remark was reported by high-ranking white executives in the agency and they called Bonnie Richmond on her bullshit.  They fired her ass as they shoulda done.   

Southwick, and a majority on the court of Appeals, ruled, in effect, that whites exercising the prerogatives of state power never have the right to use it to defend the rights of African Americans.  Had Bonnie Richmond made a covert anti-Semitic remark, or had the shoe been on the other foot, and a black used a racial epithet toward a white co-worker, we wouldn’t even need to have this discussion. George Will consciously participates in the misidentification of the victim in this case as a man, which so far has turned up twice, in both the Post and the Wall Street Journal. I suppose calling a woman a N***** behind her back is politically less palatable and mean spirited.   

The post-hearing report by the Alliance for Justice reveals, “In response to a written question posed by Senator Durbin (D-IL), Judge Southwick indicated that he could not find a single non-unanimous case, of the more than 7000 opinions that he wrote or joined, in which he voted in favor of a civil rights plaintiff or wrote a dissent on behalf of a plaintiff.”  

What we have here, in the selection of judges like Southwick, and the failed nominations of Michael Wallace and Charles Pickering for the same seat, is a continuation of the patterns of discriminatory intent and the conscious and deliberate support of white supremacy that Mississippi Senators have engaged in from time immemorial.   

Widener University Law Professor Mary Ellen Maatman, in a stunning article, “Speaking Truth to Memory: Lawyers and resistance to the end of white supremacy,” wrote, “The stark truth is more complicated and unpleasant. Lawyers built the systems of disfranchisement and segregation that rendered Deep South African Americans second-class citizens. When those systems were threatened, lawyers fought to sustain them. From the White primary’s end in 1944 until the overturn of miscegenation laws in 1967, a cadre of elite Deep South lawyers and judges used a remarkably consistent rhetoric to defend White Supremacy by opposing Black suffrage, the Fair Deal, desegregation, federal civil rights legislation, and legalization of interracial marriage.” 

 “For these lawyers, opposition to legally mandated racial equality arose from their knowledge that White Supremacy in the Deep South depended on the twin pillars of de jure disfranchisement and segregation. This understanding, coupled with an undying belief in White Supremacy’s tenets, drove their work before and after they led massive resistance to Brown. Indeed, their resistance to Brown was but one part of a long legal campaign for restoration of the White Supremacy and embedment of supremacist assumptions in “the law of the land.” In short, they wanted to ensure that African American “inferiority”would be inscribed in American “hearts and minds”—and the law—“in a way unlikely ever to be undone.”  

Maatman argues that this bitter history of opposition should be viewed as a whole.  In this way, Judge Southwick’s unwillingness to see discrimination in the jury selection of black defendants, his willingness to punish black defendants for striking hostile white jurors for cause, and his mistreatment of a gay parent in a child custody case-makes perfect sense.  Mississippi’s judiciary clearly has different strokes for different folks and the arbitrary and capricious star-chamber quality of its administration of justice merit the strictest scrutiny.    

Instead of acknowledging the truth, Will stoops to call out Obama for his tepid opposition as if he’s an errant child, and defends the elevation of white supremacy and homophobia to constitutional legal principles fit to defend “Why does Obama think Southwick should have ruled differently in the two Mississippi cases? Because he thinks Southwick applied the law inappropriately? Or because he does not like the result? Obama is seeking the office from which federal judges are nominated.  Southwick explained himself, in writings and testimony to the Senate.  Now Obama has explaining to do.”  

Along with Obama’s explanation of his tepid opposition to the Southwick nomination, George Will needs to explain why he continues to stir the pot of racial indifference and homophobia and willingly serves it up to the public as something wholesome.

 

Donna Edwards swings into action

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Donna Edwards for Congress

Coordinated in campaign colors white, yellow and blue, the Donna Edwards for Congress campaign headquarters opened this evening in Temple Hills, Md.   As I walked to the door, I was met by the candidate. Donna is refreshingly down to earth and engaging.  I spoke with the candidate briefly and explained my reason for attending without giving too much away. 

The best way to get over the funk of disillusionment with the political process is to help somebody.  For all of the right reasons, Donna is fantastic candidate worthy of my time and support.  A good crowd of progressives from both Prince George’s and Montgomery Counties were present and it was diverse-just like Donna’s campaign staff. 

[photo, Aisha N. Braveboy, State Delegate]To get the party started, Donna was introduced by freshman Maryland State Delegate Aisha Braveboy.  Delegate Braveboy movingly spoke of her continuing support for Donna because Donna is a candidate that genuinely speaks of issues important to the community: medicare, medicaid, education, and the disaster that is No Child Left Behind. 

Donna stepped up to the mike and to the assembled guests that February 12, 2007 presents the people of Maryland’s fourth congressional district the opportunity to turn the page on the deceitful, dangerous, and disatasrous Bush regime.  Donna eloquently spoke of leading the nation for change against both Republicans and Democrats that stood with the Bush Adminstration’s agenda of mass deception-a not so veiled reference to Congessman “Fat Albert” Wynn.  Instead of deception, she wants America to be a country and a district that takes the lead in expanding health care access, education, and a country in which leaders look to actually lead.

Finally, my favorite part was Donna’s pithy ending, “Our phones are on, our pencils are sharpened, and our numbers are growing.” Indeed.  Funds permiting, I can come back in mid-September and do some door-to-door canvassing.  With a district approximately 800 square miles, she’ll need all the volunteers she can muster to beat Fat Albert.  If y’all are interested, lend a sistah a hand. The Donna Edwards for Congress HQ can be reached at 301-316-1880.

 

 

 

In D.C. today

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US Capitol Building

I decided to take a day trip to D.C. today and will post about my exploits later tonight or early tomorrow.  Consider this an open thread and tell me somethin’ good, like Chaka used to say.   JUST IN: Raleigh, N.C. – The latest Public Policy Polling (PPP) survey of likely South Carolina primary voters finds that Hillary Clinton has a narrow lead over Barack Obama in the Democratic Presidential race. Thirty-six percent of Democratic primary voters said they support Clinton, while 33% backed Obama. John Edwards received support from 12%. In PPP’s previous South Carolina poll, released in June, Obama had lead Clinton by three percent.

Debra Bowen strikes a blow for Democracy

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Debra Bowen

HAT TIP:  California Progress Report

Debra Bowen, California’s Secretary of State, has decertified all of California’s electronic voting machines. “Democracy, by definition, is about free and fair elections,” said Secretary Bowen. “As the state’s chief election officer, I take my responsibilities very seriously. In many ways, I think voters and counties are the victims of a federal certification process that hasn’t done an adequate job of ensuring that the systems made available to them are secure, accurate, reliable and accessible. Congress enacted the Help America Vote Act, which pushed many counties into buying electronic systems that – as we’ve seen for some time and we saw again in the independent UC review – were not properly reviewed or tested to ensure that they protected the integrity of the vote. That’s what my decisions are about – protecting the integrity of the vote.”

WOW.  IF I DIDN’T KNOW BETTER, I’DTHINK THAT’S WHAT INTEGRITY SOUNDS LIKE.  REFRESHING.   I, Skeptical Brotha, hereby and officially praise California Secretary of State Debra Bowen, a Democrat who has the courage of her convictions.  Perhaps girlfriend can go to Washington, D.C. and show Democrats how it’s done.  With the stroke of a pen, she has righted the ship of state and restored the confidence of the people of California in the electoral process.  Hopefully other Secretaries of State will follow her courageous lead.