Senate Vote on Adegbile “A Triumph of Demagoguery”

Today the Senate voted to block the nomination of Debo Adegbile to lead the Civil Rights Division of the Department of Justice despite extensive qualifications, an extraordinary career and a record of commitment to civil rights. People For the American Way Vice President Marge Baker issued the following statement:

“This vote is deeply disappointing for anyone who cares about civil rights. There’s no question that Debo is extraordinarily well qualified for this position. He’s worked for years as a lawyer addressing important civil rights issues in our country, and he possesses an unquestionably brilliant legal mind. Someone like Debo Adegbile is exactly the kind of person that the President and the Senate should want in a key DOJ post.

“Unfortunately, this nomination has been swept up in the poisonous atmosphere that’s engulfed Capitol Hill. Instead of praising Debo for taking on important, challenging issues in our justice system, his opponents rushed to twist and distort his record.

“Attacking an attorney for representing an unpopular criminal client is a toxic strategy for winning a political fight and deeply disruptive to the American ideal of everyone deserving a fair hearing before a court of law. Today’s vote is a triumph of demagoguery.”

Senator Heller voted “NAY” on the Cloture Motion, thus filibustering the nomination.  (Per Senate Rules, Senator Reid voted “NAY” to be able to bring the nomination back up for another vote at a subsequent time.)

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America the Beautiful for the 21st Century

Coca-Cola deserves praise for its inclusive Super Bowl commercial.

—by Raul A. Reyes

Raul A. Reyes

During this year’s Super Bowl, Coca-Cola debuted a 60-second commercial paying tribute to the diversity of our nation. Coke’s “It’s Beautiful” ad featured expansive scenes of the country and shots of a wide variety of real people. Some of them were enjoying a Coke.

It was set to “America the Beautiful” — as sung in seven different languages, including English, Spanish, Tagalog, and Hindi.

This commercial generated a profoundly negative response among conservative commentators. They reacted with hostility, fear, and even bigotry. To their discredit, these commentators revealed not only their ignorance — but also a willful refusal to accept the reality of America in the 21st century.

imageOn his radio show, Glenn Beck termed the ad “in your face,” and an attempt to “divide people.” This is quite ironic, considering that only weeks ago Beck admitted that his Fox News program was itself divisive.

“I think I played a role, unfortunately, in helping tear the country apart,” he said. He’s right about that. His conspiracy theories, “birther” comments, and demagoguery were a far more corrosive influence on American society than any commercial ever could be.

Former Rep. Allen West also took offense at the Coke commercial.

“If we cannot be proud enough as a country to sing “American the Beautiful” [sic] in English in a commercial during the Super Bowl, by a company as American as they come — doggone we are on the road to perdition,” the Florida Republican wrote on his website.

Even though West gets the name of the song wrong, that does not stop the tea-partying politician from calling the spot “truly disturbing.” As a self-styled “Guardian of the Republic,” West might be surprised to know that our country doesn’t have an official language and that the Census Bureau reports that 381 languages are commonly spoken within our borders.

Then there’s Todd Starnes, who tweeted “Couldn’t make out that song they were singing. I only speak English.” The Fox Radio host went on to wonder, “So was Coca-Cola saying America is beautiful because new immigrants don’t learn to speak English?”

Apparently these conservatives need a decoder for this commercial. “With ‘It’s Beautiful,’ we are simply showing that America is beautiful and Coke is for everyone,” explained Katie Bayne, President of North American Brands for Coca-Cola in a statement.

By the way, new immigrants do learn English. Consider a 2012 study by the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project that looked at language use among Latino immigrants.

While the first generation is usually only proficient in Spanish, by the second generation, the use of Spanish falls as the use of English rises. By the third generation, English is the dominant language. A separate study last year by University of Wisconsin researchers found that Latino immigrants are learning English faster than previous groups of immigrants.

It’s sad that Beck, West, Starnes and other conservative commentators don’t appreciate the richness of our multicultural society.

The fact is that our country has always been multilingual. There are 169 Native North American languages that are still spoken today, linguist Nataly Kelly notes at The Huffington Post, and several of the Founding Fathers spoke languages besides English, including John Adams, Thomas Jefferson, and James Monroe.

Today, 60 million Americans speak a language other than English at home. This year, for the first time, the Super Bowl was also televised in Spanish. So Coke’s commercial truly reflects our nation’s past, present, and future. What’s wrong with that?

Coca-Cola deserves praise for its inclusive Super Bowl commercial. And critics of the ad ought to think about the motto on the Great Seal of the United States: E pluribus unum. It means “Out of many, one”– — and it’s in Latin.


Raul A. Reyes is an attorney and columnist in New York City.
Distributed via OtherWords (OtherWords.org)

Ohio Plans Unspeakably Cruel Appeal Of Dying Man’s Last Wish

By Ian Millhiser on Jul 25, 2013, ThinkProgress

John Arthur is dying. He is in the terminal stages of Lou Gehrig’s disease and has entered hospice care. Arthur is also gay, and in a 20 year relationship with a man named Jim Obergefell. Because the couple’s home state of Ohio will not allow them to marry, Arthur and Obergefell recently flew to Maryland together and were legally married on the tarmac — just weeks after the Supreme Court’s landmark marriage equality decision in United States v. Windsor. Arthur was unable to rise from his hospice bed.

In his final days, Arthur wants to honor his commitment to his husband. He wants his own death certificate to list Obergefell as his “surviving spouse.” And he wants to die knowing that his partner of 20 years can someday be buried next to him in a family plot bound by a directive that only permits his lawfully wedded spouse to be interred alongside him. And, on Monday, a federal judge ruled that Arthur should indeed have the dignity of dying alongside a man that Ohio will recognize as his husband.

And now, Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine (R) wants to take that dignity away from Mr. Arthur. The day after a judge issued a temporary restraining order requiring Ohio to list Arthur’s husband as his “surviving spouse” on his death certificate, DeWine announced that he would appeal this decision and try to strip a dying man of his final wish.

There are marriage equality cases with sweeping national implications. This is not one of them. The judge’s order is limited exclusively to Arthur and Obergefell. Indeed, as the judge explains, “there is absolutely no evidence that the State of Ohio or its citizens will be harmed by the issuance” of an order requiring Ohio to acknowledge the two men’s marriage. “No one beyond Plaintiffs themselves will be affected by such a limited order at all.”

There are also marriage equality cases where a great deal of money is at stake. But this is not one of those either. In Windsor, plaintiff Edith Windsor sought $363,053 in estate taxes she was forced to pay because the federal government would not acknowledge her marriage to a woman. Arthur, by contrast, hardly has an estate to tax. He and his husband had to raise donations to cover the cost of their flight to Maryland.

Yet, while Ohio has nothing to gain from refusing to comply with the judges’ order, Arthur and Obergefell have a tremendous amount to lose. Thanks to DeWine’s appeal, Arthur will spend his last days unsure whether he and his husband can someday lie together in his family burial plot. The two men’s final moments will be poisoned by uncertainty over their lawsuit. And Obergefell will likely be forced to spend his first weeks as a widower caught up in discussions with his lawyers about the litigation itself. The couple also could lose their case. Most of the judges on the appeals court that will hear their case are Republicans.

There is a common refrain among marriage equality’s opponents that discrimination is necessary to remove some kind of “threat” equality poses to straight couples’ marriages. This case is a put up or shut up moment for these voices. Who, exactly, will divorce because Ohio will acknowledge one gay couple’s marriage? What strife will result when Obergefell someday is laid to rest next to Arthur? Where is the wife that will leave her husband because Arthur died alongside his? Who does DeWine think he is serving by filing this appeal?

Someday very soon, Obergefell will go home, lie in an empty bed, and confront for the first time the prospect of a life without his husband. In that moment of loss, he believes he will find some comfort if the State of Ohio acknowledges that he feels the same pain that he would have felt if he were married to a woman. That’s what DeWine wants to take away. And it will gain the people of Ohio nothing.

Update

A spokesperson for DeWine clarifies that he does not intend to appeal this temporary order because, the spokesperson says, such an order is not generally appealable. Nevertheless, DeWine also plans to “continue to defend Ohio’s constitutional amendment and law banning same-sex couples from marrying and banning the state from recognizing such marriages,” according to BuzzFeed’s Chris Geidner.

In other words, while DeWine does not plan to appeal the judge’s recent temporary order, he still plans to put up a full legal fight against Arthur and Obergefell’s right to be permanently recognized by Ohio as husbands.


This material [the article above] was created by the Center for American Progress Action Fund. It was created for the Progress Report, the daily e-mail publication of the Center for American Progress Action Fund. Click here to subscribe.

Today’s Mad Men

The military justice system needs a 21st century wake-up call.

— by Colleen Teubner

Colleen_Teubner

I remember when I first started watching Mad Men. Like most of America, I got hooked. How could I not? The glitz and glamour of 1960s Manhattan was irresistible. But from the very first episode, I knew there was something deeply wrong with this world — the business-as-usual, casual attitude towards sexual harassment.

As a modern “working gal,” I can’t imagine being productive in that kind of environment. In fact, I know I wouldn’t be. I’d be uncomfortable and unhappy, and my performance would suffer. We may not have equal pay for women yet, but at least workplace sexual harassment is no longer considered playful banter.

Aren’t we mostly past the Mad Men era? Not if you’re in the armed forces.

Our military men and women risk their safety everyday — but not in the ways you might think. The most recent Pentagon survey revealed that out of the estimated 26,000 sexual assaults that occurred in the military in 2012, only 3,374 cases were reported. That brings the report rate to a meager 13 percent, compared with the national average of 46 percent.

With all the progress women have made in the military, why is the sexual assault reporting rate so low?

The answer is clear: Military commanders have created an environment where women are afraid to stand up to their attackers. Of the women who reported instances of sexual assault, 62 percent suffered retaliation. The current system forces survivors to make an impossible choice: career or due process? It looks like the military justice system needs a 21st century wake-up call.

And Senator Kirsten Gillibrand agrees. The New York Democrat proposed a bill that would remove prosecuting power from the military chain of command. She wants to replace this outdated system with a new one that would inspire confidence through accountability.

That makes sense, doesn’t it? Not to Senator Carl Levin (D-MI). Instead, Levin agrees with the top brass that the prosecution of assault cases should be kept within the ranks.

This won’t work. It’s already failed.

And James Taranto isn’t helping. The Wall Street Journal writer offers living proof that misogyny remains alive and well today. Taranto wrote that any attempt to address the military’s sexual assault problem is the equivalent of declaring a “war on men” and an “effort to criminalize male sexuality.”

Really? Justice for sexual assault survivors threatens your sexuality? Tell that to the 70 women and men who are attacked every day.

I think we can all agree that this hasn’t been the best year for women. First, there was the media sympathy toward the Steubenville rapists. Then came the news that the already overwhelming number of sexual assaults in the military had increased yet again. And recently, the House of Representatives passed a bill that would prohibit abortion procedures after 20 weeks of pregnancy, down from the current 24 weeks.

It’s unrealistic to expect that the sources of these problems — the media, military, and the misinformed — can, or will, develop constructive solutions.

I understand that military commanders want the opportunity to reform from within, but the time for Mad Men style, backroom meetings is over. When Gillibrand reintroduces her bill later this summer, Congress needs to give change a chance.

Colleen Teubner is a student at the George Washington University and an OtherWords intern at the Institute for Policy Studies. OtherWords.org.  Photo credit to www.feedtacoma.com

The Modern Movement for Civil Rights

Congress must act to correct the Supreme Court’s many wrongs.

— by Julian Bond

Julian_Bond

The racial picture in America has improved remarkably in my lifetime, so much so that a black man has been elected and re-elected President of the United States — an unthinkable development just a few years ago.

But paradoxically, Barack Obama’s victory in 2008 convinced many that all racial barriers and restrictions had been vanquished and we had entered racial nirvana across the land.

This was just one of the many unfair burdens placed on Obama’s presidency. We knew that his victory didn’t herald a post-civil rights America or mean that race had been vanquished. It couldn’t eliminate structural inequity or racist attitudes.

The truth is that Jim Crow may be dead, but racism is alive and well. That’s the central fact of life for every non-white American, including the President of the United States. It eclipses income, position, and education. Race trumps them all.

Voting Rights Obstacles, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib.

Voting Rights Obstacles, an OtherWords cartoon by Khalil Bendib.

Our first order of business now needs to be demanding that Congress reformulate the pre-clearance requirement of the Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court has just invalidated.

Like the Court’s affirmative action ruling the day before, the voting rights decision could have been worse.

But we can’t live with “it could have been worse,” especially when it comes to voting. We must insist on “it has to be the best.”

This ruling was devious and perverse.

It was devious because the Court’s majority used Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act to effectively end Section 5, essentially voiding the federal government’s ability to guarantee minority access to the polls. At the same time, the ruling sidestepped the court’s historic deference to Congress and blamed lawmakers for not updating the formula.

It was perverse because these justices cited the fact that large numbers of blacks voted in 2012 as a reason to take away the law that allowed them to vote.

Today, we have much more to work with and we take heart that so much has changed. The changes that have come have everything to do with the work of the modern movement for civil rights.

There needs to be a constantly growing and always reviving activist movement across America if we are going to maintain and expand victories and our vision for the country.

We must not forget that Martin Luther King, Jr. stood before and with thousands — the people who made the mighty movement what it was.

From Jamestown’s slave pens to Montgomery’s boycotted buses, these ordinary men and women labored in obscurity. From Montgomery forward they provided the foot soldiers of the freedom army. They shared, with King, “an abiding faith in America.”

They walked in dignity, rather than ride in shame. They faced bombs in Birmingham and mobs in Mississippi. They sat down at lunch counters so others could stand up. They marched and they organized.

King didn’t march from Selma to Montgomery by himself. He didn’t speak to an empty field at the March on Washington.

There were thousands marching with him, and before him, and thousands more who did the dirty work that preceded the triumphal march.

The successful strategies of the modern movement for civil rights were litigation, organization, mobilization, and coalition, all aimed at creating a national constituency for civil rights. Sometimes the simplest of deeds — sitting at a lunch counter, going to a new school, applying for a marriage license, casting a vote — can challenge the way we think and act.

Racial justice, economic equality, and world peace — these were the themes that occupied King’s life. They ought to occupy ours today.

We have a long and honorable tradition of social justice in this country. It still sends forth the message that when we act together we can overcome.

A first order of business might be gathering in Washington on August 24 to commemorate the 1963 March on Washington and to demand that Congress act to correct the Supreme Court’s many wrongs.


Julian Bond was Chairman of the NAACP Board of Directors from February 1998 until February 2010 and is now Chairman Emeritus. He is a Distinguished Scholar in the School of Government at American University in Washington, DC, and a Professor Emeritus in History at the University of Virginia.  Distributed via OtherWords. OtherWords.org