Sunday, August 31, 2014

EU threatens Russia with more sanctions


BRUSSELS (AP) - Despite tough rhetoric decrying Russia's increasing military involvement in Ukraine, European Union leaders on Sunday stopped short of imposing new sanctions against Moscow right away. Instead, the 28-nation bloc's heads of state and government tasked their executive body to "urgently" prepare tougher economic sanctions that could be adopted within a week, according to EU summit chairman Herman Van Rompuy.
The decision on new sanctions will depend on the evolution of the situation on the ground but "everybody is fully aware that we have to act quickly," he added. The EU leaders call on Russia to "immediately withdraw all its military assets and forces from Ukraine," they said in a joint statement.
NATO said this week that at least 1,000 Russian soldiers are in Ukraine. Russia denies that. NATO also says Russia has amassed some 20,000 troops just across Ukraine's eastern border, which could rapidly carry out a full-scale invasion.
The fighting between the military and Russian-backed separatists in eastern Ukraine has so far claimed 2,600 lives, according to U.N. figures.
The U.S. and the EU have so far imposed sanctions against dozens of Russian officials, several companies as well as the country's financial and arms industry. Moscow has retaliated by banning food imports.
German Chancellor Angela Merkel said the new sanctions would target the same sectors as previous punitive measures, which also included an export ban for some high technology and oil exploration equipment.
"If Russia continues to escalate the crisis it will come with a high cost," said EU Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso. "It's time for everyone to get down to the business of peace-making. It is not too late, but time is quickly running out," he said.
Several European leaders had called for additional sanctions at the outset of the meeting in Brussels, but the fear of an economic backlash apparently prevailed and led the bloc to grant Russia another chance at avoiding tougher action. New sanctions would have required unanimity among the leaders.
Russia is the EU's No. 3 trading partner and one of its biggest oil and gas suppliers. The EU, in turn, is Russia's biggest commercial partner, making any sanctions more biting than similar measures adopted by the U.S.
Ukrainian President Petro Poroshenko, who briefed the leaders at the beginning of their talks, said a strong response was needed to the "military aggression and terror" facing his country. Efforts to halt the violence in eastern Ukraine were "very close to a point of no return" and failing to de-escalate the situation could lead to a "full-scale war," he warned.
"Thousands of the foreign troops and hundreds of the foreign tanks are now on the territory of Ukraine," Poroshenko told reporters in English. "There is a very high risk not only for peace and stability for Ukraine, but for the whole ... of Europe."
Conceding ground in the face of a reinvigorated rebel offensive, Ukraine said Saturday that it was abandoning a city where its forces have been surrounded by rebels for days. Government forces were also pulling back from another it had claimed to have taken control of two weeks earlier.
The statements by Col. Andriy Lysenko, a spokesman for the national security council, indicate that Ukrainian forces face increasingly strong resistance from Russian-backed separatist rebels just weeks after racking up significant gains and forcing rebels out of much of the territory they had held.
The office of the Donetsk mayor reported in a statement that at least two people died in an artillery attack on one of Donetsk's neighborhoods. Shelling was reported elsewhere in the city, but there was no immediate word on casualties.
European leaders also issued dire warnings, reflecting their concern over the most recent military escalation with the opening of a new front by the Russian-backed rebels in southeastern Ukraine.
Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite said Russia's meddling in Ukraine, which seeks closer ties with the EU, amounts to a direct confrontation that requires stronger sanctions.
"Russia is practically in the war against Europe," she said in English.
Grybauskaite said the EU should impose a full arms embargo, including the canceling of already agreed contracts, but France has so far staunchly opposed that proposal because it has a $1.6 billion contract to build Mistral helicopter carriers for Russia.
British Prime Minister David Cameron also warned that Europe shouldn't be complacent about Russian troops on Ukrainian soil.
"Countries in Europe shouldn't have to think long before realizing just how unacceptable that is," he said. "We know that from our history. So consequences must follow."
Moscow, meanwhile, is preparing to send a second convoy of humanitarian aid to eastern Ukraine.
Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov said Friday that Moscow has already received Kiev's preliminary approval and insisted that it would send aid in coordination with the Red Cross. Lavrov wouldn't say when the aid is likely to be sent, but said it could happen next week.
Russian state Rossiya 24 on Saturday showed trucks from the previous convoy at the border being loaded with humanitarian aid that was brought to the area by train. It was unclear when the new convoy could start moving.
Barroso said that the EU - a bloc encompassing 500 million people and stretching from Lisbon to the border with Ukraine - stands ready to grant Kiev further humanitarian aid and financial assistance if needed. The bloc will also organize a donors' conference to help rebuild the country's east at the end of the year, he added.
Ukrainian forces had been surrounded by rebels in the town of Ilovaysk, about 20 kilometers (15 miles) east of the largest rebel-held city of Donetsk for days.
"We are surrendering this city," Ukraine's Lysenko told reporters. "Our task now is to evacuate our military with the least possible losses in order to regroup."
Lysenko said that regular units of the military had been ordered to retreat from Novosvitlivka and Khryashchuvate, two towns on the main road between the Russian border and Luhansk, the second-largest rebel-held city. Ukraine had claimed control of Novosvitlivka earlier in August.
Separately, Ukrainian forces said one of their Su-25 fighter jets was shot down Friday over eastern Ukraine by a missile from a Russian missile launcher. The pilot ejected and was uninjured, the military said in a brief statement.

EU prepares sanctions against defiant Putin: Will they work?

Iraqi forces break militant siege of Shiite town


BAGHDAD (AP) - Iraqi security forces and Shiite militiamen on Sunday broke a six-week siege imposed by the Islamic State extremist group on the northern Shiite Turkmen town of Amirli, following U.S. airstrikes against the Sunni militants' positions, officials said. Army spokesman Lt. Gen. Qassim al-Moussawi said the operation started at dawn Sunday and the forces entered the town shortly after midday.
Speaking live on state TV, al-Moussawi said the forces suffered "some causalities," but did not give a specific number. He said fighting was "still ongoing to clear the surrounding villages."
Breaking the siege was a "big achievement and an important victory" he said, for all involved: the Iraqi army, elite troops, Kurdish fighters and Shiite militias.
Turkmen lawmaker Fawzi Akram al-Tarzi said they entered the town from two directions and were distributing aid to residents.
About 15,000 Shiite Turkmens were stranded in the farming community, some 105 miles (170 kilometers) north of Baghdad. Instead of fleeing in the face of the Islamic State group's rampage across northern Iraq in June, the Shiite Turkmens stayed and fortified their town with trenches and armed positions.
Residents succeeded in fending off the initial attack in June, but Amirli has been surrounded by the militants since mid-July. Many residents said the Iraqi military's efforts to fly in food, water and other aid had not been enough, as they endured the oppressive August heat with virtually no electricity or running water.
Nihad al-Bayati, who had taken up arms with fellow residents to defend the town, said some army units had already entered while the Shiite militiamen were stationed in the outskirts. He said residents had fired into the air to celebrate the arrival of the troops.
"We thank God for this victory over terrorists," al-Bayati told The Associated Press by phone from the outskirts of Amirli. "The people of Amirli are very happy to see that their ordeal is over and that the terrorists are being defeated by Iraqi forces. It is a great day in our life."
State TV stopped regular programs and started airing patriotic songs following the victory announcement, praising the country's security forces. They have been fighting the militants for weeks without achieving significant progress on the ground.
On Saturday, the U.S. conducted airstrikes against the Sunni militants and air-dropped humanitarian aid to residents. Aircraft from Australia, France and Britain joined the U.S. in the aid drop, which came after a request from the Iraqi government.
The Pentagon's press secretary, Rear Adm. John Kirby, said military operations would be limited in scope and duration as needed to address the humanitarian crisis in Amirli and protect the civilians trapped in the town.
The Islamic State extremist group has seized cities, towns and vast tracts of land in northeastern Syria and northern and western Iraq. It views Shiites as apostates and has carried out a number of massacres and beheadings - often posting grisly videos and photos of the atrocities online.
The U.S. started launching airstrikes against the Islamic State extremist group earlier this month to prevent the insurgents from advancing on the Kurdish regional capital Irbil and to help protect members of the Yazidi religious minority stranded on Mount Sinjar, in Iraq's northwest, where U.S. planes also dropped humanitarian aid.
The U.S. also launched airstrikes near Mosul Dam -- the largest in Iraq -- allowing Iraqi and Kurdish forces to retake the facility, which had been captured by Islamic State fighters.
Earlier Saturday, the U.S. Central Command said five more airstrikes had targeted Islamic State militants near Mosul Dam. Those attacks, carried out by fighter aircraft and unmanned drones, brought to 115 the total number of airstrikes across Iraq since Aug.
Sunday Routine

Carmen Fariña: An Old-School Abuela

On weekends, Ms. Fariña, chancellor of the New York City Education Department, is first and foremost an active and engaged grandmother.

The Mystery of the New York City Parks Department’s Chandelier

Answering questions about the chandelier in the Arsenal; a renamed street in Queens; and the Bronx roots of Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.

Q. I have heard that Ralph Lauren and Calvin Klein grew up in the Bronx, within streets of each other. What section of the Bronx would that have been?
A. Both fashion designers grew up in working-class homes in the Norwood neighborhood, near Mosholu Parkway, according to a 2009 article by Joseph Berger in The New York Times. Both were talented sketch artists and spent some time about four years apart at Public School 80.
Calvin Klein was born in 1942; his father was a Hungarian immigrant, Leo Klein, who worked in his brother’s grocery. Calvin lived in an apartment house on Rochambeau Avenue and often went with his mother on shopping trips to Loehmann’s. His grandmother had a tailoring business. He attended the High School of Industrial Art, in Manhattan.

The Mystery of the New York City Parks Department’s Chandelier

Answering questions about the chandelier in the Arsenal; a renamed street in Queens; and the Bronx roots of Calvin Klein and Ralph Lauren.

Saturday, August 30, 2014

ISIS posts another brutal beheading video

Islamic State terrorists posted another brutal video of an apparent beheading to threaten Iraqi Kurdish leaders for helping the U.S., Agence France-Presse reported on Friday.
The video, titled “A Message in Blood to the Leaders of the American-Kurdish Alliance,”shows a soldier kneeling in an orange jumpsuit before the sickening murder, AFP reported.
It shows a cruel masked killer standing behind the captured fighter before the murder. Two more jihadists hold guns next to him.
The disturbing footage come after a video surfaced on Thursday, showing ISIS executing nearly 250 soldiers in Syria.
Meanwhile, Britain raised the country’s terror threat level from substantial to severe Friday, meaning that a terrorist attack is considered highly likely.
Home Secretary Theresa Mays said the decision to raise the threat level was related to developments in Iraq and Syria, but that there was no information to suggest an attack was imminent. Some of the plots are likely to involve fighters who have traveled from Britain and Europe to take part in fighting in the Middle East.
Modal Trigger
Another section of the video shows a group of captured Kurdish fighters.
“We face a real and serious threat in the U.K. from international terrorism,” she said. “I would urge the public to remain vigilant and to report any suspicious activity to the police.”
May says the decision by the Joint Terrorism Analysis Center is made on the basis of intelligence and is independent of government. “Severe” is the second-highest of five levels.
British police have appealed to the public to help identify aspiring terrorists after the killing of an American journalist focused attention on extremism in the U.K.

Friday, August 29, 2014

  1. No Pension Until Miguel Martinez, an Ex-New York Councilman, Pays Back Stolen Funds 

     Mr. Bharara’s office has said that it is also seeking the forfeiture of pension benefits by Larry B. Seabrook, a former Democratic city councilman who is serving a five-year prison term in a corruption case. And it said it is seeking to locate assets, including pension money, to satisfy forfeiture orders against two other convicted Democratic politicians — Hiram Monserrate, a former New York City councilman and state senator, and Sandy Annabi, a former Yonkers councilwoman.



Nation Debates Extremely Complex Issue of Children Firing Military Weapons

(photo: unknown)
(photo: unknown)

By Andy Borowitz, The New Yorker
28 August 14

The article below is satire. Andy Borowitz is an American comedian and New York Times-bestselling author who satirizes the news for his column, "The Borowitz Report."

cross the United States on Wednesday, a heated national debate began on the extremely complex issue of children firing military weapons.
“Every now and then, the nation debates an issue that is so complicated and tricky it defies easy answers,” says pollster Davis Logsdon. “Letting small children fire automatic weapons is such an issue.”
Logsdon says that the thorny controversy is reminiscent of another ongoing national debate, about whether it is a good idea to load a car with dynamite and drive it into a tree.
“Many Americans think it’s a terrible idea, but others believe that with the correct supervision, it’s perfectly fine,” he says. “Who’s to say who’s right?”
Similar, he says, is the national debate about using a flamethrower indoors. “There has been a long and contentious national conversation about this,” he says. “It’s another tough one.”
Much like the long-running national debates about jumping off a roof, licking electrical sockets, and gargling with thumbtacks, the vexing question of whether children should fire military weapons does not appear headed for a swift resolution.
“Like the issue of whether you should sneak up behind a bear and jab it with a hot poker, this won’t be settled any time soon,” he says.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Victoriano Oviedo in front of the side entrance for lower-income housing in the same complex as the Edge, a Brooklyn waterfront development.
Kirsten Luce for The New York Times
Victoriano Oviedo in front of the side entrance for lower-income housing in the same complex as the Edge, a Brooklyn waterfront development.
A program allows developers to build more square feet than the zoning code allows in exchange for a certain number of low-rent apartments.

“It’s such a visual separation,” Assemblywoman Rosenthal said. “It gets at people when they see two separate doors. It’s no longer theoretical. It looks and smells like discrimination.”

No Endorsement in N.Y. Governor’s Primary

Neither Andrew Cuomo, who failed to keep his promise to clean up corruption in Albany, nor Zephyr Teachout, who lacks political experience, earns an endorsement in the Sept. 9 primary race.

Why endorse no candidate in a major state primary? Here’s how we see it: Realistically, Governor Cuomo is likely to win the primary, thanks to vastly greater resources and name recognition. And he’ll probably win a second term in November against a conservative Republican opponent. In part, that’s because issues like campaign finance rarely have been a strong motivator for most voters. Nonetheless, those who want to register their disappointment with Mr. Cuomo’s record on changing the culture of Albany may well decide that the best way to do that is to vote for Ms. Teachout. Despite our reservations about her, that impulse could send a powerful message to the governor and the many other entrenched incumbents in Albany that a shake-up is overdue.

Monday, August 25, 2014

A Tale of de Blasio’s Neighborhoods: Park Slope and Yorkville

Mayor Bill de Blasio’s new neighborhood is less go-go Upper East Side than an enclave of walk-ups and river views. And a garbage depot.

Sunday, August 24, 2014


Weekend Reader: ‘Dangerous Convictions: What’s Really Wrong With The U.S. Congress’

August 23, 2014 12:00 am Category: Featured Post, Memo Pad, Weekend Reader 19 Comments A+ / A-
Tom Allen has a unique understanding of congressional dysfunction and the challenges of bipartisan governing. As a U.S. representative from Maine’s 1st district, for over a decade Allen was on the front lines of debates over the federal budget, the invasion of Iraq, and health care reform, among other key issues. 
In his new book, Dangerous ConvictionsAllen details how both Democrats and Republicans struggle to understand opposing views, which often makes compromise nearly impossible. In the excerpt below, Allen uses the battle over health care reform to illustrate our broken political system. 
You can purchase the book here.
The congressional debates over health care reform during the Bush and Obama administrations exposed the underlying clash of ideas and values that breeds the polarization about which the press and public complain. I spoke to countless rooms of people about the crisis in the American health care system. Often, the room was divided between those who believed health care should be available to everyone, regardless of wealth, and a smaller number who believed they should not be required to share the costs of illnesses or accidents suffered by others. It’s not that the latter group was cruel-hearted; many undoubtedly gave generously to churches, temples, and charitable efforts. But many also harbored the view that the poor brought on their own misfortune. The factions had fundamentally different moral views.
This dichotomy mirrored the various perspectives on the role of government: one believed that only the federal government could expand coverage and contain the excesses of the health insurers, and the other believed in “free markets,” even in health care. Advocates for comprehensive reform typically found it intolerable that millions of Americans lacked both adequate insurance and health care. Opponents typically preferred to do nothing rather than to expand the role of the federal government.
It is harder to understand that attitude among members of Congress, who meet thousands of their constituents every year. I visited subsidized housing facilities whose residents, mostly women, lived on $700 a month and were unable to pay for their prescriptions. I talked with students forced to leave college because of health issues, who then lost their health insurance when they left. My staff dealt with hundreds of constituents struggling with inadequate care and no insurance. The thought often ran through my mind, “How do Republican congressmen respond to these personal stories of neglect and lack of care?” I don’t know.
In short, each side finds the position of the other incomprehensible. That’s why my Democratic colleagues concluded that Republicans must be completely beholden to the health insurance and pharmaceutical industries, and Republicans concluded that Democrats wanted to expand the power of government for their own political purposes. The bottom line is that compromise on major reform, even the Affordable Care Act in 2009–10, was never realistic.
Before that bill passed the House I ran into a Republican colleague in Washington. He complained that the minority had been denied the opportunity to offer amendments. But when I suggested that even if given that chance and the amendments passed, he still couldn’t vote for the bill, he agreed. When the congressional minority party, Republican or Democratic, complains about being denied the opportunity to amend a bill, extend the debate, or a similar process issue, the real objection is almost always about the substance. The mainstream media typically gives too much credibility to the red herring of abuse of process claims and not enough to the decisive conflict of values and ideas.
A sign at a Tea Party rally in 2010 read: “Big Government Means Less Individual Freedom.” President Obama told a town hall audience: “I got a letter the other day from a woman. She said, ‘I don’t want government-run health care. I don’t want socialized medicine. And don’t touch my Medicare.’” That’s the level at which major political issues are fought today. The concept that better (or even some) health care, or more education, or improved services for children can create opportunity for Americans rather than limit them, or that government services need not make beneficiaries “dependent” is rarely debated in specifics—where evidence might matter.
When one side will only debate vital public issues in terms of “big government” and “individual freedom” instead of the nuts and bolts of policy, no amount of evidence can stop our slide to intensifying polarization. Meanwhile, the people without adequate care and the businessmen and women struggling to provide coverage for their employees could only wait—and wonder when relief might come. That question for millions is now tied to whether the systemic changes signed into law by President Obama can survive the continued relentless attack from the Right during the next few years.
Buy From
The full-throated Republican opposition to the ACA, including the appeal to the Supreme Court, masked the underlying reality that they had no alternative proposal to expand coverage to the more than thirty million (of the fifty million now uninsured) projected to gain coverage under the ACA. I believe that if the Republican leadership had somehow been forced to produce a plan for comparable coverage, they would have relied on a somewhat less regulatory, competitive private insurance market with either an individual mandate or tax penalties or inducements to achieve the same result. In other words, they would have adopted legislation much like the bill they condemned. They had no free-market option that could expand coverage to millions of Americans for whom the current free market was impossibly expensive.
In the last two decades, despite the increasing saliency of health care concerns, no national Republican leader offered a plausible plan to expand coverage. There were, I believe, two reasons: (1) politically it wasn’t necessary to respond to their base, and (2) conceptually they could not escape the confinement of “smaller government, lower taxes.” Those core principles and the absence of any countervailing conservative principles took Republicans out of the health care coverage debate—except to say no to Democratic proposals. In that effort, they isolated the part of the ACA that by its very name would in America arouse intense opposition: the “individual mandate.” For a party sliding down a road of ever-increasing hostility to government, there could hardly have been a more inviting rhetorical target.
The equally troubling conclusion is that the combination of forty million to fifty million uninsured Americans and the financial consequences for American businesses large and small was not enough to make health care reform a pressing issue for both parties. In every congressional district there were thousands of people struggling with the costs and consequences of an inadequate health care system, and hundreds of businesses burdened by rapidly increasing insurance premiums. But that was not enough for Republican congressional leaders to develop an updated version of the 1989 Heritage Plan. The party’s fierce opposition to government action in health care ensured that their only viable political choices were small-bore proposals allowing insurance companies to sell policies across state lines medical malpractice limitations, and health savings accounts. In the end the ACA, although it included significant conservative ideas, attracted only Democratic support.
The legal challenges to the ACA reached the Supreme Court in March 2012. After listening to conservatives on the Supreme Court repeatedly describe the issue as “freedom,” one commentator wrote, “It’s about freedom from our obligations to one another . . . the freedom to ignore the injured, walk away from those in peril . . . the freedom to be left alone . . . the freedom to live like it’s 1804.” The clash of worldviews that played out in the political, legislative, and courtroom debates over Obamacare was intense and irreconcilable primarily because it was so abstract.
In the two years after its enactment Republicans had frequently claimed that they would “repeal and replace Obamacare.” After the Court upheld the law, Sen. Mitch McConnell was pressed three times by Chris Wallace on Fox News to explain how Republicans proposed to cover the thirty million Americans who would be covered under the ACA. McConnell’s response was, “That’s not the issue.”
WALLACE: You don’t think the thirty million people who are uninsured is an issue?
MCCONNELL: Let me tell you what we’re not going to do. We’re not going to turn the American health care system into a western European system.
It would be hard to find a clearer contemporary example of how ideological principles devalue people. Tens of millions of uninsured are “not the issue” because a libertarian ideology has no room for their problems and no respect for “western European” systems that provide near-universal coverage at lower cost and with better health outcomes than our own system. At some point, there is a moral equivalence between leaving millions of Americans stranded with the health and financial risks of being uninsured, and walking by a stranger lying bleeding in the street. And at nearly fifty million insured, we have long passed that point.
In NFIB v. Sebelius the Supreme Court upheld the central components of the ACA, including the individual mandate, although under the taxing power of Congress, not the Commerce Clause. Justice Roberts’s opinion protected the Court from being perceived as an institution driven entirely by conservative politics and yet confined the reach of the Commerce Clause for potential future cases. The Court’s resolution of the constitutionality of the ACA, passed by Congress without a single Republican vote—despite its conservative roots—will leave health care reform as another example of how deep-seated convictions about dependency, liberty, and the role of government can render nearly impossible the bipartisan congressional engagement that our largest, most complicated and pressing challenges require.
If you enjoyed this excerpt, purchase the full book here.
Reprinted from Dangerous Convictions: What’s Really Wrong with the U.S. Congress by Tom Allen with permission from Oxford University Press. Copyright © 2013 by Oxford University Press.
Want more updates on great books? Sign up for our daily email newsletter here! 

John Oliver, Ferguson, MO and Police Militarization

Suspended St. Louis Police Officer: "I'm Into Diversity, I Kill Everybody"

By Allen McDuffee, The Wire
24 August 14
St. Louis County police officer, who was seen pushing a CNN anchor during protests in Ferguson, Mo., this week, was suspended from duty after a controversial video surfaced, in which he fashions himself as a merciless killer.
“I personally believe in Jesus Christ as my lord and savior, but I’m also a killer,” said officer Dan Page, a 35-year veteran, in the video. “I’ve killed a lot. And if I need to, I’ll kill a whole bunch more. If you don’t want to get killed, don’t show up in front of me. I have no problems with it. God did not raise me to be a coward." Page added, “I’m into diversity — I kill everybody. I don’t care."
St. Louis County Police Chief Jon Belmar said Page has been suspended, pending a review by the internal affairs unit, which will begin Monday. The video was brought to Belmar’s attention by CNN's Don Lemon.
“With the comments on killing, that was obviously something that deeply disturbed me immediately,” Belmar told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.
The comments, which were made before members of the Christian organization, the Oath Keepers, also included his story of going to Kenya in search of "undocumented president," Barack Obama. “I flew to Africa, right there, and I went to our undocumented president’s home,” Page said, holding a picture of him in Kenya. “He was born in Kenya.”
Page has been ordered to take a psychiatric exam, according to Belmar, who issued a public apology for Page's remarks. “He does not represent the rank-and-file of [the] St. Louis County Police Department,” Belmar told CNN in a Friday on-air interview.

Justice Ginsburg: America Has a 'Real Racial Problem'

U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. (photo: Matt Rourke/AP)
U.S. Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. 
(photo: Matt Rourke/AP)

By Ian Millhiser, ThinkProgress
23 August 14

he Supreme Court was “once a leader in the world” in combating racial discrimination, according to Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg. “What’s amazing,” she added, “is how things have changed.”
Ginsburg, who was one of America’s top civil rights attorneys before President Carter appointed her to the federal bench in 1980, spoke at length with the National Law Journal‘s Marcia Coyle in an interview that was published Friday. In that interview, she lays out just how much the Court’s outlook on race has changed since she was arguing women’s equality cases before it in the 1970s.
In 1971, for example, President Nixon had begun to reshape the Supreme Court. As a presidential candidate and, later, as president, Nixon complained that the Supreme Court’s school desegregation decisions had intruded too far on local control of public schools. Yet, as Justice Ginsburg points out, Nixon’s hand-picked Chief Justice, Warren Burger, authored a unanimous Supreme Court decision recognizing what are known as “disparate impact” suits, which root out discrimination in employers with policies that disproportionately impact minorities.
Burger’s resolution of this case “was a very influential decision and it was picked up in England,” according to Ginsburg.
The Court’s present majority, by contrast, seems much more interested in using its power to thwart racial justice. In 2013, for example, the Supreme Court struck down a key prong of the Voting Rights Act, effectively ending a regime that required states with a history of racial voter discrimination to “preclear” new voting laws with officials in Washington before those laws went into effect. Writing for the Court, Chief Justice John Roberts justified this decision because he claimed that racism is no longer a big enough problem in the states covered by the Act, and thus the Voting Rights Act’s longstanding framework was outdated. Permitting the federal government to apply such a check against racially discriminatory voting laws was an “extraordinary departure from the traditional course of relations between the States and the Federal Government,” and it could no longer be allowed, according to Roberts, because “things have changed dramatically” in states with a long history of racism.
Two hours after Roberts claimed that racism was too minor a problem to justify leaving America’s most important voting rights law intact, Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott announced that Roberts’ decision would allow a gerrymandered map and a recently enacted voter ID to go into effect. Federal courts had previously blocked both the map and the voting restriction because of their negative impact on minority voters. Alabama made a similar announcement about its voter ID law the same day Roberts handed down his decision. Less than two months later, North Carolina Governor Pat McCrory (R) signed a comprehensive voter suppression law adopting many provisions that reduced minority turnout in other states.
Justice Ginsburg, for her part, warned that tossing out a key prong of the Voting Rights Act “when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”
In what may become the most controversial part of her interview with Coyle, Ginsburg also suggests that public acceptance of gay Americans is eclipsing our ability to relate to each other across racial lines. “Once [gay] people began to say who they were,” Ginsburg noted, “you found that it was your next-door neighbor or it could be your child, and we found people we admired.” By contrast, according to Ginsburg, “[t]hat understanding still doesn’t exist with race; you still have separation of neighborhoods, where the races are not mixed. It’s the familiarity with people who are gay that still doesn’t exist for race and will remain that way for a long time as long as where we live remains divided.”
Regardless of whether Americans as a whole are falling behind on race even as we become more accepting of our gay neighbors, the phenomenon Ginsburg describes is certainly alive and well on her Court. One day after the Court tore down much of the Voting Rights Act, it struck down the anti-gay Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA). Justice Anthony Kennedy, who is solidly conservative on most issues that come before the Court, typically votes with the more liberal justices on gay rights issues. He was in that majority in both the Voting Rights Act case and the marriage equality case.
So one possible explanation for this disparity between the Court’s gay rights cases and its racial justice cases is that Justice Kennedy controls the balance of power on both issues, and he is a conservative on race and a relative liberal on gay rights. At a recent conference, however, a member of the legal team that successfully argued that the Court should strike down DOMA offered a different theory for this disparity — a theory that closely resembles Justice Ginsburg’s analysis. According to Pam Karlan, a Stanford law professor who now serves as the Justice Department’s top voting rights attorney, “very few upper middle class people wake up to discover that their children are poor. Very few citizens wake up to discover that their children are undocumented. Very few white people wake up to discover that their child is black,” but even the most staunchly anti-gay parent can wake up to a phone call from their child telling them that he or she is gay.


We are concerned about a recent drift towards vitriol in the RSN Reader comments section. There is a fine line between moderation and censorship. No one likes a harsh or confrontational forum atmosphere. At the same time everyone wants to be able to express themselves freely. We'll start by encouraging good judgment. If that doesn't work we'll have to ramp up the moderation.
General guidelines: Avoid personal attacks on other forum members; Avoid remarks that are ethnically derogatory; Do not advocate violence, or any illegal activity.
Remember that making the world better begins with responsible action.
- The RSN Team
+47 # suzyskier 2014-08-23 19:51
It is really shocking how racist this country is. I had some much hope back in the sixties and seventies and now it seems all lost. I just don't understand why some many Americans are racists. It is shameful.
+33 # Radscal 2014-08-23 21:08
I think race has been a tool in the "divide and rule" strategy of the economic elite since the dawn of civilization.

Here's an anecdote. When I started to awaken to racism, I was surprised that so many Irish-Americans were racists. After all, they'd been subjugated by the English for centuries; many of the tactics used by the English colonizers had been practiced on the Irish.

Then I read a "slave narrative" (oral histories from slaves written down to preserve their stories) in which a slave had been leased out to a shipyard in Maryland. It was common for field slaves to be rented out when they weren't needed on the plantation.

The job was to unload barges filled with heavy bags of grain. He noticed that all the people on the barges tossing the bags were slaves, but all the people on the dock, dodging the bags and then loading them onto wagons were Irishmen.

He asked the overseer why that was and was told:
"It's too dangerous on the docks for a slave." You see, if a slave was injured or killed, the people who leased them would have to pay the owner for damaged or lost "property."

"But if an Irishman gets killed, we just hire a new Irishman."

Working class white people (and Irish were not even counted as "white" in the Census until 1910) have been pitted against blacks since Bacon's Rebellion of 1676. No matter how poorly a white laborer was paid or treated, he or she always thought, "well, at least I'm not black."
+11 # mim 2014-08-23 21:23
Not doubting that there's been a lot of racism among Irish Americans, but how does the anecdote demonstrate that? Seems to me it illustrates the odd paradox of slavery, in which an Irishman (or later, a freedman) was valued less than a slave, because a slave, even if not viewed as human, was at least valuable property.
+1 # NAVYVET 2014-08-24 07:07
My redheaded grandma's maiden name was Hogan--an Irish name. I can imagine how her ancestors must have suffered, one reason why I fight for civil rights. Americans of Irish descent should! Jim Crow racism was invented in Ireland, beginning with the 12th century invasion demanded of England's king by 2 popes, to end heresy among the Irish (pockets of Celtic Christian faith). The Irish became respectably Catholic just in time to be persecuted again!

However, Irish complexions weren't as obvious as African ones, and the Irish could adopt English, Welsh, Scandinavian or Continental names and become "Honorary-Anyth ing-But-Irish." Which is why so many bear English names like Smith, Brown, Ford, Burke & Cooper; Norman-French ones like Joyce, Power, Butler, Cruise & patronymics in Fitz- (Fitzgerald, Fitzgibbon); Norse ones like Neill and Bergin, Flemish like Prendergast, and Breton like Cusack and Plunkett (from Plouquenet). It was safer for Irish to try to "pass"--and much harder for African Americans. Non-African names were not something dark-skinned people could use to better their lives.

The Irish, even with new names, were still 2nd class citizens. Intermarriage was forbidden (although it occurred) but seldom did anyone of even part-Irish descent win a lawsuit if challenged by an "authentic" "pure" Englishman, and the part-Irish were referred to in courts of law as "mere Irish". (Like "quadroons" and Native American "halfbreeds"?) Nasty nonsense.
0 # suzyskier 2014-08-24 07:13
I do think you are right about racism and Irish Americans. How well I remember the busing issue in South Boston back in the 70's and early 80's The look of raw hatred on the faces of the "Southies" sent chills down my spine. It was very ugly. Even some "Friends" at the time were pretty blatant. I remember going to a Lake with a neighbor and her children. The girls and the Mom would not go in the water because there were black children in the water! Disgusted, my kids went in and had a great time.
+18 # ritawalpoleague 2014-08-24 02:18
Yes, suzyskier, racism is truly shameful. We are all in this 'stewpot' together.

But, what is the opposite of shameful is Justice Ginsberg's opening up here. So needed, her strong dedication to civil rights for all. Kudos to her honor. And I say this with me being a woman with dual citizenship, Irish and U.S., and a longtime legal advocate for people of color.
+3 # NAVYVET 2014-08-24 06:15
Mim, It goes back to the First Robber Baron era (1880-1932). Resentful Democrats became even more entrenched in the white supremacist mind-set (Klan). The South, hitherto a skeptical part of the country with few churches, was swept over by schismatic "Southern" (i.e., Confederate) Baptists and Methodists, who promised a separate and unequal life on earth, whatever happened in heaven. Poorer Southerners were suckers for it. The Klan was encouraged by their ministers.

At the same time the Republican Psrty flipflopped from abolitionist Left to rigidly Right, cozying up to the money of the steel-railroad- coal-and new oil oligarchy. They needed the Dixiecrat votes and pulled troops out of the South, ending the guarantees that enabled black voting & political participation. Thus the U.S. slid into the slime of the First Jim Crow era.

Both parties also had Left wings in those days--but they never won the Presidency. In the North, some city Democrats (those who weren't in jail for corruption and a few who were) supported the working class, and some rural Dems led by Wm Jennings Bryan championed small farmers--which automatically included bank reforms--but farmers were by no means friendly to former slaves. Read about the Populists--and Wilson's administration. The Republican Left spun off the Progressive Party, with a few hypocrites like T.R. but also some who echoed Socialism, peace & civil rights like the LaFollette brothers. Now we are in another phase of this LONG struggle!
+14 # ChapRL 2014-08-23 20:13
Carter appointed no one to the Supreme Court. it was Clinton in '93 or so.
+2 # mim 2014-08-23 21:29
That's exactly correct, ChapRL. Ian Millhiser, I hope you're reading these comments.

The first woman on the U.S. Supreme Court was nominated by Carter's successor Ronald Reagan.
+7 # California Neal 2014-08-23 22:26
Clinton appointed Ginsburg in June 1993 & she was confirmed in August 1993.
+13 # fango 2014-08-24 01:10
The author wrote that Carter appointed her to the federal bench. That is not quite the same thing as the Supreme Court, is it?
-64 # egbegb 2014-08-23 20:23
"disparate impact" is roughly equivalent to the 7-2 Dred Scott. Justice Ginsburg hates the US Constitution, doesn't understand it and should resign. Here are her thoughts on the US Constitution:
+21 # chomper2 2014-08-23 21:15
eg, just like the folks at Slate, where you dug up this link, your ideology has your brain in a lock box, where it is of no use to you whatsoever. Both you and Slate will twist anything around to make it fit what you already "know," so that you can lie your way out of the cognitive dissonance you would otherwise have to live with. For shame.
+18 # Thomas Martin 2014-08-23 22:07
Thank you Justice Ginsburg, you’ve given us some faith in our Supreme Court, even though it’s in a minority of you! … As wise as our country’s Founding Fathers were in establishing our government, the success of their plan depended on having majorities in both Congress and the Supreme Court, as well as a President, who represented the will of the people and at the same time stood up for individual rights and the rights of minorities. Well, our current Supreme Court majority “supremely” fails in implementing the hopes and expectations of our Founding Fathers! And, for all our Founding Fathers’ efforts in implementing “checks and balances” among our three branches of our government, Judges, once appointed for life, are free from controls from the Executive Branch, and furthermore, can only be impeached individually by the Legislative Branch. Only one Supreme Court Justice has ever been impeached, Samuel Chase in 1804 by the House of Representatives , and he was acquited by the Senate in 1805 … So, we’re stuck with this 5-to4 majority of nincompoops, or probably worse (ie, criminals) in our Supreme Court – Our Supreme Court!!! Our Founding Fathers didn’t anticipate that such an incompetent (or traitorous) group of yahoos could steal our Constitution from us. So what to do?
+22 # California Neal 2014-08-23 22:21
Ruth Bader Ginsburg is a bright light on a majority Republican ideologue Supreme Court. We've fallen far since moderate Republican Chief Justice Earl Warren led a 9-0 Supreme Court in Brown v. Board of Ed., the school integration case. Many of us progressives believe it is essential to elect Democratic Presidents because Supreme Court Justices often shape the law & public policies for decades.

The current Supreme Court majority "elected" George W. Bush, let corporations & very wealthy individuals pour billions into elections without identifying themselves, & struck down parts of the Voting Rights Act: all decisions that had more to do with Republican power than law, facts or justice. Federal district & appellate judges also serve for life.

Ferguson, MO has awakened many people who didn't realize how bad things are between largely white, overly militarized police forces & largely minority communities. Did you know about the 2 white cops who unnecessarily fired 9 times at a mentally disturbed black man (after his mother's funeral), killing him, 4 miles from Ferguson in St, Louis? This happened after the Ferguson killing, but hasn't had mainstream media coverage. The cops never tried to talk him down. They knew who he was. Their story was he was coming at them in a threatening fashion with a knife raised. A video taken by a local man shows his arms were at his side, he was saying "Shoot me," & he wasn't that close to them yet or moving fast. They could have Tazed him.
+3 # California Neal 2014-08-23 22:29
I meant Tased.
+3 # hydroweb 2014-08-23 22:39
Every evening on the CBS/NBC/ABC news there is an uplifting story about a black person or family. Racism is so deeply ingrained we take no notice of it any more!
+21 # Paul Scott 2014-08-23 22:56
Racism is right where it has always been, in this nation, right in the front row. The media makes believe that we have no problem then all hell breaks loose.
-3 # Anonymot 2014-08-24 04:23
It's not news, but it's still fascinating to note that from the ghetto to Ginsburg there is a failure to understand the basics of race.

Let me start by saying I'm white , but I have a black twin. I'm an American who's lived all over, including 3 years in Africa.

America's most profound trouble is it's difficulty in understanding Others. I can only touch the surface here. Forget the word "race", we are speaking about the "Other".

Part of the nature of most animals is a fear of an animal unlike "me". It’s genetic & profound. Humans have refined and expanded that from "look like me" to "think/act like me" via our species” brain development. You don't need a Harvard ° to grasp that. You & I & Justice Ginsburg believe that progress is rising above our nature in America. She & you are shocked when events prove we have not. Why?

Americans think we can evolve through legislation. We cannot. Evolution, animal or social, is a very slow process of progress by natural adaptation not by voting, "Hey, yeah, let's do that!" Let's change our feather colors, let's develop longer necks, we don't need all that melanin in our skin since there's no sun up here, let's go white.” That’s not how Life works.

Education may slowly change local social things, but profound, genetic, behavioral issues can’t be legislated away. That’s wishful thinking. Basically, we need to learn our limits and work within them. Otherwise we’re just moving hot air.
+5 # Citizen Mike 2014-08-24 05:05
The problem we see today traces back to the premature end of Reconstruction after the Civil War. The southern states were returned to The Union and given their autonomy too quickly. The Reconstruction should have lasted for at least a generation to purge racism from our culture in genuinely effective terms.

It may have been a mistake to allow the secessionist states to return to The Union at all. We would not be in this present situation if those former states remained as Territories run by governors appointed by Washington.

What we see today in my opinion is that the Racist Believers (and Racism is a belief system, albeit a nonsensical one) Just dug in after the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and waited for it to "blow over."

Now it has "blown over" with the recent scrapping of the Voting Rights Act. Likewise, the Racist Believers are biding their time and stalling waiting for our first Black President to go away.
+1 # Anonymot 2014-08-24 06:58
First Black, First woman, like it's a computer game. Obama may not even have a voice in the matter:

Read it, it's major.
-6 # 2014-08-24 06:12
At this stage in her life, Ruth should be thinking about what she will say to the Almighty Judge when she has to give an account for HER life.

Racism goes both ways ! Dems put forward an unqualified Black person as President.....n ot a woman, and not a qualified male. Racism.

USA is paying an awful price just for being able to say we had the 'first black president'.

America has far greater threats to its existence than racism and anti-gay smoke screens. This 'first black president' lets radical Islam embarrass him in the boxing ring of diplomacy -- He doesn't even try to deflect the punches.
+7 # walt 2014-08-24 06:36
A huge part of the problem was the Supreme Court giving the 2000 election to George W. Bush over Vice President Al Gore. That decision has cost the USA more than we can even imagine. It brought us more right wing SCOTUS justices, wars, torture, secret prisons, tax breaks for the rich, outsourced jobs, a housing market collapse, a Wall Street and banking collapse, and more. The racism Ginsburg speaks of is just one part of a huge problem for the USA and it's all part of the GOP!
0 # fredboy 2014-08-24 07:13
Yes, we once led the world in racial awareness and justice.
Now we are more reflective of apartheid South Africa, with jack booted police and organized, politicized racial hatred.

What's missing: A combination of positive leadership and good people.
0 # NAVYVET 2014-08-24 07:34
Excellent analysis, Mike. IT ENDED WAY TOO SOON! The South began that war out of sheer stupidity, ignorance & arrogance, and lost it for the same reasons. No amnesty should EVER have been granted military traitors like Lee and his other generals, and they should have brooded in jail (up North) till the end of their lives, and if they persisted in their silly states' rights arguments (as if our Constitution were merely the Articles of Confederation!) they should not been allowed writing paper for self-justificat ion. As a military veteran I recognize their lifelong obligation to their oath of office, to support the Constitution, and their criminal choice is obvious. The only one who recognized his crimes and admitted them publicly was General James ("Dutch") Longstreet, who freed his slaves before joining the Confederate Army. Nobody else did that. After going public, Longstreet was hounded out of his home state of Mississippi and had to move North. The rest of the generals stayed sullen, self-justifying & mistakenly resentful the rest of their lives, and passed that on.

I know about the white South. I'm a paleface redheaded white, raised in the South. It's good place for one thing--to escape from. At 78, I live by choice in a black neighborhood in a big Northern rustbelt city, and my black friends here are heads and shoulders above the white bigots of the South--both morally AND intellectually.