Archive for the ‘California Politics’ Category

Why Labor’s Dem-on-Dem Attacks Are Foolhardy

Wednesday, July 1st, 2015

LBJ2In 1967, President Lyndon Baines Johnson famously posed a political question to moderate civil rights leaders Roy Wilkins and Whitney Young, then quickly answered it himself.

”You know the difference between cannibals and liberals?” the president asked. “Cannibals eat only their enemies.”

LBJ’s formulation comes to mind as we ponder the recent eat-your-own behavior of the dominant, union faction of the California and National Democratic Parties, which seems, oddly, to ape that of Tea Party Republicans.

Ideological rigidity, unwillingness to compromise, incendiary rhetoric, unreasonable demands, infuriating inconsistency and scorched earth tactics: these are just some of the characteristics of Tea Party types, whose stranglehold on Congress has so enraged liberal and moderate Democrats and Republicans alike.

Yet they’re exactly the characteristics – albeit on the left not the right — that now infest the Labor Union Wing of the Democratic Party, in California and Washington.

From Elk Grove to East Rockaway, Democratic members of Congress, from Ami Bera to Kathleen Rice, who have dared to stray from Big Labor’s take-no-prisoners stance on trade, have been pilloried as traitors to working people and others. Their mortal sin: bucking organized labor’s line on just a few issues, while hewing to it on most.


Art Pulaski

Off with their heads: It’s understandable that Big Labor feels threatened, across the nation, by the decline in the influence and membership of industrial unions, as the manufacturing economy gives way to the cyber-service economy.

However, when crusading unions recently poured millions into a failed attempt to defeat Steve Glazer, a lifelong Democratic progressive who spent years working for Jerry Brown, in a special state Senate election — because he departed from party orthodoxy in opposing some public employee strikes – it seemed a bridge too far.

Likewise the nonstop attacks on another Democrat, former San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, for his sponsorship of a proposed ballot measure to give cities the right to revise taxpayer-financed pension plans.

At the recent California Democratic convention, Art Pulaski, secretary-treasurer and CEO of the California Labor Federation, vilified pro-trade agreement Democratic incumbents, denouncing by name Rep. Bera, who last year eked out a GOP ex-congressman, by the underwhelming margin of 50.4 to 49.6 percent

“It’s time to call them out,” Pulaski thundered from the podium, charging that Bera “bowed to corporate interests and kneels at the altar of profits.”

“Our message is this – you’re choosing sides,” he shouted, adding that come next election, “we’ll choose sides” against Bera. “Let’s kick ass together.”

You go, Art. Sic temper tyrannis.


U.S. Rep. Sam Farr

Why trade is good for California: Inquiring minds want to know: when did the Democrats give up the concept of a united front – wherein a variety of legislators who agree on 90% of the issues could tolerate differences on 10%?

For decades, labor union Democrats – in the building trades, for example – mostly have managed to remain allies with environmental Democrats, even though to the former, progressive policy might mean new housing development, while to the latter that might look like urban sprawl.

Throughout California, in the San Francisco Bay Area and Los Angeles County, and elsewhere across the country, Democrats of different stripes – some with jobs as their first priority, like miners or autoworkers, others with protection of the environment and social services as theirs — might disagree on specific issues, but never lost sight of their common interests.

Take U.S. Rep. Sam Farr of Monterey – as reliable a liberal Democratic vote any party purist could ask for about 96% of the time, according to the National Journal. (Nancy Pelosi scored 86%, Zoe Lofgren 78%). He has fought against offshore oil drilling off the Central Coast, which would provide jobs to union workers in construction and oil field operations. But he’s always had labor union support. He’s also one of those who dared support the Democratic president of the United States on trade.

Here’s Farr’s take on trade, from a post to constituents. We quote at length because it makes great sense to us:

The strength of the Central Coast’s economy lies not in maintaining the status quo. It lies in our ability to adapt and change to meet the demands of a global community. The Central Coast is connected to that international community. We are the home of the Defense Language Institute, the Naval Postgraduate School and many other world renowned colleges and universities. And our local businesses rely on access to new markets around the globe to compete.

Trade opens up those markets. It puts the goods we produce and the crops we grow here in California into the hands of more buyers around the world. More sales abroad create more jobs here at home. Trade is good for the Central Coast. 

I trust President Obama to deliver a better trade deal than Speaker Boehner and Senator McConnell. Under TPA, any deal brought to Congress by the President will be made public and reviewed for 60 days. At the end of that time period, Congress will hold a simple up or down vote. Without TPA, the Republican controlled Congress would be able to strip out any of the tougher standards put in place by the White House.

spitting-432799We expectorate on you from a great height: Labor unions may spit on this kind of thinking, but Farr’s logic – similar to arguments made by Bera, Scott Peters and Susan Davis of San Diego and Jim Costa of the Central Valley – is not anti-working class or even anti-union; it’s a liberal Democrat’s take on the politics and policy needs of his district and the nation.

“It’s disappointing that we had a few members vote in a way that we would say was against the interests of working people in California,” Steve Smith of the California Labor Federation, told Cathy Decker of the LA Times. “And this is something we’re going to remember.”

Oy. Again with the threats.

Can’t we all just get along? Let’s behold for a moment some members of the Senate lineup who voted to support President Obama’s fast-track authority on the trade deal: Dianne Feinstein, the reigning queen of California Democrats, plus Claire McCaskill of Missouri, Patty Murray of Washington, Jeanne Shaheen of New Hampshire.

Not exactly a murderer’s row of right-to-work crusaders.

232354991_Fat_cat_boss_001_xlargeIn California, labor leaders are enforcing strict discipline simply because they can, in a state where Democratic power approaches hegemony. More broadly, however, the moves come at a time when unions have lost membership and influence across the nation – most significantly in Wisconsin, where Republican Governor Scott Walker has busted unions and won approval of right-to-work legislation, despite the state’s history of progressive politics and trade unionism. All of which makes the Democrats’ labor wing appear desperate to hold on to whatever vestiges of power it can.

It is a plain fact that in California, public employee unions — teachers and prison guards, especially — long have been the Democrats’ number one special interest group, shoveling cash and other campaign resources to lawmakers in exchange for their knee-jerk obeisance.

“Mindful of the millions they spend electing Democrats, the public employee unions expect legislators to act like the old Soviet-era nomenklatura, compliant toadies who do what they are told,” said Tony Quinn, a former GOP political consultant who now co-authors “The Target Book,” a comprehensive collection of data on every district in the state. “So when one gets out of line it’s a big deal.”

We get that Big Labor is in decline, public support for unions has weakened and their leaders feel they’re fighting for survival. And to some extent, they are — the most powerful labor unions in the country are no longer industrial trade unions but public employee unions.

And where they’re wrong: the leaders see trade as a fundamental threat to unionized American manufacturing jobs, but their members increasingly view trade as consumers who benefit from lower-cost goods.


State Sen. Steve Glazer

Adapt or die. Several trends in California, beyond Glazer’s convincing 10-point victory, suggest the labor Dem strategy of eating their own is, er, uh, shortsighted.

The Top Two primary system has created a friendlier political landscape for pro-business Democrats, plus incentives and openings for traditionally Republican interests, like the Chamber of Commerce, to gain favor with them through campaign backing; with the loss of partisan primaries, moderate Democrats now can succeed by courting independents and some Republicans, as Glazer proved in his successful state Senate district race.

Also, recent polling suggests widespread unhappiness with financial packages for public employees: More than eight in ten registered voters said that money spent on public pension or retirement systems is either a big problem (43 percent) of somewhat of a problem (39 percent) in a Public Policy Institute of California survey done last year.

For Democrats, this poses a huge challenge: some of their most loyal and important interests are threatening to set the big tent on fire. Sure, it’s important to draw lines from time to time. But compared to the alternative (see: Walker, Scott above) Democrats like Dianne Feinstein and Ami Bera ought to be seen as on the same side of that line.

Secret bottom-line memo to labor Dems: Stop the Tea Party purges.

What Catalyzed SCOTUS Gay Marriage Decision

Monday, June 29th, 2015

anthonykennedyBy Hank Plante
Palm Springs Bureau Chief

Many times, familiarity breeds respect.

Look no further than Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy, the swing vote and author of the landmark majority opinion affirming same-sex marriage nationwide.

A Ronald Reagan appointee, Kennedy has a vacation house in the Palm Springs area, which the real estate website Trulia says has some of the most heavily concentrated “gayborhoods” in the U.S.

This means that Kennedy, who also has a gay law clerk and was mentored by a semi-closeted gay law school dean in Sacramento, lives in the real world, alongside LGBT friends, neighbors and co-workers.  And in that regard he is like most Americans… even the President of the United States.

On his trip to Palm Springs last weekend, President Obama reportedly stayed once again in the Rancho Mirage home of a gay couple.

If the Obamas buy a retirement home in the Desert, as is rumored, it surely will be in part because of the hospitality and good taste of his Thunderbird Heights hosts: Ambassador James Costos and his partner, White House decorator Michael Smith.

That’s a long way from 1953, when President Dwight Eisenhower signed an executive order banning gays and lesbians from working for the federal government. Ike’s edict also forced private companies who did business with the government to fire gay employees.

But this is a very different country.

costos-smith homeSome of my best friends…A CBS News poll taken in 2010 found 77% of Americans know someone who is gay or lesbian. That number has surely risen in the years since then, as more people come out of the closet.

None of this, of course, is news to millennials, who have grown up among close gay friends. But it remains a dilemma for Republican presidential candidates, every one of who opposes same-sex marriage, and several of who immediately and aggressively pledged to fight Friday’s ruling.

But their fight is likely to not only turn off Democrats and Independents, but many members of their own party.

The Washington Post earlier this year reported on what the paper called “the most surprising gay marriage poll we’ve seen in a long while.” The survey, by NBC News and Marist College, showed half the likely GOP voters in the early primary states of Iowa, New Hampshire and South Carolina say opposition to gay marriage is “unacceptable” in a Republican candidate.

What’s good for business… Their position also puts the Republican candidates at odds with some their biggest financial backers: keeping and attracting customers is why CEOS of 379 U.S. corporations authorized support for the the Supreme Court case seeking marriage equality – a record number of amicus briefs in any case.

It can’t be comfortable for Republican presidential candidates to be at odds with names like ConAgra, Dow Chemical and General Electric?  Not to mention millennial sacred shrines like Apple, eBay and Google.

HankPlante2Of course there is more to be done.  Twenty-nine states still allow LGBT people to be fired or denied housing simply because they’re gay.  To put that another way, thanks to the Supreme Court, a gay person can get legally married in the morning and fired in the afternoon if he or she talks about it.  But Friday’s ruling should give new impetus to a bill to rectify that, the Employment Non-Discrimination Act.

Bottom line: Gays, lesbians — and those 77% who know them — are feeling their power today.  What was once called “The love that dare not speak its name” at Oscar Wilde’s indecency trial today won’t keep its mouth shut.

Hank Plante is an Emmy and Peabody-winning journalist who has spent three decades covering California politics for the CBS TV stations in San Francisco and Los Angeles.  He is the Palm Springs Bureau Chief of Calbuzz.

Obama: Time for “An Honest Accounting of History”

Saturday, June 27th, 2015

obamaIt’s been an amazing week of news: the Confederate flag lowering across the South, the Supreme Court upholding the rights of everyone, not only to have health insurance but also to marry.

Of all the millions of words written and uttered about events, however, none were more eloquent or emotional than President Obama’s eulogy for the Reverend Clementa Pinckney and eight of his parishioners murdered at Mother Emanuel A.M.E. Church in Charleston, South Carolina.

Here is the transcript, as released by the White House.

The Bible calls us to hope.  To persevere, and have faith in things not seen.

“They were still living by faith when they died,” Scripture tells us. “They did not receive the things promised; they only saw them and welcomed them from a distance, admitting that they were foreigners and strangers on Earth.”

We are here today to remember a man of God who lived by faith.  A man who believed in things not seen.  A man who believed there were better days ahead, off in the distance.  A man of service who persevered, knowing full well he would not receive all those things he was promised, because he believed his efforts would deliver a better life for those who followed.

clementa-pinckney-800A burden of expectation. To Jennifer, his beloved wife; to Eliana and Malana, his beautiful, wonderful daughters; to the Mother Emanuel family and the people of Charleston, the people of South Carolina.

I cannot claim to have the good fortune to know Reverend Pinckney well.  But I did have the pleasure of knowing him and meeting him here in South Carolina, back when we were both a little bit younger.  Back when I didn’t have visible grey hair.

The first thing I noticed was his graciousness, his smile, his reassuring baritone, his deceptive sense of humor — all qualities that helped him wear so effortlessly a heavy burden of expectation.

Friends of his remarked this week that when Clementa Pinckney entered a room, it was like the future arrived; that even from a young age, folks knew he was special.  Anointed.

He was the progeny of a long line of the faithful — a family of preachers who spread God’s word, a family of protesters who sowed change to expand voting rights and desegregate the South.  Clem heard their instruction, and he did not forsake their teaching.

He was in the pulpit by 13, pastor by 18, public servant by 23.  He did not exhibit any of the cockiness of youth, nor youth’s insecurities; instead, he set an example worthy of his position, wise beyond his years, in his speech, in his conduct, in his love, faith, and purity.

viewing05The best of 46. As a senator, he represented a sprawling swath of the Lowcountry, a place that has long been one of the most neglected in America.  A place still wracked by poverty and inadequate schools; a place where children can still go hungry and the sick can go without treatment.  A place that needed somebody like Clem.

His position in the minority party meant the odds of winning more resources for his constituents were often long.  His calls for greater equity were too often unheeded, the votes he cast were sometimes lonely.

But he never gave up.  He stayed true to his convictions.  He would not grow discouraged.  After a full day at the capitol, he’d climb into his car and head to the church to draw sustenance from his family, from his ministry, from the community that loved and needed him.  There he would fortify his faith, and imagine what might be.

Reverend Pinckney embodied a politics that was neither mean, nor small.  He conducted himself quietly, and kindly, and diligently.  He encouraged progress not by pushing his ideas alone, but by seeking out your ideas, partnering with you to make things happen.

He was full of empathy and fellow feeling, able to walk in somebody else’s shoes and see through their eyes.  No wonder one of his senate colleagues remembered Senator Pinckney as “the most gentle of the 46 of us — the best of the 46 of us.”

panthers21s-1-webDeeds and words. Clem was often asked why he chose to be a pastor and a public servant.  But the person who asked probably didn’t know the history of the AME church.  As our brothers and sisters in the AME church know, we don’t make those distinctions. “Our calling,” Clem once said, “is not just within the walls of the congregation, but…the life and community in which our congregation resides.”

He embodied the idea that our Christian faith demands deeds and not just words; that the “sweet hour of prayer” actually lasts the whole week long — that to put our faith in action is more than individual salvation, it’s about our collective salvation; that to feed the hungry and clothe the naked and house the homeless is not just a call for isolated charity but the imperative of a just society.

What a good man.  Sometimes I think that’s the best thing to hope for when you’re eulogized — after all the words and recitations and resumes are read, to just say someone was a good man.

You don’t have to be of high station to be a good man.  Preacher by 13.  Pastor by 18.  Public servant by 23.  What a life Clementa Pinckney lived.  What an example he set. What a model for his faith.  And then to lose him at 41 — slain in his sanctuary with eight wonderful members of his flock, each at different stages in life but bound together by a common commitment to God.

emanuel-church-trusteesHush harbors, praise houses. Cynthia Hurd.  Susie Jackson.  Ethel Lance.  DePayne Middleton-Doctor.  Tywanza Sanders.  Daniel L. Simmons.  Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.  Myra Thompson.  Good people.  Decent people. God-fearing people.  People so full of life and so full of kindness.  People who ran the race, who persevered.  People of great faith.

To the families of the fallen, the nation shares in your grief.  Our pain cuts that much deeper because it happened in a church.  The church is and always has been the center of African-American life — a place to call our own in a too often hostile world, a sanctuary from so many hardships.

Over the course of centuries, black churches served as “hush harbors” where slaves could worship in safety; praise houses where their free descendants could gather and shout hallelujah — rest stops for the weary along the Underground Railroad; bunkers for the foot soldiers of the Civil Rights Movement.

They have been, and continue to be, community centers where we organize for jobs and justice; places of scholarship and network; places where children are loved and fed and kept out of harm’s way, and told that they are beautiful and smart — and taught that they matter. That’s what happens in church.

That’s what the black church means.  Our beating heart.  The place where our dignity as a people is inviolate.  When there’s no better example of this tradition than Mother Emanuel — a church built by blacks seeking liberty, burned to the ground because its founder sought to end slavery, only to rise up again, a Phoenix from these ashes.

When there were laws banning all-black church gatherings, services happened here anyway, in defiance of unjust laws. When there was a righteous movement to dismantle Jim Crow, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. preached from its pulpit, and marches began from its steps.  A sacred place, this church.  Not just for blacks, not just for Christians, but for every American who cares about the steady expansion — of human rights and human dignity in this country; a foundation stone for liberty and justice for all.  That’s what the church meant.

roofUsed by God. We do not know whether the killer of Reverend Pinckney and eight others knew all of this history.  But he surely sensed the meaning of his violent act.  It was an act that drew on a long history of bombs and arson and shots fired at churches, not random, but as a means of control, a way to terrorize and oppress. An act that he imagined would incite fear and recrimination; violence and suspicion. An act that he presumed would deepen divisions that trace back to our nation’s original sin.

Oh, but God works in mysterious ways.  God has different ideas.

He didn’t know he was being used by God.  Blinded by hatred, the alleged killer could not see the grace surrounding Reverend Pinckney and that Bible study group — the light of love that shone as they opened the church doors and invited a stranger to join in their prayer circle.  The alleged killer could have never anticipated the way the families of the fallen would respond when they saw him in court — in the midst of unspeakable grief, with words of forgiveness.  He couldn’t imagine that.

The alleged killer could not imagine how the city of Charleston, under the good and wise leadership of Mayor Riley — how the state of South Carolina, how the United States of America would respond — not merely with revulsion at his evil act, but with big-hearted generosity and, more importantly, with a thoughtful introspection and self-examination that we so rarely see in public life.

Blinded by hatred, he failed to comprehend what Reverend Pinckney so well understood — the power of God’s grace.

The idea of grace. This whole week, I’ve been reflecting on this idea of grace. The grace of the families who lost loved ones.  The grace that Reverend Pinckney would preach about in his sermons.

The grace described in one of my favorite hymnals — the one we all know:  Amazing grace, how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me. I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.

According to the Christian tradition, grace is not earned.  Grace is not merited.  It’s not something we deserve.  Rather, grace is the free and benevolent favor of God — as manifested in the salvation of sinners and the bestowal of blessings.  Grace.

As a nation, out of this terrible tragedy, God has visited grace upon us, for he has allowed us to see where we’ve been blind.  He has given us the chance, where we’ve been lost, to find our best selves. We may not have earned it, this grace, with our rancor and complacency, and shortsightedness and fear of each other — but we got it all the same.

He gave it to us anyway.  He’s once more given us grace.  But it is up to us now to make the most of it, to receive it with gratitude, and to prove ourselves worthy of this gift.

150620-confederate-flag-charleston-mn-0850_1f2694bbe7fd2c1305ef7c5a6442a7b2.nbcnews-fp-1200-800An honest accounting of history. For too long, we were blind to the pain that the Confederate flag stirred in too many of our citizens. It’s true, a flag did not cause these murders.  But as people from all walks of life, Republicans and Democrats, now acknowledge — including Governor Haley, whose recent eloquence on the subject is worthy of praise — as we all have to acknowledge, the flag has always represented more than just ancestral pride. For many, black and white, that flag was a reminder of systemic oppression and racial subjugation.  We see that now.

Removing the flag from this state’s capitol would not be an act of political correctness; it would not be an insult to the valor of Confederate soldiers.  It would simply be an acknowledgment that the cause for which they fought — the cause of slavery — was wrong — the imposition of Jim Crow after the Civil War, the resistance to civil rights for all people was wrong.

It would be one step in an honest accounting of America’s history; a modest but meaningful balm for so many unhealed wounds.  It would be an expression of the amazing changes that have transformed this state and this country for the better, because of the work of so many people of goodwill, people of all races striving to form a more perfect union.  By taking down that flag, we express God’s grace.

The subtle impulse. But I don’t think God wants us to stop there.  For too long, we’ve been blind to the way past injustices continue to shape the present.  Perhaps we see that now.  Perhaps this tragedy causes us to ask some tough questions about how we can permit so many of our children to languish in poverty, or attend dilapidated schools, or grow up without prospects for a job or for a career.

Perhaps it causes us to examine what we’re doing to cause some of our children to hate. Perhaps it softens hearts towards those lost young men, tens and tens of thousands caught up in the criminal justice system — and leads us to make sure that that system is not infected with bias; that we embrace changes in how we train and equip our police so that the bonds of trust between law enforcement and the communities they serve make us all safer and more secure.

Maybe we now realize the way racial bias can infect us even when we don’t realize it, so that we’re guarding against not just racial slurs, but we’re also guarding against the subtle impulse to call Johnny back for a job interview but not Jamal.

NoGunControlFor too long. So that we search our hearts when we consider laws to make it harder for some of our fellow citizens to vote.  By recognizing our common humanity by treating every child as important, regardless of the color of their skin or the station into which they were born, and to do what’s necessary to make opportunity real for every American — by doing that, we express God’s grace.

For too long –

AUDIENCE:  For too long!

For too long, we’ve been blind to the unique mayhem that gun violence inflicts upon this nation.  Sporadically, our eyes are open:  When eight of our brothers and sisters are cut down in a church basement, 12 in a movie theater, 26 in an elementary school.  But I hope we also see the 30 precious lives cut short by gun violence in this country every single day; the countless more whose lives are forever changed — the survivors crippled, the children traumatized and fearful every day as they walk to school, the husband who will never feel his wife’s warm touch, the entire communities whose grief overflows every time they have to watch what happened to them happen to some other place.

The vast majority of Americans — the majority of gun owners — want to do something about this.  We see that now. And I’m convinced that by acknowledging the pain and loss of others, even as we respect the traditions and ways of life that make up this beloved country — by making the moral choice to change, we express God’s grace.

We don’t earn grace.  We’re all sinners.  We don’t deserve it.  But God gives it to us anyway.  And we choose how to receive it.  It’s our decision how to honor it.

Charleston Shooting Attack on Mother Emanuel-2Refutation of forgiveness. None of us can or should expect a transformation in race relations overnight.  Every time something like this happens, somebody says we have to have a conversation about race.

We talk a lot about race.  There’s no shortcut.  And we don’t need more talk. None of us should believe that a handful of gun safety measures will prevent every tragedy.  It will not.

People of goodwill will continue to debate the merits of various policies, as our democracy requires — this is a big, raucous place, America is.  And there are good people on both sides of these debates.  Whatever solutions we find will necessarily be incomplete.

But it would be a betrayal of everything Reverend Pinckney stood for, I believe, if we allowed ourselves to slip into a comfortable silence again.  Once the eulogies have been delivered, once the TV cameras move on, to go back to business as usual — that’s what we so often do to avoid uncomfortable truths about the prejudice that still infects our society.

To settle for symbolic gestures without following up with the hard work of more lasting change — that’s how we lose our way again.

It would be a refutation of the forgiveness expressed by those families if we merely slipped into old habits, whereby those who disagree with us are not merely wrong but bad; where we shout instead of listen; where we barricade ourselves behind preconceived notions or well-practiced cynicism.

The uses of history. Reverend Pinckney once said, “Across the South, we have a deep appreciation of history — we haven’t always had a deep appreciation of each other’s history.”  What is true in the South is true for America.  Clem understood that justice grows out of recognition of ourselves in each other.  That my liberty depends on you being free, too.  That history can’t be a sword to justify injustice, or a shield against progress, but must be a manual for how to avoid repeating the mistakes of the past — how to break the cycle.  A roadway toward a better world.  He knew that the path of grace involves an open mind — but, more importantly, an open heart.

That’s what I’ve felt this week — an open heart.  That, more than any particular policy or analysis, is what’s called upon right now, I think — what a friend of mine, the writer Marilyn Robinson, calls “that reservoir of goodness, beyond, and of another kind, that we are able to do each other in the ordinary cause of things.”

Newton-Amazing-Grace-171486_p53Amazing Grace. That reservoir of goodness.  If we can find that grace, anything is possible.  If we can tap that grace, everything can change.

Amazing grace.  Amazing grace.

(Begins to sing) — Amazing grace — how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me; I once was lost, but now I’m found; was blind but now I see.

Clementa Pinckney found that grace.

Cynthia Hurd found that grace.

Susie Jackson found that grace.

Ethel Lance found that grace.

DePayne Middleton-Doctor found that grace.

Tywanza Sanders found that grace.

Daniel L. Simmons, Sr. found that grace.

Sharonda Coleman-Singleton found that grace.

Myra Thompson found that grace.

Through the example of their lives, they’ve now passed it on to us.  May we find ourselves worthy of that precious and extraordinary gift, as long as our lives endure.

May grace now lead them home.  May God continue to shed His grace on the United States of America.


Shocker: Oil Spill Spreads, Fouls Distant Beaches

Tuesday, June 23rd, 2015

oilspillsignThe oil company responsible for the recent coastline spill near Santa Barbara and a state agency both confirmed Monday that oil from the accident has traveled more than 100 miles to the south, raising the financial, legal and political stakes of the incident.

The finding that mysterious, large tar balls which have polluted beaches as far away from Santa Barbara as Manhattan Beach, a small Los Angeles County city 130 miles from the accident, puts the lie to spin from Plains All American Pipeline, the company responsible for the spill.

Plains, a multi-billion dollar company based in Houston, previously publicly belittled reports by environmentalists that the oil has widely dispersed as “incorrect concerns.”

The analysis of the direct connection between the oil spilled on May 19 and masses of tar balls as large as four inches in diameter found south of Los Angeles, which was conducted by the Woods Hole Oceanographic Institution and scientists at UC Santa Barbara, is significant for several reasons:

–The far-flung damage caused by the broken Plains pipeline ensures that the financial, and possibly criminal, liability of the company will be far greater than the several million dollars previously estimated. Both Attorney General Kamala Harris and Santa Barbara District Attorney Joyce Dudley are conducting investigations into the shoddy maintenance of the badly corroded pipeline that ruptured.

–The spread of oil along the coast and underwater will buttress efforts in Sacramento to more tightly restrict and regulate production and transportation of offshore oil. At least three bills are pending in the Legislature on the issue, which would: crack down on slipshod practices in the large network of pipelines that line the coast; close a legal loophole that allows oil companies to extract oil from certain state-owned offshore sites within the California Coastal Sanctuary; beef up emergency procedures for oil spills while preventing the use of toxic dispersants.

–The new reports by Plains and California’s Department of Fish and Wildlife casts a harsh light on the federal agency responsible for inspecting pipelines,  strengthening efforts by Democrats in Congress to tighten safety policies and procedures, and to increase funding and staffing for the government’s Pipeline and Hazardous Materials Safety Administration, at a time when Republicans keep cutting regulatory agency budgets across the board.

“This is a game changer in terms of how you evaluate the damage,” said Susan Jordan, director of the California Coastal Protection Network. “This is perhaps the first time in California we’ve seen a spill in one location and impacts in locations as far as 150 miles away.”

Oil-Spill-Bird-lc-630x420Beach goers and environmental organizations have reported finding unusual deposits of tar on beaches as far away as Orange County and San Diego, and confirmation that the oil from the spill has spread also will increase pressure for more testing to determine the full extent of the damage, both on the coast and underwater, where the impacts are harder to discover and to measure.

“Since the initial report of oil on South Bay beaches on May 27th,” a coalition of high-profile California environmental organizations said in a statement, “oiled beach reports have come in from Oxnard, Leo Carrillo State Beach, El Matador, Zuma Beach, Surfrider, Sunset surf spot, Santa Monica, Venice, the entire South Bay, Long Beach, San Clemente and Laguna Beach.”

plains“Long Beach and seven miles of South Bay beaches experienced closures, all during unfortunate timing at the beginning of peak summer season,” the statement added.

For Plains, at least part of the bottom line message from the troubling reports is clear: ka-ching, ka-ching.

Call It Like It Is: Dylann Roof is a Domestic Terrorist

Saturday, June 20th, 2015

roofBy Dick Polman

ISIS death toll in America: 0. Domestic terrorist death toll in Charleston: 9.

Unless you’re totally clueless – unless, say, you’re a Fox Newsbot or a troll with sawdust between your ears – you’ll get my point. We spend so much time worrying about murderous foreign Muslims (Lindsey Graham says we gotta stop ISIS “before we all get killed here at home”) that we are routinely blind to the clear and present danger. I’m talking about the home-grown haters who marinate in the toxic American stew.

Dylann Roof – who has reportedly confessed -  is a domestic terrorist right out of central casting. As the Department of Homeland Security warned in a report six years ago, “white supremacist lone wolves pose the most significant domestic terrorist threat, because of their low profile and autonomy – separate from any formalized groups.”

He Meets the Definition Fueled by his hatred of black people, he’s a classic domestic terrorist as defined by the U.S Code of Federal Regulations: “The unlawful use of force and violence against persons or property to intimidate or coerce a government, the civilian population, or any segment thereof, in furtherance of political or social objectives.”

Yet, amazingly (OK, not so amazingly), some people can’t bring themselves to call this kid what he is. They don’t see the terrorism. They don’t see the racism. They won’t concede that, all too often in America, a twisted misfit can get a gun almost as easy as a candy bar. Instead of connecting the dots, they lie to themselves, like they did yesterday on Fox News. Big letters on the bottom of the screen: Attack On Faith. Because, you see, this was not a hate crime (no matter what the Charleston police said), this was just another attack on Christianity.

Let’s connect those dots The willfully oblivious are advised to follow my words with their fingers, and move their lips if need be:

roofjacket1. On his jacket, Roof wore flag patches honoring the old South Africa (the white racist apartheid regime), and the country formerly called Rhodesia (when it was a white racist regime). Both flags are popular on the numerous white supremacist websites.

2. Roof reportedly told a friend, Joseph Meek Jr., that blacks were taking over and that something had to be done to help the white race.

3. Another friend, Dalton Tyler, told ABC News: “He was big on segregation and other stuff. He said he wanted to start a civil war.”

4. John Mullins, another friend, says that Roof was known for his racist statements, “that kind of southern pride.”

5. Roof posed with a license plate honoring The Confederate States of America – the kind of “southern pride” that’s rampant in South Carolina, where the flag of treason flies daily on the State Capitol grounds. The flag, lest we forget, was founded by white supremacists who wrote in their manifesto that “the negro is not equal to the white man, that slavery subordination to the superior race is his natural and normal condition.”

6. At the Charleston church, Roof told a survivor that he had come “to kill black people….You rape our women and you’re taking over our country. And you have to go.”

7. According to news reports this morning, Roof has told police that he wanted to start a race war.

Yup, Roof is a typical domestic specimen. As the U.S. Military Academy’s Combating Terrorism Center documented in a ’12 report, right-wing extremists have averaged 337 attacks per year on American soil in the years since 9/11 – dwarfing the numbers attributed to left-wingers or American Muslims.

So let’s state the obvious: Roof should not be described as “a loner,” or “a disturbed individual.” He’s part of a pattern, an heir to the racist hatred that still stains our society, half a century after the civil rights movement. He’s a terrorist who committed violence against innocent civilians in furtherance of a political objective. The facts speak for themselves. And as the late southern historian Shelby Foote once observed, “Facts are just the bare bones out of which truth is made.”

Meanwhile dickpolman the Confederate flag is flying this morning on the South Carolina Capitol grounds. The American flag atop the dome has been lowered to half-mast, the state flag has been lowered to half-mast…but, under state rules, the governor is powerless to lower the stars n’ bars. So let’s sing it:

“…And the racists’ dead glare / Their hate spewing in air / Gave proof through the night/ That their flag was still there…”

Dick Polman, former political writer for the Philadelphia Inquirer, blogs at  www.newsworks.org, where this column originally appeared.