Sunday, April 20, 2014

Last Call For Burying The Lede

The Associated Press story on Missouri Republicans' latest nullification nonsense gets buried to the point of the final paragraph.  It starts off well enough:

Missouri Republicans are considering a new approach to prevent federal agents from enforcing laws the state considers to be infringements on gun rights — barring them from future careers in state law enforcement agencies.

The change marks the most recent version of Missouri's attempt to nullify some federal gun control laws. It was endorsed by a state Senate committee this past week and is likely to reach the chamber floor.

Well sure, that's standard GOP idiocy that's patently unconstitutional.  The Supremacy Clause has been settled precedent for decades now:  states can't pass laws that specifically refuse to enforce federal ones.  The Missouri GOP wants to not only make enforcement of federal gun control laws a crime, they now want to end the law enforcement careers of those who enforce these federal laws, and they reserve the right to declare which laws are unconstitutional.

The only thing keeping these bills from becoming law is Democratic Gov. Jay Nixon.

If the Senate passes the new version, the House would also need to sign off before the bill could reach Gov. Jay Nixon's desk. The Democratic governor vetoed a similar bill last year and has expressed reservations about any legislation that seeks to nullify federal laws.

Although supporters consider the employment ban a more moderate position, the change is unlikely to sway the measure's opponents who argue the entire bill wouldn't survive a court challenge because states cannot nullify federal laws.

"I'm adamantly opposed to this buffoonery," said Sen. Jamilah Nasheed, D-St. Louis. "I just don't think that we should be wasting our time on legislation that we all know is unconstitutional."

Right, so all this makes sense.  Why then are Republicans wasting their time?  Literally we don't find out until the very last paragraph:

The bill would also lower the minimum age required to get a concealed weapons permit to 19 from 21 and allow those permit holders to carry a firearm openly, even in municipalities with ordinances prohibiting open carry.

So this isn't a nullification bill at all, it's an open carry bill.  But we apparently can't call it an open carry bill for some reason.

Funny how that works.

Another Milepost On The Road To Oblivion

CNN's Ashley Fantz asks:

Can the Klan rebrand?

Because as white supremacists like Frazier Glenn Miller are shooting people and shouting "Heil Hitler" the real problem in 2014 with the Aryan movement is lack of marketing.

From a sheer marketing perspective, the lack of central leadership poses more problems for the KKK if it's serious about revamping its image. Just look at the Catholic Church, Ries said.
"The KKK doesn't have a Pope. Look at what that guy has done. You have to have a leader like that to make people believe a change has happened," she said.

Without a clear leader, marketing experts said, crafting and conveying a spin-friendly message is impossible.

That was evident the minute members of the "new" Klan denounced the shootings. Soon after Ancona spoke to reporters, other self-described "real" Klansmen began attacking him online for not adhering to authentic Klan doctrine.

"This movement is a hodgepodge of little groups that, as often as they attack their enemies, attack one another," said Mark Potok, a spokesman for the Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups.

He estimates there are about 8,000 KKK members nationwide.

"To call these guys disorganized," he said, "doesn't quite do it."

There's no chance that the Klan could rebrand and these are all dangerous, hate-filled lunatics, but somebody felt the need to write 5,000 words to give us the "both sides" of this "argument" in 2014.  How nice.

Your Sunday Long Read

This depressing, saddening and altogether heartbreaking ProPublica article by Nikole Hannah-Jones on school re-segregation in America should definitely spur some action.  It's evidence that the Bush-era civil rights division of the Justice Department, which started releasing school districts from busing orders almost immediately and for 8 years, has done so much damage to the public education system in this country that as we approach the 60th anniversary of Brown v Board of Education, one has to wonder if the decision even matters anymore in places like Tuscaloosa.

The reason for the decline of Central’s homecoming parade is no secret. In 2000, another federal judge released Tuscaloosa City Schools from the court-ordered desegregation mandate that had governed it for a single generation. Central had successfully achieved integration, the district had argued—it could be trusted to manage that success going forward.

Freed from court oversight, Tuscaloosa’s schools have seemed to move backwards in time. The citywide integrated high school is gone, replaced by three smaller schools. Central retains the name of the old powerhouse, but nothing more. A struggling school serving the city’s poorest part of town, it is 99 percent black. D’Leisha, an honors student since middle school, has only marginal college prospects. Predominantly white neighborhoods adjacent to Central have been gerrymandered into the attendance zones of other, whiter schools.

Tuscaloosa’s schools today are not as starkly segregated as they were in 1954, the year the Supreme Court declared an end to separate and unequal education in America. No all-white schools exist anymore—the city’s white students generally attend schools with significant numbers of black students. But while segregation as it is practiced today may be different than it was 60 years ago, it is no less pernicious: in Tuscaloosa and elsewhere, it involves the removal and isolation of poor black and Latino students, in particular, from everyone else. In Tuscaloosa today, nearly one in three black students attends a school that looks as if Brown v. Board of Education never happened.

Tuscaloosa’s school resegregation—among the most extensive in the country—is a story of city financial interests, secret meetings, and angry public votes. It is a story shaped by racial politics and a consuming fear of white flight. It was facilitated, to some extent, by the city’s black elites. And it was blessed by a U.S. Department of Justice no longer committed to fighting for the civil-rights aims it had once championed.

We now live in the era of "apartheid schools" where less than 1% of the student body is white, students are well below the national average in poverty.  White flight combined with the elimination of busing enforcement to create entire neighborhoods left behind: crushingly poor, gerrymandered to a person, and nearly all black.  They were designed that way to save the white kids who still had a chance.

Tuscaloosa’s residential population stagnated during the ’90s, and the school situation took on special urgency in 1993: Tuscaloosa was vying for the Mercedes-Benz plant where Melissa Dent now works, which officials hoped would draw people to the city. Just a few years earlier, Tuscaloosa had lost out on a bid for a Saturn plant. In an interview early this year, Johnnie Aycock, who at the time headed the Chamber of Commerce of West Alabama, suggested the schools had scared Saturn away. “We learned that lesson. We learned that lesson completely.”

Publicly, the city’s movers and shakers said the lack of neighborhood schools made the district unattractive and that schools languished in disrepair because the district had to await court approval for every little decision. Behind closed doors, they argued that if they did not create some schools where white students made up the majority—or near it—they’d lose the white parents still remaining.

Districts under desegregation orders aren’t supposed to take actions that increase racial separation. And so the city’s leadership decided the desegregation order needed to go, and they believed the time was ripe for a court to agree.

The rest of course is history.

In 1993, Tuscaloosa’s school board fired a test shot. It filed papers in federal court seeking to build a new elementary school called Rock Quarry, deep in a nearly all-white part of town separated from the rest of the city by the Black Warrior River. If a judge accepted the school, that might signal a willingness to end the order altogether.

“You could see what the city and the school district were doing. They were going to have a racially and economically segregated school system,” said Janell Byrd, one of the NAACP Legal Defense Fund attorneys who represented the plaintiffs at the time.

The case landed in the courtroom of Judge Sharon Blackburn, a recent George H. W. Bush appointee who had gone to college in Tuscaloosa. In 1995, Blackburn held a five-day hearing to decide the question of Rock Quarry. School officials promised that the new school’s student body, though whiter than the district’s overall school population, would be half black.

Today that number is 9% black in Rock Quarry.  As with many larger cities in America, white parents have pulled their kids out to suburban county districts or private schools and designed the districts along racial lines.  In order to get the car plant, the black kids in Tuscaloosa had to be put out of sight and out of mind.  It worked too well.  And now what little hope and resources left for schools are being finished off by conservatives who argue that trying to educate these kids is a waste of taxpayer money. 

We've written off the education of black Millennials, and it's only going to get worse.

Russian Reset, Redux

Peter Baker at the NY Times gives us the account of the state of the Obama-Putin relationship and discovers at this point, there is none.

Even as the crisis in Ukraine continues to defy easy resolution, President Obama and his national security team are looking beyond the immediate conflict to forge a new long-term approach to Russia that applies an updated version of the Cold War strategy of containment.

Just as the United States resolved in the aftermath of World War II to counter the Soviet Union and its global ambitions, Mr. Obama is focused on isolating President Vladimir V. Putin’s Russia by cutting off its economic and political ties to the outside world, limiting its expansionist ambitions in its own neighborhood and effectively making it a pariah state.

Mr. Obama has concluded that even if there is a resolution to the current standoff over Crimea and eastern Ukraine, he will never have a constructive relationship with Mr. Putin, aides said. As a result, Mr. Obama will spend his final two and a half years in office trying to minimize the disruption Mr. Putin can cause, preserve whatever marginal cooperation can be saved and otherwise ignore the master of the Kremlin in favor of other foreign policy areas where progress remains possible.

No, this isn't good news.  "Minimizing the disruption" Putin can cause in a 20th century containment strategy is a massive step backwards.  Putin however seems to have not given President Obama much of a choice.

The manifestation of this thinking can be seen in Mr. Obama’s pending choice for the next ambassador to Moscow. While not officially final, the White House is preparing to nominate John F. Tefft, a career diplomat who previously served as ambassador to Ukraine, Georgia and Lithuania.

When the search began months ago, administration officials were leery of sending Mr. Tefft because of concern that his experience in former Soviet republics that have flouted Moscow’s influence would irritate Russia. Now, officials said, there is no reluctance to offend the Kremlin.

So yes, Russia is now our enemy and we're basically back to the Cold War.  We're to the point where we're now actively working to damage Russia's financial interests and political ones.  That's got to be something of a shock to the Millennials, who have always known Russia as our ally and frenemy at best.  Hell, it's a shock to us younger Gen X folks.  I was in middle school when the Berlin Wall fell, Germany reunited, and we had to get used to calling the Soviets "Russians" again.  For most of my life, the Russians have been "the guys we won over".

How things change.
Related Posts with Thumbnails