Thursday, February 18, 2016

Last Call For This Is Sparta(nburg), Con't

Mother Jones reporter Tim Murphy shows us how far virulent Islamophobia can carry the GOP in 2016 in states like South Carolina.

SPARTANBURG, A MANUFACTURING CENTER in a deep-red patch of the state that helped send Rep. Trey Gowdy (of Benghazi committee fame) to the House, has emerged as one of the loudest centers of opposition to the resettlement of refugees by the Obama administration. Ann Corcoran, a Maryland-based writer and activist whose book, Refugee Resettlement and the Hijra to America, posits that jihadis posing as migrants are deliberately attempting to infiltrate the country, has called the city's fight "Waterloo." As she put it, "I think we will look back at this point in time with Spartanburg as the point where the history of refugee resettlement in America is changed forever."

Residents first began protesting the arrival of refugees in the area last spring, shortly after Corcoran raised the issue at a national conference for Republican presidential candidates in South Carolina. From there, the complaints reached the desk of Gowdy, who griped to the State Department that he had been left in the dark over resettlement plans. Under pressure from legislators last spring, Republican Gov. Nikki Haley—who was once called a "raghead" by a state senator because her parents are Sikh—signed into law a proviso prohibiting the state from spending money on refugee resettlement in a county unless that county had authorized it to do so. (Hence the York County resolution and others like it.) The issue has not gone away; in August, the State Department felt compelled to dispatch Ann Richards, one of the agency's top officials for refugee resettlement, to meet with activists in Spartanburg—including Wiles. Undeterred, Secure Spartanburg County hosted a Refugee Resettlement Summit for several hundred concerned residents in September and flew in a retired Immigration and Naturalization Service agent to talk about the holes in the refugee vetting system. A flier for the event quoted a Holocaust resister.

Rep. Donna Hicks, the Spartanburg lawmaker who previously backed the anti-Shariah bill, has found herself in the middle of the clash over whether to embrace or reject people in need—torn between friends (and many constituents) who support the refugees, and the vocal concerns of constituents who oppose resettlement. Her church provides financial support to World Relief, the nonprofit managing refugee resettlement in Spartanburg. World Relief's Spartanburg director, Jason Lee, is a fellow parishioner. All told, World Relief Spartanburg has settled 69 refugees since it launched last spring—none of whom are from Syria. More than 80 percent of the newcomers are Christians, from places such as Ukraine and the Democratic Republic of Congo. (In order to keep out refugees who might come bearing the flag of ISIS, activists believe it's essential to keep out all refugees.)

"We lose who we are as human beings and as an open nation that welcomes all people if we start seeing a devil behind every face," Hicks told me.

Yet she also believes radical Islam poses a unique threat, and that the methods employed by ISIS challenge the efficacy of the refugee screening process. More to the point, so do the people who voted for her.

"I'm on Facebook a lot; every day I'm on there and so I'm watching what comes through," Hicks said. "And there's continually on my feed posts about refugees, Muslims, what ISIS is doing, Cruz said this, Rubio said this, Trump said [this]. People on Facebook, they're just blowing up with that issue." Three different constituents have given Hicks copies of Corcoran's book.

In this climate, she has found that the kinds of issues that typically fire up her constituents have been cast aside. "As a matter of fact," she said, "I had a press conference the other day—I prefiled a bill to defund Planned Parenthood in South Carolina." No one showed. "[I] just couldn't hardly even stir up media to be interested in that. But they were calling me at the same time, 'Would you like to make a comment on the refugee issue?'"

The fear card is very strong. Living in a state whose economy as largely been destroyed by global corporate greed makes it easy to blame The Other, in this case, Muslims (and to an almost equal extent, Latinos.)  No wonder Southern red states are lining up behind Trump and Cruz.

It's downright scary. Lawmakers claiming they don't have a bigoted bone in their bodies, but hey, all these constituents do, so they have to go along, right?

Profiles in courage!

Eight Justices And A Funeral

President and Mrs. Obama will be paying their respects to the late Justice Scalia on Friday, and Vice President Biden and Dr. Jill Biden will be attending the Justice's funeral on Saturday.

Vice President Joe Biden and his wife Jill Biden will be the only couple from the White House at Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia's funeral Saturday, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest said Wednesday. While President Obama and first lady Michelle Obama will "pay their respects" to Scalia as he lies in repose in the Supreme Court's Great Hall Friday, Earnest says they do not plan to attend the funeral.

"The president obviously believes it's important for the institution of the presidency to pay his respects to somebody who dedicated three decades of his life to the institution of the Supreme Court," Earnest said.Politico reports that the last time a Supreme Court member died in 2005, then-President George W. Bush both attended the funeral and gave a eulogy for Chief Justice William Rehnquist.

This is apparently enough to start WW III, as the Obama-shaming from the "liberal media" is coming fast and furious.  The LA Times's Michael McGough:

Even if he doesn’t spend Saturday golfing — a scenario raised by a reporter at a White House press briefing — Obama's absence amounts to a slight to the court’s longest-serving member, a justice the president himself described as “one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.”

It’s also is a dumb political move. By attending the funeral Obama would have underscored the importance of nonpartisanship when it comes to the court. That could only have helped him make the case that the Republican-controlled Senate has a duty to give fair consideration to the person he nominates to succeed Scalia.

WaPo's Philip Bump comes in with a passive-aggressive list of funerals President Obama has and has not attended.

In June, President Obama and Vice President Biden both attended the funeral service of South Carolina state Sen. Clementa Pinckney in Charleston. It was the second time that month that the two men attended a funeral in the wake of a tragedy; the first was the service for Biden's son Beau.

How and when the president attends a funeral comes down to a number of factors: The person's importance to the country, the president's schedule and the significance of the event itself. Obama has frequently been criticized for the funerals he has missed, most notably including that of former British prime minister Margaret Thatcher.

 And MSNBC's Chris Hayes took his shot at the President on Twitter.

I'm remembering the number of times Scalia simply skipped the President's State of the Union address (in 2013 he called President Obama's yearly address "a childish spectacle") and frankly, IU don't give a damn if the President attends or not.

The way this President has been treated by Scalia?  Why does he have to put up with it?

Maybe it was a slight of the man.

Good.  He didn't deserve respect.  He was a goddamn monster.

Just Maybe, She Gets It

Expanding more on last night, NY Magazine's Rembert Browne covers Hillary Clinton's speech earlier this week in Harlem, and like me, found himself both surprised and impressed.

Then it hit you that Hillary was going to talk — at length — about black people, almost exclusively. She began with the normal rhetoric of just listing black people she knew, whom she spoke with, whom she associated herself with — but then it took a turn. When she began discussing Flint, the white woman Establishment presidential candidate said, “It's a horrifying story, but what makes it even worse is that it's not a coincidence that this was allowed to happen in a largely black, largely poor community. Just ask yourself: Would this have ever occurred in a wealthy white suburb of Detroit? Absolutely not.”

It was that moment of, Oh shit, did Hillary come to play today? I looked down my row, and multiple people had that same goddamn face etched on their faces. She was making points about privilege that minorities always make, but it packed such a different punch — even if President Obama had said it — because she was chastising her own privilege, putting the privilege of whiteness front and center.

The moment was a brief callback to the controversial opinion of scholar Michael Eric Dyson in his November 2015 New Republic piece, which said that Hillary Clinton will do more for black people than Barack Obama. And like Dyson further argues in his book, The Black Presidency: Barack Obama and the Politics of Race in America, Obama uniquely had to comply with the expectations of whites. That’s not something Clinton will ever have to deal with to the same degree.

Hillary then followed up the Flint statement with the following series of points, all delivered in about two minutes:
  • "We still need to face the painful reality that African-Americans are nearly three times as likely as whites to be denied a mortgage."
  • "Something's wrong when the median wealth for black families is just a tiny fraction of the median wealth of white families."
  • "Something is wrong when African-American men are far more likely to be stopped and searched by police, charged with crimes, and sentenced to longer prison terms than white men convicted of the same offenses."
  • "Black kids get arrested for petty crimes, but white CEOs get away with fleecing our entire country — there is something wrong."
  • "Just imagine with me for a minute if white kids were 500 percent more likely to die from asthma than black kids — 500 percent."
  • Imagine if a white baby in South Carolina were twice as likely to die before her first birthday than an African-American baby.
  • "Imagine the outcry. Imagine the resources that would flood in."
  • "Now, these inequities are wrong, but they're also immoral. And it'll be the mission of my presidency to bring them to an end. We have to begin by facing up to the reality of systemic racism."
I genuinely couldn’t believe what I was hearing. The tiptoeing had vanished. She wasn’t trying to win everyone’s vote by flying as close to the middle as possible. And even though the room was markedly black, these thoughts were now on her permanent electoral record for all to see. The use of “imagine” was powerful, because it comes with an almost implied,You can’t imagine it, because that shit wouldn’t fly. She was finally just saying it, bluntly. Hearing this, in February, was so much more powerful than any policy plan. Because before many people want to know your plan — or before people will ever truly consider believing in your plan — they want to know that you understand their world.

And that's what I've been waiting to hear from either candidate, that they understand that 50 years after the Civil Rights movement, the deck is still greatly stacked against black America and in favor of white America.

Actions speak louder than words, of course.  20 years ago Hillary's husband signed GOP laws that made all kinds of things worse for black America, a price we're still paying today.  Promising to do better is literally the absolute least she can do.

But it's a start.


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