— Philip Turner (@philipsturner) June 30, 2013
— Philip Turner (@philipsturner) June 30, 2013
June 30th, 2013
— Philip Turner (@philipsturner) June 30, 2013
— Philip Turner (@philipsturner) June 30, 2013
April 30th, 2013
Jack Hoffman, the boy shown here meeting with President Obama, is being treated for brain cancer. The ball he’s holding had been autographed by the president and given to young Jack. He recently was befriended by the University of Nebraska football team, who in the video below is shown on the day he took the field with his player friends. He was handed the ball in a scrimmage and given a chance to run for a touchdown. I’ve watched the minute-long video twice and reached for a tissue both times. Thanks to TPM for their report on Jack this morning.
April 13th, 2013
Readers of this blog may recall earlier posts in which I explained that in the mid-2000s I was a colleague for several years at Avalon Publishing Group with David Wheeler, whose 6-year old son Ben was a first-grade student at Sandy Hook Elementary School, one of the twenty children murdered in Newtown, CT, last Dec. 14. With heavy heart but much pride and encouragement I’ve watched over the past four months as David and his wife Francine, along with other Sandy Hook parents, have become activists for new laws that will diminish the likelihood of other similar tragedies occuring in the future. They and the other parents have met several times with President Obama and this week Francine was invited to deliver the administration’s weekly address. This would be the only time that someone other than the president or vice-president gave the weekly address. Last night NPR reported that Francine wrote the address with the help of David, and together they recorded it in the WH library. The Wheeler’s have vowed that their son’s life and death will have import and meaning, and they are working with great dedication to ensure this. I admire them and their older son Nate, and share their grief for Ben.
This morning the White House emailed this message from President Obama, explaining why he asked the Wheelers to take his place today.
To lend your voice to this effort, here’s the fact page the president mentions in his email.
Here is the White House video of Francine’s talk:
March 18th, 2013
Desiline Victor is the woman who President Obama saluted during his State of the Union address last month. 102 years old, the Haitian-born Florida voter had waited in lines for more than six hours to vote last November. A couple weeks ago she heard news reports that in criticising the 1965 Voting Rights Act, which the Supreme Court may strike down, Justice Scalia had called the Act’s special provisions–which target states and locales with a history of discrimination–a “racial entitlement.” Outraged at this remark, she sent Scalia a letter that Ryan J. Reilly of Huffington Post shares with his readers today. According to Reilly,
“Victor said she was ‘shocked’ when she heard what Scalia said about the Voting Rights Act during the Supreme Court’s oral arguments on a key provision of the law last month. ‘I thought you must not know what’s happening in this country,’ Victor wrote. ‘After learning more this year from the civil rights group, Advancement Project, I know that just as there were for me, there are barriers to voting for many people – especially people who are black or brown.’ Obama pointed to Victor, who waited in line for hours to vote at a polling place in Miami, as an example of why it was important to fix the nation’s broken election system.
‘I was born at a time when women were not allowed to vote in Haiti, nor the United States,” she continued. “After becoming a U.S. citizen, I was so proud to have a voice in this country. That is what inspired me to fight last year. But voting should never require such a fight. We need more make sure that all Americans can have their voices heard – we need the Voting Rights Act. Justice Scalia, the Voting Rights Act is not a racial entitlement. It is an important protection that helps all Americans exercise their right to vote. It was put in place because, sadly, there are people in this country who don’t want everyone to have an equal voice at the ballot box.’”
Victor’s full letter is pasted in below:
March 12, 2013
Dear Justice Scalia,
My name is Desiline Victor. I was born in Haiti in 1910, and I am 102 years old. After coming to the United States for a better life, today I am an American citizen and live with my family in North Miami. You might remember me from the State of the Union address last month, where President Obama told my story about how hard it was for me to vote.
When I heard what you said about the Voting Rights Act being a “racial entitlement,” I was shocked. I thought you must not know what’s happening in this country. After learning more this year from the civil rights group, Advancement Project, I know that just as there were for me, there are barriers to voting for many people – especially people who are black or brown. I also know that the Voting Rights Act is a way to protect the votes of communities that still face these problems. I would like to tell you about the struggles I faced in the last election.
During the early voting period in Florida last October, I went to my polling place early in the morning. The line was already very long, and wait times were as high as six hours. I stood for three hours before I started to get shaky on my feet, but no one could assist me unless I made it to the front of the line. In addition, there were no poll workers available who could help me in my native Kreyòl language, despite North Miami’s large Haitian community. I was told to come back later. I left. But I was determined to vote, so I tried again. On my second visit that night, I was happy when I finally cast my ballot. But I was also upset. In this great nation why should anybody have to stand in line for hours, and make two trips, to vote?
Not everybody persevered as I did. I learned later that hundreds of thousands of voters in Florida gave up and went home without voting, and that Black and Latino voters were more likely to face those shamefully long lines and wait times. One reason was a new law that cut the early voting period. Around the country, other new laws were passed that made voting harder in 2012 – but Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act blocked many of them before the election. Section 5 also helps voters in other ways. In the five counties in Florida that are covered, voting help in Spanish and Kreyòl is required because of their large Latino and Haitian populations.
I was born at a time when women were not allowed to vote in Haiti, nor the United States. After becoming a U.S. citizen, I was so proud to have a voice in this country. That is what inspired me to fight last year. But voting should never require such a fight. We need more make sure that all Americans can have their voices heard – we need the Voting Rights Act. Justice Scalia, the Voting Rights Act is not a racial entitlement. It is an important protection that helps all Americans exercise their right to vote. It was put in place because, sadly, there are people in this country who don’t want everyone to have an equal voice at the ballot box.
Equality and the right to vote are the shining lights of American democracy that drew me to these shores, and that right should not be taken away. In fact, it should be made stronger to help more voters who faced obstacles like I did.
February 21st, 2013
— Philip Turner (@philipsturner) February 18, 2013
Very odd that the team of three reporters who bylined the NY Times story I tweeted about so totally bought into the Harper government’s line about Keystone, with Harper’s spokespeople raising supposedly dire consequences to the US-Canadian relationship if the president decides to nix the pipeline here. The story is written as if Harper has a renewable lease on the office Prime Minister of Canada, when there will be a federal election up north no later than 2015. As critics in Canada have pointed out, increasingly Harper’s economic strategy has been shown to be that of “strip (resources) and ship them (to the highest bidder).” That the US could frustrate this design owing to what the Obama administration may ultimately rule are overwhelming environmental concerns is at least as big a problem for Harper as it ever wil be for the U.S.
January 25th, 2013
Figures-one of 3 judges in DC district court ruling v. PBO’s recess appts is David Sentelle-helped make Ken Starr Whitewater spec prosecutor
— Philip Turner (@philipsturner) January 25, 2013
Saturday Update: Since Friday night when I began tweeting and blogging about the Judge Sentelle-led ruling–that if upheld on appeal could block virtually all recess appointments by President Obama–I’ve seen a lot of coverage. Here’s one the best pieces, a brief one by Scott Lemieux, of the blog, Lawyers, Guns, and Money. It’s called Neoconfederate Judges Rule Recess Appointments Unconstitutional. I recommend it.
Also not to be missed is Charlie Pierce, over at Esquire.com, railing against Judge Sentelle with his typically colorful flair and articulate opprobrium in a post titled simply “David Sentelle is a Hack”.
Thanks to the reporting of Robert Draper and Frontline we know that REPUBs began plotting President Obama’s downfall on the first day of his first term. Well, for a comparable artifact from the Clinton Years, cast your mind back to the early days of Bill Clinton’s first term. Whitewater, little more than an annoyance for the Clinton campaign during the ’92 presidential race–became a nuisance once the new president took office, owing to Republican insistence of corruption or worse, and media enabling. Stupidly, papers like the New York Times, notably under the byline of reporter Jeff Gerth–who weirdly was the grown son of a couple friendly with my parents back in the day in suburban Cleveland’s Jewish community–created a froth of interest and curiosity about the failed real estate deal. To bat back the idea that anything nefarious had happened, the young administration acquiesced to demands for a special prosecutor to investigate the venture, and Robert Fiske was appointed by Attorney General Janet Reno. Reno, who had been Clinton’s third choice for the spot, coming to the fore after two earlier nominations flamed out (remember Zoe Baird and Kimba Wood?). The tall Floridian had little fealty to the Clintons, and had not lacked for independence when she named Fiske, a career attorney, not a partisan. Still, when media began reporting that Fiske was finding little of concern in the land deal, and no wrongdoing by the First Couple, right-wing poobahs claimed Fiske’s selection by Reno had been suspect, and that he was a lackey of the administration.
Senators Jesse Helms and Lauch Faircloth, both from North Carolina, began pulling strings, soon enabling a three-judge panel of the D.C. circuit to remove Fiske. One of those three judges was David Sentelle, also of North Carolina. To the vacated position, the judges appointed Kenneth Starr, a sanctimonious legal prig, who over the next decade would spend more than $100 million on his ever-growing investigation of the Clintons and other DEMs. The rest, unfortunately, became modern history, including ultimately the impeachment and acquittal of President Clinton.
To coerce testimony from Susan MacDougal–former wife of Jim MacDougal, who had in the 80s inveigled the Clintons to buy Whitewater property–Starr charged her with civil contempt and had her jailed for 18 months.* Once it was clear that Starr would never find a smoking gun amid the Whitewater folderol, moved on to place his investigative weight behind the Paula Jones case and the Monica Lewinski affair. At the time Bill Clinton’s second term ended Starr’s investigation was ongoing, even though he had long since stopped looking primarily into Whitewater.
All that is prologue to today, when the NY Times reported along with other news outlets that a three judge panel of the D.C. district court, a body headed up by the same David Sentelle, had ruled that President Obama’s 2012 appointment of three officials to the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) was unconstitutional. The president had appointed those officials during a 20-day break in the Senate’s business, a hiatus during which he also appointed Richard Cordray to head up the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau. REPUB senators had stalled consideration of these appointments, and scores of others.
The court claims that the Senate was not really in recess, and thus the administration could not make these ‘recess’ appointments. The Times adds,
“Legal specialists said [the ruling's] reasoning would virtually eliminate the recess appointment power for all future presidents [at a time] when it has become increasingly difficult for presidents to win Senate confirmation for their nominees. . . . ‘If this opinion stands, I think it will fundamentally alter the balance between the Senate and the president by limiting the president’s ability to keep offices filled,’ said John P. Elwood, who handled recess appointment issues for the Justice Department during the Bush administration. ‘This is certainly a red-letter day in presidential appointment power.’ The ruling, if not overturned, could paralyze the NLRB, an independent agency that oversees labor disputes, because it would lack a quorum without the three Obama appointments [made] in January 2012. . . . The ruling also called into question nearly 200 years of previous such appointments by administrations across the political spectrum. The executive branch has been making intrasession appointments since 1867 and has been using recess appointments to fill vacancies that opened before a recess since 1823. Among other things, Mr. Elwood noted, it called into question every ruling made by several federal appeals court judges who were installed by recess power. ‘You know there are people sitting in prisons around the country who will become very excited when they learn of this ruling,’ he said.”
AP reports that Jay Carney, Obama administration press secretary said, ”The decision is novel and unprecedented. It contradicts 150 years of practice by Democratic and Republican administrations.”
I don’t pretend to be a lawyer, but I find it hard to believe that this ruling will be upheld. Judge Sentelle and his two cohorts have simply invalidated too much precedent with this radical pronouncement. What interests me more at the moment is how characters like Sentelle–little known outside the halls of government, and not all that well-known even inside them–exert so much authority over our lives and the fate of the nation. The wikipedia page on Sentelle reports that in 1987 to the D.C. District Court, taking the seat just vacated by Antonin Scalia who went on to the Supreme Court. In 1991, Sentelle invalidated the criminal convictions of Oliver North and John Poindexter arising from their illegal conduct in the Iran-Contra scandal. I don’t know the man, so I’d normally be loathe to diagnosis his motives, but it is hard to not see Sentelle as a longstanding and ardent operative promoting right-wing, partisan causes, and doing his utmost to sabotage and confound DEM presidents when he has the opportunity to do so. I must add too that if this decision is upheld, it will become even more difficult for President Obama to run the government in the face of REBUB opposition, particularly that emanating from the Senate. This ruling today makes all the more regrettable the partial measures taken in the Senate yesterday, when DEMs there failed to adequately reform the filibuster. If the Sentelle ruling is not overturned, and soon, Senate REPUBs will have even less reason to work with President Obama. It makes me wonder if Sentelle–a Zelig-like figure on the conservative bench–and his colleagues held the release of their ruling until the day following the announcement of the Senate’s weak measures. lest the urgency of filibuster reform seem truly imperative to wavering DEM senators like Majority Leader Harry Reid.
Here’s an excellent piece by TPM’s Brian Beutler that reports on the constitutional issues at stake.
*In 2000 Susan MacDougal became my author, when I acquired and edited her book The Woman Who Wouldn’t Talk: Why I Wouldn’t Testify Against the Clintons and What I Learned in Jail, with a forceful Introduction by Helen Thomas, a NY Times bestseller. In addition to Susan’s book, recommended reading on this topic is The Hunting of the President by Joe Conason and Gene Lyons.
January 20th, 2013
Count on the NY Times to be dickish the day before President Obama’s 2nd Inaugural. The article leading off today’s Week in Review is a familiar litany of complaint from someone–David Rothkopf is who, please?–poking darts this time at Barack Obama’s management style. I read the whole column and found nothing about it persuasive as a critique. The presidency isn’t a business, and management isn’t necessarily the only goal, or holy grail, of leadership.
The opinion expressed in the column is unsurprising, even overly familiar but I have an even bigger beef with the illustration accompanying it. The artist, Mark Ulriksen–perhaps at the suggestion of Times op-art editors, or at least with their final approval–has created an aloof Obama in baseball uni with a bunch of dropped balls all around him, as one floats in the air above his hand. It seems to say, “Will he drop this one, too? Meanwhile, the caricatured president has his nose stuck up in the air striking an arrogant pose. I instantly found it offensive, perpetuating a meme of the president as unfeeling, uncaring, even a bit lazy, as if he can’t be bothered to catch the balls tossed his way. I’m sick of these portrayals of the president. Would anyone unfeeling have gone so gray in four years and often appear so careworn, even while his smile does still break out like a sunbeam, as in the official White House photo unveiled last week?
I want to add that I’m not the only blogger to find this column odd, at the least. At TPM, Josh Marshall has asked people to read it and send him their thoughts on it. I’ll send my take to Josh.
There are times when I hate the NY Times, among other things for its smugness, its know-it-all air, and its attempts at coining the establishment line and minting conventional wisdom. This is one of those times. They’re the arrogant party here, not the president. Here’s a screenshot of the column as presented online, and the drawing on its own. Please let me know what you think, especially if you see it differently than me, or agree, and see aspects of the unfortunate meme that I’ve overlooked. For instance, maybe the subtext of the drawing is even more overtly racial than I suggested above. Could be.
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