A Gentleman’s View

The Activist

 

It starts like an itch. Something happens in our lives that causes us to question what we know and our understanding of it. We open our eyes, our minds in order to seek the truth we can not see. The more we discover, the hungrier we are for a deeper reckoning. But the world isn’t perfect, humans less so, and there is a lot of pain, suffering and deception going on. We have the burning desire to do more to stop the pain. We read, a lot. We start protesting, questioning. Our families labels us as being too sensitive, too negative, our friends start to pull away, our families and spouses reject us and our way of thinking. We are labeled as hippies, anarchists, angry kids, conspiracy theorists and terrorists. We are beaten by the police and mocked for our caring by the media in the news. Yet we can’t help ourselves, we are the cursed liberals the world warns about, those town criers who have become obsessed with spreading the truth. It becomes a very solitary journey for many are not obligated to participate and you don’t get an invite to this way of life, you can’t train for it, you see wrong hurt and automatically step up as life calls upon you from somewhere within your soul and the rough ride stays with you until your last breath feeling that with all you gave it still wasn’t enough to stop the pain and wishing for one more moment to step and say; Hey, What The Fuck Are You Doing, Stop That! You can’t do that…

 

© 2014, agentleman.

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If children live, they learn

Reposted From FaceBook post by Molly Swipas.

Teach them well and let them learn:

If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.

© 2010 – 2015, agentleman.

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The Future Bush’s America

Jeb ‘Put Me Through Hell’

Michael Schiavo knows as well as anyone what Jeb Bush can do with executive power. He thinks you ought to know too.
By MICHAEL KRUSE

 

 

CLEARWATER, Fla.—Sitting recently on his brick back patio here, Michael Schiavo called Jeb Bush a vindictive, untrustworthy coward.

For years, the self-described “average Joe” felt harassed, targeted and tormented by the most important person in the state.

“It was a living hell,” he said, “and I blame him.”

Michael Schiavo was the husband of Terri Schiavo, the brain-dead woman from the Tampa Bay area who ended up at the center of one of the most contentious, drawn-out conflicts in the history of America’s culture wars. The fight over her death lasted almost a decade. It started as a private legal back-and-forth between her husband and her parents. Before it ended, it moved from circuit courts to district courts to state courts to federal courts, to the U.S. Supreme Court, from the state legislature in Tallahassee to Congress in Washington. The president got involved. So did the pope.

But it never would have become what it became if not for the dogged intervention of the governor of Florida at the time, the second son of the 41st president, the younger brother of the 43rd, the man who sits near the top of the extended early list of likely 2016 Republican presidential candidates. On sustained, concentrated display, seen in thousands of pages of court records and hundreds of emails he sent, was Jeb the converted Catholic, Jeb the pro-life conservative, Jeb the hands-on workaholic, Jeb the all-hours emailer—confident, competitive, powerful, obstinate Jeb. Longtime watchers of John Ellis Bush say what he did throughout the Terri Schiavo case demonstrates how he would operate in the Oval Office. They say it’s the Jebbest thing Jeb’s ever done.

The case showed he “will pursue whatever he thinks is right, virtually forever,” said Aubrey Jewett, a political science professor at the University of Central Florida. “It’s a theme of Jeb’s governorship: He really pushed executive power to the limits.”

“If you want to understand Jeb Bush, he’s guided by principle over convenience,” said Dennis Baxley, a Republican member of the Florida House of Representatives during Bush’s governorship and still. “He may be wrong about something, but he knows what he believes.”

And what he believed in this case, and what he did, said Miami’s Dan Gelber, a Democratic member of the state House during Bush’s governorship, “probably was more defining than I suspect Jeb would like.”

For Michael Schiavo, though, the importance of the episode—Bush’s involvement from 2003 to 2005, and what it might mean now for his almost certain candidacy—is even more viscerally obvious.
Jeb Bush speaks to reporters during a news conference about Terri Schiavo on March 18, 2005. | AP Photo
“He should be ashamed,” he said. “And I think people really need to know what type of person he is. To bring as much pain as he did, to me and my family, that should be an issue.”

***

November 10, 1984, is when they got married; February 25, 1990, is when she collapsed, early in the morning, in their apartment in St. Petersburg, for reasons that never were determined with specificity but had something to do with a potassium imbalance probably caused by aggressive dieting. Michael Schiavo woke up when he heard her fall. She was facedown, feet in the bathroom, head in the hall. He called 911. Police noted in their report “no signs of trauma to her head or face.” The ambulance raced to the closest hospital, but her heart had stopped, robbing her brain of oxygen, and the damage was catastrophic. A court named her husband her guardian that June. Her parents didn’t object. All of this was before Bush was elected. And after years of rehabilitation, of waiting for any sign of improvement and seeing none, Michael Schiavo decided to remove the feeding tube that kept his wife alive, saying she had told him and others she never would’ve wanted to be this way.

To this, Terri Schiavo’s parents objected. Bob and Mary Schindler, Catholics, argued that their daughter, also Catholic, would want to live, even so debilitated.

The Terri Schiavo Saga

Nov. 10, 1984: Theresa (Terri) Marie Schindler and Michael Schiavo marry in Pennsylvania.
Feb. 25, 1990 Terri Schiavo, 26, collapses at home in St. Petersburg, Florida. She suffers a heart attack, possibly caused by a potassium imbalance brought on by dieting. A lack of blood flow to the brain causes catastrophic damage. A feeding tube is inserted in her abdomen.

June 18, 1990: Michael Schiavo is appointed Terri’s guardian.
May 1998: Michael Schiavo asks the court for permission to remove Terri’s feeding tube.

Feb. 11, 2000: After a four-day trial, Pinellas County Circuit Judge George Greer rules that Michael Schiavo as his wife’s legal guardian has the right to remove her feeding tube.

She had left no will. No written instructions. She was 26. To try to determine what she would have wanted, there was a trial, in the Pinellas County courtroom of circuit judge George Greer, in which Michael Schiavo relayed what she had told him in passing about what her wishes would be in this sort of scenario. Others did, too. She also had next to no chance of recovery, according to doctors’ testimony. Greer cited “overwhelming credible evidence” that Terri Schiavo was “totally unresponsive” with “severe structural brain damage” and that “to a large extent her brain has been replaced by spinal fluid.” His judgment was that she would not have wanted to live in her “persistent vegetative state” and that Michael Schiavo, her husband and her legal guardian, was allowed to remove her feeding tube.

“DONE AND ORDERED,” he wrote on February 11, 2000.

The St. Petersburg Times had covered the trial. Bush, a year and a month into his first term, started hearing about it almost immediately. Staffers replied at first with a variety of form responses.

“The Florida Constitution prohibits the Governor’s intervention in matters that should be resolved through the court system,” read one. But here’s what else it said: “As a concerned citizen, you have the opportunity to influence legislation pertaining to guardianship matters in cases similar to Terri’s. By contacting your local legislative delegation, such as your senator or representative, new legislation can be introduced. If such a bill ever comes before the Governor for signature, he will certainly remember your views.”

Bush couldn’t do anything. Laws didn’t let him. But that didn’t mean he didn’t want to. He did.

He heard from Terri Schiavo’s father in April 2001. “Allow me to introduce myself,” Bob Schindler wrote in an email. He told the governor his daughter had been “falsely depicted” as a “hopeless vegetable.” He told the governor she was indeed “responsive to family and friends.” “I desperately need your help,” he said, adding that “Terri’s case may be beyond your realm of authority”—Schindler knew it, too—“but I sincerely believe you could be helpful.”

Staffers didn’t respond to Bob Schindler’s email. The governor did.

Mr. Schindler, thank you for writing. I am asking that Charles Canady look into your daughter’s case.

Jeb Bush

Canady had been a Republican member of the United States House of Representatives. He later would be an appellate judge in Florida. He is now a state Supreme Court judge. At the time, though, he was Bush’s top staff attorney.

 

© 2015, agentleman.

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Hating What You Don’t Understand

The Fire on the 57 Bus in Oakland

By DASHKA SLATER

 

Sasha Fleischman in Oakland, Calif., in June, seven months after being set on fire on a city bus. Credit Katy Grannan for The New York Times
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It was close to 5 o’clock on the afternoon of Nov. 4, 2013, and Sasha Fleischman was riding the 57 bus home from school. An 18-year-old senior at a small private high school, Sasha wore a T-shirt, a black fleece jacket, a gray newsboy cap and a gauzy white skirt. For much of the long bus ride through Oakland, Calif., Sasha — who identifies as agender, neither male nor female — had been reading a paperback copy of “Anna Karenina,” but eventually the teenager drifted into sleep, skirt draped over the edge of the bus seat.

This is the perfect example of why we need restorative justice. Richard Thomas is now another young black man who is in the system, from which he will probably never escape. What good does that do for society?
As Sasha slept, three teenage boys laughed and joked nearby. Then one surreptitiously flicked a lighter. The skirt went up in a ball of flame. Sasha leapt up, screaming, “I’m on fire!” Two other passengers threw Sasha to the ground and extinguished the flames, but Sasha’s legs were left charred and peeling. Taken by ambulance to a San Francisco burn unit, Sasha would spend the next three and a half weeks undergoing multiple operations to treat the second- and third-degree burns that ran from thigh to calf.

Richard Thomas, the 16-year-old boy who lit the skirt on fire, was arrested the following day. Citing the severity of the crime, the Alameda County district attorney, Nancy O’Malley, charged Thomas as an adult, stripping him of the protections — including anonymity — customarily afforded to juveniles. Charged with two felonies, each with a hate-crime clause that increased the time he would serve if convicted, Thomas faced the possibility of life imprisonment.

Oakland is a city of more than 400,000 people, but it can often feel like a small town. The attack happened in my neighborhood, on a bus my own teenager sometimes takes home from school. Sasha Fleischman’s family and my family have close friends in common. Richard Thomas once attended my son’s high school. But even when events unfold practically on your doorstep, it isn’t always easy to make sense of them.

Crime was easy enough to understand — in 2013, Oakland had the nation’s highest robbery rate. But this was something different. An act of savage brutality had taken place in a public setting in the middle of the afternoon.

Oakland is one of America’s most diverse cities. We pride ourselves on our tolerance; this is, after all, the Bay Area. Yet for all its laid-back inclusiveness, Oakland is also a city of grim contrasts. The wealthier hills neighborhoods have good schools, low crime and views of the bay. The historic buildings downtown are filling with tech start-ups, boutiques peddling handmade jeans and nightspots with seven-ingredient cocktails. But little of this good fortune has spilled over into East Oakland, where Richard lived, a region of grinding poverty and chronic violence. Richard and Sasha lived in the same city, but their paths might never have crossed if they didn’t both ride the 57 bus.

Sasha Fleischman’s ride to and from school took an hour and involved two transfers, but Sasha used the time to nap or do homework. Maybeck High School, Sasha’s school in Berkeley, caters to bright, quirky kids interested in taking, its website says, “personal and intellectual risks.” That description certainly applied to Sasha, a skinny, intensely analytical kid with wavy, chin-length brown hair, thick eyebrows and a radiant smile, who started inventing languages at the age of 7 or 8.

After reading a web comic called “Poly in Pictures,” which explores polyamory, gender, sexuality and orientation, Sasha, then a 16-year-old boy named Luke, began an epistemological investigation of gender identity, asking friends and family how they knew what their gender was.

“At first I just assumed that I was this heterosexual man, because I didn’t have any reason to assume otherwise,” Sasha said one afternoon last year, sitting on the Fleischmans’ red sofa by a window festooned with a chain of paper cranes. “But I started thinking, Well, am I a guy?” Most people told Sasha that they just knew what gender they were, but Sasha didn’t feel that way.

“And so I started identifying as genderqueer,” Sasha said. “For me, at least, genderqueer includes an aspect of questioning. And that was a big part of it for me. The fact that I was questioning my gender meant that I was genderqueer.”

Sasha’s parents, Karl Fleischman and Debbie Crandall, work in education, and their relationship with their only child has an affable ease. Karl, a college-radio D.J. turned public-school kindergarten teacher, is the shyer of the two, with a dry wit and a quick grin. Debbie, a bookkeeper at a private school, is more emotional and effusive. But while they embraced Sasha’s new name (chosen for its gender neutrality) and mostly remembered to use the preferred plural pronoun, “they,” to refer to their child, they still found Sasha’s rejection of gender a bit perplexing. (Telling Sasha’s story also poses a linguistic challenge, because English doesn’t offer a ready-made way to talk about people who identify as neither male nor female. Sasha prefers “they,” “it” or the invented gender-neutral pronoun “xe.” The New York Times does not use these terms to refer to individuals.)

“I’m trying to get my head around it,” Debbie admitted, two years into the change. “I understand coming out as gay or even trans. But this is harder for me to understand. I support them,” she said, referring to her child, “but I just don’t understand what it means.”

Because genderqueer or agender people don’t have a box to check on most questionnaires, there isn’t much data about how many people identify this way, or even what most of them mean by the term. The 2011 National Transgender Discrimination Survey found that 13 percent of transgender or gender-nonconforming respondents identified as “a gender not listed here.” These respondents were more likely to be young and educated and to live in the coastal blue states than other transgender people. They were also more likely to have been harassed or assaulted.

Since preschool, Sasha had attended small, alternative schools, where challenging gender norms was unremarkable. In a Montessori middle-school grade with only 25 students, two identified as transgender, including Sasha’s best friend. Maybeck High School, with just more than 100 students, had two who were transgender and two, including Sasha, who identified as agender. Outside school, Sasha dove into virtual and real-world communities devoted to constructing alternate realities, filled with people who created new languages (known as conlangers) or who obsessed over the intricately plotted web comic “Homestuck” or who participated in Live Action Role Playing, a theatrical descendant of Dungeons and Dragons, in which costumed players acted out game scenarios in places like Tilden Park on the outskirts of Berkeley. In this world, quirkiness was not just accepted but encouraged.

Sasha started wearing a skirt in January 2013, accepting three hand-me-downs from a friend. Previously Sasha’s style tended toward steampunk — top hats, tweeds, vests and bow ties, even a pocket watch. But Sasha loved the sartorial gender-mashup that came from adding a skirt to the vest and bow tie. For Sasha’s parents, the most surprising thing about the new look was how public it was. Shy and introverted, their child had always excelled at being invisible. Now the teenager was not just visible but conspicuous — a boy in a skirt. Instead of bashfulness, Sasha exhibited a newfound confidence.

“It feels like making this discovery and coming to terms with it has really helped Sasha become themselves,” Karl mused, fiddling with the rainbow-colored friendship bracelet he wore. “Sasha seems more comfortable in the world.”

Still, Debbie and Karl worried that publicly flouting gender norms could be dangerous — even in the liberal Bay Area. Karl was once beaten up while jogging in Berkeley by some men in a pickup truck who thought he was gay. Debbie was concerned that Sasha’s skirt-wearing might attract a similar response. “I worry about how the world sees it and what the world can do — what crazy people can do,” she said.

For a long time these fears seemed to be groundless. Sasha wore a skirt every day from January to November 2013 and experienced only one negative reaction, when an older woman at a bus stop insisted, “You’re not a girl!”

And so when Sasha drifted into sleep on the 57 bus on Nov. 4, it was an untroubled sleep. As the teenager would say later: “I can sleep through anything on the bus.”

When Richard Thomas boarded the bus that day, he was a junior at Oakland High School, his third school in as many years. Located in the city’s middle-class foothills, O High, as it’s known locally, is the oldest of Oakland’s high schools (Gertrude Stein attended it). While it draws Asian, Latino and African-American students from throughout the city, the school is spurned by the white families who live nearby. Its test scores aren’t terrible, but it has a reputation as a rough place.

Like Sasha, Richard had a long commute home from school, although his began close to where Sasha’s ended. From Oakland High, he traveled to the part of town known as Deep East, where he lived with his mother, Jasmine Jackson, his mother’s fiancé, his 4-year-old brother and one of the two cousins his mother had raised ever since their mother, Jasmine’s sister Savannah, was murdered in 2006. The house, a single-story white-stucco bungalow, was clean and snug and sparsely furnished, decorated with framed photos of family.

‘I started thinking, Well, am I a guy?’

A food-service worker at a residential care facility, Jasmine sent Richard to Oakland High because she thought it offered a better academic and social environment than the high school in her own neighborhood. Like Debbie Crandall, she worried about what the world could do to her child. She had Richard when she was only 15, splitting up with his father, Richard Sr., shortly afterward. While she was proud of always having a job, she didn’t earn much money. She wanted her son to attend college and to have a career.

These were big dreams in her part of town. An investigation by The San Francisco Chronicle found that of some 600 black male students who start at Oakland high schools as freshmen each year, only about 300 end up graduating and fewer than 100 graduate with the requirements needed to attend a California state college or university. The odds of landing in the back of a police cruiser, on the other hand, are much better. African-American boys make up less than 30 percent of Oakland’s under-age population but account for nearly 75 percent of all juvenile arrests. And each year, dozens of black men and boys are murdered within the city limits.

From a young age, Richard lost family and friends to violence. In addition to his aunt Savannah, killed in a spray of bullets while sitting in a car in San Francisco, his aunt Tish was murdered by her boyfriend in 2008. Three of his childhood friends were murdered as well, most recently his best friend, Tyronta Mickens. People used to say Richard and Tyronta were twins, because they were both handsome, light-skinned boys with a goofy sense of humor and a penchant for practical jokes. When Richard was 14, the two were sent to a group home in Redding, after they were involved in a fight with some skateboarders. (Because Richard was a juvenile, the details of the case are sealed.) Tyronta was released before Richard, but shortly after that, on Jan. 7, 2013, he was shot multiple times while sitting in a car in an East Oakland parking lot.

When Richard found out about his friend’s death, he called his mother from the group home to ask if it was true. “He just started crying and crying,” Jasmine recalled. Instead of hanging up, Richard just put the phone down and walked away.

Richard came back to Oakland that summer, heading into his junior year. He signed up for a summer-job training program conducted by the Unity Council, an Oakland nonprofit, which led to an internship. His supervisors noted how much effort he put in, sometimes redoing the sloppy work of others. But when school started, Richard struggled. He fell behind academically and began cutting school. Early in September, Oakland High’s attendance compliance officer, Kaprice Wilson, found Richard outside school in the middle of the day, about to get on a bus with a girl who had just been suspended. When Wilson told him that she had to escort him back to class, Richard came along cheerfully, peppering her with questions. Wilson explained that she ran an intervention program for students who were chronically absent from school.

“Can I be in your program?” Richard asked.

Wilson was taken aback. Students didn’t usually volunteer for her program; they were assigned to it. She wasn’t exactly trying to fill slots either — she already had a caseload of some 800 chronically truant students, and her program was meant for freshmen and sophomores, who are easier to get back on track than juniors and seniors. But when she looked up Richard’s file, she saw that his grades were poor and his attendance spotty.

“I want you to help me like you help them,” Wilson remembered him saying. “Because I’ve been to a lot of schools, and I’ve been in trouble, but I’m really not a bad kid.”

A petite woman who favored dangly earrings and liked to kick off her shoes while working, Wilson was a kind of surrogate mother to many of Oakland High School’s troubled kids. Some of them even called her Mom, bringing her their grades, photographs and artwork to hang on her walls and writing her apologies when they ran into trouble. Her tiny office was papered with these missives: “Maria is your best daughter ever,” read one. “I’m sorry mom, she made me hecka mad,” read another — written, Wilson told me, by a kid who had just been suspended.

Richard adopted Wilson’s office as a kind of safe zone, a place to hang out between classes. He would confide in her about his life. When other kids were there, he would often draw them out, listening to their problems. He liked to give and receive hugs and was known for his silly, childlike sense of humor, his willingness to look foolish if it would get a laugh. He gave Wilson his mother’s phone number, suggesting that they might talk. He wanted his mother to know that he was doing everything he could to get on the right path. “I’m going to graduate,” he told Wilson. “And I’m going to make her happy.”

Yet Richard was apprehensive. He was having trouble understanding his schoolwork and wanted to be tested for learning disabilities. He was worried about graduating. And the violence around him was pressing in. That fall, another friend, this one from Oakland High, was shot. At the end of October, while walking to the store in an unfamiliar neighborhood with his cousin Gerald, Richard was robbed at gunpoint by two teenage boys who took his money, his phone, his coat and his shoes. In the moment, he told Wilson, he had only one thing on his mind: surviving. But later, he kept thinking about one of the robbers, whom Richard knew and had thought of as a friend. He felt betrayed.

Richard skipped school for a few days after that. On the afternoon of Nov. 4, Richard’s 18-year-old cousin, Lloyd Rhodes, showed up at Oakland High School and tried to persuade him to leave early. The campus security officer, Carlitta Collins, wouldn’t allow Lloyd on campus, because he wasn’t a student, so he hung around outside the gates until Richard got out of school. Before leaving for the bus stop, Richard gave Collins a hug.

“I’m telling you,” she said, “I didn’t feel nothing but love when he hugged me.”

Every Alameda County transit bus is equipped with cameras that continuously record sound and video from multiple vantage points. I first watched the video of the attack in the office of William Du Bois, Richard’s lawyer, on a laptop in a conference room. Before me was a grid of 12 views that could be watched simultaneously or one at a time. The video itself, grainy and impersonal, conveys the ordinariness of the afternoon. Passengers look at their phones or peer through the scratched windows at the darkening streets outside.

On the video, Richard and Lloyd board the bus at the front. Richard, wearing an orange-brimmed New York Knicks hat, is quiet and smiling. The heavyset Lloyd is loud and rambunctious — bouncing, shouting, trying to get the attention of a girl at the front. After using his bus pass, Lloyd catches sight of a tall boy in a white hoodie sitting near the back and heads his way. According to the statement Richard made to the police, it was this boy, whom Richard identified only as Jamal, who pointed out Sasha sleeping across the aisle from them, whispering, “Look at this dude.”

On the video, you can’t hear what Jamal says as he passes the lighter to Richard. Richard later told his lawyer and his mother that the whole thing was meant to be a prank. He thought the fabric would smolder for a moment, and Sasha would wake up and slap out the spark, startled but uninjured.

The skirt didn’t catch fire the first time Richard flicked the lighter, or the second or the third. The video shows the boys laughing and joking between tries, horsing around, cuffing each other. Then Richard flicks the lighter a fourth time. This time, the skirt ignites. Lloyd calls to the driver to open the back door. Richard jumps off the bus. Lloyd looks back and then stops, transfixed, as Sasha’s skirt erupts into a sheet of flame.

The next few seconds are hard to watch. Sasha’s voice is high and terrified. “I’m on fire! I’m on fire!” The flaming skirt looks unearthly, impossible. At first, Jamal howls with laughter, then, as Sasha careers toward him, he cringes and climbs onto his seat. “Everyone was running, laughing, screaming, yelling at the bus driver: ‘Stop the bus! Open the doors!’ ” recalls Dan Gale, one of the two men who tackled Sasha and put out the fire. “I was yelling: ‘Get down! Get on the ground!’ I just dove.”

The bus stopped. Dazed and in shock, Sasha stood and pushed through the back doors onto the street.

Richard Thomas, left, with his brother, Derriyon, before the attack. Credit Photograph from Jasmine Jackson
On the video, Gale says, “You need to call an ambulance, man,” as Sasha paces outside, charred legs naked to the November chill, talking to Karl on a cellphone. Then the driver walks to the back of the bus and kicks the tattered remnant of Sasha’s skirt through the door.

“Real stupid!” he bellows, cursing at the boys.

Richard was alone in Kaprice Wilson’s office the next day when the police came to arrest him. He had been trying to speak with her all morning, even calling her from class, but Wilson asked him to wait until he had a break. She was on her way to meet him when she saw him being led away in handcuffs.

At the police station, Officers Anwawn Jones and Jason Anderson placed Richard in an interview room and left him there. A video shows Richard sitting by himself. An officer returns at one point to hand him a bag lunch. Richard unpacks a soda, a sandwich and a bag of chips. He smooths the paper bag flat and places the sandwich on top. Then he folds his hands and bows his head. He crosses himself three times. Then he begins to eat his lunch. When the police officers return, he has his head down on the table.”You didn’t eat all your chips?” Officer Jones asks. Richard says, “I was getting a little stomachache.”

The officers are friendly. They ask questions about Richard’s life — where he lives, what sports he plays, how he’s doing in school, whether he has a girlfriend. In response, Richard is candid, almost confiding. He tells them about the fight that sent him to the group home, about having “a little breakdown” after Tyronta’s murder, about his troubles in school. When they ask about the events of the previous afternoon, Richard tells them that he was on the 57 bus when he saw a man with his skirt on fire.

“What do you think about dudes who dress up in skirts?” Officer Jones asks.

“I’m not with that,” Richard says. “I wouldn’t say that I hate gay people, but I’m very homophobic.”

Jones nods. “O.K. Why would you call yourself homophobic?”

“I don’t have no problem with somebody if they like men. But like if you do too much? Nobody cares, really.”

“Do too much?”

“Taking it to the next level,” Richard explains. Jones asks for an example.

“Cross-dressing and like — some people, like they try to make everybody know that they are that.”

After asking Richard to go through the events on the bus a couple of times, the police reveal that they have video of the incident. They know he did it. They just want him to tell them why.

“Being stupid,” Richard says, his voice low.

“What would even remotely make you think about setting something on fire like that — someone’s clothing?” Anderson asks. “Was it because the dude was wearing a dress? Did you have a problem with him?”

“I don’t know.”

“People do things for a reason,” the officer says. “We’ve all made decisions in life that may not have been the best choice to make at a given time. What we’re trying to figure out is why this happened.”

“I’m homophobic,” Richard says at last. “I don’t like gay people.”

“Did you get angry because he’s a gay dude in a skirt, not just being gay but ‘doing too much?’ ” Jones asks.
‘I am not a thug, gangster, hoodlum, nor monster. Im a young African American male who’s made a terrible mistake.’

“Actually, I didn’t know that his skirt was going to do that, that it was going to catch like that,” Richard says. “It was like a little flame. I thought it was just going to go out.”

But it was too late to backpedal. Two days after Richard’s arrest, the Alameda County district attorney announced the charges: aggravated mayhem and assault with intent to cause great bodily injury, both felonies, each with a hate-crime clause that would add an additional one to three years in state prison to his sentence. If convicted, Thomas faced a maximum sentence of life in prison — a punishment he would never have faced had he been charged as a juvenile. Jamal, the boy who handed Richard the lighter, was never interviewed, arrested or charged.

On Nov. 8, four days after lighting Sasha’s skirt on fire, Richard wrote the teenager a letter.

“Dear Victum,” it began. “I apoligize for my actions, for the pain that I brought to you and your family. I was wrong for what I did. I was wrong. I had no reason to do that to you I don’t know what was going through my head at that time. Im not a monster, I have a big heart I never even thought of hurting anyone like the way I hurt you. I just wanted you to know that im deeply sorry for my actions. I think about what happened every second, I pray that you heal correctly and that you recover and live a happy life. Please forgive me thats all I want. I take responsibility for all my actions, I’ll take all the consiquences,” he wrote. “I’m not just saying this because im incarcerated I honestly mean every word.” He signed it, “Love, Richard Thomas.”
A few days later, he wrote a second letter, this one addressed to “Mr. Fleischman.” It was nearly three pages long, written in neat cursive.

“I had a nightmare last night and I woke up sweating and apoligizing,” he wrote. “I really hope you get back to the way you were. I went to court yesterday and there still making me seem like a monster, but im not. I’m a good kid if you get to know me. I’m sure you would have been a nice person to,” he continued. “I was hoping that I can meet you face to face so I can apoligize to you.”

He went on to detail the charges against him, explaining that he was willing to accept the assault charges but that he rejected the hate-crime enhancements. “I don’t have a problem with homosexual’s,” he explained. “I have friends thats homosexuals and we never had problems so I don’t look at you wrong because of your sexualitie. Honestly I could care less if you like men you weren’t trying to talk to me in that way.”

As for himself, he said: “I am not a thug, gangster, hoodlum, nor monster. Im a young African American male who’s made a terrible mistake.” Perhaps, he suggested, he and Fleischman had things in common. “I’ve also been hurt alot for no reason, not like I hurt you but Ive been hurt physically and metally so I know how it feels, the pain and confusion of why me I’ve felt it before plenty of times.”

William Du Bois put the letters in his briefcase. Because they contained admissions of guilt, he felt he couldn’t send them to Sasha until after the case was resolved. It would be 14 months before Sasha read them.

When Sasha arrived home from the hospital on Nov. 27, 23 days after the attack, it was to a street crowded with reporters and photographers. There had been a march along the route of the 57 bus, with supporters tying rainbow-colored ribbons to street signs and telephone poles along the way. Cards, letters and packages poured in, including some from Canada. An online medical fund raised $31,000 in donations. Several high schools had sponsored skirt-wearing days; so did a local bookstore. At Oakland High, Richard’s school, the varsity basketball team wore blue jerseys with Sasha’s name on them and the words “No H8.”

Sasha gave an interview to a local news station, wearing a skirt over bandaged legs. “I was really excited that an agender person was in the news,” Sasha explained to me later. “But I wasn’t that excited about the circumstances, obviously. Those were my feelings: This is really great — but does it have to be me?”

Sasha acknowledged feeling angry sometimes. While the long-term prognosis was excellent, everything was more difficult at the moment — walking, taking a shower, getting dressed. The pain made it hard to sleep.

Ten days after Sasha got home from the hospital, the family invited Dan Gale, one of the two men who put out the fire, to their house for brunch (the other man was never identified). Toward the end of the meal, the conversation turned to Richard Thomas. Debbie and Karl had told reporters that they wanted to see Richard tried as a juvenile, not as an adult, and they had consistently cautioned against leaping to conclusions about Richard’s motivation. Gale, a gravel-voiced construction worker with a walrus mustache, remarked that he thought Sasha’s parents showed more forbearance than he would have. He turned to Sasha.
“How do you feel on that? I mean, this kid hurt you.”

Sasha considered this. “I know he hurt me,” Sasha said. “He did something that’s really dangerous and stupid. But then again, he’s a 16-year-old kid, and 16-year-old kids are kind of dumb. It’s really hard to know what I want for him.”

Jasmine Jackson, Richard’s deeply religious mother, tried to believe that everything that happened was part of a larger plan. “God is good,” she repeated in the courthouse elevator. “God is good. God is so good.” When Richard was escorted into the courtroom for the many procedural hearings that followed his arrest, Jasmine would catch his eye and make a heart shape with her fingers, pressing it to her chest.

She was sure that Richard had learned something from what he did. “We’re all going to learn something from this,” she said frequently. But once, after saying it, she shook her head. “I wish it hadn’t gone this far and he could have learned a different way,” she said. “I wish that the courts would give him a suitable punishment so that he can learn from this, instead of just being institutionalized.” This was her biggest fear. “I want him to have enough time to do something with his life,” she said.

Everyone I interviewed who knew Richard made a point of telling me that he was not homophobic. Richard had a gay friend, they pointed out, and his mother’s cousin is transgender. Du Bois wouldn’t allow me to interview his client; given the potential sentence, he felt the risks were too great. But he argued that it made no sense to describe a child’s still-forming opinions as “hate.”

“Lynchings — they’re hate crimes,” he said. But as for a boy wearing a skirt, he went on, “the kid who thinks that this is anomalous and decides to play a prank is not committing a hate crime.”

O’Malley, the district attorney, didn’t see it that way. “If somebody commits a heinous crime against somebody because they’re a member of a protected class, that is very purposeful discrimination,” she explained as we sat in her office, before a massive wooden desk that belonged to Earl Warren when he was the Alameda County D.A. Hate crimes, she argued, were discrimination, just as segregation was. “It’s important to show that this is the kind of behavior that will never be tolerated.”

Until the mid-1980s, the law made no distinction between crimes motivated by bigotry and crimes motivated by money, passion or boredom. Murder was murder; vandalism was vandalism. The term “hate crime” arose in response to what was described at the time as an “epidemic” of neo-Nazi and skinhead violence, although in retrospect it’s unclear whether any such epidemic existed. Since then, the number of bias-motivated prosecutions has steadily declined. In California, a state with close to 39 million people, hate-crime prosecutions have fallen 48 percent since 2003, with just 158 bias crimes filed for prosecution in 2012.

A majority of those charged with bias crimes do not fit the stereotype of the squinting, bristle-headed loner sporting a swastika tattoo. Researchers estimate that fewer than 5 percent are members of an organized hate group. Most are young males, either in their teens or early 20s, acting in a group. In a study of Boston hate-crime prosecutions in the early 1990s, two-thirds of the offenders were categorized as “thrill-seeking” — that is, they were groups of young people “looking for some fun” at the expense of someone they regarded as lower on the totem pole. The authors of the study found that many of these offenders weren’t even particularly biased toward their victims but were following the lead of a more biased peer.

Many hate crimes, according to Phyllis B. Gerstenfeld, a criminal-justice professor at California State University, Stanislaus, “don’t have as much to do with the victim as they do with the offender and their own insecurity — which of course is a lot of what’s going on with adolescents in general.”

Two groups that might have been expected to support O’Malley’s decision to charge Richard as an adult, the National Center for Lesbian Rights and the Transgender Law Center, wrote to her in November 2013, asking her to reconsider. “When juvenile impulsivity and poor judgment produce dire consequences, it does not make sense to craft a response intended for adults,” they said in a letter that was also sent on behalf of the A.C.L.U. of Northern California. “Rather, these are the very circumstances under which it is important to remember that children are different from adults.” The letter concluded: “We firmly believe that you can demonstrate your office’s commitment to protecting the victims of hate crimes without imposing adult sanctions on juvenile offenders.”

Richard’s first evidentiary hearing was in March. Sasha took the day off from school and came to court with Karl and Debbie, dressed in a navy blue skirt, a gray vest, a brown striped bow tie, a gray tweed cap, a trench coat and purple high tops. Richard’s mother was there, too. She had asked me in February if I could arrange a meeting with Sasha’s family, but when I broached the subject with Debbie, she recoiled and said she wasn’t ready. Now, in the vestibule outside the courtroom, Jasmine, a strikingly pretty woman with almond-shaped eyes and a high round forehead, came forward.

“My son’s not like that,” she said, the words tumbling out in a rush. “I don’t know what made him do that, and I’m sorry. We’re not hateful people.”

Then she hugged each member of the family: Debbie, Karl, Sasha. One by one, each of Richard’s relatives — aunts, uncles, cousins — came forward and did the same. When it was over, both mothers were crying.

Afterward, Jasmine kept talking about Sasha. “He just looked so innocent,” she said to me. “He’s just so cute. He has such a nice family. He didn’t deserve that. No kid does. It’s just not something I can get used to.” There was so much more that she had wanted to say to them, but she couldn’t find the words. “I don’t know what to say but sorry,” she told me.

Seven months later, on the morning of Oct. 16, Richard sat with his left leg shackled to a wooden chair in the courtroom of Judge Paul Delucchi. He wore a gray county-issue sweatshirt and khakis, and while he had lost the terrified look of his early court appearances, his eyes were wary. There was a faint peach-fuzz mustache on his upper lip.

Delucchi’s courtroom was frequently crowded and chaotic, with prisoners stacked up in the jury box listlessly waiting for their turn to appear. But each time Richard came to court, I watched his eyes rove the room, taking everything in. His lawyer had told me he was doing well in Alameda County Juvenile Hall, getting good grades and staying out of trouble. He was on track to graduate from high school in February. Jasmine visited him every Sunday.

Jasmine had stopped returning my calls, telling me in July that she was tired of talking about the case, tired of thinking about it, just tired. “I work 12, sometimes 14 hours a day, and when I come home, I just want to go to sleep,” she said. On that morning, she sat just behind me, wearing new long hair extensions with a greenish tint.

Debbie Crandall sat next to me, her eyes fixed on Richard. He was going to take a plea bargain. The mayhem charge and the hate-crime enhancements would be dropped, and Richard would receive a five-year sentence on the assault charge. With credit for time served and good behavior, the deal would have Richard, now 17, released before his 21st birthday, making it more likely that he could serve all his time in juvenile facilities. Du Bois had urged Richard to accept it as “the best choice among the available alternatives.” Debbie and Karl also wanted him to take the deal, so that Sasha, now a freshman at M.I.T., wouldn’t have to fly back for a trial.

Jasmine wasn’t so sure. She had hoped for a better outcome, and communication between her and Du Bois had grown increasingly poor over the summer and fall. Now she and Richard had decided to accept the offer.

But that morning, the deputy district attorney, Richard Moore, abruptly changed the five-year sentence to seven years. No explanation was given in court. Take it or go to trial, Du Bois said he was told. From my seat in the gallery, I watched Du Bois pull a chair in front of Richard to tell him the news. I could see the moment when Richard understood what had happened. He turned his head to look at Jasmine. They stared at each other for a long, heartbreaking moment, seeming to converse without words. When Richard turned back to face Du Bois, he curled his head into his shoulder. He would take the deal.

Du Bois, a 40-year courthouse veteran, was usually calm and even-tempered. But when I went to talk to him after the hearing, he was furious. Under the terms of the deal, Richard’s sentence may still be reduced to five years if he meets certain benchmarks between now and July — full participation in available educational and rehabilitation programs, a clean discipline record. But not all of that is in Richard’s control: Another inmate could pick a fight with him; a staff member might write him up for a minor offense. And because minors can be transferred to an adult prison as soon as they turn 18, a longer sentence makes it more likely that Richard will serve the bulk of his time in an adult prison rather than in juvenile facilities. “He’s now thrown to the wolves,” Du Bois told me. Weeks later, he was still fuming about Richard’s sentence. “It’s punitive,” he said. “And for what? Protecting the community by making this kid into a real gangster?”

O’Malley told me over the phone in November that the new arrangement was meant to help him, by giving him more time to receive treatment. She could not, however, name the type of treatment programs she had in mind for Richard or explain how sending him to adult prison would serve the rehabilitation goals she had described.

Richard returned to court a month later for sentencing. Debbie had been asked to give a victim-impact statement. She read aloud a letter to Richard, her voice quavering. “You attacked our child as they slept on a bus,” she began. “Maybe you thought it was weird that Sasha was wearing a skirt.” Richard’s gaze stayed on her face as she described Sasha’s ordeal — the charred skin, the painful skin grafts, the hours of daily bandaging. His eyes filled with tears.

“We do not understand your actions,” Debbie went on. “But we also think that hatred only leads to more hatred and anger. We don’t want you to come out of prison full of hate.”

Debbie and Karl walked out of the courthouse into the November sunshine and stopped for coffee at a nearby sidewalk cafe. They were exhausted from talking to reporters, unsure whether to be relieved or distraught. “I wish it had turned out differently for Richard,” Debbie said. “We got Sasha back. But poor Jasmine. She lost her son for years.” They hadn’t expected to be so moved by seeing Richard’s face again.

“I just had this wave of emotion at how young he looked,” Karl said. “He just looks like a kid.”

 

 

© 2015, agentleman.

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A Treasonous Leader Of The House

Forbes Tears Boehner, Netanyahu Apart In A Scathing Column, Says GOP Cannot “Think Beyond Their Distaste For This President”

RYAN DENSON

 
Rick Ungar should get a medal for his words against the treasonous John Boehner and his war-hungry, propaganda pushing friend Benjamin Netanyahu.

In his latest article,”Bibi Netanyahu — aka ‘The Republican Senator From Israel’ — May Have Made A Fatal Political Mistake,” Ungar unleashes a full force of anger, disgust, bewilderment and utter confusion over the Speaker’s undermining of President Obama and his foreign policy. In what Ungar describes as a “political screw-up,” Speaker Boehner and Bibi seek to undermine current foreign policy in an effort to save Netanyahu’s reign in the Israeli Knesset.

A power-hungry Republican trying to save a war-hawk? I’m shocked.

After quickly digesting what’s at stake for Netanyahu and the sneaky way his address to Congress came to be, Ungar lambasted both Bibi and Boehner:

“For the moment, suffice it to say that using the Israeli Prime Minister in an attempt to embarrass the President of the United States is beyond shameful.

I get that the Speaker doesn’t like the President or his policies. I get that many readers of this piece will have snarky responses about how this President already embarrasses himself and our nation, etc., etc., etc.

But what neither the Speaker, nor those who cannot manage to think beyond their distaste for this president, understand is the truly unprecedented step Boehner has taken by joining with the leader of a foreign nation against his own president.”

Ungar then touches on the respect and dignity that the office of the president holds, something Speaker Boehner doesn’t mind trashing:

“Presidents come and go. However, respect for the office of the presidency, particularly on the part of the man who is second in the line of succession to the presidency, should not.

Through his actions, Boehner may have scored some points for his party and for his preferred policy option vis-à-vis the Iranian nuclear negotiations. But in the process, the Speaker of the American House of Representatives has succeeded in embarrassing the Office of the President.

Considering that Speaker Boehner has failed to accomplish anything of note during his Speakership, I can only wonder how it must feel to have his legacy be his effort to disgrace the American President in the effort to bolster the political chances of a foreign leader.”

Wrapping up, Ungar takes a swing at every Republican who supports this offensive, treasonous action (hint: it doesn’t make you look patriotic):

“Seeking to damage any American President by helping a foreign leader embarrass our own leader can never be considered something that is best for the nation. And that is simply the truth no matter what your political persuasion or your feelings about the current occupant of the Oval Office.”

Thank you, Rick Ungar, for saying what every American should say. Regardless of politics, Boehner has stained the reputation, the dignity of the office of the president, and America’s diplomatic relations abroad.

I’ll add one thing Ungar didn’t say: every Democrat in Congress should boycott the speech of the war-hungry Netanyahu and hold Speaker Boehner accountable.

 

 

© 2015, agentleman.

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The Whining Of The Billionaires

Jim Hightower: JPMorgan CEO’s Whining For Pity Is So Misguided

 
Jamie Dimon said that banks are under assault–yet his company scored a $22 billion profit.
By Jim Hightower

 

 

J.P. Morgan was recently socked in the wallet by financial regulators who levied yet another multi-billion dollar fine against the Wall Street baron for massive illegalities.

Well, not a fine against John Pierpont Morgan, the man. This 19th-century robber baron was born to a great banking fortune and, by hook and crook, leveraged it to become the “King of American Finance.” During the Gilded Age, Morgan cornered the U.S. financial markets, gained monopoly ownership of railroads, amassed a vast supply of the nation’s gold and used his investment power to create U.S. Steel and take control of that market.

From his earliest days in high finance, Morgan was a hustler who often traded on the shady side. In the Civil War, for example, his family bought his way out of military duty, but he saw another way to serve. Himself, that is. Morgan bought defective rifles for $3.50 each and sold them to a Union general for $22 each. The rifles blew off soldiers’ thumbs, but Morgan pleaded ignorance, and government investigators graciously absolved the young, wealthy, well-connected financier of any fault.
That seems to have set a pattern for his lifetime of antitrust violations, union busting and other over-the-edge profiteering practices. He drew numerous official charges — but of course, he never did any jail time.

Moving the clock forward, we come to JPMorgan Chase, today’s financial powerhouse bearing J.P.’s name. The bank also inherited his pattern of committing multiple illegalities — and walking away scot-free.

Oh, sure, the bank was hit with big fines, but not a single one of the top bankers who committed gross wrongdoings were charged or even fired — much less sent to jail.

With this long history of crime-does-pay for America’s largest Wall Street empire, you have to wonder why Jamie Dimon, JPMorgan’s CEO, is so P.O.’d. He’s fed up to the tippy-top of his $100 haircut with all of this populistic attitude that’s sweeping the country, and he’s not going to take it anymore!

Dimon recently bleated to reporters that, “Banks are under assault.” Well, he really doesn’t mean or care about most banks — just his bank. Government regulators, snarls Jamie, are pandering to grassroots populist anger at Wall Street excesses by squeezing the life out of the JP Morgan casino.

But wait — didn’t JPMorgan score a $22 billion profit last year, a 20 percent increase over 2013 and the highest in its history? And didn’t those Big Bad Oppressive Government Regulators provide a $25 billion taxpayer bailout in 2008 to save Jamie’s conglomerate from its own reckless excess? And isn’t his Wall Street Highness raking in some $20 million in personal pay to suffer the indignity of this “assault” on his bank. Yes, yes and yes.

Still, Jamie says that regulators and bank industry analysts are piling on JPMorgan Chase: “In the old days,” he whined, “you dealt with one regulator when you had an issue. Now it’s five or six. You should all ask the question about how American that is,” the $20-million-a-year man lectured reporters, “how fair that is.”

Well, golly, one reason Chase has half a dozen regulators on its case is because it doesn’t have “an issue” of illegality, but beaucoup illegalities, including deceiving its own investors, cheating more than two million of its credit card customers, gaming the rules to overcharge electricity users in California and the Midwest, overcharging active-duty military families on their mortgages, illegally foreclosing on troubled homeowners and … well, so much more.

So Jamie, you should ask yourself the question about “how fair” is all of the above. Then you should shut up, count your millions and be grateful you’re not in jail.
From John Pierpont Morgan to Jamie Dimon, the legacy continues. Banks don’t commit crimes. Bankers do. And they won’t ever stop if they don’t have to pay for their crimes.

© 2015, agentleman.

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Welcome To Ann Rands America

GOP’s Frightening Plot to Build Laboratories for Plutocracy in States They Control

Right-wing initiatives such as tax cuts and ‘right-to-work’ legislation are on the table.
By Zaid Jilani
In the American political tradition, states are known as “laboratories of democracy,” miniature examples for the rest of the country to learn from. Following the 2014 elections, Republicans gained more power in state legislatures than they’ve had in their party’s history, controlling 69 of the 99 different state chambers across the country.

With these wide majorities, these Republicans are using these laboratories to put into action some of their wildest plutocratic legislative dreams, everything from enacting discriminatory legislation against gay and lesbian Americans to assaulting the rights of workers, to clawing back laws at every level that protect the public interest.

Bigotry In The Name Of Religious Freedom

Last year, Republicans introduced a flurry of “religious freedom” bills designed to legalize the ability of businesses to discriminate; for example, a diner refusing to serve a gay couple. Having failed to fully pass these bills even in the most right-wing legislatures, Republicans in numerous states have resurrected these bills to try again this year.
In Michigan, where the bill made it through the House in December but stalled before getting the governor, GOP state senator Mike Shirkey re-introduced the bill in the upper chamber. “It’s simply about protecting the rights that the constitution provides for all citizens, not just select groups of citizens,” he said.

Protests against the bills have been fierce. Eighteen prominent legal scholars wrote to Georgia lawmakers telling them to defeat the bill; Georgia pastors, rabbis, and imams have spoken out against the legislation, as have traditionally conservative Georgia businesses.

Attacking Labor Organizing

In 2011, Republicans spearheaded attacks against collective bargaining in the public sector, arguing that taxpayers were on the hook for these workers so their union rights should not be sacrosanct. This year, these same Republicans are going much further, targeting private sector unions. In Wisconsin, Republican lawmakers are advancing so-called “right-to-work” legislation designed to prevent unions from collecting dues from all the workers they represent. Despite Republican Governor Scott Walker’s failure to publicly endorse the bill, 2016 politics weighs deeply on Walker; if he is to pursue a presidential run, it will no doubt be held against him by donors if he fails to endorse the latest GOP attack on union rights.

In New Mexico, Republican Governor Susana Martinez has no such reticence in endorsing the right-to-work of her GOP lawmakers. The state has 46,000 union workers, many of them in the public sector; the state also already has a paltry 6.2 percent union membership rate, that’s significantly below the 11.1 percent national average.

Right-to-work is also being pushed at an even lower level. In Kentucky, numerous individual counties are advancing this anti-union legislation, after the state legislature has killed similar legislation in committees. There are constitutional issues at stake, as the state’s attorney general Jack Conway has said that only the state legislature and not county governments can pass such a rule change.

Cutting Taxes On The Rich, Starving Their States Of Revenues

Kansas Republican Gov. Sam Brownback blew a huge hole in his state’s finances by cutting income taxes (all levels of the income ladder saw a reduction but the rich saw their taxes cut almost in half) in a bid to become a “Texas-like economic powerhouse,” in the words of the Wall Street Journal.

This resulted in a budget deficit of nearly a billion dollars. Brownback has decided to make up this gap partly by cutting $127 million from schools and delaying pension payments.

Texas, the model for Kansas, is doubling down on its own philosophy, as Senate Republicans are advocating for an additional $4 billion in tax cuts, “even in the face of lower oil prices and scaled-back state revenue projections.”
Maryland, where a Republican Larry Hogan won the governor’s mansion in an unexpected upset, will soon be getting this red-state treatment. Hogan plans for “an array of permanent, long-term budget reductions – for public schools, private colleges, libraries and economic development aid for farmers.” These reductions will be paid for by a “tax reduction package” the administration is putting together.

Guns Everywhere

This week the Texas GOP announced it has the votes in the state senate to pass a bill allowing guns on college campuses. The bill would make public colleges open to concealed carry owners, and allow only private colleges and universities to make their own decisions about allowing guns on campus.

Meanwhile, Florida’s House Criminal Justice Subcommittee approved a similar measure last week; advocates are using a recent example of a shooting at Florida State University to press their case.

Currently, 20 states ban carrying concealed weapons on college campuses, while 23 let individual colleges decide; the remaining seven allow guns on campuses categorically.

A Change In 2016?

Fo​urteen gubernatorial races will take place in 2016, in the backdrop of a presidential election. Eight of those races will feature Democrats defending their own turn, and three of the races, Kentucky, Louisiana, and Mississippi will take place in November 2015. One of the most vulnerable will be North Carolina’s Republican Gov. Pat McCrory, giving progressives a chance to unseat a Republican in a state that is the site of a huge protest movement against right-wing policies.

It’s unlikely, however, that McCrory and other Republicans will be unseated unless there is wide awareness of the GOP’s efforts to turn their states into plutocratic laboratories.

 

© 2015, agentleman.

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Lord Have Mercy On The Pope

5 Scary Ultra-Right Catholics Who Are Outraged By the Cool Pope

These right-wing Catholics still want to party like it’s 1899.
By Harmon Leon / AlterNet January 23, 2015
Pro-Pope fever has swept the imagination of those who love both Christian principles and progressive thinking. The approval rating is soaring sky-high for the man in the funny hat. Francis has graced the covers of The Advocate and Rolling Stone and was voted Time’s Man of the Year. Obama even gave PF a shout out in his State of the Union address this week: “As His Holiness, Pope Francis, has said, diplomacy is the work of ‘small steps.’ These small steps have added up to new hope for the future in Cuba.” Pope Francis has his own fanzine and smartphone app. The man even tweets!

The Cool Pope has a mission to make the Catholic Church more gay-friendly, acknowledging that this is after all the year 2015. On homosexuality, the Pope quipped: “If someone is gay and he searches for the Lord and has good will, who am I to judge?”

He also declared economic inequality a social evil, is going to bat to combat climate change and endorsed science (and logic) regarding evolution and the Big Bang theory.
Tentative Republican presidential candidate and practicing Catholic Rick Santorum is not having it. Just this week, Santorum declared in an interview that “It’s sometimes very difficult to listen to the Pope.” Then again, this is coming from a man who once made comments comparing homosexual sex to bestiality and incest.

Santorum made a big frowny-face over the Pope’s statement that Catholics don’t have to breed like rabbits, insisting that doctrine requires the faithful to “be fruitful and multiply.” (Santorum has seven kids.) Santorum’s Pope-a-dope: “The most important thing is that as a Catholic, I believe he has the Holy Spirit, and the Holy Spirit isn’t going to let him make that kind of mistake.”

Santorum isn’t alone. Cool Pope Francis’ comments are driving other uber-conservative Catholics insane. Here are five conservative Catholics who still want to party like it’s 1899.

1. American Cardinal Raymond Burke

The ultra-conservative former archbishop of St. Louis has emerged as the archaic face of opposition to Pope Francis’ reformist agenda. In an attack on the Pope’s leadership, Burke likened the Roman Catholic Church to “a ship without a rudder.”

“I would like to be a master of the faith, with all my weaknesses, telling a truth that many currently perceive,” he said. “They are feeling a bit seasick because they feel the church’s ship has lost its way.”

Burke has said the Catholic Church was “the pillar of marriage” and continues to challenge the pope’s revolutionary “Who am I to judge?” remark on gay people. This is from a man who has previously said that Catholic families should not expose children to the “evil” of homosexuality by inviting a gay son and his partner home for Christmas.

In the words of Burke: “The acts must be judged; I do not think that the Pope thinks differently. They are sinful and unnatural. The Pope never said we can find positive elements in them. It is impossible to find positive elements in an evil act.”

2. Pat Buchanan

The right-wing pundit declared: “I’m more Catholic than the Pope.” He lambasted Francis for sowing “confusion among the faithful” with his criticism of the “hostile rigidity” of “so-called traditionalists” in the Roman Catholic Church.
In the conservative words of Buchanan: “While Francis has nether denied not sought to change any doctrine, Cardinal Burke is correct. The Pope has done a lot of harm. He has created confusion among the faithful and is soon going to have to speak with clarity on the unchanging truths of Catholicism.”

3. Friar Dwight Longenecker

On his site Patheos, Catholic priest Dwight Longenecker advises conservative Catholics who are in opposition with Pope Francis on how to cope with his pontifications:

“Is your faith in Jesus Christ and the faith of the church or is it in the pope? Catholics should love the pope, but they should love Jesus more. If one pope comes along who you find difficult to love and understand, take heart. You weren’t supposed to love him that much anyway.”

4. John Vennari

As editor of the Catholic Family News, John Vennari has been trumpeting his horn over the danger of Pope Francis ever since the Pope was elected.

Vennari writes, “He seems to have a good heart and some good Catholic instincts, but theologically he is a train wreck—remarkably sloppy.” He goes on to say, “Though this might shock some readers, I must say that I would never allow Pope Francis to teach religion to my children.”

5. Philadelphia Archbishop Charles Chaput

Archbishop Charles Chaput expressed great concern about the Synod on the Family Pope Francis oversaw in Vatican City last fall. In yet another example of Pope playa-hating he wrote a critical post on his blog: “I was very disturbed by what happened at the synod. I think confusion is of the devil, and I think the public image that came across was one of confusion.”

Plenty of crazy remarks, to be sure. But since everyone knows the Internet is where the most ridiculous statements are made, I’ll leave you with this reader comment on a Religious News article titled “Pope Francis Is Unsettling—and Dividing—the Catholic Right”:
“This current Pope is the Trojan horse with the 20 of his close Masonic friends. The goal, to remove Jesus out of the church. Jesus did not choose this man the Masons did. Remember the end is closer then you think. The warning second coming…Jesus God and our blessed Mother are giving this information for all not to be decived. Pope Benadict is our last Pope this new one is the anti. Discern this information and keen to the new changes. God bless you all. Praise be to Jesus!”

© 2015, agentleman.

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