Stand your ground: Looking beyond Trayvon Martin

The death of Trayvon Martin was a tragedy.  I think that is the one thing most of us can agree on.  But the facts about what happened that night are murky, in part clouded by what appears to be an unprofessional investigation, a Florida law that goes beyond the doctrine of protecting your home when it and your family are threatened, and poor judgement on the part of the chief of police in Stanford and the State’s Attorney.  So how did it come to this?

Cora Curry writing in Alter-Net says

Still, in not arresting Zimmerman, local officials have pointed to Florida’s wide definition of self-defense. In 2005, Florida became the first state to explicitly expand a person’s right to use deadly force for self-defense. Deadly force is justified if a person is gravely threatened, in the home or “any other place where he or she has a right to be.”

In Florida, once self-defense is invoked, the burden is on the prosecution to disprove the claim.

Most states have long allowed the use of reasonable force, sometimes including deadly force, to protect oneself inside one’s home — the so-called Castle Doctrine. Outside the home, people generally still have a “duty to retreat” from an attacker, if possible, to avoid confrontation. In other words, if you can get away and you shoot anyway, you can be prosecuted. In Florida, there is no duty to retreat. You can “stand your ground” outside your home, too.

Florida is not alone. Twenty-three other states now allow people to stand their ground. Most of these laws were passed after Florida’s. (A few states never had a duty to retreat to begin with.)

Many of the laws were originally advocated as a way to address domestic abuse cases — how could a battered wife retreat if she was attacked in her own home? Such legislation also has been recently pushed by the National Rifle Association and other gun-rights groups.



So stand your ground was a way to address domestic violence.  Interesting.  unfortunately it has gone beyond that now.  According to CBS Miami,

As some state lawmakers are calling for a re-thinking of Florida’s “Stand Your Ground” law, which allows people to defend themselves from danger without the need to first try to get away, an analysis of state data shows deaths due to self defense are up over 200 percent since the law took effect.

The shooting death of Trayvon Martin by an armed, self-appointed Central Florida crime watch volunteer who claimed he shot in self defense has sparked a national debate about Florida’s law, technically known as the Castle doctrine.

According to state crime stats, Florida averaged 12 “justifiable homicide” deaths a year from 2000-2004. After “Stand your Ground” was passed in 2005, the number of “justifiable” deaths has almost tripled to an average of 35 a year, an increase of 283% from 2005-2010.

I wonder who those victims of “justifiable” homicide were and why no one is investigating those deaths.  And what are the statistics from the other states?  Have they had a similar increase?  Massachusetts is considering a “Stand Your Ground” law.  The legislature should look into these questions before they do anything.   The Washington Post has some of the answers in their editorial published today.

According to the Tampa Bay Times, Florida experienced an average of 34 “justifiable homicides” before 2005; two years after the Stand Your Ground law was enacted, the number jumped to more than 100. Similarly disturbing spikes have been found in other states with similar laws. According to an analysis of FBI data done by the office of New York Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg (I), who co-chairs the 650-strong Mayors Against Illegal Guns, states that passed Stand Your Ground laws experienced a 53.5 percent increase in “justifiable homicides” in the three years following enactment; states without such laws saw a 4.2 percent increase.

The Association of Prosecuting Attorneys opposed Stand Your Ground laws, arguing that they were unnecessary and likely a danger to public safety. In a 2007 report, they foreshadowed the Trayvon Martin tragedy. “Although the spirit of the law may be to allow the public to feel safer, the expansions may instead create a sense of fear from others, particularly strangers,” the report said, concluding that enactment would have a “disproportionately negative effect on minorities, persons from lower socio-economic status, and young adults/juveniles” who are often unjustly stereotyped as suspects.

While this law might have had as one of its original purposes protecting women who are victims of domestic violence, there are other ways to do this.  While we don’t know, and may never know, what happened between Trayvon Martin and George Zimmerman that night about a month ago, we can look at these laws and understand that they really protect no one.  Florida Governor Scott and I don’t agree on much, but we do agree that the law should be reviewed.  Perhaps some good can come from all of this.


Seamus and Etch a Sketch

Can’t resist posting this.  There is an Etch a Sketch with Seamus on the roof of Romney’s car.


This was done by Andrew Kaczynski.  It sums up Romney’s problems in one nice picture.  Seamus on the roof going to Canada.  Somehow I don’t think that Mitt can erase this no matter how hard he tries to shake up his Etch a Sketch

And you also have this on the Dogs Against Romney blog.

These are just going to multipy to fit any situation.  I wondered for a while why Romney didn’t fire Eric Fehrnstrom but then I realized that this would go away whether he continues to work on the campaign or not.  Wonder if Eric thinks Scott Brown is also like an Etch a Sketch?

Myths about the Health Care Law

I will likely be writing a lot about the health care law as the Supreme Court hears the case next week.   Walter Dellinger had a nice piece in today’s Washington Post dissecting five of the myths related to the Affordable Health Care Act or Health Care Reform.  I look at 3 of the myths.

Myth 1:  Everyone is forced to buy health insurance.  Dellinger writes

The law states that, beginning in 2014, individuals must ensure that they and their dependents are covered by health insurance. Taxpayers who do not meet this requirement will have to pay a penalty that the law calls a “shared responsibility payment.” It begins at $95 for the first year and never exceeds 21 / 2 percent of anyone’s annual taxable income.

A great majority of Americans, of course, have health insurance through their employers, Medicare or Medicaid and are already in compliance with this requirement. Given the relatively modest payment required of those who choose not to maintain insurance, no one is being literally forced to buy a product they don’t want.

The challengers argue that the mandate is a binding requirement that makes anyone who goes without insurance a lawbreaker. The government has determined, however, that those who pay the penalty, like those who are exempt from the penalty, are not lawbreakers. As a practical matter, the so-called mandate is just a relatively modest financial incentive to have health insurance.

Myth 3:  If the Supreme Court uphold the Affordable Care Act, Congress could force us to buy anything.

The health-care case is a test of Congress’s power under the Constitution to regulate commerce among the states. One way to defend the law is simply to say that a requirement to purchase insurance or any other product sold in interstate commerce is obviously a regulation of that commerce. President Ronald Reagan’s solicitor general, Charles Fried, and conservative judge Laurence Silberman have adopted this view.

The Obama administration is not relying upon such a sweeping argument, however, and its more limited claim would not justify any law that required Americans to buy products such as cars or broccoli.

Myth 5:  The Law is an extraordinary intrusion into liberty

Liberty is always said to be fatally eroded, it seems, when great advances in social legislation take place. The lawyers who urged the Supreme Court to strike down the Social Security Act of 1935 argued that if Congress could provide a retirement system for everyone 65 and older, it would have the power to set the retirement age at 30 and force the very young to support everyone else.

It was said that if Congress had the authority to create a minimum wage of $5 an hour, it would also be a regulation of commerce to set the minimum at $5,000 an hour. In 1964, critics argued that if Congress could tell restaurant owners not to discriminate on the basis of race, it could tell them what color tablecloths to use. None of these things happened.

Nothing in the health-care law tells doctors what they must say to patients or how those patients are to be treated. It only requires people to either have insurance coverage or pay a modest tax penalty.

I think this last is the argument you hear the most.  Change is always scary and many argue their fears.  One of the big arguments used against the Equal Rights Amendment by opponents was that it would require all bathrooms to be unisex.  In Virginia where I worked for the General Assembly to ratify the amendment, this was pretty potent especially with older women.  I think they envisioned a public rest room where men were lined up in full view using urinals!

How will the Court decide?  Hard to predict but there is one piece of hopeful new.  A moot court at the National Constitutional Center upheld Health Care Reform, 8 to 1.    The judges were:

Chief Judge: Timothy K. Lewis, Of Counsel at Schnader, Harrison, Segal & Lewis and former Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

D. Michael Fisher, Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Thomas C. Goldstein, Partner, Goldstein and Russel, P.C., co-founder and publisher of SCOTUSblog

Kent A. Jordan, Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Theodore McKee, Chief Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Third Circuit

Neil S. Siegel, Professor of Law and Political Science and co-director of the Program in Public Law at Duke University School of Law

Dolores K. Sloviter, Judge, United States Court Appeals for the Third Circuit

Patricia Wald, Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit

Richard C. Wesley, Judge, United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit

You can see video here.


Polls, Polls, Polls


Don’t know about you but sometimes I get dizzy reading all the polls.  There are so many variables:  how the question was asked, when it was asked, how the sample was selected, etc. etc.  So this little piece from the Daily Kos Morning Digest from March 20 was, I thought worth passing on.

NJ-Sen (PDF): Farleigh Dickinson University has Dem Sen. Bob Menendez leading state Sen. Joe Kyrillos 43-33 in their newest poll, little changed from the 43-31 they saw in January. FDU also tested Menendez against “someone else,” who utterly upends the race and leads 37-30. I have to give props to FDU here, because they actually wrote a very funny press release about this possible contender:

According to poll director Peter Woolley, “Most voters think someone else is a nearly ideal candidate. They say someone else is refreshing, straightforward, honest and represents the true interests of ordinary people.”
Woolley continued, “Someone else is almost always more popular. Someone else is a better dresser. Someone else gets the hot stock tips. Someone else gets promotions and pay raises too. Someone else even wins the lottery.”
Someone else does have a downside. “Someone else seems to have a troubled domestic life,” opined Woolley. “Someone else always leaves dishes in the sink, lets the dog get out, and chips the paint on your brand new car. Someone else is also reputed to have broken up more than a few marriages.”
The poll did not ask about anyone else. “Asking about anyone else would be ridiculous,” said the poll director. “Anyone else may not even be eligible to run.”

Where does David Nir find this stuff?!

So here is some hopeful news, also from the Daily Kos of March 20.


NATIONAL (Rasmussen Tracking):Obama d. Romney (46-45); Obama d. Santorum (48-43) 

NEVADA (Rasmussen): Obama d. Romney (50-44); Obama d. Santorum (52-36)

VIRGINIA (Quinnipiac): Obama d. Romney (50-42); Obama d. Santorum (49-40); Obama d. Paul (49-39); Obama d. Gingrich (54-35)

Can we believe those Nevada and Virginia numbers?  Guess we will have to wait until November to find out.


Bracket busted

My picks for the final four this year:  Duke, Michigan State, Florida State, and North Carolina.  Duke went out early and Florida State didn’t make the Sweet Sixteen.  What I get for ACC loyalty.  Actually, Duke was a decent pick, but FSU was only because they were on a streak and which I thought could be sustained a few more games.  Oh, well.

With injuries to UNC, I have a feeling my ultimate winner – and President Obama’s – may not make it, but we shall see!  I have Michigan State and UNC in the finals, by the way, and they are both still alive for the moment.

 Kendall Marshall off-balance. He landed breaking his non-dominant wrist.

I know that everyone is saying that Kentucky is a lock now, that it is Kentucky against the field, but I am still betting against them.

Understanding Health Care Reform

Health Care reform is coming before the Supreme Court soon and in an effort to really understand what it is all about I picked up a copy of Jonathan Gruber‘s book “Health Care Reform

Health Care Reform: What It Is, Why It's Necessary, How It Works

It is a nifty graphic novel which does an excellent job of explaining why we need health care reformm what the reform will do and when, and how is will help reduce the deficit.  This last is the most complicated and I’m not sure I got it all in a single reading.

Gruber uses several characters in differing circumstances to illustrate the law’s impact.  On the whole, very nicely done and highly recommended if you want to understand what the Affordable Health Care Act is all about.  Gruber is an economist who worked first with Mitt Romney on reform in Massachusetts and then with President Obama and his team.

So what has Obama accomplished?

The group Winning Progressive has a posted a list of the President’s achievements the last 3 years.  

This picture and the text list only a few accomplishments but given the hostility of almost half of Congress and the American people we Democrats, progressives, liberals what ever we label ourselves can be proud.   One needs to click on the link above to get a more complete list.

Those of us who support the President and support his re-election need to ask ourselves why a vast majority of people don’t think he has done anything.  Paul Glastris in  Washington Monthly points out in his long article “The Incomplete Greatness of Barack Obama”.

In mid-January, pollsters for the Washington Post and ABC News asked a representative sampling of Americans the following question: “Obama has been president for about three years. Would you say he has accomplished a great deal during that time, a good amount, not very much, or little or nothing?

When the poll’s results were released on January 18, even the most seasoned White House staffers, who know the president faces a tough battle for reelection, must have spit up their coffee: more than half the respondents—52 percent—said the president has accomplished “not very much” or “little or nothing.”

It is often said that there are no right or wrong answers in opinion polling, but in this case, there is an empirically right answer—one chosen by only 12 percent of the poll’s respondents. The answer is that Obama has accomplished “a great deal.”

Paul Glastris continues what the President has done and to try to explain why people don’t think he has done much.

In short, when judging Obama’s record so far, conservatives measure him against their fears, liberals against their hopes, and the rest of us against our pocketbooks. But if you measure Obama against other presidents—arguably the more relevant yardstick—a couple of things come to light. Speaking again in terms of sheer tonnage, Obama has gotten more done than any president since LBJ. But the effects of some of those achievements have yet to be felt by most Americans, often by design. Here, too, Obama is in good historical company.

The greatest achievements of some of our most admired presidents were often unrecognized during their years in office, and in many cases could only be appreciated with the passing of time. When FDR created Social Security in 1935, the program offered meager benefits that were delayed for years, excluded domestic workers and other heavily black professions (a necessary compromise to win southern votes), and was widely panned by liberals as a watered-down sellout. Only in subsequent decades, as benefits were raised and expanded, did Social Security become the country’s most beloved government program. Roosevelt’s first proposal for a GI Bill for returning World War II veterans was also relatively stingy, and while its benefits grew as it moved through Congress, its aim remained focused on keeping returning veterans from flooding the labor market. Only later was it apparent that the program was fueling the growth of America’s first mass middle class. When Harry Truman took office at the dawn of the Cold War, he chose the policy of containment over a more aggressive “rollback” of communism, and then he built the institutions to carry it out. He left office with a 32 percent public approval rating. Only decades later would it become clear that he made the right choice.

President Obama’s weak point is definitely the economy and the stimulus.  Was the stimulus too little to have a huge impact as Paul Krugman would argue or was it a total waste as many conservatives including those currently running for the Republican nomination would have us think?  The facts are that the bailout of the banks and of the auto industry did work and in the end it didn’t cost the taxpayers since money was paid back with interest.  Obama supporters need to hope that economic numbers continue to improve.

Glastris continues

I had conversations recently with six presidential scholars. Three of them—Robert Dallek, Matthew Dallek, and Alan Lichtman—said that, based on what Obama has gotten done in his first term, he has a good shot at ranking in or just below the top ten presidents of history, but with the proviso that he almost certainly needs to get reelected to secure that position. The other three—Alan Brinkley, David Greenberg, and Allen Guelzo—took a more jaundiced view. While conceding that Obama has put a lot of points on the board in terms of legislation, they felt that the highly compromised nature of that legislation, among other things, reflects qualities of leadership—a lack of experience, acumen, and forcefulness—that will keep him from ranking with the great presidents, and will more likely place him somewhere in the middle of the pack, presuming he even gets reelected.

These last three scholars’ views mesh with the broader feeling among Obama’s critics, especially on the liberal side, that Obama is fatally overcautious. What’s notable about such critiques is that they essentially rest on arguments that are counterfactual—that a savvier, more experienced, more energetic president could have gotten more done. Certainly that’s plausible, if unprovable. But it is equally plausible, as Ezra Klein has argued, that what has constrained Obama is not a lack of boldness but a lack of political space. With Republicans unified in opposition and willing to abuse the filibuster such that to pass any legislation has required sixty Senate votes that Obama has seldom had, it is unrealistic to think he or anyone could have done a whole lot better.

I would argue that part of that lack of political space is due to race.  I know that some who read this blog may feel that I harp on race too much, but it is the, so to speak, elephant in the room.  Just look at todays Doonesbury.


Gladris ends with this

One of the most important tasks a president must master—and Obama hasn’t—is speaking up for his own record. This has been especially challenging for him because of the still-widespread economic suffering across the country and the too-soon-to-tell quality of his biggest accomplishments. And again, his even temperament hasn’t helped. He has seemed to want his achievements to speak for themselves. Who wouldn’t? But the presidency doesn’t work that way. A president has to remind the public every day of what he’s already done, why he’s done it, and how those achievements fit into a broader plan that will help them in the future.

With his State of the Union and some subsequent speeches, he has only begun this task. And while it’s very late in the day, the election is still eight months away. The irony is that, while Barack Obama has achieved a tremendous amount in his first term, the only way to secure that record of achievement in the eyes of history is to win a second. And to do that, he first has to convince the American voters that he in fact has a record of achievement.

So if the prospect of one of the Republican candidates becoming President frightens you, you need to help the President in spreading the word about what he has done in three years in the face of immense opposition.

How the Virginia Legislature spent the session

If the Virginia State General Assembly were a 3rd grader and had to write about what they did during the 2012 Legislative session what would they write?  “I spend a lot of the 60 days talking about women’s body parts and didn’t have time to pass a budget.”

 Virginia State Capitol buiding designed by Thomas Jefferson.

I was skimming through headlines on the Washington Post website yesterday when this caught my eye:  “Va. Assembly will adjourn Saturday without a budget”.  Of course Governor McDonnell immediately sent the Democratic caucus a letter blaming them for the failure.  I guess they submitted amendments too late so now there has to be a special session which will cost money.  According to the Richmond Times Dispatch

Earlier Friday, McDonnell released a letter to Senate Democrats in which he said he was disappointed that their caucus waited until the end of the session to forward additional amendments to the budget. McDonnell noted that an extended session will cost state taxpayers additional money.

McDonnell maintained that in addition to transportation, Democratic proposals would increase spending by more than $600 million over two years, and he challenged them to make corresponding amendments to reduce costs or raise revenue.

The amended House version of McDonnell’s two-year, $85 billion plan is in the Senate Finance Committee. Democratic senators — who defeated two previous budget proposals before the full chamber — have offered amendments to the latest House plan that would add approximately $450 million in spending.

Roughly $150 million would go toward public education and restoration of health services to the poor, while $300 million would go toward transportation and reducing the impact of tolls in Northern Virginia and Hampton Roads.

Democrats have also proposed that McDonnell abandon his bid to divert additional sales tax revenue to transportation in favor of indexing the gasoline tax to rise with inflation. They also say the state should pay for the costs of a new law that will require women to get ultrasounds before they can get an abortion

So in addition to money for public education and health services for the poor, the Virginia Democrats want the state to pay for women’s ultrasounds?  Now we are getting to what the General Assembly really spent their 60 day session doing:  Debating transvaginal and other types of ultrasounds for women who seek a legal medical procedure known as an abortion.

There have been many words written on the Virginia bill and many more spoken, but Andrew Rosenthal summed it up neatly in the New York Times.

The Virginia State Legislature has decided not to force pregnant women to undergo vaginal penetration in a medical office before they exercise their Supreme Court-sanctioned right to an abortion. I suppose this is a victory of sorts.

As a refresher: The Legislature was on the verge of passing a law compelling doctors to perform ultrasounds before abortions. The bill, as written, would have required many women to undergo a trans-vaginal procedure, the sort of coerced penetration that in other circumstances could be considered rape.

Gov. Bob McDonnell wanted to sign it to polish his right-wing credentials for the eventual national political bid that so many people expect him to make. But the backlash was too much for him— even in the angry, superheated national debate about abortion there are, apparently, some limits—and he prevailed on the legislature to tweak the bill.

An amended version, mandating ultrasounds while specifying that women can refuse the trans-vaginal kind, passed the House and won a 21-19 vote in the Senate on Tuesday.

Let me get this straight.  The Virginia General Assembly frittered away the session talking about an unnecessary medical procedure intervenes in the relationship between a woman and her doctor while somehow not passing a budget.  OK.  I know it is not that simple, but having spent many years hanging around the Virginia GA I can tell you they can get things done if they want to do so.  But I think the Republicans would rather impose a procedure they won’t pay for, cut health care benefits and education, than get serious about a budget that actually benefits people who live in Virginia.  Both sides are using the budget to push agendas, but the budget is really the only thing the Democrats have to use.  Since the Senate is tied at 20-20 and the Lt. Governor can’t vote on the budget, it is the only way Democratic members can get some sensible measures passed.

I don’t know enough about what is going on in the other budget proposals to comment, but it seems to me that if you mandate something, you need to pay for it.  And the Virginia General Assembly needs to find the money to pay for those ultasounds.

Civil Rights and Gay Rights

In case you didn’t see it, Jonathan Capehart had an excellent and thoughtful essay in yesterday’s Washington Post.  Titled “Blacks and gays:  the shared struggle for civil rights”, it laid out the reasons why blacks (and I might add Asians, Hispanics and other minorities) need to support gay rights.  I am going to try to give you the highlights, but you really should read the entire essay.

It opens

You may recall that last month Gov. Chris Christie (R-N.J.) and I sparred over same-sex marriageon “Morning Joe.” You may also recall that at the end of the interview, the show’s anchor, Joe Scarborough, asked me, “[W]ould you compare the civil rights struggles of African Americans over 300 years in America to marriage equity?” Without hesitation, I said, “Yes.”

“It’s an issue of civil rights, as you said. It’s an issue of equality. It’s an issue of equal treatment under the law,” I said. “No one is asking for special rights. No one is asking for any kind of special favors. We’re just looking for the same rights and responsibilities that come with marriage and also the protections that are provided under marriage. In that regard overall we’re talking about a civil rights issue and what African Americans continue to struggle with is exactly what lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people are struggling with today.”

That didn’t go over so well with more than a few African Americans. They don’t see the struggles as comparable, equivalent or even related. Last Wednesday, @Brokenb4God tweeted to me, “@CapehartJ still can’t believe u think the choice of being gay is congruent to the struggle of blacks. Ain’t never seen no gay plantations!”

Clearly, she’s from the misguided pray-the-gay-away cabal, so no need to address that. I’ll leave the cheap and provocative “gay plantations” stink bomb alone, too, and get to my main point. What links the two struggles is the quest for equality, dignity and equal protection under the law. In short, gay rights are civil rights. It’s that simple.

Capehart goes through several points of similarity under topic headings:  “Bullying and Murder”, “Denied equal protection:  the right to marry” and finally, “Black leaders.”  He quotes Reverend Al Sharpton and John Lewis.  Lewis quoted Dr. Martin Luther King during the debate in 1996 on the Defense of Marriage Act. 

You cannot tell people they cannot fall in love. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. used to say when people talked about interracial marriages, and I quote, ‘Races do not fall in love and get married. Individuals fall in love and get married.’ Why don’t you want your fellow men and women, your fellow Americans to be happy? Why do you attack them? Why do you want to destroy the love they hold in their hearts? Why do you want to crush their hopes, their dreams, their longings, their aspirations? We are talking about human beings, people like you, people who want to get married, buy a house, and spend their lives with the one they love. They have done no wrong.

Lewis supported Massachusetts activists during the debate over marriage equality.

In a 2003 opinion piece for the Boston Globe, Lewis wrote, “I have fought too hard and too long against discrimination based on race and color not to stand up against discrimination based on sexual orientation. I’ve heard the reasons for opposing civil marriage for same-sex couples. Cut through the distractions, and they stink of the same fear, hatred, and intolerance I have known in racism and in bigotry.”

Much of the resistance to the Maryland Marriage Equality law came from black churches who are traditionally unwilling to acknowledge a gay and lesbian presence in their own communities.  One exception is my husband’s church, Union United Methodist in Boston.  Their pioneering was highlighted in this recent article in the Boston Globe

Eziah Karter-Sabir Blake swiped the play debit card through a plastic reader during a game of Monopoly recently. Another multimillion-dollar sale. The buyer, Giftson Joseph, rubbed his hands together, a glimmer creeping in his eyes as he playfully nudged the Rev. Catharine A. Cummings.

The three – one gay, one transgender, one straight – sat around a table at a new youth drop-in center at Union United Methodist Church, a historically black congregation in the South End, the heart of Boston’s gay community.

Simply by being there, the trio was straddling a divisive line between the gay community and the black church, where many gay and lesbian minorities have long felt ignored or unwelcome in the pews.

“It’s a big risk they are taking in the black community,’’ said Joseph, an 18-year-old African-American college student who is gay. “There’s already enough stigma in the church. But this is a church that is accepting of all races and sexual orientations.’’

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In 2000, Union began the process of educating themself about homosexuality and gay rights.

 In 2000, church member Hilda Evans pushed Union United to again change course, and the church agreed to defy United Methodist leaders by declaring itself an open and affirming congregation to gays and straight people alike. It held its first gay service in June 2007 at the height of the state’s same-sex marriage debate.

Other black church leaders and churches in Boston have not followed Union’s lead.  But as the Globe story pointed out

Union United has a long history of bucking tradition. In the 1800s, black worshipers walked out of their segregated Beacon Hill church home after whites grew uncomfortable and complained about their vibrant, African-style of worship. In 1818, members founded the May Street Church, which became a stop on the Underground Railroad, according to the church’s website,

What the Globe does not point out is Union’s civil rights activism during the 1960’s.  You can read about that in the J. Anthony Lukas classic, Common Ground..

It takes a long time for people to see themselves in someone else’s stuggle but we can look at Jonathan Capehart for his articulate arguments about what is right and to places like Union United Methodist Church for leading the way.

We are not a post racial society yet

Anyone who thought that the election of President Obama signaled we were entering a post racial world only had to look at the news stories this past week featuring Judge Richard Cebull and Arizona Sheriff Joe Arpaio.

Judge Cebull, who has apologized to the President, thought he was circulating a joke privately to some friends.  I guess one of them was grossed out (as everyone should be) and outed the Judge. reported

The chief federal judge of Montana has apologized to President Barack Obama in a letter after admitting to sending an email containing a racist joke about the president that made a reference to a dog.

“I sincerely and profusely apologize to you and your family for the email I forwarded. I accept full responsibility; I have no one to blame but myself,” Chief U.S. District Judge Richard Cebull wrote in a letter dated March 1. “I can assure you that such action on my part will never happen again.”

He added, “Honestly, I don’t know what else I can do. Please forgive me and, again, my most sincere apology.”

Cebull landed in hot water this week when it was revealed that he had forwarded a racially charged joke about Obama to six others from his court email account.

“A little boy said to his mother; ‘Mommy, how come I’m black and you’re white?’” the joke in the email said. “His mother replied, ‘Don’t even go there Barack! From what I can remember about that party, you’re lucky you don’t bark!’”

I don’t think an apology is sufficient.  What else can you do, Judge Cebull?  You can resign immediately.  The Ninth Circuit is taking steps to investigate, but even if they discipline him, how could a person who is not white feel confident they will get a fair trail if they come before him.  This man is not very smart what with using his court email account and thinking anything is private.

And then the crazy Sheriff from Arizona made a little news.  The conservative blog Fellowship of the Minds complained that it wasn’t covered enough, even by the conservative media. The story was picked up by the Telegraph in London this morning.

A tough-talking Arizona sheriff, already embroiled in a Justice Department bias investigation and other woes, waded deeper into controversy on Thursday with an attention-grabbing assertion that a probe by his office found President Barack Obama’s birth certificate was a forgery.

Most Republican critics of Obama have given up pursuing such widely discredited “birther” allegations. But the investigation by Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio, carried out by what he described as five-member volunteer “posse,” was prompted by a request last August from a group of conservative Tea Party activists in the Phoenix valley.

The White House has had to deny repeated claims that Obama was not born in the United States. In April, 2011, Obama released a longer version of his birth certificate to try to put to rest the speculation within some Republican circles that he was not born in the United States.

“A 6-month long investigation conducted by my cold case posse has led me to believe there is probably cause to believe that President Barack Obama’s long form birth certificate … is a computer-generated fraud,” Maricopa County Sheriff Joe Arpaio told a news conference.

I think the Sheriff is forgetting about the birth announcement that appeared in the Honolulu papers when the President was born.  I would think that would be hard to forge.  What the Sheriff and the other birthers allege would require a wide-ranging conspiracy with a lot of people keeping quiet.  As with the Judge Cebull email, someone would have talked by now.

A federal judge circulating a racist joke and the birther theory that won’t die are two examples that show we are still living an a racist society.