Keystone XL Might Make You Sick, Literally

Anti-Keystone XL protesters in Manchester, Texas (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Brossa, CC 2.0)

Anti-Keystone XL protesters in Manchester, Texas (Photo courtesy of Elizabeth Brossa, CC 2.0)

Zoë Carpenter,

Ever since President Obama announced that the Keystone XL pipeline would be in the national interest only if it “does not significantly exacerbate the problem of carbon pollution,” the project has been scrutinized primarily on those terms. But there are other concerns to factor into an analysis of the project’s costs and benefits, particularly the local effects on communities along the pipeline route, from the tar sands in Alberta to refineries in Texas.

“I believe the health impacts of tar sands oil are being ignored,” Senator Barbara Boxer warned at a press conference Wednesday, where she and Senator Sheldon Whitehouse called on the Obama administration to conduct a thorough review of potential public health implications of extracting, transporting and refining oil from the tar sands before making a decision about the pipeline. Although the State Department finalized the environmental assessment of the project last month, Boxer said the report “was woefully inadequate when it came to exploring human impacts of the pipeline.” (The State Department had not responded to a request for comment at press time.)

Those impacts include rising cancer rates in places like Fort Chipewyan, a First Nations community downstream from a major tar sands site in Alberta; air pollutants and carcinogens in neighborhoods where refineries will process the oil, like Port Arthur and Manchester in Texas; immediate safety risks from transporting corrosive crude; and mountains of pet coke, an oil sands’ byproduct, which are growing throughout the Midwest. Much of this risk would be born—and is already being born—by poor people of color. Port Arthur, for example, has a 26 percent poverty rate, compared to 17 percent in the rest of Texas; three-quarters of the residents are of color. Manchester, a predominantly Latino community, is already one of the most polluted neighborhoods in the country.

“Health miseries follow tar sands—from extraction to transport to refining to waste disposal,” said Boxer. “Children and families in the US have a right to know now—before any decision to approve the Keystone tar sands pipeline—how it would affect their health.”

The State Department has been criticized before by lawmakers and the Environmental Protection Agency for failing to properly assess the health threats posed by KXL. “We’re at a point where health issues are often glossed over,” said Danielle Droitsch, a senior attorney with the Natural Resources Defense Council and co-author of a report on the health effects of tar sands crude. Part of the problem is that there isn’t a substantial body of research into whether oil from the tar sands impacts health differently than traditional crude. “At a minimum we’re going to have to study this a little bit further. Frankly, there’s enough out there to suggest this stuff is actually worse, and that what we really need to do is transition away to cleaner sources,” Droitsch said.

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The public health blindspot extends beyond KXL. The Obama administration has embraced the North American oil and gas boom without really acknowledging that extracting and refining more fossil fuels at home means increasing the immediate health risks associated. Like Keystone, an “all of the above” energy strategy should be examined for its potential climate impact, which is itself a public health threat. But there are also questions to address about environmental justice and accountability for the petrochemical corporations powering the domestic boom. Many communities—in southern Louisiana, for example—have been sacrificed for the oil economy already. Whether more are ruined is a matter of deliberate policy making, not an inevitability.

Democrats in the House are also hammering the State Department for deficiencies in its environmental review. On Tuesday, Representative Raúl Grijalva asked the Government Accountability Office to audit the conflict-of-interest procedures the State Department used when it selected a contractor to conduct the Environmental Impact Statement. Several reports suggest that Environmental Resources Management, the London-based company hired to do the study, failed to disclose relationships with TransCanada and other corporations that would benefits from tar sands development.“If this is going to be a scientific basis for a decision on the pipeline…then the credibility of that information must be without any doubt. And at this point, that doubt exists,” Grijalva said at a press conference on Tuesday. The GAO told reporters it had not yet decided whether to conduct the review, but Grijalva said he’d been told the office would pursue an inquiry.

The State Department’s inspector general announced Wednesday that its own review found no violations, but Grijalva still wants a third-party review. “The inspector general was only asked to examine whether the State Department followed its own flawed process for selecting a third-party contractor. The fact that the answer is ‘yes’ doesn’t address any outstanding concerns about the integrity of ERM’s work, the State Department’s in-house ability to evaluate its quality, or whether the process itself needs to be reformed,” Grijalva said in a statement.

Recess Is In: Daily Play Cuts Childhood Obesity

“Even just 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity on a daily basis makes a big difference [in insulin resistance and visceral adiposity] after just a few months,” Dr. Catherine L. Davis said.

“Even just 20 minutes of vigorous physical activity on a daily basis makes a big difference [in insulin resistance and visceral adiposity] after just a few months,” Dr. Catherine L. Davis said.


SAN ANTONIO – Vigorous aerobic exercise performed for 20 or 40 minutes, 5 days per week, improved fitness and was associated with dose-dependent benefits on insulin resistance and general and visceral adiposity in a randomized controlled trial involving 222 children who were overweight or obese and sedentary.

The intensity of the exercise appeared to be the most important factor for improving aerobic fitness, but volume of exercise was important for reducing adiposity and diabetes risk, Catherine L. Davis, Ph.D., reported at the annual meeting of the Obesity Society.

Fitness, as measured using the adjusted mean difference in peak VO2, was similar for 73 children randomized to 40 minutes of daily exercise (the high-dose exercise group) and 71 children randomized to 20 minutes of daily exercise (the low-dose group). Fitness was significantly greater for exercise groups compared with 78 controls. The adjusted mean difference in peak VO2 was 2.4 mL/kg per minute from baseline to 13-weeks’ follow-up for both groups vs. the control group, said Dr. Davis of the Medical College of Georgia, Augusta.

Changes in body fat were measured using dual x-ray absorptiometry, and changes in visceral fat were measured using magnetic resonance imaging. The adjusted mean differences were -1.4% for the high-dose exercise group and -0.8% for the low-dose exercise group compared with controls. For visceral fat, the differences were -3.9% and -2.8%, respectively.

Reductions in the insulin area under the curve were measured using an oral glucose tolerance test. The adjusted mean difference was -3.56 x 103 microU/mL for the high-dose exercise group and -2.96 x 103 microU/mL for the low-dose exercise group compared with controls. There were no differences in outcomes based on sex or race.

The presentation of the findings coincided with their publication (JAMA 2012;308:1103-12).

Children in the study were aged 7-11 years (mean of 9.4 years) with an average body mass index of 26. Most (85%) were obese and 28% had prediabetes. The students were recruited from 15 public schools between 2003 and 2006, and were randomized to the high-dose or low-dose exercise groups or to a control group, Dr. Davis said. Six cohorts of 30-40 students participated during the study period.

High BP in Young Adults, Heart Trouble Later?

By Amy Norton,

HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Feb. 4, 2014 (HealthDay News) — Twenty-somethings with even mildly elevated blood pressure may face an increased risk of clogged heart arteries by middle age, a long-term U.S. study finds.

The study, which tracked nearly 4,700 people, found that even “pre-hypertension” in young adulthood was linked to a higher risk of calcium buildup in the heart arteries 25 years later.

Experts said the findings send a message to young adults: Know your blood pressure numbers and, if needed, change your lifestyle to get them in the normal range.

“What you do as a young adult matters,” said lead researcher Norrina Allen, an assistant professor of preventive medicine at Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine, in Chicago. “We shouldn’t wait until middle-age to address blood pressure.”

That same message goes for doctors, too, Allen added. “Many doctors might not think a small elevation in blood pressure (in a young adult) even warrants a discussion,” she said.

The new study appears in the Feb. 5 issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association.

The good news, Allen noted, is that lifestyle changes can “absolutely” be enough for a healthy young person with moderately elevated blood pressure.

An expert not involved in the study agreed. “Lifestyle changes do work. Even within the span of a few months, blood pressure can dramatically improve,” said Dr. George Bakris, a professor of medicine at University of Chicago Medicine who wrote an editorial published with the study.

Diet changes, such as cutting out salty processed foods and getting more fruits and vegetables, are key. So is moderate exercise, like walking, study author Allen said. And if you’re overweight, even cutting a few pounds can help lower blood pressure.

Bakris pointed to some steps that are less well known: Watch your drinking, since alcohol can raise blood pressure; and get enough sleep.

“It’s important to get at least six hours of uninterrupted sleep each night,” Bakris said. “Ideally, you’d get six to eight hours.”

In the United States, about one-third of adults have high blood pressure, which is defined as a systolic pressure (the top number) of 140 or higher, or a diastolic pressure (the bottom number) of 90 or higher, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. “Normal” blood pressure is anything below 120/80, while numbers that fall in between “normal” and “high” are considered “pre-hypertension.”

The new findings are based on 4,681 people from four U.S. cities who were between the ages of 18 and 30 when they entered the study in the mid-1980s. Over the next couple of decades, they had their blood pressure taken periodically. At year 25, they underwent CT scans to look for calcium buildup in the arteries — which is considered an early sign ofheart disease.

Overall, Allen’s team found that study participants had five general “trajectories” in blood pressure over time.

Five percent had slightly elevated blood pressure at their first measurement, which then kept increasing over the years. That group had the worst-looking arteries 25 years later: One-quarter had calcium “scores” above 100, which is linked to a higher-than-normal risk of suffering a heart attack in the next several years.

In contrast, among people who had normal blood pressure throughout the study, only 4 percent had calcium scores that high.

But it wasn’t only the young people with ever-increasing blood pressure who showed artery trouble later on.

Another 19 percent had blood pressure that was slightly elevated in young adulthood, but stable thereafter — hovering in the pre-hypertension range over the years. In that group, 17 percent ended up with a calcium score above 100.

 Of course, young people with elevated blood pressure might have other health issues, too. But even when Allen’s team took into account for other factors — like smokingweight and current blood pressure — a person’s lifetime blood-pressure pattern was still important.

According to Bakris, it all suggests that elevated blood pressure, left unchecked, can start taking a toll on the arteries early in life. “If you wait until your 40s or 50s to address it, the damage to the arteries may already be done,” he said.

He suggested that most healthy young people have their blood pressure checked every couple of years. But if they have a strong family history of high blood pressure — such as two parents who developed the condition at a fairly young age — more-frequent blood pressure checks would be in order, Bakris said.

Diabetes: Counting Carbs

By Brenda Conaway,

When you found out you have diabetes, your doctor may have asked you to start counting carbohydrates. In fact, it’s very likely your doctor did if you take insulin, or are being treated with intensive therapy, or have type 1 diabetes. Counting carbs can help you better manage your blood sugars.

Maybe that makes you wonder if you can ever eat cake again. Here’s the good news: There is no diabetes diet. You can still eat a sweet treat once in a while — as long as you take into account how many carbohydrates you’re eating. Learning about carbs, how they affect your blood sugar, and how to count them at every meal can help you manage your diabetes.

“Diet is a word that we don’t recommend using,” says Emily Loghmani, RD, a certified diabetes educator at Johns Hopkins Diabetes Center in Baltimore. “The word diet seems to conjure up unpleasant ways of eating and restrictions that people do for a certain period of time. But diabetes is a chronic illness, so we try to teach people how to eat healthy and make food choices that they’ll be able to sustain for the rest of their life.”

Here are the facts about carbs and your body, along with tips for carb counting.

Diabetes and Carbohydrates

Everyone needs carbs. They fuel your body and give you energy for daily life.

Foods that have carbohydrates include:

  • Bread, rice, cereal, crackers, pasta, and other starchy foods
  • Dairy products, including milk and yogurt
  • Fruit and fruit juice
  • Starchy vegetables like corn and potatoes
  • Beans and legumes
  • Sugary foods and snack foods like juice drinks, sodas, cookies, candy, cake, and chips

Your body turns carbs into glucose, or blood sugar, which is its main source of energy. Insulin helps your body use glucose. But extra glucose can build up in your bloodstream, and over time, this can cause problems.

“The challenge when you have diabetes is that you need to find the right amount of carbohydrates that will work with your diabetes medications and your physical activity to keep your blood glucose at a safe level,” says Amy Campbell, RD. “That’s why we put so much emphasis on counting carbs — to try to achieve that balance.” Campbell is the manager of clinical education programs at Joslin Diabetes Center in Boston.

Counting carbs helps keep your body more stable, Campbell says. “The more someone varies their carb intake, the more their blood sugars will vary.” Because carbs affect your blood sugars more than proteins or fats do in a meal, try to have about the same amount of carbohydrates every meal.

I’m Sick of the N-Word

Dr. Joseph E. Marshall, Jr.

Dr. Joseph E. Marshall, Jr.

By Dr. Joseph E. Marshall,

OK I’m sick of it. I really am. Just sick of it. I’ve watched all the shows, listened to all the debate and the discussion and heard all the arguments. And in the end I’m more sick and disgusted than ever.

Actually it’s more than that. I’m embarrassed for those who came before me and I’m sad for those who are coming after me. I never ever thought I would see the day when black people would argue and fight for the right to use the N-word.

That’s right, the N-word — that epithet of white racial superiority and black inferiority. The symbolic word that was used to dehumanize an entire race of people and to justify white supremacy and its inhumane treatment of black men and women. And you want to embrace that word?

Yes, I used the word as a youngster. Why? Simply because everybody else used it. I thought that’s what black people were. I thought that was our name. No one corrected me. No one told me any differently. But even then I knew it was a horrible word, a badge of shame. I used it to put other black folks down. I could feel the hatred and disdain in the word every time I used it. There was absolutely nothing endearing about it.

It wasn’t until I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X that I began to become enlightened. I knew nothing about black history — I just knew there was something grossly wrong and he helped open my eyes to all of it. I was ashamed, angry and embarrassed. I knew I had to change.

Here’s the issue for me with the N-word. We took the oppressor’s word for ourselves and we’ve never been able to let it go. Even as we moved forward to dig ourselves out of slavery’s hole, we’ve never let that damn word go. We’ve let some names go that we felt were holding us back (colored, Negro) and taken on others to show our pride (black, Afro American and African American) but we haven’t been able to let that one go. Internalized oppression, self hatred, the Willie Lynch syndrome — hey you call it. I’m sure all of that stuff is in the pot.

So then this new idea came along. Since we can’t get rid of it, since we can’t let it go — let’s embrace it. Let’s reinvent it. Let’s endear it. And along the way let’s make everybody one. Because well you know it’s just a word. We’ll take control of the word. White supremacy you may have invented the word and you may have named us, but by golly we’re going to take this word and use it on our terms. We’ll show you.

Well folks, we’ve had our little experiment and let me just tell you, it’s failed miserably. Yes miserably. You haven’t done any better with the word than the white folks did. Maybe you didn’t know this but the word is still being used to kill black folks. The same word that preceded the lynching is the word that precedes the shooting. The same word that white folks used to take a black man’s life is the same word a black man uses to take a black man’s life. The same damn word!

Maybe that doesn’t mean anything to you — all you rappers and you ESPN commentators and you “I know my history but that’s in the past” black folks. You told us it was OK to use the word. Go for it you said. Embrace it. Endear it. Make it YOURS. And white folks — that word is off limits to you. You don’t have permission to use that word to kill us anymore. We’ll use it to kill ourselves. All of you feel better now?

The N-word — a complex issue? No, not at all to me. No matter whose hands it’s in — black or white — it’s still doing what it was intended to do. Take black lives. I just never thought it would be an inside job. Think about that the next time you get some love from your N____.

Dr. Joseph E. Marshall, Jr. is a noted author, lecturer, and radio talk show host. He is both a MacArthur Genius Award recipient and an Ashoka Fellow recognized for his pioneering work in the area of youth violence.

Boehner Surrenders, But the Party of No Will Rise Again

11-boehner-sad.w529.h352By ,

Every week, New York Magazine writer-at-large Frank Rich talks with contributor Eric Benson about the biggest stories in politics and culture. This week: John Boehner’s surrender on debt-limit fight, new revelations about Hillary Clinton from a friend’s papers, and what Michael Sam’s decision to come out of the closet means for the NFL.

Three years ago, Republican House Speaker John Boehner implemented a strategy of debt-limit brinksmanship, threatening the country with default if the Democrats didn’t offer steep spending cuts. Yesterday, Boehner abandoned that strategy, and, amid howls from his party, brought a clean debt-limit bill to the House floor. (It passed, primarily with Democratic votes.) What does Boehner’s surrender mean for his party and his speakership? And how big a victory was it for the Democrats and President Obama? 

This was a temporary victory for what remains of the Republican Establishment, and that’s about it. The right’s extortion tactic — give us what we want or we’ll blow up Washington — was proven a political fiasco (as if any proof were needed) by the October shutdown. According to Robert Costa of the Washington Post, Boehner told his caucus that this time, “we’re not going to make ourselves the story.” So his change in tactics was intended to decouple the GOP brand from obstructionism, and to placate Wall Street donors who prefer order to market-roiling chaos. But most of the Republican base doesn’t believe in this temporary truce. Nor do most Republican members of the House — 199 voted against Boehner, only 28 with him. (Many among those 28 are either affiliated with the leadership or are retiring from the House at the end of this term). Even some party leaders, Paul Ryan and Cathy McMorris Rodgers (who gave the GOP’s rebuttal to Obama’s State of the Union last month), sided with the rebels.

So while there’s no crisis this time, the fundamental equation remains unchanged. The GOP is still the story. It is a hard-right party that will be happy to once again hold the government hostage to its demands if it gains a Senate majority to go with its House majority in November’s midterms. It’s a party that right now stands essentially for one thing: It is against Obamacare. What is it for? Not immigration reform, even though demographics pose an existential threat to GOP survival. Not a coherent national-security policy beyond “everything that Obama does is wrong.” And it remains unwelcoming to all minorities — and to one majority, which would be women. For all the talk that the GOP is training its troops to stop talking about rape and contraception in a manner demeaning to women, it just can’t help itself. This week, one of the most influential editorial voices of the Wall Street Journal implicitly endorsed Todd Akin’s view of “legitimate rape,” arguing that when a drunken female college student is raped, it is unjust that “the male one is almost always presumed to be at fault.”

In other words, to look at the big picture here, yesterday’s vote on the debt-limit will be remembered, if at all, as a fleeting pause in the Republican right’s Obama-era surge.

The right-leaning Washington Free Beacon mined the papers of the late Diane Blair, a friend of Hillary Clinton’s, and released a report in which Clinton (as First Lady) is quoted dissing Monica Lewinsky, speaking in favor of a single-payer health-care system, and opposing intervention in Bosnia. The Blair papers have been open to the public since 2010. Are you surprised no one published their contents until now? And were you surprised by anything they revealed? 

I wasn’t surprised that it took so long for these papers to surface. Clinton opposition research, on hiatus since her 2008 defeat, is just getting back in business for 2014. And as for the actual contents of the Blair documents: Nothing ever surprises me  — or perhaps anyone else — about the Clintons at this point. If Hillary Clinton is indeed running for president again, these revelations, like those in Robert Gates’s memoir, those in the new biography HRCand even those that Hillary herself offers up to feed the media dogs in her forthcoming memoir are more significant politically for their collective weight than their actual substance, negative or positive. If Clinton fatigue sets in more than two years before the next presidential election, that’s a hindrance to her presumed presidential run, not a plus. It makes her vulnerable to a fresh, insurgent opponent, much as was the case in 2008.

On Sunday, standout University of Missouri defensive lineman Michael Sam came out as gay in interviews with ESPN and theNew York Times. Sam is expected to be drafted by an NFL team in May, which would make him the first out gay man to be on an American professional-sports roster. The gay-rights movement has had a string of victories in the courts and at the ballot box over the past several years. Does Sam’s revelation still matter?

Of course it does. Pro sports, led by the dominant sport of football, is an arena yet to accommodate itself to homosexuality. Michael Sam is not just a hero (and a powerful exponent of his own character and biography, besides). He has also offered powerful testimony to the brotherhood of his heterosexual University of Missouri teammates, who have known he was gay all season and have set an example for their peers throughout sports in how to take Sam’s coming out in stride, as a nonissue.

Because of the remarkable, seemingly weekly advances in the struggle for same-sex marriage — exemplified in recent days by Eric Holder’s announcement of more federal benefits for married gay couples — we tend to think the battles over gay civil rights are nearing an end. But they are not, and seeing Michael Sam’s announcement in context shows just how much heroes like him are still needed. It only took a few days for Rush Limbaugh to characterize favorable media attention to Sam as an “assault” on heterosexuality. But in truth, the media that Limbaugh reviles doesn’t always behave much better than he does. As Deadspin first reported,  NBC News went so far as to edit out the firm anti-discrimination remarks contained within the address given by Thomas Bach, the International Olympic Committee President, who was seated next to Vladimir Putin at the Opening Ceremony in Sochi. NBC has its excuse for this — time constraints — but it did air less consequential passages of Bach’s speech, and it has not acknowledged or apologized for a choice that came off as a diplomatic concession to Putin’s homophobic agenda. Would NBC have been as quick to edit out Bach’s anti-discrimination remarks if Putin’s bigotry were aimed at African-Americans or other minorities? In the history of gay civil rights, this may be remembered as a month when a defensive lineman on a college football team was braver than one of the most powerful news organizations in America’s so-called liberal media.

’Stand your ground’ protesters call Florida ’stuck on stupid’

Stand-your-ground-600x600By Aaron Deslatte, Orlando Sentinel,

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — The parents of Trayvon Martin and Jordan Davis led a crowd of protesters to the Capitol Monday to warn Republican policymakers that failing to repeal Florida’s ‘stand your ground’ law will haunt them at the polls this fall.

Florida’s “shoot-first” law passed in 2005 has been blamed for a rash of high-profile shootings in recent years. The law allows people who are not involved in criminal activity to stand their ground and meet force with force if they feel threatened.

Last summer, George Zimmerman was acquitted in the shooting death of 17-year-old Trayvon Martin in Sanford. Zimmerman was a neighborhood watch volunteer who got into a physical altercation with Martin, who was not armed.

This year, the law was in the middle of a legal showdown in Jacksonville after Michael Dunn was found guilty of second-degree attempted murder for shooting into a car full of teenagers and killing 17-year old Jordan Davis.

“Florida is an ‘F’ state. Right now, Florida is failing us,” Sybrina Fulton, Martin’s mother, told a crowd of hundreds of demonstrators, led by the Rev. Al Sharpton, who marched the streets to the Capitol.

Sharpton called Florida “ground zero” for the gun-friendly self-defense laws that have spread to two dozen other states, making it appropriate that Florida should be where they press to reform or repeal the law.

“You have legislators saying our children can be killed based on the imaginations of others,” he said. “Protecting yourself is not having a social hallucination.”

The parents are later planning to testify before a committee, although the GOP-dominated Legislature has shown no willingness to make major changes to the law.

Last November, a House committee defeated a bill that would have repealed the law. And another measure sponsored by Sens. David Simmons, R-Altamonte Springs, and Chris Smith, D-Fort Lauderdale, which makes minor changes to the law faces stiff opposition in the House.

“We will fight to change their minds. We will fight to change their hearts,” Smith said.

A spokesman for House Speaker Will Weatherford, R-Wesley Chapel, said the chamber had no plans to re-consider the repeal.

Although the law itself is unlikely to change this spring, the issue could resonate to help Democrats deliver their voters to the polls this fall. Gov. Rick Scott was singled out by several speakers over his steadfast support for the law and is facing an uphill climb to keep his job against likely Democratic opponent Charlie Crist.

Tracy Martin, Trayvon Martin’s father, said if the law isn’t changed “we’ve got to make a change in that office.”

Asked for comment, a spokesman for the governor responded with a one-sentence email: “Governor Scott supports the 2nd Amendment and Florida’s self defense laws.”

U.S. Rep. Corrine Brown, a Jacksonville Democrat, said the state had embarrassed itself with the law. “We’re here because Florida is stuck on stupid.”

Adegbile’s Denied Confirmation Is Affront To Our Principles

lady-justiceBy Cynthia Tucker

Last week, the floor of the U.S. Senate was the scene of a bipartisan travesty, an affront to the principles of the Constitution, an assault on the notion of American exceptionalism. With the help of several Democrats, Republicans refused to confirm Debo P. Adegbile, President Obama’s nominee to head the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Justice Department.

The GOP’s resistance was expected since its senators oppose every nominee the president puts forward. But this time, Adegbile’s new job was torpedoed because a handful of Democrats stepped forward to help launch the explosives. They found objections in Adegbile’s résumé, despite his impeccable credentials, sterling reputation and years of advocacy in the causes associated with civil rights.

Indeed, it is precisely that advocacy that led to the assault on his qualifications. His alleged misstep? Adegbile, a lawyer, was tangentially involved in filing a court challenge on behalf of a former Black Panther named Mumia Abu-Jamal, who was convicted of killing a Philadelphia police officer in 1981. Adegbile was litigation director for the NAACP Legal Defense Fund when it filed a brief contesting the jury-sentencing instructions, an argument which resulted in commutation of Abu-Jamal’s sentence from death to life in prison in 2012.

That process is embedded in decades of case law. Defense attorneys are supposed to vigorously represent accused criminals — no matter the crimes with which they have been charged, no matter their guilt or innocence, no matter how radical their demeanor or vile their behavior — especially in capital cases.

Among the people who ought to understand that is Pennsylvania’s senior Democratic senator, Bob Casey. If he had any decency, any gumption, any courage, Casey would have helped to smooth Adegbile’s path.

He would have noted that American justice rests on the idea that each person stands equally before the bar, a credo that cannot be upheld without defense attorneys for the accused. The senator might have pointed out that in the U.S. armed forces, even the most heinous criminals are represented by competent defense counsel. And he might have reminded Philadelphia’s Fraternal Order of Police that Adegbile did not spare Abu-Jamal’s life. A federal court did so because it agreed that instructions to the jury were unconstitutional.

Instead, Casey led the Democratic opposition. He explained his refusal to support the nominee with this statement:

“I respect that our system of law ensures the right of all citizens to legal representation no matter how heinous the crime. (But) it is important … citizens … have full confidence in their public representatives — both elected and appointed. The vicious murder of Officer Faulkner in the line of duty and the events that followed in the 30 years since his death have left open wounds for Maureen Faulkner and her family as well as the city of Philadelphia.”

That statement is confusing, contradictory and just plain dumb. Casey will ignore the system of law because of the awful grief borne by Maureen Faulkner? I cannot begin to imagine what her family has endured since her husband was gunned down shortly before his 26th birthday, but we don’t allow the anguish of families to dictate justice. If we did, they could serve as jurors, judges and executioners. But that wouldn’t be any different from a lynch mob, would it?

Similarly, Sen. Chris Coons (D-DE) explained his stick-in-the eye to Adegbile by speaking of the pain endured by the Faulkner family, even while acknowledging that “an attorney is not responsible for the actions of their client.” That wasn’t as outlandish as the rhetoric from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who claimed that Adegbile was “seeking to glorify an unrepentant cop-killer,” but it was a non sequitur.

In this shameful episode, the person who best represented American values was Adegbile, the son of a Nigerian father and an Irish immigrant mother. He clearly puts more faith in the fundamental principles of his homeland than the 52 senators who voted against him.

(Cynthia Tucker, winner of the 2007 Pulitzer Prize for commentary, is a visiting professor at the University of Georgia. She can be reached at

Clarence Thomas’s Disgraceful Silence

Justice Clarence Thomas

Justice Clarence Thomas

by Jeffrey Toobin

As of this Saturday, February 22nd, eight years will have passed since Clarence Thomas last asked a question during a Supreme Court oral argument. His behavior on the bench has gone from curious to bizarre to downright embarrassing, for himself and for the institution he represents.

This point was especially apparent on January 13th, when the Court considered the case of National Labor Relations Board v. Noel Canning, which raises important questions about the President’s ability to fill vacancies when the Senate is in recess. It was a superb argument—highly skilled lawyers engaging with eight inquisitive judges. The case also offered a kind of primer on the state of the Court in action, with Thomas’s colleagues best viewed in pairs.

Antonin Scalia and Ruth Bader Ginsburg. The two oldest Justices (and the Court’s senior New Yorkers) usually jump in first with questions. Scalia, who is seventy-seven, often takes a barbed tone with the lawyers, and Ginsburg, who is eighty, is more polite, if no less insistent. Both of them set the tone with their ideologically opposed positions. They offer an early clue as to whether the Court will divide along familiar left-right grounds.

Anthony Kennedy and Stephen Breyer. Oddly, these two, both Northern Californians, are starting to resemble each other physically in their eighth decades. Both sit in similar ways, hunched forward, with the fingers of their right hands splayed between forehead and bald head. Kennedy asks questions in a tone of grave concern; Breyer, in his twentieth year on the Court, is still having the time of his life. He laughs at all the jokes, especially his own.

Samuel Alito and John Roberts. Alito sits like a sphinx: his face gives away nothing, but his questions invariably tease out the weak parts of an opposing argument. Roberts looks like the earnest Midwesterner he remains, but he, too, has a litigator’s gift for eviscerating an adversary. It is wise to listen closely to these two; they are rarely on the losing side.

Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan. The Court’s youngest members (and junior New Yorkers) sit on opposite ends of the bench, and both take aggressive tones with the lawyers. Sotomayor leans forward, her right forearm aimed skyward and nearly covered in bracelets; she burrows into the facts of cases in extraordinary detail. Kagan takes the opposite tack. Her early trademark question is about the big picture, and it’s usually a refined version of “Counsel, let’s cut the crap. Isn’t this case really about … ?” Neither Sotomayor nor Kagan has ever heard Thomas ask a question in the courtroom. (Yes, Thomas did break his silence last year to utter a single stray wisecrack, but that hardly counts as participation.)

As for Thomas, he is physically transformed from his infamous confirmation hearings, in 1991—a great deal grayer and heavier today, at the age of sixty-five. He also projects a different kind of silence than he did earlier in his tenure. In his first years on the Court, Thomas would rock forward, whisper comments about the lawyers to his neighbors Breyer and Kennedy, and generally look like he was acknowledging where he was. These days, Thomas only reclines; his leather chair is pitched so that he can stare at the ceiling, which he does at length. He strokes his chin. His eyelids look heavy. Every schoolteacher knows this look. It’s called “not paying attention.”

Thomas has a part to play, if he wants to take it. The Noel Canning case, for example, raises a profound issue in constitutional law. Noel Canning, a bottling company, is challenging a ruling of the National Labor Relations Board on the ground that some of its members were appointed illegitimately. All Presidents have used recess appointments, often without much controversy; Obama did so in this case because Congress had refused to act on his nominations, to the point that the N.L.R.B. didn’t have a quorum. But a close, literal reading of the Constitution’s text suggests that the practice may be unconstitutional except in narrow circumstances. Does the meaning of the Constitution evolve over time, or is there only a single, immutable understanding of what it says?

Questioning the lawyer for Noel Canning, Breyer noted that Presidents have made thousands of recess appointments over the decades. Even if the Constitution could be read as prohibiting the practice, wasn’t it clearly legal now? “It isn’t unheard of that over time language in the Constitution takes on a somewhat different meaning,” Breyer said, noting that the definitions of “due process” and “interstate commerce” had clearly changed. “I mean, probably different judges have different approaches,” Breyer went on. “But if I’m concerned about the basic practicality and the basic objective here, why would I agree with you?”

As the lawyer, Noel Francisco, hedged, Scalia jumped in. “The two examples that Justice Breyer gives are examples where we gave it a meaning that was different from what it said.” The audience, worldly in such matters, laughed. Breyer, the proponent of the living, changing Constitution, and Scalia, the originalist, have been having this argument for years.

No one, however, has been more outspoken about this conflict, at least on paper, than Thomas, the most extreme originalist on the Court. Scalia believes that the Court owes some deference to its own precedents, even if they differ from the original meaning of the text. Thomas is happy to lay waste to decades, even centuries, of constitutional law. Clearly, then, Thomas could have contributed to this spirited, important debate. Instead, on this day he was, as usual, checked out.

For better or worse, Thomas has made important contributions to the jurisprudence of the Supreme Court. He has imported once outré conservative ideas, about such issues as gun rights under the Second Amendment and deregulation of political campaigns, into the mainstream. Scalia wrote District of Columbia v. Heller, which restricted gun control, and Kennedy wroteCitizens United v. Federal Election Commission, which undermined decades of campaign-finance law, but Thomas was an intellectual godfather of both decisions.

Still, there is more to the job of Supreme Court Justice than writing opinions. The Court’s arguments are not televised (though they should be), but they are public. They are, in fact, the public’s only windows onto the Justices’ thought processes, and they offer the litigants and their lawyers their only chance to look these arbiters in the eye and make their case. There’s a reason the phrase “your day in court” resonates. It is an indispensable part of the legal system.

But the process works only if the Justices engage. The current Supreme Court is almost too ready to do so, and sometimes lawyers have a hard time getting a word in edgewise. In question-and-answer sessions at law schools, Thomas has said that his colleagues talk too much, that he wants to let the lawyers say their piece, and that the briefs tell him all he needs to know. But this—as his colleagues’ ability to provoke revealing exchanges demonstrates—is nonsense. Thomas is simply not doing his job.

By refusing to acknowledge the advocates or his fellow-Justices, Thomas treats them all with disrespect. It would be one thing if Thomas’s petulance reflected badly only on himself, which it did for the first few years of his ludicrous behavior. But at this point, eight years on, Thomas is demeaning the Court. Imagine, for a moment, if all nine Justices behaved as Thomas does on the bench. The public would rightly, and immediately, lose all faith in the Supreme Court. Instead, the public has lost, and should lose, any confidence it might have in Clarence Thomas.

SCPRD Basketball All-Stars Swept District 3 Tournament

SCRD Basketball All-Stars, 8U Flea, 10U Mite, 9-12 Midget Girls, 12U Midget Boys and coaches.

SCRD Basketball All-Stars, 8U Flea, 10U Mite, 9-12 Midget Girls, 12U Midget Boys and coaches.

Americus, GA-Under the leadership of Dwight Harris, the Sumter County Parks and Recreation Department Basketball All-Stars won their district in all four age divisions, 8U Flea, 10U Mite, 9-12 Midget Girls and 12U Midget
Boys and went back to State for the second year in a row.

“This is a remarkable achievement for our children and our community,” said Harris. It is difficult to get one team to advance to the state level but when you are able to send all four at one time, the last two years in a row, speaks volumes about hard work, dedication and team work. According to our knowledge this has never been done before in any agency. These kids and the supportive parents deserve great recognition and praise.

Sumter County won the District 3 tournament in Cordele, Tifton and Thomasville.
8U Flea All-Stars

Issac Harper, Demtrice Hurley, Jr., Tyquayvious Hurley, Kadarrius King, Javin Lewis, Will Reeves, Cedric Smith, Braylon Terry, Michael Terry, Anthony Tyson, Coach: M. Williams, Asst. Coach B. Truitt.

10U Mite All-Stars

Kalon Barron, Demarcus Deriso, Phillip Do, Cameron Evans, Kason Hodges, Darion Mitchell, EJarrius Moore, Tyquan Robinson, Zamon Ross, Pharrell Woods, Coach: Q. Moore, Asst. Coach L. Alford.

9-12 Midget Girls All-Stars

Nyja Carson, Anasja Clark, Ashanti Clark, Avi’Yonna Clemons, Nykeria Gibson, Tiffani Goodman, Ashley Potts, Destinee Sims, Shaliyah Vance, Jakeria Wilbon, Coach: L. Harris, Asst. Coach C. Clark

12U Midget Boys All-Stars

Traveon Brown, Landon Law, Luke Law, Malik Lewis, Christopher Lundy, Joshua Lusane, Melton McCoy, Jakobe McCuller, Kanova Willoughby, Quey Willoughby, Coach: D. Harris, Asst. Coach C. Lundy.


Americus Gives Overwhelming Support of a Local Man Battling a Rare Form of Cancer #TeamRandy

Randy GeCarlos Preston pictured with his son Kaiden Preston. (Submitted by Hartage Family)

Randy GeCarlos Preston pictured with his son
Kaiden Preston. (Submitted by Hartage Family)

Americus, GA – Community support is pouring in for a 28-year-old Americus man battling a rare form of cancer.

Randy GeCarlos Preston was a biology major at Georgia Southwestern State University when he started having medical problems that included him falling down with no explanation and losing his ability to talk.

On New Year’s Eve he was rushed to the hospital which led to him being diagnosed with Acoustic Neuroma.

“I’m going to live one day at a time,” Preston said.

Medical troubles increased after post operative complications led to meningitis, adding another fight as doctors work to develop cancer treatment plans. Preston also has been diagnosed with Atypical Teratoid Rhabdoid Tumor (AT/RT), a rare tumor usually diagnosed in childhood and effects about two percent of adults worldwide.

The brain tumor caused Preston to lose the vision in his left eye, along with his hearing on his left side and suffer short term memory loss. Doctors removed the tumor, but couldn’t get the pieces growing near his cerebellum.

“I’m living to live,” said Preston, who has a two-year-old son.

The illness has been a strain on his mother as well as his three siblings. Gabrielle Hartage, Preston’s sister, took time off from school to take care of her brother. Preston, who had hoped to become a pharmacist, has little means to pay for treatment without insurance.

“I’m sure we will make it,” said Sally Hartage, Preston’s mother.

Sally Hartage said she is warmed by the support from various churches and community groups that have rallied around her son.

“The support has been overwhelming,” Sally Hartage said.

Local businesses are using Facebook to raise money. Tax of America and Easy Ride Auto sales are donating $1 for every like given to a Facebook post in Randy’s honor — up to 2,000 likes. Residents can also find the post and “like” by scrolling to Twany Edwards’ or Stephanie Laster’s page.

“I mean we lost my father to leukemia and a lot of people came to help us, so there’s no way we couldn’t do something to give back,” said Twany Edwards, Eazy Ride Auto Sales, in an interview with WALB TV.

The Real Rydaz Motorcycle Club also raffled off a TV that raised more than $500 for Preston. Sally Hartage said there also are plans for “Randy Day” on April 4 to raise money and awareness.

“It’s such a rare disease,” said Sally Hartage, who added less than 40 adults have the disease.

Join the conversation and learn more on Twitter and Instagram by using the hashtag #TeamRANDY or by emailing

Jets advance to NJCAA Region XVII finals on last second buzzer

Treshaad Williams (23) scored the last second shot to give the Jets the 82 – 80 win.

SGTC’s Anthony Ethridge (20) is shown above with a backwards dunk. He was the leading scorer for the Jets with 25 points.

Treshaad Williams (23) scored the last second shot to give the Jets the 82 – 80 win.

Treshaad Williams (23) scored the last second shot to give the Jets the 82 – 80 win.

Saturday March 8, 2014,

South Georgia Tech freshman Treshaad Williams hit a basket at the buzzer to give the nationally ranked South Georgia Technical College Jets an 82 – 80 victory over Atlanta Metro in the National Junior College Athletic Association Region XVII men’s division I semi-finals Friday night in Americus, GA.

Atlanta Metro tied the score at 80 – 80 with less than 12 seconds to go. South Georgia Tech’s Derrick Evans attempted a three point shot with three seconds remaining on the clock. Treshaad Williams made the rebound and put the ball back up at the buzzer to give the Jets their 28th victory this season and allow them to advance to the NJCAA Region XVII finals at 3 p.m. Saturday in the Hangar on the South Georgia Tech campus in Americus. The Jets are now 28 – 4 on the season and ranked 12th in the NJCAA.

The Georgia Collegiate Athletic Association regular season champion Jets will be facing Central Georgia Technical College and former Jets assistant coach Reco Dawson in the championship game. Central Georgia Tech defeated Georgia Highlands in a last second win by one point to advance to the final round of the tournament.

Both South Georgia Technical College and Central Georgia Technical College will be representing Georgia in the National Junior College Athletic Association Division I men’s basketball tournament in Hutchinson, Kansas, March 17 – 22, regardless of the outcome Saturday at 3 p.m.

This year, the regular season champion and the tournament champion from Region XVII both qualify for the national tournament. Since SGTC has already secured one of the berths in the national tournament as the regular season champions, Central Georgia Tech will be allowed to advance as either the NJCAA Region XVII Tournament runner-up or the NJCAA Region XVII champions.

In the semi-final competition, South Georgia Tech had to overcome an early 12-point deficit to capture the last second win. The Jets didn’t score for almost five minutes from the start of the game. Atlanta Metro capitalized on the Jets dry shooting spell and pulled ahead 12 – 0. The Jets finally woke up and were up 40 – 36 at the end of the first half.

The second half was full of excitement as the two teams battled for the lead. There were 12 lead changes and seven ties in the last 20 minutes of the game. Atlanta Metro actually outscored the Jets 44 – 42 in the second half, but the last second shot by Treshaad Williams sealed the win for the Jets and propelled them to the finals.

Sophomore Anthony “Duke” Ethridge was the leading scorer for the Jets with 25 points. He was followed by freshman Treshaad Williams who pulled down 14 points. Derrick Evans and Dario Duque were the other two Jets in double figures with 10 points each.

Saiquan Terry was the leading scorer for Atlanta Metro with 30 points. He was eight of 18 from the three-point line and three of six from the field.

Save the Postal Service

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Sen. Bernie Sanders

Huffington Post,

The U.S. Postal Service is one of our most popular and important government agencies. It provides universal service six days a week to every corner of America, no matter how small or remote. It supports millions of jobs in virtually every other sector of our economy. It provides decent-paying union jobs to some 500,000 Americans, and it is the largest employer of veterans.

Whether you are a low-income elderly woman living at the end of a dirt road in Vermont or a wealthy CEO living on Park Avenue, you get your mail six days a week. And you pay for this service at a cost far less than anywhere else in the industrialized world.

Yet the Postal Service is under constant and vicious attack. Why? The answer is simple. There are very powerful and wealthy special interests who want to privatize or dismember virtually every function that government now performs, whether it is Social Security, Medicare, public education or the Postal Service. They see an opportunity for Wall Street and corporate America to make billions in profits out of these services, and couldn’t care less how privatization or a degradation of services affects ordinary Americans.

US Postal Service CarrierFor years, antigovernment forces have been telling us that there is a financial crisis at the Postal Service and that it is going broke. That is not true. The crisis is manufactured.

At the insistence of the Bush administration, Congress in 2006 passed legislation that required the Postal Service to prefund, over a 10-year period, 75 years of future retiree health benefits. This onerous and unprecedented burden–$5.5 billion a year–is responsible for all of the financial losses posted by the Postal Service since October 2012.

Without prefunding, the Postal Service would have made a $623 million profit last year. Excluding the prefunding mandate, the Postal Service estimates it will make more than $1 billion in profits this year. This is not surprising, since the Postal Service made a combined profit of $9 billion from 2003-06, before the prefunding mandate took effect.

The mandate allows the antigovernment crowd to proclaim that the Postal Service “is going bankrupt.” Their solution is to slash hundreds of thousands of jobs, close thousands of post offices, eliminate hundreds of mail processing plants, end Saturday mail, and substantially slow down mail delivery.

In the House, Rep. Darrell Issa (R., Calif.) passed a bill through his committee that would do all of these things. The bill would drive more customers to seek other options and will lead to a death spiral–lower-quality service, fewer customers, more cuts, less revenue and eventually the destruction of the Postal Service.

In the Senate, Sens. Tom Carper (D., Del.) and Tom Coburn (R., Okla.) also passed a postal reform bill through the Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee. While not as destructive as the House proposal, the Carper-Coburn bill could lead to the loss of about 100,000 jobs, allow the Postal Service to eliminate six-day mail delivery, substantially slow down the delivery of mail, and lead to the loss of more mail processing plants and post offices within the next few years.

There are much better ideas that would strengthen, not destroy the Postal Service, and they are in the Postal Service Protection Act that has been introduced by Rep. Peter DeFazio (D., Ore.) in the House and by me in the Senate. The House bill has 174 co-sponsors. The Senate bill has 27 co-sponsors.

First, prefunding must end. The future retiree health fund now has some $50 billion in it. That is enough. This step alone will restore the Postal Service to profitability.

Second, the Postal Service should have the flexibility to provide new consumer products and services–a flexibility that was banned by Congress in 2006. It is now against the law for workers in post offices to notarize or make copies of documents; to cash checks; to deliver wine or beer; or to engage in e-commerce activities (like scanning physical mail into a PDF and sending it through e-mail, selling non-postal products on the Internet or offering a non-commercial version of Gmail).

A recent report from the Postal Service Inspector General suggests that almost $9 billion a year could be generated by providing financial services. At a time when more than 80 million lower-income Americans have no bank accounts or are forced to rely on rip-off check-cashing storefronts and payday lenders, these kinds of financial services would be of huge social benefit.

It is time for Congress to save the Postal Service, not dismantle it.

Sen. Sanders is an independent senator from Vermont.

Column originally published in The Wall Street Journal.

The Great American Working Class U-Turn



By Robert Reich,

Do you recall a time in America when the income of a single school teacher or baker or salesman or mechanic was enough to buy a home, have two cars, and raise a family?

I remember. My father (who just celebrated his 100th birthday) earned enough for the rest of us to live comfortably. We weren’t rich but never felt poor, and our standard of living rose steadily through the 1950s and 1960s.

That used to be the norm. For three decades after World War II, America created the largest middle class the world had ever seen. During those years the earnings of the typical American worker doubled, just as the size of the American economy doubled. (Over the last thirty years, by contrast, the size of the economy doubled again but the earnings of the typical American went nowhere.)

In that earlier period, more than a third of all workers belonged to a trade union — giving average workers the bargaining power necessary to get a large and growing share of the large and growing economic pie. (Now, fewer than 7 percent of private-sector workers are unionized.)

Then, CEO pay then averaged about 20 times the pay of their typical worker (now it’s over 200 times).

In those years, the richest 1 percent took home 9 to 10 percent of total income (today the top 1 percent gets more than 20 percent).

Then, the tax rate on highest-income Americans never fell below 70 percent; under Dwight Eisenhower, a Republican, it was 91 percent. (Today the top tax rate is 39.6 percent.)

In those decades, tax revenues from the wealthy and the growing middle class were used to build the largest infrastructure project in our history, the Interstate Highway system. And to build the world’s largest and best system of free public education, and dramatically expand public higher education. (Since then, our infrastructure has been collapsing from deferred maintenance, our public schools have deteriorated, and higher education has become unaffordable to many.)

We didn’t stop there. We enacted the Civil Rights Act and Voting Rights Act to extend prosperity and participation to African-Americans; Medicare and Medicaid to provide health care to the poor and reduce poverty among America’s seniors; and the Environmental Protection Act to help save our planet.

And we made sure banking was boring.

It was a virtuous cycle. As the economy grew, we prospered together. And that broad-based prosperity enabled us to invest in our future, creating more and better jobs and a higher standard of living.

Then came the great U-turn, and for the last thirty years we’ve been heading in the opposite direction.


Some blame globalization and the loss of America’s  manufacturing core. Others point to new technologies that replaced routine jobs with automated machinery, software, and robotics.

But if these were the culprits, they only raise a deeper question: Why didn’t we share the gains from globalization and technological advances more broadly? Why didn’t we invest them in superb schools, higher skills, a world-class infrastructure?

Others blame Ronald Reagan’s worship of the so-called “free market,” supply-side economics, and deregulation. But if these were responsible, why did we cling to these ideas for so long? Why are so many people still clinging to them?

Some others believe Americans became greedier and more selfish. But if that’s the explanation, why did our national character change so dramatically?

Perhaps the real problem is we forgot what we once achieved together.

The collective erasure of the memory of that prior system of broad-based prosperity is due partly to the failure of my generation to retain and pass on the values on which that system was based. It can also be understood as the greatest propaganda victory radical conservatism ever won.

We must restore our recollection. In seeking to repair what is broken, we don’t have to emulate another nation. We have only to emulate what we once had.

That we once achieved broad-based prosperity means we can achieve it again — not exactly the same way, of course, but in a new way fit for the twenty-first century and for future generations of Americans.

America’s great U-turn can be reversed. It is worth the fight.

The Hidden Demographic Shifts That Are Sinking The Republican Party



By Ruy Teixeira, Think Progress,

Most people have gotten the sense that rising diversity is making life hard for the Republican Party; ditto for the rise of the notably progressive Millennial generation. But there’s a lot more to American demographics than that — and it turns out that some of the lesser-discussed demographic patterns are likely to do quite a bit of damage to Republicans’ electoral fortunes as well.

First, look at where Republicans and Democrats tend to live. David Jarman took a detailed look recently, with great charts and interactive maps, at the relative growth in Democratic and Republican votes in the nation’s 3,144 counties between 1988 and 2012. For each county, Jarman calculates the net change in Democratic votes (increase in Democratic votes minus increase in Republican votes) over that time period.

The results are fascinating for how much and where growth is benefiting Democrats and Republicans. Start with the Democrats. The 25 top counties for net Democratic vote gain include many of the most populous counties in the country. They include Los Angeles at the top, eight of the ten most populous (LA, plus Cook [Chicago], San Diego and Orange [CA], Dallas, Kings [Brooklyn], Queens and Miami-Dade) and 15 of the top 25 most populous. The rest, without exception, are large counties that include a major city or are urbanized inner suburbs of a major city. The magnitude of Democratic gains in the top 25 ranges from 1.2 million in LA down to around 140,000.

The top gainers for the GOP, in contrast, tend to be in much smaller counties on the periphery of metropolitan areas (“exurbs”). The top 25 GOP gainers include no county in the US top 25 in population and include only one in the top 50. And the magnitude of GOP gains in the top 25 is much smaller than those enjoyed by the Democrats. Indeed, the largest GOP net gain of all—90,000 in Provo county, Utah–is not only smaller than the 25th ranked gain for the Democrats (140,000) but also smaller than Democratic gains all the way down to the 61st ranked Democratic gainer county.

Democratic strength in dense areas is clearly one reason for the Democrats’ increasing electoral potency, particularly in Presidential elections. Conversely, the concentration of GOP gains in more lightly-populated areas limits their strength now and in the future.

Second, take a peek at what Democrats and Republicans learn. A recent Pew Research Center report examined educational attainment trends by generation, particularly in terms of the payoff obtained by a college degree, combined with a recent survey of public opinion on the usefulness of a college education.

The report notes that 34 percent of Millennial generation 25-32 year olds have a four year college degree, compared to 25 percent among Gen Xers at the same age, 24 percent among both late and early Boomers and just 13 percent among those from the Silent generation. Millennials are also receiving the highest relative values from their degrees. A Millennial college graduate has median earnings of $45,500, compared to just $28,000 for a Millennial high school graduate. Back in 1965, the gap was much narrower: a Silent Generation college graduate earned $38,800 (2012 dollars) while a high school graduate earned $31,400.

Millennial college graduates also do very well in terms of unemployment (just 3.8 percent vs. 8.1 percent among those with some college and 12.2 percent among high school graduates) and poverty incidence (5.8 percent vs. 14.7 percent among those with some college and 21.8 percent among high school grads). These data should put to rest any notion that it is somehow not worth it for Millennials to invest in a college education.

That is certainly how Millennial college grads see the situation. In the accompanying public opinion survey, 88 percent said that, considering what they and their family paid for their education, their degree has already paid off (62 percent) or would pay off in the future (26 percent). In addition, 86 percent of employed Millennial college grads describe their current job as a career or career-track job, compared to 73 percent of those with some college and only 57 percent of high school grads.

These trends have important political implications. First, the continued rise in the proportion of college graduates is a powerful factor moving us toward a more open and tolerant society (see this report from CAP). It also should reduce Democratic deficits among white voters since white college graduates are considerably less hostile to Democrats than white noncollege voters.

Second, these data indicate that, despite the existence of some mismatches between education and job (e.g., college grads from fancy schools who work as baristas or cab drivers), a college degree by and large remains the gateway to a satisfying and middle class life. That means making a college education attainable and affordable for a much larger segment of the population should be a high priority for progressives. And since the GOP’s commitment to enhancing economic mobility, as Sean McElwee has pointed out, is full-throated and unequivocal — except when it involves spending money — this is an issue where Democrats can draw a particularly sharp contrast between themselves and the GOP.

Finally, we’ve got a basic question of how old Republicans and Democrats are. Most coverage of generational politics focuses on the rising (and very liberal) Millennial generation. That is understandable, but there is more to generational politics than just one generation. It turns out, according to a new Gallup report, Baby Boomers (folks born from 1946-64) are also exerting a progressive pull on American politics:

Baby boomers constitute 32% of the U.S. adult population and, by Gallup’s estimate, 36% of the electorate in 2012, eclipsing all other generational groups. Baby boomers have dominated U.S. politics on the basis of their sheer numbers since the late 1970s, when most of the group had reached voting age….If the party preferences of each generational group were to hold steady in the coming years as the Democratic-leaning baby boomers gradually replace the more Republican Silent and Greatest generations, the country as a whole would likely become more Democratic.

Thus, over time, high-turnout seniors, currently the most conservative part of the electorate by age, will be liberalized as Baby Boomers age. Moreover, the most liberal part of the generation — those born up through 1955 and termed “early Boomers” — is frontloaded, so the political impact on the senior population could be fairly rapid.

So, the changing location, education levels, and age of the electorate suggest why the Republicans’ long-term disadvantages aren’t so bad as most people think. They’re worse.

I’’m black, don’t shoot me

robinson_212By Eugene Robinson,

Sometimes, when I’m in my car, I crank up the music pretty loud. All you Michael Dunns out there, please don’t shoot me.

Please don’t shoot my sons, either, or my brothers-in-law, nephews, nephews-in-law or other male relatives. I have quite a few friends and acquaintances who also happen to be black men, and I’d appreciate your not shooting them as well, even if the value you place on their lives is approximately zero.

I know I shouldn’t have to ask, but nothing else has worked. The criminal justice system has a mixed record — Dunn was at least partly held accountable for the burst of mayhem in which he fatally shot Jordan Davis, while George Zimmerman got off scot-free for killing Trayvon Martin. But whatever the final outcome, prosecutors and juries never get involved until after the fact. When mothers have already cried over the caskets of their dead sons. When it’s too late.

Davis’s killing, if you haven’t been following the case, was just as senseless as Martin’s. On Nov. 23, 2012, Dunn and his fiancee stopped at a gas station in Jacksonville, Fla., and parked next to a red Dodge Durango with four African American teenagers inside. The young men made the mistake — ultimately fatal to Davis — of having the Durango’s music system turned up too loud.

I hate that thug music,” Dunn muttered, according to the fiancee’s trial testimony. The woman went inside to buy wine and potato chips — the couple had already been drinking, she testified — while Dunn, a software engineer who was 45 at the time, waited in the car.

Black Voters to Republicans: Don’t Even Try It,

For years, it seemed that the train of thought among many Republicans and even some African-Americans has been that if the GOP reached out a little more, the Party could make inroads in the Black community. Historically, the data has supported this hope, with Richard Nixon receiving 18 percent of the African-American vote in 1972 and Jerry Ford winning 16 percent in 1976. Since then, however,  the numbers have remained within the 8 to 12 percent range, and given the Tea Party’s race-centric rhetoric, and the “otherization” of President Obama, it seems doubtful that Republicans can repair their relationship the African-American voters.

According to The Atlantic‘s Peter Beinhart, the Republican National Committee (RNC) has opened an office in Michigan (which ironically welcomed a majority white crowd on its first day of operations), and begun other outreach efforts.

Political ideology aside, as Beinhart points out, there is one issue that hasn’t been explored which makes an RNC marriage with the black community near impossible:

But there’s a deeper problem with the GOP push to increase the number of blacks who vote Republican: It coincides with a GOP push to decrease the number of blacks who vote at all. Over the last few years, Republicans have pushed an avalanche of voter-identification and registration laws that disproportionately prevent African Americans from exercising the franchise. Since 2011, state legislatures in 14 states (11 of them entirely controlled by Republicans and only one entirely controlled by Democrats) have passed voter-ID laws, despite academic studies showing that such laws are far more likely to prevent blacks from voting than whites.

So how can the GOP promote African-American outreach while simultaneously suppressing the black vote? One of those efforts is disingenuous. Black voters think they know which one, which is probably why you don’t see the GOP making much progress on this front.

Senator Freddie Powell-Sims Supports Racists in Americus

Promised Blacks She Would Not sign a Bill That Takes Away The Black school Board Majority in Sumter County

Rep Michael Cheokas, a Republican who switched from the Democratic Party introduced a bill in the GA Legislature that will take six seats held by Blacks down to only two seats, giving Whites the majority seats. HB 836 was rushed through the GA House of Representatives and had to be signed by State Senator Freddie Powell-Sims. The White racist paper, the Americus Times Recorder, and the three White minority school board members told Sims to sign the bill that would give Whites five seats and Blacks
with two seats.

NAACP President, Rev. Mathis Wright spoke with Sen. Freddie Powell-Sims before the vote, and she assured him that she would not sign the bill. And several Blacks called and begged her to not sign the illegal bill that violates Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Well, the racist Whites told Freddie Powell-Sims to sign the bill and she did it. Afterward, she sent an email to President Wright stating that the bill was not handled properly by Cheokas and others, and that it will divide the Sumter Community for years to come, but it was a good bill. Her email was contradictory and disturbing, particularly from an educator who was once the principal of Staley Middle School in Sumter County.

The Federal Court in Albany sent a response to an injunction by Wright scheduling a hearing on Friday March 14, 2014 at 11am. The injunction asked the court to stop the hastily scheduled March 18, 2014 school board election. We are asking our supporters to go down in prayer that Judge Louis Sands will stop the illegal election.

The Sumter County school system is 80% Black students and represented by a majority Black school board. The current school board districts are evenly distributed as the school board is usually 4 White districts and 4 Black districts with one swing district. Kelvin Pless, Black, won the swing district seat the last election, defeating incumbent Donna Minich, a white board member. Whites are desperately trying to take back the majority seats. They want Blacks packed into two districts against three White majority districts that could prevail for many years to come.

Freddie Powell-Sims voted to make this a reality for a very virulent group of White racists in Sumter County. If Whites regain the majority, we can expect Dr Michael Busman will become the chairman again. Busman has a history of DUI arrests and was investigated by the GA Medical Board for Drug usage. This is the type of board and leadership of our school system Freddie Powell-Sims supports. As a deceiver of her own Black people, we want our readers to know that she represents Baker, Calhoun, Clay, Dougherty, Randolph, Stewart, Terrell, Quitman, and Webster counties which make up her 12th Senatorial District.

Freddie Powell-Sims’s vote to pass HB 836 is just as devastating as when Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas voted to kill Section 4 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. Many individuals have fought, bled, and died to pass the Act, and “Uncle Tom” Clarence
Thomas did not hesitate to set his own people back more than 20 years. “Aunt Jemima” Freddie Powell-Sims is no different from Thomas as she revealed her “slave” mentality when she did what her White “masters” told her to do. Aunt Jemima is the female equivalent of Uncle Tom.

President Matt Wright was stunned and devastated when he read that Sims had lied to him and voted with two White Republicans to remove the Black school board majority in Sumter County. As a Democrat, what could have convinced a Black female educator
to join two Republicans? To give known racists Whites in Americus control of the school system is so ignorant and sick, on Freddie Powell-Sims part.

Let Senator Freddie Powell-Sims know that we resent her vote against the Blacks of Americus by calling or emailing her at:
Capitol Office
110 -A-State Capitol
Atlanta, GA 30334
District Information
5377 Goose Hollow Road
Dawson, GA 31742
Phone: (404) 463-5259
Email: Freddie.sims@senate.

Americus-Sumter NAACP Annual Freedom Fund Banquet April 19, 2014

Packed house at the 2013 Freedom Fund Banquet.

Packed house at the 2013 Freedom Fund Banquet.

Staff Reports,

President Mathis K Wright, Jr. invites the community to our banquet at South GA Technical College in Americus, GA. Our keynote speaker this year is Bernice Williams-Kimbrough Director of the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission of Atlanta, GA.

The event will take place Saturday, April 19, 6 PM in the Hangar Gymnasium of South Georgia Technical College.

The GA State Conference President Attorney Francys Johnson has reinstated the Sumter County branch. We became GAAAP (God’s Army for the Advancement of All People) because we refused to allow a Republican NAACP State president destroy our branch. Edward Dubose, former State President, dismantled several strong branches and Sumter County was targeted. We voted to leave the NAACP and GAAAP was born.

A new GA State President of the NAACP is Attorney Francys Johnson, a minister and a college professor who is salvaging the NAACP after the Dubose demolition.

We have a pretty good track record for having great banquets. This year we plan to wine, dine, and entertain our community at our only fundraiser.

Rev Wright has worked so very hard to help our people to fight discrimination in law enforcement, workplace, education, and
the court system. He and the Americus-Sumter County board are preparing for a festive evening. Ads for the souvenir banquet
book are:

Full Page $200
Tickets are $50 each
Half Page $100
Table of 10 seats is $500
Quarter Page $75
Eighth Page $35
For information or tickets call:
NAACP office at 229 924 0880 Rev Mathis Wright 229 938 0146 Dr John Marshall 229 938 0554


Sims Supports Racists in Americus

Senator Freddie Powell-Sims

Senator Freddie Powell-Sims

Staff Reports,

On February 12, 2014 Rev. Mathis K. Wright, Jr., reported that he received two copies of emails dated February 10th and 11th, 2014 from State Senator Freddie Powell Sims (Democrat) from Dawson, Terrell County, Georgia.

In the email dated February 10, 2014, Wright stated that Senator Sims stated that she wanted to “set the record straight as it pertains to HB836, a measure that revises election and compensation of the Sumter County Board of Education, and the Superintendent.”

Sims continued, “HB836 is considered ‘local legislation,’ and differs from general legislation in that it requires representative and senator of the locality to discuss and agree/disagree with its provisions prior to being heard on the floor in each chamber. Bottom-line: There is a protocol in place to handle local legislation.” Sims said, “While there has been much conversation about whether or
not I support this legislation, what is important to understand is that I, nor my senate colleague Sen. John Crosby, was approached by Rep. Mike Cheokas, the bill’s author, until last week-after the measure had been already passed by the House of Representatives. This was a breach in the protocol of local legislation.”

Sims continued, “While the merits of the legislation are those I support, I have not supported the process of this important local measure. I felt it was time to set the record straight. I believe in open, fair and transparent government and to that end, wanted
you to know what had occurred to this point relevant to HB836.”

The Americus-Sumter Observer asked Rev. Wright about Senator Sims’ statements and he said that, “Senator Sims had done a lot of double talk. She knew that protocol had not been followed but she still supported the bill. If Senator Sims had been honest about protocol not being followed, certainly a ‘Red Flag’ should have gone up.”

Wright said that HB836 is not good legislation and Sims knew it. HB836 is far from being open, fair and transparent; especially if she and Senator Crosby didn’t know anything about the legislation before it was introduced in the House.

Wright continued by stating that Senator Freddie Powell Sims is not trustworthy and her constituents cannot trust her to do what is right, because this piece of legislation is nothing more than ‘Back Room, White racist scheming,’ that she supports.

Senator Sims email dated February 11, 2014 said, “Thank you for your comments on HB836, but I fear that when all is said and
done, Americus will have experienced a divide that will last a very long time! That divide fails to address the real issue of the needs of children. Across the country, much emphasis is placed on ‘decision makers’ (i.e. school board members) that do not have the best interest of the students at the forefront. I pray that Americus/Sumter County will use this Bill for the good of all children.”

Rev. Wright said that Senator Sims must be completely ignorant to believe that a majority White school board will care more about a Black majority school system than a Black majority school board. Senator Sims has to be an ‘Aunt Jemima’ when facts prove that a Majority White school board took no action against teachers and counselors that the Department of Justice (Education Division) found that Black students’ grades were being lowered to prevent Black students from being named, Valedictorian and denied Black students the opportunity to apply for the Robert C. Byrd Scholarship.

Facts show that Valerie Duff (former principal of Sumter County Primary School – White female), the Professional Standards
Commission (Educator Ethics Division), Dr. Dennis McMann (Former Superintendent of Sumter County Schools), and the
majority White School Board covered-up that a former White teacher, Vicki Gordon; had battered two young Black male children, even after Gordon was indicted on both counts. Nevertheless this same administration found it necessary to fire a Black employee for using one inappropriate or ‘cuss word’ as a violation of the code of ethics for educators.

Wright concluded by saying that in light of these facts, Senator Sims and many of the Whites in this community do not have all the children’s best interest at heart, and that Freddie Powell Sims is no more that a Clarence Thomas/Uncle Tom to sign HB836 – Jim Crow Law.

The Federal Court Orders a Hearing on Sumter School Board Elections

Rev. Mathis Kearse Wright, Jr., Americus Sumter County NAACP President

Rev. Mathis Kearse Wright, Jr., Americus Sumter County NAACP President

Republican, Mike Cheokas, Americus liquor store owner

Republican, Mike Cheokas, Americus liquor store owner

Staff Reports

An injunction was filed to the U.S. District Court in Albany, GA to stop the illegal elections on March 18 and May 20. Rev Mathis K Wright is the plaintiff versus Sumter County Board of Elections and Registration, the defendant. The court ordered a hearing for Friday, March 14, 2014. The injunction addresses the violation of Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965. The proposed plan is designed to look like the Sumter County Board of Commissioners where there would be 5 seats and two At-Large seats. The current school board districts are 9 with 4 predominant White seats and 4 Black seats with one district is known as a swing district. The present make up is 6 Blacks and 3 Whites.

Representative Michael Cheokas, a Democrat who switched to the Republican Party, introduced a bill in the GA Legislature that would reduce the Black board members from 6 members to 2. HB 836 was rushed through the Legislature and an election was scheduled before the bill even passed.

Rev Wright shows how racist this bill is as it will pack Blacks into two districts leaving three White districts that will prevail as the majority for many years to come. We pray the Judge will stop these illegal elections and return to the more equitable nine seats. The action is sought for equal justice as provided under the federal, state, and local laws of the United States of America. The proposed plan if passed will be retrogressive and discriminatory; violating Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965.

Plaintiff requests that the Court grant the following:
A. Stop the March 18, 2014 Election
B. Stop the May 20, 2014 Election
C. Order correct district lines to be drawn that will not violate Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act of 1965, and
D. Order districts for Sumter County, Georgia School Board to have nine (9) districts only.