These people are nihilists.Chip Somodevilla / Getty
Nice bit of eye-popping, soul-crushing, but ultimately predictable data journalism in The New York Times from Thomas B. Edsall this morning. According to a recent poll, during Obama's second term an overwhelming majority of white evangelicals thought immoral politicians couldn't do their jobs, but now an overwhelming majority of white evangelicals think immoral politicians can do their jobs.
Here's a nice little graph to illustrate that claim, which would serve perhaps just as well to illustrate the capriciousness of the Republican moral conscience:
I wonder what changed? Oh yeah, the President is white now.
So it's not that they believe in nothing, they just don't believe in what they say they believe in. As Edsall mentions, "all politics is identity politics," and American politics is tribal, not policy-based. So it follows that a largely segregated, majority Christian, and geographically isolated country would contain a number of voters who think that whites are the best, boys rule, and America's #1. As writers such as Ta-Nehisi Coates and Claudia Rankine have pointed out in recent articles, those racist, sexist, nationalist beliefs constitute the foundation of American ethics. However wittingly, Trump and his ghouls ran on them, and Republican politicians followed along because, again as The Times notes, Trump still enjoys high approval ratings among those who consider themselves staunchly Republican.
Another illuminating fact from Edsall: according to three recent studies, the people who identify as most strongly Republican hold the most fluid political beliefs. "For many Republicans partisan identification is more a tribal affiliation than an ideological commitment," The Times writes, citing a Brigham Young University study by Michael Barber and Jeremy C. Pope. Thus a "Republican" belief is whatever the guy at the top says it is. Democrats elect Presidents; Republicans crown kings.
These numbers provide some support for what may seem obvious to even casual observers of the news: The people who purport to be the guardians of morality are actually mindless lemmings with daddy issues who are leashed and led by the rich.
``As Edsall mentions, "all politics is identity politics," and American politics is tribal, not policy-based. So it follows that a largely segregated, majority Christian, and geographically isolated country would contain a number of voters who think that whites are the best, boys rule, and America's #1.``
Arizona Senator John McCain has publicly come out against the latest Republican attempt to repeal the ACA. His statement begins:
As I have repeatedly stressed, health care reform legislation ought to be the product of regular order in the Senate. Committees of jurisdiction should mark up legislation with input from all committee members, and send their bill to the floor for debate and amendment. That is the only way we might achieve bipartisan consensus on lasting reform, without which a policy that affects one-fifth of our economy and every single American family will be subject to reversal with every change of administration and congressional majority.
I would consider supporting legislation similar to that offered by my friends Senators Graham and Cassidy were it the product of extensive hearings, debate and amendment. But that has not been the case. Instead, the specter of September 30th budget reconciliation deadline has hung over this entire process.
Many opponents of the ACA repeal are hailing McCain as a hero for going against his party leadership on this issue. I don’t see it — he’d still support a bill like Graham-Cassidy that would take away healthcare coverage from millions of Americans if only it were the result of proper procedure — particularly because of what he says next (italics mine):
We should not be content to pass health care legislation on a party-line basis, as Democrats did when they rammed Obamacare through Congress in 2009.
When Barack Obama ran for president, he faced a choice. He could continue moving the party to the center or tack back to the left. The second option would have focused on government programs, like expanding Medicare to start at age 55. But Obama and his team thought a plan that mixed government and markets — farther to the right of Clinton’s — could cover millions of people and had a realistic chance of passing.
They embarked on a bipartisan approach. They borrowed from Mitt Romney’s plan in Massachusetts, gave a big role to a bipartisan Senate working group, incorporated conservative ideas and won initial support from some Republicans. The bill also won over groups that had long blocked reform, like the American Medical Association.
But congressional Republicans ultimately decided that opposing any bill, regardless of its substance, was in their political interest. The consultant Frank Luntz wrote an influential memo in 2009 advising Republicans to talk positively about “reform” while also opposing actual solutions. McConnell, the Senate leader, persuaded his colleagues that they could make Obama look bad by denying him bipartisan cover.
Adam Jentleson, former Deputy Chief of Staff for Senator Harry Reid, said basically the same thing on Twitter:
The votes were party-line, but that was a front manufactured by McConnell. He bragged about it at the time. McConnell rarely gives much away but he let the mask slip here, saying he planned to oppose Obamacare regardless of what was in the bill. Those who worked on and covered the bill know there were GOP senators who wanted to support ACA — but McConnell twisted their arms. On Obamacare, Democrats spent months holding hearings and seeking GOP input — we accepted 200+ GOP amendments!
According to Mark Peterson, chair of the UCLA Department of Public Policy, one easy metric by which to judge transparency is the number of hearings held during the development of a bill, as well as the different voices heard during those hearings. So far, the GOP repeal efforts have been subject to zero public hearings.
In contrast, the ACA was debated in three House committees and two Senate committees, and subject to hours of bipartisan debate that allowed for the introduction of amendments. Peterson told us in an e-mail that he “can’t recall any major piece of legislation that was completely devoid of public forums of any kind, and that were crafted outside of the normal committee and subcommittee structure to this extent”.
It’s been two-and-a-half days since Hurricane Maria barreled through Puerto Rico, slamming the island of more than 3.5 million people with torrential rains, winds, and flooding the likes of which haven’t been seen in nearly a century. The latest reports indicate that at least six people have been killed in Puerto Rico (and 27 total throughout the Caribbean) as a result of the storm, but that figure is likely to rise as authorities make their way through areas still cut off from communications and rescue operations, according to the Associated Press. As of Friday, much of the island was still without power and working cell phone networks; El Nuevo Dia, one of Puerto Rico’s main news organizations, is reporting that dozens of municipalities are still “incommunicado.” Carlos Mercader, the Washington, D.C.-based representative of Puerto Rico Gov. Ricardo Rosselló, says that there are likely more municipalities still cut off, and that authorities still don’t know the full scope of the damage, noting that even he can’t get in touch with his parents who live in the western part of the island. “That whole west side is totally compromised in terms of communication,” he tells Mother Jones. Meanwhile, Guajataca Dam in the northwestern part of the island suffered a “failure,” according to the National Weather Service, causing the evacuation of at least 10,000 people in the area, Mercader says.
Here we look ahead at what’s next for the island.
What is the latest with the federal response?
President Trump signed a disaster declaration for Puerto Rico on Thursday, paving the way for federal support for things such as grants for temporary housing and home repairs, loans for uninsured property losses, and other federal programs. Making matters more complicated is Puerto Rico’s dire financial situation. Jennifer González-Colón, the island’s non-voting representative to Congress, sent a letter to the president that same day asking that he waive FEMA’s cost-sharing requirements, which typically requires a 25 percent match from local jurisdictions.
The federal government began flying supplies in to Puerto Rico on Thursday morning, including water, helicopters, trucks, and equipment to clear the roads, Mercader says. On Friday morning, after a request from Gov. Rosselló, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo assembled a relief flight that included large-scale generators, 34,000 bottles of water, 10,000 ready-to-eat meals, along with thousands of cots and blankets, according to CNBC. Rosselló told MSNBCFriday that all supplies were being coordinated through a logistics center and will then be distributed through 12 zones on the island, the New YorkTimes reports.
The US Department of Energy reported as of 4 p.m. ET Friday that all of the island’s major ports were closed and that the US Postal Service had closed all of its facilities.
How long will it take to restore power?
The Department of Energy report noted that nearly all of the 1.57 million power customers on the island were without power, and “all generation assets are believed to be offline.” Local authorities have estimated that it could take four to six months to fully restore power across the island. Mercader says that FEMA, in coordination with local authorities, is working to get electricity and communications back up as quickly as possible, but the process could still take weeks.
“We just spoke to someone on the ground from one of the agencies that has war experience, and he says [it’s like] a war zone, [similar to] when he served in Afghanistan,” Mercader says. “We are saying that the devastation is total. It’s complete devastation.”
New York Power Authority CEO Gil Quiniones also traveled to Puerto Rico with a 10-person team, including drone operators, to help assess the damage to the island’s main electricity provider, the Puerto Rico Electric Power Authority (PREPA), which was already reeling under billions in debt and years of deferred maintenance due to the inability to fund it. PREPA Executive Director Ricardo Ramos said Thursday that the company would not begin normal operations until at least Monday “in an effort to avoid jeopardizing the safety of its employees.”
PREPA already suffered $400 million in damages from Hurricane Irma in early September.
How will this impact the ongoing fiscal crisis?
Puerto Rico, in the midst of a 10-year economic downturn and dealing with structural colonial economic issues, was already reeling financially. With more than $120 billion in outstanding debt and pension obligations, the island sought to restructure debts under a law signed by President Obama in 2016.The 2016 law allowed the island’s government to seek a form of bankruptcy earlier this year,created a financial review board that would manage the island’s spending and, theoretically, work out debt repayment arrangements with the island’s creditors. So far, as Slate wrote Friday, the board has cut public spending by 30 percent, closed many schools, and lowered the minimum wage for younger workers.
Former Puerto Rico Gov. Luis Fortuño told Politico that any plans made between the governor and the fiscal control board were based on assumptions that were “out the window now,” and that there was “no way” the governor was going to be able to hit the budget set by the board. The board did allow Rosselló to reallocate $1 billion for emergency response efforts, Politico notes, and told the governor that it would “expeditiously approve” additional budget issues that come up as a result of Hurricane Maria.
Members of Congress are already discussing aid packages for Puerto Rico. But there are also fears that hedge funds will use the crisis as a means to further push privatization on the island, and that unless Congress steps up with a package that truly helps, the island’s residents and union workers will lose out.
“Now the island will need massive infusions of captial to rebuild,” David Dayen writes in the American Prospect. “The hedge funds have the wealth to provide it, and have reaped more than enough profit from the picked carcass of Puerto Rico that they can easily afford to give something back … The hard-hearted business decsison to capitalize on suffering isn’t liely to soften now.”
Young black woman being taught not to react to smoke being blown in her face, in a Civil Rights class in 1960.
I think too few people realize that these people needed to be trained to take the abuse they received. It’s all that much more powerful to realize how much work actually went into it.
In 1991, a jury in Jones County, Georgia, sentenced Keith Tharpe, a Black man, to death for the murder of his sister-in-law. Seven years later, Tharpe’s defense counsel met with a white juror on Tharpe’s trial as part of their routine investigation of the case. The juror explained to the lawyers why he voted for his client’s death, and then reviewed, edited, and signed a sworn statement, which set out his views of race and Tharpe:
I have observed there are two types of Black people: 1. Black folks and 2. Niggers. For example, some of them who hang around our little store act up and carry on. I tell them, “nigger, you better straighten up or get out of here fast.”
I felt Tharpe who wasn’t in the “good” black folks category in my book, should get the electric chair for what he did. . . .
After studying the Bible, I have wondered if black people even have souls. Integration started in Genesis. I think they are wrong. For example, look at O.J. Simpson. That white woman wouldn’t have been killed if she hadn’t married that black man.
The defense lawyers filed the juror’s signed statement in court the next day.
Only a unanimous jury can convict and impose a death sentence in Georgia, and the law has long recognized that misconduct by a single juror requires reversal. The juror’s stunning admission of racially biased views, including his view of the defendant, should have led to a hearing and a new trial. Instead, Tharpe faces possible execution next Tuesday, September 26, 2017.
In what threatens to be a grave miscarriage of justice, no court has ever considered the testimony about this misconduct. The federal courts must act now under the law’s constitutional promise of equality and fairness and reopen his case so that his claim of racial bias can finally be heard.
What should have happened in 1998 is that the then-elected prosecutor for the Ocmulgee District, Joseph Briley, and the Georgia attorney general should have responded to the juror’s affidavit by announcing they would not tolerate racial bias in capital sentencing and agreeing that Tharpe should get a new trial.
Instead, counsel from the Georgia attorney general’s office responded by trying to minimize the juror’s statements and asking the court to ignore the bias. First, they went to see the juror the next day after reading his statements of racial bias and obtained a new statement. In this new statement, the juror did not deny what he said about Black people or Tharpe. Instead, he complained that the lawyers were not clear enough about their purpose in talking with him and that he had been drunk when he talked with the lawyers.
The state attorneys then came to court and argued that the racial bias of the juror should be irrelevant to Tharpe’s death sentence because the law should not permit investigation into racial bias by jurors after the verdict. Unfortunately, this response was hardly surprising. Georgia’s attorney general’s office had years of practice defending racially tainted capital cases from Mr. Briley’s office.
How do we know that capital prosecutions in Briley’s office were contaminated by racial discrimination? He put it in writing.
In 1978, Briley wrote an “infamous” handwritten memo instructing the clerk’s office on how to reduce the number of Black people and women on juries without detection. In other words, he explained how to discriminate and get away with it. He also repeatedly removed qualified Blacks from jury service in violation of the constitutional prohibition of using race in jury selection. Although it is notoriously difficult to show purposeful discrimination in jury selection because of the wide deference afforded to prosecutors, courts found that Briley’s actions, in fact, met the high burden of proof required.
Halting Tharpe’s execution today should be an easy call.
During his 20-year tenure between 1974 and 1994, Briley tried 33 capital cases — 24 of which were against Black defendants like Tharpe. In the cases with Black defendants, 90 percent of the jurors Briley removed from serving in these capital cases were Black.
In Tharpe’s case, the state court ruled that the noxious statements by the juror were inadmissible because the law protects jury verdicts as unimpeachable. In other words, even where there is smoking-gun proof that one or more jurors used racially biased decision-making, courts will not reopen jury verdicts. The state court denied the claim on the wrong theory that jurors should not be permitted to testify about how their racial bias affected the verdict.
This question — whether courts should revisit jury verdicts when presented with proof of racial bias by a juror in decision-making — was answered with a resounding yes earlier this year in the Supreme Court case, Pena-Rodriquez v. Colorado. In a 5-3 decision, the justices ruled that it “must become the heritage of our Nation to rise above the racial classifications that are so inconsistent with our commitment to the equal dignity of all persons.”
Tharpe's appeals proceeded through state and federal courts without any court ever considering whether the juror’s profoundly troubling remarks violated the Constitution. Even though Pena-Rodriguez makes clear that Tharpe should receive a hearing, halting his execution and reopening his federal case requires that he show extraordinary circumstances. The Supreme Court ruled in another case this year, Buck v. Davis, that the “noxious strain of racial prejudice” constituted extraordinary circumstances that required the reopening of federal habeas proceedings.
Halting Tharpe’s execution today should be an easy call. Reopening his case and allowing a court to rule on the proof of racial taint by the juror in Tharpe’s case is the only path forward commensurate with recognition of equal dignity of all. Keith Tharpe deserves a new trial before a jury of his peers. Otherwise, we will condone a criminal justice system that allows racial animus to influence matters of life and death.