Frogs, toads and salamanders continue to vanish from the American landscape at an alarming pace, with seven species — including Colorado’s boreal toad and Nevada’s yellow-legged
frog — facing 50 percent drops in their numbers within seven years if the current rate of decline continues, according to new government research.
The U.S. Geological Survey study, released Wednesday, is the first to document how quickly amphibians are disappearing, as well as how low the populations of the threatened species could go, given current trends.
From the Washington Post, sad amphibian news:
The exact reasons for the decline in amphibians, first noticed decades ago, remain unclear. But scientists believe several factors, including disease, an explosion of invasive species, climate change and pesticide use are contributing.
Tonight I went out to close the shutters on the windows on the front porch. There was a single wee tree frog behind one of the large shutters (the photo above was taken earlier this year). When I was a child in the 1970s, we used to see 20 or 30 tree frogs on a single window at our house — and these windows were about one-third the size of these tall front-porch windows I have now.
It’s not that my dad and mom live in the country and I live in town. I haven’t seen frogs on their windows in anything more than scant numbers in many years. They’re gone, the frogs.
Come to think of it, last spring and summer there were anoles everywhere on our porch. In 2013, I’ve seen maybe one or two. That’s really unusual.
Unbelievable, the courage of this woman. From the Telegraph:
Cub scout leader Ingrid Loyau-Kennett selflessly engaged the terrorists in conversation and kept her nerve as one of them told her: “We want to start a war in London tonight.”
Mrs Loyau-Kennett, 48, from Cornwall, was one of the first people on the scene after the two Islamic extremists butchered a soldier in Woolwich, south east London.
She was photographed by onlookers confronting one of the attackers who was holding a bloodied knife.
Mrs Loyau-Kennett was a passenger on a number 53 bus which was travelling past the scene, and jumped off to check the soldier’s pulse.
“Being a cub leader I have my first aid so when I saw this guy on the floor I thought it was an accident then I saw the guy was dead and I could not feel any pulse.
“And then when I went up there was this black guy with a revolver and a kitchen knife, he had what looked like butcher’s tools and he had a little axe, to cut the bones, and two large knives and he said ‘move off the body’.
“So I thought ‘OK, I don’t know what is going on here’ and he was covered with blood. I thought I had better start talking to him before he starts attacking somebody else. I thought these people usually have a message so I said ‘what do you want?’
“I asked him if he did it and he said yes and I said why? And he said because he has killed Muslim people in Muslim countries, he said he was a British solider and I said really and he said ‘I killed him because he killed Muslims and I am fed up with people killing Muslims in Afghanistan they have nothing to do there.”
Moments earlier, the killers had hacked at the soldier “like a piece of meat”, and when Mrs Loyau-Kennett arrived on the scene they were roaming John Wilson Street waiting for police to arrive so they could stage a final confrontation with them.
She said: “I started to talk to him and I started to notice more weapons and the guy behind him with more weapons as well. By then, people had started to gather around. So I thought OK, I should keep him talking to me before he noticed everything around him.
How many lives did this mother of two save by distracting the terrorists while it took police TWENTY MINUTES to arrive? She’s a hero. The greatest Brit since Smeato!
Poor Jews! Via Jon Chait, here’s our chummy, logorrheic vice president praising the tribe at a Jewish gathering:
“I believe what affects the movements in America, what affects our attitudes in America are as much the culture and the arts as anything else,” he said. That’s why he spoke out on gay marriage “apparently a little ahead of time.”
“It wasn’t anything we legislatively did. It was ‘Will and Grace,’ it was the social media. Literally. That’s what changed peoples’ attitudes. That’s why I was so certain that the vast majority of people would embrace and rapidly embrace” gay marriage, Biden said.
“Think behind of all that, I bet you 85 percent of those changes, whether it’s in Hollywood or social media are a consequence of Jewish leaders in the industry. The influence is immense, the influence is immense. And, I might add, it is all to the good.”
So: Joe Biden says that Jewish elites manipulated American culture into accepting gay marriage, and thank God for it.
Wow. The … inartfulness of this is just … wow. Chait comments:
The main problem here is that gay rights, unlike black civil rights, are politically controversial at the moment. Biden may find it “all to the good” that Jews have used their influence over popular culture to change societal attitudes toward homosexuality, but lots of people don’t find it good at all.
I bet I’m going to have to decline more comments on this thread than I approve, so if you plan on saying anything anti-Semitic, may as well save yourself the trouble of typing it out, because it ain’t getting onto this site. I post this because this is a pretty incredible gaffe.
[Via Andrew Sullivan.]
Did you know this was happening? I did not know this was happening:
Rioters have set fire to 30 cars and torched a school and a nursery in poor immigrant suburbs of Stockholm. Three nights of unrest in one of Europe’s richest capitals has marred Sweden’s reputation for social justice.
Swedish police said Wednesday they had arrested eight young men during a third night of urban unrest in low-income suburbs of Stockholm from Tuesday into Wednesday.
The rioting had erupted on Sunday after police shot dead a 69-year-old man on May 13.
Police said officers had acted in self-defense when the man wielded a machete in the northwestern suburb of Husby. The shooting was being investigated by a special police unit.
A group Megafonen which works with youth in deprived areas, accused police of being heavy-handed and targeting immigrants indiscriminately. Cuts in services and closures of youth centers have fuelled discontent, said its spokesman Rami al-Khamisi.
Immigrants? Like what, Italians? Poles? You don’t learn their countries of origin in that story, from Deutsche Welle, but you do learn it in this BBC report:
More than 80% of Husby’s 12,000 or so inhabitants are from an immigrant background, and most are from Turkey, the Middle East and Somalia.
Ah. More from Deutsche Welle:
The anti-immigrant Sweden Democrats party, which has risen to third in surveys ahead of a general election due next year, said the Stockholm riots were the result of an “irresponsible” immigration policy.
“Never before has so much money been spent on immigrant-heavy suburbs as today,” party leader Jimmie Aakesson told the daily newspaper Svenska Dagbladet.
Anna-Margrethe Livh of the opposition Left Party wrote in the Svenska Dagbladet: “We have failed to give many of the people in the suburbs a hope for the future.”
From The Economist earlier this year, a report on how mass immigration is tearing Sweden apart:
Yet the relationship between the state and its clients is strained. “In Sweden having a job is everything,” says Tobias Billstrom, the minister for immigration and a former MP for Malmö; but in Rosengard only 38% of the residents have one. Angry youths have taken to rioting, torching bicycle sheds and recycling centres as well as cars.
Per Brinkemo is a former journalist whose life was changed when he wrote a book about a Somali boy who was brought up in war-torn Mogadishu. He now runs an organisation that specialises in helping Somali refugees from the basement of a Rosengard block of flats. The centre’s walls are decorated with pictures of high-ranking visitors and prizes awarded to Mr Brinkemo. But he is no fan of government policies, pointing out that politicians have little sense of how difficult it is to integrate Somalis into Swedish society. They hail from nomadic societies where trust is reserved for the clan, literacy is rare and timekeeping is rudimentary. Three-quarters of Somali children drop out of school. “For Somali immigrants [coming to Sweden] is like being transported to Mars,” he says.
Mass immigration is posing serious problems for the region. For the Nordic countries to be able to afford their welfare states they need to have 80% of their adults in the workforce, but labour-force participation among non-European immigrants is much lower than that. In Sweden only 51% of non-Europeans have a job, compared with over 84% of native Swedes. The Nordic countries need to persuade their citizens that they are getting a good return on their taxes, but mass immigration is creating a class of people who are permanently dependent on the state.
On a day with terrible news, a small sign of hope. is.gd/vVTUik
— Paul Goodman (@PaulGoodmanCH) May 22, 2013
Yes. Here’s the story, from Ha’aretz. Excerpt:
Donations trickled in, but not as fast as the water from the leaky roof. Things looked very dire for the Bradford Synagogue until some concerned neighbors intervened.
Zulfi Karim, the 47-year-old secretary of the Bradford Council of Mosques, was at Friday prayers when he heard of the synagogue’s plight. The news came to him thanks to a local Pakistani restaurant called Sweet Centre, which sits close to both the synagogue and the mosque.
The restaurant was so popular with some of the synagogue’s congregants for a Saturday lunch that they had joined forces with the restaurant’s owner to lobby against the conversion of a nearby building into a rival eatery. So when Sweet Centre’s owner got wind of the synagogue’s financial woes, he referred Leavor to a local South Asian merchant’s association, which gifted GBP 500 toward repairs. And it was through this connection that Leavor met Mahmood Mohammed, a development officer for Bradford council, who in turn got in touch with Karim.
“I was shocked to hear the news,” says Karim, who was born and raised a few hundred yards from the Bradford Reform Synagogue,” and I immediately reached out to others in the Muslim community.”
Within a few days, the community had raised GBP 2,000 for emergency repairs – 1,000 from a variety of individuals, and 1,000 matched by a donor who at first asked to remain anonymous.
Eventually Leavor discovered the donor was Khalid Pervaiz, the new owner of a textile factory near the synagogue. That same factory had previously belonged to the Strauss family, who were descendents of Bradford’s first Reform Rabbi.
“We have so much in common,” says Karim of the two Bradford communities. ”We both have a tradition of helping each other out in business, and strong entrepreneurial, family and community values.” He also acknowledges that in addition to their common Abrahamic ancestry, there are parallels between the anti-Semitism and Islamophopbia both communities have endured.
Bu in the end, it was Karim’s personal relationship with Leavor that helped connect the two communities.
Two Islamist terrorists decapitated a British soldier in the streets of London today. From the Telegraph’s live blog coverage:
18.59 Video filmed by an onlooker and broadcast by ITV News shows a man with his hands covered in blood and holding a bloodied knife and machete. He says in a London accent: “I apologise that women had to witness that, but in our lands our women have to see the same thing.
“You people will never be safe. Remove your Government, they don’t care about you.”
He then walks off, still carrying his weapons, back towards the body of the victim who is lying in the middle of the road.
In other parts of the video, said to be too shocking to show, it is claimed he says: “This British soldier is an eye for an eye, a tooth for a tooth.”
A “London accent,” ergo not likely an immigrant, but a homegrown terrorist. More:
17.14 The witness who spoke to LBC, called James, says there were “brave women” present who were shielding the victim at the scene.
He tells the radio station: “We saw clearly two knives, meat cleavers. They were big kitchen knives like you would use in a butcher’s. They were hacking at this poor guy. We thought they were trying to remove organs from him.
“These two guys were crazed, they were not there, they were just animals. They then dragged him from the pavement and dumped his body in the middle of the road.
“They took 20 minutes to arrive, the police – the armed response.
“There was only a few people at first, then traffic began to build up because people were getting out of their cars to shout at them. They were taking no notice, they were standing there, I think they were proud of what they were doing.
“When they dumped the body in the road, these two black guys had the opportunity to hurt other people if they wanted to because there were brave women with the dead guy on the floor. They were shielding and covering him. The attackers with the knives were standing over these women.”
Full story here. Witnesses say the two men chanted, “Allahu akbar!” as they chopped the soldier to bits.
UPDATE: Here’s a video of the terrorist, with a machete and a knife in his hand, justifying what he just did:
UPDATE.2: From the Telegraph’s live blog:
20.31 One local woman said she thought she saw one of the killers preaching in Woolwich town centre about a week ago.
Her daughter, Rebecca France, 18, said: “It was really political and angry. She said she thought it was strange because he was different from the usual guys who preach in the name of Jesus – he wasn’t doing that.”
Her mother recognised the man from a mobile phone video showing one of the killers, wearing a black knitted hat, holding a knife in bloody hands, she said.
Catholic World Report features an interview with Archimandrite Robert Taft, a Jesuit theologian and Byzantine Rite Catholic priest who is a leading scholar in Eastern Christian studies. Excerpt:
CWR: How could the papal claims of Rome be modified in a way that would be both acceptable to the Orthodox Churches and faithful to the tradition of the Catholic Church? Do you think the jurisdiction issue really is a hang-up for the Orthodox since they also practice cross-jurisdiction throughout Western Europe, the Americas, Australia, and East Asia?
Taft: The new Catholic “Sister Churches” ecclesiology describes not only how the Catholic Church views the Orthodox Churches. It also represents a startling revolution in how the Catholic Church views itself: we are no longer the only kid on the block, the whole Church of Christ, but one Sister Church among others. Previously, the Catholic Church saw itself as the original one and only true Church of Christ from which all other Christians had separated for one reason or another in the course of history, and Catholics held, simplistically, that the solution to divided Christendom consisted in all other Christians returning to Rome’s maternal bosom.
Vatican II, with an assist from those Council Fathers with a less naïve Disney-World view of their own Church’s past, managed to put aside this historically ludicrous, self-centered, self-congratulatory perception of reality. In doing so they had a strong assist from the Council Fathers of the Melkite Greek Catholic Church whose concrete experience of the realities of the Christian East made them spokesmen and defenders of that reality.
In this context I would recommend the excellent new book by Robert Louis Wilken, The First Thousand Years: A Global History of Christianity (New Haven & London: Yale U. Press 2012). Professor Wilken, a convert to Catholicism who is a recognized expert on Early Christianity and its history and literature, shows that Early Christianity developed not out of some Roman cradle but as a federation of local Churches, Western and Eastern, each one under the authority of a chief hierarch who would come to be called Archbishop, Pope, Patriarch, or Catholicos, each with its own independent governing synod and polity, all of them initially in communion with one another until the vicissitudes of history led to lasting divisions.
CWR: Many Orthodox theologians claim that even if the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople or the Patriarch of Moscow were to unite with Rome tomorrow, the lay faithful and the monastics would probably not accept it and therefore there would be no actual union. Given the history of Lyons and Florence do you think this is true, or has the Orthodox mood changed recently?
Taft: Part of the problem is that some Orthodox do not instruct their people adequately and update them, so ecumenical progress on the upper level often does not filter down to the ordinary faithful. In addition of course, there is the problem of the bigotry of many of the monastics and others towards anyone who is not Orthodox. On how they square this with what Christianity is supposed to be according to Jesus’ explicit teaching in the New Testament, we still await their explanation. One Catholic remedy for this—its usefulness proven by the rage it provokes in the exposed bigots—is the factual diffusion of their views, objectively and without editorial comment, in publications like Irénikon in French, or in English Father Ronald Roberson’s highly informative monthly SEIA Newsletter on the Eastern Churches and Ecumenism, distributed gratis to subscribers via email and eventually preserved for permanent reference in the Eastern Churches Journal. These publications just give the news without comment, including quotations from the bigots permanently recorded for posterity, thereby exposing them to the public embarrassment they merit. This is especially important for some representatives of Orthodoxy who speak out of both sides of their mouth, saying one thing at international ecumenical venues, and quite another for the consumption of Orthodox audiences or in publications they do not expect the non-Orthodox to read.
As a sympathetic but also sometimes skeptical observer of the “Front Porch Republic” style of conservatism, I think the distinction suggested here — between a philosophy of rootedness and a philosophy that just stresses “place” in general or idolizes the rural life in particular — is central to Porcherism’s ability to offer a realistic response to the ills of contemporary American life. A communitarianism that just suggests that everyone should find their own St. Francisville is obviously unresponsive to the reality of a post-agrarian society, but a communitarianism that just tells people to “stay put!” more generally, whether in cities or suburbs or exurbs, is likewise insufficient … because to a surprising extent, Americans are already doing just that.
Drawing on Census data indicating that declining mobility is not resulting in a closer-knit society, Ross sharpens the point:
We are staying put more than we did in earlier eras, and yet outside of the upper class it isn’t translating into the kind of personal and familial stability that communitarians want to cultivate.
So they/we need a story of what’s going on here.
This is all important and necessary. Here’s my guess at what’s going on.
Just because you accept the limits of place doesn’t mean that you accept limits. I have not found divorce statistics for my parish, but what I could find is not encouraging. Louisiana has one of the lowest outmigration rates of any state (meaning Louisiana people tend to stay put relative to other Americans), but one of the highest divorce rates. Granted, there are other factors that make Louisiana a place that ranks low on typical indicators of social stability – e.g., a relatively high poverty rate, a high percentage of African-Americans (who have lower marriage rates, and higher out of wedlock childbearing rates). I think it is also likely the case that recent relative immobility is not a matter of choice, but rather something imposed on people by the poor economy. People who don’t move because they choose to stay in place have a different mindset from those who don’t move because they cannot afford to.
Besides, just because you live in a place doesn’t mean you automatically involve yourself in the community, and build social and communal bonds. About 20 years ago, I visited my folks back in Starhill, and observed that they spent much less time with their friends than they had when we were kids. What seemed to be happening was that after everybody’s kids were grown and gone, the empty-nesters retreated into chronic TV watching. Satellite dishes were fairly new, and the overwhelming number of channels occupied a lot of time that had been spent socializing in the past. I don’t think it’s still that way with them at all, but that’s what I observed back then.
The point is, it’s really easy to live in a small place and to remain isolated, if you choose to be. There’s simply not a cultural pull towards communal engagement. As David Brooks’s column this week indicated, we have undergone a tectonic shift in American culture towards an individualist mindset. When I was a child, many of the dads I saw belonged to the Lions Club, the Jaycees, or some other kind of fraternal or social service organization. That just doesn’t happen as much anymore in America, period. The idea that there’s a geographical cure for rootlessness and the decline of community is simplistic. It would be madness for someone to remain in a place that was culturally toxic, especially to one’s children, simply to make a point about stability.
So yes, Ross is right that staying in place isn’t sufficient. Yet you have to start somewhere. Placelessness isn’t just a material condition for Americans, but a spiritual, emotional, and psychological one. One’s place may not be where one was born. But everyone needs a place. To believe that one should settle somewhere, that the good life for most people doesn’t involve constantly moving, is countercultural in today’s America. If you start to think why it matters to have a place, and to be a part of that place, much else follows, including a politics.
Last year, Louisiana physician Fred Cerise criticized Gov. Bobby Jindal’s approach to people living here without health insurance. Excerpt:
Adoption of the ACA’s Medicaid expansion paired with a healthy safety net would provide the component pieces of a universal coverage model in Louisiana for the first time. However, Jindal has declared his opposition to the two major programs that would ensure care to the uninsured. He has made clear his intention to reject the federal Medicaid expansion and at the same time is dismantling the state’s public safety net. It’s a combination of blows for many of the state’s citizens who are among the lowest earners in the country and are destined to go without care.
By refusing to participate in the Affordable Care Act, Jindal will deny access to 456,000 low income individuals through the Medicaid expansion. A recent analysis by the Kaiser Family Foundation put the 10 year cost at less than $1 billion for Louisiana. In fact, when that expense is offset against additional savings on state funds currently spent on the uninsured, it is probable that there would be a net financial benefit to the state.
After two years as Louisiana’s Health Secretary and five years as governor, Jindal presides over a Louisiana that has one of the country’s largest uninsured populations with worsening access to care. He is now chair of the Republican Governor’s Association, with a message for the country. Those outside of Louisiana can start to get to know him better by examining his health care record back home.
Dr. Cerise is not just any critic. He teaches medicine at LSU. More importantly, he was formerly the state’s public health chief, and had been in charge of the state’s charity hospital system (administered through LSU) until he was removed, apparently for opposing the governor’s plan to privatize state hospitals.
On the subject of Cerise’s op-ed, Jindal recently wrote his own op-ed explaining why he wants Louisiana to refuse to participate in Obamacare. Excerpt:
2. President Obama’s Medicaid expansion could cost taxpayers in Louisiana $1.7 billion over the first 10 years of implementation, and the cost will continue to rise. Additionally, the percentage of state funds spent on Medicaid has nearly doubled over the past 16 years and expanding the program could further threaten funding for higher education, transportation, and other critical services.
3. By expanding President Obama’s healthcare law, 41 percent of Louisiana’s population would be dumped into Medicaid. Soon there will be more people riding in the cart than people pulling the cart. The President is gradually turning the world’s greatest health care system into the world’s largest welfare system. The left has been very clear—their end goal here is to make all healthcare in America government health care.
OK, fair enough. I have no idea if Cerise is right or wrong about health care policy, but this is a debate worth having between Cerise and Jindal. Except the Louisiana legislature will not be able to have it. Cerise’s employer, the LSU Board of Supervisors, refuses to let him testify before a legislative panel considering the state’s health policies. LSU journalism professor Bob Mann writes:
Here’s the very clear message this telling little episode sends, beyond Jindal’s well-known disdain for dissent in his ranks: Jindal and his staff are fully in charge of the LSU Board, down to which employee is allowed to testify before the Legislature.
My evidence? It’s circumstantial, but allow me to make my case.
Can you imagine any truly independent board of state government having the audacity to blow off a legislative committee in this fashion, telling legislators that an employee is not allowed to testify?
If a body, like the LSU Board, was bold enough to prevent someone as prominent as Cerise from testifying, it’s apparent to me that they did so with the full confidence that a) the Governor’s Office has its back, or, b) this is what the Governor’s Office ordered them to do.
This really is stunning, on several levels. Why on earth would the legislature stand for this? Do they really believe the governor has the right to tell them which state employees they can and cannot hear from in a legislative hearing? Is there so little independence in the LSU Board that they’re micromanaging politically inconvenient employees at that level? Why is the governor afraid to let Dr. Cerise testify? If Dr. Cerise is wrong, and Jindal’s policies are correct, then Team Jindal should welcome the opportunity to expose the flaws in Dr. Cerise’s argument.
Don’t legislators have a right to hear from whomever they want? Doesn’t the public have a right to hear from Fred Cerise? I mean, it’s just unbelievable, the LSU Board directing a professor not to testify at a legislative hearing in his area of expertise, for no apparent reason other than that he opposes the governor’s policies.
How would a President Jindal handle relations between his administration and Congress? When Jindal’s 2016 White House run finally launches, you can be sure that the name of Fred Cerise will be known beyond Louisiana — and that it will matter, both in terms of health care policy, and in terms of signaling how a Jindal White House would operate politically.
Along those lines, Ramesh Ponnuru writes that Republicans excited over Obama scandals and how those scandals may benefit them at the ballot box are forgetting history:
For the most part, Republicans didn’t campaign on impeachment in 1998: They didn’t say, “Vote for me and I’ll do my level best to oust Clinton.” Their strategy was more passive. They were counting on the scandal to motivate conservatives to vote while demoralizing liberals. So they didn’t try to devise a popular agenda, or to make their existing positions less unpopular. That’s what cost them — that, and the mistake of counting on statistics about sixth-year elections, which also bred complacency.
Republicans have similar vulnerabilities on the issues now. They have no real health-care agenda. Voters don’t trust them to look out for middle-class economic interests. Republicans are confused and divided about how to solve the party’s problems. What they can do is unite in opposition to the Obama administration’s scandals and mistakes. So that’s what they’re doing. They’re trying to win news cycles when they need votes.
Congressional Republicans were right to press for hearings on all of these issues. But investigations of the administration won’t supply them with ideas. They won’t make the public trust Republicans. They won’t save them from themselves.
UPDATE: I am told by someone in state government in a position to know that Cerise testified this week. The bill he favors died in committee, though.
Local politics here in West Feliciana Parish have been intense these past few years. I’ve deliberately not paid attention to them since returning, because I’ve had other things to do, and because opinions run very, very strong. Several years ago, frustration over the behavior of the Police Jury (the name for the county commission, the governing body of many Louisiana parishes) sparked a “Home Rule” movement to redesign the system of government. The idea seems to have been to create a structure of government that is both more efficient (by giving executive power to an elected parish manager) and more accountable to voters. They came up with a Home Rule Charter, which went before parish voters last November. Home Rule passed 53-47. It was strongly opposed by parish black leaders, who feared that it would dilute minority voting strength.
It has not yet been implemented for various reasons, the most important of which is that under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act, no change of governmental system in our state can take place without “preclearance” of the US Justice Department. This is a lengthy and complex process, one that potentially gives a veto over Home Rule to the black community, even though the position black leaders favored lost in a free and fair election, one with high turnout.
Two nights ago, at the monthly Police Jury meeting, the seven member panel’s two black jurors tried to put on this October’s ballot a measure to repeal Home Rule. They had the support of at least one white juror. This sparked an uproar among Home Rule supporters, who were understandably angry that results of last fall’s election could be nullified by voters less than a year later. This move shocked me, not because I have a strong opinion about Home Rule, or an opinion about Home Rule at all, but because of what it said about the instability in local government. The parish’s tax base is declining, and the public school, the unifying institution and pride of the parish, just went through a round of layoffs, including eliminating arts programs, because of budget cuts. We desperately need economic development here, and the turmoil in local government doesn’t help the cause. It occurred to me that I’d better start paying more attention to this stuff.
So I went to the meeting the other night. It was eventful, but not especially inspiring. I started a blog on which to post news, opinion, and information about West Feliciana. Here’s my report from this week’s meeting. I was surprised by the degree to which the Home Rule Charter issue is cast in racial terms. To my eyes — and I’m new to this issue — nearly everything seems to turn on whether or not it is possible for a black person to be elected to parishwide office, versus having special districts gerrymandered for minority candidates. A white juror pointed out to the redistricting specialist that one of the sitting jurors is a white man who won in a predominantly minority district, and one of the members of a previous jury was a black man who won in a predominantly white district. The specialist said that’s not the same thing as winning parishwide, and that fact will be important to the Justice Department.
More from my report:
Nearly 50 years ago, in the Old Courthouse next door to where the Police Jury met tonight, West Feliciana officials were compelled to register the first black voter who had been allowed to register in over six decades. You can read about it here. To read of the hatred and abuse to which black citizens of this parish were subjected by whites, especially whites in power, as they tried to exercise their basic rights as American citizens – all this well within living memory – ought to occasion of shock and shame. This is our history, and it can’t be erased, and shouldn’t be.
On the other hand, times have changed. Must the law always treat West Feliciana as if it were forever the Jim Crow era? Are black residents who lost a free and fair election entitled to overturn results they don’t like, solely on the grounds that it reduces their political power? More to the point, in an era in which the United States is governed by a black president, and Louisiana is governed by a brown-skinned man of Indian heritage, is it really plausible, both morally and philosophically, to claim that people can only be properly represented by people of their own race? That one’s race determines one’s political identity?
At the meeting, the lawyer the Jury hired to help it navigate the redistricting concerns advised them strongly against putting Home Rule on the fall ballot in that meeting, absent a prior public hearing, on grounds that by doing so they would open themselves up to a lawsuit that would be expensive to defend against. That flipped the white juror’s vote for repeal; the two black jurors held their position. One of the black jurors was so angry at this advice that he said he didn’t care about a lawsuit. It became clear to me that this man, at least, cared little about the common good, or even basic prudence (after all, they could put it on the ballot later, after a public hearing), but only protecting his narrow interests.
It seems unjust to me that an open, democratic attempt to reform the parish’s governing structure could be torpedoed by a minority and the Justice Department, based on how things were here 50 years ago. Back then, schools were segregated. Black and white children here have been going to integrated schools for almost five decades. It is far from a racial utopia, but the world that my generation’s parents grew up in is hard for anybody aged 50 and under to comprehend. When will the South finally be allowed to get out from under Section 5? I’m not asking rhetorically; I really want to know how we will know that it is okay to allow people in the South to manage their own affairs like other Americans. I completely understand why Section 5 was necessary. But when does it end?
It may end next month, when the US Supreme Court rules on the constitutionality of Section 5. It looks like SCOTUS might toss it out. We’ll see. It’s interesting to me, though, to see this issue play out right here in my own backyard. Nota bene, I’ve heard today that the objections to Home Rule in West Feliciana are not only race-based. That may be, and I invited the reader who said so to explain the other objections. If she responds, I’ll put it on my blog. The white juror who was prepared to vote for repeal had explained to me earlier in the day that he thought reducing the number of jurors/commissioners from seven to five would make it harder to adequately represent the parish. At the meeting, thought, almost all the objections were stated in racial terms, and in a racial context, and that’s what the Justice Department will be looking at.