The Time Has Come. The Time Is Now.

This week in Washington, debate was supposed to begin on a bill to address climate change and clean energy. The effort led by Senators Kerry, Graham and Lieberman is one of, if not the most important effort, underway in Washington right now. If done correctly, and of course, the final bill has not been seen and much of what is in it is still up for debate, this single bill could be one of the most important legislative events of our lifetime.

The issues addressed in the bill go far beyond whether or not global warming is real (it is) but this bill gives us a chance to move our society forward, create a new country, a new non-fossil fuel based economy, reduce our dependence on foreign oil, and create jobs, all right now.

This bill has opposition.

Namely, the oil and dirty energy companies who want to make more money.

Any change has opposition, but the opposition to a brighter future should not now, or ever, become the basis for not reaching for that future. Every significant piece of positive change has come over significant opposition. In fact, the more important the issue, the greater the potential for a brighter future, the greater the opposition.

This fundamental fact of life has seemingly created an atmosphere in Washington that dictates that it's kindergarten time in our nation's capitol and everyone must agree if we are to do anything. Actually, it's just the opposite. The stronger the opposition, the more likely it is that you are on the track for positive change.

The clearest example of this in my mind is the Civil Rights Act of 1964, a powerful piece of legislation whose passage, rooted in the lingering memories of the Civil War, literally threatened to tear our country apart. Politicians who supported it were threatened in a way that no Senator is ever going to be threatened for supporting solar energy. Why? Because all the italicized sections below were actual laws, passed by states around our country.

These laws were supported by local and state governments around the country. And they were wrong.

For example,

Nurses: No person or corporation shall require any white female nurse to nurse in wards or rooms in hospitals, either public or private, in which negro men are placed. Alabama

Buses: All passenger stations in this state operated by any motor transportation company shall have separate waiting rooms or space and separate ticket windows for the white and colored races. Alabama

Now, think about this for a moment. In 1963 and 1964, as Southern President worked to create a coalition of leaders to change these laws, what would have happened if they had stopped because of opposition from the Southern bus companies? Or railroads and restaurants?

Railroads: The conductor of each passenger train is authorized and required to assign each passenger to the car or the division of the car, when it is divided by a partition, designated for the race to which such passenger belongs. Alabama

Restaurants: It shall be unlawful to conduct a restaurant or other place for the serving of food in the city, at which white and colored people are served in the same room, unless such white and colored persons are effectually separated by a solid partition extending from the floor upward to a distance of seven feet or higher, and unless a separate entrance from the street is provided for each compartment. Alabama

People were killed in the South for standing up for change to these laws. Death threats were the norm, but the leaders of the day in Washington didn't say this is too hard, they didn't say we need to tackle other issues first, they looked at the laws, at the fundamental injustices, and the powerful chance for positive change and they moved forward.

Pool and Billiard Rooms: It shall be unlawful for a negro and white person to play together or in company with each other at any game of pool or billiards. Alabama

Intermarriage: The marriage of a person of Caucasian blood with a Negro, Mongolian, Malay, or Hindu shall be null and void. Arizona

Cohabitation: Any negro man and white woman, or any white man and negro woman, who are not married to each other, who shall habitually live in and occupy in the nighttime the same room shall each be punished by imprisonment not exceeding twelve (12) months, or by fine not exceeding five hundred ($500.00) dollars. Florida

The issue with the debate on climate change is one of money, just like we have seen Senate Republicans stand up for Wall Street as they, and to be honest, many Democrats as well, line their pockets with cash from Wall Street. No oil company, no dirty energy company is going to support the kind of change we need right now, immediately, to start to restructure our country for the future.

Education: The schools for white children and the schools for negro children shall be conducted separately. Florida

Juvenile Delinquents: There shall be separate buildings, not nearer than one fourth mile to each other, one for white boys and one for negro boys. White boys and negro boys shall not, in any manner, be associated together or worked together. Florida

Mental Hospitals: The Board of Control shall see that proper and distinct apartments are arranged for said patients, so that in no case shall Negroes and white persons be together. Georgia

I agree with the argument that it has been a generation since Washington has actually passed a real piece of legislation as powerful as the Civil Rights Act, the Voting Rights Act or the Clean Air Act and the time has come for us, each of us, to demand action. We certainly deserve action on more than just climate change but we need action right now. We must make our voice heard.

At NRDC, they are asking people to make their voice heard on the White House Facebook Wall - click here to find out more. We also need the leadership in the Senate to lead, the best way to do that is to tell Harry Reid that the time has come, the time is now. You can do that by clicking here.

Amateur Baseball: It shall be unlawful for any amateur white baseball team to play baseball on any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of a playground devoted to the Negro race, and it shall be unlawful for any amateur colored baseball team to play baseball in any vacant lot or baseball diamond within two blocks of any playground devoted to the white race. Georgia

Parks: It shall be unlawful for colored people to frequent any park owned or maintained by the city for the benefit, use and enjoyment of white persons...and unlawful for any white person to frequent any park owned or maintained by the city for the use and benefit of colored persons. Georgia

Wine and Beer: All persons licensed to conduct the business of selling beer or wine...shall serve either white people exclusively or colored people exclusively and shall not sell to the two races within the same room at any time. Georgia

In the mid 1960s, there was a US Senator named Everett Dirksen from Illinois. He was a supporter of Vietnam, one of the biggest hawks on that war, and he was a very conservative Republican. How conservative? Well he beat out a more liberal Republican Senator to become Minority Leader, and that Senator happened to be from Kentucky.

Everett Dirksen worked with Lyndon Johnson to pass the Civil Rights act, it was Dirksen who said "there is no force so powerful as an idea whose time has come." Dirksen was well aware of all of these laws that were in states like Arizona, Wyoming, Georgia, Alabama, Florida.

Reform Schools: The children of white and colored races committed to the houses of reform shall be kept entirely separate from each other. Kentucky

Circus Tickets: All circuses, shows, and tent exhibitions, to which the attendance of...more than one race is invited or expected to attend shall provide for the convenience of its patrons not less than two ticket offices with individual ticket sellers, and not less than two entrances to the said performance, with individual ticket takers and receivers, and in the case of outside or tent performances, the said ticket offices shall not be less than twenty-five (25) feet apart. Louisiana

Housing: Any person...who shall rent any part of any such building to a negro person or a negro family when such building is already in whole or in part in occupancy by a white person or white family, or vice versa when the building is in occupancy by a negro person or negro family, shall be guilty of a misdemeanor and on conviction thereof shall be punished by a fine of not less than twenty-five ($25.00) nor more than one hundred ($100.00) dollars or be imprisoned not less than 10, or more than 60 days, or both such fine and imprisonment in the discretion of the court. Louisiana

Dirksen and other leaders of the day knew that equal rights, civil rights for all men and women, was an idea whose time had come.

Our leaders today know the same thing. Every state in our country and every country in our world is facing the challenges and costs of climate change. The time is now, the time has come.

Consider this one last Jim Crow law to know how deeply ingrained, in our states and in our laws, racism was in those days. How can someone who can not see be offended by the person they can not see?

The Blind: The board of trustees shall...maintain a separate building...on separate ground for the admission, care, instruction, and support of all blind persons of the colored or black race. Louisiana

Sponsor of SB1070 doesn't understand it. The Daily Show does (and doesn't like it)

From the Restore Fairness blog.

Three simple images. Dora, Eric from Chips, and a serial killer. Now guess – who looks “reasonably suspicious” of not having papers and therefore should be stopped and questioned by the Arizona police as per it’s new law, SB1070?

That’s the question Daily Show host Jon Stewart asked on the show last night, referencing the images above. Calling out the “draconian new immigration law” for being an affront to democracy by requiring people to carry their documents on them, he likened it to a time in the pre-civil rights era when newly freed black slaves were required to carry IDs. Jokes apart, the staged sketch gave us a little taste of what life could be like if SB1070 was, in fact, enforced in Arizona. It was the same question posed to Governor Jan Brewer, when signing the bill into law, to which she replied, “I don’t know what an undocumented immigrant looks like?”

Confusion around the bill is rife. In an interview on MSNBC’s Hardball with Chris Matthews, co-sponsor of the bill Senator Huppenthal agreed that it would be racial profiling were officers to check the status of someone based on “reasonable suspicion”, thereby going against the statute of the bill that he signed into law. About 8 mins. into the clip, Chris Matthews asks Senator Huppenthal -

Under the law you passed and was signed by the governor this week, can a police officer who spots a car with five or six people in it, who he thinks because of instinct, experience, whatever, evidence, whatever you use— can he stop that car and say, I think these people are here illegally, I‘m going to stop and check them?  Can he under the law do that, without any crime involved?  Can he do that?

After hedging the question, Senator Huppenthal answered-

You know, the racial profiling was illegal before this bill. It‘s illegal after it.  The bill itself makes it illegal…No, he cannot.  That would be – that would just simply be racial profiling, and that would not be permitted under the law.

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Since its passage, civil rights groups, advocacy groups and President Obama have critiqued SB1070 for practically mandating racial profiling and violating fundamental notions of fairness. Clearly, when its co-sponsors cannot articulate its impact, then its effects will be even more adverse. These are already being felt on Arizona’s economy and tourism as calls for an economic boycott come to light, even as Governor Brewer continues to deny any wrongdoing. Meanwhile Phoenix Mayor Phil Gordon has taken a strong opposition stand to what he considers an unconstitutional and unenforceable law, including approaching the Phoenix City Council to give their support to a lawsuit filed by the city of Phoenix to prevent the laws implementation because of its effects on civil rights and costs associated with its wrongdoings.

SB1070 is going to have ripple effects. For the state of Arizona, for its potential copycat effect across the nation, and for the ideals of equality and justice. Take action now and stop this dangerous law from being implemented.

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Sponsor of SB1070 doesn't understand it. The Daily Show does (and doesn't like it).

From Restore Fairness blog

Three simple images. Dora, Eric from Chips, and a serial killer. Now guess - who looks "reasonably suspicious" of not having papers and therefore should be stopped and questioned by the Arizona police as per it's new law, SB1070?

There's more...

Opposition to Civil Rights and Support for Big Banks in KY-SEN

The Senate primaries in Kentucky grow stranger and stranger by the day. In the Repub primary, Dr. Rand “Ron’s Son” Paul has said that he opposes all civil rights legislation, and in the Democratic primary, you have to wonder if Lt. Gov. Dan Mongiardo would have been only the second Democrat to oppose Wall Street reform in yesterday’s cloture vote.

In an editorial refusing to endorse either candidate in the Repub primary, the Louisville Courier Journal wrote of Paul and secretary of state Trey Grayson (emphasis my own):

[Grayson] is positioning himself to be a loyal foot soldier in Mr. McConnell's destructive, dishonest effort to undermine virtually every initiative from the Obama administration. The trouble with Dr. Paul is that despite his independent thinking, much of what he stands for is repulsive to people in the mainstream. For instance, he holds an unacceptable view of civil rights, saying that while the federal government can enforce integration of government jobs and facilities, private business people should be able to decide whether they want to serve black people, or gays, or any other minority group. He quickly emphasizes that he personally would not agree with any form of discrimination, but he just doesn't think it should be legislated…

Mr. Grayson seems to have been blindsided by [Paul’s insurgent success]. He seems physically and mentally dazed, and uncomfortable in his own skin as he responds by rolling out extreme right-wing positions. His rapid movement to the far right leaves many wondering what he really stands for.

One of the two Democratic candidates isn’t much better. Yesterday, Nebraska’s Ben Nelson was the only Democrat to oppose Wall Street reform, but if Mongiardo were a sitting Senator he might have been the second. At a recent forum, Mongiardo said that “too-big-to-fail” isn’t a problem: “These banks and these insurance companies didn't fail because they got too big; they failed because they deregulated. Regulations had been in place for decades and generations.” His Democratic opponent, however, state Attorney General Jack Conway, has shown a sharper understanding of the problem: “Some of those companies got too big and it's because they had these silly derivatives that they hid from the public.” To be fair, the scandal-plagued Mongiardo has called on fellow Kentuckian Mitch McConnell to stop blocking regulatory reform, but he was awful silent while McConnell was lying up a storm about the bill’s substance, and has virtually echoed the Repub leader’s language on health care reform.

Thankfully, polls show that this race can be a bright spot for Democrats in an otherwise dark year – but it won’t be worth it if we nominate Mongiardo. He might be a little better than the two Repubs, but who cares when the guy’s already to the right of Ben Nelson and Blanche Lincoln? If he’s this conservative now, how much worse will he get outside of a Democratic primary?

Conway has picked up a lot of momentum lately, including support from the Kentucky Professional Firefighters Association, Steelworkers Local 14581, Teamsters Local Union No. 651, Daily Kos, the Louisville Courier-Journal, and the Northern Kentucky Enquirer. He’s closed the gap in the polls against Mongiardo, and can win the primary on May 18 – but only if the Netroots put him over the top. Please, help a progressive brother out and donate to the Conway campaign.

SNL takes on SB1070. Urgency for reform more than ever.

rom the Restore Fairness blog.

When Saturday Night Live’s Weekend Update (at 27 minutes) made fun of Arizona’s new law, it sounds closer to the truth than ever.

This week Arizona signed the toughest illegal immigration law in the country, which would allow the police to demand identification papers from anyone they suspect is in the country illegally. I know there are some people in Arizona worried that Obama is acting like Hitler, but can we all agree that there’s nothing more Nazi than saying, `Show me your papers? There’s never been a WWII movie that didn’t include the line, “Show me your papers”. It’s their catchphrase… So heads up Arizona, that’s fascism. I know, I know, it’s a dry fascism, but it’s still fascism.”

Immigration has finally made headline news. Unfortunately it took Arizona to pass a law like SB1070 that effectively mandates racial profiling for the nation to take notice of the mess that the immigration system is in. While mainstream news outlets featured the harsh anti-immigrant bill and its implications on their weekend programming, outraged immigrant rights organizations have upped the ante on mobilizing for comprehensive immigration reform.

As Governor Jan Brewer signed SB1070 into law last Friday, thousands of protesters were gathered outside Arizona’s Capitol building in Phoenix, kneeling in prayer and silent protest against the bill. Even after a week of tireless vigils, rallies, petitions and letters urging Governor Brewer to veto the bill, protesters did not give up, mobilizing large-scale rallies in Arizona and around the country through the weekend. It started with Rep. Raul Grijalva calling for an economic boycott of Arizona as a consequence of SB1070, a move which led to the closure of his Tucson and Yuma offices after receiving threats of violence.

I am asking national organizations across this country, civic, religious, of color, unions, women’s organizations, not to have their conferences and conventions in this state, until we rectify this law.

In a massive rally outside the Arizona State Capitol over the weekend, leaders and civil rights activists addressed thousands of protesters about the necessary steps that must be taken to oppose SB1070 on the grounds that it is a direct affront to the civil rights of the people of Arizona. Rep. Raul Grijalva continued his calls for an economic boycott, calling on the Obama administration to oppose the new law by refusing to cooperate with local law enforcement in Arizona saying -

We’re going to overturn this unjust and racist law, and then we’re going to overturn the power structure that created this unjust, racist law.

Rep. Luis Gutierrez denounced the Obama administration’s inaction on immigration reform and the federal 287(g) program which he held responsible for setting a precedent for Sen. Russell Pearce’s SB1070 law.

Let me just say, every time the federal government said that you can carry out a 287(g) extension, you gave Arizona an excuse to do 1070…Now it is time to say no more excuses, no more enforcement-only actions. It is time to bring about comprehensive immigration reform once and for all.

In New York, Reverend Al Sharpton referred back to the civil rights movement, saying he would organize “freedom walkers” to challenge the Arizona bill.

We will go to Arizona when this bill goes into effect and walk the streets with people who refuse to give identification and force arrest.

President Obama seems to be feeling the pressure, speaking on the pledging his commitment to enlist bipartisan support for reform and seeing its lack as a key reason for the Arizona bill-

Our failure to act responsibly at the federal level will only open the door to irresponsibility by others.  And that includes, for example, the recent efforts in Arizona, which threatened to undermine basic notions of fairness that we cherish as Americans… if we continue to fail to act at a federal level, we will continue to see misguided efforts opening up around the country.

DHS Secretary Janet Napolitano followed suit denouncing the bill on the grounds that-

The Arizona immigration law will likely hinder federal law enforcement from carrying out its priorities of detaining and removing dangerous criminal aliens. With the strong support of state and local law enforcement, I vetoed several similar pieces of legislation as Governor of Arizona because they would have diverted critical law enforcement resources from the most serious threats to public safety and undermined the vital trust between local jurisdictions and the communities they serve.

We can only hope that horrific as it is, the anti-immigrant bill has raised the urgency for immigration reform. This pressure will culminate on May 1st when immigrant rights organizations convene rallies in many parts of the country to drive home the urgent need for just and humane immigration reform.

If you are outraged at SB1070 and its overt violation of human rights, write to Governor Brewer and tell her what you think.

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