Justice Clarence Thomas takes his extreme views to a new level

Clarence_Thomas_official_SCOTUS_portraitIn case you missed it, the U.S. Supreme Court issued an important decision yesterday when it overturned the conviction of an African-American man from Georgia whose trial featured some of the most outrageous, race-based behavior by prosecutors you can imagine. Basically, as Chief Justice Roberts detailed in his opinion, prosecutors did everything they could to keep people of color off the jury and then left a paper trail of their outrageous behavior. The decision to overturn was 7-1.

Sadly and weirdly, Justice Clarence Thomas was the lone dissenter. Here’s Ian Millhiser explaining at Think Progress:

It is tough to imagine a more egregious case of jury discrimination than Foster v. Chatman. The prosecutor’s office in this Georgia death penalty case struck every single black member of the jury pool. They made four copies of a list of prospective jurors, highlighting every African-American on the list in green next to a legend indicating that such highlighting “represents Blacks.” An investigator working for the prosecution advised prosecutors that “if it comes down to having to pick one of the black jurors,” then one in particular “might be okay.” A note on one of the prosecution’s internal documents suggested that the office did not want a particular juror to be seated because of the juror’s membership in a “Black Church.”

And yet, even with all of this evidence and more at his fingertips, Justice Clarence Thomas said that the Court should not rule that unconstitutional jury discrimination took place in this case.

Fortunately for Timothy Foster, the death row inmate who was tried under these conditions, Thomas was alone in this view. All seven other members of the Court agreed that Foster’s constitutional rights were violated (although Alito did so in a separate opinion that only he joined).

Though Mr. Foster prevailed, the case is a window into why individuals alleging that their convictions were tainted by jury discrimination rarely succeed in court. In many jurisdictions, including Georgia, attorneys in criminal cases are permitted to strike jurors from a jury pool using “peremptory challenges.” Normally, these challenges can be exercised for any reason. Under the Supreme Court’s decision in Batson v. Kentucky, however, such challenges may not be used to engage in “purposeful racial discrimination.” Read more


Whatever the Charlotte City Council does now, the fight for LGBT equality will go on

NO-HB2The Charlotte City Council backed off a plan to “repeal” the anti-discrimination ordinance that gave rise to HB2 last night. Good for the seven members who took that action — though the fact that they ever started to go down that road was a huge mistake.

First of all, the notion that there needed to be a “repeal” of a law already invalidated by the General Assembly didn’t make any sense. If the ball is in anyone’s court on this matter, it’s the legislature’s and Governor McCrory’s. Even if there is to be some kind of a compromise on this issue, it cannot involve HB2 staying in effect. The repeal of HB2 is the first thing that has to happen.

But even if the Council had caved into pressure from the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, here’s an important thing we now know about this debate: it wouldn’t have changed anything. The boycotts would still continue and North Carolina would still be a national pariah and laughingstock.

The simple fact at this point is that the issue is already too far down the road for the Charlotte City Council to somehow walk things back. North Carolina is at the epicenter of a huge national and international fight over basic equality for LGBT people and it’s not going to end until state leaders admit that they were wrong and agree to guarantee basic rights — the right not to be fired, the right not to be discriminated against in public accommodations and, yes,the right not to be denied access to a bathroom simply because of who you are.

Commentary, News

BREAKING: Charlotte City Council pulls anti-discrimination ordinance discussion from tonight’s agenda

The Charlotte Observer reports a bit of what appears to be good news:

“The Charlotte City Council will not discuss the economic impact of House Bill 2 at its meeting Monday, the city announced Monday afternoon.

That means there also will be no vote on repealing the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance that was approved in February.

Legislative leaders in Raleigh have asked council members to repeal the city’s nondiscrimination ordinance that provided legal protections to the LGBT community, even though HB2 nullified almost all of that ordinance.

In return, the General Assembly could modify HB2, in hopes of ending the impasse.”

Click here to read the rest of the story.


Fabulous cartoon series explains America’s exploding inequality

Alvin Chang at Vox had a fabulous post this morning that illustrates America’s exploding inequality in 20 on-the-money cartoons. Here’s the intro and cartoon #1:

“Something massive and important has happened in the United States over the past 50 years: Economic wealth has become increasingly concentrated among a small group of ultra-wealthy Americans.

You can read lengthy books on this subject, like economist Thomas Piketty’s recent best-seller, Capital in the Twenty-First Century (the book runs 696 pages and weighs in at 2.5 pounds). You can see references to this in the campaigns of major political candidates this cycle, who talk repeatedly about how something has gone very wrong in America.

Donald Trump’s motto is to make America great again, while Bernie Sanders’s campaign has focused on reducing income inequality. And there’s a reason this message is resonating with voters:

It’s grounded in 50 years of reality.

You can see lots of discussion and debate and political fighting over who has wealth in America, and whether that should change. Or, you can look at the the cartoon below to understand how the distribution of wealth has changed in America, and why.

Let’s say the 100 figures below represent every household in America

The poorest 20 percent are wearing red shirts. The second 20 percent are wearing orange, and so on:

Click here to see all 20 cartoons.


HB2 update: Is Charlotte City Council planning to back down?

HB2Worrisome and perplexing news from the Queen City this morning: there are indications that the Charlotte City Council may take action tonight to “repeal” all or part of the human rights ordinance it adopted in March as some sort of olive branch to the state lawmakers behind HB2. The effort is being driven by the Charlotte Chamber of Commerce, which says that such an action would represent “an overture” to state lawmakers who might then modify the HB2 law. Here’s the Charlotte Observer:

“Under the proposal, the Charlotte City Council would remove the ordinance from its books, even though House Bill 2 nullified almost all of it. In return, the legislature would modify some of HB2, the controversial law that, along with other provisions, requires people in government facilities to use the bathroom that matches their birth certificate.”

In response, equality advocates around the state and nation have derided the proposal as an absurd and destructive step. Advocates at Progress North Carolina distributed an action alert this morning that said the following:

“The Charlotte Chamber of Commerce is pressuring the Charlotte City Council to repeal their non-discrimination ordinance.

We’re hearing there could be a vote as early as tonight. Repealing the non-discrimination ordinance would send a terrible message to the LGBT community.

Here are two things you can do today to help Charlotte stand up to the bullies in Raleigh:

  1. Send a message to the Charlotte City Council and urge them to keep their non-discrimination ordinance and protect their stand for equality.
  2. Attend the City Council meeting tonight at 5PM at the Charlotte-Mecklenburg Government Center – 600E 4th Street. We need all the folks who are able to show up and make it clear that the community supports this ordinance and stands against HB 2.”

Stay tuned.