Friday, February 13, 2015

Last Call For Flowers In Concrete

I've been relatively silent on the decision by Little League International to strip the 2014 World Championship from Chicago's Jackie Robinson West squad, mainly because of the boiling rage the prospect has enkindled in my heart. The indispensable Dave Zirin manages to explain better than I ever could the heart of the problem: race and gentrification of cities like Chicago.

As for the decision itself, ironies abound. Jackie Robinson West was the first entirely black team to represent the United States in the Little League World Series. And yes, waiting until Black History Month to strip JRW of their title is at best tin-eared. But that insult shouldn't blind us to the greater injury. Recall their damnable offense: Jackie Robinson West didn't use 16-year ringers or cork their bats. They had players suit up who lived “beyond their geographical boundary”. The fact that the adults in charge of JRW felt the need to breach this rule perhaps has something to do with the fact that today’s urban landscape supports baseball about as well as concrete makes proper soil for orchids. A plurality of Major Leaguers is made up of people from either the US suburbs or the baseball factories of the Dominican Republic. Many of the few African American players on Major League rosters actually come from the suburbs. This is because 21st century neoliberal cities have gentrified urban black baseball to death. Boys and Girls Clubs have become bistros. Baseball fields are condos and in many cities, Little League is non-existent. The public funds for the infrastructure that baseball demands simply do not exist, but the land required for diamonds are the crown jewels of urban real estate. That's what made JRW such a profound anomaly. In Chicago particularly, which under Mayor Rahm Emanuel has seen school closures and brutal cuts to physical education programs, their success made people believe that—with apologies to Tupac—flowers could in fact grow in concrete.

And the fact that these boys had a championship ripped away from them because of literally where they lived just has me seeing red.

I'm glad Zirin wrote this column.  Give it a read.

Friday News Dump: The Big Kitz-Off

And it's official: Oregon Dem Gov. John Kitzhaber is resigning effective Wednesday, February 18th. His resignation statement is a doozy.

I am announcing today that I will resign as Governor of the State of Oregon.

It is not in my nature to walk away from a job I have undertaken – it is to stand and fight for the cause. For that reason I apologize to all those people who gave of their faith, time, energy and resources to elect me to a fourth term last year and who have supported me over the past three decades. I promise you that I will continue to pursue our shared goals and our common cause in another venue. 
I must also say that it is deeply troubling to me to realize that we have come to a place in the history of this great state of ours where a person can be charged, tried, convicted and sentenced by the media with no due process and no independent verification of the allegations involved. But even more troubling – and on a very personal level as someone who has given 35 years of public service to Oregon – is that so many of my former allies in common cause have been willing to simply accept this judgment at its face value. 
It is something that is hard for me to comprehend – something we might expect in Washington, D.C. but surely not in Oregon. I do not know what it means for our shared future but I do know that it is seriously undermining civic engagement in this state and the quality of the public discourse that once made Oregon stand out from the pack. 
Nonetheless, I understand that I have become a liability to the very institutions and policies to which I have dedicated my career and, indeed, my entire adult life. As a former presiding officer I fully understand the reasons for which I have been asked to resign. I wish Speaker Kotek and President Courtney and their colleagues on both sides of the aisle success in this legislative session and beyond. And I hope that they are truly committed to carrying forward the spirit of bipartisanship and collaboration that has marked the last four years in Oregon.

Oregon's Secretary of State, Democrat Kate Brown, will succeed him in the office (Oregon has no Lt. Governor) and she will be the first bisexual governor in US history, but she's not without her political controversies either.

Brown will have almost two years to govern before facing voters for the right to fill out the rest of Kitzhaber’s term, but Republicans are already critical of her record and stumbles during her first term as secretary of state. She angered Republicans when she scheduled an election for state Labor Commissioner in November 2012, rather than in May. 
Republicans said the decision was an overtly political act aimed at saving the Democratic nominee, Brad Avakian, who won. She fired several employees, including her chief of staff and the head of the state’s elections division, amid the criticism. Most major papers in the state endorsed her Republican opponent in 2012, though she won reelection in a favorable Democratic year. 
Brown also took fire for a letter she sent to the Federal Communications Commission in support of Comcast’s bid to take over Time Warner. The tech Web site The Verge reported that Brown’s letter was drafted by a Comcast lobbyist after the company contributed nearly $10,000 to her secretary of state campaigns. Brown has refused to answer questions about the letter.

We'll see how soon-to-be Governor Brown fares.  Meanwhile, if any political crisis consultants are looking for a new client to take on, I'd start in Salem..

Be Careful What You Wish For

There are some in the House GOP Tea Party brigade that want Mitch McConnell to end the filibuster completely in order to take Senate Democrats out of the equation for the next two years, starting with the Republican bill to defund President Obama's immigration actions.

A growing number of House GOP conservatives are pressuring Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Thursday to invoke the "nuclear option" and change the chamber's rules to pass a bill defunding President Obama's executive actions on immigration.

Reps. Raúl Labrador (R-Idaho) and Tim Huelskamp (R-Kan.) said McConnell should change Senate rules, so the House-passed Department of Homeland Security (DHS) funding bill, which includes language to revoke Obama's immigration-related actions, can bypass a Democratic filibuster in the upper chamber. 
Rep. Mick Mulvaney (R-S.C.) also endorsed the idea at a Thursday news conference. He said there’s a “way to change the rules to allow us to move forward” and “take away the ability to filibuster.”

Rep. Mo Brooks (R-Ala.) was the first House Republican to advocate such a rules change Wednesday evening, arguing that now-Senate Minority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) had established a precedent during his time in the majority.

But Senate Republicans don't see the point with Obama sure to veto the bill anyway, and they know that only holding the upper chamber with a four-seat lead means the Dems will someday be back in charge.

“The answer is not to change Senate rules,” Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) said during the same news conference at which Mulvaney spoke. "The answer is for Senate Democrat not to be obstructionists.”

“I don’t think that’s an option we’re looking at right now,” freshman Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) added, arguing that things should move forward according to current Senate rules.

However the House Tea Party is getting pissed.  They see Obama winning and they want to change the game somehow.  Never mind that it's the Senate GOP who has to do the work here.

Labrador suggested Senate Republicans should just "pack up" and go home if they "don't want to fight" on the DHS funding issue.

"If they don't want to fight, if they don't want to work, if they don't want to do the hard work that is necessary to do the will of the American people, then maybe they just need to pack up, and they need to decide that for the next two years, we're just not going to do anything in the Senate," Labrador said.

Otherwise, Labrador argued, Senate Republicans might as well hand the majority back over to the Democrats.

"If we're going to allow seven Democratic senators to decide what the agenda is of the House Republican conference, of the Senate Republican majority, then we might as well just give them the chairmanships, give them the leadership of the Senate," he asserted.

Why, this doesn't look like a united front to me.  It looks like Republicans are in charge of a branch of Congress with approval ratings in the teens, and they are now 100% responsible for the mess.

Be careful what you wish for, folks.


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