^ Attorney General Eric Holder : sues to protect Texas voters

—- —-

Any worry we may have had, that the Supreme Court’s recent decision to throw out the 40-year-old criteria supporting Section 5 of the 1965 Voting Rights Act might interrupt Attorney General Eric Holder and the Justice Department from protecting Americans’ voting rights, has proved wrong. The Justice Department has moved right ahead anyway, under Section 4 of the act — which requires a finding of actual discriminatory inhtent — to block Texas from so discriminating.

We approve the DOJ’s move. Fully approve it.

No right, other than that of life itself, is more basic to everyone’s equality in our democracy than voting rights. Texas has sought for quite some time now to undermine the voting power of voters its dominant Republican party does not like. This must be fought every step of the way. It is wrong, it is immoral.

The Department of Justice is now moving in Federal Court to enjoin the Texas legislature’s newly drawn State House and State Senate districts — maps that shove voters the Republicans want no part of into districts such voters cannot win. Specifically, the Attorney General Holder asserts that the Texas Republican party is discriminating against Hispanic voters in favor of White voters. Not one week after the Supreme Court ruling, the Texas GOP pushed its manoeuvered map through the legislature and into law. The intent is plain.

If the Federal Court agrees, the GOP map will be blocked. That is the first step. The next step is to get the Court to set up its own panel to draw such legislative districts as will treat all voters fairly. It has been done before, in other states, and not only under the Voting Rights Act.

Holder and his law staff have many issues they can take up with Texas. The state’s radical new abortion restriction law is one; the state’s refusal to offer health insurance to 25 % of Texans is another. School curricula, pay equity for women, and the nation’s most harshly administered criminal law all demand Federal intervention wherever legal means can be found to do so. The first step, though, is to protect every Texan’s equal vote. The DOJ is taking that step. We hail its doing so.  

The need for DOJ intervention may also arise in North Carolina, where a regressive new legislature is repealing some civil rights gains that took half a century to achieve. We support the DOJ for the North Carolina mission as well, if needed — indeed we support the DOJ’s protection of voters’ equality wherever such protection is put at risk by backward powers.

—- The Editors / Here and Sphere



^ surveillance photo at Upham’s Corner, Dorchester, showing Amy Lord, in gym clothes, getting out of passenger side of her Jeep to withdraw money at ATM per her kidnapper’s orders.

Just when we in Boston have had about all that we can stand of murder most foul, of murder trials, of murder testimony and murder graphics, our city has awoken to the happening of yet another murder — one more than foul; a murder beyond explication. Amy E. Lord, a 24-year old gal living in South Boston — reputedly one of our safest neighborhoods — was, it appears, kidnapped by two men (the police think it was two — but see update at the end of this report), forced to withdraw her money at ATM’s, then stabbed to death and her corpse dumped in scruffy woods several miles away, in Boston’s Hyde Park section.

Lord grew up in Wilbraham, a flat-land suburb bordering Springfield, a once-booming, former mill city 100 miles west. She had moved to the “big city” — for Boston is that, to kids living in our state’s back areas — to make her way in the world; and was, it seems, doing so, as a web designer; not spectacularly but in an ordinary, tech-savvy, 21st century way. “If you had a daughter, you would want her to be like Amy,” her grandfather Donald Lord is quoted as saying. A great many daughters are, indeed, like Amy must have been. That is what most unsettles us. Murder beyond foul is not supposed to happen to daughters like Amy Lord.

Her killer or killers did not stand outside a seedy dive in Boston’s Theater district looking for streetwalkers to hijack — some killers do do that. The killer(s) did not break into a millionairess’s loft in the tony Back Bay, looking for jewels and riches — some killers do that, too. Nor were they, it seems, sexual predators on a rape spree — that, too, more than once happens, depressingly. These killers weren’t terrorists, or athletes night-shifting as gang-bangers, or big name mobsters — all of which are on trial, or soon to be on trial, right now in our city, living through our time as America’s Grand Central station of high-profile murder. Amy Lord was none of this. Nor were her killers. They, appear to have been as ordinary as she. This is what unsettles us most.

They (or he) wanted money, ordinary money; probably for drugs — an ordinary craving. They found an ordinary girl, forgetting, or not giving a damn, that ordinary people, too, have families and friends who care about them. People in crisis, like streetwalkers, have advocates. Millionairesses have big money lawyers and influential relatives. Attack a streetwalker or a millionairess, and you will face heavy, institutional retribution. This is known. But attack an ordinary person ? Who is there to defend her but her ordinary family ?

So might think the killing mind, if it thinks at all when kidnapping, robbery and murder pushes it to act.

They kidnapped her at an ordinary time — 56AM — when many tech-ies are already awake and up, getting ready for work, which in many tech companies begins at 7 AM. They robbed her by ATM machines — as routine as money gets.

The robbing of ATM kiosks was over at 6,47, the BPMDtells us. 47 minutes. Not much longer than savoring a latte at Starbucks.

Everything about the murder of Amy Lord ws ordinary, as ordinary as life is good, which it ordinarily is, for most of us, even though it has its stressful stretches — and these stressful times are ordinary too. But that murder should be an ordinary part of an ordinary life, that is the shocking thing, the inexplicable, the frightful. It is not merely hyperbole to say that Amy Lord is us. She WAS us. Her murder murders a part of us too.

Let us grieve….

—- Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

UPDATE at 12.45 PM : Police have now concluded that it was only ONE man who kidnapped, robbed, and killed Amy Lord, and that he beat her seriously inside her apartment building before ordering her into her Jeep — which he hijacked — to withdraw money.


UPDATE # 2 :  Boston Police still are not ready to make an arrest, even though they have a suspect in custody in another South Boston mugging that occurred the same morning. It is thought that said suspect is involved in the Amy Lord murder.  This morning the suspect, one Edwin Alemany, age 28, was found mentally incapable of attending an arraignment. He is now at Bridgewater State Hospital for the Criminally Insane, undergoing the standard 21-day psychiatric evaluation.   (This update at 8.40 P,M. 07/25/13)



^ Hillary Clinton : beats all opponents

McClatchy Newspapers and Marist have just published a full poll of the Presidential race. It shows that Hillary Clinton beats all challengers, most by double digits:

Clinton v. Chris Christie : Clinton 47 Christie 41
Clinton v. Jeb Bush : Clinton 48, Bush 40
Clinton v. Marco Rubio : Clinton 50, Rubio 38
Clinton v. Rand Paul ; Clinton 50, Rand Paul 38
Clinton v. Paul Ryan : Clinton 53, Ryan 37
Clinton v. Rick Perry ; Clinton 52, Perry 36.

as for the Dem primary, it’s Clinton 63, Biden 13, Cuomo 6.

This poll mirrors those already released by Quinnipiac University and Public Policy polling (PPP). Those polls show Clinton carrying Virginia against all comers and doing the same in iowa and Ohio except against Chris Christie, who ties her in those two states. Clearly, Hillary Clinton right now is the clear favorite to become our next President — If she runs.

Moreover, her huge numbers over Vice President Joe Biden, in the Democratic Primary, make clear that voters do NOT see Hillary as a continuation of the Obama Presidency. Indeed, it appears that they see Hillary as the opposite of him. this is bad news for those GOP pundits who want to assert that after eight years of Obama, it is time for a change. Hillary Clinton IS that change — at least she is how voters see it.

^ Chris Christie : competitive against Clinton and favored by GOP voters

We have also been opining that the above results guaranteed that neither Christie nor Jeb Bush will get the GOP nomination. After all, they run competitively. And to the GOP base, being competitive with a Democrat means compromising with the unthinkable. But the McClatchy/Marist poll of Republican Primary voters indicates that we were wrong. It looks now as though we were wrong. Tea Party loudmouths, fake God preachers, and Tea-district Congressmen may view compromise with Democrats as anathema, but GOP Primary voters appear to favor Chris Christie, whose career has symbolized GOP-Democrat co-operation and mutual respect.

Here is the McClatchy/Marist GOP primary result :

Christie 15
Ryan 13
Rubio 12
Paul 9
Bush 9
Cruz 7

To the GOP loudmouths and haters, Christie is “dead to me.” that is how they talk of him. But to the GOP’s voters, Christie is more alive than any of the other hopefuls, several of whom look rather much like “dead.”

Maybe Chris Christie can do it — win the 2016 GOP nomination. If so, the GOP will be at least useful again to most people — an instrument of policy, not venom.

— Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere



^ Detroit : on the move at Movement

Three weeks ago Here and Sphere published Susan Domitrz-Sapienza’s extensively researched story on the comeback of Detroit. As she noted, the economy of “Automobile City” had already reached its bottom and was — and is now — expanding along several lines newly established. The decision of the city’s state-appointed manager to file a Chapter 9 (Municipal) bankruptcy petition would seem, at first, to contradict our reporter’s finding. In fact, the Chapter 9 filing conforms our reporter’s conclusion.

To learn why, one needs to know a bit more about bankruptcy law than the common perception. Most people think of the word “bankruptcy” as the end, a kind of giving up the ghost. This perception is false. There are two kinds of bankruptcy cases. The one that most people think of is “liquidation,” in a liquidation, yes: the petitioner is in fact giving up the ghost — is ending things. There is, however, an entirely different kind of bankruptcy petition : the “reorganization.” In a reorganization filing, the petitioner seeks to restructure its affairs so that they can prosper again. All municipal, Chapter 9 filings are reorganizations.

The reorganizing petitioner seeks to — must — present a reorganization PLAN to the bankruptcy trustee appointed to the case, for approval by its creditors, the Trustee, and the Court. So,me corporate reorganizations fail, but a municipal reorganization cannot : cities have tax revenues that must be paid, and these are quantifiable. all that a city’s reorganization plan needs to is match tax revenues — and maybe also the proceeds of sales of city-owned real estate — to debts. Clearly, in such reorganization, the city’s creditors (including its pensioners) will probably be offered less than full repayment; and yes, each class of creditors must separately approve the reorganization plan. Many amended plans may be filed. But a city’s revenue can be counted on, and, as a reorganization plan may take up to five years to perform, the city’s revenues over that period are likely to offer creditors a fair return.

In addition, financing is often available to reorganization debtors after they file that was not available before ; because (1) post-filing debt is not included in the bankruptcy and thus is not subject to payment of less than full amount due and (2) the reorganization plan, as it becomes an order of court, makes the city’s post-filing credit standing easy to compute. A Detroit bondholder, for example, can readily exchange pre-filing bonds for post-filing bonds, if such are offered.

So much for the bankruptcy law as it applies to the Detroit filing.

The bigger point is that no bankruptcy petitioner files a reorganization until its finances look promising enough for it to present a feasible Plan. Such is the case with Detroit. Its finances are improving. real estate is selling fast. New businesses are starting up. Chrysler’s Jeep Cherokee plant is booming — as was reported recently in the Bew York Times. The Movement EDM Festival is bringing thousands of young visitors to the city on Memorial day weekend. Artists are setting up shop in Detroit, where rents for lofts are cheaper than cheap. Real estate tax revenues will only increase.

All of which is why Detroit’s bankruptcy filing signals the city’s recovery, not its failure.

—– Michael Freedberg / Here and Sphere

Coffee or Vodka? Parenting 911 SUMMER SAVVY-SUMMER SMART

Coffee or Vodka? Parenting 911


summer survival kit logo

Dear: Parenting 911

I’m a mother of 2 under the age of 6, my youngest Ari is 3 1/2 years old and Conner-Joel is 5.  Since it is summer — weekend after weekend, I find myself neck-deep in — cook-outs, birthday parties, weddings, family gatherings, and beach/park days. Although most of these should be pure fun  for my little family; I feel as if I’ve headed out on an endless mission. No matter how much I prepare for these events — I still find myself running back home for one thing or another, often more than once — it surely puts a damper on any summer fun that may have ensued. I attempt to plan ahead — but the kids always have me rattled and frenzy-ish before ever leaving the house — causing me to always be unprepared. Since my husband is a Sargent in the military, he is rarely…

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^ James Risen : testify or go to jail, says the Appeals Court

We awoke today to find that the Federal 4th Circuit Court of Appeals has overturned a District Court decision that freed New York times reporter James Risen from having to testify in a criminal prosecution by the Justice Department. The Appeals Court has just decided, 2 to 1, that he DOES have to testify.

Risen can, of course, refuse to testify — and go to jail. What a choice.

The case at hand is a trial involving leaked C. I. A. data. shades of Ed Snowden and the “secret’ FISA Court. We know what the Justice department did with that one. But Ed Snowden is not a reporter, and his disclosures are not protected Free Speech. 

The District Court had opined, strongly, that there is, within the First Amendment, a “reporter’s privilege,” by which reporters need not disclose their sources even in the context of a Federal criminal prosecution. The District court argued that to not grant reporters at least some area of “privilege” would crimp free speech itself. For if sources know that the reporter they talk to will have to disclose them, those sources might decide not to talk at all. And thus a story that the reporter has a First Amendment right to publish won’t get published notwithstanding.

The District Court opined that safeguarding the right to publish trumped any governmental interest in having story sources disclosed. We agree with the District Court. We strongly disagree with the Appeals Court’s reversal.

The Risen case is hardly the first one in which the Federal government has forced reporters into jail rather than disclose a source in a criminal prosecution context. The most infamous recent occasion was that of New York Times reporter Judith Miller, who chose jail in 2005 rather than reveal who had disclosed to her that Valerie Plame was a CIA operative. Not until her source voluntarily came forward was Miller released.

All such Federal court deecisions begin with the case of Branzburg v. Hayes, a 5 to 4, 1972 Supreme Court decision (408 U.S. 665) involving a reporter’s refusal to testify before a grand jury. In Branzburg the High Court said :

“The First Amendment does not relieve a newspaper reporter of the obligation that all citizens have to respond to a grand jury subpoena and answer questions relevant to a criminal investigation, and therefore the Amendment does not afford him a constitutional testimonial privilege for an agreement he makes to conceal facts relevant to a grand jury’s investigation of a crime or to conceal the criminal conduct of his source or evidence thereof.”

Ominous it was that the 1972 High Court chose to see the reporter’s refusal to reveal sources as “concealing facts.” The reporter who safeguards a source is not “concealing facts.” Those facts remain factual and can be found by other means. The reporter not revealing his source is, rather, protecting the publishing a story that the public has an interest in — a right to know. If that isn’t a First Amendment interest, what is ?

The Appeals Court now says, “Clearly, Risen’s direct, firsthand account of the criminal conduct indicted by the grand jury cannot be obtained by alternative means, as Risen is without dispute the only witness who can offer this critical testimony.” Is this so ? Is it “clear” ? Is Risen “without dispute the only witness who can offer this critical testimony” ? It is not “clrear’ at all; the source can also testify. And why isn’t anything said to Risen by his source hearsay when testified to by Risen ?

Judge Roger Gregory dissented. His dissent expresses our view too : “Under the majority’s articulation of the reporter’s privilege, or lack thereof, absent a showing of bad faith by the government, a reporter can always be compelled against her will to reveal her confidential sources in a criminal trial,” Gregory wrote. “The majority exalts the interests of the government while unduly trampling those of the press, and in doing so, severely impinges on the press and the free flow of information in our society.”

“The free flow of information.” Indeed. In an era when an Ed Snowden can be pilloried and chased from airport to airport, what is left of “the free flow of information” ? Only that information that the government doesn’t mind us knowing. But the First Amendment was established to protect ALL information, especially and chiefly such information as the powers do not want us to know.

Most often THAT is the information that really MATTERS.

—– The Editors / Here and Sphere



^ Gary Beck : two hands on the wheels

Facing a dance floor so crowded that almost every dance move required shoving, techno hot-shot Gary Beck, making his first RISE appearance, dropped one of the most passionate techno sets this writer has ever attended. Using Traktor with two CDs and one mix-board, Beck imposed his excitations on almost every minute of the music. He mixed with both hands, all the time, often impelled by his body action. Many DJs dance for dancing’s sake at the mix board; Beck made mix moves of his dance moves.

He played mostly his own works; and as he has more than plenty of tracks to his credit, he nowhere near exhausted his crate. His sound is a seductive thing, flaunting ghouls’ smiles and glints of flirt talk. These pop in and out of, or ride alongside, a bottom ramble that has more flesh on its bones than one hears in almost any other techno. At RISE it played out lasciviously : the well-known hit “Diva”; the sentimental glimmer of “Vaag”; the clamor and rapture of “Before the Crash”; and — peak moment — lots of “in your face” girl talk atop the bristling bottoms of “Video Siren.” Plus many more Beck tracks put onto fans since he first came to world-wide attention about five years ago.

Heft and heave are Beck’s action. Set to classic train-ride rhythm narratives — of roll and chug, saunter and strut, his muscle tracks carried the RISE dancers’ bodies along with them. Beck made it feel pleasurable to just move, move, and move; and as he inserted barely a handful of pause breaks into his trip of continuity, the dancers had few opportunities to stop moving. Not that they wanted any.

Beck’s basic DJ move is the quick-cut, a mix  technique first devised back in the disco years, whereby the performer jumps from one track to another without warning — no overlaying, no dissolve, just a leap of faith. Beck’s quick cuts slammed one track’s lift off against the next track’s stride — using the jump mix to ramp up the power of his music. Again and again he quick-cutted beat to voice, voice to beat, and beat to bigger beat. After getting slammed by such an energy burst, the RISE dancers found Beck’s runs of rumble — themselves as heated as most DJs’ mix bursts — almost easy to ride.

Thus it was that Beck’s three hours of slam, flirt, and rumble raised his set from mere music to a peak of body, soul, and spirit; a party so non-stop that few who exercised in it will soon forget. No wonder that the crowd included many local connoisseurs of techno, DJs included. Their being on hand was no mistake.

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^ Camilo Serna at the RISE mix-board

Almost as fascinating a performance was Camilo Serna’s set of crunch and rumble. This was Colombian Inependence Day, and many at RISE were there to celebrate with their fellow Colombian as much as to see Beck. Serna wore a studious look, the face and delicate body of a nerd. Twenty years ago, guys who look like Serna would be seen jamming in an indie-rock band. Today they are DJs like Serna, all business at the RISE mixboard, an expression of absolute concentration on his face as he dropped a tangle of ferocious soulful beats.

—- Deedee Freedeberg / Feeling the Music



If you’ve seen Sam Peckinpah’s masterfully macabre “Straw Dogs” (let’s all please agree to forget the far inferior recent remake) then you’re already up to speed on what happens in “The Hunt” : quiet European hamlet; a mindful and reserved intellect with a complex past; slow constant simmer; sexual tension; strong reactions based on false assumptions; and a gentlemanly hunt in the woods serving as a ruse for a deeper more perverse game at hand.

Though the arc, ambiance and elements of the two films bear many acute similarities, the context and articulation could not be further apart. Mads Mikkelsen — whom most US viewers know as Hannibal in the self-titled NBC TV series, or as the European bad-ass who bashed in Bond’s balls in “Casino Royale” — plays Lucas, a quiet man trying to gain some degree of custody of his teen son in the aftermath of a bitter divorce. As a caregiver/instructor at a nursery school, he’s pretty well liked and respected by his peers and his charges — by some, perhaps a little too much. Tow-headed Klara (Annika Wedderkopp) takes his kindness for something more and, after a failed furtive kiss, which Lucas quickly and sternly rebuffs, she becomes angry and tells her parents (who happen to be Lucas’s best friends) and the school head, in vague terms, that Lucas did something to her. Then later, after Klara catches a glimpse of smut on her brother’s iPad and the adults try to further educe from her what exactly transpired, it only takes a few dark slanted inferences for the toxic charge of pedophilia to erupt.

The film directed by Dane Thomas Vinterberg (“The Celebration”), a Dogme 95 compatriot of Lars con Trier, leverages its remote Danish townlet setting where justice is administered by elected elders and enforcement, when needed, comes from somewhere afar, so as the rumor billows and emotions flare. There’s a heated call for immediate action–one that will not wait for outside mitigation– as slices of vigilante retribution begin to rain on the accused. Lucas’s son stands by him, as does his new girlfriend, an immigrant cafeteria worker who’s fearful of losing her job and being deported; but in the end Lucas must stand alone against the amassing throng, and boldly so, not unlike Dustin Hoffman’s nebbish in Peckinpah’s bloody classic.

The niggling to “The Hunt” can’t be put onto Mikkelsen or any of the actors, who are sharp and heartfelt in their roles. Mikkelsen’s rendering of internal turmoil, malaise and depressed entrapment, dutifully echoed by the grim, washed-out primal atmosphere etched by Vinterberg, drives the film with purpose. Still, the logic and the obvious questions not asked by normally rational minds both undermine the overall effort. The premise of a town turned inward by accusation and mob justice is a piquant one, it’s just too bad Vinterberg didn’t bring a more spirited dog to the fight.

—- Tom Meek / Meek at the Movies


Here and Sphere note —- as aftermath to the Zimmerman case and to President Obama’s dramatic speech, a conversation and then some has begun in America’s Black communities and among commentators. High on our list of cutting edge commentators is Ron Wynn, of Nashville, TN, who speaks out on Being Black in America with an insistence that reminds us of Bill Press speaking out on progressive politics. we at here and Sphere highly esteem both men, but especially Ron Wynn, whom we are honored to call personal friend.

Being Black in America — and the raw topic of black on black violence that is part of the general conversation — are talks that every American of good will should at least listen closely to, maybe even join. Thus the following Guest Editorial shall serve to begin that conversation at Here and Sphere.


^ news commentator Ron Wynn of Nashville, TN

Wynn : “The current issue of Ebony magazine has the third in a continuing series on crime and violence in the Black community, this one focusing on Chicago. Time’s array of articles on race and the Martin verdict include a lengthy column by Philadelphia mayor Michael Nutter on the need for less talk and more action in regards to killings and crime in Black neighborhoods. These on top of a series of columns, essays, and articles I’ve seen on  Black websites ranging from Black Voices and Black America com. to The Root and Black Agenda Report. I mention this only because I still see people saying that no one’s talking about nor cares about crime in Black neighborhoods, and in particular Blacks who kill other Blacks. If you want to believe that, fine, but there’s ample evidence that shows you are incorrect making that statement.me in Black neighborhoods. These on top of a series of columns, essays, and articles I’ve seen

A friend of Wynn’s then commented thus : “This should also serve as a reminder to folks (or a revelation) that Ebony Magazine has dealt with the Black-On-Black crime matter as far back as 1979. I remember and still have this copy of the publication.

WYNN : “There are a few (just a few) truly concerned people in the Black community who honestly haven’t seen these articles or know about the ongoing battles against crime that many have been fighting for years. But much of this rhetoric is standard right-wing deflection stuff, designed to try and quell the anger over the unjust Martin verdict. The people at National Review or on the Wall Street Journal editorial board could care less how many Black people died in Chicago on any weekend.

Wynn also attended a Nashville area protest of the Trayvon Martin / Zimmerman verdict. Here is his report  :

“Incredible experience this afternoon at the Federal courthouse. For almost two hours (actually close to three since I got there 45 minutes early) a diverse crowd that truly represented the spectrum of Nashville got together to hear words of wisdom, inspiration, information and education at the prayer vigil for Trayvon Martin. But it was much more that just a vigil. Speaker after speaker urged all of us to do more than just show up today and go home. Voter registration, community advocacy and citizen participation were repeatedly emphasized, and a host of viewpoints were represented during the event. I was thrilled to see so many of my friends and others I didn’t know by name, but were delighted to see. A truly memorable event.”:

You can (and should) connect to Ron Wynn at Facebook. Meanwhile, Here and Sphere shall be reposting his Facebook reports on Being black in America from time to time as we go forward.