Covering Washington politics. From our vantage point. One day a time.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

At the White House: Black History Month Celebrations Continue

President Obama and First Lady Michelle continue Black History Month celebrations at the White House.   Earlier this month the first lady hosted a dance workshop with iconic dancers Judith Jamison and Debbie Allen, who at the age of 60 can still kick quite a high heel. Celebrating African American women in dance the East Room was transformed into a stage where 50 young school girls performed an array of dance routines later that evening.

On Monday the Black History recognitions continued when the cast, writers and executive producers of Underground descended upon the White House. Underground explores the extraordinary feats of heroism and genius of America's captive Africans as they fought daily for respect, human dignity, and above all - freedom - from American slave holders.

The cast of Underground poses for a group picture before attending the screening and discussion of the television series shown on the WGN network beginning March, 9.  Photo/CD Brown.
The television series stars Aldis Hodge, Jurnee Smollett-Bell, Alano Miller, Chris Meloni, Amirah Vann and Jessica de Gouw.  It is executive produced by music icon John Legend along with Anthony Hemingway and Akiva Goldsman and written and created by Misha Green.

Underground airs March 9 on the WGN America network.  For more information please visit

White House honors Ray Charles

On Wednesday, the White House honored music legend Ray Charles, summing up the final In Performance series of the Obama Administration.  The event included music heavy weights Yolanda AdamsLeon BridgesAndra DayAnthony HamiltonBrittany HowardDemi LovatoSam MooreJussie Smollett (brother of Jurnee Smollett-Bell), The Band PerryUsher and music director Rickey Minor.

From the White House:

“Smithsonian Salutes Ray Charles: In Performance at the White House” will be the sixteenth such program during President Barack Obama’s administration. From February 2009 to the most recent broadcast in January 2016, these “In Performance at the White House” events have honored the musical genius of Stevie Wonder, Sir Paul McCartney, Burt Bacharach, Hal David and Carole King; celebrated Hispanic musical heritage during Hispanic Heritage Month; marked Black History Month with events featuring the music of Motown, Memphis Soul, the Blues, and from the Civil Rights Movement; explored the rich roots of Gospel and Country music; spotlighted Broadway and the unique spirit of the American musical; and paid tribute to the cultural resonance of art and literature in unique American musical forms.

“Smithsonian Salutes Ray Charles: In Performance at the White House” will be broadcast Friday, February 26, 2016 at 9:00 PM ET on PBS stations nationwide (check local listings).  The program will also be simulcast on cable channel TV One.

YouTube has it all over
Even though the tribute will air this Friday, you can see snippets leaked on You Tube.  From the YT sight simply search 'Ray Charles tribute' to find gems like the one below.

See also: President Obama's tribute to Ray Charles |  Demi Lavoto's performance

Inventions of African Americans

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Virginia governor remarks on Dominion Virginia Power coal ash removal

*** Update to a previous story.  ***

Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe says the DEQ will follow EPA regulations for closing eleven Virginia coal ash ponds.

As we previously reported, demonstrators in opposition to how the DEQ will rid the coal ash upon closure of the ponds believe it will be disposed of in Richmond's James river.

Virginia State Police arrest coal ash demonstrators

McAuliffe did not indicate whether or not this would be the case, but said there is "no one who is stronger about protecting our environment" than DEQ Director David Paylor.  McAuliffe said he asked if there is anything that can be done to change the guidance for closing the ponds and said that Paylor is following EPA regulations.

"Unless they [EPA] change it we don't have much option", McAuliffe said.

When asked what he would say to Saturday's demonstrators McAuliffe said, "Talk to the EPA."


McAuliffe spoke during Monday's White House press briefing along side National Governors Association Chair Gary Herbert (R-UT) and said the DEQ will follow EPA regulations. McAuliffe is Vice Chair of the National Governors Association.

"So not only building capacity, but also maintaining what we already have in our roads and our bridges. And for Utah, another uniqueness is that we live in an arid state, so water is a big infrastructure need for us, too, to accommodate the demands of the marketplace." --  National Governors Association Chair Gary Herbert 

Sunday, February 21, 2016

Virginia Capitol Police arrest coal ash protestors at state capital

Michigan and Texas aren't the only states with water issues. About 200 protestors marched down the streets of Richmond, Virginia and demonstrated on the steps of State Capitol Saturday afternoon to protest Dominion Power's plans to dump millions of coal ash into the James River.

Eight people were arrested after demands by Virginia Capital police for the group to disperse after the group's 3:00 p.m. permit expired. Several protestors, ignoring those demands, linked arms together and remained on the capitol steps.  They were arrested one-by-one and charged with trespassing.

Virginia Capitol Police make arrests during demonstration to repeal
coal ass disbursement in Richmond, Virginia's James River.  Photo/CD Brown.
"I'm terrified to get arrested", said Meagan Neal one of the first protestors to get arrested.  "I don't want to be arrested but I also don't want coal ash in the James River and people have to stand up for that", Neal said.

Those arrested were given a summons to appear before a judge where they will have the opportunity to plead guilty, or not, to trespassing charges.

Repeal and rewrite

Protestors said they want the DEQ to repeal and rewrite permits that would allow Dominion to dispurse coal ash into the James River.

Federal regulations are requiring utility companies to close ponds were coal ash has been stored. Dominion currently has 11 such ponds and will need to rid those ponds, making the James River a likely dumping ground.

Dominion released the following statement on their website: "Dominion is committed to keeping the waterways in our communities clean. Closing the ash ponds will keep our rivers safe by preventing coal ash pond failures from occurring."   (Read more here).

Saturday's protestors demanded to speak to Virginia Governor Terry McAuliffe, who protestors say agrees with Dominion's plans.

"He promised to be a green governor then agreed to the ACP pipeline which is totally not for the environment", said Tatiane McCormick, of No ACP.

McAuliffe was not at the State Capitol and is Washington to attend the National Governor's Association Dinner.

Organizers have created an online petition that supporters can sign by texting "COALASH" to 384-70.

Photos from Saturday's coal ash demonstration.  Photos/CD Brown.
"This is something that if we don't address, they're going to continue to poison our children and influence our legislature", said Bob Brown, a graduate student who participated in the march.   "This is no longer an environmentalist issue, this is a bipartisan issue.  People are really understanding that this goes beyond idealogy or political party", he said.

The protest is reminscent of the relevation of the Flint Michigan water crisis. A protestor at Saturday's demonstration carried a sign that read, 'Are we the next Flint Michigan?'

"If we can't have clean water, we have nothing", said Andrew Tyler, a Cherokee and Pamunkey Indian.  "Water is necessary for the sustenance of life", he said.

See also
2012 White House response to coal ash
Helpful: 20 point list of priorities to Flint water crisis 

Friday, February 19, 2016

Faith and civil rights groups have Black History Month meeting with the president

President Obama met with Faith and Civil Rights leaders Thursday at the White House where the group discussed issues important to the African American community. Attendees included Attorney General Loretta Lynch, Attorney Benjamin Crump of the National Bar Association and members of Black Lives Matter. Representative John Lewis and civil rights activist C.T. Vivian, who received a Presidential Medal of Freedom from President Obama in 2013, also attended the meeting.

The president said the group discussed criminal justice reform, the work of grassroots organizations like Black Lives Matter, and creating a schools-to-college-to-jobs-pipeline in an effort to eliminate the school-to-prison pipeline. (Today, the administration launched two campaigns, in partnership with MBK, to address and eliminate chronic student absenteeism).


After their meeting with the president a few attendees met with reporters along the White House driveway. Reverend Al Sharpton of The National Action Network and Marc Morial of the National Urban League remarked on unemployment, jobs, health care and President Obama nominating a replacement for Chief Justice Antonin Scalia who died last weekend.

Said Sharpton, "We first encouraged the president to move ahead with his Supreme Court nomination and that we collectively will resist any effort by the Senate to undermine The Constitution. We see that as a civil rights violation."

The group said Congress should not wait to select a replacement.

"Congress needs to do their job", said NAACP president Cornell William Brooks.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

President and Vice President on the death of Chief Justice Antonin Scalia


For almost 30 years, Justice Antonin “Nino” Scalia was a larger-than-life presence on the bench -- a brilliant legal mind with an energetic style, incisive wit, and colorful opinions.
U.S. Supreme Court Judge Antonin Scalia.
 He influenced a generation of judges, lawyers, and students, and profoundly shaped the legal landscape.  He will no doubt be remembered as one of the most consequential judges and thinkers to serve on the Supreme Court.  Justice Scalia dedicated his life to the cornerstone of our democracy:  The rule of law.  Tonight, we honor his extraordinary service to our nation and remember one of the towering legal figures of our time.

     Antonin Scalia was born in Trenton, New Jersey to an Italian immigrant family.  After graduating from Georgetown University and Harvard Law School, he worked at a law firm and taught law before entering a life of public service.  He rose from Assistant Attorney General for the Office of Legal Counsel to Judge on the D.C. Circuit Court, to Associate Justice of the Supreme Court.

     A devout Catholic, he was the proud father of nine children and grandfather to many loving grandchildren.  Justice Scalia was both an avid hunter and an opera lover -- a passion for music that he shared with his dear colleague and friend, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg.  Michelle and I were proud to welcome him to the White House, including in 2012 for a State Dinner for Prime Minister David Cameron.  And tonight, we join his fellow justices in mourning this remarkable man.

     Obviously, today is a time to remember Justice Scalia’s legacy.  I plan to fulfill my constitutional responsibilities to nominate a successor in due time.  There will be plenty of time for me to do so, and for the Senate to fulfill its responsibility to give that person a fair hearing and a timely vote.  These are responsibilities that I take seriously, as should everyone.  They’re bigger than any one party.  They are about our democracy.  They’re about the institution to which Justice Scalia dedicated his professional life, and making sure it continues to function as the beacon of justice that our Founders envisioned.

     But at this moment, we most of all want to think about his family, and Michelle and I join the nation in sending our deepest sympathies to Justice Scalia’s wife, Maureen, and their loving family -- a beautiful symbol of a life well lived.  We thank them for sharing Justice Scalia with our country. 

God bless them all, and God bless the United States of America.


Statement by Vice President Biden on the 
Passing of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia 

Jill and I send our deepest condolences to Maureen and the entire Scalia family on the loss of their beloved husband, father, and grandfather. Justice Scalia and I had fundamental disagreements about how the Supreme Court interprets the Constitution, but we shared a belief that sharp debates, tough questions, and deep respect for the adversarial process was an essential part of our judicial system and our democracy. That’s how our rule of law—forged with the deep principles and convictions of justices, and laid out in majority decisions and minority dissents—becomes the model for the world. For the country, Justice Scalia will be remembered as one of our most influential justices, who inspired and challenged generations of students, clerks, lawyers, and judges. And for so many, he will be remembered as a mentor, dear friend, and a man devoted to his faith and his family, who will miss him most of all, and who we will keep in our prayers.


[ 10 Scalia Quotes]
- - - - - - -



As a mark of respect for Antonin Scalia, Associate Justice of the United States, I hereby order, by the authority vested in me by the Constitution and laws of the United States of America, including section 7 of title 4, United States Code, that the flag of the United States shall be flown at half-staff at the White House and on all public buildings and grounds, at all military posts and naval stations, and on all naval vessels of the Federal Government in the District of Columbia and throughout
the United States and its Territories and possessions until sunset, on the day of interment.

I also direct that the flag shall be flown at half-staff for the same period at all United States embassies, legations, consular offices, and other facilities abroad, including all military facilities and naval IN WITNESS WHEREOF, I have hereunto set my hand this thirteenth day of February, in the year of our Lord two thousand sixteen, and of the Independence of the United States of America the two hundred and fortieth.


# # #

"'The nature of marriage is that, through its enduring bond, two persons together can find other freedoms, such as expression, intimacy, and spirituality,'" he quoted from the majority opinion before adding, "Really? Who ever thought that intimacy and spirituality [whatever that means] were freedoms? And if intimacy is, one would think Freedom of Intimacy is abridged rather than expanded by marriage. Ask the nearest hippie."

Republicans, thinking they will win the 2016 election, want the next Supreme Court Justice selected after the next presidential election.
"The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new President." - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky).

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

DOJ is #SuingtheCity of #Ferguson Over Civil Rights Violations

From DOJ press release.

Attorney General Loretta E. Lynch announced today that the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit in U.S. District Court against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, alleging a pattern or practice of law enforcement conduct that violates the First, Fourth and 14th Amendments of the Constitution and federal civil rights laws.
“Today, the Department of Justice is filing a lawsuit against the city of Ferguson, Missouri, alleging a pattern or practice of law enforcement conduct that violates the Constitution and federal civil rights laws,” said Attorney General Lynch.  
“The residents of Ferguson have waited nearly a year for their city to adopt an agreement that would protect their rights and keep them safe.  They have waited nearly a year for their police department to accept rules that would ensure their constitutional rights and that thousands of other police departments follow every day.  They have waited nearly a year for their municipal courts to commit to basic, reasonable rules and standards.  But residents of Ferguson have suffered the deprivation of their constitutional rights – the rights guaranteed to all Americans – for decades.  They have waited decades for justice.  They should not be forced to wait any longer.”
The lawsuit, filed pursuant to Section 14141 of the Violent Crime Control and Law Enforcement Act of 1994 and Title VI of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 (Title VI), alleges that the city of Ferguson, through its police department and municipal court:
  • conducts stops, searches and arrests without legal justification, and uses excessive force, in violation of the Fourth Amendment;
  • interferes with the right to free expression in violation of the First Amendment;
  • prosecutes and resolves municipal charges in a manner that violates due process and equal protection guaranteed by the 14th Amendment; and
  • engages in discriminatory law enforcement conduct against African Americans in violation of the 14th Amendment and federal statutory law.  
See also:

Ferguson Mayor declares suit will bankrupt the city (that bankrupts its citizens).

“We just could not afford the proposal as it stood,” Knowles says. “It would absolutely bankrupt us.”

Knowles has vowed to fight the DOJ lawsuit saying, “We know that it’s cheaper to fight it in court.”

See also Colossans 3:25 - For he who does wrong will receive the consequences of the wrong which he has done, and that without partiality.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

In wake of the Zika virus, travel, spring break still O.K.

Representatives from the CDC and the NIH were on hand at the White House during Monday's press briefing to update the public and address concerns over the Zika virus that has caused some babies to be born with deformities.

Dr. Anne Schuchat from the Centers for Disease Control and Dr. Tony Fauci from the National Institutes of Health told reporters that a vaccine is in the making.   The pair also said they are particulary concerned about women who are pregnant, or plan to get pregnant, who have either traveled to or plan to travel to areas of South America and the Carribean known to have the Zika virus.

Despite those bold statements, the doctors said there is no wide-spread concern and that Americans should continue to travel, including during upcoming college spring breaks --  when college students travel to warmer climate destinations to escape winter weather.

"Travel to Zika-affected areas is very common among Americans, and we don’t think that needs to stop", said Dr. Schuchat.

"We do think it’s important for people who are pregnant or may be pregnant to be aware of the risks, and for their sexual partners to be aware of the risk as well.

So we’re not canceling spring break. We’re telling people who are pregnant you may not want to go."

[Read: Who's Afraid of Big Bad Zika?]

**Update** -  April 11,2016 White House Press Briefing, Zika update here.

Monday, February 8, 2016

First Lady Obama Hosts Youth Dance Workshop To Celebrate Black History Month

First Lady Michelle Obama hosted a dance workshop Monday at the White House for 51 local Washington, D.C. students to commemorate Black History Month. The 2016 theme is “Honoring the Past While Celebrating the Present; 7 Years of Living African American History.”
Students shake hands with the first lady before Q&A with workshop dance panelists.
The first lady often invites youth to the White House as an opportunity for them to hear from successful Americans in a learning and encouraging environment. 
Click the play button to see the powerful student dance performances.

The day concluded with four dance demonstrations: African, Modern, Ballet and Hip-Hop.

 "But today isn’t just a special day for me, it’s really a special day for our entire country.  Because for nearly 50 years, the women who are gracing us here today have been driving a force in the cultural life of this nation.  From tribal rhythms to freedom songs, from modern dance to hip hop, their work has stirred our souls and ignited our imagination.  Through dance, they have told the stories of who we were, who we are, and who we can be."   ---  First Lady Michelle Obama

Check out Instagram pics here, and here.

Friday, February 5, 2016

President Obama comments on the passing of Earth, Wind and Fire's Maurice (Reese) White

POTUS Facebook post on the passing of Maurice White.

Michelle and I were saddened to hear of the passing of Maurice White. With his brothers and bandmates of Earth, Wind and Fire, Maurice fused jazz, soul, funk and R&B into a quintessentially American sound that captured millions of fans around the world. 

Their playlist is timeless, the one that still brings us together at birthdays and barbecues, weddings and family reunions.

Only Maurice could make such sophisticated songs so catchy. Only he could inspire generations of such diverse artists. And only he could get everyone – old and young, black and white – to let the groove move them on the dance floor. Our thoughts and prayers are with Maurice’s family, friends and bandmates. 

He is the shining star in heaven tonight.


Maurice White photo, courtesy of

Mr. 51 Meets Mr. 44

It isn't their first meeting, but sure may have been the most fun.

Golden State Warriors' power three-point man Stephen 'Steph' Curry and the rest of the 2015 NBA Champions were honored by President Obama Thursday in the East Room of the White House.

While the star of the Warriors media room, and Steph Curry's daughter, Riley, wasn't in attendance to witness her dad being honored (and joked on) by the leader of the free world she was certainly in his thoughts.

"Now, let me begin by saying I was hoping that Riley Curry would be here today to share the podium with me, but I guess I'm going to have to get media training some other day."

The president referenced Curry's 51 points scored in the 134-121 win over the Washington Wizards Wednesday, 33 of them via his signature three-point arsenal.

"For those of you who watched the game against the Wizards last night", said the president, "he was, to use slang, he was clowning."

Then the president 'demonstrated' the Curry Clowning move himself.

The Warriors brought home the championship, 40 years in the making, after defeating LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers in Game 6, 105-97.

Warriors in the community.

The Warriors were also recognized by the president for their work in the community.

Among the many activities the team has been a part of the president's My Brother’s Keeper initiative, by promoting mentoring in the Bay Area and nationwide. The team also supports the city’s Oakland Promise effort to help more kids make it through college; have taken a stand against gun violence and have worked with First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move initiative.

Said the president, "They’ve dressed up as Santa to deliver Christmas presents to those in need.  And the first time I met Steph was because he had partnered with the U.N. Foundation to donate three anti-malarial mosquito nets for every three-pointer he makes.  So last night, that’s 33 nets.  So keep shooting, Steph.  Not that he needs any encouragement, obviously."

'Phones up' as attendees use smartphones to photograph the president and the Golden State Warriors.

For honoring them, the team presented the president with a honorary #44 jersey (protocol when championship sports teams are honored by the president). The president autographed an official NBA game ball for the Warriors.  The team also offered #44 a spot on the team's roster, post presidency.

Said Warriors' head coach, Steve Kerr, "You can consider this a symbol of an offer that’s coming. We want you as soon as your duties are done here in the White House; we’d like you to be the leader of Dub Nation."

"I'm ready to go", responded the president.

After the East Room celebration 

The team 'honored' the media afterwards by taking questions in the stakeout area of the White House.

What we learned

Steph Curry is pulling for the Carolina Panthers in Super Bowl 50 (he's from North Carolina).  "I'm excited to watch them play, and hope they get it done."

On Chasing 73, the phenomenom comparing the Championship Warriors and the 1995 Champions Chicago Bulls (that head coach Steve Kerr was a part of) Coach Kerr said, "We're chasing  46.  That's our next goal." (The team is currently 45-4).

Steph and Riley will have a lot to talk about when Steph gets back home.   "We'll talk about normal stuff.  I haven't seen her in a week, so we'll have a lot to talk about", he said.

Uh, yeah, we're sure you will, Steph Curry.  You just met the president at his home.

A few pics at the stakeout with the Warriors.

Scenes from the stakeout area at the White House with the Warriors.  Photos/CD Brown.

Coach Steve Kerr takes questions from the media. 

Warriors' forward Draymond Green speaks to the media.

Teens shows off autographed Warriors championship cap.

Photos by CD Brown