Offering asides, recommended links, blogworthy quotations, and more, In Brief is the Northwest Progressive Institute's microblog of world, national, and local politics.


A lone tree stands in the foreground in this view from a highway bisecting Willamette Valley fields

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Earth entering new extinction phase, new study finds

A new study jointly conducted by three American universities has found that the Earth has entered a new period of extinction – with humanity possibly among the first casualties. The BBC has a summary of the findings.

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Jon Stewart opened last night’s episode of The Daily Show with commentary in place of comedy following a white supremacist’s terrorist attack on a black church in Charleston. Explaining that he had been unable to come up with any jokes, the longtime Comedy Central host delivered a short, off-the-cuff monologue before cutting to commercial and returning to begin a conversation with that night’s guest, Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai (ملاله یوسفزۍ in Pashto).


Despite mourning, South Carolina’s Confederate battle flag remains at full staff

Charleston’s newspaper of record reported earlier today that the government of South Carolina has kept its Confederate battle flag – a symbol of the state’s dark, racist history – flying above the statehouse, even in the wake of the mass murder of nine South Carolinians at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church.

MSNBC’s Chris Hayes asked disgraced ex-Republican governor Mark Sanford (now serving in the U.S. House of Representatives) how he can defend the flag’s presence atop the state’s seat of government. Sanford promptly trotted out the predictable nonsense about it being part of the state’s heritage.

This is a fabrication. As political scientists James Michael Martinez, William Donald Richardson, Ron McNinch-Su note in their well-researched book Confederate Symbols in the Contemporary South, published by the University Press of Florida:

The battle flag was never adopted by the Confederate Congress, never flew over any state capitols during the Confederacy, and was never officially used by Confederate veterans’ groups. The flag probably would have been relegated to Civil War museums if it had not been resurrected by the resurgent KKK and used by Southern Dixiecrats during the 1948 presidential election.

Historian Gordon Rhea, an expert on the history of the Deep South, made the same point more recently in an address to the Charleston Library Society:

It is no accident that Confederate symbols have been the mainstay of white supremacist organizations, from the Ku Klux Klan to the skinheads. They did not appropriate the Confederate battle flag simply because it was pretty. They picked it because it was the flag of a nation dedicated to their ideals: ‘that the negro is not equal to the white man’. The Confederate flag, we are told, represents heritage, not hate. But why should we celebrate a heritage grounded in hate, a heritage whose self-avowed reason for existence was the exploitation and debasement of a sizeable segment of its population?

It’s time for the people and elected representatives of South Carolina to decide which century they belong. Is it the nineteenth century or the twenty-first century? If it’s the latter, they should take the Confederate battle flag down.

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Before mass murder at Mother Emanuel, a long history of attacks in Charleston

South Carolina’s capital city has an ugly history of racially-motivated violence, writes New York Times Magazine contributor Douglas Egerton.


I hope I’m not going to get castigated for saying this by my priest back home, but I don’t get economic policy from my bishops or my cardinals or my pope.

— Republican presidential candidate Jeb Bush, making it clear he picks and chooses what teachings of the Catholic Church he wants to accept… something that conservative Catholics have attacked progressive Catholics over for years.


When Mexico sends its people, they are not sending their best. They are not sending you. They are sending people that have lots of problems, and they are bringing those problems to us. They are bringing drugs and they are bringing crime, and they’re rapists.

— Real estate tycoon and joke presidential candidate Donald Trump, attacking the people of Mexico in one of the many pathetic, absurd moments from his “official” announcement that he’s seeking the Republican nomination (via Boing Boing).



You can call them crazy dreamers, or naive. But I’m rooting for them. It’d be great to call something a “citizens’ initiative” again that doesn’t completely sell out the meaning of the words.

— Seattke Times columnist Danny Westneat: Initiative 735 volunteers working to make sure ‘the small potatoes matter’.

Transit planning exercise

Snapshot of a transit planning exercise at Redmond City Hall. In this exercise, workshop participants used sections of waxy string to allocate transit service at different frequencies. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)


A white person identifying strongly with African Americans and African American culture is not a problem at all. The more the merrier in understanding who we are and our place in this nation’s history. A white person running a chapter of the NAACP is not a problem, either. That’s someone so down with the cause that they are putting their time, energy and clout into public activism on behalf of fellow Americans. But a white person pretending to be black and running a chapter of the NAACP is a big problem.

— Jonathan Capehart: The damage Rachel Dolezal has done

Jarrett Walker leads a workshop

Facilitator Jarrett Walker leads a transit planning workshop at Redmond City Hall to help NPI’s hometown collect input to give to Metro and Sound Transit. (Photo: Andrew Villeneuve/NPI)


What really needs adjusting here today is the no-compromise, no-amendment attitude on trade… This vote wouldn’t be so close if this process hadn’t been so closed.

— Representative Lloyd Doggett (D-Texas), speaking after President Obama made an eleventh-hour visit to the House Democratic caucus on Capitol Hill to pitch fast-tracking the Trans-Pacific Partnership (via The Huffington Post).



We’re a nation that put a man on the moon… We are operating a vehicle remotely on Mars. But our railroads have not yet implemented a technology that is existing, it’s feasible and affordable.

— Senator Richard Blumenthal, explaining why he’s opposed to giving railroads four more years to implement Positive Train Control (via The New York Times).

Recommended Link

Scientists are coming up with ‘last ditch’ remedies to mitigate climate crisis

With humanity making little progress combating the climate crisis, some scientists are toying with last-ditch ideas for cooling a rapidly warming planet. Bloomberg has more.

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Republican pledges $175 million to push party to take climate crisis seriously

A North Carolina executive is pouring his own money into an effort to sway people in the Republican Party to take the climate crisis seriously. Politico reports.

Recommended Link

Blue states top list of states where abortions have declined the most, AP survey finds

Research by the Associated Press has found that the number of abortions being performed across the United States has declined over the last five years. The biggest declines actually came in blue states like Hawaii, where access to clinics that perform abortions has not been curtailed. This correlates with a decline in the teen pregnancy rate and improved access to reproductive healthcare.




Only an insane person and only in a dream can imagine that Russia would suddenly attack NATO.

— Russia’s Vladimir Putin, declaring that the United States, Canada, and the European Union have no need to fear his country.


Beau Biden brought to his work a mighty heart. He brought to his family a mighty heart. What a good man. What an original. May God bless his memory, and the lives of all he touched.

— Closing lines from President Barack Obama’s eulogy of Beau Biden, delivered earlier today at his funeral Mass in Wilmington, Delaware.


Florida court records show Marco Rubio and his wife are extremely careless drivers

The New York Times has uncovered court records which show that Republican presidential hopeful Marco Rubio and his wife, who reside in Florida, are extremely careless drivers. The couple have been repeatedly cited for speeding (including in a school zone), failing to obey a stop sign, and lacking insurance.

In total, the pair have been cited seventeen times. That’s right: Seventeen!

There’s a saying that people who cannot be trusted in small matters cannot be trusted in large ones. This isn’t to say that driving a car is a small thing – distracted or careless driving can mean the difference between living and dying out on the road – but driving a car is a small thing compared to driving a country.

Marco Rubio’s driving record doesn’t reflect well on him as a person or as a candidate. It’s evidence of recklessness and disregard for the well-being of others.

If Rubio can’t be bothered to set a good example as a motorist, he’s not someone Americans can trust to be an elected leader at any level.


I call on Republicans at all levels of government, with all manner of ambition to stop fear-mongering about a phantom epidemic of election fraud and start explaining why they are so scared of letting citizens have their say.

— Democratic presidential frontrunner Hillary Clinton, holding Republicans accountable for their attacks on voting rights (via The Hill)

Chat Transcript

Rubio on Iraq: “It’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation.”

REPUBLICAN PRESIDENTIAL CANDIDATE MARCO RUBIO: I think we have a responsibility to support democracy. And if a nation expresses a desire to become a democratic nation, particularly one that we invaded, I do believe that we have a responsibility to help them move in that direction. But the most immediate responsibility we have is to help them build a functional government that can actually meet the needs of the people in the short- and long-term, and that ultimately from that you would hope that would spring democracy.

FOX HOST: That sounds like nation-building.

MARCO RUBIO: Well, it’s not nation-building. We are assisting them in building their nation. We have a vested interest in doing that. The alternative to doing that is the chaos we have now. Because in fact what happened in Iraq under this administration is they rallied around [former Prime Minister Nouri al] Maliki, a Shia leader who used his power to go after Sunnis, and that created the environment that was conducive for ISIS to come back in and create all these problems.

(Transcript from Fox’s Outnumbered via Vox; emphasis ours.)