Columnist: Leonard Pitts

Feb. 24, 2014 @ 12:18 PM

More silliness from Kansas

"Discrimination," he said, "is horrible. It's hurtful. It has no place in civilized society..."
You would think that statement, delivered recently in the Kansas legislature, a noble sentiment no right-thinking person could argue with. But we are gathered here today to argue with it.
Because it turns out that when Republican legislator Charles Macheers said "discrimination," he didn't mean, well ... discrimination. Macheers sponsored a bill -- passed overwhelmingly by the Kansas House but killed last week by the Senate in an attack of common sense -- that sought to exempt any business or government employee from providing "any services, accommodations, advantages, facilities, goods or privileges" related to any "marriage, domestic partnership, civil union or similar arrangement" if doing so would conflict with the employee's "sincerely held religious beliefs."


Feb. 21, 2014 @ 09:30 AM

White fear trumps black life

"You can get killed just for living in your American skin." -- Bruce Springsteen


On Aug. 7, 1930, two young black men were lynched in Marion, Ind.
A photographer named Lawrence Beitler had a studio across the street from the lynching tree. He came out and snapped what became an iconic photo, which he made into a postcard and sold. It shows Thomas Shipp and Abram Smith hanging dead and their executioners, faces clearly visible, milling about as if at a picnic. Though authorities possessed this damning photographic evidence, they never arrested anyone for the crime. It was officially attributed to "persons unknown."


Feb. 17, 2014 @ 12:17 PM

Sometimes, making a mistake is just being human

I used to get blamed all the time for stuff Bob Steinback said.

To be fair, it wasn't always blame -- sometimes it was credit -- and it went both ways. Sometimes, he had to explain to people that it was not he who had written a certain thing, but me.


Feb. 14, 2014 @ 11:22 AM

Pitts: A few more thoughts on 'thug'

"I hate that thug music."

This, according to Rhonda Rouer's testimony last week, is what her fiance, Michael Dunn, said when they pulled into a Jacksonville, Fla., gas station next to an SUV full of black kids who had the stereo up high, pumping some obnoxious, bass-heavy rap.
Rouer was inside the convenience store when she heard the shots. Dunn, who is white, had gotten into an argument with the young men about their music, had gone into his glove box for his pistol and started shooting. As the SUV tried to get away, he fired still more rounds. At least one of those rounds fatally struck 17-year-old Jordan Davis.


Feb. 10, 2014 @ 12:44 PM

For sale, Martin Luther King's legacy

Maybe we should take up an offering.

Obviously, the heirs of Martin Luther King Jr. are hard up for money. That must be why they keep selling off pieces of his legacy.


Feb. 07, 2014 @ 12:05 PM

Change across the universe

It's an odd thing.

Sometimes, when I speak before high school or college students, someone in the audience, knowing I began my professional life as a pop music critic, will ask what I think of music today. I always demur that I don't listen to a lot of it, but that most of what I do hear kind of, well ... bores me. While there are exceptions -- i.e., Adele -- much of it feels corporate, cold, plastic, image-driven, less reflective of talent than tech, more programmed than played.


Feb. 03, 2014 @ 01:24 PM

Sincerest sympathy to the filthy rich

Dear Tom Perkins:

I'm writing to apologize. I do this on behalf of the 99 percent of us who are not multimillionaires. You, of course, are, having made a pile as a venture capitalist and co-founder of the firm Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers.


Jan. 31, 2014 @ 11:32 AM

Trigger happy in the gunshine state

Doug Varrieur likes to shoot.

Problem is, it's 25 miles to the nearest range, where they charge $45 an hour. What's a gun enthusiast to do?
Lucky for him, Varrieur lives in Florida. Problem solved. Just erect a makeshift range in the back yard and fire away. It's perfectly legal.


Jan. 26, 2014 @ 09:56 PM

On race, conservatives are silent

"I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin but by the content of their character."

-- Martin Luther King Jr.

Sometimes, you get the feeling that's the only King quote conservatives know.


Jan. 24, 2014 @ 09:21 AM

If it doesn't work, it doesn't work

But it works."

That, in three syllables, has been the go-to argument of the last two presidential administrations to justify assaulting civil liberties in the name of rooting out terrorists.
It's a dubious line of reasoning, proceeding as it does from the implicit assumption that if a thing works, if it achieves the important goal for which it was designed, that trumps all other considerations.


Jan. 20, 2014 @ 10:56 AM

A big issue for small minds

Maybe it's something you were born with, maybe something that happened to you, maybe something you did to yourself through bad habits or neglect. But everybody's got something, some physical or emotional blemish measuring the distance from you to perfection.


Jan. 17, 2014 @ 10:51 AM

Fourth Amendment is going, going...

Perhaps you've heard of the Fourth Amendment.

That's the one that guarantees freedom from unfettered government snooping, the one that says government needs probable cause and a warrant before it can search or seize your things.


Jan. 13, 2014 @ 12:29 AM

Life, death and small government

Marlise Munoz was 33 when she died.

She was at home when she collapsed from an apparent blood clot in her lungs. It was an hour or more before her husband, Erick, found her. He says doctors pronounced her brain dead, though John Peter Smith Hospital in Fort Worth, Texas, citing privacy concerns, has declined to confirm that diagnosis


Jan. 10, 2014 @ 02:56 PM

Gun nuts target one of their own

Here is what he said: "...all constitutional rights are regulated, always have been, and need to be."
It would seem to be a self-evident truth. After all, your First Amendment right to freedom of speech is regulated. If you don't believe it, write something libelous about a guy with deep pockets and man-eating lawyers. Your Fourth Amendment right to freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures is regulated and then some. If you don't believe that, pick up your phone and ask the NSA agent tapping your line.


Jan. 06, 2014 @ 12:04 PM

Idiocy is not a First Amendment offense

Fair warning: This is about the "Duck Dynasty" controversy. Yes, I know. I'm sick of it, too.