Friday, April 28, 2017

FOR BEN

    
     (On the morning of April 28, 1987 a 27 year old American engineer named Ben Linder from Portland, Oregon, and two of his colleagues, Sergio Hernandez and Pablo Rosales were murdered beside a quiet stream
while measuring the flow of water for a dam they were constructing for the purpose of bringing electricity to the nearby village of San Jose de Bocay in Nicaragua)


Among the things he would take with him
beside the clothes he would need 
and a few traveling digestives,
were his engineering textbooks 
and notebooks; and, of course, his face paints 
and magic tricks and newly bought clown costume,
and the big bulbous red nose;
and everywhere he went his unicycle was sure to go.

It was undoubtedly this last item 
that kept our CIA 
and their terrorist vassals, the Contras, 
up at night;
In Nicaragua the Reagan Boys knew better. 
They weren't about to lose all that misbegotten
$millions they tried to hide from Congress 
and the good ol' American people- 
say whatever happened to them anyway?- , 
some worthy patriots went to a lot of trouble 
to follow through on the Gipper's authorization 
of covertly funding and arming
his favorite freedom fighters. 
No unicycle was going to stand in their way 
of subjugating an entire country to 
deprivation, poverty, disease, and political terror. 

"I'm a Contra, too." said St. Reagan just before
his memorable gesture of achdung at Bitburg,
and his courtier, Elliot Abrams,
Assistant Secretary of State for Inter-American Affairs (at the time)
would stand convicted of deliberately 
withholding evidence of illegal funding
from Congress, sentenced to two years
 probation, and, I believe, he was disbarred
 in the District of Columbia; but
unlike the thousands who were killed by the right-wing
(our network news insisted on freedom fighters) terrorists he aided and abetted- in Nicaragua, Guatamala, El Salvador, Angola-
facilitating and defending genocide-
he was pardoned by George H.W. Bush and
continued on in his stellar career of encouraging
war and supporting authoritarian bullies in
subsequent administrations.

I am taking a lot of this history for granted in the dim hope
that my mighty reading public still remembers-for
the roots are deep and ugly, and we are witness
to the consequence of sending "our mandates
for the certain death of thousands
and ten thousands."

Thirty years on we even harbor the same people in place
and harken to their counsel to "swell the
war-whoop" again: Elliot is still around,
rejected by Trump for another high State Dept. post
because of something he said about Trump, nevertheless, still
penning his passion for war - the kid who came up with
the "Reagan Doctrine" for defeating the bad old commies
wherever they reared their evil heads, is today a founder of
what is called the Tea Party but what is really the John Birch
bunch redux; still demanding of Obama to show his real
birth certificate; once a Reagan warrior
and now a stormtrooper for Trump.
Funny that you will find the Heritage Foundation
waist deep in both schemas - thinktanking all the time. 
Turn on any Sunday morning punditshow- the same faces
show up and too many new ones spouting the same nonsense
"trundling smoothly o'er their tongues
like mere abstractions, empty sounds to which
we join no feeling and attach no form-as if
the soldier died without a wound."

So, soon after his graduation from the 
University of Washington in 1983,
he put his mechanical engineering diploma
in his back pocket and set out for Nicaragua
and his goal of bringing electricity and running water
to the rural villagers there, because isn't that
what one does with a newly earned engineering
certificate - put oneself in potential harm's way to
help some poor village people you have
never met in a place you have never seen-
a thousand miles away from any number of 
lucrative entry level positions with bigshot
engineering and manufacturing corporations,
eager for young and talented American wellsprings.

(At the time of the Sandinista overthrow of
the Somoza dictatorship -our guy in Managua-
in 1979, Nicaragua, a country the size of
New York State,  had a population of 3 million,
a majority of its citizens living in rural areas. There
was a life-expectancy of 53 years-men and women-;
the main causes of death were diarrhea and TB;
two-thirds of the children under 5 years old suffered
from malnutrition and 80% of all the houses did
not have running water while 60% had no electricity.
The revolution had made enormous strides in
addressing the utter desolation the Somoza Years
had left it their wake, but still there was a whole lot to do
and all the while having to dodge American supplied bullets 
and American army surplus mines that frequently took
its toll among the isolated villages.)

He lived in Nicaragua for almost 4 years, staying on even
as his own country's terrorist clients continuously
committed what was formally charged as war crimes
and the United States -ourselves- was found guilty (June 27,1986)
by the International Court of Justice (ICJ) of "violating
international law by supporting the Contras and by
mining Nicaragua's harbors." 
Of course, the United States, ourselves, dismissed this
judgment saying the Court had no jurisdiction and we thus
blocked any attempt by Nicaragua of obtaining reparation; 
How dare they.

He worked on designing and building hydroelectric projects
that would bring electricity to people living in isolated villages
with names like El Cua and San Jose de Bocay. Names that
you will probably not remember after reading them
here (that you're here at all is a wonder);  
but the people 
from those places remember him and how he would entertain 
the children (children that may perhaps have kids of their own now)
of these war-threatened places with his juggling
talent and his magic tricks - usually in service in assisting something
like a vaccination effort - and there was that unicycle.

In El Cua he helped finish a dam that was started years earlier but was
delayed because of the war. A small dam, I read, but capable
of providing continual power to a village that never had 
such a source of power before. Light, running water, perhaps
electric fans too and small plug-in appliances or maybe a 
donated refrigerator. Dangerous, world-changing events
that could only lead to making people's lives a little better. 
These gestures of solidarity, these human touches
in these brutal places were among the favored targets of the 
Contras. Part of our CIA's Psych Ops- manuals were 
enthusiastically distributed among the contras - some I imagine were even printed in Spanish- winning the hearts and minds once again
How to terrorize the locals and beat the commies- It
worked like a charm in Vietnam,no? How about in Chile?
Small agricultural cooperatives in the same vicinity
as the new dam, local food coops and health clinics were
all contra targets - along with any number of teachers,
healthcare workers, engineers, reporters. Even with our
thumbprints on the bullets the International Court
still couldn't establish what they considered total dependence
on the part of the contras on America's aid and support. They did
however, find a "partial dependency" stating that such 
could be "inferred from the fact that the leaders 
were selected by the U.S. and from other factors 
such as organization, training, and equipping of the contras,
 planning of the operations, the choosing of targets and the 
operational support provided." I suppose if we
had done the cooking and cleaning then they would have 
established the total dependence they so generously rejected. 

He was killed- in reality assassinated- on this day in 1987. He was 
murdered along with his Nicaraguan colleagues, Sergio Hernandez
and Pablo Rosales; ambushed by contras as they were working
at a new dam site near a village called San Jose de Bocay. 
According to all accounts I have found online he was
first severely wounded by a grenade - then shot point blankly
in the head- execution style. Later, years later, it
was reported that the murderers knew him; knew his work.
Eyewitnesses confirm there was no exchange of gun fire-
it happened so quickly. He was wearing his work clothes.
The Reagan gang said he had a rifle- made by the commies.
He may have had one nearby. It was customary at that
time and in that place to carry protection. There was
war all around; and the terrorist were particularly fond
of hydroelectric dams."His assassination was part 
of a deliberate contra policy to murder civilians 
working in education, health and development programs," 
said The Center for Constitutional Rights (1988).
"...the contras extended this policy of targeting development
workers to include foreign as well as Nicaraguan civilians. Their
goal was to dissuade foreigners from working in
Nicaragua and to cut off support for these programs."

The always quotable and deep thinking
analyst, Elliot Abrams, soon after the execution
offered that perhaps he should have known the risks
of working in that place, as if he had it coming.
That pretty much summed up the United States
official government response; VP Bush has a recorded
comment somewhere inferring that he was "on the other side"; 
After burying their son in a nearby town named
Matagalpa - President Daniel Ortega and his wife attended
the funeral. They walked arm in arm with his parents, David and Elizabeth,
and 
President Ortega with Mr. & Mrs. Linder
  they were followed in the procession by the clowns

from the Nicaraguan National Circus and they in turn
were followed by thousands of Nicaraguans -
returning from their son's funeral, as I say, they were asked to testify at a House of Representatives
hearing about their son's death-he was, after all, the
first (and only?) American killed in the Sandinista-Contra War-
wherein the conservative congressman from Florida, 
Connie Mack, later elected Senator, vehemently 
declared that his mother's grief was merely
"to politicize this situation," and then went on
to add, "but I really feel you have asked for it." 
Thus was born Compassionate Conservatism.

Just before the first grenade exploded he was
seen writing in a notebook. His two associates
and he this day went up to the work site-near the town of
San Jose de Bocay - to inspect the weir- 
which I'm told has something to do with
measuring the flow of water in smaller rivers
and streams - he was writing in his notebook
perhaps marking the measurements that would
soon bring electricity and light and running
water and new systems of sanitation and power
for refrigeration and safer foods and to make
peoples lives a little better; there's a formula
to determine such a rate and whether 
the calculation is appropriate for that size 
and area and other factors that engineers consider,
its called the discharge calculation and he was
writing in his notebook, perhaps calculating the "Q"
the Flow Rate of water-

He had written in his journal notebook when he
first arrived in Nicaragua : "I'm working in El Cua.
It is the reality of war. Zelaya province is falling 
under Contra control. They are killing children.
I've asked myself what is my path....
I've asked myself about my love for Alison and 
my family. I've asked myself about my love for my people. 
But we must act before we hear."I must not cower
from the task ahead. In Nicaragua I was shown the trail ahead. 
Tonight I vow to set forth upon that trail...
"Great is the eternal power at the heart of life;
 mighty the love that is stronger than death."

Friday, March 31, 2017

DAUGHTER OF SELMA








With Gorsuch looming as inevitably as a lie from Trump the future of American jurisprudence will have established a corporativist outlook and can look forward to a long and repressive tenure (wait..is that Alito I see shaking his head?). Perhaps I should wait before posting that first sentence for who knows what dreams may come and besides there are more important matters to mention here. I'm already behind in setting this post out as my words are often rushed and disjointed at times- old spontaneous me - and I wish the following to be as deliberate and as unpresumptuous as I can make them (and good luck).

Terry Sewell is a United States Congresswoman from Alabama. Has been for nigh on seven years. 
For those of my reader(s) who follow the "Congress" and the "House" in particular, her  congressional career is probably well-known and needs no blog spot from me. But for most - and I include myself- the past catastrophic year of American politics has, if anything, carved a bas relief out of our communal narrative of American exceptionality; it has masterly shown our deeply etched scars of past horrors and exploited our -apparently- still boogeyman fears; our regional hatreds and our willingness to vote (you know who you are) a sociopathic miscreant president, a man who values only greed and declaims truth null and void. In a way it has been a culmination of sorts of a 40 year siege by the racist (yes, I said it) right-wing, predominently Republican ideologues and corporate flunkies to literally turn back the clock-hands of American social and political progress (will someone please explain to our younger viewers what "clock-hands" are/were) . If we are ever going to come through this aberrant and imperiled time we can take great solace in the knowledge that Senators Grassley and Hatch are on the case - nah, not really- just wanted to see if you were still with me here- rather, if our greatly infirm democracy is going to recover we would be wise to heed the life and words of Rep. Sewell- among others of course- but the consequence and potential dissolution (ooh) of our republic will be ours to keep. Why? Where do you think Trump-ism leads? If I may:

Representative Sewell was born in Selma, Alabama two months before the famous Voting Rights marches that catalysed (where's a Roget's when I need it?) the passage of the 1965 Voting Rights Bill that summer. That's over a half century ago. The events that March are what requires us to remain steadfast in our belief that - as President Obama so passionately proclaimed on the 50th anniversary ( please see our "Spade in the Dark Loam" page for his full remarks. If you've never heard or read all his words on that occasion have a box of tissues handy) "the American experiment is not yet finished." (from his mouth to...) His words and Rep. Sewell's always shame me in my embracing an "old guy's" cynicism to go astride my official senior years - my snarky commentary masquerading a feeling of hopelessness and anger at what I imagine America is becoming while momentarily forsaking the lives of those who died marching for those voting rights to be finally inscribed in law 
(It was reported that after unarmed deacon Jimmie Lee Jackson was beaten and then shot by Alabama State trooper James Fowler on February 18, 1965, while participating in a peaceful voting rights march in the nearby town of Marion, Alabama, he died eight days later, he was 26 years old , upon hearing the news of the Voting Rights Act passed later that August his grandfather said, "It was worth the boy's dying" . Trooper Fowler pleaded guilty to manslaughter 42 years later and was sentenced to 6 months- and lest we forget Rev. James Reeb, a Unitarian minister who was beaten by white supremacists after participating in the first Selma march and died two days later of his head injuries. Rev. Reeb was 38 and has the same birthday as Rep. Sewell who was just over two months old at the time.)  who proved that non-violent change can happen and that love and hope can conquer hate. What a legacy - and I hope you realize I am not forgetting the other brave American men and women who have given their lives to this (shamefully ongoing) 
Rev.James Reeb
cause but I will bet a majority of my reader(s) are unaware that there is in Representative Sewell's district in Birmingham a civil rights memorial sponsored by the Southern Poverty Law Center and designed by Maya Lin herself that etches their names in stone as did her brilliant Vietnam War memorial wall and 50 years later you wonder why the whole nation hasn't taken to the streets in protest of the current campaigns by the Republicans and their Koch-Funded agenda to wrest the right to vote away from "the usual suspects" thanks to their state flunkies and their bought Supreme Court. Then again Ms. Sewell serves in the House with a Latter Day John Bircher- you can call it a Tea Party but I find the name misspeaks its patriotic lineage and instead stands today for what I consider treason to truer American values - one Vicki Hartzler from Missouri who along with an ex-congressman named Tim Huelskamp from Kansas, once, from the floor of the House of Representatives, denounced the Southern Poverty Law Center as a hate group because it dared criticize a Koch-funded political charade called the Family Research Council that for some reason they were particularly fond of, as an extremist and intolerant organization. ( We once posted a little article anent these two politicos back in 2013 which may amuse you..and then again..Mr. Huelskamp lost his last election. It seems he insulted a bunch of Kansas farmers or something, anyway they kicked the bum out) And then we forget- again?- that America has an almost-elected  president - while his almost-elected VP backs him up -  who thinks nothing of insulting the parents of an American soldier killed in action because the parents are Muslim or who publicly disparages and disrespects civil rights' heroes like Congressman John Lewis who crossed that famous bridge in Selma in that long ago summer and who was almost killed for just walking :


Making Representative Terri Sewell from Selma, Alabama a true daughter of the Voting Rights Movement- ( literally a daughter of Selma). Another daughter and if you will, a true daughter of Alabama, also, is Martha Roby- a colleague of Rep Sewell in the House of Representatives. Both ladies were elected in 2010 and are the first two women to be elected to Congress from Alabama. Rep. Roby has been featured in these posts before( search if you dare); a few years younger than Rep. Sewell, she was born in Montgomery - which if you recall was the destination of that famous march that began in Selma; the symmetry is all. When Rep. Sewell introduced a bill to honor the marchers for voting rights just before the 50th anniversary in 2015 (the event of President Obama's incredible speech) Rep. Roby was one of the co-sponsors (see article below)
 _____________________________________________________________

House honors Selma marchers, stalled on Voting Rights Act

By Athena Jones

February 12, 2015

Washington (CNN) It was a rare moment of bipartisanship on Wednesday afternoon, when the House of Representatives voted to honor the thousands of people who marched for voting rights in Selma 50 years ago with a congressional gold medal, Congress' highest civilian honor.

The bill was introduced by Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Alabama, whose district includes Selma. It passed unanimously with a vote of 420-0; nearly 200 Democrats and more than 100 Republicans co-sponsored the legislation, including Alabama's entire delegation.

"As we look toward the 50th anniversary of Bloody Sunday, it is certainly fitting to honor the brave individuals who against brutality and oppression, took a stand for their God-given rights," said Rep. Martha Roby, R-Alabama, on the House floor.
Roby said the goal was to get the bill through the House and the Senate before the March 7 anniversary of the first march, Bloody Sunday, and Sewell's office said by mid-afternoon on Thursday 29 senators had already signed onto a companion bill.
But the strong show of cross-the-aisle amity displayed on Wednesday may be limited. Efforts to pass an update to the Voting Rights Act -- a change many argue is necessary after the 2013 Supreme Court ruling in Shelby County, AL vs Holder. The ruling outlawed a key part of the landmark 1965 legislation that required certain states with a history of racial discrimination at the polls to "pre-clear" any changes to voting laws with the federal government before implementing them.
_______________________________________________________________
And yet in a state that worries that something unseemly may befall their precious long-standing Confederate monuments and so passes legislation that bars any changes to these historic relics fixing them in place for future generations of Alabamans to fawn over is it any wonder that Rep. Roby considers the newly gutted Voting Rights Bill as ruled by the Roberts Court  in 2013 just fine, thank you very much. 
KKK Founder (With head) Memorial
(MONTGOMERY, Ala., March 9, 2017 (AP) — A bill that would bar changes to Confederate and other long-standing monuments in Alabama passed Thursday in the state Senate, capping hours of debate in which black lawmakers argued that it was offensive to African-Americans to preserve such visible links to slavery.

The measure passed 24-7 and forbids changes to public markers that have stood for more than 20 years.)
 She doesn't plan to support the Voting Rights Amendment Act (of 2014)-"VRAA" that would begin to make right the egregious decision of the Supreme Court in Shelby Cty v Holder- Shelby County is in Alabama, of course. Roby's turf? When asked about her opposition she said, " If Congress is going to take up any changes, it needs to be done with fairness, not just apply to Alabama, but all across this great country." Of course it doesn't just apply to Alabama but evidently she agrees with her landsman, Jefferson Beauregard Sessions III who when still a senator said, " I don't think the Supreme Court ruling has damaged voting rights in any real way." Now that his fellow Republicans saw fit to confirm him as the new Attorney General what chance do you think that a fixed voting rights bill will be on the docket soon? 

It is as Senator Elizabeth Warren has said that while the 50th anniversary of those Selma marches was "a moment of hope, a reminder that people can make change", it is also a moment of shame "because 50 years (FIFTY!- that's more than one-fifth of our history as a nation!) after Selma the Voting Rights Act has been gutted and this Congress will not even bring itself to vote on a stronger law." 

Chief Judge Roberts stated in his poorly reasoned opinion in the Shelby case that given the fact that when the 1965 Voting Rights Law was first enacted Black voter registration stood at "6.4%" in Mississippi and the gap between Black and white registration rates was more than 60 points ( I should have an attribution here but I DevinNunesed it). By the 2004 election the Black registration rate in Mississippi was 76% "almost 4 points higher than the white." And in the 2012 election, African-American voter turnout exceeded white voter turnout in five of the six states originally covered by Section 5.” I read this as I read much of what spews out from this (now) unfortunately named Supreme Court as a check on African American's "equality before the law". 
African American Representation in Congress
  Roberts is actually saying that "we" (you and I neighbor) are in danger of losing our white majority rule in certain areas of the country so we better refit those shackles that are still laying about. And remember there is no racism in post-racial America. Rehnquist was a helluva mentor. It is the dismal din of our expressed history that in the America of 2017 we summon as our standard such past worthies as a Antonin Scalia or a Ronald Reagan - perhaps as family men, perhaps as a lawyer, perhaps as Jimmy Stewart's best friend - but as a Supreme Court Judge? as a President? I suppose someday there will be some erstwhile Republicans waiting in line at the local bank to exchange some dollars into renminbi saying they don't make Republicans like Donald Trump anymore.

_____________________________________________________________________________________

-SCOTUS nominee Neil Gorsuch praised by Alabama congressional delegation



Alabama's congressional delegation largely praised President Trump's selection of federal appeals court Judge Neil Gorsuch as his nominee for the U.S. Supreme Court seat left vacant for nearly a year following the death of late Justice Antonin Scalia. Gorsuch, a judge on the 10th Circuit Court of Appeals in Denver, is widely expected to be a conservative justice on the Supreme Court if he's confirmed.

"President Trump has made an outstanding selection in nominating Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court, and I am confident that he will preserve Scalia's legacy on the bench for generations to come," Sen. Richard Shelby, R-Ala., said in a statement. "Our next Supreme Court Justice must be a steadfast supporter of the rule of law with an unwavering commitment to the Constitution.  There is no doubt that Judge Gorsuch meets these necessary qualifications.  I look forward to supporting his nomination and urge my Senate colleagues to join me."

Rep. Mo Brooks, R-Huntsville, called Trump's choice of Gorsuch "excellent," adding that he believed the president's nominee would be an impartial justice.
"Too many of our justices have succumbed to the vanity and arrogance of creating new law through judicial edict.  I have the utmost respect for Judge Gorsuch's commitment and record of ruling on issues before his court based on rational interpretation of the original intent of the Constitution or law, regardless of his personal opinions," the congressman said in a statement. "Judge Gorsuch's commitment to this fundamental legal philosophy is absolutely essential to preserving the rule of law in our democratically elected representative government, and I look forward to his swift confirmation." 

Rep. Martha Roby, R-Montgomery, a member of the House Judiciary Committee, struck a similar tone in a statement.
"The addition of Judge Gorsuch to the Supreme Court would hasten our government's return to Constitutional balance and our country's return to following the rule of law," she said. "There is no question that Judge Gorsuch is qualified to serve on the Supreme Court, and I urge the Senate to quickly begin confirmation proceedings."

Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Saks, said he was "thrilled" over Trump's choice.



So far, the delegation's lone Democrat, Rep. Terri Sewell, D-Birmingham, was the only member to not heap praise on Gorsuch. She urged the Senate to "rigorously vet" Trump's nominee. In the coming days and weeks, I look forward to learning more about the judicial opinions and constitutional philosophy of Judge Gorsuch," she said. "Given the consequential nature of this nomination, it is imperative that my Senate colleagues rigorously vet his legal opinions and jurisprudence, and ensure his philosophies are consistent with our Constitution and values as a nation. At this critical juncture in our nation's history, it is important that this nominee be a fair and impartial adjudicator of the laws that protect the rights of all Americans."

_____________________________________________________________

I'm sure each of her distinguished colleagues from Alabama were intimately acquainted with Judge Gorsuch's experience and qualifications to be so ebullient and, well, as thrilled as Mike Rogers at his prospect. Rep. Sewell knows very well what the ascendancy of Gorsuch to the Supreme Court may mean for the future of Voting Rights in this country - and the future of our country in general - and spoke in measured words as though she was offering at least a sprig of hope that because we have not heard him express his views publicly perhaps his reputation will not precede him. Read her statement again and then read those of her fellow Alabamans; Martha Roby's "There is No Question" blah blah, and the other "lawmakers" exhortations about the "rule of law"; they know too well that Gorsuch was nominated because of his narrowmindedness, because he has cited that classy Scalia as a role model; Scalia who said the Voting Rights Act had led to "a perpetuation of racial entitlement" - too many Black voters in Mississippi; in Texas; in Georgia; in Alabama.... 

Whose voice will America reckon with? How much longer will the party that puts forth the likes of a Martha Roby or a Marsha Blackburn or a Mike Pence or a Mike Rogers or a Steve King or a Donald Trump as exemplars of American values be allowed to rule? How is it that the whole GOP isn't categorized as a hate group and treated as such? I will reckon with those who stand with and harken to the voice of Terri Sewell:

 

DOJ'S FAILURE TO PROTECT VOTING RIGHTS 

 ______ HON. TERRI A. SEWELL of alabama in the house of representatives Wednesday, March 15, 2017 

 Ms. SEWELL of Alabama. Mr. Speaker, today I rise in protest of President Trump and his Justice Department's failure to protect Americans' voting rights. The right to vote is a sacred right for which Americans have fought for generations. From the battlefields of the Revolutionary War, to the Women's Suffrage Movement, to Bloody Sunday in my hometown of Selma, Alabama, Americans have risked their lives for the right to vote. Unfortunately, The Trump Justice Department recently decided to dismiss their discriminatory purpose claim against Texas's voter ID law. Texas's current draconian Voter ID law places harsh restrictions on minorities and young voters. In 2013, the Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against the state of Texas claiming that their voter photo identification law, SB 14, violated Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act. Since then, two courts have agreed that this law is discriminatory. So it is incredibly disturbing that the new Department of Justice reversed their position and withdrew their lawsuit. This action represents a dramatic shift from the Obama Administration's policy of protecting Americans' voting rights. The American people deserve a Justice Department that values and protects the right to vote. New barriers to voting are being erected across the country, threatening the integrity of our electoral process and our democracy. For example, after the Supreme Court struck down key provisions of the Voting Rights Act, many states, like Alabama and Texas responded to the Supreme Court's decision by imposing voter ID laws similar to those of the Jim Crow era. These laws are blatantly discriminatory, undemocratic, and un-American. In Alabama, the state government passed a law requiring a photo ID to vote while simultaneously closing 34 DMW offices. Doing so had a discriminatory effect on 8 out of the 10 counties in Alabama with the highest percentage of Black registered voters. Clearly we cannot yet trust certain states to protect their citizens' right to vote. As Americans, we should all be horrified of these laws and the Department of Justice's failure to fight these regressive measures. States must not be allowed to return to an era of mass-voter discrimination, and historically, it has been the responsibility of the Justice Department to protect Americans from new Jim Crow like laws. Unfortunately, President Trump's Justice Department seems to be rolling back this policy. In 2015, I introduced the Voting Rights Advancement Act, legislation that would require states with a recent history of voter discrimination to seek approval from the U.S. Department of Justice before making any changes to their electoral laws. Specifically, this bill will restore Section 4(b) of the VRA which the Supreme Court invalidated in Shelby County v. Holder. Under the new Trump Administration, it is more important than ever that we pass the Voting Rights Advancement Act, and have an independent Justice Department that is committed to protecting Americans' right to vote. 

 

We who do will be committed both in our physical bodies and in our hearts to return to that bridge in Selma again and again and not stop marching until the voices of hate and repression and violence are stilled forever.

"Mary Liuzzo recounted the story of her mother, Viola, a Detroit housewife who traveled to Selma after watching the footage of Bloody Sunday. She was killed by Klansmen after the march from Selma to Montgomery. “My question is: Why didn’t everyone come to Selma?” Liuzzo said. One could ask the same question today.
                                       - Ari Berman, The Nation 3/9/15














____________________________________________________________


Congresswoman Terri Sewell Statement on the Selection of Alabama Senator Jeff Sessions as U.S. Attorney General

Jan 3, 2017

Press Release



Birmingham, AL – Congresswoman Terri A. Sewell (D-AL) previously issued the following statement on the selection of Senator Jeff Sessions as the U.S. Attorney General in the Trump Administration:

“Senator Jeff Sessions has been given a tremendous honor and responsibility by the President-Elect to serve as the head of the Department of Justice. As a colleague and member of the Alabama delegation, I hope to work productively with him in his new position. At the same time, the Senator knows I will continue to be a fierce advocate on issues that are the cornerstone of our democracy. These issues include civil rights, immigration, voting rights, criminal justice reform, and the appointment of judicial nominees that are fair, impartial, and reflective of America's diversity of thought and experiences.
While we do not agree on many important social justice issues, Senator Sessions and I have enjoyed a productive working relationship on economic development issues that have benefited my constituents and our state. I am also appreciative that he was the Senate sponsor of the Foot Soldiers Congressional Gold Medal Bill that paid tribute to those who sacrificed for the equal right to vote in this country. Over the past six years in my personal interactions with Senator Sessions, I have known him as someone who is willing to hear dissenting views. It will be imperative now more than ever that he weigh all sides of the crucial issues and make reasoned decisions that will benefit all Americans.
As the Representative of Alabama’s 7th Congressional district, I share the serious concerns raised by the national civil rights community, and I stand with my constituents in holding Senator Sessions accountable for protecting the precious civil and human rights of all Americans in his new role as the nation's top law enforcer.”

 


 

Thursday, March 23, 2017

A PREAMBLE

"Only by acknowledging the full extent of slavery's grip on U.S. society--its intimate connections to present day wealth and power, the depth of its injury to millions of black Americans, the shocking nearness in time of its true end--can we reconcile the paradoxes of current American life."- Douglas A. Blackmon

Not wishing to cause anyone unease I would, nevertheless, recommend that the words above, humbly mooched from Mr. Blackmon's wrenchingly beautiful and important Pulitzer awarded book, "Slavery by Another Name- The Re-Enslavement of Black Americans from the Civil War to World War II", be used as a sort of qualifier, a preface if you will, or as a permanent motto like "All the News That Fits" sits on the masthead of the NYTimes; be programmed on each and every desktop of every computer and tablet and smart phone in America; on every local, state, and federal legislator's taxpayer bought stationery- design optional-; on every misbegotten blogpost;( in my younger and freshfaced days I recall the rebbe would always inscribe at the top of the letter or note he was about to write the hebrew letters "b/h'- for "blessed is God" or "with the help of God" - not so much out of a rigid religious dictate but borne out of a humble tradition making  "us" always aware of God in our daily lives and making whomever the letter was being sent to aware also -hopefully leading to that glorious day when all the world-well you get the idea, I hope ) until the scourge of racism is effaced from our hearts and minds forever.



Thursday, March 9, 2017

"RELATING TO THE FINANCIAL PRACTICES OF THE PRESIDENT"

 
(from the Congressional Record 3/8/2017) 
 
IN THE HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

                            February 9, 2017

 Mr. Nadler submitted the following resolution; which was referred to 
                     the Committee on the Judiciary

                             March 8, 2017

March 8, 2017 

 Reported adversely with an amendment, referred to the House Calendar and ordered to be printed [Strike out all after the resolving clause and insert the part printed in italic] _______________________________________________________________________ RESOLUTION: Of inquiry directing the Attorney General to transmit certain documents to the House of Representatives relating to the financial practices of the President. 

 
Resolved, That the Attorney General of the United States is 
directed to transmit, to the extent that such information is in the 
possession of the Attorney General, (in a manner appropriate to 
classified information, if the Attorney General determines appropriate) 
to the House of Representatives, not later than 14 days after the date 
of the adoption of this resolution, copies of any document, record, 
memo, correspondence, or other communication of the Department of 
Justice, including the Office of Legal Counsel, or any portion of any 
such communication, that refers or relates to--
           (1) any criminal or counterintelligence 
        investigation targeting President Donald J. Trump, National 
        Security Advisor Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, 
        Roger Stone, or any employee of the Executive Office of the 
        President;
 
          (2) any investment by any foreign government or 
        agent of a foreign government in any entity owned in whole or 
        in part by President Donald J. Trump; 
 
           (3) President Trump's proposal to maintain an 
        interest in his business holdings, while turning over day-to-
        day operation of those interests to his sons Donald J. Trump, 
        Jr., and Eric Trump; 
 
          (4) President Trump's plan to donate the profits 
        of any foreign governments' use of his hotels to the United 
        States Treasury, including the decision to exclude other 
        payments by foreign governments to any other business
        holdings of the Trump Organization from that arrangement; 
 
          (5) the Foreign Emoluments Clause (U.S. 
        Constitution, Article I, Sec. 9, Clause 8) as it may pertain to 
        President Donald J. Trump or any employee of the Executive 
        Office of the President; 
 
          (6) any of the following Federal statutes 
        governing conflicts of interest as they may pertain to 
        President Donald J. Trump or any employee of the Executive 
        Office of the President:
                    (A) The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 
                (5 U.S.C. App. 101 et seq.).
                    (B) Section 3110 of title 5, United States 
                Code (concerning employment of relatives).
                    (C) Section 7342 of title 5, United States 
                Code (concerning receipt and disposition of foreign 
                gifts).
                    (D) Section 7352 of title 5, United States 
                Code (concerning gifts to Federal employees).
                    (E) Section 201 of title 18, United States 
                Code (prohibiting bribery of public 
                officials).
                    (F) Section 208 of title 18, United States 
                Code (prohibiting participation by government officials 
                in matters affecting their personal financial 
                interest).
                    (G) Section 211 of title 18, United States 
                Code (prohibiting acceptance or solicitation to obtain 
                appointive public office).
                    (H) Section 219 of title 18, United States 
                Code (prohibiting Federal officers and employees from 
                acting as agents of foreign principals).
                    (I) Section 1905 of title 18, United 
                States Code (prohibiting disclosure of confidential 
                information). 
 That the Attorney General of the United States is directed to 
transmit, to the extent that such information is in the possession of 
the Attorney General, (in a manner appropriate to classified 
information, if the Attorney General determines appropriate) to the 
House of Representatives, not later than 14 days after the date of the 
adoption of this resolution, copies of any document, record, memo, 
correspondence, or other communication of the Department of Justice, 
including the Office of Legal Counsel, or any portion of any such 
communication, that refers or relates to--
            (1) any criminal or counterintelligence investigation 
        targeting President Donald J. Trump, National Security Advisor 
        Michael Flynn, Paul Manafort, Carter Page, Roger Stone, or any 
        employee of the Executive Office of the President;
            (2) any investment by any foreign government or agent of a 
        foreign government in any entity owned in whole or in part by 
        President Donald J. Trump;
            (3) President Trump's proposal to maintain an interest in 
        his business holdings, while turning over day-to-day operation 
        of those interests to his sons Donald J. Trump, Jr., and Eric 
        Trump;
            (4) President Trump's plan to donate the profits of any 
        foreign governments' use of his hotels to the United States 
        Treasury, including the decision to exclude other payments by 
        foreign governments to any other business holdings of the Trump 
        Organization from that arrangement;
            (5) the Foreign Emoluments Clause (U.S. Const. art. I, 
        Sec. 9, cl. 8) as it may pertain to President Donald J. Trump 
        or any employee of the Executive Office of the President; and
            (6) any of the following Federal statutes governing 
        conflicts of interest as they may pertain to President Donald 
        J. Trump or any employee of the Executive Office of the 
        President:
                    (A) The Ethics in Government Act of 1978 (5 U.S.C. 
                app. 101 et seq.).
                    (B) Section 3110 of title 5, United States Code 
                (concerning employment of relatives).
                    (C) Section 7342 of title 5, United States Code 
                (concerning receipt and disposition of foreign gifts).
                    (D) Section 7353 of title 5, United States Code 
                (concerning gifts to federal employees).
                    (E) Section 201 of title 18, United States Code 
                (prohibiting bribery of public officials).
                    (F) Section 208 of title 18, United States Code 
                (prohibiting participation by government officials in 
                matters affecting their personal financial interest).
                    (G) Section 211 of title 18, United States Code 
                (prohibiting acceptance or solicitation to obtain 
                appointive public office).
                    (H) Section 219 of title 18, United States Code 
                (prohibiting federal officers and employees from acting 
                as agents of foreign principals).
                    (I) Section 1905 of title 18, United States Code 
                (prohibiting disclosure of confidential information).
                                                  House Calendar No. 18

115th CONGRESS

  1st Session

                              H. RES. 111

                          [Report No. 115-28]
 
  

Additional sponsors: Ms. Lee, Ms. Kaptur, Mr. Cicilline, Ms. Velazquez, 
Mr. Blumenauer, Ms. Jackson Lee, Ms. Speier, Mr. Sarbanes, Mr. Johnson 
  of Georgia, Mr. Cohen, Ms. Shea-Porter, Mr. Kennedy, Mr. Pocan, Mr. 
 Pallone, Ms. Clark of Massachusetts, Mr. Capuano, Mr. Espaillat, Mr. 
  Beyer, Ms. DeGette, Mr. Gutierrez, Mr. Perlmutter, Mr. Quigley, Mr. 
   McGovern, Ms. Eshoo, Mr. Ted Lieu of California, Mrs. Carolyn B. 
  Maloney of New York, Ms. Clarke of New York, Mr. Danny K. Davis of 
   Illinois, Mr. Foster, Mr. Doggett, Ms. Bonamici, Ms. Jayapal, Ms. 
     Schakowsky, Mr. Lynch, Mrs. Lowey, Ms. McCollum, Mr. Smith of 
    Washington, Mr. DeFazio, Mrs. Watson Coleman, Mr. Cardenas, Ms. 
    Slaughter, Mr. Peters, Mr. Walz, Mr. Courtney, Mr. Deutch, Mr. 
DeSaulnier, Mr. Vargas, Ms. Meng, Mr. Lowenthal, Mr. Lewis of Georgia, 
  Ms. Moore, Mr. Gallego, Mr. Tonko, Mrs. Lawrence, Mr. Serrano, Mr. 
  Larsen of Washington, Mr. Schneider, Ms. Tsongas, Mr. Panetta, Mr. 
 Garamendi, Mr. Conyers, Mr. Price of North Carolina, Mr. Aguilar, Mr. 
    Raskin, Mrs. Davis of California, Mr. Jeffries, Mr. Swalwell of 
California, Ms. Maxine Waters of California, Mr. Engel, Mr. Thompson of 
Mississippi, Mr. Clay, Mr. Neal, Mr. Polis, Mr. Huffman, Ms. Bass, Mr. 
Richmond, Mr. Evans, Mr. Brady of Pennsylvania, Mr. Meeks, Mr. Crowley, 
 Mr. Thompson of California, Mr. Yarmuth, Mr. Sean Patrick Maloney of 
 New York, Mr. Brendan F. Boyle of Pennsylvania, Mr. Soto, Mr. Himes, 
   Ms. Lofgren, Mr. Keating, Mr. Brown of Maryland, Mr. Suozzi, Mr. 
Ruppersberger, Mr. Schiff, Mr. Scott of Virginia, Mr. Crist, Mr. Welch, 
 Mr. Kilmer, Ms. DeLauro, Ms. DelBene, Mr. Connolly, Mr. Grijalva, Mr. 
 Khanna, Mr. Lipinski, Mr. Higgins of New York, Mr. Schrader, Mr. Ben 
    Ray Lujan of New Mexico, Ms. Matsui, Mr. Rush, Ms. Gabbard, Mr. 
    Loebsack, Mr. Michael F. Doyle of Pennsylvania, Ms. Adams, Mr. 
Langevin, Mr. McNerney, Ms. Sanchez, Mr. Hastings, Mr. Butterfield, Ms. 
    Frankel of Florida, Ms. Judy Chu of California, Mr. Sires, Mr. 
 Norcross, Mr. Pascrell, Mr. Payne, Ms. Michelle Lujan Grisham of New 
Mexico, Mr. Sherman, Mr. Levin, Mr. Carbajal, Ms. Titus, Mr. Carson of 
Indiana, Mr. Delaney, Ms. Esty, Mr. Moulton, Mr. Kind, Miss Rice of New 
   York, Mr. Gene Green of Texas, Ms. Pingree, Mrs. Napolitano, Ms. 
 Brownley of California, Ms. Blunt Rochester, Mr. Krishnamoorthi, Mr. 
    Larson of Connecticut, Ms. Roybal-Allard, Mrs. Dingell, and Mr. 
                               Gottheimer

                             March 8, 2017

 



                            

Thursday, February 9, 2017

GOING TO THE DOGS (with apologies to my best friend, Willie)

 

 
  With the impossibility of his lifelong dream to become the Attorney General of the Confederate States of America (his buddy, Senator Inhofe, the Einstein of Oklahoma, says he's got a snowball's chance in the US Senate), Jefferson Beauregard Sessions will have to settle for Attorney General of the United States of America in spite of what the late Mrs. King had to say, among thousands of others. Thanks to the dishonest (according to our President) Washington Post and to another southern boy with an infectious grin, Senator Mitch McConnell, Mrs. King's letter, addressed to the legendary white supremacist, the finally departed Senator Strom Thurmond (Lindsey Graham's mentor), has seen new life and perhaps a greater distinction. Please click on it whenever you can- we include the link in our "Required Reading" section to the right of this posting. Its been -finally- recorded in the official annals and reported by now, widely, all over the news - you really don't need us to present it to you. It was, as reported, tabled by Senator Strom when first it appeared- he never recorded it in his committee's account of the (failed) nomination of Jefferson Beauregard back in 1986- it seems it never saw the public light of day-until this week(?) Anyway those of us familiar with some American history and the name Strom Thurmond probably weren't so surprised at such a story. The Republican senators of today are like "Well that was old  Strom fer ya. C'mon Sessions wasn't voted a judge back then anyway. He's a better and wiser white man today." And of course they all voted to confirm. All but one Democrat voted against. The outcome wasn't really in doubt was it? The letter does recall a time we should all revisit again and again if we are ever going to turn this ship of state around. 
  One thing about this letter - and far be it for me to understand the machinations and subtleties of the US Senate-I just don't get. Its addressed to "dear Senator Thurmond" but if you notice at the bottom there is a "cc:" addressed to Senator Joe Biden. Do Ex Officios have no longer a say in the affairs of their country? Not that Biden supported him for a federal judge back then but there is still the mystery of its disappearance, but nevertheless - and I have googled like crazy- I haven't come across a reference citing VP Joe  as saying something like, "You know there was this letter..."

 

While I have been racking my brain wondering why the wife of an heir to a pyramid schemer multi-billionaire would want a job that she insists is worth but $1 annually and has really no experience worth the appointing- unless, of course, you consider donating over $200 million to the Republican cause worthy of any consideration short of dog-catcher and by the looks of it the Trump Administration is not beyond going to the dogs and their unscrupulous best friends interests anyway- and neveryoumind the apparently unimportant fact that basically most people who take a serious turn when it comes to educating their kids are not happy at all with the president's selection but (almost) all the Republican senators are because 1.) they aren't serious about educating your kids and 2.) this furthers their anti-Obama "Reconstruction" agenda which mirrors the Trump campaign pathology. 
OK you try googling "Betsy DeVos With School children" and see what you get

Does anybody really imagine that this gang has your child's best interest at heart? For those of us not lucky enough to have school-aged kids trying to learn in Michigan go and read ( now there's a non-Trumpian idea) about how this misguided woman has left her shadow in the schoolhouse door (so to speak) all over Michigan for these last score plus years:

"This deeply dysfunctional educational landscape — where failure is rewarded with opportunities for expansion and “choice” means the opposite for tens of thousands of children — is no accident. It was created by an ideological lobby that has zealously championed free-market education reform for decades, with little regard for the outcome.
And at the center of that lobby is Betsy DeVos, the west Michigan advocate whose family has contributed millions of dollars to the cause of school choice and unregulated charter expansion throughout Michigan."- Detroit Free Press

So with such a divisive nomination, such an animus against her appointment- needing the deciding vote of a narrow-minded and bigoted man as our new Vice-President Mike Pence who as governor denied much needed federal funds for the public school kids in his state because he is -after all- a good Christian man; a proponent of de-funding Planned Parenthood; a denier of Gay & Lesbian rights; a supporter- like Mrs. DeVos- of guns in schools- at least in the parking lot; Mike Pence who matches his President's disdain for the media because it dares to criticize his antinomian ways- needing his tie-breaking vote- for the first time in American history- why does she think she is so important to the future of American education? Would it not have shown a bit of character- of a nascent conscience to have seen all this pain and trepidation that her very name had caused and remove herself from consideration. Her entire career- or whatever you call it- negates such a distinction. Put simply, she ain't all that. So what is her true mission in this and what have we wrought?

_____________________________________________

Coretta Scott King Wrote 1986 Letter Blasting Jeff Sessions On Race


The damning letter, which helped deny Sessions a federal judgeship in 1986, was never entered into the congressional record. It was finally published Tuesday evening.



Grassley’s office did not respond to requests for the letter, and sources told BuzzFeed News that Democratic members’ hands are tied by committee rules that give Grassley the sole authority to release it.