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)
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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.
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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.

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-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."

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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














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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.”