Archives for category: Justice

While many primary races are too close to call, due to large numbers of uncounted absentee ballots, Jamaal Bowman scored a decisive upset in his race to replace veteran Cingresman Elliot Engel, chair of the House Foreigh affairs Committee.

Jamaal is/was a middle school principal who was active in the opt out movement. He received the endorsement of AOC, Sanders, Warren, and many others, including me.

Here is the speech he gave when his victory appeared certain.

Jamaal will be a strong, clear, and informed voice for the voiceless in Congress.

The Washington Post published a statement endorsed by 89 individuals who served in the U.S. Department of Defense.


President Trump continues to use inflammatory language as many Americans protest the unlawful death of George Floyd and the unjust treatment of black Americans by our justice system. As the protests have grown, so has the intensity of the president’s rhetoric. He has gone so far as to make a shocking promise: to send active-duty members of the U.S. military to “dominate” protesters in cities throughout the country — with or without the consent of local mayors or state governors.


On Monday, the president previewed his approach on the streets of Washington. He had 1,600 troops from around the country transported to the D.C. area, and placed them on alert, as an unnamed Pentagon official put it, “to ensure faster employment if necessary.” As part of the show of force that Trump demanded, military helicopters made low-level passes over peaceful protesters — a military tactic sometimes used to disperse enemy combatants — scattering debris and broken glass among the crowd. He also had a force, including members of the National Guard and federal officers, that used flash-bang grenades, pepper spray and, according to eyewitness accounts, rubber bullets to drive lawful protesters, as well as members of the media and clergy, away from the historic St. John’s Episcopal Church. All so he could hold a politically motivated photo op there with members of his team, including, inappropriately, Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper and Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.


Looting and violence are unacceptable acts, and perpetrators should be arrested and duly tried under the law. But as Monday’s actions near the White House demonstrated, those committing such acts are largely on the margins of the vast majority of predominantly peaceful protests. While several past presidents have called on our armed services to provide additional aid to law enforcement in times of national crisis — among them Ulysses S. Grant, Dwight D. Eisenhower, John F. Kennedy and Lyndon B. Johnson — these presidents used the military to protect the rights of Americans, not to violate them.


As former leaders in the Defense Department — civilian and military, Republican, Democrat and independent — we all took an oath upon assuming office “to support and defend the Constitution of the United States,” as did the president and all members of the military, a fact that Gen. Milley pointed out in a recent memorandum to members of the armed forces. We are alarmed at how the president is betraying this oath by threatening to order members of the U.S. military to violate the rights of their fellow Americans.


President Trump has given governors a stark choice: either end the protests that continue to demand equal justice under our laws, or expect that he will send active-duty military units into their states. While the Insurrection Act gives the president the legal authority to do so, this authority has been invoked only in the most extreme conditions when state or local authorities were overwhelmed and were unable to safeguard the rule of law. Historically, as Secretary Esper has pointed out, it has rightly been seen as a tool of last resort.


Beyond being unnecessary, using our military to quell protests across the country would also be unwise. This is not the mission our armed forces signed up for: They signed up to fight our nation’s enemies and to secure — not infringe upon — the rights and freedoms of their fellow Americans. In addition, putting our servicemen and women in the middle of politically charged domestic unrest risks undermining the apolitical nature of the military that is so essential to our democracy. It also risks diminishing Americans’ trust in our military — and thus America’s security — for years to come.


As defense leaders who share a deep commitment to the Constitution, to freedom and justice for all Americans, and to the extraordinary men and women who volunteer to serve and protect our nation, we call on the president to immediately end his plans to send active-duty military personnel into cities as agents of law enforcement, or to employ them or any another military or police forces in ways that undermine the constitutional rights of Americans. The members of our military are always ready to serve in our nation’s defense. But they must never be used to violate the rights of those they are sworn to protect.


Leon E. Panetta, former defense secretary


Chuck Hagel, former defense secretary


Ashton B. Carter, former defense secretary


William S. Cohen, former defense secretary


Sasha Baker, former deputy chief of staff to the defense secretary


Donna Barbisch, retired major general in the U.S. Army


Jeremy Bash, chief of staff to the defense secretary
Jeffrey P. Bialos, former deputy under secretary of defense for industrial affairs


Susanna V. Blume, former deputy chief of staff to the deputy defense secretary


Ian Brzezinski, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Europe and NATO


Gabe Camarillo, former assistant secretary of the Air Force


Kurt M. Campbell, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Asia and the Pacific


Michael Carpenter, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia


Rebecca Bill Chavez, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Western hemisphere affairs
Derek Chollet, former assistant defense secretary for international security affairs


Dan Christman, retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Army and former assistant to the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff


James Clapper, former under secretary of defense for intelligence and director of national intelligence


Eliot A. Cohen, former member of planning staff for the defense department and former member of the Defense Policy Board


Erin Conaton, former under secretary of defense for personnel and readiness


John Conger, former principal deputy under secretary of defense


Peter S. Cooke, retired major general of the U.S. Army Reserve


Richard Danzig, former secretary of the U.S. Navy


Janine Davidson, former under secretary of the U.S. Navy


Robert L. Deitz, former general counsel at the National Security Agency


Abraham M. Denmark, former deputy assistant defense secretary for East Asia


Michael B. Donley, former secretary of the U.S. Air Force


John W. Douglass, retired brigadier general in the U.S. Air Force and former assistant secretary of the U.S. Navy


Raymond F. DuBois, former acting under secretary of the U.S. Army


Eric Edelman, former under secretary of defense for policy


Eric Fanning, former secretary of the U.S. Army


Evelyn N. Farkas, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia


Michèle A. Flournoy, former under secretary of defense for policy


Nelson M. Ford, former under secretary of the U.S. Army
Alice Friend, former principal director for African affairs in the office of the under defense secretary for policy


John A. Gans Jr., former speechwriter for the defense secretary


Sherri Goodman, former deputy under secretary of defense for environmental security


André Gudger, former deputy assistant defense secretary for manufacturing and industrial base policy


Robert Hale, former under secretary of defense and Defense Department comptroller


Michael V. Hayden, retired general in the U.S. Air Force and former director of the National Security Agency and CIA


Mark Hertling, retired lieutenant general in the U.S. Army and former commanding general of U.S. Army Europe


Kathleen H. Hicks, former principal deputy under secretary of defense for policy


Deborah Lee James, former secretary of the U.S. Air Force


John P. Jumper, retired general of the U.S. Air Force and former chief of staff of the Air Force


Colin H. Kahl, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Middle East policy


Mara E. Karlin, former deputy assistant defense secretary for strategy and force development


Frank Kendall, former under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics


Susan Koch, former deputy assistant defense secretary for threat-reduction policy


Ken Krieg, former under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics


J. William Leonard, former deputy assistant defense secretary for security and information operations


Steven J. Lepper, retired major general of the U.S. Air Force


George Little, former Pentagon press secretary


William J. Lynn III, former deputy defense secretary


Ray Mabus, former secretary of the U.S. Navy and former governor of Mississippi


Kelly Magsamen, former principal deputy assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs


Carlos E. Martinez, retired brigadier general of the U.S. Air Force Reserve


Michael McCord, former under secretary of defense and Defense Department comptroller


Chris Mellon, former deputy assistant defense secretary for intelligence


James N. Miller, former under secretary of defense for policy


Edward T. Morehouse Jr., former principal deputy assistant defense secretary and former acting assistant defense secretary for operational energy plans and programs


Jamie Morin, former director of cost assessment and program evaluation at the Defense Department and former acting under secretary of the U.S. Air Force


Jennifer M. O’Connor, former general counsel of the Defense Department


Sean O’Keefe, former secretary of the U.S. Navy


Dave Oliver, former principal deputy under secretary of defense for acquisition, technology and logistics


Robert B. Pirie, former under secretary of the U.S. Navy
John Plumb, former acting deputy assistant defense secretary for space policy


Eric Rosenbach, former assistant defense secretary for homeland defense and global security


Deborah Rosenblum, former acting deputy assistant defense secretary for counternarcotics


Todd Rosenblum, acting assistant defense secretary for homeland defense and Americas’ security affairs


Tommy Ross, former deputy assistant defense secretary for security cooperation


Henry J. Schweiter, former deputy assistant defense secretary


David B. Shear, former assistant defense secretary for Asian and Pacific security affairs


Amy E. Searight, former deputy assistant defense secretary for South and Southeast Asia


Vikram J. Singh, former deputy assistant defense secretary for South and Southeast Asia


Julianne Smith, former deputy national security adviser to the vice president and former principal director for Europe and NATO policy


Paula Thornhill, retired brigadier general of the Air Force and former principal director for Near Eastern and South Asian affairs


Jim Townsend, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Europe and NATO policy


Sandy Vershbow, former assistant defense secretary for international security affairs


Michael Vickers, former under secretary of defense for intelligence


Celeste Wallander, former deputy assistant defense secretary for Russia, Ukraine and Eurasia


Andrew Weber, former assistant defense secretary for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs


William F. Wechsler, former deputy assistant defense secretary for special operations and combating terrorism


Doug Wilson, former assistant defense secretary for public affairs


Anne A. Witkowsky, former deputy assistant defense secretary for stability and humanitarian affairs


Douglas Wise, former deputy director of the Defense Intelligence Agency


Daniel P. Woodward, retired brigadier general of the U.S. Air Force
Margaret H. Woodward, retired major general of the U.S. Air Force


Carl Woog, former deputy assistant to the defense secretary for communications


Robert O. Work, former deputy defense secretary


Dov S. Zakheim, former under secretary of defense and Defense Department comptroller

Robert Kuttner is editor of The American Prospect. He writes a blog called Kuttner on Tap.

If You Can Stand It, a Little More Optimism.

Now we find out what America is made of. And what we see, a week after George Floyd’s police lynching, is this:

Protests are continuing and they are increasingly peaceful, except for police violence. Protest leaders are working with local governments to contain both police rampages on the one hand and provocations and opportunistic looting on the other.

More than at any time since the civil rights era of the 1960s, white America has some compassion for pent-up black frustrations. A majority of Americans approve of the demonstrations and reject police violence. And 55 percent of white Americans tell pollsters that black anger is fully justified.

Meanwhile, Trump keeps revealing what he is made of, and his own support keeps dropping. And Joe Biden has found his inner Bobby Kennedy and made his best speech ever. I don’t care who wrote it; Biden gave it.

The focus of the election, increasingly, will be Trump’s callous and opportunistic use of a crisis that required healing. He is setting himself up for a landslide repudiation, well beyond the Republican margin of theft.

Also encouraging is the united response of governors and mayors. Trump may have the power on paper to call in the Army and the National Guard. But that is no match for the combined power of an aroused citizenry and resistant local officials. His troops can’t occupy the whole country by force.

We will see more mass demonstrations. They will be peaceful except for the efforts of rogue cops and Trump’s storm troopers to inject violence. And by fall, the consequence will be a mass revulsion against Trump.

As Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms, one of America’s finest, wrote in concluding an eloquent New York Times op-ed piece:

“Let us vote against state-sanctioned violence, vitriolic discourse and the violation of human rights. In memory of George Floyd and all the other innocent black lives that have been taken in the recent and distant past, let us commit to registering black people, especially black men, to vote.”

America is stronger, better, wiser than Trump. And America will survive Trump. Then the real work can begin.

Teresa Hanafin writes the “Fast Forward” column for the Boston Globe:

 

The biggest story that is still reverberating today isn’t Bernie Sanders’ victory in the New Hampshire primary, or Pete Buttigieg’s close second-place finish, or Amy Klobuchar’sremarkable rise, or the surprising slide of Elizabeth Warren and Joe Biden.

No, it’s Trump’s stunning, deliberate, and unprecedented insertion of presidential power, politics, and favoritism into our judicial system.

Look, we all know there’s plenty of injustice in the justice system. Look at the decades-long practice of imposing far harsher sentences on those convicted of using or distributing crack cocaine vs. cocaine in powder form. Those using crack cocaine tended to be Black, while powder cocaine was the preferred drug of white people. What a coincidence!

That’s an example of systemic disparities that many are working to change. (The Fair Sentencing Act of 2010 reduced the cocaine penalties’ differences.)

Trump used the power of the presidency to put his stubby thumb on the scales of justice to benefit a close ally and longtime friend.

Trump’s demand that the sentence recommended by federal prosecutors for his good buddy Roger Stone be reduced is astonishing enough. But adding to the impropriety was the fact that AG William Barr and top Justice Department officials jumped when Trump interfered, declaring that they would change the prosecutors’ recommendation to a lighter sentence for the president’s friend because, well, that’s what you do when you’re in the tank.

The whole stinking mess caused all four prosecutors to resign from the case — and one quit the Justice Department altogether.

To recap: Stone is a longtime political adviser to Trump, who used him during the 2016 campaign as a conduit to WikiLeaks, which had more than 19,000 e-mails that had been stolen from the servers of the Democratic National Committee. He tried to use Stone to get a heads-up when WikiLeaks was going to release e-mails that were damaging to Hillary Clinton’s campaign.

It was special counsel Robert Mueller who charged Stone last year. There were seven charges, all felonies: five counts of lying to investigators, one count of obstructing Congress (specifically, the House Intelligence Committee), and one count of tampering with a witness (in both the House inquiry and Mueller’s investigation).

A jury found Stone guilty of all seven charges. As is customary, the probation department then came up with a recommended sentence — 7 to 9 years in prison — and the prosecutors agreed.

They argued that Stone’s conduct was exceptionally egregious because the House and Mueller probes into Russian interference in the 2016 election were critical to our electoral system, and because of the danger to our democracy posed by foreign meddling.

But the bulk of the prison time prosecutors requested was related to Stone’s witness tampering because it involved threats of physical violence to his longtime associate, Randy Credico, after Credico indicated that he would cooperate with the House committee. Stone and Credico both said the threats were jokes, but the jury didn’t believe them.

Stone’s defense attorneys say federal guidelines call for a sentence of 15 to 21 months, and they are asking for probation. Prosecutors say their enhanced sentence request because of the threatened violence is in keeping with federal guidelines. As I’m sure you know, prosecutors often overreach when asking for sentences, and defense attorneys always downplay the offenses.

After Trump’s interference, the Justice Department announced that it would take the rare step of changing its prosecutors’ recommendation. DOJ officials ended up submitting a statement to the judge without a sentence recommendation, but asked her to impose a lighter sentence.

Yes, these are the prosecutors asking the judge to go easy on a convicted felon.

So it’s up to Judge Amy Berman Jackson, who could impose a lesser sentence or a harsher sentence. Or she could demand that the Justice Department explain why it changed the original recommendation, and ask the prosecutors who resigned why they did so.

Unsurprisingly, Trump already has attacked Jackson. He also declared that Stone should not have been found guilty — a nice trashing of the system of trial by jury — and should never have even been charged with anything because only Trump’s political opponents are supposed to be investigated and locked up.

Now congressional Democrats are demanding that the DOJ inspector general — who is independent of the department — investigate. House Democrats may also call Barr to Capitol Hill to explain his actions.

Please remember how critical it is to our democracy that justice be administered fairly and independent of influence. Imagine if one of your kids were arrested with a friend for say, drug use, but the parents of your child’s friend were chummy with the mayor, who gets the local prosecutors to drop the charges against that kid. But your kid gets jail time because you’re not buddies with the mayor. Would you shrug your shoulders the way congressional Republicans are?

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,           
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;       
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,  
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,      
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.

James Russell Lowell wrote these words before the Civil War. it is a stanza from a poem called “The Present Crisis.” Today it speaks to the Republicans in the Senate who are tasked with deciding whether a president may be impeached for pressuring a foreign government to announce an investigation into a political rival to benefit his re-election, whether a president may lie and insult and ridicule at will, and whether a president may refuse to allow members of his Administration to testify, to turn over documents, or to respond to Congressional subpoenas, thus obstructing Justice.

This is the poem in full.

The Present Crisis

James Russell Lowell – 1819-1891

When a deed is done for Freedom, through the broad earth’s aching breast 
Runs a thrill of joy prophetic, trembling on from east to west,         
And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels the soul within him climb 
To the awful verge of manhood, as the energy sublime        
Of a century bursts full-blossomed on the thorny stem of Time.               

Through the walls of hut and palace shoots the instantaneous throe,
When the travail of the Ages wrings earth’s systems to and fro;      
At the birth of each new Era, with a recognizing start,         
Nation wildly looks at nation, standing with mute lips apart,           
And glad Truth’s yet mightier man-child leaps beneath the Future’s heart.    

So the Evil’s triumph sendeth, with a terror and a chill,        
Under continent to continent, the sense of coming ill,          
And the slave, where’er he cowers, feels his sympathies with God  
In hot tear-drops ebbing earthward, to be drunk up by the sod,        
Till a corpse crawls round unburied, delving in the nobler clod.        

For mankind are one in spirit, and an instinct bears along,   
Round the earth’s electric circle, the swift flash of right or wrong;  
Whether conscious or unconscious, yet Humanity’s vast frame        
Through its ocean-sundered fibres feels the gush of joy or shame;—           
In the gain or loss of one race all the rest have equal claim.   

Once to every man and nation comes the moment to decide,           
In the strife of Truth with Falsehood, for the good or evil side;       
Some great cause, God’s new Messiah, offering each the bloom or blight,  
Parts the goats upon the left hand, and the sheep upon the right,      
And the choice goes by forever ‘twixt that darkness and that light.    

Hast thou chosen, O my people, on whose party thou shalt stand,   
Ere the Doom from its worn sandals shakes the dust against our land?       
Though the cause of Evil prosper, yet ’tis Truth alone is strong,      
And, albeit she wander outcast now, I see around her throng           
Troops of beautiful, tall angels, to enshield her from all wrong.        

Backward look across the ages and the beacon-moments see,          
That, like peaks of some sunk continent, jut through Oblivion’s sea;           
Not an ear in court or market for the low, foreboding cry    
Of those Crises, God’s stern winnowers, from whose feet earth’s chaff must fly;    
Never shows the choice momentous till the judgment hath passed by.          

Careless seems the great Avenger; history’s pages but record          
One death-grapple in the darkness ‘twixt old systems and the Word;           
Truth forever on the scaffold, Wrong forever on the throne,—        
Yet that scaffold sways the future, and, behind the dim unknown,  
Standeth God within the shadow, keeping watch above his own.      

We see dimly in the Present what is small and what is great,           
Slow of faith how weak an arm may turn the iron helm of fate,       
But the soul is still oracular; amid the market’s din, 
List the ominous stern whisper from the Delphic cave within,—     
“They enslave their children’s children who make compromise with sin.”     

Slavery, the earth-born Cyclops, fellest of the giant brood,  
Sons of brutish Force and Darkness, who have drenched the earth with blood,       
Famished in his self-made desert, blinded by our purer day,
Gropes in yet unblasted regions for his miserable prey;—    
Shall we guide his gory fingers where our helpless children play?     

Then to side with Truth is noble when we share her wretched crust,
Ere her cause bring fame and profit, and ’tis prosperous to be just;  
Then it is the brave man chooses, while the coward stands aside,    
Doubting in his abject spirit, till his Lord is crucified,          
And the multitude make virtue of the faith they had denied.  

Count me o’er earth’s chosen heroes,—they were souls that stood alone,     
While the men they agonized for hurled the contumelious stone,    
Stood serene, and down the future saw the golden beam incline      
To the side of perfect justice, mastered by their faith divine,
By one man’s plain truth to manhood and to God’s supreme design.  

By the light of burning heretics Christ’s bleeding feet I track,          
Toiling up new Calvaries ever with the cross that turns not back,    
And these mounts of anguish number how each generation learned
One new word of that grand Credo which in prophet-hearts hath burned    
Since the first man stood God-conquered with his face to heaven upturned.

For Humanity sweeps onward: where to-day the martyr stands,      
On the morrow crouches Judas with the silver in his hands;
Far in front the cross stands ready and the crackling fagots burn,    
While the hooting mob of yesterday in silent awe return      
To glean up the scattered ashes into History’s golden urn.      

‘Tis as easy to be heroes as to sit the idle slaves        
Of a legendary virtue carved upon our fathers’ graves,         
Worshippers of light ancestral make the present light a crime;—     
Was the Mayflower launched by cowards, steered by men behind their time?        
Turn those tracks toward Past or Future, that made Plymouth Rock sublime?           

They were men of present valor, stalwart old iconoclasts,    
Unconvinced by axe or gibbet that all virtue was the Past’s;
But we make their truth our falsehood, thinking that hath made us free,     
Hoarding it in mouldy parchments, while our tender spirits flee      
The rude grasp of that great Impulse which drove them across the sea.         

They have rights who dare maintain them; we are traitors to our sires,        
Smothering in their holy ashes Freedom’s new-lit altar-fires;           
Shall we make their creed our jailer? Shall we, in our haste to slay,
From the tombs of the old prophets steal the funeral lamps away    
To light up the martyr-fagots round the prophets of to-day?  

New occasions teach new duties; Time makes ancient good uncouth;         
They must upward still, and onward, who would keep abreast of Truth;     
Lo, before us gleam her camp-fires! we ourselves must Pilgrims be,           
Launch our Mayflower, and steer boldly through the desperate winter sea, 
Nor attempt the Future’s portal with the Past’s blood-rusted key.

 

 

Writing today in the Washington Post, constitutional scholar Laurence H. Tribe refutes the spurious claims that Trump’s lawyers have advanced, notably that Trump can’t be impeached because he didn’t commit a crime.

That is, there is no law saying that it is a crime to seek foreign help in getting dirt on one’s political opponent in the next presidential election, so it is not criminal.

Professor Tribe writes:

The president’s lawyers have made the sweeping assertionthat the articles of impeachment against President Trump must be dismissed because they fail to allege that he committed a crime — and are, therefore, as they said in a filing with the Senate, “constitutionally invalid on their face.”

Another of his lawyers, my former Harvard Law School colleague Alan Dershowitz, claiming to represent the Constitution rather than the president as such, makes the backup argument that the articles must be dismissed because neither abuse of power nor obstruction of Congress can count as impeachable offenses.

Both of these arguments are baseless. Senators weighing the articles of impeachment shouldn’t think that they offer an excuse for not performing their constitutional duty.

The argument that only criminal offenses are impeachable has died a thousand deaths in the writings of all the experts on the subject, but it staggers on like a vengeful zombie. In fact, there is no evidence that the phrase “high Crimes and Misdemeanors” was understood in the 1780s to mean indictable crimes.

On the contrary, with virtually no federal criminal law in place when the Constitution was written in 1787, any such understanding would have been inconceivable. Moreover, on July 20, 1787, Edmund Randolph, Virginia’s governor, urged the inclusion of an impeachment power specifically because the “Executive will have great opportunitys of abusing his power.” Even more famously, Alexander Hamilton in Federalist 65 defined “high crimes and misdemeanors” as “those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or, in other words, from the abuse or violation of some public trust.”

Any number of such violations of the public trust — such as working with foreign governments in ways that make the president beholden to their leaders, or cooperating with those governments to bolster the president’s reelection — clearly must be impeachable even though they might violate no criminal law and indeed no federal statute at all.

The related suggestion that, even if some noncriminal offenses might be impeachable, “abuse of power” is not among them is particularly strange. No serious constitutional scholar has ever agreed with it. The suggestion turns the impeachment power on its head.

The logic of impeachment as applied to the presidency is that the president has unique authority conferred by Article II. If he abuses that authority for personal advantage, financial or political, he injures the country as a whole. That is precisely why the framers rejected the idea of relying solely on an election to remove an abusive president from office. Indeed, waiting for the next election is an option that is obviously insufficient when the abuse of power is directed at cheating in that very election.

Professor Tribe goes on to cite the impeachment trial of President Johnson to support his argument that Alan Dershowitz, a criminal defense lawyer, doesn’t know what he is talking about.

On this day, we remember the life and work of the great Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.

It is inspiring to read his speeches, and I urge you to do so.

Today you will hear politicians praise his legacy even while they betray that same legacy.

Dr. King was a champion of the weak and powerless. He fought for the rights and dignity of Black Americans, and he was a champion for all Americans whose basic needs had been ignored and whose rights had been trampled upon.

These days, one is likely to hear wealthy and powerful people claim that they are “leading the civil rights issue of our time” by pushing to eliminate public schools; Dr. King never, never opposed public schools. He wanted them to be desegregated and he wanted them to provide equality of educational opportunity to all children, so that every child had the ability to develop to his or her full potential. It is jarring indeed to hear Donald Trump declare (as he did in his first State of the Union Address) that “school choice” is the “civil rights issue of our time.” No, it is not. Dr. King never said that. His words should not be appropriated by billionaires, hedge fund managers, and those oppose Dr. King’s fight to eliminate poverty.

Steven Singer wrote this post about Dr. King’s education philosophy.

He writes:

When we think of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., we usually think of the towering figure of the Civil Rights Movement who gave the “I have a dream” speech during the March on Washington in 1963.

However, as a teacher, I find myself turning to something he wrote in 1947 when he was just an 18-year-old student at Morehouse College.

While finishing his undergraduate studies in sociology, he published an essay in the student paper called “The Purpose of Education.”

Two sections immediately jump off the page. The first is this:

“We must remember that intelligence is not enough. Intelligence plus character–that is the goal of true education. The complete education gives one not only power of concentration, but worthy objectives upon which to concentrate. The broad education will, therefore, transmit to one not only the accumulated knowledge of the race but also the accumulated experience of social living.”

So for King it wasn’t enough for schools to teach facts. It wasn’t enough to teach skills, math, writing, reading, history and science. The schools are also responsible for teaching children character – how to be good people, how to get along with each other.

It’s a worthy goal.

Singer goes on to analyze the kind of school–public, private, or charter–that is likeliest to achieve Dr. King’s goals.

 

 

Alan Singer posts here a brilliant speech that he delivered about Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr,. the civil rights movement, and Dr. King’s continuing legacy today. He reminds us that the issues that Dr. King addressed are still unresolved: racism, poverty, war, violence. He points out that when Dr.King was assassinated, he was helping low-wage sanitation workers in Memphis to organize a union to improve their wages, working conditions, and lives. The next time you hear a billionaire or right-winger claim that school choice is “the civil rights issue of our time,” ask him or her (or yourself) whether they are also fighting as Dr. King did to end racism, poverty, war, and violence.

Speaking recently at the Uniondale, New York, public library, Singer said (and this is an excerpt),

The traditional myth about the Civil Rights Movement, the one that is taught in schools and promoted by politicians and the national media, is that Rosa Parks sat down, Martin Luther King stood up, and somehow the whole world changed. But the real story is that the Civil Rights Movement was a mass democratic movement to expand human equality and guarantee citizenship rights for Black Americans. It was definitely not a smooth climb to progress. Between roughly 1955 and 1968 it had peaks that enervated people and valleys that were demoralizing. Part of the genius of Dr. King was his ability to help people “keep on keeping on” when hope for the future seemed its bleakest.

While some individual activists clearly stood out during the Civil Rights Movement, it involved hundreds of thousands of people, including many White people, who could not abide the U.S. history of racial oppression dating back to slavery days. It is worth noting that a disproportionate number of whites involved in the Civil Rights movement were Jews, many with ties to Long Island. In the 1960s, the Great Neck Committee for Human Rights sponsored an anti-discrimination pledge signed by over 1,000 people who promised not to discriminate against any racial or ethnic groups if they rented or sold their homes. They also picketed local landlords accused of racial bias. The Human Rights Committee and Great Neck synagogues hosted Dr. King as a speaker and raised funds for his campaigns on multiple occasions.

King and Parks played crucial and symbolic roles in the Civil Rights Movement, but so did Thurgood Marshall, Myles Horton, Fanny Lou Hammer, Ella Baker, A. Philip Randolph, Walther Reuther, Medger Evers, John Lewis, Bayard Rustin, Pete Seeger, Presidents Eisenhower and Johnson, as well as activists who were critics of racial integration and non-violent civil disobedience such as Stokely Carmichael, Malcolm X, and the Black Panthers.

The stories of Rosa Parks and Martin Luther King have been sanitized to rob them of their radicalism and power. Rosa Parks was not a little old lady who sat down in the White only section of a bus because she was tired. She was only 42 when she refused to change her seat and made history. In addition, Parks was a trained organizer, a graduate of the Highlander School where she studied civil disobedience and social movements, and a leader of the Montgomery, Alabama NAACP. Rosa Parks made a conscious choice to break an unjust law in order to provoke a response and promote a movement for social change. 

Martin Luther King challenged the war in Vietnam, U.S. imperialism, and laws that victimized working people and the poor, not just racial discrimination. When he was assassinated in Memphis, Tennessee, he was helping organize a sanitation workers union. If Dr. King had not be assassinated, but had lived to become an old radical activist who constantly questioned American policy, I suspect he would never have become so venerated. It is better for a country to have heroes who are dead, because they cannot make embarrassing statements opposing continuing injustice and unnecessary wars.

The African American Civil Rights Movement probably ended with the assassination of Dr. King in April 1968 and the abandonment of Great Society social programs by the Democratic Party, but social inequality continues. What kind of country is it when young Black men are more likely to be involved with the criminal justice system than in college, inner city youth unemployment at the best of times hovers in the high double-digits, and children who already have internet access at home are the ones most likely to have it in school? What kind of country is it when families seeking refuge from war, crime, and climate disruption are barred entry to the United States or put in holding pens at the border? These are among the reasons I am recruiting everyone to a movement for social justice. These are the things that would have infuriated Martin Luther King.

I promised I would share excerpts from four of Dr. King’s speeches. Everyone has the phrases and speeches that they remember best. Most Americans are familiar with the 1963 “I have a Dream” speech at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington DC and the 1968 “I’ve been to the Mountaintop” speech in Memphis just before he died. These are four other speeches that still resonate with me the most today.

The first speech I reference is one for local Uniondale, Long Island, and Hofstra pride. In 1965, Dr. King was honored and spoke at the Hofstra University graduation. It was less than one year after he received the Nobel Peace Prize and three years before his assassination. In the speech Dr. King argued “mankind’s survival is dependent on man’s ability to solve the problems of racial injustice, poverty and war” and that the “solution of these problems is . . . dependent upon man squaring his moral progress with his scientific progress, and learning the practical art of living in harmony.” I have no doubt that if Dr. King were alive today, he would be at the forefront of the Black Lives Matter movement, demands for gun control, climate activism, and calls for the impeachment of Donald Trump. 

In his Hofstra speech, Dr. King told graduates, families, and faculty, “we have built machines that think, and instruments that peer into the unfathomable ranges of interstellar space. We have built gigantic bridges to span the seas, and gargantuan buildings to kiss the skies . . . We have been able to dwarf distance and place time in chains . . . Yet in spite of these spectacular strides in science and technology, something basic is missing. That is a sort of poverty of the spirit, which stands in glaring contrast to our scientific and technological abundance. The richer we have become materially, the poorer we have become morally and spiritually. We have learned to fly the air like birds and swim the sea like fish. But we have not learned the simple art of living together as brothers.”

Read the rest of this powerful speech by Professor Singer about Dr. King’s relevance for us today.

 

 

Over the past three years, Trump and Mitch McConnell have worked tirelessly to stuff the federal judiciary with extremists, libertarians, and lawyers who were unwilling to say that the Brown decision was correctly decided. Trump’s attack on the judiciary will outlast his time in office since federal judges have lifetime appointments.

On the bright side, Chief Justice John Roberts has defended the independence of the judiciary. He just issued his annual message, which contains subtle jabs at Trump.

The New York Times spelled out the pointed references.

As Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. prepares to preside over the impeachment trial of President Trump, he issued pointed remarks on Tuesday in his year-end report on the state of the federal judiciary that seemed to be addressed, at least in part, to the president himself.

The two men have a history of friction, and Chief Justice Roberts used the normally mild report to denounce false information spread on social media and to warn against mob rule. Some passages could be read as a mission statement for the chief justice’s plans for the impeachment trial itself.

“We should reflect on our duty to judge without fear or favor, deciding each matter with humility, integrity and dispatch,” he wrote in the report. “As the new year begins, and we turn to the tasks before us, we should each resolve to do our best to maintain the public’s trust that we are faithfully discharging our solemn obligation to equal justice under law.”

 

I recently read a short book by the classicist Mary Beard called Women and Power, in which she writes about the long history of silencing women. She gives examples from antiquity. In “The Odyssey,” the faithful wife Penelope of the long-absent Odysseus comes down from her private quarters to tell the assembled suitors to sing a more cheerful song. Her son Telemachus steps forward to rebuke her for speaking in public and sends her back to her loom.

Fast forward to the nineteenth century, when it becomes accceptable for women to speak, but appropriate only when they speak about women’s issues.

One of the most popular entries in anthologies of female oratory, she says, is Sojourner Truth’s “And Ain’t I a Woman.” It is written as a transcription of a southern drawl. But, writes Beard, the speech was written up a decade after she said whatever she said. Beard says the language was written by Abolitionists to fit their message. Sojourner Truth was born in Ulster County, New York, and her first language was Dutch.

Sojourner Truth was a historical figure, a real human being, a woman of color who spoke in public and earned her place in history. It’s unfortunate that we don’t have an accurate transcription of the powerful speech that broke the taboos of her age. She must have been a powerful and compelling speaker. She spoke out at a time when women were not supposed to speak in public, and black women were not supposed to speak at all.