What To Do When You're Stopped By Police - The ACLU & Elon James White
Know Anyone Who Thinks Racial Profiling Is Exaggerated? Watch This, And Tell Me When Your Jaw Drops.
This video clearly demonstrates how racist America is as a country and how far we have to go to become a country that is civilized and actually values equal justice. We must not rest until this goal is achieved. I do not want my great grandchildren to live in a country like we have today. I wish for them to live in a country where differences of race and culture are not ignored but valued as a part of what makes America great.
Sunday, December 31, 2017
"And for me and for you, the world is a ghetto" Donny Hathaway
"Rokhaya Diallo is a French journalist whose most noted work addresses a concept that doesn’t officially exist in France.
Ms. Diallo’s documentary “From Paris to Ferguson: Guilty of Being Black” (“Not Yo Mama’s Movement” in the United States) examines the pervasiveness of ethnic profiling in abusive police identity checks. She has also addressed a recent death and a brutal beating of black youths by police officers that led to a Black Lives Matter movement in France. She has called all this evidence of institutional racism.
That view has led the right wing, and some on the left, to successfully pressure the government of President Emmanuel Macron to oust her from a government advisory council, exposing a hypocrisy at the heart of French nationalism.
The term institutional racism, which in French is called state racism, is seen by many as an affront to the colorblind ideal of a universalist French republic. In France, it is illegal to classify people by their race or ethnicity.
Incredibly, the French education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, said last month that he would sue a teachers union for using the words “institutional racism” during education workshops in ethnically diverse Seine-St.-Denis northeast of Paris.
A few weeks ago, Marie Ekeland, a venture capitalist recently named as the president of the French Digital Council, an independent board dealing with digital technologies and their impact on society, announced the diverse list of staff members she had put together, including Ms. Diallo, who is black. Prime Minister Édouard Philippe and the secretary of state for digital, Mounir Mahjoubi, approved the list.
Then, just days later, the government shamefully caved to criticism and dismissed Ms. Diallo. Ms. Ekeland, and most of the board members she had appointed, resigned in protest. The French Human Rights League condemned Ms. Diallo’s removal, saying it stifled debate and raised questions about the independence of the council.
Mr. Macron has tried to project the image of a forward-looking, inclusive leader. This is a blot on that image and highlights the pressing need in France for an open debate on racism.
Correction: December 29, 2017
An earlier version of this editorial referred incorrectly to plans by the French education minister, Jean-Michel Blanquer, to file suit over the use of the term “institutional racism.” He said he would sue a teachers union, he did not say he would sue Ms. Diallo."
France Fails to Face Up to Racism - The New York Times
Saturday, December 30, 2017
A U.S.-backed plan was supposed to fix Mexico’s justice system. It’s resulted in chaos. - Washington Post
“...The reform is going badly,” José Ramón Cossío, a justice on Mexico’s Supreme Court, said in an interview. “There are many small problems that, taken together, are causing what I believe to be an important crisis.”
It is hard to overstate the significance of the restructuring. It seeks to turn the notoriously ineffective police into professional investigators. It strengthens the independence of judges. It provides more rights to defendants in a country where authorities have been known to demand bribes, extract confessions under torture and doctor evidence.
The U.S. government is deeply invested in the project, contributing more than $300 million since 2008 to equip courthouses and train police and legal personnel.
Even in rural outposts such as Ocotlan, the system has ushered in many trappings of high-tech justice: courthouses with surveillance cameras and fingerprint sensors; forensic investigators at crime scenes in latex gloves and protective footwear.
But the exacting new procedures have been grafted onto feeble, corruption-plagued institutions created decades ago by an authoritarian state.
Judges are demanding the kind of legal precision found in Washington or London, from police who sometimes can barely read and live in places that can feel like war zones.
“This is a baby that has just been born,” Rubio Gutiérrez said in an interview. “We are asking the system to run, and it is not possible...”
A U.S.-backed plan was supposed to fix Mexico’s justice system. It’s resulted in chaos. - Washington Post
Monday, December 25, 2017
RAY SUAREZ, HOST:
Attorney General Jeff Sessions announced this past week he's revoking dozens of pieces of guidance to law enforcement agencies around the country. One of those guidances, for example, was a notice that advised local courts against imposing excessive fines and fees on poor people in certain situations. That issue gained national prominence when a federal investigation into Ferguson, Mo., said the city's practices trapped poor people into a cycle of fines, fees and incarceration. We wanted to know more about this issue. We called Peter Edelman. He's the faculty director of Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality. And he wrote the book "Not A Crime To Be Poor: The Criminalization Of Poverty In America." Welcome to the program.
PETER EDELMAN: Thank you. I'm glad to be with you.
SUAREZ: Take us back to when this guidance was first issued. Is it of longstanding and what prompted it?
EDELMAN: What prompted it is what happened in Ferguson. We certainly knew about the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson. But when people from the Justice Department went down there and journalists and others, they found another thing going on, which was in order to get money to run their city, they just arrested their residents over and over and over again, threw them in jail if they couldn't pay. The thing that happened which caused the Justice Department to do that guidance is that it was happening all over the country. And some lawyers knew that, some journalists knew that, but the country didn't know that. And the Justice Department really hadn't looked at it fully.
SUAREZ: Attorney General Jeff Sessions is within his right to revoke the actions, the guidance of previous attorneys general, right?
EDELMAN: He can do that, but it's a terrible decision. The policy that he's allowing hurts people by really the millions around the country. And it's not only about throwing people in jail because they left their lawn - they didn't mow it or something like that. It also is about taking away driver's licenses and suspending them. And, again, that's a national thing. And so what was useful about the guidance is that it was telling law enforcement people and prosecutors and others across the country that this is a national problem and that they should respond to it, and indeed, many did in response to the guidance. It was a very thoughtful thing to do.
SUAREZ: It should be mentioned that large numbers of local people were trapped in an endless cycle of debt and fines added to the original fines for lack of payment. So even a minor infraction could leave you in hock to the local government for sums in excess of a thousand dollars, which, if you're making minimum wage, might as well be a million dollars.
EDELMAN: Well, and it's more than that. For example, if your driver's license was taken away, people have to drive to work. People have to take their children to school or somebody in the family to a physician. And they would be arrested again. And so what they owed would pile up. Not only that, if they were on probation, it was totally bogus. It was not really probation. It was a way to make money. And it was happening in blue states as well as red states. And so state over state, you have to pay if you're in the prison - pay in order to stay, they say.
SUAREZ: Peter Edelman, are you suggesting that law enforcement authorities, small police departments, sheriff's departments across the country have an inducement to look for these minor infractions because it pays for the gas for the cruisers, pays for the ammunition for the firing range and so on?
EDELMAN: There's a built-in conflict of interest. You have place after place where the judge's salary, as well as the place, as you said - some places even the public defender as well as the prosecutor is only being paid if the money's coming in in this way. It's a terrible system, if you would call it a system.
SUAREZ: Peter Edelman is the faculty director of Georgetown Law's Center on Poverty and Inequality and author of the book "Not A Crime To Be Poor: The Criminalization Of Poverty In America." Good to talk to you.
EDELMAN: Thank you very much, Ray."
Sunday, December 24, 2017
"After being accused of cursing at a corrections officer, Jessica Concepcion, seven months pregnant, spent the Christmas of 2006 in solitary confinement at Bedford Hills, New York’s maximum-security prison for women. Confined to her a cell for 23 consecutive hours, she had no opportunity for any human interaction, let alone a chance to wish her family a merry Christmas. “It was torture,” she told me. “All you have is those walls to talk to. You don’t have nothing else but those walls.”
In prisons across the US, it’s estimated that between 80,000 and 100,000 people are held in isolation at any given moment. The exact number is hard to pin down because solitary goes by various names. In New York, there’s the SHU (Special Housing Unit), which is a set of dedicated cellblocks that holds more than 2,700 people—or about 5 percent of the state’s 51,000 prisoners. Then there’s “keeplock,” in which people are confined to their own cells. Official data has not been released, but the Correctional Association of New York, a prison monitoring organization, estimates that another 1,000 people are in keeplock, bringing the percentage of New York state prisoners in isolation to 7.4 percent. Whether in SHU or keeplock, prisoners are allowed out of their cells for just one hour each day—to shower or exercise alone in an outdoor cage. Their only human contact is when officers handcuff them before removing them from their cells.
On Friday, December 22, Concepcion and her wife Xena Grandichelli, who has also spent time in solitary, joined over a dozen advocates outside Governor Andrew Cuomo’s midtown office to sing Christmas carols. But they weren’t simply spreading holiday cheer; they were urging him to pass the Humane Alternatives to Long Term (HALT) Solitary Confinement Act, which would limit time in isolation to 15 consecutive days and create alternatives for those who need longer periods of separation.
The protesters held aloft a 24-by-36 inch holiday card that invited the governor to spend 24 hours in solitary. The invitation may seem outrageous, but it’s not unprecedented. In January 2014, shortly after being appointed director of Colorado’s prison system, Rick Raemisch spent 20 hours in a 7-by-13-foot isolation cell in a maximum-security prison: “When I finally left my cell at 3 p.m., I felt even more urgency for reform,” he wrote in an op-ed for The New York Times...."
All They Want for Christmas Is a Limit on Solitary Confinement | The Nation
The presidency survived the Watergate, Iran-contra and Clinton scandals. Trump will exact a higher toll. - The Washington Post
"American presidents get the scandals they deserve.
Richard Nixon’s paranoia produced Watergate. Ronald Reagan’s indifference contributed to Iran-contra. Bill Clinton’s appetites led to impeachment. And Donald Trump’s delusions — about his singular abilities and the impunity of his office — are propelling the crisis of legitimacy threatening his presidency.
No matter how distinct presidential scandals appear in their origins, however, there is also a weary sameness to how presidents react to them, how Washington mobilizes for them, how history looms over them. Each crisis feels unprecedented at the time, yet some of the most detailed journalistic accounts of presidential disgrace in recent decades — “The Final Days,” Bob Woodward and Carl Bernstein’s narrative of Nixon’s end; “A Very Thin Line,” Theodore Draper’s comprehensive look at Iran-contra; and “The Breach,” Peter Baker’s dissection of Clinton’s impeachment trial — reveal how uniformly White House crises can unfold, explicitly drawing from one another, reliving dramas and pivots, and affecting how future scandals are judged.
Investigations and revelations. Fury and denial. Indictments and firings. Today, the White House is in crisis mode once again, and all in Washington are playing their parts. What distinguishes the Trump scandal is how its central character appears to combine the worst qualities of his troubled predecessors. How, rather than evolving into scandal, this presidency was born into it. And above all, how perceptions of the president’s integrity and honor — which proved critical in the outcomes of past political and constitutional crises — are barely an issue for a man without moral high ground left to lose.
In the evenings, sitting alone in the White House residence, the president “surrendered to his distress, watching hours of television news or talk shows and phoning allies at home to vent.” And at a dinner with a small group of White House staffers and dwindling Capitol Hill allies, the president complained about how “the liberals and the press hated him, and so the rules were being changed and he was going to be made to pay.”
This is not President Trump in 2017, but rather descriptions of Clinton and Nixon, respectively, at the height of the Lewinsky and Watergate sagas. Indeed, one of the most recurring images of a White House in turmoil is the isolated and vengeful commander in chief, stewing at 1600 Pennsylvania Ave. Trump may spend lonely nights and mornings with the remote and the phone, but historically speaking, he has plenty of company.
(Simon & Schuster)During presidential scandals, the White House peddles the illusion that the president and top aides are undistracted, that the nation’s business remains foremost in their minds, when in fact the political challenges threaten to overpower all else. Nixon was “increasingly moody, exuberant at one moment, depressed the next, alternately optimistic and pessimistic,” Woodward and Bernstein write. He spent hours on end poring over his Oval Office tapes and pondering his survival. Though the president hoped that overseas trips and foreign policy moves might enhance his public standing, White House Chief of Staff Alexander Haig confided to a former Pentagon colleague that Nixon was “distracted, spending so much time on Watergate, it’s destroying his ability to lead.” Haig even repeatedly urged a top telecommunications policy official to not bring anything substantive to Nixon’s attention. “The President isn’t in any shape to deal with this,” he explained.
Clinton’s famous ability to compartmentalize, to carry on amid the ever-expanding inquiry by independent counsel Kenneth Starr, was largely for show, Baker reports. “In private, Clinton was consumed with the Starr investigation and its collateral damage, sometimes so preoccupied that he appeared lost during meetings.” Clinton told Cabinet members that he had woken up “profoundly angry” every day for 41/2 years. Imagine what his morning tweetstorms would have been like.
Such presidential anger requires a focal point: For Nixon, it included special counsel Archibald Cox and former White House counsel John Dean; for Clinton, it was Starr and his Republican defenders. Trump’s wrath is less discriminating, targeting special counsel Robert Mueller as well as the FBI, the Justice Department and virtually all journalists save his loyal friends at Fox News. In the same way Trump says digging into his personal finances would be a red line Mueller should not cross, Nixon regarded Cox’s attempts to secure his tapes as “the ultimate defiance” meriting dismissal.
The effort by Trump and his supporters in the right-wing media to depict Mueller’s probe into Russian electoral interference as a partisan “witch hunt” — another common phrase across these scandals — is a time-honored tactic for any White House under siege. Haig and Nixon press secretary Ron Ziegler agreed on the need to “place the impeachment issue in as partisan a light as possible,” and the Clinton team reached the same conclusion more than 20 years later. Baker describes the latter group’s strategy during the impeachment fight: “Attack the accusers, demonize the investigators, complain about partisanship while doing everything to foment it.”
Cracks invariably emerge among the true believers, the deeply conflicted and the suddenly departed members of each administration. Once a loyalist, Dean flipped and offered a catalogue of accusations against the Nixon White House before the Senate Watergate committee: wiretapping, secret funds, money laundering, cover-ups and more. The Reagan team split among senior officials who had opposed arms sales to Iran, such as Secretary of State George Shultz, and those dedicated to advancing the initiative, such as John Poindexter, the national security adviser. Poindexter, who saw himself as “the head of an American version of a Roman praetorian guard around the president, loyal and responsible to him alone,” Draper writes, was eventually convicted of lying to Congress and obstructing investigations of Iran-contra, though the convictions were reversed on appeal.
Disillusioned staffers try to make their peace with flawed presidents. Clinton aide Paul Begala “sank into a deep depression” during the Monica Lewinsky scandal, Baker writes, and vowed never again to appear on television defending the president. (Spoiler: It was a vow he did not honor.) White House Chief of Staff Erskine Bowles sought to keep his distance from the nitty-gritty of the whole affair: When former United Nations ambassador Bill Richardson wanted to describe how he’d offered Lewinsky a job, Bowles interrupted: “I don’t want to know a f—ing thing about it!” And during Watergate, Haig and Nixon lawyer James St. Clair refused to read transcripts or listen to certain portions of the president’s tapes until late in the game. They didn’t want to know, either.
For Trump staffers and enablers, the dilemma is different. There are few illusions about their leader left to be shattered. Their true challenge is less about surviving Trump’s eruptions than simply living with the choice they’ve made, convincing themselves that service to the nation — passing a tax cut, forestalling a war, reducing immigration — is worth it.
What happened between Flynn, Trump and Comey? The Fact Checker's Timeline 0:00
President Trump, former FBI director James B. Comey and former national security adviser Michael Flynn's stories are entangled, to say the least.
For the presidents involved, enduring a scandal means convincing yourself of a good many things as well. Trump’s refusal to accept the U.S. intelligence finding that the Kremlin sought to tilt the 2016 election in his favor mirrors the stubbornness of his predecessors. Reagan went along with the sale of arms to Iran in an effort to free American hostages, though “always telling himself that it was not an arms-for-hostages deal,” Draper writes. Nixon lawyer J. Fred Buzhardt concluded that the 37th president lied not just to others but to himself. It was an easy tell, Woodward and Bernstein explain: “Almost invariably when [Nixon] lied, he would repeat himself, sometimes as often as three times — as if he were trying to convince himself.” And the Clinton White House held political strategy sessions in the midst of the impeachment saga, meetings that had an “unreal feel,” Baker writes, because the president and his aides would cover everything except their most overriding political challenge: saving Clinton’s presidency.
It makes Trump’s fawning Cabinet meetings — in which department heads recite prayers and offer thanks for their leader — seem almost normal.
Attaching a “-gate” suffix to every minor White House scandal is an occupational hazard of political journalism. Some overzealous commentators compared Trump’s dismissal in January of acting attorney general Sally Yates to the 1973 “Saturday Night Massacre,” when Nixon’s order to fire the special prosecutor prompted both the attorney general and the deputy attorney general to resign. It was a premature comparison but not an unusual one. During Iran-contra and the Clinton impeachment trial, the memories of Watergate were ever present — a constant reference, yardstick and warning.
Edwin Meese, attorney general during Reagan’s second term, was “haunted” by Nixon’s attempted cover-up, Draper writes, and was “determined at all costs to avoid a repetition” with Iran-contra. Mike McCurry, Clinton’s press secretary, decided to leave the White House before the impeachment proceedings got underway, in part to avoid “becoming the Ron Ziegler of his era,” Baker explains.
(Scribner)At times, Watergate became a call for restraint over hyperbole. House Minority Leader Richard Gephardt, a Democrat, told House Republicans that Watergate should be the model for cooperation between both sides in the Clinton proceedings, Baker reports. Some took that model quite literally: The House Judiciary Committee lawyer charged with producing the first draft of the articles of impeachment was so taken by the Nixon precedent that he borrowed liberally from the Watergate-era draft, using the same three-paragraph introduction, the same wording at the start of each article and the same two concluding paragraphs. (“The Breach” notes that even a password to access committee computer files was an homage of sorts: “RODINO,” for Rep. Peter Rodino, the New Jersey Democrat who served as the Judiciary Committee’s chairman during Watergate.)
But by replicating the Watergate format, Baker argues, House Republicans were “implicitly raising the bar for the substance of the charges as well — lying under oath and covering up an affair might pale in comparison to paying hush money and using the CIA to thwart an FBI investigation of political espionage.” That was the case Democrats made. Baker summarizes in three words the argument by the White House lawyers defending Clinton before the House committee: It ain’t Watergate.
The Trump investigation is not Watergate, either, at least not yet. We are just two indictments and two guilty pleas into this thing, and The Washington Post reports that the Mueller investigation could last deep into 2018, no matter how soon the Trump White House expects it to conclude. It is precisely that longevity, however, that could exhaust the forbearance of a notoriously impatient president. Thus far, Trump and his supporters seem intent on discrediting Mueller’s inquiry rather than shutting it down. A latter-day Saturday Night Massacre or a wholesale pardoning of top aides would propel the crisis of the Trump presidency to far more precarious heights.
“Watergate was a series of discrete, unrelated transactions,” members of Nixon’s legal team concluded, according to Woodward and Bernstein. “There had been no grand strategy, just consistently bad judgment.” History’s judgment may have proved otherwise — certainly Woodward and Bernstein have come to see Watergate in far more expansive and insidious terms — but it’s not a bad description of Trump’s presidency to date, one driven not by ideology but by impulse, incompetence and the quest for loyalty and personal benefit. Henry Kissinger lamented that Nixon was “a man who let his enemies dictate to him, whose actions were often reactions.” Or as White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders has said of Trump, “When he gets hit, he’s going to hit back.”
Trump appears Nixonian in his disregard for democratic norms, Clintonian in his personal recklessness and beyond Reaganesque in his distance from the details of policy. But where the parallels and parables of past scandals fall apart is with Trump’s well-documented disregard for truth. In Watergate, Iran-contra and the Clinton impeachment, views of the president’s honesty played a significant role for the public, for administration officials and for lawmakers torn over how to proceed.
Normally, revelations of presidential deceit are consequential. When Nixon speechwriter Patrick Buchanan, among the most devoted of the president’s men, explained to Nixon family members why a damning Oval Office recording meant that resignation was inevitable, he emphasized not law but dishonesty. “The problem is not Watergate or the cover-up,” he argued. “It’s that he hasn’t been telling the truth to the American people. The tape makes it evident that he hasn’t leveled with the country for probably eighteen months. And the President can’t lead a country he has deliberately misled.” When Sen. Susan Collins of Maine (one of a handful of Senate Republicans who ultimately voted against both articles of impeachment for Clinton) was agonizing over the decision, her misgivings centered on the president’s forthrightness. “She could not get over Clinton’s recklessness — it was as if he could not stop doing wrong, could not tell the truth,” Baker reports. And some of Reagan’s worst Iran-contra moments came in statements the president made in late 1986 and early 1987, when his questionable mastery of details and shifting rationales received tough scrutiny. In a March 1987 Oval Office speech, he finally (and mostly) fessed up. “A few months ago I told the American people I did not trade arms for hostages,” Reagan said. “My heart and my best intentions still tell me that’s true, but the facts and the evidence tell me it is not.”
The current president does not even attempt to save face. Fact-checkers have documented so many of Trump’s false or misleading statements during the 2016 campaign and into the first year of his presidency that there is no presumption of honesty left to squander. Even when Trump dismisses the fact checks as fake news — in effect, being dishonest about his dishonesty — it doesn’t seem to matter. Trump’s relentless attacks against anyone seeking to hold him accountable help neutralize the impact on his supporters.
During Watergate, top Nixon aides worried that the material on the Oval Office tapes — not just the disclosures of wrongdoing but also the “amorality” of Nixon’s words and thoughts — would hurt the president and the presidency. Ziegler was adamantly opposed to releasing transcripts, Woodward and Bernstein write, because “there was rough language on the tapes,” candid discussions that would “offend Middle America, destroy his mandate.” Once certain transcripts were made public, Nixon lawyer Leonard Garment worried that president had “allowed America into the ugliness of his mind — as if he wanted the world to participate in the despoliation of the myth of presidential behavior. . . . That was the truly impeachable offense: letting everyone see.”
With Trump, we’ve already seen it, and we already know it. His tweets are his Nixon tapes; the “Access Hollywood” recording his Starr report; his heedlessness for checks, balances and the rule of law his Iran-contra affair. Offending does not destroy his mandate, it fulfills it. The expectation of integrity has given way to a cynical acceptance of deceit. As much as anything Mueller uncovers, this is the scandal of our time.
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A guide to presidential impeachment, but just in case. Not thinking of anyone in particular. really.
Sorry, but I don’t care how you felt on election night. Not anymore.
Saturday, December 23, 2017
WASHINGTON — Late to his own meeting and waving a sheet of numbers, President Trump stormed into the Oval Office one day in June, plainly enraged.
Five months before, Mr. Trump had dispatched federal officers to the nation’s airports to stop travelers from several Muslim countries from entering the United States in a dramatic demonstration of how he would deliver on his campaign promise to fortify the nation’s borders.
But so many foreigners had flooded into the country since January, he vented to his national security team, that it was making a mockery of his pledge. Friends were calling to say he looked like a fool, Mr. Trump said.
According to six officials who attended or were briefed about the meeting, Mr. Trump then began reading aloud from the document, which his domestic policy adviser, Stephen Miller, had given him just before the meeting. The document listed how many immigrants had received visas to enter the United States in 2017.
More than 2,500 were from Afghanistan, a terrorist haven, the president complained.
Haiti had sent 15,000 people. They “all have AIDS,” he grumbled, according to one person who attended the meeting and another person who was briefed about it by a different person who was there.
Forty thousand had come from Nigeria, Mr. Trump added. Once they had seen the United States, they would never “go back to their huts” in Africa, recalled the two officials, who asked for anonymity to discuss a sensitive conversation in the Oval Office.
As the meeting continued, John F. Kelly, then the secretary of homeland security, and Rex W. Tillerson, the secretary of state, tried to interject, explaining that many were short-term travelers making one-time visits. But as the president continued, Mr. Kelly and Mr. Miller turned their ire on Mr. Tillerson, blaming him for the influx of foreigners and prompting the secretary of state to throw up his arms in frustration. If he was so bad at his job, maybe he should stop issuing visas altogether, Mr. Tillerson fired back.
Tempers flared and Mr. Kelly asked that the room be cleared of staff members. But even after the door to the Oval Office was closed, aides could still hear the president berating his most senior advisers.
Sarah Huckabee Sanders, the White House press secretary, denied on Saturday morning that Mr. Trump had made derogatory statements about immigrants during the meeting.
“General Kelly, General McMaster, Secretary Tillerson, Secretary Nielsen and all other senior staff actually in the meeting deny these outrageous claims,” she said, referring to the current White House chief of staff, the national security adviser and the secretaries of state and homeland security. “It’s both sad and telling The New York Times would print the lies of their anonymous ‘sources’ anyway.”
While the White House did not deny the overall description of the meeting, officials strenuously insisted that Mr. Trump never used the words “AIDS” or “huts” to describe people from any country. Several participants in the meeting told Times reporters that they did not recall the president using those words and did not think he had, but the two officials who described the comments found them so noteworthy that they related them to others at the time.
The meeting in June reflects Mr. Trump’s visceral approach to an issue that defined his campaign and has indelibly shaped the first year of his presidency.
Seizing on immigration as the cause of countless social and economic problems, Mr. Trump entered office with an agenda of symbolic but incompletely thought-out goals, the product not of rigorous policy debate but of emotionally charged personal interactions and an instinct for tapping into the nativist views of white working-class Americans.
Like many of his initiatives, his effort to change American immigration policy has been executed through a disorderly and dysfunctional process that sought from the start to defy the bureaucracy charged with enforcing it, according to interviews with three dozen current and former administration officials, lawmakers and others close to the process, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to detail private interactions.
But while Mr. Trump has been repeatedly frustrated by the limits of his power, his efforts to remake decades of immigration policy have gained increasing momentum as the White House became more disciplined and adept at either ignoring or undercutting the entrenched opposition of many parts of the government. The resulting changes have had far-reaching consequences, not only for the immigrants who have sought to make a new home in this country, but also for the United States’ image in the world.
“We have taken a giant steamliner barreling full speed,” Mr. Miller said in a recent interview. “Slowed it, stopped it, begun to turn it around and started sailing in the other direction.”
It is an assessment shared ruefully by Mr. Trump’s harshest critics, who see a darker view of the past year. Frank Sharry, the executive director of America’s Voice, a pro-immigration group, argues that the president’s immigration agenda is motivated by racism.
“He’s basically saying, ‘You people of color coming to America seeking the American dream are a threat to the white people,’” said Mr. Sharry, an outspoken critic of the president. “He’s come into office with an aggressive strategy of trying to reverse the demographic changes underway in America.”
Thursday, December 21, 2017
Manager of town called White Settlement accused of using N-word - NY Daily News. "It appears that my worst fears have been realized, we have made progress in everything but nothing seems to change". Derrick Bell.
Wednesday, December 20, 2017
Tuesday, December 19, 2017
Saturday, December 16, 2017
Poverty in America is a moral outrage. The soul of our nation is at stake. If we are to save the soul of this country from the poverty that is killing us, we must act, we must agitate, we must cause some righteous trouble | Rev William Barber and Rev Liz Theoharis | Opinion | The Guardian
"In March of 1968, as part of a tour of US cities to shine a light on poverty and drum up support for the recently-launched Poor People’s Campaign, the Rev Dr Martin Luther King Jr visited the northwest Mississippi town of Marks. He saw a teacher feeding schoolchildren a meager lunch of a slice of apple and crackers, and started crying.
Earlier this month, officials from the United Nations embarked on a similar trip across the US, and what they observed was a crisis of systemic poverty that Dr King would have recognized 50 years ago: diseases like hookworm, caused by open sewage, in Butler County, Alabama, and breathtaking levels of homelessness in Los Angeles’ Skid Row, home to 55,000 people.
“I think it’s very uncommon in the first world,” UN special rapporteur Philip Alston said. “This is not a sight that one normally sees. I’d have to say that I haven’t seen this.”
The morally troubling conditions Dr King witnessed across the country cemented his call, along with leaders in the labor movement, tenant unions, farm workers, Native American elders and grassroots organizers, for a campaign to foster a revolution of values in America.
Half a century later, the conditions that motivated the 1968 Poor People’s Campaign have only worsened, making the need for a new moral movement more urgent than ever. Compared to 1968, 60% more Americans are living below the official poverty line today – a total of 41 million people. The gap between our government’s discretionary spending on the military versus anti-poverty programs has grown from two-to-one at the height of the Vietnam war to four-to-one today.
That’s why, this month, poor and disenfranchised people along with clergy and moral leaders nationwide launched the Poor People’s Campaign: a National Call for Moral Revival, to challenge the enmeshed evils of systemic racism, poverty, the war economy, ecological devastation, and our distorted national morality.
The observations by the United Nations published this week are an urgent alarm bell for the moral emergency facing the country. As King did 50 years ago and Alston did earlier this month, we will travel the country to make sure the poor are not ignored. But it is not enough to bear witness. If we are to save the soul of this country from the poverty that is killing us, we must act, we must agitate, we must cause some righteous trouble.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival, which will be highlighted by 40 days of direct action and nonviolent civil disobedience this spring, is not a commemoration. It’s an acknowledgment that, 50 years later, there is still so much work to do to foster a revolution of values in America.
There’s a strange irony in America when it comes to poverty. The states with the highest poverty rates are in the south. And those same states have the highest rates of voter suppression of black people. Through this racialized voter suppression, politicians who support policies that hurt the poor get elected. While a larger percentage of black people are living in poverty, in raw numbers, there are actually more white than black people below the poverty line.
So-called white evangelicals are omnipresent in the poorest areas of our country, and they say the least about systemic poverty, which is the foremost issue in authentic Christian religious theology. After our denominations splintered over the moral question of slavery and the nation stood on the brink of civil war, Frederick Douglas said, “Between the christianity of this land and the christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference.”
Sadly, his observations ring true today.
These so-called evangelicals should listen to Pope Francis, who called poverty a “scandal.” He said, “In a world where there is so much wealth, so many resources to feed everyone, it is unfathomable that there are so many hungry children, that there are so many children without an education, so many poor persons. Poverty today is a cry. We all have to think if we can become a little poorer, all of us have to do this. How can I become a little poorer in order to be more like Jesus, who was the poor Teacher?”
The most radical, progressive shifts in our country’s history occurred when concerned citizens across racial lines come together. This was the case after the civil war, during the civil rights movement and today, in the Moral Mondays Movement and the Fight for $15.
The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival will unite Americans across all races, creeds, religions, classes and other divides – because it’s going to take all of us to revive the soul of our nation."
The Reverend Dr William Barber and the Reverend Dr Liz Theoharis are co-chairs of The Poor People’s Campaign: A National Call for Moral Revival
"The high school basketball squad from Eagle Grove, population 3,700, had traveled 60 miles up Highway 69 in Iowa to play the team from Forest City, population 4,100. It would be the Eagles against the Indians, a hardwood competition in the center of the country. For some people, this is as American as it gets.
At one point during the online streaming of the game last month, two white announcers for a Forest City radio station, KIOW, began riffing on the Hispanic names of some players from the mildly more diverse community of Eagle Grove. “They’re all foreigners,” said Orin Harris, a longtime announcer; his partner, Holly Jane Kusserow-Smidt, a board operator at the station who was also a third-grade teacher, answered: “Exactly.”
For some people, this is as American as it gets.
Mr. Harris then uttered a term occasionally used these days as a racially charged taunt, or as a braying assertion that the country is being taken back from forces that threaten it. That term is, simply, the surname of the sitting American president.
“As Trump would say, go back where they came from,” Mr. Harris said.
“Well, some would say that, yeah,” Ms. Kusserow-Smidt said. “Some days I feel like that, too.”
Last year’s contentious presidential election gave oxygen to hate. An analysis of F.B.I. crime data by the Center for the Study of Hate & Extremism at California State University, San Bernardino, found a 26 percent increase in bias incidents in the last quarter of 2016 — the heart of the election season — compared with the same period the previous year. The trend has continued into 2017, with the latest partial data for the nation’s five most populous cities showing a 12 percent increase."
‘Trump, Trump, Trump!’ How a President’s Name Became a Racial Jeer - The New York Times
What are the grounds for impeaching a President? Impeachment Clauses: Alexander Hamilton, Federalist, no. 65, 439--45
7 March 1788
A well constituted court for the trial of impeachments, is an object not more to be desired than difficult to be obtained in a government wholly elective. The subjects of its jurisdiction are those offenses which proceed from the misconduct of public men, or in other words from the abuse or violation of some public trust. They are of a nature which may with peculiar propriety be denominated POLITICAL, as they relate chiefly to injuries done immediately to the society itself. The prosecution of them, for this reason, will seldom fail to agitate the passions of the whole community, and to divide it into parties, more or less friendly or inimical, to the accused. In many cases, it will connect itself with the pre-existing factions, and will inlist all their animosities, partialities, influence and interest on one side, or on the other; and in such cases there will always be the greatest danger, that the decision will be regulated more by the comparitive strength of parties than by the real demonstrations of innocence or guilt.
The delicacy and magnitude of a trust, which so deeply concerns the political reputation and existence of every man engaged in the administration of public affairs, speak for themselves. The difficulty of placing it rightly in a government resting entirely on the basis of periodical elections will as readily be perceived, when it is considered that the most conspicuous characters in it will, from that circumstance, be too often the leaders, or the tools of the most cunning or the most numerous faction; and on this account can hardly be expected to possess the requisite neutrality towards those, whose conduct may be the subject of scrutiny.
The Convention, it appears, thought the Senate the most fit depositary of this important trust. Those who can best discern the intrinsic difficulty of the thing will be least hasty in condemning that opinion; and will be most inclined to allow due weight to the arguments which may be supposed to have produced it.
What it may be asked is the true spirit of the institution itself? Is it not designed as a method of NATIONAL INQUEST into the conduct of public men? If this be the design of it, who can so properly be the inquisitors for the nation, as the representatives of the nation themselves? It is not disputed that the power of originating the inquiry, or in other words of preferring the impeachment ought to be lodged in the hands of one branch of the legislative body; will not the reasons which indicate the propriety of this arrangement, strongly plead for an admission of the other branch of that body to a share in the inquiry? The model, from which the idea of this institution has been borrowed, pointed out that course to the Convention: In Great Britain, it is the province of the house of commons to prefer the impeachment; and of the house of lords to decide upon it. Several of the State constitutions have followed the example. As well the latter as the former seem to have regarded the practice of impeachments, as a bridle in the hands of the legislative body upon the executive servants of the government. Is not this the true light in which it ought to be regarded?
Where else, than in the Senate could have been found a tribunal sufficiently dignified, or sufficiently independent? What other body would be likely to feel confidence enough in its own situation, to preserve unawed and uninfluenced the necessary impartiality between an individual accused, and the representatives of the people, his accusers?
Could the Supreme Court have been relied upon as answering this description? It is much to be doubted whether the members of that tribunal would, at all times, be endowed with so eminent a portion of fortitude, as would be called for in the execution of so difficult a task; & it is still more to be doubted, whether they would possess the degree of credit and authority, which might, on certain occasions, be indispensable, towards reconciling the people to a decision, that should happen to clash with an accusation brought by their immediate representatives. A deficiency in the first would be fatal to the accused; in the last, dangerous to the public tranquillity. The hazard in both these respects could only be avoided, if at all, by rendering that tribunal more numerous than would consist with a reasonable attention to oeconomy. The necessity of a numerous court for the trial of impeachments is equally dictated by the nature of the proceeding. This can never be tied down by such strict rules, either in the delineation of the offence by the prosecutors, or in the construction of it by the Judges, as in common cases serve to limit the discretion of courts in favor of personal security. There will be no jury to stand between the Judges, who are to pronounce the sentence of the law and the party who is to receive or suffer it. The awful discretion, which a court of impeachments must necessarily have, to doom to honor or to infamy the most confidential and the most distinguished characters of the community, forbids the commitment of the trust to a small number of persons.
These considerations seem alone sufficient to authorise a conclusion, that the Supreme Court would have been an improper substitute for the Senate, as a court of impeachments. There remains a further consideration which will not a little strengthen this conclusion. It is this. The punishment, which may be the consequence of conviction upon impeachment, is not to terminate the chastisement of the offender. After having been sentenced to a perpetual ostracism from the esteem and confidence, and honors and emoluments of his country; he will still be liable to prosecution and punishment in the ordinary course of law. Would it be proper that the persons, who had disposed of his fame and his most valuable rights as a citizen in one trial, should in another trial, for the same offence, be also the disposers of his life and his fortune? Would there not be the greatest reason to apprehend, that error in the first sentence would be the parent of error in the second sentence? That the strong bias of one decision would be apt to overrule the influence of any new lights, which might be brought to vary the complexion of another decision? Those, who know any thing of human nature, will not hesitate to answer these questions in the affirmative; and will be at no loss to perceive, that by making the same persons Judges in both cases, those who might happen to be the objects of prosecution would in a great measure be deprived of the double security, intended them by a double trial. The loss of life and estate would often be virtually included in a sentence, which, in its terms, imported nothing more than dismission from a present, and disqualification for a future office. It may be said, that the intervention of a jury, in the second instance, would obviate the danger. But juries are frequently influenced by the opinions of Judges. They are sometimes induced to find special verdicts which refer the main question to the decision of the court. Who would be willing to stake his life and his estate upon the verdict of a jury, acting under the auspices of Judges, who had predetermined his guilt?
Would it have been an improvement of the plan, to have united the Supreme Court with the Senate, in the formation of the court of impeachments? This Union would certainly have been attended with several advantages; but would they not have been overballanced by the signal disadvantage, already stated, arising from the agency of the same Judges in the double prosecution to which the offender would be liable? To a certain extent, the benefits of that Union will be obtained from making the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court the President of the court of impeachments, as is proposed to be done in the plan of the Convention; while the inconveniences of an intire incorporation of the former into the latter will be substantially avoided. This was perhaps the prudent mean. I forbear to remark upon the additional pretext for clamour, against the Judiciary, which so considerable an augmentation of its authority would have afforded.
Would it have been desirable to have composed the court for the trial of impeachments of persons wholly distinct from the other departments of the government? There are weighty arguments, as well against, as in favor of such a plan. To some minds, it will not appear a trivial objection, that it would tend to increase the complexity of the political machine; and to add a new spring to the government, the utility of which would at best be questionable. But an objection, which will not be thought by any unworthy of attention, is this--A court formed upon such a plan would either be attended with heavy expence, or might in practice be subject to a variety of casualties and inconveniencies. It must either consist of permanent officers stationary at the seat of government, and of course entitled to fixed and regular stipends, or of certain officers of the State governments, to be called upon whenever an impeachment was actually depending. It will not be easy to imagine any third mode materially different, which could rationally be proposed. As the court, for reasons already given, ought to be numerous; the first scheme will be reprobated by every man, who can compare the extent of the public wants, with the means of supplying them; the second will be espoused with caution by those, who will seriously consider the difficulty of collecting men dispersed over the whole union; the injury to the innocent, from the procrastinated determination of the charges which might be brought against them; the advantage to the guilty, from the opportunities which delay would afford to intrigue and corruption; and in some cases the detriment to the State, from the prolonged inaction of men, whose firm and faithful execution of their duty might have exposed them to the persecution of an intemperate or designing majority in the House of Representatives. Though this latter supposition may seem harsh, and might not be likely often to be verified; yet it ought not to be forgotten, that the demon of faction will at certain seasons extend his sceptre over all numerous bodies of men.
But though one or the other of the substitutes which have been examined, or some other that might be devised, should be thought preferable to the plan, in this respect, reported by the Convention, it will not follow, that the Constitution ought for this reason to be rejected. If mankind were to resolve to agree in no institution of government, until every part of it had been adjusted to the most exact standard of perfection, society would soon become a general scene of anarchy, and the world a desert. Where is the standard of perfection to be found? Who will undertake to unite the discordant opinions of a whole community, in the same judgment of it; and to prevail upon one conceited projector to renounce his infallible criterion, for the fallible criterion of his more conceited neighbor? To answer the purpose of the adversaries of the Constitution, they ought to prove, not merely, that particular provisions in it are not the best, which might have been imagined; but that the plan upon the whole is bad and pernicious.
Impeachment Clauses: Alexander Hamilton, Federalist, no. 65, 439--45
Friday, December 15, 2017
For years, I was ashamed of Selma, Alabama. I saw this place as the start of much pain – in my own life, as well as a systemic root of a deep, terrible hurt in America.
In 1961, my family was run out of Selma. My father, a liberal minister, repeatedly failed so-called tests from the leaders of our Methodist church. His views on race – that all skin colours are welcome – were not welcome, and viewed as a threat.
They asked what he would do if a "coloured' man came into the back of our church and wanted to worship with us.
My father said he could not simultaneously teach the Bible and also tell anyone that he would not be welcomed in our church. "And what would you do if a coloured person wanted to have Communion with us?" asked the lay leader of our church.
"I would invite him down to the front row and serve him communion."
Of course, that was the right answer. But that Sunday at church, it was the wrong answer for the well-being of our family. This became abundantly clear very quickly: The following Sunday, men on horseback rounded the corner and came straight to our house, beside the church. They glared at my mom and I, as we sat on the front porch of our home. I'll never forget the hostility in their eyes. "Who are they?" I whispered to my mother. "The White Citizens' Council … they want to remind us of their presence."
Things got tense immediately afterward: someone called the bishop to tell him our family was not welcome in Selma. We felt the intense hostility from the congregation. We would hide whenever we saw the Klansmen piling their white sheets into their pickup trucks. I was young, but I could feel my parents' fear.
One night, my parents said we had to leave. We drove out of Selma after midnight, with our car lights off. During the five-hour drive to Mobile, the only sound in the car came from my mother, who was asking constantly if we were being followed. She felt ashamed, she said, because the last preacher was given a new car and his moving expenses were paid. And here we were, fearing for our safety, sneaking out of town. Running away from the hate and intolerance, we all felt shame.
It was years before I ever talked about this. I have spent most of my life avoiding Selma and running away from those feelings of shame, struggling to tell anyone about my home and why we left. I fled the shame of Selma, moving to Ireland, Wisconsin, New England and, finally, Nova Scotia.
But I moved back to Alabama after my children were grown and have lived a quiet and contemplative life on a lake outside Birmingham. That is, until a few days ago, when a robo-call telling me to vote for Judge Roy Moore in this week's U.S. senate election left me shaking and yelling into the phone.
It was time to leave my comfort zone. A call to the Doug Jones campaign headquarters asking where help was needed revealed that Selma needed drivers to take folks to the polls. My friend, Margaret, called and we decided to rent a van and drive to Selma the day of the vote. We hesitated, because of the dangerous and violent reputation of Selma. But we decided fear would not stop us.
We got up early, cast our own votes and then got on the road. The Jones headquarters in Selma was manned by two polite black young men. And we were indeed needed – 145 people needed rides. Our first pickup was 20 minutes outside Selma in Orville. We drove a middle-aged black woman, Mrs. Johnson, to her polling station, only to find that the IDs of black women were being questioned. We objected loud and clear: voter suppression in this state – and in this country – is widespread. We were going to help the silenced people of Selma have a voice in this election, even if it was only Mrs. Johnson's.
She eventually found a new piece of identification, and was able to cast her vote. We waited for our passenger at the poll, and then drove her home – but she wanted to stay with us, all day. She wanted to witness, and she wanted to help.
Headquarters sent us to a polling station where the voting machine was down. We were met with some degree of unpleasantness and were told the machine was only down for a few minutes. A black man, clearly angry, told us that was not true, that it had been down almost an hour and that voters were turned away. He said they were not offered paper ballots, but simply turned away. We spoke to another voter who said the same station had inhibited voters in the general election, saying their names where not on the voters list. One man saw his name upside down and pointed it out. The voting attendants told us to leave, to stay 30 feet away and not to interfere. We called headquarters and, very soon to our utter relief, a voter-fraud-protection lawyer arrived. This was the first of several voting issues we were asked to investigate.
We went to help get out the vote, but instead we were bombarded by requests to help where voters were being turned away. The barrage of requests – to investigate problems with ID, problems with the voting booths, problems with voter lists – filled our day. And Mrs. Johnson helped, too.
By 5 p.m., weary and spent, we went back to headquarters where we were told to revisit all the polls. There were still long lines. We encouraged voters – many of whom were African Americans, many of whom had been standing in line for hours – to stay, and brought food and hot chocolate.
Then we waited.
Of all places, Doug Jones was going to win by a landslide in Selma, Alabama. The place that drove out tolerance and acceptance, and my family too. The place where so much blood was shed, where so much intolerance and hatred flourished. This place, seemingly, is finally turning the page.
We raced down to the convention centre in time to hear Doug Jones speak and celebrate Alabama turning the tide on the insanity that has been our political circus in the past. The African Americans of Selma, despite or because of their tortured past, saved us in Alabama.
I remain so moved, so proud of Selma. There was so much hugging and crying and celebration of blacks and whites working together for a common cause: peace and justice for all. That night, we got our country back. That night, Alabama demonstrated that if we each activate and do one small thing, we can change the course of history. My one small thing, it turned out, was finally returning to Selma.
Before we left Selma, I asked Margaret to drive by the Methodist church. I stood there for a long while, walked next "door and sat in the exact spot where I was when I saw the riders on horseback back in 1961. I no longer felt ashamed of this spot, but a deep pride for my country, my state, and Selma...."
I went back to Selma after hatred drove me away - The Globe and Mail
"It will go down one as of the most excruciating job interviews of all time.
A Trump federal judicial nominee was utterly stymied by a line of questioning on basic knowledge of procedural law during his Senate confirmation hearing Thursday, raising questions about the fitness of Trump’s choices for the posts.
‘MUST WATCH’, tweeted Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse. ‘[Senator Kennedy] asks one of [Donald Trump’s] US District Judge nominees basic questions of law & he can’t answer a single one. Hoo-boy."
Thursday, December 14, 2017
"... It demonstrated once again that black voters, particularly black women, have been summoned to save America from its worst impulses and to establish that they are the most loyal and crucial constituency of a Democratic Party that still doesn’t grant them enough respect or deference, instead often pleading in the final hours after efforts to win more white voters fall short.
The election demonstrated that for many college-educated, suburban conservatives, there is a limit to their tolerance for regression, fallaciousness, bigotry, misogyny, homophobia and anti-scientific, ahistoric, truth-hostile positioning.
It demonstrated that the South is not necessarily solid. The Resistance has its own Southern Strategy.
And most important, it proved that people who believe in the fundamental values of this country, in its ability to change, in the necessity of making the imperfect more perfect, are not the minority, but rather an inflamed majority..."
The Omen of Alabama - The New York Times
Wednesday, December 13, 2017
"Democrat Doug Jones won the special election for the Alabama Senate seat on Tuesday night, defeating Republican candidate Roy Moore after a bitter election that captivated national attention for weeks. Jones won the election with 49.9 percent of the vote, while Moore received 48.4 percent. Write-in candidates made up 1.7 percent of votes in the race, according to CNN exit poll data.
On average, women preferred Jones by 57 percent, according to CNN, but the breakdown differed greatly by race. Black women were a particularly important demographic for Jones’s win, turning out in big numbers in a way that was reminiscent of Democratic turnout for former President Barack Obama.
Ninety-eight percent of black women voted for Jones, while 63 percent of white women voted for Moore. About 30 percent of white voters overall chose Jones, CNN reported."
Monday, December 11, 2017
“ICE agents preyed upon vulnerable families using fear and lies to improperly enter homes – without cause – and detain people who were legally present in the U.S.,” said Lisa Graybill, deputy legal director at the SPLC. “The safety of home and the freedom from unlawful searches and seizures are among America’s most fundamental values, and law enforcement officials at all levels are legally required to protect these constitutional rights. The anything-goes method of the ICE agents in these raids obliterated due process, tore families apart, and did nothing to enhance national security...”
SPLC sues federal government over unconstitutional ICE raids | Southern Poverty Law Center
Saturday, December 09, 2017
“Like all people my age I find the passage of time so startling,” Kareem Abdul-Jabbar says with a quiet smile. The 70-year-old remains the highest points-scorer in the history of the NBA and, having won six championships and been picked for a record 19 All-Star Games, he is often compared with Michael Jordan when the greatest basketball players of all time are listed. Yet no one in American sport today can match Kareem’s political and cultural impact over 50 years.
In the 90 minutes since he knocked on my hotel room door in Los Angeles, Abdul-Jabbar has recounted a dizzying personal history which stretches from conducting his first-ever interview with Martin Luther King in Harlem, when he was just 17, to receiving a hand-written insult from Donald Trump in 2015. We move from Colin Kaepernick calling him last week to the moment when, aged 20, Kareem was the youngest man invited to the Cleveland Summit – as the leading black athletes in 1967 gathered to meet Muhammad Ali to decide whether they would support him after he had been stripped of his world title and banned from boxing for rejecting the draft during the Vietnam War.
Kaepernick, the former San Francisco 49ers quarterback who has been shut out of the NFL for his refusal to stand for the US national anthem, is engaged in a different struggle. But, after being banished unofficially from football for going down on a bended knee in protest against racism and police brutality, Kaepernick has one of his staunchest allies in Abdul-Jabbar.
At the Cleveland Summit Abdul-Jabbar was called Lew Alcindor, for he had not converted to Islam then, and he became one of Ali’s ardent supporters. When Ali convinced his fellow athletes he was right to stand against the US government, the young basketball star knew he needed to make his more reticent voice heard. He has stayed true to that conviction ever since.
“We’re talking about 50 years since the Cleveland Summit, wow,” Abdul-Jabbar exclaims. “We were tense about what we were going to do and Ali was the opposite. He said: ‘We’ve got to fight this in court and I’m going to start a speaking tour.’ Ali had figured out what he had to do in order to make the dollars – while fighting the case was essential to his identity. Bill Russell [the great Boston Celtics player] said: ‘I’ve got no concerns about Ali. It’s the rest of us I’m worried about.’ Ali had such conviction but he was cracking jokes and asking us if we were going to be as dumb as Wilt Chamberlain [another basketball great who played for the Philadelphia 76ers]. Wilt wanted to box Ali. Oh my God.”
Abdul-Jabbar’s face creases with laughter before he becomes more serious again. “Black Americans wanted to protect Ali because he spoke for us when we had no voice. When he said: ‘Ain’t no Viet Cong ever called me the N-word’, we figured that one out real quick. Ali was a winner and people supported him because of his class as a human being. But some of the things we fought against then are still happening. Each generation faces these same old problems.”
The previous evening, when I had sat next to Abdul-Jabbar at the Los Angeles Press Club awards, the past echoed again. Abdul-Jabbar received two prizes – the Legend Award and Columnist of the Year for his work in the Hollywood Reporter. Other award winners included Tippi Hedren, who starred in Alfred Hitchcock’s thriller, The Birds, and the New York Times reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey who broke the Harvey Weinstein story two months ago. As if to prove that the past can be played over and over again in a contemporary loop, we saw footage of Hedren saying how she would not accept the sexual bullying of Hitchcock in the 1960s just before Kantor and Twohey described how they earned the trust of women who had been abused by Weinstein.
Abdul-Jabbar explained quietly to me how much of an ordeal he found such occasions. He was happiest talking about John Coltrane or Sherlock Holmes, James Baldwin or Bruce Lee, but people kept coming over to ask for a selfie or a book to be signed while, all evening, comic references were made to his height. Abdul-Jabbar is 7ft 2in and he looked two feet taller than Hedren on the red carpet.
The following morning, as he stretches out his long legs, I tell Kareem how I winced each time another wise-crack was made about his height. “I can tell you I was six-foot-two, aged 12, when the questions started,” Abdul-Jabbar says. “‘How’s the weather up there?’ I should write down all the things people said when affected by my height. One of the funniest was at an airport and this little boy of five looked at my feet in amazement. I said: ‘Hey, how you’re doing?’ He just said: ‘You must be very old – because you’ve got very big shoes.’ For him the older you were, the bigger your shoes. That’s the best I’ve heard.”
In his simple but often beautiful and profound new book, Becoming Kareem, Abdul-Jabbar writes poignantly: “My skin made me a symbol, my height made me a target.”
A group of top black athletes gather to give support to Muhammad Ali give his reasons for rejecting the draft during the Vietnam War at a meeting of the Negro Industrial and Economic Union, held in Cleveland in June 1967. Seated in the front row, from left to right: Bill Russell, Ali, Jim Brown and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Standing behind them are: Carl Stokes, Walter Beach, Bobby Mitchell, Sid Williams, Curtis McClinton, Willie Davis, Jim Shorter and John Wooten. Photograph: Robert Abbott Sengstacke/Getty ImagesRace has been the primary issue which Abdul-Jabbar has confronted every day. In another absorbing Abdul-Jabbar book published this year, Coach Wooden and Me, he celebrates his friendship with the man who helped him win an unprecedented three NCAA championship titles with UCLA. They lost only two games in his three years on campus as UCLA established themselves as the greatest team in the history of college basketball and Wooden, a white midwesterner, and Kareem, a black kid from New York, forged a bond that lasted a half-century. Yet, amid their shared morality and decency, race remained an unresolved issue between them.
Wooden was mortified when a little old lady stared up at the teenage Kareem and said: “I’ve never seen a nigger that tall.” Even though he would later say that he learnt more about man’s inhumanity to man by witnessing all his protégé endured over the years, Wooden’s memory of that encounter softened the woman’s racial insult by saying that she had called Kareem “a big black freak.”
Abdul-Jabbar nods. “He would never see a little grey-haired lady using such language. When it doesn’t affect your life it’s hard for you to see. Men don’t understand what attractive women go through. We don’t get on a bus and have somebody squeeze our breast. We have no idea how bad it can be. For people to understand your predicament you’ve got to figure out how to convey that reality. It takes time.”
Abdul-Jabbar made his first high-profile statement against the predicament of all African Americans when, in 1968, he boycotted the Olympic Games in Mexico. After race riots in Newark and Detroit, and the assassination of King in April 1968, he knew he could not represent his country. “Dr Harry Edwards [the civil rights activist] helped me realise how much power I had. The Olympics are a great event but what happened overwhelmed any patriotism. I had to make a stand. I wanted the country to live up to the words of the founding fathers – and make sure they applied to people of colour and to women. I was trying to hold America to that standard.”
The athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos took another path of protest. They competed in the Olympic 200m in Mexico and, after they had won gold and bronze, raised their gloved fists in a black power salute on the podium. “I was glad somebody with some political consciousness had gone to Mexico,” Abdul-Jabbar says, “so I was very supportive of them.”
Does Kaepernick’s situation mirror those same issues? “Yeah. The whole issue of equal treatment under the law is still being worked out here because for so long our political and legal culture has denied black Americans equal treatment. But I was surprised Kaepernick had that awareness. It made me think: ‘I wonder how many other NFL athletes are also aware?’ From there it has bloomed. This generation has a very good idea on how to confront racism. I talked to Colin a couple of days ago on the phone and I’m really proud of him. He’s filed an issue with the Players Association about the owners colluding to keep him from working. That’s the best legal approach to it. I hope he prevails.”
Over dinner the night before, he intimated that Kaepernick knew he would never play in the NFL again. “We didn’t get that deep into it,” he says now, “but he has an idea that is what’s going down. But he’s moved on. He hadn’t prepared for this but he coped with different twists and turns. Some of the owners in the NFL are sympathetic, some aren’t. It’s gone back and forth. But he appreciates the fact that kids in high school have taken an interest. So he got something done and this generation’s athletes are now more aware of civil rights.”
Abdul-Jabbar is proud of Colin Kaepernick’s stand. Photograph: Michael Zagaris/Getty ImagesKaepernick has been voted GQ’s Citizen of the Year, the runner-up in Time magazine’s Person of the Year and this week he received Sports Illustrated’s Muhammad Ali Legacy Award. Considering the way Kaepernick “has never wavered in his commitment”, Abdul-Jabbar writes in Sports Illustrated that: “I have never been prouder to be an American … On November 30, it was reported that 40 NFL players and league officials had reached an agreement for the league to provide approximately $90m between now and 2023 for activism endeavors important to African American communities. Clearly, this is the result of Colin’s one-knee revolution and of the many players and coaches he inspired to join him. That is some serious impact … Were my old friend [Ali] still alive, I know he would be proud that Colin is continuing this tradition of being a selfless warrior for social justice.”
In my hotel room, Abdul-Jabbar is more specific in linking tragedy and a deepening social conscience. “I don’t know how anybody could not be moved by some of the things we’ve seen. Remember the footage of [12-year-old] Tamir Rice getting killed [in Cleveland [in 2014]. The car stops and the cop stands up and executes Tamir Rice. It took two seconds. It’s so unbelievably brutal you have to do something about it.
“LeBron James and other guys in the NBA all had something to say about such crimes [James and leading players wore I Can’t Breathe T-shirts in December 2014 to protest against the police killing of Eric Garner, another black man]. They weren’t talking as athletes. They were talking as parents because that could have been their kid.”
If the NFL appears to have actively ended Kaepernick’s career, what does Abdul-Jabbar feel about the NBA’s politics? “The NBA has been wonderful. I came into the NBA and went to Milwaukee [where he won his first championship before winning five more with the LA Lakers]. Milwaukee had the first black general manager in professional sports [Wayne Embry in 1972]. And the NBA’s outreach for coaches, general managers and women has been exemplary. The NBA has been on the edge of change. I was hoping the NFL might do the same because some of the owners were taking the knee. But they’re making an example of Colin. It’s not right. Let him go out there and succeed or fail on the field like any other great athlete.”
Abdul-Jabbar smiles shyly when I ask him about his first interview – with Martin Luther King 53 years ago. “As a journalist I started out interviewing Dr King. Whoa! By that point , Dr King was a serious icon and I was thrilled he gave me a really good earnest answer. Moments like that affect your life. But my first real experience of being drawn into the civil rights movement came when I read James Baldwin’s The Fire Next Time.”
Muhammad Ali, then Cassius Clay, with Bill Russell and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, then Lew Alcindor. Photograph: Bettmann/Bettmann ArchiveHas he seen I Am Not Your Negro – Raoul Peck’s 2016 documentary of Baldwin? “It’s wonderful. I saw it two weeks after the Trump election. It was medicine for my soul. It made me think of how bad things were for James Baldwin. But remember him speaking at Cambridge [University] and the reception he got? Oh man, amazing! I kept telling people: ‘Trump is an asshole but go and see this film. Trump doesn’t matter because we’ve got work to do.’”
In 2015, after Abdul-Jabbar wrote an opinion piece in the Washington Post, condemning Trump’s attempts to bully the press, the future president sent him a scrawled note: “Kareem – now I know why the press always treated you so badly. They couldn’t stand you. The fact is you don’t have a clue about life and what has to be done to make America great again.”
Abdul-Jabbar smiles when I say that schoolyard taunt is a long way from the oratory of King or Malcolm X. “If you judge yourself by your enemies I’m doing great. Trump’s not going to change. He knows he is where he is because of his appeal to racism and xenophobia. The people that want to divide the country are in his camp. They want to go back to the 18th century.
“Trump wants to move us back to 1952 but he’s not Eisenhower – who was the type of Republican that cared about the whole nation. Even George Bush Sr and George W Bush’s idea of fellow citizens did not exclude people of colour. George W’s cabinet looked like America. It had Condoleezza Rice and the Mexican American gentleman who was the attorney general [Alberto Gonzales] and Colin Powell. Women had important positions in his administration. Even though I did not like his policies, he wasn’t exclusionary.
“Look what’s going on with Trump in Alabama [where the president supports Roy Moore in the state senate election despite his favoured candidate being accused of multiple sexual assaults of under-age girls]. You have a guy like him but he’s going to vote the way you want politically. That’s more important than what he’s accused of? People with that frightening viewpoint are still fighting a civil war. They have to be contained.”
Does he fear that Trump might win a second term? “I don’t think he can, but the rest of us had better organise and vote in 2020. I hope people stop him ruining our nation.”
Abdul-Jabbar also worries that college sport remains as exploitative as ever. “It’s a business and the coaches, the NCAA and universities make a lot of money and the athletes get exploited. They make billions of dollars for the whole system and don’t get any. I’m not saying they have to be wealthy but I think they should get a share of the incredible amount they generate.”
In Coach Wooden and Me, he writes of how, in the 1960s, he was famous at UCLA but dead broke. “Yeah. No cash. It’s ridiculous. Basketball and football fund everything. College sports do not function on the revenue from water polo or track and field or gymnastics. It’s all down to basketball and football. The athletes at Northwestern tried to organise a union and that’s how college athletes have to think. They need to unionise. If they can organise they can get a piece of the pie because they are the show.”
The legendary Michael Jordan never showed the social conscience of Abdul-Jabbar and other rare NBA activists like Craig Hodges. But Abdul-Jabbar is conciliatory towards Jordan and his commercially-driven contemporaries. “I was glad they became interested in being successful businessmen because their financial power makes a difference. I just felt they should leave a little room to help the causes they knew needed their help. But Jordan has come around. He gave some money to the NAACP for legal funds, thank goodness.”
President Barack Obama awards the Medal of Freedom to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the White House in November 2016. Photograph: Alamy Stock PhotoAbdul-Jabbar defines himself as a writer now. As he reflects on his LA Press Club awards he says: “To be honoured by other writers is incredible. I’m a neophyte. I’m a rookie.”
He grins when I say he’s not doing not too badly for a rookie who has written 13 books, including novels about Mycoft Holmes – brother of Sherlock. “Yeah, but I still feel new to it and to get that recognition was wonderful. I was very flattered that the BBC came to interview me about Mycroft because the British are very protective of their culture. Arthur Conan Doyle is beyond an icon. So I was like, ‘Wow, maybe I am doing OK.’ When I was [an NBA] rookie somebody gave me a complete compilation of Doyle’s stories. I went from there.
“People were amazed because I always used to be reading before a game – whether it was Sherlock Holmes or Malcolm X, John Le Carré or James Baldwin. But that was one of the luxuries of being a professional athlete. You get lots of time to read. My team-mates did not read to the same extent but I’m a historian and some of the guys had big holes in their knowledge of black history. So I was the librarian for the team.”
I tell Abdul-Jabbar about my upcoming interview with Jaylen Brown of the Boston Celtics – and how the 21-year-old has the same thirst for reading and knowledge. While enthusiastic about the possibility of meeting Brown when the Celtics next visit LA, Abdul-Jabbar makes a wistful observation of a young sportsman’s intellectual curiosity. “He’s going to be lonely. Most of the guys are like: ‘Where are we going to party in this town? Where are the babes?’ So the fact that he has such broader interests is remarkable and wonderful.”
Abdul-Jabbar acknowledges that his own bookish nature and self-consciousness about his height, combined with a fierce sense of injustice, made him appear surly and aloof as a player. It also meant he was never offered the head-coach job he desired. “They didn’t think I could communicate and they didn’t take the time to get to know me. But I didn’t make it easy for them so some of that falls in my lap – absolutely. But it’s different now. People stop me in the street and want to talk about my articles. It’s amazing.”
Most of all, in his eighth decade, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar “loves to lose myself in my imagination. It’s a wonderful place to go when you’re old and creaky like me. I see myself working at this pace [writing at least a book a year] but it’s not like I have the hounds at my heels. Since my career ended I’ve been able to have friends and family. My new granddaughter will be three this month. She’s my very first [grandchild]. So my life has expanded in wonderful ways. But, still, we all have so much work to do. The work is a long way from being done.”
Friday, December 08, 2017
"No matter how infinitely imaginative I may consider myself, there are some things I am still unable to fathom. I cannot imagine feeling so loyal to a political party that I don’t care if people lose their health care or if a man molested little girls. I can’t picture myself being so sensitive that I needed to remind myself that “It’s OK to be white.” I am unable to envision a world in which I have every societal advantage but am still butt-hurt by the simple use of the words “Black Lives Matter,” even when they are uttered by an inanimate object.
Apparently, my imagination isn’t big enough.
I recently found out that some of our beloved Caucasian brethren are upset because Alexa believes black lives matter. Not the woman named Alexa who works at the Starbucks near your house and spells your name wrong every time. (It’s Michael, not Michel!) I’m referring to the Amazon assistant whose brain was sucked out of her body and put into the Amazon Echo. She’s Siri’s cousin who went to a good college so she can actually understand what you’re saying.
I only use my Alexa to control a few household devices, but apparently, there are people who have whole conversations with their Alexa, and someone discovered that she responds when she hears, “Alexa, black lives matter.”
I mean, really mad."
White People Are Upset That Amazon’s Alexa Believes Black Lives Matter
Thursday, December 07, 2017
Tuesday, December 05, 2017
The NY Times Editorial Board
"You know you have a problem when you’ve been president for less than 11 months and you’re already relying on Richard Nixon’s definition of what’s legal.
On Monday morning, Axios reported that Mr. Trump’s top personal lawyer, John Dowd, said in an interview that the “president cannot obstruct justice because he is the chief law enforcement officer” under the Constitution and “has every right to express his view of any case.”
This will come as news to Congress, which has passed laws criminalizing the obstruction of justice and decided twice in the last four decades that when a president violates those laws he has committed an impeachable offense.
In 1974, the first article of impeachment drafted by the House of Representatives charged President Nixon with “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations by the Department of Justice of the United States, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the office of Watergate Special Prosecution Force.”
A quarter-century later, President Bill Clinton was impeached by the House for, among other things, having “prevented, obstructed and impeded the administration of justice” and for having “engaged personally, and through his subordinates and agents, in a course of conduct or scheme designed to delay, impede, cover up and conceal the existence of evidence and testimony.”
Now let’s see if those descriptions apply to President Trump.
On Saturday morning, in the wake of the bombshell guilty plea by Michael Flynn, the president’s former national security adviser, for lying to F.B.I. agents about his communications with Russian officials late last year, Mr. Trump tweeted, “I had to fire General Flynn because he lied to the Vice President and the FBI.”
Recall that the original justification for Mr. Flynn’s firing was simply that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence; otherwise he had done nothing wrong. That’s the case Mr. Trump made the day after Mr. Flynn’s firing, when he allegedly tried to shut down the F.B.I.’s inquiry into his campaign’s connections with Russian officials by telling James Comey, who was then the F.B.I. director, in a private Oval Office meeting, “I hope you can see your way clear to letting this go, to letting Flynn go.”
In May, Mr. Trump fired Mr. Comey, telling Russian officials in the Oval Office the next day that firing Mr. Comey had relieved “great pressure” on him, and referring to Mr. Comey as a “nut job.” In an interview with NBC, Mr. Trump said, “When I decided to just do it, I said to myself, I said, ‘You know, this Russia thing with Trump and Russia is a made-up story.’”
It was bad enough for the president to attempt to interfere in any way with a law enforcement investigation of one of his top aides. But with Saturday’s tweet, Mr. Trump admitted that he knew Mr. Flynn had committed a federal crime at the time he fired Mr. Comey for refusing to stop investigating him. To most people with a functioning prefrontal cortex, it sure sounds like Mr. Trump is admitting to “interfering or endeavoring to interfere with the conduct of investigations” and to “impeding the administration of justice.”
Mr. Dowd confused the country further by saying he had drafted Mr. Trump’s tweet himself — a bizarre claim for a lawyer to make about a statement that incriminates his client. Then he outdid himself with his assertion to Axios that it is not possible for the president to obstruct justice. The argument, as far as it goes, is that the president is the nation’s highest ranking law enforcement officer and has the constitutional authority to supervise and control the executive branch, which includes making decisions about investigations and personnel.
But Mr. Trump didn’t just try to shut down some random no-name case; he tried to shut down an investigation into his own campaign’s ties to the Russian government’s efforts to swing the 2016 election in his favor. As that investigation keeps revealing, Mr. Trump’s top associates have repeatedly been untruthful about their contacts and communications with Russian officials.
In Saturday’s tweet, Mr. Trump also wrote, “It is a shame because his actions during the transition were lawful. There was nothing to hide!” If there were truly nothing to hide, if these talks with Russians were all just part of a normal presidential transition process, then why all the lying?
Any child could tell you the answer: People lie when they know they’ve done something wrong. Mr. Flynn and others in Mr. Trump’s campaign and transition team were secretly trying to undermine United States foreign policy as private citizens — which is not just wrong, but a criminal violation of the Logan Act. Worse, the policy being undermined was President Barack Obama’s punishment of a foreign adversary for interfering in an American election, and the underminers — Mr. Trump’s team — were the very people who benefited most directly from that interference.
For some historical perspective, Richard Nixon once again proves useful. In the closing days of the 1968 presidential campaign, Mr. Nixon ordered H. R. Haldeman, later his chief of staff, to throw a “monkey wrench” into the Vietnamese peace talks, knowing that a serious move to end the war would hurt his electoral prospects. Mr. Nixon denied that he did this to the grave; Mr. Haldeman’s notes, discovered after his death, revealed the truth.
Meanwhile, as the evidence of both subterfuge and obstruction continues to grow, Mr. Trump’s tireless spinners and sophists are working to convince the American public that it’s all no big deal. This is an embarrassing and unpersuasive argument, but it’s not surprising. At this point, they have nothing else to work with."
Yes, the President Can Obstruct Justice - The New York Times
Monday, December 04, 2017
"THE TRUMP administration likes to justify its multi-front crusade against immigration and immigrants as a revival of the rule of law, or a recalibration of the rules to favor disadvantaged American workers. In fact, it is largely a resurrection of xenophobia that coincides with a spike, nearly 50 years in the making, in the number of foreign-born residents living in the United States.
“For decades,” Attorney General Jeff Sessions said in a speech in October, “the American people have been begging and pleading . . . for an immigration system that’s lawful and serves the national interest. Now we have a president who supports that.”
Mr. Sessions’s claims are specious. An embrace of legality is not the driving force behind the president’s decision to slash the admission of refugees to levels unseen in nearly 40 years. It is not what compelled Mr. Trump to endorse Republican legislation that would cut the annual allotment of green cards by a half-million, mainly by barring relatives of existing legal permanent residents of the United States. It is not why the Pentagon has considered ending a recruitment program that put skilled foreigners on a fast track for citizenship if they served in this country’s armed forces. And it is not why the administration favors ending the so-called diversity visa lottery program, under which immigrants are admitted from nations underrepresented in other programs.
Those programs were all legally enacted and, by and large, carried out in compliance with the law. The animating force in targeting them, as the administration is now doing, is an effort to turn back the tide of foreigners in our midst and exorcise what the president evidently sees as the demon of diversity.
The administration’s goal is not to reshape America’s immigration policy but to prune immigration itself. While Mr. Trump backs a GOP plan that would give preference to immigrants with skills rather than family connections in the United States, the effect would be not simply to shift the mix while maintaining the current level of legal immigration but to drastically reduce overall numbers of admissions.
Most Americans oppose open borders; so do we. At a moment when immigrants are at their highest share of the population in a century — they now represent more than 13 percent of residents — it is legitimate to debate the numbers and types of people we should welcome to American shores. It is fair to examine whether current levels of immigration have depressed wages for lower-income Americans in some places and sectors of the economy. It should be possible to ask “how much is too much?” without inviting accusations of bigotry.
Unfortunately, Mr. Trump has poisoned the debate on immigration so thoroughly that he has twisted the frame through which many Americans see the issue. His slurs — labeling Mexican immigrants as rapists and Muslim immigrants as terrorists — form the context from which the administration’s policies arise. They are affronts to U.S. tradition and values.
They’re also an assault on what Mr. Sessions refers to as “the national interest” and specifically the United States’ economic well-being. Legions of employers dependent on immigrant workers, especially to fill low-skilled jobs for which native-born Americans are too well educated and in short supply, will be harmed by choking off the flow of immigrant labor. With unemployment at a 16-year low and approaching levels unseen in a half-century, the Trump policies threaten to sap the economy by depriving it of the energy of striving newcomers who have fueled this nation’s ambitions since its founding.
It is within the president’s discretion to intensify efforts at deportation, though the humanitarian price — in shattered communities and families, including those whose children, born in this country, are Americans — is high. It is reasonable to take steps to tighten border security, though with illegal crossings already at a 40-year low and the Border Patrol’s staffing having already been doubled since the George W. Bush administration, a significant new investment along those lines faces the risk of diminishing returns. The administration may arguably have had a valid legal basis for ending the Obama-era program granting deportation protection for “dreamers” — undocumented immigrants who entered the country as children, often brought by their parents — though only a smallish minority of Americans believes they should be removed from this country."
Trump’s crusade against immigrants is an attack on America - The Washington Post