Jerome Smith, Baldwin, and RFK (via @JarvisDeBerry)

Jerome Smith was a young civil rights activist and Freedom Rider in 1963. Arthur Schlesinger, in his book on RFK, recalls that CORE described Smith as a young man beaten more than any other CORE worker at the time.

Jerome Smith stood up to RFK

It was no surprise to anyone that Smith had no kind words for Bobby or his brother:

“Mr. Attorney General, you make me want to puke.  I don’t care what you think, and I don’t care what your brother thinks either.”

Smith was a man of the streets, not academia, or the entertainment world. He’d been in the streets, on the buses, working to register voters and advocate the cause. In the 1963 meeting Jarvis DeBerry mentions in his article about the film, “I Am Not Your Negro”, he was arguably the wokest person in the room.

Baldwin Documentary

jerome smith

I haven’t seen the movie yet, but having seen “Hidden Lines” last weekend, it’s time I did. The movie is about Baldwin, so it’s not surprising that some things get left on the cutting room floor. Unfortunately, that’s what happened to Jerome Smith (assuming they shot his remarks at all. Jarvis explains it:

Because that section of the documentary focuses on Baldwin’s friendship with the playwright Lorraine Hansberry and her premature death at 34, it is Hansberry’s disgusted response to Kennedy’s hemming and hawing that is given attention.  But Hansberry’s decision to snub Kennedy by standing up, bidding him goodbye and exiting the room wasn’t the most demonstrable display of disgust.  The most disgusted response, which isn’t in the documentary, came from New Orleans’ own Jerome Smith.

So, it’s no deep conspiracy that the woke young man got left out of the documentary. He just got overshadowed. I learned something new today, that Smith was from New Orleans. I’d not read Schlesinger’s book (it came out in 1978) when I was teaching American History in the early 1980s. I certainly would have highlighted this encounter, if for no other reason, because Smith was a local guy.

Now I want to go back to the classroom. Gotta win dat powerball.

(cross-posted to NOLA History Guy)

Senator Schumer joins the #resistance

Senator Schumer hits home

Senator Schumer takes the lead, and that’s a good thing.

Michelle Goldberg’s piece in Slate last Monday, “How Chuck Schumer Found His Spine” is more about the overall #resistance to #Trannon, but it’s still encouraging to see that the efforts of Democrats are being felt in the DC Senate offices.

Indivisible

The main focal point of #resistance at this point is the “Indivisible” document. It’s full title is, “Indivisible: A Practical Guide for Resisting the Trump Agenda”. “Indivisible” was written by Democratic Congressional staffers to organize Democratic resistance. This is important for those of us who want the party to take the lead and grow into a force that will once again lead the country from the White House and Capitol Hill. As Goldberg points out, one of the authors of “Indivisible”, Ezra Levin, nails it:

“The idea that we can treat this administration as if it is normal, as if it is not actively undermining democracy, is really inappropriate to the moment. And I think the base feels that.”

Leading the Minority

And there it is. But let’s come back to Senator Schumer. With “Indivisible” groups springing up across the country, as well as other efforts to resist #Trannon, Democrats like Leader Schumer recognize just how upset we are:

senator schumer

We need to keep it up.

Judge James Robart

#Trannon’s Muslim Ban was blocked nationwide by a sweeping order issued by Judge James Robart in Washington State. This prompted Senator Schumer to speak out once again:

senator schumer

Another big takeaway here is the CNN article that Schumer cites. Since Kellyanne Conway, AKA “Patriot Barbie” announced that #Trannon surrogates would no longer appear on CNN, the network is, for now, telling the truth about 45* and his people. When POTUS* took to Da Twittah to attack Judge Robart, CNN did this excellent short profile on the man.

A CNN that tells the truth and a leader in the Senate spreading that message is an excellent boost to our opposition.

The Faith Based Left

The Faith Based Left

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The Faith Based Left must stand up. Religious conservatives did this, we can do so as well.

Here’s how pros do things. You lose, you take a shower, have a drink, and get ready for the next game.

The Faith Based Left

So, as Jed would say, “What’s next?”

The left must accept that, for the next few years, we’re not getting anything out of government. SCOTUS goes back to 5-4, most likely with a replacement for Scalia that’s worse than Scalia himself. For the next two years, government is in total control of the Republican Party. We have to accept that fact and do what we can to mitigate its impact.

How do we do that? We need to become a faith-based community. What is our faith? That the United States of America is better than the vision the Republicans have for the country. There are a number of things we now cannot rely upon the government to support/nurture/fix:

  • Education
  • Health Care
  • Criminal Justice
  • LGBT Rights
  • Poverty

These are just five areas right off the top of my head. Traditionally, we Democrats would use government to improve the position of all in these and so many other areas. That’s not happening now. We won’t have the federal government to help. We’re going to have to do them ourselves.

Fleshing out an agenda

Education. While liberals have always supported public education. We need to accept that funding for public education isn’t going to improve. Time to adopt the initiatives of the right, such as homeschooling.

Health Care. ACA is gone, count on it. So, maybe they’ll work something out on pre-existing conditions, but even that may go. We need to look to private solutions, community clinics, and other non-governmental solutions. We do it in the third world, we need to apply what we do well in our own country now.

Criminal Justice. The for-profit prison industry has been a disaster, and that’s not going to change with even greater Republican dominance of government. Public/Indigent defenders are barely funded as it is now. That’s not going to improve. Liberals are going to have to take the right to an attorney into the community. We need to nurture and support legal assistance clinics and private indigent defense practices.

LGBT Rights. Liberals need to do what religious conservatives did in the 1980s, infiltrate and reclaim local government. We know most gains in this area will get rolled back at the federal level, so we have to work from the bottom up. Elect school boards The Left must become a faith-based communitywhose members encourage diversity and tolerance. It starts now.

Poverty. We have to feed our communities. The government just isn’t going to do it.

These are thoughts off the top of my head after a very rude awakening this morning. We need to make it all happen.

 

The right to counsel and Gideon’s Trumpet

right to counsel

Gideon’s Trumpet by Anthony Lewis

Right to counsel

These days, the right to counsel, and the right against self-incrimination are things we pretty much take for granted. it wasn’t always so. Gideon’s Trumpet is a book about a major legal case that was decided by the US Supreme Court in 1963. The case involved a man in Florida, Clarence Earl Gideon. A court in Florida refused to appoint legal counsel for Gideon, because Florida law at the time only allowed for court-appointed defense lawyers in capital cases. Gideon was convicted of burglary, and sentenced to five years. After submitting a hand-written petition to the US Supreme Court, that body took up his case. That resulted in a 9-0 SCOTUS decision in Gideon’s favor. He was retried and, with the help of counsel, was acquitted by a jury after an hour of deliberation.

In 1965, Author Anthony Lewis wrote a book about Gideon v. Wainwright, the case. The book became a TV-movie in 1980.

Bookmobiles

There was a time, right around when my younger sister was born, that we were “between houses.” My parents wanted to buy a lot and build a house, so they decided to sell our house, and we lived in an apartment complex for a while. One of the things that I liked about apartment living was the bookmobile. The library came to me rather than the other way around, so that was a fun thing.

One of my dad’s friends was a librarian and drove the bookmobile. While I picked stuff to read, Mr. Jim would regularly choose a book for me. He checked it out in my name, and put it in my hands, on top of anything else I’d picked. Gideon’s Trumpet was one of those books.

The book fascinated me. The legal principles weren’t all that hard for a fifth-grader to comprehend. Lewis presented the background of the story, offered an interesting portrait of Abe Fortas, the attorney appointed to represent Gideon before SCOTUS. (Fortas went on to become a Justice himself.) I love pomp and circumstance. Lewis’s descriptions of oral arguments before the court were fascinating. The decision was landmark.

All defendants have the right to counsel. It’s a Big Deal, and it resonated with ten-year old me. I watched all the cop and lawyer shows on the teevee. I went on to join the debate team in high school. The notion of going to law school crossed my mind.

Lawyers

I didn’t forget that concept. It’s one of those things that stuck with me, through the years, just like the times when a friend who is an attorney would point out that bail is not punishment. Bail backs up a promise to appear for trial.

Other than traffic tickets, I’ve been fortunate to have never needed defense counsel in a criminal proceeding. I’ve had friends, colleagues, and others in my life who have been in that position. When I taught high school, one of my students was accused of murder in Jefferson Parish. I was 23 at the time. The case sent me reeling. There wasn’t much I could do, as I wasn’t directly involved, yet it still tore at me. He had representation. Still, the case was very upsetting for me.

There have been other cases, other people, who weren’t so fortunate. The idea that capital cases happened where lawyers slept through trial, and their clients ended up executed was incredibly disturbing.

Every defendant should have competent defense, even if, no, especially if their crimes will put them on death row or they will face life imprisonment. I knew this when I was ten. Clarence Earl Gideon made that much of an impression on me.

Orleans Parish Prison is not a place for teens

Orleans Parish Prison

Inmates exercising at Orleans Parish Prison (Bart Everson photo)

 

Suicide at Orleans Parish Prison

Seventeen-year old Dexter Allen is in the Jefferson Parish Correctional Facility in Gretna. In the city, the incredible mess that is Orleans Justice Center took another life. What makes this particularly sad is that this latest jail suicide was a juvenile.

Jaquin Thomas was pronounced dead at University Medical Center at 10:11 p.m., OPSO spokesman Philip Stelly said, after using a mattress cover to asphyxiate himself in his cell. The teenager had been jailed inside the Orleans Justice Center since his July 28 arrest on suspicion of second-degree murder and aggravated burglary, records show.

No Place for teenagers

Any suicide or attempt is a sad affair. Worse yet, locking up a teen in this prison is a terrible thing. Yes, he was charged with second-degree murder as an adult. That’s a serious situation. Jarvis DeBerry nails it, though, in his article on the suicide:

Jaquin was suspected of committing a crime more serious than Jerde’s, but if jail was considered inappropriate for the 21-year-old, it should have been considered the wrong place for the teenager. Charging a child as an adult does not magically transform him into an adult. It does not make that child any less vulnerable when thrown into a facility with people who are bigger, older and more hardened criminals.

Jailing teens in an adult prison is wrong. Still, it’s not a good idea to toss an alleged murderer into a juvenile facility. Teens accused of much more minor crimes are totally different. There has to be a way to balance this. Perhaps isolating serious juvenile offenders in one type of facility or the other.

Read the full article–Jarvis compares the situation Jaquin Thomas was in to that of a twenty-one-year old Tulane student. He demonstrates what #whiteprivilege gets you these days in New Orleans.

 

Insight into the NRA’s support of Republicans

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The National Rifle Association as mainstream GOP PAC

Democrats see the NRA as the face of the gun lobby. It’s an accurate, but incomplete view. Digby points out that the relationship between the NRA and the Republican Party is so much more. Not only that, but the pair have a long history. Two elections in the 1990s illustrate how the pairing works. In 1992, when the NRA helped go after Oklahoma Congressman Mike Synar:

This lesson came about from a previous Oklahoma race in 1992 when they became involved in the race against Rep. Mike Synar, a very outspoken liberal Democrat and enemy of the NRA and other GOP-affiliated special interests.They worked with other organizations to run ads against him about flag burning and other issues but also ran against him on guns. It backfired on them when Synar fought back against the NRA as an extremist organization and won. They came after his again in 1994 by recruiting a Democratic primary opponent and helping him win with a whisper campaign that said Synar supported the banning of hunting rifles. A Synar aid is quoted in the piece saying “They were smart. It was like boxing ghosts.” That primary election was an earthquake that foreshadowed the electoral rout that was to follow in the fall.

The NRA vs. Dave McCurdy

The OK GOP, with the help of a lot of NRA cash, chipped away at Synar’s credibility in 1992, and defeated him in 1994. The NRA then threw money at the Republican in the general, Tom Coburn. Coburn spent ten years in the House, moving to the Senate in 2005. In the 1994 OK Senate race, the NRA directed some of the $70 million they spent nationwide in an effort to oust Senator Dave McCurdy. The GOP/NRA didn’t go after McCurdy on guns, but rather by calling him a “Clinton clone”.

This hasn’t stopped for over twenty years. Remember this when your Fox News-watching aunt tells you that the NRA is all about “gun safety” and “Second Amendment rights”.