An American hero – Bryan Stevenson

Who is Bryan Stevenson you may be asking yourself? Per Wikipedia:

“Bryan A. Stevenson is an American lawyer, social justice activist, founder and executive director of the Equal Justice Initiative, and a clinical professor at New York University School of Law. Based in Montgomery, Alabama, Stevenson has challenged bias against the poor and minorities in the criminal justice system, especially children. He has helped achieve United States Supreme Court decisions that prohibit sentencing children under 18 to death or to life imprisonment without parole.”

He is an American hero who has helped free over numerous death-row prisoners who were wrongly convicted. Some of these people should not have ever come to trial. They were guilty by being Black. The DAs did not bother with ballistics tests, even when later challenged. The juries, judge and prosecutors were almost always white.

Stevenson got a new trial which freed one man who had been on death row for 30 years. Earlier attempts years before failed because a line of DAs would not take the time do a ballistic test. The man has still not received an apology for giving up 30 years of his life for a wrongful conviction.

Per the HBO documentary “True Justice:”

“Stevenson has argued five cases before the U.S. Supreme Court, including one that resulted in a ban on mandatory sentences of life without parole for children 17 and under. He and the EJI have won reversals, relief or release from prison for more than 135 wrongly condemned death-row inmates.” 

He has now helped establish a Civil Rights museum in Montgomery, AL. Part of this museum includes several shelves of jars of soil gleaned from beneath trees where Black men were lynched. And, there are two monuments for every county in America where lynching occurred. The second monument is for the county to take back to remind us of what evil intent can do. He is strident in his view that the death penalty following a pre-determined trial outcome is a legal way to lynch someone, so he feels it is imperative to link this to the lynchings.

In the HBO documentary, Stevenson noted how we do a terrible job in our country of admitting and learning from our mistakes. Germany has many places where plaques note the atrocitues of Nazism. Here, we try to whitewash history, including the “genocide” of Native Americans, a term which is rarely used, but is apt.

We need more heroes like Stevenson. He is very earnest and speaks with a thoughtful and quiet voice. It is refreshing to see such a man where substance matters over perception.

 

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A little bit of this and that

Too many issues and events are percolating in my head. Rather than do a deep dive on any of them, here is a little bit of this and that.

Not unexpectedly, Trump sycophants in Congress are rationalizing their support of Donald Trump over E. Jean Carroll’s accusation of Trump raping her over twenty years ago. They “believe the president” rather than the accuser, with some saying they heard Carroll has a “credibility problem.” Let me state the obvious. If you have not noticed, Donald Trump has a huge credibility problem. 

Before 2017, we had a recurring immigration problem where efforts to solve it have died in one house or the other. The current president used fear to make the problem a winning issue blowing it out of proportion. We now have a huge immigration problem at the border on Trump’s watch due to diminished funding of Central American countries, demonization of immigrants from south of the border, threats to build a wall, and not providing sufficient judicial support to process migrants seeking asylum.

Treating children like animals is not who we are. This is not how we make America great. Yet, one thing that I harken back to is about sixteen months ago, this president had a bipartisan agreement with Senators Graham and Durbin for $25 billion for a wall and making DACA a law. There were other measures therein. That was in the morning. Before Graham and Durbin got to the White House in the afternoon, hardliner politicians got in Trump’s ear saying he should be even more unwelcoming. That was the day of the “sh*thole countries” comment.

Speaking of that credibility problem, our allies are not too keen to support the US on Iran. The other six countries in the Iran Nuclear deal said Iran was in compliance and encouraged the US not to pull out. Our intelligence staff agreed, but the president’s gut knows better. Coupling this with his bullying and untruthfulness along with the WMD fiction that George W. Bush and Dick Cheney pushed on the world, makes the US and this president untrustworthy.

Finally, Peter Wehner, a former member of three Republican White Houses, and a Christian, has written a new book called “The Death of Politics.” Last night on PBS Newshour, he said divisiveness started before Trump, but he clearly has made it worse, even reveling in the divisive seeds he sows. He also noted how his fellow Christians are too silent on Trump’s routine bad behavior. He is critical of those who rationalize his many indiscretions, and says Christians need to speak “truth to power.”

I did not want to write a solely Trump concerning post, but our tribal behavior is having reasonable people rationalize abhorrent actions and words from the White House incumbent. I can argue policy decisions all day on Trump’s decisions, but how he conducts himself, how he treats allies, colleagues, Congress, media, et al, is well beneath what she expect from a leader. His lack of a moral compass is disturbing. And, getting back to Ms. Carroll, his defense is “she is not his type.” Well sir, apparently you are not hers. She likely prefers her men not to force themselves on her like you have done with others.

This is my home

Sadly and unsuprisingly, we are mourning yet another mass shooting in America, this time in Virginia Beach. A minister and police officer uttered the above heartfelt lament about the twelve lost lives, “this is my home.”

My hearts and prayers are for our legislators to recognize that our country has a problem. I pray that they recognize too many Americans are dying. I pray that they recognize that no action is not stopping the senseless violence. I pray they recognize doing something won’t stop all shootings, but could stop some.

There are multiple factors, so a solution must be holistic. And, if these politicians will take their hands out of the NRA’s pockets long enough, they could see Americans want changes to gun governance.

Yes, it is a mental health issue, Yes, it is a crime issue. Yes, it is an entertainment violence issue. Yes, it is a lack of civility issue. But, it is most certainly a gun issue.

So, for the umpteenth time:

– Background checks on all transactions, even personal ones will save some lives.

– Longer waiting periods on all transactions will help reduce suicides and mental health related homicides.

– Licenses should come with training requirements for acquisition and renewal.

– Bullets should be codified to help wit crime-solving as requested by police.

– All new guns should have owner finger-printed triggering (reduce suicides and accudentsj shooting).

– Medical doctors and psychologists should have liberty to ask any patient if they own a gun.

– Gun related deaths must be tracked by the CDC – you cannot fix what you do not measure, but that may have been the reason the NRA has fought this for years.

– And, it should be systemstically easier for a judge to be petitioned and to temporarily suspend gun ownership as mental health testing is done.

Notice I did not take anyone’s gun away unless he cannot pass a background check or a judge suspends his right, But, I personally believe no American needs an assault style or converted weapon.

Many Americans are tired of the politicians telling us why they will not act or do something. I am tired of their stale BS that I can write for them as I have heard it far too many times. Americans are dying and their loved ones really do not care if you hurt the NRA’s feelings. Our constitutional right to live free supercedes the right to own a gun, which has been expanded beyond what the Second Amendment actualjy says.

The NRA used to be about gun safety. They must regain that mission statement. Will these actions stop gun deaths – no? But, if we can stop some it would be worth it.

Thursday’s little bit of this and that

Having been away at the funeral for my friend’s mother, I have been a little out of sorts as well as out-of-pocket. The elections and next two days of affairs have my mind spinning, so please forgive me as I comment on a little bit of this and that.

The election results are encouraging from a number of fronts, but most of all from the number of diverse candidates that led to the Democrats retaking the House of Representatives. I am proud to see more newcomers and many women getting elected. These folks felt the need to get involved to focus on issues and decorum, which has been kicked to the curb. I wish for them to have the wisdom of Solomon, the patience of Job and the collaborative bipartisan bent of former Speaker Tip O’Neill and President Ronald Reagan.

I was also pleased to see a number of ballot initiatives pass in various states. Several so-called red states voted on the expansion of Medicaid, which is telling. Florida passed an initiative that would overturn the highly restrictive limitations on former felons regaining the right to vote after they get out. And, in North Carolina, every former governor advocated for the successful defeat of a power grabbing measures by the GOP led legislature to limit the powers of appointment of the governor.

While the Senate result was a little displeasing given the election of a couple of folks who should not hold public office (Former Florida Governor Rick Scott and Texas Senator Ted Cruz), the GOP maintaining the majority was not news. My greatest disappointment is two races benefitted racist efforts to likely win, although one is still not certain. The fact Brian Kemp may win the Georgia governor’s race after his blatant unethical and untruthful efforts to channel Jim Crow-like voter restriction is disheartening. Should he win, the state of Georgia deserves much better than him, as if he cheated to win, he will cheat while serving. The other is in Florida, where the new governor Ron DeSantis has a racist past and benefitted from racists robo calls and dog whistle statements, one he made. Florida deserves better, especially following Scott.

What has not changed is the US President continuing to channel his inner child heightening his lack of truthfulness, bullying and denigration of the media. At his tempestuous news conference yesterday, I kept thinking that a leader needed to step up and put him in time-out. I am still amazed at how he can sell his followers that he is the one telling the truth and that everyone who is against him is lying. But, per his five biographers, that has been his schtick over time. His firing of AG Jeff Sessions was expected, but at the heart of this, is the US President thinks the AG represents him, not the country. It is not a puzzle that Trump cannot fathom that the recusal was the ethical thing to do. He asked, “what kind of man would do that?” An ethical one.

Finally, we have one more mass shooting in America. How can we stop them? It is simply quite difficult to stop a motivated lone gunman (and it is almost always a man). Our police and FBI are terrific, but with our freedoms of less-inhibited gun ownership and the focus more on the lesser problem of foreign terrorists taking money from preventing the far worse domestic terrorists and hate groups, we are making it easier not harder to kill many at one time. Our leaders have lacked the courage to do more and too many are paid to avoid doing so. So, I just pray that my family, friends and others are just not in the wrong place at the wrong time. And, I pray that those leaders find that conscience they misplaced.

 

 

 

Let’s rise up

A terrific singer named Andra Day provided an anthem for women, but also forward thinking men as well. It is called “I’ll rise up.” Here is the final chorus which says let’s all rise up.

“Rise like the day
I’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
I will rise a thousands times again
And we’ll rise up
Rise like the waves
We’ll rise up
In spite of the ache
We’ll rise up.”

There has been a building crescendo worldwide, but especially here in the US, to say women matter. Women are tired of being taken advantage of by sexual predators, violent and controlling partners and men in power telling them what they can do with their bodies. Women are tired of people ignoring or demeaning them when they complain or accuse a violator. Women are tired of kitchen table issues like equal pay and healthcare gettimg ignored. Women are tired of nothing being done about gun governance which takes to many of their children and themselves.

Women are tired of being kidnapped and trafficked as sex slaves or servants. And, more globally, women need to be supported for saying we are not a possession to be sold, beaten or killed and we need not go through genital mutilation to satisfy an archaic religious practice written by a men.

Now, is the time to rise up. Women are running for political office in tremendous numbers in the US. They are reacting to a misogynist bully who shows what leadership does not look like. Their global sisters are using the opportunity to make a stand.

Rise up and vote. Rise up and take a friend to vote with you. Rise up and make sure your family votes. Rise up and vote for equal rights for all, for our environment which is being destroyed and for our future which is threatened by existential crises like climate change, poverty and inequality. Rise up. It is time to make a huge statement. I am with you.

Alleged sexual assailant and harasser gives counsel

A man who has been accused by about twenty women of sexual assault or harassment is giving counsel, not just to a SCOTUS nominee, but all young men. He says it is a really tough time to be a man with the #metoo movement. Men are deemed to be guilty rather than being presumed innocent.

While I understand his point, I strongly disagree with his message as he is missing that women have been victims of men like this accused man for years. Earlier he said if Dr. Ford was really assaulted, why did she not come forward earlier? Quite simply, it is because of the kind of response she is getting right now.

This man is trying to portray men as victims, but to my knowledge no other man has come forward and said this man grabbed his vagina in public. No other man has come forward to say how creepy they felt as a teenage beauty pageant contestant when this old man frequently walked in on them while they were changing clothes.

This man who is offering his counsel has bragged on how powerful he is to be able to grab a woman’s vagina, which several women have accused him of. By itself, he claims it is just “locker room talk,” but when you consider he was accused of doing this before this tape was aired, then that is more than interesting – it is indicting. It should also be noted some teens accused him of his wandering into the dressing room before he described his wont to do so to Howard Stern on his show because the man owned the Miss Teen franchise.

This man is the President of the United States. In addition to being a man who is on record as lying more than he does not, who is known to bully people, especially by lawsuits or threatened lawsuits, and demeaning people who disagree with him, he is accused of sexual assault and harassment. The sad truth is he has admitted to so doing. But, you men should know that is more than just “locker room talk.” It is sexual assault and harassment.

His son said he worries more about his sons than his daughters. As a father, I can attest you worry about both, but you are more concerned about your daughters. Why? Because there are men out there who do what Junior’s father was accused of.

 

Senators – give Dr. Ford a fair hearing

FYI. Below is a sample note I posted in six Senators websites. Please feel free to adapt and use.

As an independent and former Republican voter, I believe we need to take the time to review the accusation by Dr. Ford. Sexual assault is a heinous act and traumatizes the victim. It is not uncommon for a victim to not press charges fearing the kind of backlash Dr. Ford is getting now.

Judge Kavanaugh is being nominated for one of the nine highest judicial seats in our country. We need to get this right. Because Clarence Thomas’ hearing was handled so poorly, foregoing testimony of a second accuser and treating Anita Hill with disdain, we may have a sexual harasser on the Court.

Ford is a learned women who passed a lie detector test. If her claims lacked credibility, why is she asking for a FBI investigation? We must get to the bottom of this, and if Kavanaugh is lying, then that would be a major concern. He was a teen when this heinous act may have been done, but he is an adult now who may not be telling the truth.

To be frank, we already have a man in the White House who has admitted in three separate interviews to sexual assault and harassment of which he has been accused. We do not need this in a Supreme Court justice.