A Special Fourth Of July

Editor’s note:  Ken White of California wears a number of hats.  A writer, criminal defense attorney and civil litigator,  As he says, he is “Fascinated by the intersection of law and society.  How does the law work, compared to how it is supposed to work?  How does the law shape culture and vice versa?”

At this season, here is an article he did years ago that is especially fitting.  My writer son, Kevin, brought it to my attention.

“Thirty years ago, in the hot summer of 1992, I was working as an extern for Judge Ronald S.W. Lew, a federal judge in Los Angeles. One day in early July he abruptly walked into my office and said without preamble “Get your coat.” Somewhat concerned that I was about to be shown the door, I grabbed my blazer and followed him out of chambers into the hallway. I saw he had already assembled his two law clerks and his other summer extern there. Exchanging puzzled glances, we followed him into the art-deco judge’s elevator of the old Spring Street Courthouse, then into the cavernous judicial parking garage. He piled us into his spotless Cadillac and drove out of the garage without another word.

Within ten awkward, quiet minutes we arrived at one of the largest VFW posts in Los Angeles. Great throngs of people, dressed in Sunday best, were filing into the building. It was clear that they were families — babes in arms, small children running about, young and middle-aged parents. And in each family group there was a man — an elderly man, dressed in a military uniform, many stooped with age but all with the bearing of men who belonged in that VFW hall. They were all, I would learn later, Filipinos. Their children and grandchildren were Filipino-American; they were not. Yet.

Judge Lew — the first Chinese-American district court judge in the continental United States — grabbed his robe from the trunk and walked briskly into the VFW hall with his externs and clerks trailing behind him. We paused in the foyer and he introduced us to some of the VFW officers, who greeted him warmly. He donned his robe and peered through a window in a door to see hundreds of people sitting in the main hall, talking excitedly, the children waving small American flags and streamers about. One of the VFW officers whispered in his ear, and he nodded and said “I’ll see them first.” The clerks and my fellow extern were chatting to some immigration officials, and so he beckoned me. I followed him through a doorway to a small anteroom.

There, in a dark and baroquely decorated room, we found eight elderly men. These were too infirm to stand. Three were on stretchers, several were in wheelchairs, two had oxygen tanks. One had no right arm. A few relatives, beaming, stood near each one. One by one, Judge Lew administered the naturalization oath to them — closely, sometimes touching their hands, speaking loudly so they could hear him, like a priest administering extreme unction. They smiled, grasped his hand, spoke the oath as loudly as they could with evident pride. Some wept. I may have as well. One said, not with anger but with the tone of a dream finally realized, “We’ve waited so long for this.”

And oh, how they had waited. These men, born Filipinos, answered America’s call in World War II and fought for us. President Franklin D. Roosevelt asked the men of the Philippines to fight, promising them United States citizenship and veterans benefits in return. 200,000 fought. Tens of thousands died. They weathered the brutal conditions under Japanese occupation, fought a valiant guerrilla war, and in some cases survived the Bataan death march.

In 1946, Congress reneged on FDR’s promise. Filipino solders who fought for us and their families were not given their promised citizenship, let alone benefits. Many came here anyway, had children who were born U.S. citizens, and some even became citizens through the process available to any immigrant. But many others, remembering the promise, asked that it be kept. And they waited.

They waited 54 years, until after most of them were dead. It was not until 1990 that Congress finally addressed this particular stain on our honor and granted them citizenship. (Their promised benefits were not even brought to a vote until 2008, when most of the happy men I saw that day were dead.)

Hence this July naturalization ceremony. After Judge Lew naturalized the veterans who were too infirm to stand in the main ceremony, he quickly took the stage in the main room. A frantic, joyous hush descended, and the dozens of veterans stood up and took the oath. Many wept. I kept getting something in my eye. And when Judge Lew declared them citizens, the families whooped and hugged their fathers and grandfathers and the children waved the little flags like maniacs.

I had the opportunity to congratulate a number of families and hear them greet Judge Lew. I heard expressions of great satisfaction. I heard more comments about how long they had waited. But I did not hear bitterness on this day. These men and their children had good cause to be bitter, and perhaps on other days they indulged in it. On this day they were proud to be Americans at last. Without forgetting the wrongs that had been done to them, they believed in an America that was more of the sum of its wrongs. Without forgetting 54 years of injustice, they believed in an America that had the potential to transcend its injustices. I don’t know if these men forgave the Congress that betrayed them and dishonored their service in 1946, or the subsequent Congresses and administrations too weak or indifferent to remedy that wrong. I don’t think that I could expect them to do so. But whether or not they forgave the sins of America, they loved the sinner, and were obviously enormously proud to become her citizens.

I am grateful to Judge Lew for taking me to that ceremony, and count myself privileged to have seen it. I think about it every Fourth of July, and more often than that. It reminds me that people have experienced far greater injustice than I ever will at this country’s hands, and yet are proud of it and determined to be part of it. They are moved by what Lincoln called the better angels of our nature to believe in the shared idea of what America should be without abandoning the struggle to right its wrongs. I want to be one of them”

Kevin McCarthy Is Still The Worst Person In Congress.

California GOP congressman Kevin McCarthy is the minority leader in the U.S. House of Representatives. On May 19 we made the case that he is the worst person in Congress.

Nothing has changed since for him to lose this title.

McCarthy is strongly opposed to a complete and thorough investigation of the Jan. 6 riot at the U.S. Capitol.  As pointed out in the earlier post, McCarthy had no reluctance to double cross one of his own members (Rep. John Katko) when the member did exactly what McCarty instructed him to do.

And because of GOP opposition, the effort to create a commission to study Jan. 6 failed.  As a last resort. the Democrat majority in the House is moving forward to create a select committee to investigate what took place..

According to the resolution to create the select committee eight of the members will be appointed by Speaker Nancy Pelosi and five by McCarthy.  McCarthy has yet to say if he will make appointments.  However, it has come to light that McCarthy told all freshmen GOP House members that if they accept appointment to this committee, they will be striped of any of their committee assignments.

One of Pelosi’s appointments to the committee is Rep. Liz Cheney of Worming, whose removal from a GOP leadership position was orchestrated by McCarthy.  It is apparent McCarthy and Cheney are not bosom buddies.

Why is McCarthy so opposed to looking closer at Jan. 6?  According to GOP sources, the minority leader feels threatened by what an investigation might find how his own reputation might be harmed.

Editor’s note:  While McCarthy and most Republicans are now opposing an investigation into Jan. 6, none of them seem to remember when GOP Speaker John Boehner set up the same kind of committee on May 2, 2014 to look into the 2012 terrorist attack in Benghazi.  Some 225 Republicans voted in favor of this measure.  In fact, this was only one of six investigations conducted by Republican-controlled House committees about Benghazi.

Editor’s note I:  While the GOP controlled the House at this point, Democrats controlled the Senate.  Lindsey Graham of South Carolina wanted a special commission, such as the 9/11 commission, created to look into Benghazi.  He stated, Congressional oversight is crucial to understanding what happened before, during, and after the attacks, so we can be sure we do everything in our power to prevent future attacks.” 

Graham was opposed to taking the same approach to Jan. 6.

Summary:  This is leadership?  It is all a joke and the citizens of this nation are paying the price.  And would some one explain the logic of re-electing any of these people?

When Seeing Is Not Believing

When God invented college football he had a day like Nov. 16, 2013 in mind.  It was another game in the South’s oldest rivalry between Auburn University and the University of Georgia.  By the time the clock hit 0:00 at the end of the game, 87,451 fans had witnessed one of the more improbable games in the series history..

One that soon came to be known as the “prayer at Jordan Hare.”:

It was a glorious day with the temperature 70 degrees at the 2:30 p.m. kickoff.. Auburn was rated number 7 in the nation, Georgia number 25.  My son and I were in the north end zone, decked out in orange and blue.

Georgia scored late to take a 38 to 37 lead. And with 30 seconds on the clock, Auburn faced 4th down and 18 yards to go.  All seemed lost for the home team.

Then AU quarterback Nick Marshall threw in the direction of Ricardo Louis far down the field.  Two Georgia defenders waited to bat the pass away.  But instead of the ball falling harmlessly to the turf, it fell into the arms of Louis who scored.  The play covered 73 yards,

All hell broke loose. About 10,000 Georgia fans were in disbelief, as were the Auburn fans.  But for totally different reasons.  Suddenly what seemed like a 38-37 upset win for the Bulldogs was a 43-37 win for the good guys,

I share this memory because this country is caught up in a time when nearly half its citizens refuse to acknowledge the truth about the results of the November 2020 election for president.  Former president Donald Trump set this scenario into motion last summer when he began claiming this if he lost to Joe Biden, it would be because the election was rigged.  With Trump trailing in the polls,  he began a bogus defense.

Since then he has worked hard to spread what he calls “the big lie.”  The only problem, try as he might, he can not come up with  any supporting evidence   Some 60 law suits contending election fraud were all thrown out of court.  Recently a Republican report from Michigan said their election was not flawed.  And just today (June 24) the New York state Supreme Court suspended the law license of Trump attorney Rudy Giuliana for endlessly repeating lies about the election.

No doubt there were 10,000 or so Bulldog faithful leaving Jordan Hare on Nov. 16, 2013,  They did not like what happened.  But they did not question it because the truth was irrefutable.  Nor did their coach, Mark Richt. start shouting from the rooftops that the long pass Auburn completed at the end of the game never happened.  That it was all an illusion.  Or that the clock malfunctioned and the game should have been over a minute earlier.  Or that the referees cheated or Auburn had too many players on the field.

No, Richt took it like a man.  He did not try to rewrite history..

Something our former President and his radical followers can not do.  And this unwillingness to accept reality is eating away at our democracy.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Civil War No One Will Acknowledge

As surely as the blue and gray faced one another at Vicksburg, Shiloh, Chickamauga and Gettysburg more than 150 years ago, this nation is now engaged in another civil war.  Except the opponents are now known as Red and Blue.

Don’t think so?  Then explain these numbers.  The U.S. has pledged to donate 80 million doses of covid-19 vaccines to other countries which need them desperately.  When asked if they supported this move, 88 percent of the blues agreed–but only 41 percent of the reds did.

This is numbing.  How do you NOT support helping other counties combat this pandemic, which in turn, helps your own country?

You only do it when you have given up your right to think for yourself and totally bought into the cult now led by former Republican President Donald Trump who is so totally obsessed with his own well-being that he has no concern about destroying our democracy and establishing himself as supreme ruler of the land.

And since the majority of his followers in Congress are too cowardly to oppose him for fear he will turn on them and send them back home he has scant opposition.

We have seen what happens to Republicans who refuse to bow before Trump.  Like Congresswoman Liz Cheney of Wyoming. Though she is one of the most diehard Republicans serving in Washington,

Even though Cheney supported Trump with 93 percent of her votes, she was replaced in the GOP House leadership by Elise Stefanik, who only supported Trump’s position 78 percent of the time.  But this did not matter to Trump’s peons in the House where allegiance to him is all that matters.  Dissidents be damned.  What’s considered good for Trump is all that matters, forget what is best for the nation.

Trump is a one-trick pony who is fixated on trying to undo the November 2020 election for president.  He is only focused on yesterday–not tomorrow.  Trump has run for president twice, and never received the majority of the popular vote.  Under his leadership, the GOP not only lost the White House, but the House of Representatives and the Senate as well.

And this is who has the GOP scared to death?

Yes, this is a civil war.  But one side is going to war following a fatally flawed leader.  Someone who wishes to turn back time and promises a land of fantasy that is no more likely than bullets will soon begin flying at Vicksburg, Shiloh, Chickamauga and Gettysburg.

The once proud Grand Ole Party has abandoned its core values of fiscal conservatism, devotion to the constitution and smaller government and replaced it all with only allegiance to one man.  A GOP so devoid of ideas that it didn’t even bother to have a party platform in 2020.

This nation has weathered many storms.  Hopefully it will get through this one as well.  When it does, today’s very fractured GOP will wonder what happened.  I’m sure Liz Cheney will be glad to tell them.

Alabama Education Association (AEA) Is Back In The Game

Editor’s note:  Cameron Smith’s Republican credentials can not be questioned. including a stint as executive director of the Republican Policy Committee in the U.S. House of Representatives.  So when I saw his recent piece on AL.com about AEA rising from the ashes, so to speak, it got my attention.

When the GOP took control of the state legislature in 2010 one of their primary objectives was to gut AEA.  And they did an excellent job, especially in stopping payroll deductions to fund their political action committee.  This was a crippling blow, which, coupled with a total lack of decent leadership in Montgomery, had many calling for last rites.for the organization.

But as Smith points out below, AEA has slowly, but surely, been able to reload its PAC and how has nearly $4 million in hand.  And whereas at one time AEA almost exclusively supported Democrats alone, those days are gone and AEA now has no problem contributing to Republicans:

“Years ago, I remember watching Dr. Paul Hubbert in the gallery of the Alabama legislature. Folks huddled around him and awaited instructions like officers around a general. Even if you opposed him, it was hard not to be impressed by Hubbert’s political acumen.

As votes were called, legislators would turn around and look up to the gallery for guidance if they weren’t sure where he stood on the bill. That was the zenith of the Alabama Education Association’s (AEA) influence in Alabama politics. After a decade in the political wilderness, the AEA is back as a major political player in Alabama.

Just look at the tale of the tape for the AEA today. Campaign finance reports for the Alabama Voice of Teachers for Education (AVOTE) political action committee (PAC) show that the AEA is socking away over $100,000 per month in non-itemized cash contributions from education employees, 35,588 of them to be exact. As of June 7, 2021, AVOTE has more than $3.72 million cash on hand. I called Alabama Secretary of State John Merrill who confirmed that the AEA’s campaign finance compliance checks out and has since Republicans ended the dues checkoff program a decade ago.

“Dr. Hubbert’s lasting gift to the AEA was working tirelessly through Christmas in 2010 to convert our members’ political support into bank drafts after the legislature eliminated the dues checkoff,” said AEA Executive Director Amy Marlowe.

Almost $4 million may not sound like a lot of money for those of us accustomed to hearing about billions and trillions in government spending, but it’s a big deal in state politics. Most Alabama legislative races are won or lost over a few hundred thousand dollars or less. Because the state does not limit campaign contributions to candidates from PACs, the entire balance in AVOTE could be deployed against one candidate. That’s a massive political threat that gives legislators something to think about.

That wasn’t the case five years ago. Then-President Sheila Remington didn’t paint a pretty picture of the AEA’s condition. “We’re out of the business,” Remington told the Montgomery Advertiser. “We’re out of giving people money to run campaigns…as far as people calling and asking us for campaign contributions, I don’t see us getting involved with that anymore.”

Nobody paying attention to Alabama politics was surprised to hear that. The 2014 election cycle for the AEA was a masterclass in political failure. Executive Director Henry Mabry bet millions, including a $4 million loan, trying to replicate Hubbert’s political control of the Alabama legislature and came up radically short.

The AEA’s political Death Star that Hubbert has worked decades to perfect literally exploded.

Marlowe was there when it happened. Hubbert hired her as an AEA lobbyist in 2005, and she had enjoyed the heights of AEA’s success in the Alabama legislature. The decimation of the AEA’s influence was the bottom of the valley for her, but she learned from the experience.

“The AEA paid a political price for playing politics outside of education,” said Marlowe, “We’ve learned that we’re the most effective when we’re targeted and strategic about accomplishing our objectives on behalf of our members.”

Republicans rejoiced, and it wasn’t simply because they disagreed with the AEA over public school choice policies. The AEA was, before its political collapse, the single biggest weapon of the Democratic Party in Alabama. Even as the party fell into complete ineptitude, the AEA retained the ability to pack a political punch.

The AEA was so reviled by Republicans that the Alabama Republican Party adopted a rule banning the party from accepting funds from the National Education Association (NEA) and its affiliates including the AEA.

The AEA board effectively forced Mabry’s resignation, sought to stabilize its operations, and began to retire its political debt. It wasn’t a pretty process.

It’s also when people stopped paying attention to the AEA as a political force in Montgomery.

According to Marlowe, Dr. Hubbert’s response to Republicans who came after the AEA was clear, “Whatever rules you want to make, however you want to change the political game, we will adapt and overcome.”

Internalizing Hubbert’s mantra seems to have paid off for Marlowe.

Marlowe appears far more capable than others who have followed Hubbert. She’s laser focused on AEA being an organization that supports its 84,325 education employee members and also happens to engage in politics. “In the political arena, AEA’s focus is making sure Alabama’s education employees have a voice that’s heard in Montgomery,” said Marlowe.

Marlowe has Democratic bona fides and was part of the AEA when it aggressively went after Republicans, but she’s not afraid to support conservative candidates if she can wield influence when it matters.

“AEA doesn’t care whether you’re an ‘R’ or a ‘D,’” noted Marlowe, “as long as you vote ‘E’(ducation).”

More importantly, the AEA is strategically deploying capital. In the 2018 cycle, the AEA spread around hundreds of thousands of dollars to Alabama Republicans in spite of the party’s guidance to avoid AEA money. Since 2019, the top two recipients of AVOTE funds have been Republicans.

Not only is the AEA engaging politically, but it’s returning to form legislatively. In the last legislative session, Alabama enacted a $7.2 billion Education Trust Fund budget, the largest in the state’s history. Teachers received a pay raise in the pandemic. The AEA killed efforts to allow education funding to follow students to charter schools. But for Governor Kay Ivey’s veto, the AEA would have also secured a two year delay of the Alabama Literacy Act, a law which ensures third graders read at grade level before promoting them.

That’s not a bad session for a political shop that was out of business in 2016. While the AEA’s new political Death Star might not be fully operational just yet, the AEA is certainly striking back. The question is whether they’ll be a force to help pull Alabama’s children out of the educational basement or a hindrance in that effort. Will an “AEA Republican” label be a political weight or an asset? Only time will tell, but AEA is again a force to reckon with, and Alabama’s political class would be wise to start paying attention.

Smith is CEO of the Triptych Foundation, a 501(c)(3) non-profit. The Triptych Foundation promotes a virtuous society through investments in socially impactful media and business. He was recently executive director of the Republican Policy Committee in the United States House of Representatives. You can reach him at csmith@al.com.”

Freshman Congressman Barry Moore Turns His Back On Law Enforcement

Barry Moore is the brand new Republican Congressman from Alabama’s Second District.  One would expect such politicians to support law enforcement efforts at every opportunity.   But as we learned this week, this does not include the small band of radical Republicans who voted against HR 3325, legislation to award four Congressional gold medals to U.S. Capitol Police and those who protected the nation’s capitol on Jan. 6.

The legislation was passed by a margin of 406-21.  And unbelievably, Moore was one of the 21.

I mean, how do you justify your vote if you are Moore?  You don’t, unless you are a total fruitcake as Moore has just demonstrated t he must be.  (I have yet to see any explanation from Moore for his reasoning.)

Now Moore has joined forces with such folks as Marjorie Taylor Greene, Matt Gaetz, Louie Gohmert, Paul Gosar, Andy Biggs and a handful of others.

I live in Alabama’s 2nd District.  Moore is my Congressman.  But he does not represent me in any form or fashion.  If I want to see a clown, I will go to the circus–not to one of his town hall meetings.

But the truth is, given Moore’s history, we probably should not be that surprised.

You see, when you check out his history in the Alabama House, you find clues that he can not be trusted.

Here are excerpts from an article in The Alabama Political Reporter from June 15, 2020 that shed a lot of light:

“Moore entered politics in 2010, at the urging of then-Chair of the Republican Party Mike Hubbard.

With the help of over $150,000 contributed by Hubbard-controlled PACs, Moore defeated Democrat incumbent, Terry Spicer, in 2010.

Just two months after being elected, Moore received a contract with the Alabama Department of Environmental Management (ADEM) for $27,500. The contract was executed in the name of Hopper-Moore, Inc., doing business as Barry Services. Hooper-Moore is registered as a “minority-owned business” because Moore’s wife, Heather, is purportedly part-Native American.

On December 15, 2011, two additional payments were made to Hopper-Moore from ADEM, one for $8,950, and the other $16,900. The three contracts in FY 2011 and FY 2012 were for “solid waste.”

Editor’s note: In his first two years in office Moore got $64,612 in state contracts.  He had never done business with the state prior to being elected.

“One of Hubbard’s economic development plans in 2012 was to bring 100 new jobs to Moore’s district in an expansion deal with Enterprise Electronics Corporation.

A deed from Coffee County signed on August 15, 2012, shows that Moore and his wife, Heather, sold their suburban home to Enterprise Electronics Corporation for $650,000.

The real estate estimate for the five bedroom, 4.5 bath home was listed at $424,898. Neither Moore nor Enterprise Electronics Corporation answered why the company paid $200,000 over market value.

Also, in 2012, along with other House members, Moore sought to insert language into State law that would benefit private companies who provided solid waste management within certain counties and/or municipalities, including a company owned by Moore.

HB274 would have “prohibit a county, municipality, or solid waste authority from providing commercial front-end loader, roll-off, or commercial recycling collection services within the county or the municipality if there are two or more private solid waste providers offering those services in the county.”

Moore, along with fellow Republican legislators, proposed this bill, even though Moore owned a solid waste management company (Barry Moore Industries) that would have stood to gain personally from this bill’s passage.

Moore was arrested in April of 2014, on felony perjury and lying to authorities charges. He was accused of providing false statements to a grand jury during a grand jury probe that eventually led to Hubbard’s indictment.

While Moore would be acquitted of the charges, it was Hubbard who facilitated Moore’s legal defense.

On his weekly FPCA filing for May 9, 2014, Moore listed an expenditure of $25,000 to Baxley, Dillard, McKnight & James, the law firm that would represent him at trial.

Hubbard’s Storm PAC gave Moore $10,000 on the day that Moore was served his indictments from the AG’s office and $15,000 just days after his arrest. Moore posted $10,000 in cash for his bail on April 24.

Moore also received significant donations from Hubbard’s closest allies, including Alabama 2014 PAC, managed by former Gov. Bob Riley.

According to that year’s April filings with the Secretary of State, Riley’s PAC gave Moore $25,000. Donations made to Moore by Hubbard and Riley were the largest donations either PAC gave any single candidate.

Moore was a Hubbard loyalist who benefited financially from his time in public office.”

Editor’s note:  So law enforcement personnel were risking their lives to protect those in Congress.  But Barry Moore turned his back on them.  What a guy!