Tag Archives: civil rights

AG Garland makes critical vow

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Attorney General Merrick Garland has given good-government adherents something to cheer.

He spoke at length today vowing to do all he can to protect the rights of all Americans to vote, to take part in the democratic process. Moreover, he pledged to dramatically increase the civil-rights division staff of lawyers to guard against efforts to disenfranchise American voters.

“There are plenty of things up for debate in America, but the right of all eligible Americans to vote is not one of them,” Garland said.

Do ya think?

Garland appeared today to draw a bead on Republican-led efforts in  legislatures across the land — and that certainly includes Texas — to make voting a good bit more arduous for many Americans than it ever should be. As NBC News reported: The staffing surge would occur over the next the next 30 days, he said, and the beefed-up unit will use all laws at its disposal “to ensure that we protect every qualified American seeking to participate in our democracy.”

Garland says Justice Department will scrutinize new GOP-led voting restrictions (nbcnews.com)

Merrick Garland came to the Justice Department after a stellar career as a federal judge. He knows the Constitution and has spent a good bit of his professional life interpreting what issues pass constitutional muster. Accordingly, he asserted today that the DOJ will investigate effort whether statewide efforts cross a constitutional line they shouldn’t cross.

The 2020 election had many important features. One of them was the remarkable spike in the number of ballots that were cast. All told, nearly 160 million Americans voted for president. The most important feature, of course, was that Americans elected Joe Biden as president, who in turn nominated a towering judicial figure — Merrick Garland — to lead the Justice Department.

Today, the nation got a glimpse of the wisdom of President Biden’s choice of the nation’s top legal eagle.

“So far this year, at least 14 states have passed new laws that make it harder to vote,” Garland said.

“We are scrutinizing new laws that seek to curb voter access and where we see violations, we will not hesitate to act. We are also scrutinizing current laws and practices in order to determine whether they discriminate against Black voters and other voters of color,” Garland said.

Yes, Mr. Attorney General. You have the floor.

Feds now involved in Floyd murder

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

A Hennepin County, Minn., jury had the good sense and common decency to endorse what we all saw on that ghastly video, which was the sight of Derek Chauvin suffocating George Floyd while arresting him for passing counterfeit money.

They convicted him of second- and third-degree murder and manslaughter. Chauvin faces a lengthy prison term.

4 ex-cops indicted on US civil rights charges in Floyd death (msn.com)

Now, though, comes this bit of news: Chauvin and his three former Minneapolis police colleagues have been indicted by a federal grand jury of violating Floyd’s civil rights when they arrested him and then killed him.

The ordeal ain’t over for Chauvin or for Alexander Kueng, Thomas Lane and Tou Thao. The three other officers also are awaiting trial in state court for their role in Floyd’s death.

You know the story. Chauvin is a white man; Floyd was an African-American. Floyd’s death drew international attention and helped spawn greater interest in the Black Lives Matter movement.

This case isn’t not about to fade into history any time soon.

Nor, frankly, should it.

Libs have blowhards, too

By John Kanelis / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

I recently called Fox News commentator Tucker Carlson a right-wing “blowhard,” which drew rebukes from my friends who believe he is right and others of us are mistaken about the state of affairs.

It all got me to ponder something. Do I aim my “blowhard” epithet only at right wingers and if so, am I being fair to them? I want to lay down a predicate, which is that we all are fueled by our own bias. So, when I toss out an epithet such as “blowhard,” or “gasbag” I usually am talking about righties with whom I disagree.

As I scan the political commentary landscape, I find far fewer such left-leaning targets. However, the field isn’t devoid of left wing blowhards.

In the interest of fairness, I want to offer you this example: The Rev. Al Sharpton. 

I am no fan of Sharpton. He runs the National Action Network. He has become a “civil rights leader” of some repute and renown. Sharpton shows up at protest marches to extol the virtues of Black Lives Matter. He delivers eulogies to victims of police brutality. He speaks on behalf of what I consider to be noble causes.

However, every time I see the Rev. Sharpton, I cannot erase one incident from my memory: Tawana Brawley. Do you remember her?

In the late 1980s Brawley accused white New York City police officers of brutalizing her, of raping her, of dehumanizing her. She is an African-American. At that time, up stepped Al Sharpton to raise holy hell on her behalf. He and others accused the cops of behaving in a disgraceful, despicable manner.

It turns out that Tawana Brawley made it all up. The cops sued Brawley and others, including Sharpton, for slander and defamation. They won their case!

Has the reverend ever apologized for taking part in that monumental charade? Nope. Not a word. Instead, he parlayed his 15 minutes of fame into a role he has embraced as a “civil rights leader.”

This has not a thing to do with the causes for which he speaks. I happen to endorse most of Sharpton’s platform. If only, though, he hadn’t emerged from such a scandalous event — in which he was on the wrong side of a contentious dispute — to bask in the celebrity status he enjoys today.

So, there you have it. I have just declared that lefties have blowhards, too.

Rename that bridge!

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Marchers today marked the 56th anniversary of what has become known as “Bloody Sunday,” when civil rights activists marched across a bridge in Selma, Ala., demanding equal rights for all Americans.

What absolutely, categorically boggles my noggin is why this span continues to carry the name “Edmund Pettus,” and why it hasn’t been changed to honor the heroism of those who marched for civil rights and for an end to the oppression of many Americans.

Edmund Pettus was a Confederate military officer, a lawyer, a senator from Alabama — and a staunch advocate of slavery.

Today’s march across the bridge marked the first such event without the presence of the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis of Georgia, who suffered a terrible beating on that day in 1965. Lewis went on to serve a distinguished career in Congress, where he became known as the “soul” and the “conscience” of that legislative body.

I know I am far from alone in advocating this, but the Edmund Pettus Bridge needs to be renamed after John Lewis, who admittedly didn’t favor changing the name of the bridge. He said, “Keeping the name of the Bridge is not an endorsement of the man who bears its name but rather an acknowledgement that the name of the Bridge today is synonymous with the Voting Rights Movement which changed the face of this nation and the world.”

Rep. Lewis is no longer around to object. Perhaps others will object in his honor. I happen to believe that the Edmund Pettus Bridge is a historical landmark that pays tribute to someone who symbolized a disgraced political philosophy.

John Lewis likely wouldn’t say so himself, but putting his name on that bridge also would be “synonymous with the Voting Rights Movement which changed the face of this nation and the world.” 

Content of character: does it still count?

By JOHN KANELIS / johnkanelis_92@hotmail.com

Make no mistake that I likely would feel differently were I of African-American or Latino or Asian descent. I am none of those.

Having laid that predicate down, I want to engage in the discussion over who President-elect Biden should select as the nation’s next attorney general.

I practically jumped out of my shoes the other day when I heard an African-American commentator, Jonathan Capehart, say out loud that the three individuals Biden is believed to be considering as AG are too white for his taste. Capehart wants more “diversity” among the finalists.

Hmm. Let’s examine this briefly. The three people Biden reportedly is pondering are U.S. District Judge Merrick Garland, former deputy U.S. Attorney General Sally Yates and U.S. Sen. Doug Jones. They all possess exemplary legal credentials. They also all have committed through their careers to advancing the cause of civil rights.

Their only “shortcoming” is that they aren’t people of color.

President-elect Biden has kept his pledge to nominate executive branch team members who reflect the nation. Has loaded the Cabinet with and top-level staffers with African-Americans, Latinos, Asian-Americans, women; my goodness, he even has selected an openly gay man to serve in the Cabinet.

President Obama nominated Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court, only to have his nomination blocked in 2016 by Senate Republicans who wanted to wait for the presidential election outcome that year. Garland has been a champion for minority rights, for gay rights and has staked out a center-left course while serving on the federal bench.

Sally Yates has demonstrated her own commitment to fair and impartial justice as a deputy AG, striving to be sensitive to minority Americans’ concerns over whether the justice system was loaded against them.

Doug Jones, who lost his bid for re-election to the Senate from Alabama in 2020, served as a federal prosecutor and obtained the conviction of the Klansmen who blew up the Birmingham, Ala., church in 1963 that killed four precious African-American girls; it was one of the most notorious hate crimes of the 20th century. He, too, has earned his spurs in fighting for minority rights.

Is it essential that the next AG be a person of color? No. It isn’t. It is essential that the next attorney general refrain from engaging in partisan politics and administer justice dispassionately and in accordance with the law.

I want to remind everyone of what Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. said on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial that day in 1963. He spoke of his “dream” that one day black Americans can be judged by “content of their character” rather than “the color of their skin.”

Shouldn’t that noble goal apply to any American?

Trump’s absence: the ‘new normal’?

As I have sought to process the day’s big event, the funeral of civil rights hero/icon/legend John Lewis, I pondered the absence of one individual who one could have presumed should have been there.

Donald J. Trump was not in Atlanta today to pay tribute to John Lewis, the former congressman and human rights activist who died at age 80 of pancreatic cancer. Oh, no. Trump was in Washington, tweeting messages seeking to undermine the voting rights gains for which Lewis fought, and bled.

It’s becoming something of a “new normal” in this Age of Trump as president of the United States. He was disinvited to the funeral of U.S. Sen. John McCain. Trump attended the funeral of former President George H.W. Bush, but we didn’t hear a word from him. Now, the Lewis funeral. Trump declared he had no intention of honoring Lewis while he lie in state in the Capitol Rotunda.

I thought about past funerals of high-profile political figures. I recalled the presence of President Lyndon Johnson at the funeral of a man he hated beyond measure, Sen. Robert F. Kennedy. I remembered the funeral of President Richard Nixon and recalled one of the tributes paid to him by President Bill Clinton, who told us that we must not judge his predecessor’s public life by just one episode, but by its entire history. I remember, too, when former Presidents Harry Truman and Dwight Eisenhower patched up their bitter differences while attending the funeral of their successor, President John F. Kennedy. The two old war horses realized in that moment that life was too short and too precious for them to continue hating each other.

Donald Trump clearly would not have been welcomed at John Lewis’s funeral. He once chided Lewis for supposedly being “all talk and no action.” Trump ignored the beatings that Lewis endured while seeking to guarantee the rights of black Americans to vote in free and fair elections.

So it fell to three of Trump’s predecessors — Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama — to speak of their friend and a man who will be remembered as a legend in his own time … and beyond. 

Donald Trump? He was left to sulk in the background.

Master of Hideous Timing

Leave it to Donald J. “Master of Hideous Timing in Chief” Trump to demonstrate once again how low he can go even in a moment of national mourning over the death of a civil rights icon.

While Presidents Bill Clinton, George W. Bush and Barack Obama today were eulogizing the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis for the struggle he waged to obtain equal rights and justice for all Americans, Trump took to Twitter tell us how he intends to do all he can to suppress people’s right to vote in the upcoming presidential election.

The juxtaposition of those two things — the farewell to Rep. Lewis and Trump’s Twitter tirade — is unspeakable in its hideousness.

Trump’s tirade tells me all I need to know — as if I didn’t know it already — about the how callow, callous and crass the president can get, even as the nation says farewell to a hero of the civil rights movement.

John Lewis’s friends and family bid adieu to the champion, reminding us how he sought to create “good trouble” for the cause of freedom and liberty. He fought — quite literally, I should add — for the right of all Americans to have equal voting rights. Lewis paid for that struggle with his own blood, shed in that Bloody Sunday march across the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, Ala.

Donald Trump once chided Lewis as being a man of “all talk and no action.” That such a ridiculous criticism would come from someone who avoided military service during the Vietnam War simply illustrates the president’s utter shamelessness.

And so Donald Trump was at it again today, blasting out Twitter messages seeking to denigrate the voting rights struggle led by a man who was being laid to rest in that very moment.

As they say, timing is everything, for better … or for worse.

No honor for Lewis from Trump … and no salute to his greatness

Donald Trump won’t pay his respects to the late U.S. Rep. John Lewis.

The president detested the civil rights icon. I suppose it’s fair to point out that Lewis felt likewise toward Trump.

However, it boggles my noggin that Donald Trump cannot even muster up any semblance of decency to make a statement saluting the sacrifice Lewis made in the fight for equality and justice for all Americans.

Lewis bled in Selma, Ala., while marching for voting rights for African-Americans. Alabama police beat Lewis to a pulp, cracking his skull. He fought a valiant — and ultimately successful — battle to obtain equal rights for African-American citizens. He engaged in “good trouble, responsible trouble.”

The president of the United States cannot offer a statement to salute this good man’s history-changing legacy?

Reprehensible!

What will happen when that time comes?

REUTERS/Sarah Silbiger

I have a number of clever, astute and erudite Facebook friends who are unafraid to comment on political matters.

Les is one of them. He writes today:

President Trump declared today that he was not going to pay respects to John Lewis, lying in state at the Capitol, and then left for a tour of a North Carolina factory and another COVID briefing. I hope he understands that he has set a no-show precedent for when he is on display in the Rotunda and no one visits.

There you go. Donald Trump will not physically honor the life and contributions of one of the final great civil rights titans to pass from the scene.

The late John Lewis is lying in state in the Capitol Rotunda, the first African-American lawmaker ever to receive the honor.

Trump won’t stand before Lewis’s flag-draped casket. He won’t pretend to say a prayer in Lewis’s memory. He won’t pose for pictures that no doubt would be snapped by photographers gathered to watch the symbolic act.

I know that Trump and Lewis were enemies. Indeed, Trump sees every political foe as an enemy. They aren’t just opponents in this clown’s view. When someone makes a critical remark on the way Trump is doing his job as the nation’s top elected public official, he takes it personally. Lewis certainly offered his share of critical remarks. Therefore, Trump won’t do what is right.

What’s more — and this cannot be ignored in this political season — Trump is sticking a proverbial political dagger in his own heart by enraging black voters who expect the president to pay his respects to a man of such heroic stature. Then again, Trump the Politician likely figures, to borrow a phrase: What do I have to lose?

My friend, though, makes note of what might lie ahead when Donald Trump no longer is with us. He would be a former president of the United States. He would be entitled to lie in state as many former presidents have been honored since the founding of the republic.

Surely, a former president such as Trump would be able to attract someone — anyone — who would pay their respects to him once he has departed this good Earth?

No surprise that POTUS would be muted in honoring this icon

I am not surprised in the least that Donald Trump has been so reticent in honoring the life of the late civil rights icon John Lewis.

Yes, he offered a brief statement via Twitter, offering thoughts and prayers for “he and his family.”

Other presidents have been much more, um, fulsome in their praise for the hard work and the blood that Lewis shed on behalf of justice and civil rights. Presidents Carter, Clinton, Bush and Obama all spoke with heartfelt anguish at Lewis’s death. Trump? Well, he didn’t go there. He isn’t wired that way. Trump isn’t equipped with the rhetorical tools one can find even in politicians who disagree with other politicians.

Oh, no. Not this guy.

Indeed, Lewis and Trump did get into a nasty spat a couple of years ago. Lewis referred to Trump as an “illegitimate president,” because of the Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election. Trump called Lewis a man who is all talk and no action; I guess Trump forgot about the time Lewis had his skull fractured by the police during a civil-rights march in Selma, Ala.

This, I submit, is another failing of Donald Trump. A president who feels aggrieved by a political foe surely could set aside those grievances and offer a significant tribute that recognizes that foe’s contributions to the social fabric, not to mention the political life of the nation we all love.

Isn’t that part of the job, Mr. President?