The trials of the ‘Scottsboro Boys’

Leadbelly song

Scottsboro BoysAs the story goes, “No crime in American history– let alone a crime that never occurred– produced as many trials, convictions, reversals, and retrials as did an alleged gang rape of two white girls by nine black teenagers on a Southern Railroad freight run on March 25, 1931.

“Over the course of the two decades that followed, the struggle for justice of the ‘Scottsboro Boys,’ as the black teens were called, made celebrities out of anonymities, launched and ended careers, wasted lives, produced heroes, opened southern juries to blacks, exacerbated sectional strife, and divided America’s political left.”

Britannica notes: “Despite testimony by doctors who had examined the women that no rape had occurred, the all-white jury convicted the nine, and all but the youngest, who was 12 years old, were sentenced to death.

“The announcement of the verdict and sentences brought a storm of charges from outside the South that a gross miscarriage of justice had occurred in Scottsboro. The cause of the ‘Scottsboro Boys’ was championed, and in some cases exploited, by Northern liberal and radical groups, notably the Communist Party of the U.S.A.

Here’s a video from Ancient History, though it’s not so ancient.

SCOTUS

History.com notes: The trials and repeated retrials of the Scottsboro Boys sparked an international uproar and produced two landmark U.S. Supreme Court verdicts, even as the defendants were forced to spend years battling the courts and enduring the harsh conditions of the Alabama prison system.

One of the cases was Powell v. Alabama (1932), in which SCOTUS ruled that the Scottsboro defendants had been denied the right to counsel. This violated their right to due process under the 14th Amendment. “The Supreme Court overturned the Alabama verdicts, setting an important legal precedent for enforcing the right of African Americans to adequate counsel, and remanded the cases to the lower courts.”

The second, again overturning the guilty verdicts, was in Norris v. Alabama (1935). The “systematic exclusion of blacks on Jackson Country jury rolls denied a fair trial to the defendants… This second landmark decision in the Scottsboro Boys case would help integrate future juries across the nation.”

You can “meet” the individuals involved through the American Experience piece Who Were the Scottsboro Boys?

In 2013(!), Alabama posthumously pardoned three of them after 80 years, “essentially absolving the last of the Scottsboro Boys of criminal misconduct and closing one of the most notorious chapters of the South’s racial history.”

Music

Here are the lyrics to the song Scottsboro Boys by Hudie Leadbetter, known as Leadbelly. Listen to the song.

There was a Broadway musical of this story in 2010. Music and lyrics were by John Kander and Fred Ebb, who had done Cabaret and other successful shows. It ran for 29 previews and 49 performances. Watch the 2011 Tony Awards performance.

First is important; “can’t count” is better

Nine is enough

Margaret Chase Smith 1950I’ve long had this rule of thumb about progress for groups who have been traditionally underrepresented in an area. The person who is first is important, of course, indeed vital. But real equality takes place when one can’t count the number without looking it up.

So it’s excellent that Sarah Thomas is the first woman to referee a Super Bowl game. And there are plenty of other firsts in sports in recent years.

But “‘What is really going to excite me is when this is no longer aberrational or when this is no longer something that’s noteworthy,’ said Amy Trask, who in 1997 became the Oakland Raiders’ chief executive and the first woman of that rank in the N.F.L. Few have followed in similar roles.”

Once I knew all of the female spacefarers. Now that there have been more than five dozen, I look at the list and not recognize some of the names. And THAT is a GOOD thing. Too many to keep track of is the point of the exercise.

US Govt

There are currently 24 women in the US Senate and 58 all-time. That’s not nearly enough. Still, I can no longer name all of the current female Senators, which I could do as recently as the early 1990s. (Margaret Chase Smith, R-ME, was the ONLY woman in the Senate the year I was born.)

I’m looking forward to the point when I can’t name all of the women who have been on the US Supreme Court. (Hint: there have been five of them, and three are on the court presently.)

The late, great Ruth Bader Ginsburg had a great quote about this. “When I’m sometimes asked ‘When will there be enough [women on the Supreme Court]?’ and I say ‘When there are nine,’ people are shocked. But there’d been nine men, and nobody’s ever raised a question about that.” Amen.

Of course, I needed to get my calculator to count all of the women who have been elected President or Vice-President of the United States. I can’t count that high. Lessee, there’s one…

United Nations

UN Women announces the theme for International Women’s Day, 8 March 2021, as “Women in leadership: Achieving an equal future in a COVID-19 world.” It calls for “women’s full and effective participation and decision-making in public life, as well as the elimination of violence, for achieving gender equality and the empowerment of all women and girls…

“The majority of the countries that have been more successful in stemming the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic and responding to its health and broader socio-economic impacts, are headed by women.

“For instance, Heads of Government in Denmark, Ethiopia, Finland, Germany, Iceland, New Zealand, and Slovakia have been widely recognized for the rapidity, decisiveness, and effectiveness of their national response to COVID-19, as well as the compassionate communication of fact-based public health information.

“Yet, women are Heads of State and Government in only 20 countries worldwide.”

Sedition and other high crimes

“loser of the year”

fomenting violenceThe fact that the Supreme Court, as expected, rejected that absurd Texas lawsuit doesn’t fill me with the joy that it should.

Of course, the attempt to overthrow Joe Biden’s election victory was bogus. It is, presumably, again and yet again, the “end of the road” for the crusade to overturn the election. But America lost anyway.

His angry mob supporters spark terrorism fears. When he levels threats at the Republican Attorney General in Georgia, his rabid fans take him literally. “Brad Raffensperger… and his wife have received death threats, including by text message, and caravans have circled their house.”

People just trying to do their jobs

And, per a list from the New York Times:

* Dozens of his supporters, some armed, went to the home of Jocelyn Benson, Michigan’s Democratic secretary of state, and began shouting obscenities.

* On Twitter, his supporters have posted photographs of the home of Ann Jacobs, a Wisconsin official, and mentioned her children.

* In Phoenix, about 100 of his supporters, some armed, protested at the building where officials were counting votes.

* In Vermont, officials received a voice message threatening them with “execution by firing squad.”

* Seth Bluestein, a Philadelphia official, received anti-Semitic and violent threats after Pam Bondi, the former Florida Attorney General and ally of IMPOTUS, publicly mentioned him.

* A Georgia poll worker went into hiding after a viral video falsely claimed he had discarded ballots.

Reality?

* Gabriel Sterling, another Georgia official, received a message wishing him a happy birthday and saying it would be his last. In a later interview with Time magazine, Sterling argued that elected politicians could defuse the threats by acknowledging that the election was fair. “Leadership is supposed to look like grown-ups in the room saying, ‘I know you’re upset, but this is the reality.'”

The reality, of course, is not the intent of the “reality” star. It appears to be to foment the violence, and he has succeeded. I agree with the official who worries, “I don’t know how this ends without violence and death.”

And I lay it at the feet of the guy who said, both in 2016 and 2020, long before the votes were counted, that if he didn’t win, the elections must have been rigged. So only one-quarter of Republicans believe Biden actually won.

High crimes

These 40 days of denial and disinformation got me to look at 18 USC Ch. 115: TREASON, SEDITION, AND SUBVERSIVE ACTIVITIES. It’s odd because it is the presumed, albeit outgoing, HEAD of the government that, one could argue is, per §2385, Advocating the overthrow of Government.

“Whoever knowingly or willfully advocates, abets, advises, or teaches the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying the government of the United States or the government of any State, Territory, District or Possession thereof, or the government of any political subdivision therein, by force or violence, or by the assassination of any officer of any such government; or

“Whoever, with intent to cause the overthrow or destruction of any such government, prints, publishes, edits, issues, circulates, sells, distributes, or publicly displays any written or printed matter advocating, advising, or teaching the duty, necessity, desirability, or propriety of overthrowing or destroying any government in the United States by force or violence, or attempts to do so; or

Conspiracy

“Whoever organizes or helps or attempts to organize any society, group, or assembly of persons who teach, advocate, or encourage the overthrow or destruction of any such government by force or violence; or becomes or is a member of, or affiliates with, any such society, group, or assembly of persons, knowing the purposes thereof—

“Shall be fined under this title or imprisoned not more than twenty years, or both, and shall be ineligible for employment by the United States or any department or agency thereof, for the five years next following his conviction.”

One could – and I do – make the argument that in the words of Garry B. Trudeau, He’s “guilty, guilty, guilty.” I’m generally not a fan of sedition acts, as they almost always dampen free speech. But when actions by a soon-to-be-retired high-ranking government employee threaten the very fabric of democracy, I accept it.

Wusses

So why did 126 Republican members of Congress and about a dozen and a half state attorneys general sign on to this Supreme Court travesty? Fear of what he can do with that over $200 million that he has raised, ostensibly to fight the”rigged” election.

But he’ll have plenty of leftover cash. Those Republicans not toeing the orange line might get a well-funded primary challenge in 2022. He’s taking names, he said, like a demented Saint Nicholas, seeing who’s naughty or nice, to him.

Sometimes he tells the truth. Maybe he WILL start his own media company to take on the suddenly non-compliant FOX. This will give him the visibility for those other Republicans who want to make a 2024 White House run, that it’ll be an uphill climb.

Can’t win for losing

This week, the prominent German news magazine Der Spiegel named him its “loser of the year”. This happened the same day Time magazine named President-elect Joe Biden and Vice President-elect Kamala Harris its “Person of the Year.”

“In an article titled ‘Der Verlierer des Jahres…’ the publication’s Washington bureau chief Roland Nelles and Berlin-based correspondent Ralf Neukirch described him as a ‘man who … was never concerned with the common good, but always with one thing — himself.’

“Nothing is normal under him. He refuses to admit defeat. Instead, he speaks of massive electoral fraud, although there is no evidence for it. The whole thing is not surprising. His presidency ends as it began. Without decency and without dignity.”

I contend, though, that IMPOTUS has won. From that NYT:

His “attempts to overturn the election result are very unlikely to succeed. For that reason, the effort can sometimes seem like a publicity stunt — an effort… to raise money and burnish his image with his supporters.

“And it may well be all of those things. But it is also a remarkable campaign against American democracy. It has grown to include most Republican-run states, most Republican members of Congress, and numerous threats of violence. The new centerpiece in the effort is [that] lawsuit.” And the cowardly Republicans who signed on are “‘inflaming the public’, causing many voters to believe — wrongly — that a presidential election was unfair.”

If you Google 1918 Germany, you’ll find several references to one of the most disastrous political lies of the 20th century. “Powerful conservatives who led the country into war refused to accept that they had lost. Their denial gave birth to…the Dolchstosslegende, or stab-in-the-back myth.

“Its core claim was that Imperial Germany never lost World War I. Defeat, its proponents said, was declared but not warranted. It was a conspiracy, a con, a capitulation — a grave betrayal that forever stained the nation.” The “lies” were perpetrated by the liberals and the Jews. “That the claim was palpably false didn’t matter.” This is not a path the US should follow.

As my friend Alan notes, “He spends every day successfully sabotaging the institutions of our government, which means he is sabotaging the health and safety of every human being in the country. He is the greatest threat to the United States in its history.”

September rambling: demand decency

“I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing”

The Illegitimacy of a Conservative Supreme Court.

Demand decency.

Staying Sane in Anxious Times (without being useless).

A Catholic’s Case Against Amy Coney Barrett. Plus The Supreme Court: Last Week Tonight with John Oliver.

Pasco’s sheriff created a futuristic program to stop crime before it happens. It monitors and harasses families across the county.

Uninsured up from last year and pandemic likely to exacerbate this trend.

Renewed calls for diversity and inclusion in ballet.

A Texas County Clerk’s Bold Crusade to Transform How We Vote.

The Twisted History of Cursive Writing.

How to Make Your Writing Funnier – Cheri Steinkellner.

NFL Legend Gale Sayers Dies at 77: CNN and NPR.

Baseball Hall of Famer Lou Brock has died at 81.

Secret ‘Man Cave’ Discovered in Room Beneath Grand Central Station.

NANCY is again a comic strip?

Ken Levine interviews Michael Uslan, The Man Who Saved Batman, Part One and Part Two.

Dick York After ‘Bewitched’.

The Judy Jetson controversy.

Tomato quick bread recipe.

Now I Know

The Original Scapegoat and The Final Frontier of Telemarketing and The Last Confederate POW and Why Roosters Don’t Deafen Themselves.

Antiracism Challenge

Youth Poet Laureate Amanda Gorman on race, injustice, and protest.

A series of short films about identity in America.

The Speak Up Handbook by the Southern Poverty Law Center.

What Is Privilege?

‘Intergroup anxiety’: Can you try too hard to be fair?

Racism is Trauma.

Allegories on race and racism – Camara Jones, TEDxEmory.

ALICE — Asset Limited, Income Constrained, Employed.

IMPOTUS

His Rage Is Worse Than You’ve Heard.

Every Lie Is a Confession.

He Fuels March Toward Fascism With “Anarchist Jurisdictions” Edict.

He Says Coronavirus ‘Affects Virtually Nobody,’ As U.S. Has World’s Highest Death Toll.

His HHS ad blitz raises alarms.

Blacks have themselves to blame for inequality, and Jews ‘are only in it for themselves’.

DOJ Unveils Proposal That Would Make It Harder for Twitter and Facebook to Block His Dangerous Posts.

He Is $1.1 Billion in Debt.

They got Al Capone for tax evasion, too…. cf I Found Joe Biden’s Tax Returns.

He celebrates violence against his enemies as recurring rally theme.

Shock (?) Over His Refusal To Promise ‘Peaceful Transfer Of Power’.

Barbara Walter Interview on ABC’s 20/20 – August 17, 1990.

I Won’t Vote Trump – Randy Rainbow.

MUSIC

RIP, Toots.Zooming in with Frederick Nathaniel “Toots” Hibbert — the Legend Who Literally Invented “Reggae”. Bam Bam and 54-46 Was My Number and Sweet and Dandy and Pressure Drop.

I Don’t Want Nobody To Give Me Nothing (Open Up The Door I’ll Get It Myself) – James Brown

I’d Rather Go Blind ~ Rebecca Jade at Spaghettini.

Tiny Desk (Home) Concert – Phoebe Bridgers.

With God On Our Side – NEVILLE BROTHERS.

We Have All The Time In The World – Louis Armstrong.

Virtual Sabbath Prayer.

Coverville 1324: Cover Stories for Mark Ronson and Bruno Mars and 1325: 50 Years After…After the Gold Rush (Album Cover) and 1326: Jimi Hendrix Cover Tribute.

Attention by Pamela Z.

4’33” by John Cage.

Without the Beatles.

Notorious: Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Women have the right to open a bank account without a man’s signature

Ruth Bader Ginsburg quoteWhen I heard that the “notorious” Ruth Bader Ginsburg had died, I uttered one of those Anglo-Saxon four-letter words aloud, to no one. Soon my email was inundated with tributes and commentaries. I read about how her “voice from the bench sealed her legacy as a women’s rights crusader. [She] knew that federal laws and constitutional principles were the very tools she and other judges could employ to fight against gender discrimination.”

Yet, she “never saw her focus on women’s rights as contrary to her oath to ‘faithfully and impartially’ administer justice according to the Constitution and federal law.” And she regularly pointed out “injustices facing women and members of other marginalized groups. And the dissents drew the attention they demanded,… even spurring lines of ‘dissent collars’ sold by retailers in honor of the neckwear she’d choose for the occasions.”

Her whole life was a mirror of the discrimination women faced. “Despite finishing first in her law school class at Columbia University, no law firm made her an offer.” She was famously rejected by dozens of New York City law firms based on her gender, but also because she was a mother and Jewish.

So she began “teaching at Rutgers Law School and co-founded the Women’s Rights Law Reporter… She was even part of a class-action lawsuit against Rutgers after she discovered that her salary was lower than those of her male colleagues.”

They used to DO that?

As the Skimm noted: “She founded the ACLU’s Women’s Rights Project, where she won several landmark cases before the Supreme Court on gender equality. Her work helped make changes like giving women the right to open a bank account, have credit cards, and a mortgage without a man’s signature.” These are rights people now take for granted.

“On the Supreme Court, she authored key decisions… including the 1996 ruling requiring Virginia Military Institute to accept women or lose its funding. She issued scathing dissents on issues such as abortion rights and unequal pay for women— the latter dissent spurred Congress to pass the Lilly Ledbetter Fair Pay Act.”

She championed women’s rights against discrimination on the basis of sex (United States v. Virginia and Ledbetter v. Goodyear Tire & Rubber Co). She pushed for everyone’s right to vote (Shelby County v. Holder). She supported the rights of those with disabilities (Olmstead v. LC), the right to access health care, including birth control (Burwell v. Hobby Lobby Stores).

Has any associate justice left such a mark that she should be parodied on Saturday Live Live and turned into a doll an action figure? She was known for her inspiring workout videos, her passion for opera, and her relentless fights against the cancer that claimed her life.

Notorious, indeed

Here are articles from the ACLU and NPR. And watch Ruth Bader Ginsburg enchant a crowd of thousands in Little Rock, September 2019. One senator recalled a Hebrew phrase, “May her memory be a revolution.

Much of the news I was aware of from the great documentary RBG and the OK movie On the Basis of Sex. RBG said: “Fight for the things that you care about, but do it in a way that will lead others to join you.”

The rule, except when it’s not

When Barack Obama nominated Judge Merrick Garland to fill Justice Antonin Scalia’s seat, it was 269 days before the 2016 election. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell refused to allow the nomination to move forward. “The American people should have a voice in the selection of their next Supreme Court Justice. Therefore, this vacancy should not be filled until we have a new president.”

Fast forward to less than 50 days before the 2020 election Day in 2020. His own precedent seems to have flown out of the window.

The conservative rationale appears to be this. The rule to wait only applies when the White House and Senate are held by different parties, thereby potentially causing deadlock. With Republicans in the White House and controlling Republican Senate, none of those concerns presumably exist. I don’t buy the argument. Political parties were not mentioned in the Constitution nor anticipated by the Founders.

Confronted by his hypocrisy, Ted Cruz, who was on a SCOTUS list recently, just makes something new up. Lindsay Graham, as recently as 2018, defended the 2016 action and said he’d feel the same way if a similar circumstance took place this year.

In other words, is it hypocrisy or just lying? The National Memo lays out three steps to stop McConnell from replacing Justice Ginsburg now. So far, a couple Republicans will oppose the noxious GOP effort.

I was so mad

Speaking of Mitch, I sent Amy McGrath money for her Senate campaign against him in Kentucky. She “served 20 years in the Marines, flew 89 combat missions in Iraq and Afghanistan, and overcame the odds to become the first woman Marine to fly a combat mission in an F/A-18 fighter jet.” There was a more progressive candidate running in the Democratic primary, but he lost, barely.

I may contribute to the campaigns of more folks running against these hypocrites. Graham in South Carolina is probably next. And maybe some others.