Morning after the U.S. Elections

November 8, 2016

As a woman who supported Hillary Clinton’s run for the White House, I offer four positive reflections on what this means, especially in Texas:

1)  Due largely to decades of better resources, (or centuries, depending on how historically you look at it) Republican-branded public servants here have frequently outpaced their Democratic colleagues in ready competence, speedy and complete execution of tasks, boldness, and something that can look like nuance. I began to think about this phenomenon decades ago as I participated in party politics and took positions of public service.  I take heart in the thought that when it comes to daily problem-solving, the qualities of collective competence, habits of efficiency, and core confidence can go a long way toward satisfactory results and rough justice (justice delayed is justice denied, after all).

2) The progress that we have made in our country in the 21st century has been wonderful. When I look at my younger colleagues, my children, grandchildren, grand-nephews and nieces,and my students, I take heart. If we encourage these young people, they will lead the way to continued thoughtful progress.  This enormous country cannot move very fast; it’s like trying to turn the world’s largest ocean liner on a dime. Huge groups of stakeholders from all over the political spectrum in the U.S. have not been in a comfort zone as citizens, and our country is based on consensus. Consensus-building is not fast or easy in a country of this size and diversity. May this pause in progressive change (if it indeed proves to be a pause) give every citizen and every group time to reflect thoughtfully.

3) This election cycle brought in new voters and new participants in the governance of a representative democracy. It has helped a younger and older generation to learn from each other. It taught younger women that it’s not unreasonable to dream of being President – not foolish, laughable, or unspeakable. It showed gray heads that perhaps we can count on the younger groups to “show up” in the election process, and to dream big. Whether it was a dream of a woman President, a populist President, or a President with zero resume for public service, it showed everyone that we can still dream big and make the dreams realistic.

4) Texas Supreme Court Justice and now U.S. Congressman Lloyd Doggett taught me a long time ago that whether the results are personally pleasing to us, we must always trust “the people” of our country. (Something along the lines of “you can’t fool all of the people all of the time.”) The people have spoken in record numbers this election season, and I hear Lloyd’s counsel once again. And I’m listening and reflecting on that voice. I know that Lloyd will keep working for progress in healthcare, protection for the young and the elderly, judicial fairness, fiscal responsibility, U.S. honor and strength, and prosperity for all Texans just as he has always done. I will take that approach as my standard and example.

Former Suspect In The Death of Kendrick Johnson Charged With Assault

We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident

On January 13, 2013, 17-year old Kendrick Johnson’s body was discovered in a gym mat in Valdosta, GA. Local authorities and a government medical examiner determined that Johnson died of “positional asphyxia” due to an accident.  They described the accident as Kendrick placing his shoes inside the gym mat and while retrieving them, he became stuck in the mat.

In October 2013, Kendrick’s parent had an independent autopsy performed.  The cause of death was determined to be “apparent non-accidental blunt force trauma”.  CNN reported on the independent autopsy.

Thereafter, the Department of Justice opened an investigation.  In June 2016, the DOJ closed their investigation citing insufficient evidence.

During the DOJ’s investigation, two suspects were brothers Brandon and Brian Bell. Brian Bell now attends the University of Akron where he plays linebacker on the football team.

brian-bellBrian Bell

On September 22, 2016, Raycom News Network reported that Brian Bell was charged…

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Some feedback about the book is puzzling

I agree with the author that the telling is important.

The Last Lynching in Northern Virginia: Seeking Truth at Rattlesnake Mountain

pic-048 Mt. Welby was the home of the DeButts family at the time of Shedrick Thompson’s death. It is now a bed-and-breakfast.

The Last Lynching in Northern Virginia has been out three weeks, long enough for me to get some feedback. As expected, the results are mixed.

I’m delighted when I hear that someone enjoyed the book. “You addressed a very difficult and dark subject very well,” said one reader. “Well done,” said another.

I also was pleased to hear from Daniel DeButts, a descendant of two of the men implicated in Shedrick Thompson’s death. DeButts posted on my Facebook page that he had read the book, and added, “My family was surely part of it, as you say. They made sure he was not on Mt. Welby (the family farm) when they strung him up. Just over the fence on someone else’s land.”

And two of Thompson’s descendants, after hearing…

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Famous Presidential Quotes Compared To Donald Trump’s

This is obviously selective to present a certain political disadvantage, but it’s fun reading and asks an important question: can we live with Donald Trump’s statements as “presidential quotations” in our future history?

We Hold These Truths To Be Self-Evident

By Guest Blogger, Racerrodig

I put together quotes from United States Presidents that I remembered and went to the trouble to look them up exactly as spoken, then added a “comparable” Trump quote. It’s fairly long and I know this would take a year to do right, but here it is………..Racerrodig’s take on the Donald’s philosophies.
“….let me assert my firm belief that the only thing we have to fear is fear itself – FDR

“I would rather belong to a poor nation that was free than to a rich nation that had ceased to be in love with liberty.” – Woodrow Wilson

“I plan to implement stop and frisk in the black communities.” the Donald

“I hope we once again have reminded people that man is not free unless government is limited” RonaldReagan

“When one side only of a story is heard and often repeated, the human mind becomes…

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A “Founding Mother” on Political Partisanship—Abigail Adams to Thomas Jefferson, August 18, 1804

Retired But Not Shy

john-quincy-adams[NOTE:  As a rule, I do not post at this blog about current American politics (for an exception, go here).  I usually limit that sort of thing to my Facebook timeline, when I “say something” about an article that I’m “sharing” from a newspaper like the New York Times or the Washington Post.

Madison and Jefferson cover

Nevertheless, the other morning, while reading a chapter in Andrew Burstein and Nancy Isenberg’s fine book, Madison and Jefferson, I came across a passage that struck me as painfully relevant to our contemporary political climate.  I went to the source of that passage, and reading the entire letter made an even stronger impression.  What follows is my summary of Abigail Adams’ letter to Thomas Jefferson in mid-August 1804, as well as comments that might, I hope, suggest how ideas in that letter apply to our current depressing presidential campaign.]

* * * * *

Adams-Jefferson Letters

The context of Abigail Adams’ letter…

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Urban planners, city workers, airport architects, heads up!Highways Can Help Pollinators Return to Health

In the face of rapidly-declining honeybee populations, farms across the country are under threat. In California, officials are now pioneering new methods to boost the health of the honeybees and bu…

Source: Highways Can Help Pollinators Return to Health

Race and policing in the U.S.

The dialogue that is loosely referenced under the banner of “Black Lives Matter” is a crucial, landmark, richly promising dialogue.  Yes, it hurts right now, but can we as a country find a way to ensure that these pains are birth pangs?  The birth of a healed and healing nation?

The dialogue about legislation, public life, policing, and reform movements is important.  But I can’t help but believe that the best answers are to be found at a deeper level, the heart and soul level.  Thoughtful introspection, painful investigation, searching for superior self-knowledge, and humbling ourselves to examine with fresh eyes our experiences, our observations, and our socialization in this my country is required.

Dig, dig, dig into the nature of our beliefs and our practices, our instincts and our socialization into our society.

How do we value each other?  What human qualities do we respect?   How humble can we become while assessing the current situation?  Who is a “hero?”  Who is a “suspect?” What wrongs can be righted? What rights can be respected?

A single individual can be right and wrong, heroic and cowardly, highly educated and ignorant, overcoming and yet helplessly trapped in evil instincts and patterns.  A single individual can be guilty and innocent, improving and fallible, insightful and blind. We are each and every one deeply flawed yet amazingly capable of growth, insight, and transformation.

We can learn to celebrated differences yet recognize that these differences are surface, social creations. We can learn to celebrate our common humanity and recognize that some acknowledgements of that common humanity need to be made publicly, repeatedly, genuinely, and in many varied times and places.  We must remind ourselves every hour of the journey and the path that we choose.  We must reach out our hands, our hearts, our feet, our pocketbooks, and step into the unknown, taking a big eraser to our pride, our anger, our churning bundle of primitive mysterious weighty “truisms.”

We must talk to each other, in private, in public, aloud, silently, in long and short conversations, in writing and with our tongues, with our body language and with our priorities.  That’s how we have a meaningful and fruitful dialogue.

We must stop blaming the past for inadequacies of the present.  Rather, we can confront our pasts with new eyes, new ears, and new questions. We can stand on the foundation of the past to build a better future. We can.  It begins with each individual.

When we humble ourselves, open ourselves, invest the time to meditate upon this situation, truly meditate; when we do these things, is the action to which we are led the action of reaching for a gun? I think not.

Love one another. Humble ourselves. Find different definitions of power and satisfaction.

 

 

 

 

Judge Keith Ellison ruling on arsenic in drinking water

A federal judge in Texas, Keith Ellison, did the right thing with this case that was brought to him by a few of the fine civil rights lawyers who serve the under-privileged in the state of Texas.

Elderly and sick prisoners are kept in a special housing facility.  It lacks air conditioning.  In the Texas summers, that can be life-threatening, especially for the sick and elderly.  So the incarcerated are told to drink lots and lots of water.  Trouble is, their drinking water is contaminated with arsenic above the levels that EPA believes is safe.

Judge Ellison ordered the prison system to truck in clean drinking water.

Sounds pretty straightforward, right?

This is the report from Law 360, an environmental law daily list server:
“Texas Can’t Give Inmates Arsenic-Laden Water, Judge Rules

By Stan Parker
Law360, New York (June 23, 2016, 9:01 PM ET) — Texas must provide inmates at a geriatric and medical prison with drinking water that meets federal arsenic safety standards, a federal judge has ruled, granting a preliminary injunction to a certified class of prisoners suing the state over sweltering indoor temperatures they say violate their constitutional rights.

U.S. District Judge Keith Ellison issued the order Tuesday forcing the Texas Department of Criminal Justice to bear the burden of trucking in water that meets the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s standards for permissible arsenic levels.

“The increased risk of cancer, although minute, is significantly more troublesome than the prospect of reassigning or leasing a truck and reassigning or hiring an employee to drive it,” Judge Ellison wrote.

The order came as part of a lawsuit brought by inmates at the Wallace Pack Unit who said the dangerous — and sometimes deadly — indoor temperatures in the Texas prison system amount to cruel and unusual punishment, especially for elderly and ailing inmates.

To mitigate heat levels that frequently exceed 90 degrees, prison officials have encouraged inmates to drink “copious” amounts of water, up to two gallons per day on especially hot days. But the water currently provided in the prison hasn’t met the EPA’s standards for permissible arsenic levels since the requirement dropped from 50 parts per billion to 10 ppb in 2005, according to Judge Ellison’s order.

Judge Ellison also noted that although many U.S. citizens live in areas where their tap water exceeds the EPA’s safe standards, those free citizens have all been notified of the dangers and can choose other options for getting their drinking water. Incarcerated individuals do not have that choice, he wrote.

He said that the plaintiffs have shown a substantial likelihood of success on their claim of cruel and unusual punishment by showing that the prolonged exposure to heat, especially in light of the fact that the only mitigation measure in place was the provision of arsenic-laden drinking water, poses a serious risk of harm, and that the prison system is “is deliberately indifferent to that risk.”

Judge Ellison wrote that he reached the finding “reluctantly,” not wanting to intrude on the state’s management of its prison system, but noted that the prison system hasn’t given inmates any effective redress in the 10 years since the water has been out of compliance with the arsenic standard.

“Moreover, the funds expended by the State in litigating this case likely would have been sufficient to have afforded such redress,” he added.

Jeff Edwards, an attorney for the inmates, told Law360 on Thursday that he was happy with the safe drinking water order, and added that Judge Ellison’s findings of fact and conclusions of law signaled support for the plaintiffs’ primary demand for heat relief.

“Finally, these inmates might get some protections from this heat, and at a minimum they will get safe drinking water,” he said.

A representative for the Texas Attorney General’s office did not respond Thursday to a request for comment.

The plaintiffs are represented by Jeff Edwards, Scott Medlock, David James and Michael Singley of Edwards Law, Jeremy Doyle, Nathan Smith and Andrew “Drew” Pennebaker of The Singley Law Firm PLLC, Abigail Frank, Wayne Krause Yang and James C. Harrington of Reynolds Frizzell LLP and Wallis Nader of the Texas Civil Rights Project-Houston and The Texas Civil Rights Project.

The Texas Department of Criminal Justice is represented by the Texas Attorney General’s Office.

The case is Bailey et al v. Livingston et al, case number 4:14-cv-01698, in U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas.”

This article states that the case name is Bailey et al v. Livingston but I believe that it is Cole et al v. Livingston.

The facts that underlie the lawsuit sound like they come from several centuries ago.  That’s why the matter-of-factness hits me so hard, I think.