Monday, February 28, 2011

Here, City Commissioners last night voted to right a wrong -- see this archival blog post from April 16, 2010

Friday, April 16, 2010

Riberia Street Blues

Photo credit: Marie Bermudez-Phillip

Photo credit: Marie Bermudez-Phillip

Last night, Lincolnville residents and businesses heard a briefing from the City of St. Augustine and its consulting engineer about Riberia Street.
Riberia Street is a fetid symptom of racism in St. Augustine. Riberia Street is subject to massive flooding, lacks sidewalks and safety features, and damagers cars on its washboard roads. Residents should sak City officials to pay their car repair bills, or sue the City.
Rampant environmental racism by the City of St. Augustine has turned once-beautiful Lincolnville into the Pollution Peninsula.
Illegal dumping of solid waste and sewage by the City of St. Augustine have damaged the environment, including the salt marsh ecology.
City garbage trucks and a sewage treatment plant mar the confluence of two rivers – imagine if Thomas Jefferson’s favorite spot on this planet in Harper’s Ferry, West Virginia (confluence of two rivers) were trashed with trash and a sewage treatment plant, instead of being part of a national park!
So the City of St. Augustine, under the gun from our Environmental Jusitce complaint to EPA, is actually stating it will complete the project in 18-24 months, in one or two phases (not five).
There will be sidewalks along the west side of Riberia Street.
There will be no bicycle path. Why?
There will be no widening of the road at any point. Why?
No imagination.
No commitment to put the public interest first.
City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS – thecorpulent right-wing Republican ideologue who bosses and bullies all of the employees in our bloated City government –– instructed the engineer to make his plans without taking a single clod of earth from anyone.
No eminent domain.
No negotiations with property owners.
No bike path.
No beautification.
No parks.
Nothing to enhance the value of Lincolnville and make it more livable and more open to new businesses.
There were some 41 African-American businesses in Lincolnville in 1964. None survive due to racism, boycotts and bigots, who enacted a zoning law in the 1970s that requires businesses to provide parking. Lincolnville was once a walkable neighborhood, but that has changed with the crazy drivers of city trucks, who insist on speeding down narrow streets, endangering pedestrians on streets that lack sidewalks.
The goal of the Riberia Street project is to pave and provide proper drainage for the first time in the history of Riberia Street. Riberia is a corruption of the Spanish word “Ribera,” which means shoreline. The street closely sorresponds to the historic shoreline along the San Sebastian River. Old maps show that fill and marshland have been added by man and nature since the 1800s. Due to a long history of environmental racism in St. Augustine, Riberia Street was never properly paved or planned.
The goal is apparently not to make the road safer, which would involve a combination of traff9c-calming devices, bicycle paths and road-widening.
Developer ROBERT MICHAEL GRAUBARD owns seven or eight big ‘ole lots on the west side of Riberia Street. Was he asked to give up a few feet of property to make the road safer? Nope.
The cabined parameters that St. Augustine City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS & Co. provided were that no homeowner or business owner (and no tree-killing, wetland-destroying speculator) be asked to do anything to make the road safer.
JFK said, “Ask not what your country will do for you, but ask what you can do for your country.”
City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS does not believe in asking greedy capitalist scum like ROBERT MICHAEL GRAUBARD to sacrifice anything.
Meanwhile, City garbage trucks continue speeding down Riberia Street (where one nearly killed me two years ago the very first time I entered my office on Riberia Street in 2008. Of course, our it is trite but true that City employees are empowered to exceed the speed limit by City Manager WILLIAM B. HARRISS, who says that city vehicles can exceed speed limits.
WILLIAM B. HARRISS doesn’t know any more about running a government than a hog. See, e.g., United States v. Nixon, 418 U.S. 683 (1974), holding that not even the President is above the law.
WILLIAM B. HARRISS is the reason why Riberia Street requires pontoon boats to navigate in rains and ruins cars from washboard roads that have never been properly paved. WILLIAM B. HARRISS is the reason why our City of St. Augustine dumped 40,000 cubic yards of solid waste in our Old City Reservoir, an open sore going straight down into the aquifer and groundwater. WILLIAM B. HARRISS is the reason why our City of St. Augustine has turned the San Sebastian and Matanzas Rivers into sewers, polluting them from leaking and broken pipes. WILLIAM B. HARRISS is the reason why artists and entertainers along St. George Street are harassed and hundreds of people have been illegally arrested.
Riberia Street needs bike paths and parks. The City’s refusal to consider eminent domain (or even friendly negotiations with landowners) led to its treating the current contours of Riberia Street as if they should be thattaway in perpetuity.
The City says it is planning to build all of Riberia Street over an 18-24 month period, but no funds are in place and there are vague plans to sell bonds. By redlining Lincolnville out of the CRA, HARRISS and cronies made it difficult to get funds for any project in Lincolnville. These rabid racist reactionary Republicans have no shame.
The City of St. Augustine must stop discriminating against African-American communities (Lincolnville and West Augustine). If not, the City will hear the sound of God’s own thunder, as the Environmental Justice complaint we filed with EPA January 19, 2009 may result in cutoff of all federal funds to the City and the Florida Department of Environmental Protection (DEP, a/k/a “Don’t Expect Protection,” as my late friend David Thundershield Queen put it best).

Riberia Street is the poorest excuse for a "street" in the entire Southern United States.

Our City of St. Augustine, Florida exemplilfies environmental racism.

Lincolnville, otherwise known as "the Pollution Peninsula" hasn't had a proper playground in 20 years.

Lincolnville has been victimized by solid waste and sewage dumping.

Lincolnville has the worst streets in the City, the worst of which is Riberia.

Riberia Street has never been right.

Riberia Street never will be right without massive citizen protest.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

President Barack Obama Says Defense of Marriage Act is Unconstitutional -- It is a great day to be an American!

Huffington Post:President Obama has determined that the Defense of Marriage Act is unconstitutional, and that the Department of Justice should no longer defend the measure, which severely limits the potential of states to honor or carry out same-sex marriages, the administration announced Wednesday.

"The President believes that DOMA is unconstitutional. They are no longer going to be defending the cases in the 1st and 2nd circuits," a person briefed on the decision said, according to the National Journal.

More to come...

Here's the entire text of the letter from the Department of Justice to Speaker Boehner.

Dear Mr. Speaker:

After careful consideration, including review of a recommendation from me, the President of the United States has made the determination that Section 3 of the Defense of Marriage Act ("DOMA"), 1 U.S.C. § 7, as applied to same-sex couples who are legally married under state law, violates the equal protection component of the Fifth Amendment. Pursuant to 28 U.S.C. § 530D, I am writing to advise you of the Executive Branch's determination and to inform you of the steps the Department will take in two pending DOMA cases to implement that determination.

While the Department has previously defended DOMA against legal challenges involving legally married same-sex couples, recent lawsuits that challenge the constitutionality of DOMA Section 3 have caused the President and the Department to conduct a new examination of the defense of this provision. In particular, in November 2011, plaintiffs filed two new lawsuits challenging the constitutionality of Section 3 of DOMA in jurisdictions without precedent on whether sexual-orientation classifications are subject to rational basis review or whether they must satisfy some form of heightened scrutiny. Windsor v. United States, No. 1:10-cv-8435 (S.D.N.Y.); Pedersen v. OPM, No. 3:10-cv-1750 (D. Conn.). Previously, the Administration has defended Section 3 in jurisdictions where circuit courts have already held that classifications based on sexual orientation are subject to rational basis review, and it has advanced arguments to defend DOMA Section 3 under the binding standard that has applied in those cases.

These new lawsuits, by contrast, will require the Department to take an affirmative position on the level of scrutiny that should be applied to DOMA Section 3 in a circuit without binding precedent on the issue. As described more fully below, the President and I have concluded that classifications based on sexual orientation warrant heightened scrutiny and that, as applied to same-sex couples legally married under state law, Section 3 of DOMA is unconstitutional.


Standard of Review

The Supreme Court has yet to rule on the appropriate level of scrutiny for classifications based on sexual orientation. It has, however, rendered a number of decisions that set forth the criteria that should inform this and any other judgment as to whether heightened scrutiny applies: (1) whether the group in question has suffered a history of discrimination; (2) whether individuals "exhibit obvious, immutable, or distinguishing characteristics that define them as a discrete group"; (3) whether the group is a minority or is politically powerless; and (4) whether the characteristics distinguishing the group have little relation to legitimate policy objectives or to an individual's "ability to perform or contribute to society." See Bowen v. Gilliard, 483 U.S. 587, 602-03 (1987); City of Cleburne v. Cleburne Living Ctr., 473 U.S. 432, 441-42 (1985).

Each of these factors counsels in favor of being suspicious of classifications based on sexual orientation. First and most importantly, there is, regrettably, a significant history of purposeful discrimination against gay and lesbian people, by governmental as well as private entities, based on prejudice and stereotypes that continue to have ramifications today. Indeed, until very recently, states have "demean[ed] the[] existence" of gays and lesbians "by making their private sexual conduct a crime." Lawrence v. Texas, 539 U.S. 558, 578 (2003).

Second, while sexual orientation carries no visible badge, a growing scientific consensus accepts that sexual orientation is a characteristic that is immutable, see Richard A. Posner, Sex and Reason 101 (1992); it is undoubtedly unfair to require sexual orientation to be hidden from view to avoid discrimination, see Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010, Pub. L. No. 111-321, 124 Stat. 3515 (2010).

Third, the adoption of laws like those at issue in Romer v. Evans, 517 U.S. 620 (1996), and Lawrence, the longstanding ban on gays and lesbians in the military, and the absence of federal protection for employment discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation show the group to have limited political power and "ability to attract the [favorable] attention of the lawmakers." Cleburne, 473 U.S. at 445. And while the enactment of the Matthew Shepard Act and pending repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell indicate that the political process is not closed entirely to gay and lesbian people, that is not the standard by which the Court has judged "political powerlessness." Indeed, when the Court ruled that gender-based classifications were subject to heightened scrutiny, women already had won major political victories such as the Nineteenth Amendment (right to vote) and protection under Title VII (employment discrimination).

Finally, there is a growing acknowledgment that sexual orientation "bears no relation to ability to perform or contribute to society." Frontiero v. Richardson, 411 U.S. 677, 686 (1973) (plurality). Recent evolutions in legislation (including the pending repeal of Don't Ask, Don't Tell), in community practices and attitudes, in case law (including the Supreme Court's holdings in Lawrence and Romer), and in social science regarding sexual orientation all make clear that sexual orientation is not a characteristic that generally bears on legitimate policy objectives. See, e.g., Statement by the President on the Don't Ask, Don't Tell Repeal Act of 2010 ("It is time to recognize that sacrifice, valor and integrity are no more defined by sexual orientation than they are by race or gender, religion or creed.")

To be sure, there is substantial circuit court authority applying rational basis review to sexual-orientation classifications. We have carefully examined each of those decisions. Many of them reason only that if consensual same-sex sodomy may be criminalized under Bowers v. Hardwick, then it follows that no heightened review is appropriate - a line of reasoning that does not survive the overruling of Bowers in Lawrence v. Texas, 538 U.S. 558 (2003). Others rely on claims regarding "procreational responsibility" that the Department has disavowed already in litigation as unreasonable, or claims regarding the immutability of sexual orientation that we do not believe can be reconciled with more recent social science understandings. And none engages in an examination of all the factors that the Supreme Court has identified as relevant to a decision about the appropriate level of scrutiny. Finally, many of the more recent decisions have relied on the fact that the Supreme Court has not recognized that gays and lesbians constitute a suspect class or the fact that the Court has applied rational basis review in its most recent decisions addressing classifications based on sexual orientation, Lawrence and Romer. But neither of those decisions reached, let alone resolved, the level of scrutiny issue because in both the Court concluded that the laws could not even survive the more deferential rational basis standard.

Application to Section 3 of DOMA

In reviewing a legislative classification under heightened scrutiny, the government must establish that the classification is "substantially related to an important government objective." Clark v. Jeter, 486 U.S. 456, 461 (1988). Under heightened scrutiny, "a tenable justification must describe actual state purposes, not rationalizations for actions in fact differently grounded." United States v. Virginia , 518 U.S. 515, 535-36 (1996). "The justification must be genuine, not hypothesized or invented post hoc in response to litigation." Id. at 533.

In other words, under heightened scrutiny, the United States cannot defend Section 3 by advancing hypothetical rationales, independent of the legislative record, as it has done in circuits where precedent mandates application of rational basis review. Instead, the United States can defend Section 3 only by invoking Congress' actual justifications for the law.

Moreover, the legislative record underlying DOMA's passage contains discussion and debate that undermines any defense under heightened scrutiny. The record contains numerous expressions reflecting moral disapproval of gays and lesbians and their intimate and family relationships - precisely the kind of stereotype-based thinking and animus the Equal Protection Clause is designed to guard against. See Cleburne, 473 U.S. at 448 ("mere negative attitudes, or fear" are not permissible bases for discriminatory treatment); see also Romer, 517 U.S. at 635 (rejecting rationale that law was supported by "the liberties of landlords or employers who have personal or religious objections to homosexuality"); Palmore v. Sidotti, 466 U.S. 429, 433 (1984) ("Private biases may be outside the reach of the law, but the law cannot, directly or indirectly, give them effect.").

Application to Second Circuit Cases

After careful consideration, including a review of my recommendation, the President has concluded that given a number of factors, including a documented history of discrimination, classifications based on sexual orientation should be subject to a heightened standard of scrutiny. The President has also concluded that Section 3 of DOMA, as applied to legally married same-sex couples, fails to meet that standard and is therefore unconstitutional. Given that conclusion, the President has instructed the Department not to defend the statute in Windsor and Pedersen, now pending in the Southern District of New York and the District of Connecticut. I concur in this determination.

Notwithstanding this determination, the President has informed me that Section 3 will continue to be enforced by the Executive Branch. To that end, the President has instructed Executive agencies to continue to comply with Section 3 of DOMA, consistent with the Executive's obligation to take care that the laws be faithfully executed, unless and until Congress repeals Section 3 or the judicial branch renders a definitive verdict against the law's constitutionality. This course of action respects the actions of the prior Congress that enacted DOMA, and it recognizes the judiciary as the final arbiter of the constitutional claims raised.

As you know, the Department has a longstanding practice of defending the constitutionality of duly-enacted statutes if reasonable arguments can be made in their defense, a practice that accords the respect appropriately due to a coequal branch of government. However, the Department in the past has declined to defend statutes despite the availability of professionally responsible arguments, in part because the Department does not consider every plausible argument to be a "reasonable" one. "[D]ifferent cases can raise very different issues with respect to statutes of doubtful constitutional validity," and thus there are "a variety of factors that bear on whether the Department will defend the constitutionality of a statute." Letter to Hon. Orrin G. Hatch from Assistant Attorney General Andrew Fois at 7 (Mar. 22, 1996). This is the rare case where the proper course is to forgo the defense of this statute. Moreover, the Department has declined to defend a statute "in cases in which it is manifest that the President has concluded that the statute is unconstitutional," as is the case here. Seth P. Waxman, Defending Congress, 79 N.C. L.Rev. 1073, 1083 (2001).

In light of the foregoing, I will instruct the Department's lawyers to immediately inform the district courts in Windsor and Pedersen of the Executive Branch's view that heightened scrutiny is the appropriate standard of review and that, consistent with that standard, Section 3 of DOMA may not be constitutionally applied to same-sex couples whose marriages are legally recognized under state law. If asked by the district courts in the Second Circuit for the position of the United States in the event those courts determine that the applicable standard is rational basis, the Department will state that, consistent with the position it has taken in prior cases, a reasonable argument for Section 3's constitutionality may be proffered under that permissive standard. Our attorneys will also notify the courts of our interest in providing Congress a full and fair opportunity to participate in the litigation in those cases. We will remain parties to the case and continue to represent the interests of the United States throughout the litigation.

Furthermore, pursuant to the President's instructions, and upon further notification to Congress, I will instruct Department attorneys to advise courts in other pending DOMA litigation of the President's and my conclusions that a heightened standard should apply, that Section 3 is unconstitutional under that standard and that the Department will cease defense of Section 3.

A motion to dismiss in the Windsor and Pedersen cases would be due on March 11, 2011. Please do not hesitate to contact us if you have any questions.

Sincerely yours,

Eric H. Holder, Jr.
Attorney General

Friday, February 18, 2011

St. Augustine Record: City Manager John Regan Seeks Jail Time for Vandals Who Damaged St. Augustine's Historic Buildings

St. Augustine officials want to make an example of the three young people who face charges in connection to the many images of graffiti downtown.

In a recent letter to State Attorney R.J. Larizza, City Manager John Regan asked that Larizza's office seek a "significant amount of jail time" for those caught defacing the streets of St. Augustine.

"This is a new attack on our city and we need to send a tough message," Regan said.

Officers have reported more than 40 spray-painted images and phrases on downtown buildings, cars, sidewalks and street signs over the past few weeks, said community resource officer Barbara Stevens. The investigation is ongoing and police are still looking for more suspects, she said.

"We've made less than half the amount of charges to cover all the images found," Stevens said.

Police officers arrested Hudson Patrick Crace, 18, on Feb. 4. He faces 15 counts of third-degree felony criminal mischief charges, which is punishable by up to 75 years in a state prison, according to Shannon Peters, public information officer with the State Attorney's Office. Each count is punishable by up to five years in prison. Since then, three more charges have been filed against him.

However, it is highly unlikely that Crace, if convicted, will ever face a sentence that severe, Peters said.

"It really depends on a lot of factors, including his criminal history, the judge and if he seems remorseful in court," she said.

Crace has no other criminal history in St. Johns County.

Scott Anthony Hill, 22, and Fang Chin Tsai, 20, both of Jacksonville, were arrested on Jan. 20 for spray-painting images of fish on outdoor walls near Hypolita and Charlotte streets. They each face three second-degree misdemeanor charges at this time, which is punishable by up to 180 days in jail, Peters said.

Federal charges against Hill and Tsai for graffiti found on the Castillo de San Marcos are pending.

"If these two face federal charges, it is likely that state charges will be dropped, and they will deal directly with federal prosecution," Peters said.

St. Augustine officials passed a resolution Monday that they hope will help protect the historic buildings in downtown from falling victim of a crime like this again.

The resolution calls to reclassify the statutes of criminal mischief charges, which states than any person who willfully or maliciously injures or damages any property, including graffiti and other forms of vandalism, can face charges. Property damage less than $200 is considered a second-degree misdemeanor, more than $200 but less than $1,000 is a first-degree misdemeanor and damage that is more than $1,000 is considered a first-degree felony, according to the Florida Criminal Law and Motor Vehicle Handbook.

The commission would like to create an exception that would toughen the charges on those who vandalize any building or place that is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, said Assistant City Attorney, Carlos Mendoza. There are almost 30 sites in St. Augustine, including the Flagler College campus, City Hall and the Casa Monica Hotel that make the register, he said.

The resolution would make vandalism on historic buildings punishable by a third-degree felony criminal mischief charge. City officials passed the resolution at the city meeting on Monday, but it is far from being enacted as a state statute, Mendoza said.

"The timing is off. We're at the tail end of the current legislation," Mendoza said. "It's a long shot, but it's likely that the resolution will be on the 2011-2012 agenda."

As for the individuals facing charges, Regan said he and other officials plan to be involved in the conviction process every step of the way.

"We know they aren't hardened criminals. I think some county jail time is an appropriate punishment," Mendoza said. "I agree with Mr. Regan that a significant amount of jail time would give them plenty of time to think about what they did."

McClatchy Newspapers re: Florida Governor Richard Scott Possible Plans to Run for President in 2012

TALLAHASSEE -- — Gov. Rick Scott was about to dismantle a nearly $3 billion bullet train deal that state and local officials had spent a decade assembling.

But before he mentioned anything about “high-speed rail,” Scott blasted President Barack Obama’s budget proposal for “higher taxes” and creating the “largest budget deficit in our nation’s history.”

It was par for the course from Scott, who has taken his war on the federal government, and Obama in particular, from the campaign trail straight into the state’s most powerful political office.

And nearly four months after Election Day, Scott acknowledged he’s still in campaign mode.

“I’m still used to running for office,” he joked during a tour of the Florida Lottery on Thursday.

“I believe in the sovereignty of the great state of Florida,” Scott said. “We’ve got to defend the rights of Floridians as citizens of this great state.”

But his devotion to the tea party and his continued focus on federal issues — health insurance, unemployment benefits, immigration and now high-speed rail — has some asking if Scott wants to run for president.

“I wouldn’t be shocked to wake up one morning and see he has planned visits to Iowa and New Hampshire,” Florida Democratic Party spokesman Eric Jotkoff said.

Scott has denied interest in the White House, saying he wants to serve a second term.

But the signs are piling up.

He beefed up the Washington, D.C., extension of the governor’s office by hiring former health care lobbyist Brian McManus, an ally of Scott’s Conservatives for Patients’ Rights group. Spencer Geissinger, Scott’s external affairs director, is considering joining the D.C. office, too.

Frequent appearances on FOX News also feed speculation. Scott made his fourth appearance on the network in three weeks on Thursday, slamming high speed rail as a “federal boondoggle.”

Taking on the federal government can only help Scott in Florida, said Republican consultant Albert Martinez.

“Have you seen anything in the last two years from the federal government to make you believe you should be entering into a $2.4 billion contract with them?” Martinez said.

Scott’s opposition to the rail project had less to do with possible presidential aspirations, Martinez said, than it did maintaining credibility with his conservative base.

But it’s unclear how well his forceful anti-government message is playing with the rest of the state.

He’s the first modern governor to win office with fewer votes than any other winner on the statewide Republican ticket. Since the election, polls show nearly as many Floridians dislike him as like him; a Quinnipiac survey on Feb. 2 showed that 28 percent of registered voters view the new governor favorably, 24 percent have an unfavorable opinion, and another 45 percent don’t know enough about him to say one way or the other.

Scott has shown little interest in extending an olive branch to a list of opponents — teachers, environmentalists and even some fellow Republican lawmakers — that grows by the week.

Sometimes it seems he is more concerned with his competition nationally.

He insists he has the most fiscally conservative budget in the country and constantly says he wants to outperform Texas Gov. Rick Perry. He seemed to enjoy it when FOX hosts compared him to New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie on Thursday.

“Scott is a no-nonsense, hard-hitting, hard-talking governor, and he has the business background that Sarah Palin and Michele Bachman don’t,” said Steffen Schmidt, an Iowa State University political science professor and an expert on his state’s caucuses.

“He’s being talked about in Iowa,” Schmidt said.

Scott has taken great pains to maintain his ties to the tea party.

He unveiled his budget last week at a tea party event in rural Florida.

While lobbyists complain of not being able to schedule meetings in the governor’s office, Scott spent 30 minutes with a pair of Tampa tea party leaders last week who said they called up and asked for some of Scott’s time.

“Anything is possible,” said Amy Kremer, who chairs the Tea Party Express political action committee, based in California.

Kremer met Scott in 2009 as part of the health care protests.

“I never expected him to run for governor,” she said. “But right now people want results.”

His supporters are seeing results, judging from Scott’s zeal to fulfill campaign promises. Just about the only major issue he hasn’t addressed yet is immigration. On the campaign trail he vowed to introduce an Arizona-style law to crack down on undocumented immigrants.

In person or in statements, Scott has derisively referred to “ObamaCare,” “Obamacrats,” “Obama-math” and, on Wednesday, “ObamaRail.”

Asked about that vocabulary, Scott said he never actually said “ObamaRail.” It was in a press release from his office.

“I didn’t use that,” Scott smiled. “I would have, though.”

Think Progress re: Florida Governor Richard Scott Assuming All African-American Legislators Grew Up Poor

Florida Gov. Rick Scott Assumes ‘You Guys’ (All Black Lawmakers) Grew Up Poor

scottSince taking office last month, Florida Governor Rick Scott (R) has proposed cutting funding for historically black colleges, abolishing state offices that support minority-owned businesses, and exploited the Voting Rights Act to rig the state’s re-districing process. Yesterday, the Miami Herald reports, Scott further alienated black lawmakers when he “implied that all black lawmakers grew up poor“:

“I grew up probably in the same situation as you guys,” Scott said to the group of 20 Democrats. “I started school in public housing. My dad had a sixth-grade education.”

Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, said she was offended by the remark, but did not protest at the time because she said it was more important to have a productive dialogue with the new governor.

Afterward, she said, “He assumed that everyone [in the room] was poor and that can only be because you’re black.”

Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, said Scott’s choice of words was unfortunate even if he was trying to “empathize” with the black caucus.

“Some of us might be from the projects, but we come from all spectrums of life,” Gibbons said.

Scott is only the latest conservative governor to make offensive racial comments. Last month, Tea Party Governor Paul Lepage (I-ME) told the NAACP to “kiss my butt” while Missippi Governor Haley Barbour has refused to denounce a proposed state license plate honoring an early leader of the KKK. In Ohio, Gov. John Kasich (R) told a black lawmaker, “I don’t need your people,” and only appointed a member of a racial minority to his cabinet after coming under intense pressure from progressive groups. And during his gubernatorial campaign this fall, Scott told voters that schools with high African-American populations have “different issues” and advocated for an Arizona style immigration law that would have exempted white immigrants.

After the luncheon, one state senator asked Scott to be “sensitive” to his own background and remember people from the “projects” “don’t want a handout, but some jobs.” Scott has ignored this advice: Today, he announced he would kill a federally funded high-speed rail project that would have created 23,000 jobs. His proposed budget will eliminate a program that grants contracts to minority businesses, even while giving more than $2 billion in tax cuts for corporations. And after two months in office, Scott has yet to appoint a racial minority to lead a state agency. His policies have proved to be as insensitive to Florida’s minorities as the comments he made yesterday.

Kevin Donohoe

McClatchy Newspapers re: Florida Governor Richard Scott Showing Bias and Marked Insensitivity in Meeting with African-American Florida Legislators

TALLAHASSEE -- Gov. Rick Scott welcomed black legislators to lunch Tuesday at the Governor’s Mansion, but his choice of words left some feeling more alienated than ever.

In discussing his own humble origins, Scott implied that all black lawmakers grew up poor.

“I grew up probably in the same situation as you guys,” Scott said to the group of 20 Democrats. “I started school in public housing. My dad had a sixth-grade education.”

Rep. Betty Reed, D-Tampa, said she was offended by the remark, but did not protest at the time because she said it was more important to have a productive dialogue with the new governor.

Afterward, she said, “He assumed that everyone [in the room] was poor and that can only be because you’re black.”

Rep. Joe Gibbons, D-Hallandale Beach, said Scott’s choice of words was unfortunate even if he was trying to “empathize” with the black caucus.

“Some of us might be from the projects, but we come from all spectrums of life,” Gibbons said.

“I grew up in the projects, too,” said Sen. Gary Siplin, D-Orlando. “I would hope he would be sensitive to his own background. We don’t want a handout, but some jobs.”

For an hour over lunch, the lawmakers voiced opposition to Scott’s plans to end state support for two historically black colleges, to abolish a state office that helps minority-owned businesses get state contracts and to lower unemployment benefits and health care funding for the poor. They also expressed concern that Scott so far has not appointed any black agency heads and asked him to stop using the term “Obamacare.”

To the issues raised by the group, Scott was unyielding.

On funding: “We don’t have unlimited dollars,” he said, repeatedly emphasizing his No. 1 priority, creating jobs, which he said would benefit all Floridians.

On lack of diversity in his appointments: He said philosophy — not skin color — would drive his decisions. “I don’t believe in quotas,” Scott said. “I didn’t pick Jennifer Carroll because of the color of her skin. I’m going to pick the best people I can find.”

On the health care law: “It’s Obamacare to me. That’s what it is,” Scott said. When lawmakers asked him to call it by its formal title, the Affordable Health Care Act, Scott said: “You know, when I’m on Fox, they never call it that.” Scott was on Fox News again Tuesday, his third appearance in 17 days, and he slammed Congress for not repealing the law. The lunch’s lightest moment came when Scott jokingly called it the “Non-Affordable Health Care Act,” and lawmakers applauded.

Scott is a conservative Republican who dislikes government, and most black lawmakers are liberal Democrats who believe in the power of government to help people, especially the poor.

The luncheon had a number of tense moments, even though Scott’s lieutenant governor, Carroll, a black woman who is a former House member. She was seated across from him at the mansion’s long, rectangular dining room table.

Asked to appoint more black judges, Scott said: “If you think I’m going to pick someone who’s different from my judicial philosophy, it’s not going to happen.”

He rejected a request by Rep. Geraldine Thompson, D-Orlando, to preserve the Office of Supplier Diversity, which helps minority-owned businesses get state contracts and is funded by fees paid by minority vendors.

“That’s a tax,” Scott said.

Rep. Darryl Rouson, D-St. Petersburg, praised Scott for selecting new public safety chiefs who believe in emphasizing prevention over punishment.

“That’s why they’re there,” Scott said of corrections chief Ed Buss and Wansley Walters at Juvenile Justice. “We’ve got to do a better job of keeping people out of prison.”

USDOJ -- Three Guilty Pleas to Cross-Burning in Athens, Louisiana

For Immediate Release
February 16, 2011
U.S. Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
(202) 514-2007/TDD (202) 514-1888

Three Plead Guilty to Civil Rights Conspiracy in Connection with Cross Burning in Athens, Louisiana

WASHINGTON—The Justice Department announced that U.S. District Judge Donald E. Walter accepted the guilty plea of Jeremy Matthew Moro, 33, for conspiring to burn a cross near the home of an interracial couple in Athens, La., in October 2008. Earlier this week, Judge Walter accepted the guilty plea of Joshua James Moro, 25, on the same charge.

Another defendant, Sonya Marie Hart, 31, pleaded guilty on Jan. 31, 2011, to misprision of a felony because she withheld information from the FBI regarding the defendants’ attempt to cover up the cross burning. The Moros’ cousin, Daniel Danforth, was previously convicted by a federal jury for organizing, carrying out, and attempting to cover up the same cross burning.

During their pleas, entered before Magistrate Judge Mark L. Hornsby on Jan. 21, and Jan. 26, 2011, Joshua and Jeremy Moro admitted that in October 2008, they agreed with their cousin, Daniel Danforth, to build, erect, and burn a cross near the home of another cousin, her African-American boyfriend (now husband), her 11-year-old son, and their grandmother, who was believed to approve of the cousin’s interracial relationship. Joshua Moro admitted that he offered Danforth diesel fuel to use to burn the cross, and that later that evening he sent a text message to see if Danforth and Jeremy Moro still needed the diesel to burn the cross. Jeremy Moro admitted that he helped Danforth find an accelerant, transport the cross to an area near the victims’ homes, and watched Danforth light the cross on fire because Danforth was upset about the presence of the African-American man living with their cousin. During her plea, on Jan. 31, 2011, Hart admitted that she affirmatively withheld information from the FBI in connection with the investigation into the cross burning and attempted cover-up.

Evidence during Danforth’s trial in January 2010, showed that in the days following the cross burning, Danforth, Jeremy Moro and Hart agreed to remove the burned cross when they learned that the FBI was going to investigate the matter. With Jeremy Moro’s and Hart’s assistance, Danforth removed the cross, disassembled it, and hid it in the woods. The evidence also showed that Josh Moro, Jeremy Moro, and Hart lied to the FBI and a federal grand jury during the investigation into the cross burning.

“Driven by bigotry and hate, the defendants threatened a member of their own family with violence simply because she associated with persons of another race,” said Thomas E. Perez, Assistant Attorney General for the Civil Rights Division. “Incidents of this kind have no place in this country, and they are a reminder of the civil rights challenges we still face.”

“Cross burning, unfortunately, remains a terrible symbol of hatred and intolerance. Every citizen has a right to feel safe and secure in their homes and neighborhoods. Intimidation of citizens in this district will not be tolerated. This office will continue to prosecute individuals who participate or facilitate crimes which violate the civil rights laws,” said U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Louisiana Stephanie Finley.

“All families in America have the right to live where they chose, undisturbed by racial intolerance, racist threats, and intimidation. These guilty pleas send a clear message of the FBI’s commitment to aggressively investigate this type of criminal conduct,” said David W. Welker, Special Agent in Charge of the New Orleans Division of the FBI.

Sentencing for Joshua Moro, Jeremy Moro, and Hart has been set for April 28, 2011. Joshua and Jeremy Moro each face a maximum punishment of 10 years for conspiring to interfere with another person’s civil rights. Hart faces a maximum punishment of three years for affirmatively withholding information from the FBI regarding the defendants’ attempt to cover up the cross burning. Danforth was sentenced in May 2010 to 48 months in prison for his role in the cross burning and attempted cover-up.

This case was investigated by the FBI. The case is being prosecuted by Assistant U.S. Attorney Mary J. Mudrick for the Western District of Louisiana and Trial Attorney Erin Aslan from the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

FLORIDA TIMES-UNION:: St. Augustine rights icon cautions of new mistake -- City needs blacks in on 450th planning

TALLAHASSEE - An icon of the St. Augustine civil rights movement reflected on a past of discrimination in the area during the Florida Legislative Black Caucus' celebration of Black History Month and asked city leaders not to repeat a misguided decision of the past in the run-up to a major celebration.

Robert Hayling, widely credited as being the leader of the civil rights movement in St. Augustine, addressed the caucus Wednesday, recalling the progress the area and Florida have made and what is left to be done. Hayling helped rally young blacks to confront segregation in the town, culminating in protests that provided momentum for the passage of the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

In his address to the caucus, Hayling pleaded with the city to make sure that planning for the 450th anniversary celebration, scheduled for 2015, includes adequate representation for blacks. Hayling said that, to his knowledge, only one black woman has been appointed to the various committees planning for the event.

Hayling said planning for the 400th anniversary of the city's founding also included no blacks, even though they made up a fifth of the city's population, but leaders "dropped the ball" by agreeing to meet with officials after the ceremony was over - and ended up simply meeting with the city manager's secretary.

"I'm taking this platform to serve notice to St. Augustine and all the powers that be: Please don't make the same mistake that you made for the 400th anniversary for the 450th anniversary," Hayling said. "Because we are kind of celebrating, thinking that we have made some progress. Please don't let us down."

Much of the night, though, was devoted to memories and a history that remains cloudy, in some ways even to its participants. Hayling, who was once beaten bloody by a Klan mob that threatened to burn him and several other men alive, told the lawmakers he was still trying to sort some things out.

"I have far more questions than I have answers," Hayling said, "because St. Augustine had never ever been [described] in my growing-up days as such a community."

After his remarks, Hayling said leaders of the movement were certain that there was high-level support for some of the actions taken to try to stop the movement.

"We've never gotten to the bottom of where the extreme resistance and the patronage of the Klan ... had come from," he said.

Others who still bear the scars, physical and otherwise, from that day were also a part of the event. Barbara James of St. Augustine and Jo Ann Martin Hughes of Sarasota remembered being poked with cattle prods and sent to jail for protesting discrimination at a restaurant/pharmacy that wouldn't serve them.

Hughes said she was unaware that the incident remained on her record for years until 1995, when it turned up when the school district she was working for fingerprinted its teachers. She worried about whether she would still be allowed to teach.

"It was a very hard time for me during that week," she said. "I lost five pounds."

James, Hughes and Hayling were among those whose records were expunged by the state on Dec. 9.

James Jackson, who was with Hayling on the night that he was threatened by the Klan, said he was surprised at how deeply racism had taken hold of St. Augustine in the 1960s; he remembered it as a diverse community where whites and blacks often lived next door to each other.

"I didn't realize men could be that barbaric to each other," he said.

Hayling also used the event to set the record straight, he said, after media reports that he had threatened to "shoot first and ask questions later" after his house was shot up by the Klan.

"I said that I intended to defend myself, my family and my property with all the vim, vigor and vitality at my command," Hayling said. He wanted to correct the misquote, he said, because of the nature of the movement.

"We were a nonviolent movement," Hayling said, "and I don't think we ever chose violence over nonviolence.", (678) 977-3709

Friday, February 11, 2011

American Bar Association Journal re: Re-released film on the Nuremberg Trials

Justice Robert H. Jackson
(Photo courtesy of National Archives and Records Administration)

A Long-Forgotten Film on the Nuremberg Trials Helps Rekindle Interest in the Holocaust
Posted Feb 1, 2011 4:10 AM CST
By Terry Carter

Associate Justice Robert H. Jackson was cussing mad when he wrote a letter to Secretary of the Army Kenneth Royall on Oct. 21, 1948. And it had nothing to do with the business of the Supreme Court. In two single-spaced pages, Jackson was detailing why the Army should OK the U.S. release of a documentary film it had made about the first Nuremberg trial, where Jackson had served as lead prosecutor. He had learned that the government denied the New York City Bar Association's request to show the film.

Jackson described to Royall a profanity-laden letter he'd already sent to the city bar's president, Harrison Tweed, decrying what he saw as a bone-headed decision. He said Tweed had asked whether the letter could be read to the group—minus the profanity.

"I told him he could read it if he would not cut out the profanity," Jackson wrote Royall, underlining his displeasure. The film, Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today, detailed the Nazi rise to power and the systematic atrocities committed by the regime. Jackson urged the Army to release the film, not only to the New York bar group but also "for showing by private enterprisers who might desire to exhibit it."

Jackson's interest in the film was obvious: He had taken leave from the Supreme Court in 1945-46 to head the American prosecution team at Nuremberg and became the architect of the international trial process. It was the first trial of its kind, levying justice rather than victors' raw vengeance for 21 of the most important Nazi leaders. Still, his request was unavailing. Doing so, Roy all responded, would be "contrary to present policies and aims of the government."

What Royall was saying was that Cold War exigencies had changed everything: A vanquished Germany was now an ally; the Soviet Union, once an ally, was now an antagonist. And the film rubbed against that new reality.

Jackson died in 1954. And although the film was widely screened in Germany in 1948 and 1949—to ensure the German public would know exactly what had happened under Nazi rule—it would languish in dusty vaults and movie canisters for decades, going virtually unseen in the U.S.

Bringing the film's title to full irony, the New York bar group did see a version of it—a self-serving propaganda vehicle hurriedly created by the Soviets. Developed from stock trial footage and related films, it depicted the USSR as bringing the Nazi regime to justice in the course of single-handedly restoring world order.


Marine Corps Sgt. Stuart Schulberg—writer and director of Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today. Photo courtesy of Schulberg family archive.

But now, finally, Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today can be viewed by Americans. The film has been meticulously restored by the late director Stuart Schulberg's daughter, Sandra Schulberg, along with documentarian Josh Waletzky. They worked with an original copy provided by Germany's official archives, and the new release is now showing worldwide.

Not only has the film received critical and popular acclaim, it has become the focal point of a re-emerging interest in the Holocaust and the role played by lawyers and judges within the Nazi regime's highly codified machinery of death. From hugely popular CLE programs created by the U.S. Holocaust Museum to a newly created course at the U.S. Military Academy at West Point aimed at promoting the rule of law, the Holocaust is instructing a new generation on the horrific outcomes that result when laws and legal systems become untethered from basic moral forces.

JACKSON WAS INVOLVED IN THE FILM FROM ITS INCEPTION. When U.S. military officials in postwar Berlin tried to control the script, he intervened to ensure a big-picture, historical approach—the same view he advocated during the Nuremberg prosecution. He wanted the trial and its explication of Nazi aggression to stand as a lesson for all time.

Among those tasked with documenting the atrocities were brothers Stuart and Budd Schulberg, both writers and filmmakers on the rise. Their boss was Navy captain John Ford, the legendary Hollywood director.

Stuart Schulberg later would become NBC television's senior documentary producer until his death in 1979. He wrote and directed the Nuremberg film as a Marine sergeant working in the Office of Strategic Services, a predecessor of the CIA.

His brother Budd, a Navy lieutenant who went on to win an Academy Award for writing On the Waterfront, supervised editing of two other documentaries used as evidence in the trial: The Nazi Plan and Nazi Concentration Camps. Segments of Budd Schulberg's documentaries are embedded within the Nuremberg film, illustrating much of the basis of the four-count indictment: conspiracy to wage aggressive war, crimes against peace, war crimes, and crimes against humanity.

But it was Jackson who helped direct the director, guiding him toward the grander struggle between the evil formalism of Nazi-era laws and legal procedures, and basic human rights.

"Jackson became the film's frustrated stepfather, uncle, supporter and participant," says John Q. Barrett, a professor at St. John's University School of Law in Queens, N.Y. An expert on the Nuremberg trials, he now is working on a biography of Justice Jackson. (Barrett provided Jackson's correspondence with Royall for this story.)

The second sentence of Jackson's eloquent opening statement at the first Nuremberg trial encapsulates his passion and reasoning: "The wrongs which we seek to condemn and punish have been so calculated, so malignant and so devastating, that civilization cannot tolerate their being ignored, because it cannot survive their being repeated."

The film is a concise, readily grasped evidentiary primer on the rise and reign of the Nazis, as well as a cinematic record of what was arguably the only true "trial of the century."

Sandra Schulberg—a producer whose credits include 1987's Waiting for the Moon, a well-received movie about Alice B. Toklas and Gertrude Stein—was born two years after the Nuremberg film's completion. She didn't see it until 2004, when she was preparing an exhibit of films about U.S. efforts in the Marshall Plan to rebuild Europe after World War II.

Nuremberg moves at a compellingly clipped pace with a newsreel-noir style and is now, in the restored version, narrated by Liev Schreiber—an actor whose voice is probably better known than his face, thanks to his many voiceovers in HBO and PBS specials.

The restored version offers a number of important tweaks and flourishes. For example, in the original the Nazi defendants are seen in the dock but not heard, with a narrator sometimes reconstructing their testimony. Through careful synchronization of original sound recordings with the trial's film footage, we now hear the rationalizations of the Nazi leaders in their own voices—with subtitles.

Even in black and white, the restored film has a newness and freshness for those who have grown up in a time of multichannel, multimedia, self-created learning and news sourcing. They may or may not have learned details of Hitler's Third Reich or seen the stark, searing filmed evidence of the atrocities it wrought.

The film was an eye-opener for many of the 500 cadets who came to a screening of Nuremberg last April at West Point, prior to the U.S. theatrical release last fall in New York City and Washington, D.C.

"Some of them had no idea of some of the details of how [the Holocaust] came about and the extent of the atrocities," says Col. Maritza Ryan, head of West Point's Law Department, which has 20 professors, all of them lawyers. "They said it was difficult for them to watch but important for them to see."

The film has gained unexpected traction and buzz. That surprised and pleased some who are working to advance the Nuremberg Principles adopted in 1950 by the International Law Commission of the United Nations. The principles have influenced both the creation of the International Criminal Court and the procedures adopted by various war crimes tribunals in recent years.

"We are all astonished at the attention and huge reaction [Sandra Schulberg] is getting from so many places with this film," says Raye Farr, director of the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive at the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum in Washington, D.C.

"What people don't know and what you don't see in the film is the tremendous investment Sandra's father and [Justice] Jackson and everybody had in this, thinking they would educate the world," she says. "They thought this was the most important documentary of the 20th century. It didn't turn out that way. But maybe it'll be one of the most important of the 21st if it lays down some vision of war crimes prosecution and holding individuals responsible for their actions."


German moviegoers leave the Kamera movie theater in Stuttgart in November 1948 after viewing Nuremberg. Photo courtesy of Schulberg family archive.

FOR A VARIETY OF REASONS, SOME MORE OBVIOUS THAN OTHERS, this story of the rise of the Nazis has struck a chord. Renewed relevance seems to be the film's strength.

First and foremost, the Nuremberg Principles hold that individuals and leaders, including heads of nation- states, are no longer immune for atrocities committed on behalf of their government. The Ad Hoc Criminal Tribunals for the Former Yugoslavia and Rwanda were the first bodies created to try individuals for war crimes since Nuremberg, and their semblance of success was a direct factor in the creation of the International Criminal Court.

Moreover, the world is dealing increasingly with the unchecked, brutal fervor of historic tribal rivalries, religious animosities and routine political violence. Too often the result has been genocide, rape, and the slaughter of women and children.

"The Nuremberg film had lessons for the day in 1948 but now has lessons for the year 2011 and beyond, which is that for great crimes, justice must be done," says Stephen J. Rapp, the U.S. ambassador-at-large for war crimes issues, who spoke at West Point when the film was screened there.

"In civil wars like those in Sierra Leone and Rwanda, there is more danger now in being a woman or innocent child than being a soldier," says Rapp, who previously was chief prosecutor at the Special Court for Sierra Leone and before that chief of prosecutions at the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda.

Nuremberg is especially resonant for legal professionals, some of whom have invoked the Nuremberg Principles in their protests against the Justice Department's secret approval of expanded presidential powers after the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

Part of that debate began with the military. In the early 2000s, West Point cadets were asking their professors in the Law Department about the legal grounds for U.S. treatment of detainees suspected of being terrorists, including the controversial issues of aggressive interrogation, particularly waterboarding. The answers, in effect, would seem a reversal of roles: the military calling out civilians for their aggressive tactics in executing war.

"I tell [the cadets] there's been a lot of confusion about waterboarding," says Ryan. "Is it unlawful, and is it a war crime to do that? Yes! We're very clear about that."

In response, the Law Department launched a Rule of Law Center in 2008. The center reaches out to students at other military academies, as well as various universities. For instance, the cadets had a joint symposium-workshop on Shariah law with students from the Columbia University School of Law, which included a role-playing look at a custody dispute in a divorce.

At the center's inaugural conference in 2008, one featured speaker was Alberto Mora, who as general counsel of the Navy between 2001 and 2006 famously took the lead at the Department of Defense in opposing harsh interrogation techniques.

Mora spoke to the gathering about the rule of law and the war on terrorism, saying that we should not engage in cruelty, which by definition would preclude the greater evil: torture.

"Whatever else may be said about it in the future," Mora told the cadets, "this war is historically significant because we, as a nation—despite our laws, values and traditions—consciously applied cruelty against captives and sought to amend or reinterpret our laws to make this, which was illegal, legal."

ONE WAY THE NAZIS GAINED AND EXPANDED POWER was to gradually co-opt the justice system through its courts and lawyers. It was accomplished in such a fashion that, even after Germany lost the war, many continued to believe they had simply applied the law and done their jobs. The Nazis, meanwhile, gained legitimacy for reprehensible policies by wrapping them in the cloak of legal formality.

"The Nazis were working very carefully," says William Meinecke Jr., a historian at the Holocaust Museum who has developed a program aimed at teaching lawyers the lessons of the Holocaust.

"They knew they were dependent on these professions in operating the system, and wanted to bend it to their way of thinking."

The Nazis worked at getting sympathetic leadership in the organized bar; initiated a loyalty oath to Hitler as part of admission to practice; expanded the scope and reach of various laws; and developed incentives for lawyers to help gain their cooperation, as well as heavy-handed and sometimes brutal disincentives.

The Nazis cut the number of practicing lawyers by a quarter, weeding out those who might represent defendants considered enemies of the state or otherwise cause problems. They quadrupled pay for the rest, many of whom were either civil servants or received fees as court-appointed counsel.

"The oath of loyalty to Hitler was sometimes used to disbar lawyers representing defendants deemed enemies of the state," Meinecke says.

Since 2008, Meinecke has traveled the country presenting his interactive program, called "Law, Justice and the Holocaust: How the Courts Failed Germany." With a Socratic dialogue provoking thought but not providing solutions, it shows lawyers and judges how easily their shortcuts, choices and decisions could lead to the same slippery slope that facilitated Nazi aggression and the systematic genocide of European Jews they referred to as "the Final Solution."

"It takes ethics out of the realm of rules on the commingling of client funds and elevates them to a much more profound understanding of our role in a democratic society," says Sheila Polk, county attorney in Yavapai County, Ariz. "In my 27 years of practice and doing CLE every year, I've never encountered something that drove home the lessons in such a way. You come to understand the consequences of taking shortcuts, so you can fast-forward and see what might happen if you ignore something that seems minor—it opens you to larger and larger violations."

One of the most powerful stories in Meinecke's presentation concerns what happened at the very top of Germany's legal profession in 1933. Society was in turmoil, suffering in the midst of the Great Depression. Communists and Hitler's followers were locked in a violent competition to succeed the democratic but ineffectual Weimar government. Increasingly, Jews in German society were threatened by Hitler's efforts to marginalize them—efforts that were often unopposed.

As Meinecke tells it, after being appointed chancellor in 1933, Hitler later assumed the role of fuhrer, in effect closing out the coalition government. Soon after consolidating and thus seizing power, Hitler invited Erwin Bumke, then president of the Imperial Court—the equivalent of chief justice—to a one-on-one meeting.

Bumke had been nominated in 1929 by Germany's minister of justice, a liberal democrat who declared Bumke would not be influenced by the political infighting of that time. In 1933 the relatively new chief justice was skeptical of Nazis coming to power, but believed it would have no impact on the courts.

At their meeting, Meinecke says, "Hitler took Bumke by both hands, stared directly into his eyes and said, 'Herr Bumke, help me save Germany.' One cannot underestimate the power of Hitler's charisma here. By all accounts Bumke was converted to the Nazis' cause on the spot."

As soon as he got back to the court, Bumke removed the portrait of Germany's first chief justice, who had been a convert from Judaism and thus was still a Jew in the eyes of the Nazis.

THE HOLOCAUST MUSEUM HAS OFFERED SIMILAR TRAINING ON AN AD HOC BASIS since 1997. Among its clients have been the District of Columbia Bar, the D.C. police department and the Federal Judicial Center.

But it was a request in 2006 from Polk, the Arizona prosecutor, that set in motion the fuller, refined presentation that quickly has become much sought after by bar and judicial groups around the country.

That year Polk had been part of a delegation of 12 civic, political and law enforcement leaders from Yavapai County who visited the Holocaust Museum to learn about its course for police training. Polk was so impressed that she asked museum officials to design one for her prosecutors. It was presented in 2007 and, Arizona's dry heat notwithstanding, the effort snowballed. In 2008, Meinecke returned to repeat the presentation for the state judiciary, from magistrates to the Supreme Court; then he staged another in 2009 for the Conference of Chief Justices at their annual gathering in Santa Fe, N.M.

"Then it just exploded in 2010," says Meinecke, with more than 30 requests by December from various state courts and bar groups.

The museum doesn't promote the program because it can't keep up with demand created by word of mouth.

"I think they're all shocked how easy the transition was from democracy to dictatorship, and how early the courts failed," says Lynn Williams, director of the museum's Leadership Programs.

In December 2009, Polk apparently had her own epiphany. She had been asked to take over the prosecution of members of nearby Maricopa County's board of supervisors—who were facing corruption charges after challenging the controversial policies of Sheriff Joe Arpaio and Maricopa County Attorney Andrew Thomas.

After investigating the allegations, she was taken aback by their disturbing lack of substance. After Thomas filed criminal charges against yet another county official—a judge who ruled against him—Polk wrote a letter published in the Arizona Republic:

"I can no longer sit by quietly and watch from a distance. ... I am conservative and passionately believe in limited government, not the totalitarianism that is spreading before my eyes."

Some months afterward, a federal grand jury began looking into possible abuses of power by Thomas and Arpaio; that inquiry is ongoing. And last December an outside bar investigator from Colorado recommended that Thomas be disbarred. The investigative report alleges 31 ethical violations, including corruption and abuse of power. The state bar plans to hold hearings in July.

Discussions and debates triggered by the Holocaust and the Nuremberg trials touch on issues as old as warfare itself, though the complexity, scope and impact have grown beyond comprehension in a troubled and dangerous world. Nuremberg: Its Lesson for Today is providing a moral touchstone for legal professionals.

But even the rule of law cannot necessarily be attained without blood or sacrifice, says ambassador Rapp.

"We didn't get the Nazis into Nuremberg by serving arrest warrants in Berlin. We defeated them by the cost of millions of lives and brought them to justice. World War II had to be fought or the Holocaust would have been completed."

Related: "At the Movies: Restored Film Shows Nuremberg Trial and Evidence"


James Gustave Speth
13th Annual E. F. Schumacher Lectures
New York City
November 20, 2010
Letter to Liberals:
Liberalism, Environmentalism, and Economic Growth

Let me begin by thanking the New Economics Institute and Susan Witt for this
opportunity. Over the years, under Susan’s leadership, the Schumacher Lectures have
opened many a new horizon, pointing the way to a better world. I’m proud to be part of
this effort.
Many of us, I think, bestride the uneasy gap that separates American liberalism
and American environmentalism. If asked by a pollster, we would say “yes” to liberal and
“yes” to environmentalist. And progressive souls in Congress generally support both
causes. But between the people and the Congress, there are the organized groups
advocating for the two causes, and, they, well, they typically go their own separate ways.
This pattern is common on the progressive side – every progressive cause in its own silo.
But much less silo-ing is common on the right, where the typical think-tank or advocacy
group will cover everything from stripping EPA of its power to address climate change to
ensuring that the rich are minimally taxed. I think they have something to teach us.
Today, I want to argue that the walls separating liberals and environmentalists
must be breached – to win, there must be a fusion of progressive causes, we must forge a
common agenda, and we must together build a mighty force on the ground, at the
This progressive fusion is necessary, first of all, because we are stronger if we
support each other. We are better together. That should be enough of a reason given the
formidable forces we face, forces that certainly gained strength in the recent mid-term
elections. But there are other, deeper realities to consider beyond mere alliance.
For their part, environmentalists are slowly coming to see that real progress on
their issues will remain elusive unless the liberal agenda of social justice and political
reform is steadily realized. In a land of pervasive economic insecurity and stark
inequality, American environmentalists will keep losing. In such a land, the economic
will continue to trump the environmental. Environmentalists will continue to live in a
strange place where they can save the planet only if it helps the economy.
In a similar way, environmentalists will also keep losing if American politics
remains as it is today. Peter Barnes notes that “the ‘influence industry’ in Washington
now spends $6 billion a year and employs more than thirty-five thousand lobbyists [and
that was a few years ago]...[I]n a capitalist democracy, the state is a dispenser of many
valuable prizes. Whoever amasses the most political power wins the most valuable prizes.
The rewards include property rights, friendly regulators, subsidies, tax breaks, and free or
cheap use of the commons….We face a disheartening quandary here. Profit-maximizing
corporations dominate our economy….The only obvious counterweight is government,
yet government is dominated by these same corporations.”
So environmentalists need for liberal causes to succeed. Do liberal groups that
fight for social and political improvements need for environmentalists to succeed? I
believe the answer is clearly yes. For example, environmental success on climate and
energy would usher in an era of much needed growth in green jobs. And the new rightsbased
approach to environmental protection is embracing liberal themes like climate
justice, the human right to water and food, the right to cultural survival, and more. But I
would like to stress the liberal stake in environmentalism at a deeper level.
Consider a world in which environmentalists continue to lose on the big issues
like climate change. Many of our most insightful observers today see current trends
leading us to some type of collapse, catastrophe, or breakdown, and they see climate
change and other environmental crises as leading ingredients of a devil’s brew that also
includes such stresses as population pressures, peak oil and other energy supply
problems, global income disparities, economic and political instabilities, terrorism, failed
states, nuclear proliferation, and similar threats.
A world of environmental failure would be an increasingly nasty place. A world
where environmentalists fail is a world of food and water shortages; sea level rise;
increasing heat waves, fires, floods, storms, droughts, and other so-called “natural”
disasters; deforestation, desertification, and biotic impoverishment; pollution and
toxification; energy shortages; and unpleasant surprises. This is not a world where the
concerns of the poor and powerless or even the average Joe are likely to fare well, and
politics in such a world could move in unfortunate directions.
Some who have constructed scenarios of the future see a continuation of
“business as usual” leading us to a “fortress world.” Here is how Paul Raskin and his
colleagues describe the evolution of Fortress World. They describe it in global terms, but
it could happen anywhere.
“The global economy spawns a new class of internationally connected affluent.
But there is a counterpoint – the billions of desperately poor whose boats fail to rise with
the general economic tide….
“As the level of poverty increases and the gulf between rich and poor
widens….the remnants of the institutional capacity and moral commitment to global
welfare are lost. Meanwhile, environmental conditions deteriorate. Multiple stresses –
pollution, climate change, ecosystem degradation – interact and amplify the crisis.
Disputes over scarce water resources feed conflict in regions with shared river basins.
Environmental degradation, food insecurity and emergent diseases foster a vast health
“In this atmosphere of deepening social and environmental crisis, conflict feeds
off old ethnic, religious and nationalist tensions. Poor countries begin to fragment as civil
order collapses and various forms of criminal anarchy fill the vacuum….The bite of
climate change and environmental devastation grows fiercer. The affluent minority fears
it too will be engulfed by rampant migration, violence and disease….
“A system of global dualism – some call it a Fortress World…emerges from the
crisis. The separate spheres of the haves and have-nots, the included and excluded, are
codified in asymmetrical and authoritarian legal and institutional frameworks. The
affluent live in protected enclaves in rich nations and in strongholds in poor nations –
bubbles of privilege amidst oceans of misery. In the police state outside the fortress, the
majority is mired in poverty and denied basic freedoms.”
Clive Hamilton reports on a 2009 conference of climate experts at Oxford, where
the question “can we continue to gamble with democracy?” came up. The point was
made that slashing emissions may require a “benevolent tyranny.” But, as Hamilton
notes, tyrannies are rarely benevolent for long.
In recent years, military experts and others have warned repeatedly that climate
disruption could lead to humanitarian emergencies, climate refugees, conflicts over water
and other resources, failed states, extreme North-South tensions, and any number of other
threats to international security and stability. A new book, Climate Wars, just came out.
Of course, there is a lot of speculation in these various looks into the future, but at
a minimum one can conclude that the liberal program – the liberal agenda – is threatened
by unfolding climate and other environmental trends. We know that in times of great
stress, loss and instability, societies can tend to illiberal answers. Liberals need to
appreciate how serious and near-term environmental threats actually are, and what they
threaten. Political and social systems are threatened, not just ecological ones. Liberals,
indeed all of us, also need to recognize that environmental threats are much too serious to
leave to the environmentalists.
There is another line of inquiry that also points to the need for the greening of
liberalism. This area is opened up not be thinking about a world of environmental failure
but by thinking about the requirements for environment’s success. Ideas coming forward
today from cutting-edge environmentalism offer the potential to strengthen the liberal
agenda. At the same time, environmental analysis these days is pointing to some novel
policy prescriptions that are definitely at odds with prescriptions regularly urged by
American liberals. I believe that in both these areas, the new environmental thinking may
have something to offer American liberals.
The most important area where this latest environmental thinking conflicts with
the current liberal agenda is on economic growth. Over the years I have read many books
by our leading liberals, most recently Bob Reich’s Aftershock, and I attend daily to the
excellent online liberal news and opinion summary, “Campaign for America’s Future”
and read and admire both The Nation and The American Prospect. So I know that
American liberals tend to be strong advocates of economic growth. Indeed, the way the
growth issue is perceived in Washington today, those fighting current battles there have
little choice. But a growing number of environmental thinkers are urging a different
perspective. They see a world where past growth has brought us to a perilous state
environmentally; where we are poised for unprecedented increments in growth; where
this growth is proceeding with wildly wrong market signals and without needed
constraints; and where a failed politics has not meaningfully corrected the economy’s
obliviousness to environmental needs.
In his book Prosperity Without Growth, a leading British economist, Tim Jackson,
frames the growth issue this way: “During the [period since 1950] the global economy
has grown more than 5 times.” The size of the world economy is on track to double, then
double again, by mid-century. “This extraordinary ramping up of global economic
activity has no historical precedent,” Jackson notes. “It’s totally at odds with our
scientific knowledge of the finite resource base and the fragile ecology on which we
depend for survival….A world in which things simply go on as usual is already
“For the most part, we avoid the stark reality of these numbers. The default
assumption is that…growth will continue indefinitely. Not just for the poorest countries,
where a better quality of life is undeniably needed, but even for the richest nations where
the cornucopia of material wealth adds little to happiness and is beginning to threaten the
foundations of our well-being.
“The reasons for this collective blindness are…easy enough to find. The modern
economy is structurally reliant on economic growth….Questioning growth is deemed to
be the act of lunatics, idealists and revolutionaries.
“But question it we must. The idea of a non-growing economy may be an
anathema to an economist. But the idea of a continually growing economy is an anathema
to an ecologist. No subsystem of a finite system can grow indefinitely, in physical terms.
Economists have to be able to answer the question of how a continually growing
economic system can fit within a finite ecological system.
“The only possible response to this challenge is to suggest – as economists do –
that growth in dollars is ‘decoupled’ from growth in physical throughputs and
environmental impacts. But…this hasn’t so far achieved what’s needed. There are no
prospects for it doing so in the immediate future. And the sheer scale of decoupling
required…staggers the imagination.
“In short, we have no alternative but to question growth.”
And that questioning must begin soon. Consider the following recent news
• “Heat Waves Could Be Commonplace in the U.S. by 2039”
• “Glacial Melt and Ocean Warming Drive Sea Level Upward”
• “Indian Ocean Sea Level Rise Threatens Millions”
• “Melting Mountains Put Millions at Risk in Asia”
• “Greenland Glacier Slide Speeds 220 Percent in Summer”
• “Models See More Intense Hurricanes in the Greenhouse”
• “Ocean Acidification Unprecedented, Unsettling”
• “Fifth of Vertebrates Face Extinction”
• “Worlds Mangroves Retreating at Alarming Rate”
• “Midcentury Water Shortages Loom in 1 of 3 Countries”
• “Depletion of Aquifers Is a Looming Tragedy”
In this regard, the existential issue of global warming and climate disruption is
particularly worrying. Many analysts have concluded that it will probably be impossible
to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at required rates in the context of even moderate
economic growth. The needed rates for reducing the carbon intensity of economic output
are simply too high. In The Bridge at the Edge of the World, I indicated that to reduce
U.S. carbon emissions by 80% between now and 2050, the carbon intensity of production
would have to decline by 7% a year, every year, if the U.S. economy is growing at 3% a
year. That’s huge. It involves wringing carbon out of the economy at a phenomenal rate.
A European analysis notes that the International Energy Agency “optimistically”
assumes that it is technically feasible to reduce global carbon intensity by 3.4% a year,
only half of the rate I just noted. Using that assumption, it showed that to hold
greenhouse gas concentrations at 450 ppm (CO2e) by 2050, global per capita income
could only grow at about 1% a year, half the current rate. Even assuming the 450 ppm
cap by 2050, which many climate scientists believe is dangerously lax, growth rates in
the industrial world would have to be near zero if “growing room” is to be left for the
developing world.
The New Economics Foundation in London, which has contributed so much to
the new economic thinking, has recently completed a thorough overview of whether
climate goals can be met in the context of growth. The study is titled “Growth Isn’t
Possible,” and that’s an appropriate title given its conclusions. In the end, nef quotes
favorably this conclusion: “Economic growth in the OECD cannot be reconciled with a 2,
3, or even 4°C characterization of dangerous climate change.”
We should be able to solve this puzzle. In Managing Without Growth, Canadian
economist Peter Victor presents a model of the Canadian economy which shows that “it
is possible to develop scenarios over a 30 year time horizon for Canada in which full
employment prevails, poverty is essentially eliminated, people enjoy more leisure,
greenhouse gas emissions are drastically reduced, and the level of government
indebtedness declines, all in the context of low and ultimately no economic growth.” The
New Economics Foundation has an ambitious effort underway to expand on this work.
So we have this difference between liberals and environmentalists on growth, and
it is important that we move soon to resolve it. One must ask: is it possible to successfully
craft a common platform and agenda among American environmentalists and liberals?
And is it possible that such a platform might contribute to the challenge recently laid
down by Mark Schmitt to forge a persuasive alternative vision for the U.S. economy.
“It’s time to get the idea machines cranked up,” he writes. “What we’re looking for now
aren’t political answers, incremental reforms, or bargaining chips….We need clarity
about just how different the economy will be, even after the recession ends, and a
strategy for how we can, once again, make sure that the vast majority of people will have
a place in it.” Can we forge a common platform that rises to this challenge?
Well, nothing ventured, nothing gained. So let me now offer for your
consideration a first draft of such a platform and agenda for progressive fusion. You be
the judge. For the sake of time, I will concentrate almost exclusively on domestic, not
foreign, affairs.
A Platform for Progressives
We must begin by acknowledging that today’s political economy is failing our
country. This failure that reaches many spheres of national life – economic, social,
political and environmental. Indeed, our country can be said to be in crisis in each of
these four areas.
The economic crisis of the Great Recession brought on by Wall Street financial
excesses has stripped tens of millions of middle class Americans of their jobs, homes, and
retirement assets.
A social crisis of extreme and growing inequality has been unraveling America’s
social fabric for several decades. A tiny minority have experienced soaring incomes and
accumulated grand fortunes while wages for working people have stagnated despite
rising productivity gains and poverty rate has risen to a fifty-year high. Social mobility
has declined, the middle class is disappearing, schools are failing, prison populations are
swelling, employment security is a thing of the past, and American workers put in more
hours than workers in other high income countries.
An environmental crisis, driven by a ruthless drive to grow profits and expand the
economy regardless of the costs, is disrupting Earth’s climate and impoverishing its biota.
And a political crisis reflected in governmental paralysis and a democracy that is
weak, shallow and corrupted by, as Bob Kaiser’s book says, So Damn Much Money.
To seek something new and better, a good place to start is to ask why today’s
system of political economy is failing so broadly. The answer is that key features of the
system work together to produce a reality that is highly destructive. An unquestioning
society-wide commitment to economic growth at any cost; powerful corporate interests
whose overriding objective is to grow by generating profit, including profit from
avoiding the social and environmental costs they create and from keeping wages and
benefits low; markets that systematically fail to recognize externalized social and
environmental costs unless corrected by government, but government that is itself
beholding to corporate interests and thus not strongly inclined to curb corporate abuses;
and a rampant consumerism spurred endlessly on by sophisticated advertising – all
combine to deliver an ever-growing economy insensitive to the needs of people, place
and planet.
For the most part, we have worked within this current system of political
economy, but working within the system will not succeed in the end when what is needed
is transformative change in the system itself. The case for immediate action on issues like
climate change, job creation, and unemployment extension is compelling, but the big
environmental and social challenges we face will not yield to problem-solving
incrementalism. Progressives have gone down the path of incremental reform for
decades. We have learned that it is not enough.
We need to reinvent the economy, not merely restore it. The roots of our
environmental and social problems are systemic and thus require transformational change
– the shift to a new economy, a sustaining economy based on new economic thinking and
driven forward by a new politics. Sustaining people, communities and nature must
henceforth be seen as the core goals of economic activity, not hoped for by-products of
market success, growth for its own sake, and modest regulation. That is the paradigm
shift we seek.
Today, the reigning policy orientation holds that the path to greater well-being is
to grow and expand the economy. Productivity, profits, the stock market, and
consumption must all go up. This growth imperative trumps all else. It can undermine
families, jobs, communities, the environment, a sense of place and continuity because it
is confidently asserted and widely believed that growth is worth the price that must be
paid for it.
But an expanding body of evidence is now telling us to think again. Economic
growth may be the world’s secular religion, but for much of the world it is a god that is
failing – underperforming for billions of the world’s people and, for those in affluent
societies, now creating more problems than it is solving. The never-ending drive to grow
the overall U.S. economy hollows out communities and the environment; it fuels a
ruthless international search for energy and other resources; it fails at generating the
needed jobs; and it rests on a manufactured consumerism that is not meeting the deepest
human needs. Americans are substituting growth and consumption for dealing with the
real issues – for doing things that would truly make us and the country better off.
Psychologists have pointed out, for example, that while economic output per person in
the United States has risen sharply in recent decades, there has been no increase in life
satisfaction and levels of distrust and depression have increased substantially.
It is time for America to move to post-growth society where working life, the
natural environment, our communities and families, and the public sector are no longer
sacrificed for the sake of mere GDP growth; where the illusory promises of ever-more
growth no longer provide an excuse for neglecting to deal generously with our country’s
compelling social needs; and where true citizen democracy is no longer held hostage to
the growth imperative.
When you think about it, the growth imperative is how we are controlled: the
necessity for growth puts American politics in a straightjacket – a golden straightjacket,
as Tom Friedman would say – and it gives the real power to those who have the finance
and technology to deliver growth.
Of course, it is clear that even in a post-growth America, many things do indeed
need to grow: growth in good jobs and in the incomes of the poor and working
Americans; growth in availability of health care and the efficiency of its delivery; growth
in education, research and training; growth in security against the risks of illness, job
loss, old age and disability; growth in investment in public infrastructure and in
environmental protection and amenity; growth in the deployment of climate-friendly and
other green technologies; growth in the restoration of both ecosystems and local
communities; growth in non-military government spending at the expense of military;
and growth in international assistance for sustainable, people-centered development for
the half of humanity that live in poverty, to mention some prominent needs. These are all
areas where public policy needs to ensure that growth occurs.
Jobs and meaningful work top this list because they are so important and
unemployment is so devastating. We should be striving to add 500,000 new jobs a month,
but likely future rates of overall economic growth are only mildly associated with
declining unemployment. The availability of jobs, the wellbeing of people, and the health
of communities should not be forced to await the day when overall economic growth
might deliver them. It is time to shed the view that government mainly provides safety
nets and occasional Keynesian stimuli. We must insist that government have an
affirmative responsibility to ensure that those seeking decent paying jobs find them. And
the surest, and also the most cost-effective, way to that end is direct government
spending, investments and incentives targeted at creating jobs in areas where there is high
social benefit. Creating new jobs in areas of democratically determined priority is
certainly better than trying to create jobs by pump priming aggregate economic growth,
especially in an era where the macho thing to do in much of business is to shed jobs, not
create them. There need be nothing temporary or second-rate about such employment.
And, as William Greider has recently pointed out, reversing the U.S. gung-ho
stand on free trade globalization can bolster employment at home. To keep investment
and jobs at home he notes, Washington needs “to rewrite trade law, tax law, and policies
on workforce development and subsidy.”
Of particular importance for the new economy are government policies that will
slow GDP growth, thus sparing the environment, while simultaneously improving social
and environmental well-being. Such policies exist: shorter workweeks and longer
vacations, with more time for children and families; greater labor protections, job security
and benefits, including generous parental leaves; guarantees to part-time workers and
combining unemployment insurance with part-time work during recessions; restrictions
on advertising; a new design for the twenty-first-century corporation, one that embraces
rechartering, new ownership patterns, and stakeholder primacy rather than shareholder
primacy; incentives for local and locally-owned production and consumption; strong
social and environmental provisions in trade agreements; rigorous environmental, health
and consumer protection, including full incorporation of environmental and social costs
in prices, for example through mandated caps or taxes on emissions and extractions;
greater economic and social equality, with genuinely progressive taxation of the rich
(including a progressive consumption tax) and greater income support for the poor; heavy
spending on neglected public services; and initiatives to address population growth at
home and abroad. Taken together, these policies would undoubtedly slow GDP growth,
but well-being and quality of life would improve, and that’s what matters.
In this mix of policies, Juliet Schor and others have stressed the importance of
worktime reduction. For example, if productivity gains are taken as shorter worktime,
personal incomes and overall economic growth can stabilize while quality of life
increases. She points out that workers in Europe put in about 300 fewer hours each year
than Americans.
Beyond policy change, another hopeful path into a sustainable and just future is to
seed the landscape with innovative models. One of the most remarkable and yet undernoticed
things going on in the United States today is the proliferation of innovative
models of “local living” economies, sustainable communities and transition towns, and
for-benefit businesses which prioritize community and environment over profit and
growth. The community-owned Evergreen Cooperative in Cleveland is a wonderful case
in point. As Gar Alperovitz and his colleagues have pointed out, state and federal
programs can be crafted to support community development and finance corporations,
local banks, community land trusts, employee and consumer ownership, local currencies
and time dollars, municipal enterprise, and non-profits in business.
Running parallel to these changes in policy must be a change in national values.
In particular, it’s time to move beyond our runaway consumerism and hyperventilating
lifestyles. There are mounting environmental and social costs of American affluence,
extravagance, and wastefulness. Even our larger homes and lots are too small to contain
all the stuff we are accumulating. The self-storage industry didn’t begin until the early
1970s but has grown so rapidly that its floor space would now cover an area the size of
Manhattan and San Francisco combined. We have a disease, affluenza, from which we
need a speedy recovery.
The good news is that more and more people sense at some level that there’s a
great misdirection of life’s energy. We know we’re slighting the things that truly make
life worthwhile. In one survey, 81% say America is too focused on shopping and
spending; 88% say American society is too materialistic.
Psychological studies show that materialism is toxic to happiness, that more
income and more possessions don’t lead to lasting gains in our sense of well-being or
satisfaction with our live. What does make us happy are warm personal relationships, and
giving rather than getting.
Here’s a revolutionary new product that is trying to make it in the marketplace:
Nothing: “Guaranteed not to put you in debt…100% nontoxic…sweatshop-free…zero
waste…doesn’t contribute to global warming…family-friendly…fun and creative!” The
young women who were selling Nothing in the shopping malls refused to leave and were
The transformation of today’s economy obviously requires strong and effective
government action. Inevitably, the drive for transformative change leads to the political
arena, where a vital, muscular democracy steered by an informed and engaged citizenry
is needed.
Yet, for Americans, merely to state the matter this way suggests the enormity of
the challenge. The ascendancy of market fundamentalism and anti-regulation, antigovernment
ideology have been particularly frightening, but even the passing of these
extreme ideas would still leave deeper, more long-term deficiencies. Just as we need a
new economy, we need a new politics.
There are many reasons why government in Washington today is too often more
problem than solution. It is hooked on GDP growth. It is heavily influenced by the very
corporations and concentration of wealth it should be seeking to regulate and revamp.
And it is hobbled by an array of dysfunctional institutional arrangements beginning with
the way presidents are elected, elections are funded, and Congressional voting occurs.
Building the strength needed for change requires, first of all, a political fusion
among progressives, and that fusion should start with a unified agenda. Such an agenda
would embrace a profound commitment to social justice and environmental protection, a
sustained challenge to consumerism and commercialism and the lifestyles they offer, a
healthy skepticism of growthmania and a democratic redefinition of what society should
be striving to grow, a challenge to corporate dominance and a redefinition of the
corporation and its goals, and a commitment to an array of pro-democracy reforms in
campaign finance, elections, the regulation of lobbying, and much more. A common
agenda would also include an ambitious set of new national indicators beyond GDP to
inform us of the true quality of life in America. GDP is a perfectly terrible measure of
national well-being and progress. We tend to get what we measure, so we should measure
what we want.
So, this is the draft platform for progressive fusion. How good is it for uniting
environmentalists, liberals and other progressive constituencies? I would guess everyone
would agree that some of it is ahead of its time, certainly in terms of U.S. politics today.
Yet if some of the ideas just presented seem politically impracticable today, just wait
until tomorrow. Soon it will be clear to more and more people that it’s business as usual
that’s the utopian fantasy, while creating something very new and different is the
practical, pragmatic way forward.
My hope is that we can soon begin a sustained dialogue among liberal and
environmental thinkers on the need for a common platform, on the issue of growth, and
generally on the goal of progressive fusion. In the platform I just presented, I endeavored
to find a way to support the goals that liberals see growth as supporting, notably job
creation, while still accepting what I see as the underlying reality, namely that GDP
growth in America today isn’t delivering on its intended purpose – better human lives –
and that it is, meanwhile, at the root of environmental losses and the emerging climate
crisis. I hope the liberal community will come to terms with the now large body of
environmental scholarship on this issue, and do so before it is too late.
I doubt that we’ll miss our growth fetish after we say good-bye to it. We’ve had
tons of growth – growth while wages stagnated, jobs fled our borders, life satisfaction
flatlined, social capital eroded, poverty mounted, and the environment declined.
The environmentalists, for their part, have got to abandon their silo and do things
like embrace the excellent social agenda laid out by Bob Reich in his Aftershock. There,
he advocates a series of far-reaching and admirable measures to address to America’s
vast social insecurity and income disparities. Reich bases his case for such measures on
the need to restore the purchasing power of the middle class so that their consumerism
can in turn spur economic growth and create jobs. While I support Reich’s prescriptions,
I believe the logic of greater economic security and equality leads in a different direction.
Over time, Reich’s measures would, happily, dampen consumerist impulses, as Robert
Frank and others have noted, and a virtuous circle becomes possible because, as Amitai
Etzioni observed recently, a societal shift away from consumerism will make
redistribution policies more possible.
I find hope that real change is indeed possible in many places. Progressive causes
are turning to the task of building grassroots political strength. There’s a proliferation
across the American landscape of new models of enterprise and community development
and revitalization. There’s a growing questioning of consumerist lifestyles, and people
are fed up with our failing politics. Then, there’s the birth of a series of “new economy”
organizations and initiatives that are committed to linking these issues and forging new
strengths for systemic change. Among these initiatives are the New Economy Network
(, the New Economics Institute
(, the New Economy Working Group
(, the 3rd Millennium Economy Project, and the
Capital Institute ( Included here are projects seeking to move
America beyond consumerism and to dethrone GDP, efforts where Demos, the Center for
a New American Dream and numerous others are involved. If you’re interested, I
encourage you to join with us in these efforts and help us build the support these
initiatives need.
To conclude, let me pull this together. What if the following occurred? Are the
following occurring today? A decline in legitimacy as the system fails to deliver social
and environmental well-being, together with a mounting sense of crisis and great loss,
both occurring at a time of wise leadership, and accompanied by the articulation of a new
American narrative or story, by the appearance around the country of new and
appropriate models, and by the projection of a powerful set of new ideas and policy
proposal confirming that the path to a better world does indeed exist – were all these to
come together, real change would be possible. And prospects would be enhanced and
advanced by a new social movement, powerful and inclusive.
All progressive causes face the same reality. We live and work in a system of
political economy that cares profoundly about profits and growth. It cares about society
and the natural world in which it operates mainly to the extent it is required to do so. So it
is up to us as citizens to inject values of justice, fairness and sustainability into this
system, and government is the primary vehicle we have for accomplishing this. But
mainly we fail at it because our politics are too enfeebled and government is more and
more in the hands of powerful corporations and great wealth. Our best hope for real
change is thus a fusion of those concerned about environment, social justice, and true
democracy into one powerful progressive force. We are all communities of shared fate.
We will rise or fall together, so we’d better get together.
Thank you.