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tv   Democracy Now  LINKTV  March 17, 2016 3:00pm-4:01pm PDT

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03/17/16 03/17/16 [captioning made possible by democracy now!] amy: from pacifica, this is democracy now! >> judge garland will begin meeting with senators one-on-one. i simply ask republicans in the senate to give him a fair hearing, and then an up or down vote. amy: the battle over the supreme court has begun. president obama nominates federal appeals judge merrick garland, but the republican are vowing to block his nomination. >> president obama made this
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nomination not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election. amy: we will discuss rrick garland's record with terry o'neill, president of the national organization for women and ian millhiser, author of, , "injustices: the supreme court's history of comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted." then to one of the worst supreme court rulings in history. we will speak to adam cohen, author of, "imbeciles: the supreme court, american eugenics, and the sterilization of carrie buck." >> this was a case about a poor woman, nothing was wrong with her but being feebleminded. as a result with the endorsement of the supreme court, they sterilized her against her will and during that time, about 70,000 americans were sterilized. amy: judge oliver wendell holmes with the majority opinion to
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bring three generations of imbeciles are enough. all that and more, coming up. welcome to democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman. after weeks of speculation president obama has announced , his nominee to replace the late justice antonin scalia on the supreme court. merrick garland is the chief judge for the u.s. court of appeals for the d.c. circuit. he is widely viewed as a moderate judge who he has received overwhelming bipartisan support in the past. he is most one of overseeing the prosecution of timothy mcveigh. republicans have vowed to block the nomination of merrick garland. senate majority leader mitch mcconnell said hwill wait until a new president is in place next january before even holding a hearing on a nominee. with the death of scalia, the nine-member supreme court is now evenly split with four liberals and four conservative justices. garland could tilt the court to the left for the first time in
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decades, though some on the left are concerned that his record on progressive issues is unclear. we'll have more on the supreme court nomination after headlines. in news from the campaign trail, republican front-runner donald trump has claimed in an interview with cnn that there would be right at that he is not nominated -- would be riots if he is not nominated to be the party's candidate at the republican convention this summer. klux if we are 20 votes short or if we are 100 short and we are at 1100 and some of the else is at 500 or 400 because we are way ahead of everybody, i don't think you can say that we don't get it automatically. i think you would have riots. amy: donald trump currently has 673 delegates, the most of any republican candidate. he needs to secure 1237 to win the nomination outright. this comes as a british research organization has ranked the possibility of a donald trump
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presidency as one of the top 10 risks facing the world. the economist intelligence unit ranked a trump presidency as just as much of a global threat as the possibility that jihadi terrorism could destabilize the global economy. in honduras, another indigenous environmental activist has been murdered less than two weeks after the assassination of famed environmental organizer berta caceres. 38-year-old nelson garcia was a member of the group copinh, the civic council of popular and indigenous organizations of honduras, which berta caceres co-founded 22 years ago. he was shot in the face and killed by gunmen on tuesday in rio lindo, about 100 miles south of la esperanza, where caceres was murdered on march 3. russia is continuing to withdraw its air force from syria, following russian president vladimir putin's announceme monday that russia was pulling
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-- would be ending the five-month bombing campaign. a reuters analysis estimates that russia has already withdrawn just under half of the jets it had stationed at a base in eastern syria. the u.s.-led coalition, meanwhile, has continued to launch airstrikes against isil inside syria. this comes as the syrian kurds say they will declare a semi-autonomous federal region across northern syria, as the group pushes for self-administration under a future decentralized government. the announcement comes in the midst of u.n.-sponsored peace negotiations in geneva. the syrian kurds have been excluded from the talks. meanwhile, in turkey, a breakaway faction of the kurdistan workers party has claimed responsibility for sunday's car bombing in ankara, which killed 37 people. the faction, the kurdistan freedom hawks, said the attack was in retaliation for turkish military crackdowns in the majority kurdish communities in the southeast.
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in nigeria, two suicide bomb attacks killed 22 people wednesday at a mosque in the northeastern borno state. the nigerian military says the attack was carried out by two female suicide bombers. it struck the mosque during morning prayers. no one has claimed responsibility for the attack, but borno state has been the center of attacks by boko haram in recent months. in qatar, a prominent poet has been pardoned and released from prison after serving more than three years for writing and reciting a poem inspired by the arab spring. rashid al-ajami was jailed in november 2011 after a video surfaced of him reading a poem entitled "tunisian jasmine," which celebrated tunisia's popular uprising. he was charged with insulting qatar's ruling emir and "inciting to overthrow the ruling system." in brazil, president dilma rousseff has appointed her
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predecessor luiz inacio "lula" da silva to be her chief of staff in what she says was an effort to strengthen her government. a judge then released secretly recorded phone calls between rousseff and da silva, which members of the opposition say demonstrate the appointment was instead intended to shield da silva from prosecution on corruption charges. rousseff is currently facing impeachment proceedings. the political turmoil has sparked massive protests across brazil. in texas, an off-duty suburban dallas police officer has been arrested on charges of murder after fatally shoot 16-year-old jose raul cruz sunday night. authorities say officer ken johnson was off duty when he thought he saw a car being burglarized in the parking lot of his apartment complex. this set off a car chase, which ended with officer johnson killing cruz and shooting another teenager, edgar rodriguez, in the head. rodriguez survived. authorities have not said
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whether either of the teenagers were armed. the university of puerto rico remains shut down in a three-day student protest of austerity cuts. student activist gabriel casal nazario spoke at one of the university's blocked entrances. >> students decided to shut down the university in a general assembly we held the 15th, on tuesday, in a historic assembly where there were more than 4000 students and we filled more than 13 amphitheaters. we decided it is necessary to shut down the university because in the past five years, they have cut more than $542 million from our budget, and it is affecting us. every semester there are less classes, less professors. students have decided to take a stand. amy: meanwhile, at university of california-davis, a student sit-in outside the chancellor's office is entering its sixth day. the students are demanding
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chancellor linda katehi resign over her involvement with private corporate boards, including the for-profit college devry university, the expensive textbook maker wiley and sons, and the controversial saudi school king abdulaziz university, which has been accused of paying for affiliations with top professors in efforts to boost its global rankings. protesting graduate student brandon buchanan spoke from the sit-in. >> we, the occupiers, call for the resignation and/or firing of our chancellor, who is proven time and time again from the right university to the king abdul university a while iensense textbooks that she does not make decisions based on student interest. this is not new for her. this is old hat. she has a long history dating back to 2011 with the pepper spray incident of putting her own interest over the interests
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of students. amy: and in new york city, human ghts andrison rerm advote five mualimm-ak has been released from jail ter he and fellow activist joseph "jazz" hayden were arrested while attempting to mediate a police confrontation with a homeless man on tuesday. the arrest came only moments after mualimm-ak and hayden left a book launch event where mualimm-ak had read his essay "hell is a very small place," about his five years in solitary confinement. mualimm-ak spoke out after being released on wednesday night. >> i have just been released after being incarcerated for a day or two, after a big event that we had at the foundation. the other night, we had a big book launch. when we came outside, joseph videotaping an
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arrest of an emotionally disturbed person. i felt committed because i'm on the behavior task force of the greater the system to basically avoid the occurrence is that a person has going through the system. there's a special way to treat people with emotional disturbances that was not being respected that night. arrested, i stepped into not intervene but to try to mediate the problem and was arrested, accosted, assaulted, injured to the point that i'm getting medical attention. we will be defending charges that are placed against us. amy: is in extended interview with five mualimm-ak and jazz hayden after the release from prison, go to and those are some of the headlines. this is democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with nermeen shaikh. nermeen: welcome to all of our listeners and viewers from around the country and around the world. after weeks of speculation, president obama has announced
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his nominee to replace the late justice antonin scalia on the supreme court. >> i selected a nominee who is widely recognized not only as one of america's sharpest legal minds, but someone who brings to his work a spirit of decency, --esty, integrity, even evenhandedness and excellence. these qualities and his long commitment to public service have earned him the respect and admiration of leaders from both sides of the aisle. he will ultimately bring that same character to bear on the supreme court. an institution in which he is uniquely prepared to serve immediately. today i am nominating chief judge merrick garland to join the supreme court. amy: republicans have vowed to block the nomination of merrick garland. senate majority leader mitch mcconnell said the senate will wait until a new president is in place next january before even
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holding a hearing on a nominee. >> president obama made this nomination not with the intent of seeing the nominee confirmed, but in order to politicize it for purposes of the election. amy: president obama criticized republicans for threatening to withhold a vote. >> it is tempting to make this confirmation process simply an extension of our divided politics. the squabbling that is going on in the news every day. but to go down that path would be wrong. it would be a betrayal of our betrayalitions and a of the vision of our founding documents. nermeen: many analysts say obama chose garland to make it harder for republicans to outright reject him. merrick garland is the chief judge for the u.s. court of
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appeals for the d.c. circuit. he is widely viewed as a moderate judge who has received bipartisan support in the past. he was named to his current post by bill clinton in 1997, winning confirmation from a republican-led senate in a 76-23 vote. prior to that, garland worked in the justice department where he prosecuted the oklahoma city bombing case. at 63 years old garland is the , oldest supreme court nominee in four decades, a move some consider a concession by president obama. the nine-member supreme court is now evenly split with four liberals and four conservative justices. garland could tilt the court to the left for the first time in decades, though some organizations have expressed concern that his record on certain issues, including abortion rights is unclear. , on wednesday, merrick spoke briefly after his legal views. >> fidelity to the constitution
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and the law has been the cornerstone of my professional life and is the hallmark of the kind of judge i have tried to be for the past 18 years. if the senate sees fit to confirm into the position for which i have been nominated today, i promise to continue on that course. amy: for more we are joined by , two guests. terry o'neill is president of the national organization for women. now released a statement on wednesday calling judge garland, "a real nowhere man." and we're joined by ian millhiser, senior fellow at the center for american progress action fund and the editor of thinkprogress justice. he is the author of the book, "injustices: the supreme court's history of comforting the comfortable and afflicting the afflicted." we welcome you both to democracy now! ian millhiser, why don't you review his record. talked about judge garland, what he is known for, the decisions that he has made. >> i mean, he is definitely to
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the left of center, but i think is accurate to call him a fairly centrist judge. he comes from a long-standing progressive judicial restraint that stretches back to the roosevelt administration. and what that means is that as a justice, i think that he is likely to want the courts to do much less than conservatives have wanted them to do in the last seven years over the course of obama's presidency. a big reason i think that obama probably could -- picked garland is because obama has spent his byidency being harassed lawsuits and he was a little more judicial restraint. what it means if garland is confirmed is the sort of aggressive judicial activism we have seen over the last seven years probably gets halted. it also means, however, some things that liberals might want from the court, they're probably not going to get from judge garland. amy: talk about some of his key
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decisions. >> i think, since he is a judge on the d c circuit, the circuit's primary role is reviewing the regulatory actions of federal agencies, and there he has been fairly deferential and generally difference to federal agencies and something that is going to be good for the party that wants to be able to govern. two areas he is shown a strain of conservatism, he is a federal prosecutor and he does tend to be more conservative than other democratic appointees on criminal justice. there's also a guantanamo bay opinion or he sided with the bush administration. it is worth the presidents that were in place at the time of that opinion were not good prece dents. they were written in haste to go back to world war ii. some people defended him saying he was just following prece dence, but he was also reversed
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by the supreme court and reversed to his left. amy: explain what he rolled. >> there was a question dealing with whether or not one time ok detainees were allowed to go to civilian courts or whether they had to go through the military tribunals. he joined a ruling saying the had to go through the tribunal system -- i believe he relied on a world war ii precedent, which was not a great decision. and in his opinion was reversed by the supreme court five to four in the other case. nermeen: terry o'neill, your organization has called judge garland a nowhere man. what are some of the concerns that you have about judge garland? >> you know, amy, we don't know where judge garland stands on some key issues for women. and this actually -- this concern predates the nomination of judge garland.
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for a long time, seems the president have decided they must dominate people that we don't have much of a record on -- must nominate people that we don't have much of a record on. i think it is time to take a step back and look at values. president obama is right, you want a person on the supreme court who has impeccable credentials, who really seems to have a strong intellectual capability and a record of excellent performance, but we also need justices on the supreme court who will uphold the values that this country stands for -- equality, recognition of basic human rights, expansion of voting and political engagement for all of our citizens. we need to have some assurance that those values are held by the supreme court nominee. and this is what i was getting at when i said ok, nowhere man from the beatles, a little quote , but my point is, we don't know.
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i also think it is important to have more diversity on the supreme court. i have joined with other women of color organizations, now has joint for calling for the appointment of an african-american woman. there are many highly qualified african-american women i could fill that seat. what do you'neill, know about the position that judge garland has taken on women's issues? don'testly, amy, i just know. we're always leave digging into it now and we are trying to find out, but let's be clear, the united states congress certainly the house of representatives, has been very aggressive at trying to block women's access to basic health care. we know that state after state after state not only going after basic reproductive health care, but in another area, states are suppressing the vote. it turns out when you target communities of color and immigrant communities in older people and younger people to suppress the vote, women are
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disproportionately impacted by that. there is a range of issues that are coming that have been before the supreme court and will be before the supreme court that dramatically impact women. we trying to dig through and find out what we can about judge garland on those issues. nermeentually,terry, asked those questions. ian millhiser, isn't he the longest reigning judge of any supreme court justice, any supreme court justice ever did, what was he, 18 years on the bench? it is interesting that there is onrecord of his stand women's reproductive rights. >> i actually don't think that is unusual. big abortion cases are not very common in the federal courts. most federal court of appeal judges will go their entire career never hearing an abortion case. this issue that we have coming up in front of the supreme court again dealing with whether or not women's bosses get to decide
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if they have access to birth control, that is a fairly new issue. that issue really did not exist in the federal courts five years ago. so most federal judges just have not heard those sorts of cases, either. there was a case in the d.c. circuit, but garland was not on that panel. i don't think it would be fair to accuse him of the evasive when your u.s. court of appeals judge, you are randomly assigned to panels that i believe a computer does it and if there was an abortion case that came up during his tenure, he just was not randomly assigned to the panel. it is fair to say we don't know as much about him as me -- we might want to know because he wasn't randomly assigned to it. but i think this is simply a creature of the fact that those cases are not particularly common, they are randomly assigned, and garland did not draw that straw. amy: he is most well known for overseeing the prosecution and investigation of the obama city bomber timothy mcveigh, which
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would put him also on the side of the death penalty. >> potentially, yes. now a lot has happened in the death penalty since then. there's a lot of new concerns that have been raised about not just racial profiling in the death penalty, but about the method we used to execute people and whether it amounts to torture. hillary clinton said the other night that she supports the death penalty for someone like timothy mcveigh, but she thinks the state should not be using it. there are nuances positions between total abolitionism and using it with a frequency that we use it now. i could only speculate based on his record whether he would join some of the more nuanced cases saying, for example, that lethal injection is too cruel a method of execution and should not be used or that there need to be raceprotections to prevent
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from playing the role that it does right now. nermeen: ian, since judge garland had largely a partisan support until now, what do you make of president obama's decision to nominate him? thingsink there are two at play. one, simply that i think this is the person obama wanted. obama believes in judicial restraint. i think that is expressed as president has enhanced that believe. this is someone who aligns with what obama believes. i also believe there is a strategic play, which is that as a becomes more and more clear that senate majority leader mitch mcconnell's position is that donald trump should get to pick the next supreme court justice and not barack obama, the fact that obama has offered a very moderate and reasonable guy that has had a lot of bipartisan support, i think the white house is hoping that puts the meta-box in my be able to peel some of them all. i don't know if i necessarily agree with that, but i think
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that is part of the calculation, he thinks that faced with constant attacks, pointing out the position is donald trump should be the next supreme court nominee, eventually you think some of them will buckle. amy: prior to his time as federal judge, merrick garland served as a prosecutor in the clinton justice department overseeing the prosecution of timothy mcveigh. was april 19, 1995, killing 168 people. merrick garland spoke about the case on wednesday. >> years later what i would oklahoma city to investigate the bombing of the federal building, i saw up close the devastation that can happen when someone abandons the justice system as a way of resolving grievances and instead, takes matters into his own hands. once again, i saw the importance of assuring victims and families the justice system could work. we promised that we would find
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the perpetrators, that we would bring them to justice, and that we would do it in a way that honored the constitution. the people of oklahoma city gave us their trust and we did everything we could to live up to it. amy: ian millhiser, if you can talk about now the politics of what is going to happen, the whole issue of who will meet with him, who won't? senator grassley, who is going to come under a lot of pressure because he is up for reelection this year has said he will meet with him. mitch mcconnell spoke to him on the phone, but says he will not meet with him. talk about precendet for this. >> this is unprecedented. one third of all presidents have had someone confirmed in the tot year of their presidency the supreme court. this idea that there's some sort of role that barack obama is
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less the president because he is in his last year, that is something that hasn't existed before. and mitch mcconnell has said that he will not guarantee the next president's nominee a boat, depending on who that president is. so what is really going on here is the rule that the senate republicans want to set is that you don't your nominee confirmed if you are a democrat. the question is whether they're going to be able to hold to that. there is going to be a lot of silly dances going on, who is going to meet with him and who isn't going to meet with him, is he going to get a hearing or not get a hearing. at the end of the day, though, obama has offered them a pretty good -- a pretty moderate guy, an older justice. he won't serve as long as someone younger what. and if they hold out too long, they risk having president clinton come in next year and pick a 49-year-old. at the end of the day, i think that republicans need to be
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smart about this and realize that obama has put a deal on the table that is actually pretty good deal for them. and if they want to hold out for donald trump or whoever they want the next president to be, they can try to do that, but they could wind up with president clinton in the white house picking someone that they're going to like even less. amy: i want to thank you both for being with us, ian millhiser is a senior fellow at the center for american progress action fund and the editor of thinkprogress justice. and i also want to thank terry o'neill, president of the national organization for women. this is democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with nermeen shaikh. when we come back, one of the worst supreme court decisions ever. we will speak with adam cohen, author of a new book called "imbeciles." stay with us. ♪ [music break]
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amy: "bad weather," the supremes. this is democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with nermeen shaikh. nermeen: we turn now to a new -- we turn up what has been described as one of the worst cases in history. the court upheld a statute that enabled the state of virginia to sterilize so-called mental defectives or imbeciles. the person in question was carrie buck, a poor, young woman then confined in the virginia state colony for epileptics and the feeble-minded, though she was neither epileptic nor mentally disabled. in the landmark decision, eight judges ruled that the state of virginia had the right to sterilize her. her mother, emma, as well as carrie's daughter, vivian, then only 8 months old, were deemed similarly deficient. justice oliver wendell holmes, jr., wrote the majority opinion
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concluding "three generations of , imbeciles are enough." amy: the decision resulted in 60,000 to 70,000 sterilizations of americans considered unfit to reproduce. the supreme court decision had its origins in the eugenics movement then thriving in the united states. the 1924 immigration act was passed with similar intent -- to prevent immigration by genetically inferior groups, which included italians, jews, eastern europeans, and countless others in an attempt to improve the genetic quality of the american population. author adam cohen writes about this case in, "imbeciles: the supreme court, american eugenics, and the sterilization of carrie buck." he was previously a member of "the new york times" editorial board and a senior writer for time magazine. he is the co-editor of welcome back to democracy now! >> great to be here. amy: tell us the story of carrie buck.
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in a moment, we will hear about how it ties into immigration, eugenics, parallels to what we're seeing today. but start back in the 1920's with carrie buck. >> she's a young woman growing up in charlottesville, virginia, being raised by single mother -- back then it was a believe that it was better off to take poor children away from their parents and put them in middle-class homes. she was put in a foster family and treated very badly. she was not allowed to call that parent's mother and father. she did a lot of housekeeping for them and rented out to the neighbors. one summer she was raped at the nephew of her foster mother and becomes pregnant out of wedlock. rather than help her, they decided to get her declared epileptics and feebleminded come and shipped off to the colony for epileptics and feebleminded outside edge for, virginia. what happened to her? theirginia has just passed eugenics sterilization law and they wanted it tested in the courts. they take her as the perfect plaintiff in this case so they
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decide to make her the first person in virginia who will be sterilized eugenically and she is in the middle of the case headed to the middle of the -- middle of a case headed to the supreme court. nermeen: what kind of medical tests were employed to determine she was a so-called imbecile? >> very primitive iq tests from the time that really did not attest intelligence. one question was, what do you do when a playmate hits you? whatever she answered, it was deemed to be relevant to whether she was moron. amy:? >> yes. this was a hierarchy established by the psychological establishment at the time. if you are a mental age of two or younger, you're called an idiot. between three and seven, you are an imbecile, and eight to 12, your called a moron. carrie and her mother were deemed to be morons. nermeen: explain what happened
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to kerry after that. >> they decided to put her in the blood of this test case. they give her a lawyer who is not on her side, the former chairman of the colony for an feebleminded own board of directors. he wants to see her sterilized. he does a terrible job writing short briefs that do not cite the relevant cases. it goes up to the spring court and the court rules eight to one the virginia law is constitutional and carrie should be sterilized against her will. nermeen: who was responsible for pointing this lawyer to her? >> the colony itself. she truly had no advocate of any kind on her side. back then the american civil liberties union really was kind of pro-eugenics and the renault advocacy groups to look out for people like carrie. amy: explain what this term eugenics was, what the whole movement was, and who was a part of this. >> it started in england. the word was going to buy a half cousin of charles darwin.
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this was right after darwin had discovered evolution and survival of the fittest. eunice followers that, if nature does this naturally, we can speed survival of the fittest along if we decide who gets to reproduce and who doesn't. if we get the fit people to reproduce and we stop the unfit from reproducing. that was the idea in england. it comes over to america and greatly adopted by the leaders in america. the people and supported eugenics include the president of harvard university, the first president of stanford, theodore roosevelt, alexander graham bell, and universities across the country taught eugenics. it was popular in the popular press and best selling books. this was a mass movement. people believed would be to upgrade our gene pool. amy: warded margaret sanger fit into this? controversy big where she fit in. she wasn't a leader in the movement. she was in part -- amy: explain who she was. >> the founder of planned
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parenthood. she formed a strategic alliance with eugenicists in part to get more support for her birth control and sets a bad things. on the right they used it to tame the idea planned parenthood, which i think is unfair. margaret sanger was in the mainstream of a lot of progressive thought at the time. amy: as is evidenced by the supreme court decision. explain who was on the supreme court, who wrote the decision, what these justices believed themselves. >> this was a fancy court at the time. the chief justice was william howard taft, who'd been president of the u.s. before he became to justice, the only president to do that, and had also been a professor at yell law school. and the man known as the people's attorney before he joined the court was on the court and then oliver wendell holmes, probably the most revered justice in american history. he was a legendary figure. there was a movie about him, a play on broadway, cover of
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"time" magazine, thought to be the wisest of the judges. he wrote this terrible decision. nermeen: i want to go to something he said in a decision that wrote the majority opinion for the court "the nation must sterilize those who "sap the strength of the state to prevent our being swamped with incompetence." he declared "it is better for all of the world if instead of waiting to execute degenerate offspring for crime or to let them starve for their imbecility, society can prevent those are manifestly un-that from continuing their kind." >> very shocking. nermeen: i want to ask you, you cited harvard law school. at the time, this justice was considered a hero of the american legal system. could you explain who he was, what kinds of positions he took, and how he was still revered? heroic figure.
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he a been a professor at harvard law's go before he joined the us supreme court. even when i was at harvard law school, there were portraits of him everywhere. he came out of a so-called boston brahmin, from some of the fanciest families in boston. the olivers, windows, and homes were old families. his father had been the dean of harvard medical school. he coined the phrase. the idea was these fancy families in boston were like the brahmans in india, the highest caste. he believed this and wrote about eugenics even before this case came along, wrote about it favorably so in the case gets to him, he believes people like carrie buck, poor, white, and educated people, are much lesser than him, so it is natural for him to say, of course we don't need more people like carrie buck, we need more people like me in my boston neighbors. so that was the philosophy. it is amazing that to this day, he is still revered in law schools because these were some
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pretty repugnant views. one reason i can still be the case, this case is not talked about. when i took constitutional law at harvard, it was not taught. 1700 pages that goes into great detail about many, many cases has half a sentence about buck v. bell. in? where did the nazis fit >> the nazis followed us. we were the leaders and eugenic sterilization post of indiana passed a law in 1907, well before the rise of the nazi party, and they were looking to america. one of my villains runs the eugenics record office on long island. he was in correspondence with the nazi scientist throughout this period, looking dam for advice on how to set up the eugenics sterilization program. he wrote with pride in his eugenics magazine that they base nazi the nazi eugenic law on his american law.
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amy: we're not talking about americans looking to the nazis who supported the nazi, we're talking about the nazis using american preside -- oprecedent. >> there was cooperation between america and the nazis. harry laughlin, the villain of the book, is given an honorary degree from the university a year after they purged all of the jews from the faculty. he was fine with that because he was a nazi supervisor. amy: let's go to a break. only come back, we will talk about the u.s. model, thing a model for the nazis, but how immigration law fits into this picture and what are the parallels with today. we are talking with adam cohen, journalist and lawyer, previously a member of "the new york times" editorial board and a senior writer for time magazine.
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his brand-new book is called "imbeciles: the supreme court, , american eugenics, and the sterilization of carrie buck." stay with us. ♪ [music break]
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amy: coon creek girls, "flowers blooming in the wildwood." this is democracy now!,, the war and peace report. i'm amy goodman with nermeen shaikh. , authort is adam cohen of the new book "imbeciles: the , supreme court, american eugenics, and the sterilization of carrie buck." nermeen: i want to turn to a clip from the 1961 film, "judgment at nuremberg," which references the 1927 case, buck v. bell. this clip begins with maximillian schell playing german defense attorney hans rolfe. then we hear from john wengraf playing dr. karl wieck, former minister of justice in weimar, germany >> prevent a medical means in
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the first place. three generations of imbeciles are enough. you recognize it now? >> no, sir, i don't. >> actually, there's no particular reason you should of thehe opinion sterilization law in virginia of the united states and was written deliver by the great american jurist oliver wendell holmes. nermeen: that was a clip from "judgment at nuremberg." adam cohen, they actually cite supreme court justice oliver wendell holmes. >> and this happened in history as well at the actual nuremberg trials. after world war ii, we put the leading not to's on trial for some of the worst things the nazis did. they set of eugenics program with a sterilized as many as 375,000 people. we put the montreux for that and the one to hold as the movie
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shows, their defense was, how can you put us on trial for that? euro new a supreme court said that sterilization was constitutional, was good, and your own oliver wendell holmes who said that. so what are we the bad guys in this story? nermeen: can you explain when and why the eugenics movement took hold in the u.s.? >> it came over in the early '10's and 1920's. this was a very nervous time. you see movies now about the 1920's, flappers and prohibition and parties, but america was at a time of quiet turmoil. the highest rates of immigration there had been in american history. the nation's cities were flooded with new immigrants, often with different religions, different nationalities from the people already here, also people leaving the farms are moving to cities. at a time of instability. the store suggest in this time of instability, the upper class wanted to somehow control the change in country in the way
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eugenics.hat was it was the anxiety that got moved into this eugenics movement in the combined with the new science of genetics that was emerging and came up with these crazy sterilization laws. amy: so at the time the establishment of the united states saw the threat as massive immigration, the waves of immigration of jews, italians. >> yes, and our best-selling books, one called "the passing of the great race" about how whites around the world were in danger, they were being swamped by the so-called colored people everywhere. these were real anxieties adopted the highest levels. in a book with the great gatsby" there is a scene in which tom begins going off about this book he is right about the colored people are taking over the world. that was representative of the fears of the upper classes of america and it got channeled into eugenics. amy: a few years after leaving the white house, president
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roosevelt wrote in a magazine -- "i wish very much that the wrong people could be prevented entirely from breeding. feeble-minded persons forbidden to leave offspring behind them." >> i was on the amtrak the other day and i happen to be sitting next to a revered american historian, richard reeves, and he a just finished a book about the japanese interment and he said he was shocked to learn actually a genesis two and one of the things animating the japanese interment was that fdr thought the japanese were inferior. so this was widely held by people that we as a country still admire. nermeen: you also talked about the u.s. 1924 immigration act and how it was praised by hitler. could you talk about the act itself and how it was linked to this growing support for eugenics? >> it was large part motivated by eugenics. this villain of the book i mentioned harry laughlin, he was
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appointed expert eugenics agent to congress. there is letterhead from u.s. house committee of immigration is has expertly genex agent. he testified about the advantages and disadvantages of various nationalities and said eastern european jews, asians, italians were genetically inferior we had to keep them out. the being translated to 1924 law that puts in place for the first time national quotas. you can no longer to show up at ellis island coming from some countries, we don't want you. coming from england and northern europe, we do want you. this completely changed the national composition of immigration, it was because certain people were deemed to be inferior. one thing i thought about when i wrote the book is, when you read the "diary of anne frank" we think about how the nazis. the jews for lesser race and that is what he were put in concentration camps. what we don't think about it and
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frank's father was trying to get her and the family to america. he was writing repeatedly to the state department for visas. he was turned down because of his 1924 act -- because of this 1924 act. when we hear anne frank died in concentration cap, it is because the u.s. thought the jews were a inferior race. amy: and in the jewish supreme court justice? >> one of the great mysteries as to why someone like that would take their view. and he never talked about it. it is part of our history that has been airbrushed out. when i started working on this book, i was excited to get a major biography that was written by a prospective law professor, 900 pages. i was looking to see how he explains is. it only mentions buck v. bell in a footnote. no one wants to talk about this part of his career. waseen: buck v. bell decided eight to one, so who was the one dissenting judge? >> the one catholic on the
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court. interestingly, the one group the really did oppose eugenics movement was the catholic church. they believed in the idea of reproduction, which was in the abortion issue, but also they believed that people should be judged on their spiritual qualities, who they are inside, not by these external polities that the eugenicists were focusing on. when the sterilization law -- bills were put up around the country, the one group that would consistently opposed them was catholics. there were states like louisiana with large cap the populations where bills were voted down because of the opposition of the catholic church. amy: let's talk about sterilization. what actually happened -- we're talking about up to 70,000 people, mainly women, but a number of men? what were the operations they were put through? where did this happen? >> it is, barbaric to think about. in the early stages of eugenics,
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started out with castration. there are having trouble getting legislators to adopt eugenics sterilization laws because people do not like the idea of castrating people. it was the rise of the vasectomy and the salpingectomy, the cauterizing of the fallopian tubes, that made it all more palatable. these were still terrible operations. you can imagine what surgery was like in the 1920's. so someone like carrie buck was sterilized by the man, the doctor who was the superintendent of the colony, and it was a terribly invasive operation. she had to recover for two weeks. they cut her open and all kinds of venice you shut the medical procedures were rather primitive. this is what the government was doing. you think about the government invasion of your rights, and now we're concerned about the government reading our e-mails soliciting to our phone calls. they're operating on women and men in this is barbaric way. it is shocking. seen, supreme court set a to one, not only this was
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fine, but encouraged the nation to do more. not only the virginia law is constitutional, not only is it ok to sterilize carrie buck, we need more. amy: first it is the vilification of immigrants and then it is this. >> yes. you genesis were trying to protect the gene also they saw external threat and an internal threat. they were addressing them at the same time. externally they thought these lesser people are coming in of the country, going to harm our gene pool we have to keep them out. internally they started looking around the country and asking, who are the people here who have bad genes who we need to eliminate? they looked at people like carrie buck he was poor, under educated, and they said, that is the kind of people we need to stop internally. amy: what happened with carrie buck afterwards? >> her story so sad. she did have a baby as a result of this rate that ended up putting her and the colony for the epileptics and feebleminded. they have promised her that one good thing about her being sterilized issue would be
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returned to her foster family, which was raising her baby. at least she would be able to spend her life raising her daughter vivian. but in fact as soon as they get the court order she can be sterilized and she is sterilized, they asked her foster family to take her back and the family said, no, we don't want her. so she doesn't get delivered her baby. then she gets put in a series of household placements were should become the housekeeper. she marries a couple of times, but she always wanted babies. at the end of her life she said that she really wished she'd had a family and she didn't. one other sad part of the story, people who knew her later life said she absolutely was not feebleminded. which was at a retirement home, she loved getting the newspaper everyday it's used to work on the crossword puzzle. she had a sister, doris come also the colony. doris was sterilized shortly after she was. was an old which woman, she wanted to get social security and road to the colony to find out how old she was and the colony director came and visited her and told her that
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she was old enough for social security and told her that she had been sterilized. she of her husband began crying because they have been trying whole life staff children. no one ever told her that she been sterilized. she had been told she had had appendectomy. she is been and she never knew. amy: last your, virginia agreed to compensation. the state agreed to pay each surviving victim $25,000. lewis reynolds is among those received compensation at the age of 13, he was incorrectly diagnosed with epilepsy, resulting in his forced sterilization. reynolds wasn't even aware the state had conducted the operation until he and his wife encountered trouble starting a family years later. reynolds spoke to russia today about the pain of never being able to have children. >> i would love to of had a
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family and children and grandchildren, too, and i wonder be, like where a would a father to my children, if i could have any -- excuse me. and play with them and everything like everybody else does. nermeen: that was lewis reynolds speaking to rt, one of the many surviving victims of forced sterilization. could you talk about virginia's decision to compensate victims, surviving victims? and also, much like carrie buck, lewis reynolds also wasn't told that he been subjected to forced sterilization. so why do the government not tell people that this is what they were doing? theydon't think that wanted opposition. it is much easier to sterilize some against her will if you don't tell them what is going on, as with doris buck, they said, give a medical problem, then decided, we have to operate. to stop you"we want
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from having children," maybe you get some pushback. they have begun a process of reparations, but it was so slow in coming. on the 70 foot anniversary of this case in 2002, the governor theinia apologized for sterilizations that occurred, but they did not begin to compensate people then, they just did that this year. as a result, i was in virginia yesterday, someone told me what they heard is only eight people so far have actually applied for reparations because so many have died. if you think about all of the people who were sterilized in the 1920's and 1930's, they lived their whole lives and died never being in any way compensated. amy: what happened with the law upheld by buck is his bell? -- buck v. bell? >> it remain a place for a long time. there was a lot more sterilization after the supreme court ruling, other states began to adopt such laws. mississippi passed a law in 1928. virginia cap it's on the books
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until the 1970's. it was sterilize in people through the 1970's. amy: buck v. bell itself? >> is still the law the land. another case out of obama happened in the 1940's, an opportunity to overturn buck v. bell. the idea of a master race had really been discredited because of the nazis. but this supreme court did it narrowly. the justices with the decision later sedated now want to overturn buck v. bell, incredibly, in 2001, the u.s. court of appeals in missouri, which is one stable of the u.s. supreme court, cited buck v. bell in a case involving sterilization of a mildly mentally retarded woman. it is still the law of the land today. amy: the parallels today? >> they are strong. first of all, there's some subterranean eugenics sterilization going on. we're about prisons where women's are sterilized without
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their knowledge. in tennessee, prosecutor was cited for making it part of his plea agreement. we don't know if there's going to be another eugenics movement. we don't know if states will start to pass these laws. we don't know if congress my passes laws. there's a lot of fear in the land. it would be nuts to think the u.s. supreme court would've been the victims of these laws, but right now they're on record and it is constitutional. amy: what about african-americans to the 1920's and 1930's? >> in the 1920's, the same day that virginia passed the eugenics sterilization law, they passed the racial purity act, the exact same day. thereason they did that was eugenicists were so races, they did not bother with eugenics for blacks, they got the blacks were beyond saving. their whole focus was to uplift the white race. they built a wall of separation between the white and black
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races and impose large penalties for any kind of sexual unions between blacks and whites. once a bill that law, they focus on uplifting the white race. were focused on white women like carrie buck but over the years, many blacks were sterilized. in places like north carolina in the 1970's, there were a lot of poor black people sterilized. nermeen: before we end when and why the u.s. scientific committed to give up on eugenics. >> at the beginning there were among the biggest cheerleaders. the medical journals in the 1920's were enthusiastic about eugenics. harvard geneticist were in favor of eugenics. over time, became to discredited i think in part because of the rise of the nazis. the scientific or eugenics operation was funded by the carnegie institution and lost their funding in the late 1930's because of the rise of nokia some. amy: adam cohen, it is an ,stounding book called
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