Amnesty International Group 22 Pasadena/Caltech News
Volume XXV Number 3, March 2017

  Thursday, March 23, 7:30-9:00 PM. Monthly 
Meeting. We meet at the Caltech Y, Tyson 
House, 505 S. Wilson Ave., Pasadena. (This is 
just south of the corner with San Pasqual. 
Signs will be posted.) We will be planning our 
activities for the coming months. Alexi will 
update us on work for Narges Mohammadi, 
our adopted prisoner of conscience. Please join 
us! Refreshments provided.
  Tuesday, April 11, 7:30-9:00 PM. Letter 
writing meeting at Caltech Athenaeum, corner 
of Hill and California in Pasadena. This 
informal gathering is a great way for 
newcomers to get acquainted with Amnesty.
  Sunday, April 23, 6:30 PM. (We moved the 
date ahead a week because the third Sunday in 
April is Easter this year.) Rights Readers 
Human Rights Book Discussion Group. This 
month we read "Give Us the Ballot: The 
Modern Struggle for Voting Rights in 
America" by Ari Berman.

Hi everyone

It's March already -- hard to believe it and at 
last, some beautiful spring weather! It is so 
green everywhere due to all the rain. I almost 
think we're living in Oregon!

This is crunch time if you work for a school 
district -- all the things like IEP meetings that 
weren't done yet have to be finished by May! 
There will be a lot of changes next year. In 
anticipation of what Trump's Education 
Secretary will do to public education, LAUSD 
has sent out layoff notices  and is restructuring 
programs. However, no school nurses have 
received RIF (reduction in force notices) because 
we are already very short-staffed. Every kid 
deserves a school nurse! 

Let's hope Congress doesn't cut school food 
programs and after-school programs as 
proposed in the new budget.  I remember when 
kids would come into the Health Office 
complaining of stomach aches in the morning 
and the first thing I would ask is "Did you eat 
breakfast?" (or "Comiste desayuno?") and 
arrange to get them some crackers and milk or 
leftover cereal from the cafeteria. I even bought 
crackers and juice to keep on hand in the nurses' 
office.  (In case you're wondering, the second 
question was "Did you go to the bathroom? 
(Hiciste el bano?)"! The school food program 
and Breakfast in the Classroom have changed 
that for the better.

Please write your legislators to vote against this 
mean budget, including the proposed cutting of 
the Meals on Wheels program for seniors.

Con Carino, Kathy

Next Rights Readers Meeting

Sunday, April 23,  
6:30 PM

Vroman's Bookstore
695 E Colorado Blvd.

Give Us the Ballot 
Ari Berman

BOOK REVIEW (New York Times)
By JEFFREY ROSEN, AUG. 25, 2015  

GIVE US THE BALLOT: The Modern Struggle 
for Voting Rights in America, by Ari Berman

Day 5 of the march from Selma to Montgomery, Ala., in 
March 1965. Credit Dan Budnik/Contact Press Images

Fifty years ago, when President Lyndon B. 
Johnson signed the Voting Rights Act on Aug. 6, 
1965, he felt, his daughter Luci said, "a great 
sense of victory on one side and a great sense of 
fear on the other." According to Ari Berman, a 
political correspondent for The Nation, he knew 
the law would transform American politics and 
democracy more than any other civil rights bill 
in the 20th century, but he also feared that it 
would deliver the South to the Republican Party 
for years to come. Both predictions proved to be 
accurate. "The revolution of 1965 spawned an 
equally committed group of 
counterrevolutionaries," Berman writes in "Give 
Us the Ballot." "Since the V.R.A.'s passage, they 
have waged a decades-long campaign to restrict 
voting rights." Berman argues that these 
counterrevolutionaries have "in recent years, 
controlled a majority on the Supreme Court" 
and "have set their sights on undoing the 
accomplishments of the 1960s civil rights 

Berman's claim that those he calls the 
counterrevolutionaries - including Chief 
Justice John Roberts - have set out to undo the 
accomplishments of the 1960s is, of course, 
contested. Still, Berman usefully explores how 
the debate over voting rights for the past 50 
years has been a debate between two competing 
visions: Should the Voting Rights Act "simply 
provide access to the ballot," as conservatives 
claim, or should it "police a much broader scope 
of the election system, which included 
encouraging greater representation for African-
Americans and other minority groups"? 
Regardless of where you fall on this policy 
question, one historical trend is clear: Every time 
the Voting Rights Act came up for renewal, from 
1969 to 2006, Republicans and Democrats in 
Congress and the White House repeatedly 
endorsed the broader interpretation. And the 
Supreme Court repeatedly responded by 
imposing the narrower interpretation by judicial 

The initial success of the Voting Rights Act in 
increasing minority voter registration is striking 
and impressive: In the decades after Johnson 
signed the act, black voter registration in the 
South soared from 31 percent to 73 percent and 
the number of African-American elected officials 
nationwide expanded from fewer than 500 to 
10,500. And in 1969 the Warren court, by a 7-2 
vote, held that the act prevented Mississippi 
from adopting an at-large election system for 
county supervisors, since countywide elections 
were harder for minority candidates to win. But 
after Richard Nixon won the election of 1968 
with a Southern strategy, he appointed four 
Supreme Court justices who took a less 
expansive view of the scope of the Voting Rights 

In a 1980 decision, the Burger court upheld an 
at-large election system in Mobile, Ala., on the 
grounds that both the 14th and 15th 
Amendments and Section?2 of the Voting Rights 
Act required evidence of an intent to 
discriminate against African-Americans. (Later, 
as Berman tellingly observes, a smoking gun 
emerged: a 1909 letter from a former Mobile 
congressman confessing, "We have always, as 
you know, falsely pretended that our main 
purpose was to exclude the ignorant vote when, 
in fact, we were trying to exclude not the 
ignorant vote but the Negro vote.") Republicans 
and Democrats in Congress resolved in 1982 to 
overturn the Mobile decision with amendments 
to the act that restored the Supreme Court's 
previous ban on voting changes that had a 
discriminatory effect. Conservatives in the 
Reagan administration lobbied against the 
amendments, including John Roberts, then a 26-
year-old special assistant to the attorney general, 
who wrote more than 25 memos opposing them. 
"An effects test would eventually lead to a quota 
system in all areas," Roberts wrote. 
Nevertheless, the Senate and the House restored 
the effects test by a nearly unanimous vote, and 
President Ronald Reagan signed the 
amendments, which he followed with a 
reception attended by Coretta Scott King. 

Roberts's prediction that the amendments to the 
Voting Rights Act would lead to demands for 
proportional representation for minorities 
proved to be accurate. But it was vindicated in 
an unexpected partisan twist that ultimately cost 
the Democrats the South, just as Johnson had 
feared. After George H.W. Bush's election in 
1988, his campaign manager, Lee Atwater, the 
new head of the Republican National 
Committee, decided to form what Berman calls 
"an improbable partnership with black 
Democrats in the South to overthrow the white 
Democrats who had controlled the region since 
the end of Reconstruction." By interpreting the 
newly amended Voting Rights Act to require the 
creation of majority-black districts whenever 
possible, the Bush Justice Department, Atwater 
believed, could "siphon black voters away from 
adjoining white Democratic districts, making 
those districts whiter and more conservative."

The strategy worked. In 1992, 17 African-
American representatives were elected to 
Congress as Democrats from newly created 
majority-black districts, the largest minority 
class ever. But two years later, the Republicans 
gained 54 seats in the House and retook the 
chamber for the first time in four decades.

After the 2000 election, the Justice Department 
of George W. Bush decided to focus on voter 
fraud rather than on maximizing minority 
representation. Despite this shift in strategy, 
President Bush signed a sweeping, bipartisan 
reauthorization of the Voting Rights Act in 2006, 
once again passed by a nearly unanimous 
Congress, because he concluded - like 
Presidents Nixon, Ford and Reagan before him 
- that opposing the act would harm the 
Republican Party's standing with black voters. 
Seven years later, on June 25, 2013, the Supreme 
Court, by a 5-4 vote, struck down the formula 
Congress had adopted in 1965 and renewed in 
2006 for identifying jurisdictions subject to 
federal oversight. Chief Justice Roberts held that 
it violated the Constitution because of progress 
in black voter registration and electoral success. 
In her blistering dissent, Justice Ruth Bader 
Ginsburg said Congress, not the court, had the 
constitutional authority to define progress in 
voting rights. "Hubris is a fit word for today's 
demolition of the V.R.A.," she wrote.

In 2014, the first election since 1965 without the 
preclearance protections of the Voting Rights 
Act, voters in 14 states faced new voting 
restrictions adopted by mostly Republican 
legislatures, including a voter identification law 
in Texas and cutbacks on same-day registration 
and early voting in North Carolina. The 
Supreme Court allowed both laws to go into 
effect, over dissents from Justice Ginsburg. But 
because the new voting restrictions were 
arguably adopted to help Republicans rather 
than harm African-Americans, the Supreme 
Court may continue to uphold them on the 
grounds that the Constitution does not prohibit 
hyperpartisanship by legislatures. Berman notes 
that "the number of voters potentially affected 
by new barriers to the ballot box exceeded the 
margin of victory in close races for Senate and 
governor in North Carolina, Kansas, Virginia 
and Florida, according to the Brennan Center for 

 "Give Us the Ballot" is an engrossing narrative 
history rather than constitutional analysis. 
Berman does not explore why justices who are 
devoted to the original understanding of the 
Constitution have repeatedly voted to narrow 
the scope of the Voting Rights Act with the 
argument that the equal protection clause of the 
14th Amendment is colorblind. (In fact, as 
Justice John M. Harlan observed in his 1964 
dissent from one of the original Supreme Court 
decisions regarding "one man, one-vote," the 
framers of the 14th Amendment believed that 
the equal protection clause did not regulate 
voting or apportionment at all.) Still, Berman 
vividly shows that the power to define the scope 
of voting rights in America has shifted from 
Congress to the courts, a result that would have 
surprised the Reconstruction-era framers.

Ari Berman is a senior contributing writer for 
The Nation magazine and a Reporting Fellow at 
The Nation Institute. Business Insider named 
Berman one of the "50 most influential political 
pundits" in the US. He's written extensively 
about American politics, civil rights, and the 
intersection of money and politics. His stories 
have also appeared in The New York Times, 
Rolling Stone, The Atlantic, Politico and The 
Guardian, and he is a frequent guest and political 
commentator on MSNBC, NPR and C-Span. 
He's lectured extensively around the country, 
including at the White House, Congress and the 
Supreme Court.

His new book, Give Us the Ballot: The Modern 
Struggle for Voting Rights in America, was 
published in August 2015 by Farrar, Straus and 
Giroux and in paperback by Picador. It was 
named one of the best books of 2015 by the New 
York Times, Washington Post, NPR, the Boston 
Globe and Kirkus Reviews. Give Us the Ballot was 
a finalist for the National Book Critics Circle 
Award for nonfiction and a nominee for the 
American Library Association's Andrew 
Carnegie Medal for Excellence. Writing in the 
Washington Post, Congressman John Lewis called 
the book "a must read" and "a primer for every 

Berman's first book, Herding Donkeys: The 
Fight to Rebuild the Democratic Party and 
Reshape American Politics, was published in 
October 2010 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux. He 
graduated from the Medill School of Journalism 
at Northwestern University with a degree in 
journalism and political science.

Security with Human Rights
By Robert Adams

Three Concerns the Senate Committee Should 
Raise with David Friedman
By Edith Garwood 
February 16, 2017 at 10:02 AM

Ambassadors are on the front lines of 
diplomacy, where they can head off conflict or 
be the cause of the next war.  They must not 
have any conflicts-of-interest or appearance of 
conflict and definitely not be involved in 
unlawful activities, especially not a war crime.
President-elect Donald Trump has chosen David 
Friedman, a bankruptcy lawyer, as his advisor 
on Israel and to be U.S. Ambassador to the State 
of Israel. David Friedman's confirmation 
hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations 
Committee is set for this Thursday, February 16, 
at 10 am.

When the Senate Committee on Foreign 
Relations reviews presidential nominees they 
have an obligation not to act as a rubber stamp, 
but closely examine Mr. Friedman's 
competency, ethics, business dealings and 
charities to guarantee he is qualified and there 
are no conflicts-of-interest.
Senate committee members should question 
Friedman vigorously on the areas outlined 
below, and press him to commit to protecting 
human rights:

1. David Friedman is not only un-diplomatic; 
some of his comments are hateful and 

As mentioned above, ambassadors are on the 
front lines of diplomacy, where they can head 
off conflict or be the cause of the next war. 
Friedman has a history of inflammatory 
statements. Just a few months ago, Friedman 
called moderate American Jews, specifically 
supporters of J Street, a political organization of 
American-Jews that describes itself as "pro-
Israel and pro-Peace", "worse than kapos."

Calling someone who is Jewish a "kapo" is an 
extreme slur. "Kapos" were Jews in Nazi 
concentration camps put in charge of other 
prisoners. "Kapos" are considered traitors to 
their faith and their people. In today's 
environment, this smear could be considered a 
green light for extremists to threaten those 
considered moderate. By espousing his extreme 
opinions publicly, Friedman put these 
individuals at risk of potential harm.

2. Friedman advocates for positions not only 
counter to long-standing U.S. policy, but that 
would very likely lead to increased human rig

The Jerusalem Embassy Act of 1995 mandates 
that the U.S. Embassy be moved from Tel Aviv 
to Jerusalem or risk a massive cut in State 
Department funding, but every sitting President 
since Clinton has postponed the move based on 
the national security concern that it is a 
provocative move that would ignite violence in 
the region, even globally. Historically, civilians 
bear the brunt of violence in the region and 
gross violations of both human rights and 
humanitarian law increase in frequency.

Friedman not only supports moving the 
embassy to Jerusalem, which could lead to 
widespread violence and human rights 
violations, but has said that he considers 
settlements "legal", in contravention of 
international law. In fact, Israel's long-standing 
settlement policy amounts to a war crime.
Friedman has also publicly advocated forcibly 
annexing occupied territory in contravention of 
international law and U.S. policy. This, again, is 
another action that is not only illegal, but would 
lead directly to human rights violations and the 
likelihood of violence.

3. Friedman is complicit in the ongoing, illegal 
activity of Israeli settlements - unethical, but 
also a conflict-of-interest.

The U.S. government re-affirmed its long-
standing position that Israeli settlements built in 
the Israeli Occupied Palestinian Territories have 
"... no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant 
violation under international law" by abstaining 
from voting on UN Security Council resolution 
2334. Secretary of State Kerry's explicitly 
confirmed the established, U.S. position in his 
statement on Middle East Peace December 28, 

However, Friedman is not only a strong 
supporter of settlements, but serves as president 
of American Friends of Beit El Institutions, an 
organization that raises about $2 million a year 
for the illegal Israeli settlement and its extremist 
yeshiva. The settlement is well known as 
extremist in its ideology of expansion into the 
Occupied Palestinian Territory, and the yeshiva, 
which combines Jewish learning with army 
service, is headed by a militant rabbi who 
advocates disobeying orders in the name of an 
extremist interpretation of Judaism. Trump 
himself made a $10,000 donation to Beit El in 
Friedman's honor.

David Friedman appears to be actively complicit 
in illegal Israeli settlements that have been the 
cause of widespread human rights violations, 
death and dispossession. These serious areas of 
concern need to be clarified, and the Senate 
hearing is the place to do the clarification.
The Senate must rigorously question Friedman 
about these areas of concern.  Senators who are 
voting on Friedman's confirmation must ask the 
question, "Is this nominee for the 
Ambassadorship willing to uphold and adhere 
to international human rights standards?"

Postscript: On February 16th, 2017, the Senate 
Foreign Relations Committee voted 12 - 9 to 
advance Friedman, and he now faces a final 
confirmation vote in the full Senate. California 
Senator Dianne Feinstein has made it clear that 
she is opposed to Friedman's appointment, 
while Kamala Harris to date has not made her 
position known.

By Stevi Carroll

Arkansas Rush

The Arkansas Department of Corrections has 
scheduled eight executions to take place in a ten-
day span.  Their supply of midazolam will 
expire in April.  Midazolam is one of the three 
drugs used in the state's three-drug protocol. 
Midazolam is used to sedate the inmate, 
vecuronium bromide then stops the inmate's 
breathing, and potassium chloride stops the 
heart. The concern some people have after 
executions using midazolam have gone awry is 
that the drug is not powerful enough to dull the 
pain caused by the other two drugs.

At a press conference, Gov. Hutchinson said 
he'd discussed his concerns about having this 
many executions so close together with Wendy 
Kelly, the state corrections director.  The 
governor's concern was for the possible 'ill 
effects on prison employees.' He said his 
decision was, "The answer is it's not any easier 
to string it over four or five months than to do it 
in a measured and separated fashion, but in the 
sequence we have outlined."

The eight men scheduled for execution are 
Kenneth Williams, Bruce Ward, Stacey Johnson, 
Don Williamson Davis, Ledell Lee, Jack Harold 
Jones, Jason McGehee and Marcel Williams.


Governor Rick Scott recently signed a law that 
requires 12 jurors to vote to sentence someone to 
death.  This raises the number needed from 10 to 

Florida is the same state that has elected 
Representative Matt Gaetz to the House of 
Representatives.  Early in the new 
Congressional year, Mr. Gaetz filed a bill to 
'permanently abolish' the Environmental 
Protection Agency.  He also is on the record as 
saying he looks forward to 'armed militia pals' 
coming to his town hall meetings to counter 
women protesters. In a "This American Life" 
program called "Death Trap," he is quoted as 
saying about the possibility of making it quicker 
and easier to execute death row inmates,  "Only 
God can judge. ... But we sure can set up the 
meeting."  According to Wikipedia, Mr. Gaetz is 
a Baptist.

Recent exonerations

Raymond Jennings   
State: CA   Date of Exoneration: 1/23/2017
In 2009, Raymond Jennings was sentenced to 40 
years to life in prison for murder in Los Angeles 
County, California. He was exonerated in 
January 2017 after a re-investigation by the 
prosecution identified the real killers.

Johnny Hincapie  
State: NY Date of Exoneration: 1/25/2017
In 1991, Johnny Hincapie was sentenced to 25 
years to life in prison after he falsely confessed 
to taking part in a murder and robbery in New 
York City. He was exonerated in 2017 after new 
witnesses said Hincapie was not present at the 

Robert Jones  
State: LA Date of Exoneration: 1/26/2017
In 1996, Robert Jones was convicted of rape, 
robbery, and manslaughter for four separate 
crimes in New Orleans, Louisiana and was 
sentenced to life in prison without parole. He 
was exonerated of all four crimes in January 
2017 after the real criminal was identified.

Larod Styles   
State: IL Date of Exoneration: 2/15/2017
In 1998, Larod Styles was sentenced to life in 
prison without parole for murder and armed 
robbery in Chicago, Illinois. He and three co-
defendants were exonerated in 2017 when new 
fingerprint analysis identified the real criminals.

Troshawn McCoy  
State: IL Date of Exoneration: 2/15/2017
In 1998, Troshawn McCoy was sentenced to 55 
years in prison after pleading guilty to murder 
in Chicago, Illinois. He and three co-defendants 
were exonerated in 2017 when new fingerprint 
analysis identified the real criminals.

Charles Johnson  
State: IL Date of Exoneration: 2/15/2017
In 1998, Charles Johnson was sentenced to life in 
prison without parole for murder and armed 
robbery in Chicago, Illinois. He and three co-
defendants were exonerated in 2017 when new 
fingerprint analysis identified the real criminals.

(source: The National Registry of Exonerations )

Stays of execution
2	Wayne Smith		PA
3	Richard Poplawski	PA
4	Aric Woodard		PA
6	Patrick Haney		PA
15	Gary Otte	OH - Rescheduled*
22	Jeremiah Jackson	OH

7	Rolando Ruiz		TX 
	Lethal Injection 1-drug (Pentobarbital)
14	James Bigby		TX
	Lethal Injection 1-drug (Pentobarbital)

* On February 10, 2017 Governor John R. Kasich 
issued a statement revising the schedule for 
eight upcoming executions. This revised 
schedule is in response to the U.S. Court of 
Appeals for the Sixth Circuit's denial of a 
motion to stay enforcement, pending appeal, of 
a federal magistrate judge's order declaring 
Ohio's execution procedures unconstitutional.

Narges Mohammadi
By Joyce Wolf

Happy Nowruz! (Nowruz is the Iranian New 
Year celebration that took place at the Spring 
Equinox, March 20.) 

Amnesty released a special Nowruz action to 
write solidarity cards for seven cases in Iran. 
Group 22's adopted prisoner of conscience, 
Narges Mohammadi, was one of the featured 
cases. At our letter-writing meeting on March 
14, we wrote 8 cards of support to the subjects of 
the Nowruz action. 
Stevi, Paul, Joyce, Robert, and Elena with our 
Nowruz cards. Thanks to Paula for taking the photo.

Alexi has put together a beautiful collage 
showing European and US Amnesty groups that 
are working for Narges. It will be delivered to 
Narges's husband in Paris.  You can see it at

At our monthly meeting this Thursday, Alexi 
will update us on plans for Narges's birthday, 
April 21. 

Urgent Actions           14
Nowruz Cards)             8
Total                    22
To add your letters to our total contact 

Amnesty International Group 22
The Caltech Y
Mail Code C1-128
Pasadena, CA 91125

Amnesty International's mission is to undertake research and action focused on 
preventing and ending grave abuses of the rights to physical and mental integrity, 
freedom of conscience and expression, and freedom from discrimination, within the 
context of its work to promote all human rights.